DISCLAIMER: The characters from Roswell, BTVS, and Angel don’t belong to me. I included some characters from a previous story called ‘Zeppo?’ See the disclaimer there for reference to them. I don’t want to give away any surprises here. Regardless of their origin, I’m just borrowing them. I don’t gain anything by writing this.
SUMMARY: A battle is looming between two dangerous groups, one demonic, one all too human, and the town of Roswell will be lucky to survive it.
How had it gone so wrong? The plan had been perfect, their enemies a known quantity. And yet, everything was falling apart. Now his people were dying all around him. What had happened?! More importantly, how was he going to turn it around? It was Sunday, 1:15 a.m.
Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Liz launched a spinning kick that Spike barely avoided and quickly followed up with a sweep that landed her teacher flat on his back.
"How was that?" She asked sitting on his stomach with her mock stake tapping on his chest. Spike shifted her aim a bit.
"Good. You’re definitely getting better." She let him up and he grinned at her. "Got a surprise for you."
"Heard some good news. Um, well I suppose not ‘good’ news, but it’ll have to do. A man was killed by a coyote outside Galinas."
"That’s good news?"
"They think he crawled quite a distance from the scene of the attack since there wasn’t a lot o’ blood at the scene. There’s a good chance it’s a vampire did the killing. Victim might even rise tonight. If we hurry we can probably catch it."
"It’s dark now," Liz noted unnecessarily. She had arrived about an hour before sunset and begun her workout. Despite the strenuous exercise she wasn’t the least bit tired so she couldn’t claim that as an excuse. She swallowed her nervousness and gave him a cocky grin. "Okay. Lets go."
They gathered supplies and headed out back to where his car was concealed. A few minutes later they were headed out of town. The way Spike drove the trip didn’t take long, and Liz arrived at the cemetery considerably more nervous than she had been when they left the factory.
"Be alert," Spike warned. "A newborn won’t be that much trouble, but the one who made him might be lurkin’ about. No telling who it is or how tough they are." Liz nodded, focusing on the task ahead of her. Spike handed her a stake and took out one for himself. "Let’s go."
The place was dark and gloomy just as a cemetery should be
, Liz reflected as she made her way through the rows of markers looking for the fresh grave. She found it and looked around for Spike. She was about to wave to him when she thought to double-check the name.
"Tim Gilbert," she read as she illuminated the headstone with her flashlight. "That’s the one." She clicked the flashlight off and rose to attract Spike’s attention when the shifting dirt of the grave surprised her. Liz jumped back and stared in macabre fascination as the man, a buff twenty-something, pulled himself out of the ground.
"Geez, that’s creepy." The demon looked up at the sound of her voice. It grinned and launched itself towards its first meal. Liz gave a small scream and quickly sidestepped as the vamp charged. It stumbled by with a surprised grunt and turned to face her.
"So I guess I should hit you now?" The vampire wasn’t at all interested in what Liz thought she should do. It came at her straight on and was staggered back by a jab to the nose. It stared at her cross-eyed for a second, surprised by the resistance, but then snarled and charged again, its hunger overwhelming any sense of caution.
Again Liz sidestepped the wild rush and grabbed an outstretched wrist. Pulling him toward her so his back was too her, she placed her other hand on the elbow gave a hard twist and shove. The arm snapped and the vamp hit the dirt face first with a howl of rage. Liz leaped on its back and drove her stake home. What had once been Tim Gilbert turned to dust beneath her.
"Well," Liz mused aloud, "that wasn’t so bad."
"For who?" asked a peevish female voice behind her. Liz jumped to her feet and spun to face a red head she would have classified as vamp even without the fangs. "He was cute, too."
"Personally, I hate a guy who gets grabby on the first date," Liz quipped, trying to mask her nervousness. The vampire chuckled, not fooled by the bravado.
"Well that should be the least of your worries at the moment. I’m hungry." Liz ducked away from the swing and backed up.
"Well that’s more or less constant isn’t it?"
"How do you keep your figure?" Liz asked, honestly curious. The vamp laughed good-naturedly.
"I get a lot of exercise killing Slayers." She moved in fast and hit Liz hard in the face. The vamp threw herself on Liz, or tried to. Her intended victim rolled aside and to her feet in time to deliver a solid kick to the head.
"Follow up Liz," Spike called. "This isn’t a Sunday social. All being polite’ll get you is dead." Liz nodded and squared her shoulders. She met the next charge head on, driving both fists into her opponent’s gut and then bringing them up sharply under her chin. The vampire’s riposte staggered her and the demon had no trouble following up on the advantage.
Flat on her back, Liz brought her head up sharply, forehead connecting with the bridge of the vamp’s nose. Grabbing an ear, she brought the head it was attached to down hard on the grave marker set flush in the ground next to her head and bucked her off. A kick to the side lifted the vamp off the ground.
"Stake," she called. Spike tossed her one and she turned back aiming a kick high as the vamp charged her from behind. The kick connected solidly with her jaw, stopping her in her tracks. Liz stomped down and brought her other leg around in a crescent kick that shattered the vamp’s jaw and sent her sprawling. Liz leaped on her and staked her before she could recover.
"How was that?" she asked getting to her feet.
"Pathetic. If she’d had any talent at all, you’d be dead," he told her bluntly. "Your basic technique’s okay, and shows some promise, but you can’t hesitate. You’re supposed to hurt them, take the initiative and remember to follow through. Hit as hard as you can and keep hitting." Liz nodded dejectedly.
"You’re right. I’ve never really thought that violence was a solution to anything, but I’m gonna have to get over that."
"Damn right you are," he snorted. "Demons don’t respond to sweet reason." He thought hard a moment then sighed.
"I suppose I should’ve pushed that during training. You held back cause you didn’t want to hurt me, didn’t you?" She nodded.
"Well stop it. You can’t hurt me, so stop bein’ such a pansy about it. Let those reflexes yer so scared of take over." He stepped forward and poked her in the chest. "Do you understand?" She nodded meekly and he rolled his eyes. "Show me!" he growled letting his demon show and grabbing the lapels of her jacket with both hands.
Liz brought her hands up between his arms and snapped them apart, breaking his grip. Stepping back, she grabbed a double handful of short blonde hair and pulled down and toward her.
Knee met forehead, stunning him, and her grip shifted, grabbing collar in one hand and belt in the other she heaved. Spike abruptly found himself airborne. He had time to be annoyed at himself before he hit the head stone she’d thrown him at. It toppled and he kept going.
He rolled a short distance when he hit the ground, but wasn’t able to rise. The Slayer was kneeling on his chest with a stake aimed at his throat.
"You’re a bit high," he scolded.
"I didn’t want to accidentally kill you if you sat up suddenly or something." Spike nodded and gestured for her to rise.
"Very considerate. Just don’t be that way with other vamps." Liz nodded.
"Got it. You made your point."
"Good. Let’s go back then." Spike grinned and made a slight bow and sweeping gesture toward the car. His sudden mood shift confused Liz, but his antics made her smile. She headed for the car, remembering to keep an eye out for any other signs of covert movement as they left the cemetery. They saw nothing.
Maria opened her eyes slowly, wondering for a second where she was. Outside, judging by the warm sunlight and the lack of a roof to block it. She was lying on the ground, or rather on a blanket on the ground. Lastly, she wasn’t alone. She smiled as she felt Michael stir against her, waking up.
"I think we fell asleep," she said unnecessarily. Michael mumbled something and sat up. Maria scooted away slightly and sat up as well. "Good nap though."
"After that meal I think we needed it." They looked at the remains of the picnic lunch they had brought to the small park. Falling asleep after eating hadn’t been part of the plan, but she had to admit she liked waking up with him. "This is nice," he said after a moment, surprising her. "It’s nice to do something normal once in a while." Maria let out a small laugh and he looked at her curiously.
"Sorry. It’s just that I never would have connected the concepts of you and picnic. If our lives weren’t so strange I’d say this is anything but normal." Michael’s face closed up and Maria knew she’d said the wrong thing.
"At least I’m trying," he groused.
"I didn’t mean it that way. I really enjoyed this. It’s a nice change of pace. You’re not usually with y’know the romantic gestures." Michael relaxed.
"Sorry. I don’t mean to be defensive. I just…" he shrugged awkwardly, "wanted to do something with you that, you know, a normal couple might do. Not that spying on the FBI isn’t a lot of laughs." Maria grinned. It was more than the joke was worth, she thought, but the tension had gone out of the conversation. The last thing either of them wanted was more tension. The last month or so had seen far too much of it
Michael chuckled. Maria looked at him as he lay back and put his hands behind his head. "What?" she asked curiously.
"Just remembering the last time we slept together." He chuckled, but Maria shuddered at the memory.
"It wasn’t funny then, and I’m not sure it is now." She managed to smile ruefully though. If it had happened to someone else, she reflected, it might have been funny. "You didn’t have to listen to mom freaking out after she caught us in bed together." She looked down at her boyfriend, who was still smiling and seemed determined to be contrary. Maria considered lecturing him on the double standard for women in such situations but decided against it. Michael’s smile faded after a moment when he realized this upset her despite the front she put up. He began to search for a new topic, a safe, normal topic.
"What are you thinking?" Maria asked after a moment. Michael decided to go with honesty.
"I’m trying to think of a safe, normal topic of conversation." Maria laughed shortly and lay back next to him.
"Not many of those these days. The only ones that I can think of right off would probably put us back to sleep." Michael made a sound that indicated agreement. He was feeling too lazy to do anything else. After a moment she said, "Um, so how ‘bout those Dodgers?" Michael’s eyes snapped open and he looked at her incredulously. Both started to laugh.
"You want to head back to the CrashDown?" Michael asked after a bit. Maria shook her head. Time for an awkward topic, Michael realized. "Liz is working now isn’t she?"
"Yeah. Things just haven’t been the same since this Slayer thing happened, and I don’t know why. It’s not like it’s made this big impact on our lives or anything. She trains with Spike a couple of hours a day, but there’s been nothing for her to you know, actually slay since those Vigary guys came through town last month. The women are still here, but we hardly ever see them. So…" she trailed off, at a loss to explain why things were awkward between them.
