Chapter One: Travel is broadening.
Chapter One: Travel is broadening.
Characters from Law and Order: SVU belong to Dick Wolfe and Co.
BTVS/ATS Characters belong to Joss Whedon and Co. Not to me. Not making a dime.
Timelines: BTVS: Takes place approx. three years after Chosen
SVU: I’ve only watched SVU in syndication so frankly my grasp of SVU continuity is not as firm as it might be. For the purposes of this fic, Benson and Stabler, Fin and Munch are copacetic partners, Stabler is recently separated.
Warnings: This is a cross with SVU and does concern sex crimes which will be discussed but not described in detail, much as on the show. There will be some violence. There will be some cussin‘. If all goes well, there will be some crime-free sex, nookie but not porn. Faith takes a bath.
Geography: A hellmouth in Cleveland seems to be fanfic canon so I’m just going roll with it: I’ve been through Cleveland a time or two, but I certainly don’t know the city, so while I may have stolen a few names from the map, the Cleveland in this fic is just a place I made up and called “Cleveland.” Detective Munch‘s opinion of the city belong to Detective Munch and are not necessarily shared by the author.
Same applies to Carmel or any other “real” places that may make an appearance.
Munch was the last to arrive at the central Cleveland PD offices. Benson, Stabler and Fin were already there at the conference table, with their coffee and donuts and their damn grins. They were all in on it. He knew it. Oh, Cragen had put them up it, probably as a favor to some old friend in the Cleveland PD or something, but they were all in on it. He knew it.
He stalked over to the table, walked around, staring them each in the eye.
“Cleveland,” he said out loud. No one spoke. “Cleveland,” he said again. “You know, when Cragen brought up this whole exchange program thing I remember Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago. I don’t remember anyone mentioning Cleveland.”
“Gotta read the fine print, Munch,” Stabler said and Munch turned on him, thrust out an accusing finger,
“You,” he said, “this is your fault, isn’t? You’re the only person I know who would actually go to Cleveland on purpose. You volunteered us for this, didn’t you?”
“Hey, calm down Munch,” Fin said, “We all just signed up cause a couple months out of the City sounded relaxing. Same as you.”
“Et tu, Brutus?” Munch said, sinking down down into chair. “Just for the record, “relaxing” and “boring” are not synonyms. Cleveland. We may have to deal with some sick shit in the City, but at least when you come in you know there’s always the possibility of the truly strange. But Cleveland, what the hell could happen in Cleveland?”
“Tempting fate, Detective Munch?” A fifty-some women with salt-n-pepper hair and lines of weariness on her face came through the door and joined the NYPD team at the table.
She was carrying a short stack of file folders which she dealt out like cards with practiced ease.
“I’m Captain Maddux. I’ll be your immediate supervisor, liaison, whatever. I assume you all got your badges and credentials from the desk sergeant? Good. I apologize for the disarray, but we’ve seen a marked rise in crime the last couple years and we’re seriously understaffed, but we will have you set up with desks and phones by noon or heads will roll. I’ll introduce you to the rest of the squad this afternoon. Meanwhile I thought I’d give you a little light reading. The gray folder is an overview, crime stats and hotspots, surveillance options and so on; the red folders are a couple of priority cases. We’re going to put you right to work, Detectives, if you wanted to relax you should have taken a vacation. Any questions?”
Munch flipped idly through the first red folder, stopped, flipped back a few pages and read more thoroughly then looked up at the waiting Captain, and read aloud,
“’I was raped by Satan?’ You wouldn’t be pulling an out-of-towner’s leg by any chance?”
“No, Detective, I’m afraid not. I wish I was.” The Captain sighed, rubbed her eyes, stared at the ceiling a moment. “I rolled my eyes, too, Detective, the first time I saw one of these cases. But there have been three now, and make no mistake, Detectives, these girls have been brutalized. Ligature marks on wrists and ankles, genital and rectal penetration, cuts on thighs and torso consistent with ritual bloodletting, brands burned on breasts and buttocks, I guarantee the vics aren’t making any of that up. As for the rest….”
