Fanfic - Crossover Stories
"Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch"
Part 1
by Aesop
Disclaimer: I donít own the characters from Roswell or BTVS, and I donít profit by writing this. All rights are retained by the show's creators. While Liz, Michael, and Spike are out of town the rest of the Roswell teens are having problems of their own. An unwanted visitor picks a very bad time to come around.
Summary: Liz, Michael, and Spike are in Sunnydale taking care of business. Meanwhile, back at the ranchÖ
Category: Crossover Stories
Rating: PG-13
Tess Harding scraped the last bite of Tobasco covered chocolate ice cream out of her bowl. Kyle shuddered slightly, but smiled at the near rapturous expression on her face as she licked her lips. "Mmmm." She looked up at Kyle and caught the look. "What? Iíve seen some of the Ďsnacksí you eat. Those microwave burritos? Now those are disgusting."

"No arguments. Even dad agrees with you there." He pulled out his wallet as Maria put their bill on the table. "Time to go. The movie starts in 20." The two teens left the CrashDown chatting comfortably with each other. Maria and Isabellele stared after them.

"Who woulda guessed?" Maria shook her head wonderingly, but Isabelle just shrugged, apparently not caring, although she was secretly relieved at the unexpected development. Picking up an order, she carried it to the corner booth before returning to the counter to pour coffee for another customer. Filling in for Liz wasnít her idea of fun, but the money was good, and it kept Mr. Parker from having to hire someone he didnít know on a temporary basis. She glanced at Maria.

"At least sheís not chasing Max anymore."

Maria rolled her eyes. "Come on Isabelle, sheís proven herself by now, hasnít she? I know she isnít always pleasant, especially to Liz, but sheís not the enemy."

"I know," Isabelle sighed, "and maybe itís mainly our fault that she keeps herself at a distance. I need to start being nicer to her, include her more."

"Wouldnít hurt." Maria caught Isabelleís look and relented. "I know, I know. I havenít been all that nice to her either, especially when she was trying to get between Max and Liz. We will try to include her more." Isabelle nodded in agreement. "Maybe we should invite her for a girlsí night out when Liz gets back." Isabelle looked dubious.

"Liz and Tess? You really think thatís a good idea?"

Maria laughed softly. "Weíll take it slow." She thought a moment. "It might help if they understood where the other is coming from." A glance around showed her that no one was close enough to listen in. "I mean you guys have your mission, and she has hers. Thereís got to be some common ground for them. I mean Tess was the one who was so gung-ho about you all following your Ďdestiny.í" Mariaís thoughts turned to her absent friend and her Ďdestiny.í Liz and the others had been gone for two days and hadnít checked in yet. Isabelle saw the expression on her face and braced herself for the inevitable question. "Have you heard anything from them?"

"Not since the last time you asked." Liz had only called home once, to let her parents know she had arrived safely and to discourage any attempt to call her. The scholarship competition she was supposedly attending at UC Sunnydale was going to be busy, and it would be difficult to reach her. At least that was the story she had told her father. "Relax okay? Theyíll be fine. Sheís got Michael and Spike alongÖ Ah, I see why youíre worried."

Maria scowled at her. "Thatís not funny. I trust Michael, and well, okay, not so much Spike, but itís the caper itself that worries me." Isabelle nodded. She glanced around to make sure no one was within earshot.

"The Skins have to be stopped though, and theyíre the only ones who can. We couldnít just tell that Buffy girl. She wouldnít have any idea how to deal with them." Maria nodded glumly.

"I know, but I canít help but worry."

Jeff Parker poked his head out of the kitchen. He always worked the floor when there was a new or fill-in waitress. "Everything okay out there?" Startled, the girls looked around and nodded hastily.

"Everythingís fine Mr. Parker." Maria scanned the room and picked up the coffeepot. She nodded to Isabelle and made her way to table three.

"Donít suppose youíve heard from Liz? She hasnít called here, I thought she might have called Max." Isabelle resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"No. She hasnít called. Sheís probably pretty busy. Iím sure sheíll call when she gets a chance."

Jeff Parker nodded unhappily. "I hope she does well. A full scholarship would be nice."

Isabelle kept herself from wincing, barely. It was the only thing they could think of that would get her out of school for the time she needed to be away. Liz hated lying to her parents, but the truth just hadnít been an option. The fact that their parents knew about Liz was what had kept Max from going with Liz instead of Michael. Philip and Diane Evans had suggested that Liz tell her parents the truth, but she had decided that it would only frighten them and complicate everyoneís life unnecessarily. It wasnít like there was anything they could do to change things.

Isabelle welcomed the distraction of work when the next plate of food was placed at the pickup window. She delivered a Will Smith burger and Saturn Rings while turning her mind to things she could affect. Maria had a point. Liz and Tess had to have something in common. Well, besides Max. Destiny. Whether you were a Slayer or aÖaÖ reincarnated alien? Whatever. Any way you look at it, it sucks. There had to be some way to get them to understand each other. Maybe the girlsí night out that Maria had suggested would be a start.

***********************************************************************

This is the place. It has to be. It had taken months to narrow the search even this far. In the end, it was a rumor and a hunch that had brought him to Roswell and everything was riding on it. Magic had done all it could. Now all that was left was good, old fashioned research and legwork.

***********************************************************************

Iím late. Iím soooo late. She was supposed to have been at the CrashDown by 8:00 and it was almost 8:30. Jeff would be waiting, impatiently, for her. The delay had been unavoidable, not that that helped. As she hurried down the street, carefully balancing the bag of supplies from the market, she saw the sheriffís son and a girl, Tess she thought, coming down the street towards her. Kyle was a decent sort. He was always polite to her. Tess was another matter. Nancy didnít know the full story, but she did know there was some friction between her daughter and the blonde girl. It didnít take a genius to figure out that a boy was at the root of the problem.

Sheíd seen several confusing combinations in the CrashDown. Kyle with Liz. Max with Liz. Max with Tess. Now she was seeing Kyle with Tess. I donít want to know, and I certainly donít want to get into it now. The last thing I need, she thought as she oriented on the cafť just two blocks away, is another delay.

Nancy Parker was more annoyed than frightened when she was pulled into the alley. At least until she got a look at her assailant. Despite being the co-owner of an alien-theme restaurant, Nancy Parker had never really believed that anything other than a weather balloon had crashed back in Ď47. It was a belief she didnít advertise, suspecting that it wouldnít be good for business. The creature that shoved her against the alley wall and held her, though, was decidedly not human. For one thing its teeth were far too pointy when it grinned at her.

"Dinner time bro." Nancy looked around. There was another one close behind the first, just as ugly and nodding eagerly. She didnít like the sound of that. Do aliens really suck out your brain? she wondered, as she tried desperately to push the creature away. Suddenly, it was gone. The other creature looked as startled as she felt. She looked around to see Kyle Valenti on top of the first one, punching it in the face.

More annoyed than hurt, it slapped him aside and got to its feet. "One for each of us," it noted casually to its friend. "You can have the woman."

"No you canít," the second creature staggered as someone slammed into it. "Get away from them!" Nancy stared in amazement as Tess faced off against the creature. She looked like she was scared out of her mind, but she wasnít backing down. The creature lunged forward, attempting to catch her in a bear hug. Tess placed a hand against its chest in a feeble attempt to ward it off. What happened next surprised Nancy as much as it apparently surprised the monster. She straightened her arm and the creature flew through the air, impacting with the back wall of the alley more than a dozen feet away.

