I’ll Have an Apocalypse and A Double Armageddon to Go, Part II
Title: I’ll Have an Apocalypse and A Double Armageddon to Go, Part II
Beta by: Theo
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners...it will start off with the Joss/ME characters, and any other characters or real-life folks are clearly not mine. NO money is involved.
Summary: The destiny of Xander Harris continues going off in a new direction, at the start of his senior year.
From An Hour After Getting Out Of Hell, To Their Arrival In Sunnydale
The trip back wasn’t made in silence, but became a bittersweet trip down memory lane when the devastated girl who happened to be a slayer asked a simple question and instead of merely joking, Xander answered.
“How did we get here, Xander?” she asked, tired but with their foray into Hell now able to take a look around and see nothing but an emotional moonscape.
“For you, it was a guy tossing a knife at you, for me it was seeing a beautiful girl just before I slammed into a railing on my skateboard.”
Buffy laughed, remembering that first day at Sunnydale High. Meeting everyone, hoping for friends and normalcy, only to find her mom had moved them to the Mouth of Hell. They talked the entire trip, not revealing everything, but exchanging viewpoints. Xander went easy on the vampire, pointedly pausing and skipping to the next subject rather than hurt her more. Buffy noticed this, and eased up on the Angel worship in their recall of events.
They stopped for a couple of sodas and a quart of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Oxnard, and even drove by the workplace address Harry had handed to Xander. They’d talked the entire time. Xander had called Joyce to let her know they’d be a little later than expected, but all was well.
Xander admitted to Buffy he’d had strong feelings until just after she’d gotten back from her summer with her father. How his relationship with Cordelia evolved, Buffy laughing and crying at times, and comparing her previous Hemery days. Xander suggested to Buffy that she’d always been the same person as now, but also ‘Spordelia,’ and that Cordelia without the life-shattering consequences of being called as a slayer, was only now letting some of the person underneath show.
“Really?” Buffy considered, remembering a few glimpses but not many.
“How much did you share with him that you didn’t share with me?” Xander asked her, not referring to the vampire by name, “Since you only saw me as ‘one of the girls.’” He couldn’t *quite* keep the annoyance at that phrase
“I guess I see your point,” she said, and remembered how guys really hated being ‘one of the girls’ and let out a tiny sigh, “though I always wanted the two of you to be friends.”
“Let’s move on from that subject for many reasons, Buff, our friendship is too important to ruin over something we can *never, ever* agree on.”
The uncomfortable silence went on for a few minutes.
“What about us, Xander?” she asked quietly, “Are we still friends after all this?
“Friends? Always, Buff,” he smiled as he drove, not looking over, “No matter what should have been done, or needed to be done at different times…by either of us, I’ll always be your friend.”
“Thank you, it means a lot,” she said truthfully as she looked out the window, noting the Welcome to Sunnydale sign as they passed it.
Xander only hoped that as they’d only reached the point of Kendra’s death, that she remembered those words when he told her he lied about Willow’s message.
Buffy, in spite of her general exhausted numbness, felt better than she had in a very long time, and a bit guilty about quite a few things.
1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale, California. September, 1998; Ten Minutes Later
Xander Harris smiled, as the car pulled up at the Summers house precisely at midnight.
Buffy sat in the car reticently, as Xander came around in his clean pants, shirt and suit jacket to open the door for her. Finally she gave up being a bit of the childishness she’d started to exhibited as they’d turned onto her street, and stepped out, the porch light coming on as he grabbed her duffel bag.
“She knows I’m coming, right?”
Xander sighed, thinking about Joyce. “Yeah, and I’ll be there for the first few minutes—just to make sure you both play nice,” he smiled sweetly at his old crush. “And it didn’t turn out so bad with your Dad, so it should be good here too, I’m thinking.”
“Buffy? Buffy—honey, is that you?” Joyce called out as she opened the door hopefully.
