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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 > GeneralAlkeniFR1524152,9801213139,98726 Sep 1216 Nov 14Yes

Episode 16: The Investigation

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related entities. I do own The Iron Coin and the Jester, etc., as they are sever-able from the fandom. No money is being made off of this fanfic, and if Whedon or whoever else owns the rights to BtVS wants to sue me over this, they're welcome to my non-existent money.

Thanks to Starway Man, my Beta.

The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

By Alkeni

Episode 16: The Investigation

February 14th, 1999
Mayor's Office, City Hall, Sunnydale

Mayor Richard Wilkins looked up, as the door to his private office opened. Checking both the time and his appointment calendar, he knew who his visitor was. A flash of anger flared up in him, for actually having to do that – it had been Alan's job to keep his appointments in line, of course, but now that those darned Slayers had killed him...

Luckily, it required little effort on his part for the Mayor to clamp down on his anger. Keeping himself under control was something he had a lot of experience with, over the last century or so.

“Please, Detective Stein. Come in.” Wilkins stood up and gestured for the police detective to enter his office. Once the man was inside, Wilkins gestured for him to close the door, which he did. “Now then, sit.” He gestured to the chair on the other side of his desk. Only when Stein was seated did Wilkins sit back down. “You're the one leading the investigation into Alan's death?”

Stein nodded. “I am, Mr. Mayor.” The plain-clothes cop looked around the room, thinking that something was a bit off about the office...but then he figured out what it was. The handful of other times Stein had been in here, to talk to the Mayor about other high-profile cases that had come up, the Deputy Mayor had always been in the room. 

But now Finch was noticeably absent. And the usual plate of confectionery sweets that the Mayor always offered guests wasn't present, either.

Though, given the circumstances, I'm not really that surprised. Stein considered to himself. He returned his thoughts to the matter at hand, as Wilkins began to ask questions.

“Have you made any progress? Who killed him? Why would anyone kill him? Alan was a good man, and a close friend.” The Mayor looked across the desk at Stein. “Do you have anything so far?”

Stein nodded. “We have witnesses placing two young women, a Faith Lehane and a Buffy Summers, near the site of Deputy Mayor Finch's death, around the time that he was killed. But there's nothing concrete tying them to the murder.” He sighed. “What's more, they're providing solid alibis for each other, and so far, their stories seem to be holding up.”

“You think one of them is covering for the other, then? Any idea which?” And once I find out which one of them did it....

If the police investigation didn't turn anything up soon, Wilkins had already determined that he would carry out his own inquiry to get the answers he needed. Richard was a man of his word, and just as Alan's grandfather had sworn an oath of loyalty to him on behalf of himself and his descendants, Wilkins had made his own oath to his vassal and to those descendants. They were part of the magical bindings connecting Wilkins and most of the other high offices in Sunnydale, dating all the way back to the day he'd founded the city...

Besides, Alan had been his friend. And no one killed any of his friends and got away with it! It just wasn't seemly. Why, people...and not-people...might get the wrong idea that I'm no longer in control of Sunnydale.

Wilkins kept this second flare of anger under control just as he had the first. It was just not good for him to be getting this upset and angry. Just not healthy!

“I think so, Sir.” Stein answered. “But I don't know which one, and I'm hesitant to press the matter too hard – the evidence against them is circumstantial at best, and we run the risk of a lawsuit for harassment if I step over the line that way. I doubt the interrogation room approach is going to accomplish anything, either. I've already filed a couple of search warrants with Judge Palmer that might give us something we can present in court, but if those girls are smart, there won't be anything to be found at either of their homes.” Stein shrugged. “To be honest, sir, I don't thinking charging either of them with the murder will work. At least not without a lot more evidence, or a signed confession.”

“Don't worry. I understand, Detective.” Wilkins replied. “Just make sure that you find out who did it, and that they're brought to justice.”

“Of course Mr. Mayor.” Stein started to stand up. “If I may return to the investigation?”

Wilkins nodded and gestured to the door. “Of course. Keep me updated on your progress.”

“I will, sir.” Stein left the room, closing the door behind him. 

Once Detective Stein had gone, Wilkins stood up and lowered the blinds for all the windows in the room. “All right, you two can come out now.” The door to the side office opened, and Trick and Spike came out. 

“So?” Trick got straight to the heart of the matter.

“As long as which one did it remains in doubt, neither of you are to go after them. Remember that.” Wilkins wagged his finger in their direction.

“You really reckon that berk is gonna figure out which one of 'em killed Finch?” Spike asked sardonically.

“He might, or he might not.” Wilkins said absently. “But appearances have to be maintained, either way.” Richard then went back over to his desk and sat down.

“And if he doesn't?” Trick asked the obvious question.

“I have alternate methods for finding out which of the Slayers killed Alan. Favors I can call in, deals I can make.” Wilkins answered. “Either way, once we find out which one did it, that Slayer dies. In the meantime, I suggest you start rustling up some boys and girls to help you out with that.” Wilkins smiled. “After all, who doesn't want a piece of killing a Slayer?”

