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The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

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

Summary: A Sequel to "The Iron Coin of the Jester". Xander has the Iron Coin, and with it, he can stop Fate's plans for his friends. But is change always good? Set during BtVS Season 3. Xander-Centric with a Xander/Cordelia pairing.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > GeneralAlkeniFR1524152,9801213139,98026 Sep 1216 Nov 14Yes

Episode 10: How To Conduct A Witch Hunt

Disclaimer: Nope. Don't own it.

As always, thanks to my beta readers: My girlfriend and Starway Man (Yes, I have my girlfriend beta-read my stuff. Sue me. :p)

The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

By Alkeni

Episode 10: How To Conduct A Witch Hunt

January 12th, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High

“Don't tell me to calm down, Giles!”

Spike again​? Xander absently concluded that it had to be, as he walked into the library. The blonde vampire had been at the top of Buffy's shit list ever since they’d encountered each other nearly two weeks ago, during that nasty battle during New Year’s Eve.

In Xander’s opinion, Buffy had developed...issues concerning Captain Peroxide. She was better than she'd been immediately after the vampire’s escape from the old factory, after he’d kidnapped Willow; but every time Willy sent the older Chosen One word of a rumor of a sighting of Spike, things immediately flared up again. Spike was still in Sunnydale, that much was clear – he'd even left her a taunting note, to that effect. But where he was hiding out, or what exactly he was up to – the details were missing.

The only thing that had gotten Buffy even more worked up than Spike and his whereabouts had been when that weird demon had haunted Angel’s dreams, and he’d had visions of his past victims following him everywhere he went. 'The First Evil', or whatever. Even though the Summers girl and Angel weren’t officially together anymore after she’d realized that what she wanted from him, she could never again have... wasn’t that easy to let go of the guy she loved, especially when Buffy was doing guest-starring roles in his dreams.

But still, that was all in the past now, and Xander kinda doubted Buffy’s rant was in any way related to her ex-boyfriend.

“I-I-I only meant...” Giles started slowly.

“They were kids, Giles. Little kids! You don't know what it was like to see them there. My mom can't even talk about it!”

Okay. Not what I expected.

“I'm sorry, Giles. I...I just, I’ve never seen my mom so upset like that.” Buffy bit her lip and looked away.

“I know. Joyce, uh, is a good woman, so i-it’s perfectly natural.” Giles went to the central table and sat down on it, reaching for his mug of tea.

Xander cut in. “Sorry, what's going on? I mean, what are you guys talkin’ about?”

“You haven't heard yet?” Buffy seemed surprised. “It was all over the news this morning!”

“Buffy, you know me. I don't go in for the news. You generally don't, either.” Harris pointed out.

“Yeah, but Mom had it on the entire morning.” The Slayer paused a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I went out patrolling last night, like usual, and Mom just sorta showed up in the middle of a fight. Weird as, she was acting like a mom-shaped Slay cheerleader! I had to chase after a vamp and she walked right into seeing them, in the park playground. Two kids... eight and six, maybe... and they were... just dead. It was...” Buffy's voice trailed off, lost for words.

Oh good...God... That sounded far too familiar. “What park?”

Buffy gave him a name. Xander bit his lip; he knew that park. And he knew its playground equipment. “There's a whole host of good childhood memories just tainted.” Harris muttered. At Buffy's look, he added. “When we were in second and third grade, Willow, Jesse, Cordy and I played there a lot.”

“Do we know how the two children died? It wasn't a vampire, I take it?” Giles took a sip from his tea.

“No.” Buffy shook her head for emphasis. “There weren't any marks.” Then she frowned, “No, wait...there was this mark...more like a symbol...” she grabbed a pen and quickly grabbed a book to sketch what she’d seen. Giles hurriedly reached over and took it from her, before the pen connected.

“Twelfth century Papal Encyclical.” He handed her a notebook. “Here, use this.” Nodding, Buffy drew something on the paper and showed it to Giles. Xander came around to get a look at the symbol.

