Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS. I own the Iron Coin, the Jester, et cetera. Insofar as someone can 'own' a fanfic itself (as in, people not copying it/using it/etc. without permission on this site and others, pursuant to various plagiarism rules), I own this fic. The rest? Well, it ain't mine. So there.

Thanks, as ever, to Starway Man, my beta. If you haven't read any of his work, you should go pick a story and read it. I would suggest 'Knightcurse', 'Never Wish Upon a Hellmouth', 'A Simple Twist of Fate', 'The Guardian' or 'Time for Change' as ones to start with.

Anyway, as usual, comments, writing updates, et cetera, can be occasionally found on my tumblr at Alkenifanfiction . Tumblr . Com

In this particular case, I will say that if you're concerned about my characterization of Faith here – thinking it a little out of character or something – then on that tumblr, I have a bit an elaboration on how Faith has gotten here, on how things have gone the way they have in the fic to the point where her reactions are different from what we saw on the show. Your mileage may vary with my explanation, granted, but at least you'll be able to understand where I'm coming from, if you're interested. I try my best to keep everyone in my fanfics in character to the shows and to the circumstances the fic itself puts them through. If you really think I've gone total left field here, tell me. I may not, in the end, agree with you, but I do try to make everything fit together.

The Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1

By Alkeni

Episode 15: Death of A Boring Man

February 12th, 1999

Alley, Sunnydale


The two words played over and over in Xander's mind, chasing out every other thought he might have had at this moment. Only two words, and an overriding sense of horror.

He'd seen death before – this was Sunnydale, after all. But never before had there been a death that he – he, alone, rather than a Slayer or a witch or whoever – could have prevented, if only he'd moved faster...done it right.

It was his fault. He'd gotten lazy with the Iron Coin lately. Taken it for granted, started assuming that it wasn't showing him anything anymore. If he'd just used it sooner...

As Xander looked on, not really seeing what was happening, Buffy was crouched down by the wounded guy. Faith was standing still, doing nothing, just...staring at the body, as if still expecting it to turn to dust. Buffy was desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood.

It was Buffy's command to the man 'Don't move!', as his body convulsed through what had to be death throes – there was no way in hell the victim could survive a wound like that, Xander's pseudo-soldier memory bank was sure of that. Besides, the Iron Coin had...the wound had to mortal, if he'd foreseen it that way...no, the guy wouldn't survive, not with that sort of injury. Regardless, it was Buffy's words to the dying man that drew Xander back to what was happening, just in time to hear Faith's toneless denials.

"I didn't...I didn't know. I didn't know..."

"We need to call 911, now!" Buffy said to no one in particular.

Yeah, I know! Cordelia, fighting back her own reaction of horror and fear, had her phone out immediately after Buffy declared the necessity, pushing buttons on the cellular device. She then began speaking to the 911 operator, her voice low, almost inaudible in the background.

Faith just kept standing there, doing nothing, unable to avert her gaze.

"I need something - something to stop the blood!" Xander automatically started towards Buffy and the dying man as she said that, but it was too late. He knew it. And then so did everyone else.

With one more round of convulsions, blood trickling out of his mouth, the body went limp, head lolling forward a little. The dead man was caught reaching towards Buffy, his arm falling down by his side, having not reached its destination.

Oh, dear God... Buffy stepped back, standing back up, feeling horror equivalent to Xander's, guilt overriding her...she'd grabbed the guy, thrown him against the wall, and then thrown him to Faith...how could she have missed it? Whoever he was, this guy didn't even look like a vampire, plus in the heat of the moment Buffy had failed to register that he was warmer than a vampire, human warm...he didn't react like...he wasn't dressed like any of the other vampires they'd been fighting...

God damn it. She'd only realized it at the last moment, when she yelled to Faith...too late.

Frozen in place, Buffy stared at the body as Faith finally reacted. "We gotta go!" She reached for Buffy, grabbing the other Slayer's wrist.

"Are you nuts? We can't just leave this guy here!" Cordelia insisted, having disconnected from her 911 emergency call by now. "Someone's dead! We have to-"

"And there are more vampires around here," Faith shot back. "There isn't time-"

"The body's right here." Xander pointed out, the whole thing feeling surreal to him...he suspected that he was still in shock. "This is the perfect-"

A vampire garbed in the antiquated uniform of the El Eliminati cult chose that moment to drop down from the nearby roof, right between Xander and Faith, facing the ordinary human, snarling and lunging at him. Before it could do anything more than that, though, a stake sprouted from its chest. There was a momentary glimpse of a skeleton and loud hissing sound, followed by the vamp collapsing to dust. Faith standing there, pulling her stake back.

"Okay, I think we can go now." Xander acquiesced to Faith's suggestion, speaking way faster than normal.

