‘… But Wait Until You Really Get To Know Him’
The character of Clarence Odbody is borrowed from the film It’s A Wonderful Life
; all other characters are borrowed from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
. Some dialogue from ‘Ted’, by David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon.Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life 37. ‘… But Wait Until You Really Get To Know Him’
Buffy’s mother opened the door, but not very far.
‘Oh!’ she said, and then, ‘Oh!’
‘Are you all right, Mrs Summers?’ said Willow.
‘Is Buffy home?’ said Amy. ‘We need to talk with her.’
‘Willow—Amy… I’m, I’m sorry, I was expecting somebody else …’
‘Was it Ted you were expecting?’ Amy said.
Willow said, ‘Has something happened, Mrs Summers?’
Buffy’s mother flinched at the questions and looked reflexively over her shoulder at something just out of Willow and Amy’s sight. They could see Buffy appearing behind her mother, though.
‘Buffy’, said Willow, ‘are you all right? What’s happened?’
‘We’ve got some important information that you really ought to know. You remember’—Amy glanced for a moment at Willow—‘you were asking if Willow could find anything out about, you know, that thing.’
Buffy’s mother gathered herself to speak. ‘I’m sorry, girls’, she said, ‘but this really isn’t a, a good time.’ Then she said, ‘Oh!’ again as her gaze moved to something further away.
Willow and Amy looked over their shoulders and saw people getting out of a number of cars that had pulled up in the street. Most of the cars were police cruisers and most of the people were in uniforms, some police and a couple in coroner’s office overalls.
One of the uniformed police was the first across the lawn. ‘Mrs Joyce Summers?’ he said.
Buffy’s mother stepped forward. ‘Yes, that’s me, I called you.’
‘I’m Officer Lane.’ He looked at Willow and Amy, as two of the coroner’s officers came up, pushing a gurney. ‘Girls, I’m going to have to ask you to get out of the way.’ He looked back to Buffy’s mother. ‘A detective will speak with you in a minute.’
Willow and Amy moved to one side and Buffy’s mother came out on the lawn. Buffy followed her, moved towards Willow and Amy, then stopped. The coroner’s officers pushed the gurney past all of them and up to the door, then inside.
Willow had never seen Buffy look like this before. She seemed stunned as she sank down on the porch, completely overwhelmed. Whatever had been so disturbing to her mother had hit Buffy hard too. Willow sat down beside her and put a hand on her elbow. She spoke in a low voice, not wanting to draw the attention of Buffy’s mother or any of the police. ‘Buffy, what is it? Why are the police here, and the coroner’s officers? Is somebody—I mean, has somebody—I mean …’
Buffy said hollowly, ‘It’s Ted.’
‘What happened?’ said Amy. ‘Did he attack you?’
Buffy turned her head from Willow to Amy, although her gaze still seemed unfocussed. ‘He, I, uh, I …’
Willow took hold of Buffy’s arm above the elbow with her own other hand. ‘Buffy, it’s gonna be okay. We’ll deal.’
The sound of the gurney’s wheels attracted the attention of all three of them and they turned their heads to watch the coroners’ officers rolling the gurney, now loaded with a body bag, out of the house.
Buffy gave a sudden convulsive swallow as she turned back to Willow, then spoke clearly. ‘I hit him. There was a fight and I hit him and he fell down the stairs and he’s dead.’
‘It’s gonna be okay’, Willow repeated, locking her eyes on Buffy’s.
Amy crouched down beside them. ‘It’s not the way it seems, Buffy. That’s what—’
‘Excuse me.’ The man who interrupted wore a suit, not a uniform. Buffy’s mother was standing next to and just behind him. ‘Girls, I’m Detective Stein, and I’m going to have to ask you to leave the questioning to me.’
‘Questioning?’ said Willow.
‘Are you arresting her?’ said Amy, and Buffy’s eyes widened again.
‘I just want to talk with your friend about what happened here tonight. You can go home now, Buffy’s mother will be with her to look after her.’
The expression on Buffy’s mother’s face didn’t make Willow feel any more comfortable. ‘Buffy’, Willow said, ‘we still need to talk with you—’
‘It’s important now’, added Amy, ‘more than ever.’
‘—so meet us at school tomorrow, okay? at, at the library. And we’ll talk.’***
Willow and Amy had called Giles first, and then Ms Calendar, and then between the four of them they’d called everybody else, so when Willow and Amy arrived at the library doors in the morning, they weren’t surprised to find that Marcie and Oz had got there first. Nobody was in the mood for small talk.
‘The police are on campus’, Marcie said. ‘They’re talking with all Buffy’s teachers. Mr Giles and Ms Calendar have gone to them already to get it over with, they’ll be coming here from there.’
