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Chapter Data

Chapter Eighteen

Fan Fiction: They Also Serve

Chapter Eighteen: Suspicions & Decisions

"What happens is not as important as how you react to what happens."
~Ellen Glasgow


The arrival of the cops was like a huge splash of ice water, dousing Xander's rage. He was pretty unclear on everything that had happened after Warren fired the gun-- when had everyone else run out here? How had Wesley got hold of Warren and Andrew? Why wasn't he dead?-- but he was clear on what would happen if he went medieval on Warren in the presence of police. The city's blind eye did not extend to human-on-human violence.

Right on the heels of that thought was another: He was wearing a bloodsoaked shirt with two bullet holes and (apparently) no wounds to show for it. Not something he wanted questioned. Quickly, he whisked the shirt up over his head and moved to Buffy's side, hoping to pass the blood on it off as hers. He could tell them he'd been holding her when she was shot, which had the benefit of actually being true, and hope they didn't take the shirt as evidence.

Giles pulled the neck of Buffy's shirt to one side to expose the wound. The bullet had just clipped her shoulder in passing, carving a furrow through skin and muscle. She was still bleeding sluggishly, but not as much as a normal human would have; really, this was a pretty piddling injury for a Slayer. Buffy had been clawed worse in the past and survived unscarred. It had probably been the shock that felled her, not trauma or blood loss.

"She, she'll be OK, right?" Dawn asked, nervously. "I mean, she was running around after you were shot..."

"She'll be fine, Dawnie," Xander told her, and reached up to squeeze her hand. "It's barely a scratch." He banished some of her fear with a reassuring smile, then turned his attention back to Buffy.

Giles touched a hand to the wound, and for a moment Xander saw green sparks dancing in among the older man's fingers. Then Giles pulled back, hesitating, and shot a look over at the cops.

Comprehension followed. "You healed me?" Xander asked, quietly.

"As best I could," Giles answered, distractedly. "But they've probably brought an ambulance, and they'll want an explanation for all of the blood."

Xander rubbed at his chest again, self-consciously, still hardly believing that he was still alive. All that pain and the fade to black, with Buffy's face as the last thing he saw... he'd always hoped to die that way. Not the getting shot part, obviously, the saving someone part. Especially the saving Buffy part.

The healing had left a scar, catching his fingertips with smoothed ridges as he ran his fingers over it. Proof that it had happened. The last time Buffy had really needed saving, it hadn't been real; it had been in the visions at the wedding that wasn't. It had felt real, though. He'd failed her, and it had not only literally crippled him, it had led him to ruin Anya's happiness and become an abusive wretch like his father.

The visions turned out to be false, but they'd been built from his own fears. Maybe, just maybe, that could mean... But no. Xander stopped that train of thought in its tracks with a shake of his head. No matter what his subconscious was trying to tell him, there was still the small fact that Buffy preferred her men undead, or at least superpowered and questionably loyal. Angel, Riley, and Spike: Xander didn't fit their mold, and he was pretty sure he didn't want to.

Someone touched Xander's bare shoulder, and he abruptly realized that he'd been staring at Buffy's unconscious form for the last couple of minutes, oblivious to everything else. "I'm fine," he said, smiling awkwardly up at Willow's concerned face. "Just contemplating my own mortality."

"The stretcher guys are here," she said, glancing worriedly at Buffy and then over to a pair of efficient-looking men with EMT gear. "And this policeman, Officer Herrington? He wants to ask you some questions. Y'know, since you were the only one out here when..." She paused and bit her lip, gesturing toward Warren, who was being cuffed by one of the cops.

Xander nodded, then handed Willow his crumpled shirt. "When Buffy got shot," he said, with a wry smile, and stood. He glanced at both officers, trying to decide which looked like a Herrington. The one Mirandizing the Duo wasn't paying him any attention, but the one talking to Tara was. He was probably the guy.

Xander took a deep breath, calming his thoughts. Time to be the Responsible Construction Worker, not the Experienced Demon Hunter. It was hard sometimes to play dumb, since the cops at least had an idea of what went bump in the night, but necessary.

"Officer Herrington?" he asked, stepping up next to Tara and extending a hand. "I'm Xander Harris. Willow said you had questions for me?"

The cop studied him carefully for a moment, then accepted the handshake with a slight nod. Xander felt cautiously relieved at that; it meant the cop might be here on friendly terms. Sure, he was here because someone attacked Buffy... but you just never knew in Sunnydale. Xander remembered Detective Stein and his anti-Buffy attitude all too well.

"Mr. Harris," the cop said, in a neutral tone. "Yes, actually. Are you aware that your car is in a ditch out on Wallace Road?"

Okay, that question had come out of left field. Xander glanced at Tara, who looked a little alarmed; had the girls run into this cop yesterday? "Uh, I wasn't sure where it was, exactly, but yeah, I knew it was damaged in the earthquake."

"Hmmm," the officer said, lifting a small notepad and scribbling something in the margin. "Not all of the damage was consistent with such a wreck. But that's not important right now. You see, I picked up three young women leaving the wreck: Miss Maclay, here, Miss Rosenberg, there, and the young lady who let us into the house. They were covered in blood, but seemed otherwise uninjured, and didn't want to go to the hospital. Does that seem strange to you, Mr. Harris?"

How the hell was he supposed to answer that? Xander glanced at Tara again, and shrugged. "I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation," he said, with a more guarded expression. "You might want to try asking them about it, though, since I wasn't there."

The cop just kept looking at him, with an enigmatic little smile. "Mmm. Well, the whole thing seemed strange enough that I ran the plates afterward; imagine my surprise when the name on the registration sent up red flags all through the station. You and your friends, Mr. Harris, especially Ms. Summers, have made quite a reputation for themselves."

