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This story is No. 2 in the series "The Hard Man". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Follow up to "A Walk On the Hellmouth". Xander continues to try and make his way in the world. A simple missing persons case leads to more trouble than it's worth, however, and more dangers than anyone should face in one lifetime.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Fantasy > Author: Simon GreenthegoodfightFR18748,4657158,28316 Mar 1018 Mar 10No

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

After an hour or so of fitful sleep, getting something in his stomach that was more than just liquor, and a decent shower, Xander was almost feeling as if he was human. The sun had set a few minutes ago and he didn't want to waste any of the darkness if at all possible. With Angel coming along it was the safest way to move around unless they wanted to hit the sewers and even though almost everywhere in town was accessible by them, they still felt too limiting and he wanted to move about as freely as possible. Besides, waiting for sunset had given him time to get his head together and work up some kind of a game plan.

In fact, the time spent thinking and working out his next step was filling him with something he hadn't experienced in a while. He couldn't put a name to it, not really. It was a mixture of nervous and excited energy, adrenalin and fear. It was as if going out there tonight, knowing what he had to do, knowing what he was aiming for, had lifted him out of his funk. It may only be for a short time, but he'd take it.

True, it could also be that the events earlier in the day with Buffy and Willow had also freed him in a way. A secret corner of his mind had hoped that if he could somehow get them to see what had happened with him, to understand and be there for him, that he would be different, better. But now he knew. He couldn't go back there, not how he was. But more importantly, he didn't think he even wanted to anymore. He no longer fit in with them, in their world, and the slap from Willow only served to accent that feeling. It made him give up that false hope of returning to the fold and instead was allowing him to let free the darker and more frightening parts of his personality.

It wasn't as if he was going to suddenly start walking around and beating on people for no good reason, he wasn't an idiot or a sociopath. But the parts of him that had been changed by his time in the Nightside, those aspects of his personality that he had suppressed back before Halloween even, he could finally stop hiding them. He was changed but now he was going to stop pretending that he could change back. It was this attitude that probably showed through when he left the back room to get Angel that caused the vampire to study him for a moment.

Xander didn't say anything as Angel took in his attire. Black slacks and the dark grey button down shirt made him feel a bit more authentic in his role, but it was more than just the clothes. He normally wore these when out on a case or something similar but this time as he was getting dressed, each movement seemed to be done with a reason, with determination. Whatever the change was in him, Angel could tell. He gave him a critical eye before nodding.

"I'm ready whenever you are," Angel told him.

"Good, but a few ground rules before we go out," Xander said. "First, this is my case and I run it my way. I don't mind the back-up but I call the shots, got it?"

Raising an eyebrow, Angel replied, "I'm coming along to make sure you have someone watching your back, I'm not going to be your sidekick."

"And I'm not asking you to be. All I'm saying that is if something's happening that you don't like and I'm ignoring it, there's a reason. Unless it's something that's going to harm us I don't care. I'm not going out there tonight to save the world, Angel. I'm just trying to see about one lost girl who probable's long dead."

Angel looked at Xander, hard. He wasn't trying to stare him down, but there was a battle of wills in it. Angel understood what Xander was telling him, but he didn't like it. After a beat, he relented. "Fine, but if something's off, really off about what's going on, I can't look the other way."

"You'd be amazed at what you can ignore when you put your mind to it."

Grabbing his white trench coat off the couch, Xander slipped it on and checked the pockets to make sure everything was where it should be. A few of the more unique items had run out long ago and he was wondering about getting new ones, but the few things that he normally used if it came down to a fight were there and he had his wits about him, which was all he really needed, though sometimes those wits got him into more trouble then out of it.

"If everything goes right, than the furthest we should have to travel is L.A., maybe Vegas if things get desperate enough," Xander said heading for the door. "But I'm hoping we can just stay local."

"I thought you said no one you knew here had any contact with the Nightside? How can they help track down Abigail?" Angel asked following him out into the basement hallway, locking the door on the way.

