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Triple-Sided Coin

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Fraternity". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: It was then that Bobby concluded that Mark Ford Brady had left his stain on more mothers than just his own. He didn't like to think that he had a passel of siblings running around in the world, but one was walking around here right under his nose.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Law and OrderAngelfirenzeFR1816,015152,12020 Apr 1020 Apr 10Yes
Triple-Sided Coin
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: Whedon and Wolf own all. The Decemberists. "The Rake's Song.". Hush, Rough Trade, 2009.

Summary: It was then that Bobby concluded that Mark Ford Brady had left his mark on more mothers than just his own. He didn't like to think that he had a passel of siblings running around in the world, but one was walking around here right under his nose.

Timeline: post-'Opportunities', because -- apparently -- this story's not finished with me, either. Note (a): While this takes place in the Season Eight time frame, nothing in it has happened. This continues to be AU.

Notes: adoxerella and I have been RP'ing some stuff in my story, 'Middle Son's' 'verse and given the way canon's going, I see no reason not to use it here. (*giggles like the madly amused B/A shipper that I am*). Apparently, theantijoss actually is Joss. She or I, according to Dox. *blushes*

There's also my partner series, 'Understanding', specifically 'Splitting', but only one specific instance that happens in that story.

Also, since we know comparably little about Bobby's Army record, I'm using that to my advantage.

Triple-Sided Coin

Bobby had been in England an entire month before he met Xander. He remembers vividly that his eye had twitched -- he hoped even now he wasn't developing another nervous tic, like he really needed to add to the list. He remembers that his body had hummed with a strange familiarity that didn't seem logical at all because he'd never met the kid.

But he'd felt it. And it was the first thing he'd felt since Alex had died so he'd clung to it like a rope saving him from being swept away in the tide of grief still all too fresh.

Alex's family, out of some gesture he still couldn't figure out no matter how many hours he spent pondering it, had given him her shield to keep and sometimes he stared at it and cried and felt the chasm in his soul open just a little bit wider. He didn't know how to close it, how to even begin -- and so he read.

Rupert Giles, the irritating man from however long ago, had graciously given him full-run of the Council's library and it was full of so much information, he wished he could have set up a cot and mini-fridge and just stayed in there for the rest of his life.

But he knew Alex wouldn't have wanted that for him, so he met all the Slayers -- made a point of it -- and even their allies, who dropped by on occasion or when it was what everyone he now knew called 'apocalypse season'.

It was his first 'season' and Willow, a young redheaded woman he could tell was just like him at some core level -- she couldn't get enough information, couldn't stop even when it brought her heartache and grief because she just had to know -- had reassured him.

"Eventually, you just get used to it and the research, Goddess, I don't even have to tell you how much fun that part is -- if not much else. But Buffy and Faith and sometimes Angel and Spike, depending on where everything's going down, they take care of it. Illyria, too. Connor, sheesh, you really have to meet everyone. I think if you gathered us all under one roof, we'd look like a graduating class. I should probably get around to telling you about everyone's nicknames and stuff, but you'll hear them soon enough. Gosh, everyone's so excited you're here, though -- they've seen your work and they're in awe, we're in awe -- sorry -- "

Willow paused then, forcing herself to breathe and apparently, counting under her breath. When she looked at him again, she was blushing.

"We, um, Xander, Buffy, and I -- we came up with this thing to make sure I remember to breathe while talking 'cause -- you know, an unconscious Willow is a bad Willow..."

Bobby had managed something approximating a smile for the first time in more than a month and she'd returned it with a bright one of her own before grabbing his hand without warning and dragging him over to the stacks. "You seriously need to see these. You'll love them and the best part is that unlike the stupid library, all -- "

Willow blinked at his flinching and frown and her eyes widened and then she sucked in a breath of horror. "Oh, my Goddess, I'm so sorry -- I forgot your mother was a librarian! Sorrysorrysorry!"

And she'd looked so contrite and upset, he couldn't help but forgive her and usher her forward and she'd breathed again and a breathing Willow was again a good Willow. She'd dragged him over to the shelves, acting like his way larger frame wasn't at all much of an obstacle.