Too hard, Tess mentally kicked herself. Her goal had been to use just enough of her power to force the vampire away, discourage it. It hadnít been necessary to let it get that close to her, but she was mindful of Mrs. Parker behind her and didnít want to have to explain why the creature had fallen down when she hadnít even touched it. It was something she had never tried before, which probably explains why I overdid it, she thought ruefully. How was she going to explain that? The other vampire was backing off as well. "Kyle?! You all right?"

"Yeah. Iím okay." He got to his feet and looked at someone behind Tess. She chanced a glance toward the mouth of the alley and saw a well-dressed man approaching them holding a wooden crucifix and a plastic bottle with a cross on it.

"Back hell spawn," he commanded, brandishing the cross. The man wore a three-piece-suit that looked like it had been fashionable a century ago. He was dressed for the cover of Librarianís Quarterly not a monster hunt, but the vampire that Kyle had attacked eyed the man warily and backed away.

"Well, well," the other vampire got his feet under him and came toward them. "Iíd heard this town had a Slayer." Tessí eyes widened in shock. He canít meanÖ. It grinned, assuming a fighting stance that Tess recognized from the only training session she had observed. Spike had been teaching Liz about maintaining her balance while fighting.

"Here," the well-dressed man tossed her the bottle of holy water which she surprised herself by catching. He then placed his free hand on Nancyís shoulder. "Quickly. Get out of here. Iíll deal with them." She backed quickly out of the alley. The man turned his attention back to Tess and drew a stake from inside his suit coat and tossed it to her. She almost dropped it, which made the vampire laugh. "You can do it," the well-dressed man told her in a calm, reassuring voice that made Tess want to scream.

This is not happening.

The first vampire was focused entirely on Tess. The second was dividing his attention between the well-dressed man and the ĎSlayer.í He had completely forgotten about Kyle. The broken board punched through the skin directly under the sternum and the vampire vanished with a surprised grunt.

"Ow!" Kyle dropped the board and shook his hands staring at them, annoyed.

"You okay?" Tess risked a glance away from the vamp.

Kyle nodded. "Splinters," he said by way of explanation. "Look out!" The remaining vampire, enraged by the death of his friend, used Tessí distraction to his advantage. Tess stepped back with a frightened squeak and reflexively squeezed the plastic bottle, sending a stream, more by luck than design, into the vampireís face. It screamed and covered its face as the holy water started to burn at it. Tess seized the opportunity and plunged the stake into its exposed chest.

"Well done," the stranger enthused in what Tess recognized as a British accent when the vampire crumbled. "At least itís not bad for a beginner." Tess turned to face the man. She vaguely remembered Max and Liz talking about a council of some sort that did things for the Slayer. What did she call them? Lookers?

"Who are you?"

"Whatís going on?" Nancy and Kyle spoke at the same time, and the man glanced between them, annoyed that the woman was still there and not sure who to answer, or how to answer. He glanced at Tess. It was imperative that he speak to her alone as soon as possible. She was watching him suspiciously.

"I have the same questions," she told him. "You might as well answer them now."

"Were those aliens?" Nancy asked staring at the piles of dust. Tess closed her eyes briefly, to prevent herself from rolling them.

"Ah, not exactly," the man answered hesitantly, flustered by the question. Aliens? Thatís a new one. "They-"

"They were vampires Mrs. Parker," Kyle interrupted as he plucked splinters out of his palms. He had been briefed on vampires and demons and on Liz being the Slayer. He glanced at Tess and realized that he had probably paid more attention than she had. "I think theyíre local. I meanÖ from Earth." He shook his head. "I donít know that much."

"Vampires?" Aliens were strange enough but vampires? Floundering for something to say, she remembered what the creature had said. "What did that one call you Tess? A Slayer? What is that about?" Tessí eyes widened and she cast a glance at the stranger who, much to her dismay was nodding in confirmation. He had an almost smug look on his face. Nancy, entirely focused on Tess, didnít notice.

This is not happening.

"Itís an old vampire legend," the man said, surprising Tess. "The Slayer is something of a boogie-man for them. When I realized that the creature had jumped to conclusions about your rush of adrenaline I thought it might be wise to capitalize on its error. Allow you to distract it while I took the beast from the side. I must say, you surprised us both. Good show MissÖ?"

"Harding," Tess heard herself say faintly. "Tess Harding." What was he doing? A moment ago he seemed to be agreeing with the vampire.

"A pleasure. You seem to know something of vampires already." Tess nodded. "I would like the opportunity to talk to you about that privately."

"Now wait just a minute," Kyle interrupted. "First of all, who are you? And second, what makes you think youíll be talking to her privately or otherwise?" The man cast him a disparaging look, but his face softened when he saw how Tess moved to stand next to him, as if seeking his support and protection.

"My name is Nigel Hawkins. I am a scholar. I belong to a group that studies, hunts, and eliminates vampires."

"So what are you doing here?" Nancy asked.

"Vampire activity has been on the rise in New Mexico. I was sent to investigate. It seems my arrival was fortuitous." He looked back at Tess, who had all but grafted herself to Kyleís side. "As you two know something of vampires already, perhaps you wouldnít mind speaking to me about your experiences?" Kyle and Tess traded uncertain glances. Finally, Tess nodded. Kyle frowned but agreed.

He had not included Nancy Parker in the invitation, but she offered to take them to her home for the private discussions and Tess and Kyle insisted. No doubt, he realized, they felt safer on familiar ground. It was a bad start, but one he could recover from. Mrs. Parker, fortunately, excused herself, not wanting to deal with the subject.

Soon three of them were seated around a table in the Parkerís home above the cafť. Hawkins looked at Kyle, not at all happy to have a civilian present, but realizing that Tess would not cooperate unless he were there. He could work on separating them later. It was likely that the Council would have him relocate the Slayer anyway. Once in a new city he would have more control over her. He was determined that he would not make the same mistake that Rupert Giles had.

"Since before the dawn of recorded history it has been the duty of Watchers like myself to guide and train the Slayer." He saw Tessí reaction and nodded. "Yes. I apologize for the subterfuge, but it is essential that as few people know of your status as possible."

Tess glanced at Kyle, and then questioningly at Hawkins. He smiled. "The two of you are obviously close, and he already knows of the existence of vampires. I saw no harm in including him." He turned his smile toward Kyle, trying to put him at ease. "You neednít fear for her. She is my charge now and I will help to ensure that nothing happens to her."

As they listened, he laid out the history of the world as the Council knew it. Demons, vampires, the Slayer, and the Slayerís mission were explained. When he had finished, he focused at Tess. "I really must apologize my dear. You should have been found months ago, when the previous Slayer was killed. Unfortunately, someone, or more likely something, has been interfering. The Council has tried and true methods for finding the new Slayer when the old one dies. This time, however, we were prevented. Weíre still not quite sure how. It is possible that a powerful demon wanted to delay the discovery of the next Slayer in order to carry out some sinister plot uninterrupted." Tess blinked.

Did he actually say Ďsinister plot?í Who talks like that?

"The Council has been more vigilant of late, but we have discovered nothing of the source of the interference. You might say our radar is jammed. It was good old fashioned detective work and," he dropped his gaze in calculated gesture of self-deprecation, "dumb luck that allowed me to find you."

"What makes you so sure Tess is this Slayer youíre looking for?" Kyle demanded. "You said yourself that your radar is jammed."

"She killed a vampire," he began.

"So did I."

