Disclaimer: These arent my toys. They belong to Joss Whedon and John Rogers. I just borrow them from time to time. No profit is made and no disrespect is intended.
She loved the sounds of the city. The steady click of her heels on the pavement, cars passing her by raising up a mist of oil and rain from the black top, music streaming from their open windows, each beating out a different beat against the constant hum of electricity and florescent lights.
She didn’t waver from her path, people parted instinctively for her, cars slowed to a stop, drivers yelling age old profanities at her, even though they knew it fell on deaf ears, just as they had known she wouldn’t have paused to give them passage before her. She could feel the others fall into step behind her, still she didn’t slow, didn’t look behind her. There was no need.
The music assaulted her ears before she reached the door of the club. It was loud and even from outside she could feel the bass beat reverberating through her; surprisingly it wasn’t an unpleasant sensation.
She looked at the man standing at the door, blocking her entrance a moment, but she relented, smiling faintly as she showed him the ID card she carried and paying the required amount. Once inside she scanned the room and made her way to a likely table, not needing to do more than glance at the occupants for them to pick up their drinks and move to another location.
She took her preferred seat, Cassandra moved to stand behind her, leaving the rest of the table open as the others spread throughout the crowd, mingling amid the sheep, ever keeping their attention on her, even as they watched the performer on stage.
Cassandra lightly touched her shoulder, giving the impression of possessiveness, even though it was to let her know she had spotted the one they had come to meet. She wondered how many of his were scattered through the bar. Even the youngest amongst them were distrustful of anyone and anything they didn’t control. There would be others, and they were here first which meant they were sleeping nearby. The sun had barely set. Fools; they gave too much away in their quest to have the supposed upper hand.
She glanced to Alex, making her intent known with nothing more than a shift in her gaze to the door. The man gave an equally covert response and moved to lose himself in the crowd before slipping out the entrance.
The bartender looked on taking in everything but saying nothing. He merely watched as the second band of what he viewed as potential combatants entered the bar and settled into position. They didn’t look like your typical gangs but they made the hair on the back of his neck rise. Two men soon joined the women and it was obvious that they weren’t friends.
“Miranda,” the newcomer said as he pulled out a chair, his own lieutenant taking a seat after him. He offered an outstretched hand.
She sighed, “He’s good.” She inclined her head toward the stage. She did not take his hand and he lowered it.
“I suppose,” he said with a shrug. “It’s his club. “ To him that said the man couldn’t get gigs elsewhere never mind how good he was.
“Don’t make yourself too comfortable,” Miranda told him. “I don’t intend this to be a long meeting. I intend for you to get up, take your people out of this club and out of my city. No need for pleasantries, no need for debate. “
“Times are changing Miranda,” he said, obviously ignoring everything she had just said. He waved away the waitress who had come to take their orders, not catching the look that passed between her and the bartender.
Miranda sighed and waited until the woman’s footsteps could be heard walking away. “It’s a matter of science really,” she said, “of mathematics and physics.”
“No, it’s a matter of society, who controls it and who has the backing of the others.”
She didn’t sigh. She laughed. “You really are young, a child of democracy following your gods of popular opinion. Tell me are you the politically correct sort or are you the rebellious sort? Are you going to raise your voice and spout vulgarity hoping to intimidate me?” A smile spread across her face, “Or are you going to tell me that I’ve been too heavy handed for too long.” The smile turned predatory. “Now, as for myself, I’m a renaissance woman, born of science and religion. You see, mathematically this city isn’t big enough for both factions; not enough sheep to support the demands. As for physics, well, that’s the part where you realize that you have neither the leverage nor the strength to move me out of the way. “
“Then I guess you need to ask yourself if this city can support the war that you are bringing down on it. I’d hoped to avoid that but you are once again unreasonable.”
She raised an eyebrow. “You bring your threat of violence but couch it in words of blame. Are you trying to avoid the responsibility of your actions, Joseph? How disappointing,” she said and this time she sighed. “Never enter into a negotiation with hope, child. Hope and threats are what the weak hold to because they have nothing else “ Miranda rose to her feet, “Enjoy the music, “
She glanced around the room, finding and locking gazes with her people for a moment then walked through the crowd toward the door as the musician on stage flirted with the crowd. The one down side of the modern era was that such men were off limits. She had the feeling he would be a great deal of fun to break. However, the world was full of such men, without the camera and spot light shining upon them. She could forgo this one.
Eliot Spencer tensed behind the bar, preparing for what might be coming. How many were there? The woman had led in six. One had left before the meeting, one stood at her side; he could find the others in the room easily enough: one at the bar, one at the second bar, one by the door. Where was the other one? There she was heading for the back exit. Ambush; he wondered? Would it be going down inside the club? Another glance told him where the first faction was. They were outnumbered. If it was going down it wasn’t going to go in their favor. *we have trouble.* He said quietly into his ear bud.
*Ya think?* Came Sophie’s reply.
Miranda paused outside, and Cassandra stepped to her side. “End them,” she said simply as she stepped from the curb and got into the passenger’s side of the nearest car. She met the driver’s dark eyes and told him the address he simply drove, not objecting, not questioning, simply driving, and yielding to her will.
