Timeline: AU
Rated: PG. Take the necessary precautions: practice responsible reading.
Email: BrynSpikess@hotmail.com
Archival: Just ask and ye shall recieve.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the Buffy or Angel cast/crew/characters/plotlines/etc.
Inspiration: Darkhaven's first line: The rules are quite simple.

Jarred Axis

Dea Brynhild Ensomhet Spikess

One casually dropped comment was all it took, a simple observation that slammed into Xander like a knife in the side. "You're always complaining about something." There had been no underlying emotion, so sarcasm or disgust or amazement, just a offhand remark in that sophisticated British accent that had shocked Xander still. He'd kind of been driving on cruise control - close down his register, count out the drawer, clock out, and then wander past the meat department to chat with the new guy, William. It was something to look forward to every day; Xander couldn't help it, he'd always had a thing for an accent.

One evening, one sentence that made him look at his life in a whole new light. He stared at William, his mind scrambling back while his mouth automatically jumped to defense, "I don't complain all the time."

But he did, he realized. Everyone he knew did. It was a simple ritual with simple rules, a game he and his friends had always played: try to one-up each other on complaints. It was a bonding exercise, sharing each other's misfortunes. Every night when he saw his roommate, Buffy, she'd rant about how horrible life in the fast food industry was, the stupidity of the customers, and the bitchiness of the other employees. In return he'd tell her all about the embarrassing items people had bought and other things that had happened that day. It was a tradition that Xander had never noticed before.

He left the store lost in his thoughts, drove home in a daze, and walked into the small two-bedroom apartment. Buffy looked up from where she was painting her nails at the kitchen table. "Hey, Xan. You won't believe how wretched work was today. How did your day go?"

Xander pulled out a soda from the fridge and sat down at the table, mulling over the question. He thought about the lady who had been talking on the phone while all five credit cards in her purse declined. He thought about the little girl who'd stolen a candy bar when her father wasn't looking. He thought about the overweight man buying an issue of every skin mag they sold, and the teenage girl with too much mascara trying to buy cigarettes and cussing at him when he wanted ID.

Then he thought about the pretty girl with long brown hair in a braid, who'd bought about twenty packs of index cards and mechanical pencils, and who'd rambled on about how excited she was to start college next week. He thought about the shy boy, nervously buying a pack of condoms and asking him for any advice for ‘the big night'. He thought about another little girl whose mother had paid for Ramen noodles with pennies, remembered how she'd gazed longingly at the candy bars but didn't dare voice her desire for one. He remembered how good it had felt to give her a candy bar, waving off the mother's profuse gratitude when he'd given them their entire twelve-dollar grocery order ‘on the house'. He hadn't even minded paying for it out of his own pocket; the smiles and happiness on the mother and daughter's faces had been worth it.

"Work was good." He finally said, sipping on his soda.

The End

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