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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 > GeneralAlkeniFR1519115,0811212432,80426 Sep 1225 Jul 14No

Episode 6: The Big Reveal

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That remains the property of Joss Whedon. The Jester, the Iron Coin, etc. and any other purely original material remains my property and all rights are reserved.

Thanks to Starway Man, my Beta

The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

By Alkeni

Episode 6: The Big Reveal


November 17th, 1998
Crawford Street Mansion, Sunnydale


Xander kept one hand on the cross in his pocket, as he slowly (and carefully) walked into the abandoned mansion that Buffy had set Angel up in. Keeping a careful watch for the vampire – though he saw no sign of him in the main room of the structure – Harris walked further in, and called out. “Deadboy? You in here?”

“Xander.”

Hearing the ensouled vampire's familiar voice directly behind him, Xander started, despite himself, and then turned around to face Angel. God damn it, one of these days someone has got to attach a bell on to your undead ass; and for some reason, I'm hoping it'll be me...

“I have to admit…” Angel said slowly, looking his visitor over. “You’re the last person I expected to see here.”

“And I half expected to find you asleep.” Xander replied. He released his grip on the crucifix and took his hand out of his pocket, knowing full well that Angel knew exactly what he'd been doing. “It's daylight out, after all.”

“Vampires are often active during the day. We just can’t let sunlight-“

Xander rolled his eyes, not wanting to hear it. “I know that. Vampirism 101, got that memo years ago. But you guys still have to sleep eventually, right?”

“We do sleep, yeah.” Angel acknowledged. “Just not as much or as often as humans need to.”

“Hmm.” Xander replied, looking thoughtful. “Interesting.”

“Not really, no.”

“Maybe not from the undead's perspective.” Xander conceded. “But trying looking at it from my point of view, why don't you? Namely, Buffy and Faith hunting vamps during the daylight hours. The element of surprise isn't great as I thought it was.”

“I see. So, why are you here?” Angel asked him.

Xander shrugged. “Not entirely sure, to be honest with you. Truth is I was kinda torn between wanting to talk with you, and set you on fire if you were asleep. I was also kinda thinking you'd still be chained up, but I shoulda known Buffy wouldn't leave you like that for long.”

“She let me free of the chains a while back. And I'm not surprised about you wanting to kill me. And, speaking of which, how did you know Buffy was going to find me before she found me?” Angel asked, walking past Xander into the main room.

“I can't tell you.” Xander replied. “Not won't; can't. And even if I could, I probably wouldn't. Because here’s the thing, pal; I don’t trust you. Never have, probably never will either.”

“And I’m so torn up about that.” Angel replied facetiously.

“Was that sarcasm?” Xander looked astounded for a moment. “I didn’t know that Hell could give you a sense of humor.”

“It can't. And just for the record, did you think I didn't know?”

“Huh?” Xander didn't get it.

“I figured it out.” Angel said stonily. “You lied to Buffy about Willow restoring my soul that morning. The way she fought, the way she acted...Buffy didn't know her best friend was going to do the curse again. And yet, she wasn't all that surprised when it happened, just as she was about to shove that sword through my chest. Add all that to what Buffy's mentioned since I came back...”

“Fine.” Xander admitted. “I lied to her. Maybe I shouldn't have, maybe I should have trusted her to do the right thing regardless...but see, here's the thing; I couldn't. That morning when I looked into her eyes and had to make that decision, I just couldn't. Because as much as I hate to admit it, the Buffster can't think straight where you're concerned. If she'd known there was even one chance in a billion that Willow could pull off that sort of a miracle, and fresh out of a coma mind you, she'd have held back when she fought you and risked six billion people ending up in Hell. I'm not saying she would have done it in purpose, sure; but in my mind, the risk was just too great. And I make no apologies for my decision, least of all to you.”

“Fine. You did the right thing, anyway.” Angel looked back at Xander as he said that.

“Huh?” Harris wasn't sure if he was actually hearing things.

“I said, you did the right thing. As much as I hate to admit it, I have to agree with you about what Buffy would have done.” Angel said reflectively.“She might not have done it deliberately, as you say, but the hope that the curse would work would have affected Buffy's fighting to some degree. All I - all Angelus would have needed was a split second, one instant where Buffy fought less than her best...and he'd have killed her, and damned us all. So that's why you did the right thing, regardless of what your motivations might have been that day.”

Xander shook his head. “Okay, then let's move on. You don’t like me, I don’t like you, and that probably isn’t going to change one way or the other.”

“Then why are you here?” The vampire asked again.

