Life is What Happens to You
Life is What Happens to You...
"Heroes aren't heroes because of what they do. They are heroes because they show all of us that one person, just one person, can make a difference." – Marc Morial
"So tell me a little about yourself?" "You want me to tell you about myself?" Ander stared in bemusement. He knew who Doc Samson was, at least in theory. All his knowledge came from the comics, so it might very well be wrong when applied to a real world. Safer to say he thought he knew who Doc Samson was. Psychiatrist. Superhero.
Agent Dunne had to him that refusing to talk to the doctor would be considered "not cooperating", and that there would be consequences for doing so. He still wasn't sure what those consequences meant, so he was playing it cool and talking to the shrink.
Leonard Samson was taller than Xander by a good four inches, and was as wide of body as a professional wrestler. And he had green hair.
"Sure. Just so I can get to know you a little better. But if you're uncomfortable with that, we can talk about something else first." The psychiatrist didn't carry one of those fancy Star Trek pads; just a clipboard with a yellow legal pad on it and a disposable bic pen."
"Right. Tell you about myself." Xander shrugged apathetically. "What do you want to know?"
"I'd like to know whatever you want to tell me. There's no such thing as a right or wrong answer. I'm just here to talk to you."
Xander stared at the ceiling, wondering where to begin.
"Start with your childhood."
Xander's eyes lowered from the ceiling to Samson. "What?"
The other man laughed. It was a gentle laugh, not meant to put him on guard. "Xander, I've been doing this for a while. I can tell when a person is trying to figure out where they should start talking. Why don't you start with your childhood?" Xander was quiet for a while. Samson looked like he was about to say something else when Xander finally relented. "There's not too much to say about my childhood. I didn't really enjoy most of it. There were some things that were okay, but for the most part it sucked."
"How so?" "Well, you see..." Xander began, then fell quiet. "I guess the..." and fell quiet. "What you have to understand was..." and fell quiet. "The thing is..." and fell quiet. "That bad?" Samson leaned forward. "We can talk about something else if you're not ready to talk about this." "No, its okay. Its just..." And Xander fell quiet again. Finally, "My parents got married right out of high school. Dad got Mom pregnant and their families sort of forced them together rather than take the easy way out." "You say that as if they should have. If your Mom aborted, you wouldn't be here." "Yeah, and I guess that's a good thing, but I think they would have been happier in the long run without me. Tony was this high school jock. Captain of Sunnydale High's baseball team. He played third base, and could hit like Mark McGuire. He was expecting to get all sorts of scholarship offers."
"Mom was apparently just some girl he slept with." Xander swallowed hard. "Not a cheerleader or prom queen or anything. Just some girl he picked up after a game. And by the time those scholarship offers finally started rolling in, he couldn't take them any more because he had a wife to support with a baby on the way." "Are you an only child?" Xander became very still and quiet. "Um... no. Once upon a time, I had a twin brother. An identical twin. His name was Gavin, and he disappeared when we were six. I really don't like talking about him." "He disappeared?" "Yeah. We were playing in our backyard. Mom was inside, drinking her lunch and watching Days of Our Lives or something. I went inside to use the bathroom, and when I got back outside, he was gone. No one ever saw him again." Samson missed the almost whispered, "Thank God for small favors." "That's horrible. I'm sorry. I take it your brother's disappearance made your home life even harder?" Xander shook his head. "Yeah, you could say that. Tony didn't want any kids at all, much less two. The collossal prick actually told me once that if there was one good thing about Gavin's disappearance, it was because it was one less pain in his ass he had to deal with. Fucking asshole." Xander stopped talking only because he realized he started weeping. He sat there and wiped at his eyes, doing nothing but crying silently and breathing, in and out, as deeply as he could.
"Its okay, Xander." Samson said. "Take your time." When he could talk again, Xander started right back where he'd left off. "When I was ten, Tony told me that Gavin and I were the reasons he got Mom 'fixed.' That's how he put it: "got Mom fixed." He decided it was going to happen, and it happened, and Mom had no say in the matter. He apparently saved up a bunch of money so she could get this operation. A tuba something or other. All because of us. We were to blame for his life being ruined. Wasn't the drinking, or being a miserable fucking bastard. No, it was his kids."
"I take it he regularly made sure you knew you were to blame for his failings?"