Willow asked about Buffy, and Marcie said she hadn’t seen her. A minute later they were joined by Dave, and then by Jesse, both of them disturbed, talking both about Ted and about Buffy. Before the conversation had a chance to go anywhere, Nancy joined them from one direction and Giles and Ms Calendar from another.
‘You said you had some information’, said Nancy, looking at Amy and Willow, as Giles opened the door to the library.
Marcie said, ‘Maybe we should save the explanation until, uh, everybody’s here, only do it once?’ Willow nodded.
As they arranged themselves around the room, finding chairs and other places to sit, Jesse looked at Giles and Ms Calendar and said, ‘What were the police saying? Is Buffy in trouble?’
As they looked at each other, hesitating, Buffy came in, with Jonathan and Morgan right behind her. ‘The police?’ she said, in a strained voice. She didn’t look much better than the previous night. Willow went straight to her and put a hand on her arm, and Jesse came to her other side and put a hand on her shoulder.
‘It’s going to be okay, Buffy’, he said. ‘We’re gonna sort this out. I know you hit him, but he started the fight, right? Didn’t he?’
‘Yeah’, said Buffy dully, ‘that defence only works in six-year-old court, Jesse.’
‘Court?’ said Jesse.
‘Actually’, said Morgan, ‘if you want to talk about court … Well, the law does allow people to use reasonable force in self-defence.’
‘So it doesn’t just work in six-year-old court!’ said Jesse.
The tension in the room eased a little, until Buffy said, ‘A court might not know that I’m the Slayer, but I do. I didn’t just fight back the way an ordinary teenager might have done. I lost my temper and I cut loose, let him have it with all the power of the Slayer, just like I was fighting some supernatural—thing. And I wasn’t. He was an ordinary human being and I … I had no right.’
Willow cleared her throat and Amy said, ‘This is where you need to hear about what Willow’s found out.’
Willow looked around the room. ‘Uh, okay, everybody’, she began, and then was interrupted by the arrival of Cordelia and Kevin, apologising for being late. Everybody settled again (Willow moved from Buffy back to her own seat) and then Willow began.
‘About this guy, this Ted Buchanan, well, Buffy asked me to check up on him and, I don’t know, maybe this doesn’t sound so important, but—’
Amy interrupted. ‘You have to think through what it means, maybe, but what Willow’s found out is crucial.’
‘Yes’, said Giles, ‘please do go ahead. In the light of, uh, recent events, we could certainly use, well, anything we can go on.’
Willow nodded. ‘Well, I couldn’t find any kind of criminal record—’
‘That doesn’t exactly mean he should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize’, said Nancy. ‘Most people don’t have any criminal record. Sorry, I shouldn’t have interrupted.’
‘Okay’, said Willow, and took a deep breath. ‘To start with, I found the record of a marriage certificate.’ She paused as Buffy reacted to this.
‘A marriage certificate?’ Buffy was standing straighter. ‘But last night he said he was thinking of asking Mom to marry him …’
Amy signalled Willow to go on, saying, ‘There’s more.’
As Willow gathered herself, Cordelia interrupted. ‘More? You mean, like more marriage certificates?’
Willow wasn’t sure how serious Cordelia was being, but she decided just to press on. ‘That’s exactly what I mean. The records show that Ted Buchanan has been married four times.’
‘Four times?’ said Buffy, and now she sounded a lot more like the Slayer.
Amy filled in the next bit. ‘But no divorces. Not that Willow could trace.’
Kevin spoke for the first time. ‘What is this guy? A Mormon?’
Willow shook her head. ‘I haven’t got to the weirdest part. The first marriage, or the first I could trace, was in 1957.’
There was a moment’s pause while everybody took this in. It was Ms Calendar who spoke next.
‘And how old is he, can anybody say?’
‘Late forties, maybe’, said Nancy. ‘That’d be my guess.’ Other people who’d met Ted agreed with her.
Jonathan’s lips moved as he calculated. ‘He got married for the first time when he was—in pre-school?’
‘Young’, said Oz.
‘I haven’t traced a birth certificate yet’, said Willow, ‘but it just doesn’t fit, right?’
Marcie’s face showed that she was convinced. ‘Agreed. Whatever Ted was, he wasn’t an ordinary human being.’
Buffy’s face worked. ‘He seemed like an ordinary human being. When we … Well, he was strong, but he was a big guy, he didn’t have superhuman strength. I mean, I can see it’s important, what Willow found, but …’ She looked at Willow, and then at Giles.
