Disclaimer: The characters from Roswell, BTVS, and Angel don't belong to
me. I included some characters from a previous story called 'Zeppo?' See
the disclaimer there for reference to them. I don't want to give away any
surprises here. Regardless of their origin, I'm just borrowing them. I
don't gain anything by writing this.
Summary: A battle is looming between two dangerous groups, one demonic, one all too human, and the town of Roswell will be lucky to survive it.
|Anya loaded the last of the stack of dishes into the dishwasher and
turned to Liz, straightening up with a grimace. "Is it always this busy?"
She sounded a bit peevish. Liz smiled sympathetically. She knew the
"On Fridays? Yeah. This is a popular place. Not so busy most weekdays though."
"That's good. I forgot how tiring this can be."
"Well, almost done. Only a few people left." She glanced out the pickup window at the remaining customers. Deputy Hansen was there, having a late dinner. Hansen and a couple of factory workers just off the swing shift were all that was left. "Almost time for our dinner. Working here on an empty stomach gives you an appetite." Anya nodded, but didn't comment.
Liz wasn't usually one for snap judgments. There had been a few exceptions though, Tess notable among them. She had known instantly that she didn't like the blond. Anya on the other hand, she liked. The girl had a directness and habit of speaking her mind that Liz really liked. In some ways Anya reminded her of Maria without the hyperactive tendencies.
Maria. Liz hadn't spoken to her today as she'd intended. She'd felt herself drifting apart from her friends and didn't like it one bit. She had to get the whole group together soon so they could do something together, like old times. Yeah, a cynical little voice at the back of her mind whispered. You could all get captured by crazy alien hunters. That'd make for a fun afternoon.
She quashed the thought quickly but was still left with the fact that old times hadn't always been good. She shook her head ruefully as she walked out into the main part of the café. A young man she vaguely recognized came in. She looked at him more closely and realized that he had arrived with Anya earlier in the day. She nodded to a booth next to the door and turned back toward the kitchen to tell Anya of his arrival. She had almost made it to the pickup window when the door opened again.
There were sounds of alarm from the customers and she turned to face the door. There was something coming toward her. Bipedal, reptilian, with a large green crystal centered in its forehead. This she had time to take in before it attacked. Then all she could see was the very sharp sword it was swinging at her.
Liz avoided the first simply by stepping back, the next by leaning to the side and stepping back again, all the time looking for something to use as a weapon or at least a distraction. As she passed the pickup window she got both.
Anya had been shown earlier in the evening how to clean the fryer used for the Saturn Rings, but she had yet to do so. Let's hear it for procrastination, Liz thought as roughly a pint of hot grease struck the creature in the face. It howled, more in indignation than pain, Liz thought as she ducked a wild swing and found her weapon. The stools at the counter were set into the floor and had heavy iron bases. Had the instincts acquired from Faith not taken over she would never have considered one of the stools as a possible weapon. Now, she didn't think.
The stool came free of the floor with only a small sound of tortured metal and snapping bolts. The effort it took to tear it loose gave extra momentum to the swing as she brought it up. The impact didn't simply turn the demon's blow. It sent the sword spinning across the room.
Deprived of its primary weapon, it took a step back while reaching for one of the many knives it seemed to be carrying. Liz didn't give him a chance. Stepping forward as her opponent stepped back, she brought the base of the stool down from the initial swing and up under its chin in a swing that Tiger Woods would have envied.
Because of the seat, it was a bit awkward, but it did the trick. The demon was lifted off its feet, it struck and bounced off a table and landed in a heap near the door. It was down but not out. As Liz watched, it began to stir and grope for its weapons. The young man near the door had risen during the brief struggle and now stepped forward, aiming a solid kick at its forehead with a steel-toed work boot. The crystal centered there like a third eye shattered and the demon let out a strangled scream through its broken jaw before disappearing in a bright flash of light.
Everyone in the diner froze for a moment while their eyes adjusted. Liz recovered first and looked around. Her parents, who had retreated upstairs to work on the books pounded into the diner shouting questions, just as the front door slammed open and Spike barreled through ready for a fight.
Deputy Hansen was still sitting in his booth, apparently fascinated by the sword stuck in the wall a few inches from his head. Liz raised a hand trying to forestall the awkward questions.
"Liz," her father demanded, looking around frantically for the source of the commotion, "What happened?"