“Fangs? Yellow eyes?” Benson read out of the file. “A mask?”
“Possibly. Probably. Read further down.” She waited.
Benson got there first. “What the hell?” she said. “They must be mistaken.”
“Yeah,” Captain Maddux said. “They must be. But we were careful, very careful, at least with the second two vics. They picked those faces out of the book without any prompting from us whatsoever.”
“And they were consistent?”
“Well the first vic said there were nine acolytes, the other two said eight, but maybe the ninth just didn’t participate. Otherwise, they’re totally consistent. Teenage girls dressed in brown robes, which they dropped when they joined in the bloodletting. All three vics identified the same five girls from their photos, three runaways still listed as missing. And two runaways who had already been found. Dead. Welcome to Cleveland, Detectives.”
Faith hit the curve going fast, too fast, and she leaned hard, laying the big Harley over so far the footpeg trailed sparks as it scraped the pavement. She eased off the gas for just an instant, then twisted the throttle as she hit the apex and roared forward, thankful that there was no oncoming traffic as she had drifted a couple feet over the centerline before she was able to straighten the bike and bring it back to her side of the road. The twin engine pounded on, working hard, she checked the tach, still just a little to the left of the red zone so she held the pace, flying through the dying light of a bloodied-orange sunset, going fast, very fast, too fast into the next curve of the loop-de-loop pacific coast highway.
It was sudden, so fast it was over before it began, a patch of sand, a spot of oil, whatever, the big rear tire fish-tailed as she entered the curve, almost took her down. She pulled it out, of course, her body reacting automatically, hips working to regain balance, arms holding the front wheel steady, careful not to bend the handlebars the way she had the first time she’d had a near-paint-scratch experience. She was quickly back in control, riding on the edge, the very edge but not over it, though the same could not be said for the centerline.
Then she saw the flicker of approaching headlights,
Instant zen, Wesley had called the motorcycle.
It had been a gift from Angel, of course, the big guy standing there with the goofy grin, basking in her “Ohmigod”s, and “It’s beautiful!”s and “Thank you“s, drinking in her excitement like it was the best thing since warm otter. And Faith forgetting herself so far as to hug him. Twice. And squeal a little. And giggle. Like a little girl on Christmas morning. Not that she’d ever squealed and giggled on Christmas herself as a little girl, so she wouldn’t know, but she imagines that’s what it would have been like.
It was gift from Angel, but Wesley had picked it out, a Dyna Low Rider, 1500 cc’s strong. Wesley who had taken it down to the custom shop and had the crossed stake and sword painted on the tank and matching saddlebags. Wesley who had insisted on going with her to buy a helmet, boots, leathers---
-- real leathers, not the cheap jeans she was used to, but the real deal, thick and solid yet butter soft, with built-in armor covering knees and elbows and shoulders yet still hugging her ass like an eager lover. Posing in the shop’s mirror she looked like something out of one of Harris’ comic books, actually being a super hero, bonus, but now she looked the part ---
--- Wesley who had insisted she take his own more battle worn bike for a practice run before risking her own pristine paint and chrome.
Yeah, Wesley with a Harley of his own. That’d been a bit of shock.
Faith liked to think she was pretty good at sizing people up, but she’d never quite figured Wesley out. Now she never would.
Instant zen, Wes had said. Maybe it was enough for some people, normal people, riding along with the wind in their faces, nothing between them and a brutal death but a bit of balance and some engineering, but it just wasn’t enough for a slayer. No, if she wanted to pull herself out of her head, stop thinking about things like dead Wesley, then she had to push it hard, very hard, all the way to the edge. And dead Angel, all the way to edge, not far enough.
The approaching headlights turned into… a car. Faith could talk bikes, makes, models, but cars were just… cars. All bright and shiny and new and probably equipped with airbags and all the latest safety gimmicks that wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference if 700 pounds of motorcycle came in through the windshield. A car, and two more behind it and there was no way she was getting back to her side of the road, and there was no more time and no paved shoulder at all on this road, just a thin strip of treacherous sand and gravel, the low guardrail and the ocean waiting some hundred feet below.
