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Summary: Buffy is stranded in NYC and works with some of the city's more unusual heroes to find a stolen book. Mildly B/S -- Spike can't keep his mouth shut even when all Buffy has are memories of him. Crossover with Gargoyles, others.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Cartoons > GargoylesLMouseFR13111,9941102,2281 Aug 041 Aug 04Yes

L Mouse

Note: This is set sometime after Chosen and early Season 5 for Angel. This is a crossover with Disney's Gargoyles, but has a number of other cameos as well.

Obligatory disclaimer: I don't own 'em, don't claim to, not making any money, don't sue me please.

* * * * *

Buffy stood alone on the curb at Newark. Somewhere close, a jet engine roared in a rising crescendo. She hugged herself, then realized that looked vulnerable. She lifted her chin, squared her shoulders, and craned her neck to see if the hotel shuttle was coming. And she tried to look confident.

She was alone. This should be a familiar state for her -- she'd fought vampires and assorted nasties of varying degrees of bad, from minor to Big Bad, by herself, for the better part of a decade.

But ... well, she was all by herself. In a strange city, New York, with the rest of the Scoobies still in Europe and Angel in LA, and nothing but half the world between them -- a continent on one side, an ocean on the other, and not a friend between here and there. And Spike, well, she would have liked nothing better than to have had Spike by her side for this little detour, but Spike was dead.

She swallowed.

She realized she was hunching her shoulders and hugging her carry on to her chest. She put the bag down and stood up straight and defied anyone to notice she was all alone.

Damn the airline, anyway.

She was supposed to change planes at Newark, but some idiot had run with scissors in Newark. Normally, this would only be a problem for the idiot with the scissors, but said moron had run through the checkpoint with a pair of scissors in one hand. Buffy was led to believe that the level of chaos this had caused had been formidable.

She wouldn't know. Her international flight had been diverted to La Guardia. One harrowing and hours-long taxi ride later, she'd reached Newark just in time to miss her plane to Minneapolis where she was to catch a flight to LAX. Not, theoretically, that big of a problem, except that all subsequent flights were full out of Newark. And a snowstorm was now descending on Minneapolis, and the airline attendants had mentioned cancelled flights being a high probability for tomorrow -- and then maybe the next day if the blizzard moved east and socked New York.

To say that she was annoyed was a significant understatement.

Buffy picked her carry on back up and hugged it to her chest. It was heavy, for a normal human, but the Slayer found it to be little burden. It held texts that Giles wanted Willow to destroy, and they were warded enough that Willow would be one of the few witches able to do it. This meant a plane trip, as Willow was back in California, at the moment, dealing with a Slayerette who was manifesting magic on top of her Slayage abilities. This normally would have been a good thing, but the kid was merely thirteen years old. Buffy remembered thirteen. Bad enough to be thirteen, without being a thirteen year old superhero from Beverly Hills.

Willow reportedly had her hands full, both with the kids and the parents, on this one ...

"Damnit," a woman said, beside Buffy. She shifted restlessly and added a fouler phrase in a voice that held just a hint of a Scotts accent. After a moment, she muttered, "It's going to be dark soon."

Buffy sighed agreement, and glanced sideways at the woman. She was not tall, but had fiery red hair and green eyes that glittered with barely contained anger. The woman was well dressed and looked professional -- a lawyer or administrator of some sort. Maybe a government flunky. Bored with standing still, Buffy tried for small talk: "Where were you headed?"

"I live here," the woman snapped. "I was trying to get to LAX; I've got business there."

"Yeah, I've got friends there." Buffy said. She added, "This is exasperating."

"My lawyers want me to see them in person," the woman growled. "Something about a change in management, and screening their clients for evil now. Pah."

Buffy gave the woman another sharp, sideways look, and reflected that the word "evil" was becoming more and more prevalent in popular culture. But she knew what true evil was. This woman had no idea. She said idly, "Well, I guess I'm going to take advantage of this and see the city. Never been to New York."

Those green eyes fixed on her. There was something in them that startled Buffy -- something ageless and angry. The woman said shortly, "Tourists." She made it sound like a curse word.

Buffy found herself protesting, "Only for the day!"

The woman squinted at the setting sun. Then she scowled, picked her bags up, and marched back into the building. Buffy watched her go, then decided with a mental shrug that the lady had been decidedly odd, and turned her attention back to the road. There! A van with her hotel's logo on it approached. Buffy grabbed her bags and flagged it down as the last rays of the setting sun faded from the tops of the surrounding buildings.

As she was stepping up into the shuttle, a snarl sounded from a rooftop behind her. She turned, startled, and saw a creature with wings launch into the air from the top of a nearby parking garage. The creature glided across the road, caught a thermal, and spiraled higher.

The shuttle driver also saw it. He squinted through his windshield at the creature and then commented idly, "Gargoyle."

Buffy claimed a seat and asked, "Gargoyle?"

The driver hit the gas and shot out into traffic in a move that made Buffy cringe and the other passengers on the shuttle wince as well. Drivers in this city seemed to have gone to the "Bumper Car" school of driving. At least traffic didn't usually move fast enough to be dangerous ...

The driver said, "Yes, Gargoyle. They've been around for about a decade. Some people say they're evil."

That was the second time someone had used the "e" word in front of Buffy that day. She fought down the urge to define 'Evil' for the man: Evil was Glory. Evil was the First. Evil was Social Services. Anything else she wasn't impressed by. She, instead, said, "Really? You'd think someone would do something about them."

The man shrugged and said, "But they're not, really, you know."

"Not evil?" Well, that was a relief. She didn't particularly want to be "someone" to have to do something about them.

A woman behind Buffy said, "There's a lot of strange things in this city. Gargoyles are on the side of the light. One of them rescued my daughter from a mugger once."

There were four other people in the car; they chorused agreement that gargoyles were good guys. Buffy listened with interest. She was not the slightest bit surprised that New York had a resident species of demon but she was curious about a demon species that had earned such unanimous praise.

"They live up there," the driver pointed at the tallest skyscraper on the horizon. "The Aerie Building. That's Castle Wyvern up there. The gargoyles claim that they were cursed, you see, to sleep in stone until Wyvern rose above the clouds. The curse was broken when the owner of the building bought the castle and moved it to the top of the skyscraper."

"Magic," one of the other passengers said, skeptically. "I say they're just genetically engineered freaks. Humans with wings."

"Could a human put claw marks in solid concrete?" The driver argued. "The building I live in has gargoyle tracks from the ground all the way up to the roof where one of them climbed to the roof. The building manager was furious, he wanted to send the bill for repairs to Xanatos," for Buffy's benefit he explained, "Xanatos owns the castle -- but w convinced the manager that the tracks are lucky. Truthfully, I don't think they are lucky at all, but they're neat!"

Nobody argued the point.

Buffy craned her neck, looking out the window, studying the distant building. She thought she saw a shadowy winged finger aloft above it.

* * * * *

Buffy's hotel room was the size of a walk in closet, and the bathroom had no curtains. This was okay, because the bathroom had no functioning light, either.

Well, the airline was paying for the room, not her. She'd slept worse places. She'd slept stranger places ...

A visceral memory of sleeping in a crypt, curled up against the cool chest of an undead hero, surfaced unwelcome in her memories. She swallowed hard. She wanted just one more chance to tell him that she loved him. He'd said, "No, you don't ..."

