ethrosdemon & Lar ||| Buffy & Angel

Falling I: Over the Ledge
by Lar and ethrosdemon


Email: HERE and naturallycalm@yahoo.com
Distribution: List archives, people who beg, you know the routine.
Disclaimer: Joss and Mutant Enemy own the boys, we just pretend that we do. We have nothing of value, do not sue us.
Rating: R
Pairing: X/L, X/A
Spoilers: general S4/1
Summary: The boys try to cope.
Notes: This is the sequel series to Shameless. We decided this one needs it's own, because it will be just as long and the theme is not the same.

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Work, home.

Work, home.

And if you didn't know any better, you'd think this was the exact same life Lindsey lived a few months ago. He gets up. He showers. He eats when hunger beckons. He turns his reports in on time. He shows up for court appropriately attired and responds when spoken to.

But this is very much not the same life. Life is a word that Lindsey doesn't really feel applies to his space-filling in the universe. He has an existence. He's not exactly sure why that is, but he is working on trying to end it. Special Projects might turn out to be his niche after all.

He can't even put a round figure on the number of bottles of alcohol he's knocked off since Xander left. Knows American Express will have them all itemized when it comes time. Alcoholism, sure, runs in the family, it was only a matter of time. He pops the top off the bottle of Advil he keeps on his coffee table now-a-days. Shakes out two and downs them with a mouthful of scotch. Keeps the hang-over to a minimum if he takes them before he passes out for the night. Staggers into the kitchen, downs two glasses of water from the tap and barely makes it to the bed before he collapses. Reaches to his side and grabs the 'Mr. Bubble Bubblebath' t-shirt that's slipped under the covers. Knows it doesn't really smell that much like Xander anymore, but what with the scotch he can't smell it anyway.

He wakes up around eleven, groggy and disoriented. But he knows one thing, he didn't drink enough. His alarm isn't blaring out at him, it's dark outside. No reason to be awake. Lots of reasons not to be. He feels the vinyl logo on the t-shirt in his hand, rough from too much washing, crackled. It's probably years old, and Xander probably misses it. One of his favorites.

Lindsey swings his legs out and pulls himself up on unsteady legs. Yanks the drawer on the bedside table open and draws out the dented, chrome Zippo his uncle gave him when he was around fifteen. Makes his way to the bathroom, flicks the flint on the lighter and watches how fast natural fiber burns. Too fast, and he has to fling the t-shirt into the shower, reflexes shot, and his fingers get slightly scorched.

Makes his way into the living room .He thinks about drinking more, swallowing a couple xanax, maybe calling up Karl to see if he can get anything stronger, but the anger that lead to the immolation of his most cherished possession is still holding the reigns.

Crying, laying in bed for days at a time, drinking, drugs, he'd been through the list of all the self-destructive post-relationship coping methods, and he wasn't even beginning to feel any relief. He only know one more option: break things.

The first to go is the crystal clock sitting on the bar which just happens to be within reach when the synapse fires and he remembers destruction can be your friend. The clock is followed shortly thereafter by one bottle of vodka, two of gin, and several cds. When the first round ends, he surveys the damage and doesn't feel any different. No change, all the pain still sitting on his chest, covering every inch of his flesh and getting sucked up into his nostrils so that he thinks if he breathes too hard it might smother him. He gazes at the prism effect across the shards of glass and crystal from the moonlight through the unshaded window. Takes one step, then two and pretty soon he's walked all the way to the other side of the living room with bare feet on the sea of shifting light. Falls to his knees where the last cd he hurled lays out of it's jewel case cracked in half by the force of the impact. 'Johnny Cash Live From Folsom Prison', and he's already living the cliché, so he lets the tears well up again.

He also picks up the largest piece of broken bottle within immediate reach and tears a gash in his right arm that takes fourteen stitches to sew up.

+++++++++++++++

Xander seems to be riding some kind of karmic wave that began with Lindsey's announcement about his boss ordering the split and has taken him back to Sunnydale and life in his basement. No explanation from his parents, just the room that used to be his full of junk and a few boxes at the bottom of the step with the very few things he hadn't taken with him on the road.

First week home spent down there alone, on the dirty pullout he never even bothered to unfold. First three entire nights spent in the tiny powder room crouched over the toilet crying with his fist in his mouth so no one would hear him upstairs, biting back the sobbing until he vomited over and over again. Isn't really surprised when he's able to stop throwing up because he's never been so empty in his life. It's just his skin stretched over a glass frame that happens to be his shape, and everything that was inside is gone.

The opposite of joy isn't pain. It's nothing.