The middle-aged woman saw Buffy and raced out of the house, tightly embracing her daughter. Xander smiled and waited as the two cried and sobbed and apologized. As they drew apart, Xander smiled again, shaking his head.
“Well, I’d say my job here is done, so I guess I’ll be heading out,” the work-hardened and sun-bronzed young man told them. “Just one thing; you two just remember this huggy moment, when you start to scream and shout and have hissy fits about everything—okay? That way, you’ll both get through it all relatively intact.”
“Do you have to go?” Buffy asked, tightly grabbing his hand, “You’ve brought me this far…”
“Yes, Xander, please—stay for a quick bite. I made enough food in case you stayed,” Joyce told him, thankful he’d brought her little girl home.
“Okay, but just for a while. I need to find a hotel room, or pound on Willow’s door.”
“Don’t be silly,” Joyce told him at once, “You can have the couch for the night.”
“Thanks, that’s very kind,” Xander smiled slightly, but then looked seriously at Buffy. “Thing is though, I need to tell Buffy something first. And she’ll then have to decide if I have to leave.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that, I’ll—”
“No, hear me out first Slay-gal,” Harris said, as Joyce decided to make herself scarce; sensing something was burning in the kitchen. Xander paused; this almost certainly wasn’t going to end well for him...
“Buff, I was very surprised *that night* when I heard from both Oz and Cordelia that Willow had been possessed by a gypsy spirit, when she tried to do the soul curse for the second time. I’m guessing that it worked, but since you left, I’m guessing that Angelus’ ritual sorta did too?”
Xander watched silently for a moment, as Buffy teared up in recollection. Then he went on, “Willow told me she’d try again, but since she’d already failed once before...I didn’t think it would work. So I didn’t tell you, because I was afraid that you’d hold back—and I knew we’d all end up in Hell, if you held back even in the slightest...”
Buffy gaped in disbelief as Xander finished up, “The fact that both seemed to happen means that it was a close thing, and you did it anyway. Even though it means I was right, please forgive me for not telling you. I really didn’t think a gypsy spirit would possess Willow then—”
“You knew? You *lied* to me?” Buffy demanded in no uncertain terms.
Xander nodded. “After the beating she took already, ain’t no way Willow was going to succeed, Buff.”
“But she did!” Then the blonde Slayer seemed about to lose control for a moment, and stepped toward the young man, fists clenched.
“What were the chances, Buffy,” he said back pedaling, “And just keep in mind my name isn’t Ted...”
Now *that* was enough to calm the Chosen One down, the stress of being *on* the razor’s edge of decision clear as she shook slightly, as the memories of what she’d done to that homicidal robot came flooding back and at what she might have done if he hadn’t reminded her.
“And as for Willow, did she know?” He spoke softly but with clarity, “There’s only one gypsy we know of who would *ever* have been willing to bring back Angel’s soul, and put it into Angelus’ body again. And she didn’t exactly let us know she’d come back from the dead through Willow as the world was about to end, right after *Giles* had been tortured at Angelus’ hands!”
Xander paused again, as Buffy seemed to just numbly consider his words.
“I’ll leave my address and phone number with Giles in case you still want to see me sometime, but it’s your call.”
Suddenly, Buffy’s head shot up.
“And if you’d known beforehand the soul curse would have worked?”
Xander never hesitated.
“I’d have done the exact same thing,” he admitted sadly. “On account of I prefer you and the rest of the world alive asking ‘what if’ questions, than rely on iffy magic and spirit possessions. Hell, you of all people should know my luck with both, and I’ve never even cast a spell.”
A momentary pause.
“My only regret is not coming back for you, when I got Giles into the car. After all, Supergirl, five hours ago I not only faced Hell with you—I jumped into it, feet-first, to bring you home to your mom. Just shoulda done it then, too.”
