liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,
liz_marcs
liz_marcs

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Water Hold Me Down (Part 33)

*looks at previous post*

*meeps in fear*

*checks Gmail*

*meeping in fear becomes hyperventillating*

I will, I swear to god, I will reply to everyone. I will. I'll get to all of your comments starting tomorrow. I got caught up in obsessively re-reading this part for the thousandth time. Now I'm hyperventillating because now I'm afraid I missed something.

Much Giles goodness in this one (hey! he horrified Faith! awesome!). Much Faith goodness, too, as she steps up to the plate in pure Faith style (okay, Giles kind of pushed, but still...). I'll be interested in how people react to the trip inside alternaXander's head and his (very) skewed point-of-view of "our" Xander.  

All previous part can be found here.

To read Part 32, click here.

He's got a plan to steal my little sister,
But I'm not too concerned
'Cause I'll get him in the end.
Won't you share a common disaster?
Share with me, a common disaster.
A common disaster.

 

 

Faith always knew this day was coming. She just didn’t expect it to come quite so fast. She figured she’d have a little more time to kick back, relax, and get her bearings before the axe fell.

Giles had finished speaking and was resting his chin on his folded hands as he waited for her to say something.

She let the silence wait for her response and thought about the various contingencies she’d dreamed up. While she wouldn’t go so far as to say she’d been waiting for this moment from the time she stood on the edge of the Sunnydale crater, it wouldn’t be out of bounds to say she was looking at the possibility from every angle within days after leaving Sunnydale behind.

Her options were still the same: stay and hang tough or wave good-bye and high tail it out of Cleveland. She’d settled on stay when she was with Robin and it looked like they were going somewhere with their relationship, but had moved on to leave after they broke up.

Sometime during Giles’s explanation about the backlash from closing the Sunnydale Hellmouth—which just drove home how much Giles didn’t want to be calling up the old guard since it took something this dire for him to even consider it—Faith realized that running wasn’t all that hot of an option. From the look of things, there was nowhere to run to. Having had experience in the “running from” department, she already knew that without some clear plan or destination, taking off was doomed to fail, if only because this demon/Hellmouth business was sure to bite her in the ass, probably at the worst possible time.

Better for it to bite you in the ass when three or four people got your back than get bitten when you’re all by your lonesome, she thought grimly.

Plus, according to Cyclops and those alternate versions of her and G, they were faced with a worldwide shitstorm. The Sunnydale demons were looking for fresh killing fields and all that that pent-up Hellmouth energy was giving a boost to the worldwide hotspots. She was there when Buffy came up with her brainwave. She agreed to the stupid plan that set not just this mess in motion, but left the specter of a debilitating disease hanging over the heads of a tiny portion of those Slayers who would’ve never had to deal with it otherwise. She had a responsibility to help clean the fucking room they trashed. She just hoped like hell there was a pony somewhere under the steaming piles of shit.

That, and the thought of running like a pussy from those snot-nosed tweeds suddenly lacked appeal. While she wouldn’t go so far as to say she earned to right to stay put, she sure as hell earned the right to fight for it.

Yeah, but do you got the balls to do it? the niggling doubt asked. You stay, you get all the responsibility that goes with it. Think you can handle it, chica?

Giles began fidgeting.

Appeared she was about to find out if good-girl Faith could walk the walk.

She took a breath. “So, you want me as an official-like sitting member on the new and improved Council, now making our whites whiter and our colors brighter. And you want me on this steering committee for the Council?”

Giles sagged and Faith was surprised to see that he seemed relieved. “It’s a lot of responsibility to ask, I know. But we truly could use your insight.”

“Would that be the insight of being a good girl, or a bad girl?” Faith asked with false innocence.

“You have seniority and are the only Slayer we have, besides Buffy, with any extensive experience working alone,” Giles said defensively.

“Just bustin’ your chops, G,” Faith said. As she watched Giles relax, she added, “Although my bad girl ways is a better reason for me to be there, if you ask me.”

