DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dexter and Law & Order SVU do not belong to me, nor do the character contained herein, ‘cept for the original ones, like Jimmy, he’s all mine and no one else can have him. This is for fun, not money…suing is bad and provokes the wheel of Karma in a negative fashion…
AUTHOR'S NOTE: : I need to get this out of the way quickly. First of all, I try my best to backfill information from the previous two stories. I don’t think it’s wholly necessary that you read One Last Shot or Dark Passenger first, although it may help. Second, there’s a loose pattern to the scene shifts as they switch POV from character to character…I’ve been told that it can be a bit distracting, tough cookies on my end. There’s no way for me to go back and change it. If you pay attention and know the characters, it should click during or right after the first paragraph. The pattern goes BtVS character – SVU character – BtVS character. Third, thank you to my long suffering beta, Dirk. The poor bastard has to put up with my awful spelling. Last, read and enjoy, comments are unnecessary, but welcome if you feel so inclined.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Whedonist


Ch. 11 – What You Don't Know

Sitting back in the booth Olivia, Alex and I occupy, I observe the other patrons. Most of them look like they're enjoying their meal; some are talking animatedly to friends, family members or colleagues. A few lone patrons eat and read the paper or play with their phones. The three of us are no different. I picked the two ladies up at Alex's and we had enough time to stop and get a bite to eat.

So I've observed the new couple, or at least I think they're a new couple, for the past twenty minutes. Wrapping my head around the subtle changes in both of them has been fun. My partner smiles a bit easier and I think this is the first time I've heard Alex laugh at something not related towork. I mean she laughs when she knows she has a suspect or their attorney by the short hairs, but it's a different kind of laugh.

She's different now, and not for the worse either.

"So, Elliot," Olivia asks, "what do you think of the F.B.I. deferring to Buffy as the lead?"

"I think," Alex starts in, "that it's not only the two federals that came in. The federal prosecutor seemed keyed up to know more about Detective Summers too."

I shrug. I haven't told them about the conversation I overheard the other day. I mean what exactly can I say? 'Hey, Liv, what do you know about vampires? 'Cause the leads on the cases think that the perp's one of the undead.'

That would get me locked up for sure. She'd be forced to go to Huang and Cragen and I'd be put on leave.

As much as I love and trust my partner, that conversation isn't one I'm willing to have. Not right now at least.

Right now, I need to dig a bit more and see if I can find anything on the feebs that have come in.

"I don't," I respond and then take a drink of my coffee. "I mean from everything that we've learned about them, I think Buffy's connected to say the least. She has to be."

Both of them nod their agreement.

I try for a topic change, point a finger between the two of them, and ask, "So, this is the second time I've picked you up at Alex's place, Liv. I've also seen you two come in together a few times." I smirk. "There something you want to tell me?"

Olivia throws a dry, piece of crust at me and says, "Keep it clean, Stabler. Besides…" she falters.


Alex picks up for her, "There isn't anything to tell you. We're two consenting adults." Her arms fold across her chest and she looks at me, daring me to challenge her.

I brush the piece of toast away and decide on what I should do. We all know the unspoken. We all know that because of my religion I might have issues. They're right. I do.

I don't understand it, but I don't understand a lot.

What I do know is that there's a little light in my partners eyes and Alex seems happy. A small part, the jealous part that is attracted to Olivia and loves her more than I should, gets told to shut up. I know I need to do what any good partner would do. Especially given that Olivia and I are as close as we are.

I turn a set jaw and glower in Alex's direction. I puff my chest up and point a finger in her direction. "Alex, let me say a few things about this." A glance at Olivia tells me that she's worried. "I know my religion doesn't like this," I waggle my finger between the two of them, "On some level, I agree."

Alex's face shuts down and she puts on the lawyer face. Olivia gapes at me a little.

"I also know when right is right and wrong is wrong. I think the Church is wrong. I don't get it. I don't have to get it. Love is what it is and if it's what you two have, I should condemn that why?"

Relief washes through both of them and I finally grin. I let it hang there a moment before I start back in seriously, "But I swear to God and on the lives of my kids, you hurt my partner, you have to deal with me."

Both exhale at the same time and Alex gives me the best smirk she has. It worries me just a little. Olivia looks at the table and I track her left arm, figuring that she's holding on to some part of Alex's leg.

