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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 > GeneralAlkeniFR1518110,0091212330,70226 Sep 1230 Jun 14No

Episode 7: The Other Shoe

Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All original content is mine, however.

Thanks to Starway Man, my Beta. Not just for his post-writing edits and the like, but also for his plot development and sounding board services.

I have no real excuse for the absence. Exams, papers, writers block, travel, summer job applications, Bigfoot, alien abduction. Take your pick. Things are going to pick up as we go, however.

The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

By Alkeni

Episode 7: The Other Shoe


November 22nd, 1998
1630 Revello Drive, Sunnydale


One of the greatest things about being friends with Buffy Summers, Xander had long ago decided, was her mother's cooking. Always eager to eat somewhere that wasn't his house, Xander therefore took every opportunity possible to eat at Buffy's place. Those opportunities tended to crop up about once a month, give or take.

And it wasn't just that he got to eat somewhere that wasn't el casa Harris, or that he got to spend time with his friends, both of which were good things on their own and would have been more than enough reason for Xander to look forward to them. But it was also that Mrs. Summers cooked very nice meals. He'd heard, from Buffy, horror stories about some of her mother's occasional adventures in culinary experimentation; but so far, the results of those experiments hadn't made their way to the table when he was eating at the Summers household.

In addition to Buffy, Willow, Oz and Cordelia were present tonight, as well as Faith. Angel wasn't present, for very understandable reasons, and neither was Giles.  Xander frowned; it seemed like that guy had been avoiding Buffy's mom lately, and he had no idea why. Granted, though, Xander hadn't spent all that much time hanging with either the G-man or Mrs. S in recent weeks, so that was hardly surprising.

Until dessert was ready, the meal was over, and everyone was more or less just chilling out. Willow and Oz were making eyes at one another, and Faith was watching TV. Xander was just sitting by himself, as he noticed Cordelia and Buffy were talking about, of all things, clothes. 

Xander frowned as he remembered how his girlfriend had spent yesterday, and most of today, for that matter, in Los Angeles. Her parents had dragged her to a social function at, of all places, her father's law firm, Wolf and something or another – he hadn't really paid attention to the name – and shown her off to all concerned more like a prized possession, rather than a daughter. Cordelia, in exchange, had gone and racked up a truly massive bill on one of her fathers' credit cards by shopping for clothes and shoes in L.A., as soon as the social function was over. The bright side, Miss Chase had once said, of parents who didn't pay her all that much attention was that, as long as she didn't screw up, she could spend their money with almost reckless abandon; which she was exactly what she had done in the City of Angels.

Xander smiled, just a little, as he recalled how happy Cordelia had looked when she'd arrived back in town with all those clothes that she'd bought. He had never understood, and probably never would understand, how his girlfriend could possibly enjoy shopping so much. Or, frankly, her seeming obsession with having so many shoes and clothes – though she certainly looked good in everything she bought – which struck him as being more than a little materialistic. Still, Xander did appreciate the fact that shopping made her happy. He may not have shared her love of shopping, but he did know how much Cordy loved it, and that was reason enough to tolerate all the babble about Ralph Lauren and Jimmy Choo's and whatever other girl talk that came out of the brunette's mouth. 

And that's not just me appreciating the other talents my girl has, where her mouth's concerned! Xander smirked to himself, recalling the other night's make-out session. Cordelia had been wanting to make the most of his presence before departing Sunnydale for the big city, and whatever he'd thought Cordelia had been capable of achieving with her lips and her tongue, she'd surpassed every expectation Xander had possessed. And then some, what with the cheerleader's efforts to reach the back of his neck from the front. Their evening together had seemed to make her happy...

Xander had to admit it to himself; he liked Cordelia being happy. When she was happy, he was happy. And not just because a happier Cordelia was a Cordelia who tended to be more affectionate, although that was certainly something he didn't object to.