Faith let the bike drift wide left, to the very edge of the pavement, stood on the pegs, twisted the throttle and dropped the bike into the dirt, it shimmied an instant, the tires wanting to slide out but Faith fought back, holding the big machine steady between her legs, keeping the bike upright through sheer willpower. And then the rear wheel caught. Gravel clattered on the guardrail behind her as Faith flashed by the gaping faces in the passenger windows of the cars passing by just inches from her right elbow.
And then she was past, bouncing back up on the pavement and roaring on, still going fast, very fast…but not too fast, not now, not with her mind full of the three car pile-up that could have happened… ‘cause even if she wasn’t that sure she wanted to live anymore, she knew she didn’t want to take anyone with her if she went. No one human, anyway.
A little later she pulled off at one of the ocean overlooks, circled the bike so it was pointing back toward the road, killed the engine, put the kickstand down and sat a moment, listening to the clinks and pings as the engine cooled. She pulled off her helmet, hooked it on the handlebar, shook out her hair, patted the gas tank.
“You done good, kid,” she told the bike. “I promise no more bullshit tonight, just a nice slow cruise in the moonlight here on out, sound good?”
She swung off, stood a moment getting her land legs back, popped open one the saddlebags and pulled out a box of cigars, the one lasting legacy of her time with B. and the gang in Europe, a classier tobacco habit.
The talking to inanimate objects, that was something she’d picked up back in the states.
There were a couple picnic tables set at cliff’s edge and Faith went over and sat on the table, shucked off her jacket, pulled one of the long thin Cubans out of the box, lit up, and sat watching the red ball of the sun, already halfway under, sink down and away.
It had been a mistake to come back to Los Angeles, to wander around the boarded up Hyperion, to stand in the alley behind and wonder, was it here, was it there, did he go immediately to dust or was there time for him to suffer first, to have limbs torn off, organs punctured. Would it have made any difference if she’d been there with him, fighting by his side?
Bastard. He’d sent her way. He’d told her he needed someone on the outside he could trust. He’d told her the junior slayers needed her. Told her he needed someone in the slayer camp that still trusted him. Told her lots of things. Probably meant some of them. Probably meant all of them. But he’d sent her away to live while he died. She was trying to forgive him, really trying, but it was hard.
Gah. She shook her head, who needed these thoughts roiling around, just cause he wasn’t doing the brooding thing anymore didn’t mean she had to do it for him. She stood. Faith had learned to sit still in prison, she hadn’t learned to like it. She walked back to the bike, pulled her broadsword out its sheath, another Wes touch, and came back to the picnic table. It wasn’t the best place, a little too visible, but fuck-it, it was pretty dark, traffic was light, and she needed this. She shucked off her boots and pants, piled them on the table with her jacket and stood in tank top and boxers, and began her first kata, half-smoked cigar still in her mouth.
She grinned, remembering Harris in Italy coming by her hotel room, dragging her out of bed at the crack of noon, insisting she had to come to some art house theater to see some movie in the original Italian cut, ’cause she was the only one he knew in Rome that appreciated true art.
So later she realized maybe that meant he’d asked Buffy and Dawn and hell maybe even Andrew before he’d asked her. But she’d gone along, cause hell, it wasn’t like she had anything else planned and the movie turned out to be “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” which was cool. That’s when she’d switched over from Gaulois to the cigars, to tell the truth. “The Man with No Name.“ She could relate. She was a little freaked there, the first time they put the rope around Tuco’s neck, but when she stole a glance Harris didn’t seem to be making any connection to her own little bit of strangulation so she let it go.
