Faith walked into McRory’s and took a seat at a table. She had been told who to look for, well, more like who he looked like. No wonder Angel was all hot under the collar about this one. Lindsey MacDonald was about as far down Angel’s happy list as a guy could get and not be dead. Looking like him couldn’t be much higher on the list.
“So, any sign of him?” Xander asked as he came back over with a pitcher of beer and two glasses.
“No, not yet,” Faith said. She was glad that Xander had decided to come with her. She didn’t feel like taking on a vampire turf war with no one at her back but some guy who had the misfortune to look like everyone’s least favorite lawyer.
Yeah, Tara said he was good in a fight but good against humans and good against undead were entirely different things. After all she wouldn’t take Xander into a barroom brawl, but even with the eye patch, there were very few people she would rather have at her back when it came to demons. Most of them were dead.
She looked up as she saw someone coming down the stairs into the bar, and her eyebrows lifted. “Damn,” She said “They said he looked like Lindsey, but they didn’t say he was the improved model.” The scars were different. The clothes were different, hair was longer, and the look in the eyes was definitely different. They could still be twins.
Xander rolled his eye. “Go on, get it out of your system.” He said laughing a little “You know you want to.”
Faith grinned at him girlishly and got up from the table making her way across the room “You must be Eliot.” She said as she looked him over up close and personal. “I’m Faith. Tara and Angel sent me.”
“You’re a slayer.” He said doing a little studying of his own. His last encounter with a slayer hadn’t been a happy one, he had hopes this would turn out to be a more pleasant experience.
“I’m not the one and only, but definitely one of the originals.” She said, still looking him over. “You know, they said you looked like Lindsey but I didn’t think they meant that you really looked exactly like him. “
“Great.” He muttered wondering if it was too late to just send her home and take care of it himself. The last thing he wanted was to be compared to Lindsey effing MacDonald again.
“Don’t worry, I don’t hate the man. Not my favorite person, but it’s not gonna be a problem if that’s what you mean.”
“Exactly like him?” He asked. He didn’t think he looked exactly like him. Didn’t people actually look at them? They were each distinctive. They were Individuals. Idententical? Please.
Faith looked him up and down, walked around him, running her hand over his stomach, across his shoulder blades. “No, not exactly,” She purred as she came back around to stand in front of him.
“It’s a start.” He said and chuckled a little. He had been checked out before but never quite like that. “Okay, my team doesn’t know anything about the supernatural. Well, Parker sort of does but I don’t want her involved.”
“Fine by me. I’m all for keeping the straights out of the game.” Faith said. “Why don’t you come on over and meet Xander.”
Eliot followed her to the table. He had to admit she was easy on the eyes, even, perhaps especially, when walking away. He raised an eyebrow at the look he was getting from her friend. It wasn’t jealousy. It was protective. Message received loud and clear. Eliot approved.
“Hey.” Xander said as the other man pulled up a chair. He made his assessment of the man instinctively, much as Xander had always done. Taking his eye hadn’t changed anything more than his depth perception. The preacher had called him The One Who See’s. He’d just made the mistake of assuming he needed both eyes to do it.
Xander had never met Lindsey MacDonald so there were no preconceived prejudices based on his appearance. Well, at least not about that anyway. Eliot looked like the kind of guy that would have locked a guy like him in a locker back in high school. The sort that had been the popular guy, the jock that had the girls convinced he could walk on water.
The eyes were the most telling though. He’d seen that look before and he almost groaned. It was the look of a man looking for redemption. Well at least this one had a heart beat.
Eliot nodded to him.
“I’m Xander, and you’ve met my friend Faith. You’re in luck she grew up here in Boston.”
“Eliot,” He said extending a hand to the younger man, and then he looked to Faith for confirmation.
“Yep, born, raised and chosen right here in Boston.” Faith said. “I’ve dusted a few vamps here, but never got close to the local master vamp. My watcher, at the time, wouldn’t let me go near it… her.”
“Watcher?” he asked. The chosen part he had figured out before.
“Yeah, back before there were too many of us, and too few watchers, there was one slayer at a time, and a watcher assigned to train us. They trained us, we fought the
demons and they watched and wrote it all down in journals.
