Chapter 10: Revelations
Really, I don't know why we bother with the disclaimers, but here we go... All characters and situations belong to their respective owners. If they should happen to take offense to this piece of fiction, I shall edit as necessary, or if need be, cease and desist like a good little slave to our almighty corporate masters. Amen.
A shout out to Skyzeta for all his help with this chapter.Hunter
Chapter 10: Revelations
By PsyckoSama (Psyckosama@gmail.com)
Faith groaned and rolled over in annoyance as the pounding at her door pulled from a well deserved bit of sleep and back to the land of the living. Slowly she sat up and rubbed her eyes glaring at the door in annoyance. Damn it. She'd been in the middle of a dream, albeit a strange one. What the hell had she been dreaming about anyways? All she could remember was something about a dancing mango.
Grumbling to herself at the indignity of it all, she stood up, dragged herself to the door, and leaned against the frame. "Who is it?" she asked, not bothering to hide her annoyance.
"Xander," came the reply. "I need to talk to you, it's really important."
"Jesus, Xan," she said. "It's 2am. Can't it wait?"
"Afraid not, Faith," he replied. "It's like I said, important."
"Fine." She sighed as she opened the door. She didn't think he was the type to go for a late night booty call, but she'd always found that people could surprise you. She doubted that was what he was here for, but still couldn't help shake the feeling of disappointment, though not nearly as disappointed as Xander would feel if this was in fact a booty call.
Slowly, she undid the lock on the door and opened it up. "What's up?"
Xander smiled the door opened. "Hi Faith, I'm sorry to bother you, but-"
That was as far as he was able to get as he took in Faith in all her sparsely dressed glory. She was clad in a white T-shirt that was not quite transparent against her skin while being of a length that was just a hair shy of preserving her modesty.
"Great Googly Moogly!"
Xander flushed a deep red, and turned about, ramrod straight. After taking a moment to catch his breath, he managed to string a sentence together, saying a phrase that pleasantly surprised her: "For the love of Twinkies, Faith, put some pants on!"
Faith flushed slightly. Damn, she hadn't been expecting to give the guy a free peep show. Still, she was amused and reassured by his reaction and the fact she'd been reading him wrong. At the same time though, she felt her shoulder devil begging her to have some fun with this. With an evil grin on her face she looked at the pile laundry of the floor and picked up the smallest pair of panties she could find at a glance: a gray sports thong. She quickly gave it the sniff test and slipped it on.
"Okay, I'm decent," she said, knowing well that she really wasn't.
Xander sighed and turned around, then sucked in a breath of air as he drunk in her body. She smiled inside. Yeah, he was fun to mess with.
"Yeah, I just need you to-" he trailed off as she stretched, extending her arms up and giving him a full view, exaggerating her yawn.
"Xan, I'm tired man, I just wanna go back to bed."
She was rewarded with a twitch of his eyebrow, and apparently deciding that out of sight was out of mind, he started pondering her ceiling. That actually kind of impressed her. Most guys would just enjoy the show.
With a shrug, she sat on her bed and reluctantly let Xander come inside. She never liked having people in her space. It always made her feel uncomfortable, like she was going to be judged, and she knew people always did. She knew that this place was a shit hole. Sure, she'd lived in worse, but that didn't mean she needed to be reminded of it.
"It's important," he said after they were inside, trying hard but not entirely successfully to keep his eyes above her neck. "It's about Buffy."
Faith nodded and immediately decided to stop playing with him. "What about her, is she okay?" This sounded like it might actually be serious, so no more games. Buffy better be okay, because if he'd done something stupid and gotten her hurt, then things were about to get real interesting.
Xander paused for a moment thinking of how to phrase it. "It seems that, well-" He paused again before giving a sigh. "Angel's back," he finally stumbled out.
Reacting more by instinct than anything else, Faith reached under her pillow, yanked out her emergency stake, and launched herself to her feet. It was only then that she realized that she barely qualified as barely dressed and had nowhere to put it that she paused long enough for Xander to intervene.
"Faith!" He grabbed her arm. "Hold up."
She shot him a glare that could probably melt lead and he let go of her arm faster than he would have a piece of white hot steel.
"Faith," he said, sheepishly, "We don't know which version this is. I'll be the first to admit I have no love for Deadboy, but considering Buffy hasn't staked him yet, this is probably Angel. You see, Willow tried to curse him a second time."
Faith blinked in surprise. "You guys know how to do that kind of stuff?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah, but it's pretty complicated."
Faith sat down. Damn. If Willow could pull off something like that then she needed to give her more credit. That kind of stuff was serious power. Glancing back to Xander she asked, "So if we're not dusting him, what's this have to do with me?"
Xander sighed. "Truth is that Buffy and I, um-" he paused for a moment before saying, "We never really agreed on the whole 'Angel' thing, so I'm not exactly the best person to talk to her about it."
Faith smiled in amusement as it dawned on her. Oh yeah, that explains a whole
lot. "I get it. So you were all hot for her and she's not going to trust you on anything you say about her undead boy toy."
"Yeah, pretty much."
She nodded in understanding. She'd been in that kind of bind before. Some guy would cheat on his girlfriend and she'd catch the blame from the pissed off girlfriend. She was sexy, she was there, ergo it had to be her. It wasn't the devil that made him do it, and the asshole just couldn't be accountable for his own damned actions, so of course it as all Faith's fault.
Still, she while she understood his logic, she resented being the fall guy for all of this crap. "So let me get this straight, you want me to drag my ass out of my nice warm bed so I can try and hunt down Buffy, who may or may not be at home in her
nice warm bed, so I can let her know that you know about Angel?"
Xander nodded and rubbed his forehead. "Yeah, that's pretty much it in a nutshell." He sighed and leaned back slowly, slowly gazing over her room. His nostrils flared and his face twisted into a blank looking grimace.
