Chapter 7: Conversations
author's note: HAH! You all thought this was a dead fic, didn't you? I'm NEVER tempting Murphy again about update rates. It clearly won't end well.
Chapter 7: Conversations
"Hey Xander?" Buffy asked as they walked together in their search for Willow and Cordelia. Well, Buffy for Willow and Xander for Cordelia. Hopefully, if Giles was right, giving Willow some time would help patch things up between the two childhood friends. Xander did not like clinging to the hope that Willow was just suffering from some Hellmouth delivered spiritual taint but, it was better than accepting he destroyed his last childhood friendship.
"Hmm?" Xander really was not in the mood to talk and maybe Buffy would take the small hint.
"How come your not surprised or bothered by the fact Willow stole some of Giles book?"Oh
, Xander thought as he stared a little owlishly at the blonde, I haven't been asked that in a long time.
Sighing, Xander combed his hair with his hand as he tried to gather his thoughts. "You know Willow knows how to hack into just about anywhere not on a closed network, right?" At Buffy's brief confused nod at the subject change, Xander continued, "Ever wonder why she learned?"
Buffy's reddening face was answer enough even before she said, "Uh, not really. I figured its just something you learn how to do as you learn how computers work."
Xander shook his head. He was no computer expert but he tried to listen to Willow's explanations. From what the redhead admitted, she purposefully learned how to hack.
"No, she learned how to hack because she wanted to learn everything she could about computers. She became as skilled as we know her to be because she likes to know things, especially things other people don't," Xander explained and then watched Buffy, waiting for the lightbulb to turn on.
"Even if she's not supposed to know what she does," Buffy finally stated and Xander nodded, smiling slightly. "So, she took Giles's books because she wanted to know, not caring about the consequences? How did she not give herself away like she did with the Ford-snooping?"
"Well," Xander drawled out, "You're Willow's only friend right now and you're her first real female friend in a long time. She probably did not want to risk your friendship by doing anything behind your back." (1)
"Oh," Buffy finally said after a moment the two falling into silence as they walked. Eventually Buffy turned to face Xander once more, obviously preparing to say something before suddenly staring at Xander in surprise. "Is that an earring?"
"Uh," Xander managed elegantly, "Yes?" Self-conciously he tugged on the new piercing only for Buffy to turn her surprised gazed to his hand.
"Oh my god, you've totally blinged yourself out," Buffy exclaimed a little too loudly and Xander flushed under the attention. "Next you'll be growing facial hair and driving a motorcycle."
Xander thought over Balthier's distinct sideburns and the skybike he and Fran once owned.(2) While he could do without the facial hair, the motorcycle did not sound like a half-bad idea. "Actually, that's not a bad ide-"
"I can't believe this! You're turning into Pike," Buffy said quickly cutting off Xander. Shaking her head, she rapidly walked away from Xander. "I got to find Willow. I'll, uh, I'll see you around Xan."Who's Pike?
Xander wondered, dazed.(3)
It was not much longer until Xander spotted Cordelia. Giving himself a moment to brace himself, he headed over to his new... friend. Thinking of Cordelia as a friend is going to take some time,
Xander thought as his mind briefly boggled at the idea. Xander Harris and Cordelia Chase, friends. Only on the Hellmouth.
"Gossip has it you were seen talking to Buffy," Cordelia snapped, her attitude and voice clearly demanding to know why he was bothering with Buffy at all.
"Indeed I was," Xander replied, highly amused and not yet ready to play Cordelia's games.(4)
"Look," Cordelia huffed, crossing her arms and giving Xander a stern glare. "I'm not getting into all the issues with your other friends considering how you bit my head off last night about it. Just don't expect me to suddenly be all friendly with either of them. I don't like Summers and I certainly don't like Rosenberg."
