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Title: Black Magic White Lies
Chapter 18 - In Which "The" Lie Is Finally Set At Rest
Timeline: BtVS, alternate season 5
Genre: drama, mystery, action
Characters, pairing: general, Xander/Faith
Rating: R (for intense situations).
Summary: Alternate BtVS season 5. 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

"Get off your big shiny cross," Buffy spits. "It's easy to die for someone you love. What about killing the one you love to save the world? I killed Angel - and I loved him more than anything I will ever love in this life. I sent him to hell because I had to - and you were cheering me on. Do you remember giving me Willow's message - "Kick his ass?"

He feels like he's been thrown into cold water. Cold and dirty water.

Willow looks at him, confused. "I never said..."

"Because I made it up." He has nothing to lose anymore - hasn't he? He has burned all his bridges.

"Why, Xander?" Willow asks, incredulous.

"Because I was scared. Because Buffy had failed to kill him once, and it cost us dearly. Because I didn't want her dead."

He makes himself look Buffy in the face. It's the face of a small child who has been slapped viciously. "Do you understand what you did?" she whispers. "Angel wouldn't have died. I could've..."

"There was nothing you could've done, pet," Spike says, unexpectedly gentle. He's the last person Xander expects support from - but, apparently, they can proudly share the chairmanship of the "We Hate Angel" club.

Buffy shakes her head. "I could've…"

"I was there, Slayer. I saw it. You were surrounded by Angel's minions when he grabbed the bleeding sword. There was no way back after that moment. You would have died."

"I'd gladly have died instead of him!" Buffy is almost crying. "At least, if I died, I wouldn't have to be here, choosing between killing my friend and facing the end of the world."

Spike winces. "Slayer - if you died instead of him, the world would have ended three years ago! The wanker would have turned it into another Hell, Inc. Don't torture yourself, pet. You did all you could do."

"Don't talk to me like I'm a five-year old! I thought you were on my side."

"Always am. No matter what you do. I just don't want to lose you. I know you, Slayer. If you kill the tyke there won't be a way back for you."

"If we don't kill it, hell will be unleashed," Giles retorts. "Millions of people would die. The civilization would descend into chaos. The world would end. Are you suggesting that Buffy should assume responsibility for of the end of the world?"

Spike sighs, defeated. Giles is right.

Yet he is wrong. Utterly wrong.

"I tell you this," Xander says hoarsely. "You kill an innocent baby and that is the beginning of the end of the world."

He feels a hand on his shoulder. Willow. She stands by him - small, fragile and resolute.

"Xander is right," she says firmly. "There are other ways and we will find them."

Buffy stares at her, wide-eyed. "You don't understand, Will. Don't you remember what I told you about Cordelia and her seven demonic babies? She tried to protect them when she got possessed, but when her ordeal was over she was grateful for them being killed and for being saved."

Willow shakes her head. "There is nothing demonic about Xander's baby, Buffy. I swear. I feel the aura."

Buffy visibly squirms at the words "Xander's baby", but she nods reluctantly.

"Okay," Willow goes on calmly. "Xander's daughter becomes a threat only once and only for a short period of time in the future. Right?" She looks at Gregor questioningly.

He glares. "You're playing with fire, child..."

"Just yes or no."

"Yes," he says, resigned.

"So, we have a lot of time to destroy the Beast."

"You can't destroy Glorificus," says Gregor. "She is a God. She is indestructible."

The challenge makes Willow's eyes sparkle. "I will find a way."

"No, Willow, you won't," Giles interrupts sharply. "You can't defy a God! There will be grave consequences."

"Screw consequences when my best friend's life is in danger!"

Giles frowns. "Magic is already corrupting your soul, Willow. Don't you see it? You almost killed your best friend when you slipped during the protection spell."

"I did what I had to do!" She sounds hurt and angry. "I saved you all!"

"The magic you're channeling is more dangerous and ferocious than you can cope with. You're an amateur, Willow. You're lucky you haven't killed Xander and yourself!"

Willow breathes heavily, her hand clenching Xander's shoulder painfully. "Hey, I'm not complaining!" he says reassuringly. But she isn't paying attention to him. She stares at Giles, furious.

"You're right, Giles" she says slowly. "The magic I use is incredibly powerful. I'm incredibly powerful. And maybe it's not such a good idea for you to piss me off."

