TITLE: WHERE THERE’S FIRE
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own the characters from Roswell or Angel. I’m just borrowing them so don’t sue. They are the property of WB etc. and I gain nothing by writing this. I always appreciate feedback and suggestions so don’t be shy.
SUMMARY: This is a follow-up to ‘Six Of One...’ The Roswell teens face a challenge from a different group of aliens.
Michael led Tess through the corridors of the old soap factory. They had gotten Max’s call, a rather tense sounding call, that morning and agreed to meet at the factory that night. Both had found summer employment and were busy during the day as were the rest of the group, and both had had to suffer with their curiosity and worry all day. Now, moving through the old building, they were in a hurry to find out what was so urgent and why they had had to wait till nightfall.
"He didn’t give you any idea?"
"No," Michael said for what seemed like the hundredth time. "He didn’t. Isabel knows I think, but she’s not saying either, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to Liz." Tess huffed and Michael suppressed a sigh. Liz’ determination to give Max space for his ‘destiny’ had lasted exactly one week. Both were miserable and Maria and Isabel had finally threatened to lock them in a room together until they worked it out.
That hadn’t been necessary though, and Tess had been quietly fuming over Max’s choice. There wasn’t time to fume now though. Sounds from the room ahead drew their attention.
"Ow!" Michael came up short.
"That was Liz." He broke into a run, rounding the corner into a large interior room. Liz was there, as was a stranger in long black coat. They were fighting. Liz was fighting back and giving a good accounting of herself, but it was clear the stranger was playing with her. Michael ran forward, tackling him.
"Huh?" The stranger grunted as he hit the ground. Michael straddled the man and hit him hard in the face. "Bloody hell!" Spike could smell the difference in the stranger and lashed out before realizing there was human scent as well. "Aarrgh!" Even as his attacker fell away someone drove a stake through Spike’s head. At least, that was what it felt like. "Can’t even hit friggin’ half-breeds," he muttered.
"Michael!" Liz ran forward and helped him up. He rubbed his jaw and prepared to jump at the stranger again. "No. It’s all right. He’s a friend."
"Friend? He hit you!"
"No. He didn’t. He just moved too fast. I hit the wall." She held up her right hand and showed him the bloody knuckles. He stared at her.
"What the hell is going on?" Michael demanded. Liz looked down at the ground, not sure where to begin.
"Long story. When the others arrive, I’ll tell you." Spike had clambered to his feet and was eyeing the newcomers with annoyance.
"Two more? Really pet, how many of these things are there?"
"What? He knows-" Michael broke off in alarm.
"He can smell the difference Michael. He’s not human."
"Not human?" Tess walked forward slowly, looking at the stranger who regarded her warily. "Alien? Nasedo?"
The stranger laughed. "Not bloody likely. I should be insulted."
"Or complimented." They turned to see Max leading the rest of their group into the room. "At least Nasedo had a mission, a purpose of sorts. What do you have Spike?"
"Oh don’t get all moral on me. I got me a mission now, and I’m gonna see the job gets done right, better than that ponce Wesley could’ve done."
"I’m sure you’ll make a fine role model," Isabel said coolly as she followed her brother into the room. The others, the entire group now present, could only look at each other in confusion. They knew her well enough to hear the heavy sarcasm in Isabel’s voice, but it went right over Spike’s head.
"I’m sure I’ll do fine. Considerin’ her predecessor is rottin’ in prison, how much worse could I do?" He looked at the others and sniffed the air delicately, which only confused them more. "I guess its time to make with the explanations." Max nodded and sighed. This was not going to be easy.
This was not going to be easy. Wesley sighed and added the last few lines to his report, the laptop resting precariously on the food tray before him, a tight fit in the economy class seat. He had never been much of a storyteller and had taken the opportunity to organize his narrative of the events in Roswell. The only thing he regretted was the necessity of returning to Los Angeles to deliver it.
Max had vetoed the idea of sending the thing by email or fax though, and he wanted none of what happened spoken of over an open phone line. A rational part of his mind found the precautions excessive and extremely paranoid, but he agreed nonetheless. As had Angel, who unfortunately couldn’t make the trip at the moment. Wesley had managed to communicate enough of it with vague language that Angel had told him to wait until he was home to give a full report. After all, between the Initiative hunting demons, the FBI hunting the group in Roswell, the Council hunting Faith, and Wolfram and Hart stirring up trouble for Angel literally for the hell of it, a little paranoia was justified. When did my life get so complicated?
Wesley wondered. If anything though, it reinforced Buffy’s assertion that the Council was out of touch. The three operatives who had gone after Faith had been completely unaware of the Initiative’s existence, and Wesley doubted that the Council’s upper levels had any idea how complicated the world had become.
Shoving aside this depressing line of thought, he returned to something more manageable. Angel’s going to have a fit when he hears about Spike.
Sheriff James Valenti pulled up to the warehouse and got out, putting on his hat as he approached the building. The call had been a little vague as to what the problem was, but there was a dead body involved, that much he knew. Violent crime was rare in Roswell, or at least it had been until just recently. He sighed. Why couldn’t that damn ship have crashed in Europe or Africa? Or at least Los Angeles where no one would have noticed?
He liked Max and the others, but they were turning out to be very high maintenance. This business of vampires and Slayers was, as far as he was concerned, an extension of the same problem. After quite a lot of soul searching, he had decided that it didn’t matter where they came from or what they were. It was his job as sheriff to protect them, although, he might make an exception for Spike. The vampire made him nervous, despite Liz’ reassurances that he was harmless. Corpses, Valenti firmly believed, should not get up and walk around killing people. Speaking of corpses…
"What happened here?"
"Still working on that sheriff. This is a weird one." Uh-oh
. Valenti nodded, and his deputy led the way into a cold storage section of the warehouse. They ducked under the yellow crime scene tape. "This section is used for food storage, ice cream, meat that sort of thing."
"Who’s the victim?" Valenti asked, resisting the urge to hug himself. The part of the warehouse they had entered was essentially a giant freezer.
"Night security guard. He was found in here, near an open crate, big enough to hold an entire side of beef. The only thing in the crate though, was ice. There are three others like it, all just containing ice."
"Where’s the body?" He followed the deputy around the side of the crate and stopped, staring in disbelief. The body was blackened, burned almost beyond recognition. It would likely take dental records to make a positive ID. The face was the worst part of it. The eyes had burst at some point and the skin was practically charcoal. Valenti had never seen anything exactly like it. Not exactly like it.
"Find out where these crates came from. I want to know who has been in here. Talk to all of the employees, night shift workers first priority. Talk to anyone who had anything to do with these crates. Where’s the person who found the body?"
"That’s him," the deputy gestured to an overweight man wearing a padded suit for protection against the cold. "The shift supervisor. His name is Cruz."