"Maybe it’s because you can’t share it? Something you don’t have in common? How often does that happen?" Maria didn’t know what surprised her more, that Michael would attempt to say something deep and insightful or that he was right.
"I think that’s it," she said after a moment. "That’s exactly it." Michael shrugged.
"Give it time. You two have been friends way too long to let something little like this get in the way."
"Like you said. It’s not like it’s made a huge difference." Maria made a thoughtful noise and considered that. It would be time to head back to the diner soon anyway. She resolved to talk to Liz about it. It was Friday, 2:00 p.m.
Spike was bored. He had been cooped up in the factory all day with just a portable TV for company. Roswell didn’t have Sunnydale’s tunnels or LA’s extensive sewer system, so he was trapped during the day. He hated that. When he had agreed to become Liz Parker’s Watcher he hadn’t realized how painfully dull the job would be in a town with a grand total of 10 demons, himself included. He didn’t count the Slayer’s friends because they maintained that they were aliens and not demons. To make matters worse, or better depending on one’s point of view, he was the only one of those ten demons even remotely violent.
The previous night had been interesting, but there was far too little of that activity in the area to keep him from getting bored. Angelus had used to complain that Spike had the attention span of a mayfly. The aliens had some possibilities. Liz had said they had enemies, other aliens that would be coming to attack them. That was something to look forward to he supposed. The ones already in Roswell were duller than dirt.
At first he thought that Tess girl might liven things up, but she’d disappointed him. He had barely seen her, but when they did happen to be in the same place, she always had a snotty remark that managed to piss him off. She never did anything more threatening though, so no opportunity there for slayage as Buffy used to call it.
There was no way around it. Roswell was dull. The bet he had made with Angel was enough to keep him there for a time, but he knew that eventually he would shrug it off and leave. Sooner rather than later if something didn’t happen.
The dilapidated Ford pulled to a stop in front of the UFO theme restaurant and the young man behind the wheel looked up at the sign and smiled. "This should be interesting."
"Tourist trap," his female companion surmised. "I give the novelty 10 minutes to wear off." He rolled his eyes and smiled at her.
"Let’s find out." He got out of the car and she reluctantly followed him inside. They took a booth and picked up the menu a gray-haired, bored looking woman wearing a set of antennas dropped on the table.
"Will Smith burger? Men in Blackberry pie? Green slime smoothie?" His voice grew increasingly incredulous.
"Okay," his girlfriend grimaced, "the last one. Yuck." He nodded in agreement.
"Yeah. Like we don’t see enough slime." He looked up as another waitress approached.
Liz smiled at the two customers as she pulled out her order pad. "Hi, I’m Liz. Welcome to the CrashDown. Can I get you something to drink while you look over the menu?" The two gave each other a significant look before glancing down at the menus.
"Just a coke for me."
"Me too. I can’t decide what to have though. Everything looks so…"
"Bizarre?" the woman provided. He nodded.
"It’s a bit corny, but the food is good. Try the burger. The cook knows how to make it just right."
"Okay Liz, burger and fries."
"Me too," his companion piped up handing over her menu. Liz turned and headed for the window to put their orders in. They waited till she was out of earshot. "So that’s her, huh?"
"Guess so. Seems nice enough."
"Not much to look at." He shot her a look. Terrific, she was jealous, but he decided to misinterpret her words in order to keep the peace.
"Can’t judge by appearances. Too many vamps made that mistake with Buffy." She let it slide.
"Think she’s ready for what’s coming?"
"We’ll know soon enough." It was Friday, 2:30 p.m.
After leaving the café, the first order of business was to find a place to stay and then to find temporary work while they got ready. Neither knew exactly how long they would be in Roswell, and they needed to be ready for the long haul.
Two hours later, they saw an opportunity for one of them. "Waitress?" She didn’t sound very enthusiastic.
"You’ve done it before."
"Didn’t like it," she pouted. "I can do it though." She went into the CrashDown and took down the help wanted sign that had only been put up an hour ago. The owner cocked an eyebrow at her as she approached him and set the sign on the counter.
"You’re confident. Been a waitress before?" She nodded. With Agnes sudden departure they were going to be short for the dinner shift, Jeff Parker reflected. He needed to fill the slot quickly. Alex had volunteered to help out, but Jeff Parker had said jokingly, that he wouldn’t look good in the uniform. His wife and daughter had both given him dirty looks for that.
"Well I do need someone fairly quickly. Can you work the dinner shift tonight…?"
"Anya. And yes I can." Jeff nodded and agreed to hire her on a trial basis. It was Friday, 4:00 p.m.
After a few quick words with Anya, he drove on alone to a place he had seen earlier in the day. A job was a necessary evil while he was there and he tried for positions that wouldn’t take too much time away from his actual mission in Roswell.
The construction site he had seen was hiring day labor and he had little trouble getting on pushing a wheelbarrow and running errands. He had agreed to meet Anya on her dinner break and make plans to approach the Slayer. Spike might be a problem or he might actually help if it suited him or at least amused him. They would simply have to see how it played out.
Spike wandered the streets, looking for something to divert him. He never missed a chance to get out, and he had some time before Liz arrived for their training session. She had called earlier saying she needed to be at the café in case the new waitress her father had hired didn’t work out.
Jeff Parker was getting curious about where his daughter went in the evenings, but Max had been good about covering for her. He sometimes watched their training sessions, and tried to be supportive, but Spike could tell he wasn’t happy with the situation.
Liz had suggested that he and the others be included in the sessions, after all, they had their own abilities to master. Max had said he would think about it, and Spike had to admit that including the aliens would make things more interesting and had encouraged him to invite the others to join in. It might make things a little less boring anyway, to see what they could do.
He met Liz a block from the CrashDown and they headed for the factory. They were still on Main when they spotted Dodd eyeing them suspiciously, still a little ticked, Liz suspected over the way they’d given him the slip a few weeks earlier. The second time they saw him they had traveled several blocks in the direction of the factory. Liz realized that he was following them with considerably more discretion than he had used before. She motioned to Spike and turned down a side street. He grinned when he realized what she had in mind.
Dodd started to drive by the alley, not intending to turn into the street behind them. That would have given him away immediately. As he passed though, he suddenly hit the brakes, startled by what he saw, or rather, what he didn’t see. They were gone. Getting out of the car, he walked down the street, barely more than an alley really, but too long for them to have reached the other end in the short time they had been out of sight. He tried the only doors opening onto the street and found both of them locked. He glanced up at the fire escape, but the ladder was up and it was much too high for either to have reached without a ladder or something to stand on. Those things make a hell of a racket anyway, he realized and knew that he would have certainly heard it. Muttering something obscene under his breath, he returned to his car.
They waited until the sound of his engine had faded in the distance before emerging. Liz dropped from the fire escape where she had been hanging motionless, body pressed against the bottom of the superstructure, just a few feet from the ladder Dodd had been pondering.
Spike pulled himself out of the manhole he’d hidden in. How he had moved the cover without making a noise, she couldn’t imagine. He grinned at her and clapped her on the back.
"Sheriff’s not going to be happy that I’ve been playing with Dodd again." Her teacher chuckled and shook his head.
"The boy’s got no one to blame but himself. Tell Valenti it’ll help his deputies keep on their toes."
She smiled somewhat ruefully, enjoying the game even if she knew she would probably regret it later. "I was sure he was looking right at me at one point. I didn’t even breathe." They continued to talk as they made their way to the factory to begin the training session. It was Friday, 8:00 p.m.
Liz rubbed at a few new, but quickly fading aches as she walked back toward the CrashDown. Spike had decided that he had been going easy on her. Her performance in the cemetery the previous night had disappointed him, and he wanted her to be ready for anything. Liz knew he was right, but that didn’t stop the indignation she felt over being pushed so hard.
Irrational maybe, but it was there nonetheless. What truly disturbed her was his insistence that she let her reflexes take over. The reflexes she had gotten from Faith still scared the daylights out of her. Letting go with a demon or even with her odd teacher didn’t bother her that much, but she lived in fear of losing control, that someone would accidentally step on her foot and she would put them in the hospital before she realized what she was doing.
Spike had jokingly referred to it as ‘channeling Faith’. Spike, she reflected, could be a real jerk. Her control had been increasing though. Her balance and coordination continued to improve much to her amazement. Her teacher insisted however, that she was not ready to rely on her own control and reflexes in a fight. She had to continue to use Faith’s. That thought scared her far more than the prospect of facing any demon. Liz walked the rest of the way to the café, lost in thought and didn’t notice the van that drove by her slowly. It was Friday, 9:55 p.m.
Spike dropped his keys in his pocket as he headed into the factory. The new training scheme he’d worked up had been fairly effective if he did say so himself. Liz was mad at him, but if it kept her alive during her next fight he suspected she would get over it. The sound of a car engine turning the corner caused him to glance back at the road. It wouldn’t do for some deputy to spot him entering the factory. It wasn’t a patrol car though, just a van that was moving past on the old road.
He stopped. That road didn’t lead anywhere. He turned back for another look. The van was familiar. Searching his memory as he entered the factory, he tried to connect it with a time and place. It was a fairly nondescript vehicle. He had seen others like it around town, but he hadn’t seen this one in town he suddenly realized.
It had passed them the previous night on the road from Galinas. "Oh bloody hell!" Spike grabbed his keys from his coat pocket as he ran for the door and his car.
Anya loaded the last of the stack of dishes into the dishwasher and turned to Liz, straightening up with a grimace. "Is it always this busy?" She sounded a bit peevish. Liz smiled sympathetically. She knew the feeling.
"On Fridays? Yeah. This is a popular place. Not so busy most weekdays though."
"That’s good. I forgot how tiring this can be."
"Well, almost done. Only a few people left." She glanced out the pickup window at the remaining customers. Deputy Hansen was there, having a late dinner. Hansen and a couple of factory workers just off the swing shift were all that was left. "Almost time for our dinner. Working here on an empty stomach gives you an appetite." Anya nodded, but didn’t comment.
Liz wasn’t usually one for snap judgments. There had been a few exceptions, Tess notable among them. She had known instantly that she didn’t like the blond. Anya on the other hand, she liked. The girl had a directness and habit of speaking her mind that Liz really liked. In some ways Anya reminded her of Maria without the hyperactive tendencies.