“Oy, I don't need any help to kill the bloo-” Spike immediately cut himself off. The last thing he needed was this ponce 'chastising' him for bad language again. “Blonde chit.” He finished. “I've already killed two, I can kill my third easy enough.”

“Way I heard, you spent over half a year trying to kill her, and she beat you every time.” Trick shot back, smirking.

“Like you've had any better luck taking them out? Yeah, I heard about your 'brilliant' Slayer-fest thing, mate.” Spike countered derisively. “Don't even have the balls to go up against them yourself, do you?”

“What can I say? I happen to like staying among the undead.” Trick replied. “Nothing wrong with stacking the deck in my favor, is there?”

“As long as the Slayer who killed Alan ends up dead, I don't care how you two manage it.” Wilkins cut in. “Now, I have another meeting in fifteen minutes which I need to prepare for.”

February 14th, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High

Instead of being in the cafeteria for lunch, everyone was sitting or standing around the library. Buffy, Faith, Giles, Wesley, Xander, Cordelia, Amy, Oz, and Willow; every member of the gang apart from Angel, as a matter of fact.

“...and that's the state of things, I'm afraid.” Giles said, settling his glasses back on his nose. “If the police can manage to prove that Faith killed the Deputy Mayor, doubtless she'll be charged with murder. And while I'm confident that the Council's legal resources will be able to keep her out of jail, i-it will nonetheless create...complications.”

“What about this tribunal thing you mentioned?” Oz asked, holding Willow's hand. As the only two people left in the group who hadn't known about what had transpired the night before last, they were still coping with the revelation of what Faith had done. Fortunately, neither he nor Willow seemed inclined to shun the brunette Slayer – they were still clearly having some issues with the 'Faith killed a guy' part of it, but...well, it was an accident...and they knew Faith. Both of them believed that she really was feeling genuine remorse for her actions, and so were sticking by her.

Oz in particular had taken it all in stride, or at least seemed to, in his usual stoic manner. It was hard for anyone else to really get a handle on what exactly went through his head.

“The Council won't be sending one.” Giles replied to the werewolf's question. “At the recommendation of both Wesley and myself,” he looked to the other Watcher, who was fidgeting nervously, as if uncomfortable. “the Council has agreed that facing a tribunal would not be the best thing for Faith, all things considered.” He smirked, despite himself. “No fact-finding mission will be coming here, either, as the Council's forum accepted our report that the death was accidental during the heat of battle. Quentin Travers is absolutely furious about that, apparently.”

“Sounds like good news to me.” Buffy all but spat. “Maybe his head will explode.” Wesley started to stutter in indignation, but Giles interrupted him before he could get any words in.

“If only we'd be so lucky. Regardless, though, we have more than just murder charges to worry about.” Giles looked over the group.

“Yeah.” Faith nodded. “We've got a black hat mayor around here that hires vampires to do his dirty work. Since Finch worked for that guy, I don't think I'd end up getting a fair trial before a jury of my peers, or whatever all that crap is.” Faith was leaning back in her chair, two of its legs off the ground, both her feet on the edge of the table, arms crossed in front of her.

“But why would he only want to kill one Slayer?” Willow asked slowly. “I mean, if he's the bad guy, shouldn't he want both of you dead?” She held up her hands, “Not that I want him to want both of you de- I mean...” She trailed off.

“Yeah. It's a good question.” Amy agreed. “I mean, if Mayor Wilkins is the one who's bossing Spike around, then why did he tell that vamp to help us, when those...Sisterhood demons showed up?”

“I-” Wesley started, then cleared his throat. “That is, I may have an answer to that question. Or part of one, anyway.”

Xander looked over to him. “Wait. You actually did something useful for once? Well, share with the rest of the class then.” He gestured from Wesley to the entire group.

“Xander.” Giles looked at the younger man pointedly. Harris just rolled his eyes, less than impressed with the rebuke.

Wesley cleared his throat again, then started to explain. “The current Mayor of Sunnydale is, as we all know, Richard Wilkins III. And according to my research, Sunnydale has only had three mayors in its history. Richard Wilkins I,” Wesley put a piece of paper down on the table – a photocopy of some old-looking black and white picture. It depicted a cheery-looking man standing with a group of people, all of them dressed in late 19th century period clothing. “Richard Wilkins II,” Wesley put another photocopy of another picture on the table, a picture of...the exact same man, albeit a color photo this time, standing with several politicians, a banner behind them indicating the year was 1952. “And Richard Wilkins III.” Wesley put a picture of the current Mayor of Sunnydale, looking like it was taken from a newspaper or right off the television.

All three men looked exactly alike.

“Strong family resemblance?” Willow offered weakly, looking at the pictures.

“I rather doubt it.” Giles replied. “I suspect they're the same person. All three of them. They're too identical. And if you think about it, how old must Richard I have been before fathering a son? Look at the date on the, the second photograph...”

“But Mayor Wilkins can't be a vampire. He's been out in the daylight, I've seen it.” Cordelia cut in. “A couple of years ago, I was with my parents at some fundraiser for one of the candidates running for state governor. I remember seeing the Mayor there – he was outside along with the rest of us, and it was definitely sunny.”