But, and Xander was slowly coming to realize this, it was more than that. The simple fact of the matter was that when Cordelia was happy...so was he. Just because she was happy. 

May as well face it, buddy boy. You might just have fallen head over heels in love with this girl. And who'da thunk it, from the way you two were always tearing into one another for all those years?

That was a thought that had been occurring in Xander's mind, in one form or another, quite frequently recently. Am I in love with Cordelia Chase? He was startled out of his musings by Cordelia almost immediately after that thought, though.

“So whatever happened to Psycho-Watcher?” The Homecoming Queen asked, looking around inquisitively. "After Giles cut off her arm where that demon-y glove thing was attached, I mean, so that she couldn't kill us all after she woke up?"

“I dunno. I think the tea-addicts from merrie olde England showed up and took her away, didn't they?” Faith answered, looking to Buffy, who was the most likely one to actually remember.

Buffy nodded. “Yeah. Even though according to Giles, Mrs. Post-It was actually already expelled from the Council by the time she showed up here.”

“You'd think that they'd send out some kind of memo about that.” Oz commented, stringing far more words together than he usually did.

“Oh, hey, they did!” Buffy said with a half-smirk. “Giles just never got around to reading it. He eventually found it buried under a stack of books in his office.”

“Yeah, well, let's just hope that the Watchers' Council doesn't send out a memo on the impending end of the world, then.” Xander chuckled a little.

“That would at least have to merit a phone call, right?” Oz asked.

“With any luck.” Willow nodded, before she looked at Xander. “Speaking of luck, and Mrs. Post, how come you had that baseball bat all handy like that? I mean it was kinda lucky that you had it when she came out of Giles' office and you could just clonk her right on the head like that. Nice hit, by the way.” Willow added, her voice speeding up quite a bit by the time she got to the end of her minor babble-fest.

Xander shrugged and lied glibly. “The bat's not mine, Will. I dunno, someone musta left it there. I'm pretty sure it was in there for a few days, anyway.”

Buffy shook her head and, with a suspicious frown on her face, she replied, “I'm pretty sure it wasn't, Xander. I certainly didn't see it laying around anywhere.”

Xander shot her an annoyed look. Not. Helping. Buffy! Harris thought to himself. He was pretty sure this was payback both for forcing the Chosen One to spill the beans about Angel to the rest of the Scooby Gang when she didn't want to, and for not cooperating with her demands to know everything about his 'advance knowledge' dealie. Is it my fault she wants the impossible, namely for me to 'fess up about the Iron Coin? I swear, Slay-gal, one of these days you're gonna have to realize that I can't tell you what's the what where the Jester's concerned, that you can't get your own way about that!

Buffy sent Xander an innocent 'who, me?' look by way of reply to his annoyed look. "Well?"

“Well, sorry to have to point it out, Buff, but you're wrong.” Xander said with another shrug. Before anyone else could cut in with more questions that he really didn't want to deal with, the phone rang. Feeling thankful, Xander got up to head for the bathroom as Mrs. Summers headed over to the telephone.

She picked up. “Hello, Summers residence.” 

Joyce nodded as she spoke, even though whoever was on the other end of the line was unable to see the head motion. “Xander? Yes, he's here.” 

Xander paused on his way to the bathroom, after hearing his name. He listened as Joyce said, “Could I ask why you want to talk to him?” 

Another pause, and Joyce's expression went from normal, to a flash of shock, then gravely serious. She looked over towards Xander, her voice unusually soft. “All right. Xander, it's for you.” 

Xander nodded as he immediately went over to Joyce's side. “What's wrong?” Something in the middle-aged woman's expression, her tone...it had him worried. I shoulda guessed something like this would happen, damn it, everything's been going too good in my life lately...not to mention that Fate wouldn't be happy how it didn't get what it wanted, where Willow and I were concerned...

Mrs. Summers provided no answer, so Xander took the phone from her and held it up to ear. “Hello?”