Buffy backed away, calming herself down from the battle shock arising from the unknown man's death, and without a word the two Slayers started to head down the alley, the same direction they'd been heading before.

"No, wait! Come on, my car's this way!" Cordelia said hurriedly. Someone was dead, vampires were around, and with Sunnydale luck, the cops would be here any moment, when they really weren't needed. Just to screw things up even worse. There wasn't time for anyone to worry about it, or think about it...that was life on the Hellmouth for you. But Cordelia knew that this would become a nightmare later. For all four of them.

The Chosen Two followed Xander and Cordelia back out of the alley, to the car still waiting for them, getting in quickly, taking all the seats available. The Slayers automatically headed for the back seat, leaving Xander and Cordy the seats in the front of the car. Cordelia thought to herself, This had better not turn into a habit. I'm not running some sort of Slayer Express here. Part of her couldn't grasp just how she could be thinking like that at a time like this...the thought felt familiar, and normal.

Cordelia Chase knew that normality was worth a lot at a time like this, as she started up the car and drove off just under the speed limit.

"Giles. We need to talk to Giles." Buffy said, with sudden certitude. "He'll know what to do."

"Like what? Dump the body somewhere? Like in an empty grave? Is that what you were thinking?" Xander replied, biting back the sarcasm that was naturally entering into his tone. This most definitely wasn't the time.

Luckily, the sound of police sirens howling a short distance away as the Chase-mobile kept going interrupted any sort of response to Xander's questions. And if Harris had been able to calm down enough to think calmly and rationally, he would have been amazed that Cordelia's 911 call had been answered so swiftly and efficiently, even though the cheerleader had been smart enough not to use her own name during the rushed explanation to the operator.

Well, whatever. Watery blood over the bridge now. Plus a body dump wasn't in the cards, it seemed.

"They don't notice any of the crap that happens around here at night, except the one time it would be really nice for them not to." Cordelia muttered, driving through a green light. They were almost to the high school. "Well, that's just typical..."

February 12th, 1999

Library, Sunnydale High

"Giles!" Buffy rushed into the library first. It was oddly empty of people as they entered. No sign of Giles, or even the other guy, Wesley. No real sign of a struggle, either...nothing. They just weren't around. No one was.

"Where the hell - not even that stupid new guy is here?!" Faith nearly yelled. I killed that guy...I killed him...it wasn't...I didn't know...why was he there? Why did he walk into the middle of-

Faith abruptly cut her thoughts off. Excuses didn't cut it. She had killed someone. Some innocent guy, just some random human. Want, take, have...that was just fine. She was a Slayer – she was entitled...but killing people? No...that wasn't cool. She saw judgment in the eyes of the others, knew it had to be there. Like she was a murderer...no...no, God damn it...it was an accident...it wasn't her fault...she wasn't some evil monster...she couldn't be.

"New guy?" Cordelia turned to Xander, who seemed to be taking this all pretty hard too. The real question she wanted to ask...well, demand, was how the hell he'd known all this was going to happen earlier tonight, even down to the when and where...but Cordelia knew she couldn't ask her boyfriend that question. Not now. Not here. So not the time or place.

"New Watcher. He's supposed to be Faith's Watcher. Real pansy-ass guy called Wesley something or other, Windy-price tag? I forget." Xander said hurriedly. "Bet he bravely boldly ran away."

"Is this really the time for Monty Python!?" Cordelia hissed at him.

"Cordy, at this point, any time is a good time for Monty Python. It's either that, or completely fucking panic and go nuts. And I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem like the best option to me!" Xander snapped at her. He immediately regretted it – his tone, his words – but...

"Taking this seriously isn't going to kill you, Xander!" Cordelia shot back. "More's the pity-" She was interrupted from saying anything more, though, when the double doors to the library banged opened again, and Angel burst in.

"Buffy! I've been looking for you-" He saw the blood on the blonde's hand, and the smattering of blood on Faith's shirt, and the ensouled vampire stopped short. Angel could instantly tell from the smell that the blood was not their own. "What the-"

"It's not ours." Buffy said unnecessarily, as if Angel couldn't tell if they were bleeding or if the blood was theirs. "What is it?"

"I was on the street, looking for you-" Angel abruptly cut himself off again. "What happened to you? And Faith?"

"We got attacked. Lost track of time. And then..." Buffy's voice trailed off...no one else seemed willing to volunteer what had happened. The death. Her eyes flicked over to Xander a moment, and her brain made an intuitive leap. He'd shown up there...he'd known about it...he'd tried to stop it...he'd known it was going to happen...or that something was going to happen, at any rate...and he hadn't warned her!

What the hell is going on with him ?

"Never mind, we gotta focus. El Eliminati and their boss, Balthazar? They've taken Giles prisoner."

Luckily, that was all Angel needed to say. Both Slayers were instantly ready. Buffy turned to Xander and Cordelia and commanded them, "Wait here. There's going to be a lot more of them there than what were present in that alley!" She turned back to Angel. "Was it just Giles?"

