Give a Boy a Gun

by
Markedxup



Part One

Xander grips the barrel hard in one tight fist, feeling the metal dig onto his palm and the grooves imprint on his flesh, creating a small barrier between the pain he likes and the pain he needs. The dark swollen flesh of his eyes and blood-crusted lip is a firm example of the pain in between.

Thoughts buzz surprisingly low, only murmuring ideas that will be tossed and cut off before they fully develop, disconnected while still immature and unable to take root and take action. Xander keeps up the steady mantra in his mind, repeating the words in time to his racing heart, fast but steady and with a definite pattern; calming, soothing, and reassuring.

Staring blankly at the veined cement wall, unadorned and ugly, infuriating but patient.

One more week.



~*~



The hallway is bursting with shouts and laughs and ignorance, kids spilling into the paths of other kids, fighting, kissing, teasing. Lockers slamming and squeaking open, books falling to the ground in a gush of ruffling papers and awkward thunks. A rainbow of colors and emotions, all painted and leaking into one another, creating something messy and abstract and altogether unpleasant.

Xander shuffles through the hall, nodding at a few people he passes but mostly keeping his head down and his eyes vacant, revealing no emotions toward the other kids he passed yet managing to appear harmless, if not defenseless. Of course, that in itself can piss off the simple jerks who find anything and anyone not completely devoted to themselves offensive.

Xander ignores and keeps walking despite his stumbles due to shoves and shouts. He doesn’t respond to “fag” or “freak” of “loser” anymore. Because if you answer to any of those names long enough, you begin forgetting to answer to anything else.

Daniel, member of the football team, basketball team, in-crowd, and Xander’s personal hate club, grabs Xander’s shirt in his fist and brings him nose to nose, fading swollen eyes to girl-swooning blue ones.

“Have a nice family get-together last night, Donut Boy?”

Dozens of breath mints fail to fully mask the smell of alcohol and the cutting insinuation. Xander slides on his well-practiced well-used ‘Yeah, I guess I am an idiot’ grin and clenches his fist in his pocket. “Lovely. We had meatloaf and homemade cookies then all sat down for a nice game of Scrabble.”

Daniel sneers and brings them an inch closer, their noses barely touching in what would appear to be pre-kiss to anyone who isn’t soundly aware of the high school hierarchy.

“Sounds like fun.”

Daniel shoves Xander with the arm holding them together and laughs as he stumbles and skids across the tiles, tripping kids and dropping his backpack as he topples into the crowd. Xander gathers his books with dedicated patience and silence, his face a mixture of forced serenity, compulsory acceptance, and fading bruises.

Once he is upright and at his locker peppered with Sharpie scrawlings of names he refuses to answer to, Xander closes his sore eyes tightly and blocks out the school noises around him and just tries to be grateful he hasn’t been dunked in a toilet full of piss. Always the optimist, him. At least he can afford to be.

Six more days.


~*~


The lunch room echoes with all the noises of the hallways, but magnified a few times and filled with chewing and slurping. Xander drops his plate with a clatter onto the table and Buffy grumbles as a few drops of pulverized potatoes splatter her arm. Xander slides into his seat without a word, glancing up at Willow staring concerned at him but just shaking his head and smiling a little. He hadn’t eaten with them for a while.

“So how have you been, Mr. Random Visits Guy?” Buffy takes a tiny bite of her sandwich, peeking up at Xander through her lashes, teasing but not flirting although her tones hints at a bit of seriousness. Xander shrugs and smiles as happily as he thinks he can manage.

“Really great. With much of the greatness. I’m basking in the greatness, actually,” Xander takes a sip of his water. “Watch me bask.”

“No thanks, I’ve actually had enough basking for one week,” She looks meaningfully at Willow who giggles excitedly. Willow brushes her fire-red hair out of her eyes and turns to Xander, smiling from ear to ear in a way that reminds Xander he hasn’t seen her do it in a while, much less been the cause of it.

“There’s this guy that Buffy met at the Bronze, his name’s like Angel or something, and he’s been like stalk-”

Xander feels himself being lifted by the collar of his shirt. He flails his arms a little but is pushed back into the table, water falling and spilling over all his food and the front of his shirt. Xander carefully sits back up, taking his napkin and dabbing out as much moisture as he can on his shirt and the table, face a mask of patience he wishes he had. Willow is openly staring at him, eyes wide and worried but mouth silent and drawn in a tight line. Buffy just peeks at him and pretends it hasn’t happened, as if that will make the stain on his shirt and pride disappear.