“Yes, well, be that as it may, being turned into one of the undead isn't the only way to become immortal. Or at least live a long time.” Wesley said. “The thing is, there are any number of demons that might, with proper inducement-” Wesley's voice firmed up as he started to enter lecture mode.

Giles held up a hand and interrupted the other Watcher. “Perhaps the details can, ah, wait for later, Wesley.” Steepling his fingers a moment, Giles continued. “If he has indeed been alive and running Sunnydale for the last hundred years, then it would seem that Wilkins is, or has been, playing some sort of...long game. I, I would surmise that the Sisterhood opening the Hellmouth and bringing about the apocalypse wasn't part of his plans.”

“He doesn't want to share with the other kids.” Oz suggested. Everyone looked to him, several of them raising eyebrows. “Richard Wilkins I founded Sunnydale. If he's the same guy, and he's evil...”

“Then he's known about the Hellmouth the entire time!” Cordelia cut in. “And...oh my God, that would explain why all the cops around here are so completely useless!”

“And why there are so many convenient sewers and electrical tunnels that the vampires can move through so easily.” Willow said, her mind working quickly. “I mean, for that to happen, I'd always figured a vampire must have gotten involved with city planning at some point...but if it was him all along then I didn't guess right and oooh, that makes me so darn...” Willow stopped talking when she saw the amused look on Buffy and Xander's faces. “Sorry. I, I was babbling again, wasn't I?”

“A little.” Xander shrugged. He clapped his hands together a moment, punctuating his next words. “So! We have an evil mayor who wants to kill Faith and who's been running Sunnydale for the last hundred years, pulling the old Highlander routine this whole time...” 

Oddly, out of all the people at the table, only Cordelia seemed to get the reference. Xander looked at them all. “You know...supposedly dying and then inheriting everything as his own 'son'. Highlander. Oh, come on – none of you guys ever watched the movie, or the TV show?”

“Pop-culture references aside, you have restated the situation quite nicely.” Giles replied, ignoring the question.

“Yeah, you're showing your grasp of the obvious.” Amy agreed. “And...?”

“That's exactly my point.” Xander replied. “Okay, it's not looking that good, but what exactly can we do about it? Alright, so, the Mayor's evil, but we can't simply walk into City Hall and kill him. Well, I'm assuming it's just not that simple, anyway. And it's not as if two Slayers can't handle a bunch of vampires, right?”

“Spike and Trick aren't exactly your standard fledglings.” Buffy pointed out.

“O-obviously not.” Giles agreed. “But if you two stick together during patrol, then you should be able to hold off any attack – or, or at least manage to hold them off long enough to get behind a threshold, if it comes to that.”

“And what about after those two vampires are dealt with?” Wesley cut in, looking thoughtful. “Does it seem likely to you that the Mayor will just give up on killing Faith, even if both Trick and Spike are dealt with?”

“A little premature, maybe?” Oz offered.

“Quite.” Agreed Giles. “Wesley does have a point in that we need a strategy to deal with Wilkins once and for all, and sooner rather than later. At the moment, however, we just don't have adequate information.” Clearing his throat, he continued. “At the moment, as I say. But –” 

The sound of the bell going off interrupted Giles. Lunch break was over. The librarian then added, “We shall have to continue this discussion later, I suppose; those of you who need to get to class, h-had better do so.”

February 14th, 1999
Library, Sunnydale High

“Can't we do something other than levitating pencils?” Willow almost pleaded, exhibiting a stereotypical 'puppy-dog eyes' expression a couple of hours later. “We've been working on that for over a week! I know how to do it. And then some!” Closing her eyes a moment, Willow focused her mind. Four pencils rose off the table and started twirling around. “See?”

Giles cleared his throat and dropped the heavy tome he was holding onto the table. It landed with a loud thud. Three of the pencils fell back on to the table. The fourth went whizzing past Willow's head, missing Amy by mere inches as she walked into the library.

“I'm going to assume that that wasn't on purpose.” Amy said with a laugh as she walked over to yank the pencil out of the wall. Despite her amused affectation, part of her was twisted up in knots, like she always was when she entered the library. Would Giles realize that the book he thought he'd 'misplaced' was actually stolen? By her?

And what else would that...person, whoever it was, demand of her?

“Levitating pencils is about more than just power or knowledge, Willow.” Giles said calmly. “It's about concentration, a-and control. Self-control. I don't doubt the power that either of you possess – no one who has the raw power to return a soul to a vampire, or...explode someone's heart from their chest with limited ritual is lacking for power.”

“Unfortunately,” Giles continued, stepping away from the table. “The two of you are quite young for such power, and the historical record is unfortunately full of young and powerful casters that, lacking proper control of their talents, eventually ended up...” Rupert's voice trailed off, and he shrugged. “Well, it's not exactly pretty. I could give you examples, but then we'd be here for days.” Though it would be a good idea to extract a few examples from my texts for our next lesson...

Giles pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I don't think e-either of you would willingly use your magic for ill, but...losing control of one's magic can lead to results just as catastrophic as, as using it for evil purpose. As your near skewering of Amy showed.”

Willow nodded, looking a little sheepish. “Alright.” As much as she wanted to keep learning more – and she was, at home and whenever she had the opportunity otherwise...Giles was right. Control was important.

