Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy and friends. Joss & Co do.
Notes: Had a visit from the Apathy Fairy about a month ago. It's still here, I've just managed to distract it momentarily with a plate of donuts and a milkshake. Here's a chapter while I'm able.
CHAPTER 9- Hey Girls.
Xander whistled as he walked through the darkened streets of his home town, wondering if Buffy would figure out where he was heading next tonight. 'Nah, she'll be too busy trying to take care of the pincushion while trying to look like she doesn't care whether he's injured or not.' He smirked.
He'd figured that the first thing Giles and Oz would do after his little visits would be to call Buffy. And that the first thing she'd do would be to run to her Ex and check if he was alright. 'Y'know, just in case nasty ol' me decided to dust him.' He chuckled. 'Can't have widdle ol' Angie-wangie getting a splinter, can we.'
Sighing once again over the absurdity of a Slayer worrying about the continued existence of a vampire, he sobered up and headed for his next target. 'After all, she won't dare bring him back home to bandage him up. So I'll have plenty of time to talk.'
Joyce Summers was sitting at her kitchen table, wondering what had caused her daughter to fly out of the door at such high speeds less than an hour ago. 'Probably something to do with another Xander sighting.' She sighed.
It had been a very trying couple of weeks for the Scoobies, and her in particular. Since she was the only approachable adult who knew about Sunnydale's nightlife, Buffy's friends had been coming to her as a sounding board for all their fears. And since she knew that she was the only parent that any of them had that was actually willing to be a parent in more than just name, it made her more amenable to being the shoulder they cried upon from time to time.
"Poor Cordelia." She muttered. Out of all of them, Joyce felt that the Queen of Sunnydale High had been taking Xander's turning the worst. In some way, the girl felt just as responsible for it as Buffy, Giles and Angel.
If she had just been a little more forgiving of him. If she had just been willing to admit that the fluke was as much Willow's fault as Xander's. If she had just taken him back like she had wanted to, instead of listening to Harmony and the other Cordettes and using that whole episode as an excuse to get back with the 'In' crowd. If she had only known ahead of time that she was going to end up as poor as he was.
Cordelia had spilled that last fact out to Joyce one night while Buffy was out on patrol. Her father was under investigation by the IRS for tax evasion, and it looked like her family was going to lose everything.
"I wonder how Xander would take that news?" She muttered quietly while sipping her chamomile tea.
"What news?" Came a familiar voice from the back door.
"That Cordelia's family is probably going to lose everything in an IRS audit." Mrs. Summers answered. Then she realised who she had just spoken to and blanched. "Xander?"
"Hey Joyce. Hows things?" Xander asked as he finished letting himself inside the Summer's residence. "By the way, you should really keep your doors locked. This isn't the town to trust the night in."
Joyce sprung to her feet and stepped quickly to the opposite side of the table from him. "H-How...?"
"Did I get in without an invite? Dunno." He shrugged as he took a seat at the table she had just vacated. "It's one of the things Willow's supposed to be looking in to for me." Seeing the woman he still considered to be his mother edging for the knife rack, Xander tried to reassure her. "Joyce, please. You are in no danger from me. Now or ever."
Joyce watched him as he spoke, seeing the familiar body language of one Alexander Harris easily. "Would you give me your word on that?"
Xander chuckled mirthlessly. "As much as the word of a vampire counts for anything, I swear by everything that I hold sacred that I mean you no harm. Ever." He looked her in the eyes steadily as he spoke.
Joyce was in a quandary. Everything she had been told by Giles, her daughter and Xander himself screamed at her to try and run for it. Vampires are not to be trusted.
Yet, she knew Xander. Knew him as well as his own mother should. When he gave his word, he would defy Heaven, Earth and Prophecy to keep it.
"Okay." Swallowing loudly, and hoping that she had not just made a decision that would orphan Buffy, Joyce sat down at the opposite end of the table and pulled her unfinished cup of tea over to her. "What can I do for you, Xander?"