“It was on their hands. The cops are keeping it quiet, but I got a good look at it. Find me the thing that uses this symbol and point me at it.” After a 'hmm' from Giles, Buffy added, “Hmm what? Giles, Speak.”

Startled from his thoughts, Giles explained. “What? Oh, sorry. Um, no, it... I just wonder if we're looking for a, uh, thing. The use of a symbol on a victim like this suggests a, a ritual murder, and a cult sacrifice by a group.”

“A group of...human beings? Someone with a soul did this?” Buffy's expression matched Xander's own feelings on the matter – disgust. Of course, people killed people. People killed kids. Even in Sunnydale, sometimes it is just people...

But if it’s a cult, Xander thought to himself, it’s probably a cult dedicated to some demon or another. Hey, Hellmouth. The odds are certainly in favor of it. He'd read enough comic books to understand that. Plus, yea, it was the Hellmouth.

“I'm afraid so. That would be the most likely scenario. The question is what significance the symbol had to the murder, be it about some sort of demonic patron, or perhaps a means to garner some power directly through sacrifice.” As he spoke, Giles crouched next to one of the bookshelves and started scanning the titles, selecting books.

“Okay. Then while you're looking for the meaning of that symbol thing-y, could you also find a loophole in that 'Slayers don't kill people' rule?”

“Buffy, don't be an idiot.” Xander cut in before Giles could say anything. “That Detective Stein guy is already itching for an excuse to throw you behind bars, remember? And do you really think, with the way things tend to work out around here, that doing something like that won't come back to bite you on the ass – somehow? Let's ignore all the moral stuff for a moment, because really, crazy people who kill kids because the demon in their heads told them don't really get to live. But you going to prison isn't the solution, either.”

“So what are you saying? That I should just let them get away with it?!” Off Xander’s look, and recalling that his dad had been murdered nearly two months ago and she still hadn’t found out for sure ‘whodunit’, Buffy exhaled slowly, biting her lip a moment. “Sorry.” She took a deep breath. “Just – I need to find out who did this.”

“I’m sorry too.” Xander echoed her sentiment. “Shouldn't have called you an idiot.” Buffy nodded and headed out of the library.

Once Buffy was safely out of the room, Xander approached Giles as the Watcher piled more books on the table. “Need to talk to you, British man.”

“Hmm? About what?”

“Those two kids – Buffy, Willow and Amy are going to get burnt at the stake in a few days, now that that’s come to pass. With piles of books instead of...wood, or whatever it is they used in the Salem witch-hunts. I think right here, in the library, though I'm not sure.”

Giles looked at Xander, looked at the books, and then looked at the symbol Buffy drew. Then his gaze flew back to Xander. “How-” He instantly cut himself off, recalling that angry conversation back in November when Xander had confronted him about the upcoming Cruciamentum. Rupert simply asked, “Is there anything else that you know?”

“Uh-uh.” Xander admitted softly. “I saw the kids, I recognized the Park – same place where Buffy said this happened at. But the only other thing I know is...burning at the stake.”

“That may narrow things down... but... I don't see the connection.”

“Me neither. Hell, there may not be a connection... I don't know. But in a few days, it’s gonna happen. Unrelated or not.” He gestured to the computer. “When you see Willow, tell her that I'm going to need her to get any information the police have found.”

“As you wish. Ah, Xander, I suspect we should consider worst case scenarios... if Buffy, Miss Madison and Willow are indeed in deadly danger that way...” Giles trailed off.

Xander nodded. “I’ll talk to Amy. I mean, hey, aside from cursing Deadboy with a soul, the only major thing Will’s been able to do mojo-wise is float a pencil...”

January 12th, 1999
Cafeteria, Sunnydale High

“So,” Oz noted, as they all sat down, with Buffy still in line getting food. “Buffy's birthday next week.”

“True. Still trying to figure out what to get her.” Xander noted.

“How do you get a gift that says 'hope this birthday doesn't suck as badly as your last one'?” Cordelia asked, looking around.