Finally his mother tells him that she saw Joyce Summers at the market, and that means his cover is blown. He has to pull himself together, be socially interactive. No one will ever know that his summer was anything more or less than what he had told them it would be. And it's not as if they ask too many questions. As usual his flip responses get him smiles because everyone's too wrapped in their own lives to see beyond the shiny happy surface that Xander presents them

Wills looks at him now and then like she's got her vibes on overdrive, but she never presses, and he doesn't want to start so it goes away. Eventually she's caught up in college and it's just him and his basement couch.

The watch is in a box, and he hasn't taken it out since he got back here. He can't even think about this place as home anymore, not liked he used to, because he's seen the way things should work and his head won't equate anything less with what's needed anymore. He starts taking some of his mother's sleeping pills at night after she goes to bed. Some nights he swallows them and lays there staring at the ceiling, not thinking, not feeling. Just not anything at all.

Sometimes he just takes them and puts them in the baggie under the couch cushion. Not that he's going to need them all, not like he's considered it. It's just, you know, so he can have them here if he really, really needs to sleep.

Buffy and Wills show up out of the blue one day, break from classes or something, and Buffy asks him if he minds helping out with Dawn. His first reaction is to say no to her request, he doesn't want to drag himself out of his snug rabbit-hole of misery. He wants to sit here and be empty until it all goes away. But it looks like *that * plan isn't working out too well //big surprise there, huh?// so he says yes.

That's what he always does; he does the right thing.

Joyce goes off to the gallery, and there's Dawn, all big saucer-eyes and 100 watt smile and too much energy in one little girl's body. Hard not to respond to so much genuine happiness at his presence.

"Ok, Dawnmeister, what's the game plan? Mystery Date, Barbie Shopping Mall or just a little world domination?"

"You wanna play beauty salon?" She asks him like he has a say in the matter, their own brand of politics, pretending he isn't going to let her do mostly whatever she wants.

"You gonna put that unwashable, green mascara on me again?" Teasing her to see her blush, she was so much more upset about that than he was at the time.

She does blush, drops her eyes for a breath or two, and it hurts just a little because it reverberates in him, can see his own actions of not so long ago reflected back at him. Punches the memory back down hard and nails the lid shut while she digs her toe in the carpet and says, "Like, no, I told you before, Buffy hid it. Anyway, how about hairdresser this time?"

"As long as there's no permanent damage, I'm in."

"Xan, what did you do this summer?" Sitting in a chair, towel over his shoulders and leaning back so she can use the hose spray in the kitchen sink to wet his hair down. It's too long, and he thinks with a pang that he might not have washed it for a while. Can't in fact remember washing it or himself since... Well since then. But Dawn is blithely ignorant of this, she's got about four times the usual amount of shampoo puddling in her little hands and he doubts she was offering to clean him up because she thought he looked like a homeless guy.

"Like I told you when I came back, I got stuck in Oxnard and had to work to pay for the car repairs." That's his story, and he's sticking to it. Nothing. else. happened. He can't move to see her at all, and her hands are busy, scrubbing at his scalp with short little nails, then swooping the soapy clumps up into ridges and swirls, white Mohawks, long long ponytails. Playing. It's kind of relaxing despite the topic.

"Nothin' bad happened?" Hands still busy, but he feels his heart trip over.

"Bad, how?"

"I don't know, maybe an alien abduction?" Senses rather than sees her shrug, and she's still into the Vidal Sassoon thing. His scalp is tingling, but in a good way, and could he have been stupid enough to think that Dawn wouldn't be cataloguing everything? Considers her diaries and her "Cub Reporter" badge, how she's grown out of acting like she writes for the Metropolis Daily Planet, but she still probably has the eye. He knows she has a crush, he's always touched and flattered and feels kind of big-brothery about her because of it. Goes out of his way to pay attention to her when no one else will. He wonders if she's the only one who actually did notice him, see him as changed.

Maybe the beauty parlor thing wasn't as un-planned as he thought to begin with. "You sayin' I'm not acting like myself?"

Again he feels her shrug, and she turns on the water, starts to rinse him. So very careful when she's at his forehead so no water will get in his eyes. Protective of him. Taking care of him. Pointedly not looking at his face as she says tell him, "No one ever acts the same for very long. I just was askin', because you seem, well, down."

If it had been Buffy or Willow, he'd have broken down immediately, but he's not about to cry out his hurt about the lover he lost to a 12 year old girl. The *gay * lover, and that was becoming not so important when he thought about it, but still. He knows this is his shot, his chance to get it out, because Buffy and Willow weren't going to ask. They hadn't noticed the fact that you could feel his ribs through his shirt, and that was mainly because there hadn't been any hugs or tickles since he's been home. Knows they've all changed. But this is Dawn, and she's just a kid.

