Never Again

By Saber ShadowKitten
And Now For Something Completely Different 15

Tuesday, October 12, 1999

Xander was almost to his motel room when it happened. One minute, it was a sunny day; the next, it was dark.

Xander raised his Walgreens' 99-cent sunglasses-covered eyes to the sky. A deep frown settled between his brows when he saw the dark cloud that had formed overhead.

"Great," Xander muttered, shifting his bag of groceries to his other arm. "Just what I needed."

It'd only been a week and a half since Xander had been released from the hospital, and in that time he'd crashed his car, electric-shocked everyone he touched, blacked out the power in his motel room, blew the speakers at the strip club, and almost electrocuted himself taking a shower.

Now, it looked like he'd have to walk to work in the rain.

Xander dug his room key out of his pocket, shocking himself when he touched the metal of the key. He gritted his teeth and nodded a greeting to his neighbor, Mr. Finchly, who was leaving his room as Xander slid his key into the door.

Which was why Xander never saw it coming.

The crack that accompanied the bolt of lightning shattered the quietness of the late fall afternoon. The bolt shot down from the dark sky, ricocheted off the metal motel room door, and slammed into Xander's chest.

Xander flew backwards on impact. He hit one of the parked cars in the lot in front of the motel, his body denting the hood. He lay like a sick parody of a crucified man, with his arms splayed out to the sides, leaving him completely unprotected from the next bolt.

Behind his cheap sunglasses, Xander watched with horror as lightning streaked straight at him. The scream he'd formed got stuck in the back of his throat. The bolt struck him in the center of his chest in the exact same spot as the first one. His body convulsed once, twice; his arms and head smacking against the metal of the car with hard thumps.

Then, as the thunder shook the motel's windows, streams of blue-white electricity shot from Xander's splayed fingers from both his hands.

The car to the left of where he lay crackled as the high voltage hit it. Thin lines of electricity ran over the Nissan's surface and the body slightly glowed. The car alarm screeched briefly before shorting out.

The third bolt of lightning struck its mark, burning a hole in Xander's shirt. His sunglasses cracked and fell off as his body arched to a normally impossible degree.

A scream of pain ripped through the reverberations caused by the thunder.

It wasn't from Xander.

Mr. Finchly smashed against the concrete wall of the motel. The streams of electricity shooting from Xander's hand speared the older man's body. Mr. Finchly's weather-beaten skin began to blacken. His lips curled back in pain and his teeth glowed bluish-white.

Xander prayed to whatever would listen for it to stop. He'd sell his soul to the closest bidder as long as the lightning ceased to strike him. The pain was excruciating and beyond comparative description. He simply wanted it to end, even if it meant losing his life.

Xander's brightly glowing white eyes fell shut as blessed unconsciousness finally overtook him.

He didn't know how long he'd been out, or how many more times the lightning had hit him when he returned to consciousness. Groaning, he forced himself to sit up, using one hand as a prop. The sky was once again sunny and Xander shielded his overly sensitive eyes with his hand and squinted as he looked around. He hoped no one had witnessed what'd just happened. He couldn't afford another visit to the hospital.

The Nissan to his left was a little blackened around the edges, but other than that it looked fine. The crumpled hood of the car he was sitting on was going to eat into what was left of his savings. The body on the ground in front of the motel was black and smoking. There was a scorch mark on the grayish concrete wall--

Xander slowly lowered his gaze again as what he'd just seen penetrated his brain. A knot formed beneath his sore chest as he slid off the dented car. His legs refused to support him and he ended up crawling towards the body.

Slaying with Buffy over the past few years had given Xander the opportunity to see death first hand. Drained bodies, mutilated bodies, drowning victims, he'd thought he'd grown desensitized.

But he'd never seen a person that resembled a charcoal briquette before.

With a shaking hand, Xander reached out and carefully searched for a pulse, even though his strange vision told him there was no life in the body. After confirming his prognosis, he vomited.

"Mr. Finchly," Xander gasped, holding his arms tight against his roiling stomach.

Pushing himself to his feet, he stumbled to his motel room and managed to get inside. His hands shook violently as he picked up the phone and dialed. His voice trembled as he spoke to the emergency operator, and pain not caused by his being struck by lightning radiated from his chest.

The rest of the day went by in a blur for Xander. He vaguely remembered cleaning himself up before the paramedics arrived. He knew he'd lied to the police about a freak lightning storm and had avoided meeting anyone's eyes. He remembered at some point calling Willow but hanging up before she'd answered.

He went to work as normal and threw himself into cleaning tables. He didn't speak to customers other than to offer polite "excuse mes" so he wouldn't have to touch anyone. His friends only got a shake of his head, indicating he wanted to be left alone.

The image of Mr. Finchly's dead body, however, refused to leave him alone. Xander had easily put one and one together and had come up with 50-to-life.

He'd killed a man. A living, breathing, walking, talking, non-demony, cute older man, who'd always offer him a donut on Sunday mornings. How was he going to live with himself knowing that he'd fried poor Mr. Finchly? He wasn't Faith, unless she'd somehow rubbed off on him during their fifteen minute screw. That thought made Xander almost as sick as picturing Mr. Finchly's roasted corpse.

One thing was for certain, Xander wasn't going to push what happened under his own mental carpeting. Starting after work, he was going to learn how to control the electricity he could feel coursing through his body. And, if he couldn't learn that control, well, he wouldn't chance killing another innocent person.

Even if it meant taking his own life.