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Chapter Data

Chapter Six

Fan Fiction: They Also Serve

Chapter Six: Sharing Secrets

"He moves in darkness as it seems to me / Not of woods only and the shade of trees."
~Robert Frost, 'Mending Wall'


Giles was quiet as he drove towards Amy's house. He'd asked Xander for her address and handed the young man a sword retrieved from the back seat, then clammed up once he'd turned the key in the ignition. Normally, Xander would have started some inane conversation to fill the space, but the quality of Giles' silence bothered him. The older man was tense, with worried lines around his eyes and a tense grip on the steering wheel, and there were little green sparks dancing around his knuckles.

Guess that answers the question about the magic, Xander thought. Something's happened to him, too. "Lot on your mind, Giles?" he asked, quietly.

Giles shot him an unreadable look. "Yes, there is actually, not that you'd..." His voice trailed off, and the corners of his mouth turned downward as he sighed. "Or perhaps you would, which is one of the many things that I'm worried about."

"The wish," Xander guessed, nodding sagely.

"Yes." Giles cleared his throat. "I did a bit of research last night; as it happens, it is possible to reverse a vengeance demon's wishes by destroying her power center. However, I have no idea what Anyanka's power center is, nor whether it would still work if she has granted wishes since." He almost managed to sound apologetic.

"It doesn't matter," Xander shrugged. "According to Tara all the wish did was make me more focused, anyway. It could have been worse."

Giles signalled for the next turn, then glanced at Xander again. "Tara noticed this...? Ah, your aura. I see. Have you noticed any effects?"

To tell, or not to tell. On the one hand, it really wasn't any of Giles' business, especially before Xander worked it through on his own. On the other hand, if Giles stuck around at all he was bound to notice certain things, and it might be better to have the 'fessing up out of the way. On the third hand, it was partly Giles' fault, and the guy deserved to know the consequences of his wish. Plus, Xander knew that despite his detached behavior, Giles really did care.

Tell, then; he'd just have to make sure he shared with Willow soon, too. He had promised.

"Um, yeah," Xander said aloud, fiddling nervously with the upper strap of his seat belt. "I think she's right. But there's something else... she said she thinks I was unfocused in the first place partly because of the hyena thing, and the soldier thing..." He paused, thinking how to phrase what came next.

Giles signalled again, and turned onto Amy's street. He parked the car carefully against the curb, frowning as he did so. "She believes that being possessed twice had damaged your psyche? Well, it's entirely possible. The effects of such occurences are difficult to determine with any exactitude."

"You can determine in my case that they left something behind," Xander sighed. "This whole refocusing thing? All of a sudden I have a lot of instincts that aren't mine. And I can hear a lot of stuff I shouldn't be able to. It's kinda neat, but pretty wig-inducing, too."

Giles blinked at him, then removed his glasses and began polishing them with the tail of his shirt.

Xander snickered. "See? Glasses polishing. A main indicator of serious Giles wiggage."

Giles stopped, then glanced down at his hands and gave a rueful smile. "Ah. I'm afraid I hardly noticed." He put them back on and gave Xander a serious look. "We don't have the time to discuss this in depth now... but I'll keep it in mind. Thank you for telling me."

"No prob," Xander said, with a nod.

Giles gripped the door handle and prepared to exit the car, but he paused again, at the last moment, and threw another comment over his shoulder. "Incidentally, if this is how you behave when grown up, then perhaps it's not such a change, after all."

Xander raised an eyebrow at him. "Thanks... I think," he said, then opened the passenger door and got out.

The two men walked slowly up the sidewalk to the house Amy Madison was presumably sharing with several other amateur witches-- the girl hadn't moved to live with her father, as she still didn't want to explain the magic to him, and few of her remaining friends had the wherewithal or desire to host her rent-free. Xander held his sword close to his leg, concerned about carrying it around in daylight in a public place, but what passersby there were didn't even give him a second glance. Ostritch behavior, he thought. If you don't see it, it isn't there.