Faith blanched as one of her least pleasant childhood memories surfaced, about the time she was dumb enough to invite her friends over to her mom's apartment, if you were willing to dignify run down illegal loft housing by calling it such. They'd all had a similar look on their faces. The next day they'd all laughed at her and called her Rat Girl because she 'lived in a wall'. When her mother found out, she'd beaten her black and blue because if they told their parents, and any of their parents had called the cops, they could have been evicted. She knew it was silly, but she couldn't help but feel the old humiliation overcome her. Looking at Xander, she knew just had to get him the hell out of here.
Unable to think of a better way to get him out she simply stood up, turned her back towards him, and pulled off her shirt. "I guess I just gotta do this," she said as she bent over and starting fumbling in the pile for a bra. "Just let me get dressed."
Xander gasped and backpedaled to the door as quickly as he could. "Thanks Faith," he said almost as quickly as Willow when she was on a roll, "She's out by the old mansion, just like you said. Um. Bye."
Faith looked over her shoulder as he heard him scramble out, and just before he closed the door, she called after him. "No worries, I'll catch up with you after, alright?"
He paused, and without fully closing the door but making sure not to look in her room, said, "Sounds good, just stop by the library after school tomorrow." Without another word said, he closed the door.
As soon as he was gone, she let herself fall back onto her bed with a thud and relaxed in relief. "Wicked frekin' wonderful," she said, sarcastically. -- --
Xander was barely cognizant of his surroundings by the time he left Faith's room. By the name of all that was holy, what kind of sadist was that girl? What that some kind of sick punishment for him waking her up? Jeeze! The smell of the place had been bad enough, all those private scents in one moldy old room, hell it had been so bad that he'd tried mouth breathing, not that it had helped any. But the fact that she'd basically been shameless with her body was just beyond the pale. He could honestly say he'd seen more of Faith in ten minutes than he'd seen of Cordelia in their entire relationship!
Seriously, it was all he could do to keep from throwing her on the bed and having his way with her. The Hyena was still in the back of his head doing back flips, and he had this sinking feeling its new Faith fixation was going to last a while. The sick thing was that made him feel like a turd for cheating on Cordy, but since he wasn't with Cordy, it wasn't cheating, but the break up was still so fresh that he felt like an ass for even looking at another girl, ergo, he felt like a turd for cheating on Cordy! What a horrible catch 22.
Today was just wasn't his day. He'd just broke up with his girlfriend, his secret was out, he was afraid Buffy would tell Giles which could lead to all kinds of badness, and when he went out to try and nip that in the bud, instead he found out that Angel was back and Faith gave him the worst case of blue balls he'd had since that dirty dance at the beginning of junior year!
He sighed. Yeah. Today just sucked. In fact, it was the gold standard of suckage by which all future sucky days would be compared. What was worst of all though was the simple fact he had no idea what to do next. He was emotionally exhausted. Normally he'd go confide in Willow about whatever was wrong, but she was seriously wiggy right now. Solder Guy would just mope, but he was in no mood to channel Angel. And the Hyena? Well, the Hyena only really wanted to do one thing right now, at least besides the Bad Thing with Faith, and that was sleep, but he knew that he wasn't going to be doing much of that particular activity tonight.
Before leaving he spared one last glance to the Downtown Apartments. What a disgusting rat's nest. The place was revolting, and frankly, would probably be better off being burned to the ground. Faith deserved better. She was a Slayer and more importantly, she was part of his pack. If Giles considered this roach motel proper lodging for her, well, words would be said. -- --
There wasn't a word in any of the languages that Faith knew that could possibly describe how much she did not want to do what she was about to do. The possible outcomes seemed to range from plain bad to outright horrible. At best she was walking into a confrontation with Buffy and Angel. The worst case scenario was that Angelus had been only playing with Buffy, and had turned her, which meant fighting a vampire with the fighting skills of a Slayer and one of the most infamous master vampires on record. At best she was going to be the fall girl for this whole disaster, at worse she was going to die. Wonderful. Sick thing was that this really wasn't all that different than any other day in her life.
As she walked she saw Buffy crossing an intersection, heading away from the mansion. She seemed distracted, like she had something on her mind. Taking a deep breath, she silently thanked God and all of his angels for this one small mercy. At least now, if things went bad she had a chance of getting out of this mess alive.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, trying to hide her discomfort, "Buffy, over here!"
Buffy glanced over and smiled thinly. Warily she asked, "What's up?"
Xander frickin' owed her for this one. She'd accept payment in food, and not at some fast food joint. She wanted a real meal at a place with waiters and stuff. Faith took a deep breath. She still couldn't believe she was doing this crap. "Well, um, Xander-" Faith trailed off.
"Okay Faith," Buffy said, trying to urge her on but unable to resist her inner smart aleck. "We have a subject, how about a predicate. Xander what?"
Damn. What was getting this out so frickin' hard? "Well, Xander kinda got all wound up and he, well-" she trailed off again. Okay, how to say this without looking like a bitch?
"Okay, Lassie," Buffy said with a mirthful smile on her face, unable to hide the perverse pleasure she was taking from this, "What are you trying to say, girl. Did Xander fall down the well?"
"Screw you, B," Faith said a bit more harshly than she would have liked. "For some reason Xander got his panties in a bunch and wanted to talk to you. I ran into him. I said it was a bad idea, but he insisted," she said, trying desperately to get this out right and avoid a fight. "I didn't tell him where you went or anything, but he sniffed you down on his own, and-"
"And he saw Angel," Buffy said, completing Faith's sentence for her with a sign of resignation.