Angel shook his head. "No, there was another guy. Looked like that Wesley person you introduced me to at the Bronze, earlier on." He looked at the Chosen Two in some concern. "We gotta go. But are you two sure you're up for this?"

Buffy nodded and the two Slayers followed him out of the library. Even though Faith and Buffy both still, in their minds, were trying to cope with the death of that guy in the alley, each trying to accept their role in it. But there was something immediate that had to be handled. Giles had to be saved.

Not for the first time, almost despite herself, given the situation, Faith wondering who the hell she'd pissed off to get shafted so much in the Watcher department...whereas Buffy had Giles. Because he was Buffy's Watcher before he was anything to her. Just the way things were. The way things sucked, always sucked...

In her mind's eye, she saw herself thrusting the stake into the dead man's chest in that dark alley...

I'm not a murderer! It wasn't my fault! Not really...

February 13th, 1999

Faith's Apartment Building, Sunnydale

Balthazar was dead, for whatever that was worth. Dead after giving them that cryptic, stupid warning with his dying breath. Assuming he hadn't just been trying to psych them out with those last words of his, something even worse was coming...always a bigger demon. Well, maybe not bigger than him, but more powerful anyway.

That looming problem – if it really existed – didn't change a much bigger problem at hand, though. What they'd done...the man they'd killed, he had to have been found by the police – if not yet, he would be soon. That...that wasn't good.

Buffy was still trying to grapple with it all, and with Balthazar dead, the things stopping her from doing so had now more or less vanished.

It was already the next day, for all that it was still dark out when they reached the new building Faith was living in, since Giles had seen to it she got set up somewhere better than that roach motel she'd been staying at after she'd first showed up in Sunnydale.

"Faith." Buffy said, before the other Slayer could walk through the front doors of her building. "Wait." The dark-haired Chosen One turned around and waited for Buffy to speak, not saying anything. "We need to talk...about..."

"What's there to talk about, B? He's dead, and talking about it isn't going to bring him back. Talking isn't going to get it out of my head, and it's not going to get his blood off my shirt, or off your hand," Faith gestured to Buffy's hand. "So what's there to talk about? He's dead. End of story."

"No! It's not that simple, Faith! Killing someone is - it's a-" Buffy started, looking confused and desperate.

"You don't think I know that?" Faith interrupted, snapping. "I'm not an idiot, Buffy, and I'm not a monster. I'm not a murderer! It was an accident! For the both of us – you threw him to me, I killed him. What? Your hands aren't all clean and shiny, either!"

"I didn't say they were!" Buffy replied, raising her voice, reacting to Faith's angry rant before trying to calm down. "Look, if the police haven't found the body already, they will soon. And...accident or otherwise, we – both of us played our part – we killed him...we both screwed up."

"Yeah, we did. You did, I did!" Faith replied, stepping towards her, half-lunging before pulling herself short. "But I'm the one who plunged in the stake in, remember? I killed him...but I was doing my job...I..." She cut herself off. "There's nothing to talk about. Not for me, anyway. So this is the last time we're having this conversation, okay?"

"Faith. Have you forgotten? Xander and Cordelia were there." Buffy said softly, causing Faith to look at her sharply. "They were there, Faith. They saw what happened. If you were thinking that you could just pretend it never happened, pretty sure that's not an option. For either of us."

Faith turned back to the front doors of the building, opening one and pausing as she started to pass through. "You're right. Those two were there, and they saw how it went down. But far as I'm concerned, there's nothing more to say. Pretty damn sure they're not gonna rat us out to the cops, right? Fine. So you talk to 'em if you want, make sure they keep their mouths shut; they're your friends, after all."

"Faith." Buffy said before the other Slayer started to move again. "You don't have to – you have friends, too. Don't forget that, okay? Just...don't."

Faith didn't say anything in response. She just walked in through the door, letting it close behind her. Leaving Buffy all alone in the dark Sunnydale night.

Damn you, Xander, why didn't you warn us this would happen!? the blonde Slayer suddenly thought furiously to herself, returning to a train of thought she had all but forgotten earlier that night.

February 13th, 1999

1420 Truman Drive, Sunnydale

Nightmares. What distinguishes a nightmare from a dream? Is it a nightmare if it's not remembered after waking up? Everyone dreams, but dreams are not always recalled. If not recalled, can the most horrifying of dreams really be called a nightmare?

They were the questions that no one at this moment would ever wonder about, as the sound of a ringing cell phone woke up Amy Madison.

Eyes still half-closed, Amy reached for her phone, her groping hand missing it a few times. The young woman suddenly knocked her alarm clock off the side table, wincing just a touch as the heavy thud assaulted her tired ears. After a moment, she found the phone. She was too tired to worry, even as a tiny, half-awake part of her brain feared what she often feared when that phone rang, for the last couple of days.

