At Xander's instruction, Hellena turned her bike right onto Revello Drive. She hadn't been quite sure what to expect from Sunnydale based on Xander's cryptic wordings, but neither the quiet, well-kept beach town's downtown, nor did the tree-lined streets of its residential areas fit her idea of the murder capital of of America.
"It's right here. 1630 Revello." he yelled in her ear over her bike's engine.
After making sure Bear and Collin had gotten the message, she parked her bike in front of what looked to be a story and a half Sears home. As she killed the engine, Xander was already sliding from the spot where he had been riding pillion behind her and walking toward a thin blonde girl sitting on the front porch of the house.
"Buffy, you would not believe how glad I am to be back here." Xander said as he walked down the pathway. He was doing better now than he had been, but was still a little weak and wobbly.
"And we're glad to have you back, Xander. You really do need to stop scaring us all like that." Buffy said, a mixture of relief and uncertainty in her voice, "Now consider yourself uninvited to my house, both you and your new friends."
Buffy rose from her seat, pulling a cocked crossbow from a spot on the porch hidden from the street by bushes. Hellena started to go for her gun. She could feel Bear and Collin making similar motions before Xander let out a mental scream of *No, don't do that. She isn't going to hurt you.*
They paused, hands underneath coats but not yet drawing from the holsters.
"Jumpy much, you people?" Buffy said, noticing their movement. "Look, I'm pointing everything at the ground here. I'm just going to bring the crossbow back inside with me because I can't just leave it out for the neighbor's kids to find. I mean Mrs. Delmonaco threw enough of a fit when we left out the lawn darts, and in the interest of inter-neighborhood harmony and all and because she's the one who brings in our mail when we're out of town, you know?"
She shrugged, and without turning her back on the Pack, walked into the front door of the house.
*So what was that all about?* she asked him.
"Do you have to keep doing that mind meld thing? It's creeping me out big time. And it's a kind of test. The Ontongard aren't the only ones out there who can wear the faces of people you think you know. If I can't walk across the threshold of Casa Summers without an invitation, then it's a big red flag showing that I've been compromised by the bad guys." he said. *Not that I haven't been totally compromised by people who think they're the good guys.*
*You know you're massively shouting with your mind there.* Collin thought.
"And you're so not helping me here." Xander said, sighing. "Just follow me inside." He did his best to stomp off to the house in a huff, opening the door and walking into the house with no problems. Hellena, Collin, and Bear followed him inside.
She found herself in the living room of the house. Buffy still held the crossbow, as did a younger dark-haired girl who looked to be related to her. The third young woman stood between them. She seemed to be unarmed and had short red hair. An older man in khakis and a sweater vest stood to one side, his fingers inches from another battle axe propped against a coffee table, while a Billy Idol wannabe sat on the couch scowling at everyone else. And there was something that didn't smell right about the Billy Idol guy; not Ontongard but something was off.
"Xander?" the redhead walked across the room. Hellena noticed that she was careful to stay out of the line of sight in case the women with the crossbows decided to aim them at the Pack. She reached a hand out to Xander, index finger extended, and carefully poked him on the shoulder of Collin's Daytona Bike Week t-shirt. "He's solid here, Buffy."
"So not the First since if he was the First he would now be going poof after giving us the usual resistance is futile speech." Buffy said.
"It's really you?" the redhead said.
"Yeah, it's me, Willow." Xander said.
"Don't you ever go scaring us like that again." she said grabbing Xander in a tight hug. "So after we went and took care of Mamma Wyvern and all the little babies, we went back over to campus to meet back up with you, but you weren't there, and we did manage to follow the trail from the arboreum back over to Sunnydale Junior High. And then we lost you again over by the softball fields. You remember where Jesse had that rally unfortunate dodgeball incident? Back over there. So then we've spent the past two days looking everywhere for you and thinking that since we couldn't find you that you were dead or five ways worse than dead, and then you come waltzing back in here like nothing happened. Or maybe not quite waltzing, more like you're wobbling a bit because you're walking around with a concussion again, and..."
"What Red really wants to know is what happened, and where the hell have you been?" Billy Idol said from the couch.
"It's kind of complicated." Xander said. Willow the redhead gave him one more squeeze before releasing him from her grip.
"So is everything we encounter." sweater vest said with a British accent.
"Let's start with introductions then. This is Hellena, Bear, and Collin. They're friends that helped me bring down the wyvern, and you really can put the crossbows down now." Xander said, pointing at each Pack member as he gave names.
"Sorry." the dark-haired girl mumbled as she propped hers against a wall.
"It's just been a rough couple of years." Buffy said, pointing down, but still holding onto her own bow. Hellena had a pretty good idea of how that could feel.
"You've met Buffy; this is my best friend Willow." The redhead gave a small wave toward the Pack. "Buffy's sister Dawn." The dark-haired girl nodded politely at them. "The guy that smells like tweed is Giles, and Mister Snarly but Fangless over there is Spike."