"Okay. Let’s start there."
"You can’t be serious." Tess stared at Max in disbelief. "You just let him get carted away? Max we have to get the stones and get him back."
"What do you mean, no?! Without Nasedo-" Max rounded on her angrily.
"With Nasedo at least four people have died who wouldn’t have if we hadn’t helped him. He’s a conscienceless killer and I won’t have any more blood on my hands. If we hadn’t brought him back before those people would still be alive."
"What about the FBI?" Michael interrupted. "What’s to keep them from coming after us again?"
"Nasedo said that the other agents thought he was in Denver. No one knew he was here."
"That might buy us a little time, but-"
"Yer friend killed a couple of people in Tucson too. If they’re just lookin’ for one person it won’t take ‘em long to find out that you were here when it happened." Max considered Spike’s words carefully and then nodded.
"You’re right, but they had me in their hands once before and they ran enough tests to know I’m not Nasedo."
"Which is another argument for bringing him back," Tess insisted.
"Waste o’ time girl." Tess looked at the stranger Max had called Spike, confused.
"Because, if you bring him back I’ll kill him myself next time." Tess opened and closed her mouth silently for a moment. "He’d be a threat to Liz, which I won’t allow. Plus, he’s a cold-blooded killer. Since I’m all being one of the good guys these days I really think I should object to such things." Tess’ mouth stayed open this time, as she digested this. She wasn’t the only one staring either. Spike noticed this. "What?"
The blonde alien’s jaw snapped shut and she began to concentrate on the offensive human. Liz looked back and forth between them nervously. She knew what Tess was trying to do, but Spike only looked at her curiously. Finally, he turned to Liz.
"What’s this? A starin’ contest?"
"Tess can make people see things that aren’t there," Liz explained.
"Oh." Spike laughed and turned back to Tess. "Won’t work on me. Have a look." He gestured towards the window of what had once been the factory manager’s office. It was dark enough in the room that what light they had turned the window into a passable mirror. "What do you see?" The entire group looked at the window, not understanding. Spike rolled his eyes. "All right. What don’t
"He doesn’t have a reflection," Liz told them, when no one else got it after a moment. "Although," she admitted, "I’m not sure what that has to do with Tess’ power not working on you."
"Same reason." He gave Tess a cocky smile. "The thoughts are there, but they don’t create a reflection in you. So you have nothing to work with."
"I don’t understand," Tess murmured looking back and forth between Spike and his lack of reflection. "What kind of person doesn’t have a reflection?"
"A vampire. What page are you on?" Spike turned back to Liz. "You still have some training to do Liz. You ready to get on with it?" Liz looked at her hand.
"Yeah. My hand is better now." Spike ignored the others and began instructing her in the next exercise. Max stopped Michael’s objection with a raised hand and motioned them to just stand back and watch. The next exercise was a test of control. At Liz’ insistence, Spike was focusing on such exercises. He had taught a number of new vampires to fight and this wasn’t all that different. It brought back fond memories of sparring with Dru when Angel was teaching them both.
The distraction that thought caused would have earned him a vicious kick in the head if the Slayer hadn’t been deliberately pulling her punches and kicks to stop an inch shy of their target.
"I don’t believe this," Maria said quietly as she watched. "I’ve never seen Liz do anything like this."
"She never could before," Spike answered, having heard her perfectly. "Being called has enhanced all of her physical abilities." They slid into a new exercise involving balance and speed.
The workout lasted another hour before Spike called a halt. Liz was beginning to tire by that point and was amazed that she hadn’t already collapsed. "Tomorrow?"
Spike nodded. "Yeh, I got some things to do tonight. Find a place to stay, get a demon’s eye view of Roswell; that sort o’ thing. Meet me here tomorrow after your shift." The vampire left the factory and the seven teens continued their aborted conversation. The events of the previous night were retold and reexamined, and the consequences were discussed well into the night.
Spike wandered for some time, just following his nose. There wasn’t much besides the humans in Roswell, which Spike found curious. Eventually though, he did catch another scent. Following it, he came upon a human looking woman carrying a small sack of groceries down the street. There was nothing about the woman that would have attracted the attention of someone who lacked a vampire’s keen sense of smell.
He followed her for a time. Eventually, she turned into a poorly lighted side street, not much more than an alley. Spike stopped and quickly backtracked around the building. He found her there, waiting. Surprising her from behind, he seized and shoved her against a wall. A subtly altered face stared at him in alarm.
"Why do you follow me vampire? I’m not edible, or are you too young to know the difference between human and demon?"
"I know the difference," Spike said, amused by her bravado despite the fact that he had her pinned to the wall. "You tend to stand out in this town, at least to someone with my sense of smell." The Anamovic demon waited for an answer to her first question. "I was curious. I seem to be the only vampire in town." She snorted.
"You are. Demons tend to avoid Roswell. Anything even vaguely strange here winds up in the papers. Your kind usually don’t like that kind of attention. A bloodless corpse would land on the front page." Spike nodded thoughtfully. That made sense. "Which means I really wouldn’t appreciate you drawing attention by feeding here."
"I’ll keep that in mind," he said dryly. Her tone rankled him, and he wasn’t about to tell her he was on an imposed diet. "I’m not hungry for anything but information right now anyway. Tell me about the demon community around here."
"You’re looking at it."
Spike snorted. "Not likely. Anamovic demons don’t usually live alone. They’re very into family."
"My two brothers also live here, but that’s it. All we want is to be left alone." Spike shrugged.
"Suits me. Seems like a pretty dull town though."
"Exactly. So why don’t you move on?"
Spike growled and shoved her away. "I’ll do as I please." He turned his back on her and walked away.
The next thing that caught Spike’s attention was the flashing lights of a police car, several actually, and a coroner’s van. Curious, he started to make his way across the parking lot, but was diverted by the sound of something moving in one of the cars. As he got closer, he made out a thumping sound coming from the trunk of a late model Ford.
"Well," he said loud enough to be overheard by the person he could smell inside, "either this is a rear engine car in dire need of a tune-up, or there’s someone in the boot." He knocked twice and the person inside knocked twice in response. Spike knocked out shave-and-a-haircut. The person inside responded with several angry kicks to the trunk lid.
Spike pouted. "Oh all right, I’ll go get somebody to let you out. Don’t go anywhere." There was another furious series of kicks.
Everything was finally wrapped up. It was late, and Valenti had had to call Amy and cancel yet another dinner date. Consequently, he was rather short tempered by the time the forensics people were done and the body was removed.
"Evening Sheriff," Spike said in his best cowboy drawl. Valenti turned from his conversation with Dodd, one of his deputies.
"What do you want?" Spike gave him cocky grin and nodded toward the body being loaded into the coroner’s wagon.
