The Return of the Scoobies
The Return of the Scoobies
A/N: Disclaimer's in the first chapter.
August 28, Cascade
Before any of them really realized it, summer was over and it was time to return to Sunnydale.
To say the last two months had done the collective Scoobies (Giles included) a world of good was to vastly understate the case. While none of them, not even Buffy (though she, by far, came the closest) were now black belts or otherwise fully-trained, they were a long, long way from where they'd started, which had basically been 'flail and pray'. Even Giles, who'd been somewhere between Willow and Xander's level of competence and Buffy's had improved.
Personally, Xander would always treasure the expression on Angel's face when he'd arrived a couple weeks ago to spar with Buffy, giving her a chance to work out with someone with comparable speed, strength, and agility. If the way he'd started the first sparring session was any indication, Angel had clearly not been expecting much by way of improvement in Buffy's fighting skills. The look on Angel's face when she handed him his ass inside of about two minutes had damn near had Xander rolling on the floor laughing.
Of course, Angel hadn't exactly taken the defeat lying down, and had bounced back up to try again, but it quickly became clear that short of Angel doing his level best to truly kill Buffy, she could at worst fight him to a standstill. Buffy had been understandably pleased with that improvement. Jim had cautioned her against getting cocky, because Angel was clearly out of practice, having not done any 'hunting' for a hundred years. Not to mention that Angel wasn't really wanting to kill Buffy, so he wasn't pulling the really lethal moves out of his arsenal. Still, given that the bulk of vampires in Sunnydale were newly-risen and on the dumb and incompetent side, Buffy wouldn't have much of anything to worry about.
Better still, at least as far as Xander was concerned, if the whining was anything to go by, Angel was on the verge of, essentially, taking his blocks and going home. He was not at all fond of being used as a show-and-tell device, nor of getting his ass handed to him, even if it was by a Slayer. Xander, Jim and Jon's 'don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out' attitude towards Angel definitely hadn't improved matters. Buffy wasn't all that happy about it, of course, but Xander couldn't really find it in himself to encourage Angel to hang around, even if it made Buffy happy.
Jim and Jon both had had long talks with all of them, in private. Whatever they'd said to Giles had really lit a fire under the Brit's ass where the Council was concerned. Not that Giles had been the Council's biggest fan before then, but he seemed far more ready to actively revolt against their decrees than he had been before the start of summer.
For his own part, the talks he'd had with both Jim and Jon had helped Xander put Jesse's death in a better perspective. Neither man was a counselor of course, but just talking things out with someone who'd faced down death and dealt with personal tragedies helped immensely. He'd always miss Jesse, but at least now he wasn't as eaten alive by guilt as he had been. And it had helped deal with the aftermath of the events of the last year, too. Especially the prophecy mess. He was even beginning to come to terms with what'd happened when he'd been possessed by the hyena. So much so that he'd finally confessed to Buffy that he remembered.
Much to his relief, her reaction had been rather similar to Willow's. She'd smacked him for trying to 'spare' her, and told him she didn't blame him for what had happened. And then had hugged him hard enough to threaten his ribs.
"I didn't thank you when it all happened." She'd told him. "So I'll say it now. Thank you."
Xander hadn't needed clarification on what the heck she was talking about.
Xander tossed the last of his new clothes into a duffel bag and zipped it up. They were going to be flying back to Sunnydale the next morning, and he wanted to get everything packed up now. Jon was across the room from him, doing much the same. Xander paused when he saw Jon cock his head to one side.
"Jim?" Came Blair's voice from the living room.
"We're about to have visitors." Jim did not sound at all pleased by that idea.
Jon and Xander traded a look and headed into the living room. Buffy and Willow joined them a few moments later, and then the doorbell rang.
Jim, his face very, very blank, answered the door. On the other side was an older man with a full head of silver hair and glasses, a couple inches shorter and a good deal more lightly built than Jim, from what Xander could see. He looked like an older version of Giles, in a lot of ways. He also looked about as happy to be there as Jim did, which is to say not at all.
Xander couldn't see Jim's face, but the body language spoke volumes. Jim was very much not a happy camper. Blair was eyeing the two men worriedly, and he wasn't the only one.
"I'd ask what you're doing here, but I already know." Jim half-growled. "You never could mind your own damn business."
"My son is my business." The man snapped.
