The weary CSI team pulled into the parking lot with the sun. Brass was waiting for them in front of the building. “You all look like shit,” he said, cataloguing the wrung out expressions and rumpled clothing.
“You wanted us back yesterday, so here we are,” Sara said, not awake enough to appreciate Brass’s humor, such as it was.
“Right. Well, we’ve got plenty of cases for you here, so California will just have to find its own investigators. Five homicides, three break-ins, and one animal cruelty. I’ve got teams on three of the homicides and two of the break-ins, but they’re just keeping the others on ice. Take your pick.”
Grissom picked the arm up from the floorboard. “What kind of murders?”
Brass sighed. “Shootings. The break-ins are residential.”
“Catherine, you and Nick take one homicide. I’ll take the other. Warrick, you get the break in.” Grissom finished assigning cases and headed for the door.
“What, I get stuck with ‘animal cruelty?’” Sara said, mildly insulted.
Grissom turned around. “You can ask Greg for help, Sara.”
Sara was still cursing when she reached the labs.
By the time she got around to picking up the file, every one else had headed off to their respective crime scenes. The only people left there were Sara, Brass, and a caffeine-jazzed Greg.
“Grissom said I get to help you—as practice for field work,” Greg said, twitching slightly.
“What?!?” Sara yelped. Grissom could not do this to her. He just couldn’t. It wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t he stick Greg with Nick? At least Nick could keep the tech silent with a few well-aimed barbs.
“Come on, it’ll be fun!” Greg waved the case in front of her.
“You think animal cruelty is fun?” Sara asked, more sharply than usual. Greg, taken aback by her attitude, simply handed over the file and retreated to his equipment.
Only slightly sorry she’d run him off, Sara opened the file and began to read.
“Graffiti on an emu?” She shouted, loud enough to be heard in holding. “Where the hell do they find this shit?”
“Grissom!” Sara yelled from the lab when she saw him walking by. Grissom turned around, his face falling when he saw her.
“Yes, Sara?” He really hoped this didn’t take long. He was hungry.
Sara scowled. “This case is not going anywhere. Greg’s farting around in the lab all the time and this evidence points nowhere.”
Grissom sighed. Some days it just didn’t pay to come to work. “Why don’t you step back from it for a while? Take a break. I’ll talk to Greg.”
Sara had spent three days examining painted feathers, emu droppings, tire tracks and gang emblems in an attempt to crack the oh-so-important emu cruelty case. Greg, true to Grissom’s suggestion, helped out; although by midway through the second day he’d pretty much given up on actually helping Sara and mostly tried to stay out of her way.
After Sara took Grissom’s suggestion, he walked over to Greg’s collection of machinery. If he was correct, the young man was calibrating a spectrometer. “How’s field work going?”
Greg jumped. “Oh, hi Gris. Um, it’s fine,” he frowned. “But I don’t think I’m cut out for it.”
Grissom cocked his head to one side. “Why not?”
“I don’t collect evidence the right way, I don’t look at the right things, I never wear the right clothes,” Greg stated. A whisper followed. “I never get the right kind of coffee.”
Grissom’s head came up from where he had been examining an insect from Catherine and Nick’s homicide. “What? Coffee? What does coffee have to do with field work?”
Greg just raised an eyebrow. Grissom wasn’t that naïve. The elder man nodded sadly.
“Greg, don’t give up on field work just because a couple of people choose to be bastards around you. They’re probably jealous of something or another.” Grissom patted him on the shoulder, then turned around and left.
Greg stared after him. For one thing, he’d rarely, if ever, heard Grissom call someone a bastard. For another, the man had just, if Greg wasn’t mistaken, insulted his two favorite investigators. Between Sara’s snarky bitchiness, Warrick dancing on hot coals to pacify her, Nick’s inexplicable depression, and Catherine being treated oddly by all of them, Greg was beginning to wonder when the CSI had been infiltrated by pod-people.
Catherine yawned as she plucked toast out of the toaster for her daughter. The homicide she’d been working with Nick wasn’t particularly nasty, but it was taking forever—mostly because Greg was never around to run any tests. She’d resorted to doing them herself more than once. Greg couldn’t be blamed, not really. Sara had had the boy cowering since they got back from California.
After she dropped off her daughter, but before going in to work that evening, Catherine stopped by one of her old hangouts. The place had been redone at least five times since she’d worked there, but the atmosphere never changed. It had an aura of quiet desperation, like everyone in it was balanced on the edge of their seats waiting for something—anything at all.
The old bartender was still there and still looked forty years old. He was the oldest-looking vampire Catherine had ever seen. “Hey, Mark.”
“Cat?” the man asked, frowning. “Damn, what are you doing in here?” Mark threw down his towel and walked around the bar, coming to sit next to her on a stool.
Catherine smiled faintly. “Just reminiscing.”
Mark nodded sagely. “I heard you went cop on us.”
“That I did. No more dancing kittycat. You don’t even have dancers anymore, do you?” Catherine asked, looking around. Indeed, there were no more stages, poles or lights for dancers.
He shook his head. “Nope. Just drinks, of all sorts.”
Catherine snorted. Drinks of all sorts. It had been Mark’s way of saying beer, booze, blood—you want it, we got it.
“Seriously, why are you here? There’s nothing for the cops to do in this place.”
“I ran into another vampire a few days ago.”
Mark stared in shock. To his knowledge, there weren’t any vampires in Las Vegas with balls enough to mess with Catherine. “Who?”
Catherine looked over at him. “It was in Sunnydale—Spike.”
