Author's note: this story begins post-season seven for Buffy and late season four for Gilmore Girls. Ignores the comics. I do not own these shows. Do not sue me for using them. Please?
This story is the sequel to "Sweetness and Light". It carries on from where that left off. If you haven't read that story, this one won't make a great deal of sense.
Rory knew that you could ramble incoherently when you were talking to someone, especially if you were nervous. She'd done it herself enough times.
But she had never noticed before that you could ramble in the privacy of your own head, with no one else around.
Rory discovered this when she was presented with Xander's phone number. This was, by itself, not unusual. She'd had it before - although, admittedly, she'd forgotten it thanks to magic and the phone that owned that number was somewhere at the bottom of the Sunnydale crater. She'd tried calling it, when she'd first broken the memory spell. But the number was no longer in service.
Rory started off debating whether or not she should call Xander, only to quickly move on to how Xander had always called her when he'd said he would, but Jess hadn't, and Dean had. From there she began to wonder exactly what the symbol on the piece of paper meant, if the amulet was the same as the one she already had (it certainly looked like it) and why Xander hadn't even bothered to tell her that he was alive.
She was rather annoyed about that.
However, Rory found that her thoughts repeatedly skittered around the idea of actually picking up the phone and dialling the number. She wasn't sure that she wanted to.
Oh, she knew that she wanted to speak to Xander. She wanted to prove to herself that he wasn't dead. But, beyond that, she didn't know what to do. Xander had calmly let her forget him, and hadn't even tried to contact her. He'd known that she would forget him, and he let her go ahead with that, not knowing.
She would probably end up shrieking like a banshee at him, and then cry for a week. Rory didn't want to do that.
On the other hand, maybe he had a good explanation. Rory didn't know. She wouldn't know, unless she called.
She should probably call.
It was while Jess was telling Dawn about the time he'd been thrown out of English for reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall instead of Dickens that Giles caught up with them.
"Ah, there you are, Dawn. Didn't you hear me when I said to wait out in the square?"
Dawn shrugged. "I heard, but I thought I'd best see the school that you're going to ship me off to before I actually go."
"You know it's not certain that you'll settle here. Buffy thinks you might prefer Rome."
Jess cleared his throat. Only then did Giles notice that he was there. "Oh, hello."
"Giles, this is David Robert Jones. David, this is Giles." Dawn introduced
Giles' lips curled in a smile, although he tried to hide it. "Dawn, I very much doubt that's his name, unless his parents were massive Bowie fans."
"Well, she could hardly introduce me as Rebel Rebel, could she?" Jess said reasonably. Dawn was rather surprised that he managed to say that with a straight face.
"So what's your real name, then?" Giles asked.
At that point, Jess realised that he hadn't actually told Dawn his name. She'd asked for it earlier, but he hadn't given it. She hadn't pressed him, and he'd forgotten. "Jess."
"This your school?"
"Are you Dawn's father?" Jess countered.
Giles shrugged. Dawn said "More or less."
Jess raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like there's a story there."
"I believe that I was busy interrogating you parentally?"
Jess smirked. "I was never one for that."
"Yes. Well. Dawn, we'd better be going."
Dawn nodded and she and Giles walked away. Just as the corridor would've lead them around a corner and out of sight, she turned and waved. Jess, to his mild surprise, waved back.
Rory was going to call him. She was calling him. The phone was dialling. She could still hang up. But she wouldn't. She would see this through.
He picked up. Rory nearly hung up right then and there.
"Faith?" Xander said groggily. He sounded like he'd been asleep. "You were meant to call six hours ago. What happened?"
Rory nearly couldn't speak. She came very close to blurting out something like "Wstfgl." but instead managed to be slightly more articulate and say "Are you alive?"
"No, I was turned into a soulless bloodsucking vampire while you were away."
"I'm kidding, Faith. What's gotten into you? Normally you're wittier than this. I'm half asleep and I've already gotten you tongue-tied."
Rory took a deep breath. "Xander, I'm not Faith."
Xander sighed noisily. "I know, Rory. I recognized your voice."
"Then why didn't you say anything?"
"I thought I was dreaming."
"You dream about me?"
There was a long pause. Then Xander said "No." unconvincingly.
"That's not the point. How did you get this number? Scratch that, how do you even remember who I am?"
"Giles gave me the number, but I've remembered since I saw the news about Sunnydale." Rory said softly.
"That's pretty much what it's been like, yes."
"I-I didn't... I... I'm coming to Stars Hollow."