"What are you getting at?" Xander asked sharply, beginning to lose his temper. "Look, we were the ones who got shot here. I don't think this line of questioning has any relevance to that."

"We?" Officer Herrington echoed him, dropping his eyes to the drying blood and the fresh scar on Xander's chest.

Shit, Xander thought; this situation was getting out of hand. He fisted his hands at his sides to keep from rubbing the scar self-consciously, and scrambled to think of a cover. "Buffy, I mean. I said 'we' because you're talking about us as a group."

The cop sighed, and shook his head. "You might try cleaning your back before you try that story on anyone else. Look, Mr. Harris, I'm just trying to say that I'm well aware that your little group is more than meets the eye, and I'd prefer not to go through the whole denial routine."

Several conflicting emotions ran through Xander at that little speech. Chagrin: he'd forgotten there'd be crustifying blood on his back as well as his chest, and of course he'd been facing away from the cop when he was checking on Buffy. Irritation: what gave this guy the right to be a smug know-it-all, anyway, badge or no? Panic: dammit, somebody in authority knows, and knows we'll try to deny it, and what on earth am I supposed to tell him? Protectiveness: if this guy is a threat to 'me and mine', he needs to be put down, NOW.

Before Xander could spontaneously combust, however, Tara put a calming hand on his arm and spoke quietly to the officer. "Why does it m-matter?" she asked.

A flurry of voices sprang up from the lawn. One corner of Xander's mind sighed with relief as he heard Buffy berating the EMT's and insisting that she didn't need to go to the hospital. He didn't take his eyes off Herrington, however, even when the cop glanced away to take in what was going on.

Herrington watched the others for a moment, then turned back to Xander, wearing a very serious expression. "It matters because I know you're planning to lie to me about what happened here today. Not all of us worked for Mayor Wilkins, you know; I wasn't even in Sunnydale back then. I don't see how you expect us to keep this town safe, if no one ever reports the truth."

Xander had the sudden, insane urge to yell at the man that he couldn't handle the truth, but he successfully suppressed it. "Look," he said, enunciating clearly, "I don't know what you're talking about, and even if I did, I still wouldn't tell you, because I don't trust you. If you have any more questions, you're going to have to talk to Mr. Giles about them. Now, can we get back to the issue at hand?"

Herrington narrowed his eyes at Xander, and Xander met him, glare for glare. He was not going to be out-stubborned on this. If the cop had any brains at all, he'd give in and adjourn this argument for continuation another day.

Finally, the cop cleared his throat, and glanced down at his notebook again. "All right, then. Why don't you tell me what happened? Or, rather, what you want me to believe happened?"

It was another couple of hours before all of the assorted police, paramedics, and prisoners finally left the Summers' back lawn. Herrington hadn't pressed for 'the truth' any further, contenting himself with a few black looks at Xander, and Buffy had gotten away with just a bandage and a promise to get someone to drive her to the emergency room for stitches. Not that she actually would, of course.

The last anyone saw of Warren and Andrew was the fearful expression of the latter's face as they were escorted to one of the police cruisers. Xander felt a momentary pang of pity for the boy, as he'd pretty much just gotten sucked along in Warren's wake, but it quickly passed. Andrew was more than old enough to know what he was doing.

The next order of business had been to get everyone over to the Magic Box, where further explanations awaited. Even Amy; they could hardly leave her at Buffy's house, after what had happened. Anya was less than pleased that they were going to "clutter up her store" while she was still cleaning it, but she was still in a good mood from whatever Buffy had wished on the Duo, and didn't put up too much of an objection. Privately, Xander thought she was also pretty fascinated by the appearance of Wesley, and the "intriguing" (more like, psychotic) story he had to tell.

The Angel's-son part was difficult enough to grasp; the story in its entirety, which was all tangled up with Ethan Rayne, Jonathan, balance demons, prophecies, and evil lawyers, was enough to give Xander a headache. Not to mention the part where Wesley and Faith seemed to be together now-- hadn't Buffy said, when she followed Faith to L.A. that time, that the dark Slayer had spent awhile torturing her ex-Watcher? Had she really changed that much since then?

Out of the whole story, however, only two things seemed especially significant to Xander. First was the situation with Buffy's dad; it explained so much, but it was obvious that neither Buffy nor Dawn were taking the news well. Were they ever going to get a break? Second was the revelation that Buffy, Dawn, Faith, and Wesley were supposedly destined to chase a moving Hellmouth around the world for the rest of their lives.

"Then shall the Chosen make their choices four / And ever after fight they for the Rule"... it seemed pretty clear. Ever after was just another term for forever (he knew his fairy tales) and they already knew which Four were meant. What the bit of poetry didn't say, however, was whether the choices were limited to those four. Given how things had been with Buffy from the beginning, Xander was willing to bet the answer was No. Not if they were to succeed, anyway.

He waited for the hubbub to die down, listening carefully to the others' comments as he turned a small bit of metal over and over in his hand. Xander had retrieved the bullet from the lawn where he'd lain before the police could find it-- like the shirt, it was coated with his DNA, and he didn't want them locking it up as evidence. Besides, it was a good reminder of how much was at stake, and how close they'd all come to death at one point or another in this long, insane ride they'd been on since the Slayer first came to town.

"So, Wes," he finally spoke up, when the others ran out of questions and exclamations. There'd been plenty of why's and how's and what-now's, but no concrete discussion of where to go from here; well, he could be the practical one when he had to. Besides, it would get them out from under the nose of that inquisitive cop.

"How soon do you need us in L.A.?"


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