Lines Are Drawn
With so many characters (and with people reading who may not be familiar with all the books) here is a quick ID key of who is present to lessen confusion:
Vampires: Spike, JC, Asher, Requiem, Wicked and Truth, Byron, London
Wolves: Richard, Shang-Da, Jamil, Sylvie, Jason, several others
Leopards: Micah, Nathaniel, Caleb
Hyenas: Narcissus and several others
Tigers: Crispin & Domino
Lions: Haven and several others
Rats: Rafael, Claudia, others acting as bodyguards
As always, thanks to Greywizard for taking the time to beta this! Not to mention, major props for giving me the idea of Dolph’s purpose in entering this conflict. Super mad crazy thanks for that :D
CONGRATULATIONS to: vedranempress, war, FireWolfe--- You all correctly guessed Giles’ contact!
And… I apologize to some readers because my muse went a different way than I was originally thinking for the big showdown so don’t be sad if there’s not as much bloodshed as you may want in *this* chapter! But I am also in the editing process of 12 & 13 and let’s just say there’s more than enough to make up for things ;) PROMISE!!!!!!
“I don’t think so. Your killing days are over, Jean-Claude,” rang out a new voice from the stairway.
Faith shared a smug smile with Xander as they turned towards the stairs. Giles audibly breathed a sigh of relief at the cavalry arriving. Meanwhile, Buffy looked in the direction of Jean-Claude’s crew and she smirked at the flabbergasted federal marshal. The brunette’s eyes were saucer-sized and her mouth made a perfect ‘O’.
“D-Dolph,” she stuttered in confusion at the man who had just spoken. “Larry?” she cried out as the red-headed federal marshal and executioner stepped beside Sergeant Rudolph Starr. “Tammy?” she added shrilly as Larry’s wife, witch and officer on Dolph’s Regional Preternatural Investigation Team stepped to Dolph’s other side. “What the hell are you guys doing here?”
Dolph grinned with satisfaction as he involuntary flexed his impressive football player physique. This had been a long time coming and he was going to savor the experience like a treat from the ice cream truck on its first day out for the summer. “Doing my job,” he said gruffly.
“Unlike some people I know,” he added nastily.
Anita’s dark eyes blazed with a combination of anger and what some people (but not her!) might call fear as she stared at him. Her spine stiffened as her right hand itched to follow her instincts and pull out her gun.
“And what exactly does your job have to do with being here in the middle of an *official* Master of the City event?” she demanded haughtily.
Her voice sounded steady, harsh even, but she had to work to keep her nervousness out. For years, she had been very careful in keeping the official and unofficial aspects of her life separate. If they were to ever mix… Well, that would not be good.
With a snort of amusement, Dolph held up several important pieces of paper for everyone present to see.
“Well, *Marshall* Blake," he announced, sarcasm clearly evident, "I am here to serve Jean-Claude, Master of the City, with an execution notice.”
Several in the audience gasped but Jean-Claude did not betray any emotion, his only reaction being a surge of anger in his dark blue eyes. Anita, however, did not bother to react discretely.
“What the *hell*, Dolph? You have no right, at *all* to order an execution just because you have issues with vampires!” she said in a raised voice.
Not bothering to address her contradiction, Dolph continued in an extremely smug tone, “Jean-Claude, based on extensive investigation during which we have caught your actions on tape, videotape, and through witness testimony, you are formally charged by the United States of America for administering an ongoing racketing scheme sponsored by the Vampire Council for the purpose of taking over control of the entire mid-western United States based out of St. Louis. The charges include murder, conspiracy to commit murder, interference in official police matters, and more.
"Due to your status as an undead son of a bitch,” Dolph couldn’t refrain from that unofficial edit, “your charges will result in your execution.
“In addition,” he continued with a hard look at Anita, “Anita Blake, you are charged as a co-conspirator in these crimes and we are here for your arrest as well. Any other people present,” now Dolph’s dark eyes surveyed the crowd of vampires and weres, “are not currently charged with any crimes and you are free to leave.”