And although Xander isn’t looking up he can feel the stare of two icy blue eyes from the corner of the table, commenting in no way but the sad and slightly desperate way that they shine. Xander knows that if he looks up, a pale hand will instantly be on his shoulder and a mouth on his ear, murmuring assurances and helping him clean up. And even though they haven’t spoken, really spoken, in longer than two years, Xander knows that the words will be familiar. They were his, once upon a time, after all.

But instead Xander looks up in the opposite direction, eyes seeking out the not-so-familiar not-so-comforting face he knows will be searching for his, masked, patient, accepting. Brendan stares at him from across the lunchroom at the table where Xander usually sits, big brown eyes saying that he saw the incident. He raises one hand, palm flat but facing away, and fingers outspread except for the thumb curled into the palm. Xander nods with a slight smile, secretive and a little dirty. He turns back to this table and eyes inevitably sweep over to where secluded bleached hair and eyes far too blue stare relentlessly at himself from the far end of the table. He had seen the little exchange. But he doesn’t know what it means.

Xander quickly turns his eyes away from Will—Spike’s. Xander sneers in his mind. Spike. Just another desperate attempt to ‘fit in’ with Xander and his new clique. Will had changed every aspect of his fashion and personality to hold Xander’s attention. But it was all in vain, Xander tells himself. Because whenever Xander looks at Spike he sees a fourteen-year-old boy with curly blonde hair and little half-moons of blue under dark eyelashes, trembling slightly with excitement on his knees with his mouth between Xander’s legs. And Xander doesn’t have time for childhood friendships that went a little too far.

He only has time for one thing, and that itself has a deadline.

Four more days.


~*~



Xander ducks under the rusted barbed wire fencing, not snagging any of his clothes or skin like he used to, and runs quickly through the field of weeds and trash, skidding to a dusty stop in front of a large abandoned engine-less car. He knocks on the dirt-smeared window and the door swings open with a small shriek. “Hey Xan, wasn’t sure if you were gonna make it.”

He grins and slides into the car, reclining into the front seat next to Brendan while Eric, Chris, and Randy sit in the back. Randy hands him a beer that opens with a click and hiss. “So,” Brendan says with his mock-teacher voice, mimicking Mr. Giles down to the last glass-wipe. “Where shall we begin?”

They begin with another run-through of the photo-copied school blueprints, each reading off their route with memorized precision and, of course, patience. It’s almost funny how patient we force ourselves to be, Xander thinks to himself sometimes when there’s no one around to stare at him. The only thing under it is bottled up rage that’s eventually going to erupt and fizz out like a cold soda on a summer day. It’s unmistakable and inevitable yet we hold it off until the last possible moment when all it can do is make things much, much worse. That’s some pretty fucked up human nature.

But despite the logic and the unavoidable consequences, Xander and his lonely companions run down the little white lines with their fingers and their minds. They check and clean their revolvers, and Brendan his beloved AK47 to a glossy black sheen. They drink their beer and laugh and joke like sophomores do, and they are patient. After all.

Only two more days.





Part Two

I can’t really remember why I love him some days. I’ll be at Willow’s and we’ll be talking and laughing, watching the newest soppy romantic movie and throwing popcorn at the screen when the straight people kiss. Or I might be at the Bronze, silently basking in the stares of the pretty boys at the bar and giggling with Buffy over the strange, if slightly endearing, behavior of her clumsy stalker, Angel.

There’s this companionship that gives me a glimpse of happiness and fulfillment that makes me forget the lonely scared nights, wondering if down the street a body is being beaten against the wall. My friends fog the terrifying solitude I dream about, and they help me forget the times I wake up with sweat on my face and the fading image on my eyelids of stormy brown eyes shiny with tears and fears with me unable to lift a hand. But when the cloudy emotions and noises evaporate, I’m left with only a misty account of that companionship.