For while there they’d had a thing, he’d called her Clint, she’d done the “wah-wah-wah” after his lamer jokes. They’d gone out a couple times, like friends, hitting some bars. He’d tried, but Anya was heavy on him and he’d never really got in the party mood, he’d start feeling bad about cramping her style, didn’t believe her when she said she didn’t mind just sitting with him, he didn’t want to sit there and watch the girl he’d come in with dance with every other good-looking guy in the place.
So that kind of just stopped and she didn’t really see him again until he was headed for Africa, he stopped by, gave her an Eastwoodian poncho, told her to take care, and was gone… She wondered sometimes, maybe she should have gone with him, instead of heading for Giles and the New Council. Maybe she would have fit in better in Africa, just her and Harris doing the lone wolf thing…. shit, she didn’t need all these thoughts either, she moved faster, faster until all she was thinking was slice and dice and skewer and slice and dice and hack, faster and faster until she wasn’t thinking of anything at all.
She heard the rumbling engine and the squealing brakes behind her and she turned just in time to see the pick-up come off the highway and spinout on the gravel of the overlook parking area and slam into her bike, sending it crashing back through the guardrail and over the edge and just like that it was gone, enhanced slayer senses allowed her to hear the distant splash.
Alexander L. Harris finished his spiel on the amenities offered by the Cleveland Home for Gifted Girls, laid the brochure on the table, adjusted his tie and wished for demons. Vamps, werewolves, succubae, fyrals, haxils, wendigos, whatever, something simple you could just kill and be done with. Simple straightforward self-evident evil.
The girl’s mother was babbling hysterically, shouting her denial, and he let her words roll by as he thought fondly of the Congo and the enormous mosquitoes, Kampala and his four hundredth serving of steamed matoke, thought fondly of being anywhere but here.
Here was Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn territory, a small town on the Mississippi river, a clean but slightly faded sub-division of clap-board houses, bicycles and Big Wheels and dirt bikes littered driveways, dogs barked, cats sunned themselves in windows or half-heartedly stalked birds in back yards, burning charcoal and BBQ sauce seasoned the air.
The new slayer, no question there, a slayer, by now Alexander could tell with a glance, could sense The Slayer lurking behind the most meek and demure façade, though that was hardly the case here. This Slayer may be freckle-faced and red-haired but melanin issues aside it could have been Faith junior slouching there on the sofa, her eyes, at turns defiant, disdainful and haunted, watching his every move, looking for some sign of, he didn’t know, weakness, maybe, or falseness. One lie, one hint of bullshit on his part, and he would lose her, he could feel it.
Mom was babbling on, but Alexander ignored her because the slayer ignored her, Mom was irrelevant here. Not so much with Dad. Dad had a broken arm in a fresh cast, and fear in his eyes. Those rare times when the slayer’s eyes left Alexander they went to Dad and locked, Dad staring back, he was scared but not defeated. Not happy, either.
Alexander was afraid he had a pretty good idea what had been happening when the slayer came into her powers, but he hoped it was just that Dad was a bit free with the corporal punishment. He hoped, he didn’t much believe it.
Dad spoke, “Marybeth can go.” Mom gaped a moment, took a breath to launch a protest but was silenced by a glance from Dad. She sank back, visibly wilting into the sofa, defeated.
Marybeth spoke, “Can Jinny and Michelle come with me?”
“No,” Dad snapped.
“Jinny and Michelle?” Alexander asked.
“My sisters.” Marybeth stood, started down the hall toward the bedrooms,
“Marybeth!” her father said, and she stopped automatically, then shook herself and took a breath and marched on. Alexander heard the distinctive and familiar sound of a locked door breaking, Dad cursed under his breath and Alexander almost, but just almost, felt a twinge of sympathy. Slayers: 4721 Doors: zero
Marybeth returned shepherding two doppelgangers in descending sizes, Alexander estimated ages 12 and 10. Physical doppelgangers anyway, but no slayers these, just sad, scared little girls who peeked at Alexander, peeked at seething Dad and stared steadfastly at the floor.
Alexander struggled to his feet, said, “Marybeth, shall we take a walk?” Waited a moment and when the girl nodded her turned to his partner in persuasion, said “Hand me my cane, would you, Vi?”