"One of these days, Xander." Spike grumbled from the corner, the words seeming to be more habit than a real threat.
*Something's wrong with Blondie* came the thought from Collin. Then she listened instead of smelling and figured out what the problem was.
As one, the three Pack members drew their guns, pointing them at Spike. A split second later, Buffy's crossbow was aimed at Hellena, Dawn quickly picking up hers again and aiming for Bear.
"Okay, can we all calm down here?" Xander said. "I mean opening fire will do absolutely no good to anyone in this case, and will only result in me getting stuck picking ammo out of the walls and window frames. Again. For about the eigthy seventh time, and while in the beginning, I really did appreciate the chances to hone my carpentry skills, I'm starting to get really sick of it."
"It was your new friends who started it." Buffy said.
"Xander, why isn't your friend's heart beating?" Hellena asked, her aim on Spike remaining steady. To her surprise, he was managing to look rather bored despite the circumstances.
"I told you all would be explained, and it will be if you would put the guns down. Look, you're also making Willow stressed out here, and there are a couple of reasons why that's a really bad idea." Xander said. She couldn't read Xander too deeply, but she could pick up on his surface thoughts. He didn't necessarily like no heartbeat all that much, but he did trust him to not harm anyone in the room.
*And it's our best way of getting information. Guns away for now, guys.* she thought.
*I really don't like this* Collin thought.
*She's right. I don't like it, but she's right* Bear added.
Again as one, the guns went back into their holsters. Hellena glanced at Willow, doing a quick double take. For a second, she had thought the woman's hands had been glowing. Buffy and Dawn were pointing crossbows down again; this time she doubted Dawn would put the bow down altogether.
*Thanks. Willow lost her lover in a shooting a while back. Since then, she's been a bit touchy around guns* Xander thought. Hellena could feel his relief at the retreat of the weapons.
"Again, why doesn't the guy have a heart beat?" Bear asked out loud.
"Because he's a vampire." Buffy said.
"You're shitting me." Hellena said.
"No we're not. Remember my speech up on the mountain about there being more out there in heaven and earth than even what you people would realize? The wyvern was one of them. You know that was real since you helped me kill it. The vampires are real too, including Spike over there. Want to show them game face for me?"
"Yeah right, Harris. Expect me to perform like some sort of trained monkey. Next thing you know, I'll have fallen from being one of the most feared vampired in Europe to playing children's parties for laughs." Spike grumbled. "But since I like a lady that threatens me from time to time, I'll do it for her."
Spike stretched his arms out, cracking his knuckles before pulling his hands back in. Then his face started to change, ridges forming across his forehead, eyes changing color, and canines elongating. Hellena had to fight the urge to go for her gun again. Spike didn't belong on this Earth any more than she did; she could almost feel Prime screaming in the back of her head that he was an alien species that needed to be destroyed.
"And that's how it goes." Spike said. "Vampire. Grrrr."
"And they're one of the biggest groups of bad guys we've been fighting over the years." Xander said, adding *Tell me if you've heard parts of this story before* to thoughts only the Pack members could hear. "When a vampire decides to sire a baby vampire, they go and do the whole mutual sucking of blood thing. The soul that was in the body goes off and, well goes wherever the soul was supposed to go when a person dies, and it gets replaced by a nasty demon with a taste for blood. That demon turns the body into something stronger, quicker, and nastier than anything human. As long as they've got a regular diet of blood, and you don't expose them to direct sunlight, they're very hard to kill, and can just keep making more and more vampires until a place is overrun with them."
"So if they're the bad guys, why is one of them sitting on your couch?" Collin said.
"Spike used to be one of the bad guys, even tried to kill us how many times?" Xander said.
"I lost count. Got so damn depressing because it never seemed to work out." Spike said.
"But over the years, there were a couple of times where we ended up bailing each other's asses out for some totally non-altrustic reasons, and somehow things change, and he got himself converted to the side of truth, justice, and the American way of life. Even got himself another soul along the way." Xander said. *If you think of him as the vampire equivalent of Prime, maybe you're not too far off* he added to the Pack.
"And then I'm guessing that along with Spike, it's you people who go out and keep the vampires from overrunning the planet." Bear said.
"Not so much a you people as a her, and her support team." Xander said.
"As for that her,." Buffy said. "In order to keep the vampire population in check, in every generation there will be one girl called to stand against the vampires, the lawyers, and assorted other blood-sucking fiends and demonic bad guys. She's called the Slayer, and the powers give her the strength to hold her own when she has to arm wrestle the vampires, she can heal injuries that would kill any normal human, and she's got the ability to pick up on the spooky and weirdly. Lucky me, I got stuck with the job. Hours are lousy, the pay is even lousier, and then I end up with strangers who come into my house and want to shoot my friends."
"We're sorry about that." Hellena said,wanting a chance to dig through Xander's memories more than ever. "It's just that after the wyvern, we're all a little bit jumpy."
"We've been on for a long time now." Bear said. "You think you've seen everything. You think you've seen weird. And then you learn that there's this whole other world going on out there that somehow we missed."