And then, when I’m alone at night after the drone of the TV downstairs has clicked off and the stars are too lazy to shine through my bedroom window, there’s this hard yearning that slams into me and refuses to let me sleep. Every time I close my eyes an image of silky brown hair and a goofy smile that slowly fades to a frown imprints itself in my mind. And if it’s really quiet and I have had a few drinks earlier, I can hear the little whisper, ‘I can’t be your friend anymore,’ and my heart breaks again.

Of course I love him. I couldn’t stop if I tried. It used to scare me, but now just offers a sad little reassurance. A small piece of me that will never change; he and my feelings for him will always be with me as long as long as I have memories.

I hope that’s not all I’ll have. That maybe, someday, he’ll realize that I’m— that he’s— more important than stupid high school cliques. I still don’t completely understand his fascination with those punks he hangs around with, though. They’re always wearing black and giving each other these sidelong glances when the jocks make fun of them. They sort of give me the creeps.

Not that I haven’t tried to fit in with them. God, I’ve done everything but bomb the school. Or rape kittens. I’ve pierced, tattooed, leather-fied, chain-ified, boot-ified, bleached, dyed, spiked, collared, skulked, nail-painted, and punkified myself to the point of where I walk home my father instantly steps toward the gun closet before he recognizes me as his son. I’ve changed my image, dropped my accent to the most undignified street trash growl I can manage, begun swearing in every sentence, sneered at teachers and cops, took up smoking, and perfected the leer. I changed my goddamn name for Christ’s sake. Spike. How awful. But it gets the point across.

And yet, despite my full-fledged and constant effort, I have yet to earn more than a withering glance from the boy I love. It’s heartbreaking, frustrating, terrifying, and depressing. It’s high school.

And as far as I know, it doesn’t get any better.


~*~


I’m lying on my bed, bored out of my mind, flipping through a dog-eared guitar magazine that I’ve read before yet could not repeat a single word of it if you asked me to. I pull myself into a sitting position and stare at the bedside clock. 11:17 it tells me in arrogant neon green. The whole damn night ahead of me and I’m wide awake and I have fucking school tomorrow.

I pick up the phone and press Speed Dial 2. Willow picks up after two rings.

“Hello?”

“Hey Red. Bored as friggin’ hell and it’s too damn hot for a wank.”

“Oh, so I’m the next best thing?”

“Well, there’s nothing on the telly either.”

“Thanks, I feel so appreciated.”

I’m smiling as I hear the giggles in her voice and drop the ridiculous accent and the ‘Spike’ facade.

“So want to go see that new Tom Cruise movie tomorrow? Not helpin’ the boredom now but letting me think up some pretty hot nude scenes.”

“I think it’s supposed to be a thriller.”

“Damn.”

“I couldn’t, anyways. Xander and Buffy and I are skipping school tomorrow.”

And here comes the sinking suffocating weight of knowing I’ll go another day without seeing Xander. Figures. I got too lucky yesterday when I sat at the same table and actually met eyes with him. Some days I wonder if I’m a stalker or just obsessed.

“Oh?”

I know she can tell by the tone of my voice that I am having an internal meltdown.

“I’m sorry, Will.” I wonder if she feels weird calling me by her own nickname. “I tried to convince him to ask you.”

“I know you did, luv.”

“Do you not want me to go? ‘Cause I’ll stay! Really, if it-”

“No, Willow, you go have fun. He’s your friend, too.”

I would do anything to be as close as you two are for one day.

“Thanks, Will. Spike. Whatever.”

“Always Will for you, pet.”

I can practically hear her smile over the phone. Red Smiles are a tangible thing, warm like sunshine and refreshing like ice cream and impossible to be immune to. I smile back and hope she can feel it.

“I better go; there’s a certain kitty that needs her litter box changed.”

“Charming. Bye, luv.”

The phone rests back into its cradle with a dull click. I pick up the magazine and read it cover to cover.


~*~


I can tell you the exact time, the exact second, I fell in love with him. I was thirteen— bookish, shy, wondering if I’d be this short forever. Xan and I had been friends since we were ten and planned on keeping it that way until we were eighty or so. I was just beginning to realize I wasn’t exactly like all the other blokes my age, not noticing the bints as much, you know. And one night while I was struggling through another wank and wondering if it was supposed to be this hard to keep it hard, when a crystal clear, very detailed picture of Xander, my best friend, naked in the locker rooms like we were after gym popped into my head. And hey, look, problem solved!