Oh. So ... grandpa. And Jim clearly didn't have the best relationship with the man. Xander fought down an amused snort.
"I stopped being your business when you washed your hands of me because I wasn't interested in numbers, profits, and being your lapdog." Jim snapped. "And if you think you're going to just waltz back into my life now, you've gravely mistaken."
Xander's eyes went wide. Ouch. He had no idea if that was true, of course, but even if it was, that was ... blunt and vicious. And weirdly comforting, because even Xander could figure out at least part of what was going on here. Jim's father must have heard ... through some means ... about Xander. And Jim clearly thought that Xander needed shielding from the man.
"I would think it wouldn't be up to you." The man returned, surprisingly calmly.
"Xander." Jim called over his shoulder. "You have any interest in running a big business?"
Xander grimaced. "Not hardly."
"He is, therefore, worthless to you." Jim told his father. "Go tell Steven to sire you some heirs for the throne."
"Ouch." Xander muttered. "Now I see why his spirit animal is a cat. Because that was more than a little catty."
Jon nearly choked in his effort to not laugh.
Xander crossed the living room to stand beside Jim, who was still blocking his father from actually entering the apartment. "Xander." He introduced himself to man. "And I really don't want anything to do with running a business." He grimaced in distaste. "But I'd still like to get to know you, if that's all right." He eyed Jim. "And my uncle."
"William." The man introduced himself, then eyed Jim as well. "And that would be agreeable, young man. Though, for right now, I believe I'd like to have a talk with your father."
"Outside." Jim said, clearly unwilling to let the man into the apartment.
William sighed, but acquiesced, and the two of them walked out, the door closing firmly behind them.
"Ok, why do I have the impression it's going to be less talking and more yelling?" Xander asked the room at large.
"Because that's what it looked like?" Buffy offered.
Jim came back, alone, about an hour later, jaw twitching in annoyance. He handed Xander a card with William's contact information on it. "Don't expect much. Especially if he finds out about Sunnydale. Or that you're a Guide."
Yeah, definitely a story there, and not a happy one. Xander took the card and put it in his pocket, resolving to call once they'd gotten settled in Sunnydale.
August 29, Sunnydale
Jim and Blair dropped them all off at the airport just after dawn, since they'd gotten an early flight.
"I got you guys some things." Jim told them. "Since sending it by air was ... impractical ... it's being sent by truck. Ought to be there sometime tomorrow."
Xander grinned. "Lemme guess. Knives, daggers, axes, swords, and whatever army surplus stuff you could get your hands on?"
Jim laughed. "Got it in one." He admitted. "Figured you guys would be able to put it to good use. Also got you some equipment so you could carve your own stakes as you needed them, and a small stockpile of holy water. Not much of that, since getting too much from any one place would have gotten people curious, but some."
"We'll call as soon as it arrives." Xander promised. "And thanks for getting it."
"You're welcome." Jim said.
There was an awkward moment as the two of them tried to figure out whether to hug, shake hands, or what, before they finally settled on a still very awkward shake-and-half-hug.
"Take care of yourself. If all goes well, we'll drop by for the weekend at the end of the month." Blair said. "And if you have any questions or problems, call!"
"We will." Jon promised.
Then they had to get going, and, a few hours later, landed in L.A. Joyce met them once they got past the gates, and they drove the rest of the distance to Sunnydale. Giles was dropped off at his place, and the rest of them headed for the Summers' house.
"We really appreciate you being willing to put us up, Mrs. Summers." Xander said.
Joyce smiled at him. "Nonsense, Xander. You're helping Buffy. That's worth a lot more than room and board. And call me Joyce. That goes for both of you." Then she looked at Xander. "I stopped by your parent's place shortly after you guys came down here the first time, and talked them into giving me your things. There wasn't much, but it's all upstairs already. I figured you wouldn't want to go anywhere near them."
Xander let out a whoosh of air. He didn't really have anything that was worth money, a few CD's aside, but he did have a few things that had a ton of sentimental value ... mostly the few things he still had of Jesse's, which he'd sort of hidden in the back of his closet after Jesse ... died. He hadn't been able to put them away at the time, but he hadn't been able to stand seeing them, either, so shoving them to the back of his closet had been the best compromise he'd been able to come up with. "Thanks M ... errr, Joyce." He caught himself just in time to keep from calling her Mrs. Summers.
