FIC: Hellmouth Heroes (19/?)
“Any idea why Giles called us here Wes?” Faith queried as she entered the converted warehouse that served as the gym and headquarters of their operation, joining the rest of them already congregated there.
“Only that’s it’s quite important,” the Englishman replied before looking towards Jenny. “Do you know anything Jenny?”
The techno-pagan shook her head. “I’m afraid not.”
“That sounds like the wreck he calls his car.” Xander glanced out of the window, his jaw tightening. “Oh you have got to be kidding me! No-way, no how!”
Everyone looked towards the angered young man, wondering what had set him off. “Xander,” Alonna asked, “what’s wrong?”
“Why,” Xander shot Giles a baleful look as he strode in, a good-looking blonde ‘bout their age following him, “don’t you ask him?”
”Heidi!” Willow gasped, Oz shooting the paling red-head a typically inscrutable look.
Faith’s eyes narrowed as by contrast Jonathan took a step forward as if to greet the girl before stepping back. “Ah yes,” the Englishman shot an uneasy glance around the room, purposefully avoiding both Xander and Willow. “I had thought there might be some alarm to Ms. Barrie’s inclusion-.”
“Inclusion in what?” Xander interrupted, eyes hard. “The bowling league? Because I know you don’t mean our group.”
Giles didn’t flinch away from Xander’s suspicious gaze. Instead he met it head on, the pair of them like duelling drivers playing chicken. “It appears your suspicions were correct, people outside our group have kept at least vestiges of our Halloween personalities-.”
Xander’s eyes remained fixed on the now shrinking back blonde. “And that concerns us why?”
“Because,” Giles’ voice remained patient, but he looked like he was barely managing to contain Ripper, “Heidi has come here and asked for help-.”
”I refer you to my earlier question,” Xander snapped.
Giles’ lips thinned into a disapproving line. “At Halloween she was possessed by the character X-23-.”
“That’s why-.” Jonathan fell silent at a puzzled look from her.
“Bloody hell,” Giles grunted, “one day you’ll let me finish a soddin’ sentence.” The Watcher shook his head before continuing. “And as a result Heidi wants to both aid us in our mission and find out more about the new abilities she has.” Giles’ eyes appeared to bore in to Xander. “I understand she already asked you for help some weeks ago but you refused.”
“Well of course I did!” Xander snapped. “She ate Principal Flutie!”
“Xander,” Giles shot her bud a disapproving look. “I hardly think you’re being fair. No-one blames you for your indiscretions while possessed.”
“No,” Faith wondered at Xander’s flinch at Giles’ words. “But the difference is I wasn’t of the school’s main bullies before the possession. She,” Xander glanced towards the newcomer, “was acting like a total bitch way before the possession.”
It was the sensually curved blonde’s turn to again flinch. “I learnt from that, I didn’t want to be that person anymore. That’s why I’m here, I want to help.”
“Oh,” Xander’s laugh was distinctly unamused, “and I’m supposed to just believe that?”
“No,” this came from an expressionless Oz, “but you can believe me, and her heartbeat indicates she’s not lying.”
”Well shit,” Faith felt moved to comment, “ain’t we got enough people already?”
“Faith,” Giles shot her one of those patient looks that really pissed her off sometimes. “When you’re fighting an unceasing war as we are, we can never have too many assets. Ms. Barrie’s senses are as enhanced as Oz and Jonathan’s, and her healing, reflexes, strength, and stamina are at slightly-beyond peak human capacities. In addition, she is a gifted martial artist.”
Faith gritted her teeth. As logical as the older Watcher’s argument was, she just did not like the way the new bitch and Johnny kept looking at one another.
* * *
Louise Maclay sighed wearily as she made her way home, shoulders and back tight from a hard day spent sat crouched over a sewing machine at the sweatshop she worked at. It paid virtually nothing but had the advantage of not having any records on file for her husband to trace.
Louise sighed again. It seemed even after leaving him states behind, he still dominated their lives, casting a fearful shadow over her and her daughter’s lives. But at least they didn’t have to suffer his uncertain temper, foul mouth, and cruel fists anymore.