But she did. She loved him with all her heart. And she'd kill for one more chance to say so.

"Spike, if you can hear me," Buffy said with a heavy heart, "I do, you know."

Bah. She was talking to ghosts who probably weren't even listening. Spike had doubtless gone onto that happy and peaceful place she sometimes craved. He'd earned it -- he'd saved the world, after all. Heaven was certainly in his cards. She'd been pulled back from there, to a cold and hard and lonely world that needed her. She would not ask the same of Spike. She wanted him, but she did not need him ...

A tiny voice in her heart that sounded suspiciously like it was from London whispered, Yes you do, luv. You need me. And shame you didn't figure it out until I was dust, though.

She walked to the window of the hotel. It had a decent view of an enormous river, and across the river, Manhattan. She decided she would go exploring. She needed the distraction.

Maybe she'd find something to beat up. She needed that, too. Did New York have vampires? She intended to find out. She grabbed the bag of texts and slung it over her shoulder; it was too valuable to leave behind and safer with her.

* * * * *

Some hours later, she'd found her way to Times Square. It was late, but there were still people out and about. If there were vampires here, they were behaving themselves. She wandered towards the Aerie Building without realizing what she was doing at first. It drew her like a beacon. Her curiosity was aroused -- Manhattan might have a vampire shortage, but it did have a resident species of what appeared to be a winged demon that had piqued her curiosity and her suspicion.

Still, duty called. When she passed a dark and forbidding alley, she automatically took it. She assumed her best "dumb blond" expression and nonchalantly strolled past dumpsters and closed doorways. Rats scuttled out of her way, and steam rose from a grate. It was quiet. Too quiet.

She wasn't the slightest bit surprised when a man stepped out in front of her from behind a head-height stack of abandoned pallets. She stopped, balanced on the balls of her feet, and felt her adrenalin start pumping. Vampire or human? she wondered. He wore a ski mask, which led her to believe he was probably human. Vampires weren't worried about being seen because they tended to eat any witnesses.

When he grabbed for her, she decided he was definitely human. He wasn't fast enough for a vampire. Disappointed, she seized his arm, flipped him over her shoulder, and sent him crashing into the side of a dumpster.

The man groaned, but didn't get up.

She walked over and nudged him with a toe. "That's all you have to offer? Because that was pathetic."

He flinched away from her, staggered to his feet, and shambled into a limping run. He fled, wordlessly, into the shadows.

"Darn it," Buffy said, "And I was just getting warmed up."

"Oh goody." A voice asked behind her, "I like my blood warm."

And that would be a vampire, she noted with happiness. She set the bag of books down beside the Dumpster and dropped into a fighting crouch. Actually it was vampires, plural -- three of them, all in game face.

"You know I'm a Slayer," Buffy said, conversationally.

"You'll be my third," the vampire grinned at her, baring fangs.

Buffy barely had time to register that this vampire was claiming to have killed Slayers before when he rushed her. And he was good. Faster than normal reflexes, incredible strength, and aw, yeah, he was definitely one of those vampires who were actually a challenge for her ... it was like fighting Spike, or Angelus ... he had strength to equal hers and the skills to put it to good use.

She kicked him in the jaw; he caught her by the ankle and flipped her into the wall hard enough to leave bruises. She bounced back to her feet, and they circled each other, looking for an opening. "Got a name?" Buffy asked. "I like to know the names of the vampires I dust."

Actually, she was trying to distract him. She didn't care if he had a name or not. But he answered, "Rufus. You're good, you've had training. The last two I drank, they were such babies."

He'd gotten a couple of the Potentials, it sounded like. Damnit. "Rufus. Sounds like a dog's name."

They engaged again. She had her wooden spike out, but he was too fast -- she tried to slam it home in what was left of his heart, but he ducked back. He grinned and said, "I'm looking forward to you, blondy. You've got spirit. You got a name too?"

He grabbed for her. She caught his wrist and flung him head over heels into the Dumpster, with considerably more force than she'd used on the mugger. He left a dent. She baited him, mostly because she was enjoying this. "C'mon, you can do better than that."

He stood up, not damaged much. He was old, she thought -- not ancient, not centuries old, he didn't have that certain air of experience to him, but he'd been around long enough to learn to fight properly. This wasn't going to be like killing a stupid fledgling.

With a snarl, he rushed her again. She was expecting a headlong tackle, but at the last instant, he shifted his weight and hit her feet first. She knocked a couple of trash cans flying when she struck them. Heart pumping now, she scrambled frantically to her feet. She'd lost her stake. This guy was good!

It was hard to tell in the dark, but she thought he was probably handsome, too. Tall, longish dark hair. He was fit and athletic by natural inclination, in the same way Spike was, only bigger -- that tall, rugged frame was giving him an advantage on top of his other advantages. It was time to put an end to this, she decided. She spotted her stake next to a garbage can, and snagged it up, and the can as well.

She hit him with a garbage can. He deflected it easily enough, but she ducked under his arms, and with a quick motion, tried to dust him. The stake went home, but as soon as it did, she knew it was off target -- she'd hit three inches to the right of his heart. A painful wound, but not the desired fatal one.


He lunged forward grabbed her with a growl, and foul air wafted over her face. "Yuck! Blood breath!" She kneed him in the crotch -- a dirty move, but this had suddenly become a fight for her life. He doubled over, and she got him in the nose with her knee.

Something hit both of them with stunning force. No, someone! A third fighter had entered the fray. At first she thought it was one of Rufus' buddies, but she got a dark glimpse of a definitely-not-vampiric face and a flash of claws that laid the vampire's chest open to the bone. Demon!

The demon was dressed in heavy robes that smelled of pleasantly of laundry soap. Some insane part of her mind painted a picture of a demon patiently sitting in a laundromat while his robes did the loop-de-loop in a dryer. Ridiculous. She focused on the fight. The demon was trying to take out the vampire, ergo he was at least temporarily on her side.

Rufus, limping and bleeding and with her stake still in his chest, bolted. The demon started to give chase, then pulled up with a disgusted noise as it became obvious within a few strides that the vampire was much faster. The creature turned around and padded back to her. A gruff, whispery voice asked, "Are you injured?"

"Broke a nail or two," Buffy said, "But I could have handled him. Thanks for the assistance, though. Any idea where he's headed? That vampire needs to be removed from circulation."

She couldn't see the creatures' face now; he wore a hooded robe and his face was concealed in shadow. He'd flipped the hood up before turning back to face her. But she'd seen it during the fight. He was leonine, with fangs and a slight muzzle, and clawed hands. She'd never seen anything like him before, but he was evidently on the side of the light because he nodded slowly. "I did not wish to see that monster kill another girl. -- I have not seen you here before."

The creature edged into the shadows, as if he was afraid of the light. But he waited, albeit a bit tensely, for her response. She shrugged and explained, "Just passing through, I guess. Thought I'd do a bit of hunting. My name's Buffy."

She got the distinct impression he was sizing her up. That voice -- she decided it was a sexy voice -- said softly, "You hunt vampires."

"I'm a Slayer, yes."

"He kills Slayers." There was warning there. She peered at him, trying to see him better. She got an impression of a man-shaped body, impressively tall, broad shouldered, long legs, hands tipped with blunt claws. She couldn't see anything more than that.