"Yeah. On a daily basis. He drank. The man was a drinker. For as long as I can remember, I don't think there was a day that he was entirely sober." Xander shook his head and laughed in a sardonic sort of way. "I can't figure how he kept his job, given that he was an angry, sloppy drunk, but he did." "He was a functional alcoholic?" "I suppose he was functional. He was never put in jail, never crashed his car, kept his job." Xander rubbed his forehead. This was harder than he thought it would be. "Tony even had friends. The only people he took it out on were me and Mom. He even reigned it in when my friends were around. But when it was just the three of us, he let us know how he felt about us. Sometimes with words, sometimes with his fists." "So he was beating both you and your mother?" "Well... yeah, but not all the time. Just every once in a while. Mostly he'd yell. He was a creative man with the insult. I can probably count the times he got violent with me on both hands and have fingers left over. But he was pretty good at letting me and my mom know where we sat. By the time I was ten, I had pretty much been convinced that I was a worthless piece of trash that no one would love." "How did your mother react to all this?" Samson shifted in his seat, lowering one leg and crossing the other. "I don't know how she started out, but I always got the impression she originally thought she and Tony would end up happy together. She thought that she'd eventually convince him to love her." Xander shrugged. "I think she started drinking right aroud the time he started hitting her. By the time I was old enough to know what was going on, she had learned to strike back often and hard. Believe me, the abuse in that family wasn't just in one direction. My mom wouldn't yell at me or dad for doing something wrong... she'd just wade in with her fists. I'd go so far as to say it was mom who was the real abusive parent in my childhood, not my dad."
"You know, Xander, emotional abuse is just as bad and just as damaging as physical abuse." Again, Xander shrugged. "Yeah, but I'm a guy. We're not trained to think like that, are we?" Samson's eyebrow flickered at that. "I mean, first, society has trained us that we're not to hit girls, so we let them get away with murder. I mean, I've watched the guys around school with their girlfriends, and these girls would badmouth them, and slap them, and push them around, and generally act mean to them, and no one would say a word. But if one of the guys dared push back, much less actually hit them, then the entire student body would descend on this 'horrible abuser' before he had a chance to realize what he'd done." Xander took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slow. "And we're also taught that words can never hurt us." Samson was quiet for a bit, staring at Xander. "But you don't believe it, do you? All those things that guys are taught about being tough. You don't believe them." "Not really. I know how hard words can hurt." Without realizing he was doing it, Xander crossed his arms over his chest. It was the classic first defensive position. XxxxxxX Two days after he'd woken up, they moved Xander to another room. Another cell, really, though it didn't resemble any of the jail cells he'd seen in movies and on television. It was one room with a thickly built metal door, and there was a big mirror on one wall that was actually one-way glass, but the room also had a small table and a chair and a single-sized bed. And there was a TV mounted on the wall and a separate bathroom. So while Xander was sure it was a cell, at least SHIELD had made an effort to give him a little bit of comfort.
At least he wasn't chained to the bed anymore. He could move around the room, and that was a good thing.
Yeah, he could move around his cell but was still living at the beck-and-call of SHIELD. No matter how polite Agent Dunne and her team was, they still weren't letting him out. And that sort of ruined the "good thing" aspects. It was just one more straw on an increasingly tired and pained camel's back. Since the revelatation that he was trapped in a comic book universe, surrounded by people who thought he was some sort of dangerous criminal, separated from his friends, with no idea how to get back to them, not to mention stuck inside a body that not only did not belong to him but was the wrong freaking gender on top of it all, he'd been on the edge of the blackest depression he'd ever experienced or would ever experience.
HE WASN'T A GIRL, DAMN IT! It wasn't like being a girl was a bad thing, per se, but it wasn't him. He was a guy. Had been all his life.
For about ten seconds, on first day after he woke up, it had occurred to him that this being female thing would have been slightly smoother had he looked like a female version of himself. He didn't. He looked like power girl from the comics. Long, golden blonde hair. Creamy, unblemished skin. A better jawline than his original body. Not to mention the muscles; Power Girl clearly had worked out occasionally. Or maybe she was just normally muscular.
And the tits. The absolutely huge basketball-sized tits. He wasn't supposed to have tits.
He wasn't supposed to have a pussy for that matter. He was supposed to have a dick.