Various emotions flickered over those in the crowd. Richard looked satisfied, as did his wolves. Surprise and then contemplation filled Rafael’s features. Micah’s mouth was set in a thin, angry line and he wrapped an arm around Anita protectively. Domino and Crispin, the two weretigers, looked worried and they stepped closer to their mistress, Anita. Narcissus took a step away from Asher, as his anxious eyes flittered between Dolph and Anita. A low growl emanated from Haven’s throat and he flexed his hands menacingly as he waited for Anita's orders.
Asher slid in between Anita and Jean-Claude and his lips whispered urgently in their ears.
Jean-Claude smiled in Dolph’s direction and he spoke in a lowered voice that caressed everyone’s skin like liquid silk. “Sergeant Storr, I daresay your accusations have come as a shock to me. However, as much as I would like to discuss your concerns, perhaps I should introduce you to the Vampire Slayers, Buffy and Faith- part of the acclaimed terrorist group. You should take them into custody- imagine what a hero you will be for catching these infamous, heartless scoundrels.”
Dolph’s eyes glazed over and he nodded to himself slowly. “Yes, perhaps-”
His low mumblings were cut off by Larry who shook his shoulder. “Vampire tricks, sir," Larry whispered to his supervisor. Dolph’s eyes immediately cleared and he gave Jean-Claude a furious glare.
“Alright, let’s cut the bullshit,” Buffy’s irate tone echoed in the dungeon-like room. “Honestly, Jean-Claude, I know you think you’re slicker than John Edward’s evading a baby mama, but let’s take a moment to add it up. First off, Dolph here has been cooperating with the Watchers’ Council, keeping track of you. In addition to his work and the work of other Council operatives, enough evidence has been cumulated to clear the Watchers’ Council of all terrorist charges and we’ve unearthed the Vampire Council’s conspiracy to slowly take over various world governments.”
Jean-Claude flinched as realized how serious the situation had gotten. He wanted to lie and deny it, yet he was quite curious about their resources. “How?”
“Wow. Tiny, pale, and froofy isn’t that quick on the uptake,” Xander snorted. Occupied with his laughter, he didn’t notice how all the weres in the room flinched at the sound of his voice. “It’s the 21st century, buddy. It was easy thanks to electronic bugs and surveillances; not to mention some of the most badass witches at our disposal– thanks, Will.”
Willow gifted him with a genuine smile. “Thanks, Xand.”
Deep laughter rumbled from Jean-Claude’s chest. “You mortals are fools if you think you can take all of us out. You may try, but your efforts will result in death.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “If I had a nickel for every time an enemy promised me death-”
“-I’d do a day-long Beverly Hills shopping spree once a week,” finished Faith with a grin.
“And what would you spend your nickels on?” inquired Buffy with an amused lift of her brow.
Faith pretended to ponder and answered with a grin. “Victoria’s Secret shopping spree for some push-ups and panties, hit up on of those classy sex toy joints off the highway, and some quality time with my men- Robin, Jose Cuervo, and Jim Bean.”
Wicked grinned at his brother. “I do wonder if that woman is betrothed. She sounds rather-”
“-Tasty?” he brother answered with a matching smile.
Giles cleared his throat behind his two tangent-loving Slayers.
“Oh yeah,” Buffy answered, getting back on point. “Anyways, we’re only after those of you who consider themselves the Big Bads. The lesser vamps get to avoid the killing.”
“And you think you have what it takes to kill us?” Jean-Claude asked with a sneer. He was absolutely furious at the nerve of these women and silly mortal laws.
“We already took out Big Mama,” Xander informed the gathering with a satisfied smile. “It was a lot of fun, actually. Got some awesome explosive devices from Russia - they’re not a real big fan of the fang, ya know - and took some slayers out for a field trip. And 'Poof!' went the Big Bad Momma Vampire.”
One of the were hyenas whined and Narcissus smacked him on the back of his head for showing a weakness. Still… The man who had just spoken held a great power within him and it was only due to his link to Asher that Narcissus remained where he was.
“What? *You* guys were the one to kill Marmee Noir? That was *you*?” Anita exclaimed in surprise.
“Enough,” grunted Dolph. “Anita, come with us. Jean-Claude, submit and Larry will carry your execution out pain-free. Everyone else, get the hell out of here, or you‘ll regret being here.”
Because he was angry, Jean-Claude’s voice had a strong accent to it. “You mortals,” he spat, “are the only ones who will regret being here. You are outnumbered and we have a special surprise. Elizabeth! Noah!”
