I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That belongs to The Joss and all other associated people and organizations.Author's Note:
This was just a little idea I had and wrote some time ago. I once had the thought of expanding it, but I never had idea of how I might actually accomplish that. In the meantime, I decided – what the hell, I'll post it as a one shot, after polishing it up some. Which is what I've done.Author's Note 2:
To the readers of my regular fics, I'm not neglecting you. This is a one-shot for the foreseeable future. But Real life has been crunching on me, so my writing time has been contracted. I am working on the latest chapter of Red Moon Rises, but I can make no promises as to when it (and thus when I can start working on chapters for Dead Man Walking and then New City, Same Enemy) will be done and up.The Iron Coin of the Jester
Not for the first, or even the second or third time this week, Xander Harris was sneaking into his room via window after midnight.
It was something he'd had to do a few times, ever since Buffy Summers had come to Sunnydale and he'd become aware of the things that went bump in the night – vampires, demons, werewolves, the whole nine yards. Not that there was anything wrong with werewolves, most of the month. He counted one as a good friend, for that matter.
But he'd never had to do it as regularly as he had now, in the month and a half since Buffy had vanished from Sunnydale, after stopping the end of the world and – presumably – killing her undead boyfriend, Angel. The vampire hadn't shown up around Sunnydale at all anyway, soul or no soul.
With the Slayer gone, Willow, Cordelia, Oz and himself had taken it upon themselves to do what they could to keep a lid on the Hellmouth. It wasn't much, but every Vampire they staked was a victory, as far as he was concerned.
No, it wasn't the first time he'd had to sneak into his room via window after midnight. But it was the first time someone else was in his room, waiting for him. Xander made with his first reaction and pulled his stake from within his coat. “Okay, who are you and what are you doing in my room? Are you some kind of demon?” He demanded. Xander wasn't going straight at it – despite wanting to – because life on the Hellmouth forced a degree of caution when dealing with the unknown. Of course, drawing a stake on the unknown and making demands was probably not of the cautious.
Okay, so caution was a bit of a work in progress for him.
The stranger chuckled at his words. “Demon? No kid. I'm not anything so lowly as a demon. I'm beyond that. Beyond anything your little mortal mind can really wrap itself around. And no need to be threatening. If I wanted to kill you, you would've been dead before you get even get through the window.”
“Are you just here to insult little old mortal me, or what?” Xander, keeping his eyes on the stranger, sidestepped over to his bedside lamp and flicked it on, to get a better look at this person – thing?
He wasn't that tall, maybe a inch or so shorter than himself. He wore a black suit, black dress pants, white shirt and solid blue tie. His skin was tan and his hair black. But those weren't really what Xander noticed. Those weren't memorable. What stick in his mind were two things. The man's eyes – they were solid blue. No pupils, no whites. Just blue orbs in the head. Like pits. The other thing was an action, rather in a physical feature. The man was idly flipping a coin with his left hand, catching it, and then flipping it again. Over and over he was repeating the action. He didn't bother to check it. He just kept on flipping.
“No. I'm here for a reason. Thing is kid-” He stopped talking for a moment and cocked his head, as if in thought, still flipping the coin. “Let me start at the beginning – well, as close to the beginning as someone with as limited a frame of reference as you can understand. There are four...forces, if you will, in the world. The Forces of Good and the Forces of Evil are probably the ones you're most familiar with.” He waved his right hand in a dismissive gesture. “Amateurs.” He scoffed. “They're limited in their focus. They've got – what you call it? Tunnel vision. Only on eachother. Evil wants to wipe out all Good and thus take over and/or destroy the world, and Good wants to wipe out all Evil to do the opposite. Fairly simple equation. But demons, slayers, witches, vampires, champions, and so on and so on ad nauseum
– they don't have the real juice, the real power. No. That's left to the other two forces. The old stodgies over at Fate, and people like me, the Forces of Chaos.”
“Like I said, generally, Good and Evil only have eyes for each other. They occasionally notice the rest of us, or parts of us, but their goal will always be dealing with the other side. And that's exactly how Fate likes it. The Forces of Fate are big on balance. They deal in the big things – keeping planets spinning, electrons in motion, making sure the whole universe don't go kersplat. They like Good and Evil to be just about equal, big picture wise. Sometimes they help good, sometimes they help evil. They got plans. Not for everyone – most people Fate doesn't bother with. But others – like your friends Buffy, Willow, Oz. Even that cheerleader girlfriend of yours.”