"True, but you did not throw him through the air almost half-a-dozen meters before you did so. Only a Slayerís enhanced strength would allow such a feat." He turned back to Tess. "There have been other such incidents, have there not? A marked increase in your physical strength, faster reflexes, minor cuts and bruises healing quickly." Tess opened her mouth to deny it, but hesitated, overwhelmed by what the man had told her. She had had no idea of what it meant to be the Slayer, no idea of what Liz was up against. It was incredible, and she suspected that Liz only knew a small portion of it, especially since she had taken such pains not to attract one of these ĎWatchers.í

Hawkins interpreted her hesitation as an admission and did his best to look sympathetic. He only managed to look smug again. "I know it is a lot to deal with, but you do not face it alone. That is why I am here. It is a Watcherís duty to train and protect the Slayer." Tess opened her mouth to deny it, to set him straight, but then she glanced at the door.

Nancy Parker came in carrying a tray full of drinks. As badly as Tess wanted to set him straight, she couldnít, not in front of Lizí mother. Nancy saw her look and, like Hawkins, misunderstood.

"I think sheís a little overwhelmed. I know I am." She shook her head in wonder as she set the tray on the table, playing the hostess almost by reflex. "Vampires." She broke off and shuddered. "I know you want their story, but give them a little time. Itís not something that happens every night, I hope." That thought unsettled her still further, and she left the room.

"That reaction is common Iím afraid." He looked after Nancy Parker with a genuinely sympathetic expression. "Donít worry about her. She will rationalize it soon enough and get on with her routine. You unfortunately donít have that luxury." He raised a hand to forestall the objections he saw coming. "I can grant you a little time but not much. What you must understand is that the war with the demons is ongoing. It has been fought in secret for thousands of years. Any delay in the assumption of your duties may have disastrous consequences. I will meet you tomorrow night at sunset, downstairs at the cafe. There is something I want you to see." He rose from his chair and placed his hand over hers in what he probably believed was a comforting gesture. "It is important work, vital work, as you will soon discover."

Before he left, Hawkins extracted a promise from Kyle to keep their discussion, and Tessí status, a secret. He spoke a few reassuring words to Nancy Parker as well. Then he bid them all goodnight.

***********************************************************************

"That guy gives me the creeps," Kyle opined as he and Tess walked home. Neither was sure how to proceed. Tess nodded.

"He isnít looking at you like the grand prize in a scavenger hunt," she griped. "How do you think I feel?" Kyle knew better than to offer an answer to that. They walked in silence for a while. The two teens had been growing closer ever since a break-in at Tessí home had convinced Max that she wouldnít be safe living alone. It had been awkward at first living with an alien, and at times it still was, but Kyle had gotten to know her very well. He knew, for instance, when to keep his mouth shut. After waiting what he deemed a safe amount of time, he ventured a suggestion.

"We should tell the others. This affects everyone." Tess nodded reluctantly.

"Itís late. Weíll tell him tomorrow. I want some time to think on this anyway."

"What about Liz?" he asked carefully. "She should know." Kyle knew that Liz was a touchy subject. The fact that Tess continued to resent Liz hurt him somewhat. She still wanted Max to notice her, to want her. Kyle tried not to show it, but he suspected she knew how he felt.

"Iíll let Max tell her," she sighed. "Itís not something I want to deal with right now." Kyle looked away, not wanting her to see his reaction. When he glanced back Tess was eyeing him curiously. Thinking quickly he pasted a look of concentration on his face.

"We need to convince him that he made a mistake," he mused. "Get him to look elsewhere."

"That would be ideal, but what if we just tell him that Liz is the one heís looking for?" Kyle stiffened at the annoyance in her tone. He knew Tess disliked Liz, but would she really wish Hawkins on the other girl?

"If itís that simple," he ventured, "why didnít you tell him earlier?"

"In front of her mother?" Tess sounded honestly surprised by the question. Kyle glanced at her, surprised himself, and Tess sighed. "Liz has kept our secret. I guess I can keep hers, at least from her mother."

"Speaking of secrets, how are you going to explain what you did in the alley? How did you do what you did in the alley?" Tess made a face, realizing that he had a point. How could she explain throwing a vampire as far as she had? Kyle was watching her curiously. She sighed.

"I just focused the energy the way I taught Michael to do. Youíve seen him breaking rocks?" Kyle nodded. "I just concentrated on pushing that vampire away. I didnít want Lizís mother to see it explode. I just wanted to get us away from it." She shook her head in frustration. "I-Iíve just never done anything like that before. I didnít mean to throw him."

"You did the best you could." He tried to sound reassuring, but she didnít look reassured. "Donít worry. Weíll find a way out of this mess."

"I hope so. I donít see a way out right now." They continued home in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. For the life of her, Tess couldnít see a solution. Telling Hawkins the truth was out of the question but convincing him that heíd been mistaken would be very difficult. Maybe some insight was needed. Perhaps getting Isabelle to dreamwalk him would help. Unfortunately, she hadnít thought to get a picture of her new Watcher. She never thought sheíd be missing Liz. It should be her here, figuring out what to do with this unwanted Englishman. Thoughts like that didnít help matters though. Besides, Tess realized, Max would still insist on trying to help Liz, Watcher or no. It would only be a matter of time before the nosy Brit discovered there was something unusual about Lizí boyfriend. It would be Pierce all over again.

She glanced at Kyle. She still didnít know what to do about him or the feelings he was developing for her. That she thought she was starting to care for him was something her mind skittered away from whenever she tried to confront it directly. Tess wasnít even sure why sheíd agreed to go out with him. The rationalization had been there at the time, but she couldnít remember it now. Whatever her reasoning had been, she decided, going to dinner and a movie with him had turned out to be a bad idea. It was no fault of his she knew, but she didnít pursue it beyond Ďbad idea.í Her life was complicated enough.

Kyle opened the door and let them into the house. His father and Amy Deluca looked up from their place on the sofa, surprised. They quickly moved apart like guilty teenagers caught by their parents. Kyle blinked slowly a couple of times with the look Tess had come to realize meant he was readjusting his worldview. Heíd been doing that a lot lately. It was an expression Tess found adorable, although sheíd never admit it.

"Um, hi, didnít expect you home so soon," his father said with the cheerful expression that he could paste on at a momentís notice. Tess managed not to smile. "Movie a bomb?"

"Yeah," Kyle hedged. "Not worth it." Amy was rather embarrassed and quickly excused herself. Jim saw her to the door and wished her goodnight. After she had gone, he turned back to his son and Tess. Both were looking at him with matching troubled expressions.

"Whatís up?" Kyle and Tess traded unreadable looks before glancing back at him. Kyle answered.

"We have a problem."

Once seated around the kitchen table, they told him about their evening, from the encounter with the vampires to the appointment Tess had at sunset the next day. Jim Valenti listened without interrupting. Finally he sat back and ran his hand over his face.

"I donít believe this. A Watcher?" They nodded. "We donít need this." He thought quickly. "So we need a way of convincing him that he made a mistake without making him suspicious." He rose and began pacing the room, frowning fiercely. "This is not going to be easy. You say heís convinced youíre the Slayer?" Tess nodded mutely. "When that Wesley guy was here he convinced Liz she was something special by throwing a knife at her."

"What?!" Kyle demanded. "No one ever told us about that." His father nodded.

"It was only when Liz caught it, something she could never have done before, that she started to listen." Again he shook his head and went back to pacing.

"I canít catch knives! I donít have Slayer reflexes. I canítÖ" Tess began to pace as well, gesticulating frantically while trying to find a suitable analogy to finish her sentence. "Leap tall buildings in a single bound!" she finally blurted out. "This isnít funny Kyle!" she snapped, her back still toward him.