A tall dark-haired woman with a pouty smile walked out from the side entrance with a gagged and bound Dawn. Behind her stalked another male who moved gracefully. Dawn’s disguise was still partly on - although her black wig fell off, she was still wearing heavy black make-up and her goth clothes. Immediately, the Scoobies shouted in surprise and anger.
“Dawn! I thought I told you to stay back at HQ!” Buffy shouted in full 'big-sister irritation' mode. “And what the hell are you wearing?”
Dawn, unable to respond, simply shrugged her shoulders and wished she could speak so she could turn that bastard Jean-Claude into a rat. So she could stomp on his little rat head, too!
“You know, at first I thought we just had a witch who came here. She refused to give her name and neither Spike nor Andrew would reveal it. However, after her invisibility spell wore off, I was able to determine her association to you- the Slayer’s sister. Now, you will all walk out of here or Elizabeth will slash your sister and make her a wereleopard.”
“I’m sorry, Buffy- they said if I mentioned that Dawn was here, they’d kill the two of us. Not to mention that Anita formally ordered Spike to stay quiet,” offered a regretful Andrew.
Dawn, meanwhile, made a muffled noise that Buffy assumed translated into “Take these losers out!” Buffy stilled as she assessed the situation. So many chess pieces lay on the board- that was their first problem.
Xander's mind buzzed at seeing Dawn- who was, for all intents and purposes, more family than his blood relations- in danger from the wereleopard. It felt like his body had released even more adrenaline than normal because suddenly his body was humming with energy. Without realizing it, a low growl escaped his lips.
“You! Give her back to us now!” he rasped, eyes intently focusing on the woman Jean-Claude had identified as Elizabeth. “Andrew as well,” he added, almost as an afterthought.
Elizabeth’s head whipped in Xander’s direction and she found herself forced to submit to the overpowering presence commanding her. She also realized that if she was in leopard form, her tail would be between her legs right now, cowering with fear before the man who'd spoken.
Slowly, so not to further anger the dominant male, she dragged the witch and boy towards him. Off to the side, she heard a cry of outrage from her Nimir-Ra, but her mind couldn’t concentrate on that now. All she heard was the man before her. Gently, she knelt as she deposited the witch and boy at his feet and looked up at him in wonder.
“What are you?” Elizabeth asked softly.
The Scoobies looked at Xander in confusion.
“Willow?” asked Buffy. “Was that some kind of witchiness?”
“No,” Willow answered in an amazed voice. “That was Xander. I could- I could almost taste it -- the power."
Xander began untying Dawn as he shot them a confused smile. “Power? Me? Are you sure we’re talking ‘bout the same Xan-Man right now? 'Cause Demon-Magnet, Plan Man, Donut Guy - these are all aliases of mine. But not really Power Man.”
It took him longer than he expected to untie Dawn because his fingers kept slipping. It was like the worst case of ADD was coming over him and he barely felt like he could stay in his skin. There was something about the energy in this room… But he couldn’t put his finger on it.
Narcissus licked his lips eagerly. The man’s aura tasted like strawberries and the Oba of the hyenas wanted to take a bite.
“You’re a were,” he stated matter-of-factly to Xander. “I knew there was something different about you.”
Xander laughed. “Listen, maybe I need to shave my back every once in a while but I’m definitely not a were. Raw meat-free- for what, Willow? Twelve years now?” He grinned and waggled his eyebrows.
Willow just sighed. “Poor Herbert. We lost ye too soon.” Her face scrunched up in contemplation. “Ya don’t think…?” She shook her head and waved off her friend’s attention. “Never mind. Crazy idea.”
“Yes, never mind that. We've got official business to be done here. Anita, please go with Tammy. Jean-Claude, would you prefer to lie in your coffin - maybe for a more traditional vampire staking?” asked Dolph, a bit maliciously, it must be admitted.
“No!” shouted Anita. “I won’t let you kill him.”
“Then you will be held on additional charges, Anita Blake! Make the choice: Leave with the humans or die with the monsters,” shouted a frustrated Dolph.
Anita lowered her head and paused for a beat. “Let’s hear it for the monsters,” she said softly, as she looked Dolph square in the eye.
“I choose the monsters, Dolph.”
