Alexander Harris frowned as he looked out the window from the plane that was taking them away from Sunnydale for the summer. His father accepted a job at a dig site in Colorado, and his mother saw it as her chance to have the house to herself, working both of them over until both Harris males agreed to go.
Xander once stumbled across some of his dad's old research, he'd found them packed away in boxes in the basement, bundles of research papers detailing the unconventional ideas his father held about certain aspects of ancient history. Ideas that had been co-authored by someone named, Daniel Jackson. When he asked his mother about them she carefully took the papers from him and returned them to the box telling him, "Xander don't ever ask your father about these, his theories... I loved him for them, but ultimately they destroyed his career." Xander while he couldn't have seen the advisors giving Anthony strange looks, right before they walked him out the door, he knew the results as his father slipped further into alcoholism and depression.
Anthony Harris had been a broken man when he'd returned to Sunnydale and gotten caught up with Jessica, her getting pregnant and his refusing to let her be a single mother, had both played a large part in his decline, and that decline led to his drunken verbal abuse of his wife and son.
The previous week was a strange one for Xander, as he was known by his two best friends. Starting with a call for his father from an old classmate, not that Xander was aware of the call at that time. His father may have had unconventional ideas, but he was no slouch when it came to getting his hands dirty with the actual field work, and that was what led to the call. Xander knew his dad had been an archaeologist, but the surprise came from finding his parents sober and approaching something close to happiness.
~ Jormungandr ~
Tony Harris picked up the phone and answered, "Yeah?"
"Is this Anthony Harris?" came a voice from the other end that Tony tried to place.
"Uh huh," Tony answered, his brow furrowed as he tried to place the voice on the other end.
"Tony, this is Robert. Robert Rothman?" Robert said.
"Bob?" Tony said, fighting the residual alcohol in his system. "It's been forever, man."
"Yeah, it's been a while. It took forever to track your number down," Robert said.
"I didn't want to be tracked down Bob," Tony said, his clenched fist was pressed against the countertop, as he grimaced at the pounding from the lingering hangover.
"Yeah, and I'd apologize, but I'm not sorry," Robert replied.
Tony snorted, "I take it you didn't call just to catch up on old times?"
"Not in the least. Hey, listen, Tony. I've been given run of a previously unknown cliff dwelling in Colorado. That storm they had a few months back broke part of the cliff loose and exposed the site."
"So, why the hell are you calling me?" Tony said grabbing a glass that looked relatively clean and filling it with water from the tap.
Robert sighed before answering, "Unfortunately my normal crew is split seven different ways at various sites outside the country. I know you Harris, you know your stuff and won't stand for any profiteering nonsense. That, and I need to get this dig started, or they'll give it to Rayner."
Tony did a spit take suddenly glad he'd decided on water instead of his usual, "Why the hell would they give it to that prat, I thought his specialty was Egyptology."
"It is, but, the man's main interest has always been money and credit," Robert said. This fit with Tony's memory of the man as a suckup and somewhat greedy little troll, not to mention the reason he'd been discredited over that little idea he'd been tossing back and forth with the younger undergrad student Daniel Jackson.
Tony sat down heavily in a kitchen chair and sighed, "God dammit, Bob."
"So, you're in?" Robert said, the phone connection doing nothing to hide the smug undertone in his voice.
"Let me talk to Jessica, my wife," Tony said.
"I can give you a few days, let me give you my number," Robert said, some of the smug undertone had dropped at the mention of a Missus Harris.
Of course, when he mentioned the dig to Jessica later that morning, she noticed he was sober without it being a special occasion or him having just woken up. That and there was a fire in his eyes, he looked like a man who'd been given a purpose in life again. Jessica, found it incredibly enticing.
~ Jormungandr ~
Alexander grimaced at the memory of the sounds he'd heard coming from his parents' bedroom when he got home from school that day, he hadn't stayed long enough to find out what was up, hightailing it to Willow's where she started laughed and wouldn't tell him why she found it so funny, though she did calm down after he got mad and threatened to leave.
It would be later that evening when he returned home before the sun set that he discovered the change his parents had undergone.
"Alex, is that you?" Jessica called from the kitchen hearing the door open.
"Yeah mom," Xander called back.
"Set the table would you," Jessica said. "we're going to have dinner as a family tonight."
Xander did as he was told in shocked silence, trying to figure out what the occasion was, as the only time they even tried to remotely act familial was on holidays, and that always ended with him grabbing a sleeping bag and climbing out his bedroom window onto the roof. He worried that night was going to be the same, but there wasn't a bottle of alcohol in sight, so he would withhold judgement on that front until after dinner.
The kitchen was another startling scene as Jessica, his mother, she-that-never-cooks, was cooking something.
Jessica cast her gaze on her son as he went about the chore she'd assigned him, a glint forming in her eye as an idea formed.
Xander knew his father had once been a promising archaeologist given the rants Tony made sometimes when he was drunk. The the news that Anthony Harris had been offered a position on a newly discovered dig wasn't that surprising—and went a long way towards explaining the general good mood.
Later that evening, as snippets of whispered conversation between the Anthony and Jessica made their way to his ears.
"He's twelve," Tony said.
"He'll have fun," Jessica said.
"School doesn't end until next week, and Bob wants me on a plane there by thursday," Tony said.
"He's twelve, he can handle a flight..." Jessica said.
"It's a moot point until we find out if he even wants to go," Tony said.