“Nice.” He thought it was a little convenient that they sat there and watched as a girl risked her hide for them. Yeah they were nice, cozy and safe. “You’re not her watcher are you?” Eliot said and Xander thought there might a little menace in the tone.
“Nope, I’m more the official side kick. I have trained slayers before but the whole watching thing, so not a voyeur.”
“Which is a crying shame,” Faith said and grinned when Xander blushed. “Anyway, the sooner we take care of your infestation problem, the sooner I get off duty.”
Eliot chuckled softly. She was definitely a handful, but in her way she was all business. He liked that. So he let them debrief him, and he gave them as many details as he had, including the incident with Nate.
“Is he acting strangely?” Xander asked.
“Not that I can tell. He can’t remember the night in question at all. The others assume he fell off the wagon and got so drunk he just can’t remember anything. I haven’t told them otherwise.” Eliot said “I don’t think he’s been fed on again but Sophie’s keeping an eye on him. He’s not getting out of her sight for a while.”
Faith nodded. “Sometimes demon’s can make humans their slaves without all the physical chains and stuff. Sometimes it’s reversible, sometimes it’s not. “
Eliot rubbed at his forearm, scratching at the scar under his shirt. “Yeah I know,” He said. “Is that a vampire thing?”
“Sometimes,” Xander said. “Vampires are just dead bodies reanimated and inhabited by demons. Each demon is different. Dracula could enslave people by his will alone. If he can do it, it’s possible another can.”
“You’re telling me Dracula is real?”
“And he doesn’t stay dead,” Xander said with a shrug. “We tried but no such luck.”
“Dracula,” Eliot repeated. “As in Bram Stoker. The Transylvanian prince turned undead.”
“Yeah, that would be the guy,” Xander said.
“You saw him with your own eyes?” Okay so he knew vampires were real. He knew that demons were real and that Lawyers were far worse than he had ever expected. But this? “Next thing you’re going to be telling me is that Frankenstein was real to.” It was like having a conversation with Hardison who was convinced that the patent office held a prototype for a time machine.
Xander and Faith looked at each other and decided to neither confirm nor deny that fact.
“Okay so yeah,“ Faith said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. “Young vampires tend to frequent trendy clubs. Easy food. Especially clubs that attract the younger crowd. Most towns they don’t do a lot of killing. It draws too much attention. It’s easier and safer to just take a little here and there and if there are a lot of fledglings it’s a sure sign that there is a war coming. “
“Creating foot soldiers they don’t care about.” Eliot said. He supposed from an undead stand point that would make good tactical sense. “when we first started working the job, Hardison dug up what information he could find on the people who died or disappeared. “ He took out his cell phone and pulled up the files. He was getting the hang of the thing. Finally it came in useful for him to have the information on him at all times. Thank god Hardison would never find out.
He handed the phone over to Faith.”Four people, over four days, then nothing for about a month then another four victims over another four days.”
Faith looked over the reports then handed the phone over to Xander.
“Do you mind if I make a copy of this?” Xander asked. He was no more computer literate than Eliot was but Willow had been teaching him to do important things like make copies of files.
“Go ahead.” Eliot said and turned his attention back to Faith.
“Well if they’re lucky they are still amongst the living and just being kept for some sort of ritual. If not then someone is putting together hell of a shopping list.”
“How do we go about finding them?” Eliot asked.
“We don’t, gorgeous. You leave the heavy lifting to me on this one. “Faith told him. He knew nothing about fighting vamps and there wouldn’t be time to train him.
“That’s not gonna work for me.” Eliot said firmly.
Xander had transferred the information to his notepad, and sent it to Willow along with information on the abduction dates. He asked in their IM chat if she had managed to get the information he had asked her for when he had found out where Faith was going.
He looked up as the debate grew quietly heated. “You two want to go get a room or something?” He knew Faith all too well and could tell by her tone that she was enjoying it far too much. He wasn’t sure Spencer was enjoying it much. He was definitely getting frustrated.