"Rory, we need to talk about this face to face. This is something that needs to be said in person. We need to discuss this properly."
"Okay." Rory said, not certain how she felt about seeing Xander.
"Right. I'll get on the first flight. I'll call you when I get there."
"I'm really glad you remember me."
Rory didn't reply. She didn't know what to say. Fortunately, Xander saved her from having to say something by hanging up.
Xander didn't immediately rush around his room trying to get packed. He instead calmly remained where he was and called Giles.
Giles answered immediately. "Hello?"
"Giles, what the hell did you do?" Xander said without preamble. Okay, so maybe he wasn't quite as calm as he would like to be.
"Ah. I guess that Rory called you?"
"Yes. What are you even doing there? I thought we agreed that she was to be left out of things."
"Call it an apology. For not telling you that she would forget you. I gave her another amulet as well as your number, if she wants to forget again, and a symbol that reversed the amulets effects so that she remembered you."
"She says she remembers everything since Sunnydale collapsed, Giles. She thought I was dead. For months. And I didn't dare go near her because I thought she would be better off not knowing about me, but all that time she thought I was dead."
Giles said something in Latin that Xander was pretty sure was a curse of some sort. "Yeah, that's pretty much how I felt."
"Xander, she'll probably kill you for not telling that you're alive. Did you explain?"
"No. I'm taking the next flight, I'll explain in person."
"Good. There's something that we'd better discuss, once you get here."
"What are you talking about? Are you still there?"
"Dawn and I are, yes."
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about."
"I really hate that whole mysterious, cryptic teacher thing you've got going."
"I'm working on it."
"Enough to tell me what you're talking about?"
"I guarantee that I'll be able to talk to you about it when you arrive."
"Yes. I know. You said. I was hoping for some kind of heads up."
"It'll be a surprise."
"Giles, I've lived on a Hellmouth my whole life. Surprises aren't good. Is this one going to be different?"
"It's a surprise."
"So I'm going to be surprised by the surprising nature of the surprise?"
"Well, yes. Of course. That's what happens with a surprise."
"Okay, it had better be a good surprise."
"Well, I'll surprise you with the nature of the surprise."
"Sorry." Giles said unrepentantly. "Dawn says hi, by the way."
"Tell her I said hi." Xander said, before hanging up.
Then he stuck his head out of his bedroom door and yelled "Vi! I'm going to go and get beaten to death with a shovel and then Giles is going to surprise me with a surprising surprise. Can you hold the fort for a couple of days?"
"Sure!" Vi called back, presumably from her room. "Have fun!"
Giles put his phone in his pocket. Dawn immediately asked him "What's the surprise?"
"It's a surprise."
"Not exactly. To call it an unexpected surprise would be a tautology. A surprising surprise is just redundant."
"Whatever. It's not my
surprise. Why can't you just tell me?"
"Because you haven't yet prepared me an essay on the reasons that the youth of today seem incapable of grasping the concept of a surprise." Giles answered drily.
"Does that surprise you?"
"Okay, you're just killing that now."
"So does the surprise involve me or what?"
"Dawn, go and find out what a surprise is, will you?"
Dawn crossed her arms and pouted. "Spoilsport."
Jess was reluctant about going to Luke's, because he knew that his mother and her latest boyfriend (soon to be her latest husband) would be there. But he needed to talk to Luke, and having to listen to TJ and his general idiocy would be a small price to pay.
Fortunately, it seemed as though Luke had lost his temper with his sister and had sent Liz and TJ upstairs while he worked. "Hey." Jess said, sitting down at the bar.
"Hey. Liz is upstairs." Luke said shortly.
"Didn't really come to see her."
"Well, if you want coffee, you can make it yourself. I'm kind of swamped right now."
"Didn't really come for coffee, either."
"What do you want then, Jess?"
Jess absently traced a pattern on the counter. "Is the offer still open?"
"The offer for coffee? Sure. I only made it a minute ago. How fast do you think I'd change my mind?"
"Not that offer. The one you made last time I was in town." Jess clarified.
"Ah. You want to stay?" Luke said gently.
Jess didn't look up. "Yup."
"Sure you can. I've still got most of your stuff, if you want it."
"You kept it?"
"It's nothing, really."
"Oh, I read something recently that said that gratitude should be frequently expressed if you hope for it to be reciprocated." Jess said, smiling crookedly as he remembered the self-help book Luke had given him.
Luke smiled back. "I seem to remember reading something like that."