So naturally I was freaked, wigged as Xan would say, and couldn’t look him in the eye for a good week. Got over it eventually and we were as close as ever. Until one night after we had just gone to a new horror movie and sat through it twice more, we were walking home and stopped to get some ice cream. Lying in the back of someone’s dusty pickup with a gleaming patchwork of stars above us overloaded my sensitive amateur poet’s brain and I felt the need to be completely honest. ‘I think I’m different,’ I had said to him, eyes blinking up into the sky and hoping he wouldn’t hate me. ‘We’re all a bit different, Willy,’ he’d replied, using the nickname he’d given me that I hated with all my will. Especially when he sprayed me with the hose and ran around yelling ‘Wet Willy!’

‘No, I mean I think I’m really different. Like, I don’t really...I mean, I think I...’ I don’t know where my ramblings would have wandered to if he hadn’t sat up and pulled me up next to him. ‘Will. I know.’ I’d stared at him and he’d just looked at me, big brown eyes all dark and strangely wise in the twinkling star light. ‘I’m different too.’

And I was gone. I mean completely, done for, finished, toast. I was flat out hearts and roses and pink letters tied with ribbons in love.

Later, after our fumbling hand-holding and sweet as sugar first kiss and our declaration to Red and Buffy that we were ‘going out’ (met with many a gasp and squeal), he spent the night as my house in what I like to remember as the best night of my life. We slept over at each other’s houses quite often, being fourteen and liking to play video games well into the night. And we sometimes slept in the same bed, feeling slightly guilty and loving it, body a jumble of raw nerves and electrocutions every time we brushed a stray limb. But we’d never progressed more than a hearty snog, although that in itself could very well have brought me off at that age. Might even now if it was with him.

But anyways, his dad had slugged him something fierce and he was seeking refuge from him. We didn’t talk about that. We talked about everything from fashion to books to current news and even politics. But we didn’t talk about Xander’s ass of a father or how he had the troublesome habit of getting pig drunk and beating the sense out of him and his wife. Looking back on it, I can see the giant mistake that was, but, of course, I was only a kid and didn’t know what to do.

Well, Xan had stayed over at my house, in my room, and I’d been fussing over him, putting ice on his eye and hugging him every chance I got. He said none of that was necessary but I could tell he loved it. And eventually the hugs became a continuous embrace and the embrace became sweet kisses. The snogging turned into groping and then full-on frottage. I remember my eyes screwed shut and the silky feeling of pajama bottoms sliding against my skin as I ground hard into him. I remember every gasp and sigh he made, and every time groaned my name I whispered back his own. And I still don’t know what made me do it, although I’m sure it was definitely the best and worst thing I’ve ever done in my life, but before Xander’s thrusts had reached a frenzy, I slid down off of him and onto my knees at the side of the bed.

His legs hung over the sides and bare feet brushed the carpet. His eyes had this heat and astonishment radiating from them and I reveled in both. His breath reached post-sprint speeds when I unzipped him and he cried out when I took him in my mouth.

And although I had absolutely no experience beside my fantasies, he had nothing to compare it to, beside his own, he told me he loved me that night and I repeated the words back to him with just as much passion and twice the honesty.


~*~


I can tell there’s something wrong when I first sit down at the table. The lunchroom is as loud and disgusting as ever, kids yelling and spraying each other with food, laughing and roughing each other up. I sit next to Oz and his friend Devon, both major stoners and not much for conversation but at least better than sitting alone. And my eyes involuntarily flicker over to where Xander and his people sit, at the far end well away from the torturing jocks. They’re just fodder for the popular kids’ vicious appetites and I’ve yet to go a single day without seeing one of them without their head in a used toilet, their face not bruised from being slammed into a locker, or a rush of papers spilling out of a thrown backpack. I feel like screaming when I see any of those happen to Xander.

I know Xander won’t be at the table, but my heart does a funny little skip when I see none of the usual black-clad delinquents slouching around the table and pressing their heads in to whisper to each other. The table is empty, chairs pressed obediently under it and not a speck of food flawing the shiny gray surface. I’m aware that I’m staring, silently ogling the table with confusion and a smidge of dread. I’m so preoccupied that I don’t hear the door slam open—no one does, because they’re all preoccupied too. And I don’t even see them until the first round. I’m laughing a bit at first; it sounds like someone had set off more firecrackers. And I turn around to see the sparks and screaming people, but instead see a row of black-clad boys holding in front of them a few very familiar objects. I do play video games, after all.