"Someone havin’ a barbecue?" Dodd stiffened, looking at the stranger angrily. He was about to tell the stranger to move on, but the sheriff spoke first, surprising him.
"Do you know something about this or are you just trying to annoy me?" Dodd gave the Sheriff a curious look.
"Nothing specific, but that body may not be what you think."
"Meaning?" Spike tapped his nose.
"Guess you’ll find out about that. At any rate I may not be a great detective like that poof, Angel, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that someone is locked up in the back of their own car out in the parkin’ lot." With that he turned and walked around the corner of the building.
"Hey! Wait a minute!" Dodd rounded the corner and stopped, baffled. After a moment of scanning the empty side lot he turned back to the sheriff. "He’s gone."
Valenti nodded, not surprised. Probably turned into a bat or something
. "Don’t worry. I know where to find him."
"Who is he?"
"His name’s William something, but he prefers to go by Spike. I know enough to know I don’t like him, but I doubt he has anything to do with this."
"What did he mean about the body?" Valenti shook his head as he headed for the employee parking lot.
"Let’s find out."
Liz wiped down the last table and straightened. The café was empty and her father was just beginning the process of closing down for the night. It was a simple, routine task that gave her plenty of time to think.
The others hadn’t taken the news well, especially Tess. She didn’t believe a word of the Slayer business and she didn’t care that Nasedo had killed people. They were only humans after all. Max had stood firm though and wouldn’t tell anyone where the body was. Michael hadn’t been as upset as Liz had expected. She remembered a time when he had been almost frantic to find the shape-shifter. Apparently the time they spent alone at the Eagle Rock base had shown him what Nasedo was, and cured him of any desire to be closer to the alien.
Maria and Alex’ concerns were more practical. Now that Nasedo was dead, and Liz could have sworn their relief over that was tangible, what was to keep the FBI from coming back to stir up trouble?
The answer was nothing. No one had known he was coming to Roswell though, and hopefully the Special Unit would begin its search elsewhere. If the Unit came, Max said with finality, they would deal with it on their own terms, without any bloodshed.
Everyone except Tess was satisfied with that, and the one dissenter wasn’t going to cause Liz to lose any sleep. She had returned to the café and helped her parents work till closing. Liz looked up, startled when the bell on the door rang.
"I’m sorry," her father said to the man in the dark coat, "we’re closing now."
"I’m not here to eat," Spike assured him. "I wanted a word with Liz, actually." Jeff Parker blinked in surprise and looked over at his daughter.
"It’s all right, Dad. I know him." They stepped outside. "What’s going on Spike? I’d rather keep this from my parents if I can."
"You may have work to do in a day or two. Slayer stuff." Liz’ brow creased with worry.
"What happened?" Spike quickly filled her in on the corpse in the warehouse freezer and on what Valenti hadn’t discovered yet, the fact that the victim wasn’t human.
"What was he?" Spike shook his head.
"Didn’t recognize the scent, at least not over the smell of burned flesh. There’s something familiar about it though." A thoughtful expression crossed his face. "I think I may have heard of something like this. I’ll do some nosing around; see what else I can turn up. Be ready, though, in case whatever did that decides to start frying humans next." She looked frightened, Spike thought, but she nodded gamely.
"Let me know what you find out." She turned and went back inside.
Spike headed for a Kinko’s he’d seen earlier that evening. Once there he racked his brains for a few moments before coming up with an answer. It wasn’t the smell that was familiar.
Using the computer there, he tapped into newspaper files in Los Angeles and began looking for burned bodies. It took almost an hour, but he found it. A private investigator burned to death in an ice factory. Spike remembered part of an overheard phone call while he was staying with Giles. Wesley had called about it. He had wanted to know if Giles had any references about something called…. Vigaries, that was it, the Vigaries of Oden-Tahl. With that memory recovered, Spike went to an online demon database and began searching for information about them.
The girls had finally adjusted completely to their new home. They no longer needed the frozen water to keep them alive. At least, they did not need to be packed in it. Even the princess found it comforting, though.
Sedar, one of the first refugees the princess had rescued, fretted over the latest close call. Such an incident was bound to draw the attention of the slavers. The man that had been masquerading as a security guard at the warehouse might just be the beginning of their problems. When he failed to check in with Tay there would be trouble. The slavers would come, and they would come in force. She had sent word to the princess, but as yet there had been no response. The slavers’ primary focus was on her and it was possible that she was too busy staying ahead of them to respond safely.
Sedar currently had five young women with her. Shipped to the town in crates by various routes to avoid detection, the plan had been to wait here undetected. With luck, they might even be able to blend in and settle. Sedar hoped so. She was discovering that she was not really up to the task of evading slavers and hiding escapees. Although she would never publicly question the princess’ orders, privately she wondered what the woman had been thinking.
Burning the slaver had attracted the attention of the local authorities, something else that they didn’t need, and she hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to move too soon. The town was quiet and had the potential to be just the kind of place they could hide unnoticed. Unfortunately, it was entirely out of her hands.
"Whoever he is, he’s not from around here." Valenti took a moment to glance at the particulars of the autopsy report the medical examiner had brought him. He frowned thoughtfully.
"No match on prints."
"That’s right, but that’s not all. There are… abnormalities." He flipped to the next page and pointed to the section of the report in question. Valenti was puzzled by what he saw there. His knowledge of medicine was limited, but he had seen enough coroners’ reports to realize that what he was seeing wasn’t normal.
"What do blood chemistry results like this mean?"
Dr. Kelso shook his head. "I don’t know yet, but there are also abnormalities in the internal organs. They’re all there, but they’re a little different. I’m not sure what it means yet. Was the guard able to tell you anything about his attacker?"
"No." The sheriff shook his head. "He was hit from behind and woke up in his trunk." He considered the problem of the dead end, but had already concluded that that was what it was. He dismissed it and moved on. "I’d like to sit on this doctor. Don’t share your findings with anyone."
"This is Roswell. Any hint of anything strange will get into the paper. I’d rather not have the town besieged by UFO nuts." Kelso thought to object on behalf of his staff, but decided against it. The sheriff had a point, and it was his call.
"Okay. I’ll keep it quiet. I can put this guy on ice for a time, but I’ll need to know what to do with him before too long." Valenti nodded.
"I’ll come up with something." I hope.
After Kelso left, Valenti headed for the CrashDown to meet Liz. He had some questions for her. It was a short drive from the coroner’s office to the café and soon Valenti was walking through the door with his thermos, just as he did every morning.
"Morning Miss Parker." He put the thermos on the counter and she smiled and started to fill it for him.
"Good morning, sheriff. How are you today?" Valenti looked around to see that no one was close.
"Not so good actually. A corpse turned up at the warehouse over on Moore, in the freezer section. Whoever it is was burned to death. Pretty ugly."
