The Life of Reilly
"The Destroyer, huh?" Willow sighed into the phone. "Doesn't exactly induce fluffy feelings of comfort."
"I think that's the idea. I'm getting to it, relax!" Xander told an increasingly anxious Buffy.
"Getting to what?" Willow asked warily.
"Do you remember the Toth demon?" Willow didn't respond. "Are you nodding into the phone again?"
"No, and that's not the issue!" She said quickly. "Why are you asking about the Toth?"
He steeled himself for the worst. "Well, I..." Buffy snatched the phone from Xander before he had the chance to finish.
"He got hit by another one of their weapon thingies!" She glared at him like it was his fault.
"AGAIN?" Willow shrieked.
"Are there two of him? Is he hurt? Is he dying? Omigod! He's dying! No wait. He can't be dying, right?"
Buffy gave Xander the once over. "He doesn't look like he's dying."
"I feel fine. Tell Willow not to worry."
Buffy relayed the message, listened to the response, then hung up.
"She says you're not fine, and she wants us to head back to the hotel so she can do some kinda diagnostic spell. One that you were familiar with?"
Xander nodded grimly. "Yeah. Not looking forward to that."
"OW! This hurts!"
Willow rolled her eyes at the prone form of her best friend. "It wouldn't if you'd just sit still."
"Liar! The hurting started the second we did! And why do I have to be on my stomach?"
"Because that's how the spell works. Now shut up and let me figure out what's wrong with you."
Xander glared at her and swore he saw the tiniest of smirks on her treacherous face. When she shut her eyes in concentration, the magic resumed it's invasive, but thorough, search.
He remembered this spell from when a contact in Toronto was cursed by a rival wizard. It took six hours to diagnose the symptoms. Hopefully, this wouldn't take as long.
Xander winced as he felt the magic run through his body.
Once the spell had started, Buffy knew she wouldn't be much use. So, after securing a promise from Willow to be notified the second she knew anything, Buffy went out into the streets of LA to pick up where she'd left off.
She needed to find The Destroyer, the Dalthezar Codex ... and Angel.
Not necessarily in that order.
Wouldn't it be nice if she met one magic snitch that was able to tell her everything she needed to know about all three?
Buffy cleared her head, then walked into the Hang 'Em High. It's one of the seedier demon bars on the waterfront and the place where Vallard said there might be someone who knew about the codex.
The few patrons in the place didn't so much as blink when she walked through the door. Buffy frowned. Clearly she was loosing her touch. The slayer walked up to the bartender, a Flouronic, and asked about any bookish types that frequented the bar, but the demon was not cooperating.
"It's a shame." Buffy told it.
"What you mean?" The demon asked, taking the bait.
"This is a nice place." She lied. "Do you own it?"
The Flouronic narrowed it's eye at her. "Why you want to know?"
Buffy grinned. "Because if I'm going to decimate a place, I want the owners there to watch. It's only polite."
The demon laughed. "Little girl like you could not smash bar!" It's amusement vanished when it looked into Buffy's face and saw her expression.
The slayer raised her fist up high, then brought it down with tremendous force, ruining the bar and sending splinters everywhere.
Her eyes widened comically. "Whoops!" She gave the quivering demon an insincere apology. "I guess I don't know my own strength. So," Buffy leaned in close, "about that book?"
"Y... you slayer?" It asked timidly.
Buffy nodded, and the demon told her what she wanted to know.
"Is demon that reads a lot, you're looking for. He be coming in on Thursdays and Fridays at seven pee-emm."
"Where can I find him now?"
"Don't know." Buffy raised an eyebrow in disbelief, shook her head sadly, then raised her fist again. "I swear it! Don't know! Name never told! I just see him sit and read! He be knowledgeable! All demons go to him for information!"
"If he's that popular, then how come you don't know his name?" Buffy asked.
"I never go! I like not knowing! It blissful, like they say."
The slayer reached over the counter and pulled the Flouronic close. "So who has gone to him?"