And there it was, the reason he was on a plane headed away from his best friends Jesse and Willow. Xander had protested, loudly and at great length, the unexpected and undesired change in his plans. But in the end, it wasn't like he had much choice anyway, his mother had threatened that if he stayed he'd be forced to do various girly things with her, shopping trips, and so on.
To make matters worse, she'd become intensely interested in his relationship with his best bud Willow, offering and then insisting that she shop with them, guaranteeing that his suffering wouldn't go unseen. Jessica's face had lit up, as she described the planned shopping trips and various pamperings, she would insist upon should he stay.
'No use having second thoughts now,' he thought to himself. Though he wondered if they could be considered second thoughts if it was way past the second time he'd reconsidered his decision to go.
One of the flight attendants leaned over to ask him if he needed anything, and he felt the blood rush to his cheeks, as her blouse revealed a bit more than it probably should.
The same flight attended stuck with him when he transferred planes in denver getting on a smaller plane that would take him to one of the smaller cities near the archeological site where his dad would meet him, by that time it would be fairly late so they planned on staying the night there, before taking yet another plane this time a small charter flight to a private airport owned by a nature conservation authority.
They spent the morning in town getting all the supplies he would need for the hike. Alexander adjusted the pack, and following his dad out on the trail. He wouldn't admit it but he was starting to enjoy himself. The site was far enough away from the main road that the archeologists decided to set up tents instead of trying to make the hike back to their cars and the long drive along the trail to get to the nearest city, each day.
Every now and then Tony would stop and point something out along the trail. Different plants or landmarks that would help if he wandered too far. They followed the trail down towards a river with towering cliffs on either side the cliffs were broken up by portions that led off into the distance gently sloping upwards.
It was faster for them to rappel down the side of the cliff here where the cliff had been mapped by the professionals and deemed safe enough for beginners than it would've been to go around and follow one of the slopes down into the canyon. Tony double checked the ropes and harnesses, before showing him the path along the newly opened fissure into the campsite.
"There seem to be sigils carved into the stone in several places," Xander overheard one of the archeologists exclaim into a handheld recorder animatedly.
"Welcome back Tony," a man with dark hair and an average height called out, from a screen tent where he was coordinating the efforts of the team. "And this must be Alexander, I'm Robert Rothman."
Xander frowned at the use of his first name, but didn't protest as Robert spotted the expression and corrected himself.
"Do you prefer Alex or Alexander?" Robert asked.
"Xander, please," Xander said. Robert raised an eyebrow.
"I'm sure there's a story behind that," Robert said from behind his stereotypical archaeologist glasses.
"Why do I have to babysit the newbie," a voice was heard from outside the tent.
Xander's face reddened.
"The story will have to wait, while I take care of that. That's my son Ryan, he's thirteen. If you'll excuse me," Robert said to Xander apologetically.
A moment later, Robert came back with a lanky teen with short blond hair following him.
Ryan managed to look both annoyed and embarrassed.
"Sorry," Ryan said to Xander in a whisper.
"Wasn't my idea to be here either," Xander whispered back.
Ryan gave him a look.
"It was either girly things with mom, or looking at rocks with dad. And those girly things would involve my mom embarrassing me in front of my friend Willow."
Ryan winced, "Man, that is not cool. Sorry about earlier." This time he meant it.
"So what are we supposed to do for fun for the next four weeks?" Xander asked.
"There's rock climbing, and hiking obviously, I brought fishing gear when I heard the site was next to a river," Ryan said. "Oh, and I've been trying to convince mom to take me kayaking or rafting. Either that or skiing. We're in Colorado, for cryin' out loud. Some of the best rivers and ski slopes in the US."
Xander tried to carry a conversation with Ryan but the older teen made his lack of interest obvious. So he gave it up for a loss and wandered around the camp trying to be unobtrusive as possible.
"And who is this wandering into my work?" A rich baritone called out from behind Xander.
"Don't do that!" He said with a jump.
The voice chuckled as Xander turned around, "I won't insult you by asking, 'do what?' young man. Now, don't tell me, I have a feeling that you are the young Mr. Alexander Harris."
The thin man before him was not what he expected from the voice.
"Ah, I've been told that I missed my calling as a voice actor," the man said noting the expression on his face. "Balinsky, Dr. David Balinsky. Call me David, please."
Xander nodded and gave his nickname.
"Now, if you could just take a few steps to your left—thank you," David said. "I'm here for the rocks you know, and I mean that literally. I'm an assistant professor of geology at Colorado State."
He chuckled at Xander's wide eyed stare.
"I hope you'll keep us in mind for your future education plans." Dave said, placing a hand on Xander's shoulder. "And now that the marketing department back home is satisfied; see the slight discoloration in the rock pattern there?"
"The part without plants?" Xander asked.
"Exactly, Xander, the rains washed through here a few months back and caused a landslide. Most of the time this would bury things we'd rather remain unburied. In our fortunate case, the slide actually helped us by partially uncovering this native american settlement," Dr. Balinsky said.
Despite himself, Xander spent the rest of the afternoon tagging along with Dr. Balinsky as the professor freely shared his knowledge with the twelve year old.
The next morning, Xander woke with the sun, to find most of the scientists had already been awake for a while. Including his dad.
"Good morning Alex," Tony said with from behind a mug of coffee.
Xander grumbled and rubbed his face. "It is way too early to be that cheerful."
"Ryan said something about rock climbing later in the day," Tony advised.
"I'll find him after I get my cereal," Xander said.Return to: Those library doors at the end of the aisle look interesting
Posted: 2018-08-27 03:45:42 -6 gmt