“Because Buffy’s still in love with you, and she's my friend, and I care about her. I'm here because when you’re not evil, you've helped keep her alive, and I can't afford to let myself forget that. And finally, I'm here because Slay-gal thinks that you’re worth trusting again, and you know what? I trust Buffy's judgment. Not her instincts, at least not where you're concerned; but I trust her to know the difference between right and wrong, and do the right thing. At the end of the day, I really do. Sure, she’s not right every time, but she’s right often enough, and well…she was kind of right about not killing you, back when we first found out you were a vampire. When you actually have that optional soul extra, you’re one of the good guys.”

“I'm touched.” Angel said sarcastically, which immediately made Xander angry and defensive.

“Still, all that doesn't change the fact that I don’t like you. I don’t like vampires in general, and I don't like how you’re only one perfectly happy moment away from going all psycho evil again –”

“NO! No.” Angel said rapidly, shaking his head. “Buffy and I…we won’t…we can't...that's never going to happen again.”

“I hope so, for both your sakes. But problem is you two, you’ve got this big forever love, the whole Romeo and Juliet thing, going. And Buffy isn't going to deal well, when it finally dawns on her that you two can't ever have that sort of relationship again. I just did the Cliff Notes on that one, I’ll admit...”

“I already told you, it won't happen again. Not now that I finally know about the loophole in the curse. And for the last time, why exactly are you here?” Angel asked yet again. “I'm pretty sure it wasn't just to warn me to stay as miserable as possible for the rest of eternity.”

“Well, what do you know? You do have a brain, after all. Fine, you want the truth?” Xander asked rhetorically. “I came here to tell you that I’m telling Faith about you. She's the new Slayer in town, in case no one's mentioned it; the girl who was Called after Kendra was murdered by your insane 'daughter'. And I figured you deserved fair warning concerning what I'm about to do, just in case she doesn’t jive to the ‘Angel is a good guy’ mantra.”

Angel frowned. “I thought you said you trusted her?”

“I do. But there’s something else that’s a pressing issue, buddy boy. Namely - sooner or later, the secret that you’re hiding here is going to get out, it'll become public knowledge you somehow escaped from Hell. Giles promised Buffy that he wouldn't tell anyone, and so did I...but...well, if the news comes out the wrong way, I'm thinking Faith might try to stake you first and ask questions, like, never. And even if the latest member of the Chosen crowd doesn’t succeed, Buffy…well, she’s not going to take it well. And from what your girlfriend has told me about that fight she and Kendra once had, back when that girl first showed up in your old apartment…call me paranoid if you want, but in my book Slayer-on-Slayer type violence isn’t something to look forward to. So, at some point, Faith needs to be told you're back. And while I do trust Buffy…she should have told everyone else by now…and if she’s not going to, I will.”

Harris shrugged. “I just felt you deserved the heads up.” And with that, Xander headed for the front doors of the mansion.

“Thanks.” Angel muttered, but in such a low voice that the male teen couldn't hear him. He watched Harris depart and thought to himself, Maybe I misjudged the boy, and he's actually starting to grow up. Then again, from the way I can smell that Cordelia girl all over him, maybe Harris is still the same judgemental, hormonal idiot he ever was...

November 17th, 1998
Chase Residence, Sunnydale


As Xander walked into Cordelia's house after the maid let him in – her parents were away, which was an occurrence that was becoming more and more common these days – he was still thinking about how he was going to break the big news about Angel to Faith. Frankly, it would probably be best to break it to Oz and Willow at the same time, if he was going to do something like that...still...

He should probably at least offer Buffy one more chance to tell everyone, give her one more day to tell the gang the Big Secret.

Of course, one person Xander didn't need to alert about Angel was Cordelia, as she already knew. Granted, Xander had had misgivings about telling his girlfriend about Angel's presence. He'd spent a lot of time debating it with himself, before he'd finally decided to tell her a week ago.

It was a touchy issue, to be sure. On the one hand, Xander had promised Buffy that he wouldn't tell anyone else, and when he'd said it, he'd meant it. On the other hand, he didn't like keeping things from Cordelia. It didn't feel right, and keeping the Iron Coin secret – not that he really had a choice about that, he supposed – was bad enough. Though I'm never, ever telling her about that vision of me and Willow...Xander inadvertently shuddered just a little. He'd managed to avoid that particular scenario, praise be all that was good and holy....which made him wonder when – not if – Fate was going to try again to get back at him, and how it would happen. Or if the agents of Fate would try some other plan to mess up his relationship with Cordelia, and Willow's with Oz...