Liz looked steadily at the sheriff, while she gathered her wits. "And you’re telling me this because?"
"I just found out that the body isn’t human." Liz sighed. "Spike showed up as we were finishing up there. I think he smelled the difference. He also found the security guard the guy had stolen the uniform from, knocked out and locked in his trunk."
"He told me last night. He’s looking into it. I’ll let you know what he finds." Liz switched back to a normal tone and asked if he wanted anything else.
"No thanks." Again sotto voice, "I would like to know where Spike is, though."
Liz shrugged. "Hasn’t found a place yet. Even I don’t know where he is, and he keeps telling me I should be able to sense a vampire." She shrugged and shook her head. Valenti nodded, resigned for the moment, and left.
"What was that about?" Her father asked curiously, coming to join her.
"Nothing dad. Just catching up on Kyle. He’s visiting some relatives in Austin."
"Kyle? I thought you and Max were-. Um, never mind. Not prying."
Liz almost laughed. "It’s okay dad. Kyle and I aren’t seeing each other, but we’re not bitter ex-es either."
"That’s good," Jeff Parker smiled, glad he wasn’t intruding in something his daughter considered personal. He looked up as the door opened. Speaking of personal…
"Hi Liz." Max smiled as he came toward her, intent on a kiss. Her father turned away, trying to look busy wiping the counter. Max hesitated when he caught sight of him, but Liz was having none of it. She reached across the counter and pulled him in for a kiss. Max was taken by surprise, and it took him a second to respond, but when he did, he did so whole-heartedly. Liz smiled when she broke off.
"Good to see you. Cherry cola?" Max nodded, and Liz went to fetch it.
"As I recall, you saw me last night."
"It’s always good to see you." She handed him the drink and kissed him again. Her father cleared her throat. Smirking, she pulled back and shot a half-amused-half-nervous glance at her father. "So. Anything else?"
"Can you take a break for a few minutes?" Liz nodded. She looked at her father and he waved her on. They went outside and headed down the street a short distance.
"How are they taking it?" Liz asked. "Not much was resolved."
"Nothing was resolved. They’re nervous. Tess is furious."
"That’s new." Max didn’t laugh. After a moment, Liz sighed. "Sorry. I kno-"
"There’s nothing there for me Liz. You know you’re all I want." He paused, thinking. "This is not a joking matter. Liz, none of us understands what’s happened. This Slayer business is weird even by our standards and it seems, judging by what Spike said, we’re not as unique as we thought. I mean, demons of all shapes and sizes… wow."
"I don’t understand it either, but it will work out. We’ve dealt with everything else that’s been thrown at us. We can handle this."
"Spike said that a Slayer draws trouble like a magnet. How long do you suppose till something bizarre happens? Demon related?"
"How long till something alien related happens? That message said that your enemies were here." Max shrugged conceding the point.
"Actually, Spike told me that a body turned up in the freezer section of a food warehouse. A burned body. A non-human body." Max didn’t respond for a time. "He’s not sure what it is, but it is close to human so no alarms went off immediately. No front-page stories. The coroner will find out, though."
"Will Valenti keep quiet about it?"
"I hope so," Liz sighed. "I think he likes it peaceful in Roswell." Max nodded thoughtfully. Valenti’s behavior since he had decided that he had been wrong about Max had indicated that that was indeed the case.
"So what next? Wait until Spike, where did he get a name like that anyway, finds out what it was and what it was doing here?"
"I guess." She thought a moment. "Where did he get a name like Spike?"
"It’s right here." Spike pointed to the book. "The Vigaries of Oden-Tahl."
"What are they doing here?" Liz sat back on the couch; feeling tired just thinking about what she might be doing later that night. They had gathered at Max’s house, as his parents already knew her secret. This kind of meeting would have raised questions at the CrashDown, and Liz did not want her parents to know about her new profession.
"Well, I have a guess or two, but we have to find ‘em first."
"Is that safe?" Max sat forward, looking worried.
"Well, according to the books they’re fierce fighters, but they aren’t violent by nature like some. We watch for a bit, an’ if necessary, kick the crap out of ‘em."
"You said you had an idea about why they were here," Isabel reminded him. "What is it?"
"Well, yeah, according to the books the women live as slaves to the men. It’s only the women that have the fire touch. I can’t be sure until we know what the body was, but it could have been a slaver trying to track down escaped women." Diane Evans chose that moment to enter the living room to ask if anyone wanted food or a drink.
"Can you be sure the body wasn’t human?" Max asked. "Given how badly it was burned I’d think the smell would be hard to distinguish." Diane stopped in her tracks and reversed course, having lost her own appetite.
"I’m sure," Spike nodded.
"We need to find these women."
"How?" Spike wanted to know. "Don’t put too much faith in my nose. I’m not a soddin’ bloodhound."
"We have other ways," Liz assured him. "Normal means of investigation. We’re looking at new arrivals in town."
"Let’s find them then," Max said, "before they start killing humans."
Liz watched the last few customers leftover from the lunch crowd. They were lingering over their meals in a manner that usually annoyed Maria. After a busy shift, she usually looked forward to the break that came between lunch and dinner.
That was why when Liz heard the frustrated moan, she knew that more customers had come in and were probably settling at one of Maria’s tables. Liz hid a smile and came up beside her friend.
"Take a break."
"No," Maria protested, "you must be a lot more tired than I am, considering that workout last night. Looked like you picked up some bruises."
"A few, but nothing that didn’t mend before I finished walking home." Maria looked incredulous. "Really. I’m fine. There are some advantages to being a Slayer, I guess." Maria shook her head wonderingly.
"I think this is a topic I’d like to avoid." She regretted it instantly when a hurt look flashed across Liz’ face. "Sorry. It’s just that…"
"I know. Take a break. I’ll get them." ‘Them’ turned out to be three women. Liz collected some menus and walked over to the table and passed out the menus. "Hi. Welcome to the CrashDown. I’m Liz."
"Hello," the woman who seemed to be in charge said. "We would like some food, and some ice water to drink."
"Okay. I’ll get your water. Why don’t you look over the menu while I do that?" All of them looked at the colorful menus in puzzlement as Liz fetched their water. When she returned she realized that something was wrong. The women weren’t actually reading the menus; they were looking at them but not actually lingering anywhere long enough to pick up words. One was holding her menu upside down.
"Everything sounds delicious," the spokeswoman said. "What would you recommend?" Liz pointed out a couple of possibilities, and the three agreed to have the same thing, a large salad. Liz returned to the kitchen to place the orders.
"Yeah Liz?" The blonde picked herself up from the chair she had been lounging in.
"When those three women leave, do you think you could follow them for me? See where they go?"
"I guess so," she said, confused. "I’ve done it before. What’s the problem?" Liz nodded through the pickup window to the women who were talking quietly.