Maria. Liz hadn’t spoken to her at all that day, and she’d really wanted to. She’d felt herself drifting apart from her friends and didn’t like it one bit. She had to get the whole group together soon so they could do something together, like old times. Yeah
, a cynical little voice at the back of her mind whispered. You could all get captured by crazy alien hunters. That’d make for a fun afternoon
She quashed the thought quickly but was still left with the fact that old times hadn’t always been good. She shook her head ruefully as she walked out into the main part of the café. A young man she vaguely recognized came in. She looked at him more closely and realized that he had arrived with Anya earlier in the day. She nodded to a booth next to the door and turned back toward the kitchen to tell Anya of his arrival. She had almost made it to the pickup window when the door opened again.
There were sounds of alarm from the customers and she turned to face the door. There was something coming toward her. Bipedal, reptilian, with a large green crystal centered in its forehead. This she had time to take in before it attacked. Then all she could see was the very sharp sword it was swinging at her.
Liz avoided the first simply by stepping back, the next by leaning to the side and stepping back again, all the time looking for something to use as a weapon or at least a distraction. As she passed the pickup window she got both.
Anya had been shown earlier in the evening how to clean the fryer used for the Saturn Rings, but she had yet to do so. Let’s hear it for procrastination
, Liz thought as roughly a pint of hot grease struck the creature in the face. It howled, more in indignation than pain, Liz thought as she ducked a wild swing and found her weapon. The stools at the counter were set into the floor and had heavy iron bases. Had the instincts acquired from Faith not taken over she would never have considered one of the stools as a possible weapon. Now, she didn’t think.
The stool came free of the floor with only a small sound of tortured metal and snapping bolts. The effort it took to tear it loose gave extra momentum to the swing as she brought it up. The impact didn’t simply turn the demon’s blow. It sent the sword spinning across the room.
Deprived of its primary weapon, it took a step back while reaching for one of the many knives it seemed to be carrying. Liz didn’t give him a chance. Stepping forward as her opponent stepped back, she brought the base of the stool down from the initial swing and up under its chin in a swing that Tiger Woods would have envied.
Because of the seat, it was a bit awkward, but it did the trick. The demon was lifted off its feet, it struck and bounced off a table and landed in a heap near the door. It was down but not out. As Liz watched, it began to stir and grope for its weapons. The young man near the door had risen during the brief struggle and now stepped forward, aiming a solid kick at its forehead with a steel-toed work boot. The crystal centered there like a third eye shattered and the demon let out a strangled scream through its broken jaw before disappearing in a bright flash of light.
Everyone in the diner froze for a moment while their eyes adjusted. Liz recovered first and looked around. Her parents, who had retreated upstairs to work on the books, pounded into the diner shouting questions, just as the front door slammed open and Spike barreled through ready for a fight.
Deputy Hansen was still sitting in his booth, apparently fascinated by the sword stuck in the wall a few inches from his head. Liz raised a hand trying to forestall the awkward questions.
"Liz," her father demanded, looking around frantically for the source of the commotion, "What happened?"
"Armed robbery," a voice behind her answered quickly, "or at least an attempt at one. I think you discouraged him." Liz turned to see Anya’s friend smiling smugly. Spike was watching the stranger with narrowed eyes. He then turned away with a muttered curse and faced Liz.
"You okay?" Liz nodded. Spike made a disgusted noise. "I should’ve spotted that van long ago. After it circled the block twice I should have realized they were casin’ the place."
"Not your fault," she shook her head, then for her parents benefit added, "you had no way of knowing he was coming in here." Her parents, especially her father, were looking at Spike oddly now.
"Who are you?" Jeff Parker asked, looking over the dangerous looking man in the black duster. He sincerely hoped that this wasn’t a new boyfriend. That fear at least was removed when Max Evans came through the door.
"Liz!" She practically lit up when she saw him and moved into his embrace. "Are you all right?"
"Fine Max. That was scary, but really no big deal."
"No big deal?" Deputy Hansen had recovered and apparently called for assistance. A siren grew loud as a patrol car turned the corner down the street. "There’s a sword stuck in the wall, and you ripped that stool out of the floor." Everyone looked down at the seat that Liz had dropped on the floor when Max had rushed in. Jeff knelt to examine the base and the floor where it had been anchored with a baffled look on his face. Liz didn’t have to respond immediately though.
Sheriff James Valenti chose that moment to come through the door. Thinking quickly, Liz concocted a story about a man in a fright mask who had tried to rob the place. The bright flash of light in which the demon had evaporated became a flare, which she speculated was intended to blind witnesses temporarily. It was pretty thin she realized, especially when she was asked about the stool she had ripped out of the floor. She merely shrugged and said "adrenaline… maybe?"
Valenti had to keep himself from rolling his eyes; he knew that her parents had to have an explanation that was at least vaguely plausible. Eventually though, all statements were taken and the place was emptied of customers and police officers. Liz’s parents, still visibly shaken by the incident, closed the café and went upstairs. Liz lingered when she saw the sheriff’s expression.
"Be up in a bit mom." She waited for her parents to get out of earshot. "Yes?"
"Now the truth please." He looked at those who were lingering in the café and noted the two strangers with concern.
"Its okay sheriff," Spike assured him. "They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t know about Liz. Only surprise is that the Slayer didn’t come herself. What’s up Xander? Buffy too busy makin’ googly eyes at soldier-boy? Normally she wouldn’t trust you with anything more than a highly dangerous doughnut gathering mission."
"It’s nice to see some things don’t change," Xander Harris reflected. "You’re still pathetic, trying to compensate for you lack of bite with lame insults." Liz felt a twinge of annoyance.
"Buffy sent you? Why? To check up on me?"
"Well, I’ll admit we were all curious to see how you were getting along with Spike, but actually I’m here about someone who’s still dangerous." As he said this, he turned his back on the vampire, deliberately making it as casual a move as possible. "I’m tracking some dangerous people. I know they’re in the area. I thought we might be able to help each other."
"Dangerous? Demons? What kind?" Xander shook his head.
"Not demons, demon hunters. It’s a long story. Can we talk somewhere more private?" It was Friday, 11:00 p.m.
"So talk." Liz, Max, Spike, and Valenti sat on one side and at either end of the tables they had pushed together while Anya and Xander settled on the remaining side. Xander suspected the arrangement was intentional. They were presenting a united front. That was not unexpected in a close-knit group. What was unexpected was Spike’s apparent inclusion in the group. Xander knew he’d have to get more details on that.
"First of all, what was that thing? Don’t say it was a thief," Max told him.
"No. That was a Mora demon. They’re assassins. Giles’ books call them soldiers of darkness."
"Who would send an assassin after me? Who would even know about me?" Liz asked.
"That van," Spike said glumly. "I saw it near here, but I was back at the factory before I realized where I’d seen it before. It passed us on the road back from Galinas." He shook his head. "I should have spotted it sooner. Those vamps you dusted had friends. They followed us back."
"Since when," Xander’s tone was incredulous, "do vampires and Mora demons work together?"
"It’s been known to happen. The Master occasionally had demons workin’ for him, plus there’s groups like the Order of Tarraka."
"Oh yeah, the bounty hunters you hired to kill Buffy." Spike nodded.
"Right," he confirmed, obviously feeling no remorse over the incident. Xander let it pass without comment or comeback, ready to move on.
"Is this attack on Liz related to the demon hunters you mentioned?" Max wanted to know.
"Why would demon hunters want to kill a Slayer?" Valenti asked.
"They don’t. I think it was the group they’re currently after that sent the Mora demon."
"Maybe you’d better start from the beginning," Max suggested.
"It’s a long story. I guess it really all started in Mexico a few years back. This family, a father and his two teenage kids were headed down to Mexico for a vacation when they had the misfortune to run into these two brothers that were having um, legal problems. They forced the three of them to smuggle them into Mexico in their RV and take them to a little dive out in the middle of nowhere. What none of them knew was that the place concealed a vampire nest. To make a long story short there were only two survivors the daughter and one of the brothers who’d forced them into it. The others, and all of the remaining humans in the bar were killed." The Roswell residents traded disturbed looks but said nothing. The one called Max nodded for them to continue, his expression unreadable.
"They went their separate ways. Kate returned to the U.S. to try to pick up the remains of a normal life and Seth went into hiding in Mexico as originally planned. They’d managed to do a pretty fair job of wiping out the nest, but that wasn’t the end of it. Seth made it to his sanctuary but didn’t have long to relax. The place was a haven for all sorts of criminals, most of them probably deserved to be in jail, but none of them deserved what happened. At least that was Kate’s take on it. The place was attacked by survivors from the nest and a fair number of other vamps they’d managed to round up. By the time the sun rose there wasn’t much left. Seth and a hand full of others survived, and left the place behind. Seth bummed around for a while and eventually returned to the U.S. where he hooked up with Kate.
"Now Kate had found it impossible to go back to a normal life. She took up demon hunting as suicidal as that sounds, but she’d managed to survive and had gathered people like herself together. People who’d lost everything because of vampires. They’ve been making a name for themselves in the demon community ever since. Those who’ve managed to escape from them claim that they’re incredibly violent and vicious. Believe me, coming from a vampire, that’s saying something."
"It all sounds a bit far fetched," Spike commented. "I mean a nest of vampires in a bar? An army of ‘em attackin’ a town? It sounds like the plot of a bad movie. There’d have to be a major demon behind it all to control that many. Vampires usually aren’t that big on cooperation." Xander shrugged.
"They never learned the details behind what was happening there, but the hunters are real enough. They showed up in Sunnydale about two years ago. That’s where the problem starts."
"What happened?" Xander had Valenti’s full attention now, partly because of the vampires, but mostly because the reference to the brothers. The name Seth sounded familiar to him for some reason.
"They started hunting in Sunnydale, a town with a fairly large demon population. Now under different circumstances we would have welcomed the help. As Spike can tell you, we had a hard enough time keeping the place from being sucked down into hell when we had two Slayers living there." The vampire nodded. That was true enough.