He headed upstairs to check what had gotten retrieved and to unpack his new things. Much to his relief, the few things he had of Jesse's were among the stuff Joyce had gotten. He put them on the shelf in the closet for the time being, and turned around to see Jon watching him with a look of understanding in his eyes.
Jon had never said exactly who he'd lost that hurt so badly, but whoever it was, their death still haunted Jon. Xander still wasn't sure which of them had gotten more choked up during that part of their talks. It rather abruptly occurred to Xander that while Jack probably had some sort of reminder of the person, Jon didn't seem to.
"You know, you should get pictures. Or copies, or whatever." He said. "From Jack."
Jon blinked. Truth to tell, the idea hadn't occurred to him. "Maybe." He said after a few moments.
On one hand, he wasn't sure he wanted the visual reminders, but on the other ... he was going to outlive them ... possibly even Teal'c, even if the big guy died of old age and not in the middle of some battle. Bra'tac had been, what, nearly a hundred and forty, and only then running out of time due to not being able to carry a larvae anymore? Teal'c didn't have that worry, so who know how long he'd last, given the chance ... but Jon had another sixty years at a minimum ahead of him, possibly more, so it was anyone's guess who would go first. And really, that was a morbid thought and he needed to quit that shit right now.
He got his own stuff stowed and then they headed back downstairs, just in time for lunch. After lunch, Giles arrived and they cleared the kitchen table before hauling out maps, notebooks, and pens to map out a plan of attack for how to deal with Sunnydale.
"Ok, I figure, no matter what sort of goodies Jim is sending us, we need to place weapon caches around town. We're not always going to have the time or ability to run back here or to the school to get weapons if something goes down." Jon said.
"We can use one of the crypts in each of the graveyards." Buffy offered. "We'd just have to make sure it's empty before we stash stuff in there, and keep it that way. If we do it that way, we'd really only have to find a spot to put stuff down on George and Fourth, since there's a cemetery within a couple blocks of pretty much everyplace else in town."
Jon scanned the map for the locations of the graveyards, then nodded. "That works. We can use the Atkinson factory for our spot down on George and Fourth ... factories always have extra crap laying around, so it'll be easy to hide a stash somewhere near there. And we need somewhere more secure to stash stuff at the school. Maybe some unused storage closet or something, rather than the library itself. We can always switch out the locks on it so only we can get in there. Not like anyone's going to really notice in this town."
"That would work." Giles admitted. "I should perhaps move my collection of occult books as well. The library is quite convenient for meetings, but if the Hellmouth opens, there's no telling how much damage would be done before we got it contained, and some of those books can't be replaced."
"Well, we were planning on converting the basement anyway." Xander said. "Why not go whole-hog? It's big enough to have half of it be for sparring and weapons storage and the other half full of bookshelves and someplace to sit and read. And we wouldn't have to worry about Snyder showing up unexpectedly." He tapped his fingers on the table for a moment. "Put the library on the far wall from the stairs that lead to the yard, and the sparring section by the stairs, since that's the bigger area anyway."
August 30, Sunnydale
The truck arrived shortly after breakfast. It turned out to be a small U-Haul truck. Xander stared at it for a minute, then looked at Jon. "If it's full, I'm going to kiss him. Just so you know."
Jon laughed, and then they opened the back end. Much to Xander's disappointment, it wasn't filled with goodies, but there was quite a haul despite that.
One side was stacked waist-high with ... what turned out to be most of the stuff from the basement of Jim's apartment building. The mats, dummy weapons and some of the targets had all been sent to them. The other side had several stacks of flat boxes of varying sizes, which, when opened, proved to be holding a variety of weapons. Big, heavy KA-Bar knives, smaller, lighter knives that looked to be made out of different metals, three different axes, a double-bladed beauty that had Xander drooling, a single-head, and a wood-splitting type axe. Four crossbows and enough arrows with different shaped heads of different materials to make most people nervous, and a huge box of empty grenade shells that they'd be able to fill with their choice of nasty.
"I think I love my father, just a little bit." Xander said, staring at all the loot.
"I think I'm getting a crush on him." Buffy admitted, which made Xander laugh and grimace at the same time.
"Your dad's nearly as bad as I am." Jon said, not looking at all unhappy about the idea. "The only thing missing is explosives, which I'm not about to trust you three with ... yet. Let's get this stuff in the house before the neighbors notice."