Faith nodded "Yeah, that's about the size of it, B"
Buffy sighed and rubbed her temples. Great, just great. This was turning out to be one hell of a day. First Xander goes and has the Primal put back in, then he finds out about Angel. She knew how much Xander didn't like Angel; he probably told Faith that Angelus was back. She had to explain the truth to Faith, to convince her that it really was him. She knew she had to be careful though. Faith was probably all ready for 'The Slay' and if she didn't say this right she'd have a fight on her hands.
"Faith," she said, tentatively, "I don't know what Xander told you, but Angel's cured. Willow did a spell and put his soul back at the last moment."
Faith nodded and bit her lip. "Yeah, that's what he told me."
"Xander told you?" Buffy felt a stab of shame. That didn't sound like the Xander she knew, the one who saw Angel as a rival, but maybe she'd underestimated him. Maybe he was more mature than she'd thought. She paused. Or maybe there was more going on here. She just wasn't sure.
Faith nodded. "Yeah, that's what I said." She sighed. "Buffy, I don't know what Xander's got cooking or anything, but he asked me to come talk to you."
"Yeah, well, thanks Faith." Buffy smiled thinly but sincerely, feeling more awkward than ever. "I really mean it, thanks."
Faith stood silent, unsure of what to say before finally finding her voice and smiling. "Welcome, B." After a moment, she yawned. Blushing slightly, she added, "I'm fried, I should probably-"
Buffy gestured uncertainly. "Go on, hit the sack. Something tells me tomorrow is gonna be-" she trailed off, uncertain how to describe how tomorrow was shaping up in her mind.
Faith nodded sincerely. "I hear ya, B."
"Well, um, I guess I should let you get some sleep," Buffy said, struggling to respond to Faith's unexpected empathy.
Faith nodded. "Take it easy, B."
Taking a deep breath, Buffy started walking again, headed for home. For her part, Faith could only stand in place and wonder what just happened. Buffy actually thanked her, and it looked like she meant it too. She'd been expecting a blow up, for things to go like they always went. Things just didn't turn out like this for her. It was just wicked strange.
"Xan," she muttered to herself, "You owe me dessert too."-- --
Today wasn't a good day to be Buffy Summers, she'd already decided. She knew that bad things were going to happen today and she didn't want to face them, but she knew that she didn't have much other choice. She was honestly, and pleasantly, surprised that Xander hadn't confronted her himself, but she knew her good fortune wasn't going to last. In fact, it was going to be up in about 10 seconds because here was Xander and he was coming right at her.
"Hey Buffy," he said, looking a bit tense himself.
She raised her hand before he could say anything else, eager to avoid any deep conversation. "I know, Xander, we've got to talk about this."
Xander frowned slightly, his face showing a momentary burst of extreme annoyance, followed by one of exasperation, then a clear smile as if the other emotions had never crossed his face to begin with. Yeah, that was a bit strange. Her brow furrowed with concern. "Are you alright, Xander?"
Xander shrugged. "The Hyena was acting up so I told it no Scooby Treats if it didn't behave."
"That's kind of," Buffy paused, trying to think of the right phrase for her thoughts, "Kind of," she paused again, and sighed, "I don't know what it's kind of like really, other then it's a little weird and highly disturbing."
Xander shrugged. "It's not that bad, it just takes a little time getting used to having your own peanut gallery."
"Okay," Buffy drawled. That was kind of creepy. "Are you sure you're alright, Xander?"
"I'm fine, it wasn't anything major," he said, "It just doesn't like to be told to sit down, shut up, and behave itself. Besides, I still have Soldier Guy in here to keep me grounded."
She nodded slightly. While she'd been a little frantic at the time, through no fault of her own, she remembered that the soldier had been pretty cool, all cool headed and official-ly. Actually, that explained something. If the Hyena could make Xander get all huffed up and macho, then maybe the soldier could make him calm down and act serious. She smiled. Maybe it wasn't all bad, just really, really, creepy.
"You in there Buffy?" Xander asked, waving his hand in front of her face. "Hello? Is Buffy home?"
Buffy cracked a grin. "I was thinking about someone. Not all of us have a doorman."
"Hey, in my defense, the Hyena pees on the rug."
Buffy laughed and for a moment she saw the old Xander in his smile. Not macho, creepy Hyena Xander or serious and professional Soldier Xander, just her good old Xander-shaped friend. It was better than any explanation he could give. She knew he was still in there.
"I just want you to know that I'm not gonna play rag on Buffy here. I know you had your reasons, and while I might not agree with them, I'm not going to judge you. Just meet me in the library after school. I'm going to tell Giles we have we talk, I haven't told anyone besides Faith about our friendly neighborhood dead guy, but I am gonna tell Giles about me."
She looked at him in shock and amazement. He was going to come clean and he wasn't going to tell everyone about Angel? "You're serious aren't you?"
"As serious as heart attack or a Slayer with a pointy stick," he said with a thin smile.
She frowned. "Xander, you don't have to prove anything. I know I have to tell everyone."
He looked at her and gave her a comforting smile. "Relax, Buffy, this isn't some guy pity thing. I think the only way either of us is gonna get out of this without getting burned is if stick together."
She shook her head and cracked a grin. "So, essentially, we're volunteering to go to the principal's office together so he has to spread the blame and can't single any of us out?"
Xander sniffed the air and scowled slightly. "Remember where we are. Don't give the little turd any bait there, Buffy," he said, chiding her semi seriously.
Buffy nodded. "Alright, I guess I'll see you after school, Xander," she said, not entirely sure if she'd gotten away with putting her hand in the cookie jar or not on this one.-- --
Xander took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he waited for everyone to arrive. It simply amazed him how calm he felt, considering the situation, but he guessed if there was one thing all three aspects of his personality could agree on, it was that getting histrionic now wouldn't accomplish much of anything. He already knew that this wouldn't be pleasant, there was no escaping that, but he did maintain the hope that he could find a way to finish this ordeal quickly and without it exploding in his face.