Seeing her sit, he let out an unnecessary breath and smiled reassuringly at the older woman. "Actually, I'm really not sure." Blinking, he wiped a red tear away. "I think I've just missed seeing you and talking to you."
"I...I just..." Turning away from her, he began wiping furiously at his face. "Oh God Joyce, I've become the thing I hate the most in all the world. Most of my friends want me dead. The vampire that turned me wants me to become the undead version of Alexander the Great. I've been killing at least two people a night just to stay alive, and it scares me that it doesn't trouble me at all to have to do that. I don't know who I am anymore, and I'm frightened that I'm going to snap soon and start attacking you guys. I..."
Joyce was around the table by this time, sweeping him up into a comforting hug. When he felt this, he finally lost control of his emotions, and broke down completely.
Many minutes later, Xander started to regain his self-control. "...thanks. I've been missing that." He sniffled and wiped his nose on his sleeve.
"Here." Joyce reached behind her and grabbed some tissues off the kitchen bench. "No use making a mess of that nice trench coat."
Xander nodded sheepishly. It had been a long time since he had let go like that. "Um, sorry about the mess." She pointed to Joyce's now blood/tear-soaked blouse. "You should probably change that before Buffy gets home, otherwise she'll freak big time."
"In a minute." Joyce ran a hand through his hair before sliding it down to his cheek, making him look at her. "I..." She sighed. "I really don't know what to do now, Xander." She smiled wanly. "I understand what you are now, but I can still see who you were before in there. It's very confusing."
"Heh. Try living it!" He replied with a weary grin. "But, don't worry about me making a habit of this. I think I only came here tonight to say goodbye."
Joyce felt a surge of conflicting emotions at that statement.
"I can't just turn up like I used to anymore. The amount of flak Wills is copping from the others over talking to me just once is proof of that. So I arranged for the Buffster to be distracted tonight so she wouldn't come bursting in here at the wrong time."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing bad." Xander insisted innocently. At Joyce's sceptical look, he amended his words. "Well, nothing bad to Oz and Giles. I did kinda rough up the unibrow a bit, though."
Mrs. Summers snickered at that. Angel was not high on her list of acquaintances either. "Fair enough."
"Um..." He grew serious. "You mentioned Cordy before, when I came in. How is she?"
"Not too good, I'm afraid." She answered softly. "She's taking what happened to you harder than anyone was expecting her to. On top of that, her father is in trouble with the IRS. The Chases are broke, or soon will be."
"Damn." Xander groaned. "And I can't try to help her through this. Even if I was still normal, she'd push me away with that damn pride of hers."
"But you'll try?" It wasn't quite a question. Joyce's voice was firm.
"Yeah. If nothing else, it'll give her a chance to vent at me." He sighed. Looking at the wall clock, he sighed even deeper. "I should get going. Buff'll be back from patching Angel up soon, an' I don't think you want us fighting on the front lawn."
Joyce nodded. "One for the road?" She asked as she held her arms out. Xander accepted the invitation after a moment's hesitation.
"I'm gonna miss this." He said into her hair.
"Me too." She replied softly. Releasing him, she stepped back and gave him a sad smile.
Xander returned it as he turned and headed for the back door. Half way out, he paused and looked at her. "Bye Mom." He whispered as he slipped into the night.
Joyce fought back her tears. "Bye Son."
The next day, the Scoobies met up at the Library to swap stories from the night before in hopes of discerning a reason for Xander's actions, as well as bring those that were not directly involved, like Cordelia, Willow and Wesley, up to speed.
That the events of the previous night were all simply a distraction did not occur to them.
"And your sure that he reached across the threshold without any invitation from you?" Wesley asked again, coming dangerously close to Giles' last nerve at the same time.
"For the last time, YES, you annoying little pillock!" Rupert hissed darkly as he stood up.