Louise came to a halt outside their ground floor apartment and rummaged through her handbag for her keys, eyes going left and right as she looked through the advancing shadows, her daughter having made her well-aware of Sunnydale’s other menaces. Her daughter, Louise smiled fondly. Her shy Tara fighting beside a Slayer, it did a mother proud to see the fine girl her daughter had grown to be, despite her father’s influence.
The door creaked open, and Louise hurried into the one room apartment she shared with her daughter. She jumped as the door crashed shut behind her, eyes widening at the hulking demon sat in the room’s solitary arm chair. Heart racing, she attempted to back out, only to find herself grabbed by two more demons.
“Who? How? Why?” Louise gasped, eyes bulging.
The demon grinned as he rose out of his seat. “Your husband paid us a lot to get you back.” Louise shook her head, body suddenly limp with terror. “You and your daughter.” The demon looked towards his men. “Get her to the van.”
* * *
Freddy checked his notes as he made his way to the Maclay apartment. He knew enough about the ‘Scoobies’, but he needed background, to find out their motivations. Of course he had to make sure he didn’t raise anyone’s suspicions, but it was just a case of asking the right questions the right way.
His eyes narrowed as he caught the scent of something alien, a warrior’s instinct sending him into a squat by a tan-brown sedan. An apartment six doors to the left and across the door crashed open and a trio of hulking demons stormed out, a woman that Freddy recognised as Tara’s mother, in their arms. One of the demons opened the rear door, the other two flung the apparently limp woman into the back of the van, before climbing in, the van screeching away from the kerb.
Freddy grimaced. Keeping his surveillance a secret was no longer an option. He had to get to Giles’ book shop and fast.
* * *
“We’re going to have to tell the others about us.”
Tara blushed even as she grinned at her girl-friend, her hand in hers. “Us?”
“Don’t be coy,” Amy chidingly bumped her hip into hers. “We should wait until this mess with Heidi is over with though.”
“Ha, how sweet.”
Tara had only just begun to look up when a demon’s right fist crashed into her forehead. The last thing she saw before passing out was the same happening to her girl-friend.
* * *
Griff glanced at the photo Maclay had given him before pointing down at the honey-blonde. “She’s the one we want.”
”What about her?” his companion queried.
“Leave her.” He snorted. “Looks like some vamp’s getting a free snack.”
* * *
Giles was just a couple of steps away from the shop door when it swung open. “I’m afraid I’m just about to close-,” he smiled belatedly as he recognised the young man stood on the doorstep as one of the few Sunnydale High students to frequent his library. “Mr. Iverson, and just how is Sunnydale’s answer to Woodrow and Bernstein?”
“Mr. Giles,” he belatedly noted the young man’s distressed expression, “Tara’s mom has been abducted by demons.”
Giles’ brow furrowed. The young man’s worry precluded him thinking it was some sort of wind-up. “These demons, what did they look like?” he demanded, alarm tingeing his tone.
Freddy pursed his lips for a second before answering. “They were tall, powerfully built bipeds with orange skin, two eyes, two sharp ridges running from the front to the back of their heads and spikes running from one side of their jaw to the other.”
“You have a good eye,” Giles praised as he hurriedly sent out an emergency page to the group’s members.
“Do you know what they were?” Freddy queried.
”Yes,” Giles hurried the young man to the door, “Kaliffs. Nasty creatures, probably the closest the demon world has to Mafioso muscle, thugs. Not especially powerful or intelligent, but tough and cunning. Now, thank you for your help, I’ll be in touch.”
“No,” Freddy shook his head. “I have other information, the registration.” The boy hesitated. “And the scent.”
Oh another one. Giles counted to ten before asking. “The scent?”
“I’ve got the van’s scent in my nose,” Freddy explained. “I can track them as long as the scent’s fresh. But we have to hurry.”
Bloody Sunnydale, this town it’d drive a Sally Army preacher to drink. “We’ll go as soon as the others are here.”
* * *
Giles looked around the mouldy apartment with its dreary walls, threadbare carpeting, and clean but worn furniture, his stomach clenched in sympathetic pain. “Tara and her mother were living here?” he half-spoke, half-snarled as he shot an accusatory look around his companions. “And did no-one think to tell me about this? Did no-one think I’d care?”
