Trope Bingo 1: Healthier Choices (Xander, Wesley, Illyria and ensemble)

One danger with tropes is that you fall in love with explaining the setup and never get to the plot. That *proudly* is exactly what happened here. Because Illyria + coffee shop AU simply had to be written.

Title Healthier Choices
Characters Xander, Wesley, and other Team Angel players
Rating PG
Words 990 (Warning: An all-human explanation of Illyria's emergence suggests (but does not explore nor fully address) some form of mental health issue.)
Setting A coffee shop AU for trope bingo, all human, post-NFA
Summary Of all the coffee shops in all the world, Xander had to stumble into this one. Right smack into his past.

It was the best coffee in Chicago. Or so it said on the little board outside. Xander felt it was a pretty ambitious claim. He had visited probably thirty coffee shops in the past month in the Windy City. Some of them made a mean cup of java. And, you know, hot cocoa, which he secretly preferred.

The secret preference for sweet and un-caffeinated – and the certainty that it didn't suit his image - was what drove Xander restlessly from café to café. And what brought him here, to Angel's Place. Cutesy name did not equal excellent coffee, in his experience. And Angel, of all names…

But it was six years since Angel left Sunnydale, and Xander Harris couldn't live his entire life expecting to be upstaged by a Goth high school dropout. He opened the door, and went inside.

It smelled good. That was the first thing. Fresh roast, sweet sugar, and a hint of bacon, suggesting the availability of food that did not come only in cupcake form.

The second thing? It looked good. A little late-Bronze-reminiscent, casual and cool, with plenty of seating and a mixed crowd.

The third thing? He knew the barista. Except, last time they met, the barista was a teacher.

"Um." Said Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. "Hello?" He sounded different. More American, unsurprisingly. Rougher, too. The first thing that came to mind was not 'prissy uptight asshole'. So, either Xander had grown as a person, or Wes had changed.

"Hi," said Xander. Wesley was here. Not Angel. That was… unexpected.

"What is your bidding?" asked a third person, whom Xander had overlooked. When he stopped overlooking, he wondered how in hell he'd managed not to see her. She wasn't hugely tall, but blue-faced women in tight leather weren't exactly everywhere you looked in this neighbourhood.

"Um. I'd like a-" Courage failed. No girly drink would be bought from this amazing amazon. "-Latte, please."

"As you wish. Although a latte is a meanest of beverages."

"Illyria-" said Wesley, voice tired but unsurprised. "We don’t judge the customers, remember? We serve the customers."

Illyria's face froze, as far as Xander could tell under the caked make-up. "I do not live to serve," she said.

Wesley reached, resignedly, for the ground coffee. "No, you really don't."

It was quiet in the shop. Xander hung around the counter as he slowly sipped his (not bad, really not bad) latte, longing to know how in hell Wesley had ended up here. Doing this. With Illyria. He was also bored, and more than a little lonely. Contractor assignments like his current one paid well, but motel living for three months was nobody's idea of fun.

After a few minutes, Wesley stopped clattering empties, arranging the dishwasher, rechecking all the coffee pots, rearranging the cupcakes, tweaking the menu display and generally doing everything he possibly could to hint that Xander should go and sit somewhere far away.

"So," said Xander, pretending total obliviousness. "You came to Chicago, huh?"

"By way of Los Angeles," Wesley agreed. "I stayed there a while. Working with Angel."

Ugh. Angel. Xander's internal monologue was underwhelmed. "Really?" said his external dialogue. "That must have been quite a change from Sunnydale." He was an adult now. Small talk could be talked.

"Well… Yes." Wesley looked doubtful. "You know Angel. Drama does tend to follow him about. We had rather a lot of run ins with lawyers. And old girlfriends. And Faith. And, eventually, Illyria."

"Yeah. She's different, all right," Xander said, cautiously.

Wesley nodded, face soft, willing to talk. "She used to be Fred. Winifred. She was a lovely girl, doctoral student. Very bright. Helped us a lot, always willing to take her part. But then- Well. Illyria's personality rather took her over." Wesley's face twisted. "But, though she's not the person she used to be… Well. We won't send her away. Well. Not when she's still Fred somewhere inside. We hope."

Silenced, Xander watched Leather Dream Woman clearing tables as though she was directing men to their deaths. Two customers were frightened away by her unnerving attentions ("You are here for a beverage. Which hot beverage do you desire? Make haste. I cannot sacrifice precious hours to your indecision.").

"And when you say 'we'," he said, eventually. "You're not here alone?"

"Oh no," Wesley replied. Surprised. "There was nothing left for Angel in LA. Not after the final showdown with that law firm."

"So…" Xander almost choked on a sudden attempt to inhale his entire remaining latte in one swallow. Before he could start to rise from his chair, though…

"Here they are," Wesley said brightly.

Angel came into the café. A smiling Angel. With a stroller. And… Cordelia?

"Whu?" said Xander.

"Hey Wes," greeted Angel. "You want to take off early? Me and Connor will mind the store, won't we, kiddo?"