Buffy kicked in the door to her new informant's lair. The resident screeched in surprise and fear. It reached out and grabbed a stained baseball bat with a nail through it and held it out like a sword.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
Buffy walked in, slapped the bat away, and slammed the demon against the wall.
"I want a name."
The tea was terrible. That was the last thought that went through Ulrich's mind before the absolute terror gripped him. It was difficult, really it was, to be an intelligent demon. One had to deal with all kinds of idiots and bastards in order to get what one needs. Gaining a reputation as a reliable source of information was just an unfortunate side effect. At least, that's what it seemed like when the Sunnydale Slayer sat down at his table.
"Hi." She greeted cheerfully. "How's the tea?"
Buffy walked into the hotel suite and plopped down tiredly on the couch. Willow was still performing the spell, and as such, offered no greeting. Xander however, was only too happy for any distraction from the mind numbing boredom, that wasn't from stabbing magical pain.
"Buffy! I'm so glad to see you! You would not believe how much fun this isn't. So, how did it go?" She looked at him for a moment, then shrugged. Xander raised an eyebrow. "Is that a good shrug or a bad shrug?"
"I found out who has the book."
"I'll tell you later. How much longer is that," She waved her hand in his general direction, "spell gonna take?"
Xander grunted as the magic momentarily flared.
"I dunno. But I hope it's soon. I've had beatings that hurt less than this."
Buffy stared at Willow in consideration. "Can she hear us?"
"Nope. She's in what's affectionately known as a trance."
"You don't say." Buffy said wryly. "I'm gonna go take a shower and watch TV."
"Hey wait!" Xander cried out desperately. "You can't just leave me here alone like this!"
Buffy smirked. "Sorry Xan. I guess you'll just have to make your own fun."
Two hours later, Willow was still in her trance, and Buffy was getting impatient.
"All right, listen." She told Xander. "I was waiting for you guys to be done so I could get some backup, but this is taking way too long." She pulled out a business card from her pocket and left it on the coffee table. "This is the place with the book. When you're finished, call me. If I don't answer, assume I need help, okay?"
"No it's not okay." Xander said seriously. "If you think it's gonna be that bad, I don't want you going in there alone." Buffy smiled fondly at him while she packed an over the shoulder bag full of stakes and knives. He sighed. "You're completely ignoring everything I'm saying, aren't you?"
The place was just your average, run of the mill, two floor office building. There was nothing remarkable about it, save for what was inside. The Slayer stood in front of the door, her hands trembling. She was angry. And scared. If this place was what she thought it was, what she hoped it was, then fine. If not? Well, that's where the anger comes in.
Buffy took a steadying breath, then opened the door.
Xander stretched languidly, while Willow flopped on the couch in exhaustion.
"So what's the verdict Doc?" He asked his friend.
She smiled back. "You know perfectly well what the verdict is. If there was something wrong, do you really think I'd be sitting here doing nothing?"
He shrugged, looking down at the card Buffy left behind. He picked it up. His eye widened in surprise.
"We gotta go."
Willow gave him a confused look. "What? Why?" He wordlessly handed her the card. Her confused expression quickly turned to shock, then concern. She got up and grabbed her coat.
The first thing Buffy noticed, was how normal the place looked. Like it's exterior, there was nothing hinting at it's significance. The room she had entered was some kind of receptionist area. There was a desk at the far wall, a door to what looked like an office behind it, and some battered couches for people to sit in. Buffy looked around the room. She spied a bookshelf behind the desk and headed over to it. There it was, the Dalthezar Codex! Buffy grabbed the book.
"Excuse me." A male voice said from behind her. He must've come from the other office. "Those books are for employees only."
She put the codex down to look at the speaker and take his measure. He was in his late teens or early twenties, stood 6 ft, roughly 200 lb, with brown hair, blue eyes, and had a lanky body.
He fidgeted a bit under her gaze. "Um... Is there...? Can I help you?"
Buffy crossed her arms. "I'm looking for someone." She said evenly.