"These guys were a real problem though. They wanted to kill demons and they didn’t care what or who got in the way. More than once they burned down a building to destroy a nest. Even if they didn’t set fire to it, by the time they were done it usually wasn’t what you’d call habitable. We ended up having to run them out of town, and that wasn’t easy."
"Hang on a mo’," Spike looked thoughtful. "This the same bunch I heard about that tore up Willy’s bar?" Xander nodded.
"They came close to killing him as well, but the little weasel has several back doors to the bar." He noticed the curious looks on the others’ faces. "Willy is human, but most of his patrons are demons of one sort or another. He’s one of Buffy’s favorite snitches."
"Can we get back to why you’re here?" Valenti asked. "Are these demon hunters in the area?" Xander nodded. "Why? Who ordered the attack on Miss Parker?"
"The answer to both questions is Cole. He’s a powerful vampire, nearly 800 years old and he has a lot of minions, twenty or thirty I think. Recently he and Seth have developed a serious hate for each other. They’re heading for a showdown." He let the words sink in.
"Here." Max sat back looking pale at the very idea. "They’re coming here." Both Xander and Anya nodded.
"’Fraid so," Anya said, "although frankly I think letting them fight it out might be best for everyone. Maybe they’ll kill each other off and we won’t have to do anything." Everyone stared at her.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my girlfriend, the very embodiment of pragmatism." Xander managed a rueful smile and Anya preened under the perceived compliment. He got up and went to the counter and returned a moment later with a paper cup. "Let me demonstrate the one flaw with that idea, or at least the main one." He set the cup upside down on the table. "Here’s Roswell." He held up his right hand, palm flat. "Here’s Cole." He held up his left hand. "Here’s Seth." He clapped, flattening the cup between his hands. "Any questions?" No one said anything for a long time. Even Anya looked disturbed.
"So what do we do?" Liz asked finally. "We can’t let them fight."
"We can," Anya corrected, "if we can find a safe place for them to fight. Somewhere out in the desert maybe." She held up a hand to forestall objections. "Seth, Kate, and the rest chose this Xander. They choose to fight vampires and demons. You’re always saying that it was your choice to ‘take up the fight’. No one forces you to risk your life. Why is it any different for them?"
"I guess its not," he admitted reluctantly. "Cole has to be stopped, but using them to destroy each other like you said, well that just sounds cold blooded."
"Maybe," she admitted, "but how do we keep them apart and still beat Cole and his bunch? I don’t see a way, and from what you’ve told me Seth is a fanatic. If we try to stop them we’ll have two fights on our hands. So that’s out. We have to shift the fight away from town is all." She looked fairly pleased with herself and her reasoning as she glanced around the table. "So… How do we do that?"
Glances were traded around the table, everyone either trying to think of a way to implement Anya’s idea or looking for an alternative. After several moments of silence Anya deflated a bit. "You don’t know either huh?" There were noises and gestures of agreement from everyone.
"Maybe we need a few more opinions," Liz suggested hesitantly. She glanced at Max who nodded reluctantly. "We’ll get everyone together tomorrow, at the factory."
"I’ll tell Isabel and Michael," Max nodded. "You get Maria and Alex. Together we can figure this out."
Cole watched the brawl that had started between a small group of his followers with vague annoyance. It was understandable. They’d been cooped up, not feeding off live prey for almost a week, all to mask their movements. Tempers were growing short and everyone was anxious to get on with the business that had brought them together.
Seth Gecko. Rot him. Over the last six months Gecko, Kate, and the crew that took orders from them had succeeded in running them out of three lairs. In the process they had destroyed almost thirty of his minions. Each time he had rebuilt his following, but each time Seth had attacked. The hunters had come close to killing him as well. Soon though, that wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
It hadn’t been easy, but he had raised a huge force, more than he’d ever tried to control before. As strong as he was, he knew that he couldn’t control such a large number for long. But it wouldn’t take long. It was Saturday, 9:00 a.m. Seth was in Roswell, and that night Cole would be too.
Cole. He was close. Seth could smell him.
"You’re gonna wear a hole in the floor. Knock it off." He stopped pacing and looked over at Kate where she was sitting at the table field stripping and cleaning her favorite crossbow. She was the only one who had ever dared talk to him like that.
He wasn’t sure why he tolerated it. There was a time when he would have killed her for that kind of presumption. Not now. Part of it was guilt he suspected. If it hadn’t been for him, her father and brother would still be alive. Guilt had been a new sensation for him, but suddenly it had been there, and it was still there.
That wasn’t all of it though. So much had happened since then. They had been together a long time, been to hell and back, literally. Pulling a seat from the table, he plopped himself into it.
"What the hell’s your problem?" he demanded.
"What’s yours? We are close Seth. We’ve finally run the bastard to ground. This is what we’ve worked for for almost a year. You should be happy we’re finally getting a chance to take him out."
"I am, but you’re wrong. We haven’t run him to ground. When an animal’s run to ground it’s too tired to run any more. Cole’s just tired of running. Killings have been up across the southwest. He’s gathering his forces for a friggin’ war."
"How many you think?"
Seth shook his head. "Hell if I know. Probably a whole damn bunch of ‘em though. To make matters worse," he began in the tone he usually reserved for explaining things; the one that said he assumed his audience was brain dead, "Cole knows us. He knows how we operate. It won’t be possible to take this bastard by surprise. It’s gonna be a lot like the first time. They’re gonna be vicious and we’re gonna lose people. Maybe a lot."
For several years now the two of them had been gathering victims together. People who had lost friends and family to the demons, and they’d been giving them a chance at revenge. Not everyone wanted to be a part of it. Not all who joined stayed with them, having avenged their families or deciding that it was all just too much to deal with. Enough stayed though, that they always had a formidable fighting force. They had lost people before. Mike, a talented tracker and a crack shot with a bow, a man who had been with them during that nasty business in Sunnydale, had been killed three months before during a raid on one of Cole’s hideouts. Kate had personally blown the head off the vamp that killed him.
Revenge didn’t bring him back though. It never brought anyone back, not her father, not her brother, not any of the friends she had made and lost along the way. It wasn’t about revenge for her anymore. She did it because it needed to be done.
Seth was different. For him it would always be about revenge. He had lost his brother, the only person he loved, in the fight at that bar down in Mexico. Kate didn’t understand how he could stay angry all the time, and it frightened her sometimes, but she knew she had to stay with him. They balanced each other. Seth was reckless and wild, not caring if he lived or died. Kate was the calm one, the planner. She had learned to fight, true, but she had also learned that it was brains, not brawn that won a battle.
She stared at Seth as she poured him a glass of whiskey to calm him. They were so different, and yet they both had the same mission, the same goal. It never ceased to amaze her.
"What?" he demanded. "What are you lookin’ at?"
"Just thinkin’ Seth," she said glancing away. "About how all this started. About how things’ve changed."
"Aww, don’t do that," he griped as he tossed down the glass of 80 proof and reached for the bottle. "You’re not gonna get all philosophical on me are you?" Seth considered any thought not of the moment or the immediate future to be philosophy or psychobabble. He especially he hated reflecting on the past. It wasn’t an argument Kate wanted so she shook her head.
"Naa. I just depress myself when I do that. How do you want to handle Cole? I was thinking that if he is turning to fight us, and I’m sure you’re right about that, then maybe it gives us a chance to choose the place then."
"Where we fight. It gives us a chance to set up a few surprises in advance you know?" Seth began to smile. Making a plan, almost like when he was planning a heist in the old days, except now the payoff seemed a lot more rewarding. He loved this part almost as much as he loved what came after his favorite battle cry, ‘Kill ‘em all!’ It was Saturday, 10:00 a.m.
"I don’t like this. You’ve known for over a year and said nothing?" Valenti glared at Xander Harris across his desk. The young man met his gaze unflinchingly. Valenti’s office was not the safest place to talk, but it had been searched early that morning for bugs, and Valenti had decided it was as safe a place as any to meet. Besides, his files were there, specifically files on Seth and Richard Gecko. The two brothers were the reason he had asked Xander and Anya to come into his office before the meeting at the factory.
"That’s right. Whatever else Seth Gecko might be he’s a soldier in a war that has to be won."
"A soldier? He’s a murdering thief! Do you know how many cops he’s killed?"
"Do you know how many vamps he’s killed?" Xander countered. Then he pressed on before Valenti could respond to that. "There is only one certainty about vampires Sheriff. They kill people. If one gets away it means that sooner or later, probably sooner, someone’s gonna die because of it. I know Seth well enough not to have any illusions. He doesn’t care about that. He only cares about killing as many of them as he can. It’s something he’s shown a real talent for."
"Think of it as community service," Anya suggested in the offhand manner that suggested that she was completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. Valenti just glared at her.
"I don’t find that particularly funny," he said after taking a moment to calm down. Anya looked up from buffing her nails, a surprised look on her face.
"She’s serious," Xander interrupted. "I’m not real happy with the situation either sheriff, but he’s far more useful out here than he is in a prison cell. It’s not exactly as if he’s safe and sound in the lap of luxury, you know? He leads a dangerous life moving from one rat hole to another. He could easily be killed in any of the fights he picks. Fact is he’d have a much better life, and a much safer one, in prison."
"Is that supposed to placate me? It isn’t working."
"What are you going to do sheriff? Call in the state police and send all of your deputies to interrupt the fight to arrest him? You’d get a lot of people killed doing that and frankly I don’t think we’ll be able to win this without him."
"I can’t turn a blind eye."
"Then at least delay trying to arrest him until after this is over. At the moment, you don’t even know where he is. You’ll know soon enough though." Both turned to look at Anya. Slowly Valenti nodded.
"That makes a certain amount of sense."
She smiled winningly at him. "Good. That’s settled then. Now, how do we get them to fight somewhere else?"
"I think I may have an idea about that," Xander said slowly. "Trouble is it’ll mean trusting Spike." He laid out the basic idea. Neither of them liked it much, but it could be the only chance they had. It was Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
"That’s your plan?" Spike was incredulous. "You can’t be serious." They were all present for the meeting, and none of them looked happy. Tess was openly disparaging.