“Hello. This is Detective Stein of the Sunnydale PD.” Oh yeah. Xander quickly recalled the name. The guy that totally had it out for Buffy, when she was accused of killing Kendra. “Am I speaking to Alexander Harris?”

“Yeah...? Look, what's this about?” Xander decided to cut right to the chase.

“I'm afraid I have some bad news for you, Mr. Harris.” The policeman's voice said, then it paused a moment. “Your father's dead.” Xander blanked out a moment. “Mr. Harris?”

Xander shook his head as if to clear it. “I'm sorry. I thought I just heard you say that my dad's dead. And, and that's just crazy talk!” With his back to the others, Xander didn't see the looks of shock and horror that spread across their faces as the gang got up and started to head over towards him.

“I'm sorry. But I'm afraid it's true; the body's already been formally identified. Your mother found him in the living room about half an hour ago, and called us. Mr. Harris - your dad, he appears to have suffered a deep stab wound from a barbeque fork to the neck, and then bled out.”

“No, no, no way!” Xander denied almost violently. “This is some kind of sick joke. Next thing you know, you're going to tell me is that you think he was killed by gang members high on PCP!” 

Rejection of every single word that he had heard come out of the detective's mouth was the only refuge Xander could find, in his current mental state. Sure, Tony Harris wasn't exactly Father of the Year material, and never had been. But...the man was his dad, for better or worse. 

Tony was the guy who used to host barbeques for the Harris, Rosenberg and McNally families, before he'd been laid off from his job and started sliding down into alcoholism. He was the man who used to take his son and his brother Rory fishing when Xander was five, before Tony had discovered how it just wasn't any fun being the sole person who enjoyed the sport. The male teen just couldn't deal with the fact that...

His father...

Was dead...

And by vampires. It had, had to be some kind of sick joke. The 'Scooby Gang' spent their nights risking their lives against demons and vampires, creatures of nightmares...their families were supposed to be safe. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen.

“Mr. Harris, please. I understand that this is very hard for you to accept, but I need you to grasp the fact that I'm telling you the truth. This is not a joke; although if it was, as you say, it would be a very sick one. At any rate, I'm afraid we need you to come over to your house as soon as possible, to answer a few questions.”

Joyce reached over and gently took the phone from Xander's nerveless grasp before he could drop it. “Hello?" Pause. "I see. Yes, I'll have Xander there soon.” Mrs. Summers told the detective, then pressed the end button on the cordless phone.

Xander felt the nausea rising within him, the acrid taste already on his tongue. The other backed away, sensing that he was about to hurl; Harris managed to force it back down for a moment, as he started rushing towards the bathroom. He didn't reach it, though, unfortunately. Doubling over, Xander's mouth opened and the contents of his stomach emptied out onto the carpeted floor. He hadn't actually eaten all that much tonight – he'd been saving room for dessert – so most of it was just dry heaving. Violent, painful, dry heaving, but dry heaving nonetheless.

Cordelia went over to her boyfriend hesitantly, unsure. Willow was about to follow her and go over to Xander as well, but after a look from Joyce, she decided not to. Cordy never even noticed; she was too busy trying to figure out what to do or say in this situation. ?How...how am I supposed to act now...?

Slowly, hesitantly, the young woman put a hand on her beloved's back. When Xander didn't flinch away, she kept it on him, slowly starting to rub around in circles until the dry-heaving stopped. Without a word, Cordelia then led Xander back to the couch, offering silent, unspoken comfort the best she could.

Fifteen minutes later
17619 White Oak Drive, Sunnydale


Mrs. Summers' Jeep came to a halt on the street near the Harris residence. Three police cars were already present in front of the house, and the yellow crime scene tape was over the front door. Grimacing, Joyce opened the car door and her passengers clambered out – Buffy, Xander and Cordelia. Oz's van pulled up behind them and he got out of it once it was parked, followed quickly by Willow and Faith.