"They don't and they can't which is why we aren't going to anyone that I know. You said you knew a guy that had information on the Watcher's Council, someone who could get us their records."

"Yeah, but he's working on it. It takes time to get that kind of stuff."

Snorting, Xander said, "Between fax machines, emails and psychic telegraphers, it shouldn't have taken him more than a few hours to get what he told you. I wasn't pushing it before because I wanted to see how it played out, but I'm tired of waiting. This guy of yours is stalling. Either that or someone is stalling on him. Honestly, I don't care which but I plan on getting what I need from him."

"How do you plan on doing that?" Angel asked though from the tone of voice, it was safe to assume that he had some idea.

Smiling darkly, Xander replied, "Oh, you know, the usual. Ask politely, play nice."

The two stopped at Angel's car and got in, Angel taking the wheel. As he started it up, Xander turned to him, asking, "You still have the tire iron in the trunk, right?"


The ride wasn't that long, not that driving anywhere in Sunnydale took that much time, but it would have been easy to walk it if need be. He was used to walking and found no problem with it but Xander wanted the car around in case they needed to make a quick getaway. Not to mention that a car also made things a lot easier if they needed to go further than just inside of the town, which while he didn't think would be necessary just yet, he was unsure enough to want it there if needed. Also, there's something slightly fitting about riding down a deserted street by the docks in a muscle car, something that set the mood.

Angel pulled up to one of the piers and killed the engine. There was a single boat tied to the long pier. It was larger than a speed boat but beyond that, Xander had no idea what kind of boat it was. He couldn't tell from this far away but it looked like it was closed off from the environment so there was a cabin onboard. The lights on probably meant that someone was home, though how they stayed safe with the night life around here, he had no idea.

"Who is this guy again?" Xander asked getting out of the car. He waited for Angel to do the same before starting down the pier.

"He's a Genera demon, been in Sunnydale almost as long as anyone can remember. Has a knack for getting things for people, information mostly. Kind of like you," Angel told him giving him a significant look.

Snorting, Xander said, "I would certainly say he would. Genera demons have an ability to see connections. They can tell what links one thing to another. It's what makes them so good at getting information and other things. If they apply themselves they could figure out who to contact to get exactly what they need, though it's not something they do that often. It's kind of neat, actually. So, what's this Genera's name?"

"Steve," Angel replied deadpan.

Looking at Angel sideways, Xander shook his head. Who was he to comment on a name like Steve? After all, John hung out with people named Razor Eddie, Shotgun Suzie, and Dead Boy. Still, it was hard not to comment on the severe lack of self respect that demons in Sunnydale had and the name Steve was just another example of it.

"Anything else I should be aware of with Steve?" Xander asked slightly amused.

"Don't let the name fool you," Angel told him. "Steve remains pretty much neutral when it comes to anything that goes on in town, that's why he lives out here on the outskirts. Besides, if he was weak and powerless, do you really think he'd be this exposed?"

"Good point," Xander mused. He knew a lot of things that seemed harmless in the Nightside usually ended up being more than capable of destroying anything that came after them in painful and interesting ways. Nothing survived for long in a hostile environment without a damn good reason or serious protection and Sunnydale was no different. "So, Steve's got some power behind him, got it."

"Not just power, he has respect. He's one of the better kept secrets in this town, only a few people know that he's here and those that do don't want to make an enemy of him if only because they might need his services one day."

Nodding in understanding, Xander said, "I can respect that. Now, let's see what's been keeping Steve, shall we?"

There was no one on the deck of the boat but the sound of a radio could be heard in the background, the heavy bass of a jazz band playing could just be made out over the noise of the waves lapping against the side of the boat. No one tried to stop the two of them as they climbed aboard. There was a small window on the door leading to the cabin but it only reflected their image or Xander's at least. A two way mirror no doubt had been set into the frame allowing whoever was on the other side to watch them without being seen. Xander gave the window a small wave and a smirk.