"I'm just getting used to being back with all the girls in my life. Big change for me after being alone and all. You know, like coming back from camp. Everything's all weird at first, but pretty soon it all fits again." Sits up since she's stopped washing and pulls the towel up to scrub the wetness off his hair. When he takes it away from his face, she's got her arms crossed and that determined look to her face.

"I think you're not telling me something," she says, one eyebrow headed for her hairline.

"OK, you're too clever for me, I knew I couldn't keep it a secret forever." So serious and he leans up to her. "Just between you and me, OK, because Buffy will flip if she finds out."

"Cross my heart, hope to die." Whole nine yards, little white fingers making x's over the Hello Kitty t-shirt.

He takes a deep breath and says, "This summer, when I was in Oxnard, I was in fact abducted by aliens."

She shrieks at him, grabs the hose and sprays him right in the face. In five minutes the kitchen is a mess, Dawn is on the floor with a semi-terminal case of the giggles, and Xander isn't thinking of the sleeping pills for the first time since he got back.

===========

Hospital smell makes Lindsey gag. He's still half-toasted when he shows up at he emergency room. The nurse asks him if his injuries are "domestic violence" related. He wants to tell her yes. That his lover did this to him, he just doesn't know it. Instead says he fell through a glass table.

"And the feet?" She isn't buying what he's selling but is just as jaded as any other graveyard shift RN at any other megalopolis ER.

"Then I walked on the broken glass."

"Fill these forms out, a doctor will be with you shortly."

Shortly turns out to be an hour and a half. And he's sure it would have been longer if he hadn't had a Blue Cross card in his wallet.

Waiting to see the punch-drunk ER doc, he pulls out his cell and dials up one of his former clients.

"I have a job for you."

"You payin'?"

"Unless you're working for charity now, yeah."

"What's the deal, MacDonald?"

"I want you to kidnap and kill someone's pet."

"What kind of pet?"

"I don't know, whatever they have."

"What if they don't have one?"

"Then I'll pay you for busting your ass to find that out."

"Fine. Who?"

"Lilah Morgan. I'll give you the address."

Surgical gauze wrapped slightly too tight around his forearm, Lindsey sees Lilah outside her office the next morning. She doesn't miss a beat, turns to him and gives him her most insincere grin.

"Lilah"

"Lindsey."

He finds out later that afternoon that it was a Siamese cat.

============

Anya's waiting for him when he gets home, like he knew she would be.

"How long you been here?" He steps out of his shoes and walks over to where she's sitting on the edge of his bed.

"An hour. It could be more. Your clock doesn't work." She's already unbuttoning his pants and tugging his shirt over his head as she tells him this, and he zones out her actions.

Part of Xander is still waiting every minute of every day for a phone call. A letter. Some kind of contact from Lindsey. He remembers how he was over their first fight, when they were just starting. It was just probably about making a point to prove he wasn't as big a dick as he appeared to be, but that got him flowers, a watch, it got him Twinkies and tequila and begging for forgiveness. And most importantly, it got him the second chance he had thrown away.

It's not that Xander *wants* Lindsey to do that again. He left for a reason, he left to protect him, and he tells himself it was the right thing to do. So it's good that there's no more phone calls, no more whiskey-rough voice calling him 'Xan' and telling him to take off his towel. No blue eyes watching him, no syrupy-rich country boy twang in the shower singing Johnny Cash.

Soft, full man-lips kissing him goodbye with his hand in Xander's hair and telling him that he loves him, and he'll call.

Now he has Anya in his bed every night for some unknown reason, and each time the sun goes down he expects to walk outside and see Twilight Zone written in the sky.

She uses him like a living doll, and he lets her. Doesn't know what she gets out of it besides physical contact with another living person, but he figures there has to be better candidates than him out there. Still, he doesn't want to tell her to leave or that she's not welcome, partly because it's just cruel and partly because he's afraid of her.

After she gets done with him, she always leaves. Tells him his parts fit hers well, and she'll be back tomorrow. So, he's alone again for real now. Not just in his head.

As he lays down post-shower, his thoughts turn in on themselves and twist up, take on new configurations. He thinks that Lindsey never came back to the apartment anyway. That he was never going to, that he was using his boss as an excuse. Pain comes screaming in to fill all the empty places inside of him, and he groans out loud before he can cover his mouth. Because he knows that's wrong, it's a ridiculous lie that he's trying to foist on himself to cover the guilt. He knows that Lindsey called and called, and when there was no answer, he went to the apartment. Can see him getting the manager to unlock the door, panic hidden under all that legal doubletalk. Can see his face when they find the place empty, all his stuff gone and no trace of Xander Harris anywhere.

He falls asleep the same way he has every night since he took up residence on the fold out, exhausted from tears and self-hate.

=end part I=

Falling Part II: Toehold



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