Giles looked away, which told Faith she guessed right at the unspoken reason.

“Hey, it is what it is, G,” Faith shrugged. “Angel said we all gotta do what we gotta do to make the world a better place, even if we can’t erase the past fuck ups, which in my case includes murder. I’d like to think that’s what Angel’s doing with Wolfram & Hart, but after we last talked, I gotta admit I’m not 100 percent sure on that. So, I gotta do what I think is best. Maybe I can work it by being part of the new Council, right?”

“Thank you.” Giles sounded like he even meant it.

“One thing, though,” Faith said slowly.

“No wet works team,” Giles immediately volunteered. “An absolutely horrid institution that was open for abuse by the Council. Nothing more than a sack of hammers looking for a nail.”

Faith’s eyebrows rose at vehemence in Giles’s voice. The thought of the new Council recruiting a goon squad hadn’t even crossed her mind, which was surprising since she usually could be counted on to think about how bad things could get. Now that Giles brought it up, she could see that some of the old guard would be thinking along those lines.

“Ain’t what I was gonna say, but it does spark a question,” Faith said. “How are we planning to deal with good Slayers gone bad?”

“That is a tangle I’m working on,” Giles said. “It would be wise to consider our options before we start speaking to potential Watcher recruits, if only so we’d have a counter-argument to any suggestion of making room for brutal thugs in our membership.”

A thought crossed Faith’s mind and she froze. She couldn’t possibly be thinking what she was thinking. Yet, here she was thinking just what she was thinking. It was enough to make her brain hurt. “You might want to ask the Slayer who’s actually done time if she’s got any ideas,” Faith hesitantly said.

Giles frowned. “Oh?”

“Maybe you oughtta let other Slayers handle it,” Faith said, keeping her words at a cautious pace. “You know, let the wolves police the wolves and the Watchers can make sure we don’t step over the line.”

Giles’s frown deepened.

“What I’m saying,” Faith said, “is that me and B managed to put the hurt on the Watchers more than once in different ways. If anything, we proved the Council can’t do shit if a Slayer gets it into her head that she ain’t gonna be taking orders from the Council no more. Maybe B didn’t go nuts like I did, but I don’t have to tell you that I did some major damage all by myself, and that’s even when you had B fighting me tooth and nail. You might be thinking the best of all those newbies, but I’ll lay you odds that you got a percentage out there that ain’t gonna wanna use their new powers for the greater good.”

Giles gave her a sad smile. “To be honest, you’re echoing my own thoughts to a disturbing degree.”

Now Faith was confused. “So why the definite no-go on the wet works team?”

“You don’t honestly believe that you’re the first Slayer the Council went after,” Giles replied.

“That kinda goes without sayin’, G, otherwise the Council wouldn’t have had it’s own hit squad.”

Giles seemed surprised by her statement. “A rather astute observation, considering that you were an active target until you entered prison.”

“I ain’t gonna say that Wes didn’t step into dogshit when he went tattling to the Council. Hell, I think even Wes’d agree he fucked up,” Faith said. “But I killed someone and tried to pin it on Buffy, so I can see why the Council went ballistic.”

Giles’s look of surprise deepened.

Faith slouched down. “Let’s just say you get a lot of time to think in prison.”

“Obviously,” Giles said softly. He cleared his throat and continued, “As I was saying, the wet works team had been used in the past, and for less-than-noble reasons. There was, in fact, at least one incident in my lifetime that should have resulted in consequences for all involved and those responsible never paid.”

Faith sat up. “Besides me? When was this?”

“It happened while I was still at university. I am uncertain as to what actually happened in that case,” Giles said. “When I read the reports years later to prepare for becoming Buffy’s Watcher, the accounts of the situation in question struck me as rather questionable. I did a little digging. At best, I was able to confirm my suspicions about the incident being problematic, although I never could get a straight answer from anyone.”

