“No.” Xander crossed his arms over his chest.
“Xander, please.” Brisco peered at the boy from beneath the brim of his hat. It was late evening, and the two were sitting at a table in the saloon where Brisco kept a room. Bowler, sitting across from them, scowled.
“You ain’t got no choice, here, kid. There’s a three thousand dollar bounty on those boys’ heads, and I aim to get it.”
“We’ve got plenty of money from Harmony’s great-granny already.” Xander refused to budge on the issue. “If the mayor of Sunnydale has Dawn, we could be looking at the end of the world, here.’
“These guys are dangerous, Xander.” Brisco leaned forward. “They pretty much destroyed that town when they busted out of jail.”
“Destroyed town, destroyed world. Which one is more important?”
“B’sides,” Bowler grinned. “Them Gorch boys are headed toward Sunnydale, from what I hear.”
Xander blinked, then sat up. “Did you say Gorch? As in, Lyle Gorch?”
“And his brother, yeah.”
“Damn.” Xander tried to remember what Giles had said about the Gorch brothers’ history back in the old library in high school. He couldn’t remember much. “And they’re headed for Sunnydale?”
“That’s right,” Brisco rested his elbows on the table. “You’re saying you’ve heard of them?”
“Met ‘em.” Xander waved off the questions he knew were forthcoming at that statement. “Well, one of them. Really briefly, before the bezoar ate him. Buffy got his brother before that.”
“You’re tryin’ to tell me that the Gorch brothers were around in 2004?”
“1998, actually.” Xander grinned. “They were turned sometime ‘round about now. So if they’re headed to Sunnydale, odds are they’re mixed up with Wilkins and Dawn already.”
“Turned. As in vampires?”
“Well.” Bowler smiled. “Looks like we get to get our bounty and rescue your girl at the same time. Let’s get goin’, then.”
“Soon enough.” Xander pulled his stake from the belt and placed it on the table. “First, you guys are going to have to get an object lesson in dealing with the undead.”
“So, you think we’re gonna walk into this alley, and what, stumble on some vampire munchin’ on a victim?”
Xander shrugged, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his canvas coat. “That’s the way it usually happens, yeah.”
Bowler shot Xander a disbelieving look. “Well, hell, I’ve been in the alleys of this city late at night for years, and I ain’t never seen no vampires.”
Xander peered into the gloom of the alley. “Maybe you didn’t know what to look for?”
“I don’t know, Arizona,” Brisco glanced down the alley. “I might have to side with Bowler on this. We haven’t just walked around outside at night, we’ve slept outside. Never had a problem with it.”
Xander frowned. “Okay, I don’t know about any of that. But where I come from, almost every alley is going to have at least one vampire in it.”
“You come from Sunnydale, though.” Brisco fingered the point of the stake that Xander had given him before they left their little “educational journey”. “From what you’ve been telling us, that’s not exactly your average town. Maybe what you’ve experienced is the exception, not the rule.”
Xander sighed. “Well, I hope so, anyway. Don’t know exactly how we’re going to do this if we can’t find any vampires, though.” He pulled a stake from one pocket, tossing it gently from hand to hand. “Might as well give it a shot, though.”
“Okay,” Brisco gripped his stake. “Bowler?”
“Aw, hell. Might as well see what this kid is all uppidy about.”
“Gee, thanks.” Xander rolled his eyes then started forward. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Heeeere we go.” Xander grinned from his position behind a pile of crates. “Text book vampire.”
Brisco glanced over at Bowler, then stared into the alley. “Xander, that’s just a couple.” He glanced away from where the two young people were kissing pasionately in the alley. “Sure, they might wanna go somewhere a bit more private, but still. . . .”
“Just, hang on.” Xander made a shushing noise with his hand, then shifted into a ready position. “And take a look at that window.”
“What?” Brisco glanced over where Xander pointed. The window was darkened, blinds pulled against the lamplight of the bar across the alley. He shrugged. “What about it?”
“Reflections.” Xander started to stand slightly. “Vampires don’t have them.”
Brisco glanced over at Bowler, who was staring wide-eyed at the window. Sure enough, reflected in the glass was the man, bent over slightly, seeming to kiss and caress empty air.
“Now there’s something you don’t see everyday,”
Bowler cocked his eyebrow. Xander exploded from behind the crate with a yell.
The man spun, immediately placing himself between the apparent mad man and his lady love. Xander stopped a few feet away and grinned. “Lovely night,” He swayed slightly on his feet, and Brisco realized he’s was faking a drunk. “Just had to give it a good yell, you know?”
“Look,” The man put a hand behind him, as though to reassure his friend. “If you don’t mind, I was kind of in the middle of something here.”
“Oh, no, I don’t mind what you’re doing. Never seen much wrong with that. It’s her game I’m a bit worried about.”
The man reached for the gun on his belt, and Brisco tensed. The woman, standing in the shadows now, away from the lamp light and the window, seemed to be smiling.