That voice. That damned voice, with more threats and demands, the fear of it, rising in her throat with every phone call.

Tonight...or better to say perhaps this morning, as Amy saw the time on the phone, that worry was drowned out by tiredness. But it was only when she saw that the number was Faith's that that tiny part of her brain silenced its fears. Snapping open the phone, the witch brought it to the side of her head.

"Faith...? How late were you out patrolling-" Amy started to say. She'd only gotten one call from Faith this late before, after the other girl had been out patrolling and had lost track of just how late it was, given how amped she'd been after killing a few vampires and just generally getting mixed up in a fight. The Slayer liked that.

"Amy...ah, shit. I know...I know I probably woke you up." Faith's voice was quiet, barely above a whisper, in its own way, even though...it really wasn't. But it was quiet, almost small, just a touch. "I..."

"Faith," Amy interrupted her friend. "What's wrong?"

"I shouldn't...you wouldn't...it's not..." Faith kept trailing off...if it was someone else, Amy would be envisioning her biting her lip nervously...but this was Faith. Nervousness and Faith didn't go together.

"Faith." Amy said again, her voice slightly louder and more firm as she grew more awake. "You called me for a reason. It's the middle of the night. What happened?" Faith's evasion was starting to worry her...

"I...I killed someone, Amy..." Faith said after a moment's silence, voice slow.

"What?!" To say that the Madison girl was shocked by those words...spit-take pretty much covered Amy's emotions at that moment, though she didn't actually spit. It was a close thing on that front, though. Faith was silent, throughout.

After a moment, Amy realized just how violently she'd spoken in her reaction. This was Faith talking. She didn't just walk up to some guy and kill him. She wouldn't be calling her about that. "Faith...talk to me, please. What happened, exactly?"

"He just...B and I...we were fighting this pack of vampires – loads of them – and then...he just...he was there, and then I staked him...right in the heart...I saw him bleeding out...I killed him, Amy...I didn't mean to...he was just...it was an accident...I killed someone!" Faith's voice rose to an almost fever pitch with those last two words. "I'm not a monster Amy. I'm not a murderer! I just- I killed-"

Amy was wide awake now, all thoughts of sleep banished from her mind. "Faith, calm down." She interrupted her friend. "Stay there. Don't do anything. I'm on my way to your apartment."

"Amy, it's the middle of the freaking night-" Faith protested. Vampires, and all that shit would still be out and about. If Amy got hurt because- God, she wouldn't, couldn't...her fault too...

"Faith, I'm not going to just leave you alone right now." Amy insisted, already opening dresser drawers. "I'll be careful, don't worry. Just hold on, I'm on my way." She said again. She hung up before Faith would have a chance to protest more or tell her not to come.

February 13th, 1999

Chase Residence, Sunnydale

Xander and Cordelia had eventually left the library after Faith and Buffy had departed with Angel to save Giles and Wesley. There wasn't anything for them to do there, after all. They'd returned to her place, both of them not entirely with it, not after everything that had happened. They were still sitting on the couch, like they had earlier in the evening, though now there was no movie playing on the idiot box. They'd both tried to distract themselves, not think about what had happened. Even as Cordelia had burned to demand answers from her boyfriend.

But with the movie done and back in its case some ten minutes ago, Xander knew that Cordelia's questions weren't going to be held back for much longer. She was going to let loose on him any minute. She wouldn't be Cordelia Chase otherwise. And he had no freaking clue what the hell he was going to tell her. Some variation on what he'd told Giles, on what Buffy knew...but damn it all...would she look at him with that half-suspicious expression that Buffy had constantly sent him for a while? It had been hard enough getting it from her, and he'd gotten it from Giles – still did, a bit – but getting it from Cordy? Xander didn't know if he could handle that.

And what if she reacted worse? What if she decided they needed to break up or something? It wasn't impossible, all things considered. There were so...so many ways Cordelia could react badly...so much worse than Giles and Buffy had.

Xander already knew he couldn't just lie to her. Leaving aside that he was pretty sure she'd be able to tell if he tried, it was just pointless. Not to mention a relationship-breaker. The truth was insane and unbelievable enough as it was. No point in lying about it.

"Kinda weird how, right now, I'm sorta expecting smoke to start coming out of your ears." Cordelia said with a soft laugh.

Xander looked over to her. "Huh?"

She rolled her eyes and poked him in the side. "You've got that look you always get when you're thinking too hard." She dropped into a more serious tone, knowing full well what it was he was thinking too hard about. "Xander, you know what I want to ask you." It wasn't a question.

"I do, but you haven't asked since we got back here. Kinda hoping we could keep up the trend." Xander replied, rolling his head back and to the side as he spoke.