Faith was fascinated despite herself. “Why the hell would they make you guys read about the not-so-great adventures of the wet works team before you go off an meet your new Slayer? Ain’t that like telling you to expect her to eventually go nuts?”

Giles drummed his fingers on the desk and didn’t answer for a few minutes. Faith was a little surprised to see that he actually was planning to give her a reply, even if he didn’t know how to word it.

“It was not normal procedure, no. At the time, Buffy’s situation was rather unique,” Giles finally said. “Although, given the history of yourself and several of the girls in this very house, her situation is not as unique as it once was.”

“Hunh?” Faith asked.

Giles gave her a tight smile. “Let’s just say it was the reason why I wanted to get your side of the story—the true story and not the one you tried to fob off on me—before any attempt was made to contact the Council. It was a large part of the reason why I was bloody furious with Wes when he went behind my back, although he was following the technically correct procedure and he was the Council’s man-in-charge. By even the most generous reading of the Council’s rules, I didn’t have a leg to stand on.”

“So what was this big reason you wanted to chat with me first?” Faith asked as she sat forward.

“Now about your thought of letting the Slayers police Slayers,” Giles said in a blatant attempt to change the subject.

Faith frowned and leaned back. G wasn’t about to answer that question and she knew better than to push the guy for more info. She’d find out eventually, though. All she had to do was do the patience thing and she’d get the scoop. Maybe not from Giles, but sooner or later someone would cross her path who’d help her connect the dots. She bet she could even get Cyclops to keep an ear open for any stories about the old Council putting out a hit on a Slayer, since he wasn’t a huge fan of the old school. Besides, Cyclops had the Watcher decoder ring, so he was more likely to hear something from someone in the know than she was anyway.

Hunh. Guess it’s definite. Looks like I’m staying.

“It is an idea that has merit, but we will need definitive guidelines,” Giles continued. “After all, just because a Slayer wishes to access her abilities in realms other than her Calling, it does not automatically follow that she will be using those abilities for nefarious purposes.”

“Yeah, yeah. Everyone has a choice. In theory,” Faith said. “I’m thinking more along the lines of breaking laws, building a demon army, fucking up lives, that sort of thing. I ain’t going to go ape if some Slayer opts to be supercop or makes a career out of being a celebrity.”

“A fine baseline to start with,” Giles nodded. “I’m sure there will be many grey areas we will have to wrestle with, but if we start with a firm foundation, I’m sure we’ll manage. I’ll rely on you to come up with some additional thoughts on this and we will discuss this at a later date when things are calmer.”

“We will?” Faith asked.

“Indeed. We will,” Giles seemed amused by the surprise Faith’s voice. “And by all means, if you feel the need to involve anyone else to help you organize your thoughts, let me know. We aren’t faced with a crisis yet and some planning ahead would not go amiss.”

Christ, what did I just get myself into, Faith thought. Still, it was walk-the-walk time and this, apparently, was her price of admission.

“You should get some rest. Or maybe you could talk to Buffy. She’s quite put out at the moment,” Giles said. “So if that’s all…”

“Actually, before we got sidetracked on this wet works thing, I was gonna say something else,” Faith interrupted.

“Oh?”

Faith took a deep breath. “I’m cool with the whole Slayer-advisor dealie for the full Council, but I ain’t interested in that steering committee thing.”

Giles frowned at her. “Why not?”

Faith uncomfortably rolled her shoulders. “Ain’t my style, G. Hell, I get twitchy at house meetings and writing notes about what happened on patrol is torture. Steering committee sounds like more meetings and more writing, if you ask me.”

“But—” Giles began.

“Look, I’m all flattered you asked,” Faith interrupted, “and I don’t mind pulling backup for this steering committee if B’s out of town for whatever reason. I’m more a frontlines kinda gal, y’know? I’d rather be working with the newbies on training and patrol and shit like that because I kinda enjoy it. Frustrating as all hell sometimes, but I like it more than I thought I would. I just don’t think making me sit in meetings as a regular gig is my thing.”