She shrugged. "I've fought worse." My last boyfriend killed two Slayers.

The thought of Spike made her heart clench up into a painful lump. She swallowed hard, and chewed on a nail for a minute before asking again, "Any idea where I should start hunting to track that one down? He's a problem, and he's only going to be a bigger problem if I don't take him out for you."

A car turned down the alley, headlights lighting everything up. He turned in a swirl of cloaks and ducked into a narrow passage between two buildings. Then twisted back to face her, just briefly, and reflected light lit his feline features up. There was a bit of gray in his hair, and a few lines around his eyes. He was older than she'd assumed. His eyes were human. "Try 'Nando's Deli for information."

"Thanks!" She said.

"Tell Mandy that Vincent sent you," he said, in that soft voice. His cloak swirled around his ankles as he walked away. Then he disappeared, ducking into a doorway.

She flattened herself against the wall as the car passed. A curious passenger stared out at her. She smiled at the woman; they passed so close that she could hear a discussion between the passenger and the driver through the open windows.

"Margot, I'm sure this is the shortcut!"

"Brendan, there might be monsters down here."

She almost laughed. After they had passed, she crossed the alley to the dumpster where she'd left the bag of texts ... and discovered to her cold horror that it was gone.

Aw, crap. That was not good. Not at all.

Rufus had two cohorts with him, she remembered, though they'd vanished during the fight. She'd assumed they were cowardly types and had fled when it became apparent she was a Slayer. Now she bet they'd grabbed the books too.

This was not a good thing at all.

* * * * *

'Nando's Deli and Cafe was in the shadow of the Aerie Building and one block from Nightstone Enterprises. Nightstone rang a bell in Buffy's mind as being the name on the supplier of some of the Buffybot's parts. She remembered seeing the logo on some of her -- of its -- innards.

She realized with a sorry twist of grief that she even missed being mad at Spike.

Although it was very late, the deli appeared to be open. The counters of meats in the front were dark, but the restaurant part was lit up. A young man typed on a laptop computer by the window. She cleared her throat and asked them, "Do you know if there's a Mandy here?"

"Owner," the man said. He sipped his coffee.

"Is she here, or home for the night?"

"I'm here," a woman had emerged from a back room -- in a wheelchair. Buffy guessed that opening the door triggered a bell; there certainly wasn't enough business at this hour to keep even one person busy. She wondered why the place was open so late -- New Yorkers kept late hours, but the clock over the cash register claimed it was two AM. She added, "Parker, how much later are you going to be up here?"

The man gave her a shrug. "Your wireless connection is better than the dialup in my apartment. I'm doing research on something."

She frowned at him, then turned her attention back to Buffy. "What can I do for you?"

Buffy said, "Vincent said to tell you he sent me."

"Vincent, eh?" the woman folded her arms. "And why did Vincent send you here?"

"Because I'm hunting somebody named Rufus," Buffy said. Who now has those books in his possession due to my stupidity.

Parker paused in mid keystroke. Without turning around, she knew he was listening carefully to the two of them. The hair on Buffy's neck rose. This place wasn't what it seemed. She wondered if the kid -- he wasn't all that old -- was a sentry of some sort, or if he really was just taking advantage of a wireless internet connection for "research."

Mandy ran a hand through dark hair. "Rufus's out of your league, kiddo. I don't know what he did -- did he break your heart? -- but he's out of your league. He's dangerous."

"So am I," Buffy said, quietly. "And he's not my type."

Yeah pet? And what is your type? Memory-Spike's voice snickered in her head. He added, Right then. Thought so.

The woman regarded Buffy levelly. She tapped the arm of her wheelchair with her fingers. Then she said, calmly, "What are you? Human? Demon? Witch? Other?"

The question was phrased like she'd asked Buffy if she was a Republican or a Democrat. There was an edge there, a hint of challenge, but Buffy judged that wariness was due to the woman's lack of knowledge about her. Buffy was a stranger, and Mandy wasn't altogether sure that Buffy was a friend.

"Human." Buffy said. She added, with a hint of challenge of her own, "Slayer. Name's Buffy."

Did the woman know what a Slayer was?

Evidently so. Mandy chewed on her upper lip for a second then said, "And Vincent passed you?"

Buffy shrugged and said, "I don't know what you mean by 'passed' but he said to come here."

"Lots of Slayers these days," Mandy said. "Most of you are in over your heads. No experience in the heroine business. Five that I know of have gotten themselves killed in the last three months. Two were killed going after Rufus."

"Rufus took a couple of books from me. They're important books. Magic books. I need to get them back. Vincent seemed to think I could find information here," Buffy said, letting just a trace of annoyance into her voice. "And I'm not a new Slayer. I've been doing this for the better part of a decade."

One of Mandy's eyebrows rose. Then she said, "What hotel are you staying in?"

"If you're sending someone to meet me, pardon my paranoia, but let's meet somewhere neutral." She didn't want anyone knowing where she was sleeping.

The woman tapped the arm of her chair again for a second, then nodded curtly. "There's a parking garage next to the Aerie building. I'll call a few friends, see if I can't find a contact for you there. I can't guarantee anything, but I'll put you in touch with a few of the city's, shall we say, more effective heroes."

As Buffy was leaving, she overheard the woman chiding the young man, "Peter! Go home! You're going to turn into a pumpkin!"

* * * * *

It was cold on top of the parking garage. There were no stars in the sky, just low clouds, and the air was just a few degrees above freezing and humid. A wind blew, and a few flakes of snow drifted down. Buffy shivered and huddled down into her jacket. She missed California something fierce.

She'd been up here, waiting in the shadows of the elevator, for a couple of hours. The parking garage was almost empty -- it seemed to be attached to a nearby office building and maybe it only saw use during the day. When a car appeared, finally, she breathed a sigh of relief.

The car drove towards her, slowly but directly, though Buffy was reasonably sure the driver could not see her with normal senses. She assumed this meant that she was being watched if the driver was human. She stood in the shadows, but that didn't mean she was invisible to someone with a night vision scope, or something with better than human senses.

The driver was human; she was a woman with dark hair and -- Buffy sized up quickly, when the lady opened her door and stepped out -- an athletic build. Could be another Slayer, Buffy thought, or she could just be someone with significant amount of martial arts training. There was confidence in the way the woman moved, and assertiveness in her the way she squared her shoulders. The driver was someone used to command.

"Elisa Maza," the woman introduced herself, holding a hand out. "Sorry it took me so long, you'll understand if I tell you that we checked you out."

'We' evidently included someone in the skyscraper with a castle atop it because Elisa glanced upwards as she spoke, in apparent acknowledgement of the work done.

Buffy folded her arms and said, "And you found out ...?"

"Quite a bit more than you'd expect," the woman said. She gestured at her car. "Why don't you come in where it's warm."

"If you don't mind, I'll stay out in the cold. For all I know, you're a demon in disguise." Buffy's arms stayed folded.

Elisa's mouth quirked into a genuine smile. "I can't say as I blame you for that. You've been doing this sort of thing for awhile, apparently."

She reached inside the car door and retrieved a pair of gloves. As she bent over, Buffy saw that Maza was armed with a gun and had a radio and a pair of handcuffs on her belt. Put together with the woman's square shoulders and the confidence in her voice, her occupation was suddenly obvious. Buffy said flatly, "You're a cop."