He paused again. Xander took advantage of the break to demand that the man get to a point when he realized that he couldn't move. Anything. The man smirked. “Don't worry about the paralysis. I don't like being interrupted.” Then, “Where was I? Oh, yea. Fate. Fate doesn't determine everything in everyone's life. I'll give you an analogy you should
be able to follow. Imagine your life as a book. Now, for most people – like yourself and the vast majority of you humans, you book is entirely blank. You and the people around you – friends, family, enemies, random people on the street – all write it yourselves. But others, people Fate has deemed important to their plans, well, they can have entire chapters, or just scenes, or maybe even just individual lines written into their books. Their lives. Not everything is decided, but some things are. Most of the time, even for the most written-in people, free will is the overriding thing. Just...not always.
“That's where I, and my...compatriots, if you will, among of the Forces of Chaos come in. We like to muck around with the plans of our cousins over at Fate. We don't give a damn about balance. We care about fun. For us, anyway. And seeing the Forces of Fate pull their hair out – metaphorically, of course, since...well,” He groped for the right words with his free hand, the used it in a dismissive gesture. “Nah, your head would explode if I tried to explain it to you.”
“You can call me the Jester. I'm a Force of Chaos.” He suddenly stopped flipping the coin and held it up in his left hand, pondering it. “You know...funny thing coins. Fate can decide a lot of things, if it sets its mind to it. They can't affect the Forces of Chaos – far as I can tell, anyway – but one thing they can't affect, ever, is the coin toss. Or the roll of dice. Deck of cards - they can manipulate that. But I live my – life, for lack of a better word – by the flip of a coin. Every decision I make is entire dependent on heads – or tails. So that I know that I'm living entirely up to chance.”
He pointed the coin at Xander. “Now you – you've never had a fate. You're too normal. Fate never bothered with you. Which was to your advantage. And to the advantage of your little blonde Slayer friend. She was
supposed to die, down there, in the Master's lair. Fate had it all planned out. Then you throw one of the biggest monkey-wrenches I've ever seen into Fate's works. You used CPR. Brought her back to life. You stopped being a straight-up normal guy that night. See, before, even though Fate had never bothered with you, they could've added something to your book at any time, if they felt like it. They're not omniscient, unfortunately for them. But after you screwed up prophecy like that? Twinned the Slayer Line? You became more than normal. You became an Agent of Chaos. You've fucked with Fate twice since then. With the Judge, you went and got that rocket launcher, when Buffy was supposed to – well, technically, her successor was supposed to – die in the process of – successfully – defeating Big Blue. Then you messed with their revised plans for your friend when you lied to her about what your other, redheaded friend told you to tell her. Saved her life, actually.”
“You amuse me kid.. In your short life you've caused an amazing number of headaches for my cousins over at Fate. So I've decided – well really, the coin toss decided - to give you some help.” He flipped the coin at Xander, who found he could move again as he instinctively caught it. “What you have there is a little toy of mine, called the Iron Coin of the Jester. One of five I have – Copper, Tin, Iron, Silver, Gold. Each with their own powers. The Iron one lets you see what Fate has in store for someone. You just flip the coin and say the person's name, and you get to get a sneak peak at what Fate has written in their book.”
“Sounds useful.” Xander said, finally. “What's the catch? Because magic and me? – we don't really seem to get along.”
The Jester smirked and waged a finger at him. “See? I knew you'd light on that immediately. You're a sharp one. There are a couple of catches. First of all, like I told you, you have a very limited frame of reference, on account of being a human. If you could utilize the full potential of the Iron Coin – well, your head would explode after trying. And there would go my fun.”
“Which would be all you care about?”
“Exactly. You're catching on. So I had to limit the Coin's powers, in your hands. You'll only see what – if anything – fate has planned for the person you name in the next few months. So you'll have to flip for your friends on a regular basis. Secondly, you won't be able to tell anyone – and I mean anyone – about the coin, or what it's shown you. Words, sign language, writing it down, signal flags – whatever the hell you try. It won't work. If you could just tell people it would be way too easy.”
The Jester continued on. “And finally, the most important thing. Just because you know what's going to happen, and can change it – it doesn't mean what was supposed to happen was any worse than what might happen now that the book has been rewritten.” He chuckled. “Imagine, if you will, that you went back in time and killed Hitler when he was a baby. Sounds good, in theory. But what if killing Hitler led to someone who wasn't a total idiot, militarily speaking, taking over Germany after World War One? Someone who could actually win, but be as brutal?”
“I've read and seen enough science fiction and comic books to know what you're talking about.” Xander replied.
“Good. I'm not saying the changes will always be worse – some times they may be better, or sometimes they may just be different. And that's where I get my fun.” The Jester popped his neck, then smiled. “Toodles.” with a pop, he was gone. With no trace of his previous presence, save for the worn smooth iron coin Xander held in his hand. He could only barely make the heads and tails out.
Xander looked at the coin. “What the hell.” He flipped it, speaking as it landed towards his hand. “Buffy Summers.”