It had been fairly quiet for the last couple of months in Cleveland. Oh sure, there had been two attempts to open the Hellmouth, a giant troll had appeared and smashed up a few places and there had been that whole incident with that frog-thing that had seriously spooked Willow, but it had been fairly quiet, Xander thought with contentment. Perhaps they had the badness under some sort of control. Or, his cynical, practical side suggested, perhaps the bad guys were just saving up for some seriously bad mojo.
Nothing they could do about it for now, though, so he concentrated on what he could do. He had young Slayers to watch over and train, another young Watcher who needed some seasoning on a Hellmouth before being given her own Slayers to watch over, and a friend so close that she was family to entertain.
He smiled over at Buffy. “So, what does our gallant leader feel like doing while she’s in Cleveland?”
“Are there many options?”
“Not so much,” he admitted with a shrug.
“Then I’ll stick with our usual. Let’s find a decent club, get down to some serious dancing, then come back here and have a marathon DVD session, with popcorn, pizza and ice cream!” Buffy leapt up and started to plan her outfit for the night’s partying and Xander found himself smiling. Buffy might be a hero to all the baby Slayers, she might be a near-mythical nightmare to the bad guys out there, but to Xander, he would always see that brilliant, beautiful, funny teenager he had met all those years ago. Sometimes, he still couldn’t believe she was friends with him.
“Hey, earth to Xander! Where’d you go then?”
“High School.” At her questioning frown, he laughed. “Nothing to worry about. So how’s Dawn?”
“Loving her post-grad course at Oxford. It’s pretty much all she talks about.” Buffy smiled proudly. “And how’s Faith? I can’t believe she stayed here as long as she did.”
“I think she needed a home,” Xander admitted. “She’s gone for what she calls her annual walkabout, but she should be back in a couple of weeks. Amazingly, she’s really good with the baby Slayers.”
“Amazing.” They grinned at each other with the ease of old friends. “So it’s just us, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, Wills was meant to drop in, but apparently she and Kennedy are giving it another go, so she’s all loved up and travelling around Europe at the moment.” Xander shook his head. “How many times have those two broken up and got back together now?”
“I think this makes the fifteenth. This year.” She giggled. “Andrew’s still in Rome, keeping an eye on everything there, Vi and Caridad have gone over to Hong Kong to look at how that School’s working and Giles is apparently buried neck deep in paperwork. So, yep, just you and me.”
“All to myself, I can’t believe my luck.” As they were about to leave, Ayako appeared from Xander’s office. The Japanese Slayer smiled apologetically and both Buffy and Xander groaned. Their night out looked like being over before it had begun. “OK, Ayako, hit me with the bad news. C’mon, I can see you’ve got some.”
“It might be nothing, Xander, but Agent Lisbon from the CBI is on the phone and wanted to talk to you.” Xander frowned, but went to take the call. “Did Xander tell you about when they came to visit a couple of months ago?” Ayako asked.
“Yeah, I heard about the Holy Water Pistols too,” Buffy smiled. “Did she say what she wanted?”
“Oh well. Let’s hope it’s not an Apolocalypse.” Xander reappeared and Buffy linked arms with him as they left the house. “What did she want?”
“Apparently Patrick Jane has gone missing, kidnapped, and Lisbon wanted to know if there was any way we could find out if magic had been involved.” When Buffy laughed incredulously, he shrugged. “She said there hasn’t been much forensics to go on, and when someone said he’d disappeared as if by magic, she thought of us.”
“It would be nice if people thought of us without connecting us to murder, demons and mayhem, but that’s life, I suppose.” Buffy shook her head. “She didn’t seem like the type to leap to conclusions though. I’m guessing we’re her last hope.”
“Yeah. I said I’d check with Giles and Willow, see if there was anything we can do. And I asked for volunteers to check through what we’ve got on prophecy, see if anything mentions something that could be connected.”
“It’s Friday night, Xander! Did anyone volunteer?”
“You missed the way Patrick Jane charmed the girls last year. Marissa, Rachel and Jess all stepped up and I left them in the library.”
“Wow.” Buffy whistled. “I mean, he was cute and all, but I’m not sure I’d give up my Friday night to wade through prophecy on a wild goose chase.”
“Let me have my street cred.”
“Yeah, but we’re on our way to the demon bars to see if anyone has heard anything, aren’t we?”
“Not the point.” But she smiled at him wickedly and Xander had to laugh.
Chloroform left a nasty headache, Patrick had discovered. Add that to the bump on one temple, where one of the goons had smacked him, and his head throbbed unmercifully. He didn’t remember much about the actual kidnapping, but there had been three men involved. That much he knew. After that, everything went blurry. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been locked up, but it had to be a couple of days by now. When he had woken up, he was handcuffed and tied to a chair in what appeared to be a basement. Wherever he was, it was almost totally pitch black, the only light appearing around the edges of the door, at the top of a long flight of stairs that presumably led to the rest of the building.
It was quiet too, and he strained to hear anything. Not having seen anyone for what felt like a very long time, at least ten hours he estimated, it was as though he’d been abandoned, left there to die of starvation. He shuddered and tried to think more positively. They wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of chloroforming him if he was just going to be left to die. Whoever was behind this, wanted something from him, which meant that someone had to come and talk to him. Eventually.
A couple more hours passed, and his throat began to burn with thirst, before he saw anyone. The door to the basement was opened and someone came down, but didn’t switch on the lights, walking confidently despite the darkness. Patrick squinted, trying to make out every little detail, but beyond the fact that the person was tall, broad-shouldered and definitely male, he couldn’t tell anything.
“Water. Here, drink.” A bottle was held to his lips and, despite his worries that it might be drugged, Patrick was too thirsty to argue. He sucked in as much as he could before it was snatched away. It was only then that Patrick noticed the slight tang to the water. Drugged after all, then. The man watched him in silence for a few minutes, not responding to any of Patrick’s questions or comments, completely impervious, before Patrick’s head started to droop forward as the sedatives took effect.
The last thing he remembered hearing before the blackness took hold again was his captor say, “They’ll be here by the next time you wake up. Then you’ll wish you’d never been born.”