Xander's mind quickly went back to the issue he'd been thinking about before, leaving that subject for another time. With regard to Angel, landing squarely in the 'don't tell Cordelia' column was the very basic fact that the Chase girl was blunt and tactless even at the best of times. Which, frankly, was not such a bad thing, overall. He liked that trait of hers, sometimes; especially when Cordelia forced him to face things he'd rather ignore. But on the downside, it meant that, in this case, if he told Cordelia about Angel, there were very good odds that she would bring it up with Buffy, in a sort of 'what the hell are you thinking?' and that just wouldn't play out.

Despite the understanding they'd reached in the library when Buffy had confronted him and Giles about his foreknowledge of Angel...Xander could tell that nowadays, Buffy just didn't trust him as much as she used to. There was a slight hesitancy, at times, when she talked to him...and Giles had, somewhat predictably, taken Buffy's side. In the face of the unknown and potentially dangerous, of course the Watcher would side with his Slayer. . It wasn't all that noticeable, and it wasn't even that bad, when you got right down to it...it would probably only last a short time, overall, but still...

If Cordelia let slip that Xander had told her about Angel, after he'd promised not to tell anyone else, that he would let Buffy tell everyone in her own way and in her own good time...the current truce probably wouldn't be lasting for long.

However, on the 'Tell Cordelia' side of things was the fact that when Xander had made that promise Buffy...that he wouldn't tell anyone, that he would let Buffy tell everybody the big secret...he'd expected her to wait a week, maybe two at the most, before telling everyone else that Angel was back.

By the time he'd finally told Cordelia, though, it had been just under three weeks. And now, of course, it was nearly a month.

So yes, Xander knew he'd broken his promise, and he'd mentally braced himself for Cordelia to go off on Buffy and let it slip. Fortunately, though, his girlfriend hadn't done anything of the sort; although she had sent some special glares in Buffy's direction from time to time. Something Buffy had noticed, and had even asked him why Cordelia was acting like that.

The number of lies and concealment growing ever higher, Xander had successfully pleaded ignorance.

As Xander arrived at his girlfriend's bedroom, he found Cordelia in her four-room suite finishing up a homework assignment. Unlike Xander himself, the head cheerleader had excellent prospects for college, and was determined to do well enough to get into the best Ivy League schools. Though how much of that was what Cordelia wanted, and how much of it was her parents' expectations was another matter entirely.

Xander's goal was just to graduate high school alive and with a degree. After that? He'd have to figure out what he was going to do in terms of earning a living, but right now he had no idea what that might be. It wasn't like he could use the Iron Coin to make himself rich...well, he assumed he couldn't, anyway. The Jester almost certainly wouldn't let that happen; where would the fun be if his mortal puppet could pull off something like that?

Sighing inaudibly, Xander leaned on the doorway and watched Cordelia continue her work. She didn't love school work like Willow did, or hunt down knowledge like some predatory animal the way his oldest friend did; but she was also far from a vapid idiot, despite how the brunette had occasionally acted in the past. Damn, but she looks so beautiful, Xander thought to himself smiling. I don't know how, but even without trying, Cordy can make doing homework look sexy! I swear, sometimes I wonder how I manage to keep my libido in check...

That was a good question, actually. The topic of where their relationship was going had been raised a few times recently. The other night, while they'd been watching a very romantic movie, Xander had definitely noticed all the signals his girlfriend had been sending him. So Harris suspected Cordelia might give him one hell of a Christmas present this year; or, maybe it would happen either on his 18th birthday or hers (there was only a month's difference, after all). Then again, with his luck, Xander might just die a virgin...

Finally, after a few minutes, Cordelia realized her boyfriend was standing at the doorway looking at her. She turned to face him and said,“You dork, how long have you been there?”

“Few minutes.” Xander shrugged. He nodded to her homework. “You done?” They had been planning on going to the Bronze tonight, and it was getting close to time to head out there. Xander instinctively checked to make sure he had the usual gear for dealing with vampires. Cross on a thin chain around his neck – he almost never took that off anymore – larger cross in one pocket, vial of holy water and of course, the ever-trusty stake. He knew Cordelia almost always had a stake and wore a cross around her neck as well.

That's what living on the Hellmouth does to you, I suppose.

“So, after we end up leaving Sunnydale, are you still going to go out every night with all that?” Cordelia asked, as she wrote one more thing quickly on her homework sheet and then got up, grabbing the stake Giles had given her last year.

Ah, yes, because it's so totally a certain 'when'... Biting his tongue, Xander nodded. “Probably. I'd rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them, right?”

