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Fan Fiction: They Also Serve
Chapter Twelve: It's Not Over Yet
"There are no extraordinary men... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with."
Giles insisted on a detour to the Magic Box on the way back to Buffy's. Xander stayed in the car and pretended not to exist, just in case Anya should look out the window; she was probably occupied with cleaning up whatever fell during the earthquake, but he wasn't about to tempt fate.
The older man came back out a few minutes later with an intimidating stack of books and a twinkle in his eye. Xander groaned at the sight and slumped further in the passenger seat. "We just beat the bad guys, Giles! Can't we put the research off 'til tomorrow?"
Giles gave him a calculating look. "Well, certainly we could. However, I thought you might like to know whether it would be safe to keep the Orbs of Nezzla'khan in your possession...?"
The question caught Xander's attention, and he bolted upright. "Whoa. Back up the train. You'd let me keep the Orbs? Me? I mean, I thought you'd lock them up, or destroy them, or maybe put them in the Magic Box or something. I mean, we never get to keep any of the weird stuff we get our hands on." Anything more complicated than a sword was usually too dangerous-- or valuable-- to leave in the Scoobies' hands. Standard procedure! So what was different this time?
"I am quite aware that Buffy and Willow are still protective of you," Giles said, "despite the fact that you are quite capable of taking care of yourself, and have been an integral part of their past successes." He paused for a moment while he started the car, then continued. "I thought that you might enjoy the chance to level the playing field, so to speak. They can hardly object to your presence on a dangerous mission if you are impervious to injury."
Xander just stared. Since when did Giles care how Xander felt about getting benched? The idea was really cool-- he had enjoyed getting to wield that strength in the Bronze, and it would be nice to fight beside Buffy instead of behind her for a change-- but the whole thing sounded a little unreal. Besides, he was pretty sure that giving artifacts to kids was not something Giles' bosses smiled upon.
"Won't the Council object?" he asked.
"Well, they never need know, do they?" A predatory smile crept over Giles' features. "After all, the Slayer was not directly involved in their acquisition; I see no reason why I should mention the Orbs in my reports."
He actually meant it! Xander felt a matching grin pull at the corners of his mouth as he replied. "Careful, G-Man. You're gonna get fired again, at this rate."
"And we don't want that, now do we?" Giles answered, in the driest of voices.
The phone rang a few minutes after Xander finished ordering the pizza. It had been almost an hour since Willow had reached them on Giles' cell, and he figured it was about time she called to give an ETA. He'd heard the painful word "wreck" in the midst of the earlier call, but if his car had been all that damaged, surely they would have asked the guys to pick them up? But there was nowhere in Sunnydale that would take an hour to reach from Buffy's, even if some of the streets were still blocked.
"House of Buff, Xander speaking," he said, as he stuck a place marker in the tome he was reading and dropped it on the coffee table.
Instead of the expected giggle, he got a surprised pause, then a mock-stern Slayer-voice. "Xander, please tell me you haven't been answering the phone that way all day. You make my house sound like a gym or something!"
"Or something," he said, chuckling a little as he dismissed several more inappropriate possible meanings from his mind. "Hey, Buff. No, I just thought it was Willow calling; she's supposed to be back soon. So how are things going in L.A.?"
He heard her take a sharp breath. "Not good," she said, her voice suddenly very tense. "It's... it's complicated. I don't..." She stopped, and cleared her throat.
A sick feeling started welling up in his gut. Had she lost Dawn to her dad? But Giles said that was impossible! Or, could it be something else? Did it have anything to do with Spike taking off last night? Xander didn't think they were still... involved... since all the clues he'd spent so much time ignoring had dried up in the past few weeks. It was pretty clear, though, that Spike was still obsessed with her. And no matter what else you could say about the guy, he was still a soulless vampire.
Of course, saying any of this out loud was not a good idea; Buffy didn't know Xander had guessed about Spike, and she was likely to go ballistic instead of telling him what was going on. He held his tongue.
A few silent seconds later, Buffy continued. "The important part right now is, the Hellmouth isn't in Sunnydale anymore, and I have no idea how the demon population is gonna react. Tell Giles for me, OK? You guys should be on your guard tonight."
"Whoa, whoa," Xander said, sitting up straighter. How could she know about that? L.A. was hours away! "We knew about the Hellmouth moving... the earthquake was a pretty big give-away, and Giles figured it out. But how did you know? What's going on?"
"Buffy knows about the Hellmouth?" Giles blinked at him from the other side of the room, finally looking up from his book. "What's happened?"
Xander waved him off, listening intently to the phone. Buffy had gone quiet again, a pained sort of silence, but there were other voices in the background. Dawn, definitely. Spike (aha!) and another British voice he was having a hard time putting a name to. Cordy somewhere in the background, and maybe Angel?...
Some fumbling and rustling sounds came from the other end of the line, and Dawn's voice came on. "Xander?"
"Dawn? What's going on?"
"It's a really, really long story," she said, with a sigh. "The lawyers were evil, and they knew I was the Key, and things got messy. They did some spell and brought the Hellmouth here, and there's a new prophecy, and we saw that balance demon guy, and... and Dad's dead. Buffy's not dealing well. I... I don't know...I think you better wait 'till we come back to get the details."
Just about everything in Dawn's explanation hit Xander hard, sticking in his brain with neon lettering and exclamation points. He didn't know which question to ask first, but his tongue seemed to have disconnected from his brain anyway. All that came out was an inelegant "Huh...? Wha...? But..."
