Episode 2: ...And Sometimes You Can
I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I own the Jester, the Librarian, and The Iron Coin, along with other things you don't recognize from the original.Author's Note:
Its a short 'Episode', yes, I will grant. But that's in part because there is less to tell. This is Xander's story, not Buffy's or anyone else's, so there will rarely be POV scenes from anyone but Xander. The original 'Buffy comes home' episode manages to be as long as it is primarily because it throws in the zombie-mask subplot. That isn't applicable here because Buffy comes home months earlier than in-show, so Joyce hasn't gotten the shipment Nigerian art to begin with.
Huge thanks to Starway for his work beta-reading the chapter, and his writing of the entire second part, minus the changes I made to it. My serious writer's block on that part would have kept this chapter from coming out for a while.
And, as always, any mistakes you see are mine.The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1
Episode 2: ...And Sometimes You CanJuly 11th, 1998
Outside 1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale
The bus journey back to Sunnydale took just as long as the original trip to the City of Angels had taken, and by the time Xander and Buffy arrived back on the Hellmouth, it was long past sundown. Still, as far as Harris was concerned, that didn't really matter; as long as the Slayer was back home where she belonged, it didn't matter what the hell time they'd gotten here.
It had been an 'interesting' day. After they had discovered that pool of black tar, or whatever the hell it was, Xander had persuaded Buffy to help him find some real weapons – and then they had come up with a plan of sorts. Namely, that the Chosen One would enter the portal and if she wasn't out within five minutes, he would come in after her after calling Giles. Buffy hadn't liked the idea of calling her Watcher, not even as a backup plan, but she'd had to admit – better that than spending the rest of her life trying in vain to get back home. Anyway, as far as Xander was concerned Buffy had been in that...demon dimension for only a few seconds, at most – really, it was more the blink of an eye between when she went in and when he was helping pull people out of the portal/pool.
But from what Buffy's point of view, it had been several hours down there. Hours spent sneaking around, battling against demons and rescuing the human slaves. By the time she'd jumped out and the black tar portal had vanished, Buffy had been exhausted. Fortunately, she'd been too swept up in events to ask Xander again – and this time, actually demand an answer – about how he'd known exactly where to find her in L.A. Or ask him about how he'd known that Ken was a demon, and that the 'homeless shelter' been taking homeless kids in and turning them into slaves for the rest of their lives.
It had occurred to Xander, while he was feeling relieved about that fact, that he really should think of some feasible answers to those questions. Despite her 'dumb blonde' act – which she had down to a T – Buffy Anne Summers was not an idiot. Not in the least. Xander, personally, had to question her common sense sometimes, granted; but then, that was sort of the pot calling the kettle black, given his own track record in the gray matter department. Let's face it, Cordelia and Oz are the only sane ones in the entire group.
Xander considered. And given that Oz was a werewolf, what did that say about the value of Sanity on the Hellmouth? Not much, he had to admit.
Buffy had slept the entire trip back, throughly exhausted. She'd worked nearly a full shift by the time Xander had found her, and then tacked onto that several hours of demon-slaying in a hell dimension with a screwy time stream. Talk about jet lag. Or maybe dimension lag?
She only woke back up when Xander said her name softly as the Bus pulled into the station. Another downside of being a slayer. They were light sleepers.
And now they were standing on the sidewalk, in front of Buffy's house. "Well, here we are," Xander said with a gesture. "Home sweet home."
“Xander, I can't-” Buffy started to say, suddenly unsure of herself again.
“Yes, you can.” Xander replied softly. “You can
“But what if my mom-?”
“Buffy, please don't start with the self-pity party again, and think
for a minute! Does your mother love you?”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Yeah, she does...” Then she said it again with more certainty, “She does.”
"So, even if she told you never to come back if you walked out that door two months ago, do you really
think your mom is just gonna slam the front door in your face, as soon as she sees you standing on the porch?"
"Then what the heck are you waiting for? Go. Do that whole "I missed you so much" dealie with your mother," Xander ordered the young woman. "Because I know for a fact she's missed you too. Put the poor woman out of her misery, already!"
