Chapter 5 - Under Suspicion: A Whodunit Intermezzo
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
"Could you check Giles' phone accounts?"
Willow looks at him like he had grown a third eye on his forehead.
"What happened, Xander?"
"I have to know if he called the Council yesterday. It's very important, Will. Can you do it?"
Willow is clearly confused: Xander has just pulled her out of the lecture room into the hall while the other students glared at them, shocked by his intrusion. Her pen and a notebook still in her hands, Willow looks at him with concern. "Theoretically - yes, I can. But why do you..."
"Somebody tried to kill Faith."
Willow blinks. "Oh."
Xander shifts from foot to foot. "Don't you get it? As soon as we found out that she was pregnant, somebody tried to kill her. It's not a coincidence."
"You think it was the Council's wetwork team?"
He shrugs. "The guys who tried to kill her - they were demons. Doesn't look like the Council's style, but we don't know much about the Council."
"So you think that, if Giles hadn't called them, they wouldn't know." She thinks it over. "If we knew what kind of demons..."
"Little creatures with black eyes. I haven't seen them - I only know what the guys in the prison told me. Not that they were talkative, but I managed... What?"
Willow eyes him curiously. "You went there?"
Oops. He blushes furiously. "You know, Will, I just happened to be nearby on business, so..." Lame.
"You went to see Faith?" Apparently, the answer is written on his face in bold letters because Willow eyes widen. "Do you... No."
He tries to come up with something - funny, indignant, distracting - but his mind is empty.
"So, you still care about her," Willow says bitterly.
"I try not to..." Lameazoid lame.
"Do you love her?" she asks after a painful pause.
He gives her a pleading glance.
"Oh, God," she breathes.
He wishes the earth could swallow him up.
Then Willow hugs him, leans against his shoulder and gently pats him on his back. "I guess I always knew." She sighs. "I remember the day you changed. That sadness in you - it was because of her, right?" She chuckles softly. "I used to blame myself for being too busy with college, with Tara. For being a bad friend."
He feels a lump in his throat. It’s too much to take in. All these months that he kept his secret - he could have confided in Willow and she'd have been there for him. How could he have doubted her? His loyal, selfless Willow.
She shouldn't forgive him so quickly and effortlessly. This isn't right. "You should turn me into a toad. I totally deserve it."
"Okay - I will. When it's over." Willow eyes him pensively. "Xan - I can hack the phone company, but maybe we should just ask Giles? I think you're looking in the wrong place."
He sighs. Maybe she's right. He doesn't know. He only knows that Giles is uneasy around him.
"But Xander, why would the Council want to kill Faith?" Willow insists.
"To create a new Slayer."
Willow nods. "Suppose you're right: but why have they sent demons? Why have they been waiting until now?"
"I don't know," Xander admits. "But I'll find out. I have to help her, Will - after all, I'm also responsible for..."
Damn. He definitely shouldn't say words.
Willow narrows her eyes. "Responsible for what?"
Should he tell? Given how quickly she forgave him...
Willow elbows him. "Spill."
...They walk to the Magic Box and Xander tells her what happened on the evening that they'd discovered that Faith had escaped from the hospital. Willow already is in her research mode: she ponders on the Council's possible motivations, the types of demons who usually work as assassins-for-hire, probable ways of leakage - and he's almost happy. It's so liberating, to have a friend you can share your problems with.
"Xander, I have to know one thing." Willow stops walking and eyes him intensely. "Swear you'll tell me the truth."
"Sure. I swear." He doesn't like the tone of her voice.
"That night when Faith escaped. You left us when the Council people asked to help them in the search. You went to warn her?"
"The truth, Xander."
"I didn't… that's not why I left. I just couldn't stand watching Spike sniffing her bed like a vampire tracker dog."
Willow crosses her arms on her chest. "You left because of that?"
Xander backs a step, nervous. "Yeah?"
"You know, there's nothing wrong with Spike sniffing Faith's bed." She winces. "That sounded wrong, but - you know - he only did that to track her down."
"But why use Spike? You could have done your locator spell thingie. It was just Buffy sending another vampire after her. Using a vampire against a slayer." He notices Willow's cringe, and curses himself inwardly.
Willow shakes her head. "Xander…"
"Look, I tried to get her on board, make her see that she can redeem herself…"
"Wait-wait-wait. How come you found her?"
He looks away. That night his feet led him to the children's playground in the park where he had saved Faith from a demon almost two years ago. "I think she found me. I was walking and - you know - just felt her. So, I called her and she came out from behind the corner."
Willow eyes him curiously. "You do remember that she tried to kill you, don't you?"
He lowers his head. Maybe Faith was right and he really does love death and misery?
Willow sighs. "Sometimes I wonder if men are able to appreciate a kind, supportive woman - at all. Thank God I have Tara." She smiles wistfully. "You know, it's so strange - you think you know someone. What he is, what he wants. And then it turns out you don't know him at all. Turns out he was leading a double life. He was secretly dating somebody who tried to kill us. Had an affair with her behind our backs, all this time."
At first he doesn't understand, and then he rolls his eyes. "We weren't dating, Will. Honestly. We met that one time, and that was all."
She looks at him accusingly. "Who do you think I am? An idiot?"
He doesn't know if he should laugh or cry. "Willow, I swear! Cross my heart and hope to die. This was the first and the last time I saw her since the day she tried to kill me. If you don't believe it, put a truth spell on me."
She is at a loss. "Then how can you be so sure the baby's yours?"
Strangely, it never occurred to him. He ponders on the idea a bit. He can't explain why he's sure. He just is. He knows. What he doesn't know is how to explain his conviction to Willow. "I feel it. Have you ever had a feeling that you're right even though you can't prove it?"
Her mouth twitches. "I even know what they call that feeling. Faith."
She resumes walking, Xander trailing after her. "Don't tell Giles about me," he pleads when they're near Magic Box. "He acts weirdly every time he sees me. I have to be sure it isn't him who's behind all this. Please."
Willow's jaw drops. "Xan, do you really suspect Giles? Come on, it's ridiculous."
"I know. But as soon as he found out about Faith, someone tried to kill her."
"Maybe. Maybe not."
"But you can't suspect everybody! What about me, then? What about Buffy? I told her about Faith's pregnancy."
Xander is stunned. "Buffy knows?"
Willow nods. "Don't worry. She hardly even noticed. I told her when I saw her at the hospital. Her mother's doctor had just told her the results of the CAT scans, so Faith was the least of her worries."
He is ashamed. "How's Joyce?"
"She's having an operation tomorrow."
Willow shrugs. "The usual. She says she's OK. I know she's lying, she knows I know, etc." She stops at the entrance of Magic Shop. "Here's what we'll do, Xan. I won't tell Giles about you. I'll tell him it was my initiative to investigate. Just play along."
Next: chapter 6 - In Which Willow Proves That Lies By Omission Are The Most Effective Ones