Chapter 17 – Family Actually
Thanks to Kayla Shay for the beta. I take full responsibility for any and all errors. I hope you enjoy.Chapter 17 – Family Actually
Sunnydale General Hospital
Wednesday, March 10, 1999, Afternoon
"Maybe I should wait out here," Daniel says just outside Xander’s hospital room.
Jack, about to open the door, turns to him asking, "Why?"
"I don’t want him to feel like we’re ganging up on him," Daniel answers.
"Xander doesn’t really seem easily intimidated to me."
"I know. It’s just that there are two of us and he’s in the hospital. That doesn’t exactly promote a feeling of empowerment, Jack."
"We’d never do anything to hurt him," Jack says, sounding slightly offended.
"I know that and you know that, but I’m not so sure he’ll know that," Daniel replies soothingly.
Placing his hand on Daniel’s arm, Jack argues, "Daniel, you know me. If I go in there by myself, I’ll mess it up. You know I will."
"No, you won’t. You’ll be fine," Daniel attempts to reassure him.
Pointing a finger at Daniel, Jack asks "Aren’t you the same person who called me an antagonist and said I wasn’t a diplomat?"
"No, what I actually said was that I’d never heard you called a diplomat but an antagonist. Doesn’t mean they were right. You handled Te-” catching himself, Daniel thinks for a moment then continues, “uh, T’s trial just fine."
"If you’ll recall, we handled that together. We’re a team, Danny, now more than ever," Jack counters.
Seeing that he isn’t going to win, Daniel gives in as graciously as he can and the two walk into Xander’s room. As soon as they enter, they spot Xander sitting in a wheelchair by his bed, with an attractive blonde man leaning slightly over him. The uniformed man has Xander’s cast-encased left arm resting on his right shoulder and is stretching Xander’s arm up slightly.
"Okay, we’re just going to hold it here for a couple of seconds. Remember to breathe as deeply as you can but be careful of your ribs."
Xander, his face a mask of pain, doesn’t reply.
"All right, good! That’s it for today. You did really well, man," the physical therapist encourages. Xander sits back, his eyes closed, and takes several steadying breaths.
"Here, drink some water."
Xander opens his eyes, accepts the plastic cup of water from the man, and with a slight smile, says "So were you always a sadist or did they teach you that in physical therapist school?"
"Sadism 101 is one of the required courses, but it helps if you start out that way," the blonde answered with a smile and a wink.
Chuckling, Xander finally notices Jack and Daniel. "Hey, guys. This is Rick Bellman or as I like to call him the Marquis de Sade." Xander giggles boyishly. "The Marquis de Sade. Giles would be so impressed." The three men look at him amused. After pulling himself together, he adds, "I asked for a hot therapist and HE’S what they send me. Guess I should’ve been more specific."
"Ah, you prefer brunettes," Jack says, nodding his head knowingly.
"Damn, and here I thought we were building the foundation for a life-long commitment. Oh well, I’ll just have to find a way to carry on somehow," Rick says drolly.
"Hey, I’m in the hospital, a little respect wouldn’t be amiss. Damn, I’m on a roll and Giles is missing it! He’ll never believe me," Xander whined.
"We’ll tell him," offers Daniel.
"Nah, better not. He might start expecting me to use fancy words all the time and that’s WAY too much work."
"I’ll see you tomorrow, Xander," Rick says as he gathers his equipment and heads out.
"Hey, look at you," Jacks says, pointing at Xander with both hands. "The bruises are mostly faded now."
Xander offers a tired smile. "Yeah, I ran out of paint." Trying to sound casual and look like the answer doesn’t really matter, Xander asks "So, where were you guys yesterday?"
"I called," Jack is quick to remind Xander. "Remember, we had some things we were working on?"
"Yeah, right. Sure. No big deal, just curious." His disappointment is clear and unmistakable. "So, did you eat already, cause, not to brag or anything, but this hospital serves a mean Jell-O."
"You do that a lot," Jack says quietly.
"What, eat Jell-O?" Xander asks confused.
"Use humor to hide your pain."
Looking decidedly uncomfortable despite obviously trying not to, Xander says, "It really wasn’t that bad. I mean, okay, yeah, while he was actually stretching the muscles, it hurt but once he let go the pain was pretty much gone."
"And now you’re being deliberately dense."
"Jack," Daniel says warningly as he gently nudges his shoulder. Facing Xander, he says, "What Jack is trying to say is that you don’t have to hide when you’re hurting, not with us. We’re very sorry we didn’t actually get over here yesterday. It won’t happen again."
"It’s not a big deal, Daniel. The gang came over. I was fine. I AM fine."
The two men stare at each other. Finally, in an effort to let Xander know he understands what it’s like to feel all alone, Daniel begins "My parents died when I was eight-"
Xander cuts him off saying "Lucky you."
Daniel startles, his eyes widening. He’s never gotten that response to his confession before. Not that he goes around telling everyone he meets about his parents but on the rare occasions when he does share that information about himself, people usually offer sympathy and condolences. Of course, with everything Xander’s gone through lately, Daniel can understand his reaction and Daniel’s own innate empathy and compassion swell for the hurt boy.
Looking him squarely in the eyes, Daniel says, "I’m sorry we hurt you, Xander. We didn’t mean to, but that’s no excuse. And I wish I could promise that we’d never do it again, but the truth is I can’t. I won’t make empty promises I can’t hope to keep. What I can promise you is that we love you and we’ll do everything we can to protect and help you."