"Armed robbery," a voice behind her answered quickly, "or at least an attempt at one. I think you discouraged him." Liz turned to see Anya's friend smiling smugly. Spike was watching him with narrowed eyes. He then turned away with a muttered curse and faced Liz.
"You okay?" Liz nodded. Spike made a disgusted noise. "I should've spotted that van long ago. After it circled the block twice I should have realized they were casin' the place."
"Not your fault," she shook her head, then for her parents benefit added, "you had no way of knowing he was coming in here." Her parents, especially her father, were looking at Spike oddly now.
"Who are you?" Jeff Parker asked, looking over the dangerous looking man in the black duster. He sincerely hoped that this wasn't a new boyfriend. This fear at least was removed when Max Evans came through the door.
"Liz!" She practically lit up when she saw him and moved into his embrace. "Are you all right?"
"Fine Max. That was scary, but really no big deal."
"No big deal?" Deputy Hansen had recovered and apparently called for assistance. A siren grew loud as another patrol car turned the corner down the street. "There is a sword stuck in the wall, and you ripped that stool out of the floor." Everyone looked down at the seat that Liz had dropped on the floor when Max had rushed in. Jeff knelt to examine the base and the floor where it had been anchored with a baffled look on his face. Liz didn't have to respond immediately though.
Sheriff James Valenti chose that moment to come through the door. Thinking quickly, Liz concocted a story about a man in a fright mask who had tried to rob the place. The bright flash of light in which the demon had evaporated became a flare, which she speculated was intended to blind witnesses temporarily. It was pretty thin she realized, especially when she was asked about the stool she had ripped out of the floor. She merely shrugged and said "adrenaline… maybe?"
Valenti had to keep himself from rolling his eyes; he knew that her parents had to have an explanation that was at least vaguely plausible. Eventually though, all statements were taken and the place was emptied of customers and police officers. Liz's parents, still visibly shaken by the incident, closed the café and went upstairs. Liz lingered when she saw the sheriff's expression.
"Be up in a bit mom." She waited for her parents to get out of earshot. "Yes?"
"Now the truth please." He looked at those who were lingering in the café and noted the two strangers with concern.
"Its okay sheriff," Spike assured him. "They wouldn't be here if they didn't know about Liz. Only surprise is that the Slayer didn't come herself. What's up Xander? Buffy too busy makin' googly eyes at soldier-boy? Normally she wouldn't trust you with anything more than a highly dangerous doughnut gathering mission."
"It's nice to see some things don't change," Xander Harris reflected. "You're still pathetic, trying to compensate for you lack of bite with lame insults." Liz felt a twinge of annoyance.
"Buffy sent you? Why? To check up on me?"
"Well, I'll admit we were all curious to see how you were getting along with Spike, but actually I'm here about someone who's still dangerous." As he said this, he turned his back on the vampire, deliberately making it as casual a move as possible. "I'm tracking some dangerous people. I know they're in the area. I thought we might be able to help each other."
"Dangerous? Demons? What kind?" Xander shook his head.
"Not demons, demon hunters. It's a long story. Can we talk somewhere more private?" It was Friday, 11:00 P.M.
"So talk." Liz, Max, Spike, and Valenti sat on one side and at either end of the tables they had pushed together while Anya and Xander settled on one side. Xander suspected the arrangement was intentional. They were presenting a united front. That was not unexpected in a close knit group. What was unexpected was Spike's apparent inclusion in the group. Xander knew he'd have to get more details on that.
"First of all, what was that thing? Don't say it was a thief," Max told him.
"No. That was a Mora demon. They're assassins. The texts call them soldiers of darkness."
"Who would send an assassin after me? Who would even know about me?" Liz asked.
"That van," Spike said glumly. "I saw it near here, but I was back at the factory before I realized where I'd seen it before. It passed us on the road back from Galinas." He shook his head. "I should have spotted it sooner. Those vamps you dusted had friends. They followed us back here."
"Since when," Xander's tone was incredulous, "do vampires and Mora demons work together?"
"It's been known to happen. The Master occasionally had demons workin' for him, plus there's groups like the Order of Tarraka."
"Oh yeah, the bounty hunters you hired to kill Buffy." Spike nodded.
"Right," he confirmed, obviously feeling no remorse over the incident. Xander let it pass without comment or comeback, and moved on.