"Doesn’t matter if he is or not." She turned to Max. "This doesn’t concern us Max. We have our own problems. Leave the ‘Slayer’ to her fairy tales and let’s get out of here." Max turned away from her not bothering to respond. He’d gotten into the habit of ignoring Tess. It was something that drove her nuts.
"Do you think you can do it?" he asked.
"Maybe," Spike hedged, "but it’ll depend on how much whoever was in that van saw. If I’m recognized it’s all over. Not sure why I should risk it." The others stared at him. Spike remained a puzzle, and most of them were certain he would always be a puzzle. What motivated the vampire seemed to vary from day to day. Occasionally he acted because it was ‘the right thing to do’. Although the fact that Spike was usually guessing about what was the ‘right thing’ was almost always obvious. Sometimes it was pride. He wanted to win his bet with Angel.
Liz knew that neither approach would work this time, so she played the last card she had. "It’ll be incredibly dangerous and a lot more fun than sitting around the factory." Spike considered this for a moment, then nodded decisively.
"Right then. When do we get started?" It was Saturday, 10:00.
He frowned at the vampire that knelt before him. Four should have returned from the excursion. The reason there weren’t four was what made him unhappy. "A Slayer? Are you sure?" Richie, one of his oldest and most trusted minions nodded.
"I saw her kill Sal and the newborn myself."
"And Jeraz?" Cole asked in a quiet, almost conversational tone that sent chills down the minion’s back. "Where is the Mora demon?" The room was quiet for once. Not a single vampire gathered there wanted to interrupt this. Most had seen Cole’s temper before, and the few who hadn’t wisely took their cues from the rest.
"We thought to eliminate the Slayer and keep her from interfering in the coming battle. Jeraz attacked her, should have taken her by surprise, but…"
"She reacted so quickly. He never landed a single blow. It was over almost before it began," Richie finished quietly. Cole considered this quietly before he finally sighed.
"It was a good thought," Cole allowed, "but you forgot something didn’t you?"
"I have told you to always study your opponent before engaging. The battles with Seth Gecko and his miscreants have given us the key to defeating them. Not only have you failed to learn that lesson, but you’ve cost me a valuable follower. Your attack on her might have succeeded if you had observed her more closely before engaging her." He raised his eyes from Richie to look at the rest of his followers. "I trust I make myself clear." There were nods around the room.
"I understand lord. It is a lesson I will not forget again."
"The lesson is not for you," Cole replied coldly and nodded to the minion standing behind him. The stake he held plunged home and Richie fell to dust without a sound. "It is for those who have not failed me." He looked around the room, meeting each one’s eyes briefly. "I hope this lesson will not have to be repeated."
It was an irritating loss but necessary. He couldn’t afford to be perceived as weak in anything. The news of a Slayer in Roswell was more irritating still. It couldn’t be coincidence that a Slayer turned up just as they were preparing for their showdown with the hunters. He needed information.
"Mary, dear, I need information about this Slayer, perhaps she can lead us to Seth’s hiding place." The female demon nodded.
"Yes lord." She stepped forward bowing her head in respect. "Does this mean we will be delaying the attack?"
"By one night if necessary, but no longer. We have the weight of numbers, and that will make up for whatever talents she has." Mary nodded.
"I will go at once then." At Cole’s nod she turned and left the gallery of the old mine they now used as a hideout.
It had served them well, she reflected. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable place, but it was secure and minimized the chance of discovery. Hardly anyone knew it was there anymore. Happily, they wouldn’t need it much longer. She licked her lips as she made her way to the van just outside the mine entrance, contemplating the feast that awaited them.
The van provided her sufficient protection from the sunlight, and she was able to drive out in the late afternoon sun. It would be dark in a couple of hours and she had been given only one night to find the answers. She hoped it would be enough. It was Saturday, 5:00 p.m.
"Are you sure?" Seth demanded.
"Pretty sure boss. I couldn’t get too close without drawing attention from the cops, but it was definitely a vampire and some other kind of demon. I’m not sure what kind."
"Why would they risk exposing themselves so publicly?" Seth shrugged, irritated by Kate’s question, a question he couldn’t answer. The young man reporting to them wisely didn’t offer an opinion.
"All I know is that it wasn’t some guy in a mask trying to rob the place like the waitress claimed. I also know that the guy who ran in a moment later didn’t have a reflection in the diner’s window."
Kate frowned thoughtfully. "Well, we’d heard rumors that Cole was recruiting things besides vamps. The circumstances seem a bit weird though."
"Well there is one way to find out. I saw that vamp leave later in the evening, headed back to what looked like an abandoned factory on the edge of town."
"So, if we want answers I suppose we could-"
"Catch him, tie him up and apply crosses and holy water to his delicate parts till he talks?" Seth, who normally hated being interrupted, grinned at Kate.
"Great minds think alike."
"What if this vamp has nothing to do with Cole?" Both looked over at Jack Bartlet where he had been standing quietly, waiting for them to decide what to do about his report. He was normally quiet, and unassuming, rarely speaking to either of them if he could avoid it. Kate intimidated him a bit, mostly she suspected because he was an eighteen-year-old computer geek with a crush on her. Seth just plain scared him.
"Possible," Kate spoke up first, "but unlikely."
"If he’s got nothin’ to do with it, it’s just an entertaining way to kill a few hours." Seth smiled happily. "We know where he is during the day, and Roswell doesn’t have the tunnels Sunnydale does. Let’s go pay him a visit." It was Saturday 12:00 p.m.
Most of the group had left. Alex, Maria, Anya, and Isabel had left for the CrashDown, two for their shifts, two for lunch. The sheriff had returned to his office, after dropping Tess off at home, to look for signs of any unusual visitors in town. Max stayed because Liz was there. Michael had stayed because he didn’t trust Xander or Spike. Consequently, they were the only ones present when the hunters arrived.
The first they knew of it was when Spike’s sharp hearing picked up a sound on a catwalk above the main room where they were gathered around a table examining maps of Roswell and the surrounding country. "Company," he muttered. Before any sort of plan of action could be devised though, one of the main doors swung open and Kate walked in as if she owned the place.
"Wow. I just love what you’ve done with the place. Deep pile garbage," she kicked an old shipping carton out of her way. "Covered windows to keep out that annoying sun, and of course a vermin problem." She leveled her crossbow at Spike. "Gotta love these old fixer-uppers." Belatedly, Max and Michael responded to the threat by trying to spread out to either side. "Ah, ah." Kate gestured to the catwalk above. Three men with rifles covered the teens and the vampire. "Behave," she suggested, "and you’ll get out of this alive or whatever it is you are." Liz rolled her eyes. She, Xander, and Spike seemed unconcerned with the development and had kept their places at the table.
"Hello Kate. Good to see you again." A brief look of confusion crossed her face, then she smiled.
"Xander Harris. What are you doin’ here?"
"Same as you. I’m after Cole." It was partially true anyway. "We’ve been waiting for you." This was a lie. Xander had hoped to find them, but he hadn’t thought it would be this easy. "Got a plan to find Cole’s hideaway if you’re interested. Oh and don’t shoot Spike." He nodded at the blonde vampire. "He’s kinda the key to the whole thing." Kate’s eyes and aim had barely flickered from the vampire. She now glanced at Xander with a raised eyebrow.
"That so?" Spike had been watching her with more annoyance than worry. Now he cast a glance up at the catwalk.
"Hey. What’s up with them anyway? Wooden bullets?"
"We actually tried that," Kate said conversationally, "but they always break up before they hit the target. Those are lead. They may not kill you but they’ll sure as hell tear you up." Spike nodded thoughtfully.
"Makes sense. You might want to hold off though. Like Xander said, I’m sort of the key to this plan." Kate glanced at the others who nodded.
"It’s okay Kate. Spike here can’t hurt humans. He’s got a chip in his head that just about knocks him out if he even tries." She regarded him curiously even as Seth came in behind her. He had a gun in one hand and a miniature crossbow in the other, and he covered everyone in the room.
"What’s the hold up Kate?" He looked over the group, noting the presence of Xander Harris with a vague curiosity. Also present was the vampire from the previous night, two teenage boys, and a girl. One of the boys was dark-haired and intense looking, probably the girl’s boyfriend by the way he was hovering. He was unarmed, and looked wary. Seth didn’t think he’d try anything stupid though. He didn’t show much expression, but his concern for the girl was obvious. The other looked angry and skittish. Seth could tell that one was at the greatest risk of doing something heroic and stupid. At a gesture from the first though, he settled down and simply glared at Seth.
"Xander says he’s here to help us." She nodded at the others. "Don’t know who these guys are yet."
"Help us?" He snorted. "That’d be a first."
"Let’s not start huh Seth? We couldn’t let you tear up the town."
"Yeah, fine, old business. On to new business. What the hell are you doing here? With a vampire no less."
"This is Spike. He-"
"This is a good one Seth," Kate interrupted. "You remember those army guys we heard about? The Initiative? Seems Spike was their guest. Xander says he’s got a behavior modification chip in his head." Xander stared at them in surprise.
"Grief! Is there anyone who did not know about that ‘covert operation’?" Seth actually laughed and shook his head.
"I think there are couple of yak herders in Mongolia who didn’t hear about it." He walked up to Spike with a show of bravado that only Kate knew wasn’t at all reckless. If Spike made a move Seth didn’t like the vampire would never know what hit him.
He stopped directly in front of the vampire and with a quick gesture he reversed the gun and cracked Spike across the jaw. Spike retaliated instinctively, staggering Seth.
"Aaaargh!" Spike clutched his head and very nearly fell over.
"Well, how about that?" Seth grinned broadly despite his split lip.
"Not really fair to attack him when he can’t defend himself," Xander noted testily. Seth looked over and saw that the unnamed girl was glaring at him and being restrained by her boyfriend.
"Is that why you haven’t killed him?"
"He can still kill demons so he’s occasionally useful, and it’s fun to watch him suffer," Xander added with a slight smile. He knew it was a motive Seth could appreciate. Spike glared at him for a moment, but then saw Seth’s understanding nod and his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. He may not have liked Xander saying it, but he suddenly understood the reason.
Liz turned her glare on Xander. "It doesn’t matter what you think of him. He’s been helpful here, to me. You’re not killing him." The last was directed at Seth. "He can get us the information we need about Cole."