“Well, it’s just a thought – but I’d say we start by not jinxing ourselves, y’know, by making comments like that?” Willow shot back. “Positive thoughts, people!”

“Positive thoughts about what?” Buffy asked, taking a seat next to Amy and Willow.

“Just that test in History that's coming up tomorrow.” Xander lied calmly.

“Wait, there’s a test?” Buffy looked around, that half-confused, half-a little bit afraid look she did so well on her face. At the look on everyone else's faces, she laughed a little. “No reason to worry about it. This is one test I have down.” Then she sighed, her expression returning to the one she'd had all morning.

“What's wrong?” Willow asked. “Buff, you don't seem so good.”

“I'm not. You guys didn't hear?”

“Hear what?” Cordelia asked, eyeing the high school cafeteria food with distaste. She'd been in such a rush to get to school this morning...spent too much time lounging in bed with Xander... that she'd forgotten to grab something from home, and had to settle for the slop which they served here. Her dad had gone on another business trip. But, since he'd taken mom with him, and Cordelia had been able to bribe the maid to go home early every evening... Xander was free to spend the night at her place, and had done so, all week.

Jessica Harris had figured out what was going on eventually, of course. When pressed, Xander had eventually confessed that he was sleeping with Cordelia. The red-haired middle-aged woman hadn't seemed that bothered by it, all things said, but she had rather sternly warned her son to make sure he used protection each and every time; the Widow Harris did not want to become a grandmother yet.

Cordelia agreed with that sentiment wholeheartedly; she was only eighteen, and she so wasn’t ready to have a kid yet thanks to a moment of crazy passion. And granted it sucked that her parents still didn’t completely approve of her boyfriend; but the cheerleader was sure that by the time high school was over, she’d have talked them around to her way of thinking. It wasn't just the sex – but there was that, too... she smiled a little unconsciously.

Cordelia’s smile dropped from her face as soon as she heard what Buffy was saying, though: “A murder. Somebody killed two little kids.”

“Oh... God, no...” Willow said softly. “Wait – somebody? Not a demon or anything?”

“Giles doesn't think so.” Buffy answered. “They were or eight years old?” She guessed, going on. “Mom found the bodies during patrol last night.”

“Oh my God...” was Amy's response, echoing Willow.

Oz's reply was characteristic: 'Kids?'

“And big surprise, my mom's completely wigging. Why did she have to pick last night, of all nights, to come along and make patrol a surprise bonding visit?” Buffy complained.

“Wow, your mom would actually take the time to do that with you?” At Buffy's look, Willow hastily added, “No, sorry. Not the point.” She looked up. “Oh, hi, Mrs. Summers.” Buffy's head snapped around to see her mother standing behind her.

“Oh, hi everyone.” Buffy's mom said softly, looking like she hadn't slept.

“We, we were just talking about what happened last night.” Buffy said carefully.

“Oh, it's so awful. I-I had bad dreams about it all night. Buffy, have you talked to Mr. Giles yet about who could have done this?”

Nightmares? Oh, yeah, I believe that. Xander hadn't seen Mrs. Summers looking so vacant... so... flying on autopilot before.

“Yeah. He, uh... Giles thinks it might be something ritual-related. A cult. Uh, he's still looking. In the meantime, we're gonna add to my patrol and, and, y'know, keep an eye out.” Buffy shifted around in her seat.

“A cult? You witches?” Xander, Willow and Amy lit on that jump of a conclusion. Two of them for the same reason. Willow coughed audibly.

“Sorry. Phlegm. Too much dairy.” she covered.

“Oh, I-I-I know you kids think that stuff's cool. Buffy told me you dabble.”

“Yeah, right. Absolutely. Hehe... That's me. I'm a dabbler.”

Oddly, Joyce Summers continued on as if Willow hadn't said anything. “But anybody who could do this isn't cool. Anybody who could do this has to be a monster. It's...”

