Xander was four when he met his first Master Vampire.
It was dark out, the California January biting at his nose and ears, and Jessica was in a bad mood because Tony had been through her wallet again, and there hadn’t been enough money to pay for all the groceries. She was walking just a little too quickly, her son stumbling after her but unwilling to call out to her because then she’d be even madder, and did not notice when Leonardo stepped out of the shadows.
Xander did, though. Leonardo was the prettiest man that Xander had ever seen, with thick brown hair, a tan, oval face, and eyes that seemed to glitter in the dark parking lot—he was so taken aback by the startling beauty that he tripped and fell, letting out a quiet ‘unf’ as his palms skidded across the pavement.
Jessica stopped and turned around, sighing in aggravation. “Honestly, Xander, can’t you take two steps without falling over? Get up. We have to get home and get dinner rea…”
Her words died when she caught sight of Leonardo.
“I didn’t mean to,” Xander sniffled, not noticing his mother’s sudden fixation.
“I—I…” Jessica’s mouth moved, but no sound came out. Her heart pounded hard. “I didn’t… What are you doing here?”
“What a lovely child,” Leonardo murmured, ignoring Jessica and crouching down in front of Xander.
Xander scrambled to his feet and tried to back away, but Leonardo caught his wrist and held him in place effortlessly.
“No—no, please,” Jessica said, breath catching in her throat. “Not him. Leave him alone. Please.”
“This hair, Jessica,” Leonardo said softly, carding a hand through Xander’s dark curls. “And these eyes, look at these dark, dark eyes. These are my favorite kind of eyes.”
Jessica dropped her shopping bags and lunged forward, but Leonardo was faster and had Xander up in his arms and several feet away before she could get to him.
“You’ll let me see him,” Leonardo ordered calmly.
Helpless, Jessica stood and watched.
Xander stared back at her in confusion. “Mommy?”
“Let me look at you, child,” Leonardo said soothingly. A strong, cold finger turned Xander’s chin so that he was staring into the tan, oval face and the glittering eyes that now held a rather hungry gleam.
“Please,” Jessica begged, wrapping her arms around her stomach. “Please, give him back. What do you want from me?”
“Look at you,” Leonardo sneered, his entire demeanor going cold in seconds. “I can smell the alcohol on your breath from here. I can smell that useless lump you fucked to make this child. I can smell your despair and your death. You’re of no use to me anymore.”
Jessica tried to speak, but only a croaking noise escaped.
“But… this boy,” Leonardo went on, now calm again. He ran a finger down the side of Xander’s face. “This beauty right here—I could take him with me and keep him beautiful forever. I could make him mine, Jessica, and you wouldn’t do a thing to stop me.”
“Please. Please, not him, not my baby.” Jessica staggered forward, tears spilling down her face. “I’ll do anything, please, just don’t take him.”
In a flash, Leonardo was furious again.
“You understand that, don’t you?” he demanded, his grip on Xander tightening. “You understand that I could take him and you could do absolutely nothing to stop me? You’re mine, you worthless bitch, and just because you’ve ruined yourself doesn’t mean that I have to deny myself the pleasure of your beauty. I could make you breed me a hundred beautiful boys like this one.”
“No, no, please…”
“Mom?” Xander tried again, but Jessica could only cry harder. He wiggled a little, but the arms holding him tightened to the point of hurting, and he let out a whimper and went as still as possible. “Sorry, sorry, sorry…” he chanted, screwing his eyes shut against the pain.
“So delicious,” Leonardo whispered, lips brushing against Xander’s ear. “I’ve never smelled anything like it—you’ve made this mixed child for me, this beautiful mixed child, and now his blood is calling to me. I’d love to have a taste.”
“What do you want?” Jessica asked in despair. “Just tell me what you want.”
“I told you,” Leonardo said patiently. “I told you already. I’m just here to check up on my belongings.”
“He’s not yours,” Jessica sobbed, rocking back and forth on her heels and wrapping her arms more tightly around herself. “He’s mine. He’s mine and Tony’s.”
Leonardo smiled at Xander. “Ah, but whose blood runs through your veins, Jessica? Whose blood ran through your veins and altered you, made you lovelier, stronger, better than you were before?”
“H—he’s not yours.”
“Just a taste, I think,” Leonardo said quietly, and changed.