Buffy took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, steeling herself. “Okay.” She took another breath. “Alright, I can do this. I can...thanks for everything, Xander, but I think I can handle it alone from here.”
“Good.” Xander nodded as well. “Look, I'll go tell Giles and the others that you're back. It's too late for a Scooby Gang meeting now, and besides; your mom will want you all to herself for the rest of the night, I'm sure. Willow might stop by your house anyway, later, but what say we all meet up at Giles's place; tomorrow afternoon, maybe?”
“Sure.” Buffy agreed. Then she frowned, staring at her friend. "You gonna be okay getting to Giles's condo from here? I mean, I could escort you..."
"I'll be fine. I'm Cross and Stake Guy, see?" Xander displayed his weapons to the Chosen One. "Never leave home without 'em! Now go on and do the big family reunion thing. It's way past time."
"Right." Buffy quickly took a third deep breath and walked up to the front door of her house, and knocked.
Not wanting to intrude on a private moment, Xander turned and left as Buffy knocked, heading for Giles's apartment.
He paused mid-step about halfway there, a thought occurring to him. He completed his step, made sure he still had a cross around his neck, and his emergency stake easy at hand – it was Sunnydale at night – and stopped to think.
He would have to use the Iron Coin again, eventually. Right now was as good a moment as any. The Jester had told him that he would only be able to use the Iron Coin to see a few months ahead of time. Which meant, logically, that he would have to flip for his friends every few months – probably once a month or so, just to be safe. Unless, of course, he screwed up Fate's plans recently, at which point getting a quick glimpse ahead would be a fine idea.
He flipped the coin. “Buffy Summers.” He caught it. There had not been a single image in his head.
He flipped it again. “Buffy Summers.” Nothing.
Flip .“Willow Rosenberg.” Nothing.
Flip. “Daniel Osbourne.” Nothing.
Flip. “Rupert Giles.” Nada, zip, zilch.
One last flip. “Joyce Summers.” And still, there was just a big, huge, steaming pile of a whole-lot of nothing.
For a few moments, he felt...panic?
rising within him. Had the coin stopped working? Was it suddenly defective? Then he remembered: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.
Like the images from when he'd flipped the coin that night, that whole conversation seemed burned into his memory. But what did it mean? That his friends' fates were currently in limbo, because of his actions? Had the act of bringing Buffy home at this point in time been enough to screw Fate's plans up completely? If so, Xander didn't know how he felt about that.
He looked at the coin closely for a moment, then slipped it back into his pocket. He wondered idly what would happen if he showed the object to Giles, or used it around someone, if that would qualify as 'telling'. It probably would, and so Xander didn't want to take chances on the consequences of such actions.
He reached Giles' condo and knocked on the front door of Apartment B. Giles opened up within less than a minute. “Ah, Xander. Is Buffy-?”
“She's back, and she's fine. Physically, anyway, bar bruises from the demons she took out, but that's nothing new for her. And I think her brains in a much better place now too.” He smiled, then entered the apartment. Giles closed it behind him. “The Slayer is back.”
“That...that is good. She's with her mother, I take it?”
Xander nodded. “She was really broken up, what with her mom telling her to never come back. Personally, I think Buffy was stupid to believe Mrs. S when she said-”
“Considering all the events that had happened leading up to that, I would argue that while what she did was foolish, and hasty, its perfectly understandable. And, so is what Joyce said to her, even if she was also foolish and hasty to say such to her daughter.”
Xander sighed. “Maybe you're right...no...no, you are.” He conceded. “Still, she shouldn't have...” He sighed again. “The main reason I came by now wasn't just to tell you that Buffy is here, though. I'm also here because we need to work out a cover story.”
“Cover story? I'm afraid I don't follow.”
“Hey, we need an explanation as to how I knew about where to find Buffy, and about those demons at the 'homeless shelter'.” He quickly went over everything that had happened in Los Angeles, from finding Buffy at the restaurant to the encounter with 'Ken' at the 'Family Home'.
Giles looked confused. “Why can't you just tell her what you told me?”