Xander’s last remarks sank in deep, tipping Buffy’s precarious emotions back to just being thankful she was home and with her mom again. Even though the anger and sense of betrayal was still there, it was so entangled with their sharing of the last few hours she just didn’t know what to think or do, and she didn’t want to think about that night any more.
Hell, she didn’t want to think about any of it anymore. Because as far as Buffy Anne Summers was concerned, that part of the past was just better left forgotten.
“Okay,” Buffy finally said, nodding as Xander started to write down his information, then reached out to stop him. He looked at her in confusion, “I mean, it’s okay. I, I’ll probably get mad again later, but come in and don’t let all of Mom’s food go to waste. Because we’re okay...for now.”
She hesitated, then hugged him tight. Xander opened his eyes a minute later, to see Buffy letting go and Joyce smiling from where she’d watched most of the exchange.
“Come on, you two both need to eat something.”
The next three weeks were a bit of a blur for Xander, as he found there was a *lot* of backlog at work, and the overtime pay and bonuses to go with early completion.
By the end of the first week of school, he’d put in three evenings and he wasn’t even due to start until the following Monday! He’d been lucky in finding a condo halfway between the high school and college, with easy highway access so his commute would only be 45 minutes each way.
The thing was though that Oz had run into a few conflicts with his roommate, the first week of his freshman year of UC Sunnydale, even if he *was* after school with Willow most of the time. So Xander threw a set of keys at him, and gave him the three rules of the house. ‘No loud music after ten 'cause I have to work in the morning, no endless stream of loud sex partners for the same reason, and no big parties without two weeks notice, and then only on Friday and Saturday nights.’
“Half the utilities and groceries, you keep the more public bathroom clean, and you convince Willow to do our shopping—so that it stays cheap.”
The redhead had just rolled her eyes and nodded when she heard, and Xander had found a relatively quiet roommate to watch the place when he wasn’t around, and who’d keep him informed on important slaying info and gossip.
Discussing education options with Giles, he’d decided by the end of the second week on an emergency crash course to get his diploma. Xander crammed for and passed his GED exams and presented them to the school board, asking that he be allowed to be considered an SHS student and graduate with the rest of his class—even though he’d completed the exam.
And with recommendations from Giles, and the acquiescence of Snyder—who really wanted to be free of Xander’s presence—it was an easy sell. With the proviso he take the SATs, and deal with Career Week, and other non-classroom testing as required by the school system.
So the young man dove into his full-time work schedule with near-obsessive abandon, enjoying the hands-on labor. He took upon himself series of four 12-hour workdays per week, leaving at six in the morning, and pulling up to pick up Cordelia at her house around eight.
But...things in that direction weren’t looking so hot, nowadays.
As soon as they’d found out what he was up to, Cordy’s parents started putting seriously horrendous pressure on her to dump him, and find someone to date within her own social circle.
She’d held out so far, but Xander suspected she couldn’t do so forever. His property ownership and take-home pay of $600 a week at his age didn’t seem to make a favorable impact; instead, it seemed that the more serious their relationship might be, the harder the Chases fought it. Heck, even having twenty grand in the bank didn’t endear them.
Finally, as they were dancing at the Bronze to a hauntingly beautiful slow dance, smiling and enjoying the moment—Xander knew that they’d reached a point where they needed to make a decision. So, he broke the silence first.
“Well, Cor, I guess we finally have to face up to the situation,” Xander spoke softly in her ear, dipping her a little as they danced closely for real and didn’t just hang on each other. “We have to decide what we’re gonna do, with all the grief you’re getting from your folks.”
“What do I do?” the cheerleader half-whispered back. “I don’t want to lose you. But Daddy’s threatening to lock me up at nights, and get a restraining order taken out against your ass! Not to mention cutting off my credit cards and allowance! Xander...I know it’s pretty shallow of me, but I don’t think I can live poor like that...”