Buffy interrupted. “You know what? Uh, would you guys excuse us for a little bit?” She got up and led her mother out of the cafeteria,         the older woman getting out a 'nice to see you' to the others before she was led away from the table.

“What a burn.” Xander said, meaning it. “I mean, Buffy's mom was just starting to accept the whole Slayer thing, and now she's gonna be double-freaked.”

Willow's response was to smile. “Makes me grateful that my mom's not interested in my extra-curricular activities.” Amy smiled in turn, but then Willow frowned. “Or my curricular activities, for that matter.”

“Well, you can't really blame her.” Cordelia noted. “Buffy's mom, I mean. Of course she's gonna freak. Personally, I'm kinda surprised we're not all freaking every hour of every day, given what happens in this damned town. I mean, I can't be the only person who has nightmares about all this stuff, can I?” Of course, she knew she wasn't, but Cordelia wasn't going to talk about Xander’s nightmares for him. If he wanted other people to know, he'd tell them.

“” Oz said. “I suppose not.”

“Exactly. You know, it’s easy to get down on Buffy's mom over how she handles this, but...heck, every morning I half expect to wake up a raging crazy person.” Cordy laughed hollowly at the looks that crack earned her. “Okay, that's enough open heart surgery for the moment.”

January 12th, 1999
City Hall, Sunnydale

The Scoobies, plus Amy, walked into the main conference room to the big cluster of people – easily fifty, sixty, seventy even, at least. All of them waving signs containing pics of the dead kids, and the words 'Never Again' in big red capital letters. The crowd was agitated, and very animated.

Buffy smiled. “This is great. Maybe we could all go patrolling together later.”

“Patrolling?” Xander said. “Jeez, Buff, all they need are some pitchforks and torches, and we'd have a lynch mob ready to go.”

“Maybe they could do a bake sale.” Oz suggested. “So they could buy the pitchforks and torches.”

Willow looked around at the signs. “Wonder where they got the pictures from?” Her tone was idle, curious. “I mean, the police don't even know the kids' names yet.”

“What the hell was Mom thinking?” Buffy demanded, after one of the crowd started shouting that action was needed NOW.

“You could ask her.” Xander pointed. “And, hey – she's talking to your mom, Willow.”

“What? What's she doing here? My mom never-” Willow cut herself off and both she and Buffy went over to their respective parental units. Xander gave the room a quick sweep with his eyes, just to make sure that his mother wasn't here either. Though, to his lack of surprise, she wasn't.

“That's good.” He murmured.
“What's good?” Cordelia asked him, suddenly noticing that they were alone. As Amy had wandered off to the edge of the room, and Oz had followed after Willow.

“My mom's not here. After seeing Willow's mom here, I half expected to see her here.” Harris looked again. “Well, this is less exciting than I hoped. Wanna sit over there,” He gestured to some chairs, “while we wait for this to be done? May as well get comfortable.”

“Sure.” Cordelia and Xander walked over to the chairs and sat down. Cordelia pursed her lips softly, thinking, then she said, “While we wait for something, God forbid, interesting to happen, want to talk movie quotes?”

“We could. What movie?”

“Princess Bride?”

“Didn't we already do that one?”

Cordelia shook her head. “Nope. Probably because it seemed so obvious.”

“You're sure?” Xander was positive they'd done that movie before.

His girlfriend looked at him pointedly. “Xander. We haven't.” Cordelia tossed her hair back. “So, I'll go first. And none of the obvious ones.”

“Oh, come on, 'hello my name is Inigo Montoya' is a classic! It’s the best takeaway from the whole movie.”

“Yeah, but it’s the one everyone picks.” Cordelia pointed out. Then: “It’s probably some local fisherman, out for a pleasure cruise... at night... though eel infested waters.”

Xander shook his head. “No. Definitely: ‘I've hired you to help me start a war. That's a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition’.” Xander got the voice down perfectly. “That's a better Vizzini line, hands down.”