"Yeah? Okay." He went over to the desk and pulled out a notepad. "Can you give me a description?"
"I think there's a misunderstanding." Buffy stated, much to the young man's confusion. "I'm not here to hire you."
"Then what are you doing here?"
"Where's Angel?" Buffy demanded without preamble.
His eyes narrowed. "What?"
"You heard me."
"Yeah, I suppose I did." He crossed his arms as well. "Who are you?"
He frowned quizzically. "Of his?" She nodded. "Sorry, I can't help you."
"Why not? Aren't you a private investigator?" Buffy asked snidely.
"That's what it says on my license." He sneered. "But I can't find him. Believe me, I've tried." The young man recognized which book Buffy was looking at. "So what's a girl like you want with Dalthezar's codex?" He asked dangerously.
"I was gonna steal it." Buffy admitted shamelessly.
He snorted. "Nice. Look, I appreciate the honesty, but I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."
Buffy picked the book up and put it into her bag.
His fists clenched, and he crouched subtly, poised to attack. "That's mine! Put it back!"
"Tell me what you know about Angel first!" Buffy demanded. "Why are you calling this place Angel Investigations!"
"That's none of your business!" He said hotly. "Give me my book and get out!"
"Not until I get some answers!"
He glared at her. "Fine."
Faster than humanly possible, he crossed the room and grabbed at Buffy's bag. But she was prepared for something like this, and punched him aside before the bag came off.
His speed was a relief. Buffy was hoping that this was some kind of demon. She was getting worried when the kid came in and her spidey-sense didn't go off, but no one human could move like that. Immediately after hitting him, the Slayer followed up with a left, then a right, putting enough force into her blows to fell any demon.
Buffy was stunned by a sudden, and vicious punch to her chin. She stumbled back, and her opponent was on her in an instant. He was everywhere! It was like fighting a master vampire. It was all she could do to deflect the kid's attacks. This was a demon that knew how to fight!
Buffy grinned wildly, relishing the contest. It's been too long since she's had to fight this hard! The kid was good to be sure, but already she's noticed a flaw. He keeps favoring his left side, like he's hurt it recently. Perfect. She stayed on the defensive while waiting for the right moment.
He managed to get a couple of good licks in. Buffy slowed down to allow even more punches through her defense. The idea was to let the kid think he was winning, let him get overconfident. Unfortunately, Buffy thought as she got walloped across the face, this particular plan did contain a few drawbacks.
Whatever. The Slayer shook it off. This demon was going down! His using Angel Investigations as a name might've been a coincidence, if not for the fact he's been handing out the same business cards that Angel used. There was no way she was going to let Angel's mem... his business be abused like that!
The kid launched a lethal kick at her. Buffy grabbed his leg and yanked it forward, throwing her foe off balance. She followed up with a fast and brutal elbow into his tender left side. He grunted in pain and Buffy backhanded him across the face before he could recover, knocking him down.
This guy was good! He went down, but was able to roll back into a fighting position. He realized, after getting hit in the side, that Buffy was playing him, and kept his distance.
"Are you a slayer?" He asked after a few minutes.
She smirked. "THE Slayer."
Buffy was a little disappointed when he failed to react in shock and fear at that revelation. Then she was confused when he held out his hands placatingly. While that was a little more expected, he didn't seem afraid of her at all. In fact, he was flat out staring at her in unafraid!
She squirmed a little while he considered her. Buffy was about to open her mouth for a witty, yet caustic remark, when he slammed his fist into his palm in realization.
"You're Buffy!" He exclaimed. "You used to date Angel!" Incredibly, the kid started laughing. "Oh my God, I don't believe it!"
Buffy put her hands on her hips. "Wanna clue me in on the joke?" She asked irritably. If this wasn't good, violence would ensue. She smiled in satisfaction when he stopped laughing and clutched his side in pain.
"Nice moves." He conceded before continuing. "Look, I think this is all some kind of misunderstanding." He slowly pulled out his wallet and showed her his private investigators badge and ID.
