August 8, 2012 - Something on a Stick Day
Summary: **Part of the 2012 LiveJournal's Twisted Shorts August Fic-A-Day** series, also known as the 'Wacky Holiday Series'. Buffy decides to go away to college…in Minnesota.
Challenge: for the livejournal 2012 August Fic-a-Day Challenge.
Warning: schmoopy father/daughter-ness!
Timeline: AU college years for BtVS; 1st season for Coach, but change the dates so they line up.
A/N: Faith didn't go evil, which freed Buffy to leave for college.
Disclaimer: BtVS/AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy. Coach characters belong to Barry Kemp, Bungalow 78 Productions and Universal Television. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
Coach Fox's office
A week before orientation…
Hayden Fox, head coach of the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles football team, finished reading the letter he just received from his daughter, Buffy. She had decided on her college, and it was the one he coached for. Could he handle seeing her again? She was used to another man being more of a father than he was; why was she coming here? How could she pick Minnesota when she was used to Southern California weather?
Not to seem too egotistical, but this had to be about him. She had to be coming so she could have more of a relationship than cards, phone calls and the occasional visit.
As much as he hated to admit it, he probably would have taken more of an interest in his child's life if it had been a boy. That was assuming the boy hadn't been one of those sissy boys who couldn't even catch or throw a football. He just didn't know how to relate to a daughter! And he imagined it was only worse now that she was a California princess type.
Wait! He just realized something. She had to have known this for a while. Why didn't she say anything before? He'd have to call his ex-wife, Joyce, and find out.
"She didn't want to give you a lot of time to freak out over seeing her on a semi-full time basis," Joyce answered once he asked the question. "She's had a tough couple years since Hank and I divorced; I hope you will at least try with her." The command in her voice made it clear she would make his life hell if he hurt Buffy by brushing her off.
"What do you mean, 'a tough couple years'?" he demanded, deciding to focus on something other than the implied threat.
Joyce paused for a moment, then said, "That's her story to tell if she decides she can trust you. Don't worry, she's fine…physically. She just needs a fresh start and thought that Minnesota was as good of a place to get it as anywhere."
Now Hayden was really worried. He knew that just before Joyce and her latest husband split, Buffy was having trouble. Joyce mentioned something about a brief mental breakdown that necessitated time in a nuthouse- er, mental hospital. He never got the details about that and now he was wondering if he should have pushed harder to find out why.
"When is she getting here?" he finally asked.
There was a knock at his door, and he could practically hear the smirk in Joyce's voice when she answered, "Knowing her timing…probably now. I'll let you go. Remind her to call me tonight once she's settled in the hotel."
Sure enough, it was Buffy at the door.
Hayden plastered on an enthusiastic grin that was only about 50% fake at seeing his baby girl. "Buffy! How ya' doing?"
She seemed bemused by the fact he gave her a handshake before clumsily pulling her into a hug. "Hey, Coach Dad. How's the team?" she responded neutrally. Even though she wanted to have a better relationship with her bio dad, Buffy wasn't crazy enough to think it would be an immediate thing. Plus it was August, and for a football coach, that was prime coaching time. "Wasn't sure what your schedule was like, but I thought I'd poke my head in while I was checking out the campus."
While she came to see him, Hayden got the impression she wasn't demanding an all-access pass to his life. He was torn between relief and hurt, oddly enough. It didn't make sense that he wanted her to insist on lunch together, but what the heck, sometimes he was irrational.
But the fact that she seemed willing to accept an absent-minded father made him want to try harder for her. Remembering something that his players mentioned earlier, he asked, "What are your plans for this afternoon?"
"Probably just the campus tour thing, then checking into the hotel and calling my mom and friends," Buffy replied. "Why?"
"There's a county fair in town this week, and I thought that we could go together," Hayden offered.
Buffy looked stunned at the suggestion. "Seriously? Aren't you like uber-busy and stuff?"
He shrugged off her concern. "Eh, my assistant coaches can handle things for the afternoon; that's what they get paid for, right?"
"If you're sure…" she trailed off, giving him the opportunity to change his mind. When he didn't, she smiled brightly, which made him glad he hadn't taken the out she gave him. "Alright, show me what a Minnesota county fair is like!"
After finding a player who claimed to be going to the doctor and sending the boy back to campus to run extra laps, Hayden settled into playing tour guide for his daughter. Apparently she had never gone to a county fair before. He supposed that living so close to Disneyland made them seem rather tame.