“You got something to say about my lady?”
“Your lady?” Xander smirked knowingly at the man. “Come on, now, you can’t have known her for more than, what, half an hour?”
“That’s it,” The gun spun from the man’s holster and pointed at Xander’s chest. He jumped back and held up his hands. He’d tucked his stake back into his pocket, but held the cross aloft.
“Woah there, friend. No need for firearms. I–um–just wanted to make sure you and your lady had heard the good word.” Xander took a step forward, and the man’s gun started to drift to one side. “So let’s all just calm down here again for a moment,”
“I thought he was going for drunk, not preacher.” Bowler scowled from where they watched behind the boxes. Brisco frowned.
“I’m not longer certain he actually has a plan. We’d better get ready to back him up.”
“Oh, I’ll back him up, alright, from way, way back.”
“I ain’t lookin’ to get myself killed, Brisco.”
Xander kept moving forward the whole time they talked, his hands held wide, a smile on his lips. The man’s grip on the gun was shaking, and the vampire was watching from the shadows.
“Duck,” Xander said, conversationally.
“What’s that?” The man let the gun drop slightly.
“Duck!” Xander lunged forward again, as the man was tossed aside by the vampire. She snarled at Xander, her face twisted and ridged into something that was most certainly no longer human. Bowler sucked in a breath, and Brisco half-started forward, his gun slipping from his holster into his hand. Xander snapped the cross into her face, and Brisco stopped, shocked, as her flesh began to smoke. She shrieked at Xander, then punched him across the jaw. Xander’s cross went flying, and he fell backwards to the cobblestone surface of the alley.
Bowler let out a war yell any Cherokee would have been proud of, firing at the vampiress. She shrugged off his bullets, but turned away from Xander, who was recovering on the ground. Brisco’s fingers tightened around the stake, and he jumped into the fray as well.
“The heart, get her in the heart!” Xander had made it to his hands and knees, and scrabbled across the rough surface of the ground for his stake. Brisco stabbed at the vampiress, but caught her below her ribs. She sneered in his face, her fangs arching toward his neck, and Brisco stumbled backward.
Then she froze, her eyes wide. Then she burst apart with a flash of dust and a burst of unholy shrieking. Brisco found himself staring at Bowler, who stared back, the stake clutched in suddenly shaking fingers.
“And that,” Xander shoved himself to his feet, dusting himself off. “Was a vampire.”
“Cripes, kid, you do this every night?”
Xander shrugged, suddenly turning modest. “Well, actually, I usually get my ass handed to me while my best friends, the witch and the slayer, beat them up. But yeah, when there’s no one super around, it usually goes something like this.”
Brisco looked down at the dust on his shirt, then at Xander, then back up at Bowler. “Right then. Let’s get going to Sunnydale.”
“Hssst!” Dawn leaned back against the bars of her prison, craning her neck sideways to talk to the woman in the cage next to hers, without taking her eyes off the sleeping Finch. “Hey, are you okay?”
The woman, still nude, still battered, moaned in response.
“I might be getting a plan.” Dawn leaned her head back as well. “But, I’m going to need to know what’s going on. What does Wilkins want with you? Why does he want me? You need to tell me what you know.”
“Who. . . who are you?”
Dawn turned slightly, spotting hte bruised face peering at hers. “My name’s Dawn.”
“What does Wilkins want with you, Karina?”
The woman shook her head. “The orb, he’s after the orb. Oh Gods, I thought we were safe, Bly was gone, but instead of going back, I was sent here. . . .”
“What? What’s the orb, where were you trying to go?”
Karina shot a look at Finch, who started to snore softly. “Listen to me, Dawn. Wilkins is now in possession of one of the most powerful artefacts known to modern man. In the wrong hands, the orb may be used to rule the world, and Wilkins. . . he has TWO. . . I just wish I knew how he sidetracked me. There are safeties upon safeties on every trip. . . .”
“Okay, world controlling, weird artefacts, this actually sounds like something I can handle.”
Karina stared at her.
“Well, not usually me, PERSONALLY, but I’m positive that Willow or someone will figure out where I am any time now, and then the cavalry will arrive and everything will be alright.”
“No,” Karina made an effort to sit up. “No, we need to get word out to Brisco. He’ll be able to help us. It’s his destiny, to stop the orbs.”
“Well, even destined people can use some help sometime. My sister was destined to be this lone warrior thingy, but she had all kinds of help the last time we took out Wilkins.”
“You’ve faced him before?”
“Um, again with the not-personally thing, but yeah. They blew him up.”
Dawn grimaced. “Er. That’s kind of the thing. Can I trust you?”
Karina glanced down at her own battered body. “There’s little I could do, even if you couldn’t.”
“Right. I’m, well, I think I might be from the future. About a hundred years, actually.”
Karina laughed, then coughed and groaned. “I believe you.” She grinned up at Dawn. “So am I.”