If I was British like him, maybe I could just stiff-upper-lip my magic into line. Despite what Giles had just said, a smile rose to Willow's face at that thought. Only for a moment, though.

“Then we shall continue with levitating pencils, for now.” Giles said. Amy handed him the pencil that had almost hit her and he set that on the table with the others. “I promise to try and come up with something slightly more...entertaining than levitating pencils for next lesson. Begin, a-and do your utmost to control your emotions. Self-control, as I said.”

Amy and Willow both took chairs and moved them so that they were some five feet from the table. Once they were seated, they both looked at the pencils on the table. Both pencils rose up on either end of the table, and both witches brought them over towards them, letting them hover in front of them.

“Now, stop levitating your pencil and switch to levitating each other's pencils. Try not to let either fall, if possible.”

Opening her eyes, Amy let her magic release one, and looked to the left as Willow released hers. In a magical 'move' well practiced by this point, Amy took over levitating the pencil in front of Willow. Willow managed the transition just as easily.

“Excellent. Now, move them back to the table and set them down gently before releasing them.” Once the girls had done as he had told them, Giles started to tap lightly on the table, to a rhythmic pattern. “Good, now do it again. I will increase the volume and frequency of the tapping progressively. Do not let it distract you. Begin.”

February 14th, 1999
Outside the Icarus Restaurant, Sunnydale

Under normal circumstances, Xander didn't like driving his dad's car anymore. It felt too...morbid, for want of a better word. His father wasn't even six months in his grave, and here he was, 'profiting' from it. Still, there were times when the young man was actually willing to drive the Harris-mobile. Such as tonight. 

Because when you're the one taking the girl on a Valentine's Day dinner date...well, it just doesn't work if she's the one who does the driving.

Pulling into a parking spot, Xander switched off the car's ignition,  took out the keys and got out of the vehicle. Moving quickly, he checked himself as he walked around the car. Among the many outfits Cordelia had insisted on buying for him since they'd started dating had been clothes that had to be hung up, and ironed – and even dry cleaned. Fancy restaurant clothes, that is.

Hatred of clothes shopping aside, Xander spared a moment's gratitude to Cordelia's insistence on the subject. If not for that, his options for what to wear tonight would have been more limited, and...

Well, given that he was still in the doghouse with his girlfriend, Xander wanted to pull out all the stops that he could tonight. He'd already been planning on bringing her here for the last month – he'd actually made reservations a few weeks ago. Just...well, now he had to make sure everything was better than perfect.

Xander opened the passenger side door for Cordelia. “Shall we?” He proffered his arm.

Cordelia took his arm as offered. “You know, I didn't think you had it in you.” Cordelia said with a smile. “I wouldn't have thought that you of all people could get a reservation here, so close to Valentine's Day.”

“Give me some credit.” Xander replied. “I made the reservations weeks ago.” He leaned in and gave Cordelia a quick kiss on the cheek. “Given how bad our last Valentine's Day went...well, I didn't want to take any chances that I'd screw up on this one.”

“Xander, Valentine's Day is important, but-” She cut herself off as they walked inside.

“Reservation for Harris, party of two.” Xander told the maître d'. Tonight was definitely going to use up a big chunk of his road trip money. But hey, Cordelia was well worth it.

As one might expect for one of the few truly fancy restaurants in Sunnydale on Valentine's Day, Icarus was crowded. But there were some tables left – all of them reserved. Once they were led to their table and handed their menus, Cordelia continued. “The important thing about Valentine's Day is that you actually try to do the right thing by me. Which you have. Look, Xander, I know I said some things to you the other night...things you damn well deserved to hear, don't get me wrong...but I still love you. I'm not going to break up with you, if things don't go one hundred percent perfect this evening.” Then she leaned in a little, smirking. “Though I was considering adding onto the month...”

“You wouldn't be that cruel, would you?” Xander replied, only half-serious. He knew she would, if she really felt the need.

“Of course I would.” Cordelia looked at the menu. When the waiter finally arrived, Xander couldn't help but wince internally when he checked the prices of what she was ordering. Break up with me? No. Break my wallet? Apparently she's all for that.

February 14th, 1999
Chase Residence, Sunnydale

Cordelia leaned her head against Xander's shoulder as they sat together on the couch, just enjoying each other's presence late at night. “Okay, I'll give you this: tonight was the best Valentine's Day date I've ever had.” She smiled. “Much better than last year.”

“Sweetheart, I think just about anything would qualify as better than last year. I mean, after you dumped me at the Bronze and then I...oh, I really screwed up, let's face it.” Xander held his arm around her shoulders.

“Well, yeah, you did screw up, but it's not like I was being the world's best girlfriend back then, either.” Cordelia laughed a little. “Hell, my Valentine's Day date during sophomore year isn't exactly something I really want to remember, either.”

“That bad?”

“Worse. I really do wish I could just bleach that one out of my memory, and the memory of that guy's grope-y hands.” Cordelia smiled a little, then moved in to kiss him. “I love you.”