Surprised, Kyle swallowed the smirk that had begun to appear on his face. The superman analogy was far too close to something she had said to him not too many days in the past. "What now?" he asked, wanting to move past the awkward moment. "We have to figure out something before tomorrow night."

"Maybe we can stall until Liz comes back," his father suggested. "Then this can get straightened out." Kyle shook his head.

"That would mean telling him about Liz. You donít know this guy. You didnít hear the way he was talking. HeÖ" Kyle glanced at Tess who had stopped pacing and was scowling at him. He met her unhappy gaze and held it until she nodded reluctantly.

"All right, weíll try to think of some way of keeping Liz out of it," she agreed, sounding a little petulant about it. "Any idea how? I mean I canít do what a Slayer can do. I canít masquerade as one." Kyle looked surprised. "Donít even think it. Iím not playacting to get Liz off the hook."

"Damn right youíre not," Kyle spluttered. "Way too dangerous." She stared at him, surprised by his tone. "What makes you think I would even ask you to do that?"

"W-wellÖ uh, you and Liz used toÖ"

"Doesnít matter," he said shortly. "Weíll find a way to do this that doesnít involve life-threatening situations."

"That would be a nice change of pace," his father said to no one in particular. "Maybe we should call Max and the others over. A few more ideas wouldnít hurt at this point."

"Itís kind of late," Tess hedged, unwilling to draw the others into it for some reason. Kyle shook his head.

"The sooner we start working on a solution, the better." He picked up the phone and began dialing.

"Something wrong?" Jim Valenti saw her expression and wondered at her reluctance.

"ItísÖ Well its just that Max and I arenít talking much lately or making eye contact orÖ" She shook her head. "Itís just awkward. I mean the whole thingÖ itÖ"

"I think I understand," he said not understanding at all. The relationship between Max and Tess was something he tried not to think about. Married in a previous life then killed and put through some kind of hi-tech reincarnation. It made his head hurt to think about it. "Under the circumstances, though, I think itís necessary." Tess nodded glumly, not looking forward to seeing Max, which was something that amazed her.

There had been a time when she couldnít wait to see him, to get a chance to help him see how things were supposed to be. Max had pretty much proven though that he would never come around to her way of thinking, and strangely, the thought didnít frustrate or depress her the way that it once had. She looked at the father and son who had taken her in and wondered.

"Theyíre on their way," Kyle hung up. "Max said he would pick up Maria and Alex. I didnít tell him what itís about. Too much to go into over the phone." Tess nodded distractedly.

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"Do you suppose this has anything to do with the Skins?" Max glanced at his sister and shrugged.

"Kyle didnít say. He just wanted all of us to come over. Said heíd explain the problem when we got there." Maxí voice was calm, despite his worry over Liz. What else could it be but something involving Liz and the Skins?

When he pulled into the driveway next the sheriffís truck, Max was first out of the jeep. He knocked on the door and ignored the odd looks he was getting from the others. They didnít need his haste to tell them he was worried, and despite the potential seriousness of the situation, the contradiction between his calm facade and his actions had the others exchanging bemused, knowing looks.

Kyle answered the door. "Whatís happened?" Max asked without preamble as he entered.

"Have a seat," Kyle suggested as the others followed him in. "This is kind of strange."

"Kind of?" Tess asked sarcastically. Max glanced at her and saw how upset she was. "Kind of doesnít cover it," she muttered from her place on the sofa. Max took a seat next to her.

"What happened Tess?"

Once again, Kyle and Tess recounted the eveningís events, just as they had told them to the sheriff. The others only interrupted with questions a couple of times. When they finished, all sat in silence for a moment, contemplating this latest development.

"Not good," Maria stated. "So not good."

"That we know," Tess cast an annoyed glance at the Human girl. "What do we do now is the question. If I canít convince this guy he made a mistake heís gonna start throwing knives at me or something. Heíll expect me to do things I canít do."

Max frowned thoughtfully. "What are the options? We canít chance him learning the truth and we canít reveal Lizí secret, at least not without her consent."

"So how do we handle this guy?" Alex asked. "We have to delay him at least. Unless we can find a way of explaining what she did."

"How do we explain it?" Maria asked. "Adrenaline?" Kyle shook his head.

"I donít think heíd buy that. She threw him likeÖ" he looked around the room and pointed. "From that wall to that one, and then some." The distance he indicated, from the far wall of the Valenti's small kitchen to the far side of the living room, was farther than anyone could reasonably believe Tess could shove someone, especially a vampire. It was an exaggeration, Kyle realized, measuring the distance with his eye again, but not much of one.

"Thatís a lot of adrenaline," Maria admitted. "Maybe if we all went along," she suggested after puzzling over it for a moment. "I mean Kyle knew they were vampires. This Hawkins guy has gotta be wondering about it." Max looked intrigued.

"What do you have in mind?"

"Well, weíre looking for a way to delay this guy at least," Maria thought out loud. "What if we told him about Seth?"

"How will that help me?" Tess wanted to know. Maria scowled at her. Getting along with Tess wasnít going to be as easy as she had hoped. Admittedly the situation was stressful, but when werenít their lives stressful? She suppressed a sigh.

"I think we can use that to delay him. What if we convinced him to investigate the place where you guys fought him? Cole I mean. Hawkins would want to know about Seth and Cole and all that anyway. We just wouldnít tell him all the details. Maybe we can even convince him that it would be a good way to break in a new Slayer. We know all of the vamps were killed, but he doesnít know that. It would be safe to go poking around there."

Kyle was shaking his head. "That would keep him in the area for a while and away from any vamps, but heíd still think Tess was the Slayer. Even having him believe that is dangerous even if he doesnít expect you to kill monsters." He saw Maria about to object, but raised a hand to forestall any objections. "No argument. Isnít her life dangerous enough as it is? Arenít all of your lives dangerous enough?"

"Is he really sure of himself?" Alex asked. "I mean if we can make him doubt himself, how likely is he to throw knives at her to prove his point?"

"I say we donít find out." Alex glanced at Kyle, who was now standing by Tess where she sat huddled on the couch looking equal parts frightened and angry. He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. The only thing that surprised Alex more than this was that Tess didnít seem to mind. In fact she seemed glad to have him there.

"Well," he said, shaking off his surprise. "Do you have any better ideas?" When no one answered, Alex sighed. "I think we should do as Maria suggested. Get him to look at that mine where Cole was holed up. We can go with them and try to keep Tess and Hawkins apart. Maybe he wonít want to risk her life if there are other people around. While weíre looking around maybe we can find ways of showing him heís wrong."

"How?" Isabelle asked.

"Well," Max thought a moment. "Liz is pretty strong, a lot stronger than Tess. If Tess canít demonstrate the same kind of strength then heíll have to conclude he made a mistake. Liz could probably move boulders that Tess canít budge. Things like that."

"Manual labor," Tess mused. "Well, its better than trying to catch knives."

Max nodded in agreement. "Just watch for opportunities to prove that you canít do what a Slayer should be able to do." He sat back on the couch and looked thoughtful. "So what do we tell him about Seth?"

***********************************************************************

"Iíve found herÖ Yes, Iím certain." He frowned. "The signs led us to Roswell. I saw this girl send a vampire flying with a mere shove. The tests are mere formalities, but I will conduct them." His frown deepened. "Sheís not ready. She will require time to train and adapt as any Slayer doesÖ It would be foolish to waste her in such a way when there are other options availableÖ I donít like it either, but there may be no option but to request Miss Summersí help." The conversation was not going well. Travers could be so hard headed at times. Hawkins listened as patiently as he could to the arguments he already knew would be trotted out. He did have one trump card to play though.

