Xander had grown up using sound as a weapon. Snark could always be counted on to confuse the dim-witted bully who didn’t realise they were being mocked, or as a shield to hide behind when something his friends, teachers or family said hurt.  Xander learned that if you blustered and said stupid things he could hide safely behind mediocrity, assuming the safe position of a clown so no one could accept anything big from him and then be disappointed at his failure.

Talking was safe, easy. Words came naturally for him, pouring forth rivers of self deprecation that protected him. It disconcerted people like Giles who used words sparingly but pointedly, few words showing off his immense knowledge. It disconcerted his teachers who would yell for him stop talking and throw phrases like ‘verbal diarrhoea’ in his face. Most of all it disconcerted his father who had no clue at how to deal with him. When he yelled at Xander’s mother or threw insults in her face like dirt she would cry or make any excuse to scuttle out of the room and away from his rage. But when he yelled at Xander the boy would throw back his words, defend himself using sarcasm and snark; anything to hide how much the verbal assault hurt and destroyed. When Xander became older his father finally came up with a punishment that worked. Silent Treatment.

Someone once said that Silence was a great healer. That person had obviously never experienced Silence as a form of punishment. Complete and utter Silence, cloying in intensity; humiliating, scorching, rearing Silence that burned and destroyed.

When Xander was younger he had often wished for Silence in their home, for his father to just stop yelling. When the Silence finally came it was devastating. The first few days he could take it. But sitting at the dinner table each and every night, listening to the clang of fork against plate, of loud chewing and swallowing while he desperately tried to start a conversation about anything and everything. Every single one of his efforts was ignored and by day eight of the Silent Treatment Xander came up to his father and begged his forgiveness. Years later Xander couldn’t remember what he had done to earn that punishment. When he thought about it Xander was certain that he hadn’t known at the time what he was apologising for either.

That was the first of the Silent Treatments but it certainly wasn’t the last. Each time Xander held out for a little longer, his pride stopping him from begging for forgiveness but it never lasted. His father had finally found a punishment that worked, a situation that even Xander couldn’t babble his way out of. His own voice awkward in their mostly Silent house- his father did still need someone to vent his anger on and his mother suffered more of his drunken anger during his punishments- and even spending most of his days at Willow’s didn’t stop him from feeling invisible at home. The last Silent Treatment was still going when Xander handed his father his last rent payment and moved out of the bitter Silent oppression that was his parent’s home.

Xander’s relationship with Anya was always fiery and even when she was angry she retaliated with her words. Xander had been so certain that he had finally found his soul mate, his match; someone who detested Silence almost as much as him. Whenever they fought she would scream and shout and be utterly majestic in her passionate indignation. He was certain that there was never a minute of Silence in the span of their relationship. But everything changes and then she was gone and Xander thought he would go crazy in the Silence of their empty apartment. He left the television on every  night, loud as he could take it but it was still too quiet. When Spike needed a place to stay Xander leapt at the opportunity. Anything to make the Silence go away.

With Spike there was no Silence. Maybe that was why Xander fell for him so hard, so fast. Everything about the vampire was action, movement, talk- he was more human and passionate and alive than most humans Xander knew. So during their first fight, when Spike grabbed his coat and threw it angrily over his shirt Xander felt his heart clench.

“Don’t wait up for me. I don’t want to see or even talk to you right now,” he’d yelled, throwing open the door and storming off. Leaving the apartment in Silence so oppressive his father would have been impressed.

The walls felt like they were caving in on him, pressing closer and closer and he sat down in the centre of the room, his body trembling. Spike wouldn’t just leave him like this, he couldn’t, but the Silence that reigned in the small apartment drained Xander of any coherent thought. The only thing on his mind was the hysterical fear that Spike would leave him alone without speaking, that he couldn’t even bear to talk to Xander anymore. Would he punish Xander like his father had done, leaving him to suffer in the Silence for endless hours and days and weeks? Hours later and Xander hadn’t moved from where he had fallen and dawn was just breaking when the Silence was broken and Spike returned home.

Xander didn’t remember much about that night. He remembered crawling on his knees to Spike, his face wet with tears he didn’t recall shedding as he begged Spike to forgive him. Promised him everything he had in exchange for the Silence to be over. For Spike to talk to him again. Spike had looked down at him, a strangely soft, almost pitying look in his eyes and had knelt down next to him and held him, muttering soft nonsense all the while. He had picked Xander up and taken him to bed, undressing him carefully and pillowing Xander’s head on his chest, purring gently, before he apologised; promising that he would never be Silent like that again. Cuddled up in Spike’s cool arms, his head lying on his chest Xander realised that the room had fallen silent. And for once the silence was not something to fight, something terrifying and destructive. This time the silence comforted, bringing with it peace and hope and love. Xander fell asleep with a smile on his face, the silence healing something deep within his soul.

The End