"Xander, I can't just – damn it. Screw this, how did you know? What did you know? What the hell happened?"

"I can't tell you."

Cordelia stood up from the couch, stepping back from it in one fluid motion with the standing. "What? Why? Is it some kind of Slayage secret that I'm not allowed in on? Because it looked to me like Buffy didn't seem all that surprised to see you there. So she obviously has some kind of idea what's going on!"

Xander stood up as well, looking directly at her. "Cordelia, I love you. You know that right?"

"Sure, and I love you too. But what's that got to do with anything right now?"

"It's got everything to do with it." He took a breath. "Please, listen to me; and please, believe me. Sweetheart, this has nothing to do with not wanting to tell you the big secret, or keeping someone's confidence, or whatever. It has everything to do with the fact that I literally cannot tell you. If I tried, my voice would just go-"

Suddenly he was overcome with a fit of coughing. Hand on his chest, just below his throat, Harris staggered back a moment, almost hacking up a furball. Well, that's a new one. Mixing it up, mister Hydra guy? Cordelia moved towards him in concern as he half doubled-over, but Xander held up one finger from his other hand. After a moment, he straightened back up as the coughing fit vanished. "I can't tell you it all. I can tell you some of it. If I can."

Cordelia just stared at him. "What the hell does that even mean, you can if you can?"

"It means, it's not up to me. I didn't just start-" Another coughing fit. Okay, sick sense of humor. Not that he didn't know that already. Xander held up a finger again, then straightened back up once more.

"I'm detecting a pattern." Cordelia said softly. "Look me in the eye and tell me you're not faking the coughing."

Xander looked her in the eye. "I'm not faking the coughing."

"Okay." Cordelia replied, just as softly as before. She sat down on the couch and pulled him by his wrist back onto it. "Okay." She said again. "You're obviously involved in some lameass weirdness. Fine. Not even that unusual. You can't tell me everything; if you try...what? You'll start coughing up blood? Again, fine, I don't want you to get hurt just to satisfy my curiosity..."

"Cordelia, you are a true goddess amongst women. You know that, right?" Xander looked at her in semi-wonder.

"Well, duh!" Cordy briefly unleashed her classic megawatt smile, before getting serious again. "Okay. What can you tell me, then? Is this – by Sunnydale standards, just how...weird is the truth, even what you can't tell me?"

"Oh, honey, this breaks all known Sunnydale standards and then some. This is so far beyond our usual Sunnyhell crap, it leaves it all behind in its dust." Xander replied. He reached over to her and took her hand in his. "Without going into the specifics, I...I find out things...things about what's going to happen. I'm not seeing the future, or anything like that. I...I just...I just find things out. In a way I can't explain to you, no matter how much I want to. Some things...only certain kinds of things. Things like what happened tonight. I don't...I don't have much in the way of...of control, when I find out these things. I just...I just find them out."

"How? I mean, like...do you see what's going to happen?" Cordelia held onto Xander's hand tightly.

Xander opened his mouth, and immediately began to choke. Concerned, Cordelia was about to start pounding on his back or give him the Heimlich maneuver, but he waved her away a moment later. "See? Can't answer that. I want to...but I can't."

"How long has this been going on?"

Xander hesitated. Finally he said, "Since last summer. Eleventh of July, to be precise."

Cordelia's eyes almost bulged out of her head. "You've been keeping something like this a secret from me for that long!?"

"I know, but Cordy, I couldn't tell you. I just couldn't. Not in any way that would satisfy you, anyway. You gotta believe me, okay? And before you ask why I kept my trap shut about it, that expression I'm seeing on your face right now? That's the real reason right there." Ignoring Cordy's open-mouthed expression, he went on. "Cor, you gotta understand - what I find out may not happen...if I can stop it, or change it, or something else happens as a consequence of other people's actions. But I couldn't stop what happened tonight..." His voice trailed off slowly. "I couldn't stop it. I was too late. And the worst part is, I could have found out sooner...but I didn't."

Cordelia shook her head. She still found it impossible to process what she's just learned, but after nearly two years of dealing with Sunnydale weirdness, the former May Queen was able to...prioritize. "Xander, whatever the hell this is – and don't even think I'm satisfied with your half-assed explanation, even if it's all I'm going to get out of you – beating yourself up over that guy's death isn't going to get you or anyone else anywhere. Faith is the one who killed him, and Buffy is the one who threw him into her path. That's all there is to it, whether you had some kinda advance warning about it or otherwise."

"So...does that mean you don't want to break up with me, for not telling you about all this before now?" Xander asked hopefully.

"Are you nuts?" Cordelia snapped in annoyance, giving him a swift dope-slap across the back of his head. "After all the time and effort I've invested in 'us' over the past year or so, you thought I'd dump you? Just like that? Plus it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, and I am so not going to repeat what happened between us last year! Sheesh. It's a good thing for you that we're both still kinda traumatized from watching that guy die, mister, or your ass would be toast for even suggesting that!"