"Frankly, I'd prefer door number two. I don't like the idea of another vamp like the Master running loose."
"Is this attack on Liz related to the demon hunters you mentioned?" Max wanted to know.
"Why would demon hunters want to kill a Slayer?" Valenti asked.
"They don't. I think it was the group they're currently after that sent the Mora demon."
"Maybe you'd better start from the beginning," Max suggested.
"It's a long story. I guess it really all started in Mexico a few years back. This family, a father and his two teenage kids were headed down to Mexico for a vacation when they had the misfortune to run into these two brothers that were having um, legal problems. They forced the three of them to smuggle them into Mexico in their RV and take them to a little dive out in the middle of nowhere. What none of them knew was that the place concealed a vampire nest. To make a long story short there were only two survivors the daughter and one of the brothers who'd forced them into it. The others, and all of the remaining human patrons of the bar were killed." The Roswell residents traded disturbed looks but said nothing. The one called Max nodded for them to continue; his expression unreadable.
"They went their separate ways. Kate returned to the U.S. to try to pick up the remains of a normal life and Seth went into hiding in Mexico as originally planned. They'd managed to do a pretty fair job of wiping out the nest, but that wasn't the end of it. Seth made it to his sanctuary but didn't have long to relax. The place was a haven for all sorts of criminals, most of them probably deserved to be in jail, but none of them deserved what happened. At least that was Kate's take on it. The place was attacked by survivors from the nest and a fair number of other vamps they'd managed to round up. By the time the sun rose there wasn't much left. Seth and a hand full of others survived, and left the place behind. Seth bummed around for a while and eventually returned to the U.S. where he hooked up with Kate.
"Now Kate had found it impossible to go back to a normal life. She had taken up demon hunting as suicidal as that sounds, but she'd managed to survive and had gathered people like herself together. People who'd lost everything because of vampires. They've been making a name for themselves in the demon community ever since. Those who've managed to escape from them claim that they're incredibly violent and vicious. Believe me, coming from a vampire, that's saying something."
"It all sounds a bit far fetched," Spike commented. "I mean a nest of vampires in a bar? An army of 'em attackin' a town? It sounds like the plot of a bad movie. There'd have to be a major demon behind it all to control that many. Vampires usually aren't that big on cooperation." Xander shrugged.
"They never learned the details behind what was happening there, but the hunters are real enough. They showed up in Sunnydale about two years ago. That's where the problem starts."
"What happened?" Xander had Valenti's full attention now, partly because of the vampires, but mostly because the reference to the brothers. The name Seth sounded familiar to him for some reason.
"They started hunting in Sunnydale, a town with a fairly large demon population. Now under different circumstances we would have welcomed the help. As Spike can tell you, we had a hard enough time keeping the place from being sucked down into Hell when we had two Slayers living there." The vampire nodded. That was true enough.
"These guys were a real problem though. They wanted to kill demons and they didn't care what or who got in the way. More than once they burned down a building to destroy a nest. Even if they didn't set fire to it, by the time they were done it usually wasn't habitable. We ended up having to run them out of town, and that wasn't easy."
"Hang on a mo'," Spike looked thoughtful. "This the same bunch I heard about that tore up Willy's bar?" Xander nodded.
"They came close to killing him as well, but the little weasel has several back doors to the bar." He noticed the curious looks on the others' faces. "Willy is human, but most of his patrons are demons of one sort or another. He's one of Buffy's favorite snitches."
"Can we get back to why you're here?" Valenti asked. "Are these demon hunters in the area?" Xander nodded. "Why? Who ordered the attack on Miss Parker."
"The answer to both questions is Cole. He's a powerful vampire, nearly 800 years old and he has a lot of minions, twenty or thirty I think. Recently he and Seth have developed a serious hate for each other. They're heading for a showdown." He let the words sink in.
"Here." Max sat back looking pale at the very idea. "They're coming here." Both Xander and Anya nodded.
"'Fraid so," Anya said, "although frankly I think letting them fight it out might be best for everyone. Maybe they'll kill each other off and we won't have to do anything." Everyone stared at her.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my girlfriend, the very embodiment of pragmatism." Xander managed a rueful smile and Anya preened under the perceived compliment. He got up and went to the counter and returned a moment later with a paper cup. "Let me demonstrate the one flaw with that idea, or at least the main one." He set the cup upside down on the table. "Here's Roswell." He placed his right hand, palm toward the cup, on the table on one side of the cup. "Here's Cole." He placed his left hand on the opposite side of the cup in a position that mirrored his right. "Here's Seth." He clapped, flattening the cup between his hands. "Any questions?" No one said anything for a long time. Even Anya looked disturbed.