Xander had argued with himself over that word. "Pussy." He wasn't particularly fond of it, or using it, as it always seemed vaguely insulting to him. But couldn't figure out what else he was supposed this new body part of his. Calling it a vagina was just as clinical as calling his dick a penis. When he searched his memory for an appropriate-sounding euphamism, all the ones he could think of were either too ridiculous (seriously, he had no idea where he'd even heard the phrase "sausage wallet" in regards to the female anatomy; probably Jesse), too offensive (he refused to even allow himself to think the "c" word except in generalities), or too vague (what the hell was "oyster cave" even supposed to mean?), so he ended up settling on "Pussy."
The point was, he wasn't supposed to have one. And he did. And there didn't seem to be anything he could do about it until he had a chance to consult with Doctor Strange or maybe Agatha Harkness. Hell, maybe he could find the High Evolutionary... he wasn't picky. Anyone who could turn him back into his original dick-bearing self would be fine with him.
His first day in the new cell, he'd spent an hour and a half in the bathroom, standing naked in front of the sink, staring at himself. Trying to make sense of the body. This body had become an enemy, or at the very least, a hostile unalligned party who was doing nothing to help him. The center of gravity he was used to was in a completely different spot, so he had to relearn to walk without tipping over. And that wasn't even considering the effects of being in a bed for so long.
So he poked. He prodded. He pushed things around. He pulled on the body's eyelids and stared into the body's eyes., which were a disturbingly light shade of blue. His own eyes were a perfectly serviceable and attractive shade of brown. He examined the body's teeth, which were whiter and straighter than he ever imagined teeth could be. And they were all there. It was obvious that no one had ever tossed a beer bottle at the body's head in anger and broke one of its teeth.
And that was how he thought of it. The body. Not his body.
Because it wasn't his body. It was someone else's body. His body was male. This one was female.
Admittedly, it was attractive. In addition to the phenomenal breasts and the creamy, blemish-free skin and the long, luxurious hair and the face, it was soft. And it reacted in interesting ways during some of his examination of it.
He didn't consider it masturbation, after all, since it wasn't his body he was playing with. More like playing around with a toy. A warm, fleshy, living toy.
Though he had enjoyed how it felt.
"I take it you're speaking from experience." It wasn't really a question, and both Xander and Samson knew it. "Words hurting, I mean."
"Yeah. Loads of experience." Xander sighed. "It wasn't just my dad and my mom. There were some kids I knew growing up..." He stopped in mid-sentence, as if reconsidering. A quiet moment of contemplation, then, "The thing you have to understand about Sunnydale is that its a horrible place to grow up. A horrible place."
"Tell me about it?"
"First off, Sunnydale has like a huge violent crime rate. I mean, not so much on the breaking and entering or drug use, though there's some of that. But people are killed or go missing all the time. The only thing keeping Sunnydale from being the murder capital of the world is that most of the deaths are chalked up to accidents or mysterious circumstances or things that like. But its weird. Its like... its like everyone knows what's going on, but no one ever talks about it. Like everyone in town is sharing a secret."
There was another long bout of silence.
"A secret?" Samson prodded.
"Yeah. Everybody knew that people were dying all around us all the time. They'd take precautions without ever really being aware they were doing it. Like, everybody knew you just didn't go out at night unless it was in a group, and you stayed away from the deserted places even then. Everybody knew you couldn't trust the cops to help you. Everbody knew that when you heard about someone a couple of blocks over just disappearing, if they ever showed back up you stayed away from them like their life depended on it. You didn't invite people in. You didn't stick your neck out unneccesarily." Xander stopped speaking. He just stared at Samson, as if waiting for something.
"All right. So what was going on to make people do all this?"
"Doc, I'd tell you, but you'll think I'm crazy." Xander chuckled. "Crazier, I mean."
"I don't think you're crazy." Samson reassured.
"Sure you do, Doc. You just don't call it crazy." Xander thought about it for a minute. "You know what? Maybe you won't think I'm crazy. After all, you're a psychiatrist who was accidentally irradiated with gamma rays and now can bench pressbulldozers. Why would my story be any weirder than that."
"You know about...?" Samson let the question hang in the air.
"Yeah. Um. I read about you. Not too many psychiatrists with lime green hair, right?"
"Ah. Right. Okay, go on, please. You were going to tell me about what made Sunnydale so dangerous."