"I'm a detective," Elisa admitted. "I'm off duty, just got off an hour ago. I do the night shift -- I've got enough seniority to go to days, but my friends are all, uh, nocturnal."

Elisa put her gloves on, and added a scarf, and then said, "C'mon, it'll be warmer beside the elevator, at least, it'll block the wind. I'd suggest we hide in the stairwell, but my friends would be upset by that -- you'll understand, too, if I tell you that we're being watched."

Buffy had already assumed that, but a thin trickle of fear crawled up her back like icewater. She was all alone out here; there was nobody to back her up if something nasty happened. No friends, and not even an ally.

The wall cut some of the wind, but it was still cold. Buffy hunched her shoulders and said bluntly, "I'm after a vampire. Do you know about vampires?"

Elisa shrugged and said, "The clan -- my friends -- take one out now and again. They consider them easy hunting, all things being equal. There's not too many vampires in NYC, though; too many heroes."

"Well, you've got one named Rufus and he took some important texts from me. I need to get them back." Buffy wished for a tissue; the cold wind was making her nose run.

"Magic books?" Elisa said, suspiciously.

Buffy nodded.

"How important?" Elisa asked.

"Important." Buffy assured her. "Got any idea where I should start hunting? I'm from California."

"Are we talking about nasty-affect-a-few-people spells or end-the-world type important?" Maza asked. From her tone of voice, which was peculiarly annoyed, Buffy thought that Maza might have dealt with a few end-the-world type crisis of her own.

Was she a Slayer? Buffy wondered again. But the Potentials had only been Slayers for a few months; Buffy suspected this woman had been in the hero business longer than that.

On the other hand, they'd discovered that a lot of the Potentials had lived far from ordinary lives even before Willow had worked her magic. Many of them had been in fields like law enforcement or the military or martial arts. One woman had been a Junior High teacher in a particularly rough neighborhood. Another girl had been an internationally competitive gymnast.

Buffy answered the woman's question after a moment of thought. She said carefully, "It's not an end-the-world-important issue, but ... do you know what a Watcher is?"

"They follow Immortals around, don't they?" Elisa said with a frown. "I met one once at Mandy's. He and his Immortal were trying to stop a mutual enemy of ours; they thought that if Duncan killed her that it might solve the problem, but it turned out she's a different kind of Immortal and it didn't work."

What was an Immortal? Buffy wondered. She'd have to follow up on that later. She shook her head and corrected, "They follow Slayers around, actually, and train them when we can identify them.

"You were telling me about a book ...?" Elisa asked, putting Buffy back on track.

"The book's a directory of Watchers and those that they Watch," Buffy said.

"Like a phone book?" Elisa asked, a frown creasing her forehead between her eyebrows.

"Uh, yeah, except this one's self updating and includes all kinds of status information about every Watcher out there, including their exact location. Plus all sorts of other people they like to keep tabs on -- Slayers, their friends, etcetera." Buffy rolled her eyes, "I think it's a stupid idea, myself, to have a book like that, but somebody dreamed it up as a safety measure -- they thought if a Watcher got kidnapped they could use it to find him."

"Yeah, but I imagine Watchers and Slayers have lots of enemies," Elisa said. "Someone could use it to hunt them down just as easily."

"Got it in one." Buffy sighed and said in a small voice, "I was supposed to be taking it to a friend for destruction, but I, uh, lost it in a fight with Rufus."

"Oh, Rufus," Elisa said, in a tone of aggravation. "If you can dust that bastard, you'll have my undying gratitude. He's got his claws in every fence ring in the city. Guy was a ringleader of a burglary cartel before he got turned, about twenty years ago, and he just got more ruthless and more involved in the dark arts afterwards."

Elisa ran her hand through her hair in aggravation, and added, "Brooklyn's been trying to get the creep; Brooklyn hates magic. We're not sure where Rufus is, but Brook will be happy to help you, I think."

"I don't think I need help, just a clue where I should start hunting," Buffy protested. "I'm looking for directions, not a ... "

With a rush of wings, something -- someone -- with brick colored skin and a beak and claws and a tail dropped out of the sky and landed next to Elisa. Elisa didn't jump, and Buffy slowly unwound from the defensive crouch she'd dropped in to. The creature was smirking, apparently amused by her reaction of immediate hostility.

Buffy left, "...sidekick ..." unsaid. This wasn't a sidekick. This creature qualified more as heavy artillery. He was six feet of solid muscle, battle honed and hardened. Instinctively, she knew he'd be damned good in a fight and she wanted him on her side. She wouldn't ever want to face him from the wrong side of a battle.

Practice now, sparring and training, with a guy with a physique like that ...

Buffy stared at him. She couldn't help it. She'd never seen anything like him before. She hoped he was on the side of the light, and this wasn't a double cross -- no, not a double cross. Her gut said Elisa was trustworthy, and the body language between the two said they were friends.

She presumed the creature was staring back, but it was hard to tell because he was wearing a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Besides the sunglasses, the only other thing he wore was a loincloth. This was amazing as the temperature was rapidly slipping below the freezing point. He didn't look cold.

Elisa said, "Buffy? This is Brooklyn. The rest of the clan will help out if you need it, but Rufus is frankly pretty low on the scale of things we tackle."

"Yeah," Brooklyn said, in a voice that held a faint Scottish accent, "He's not Demona, Oberon, The Joker or Voldemort. I can deal with him, Elisa."

"Good. Call me if it looks like he'll be a bigger problem than we think." Elisa said, "And remember ..."

"Don't kill any monsters without cleaning up after myself. I know, I know." Brooklyn sighed. Buffy thought he might be rolling his eyes, because his eye ridges waggled, but it was hard to tell with the sunglasses he was wearing.

Elisa smiled and said, "Got it in one. My boss'll kill me if she's got to explain any more lumps of miscellaneous body parts in Times Square to the media as 'movie props' ..."

She left, her old car leaving a trail of white vapor behind. Brooklyn snorted and said, "She worries too much. So. You're hunting Rufus?"

"Uh, yeah ..."

Brooklyn eyed her curiously for a moment. "Can I ask you something? You're not screaming, running, or asking stupid questions about what I am. Have you seen gargoyles before?"

Elisa frowned at him. "I'd assumed you were a demon, actually. But that's okay, some of my best friends aren't human."

"I'm not a demon," he said, in a voice that was suddenly cold and unfriendly. "Or a monster. I'm just a gargoyle. There's a difference."

"Sorry," she said, genuinely apologetic. She'd clearly hurt his feelings, and her gut instincts told her that this was a creature who could be a friend. And he was ... well, he was tall, and athletic, and masculine in the extreme, and even if he wasn't human, he was handsome.

She could hear Spike's laughter now. He'd have a fit of hysterical giggles at the thought that she'd be attracted to yet another nonhuman, then say something snarky at her, then laugh again. She could see him now, staggering off into the night, still choking on mirth.

At least this one has a soul all his own, she thought in irritation at the memory of Spike. Amazing how he could piss her off even when he was dead and gone.

But did he have a soul? How could she know that?

Brooklyn looked at her over the top of his sunglasses. His eyes were brown, highly intelligent, and more than a little hurt, despite her apology. And something in those eyes told her that he was correct: He was not a demon. The look in her eyes told her that this was a creature with a soul. Perhaps he was not human, but he was good all the same.