"So what do we do?" Liz asked finally. "We can't let them fight."
"We can," Anya corrected, "if we can find a safe place for them to fight. Somewhere out in the desert maybe." She held up a hand to forestall objections. "Seth, Kate, and the rest chose this Xander. They choose to fight vampires and demons. You're always saying that it was your choice to 'take up the fight'. No one forces you to risk your life. Why is it any different for them?"
"I guess its not," he admitted reluctantly. "Cole has to be stopped, but using them to destroy each other like you said, well that just sounds cold blooded."
"Maybe," she admitted, "but how do we keep them apart and still beat Cole and his bunch? I don't see a way, and from what you've told me Seth is pretty fanatical. If we try to stop them we'll have two fights on our hands. So that's out. We have to shift the fight away from town is all." She looked fairly pleased with herself and her reasoning as she glanced around the table. "So… How do we do that?"
Glances were traded around the table, everyone either trying to think of a way to implement Anya's idea or looking for an alternative. After several moments of silence Anya deflated a bit. "You don't know either huh?" There were noises and gestures of agreement from everyone. "Maybe we need a few more opinions," Liz suggested hesitantly. She glanced at Max who nodded reluctantly. "We'll get everyone together tomorrow, at the factory."
"I'll tell Isabel and Michael," Max nodded. "You get Maria and Alex. Together we can figure this out."
Cole watched the brawl that had started between a small group of his followers with vague annoyance. It was understandable. They'd been cooped up, not feeding off live prey for almost a week, all to mask their movements. Tempers were growing short and everyone was anxious to get on with the business that had brought them together.
Seth Gecko. Rot him. Over the last six months Gecko, Kate, and the crew that took orders from them had succeeded in running them out of three lairs. In the process they had destroyed almost thirty of his minions. Each time he had rebuilt his following, but each time Seth had attacked. The hunters had come close to killing him as well. Soon though, that wouldn't be a problem anymore.
It hadn't been easy, but he had raised a huge force, more than he'd ever tried to control before. As strong as he was, he knew that he couldn't control this number for long. But it wouldn't take long. It was Saturday, 9:00 A.M. Seth was in Roswell, and that night Cole would be too.
Cole. He was close. Seth could smell him.
"You're gonna wear a hole in the floor. Knock it off." He stopped pacing and looked over at Kate where she was sitting at the table field stripping and cleaning her favorite crossbow. She was the only one who had ever dared talk to him like that.
He wasn't sure why he tolerated it. There was a time when he would have killed her for that kind of presumption. Not now. Part of it was guilt he suspected. If it hadn't been for him, her father and brother would still be alive. Guilt had been a new sensation for him, but suddenly it had been there, and it was still there.
That wasn't all of it though. So much had happened since then. They had been together a long time, been to hell and back, literally. Pulling a seat from the table, he plopped himself into it. "What the hell's your problem?" he demanded.
"What's yours? We are close Seth. We've finally run the bastard to ground. This is what we've worked for for almost a year. You should be happy we're finally getting a chance to take him out."
"I am, but you're wrong. We haven't run him to ground. When an animal's run to ground its too tired to run any more. Cole's just tired of running. Killings have been up across the southwest. He's gathering his forces for a friggin' war."
"How many you think?" Seth shook his head.
"Hell if I know. Probably a whole damn bunch of 'em though. To make matters worse," he began in the tone he usually reserved for explaining things; the one that said he assumed his audience was brain dead, "Cole knows us. He knows how we operate. It won't be possible to take this bastard by surprise. It's gonna be a lot like the first time. They're gonna be vicious and we're gonna lose people. Maybe a lot."
For several years now the two of them had been gathering victims together. People who had lost friends and family to the demons, and they'd been giving them a chance at revenge. Not everyone wanted to be a part of it. Not all who joined stayed with them, having avenged their families or deciding that it was all just too much to deal with. Enough stayed though, that they always had a formidable fighting force. They had lost people before. Mike, a talented tracker and a crack shot with a bow, a man who had been with them during that nasty business in Sunnydale, had been killed three months before during a raid on one of Cole's hideouts. Kate had personally blown the head off the vamp that killed him.