A few seconds later, the door opened several inches. Taking it as an invitation, Xander and Angel stepped forward, opening the door all the way and going inside. It was hard to miss the demon sitting at the tiny desk in the back of the small, cramped room. He was tall, taller than either Angel or Xander even while sitting which made the brown suit he wore look cheaper than it normally would since it didn't completely fit. With the suspenders, rimless glasses and cigarette dangling out of his mouth, Steve looked less like a demon and more like an underpaid accountant. Provided you ignored the red scales and ram horns that curled down the side of his face of course.

When Steve spoke his voice had a distinct Oxford accent that was easily distinguished through his gravelly speech. "Angel, I'm surprised to see you here. I thought I said that I would contact you when I had the information you were looking for, hm?" Glancing over at Xander, he raised an eyebrow, leaning back in his chair. "Then again, I suppose this isn't about that, is it?"

"Oh, I wouldn't say that, Steve," Xander told him taking a step forward. "Word is that you're a man who knows how to get information."

Chuckling, Steve replied, "There is, or should I say there was a small market for my services that I filled. From one professional to another, I must say that you have made quite the name for yourself in a short amount of time."

Smiling, Xander stuffed his hands into his pockets. "Well, from one professional to another, you'll understand why I'm getting straight to the point. You've been holding out on Angel, I want to know why."

"Holding out on him?" Steve asked with a raised eyebrow. "The information he's asked for is extremely delicate. It takes time to go through the right channels, to work through any difficulties. Surely you can understand that."

"Bullshit," Xander snapped. "Let's say for a moment that you aren't a Genera demon, you're known for getting things in a timely fashion from organizations and things that are more hardcore than the Watchers Council yet for some reason you're taking your sweet ass time on this."

Growing annoyed, Steve growled. "You're insulting my work? I can tell you that I have always done my very best for those who have used my services." Turning to Angel, he said, "You bring this man here, after we've already made a deal? If I had known you were going to insult me like this I would have charged you extra."

"Hey, big guy, we're talking," Xander told him before Angel could respond. "You're a Genera demon. You don't need to work through channels. You know exactly who you have to talk to and exactly what to do to get what you want. So, do yourself a favor and tell me what I want to know before I find new and distressing ways to ask the same question."

Standing up and stepping around the desk, Steve stood in front of Xander though he had to hunch over to not go crashing through the cabins roof. "Now you listen here. I want you off my boat this instant! I don't care what they say about you, either one of you! I will not be bullied just because you can't wait for the information. You can forget it now!"

Glancing over to Angel, Xander raised an eyebrow as if to say 'I tried it the easy way'. It was a lie of course, he could have done this a lot smoother but screw it. He was tired of playing things soft. Two small steps bridged the distance between Xander and Steve. Before the demon could react, Xander delivered a swift, hard kick right between his legs. Steve's knees instantly buckled, his eyes watering from the pain. Xander didn't give him a moment to recover. Grabbing the tie, he pulled it down hard and to the side slamming Steve's face painfully into the desk. When Xander let go of him, Steve slumped to the floor.

With Steve lying on the floor in pain, Xander kicked him hard in the ribs, twice, before rolling him onto his back with a nudge of his foot. "Who told you to back off, Steve? Trust me, whoever it was isn't nearly as scary as I am."

"Why do you think I would tell you?" Steve coughed. Green blood started to stain his lips and sharp teeth. His glasses lay broken on the floor off to the side making his eyes glow brighter with that unnatural yellow most Genera demons had. "You think they won't kill me?"

"Steve, Steve, Steve," Xander said in a disappointed voice. "Who said anything about killing you?"

"Xander," Angel said trying to get his attention.

Ignoring him, Xander continued. "If I kill you than how do I get my answers? Do you know who I am, Steve? What I can do?"

"Xander," Angel said his voice much more urgent.

"I'm Xander fucking Harris, Steve. I've seen things that you couldn't even begin to understand, done things that would have you hiding in a cave till the end of time praying that I don't come looking for you. Unfortunately for you, I'm not in the mood to negotiate. So tell me, who was it?"


"What?" he snapped turning to Angel.

"Company. Thought you might like to know," Angel said sarcastically.