“But you’re fine with sitting on the full Council?” Giles probed.

Faith squirmed. “Yes and no. Still rather have all my teeth punched out, but I figure the more of us on the new Council when you start bringing in the old guard, the better. Me and B don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, but on the important shit for the newbies we got each other’s backs. They might go all dismissive on one of us, but both of us at the same time? Ain’t gonna happen. Especially if we get Robin or Cyclops or you standing behind us and givin’ them the evil eye.”

Giles bit his lip to suppress the smile. “You have an impressive instinctive grasp of politics.”

“Nah. Just experience in fighting it out over who’s got the best pizza when you gotta boost a car to make that midnight run to feed the munchies,” Faith said.

Faith was surprised to see that button-down Giles allowed his grin to win. “We argued over take-away vindaloo.”

Faith was pretty sure her bottom jaw hit her lap.

Giles primly straightened his glasses, but his mischievous grin didn’t waver. “Given your expertise in the art of impaired debate, I feel more confident than ever that you’d do well on the steering committee. Are you certain I can’t tempt you to try your hand at it?”

Faith snapped out of it. “B’s more of the big picture type, so this steering committee thing is more up her alley anyway. Besides, that shit’s gonna eat into my snooze time. You let me take care of training, I’ll call it a square deal.”

Giles nodded. “I do believe we can work something out that’ll be to your liking.”

***

Xander sat up straight in the back seat in a vain attempt to keep his nervous fidgeting under control. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop his left knee from bouncing up and down.

His nerves were shot. He had zero sleep the night before. People who loathed him surrounded him.

The loathing was mutual.

Sadly, they were the best shot he had at finding Haley. No, he wasn’t happy about it, but right now he was grasping at anything that could pull his daughter into a safe harbor.

“Can’t this thing go any faster?” Xander impatiently asked.

“Ya want us kill someone?” Faith shot back from her position behind the driver’s wheel.

Xander squelched the urge to point out that she never cared before, so why should she start now?

“Jesus! Does anyone in this fucking town work for a living?” Faith snarled.

“It’s Saturday and it’s near Christmas, so probably not unless they work retail,” said mirror-Xander from the front passenger seat.

“Look, I’m going fast as I can. As it is if the local boys in blue eyeball us, we’re gonna be pulled over and ticketed for reckless driving,” Faith impatiently said. “I’m pushing it as it is, Harris. So shut the fuck up already.”

“Faith,” mirror-Xander said quietly. It may have been a warning, or it may have been a request for her to not start another argument. It bothered Xander that he couldn’t tell from tone of mirror-Xander’s voice.

Faith brought the car to a jerky stop at a red light, and grumbled, “C’mon, c’mon,” under her breath.

“And you say that when you went up to her bedroom at 7 this morning, her room was empty?” Giles asked in an infuriatingly calm manner.

“And her bed wasn’t even slept in. That’s what I said,” Xander snapped. God. How many times did he need to repeat this? “I’ve already checked her favorite haunts and with her friends.”

“Assuming her friends would tell you shit,” Faith said.

“Thought of that,” Xander impatiently responded. “Checked with the parents, too. No one’s seen her.”

“It seems to me that her friends could adequately hide her without their parents knowing,” Giles said.

Of course, the very same thought had occurred to Xander as well. God knows he, Willow, and Buffy pulled stuff like that when they were in high school. The Teen Code could be in full force, and as a parent he was the enemy. He wasn’t that delusional.

Mirror-Xander didn’t say anything. He merely watched with those disquieting eyes of his while Giles forced him to repeat different details of Haley’s disappearance. Xander wondered if mirror-Xander was getting uncomfortable yet with the way he was awkwardly sitting in his seat so he could watch the action in the backseat. If he was, he didn’t give any sign.