"See anything unusual about them?" Maria looked briefly and then turned away, guessing that Liz didn’t want attention drawn to them.
"They’re wearing way too much makeup. You had another reason?"
"I don’t think they can read, at least not English, but they tried to hide it."
"So what are you thinking?"
"Not sure, but I want to know more about them. Can you follow them? Please?"
"Okay, and don’t worry. They won’t even know I’m there."
Sedar opened the door of the small house they had rented. It was a tight fit, but they managed. There was so much adjusting to do. As yet, she was the only one who could read and write the human language with anything resembling fluency. Teaching the others was taking time, but it was necessary to their survival. She set down the bag of groceries and called to the others. Food at least wasn’t a problem. Vegetables were plentiful, and while they did not need to eat as much as the males of their species a large amount of vegetable matter was still required. No one responded to her call.
She knew that some of them were out, absorbing the local culture. It was a risky thing to do, but after some argument she had agreed that it was necessary. They had to learn their way around the town. If nothing else it would come in handy for a quick escape.
For that very reason, the used car they had acquired had been a priority. It wasn’t that different from the vehicles they had at home, but it took some time to get used to the differences. Faked licenses and records were prepared for each of the girls deemed ready to face the world, but there were still adjustments to make.
"I’m telling you that car was following us." Sedar stood up from the refrigerator where she was stashing their food and turned to face the others as they came into the kitchen. Miri led the way, looking exasperated. Shalei followed close behind. "Did you even look at the car?"
"It was following us. You may have led the slavers right to us!"
"Unlikely," Miri said, confidently.
"You were followed?" Sedar demanded, grabbing their attention. "Explain."
"We stopped at a local diner for lunch," Miri began.
"Shortly after we left," Shalei interrupted. "I noticed a red car following us. It kept its distance, but it was there through three turns."
"For one thing, there are a lot of houses in this area," Miri said tiredly. "For another, it didn’t follow us into our street."
"This street is a dead end, maybe literally if we ignore this," Shalei rejoined hotly.
"And lastly," Miri finished. "I did see the car, and the driver was female. Even if Tay hired someone to find us, do you think he would trust a woman of any species to do his dirty work for him?"
That, Sedar had to admit, was a telling argument. "We should remain cautious regardless," she told them. "If you see this car again, or the female who was driving it, tell me immediately." It was possibly a reason for concern, and no such possibility could be ignored.
"Do we know it’s them?" Alex asked. They had assembled at the Evans’ house again, much to Diane Evans’ consternation. "I mean they might be from France, not another planet." Liz nodded, acknowledging the point.
"Agreed, but the timing is right. That house was rented out just last week." She thought a moment. "I think we need more information." She turned to Spike. "You said that Wesley and Angel had run into these Vigary guys before. Think he’d share information?"
"I think so." He got up. "You got a fax machine here?" Max nodded and pointed toward his father’s office and rose to join him. Phil Evans looked up as Max entered his office, something he rarely did. He glanced nervously at Spike.
"Something wrong Max?"
"Need to consult with um, a business associate of Spike’s, in Los Angeles. Wesley might need to fax us some papers." Phil looked at his son curiously.
"This have something to do with that dead body you were discussing last night?" Max nodded, uncertain as to how his father would react. "All right. Make it quick though. You know how to use the fax?" Spike nodded. Phil rose as Spike went to the phone and dialed the number of Angel Investigations.
Phil stepped into the hall with Max. "Can we talk?" Max nodded. His father led him down the hall to Max’s room.
"It’s about Liz and Spike." He got straight to the point. "I don’t pretend to understand a lot of what I saw that night, but I know it has the potential to be very dangerous. I mean... demons? Aliens? It doesn’t matter what you call them, dealing with them may be a Slayer’s job, but it shouldn’t be yours."
"Dad…" Phil held up a hand to forestall protest.
"I know you care about Liz, and I’m not asking you to stop seeing her. I know that wouldn’t work. I just want you to try to keep a little distance between yourself and her work. Stay safe. I’m sure that’s what she would want too." Max considered this and then nodded.
"I understand dad, and you’re right. Liz wouldn’t want me getting hurt, but I don’t want her getting hurt either, and if there’s a way I can help prevent that I will. I promise I’ll be careful." Phil wasn’t entirely happy with the answer, but decided to take what he could get.
"Okay Max. Be certain you do that."
"Angel Investigations, we help the helpless."
"’Ello Cordelia, do I qualify?"
"I said helpless Spike, not hopeless."
Spike chuckled in spite of himself. One thing he had always appreciated about Cordelia was her ready wit. He had even considered turning her a time or two, might have if not for Dru. "Is Wesley there? I need to speak to him, it’s important."
Cordelia sighed. "Hang on." She put him on hold. "Wesley," she called. Angel and Wes looked up from where they were talking in his office. "Spike is on the phone. He wants to talk to you. Says it’s important." Wes looked at Angel who looked back curiously. He had just started to tell his story. The time since he’d been back had been a busy one. He had been immediately swept up in the current crisis, involving a swarm of carnivorous demonic insects. He shuddered inwardly at the memory.
Angel had his report on the disk in his hands. He nodded to Wesley and went to plug it into the computer on Cordelia’s desk and read it. Wes picked up the phone and nodded for Cordelia to transfer the call as Angel left.
"Yes Spike, I’m here." He listened carefully and nodded. "Yes, that does sound similar to the situation we had here. I wonder if the dead Vigary is Tay."
"If it was the grand high muckety-muck himself, then we can expect more of his kind here, pretty fast. What can you tell me about ‘em, strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, that sort of thing?" Wesley briefly outlined what he knew of them and promised to fax the relevant pages from his books as well as Angel’s drawings of Tay and the princess just in case. "Yeah. That’ll be a big help. Thanks Wes." He read off the fax number and hung up. Wesley went to gather the appropriate books.
Angel was staring at the screen incredulously as Wesley emerged from the back office. He looked up at the ex-Watcher and started to speak, but nothing came out, and he looked back down at the screen. Wesley gathered up the books and drawings and went to the copier, which was a fairly recent addition to their office.
"I don’t believe this," Angel breathed, which was a neat trick, Wesley reflected as he copied the last page. "Wesley why didn’t you tell me about this immediately? Or over the phone?" He shook his head. "Never mind, my idea, I know." He rubbed his eyes tiredly. "A new Slayer, with Spike playing Watcher." He shook his head incredulously. I’ve got to get out there.
Again, he looked up at Wesley who was sending his drawing of Tay, the fourth of five pages, through the fax.
"What are you doing?"
"Spike requested information on the Vigaries of Oden-Tahl. I don’t have much faith in Spike, but the new Slayer seems fairly sharp. Hopefully she’ll be able to make effective use of the information until you arrive."
"How did you know I was going?" His friend smiled.