She didn’t think Mark’s face could make that expression. “What the fucking hell were you doing on the Hellmouth? Messing around with a psychotic master vampire?” How did Cat get mixed up with Spike? What about Drusilla? Shit, shit, shit.
Catherine smiled. “We were on a case. He didn’t do anything—but he could sense Eric’s mark.” She sighed. “It’s been twenty years, Mark. Wouldn’t it have faded, even a little?”
Mark shook his head. He couldn’t believe Spike didn’t do anything at all. “No, a mark like that doesn’t fade or disappear—unless it’s replaced by another vampire’s mark. But you should be glad you have it. No one in this town, nor most other vampires, will touch you—unless they thought that you were being neglected.”
“I know. It’s just...I don’t like carrying around a twenty year old memory I can’t do anything about.” She quickly decided to not tell Mark about Spike’s chip. It probably had been the only thing holding him back. From her memories of Eric, she could well imagine now the draw of a 20-year neglected mark to someone with Spike’s ego.
He silently agreed. Changing the subject, he asked about her daughter. “How’s the kid?”
“You know about her?” Catherine asked, surprised.
Mark laughed. “I keep up with you, Cat. I promised Eric I would.”
She shook her head. “Watched by a vampire bartender for a dusted vampire racketeer. Damn.”
The pair sat there, talking and catching up, for nearly an hour—until Catherine had to leave for work. Promising to stop by again soon, she drove away. It disturbed her how easily she fit back in to that old crowd. Even not dancing anymore, she was at ease around the mostly vampiric patrons, laughing at their bad jokes. She was fairly sure Mark had told the crowd what she now did for a living, since not one person crowed about a kill while she was in the bar.
When Catherine got to work, Nick was waiting with good news. “Case closed, Catherine. Witness and Suspect number one, Mr. Henry Yarrow, just turned himself in, complete with murder weapon.”
“Ah, great! Why can’t every case be resolved when I walk in to work each night?” Nick smiled and handed her the file for her signature. Nah, she’d get bored if they were all like this.
Nick and Catherine split up, Nick helping Warrick on the break in while Catherine joined Greg in the lab. She would have helped Sara, but the younger investigator made it clear that Catherine’s help was not welcome.
“Catherine?” She turned to acknowledge Greg.
Greg shifted nervously. “I think I’ve got something on that bird case.”
Catherine looked up. “That’s Sara’s case.” Greg shot her a hurt look. “Ok, ok. What did you find?”
Greg smiled happily. He liked working with Catherine. At least she treated him like a human. “I don’t think it was animal cruelty.”
She raised one eyebrow. “Ok, I’ll bite. What was it?”
He waited a moment for effect. “An accident—one that the perps don’t even know they had.”
Catherine sat on a stool and motioned for him to continue. Having been given permission to explain, Greg launched into his theory.
“I was running tests on the paint from the emu feathers, matching it against different brands of spray paint—but I didn’t find anything. That was because of this,” Greg showed her the microscopic metal flecks he’d found in the paint. “It’s automotive paint, not regular spray paint.”
“So they tagged the emu with car paint?” Catherine said, still unconvinced that it was not vandalism—of a sort.
Greg grinned again. “Then I ran the soil samples from the scene—the ones Sara got so mad at me for collecting. She wanted two, I took ten.” Greg pulled out a drawing of the scene, with the samples’ locations marked. “I found paint in some of the soil samples. They’re marked in red—the color of the paint.”
Catherine studied the drawing, not seeing anything particularly...wait a minute. “The paint-contaminated soil is in a rectangle.” She looked up at Greg.
“Yup. It’s in a rectangle that fits the measurements of a 1985 Toyota Corolla—the make and model of the car we identified from evidence at the scene. What I think happened is that someone was painting their car out there—away from their house where the paint would mess things up. It wasn’t a full body job, just a touch up.” He took out several pictures of the scene. “But the thing is, the place they picked borders the emu farm. And, there’s scrub growing along the fencing there.” Catherine took the pictures from Greg.
“So they’re painting their care and...”
Greg finished for her. “They spray some paint into the scrub, probably to clear the nozzle. Only they don’t notice the scrub-colored emu standing there. So the emu ends up with a red paint job.”
Catherine looked at the drawings and pictures again. “You know, Greg, that actually works. Whoever painted the car probably lives nearby—that location isn’t well-known. Did the DMV give you any info on car ownership in the area?”
Greg nodded. “Sara has it, but there weren’t any listed. It might be a recent purchase.”
“Why don’t you tell Grissom about this while I talk to the DMV again.” Catherine gathered her coffee and left the lab. Greg departed for Grissom’s office.
The older investigator was highly amused by Greg’s version of the events. “Greg, if you’re wrong, you’ve just concocted a very humorous tale. If you’re right...”
They both laughed at the idea.
Sara returned later that afternoon. Unfortunately for her pride, everyone was there when Catherine broke the case by finding the owner of the Corolla with the new paint job. Everyone but Sara congratulated Greg on a job well done, in between laughing fits at the sheer humor of the case. Sara fumed and started to stomp off when Brass appeared in the doorway.
She was about to push him aside when she noticed the pallor of his skin. He looked practically gray. “Brass?” She murmured. “Are you alright?”
Brass looked over at Grissom. “Grissom. My office.”
Gil stared, open-mouthed, as Brass quickly gave him the details of the new case. When he was finished, Grissom had taken on the same sickly pale color.
In the three or so minutes it took Brass to fill Grissom in, the rest of the investigators grew very nervous. The return of their boss didn’t help any.