Xander felt the weight of the world abruptly fall away from his shoulders. He sighed in relief. "So we're okay, then, right?"

"Okay? Are you out of your tiny, misbegotten little mind?" Cordelia snapped at him in annoyance. "Alexander LaVelle Harris, you are so deep in the doghouse right now, I can't even think of a proper way to express it! No, wait, here's one; No. Sex. Comprende? You're completely cut off, for like a month. At least!"

Ah, man. This is gonna suck. Xander had utterly no doubts about that. And oddly enough, he never noticed (and neither did Cordelia) that the change in topic had at least distracted them from what had happened in that dark alley, earlier on.

Time to start spending that road trip money I've been saving up, and shower my girlfriend with lots and lots of gifts. Sooner the better, too.

February 13th, 1999

Sunnydale High Library

Honestly, why does the teacher even have these stupid book checks? Its not like he's ever given us homework from them. Cordelia grumbled to herself as she headed toward the library, for once actually intending to use it for its official purpose.

She was not in a good mood this morning. Hadn't been, ever since her dejected and miserable boyfriend had left her house after being told that their physical relationship was on hold until further notice. The cheerleader had known, from the looks she'd gotten in the quad earlier today, that everyone now knew that she and the dork were having problems. She even knew that there were bets being taken that she was going to dump Xander tomorrow as well, at the Bronze. Just like last time. Talk about another Valentine's Day disaster.

It's all Harmony's fault, that gossipy little bitch. And that varsity quarterback she's dating right now. Cordelia frowned, thinking that she'd have to do some damage control later at lunch. Hand-holding, at the very least. Possibly making out with her significant other too. God, I can't wait 'til Graduation, and then I can be done with all this high school crap!

"I think the Slayers should look into this, Mr. Giles." Cordelia heard a male, British-accented voice say from near the desk as she entered the library, and then she saw the owner of the voice. Could only be that other Watcher, Wesley. Not exactly terrible on the eyes, but puh-lease; the suit was just a tad ridiculous. She shrugged mentally as the two Watchers began arguing.

"Why? There's no indication that there, there, there was anything supernatural a-about this murder, for heaven's sake. Buffy and Faith have better things to do than, than follow up your inane hunches. Sunnydale does have normal crime, you know, a-and the local demons and vampires have never gone after public figures before." Giles said from the door to his office.

"A Watcher should trust their instincts, Mr. Giles." Wesley countered reproachfully.

Giles didn't seem bothered by the tone. "I am trusting my instincts. And given the, uh, the events of last night, I-I-I don't see any particular reason to trust yours, Captain Courageous." Cordelia could have heard the last two words out of some toneless voice synthesizer and still gotten whiplash from the sarcasm.

Whatever, she had textbooks to get. She walked over to the desk, attracting the attention of the two Englishmen. "Don't let me interrupt. Actually, wait, let me interrupt. I'm in a hurry."

Giles let out a sigh of relief and turned to face Cordelia. "What do you need?"

"Psych class. Freud and Jung. Book me?"

Giles nodded and went over to one of the shelves behind the desk. Waiting impatiently, Cordelia noticed the other guy, Wesley, staring at her, mouth open just a bit. "So you're like Giles the Next Generation, right?" Okay, I've been spending too much time around Xander if I'm gonna make that joke. Arrgh! Someone shoot me, I'm like infected with nerd cooties!

After witnessing Wesley's excellent impersonation of a fish out of water, Cordelia shook her head and looked away from him as Giles returned with her textbooks. "Thanks." She told him and headed for the door, hearing Wesley ask a question as she left.

"Who is-"

Giles interrupted with the answer and then some, which Cordelia also caught, the door closing behind her. "That's Cordelia Chase. She's a student here, and she has a boyfriend."

Damn right I do. Even if I am somewhat pissed at him right now. Cordelia smiled to herself a little, then checked the clock in the hall. Oops. She stepped up the pace a little.

Lunchtime couldn't come fast enough.

February 13th, 1999

Faith's Apartment

"Amy, it's not that simple! I'm not just going to be able to get that blood off my hands. Ever!"

Amy looked around the wreckage of Faith's apartment – almost everything in it was broken, beaten, dented or destroyed. Faith hadn't slept all night, and Amy...Amy hadn't slept either, trying to help her friend...work through it all. They'd been going around in circles the entire time, and it had been hard to keep everything together. At least I'm too tired to actually sleep anymore.

"Faith, I know that. Of course you're not going to. You think I'm ever going to get my mom's blood off of my hands? I killed her, and that's never going to change. But that's not defining me!" Amy forced herself to ignore that nagging, quiet voice in the back of her head, that was calling her a hopeless liar. "You screwed up...but that's not who you are. You keep saying you're not a murderer, but like you don't believe it yourself. So lemme ask you something; am I a murderer?"