The six teenagers and one adult approached the house. Xander was half-guided by Cordelia, the black-haired young man almost running on autopilot after the terrible shock to his system a short while ago. As they approached the house, two uniform policemen came out of the front door, temporarily removing it from the doorway. A few seconds later, two people from the coroner's office carried a quite obviously filled, but thankfully closed, body bag out of the house.

“Is that-” Buffy started to say, before she quickly closed her mouth. Of course it was Xander's father.

Xander hadn't said anything since the phone call itself, but she'd overheard enough of the conversation, from Xander's end, to know what had killed his dad. A vampire. Buffy knew that Xander wouldn't have made that 'gang members high on PCP' comment if the detective on the other end hadn't said something – probably something about barbeque fork to the neck being the cause of death – that would have prompted it.

The very idea of Xander's father dying at the hands of a vampire...it sickened Buffy. Because she was the Slayer. Okay, a Slayer nowadays, but still. Killing the vampires in Sunnydale was her job. She knew she couldn't get them all, Buffy knew that people died because she couldn't keep everyone around here safe. And that part always...well, to say it bothered her was an understatement, but Buffy could keep the feeling under control. If by nothing else than by the fact that she was doing all she could to keep things here in Hell-ville from falling apart completely.

She was out there every night killing the vampires...but she had missed one...missed one that had gone on to do something that was one of Buffy's worst nightmares.

She had missed a vampire that had gone after one of her friends, their family. Xander had never blamed her for Jesse's death, and part of her knew that Xander, being who he was, and understanding what they faced like he did, would most likely not blame her for this either. But Buffy couldn't help but blame herself. 

God damn it! I thought that snitch Willy had made it clear to the vamps and demons around here. I thought they understood that if they went after me or mine, it'd be all-out war! Buffy fumed. She tried to distract herself from thinking that if she had patrolled a different route one night, or kept going a bit longer some other night...maybe she could have...could have killed the vampire that had done this...killed the vampire before it could do this...

“I want to see him.” Xander suddenly said, stepping forward towards the cops.

“Mr. Harris-” One of the cops started to say, having seen a few pictures of the young man – granted, when he had been much younger – within the house, and thus recognizing him as the son of the victim.

“He's my father. I want to see the body before you load it into the coroner's van, and take it away to the city morgue!” Xander insisted.

The two orderlies looked at each other, and one of them shrugged after a moment. They put the body bag down and unzipped it enough for the upper half of the late Tony Harris to be seen.

Xander stepped forward and crouched down, looking at the white, bloodless corpse. The bite marks on the neck were clearly visible, so Xander had to find out. He had to know if...

Fortunately, his father's mouth was open. The light from the street lamp was, equally fortunately, bright enough for him to get a good look inside. Xander let loose a soft hiss of air; there was no blood in Tony's mouth, as far as he could tell, and for that much he was thankful. 

At least...at least he didn't have to worry about that. About his father rising again tomorrow night...about needing to stake the vampire with Tony Harris's face.

The others knew exactly what he was doing, of course, but said nothing. Even the cops and the coroner's people said nothing, conveniently looking away. Cordelia noticed and thought to herself, Well, if they don't know perfectly well what my boyfriend's doing, then I'll eat my bottom Prada! Seriously, how can they know and not do anything about it? Even I couldn't live in denial forever!

Xander straightened back up and walked back over to the others. Before he left, he nodded to the cops and the coroner's officials. “Thank you.” Harris said softly, barely able to find his voice again. The cops just nodded as the other two zipped the bag back up and carried it off to the body van. The meat wagon.

“Did he-” Buffy started to say, but Xander immediately shook his head.

“No.” Everyone was expecting him to say something else, but contrary to his normal habits, Xander was doing a pretty good Oz impersonation right now.

The blonde Slayer barely managed to contain a sigh of relief. Xander then took a deep breath, trying to prepare for something that he knew he couldn't really prepare for...