Hell, mirror-Xander didn’t even give any sign that Xander’s punch actually hurt him, despite the fact that the point of impact was still clearly visible on his left cheek. Meanwhile, Xander kept catching himself touching his neck because he could still feel that other Xander’s hand around his throat. In truth, he wasn’t as thrown off by that as much as he was by the realization that mirror-Xander came very close to putting him in a world of hurt without even thinking about it or apologizing for it. He tried to keep his gaze steady as he stared back at the younger mirror image, but he couldn’t help but wonder what the hell happened to turn the mirror-Xander into someone who would immediately resort to violence and ask questions later.

“Rupert is asking you a question,” mirror-Xander mildly prompted.

Xander blinked. “Hunh?”

“I know you’re worried, but we need you to focus,” mirror-Xander calmly said.

“If you would, please,” Giles said to mirror-Xander. “I do believe I’m conducting this interview.”

Mirror-Xander inclined his head to acknowledge Giles, but his expression gave no clue about what he thought or felt about Giles reasserting his role as lead inquisitor.

“I missed the question,” Xander mumbled.

“Please do pay attention,” Giles said with that impatient sigh the set Xander’s teeth right on edge. “What time did she go to bed?”

“Sometime after you left,” Xander said shortly.

“Did you send her upstairs or did she flee?” mirror-Xander quietly interrupted.

Giles shot mirror-Xander a dirty look, but for reasons Xander couldn’t even begin to guess at, he didn’t say anything.

Mirror-Xander responded to Giles’s irritation with a tight smile. “He said that he and Anya had a ‘discussion,’” he pointed out.

Xander winced. He wondered if anyone else in the car had picked up on the way mirror-Xander said “discussion.”

The car jerked forward as the light turned green.

“Given our oh-so-very pleasant conversation last night, I’m thinking it was more like a knock-down-drag-out fight for the ages,” mirror-Xander continued.

“There may have been fleeing after I confronted Anya about hiding what was happening with Haley,” Xander resentfully admitted.

“Fuck! Harris? Why didn’t you tell me there was a fucking Christmas parade on this street?” Faith demanded as she rolled down her window and stuck her head out the window.

“I-I-I didn’t realize that was today,” Xander said weakly.

“Yeah? Well pay attention,” Faith snapped as she pulled her head back in and rolled up the window. “We’re stuck in fucking traffic until they’re done. There a side street?”

“The side streets will be full, too,” Xander pointed out. “So we stay here or walk. I say we walk, which I said to begin with because it would’ve been almost as fast and a lot less frustration. But again, no one listens to me.”

“I’d stick with the car. We might need all the cars we can get,” mirror-Xander said.

“So not shocked to hear you say that,” Xander muttered.

“You think she’s gone that far?” Giles asked mirror-Xander as if he would know.

Xander ground his teeth in frustration. Last he checked, he was as close as anyone in the car was going to get to being the expert on all things Haley. As usual, no one seemed to care what he thought, even though he was her father.

“See Slayer. See Slayer run very fast,” mirror-Xander said. “Actually, more depends on how serious she is about running.”

“She’ll be back. She’s just upset, that’s all,” Xander said with more certainty than he felt.

Mirror-Xander mercifully let Xander’s assertion stand and changed the subject. “Faith thinks Anya may have used a cloaking spell on Haley to hide her from the Council.”

“What on earth does Faith know about spells?” Giles asked as Faith glanced at mirror-Xander with an expression that telegraphed surprise.

Mirror-Xander said, “Hello? Slayer? Remember? She’s probably run up against magic a few times and cloaking is one of the basics for demons who want to blend in. Besides, it’s a reasonable assumption on her part, since neither one of your Slayer detectors picked up that Haley was a Slayer. I found out the old-fashioned way. This is why you shouldn’t trust magic.”

“I don’t need a lecture from you,” Giles snapped.

Mirror-Xander seemed amused by that. “Yeah, well, someone should be pointing out the obvious, because you can bet Anya isn’t the only one who’s doing it.” Mirror-Xander focused again on Xander. “And she did, didn’t she?”