Revenge didn't bring him back though. It never brought anyone back, not her father, not her brother, not any of the friends she had made and lost along the way. It wasn't about revenge for her anymore. She did it because it needed to be done.
Seth was different. He was still in it for revenge. He had lost his brother, the only person he loved, in the fight at the bar down in Mexico, and it would always be about revenge for him. Kate didn't understand how he could stay angry all the time, and it frightened her sometimes, but she knew she had to stay with him. They balanced each other. Seth was reckless and wild, not caring if he lived or died. Kate was the calm one, the planner. She had learned to fight, true, but she had also learned that it was brains, not brawn that won a battle.
She stared at Seth as she poured him a glass of whiskey to calm him. They were so different, and yet they both had the same mission, the same goal. It never ceased to amaze her.
"What?" he demanded. "What are you lookin' at?"
"Just thinkin' Seth," she said glancing away. "About how all this started. About how things've changed."
"Aww, don't do that," he griped as he tossed down the glass of 80 proof and reached for the bottle. "You're not gonna get all philosophical on me are you?" Seth considered any thought not of the moment or the immediate future to be philosophy or psychobabble. He especially he hated reflecting on the past. It wasn't an argument Kate wanted so she shook her head.
"Naa. I just depress myself when I do that. How do you want to handle Cole? I was thinking that if he is turning to fight us, and I'm sure you're right about that, then maybe it gives us a chance to choose the place then."
"Where we fight. It gives us a chance to set up a few surprises in advance you know?" Seth began to smile. Making a plan, almost like when he was planning a heist in the old days, except now the payoff seemed a lot more rewarding. He loved this part almost as much as he loved what came after his favorite battle cry, 'Kill 'em all!' It was Saturday, 10:00 A.M.
"I don't like this. You've known for over a year and said nothing?" Valenti glared at Xander Harris across his desk. The young man met his gaze unflinchingly. Valenti's office was not the safest place to talk, but it had been searched early that morning for bugs, and Valenti had decided it was as safe a place as any to meet. Besides, his files were there, specifically files on Seth and Richard Gecko. The two brothers were the reason he had asked Xander and Anya to come into his office before the meeting at the factory.
"That's right. Whatever else Seth Gecko might be he's a soldier in a war that has to be won."
"A soldier? He's a murdering thief! Do you know how many cops he's killed?"
"Do you know how many vamps he's killed?" Xander countered. Then he pressed on before Valenti could respond to that. "There is only one certainty about vampires Sheriff. They kill people. If one gets away it means that sooner or later, probably sooner, someone's gonna die because of it. I know Seth well enough not to have any illusions. He doesn't care about that. He only cares about killing as many of them as he can. It's something he's shown a real talent for."
"Think of it as community service," Anya suggested in the offhand manner that suggested that she was completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. Valenti just glared at her.
"I don't find that particularly funny," he said after taking a moment to calm down. Anya looked up from buffing her nails, a surprised look on her face.
"She's serious," Xander interrupted. "I'm not real happy with the situation either sheriff, but he's far more useful out here than he is in a prison cell. It's not exactly as if he's safe and sound in the lap of luxury you know? He leads a dangerous life moving from one rat hole to another. He could easily be killed in any of the fights he picks. Fact is he'd have a much better life, and a much safer one, in prison."
"Is that supposed to placate me? It isn't working."
"What are you going to do sheriff? Call in the state police and send all of your deputies to interrupt the fight to arrest him? You'd get a lot of people killed doing that and frankly I don't think we'll be able to win this without him."
"I can't turn a blind eye."
"Then at least delay trying to arrest him until after this is over. At the moment you don't even know where he is. You'll know soon enough though." Both turned to look at Anya. Slowly Valenti nodded.
"That makes a certain amount of sense." She smiled winningly at him.
"Good. That's settled then. Now, how do we get them to fight somewhere else?"
"I think I may have an idea about that," Xander said slowly. "Trouble is it'll mean trusting Spike." He laid out the basic idea. Neither of them liked it much, but it could be the only chance they had. It was Saturday, 8:30 A.M.
|Part 1 | Index | Part 3
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