Seeing Cordelia shrug carelessly Harris straightened up and stepped aside so she could walk out of the bedroom suite. God-damn, she even has a sexy walk! Oh, man, what is wrong with me? I can't stop thinking about sex, even for a minute? Shrugging to himself after realizing the answer was most likely 'no', Xander followed her towards the front door of the mansion, and they were soon on their way to the Bronze.

November 17th, 1998
Sunnydale High Library


“Hey, Giles.” Xander said as he walked into the library after escorting Cordelia back home. It was late, but as usual Giles was still in the library even at this late an hour. Guess that's another thing we have in common; the houses we live in aren't exactly a 'home'. How the heck Giles can still live in that place after he found Ms. Calendar murdered in there is, like, totally beyond me! Xander winced for a moment, reminded of Angel yet again. He'd wanted to talk to Giles about telling Faith the Big Secret...how best to frame the whole 'one of the most murderous vampires in history is in Sunnydale and Buffy's been hiding him – but it's okay, since he has a soul – unless Buffy gives him another happy...' thing in the best light possible.

Not saying it like that would probably be a very good start... Harris mused as he walked further into the library. No sign of Giles. But the doors were unlocked and the light was on, so odds were that the Watcher was going to be coming back soon, wherever he had gone off to.

Despite his efforts., Xander hadn't gone through all the books here yet in his hunt for more information about the Iron Coin, the Jester, Fate, Chaos, the Hydra, and more. Granted, he'd made little to no progress so far. He'd found a few scattered legends about certain things, but they didn't seem like the Jester, or the way he'd described Fate and Chaos. There was mention in one book - written in very archaic Latin that he'd only processed half of - of 'servitors of Fate', creations that acted to ensure destiny and prophecy went according to plan. Whether that actually meant anything, assuming he hadn't mistranslated the words, was currently unknown. So possibly, they might be things he might have to deal with.

Up on the mezzanine level Xander quickly delved deep into a couple of books, curiously - his search for information on Fate and Chaos accidentally led to text that chronicled the lives and deeds of particularly noteworthy demonic warlords, which he found himself engrossed in. It was when he was reading a section on a demon called Lagos that the door opened. Xander lowered the book and looked past the shelves for a moment. Buffy, Faith, Giles entering the room, check, check, check...

It was all Xander could do to contain a strangled gasp, though, when he saw the woman following them.

It was the woman from the vision, the one with that weird glove. The evil psycho-Watcher.

Oh, shit.

Xander slunk back behind the bookshelf and found himself on the verge of hyperventilating, though he was damned if he knew why. For once, he actually had the advantage; Harris knew what the bad guy was, whereas she would know nothing about him. So Xander slowly, and quietly, moved a bit farther back behind the shelves. As the four approached the table and both Buffy and Faith stood next to the table, the junior Slayer broke the silence that had followed them in.

“Look, like I told you on the way here, I don't need a new Watcher. No offense, lady, but I just have this problem with authority figures. They end up kind of dead.” Having said that Faith sat down, letting the sarcasm permeate the air.

The woman walked behind the table and looked at the books, casually and dismissively. “Duly noted. Fortunately, it's not up to you.” Faith and Buffy looked at each other and one rolled her eyes, the other merely shrugging.

“Mr. Giles, where do you keep the rest of your books?” The English-accented woman asked in that slightest hint of scorn and mocking but still impossibly polite way that only the British seemed able to pull off.

“I-I'm sorry. The rest?” Giles semi-spluttered.

“Yes, the actual library.” The woman replied coolly. Then she said, “Oh. I see...”

“I can assure you, Mrs. Post, this is the finest occult reference collection...”

The woman – Mrs Post, Xander corrected himself – interrupted Giles. “...this side of the Atlantic, I'm sure. Do you have Hume's 'Paranormal Encyclopedia'?” Xander didn't hear a reply from Giles. “The Labyrinth Maps of Malta?”

This time Giles did reply, his voice just a bit sheepish, and surprisingly soft. “It's on order...”

“Well, I suppose that you have Sir Robert Kane's 'Twilight Compendium'?” Mrs. Post asked next.

“Oh! Uh...yes, I...yes! Yes, I do.” Giles added, the note of pride in his voice was...surprising.

Of course you do.” Mrs. Post didn't sound impressed, and Xander could easily imagine the haughty look on the woman's face. “Well, let's get down to business. I have been sent by the Council for a very important reason. Faith needs a Watcher. I am to act in that capacity and report back.”

“Excuse me, Mary Poppins, you don't seem to be listening.” Faith interrupted, a note of anger in her voice.