“Christ, is it that bad, Gris?” Sara asked, concerned for her boss.
He looked up, hollow-eyed. “Twenty five bodies, all fresh. Tortured, dismembered. We’re on it, along with everybody else. Pack up your gear.”
The team silently complied. There was more to the story that they weren’t getting, but there would be time for that later. Twenty-five bodies was a lot to process in a short period of time.
“Oh, god.” Sara slapped a hand over her mouth. The scene spread out before them was by far the most grisly thing she’d ever seen.
The drive to the crime scene, an old sewing factory, had taken only a few minutes. Police officers and what looked to be every employee of the county coroner’s office swarmed the building. Once the CSI team was inside, they saw why.
Warrick idly wondered how it was anyone determined there were 25 bodies in the building. All he saw were chunks of flesh and bone scattered around the floor. The scene was enough for even Grissom to take a moment before diving in to his work.
Shifts and overtime meant nothing on the crime scene. At one point, Catherine took a break to call a friend to take care of her daughter. Other than that, everyone worked around the clock.
Finally each and every piece of evidence was bagged. Nick collapsed on the back seat of one Explorer while Warrick and Sara peeled off their gloves. No one said much as they finished up. The crime scene had been almost eerily quiet the whole time. Everyone was in shock.
“Go home. Get some sleep,” Grissom ordered the investigators.
Catherine smirked. “You, of course, will be in the lab with Mort.”
Grissom ignored her. “You’re on hurry-back, so I suggest you get home as soon as possible.”
The next day brought no answers for the CSI. Mort had spent all evening away from his family, studying the grisly evidence. Unfortunately, what he found couldn’t be easily explained.
“So you’re saying these people were ripped apart by force, but there aren’t any ligatures, bruises—anything—on them?” Grissom summarized disbelievingly.
Mort nodded. “That’s what it looks like.”
Grissom frowned. “Was anything…missing?”
“What, like that case a few weeks ago? No. The lab reports aren’t all in yet, but nothing has shown up so far.” Mort sat down heavily. He really needed some rest.
“Thanks, Mort. I’ll be back later.” Grissom returned to his office, thinking frantically for an answer. Nothing came to mind.
The team was similarly stumped. Sara began researching similar cases, trying to find out if there was some sort of technique they just didn’t know about to cause such injuries. Warrick and Nick got on the phones, scouring the area for leads. Catherine consulted her coffee and stared off into space.
“Deep thoughts?” Grissom asked, watching the woman space out.
“What?” Catherine said absently. “Oh, just trying to figure this out.”
“Hmm.” Grissom retreated into his office and closed the door. He’d been praying for a reprieve from odd cases, but it wasn’t to be. Other than that one by-the-books homicide earlier, this month had just been plain weird.
Catherine was, in fact, pondering the case. Ever since the trip to Sunnydale, her sixth sense about the supernatural had been in overdrive. This case was tripping every sensor. She briefly tried to fight it. After all, she was a scientist, and as years on the job had shown, science had an answer for nearly every case. This one, though, had her worried.
After more than an hour, she had gotten nowhere. Neither had anyone else. The sheer numbers of bodies was causing alarm within the police, and there was immense pressure to solve this case—someone was going to leak it to the press and they’d start talking about serial killings and other alarmist claptrap.
Of course, there was someone she could talk to about it…Making up her mind, Catherine told Grissom she was taking a lunch break and left the building. Once in her car, she extracted the small post-it with an out of town phone number on it. Wondering when she’d lost her mind, she dialed.
The phone rung twice before someone picked up. “Harris.”
“Who is this?”
Catherine sighed. “Catherine Willows, from the Las Vegas CSI.”
“Is this about my father?”
“Not exactly. Um…there’s something odd going on in Las Vegas. I was wondering—“
Xander cut her off. “If the weirdoes in Sunnydale could solve it for you?”
“If you could give me some advice. And I don’t think you’re a weirdo. I may be the only one who thinks you know what you’re talking about, but I do. Believe me. And I wouldn’t be calling if it wasn’t very important,” Catherine replied.
Xander hummed over the phone line. “Why don’t you call the Magic Box in about half an hour? I’m not the best person to ask. I’ll make sure Willow’s there.”
Catherine waited impatiently for the half-hour to pass. When it did, she dialed the store’s number. Willow picked up as soon as she hit the last number.
The investigator paused a moment. “Willow. Thank you for talking to me.”
“We’ll see. What is this emergency you called Xander about?”
Catherine gave Willow a description, trying to avoid details she’d get fired for leaking.
“You’re not telling me everything, are you?” The witch accused.
Willow snorted. “Of course. Give me your number and I’ll call you back after I’ve researched, ok?”
Once again, Catherine was left waiting. This time she returned to work. There was no telling when the girl would be finished.
“What do you think?” Xander asked the witch once she’d hung up the phone. They’d had it set on speaker, so he, Buffy and Spike had followed along with the conversation.
Willow frowned pensively. “I think she’s telling the truth—as much as she can, and she’s really worried. I really doubt she’s told the others she called, though.”
“Should we help them?” Xander asked.
“I don’t think so,” Buffy responded. “They’re a bunch of stuck up idiots.”
“But she asked for our help. And they seem to have dropped Xander from the ‘committed patricide’ list,” Willow said.
“Besides, it *is* in Las Vegas, and we haven’t left Sunnydale in forever,” Xander reminded them, hoping to get out of town for any reason.
