Through the Eyes of a Child
The battle was still going strong and the Scoobies were loosing ground. This demon was a total unknown, even Giles did not know what it was. It wasn’t the biggest they had ever fought, only about eight feet, but nothing they did to it had even slowed it down. Wounds healed over as fast as they were inflicted. Xander had attacked from the rear as Buffy came in from the front, Giles jumped in at every opening he saw. Repeatedly they had attacked the demon without much luck of any kind. Buffy’s arm felt like lead and she didn’t know how much longer she could keep at it, even her slayer strength was giving out. She knew Xander and Giles must be ready to drop. Willow and Tara were calling up every defense spell they had. Their voices were growing hoarser and hoarser but nothing was working against the furred demon. They hit it with spell after spell but it made no difference. The creature struck out with it’s left arm and sent the watcher rolling up against a headstone. Giles shook his head Well at least I didn’t get hit in the head again trying to clear it before rejoining Buffy. As he was getting to his feet he noticed a dark shadow coming from behind him. Oh Lord if that’s another one of the same we’re all doomed. As the shadow got closer Giles began to have a little hope. It was another demon, just not the same demon. Maybe now they had a chance.
"Oi, what in the hell are you playing at now?" Spike snarled as he approached the group. "Don’t you lot know better than to mess with a Graz’elktheus demon?"
Giles looked at Spike in shock, "You know what the devil that thing is?"
"Of course I do, said so didn’t I? And just where the hell is my Xan-pet? Hey Red, you and Glinda knock off the mojo, it don’t work. It’s immune. Slayer you have to jab it in the middle eye, that’s its only weak spot and don’t let it get a claw in you, it’s poison." Buffy jumped at the demon and started stabbing at the creature’s middle eye…nothing happened. "Bloody hell you just won’t let a person finish will you? You have to use silver." Spike pulled a dagger from his boot and started running toward the demon. He leaped up as he got near it and planted the dagger deep in the center of it’s third eye and just that fast the battle was over. As it fell, the body began to melt into a gruesome slimy mess.
"Ewwww, why do we always get the slimy, stinky demons?" Buffy whined "Why can’t they just poof like every self respecting vampire does. Oh well another night, another apocalypse stopped. Everybody OK?"
"It appears that we all survived intact and I will make sure to put in your order for a non slimy demon next time." Giles stated as he cleaned his glasses while glancing around at the group. Willow and Tara were gathering up their supplies, Buffy was cleaning weapons and Xander… "Where’s Xander? He was off to my right just a moment ago."
"When did you see the whelp last?" And why is it always my Xan-pet you manage to loose. You never loose the flippin’ slayer bint do you? Spike began to run around searching behind headstones and mausoleums looking for his Xander.
"Xander, quit fooling around, it’s late and I want to go home and take a long, hot bath." Buffy shouted "I guess we better start looking for him, he just can’t be trusted to take care of himself."
One of these days Slayer…this chip’ll be history and you’ll be a happy meal. Spike’s thoughts were not happy ones as he searched for Xander.
The group split up and started searching in the immediate vicinity for the dark haired boy. They continued searching the cemetery in an ever widening pattern. Thirty minutes into the search the group still hadn’t found him Spike was becoming frantic, bouncing from one point to the next with vampiric speed. Why didn’t you wait for me Xan? I told you I would be here. I swear I’m locking you in the bleedin’ apartment for at least a month.
Finally they heard Tara yelling from across the cemetery, "I found him, h-hurry up, he’s hurt. I th-think it may be bad."
Spike tore across the cemetery. Not my Xan-pet, nothings going to happen to my Xander. Do you hear me, whoever’s supposed to be listening…NOT MY Xan-pet and was standing over the pair by the time the rest of the group had gotten over to where Tara was. She was on the ground with Xander’s head in her lap. He had a bloody gash across his chest that was oozing blood but he didn’t seem to be hurt anywhere else. Tara was gently patting his checks trying to wake him up but it wasn’t working.
