This is a fucking brutal story. When it comes to angst, this is the geniune article. I suppose in terms of writing a story about Xander being raped by his father and another buddy who stopped by, this was well done, but I found myself recalling every debate I've been involved with regarding rape and sexual abuse in slash. Usually the line is divided down the middle. If you don't have a problem with it, read the story. If you do, pass it by or it will leave you with a pounding headache.
This story could stand a more thorough beta reading, but if it's supposed to make your blood run cold, it succeeds. I suppose invoking a reaction like that is a good thing. It stays with you. It's just not the way I like my slash. I don't mind hurt and comfort, and a little angst, but when Angel is comforting Xander after he's been raped and thinking about how hot he is, it sent me into a tizzy.
It offers unrelenting insight into Xander and his life. It opens with Angel walking down the street looking for Xander's house. Certain themes are repeated a bit too much in the opening bit, but it works.
One good thing about this story is that it doesn't tell you everything immediately. We have to read on before we discover why he's walking down the street and whose house he is looking for. That we don't know. That we wonder about. That's good. Suspense is a great mechanism. Sometimes it's a necessary one. This works.
I enjoyed how he rushed to the house like it wasn't 2 a.m., but we don't know why. Instead of saying "he's excited," we are allowed to paint the picture for ourselves.
How about some synonyms for the word "house?"
The author has put Xander in a house that we might see on the wrong side of the tracks in a town like Sunnydale. Instead of a quirky, humorous guy, we see someone who lives with a twisted father and is forced to perform sex acts. This is definitely alternate universe material.
Angel climbs to Xander's window after a small reference to Anne Rice that made me smile. He witnesses Xander being abused by his father and a neighbour. The description is horrifying, and I don't mean the quality of it. It's the sort of thing that, if ever detected, could have gotten Deadboy and Xander kicked off its Fortunecity space faster than you can say "Willow, cast a love spell."
Here's a short excerpt. Read at your own risk:
Smith nodded, "Sounds fair. Now do you have any lube? I hate dry fucking, and your son looks like a tight fit, and do you have any condoms?"
"You don't need the condoms, because I know Xander doesn't have anything to catch. He's been in and out of hospitals for years. I already showed you the results from his last blood test. He's clean." Eric's mouth twisted up in a cruel smile, "Or is it that you have something?"
Smith glared at the other man; "It's hard to get anything when you only fuck virgins...."
This was when I started to say "wait, wait, wait." This almost seems to be going overboard with the angst, trying too hard to be evil. I'm not sure someone who was about to fuck a guy's son, with the guy standing there, would say "I hate dry fucking, and your son looks like a tight fit, and do you have any condoms?" ("Why, yes, I do!")
Of course Angel ends up saving the day, but not before Xander suffers greatly at the hands of the menacing Mr. Smith. Angel watches it all but can't save his would-be lover because he hasn't been invited in. He makes up for it when the men leave the house.
Then the story commits my ultimate squick, which is sexuality after rape. They don't actually have sex, but I find it curious that even after Angel sees everything Xander has been through, he is still perusing how sexy the guy is. It seems to me that an experience like that would turn him off ravaging Xander for awhile, especially if he were as loving and caring as the story portrays him to be.
I don't know if I can sum it up with "I liked it." It is definitely not the feel-good story of the year. But it came across like it was supposed to, I think. I can only speculate on the author's intentions, but I hope it wasn't to make rape look like a preamble to sex. In Fallen Angel pt. 3, the story description is something like "Xander and Angel are whisked off to a magical land." I didn't bother reading that one.
On the nit-picky technical side of things, the author seems to know her
grammar. Perhaps this just needs a more thorough run-through.
CABS grade: C-, I think. I'm still too disturbed by it to tell.
Grade for her beta reader: D