Seth perked up at this. "Really? How?" Spike picked up the explanation at this point.
"Simple really. Cole’s recruiting. I’m gonna get myself recruited. Come sunset he’ll probably have people in town to find out what happened to his pet Mora demon. I’ll offer to provide that information. All you have to do is follow us back to their hide-out."
"We have a tracking device we can use to make sure we aren’t spotted. We can follow from a safe distance." Seth glanced at the girl who had so vehemently protested Spike’s mistreatment.
"What do you mean ‘we’? Who are you anyway?" She approached him without hesitation, seemingly ignoring the weapons he held. Her boyfriend raised a hand as if to stop her, then seemed to think better of it. She stopped less than a foot from him.
"I’m Liz, the vampire Slayer. I want you to understand now, that this is the only chance you’ll get at Cole. I am not going to let you tear up my town the way you tried to tear up Sunnydale. We take the fight to him, out of town. Is that clear?"
"Clear," he assured her, surprised and amused by her manner. He knew what a Slayer was of course. He had seen both Buffy and Faith in action during his time in Sunnydale, and it was a measure of his own confidence, or his recklessness that he wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of a physical confrontation with one. Kate stepped in before such a confrontation could begin.
"It’ll be better to corner him. We’d much rather have him isolated where there are no distractions. A running battle in the streets of Roswell wouldn’t do us any good. Too many potential problems, places to hide and plan and ambush, civilians running around screaming that sort of thing. We’d lose a lot of people if we did that."
"That works both ways," Seth pointed out. "If we limit them, we also limit ourselves." He sighed. "However, this isn’t like Sunnydale where the town was infested. Cole’d do a lot more damage here than he would out in the desert somewhere. Blind as people were in your home town," he shot a look at Xander, "they still took basic precautions even if they didn’t realize it. We’d be happy to pick a spot outside of town," he directed this at Kate, "assuming of course that we get to choose."
"Well then," Max stepped forward. He had immediately realized what Kate was doing and decided to help move things along quickly in order to stave off a confrontation. "We have some planning to do." It was Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
Mary rolled into town shortly after sunset and left the van as soon as full dark crept over the town. She had only a vague idea of where to begin but began by looking at the local paper for any hint of the violence that had occurred the previous night.
It was there. An article on the front page about attempted armed robbery at a place called the CrashDown Café. A café? What were those idiots thinking? It was a place to start anyway. After reading the article she got up and headed to the CrashDown. She was almost there when a familiar voice hailed her.
"Bloody Mary?" She stopped and turned. There was only one person who called her that. It was a nickname she’d gotten when she was newly made. He had overseen her first kill. The victim, a burly young man, had gotten away after the initial bite and she had had to catch him again. Her victim had bled all over himself and all over her when she had finally caught him. Spike had laughed himself hoarse and teased her about being a messy eater. Since then he had called her Bloody Mary.
"You’re never going to let me live that down are you Billy?" Spike didn’t flinch at the nickname she had given him in retaliation. His grin was as cocky as ever.
"Not likely pet. What are you doin’ here?"
"I might ask you the same. This town is so dull." She glanced up and down the street. There were only a few people visible. It seemed that Roswell was the type of place that ‘rolled up the side-walks’ as the old song went when the sun went down.
"Don’t be so sure. This town’s got a Slayer, and it was anything but dull last night," he replied. "You shoulda seen what happened at the café." That got Mary’s attention.
"You saw that?" He gave her a puzzled look and nodded. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Sure," Spike shrugged. "Let’s get a couple of beers, catch up on old times, and I’ll tell ya all about it."
"I still have trouble believing it. Those morons attacked the Slayer at the diner? In front of witnesses?" Spike nodded.
"I could hardly believe it myself when that Mora demon just strolled in and attacked her." He shrugged. "At least his death was instructive." Mary was eyeing him curiously.
"What were you doing in there anyway?"
"Waiting for the Slayer to bring my order, a green slime smoothie." Mary almost choked on her beer.
"What!?" she started laughing. Spike gave her a smug grin.
"I’ve learned the hard way you need to study a Slayer’s style ‘fore you can try to kill her. Learn her routine, her weaknesses, that sort of thing."
"She didn’t know you were a vampire?"
"She’s new at the Slayer thing. Strong, but not very well educated in her duties. I think she knew there was somethin’ off about me, but for the life of her couldn’t figure out what it was." This time they both laughed. Mary shook her head in amazement.
"Same old Spike. You haven’t changed a bit." She gave him a speculative look, sizing him up before proceeding. "Come back with me," she said suddenly. "Meet Cole. We’re having trouble with this group of vampire hunters, and we’ve got a chance now to destroy them." Spike looked curious, but not terribly interested. It was a look he’d perfected over the years. "Come on. You’re worth ten like that idiot Richie. We could use your help not to mention the information you’ve gathered on the Slayer."
Spike was pleased with how quickly the plan was proceeding, but he didn’t want to look too eager. He made a show of considering the offer. "I dunno Mary. I’ve gotten used to bein’ my own boss you know? Don’ know that I fancy taking orders from someone else."
"It won’t be for long, just till Seth and his hunters are out of the way. We’ll leave the Slayer for you if you like. The hunters are here in Roswell. Cole knows where they’re hiding. With the numbers we’ve gathered we can take ‘em easy." She grinned, knowing just how to sweeten the pot. "We’re having a victory dinner afterwards. Cole has promised that whatever is left of Roswell, is fair game. We can take the entire town." After a moment of thoughtful silence Spike nodded.
"Okay. You got a deal. When’s it going down?"
"Talk to Cole. If he likes what you’ve got to say about the Slayer, we’ll move tonight." Spike nodded decisively.
"Lets go then." It was Saturday, 9:00 p.m.
"The homing device is working perfectly," Xander assured Seth for the third time, trying to ignore the other man’s profanities. "That’s fairly flat, open country though. We need to be far enough away that they won’t realize they’re being followed." Seth was, as usual, impatient to get on with the business at hand, and expressed impatience with a colorful selection of unprintable words. He’d never had much use for sneaking about. What really irritated him though, was that he knew Xander was right.
"How big a start do we give ‘em?"
"We’ll go in a couple of minutes. They’ll still be well within range." He looked at the direction the tracer was indicating and then at the map, spread on the table. "Okay, what’s out there?"
"Silver mine," Michael answered promptly. "Well outside of town, but close enough for it to be an easy trip. It’s been abandoned for years. Perfect hiding place."
"And the perfect trap," Seth grinned. He glanced at the tracer. "Let’s go."
Spike left the tracer in the van parked outside the mine office. There was no sense risking Cole or one of his minions finding it on him. Meeting and lying to the 800 year-old vampire was going to be dangerous enough.
The mine was in fairly good condition, just tapped out. With no interest in maintaining the place though, the offices and out buildings had deteriorated for the most part, but the mine itself was in good condition. It consisted of three main galleries and numerous side tunnels. There were three exits, but all but one had been permanently sealed off to keep curious people out of the mine. The last entrance had been boarded up and was well marked with warnings about trespassing. It wasn’t sealed as well on the chance that someone might actually buy and reopen the mine. At the moment it was in use, but not in a way that the mining engineers had ever anticipated.
Cole was waiting in the main gallery, surrounded by his court. Toadies, Spike thought contemptuously. He approached Cole confidently with Mary by his side. The master vampire eyed them curiously. "I did not expect you to return so soon Mary. Who is this?"
"An old friend lord. His name is Spike. He’s been in Roswell for almost a week, observing the Slayer. He’s looking to make her his third." Cole turned a curious look toward Spike.
"You’ve killed Slayers before?" Spike nodded.
"A couple. This one’ll be a challenge. She’s fast and strong. Killed your pet Mora demon without breaking a sweat."
"Tell me how it went Spike, and then tell me what you know of this Slayer."
Spike went into a carefully rehearsed routine, telling what had happened at the CrashDown and about his ‘observations’ of the Slayer. Finally, as if it was of supreme importance to him, he told Cole of the promise Mary had made and asked if Cole would honor it.
"You want to kill the Slayer yourself? I don’t see a problem with that. When she and the hunters are destroyed the town will be wide open." He grinned. "I have promised my people the town when the battle is over. You are welcome to participate in the feast of course." Spike made a show of licking his lips.
"Yum." There were subdued chuckles from the watching minions. Cole gave him the smile a benevolent king might bestow on a jester who had amused him. It was the kind of smile that Spike especially hated. He had been a master vampire himself, and it took an effort for him not to visibly chafe under the assumption that he would play the good little minion. "Mary says you know where these guys are hiding." Cole nodded. "When do we leave?" It was 11:00 p.m.
"I thought the idea was to let Seth and Cole fight it out," Anya stood in their path with her arms crossed. "Forget it Xander. You’re not risking your life if it’s not necessary." Her boyfriend sighed.
"I have to be there. I promise I’ll keep to the background. Seth and his people have insisted on leading the attack." He looked sharply at Max, noticing that he was about to object for his own reasons. "Liz has to go in to insure that Spike gets out safe and that as few of Seth’s people die as possible. I know you don’t like her risking her life, believe me, I’ve been there, but it’s what a Slayer does." Max’s clenched jaw was the only sign of tension in him. Otherwise his face was unreadable. "I know you don’t like it. I don’t either, but it still has to be done." Max looked at Liz who nodded, confirming Xander’s assertion.
"Be careful. Is and I will be in the background with Xander, tending to the wounded." Liz’s eyes widened. This was news to her. She opened her mouth to object, finding it strange that suddenly she was the one trying to protect Max.
"I’ll be there too," Michael spoke up before Liz could get a word out. "You’ll need someone watching your backs while you work," he added giving his friend a level stare. He expected Max to protest but was surprised. Max nodded instead, grateful for his friend’s support and Liz reluctantly backed down, knowing that she couldn’t change their minds. They had expected Michael to try to talk them out of it. They all knew it would mean that using their powers in public, but if it meant saving lives, that was an acceptable risk to Max. He knew Michael wouldn’t mind as much, given what they had learned in recent weeks.
The world they now called home was far stranger than they had ever realized, or even imagined, and they weren’t the strangest people on the planet by a long shot.