He snorted. Fat chance, that.
He frowned as he saw Giles watching him from the other side of the room. He seemed to be uncomfortable, suspicious, and totally ignorant of what was going on, which was probably the cause of his annoyance. He had a feeling that in a few minutes Giles might just agree that ignorance was bliss.
His calm was disrupted and replaced by a deep set sorrow as Cordelia entered the room. He sighed. He knew she wanted out of this mess and couldn't blame her, but she needed to be here. While he was pretty sure that Angel's return was authentic, there was still the off chance that this was just one of Angelus' sick games. If so, Cordelia was a possible target and she needed to watch her back.
"Xander," she said, the strong emotion of the past few days still evident in her voice. Well, at least evident to him.
He nodded to her. "Cordy," he said, unable to hide his own lingering sorrow at the train of events that had transpired between them.
Cordelia shook her head and gave him a half-hearted glare. "I hope there's a good reason for me to be here, mister. I'm just starting to come out of the popularity slump of dating Xander Harris, and this could set my progress back by hours
," she said with the good old haughty arrogance that she was infamous for, but he knew her enough to tell that her heart really wasn't in it.
Xander sighed. "I'm sorry. I'd ask you to trust me-"
"But that isn't very likely to happen," she said cutting him off.
He looked her in the eyes pleadingly and she frowned miserably. "You know, Xander, if I wasn't the amazing and wonderful person I am, I'd tell you to go take a hike." She pouted and crossed her arms, shooting him a petulant glare. "But luckily for you, I am that person, so I'll be nice and hang around for your little Scooby Reunion."
Xander sighed and attempted to regain his center, but before he could, Buffy arrived and he felt a chill go down his spine. He wasn't going to force the issue, but if she didn't fess up as well, he was about to face the full brunt of basically everything. Not noticing his attention, Buffy took a deep breath and sat down at the other end of the table. Her brow was furrowed and she looked as tense as he did, which actually made him feel a bit better. If she looked that tense then she was probably working up the nerve to go along with his plan.
Moments later, Faith entered and gave Xander a saucy smile as she sat down, which he returned with a less flirtatious one of his own. Right behind her came Larry and Jon who took seats on opposing ends of the table. Larry nodded shallowly to Xander while Jon gave everyone a wave and a weak 'hello'.
As soon as she saw Faith, Buffy sighed in relief. She still was tense, but she seemed as if a great weight had been taken off of her shoulders. He wondered what it was. Maybe she'd been expecting the worst, not unlike he'd been doing the whole night before. He could see why. They could easily restrain or at least delay her while sending Faith out after Angel. Faith's presence made that prospect rather unlikely.
"Wow!" Faith exclaimed. "Who brought the donuts?"
"I did," Xander replied with a smile.
"Really?" Faith asked, "I mean didn't you have a whole fit about being the donut boy just a couple days ago?"
"I can multi-task. Besides, who else would I send? Buffy?" He snorted. "We learned that
lesson last year."
Willow frowned. "Xander, she's not that
"Willow, need I remind you of the time we were pulling an all-nighter, sent her out for donuts, and by the time she got back there were only three donuts left out of a dozen, one of which she'd licked the chocolate off of?"
"Okay," Willow admitted, "She is that bad."
"Wastin' a donut?" Faith gasped. "Now that's just sacrilege."
"Hey!" Buffy protested, "It was Boston Cream. I hate Boston Cream!"
Faith snorted. "Well, no accounting for taste then, guess that just means more for me." With a smile she reached for the very same kind of donut. "Ah, my favorite."
Cordelia snorted. "Stereotype much, Faith?"
"Bite me, Queeny," she said with a bit more Venom in her voice than she'd intended.
"Honestly though, it was a lesson learned." Xander said, "Slayers burn through carbs faster than they do Vampires. Putting donuts in front of a Slayer is like chumming a shark tank."
Buffy grinned. "Fridge benefits."
"Eat all the crap you want, never gain an ounce." Faith added.
Both of the girls smiled and gave the other a high five. "Go Team Slayer!"
Cordelia scowled and glared at them with eyes that were all but glowing green with envy. "Words can not describe how utterly I despise you both."
"Buffy," Giles said, "I believe you mean 'fringe' benefits."
"Giles, food pun." Buffy grinned. "'Fridge benefits', get it?"
Giles simply shook his head in response.
"For what it's worth," Larry said, "I thought it was a good joke."
Cordelia snorted. "What, are we handing out pity points today? Last time I heard a pun that bad, Harmony
was saying it."
Buffy scowled, and pointed her finger at Cordelia, but before she could say anything, Giles cleared his throat. "I believe Xander brought us together today for a reason?"
Xander took a deep breath. For a moment he'd almost forgotten why he was here, and he was thankful for it. That little interlude had given him some much needed humor, but it was short lived. Already he could see the tension descending back upon the room. Willow was still glaring at him, Buffy looked like she expected the Hellmouth to swallow them all any moment, and Oz, well, Oz looked like Oz. Faith looked tense, at least in between donuts, Jon looked like he should breathing through a paper bag, and Giles seemed to be utterly confused. The only one who seemed calm besides Oz was Larry, and even he looked inquisitive.
"So," Giles began, "I believe you said there was some pressing matter that must be addressed."
Xander almost cursed as the Hyena chose that moment to start acting up again, throwing him off balance. Not now, goddamn it! God damned tension. Taking a deep he centered himself and looked at the group. "There are things we needed to talk about. Some of us know things that others don't and I think we need to just clear the air."
Giles' brow furrowed in confusion. "What are you getting at, Xander?"
He sighed. "I'll go first. You of course know that Buffy vanished over the summer and that we all pitched in to try and keep the streets safe."