“I know. And heck, you know my schedule’s going to be a lot like this until next summer, then it might be a couple of years working between Sunnydale and some pretty remote drilling sites,” Xander reminded her. “And that’s kinda tough on a relationship.”
They continued to dance, neither saying anything as they waited for the other. Xander again broke the silence, finally.
“So, Cor, I guess what you have to ask yourself is—if you could actually see yourself married to a guy who’s likely to be half-repairman, half-wildcat petroleum driller for the next ten, twenty or thirty years. Or if you’re willing to just be very good friends with me, from now on.”
“Married?!” Cordy choked, staring at her boyfriend in shock. “I...I guess I hadn’t really thought it out that far, Xander—”
“It’s Lex now, please,” he chided her. “Lex is the go-to guy in this business, hon. Someone that never met Tony Harris.”
“Sometimes I miss Xander, though,” she sighed, holding him tightly.
“I know, but he grew up over the summer. He could actually be the man you deserve.”
Cordelia hesitated. “I’m so sorry, Xander. But if we’re gonna be honest, I-I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. Maybe after high school’s over, but not now. So I guess—we’re officially over?”
The song wound down at last, and keeping his arm around her, Xander drew her in, placed his other hand on her cheek and gave her the softest, longest and tenderest kiss he could. “I guess so...”
They provided an amazing sight for the entire Bronze, as Cordelia’s use of his money to purchase a quality well-fitted wardrobe for him—meant the two of them were dark, well-dressed, very attractive and clearly in love.
Cordelia seemed to come to a decision then. “You know that I still love you, right?”
Xander nodded. “Yeah.”
“Good. That’s why I want you—to be my first.”
Xander choked, overcome by memories of the previous Valentine’s Day. “As in, baseman?”
Cordy slapped his head in annoyance. “No, you big goof! Believe it or not, I’m gonna miss the hell out of you. You changed me from the spoilt brat I once was, into someone that’s probably way too choosy for her own good. You think I’ll be able to find anyone on the football team, that’ll be able to measure up to you in the hero department? Like, I don’t think so!”
A bemused Xander just stood there as Cordy went on, “So, that’s why I want this. And it’s not like you’re gonna go running around telling guys in the locker room that you scored with the rich bitch, even if you were still attending Sunnydale High! Plus, we both know Oz is in Monterey with the Dingoes tonight. So please, Xander. Can I at least have that much happiness, if it means that we’re through from now on?”
Xander didn’t know what to say at first, “Monterrey? It’s pretty up there, I hear. Would you like to take a trip up there this weekend before we become best friends?”
The next week, the Tuesday after a weekend in which he really finished becoming a man, Xander was the Bronze again. This time though, he was a free and single man. He saw Cordelia surrounded by her Cordettes, who were congratulating her on coming to her senses—and dumping ‘the blue-collar geek,’ no matter how he now looked.
All of a sudden, Xander saw a sexy brunette girl dancing with a guy whose clothes just screamed out ‘vampire’. Watching them leave via the back entrance, Harris hurriedly headed for the exit to the club himself.
Noticing him leave, Cordelia wiped her eyes and made for the restroom, her lost look drawing Willow to follow—as Buffy decided, after a moment’s hesitation, to head out to follow the Xander-shaped enigma.
Xander, wearing his leather jacket, exited through the back door without setting off the alarm—as it had been disabled long ago. He stepped out, intending to find his targets; but there was no one to be found.
Shrugging to himself, Xander decided to get some air and walked a little, hands on a pair of knives he’s lathed at the shop out of ironwood...when Harris heard and saw two guys attack a young girl of about 16 or 17, pressing her against some chain link fencing.
Sighing and charging in, the White Knight pulled both knives out but decided against his usual manly shout—as he went to the rescue.
One of the boys immediately vamped out, and moved in to bite his Happy Meal as the other started laughing. But the girl grabbed him by the neck, pushed him away, and then sucker-punched him in the nose.