"My name's Conner, Conner Reilly. I opened this place up to honor Angel, not do whatever it was you thought I was doing."
She stared at the badge, a little surprised. He really was a detective!
"I have super-powers." He confessed.
Buffy rubbed her bruised left cheek. "Ya think?" She asked bitterly.
Conner blushed. "A couple of years ago, this van slammed into me while I was walking across my driveway. It pinned me against the garage, then sped off. I wasn't hurt, like, at all. Which is freaky weird, right? So this friend of the family suggested we talk to the experts in freaky and weird: Angel Investigations."
Buffy nodded in understanding. "He helped you out."
"Yep. Turns out, some demon wanted me dead because of a prophecy that said I was gonna kill him."
The Slayer winced in sympathy. "Oh, that sucks."
"You have no idea." Conner said dryly. "Anyway, Angel trained me so that when I fought Sahjon, the demon from the prophecy, I wouldn't be pummeled to death and die."
Conner pulled out a picture from his wallet and held it out. It was of him and Angel. Angel was, if you could believe it, grinning like an idiot, while the two of them struck manly poses for the camera. Buffy took the photo and stared at it like it was some kinda puzzle that needed to be solved but was impossible to do so because it was illustrated in balloon animals from another planet.
Conner smirked knowingly. "Yeah I know. He definitely doesn't seem like the kind of guy for that sort of thing." His smirk faded and he grew serious. "That was the day he disappeared."
"He went and saw you?" Buffy asked in surprise.
"Yeah. We..." Conner turned away. "When he trained me, we got close."
She looked at the photograph. "I guess so."
Angel seemed so happy. Happier than she'd ever seen him. Which was good, she supposed, but if he got any happier, he'd go evil and kill everyone. Buffy handed the photo back.
"I'm sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusions." She told him.
He shrugged the apology off a little awkwardly. "Don't worry about it. I would've thought the same thing, probably. Besides," Conner grinned roguishly. "I haven't enjoyed a fight that much in months."
Buffy returned the grin.
Suddenly, the front door slammed open and Willow and Xander flooded into the room. The pair jumped in front of Buffy. Xander expertly wielded a sword and Willow sparked her hands.
"Stay back, you scummy demon!" Xander yelled.
"Or else I'll... I'll flambe you!" Willow threatened with vigor.
Conner looked past them to Buffy, who was staring back.
"Careful Buffy, I think he's about to attack!" Xander warned her.
Buffy and Conner burst out laughing.
"Uh... Buffy? What's going on?" Willow asked.
"It's some kind of laughing gas! Quick, Willow! Hold your breath!" Xander inhaled deeply and held it, causing Buffy to laugh even harder.
The pain in his side enabled Conner to gain some measure of control, but that failed as soon as he saw Xander resolutely turning purple and waving his sword at him.
Willow frowned. She wasn't laughing. She pointed that out to Xander, but he just stared at her blankly.
"What's going on Buffy?" She asked again.
"Conner's a friend of Angel's."
Xander exhaled, then swayed a little. "He has friends?" Xander asked when he caught his breath.
Buffy rolled her eyes and made the introductions. Conner shook Xander's hand amiably enough, but gave Willow an odd look before before shaking hers.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both." Conner held his arms out wide. "Welcome to the new and improved Angel Investigations. The "improved" part comes with an actual investigator's license." He said proudly. "Why don't I give you the nickel tour?"
Five minutes later.
"I want my nickel back." Xander joked. "Though gotta say, it's better than Giles' apartment."
"But not as good as the Magic Box." Willow critiqued before realizing how rude that sounded. "Oh! But not that this is bad! No, it's good. Swell even. I... I like the walls. They're all... wall-y." She finished lamely.
Conner blinked at her. "Um... Thanks." He turned to Buffy. "So anyway, why did you want the codex?"
He'd led them into his office, the one adjoining the reception room, and was sitting behind his desk. Buffy and Willow sat in the chairs in front of him, while Xander snooped. The office was decorated with some fairly strange things. There were photos of him and his friends, a copy of his license, ancient weapons, trophies from what we can only assume are past cases, and a lava lamp.