"Hey, Mom?" Rory asked, as she emerged from her room after calling Xander.
"What's up, sweetie?"
"Do you still have that shovel?"
"Sure do. You want help beating Xander to death with it?" Lorelai offered.
"I wouldn't want to make you an accomplice."
"Well, I'd be supplying you with a weapon you intend to kill someone with. That's got to break some law or other."
"Probably." Rory admitted. "Still, if I do do it, I'll do it myself."
"If you do it? Honey, he left you thinking that he was dead for months. I've seen the way you've been. If you don't kill him, I will."
"He said he could explain."
"Unless he's been in a coma or lost his memory, I don't think he can."
Memory. That was the key. He'd thought it would be better for Rory if she didn't remember him. Xander seemed to be particularly stupid on that front - Rory remembered when he had once tried to keep her safe from the fact that he'd once nearly been married. Still, he was a guy, and guys did have idiocy quotas to fill.
"Well, if the explanation's no good, then I can always kill him with the shovel and then bury him with it."
Lorelai snapped her fingers. "So that's
why it's a shovel! I wondered."
"It's less unwieldy than a vat of acid."
"That it is." Lorelai agreed. "So, is he coming here then?"
Rory nodded. "He said he'd take the first flight here."
"Do you want me to come? When you meet him, I mean."
"Nah. I'll have the shovel."
"Well, if you're sure..." Lorelai said dubiously.
Just over ten hours later, Xander arrived in New Haven. Giles was waiting - apparently he'd gotten Willow to work out which plane he'd taken so that he could be there to meet Xander.
However, despite Xander's best efforts to convince Giles to tell him whatever it was that Giles wanted to say, Giles refused, saying that the time wasn't right just yet. Giles drove him back to the house in New Haven that the Council owned, where both he and Xander had stayed briefly many months before.
Dawn, who had been asleep, rushed downstairs to greet Xander when their return woke her up. Xander teased her unmercifully about her Bugs Bunny pyjamas. Dawn blushed and ran upstairs, vowing revenge.
At a reasonable hour the following day, Xander called Rory. It was a perfectly functional talk, dealing with nothing more than arranging a time and a place to meet. Xander didn't want to go back to Stars Hollow, because last time he'd been there he'd broken his car out of the impound lot and carved a smiley face Taylor's lawn. Xander thought it best not to show his face there - Taylor was the Mayor after all, and with the strange laws in Stars Hollow Xander wouldn't be surprised to find himself being lynched or something.
So they arranged to meet in a park in New Haven. The fact that it just happened to be the place where he and Rory had had their first proper date was pure coincidence.
Xander purposefully got there early, because there was something that he wanted to do there.
When Rory got there, carrying the shovel, she was greeted by the sight of a massive card with coffee beans glued to it, forming the shape of a lion.
Even though Rory was more than a little annoyed at Xander, she couldn't help but smile at that.
Xander smiled widely when he saw her. "Hey, Ro-Gil. It's good to see you again."
Rory fought not to smile back, because she was annoyed at him, she was, she really was. And it was really annoying that she couldn't be as annoyed at him as she wanted to be while he was standing there grinning with a giant coffee lion next to him.
"How long did that take you?" Rory asked, gesturing at the lion.
Xander shrugged. "Most of the night. I couldn't sleep."
"Do often spend your nights gluing coffee beans into the shape of large felines?"
Xander chuckled. "You sound like a psychiatrist."
"You've got to admit that it sounds crazy."
"It does. I was going to add a speech bubble saying "Sorry" but I ran out of beans."
"Xan, you know that you're an idiot, right?"
Xander nodded. "I've been informed by an expert that I have an idiocy quota to fill. But I stick by my coffee lion. I think it's cool."
"I wasn't talking about that." Rory said seriously.
Xander stopped smiling. "I know. And I'm sorry, Rory, but you've got to understand-"
"Oh, I understand. You thought it would be for my own good if I forgot about you. Well, let me tell you, I wish that had stuck. I've been crying myself to sleep most nights since Sunnydale collapsed. I barely sleep, I work as much as I can so I don't have to think about it."
Xander rubbed his chest. "Rory, I thought you didn't remember me. I'd have been here like a shot if I'd known. As it is, I've been working like a dog training Slayers and taking every patrol I can get. I sleep even less than I used to. But, believe me, Rory, it was a thousand times worse knowing that you were alive but that you didn't remember than you thinking I was dead."
"I doubt that." Rory scoffed.