The oldest slayer living in the Cleveland house, with her shy girl-next-door manners that worked as a mother soothing contrast to Harris’ piratical appearance, Vi was getting to be a veteran slayer-gatherer, experienced enough to know something was off here. She quickly retrieved Alexander’s cane and handed it over, eyes wide with questions. It was not unusual for him to arrange to speak to the slayer alone, but usually he was sneaky about it, meeting her during a lunchtime or waiting in a nearby cemetery to catch her on one of the midnight jaunts new slayers seemed unable to resist. Vi couldn’t remember even one time where he had simply defied a girl’s parents like this.
“Keep an eye on things here, please, Vi, maybe tell Jinny and Michelle why Cleveland is America’s most exciting city. We won’t be too long.”
Alexander led Marybeth over to the ancient van parked on the street in front of her house, the panel door slid open as they approached and mop of blonde hair spilled out, then flipped up to reveal bright blue eyes and a wide grin much too large for the elfin body that supported them.
“Marybeth, “ Alexander said, “meet Renee, who can totally kick your ass. Renee, Marybeth.” While the girls exchanged nods Alexander took off his tie, stuffed it in his coat pocket, took off his coat and tossed it in the back of the van, turned back to Marybeth and said, “and you can call me Xander. Crowbar time.”
Renee hopped out of the van, spinning a steel crowbar in one hand like a baton, then without warning tossing at Marybeth who caught it and stood staring at her hand.
“Bend it,” Xander told her.
“What?” Marybeth said.
“Look, what we talked about inside, these new powers you’ve been feeling, the speed, the strength. It’s not a growth spurt, you’re not just strong for your age, you’re not just suddenly tougher than your dad. You’re a superhero. Bend it.”
Marybeth stared at him a moment, then suddenly gripped both ends of the tool and bent it half.
“Holy shit,” she said.
Xander took the crowbar back, rolled up his sleeves and tried mightily to straighten it, the muscles in his arms standing out like ropes, a light sheen of sweat appeared.
“Not faking,” he grunted and Marybeth nodded. He tossed the crowbar over to Renee who casually straightened it and tossed it back in the van. “Let’s walk,” Xander said.
There was narrow park that ran along the river’s edge, Xander settled on a bench while Marybeth leaned against the low fence and stared out at the eddies and swirls in the brown water. She had a lot to digest and he left her to it, digging out his cell and calling home,
“Caridad,” he started, but as he expected, did not get a word in edgewise for some time.
“Xander, Xander Harris, that is you? How dare you speak my name? How dare you go off and leave me in charge of these… these monsters, these Satan spawned horrors…” He waited while she ran through her list of the sins against hygiene, decency and common sense twenty-five girls between the ages of 15 and 20, all gifted with enough excess energy to power a small town, could perpetrate in the four days of his absence, pleased because the petty complaints meant there have been no serious injuries, meant none of his girls was dead.
Caridad finally ran down, and, purged, was suddenly bright and cheery again, asking after the new slayer.
“Long story,” Xander told her, “who’s next?”
Xander sat and listened, Valerie had boy trouble, Amaka was having trouble with her English at school, Safiyah wanted a new bicycle, Amber had got a mouthful of vamp dust on patrol and wanted to know how to make sure that never ever happened again, because, gross, ew ew EWW, Isabel said Jacquie stole her jacket, Jacquie said Isabel left it behind in some boy’s car, Isabel and Jacquie fought in the background while Shad proudly told him of her first kill with the crossbow.
Xander listened and made the correct friendly noises and watched Marybeth, knowing full well she was listening, could hear every word. It was a cheap trick, but effective. Sounds of (relatively) happy home, a (relatively) functional family. Normality. Safety. Love.
If it was just Marybeth, the deal would be done, she’d be Cleveland bound.
And now that he had her softened up.
“Tell me about your father.”
And she turned, looked him in the eye and said softly,
“I’m going to kill the bastard.”