She refused to be attracted to him. Shut up, Spike. Stop laughing at me.

"So," Brooklyn said slowly, "If we want to find Rufus, we should probably start with his, uh, employees."

"Sounds like a good starting point," Buffy agreed. "Got a tactic in mind?"

Brooklyn suggested, "Well, what seems to work the best is that we catch them and scare them until they talk."

"And I suppose you'll do the scaring?" Buffy inquired.

Brooklyn apparently had a sense of humor, despite his easily hurt feelings. He said drily, "No ma'am, I'll be the good cop."

She grinned. His tone of voice was perfectly deadpan, but amusement crinkled the corner of his eyes. He added, "Bribery works sometimes, too. Got any money?"

"Five bucks and some airline vouchers for food, taxis, and the hotel," Buffy sighed.

"Mmph. The hero business doesn't pay well, does it?" Brooklyn sighed. She thought by the tone of voice that he knew all about the wages, or lack thereof.

"Not really," she agreed. "Let's go start knocking some heads together."

"A lady after my own heart," he said. "Want a lift?"

At first, she thought he meant in a car and, insanely, she looked around the rooftop for a vehicle. It was empty now that Elisa's Fairlane had left. And Brooklyn had lifted his formidable wings up: they had a span of at least thirty feet if not more, now that he had unfolded them from his shoulders.

"I promise I won't drop you," Brooklyn said. He meant to carry her aloft, to fly with her.

It was insane to consider the idea. She'd just turned down an offer to warm up in Elisa's car because she didn't know these people. They could be true evil, kin to the First, for all the information she had about them. To let him carry her up into the air was pure craziness. He could drop her.

On the other hand, she'd bonked Spike even before he'd gotten a soul. She'd slept in his presence. He could have killed her or turned her at will. It wasn't like she hadn't taken chances before.

Brooklyn shrugged and said, "Or not."

He looked hurt. Impulsively, she stepped towards him. "It's okay. Let's go. Flying will be faster, and if Rufus is a fence, we want to get him before he sells those books."

He grinned, baring white teeth. Strong arms swept her off her feet. His chest was hard muscled and warm, and she could feel his heart beating as he carried her to the edge of the building. When she saw the abyss below his feet -- a good six stories -- she instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck. His hair was soft and silky and white, a striking contrast to his ruddy skin.

"Here we go," Brooklyn warned. He dove headfirst off the edge of the building, leaving her stomach behind. She bit back a scream of alarm, as an atavistic flashback of falling to her death surfaced violently in her memories.

Then he swooped upwards, wings catching the air. They soared over an empty rooftop and a busy street, then he spiraled higher on an unseen thermal of warm air that rose off the city below. "It's okay, you can relax. I'm not going to drop you. Or crash," he promised. "I do this all the time. Well, some of the time, anyway. Well, when I can find anyone who will trust me besides Elisa. And Elisa always flies with Goliath. They're a couple."

"How many girls do you take flying?" She asked, curious. She could hear Spike giggling at her. Was she as obvious as she felt? Spike thought so. Because the memory-of-Spike was also getting a bit jealous, which was making her feel guilty. But he was dead!

Which made her feel guilty too. He was dead because he'd known her.

Bloody hell, she could imagine him saying, annoyed. If I hadn't ever met you, I'd still be a soulless Big Bad.

So would that be a good thing or a bad thing?
She could see herself asking him in a teasing tone.

You figure it out, woman. He'd growl back, irritated at her.

Except he'd made it clear a number of times that he did like what he'd become. Sometimes with embarrassment, of course; sometimes he'd acknowledge his good side with a gruff and snarky insult aimed at her, at the Scoobies, or at himself. Other times, she'd get a candid look from eyes tinted with hope. Once, close to the end, he'd just held her, giving her what little comfort she could draw from his cold limbs -- she knew Spike well enough to know he wouldn't do something like that without really meaning it.

"Hello?" Brooklyn said. "I said, not many."

"Huh? Oh, sorry. Just old memories," she said.

His arms, warm and strong, tightened around her. "You're shivering. Want to stop somewhere to get warmed up?"

Yeah, my hotel room. Care to step in for a cup of coffee too?

Damn. And from the memory-Spike a snarky, Woman, have you no shame?

She said more sharply than she intended, "I'm fine! Where's our first stop?"

* * * * *

They found nothing that night, and Brooklyn dropped her off at her hotel an hour before dawn. He explained he turned to stone at dawn; Buffy wasn't sure if he was serious or not.

Gives a whole new meaning to 'rock hard in the morning' now doesn't it? Spike cackled in her head.

"Shut up," she told the memory-Spike aloud. She picked up the hotel room's phone and called the airport. It had started to snow hard around four AM and she wasn't surprised to find out that the airports were shut down across the entire eastern seaboard. She would be here another day or two at least. It was eight AM now, and the drifts were blocking the roads.

She couldn't raise Willow on the phone, and Willow needed to be warned that the books had been stolen as Willow was in them. But there wasn't any answer at Willow's hotel room. After a moment's thought, she reluctantly made a call, collect, to Wolfram and Hart before she belatedly remembered that LA was three hours behind NYC. It was only five AM their time. She got a sleepy sounding receptionist -- not Harmony, thank the Higher Powers -- who transferred her to Angel's voice mail without question.

It felt weird, calling him; on one hand, she wanted to hear his voice. On the flip side, she was making a casual call to Wolfram and Hart to ask their CEO to check in on Willow.

"Angel, this is Buffy ..." she rambled on, for perhaps a bit longer than was necessary. Spike was jealously grumbling in her head. Didn't he understand that she'd always have a thing for Angel until the day she died? It didn't mean she couldn't love Spike too ... though Spike woul

She called the receptionist back, intending to ask for Wesley's voice mail too. Wesley deserved to be told about the loss of the books. He was most likely in the book and he certainly had plenty of enemies.

"Wolfram and Hart, where may I direct your call? -- Spike! Leave that copier alone! Don't think I don't know a priest who couldn't speed you over to the other side!"


"Sorry," the receptionist said, to Buffy

"Spike?" Buffy said, aloud. Surely she'd misheard.

"... I mean it! I'll tell Angel!"

Yeah, she'd misheard. If Spike was alive -- well, undead -- he'd have found her by now. He was as reliable as a puppy that way. If he'd survived Sunnydale, the first thing he'd have done would have been to rejoin them. And even if he decided not to, the last place she'd find him would be working with Angel. They hated each other with a soul-deep passion.

The receptionist returned to the phone for the second time. "What is it about bored men and machines?" she asked, then said again, "Where can I direct your call?"

"Uh, Wesley's line, please."

* * * * *

She slept most of the day, much to her surprise. When she woke, it was still snowing fat white flakes that stuck to everything. The city was shut down; she looked out the hotel window and watched as a bulldozer cleared the road, one scoop at a time. How much snow had they gotten? Two feet?

Her luggage -- except for her lost carry on -- had proceeded to LAX without her, so she only had the clothes on her back to wear. She descended to the lobby of the hotel, and with a wince at the cost, bought clothing in the hotel's gift shop. She used her credit card -- she had not been joking about only having five bucks to her name. On the other hand, she didn't want to look like a bum in clothes she'd been wearing for three days straight. (She'd slept in the outfit on the flight from Heathrow.) But to her dismay, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt with a "New York City 2004" logo, and a sweat-shirt with a Giants logo cost nearly as much as the room, and the room had not been cheap.