Xander closed his eyes, shook his head, and admitted, “Yeah. She cloaked Haley and she warded all three of us because she figured the Council was going to be knocking on our door. Not sure how she did the warding part or even when, since she said she started doing that even before she found out about Haley. The cloaking thing-y started after she found out about Haley. She did that once a month in the basement because she knows I almost never go down there. It kind of all came out last night.”

“Kind of?” mirror-Xander asked with raised eyebrows. “Try someone was going for maximum damage. You backed her in a corner and she came out swinging. That got you to say something that set her off and then it came out while you two were screaming at each other at the top of your lungs.”

Xander felt his face get hot with a mix of embarrassment and shame. He was starting to wonder if mirror-Xander had picked up telepathy somewhere along the way.

“How could you not notice what was going on under your very nose?” Giles demanded.

“Going by something Haley said to me earlier, Anya would cast the spell while he was out dusting up the town,” mirror-Xander interrupted.

“She told you?” Xander asked as he felt his heart sink.

“Yes and no. She didn’t say it outright, it was just…” mirror-Xander’s voice trailed off and he shook his head. “Don’t beat yourself up that she didn’t come to you. Anya pretty much put the fear of the Council in her, so Haley’s been sitting on this secret for a while. I have a feeling she was on the verge of cracking anyway and you probably would’ve heard about it from her sooner rather than later.”

Xander wondered if mirror-Xander was attempting to be kind.

“Why didn’t you mention this to me?” Giles demanded.

“I was picking up that there was something magic going on, but I really didn’t add two and two until Faith said mentioned the cloaking spell idea this morning when we were talking,” mirror-Xander explained. Xander realized with a start that mirror-Xander sounded apologetic. “Like I said, Haley didn’t say anything outright. It was just a comment in passing and it didn’t really register at the time. Haley was terrified and I caught her by surprise on top of that, so I was more focused on calming her down than on trying to figure out what exactly Anya was doing.”

Giles grumbled something under his breath. Xander could feel himself wilting in his seat as he wondered if there was anything else Haley told ‘Uncle Xander’ that she never thought to tell him.

“So, in a nutshell, your ‘discussion’ was really screaming, yelling, swearing, accusations. Am I missing something?” mirror-Xander asked.

Xander glared back and refused to answer that.

Mirror-Xander continued watching him for a response, but when it became clear that none was forthcoming, he merely shrugged as if he’d made up his mind on the issue and could really care less if Xander denied it.

“Did it ever occur to you that she’d be blaming herself for that?” mirror-Xander asked. “Or have you forgotten what it was like to get caught between Tony and Jessica? I don’t know about you, but I lost count how many times I ended up sleeping in the backyard, usually on major holidays and special occasions. And that’s after I knew about vampires. You shouldn’t be shocked that Haley probably did the Slayer equivalent when you pulled a Tony.”

“Excuse me?” Xander exploded.

“Would you please? I’m sitting right next to you,” Giles complained.

“And in front of you,” Faith added. “And who’s Tony and Jessica?”

“Do you mind?” Xander hissed with a meaningful sidewise glance at Giles.

“My parents,” mirror-Xander answered casually.

Xander could feel the steam coming out of his ears over mirror-Xander dismissive answer.

“No shit?” Faith glanced at mirror-Xander. With a jerk of her head toward the back seat, she asked, “They like that for him, too?”

“You could always ask the him who is sitting right behind you,” Xander snarled. “And none of your business.”

“Answer your question?” mirror-Xander asked Faith.

“Close enough,” Faith nodded.

“Why was I not aware of any of this?” Giles asked. Too late, Xander realized that Giles was now staring at him like he wanted nothing more than to shove him under a microscope. He could see Giles mentally adding mirror-Xander’s vague answer to whatever he bothered to remember about the aftermath of Tony’s fatal car accident and use it to color what he knew.