One boy jerks and a loud explosion ricochets off the walls, echoing fiercely in the giant lunch room. Ahead of me I see jock Daniel Curtin shudder and his neck twist at a grotesque angle as a spray of blood shimmers through the air. The surrounding kids scream as their clothes and mouths are showered in blood and that muffles the thunk of the body as it lands heavily at their feet. In that instant a roar of screams and gunshots explodes into action and kids scramble and trampled each other in their attempt to get out.

Around me I see kids on the floor, crawling toward the doors and shaking and screaming. I’ve never heard so much noise and so much fear. Sporadically, kids jerk and drop in a strangled shriek and clutch their bodies as spurts of blood drop to the ground in sickening splatters. I’m in shock. The first thing I do is drop to the floor and scuttle under the table, curling into a ball and tucking my head under my arms. I hear a thud beside me and peek up. Devon is there and I feel relieved. I’m about to reach out for him when I see the tiny string of blood trailing from the corner of his lip and running down his chin. I look back into his eyes and see they’re glassy and bobbing in their sockets like a duck in a pond. I scream for all I’m worth and bang my head on the table in my rush to stand.

I can barely hear the gunshots beyond the pounding in my head and the panicking and blood-soaked world is beginning to tilt and funnel out into darkness. My heart is beating so fast I can barely distinguish one throb from the next but when I lock eyes with beautiful dark brown ones my blood freezes like nitrogen in my veins. He’s standing there, black cargos and sweatshirt hanging loosely off his limbs and dark splotches of crimson decorating the bottoms. There’s a shiny black gun in his hand, finger curled provocatively around the trigger and shivering slightly in the air. It’s the first time I’ve noticed him but I can tell he hasn’t shot the gun once yet. The boys on either side of him fire away and reload but he just stands there with his hands outstretched in front of him and the gun pointing ominously into space.

I guess I’m screaming his name because my mouth is open and the dark eyes swing and lock onto me. Now I’m just standing there and people are pushing me in their hurry to get away, crying hysterically and clutching their bloody limbs. As soon as his eyes point to me, the gun follows, swerving and aiming directly. At me. The muzzle trained and unwavering, creating a perfect shot at my chest, my heart. And while I’m terrified and frozen stiff, there’s a part of me that screams ‘Do it! You’ve already killed me once, what’s another shot going to do?’ And that’s the part of me that’s given up any hope on Xander and tells me that I’m pathetic and ignorant. So what are you going to do, Xan? Which part of me will you prove wrong?

The clatter of the gun dropping to the floor is loud and giant and clear to me despite the sounds surrounding it. It should have knocked me from my stupor but only paralyzes me more. My mind is a flurry of half-thoughts and panic skipping through, instinct mainly in control with little blips of common sense to aid it. But the sight of Xander running and ducking and jumping over bodies, dodging overturned tables and puddles of slick blood holds my muscles in a gridlock. He is here now, grabbing me and pushing me toward the closest door. I follow him because I don’t have a choice and stumble into the hallway after he kicks the door open.

Xander twists the knob of the broom closet door and jerks it open, shoving me inside. I fall to the ground amid the toppling cleaning supplies and smell of disinfectant. I hear the door slam shut and lock and a body drop down beside me. It’s pitch black and the muffled sounds of screams and gunshots try to push through the door, but Xander’s here. Xander’s here and he was planning on killing people. Xander’s here and was planning on killing me. Xander’s here and I haven’t talked to him in two years. Xander’s here and he hates me. With a sob I launch myself at the warm body next to me. Xander’s here.

I cry and wrap my arms around him. My body shakes and shudders and wails to the background music of screams and sirens outside. I feel my tears soaking a damp spot into his shoulder but don’t stop- can’t stop. Then a tentative arm moves and pulls me closer and a mouth presses against my head. I can feel tears dropping wetly into my hair as hot breath whispers desperately in my ear and the body rocks me.

“It’s okay, Will, I’m here. I’m sorry, Will, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean it, Will, I didn’t mean any of it, I didn’t.” The voice cracks and the gunshots stop as sirens scream to a halt outside.

“I’m here.”



The End