"Holy shit, Amy, no! She was gonna kill me, you, all of us. That's totally fucking different to what I did!"

Amy took a breath. "Yeah, good point, but killing that guy sorta by accident...and, in the middle of a fight like that? It's not murder. It can't be. It wasn't like, premeditated, right? I mean, I'm not a cop or a lawyer or whatever, but legally speaking that's just, what, manslaughter. Isn't it?"

"I'm not talking about the fuckin' law, Amy!" Faith's voice dropped, and she nearly fell onto the somewhat tattered couch – it hadn't been very good quality when she'd gotten it, and the last several hours hadn't been any more kind to it than the rest of the apartment. "I'm talking about...like...morality and shit."

"Yeah, I know. Like I said, Faith, you screwed up. But how many people have you saved, with all the vampires and demons you've killed? It doesn't excuse what happened...but you're still one of the good guys..." Amy sighed after a moment. "But if the cops were really as close as you say they were, from the sirens...that's kind of a big deal too, like it or not. What if they find out you did it?"

"Then I'm in prison for the rest of my life, or leaving the country, or whatever." Faith said bitingly. "Yeah, sounds like fun to me." She stood up from the couch, rolling her eyes.

"Faith, you need to talk to Giles. If he could help me, with...I mean, there has to be something he can do to help you." Amy grabbed Faith's wrist, trying to reassure her.

"How? We can't just get rid of that body now. The fucking cops have to have it already. If they figure out it was me...I'm...there's no way to-" Faith started to shake Amy's hand off her wrist, then thought better of it, though Amy let her hand fall anyway.

The witch said simply, "The only way you're going to find out is by talking to him."

February 13th, 1999
Empty Classroom, Sunnydale High

"So, what, are you going to rat me out to the Watchers?" Faith said softly. "Is that it?" Despite Giles arguing against it, her prissy new Watcher had 'ordered' her to investigate the death of the guy she'd killed...Deputy Mayor Alan Finch.

Knowing his name didn't help. It just...it made her feel worse.

"No. And neither will Xander and Cordy, you know that. I spoke to them at lunch, and it was pretty darn clear they didn't even want to think about what they saw happen last night. But damn it, Faith, you can't just go and investigate that guy's death, when you already know what happened! Please. We have to tell Giles what really went down last night, what we did!" Buffy didn't seem to handling it all that easier than she was; Faith could tell, from her face, her tone...

"Yeah, what we did. Both of us. We both screwed up. Me did a lot more than you, I know... Alright, fine. Screw it, B, I know we need to tell him. We...I don't know. Look, what say we just go through the motions at City Hall in case Princess Charles decides to ask questions? We check out the guy's office...then we tell Jeeves when we're done. I'll tell him..." Faith's voice trailed off. Then she looked at Buffy more squarely. "Even if I still don't want to 'talk' about it."

February 13th, 1999
Deputy Mayor's Office, City Hall, Sunnydale

"Mr. Trick, gather as many of your boys and girls as you'll need. I want whoever did this to be taken care of. Immediately."

Faith could almost feel her breath cut short as Trick and the Mayor of Sunnydale, Wilkins or whatever his name was, walked by the door both she and Buffy were pressed against.

"Yeah, I figured you'll be wanting to turn up the heat after we got the autopsy results back." Trick replied. "So. You want the Slayer who staked my dearly departed colleague arrested, or -"

"No. Not at all. Whichever one did it...I want them dead. If it's the Lehane girl, you can have the pleasure of ending her. On the other hand, Spike can do it if it's Miss Summers. There's an old enmity there, after all." There was no joviality in the Mayor's tone. Evil or not...maybe this guy had actually cared about Finch...boring, well-ordered, pencils all the same size Alan Finch.

A part of her, a part of her mind that told her should dismiss all this...ignore it...it was now focused on the fact that the guy who was so dull, boring...who she had semi-accidentally staked in the heart...was in fact no innocent. If that monster Trick had called him a 'colleague', who the fuck knew what the Deputy Mayor was really mixed up with? Holy shit, I actually might have done the world a favor. Faith wasn't listening to that part of her mind, but she heard it. She watched as Buffy did a double take, then saw the other Slayer mouth 'Spike?'

The sound of the pair's footsteps passed, and Faith nodded. "Kinda makes sense, actually. If Trick's working for a black hat mayor...and he was the one we saw grabbing Billy Idol back then...shit. Hizzoner digs the vamp servants, looks like."

"We have to tell Giles about this. Wesley too, for that matter." Buffy said, looking kinda freaked. "If the Mayor really is the guy who's been running things on the supernatural side of the street-" Her voice cut off. "Geez, ya know, I still can't believe he's evil...I mean, I never got a...a bad guy vibe off him..."