It takes a few minutes, but Alex looks at Olivia and then me. "Detective Stabler, should I have that in written, formal legal documentation? I can have the paperwork delivered for you to sign this afternoon. I'm sure threatening an officer of the court will look nice in your jacket."

My face breaks into a grin. "For my partner? Hell yes, you better."

The tension breaks and we all laugh. Olivia nods in my direction and I give her a wink. She's more than family. It's the least I can do.

I go to stand up, slip my jacket back on and say, "Liv, you get to buy breakfast."

She rolls her eyes then nods. "Why don't you head on in El," my partner says. "Alex and I will catch a cab."

I look between the two of them and shrug. "Alright, I'll catch up with you two in a few." I head for the door and look back at my partner and my A.D.A. Alex gives me a wave and I slip on my sunglasses.

I hit the car and take off to the one-six. By the time I sign in and hit the bullpen, Munch and Fin are at their desk bickering. I watch them as I hang my jacket.

You know, I sometimes wonder about them, they argue worse than a married couple with none of the benefits. I shake my head, that's not right. Munch and Fin in bed together are thoughts I don't even want to think about thinking about.

I know that Liv and I have been accused of sleeping together. I'm sure there a few cops who think that. I'd be a liar if I didn't say I hadn't thought about it too. I mean Olivia's a great woman.

But, I have Kathy. Which is another set of problems I just…I love my wife. I just can't be sure that I'm in love with her.

"Hey Stabler," Fin calls out, coming over with an envelope in his hand.

"Morning you two." I sit down and flip on my computer screen. I'd bother to log out, but it always seems pointless.

He flops the envelope on my desk and says, "Trish from records brought those by for you. Where's Liv?"

"She had to finish up a couple loose ends this morning. She'll be in later." I pick up the envelope and slit the seal with my finger.

"Cool. Hey, we're gonna go round up Coopersmith later today, you wanna crack at him?" Fin asks.

"You mean the last of the pervs Gutierrez fingered?" We brought in three men so far. Troy Coopersmith, an investment banker with three kids and doting wife, is the last of the lot.

Fin nods.

"I gotta see what's going on with the joint case, but hell yes."

"Cool, if you aren't here I'll text you and let you know when we bring him in." With that he walks back to his desk to finish off some of the paperwork the collars brought his way.

I turn my attention back to the paperwork Trish dropped off. Three, thin manila files and a hand written note slip free.


I couldn't find a lot. Even with my contact in the State Department. Here's what I got. Hope it helps.


The first jacket contains the bare facts of Isabel Cohen, Assistant U.S. Attorney. I read over her educational background and nothing jumps out. When Trish said she couldn't find much, she meant it. What she essentially brought me is the girl's resume.

I sigh and open the second. The front page of Special Agent Satsu Takeda stares back at me. Again it's the basics, a color photo, educational information, job description, residence and contact information.

I look at the schools and pick up Cohen's folder again. I hold them side by side and see that they both went to the same school. They overlapped for two years at the Holland Institute for Girls in Reading, England. A tingle causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up and I lay them both down to pick up Amanda Kramer's. A glance at her school history and I see that she and Satsu graduated together from the Institute, Yale and the F.B.I. academy.

The other thing, the thing that really gets me is that all three are listed as 'on loan' by the U.S. government as consultants for The Watchers Council LTD.

Son of a bitch.

I shift in the only semi-comfortable chair in the entire damn hospital. On the T.V. the channels flick by as Deb impatiently hits the remote on the side of her bed. I look over at her and smirk. She don't talk much, but she's an alright girl.

I know she's been through hell. Fact is I can't seem to think of what being locked up for weeks on end being tortured would be like. I don't ever want to know. But the thing with Detective Morgan that I've seen is that she's definitely a fighter. She's old school cop.

She mumbles and tries to shift in her bed. The cast on her leg and arm can't be comfortable. Combine that with the broken ribs and I'm sure even the pain killers that they have her on aren't helping a whole lot.

"You need anything?" I ask.

She glares in my direction for a minute before those big hazel eyes of hers blink and soften. I offer a sympathetic smile and she sighs.

"I hate hospitals," she states, like she was telling me my shoes untied.

I snort and laugh. "There ain't a cop around that loves sittin' on their ass in a hospital watching bad T.V."

I get a soft laugh out of her and try to at least take her mind off the situation. "Ya know, when I first got my shield, years ago, I was laid up at Saint Anthony's for about two weeks. Worst two weeks of my life and that's including the year I went through my divorce."