"You just have to write down your name in the log book -- Giles calls it a ledger -- and the title of the books you're taking with you and the book -- it's done with magick, I should tell you -- keeps track of everything here and who's got what. I think it's more efficient just because of the mystical context. I don't think it's cheating at all. Some of the more important and rarer books we've put spells on so that if anyone tries to do anything to them or harms them, does something stupid like drop them in the bathtub, they get boils -- yeah we totally go with the plagues and stuff. And it works, so ha!"

He liked young Willow very much, he readily admitted.

But Xander was the one who intrigued him. It wasn't that they were anything alike -- the very idea made Bobby snort. He and Frank had been nothing alike, in most respects. Their only similarity -- if you could call it that -- had been an obsessive need for something, some kind of connection.

Frank had chosen drugs and alcohol, cheap sex, and momentary thrills. His older brother had chosen to try to emulate their father in all the worst ways and eventually it had gotten him killed.

Bobby had told him he never wanted to see him again, had told him he didn't care if Frank died -- hoped for it, in fact, after that one last stunt -- but he never knew if he'd really meant it.

Words made in haste were usually regretted, he knew, but at the same time, Frank had never given him reason to and perhaps Bobby mourned that more than his older brother, himself.

Bobby, instead had first chosen caring for their mother, not seeing any other choice or even once entertaining the idea that Frank would do so. He was their mother's namesake, sure, but he might as well have been a stranger. Bobby had vague, grainy memories of Frank hanging over the side of his crib when he was a baby, dangling a teddy bear at him and making it talk.

But that brother was long gone, as faded as the photograph Nicole Wallace had framed at their mother's grave. That he missed that brother more than almost anything else in the world -- the lone exceptions being Alex -- obviously -- his true faith and the mother who'd read to him and hugged him and hadn't been destroyed by the monsters within her own head -- was a secret he'd only told one other person.

And that person had taken that secret, herself, to the grave.

But he was rambling.

Xander was nothing like either of them and that was perhaps what had cemented it in his mind. He could tell just as easily as with all his fellow abuse survivors that Xander had been so, himself. But he'd managed to surpass it somehow, though Bobby wasn't certain. There were more mysteries about Xander than answers and that was the defining factor.

It was then that Bobby concluded that Mark Ford Brady had left his stain on more mothers than just his own. He didn't like to think that he had a passel of siblings running around in the world, but one was walking around here right under his nose.

He was rambling again.

He'd long ago given up the idea that he might ever think like a normal person. He wasn't normal, simple as that. But, now, as he sat at this table in the Watcher's Council Library being introduced to a younger man -- he'd guess twenty-nine at the oldest -- with an eyepatch and a curiously amusing (at least to him) habit of tilting his head (this time when he was agitated, not contemplative), Bobby's left eye winced shut in sympathy and he would have laughed if the situation weren't so disgustingly ironic and horrifying.

...No more a rake and no more a bachelor, I was wedded and it whetted my thirst -- until her womb started spilling out babies, only then did I reckon my curse...

Bobby sat on the information for a month, watching his brother become agitated being cooped up here in this building after so much freedom for so long. He sympathized, but couldn't agree because these walls had, instead, felt so safe to him in light of his world being destroyed in sharp increments like hardened sand in an hourglass.

Finally, he couldn't take it anymore -- or maybe they couldn't because it was actually Xander who'd come to find him.

"Okay, dude, either you're -- well, gay and harboring one hell of a crush on me and I have to say I'm flattered and all kinds of...well, actually, I'm slightly disturbed because everything in me says 'NO, WRONG, STAY AWAY' in huge, flashing letters, but -- "

He apparently didn't expect Bobby to start trying to hold in laughter because then he became offended and folded his arms, scowling, "And since I'm so obviously wrong, please -- by all means, kindly clue me in. It's rude to laugh when people don't know what you're talking about. Or, you know, at all."

Bobby was by then so amused that he didn't stop to think about the effect his words would have on Xander, but the look on his face -- now pale, his remaining eye hard and bright with anger -- gave Bobby instant pause.