‘It is indeed important’, said Giles, ‘but it doesn’t give us any clear indication of this Buchanan’s nature except that he’s not, well, an ordinary human being. I think we have to investigate further. Uh, Willow, is there, uh …’
‘I guess I can keep digging online, but I don’t know that there’s anything else to find that way.’
Giles looked at Ms Calendar, who said, ‘I don’t have any ideas. What about your books?’
‘I fear I wouldn’t know where to begin looking without some more substantial indication.’
Marcie looked at Willow. ‘You’ve got his address, right?’ When Willow nodded, Marcie went on. ‘I think this evening after school we should go round there and look for clues.’ She looked round the room. ‘I guess we’ll need plenty of transport. Oz, we can use your van?’
As everybody was gathering on the street at Ted’s address, Giles coughed awkwardly and caught Buffy’s eye.
‘Buffy, I was thinking’—he paused and glanced sideways at Ms Calendar—‘we were thinking …’
Ms Calendar took over. ‘What we’re doing here, it may not be—it isn’t legal.’ She looked back at Giles.
‘It probably counts as breaking and entering or—or something of the sort’, he said.
There was a moment’s uncomfortable pause and then Jonathan said, ‘Are you saying we shouldn’t do it?’
‘Come on’, said Kevin. ‘After you dragged us all out here? Listen, this is no big deal. The place looks deserted, doesn’t it? Well, breaking into a deserted house, that’s no big deal. I’ve done that before, hell, half the team has. Even if the cops show up, which they hardly ever do, you just tell them it was for a dare or something like that, and they look at you, a bunch of high-school kids, and they tell you to clear out and not do it again and then pretty much forget about it. Specially if you’ve got girls—’
Kevin was interrupted by Cordelia giving him a frown and a gentle slap.
‘Hey’, he said, ‘that’s the way things work. You know I’m talking about before you and me, Cordy.’
Buffy looked at Cordelia. ‘You can’t tell us that Kevin is the first guy you
ever went out with. Come on, let him finish.’
‘I pretty much had. I was just going to say, the worst that can happen is one of the cops wants to talk to your folks and then you get grounded. Seems like that’s a risk we can take. I mean, in a good cause. We do need to find out what was going on with this Ted guy. Whatever he was, he was going after Buffy’s mother, right?’
Giles and Ms Calendar looked at each other and she said, ‘He probably has a point, Rupert.’
‘You’re not high-school kids’, said Marcie, ‘but you don’t need to come inside, we’ve got a big enough search party.’
‘You could make up a story about how you only came here to tell us to stop’, said Amy, and Kevin and Jonathan nodded.
‘Well, yes’, Giles said, ‘I still think we should proceed with this search, but I was thinking specifically about Buffy. I think it’s right to consider the possibility of our being detected by the police—of course it may not happen, but we can’t rule it out—and, Buffy, you have recently been questioned by the police. If they were to find you illegally in this particular house …’
‘Giles, this is about my mother.’
‘I know, Buffy. But I’m sure that if your friends find anything in this house that sheds any light on the true nature of, of whatever this Ted Buchanan really was, or what his intentions towards your mother might have been, they will share it with you immediately. I only suggest that you don’t go into the house yourself.’
‘Given that there is a possibility of the police coming along, it’s probably a good idea if somebody does stay outside to keep watch’, said Marcie. ‘Depending on what Ted really was, there might be other kinds of interference to guard against, too. Buffy, I think you should stay out here with Mr Giles and Ms Calendar.’
‘I’ll stay too’, said Nancy. ‘If anything does happen out here, I can run inside to warn the rest of you.’
‘If that’s all settled’, said Jesse, ‘let’s do this thing. Kevin, let’s find a way to get inside.’
‘By the way’, said Dave, ‘does anybody know what we’re going to be looking for?’
There was a moment’s pause as everybody looked at everybody else. Giles cleared his throat and then shrugged helplessly.
‘That’s a “No”, is it?’ said Oz.
Morgan said, ‘I guess we just look for anything and everything that seems like it might be out of the ordinary or unusual in any way.’
‘We’re in’, said Kevin, as Jesse held the door open.
‘Then let’s spread out and see what we can find’, said Marcie, and a moment later ten people were looking into every corner.
After a couple of minutes of searching, Jonathan said what half of them were already thinking, ‘It’s like Ted hasn’t left any trace at all.’
‘I don’t know’, said Cordelia. ‘If we’re looking for things that don’t fit in, how about this rug?’ As everybody looked, she went on, ‘It doesn’t match the rest of the décor.’
Once again significant looks were exchanged, and then Jonathan and Amy lifted the rug to reveal a trapdoor. Jesse and Willow lifted that and then lowered the ladder which led down from it to the basement.
