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[personal profile] moscow_watcher
Title: Black Magic White Lies
Chapter 16 - In Which Heroes Discover Some Secrets Readers Already Figured Out
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 [personal profile] lusciousxander and [personal profile] 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

Blackness. He is cold and numb and weightless. Bodyless. Aimless. Alone in the whole world.

No. Not alone. Somebody groans and cries in pain. A girl. Distant voices. "Breathe, Faith. They say it helps." Loud wail. "It doesn't help, B! Oh, shit... your knife in my gut wasn't a nearly this painful..."

Faith is alive. Buffy is alive. Thank God. Where are the rest?

"How are they?" Buffy's voice.

"Harris is okay, but Red's pulse is still low."

A cold hand slaps him on the cheeks. Everything in him protests against this intrusion in his bubble of pleasant numbness. "Don't," he murmurs. Why has his tongue turned into stone?

"Wake up, Harris!" Spike snarls as he shakes him roughly. "You'll sleep when you're dead."

He nods drowsily. Bits and pieces rush into his mind. Now he remembers knights attacking their van, Buffy fighting a man who leapt on the roof, Spike's chip firing when he tried to help her...

Willow, black-eyed, veiny-faced, sending balls of fire at their attackers...

Faith writhing on the floor, him trying to protect her from the arrows with his body...

Spike snatching an arrow out of the air an inch from his throat. "Angelus taught me a couple of tricks!"

An abandoned gas station in the desert, with boarded up windows and weak doors and broken soda machine - Fort Alamo for dummies - knights bursting inside, Buffy knocking out their leader...

Willow making a protection spell, crackling with dark energy... her eyes, full of fear and desperation... "Oh, God, I'm slipping, I'm slipping! Giles! Xander - anchor me!" Him, grabbing her hands and instantly becoming everything and nothing - turning into sand under his feet, stucco on the walls, invisible stars eons away from Earth...

"Xander?" The unmistakable worry in Faith's voice warms his heart.

"I'm okay, Faith." He struggles to sit up. He can't see her well - the room is dark, she's lying in the corner, wiping beads of sweat from her face with dirty hands, leaving black trails on her forehead.

"We thought you were dying," Buffy says, concern so clear on her face. "Willow was draining your energy to perform her spell."

"Willow? Is she..."

Buffy nods to the corner where Willow is lying like a rag doll, her head on Giles's lap. "She's restoring, hopefully. She finished the protection spell and dropped like she was dead."

He staggers to his feet and approaches them slowly. The floor rocks dangerously under his feet. Willow looks calm and peaceful, but Giles' face is creased up with worry.

"How long will the protection hold?"

Giles shrugs. "Several hours, maybe half a day."

Faith groans, arches her back and bites her lip, trying to stifle cries. He rushes to her, despite the dangerously rocking floor.

"Don't hold back," he murmurs, trying to shift her into a more comfortable position. "The books say that crying helps with the pain". He hugs her and rocks back and forth to the accompaniment of her colorful profanities. When the contraction is over, she slowly relaxes, leaned against him.

He watches with detachment as Buffy and Spike tie up their prisoner - a knight in armor with a tattoo on his forehead - to a pillar in the middle of the hall.

"I wonder if Scarface here can habla the English," Spike spits.

"Who are you?" the prisoner says scornfully.

"I'm the bad cop." Spike smirks. "Except it's not a role-playing game anymore, and I really am bad. Very bad. And you will find it out very soon." He vamps out and growls menacingly. Buffy watches him with detached amusement and doesn't interfere.

"You can't stop us," the knight says grimly. "I'm just a soldier in a vast army. If it takes a hundred men, we will send a hundred. And if it takes a thousand, we will send them too. So long as you protect the Key, our brotherhood will never stop until we destroy it."

Buffy frowns. "Great, another crazy. I thought Sunnydale Hospital collected all of them..."

"The instrument of apocalypse must be destroyed at any cost," the prisoner proclaims.

"Gimme something to gag him," Spike says. Buffy casts a nervous glance in Faith's direction and hands him a handkerchief.

"No, wait!" Faith levers herself out of Xander's arms.

"Faith, in your condition..."

"Shut up, Xander." She stands up clumsily, holding her belly. "Slayer, remember? I'm okay - till the next bout, at least. And I have a right to know what's wrong with my kid."

"You don't know, child?" the prisoner says solemnly. "They brainwashed you before they made you the container of the ultimate destruction of humanity. The Key. Thanks to its power Glorificus will unleash chaos on Earth."

Spike snorts. "The wanker is either lying or delusional."

Faith is pale as a ghost but she stays relatively calm. "Try another one, creep. I know my daughter is a normal human baby. And I want to know who her father is."

The knight looks at her with open pity. "You have no idea what you're dealing with."

She clocks him in the jaw.

"Why don't you enlighten me."

"Poor child." He spits blood, coughing. "The Key doesn't have a father. Nobody knows where the Key came from. It's almost as old as the ancient gods. It was created to open the gates that separate dimensions. Its power is overwhelming. Countless generations of my people have sacrificed their lives in search of it, to destroy it before its wrath could be unleashed. But the monks hid it with their magicks. They thought they could harness its power for the forces of light. They were wrong and they paid with their blood..."

"Blah-blah-blah..." Buffy says impatiently. "This baby was created exactly nine months ago."