He slowly reached out for Cordelia's hand and took it, holding it tight. Much to his relief, Cordelia said nothing; she just squeezed his hand tightly. There was no sassy quip, or playful insult; just acceptance. Understanding. The unspoken promise of love and support.

The trip from the driveway of his house to the front door couldn't have taken longer than ten seconds, but to Xander it felt more like a century. A millennium, even. But finally, they got there, and started to duck under the crime scene tape to enter the house. 

But then one of the policemen standing just inside the Harris residence held up a hand. “Sorry, but I can't let all of you in.” He pointed to Cordelia and Mrs. Summers, given that one was an adult and the other was holding Xander's hand in a vise-like grip. “You two can come in with Mr. Harris. The rest of you, please stay outside.”

“What?!” Willow protested, “But we're his friends!”

“Miss, this is a crime scene, not a nightclub like the Bronze.” The cop said in annoyance. “For now, just you three.” He pointed to Xander, Cordelia and Mrs. Summers again.

Xander let go of Cordelia's hand and hugged Willow tightly for a moment. Under other circumstances, Cordelia might have been just a tiny bit jealous, but...Xander and Willow had been best friends for years, ever since kindergarten, and given the circumstances...

The Chase girl understood that Xander needed that moment of comfort from his best friend. I can live with that. This isn't a competition, and even if it was, I'd win anyway.

“It's alright.” Xander said softly to Willow. “Just knowing you're out here, Will, it's enough.” 

After a moment, Willow nodded, and Xander headed back towards the door. The policeman lifted the tape for the three of them, and they were in the living room within less than a minute. Mrs. Summers scowled when she saw Detective Stein. Understandably, she wasn't even remotely fond of the man, given the semi-vendetta he'd seemed to pursue against Buffy six months ago. Stein had stopped by the Summers house more than once, even when Buffy was gone, trying to see if there was something he could arrest her for; even though the murder charges had been dropped, after the Slayer's friends had made their statements.

“Mr. Harris.”

“My name is Xander.” Xander told the detective. “Mr. Harris is-” He paused a moment. “Was my father.”

“Mr.-” the Detective cut himself off, and then continued. “I'm going to need to ask you a few questions.” Xander nodded, and the police detective started, pulling out a pen from inside his suit jacket. “What did your father do for a living?”

“He didn't do anything." Xander frowned. Shouldn't he already know that? Wouldn't he have already asked Mom about it? “Dad got laid off from his job a few months ago. Lately, all he did was get drunk, beat up my mother and watched whatever sports were on the television.” Despite himself, Xander couldn't hide all the scorn out of his voice.

“You didn't like your father much, did you?”

“No...not particularly. Not for the last few years, at least, but he's...” Xander paused a moment. “He was my father. You deal with it, even when it gets bad. It's family. And he was my dad.”

“When were you last at your house, and what was your father doing then?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Cordelia asked in confusion.

“I'm trying to establish a definite timeline of events leading up to this incident, miss." Stein then turned back to Xander. “Can you please answer the question?”

“Uh, I left this morning to go to school. I haven't been back here until now, I went to straight to Buffy's house for dinner after school.” Xander replied tersely. “As for what Dad was doing when I left this morning...he was sleeping it off in his recliner chair.” He nodded to the chair in question. “What happened...how...?” Xander started slowly, voice trailing off, unable to find the words.

“It appears someone forced the back door open – we think with some kind of large hammer – and then attacked your father. Based on where his body fell, he was standing by the television when he was attacked.” Stein wrote something down on his notepad. “Do you have idea of who might have done this?”

“No.” Xander replied, entirely truthfully. He didn't know who. He did know what, however. And telling Stein wouldn't help. Either he already knew and was like the rest of the Sunnydale PD in his unwillingness to face or deal with Sunnydale's vampire problem, or else he didn't know and simply wouldn't believe him.

