punch_kicker15: (Xander)
[personal profile] punch_kicker15
Title: Another Harris Family Joke
Author: punch_kicker15
Rating: PG
Characters/Relationships: Xander, Gen
Summary:   BUFFY: Have you ever done an exchange program?
                  XANDER: My dad tried to sell me to some Armenians once, does that count?
                  --Inca Mummy Girl

Word count: 610
Notes: Written for the Character Backstory round at [livejournal.com profile] buffy_genfic, for [livejournal.com profile] lusciousxander, who wanted the quote above, alcohol, and gambling.

Sunnydale, 1989:

“Your face is long and pointy.” Xander said to the stranger at the kitchen table. The man didn’t even look up; he just stared at his cards.

“Jessica, gimme another beer.” Dad muttered. “And get that dumb kid to shut up.”

“Alexander!” Mom hissed. “That’s not nice. He can’t help the way he looks. He’s Armenian. Do you want Mommy and Daddy to look bad in front of our guests?”

“But it’s true! And that lady’s nose sticks up like a pig’s.” It was so unfair. Dad could say mean stuff all the time, and Mom never said anything about it. But Mom wanted Xander to be nice to everyone all the time, even when it meant pretending true stuff wasn’t true.

“Jesus Christ, he never shuts up. Probably because he’s too dumb to do what he’s told.” Dad downed the beer. “I see your five and raise you ten.”

The lady Armenian said, “It’s all right. We think children should speak their minds.”

Dad snorted. “Tell you what. For fifty bucks, you can have him. You wanna hear the little freak talk? Try living with him. You’ll be telling him to shut up in five minutes.”

Xander’s stomach lurched. Sometimes he imagined what would happen if his Real Parents showed up, and they were kind, like Alex Keaton’s parents on TV. But to be sent off with these weird-looking people that he didn’t even know, and to maybe never see Jesse and Willow again--that thought was unbearable.

Xander ran up to Dad’s side, fist raised, but Mom was faster. She grabbed him by his arm and dragged him away from the table. “You don’t hit Daddy. Ever.”

“But--” Xander started, but Dad’s angry glare made him trail off. He stared down at the cracked linoleum, holding his breath. If he didn’t breathe, he couldn’t say any of the angry words bubbling up inside his chest.

The Armenian lady whispered, “Petros, maybe we should pay. At least to get him away from this man--”

The Armenian man whispered back, “I know, but we can’t. We just can’t.”

Uncle Rory laid his cards on the table. “Jessica, why don’t you play my hand? I’ll handle this.”

Mom sighed. “I don’t play well, and I’m sure I’ll lose.”

“That’s ok,” Uncle Rory said. “I can stand to lose a round or three.”

Taking Xander’s hand in his, Uncle Rory walked him to the living room. They sat on the lumpy sofa. Xander rested his head against the couch cushion. It smelled like sour milk.

Uncle Rory said, “Neph, your dad was just joking back there.”

“No he wasn’t!” Xander protested.

“Look, buddy. Sometimes grown-ups joke about serious things. It’s a hard world out there, and it gets even harder if you take everything seriously all the time. Someday you’ll look back at this as just another Harris family joke. Understand?”

Xander wanted to argue. But Uncle Rory was the fun grown-up in the family.  He was the one who let Xander watch him skin and stuff deer heads at the taxidermy shop. He was the one who would sneak Xander Twinkies when Xander had been sent to his room without supper. He was the one who taught Xander to ride a bike. What would happen if Uncle Rory got mad at Xander?

So Xander nodded and said, “I get it.”

“Attaboy.” Uncle Rory stood up and patted him on the head. “I gotta back to the game before your mom loses my shirt.”

Xander watched Uncle Rory head back into the kitchen. The angry words still bounced around inside him. He promised himself, I will never joke about this.
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