"Oh yeah," she says. "What happened?"

"Right place, wrong time." I shrug. I'm trying to decide on whether or not I should tell her the whole story. It's not long, but it's not a happy ending at least not for the other people that were involved.

Of course, there's not a whole lot going on right now that I'm happy about. I'm still a little sore that Cupcake held back on the feebs. And really that ain't it either.

New York is my home. Or was my home. Now, the way I see it, is that the city don't belong to the creeps that go bump in the night. It belongs Cupcake, Red and me. My partner staked her claim and no other slayers have been allowed to set up camp. She's forbidden Princess from setting up an outpost here. Buffy said she'd take care of New York.

I think it's 'cause she doesn't want to have to deal with anyone from that part of her life. I get that. I respect that. It's why I help when I can, even though I feel like I'm out of my depth when I go patrolling with her.

Then with the feebs, it's like their encroaching on my territory with my women in it. And I know that sounds… Cupcake would tell me that it's the guy thing getting in the way. Like when we're bringing in groceries, I carry the most bags even though I know Buffy can bench press my weight and then some. She says that my penis gets in the way of my thinking.

She's right sometimes. Sometimes it's 'cause I love both her and Red and I wanna help take care of them as much as they take care of me. It's a funny thing but Buffy fosters this ability to create a loyalty to her that can't be explained.

Ah well.

I refocus on Debra and I smile at her. Even through the bruises and the cuts, I can tell she's a gorgeous woman. I sigh, relenting. "You really wanna hear this?"

"Sure, I got nothing else to do." She tries to smile for me, but the stitches prevent her from doing it effectively. The efforts appreciated.

"It was my third month with my detectives shield. My partner, Joe Tudesco, and I were following up on this embezzlement scheme." I sit forward in my chair and lean on the bed with my arms folded for support. "So we're at this bank down in the financial district. Routine questioning of a guy that was implicated. So this guy's kinda a big shot up on the higher floors. We get shuffled into his office quiet like and he's sitting at his desk."

I adjust and see her wince. Carefully, I take my weight off the bed and scoot the chair closer to talk to her. "So we start in and the more questions we ask the more fidgety this cat gets. No big right?" I smile at her.

As a cop, she knows. She rolls her eyes and rasps, "It's always a big deal. Fuckers can't stand to lose their money."

I wink at her. "Exactly. So we question, he answers and then on a hunch I ask about one account that we were working because the numbers didn't add up. The guy, Louis Stanbaugh, just goes ape shit. He pulls out this little thirty-eight special. Before I even have time to respond he pops Joe in the chest twice and then me. I was told he put the gun to his head afterward."

I stand and pull out my shirt. Unbuttoning the bottom half, I open it and show her the two scars from the first and only time I've been shot. Her good hand reaches out and runs over the scar on the right side of my stomach; the other is half hidden by the waist of my pants.

"Fuck. That had to hurt." She takes her hand back and looks up at me.

"It didn't feel good. I was in surgery for a while." I rebutton my shirt and forgo tucking it back into my pants. I ain't goin' anywhere else today. I should have just worn some comfy jeans and sneakers, but old habits die hard and I'm still on the clock.

"What about your partner?" she asks.

My jaw clenches and I shake my head.

"I'm sorry." She looks away and sighs.

"It's part of the job." I give her good hand a squeeze and try to pull away. Her hand clenches mine.

"It is, but it wasn't supposed to be for Dexter. He's the only family I have left." Her eyes well up and I reach in my pants pocket for my handkerchief. I don't bother passing it on to her. Instead, I dab at her eyes and give her a soft smile.

As delicately as possible, I broach the subject, "Yeah, but Sweetcheeks, your brother ain't exactly Don Knots, ya know?"

She snorts, laughs and cringes all in one go. Still holding on to my hand, she regains her composure and says, "No he isn't, and don't make me laugh it hurts." Her face screws up a second and then she glares at me. "And what's with the 'Sweetcheeks' bullshit?" I shrug and she rants, "It's fucking sexist."

I shrug again, but say, "I guess. I mean I don't really think of it that way. I can stop if you want."

"You haven't even seen my ass, that's what gets me." Her eyes twinkle a bit and I know she's just teasing me.

"Why do you gotta assume that I'm talking about your ass?" I run a knuckle over her unabused cheek and wink. "You got a pretty set of cheeks right here."