If you don't see it... Xander flashed on "naked pushups", then shook his head angrily. No. Not thinking about that just now.

Giles frowned at him, then lifted his hand and knocked on the front door of the house. Xander heard the clatter of something being dropped inside, then some hushed whispering and sweeping noises before a set of footsteps came to the door. It opened just a crack, revealing a pair of brown eyes in a thin, pinched face.

"Whaddya want?" the unidentified girl asked.

"Is Miss Madison available?" Giles asked, reverting to a more proper, upper-crusty version of his British accent. "There are important matters that I must discuss with her."

The girl goggled at him, then shook her head. "Nah, man. She went out with this guy, I dunno, Wart? Something."

"Warren?" Xander prompted. "Did he say anything about where they were going?"

"Warren, that was it," she said, nibbling at her lip. "And I think he was like an old boyfriend or something. He asked if she still did ma..., um, math! Yeah, and then he grabbed her arm and took off. Didn't say where."

Giles glanced at Xander, then frowned at the girl. "Is there anything else you can tell us, Miss? Did she go with him willingly?"

She blinked at him, then sucked in a sharp breath. "Hey, weren't you the high school librarian? Man, I don't care what book she took off you, I ain't helping you catch her." With a scowl, she shut the door in his face.

"What a lovely young woman," Giles said sourly, staring at the closed door.

"Nice and suspicious. Notice how she wouldn't say magic; I bet any authority figure woulda scared her off." Xander shrugged. "Well, we know Warren's got Amy anyway; now what?"

"Now we locate Warren," Giles said, and turned to walk back to the car. "He's operating under the delusion that he's Buffy's arch-nemesis, correct?"

Xander rolled his eyes and followed him. "I don't know what he's smoking, but yeah," he confirmed.

"Then he's certain to make waves almost immediately, hoping to match up against her. I doubt it's a coincidence that you found so much information on their plans in that basement."

"Then you think we're too late to stop him getting the Orbs?" Xander frowned, and came to a halt at the passenger door of Giles' car.

Giles sighed. "Unfortunately, yes." He unlocked the car, then opened the door and hit the power lock button for Xander. "Anya's message indicated that Amy was behind a magic barrier somewhere, and given that Warren has already taken her, I believe it's safe to assume that she's currently wherever the Orbs were kept. Warren already has them."

"Isn't that bad news? AKA, the-Slayer-really-should-be-here kinda news?" Xander asked as he got in and fastened his seatbelt. "'Cause I don't really think the rest of us are a match for superstrength and invulnerability."

Giles settled into the car, staring off into the distance, then shook his head. "No. Buffy and Dawn must remain in Los Angeles until the confrontation with her father is finished; I don't want to chance anything going wrong on the legal front. Dawn must not end up in her father's custody."

"Would have to agree with you there," Xander said. "Sooooooo..." He drew the word out, tapping his fingers of one hand on the dashboard. "Where's that leave us?"

"We'll have to separate him from the Orbs," Giles answered. "He will have to carry them with him, and that will make him vulnerable."

Xander shook his head. "If we're lucky, maybe. If it were me, I'd be wearing 'em in one of those hidden leather moneybelts, you know, with the openings on the inside? You'd never get 'em off me."

"Yes, well, we'll just have to hope he's not that inventive," Giles frowned. "Even so, however..." Giles flexed his fingers on the steering wheel, and the little green sparks Xander had noticed earlier flared into a hyperactive lightshow, radiating from fingertip to elbow and casting strange forested shadows on Giles' face.

"Nice," Xander said, dryly. "What happened, you get struck by lightning? Or have we been missing something all this time?"

"It's a tale for another time," Giles said. "Now... shall we proceed to Willy's?"

"Sounds like a plan," Xander replied. "He's overdue for his monthly thrashing, anyway."