“Tell her what, exactly? Like you said earlier today, I didn't really tell you much of anything. Any honest answer I try to give her wouldn't exactly qualify as an answer at all! And you know what Buffy's like, Giles; she won't be satisfied with an 'I can't tell you.' No way, no how! To be honest, I'm a little surprised that I was able to tell you as much as I did, now that I think about it.”
Giles turned off his glasses and started to clean them. “So you are proposing to lie to her? And to Willow, and Oz, and even Cordelia?”
“Well...when you put it like that...” He trailed off, then shrugged helplessly. “Kind of, yes.” He looked at the man who had been his pseudo father-figure for the last year and change. “You can't tell me you don't see why I think that's the best idea for all concerned. Especially given what we're dealing with!”
Giles put his glasses back on. “No, I can't tell you that. And I see your point. Though I do wish we could find out more about the geas you seem to be under, and how to correct it. But, yes given how...whatever is going on is intrinsically tied up with you...you're the expert, as it were.”
“Now there's a frightening thought. Me, an expert at anything but Twinkies?” He smiled, then his expression grew more serious. “Anyway, so, what is a cover story that Buffy might accept, do ya think?”
“Well, err, just off the top of my head – the Watchers Council sent someone to Los Angeles to look for Buffy, and they found her, but the field operative had a rare moment of intelligent insight that it would be better if a friend approached her, rather than a stranger whose intentions and motivations were completely unknown to her.”
Xander nodded. “Make sense. Even has the advantage of being half-true. I mean, you did
get the Council to send people down there before now, didn't you?”
“Yes...and I did tell them not to approach Buffy themselves if they spotted her. Though I don't know if they would have listened, had those people actually found her...” Giles added. “And as for the demon, I could always say that he – that it – was also something the Watcher reported to me about, and I mentioned it to you in passing after deciding to send you to bring Buffy home.”
Xander nodded. “That does make sense.” He nodded again. "And if the Buffster asks, I can say that I scoped out the situation before I found her in that diner. Which is also true enough...in a way."
"Very well. You'll be, uh, bringing Buffy here tomorrow, then?" Giles asked.
"Tomorrow afternoon. All the gang'll be here, Giles. We'll see you then." Xander quickly said his goodbyes, and then vanished out the door. It was late, and he had to head off home and get a good night's sleep. He suspected that he would need it for the meeting tomorrow.July 12th, 1998
Outside 523B Oak Park Street, Sunnydale
Xander stood on the street alongside Willow, Oz and Cordelia as they waited for Buffy to show up. It was Sunday afternoon, and so the street was more or less deserted.
"She's late." Cordelia said sharply, and not for the first time. The cheerleader looked utterly bored waiting for Buffy to show up, and there was only so many times she could examine her nails for any blemishes and imperfections.
"Buffy will be here." Willow replied faithfully. "I spoke with her on the phone last night and
this morning, she promised me that she'd show up!"
"Fine. I'm just saying, she's late. And quite frankly, I've got other things - much better, more important things - which I could be doing right now," Cordy riposted.
"Example?" Oz asked in short, non-committal way.
"Well, I need to get organized and pack for the Chase family vacation, for starters. You think if I'm not there to supervise her, the maid will actually remember to include everything I need for spending six weeks in Mexico? Ha! I don't think
so," Cordelia said imperiously.
Willow turned to face Xander. "So, now that Buffy's back...are you gonna be going with Cordelia and her family, or-?"
"Nah. Way too late now," Xander shrugged. "Besides, I get the feeling that Cordy's mom and dad don't like me too much."
"Hey!" The Chase girl said in annoyance. "So what if they're not exactly happy how I'm dating a known loser with few, if any prospects? You're not in a relationship with them, you're in a relationship with me
! And Cordelia Chase dates whoever the hell she wants to date!"
Despite her tone, Xander wasn't bothered. It was just the way she was, and it was, in its own way, a compliment. "And approximately 65% of that was actually a compliment. Gotta be a new record," Xander wisecracked, before his girlfriend gave him a smack on the chest and he yelped in pain.
"Been there, man. Willow's dad didn't seem to like me much the one time we met, either." Oz said in his usual calm, laid-back manner. "Mentioned that if I turned his little girl into a groupie, he'd give me an in-depth course about the theory and practice of circumcision. Using a pair of pruning shears."