For that she let's go of my hand and tries to punch me. I back away and hold my hands up. "Hey, assaulting a police officer, I can run you in ya know?"

Her eyes light up. "Would you? I can really use some time out of this damn hospital."

"Not on your life. You're stuck until the docs tell me otherwise." I nod my head firmly and an idea hits. Making a note to check when she's sleeping, I ask, "Look, Debra I know you know about everything." I walk over to the bed and sit back down. "The other detectives don't know. I'm not sure they're gonna know."

She looks at me and reaches for my hand. I give it to her as she says, "I figured as much. You know, there are days that I wish I didn't know. That I didn't take that call. That Dexter never fucking told me about what he is."

"I know the feeling," I admit, "but, it doesn't change how you felt about him and I get that. Hell, I even get why you kept his…" There's no delicate way to say this so I just jump right in, "his serial killings to yourself."

Her head snaps in my direction and she spits, "Do you? Because, Christ, there are some days that I can't figure it out."

I shrug and say, "Out of love. And the cop in you. We've all been there, everyone on our side of the fence. Dirt bags get off scot-free for murder, abuse, rape and the worst is when they touch kids. We deal with the fact we couldn't get what was needed to make the arrest or that we just didn't do our jobs good enough." I squeeze her hand and force her to look at me. "The truth, Sweetcheeks, is that sociopaths don't change their spots. But your dad did the best he could with Dexter. And you obviously love him. I'd also bet an arm that in his own fucked up way he loves you too. So, I may not like what he did, but there's a part of me that respects it."

She laughs bitterly and says, "You're fucked up."

"Maybe," I say. "Don't change the facts or what we feel." I reach and lower the T.V. then hit one of the overhead lights by the bed, darkening the room. It maybe afternoon, but we can try to get her some sleep. "Why don't you relax? Take a nap. My partner's on it and you know Buffy. She's gonna find Dexter." I wink at her. "She's also gonna kill the monster that did this to you."

She gives me a half smile. I'll take it. I watch as she closes her eyes and keep hold of her hand well after she's drifted off.

"You look beautiful," Olivia breaths into my neck. I pull her tighter to me as the cab drives north, away from Olivia's apartment.

Today was such an incredibly long day. First, just to prove that I could, I got into a near shouting match with a defense attorney in the middle of Petrovsky's court. Then I lost the motion to suppress on the Deheary case. I think the highlight was right after lunch, after I had spilled the coffee on my skirt, when I got a sizable dressing down from Donnelly during jury selection.

If it hadn't been for Olivia promising me a night out that I wouldn't forget, I would have gone home, taken four shots of the tequila I brought back from Mexico and called it a night. Instead, I find myself dressed for a modest evening out on the town with my favorite woman in the city.

I suppose it could have ended worse. The only problem is I have no idea where she's taking me. She said out to dinner. That was all I got out of her. I tried stern, forceful, pushy and superior, but none of them have made her talk.

With her pressed against me in the backseat, wearing dark blue jeans and a fitted button down top, I want to try a different tact. I, myself, opted for a low cut black v-neck sweater and my cashmere scarf with a pair of skinny jeans. When I picked her up, it had made her look twice.

I can use that to my advantage. Slowly, I let a hand trail up her leg, curving in on her thigh. Her breath increases in pressure on my neck and that's when I whisper, "Where are we going?"

Her hand stops mine from going further and she laughs softly in my ear. "Councelor, I had thought you were above petty attempts of using your looks to garner you privileged information?"

I blush slightly and pull back, looking her in the eyes. I shake my head and smile at her. "It would depend on whom I'm trying to coerce, detective." I pull her to me and press our lips together.

Her softness impresses me as the kiss deepens, sending heat from the pit of my stomach outward. Her tongue ghosts over my bottom lip and I open up, letting her inside. She somehow manages to reverse our positions as I feel myself being pressed against the vinyl seats of the car.

As we break for air, I notice the car's stopped moving. I look out the window and see traffic whizzing by. Liv's head snaps to the front and we both see the driver turned in his seat with a huge grin plastered on his cherub features.

That's really creepy.

She tenses on top of me and I grab her hand. Looking at me, I shake my head.

"I guess," she says running a hand through her hair, "we're here."

She steps out of the cab and I try to toss a twenty through the payment slot, but he blocks it. "Free ride. You guys ask for cab two-seven-two-five-four-eight if you ever need another ride anywhere."