"If we send her in unprepared, she will die. The mission will fail. If the situation is truly as grave as you believe it to be then we dare not risk it." He listened again as Travers essentially repeated what he had already said. "She is not ready," he snapped. "You will simply have to swallow your pride and approach Miss Summers." He knew it was a mistake as soon as he had said it. There was a tense silence at the other end of the line. Hawkins knew that the only thing that would make matters worse at this point would be to backpedal and try to make amends for his outburst, so he held his tongue. Finally, when the silence had dragged on longer than he had expected he tried again, "The protection of the Slayer was entrusted to me. What kind of Watcher would I be if I allowed her life to be thrown away? The girl is not ready. She will fail and almost certainly die if we throw her into the fray at this point. There is simply too much at stake." Finally, reason began to take its toll on the person at the other end of the line.

"Yes sir. Iíll keep you updated on her progress. Please keep me informed. If my assessment of the new Slayerís abilities leads me to believe she can handle this, then I will bring her in to assist." He hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. That hadnít been as bad as he had feared. Stubborn as Travers was, the man wasnít stupid. He wouldnít squander a valuable asset like a Slayer without good cause, and Hawkins wasnít about to let him.

After laboring in obscurity in the Councilís lower ranks for almost two decades he finally had the chance to work with a Slayer. It was what every Watcher aspired to, and he was not about to throw it away foolishly just because Traversí pride had been injured by the renegade from California.

He glanced at the clock. His meeting with the Slayer wasnít for another twelve hours and he hadnít slept for nearly two days. There were still preparations to make, but it was important to have a clear head when he was making them. Stretching out on the bed, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

***********************************************************************

Tess could see that her Watcher was not pleased at the gathering that awaited him. The CrashDown had been fairly crowded when he arrived, but Tess was there as he had requested. She had been sitting at the counter where she could watch the door and had spotted him as soon as he came in. Tess said something to Nancy Parker and the woman had nodded and gestured toward the kitchen door. "Follow me," she said simply. "We can talk in private." She had turned and walked through the door before he could protest, and he had followed, somewhat irked at having her take the initiative in such a fashion. He was angrier still to find a group of teenagers in the basement.

"What is this Tess?"

"Friends of mine. Donít worry, they already know." Tess bristled when she saw his thunderous look. "They are my family. I donít keep secrets from them. Besides, they already knew about vampires and vampire hunters." She looked at the others who kept carefully neutral expressions. "There was some trouble awhile back you see. I thought you might be able to shed some light on it, maybe give them some peace of mind."

"Indeed? Perhaps you should explain." One of the cardinal rules had already been broken. He had no one but himself to blame for not impressing the need for secrecy on her. In the long run it wouldnít matter. Roswell wasnít big enough to warrant a Slayerís presence, and unlike Sunnydale it didnít boast a Hellmouth. As soon as he got her to see the light she would be leaving town with him. There was no point getting angry with Tess. It would only serve to alienate her at this point.

"Introductions first." Tess motioned him to a chair. "Thatís Max." She indicated a dark-haired young man with a solemn expression. "This is his sister Isabelle." A beautiful young woman with long blonde hair nodded. Her face was more open than her brotherís, but still guarded. Hawkins got the impression that he made her nervous. "This is Maria." She indicated a shorter girl with blonde hair a shade darker than Isabelleís. She looked downright suspicious. "Alex." A tall lanky teenager only nodded, his face almost as blank as Maxís. "And you already know Kyle." The young man Hawkins had mentally dubbed Ďthe boyfriendí nodded and mumbled a greeting.

"A pleasure Iím sure. As Tess may have told you, my name is Nigel Hawkins. IímÖ an expert on supernatural phenomena and creatures." Tess nodded. They let that pass. Perhaps Tess and Kyle hadnít told them everything.

"Then you probably keep track of people who hunt vampires and other demons," Isabelle guessed. Hawkins nodded, wondering where this was going. "Does the name Seth Gecko mean anything to you?"

Hawkins blinked, recognizing the name instantly. "Indeed I do. The man is a menace. He leads a group of revenge bent fanatics that hunt vampires. They have a well deserved reputation for causing more problems than they solve."

"We know," Max said, nodding. "He and his group came through town a while back looking for a vampire named Cole. Itís kind of a long story, but his little feud came close to wiping Roswell off the map."

"What can you tell me?" Hawkins was now honestly intrigued. The teens glanced at each other uncertainly before Max began the story they had carefully crafted.

"We first learned about vampires and Seth and his feud with them by accident. He saved Isabelleís life when a couple of Coleís lackeys came through town looking for a meal. We were grateful and happy to help him when we found out what was going on. He wanted information about Roswell and about anything unusual going on. We filled him in as best we could. We didnít like the idea of a big group of those things coming through town, and Seth and his bunch seemed our only defense." He paused, looking down unhappily. "We didnít know at first what sort of person he was. The guyís a complete psycho. Yeah, he wants to kill vampires, but he doesnít care if innocent bystanders get hurt in the process. He was more than willing to have it out with Cole right here in the streets of Roswell." Hawkins stiffened, genuinely shocked at the prospect.

"What happened?"

"Weíre not entirely sure," Max allowed. "We knew we had to find a way to get them to fight somewhere else. From what Seth had learned, Cole had a lot of vampires with him. Since something like that is kind of hard to hide in a small town we figured that he had to be hiding somewhere outside of town, somewhere close." He looked at Alex and the other teenager picked up the story.

"Max had me do a computer search, looking for any place that might make a decent hideout for a bunch of bloodsuckers. You know, some place with plenty of room, minimal sunlight, that sort of thing." Hawkins nodded. "Well as you can probably guess, there werenít too many possibilities. We gave Seth our two best guesses and suggested that he would stand a better chance if he attacked them where they were hiding or set an ambush."

"That pretty much ended our involvement," Max said. "Seth took his people and left town. It was the last we heard of any of them." Hawkins didnít respond for a moment, too astonished by the tale to muster an immediate response. He knew that Gecko had a large group of amateur hunters with him and he had heard of Cole, an ancient and very powerful vampire. Was it possible that the two had wiped each other out? If the boyís tale was true it showed an admirable inventiveness and a cold-blooded pragmatism that Hawkins had to admire.

"You have no idea what happened after that?"

Max shook his head.

"There havenít been any armies of demons rampaging through the streets or any sign of Seth or his men. Weíd like to know what happened. Weíre pretty sure of where he went, but we havenít gone out there to see."

"Probably very wise. I can understand youíre concern. I will speak to my colleagues to learn what they know of this."

"Weíd like to know what happened," Max explained. "If youíre willing we can take you out there and try to find out."

This was unexpected. He had heard of Sethís activity in the area. It had been one of the things that turned up while he was researching Roswell and the surrounding towns for any sign of the new Slayer. No one knew the details, and the chance to find out what happened had a definite appeal.

"You think it would be safer with me along?" The teens traded dubious looks, but finally Isabelle spoke up.

"The only thing we really know about vampires is that you donít risk running into them unless you know what youíre doing. We donít, but you do." The others nodded in silent agreement.

"It is something that bears investigation. I should look into it," he gave Tess a possessive look that made her shiver. "Tess can serve as my guide."

"Tess doesnít know where it is," Max hastened to say. "Isabelle and I will need to go along."