"OZ!" Willow yelped, looking horrified.
"Ouch," Xander nodded sympathetically.
"Hey, look! Isn't that Mrs. Summers' Jeep?" Cordelia pointed with her chin, pointedly ignoring the male antics.
Indeed it was. The car swiftly pulled over in front of the Scooby Gang, before Joyce and Buffy got out. "Hey," the Slayer greeted her friends.
"BUFFY!" Willow immediately ran over and gave her best friend a big hug. "Oh, I'msogladyou'resafeweallmissedyousomuchandIdon'tknowwheretostartabout-"
"Okay, Will, breathe!" Buffy looked amused that the beloved Willow-babble hadn't changed, even if some other things had. She stepped back and said, "Hey, you cut your hair. The new style...looks good on you."
"Well, duh! Because I was the one who picked it out for her!" Cordelia exclaimed, before unleashing her patented megawatt smile. "Welcome home, Buffy. Seriously, I am so glad you're back! Because now, my boyfriend won't have to risk his neck fighting the monsters every night after you ran away and left us to do the job for you!"And the winner and reigning champion of the Sunnydale Tact Girl Competition, is definitely still Cordelia Chase...
Buffy thought grouchily. All she said though was, "Hi Cordy, long time no see."
"Ditto. Welcome back." Oz said laconically.
"Thanks, Oz. Good to see you too." Buffy replied with genuine warmth.
"So, Mrs. S. Wasn't expecting to see you here today." Xander remarked, ignoring the fact that Buffy hadn't personally greeted him. Not that there was a need, since they'd talked last night. But it stung. Just a tiny amount. "What's the up with that?"
"Well, uh, Buffy and I talked all last night. And since it's, um, been made clear to me that being the Slayer is... is something she can't avoid, no matter how hard she tries, there's nothing I can do but help her as best I can with...all this." Joyce told him hesitantly, gesturing a little helplessly as she spoke. Then her voice firmed up, "And by the way, Xander, I'd also like to know why Mr. Giles sent you to Los Angeles yesterday to bring my little girl home. Why on earth didn't he call me? If only to tell me that he'd finally learned where my daughter was?"
"Yeah, uh, I figure you should ask the G-man that question, Mrs. Summers," Xander said hurriedly, seeing everyone staring at him. "I mean, I know what he told me yesterday, you might wanna get that information straight from the horse's mouth..."
Joyce accepted that, and quickly marched to the British man's front door, the teenagers all following behind her. She knocked three times on the door, and when Giles opened up she barged inside without waiting for an invitation. "Mr. Giles, I'd like to have a word with you!"
"Of course, Mrs. Summers, I – Buffy? Oh, thank heaven you're back..." After spying his charge, Giles uncharacteristically gave her a hug, something which Buffy returned wholeheartedly with a huge smile on her face.
"AHEM!" Joyce did not look happy about the impromptu display of affection between the Watcher and the Slayer. As she'd said to the Watcher recently, she wasn't okay with the secret relationship those two had shared behind her back for over eighteen months now. "Mr. Giles?"
"Uh, y-y-yes." Rupert stammered. "Um, my apologies for, err, any unseemly displays of affection, a-as it were."
The adults started to talk about....well, the whole mess. Meanwhile, the five teens went to the couch made themselves comfortable. They listened to Buffy's mother grilling Giles about everything that had happened yesterday, before deciding to focus on their own conversation; on account of the quintet had mostly heard it all before, during various phone calls this morning.
"Hey, so, you're not wanted for murder anymore." Oz told Buffy, deciding to get the ball rolling.
"Good. That was such a drag." the Slayer replied, playing it cool.
"So, I heard you were in L.A. the past six weeks. What, were you living on the streets? Was your house a box or something?" Cordelia asked, eyebrow raised.
"No. I worked as a waitress in a diner, I made enough to keep a real roof over my head." Buffy replied stonily.
"Go Buffy!" Willow jumped in a little too eagerly. After everyone started staring at her, the apprentice witch blushed and stammered, "And I meant that in, in, a-a-a totally friendly and supportive way."