Giles, probably still smarting from the rebuke his fellow countrywoman had just delivered, interrupted Faith before she could proceed further. “Faith, if the Council feels that you need closer observation, then...we will all, of course, cooperate.”

Mrs. Post wasn't finished, though. “The Council wishes me to report on the entire situation here. Including you, Mr. Giles.”

“Mm!” Buffy said, a note of amusement in her voice. “Academic probation's not so funny today, huh Giles?” Xander had to stifle a laugh at that, wishing he'd come up with that line.

Mrs. Post continued. “The fact is, there is talk in the Council that you have become a bit too...” she inhaled sharply. “American.”

Almost in unison Buffy and Giles protested. “Me?” “Him?”

Xander couldn't help it. He laughed out loud at the idea that Giles had become 'too American'. He walked out from behind the shelves and down the stairs to the main part of the library, four pairs of eyes on him as he did so.

“Giles? Too American?” He laughed again. “Yeah, I'll believe that when he stops demanding that I keep putting all those unnecessary 'u's in the words I translate from Latin.”

“When the language is called 'Americanish' and not English, then you can decide what is and what isn't unnecessary in terms of spelling a word correctly, Xander.” Giles shot back, looking mildly irritated.

“You don't pronounce the 'u', you don't need the 'u'. Thus, unnecessary.” Xander smirked and set the book he'd been reading on the top of the shelf beneath the railing.

“I'm sorry, we haven't been properly introduced. Manners...” Mrs. Post looked askance at Giles, who looked away before the British woman turned back to the bearer of the Iron Coin. “Who are you?”

“I was going to ask you the same question when you walked in, but from the accent and the clothes and well,” Xander gestured to her for a moment, “everything else, you're obviously a Watcher. From what I just heard, you're here for Faith?”

“Yes...” Mrs, Post said slowly, looking confused for a moment, before she looked at Giles again. “I'm assuming you're one of Miss Summers' friends. Ah yes. I remember now, the Council file mentioned your inexcusable inability to keep things secret...” She looked the male teen over for a moment. “You would be Xander Harris, then?”

“Hey, lady, the entire town around here is on a freaking Hellmouth.” Buffy replied, rolling her eyes. “It's kind of hard not to notice that demons and vampires aren't out there. That more people don't know about them, especially after living here all their lives, is the confusing thing! Well, it's more that they refuse to accept it, sure, but...”

“The aid of Xander and the others who have joined the fight, as it were, has been invaluable in keeping things as under control as they are, around here. Without Xander's help, Buffy would have been long dead by now, and it's entirely possible that the defeat of the apocalypse demon known as the Judge would have been impossible.” Giles interjected. “And before we continue to get sidetracked on this subject, shall we continue with what you had in mind to say?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Post replied tersely. After a moment to gather her thoughts, she continued. “A demon named Lagos is coming here to the Hellmouth. Mr. Giles, an illustration of Lagos, if you please.” Scorn dripped from her words, oozing across the floor.

Do you really have to act like such a complete bitch? Xander couldn't help wanting to ask, but he managed to contain it. I know you're a black hat and all, but yeesh! You'd think that subtlety would be up your alley a bit more...

Flustered, Giles started to look through the books on the table. “Oh, uh...yes. Uh...”

Xander cleared his throat and picked up the book he'd been perusing recently, opening it to the passage he'd been reading. “You mean this Lagos?” He handed the open book to Giles, who showed it to Buffy and Faith.

“Ah, yes.” Mrs. Post replied, looking thrown off by Xander's quick response. Good, bitch. “Now according to my information, Lagos seeks the Glove of Myhnegon. No record of this glove's full power exists, but we do know it is highly dangerous and must not fall into the hands of a demon. So Lagos must be stopped.”

“What do you propose we do, then?” Giles asked.

“Well, if it's not too radical a suggestion, I thought we might kill him.” Mrs. Post said snootily.

“Does he have his army with him?” Xander asked.

“I'm sorry, what?” Mrs. Post looked at him, an eyebrow raised.

“Army?” Faith interjected. “Lady, you want me to go up against an entire demon army? Because hey, I'm good, but I'm not suicidal!”

“According to the book, this guy has an army.” Xander replied. “I mean, since he's notable enough to have an entry complete with an illustration in the book on account of he's a powerful interdimensional warlord with twelve legions at his command – plus he stood up to some Archduke Sebassis guy, and won? If this Lagos character's here in Sunnydale looking for this Glove you mentioned, what are the odds he brought his army with him?”

