Chapter Six – Life Lessons with the Harris family
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Norse Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
-== Chapter Six – Life Lessons with the Harris family ==-
Xander was exhausted as he finally stepped off his skateboard at the back door of his home. Eve had assured him it was only because he was still physically changing. Within a few days, the last of his mortal weakness would fade away and no amount of physical exertion would likely tire him overly much. It had been an interesting experience, however, testing his physical limits. He had yet to find something so heavy he couldn’t lift it, or so strong that he couldn’t bend or break it. Only Mjolnir seemed unaffected by his might.
The sun had long set by the time he reached for the doorknob to the Harris residence. He slipped quietly inside, hoping to avoid a confrontation with his parents. However, it seemed that luck was not with him.
“Xander?” his drunken father slurred from the living room as Xander entered the kitchen in search of something that resembled food. “Is that you boy?”
He grimaced at his father’s tone. ‘So much for food and bed,’ he thought sadly. “Yes sir,” he called out in response.
“Get your ass in here, boy,” he screamed back. “You’ve got some explaining to do.”
Keeping his face carefully neutral, Xander walked into the living room. Anthony Harris was sprawled in his favorite chair with a half-empty bottle of whiskey in one hand and the heavy leather belt he favored for beating his son in the other. Xander struggled to keep hold of his emotions as anger and hate surged up in him at the sight. He could very easily kill Tony if he lost his temper now, and that was something he didn’t want on his conscience. He stood quietly in front of his father, staring coldly at the man who had spent so many years treating him as a burden, a stupid, worthless, thing.
“You in trouble at that school of yours boy?” the elder Harris slurred.
“No sir,” he replied, forcing his voice to remain respectful.
A loud thwack rang through the room as the belt lashed out, catching Xander on the bare flesh of his arm with enough force to raise a welt. Or at least, it would have been enough if Xander were a normal, mortal, man. The young Aesir forced himself not to smile at the blow he’d hardly felt, save for the tiny flash of pain that confirmed that Tony did indeed share, in some part, the bloodline of Thor.
“Don’t lie to me boy!” the drunk screamed, staggering to his feet. “One of your damn teachers called, looking for you. Asking questions about where you were and when you’d be home,” a second lash of the belt fell across Xander’s shoulder even harder than the first.
“It was probably Mr. Giles,” Xander explained patiently. “He was wondering why I hadn’t signed up for summer school after last year…”
The belt lashed out again, wrapping around him to mostly hit Xander’s back. “You fucking worthless little shit,” his father screamed in his face. “You can’t even do something simple like pass so you graduate on time.” The belt hit him repeatedly as Tony berated him. “Diploma or not, you are out on the fucking street the day you turn eighteen,” he snarled.
“I look forward to it,” the younger Harris snarled back, his control slipping as he drifted dangerously close to losing his temper.
“You ungrateful, little fuck!” His father screamed back, hitting Xander across the face with the belt. “If you’re so fucking unhappy, leave! Take your worthless pathetic life and go!”
“You think I wouldn’t if I had somewhere to go?” He shouted back, not backing down in the face of his father’s rage. Instead he stepped forward, getting into the elder Harris’s face. “You think I enjoy being your fucking whipping boy for everything that’s wrong in your life? That I like this place, this house, this life?”
For the first time in Xander’s life, he watched as the barest flicker of fear crossed Tony Harris’s face. Even in his drunken state, something in him recognized that his son had changed, that this was no longer the child he had bullied and intimidated for most of the past fifteen years.
He stepped backward and lashed out again with the belt, hitting the boy across the face again, harder this time. Xander didn’t flinch, accepting the blow without giving any indication that he even felt it as the belt connected with him. Anger boiled up inside the drunk, fueled by his son’s defiance, “How dare you?” he screamed, hitting him again. “How fucking dare you? Do you have any idea what we gave up to raise you? What I gave up because that whore you call a mother got knocked up?”
Tony shifted his grip on the belt in his hand, freeing the heavy metal buckle since the leather strap was having so very little effect on his son. “You are a worthless, pathetic, little shit who doesn’t even deserve the air he breathes!!” he shouted, whipping the buckle at Xander’s face.
For the first time, Xander turned his head slightly as the buckle slammed into his cheek, breaking the skin and drawing up a thin line of blood. Tony smiled, and drew back for another swing, confident that by the time he was done, he’d have the boy properly cowed once again. To his great shock, his son smiled back as the deep cut closed before his very eyes.
“What the fuck are you?” he gasped, taking a staggering step backwards as he lashed out at Xander again.
In a snap of movement, Xander grabbed hold of the belt and locked it in a powerful grasp. He sneered as Tony pulled as hard as he could and the leather didn’t budge. In a moment of desperation, the rapidly sobering Harris swung the only weapon he still had, the half-empty liquor bottle, at Xander’s head. He wasn’t nearly fast enough, however, and Xander grabbed his wrist in an iron grip.