Eliot gave Xander his patented glare but the other man grinned back. Eliot just wasn’t that scary. Or at least he wasn’t until the back ground check that Willow had performed flitted across his screen. “Yeah… you should just let him come along.” Xander said just as Eliot’s phone rang.
Eliot snatched it up from the table. “What.” He barked.
“You’ve been hacked.” Hardison said. ”I don’t know who but someone just hacked into all of your records. And man, I can’t trace it back. They are damned good. “
“What?” He asked getting to his feet. Someone had hacked through Hardison’s protections?
“Someone accessed all of your records, from your high school transcripts to your Military record, arrest reports, all your dark and dirty has been pulled up too. Who did you piss off, man? “
That was just it, he hadn’t pissed anyone off lately and the number of people that could best Hardison were on a short list and most of them were either on the governments payroll or had no idea who the hell Eliot Spencer was.
He looked between the two at the table again and on a hunch Eliot reached over and took the notepad computer from Xander and looked at the screen, before tossing it back at him, hard.
“Let it go Hardison. I’ll deal with it.” Eliot said and ended the call. “You ran a back ground check on me. Why?” He asked. His tone made it plain that the answer had better be damned good.
Xander rose as well. He had stared down Angelus before he was even old enough to drive. The scarier the threat the more willingly Xander put himself between it and those he cared about. “Because your case came to us through Angel.” Xander said honestly, ignoring the glare from Faith. She had feelings for the blood sucker because he had pretty much saved her. She trusted him but Xander didn’t. He never had, and he never would. “He’s crossed the lines too often for me to trust him or anything associated with him.” You could never tell if he was Angel or Angelus and some days it didn’t matter. A vampire was a vampire. Well… except for Spike.
“Hey.” Faith said angrily. “I happen to be associated with him too you know.”
“Yeah, but I know I can trust you.” Xander countered.
Eliot stood glaring at Xander. Could he blame him? Would he have done anything less under the circumstances? Would he trust his team to someone who had come from a questionable source?
“No one’s perfect, Eliot.” Faith said as she picked up the computer and looked at the files. “I’m not lily white either. Not that I have anything as impressive as your record” She told him. “But it’s cool. “ she said and handed it to Eliot. “You can erase it. I’ll have Willow do the same. “
Eliot looked at the screen a moment then put it on the table doing nothing. It wouldn’t do any good to erase it. He knew that much from what Hardison had been teaching him. He stared at the thing as if it were a viper ready to bite him. His entire life boiled down to just so much digital noise.
Xander reached over and turned it off. “So, you uh, took home ec in High School. That takes balls.”
Eliot looked up at Xander a moment. The statement just seemed so surreal. Of all the things in his file to focus on he chose that? Yet because of that the mood had broken and he laughed as much at Xander as to let the tension escape him completely.
“Sir, Mr. Clayton is on line four.”
“Thank you.” Lindsey answered his secretary and pressed the button for line four. “Yes, Mr. Clayton. “
“You wanted to know if contact was made.” The voice stated over the line. “The slayer is with him now.”
“There are a great many slayers Mr. Clayton. You are going to have to be more specific.”
“The dark slayer.” He said.
Lindsey sighed “Yeah well she isn’t dark anymore, Mr. Clayton. Besides when they called every potential in existence they did away with the whole light vs. dark, blonde vs. brunette dichotomy. More than two out there and the prophesy is voided. “
“In most cases you are right. But this one mentions a doppelganger in specific. A doppelganger, a dark slayer and a souled vampire. The language is vague and twisted as usual but those three things are clear, and she was sent to him by Angel, sir.”
“Really,” He said leaning back in his chair. “Thank you, Mr. Clayton. Get that translated and on my desk by morning. I don’t care how vague and twisted the language is.“ He had better get it translated right. A dark slayer vs. THE dark slayer, well, such a little word mix up as that could change the meaning entirely. Dark haired, dark skinned, dark soul, stained, tainted hell it could mean her last name was Dark for all they knew. You couldn’t assume, yet, people dealing with prophesy did every day. Idiots. Lindsey ended the call and called his secretary. “Have a tactical ops team assembled and in my office in 15 minutes.”
“Yes sir.” She said.