Xander glared at him as though he were insane -- something else he was forever used to, "I don't have any sisters or brothers except the family I've fought alongside for thirteen years. What the hell is supposed to make me believe you when you just walk up to me and say you're my middle older brother -- and that we -- you have another older brother, except that he was murdered by your nemesis, who herself was murdered by your mentor, who went crazy along with his daughter, who kidnapped your partner to prove a point to the old bastard? That sounds like a fucking soap opera."

Bobby frowned deeply then, all humor gone in him again, and closed his eyes for a moment before quietly asking Xander to follow him over to the nearest bank of computers and letting himself drop heavily into the soft chair before one. From there, he accessed the NYPD database with ease, and (completely without guilt) from there using some of the many hacking skills Willow had taught him over the previous month.

He pulled up his own profile and then, alongside it, his brother's police record and his father's, as well -- that of his still-missing nephew Donnie (Willow had informed him that she would be glad to help him find him mystically when Bobby was ready and he'd nodded in acceptance) then his mother's medical records (forcing himself to ignore the red 'DECEASED' letters crossing them), and then finally the police record of Mark Ford Brady, this time staring blankly at the similarly obvious 'DECEASED' notation across his file.

Then he turned to Xander, who was staring at everything on the screen in what looked to Bobby like morbid fascination.

"You were an MP in the Army, recommended for Ranger," he heard Xander whisper and wondered why that struck him more than anything else, but forced himself instead to breathe and close his eyes, breathe again, and not slam his hands on the table like he wanted to more than anything else. Forced himself not to scream.

"Who the fuck is Mark Ford Brady?" he heard Xander mutter, the morbid fascination turned up a notch or three.

Bobby gave an empty chuckle, remembering how he'd torn Rodgers' lab apart when he found out that she'd violated his confidence. He'd forgiven her, for the most part, remembering the fear in her eyes and not wanting to be the monster of her daylight hours in those horrible minutes but not knowing how to stop himself or the rage that was consuming him cell by cell, blood vessel by blood vessel.

It all came down to fucking blood. Or not. He never knew who to believe anymore. He'd never been a part of the NYPD Boys' Club, thoroughly alienating the majority of them (Alex -- Alav Ashalom. He didn't know where that had come from, he hadn't been raised in his stepfather's religion (the man had never had any faith), but it felt right just then -- and Captains Deakins and Ross being the lone exceptions; he remembers Carver had been pretty patient with him, but he wasn't a cop, it wasn't the same) so much that their children freely mocked him even if they didn't know who he was, personally.

Suddenly Xander's hand was waving in his face, followed by his own. "Hellooooo! Anybody in there!"

Xander wouldn't know how much that particular question hurt, but Bobby couldn't blame him.

Bobby forced himself to meet Xander's eye.

"Please remove your hand from my face," he said as calmly as he could manage.

Xander shrank back, realizing he'd somehow touched a nerve. "Sorry, man, it's just that you were completely somewhere else."

Xander finally pulled a chair out and dropped himself into it, lounging easily despite his latent irritation. "So who's Mark Ford Brady? I mean, besides a serial killer and rapist and all around human vampire?"

Bobby flinched, the bandages on Alex's neck stark in his mind's eye. It was a moment before he said, quite flatly, "My biological father."

Xander was completely silent for almost a minute. Bobby counted the seconds in his head before Xander exploded out of the chair, yelling at the top of his lungs, "NO WAY, NO WAY! I MEAN, MY FOLKS -- MY DAD WASN'T THE BEST -- "

"Alcoholic? Gambling addict? Serial philanderer?" Bobby asked sharply, cutting Xander's words in half. Xander shook his head, his eyes still wide.

"No, no way -- my mom and dad were drunks, sure, but that other fucked up shit? NO."

Bobby sighed, "Did anyone ever tell you what I did at the NYPD before I came here? Why Rupert was so happy to recruit me in the first place?"

Xander scowled, "Nope. Didn't ask. You're here, you're in Watcher training, that's all that matters."

"Bullshit," Bobby snapped but then tried to reign in his temper. "Would you say that to any of the other newbies you've got coming in here?"

"None of them are saying -- "

"Ah, yes, I get it. Whatever. Since apparently they use magick for every fucking thing around here, let's settle this once and for all because I'll tell you, I don't use my gut. That's just a body part. I've got intuition, sure, but my mind is what I do and why Giles and Buffy brought me here. They want me to teach your slayers enough profiling to keep themselves alive as long as Buffy and Faith have been. They won't accept early deaths for Slayers anymore and if they want my help for that, then they can have it. Now -- listen to me!"

