Facades and Fascination
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to BtVS or The Sentinel
A/N: Trying to get back into the swing of things, and finish off some WIP's. One down, unwilling to think of how many remaining.~~~~~“It's a lot to take in. Just think of us as another weapon in your arsenal to guard this city.”
“I'll need actual contact details for the database. Do you have a card or something?” Xander asked.
Jim fished out a card and handed it over. “So what actually happens?”
“When the team realises that they're heading your direction, they will ring to give you a heads up. It will be the support person calling, unless things are really messed up. Often as not, it will be a night-time call, as well. Our prey tends to be nocturnal, and so we are, too. You should get the first call when whoever it is is about a day out, to explain what's going on, and why they may need to cross your territory, and then another call about a few hours out, just to confirm. A third call as they're about to hit the city limits, just in case you want to meet up with them. You do, of course, have the right to refuse entrance to your lands, and there may be individuals or teams that you black-ban from here, but we would prefer that you at least attempt to get on with our people. And there will be times when we pull rank, but we save that for apocalypse level situations.”
“Apocalypse level situations?” Blair asked faintly.
“It happens. Very rare outside the Hellmouth, but it does happen,” Xander explained. “Anyway, we're about to head out for dinner. It's just going to be a quiet night tonight, but we should be here another couple of days, if you want to meet up.” Just then, Gwen nuzzled his neck, and he looked down, surprised. “It seems another team is in the area, and would like to hook up. Not hunting, just looking for some down time. Is that okay?” he asked Jim.
Jim shrugged. “Should be okay. Do you know who it is?”
Xander smiled. “Yeah. They're part of our group. There aren't many small teams – the one nearby is the Alpha team. They're … uh...” he looked at Gwen, who smirked and growled. “Tell you what, you want to know about Hunter society, let them come, and meet us tomorrow night. We'll take you clubbing. You'll get to meet the only other person who can control Gwennie, and Faith and Gwen together will be an, uh, interesting introduction to Hunter society,” he finished, grinning. “And you'll get to see the other side of Gwen,” he added, chuckling.
Jim looked over to Blair, who had pulled out the puppy dog eyes, and shrugged. “Sure. It'll be good to find out what you guys are really like.”
“Yeah. Just make sure you remember you said that, okay?”~~~~~
Blair looked up, confused. Walking towards, them, grinning, was Xander Harris. “Ah, Xander, is there a problem?”
“No,” he chirped as he dropped, boneless, into a chair. “I just got kicked out, so thought I would look you guys up.”
“Kicked out,” Jim inquired.
“The girls. They're getting ready for tonight.” He gave the two men a measuring look. “You sure you really want to go ahead with this? You don't have to, you know. You can still back out.”
“What's the plan?”
“Clubbing. Dancing, drinking, that sort of stuff.”
Blair glanced at Jim. “That doesn't sound so bad,” he suggested.
Xander laughed. “You haven't gone clubbing with my girls. It'll probably be some kind of alternative club, Goth, maybe. Gwennie loathes pop music, and is bored by top forty type music. She'll do those sort of clubs if she's hunting, but tonight's just for fun. Honestly? Any vamp that tries those girls tonight is just suicidal.”
“Won't we kind of stand out?” Jim asked, amused.
Xander shrugged. “Wear black. Yeah, you'll stand out – you couldn't not stand out,” he snorted, “but the girls will get you in. Oh, and I'm coming back to your place to get changed, if that's okay.”
“Afraid they'll pull out the make-up?”
“Not afraid, certain. Dawn will pull it out, Faith will hold me down, and Gwen will let them,” he added, making a face. “I don't mind the clothes, but I'm not a fan of eyeliner. They'd do you, if you wanted,” he added, looking to Blair.
“No!” Jim growled.
Xander tilted his head as he considered the taller man. “Possessive much?”
“Oh man, you have no idea,” Blair retorted. “And wearing make-up will help me blend in to the culture,” he added, looking at Jim.
“Don't worry, Jim,” Xander added, “we won't ask you to wear any.” Then, smirking, he added, “There's not enough eyeliner in Cascade to help you blend.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Look, I'd love to sit and chat, but we have actual work to do, so how about you go, and maybe check back in a couple of hours.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Xander agreed as he rose from his seat. He handed over a card. “Call me if you need me.”~~~~~
Jim parked his truck as directed, and scowled as he looked around the parking lot. He sniffed the air, and considered what he smelled. Nothing especially offensive, no great concentrations of illicit drugs, but alcohol, of course, and cigarettes. He sniffed again, and turned towards the new smell. Underneath layers of soaps and perfumes was another scent, something … primal, he decided. Three women were approaching, and the scent seemed to be coming from one of two of them, possibly both. He stared at them as they walked towards him, and felt himself stiffen.