“Hey,” Faith flinched guiltily. “You can’t blame any of us. Tar never invited us back here, we always had to meet some place else.”
“And didn’t that make you realise that something might be wrong?” Wesley queried.
“Hey hold on,” Xander snapped, “none of you noticed either!”
“We’re hardly her school-friends and peers are we!” Giles retorted.
”QUIET!” Everyone turned to a suddenly red-faced Willow. “We can deal with this later, what’s important is finding Tara and her mom, and fast!”
“Of course,” Giles nodded. “Freddy and I will go in my car, the rest of you follow in yours.”
”Sure G,” Faith smirked, “only ya think you can find second gear, we’re sorta on the clock here?”
* * *
Amy groaned as the theme to ‘7th Heaven” started playing in her head. Her eyes fluttered slowly open as she slowly realised it wasn’t the TV show, but her cell’s ring-tone. She froze as she reached in her pocket, the memory of their attack. “Oh goddess.” She scrabbled the phone open. “Giles! Tara-.”
”We know,” the Englishman’s calm voice wasn’t quite as soothing as normal, “we’re on their path. You head to the shop and we’ll bring Tara and her mother there. Now where were you attacked?”
* * *
“They were at the university,” Giles informed Freddy as he hung up. “We’re heading in the right direction.”
“I told you.” Freddy pointed towards an arched alcove. “That’s the van.”
”And that’s,” Giles scowled as he saw a trio of figures hurrying towards the van, “Tara!” His foot slammed down on the accelerator, bolting the car forward, screeching it around the parked van, blocking its path. “Get them!”
The van’s doors crashed open and half a dozen Kaliffs leapt out even as his people’s cars screeched to a halt. And then the fight was on.
* * *
Giles watched as the Slayer blurred towards the biggest of the Kaliffs. He winced as the curvy brunette took a right to the head without blinking, her retaliatory kick at the demon’s belly slapped away as the demon lunged forward and attempted to scoop the Slayer up. Faith replied by pulling her knees up into her ample chest and kicking off, feet slamming into the demon’s chest.
The demon released his grip on the feisty Bostonian and stumbled back. Faith fell to the ground but landed in a cat-like crouch and darted to meet the Kaliff. The Kaliff lunged at the Slayer, throwing a left hook the teen blocked on her forearm and a straight right that she slipped under before driving a knee into her rival’s gut. The demon doubled up, Faith hooked an arm around the demon’s shoulder, twisted at the waist and flung it to the ground.
The demon started to get up but Faith caught it with a quick heel kick to the jaw, its head snapping to the side. The demon fell onto its back with a grunt. Faith snarled as she continued her attack, stamping on her rival’s left elbow, the bone cracking and the demon howling. “Think you can come here and kidnap my friends!” Faith grabbed the demon by the back of his head and pulled him up, injured arm flapping loosely. “Think you can hurt them?” The Slayer butted the demon in the face, his nose shattering. “Think you can attack my gang?” The Slayer drove the demon’s head down and into the concrete.
“Faith,” the Slayer stiffened at his voice, “I rather think he has got the message. Should his employer fail to get it, we’ll deliver it personally.”
“Five by five.” The curvy Bostonian released her grip on the demon’s head and rose to her feet. And then kicked the groaning demon in the gut. “There’s a reminder, mother-fucker!”
* * *
Lockley stuck her head deep in her paperwork as she spied Stein entering the busy squad-room. The balding detective’s reputation had been one of the first things she’d heard about upon her arrival in Sunnydale, and if there was one person she wanted to avoid it was him.
Unfortunately the balding detective made a bee-line for her desk. “Hello Lockley.”
Kate reluctantly raised her head and nodded at the supposedly senior officer. “Hello sir.”
If Stein noted the frost in her tone he showed no sign of it. “We’re starting a new unit, a Nocturnal Activities Unit, and we’re looking for the best, only volunteers mind. Are you interested?”
“No thank you, sir.” Lockley stared at the detective before shaking her head. Even if there wasn’t Stein’s bad reputation to consider, her work with the group had to come first.