As they lock eyes silently, Xander can physically feel the power that emanates from Willow. He wants to say something to break the tension but he can't move. Willow's power is devouring his will.

"Dissension in the ranks," Gregor says, contented. "Seldom the harbinger of glad tidings."

"Shut up!" Buffy looks between Willow and Giles, worried and confused. "Guys, can we put it off? The Beast isn't an imminent danger, Faith isn't in pain, we have a bit of breathing-space. Let's focus on the Beast and how to slay it."

"The Ren Faire reject was yammering something about the Beast's human host," Spike reminds.

Willow's hand on Xander's shoulder relaxes. She slowly deflates. "C'mon, Giles, I don't want to fight. Let's not, okay? I'll think about what you said, and you... try to be happy I saved your lives, okay?"

Giles relents. "Willow, I just ask you to be very careful. You have no idea what kind of power you're toying with."

Willow ducks her head guiltily. "I will be careful. I won't try to confront the Beast, I promise. I will find her human host."

"It's impossible," Gregor says.

Willow snorts. "All you have to do is to go online and write "man turns into woman" in a search box. No magic, no spells, just typing skills and common sense..."

Gregor smiles mirthlessly. "You really are arrogant. You think it's that easy?"

Willow shrugs. "I think a lot of people would notice a man turning into a woman."

He shakes his head. "Glorificus secured herself against it. Her minions did a spell that forbids humans to remember the change."

"How can you forbid someone to remember?" Buffy asks, puzzled.

"Humans forget about the change instantly."

"Only humans?" Spike inquires. "Because I could ask around in vampire circles."

Gregor sighs. "Vampires are immune to this spell, but the host is human and he is unlikely to visit vampire brothels..."

"Still, there is a chance."

Giles shakes his head. "Too risky. The life of one child against the destiny of civilization."

Willow's eyes sparkle. "Wasn't it risky with the box of Gavrok? The life of one Willow Rosenberg against the destiny of the civilization. And this Willow is still alive."

"That was different. The box of Gavrok was just one of the ingredients the Mayor needed for his Ascension."

"It's always different! There is only one permanent thing - we don't sacrifice humans, no matter how hard it is. And even if we can't destroy the Beast, we can hide Faith and her baby until..."

"You can't," Gregor says. "That's what we planned initially. But as soon as Glory became aware of the identity of the Key, we realized that the plan had failed."

Willow snorts. "Pffft, identity. I could..." Off Giles' glare she amends quickly. "The Council can provide Faith with false documents and safely hide her until the window of opportunity is closed."

Gregor gives her a long calculating look.

"No, it won't work," he says finally.

"Why?"

"Because Glorificus will find out about the Key's whereabouts, no matter what. Won't she?"

"What do you mean?" Giles asks sharply. "Wait... How did she find out in the first place?"

Gregor looks at him appreciatively. "That's the question, isn't it? We took all the necessary precautions to hide the Key's identity. We even provided it with a pain barrier to protect from any magical intervention. Everything went smoothly until the news about the Key reached Sunnydale. Until you found out that the Slayer carries a child."

Xander's stomach knots. Gregor is voicing his own fears. Fears that have plagued him since the assault on Faith. As soon as they found out about Faith's baby, Glorificus found out too.

"It was your bleeding monk who betrayed you and gave the Key away to the skank," Spike says flatly.

"It is impossible," Gregor retorts. "All the monks are put under a special spell. They forget everything as soon as they see the Beast. It's a standard precaution. It was one of your people who leaked the word."

Buffy is baffled. "But none of us knew about the Key until you told us!"

"I don't believe in coincidences," Gregor says wearily. "The traitors who defected to the Beast told her that the Key was something new to this world and that the monks had sent the Key to the Slayer. So initially Glorificus was convinced they had sent it to Summers. We hoped that Summers could keep The Beast occupied till the window of opportunity is closed..."

"You're disgusting, you know?" Buffy spits.

"The monks did all they could to help you, Summers. They directed your best friend's interests towards powerful magic..." The general looks at Willow briefly. "They even provided the Slayer with a vampire ally who had connections in the demon world..." He nods at Spike sullenly. "Their plan seemed to work for a while. Glorificus stuck to Sunnydale. Until somebody tipped her off that the other Slayer was with child."

Gregor glances around the group.

"There is an informer among you."

Next: Chapter 19 - Buffy Cringes. Buffy Helps. (Well, She Mostly Cringes).

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