Xander, who had been fidgeting and clearly looking for an escape route, froze before relaxing and giving Bobby the ugliest look he could probably manage. Bobby, thoroughly used to the shit he was getting, merely rolled his eyes before continuing.

"We -- I'll talk to Willow and see if she can find a spell that'll tell us if we're related, since I probably won't be able to see a geneticist ever again."

Xander shook his head, "Why the hell did you want to know? Why the hell do you think I would want to know some shit like that, huh? Isn't it bad enough that I had Tony Harris as a dad? Why do I need..."

Xander sank back into the chair, crushing his hands through his hair before forcing himself to breathe again and again.

Finally, in a faint voice, Xander asked, "You called me 'Xander' as soon as you met me. You didn't call me 'Alexander'."

"Willow told me you don't answer to that," Bobby said plainly. "And the only person who ever called me 'Robert' is dead. My name is Bobby, your name is Xander. Simple."

"Why did you just walk up to me and assume we're brothers?" Xander asked in that same faint voice. "Lots of people have black hair and brown eyes and -- "

"Mark Ford Brady's hair was originally black, my mother -- whose eyes were brown -- told me, when she met him. My brother told me the same thing. She cheated on my father with him when Kennedy was elected. That's when I was conceived, she told me. I don't know when he raped her -- I was too young. My brother remembers, though. He says she came home all bruised and cut up. She had her first psychotic break not long after that, apparently. I was three."

Xander sat up straight, his eye wide before he glanced again at the computer screen and saw Frances Goren's medical file.

"Your mother was..."

"Paranoid schizophrenic," Bobby filled in the blanks. It no longer embarrassed him to talk about it. He'd grown out of that so long ago, it was now just a listing of a fact. "I don't know if she would have only been at risk otherwise, but I know that severe trauma of that nature can trigger the first of the patient's losses of touch with reality.

"If I were less...analytical, I guess...I'd say that son of a bitch made me who I am. Those sons of bitches. If I hadn't had to take care of my mother, if my biological father hadn't raped and murdered, if my father hadn't been an abusive, drunken, gambling-addicted son of a bitch and my brother a rather paler imitation..."

Bobby waved an exhausted hand. "Would I be Bobby Goren? Doubt it."

He sighed, "In case you're wondering, my -- at present -- older brother's name was Francis, he was named after my mother. I imagine he was supposed to be their only child. Whatever. I've tried to be a good mistake."

Xander was trying not to frown now, a faint line of tears in his eyes. "What if I said I didn't want any older brothers?"

Bobby shrugged. "Fine. You're entitled to choice."

Xander sneered, "The hell I am. I'm not anymore than you were." And here he leaned forward and glared at Bobby, his voice holding more than two decades' worth of pain. "Do you know what it's like to watch your best friend murdered?"

Bobby narrowed his eyes slightly and reached into his shirt and removed Alex's shield, as well as the cross his mother had worn until her death, and his own tiny shield of St. Michael, patron saint of police officers, which she'd given him the night she died, telling him she loved him for the first time in over forty years.

Telling him she was proud of him and everything he'd been, thanked him for everything he'd been for her. She started to say something else, but then her breath left her and she'd never been able to get it back. He'd closed her eyes and sat back, wanting to wait to press the call button, but in the end unable to.

Unable to be selfish.

Now he held Alex's shield in his hands and traced the numbers engraved in it. "Yes."

"Do you know what it's like to watch the woman you love die?"

Bobby's eyes shut of their own volition. "Yes."

Xander seemed impressed. "They were the same person, weren't they?"

Bobby opened his eyes again. He favored Xander with a flat stare, turning the tables.

"Do you know what it's like to be a punching bag, Xander?"

Xander flinched slightly, but held himself in check. "Yes."

"Do you know what it's like to be a pariah?"

Here, he snorted, "God, yes."

"Do you know what it's like to question your faith, wonder if it's even worth it?"

"Depends on who you're talking about having faith in, but yes."

Bobby found himself chuckling ever so slightly despite himself. "I never lost faith in her."