Stein’s eyes flickered with disappointment. “Very well.” The detective nodded stiffly. “If you change your mind, don’t hesitate to get in touch.”
* * *
Giles stiffened as he sensed a presence behind him. Turning, he nodded towards the slight youth, noting his staring blue eyes and thin features. “Hello, Freddy.”
“Hello Mr. Giles,” the former school journalist nodded nervously. “Are Tara and her mother all right?”
“Yes, thanks in large part to your efforts,” Giles nodded at the young man. “Although I am puzzled to just why you were at their apartment?”
”Good,” the young man reached into the plastic bag he held by his side and passed him a trio of books. “These are the records I’ve made of your activities over the past two years.”
Giles stared at the dog-eared reporter’s notebooks the young man had passed him and then their writer. “I do hope you’re not trying to black-mail us?”
His voice was even, expressionless, but the youth flinched nevertheless. “No,” the boy shuffled from foot to foot. “That’s just to prove that I’ve been able to follow your gang for months and not be spotted, that must prove something right?”
Giles’ brow furrowed. The former school reporter had a point. Both Oz and Jonathan at least should have been able to detect him. “All right then,” he nodded. “Tell me how you did it?”
“Sure,” the youth nodded jerkily. “At Halloween I was Ka-Zar, Lord Of The Jungle. In addition to making me more agile, faster, and stronger, my senses are really attuned. And I know everything there is to know about tracking and woodcraft.”
“Very interesting,” Giles nodded. “And why are you telling me this?”
The boy licked his lips before replying. “I want to join your group.”
“Oh,” Giles raised an eyebrow. That was surprising. He wouldn’t have pegged Frederick for the adventurous type. Perhaps these changes were deeper than just physical. “And why is that?”
The boy shrugged, thin cheeks flushing. “I just want to be a part of something.”
Ah, Giles nodded in understanding, loneliness was Freddy’s motivating factor. “You understand that what we do is very dangerous?”
“I’m not an idiot!” The youth’s eyes flashed angrily. “I’ve been following you around for months, I know what you do, I know how you help people!”
Giles stared at the young man. “May I search your mind?” The youth stared open-minded at him. “Just to check your motivations. I give you my word I won’t look any deeper than that.”
“Um,” after a second the young man nodded nervously. “Okay.”
“Thank you.” Giles stared at the lad for a moment before nodding. “If you’re sure, meet me at our gym tonight.”
“Right,” Freddy nodded, “thanks.”
”My pleasure, Freddy.” He only hoped that Freddy’s addition was met with rather more enthusiasm than Heidi’s.
* * *
“Ah, you’re here.” Mr. Giles opened the door to his apartment. “By all means, enter if you can.”
“Thank you,” Louise led her daughter into Mr. Giles’ lovingly maintained apartment.
”Jenny, dear,” Giles glanced over his shoulder and towards the kitchen, “the Maclays are here, could you put the kettle on?”
“I’ll get right on it Rupert.”
“Thank you my dear.” Rupert looked towards her and her daughter into the lounge. “Please, take a seat.”
“Thank you,” after a second Louise joined her daughter in sitting on the cream coloured sofa, all the while wondering just why they’d been invited to Mr. Giles’ apartment.
“I must admit to being most disenchanted with you, Ms. Maclay and you too, Tara.”
Louise started at the irritated note in the Englishman’s voice. Mr. Giles and his group had been more than kind, welcoming them both in their lives, accepting them. But she couldn’t help but react with trepidation when a man’s voice hardened. “Why in the world didn’t you tell any of us about how you were living?” The man’s voice softened when she flinched. “Good lord, you don’t think I’m-.”
Mr. Giles looked towards Tara. “Between your college studies and work with Jenny, you can hardly be expected to work a job.” Mr. Giles turned to her. “That will leave me short-handed, would you be interested in the position? Unfortunately I can’t pay much, but I am willing to give you a half-ownership in the shop.”
”H…half,” Louise stared at the Englishman.
The Englishman smiled suddenly, his eyes suddenly sparkling. “Shall I assume that’s a yes?”