“Why do I get the feeling you wouldn't tell me if you did?” Stein asked slowly, looking at Xander sharply.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Xander demanded.

“Mr. Harris, your father was almost certainly killed by gang members high on PCP – the MO matches exactly for hundreds of other murders – and you're an associate of Buffy Summers, who is herself associated with those same gangs and a known killer-” 

“HOW DARE YOU?!” Joyce exploded, looking enraged. “My daughter was exonerated of all those charges! Mister, you either you take that back, or I'll sue you in court!”

But Stein didn't even appear to notice the Summers woman's tirade, focusing solely on Xander. “You didn't like your father, and you don't seem to be grieving his loss all that much either. I wouldn't be surprised if you knew something about this incident, had something to do with this even-”

Cordelia had had enough. She exploded at Detective Stein even while he was mid-sentence. “Mister, what's wrong with you? My boyfriend's dad just died, and you're treating him like Public Enemy Number One? This is unbelievable! Are you that desperate for someone to blame, that you want to accuse someone with an airtight alibi?!” 

Stein transferred his gaze to her, essentially glaring at her. Cordelia was totally unfazed, though. “Xander had nothing to do with this, and you know it. Plus I bet you just want to drag Buffy into this mess because of the way she made you look like a total idiot, about those bogus murder charges! And you never did find out who killed Kendra, did you? It's disgusting the way the Sunnydale PD just just closed that case and moved on, because Xander and I were there that day those people attacked the library, and one of the 'gang members' broke his arm and another one chased me all the way out of the school!”

“Miss Chase-” Detective Stein started, but he didn't get the chance to say anything else.

“Hey, I'm not done yet!” Cordelia interrupted angrily. “For the record, you're a disgrace to your badge. Y'know, I ought to tell my father about all this; he knows the Chief of Police, and you could soon find yourself doing lone foot patrols at night! I probably oughta call my father's lawyer as well. His name's Holland Manners, at Wolfram and Hart; you musta heard of his law firm, right?”

Now that got a reaction out of Stein. The plain-clothes detective scowled and straightened up, putting away his notebook. Looking at Xander, he spoke, voice stern. “Don't leave town.” He then walked out of the living room, tearing down the crime-scene tape over the door as he went. The rest of the cops, uniform officers who had been doing their best to pretend they weren't there and that they weren't hearing any of this, quickly finished up their tasks and left as well.

Xander didn't say anything as he embraced Cordelia, holding her tight. He didn't need to say anything, she understood.

An hour later
17619 White Oak Drive, Sunnydale


Xander sat on his bed, turning the Iron Coin over again and again and again in his hand, staring at it. It had been hard to finally convince everyone to go. They had been worried about him and his mother, who was currently asleep after taking a boat-load of sleeping pills. Xander had assured himself that she was alright, and then asked everyone (even Cordelia) to go home. 

He hadn't really wanted them to leave, but he hadn't been able to stand all of them staying here, all night...he needed...he needed time alone, with his thoughts. Cordelia had been the last to leave, she had been unwilling to leave him alone tonight. Neither had Buffy and Willow and everyone else, of course, but...

Cordelia...it was odd how she was the only thing he'd been able to latch onto, with all this. He still...he knew that his mind really wasn't grasping this quite yet. It would hit him, all at once, soon, he knew. His father was dead. Xander knew that in his brain, but he didn't feel it in his heart at the moment.

No. What he was feeling there was rage. Rage and confusion.

Confusion because the back door had been forced open. But if a vampire needed an invitation to get in, then why would it break and enter the premises? That made no sense at all. For that matter, his surly and decidedly antisocial father didn't extend invitations to anyone, he had lived in Sunnydale all his life and knew the unspoken rules as well as every long-term human resident. Not that that necessarily meant he hadn't invited a vampire in...but still, the forced door...and the fact that his mother was still alive, plus Jessica Harris hadn't seen or heard anything while she'd been upstairs, cleaning his room for once...