I roll my eyes and put the money back in my coat pocket. Pervert. I should have Olivia run him in, but that would spoil this evening. After the hell today has been, only the apocalypse could stop me from enjoying my evening with the city's finest detective.

She holds the door open to a building with a sign above it that reads, "Tweety's". I point up at the sign and raise my eyebrow in question.

She makes a motion with her hand telling me to get inside. I follow the instruction, but am now supremely curious as to what and where we are. Stepping inside the building, I'm hit with soft warmth. The lighting in the place is nice. Not too bright, not too dark, although it does lean towards the dark and mysterious atmosphere the place has. There is a girl checking coats to my left and I step up to the counter, removing the beige cashmere coat and black scarf from around my neck. I take Olivia's jacket and hand her that as well.

Accepting the ticket, I turn to my date and smile. She returns it in a soft smirk and leads me to a woman standing behind a reservation desk. She's a small, blonde girl with big green eyes. Her face breaks into a smile when she sees us approaching.

"Two?" she asks in a perky fashion. I think maybe they should cut back on her caffeine intake.

Olivia only nods and I follow her as we are led into the restaurant. As I look around this place, whoever designed the interior did so with couples and intimate diners in mind. It's all booths and no tables. The booths are a deep cherry red and high to absorb the conversation while keeping out the noise of neighboring tables.

I glance to my right and see a small stage set up for a quartet. Jazz club, I wonder? I know Olivia likes some jazz, but this seems different. The crowd here is a little younger. This is actually somewhere I feel Willow and Buffy would go.

I sit back and enjoy the atmosphere and the company. Liv and I make small talk as the waitress brings us our drinks.

"Alex, I know we decided not to talk about work, but I have a question."

I laugh. "Well then by all means, one question won't hurt either of us."

"Have you had much interaction with that A.U.S.A?" she asks. I figured federal agents coming in would upset her.

To say that our track record working with the federal government was horrific would be putting it mildly.

"Not really," I answer honestly. "She just wants me to call her if anything major happens. Why?"

Olivia shakes her head. "We haven't seen much of the F.B.I. agents that came through. I was curious." She's about to say something more, but instead, she points to the stage and I turn my head to watch a band take the stage.

All four are young, twenty-something's. Two girls and two guys grace the stage. One girl takes her place behind a keyboard and what looks like a turntable while the other picks up the guitar. The tallest man of the group settles in behind the drum kit and the other positions himself in front of the microphone.

The server comes by with our drinks and I greedily down the martini, asking for another as soon as the empty glass hits the tabletop. The server shrugs and scurries off to fill the order. Olivia's eyebrow is raised and I laugh at her shocked expression.

"Liv, it's been the day from hell. That first drink was to take away some of the stress. I'll sip the next one."

"Hello, ladies and gentlemen," the man in front of the mic says. "We're River's End and we'll be your entertainment for this evening." His voice is deep and smooth. "We would be most appreciative if all the couples would join us up on the dance floor for our first song of the evening."

I look at Olivia and figure one dance couldn't hurt. She shrugs and we follow up a few other couples to the small dance floor in front of the stage. Not wanting to let her get away, I wrap my arms around her waist and pull us together. I've waited way too long to be able to do this with her.

She looks at me. Unresisting the request in her eyes, I lean in to kiss her soundly as the drums start a slow beat. The synthesizer kicks in while the guitarist joins in on the fun. The music is soulful, but current. As Olivia's hands trail down my body, we move to the music. My head rests on her shoulder and we step in time to the music.

She brought me to an R&B club. I'm mildly amused by that fact, but not too surprised. Detective Benson is usually full of surprises.

"Alex," she whispers into my ear. "I know we haven't had a serious talk about us. About what I want and what you want." She spins me around and I pull my head up to look at her. Her eyes shine from the stage lights and the lyrics of the song being sung seem…serendipitous.

"I was hoping it was an unspoken agreement," I tease.

She nods. "I tried to; I fooled myself with one guy while you were away. I thought I could."

We move side to side, swaying with the music as we talk. "Didn't work?"

She shakes her head and I nod. "I understand. More than you know."

"I want to be clear." She's earnest in her intentions for this evening and it's so endearing.

"You've made yourself clear, Olivia." I offer her a chaste kiss on the lips and then pull back. "I hope I've made myself clear over the past month."

She smirks and then pulls us together. Her lips cover mine. That's all it takes for me to be lost in her.

