THE UGLY DUCKLING
The sleepy town wouldn't realize how many of its teenagers were roaming the deserted streets late at night. Most folks knew about The Bronze and some other choice locations that catered to the night crowd but nothing specific ever raised their eyebrows. At least Xander wouldn’t invite any stupefied look. He just plain didn't register on most people radar. Not that he wasn’t cute, not that he wasn't tall and capable of thought. Not the greatest thoughts but who'd be really asking for that anyway? Not his friends for sure. Like everyone else, they noticed his non-assuming ways, his non-threatening ways, his follower mentality.
"Daddy, what kind of toddler was I" he would ask when he was young.
"Always in your mother skirts, boy!" would answer derisively his dad.
"Mommy, what kind of man will I be, when I'll grow up?" he'd ask once in a while to his mom.
"A lazy couch potato like your dad" was the snickering answer he would get most of the time.
He wasn't the unhappiest kid in the world, really. He just did not have the most amazing role models to look after. And came Willow, his buddy, and his best friend.
"Willow, what can I be when I'll be old?" he would whisper with hope in his broken heart.
"The best you can be, dear friend" she would encouragingly answer in a whisper.
It was nice of her, but Willow was always nice, she was family, almost... The one he wished he had. Was he stolen from the nursery at birth? What did he do wrong as a kid for his parents to think he wasn't theirs? He could have guessed as much anyway, he was congenial, and they weren't. He was a pacifist, they kept kicking his butt, yep: they were different, light-years apart one could say. Maybe someone exchanged him with that new girl in school. Buffy is her name. She seems to like kicking people's butt too, and always beleaguering him and anyone around as well.
Her mom is cool though. All quiet and love; just like himself. How will he ever find where he belongs? Will he ever feel at home?
His body is broken, bloodied; the Hellmouth is kicking their asses once again. How long has it been since he had enjoyed a nice evening with the girls, a pizza, a movie if not a research session at the library. Time has passed, life kicked his and their butts, much better than his dad ever did. Heck, even the supposed lazy gene in the family has long been driven out of him now that he was a bona fide sidekick, maybe even a hero...
Seven years now, he'd been with the gang, keeping Sunnydale safe, keeping his friends and family safe and another mighty battle is looming ahead.
And now with blood seeping over his eye, blinded and dazed he thinks again about those formative years. He had felt so out of place, so different, so insecure.
Today, he had seen one more fight, too many of his friends were hurt, too many of his bones cracked but he finally knew with certainty what he really was; A beautiful, essential, beloved member of this heroic family. And with his worth clear in mind, he rose for another hurrah, he rose to be in the midst of his family, because they made him belong, and he knew, he finally knew in his heart of heart that he wasn't the ugly little duckling his parents convinced him he was. He could die or live, knowing he was a beautiful swan!
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