It took some convincing, but Hawkins finally agreed, with bad grace, to let them come. He was forced to comply when Tess had declared she wouldnít go without them. Hawkins still needed to run the tests, and this little field trip would provide the perfect opportunity to do so. Assessing her skills was the first step in training her for her duties, and having the others around would not inhibit the process too much.

He knew that Tess didnít believe that she was the Slayer. It was an obstacle that he had been told to expect and trained to deal with. There were things that only a Slayer could do. Might as well get it over with. Investigating this incident would give them the perfect opportunity without actually risking her unnecessarily.

Getting organized was more difficult than he had expected. Tess had to talk Kyle out of going. Max delayed them for time as well. Hawkins didnít know what the delay was, and didnít care. The boy had invited himself.

***********************************************************************

"Come on," Max growled. "Who talks on the phone this much?" He hung up. He hadnít been able to reach Buffy Summersí home all day, and it was the only number he had. First there was no answer, then this constant busy signal. Max glanced at his watch. He couldnít keep the others waiting. Hawkins was already impatient.

Time to go.

Max rejoined the others and they piled into the jeep. His inability to reach Liz wasnít his only problem. Ever since their parents had found out about demons, even if they didnít know that he and Isabelle were half alien, they had become increasingly protective. All they knew was that Liz was the Slayer and did very dangerous work. Max could understand why they didnít want their children involved. That didnít make it any easier to help Liz though or to deal with any alien issues that cropped up. The recent discovery that there had been eight pods on the ship, maybe more, was something they would have to learn more about. Not having the slightest idea how to begin was the biggest obstacle.

He glanced at Hawkins who was silently fuming over having two civilians along for the ride. Ah, well. Misery loves company. It was nice to know he wasnít the only one frustrated by overprotective people. He wasnít being fair to his parents he knew, and it was possible he wasnít being fair to Hawkins either. He rather doubted it though. Max had watched Hawkins closely, remembering what Tess had said about the possessive way he had looked at her. It looked like her worries were well founded.

They knew so little about the Watchersí Council. Wesley had seemed like a decent enough person, but one couldnít judge from just the one instance. Is Hawkins a more representative sample? That was no good. They needed answers, not more questions. They might not have answers, but they had, he hoped, the beginnings of a solution. They needed a plan. Liz always has a plan. Playing it by ear, hoping for the best, relying on luck. They did it more often than he liked.

Would it be enough to convince Hawkins he was wrong if Tess couldnít do what a Slayer could? They hadnít found a way to explain her throwing the vampire, but they would be satisfied if he could live with the mystery. If. Too much was being left to chance.

***********************************************************************

The land near the silver mine, where the battle had taken place, was an especially desolate stretch of ground, Max thought. Or maybe it just seemed that way. He tended to remember the battle in flashes. Mostly he saw the faces of the people he couldnít save. Occasionally he saw and even thought he could smell one of those bodies burning. He remembered how the battle had raged around him, made visible by that macabre light.

A glance at Isabelle showed him that she remembered as well. Her skin had taken on an unnatural pallor and she trembled slightly when passing a particular rise or ditch. Hawkins was too busy speculating and looking for evidence to notice his guidesí reactions. Tess noticed though. She had flatly refused to take part in the effort. Vampires werenít their problem she had insisted. It was foolish, she believed, to risk themselves in order to help the hunters in their fanatical quest to rid the world of vampires.

She had been almost flippant, she recalled. Now, watching Max and Isabelle as they remembered that night, she felt anything but flippant. The pain the memories caused them tore at her conscience. Max had said nothing to her about what happened that night, and Tess had simply been glad to have him back safe. How had she not noticed? She glanced at Isabelle and found the other girl staring into a small gully. Hawkins came back to join them and looked down, aiming his flashlight at the area that held Isabelleís attention.

"Well spotted," he praised her as he descended the small slope. "I would surmise that these are the remains of one of the hunters." The blackened bones scattered about were obviously human even though some of them, including the skull, were missing. Hawkins droned on, unaware that Isabelle was trembling violently, barely able to hold her own light steady. Tess placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"It is not uncommon," Hawkins lectured, "for vampire hunters to burn the remains of fallen comrades or victims in order to keep them from rising as vampires." Tess looked back and forth between Max and Isabelle. Max nodded grimly as Isabelle turned away. Hawkins went into details about the means vampires used to change humans and the preventative measures that needed to be taken. Tess felt her stomach heave. "Burning the body is rather extreme, but it is efficient and prevents even the possibility of a new vampire being born."

"So," Tess interrupted, a little louder than necessary to stop the lecture. "This confirms that the battle took place here?"

"Iíd say thatís a safe bet," Hawkins agreed straightening up. He noticed the reactions of the three teens. "Oh. I am sorry. This is a bit much for you I suppose." He climbed out of the gully and quickly led them away. "I have spotted shell casings as well," he added. "Guns wonít kill a vampire, but they do hurt. Seth Gecko has been known to use guns in his battles. First wounding and then killing a vampire is an effective technique I suppose." They entered the relatively flat plain near the mine entrance. Here also, there were signs of the battle.

"I saw some of the things Seth was taking with him," Max spoke up. "He had flare guns and several bottles with twisted pieces of newspaper stuck in the neck."

"Molotov cocktails," Hawkins said, nodding. "Those bottles would be filled with oil or gasoline. Light the fuse and throw one into a group of vampires. Very effective." He pointed out the large area near the mine entrance where time had not completely erased signs of blackening. "Here. I suspect one was thrown into the crowd as the vampires emerged from the mine."

"Good place for an ambush," Tess commented looking around. The area immediately surrounding the mine entrance and the out buildings had been leveled by heavy equipment to make it easy for trucks to come and go. Beyond the leveled area were a series of small hills and ridges that had begun their lives as debris cleared from the mine entrance. There were piles of dirt and stone that gradually gave way to a natural landscape farther from the mine. Scrub had eventually grown on the artificial hills and ridges, making it difficult to distinguish them from the natural formations. Both Max and Isabelle remembered them well. Those same hills and ridges had provided excellent cover when they had ambushed Coleís group.

"Indeed," Hawkins nodded approvingly. "It would appear that that was just what happened. I believe itís safe to assume there was a huge battle here. Gecko was known to have a fairly large force. If Cole intended to face him he would have needed a large force himself, maybe dozens of vampires." Tess glanced at Max furtively and he nodded, again confirming the Watcherís conjecture. Hawkins, oblivious to the silent conversation, continued to speculate as he moved closer to the mine entrance. "I wonder if any of them retreated into the mine?" Measuring the distance with his eye from the burn on the ground to the mine entrance he opened his mouth to speak, but a voice from behind them interrupted.

"None of them did." They spun around and looked up. Atop the small artificial ridge directly behind them stood a huge humanoid figure. For a moment they could only stare at the newcomer. It descended the ridge in long strides, coming quickly into their midst. They backed away hastily when they got a good look at the stranger.

"What is it?" Tess breathed, getting her first good look at a demon. Hawkins took in the hairless head with the distinctive arrangement of horns and tusks.

"A Rokesh demon," he identified it, not sounding terribly concerned, but backing away nonetheless. "Basically a scavenger." It wasnít a terribly strong or vicious breed as demons went, but it was still more than he believed his untrained Slayer could handle. Best to try to scare the creature off, he decided. "No match for a Slayer." The Rokesh snorted contemptuously. It wasnít the reaction Hawkins had hoped for. He moved in front of Tess, and ignoring his stake, drew a long knife from inside the coat he had worn against the chill. A Watcherís first duty was to protect the Slayer, and he knew that Tess, untrained as she was, couldnít handle even this minor threat.