"Right." Xander thought for a moment. "Do you know what 'El Broca de Inferno'means?"
Samson's forehead creased as he tried to understand. "Are you trying to say 'La Boca del Infierno', 'the mouth of Hell' in Spanish?"
"Right. 'The Mouth of Hell.' I'm afraid I was never too good at Spanish, and I was barely passing French. By the way, in French its 'La Bouche de l'Enfer.'" With a wry grin, Xander added. "Barely passing is still passing. Sunnydale was sitting on top of the Mouth of Hell. From what Giles told me... he was our librarian... the Hellmouth was like a magical rip in the universe that led to Hell, and it attracted all kinds of nasty things to town. Monsters. And of course, every now and then demons would crawl out of it. But the worst part was it just sort of poisoned everything."
"The entire town felt off. I never noticed it, really, until it was pointed out to me, but nothing ever seemed to really go right. For every good thing, there were always three bad things. Give you an example. Tony got a raise once, when I was thirteen or fourteen, and the magnanimous prick took me and Mom out to dinner. A really nice place, by our standards. Of course, by regular restaurant standards, it was basically family night at the Golden Corral, but that didn't matter. My father was finally doing something nice for the family."
Xander took a deep breath. "So we were having a great time. The food was good, dad was telling jokes and had talked to me like I was a human being, and I was having a great time. And on the way home, we get into a car accident. Not just a little fender bender, either. Our car was totalled and Tony was put in the hospital for a month because of injuries sustained. And of course, he ended up blaming us; if he hadn't been wasting money on us in a restaurant, we'd never have been on the road to get hit and he'd not only not have to replace the car, but the tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills wouldn't have been there. Can I get a drink of water or something?"
The abrupt switch from narrative story to direct question caught Samson off guard. "Oh, yeah, sure. Help yourself?" He waved over to the side of the room where a pitcher of ice water and some plastic cups sat on a table.
Xander kept an eye on the psychiatrist as he drank his water. "I know you're having a hard time swallowing all this. I know I sure did, when it was finally laid out in front of me. But the town was just evil."
He stared into space for a moment. "My first friends were two kids I met in kindergarten. Willow Rosenberg and Jesse McNally. Of all the things that kept me from turning into my dad, I give them the biggest amount of credit; them and a guy named Rupert Giles. But mostly it was Willow and Jesse. They kept me from drowning in it, you know?"
Samson just nodded.
"We had a lot in common. We had all been born in Sunnydale, we all had less than joyous childhoods, and we'd all lost someone close to us. Like my brother Gavin, Willow's older sister Aspen..."
"Wait... Willow's sister was named Aspen?"
"Yep. Aspen Rosenberg."
"They were both named after trees?"
Xander shrugged. "Could have been worse. I went to high school with a guy named Fernando Valenzuela Dusendorf. Not a Hispanic bone in his body. German, in fact. His dad was just a huge fan of the Dodgers, and they won the World Series in 1981."
"So weird named weren't..."
"Nope. I also went to school with an Asia, an Aria, a Ludwig, and a Harmony."
They both chuckled at that. Eventually, though, it wound down and Xander resumed the narrative. "Anyway, like I said, Willow's sister Aspen disappeared into thin air while walking home from work one night, though there was talk about her being seen running around later on with a one of those PCP Gangs. And Jesse's mom was found dead in an alley just outside the place she worked.."
"And you really think its because your town is build over the mouth of Hell?"
Xander was quiet for a moment. "Doc, you're a superhero. You've met at least one honest-to-God god I can think of. You've met aliens. Is it really that hard for you to imagine that a dimensional rift into Hell lies beneath a California town and that monsters are attracted to it?"
They brought him clothing, of course. He was no longer in the hospital, so naturally they had to put him in something other than a hospital gown. The clothing turned out to be three prison-orange shirts, three matching sets of pants, some flip flops (what his mother always used to call shower shoes), three pair of underwear (granny panties, he noted) and three brassieres.
He ignored the underwear and the brassieres, of course. For the first two days, he never even considered the need for him to wear a top. At home, lounging around in his room, he would usually only put a shirt on when he went out, or when he came downstairs to eat with the parents, or when he had company over. Hell, sometimes he just lounged around in his underwear as long as he could. He was a guy, after all. And it wasn't the first time he'd "gone commando".