"We had better be getting him back to the Magic Box. I will need the books there and we need to get out of the open. The demon might not have been alone. We have to try and find out how to counter act whatever the demon did to him. Spike do you know anything about the effects of a wound from that creature?" Giles did not like the feeling of being helpless, it was his job to know these things.
"All I know is that it’s supposed to be bad mojo and you shouldn’t get near the claws. No one ever told me what it does exactly." Spike was staring at the boy on the ground wanting to grab him up and carry him away but he knew Xander would get royally pissed if he made a scene in front of the Scoobies. "Here let me get him, you lot lead the way and I’ll carry the whelp." Xan-pet what have you got in the way of this time? You’re going to quit helping the soddin’ slayer if I have to tie you to the bed.
"Spike I thought you said it was immune to magic." Willow’s voice was becoming louder and shriller as if she was accusing Spike of causing this. "We quit the defense spells because YOU said they wouldn’t work."
"I said the demon was immune to magic not that it didn’t have some mojo of it’s own. S’like mojo won’t stick to it, it just bounces off." You bloody Scoobies ain’t blamin’ me for this cockup. "Now just get out of the way and let me get the boy up off the ground."
"We don’t need your help Spike. I can carry Xander and you just go back to your crypt or wherever you hang out now." Buffy snarled. Spike snarled right back at her in full game face, growling loudly.
"Buffy, enough. Do be quiet. Spike please quit encouraging her. Buffy, Spike is the only one with any knowledge of this demon and we may need him there." Giles was nervously polishing his glasses again. Dealing with Buffy and Spike was like dealing with two very spoiled aggressive children.
"Fine, but if fangless gets in the way or does anything, he’s dust." Buffy brandished Mr.Pointy as if to prove that she wouldn’t hesitate to use it.
Giles led the way to the Magic Box, lost in thought, trying to figure out where to start looking for a cure for the Graz’elktheus demon’s venom or whatever it happened to be. Opening the door to the shop, he motioned Spike over to the research table. Spike gently laid Xander down on the table, smoothing his hair away from his face as he let go. Giles brought a blanket from the office and covered the boy up. He pulled books down off the shelves and frantically began to search for the demon in question. The girls were standing quietly around the table Xander lay on wanting desperately to be doing something just not knowing what they should do. Tara finally took Willow’s hand and led her over to where Giles was frantically searching through books. She handed Willow a book, picked up another one and started searching for answers. Buffy just stood off to the side, she knew when it came to research, she would just be in the way.
Xander was beginning to slowly toss his head back and forth softly moaning and mumbling incoherently. Spike went back to the bathroom and wet a towel to wash the blood off his Xan-pet’s chest. He gently opened the torn shirt and began to softly wipe away the blood. The wound wasn’t deep, just a scratch actually. It didn’t look like something that could take the boy’s life. Stop it, Xan-pet has had worse than this and always survived, hell he’s had worse from his own flippin’ parents. As Spike leaned down to finish taking off Xander’s shirt, he was suddenly looking into the large, dark chocolate colored eyes he knew and loved. Yeah you’re the Big Bad alright, ready to start beggin’ for a look at those eyes, anything to show that Xan-pet is in there.
"It’s about time you joined us whelp. Had the watcher and the witches right worried about you, you did."
"Who are you?" Xander asked in a small whispery voice.
"Oh hell…WATCHER get over here…NOW!" Spiked yelled.
"Sorry, really sorry, bad boy, did something wrong, please don't yell, won't do it again, pro-miss, won't do it again...puhlease don't hurt me, tell me what I did, won't do it again sorry." Xander had his eyes closed tightly and his whole body was shaking.
Giles ran up to the table just in time to hear Xander's plea for Spike not to hurt him. He looked into Spike's shocked face that he was sure mirrored the look on his own. He couldn't begin to fathom what could have happened to boy to make him so afraid. Xander's voice didn't sound right. It was soft and immature, something was decidedly wrong with the boy.