"And why should I bother with you?" the demon asked bluntly. This wasnít typical behavior for a Rokesh. They were scavengers, like coyotes, basically timid despite their fearsome appearance. Momentarily at a loss, Hawkins stopped his advance. To cover his confusion he asked the question foremost on his mind.

"What are you doing here?"

"None of your business. Go and Iíll let you live."

"Sounds good to me," Isabelle said cheerily. "Come on."

Hawkins was beginning to believe it might be a good idea. If the prospect of facing a Slayer didnít disturb the demon then it seemed unlikely that he would be able to defeat it.

"I suppose heís doing no harm out here," Hawkins allowed. "Very well." He lowered the knife.

"You would allow a Slayer to leave after discovering our presence here?" The voice from the mine entrance caused them to turn quickly. The figure that emerged was far more menacing than the Rokesh.

"Oh dear," Hawkins murmured as he caught sight of the creature. The teens looked at him.

"What does that mean?" Isabelle ventured. She looked back at the mine entrance to see five more Rokesh demons emerging behind the newcomer. "Oh. Never mind."

"Whoís brilliant idea was this again?" Max asked rhetorically. They quickly moved back to back as the demons surrounded them.

"Coleís treasure is ours," the demon in charge snarled. "You canít have it."

"What makes you think we want it?" Isabelle asked, eyeing the group in dismay. There was no way they would survive this without using their powers. Hawkins would see.

"Slayer," the first one to approach them practically hissed, staring at Tess.

"No," the demon in charge focused on her. "Sheís mine." Tess eyed the creature in a near panic as it moved towards her, intent on gaining the prestige that would come with killing a Slayer.

Is this what Liz puts up with? Tess marveled. How does she stand it? Hawkins put himself between her and the demon, brandishing his knife. The Rokesh kept their distance, watching gleefully for the first sign of blood.

Their leader, Hawkins couldnít place the breed at the moment, approached confidently. Hawkins lunged, but the demon sidestepped and backhanded him, sending the Watcher sprawling. It never took its eyes off Tess the whole time. Hawkins was on his feet in an instant and slashing at it again. The shallow cut along its arm only irritated the demon and it swung at him again. This time Hawkins ducked and stabbed.

The demon roared in pain as it twisted away from the blade that had found its way into its side under the ribcage. The next blow knocked Hawkins down again and sent the knife spinning. Glancing at Tess the demon hesitated a moment. Tess shrank away from it and the demon returned its focus to the Watcher. Hawkins was on his feet again, trying to draw the demonís attention.

Heís trying to protect me, Tess realized with a stab of guilt. Regardless of his motives or the fact that their current predicament was mostly the Watcherís fault, she wasnít prepared to see him killed.

Darting forward she reached for the creature, intent on Ďshovingí it as she had the vampire. With a snarl it swung back faster than Tess would have thought possible. Before the blow that she felt certain would take her head off could connect, she released the energy she had built up within herself in one massive burst, a second before she could make physical contact.

The snarl turned into a scream as the demon was flung back. Propelled through the air as if struck by speeding truck, it impacted with the support beam at the mine entrance with a sickening crunch.

Tess watched it slide to the ground amidst a small avalanche of dislodged stone. Harder than last time, she noted. Much harder. I am so screwed. She looked at Hawkins who was staring at her, mouth hanging open.

He closed it slowly and a thoughtful look crept across his face. "Is that what you did last night?"

Tess thought frantically. What could she possibly say? Isabelle saved her from having to make an immediate response. "Whatís with them?" Tess looked around to see the Rokesh hastily backing away. Hawkins looked around as well.

"Without their leader they are reverting to type." He glanced at Tess and spoke softly to her. She shook her head, but he persisted and after a few seconds she walked toward the nearest one and raised her hands, palms toward the creature. With a despairing wail it turned and fled. The others did the same. "It will take them a little time to sort themselves out and gather their courage," he told them, "but they will return. I suggest we be elsewhere when they do." The others quickly agreed and they set out for the jeep.

Once on the road, he gave Tess another thoughtful look. "Was that what you did last night?" he asked again. Tess didnít answer. "You neednít fear me Tess. Iíve kept bigger secrets than that of a lone telekinetic." Her head came around sharply and she stared at him.

"Te- Tele-what?"

"Telekinetic. It means you can move things with your mind." Tess continued to stare at him. "Did you think you alone possessed this talent?"

Not knowing how to respond to that she turned the question back on him. "There are others?"

"Oh yes. Itís very rare to be sure, but it does crop up now and then. Recently," he paused, considering, "there was a young woman in Los Angeles. A former colleague of mine ran into her." He was fairly certain that Wesley was unaware that the Council kept track of him and his vampire employer. They werenít constantly watched, but agents did look in on them from time to time and certain incidents couldnít help but catch the Councilís attention.

"She couldÖ"

He nodded. "As I said, itís rare, but not unheard of. Is that what I saw last night?" She nodded mutely, not daring to look around at Max or Isabelle for help. Max and Isabelle could only listen, not knowing what to do at this point. "Why didnít you tell me this before?"

"Why do you think?" Max stepped in, drawing Hawkinsí attention away from Tess. The jeep had slowed almost to a stop. Max pulled off the road and turned around so he could face the Watcher. He wasnít quite sure, but he thought he saw a light at the end of the tunnel. "Why didnít she tell you?" Like Tess, he turned Hawkinsí own question back on him. Maybe heíll give us the answer himself. It seemed too good to be true, but it was the best chance.

"I believe I understand why she would hide it. Fear of being seen as a monster, a freak." He turned back to face Tess. "There are certain varieties of demon that possess that ability, itís true," he mused, "but there is nothing inherently evil in the ability itself."

"ThenÖ What are you going to do?"

"Why thatís up to you. Itís not my place to say. You are not the Slayer and do not answer to the Council. You are, however, quite powerful. Can you control your abilities?" His tone was gentle, almost casual, but Tess could see that the answer was very important to him.

"I can. I had to learn to control them." It suddenly occurred to her why he was asking. "Donít worry. I donít use them to hurt people. The whole reason for learning control was so I wouldnítÖ hurtÖ anyone." That sounded familiar to her, but it took her a moment to realize that Liz had given the same reason for taking on Spike as her trainer. Michael had given the same reason for isolating himself after killing Pierce.

"Is something wrong?" Hawkins asked.

"I just realized something." She paused a moment, phrasing her next question very carefully. "Youíll be going to find the new Slayer right?" He nodded. "When you find her, youíll spend some time teaching her control?" He gave her an odd look.

"Of course. Itís an important part of a Slayerís training. A Slayer who hasnít been properly trained, who hasnít learned proper control of her reflexes and strength is a threat to others."

"Just like I would be if I didnít know how to controlÖ what I can do?" Her voice had a contemplative edge. She thought about Michaelís reaction after heíd killed Pierce and Lizís obsession with training. Hawkins watched her curiously. Tess smiled. "This Slayer of yours has a big job ahead of her."

"Yes, she does," he replied gravely. "What are you thinking?"

Max was beginning to wonder that himself. He eyed Tess curiously, not sure what she was going with this.

"Um, about some of the problems I had learning control. I had help, butÖ Well, nothing like a Watcher; someone there for the sole purpose of training me." Nasedo had been there to guard her, nothing more. He had taught her enough to keep her from accidentally revealing herself, and she had picked up a few things by copying him, but he hadnít been a teacher, let alone the father he had pretended to be for the sake of the few people they dealt with.