None of them were quite sure how to react to that. It seemed they weren’t as special and unique as they had thought. This was, at the same time, a relief and a disappointment. Max found it a very strange combination and was sure the others did too, although none of them had spoken of it. The reactions from the others when they’d found out about the aliens were somewhat surprising.
Spike had seemed to find the idea of aliens, or little green men, as he insisted on calling them, amazingly funny. Xander and Anya had been briefed, apparently by Wesley under strictest confidence, about their abilities if not their exact origins. Xander gave them a couple of odd looks, as if he was trying to spot their antennae, and it had been Xander, taking a wild guess, who had made the ‘My Favorite Martian’ reference, but he didn’t treat them differently. He and Anya had that in common. When asked pointedly about it, she had shrugged. "Aliens, big whoop." Michael, who had asked the question actually looked crestfallen at their lack of reaction, and Max had had to work hard to keep his amusement from showing. Isabel, a last minute addition, despite the objections of her brother and Michael didn’t seem to care what they thought of aliens.
Now, as the jeep headed out of Roswell, bearing the Slayer and the three aliens, there was little discussion of what they would do. The plan was in place and there was no time to make changes, even if any of them had a better idea. No one was happy with the possibility that they would actually have to go into the mine to face the vampires, but everyone knew that sealing them inside the mine was not an option. Live burial was not exactly a threat to something that didn’t breathe. As Seth had pointed out, in a rather condescending tone Michael though, it would only piss them off.
It was just before midnight and there just wasn’t time.
Organizing everyone to move out took time. Vampires didn’t exactly make for a disciplined military force. First it was necessary to stoke them up and get their bloodlust going, and at the same time he had to convince them to proceed only as he directed. The attack had to go like clockwork or Seth’s better-organized troops would fight back too effectively.
He outlined the plan for them again. The plan that would guarantee their victory. They looked impatient at first but then the plan caught their imaginations all over again. It would be a thing of beauty. Not a single hunter would escape alive. It was Sunday, 12:30 a.m.
The bolt thudded home and the sentry turned to dust without a sound. That was the last of them. Seth lowered the crossbow and gave a hand signal to the others telling them to move into position. That signal was passed silently from group to group, all around the perimeter. The idea was to allow the enemy out into the open, just in front of the mine entrance.
This would allow Spike to slip away and make the rest of vampires sitting ducks. They would retreat almost immediately into the mine, but a lot of damage could be done in the short time they would be exposed. The crowd at the entrance would make a lovely target, Seth reflected.
The area immediately surrounding the mine was ideal for an ambush. For a moment, a half-remembered line of something passed through Seth’s mind. "Rock to the left, rock to the right, and low lean scrub between…"
"Huh?" Kate glanced at him. Seth shook his head, annoyed with himself.
"Just something I remember reading once." Kate dismissed it and focused on the mine again. It would begin soon, just a matter of time. The mine entrance was unlighted so as not to draw attention to it. It didn’t help. Several of the hunters were equipped with a military-grade night vision device that amplified available light. To them, the group of people that began to emerge from the mine was as clearly visible as if the noonday sun were shining. Others, holding rifle-mikes, listened to the conversation going on among the vampires.
The rifle-mikes looked like futuristic ray guns and were aimed in much the way a weapon would be aimed. The user wore earphones attached to the device and could easily make out every word spoken from almost a quarter mile away. The group below was talking up a storm, laughing and boasting. One man holding such a device, a wiry, dark-haired and dark-eyed ex-marine named Tully, turned to Liz and nodded.
"Your vampire buddy is down there," he said in a quiet gravelly voice. Tully was always quiet. It was something Liz had come to associate with him. He was quiet, but he was very good at killing demons. Xander hadn’t recognized him from the time in Sunnydale, but said that the fact that he had become third in command of the group said a lot about him. The fact that Seth trusted him to watch his back said even more.
"I see him." Liz passed the Star Tron night vision device she was using back to another hunter sharing their cover. "Remember what I told you earlier. He is not a target."
"Yeah, yeah. We won’t kill your pet vamp." Liz glanced at him sharply and was about to protest the description when the radios they carried gave two short bursts of static followed by a sustained burst. No words were spoken over the radio on the off chance they were being monitored. The short pattern of static bursts had been arranged to let them know that the attack was imminent. Each member of the attacking force began counting down from ten. It was Sunday, 12:55 a.m.
"Spike, you Mary and these five will accompany me in the van. The rest will distribute themselves among the vehicles we have in the warehouse." He nodded to the large sheet metal structure that had once housed mining equipment. The group moved away from the entrance to the mine, but as soon as they got into the open, clear of any immediate cover, the trouble started.
The large minion walking to Cole’s right was suddenly headless. The crack of the high-powered rifle came a half-second later. That seemed to be the signal. The air filled with the sound of automatic weapons fire. Spike threw himself flat and began to crawl away. The rattattatta of the machine guns began to be interspersed with the sound of crossbow bolts finding their targets and vampires going to dust. Spike glanced back as he made it to the cover of a shed. A flaming bottle arced high over the group, coming down in their midst near the mine entrance. The malotov cocktail burst, scattering burning oil over half a dozen minions. He heard a high-pitched hissing sound and looked up. Flares were starting to rain down on the frantic vampires. As he watched, a vampire standing near the mine entrance, stymied by the fire was struck dead center in the back and went up in flames. Spike started to crawl faster.
Cole began to roar orders and the mob turned and began to advance into the hills. He knew that if they tried to crowd back into the mine they would be slaughtered. The fire was short lived, but the bottleneck at the entrance would be a perfect target. Instead they began to scatter into the surrounding landscape, taking the fight to the hunters.
He looked around for the rest as he ran, dodging as best he could as he made his way toward the source, or at least one of the sources, of the gunfire. He was met halfway by a man armed with a wooden staff, sharpened to a fine point at each end. He killed the man easily, but the man managed to ram one end of the staff through Cole’s shoulder before he died.
Similar scenes were being played out around the mine. Stakes, axes, crosses, guns, and torches were all brought into play, but the vampires fought back fiercely. Seth decapitated one while shooting another in the face. He then turned on the wounded one and killed him. He saw one of his men go down and started to go to his aid, but the Slayer was there first staking the vamp and helping the man to his feet. He was winded, but not seriously hurt so Seth turned his attention elsewhere.
Michael focused his power and the vampire was flung backwards with tremendous force. It toppled another in its brief flight and Michael changed his focus, heating the pair to the point of combustion. He turned to where Max and Isabel were helping the wounded. Max was tending to a man who had been stabbed with his own stake while Isabel and Xander Harris stood over him with torches, thrusting them toward anyone who came toward them. When the man was healed they moved on to the next wounded hunter. They saved several, but there were far too many that were beyond help.
Spike and Seth came together to find the trio examining a man with a vicious wound in his neck. "Damn. Looks like the bastard tried to rip out his throat." He shook his head sadly. "Sorry George."
Max looked up at the sound of Seth’s voice. "There’s nothing we can do for him."
Seth didn’t know about their powers, only that they were treating the wounded. "There is one thing we can do," Seth corrected. He took a metal flask out of his jacket pocket and opened it, emptying it over the body. He then took the torch from Isabel.
"What are you doing?!" she demanded, shocked by the prospect.
"He’s making sure the guy doesn’t come back as a vampire," Spike said. "It’s better than having to kill a friend later." Seth glanced at him, and Spike could see the memory of something very bad clearly passing behind his eyes. Seth squashed it quickly though and his face returned to the neutral mask he normally wore.
"Got that right." He turned to Max. "Make sure anyone else who gets drained gets the same treatment." He set the body afire. "Move it people. The night’s not over." He handed the torch back to Isabel and headed toward the nearest fight. The three teens stared after him, barely believing what had just happened.
"Get used to it kiddies," Spike snorted. "If you’re going to fight this war you’ll see things a lot worse than that." He turned without another word and went looking for a new fight.
Liz didn’t think. She couldn’t allow herself to think. She just acted and reacted, killing any vampire that came within reach. She ducked and twisted and stabbed, leaving piles of dust in her wake. The instincts that seemed to come with the job were there as were the reflexes she had acquired from Faith. Liz allowed them to take over, knowing that those instincts and reflexes were all that would keep her alive.
It was her instincts that told her to crouch at the last second. The huge vampire that had tried to grab her tripped over her and fell on his face. Unfortunately, he pinned her long enough for another to throw himself on top of her. Another followed suit and Liz soon found herself under a pile of dead bodies. This would be bad even if they weren’t still moving
, she reflected as she managed to drive one of her stakes into the one sitting on her chest. It didn’t find the heart, but he flinched, giving her room to buck him off.
There were too many. Hands seized her arms and legs while two more sat on her chest and stomach. Another one lowered his mouth toward her throat, fangs bared. Suddenly one of her legs was free and she kicked him in the head. The weight was gone from her stomach next and she renewed her efforts to throw off the others.
The cold spray that suddenly drenched her caused her to pause a moment. What the-?
"Hey! Watch it with that thing!" a familiar voice shouted as the vampires scrambled away from her, yelling in pain. Holy water, she realized. No wonder Spike sounded pissed. She scrambled to her feet as Tully ran up to them, somehow managing not to look ridiculous dressed in camouflage and carrying a Super-Soaker.
"Sorry," he said to the white-blonde vampire, not sounding at all sorry.
"How’s it going?" Liz asked, taking advantage of the momentary breather. The three moved back to back so they could watch all approaches, but for the moment the action had moved away from them.
"We’re losing people," Tully said bluntly. "Too many. The damn vamps were supposed to run back into the mine!"
"Did anyone tell them that?" Spike asked. Liz could hear the smile. So, apparently could Tully. Liz felt him tense and quickly stepped in to prevent trouble.
"What about the vamps? They’re taking a lot of damage too."
"Yeah, but not enough. Some of ‘em are bound to get away. We’ll be back where we started. We need a way to turn this around fast."
"Maybe Cole can do that," Liz suggested. "He’ll be wanting to rally his troops."
"Yeah," Tully nodded, "but he’s not going to be stupid enough to gather them all into a big clump for us to shoot into."