A toddler, in the stroller (Angel's stroller? Angel's toddler?), nodded vigorously, big blue eyes rolling as his head wobbled, while the woman with Angel - who couldn’t possibly be Cordelia really – went about freeing the kid from his travel arrangements. Then, she turned around.

"Xander Harris?" Cordelia's voice would have stopped traffic. "You're here? And you didn’t call?"

"I- I honestly didn't know you were in Chicago," said Xander, helplessly. "Or… I didn't know a lot of things, apparently." He waved, slightly, encompassing everything from coffee shop ownership to possible motherhood to the blue amazon who was now looking disdainfully down at toddler Connor as he clutched at her knee, to the fact that the three people who'd left Sunnydale that summer after graduation had apparently stayed together ever since.

"Yes," said Wesley. "It's really quite a long story."

"I would think." Xander slumped down. "Could I get a hot cocoa, and maybe someone could tell me about it?"

These people knew Xander. Maybe not everything about him; it had been a while. But enough that drinking sweet hot drinks was not going to ruin his image.

That was delightful. Illyria was just so Illyria even when serving the public and I have to love that Angel gets some happily ever after with Cordelia and Connor. I think Xander has found a place he can drink cocoa without being judged.
Oh how I love the image of Illyria in a coffee shop... I don't even worry that I have no idea why Connor is a toddler, or anything, I just love that image so much!
She is pretty irresistible in this setup (though I found I've lost my Illyria voice; she was going to say more).

There's no magic in this AU. So no Quortoth and dimensional rips allowing Connor to age. Or, come to that Ascended! or Demon!Cordy, Jasmine, or Angel being unable to go out in the daytime. It's all very vanilla this way; though I suppose Darla could still have died roughly as canon.
Oh now I get it. So, are you then going alongside the Buffy season 9 comics??? No seed = no magic??
An all-human alternate universe is a story where, instead of saying "What if Buffy hadn't sent Angelus to hell in S2?" or whatever, you say, "What if the characters existed in the mundane universe and there was no magic and no demons?" So it's not that magic went away, there was never any magic in the first place.

For reasons I don't pretend to understand, there is an entire subgenre of all-human AUs where the characters work in coffee shops.
Respect the latte!

I love them. (Coffeeshop AUs, not lattes. Coffee is poison to me, sad to say.) Relentless normality and also incredibly easy dynamics of how characters meet for very short scenes and then part naturally. (See also: I'm in love with the Produce Guy, which I've only read once but stands out happily in my memory.)

ETA: it's here: J2 AU but PG rated and memorable for its incredibly awkward ending.

Edited at 2013-08-19 06:40 pm (UTC)
Very clever! I'm not normally a huge fan of "Everybody's Human" fic, but this was fun. And everybody was so in character; I'm very impressed!
Thanks! I find it a fun writing challenge, to keep their essence when the magic and drama goes out of the situation. Though I'm glad I don't have a high school AU on my card; I think I've read every possible plot for that, and I couldn't hope to be interesting!
LOL - You've jumped right in with both feet. Bravo! I'm still staring at my card and going "well, it I take this row, I'll only have one impossible thing...."
Heh. Learnt my lesson from the last couple of cards where I didn't get started properly. I'm going to do at least a line, but I like this card and I might manage something close to a blackout.
Oh I liked that a lot. So much in fact, that I'd love to see more if you've a mind, but what's here is all kinds of groovy!
Hee! I have 23 more tropes to write for this damn challenge. But I love coffee shop AUs. I wish Jossverse fandom did more of them.
I loved this. So, so much. Especially the last sentence. Great work!
I am a chronic lurker here, but for some reason this is the fic that compelled my to peek out and thank you for yet another lovely little morsel of a world (scurries back into shadows)
I didn't catch the note about it being AH the first time through... so Illyria sullenly not-serving others was harder to understand (but possibly funnier for it). Very awesome!
Heh. A circumstance where our version of Illyria might serve coffee... that could be an excellent undercover detective AU (also on my card, who knows, could happen!).
I don't usually go for All Human AU, but this was fun. Illyria waiting tables is just... hoooo boy, human or not, someone's going to get hurt.

(And hot chocolate is so a manly drink.)
It's quite tough to do, I find, keeping enough of the characters' aspects when you lose their easy magic attributes. So, fun for a challenge but not so much for the long term.

Manly is the man who can drink his preferred drink without shame. Hot chocolate more so than most.
This was really sweet. Love Illyria being in a coffee shop!
So here I am, heartily drinking tea thinking "wouldn't it be great if Illyria had been the one to serve it to me?" Then I remembered that last week when family were visiting I was on tea duty, swanning around in leather pants with blue streaks in my hair. Ahem.

Anyway, this was really lovely, I sort of adored it. And hot chocolate is super manly. If a guy said *no* to hot chocolate I'd order them to vacate my house, for I could not abide their insult to chocolatey goodness.

This was fun (and a great tag to Shells - in which case, ouch - even if it is AU)

Edited at 2013-08-19 07:56 pm (UTC)
the availability of food that did not come only in cupcake form
Ah yes, that is the difference between a coffee shop and a cafe.
I really liked the moment when relaxed and happy Angel walked in, and everything changed.