Liz didnít have a teacher either, Tess realized. Spike wasÖ Well he was Spike. The vampire grated on her nerves, and she honestly couldnít understand how Liz stood him. Realizing that she had trailed off and Hawkins was watching her expectantly. Tess shook her head. "I donít know. Um, I can control my powers fine, so Iím not a danger to anyone if thatís whatís worrying you."

"Thatís a relief, but I would like to make you an offer."

"Offer?"

He didnít answer immediately. Instead he took time, choosing his words carefully. "You did quite well against that vampire, but not as well as you could have if you hadnít needed to restrain yourself. Iím guessing you didnít want Mrs. Parker wondering about you, and that you shoved harder than you intended." Tess grimaced and nodded. "It occurs to me that these abilities of yours could be further honed. I will be in the area for a while, as I still believe that the Slayer is here and it is my sacred duty to find her and prepare her for the battles ahead. While I am looking for her, I want you to consider some additional training. Perhaps I can help you. Think about what you did tonight, and then think about what you could accomplish if you truly mastered your abilities."

"Maybe," Tess hedged, having no intention of doing so. "But I can tell you right now, Iím not getting involved in what the Slayer does." Hawkins couldnít quite hide his disappointment. "I mean the whole idea of demons scares me. Iím not going to take up hunting them."

"I understand the sentiment," he nodded. "Demons do exist though, and they are a threat. I hope you wonít allow yourself to forget that the way so many who have fleeting encounters do. Think of it as self-defense training if you like, and by all means take your time."

The drive back to Roswell was uneventful. Max and Isabelle told him that they had learned of Tessí talent by accident and had agreed to keep her secret. The previous evening there had been some speculation about mind warping the Watcher, but Tess had said that she couldnít affect a personís memory after the fact, not without consequences for the person she warped. Eventually, he would have remembered and that would have made things worse. Instead they had devised a plan that had worked almost by accident.

Max told Hawkins that the group he had met knew about Tessí telekinetic abilities, but no one else, and they wanted to keep it that way. Hawkins agreed to keep the secret.

The three teens told him part of the cover story that Nasedo had relied on for so long, making sure that there were no avenues of investigation into Tessí past, and they were careful to give no hint that there was anything unusual about them. Then they began to divert him, asking about others with strange powers.

Hawkins obligingly told them about seers and healers. He told them of the rare telekinetics and the even rarer cases of telepathy heíd learned of in his years with the Council.

"I had no idea," Tess breathed. "So many strange things."

"Most people donít want to know," Hawkins told them. "There are those who accept it as part of the everyday world without difficulty. They accept the existence of demons and vampires calmly and take sensible precautions. Others, however, do not react as well. Some refuse to believe in demons even when they see them. When offered unequivocal proof of the existence of the supernatural they work desperately to either rationalize or forget." He shook his head. "Frankly, we of the Council prefer it that way. It makes our work easier."

"I suppose I can see that," Max allowed. "I guess youíre wondering what category we fall into?"

Hawkins nodded. "That is really not my concern, but Iíll admit to being curious."

"Weíll do what weíve done since we found out about them," Max answered for the group. "We watch out for ourselves and our families. Thatís all we can do though." Hawkins nodded thoughtfully. It was actually more than he had expected from them. He glanced at Tess.

"Max speaks for me too," she told him flatly. "So donít think youíre gonna be seeing me in spandex and a cape." Hawkins was momentarily baffled, but then the reference clicked.

"Ah, I should hope not," he answered while trying to purge the unwelcome mental images that statement conjured up.

"I think Kyle might like the spandex," Isabelle offered her friend a suggestive grin. Tess turned bright red.

"On that note," Hawkins cut in, "I think Iíll be going." Max pulled up to the motel where Hawkins was staying and the Watcher climbed out with as much dignity as the vehicleís design would allow. He reached into his coat and handed Tess two items. One was a wooden cross, the other, a business card.

"I suggest carrying the cross with you. It wouldnít do to get caught by surprise again, and Iíd like you to think about my offer. I will be in the area for a while."

They watched him enter his room and made a note of the room number before driving away. No one spoke for a while. No one knew quite what to say. Max drove to Tessí home while Isabelle used her cell phone to call the others together.

***********************************************************************

"Well, that worked outÖ uh, I wanna say well, but-"

"I know Kyle," Tess assured him. "The only thing that saved me was that your planet turned out to be weirder than we thought, and I didnít think that was possible." Kyle managed to look hurt.

"He said that telekinetics, healers and the like were rare," James Valenti spoke up. "Any chance that some or even most of them have ties to your planet?" Max shrugged.

"I donít know sheriff, but I think itís something worth pursuing."

"Set that aside for a minute," Kyle interrupted. "Is this guy really gonna leave Tess alone?" Tess looked up from her brooding and smiled slightly at his concern. Kyle was being protective again. I think I like that. It was the first thing sheíd been happy about that day.

Neither Max nor Isabelle had said anything about Tess using her powers, and the others hadnít commented either. No one was happy about the way it had turned out, but no one had suggested that she should have let Hawkins die either. Nasedo would have been furious with her, she knew, but Max and the others accepted it as the only thing she could have done. An unfortunate necessity. Isabelle was saying something, she realized, and focused on the conversation again.

"He said he would," Isabelle confirmed, "but I donít know if we can trust him." There were noises of agreement from around the room.

"So we keep an eye on him while heís here," Maria said decisively. "We make sure that he doesnít find out about Liz or cause Tess any more problems."

"It seems that the only thing we can do is wait and watch," Max said, for once sounding frustrated at the prospect. "In the meantime, we can contact Wesley and see what he can tell us about humans with powers." He glanced at Sheriff Valenti. "Were you able to reach Liz?"

"I got through to Sunnydale about an hour ago, but was told that Buffy and Liz werenít there. I did get her Watcherís number though. We can try that in the morning." Max nodded, already moving on to other matters.

"So we go about our normal routine," Max said. "We keep an eye on him without doing anything to draw attention to ourselves."

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the details of keeping Hawkins under surveillance.

***********************************************************************

"Yes, admittedly I was mistakenÖ Her attempt to appear Ďnormalí fooled me as readily as it did the witness. On the upside I believe this girl may be valuable to us in the future. It would be worth our while to keep an eye on her." Nigel Hawkins listened patiently to his aggrieved superior. It had been an honest mistake and one that, he believed, any Watcher could have made. Travers disagreed, and he refused to see a Ďbright sideí to the whole mess.

"No sir, I still believe that the true Slayer is in the area. I would like to spend another week here." He had told Travers about the vampireís assertion that there was a Slayer in Roswell. Travers hadnít been impressed by his subordinateís source. Again, he listened impatiently. "Even if the Slayer does not reside in Roswell, I believe there is something else here worth investigating. One of the Rokesh I encountered said something about Coleís treasureÖ Yes sir. As you know Cole had a reputation for collecting magical items. If his hoard is indeed in this area, it is worth our time pursuing it. I also believe that Cole may have had another reason for being in New Mexico. I think he may have been on the trail of something elseÖ Youíve heard the rumors sir? Yes. I canít say that Iíve ever heard of this Granalith before, but if it is truly as powerful as Cole believes it to be, then it is not something that should fall into the hands of demons." He listened to Traversí instructions and nodded even though his superior couldnít see it. "Yes sir. Iíll keep you apprised."

NOT THE END

Index
Max/Liz | Michael/Maria | Alex/Isabel | UC Couples | Valenti | Other | Poetry | Crossovers | AfterHours
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