“And there’s a tasty little investigator just waiting for you,” Spike added, leering at Xander—who blushed nicely.
“It’s not like there’s anything happening here. It won’t take but a few days—at most,” Willow reasoned, also hoping to get away.
Buffy threw up her hands. “Fine. Call her, research her big bad, whatever. Just tell me when I need to be ready to go.” Buffy stomped off to the training room, hoping to vent her frustrations.
“Xan, could you help me look up a couple of things? We don’t want to show up unprepared.” Xander helped Willow pull down books. After a few minutes, Spike assisted as well.
Catherine was just putting a slide under the microscope when her cell phone rang. She fumbled for it, wondering who was calling. It had been so long since she’d talked to Xander—almost eight hours—that she’d given up hope. Maybe something had happened to her daughter…
“Hey Catherine. So, where’s your office?”
Catherine almost dropped the phone. It was Xander! “Um, I’m in the basement right now. Why do you want to know that? Do you think you’ll be able to help us?”
Xander laughed. “Yeah, we decided we could do that. So, the basement, huh? Nice. No sunlight at all.”
“Ok…you’ve got a point. No sunlight in the basement.”
At this point, the other agents had noticed the unusual nature of Catherine’s phone call. “Who is that?” Sara asked, frowning.
Catherine shook her head. “So, um...how is this going to work?”
“Well, you tell us what’s going on, and we help you out.” This came not from the phone, but from the doorway. The entire CSI spun around to see Xander, Buffy, Willow and Spike standing in the doorway.
“Put out the cigarette, Spike.” Grissom said automatically. Then he blinked. “Why are you here?”
Xander looked at Catherine, who looked back at him, furious. “A little birdie told us you’ve got a nasty mess on your hands. We’re here to help you.”
“Right,” Sara snorted. “As if. You’re just going to show up with all the answers?”
Willow walked forward. “Actually, we’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities. It really depends on the exact nature of the dismemberment. Were the chunks larger or smaller than an adult’s foot?”
After a minute or two, Grissom found his voice again. “Smaller, except for the heads.” He couldn’t believe he actually answered the question.
Willow scowled. “Darn. I was hoping it was the other way around. Well, that eliminates one possibility. The rest of this may take a little time.”
“Huh?” Nick said, staring at Xander. Was he hallucinating?
“How did you all—“ Warrick began, but was cut off.
“I asked them for help. I didn’t expect them to show up,” Catherine said. Sara began to protest, but a look from Grissom shut her up.
“Well, who’s up for pizza? I’m starved!” Xander whipped out a cell phone and began looking for a phone book.
“You can’t eat in the lab.” Damn it, couldn’t he come up with something more intelligent to say? Grissom sat down on a workbench, slowly shaking his head. He’d definitely been awake for way too long.
“I think maybe you should leave,” Sara said coldly, pointing to the door.
“Can’t,” Xander said as he dialed the phone.
“Why not?” Warrick asked.
“Sun’s just up,” Spike said, fiddling with some beakers.
“That’s caustic,” Grissom warned. Spike flashed him a grin and replaced the beaker.
“Wouldn’t want to injure my fine self, now would I?” Grissom absently nodded his agreement.
“Hey, who’s this?” Greg asked as he walked in to the lab.
“Nobody,” Sara said, growling.
“Right,” Greg said slowly. Turning to Spike, he said, “So, who are you?”
Spike grinned. “Spike, mate.”
“A vampire, no less,” Sara added sarcastically.
Greg looked back at Spike. “What order?”
“Aurelius,” Spike replied, fascinated that a human scientist would know enough about vampires to ask about his order.
The rest of the room just stared at Greg as he and the vampire talked. “Greg,” Grissom began after he found his voice. “Is there something you wish to tell me?”
Greg flashed a nervous smile. “Gris, man, I went to Stanford. Half the campus is undead.”
“I see,” Grissom replied, staring at Spike and Greg. When had he lost control?
The sound of Xander snapping his cell phone shut drew everyone’s attention. “Pizza will be here in half an hour. Do you guys have a fridge? Spike’s blood is going to spoil.” To emphasize his point, he proffered a small cooler he’d had on the floor by the door.
“Over there,” Grissom said, pointing. Maybe he should take a vacation, as Brass had suggested.
“Gris, man, are you ok?” Warrick asked, sitting down next to him.
Gris pondered the question. “I think I like vanilla.”
Spike walked over and crouched down next to the man. He could smell something off about him, like he was upset or angry. “Y’ok, luv?”
Grissom looked over at Spike. “Me? Oh, I’m fine. There are twenty five chopped-up bodies in the morgue and a vampire in my lab. Yes, I’m just dandy.”
Spike grinned. He liked this one a lot, but he definitely needed rest. “So, you got an office around here?”
Grissom gestured toward it. Spike picked him up easily and carried him into the office, ignoring the shocked stares of the Scoobies and the CSI. Only Greg followed him.
“Stress get to him again?” Greg asked as he helped Spike place a now-unconscious Grissom on the sofa.
Spike looked down at the man. “Yeah, probably. He’ll be alright here?” Greg nodded, and the two left him in the office to sleep it off.
“So, where’s the pizza?” Greg asked Xander.
“What’s up with Grissom?” Nick asked, having finally stopped looking at Xander.
“He’s just really tired. I don’t think he’s left here since before this case started,” Greg answered.
“Can we get started already? I don’t have forever, you know,” Buffy said. She didn’t like these people and wanted to get home as soon as possible.
“Um, pass me that one, please,” Willow murmured to Warrick, who was observing her as she worked in the morgue.