“I'll grant you it sounds good in the voice, but that's not even close. 'You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass.' is a better line.” Cordy shot back.

Xander shrugged. “Not really my style. Of course, they all pale in the face of the classic Vizzini line.”

“Of course they do. But we can't use it.”
“I switched glasses when your back was turned, haha you fool-” Xander started, then cut himself off, looking at Mrs. Summers speaking at the podium. “Okay, did she just say what I think she just said?”

Cordelia nodded. “If you think she said 'It belongs to the monsters and, and the witches and the Slayers', then yeah.”


“Doesn't sound like her at all.” Cordelia finished her boyfriend’s thought off perfectly. “And everyone else gets it too.” She nodded to Buffy and the others, all coming towards them, given their location on the edge of the room.

“Hey, Buffy, you have any idea what's up with your mom?”

Buffy shook her head at Xander's question. “No. I don't. But something's not adding up here. The police don't know who these kids are – no one knows anything about these kids' lives... just their deaths. Where are their parents? Who are their parents?”

“I don't know.” Xander admitted.

“Exactly.” Buffy said. “And witches – Mom just jumped straight to ‘witches are evil’ back at the cafeteria this afternoon, and then here – and you talked about lynch mobs, Xander.” She looked around the room, at all the people chanting 'Never Again' over and over and over and over. Giles was coming towards them, making his way through the agitated crowd.

When he finally reached them, he spoke. “Well... that was... unexpected. At least it’s good, I suppose, she didn't mention Watchers...” No one laughed.

“Giles, do you have any idea who these kids are? If the police don't know – and no one recognizes them? No one knows their names? Their parents? Where they went to school?”

Giles shook his head. “None of the people here seem to.” Giles said.

“And Mom – why is she bringing up the whole witches thing? And the way she said ‘Slayers’... and the kids.” Buffy was still latching onto them, the puzzle. “We know about their deaths... but not their lives.” She repeated. She murmured it again, as if on the cusp of something...then she said, “It’s’s like they sprang out of the ground, already dead or something...”

The Summers girl looked at Willow. “You need to find more out. More about these kids. They're the key.”

Willow nodded. “Definitely.” She looked back at Sheila Rosenberg, at her mother raising up a sign and chanting 'Never Again' alongside the others. “The sooner things are back to normal... well, the less weird everything will feel.”

January 13th, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High

“These kids-” Willow brought up some search results. “Here's what I found.” It was a newspaper article, with the dead children right there, next to the newsprint.

“Look at the date. Fifty years ago.” Willow brought up another one. No picture, but the headline was telling.

“1899. Utah... Two Children... Rural Community Torn Apart by Suspicion.” Oz said softly, reading over Willow's shoulder. “But still no mention of who they are?”

“A hundred years ago? How is this possible?”

Cordelia looked at Giles. “Hello. Hellmouth?”

“But when it happened fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago, it wasn't here in Sunnydale. And, and there's no Hellmouth at either of these locations...” Rupert looked confused.

“Oh, hey, it gets better.” Willow bit her lip and brought up one more. “It took me a while, but I managed to find stuff like this happening every fifty years, right on schedule. In rural Italy, in 1849. Poland in 1799. England 1749. Germany, 1699. And Germany again, 1649.” Willow stepped away from the computer to let Giles have a look at some kind of scanned book, hand written, a hand-drawn picture of the two children – in exactly the same pose as the pictures on the signs.

Giles sat down at the chair and took a look. After a moment, he started to translate. “Written by a cleric from a village near the Black Forest. He... found the bodies himself. Two children... Greta Strauss, age six...Hans Strauss, eight.”

“So they have names.” Xander said softly. “That's new.”

“Hans and Greta. Six and eight. Guys! It’s Hansel and Gretel. That's why it’s, it’s witches. That's why my mom's like that – that's why those jocks were going after Amy and Michael earlier!” Buffy exclaimed.