For her part, Buffy was delighted at the cozy feeling she got here. Sure, Disneyland had better rides and stuff, but it was too…much? Maybe it was the fact that the people who came here pretty much all knew each other rather than the hordes of strangers who jostled for position on the rides at Disneyland. Despite the air of fun, it was very relaxed here. She wondered if that was a Minnesota thing.
Her favorite memory of the day had to be getting her dad on the merry-go-round. It was evil of her, sure, but the mortified way he stood next to her horse, holding onto the pole, was priceless! It was even better when some football fans came up to him after they got off the ride. She had a hard time not snickering at him.
To make it up to him, she dragged him to the games on the midway. More specifically, the football toss game. She let him win her a stuffed cow – a nice addition to Mr. Gordo, who she got from his assistant coach, Luther. Then she shocked him by taking her own turn at throwing.
"When did you get so good at throwing a football?" Hayden demanded. He was willing to bet that all her throws were within half an inch of each other.
Deciding to be a little cheeky, she retorted in her best 'Clueless' voice, "What? Like it's hard?" Then she grew serious and added, "You forget that I was a cheerleader for a couple years. Some of the girls decided they wanted to play so they understood what they were cheering about."
Her dad seemed distracted by her answer; he was busy imagining what else she could do on the field. Something in her eyes must have given her a clue because she started shaking her head, "Nuh-uh…even if it isn't against any rules, I'm not playing. I wouldn't mind helping you with practices and stuff, but that's as far as I'll go."
Her words brought Hayden back to earth. As nice as it would be to have her on the team, he'd be scared witless that she would get hurt. "Are you sure you wouldn't mind helping us out?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Hey, I came here to get to know you better; what better way to do that than to help the football team? I mean, we'd be spending a lot of time together, right?"
It was Hayden's turn to grin widely, making her glad she agreed so easily. "That's great, honey! To celebrate, let's go to the stick stand!"
"Huh? What's a stick stand?" Buffy asked.
A few minutes later, she found out. The sign above the stand was titled 'March 28th'; what a strange name for a stand. Used to the weird reaction, the owner explained, "That date is 'Something on a Stick Day', so it made sense to call our booth 'March 28th'. We're willing to try and fry just about anything on a stick here. What'll you have?"
Buffy looked at the menu, astonished at some of the things she saw. Some were expected, like corn dogs, but others…did people seriously eat pickles on a stick? OMG! Xander would go nuts if he saw Twinkies on a stick! And whoa! Ice cream? How the heck did they deep fry ice cream? The calorie count eating here was almost deadly, but what the heck, she could always burn it off later on patrol. Why not make a meal of it?
"Okay, I have to try the mac and cheese, broccoli and for desert, Xander would be so disappointed if I didn't have the Twinkie," Buffy ordered.
While they waited, Hayden snapped, "Who's Xander?" At the mention of a boy's name, he went into over-protective mode.
She just laughed at him and said, "He's one of my best friends, Coach Dad. I've mentioned him a few times, remember?"
Hayden thought back to their conversations and her letters. "Wait, is he the one you considered 'one of the girls'?"
Nodding, Buffy grabbed a bottle of water to wash down all the fried goodness. "Yup, although that might make it seem like he's a wuss – which he isn't. I only meant that he was firmly in the friend category. It was a little awkward when he wanted to go out with me, but after he got over that crush, things were better."
They spent the next few minutes going over a heavily edited version of Buffy's life in Sunnydale, none of which explained Joyce's earlier comment of a tough time.
Before he could guide the conversation to more serious topics, Buffy got her food and tried it. Her reaction was immediate and loud. "Mmmmm," she groaned, "This stuff is dangerous! I could easily gain like 500 pounds if I was around this all the time! March 28th is now my favorite day ever!" Okay, so with her Slayer metabolism, she probably wouldn't, but why risk it?
He couldn't help it; Hayden started laughing wildly at her exclamations. The owner of the stand looked pretty pleased at the free advertising he was getting, too. He was enjoying his time with Buffy a lot more than he was expecting to. The day had been a lot of fun for him, and he barely thought about what the team was up to the whole time.
They'd have to make this an annual tradition.
A/N: Yup, it's another 'real dad' ficlet for Buffy. There was no Kelly or ex-wife, Beth. Consider Buffy and Joyce their substitutes. I loved Hayden as a coach (most of the time), but it took quite a while for him to find his feet as a dad.