“Which one?” She hadn’t specified, and there were only a few hundred pieces of dismembered human laying around the place.
“The one that looks like Richard Nixon’s nose.”
“Oookay…” Warrick looked at the contents of the table. “I’m seeing Bill Clinton’s chin, Jimmy Carter’s forehead, and Gerald Ford’s ears, but I don’t see any Richard Nixon.”
Willow grinned. “Sorry.” She reached over him and snagged a particularly lumpy chunk. “See how the section here kind of bends like—“ She stopped when Warrick shot her an odd look. “What?”
He stared at her. “Doesn’t this,” he waved his arm around the room, “bother you, even a little? You’re sitting in a room with 25 corpses that look like they’ve been put through a food processor.”
She winced. “Yeah, it bothers me—a lot. But I’ve seen a great number of nasty, horrible things. You just learn…you get used to it, you know?”
“But you’re what…20, 21, maybe?” She nodded. “There’s no way…”
Willow sighed. “I live in a war zone, Warrick.” He looked doubtful. “I’ve probably seen more dead bodies—butchered, eaten, rotten, walking around—whatever—than every one in this building, combined. Do you have any idea how many of my classmates didn’t graduate high school—because they were dead?”
“Oh.” Warrick didn’t say anything else. What could he say? They’d all seen the stats on Sunnydale, and they had witnessed firsthand some of what went on there. It figured that growing up in a place like that inured a person to some of the uglier things in life.
They continued to work silently. Occasionally, Warrick looked over Willow’s notes. He was impressed by her knowledge of anatomy. Most of what she was writing made no sense to him at all, though. In fact, a great deal of it wasn’t written in English—or in an alphabet he recognized.
Buffy came in an hour or so later to check on her friend. “Hey, Wills. How goes the…ugh, um…I don’t want to know, do I?” Buffy’s face screwed up in disgust as she looked around the morgue. “Nick said you were down here.”
Willow eased back from the table. “Yeah, it’s pretty icky, but we don’t have much time before it gets useless from decomposition.” Buffy nodded, edging toward the door. “If you see Spike, send him down here. I need his help.”
Buffy nodded, and then left quickly. Willow smiled after her. “Buffy gets grossed out when I start poking around in the aftermath.” Warrick agreed wholeheartedly with the Slayer. He himself did the same thing, but it was just weird watching the redhead do it.
They didn’t have to wait long for the vampire to appear. “Allo, ducks. Slutty said you wanted me.”
Willow grinned. “Yeah, all the time, Spikey. Actually, I just want to use you.”
“It’s about time you did.” Warrick couldn’t help but grin at the banter. “What’s the job?” Spike asked, peering around the room.
“I need vamp-senses here. Smell, taste, sight…what did this?” Willow pointed at the flesh on the counters.
Warrick shot out of this seat. “Taste? There is no *tasting* in the morgue!”
“Don’t worry. He won’t eat much.” Warrick stared at the witch. Won’t eat much?
“It’s evidence.” Warrick swore at himself. That was the best he could come up with?
Spike ignored the investigator and casually lifted up a chunk of…what looked like spleen. Warrick watched in horror as the vampire slipped into gameface and began to sniff the bloody mass. He almost fainted when the vampire bit into it.
“Well?” Willow asked, not visibly disturbed by the scene at all.
Spike chucked the spleen back onto the table and wiped his mouth. Shifting back into his human form, he turned to Willow. “Demons, and a right nasty type too. Ruined the blood completely.”
Willow scribbled furiously. “Do you know what kind?” Spike shook his head. “Any clue at all?”
Spike thought for a moment. “Not a clue—just that whatever it is leaves a hell of a signature. The flesh isn’t any good.”
“What does that mean?” Warrick asked, having finally banished the image of Spike biting into the…evidence.
“It’s like that stuff they sell people to spray on things to keep animals off. It tastes foul.” Spike started poking around the specimens, and if Warrick wasn’t mistaken, the vampire had just started making a glob of intestines dance around to some tune he was whistling.
“Spike!” Willow snapped, getting the vampire’s attention. “You’re grossing out the nice investigator-man.”
Spike, not looking the least bit contrite, dropped the viscera. “Well, I’m off, luv. People to…bother and whatnot.” The vampire sauntered out of the morgue, still whistling.
“Does he do that a lot?”
Willow shrugged. “He’s…got some…unusual…hobbies,” she said slowly. There was no reason to bring up the whole ‘Scourge of Europe’ thing. The Scoobies had long since grown accustomed to Spike’s uniquely morbid sense of humor.
“Yeah.” Warrick didn’t want to think about that. Nope, not thinking about a vampire’s hobbies—even a ‘chipped’ vampire’s hobbies.
Spike wandered back towards the CSI lab, pocketing things along the way. When he reached the lab, he saw that Nick and Xander were still doing their little ‘I’m interested!-I’m pissed at you!’ dance. Wankers. Just shag and be done with it.
Buffy and Catherine were going over photos of the crime scene. The Slayer wanted to actually see the place, but the older lady was leery of taking her there. Buffy’s patience was about at its limits, and Spike could see that Catherine was going to capitulate soon.
Bored out of his mind, Spike decided to pay a visit to Greg. The lab tech intrigued him. Spike had heard of the Stanford vampire community well before he’d arrived in Sunnydale, but had never actually been up there to visit it. If Greg had been involved, in any aspect of it, then maybe he’d be a little more laid back than some of the others around here were. Most of the CSI avoided him whenever they could.