The unfortunate barman, however, had no appreciable information. Neither cash nor threats produced an answer. It seemed that Warren did come in every now and again making noise about the Slayer, but he hadn't been seen in several days, and no one else had discussed his whereabouts or his plans.

Xander checked his watch as they exited the bar, and saw that it was nearly five o'clock. "You know, we probably should call Willow if this is going to take much longer," he said. "The first big event on Warren's list is the carnival take, later tonight. If we don't catch him in the next few hours, we'll need to set up over there."

"Quite. Although he's unlikely to bring Miss Madison with him. Perhaps in the meantime, Tara could try locating her? She may have been moved from the barrier Anya detected."

"I'll ask." Xander pulled out his cell phone and leaned against Giles' car, then dialed the Summers' number.

"Xander..." Giles said warningly, as the phone rang.

Xander grinned at him. "Calm down, I'm not gonna scratch the paint."

The answering machine picked up on the fifth ring, filling his ears with Buffy's canned voice. He frowned and left a short message. "Willow, Tara, it's Xander. Call me on my cell if you get this."

He hung up, and dialed another number. "Sounds like the girls are out; I'll try Willow's cell," he narrated for Giles' benefit. Unfortunately, that number didn't work either. The automated Out-of-Range message picked up instead.

Giles removed his glasses again and rubbed at the bridge of his nose with a heavy sigh. "Wonderful. Now we have four people to locate, instead of two," he muttered. "Can anything else go wrong?"

"Great," Xander groaned. "You've jinxed us now. C'mon, Giles, even I know better than to ask that question!"

Giles gave him a black look, then put his glasses back on and looked down at the pavement, thoughtfully scratching it with the edge of one shoe. "There's something else I'd like to try. Can you direct me to the house you investigated this morning?"

"The one that's now a carpenter's nightmare?" Xander snorted. "Okay, sure. I'll try Wills again when we get there. No reason to panic yet." He shut the phone and put it back in his pocket, then got back in the convertible.

Giles' mood seemed to darken further on the way to the Trio's former lair, and it gradually began to dawn on Xander that it wasn't just the weight of worries dragging the older man down, there was something acting on him. The stress lines around Giles' eyes were in full evidence, and the air around him fairly radiated tension, even without the lightshow around the steering wheel.

"Uh, Giles, is there something, you know, actively wrong? You're not under some Ethan curse, or cancer, or anything, are you?" He spoke quietly, hoping for an actual answer instead of the standard manly deflection.

Giles started, then frowned. "The short answer is no. The long answer is a bit more complicated, and all tied up with the, um." He gestured, and sparks followed his fingers. "Let's just say that I'm a great deal more aware of the Hellmouth than I used to be." A faint shudder went through his frame. "The longer I'm here the more difficult it is to ignore."

Several formerly unconnected dots reassembled in Xander's mind to make a coherent picture. "Shit, Giles, you shoulda told us before you took off again. Buffy really beat herself up about it, you know; she thought it was all her fault. If you had stayed, I don't think..."

Gah. (( Naked pushups. Buffy coming back from patrol covered in bruises he should have suspected from adventures with Anya. Spike telling them how Buffy liked a washcloth on the back of her neck! )) Xander swallowed hard. "Anyway, she really felt abandoned."

Another fine tremor passed through Giles' shoulders, and he made a show of double-checking the addresses before pulling the car over. "It wasn't as bad then," he finally said, quietly. "And I honestly thought it was better for her. I could not let her grow dependent on me." He shook his head, then roused himself and gave Xander a sour look as he got out of the car for the third time that afternoon. "Not that I need to explain my actions to you."

"No, you need to explain them to Buffy," Xander said softly, then straightened up and shifted into Action Mode. "Now, what are we here to do, again?"

"I didn't tell you the first time," Giles said. "We're here to do what we've been doing; track Warren. Now be quiet and let me work." He approached the back of the house where the door still hung askew, then knelt in the grass with his palms flat against the earth.


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