True enough, three vampires stood just outside the doorway all growling menacingly. They glared at Angel waiting for him to make a move so they could rush him. It was like watching pack animals circle a lone prey. No one wanted to make the first move and with vampires, standing still was an art form. He was pretty sure that aside from calling out to him, Angel hadn't moved a muscle.

"When I get back, I expect an answer, got it?" Xander told Steve before turning fully to face the vampires blocking the way out.

Grinning nastily at them, Xander stood next to Angel. "Evening, boy's. Shop's closed for the moment."

"Funny, that's why we came," the leader of the group said. It was hard to tell since all three of them were dressed up in the same cheap brown suites as Steve the Genera demon, but this one seemed to have the fanciest tie and stood in front of the other two. "You don't touch Mr. Steve."

Still grinning, Xander said, "You work for Stevie over there, huh? A little bit of muscle, is that it?"

"Something like that." The lead vampire tried to match Xander's grin but dropped it when he found that it wasn't working, switching to a glare. "You've been manhandling the boss. That's a big problem."

"Hear that, Angel? It's a problem to beat up on the boss back there," Xander said playfully.

"Yeah, I heard," Angel replied though much less sure. "Anything in the way of a plan?"

Thinking for a moment, Xander shoved his hands into his coat pockets, gripping a stake in one of them. "We could always ask them to leave, see if they have any sense between the three of them."

"I don't think they look too big on the idea of just walking away to leave their boss with us," Angel said moving as the two follower vamps shifted. It was hard to know if they were trying to figure out a way for all three of them to rush the door at once and somehow get inside together or what, but it was best not to be caught wondering.

Xander held firmly onto the small piece of sharpened wood, readying to make his move. "Oh, I don't know, they might have some smarts. After all, they did manage to get work guarding this sorry excuse for a demon, right?" Fixing the vampires with a stare, Xander smile grew colder. "What do you guys say? I don't mind letting you three walk away from here, tail between your legs."

The vampires growled in response while Angel tensed and glared at Xander. He knew that he was antagonizing them calling them cowards, idiotic ones at that. They wouldn't back down, not now anyway. They might have known who Angel was but none of the three knew who Xander was so they had no reason to be wary when it came to him. It was fine, he kind of expected it. Sunnydale may not have been big but he hadn't been operating very long so it was easy to understand that not everyone would know him. Besides, he liked this. He wanted to fight or at the very least frighten them. They may not know his name but by the time he was done they would.

As one, the three started to walk inside but stopped when Xander took both hands out of his coat, leaving the stake in his pocket. "Last chance, boys. No one here will blame you. But you take one step through that door and you'll be dust."

Something in his voice gave them pause. They may not have known who he was, but everything in his stance told them that he wasn't prey. He wasn't some cowering little blood bag that was going to go down easy. The stare Xander was sending them might have also had something to do with it. The devil may care look he had with the cold, almost manic, smile. But, in the end they were vampires and, by all accounts, he was human. Maybe a slightly psychotic looking human but clearly not anyone to be concerned about. The leader shook off his second thoughts and bared his fangs heading right inside and straight for Xander.

At least, that's what he tried to do anyway. True to his word, the moment the brown suit vampire number one took a step inside the boats cabin, Xander snapped his fingers and the vamp exploded into dust making the remaining vampires, including Angel, to jump back in surprise. It had been simple, really. A slight variation on the trick that John and he used to take the bullets out of guns. All he had to do was move the stake that had been in his pocket that he had handled to get a feel for it in his mind, to the center of the vampires heart. It was a bit harder to do since the guy was moving and he never would have attempted it if he wasn't so angry, but he could do it. Plus, the effect was perfect, even if the snapping fingers were more for show than anything else.

As the dust settled, brown suit vamp two and three stared wide eyed between were there leader had been and Xander. Fixing them with another cold smile, he said, "Any other takers?"

As predicted, the two ran from the boat without a second glance. No doubt to tell the tale about the kid who could dust vampires just by thinking about it. They didn't know about the stake, of course but Xander wasn't about to let them know.