“Hey, Spike. Coffee?” Greg said as the vampire entered his domain.
“What kind?” Spike, ever curious, began poking around in Greg’s machinery.
“Kona blend.” At Spike’s nod, he poured the vampire a cup. Spike loved the hot liquid—it felt neat in his stomach, all warm and tingly.
“So, Stanford, hmm?” Greg smiled, figuring Spike would ask him about that.
“They were cool, and they let me live in their place for free.” Well, they let him do a few other things, too. But that could wait.
“You aren’t marked.” Spike pulled his finger back from under the full-spectrum bulb he’d just turned on. “Fuck!”
Greg flipped the light off. “Grissom warned you about this place. Here,” Greg handed him a wet paper towel. Spike wrapped his singed finger in it and glared at the lamp.
“Why are you hanging around with the Slayer, Spike?” Greg asked, watching the vampire pace.
“None of your business, pillock,” Spike said over his shoulder.
Spike made his way back to Greg, pinning him to the counter. “So…you’re not marked. Why’s that?”
Greg blinked. Getting up close and personal with a vampire hadn’t been on his things-to-do list when he’d gotten up today. “Um…nobody wanted to?”
Spike grinned ferally. “Now that’s a shame, isn’t it?” Greg shuddered as Spike traced a cool finger over his face and back around his ear. “Pretty, pale skin. I’m sure they thought about it.”
Greg closed his eyes. He’d almost forgotten what it was like, getting involved with vampires. They were so damned tactile. Having humans as their primary food source seemed to clue them in on every weak spot, and they used that knowledge ruthlessly. Greg yelped when Spike pushed one hand between their groins to cup him.
“Hmm…very nice, Greg. Very nice.”
Greg whimpered. This could be very bad.
“So, Greg, how long have you been panting after the fearless leader?”
Greg’s eyes shot open. How the…oh yeah. Vampire. Can’t hide a damned thing from them. “None of your…” Spike’s hand contracted. “A while.”
Spike purred softly. “Good boy. He’s not a bad one, all intense and focused. Imagine that in bed, hmm? That analytical mind taking you apart and putting you back together. He’d drive you crazy, wouldn’t he?” Spike kneaded the back of Greg’s neck as he talked, his other hand still pressed between them. Greg melted back against the counter, groaning softly.
“That’s right…” Spike purred idly, whispering nonsense in Greg’s ear. This human was wonderful—all easy surrender. Maybe Las Vegas wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Grissom wondered why he was staring at the ceiling of his office. Then he began to wonder why he was in his office at all, and how he got there. Was he on his back? On the couch?
Sitting up slowly, he confirmed that he was, in fact, on the couch in his office. From the time on the clock, he’d been there for several hours. Thinking back, the last thing he remembered was telling Spike to put down a beaker. Spike? How had the vampire gotten into the lab?
Confused as hell, Grissom walked out of his office. He found Buffy and Catherine walking out the door and Nick and Xander kind of staring at each other over a pile of papers.
“Morning, Gris. Feeling any better?” Grissom turned to look at Nick.
“I think so,” Grissom said slowly. “If you’ve got a minute, could you tell me what’s going on here?”
“These guys showed up to help on the case because Catherine called them. Willow’s with Warrick in the morgue, Buffy just left with Catherine to scour the crime scene, Xander and I are…looking over evidence, Sara went somewhere to sulk, and Spike’s in the building.”
“In the building?”
Xander grinned. “It’s still daylight out. Don’t worry, he won’t get into too much trouble in a building full of cops.”
“That’s good,” Grissom replied. “I’m going to check on some tests I ordered.” Maybe looking at tests would clear his head.
The sight that greeted Grissom when he got to the lab did little to clear his fuzzy mind. Spike had Greg pushed up against the counter and was…well, it didn’t look like Greg was protesting all that much. The first thought that Grissom managed to latch onto was that if the story about the chip was true, then Spike couldn’t possibly be hurting Greg.
That thought didn’t last long, mostly because the two oblivious men were putting on quite a show. Greg seemed to be…appreciating whatever it was Spike was doing.
“Like what you see, luv?” Spike said, glancing over at Grissom. Ok, maybe not completely oblivious.
Greg shot his head up, horrified. Spike easily kept him in place.
“Yeah.” Did he just say that? Grissom mentally slapped himself. It didn’t work. Spike’s grin widened. It didn’t make him look any less dangerous.
“So Greg here tells me you’ve not been taking advantage of a sterling opportunity,” Spike chided Grissom. Greg struggled slightly, then stilled. Then Grissom noticed he could only see one of Spike’s hands. His imagination filled in the rest.
“I see.” Damn it, where had his much-vaunted mind gone to?
“Silver-tongued devil, that one,” Spike said to Greg, who was obviously trying to decide whether to pass out from humiliation or from what Spike was still doing to him. He seemed to have chosen the former, until Spike returned his attention to Greg’s ear. The young man whimpered and sagged back against the counter again. It looked as if Spike was the only thing holding him up.
“Coffee,” Grissom said softly.
Spike smirked around Greg’s ear. Lifting his head, he cocked it toward the break room. “Greg’s got a nice Kona blend on the hotplate.”
“Thank you, Greg.” Grissom poured himself a cup of coffee. A low whine drew his attention. Topping off his coffee, he returned to Spike and Greg. The younger man was a puddle of boneless flesh on the floor. Spike had perched himself on the counter, fiddling with a pair of hemostats.
“He ok?” Grissom asked, nodding towards Greg.