"With Spike ‘playing Watcher’ as you put it? It doesn’t take one of Cordelia’s visions to guess your next move."
"Thank God for that," their friend muttered.
"I’ll leave immediately. You two hold down the fort here."
Spike passed around the pictures Angel had drawn. "The guy is Tay. He’s in charge of the slavers. The woman is the leader of the female resistance, got her own Underground Railroad working. It seems when the females come of age the men remove some organ or other, it’s their kind’s equivalent of a lobotomy." The others stared at him in shock.
"Well," Liz said after a moment, "at least there’s no question as to who the bad guys are."
"So what do we do now?" Maria asked. "Do we just watch and wait for this guy Tay to show up?" Liz shook her head.
"I think we should approach them. Spike and I will go see them tonight. Tomorrow morning I’ll give this to Valenti," she held up the pictures, "and ask him to keep an eye out for them." She folded them and tucked them into her pocket. "In the meantime it won’t hurt to do some watching of our own. Check the motels and the trailer park for new arrivals."
"Good idea," Max nodded. "I’ll check the motel near the warehouse. Michael, why don’t you see if there’s anyone new at the trailer park?" Michael nodded. He had been uncharacteristically quiet, barely speaking during the meeting. Now as everyone prepared to go their separate ways he put a hand on Max’s shoulder.
"Yeah?" Michael’s shoulder’s slumped.
"Nothing." He turned and vanished into the night. Max frowned after him. What was that about? He then gave a mental shrug and his usual answer. It’s Michael.
"We should get in a little training on our way there," Spike commented on their way out.
"How?" Liz wanted to know. "We might attract attention brawling up and down the street." Spike chuckled.
"Not what I had in mind." He grinned. "This is a test of endurance. Let’s have a race." They went out to the street, got set and started to run. Max stared after them as they vanished into the darkness.
"It looks," he said to his sister, "like we’re not the only ones with a destiny." He didn’t know precisely what he meant, but the fear of losing Liz, something he hated to feel, was suddenly there, clamoring for his attention. He ignored it, telling himself that this wouldn’t make a difference between them personally. He wasn’t sure he believed it, though.
Dodd sat in his patrol car, eating his midnight snack a couple of hours early. It had been a quiet night. Nothing since that murder, and it was starting to look like that one might not be solved. The victim seemed to have literally appeared out of nowhere. There was no trace of him at the local motels and no trace of a vehicle he might have arrived in. All of their normal means of investigation had been exhausted.
Dodd turned his thoughts away from the case, frustrated. Just as he was thinking that a distraction would be nice, one happened along. He heard the sound of running feet approaching from behind. Looking out the open window of his cruiser, he saw Liz Parker and the man that Valenti had called ‘Spike’ running at top speed along the road. Dodd relaxed a little. They were laughing. It wasn’t a purse snatching, they weren’t being chased; they were moving very fast though. Curiously, he fished out a radar gun from the floor of the passenger’s side and aimed it at them
"Huh?" He stared at the readout. 25 MPH? "Time to get this thing serviced." He started his car and followed them as discretely as possible.
"So that’s his name. I saw him with Valenti." Spike glanced at Liz where she was concealed in the bushes. He had pressed himself against a tree and was glancing curiously down the street as the patrol car slowly passed by. The driver, looking confused, was scanning the street for any sign of them. "Why’s he followin’ us?" Liz shrugged. "No matter. Next lesson, evading pursuit." Spike was really starting to enjoy himself.
Sedar armed herself before going to the door. It was late for visitors, but she doubted Tay would knock. She looked through the spyhole and saw a young woman, a human woman standing on the porch.
Confused she opened the door. Liz had come prepared for the meeting with a memorized phrase of the Vigaries own language. She greeted Sedar in the name of the princess of Oden-Tahl. Sedar stared for a moment, then responded in the same language. Liz shook her head.
"Sorry. That’s all I know. I’m a friend of Angel, whom your princess trusts."
"I remember Angel, but I don’t know you."
"I’m a new friend of his and his employee Wesley Wyndham-Price. More importantly I have a solution to your problem. You know, the dead slaver." Sear hesitated a moment, stunned by the girl’s directness. Friend or foe, she needed to know what this stranger knew. She stepped back and held the door open.
"Let us talk then. I am Sedar."
Jim Valenti came in to get his thermos filled on schedule, and Liz smiled and nodded as she fetched the coffeepot. "Deputy Dodd had an interesting shift last night," the sheriff said without preamble. Liz tried to look innocent, but couldn’t help snickering. "It’s not that funny."
"Depends on your point of view. We were having a race when Spike spotted Dodd following us and decided to turn it into another lesson."
"A lesson for who?" the sheriff asked irritably. Liz looked down, and when he decided she looked suitably apologetic he relented. "You’re lucky Dodd assumed his radar gun was malfunctioning. Were you racing to anywhere in particular?"
Liz nodded. "I asked Max to go by your office before he goes to work. I’ll meet you there during my morning break. If everything works out, we should be ready when and if that guy’s employer arrives." She handed him copies of the pictures Wes had sent. "We can fill you in then."
Tinted windows were a wonderful invention Angel thought, especially to a vampire who needed to travel during the day. He had made good time and by his estimates, should be in Roswell shortly after sunset.
He still couldn’t grasp it. Spike training the new Slayer? What sort of sick game was he playing now?
The two teens sat across from Valenti and laid out the basic idea for him. "I don’t like it. It means breaking the law."
"Think about the tradeoff," Liz urged. "I talked to the women. They’re tired of running." That was true enough. "If Tay finds them they’re ready to fight, and they will. That could get messy." That was misleading, but mostly true. "If we can find Tay before he starts looking for them and convince him that they’re not here, he’ll leave and there’ll be no trouble. If he finds them… well think of that corpse in the warehouse as a sign of things to come."
"That kind of trouble," Max put in, "might attract the Special Unit." Valenti raised his hands in defeat.
"Okay. I’m convinced. I’ll have my deputies look for him." He sighed, "as soon as I figure out what to tell them." Max smiled confidently.
"That might not be necessary." Valenti didn’t answer but motioned for him to continue. "You see the Vigaries have some very specific dietary needs."
Roswell only had one plant nursery. The greenhouses of which provided for all of the flower shops in town as well as selling grass, seed, and implements for local farmers and people obsessed with their lawns. Business was good, as they had no competition.
Valenti watched from an unmarked car, hoping that Max and Liz were right about the Vigaries. It had been two days since the death of the one who had found the alien girls in the warehouse. Presumably the man was now overdue for check in with his superiors.
A failure to check in would constitute a lead for someone like Tay. That was the theory, anyway. Tay would come; Valenti would be there to meet him while the slavers’ quarry stayed safely hidden. They arrived shortly after sunset.