‘I think it looks more lived-in down there’, said Jonathan.
‘Come on’, said Jesse, starting down the ladder.
‘There might still be something else up here we’ve overlooked’, Marcie said. ‘Amy, Jonathan, why don’t you help me finish checking here, and keep an eye on the outside, while the others explore the basement?’
‘Just a moment’, said Dave. ‘I’ve found a bunch of papers in this box that look interesting. I’ll stay here too and finish going through them.’
Some of the others were already following Jesse down the stairs. Morgan found a light switch and turned it on. It started music playing as well. ‘Jonathan was right, this looks like living quarters. What do you make of the décor here, Cordelia?’
‘1950s. But with a creepy vibe, even for the 1950s.’
As they started to spread out and search, Dave called down from above. ‘Hey, Willow, I’ve found something I think you should take a look at. I’ll bring this to you.’ He came down the stairs carrying some large sheets of paper, partly rolled up, with something like technical drawings on them. When he’d reached the bottom, he used one of the steps to spread them out on as best he could.
Willow looked over his shoulder. ‘Those have to be the most advanced schematics I have ever seen.’
Dave nodded and pointed at something. ‘Look at this.’
‘Wow. That’s amazing. Morgan, come here and take a look.’
Dave rolled up one sheet to look at another as Morgan joined them. ‘Uh-oh. Willow, are you thinking what I’m thinking? because I wish I weren’t.’
Willow looked again at the drawings and then at Dave. ‘Are you all right? You look queasy.’
‘Bad memories. Very bad memories, of one of the worst experiences of my life. You know what I’m talking about?’
Willow looked at the drawings again. ‘Oh’, she said, and nodded slowly. ‘I think we’ve found something we have to tell Buffy.’
‘I’ll go’, said Jesse. ‘What is it?’
‘These are the designs for an extremely sophisticated robot, something way ahead of most modern designs, something that could pass itself off as a human being.’
‘You’re saying Ted was a robot?’ asked Cordelia.
‘I knew Buffy wouldn’t kill an actual human being!’ said Jesse.
Morgan said, ‘If Buffy didn’t kill him, then he’s not dead. If he’s a robot …’
‘Kevin?’ said Oz. ‘Find something?’
Kevin had a strained expression on his face. ‘Ted
may not be dead’, he said, stepping back from a closet door he’d just opened and closed, ‘but don’t look in there.’
Cordelia put a hand on his shoulder. ‘What’s inside?’
‘Ted’s first four wives.’
There was a moment’s shocked silence and then Willow said, ‘And he was after Buffy’s mother!’***
‘We’re not sure how thick the covering layer is, or how tough’, Dave said to Buffy, as Giles drove them towards the Summers place. ‘It’s got to be enough to stop water getting into the circuits, at least. But if you can drive anything metal deep enough you should be able to short him out.’
‘It’, said Buffy in a steely voice. ‘Not him, it.’
‘You need to be careful’, Willow said. ‘If you’re in contact with the same piece of metal when it touches the wiring, you’ll get shocked. Use something with a non-metallic handle, or wrap something cloth around your hand for insulation.’
Giles pulled up at the side of the road. ‘Be careful, Buffy’, he said.
‘Don’t worry. This isn’t the first robot I’ve fought. Come to that, this isn’t the first time I’ve faced off with Mr Buchanan’s handiwork. The thing’s strong, all right, but now that I know what I’m dealing with, it’s no contest. If I have to, I’m prepared to keep battering it with anything hard and heavy that comes to hand for as long as it takes to finish the job.’ Buffy climbed out of the car and looked down at the assortment of objects on the seat. After a moment’s thought she picked up a big piece of wood they’d found lying around in a corner of Ted’s workshop, and the fancy pocket knife Kevin had lent her.
‘What if he’s not here?’ said Willow.
‘Then we’ll work out our next move. But it’s been my mother this thing was after from the beginning.’ Buffy set her jaw and advanced to the house. As she reached the door, it was opened from inside, revealing the robot, carrying Buffy’s unconscious mother over its shoulder.
‘Put her down’, said Buffy.***
‘And I guess that’s it’, Xander said to Clarence. ‘Buffy smashes the robot, end of the story. Any other little differences?’’Dave persuades Willow that she shouldn’t keep any of the pieces. That’s all.’
‘I’d forgotten about that’, said Xander. ‘That never got mentioned again. Willow never said she used spare parts from Ted to repair the Buffybot, but then again she never said she didn’t. But given the experiences this version of Dave has gone through, I can see why he’d be against that kind of experimenting.’