It just didn't add up. And it was too well tied to his ongoing fear of Fate dropping the other shoe.

Xander couldn't get over the suspicion...the firm belief...that all this was due to Fate. Why would some vampire go after his father, otherwise? There were certainly easier pickings in Sunnydale, in terms of finding a quick meal. Besides, trying to get at Buffy through him by killing his father was suicidal, and every member of the undead club within the city limits had to know that. Buffy (and Faith as well, most likely) would now go on a rampage, looking for the guilty party, and there would soon be a lot of collateral damage within the demon community. 

These days the vampires in Sunnydale tended to avoid making waves as much as possible, given their evil and predatory natures. >Not that that isn't likely to change once a new Big Bad moves into town, Xander considered.

Still, as has been said, all this just didn't make sense. And there was only one way Xander knew for sure on how to get an answer to his questions regarding the why, rather than the who. Ask the Jester.

“Asking the Jester about all this won't get you anywhere, I'm afraid.” A stern voice said from behind the young man, as if in reply to his thought. 

Xander turned to face the source of the voice. He couldn't make any details out of the appearance of the speaker, though the voice at least sounded male; the room was in complete darkness, he had deliberately switched the lights off. Harris said. “So who are you? This Hydra character that seems to be the one messing with my ability to tell people anything?”

The voice laughed. “I am no agent of Chaos, to upset the proper order things out of some misplaced desire for 'amusement', or pure contrariness.” There was a sound of fingers snapping, and the lights in Xander's room went on.

The originator of the voice was an old man. Well, his gray beard was long enough that it had to be on a really, really old guy, but his face didn't have enough wrinkles. The black robes completed the look of some fantasy wizard. Not exactly someone straight out of 'Lord of the Rings', but he's pretty damn close.

Xander honestly couldn't help himself. He asked. “Who are you supposed to be, Gandalf the Black?”

“I am the Librarian of Fate.” If the Librarian got the joke, he didn't show it. 

What, do great cosmic powers not read good books anymore? Okay, so Xander hadn't read them either. He had seen those cheesy animated movie versions back when he was younger, though, after Willow had kept babbling about how great the books had been. “Fine, so?” 

“Your father's death was no random occurrence, as you have already guessed. It was an object lesson in the power of Fate, and why you should cease and desist from using the Iron Coin the Jester gave you – you must stop interfering with the order of things. You have already done far too much damage. You are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, granted, but beings such as yourself have no place becoming even an annoyance to the Forces of Fate.” Despite the harsh nature of the words, there was no vitriol in this...being's tone. It was as if the Librarian was giving Xander a lecture, like a school teacher telling him things that the dark-haired youth should already know.

Too bad for him how the Librarian's audience was in no mood to learn that which the higher being was trying to teach.

“You killed my father, just to teach me lesson?” Xander grabbed the lamp off his bedside table and threw it at the Librarian before he even knew what he was doing. The Librarian flickered a moment and the object passed right through the robed being, continuing on through Xander's open window, crashing onto the yard below.

“There is no point in wasting your time that way. I am able to be in as many places as needed to prevent my time from actually being wasted on this little venture, but your time is being spent to no avail. Which brings us to the second thing I am here to tell you. Namely, that you will hand over the Iron Coin, now, and then I will be on my way.”

“You arranged for my dad to die, just in order to get me to give you that thing?” Xander asked, too amazed to even be angry. The thought then came unbidden into his mind. Because you can't simply take it yourself?

“Yes.” The Librarian replied coolly. “Do you understand now? Your interference in the proper order of things has gone far enough. At least when you altered the destinies of the Slayer and her friends before the Jester gave you his coin, you didn't know any better. But now you are deliberately interfering in what must be, and what must come to pass. If you continue to interfere with our plans, more people will die. And their deaths will be on your head.”