"You know, I get why you don't like Buffy, what with her being competition but, I'm still a little fuzzy on Willow. Yes she holds her standards and intelligence over people's heads like a guillotine*, but that doesn't explain why you personally dislike her so much," Xander pointed out after a moment. Cordelia, for all her social queen vilenesss, usually did not have personal vendettas. You were either in, and Cordelia liked you, or you were out and had to deal with Cordelia mocking any fault you had. "Did you try to be friends with Willow once?"
Cordelia scoffed at him, scandalously declaring, "As if!" Xander raised his eyebrows and waited. Idly, he noted the whole eyebrow thing was usually Balthier's habit. Unsurprisingly he appeared to have picked up more than just memories and knowledge from the sky pirate. Cordelia interrupted Xander's thoughts by admitting, "Alright, fine. Once, years ago back in seventh grade."
"The first year of junior high then," Xander mused aloud. That was when teachers stop trying to prevent the students from forming cliques and bullying those who weren't in one. He, Willow, and Jesse never managed to get into any of them. That was also the year the three of them established the "we hate Cordelia" club. "Wait, you mean, you tried to make Willow a Cordette?" he asked as the pieces finally clicked in place.
"Oh don't act so surprised. It's not that unbelievable," Cordy argued. Xander let his open expression of shock speak for him. "Okay, so she's not rich like the other girls but she's smart. If she used all the money her parents leave her for clothes and makeup instead of computers she would have the looks too. So I offered to help her out in becoming fashionable so she could be one of my friends and she basically called me a vapid slut! She would have if she allowed herself to use such 'vulgar language'."
The truly sad part of this revelation was Xander now knew both sides of the story and it was all one big misunderstanding. Cordelia was probably her usual tactless but trying to help self and Willow misunderstood her. Willow in turn probably spouted out whatever psychological reason her mother wouldn't buy or let her buy nicer clothes and Cordelia misheard it as an insult. Xander felt a headache building in his head and pinched his nose. Was the last four years of animosity between the two really over something so simple?
"I think the two of you need to sit down and actually talk, possibly with a translator, for a change," Xander said finally when Cordelia started to give him dark looks for taking so long to say something.
The social queen of Sunnydale scoffed once more at Xander. "Please, you've been trying the last couple of days to do the same thing. You should know by now how impossible that is."
... She had him there.
Xander entered the library during his lunch period to see Ford at the table and seriously considered just walking back out. Whatever issues Buffy's LA friend had were none of his business and Xander was not sure he wanted to get caught up in them. Except Xander knew what it was like to watch someone waste away because of sickness, couldn't imagine what it would be like to be the one dying, and strangely sympathized as a result.
Standing still in a moment of hesitation, Ford finally looked up from the table to notice Xander standing awkwardly in the doorway. Resigned to the fact that leaving now would be rude, Xander moved further into the library.
"Hey Ford, Giles around? I need to talk to him about something," Xander asked politely and was debating playing ignorant to Ford's real reasons for being in Sunnydale when an idea struck. "I, uh, heard from Buffy and Giles you're sick. If you don't mind, I know a trick that might help with the symptoms." He rather doubted that cure, weak as it was, could fix cancer. Then again maybe it would be stronger here on Earth since it was not commonly used.
"He already went off to make tea in the teacher's lounge when he realized his little thermos was broken," Ford said instead, equal parts sullen and amused.
"Why would I- oh, is my accent shifting again?" Xander asked more to himself and Ford. He had noticed that over past week; his voice had a habit of switching to an Archadian accent, which many mistook for British. Although, anyone that noticed suggested he was spending too much time with the librarian and not that he thought tea cured all ills. (5)
Shaking his head, Xander forced himself to focus. "Nevermind that. No, I was going to suggest magick. Admittedly I need to practice it but if a cast it wrong it won't hurt you. You'll just see me looking like a fool."
"I already looked into magic. Everything I found said healing spells don't exist, are a sham, or the price-tags aren't worth it," Ford argued, already shaking his head in refusal.