The other vamp moved low and away, Xander knifing the vampire in the juncture of spine and neck, flooring him in paralysis rather than dusting him. Xander then paused briefly to take in the situation.
The girl jumped onto a crate, and managed to do a jumping roundhouse kick to the vamp’s face, knocking him to the pavement as Buffy and Oz arrived. The brunette girl kicked the vampire, and then noticed Buffy. Leaving the vampire moaning on the ground and watching as Xander kicked him in his privates, she approached Oz and Buffy, smiling.
“It's okay,” the brunette shouted to Xander, “I got it.” Then she said to the blonde, “You're, uh, Buffy, right?”
Xander kicked the vampire again, then reached into the vamp’s jacket before jumping back. The bloodsucker quickly rolled away, toward the girl.
“You sure?” Xander called out, but then watched as the female teen grabbed onto the vamp’s arm.
“Yeah!” Then she continued talking to Buffy. “Hey. I'm Faith,” she smiled, as the Chosen One punched the vamp again in the face.
Xander tossed his knife over the vamp, and she rolled into the grab, the vampire instantly crumbling into ashes as Faith let momentum carry the bloodsucker onto the wooden weapon. “Wicked cool!”
Buffy just stared in confused amazement, as Xander finished off the crippled vamp. Faith faced the blonde Slayer as Xander walked up to her, counting money. She then handed him back the wooden knife, with an upraised eyebrow.
“Hey. I’m Lex,” he said, as the male teenager handed her half the money, which came to about two hundred dollars.
“Thanks, Lex, nice knife. You do this often?”
“You mean rob vamps? Nah, this is the first time. Can’t say I’m too broken up about it, though, seein’ as you had 'em right where I wanted them…”
Faith snorted. “You know where I could get me a coupla those knives?”
“Ya buy a round a sodas for me and my friends, and I’ll tell ya,” Xander bantered back.
“Copasetic,” the brunette Slayer replied, and led the way back in—Xander turning to Buffy, and shaking his head with a smile.
A few minutes later, and the waitress brought over the promised drinks.
Cordelia came over to meet the new Slayer, having collected herself from before. She didn’t seem to like the way Faith was eyeing her ex, but then—that was hardly unexpected. In any case, she’d arranged for a ride home and quickly left, refusing Xander’s offer to take her.
The rest of the Scoobies just listened, as Faith went on about fighting vampires and alligators, gesturing wildly for emphasis.
“So, there's this Big Daddy vampire out of Missouri who used to keep them as pets. So he's got me wrestling one of 'em, okay? The thing must have been twelve feet long, and I'm...” she stopped and took a sip of her soda.
“Naked?” Xander asked, his timing causing her to choke on the soda with laughter.
“Well, the alligator was,” Faith continued to laugh. “But that 'gator was a heck of a lot meaner than the vamp, even if he caused me just as much trouble.”
“I know what you mean,” Xander chuckled, his eyes glazing a bit. “Nothing but muscle, mean and teeth the size of daggers…”
“And how many have you wrestled, Lex?” Faith kidded, “Naked or with clothes?”
“No clothed 'gators in my life, Faith, but over in the Philippine Sea back in June, I had a bit of a disagreement with a saltwater croc. He was 'bout twice the size you’re talking about, and I didn’t notice at the time if he had clothes on. Scared me into the next month, before he became leather...”
The group was silent with disbelieving looks. Xander looked back in mild disgust, “Hey, didn’t any of you read my emails this summer? My stitches, the new pair of boots?”
“Oh, boots! Yeah, I remember that,” Willow said at once. “But I-I-I thought it said you had a pair of boots made? See, we all kinda just skimmed the work stuff and just checked if you were okay. Sorry I missed the stitches. How many did you need?”
“Yeah, and where did he get you?” Faith asked, checking him out and not disliking what she saw. “You seem to be in one piece to me...”