Xander returned the kiss, though he didn't pull away immediately after. He let his other hand go around Cordelia's back, and held her close for several moments, kissing her until both of them had to pull back a little for air. Not breathless yet, not quite, but they were just about there. Xander ran his hand through Cordelia's hair a moment. 

“I love you too.” Harris murmured back, still holding her close.

While the two of them had a relationship that was as much built on enjoying mutual snark as anything else...sometimes...just moments together like this were all they needed.

Quiet, calm moments together can be so underrated, just spending a little time with the one you love, just close together, nothing else.

“I know. But remember, dorkhead; that doesn't mean that you're getting lucky again, anytime soon!”

February 15th, 1999
1420 Truman Drive, Sunnydale

Not long after midnight, it was down to Amy and the candle.

She'd been making a little progress – and the work with the pencils, boring as it was, actually was helping.

As it turned out, lighting the candle wasn't really the problem. She'd managed to light the candle soon enough into her efforts...but the downside was that...well, she lit it too well. If she hadn't had a glass of water on hand, just in case...

Well, I did, and I still do now.

The 'warlock', or whatever he was, as some sort of mocking, cruel 'payment' for stealing from Giles, had left her notes detailing tips on how to create fire and control it. Amy had torn them up and tossed them out without reading them, though. She wasn't taking tips from him. Not after...not after...never.

In a fit of bad timing, Amy had the candle alight the moment her phone started to ring. A spike of fear ran through her at the sound. Only two people would be calling her this late. Faith, or...him. But that fear...the small flame on the candle shot up, growing larger, even though the wick shouldn't have been able to support that much fire.

“Shit, shit, shit!” Grabbing the glass of water, Amy dunked it on the candle, dousing the flames and knocking the wet, smoking candle over onto the carpet. To be safe, Amy righted the candle as she picked up the cell phone...

Her throat tightened almost instinctively when she saw the number.

No...I won't answer it. Amy breathed in deeply, thoughts scattered, nerves wracked. Even her deep breaths came in more like shallow, shuddering ones. How is it...he's just calling me...and... She looked back to the candle, deciding to focus on lifting it off the ground...

No composure. No focus. Everything was shot to hell.

The ringing stopped after a minute. Still shaking, Amy closed her eyes. Would he call again?

Barely was the thought in her head before the phone started to ring again. Suddenly, she decided to simply answer the damn thing. Otherwise, it could and probably would ring all night, driving her crazy.

Heart pounding, Amy snatched it up and opened it, bringing the phone up to her ear. “What do you want?” Amy demanded, putting all her effort into sounding far more collected than she really was.

“Really, Miss Madison, is that any way to talk? A man can't call to see how his protégé is using the tricks and tips he gave her?” The warlock – it was as good a label as any – said in that familiar, distasteful, 'paternal' tone.

“I'm not your protégé, and I'm never using anything you give me. Never again.” Amy held the phone half a foot from herself, as if it was going to turn into a venomous snake, or explode on her.

“I see. Hmm, cutting off your nose to spite your face.” The voice made a disappointed 'tsk' sound. “Not a very reasonable way to improve your skill in magic, I must say.”

“The last time I used something from you, I killed my mother. And I'm not accepting any so-called reward from you, for stealing from Giles. I'm not a thief for hire. I don't want to get better at magic at that cost.” Amy was still, for the moment, managing to keep her voice steady and firm. But it wasn't easy, and it was getting harder. Every word that came from only made her nerves even jumpier, her throat seem to tighten just a little more.

“Tut tut, Miss Madison. Lying is such an unhealthy habit, especially lying to yourself. You may not be my protégé in an official sense, but you may as well be – you have the hunger for magic, for power. You went to Rack, after all. You knew who and what he was. You'd been to him before. You want power, and we both know that deep down, you want what I have to offer. All you need to do is to carry out a favor for me, every now and then...”

“Never.” Amy spat. She couldn't do that. What else would he make her do? couldn't. “I don't work for you.”

“Of course you do. After all, there are still things I know that you don't want to become public knowledge, I'm sure.”

Amy stiffened, her voice acquiring a slight shudder, “Blackmail isn't employment.”

“No, no, no.” The warlock replied at once, sounding amazingly chipper. “I'm not blackmailing you – blackmail is such a dirty word, after all. I'm paying you. With magic, and with my silence. Everyone always has choices. I just like to make sure everyone is clear on the consequences.”

“You can dress it up however you want.” The words came out with a stagger, brief pauses after every single word. Damn it! Words weren't coming to her lips, they weren't coming out easily. Her heart raced, her tongue felt dry as fear continued to keep her in its grasp.

“Well, I suppose we'll have to continue this part of our discussion later. Because right now, there's something else I need you to do. In exchange for payment, of course.” Before Amy could  interrupt his speech, however, the witch felt her throat tighten to the point where she couldn't speak at all, the unknown caller's magic clamping around her vocal cords.

“There's a demon here in Sunnydale that has something I need. And you're going to get it from them.” Amy felt the pressure around her throat relax.

“You're insane. I can't go up against-” The pressure appeared again.