Two of the women were tall and slender, their height amplified by their high-heeled boots. One, the brunette, wore a black corset and long black skirt slit up one leg almost all the way to the hip, her long hair in a ponytail falling down her back. The other wore her blonde hair in two ridiculously high pigtails, like a small child. She also wore a black corset, but her black skirt was fluffy, and ended above her knees. She also wore what looked like a dog collar around her neck and silver cuffs around her biceps, and was one of the women he had scented. The third woman was smaller, but no less impressive, with leather pants and a tank top that moulded her body. While the blonde had silver bicep cuffs, the smaller brunette had a tribal-looking tattoo circling her upper arm. It was these two women that were setting him off, and he realised it was the Hunter in them that was doing so when he recognised the blonde as Harris' partner, Gwen.
“The other side of Gwen?” Jim asked.
“Yeah,” Xander grinned as he strode forward to meet her. With an experienced move, he braced for the blonde's leap into his arms. “This is just the start,” he added as he spun to face the men, arms full of his lover.
The brunettes rolled their eyes as they watched their friends kiss and walked over to introduce themselves. “I'm Dawn,” the taller woman smiled as she held out her hand. “And this is Faith. Xan said that he had told you a bit about us?”
“I'm Blair,” the shaman shook Dawn's hand eagerly, then Faith's.
“The witchy-boy,” the smaller woman purred as she shook his hand. “Cute. You, though,” she went on thoughtfully, turning to Jim, “are pretty much what I expected.”
“And that would be?” Jim scowled at her.
Faith smirked. “Alpha out the wazoo. Just my type, actually,” she added, grabbing his shirt-front and tugged him forward. Surprised, Jim felt himself pulled off-balance. “Let's dance,” Faith growled, smirking.
Xander set Gwen down, and swung her around to fit under his arm, then slung the other arm around Blair's shoulders. Dawn came up the other side of the shaman and linked her arm with his.
“So,” Dawn began, “how are you liking it so far?”
“Ah, no, it's cool. This is cool. So Faith is another Hunter?” Blair asked Dawn.
“Yep,” she nodded. “Last of the Chosen.”
“So how were you chosen to work with her?” Blair asked, curious.
Xander snorted, and Dawn shot a glare at him over Blair's head. “Okay, the fact of it is that Faith doesn't get along with a lot of the Watchers.”
“Any of them,” Xander offered, sotto voce.
“Xan,” Dawn growled warningly. “Anyway, Xander and I, even though we're technically Watchers and all, aren't really. We've never gone to Watcher school, or anything like that, though I do have degrees of my own, but not from the actual Academy, which is kind of like a post-grad school, you know, for after you've done with Oxford or Yale, whichever it is you went to, 'cause pretty much those are the only schools acceptable, or maybe a couple more, what with the tweed and all, which we're so not into, I mean have you seen that stuff?”
Blair managed a grunt of assent before Dawn went on, “Well, you see, the thing is that we're Scoobies, which is a really big thing now that the old Council is gone, and we've been around this stuff since we were, like, kids. I mean, Xander was, what, fifteen when he got into this stuff, and I was, well, thirteen when I really, um, yeah. So, we're Watchers, except we're not, because we're Scoobies, and that's why Faith can actually put up with us, because we know her, and we can accept who and what she is, and not get all 'oh, she's the last of the Chosen' and everything. And Gwen and Faith really get along because Faith can only put Gwen down, what, three times out of five?” she asked, leaning around Blair to ask the blonde.
Gwen tilted her head to the side in thought for a moment. “Say seven times out of ten? Unless it's an off day, and I taunt her with chocolate and Jack. That's always fun,” she added with a smile.
Blair felt Xander shudder at that admission. “So you guys fight a lot?”
Xander looked at Blair, eyebrow raised. “Remember what I said about alphas, and all that? Hunters spar a lot, and not all of it is the easy-going stuff. Gwen and Kennedy is definitely something that has to be seen to be believed. Kennedy isn't quite as good as Gwen, but there's a lot of, um, feeling there, shall we say.”
They had caught up with Faith and Jim by that time, and entered the club. Jim looked around, having taken care to lower his dial for hearing. The noise was currently at an acceptable level, and he could still hear the others speak.
“You talking about Ken?” Faith asked. “Damn, that girl hates Gwennie here.”
“It's just because I won't admit she's perfect, is all,” Gwen shrugged. “Although, I'll grant that she had a much greater chance of becoming a Slayer than I ever did.”
“Why is that?” Jim asked. “Is she the better Hunter?”
“Um, Xander just said that Kennedy wasn't as good as Gwen,” Blair frowned. “So why would she get to be Slayer first? And Slayer and Hunter are the same thing, right?”