"Why? You don’t even know me, not really. We’re not even family. Not that that means anything."
"We may not have any say in who we’re related to biologically, but we can choose our families. I chose Jack and a couple of others…and I choose you."
"The girls – Willow, Buffy, Faith, even Cordelia – they’re my family, and Giles and Oz." Xander looks at the two men standing before him. He doesn’t see disgust or disappointment, instead he sees hope. Hope that he’ll choose to call them family too. He wants to, he really does but he doesn’t know if he can risk it. If he opens himself up to them and they reject him, he doesn’t think he’ll be able to take it. He wants to be accepted, he secretly craves it but will they? Daniel doesn’t promise they’ll never hurt him. But he says they love him. He actually said the words and he meant them. Xander’s sure of it. Taking a slow, deep breath, Xander adds, "And, now I guess you guys are, too."
Jack closes his eyes for a moment as relief floods through him. When he opens them again, he’s grinning broadly. He knew Daniel would know what to say. He also knows that they’ll have to proceed carefully with Xander and now is not the time to bring up the subject of what’s really going on in Sunnydale. They can put their plans off for a few days. Actually, that’ll give them more time to get everything organized.
"So, ‘a mean Jell-O’ you say? ‘Cause I gotta warn you I’m something of a connoisseur." Quickly turning to Daniel, he warns, "Not a word."
"What? I wasn’t going to say anything." After a moment, he continues, "Of course, if I did say something it would have to be in the nature of Xander obviously being a good influence on you. I mean, you used a ‘fancy’ word and it was even multi-syllabic. Um, that means more than one syllable."
"I get no respect," Jack whines.
"Sorry, Rodney, them’s the breaks," Xander joins in the teasing.
"Hey Xan, got your stuff," Faith says, as she and Giles walk into Xander’s hospital room. "We put it at Giles’," she adds while eyeing Jack and Daniel warily.
"Any problems?" Xander asks.
"Nah, only your mom was home or at least we only saw her. Pop Goes the Weasel was smart enough not to show himself in front of us."
"It’s just as well, I didn’t feel like being arrested," says Giles nonchalantly.
"Arrested?" Daniel questions, surprised at the casual pronouncement.
"Even in a small town like Sunnydale, murder is still considered a crime. I suppose I could always claim it’s self defense, but I imagine my utter delight will give me away."
"You’d kill for me?" Xander asks, obviously pleased. "Too cool." Suddenly remembering the other two men in the room, Xander quickly claims, "We’re just kidding of course."
"Too bad," replies Jack.
"It’s Tony, Daniel."
The memory of Tony beating Xander and refusing to stop filling his head, Daniel utters, "Right."
“So, you’re planning on staying with Giles once you get out of here?” Jack asks Xander.
“Yeah, mom felt it was best if Tony and I didn’t spend too much time together, so I got shown the door.”
“Jessica told you that? She said YOU had to move out?” Jack’s face is marred by a deep frown and his lips have thinned into a tight line.
“She didn’t use those exact words but that was the gist of it. I think her words were ‘we need a break.’ I guess my arm and ribs don’t count…Wow. Okay, jeez, bitter much? Sorry about that.”
“No need to apologize. It’s completely understandable. Actually, I’m surprised you’re not more bitter. You’re definitely entitled." Jack’s looking very angry and intimidating. It’s definitely a good thing (for them) that Xander’s parents are not there.
Leaning slightly toward Jack, Xander says, “Hey, it’s cool. Giles has a decent apartment, even has a downstairs bathroom. Willow and Buffy and her mom all said I could stay with them, too.”
“Hey, I offered. I’ve only got the one bed but I’m sure we’d manage,” Faith adds with a playful leer and a smirk.
“Oh, sure. Now she tells me!”
“Not too late. Dump Mr. Tweed and we’ll party,” Faith winks.
Giles sighs, asking, “Are you physically incapable of saying my name or is it simply a lack of respect on your part?”
“Hey, don’t go getting all defensive. I respect you loads, G. Don’t I, Xan?” she says as she turns to him for corroboration.
“Oh, yeah, definitely. Just the other day, she was saying how she wouldn’t mind doing a little one-on-one with a certain Brit.” Tilting his head to the side and scrunching his face up in concentration, he adds, “She may have been talking about Wes. But, hey, she did remark on your youth and beauty when she first arrived, remember, so chances are pretty good she was actually talking about you.” Xander gives a quick nod, adding “Maybe.” Xander smiles sweetly at Giles.
Giles closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose under his glasses, but doesn’t comment. When he opens his eyes, he raises his eyebrows at Jack as if to say, ‘Yes, I’ve obviously got them completely under my control.’
Amazingly, Jack can practically ‘hear’ the sarcasm coming from Giles’ wordless look. Jack almost feels sorry for him. Almost.
Faith lightly punches Giles on the arm. “If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother …Unless, you were really getting on my nerves and I just wanted to piss you off. ‘Cause let’s face it, that’s just fun,” she smiles widely.
Xander and Faith turn to each other, saying, “Cluck-cluck.”
“I’m going to kill Willow,” Giles huffs softly, as she was the one who initially made the comment that he tends to make a clucking sound when he’s angry, but too English to say anything.