“Actually, you can. Power isn't your problem, after all. Just don't worry about controlling yourself. You take care of the demon, and get me the jeweled goblet in his possession. You have two days, Miss Madison. And I suggest you use the tips and tricks you'll find in the same place I used last time. You'll need them. You'll also find the name of the demon in question. Remember, I'm paying you with my silence. Besides, there's nothing wrong with killing evil demons, is there? Of course, your silence on this is part of the job.” There was a tiny hint of a laugh in the warlock's voice. The pressure vanished from her throat, as the warlock hung up on his end.

Hands shaking, Amy closed her phone and let it drop nervelessly from her grasp.

No, damn it.'s happening again...and I can't stop it...

February 15th, 1999
Chase Residence, Sunnydale

Ignoring the early morning sunlight entering the bedroom window, Xander looked back to Cordelia, making sure she was still asleep. A wide smile lit up his face, as the male teen examined the young woman he had fallen hopelessly in love with.

They had slept in the same bed last night, but there had been no hanky-panky of any sort; Miss Chase was nothing if not a woman of her word, after all, and she had not rescinded her ban on sexual relations between them. Of course, that didn't mean she didn't put on the sexiest, flimsiest nightie she possessed, before getting into bed with him... 

It had been difficult for Xander to restrain himself from jumping her bones, but he had known that last night was a test of his willpower as much anything else; and he had been determined to pass and make up for past mistakes. If he had to wait a month for them to be together that way again, so be it. If Cordelia decided that sex was back on the table before then – and hopefully, after their most romantic date ever, she would – that was strictly up to her.

Reaching underneath his pillow, he retrieved the Iron Coin. He'd gotten lazy before. he was never going to be lazy with it again.

“Buffy Summers.” Xander flipped the coin in the air as he spoke. Images flashed in his mind – Buffy fighting some kind of demon – tall, silver, no mouth...but nothing more.

“Faith Lehane.” Nothing came through. No images, no flashes. Well, good – the brunette had enough to deal with right now, including being a target for revenge thanks to Alan Finch's death.

“Willow Rosenberg.” At once, Xander saw it; Willow, alone in a dark room. A locked door. He didn't recognize the room. A vampire lunging for her – then a floating pencil driving through into its heart, as the undead thing got staked in the back. Dust. All that pencil work's paying off... Xander couldn't help but smile at that. Still, note to self – remind Will not to get trapped alone with a vampire anytime soon! Yea, that was really helpful.

“Amy Madison.” Nothing. “Daniel Osbourne.” Nothing. “Joyce Summers.” Nothing. “Jessica Harris.” Not a thing. Well, only one person left to go...

“Cordelia Chase.” 

Straightaway Harris saw an image of his girlfriend, alone and sitting on a bus. What the hell? Likw Cordy would ever lower herself to using public transportation! What's going on?

The image was blurry, distorted, but he could still see that there were tears running down Cordelia's cheeks. And then he saw the exterior of the bus, the highway it was traveling on; a sign flashing by that read 'Los Angeles, 43 Miles.'

What the hell does all that mean? The Coin didn't always make things one hundred percent clear, sure, but this was...this was very different. Vague, unfocused. Was that all that Fate had planned for them next?

I mean yeah, sure, we've had that conversation about getting out of Sunnydale once high school is over, and more than once. But Cordelia was alone. I wasn't does Fate make that happen...

Never mind. Whether Fate was responsible for writing this in Cordelia's book or not, in Xander's view the situation was wrong – and now, it needed to be fixed. 

I screwed things up for Fate, somehow...major screw up. The book was wrong – and now it needed to be fixed. That had to be why he was seeing so little, nothing to work with. Because at this particular moment, there was little Fate had in store that was actually possible to happen now.

February 17th, 1999
Mayor's Office, City Hall, Sunnydale

Emptying the vial of Alan's blood into the newly acquired goblet, Wilkins began to chant, the Ancient Greek words rolling smoothly off his tongue. Normally, calling on the demonic being associated with goblets such as this was not something Richard Wilkins would do lightly. But given Detective Stein's inability to pin the murder of the late Deputy Mayor on either Slayer...

Besides, the goblets were difficult to find at the best of times – such rare and powerful objects always were.

Well, that was what he had people like Amy Madison on retainer for. He briefly wondered how the young woman would explain away the bruises the demon had given her during their little fight. It wasn't a particularly powerful breed of demon, but it hadn't been easy for the witch to take care of. Just as he'd known she would, Miss Madison had had to...lose control.

It would make it easier, given time.

Who calls upon me?

Wilkins responded in Ancient Greek, not with his name, but with his title as Mayor of Sunnydale. Names had power in the hands of this particular demon, after all, which wouldn't do at all as far as Richard's prospects for longevity were concerned.

You seek to know the killer of the one whose blood you fed my vessel. You are prepared to pay the debt to be owed?

Wilkins responded in the affirmative.

Then see!

The blood in the goblet lit aflame by no visible external means, and smoke rose from it. Within moments, the smoke formed a picture, but not just a picture in grey smoke. Rather, it was a full color image, rising above the goblet.

The picture showed a young woman, one with dark hair, driving her stake into the heart of Deputy Mayor Alan Finch.

The picture vanished after only a few seconds, and the flames dissipated soon after. But it was enough for all three men present in the room to identify Faith as the culprit.