"Yes," Giles replied with some impatience. "How is that pertinent?"
Willow frowned and took a deep breath. Cutting in before Xander but with a voice full of trepidation, she said, "Well, we didn't know if Buffy was ever going to come back."
Giles frowned slightly and he looked at her with some suspicion. "Yes, and?"
She took a deep breath and glared at Xander. He smiled slightly and mouthed 'thank you' to her. He meant it too. She'd just jumped in front of a bullet from him. He knew how uncomfortable this made her, he could smell her fear even, but she'd done it anyways, because she loved him and wanted to protect him. There simply were not words that described how deeply, how completely he felt for this girl. Her gaze softened slightly and she looked back to Giles.
"Well, we realized that we weren't doing so well without a Slayer. That if any Big Bads showed up without her we'd be toast, so we decided that if we couldn't have the real thing then we'd have to find a substitute," she said in a stronger voice than before.
Giles jaw went agape and he froze in place. With concern and a bit of shock in his voice, he asked, "Willow, what have you done?"
Xander sighed. Oh screw it. "To make a long story short, I went and got myself supered."
Giles could but slump back into his seat as he stomach was clenched in dread. He was utterly speechless. He could understand why they'd done so. While distasteful, it was understandable that in times of need extreme measures must be taken in the name of the greater good. While he'd never openly admit it, before Buffy had returned, he'd been just about to petition the council for Kendra's replacement, for Faith, to be sent to the Hellmouth to take her place. What stunned him though was that Xander had not only done this, but he'd obviously done it not only after Buffy's return but after Faith's arrival, otherwise he'd have noticed a change in Xander long before now.
He paused and begun to polish his glasses. What exactly had they done anyways? While this did explain the resurgence of the Hyena's senses and Xander's strengthened soldier memories, he had to wonder. Had Xander been telling him the truth? Could this just be the end result of the in depth battery of meditation Xander had claimed to have been undergoing over the past months, could it be that they were just admitting to having begun the process under questionable circumstances, or was it something far less benign? He had to know.
"Willow," he said calmly, forcing his conflicted emotions from his voice and put his glasses back on. "I need to know exactly what you have done."
She took a deep breath and looked him in the eyes."We bound the Primal and Soldier spirits to him so he'd have access to their memories and abilities while magically reactivating the Fishman DNA that was still in his system so he'd have the Fishman's powers too, but put a spell it so it couldn't mutate him into anything inhuman. To keep the bindings stable and keep him from turning into a mutant, we used the Fishman DNA as the magical anchor for the entire spell."
Giles gasped. That was quite a bit worse than meditation. He took a very deep breath to control his emotions and fell back on some of the techniques he'd used to clear his head and resist the Siren call of Dark Magic. That ritual actually sounded reasonable, if mind numbingly complicated. This of course left him one standing question. "Who did you get to do help you with the ritual, no offense to Willow here, but I don't believe she's up to the task on her own."
Xander nodded. Well tubes one and two were clear, time to put the third fish in the water. Here it goes! "Ethan Rayne."
Giles eyes lit up with murderous light and his voice took on a menacing tone. "Ethan?" he all but growled.
Xander nodded. "Yeah, Ethan. We found him-" Xander trailed off as Giles stood up and began to walk towards into his office, likely to retrieve god only knows what kind of deadly weapon, or for all he knew call in an air strike.
To his surprise, Buffy stood up and held the door closed. "Giles, don't. Let's hear him out, I'm sure Xander can explain."
Giles looked at her with a look they'd only seen only once before, just after Jenny died. "Get out of my way Buffy," he said forcefully.
"No." Buffy looked him straight in the eye, and with just as much force, said, "Let Xander finish."
The two remained locked eye to eye for what seemed to be an eternity. Eventually Giles backed down. Issuing a sigh he walked back to his seat, looking like if nothing else, an indignant child. Buffy nodded gently to Xander, and in an encouraging voice, said, "Go on."
Xander sighed. "Well, it was during the whole band candy thing. I went there to well," smiled ruefully and said, "Honestly, I went there with the same thing you were just intending to do."
Willow gasped in horror. "You were going to kill Ethan?"
Xander looked her in the eyes. "Babies, Willow, babies."
She frowned and lowered her head. "Yeah. I guess."
Xander sighed "Well, he freaked out when he heard it was babies and I didn't have the heart. It's one thing to kill a guy because of callous cruelty, it's another to do it because he's a fool."
"Hold up," Larry interrupted, "What do you mean babies, who's this Ethan guy, what do you mean by the Hyena, and what was up with the swim team anyways?"
Jon nodded. "Umm, yeah. I'm kind of confused too."
Oz smiled. "Xander was possessed by a Hyena primal. He ate the school mascot and some of his pack mates ate the principle."
Jon and Larry both went wide eyed.
"Ethan's the guy who's responsible for the whole Halloween thing, and making all the adults in town acting like teenagers, which was the cover for the Mayor trying to sacrifice a bunch of babies to a snake monster that lives in the sewer."
They both paled.
"And the swim team? The coach was putting some kind of old Soviet super soldier virus into the steam room which ended up turning most of the team into fish monsters."
Jon looked like he was about to vomit while Larry just raised his hand. "Next time I ask you something, just tell me I don't want to know. Okay?"
Xander shook his head and sighed. "Well, we ended up talking and, well, next thing I knew I was going through with it."
Giles sighed deeply and shook his head. He smiled thinly and began to chuckle ruefully. "Ethan always could be quite persuasive couldn't he?" He asked rhetorically, knowing the answer. After a moment he took a deep breath, and earnestly asked, "You know, you do have a choice Xander, if you want to pursue this life, you know that right?"
Xander looked at him levelly. "Didn't I cover that question a couple days ago?"