So it didn't bother him to wear the prison pants without anything under them, or to wander around his new cell without a shirt on. On the second morning, though, Agent Dunne had come in and specifically ordered him to cover himself up. He was a minor, and wandering around naked where the surveillance cameras and the guys behind the one-way glass (they weren't even trying to hide the fact that they were watching him anymore) could see his tits just wasn't a proper thing for a minor to be doing. Xander eventually caved and started wearing one of the shirts when wandering around the room.
Agent Dunne had also warned Xander of making noises while he was playing with himself. They weren't going to do anything to stop him from doing that, but he should be aware that the sounds could be picked up on the microphones.
Xander had never blushed so hard in his life. But even then, he still ignored the underwear.
He spend much of the second day watching television and thinking. The television was pretty basic, and the channel choices limited. There was PBS, and CSPAN, and ESPN, the Cartoon Network, the Home Shopping Channel, the Game Show Network, and the National Geographic Channel. And that was it.
It was watching television that he got his third huge shock. Not only was he trapped in a girl's body, not only was he trapped in the Marvel Universe, but apparently he'd moved ten years forward in time. By entering this universe, he'd somehow gone from October 31, 1996 to (according to Agent Dunne) January 30, 2006. And then he'd spent the next five and a half months in a coma. The thought amused and horrified him all at once: I am a time-travelling dimension-hopping man trapped in the body of a female superhero! His Uncle Rory would call this situation "too weird for television."
He'd settled down in front of the wall-mounted television, watching a rerun of Pyramid, watching some actor he'd never heard of named Richard Milligan or Richard Mulligan or something that like being embarrassed by a very young Billy Crystal, who was leading his game-show partner, a housewife from Paduca or something, to fame and glory. Not really thinking about the game, he sort of drifted into some deep thoughts.
Thoughts about his situation (Probably hopeless...), about the body (I AM NOT A GIRL, DAMN IT!), and about being held in a prison cell by a spy agency right out of the comics. (Surreal.) It was only when he wasn't concentrating on things that he realized that he could remember...
Everything that made up Power Girl's life.
And it wasn't just the comic book stuff, either. The memories he had of Power Girl's life didn't just include beating up supervillains and flying and being stronger than anyone except her fellow Kryptonians, but everything. Alongside memories of putting a fist through Braniac's latest robot body were memories of going out to a dance club with some of her friends and pretending to get as drunk as they did. Sure, he could remember her secret identity, and the real names of her teammates on the Justice Society, the Justice League, and Infinity, Inc., but she also remembered Power Girl's home phone number. And her favorite color. And what her favorite fruit was. And whether she was a Democrat or a Republican. Things he didn't think were ever mentioned in the comic book.
The secret identity thing had twigged him for a moment, when he realized that they'd called him "Karen Starr" at one point. Apparently there was a Karen Starr in the Marvel Universe. That was weird enough, but the implications...
He'd read enough Marvel to know that there weren't any secret Kryptonians sneaking around. If Karen Starr actually existed in the MU, it wasn't the same Karen Starr as from DC. For two entire hours he contemplated the meaning of it, and came to no conclusions.
He eventually figured out that the most important Power Girl memories were of the superpowers Power Girl possessed, and how to use them. Some things appeared to be instinctual, like how to handle objects without crushing them into dust, or how to not fly all the time. Others took a few moment's thought to bring up the right memory, like how to concentrate in just such a way as to cast his vision into the higher and lower Electromagnetic frequencies. It turned out that X-Ray Vision didn't work like in the comics. What he saw were X-Ray images of the walls and what was behind them and not clear images like he saw when he was looking at the normal light range. That came as a surprise.
The first thing he did with it was locate all the hidden cameras and microphones implanted in the walls, the ceiling, and some of the furnishings of the room he was in. Surprisingly, there weren't any of the former in the bathroom, though there were two of the latter. Despite the fact that it did not have a door, apparently SHIELD was courtesous enough to give him some privacy in the bathroom.
He argued with himself for nearly twenty minutes before finally deciding on how to test his heat vision. The Power Girl memories clearly showed her using it for certain acts of bodily hygiene, and while originally Xander figured he didn't care because he was a guy, and not a girl, eventually he decided that five months growth of leg and underarm hair had to be disposed of. He justified it to himself that he wasn't too fond of women who let their legs and underarms get hairy. Since he was trapped in a girl's body, he might as well keep it neat. After all, he'd never found armpit or leg hair attractive on any girl he'd ever panted after, so why shouldn't he keep to the same standards he insisted upon when it came to his personal taste in women?