“Very small.” The female Watcher replied. “The magical energy required to bring even himself here would have been astronomical. So it will be just him, most likely. I suggest two Slayers at full strength for a coordinated hunt.” Xander saw Buffy and Faith exchange look. “The Council believes the Glove to be buried in a tomb somewhere in Sunnydale, so doubtless Lagos will be headed for the cemetery.”

“There is more than one in Sunnydale.” Giles pointed out.

“I see. How many?” Mrs. Post demanded.

“Uh, twelve, actually.”

Mrs. Post took a deep breath and Xander noticed that she looked quite perturbed for just a moment. “Well, we'll just have to take them one at a time.” Giles started to look through his books. “Anything in your books that might pinpoint the exact location of the tomb would be useful, but then, we cannot ask for miracles.” Giles let his book drop to the table and quite obviously didn't look at his so-called colleague. If the other Watcher cared, she didn't show any sign that she did. “We will begin tomorrow at sunset. Faith, come with me, please.” She turned around and left. Faith looked at Buffy, who shrugged, then got up.

“Be careful around her.” Xander said to the younger Chosen One. “I think she's hiding something. I don't trust her.” Of course she's hiding something. She's evil psycho-bitch, even if I can't tell anyone how I know that.

“Never planned on trusting her.” Faith replied coolly, before following the female Watcher out of the library.

“Well.” Giles declared. “That was bracing.”

“Interesting lady. Can we kill her?” Buffy asked, perhaps only a quarter serious.

Giles shook his head. “I think the Council might frown upon that.”

“There's another thing the Council might frown on, while we're on the subject. At the very least, I'm certainly starting to.” Xander said after a moment. “Why haven't you told her?”

Buffy didn't need to ask what Xander meant by that. “I'm not ready to tell Faith about Angel...or anyone else, for that matter. It's too-”

“What? Too soon? Buffy, not to sound insensitive, since I can't relate to your problem at all, but it doesn't matter if you're not ready to talk about it! Because what the hell do you think will happen when Faith finds out on her own? She'll try to kill him, and either we'll end up with a dusty Deadboy or Angel will have to kill or seriously hurt Faith to survive. And she will find out on her own if you don't tell her, don't you get that?” Harris saw the stubborn look on the blonde Slayer's face., and exhaled wearily. “No, obviously, you don't. Buffy, come on - you're smarter than this, do you really think that you can keep something as big as Angel a secret forever?”.

“No! Not forever, just long enough-”

“Buffy,” Xander interrupted again. “Look at everything that's happened over the last two years. What's our track record been like? I mean, sure, concerning the big things like staying alive and making sure the world's still there in the morning, we do pretty good. But on the smaller things? Like keeping secrets from people who have a right to know? I think the technical term to describe our luck there, and correct me if I'm wrong Giles, is 'shitty'.”

“If I tell her, Faith's just going to try to kill Angel straightaway!” Buffy protested.

“Not necessarily.” Xander disagreed. “She's never met Angelus. The rest of us? We've all had a good look at him, up close and personal. Maybe you don't get it, Buff, but unlike you...I could still see Angelus lurking underneath the surface, that time I went to visit your honey at that damned mansion of his. I can't pretend Angelus isn't there, all the time! That's why whenever I see Angel, I have this visceral desire to stake him.”

“I'm sorry – did you just use visceral properly in a sentence?” Giles interrupted incredulously.

“I did, try not to faint.” Xander replied with an annoyed-slash-amused look. Then he turned back to Buffy and his expression grew more grave, the humor gone from his entire expression in seconds. “Buffy... look, I don't want Angel dead. Or Faith to end up dead or seriously hurt. I'll admit, I wouldn't be all that upset if Angel got seriously hurt, but hey! I'm not perfect. But the important thing is, Faith needs to know. If you don't tell her and she finds out on her own, think what that will mean for whatever trust you two might have! I mean, you guys put each other's lives in your hands every night, when you patrol together or go hunting a specific demon together or whatever.” He sighed. “I'm sorry, Buff. But enough's enough; if you won't tell her, I will.”

“But you said-” Buffy protested, but there was...the protest was almost half-hearted. Not quite.

Harris sighed tiredly. “Yeah, I know what I said. But come on, Buffy! I was expecting you to 'fess up to everyone within...a week, say. Maybe two at the most. Not a whole freaking month, almost...” He sighed again and looked away.

Buffy didn't say anything for several minutes, staring at nothing. Giles somewhat awkwardly busied himself with the books on the table, gathering them up and putting them back on the shelf. Xander stuck his hand in his pockets, and one hand half-consciously touched the Iron Coin.