"He may not have to," Liz said. "If we start to fall back he’ll want to press his advantage. He’ll keep them from running long enough for one big attack on us. We just need to give him an opening."
"And then close it on him," Tully grinned. "Let’s find Seth."
He was not going to let this happen. Not after all of his work. The hunters were dying, but not fast enough, and too many of his people were dying as well. He’d lost track of Mary and Spike, and his troops were scattered all over the place. Some of them were even fleeing. He began grabbing people and issuing orders, organizing them into a fighting force. Gradually, he started to pull them together. He still couldn’t find Spike or Mary though.
Under his direction they began to push the hunters back. He saw the Slayer from a distance; she was indeed formidable. It seems Spike failed
he mused, not really caring. He continued to pull his people together, launching concerted attacks against the hunters. Soon, the enemy began to fall back. Perfect!
He pulled two of his followers to him and issued orders to them. They immediately left in opposite directions to deliver his messages and see his orders carried out.
They soon returned, having located Seth, Kate and… Spike? "Spike is working for them?" Cole hissed, enraged. "How could he? Miserable lapdog, I’ll kill him slowly for this!" It did explain how they had been found. Cole fumed silently for a moment. "All right. Seth, Kate, and the Slayer are the core of this group. Kill them, and the hunters will scatter. We can hunt the rest down at our leisure."
It had not been easy to organize with the battle underway, but they had managed to pull it together. Gradually, word spread and the plan was put into effect. The hunters retreated. They scattered into the hills, and just as Liz had predicted, the vamps did not pursue. They turned and began to gather to assault the one small group that had not fled. Seth, Kate, Tully, Liz, Spike, and about half a dozen others gathered together, making a show of trying and failing to hold the fighting force together. It was Sunday, 1:20 a.m.
Cole grinned in anticipation. Within minutes, it would all be over. What was left of his force, only fifteen vampires out of the more than forty that had comprised his original force, moved in, spreading out to surround the smaller group.
"There’s still a way out of this for you Seth," Cole called. "You’ve caused me a great deal of trouble, but I do admire your perseverance. Surrender, and I’ll change you. You can live forever." Cole had no intention of changing Seth, but if he was fool enough to accept or even if it made him stop and think briefly, then it would be worth it.
He had his answer almost immediately. Seth stepped forward, he was down to a stake in each hand and a determined look on his face. The rest didn’t have much better. It would be over quickly. Seth glared at his nemesis contemptuously before shouting to his troops.
"Kill ‘em all!"
The last crossbow bolts thudded home and of the four that were struck, two of them went to dust. Cole roared and charged. The fight was brief and furious. Blows were traded and three hunters went down even as their stakes plunged home. One vamp went to dust and two more retreated, wounded. They didn’t get the chance to rejoin the fight. A surge of heat washed over them and both went up in flames. Led by Michael, a contingent of hunters fell upon the vampires from behind.
The retreat hadn’t lasted very long. They had only kept going for two minutes after the vampires stopped chasing them. At that point, they began to carefully make their way back to where Liz and the others were making their stand. Michael had insisted on going in to save Liz. He thought Maria would probably kill him if she found out he was taking such a risk, but it was worth it. He didn’t want to think about how Max would react if anything happened to Liz. Isabel had managed to restrain Max, convincing him to stay back and help the wounded. At this point, they limited themselves to bandages and iodine, as the patients were more aware of what they were doing, but there was still a lot to be done.
Michael carried a stake in his left hand, but didn’t use it. Instead he focused his power on a pair of vampires in front of him as they staggered away from the fight. Both were dust before they knew they were being attacked. Crossbows couldn’t be used due to the close quarters, too great a chance of hitting a friend, so stakes were brought to bear.
Another three were dusted before Cole could turn his attention to the new threat. With his numbers dwindling rapidly he knew the smart thing to do would be to call for a retreat, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it, not when he was this close. He wasn’t going to run from the hunters again. He would not endure another humiliating defeat! He would not! Something snapped.
Roaring madly, he threw off the man he was grappling with, not bothering to kill him. Fighting like a wild animal, he smashed opponents aside, roaring for Seth to face him. Suddenly he was there, swinging an ax he had retrieved from somewhere. Cole ducked and came in under the blow, fast and hard. His first blow lifted his enemy off the ground and sent him almost three feet through the air. Cole felt a hard blow to his side and spared a glance that way. He swatted the Slayer aside without a second thought and threw himself at the human who had become the complete focus of his world.
Had there been any breath in his lungs it would have been forced out by Seth’s booted feet driving into his gut and pushing him over and away. Cole rolled to his feet and came back snarling, determined to get his teeth into the human’s throat.
Seth fell back before a furious rain of blows, ducking and blocking as best he could, and taking advantage of the berserker fury where he could. Cole did little or nothing to defend himself, but he barely felt the wounds inflicted on him. Seth grinned as he leaned away from a wild swing and came back up with a roundhouse blow that cracked one of Cole's ribs. Just like the first time, he thought, throwing himself clear and rolling under the feet of another vampire. That unfortunate fell into Cole’s path and was batted aside, dropping a stake he had gotten from one of Seth’s hunters at some point. Seth scooted away on his backside, keeping his last stake hidden. Cole saw his opening and lunged. He seized a small hatchet from another vampire as he passed, startling him and leaving that one an easy target for the Slayer’s stake.
"Oh sh--!" Seth thrust the stake forward and tried to roll aside at the same time as Cole came down on top of him.
Tully drove the shattered remains of the large water gun under the ribcage and into the chest of a vampire, then turned to look for another opponent. He didn’t pause to wonder at the fact that plastic worked as well as wood or to wonder why. He simply moved on to the next chore. But there were no more chores left to do. He looked around quickly, pivoting on one foot while maintaining his fighting stance. Nothing. Other hunters were coming to realize the same thing. They were out of vampires.
He saw Kate on a small rise to the north. She was breathing heavily and bleeding from several small wounds, but she gave him a cocky grin and waved. To the south, the Slayer was standing with the help of one of her friends. Tully didn’t see any visible wounds, but she limped as she made her way toward him. Kate joined them a moment later. Spike strolled up, uninjured, but grumbling over a tear in his coat.
"Well," the British vampire smiled. "That was-." He caught the Slayer glowering at him and wisely decided to shut up. He turned instead to survey the battlefield. "I think we got ‘em all," he said, with no hint of the casual, even jaunty, air he’d displayed a moment earlier. Tully nodded.
"I think so. I’ll organize some of our group to do a sweep of the area, just to make sure. Where’s Seth?" He looked around, noticing his leader’s absence for the first time. Liz pointed.
"Over there." She led the way, leaning on Max who had just found them. Michael happily relinquished the burden to his friend and turned to organize the sweep that Tully had mentioned.
Seth was alive when they reached him. He gave a weak grin. "I got him. I got the bastard." Max quickly knelt by the man’s side, but stopped, not knowing how to proceed. A hatchet was buried in his chest, only a few inches from the heart. He couldn’t heal Seth while the blade remained in him, but he could tell that attempting to remove it would be instantly fatal. Seth spared him a glance. "Don’t worry about it kid. I ain’t cashin’ out over a shaving nick." He coughed hard, blood, running from the corner of his mouth. "Did we get ‘em?"
"Yeah Seth," Tully answered for the group. "We got ‘em all." Seth tried to shake his head, but was too weak.
"No," he finally said. "We didn’t. We keep going, you hear me? Till we can really say we got ‘em all."
"We will Seth," Kate promised, on the edge of tears. Seth closed his eyes and drew a shuddering breath. It came out as a wet sounding rattle.
Others began to gather around, silently staring down at the man who had always acted as if he was invincible and usually had his enemies believing it.
"What do we do now?" Someone, Kate didn’t see who, asked for the group. She rounded on them.
"We keep going, until there are no more vampires left to kill." She nodded to Tully. "Start the sweep. We need to tend to the wounded and then get out of here. I want us in another state by dawn." Tully nodded, turned to the rest, and began giving orders. Kate turned to Liz and her friends. "Thank you. This could have been a lot… worse. We’ll take it from here." The catch in her voice made her stop talking. She turned away before any of them could respond. Liz turned to her friends one by one, and finally turning to Xander. He shook his head sadly and turned away.
"Let’s get out of here." It was Sunday, 2:00 a.m.
Mary reached the outskirts of Roswell half an hour before dawn. She was seething. How could Spike turn on them like that? How could he work for a Slayer? It didn’t matter; he would pay for his betrayal. They all would pay soon. The first step though was to tend to her own injuries. A good meal would see her on her way back to full strength. She spotted a likely prospect on the street ahead of her. She increased her pace, not bothering to conceal her approach. The middle-aged couple she approached didn’t seem to notice her, but as they turned into a narrow side street, saving her the trouble of getting them out of plain sight, she overheard a snatch of conversation.
She paused, momentarily puzzled by what she had heard. They were looking for air? An heir? She dismissed it and turned in after them. "Haven’t you been told it’s dangerous to wander the streets at night?" The two turned at the sound of her voice. Mary allowed her demon to show as she approached, but the couple only looked at each other curiously. They showed no sign of fear or even apprehension.
"We cannot allow her to spread word of our presence here," the woman said matter-of-factly. The man nodded. Annoyed by their response or lack of it Mary leapt at the female and attempted to sink her teeth into the woman’s neck. Her intended victim shoved her away easily, but there was a ripping sound and Mary tasted something foul. She raised her hand to her mouth and found something caught in her teeth. It looked like… snake skin?
"What the hell?" She looked up at the couple. The skin of the woman’s neck was torn, but she barely seemed to notice. Under the skin was… "What the hell are you?" The man raised a hand, palm towards her and Mary felt an intense burning pain in her chest. She tried to scream, but was consumed by the fire the man started before she could even begin.
The pair stared curiously at the cloud of ash slowly drifting toward the ground. "Interesting. There was nothing in our briefing about the species being so vulnerable to heat." His companion shrugged. Her skin was already regenerating, covering what lay beneath.
"We knew our files on this world were incomplete. It hardly matters though. This simply means that the humans will be less of an obstacle to finding the heir than we had anticipated."
THE END…FOR NOW