Lindsey steepled his fingers in front of his face. Was this intentional? Did Angel already know about this prophesy?
“Miss O’Brien.” He said calling her again.
“Cancel my appointments for the day.” He said, a slow smile spreading across his face. It was mid afternoon. The vampire would still be asleep. It would give them the edge. Not that he needed it but it was always good to shake Angel’s confidence.
He looked up a few minutes later as the head of his tactical strike team entered the room. “We’re hitting the Hyperion.” He said, getting to his feet and pulling on his jacket.
“You’re coming, Sir?” Hardwick asked. “Are you sure that’s wise?”
“I wouldn’t miss it.” He said. “We’re not extracting him, or dusting him … yet.” He explained as he led the way out of his office. “We’re going to incapacitate him. Humiliation is
always an option. Then we are going to remove every piece of paper, every computer, and every book out of there and bring it back here.” He said.
“Any particular reason, Sir?” Hardwick asked. “Not that it matters, I’m just curious.”
“He’s part of another damned prophesy and I need to know if he knows about it. That and it just makes my day to mess with him.” He added the last with a chuckle.
“Can’t say I disagree with that last part, Sir. “ He had been humiliated by Angel’s schemes and his girlfriend the year previous. He was more than interested in a little payback. “However, if I may suggest?“ He paused, waiting for Lindsey to nod that he could. “If we only take the written material, he’s going to know what you are looking for if he as information on it, and if he doesn’t he’ll start trying to figure it out. Perhaps we should just clean him out entirely. Weapons, library, blood supply…”
“I knew there was a reason I promoted you.” Lindsey said with a slow snake like smile. “I just need to get something out of my truck and then we can go.”
Tara looked at her watch for the third time in the last hour. It wasn’t like Angel to be late. Not this late, and not without calling. She had tried calling him but the phone had either died or been turned off. No answer at the hotel either.
She was worried and doing a good job of masking with righteous indignation as she drove over to the Hyperion. She went over the fight she knew was going to happen in her head, preparing herself for it. She was certain that standing her up was just another attempt by Angel to push her away and maybe this time it might work. There really was such a thing as the final straw after all.
Her temper flared as she saw his car parked out front, but then as she parked behind it, she noticed that the tail lights were smashed, as was the back windshield, the tires were slashed too. She got out and walked around to the front to find that someone had taken a sledge hammer to the hood.
“Angel?” She yelled running into the hotel, pausing to look around at the devastation that littered the once elegant lobby. “Dear god.” She breathed running down the stairs to the basement taking the stairs two and three at a time.
She could smell the blood before she saw it, sickly sweet and metallic, making her gag. She surveyed the wreckage in horror, careful where she put her feet, as she moved, afraid that she would step in his remains and never know. Then she saw it, a broken hand protruding from under a pile of heavy bookcases.
“Angel,” She said and looked around her. She found a piece of broken pipe and used it to wedge under the bookcases to lift them off of him, pulling another piece of debris over to prop it in place as she pulled him from underneath.
She sank down beside him, and began to take in his injuries. “God, how are you still alive?” She asked. His features were swollen to the point that she wasn’t sure if he was using his ‘game face’ or not. His back was covered in burns from what she suspected was a Taser, his ribs were broken, probably by the same sledge hammer that had demolished his car, closer inspection showed where the blood was coming from and she brought a hand to her face, trying not to give in to the emotions or the tears that threatened to fall. There were pieces of wood driven into his chest at an angle that drove the point away from his heart but she could well imagine that they had been held there until the last second. He hadn’t just been beaten. He had been tortured.
She sat for several moments before going to get the tool box and first aid kit from her car. She knelt down once more, a pair of pliers in her hand. “I am so sorry, Baby. “ She said as she grasped the first bit of wood and began to pull. The strangled cry of pain from her lover brought the tears to the surface. If those healed inside him, one wrong blow in the future could turn him to nothing but so much dust. She couldn’t leave them there, no matter how much the process hurt him, or broke her heart.
With the last shard removed she bent over and rested her head gently against his, blonde hair spilling over onto his face and chest. “I’m sorry, Angel,” She whispered.
“Buffy,” He muttered raggedly.