Valenti watched them gather near the back gate of the lot and decided to intervene before any laws were broken. He didn’t like the secretive manner in which they were operating. Getting out of the car, he approached them. One of the strangers noticed him and turned, speaking in a language that Valenti didn’t recognize, not that that should be a surprise, he reflected, if they came from another dimension. He noted the odd formation of ridges on their foreheads and knew he had the right bunch.
Stopping ten feet from the group he repeated a carefully memorized phrase. A ripple went through the group. He saw shocked expressions on some of the faces. Then the group parted and a man he took to be Tay came forward.
"Thought that would get your attention. You in charge?"
"I am," the man came to within a few feet of Valenti and stopped. "I am Tay. Who are you and how do you know our language?"
"I’m Sheriff James Valenti, and I don’t know it. I just memorized a few phrases while I was researching your people. Thought it might make a nice little ice breaker." Tay scowled. "All right then, down to business. You came here because you’re looking for a friend of yours. Am I right?"
"How do you know this? Where is he?" Tay was suddenly tensed, wary of a trap.
"There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. Your friend is dead. I was called to a warehouse over across town two days ago. It didn’t take long to discover he wasn’t human. A little research pinned down his species. That’s why I’ve been here waiting for you. Don’t worry. I’m alone. Most of my people don’t have a clue about this."
"How did he die?"
This was going to be the hard part. Valenti wished he’d rehearsed a little more, but there was nothing to do but sell the story they’d concocted as hard as he could. "He was tampering with the fuse box in the warehouse, trying to shut down the freezer for some reason. Trouble was he didn’t really understand the equipment. He managed to start an electrical fire that did quite a bit of damage to the warehouse, but luckily only claimed one life. His." Tay was immediately suspicious.
"He was burned?"
"Over sixty percent of his body. We had a time identifying him, but you guys are kind of distinctive." Max had given the body the extra burns and repaired some of the existing damage; making it more generalized. Tay wasn’t buying it though.
"And there were no others of our kind? No females?"
"Females? As in escaped slaves?" Tay’s eyes narrowed at his tone. Clearly understanding that Valenti disapproved. "Not that I’ve found. We reconstructed his trail as best we could and found he’d been poking around a freezer truck that had come in that day."
"Was there anything unusual about the truck?"
Valenti shook his head. "Only thing in there were some crates of frozen chickens and a few dozen bags of ice."
"Ice? No sign of anyone in the truck?"
"No. I keep an eye on newcomers in town, especially non-human newcomers as they tend to cause trouble." Tay opened his mouth to protest, but Valenti forged ahead. "I like things quiet. I won’t have strangers tearing up my town, attacking and killing my people. Your man got into the warehouse wearing a uniform he’d stolen from a guard. That guard is still in the hospital with a concussion. I want to know what your intentions are. If you’re here to turn the town upside down looking for escaped slaves you can turn around and leave now. I won’t have it."
"They are escaped criminals from my own world. If they are in your town sheriff, they pose a greater risk to you than we do."
"If that’s so, and if they’re here, and they break our laws, then I’ll deal with them. You have no authority here, and I won’t tolerate your goon squad causing trouble. Do we understand each other?"
"Perfectly. If they do not break your laws?"
"Then I’ll tell them what I tell everyone. Stay out of trouble. Obey the law, and we won’t have any problems." It was not what Tay wanted to hear.
Angel watched the sheriff confront Tay and his men. Uh-oh. This could get ugly
. The meeting seemed peaceful enough, but he knew what Tay was capable of if he didn’t get his way. Angel moved from the recessed doorway where he had been hiding and started down the street, intent on making his presence known and giving Tay another warning. He had only gone a short distance when he was seized from behind and pulled into an alley.
"Shhh!" Angel found himself pushed against a wall, and when he looked down, a small dark-haired girl was looking up at him with her finger to her lips. "You want to ruin everything?" She whispered fiercely. His confusion lasted only a second or two.
"Got it in one. You’re Angel, right?" He nodded. "Nice to meet you. Now stay out of this."
"You don’t know how dangerous they are."
"Wesley’s notes were very thorough. You can thank him for me when you get back. If the sheriff can convince Tay or whoever’s in charge, that the people he’s looking for aren’t here then they’ll leave without the need for fighting or any kind of violence." Angel nodded thoughtfully. That made sense.
"I see. If they don’t believe it?"
"Then we’ll think of something else. They know you though, don’t they?"
"Yeah, which is why-"
"-they won’t believe the sheriff if they see you here, and things will get violent. So stay out of it or I’ll stake you." If he hadn’t known she was a Slayer, the threat would have sounded absurd. She barely came up to mid-chest on him. If anything, the young woman before him was less imposing than Buffy.
"All right, but you should be prepared to fight." The Slayer nodded, not looking happy at the prospect, something that struck Angel as very unusual. There would be time for that later though. At the moment, Valenti was heading back toward his car and Tay was following with two of his men.
"So they bought it?" Angel wasn’t sure he believed what he was hearing.
"Yep." Valenti nodded. They had all gathered at the soap factory, where Spike had established a temporary home and training area for Liz. Max had decided that having the gathering at his house might strain his parents’ good will too much.
"He was suspicious at first, but I was able to convince him that they weren’t here."
"How?" Angel wanted to know.
"By convincing him that I didn’t care if they were." He looked over the group meaningfully. "And as long as they obey the law and stay out of trouble, I’ll continue to not care." He focused on Liz. "I trust you’ll make that clear to them?" She nodded.
"Don’t worry Sheriff. They don’t want to attract attention to themselves."
"I handed the body over to Tay. You did a pretty good job with the burns Max. It looked like the guy died in a perfectly normal fire. It was enough to fool Tay anyway. He left thinking that his man had come here on a wild goose chase and had some bad luck. I still have trouble believing we pulled off this con job."
Liz smiled proudly at her boyfriend. "Where there’s fire there’s smoke," she misquoted. "I’m just glad they’re gone."
Max nodded, not really pleased that Valenti was drawing attention to him in front of the stranger. He looked over the newcomer, Angel. He checked the man’s reflection on a hunch and discovered that, like Spike, the guy was a vampire. Not wanting to waste time or risk Liz in any way he had gotten Michael and Isabel to help separate them during the Sheriff’s story. They then demanded answers.
Angel had been evasive at first, but Liz had cut in and given them the back-story she had received along with Faith’s memories. Angel had stared at her, shocked that she would know so much about him, and Liz, rather annoyed with his interference, wasn’t inclined to enlighten him.
"So he’s harmless?" Michael asked. Liz shrugged.
"Not the way Spike is if that’s what you mean." She shot her teacher an apologetic look, but the blonde vampire shrugged indifferently. "He doesn’t have any imposed restrictions on who he ‘can’ hurt. He just chooses not to kill humans."