"Then you're the better of us, then, because -- as I recently found out -- my -- one of my lapses of faith sent my best friend's husband -- for all intents and purposes -- to Hell. One of them anyway. You know there's more than one now, right?"

Bobby nodded and frowned, "Why'd you do it?"

Xander fought another scowl. "Because at the time I didn't know what love was. I'm actually curious if I do now. I hate it but I am. I asked you earlier about the woman you loved, but I should have been more honest -- or at least asked more honest of a question."

Xander met his eyes again now and Bobby had to fight an inner chuckle. He saw that eye every day when he looked in the mirror, still united with its twin on each side of his face. But he'd wait for now.

"When did you know you loved her?"

Bobby blinked, the exact moment coming to him as easily as though it had just happened.

"When I found out she'd retracted a departmental request for a new partner. When she sat on a witness stand in front of me and couldn't even look me in the eye, could barely hold herself together she was trying so hard to speak, not to cry. When she thought she'd betrayed me. She knew I'd had more partners than anyone in the NYPD, living or dead. I'm sure you've heard they didn't like me. Didn't hide that fact.

"I knew for certain when I had to find the person who murdered her husband. I didn't give a damn about it being a case. I cared that it was -- the solve was wrong. Everything that she'd known was a lie and I had to find the truth for her and give it to her. I needed to give her real closure.

"It had been an accident, he'd only been a kid -- the guy. He spent his whole life afterward haunted by an accident. Became a doctor and tried to save lives to make up for the one he'd taken, but he couldn't get Alexandra Eames' husband Joseph Dutton's blood off his hands.

"Nicotine stains took the place of blood, but he could always see it and I could see the horror in his eyes, i-it was everywhere, actually. I...Alex and I both testified at his trial.

"As much as she'd probably wanted him to die, she asked the judge for clemency. For me, I think. Because she knew I didn't want him to die. And because she knew her husband wouldn't have wanted a thirteen-year-old soul -- h-he never grew out of that, you don't grow out of murder -- to be given a hotshot on his account. Kid's serving life in prison -- minimum security, he did get that -- they realized he wasn't anything more than a kid who'd been caught up -- without chance of parole.

"That actually gave her a bit of a black mark -- not that she didn't already have a bunch from working with me, let alone tolerating me, being my friend, my best friend. When a cop dies, we -- they're out for blood. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth isn't just a verse in a book to the police force.

"But I...we were okay with that and that's when I knew for certain that not only was she my whole life, she was part of my soul."

Xander sighed, "Wow. Yeah, I feel really wussy now."

Bobby frowned, "Why?"

"Because I probably would have asked them to let me put the needle in his arm."

Bobby blinked, "Oh. You said your best friend's husband. Do you mean Angel?"

Xander winced and it was a moment before he said, "Yeah. I was young -- which is no excuse -- and I was full of ideas of what my love for her were, but...that was just lust. I'm even...I'm worried about what my feelings for Anya were -- I left her at the altar.

"God, I'm as bad as your father and brother, I cheated on every one of my girlfriends. That or left them at the altar. I'm a real winner, me. Possessive of everything I don't have and careless with what I do."

Bobby fought the stab of dislike that threatened and forced himself to give Xander some benefit of the doubt. "Why are you in doubt?"

Xander took a deep breath and drummed his fingers on the table beside them slightly before making a fist. "Willow was the one who went to L.A. to tell Angel that Buffy was dead -- the second time, after the battle with Glory -- ah, Glorificus -- Hellgod bent on getting back to her home dimension and destroying not only ours but Buffy's younger sister to do it But Willow..."

Xander ran a hand through his hair, unable to keep from glancing up at Bobby's own hair, which he'd brushed regularly for the first time in months. He'd even shaved, but Xander didn't need to know all of that.

"Will -- she recently enlightened me about his reaction. Just talking about it made her cry so much, her magick surged and the windows cracked -- in the room? Like a spiderweb. He completely lost it -- she had to weave spells together to keep him from killing himself and then she and his team had to force-feed him blood, but he kept throwing it back up.