Giles nodded. "Yes, good point."
Well, that had gone about one hundred thousand times better than he'd expected. Time for round two. "Anyone else have any deep dark secrets they'd like to confess?" he asked looking around the room.
Buffy gasped. She'd knew he was going to do it, just on some level she hadn’t expected him to totally come clean. Now she understood what Xander just had done for her. He'd intentionally set Giles off so that when her turn came up he'd be too tired to get angry. He'd just jumped on a grenade for her. In that moment she realized what she was dealing with. He was still Xander, loyal, lovable, dependable Xander, he was just a different Xander. Maybe even a better Xander, as much as she loathed to say it. The Hyena still frightened her, but right now? Right now he was like some kind of hero.
She took a deep breath. This was her moment of opportunity. She knew she'd not only be a fool, but would be a real bitch if she didn't take it, but she just couldn't say the words. She just couldn't risk Angel's life.
Xander sighed in disappointment and Buffy wished she could go invisible in order to avoid his gaze. "Well," he said, his voice full of false cheer. "I guess no one else has anything to say. I guess we can all go back to our so not normal lives."
Willow coughed slightly "Actually," she said, "I have something I'd like to say."
Buffy felt like she was the one getting staked. Willow, no!
"Yes, Willow," Giles asked calmly but with some tension in his voice.
"I helped Ethan create the ritual," she paused, "He's been teaching me magic."
Buffy gawked. Willow learning magic from Ethan Rayne? Was she nuts?
Giles closed his eyes and look a series of deep breaths, a scowl etched onto his features. Opening them, he looked her in the eyes and in a level, but none too pleased voice, he said, "I understand why you'd become his student. Magic is not a thing to learn on your own, doing so is highly dangerous. I am glad that you have decided to find a teacher rather than attempt it on your own, but I just wish you'd find a more responsible teacher than Ethan Rayne. "
Willow nodded, looking sufficiently admonished. "He's actually a very good teacher," she replied, "He just likes to teach me by using small pranks."
Giles scowled. "Like what?"
Willow flushed. "Well, like," he paused. "I'm sorry Larry."
He blinked. "Sorry about what?"
"You were still being a bully so I cast a spell that," she flushed as brilliant a red as her hair and stammered out, "Made you have sex dreams about a football team."
Buffy's eyes went wide. She had to be kidding.
Larry blinked. "That was you?"
"Yeah," she said with a whisper.
"Willow," he said, "Think I could talk you into casting that spell again? Those dreams were awesome."
Willow gasped and covered her mouth in surprise.
"You think you could cast that spell again?"
Buffy winced. Okay, TMI time.
"I got something to confess too," Oz said, cutting in before things could get more awkward.
Giles sighed and gave him an appraising look. "You're not a Satanic
reverend, are you?"
Oz laughed. "Nothing like that. Only remember that break in at the Zoo?"
Giles nodded. "I take it you were responsible for that and the grave that was exhumed the day before?"
He nodded. "Spell components."
Giles nodded. "Is that all or do any more of you have deep dark, horrifying secrets with which to regale us?" he asked with a hint of sarcasm.
Faith shrugged and raised her hand, much to Xander's surprise. What could she possibly have to bring to the table he wondered.
"Yeah, I met this government chick, back when I first got here, said they were looking for some guy," she said sheepishly.
Giles looked at her questioningly. "Why do you believe this is applicable?"
Faith shrugged. "I dunno, it just seemed like she knew bout the nightlife. Said she was from New York."
Xander looked at her intrigued "Do you know what she was doing here?"
She paused, trying to remember the details "Said she was looking for some guy: Mack, Wack, Rack, something like that" after a moment she sighed "Said he was into some bad stuff, gave me a picture."
Giles looked at her intently "Do you still have it?" he asked eagerly
Faith paused. "I don't know, I think so."
Giles nodded. It couldn't be. Far as he knew they didn't have much of an operational presence this part of the US, it was probably why Buffy had been called here in the first place. "I'll have the Council look up all known magic users and anyone else who might be of interest." He looked to Xander "Whenever you see Ethan, you should ask him if he knows this," he looked at Faith who could only shrug "Person."
Xander nodded, as curious as Giles was. "Yeah, sure."
Giles looked around and even more wearily asked "Alright, anyone else?"
"One other thing," Faith replied, "She gave me her card, said if I ever needed some help to give her a call. When she did I saw some kind of badge in her wallet."
"What did it look like?" Giles asked.
Faith paused in thought for a moment. "It was blue and had a fist holding a sword or something."
Oh, bloody hell. Giles took a long breath. It was only a deputy. All was not lost. "I see," he said tentatively.
Xander glanced over to him. "You have any idea whats up?"
"Haven't the foggiest," Giles lied. "Now anyone else?"
"Hold up," Cordy cut in after a moment. "I met a guy awhile back to, seemed real interested in the night life and why I was wearing a cross."
Giles looked at her in annoyance. "Well, that's hardly unusual," he said dismissively.
Cordelia scowled at him. "Hold on there, Mister Watcher Pants, this guy bought me a cup of coffee over the summer.
Xander scowled deeply at the implications.
Cordelia frowned at Xander. "Hey, I was short and he did me a favor, not like we're together anymore so you don't have any reason to be jealous."
"Is there a point to this?" Giles asked impatiently.
"Yeah," Cordelia replied, "When he paid I saw something like that in his wallet, only it was red, not blue."
Giles gritted his teeth. Oh bullocks, an agent, a damned bloody through and through agent in his town. He forced himself to relax. Maybe he was just passing through and was gone.
Cordelia shrugged and continued. "I don't know, just saying, maybe it's possible this guy's another government person. I've seen him around town a couple times since then."
Giles clenched his fists under the table. Son of a bitch!