" Oi don't start on me watcher, I just yelled for you and he started acting like I was going to beat him." Oh bloody hell, the parents. Stupid Spike, you know what the fuckin' bastards did to the boy. "I won't hurt you Xan, was just calling Rupert here to come check your cut."
"Xander you didn't do anything wrong, you got hurt. You got hit with something and there's a cut on your chest. What's the last thing you remember doing?" Giles asked gently. Xander just stared at him in confusion. He looked out the window and saw it was dark out and started to cry quietly, he was in so much trouble. He was late and his daddy would already be home...waiting for him.
"I gots to go home now. It's dark out and I'm apposed to be in when it gets too dark. please..I'mgonna beinsomuchtroubleandproblygetsaspankin.ineedtogohomenow." he was sobbing and in full Xanderbabble mode.
Spike leaned towards the boy and gently took hold of his chin. He turned his head so they were face to face and softly asked "Xander how old are you?"
"I'm gonna be seven pretty soon but now I'm just six," he said trying to sniff back the tears, he was holding up three fingers on each hand. "Can I go home now? I gots to go home now."
"No, you need to lay there for awhile because you got hurt. We need to make sure you are alright before you leave. We'll make sure you aren't in trouble" Giles was also keeping his voice low and even trying not to scare Xander. He had to remember that this was Xander the child not a man. Oh Lord he really didn't know how to deal with young children.
"You talk pretty, what's your name? Do you have any kids I can play with? I like to play with other kids." He looked around the store, trying to see everything, when he spotted the girls he wiggled his fingers at them. "Hi you look like my Willow, do you know my Willow? Her and Jesse are my bestest friends. I was over a Willow's house playing and then I don't `member anything else. You sure I'm not in trouble?"
Spike smiled at the way his Xan's brain was bouncing from subject to subject, his boy hadn't changed too much as he grew up.
"No Xander, you're not in any trouble. We have to make sure you feel better before you can leave. I want you to lie there while Spike and I talk in the office. Is that alright with you?" Giles tried to keep his voice calm so Xander wouldn't become frightened again.
"Kay. Spike…that's a funny name, is it your really name or a pretended name? Spike's a doggie name, you don't look like a doggie…did your mommy name you Spike? My reallyname is Al-ex-and-er but my Willow and Jesse just call me Xander it's easiest. Only my daddy and mommy call me Al-ex-and-er but I don't like it `specially when they yell it..AL-EX-AND-ER LA-VELLE HARR-IS. That means I'm in so much trouble." Xander hunched his shoulders up and crooked his finger at Spike "`mere… can I tell you a secret?" Spike nodded yes and leaned down to hear what Xan-pet had to say. "I gets kinda ascared when they yell my whole long name, it means I been bad and I'm really gonna get it." Spike glanced over at Willow and watched as tears ran down her face and she nodded her head. She obviously knew what was going on with his Xan-pet, at least the six year old Xan-pet.
"See those pretties over there?" Spike pointed at the three girls. When Xander shook his head Spike continued. "They're going to watch you while Rup…Mr. Giles and I go in the office and talk. They won't hurt you and if they do just yell and I'll come back and bite them good and proper OK?"
Xander started to giggle and shook his head till the curls were bouncing over his eyes. "'kay what's their names? Will they like me ok, I'll be good, I promise, crossmyheart." Xander watched Spike walk back to the office then turned his head towards the approaching girls. "Hi my name's Xander… why are you crying? Did you get hurt too? I get hurt lots but I gets all better too. Mommy says I'm just cul..clu..uhmm..clumsy. But I don't really know what that means. I guess it jus' means I get hurt awhoooole lot.