"Rightly thinking I wouldn't have been interested, she didn't tell me at the time. Eventually he got past it, in a way, but right then, if he could have run out into the sun, Willow said he would have. At the time, I was wrapped up in my own pain. I didn't give a damn how Angel felt, just like I hadn't when Buffy killed the man she saw as her husband because of the lie I told."

...And that's how I became your awful narrator, to be living so easy and free -- I expect that you'd think that I would be haunted, but it never really bothers me...

"I didn't care then. I do now."

Then they were silent for a long time, each staring at the other, trying to find similarities, but mostly seeing the differences.

"How old are you?" Xander asked him eventually and Bobby sighed, thinking it was at least a fair question.

"Forty-nine."

"So, twenty-one years older than me. If you're right, that -- well, I can't think of any other term I want to use -- cocksucker was out and about for way too fucking long. I assume they did give him the lethal injection."

Bobby nodded, his eyes closing again. "The same night my mother died. I wasn't there. I was with her. Fuck him."

"Shit," was Xander's reply but Bobby couldn't see his face and didn't care to.

Then Xander was quiet for a very long time. "Was Alex as good as your wife?"

Bobby's eyes flew open and he fought the way his mouth twitched again. "Why?"

Xander sighed, "Because you couldn't pry Buffy and Angel apart with a crowbar now. God, my best friend and her mate are gods or god-like creatures all of a sudden? Maybe something like actual angels or something -- Giles says they're called acolytes.

"But even before that, wherever they were in this world or any other, they could feel one another. Then there's the fact that Buffy has Angel's Mark and her blood in his veins, no matter how much animal blood he consumes. The same with Faith. It's freaky how much that guy gets around but don't tell anyone I said that because I like my head attached to my neck.

"Anyway, Angel's a Seer. Buffy was kind enough to tell me that. Angel affirmed it, though he hadn't known what it was at the time -- I mean, when he was human. But the point is that they have an especially deep bond with one another. He was in the Pylean dimension and sleeping when he just -- just woke up, out of nowhere -- gasping. It seems to happen that way most of the time. Hearsay, because I learned the hard way that asking vampires and Slayers about their mates is extremely rude -- but this happens a lot with Angel: something important happens and he might even know about it already. He dreams about it. I'm sure he's been a Seer his entire unnaturally long life and it's caused him a hell of a lot of grief."

Bobby was impressed with the way Xander was so very close to completely changing the subject, but he wouldn't let that happen.

"Not much of this -- as interesting as it all is -- has anything to do with what I was telling you or the impact it's having on you, or me -- though you've had a lot of practice at this, I'll give you the credit you're due. But you asked me a question and I asked why, but I'll answer it because perhaps the digression was my fault. The answer is...emotionally, yes.

"In every way, if I had been free to marry her, I would have. I didn't marry her for the same reason I didn't accept Rupert's original offer. She wouldn't have been my partner anymore and as backwards as I'm sure that sounds, it means I would have spent ninety percent of my time with another person. Or one hundred, in the case of accepting this offer before..."

"She died," Xander said softly and Bobby brought his fist to his mouth, this time not bothering to force the tears back again. He shook his head and sniffed hard before pulling out his handkerchief and pressing it hard into his eyes.

"I-I thought her maternity leave...was bad...God, that was just a warm-up. I felt like I was adrift at sea then. I'm at the bottom of-of the ocean now."

Bobby heard Xander sigh before there was a scrape of the chair backing up and he forced his eyes open to see Xander standing in front of him, somehow managing not to be at all threatening despite standing over him.

Alex used to say the same thing about him when it came to kids.

"What's this going to mean, us possibly being brothers? I need you to tell me. I'm already grown, I don't need anyone telling me what to do unless it's to do with Slayers or Watchers."

Bobby nodded, "It just means that each of us has a family member we can see and hear again."

Xander bit his lip, then -- in a rush -- admitted, "I don't feel bad for my mother. I...I'm not saying she had it coming, nobody deserves that, but...if she let Tony do what he did to me because she thought it'd hurt him? Then...then I can't care. Not now, not...not ever."

He was surprised when Bobby only nodded, but just decided to go with it. "I had the right to grow up loved, cared for, looked at as something other than some unfortunate two-person epidemic. The -- Willow and Jesse were my family, then Willow, Buffy, and Giles. Then...well, I've got a pretty -- we've got a pretty big family now if this is true so that's not a problem anymore. We've got acceptance."

