Chapter 4 - In Which Xander Discovers the Sitch Is More Screwed-up Than He Thought
Timeline: BtVS, alternate season 5
Genre: drama, mystery, action
Characters, pairing: general, Xander/Faith
Rating: R (for intense situations).
Summary: Xander thinks he has a little secret. He doesn't know that his little secret is a part of a big fat conspiracy.
Disclaimer: They all belong to Joss. He said I could play with'em, so there.
Author's notes: Much thanks to my wonderful betas lusciousxander and deird1 who encourage me, help me with character voices, fix my bad grammar and style. All mistakes are mine. This is my first plotty multi-character fic, so concrit is very welcome.
The story starts here
The road to Stockton is uneventful. Xander changes radio stations every time they play a love ballad. Music brings up too many memories. He can't allow himself the luxury of these memories - of her implacable, sad eyes, her smooth, silky skin, her luscious breasts, her talented hands that know all the right places to touch... He has to have a clear head.
He runs different scenarios in his head again and again. Maybe the pregnancy mellowed her and she will be glad to see him. Maybe she's even more embittered and angry than the last time he saw her and she won't even read his note.
His note. He spent all evening on it. He wasted half a notebook on half-finished drafts. And all he came up with is this:
Please, read this, don't just throw it away. I'm writing as your friend. I want to help you and your baby. I will do anything you need. Just tell me. Could we talk? I have so much to tell you. I love you. I tried not to, but I can't. I can't stop thinking about you. Don't get me wrong - I'm not asking for anything. Just let me help. Any which way I can.
The prison looks like a special kind of hell, he decides, as he parks his car and slowly goes to the gates. He braces himself. He's ready for her hostility, mocking, contempt, hate. He's ready for tears, swearing, insults, laments.
But the actual events catch him completely off-guard.
When he says Faith Lehane's name in the visiting room of the prison, he is met with curious looks. A guard asks his name and, after checking his ID, leads him into a small room where he is told to wait. The guard leaves before Xander has time to ask him anything.
The bars on the windows are dirty and depressing, just like the room itself. He stares at the ugly empty chairs. After several interminable minutes, he tries the door. It's locked. Blind panic sweeps him - he desperately fights the urge to pound on the door with both fists. He hears voices in the corridor and hastily plops into the chair.
There are two of them - one in civvies, one in a doctor's scrubs. They introduce themselves. The civilian says he's a prison counselor - "...And you are?"
"I'm the father of Ms. Lehane's baby." There, he said it aloud. "Can I see her?"
The counselor and the doctor exchange looks.
"Why are you here?" asks the counselor.
Xander tenses. "Beg pardon?"
"Your pregnant girlfriend was transferred here five months ago. You never visited her. Why now?"
Suddenly, Xander feels uneasy. There is something they're not telling him.
"I didn't know she was pregnant until the day before yesterday," he says curtly. "Can I see her?"
They exchange looks again.
"May I ask how you discovered that your girlfriend was pregnant?" the doctor says.
He has to think quickly. "A friend... actually, a friend of a friend. He saw her when she was transferred here. He noticed - but he wasn't sure about her condition."
The civilian gives him a piercing gaze.
"Did I get it right? Five months ago somebody you know noticed that Lehane could be pregnant. But he didn't tell you until now, right?"
He feels trapped. Are they interrogating him? What the hell is happening? He strains every nerve to look calm. "No. Actually, I haven't seen that man in ages. He told my friend. My friend told me. I came as soon as I could."
"The man who told your friend - what's his name?"
Xander looks at the counselor sharply. "Is this an interrogation?"
"His name is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, isn't it?"
Xander has a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something is horribly wrong. He glances back and forth between their faces trying to figure it out. They look concerned. The counselor frowns at him with barely hidden dislike; the doctor pinches the bridge of his nose and looks away.
"What the..." Xander whispers hoarsely. "Is she okay? Is she... is she alive?"
The next ten seconds are the longest ten seconds in his life. Xander feels shivers running down his spine. Finally the civilian nods to the doctor almost imperceptibly.
"She's alive," doctor says. "She's safe."
Relief floods him. "Thank you."