Gwen frowned. “Yeah. 'Hunter' is just the term we use with civilians. As for me? I'm … not anomalous, exactly, but maybe from a previously unknown subset of Slayers?”
“Why is that?” Jim prodded.
“Demons can't sense me. Even other Slayers can't sense me, not really. I can sense them, though, and can tell the difference between normal Slayers, and those more like me. So far, anyway. We've found a couple, so far, that are like me. It's good. I don't feel quite so odd anymore.”
The entire time Gwen had been speaking, she had been scanning the dance floor. Jim shrugged, deciding that that was the reason they had come to the club in the first place, but Gwen turned back to them, and went on, “I can give you a demonstration, if you want.” She gave a lopsided smile. “Guardian, do I have permission to hunt in your territory?”
Jim frowned, and scanned the dance floor, trying to work out what she had sensed. “Sure.”
“Okay. All of you stay here. I will go and identify a vamp, and you can get to see his reaction to me. Then Faith will go up, and you can check his reaction to her. He feels fairly mature, so he should be able to sense Faith quite easily when she's up close and personal. That suit?”
Both locals nodded, and Gwen slunk off into the crowd. They watched as she moved through, apparently lost in the music, and oblivious to anyone else on the floor. Eventually, she found herself in front of a man, maybe a few years older than herself. She stationed herself in front of him, back to him, and swayed her hips encouragingly, before tipping her head to one side so that her hair fell away from her neck. Jim watched tensely as man stepped forward, and took the blonde by the hips and swayed with her. After a few minutes, Gwen pulled away, and wandered off, eventually making her way back to the group.
“Okay, Faith. Your turn.”
Jim watched as Faith retraced Gwen's path onto the dance floor, and through the writing crowd. He watched as Faith sidled up to the man, and presented her well-formed rear for his inspection. And he watched as the man approached, and then jerked back from the dancing woman. Faith spun with impossible speed, and smiled up at the man she now held in a close embrace. Jim could see the sheer terror in the man's eyes, but didn't see Gwen melt into the crowd until she turned up at them man's side. The man glanced at her, but continued to focus, almost without exception, on the small brunette in front of him.
Faith continued to talk to the man, and seemed to refer to Gwen a couple of times, but, apart from a few disdainful glances, the man seemed to ignore the slender blonde. Finally, Faith slung an arm around the man's waist, and the two women escorted him from the dance floor, and back to the group.
“Hey guys,” Faith began, “this here's Walter. I was thinking that Wally here could come out and have a little chat with us for a while. What do you say to that, hey Wally?”
The man swallowed nervously. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, sure. Whatever you want, okay?”
With that, the group left the club and walked out into the carpark. Xander looked around and found a suitably secluded spot for them to 'chat'. Faith pushed the man up against a wall, while Gwen stationed herself off to one side, away from the others. Xander and Dawn positioned themselves either side of the locals, and waited for Faith.
“So here's the deal,” Faith began. “We're just showing some people how things work on the other side of the tracks, so to speak, and you're the object lesson. You don't mind, do you?”
“No. No, not at all,” the man panted.
“Okay. So first thing: what do you think when you see me?”
“Death,” he gasped.
“Good,” Faith nodded. “You should think that. Too many fledges have absolutely no idea what I am, and what I mean to them. It's damn disappointing,” she pouted.
“No, no,” the man shook his head desperately. “You're a Slayer. I get that,” he reassured.
“Oh, the hell I am,” Faith argued indignantly. Gwen rolled her eyes, but made no comment. “I'm the Dark Slayer. That's who I am.”
Walter gulped again. “I... I'll move on, I swear. I, um, I'll be good. I can do that. I can... I can eat bagged. Yeah, that's what I can do,” he offered.
“Oh, there's only one way this is ending, yo! And that's you fit for the dust-buster. Ain't no way you're getting out of that. 'Course, there's the easy way,” she offered, tapping a newly-retrieved stake in her free hand, “or there's the hard way. Boy-Toy over there,” she continued, tilting her head to Xander. “Any idea who he is?”
The man looked at Xander, puzzled. He thought for a long moment, before moaning softly. “Oh, shit.”
Faith grinned. “Yep, I think you got it. And he would be?”
“The White Knight. Shit, shit, shit!” He looked around desperately, trying to catalogue who the other people where. “No. I don't get it. Who are the others?”
“Well,” Faith pondered, looking at the main group, “we've got a couple of locals that we're educating here – that's the two in the middle – and you already picked Boy-Toy here. The girl on the end is my Watcher, the the Golden Slayer's little sis, so you know she's way off limits. What I want to know is what you think of blondie over here,” she finished, pointing her stake at Gwen.
“I don't know,” Walter whined, shaking his head. “I though she was your Watcher. She doesn't even feel like a witch. I don't know what she is.”