"It's probably because any time the general demon community gets wind that there's a Hex demon in the area, the response is to either leave town or go to ground until they move on again." Giles said from his spot in the corner.
"You know about Hex? How do you know about Hex?" Collin said.
"And how did you connect them to us?" Hellena said
"What's a Hex demon? Any relation to vengeance demons?" Dawn said.
"And do they know, like, some really scary hexes and curses?" Willow said.
"For most of my life, I belonged to an organization devoted that trained Slayers how to reach their full potential and also researched and cataloged esoteric knowledge inculding records of all the different species of demons on Earth. According to our research, the Hex demons are not related to vengeance demons, and are not involved in the hex and curse business. From what I remember of the species, it's thought that the name comes from their tendency to travel in groups of six."
"What else to do know of them?" Hellena said. *And Xander why didn't you say anything about knowing of Hex before?*
*Because I didn't. Giles and Willow were always the big research-type people. They know more about demon types than I do. I could barely muddle through the Latin and Greek most nights, so I spent a whole bunch of time going out for donuts for everyone else.*
"The records say that they're particular nasty beasts who have a human form while on Earth. Tend to randomly go into killing sprees, and their blood is highly poisonous. In and of themselves, that's nothing terribly new, but there are a couple of groups of werewolves who somehow decided to take the Hex demons existence rather personally, and when they try to take those demons out, they're not terribly picky about who gets caught in the rather large crossfire. And in one of the accounts, the names of the werewolf groups Dog Warriors and Demon Curs, as it just happens to say on your jackets, do get a mention."
*Werewolves? Funny how someone can get half the story right, and still totally miss what's really going on.*
*So now his friends know just enough about us to be dangerous. How are we going to deal with them?*
*There will be no dealing with my friends in the manner you people seem to like. Right now they're ass deep in apocalypses, and if you don't let them fix it, we're talking about Hell on Earth again. And yes, there are real werewolves. Willow even used to date one.*
*We do what needs to be done. Some times, sacrifices have to be made.*
*You want to talk sacrifices, you have no idea what everyone in this room has had to give up to keep the fight against the big bads going *
"Get the feeling that there's a whole conversation we're missing out on here?" Buffy said.
"Could very well be that. I've heard rumors over the years about The Pack." Spike said. "The way they can move and fight as a group without having to talk to each other out loud."
"So you're saying you've heard of Hex and The Pack too." Hellena said, starting to feel angry. "Makes me wonder just how many others have as well, others who have just stood and watched while we fought to keep all life on Earth safe from Hex."
"From the reports I've read, your people were doing a good enough job of keeping the Hex demons in check that you didn't need our help. There were so many other cases where there was no one else to keep the forces of darkness from taking over everything, and we barely have the resources to deal with those cases."
"But Hex could destroy all independant life on Earth." Hellena said.
"Everyone in this room, raise your hand if you've prevented an apocalypse." Buffy said. The humans and the vampire all raised their hands. Xander held up his own, waving a couple of fingers in the air. "Been there, done that, celebrated at the Bronze afterwards."
"I think Buffy's point is that we deal with frequent and immediate very dangerous situations. As long as the Hex demons weren't actively opening up yet another portal to a hell dimension, well some being out there was, and we were busy dealing with those cases, young lady." Giles said.
"You don't have to young lady me." Hellena said. "Look, I want to believe we're on the same side."
*We're on the same side, really. Everyone just needs to keep from shooting at each other* Xander thought.
"But trust comes hard, especially when you're not used to working with outsiders. And it would be so easy for someone to betray us to Hex just because they didn't know what was really going on." Bear said.
"Can we at least call it a truce for now? In the end, we're all on the same side. They want to stop the bad guys from taking over life on Earth. We want to keep the world from ending."
"It depends." Willow said. "Do you have any romantic interest in Xander?"
"What's that got to do with anything?" Hellena said.
"Because he's our resident demon magnet. Any woman that shows that sort of interest in Xander will end up being evil and not really human about 85% of the time."
"She's got a boyfriend back in Pennsylvaina that she's madly in love with. A very big, very scary boyfriend who would kick my ass if I tried anything with her. I've seen the pictures of him and her." Xander said.
"Okay then, truce for now." Willow said.
"Truce for now." Hellena agreed. Bear and Collin nodded. They could treat Xander's friends like the motorcycle gang members that were Pack wannabes. Work with them, and use them if necessary without having to trust them that much.
"And if you do try something." Willow said, then mumbled something that sounded like Latin under her breath. The battle axe flew threw theair and into her hand.
"How did you?" Collin asked.
"Magic." Dawn replied.
"Look I really haven't had enough to eat in the past two days. I'm going to hit the kitchen and see if any of the potentials managed to find my secret Twinkie stash yet. I'll be back if I hear the yelling start up again." Xander said as he slowly walked out of the living room. *I know what you want from me, and sooner is probably better than later, so I need to get to the point where my system can handle it* he added by thought.