After watching them run off into the night, Xander nodded to Angel, who kept his face neutral thankfully, and the two turned back to Steve who was looking at Xander curiously. "Now, I'm going to ask one more time, nicely, before I do something similar to you. Only this time, I might start with your feet and work my way up," Xander threatened.

"I'd listen if I were you, Steve," Angel told him sounding almost sympathetic. "Once he gets started, it's hard to get him to stop."

For a moment, Steve looked as if he was going to argue again. Then he looked between Angel and Xander, saw their eyes, and sagged a bit while still lying on the floor. "Things used to be so much simpler back in the old days," he said wistfully. "Now, there's too much politics with secret dealing and black market trading."

Reaching around on the desk for a moment which he could still see the top of while on the floor, Steve took a folder off of it and handed it to Angel who immediately looked through it, folded it, and put it in his inside coat pocket. "He was, after all, my client, Mr. Harris," he said by way of explanation. "You'll find what you were looking for in there. It isn't much, but it was all I could get. There are, after all, limits to even my power.

"As for who stopped me from contacting you right away with it, well, lest just say that there are more than just a few beings out there that aren't too pleased with what you're looking into."

"Give me a name," Xander demanded.

"Thana," Steve breathed heavily. "Her name was Thana."

Angel gave Xander a look but decided against saying anything when Xander shook his head lightly. Turning instead to Steve, Angel asked, "How did Thana get in touch with you? Why doesn't she want us looking into Abigail?" When he didn't answer, Angel lifted him off the floor, slamming him into the wall.

Moaning in pain, the demon gasped out, "She didn't tell me! She just said...she said that I had to keep you from her, that you mustn't be allowed to find her, not yet!"

A swift punch to the demon's stomach elicited another groan as well as a hacking cough. "Why?"

"I don't know!" the demon cried out. "I don't know!"

Xander stepped next to Angel, leaning into Steve's face. "Thana. Who is she? Demon, mystic, some kind of dark goddess or something like that?"

"I don't know! She never said, she showed right after you left with a few minions, paid me and threatened me not to say anything. She wasn't human, that much I know."

With a silent agreement between the two, Angel let go of Steve with one final shove and the two walked out of the cabin. Neither said a word till they were back by Angel's car, well away from the boat.

Leaning against the trunk, Xander frowned slightly. Things weren't adding up. He had assumed that Abigail was dead, after all, how in the hell could she still be alive if she had made it all the way to the Nightside. It happened, but the chances of her making it and John not knowing even the tiniest bit about her seemed strange. Now, not only did it seem like she was alive but people were actively trying to keep her hidden. If it was from him, Angel or just anybody, he didn't know and that made it all the fishier. At the top of the 'What the Hell?' list was this Thana woman. Who the hell was she and what was her involvement with Abigail?

He made all of these thoughts known to Angel who was oddly quiet on the subject. Not that Angel was much of chatter box, though he spoke more than some people realized when he was relaxed enough. Now, though, the ensouled vampire was silent, lost in his own thoughts. Xander knew that Angel had no problem getting rough when the situation called for it, the guy could crack skulls and bust ribs with the best of them in fact. But there was a part of him that hated it. Well, more like he hated that he enjoyed it so much. The demon inside Angel loved the fight, the kill, and urged him on every time he fought. Angel had decades of handling it, of keeping the demon at bay, but it still took him a few moments to collect himself.

"Anything about that strike you as odd?" Angel asked him still not taking his eyes off the boat.

Frowning, Xander replied, "Seemed almost a bit too easy."

"Steve wasn't the type to dirty his own hands but everyone knew that he had protection. The way I heard it, he had a lot of people willing to watch over him as part of their payment. Not only that but he had someone with a lot of power backing. But when we show up he has three vampires guarding him?"

"Two of whom seemed all the more happy to turn tail and run when things started getting nasty," Xander added.

Pausing for a moment, Angel looked over at Xander, curiously. "Did you really turn him into dust just by snapping your fingers?"