So, relying on the memories of Power Girl doing this, he turned his heat vision onto his own legs in an effort to depilitate. His first attempt made a five inch square area on his thigh feel like he'd been sunburned. The second attempt, made with the heat vision at a much lower intensity, just made the hair curl up and smell burned. The third attempt was much better, and he was able to get rid of the leg-hair on those areas he could see, as well as the hair in his armpits. He eventually got the hang of it, and after that it was easy-peasy.
De-bushying his eyebrows was another matter. Power Girl's memories showed him a process involving getting very, very close to the mirror and trick-shotting his heat vision off of it and onto individual hairs. He thought about it, and thought about it, and afterward just decided that for the duration of his stay in this body, its eyebrows would be bushy.
And he never once considered doing anything about the hair in his "bikini region."
"Well, I... um..." Samson had been broadsided. "I've never met any vampires personally, but I've heard stories from Captain America..."
"Right. Well, Sunnydale had a vampire problem. A bad vampire problem. And everyone knew it, but no one would admit it. Some people would come up with the stupidest things to explain it away. My friends and I eventually started calling it 'Sunnydale Syndrome.' But the vamps were real, and they were killing people by the dozen sometime."
Samson sat silent for a moment, then opened his mouth. Before he could speak, Xander continued.
"I can tell you're still skeptical, Doc." Xander sighed. "Let me give you an example, okay?" The psychicatrist's made the universal 'keep going' hand motion. "There are ten elementary schools in Sunnydale, four middle schools, and three high schools. Now I don't know anything about Westbook High, or Oaks Christian School, but I can tell you this: when I started kindergarten at Wilkins Memorial Elementary, there were sixty kids in kindergarten with me; three classes of twenty kids apiece." The kid was on a roll, and didn't even pause. "Now, even if you assume a ridiculous number of kids leaving... say one in five kids leave because their folks move to a new town, or they get held back a grade, or they're sick and can't start school with the rest of their graduating class... even if you accepted 1 in 5 kids not moving on to middle school with the other kids their age, you'd still expect almost fifty kids from Wilkins Memorial to make it to Kendall Avenue Middle, right?"
Samson did some quick math in his head. "Okay, sure. Call it fifty kids, sure. What do you..."
"What I'm talking about is that 50 kids didn't move on to Kendall. Thirty-eight did. When I started at Kendall Middle, there were a grand total of a hundred and fourteen new students, when there should have been a hundred and ninety. A year later and my graduating class has only ninety-four students in it. As of Halloween, the last day I remember being in Sunnydale, there were only eighty-two. By the time we graduate from Sunnydale High? Who knows. There might be only fifty of us left."
Samson's jaw hit the floor. "My God! Are you telling me that all those kids died in between starting Elementary School and High School?"
"Yeah?" Xander blinked. "Yeah. We had a lot of suspiciously violent deaths and disappearances. Granted, it wasn't all of them. I mean, not all of them were killed by vampires. Some of the kids I knew who died did so for completely normal explainable reasons. Like my friend Davie Harris in my freshman year. He got hit by a semi-truck riding his ten-speed down Highway 225. One of the cheerleaders got leukemia. Josie Bartlet disappeared and everyone assumed she was dead. She eventually turned up in Arizona at her older sister's place, perfectly fine. This guy named Scott Shelton, one of the stoners, got his hands on some Ivory Snow-level heroin and overdosed..."
"Sorry, um, 'Ivory Snow'?" Samson asked.
"Yeah, you know, like the soap? Ninety-nine and forty-four one-hundredths percent pure?"
"Ah. Right. Sorry, go on."
"Yeah, so not everyone who died or disappeared did it under weird circumstances. But there were a lot of people who just vanished off the face of the earth, or died from tripping while carrying a barbecue fork, or got caught by a gang on PCP." Xander gave a cynical chuckle. "There was a lot of gangs on PCP running around Sunnydale."
They were both silent for a good while. Then Samson shifted in his seat. "Barbecue forks and gangs on PCP?"