“You sick - what the-” Xander spluttered, unable to find the right words. His rage, confusion and terror mixing with an undercurrent of guilt to create an impossible-to-control cocktail of emotions. “What are we, just game pieces to you? Pawns on a chess board? Where do you get off consigning Buffy to death not once, not twice, but three times? Who gave you permission to start killing people, to make things go according to the way you want them to? Where you get off killing my father to teach me a lesson, then threatening that more people will die, and then have the nerve to blame me for it?! Who the hell gave you the right to play those sorts of games?”

“This is not a game, Alexander LaVelle Harris. This is Destiny, Fate, the planned order of things; call it what you will. And as for your other questions, the Universe must run its proper way. The forces of Fate do not play games, and we do not enact whims. To use a phrase you can understand, we...keep things going. We make sure that even though individuals may suffer and die, this world will continue to exist both now, and far into the future. Your perspective is limited. Were you able to see even a fraction of what I see, you would understand why the Slayer had to die in that underground cavern at the hands of The Master.”

“I don't care how much perspective I'd have! I would never sacrifice Buffy's life like that. I wouldn't sacrifice anyone's life, as if they were just a cheap disposable pawn!” Xander ranted at the higher being.

“Do not give Buffy Anne Summers that much credit. Calling her a pawn gives her far too much importance. You – all of you here on this Hellmouth – are of a level of insignificance that it is impossible for your minds to truly understand. You have no idea just how irrelevant you truly are.”

“Oh, really? Well, if I'm so insignificant, why are you even bothering to visit me here in the first place?” Xander demanded, refusing to buy what this guy was selling. “'Cause it's not just about the Iron Coin, is it? Seriously. I bet that if you could have, you'd have just arranged for someone to have taken it away from me by now. Uh-uh, Mr. Librarian, not buying any of that. Besides, if we were so completely unimportant, why would you even bother with us at all? Why would you arrange for what happened to my dad, if I'm so unimportant?”

“You still do not understand. It is not as if it actually takes much of my focus or energy to be here, or to arrange for what happened to your father, or to keep things going the way they should be, here on this Hellmouth. You cannot understand the level of awareness that I possess. You should understand that there are thousands of deaths which occur every second, that I am the ultimate cause of. And it does not happen out of spite, or benevolence, or favoritism; it is simply the natural order of things. Fate. Destiny. But your interference is making waves. Things must go the way we have planned for them. And you must stop your interference-”

“Screw you, pal; I've heard enough of your crap!” Xander interrupted fiercely. “You think, you really think that you can stop me by killing my dad? By threatening to kill other people? Free will, pal; if you don't know what it means, look it up! As far as I'm concerned, any deaths that you cause are your fault, not mine. I'm not going to abandon my friends to whatever horrible plans you've cooked up for them! And just so you know, asshole, you've now made this fucking personal. Before, even with what you tried to make happen between me and Willow; it was about my friends-”

“You should not have altered that event.” the Librarian interrupted tonelessly. “You have no idea what the consequences will be, less than a year from now.”

“Whatever! But as I was saying, after what you did...now, it's about me. Maybe I'm small. Maybe all I'll ever be to you is a tiny little annoyance. But I'll be the biggest fucking tiny little annoyance you've ever seen!” Xander threw the Iron Coin at the Librarian as he shouted that last part, figuring to use it as a weapon. Maybe it wouldn't work, or maybe it would; but Harris figured it was worth a shot. It was all about intent; he wasn't giving the coin to his enemy, in any sense of the word.

Xander guessed correctly; the moment that the Chaos Artifact touched the Force of Fate, the higher being vanished in a flash of light, an agonized look appearing on the Librarian's face for just an instant. Afterwards, the coin clattered against the wall and then fell to the floor of Xander's bedroom, unharmed.

“You want a war, you prick? YOU'VE GOT ONE!!” Xander hissed angrily, as somewhere in a higher dimension, the Forces of Chaos started 'laughing' wildly.
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