"The Key was transformed. Given breath. Life. The monks decided to send it to the Slayer in the form of her unborn child to keep it safe. They even sent someone in advance to look after her. Unfortunately, she was killed."

"Ms. Dormer," Faith whispers. She looks shaken. But it's all lies, isn't it? It has to be a lie.

"You're lying," Xander says hoarsely. "You're just making it up. How could you know about it? The Levantine order is a secret society."

The prisoner shakes his head. "I'm also a member of the Levantine order. The clerics, the Byzantium Knights, the magicians - we have different modus operandi, but we all serve humanity. Except a couple of traitors who defected to the Beast."

"The Beast?"

"Glorificus. She, Jasmine and Illyria were a triumvirate of Ancient Gods until Glorificus' lust for power grew beyond her limits. She imprisoned Illyria into the Deeper Well, but Jasmine seized on that moment and stabbed her in the back. Glorificus was cast out, banished to this lower plane of existence, forced to live and ultimately die trapped within the body of a mortal, a newborn male, created as her prison."

"Male?" Giles asks, bewildered. "I assumed that Glorificus was the woman we saw in the hospital."

The prisoner nods. "Yes, that's her. She's found a way to escape her mortal prison for brief periods before her energies are exhausted and she's forced back. Glory's mortal coil is her only weakness. Kill the man, and the god dies."

Xander snorts involuntarily. "And the only thing that keeps you from killing him is your high moral principes - so killing an innocent baby is a much better option."

The knight glares. "The identity of the human vessel has never been discovered. Thankfully, the Beast is almost powerless without the Key. Glorificus rampages and sucks out the coherence from people's minds, but she is not a global threat. Not until she has the Key. The Beast wants to use the Key's power to perform a ritual, open a portal, return to the higher plane and seize the power Jasmine took from her."

"Good riddance," Buffy murmurs.

"You say "use the Key's power," Faith says darkly. "What exactly she wants to do to my daughter?"

"She will bleed her."

"How much blood does she need to open her bloody portal?" Spike asks suddenly, ignoring Buffy's glare. "Believe the expert, Slayer - it's easy to bleed a person without killing him. Or her. If a few drops of the sprog's blood are that skank's ticket to Hell, why don't we provide her with it to get rid of her forever?"

The prisoner sighs. "You don't understand. When the Key is activated, it won't just open a gate to the Beast's dimension. It's going to open all the gates. The walls separating realities will crumble. Dimensions will bleed into one another. Order will be overthrown and the universe will tumble into chaos. We have to prevent it. At any cost. We can't destroy Glory, we have to destroy the Key."

Faith hugs her belly protectively. "Lay a finger on my daughter, and you're dead."

"But..."

"You heard me. You're only still alive because I swore off killing humans."

"I appreciate it," the knight says softly. "And I apologize for the pain and grief we subjected you to. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. In case of a threat Ms. Dormer should have extracted the Key from your body and destroyed it. You wouldn't have even noticed. But Ms. Dormer was killed and, before we could send another one, you were in a coma. As soon as you woke up, the monks passed you the Key and changed your memories accordingly..."

Faith clocks him again, hard. "You raped me. You raped my body and impregnated me. You raped my mind and turned me into your puppet..."

"No!" the prisoner shrieks hysterically. Apparently, these accusations frighten him more than death. "It didn't happen like that! Nobody touched you physically! Passing the Key is a sacred process!"

"Oh, really? Was there praying? Incense burning? Were you shoving your mojo into my belly?"

The knight shakes his head. "It doesn't work like that. The monks started with exploring your memories. The hardest trick is to change as little as possible and to keep the integrity of the person. The Key should be somebody you'd protect with your life. They pondered upon giving you a brother, a sister, a son - and, finally, decided that the Key should be presented to you in the form of your daughter. They picked the easiest man to be the father. Then they imbued your daughter with the Keyness and magically transferred the fetus into your body."

Faith touches her belly. "You mean this is Xander's kid, too?"

The prisoner nods.

"And you'd never have told us the truth unless this mess happened?"

"We tried to provide you with a guardian. We have contacts in the Council. But you refused to cooperate with them. We were about to send a man who would tell you the truth - but you gave up to the police and ended up in jail. We thought you were safe there. But Glorificus somehow found out about you."

"It was her who killed that monk a week ago?" Buffy asks sharply. "He tried to tell me something before he died."

The knight nods. "The monk was sent to warn you about the Key. They finally realized how dangerous it is and decided it has to be destroyed. When Glorificus killed our brother, the order sent us. To do what has to be done."

"You guys are scum," Buffy says with disgust. "Brain-washers, manipulators and liars."

"It was a white lie," the prisoner counters. "Desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm sorry for putting you through this - but the Key is the link that must be severed. The Key is too dangerous to be allowed to exist - no matter what form it has been pressed into."

"You're lying," Faith whispers. "She isn't..." She gasps and doubles over in pain. Xander and Buffy catch her just in time when her knees buckle and she slides on the floor, curling around her belly.

"Faith!"

She wriggles, mouth open in an extreme of agony that cannot even scream. Buffy clasps her hand. "Hang on, Faith. We'll extract this Key thingy out of you and you will be okay, I promise."

Xander's heart clenches. He knows it won't be okay - and he isn't wrong.

Once the contraction is over, Faith stares at Buffy with open hostility. "You think I will just watch you killing her? Think again."

Next - Chapter 17: Dollhouse Much?
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