Spike looked back down at Greg, who was still motionless. “Yeah, give’m a minute. You feeling better?”
Grissom nodded. “Sleep deprivation, I think.”
Spike jumped off the counter, dropping the hemostats next to a still sleeping Greg. He walked over to Grissom, who held his coffee in front of him like a shield. Spike took the coffee, carefully placing it on a table. Smirking wildly, Spike leaned in and captured Grissom’s mouth in a slow, deep kiss.
Grissom’s mind swam. Spike tasted like cigarettes, blood, and something else. He was cool, like he’d just chewed on ice cubes. After a few moments, Grissom found himself returning the kiss. They stood there, tongues sweeping gently together, until Grissom needed to breathe.
Spike pulled away, smiling softly. He picked up Grissom’s coffee and placed it back in his hand. He then turned and left, whistling gaily. Grissom stared bemusedly at Greg, taking a sip of coffee. He wondered when the boy would wake up.
It was several minutes before he did. Greg sat up groggily, wondering why he was on the floor. “Sleep well?” Greg’s head shot up. Oh shit.
Grissom smirked and offered Greg a hand. Once he was off the floor, Greg began looking frantically for a way out. This was very bad. Worse than bad.
“So…what did Spike mean when he said I was not taking advantage of a sterling opportunity?” Greg’s immediate blush answered Grissom’s question quite nicely.
“Uh…um, you know, I’m not really sure what he was tal—“ Grissom cut Greg off with a kiss. This one was significantly shorter than the one Spike had given him, but no less informative. He now knew what that other taste he’d found in Spike’s mouth was—Greg. He found he quite liked it.
Grissom pulled away, forcibly suppressing a smirk. “Did you get those tests run?”
Greg just stared at him, mouth hanging open.
“I’ll take that as a no. If you’re not too busy, I’d like them before you leave.”
Greg was still staring into space when Grissom peeked in twenty minutes later.
When Spike found Xander, the boy was still engaged in his staring contest with Nick. Waving to the Scooby, Spike pulled a container of blood out of the lab fridge and walked back out. He heard Xander follow him moments later.
“So…” Xander began, quirking an eyebrow at Spike. The vampire smirked around the bottle he was sipping.
“So you’re still playing off of tall, dark and pitiful?” Spike said, finishing his blood.
“It’s way too easy. Actually, it’s kind of boring. He just stares. You?”
Spike just grinned like a Cheshire cat. “Don’t worry about me, mate. I know how to play the game.”
Indeed he did. It was on the drive to Las Vegas from Sunnydale that, at Spike’s suggestion, the Scoobies had come up with a plan to get back at the CSI team. Mostly, they were all pissed that the group had treated Xander like a suspect, and the rest of them like idiots.
So when Spike suggested that Xander play off of the rather confused Nick’s reaction to him, they jumped on it. Xander had called Anya, just to make sure she wasn’t going to get upset by the ploy. Hells, she’d given him pointers. It was her idea for him to just stare at Nick. She’d said that his pissed-off puppy-dog look would wreck the guy.
After that, the planning went quickly. Willow was going to do her best scientific-stone-cold act—she could unnerve anyone if she wanted to. While she hoped to pull her stunts on Sara, she figured that she’d settle for any of them.
Buffy had requested that they go easy on Catherine, and Spike had agreed. The lady had generally treated them well, and had believed much of what they’d said.
Spike had planned his own fun with Grissom, though. He hadn’t elaborated much in the car, since he didn’t want the humans to let anything slip. As good as they were, what he was going to be doing was way over the top. When he’d found Greg, it was just icing on the cake.
Catherine lifted the crime scene tape so that Buffy could get under it. As soon as she entered the building, the scent of demonically contaminated, rotting flesh assaulted her nostrils. “Eew! Can’t you guys clean this up at all?”
“Sorry. Crime scene rules prohibit air freshener.” Buffy laughed at her comment, still waving her hand in front of her face.
“Is there sewer access around here?” Buffy asked, looking at the blood spatters on every exposed surface.
“In the basement. It’s this way.” Buffy followed the CSI investigator through the building to a set of steep concrete stairs. Catherine handed her a flashlight before they descended.
Even before they got all the way to the sewer entrance, Buffy smelled it. Be it Slayer sense, or more likely years of experience, she knew demon when she smelled it. It was rank, grabbing at her lungs as her eyes teared up.
“What is that smell?” Catherine asked, her eyes similarly watered.
“Demon.” Buffy answered, shining her flashlight around. “Not as fresh as you’d think. I’m not seeing any slime, or gunk or anything. They’ve probably gone—that kind of attack would draw too much attention.”
Still, she ventured almost half a mile through the main tunnel, looking for any evidence. Other than a couple of scrapes and some slime here and there, no sign of the demons remained.
“I’m all done here,” Buffy finally said. Catherine looked pleased.
Once the two were back outside, they took deep breaths of air. “I don’t care if I never smell that again!” Buffy exclaimed, rubbing her face. It felt like the stink was embedded in her skin.
“Yeah. I know what you mean.” Catherine looked at the girl. “You think you know what did this?”
“It was a demon, that’s for sure. Which one I don’t know. That’s more Willow’s thing.”
“I might know someone who can help.” Catherine explained briefly about Mark. She was surprised when Buffy didn’t react with any revulsion or anger. At one point, she questioned the Slayer about it.
“I know better than to judge,” Buffy replied, looking very old all of a sudden.
The drive to the bar was quiet. Catherine watched as the entire place fell silent when she and Buffy walked in. Somehow, she knew that it wasn’t because of her.