Finally, Buffy spoke, her voice uncharacteristically soft. “You...” She paused. “Xander, you do have a point. It's a good point...a very point-y argument.” She nodded. “All right. I'll tell Faith. Right now.” Buffy took a deep breath and stood up. She nodded to Xander and Giles and then left the library.

Xander watched her leave and thought to himself, I hope this works...

November 18th, 1998
Faith's Apartment, Sunnydale


Xander knocked on the door of the new apartment Faith now lived in, courtesy the Council's rent money, and waited for her to answer. After a minute, the door opened and the dark-haired Slayer stood at the threshold. “Xander.”

“Hey Faith.” He gestured past her. “Can I come in?”

“You oughta know better than to ask for an invitation, Harris. What do you want?” Faith asked, raising an eyebrow and looking him over.

“To talk.” Xander saw the look on Faith's face when he said that, and rolled his eyes. “And to ask you a question. Whether or not Buffy's told you the Big Secret.”

Faith nodded after a moment, then stepped aside wordlessly. Xander walked into the apartment and Faith closed the door behind him.

“Yeah. B told me the Big Secret.” Faith didn't look at him as she said that. “Wouldn't tell me where her undead lover is, but she told me he was back from Hell and living in Sunnydale. Really big on the 'he's got a soul' thing. Said that, what, had to be at least five times.”

“So you're not tempted to track Angel down and stake him?” Xander asked bluntly.

Faith shook her head. “There's more than enough vamps to kill around here without going after B's undead sex toy. Especially if he's supposed to be a White Hat.” She shrugged. “If I knew where he was, I'd probably be tempted to take him out...far as I'm concerned, a vamp's a vamp, soul or otherwise. But if he's a good guy again, then what the hell; let bygones be bygones, and all that shit. But if he ever goes evil again? I won't have a problem with taking him down.”

“Good.” Xander said. “And...I'm glad you're not interested in staking him on general principles. Makes everyone's life easier.”

“You really don't like him, huh? B was pretty clear on that...though she also said you pointed out to her that telling me would be a good idea.” Faith paused for just a second. “I appreciate that.”

Xander nodded. “She would have figured that out soon if I hadn't, I think. I hope.” He paused, then added, “You going hunting for Lagos and this Glove thing tonight, then?”

“Yeah.” Faith replied with a shrug. “Got the marching orders from my new Watcher. Supposed to listen to her, apparently.”

“Where is she?” Xander looked around.

“Out buying me some groceries, if you can believe that.” Faith said, snorting with laughter a little. Xander couldn't help but chuckle as well. “She didn't like the state of my refrigerator, apparently. She 'disapproved.'” Faith added air quotes at the end.

“I know we just met and all, but British Watcher lady sure seemed to disapprove of a lot of things.” Xander pointed out, trying to use subtlety to lead Faith on what to conclude about Mrs. Post.

“Seems like it.” Faith replied. “She'd better stop trying to order me around, though. On account of I tend to 'disapprove' of that.”

November 18th, 1998
The Bronze, Sunnydale


Before Xander could sit down at the table within the packed nightclub, the one where Willow, Oz and Cordelia were sitting at already, the redhead immediately bombarded him with a question he hadn't been expecting from her.

“You knew!? Why didn't you tell us?” Willow semi-shouted.

Xander paused a moment, then sat down. “So, Buffy told you about you-know-who?” Harris asked her.

“Well, yeah!” Willow replied forcefully. “She told all of us! But what I wanna know is, how did you know before we did? And why didn't you tell us?!”

“Buffy didn't tell you about that part of it?” Xander asked carefully.

“No.”

Sweet Jesus, thank you for that. “Okay, well, I was there in the library when Buffy talked with Giles about it. And as to why I didn't tell you, that's because I promised Buffy I wouldn't.” That was the truth and nothing but the truth, but it wasn't the whole truth by any means.

“But you told her!” Willow gestured at Cordelia.

“Well, duh!” Cordelia interjected hotly. “Of course Xander told me. He's my boyfriend! And you're not supposed to keep things like that secret from the person you're dating!”

“Well, I've been his friend longer than he's been your boyfriend, and Xander still didn't tell me!” Willow countered. And things just started to go totally downhill from there. These days Willow and Cordelia usually managed to get on well enough, granted, even if the Chase girl had said she really didn't like Willow or vice-versa. But sometimes...sometimes...

Xander looked at Oz. “Wanna go get 'em some drinks from the bar?”

The werewolf looked at the two bickering girls and then nodded. “Sure.”

Thus, the two boys got up and headed to order drinks for their women and themselves. The current 'conversation' between Willow and Cordelia meant their throats would soon get parched enough for handy refreshments...