And while the airline had coughed up the money to pay for the first night, she thought they might be unwilling to pay for the second night. They'd pay for connections missed due to the flight being diverted. They weren't likely to pay for weather related problems.

Damnit. She couldn't afford this.

By the time she'd eaten (also expensive) and returned to her room it was dark. She wasn't the slightest bit surprised to find that Brooklyn had let himself into her room. She'd left the window unlocked for his benefit; it wasn't like he could take the elevator up and knock on the door when he arrived.

However, she was surprised that he was sitting on the foot of her bed and signing an autograph for a hotel maid -- he had his mirrored sunglasses propped on top of his head, and his long tail reached all the way across the bed to the pillows at the head, where the tip twitched occasionally, catlike. The maid was giggling and grinning and very obviously flirting with Brooklyn, who was flirting back. When the maid saw Buffy, the girl gestured lamely at her housekeeping cart. "The bellman said he saw Brooklyn come in the window. I came up to see if he needed help."

Buffy's room had been done around noon; she vaguely remembered yanking a pillow over her head and telling the maid to g'way, she was sleeping!

"It's okay," Buffy said, reflecting that in most places, the sight of a winged monster flying through a window would cause panic in the whole building.

Someone else knocked on the door. "Police! Open up!"

The maid and Buffy jumped. Buffy decided that, yup, someone had panicked. Brooklyn rolled his eyes, and before Buffy could shoo him out the window, he padded on clawed feet to the door with his tail lashing. He peered through the eyehole, then pulled the door open and said, "Yes, Officer Morgan?"

The officer was a black man with graying hair and a frown on his face. The frown lessened slightly when he saw Brooklyn. "You were seen," he said, without preamble. His tone was chiding and annoyed.

Brooklyn shrugged, "Buffy knew I was coming. I figured entering the regular way would cause more of a fuss."

"Yeah." Morgan stepped through the doorway and shut it behind him. He sized Buffy up -- the maid had slipped silently around Brooklyn and the officer and beat a hasty retreat. "He's got your permission to be here?"

"Oh! Yeah, sure."

The officer left after he took Buffy's name; there was apparently no law against entering a hotel room through a window of the occupant of said hotel room had no objection. Brooklyn shut the door after the man and shook his head. "Sorry about that. Ten years here, and some people still panic when they see us."

"I'm impressed. You've got a good relationship with the cops," Buffy said.

Brooklyn nodded happy agreement. "With some of them, yes. Morgan's an old friend of Elisa's. There are a few policemen who I would not have talked to. Easy enough to jump back out the window if the guy's going to be a jerk. But I like to talk to them when I can, you know? If they know us as individuals, as people, they're more likely to trust us. It's hard to shoot one of us if we had coffee and donuts the night before."

He was right, Buffy supposed. And smart, to have figured that out. And brave, to trust that he wouldn't be betrayed by an assumed ally.

Brooklyn grinned and added, "It hasn't always been this way. We've had to work up it. When we first arrived, there were protests and riots by the Quarrymen. But we make a point of being, oh I dunno, not totally mysterious? We've got our enemies -- every single one of us has been shot at least once in the last ten years -- but those are fewer and fewer anymore."

He added, "Anyway, while we were sleeping, Elisa dug up a couple of likely contacts for us to go harass. Are you ready?"

Buffy nodded.

He scooped her up -- he was not that big, but there was amazing strength in his wiry body. Brooklyn hopped out through the window with one arm around her, then neatly swapped ends in mid air and caught the windowsill with his free hand. Her stomach was left somewhere far behind by that rapid move. "Shut the window," he directed, since he had one arm around her and one hand holding onto the sill. "Or you'll have a room full of snow when you get back. Hotel might bill you for that."

He had a point. She gritted her teeth, trusted that iron grip around her waist, and let go of his neck. It was seven stories straight down. Head spinning from the height, she reached up and pulled the window shut.

"I'm not going to drop you," Brooklyn said, sounding annoyed. "Relax."

"Easy for you to say," Buffy grumbled, "You've never fallen to your death before."

"You had a bad fall?" Brooklyn asked. He shoved away from the wall and his wings boomed open with a thunderous crack. They were flying. Buffy gritted her teeth and looked at Brooklyn's face from close range rather than looking down.

"I fell to my death. I mean, I really died. But they brought me back." Buffy explained.

"Dangerous to meddle in things like that," Brooklyn said, with a growl. "No offense, but things that are dead should stay dead."

"They needed me." Buffy sighed. "I mean, they really, really needed me in a sort of major way."

Without her, she reflected with a heavy sense of responsibility, would they have been able to stop the First? Being yanked from that warm and peaceful place had been worth it, but that didn't mean she didn't miss the comfort of Heaven.

"It's not that I fear dying again," she said, still securely gripping his neck. "Smacking the ground would hurt, but dying's not so bad. But my friends kinda need me still."

"Mm. That, I can understand," Brooklyn said. They were buffeted by a snowy, icy gust of wind; she gritted her teeth so she wouldn't squeak a scream of alarm when the wind flipped them nearly sideways. Her cheeks were numb and the wind made her eyes water and it felt like the tears were freezing to her skin.

"You warm enough?" he asked.

"No!" she said, through chattering teeth. "It doesn't snow in Sunnydale!"

"No, it doesn't, but you lived on a Hellmouth with far more assorted nasties than we would ever tolerate," Brooklyn snorted, surprising her. She remembered Elisa saying they'd done a background check on her. Apparently, that check had involved some non-traditional sources. "I'll take a New York winter over that many demons in one place, thank you."

"Oh, yes, we had plenty of nasties." Buffy said, too cheerfully.

"You had to destroy the town to get rid of the Hellmouth," Brooklyn said. He sounded more than a little horrified by that idea. "Gargoyles canna stop protecting their home anymore than we canna stop breathing," he said and sounded like he was quoting someone. His accent was thicker. It was definitely Scottish. Buffy decided she was amused by his accent; how many demons -- no, gargoyles, she corrected herself -- had identifiable Earth accents?

"If I ever had to destroy this place to save the world," he gestured loosely at the city, holding her in a one-armed grip that made her nearly strangle him in response, "I don't know ... I'd probably have to kill myself afterwards or something. We Gargoyles protect our homes to our last breath. It is who, and what, we are."

"And the city's your home and everything?" Buffy said, once she unclenched her teeth from a swallowed scream. The wind had switched directions and blown him sideways towards a radio antenna. Brooklyn didn't seem bothered by the gusting wind -- or the frigid temperatures -- nearly as much as she was. He was wearing a loincloth and nothing else, yet didn't even seem to have goosebumps.

"The city's our home," he confirmed. "We were born in Scotland ... but that was a thousand years ago, and the people then are dead and gone -- most of them, anyway -- and the way of life is lost. This is our home now. A new way of life. New friends. New family."

He grinned at her and looked at her over the top of his sunglasses and added, "And it's not all bad. You guys have indoor plumbing, fast food, and internet connections."

She had an incongruous vision of Brooklyn hunched over a keyboard. Then, on due reflection, she decided that maybe that wasn't improbable. Between his clear knowledge of modern life and his sunglasses, he seemed quite well adapted to the twenty-first century.