"So what's new around here?" Buffy asked, looking around. "Xander? We didn't exactly get a chance to talk yesterday, I slept the entire bus ride home. What's new with you?"
"Oh, you know, nothing much. Same old, same old," Xander lied, briefly touching the Iron Coin in his jeans pocket.
"Hardly. You've been doing the whole Boy Slayer thing for the past two months! I mean, after Buffy disappeared, someone had to!" Cordelia said tactlessly.
"Thinking maybe this isn't the time for that," Oz commented, after seeing the expression on Buffy's face.
"No...no, we may as well get this over with now. Xander, I'm assuming you've told everyone what I told you in L.A., how the soul curse worked at the last second...but I had to send Angel to Hell anyway?" Buffy asked, looking around at her friends.
"WHAT?" Willow, Oz and Cordelia all exclaimed at the same time.
"Uh, no, Buff," Xander said, looking embarrassed. "Kinda figured that was sorta your thing to tell."
"Oh, Buffy, I'm so sorry," Willow said, with tears appearing in her eyes. "What happened?"
"Angel was cured. Your spell worked at the last minute, Will. It was a hell of a battle and I was just about to take him out, but then...something went through him...and he was Angel again. He-he didn't remember anything that he'd done since my birthday. But i-it was...it was too late, that big hunk o' rock demon was active, and I, I had to shove that sword through Angel's chest. So I, I told him that I loved him...and I kissed him...and then I killed him. He got...swallowed up by that vortex. It sent him...straight to Hell." Buffy seemed to choke on her words and then the waterworks started, as Willow immediately scooted away from Oz to try to comfort her BFF.
Xander felt more than a little guilty watching this display. For a moment, he wondered if he should confess about how he'd lied to Buffy that morning, just outside the abandoned old mansion; but then he decided against it. The only thing that would accomplish would be to make Buffy hate him; possibly Willow too. Besides, Xander still wasn't actually sorry that Angel was finally gone from their lives. He hated how the vampire's loss caused his hero so much agonizing pain, and he regretted the fact Buffy had had to do something which she would doubtless never forgive herself for...
But Xander Harris wasn't sorry about the Big Lie; not if it meant the world had been safeguarded from ending up in Hell, and that there was now one less vampire in it.
"Sorry, I just – I guess I needed to get all that off of my chest," Buffy sniffled, avoiding everyone's expressions.
"Yeah, I can tell. Look, what do you say you, me and Willow go on a shopping trip to the mall tomorrow?" Cordelia suggested, as everyone turned to look at her. "I mean, retail therapy always
works for me. And I know buying a few dozen pairs of Jimmy Choo's isn't gonna magically erase the heartbreak...but at least it's a start, right?"
"I, I thought you had to get prepared for your family's...no, never mind. Cordy, that's a great
idea!" Willow quickly switched directions on what to say, before starting to gush, "I mean, I-I-I've been thinking of changing my wardrobe lately; 'cause we're gonna be seniors after summer vacation, and, and I don't think my old clothes are gonna cut it after school starts up again in a few months..."
"You know you'll have to talk to Principal Snyder before they'll let you into school again, right? Guy had you expelled," Oz commented to Buffy, actually making an expression for once.
"Yeah, I know. The vindictive little troll actually told me that directly to my face, after I grabbed that knight's sword from the library. Snyder was smiling the whole time, too," Buffy scowled before she sighed. "I figure my mom's gonna make an appointment with His Ugliness, and break his resistance down. Force him to let me back in, by the time summer's over."
"And if the Snyde-man doesn't break?" Xander asked softly.
"I dunno. We'll think of something. Maybe appeal directly to the Mayor, or whatever," Buffy shrugged.
For a moment...just for a moment...the Iron Coin within Xander's jeans pocket glowed as it protected its bearer from the forces of Fate, even as those same forces tried to push Harris into a direction that he personally would have hated – where Richard Wilkins and the Slayer named Faith Lehane were concerned.Next on The Iron Coin Chronicles:
Season 1, Episode 3. Things start to change, as senior year gets started. What will happen when the forces of Fate and Chaos clash? And what's this about a Nigerian Mask?