Xander started at the suddenly bumpy, monster-like face inches from his own and he opened his mouth to scream, but in an instant Jessica was rushing forward and clamping a hand over his mouth.
“No, no, no,” Jessica whispered. “Xander, honey, don’t scream. Just let him have a little taste, okay? It’ll be okay.”
The face came closer and Xander screwed his eyes shut, terrified and wanting his mother to make it stop, but Jessica kept her hand over his mouth and did nothing to interfere. When Leonardo bit into his forearm, there was no muffled scream from Xander, only a violent tremble and then the seizing of lungs that weren’t getting air because Jessica’s hand was covering both his mouth and his nose. He writhed and twisted, desperately trying to keep silent, until at last Leonardo let his forearm go and Jessica took her hand away.
Xander went limp, gasping for air.
“Oh, Jessica,” Leonardo sighed, looking faintly dizzy with rapture. “Oh. You’re right, he isn’t mine, but if I were to make him… I can taste the discord in his blood. This boy was born to be a consort—all that power waiting to be unleashed, just waiting to manifest in the moment of claim… I can taste it. Until this boy is claimed, his blood is going to be singing to every demon that passes him.” He paused. “It would be a disservice to leave him in your care.”
Jessica let out a keening noise and grabbed Xander’s hand, burying her face in Leonardo’s sleeve. “Oh, please, no—”
Leonardo let out a long sigh. “It’s unfortunate that I’m not set up to deal with a child right now. I’ve been forced to move the court.”
Jessica went silent, still, not even daring to hope.
“Perhaps when he’s older,” Leonardo said regretfully, and then set Xander down on the ground. “It wouldn’t do to lose something so precious before we’ve truly seen his beauty.”
Xander immediately stumbled over to his mother, but Jessica didn’t open her arms for him or even look in his direction. She was looking up at the man, like she was waiting for his permission.
“You may keep him.”
Jessica let out a sob and wrapped Xander in an enormous hug, burying her face in his hair. Xander’s arm was stinging and he was really, really cold and there were tears running down his face, but with his mother hugging him he knew it was going to be okay. Mom was going to make it okay.
“Until next time, child.”
Neither one of them heard.
Xander was nine when he first thought that maybe humans were just as bad as vampires.
“I just want it to stop,” Jessica sighed, wrapping an arm around Xander and curling into the corner of the couch. She pushed the beer can against the side of her head, screwing her face up. “I just—I can’t take it anymore. I’m so tired.”
Xander was quiet, thinking of Willow’s house and how she’d just gotten a VCR and the Beauty and the Beast movie.
Outside, Tony was trying to install a new fan belt in the family car. It wasn’t going well.
“Vampires are… so evil, Xander,” Jessica said, staring at the wall blankly. “So evil. They’ll ruin your life, if you let them.”
Xander glanced nervously at the window, but there had been no pause in the cadence of his father’s banging. “Mom, you can’t talk about vampires around Dad, remember?”
Jessica sighed and drained the last of her beer. “It’s just always there, you know? Always there. Tugging. It won’t stop.”
“Fuck!” Tony screamed from the garage, pounding a fist against the side of the car. “Son of a bitch!”
Xander cringed despite himself and went absolutely still, listening.
“He’s a good man, Xander,” Jessica said, rubbing his side gently. “Tony’s a good man. He’s a good father. It’s just that… some children… some children are harder to love than others. You should try harder, honey.”
“I’m sorry,” Xander whispered, still frozen in place and listening desperately for the sounds of Tony storming into the house.
The banging outside resumed.
“I just want it to stop,” Jessica sighed again. She let the empty can fall to the ground and pressed the heel of her hand against her forehead. “God—god, I just want it to stop.”
Xander stared at his knees and saw flashes of a cold, handsome man who’d called him beautiful. Who’d wanted to keep him.
Xander was thirteen when he met his first vampire minions.
“That one, Xander, I’ll bet he’s in that one,” Jessica said, pointing vaguely across the street. She was leaning heavily against a lamppost.
“I know, Mom,” Xander snapped. “He’s always in that one, just like you’re always at home. It’s a whole repeat-y cycle thing, with you two and the drinking and the drunk-ing. Just stay there. I’ll get him.”
“No, no, no,” Jessica insisted, pushing herself upright. “No, I’m going in there too. I want to give that asshole a piece of my mind, leaving us all alone all those nights…”
Xander suppressed a sigh. “Mom, just stay here. You can yell at him all you want when we get home, all right? No need for yelling in public places. Again.”