"Buffy, hush, not now. Ixnay on the illoway. No Xander I'm not hurt just a little sad because you got hurt. You can call me Red, that's what Spike calls me, Okay?" Xander nodded again and Willow finished introducing little xander to the friends he couldn't remember. "This is Tara and that's Buffy…sometimes she yells but she's really okay. She won't hurt you, I promise."
"I don't yell at all and I really want to know what the hell you're talking about." Buffy voice was getting higher and louder the longer she talked. Just then the bell over the door rang and Xander's head spun around and he looked like he was going to start crying again. This time Buffy really noticed the look of fear on Xander's face and there was no denying that it was real. "Hey little man, it's okay. It's just my sister, Dawn. You're not in trouble but she better have a really good explanation about why she's here after midnight."
"You..you're not gonna spank her are you?" Xander asked quietly.
Dawn snorted "Yeah as if..."
Buffy shook her head no, "I don't hit Dawn, ever, and I'd never hit you either, promise"
Dawn was looking from person to person completely confused and not understanding anything. Maybe some bad guy scrambled their brain but good this time.
"Dawn this is Xander, he got hurt and we're taking care of him since he's only six and can't be alone because you know only six and all." Willow talked fast trying to get in everything before Dawnie could say anything. They could see the confusion fading from her eyes and understanding taking it's place.
"Hey, Xander, I'm Dawn and yeah the loud one is my big pain in the butt sister. You're six huh, that's cool. Hey I'm not the youngest anymore, hah. And yes Buffy I have a really good reason to be here so late. Janice got sick, really pukin' sick and her mom thought you might like it if she got me outta there quick".
Giles and Spike came walking back into the front of the shop. They both looked calmer and were wearing very "Willowlike" resolve faces. Whatever they had decided was what would be done and the look on their faces said that arguing wouldn't be appreciated.
"Right then, we've, that is Spike and I, have decided the Xander is going home with Spike tonight. It makes the most sense."
Buffy jumped up and started yelling immediately "No way am I letting fangless take Xander to his crypt. Not going to happen. Who knows what he'd do."
"I have to agree with Buffy" Willow stated firmly, "I can take care of Xander, I have before."
"Girls you can argue all you like, it has already been decided. Spike will take Xander to "his" apartment. Buffy you have Dawn to think of and your, ahem, other duties. Willow, you and Tara live in a dormitory, not the place for a young child and I have the store to take care of and research to do. Spike is the best option at this point."
"What is it Xander?"
"Why can't I go home? I really need to go home afore I get into more trouble."
Spike came over and touched the top of Xander's head, "Your parents aren't here right now are they? That's why I'm going to be taking care of you for awhile. Like the rest of my undead life Is that okay with you?"
"Mommy and Daddy aren't here? Where'd they go, is it time for them to visit grammy again? Maybe I can stay with my willow, sometimes they let me stay there." His voice started to quiver slightly. Oh no Xan-pet not the tears again, bleedin' Master vampire and can't take a few soddin' tears.
"Xander honey, your Willow isn't here right now either. She's with her mommy and daddy right now," Willow had trouble controlling the waver in her voice. She remembered how the Harris's always tried to find someone to shove Xander off on whenever they went somewhere. "You'll like staying with Spike. He'll be lots of fun and I bet you he'll watch cartoons with you."
And just how did you know me and my Xan-pet watch cartoons together, Red? "Alright then all settled then, you about ready to leave Xander? You look like you're getting a little tired there." Spike watched as Xander tried to cover up a huge yawn. "I think I need to get you home. Tell everyone `night and we're gone."
"'kay, I'm ready now. Do you live in a house? Do you have a yard. How…how bout a swing huh? Do you have one of them?" Hell Xan-pet, you haven't changed since you were six have you? How I the hell can you talk like that and still breathe? Spike carefully helped Xander off the table, holding him around the waist so he wouldn't fall. Slowly they made their way to the door. "Bye Dawnie, bye Red, bye Tara and Buffy and mis..ter Giles bye." Xander was wiggling his fingers in a little goodbye wave as Spike helped him through the door.