Wesley took a step backwards, reaching up to wipe his glasses as a way of masking his nervousness. "There is no need to get testy Mister Giles. I am merely trying to ascertain the details and-"
"We get it, Wussley." Buffy interrupted, putting a hand on Giles' forearm. She did not need an appearance of 'Ripper' right now, no matter how satisfying it would be to see her real Watcher go to town on the interloper. "Now, seeing as you apparently have more access to the Council records than us, have you ever read of anything like this happening before?"
"Um, well...no." Wesley shrugged weakly. "As Mister Giles will no doubt agree, a vampire that is able to cross thresholds uninvited and be unaffected by Holy Artefacts is, quite simply, unprecedented in the Watcher records. Or throughout recorded history, actually."
"I agree, unfortunately." Giles added in a sour tone. "Which tends to add credence to Xander's request of Willow."
Willow gave Giles, Buffy, Wesley and Oz a smug 'I-Told-You-So' look.
"However, it does not bring us any closer to the answer of what he is now."
"Um...I've been looking through your books for the past few weeks, Giles, and I think I may have an idea." Willow stated, gaining everyone's attention.
"Well, don't keep us in suspense, you boyfriend-stealer, spit it out!" Cordelia demanded.
"HEY!" Willow yelled indignantly. "Maybe if you hadn't treated Xander like he was something you'd scrape off your shoe all the time, he wouldn't have- MMPH!" Whatever Willow was going to say next was lost into the hand Buffy had clamped over her mouth.
"Willow? Not saying things like that when your boyfriend is in the room would be of the good. He might get the wrong idea." Turning away from the growing look of horror on her best friends face, the Slayer faced the Queen of Sunnydale High, "As for you, Cordelia. Willow and Xander kissed. That's it. Get over it! Also, the only reason they were with each other in the first place for Spike to capture them was because they were in the middle of doing a de-lusting spell on each other. He'd chosen you, over Willow."
"...whuh?" Unable to come up with a cutting retort to that little nugget of information, Cordelia huffed and flounced out of the library. The tears didn't come until after she was safely out of sight.
"Thought she'd never leave." Buffy muttered to herself as she turned back to her best friend. "We ready to get back on topic now?" When Willow nodded, she finally removed the hand covering the budding Wicca's mouth.
"Right. Where were we? Oh yeah, my theory." Willow drew in a deep breath and began talking. "Um this is only a work in progress I actually have no way to prove this without some powerful outside help Giles I might need you to call in a couple of favours to help me with this-"
"Wills, focus please. Your babbling." Buffy chided gently.
"Sorry. I'll start again..."
Cordelia waited until the school day was finished, and they were all starting to go home, before approaching Buffy again. "Was that true?" Buffy blinked at her, confused. "What you said in there earlier? About that spell."
The Slayer sighed. "Yeah, it was. Those two knew what they were doing together was wrong, so they decided to do something about it before it got any more out of hand."
Cordelia's whole body slumped. "You mean that..."
"If you'd pulled your head out of your ass and accepted that no-one's perfect, plus actually listened to him when he tried to explain it to you, you two might still be together?" Buffy supplied in a saccharine tone.
"And he might still be alive." The other teen shot back, unwilling to take any crap from the Summers girl.
"..." Buffy sucked in a gasping breath, like she'd just been gut-punched.
Cordy, realising that she may have gone a little too far in retaliating, tried to stammer out an apology. "Buffy, I-"
"Fuck you, Cordelia Chase." She hissed, actually bearing her teeth at the other girl. "I screwed up. I know I screwed up. And I know how badly I screwed up." She snarled. "I helped kill one of my best friends! No, worse. I put him in a position where he was turned into one of the things he hated most in this world." She thumped herself in the chest with a fist. "I did that! ME! And because I couldn't find it in myself to trust the one guy who's always had my back, we're both going to be paying for my stupidity for the rest of our goddamn lives." By now she was beginning to slump towards the ground, once again lost in her own grief over what she had helped cause.
Knowing innately that anything she said now would be worth nothing, Cordelia decided to cut her losses and take her to someone who could put her back together again properly.