Buffy considered how to answer the question, but Xander beat her to it.
"The book used to belong to the Watcher's Council until one of the watchers defected to Wolfram and Hart." He said, while poking a rubbery looking mask thing. "I wouldn't mind knowing how you got it?"
"I inherited it." Conner told them. Xander nodded. He could buy that. For now anyway. "So are you guys representing the Council in any kind of official capacity?" The young detective wondered, "Or were you just banking on Buffy's skills as a cat burglar?" He asked, smirking at Buffy.
She gave him a mocking smile. "Yeah. We're representing the Council."
Conner sat back in his chair. "What are you offering for it?"
"Access to our online library." Willow told him. "If you can't find something using your books, you could use ours. Most of the books we got have been scanned into a computer, and are available to any watcher or slayer."
Conner nodded. "Not bad. What else?"
"Ya need more?" Willow asked, a little put out.
"How about a job?" Buffy offered.
He grinned. "But I already have one of those. Detective agency, remember?"
"Yeah, but you haven't heard our sales pitch." She frowned and turned to Xander. "What's our sales pitch?"
Xander rolled his eye in fond exasperation, while Willow giggled, and Conner smirked.
"If you pass our background check," He started, "we're prepared to offer you pretty much anything. Weapons, personnel, resources, magic gourds, you name it. If we got it, you got access to it."
Conner was impressed. That was a good deal, but there were some concerns.
"If I do sign up with you guys, how autonomous would I be?"
Xander shrugged. "If you screw up, and I mean badly, you'll have to answer to us."
Willow smiled reassuringly at Conner. "But if that happened, we'd also be there to help you fix it."
Xander nodded. "Otherwise, you'll have complete autonomy. No watchers or nuthin. Unless you want one."
"What about a slayer? I could use a slayer." Conner said.
The three Council representatives looked at each other, then shrugged.
"Sure why not?", "I don't see a problem with it.", "Okay." They all said at once.
"Awsome! Can it be Faith?" Conner asked eagerly. Buffy wanted to know how he knew Faith, causing the young man to blush. "I, uh, Heh. I met her once, while I was training with Angel. But she wouldn't remember me."
Willow snorted. "That's totally Faith alright."
Unfortunately for Conner, Faith was in Cleveland, watching the Hellmouth there. He deflated a bit upon hearing that.
"But still, it'd be cool having some super-powered backup." He reasoned. "Jackie, my best friend, that's her desk out there, always wants to help. And I'm cool with that, really, but I don't want her getting hurt. If there were two super-freaks with her, the chances of that happening go way down."
"Plus slayers are always mega-hot." Xander added.
"That is a plus." Conner agreed.
The detective leaned forward on his desk and considered the offer.
"So, how much do you guys pay?" He asked, smiling.
And with that, Conner Reilly agreed to become the newest member of the International Watcher's Council.
A thorough background check was performed and, save for his powers, nothing odd was found. Once that was settled, a Council solicitor arrived to hammer out a contract. Conner would keep his business open, and the Council would pay him whenever they had need of his services. In return, he'd have access to everything Buffy and company promised.
As for teaming him up with a slayer, there was a young girl, aged sixteen, who was called fairly recently, living in LA. A watcher had been dispatched to help her, but she could definitely benefit from having some super-powered backup. Not to mention someone to spar with without having to worry about breaking delicate watcher bones. Pluses for everybody.
But all that was later. Now, the Scoobies sat in Conner's office. He agreed to loan them the book with the strict promise to call him if they needed extra muscle. And as long as they didn't have to fly off to Tasmania, or someplace equally not in LA, they would.
The gang took the book, with thanks, and said their farewells.
Once they got back to the hotel, Willow opened the Dalthezar Codex, and everyone hunkered down for a good old fashioned research party.
"Crap." Buffy said after a few minutes, prompting her friends to raise their heads questioningly. "We should've asked Conner if he knew anything about the Destroyer."