The doctor looks at the counselor questioningly. The latter shrugs.
"Last night there was an attempt on Lehane's life," doctor says.
Xander draws a sharp breath. He isn't sure he heard correctly.
The counselor eyes him narrowly. "Do you have any idea who would want her dead?"
Xander shakes his head. He does have an idea, of course. Council goons.
"Had your girlfriend been a member of some illegal religious sect?"
He is at a loss. "What do you mean - a sect?"
"The people who tried to kill her - they wore weird clothes, not unlike monks' habits," the doctor says. "Rings a bell?"
Monks. Giles and Willow are investigating the murder of a monk. "She never talked about monks," he says. At least he's not lying.
"They were not monks," the doctor says patiently. "Actually I'm not sure what they were. Weird little creatures with black eyes and..."
The counselor clears his throat loudly. The doctor shuts up mid-sentence. "Never mind," he murmurs.
Xander feels sick. "How..." His voice sounds hollow. "How could they get to her?"
"Good question. How could they," the counselor makes air-quotes around "they", "get to her. Why would they attempt to kill her now, when she's about to give birth. Why she is afraid to see anyone. Your buddy Wyndam-Pryce came several times - he was quite insistent, but she refused to see him."
"She isn't afraid." Xander stares through him. "She doesn't want his pity. Her stupid pride won't let her take help from anybody. In her book sympathy's an insult."
"You owe me a beer," the doctor says to the counselor. The latter frowns.
"How long have you known her?" he asks.
"Two years. Listen, I swear I don't know anything about any sect, just let me talk to her, please."
The doctor gives him a sympathetic look. "I'm afraid it's not possible. Lehane is in intensive care and she hasn't regained conscience yet."
Xander leaps to his feet. "Intensive care? Did she?.. Is the baby okay?" He realizes that he's shouting. "Sorry," he murmurs. "Could you tell me what happened here?"
The doctor sighs. "I'll tell him," he says to the counselor. He doesn't ask his permission - he just tells him. The counselor shrugs again, and the doctor tells that recently Faith was transferred to the hospital ward because she's due to give birth; that last night a nurse heard suspicious noises, called guards and they discovered two dead bodies and Faith, unconscious, bleeding, wounded in the chest. Thankfully the baby wasn't hurt. Right now Faith is in a stable condition but she is sedated.
"Whoever trained Lehane to fight, trained her well," the counselor adds sourly. "These guys had knives. I wish I could see how a heavily pregnant woman, who was apparently asleep when they attacked her, managed to deal with them."
"Maternal instinct," the doctor says without much conviction.
"Maternal my ass," the counselor grumbles.
"Your ass is quite an argument."
"Uh-huh. You know, your ability to go for the easiest explanation never ceases to amaze me."
"Saves a lot of trouble."
"Sure. Maternal instinct is stronger than big sharp knives. This guy," the counselor points at Xander, "finds out Lehane is pregnant and the next day she's attacked - but of course it's just a coincidence."
Xander is aghast. They think he tried to kill her?
"I didn't say you were planning to kill Lehane, young man," the counselor says off his glare. "But I don't believe in coincidences."
"Do you want to talk to her about the child's custody?" the doctor asks Xander. He pointedly ignores the counselor's conspiracy theories.
Custody? A wave of heat rushes through Xander's body. The idea is as unexpected as it is wonderful. He will have something he and Faith did together. He'll bring up their baby and when Faith will get out of the prison, who knows? She may want to join them...
"I - I can apply for a custody? Really?"
The doctor nods. "If she agrees, of course. You're not married, so legally you don't have any rights unless she officially names you the father. Come tomorrow, I'll take you to her."
"It's a violation of the rules," the counselor says softly.
"Report me if it makes you feel better."
They exchange vague grins. Apparently, it's an inside joke Xander doesn't get.
On the way back to Sunnydale he finds a radio station that broadcasts rock-music. He listens to guitar riffs and it takes him a lot of effort to not exceed the speed limit. Somebody tried to kill her. Somebody. Somebody doesn't know it yet, but they're in big trouble.
But he has to plan thoroughly, and act cautiously.
Next: chapter 5 - Under Suspicion: A Whodunnit Intermezzo