Giles nodded. “Of course. There are demons that prey on humans – not directly...but by fostering hatred and, and...persecution amongst the mortal animals. They feed not by destroying men, but by men destroying each other. So, they feed us our darkest fear and turn peaceful communities into a hotbed of vigilantes.”

“Hansel and Gretel run home to tell everyone about the mean old witch...” Buffy stated.

Giles continued. “And then she and probably dozens of others are persecuted by a righteous mob. It's happened all throughout history. It happened in Salem, not surprisingly. Not these two, specifically, but some other kind of fear or paranoia demon.”

“How do I stop them?” Buffy demanded.

“I don't know... if we can identify the demons... there might be some spells, incantations that could lift the illusions they're using to mask themselves, to trick people-”

Before Giles could get into full Watcher mode again, Amy burst in. “Principal Snyder is coming this way. He's got a bunch of cops with him – they're checking every locker. Taking away any kids that have 'witch stuff' in there. Books, herbs... anything. And I heard them talking – they're definitely going to hit the library too.”

Giles got indignant. “How dare they-!” He abruptly cut himself off and looked at Xander. Books, burning... Xander had the same thought.

“Giles. What are the books that would have the spell you'd need to stop these things?” Xander was instantly all business.

“I-I'm not sure.” He rattled off five titles, two in Latin and three in German. “If that loathsome little man is coming here, though, it would be best to get them out of the library – out of his sight.”

“Drop them out the window. I’ll go outside and grab them. And maybe one or two more really important ones. Where are they, anyway?”

Giles stood and started pulling the books off their shelves. He entered the cage to grab the other three. Oz opened the window just enough for Xander to drop books through two at a time.

“Carefully!” the Watcher admonished him, simply unable to help himself.

“You want these books extra crispy? Didn't think so.” The last book was thrown out through the window right as Snyder and four policemen came in.

“Mr. Giles. You know why we're here?” Snyder demanded smugly.

“Because you're a twisted little fascist troll.” Giles said. “Get out of my library.” He pointed to the cops. “And take your, your marauders with you!”

“I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning.” Snyder took a sip from his coffee mug, as the cops started gathering books off the shelves and tables.

“You can't do this. It’s not even legal!” Buffy said, looking at the Sunnydale PD uniform officers as they silently threw the books into a pile on the floor to be taken away.

“I believe I can, missy. Oh, you can fight it if you want. Just remember, lift a finger against me, and you'll have to answer to MOO.” Snyder smirked nastily as he said that part.

“Answer to MOO? Did that sentence just make some sense that I'm not in on?”

Snyder just looked at Buffy a moment, and then decided to humor her. “'Mothers Opposed to the Occult.' A powerful new group.” He sipped his coffee again.

“And what moron came up with that lame-ass name?” Buffy demanded.

“That would be the founder. I believe you call her Mom.”

January 15th, 1999
City Hall, Sunnydale

Joyce beamed cheerfully at her daughter, completely under the influence of the Hansel and Gretel demon by this point. “Now then, Buffy, don’t make this any harder than it has to be. Okay?”

Buffy looked uncertain, glancing around at Willow and Amy; who were tied up at the stake, just as she was. “Mom, you don’t want this...”

Her mother looked somewhat annoyed at hearing that. “Since when does it matter what I want? I wanted a normal, happy daughter. Instead, I got a Slayer.” Sheila handed Joyce a torch with which to light the bonfire and the blonde woman said to her, “Thanks! This has been so trying, and you have been such a champ.”

“Oh, you too, Joyce,” Mrs. Rosenberg replied perkily.

“We should stay close. Have lunch,” Joyce offered.

Sheila nodded. “Oh, I’d like that. It sounds very nice.”

The book pile kindling was finally set aflame, and at that moment, the two supposedly dead children appeared. “They hurt us,” the little girl said.

“Burn them!” added the little boy.

There was a brief disturbance near the back, as Oz tried to force his way through. “No! Stop!” he shouted.