"Almost there," he said, as he stooped into a dive. The ground rushed up, she swallowed yet another howl of terror, and then she did squeak a bit when he boomed his wings open and swapped ends. He braked so quickly that it felt as if her lunch had kept going without her. Lightly, he landed on the street in front of a pawn shop.

She was so happy to have the ground beneath her feet that she could have kissed it. Or kissed him, for landing safely.

Spike giggled in her memories, but there was a growl of jealousy there, too. Even dead -- or deader -- she doubted he'd want to share her with anyone else.

If Brooklyn was attracted to her, however, he didn't seem to be showing it. She followed his winged back into the pawn shop. Most likely, he wasn't attracted to human women. He'd probably find her interest (and she refused to be interested!) perverted. He was friendly enough, but that seemed to be his basic personality. There was a wariness to him, a cautious edge, but once he figured out you weren't out to get him, he warmed up quickly enough. He reminded her a bit of Xander, she thought.

The pawn shop operator let out an angry oath when he saw Brooklyn. He pointed at the door, and added, "Can't you read?"

Brooklyn paused in mid stride, then backed up, comically exaggerating his movements. Buffy stepped out of his way, half expecting a fight. The owner sounded distinctly hostile.

The gargoyle stopped when he could see the front of the store. He tapped a placard in the window with one taloned finger; his claw made a sound like fingernails on slate when it touched the glass. The placard, taped to the window, was two-sided but there weren't any words. It was just a picture of hammer on a blue field.

Brooklyn lifted his eye ridge at the picture. "I can," he said slowly, "but you have apparently not learned anything more than pictograms."

Buffy wasn't sure if the pawn shop owner understood the insult, but he definitely realized he was being insulted. He let out a snarl of rage and reached below his counter for what Buffy knew was a gun even before she spotted the sawed-off barrel of a twelve gauge.

Brooklyn ducked, tucked, and rolled out of sight -- for a creature with six feet of tail and a thirty foot wingspan, he had remarkably fast reflexes. Buffy moved, reacting with sheer reflex. She nailed the guy in the hand in a wild kick over the top of the counter. A shot went wild, blowing out a couple tiles of the suspended ceiling. The gun clattered on the floor. She launched herself over the counter, grabbed him by the shirt, and slammed him into the wall. "That wasn't very polite."

"Monster lover!" He spat at her.

"Truer than you know!" Buffy snarled into his face. "Rufus. Where is he?"

"I don't know no Rufus!" the man protested.

"I'd start talking," Brooklyn said. He strolled back through the doorway. "She scares even me, you know."

His tone was conversational. Buffy caught the cue, and shook the pawn shop owner hard, putting some Slayer strength into it. "That's right. I can scare a gargoyle. Better talk!"

He talked. "Try Lenny's Den of Weapons! Two blocks south of here! Rufus is his cousin!"

"If you're lying to me, we'll ..."

"Be back! I know, I know!" The man agreed.

As they were exiting, Buffy heard him mutter, "Usually the gargoyle plays the bad cop ..."

Brooklyn laughed, openly, beaked head thrown back, as they strolled up the street. His bare feet crunched in the snow. Her sneakers were soaked by it; she curled her toes against the cold and wished for her boots, which were in her luggage and presumably in LA. When he had control of himself, he said with a snicker still in his voice, "He's right, you know. Usually the gargoyle plays the bad cop."

Buffy summoned her dignity and reminded him, "Well, you said you wanted to be good cop!"

"I didn't think you'd take me seriously! You're one scary chick, you know that?" But he was grinning at her. "That was a hell of a move. Owen said Slayers have super-human reflexes but I'm not sure I could top that."

"We'll have to spar a bit, find out. I haven't had a sparring partner who could challenge me in, oh ..." Six months, since Spike died. "... in awhile. That's if I have time before I go back to LA. But sparring would be a good thing. A real good thing. Need to keep my sparring skills up and everything."

"Sounds fun." He struck a mock-martial-arts pose in front of her, then flexed his biceps.

Was he flirting with her? Nahhh. On the other hand, she was babbling.

Lenny's Den of Weapons was open, which was not surprising, considering the presumed clientele. Besides, it got dark early this time of year. It was barely seven. There was also a hammer-insignia pasted on the door, but Brooklyn ignored it and strolled right in after a muttered, "My turn to be bad cop," at Buffy.

The proprietor looked up, then did a double take as Brooklyn approached the counter. Buffy had not gotten a very good look at Rufus during the fight; the alley had been dark. Still, she thought the man behind the counter was a relative of Rufus -- or at least of Rufus' body.

Brooklyn muttered softly at her, "Vampire."

She would not have needed the warning. The cousin wasn't breathing. She'd watched for a breath as soon as she entered the place, and hadn't seen one yet. The first thing many vampires did when they woke was to Sire their family members -- she'd once had to dust not only a woman, but the woman's children as well, and their grandmother and their babysitter. The boyfriend had been the woman's Sire, starting the whole chain of events.

Spike had Sired his own mother.

"No gargoyles allowed," the vampire snapped. "You'll have to go elsewhere!"

Buffy planted her hands on the counter and leaned over it. "How about a Slayer?"

The vampire grinned and vamped out all in one motion. "Slayers are allowed. They're tasty."

"Buffy, I thought we agreed I would be the bad cop," Brooklyn sighed. He leaned against the wall, arms folded, wings settled calmly around his shoulders, in an air of resigned watching.

"Buffy? Oh, shit!" The vampire had mistaken Buffy for a new slayer. He recoiled.

"No need," Buffy said, in a pleasant voice. She vaulted one-handed over the counter, and snagged the vampire by his wrist when he tried to run. Efficiently, she rammed him up against the wall and pressed the point of her wooden spike against his spine, threatening his heart from the back. "Start talking!"

"You're going to dust me anyway! Why should I?" The vampire said, sullenly, through his fangs.

He had a point. Buffy glanced at Brooklyn, wondering if he was ruthless enough for this part. Yeah, probably. He hadn't survived for ten years as a nonhuman in a big city without developing a bit of cold bloodedness. As she watched, Brooklyn picked up a sword from a rack beside the counter and idly examined the blade. He looked far more fascinated by the steel than by her discussion with the vampire.

She wrenched the vampire's arm up high behind his back. "Tell you what. I will let you go, because finding Rufus is a heck of a lot more important than one single, solitary vampire."

"You will?" there was hope in the vampire's voice.

"I will. I swear. I will not touch you if you tell me where we can find Rufus."

"There's a bar, downtown ..."

He gave stammered directions.

Buffy almost felt guilty when she released him. The vampire ran for the door -- and Brooklyn, who had made no such promise, swung hard and clean and flat with the sword, at shoulder height, as the creature tried to duck past them. The vampire exploded into two distinctly separate clouds of dust.

"See?" Buffy said. "I let you play badder cop."

Brooklyn gently set the sword back on the rack and frowned at the pile of vampire dust at his feet. He didn't look happy. "I hate killing them like that. Vampires are so nasty that I can't let them live ... but I always wonder if there's not one out there that might be good. And what if I kill him by mistake? Demons are creatures of free will just like us. What if there was one vampire who chose a path of good, and I killed him. That would be wrong."