"It's true. I could've come here, and seen you. And you wouldn't know me. To you, I didn't exist. Everything we did together only happened in my memory, not yours. You wouldn't believe the existential crisis that caused."
"I thought you were dead." Rory said in a low voice. "For months, I thought you were dead. You can't imagine what that's like."
"I can. I watched my closest friend die. She was dead for months. I saw her bleed to death after being shot, too. Sure, she got better, but I've seen it. I thought she was dead. I killed my best friend after he was turned into a vampire. I saw them die, Rory. I was there. I know what that feels like. I know what it's like to have someone die. It's happened to me, too many times." Xander said, in an unbelievably flat and level tone.
Rory swung at him with the shovel. It hit him in the shoulder. Xander didn't try to move, although he did stagger a little at the impact. "Why did you leave me alone!" she shouted.
"I didn't want to, Rory. I didn't mean to. I didn't know this would happen. I didn't know you'd forget me. I would have spared you the pain, if I'd known."
Rory swung again. This time, Xander caught it and pulled, intending to yank it from Rory's hands before she actually hurt him with it. Unfortunately, he'd underestimated the strength of Rory's grip, and she was pulled towards him too. She crashed into his chest. She dropped the shovel, arms windmilling wildly to keep her balance.
Xander caught her by the shoulders and held her steady until she regained her balance. As soon as she had, he let go and took several steps back.
"I'm sorry, Rory. I didn't mean for things to be so hard for you."
Rory was angry at Xander, she wanted to hit him and shout and storm off in a huff, but some treacherous part of her couldn't help but miss the feeling of his hands on her shoulders.
"Mom wants to kill you, you know, for not telling me you were alive." she said thickly.
"I'd let her, if it would make you feel better." Xander offered.
Rory wiped her eyes. "I don't think that we need to go quite that far."
"I made a coffee lion for you and put in the middle of a public park. I think we can safely say that there's no limit to what I'd do to make you feel better."
"I can manage that."
"Don't die here." Rory added.
"Well, I was planning on dying strapped to a nuclear rocket being used to destroy an alien spaceship, so not dying in a park in Connecticut isn't really much of a hardship."
"Not what I meant." Rory said. "Stay."
"Ah." Xander took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. "I don't think I can. I can stay for a while, but... things haven't stopped just because Sunnydale is gone."
"You make a very convincing argument, Lion Girl." Xander said thoughtfully. "But I think your mother would kill me if I did."
"Another interesting point. You're making this really difficult. Can we get back to you being mad at me? That wasn't quite so heart wrenchingly sad."
"I don't really know how to respond, Rory. You look like you're about to cry, and if you do I'll probably start too, and I've kind of been keeping everything bottled up since Sunnydale. If I start, I won't stop for at least a year."
Rory's jaw worked as she tried to speak. All she could manage was "Goodbye."
She bent to pick up the shovel, not because it was Lorelai's and she didn't want to lose it, but because Rory felt that if she didn't have something to lean on she wouldn't be able to stand for much longer.
She walked away. Xander walked in the opposite direction. Neither of them could bring themselves to look back.
"How did it go?" Giles asked.
Xander plonked himself down on a chair. "Very rarely do I feel the need to swear, but right now I'm struggling not to curse like Spike used to when he stubbed his toe."
"She asked me to stay, Giles. And it was really, really hard to say no."
Giles looked at him thoughtfully. "I think it's time for your surprise."
"Oh goody." Xander said sarcastically.
"Xander, do you know what happens when you work too hard?"
"You turn into Willow?"
"No. You crash and burn."
"Wow. Colour me surprised."
"Slayers do that a lot, particularly in their early days. They take too many patrols, push too hard. It's unhealthy, puts them off their game - and, for a Slayer, that can be fatal. Same with Watchers."
"Yeah, I knew that."
"Then there's the Slayers who see terrible things in the line of duty. I'm sure you know the kind of thing. Obviously, when there was only one of them, we couldn't really do anything to help that, but now that there's so many..."
"Giles, this sounds like you are gently leading up to sending me to therapy."
"What? No. I was talking about Slayers. Didn't you hear me talking about Slayers? You're not a Slayer, Xander. Unless there's something you've been hiding?"
"Ha. Funny. Get on with it, Giles."
"Well, now that there's so many Slayers, Buffy, Willow and I were thinking that we could have them on some kind of rotation, so that they didn't burn out and would have somewhere to recuperate."
"Uh huh. You want me to build a Slayer convalescing home."
"Partly. We do. We also want you to run it. In Stars Hollow."