"Sunnydale Syndrome. The police filed a lot of reports that listed the cause of death as blood loss due to a barbecue fork injury to the neck." Xander formed his hand into a grabby, fanged claw-shape and then "bit" himself on the neck.
"Ah. Right. Vampires."
"Yeah. And when mass attacks happened, they were never performed by vampires, but by a gang on PCP."
They both fell silent, not sure how to proceed.
"You were telling me about learning that words hurt?" Samson asked.
"Oh, yeah, right. Well... the reason I told you about Sunnydale is because you have to understand about my friends, and why I don't like to talk about them much. There I was, this lonely abused kid whose parents were drunks. I show up for kindergarten not knowing what to expect, and run into this kid named Jesse. He would end up being by best bud right up until the day he died. He was the only brother I ever had, you know? Even though he wasn't really..."
"Sure, I understand. Family isn't always the ones you were born to.
"Precisely. And along with Jesse was Willow, who even today is the sister I never had. So there we were, new kids in kindergarten, and we all had something in common: the town had taken a loved one from us. And because of that, we were tentative and shy, and a bit stand-offish, and thus became the favorite pick-on target for all the kids who got off on picking on others. And boy did we get picked on. I got it because my folks were the town drunks. Willow was a bookworm even when she was five. And Jesse... its hard to describe because he's was my friend, but you know how there's always one kid who is willing to do things like eat bugs or worms on a dare? That was Jesse. He could be annoying, more annoying than anyone would ever put up with, but me and Wills would put up with him, because he might be an annoying jerk, but he was our annoying jerk."
Xander abruptly rubbed at his eyes.
Samson could see a glisten in them, so he kept silent for a momemt. When Xander once again seemed collected, the psychiatrist asked, "So the three of you banded together out of self-defense?"
"And did it work?"
"Well, yeah. It worked pretty well. I mean, it didn't stop the really bad bullies, and Cordelia just spread her venom out to all of us instead of concentrating it, but having someone at your back, letting you know that no matter what the bullies thought, you were okay and they liked you... yeah, it worked. Got us through elementary school and middle school and into high school. In fact, it wasn't until..."
Xander stopped abruptly, as if words were caught in his throat.
"Until?" Samson prompted.
Xander swallowed visibly. "Well... until the day Buffy arrived. That was the day Jesse was killed."
"Buffy is another one of your friends?"
"Yeah. She's..." Xander was quiet again for a long while, before finally saying, almost a whisper, "She's my hero."
"You said Jesse was killed on the same day that your friend Buffy first arrived. Arrived from where?"
"Oh!" Xander stopped. "Sorry, I left some stuff out. She was the new girl. Just moved to Sunnydale from Los Angeles. Really attractive. Blonde. I... um... I was crushing on her for a while. I'm not quite over it yet, but I'm getting there. She's made it clear that she treasures me as a friend, but only as a friend."
Samson gave a tight smile. "Friends for real or brush-off friends?"
"For real. Seriously, she just... didn't want to date me. But that's okay. Either she'll come around, or I'll get over it and find someone new."
There was another quiet spot.
"When you mentioned that Jesse was killed on the same day Buffy arrived, it sounded for a moment as if you blamed her for Jesse's death."
"What? No! Doc, that's just... that's just crazy talk. Buffy didn't do anything to get Jesse killed. She tried to save him, and did end up saving Willow. She just... couldn't get to Jesse in time."
"What happened ot Jesse, Xander? How was he killed?"
At those words, Xander closed himself off. His face became blank, and his voice became that steady, almost monotone that people who were wound just a little too tightly used when they were terrified, or enraged, or both. He thought about how to answer the question, came up with a dozen different ways, and finally just said, "A vampire. It caught him, killed him, and turned him."
"Turned him?" The confusion was clear on the psychiatrist's face.
"Into a vampire. And then it used Jesse as bait in a trap for Buffy."
"Did the trap work?"
"No. Buffy got us out of that one, too. But later on, Jesse was attacking Cordelia Chase, and I..."
"The same Cordelia Chase who tormented you and your friends?" Samson asked.
"That's her. Anyway, Jesse was attacking Cordelia Chase, and I couldn't let that happen, so I stopped him." Xander's voice became even colder.
"Stopped him how?"
Xander rubbed at his eyes, where tears were forming. "I rammed a stake into his heart and watched him collapse into dust. I destroyed the monster who had taken the place of my best friend." And with that, he started sobbing.