Buffy frowned too. What if Spike's not the only vampire who chose to be good? Brooklyn's right. They can't all be evil. Lorne's another example of that -- most of the time, his species is particularly ruthless. But he wouldn't hurt a fly. There's an exception to every rule. Undead things aren't always evil. Some demons are good.

Too complicated. I just want to hit things.

She shook her head. "I'm sure he was just another evil vampire, Brooklyn. Look at this place. Does this look like the home of Mother Theresa the Vampire?"'

She gestured around the store, which had the most amazing assortment of knives, swords, axes, crossbows, and assorted sharp implements, plus a nice rack of skin magazines behind the counter.

"No," Brooklyn said. "I'm just saying that I don't like rushing to judgment like that."

Buffy clapped him on the shoulder, comfortingly, and squeezed those rock hard muscles. "Let's go find that bar. And -- don't feel bad -- I've slain a few thousand vampires. I've only ever known one who chose to be good without a soul being forced upon him. And he was a Big Bad before that. I tried to slay Spike a number of times; he just managed to get away every time. Had I slain him before ... before ... well, I wouldn't have regretted it."

And the world would have been lost to Glory and the First. He was instrumental in saving the world at least twice, once before he got that soul of his. Could I have succeeded without him at my side? Maybe. Maybe not.

She suspected that Brooklyn didn't want to hear that. She was rather surprised, given his toothy and fanged appearance, but it seemed that he wasn't a natural born killer. He had the reflexes -- he hadn't hesitated when the opportunity presented itself -- and he had the hero's logic, the, "kill it for the greater good" mentality. But he would regret, every time.

"You did the right thing," she said, as she stepped over the vampire dust. "It was what I expected you to do. If you'd let him go, he would warn Rufus, probably."

"I know," he said. He sighed and ran both clawed hands through his white mane of hair. "Let's go find Rufus. He's made enough trouble that I won't mind killing him."

* * * * *

"Game plan?" Brooklyn asked. They both stood in the shadows across the street from a rather seedy looking bar.

"Bouncer won't let us in the bar," Buffy predicted. The bouncer was not human. He appeared human, but Brooklyn said he didn't smell human. They were downwind, something she normally would not have thought of -- but Brooklyn had.

Brooklyn glanced at his watch. Buffy did a double take at that, but why shouldn't a gargoyle wear a watch? Brooklyn's was a fairly nice one, too, matching the mirrored sunglasses. If he really turned to stone at dawn, she supposed it could be a lifesaver to know what time it was. He suggested, "It's almost time for the bars to close. They'll probably kick him out in about thirty minutes. Tell you what -- you confront him, and I nail him from behind when you've got him good and distracted."

"Okay." Buffy said. It was a simple plan, but sounded effective enough. Rufus would undoubtedly believe her to be alone -- unless the pawn shop owner had warned him, and she doubted the guy had the balls to do so -- and she would not be surprised to find out that Brooklyn was her equal in a fight. The two of them could certainly take him out with the element of surprise on their side.

Rufus actually left a few minutes before closing. He wasn't obviously drunk. He did have two women on his arms.

"Buffy, those are both vampire chicks," Brooklyn said, low and worried. "You think he turned them?"

"Could be," Buffy said. "Or not."

"Maybe we should get some help," Brooklyn said. "I can take out one vampire by myself, but three?"

"There's just three of them," Buffy said, disbelievingly. "I don't call for help unless there's a dozen or more."

"Rufus is a master vampire," Brooklyn said, warily.

"So?" Buffy shrugged. She stepped out into the street and ran across it.

Rufus stopped short when he saw her, and shrugged the women off his arms. "You again!"

"I want my books back," Buffy said. "Want to fight me over it or just give 'em back?"

"Already sold," he said. His tone was truthful. "Sorry little Slayer. You're out of luck. If you'd caught me a few hours ago, maybe we could have struck a deal."

"I don't deal with vampires," she said, just as Brooklyn came screaming out of the sky with a large stick clutched in both hands. He hit Rufus with stunning force. The stick pierced the vampire's shoulder, knocked him flat, and pinned him to the ground.

The two female vampires scattered. Brooklyn hit the ground rolling, scrambled up onto all fours, and bounded off after one, leaving Rufus' fate in her hands.

She bent over him. He was moaning -- moaning the name of the Golden Goose Pawn Shop.

The Golden Goose was, ironically, their first stop.

Buffy hesitated a long moment. Here was a vampire who'd slain two Slayers, who was her equal fighting fairly hand to hand, and who had clearly been around for awhile. Brooklyn's words,Maybe they're not all evil, came back to her.

Luv, kill him. Had you killed me the first time we fought, there's several dozen people who'd be alive today. She could hear Spike's accent, and almost sense his presence. Was it her imagination or was he guiding her in this?

She gritted her teeth and drove her stake home. Rufus dusted in a puff of ashes.

* * * * *

"That's it?" Brooklyn stared at the books curiously. They were back in her hotel room -- it was late enough (or maybe early enough) that nobody had noticed them enter.

"Uh-huh," Buffy said. There were three of them. One was labeled, "Watchers" and another was labeled, "Friends, Slayers, and Allies." A third book had a fold-out map and the title of, "Current Locations and Directions."

The second book had both yellow pages and white pages, so to speak: a listing by name and a listing by occupation. "Here, look. My friend Angel works for Wolfram and Hart. Under Lawyers, like this ..."

She thumbed through the book until she found Lawyers, in the back. Wolfram and Hart had a large listing. "See? All these people are in the book. The listings update themselves, that's what makes it so dangerous. If this book fell into the wrong hands ..."

She traced her finger down the list of people that the Watchers had put in the book. There was Angel and Wesley, Fred and Gunn, Lorne and ....

A cold thrill ran up her spine. The book only listed people who were alive, or at least, err, moving. It was self updating and self correcting.

Wolfram and Hart had a listing for William "Spike" the Bloody.

The receptionist had shouted, "Spike! Leave that copy machine alone!"

"You okay?" Brooklyn asked, in concern. She looked up to meet his brown eyes.

"Uh, yeah. I just ... I didn't know a friend was working there. We lost touch."

Because I thought he was dead. Because he didn't tell me he was alive.

Spike. Spike was alive.

She hugged the book to her chest.

"Old friend, huh?" Brooklyn's tone of voice left no doubt that he knew exactly what sort of 'friend' this was. It must have been obvious on her face. Delight and anger all mixed together.

"Huh? Yeah. Guess I'll have to look him up when I get there," she said.

"Yeah. Guess you will," Brooklyn ran a hand over his hair. She couldn't tell what he was thinking; his sunglasses hid his expression and the beak was hard to read if he wasn't openly grinning. "Well, glad you got your books back. This was fun, really. Look me up if you're back in town."

He walked to the window, waved once, and dropped out of sight over the sill. She shut the window after him, then stared outside.

Brooklyn's silhouette was visible for a moment against the city lights before the snow swallowed him. She watched for a minute longer, and then did a double take when another figure -- not a gargoyle -- leaped from one rooftop to the next with the agility of a chimpanzee. When she continued to watch, she saw a third figure swing from what looked like a rope, crossing from one building to an opposing fire escape.

Somebody flew by on a hovercraft.

When the hominid turtles briefly appeared on the street below, she decided it was time to shut the window and go to bed. New York City had enough heroes. It didn't need her.


The End

You have reached the end of "Heroes". This story is complete.

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