Xander paused as some of soldier guys memories floating to the surface briefly, but it was not enough to be of any real use. "Still, it sounds like its worth checking out, Giles."
Giles nodded. Damn it all. "Yes, indeed, of course," he said in his best authoritative voice, trying to hide his building frustration.
Oz paused. "So," he asked curiously, "Were these people walking around in black suits, riding black helicopters, and what not?"
Giles suppressed a snort. Serendipity.
Cordelia nodded. "Yeah, actually, at least the other times I saw him. I saw him walking around town a couple times with either this brown haired guy or this redheaded woman."
Buffy stopped in her seat and looked at Faith who nodded. "Yeah, we've seen em around, if I didn't know better I'd swear they were patrolling" This was just too weird. She turned to Faith "Now, are they the same woman you knew?"
Faith shook her head "No, haven't seen her around lately, said she was going back to New York"
Oh fuck. An entire team
of agents. He sighed. Bloody Americans.
They all looked at each other in awkward silence, no one was sure what to think. No one spoke and eventually Buffy just couldn't stand it anymore. She was the only one who hadn't spoken up. If she didn't, how could she ever face them again Not after what Xander had done, not after all her friends had come clean and she hadn't. She raised a hand. "I, I guess I've got something I should tell everyone."
Giles frowned in confusion, as did everyone else except for Faith and Xander. It made her feel even more like a heel that he'd so strongly held to his word. She took a breath and steadied herself "Angel is," she stumbled, unable to get the rest out.
Giles looked at her with the up most sympathy. "It's alright, Buffy. You don't have to talk about this, it's understandably traumatic."
She laughed. "No, you don't get it. Angel's back. Not Angelus, Angel," she stuttered for a moment before finally being able to say it again. "He's back"
Giles sucked in a deep breath of air and Buffy could all but see his blood pressure soar. "What?" he said softly, but with a great deal of anger in his voice. He hadn't forgotten his treatment at the hands of Angelus, or walking in to find Jenny's body on his bed, much as he'd kept quiet on the subject for Buffy's benefit. Under normal circumstances, he'd have done an excellent job of hiding his feelings on the subject, but these were hardly normal circumstances now were they?
She nodded helplessly. "Yeah, he's back." It was all she could think to say.
"Is this something I don't want to know?" Larry asked.
"Buffy's Ex." Oz replied. "He used to be one of the worse vampires on the planet but was cursed with a soul by gypsies, which made him repentant. He tried to do the hero thing but the curse was broken when he and Buffy had sex and the demon went on a killing spree. Willow tried to curse him again, but he ended up being sent to hell." He paused. "A hell to be more precise."
Larry frowned and nodded. Jon on the other hand, was intrigued. "Wait, there's more than one hell?"
Taking a deep breath, Giles decided that as much as he wanted to address the issue of Angel, it would be wrong to punish or scold Jonathan for asking a perfectly valid question. "There are a number of alternate dimensions that are commonly known as 'hell dimensions'. They're places of unimaginable suffering and torment ruled over by the most foul and detestable demons and hellgods."
"Think Detroit," Oz added.
After a few seconds of trying to figure out how to respond to that, Jon simply sighed and gave up. "Wow."
"You sure it's Angel," Cordelia asked impatiently, having far less willingness to indulge the new Scoobies. "You sure it's not Angelus just playing a sick game with you? I don't know about anyone else, but I'm in no rush to end up like Miss Calender."
Giles' jaw clenched at the mention of Jenny, and his eyes took on the same burning rage that they'd done at the mention of Ethan's part in Xander's metamorphosis. His world was spinning out of control with everything that had happened and it seemed like there was only one way to get control of it again and so he jetted to his feet, but this time it was Xander who stopped him by grabbing his arm. He attempted to pull away but it was for naught. His eyes opened in shock and some of the fury fled from them as he realized just how easily Xander was rendering him almost completely immobile.
"Hold on," Xander said.
Giles scowled deeply and turned to the other Slayer. "Faith-"
"No, listen." Faith interrupted, "Don't take this the wrong way, but you gotta remember Buffy's still just a girl. Seems like you Watchers like to forget that about us sometimes, see us as your invincible pet Slayers but we're not," she said emphatically. "We're just kids."
Buffy smiled at Faith. She'd so underestimated her. "I'm sorry, I know I should have said something the moment he got back I know I should have but I just-" she took a deep breath, trying to find the words, but she couldn't.
It was the last person in all the world she'd ever have expected who came to her aid: Cordelia. "You couldn't" she added simply.
Buffy nodded "Yeah."
"Alright, lapse in judgment, welcome to the club there Buffy." Xander said with a forced yet at the same time sincere smile.
After Xander let Giles go, he rubbed the tender appendage and looked at them both with fury still burning in his eyes. "That doesn't make this alright Xander, this is serious and it put everyone's lives at risk."
Xander nodded and lowered himself to eye level with the other man. "If you'd like to talk about life threatening situations, maybe we should start with Faith's living conditions."
Faith winced as she felt a twist in her stomach. No. She'd thought he was really her friend, but not, now he was pulling this shit. The bastard. That fucking bastard. "Xander," she whispered, her voice full of pain.
Everyone else, except for Buffy looked on in confusion. Then Xander just looked over to her and smiled. It made her want to punch him. "It's alright Faith, you didn't screw up. It just that you're place is a rat hole."
She growled in rage and kicked her chair out from under her. She didn't have to be reminded. She was poor, she got it! Why did everyone have to rub it in her face. It was like those assholes back in school who used to laugh at her clothes and steal her stuff "I thought you were my friend!" she screamed, her snarling face only inches from his. "But now this is it, huh? You're just going to judge me like all the rest!"