On the third day, Agent Dunne informed Xander that he'd be getting evaluated by a psychiatrist, so that the people in charge could get an idea of what his mental state was in. This would help them make a decision regarding what they were eventually going to do with him. He wasn't looking forward to it.
But at least it was a change. After three days in the box-like cell, he was bored out of his skull. Even the kid's shows on PBS weren't entertaining im anymore. He'd begun daydreaming about escaping, using the body's heightened senses to case the building he was in. There were, intriguingly, some areas he couldn't see into. His curiousity made him wonder, but it was an idle thing.
For a short time, he amused himself by listening in to the conversations of the people who watched him. His cell was supposedly sound-proofed, but any sound outside caused a micrvibration, and he could pick it up through the walls. But that grew boring when he realized that SHIELD agents talked about the same boring things when they were at work as anybody else: their wives or girlfriends, their kids, this new restaurant Xander had never heard of, what they were planning this weekend, the weather, and which sports teams won and lost.
He slept as much as he could, but a combination of Kryptonian physiology which didn't need much sleep anyway and actually getting bored with sleeping (something Xander never thought possibly), even sleeping lost its luster.
Even worse than getting bored with sleep were the dreams. He was having dreams of Buffy and Willow and Giles, having all sorts of adventures with some vaguely familiar new guy. He dreamed that Buffy had slept with Angel, and as a result, the vampire had lost his soul and turned evil again.
It was only a dream, but it still gave him the willies. And so even sleeping lost its charms.
He'd asked Agent Dunne for a toothbrush, and was given a small kit that had a hotel-sized bar of soap, a soft plastic tube of toothpaste, and a rubber toothbruse that bent to a ridiculous angle if he put too much pressure on it. When he asked Dunne about the weird toothbrush, the agent had calmly and cooly explained that it had been specifically designed for use by prisoners. It was just stiff enough to be useful to clean your teeth, but soft enough that no amount of work on the part of the prisoner would turn it into a shiv.
And it turned out that the plastic one-use tube of toothpaste was water soluble. Again, so it couldn't be weaponized by a prisoner. It creeped Xander out, but at least giving himself a hobo bath in the sink and brushing his teeth occupied him for about half an hour.
Bored, bored, bored, bored.
And on the third day, the psychiatrist arrived. Agent Dunne had come into his cell with four other agents. Two stood by the door, their hands worryingly on their weapons, while the other two approached. They were carrying what looked to Xander like shackles.
Turned out they were shackles. At Agent Dunne's instruction, Xander stood perfectly still while one agent put the metal cuffs around both of his ankles. The other agent cuffed his hands; thankfully, his hands were cuffed to his front and not behind his back. A set of metal bars were put into place between his ankles, with another set between his wrists. These hampered his ability to walk, and made it almost impossible to move his hands together usefully. And then one of the agents ran a chain from the ankles to his hands and then up to his neck. And then they sat him down at the table in his cell, and chained his ankles to the bench, whichitself was bolted to the floor. They really didn't want him moving during the psychiatrist's visit.
His memories of Power Girl told Xander that he could get out of these cuffs if he wanted to, but he'd promised to be cooperative in exchange for eventually being let go, so he was cooperative. As easy as escape would be, he really didn't have a beef with SHIELD, and didn't want to be on their bad side.
As expected, Agent Dunne carefully explained that the restraints were for the safety of the visiting psychiatrist. Xander couldn't fault their reasoning, and wasn't really in the mood to cause trouble, so he put up with it.
He couldn't help but laugh when the man finally arrived. Impressively tall. Taller, in fact, than the body's own six feet, two inches. Muscled like a professional wrestler. And green hair. Bright green hair.
He couldn't help it. He laughed.
While he was laughing the doctor settled himself on the other side of Xander's table with a note pad and a couple of pens, and waited for the laughter to die down. When Xander was finished, the doctor smiled and said, "Well. You're in a good mood. This is great. Care to share the joke?"
"Oh sure. Its nothing personal, I promise. Its just that when they told me a psychiatrist was coming to evaluate me. I never in a thousand years thought it would be Doc Samson!"
"Oh, you've heard of me?"
Author's Note: If you see something you recognize, it belongs to either Marvel or Mutant Enemy. If you don't recognize it, there's a very good chance that I came up with it.