Various members of MOO quickly grabbed and restrained the male teen. The full moon wasn't due for weeks yet, and the werewolf was Joe Normal apart from those three nights a month. But then Faith, Giles and Xander showed up, and the dark-haired Slayer instantly smashed the glass door of the nearby firehose box.

“Stop her!” Joyce yelled to her followers.

Too late; the dark-haired Chosen One quickly turned on the water, and sprayed the gathered people with the pressurized liquid to force them back. Xander went to release Buffy and Willow, as the people holding Oz finally let go and he rushed towards the captive females as well. Giles started chanting in German, casting a spell to make the demon appear in its true form and release its thrall on the townspeople.

“Faith! Water!” Xander yelled. The flames were now too high for him and Oz to approach any closer.

“On it!” she yelled back, and quickly doused the flames. The rescuers then quickly got to work.

Giles saw the so-called ‘children’ approach him, and quickly finished the spell. He then smashed a potion bottle on the floor at their feet. As the fumes enveloped them, the pair turned to each other and embraced. Their outlines quickly shifted and grew, changing into one huge-ass demon.

“Okay, that’s different,” Xander muttered to himself, momentarily taken aback at the demon’s unorthodox reaction before he and Oz released the women.

“Oh my God!” Joyce said, eyes wide as she was released from the demonic mojo. The rest of the MOO organization suddenly decided the climate would be more congenial elsewhere and began running away.

“Protect us! Kill the bad girls!” the giant demon growled with an inhumanly deep voice.

“Yeah, y’know what? Not as convincing in that outfit,” Buffy muttered. As the demon charged towards her, with her hands finally free Miss Summers grabbed the wooden pole she’d been tied to and shoved it into the demon’s left eye, as soon as it was close enough.

“And they all lived happily ever after. Oh, and that’s no fairy tale,” the blonde Slayer quipped in relief as the Hansel and Gretel demon fell down dead. Just to make sure though, she took the knife that had cut her ropes from Xander and cut the demon up for a few minutes. It had played dead once before.

January 15th, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High

“So, wait, you decided to let yourselves get tied to stakes and get burned​?” Cordelia looked from Willow, to Amy, to Buffy. “What the hell were you thinking?”

“The demon wasn't showing itself – the bodies of those two kids had vanished from the morgue. Hey, it seemed like the best way to get the thing to show up.” Buffy shot back.

“And if it hadn't? We'd have had Crispy Buffy. And a side of Crispy Willow and Crispy Amy!” Cordelia snorted in disbelief.

“No, Cordelia. Amy cast that flame-retarding spell on all three of us. We wouldn't have gotten burned-” Willow started to say.

“Well, not immediately.” Amy cut in. “If we'd been there for much longer, though? I don't think my spell was that powerful.”

“It was powerful enough.” Willow pointed out. “You've really got this magic thing going for you, huh? I’m actually kinda jealous.”

“Thanks.” Amy said with a smile.

“Well, it all worked out in the end. Giles came in, said some stuff in German and threw that- magic grenade?” Buffy added.

“Ritual focus potion.” Giles supplied, re-shelving his previously confiscated books.

“Whatever. And then the two kids turn into this one demon – really just freaky-looking. Xander cut the ropes tying my hands while everyone else ran, and afterwards I killed that damned thing before we got rid of the remains.”

“You all but turned it into a demon-burger.” Xander said. Then he screwed up his face in disgust.

“You're not getting that image out of your head anytime soon.” Oz said sagely.

“Not ever, I think.” Xander looked at his hands a moment.

“Yes, well, to change topics completely, Buffy, I need to speak to you a moment, in my office.” Giles gestured as he straightened up. Buffy looked confused for a moment, but followed him in. Giles closed the door behind her.

“Wonder what that’s about?” Faith asked, who had remained silent up until now.

Only Xander knew, or at least thought he knew, what it was about. Buffy’s birthday was only four days away; thus it was time for her to learn what the Cruciamentum was.

One could only hope that a Slayer-shaped bomb didn't explode out of the librarian’s office in the next few moments...
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