“What do you feel about here?” Faith prodded.
“Nothing. There is nothing to feel about her. She's a null.”
Faith smiled – an utterly unpleasant smile, from Walter's perspective – and stepped back, tossing her stake to Gwen. In one unbearably swift move, Gwen snatched the stake out of the air, and moved forward, pointed end flush with Walter's chest before he had a chance to react.
“She's a Slayer, too,” Faith explained, then Gwen thrust the stake in, and swiftly out again, before returning it, with small ceremony, to Faith. Then she turned and sauntered back to Xander's side.
Jim stared at the dust particles floating gently to the ground. “He was a vampire,” he noted absently. “I mean, I saw that thing the other night. I saw Gwen rip its head off, and I saw it dissolve into jelly. But I really didn't think there could be vampires. What am I supposed to do about that?”
“In all honesty?” Faith asked. “Nothing. You don't really have much of a vamp problem. Wally, here, was probably just passing through. They tend to prefer the really big cities: LA or New York. Or hellmouths. Cleveland is a place you really don't want to visit, trust me on that one. Your burg? Too small, too quiet. We can send a team through a couple times a year, if you want, and if you pick up something, call us. Don't you try getting into it. You have enough of a job to do as it is. Do your job, and let us do ours, okay?”
Jim rubbed his head. “This is your thing,” he clarified.
“So what about Gwen?” he tried as a way to distract himself.
“What we were talking about earlier,” Xander explained. “They really don't sense her, or the others like her. And we have no records of anyone like her becoming a Slayer, so it's possible that the same thing that makes her different also makes it impossible to become a Slayer the normal way.”
“So why now? What's the difference now?” Blair wanted to know.
“The spell our friend did. It blew the whole thing wide open.”
“So how about we say that storytime is over, and get back to the real reason for tonight,” Faith decided, rubbing her hands together.
“Do we have to go back there,” Jim whined. “It's too loud.”
“Yes, Jimbo, we do,” Faith decreed, putting her arm through his. “We are going back, and you are getting your groove on.”
Blair's eyes widened as he contemplated that thought.~~~~~
Simon watched as two of his best detectives dragged themselves into the office. Jim, especially, looked decidedly worse for wear. Smiling slightly, he wandered out of his office to greet his detectives. “Was it at least any fun?”
Jim glared at him. “It was loud, and smelly, and they had these strobe lights, and I think I'm getting a migraine just thinking about it,” he complained.
“What the hell where you doing?”
“Meeting some contacts. Actually, Sandburg here wanted to observe them in their natural environment, which meant we had to go to a goth club or something.”
“Blair?” Simon asked, puzzled.
“Oh, man! It's like we met these people a few days ago, and she's like, uh,” he had a quick look around, “well, you know, like Jim here, only not, because she's really, really strong, and, like, super fast, oh man, the way she moved, did you see that?” she asked Jim, rather rhetorically. “And another team were coming to town for r-and-r so they asked if we wanted to see them just being themselves, so of course I wanted to do that, and, let me just say, those girls are wild! I mean, Gwen, who was so laid back, and 'I don't talk to people I don't know' and she was really getting into it, and Faith, well, she had Jim out on the dance floor, and I'm telling you, you really missed something there! And even Dawn, who isn't anything like them, not really, but she was really moving it. And I danced with them, too, and Xander was dancing with us, and that, um, that guy said that he was the White Knight like he was someone really important, but Xander just wants to, like, shrug it off, but the girls really do agree with the, uh, the guy.”
Simon, having had enough, held up a hand to stem Blair's flow. “Jim?”
Jim shrugged. “They're contacts, they're probably going to be important, but only for really occasional cases. You probably won't even need to know about them at all. More my, uh, side of things.”
“Are they going to take you out clubbing often?”
“God! I hope not,” he groaned.
Simon smirked. “Well, okay then. How about you get yourself home, meditate, take something, whatever. I need you in good order, not looking like something the cat dragged in, and then threw up on.”
Jim made a face. “Fine, fine. I'm going. What about Blair?”
“I'm sure there's any amount of paperwork he could be doing.”
“Oh, man!” Blair complained.
“Hey, you were the one who dragged me there,” Jim gloated. “I'll be by later to pick you up. Don't go anywhere,” he warned. “I don't want to have to rescue you again. Order in, and have someone check your lunch,” he added as he headed back out to his truck.
“Oh, man!” he grumbled as he turned to his desk. “Just can't get away from it, can I? Oh, well,” he went on, “could be worse. I could be put with one of those Hunters. Man, those girls play hard!”
Simon frowned as he watched the young anthropologist wander off. He was sure there was much more of a story behind the previous night's outing, but he wasn't sure that he wanted to know it. He shrugged, and returned to his office. Work beckoned.