“You shouldn’t have to go and drag your father out of bars every night!”
“And again with the yelling in public places,” Xander sighed.
“You deserve better,” Jessica declared, jabbing a finger in Xander’s direction. “I ought to march right in there and kick his ass from here to Nevada, tell him that’s it! I’m done! If he can’t be the man we deserve, then he can just fuck the hell off!”
“Shouldn’t fight with your family,” came a new voice.
Xander and Jessica both turned to see three vampires standing on the sidewalk. The game faces were a dead giveaway. Xander swore under his breath.
“Should play nicely with your mommy, you should,” the one in the middle went on, lisping a little on his fangs.
Xander’s heart skipped a beat as he glanced around and saw no one else nearby. This couldn’t be the end. It couldn’t be. He couldn’t die because he’d been out dragging his father home from the bar again, that was just not—
“Look, we’re a little busy here,” Xander said, his mouth suddenly moving of its own accord. “And she’s drunk as a skunk over there—you don’t want any of that, it’s all alcohol-y and gross. And I’m a terrible eater, awful, way too much junk food, I’ve probably got more sugar in my blood than, um, blood, you know? Heh. You don’t want to eat us. Nope. Definitely not good for eating.”
“Adds flavor,” the vampire replied, teeth bared in what was clearly supposed to be a smile.
“And cholesterol!” Xander threw in frantically, not even sure what he was saying anymore. “Don’t vampires have to worry about their cholesterol? No trans-fats, no, um, other fats?”
The middle vampire snickered as he started forward, and the two vampires behind him followed in suit. “Why don’t you let me have a taste for myself?”
“Xander,” Jessica whispered, clutching at the lamppost. “Xander, they’re going to go for your neck. That’s where they’ll bite.”
“Thanks, Mom. It’s so comforting to know where they’re going to suck me dry from,” Xander hissed back.
“We can bite other places, if you’d like,” the middle vampire offered. “I can have my friends hold you down, and suck your arm, your thigh, your—”
Xander, who had been surreptitiously backing up, froze also, as did the two vampires behind the middle one. Jessica swayed a little against the pole.
“Consort,” the middle vampire growled, yellow eyes fixed on Jessica.
Jessica stared back unsteadily.
A growl of sheer frustration erupted from the middle vampire as he whirled around and stormed off, his followers scurrying to his heels moments later.
Xander waited for his hands to stop shaking before speaking. “Well, that fulfills my quota of near-death experiences for the next decade. How about you?”
Jessica was stroking her neck with one hand, eyes unfocused. She was murmuring something under her breath, but Xander couldn’t make it out.
“Right,” Xander said at last. “I’ll just go and get Dad.”
Xander was fifteen when he met the Vampire Slayer.
She killed vampires. Like, whirl-kick-slam-DUST. Xander thought about cold, glittering eyes, empty beer cans and his own hot, rich blood pumping through his veins, and decided to join the good fight and kill some vampires, too. He was still sure that humans could be just as bad as vampires, but apparently no one really cared about killing vampires.
Though he wasn’t quite sure who would care if he killed Tony and Jessica Harris.
Xander was nineteen when he first had sex with a vampire.
“Oh shit,” he said, breathing hard in the aftermath. “Oh shit. I just had sex with a vampire. And it was good.”
Spike was disinterestedly smoking a cigarette.
Xander turned to look at him in consternation. “Is it always that good? It can’t always be that good.”
Spike glanced at him. “S’always that good when it’s me. Kept Dru happy for more’n a hundred years, didn’t I?”
“But… but vampire.”
“Humans,” Spike muttered, rolling his eyes.
And then there was the part where Spike stayed.
And then there was the part with the sex. Good sex.
And then there was the part where Spike was so quietly heartbroken after having been left by Drusilla again, and the part where he loitered around the strip club waiting for Xander’s shift to end, and the part where he would lecture Xander on his eating habits and then steal what appeared to be the entire produce aisle from the local grocery store.
Xander could even forget the part where Spike was out killing people for food every other night.
But then… Oxnard was over.
And so was Spike.
He was headed back to Sunnydale, away from the Summer of Gayness and fully ready to get back to the way things used to be. Mostly. Probably. At least, he was telling himself that.