Dawn sighed. "Don't worry. We're safe now, and we'll be back tomorrow. I gotta go."
A click sounded in his ear, then a dialtone. He lowered the phone slowly, staring at it as though it were a poisonous snake.
"Xander?" Giles prompted, sounding alarmed.
"Well, now we know where the Hellmouth went," he replied, staring at the older man in dismay.
"It, it went to Los Angeles?" Giles stuttered, aghast.
Over the next few minutes, Xander managed to repeat most of what Buffy and Dawn had said, word for word.
Giles was horrified. "I cannot believe that I failed to investigate the lawyers before I left them there," he muttered, pacing restlessly around the room as he dialed the number of one of his contacts. His free hand twitched, as though expecting a glass of Scotch to wrap around, and after a few minutes he jammed it into a pocket.
Several calls later, after a particularly frustrating conversation, he stabbed the OFF button on the phone with a forceful finger and threw it in the vague direction of the couch. "'Only a law firm', he says," Giles fumed. "'We saw no reason to alarm you.' Rubbish! I wonder what else he has failed to pass on?"
"Travers?" Xander guessed.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" Giles snapped, sarcastically, then threw him an apologetic look. "The building I delivered the girls to apparently belongs to the Los Angeles branch of a well-known law firm called Wolfram and Hart. They are involved in a great deal of demonic activity, usually providing legal protection, information, and funds. They seldom take a more direct role, that we know of; I didn't even consider that they might try to interfere with Buffy or her family. Despite her status as the Slayer, she is only one girl, and they tend to think on a more global scale."
He took a deep breath, turning to glare out the window, then continued. "However, it seems that in recent years they've taken a very particular interest in the life and connections of a certain souled vampire. Obviously, that would include Buffy... and I assume that led to their discovery of Dawn's true nature."
"So this is all because of Angel?" Xander's eyebrows went up, and he fought down a surge of irrational anger. Of course, to be fair, even if it were true it wouldn't really be Angel's fault. Still! If Buffy had just been a little smarter with her love life...
Abruptly, he remembered his earlier guess that it was Spike's fault, and shook his head, amused in a painful kind of way. "Well, I guess I got it half-right."
Giles gave him a strange look. "What do you mean?"
The doorbell rang, interrupting the conversation. The scents of hot melted cheese and warm dough reached Xander's nose, and he fumbled in his pocket for the pizza money.
He paid the deliveryman and sent him on his way, then shoved the books on the coffee table aside to make room for the pizza boxes. "Nevermind," he said, in belated response to Giles' question. "So did you get anything on this new prophecy Dawn mentioned?"
Giles narrowed his eyes at the dismissal, but followed along with the topic change anyway. "No. Not anything to do with Dawn, or the Hellmouth, at any rate. And the telephone at the hotel seems to be off the hook, now. I believe we'll just... have to wait until they come back, as Dawn suggested."
"So what now?" Xander asked, flopping back into his chair. The call from Buffy and Dawn had blown his earlier good mood entirely out of the water, and he was feeling pretty pessimistic about Willow and Tara's arrival, too. Somewhere between finding Amy and wrecking the car there were probably a bunch of unpleasant dots to connect. He just knew it.
The phone rang again, somewhere in the depths of the couch, and both men flinched, startled. Xander sighed and got up, hoping that this time it really was Willow. With good news.
"Summers residence, Xander speaking," he said, mildly.
"Hey, kid, uh, is the Slayer around?" The speaker certainly wasn't Willow. The voice was nervous, male, easily recognizable but completely unexpected.
"Willy?" he blurted. "Why are you calling here?"
The barman swallowed loudly. "I just thought she might want to know... everyone's gone nuts down here. My clientele? They've pretty much trashed the bar, and they haven't left yet. I'm holed up in my office. So if she's looking for a party to crash..." He was trying to sound casual about it, but the fear he felt was infecting his voice.
It looked like Buffy had been right, Xander thought. The demons were beginning to notice that the Hellmouth was gone. "She's kinda out of town right now..." he began.
Willy groaned, despairingly. "Great. Just great."
"...But I can get someone over there soon," Xander continued, over the interruption. "Hang on, man." Willy might be just a snitch, playing both sides of the human/demon divide, but he'd been useful in the past. And he was human. They couldn't just leave him to twist.
There was a crashing sound, and Willy whispered a quick "Thanks, man. Hurry," before hanging up the phone.
Giles stared at Xander for a moment, then sighed and shook his head. "You just had to ask, didn't you," he said, looking disappointed.
"What?" Xander blinked at him, caught off guard. Non sequitur much? What was Giles talking about?
"I distinctly heard you ask, 'What now?'" Giles continued, turning the corners of his mouth down in a stern, parental frown. "Really, Xander. One would think you'd know better by now."
Xander blinked at Giles again, then realized what he was doing and adopted a similar, depressed expression and shook his head too. "Yeah, you'd think so, wouldn't you?" He heaved a sigh. "Maybe some day I'll learn."
Giles chuckled, and headed for the weapons chest. Xander took a moment to appreciate the unlikely event of being on the same wavelength as the older man, then smiled and headed for his favorite axe. Looked like they'd have a fun evening after all.
Of course, he'd have to remember to leave a note for the girls. Oh well. At least someone would get to enjoy the pizza.
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© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.