“You have made a grievous error coming here, fools!" Jean-Claude declared pompously. "We had brought together all of our allies to show the slayers our strength originally. But now, it just means more power to dispose of you humans quicker.” Jean-Claude looked around the room. “Micah, are your leopards with us?”
Micah gave Anita a significant look. “Always.”
Nathaniel nodded in agreement when Jean-Cladude glanced over at him, and Caleb and Elizabeth seemed eager for a fight.
“Hyenas,” called out Asher’s cool voice. “Are you with us?”
Narcissus practically salivated at the opportunity to take the suspiciously interesting man named Xander by force. Not to mention, the smaller, softer captive named Andrew looked like he would be a delicious appetizer. He nodded to Asher, his master. “As your animal to call, of course.”
“Tigers?” asked Anita. Though there were only two of them, she knew that the power of a weretiger was not to be overlooked.
“Anything for you,” said Crispin in a dreamy tone and Domino nodded.
“Lions?” Anita called out.
Haven let out a low chuckle. “Gotta love a good fight. Don’t get too many opportunities now that I’m outta Chicago. I’m in.
“Rafael? Is your rodere with us?”
Rafael looked towards the newcomers as he considered the situation.
Each of them oozed with power, but the key factor of that group was the man – Xander, he'd heard the Head Slayer and the clearly powerful witch call him. Although he'd claimed not to be a were, he had already intimidated a dominant wolf and a dominant leopard. The Rat King was no fool - It would be insane to go against the man, members of the Slayer Army, and the orders of the federal courts. Above all, Rafael cared for his people. It didn’t matter if Sergeant Storr and the slayers were outnumbered - he knew this was going to be a slaughter. And not the one Jean-Claude believed was impending.
“We are paid to guard you and your people, Jean-Claude. I will not have my rats fight your war,” Rafael stated in a strong voice. He moved towards the edge of the room, near the stairs, and his people followed.
‘Besides, I certainly will not fight when you won’t even be able to pay us next week, since you're getting staked today,’ Rafael thought idly.
Members of Jean-Claude‘s group stared at Rafael in disbelief. “Fine then,” Jean-Claude said curtly. “Richard? Are you and your wolves with us?“ he asked with an attentive stare.
Richard gave Buffy a long look, and noticed the red-haired witch mumbling spells under her breath. Dawn, Tammy, and the older man, Giles, were linking hands with the witch and they all seemed to step farther back into the shadows. He glanced behind him at his pack. His Geri, Skoll, and Hati all wore eager expressions, but Jason looked nervous. Sighing, Richard stepped in between Anita and Jean-Claude.
“I suppose I am your triumvirate member,” Richard said glancing to them while his hand slid into his pocket.
“It is about time you realized that my furry friend,” Jean-Claude said menacingly. “For if they execute me, you may very well die due to our triumvirate bond.”
Richard shrugged. “Yeah, about that,” he began. And then, a knife whipped towards Jean-Claude’s wrist and blood splashed onto the cement floor.
“What the-” Jean-Claude began screaming, but Richard was already spilling Anita’s blood on the ground as she shrieked in surprise. Jean-Claude grabbed Richard by his shirt and spat at him, “We do not have time for your foolishness Richard!”
Richard grinned as he cut his own palm and dripped blood into the puddle.
“Foolishness? I’ve finally saved myself from being tied to a manipulative bastard and an emasculating bitch. I don’t think that’s foolish, at all.”
Jean-Claude screamed as he threw Richard towards his wolves, “Kill them. Especially the witches!”
And then, all hell broke loose.
Mad thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing so far. I do happy dances every time I check my e-mail when the update comes :D Please continue giving me your feedback!
Richard got 16 Redemption votes v. 6 Kill votes… So redeemed he has been! Hope people are happy that Richard, usually kicked around Anita-land like a sad puppy, is making a damn good decision : ) Cause let’s face it- the poor bastard deserves it after LKH ruined his character all because Richard was written about the husband she divorced after book 9...
Oh… and I know I am evil leaving the chapter here, but it seemed the most natural end. Next chapter will be up soon…. Anyone ever hear that song “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” by Drowning Pool? Well consider that the theme of chapters 12 and 13 ;)
**Thank you to the following website for helping me to keep some names and titles straight: http://www.anitablakewiki.com/page/