Grinning, Xander held out his hand, saying nothing. Once Angel was sure that he wasn't going to budge, he rolled his eyes and handed over the folder, mumbling something under his breath the whole time. Trying not to snicker, since doing so was completely unprofessional, Xander started leafing through the papers.

There wasn't much there to begin with and what was there didn't make a whole lot of sense. One page was line after line of addresses, which could be anything from past locations to an address book of contacts. Since there were no titles on any of the pages, it was impossible to tell. The next few pages had a bit more information. They detailed the same story that Giles had told him about his sister's disappearance, though this time it was from an outsider's perspective, probably written by another Watcher judging by the tone. He skimmed the pages, noting a few more bits here and there that Giles had either left out or didn't know himself. All in all, there was nothing new. When he got to the end, however, there was a note written in large cursive letters. 'NIGHTSIDE. LOST CAUSE.'

"Well, that's kind of hitting the nail on the head," Xander muttered.

When he was done with each page, Xander passed them along to Angel. A fresh set of eyes never hurt. Plus it beat trying to explain it all when he was done. Most of the other papers were of random bits of information that meant nothing at the moments. Names and dates with notes next to them. All of it was worthless without knowing what they were referring to. Like the addresses, there was no point of reference to work off of. Getting rather frustrated, Xander realized he had reached the last type written page and resisted the urge to throw the file away. There was nothing in there that was useful, nothing that they could use.

"This is useless," Xander growled. "Nothing in this is worth anything. It's all gibberish, nonsense."

"I wouldn't call it that," Angel said holding up one of the sheets with address on it. "The last address on here is for a place right here in town."

"How'd you find that so fast?"

"Because I read," Angel replied annoyed.

Chuckling despite himself, Xander looked back at the boat. "Too many coincidences with all this, don't you think?"

Angel doesn't say anything but nodded his head in agreement. Without any more words the two get into the car and drive away from the docks. The address Angel found would take a little over ten minutes to get to giving them some time to try to think things through, not that there was much more to go on than before.

Resisting the urge to slam his head against the dashboard, Xander sighed in frustration. The night had only just begun and his head was already beginning to hurt. Hopefully by the end of tonight, he'd be able to share that feeling with someone else.


Walking down the pier, Buffy made sure to constantly keep an eye out for anything that might be lurking. Willow and Oz were behind her keeping watch in case anything came at them, but they weren't much in the way of back-up. They could take on the lone vampire, maybe even stake it, but mostly they helped distract whatever they were fighting till Buffy could get to it. They worked well together, better than most regular people would against demons and she did like that they were with her but she really wish she could have gotten Angel to come along with them. When they had stopped by his apartment earlier he was already gone, something that struck Buffy as odd but not completely abnormal.

The three of them had tried Willie's place but they didn't get any information. It had been happening more and more since Halloween. Willie would still offer the occasional tip on pretty much anything, but when it came to Xander the guy would clam up. Even the demons that frequented the place now in days would stay silent on anything Xander related except to say that, she could do whatever they wanted to them but they still would talk. Whatever Xander would do, would be worse. It seemed as if Xander didn't inspire respect among the demons, which would be bad, but it was fear, which seemed worse in a way.

It had taken visiting one of more unsavory places in town before they got anything useful. The Fish Tank, while dangerous, was only visited by a few demons who could take human form. They got more than a few looks when they had walked in, especially Willow with her nervous body language, but after a few well placed glares and being waved down by one of the demons, they were left alone. The thing, whatever it was, was so nervous about Buffy being there that he offered up whatever he knew, which wasn't much. Some other kind of demon had put the word out that he wanted to know if Xander started asking about him. The demon in the Fish Tank even gave her the location without ever needing to be threatened. Maybe the thing just wanted her out of there before she got violent and either slayed it or outed it for what it truly was. Either way, it was putting her on edge.