The whisper came from across the room, but it was still audible. Mark’s eyes widened and he froze in his spot behind the bar. “Cat?”
Buffy sauntered up to the bar, leaning against it casually. “You’re Mark, right?” The vampire nodded nervously. “Great. There was this attack a few nights ago. Anybody hear about it?” Several patrons, and Mark, nodded that they had.
“Anybody know anything about it?” Most shook their heads, but one guy at the other end of the bar indicated that he did.
Buffy moved closer to the vampire. “And what, exactly, do you know?” The vampire almost fainted under the Slayer’s gaze.
“Uh, it was a bunch of these big, nasty, smelly things—they were in the sewers a few nights ago, but they’re gone now—they took off after, well, you know.” Buffy glared at him for a minute, but he didn’t add anything more.
“Get what you needed?” Catherine asked, amused now at the vampires’ uniformly fearful reaction to the Slayer.
“Yeah. Let’s blow this joint.” As they were walking out, Mark called to them.
“Um, Catherine? Is, well, is she going to be in town long?”
Buffy laughed. “This place? Nah, too tame for me. Gimme the Hellmouth any day.”
The vampires could still hear her laughing as she and Catherine drove away.
Buffy and Catherine returned to a quiet lab. Willow, Spike and Xander had holed up in Grissom’s office, pouring over her notes. The CSI investigators were studiously doing something—it looked to Buffy as if they were mostly not noticing each other. The young lab guy, Greg, looked a bit ill.
“So, did you find out anything, Buffy?” Willow asked. She was tired of this place and wanted to go out on the town. After all, that was why they’d agreed to come out here in the first place.
Buffy nodded. “There’s sewer access in the building’s basement, and I could smell some sort of definitely demon-y stink in the tunnels. Some vamps Catherine knows say the demons split town, though.”
The information seemed to confirm what Willow was thinking. “Great! Wrap this one up and call it done.”
The Scoobies picked up their supplies and went out to break the news. The CSI team perked up a bit at their entrance.
Willow took charge. “The bad news is that a nest of Iogiun demons killed those people. The good news is that they’re already gone and out of town, back in the desert. You won’t see them again for decades.” The Sunnydale crew started moving toward the exit when Warrick stopped them.
“That’s it? Bad guys kill people, run out of town, and that’s it?” He fumed, scowling at the Slayer and her friends.
Xander answered for all of them. “Hey, you called us. We showed up, looked at your evidence, and solved your case. Sorry if we can’t give you somebody to put in prison, but these demons are big and deadly, and you should be happy they’re gone. You guys are lucky—this town gets nothing in the way of big bads.”
Nick sputtered. “But…”
“We’re outta here. Come on, guys. The sun’s just set.” Buffy urged her friends along. She wanted to see Las Vegas. Maybe they could take in a show…
The Scoobies barely made it to the car before bursting into laughter. “Did you see the look on their faces?” Buffy gasped, leaning against the vehicle.
“That was priceless!” Willow joined in. “You should have seen Warrick’s face when Spike bit into that spleen!” Spike just grinned.
“What about Nick? How did that go?” Buffy asked, looking at Xander.
The brunette smirked. “All day staring contest, Xander 20, Nick 0.” The group high-fived merrily. “And that’s nothing compared to what Spike did to Grissom and that lab guy.”
“What did you do, Spike?” Buffy inquired.
“Oh, the usual. Nothing special,” Spike replied, lighting a cigarette.
“What he means is that he seduced them,” Willow added, grinning evilly. “What say we go take in the strip? I wanna see one of those revues.”
Xander whooped, and even Spike looked, well, as close to enthusiastic as he ever got. They piled into the car and headed for more entertaining parts of town.
When Sara made it back to the CSI, she found everyone but Catherine shell-shocked and silent. It had taken a lot for her to even come back here; she’d been a real bitch for the last several days. It was time to eat crow—not something she liked to do.
“Guys?” She walked around, watching for signs of life. Was Greg whimpering?
Finally, she stopped next to Warrick. Her boyfriend finally looked up at her. “Where have you been?”
Sara smiled softly. Warrick looked, well, lost. “I was at the library. How did that visit go?”
Grissom answered. “They said they solved it.” He sighed. “They probably did. Left about an hour ago.”
Sara mustered up her resolve before beginning to speak again. “Look, guys, I’m sorry for being such a bitch these last few days. I just—“ Nick cut her off.
“Don’t worry about it, Sara.”
She tried to continue, but one by one, each of her coworkers agreed with Nick.
“Seriously, Sara, we’re ok with it. Yeah, you were a bit…difficult, but they weren’t much better.” Warrick gave her a quick hug before moving away, trying to keep at least the image of professionalism at the office.
Grissom stared at his now-cold coffee. “Perhaps we should put this behind us.”
“Very far behind us,” Warrick added.
“Miles behind us?” Sara asked.
“Light years. Many, many light years,” Greg said firmly.
“Um, guys? Don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit?” Catherine asked, watching her coworkers enter some serious denial.
Grissom looked up. “No.” The others agreed with him.
“Boss? The next time we want to go out of town on some weird case, say no,” Warrick said.
“Not a problem,” Grissom replied. “Anybody hungry?”
“Starving,” “You better believe it,” “I could eat,” “Count me in,” “Can I go, too?”
“Yes, you can go, Greg.” Grissom shut down a computer and turned out the lights.
As they headed for the exit, Nick remarked, “Maybe that cute waitress is still at the diner.”