Xander stepped away from the table, pulled up his pant legs, to show the black-dyed knee-highs under his dressy-casual slacks, moving them so they could see the pattern.
“We used the less-usable parts for these, so I had them dyed for nightwear patrolling, and when I was on security watch on the rig,” he told them, then started pulling out his shirt.
“Xander!” Willow objected, “What are you doing?! Eep, keep your clothes on!”
Xander just smiled but kept going. “Well, after I got out of the hospital and healed up, I got drunk with a bunch of the crew. And what I didn’t know was that other than us four guys, the bar we were at was ladies-only as it was set up as a strip club for these Navy gals having a big send-off for a friend.”
He smirked at the memory, “Well, one thing led to another, and…no power on this earth will ever make me tell you about the next couple of hours, or how I made several hundred bucks in one-dollar bills...”
“Anyway,” Xander continued, the shirt out and ignoring the wide eyes of Buffy and Willow. “I also ended up showing them these.” Around his waist, about the beltline, were a couple dozen tooth marks, barely noticeable unless you looked carefully.
“Whoa!” Faith exclaimed, as the other girls looked pale. “How’d ya get away, Dundee?!”
“Well, I had a piece of bracing pipe almost as wide as I was with me at the time, and that kept it from biting me in half,” Harris chuckled ruefully. “And when I realized I wasn’t dead yet, I used the flare gun I had in my hand…cooked his insides, and burnt out the back. That’s why I dyed the boots, 'cause of the discoloration.”
“How’d ya keep from burning your feet?” Buffy and Faith both asked.
“He didn’t eat me legs first, my arm was above my head when Ol’ Snappy did his best. The pipe in my other hand keeping the teeth out—mostly.”
“H-h-h-he bit you from the top down?!” Willow gasped, leaning incredulously into Oz as Xander asked the stunned waitress standing there for another round, then tucked his clothes back in.
“F--k!” Faith exclaimed, “That’s so cool! So B, what’s it like to go out with a guy whose stones are the size of frickin’ bowling balls?!”
Xander just smiled as Buffy choked, realizing that it did look like they’d double-dated; Cordelia having just left. “Um, actually, we’re not together…” the blonde Slayer spluttered out, forgetting about Xander’s part in Angel’s demise for the moment.
“Really?!” Faith exclaimed in disbelief, then turning to Xander, “So, seeing anyone?”
“Just broke up from a serious relationship,” he demurred, gesturing the matter aside.
Faith shrugged and accepted that. “Oh, hey, by the way, those knives?”
The Slayer nodded. “How much for a pair of 'em?”
“Nothing. I was just gonna field-test 'em, and I guess they worked out fine tonight. So give me a couple of days, and I’ll get a few sets for the entire group. I’m thinking of inlaying some crosses in the handles too, so a vamp can’t turn it on the user.”
“Cool. I get a pair by the weekend?”
“Sure,” he told the brunette Chosen One.
“So, Faith,” Oz spoke up. “What’s your view on werewolves?”
“You eat anybody?”
“Nah. I lock myself up those nights.”
“Then we’re five-by-five, Jack.”
“Jack?” Willow asked, causing Oz to smile.
“As in Wolfman,” he told her.
“Cool,” Xander said, yawning, then pushed back from the table, “Anyway, everybody, I have to get up early tomorrow, so I’m heading home. Oh, uh, Faith, you need a couch to crash on until you get settled? Or is your Watcher here in town with you?”
“Watcher-free, she’s at some kind of retreat or something,” the girl responded, “So—how much for the couch?”
“Five hundred if you wanna buy it, but free if you just plan on sleeping on it a few nights,” Xander joked, but not liking the implications behind Faith’s offer.
“Though, you know what? We’ll just send a bill for fifty bucks a night to the Council, for room and board. I’ve noticed what a dent you Slayers put in the groceries. That alright with you, Oz?”
“Sure, especially since *you* eat more than I do. Evens up the expenses, I’d say.”