With a sharp jerk, he dragged his father in close, so that their faces were scarcely an inch apart. “No more, Tony,” he practically spat in his father’s face. “You don’t get to hit me anymore. The next time you try it, I hit you back you. And believe me, you’ll regret that, especially if you make me mad,” he paused for a long moment, allowing the full force of his words to sink in through the alcohol-induced haze that the older man perpetually lived in. “Do you understand me?” he growled out.
The fleeting flicker of fear he’d seen earlier blossomed into full-blown panic and the man who had made Xander’s entire life miserable nodded feebly. The younger man shoved his father backwards, reining in his strength just enough to keep from seriously hurting him. Tony slammed down into the recliner he’d started out in with sufficient force to knock it over, spilling him painfully, heels over head, onto the floor.
Xander strode back into the kitchen with a tight grin. It was a petty and meaningless victory in the dealing with his father, but it gave him a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction. Maybe, just maybe, Tony really had been wrong about him all these years after all. Maybe he really wasn’t the weak-willed, spineless loser his father had always declared him to be.
As he passed by the telephone, he picked up the cordless handset to call Giles. ‘Crap,’ he thought suddenly, ‘what’s the number to the library?’ A fraction of a second later, a mental image of the library phone, complete with the little tag listing the extension’s number, flashed through his mind. Xander dialed the number with a shrug, uncertain whether or not his memory could really be trusted at this point.
“Hello, Sunnydale High School Library,” Rupert Giles’s voice answered a few rings later.
“G-man!” Xander greeted the librarian cheerfully, “It’s Xander, what’s up?”
“Ah, Xander,” the Watcher replied in a voice that could almost be described as pleased, if somewhat annoyed. “I take it you got my message?”
“Not so much really,” the teenager replied. “Messages require actually paying attention to the content of a conversation. Instead, I got interrogated about why someone from the school was calling looking for me. I just assumed it was you.”
“Oh. Well,” the Englishman stammered, “Could you come to the library? I think I’ve found some information for you… about last night.”
“Already?” Xander asked clearly surprised by the speed with which the Watcher had managed to turn something up. “I thought you said it might take some time to find anything?”
“I thought it might, and what I have found is far from conclusive, but I think you should hear it, especially in light of where I assume you spent your afternoon,” Giles sounded far more concerned about him than he’d expected.
“I was with Eve,” he said simply, confirming the other man’s suspicions. “Look, I haven’t eaten yet, let me grab a quick bite and I’ll be there as quick as I can.”
“Alright, Xander,” the Watcher agreed. “Please be careful, we all know how dangerous this town can be after the sun sets.”
The teenager pressed the button that hung up the call with a frown as his mother entered the kitchen. She seemed sober for the first time he could recall in weeks. “Did you really mean those things that you said to your father?” she asked softly, her voice strangely clear in the absolute silence that seemed to have descended on the house in the wake of his blow-up with Tony. “Would you really leave if you had somewhere to go?”
Xander thought about her words carefully, considering them. If he told her the truth, it would hurt her, something that he really didn’t want to do. His issues were with his sorry excuse for a father, not his broken and abused mother. “Mom, I… I was angry at him. I…I could never leave you here, not like this.”
She smiled weakly, “You are a good boy, Alexander, but you’re a terrible liar. You meant every word of what you said, didn’t you?”
“I did,” he admitted softly, his own words paining him. “It’s not that I don’t love you mom, or that I don’t appreciate the life you tried to give me. But I don’t know if I can keep on living like this. I…I can’t be his punching bag anymore. I just can’t do it.”
She nodded sadly. “If something happened,” her voice dropped to a whisper, the pain in her words clear to her son. “If you had to leave or if something bad happened to me, go to my sister’s place in Smallville. Your Aunt Martha and Uncle Jonathan would never turn their backs on family in need. The Kent’s are good people, better than your father and I ever were.”
“Mom…” he started to interrupt, meaning to protest.
“No Xander, listen to me,” she continued to whisper. “There’s an account at the Sunnydale bank in your name that Tony doesn’t know about. There’s not a lot in it, but it’d be more than enough to get you away from here if things went bad. Don’t let him ruin your life the way he did mine.”
“I…” Xander swallowed hard. Was his mother really telling him to run away? To get out of Sunnydale, out of this hell he’d lived in for so long?
“Promise me, Xander,” she pleaded. “Promise me you’ll go there if something happens? That you’ll forget about us and try to have a normal life with a real family?”
“I promise, Mom,” he said softly. “If things get too bad here or if anything happens to you, I’ll go to Kansas.”
She smiled as the worry and pain in her eyes faded away with that simple reassurance. She reached out and took Xander’s hand, pressing a few dollars into it. “Go get something to eat honey,” she instructed, “and go see what your Mr. Giles wanted. You’re a good boy, Xander, never doubt that.”
With a sad nod, he turned toward the door and walked out into the night, struggling to understand what had just happened and what he should do.