"Take a breath Xander, you'll see them again tomorrow. Let's go get you to bed." Spike held on to Xander's hand like he was afraid he would disappear if he let go and led him out the door into the night.
Inside the Magic Box, Buffy finally exploded in anger. "Why is Spike taking care of Xander, soulless evil dead guy, remember? How can you think he can take care of a little kid and what is with this being scared, crying and thinking we're going to beat him? Why can't we just take him back to his parents so they can take care of him? That's where he should be. Or even Anya. Why can't Anya take care of him? I mean I know they are on the outs because of the wedding and everything but she still might help take care of him."
"Buffy, to begin with Anya most decidedly cannot be trusted to care for Xander. She's still upset with him and besides that she is also not in town right now. You must remember that Xander's mind may be six but his body is that of a grown man. Do you really think he would want any of you helping him to dress, to bathe? Spike is the most logical choice. I have to try and find a way to bring him out of this and I can't do that while babysitting. I need to research and it is quite possible that I may end up having to get in touch with the council. There may be something in one of the watcher diaries about this demon. I will also consider calling on Angel and Wesley, one of them may happen to know something about this demon. As for the being scared and not going to his parents, I think Willow may know more about that than I do even though I have my suspicions."
Willow shook her head sadly and started to tell her friends things that she had never mentioned to anyone but Jesse when he was still alive. Jesse had understood, he had seen it happen. "Buffy, we didn't all have great parents. You had a good mother and well my parents may not pay me much attention but they never hurt me. Xander isn't that lucky, his parents aren't like that…they're mean, hateful drunks. That's the reason he used to sneak over to my house all the time. When they started drinking and the fighting got worse, he would sneak out..he..he started doing it when he was four." Willow started to sob and for a minute couldn't say anything else. "I tried to always be there for him, I would wash off the blood and put Superman Band-Aids on the cuts and tried to get him to tell me what happened but he would never say the words. The story was always that he fell or something tripped him. It just wasn't possible for him to come right out and say it was his parents. He pretended that nothing happened and each time he went back to them. I think it was still going on until he moved to his apartment."
"No way, I would have noticed if he was getting beat up. We saw him nearly every day Willow. Do you really think they were still beating him up and none of us noticed?" Buffy was beginning to cry herself as she thought of all the times she had ignored how slowly Xander walked, how carefully he moved around, or the bruises he sported even when they hadn't fought anything for awhile. "They really were hurting him weren't they? Why didn't you say something? I could have….we could have stopped it, showed them what it feels like to really be hurt. There had to be something I could do." Buffy didn't like feeling helpless especially when it was her friends who were getting hurt.
"It was up to Xander, Buffy. You can't make someone ask for help. I tried for years to get him to admit that something was going on but he pretended that everything was fine. I think it's how he coped, that and making a joke out of everything. He just couldn't admit that something was really wrong." Willow's shoulders slumped in a defeated posture, "I really tried Buffy. This is new for you but I've been living with it since I was four years old. I was five when I finally figured out that monsters could be the people that were supposed to love and take care of you before that all I really knew was that my friend was hurt. I tried so hard to be there for him and love him.." Willow broke down and sobbed. Tara pulled her into a hug and slowly rocked her back and forth, gently rubbing comforting circles on her back.
"We know you tried sweetie. You did everything you could." Buffy watched the two as comfort was given and received. She hadn't felt this helpless since sending Angel to hell.
"Buffy we know you want to help Xander but Willow is right. You can't help someone until they are ready to ask for help." Giles was polishing his glasses again trying to keep his fingers busy and wishing, not for the first time, he had the ability to let Ripper out to play. That would teach the boy's parents to beat him, a little of their own back at them. He felt as guilty as Buffy, he hadn't noticed how often Xander was hurt either. For now the best thing he could do was what he did best..research. He had to find out everything he could about the Graz'elktheus demon. There had to be a way to help Xander.
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