"...where are we going?" Buffy asked when she once again became aware of her surroundings.
"Home." Was all the other girl said as she firmly guided the Slayer towards her car.
Joyce looked up from the gallery paperwork strewn over the dinner table as the front door opened. "Oh, hi sweetie! How was your day? Are you alright?" She asked as her puffy-eyed daughter came into view, followed by a diffident Cordelia. "Cordy? How are you? And what do we owe the pleasure?"
"Hi Joyce." Cordelia answered softly. "I, uh, I kinda upset Buffy after school. So I figured I had better deliver her home so nothing got her while she was pulling herself back together."
"Since when do you call my mom 'Joyce'?" Buffy demanded.
"Since I asked her to, dear." Mrs. Summers interjected smoothly with a warning glare at her daughter. "And what were you two arguing with each other about now?"
"Xander then." She stated confidently.
"What?!" Both teens shouted at her together.
"What else would it be." She shrugged. "You both still care about him more than your willing to admit, even to yourselves. And its the only thing that really upsets the both of you."
Buffy looked slightly affronted by that statement, mostly out of reflex, while Cordelia went somewhat livid.
"You too!? As if Rosenberg wasn't bad enough." She started, before blinking. "Wait...why am I surprised by that? That dweeb used to worship the ground you walked on."
"What! What do you mean, 'used to'?" Buffy demanded, forgetting for a second that her best male friend was supposed to be just 'one-of-the-girls'.
"Puh-lease!" Cordelia drawled. "You shot him down every time he even hinted at asking you out. You practically dismissed him as a male. Heck, you even chose a member of the undead as a lover over the guy whose had your back in sickness and health since day one, and why the hell am I talking him up to you of all people?" She trailed off, annoyed with herself for coming to Xander's defence.
"Um, really?" Buffy whispered, mentally reviewing her time on the Hellmouth.
"Oh Gawd, she's got that look on her face." Cordelia moaned. "Now that the doofus is a vamp, she'll be all over him."
"What? NO!" The Slayer shouted, spinning to face her mother. "Mom! It's not true. Really!" She continued as Joyce got a worried look on her face.
"What? Oh, yes dear. I believe you." Joyce quickly assured her daughter, struggling to keep her smirk from showing. 'I know I shouldn't, but teasing this girl is so much fun.'
After several minutes of Buffy swapping between cussing Cordelia out and frantically reassuring her mother, during which time both women smirked in turn when the diminutive Slayer faced the other, Miss Chase noted that it was getting dark, and took her leave of the Summers household.
'That was fun.' Cordelia thought to herself wistfully as she drove towards her home. She really got along well with Joyce Summers. They both shared similar tastes, outlooks on life, and didn't mind a bit of verbal sparring from time to time. In her rare contemplative moments, she honestly wished that she would turn out to be someone like the older woman when she grew up. Hopefully without going through the broken marriage and having a whiny kid, of course.
'I wish...I mean, I wonder if he and I would have turned out okay together?' Cordy blinked away a tear. 'Damnit!' She didn't like doing the 'what-if?' thing with respects to Xander. Thinking about the lost opportunity hurt too much. 'Even if it was his fault we didn't last. I just... it was nice to have someone at that pathetic school who could match me insult for insult.' As more tears flowed, she pulled over and reached into the glove compartment to grab a tissue.
Blowing her nose and wiping her face, she was just about to dispose of the used tissue when she saw someone approaching her car window. Turning her head for a better look, her eyes bugged out in shock.
'Oh crap! Oh crap! Oh CRAP!' She frantically tried to put the car in gear and get away as he walked towards her. Just as she was about to plant her foot on the accelerator, he blurred. Next thing she knew, Xander was turning the ignition off and removing her keys.
"Hey Cordy. You up for a chat?"
More notes: Michae1ange1o, to put your fears to rest, Xander will NOT sparkle in the sunlight in my fic. And I'll bloody well take a stake to him myself if he even thinks of attempting to!