She frowned as the man drove away from the club. She could still hear the band playing faintly. Her head turned toward the driver realizing the sound was coming from him. Where was it coming from exactly?
*Nate* It was a man’s voice. *Who is that talking to you?*
Miranda reached over and removed the ear bud from Nate’s ear and he did nothing to stop her. She looked it over a moment as a woman’s voice spoke this time. She found the off switch and dropped it into the cup holder, not giving it a second thought.
*Hardison,* Eliot said as he stepped out from behind the bar, trading off with another bartender. *Where is he?*
*I don’t know man. He’s turned off his com-link and that shuts off GPS as well. *
*Already on it,* Hardison answered.
Eliot stepped outside onto the sidewalk, looking down the street for signs of Nate’s car. Instead, he saw Cassandra positioned strategically across the street. *We’re about to be caught in the middle of a turf war. * He went back inside and motioned to his friend that they needed to talk.
Jason ended the set and the pre-recorded music began to fill the bar instead. He walked back to his office followed by Eliot.
“We need to close up early. “ Eliot wasn’t asking and to Jason’s credit, he didn’t argue.
He nodded, “Alright, but what’s going down?”
“I don’t know exactly but there is an ambush being set up in here and we don’t want that many civilians still here when it happens. There is some sort of turf war going on. “
“Is that what’s been happening to people around here?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know. But right now we need to get people out of here and on their way home ASAP.”
Jason nodded and headed out of the office to do just that.
*You three go back to the office,* Eliot said. *I’ll catch up.*
*You’re not thinking of staying here and getting involved are you?* Sophie asked.
*Only if I have to,* Eliot said, as he headed up the stairs to the second floor and from there onto the roof. He watched as people began to leave the club, none of them happy. He made note of the ones that he saw lingering; positioning themselves around the club. They were waiting, for what he wasn’t sure. *Any word on Nate?*
*No,* Hardison said, sounding less than pleased. *He never turned his cell phone back on.* He’d had to turn it off earlier in the day. With their communication, being via ear bud, and Nate decidedly lacking friendships outside the team he often forgot about it.
Eliot swore. *All right, I’m gonna make sure Jason and the girls get out of here in one piece. You guys head on home. We’ll meet up again in the morning at the office.* he said heading back down the stairs, ignoring the objections. When it came to their safety Eliot was in charge, and they would, in the end, do as he said.
Eliot was tired and irritable when he entered the office the following day. He had spent the night keeping watch over the club. Omens belonged to Jason Montgomery. They had been in the service together. His patrons had begun disappearing, some of them found dead, in the area a few weeks ago and he had called Eliot for help. It wasn’t the team’s usual sort of gig, but they were providing back up for Eliot. Hardison had set up security, while Eliot and the others had been watching the people in the club to see if there was anything obvious happening.
Hardison and Parker were arguing over the footage from the night before, and it was almost enough to send Eliot back out the door. He was used to 90 minutes a night to sleep and the last two nights he had gotten none. It was starting to wear his patience thin. People thought he didn’t have any, but the truth was Eliot Spencer was probably one of the most patient people they knew. He was just easily annoyed.
“There should be people there,” Parker was saying insistently. “That’s the table the weird people were at, then there was a guy there a guy there and someone there trying to hit on Eliot.”
He walked over to the TV screen and studied it for a moment. His hackles rose again as he realized none of the people he had been watching the night before had shown up on the security footage. “Any word from Nate?” He said not quite ready to agree aloud with Parker yet. He would have to explain things he didn’t want to explain and they weren’t ready to hear it.
“Oh yeah,” Hardison said shaking his head. “He is in the dog house big time.”
As if on cue, Nate came down the stairs, actually clinging to the handrail. “I’m fine,” He told Sophie who came down the stairs after him.
“Really? That’s what you have to say? You didn’t just fall off the wagon, Nate. You were so drunk you had a black out. We won’t even go into the hickey you’re sporting and all you have to say for yourself is you’re fine?”
Eliot crossed the room quickly and pulled back Nate’s collar, ignoring his protests. “That’s not a hickey,” he said. “Get some juice in him. Some iron wouldn’t hurt either,” he told Sophie and the look he gave her told her there was no room to discuss it.
Nate scoffed as he made his way to the couch. “I’m fine.”
Eliot didn’t argue with him. He walked quickly out into the hall taking out his cell phone as he closed the door behind him and dialed Tara’s number.
“Hey, did you guys get relocated already?” She asked. Tara had expected to hear from Sophie first, but she liked hearing from Eliot. After everything they had been through together the year before she was always glad to hear from him.
“Not yet. Had a last minute thing come up. I think I’ve got a vampire problem out here,” Eliot said cutting to the chase. “Are you still with Angel?”
“Something like that,” She said.
“Do I need to get rid of him for you?” He could do it. Granted it would have to be done with the bow and arrow equivalent of a sniper rifle, but he could do it. It was probably what he was going to have to do about the current problem, but he wanted to make sure he was taking out the right side.