The boat at the end of the pier didn't look dangerous and all of her Slayer senses were telling her that no one was waiting for them but she had been wrong before. Creeping along side of the boat, she strained her ears but the only thing she could hear were the sounds of the waves and her companions breathing behind her. Figuring it was about as safe as she was going to find it, Buffy turned to Willow and Oz. "Alright, give me two minutes while I check out the boat. If you see or hear anything out of the ordinary, get back to the van and let Giles know," Buffy told them.

"We're not leaving you," Willow said slightly shocked that she would even suggest it.

"We don't know what to expect here. If it's something that I can't handle, I don't want you guys getting hurt. I'll need as much help as I can get at that point and as helpfully as you and Oz are, we'd need more than just you two," Buffy whispered quickly. "If things go bad, I'd need you guys to go grab Giles or someone, got it?"

Willow looked as if she was going to argue some more but Oz put a hand on her shoulder, instantly quieting her fears, at least verbally. She was still concerned but knowing that Oz was there with her helped calm some of those fears.

Smiling gratefully to both of them, Buffy hopped over the side of the boat and onto the deck, landing as quietly as she could. She almost went back though when she heard Willow tell Oz that they were giving her two minutes before going after her. It was good to know that her friends had her back but it was going to get them killed one day.

No one was in sight as Buffy made her way to the cabin on the boat. She couldn't see inside the cabin, someone had put a mirror or something like that in the small round window. As quickly and silently as she could, Buffy creeped up to the door, pressed her ear to the wood and listened as hard as she could. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no sound coming from inside. No breathing, no creak of wood, nothing.

Standing, Buffy took the stake out of her coat pocket, readying herself. Stepping off to the side, she shoved the door open, hard. She had used some extra strength in case there was a lock on the door but even with some Slayer strength the door shouldn't have came completely out of the frame. Blinking in surprise, Buffy noticed the complete lack of movement inside. Something was definitely wrong.

Carefully, Buffy peeked in through the doorway and nearly fled the boat altogether. She had seen a lot of horrible, bloody, messy things in her few years as the Slayer. She had done a few of them herself to a couple of demons when a fight had gotten pretty bad. But this…this wasn't a fight. This was the work of someone who had enjoyed themselves, someone who had known what they were doing. As she looked around the room, Buffy realized that what she had initially thought was paint was actually green blood. The thick, somewhat stringy liquid was all over the place. The floor was covered in it, the walls and even the ceiling had blood on it as well as a few things that she could only guess used to be vital organs. There was a chair in the cabin, the only piece of furniture that wasn't destroyed, that had something in it. She could only guess at what it had been originally. Whatever had done this had made it impossible to identify what kind of demon it had been. She assumed that this was what was left of the demon they had been sent to see or maybe this was that creatures work. Either way, there wasn't anything for her here.

There wasn't anything she was going to find here. Everything was covered in blood and the room was a mess. It would take hours to search through everything and they didn't even know what they were looking for. Besides, she didn't think she could stomach doing that. She had never been sick over the things she had seen, but if she stayed here much longer that would change. Refusing to breath till she got away from the scene in front of her, she turned around and walked quickly back towards Willow and Oz who had just started climbing onto the boat.

"What happened? Is the demon gone?" Willow asked as Oz helped her over the edge.

"Could say that," Buffy replied trying to calm her stomach. "Someone or something got here before us. Trust me, we aren't finding anything useful here."

Oz nodded his head in understanding, taking a look past Buffy into the cabin. Moving between Willow and the open doorway, he held out his hand. "Here, let me help you down."

Smiling, Willow took the offered hand and got back onto the pier. Once she was off the boat, Oz whispered to Buffy, "Bad?"

"Yeah," she replied grimily.

Taking his time getting off the boat, he added, "Worried?"

Swallowing hard, pushing the image of the body inside the cabin out of her mind, Buffy shook her head. "We keep going. Just…be careful."

Nodding, Oz caught up with Willow and went with her back to the van. Checking behind her before she got off the boat, Buffy couldn't shake the feeling that they were being watched. Nothing was there, of course, and it could just be her nerves. Frowning, she hopped down and followed after her friends. 'Yeah, right,' she thought. 'It's just my nerves.'
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