Xander plastered a reassuring smile on his face and said cheerfully, "Well then its a good thing what I want to try is different. Please? The alternatives risk a great amount of damage to Giles's precious books."
Ford threw up his hands in exasperation. "Fine! You can try your spell if you'll leave me alone afterwards. I feel lousy enough without you pestering me."
At that Xander felt a little guilt, but if he pulled this off it would be worth it. If it didn't, Xander would leave Ford alone. Closing his eyes, Xander rested his right hand over his heart and concentrated. He knew from Balthier's memories that the first casting of a spell was always the trickiest due to the caster's mental state and the fact one was calling upon a force one had not before. The only exceptions to this rule were the higher tiered versions of a spell like Cura to Cure. Given how little Mist Sunnydale seemed to have Xander expected casting Cure on Ford to be quite the challenge.
So naturally he was surprised how easily, almost eagerly, the spell focused in his mind. Opening his eyes, Xander was delighted to see a soft, familiar, glow in his hand and quickly moved his arm so the spell was aimed at Ford. Xander barely managed to softly invoke, "Life's refreshing breeze," before the spell leapt into action. Ford glowed a soft white for a brief moment as the spell successfully worked.(6)
Silent in their shock, Xander and Ford stared at each other as their minds reeled. While Xander did not know what Ford was thinking, he knew his mind was racing through Balthier's memories searching for an answer. Damn
Xander thought as he found the only plausible reason why he managed to cast Cure so easily despite the challenge it should have been. I have an aptitude for magick. I could be a half-decent mage in Ivalice. Damn it, Balthier only knew 'the basics' and time magick. This sucks.
"What did you do?" Ford demanded suddenly, grabbing Xander's still outstretched hand. "What the hell did you cast on me?"
"Let go," Xander tried to get his arm free and Ford just gripped his hand tighter. "It was a simple healing spell, nothing more. Now if may I have my hand back."
"Yeah right, no healing spell that effective is simple or worth the effort. What did it cost you? Or does the cost land on me?" Ford practically growled out.
"Maybe the spells you researched! The one I cast only cost a little energy and effort of the caster," Xander snapped back, finally freeing his hand. Glaring, Xander moved so the library table was between the two of them and he was closer to Giles's weapon stash.
"Then you didn't research it well enough," Ford yelled.
"Good Lord, what is going on? Xander? Ford?" Giles asked from the entrance with two steaming cups of tea in his hands.
"He cast some sort of spell on me and claims
its a simple healing spell," Ford explained, almost back to growling. Xander was reminded of Basch briefly, when the 'king-slayer' got angry his voice gained a rumble to it as well.
"Because it is a simple healing spell!" Xander insisted before turning to Giles imploringly. "I managed to cast Cure, Giles."
"Oh," Giles managed as full-understanding took effect. "I think its best we take a moment to calm down. Perhaps once we're all seated and comfortable the two of you could give me a full explanation," Giles decided after a moment. Almost mournfully, the watcher set aside the cups of tea and took off his glasses to needlessly clean them. He was pretty sure the watcher was muttering about how he was not paid enough to deal with teenagers.
If Xander was not so busy glaring at Ford and making sure the elder teen did not attack him, he was sure he would have found Giles's actions amusing.
1 - Essentially, keeping a secret is hard when you're asked to keep a secret.
2 - Not sure of the correct term for Balthier and Fran's flying motorbike. I'll look it up
3 - Pike may or may not show up but Xander is sort of turning into Pike's future comic self. Sort of annoying really, because Pike in the comics is how I wanted to see Xander develop on the show.
4 - Xander is channeling the force except not.
5 - Archadia has a very Roman Empire feel to it and British accents.
6 - The first half of the casting quote for Cure 1 &2 in Final Fantasy Tactics which is part of the Ivalice FF series
7 - I consider the 'basic' magick package to be fire, ice, lightning, and cure.