November 20th, 1998
Sunnydale High Library


The whole gang, including, even, the new Watcher Mrs. Post – whose first name turned out to be 'Gwendolyn' – A more British name has never been heard - minus Buffy and Faith was in the library, avidly researching the Glove. More specifically, on how to destroy it.

Xander knew that Angel had found it two days ago, and was keeping it safe in his mansion. After all, just about every demon and vampire in Sunnydale knew where the Watcher and the Slayer based themselves. Storing the glove here or at Giles's condo or at 1630 Revello Drive, would serve no purpose but to put it somewhere Lagos would look for it. In any case, the library doors opened and everyone turned to see the three people entering. Faith was holding the Glove, which was wrapped up in rags, plus Buffy and Angel were flanking her closely.

And...now it's going to happen. Xander saw the excited look in Gwendolyn Post's eyes as she approached Faith. As the female Watcher did that, Xander slowly moved into position. If everything went as he expected it would...

Obviously, she wants the Glove. And even more obviously, she can't let us destroy it. We already have some of the ingredients we need to destroy it...there... Harris looked, seeing the urn again. Carrying out the spell to turn fire into Living Flame was not as easy as one would think.

“Lagos?” Post asked, eagerly.

“Dead.” Buffy said succinctly. “Faith killed him.”

“Well, you helped too.” Faith replied, then qualified her reply. “A little, anyway.”

Angel started to step back, but Giles called out his name. “Angel.”

“Yes?” The haunted look on the vampire's face was unmistakeable, as he looked at the British man he could remember torturing gleefully a few months ago.

“You did well to find the Glove and keep it safe, I grant you. But should I ever see you in this library again, I will not be satisfied with just letting you leave unscathed.” Giles said icily.

“Giles!” Buffy exclaimed, horrified.

Xander ignored the argument that started between Giles and Buffy, likewise, Angel ignored it as he slipped out the double doors without looking back.

Gwendolyn Post nodded to Faith. “Give me the Glove, Faith. It needs to be handled carefully.” Faith immediately handed it to her like it was on fire. The British woman shook her head. “You're fine for now, but it is a highly magical and powerful artifact that cannot be treated lightly.” She gingerly took the Glove and walked towards Giles's office. She didn't notice Xander near the door. Or the baseball bat that he had stashed a few feet from where he was standing.

Gwendolyn went into the librarian's office and closed the door. No one seemed to notice; Buffy and Giles continued arguing, with Cordelia and Willow joining in; perhaps not unexpectedly, Willow on Buffy's side, and Cordelia on Giles's. And of course, all of them ignored Gwen. But not Xander.

Moments later, the office door opened and a blast of lightning flew out, hitting the urn. The vessel blew up, the flames vanishing as shards and dust flew everywhere, and the other items near it were destroyed, broken or otherwise rendered useless. Another lightning blast flew out, hitting a bookshelf, destroying books and sending more flying as the shelf acquired a brand new gaping hole.

Interesting decorative choice, Xander thought to himself, the only one not stunned by the latest act of Hellmouth weirdness.

A cruel laugh came out from Giles' office. A woman's laugh.

“What the hell?” Faith looked away from the argument between B and Jeeves, which she'd been watching with little real interest – as everyone else stopped arguing.

“Faith.” Gwendolyn Post walked out of the office, the Glove on her arm, the spikes at the top dug deep into her right arm. “You're an idiot.” She raised the Glove, aiming it at the dark-haired Slayer.

“Actually,” Xander said from behind her and to the left, reaching for the bat, “That would be you.”

So saying, Harris swung the bat, hard, hitting her square on the temple. Out like a light, Mrs. Post fell to the ground. She missed hitting her head on the main desk by a hair's breadth, as the Glove crackled with electricity.

Xander looked around at everyone else and dropped the bat. He shrugged as if it was nothing. “Someone might want to get the Glove off her arm, before she comes to.”

"Good Lord..." Giles looked stunned, as he stared at Gwendolyn's body. "She actually..."

"It can't come off," Buffy said, looking just as flabbergasted as her Watcher. "Angel told me that once you put it on, you...Angel? Where the hell did he go?" She looked around in dismay.

"So, what's that mean? Do we have to kill the evil Watcher, in order to stop her from using that thing on us?" Faith asked, looking around at the others.

Another argument instantly broke out, but Xander decided to stay out of it, offering to take Cordelia home instead. Besides, he had the feeling there would be a lot of questions coming his way soon, like how he'd managed to have a convenient baseball bat handy to knock out the bad guy...
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