“Because it’s none of your business and it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t now and it sure as hell didn’t then,” Xander snapped back, once more thrown off balance—not that he had any sense of balance since Mr. Spock-with-a-beard crashed into his life—by Giles’s speculative gaze. “And how is this supposed to help me find—”

“I’m not saying that you and Anya fight like that all the time, or even all that often,” mirror-Xander interrupted with that infuriatingly calm Giles-like voice, although he said it in a way that all but announced he didn’t really believe it. “But you’ve got to admit, this is a stressful situation and a lot of secrets got spilled. I’d be more surprised if there wasn’t broken plates to go with.”

Xander turned away from those all-seeing eyes, not that it would do any good.

Mirror-Xander let out a sigh. “At least tell me you didn’t start it.”

“What does this have to do with finding my daughter?” Xander bit out the question.

“Perhaps you best not push this,” Giles muttered quietly, although Xander wasn’t sure if Giles was talking to him or mirror-Xander.

“If we find out who said what, it might tell us more about when she might’ve left,” mirror-Xander said calmly. “It might even tell us the why.”

“The why?” Xander shot back at mirror-Xander

“I really wouldn’t,” Giles said as he looked at Xander, finally making it clear whom he was attempting to warn off.

“It had to be traumatic finding out that her mother is an ex-demon, that you hunt demons on the side, and she’s a Slayer,” mirror-Xander said as if he didn’t notice Giles talking. “No offense, but a screaming fight probably tipped her over the edge, especially if there were threats of divorce or hightailing it out of town with Haley floating around. Which is what I’ve been trying to say, but you keep getting all defensive on us. We can’t help you unless you go with the total honesty.”

“So this is my fault,” Xander growled.

Mirror-Xander shrugged, as if to ask Xander what he thought about it.

“It is, isn’t it?” Xander asked as he slumped back into his seat.

Mirror-Xander shot Giles an angry look. “I’m 100 percent sure that a bigger share of the blame pie rests with people who should’ve known better than to knock on someone’s door in the middle of the night, instead of waiting like I asked.”

“Don’t you start with me,” Giles warned. This time he was speaking to mirror-Xander.

“I’m just saying that it’s a little too easy to blame the parents,” mirror-Xander said evenly.

Xander was shocked. Mirror-Xander looked like he wasn’t about to back down in the face of an angry Giles.

“While you’re assigning blame, we are still faced with finding a lost Slayer,” Giles said.

“Say her name,” Xander snapped.

“Haley is his daughter. And Anya’s,” mirror-Xander said, his hardened gaze not leaving Giles’s face. “If you forget that for a second, you better know right now that I’ll help my twin over there remind you.”

“Really?” Giles bristled at the clear challenge to his authority. “And how do you propose that?”

Mirror-Xander grinned at Giles, but Xander shuddered on noticing that there was no warmth in it at all. “If you thought for even one second that Xander Senior here could damage the Council, what do you think I could pull off in the next week before my friends get me home? I won’t be suffering any fallout if I make your life really difficult, so I don’t have anything to lose if I decide to go all out and do just that.”

Xander stole a glance and Giles and realized with another jolt that the older man actually seemed unsettled by the threat. As Xander’s eyes swept back to mirror-Xander, he wondered, Who the hell are you?

Mirror-Xander met his gaze, as if he’d already dismissed Giles from his mind and said, “I want you to repeat everything. No whitewashing this time, no hiding. I want to hear the whole truth and nothing but, even if it’s ugly. Looks like we’ve got time to hear your side of the story. But,” he held up a finger, “you lie to us, even by omission, I won’t stop Rupert if he decides to take Haley away from you and send her to London for training. If you think you can stand up to the Council on your own, be my guest.”

“Think you can stop us if we wanna do that anyway?” Faith asked gruffly. The way she said it made Xander’s heart freeze in his chest.

“Do you really wanna try someone who’s got nothing to lose?” mirror-Xander asked. He looked serenely around the car. “Anyone?”

The ringing silence pretty much answered that question.

How the hell did you get that scary? Xander wondered. He swallowed hard as he realized that it might be a really bad idea if he didn’t do as he was told.

 

 

Continued in Part 34.

 

 

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