“Mr. Trick.” Wilkins turned to the black vampire. “You're up.”

Trick looked at Spike, smirking. “What can I say? I'm a lucky man.” Cracking his fingers a little dramatically, Trick turned back to the Mayor. “She'll be dead before the end of the night, sir.”

February 17th, 1999
Restfield Cemetery, Sunnydale

Detective Paul Stein looked out through the front window of his car, tracking the two suspects with binoculars. He had no idea what Miss Lehane and Miss Summers were doing walking around in a cemetery, and during the middle of the night, but it couldn't be something on the straight and narrow. The last two nights he'd had people tailing them from a distance, but apart from an apparent fascination with cemeteries and a penchant for wandering around late at night, there was nothing of use.

Now he was the one watching them.

Which one did it? It was a question that continually rolled around in Stein's head as he watched the two girls. As a professional cop, he tried not to make judgments; but he did wonder, always, when investigating a case. Instinct and gut inclinations were good things to have as a detective, but evidence – facts – had to be kept in the foremost position. A neat theory without proof was just that – a neat theory, and it fell apart very quickly in the cold light of a courtroom. And falling in love with a theory, even in the face of the evidence, was not something that was productive in terms of catching his killer.

Still, Stein couldn't help but suspect that of the two, it was probably the Summers girl who had done it. It fit in too well with her overall record – getting into fights, burning down that school gym in Los Angeles, even killing that Ted Buchanan guy in self-defense when she'd shoved him down the stairs.

Stein didn't think the death of Deputy Mayor was a premeditated one – why would either of those two have any reason to kill him? But, however it had happened, a man was dead. And it was his job to figure out who did it, and bring them to justice.

Stein lowered the binoculars as he heard someone approaching his car. Putting a hand on his gun, he started to get out of the car, but the black man reached into his suit jacket and took out a Sunnydale City Hall identification card. He gestured for Stein to lower the window, and  so the policeman did, checking to make sure the two girls weren't looking in his direction – they didn't seem to be.

“Detective Stein, right? The Mayor wanted me to tell you that your work on this investigation has been much appreciated...but due to unexpected developments, your services are no longer required.” The man smirked, and despite himself, Stein felt a tiny shiver go down his spine.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” The man's canines suddenly started to elongate, as his eyes narrowed and went yellow, ridges forming on his face and forehead. “That dinner is served.”

Quicker than the eye could follow, Trick reached in through the open window and pulled Stein out of the car, sinking his teeth into the detective's neck before he could do more than let out one scream. The man's blood washed over Trick's tongue, as the vampire drained him dry.

Stein's sole scream as his lifeblood was drained from him just barely reached the two Slayers.

“What the-” Buffy turned to Faith. “Did you-”

“Yeah, I heard it too.” Faith twirled a stake in her hand. “Let's go!” 

Tightening her grip around the wooden weapon, Faith ran in the direction of the scream, Buffy right alongside her. Both of them all but skidded to a halt when they saw Trick standing there, over the drained body of a familiar face – Detective Stein.

“Well, isn't this just groovy. Two Slayers, for the price of one.” Trick smirked, still wearing his game face. “Good thing I brought friends.” From all around the Slayers, except to their rear, vampires came out of cars or bushes or from behind trees. Ten of them.

“So why'd you kill him? You both work for the same guy.” Buffy said, dragging her eyes away from the dead body to look directly at Trick.

“What can I say? The Mayor doesn't like incompetence, and the good detective just wasn't getting results. Besides, I was hungry.” Trick's smirk turned into a vicious smile. “Plus, I didn't want to have that flatfoot interrupting our fun, now that I know who to kill.” He turned his gaze directly onto Buffy. “You can run if you want. Me and my boys may be under orders not to kill you, at least not tonight, but there's no orders against maiming you to our heart's content. And you don't want that, right?”

Buffy scoffed. “Not gonna happen.”

Trick shrugged. “Worth a try.” He jumped up onto the top of Stein's car. “Gentlemen! Dinner time!”

Snarling, the ten vampires charged at Buffy and Faith en masse, from all directions. Not even trying to take them all on at once, Buffy and Faith merely exchanged a brief look before immediately turning and running, back towards the cemetery, Trick's minions close behind.

Buffy jumped over one of the tombstones and landed behind it. She looked at the two vampires close behind, running right at her, then back at the tombstone just in front of her. Taking a big step back, she ran at the tombstone, one foot catching onto the top just as the vampires were close enough to grab at her. But rather than catching hold of her, Buffy used the boost from the grave marker to jump up and over them. One vampire moved too quick, tripping itself over the tombstone, landing flat on its back on the other side.

Landing on her feet, Buffy drove her stake into the chest of the still-standing vampire, as it turned back around to face her. One down, one out for the next few moments, and two more coming at her. Immediately she was punching and kicking, holding them at bay while trying to get an opening to stake them.