Tara laughed, “No, nothing like that. We’re seeing each other, but not exactly together.” Angel was still uncomfortable with relationships. “So what makes you think you’ve got a vampire infestation?”
Eliot explained the trouble at Omens as well as what he had seen the night before and the lack of reflection on the security feed.
“That could be a couple of things actually,” she said.
“Yeah, well, Nate’s got a nice bite mark, memory loss, and is acting either a couple pints low or a couple sheets to the wind.”
“You’re sure it’s a bite mark?” Tara only asked because Eliot had only really dealt with one vampire and Angel wasn’t one for sinking his teeth into people. That and well to her recollection three sheets to the wind was Nate’s natural state of being.
“I’m sure. He’s got two very fresh puncture scars that weren’t there yesterday.”
“I’ll get a hold of Angel and see what he knows,” Tara told him.
“Thanks,” he said sincerely.
“Anytime. Give me a couple hours. He doesn’t like being drug out of bed early.”
“He’s slept since I have,” Eliot pointed out. “I’ll talk to you later,” he said ending the call as Parker stepped out of the office and closed the door.
“It’s the monsters again isn’t it,” Parker said folding her arms across her chest. Only it wasn’t a casual gesture for her, it was in part protective, closing herself off to the world around her, and in part defiance, daring Eliot to lie to her.
“I don’t know,” he said gently.
“I can tell when you’re lying. You can fool others but not us, you know that don’t you?” She said.
Since she and Hardison had actually become a couple, and Archie had acknowledged her openly, Parker had started to settle down. There were fewer completely psycho moments, not that she was anything resembling sane in Eliot’s book, but she was becoming closer to normal on the surface. “I know, Parker, “ he said and sighed. “We have to keep the monsters between you and me.”
“But they hurt Nate,” she said.
“Yes, and he’s going to be okay. He doesn’t remember what happened and I don’t want him to. The others …” he paused looking for a way to say it without sounding like a total bastard.
“Would crack,” she supplied for him. Not that she believed for a moment that Nate was going to be really okay. Eliot wasn’t even okay yet.
It was close enough and Eliot nodded “Yeah. They would crack.”
“Fine, but you can’t leave me out of it this time,” Parker insisted.
“You weren’t left out of it last time,” he pointed out.
“I still say MacDonald is your clone.”
“No need to get rude,” he said with a mock scowl as he opened the door for her and they both went back inside.
“Evil clone,” she clarified.
Tara Cole stopped off at the local butchers and picked up Angels favorite vintage and then a drive through Starbucks for coffee. She was putting off waking Angel for as long as possible. From what Eliot had said none of them had been targeted they had just landed in the middle of a vampiric turf war. The man had no luck when it came to demons and turf.
It worried her that Nate had been fed from, but that again could have been nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. If he wasn’t being turned into a servant then they would be fine and should just get the hell out. Not that Eliot would, but he would get the others out at least.
She entered the hotel and went down the stairs to find its one and only occupant. She smiled as she watched him sleep. Even undead, even with the sins of the world weighing down on his shoulders, Angel looked like a little boy as he slept.
She sat on the side of the bed and gently touched his face “Sorry to do this to you, but it’s time to wake up,” Tara said.
Angel stirred on the bed. “Did we have plans tonight?” he asked groggily, pushing himself upright. He was sure there weren’t any plans.
“No plans,” she said handing over the cup of warmed up pig’s blood with otter added in. “But I have to pick your brain.”
“Why do I not like the sound of that?” He said taking the cup from her hand and breathing in the scent. “You know I don’t like you getting involved in cons that have to do with the supernatural side of things.”
Tara laughed. “I don’t remember you being my employer. And when you were as I recall it very much involved the supernatural.” It didn’t get anymore unnatural than Wolfram and Hart after all.
“That was different,” Angel said with a scowl. “What time is it anyway?” He asked looking at the clock with a frown,”3pm. Seriously?” No wonder he was cranky and feeling possessive.
Tara laughed quietly. “Don’t be such a baby.” She explained the situation as Eliot had explained it to her.
“Spencer. Figures,” Angel said with a faint growl. He knew she said that there was nothing between them. Spencer had said there was nothing between them. Why didn’t he believe her and why did he care? Did he want there to be something there so that he could push Tara away? It would be easier that way.
“Don’t start,” She warned.
“What is it you want me to do? I can see about having a slayer head out that way,” he suggested.
“Back on speaking terms with Buffy?” Tara asked, beating her own little green-eyed monster back into submission.
Angel scowled and took a long drink of the pigs blood “No,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking of her. I was thinking of Faith.”
Tara grinned. “That should prove interesting,” she said. “Although she will take one look at Eliot and the man won’t see the upright position for a week.”
Angel scowled. “I don’t see it.”
“That’s because you’re not a woman,” Tara said laughing softly.
“Oh so you do find him attractive,” Angel countered and Tara rolled her eyes as she moved to straddle Angel’s waist.
“Shut up and kiss me,” she told him, bending down to lower her lips to his.