"No," Xander said calmly, not taking her bait. Man-Slayer or not she really wanted to wipe that condescending smirk off his face. "I'm not judging you." Bullshit. "I'm judging that toilet you live in, and as far as I'm concerned, it's not good enough."
She went agape. Of all the things she'd ever been told, all the things she'd expected to hear, that was the one she expected least. "What?" she asked in amazement.
"You deserve better Faith," he replied simply.
She didn't know what to say. There were only four people in her life had ever said that to her before this. Conner and Murphy who'd protected her when she was little, Diana, her Watcher, who'd been like a real
mom to her, and she guessed she could count the government chick. After all, she'd helped her get settled in Sunnydale after they'd dusted Kakistos. It was hard to discount someone who'd given you a shoulder to cry on then handed you a full grand and a half, no strings attached.
She almost didn't notice as Giles stuttered in confusion and looked at her, totally dumbfounded. "Is there something the matter with her current living arrangements?" he asked Xander.
Faith flushed under the attention and shrank back slightly. She knew how to deal with insults but this concern stuff just made her feel weird. "Its okay, I guess. I've lived in worse," she said honestly. Tentatively, she looked at Xander, and almost pleadingly said, "You don't have to make a stink on my behalf."
Xander scowled and ignored her. "Giles, have you seen the place?"
He frowned. "No, I haven't."
Xander looked the Watcher dead in the eyes. "It's a run down dump, its filthy, the building is sick, it's infested with vermin, and worse of all, it's a motel."
Faith blinked in confusion. "The building's sick?"
"Mold," Xander replied, "it's full of it, especially the AC. Place also has mice and roaches."
"How'd you know?" Faith asked, a bit unconvinced.
Xander smiled and tapped on his nose.
Faith winced. Okay, maybe it was worse than she'd thought. She hadn't realized it was quite that nasty. Still, she was just glad he hadn't mentioned the fleas.
"Where's she staying exactly?" Cordelia asked, with a grimace on her face.
"Downtown Apartments," Xander replied.
Cordy grimaced and looked at her. Faith felt frozen in spot, unsure how to respond to all of this. "My condolences," she said with complete sincerity.
"Um, thanks." Faith wasn't sure how to react. She'd expected that Cordelia would have been the first to tear her down, but she actually sounded like she was sorry to hear it.
Giles frowned and stood up. He looked at her for a moment then lowered his head in shame. "Yes, I believe I see the problem."
Xander nodded. "Remember, you've got two Slayers to watch. It's just not Buffy anymore."
"It's okay, really," Faith said, desperate for them to just let the point drop.
Giles adjusted his glasses. "No, Faith, it is not okay," he replied. "I have badly failed you and for that I apologize."
"Giles," Buffy asked, "Why was it being a hotel the worst part?"
Faith was wondering the same. They were no different than any other roof over your head, right?
"As we all know," Giles began, entering lecture mode, "Vampires are unable to enter a personal home without an invitation."
"Yeah," Buffy replied.
"Hotels are not personal homes," Giles stated bluntly. "Vampires don't need an invitation to enter them. I'm actually rather disappointed that you two do not know that."
Faith blanched. Okay. Now she felt like real tool for snapping at Xander. He really was just was trying to look out for her. Damn. Slayers gotta sleep too, and the last thing she needed was some bloodsucker picking the lock and sneaking in while she was trying to get some shut eye.
"Faith," Giles said, as he turned to her. "We must find you new living arrangements immediately."
Xander shrugged. "If she needs a safe place to sleep tonight, there's always the sofa-bed in my basement."
Giles shook his head. "I believe it would be more suitable if she were to take my extra room."
"No," Buffy cut in, "I've seen Faith's place and I should have done something before, but I was too wrapped up in my own problems for it to really sink it. Besides, your apartment is too small and it has no room between all the books. Faith can stay with me and mom."
Giles scowled slightly. "Are you sure she'll agree?"
"Hey," Faith cut in. Damn this was awkward. Not everyday people fought over who had the honor of giving her a place to sleep at night. It felt nice to be wanted, but damn, this was getting weird. "Don't I have some say in this?"
Xander nodded. "Of course. It's all up to you in the end. My couch is always open, but I'd say take Buffy's."
Faith laughed. "Sounds good to me, at least until I get my own place." She paused. "But what if your mom says no?"
Buffy laughed. "Once I tell her where you're staying now, she'll probably ground me for not telling her sooner."
Faith simply shook her head and smiled. This was simply too much to handle. "Sounds five by five, B."
"Well," Giles said, looking at everyone in the room. "If no one else has anything to say, I believe we've had enough excitement for today. I don't know about you, but I think I've reached my limit for surprises today. I believe we have much to discuss."
Faith nodded. She'd already known most of it and it was still huge. She could only imagine how everyone else felt. Glancing over, she saw Xander slump down into a chair.
She wasn't good at apologies but she owed him a big one. Hell, after this she felt like was the one who owed him dinner and dessert at a sit down joint. "Xan," she said, "Listen, I'm sorry I flipped out on you like that."
He simply smiled at her, honestly but tiredly. "It's cool."
"No," She replied, shaking her head. "It's not. I really owe you one for this."
"No you don't," Xander said, forcing the point. "You're my friend. I'm just glad I was able to help you. We're all your friends, and isn't that what friends are for?"
Her friends. Yeah, she guessed they were. The real kind of thick and thin friends that you could actually count on to watch your back. She smiled. Faith Lehane's got real
friends? Wicked frickin' awesome cool.
"Thank you." It was all she could say. It was all that she could think to say.
Xander smiled as he settled back into his chair. He had to thank whatever demon or deity that had seen him through this. Already he could hear the discussion starting up and he couldn't shake the feeling that that they were through the worst of it.
"Any time, Faith," he said with a smile, "Any time."