"Buffy, ya need to learn that it doesn't matter what kinda vibe you get off someone. Personal experience talkin'. Nine times out of ten, whatever face you see isn't the real them – not all of it." Despite herself, Faith snorted with laughter for just a moment. "Evil politician isn't exactly a new idea." Lawyer without a soul would be even more...what, cliché? Yeah, even more cliché. Only thing that would.

February 13th, 1999

Sunnydale High Library

"You should have told me right off." Giles told the two of them, after Buffy and Faith had confessed everything. "Although I can see why you didn't want to tell Wesley." Fortunately, the other Watcher wasn't in the library just yet. "The idiot would screw it up like everything else."

"It?" Faith looked up at the British man for the first time since they'd gotten there – she'd spent most of that time just staring at her hands.

"Faith, this i-isn't the first time something like this has, has ever happened." Giles explained patiently.

"It isn't?" Buffy said from her position in the chair next to Faith's.

"The Slayer is on the front line of a nightly war. Now...it's tragic, but, but accidents do happen. I'm not going to condemn e-either of you, nor am I letting a-anyone just throw you in prison." Giles answered. "But there are things that must now be done."

"So...what's that mean?" Faith asked, voice still soft.

"The rules a-are fairly clear – the Council needs to investigate, make sure that it was indeed an accident -" He held up a hand before Faith could protest, continuing, "and then it metes out punishment, if punishment is, is warranted. They'll provide legal defense as well, if necessary, a-although that's a step the Council rarely likes to take. But I've no intention of inviting a tribunal to Sunnydale, or sending you to England to face one there. Travers still has far too many allies, for one, and I don't think their method of operation would do anything to help in this case -"

Giles abruptly looked to the door of his office as he heard movement. He stood, "Wesley. That ponce must've heard some of it. Excuse me." Giles followed after his compatriot, departing the library before the double doors were even closed.

Giles caught up with Wes in an empty office, which he had decided to appropriate for the use of a phone. But just as Wesley finish dialing, Giles slammed his hand down on the hook, hanging it up by force.

"How much of that conversation did you overhear?" Giles asked him, taking the phone from Wesley's hands and placing it back in the cradle.

"I heard enough. And quite frankly, I'm utterly shocked and disappointed in you! You cannot simply not inform the Council-" Wesley straightened his glasses.

"I fully intend to inform the Council – but when and how I think it's warranted. Besides, doesn't protocol state that you should have consulted with me first, instead of going behind my back like this?"

Wesley stood his ground. "Not under these circumstances! Mr. Travers was right about you, you...how can you not want to report what happened straightaway, after that Faith girl just confessed to committing homicide?"

"Good God, man, if you heard that much, then you should know what that girl is going through! She's, she's doing far more damage to herself, more usefully in terms of remorse, than-than any tribunal could. You've seen how unruly – by your standards - both of them are, like it or not. Do you honestly think Faith would react well to being before a Council Tribunal?" Giles demanded, not taking a breath as he spoke the whole thing.

Wesley paused, then adopted an almost snooty tone. "Protocol dictates that under these circumstances, the Slayer must be returned to England for investigation and, if necessary, punishment, Mr. Giles."

Giles stepped back a moment, spreading his arms a little. "For God's sake, Wesley, sod the bloody protocol for five seconds! Now think about what'll happen, i-if things go that far with Faith. She's not - she's not just some weapon that's stopped working properly. That's, she's a young woman who's hurting, beating herself up over what she did. You're her Watcher – your job i-is to help her perform her duty. If you can't do that much, then at least use that brain you're supposed to have and make sure you don't make it harder for her! That's why I'm forbidding you to call for a tribunal." He unplugged the phone from the jack, making a mental note to thank Willow for the various technobabbling he'd endured over the last few years.

"You don't have the authority to do that - Faith is my Slayer!" Wesley protested.

"Faith doesn't give a damn what claim you think you have over her, you-you blasted idiot." Giles shot back, losing his temper. "Neither does Buffy. Are you trying to completely alienate them both? And anything that impacts Faith's ability to fight impacts upon my Slayer, which does make it my affair. I'm the senior Watcher here, regardless of what Travers thinks about it, and as such, for the moment...my orders to you stand."

"You could never make that stand up in the Council's forum. Or even before a tribunal." Wesley replied, retreating into a lawyer's argument as he finally realized just how unsure he was of his authority in this matter.

"No, probably not. But it would tie things up for weeks. It's not as if there's a, a precedent for all this, w-what with two Slayers at the same time nowadays. And...that's not the point, man." Giles pinched the bridge of his nose a moment, trying to control his frustration. "You say Faith is your Slayer. Well, if you're her Watcher, then start bloody well acting like it. Be on her side, if you don't want to be treated as the enemy. And the best way to do that is by tossing protocol and the rulebook out the window."