"Interesting distinction," Valenti gave the vampire a wary look.
"I’m not here to hurt anyone," he gave Spike a warning glare, "unless I have to." He walked toward the other vampire, eyeing him curiously. "What’s the game Spike? Why are you here?"
"To train the new Slayer," Spike answered honestly. "Someone needed to, and better me than some Council wanker."
"Spike’s done well by me so far. He’s the one who spotted the Vigary in the first place. Things might have gotten messy if Tay had turned up without any warning." Angel considered that and nodded reluctantly.
"What’s in it for you, Spike?"
"I’m enjoying myself. Maybe I’ll find out what you find so appealing about being a white hat." Spike managed to say it with a straight face, but Angel wasn’t buying it. His sire scowled and looked back at Liz.
"Don’t get used to him being around. He bores easily. When he does, he’ll be on his way."
"Maybe." Liz shrugged. "Until then, he’s a pretty good teacher." Spike grinned and preened a little, knowing it would annoy Angel. Then he brightened, and Liz could practically see the light bulb over his head.
"Long as you’re here, why don’t you make yourself useful? Liz and I can’t have a proper sparring session cause o’ this damn chip. Why don’t you try out her skills? I’d love to see how she does."
"We’ve mainly been working on control," Liz hedged as she came around to face Angel. Max started to intercept her, but stopped, knowing she wouldn’t appreciate it. "Precision and reflexes, that sort of thing." Angel didn’t acknowledge Spike, addressing Liz directly as they squared off. If this was what it took to have a conversation with her he’d do it.
"Spike can’t be trusted, chip or no," he told her. "It’s only a leash. He’s not even paper trained." His head rocked, and he staggered back, a shocked look on his face.
"That was rude." Spike’s first impulse was to laugh, but he decided another approach would have better results.
"Nice shot Liz. Tell me, was that planned or reflex?"
"Uh," Liz looked uncertain. "I’m not sure. Maybe fifty-fifty?"
"Well, you’re still new at this. Give it time." He hadn’t even glanced at Angel, let alone laughed at him. His grandsire was looking back and forth between them. "What about it Angel? Give her a try?"
"This is a bad idea Liz."
"Talk while we spar," she suggested. They began to circle, and the others backed off to give them room.
"I’ve known Spike for over a hundred years. He only cares about his own pleasures. When he gets bored. He’ll leave."
"You said that already," she replied. Liz ducked a swing moved in for a quick jab at his ribs. Angel countered easily. "He’s done well by me so far, though."
"It won’t last. He’s just amusing himself, and sooner or later that amusement might come at the cost of your life." They traded a series of blows and backed off.
"Good thing she’s not alone then," Max said from the sidelines. Angel glanced at him and got a shot to the jaw. "I’ll protect her."
"Yeah," Spike scoffed, "when you’re not hiding from alien hunters." This earned him some dark looks from the teens. "Look Angel, I’ll take care of her. In fact, I’ll make you a bet." Both Angel and Liz stopped and stared at him. "With me watching after her, Liz will live at least twice as long as a Slayer as your precious Buffy, and she’s still going strong after four years." Liz could barely believe what she was hearing.
"Spike! You’re making a bet over how long I’ll live?!"
"Sadly," Angel said, "that isn’t a new low for him, not even close." Spike shrugged, honestly baffled.
"Hey, you’re benefiting from it Liz, what’s there to complain about?" That stumped her. It was logical in a bizarre, twisted kind of way.
"Is that typical Spike logic?" She asked the dark-haired vampie. He nodded.
"You going to accept the wager?" Everyone turned to look at Michael. He shrugged and said. "Hey, like Spike said, Liz benefits from it, and he wants to win the bet. That’s probably the best we can expect." Maria rolled her eyes.
"It sounds like Spike logic isn’t that different from Michael logic." Her boyfriend looked at her, hurt.
"Just trying to make the best of it. Maybe you’d rather call in that Council bunch. The one Wesley made sound like a dirty word?" Angel frowned at the idea.
"I’d advise against it, but Spike…" He glared at Dru’s favorite childe. Liz stepped between them, glaring at the older vampire.
"It’s not really your decision Angel. I know you mean well, but you don’t have a say in this." He let out a frustrated sigh. That was true, but he couldn’t walk away without doing something. The options were very limited. He couldn’t stay. He couldn’t spare Wesley from the battle in Los Angeles. He didn’t trust the Council. What other options were there? Spike had spoken the absolute truth in one thing. A Slayer attracted trouble, whether she wanted it or not, and he got the impression that Liz’ friends had their own problems, although Spike’s crack about alien hunters made no sense to him. It left only one option, not a perfect one, but perhaps he could help the new Slayer in a small way. After all, he knew Spike very well.
"All right Spike. I’ll take your bet. You can keep her alive for four years at least? I think you’ll get bored and leave long before that."
"You’ll lose." Spike extended his hand and they shook. Liz turned away, making a disgusted noise.
"You probably don’t want to hear this," Max said as he followed Liz. She had left the building and was walking off the anger. "I think that Angel was just trying to make the best of a bad situation."
"I know that. I’m just remembering…"
"What happened the last time we made ‘the best of a bad situation’?" He finished. Liz nodded, thinking of Nasedo and what he had done with the chance Max had given him. Max said nothing more, but he paced her, lending support by his mere presence. She was grateful for that. She stopped and he turned and took her in his arms. "At least this turned out well. Your idea worked like a charm."
"This time," she answered glumly.
"You did it without slaying anything," he offered, determined to brighten her mood. It seemed to work. She chuckled.
"Please, don’t say that in front of Spike. He’d probably try to cheer me up." She cleared her throat and did her best to imitate his cockney accent. "’Cheer up pet, you’ll get lots o’ chances to kill the things that go bump in the night.’" Max chuckled, but the gloom had all ready settled back over her.
"There’s no good answer is there Max?" He was silent for a moment.
"I don’t see one," he sighed finally. "Whatever comes though, I’ll be here to face it with you."
"Thanks Max. I love you."
"Love you too." He kissed her forehead and they stood silently for a few moments, just enjoying the closeness. Finally, Max sighed and released her, all too soon he thought. "What are we going to do?"
"You’re options are sort of limited." They turned to see Angel emerging from the shadows. "There must be a better way."
"If you know what it is say so now," Max challenged. "Otherwise, get out." Angel blinked. "You heard me. You haven’t improved the situation here; you’ve only made it more awkward. We don’t need that." Angel nodded in resignation. The boy was right. Angel had rushed to Roswell with no clear idea of what he would do when he got there. He still didn’t know what to do.
"I can put you in contact with the Slayer and some friends of hers in Sunnydale. They’re good people, and you can always use friends. Other than that… Good luck." Angel turned and left without another word.
THE END… FOR NOW