Bobby nodded again, wincing slightly. "I'm...fairly certain your friend Willow might have a slight crush on me."

At this Xander snorted, "Hey, don't make me go picking sides. Besides, she tells me Kennedy was just a regular relationship, but Oz -- her ex, Daniel Osbourne, you've probably already met him."

As a matter of fact Bobby had, when the werewolf had dropped by for a short visit. He liked the quiet guy very much. Bobby nodded again.

"Yeah, she says Oz and Tara -- her ex-girlfriend, though they'd gotten back together. She was killed, but...I don't know, apparently, Willow can visit her on the ethereal plane, which...but anyway. They're Willow's mates. I mean, Oz is the werewolf, but Willow's his mate just like with Buffy and Angel. They share each other in a way, she tells me. I think Faith and Spike might be feral for each other, too, but I don't have any proof so I'll just keep that between you and me until they start with the gratuitous making out.

"Gee, I said 'gratuitous'. Giles'll be so proud. It's kind of weird. I don't really try to get into it because that not-human, 'you're my mate' stuff kind of goes over..."

Xander managed to peter off his babbling when something occurred to him. "You're not a werewolf, are you?"

Bobby sighed, "No, Xander, I'm not. And I'm not a vampire, either. I'm not a demon -- balancing or no -- of any species. I'm just as human as you."

Bobby tilted his head, raising his eyebrow. "You sound nervous when saying that."

And here Xander shot a glare at him. "We're not that close yet. We haven't even performed a paternity spell. Or, I guess, fraternity."

Bobby did not roll his eyes. "I understand. If it makes you feel any better, when I found out, I didn't take it well at all. I destroyed a medical examiner's lab because she violated my confidence to my superior. My feelings were out of control and so was I. I know that, but...I never apologized. She did to me, after Alex d -- died.

"She attended Alex's funeral and forced me to listen to her. She said she was sorry that she told my captain about...him. She said she wished she could take it back. She said I came to her with the expectation that whatever happened, it would stay between she and I unless I decided to tell someone I trusted. I did, I told Alex. But she said she let Ross railroad her -- "

"He sounds like a dick."

"He is. He doesn't particularly care. He's used to being seen as one so he uses it to his advantage."

Xander favored Bobby with a hint of a smile, "Sounds like you do the same, if not as a dick."

Bobby didn't return the smile, "I've never had much of a choice. But I accepted her apology and apparently that's all she was after. She understood why I wouldn't do the same in return. My captain courted the idea of me murdering not long afterward, so she wasn't looking for forgiveness."

Xander's mouth fell open, his eyes widening. "Okay, that -- that is not cool."

Bobby snorted, this time. "I assure you, Xander, no one in the NYPD -- or any police force -- cares very much about what's cool, much less with me. You said you knew what it was like to be a pariah so you know damned well why they wouldn't care. They just want to get their perp. The road there is immaterial."

"Are you sure we're brothers? 'Cause you're, like, really smart -- obviously -- and I'm not."

Bobby sighed. "I refuse to have a conversation with you about that. I'll just remind you that Willow said you, she, and Buffy were all in the same classes and leave it at that.

"Anyway, since we've been here for a very long time and it's now dark, care to show me what it's like to actually slay a vampire? Watcher training seems to keep dancing around that part and it's annoying as hell."

Xander bit back a laugh. "Fine, but since I missed lunch with this little chat, you're buying dinner."

"Deal," Bobby said simply, each of them rising. "I'll drop the bomb on Willow if you need me to since we need her to do the spell."

"Deal, but she's going to hug me first even if she does have any sort of crush on you."

"Yeah, yeah."

"You don't find it at all odd that I'm from California and you're from New York -- which part, by the way?"

"No. Serial killers don't usually stay in one place. Brooklyn. You're from Sunnydale, now let's go."

"Damn, you're bossy."

And they left the library.

They didn't touch, they didn't hug or any other maudlin expressions of unearned affection. But they weren't fighting and between the two of them it was more than enough for now.

FIN

The End

You have reached the end of "Triple-Sided Coin". This story is complete.

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