Not fifteen feet away, but too far for Buffy to pay any attention to, was Faith, six vampires attacking her at once. Trick was standing some distance farther back, watching as the brunette tried to take on six enemies at the same time, moving in a blur, kicking and punching. She could keep them all at bay, but what Faith couldn't do was stake a single one of them, even when there were openings. Every time a chance to do so emerged, another vampire came at her from another direction again -

Just what I got them for. Trick thought to himself, his face returning to its human guise and leaning with his back against a tree. All ten vamps he'd gotten were pretty young. Not too old – he didn't want to risk one of them getting the kill that belonged to him – and also young enough to not get the limits even vampires had. That's right. Wear that girl out. Keep her and her friend busy.

“Hey, how's it going?” Trick turned at the sound of the voice behind him, only to come face to face with a tall man in a black coat. Angel.

“What do you want?” Trick snarled at the new arrival, grabbing for his stake. He knew who Angel was, after all. And a Master vampire had to keep his minions in line. Always good to have a stake on hand.

Angel made a brief show of counting the various vampires attacking Buffy and Faith as he stepped back from Trick, out of easy range of his stake. “What is that, ten on two? Hardly seems fair.”

“I don't play to be fair. I play to win.” Trick replied, lunging at Angel.

The other vampire was ready for it, though, and caught Trick by the shoulders, hurling him forward and away. The black vampire crashed into the group of undead attacking Faith, creating a sprawled pile of vampires with the Slayer stuck in there as well.

Running towards them, Angel watched as Faith got to her feet first, Trick only moments later, giving her no opening to stake one of the prone vampires.

“Hell, I'm gonna enjoy this.” Trick kicked at Faith, and battle was joined between the two. Leaving them to it, Angel pulled out his own stake and immediately took out, in quick succession, two of Trick's fallen minions before the rest could get onto their feet – though it still left him with a four on one fight.

With Angel and Faith both occupied, Buffy had managed, by luck and her knowledge of the cemetery’s layout, to stake one of the other vampires. At the same time that Angel was throwing Trick around, Buffy had leapt up, grabbed onto an overhanging tree branch and kicked one of her foes with both feet, sending him flying into a tombstone, cracking and sending a few chips scattering off onto the ground.

The opening that had created gave Buffy enough time to stake one of her other opponents – but even as that one collapsed into dust, the other one still standing grabbed her arm from behind, yanking her backwards.

Buffy kicked backwards, into the vampire, propelling herself away and out of his grasp with a stumble. “You almost had me there.” Buffy quipped, pressing her back against the tree as the other vampire she'd knocked over stood up and came at her. “Oh, hang on, wait...” Buffy smiled. “Your boss said that you guys aren't allowed to kill me, right?”

Both vampires pulled up short, then looked at each other for the briefest of moments, somewhat thrown by the prey's question. It was all Buffy needed. She lunged at one of them, knocking the undead creature to the ground and driving her stake into its heart. Buffy stood up and looked at the last one, who was already starting to back up.

“You stay, I'm gonna kill you. Trust me, whatever you're being paid for this? It's not worth it.” Buffy hefted the stake in her hand, as if she was about to throw it.

That was all she needed to do. The vampire turned around, and started running off into the night. Not waiting to watch it run off, Buffy looked for Faith.

“Angel!” What the hell is he doing here? Her boyfriend was still fighting three vampires – and Faith seemed to be holding her own against Trick.

Help Angel, back Faith up if she needs it. Her priorities set, Buffy ran towards Angel.

Faith ducked under a punch from Trick. “So what's it like working for Mayor McEvil? Better than being a minion for Kakistos?” Faith asked him as she punched at Trick in turn.

Trick stepped back, avoiding the blow. “Yeah, doesn't suck. Pay's good, and the side benefits are pretty nice too.” Faith nearly fell over as Trick's foot connected with her leg. Reaching out, Trick grabbed her arm and he pulled her towards him. “Spike's always going on about how good Slayer blood tastes. Now I know he likes to exaggerate, but let's see if he was actually right for once...” With his other hand, Trick grabbed her hand and forced the stake from her grip.

“Go to hell.” Pulling her head back, Faith drove it forward, directly into Trick's face. She heard – and felt – a sickening crunch as her head connected with the vampire's nose. Yelping in pain, Trick let go of her, one hand flying to his bloody, broken nose.

“Bitch!” Trick grabbed Faith's left arm with his free hand, pulling her back in, hooking his elbow over hers. Faith felt the tug coming.

“Oh no you don't.” Faith still didn't have a stake – hers was still somewhere on the ground. Kicking out at Trick, she sent him staggering back again. “Buffy!” Faith called out, not turning her eyes from Trick. “Stake!”

Even though Faith didn't see it, it wasn't Buffy who threw the weapon. With his girlfriend dealing with the last of Trick's minions – though another had run off – Angel was the one who obliged the brunette. Catching it, Faith came at Trick again.

“Die, you fucking bitch!” Trick yelled, growling before going into his demon face again. It was do or die time. Faith had to die, or the Mayor would do worse – far worse – than that to him. Lunging for the Slayer, he missed her by an inch – before the girl's stake flew under his guard, plunging into his chest. Trick staggered back, biting his lip a moment. 

“Oh no.” He shook his head. “No, this is no good at all...” 

The words were barely out of Trick's mouth before there was a hiss, a scream of an escaping demon, a momentary glimpse of a skeleton – and then his body collapsed into dust.
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