I've been lost in far worse places. I just hope I'm not found too soon.


Ch. 12 – Listed M.I.A.

At six in the morning, the pen at S.V.U. is quiet which is good. The cops that are around are too absorbed in their own tasks and the four main detectives aren't in yet. All good things for me, 'cause I'm going to deck these two.

Which shouldn't surprise. I'm a slayer turned cop whose need for violence to solve problems is only outweighed by the need to look good while inflicting said violence.

Amanda I know. She's usually okay, but her time out of Sunnydale and at the schools has made her….stiff.

"Ma'am," Satsu says, "The sweeps we did last night didn't bring anything in."

My teeth grind together and I swear if she doesn't quit with this 'ma'am' shit, she's going to find out just how hard a veteran slayer can punch.

"Buffy, there aren't any vamp…" I cut Amanda off and glance quickly around the room to make sure that no one heard her.

My hands grip two upper arms and I march them up the steps to the crash room. The last thing any of us need right now is more questions. I open up the door and shove both of the slayers inside. I slam the door and take a deep breath.

Amanda looks worried and as I look at Satsu, I can't tell if she's pissed or… nah, she's just pissed.

"Okay, first thing," I say, rounding on them. "No mention of vampires, demons, slayers or other things like us that nightmares are made of. Period. No one besides Jimmy is aware that's what's involved in these cases. Second, and more importantly, Satsu cut it out with the ma'am crap. I've got a name. Use it."

Amanda shrinks a little and Satsu nods.

"We clear?" I ask.

"Yes, ma'a…yes Buffy." Satsu's jacket opens and reveals her firearm as her hands go in her pants pocket. I would think of her as a serious Asian type, but there are streaks of color, red, green, blue and purple that are threaded in her ponytail. She also has the craziest idea of what slacks and jacket should go together. Although her choice in foot attire is commendable. Running in heels that are that thin usually means you have to throw the shoe out after one patrol.

It's a shame too. The ankle high boots she's wearing are really cute.

"Good, now that we have that clear, you two can fill me on what has and has not been done." I lean against the door and wait.

Amanda and Satsu look between each other and decide who's going to do the talking. Apparently, Satsu lost as she says, "The Miami portion of this is being handled. We have another set of slayers down there posing as F.B.I. so that we can keep each other in the loop." I watch as Satsu moves into a relaxed 'at ease' stance I've seen in the military and at the academy. "We did sweeps last night and found nothing. From what we could find out there aren't any vampires in the city that are attacking people. A few suck houses here and there, but all the vamps inside a forty mile radius are so scared of you being around they won't try anything."

"Yeah, it was kinda funny. We went into this bar last night, Buffy, and the bartender there like peed all over himself when we mentioned you," Amanda snickers.

Sharp almond shaped eyes turn to Amanda and she stops laughing. Satsu hisses, "I thought we weren't going to mention that. Someone of Buffy Summers' stature doesn't need to be given a blow by blow of our patrols."

Amanda rolls her eyes and I can't help but join her. Satsu needs to clue up. I look at Amanda and wink at her. She gives me a slight nod and I push off the door. Opening it, I allow her to slip through and shut it before Satsu thinks it's her time to go too.

One hand rests on my hip, the other I use to push her back away from the door. "There are few things you and I need clear up if you're going to stay here and help wrap this thing up." I poke a finger in her chest and start in, "Your job here isn't to patrol my city. It's to find the vamp that's done this. Considering that no one informed me right away of Dexter and the other two going missing, I assume that my sister thinks you're good. That may be. I won't know until you cut with the hero worship bullshit you've been sending my way and do your job. Amanda was with us in Sunnydale. She knows the score. Quit treating her like a kid. She isn't."

I step back and run a hand through my hair. Satsu looks up at me, frowning. "I'm sorry," she says. "I didn't think…"

"Think what? That being treated like a person counts?" I snarl. I should be nicer, but since when has that ever stopped me before. "You ever think about why almost everyone else from before is involved in the Council except Willow and me?"

She shakes her head.

"Gee what a shocker. Knowing Giles, Dawn and Xander, they've been spreading half truths and using me as a role model." I snicker, "Since when should I be used as a role model?"

I spin away from her to walk the length of the crib, folding my arms across my chest as I pace. I lose sight of the fact that Satsu's still with me as I continue to rant, "Was it the odd desire to bang vampires? Maybe it was my inability to let my friends help. Maybe they just think that it was how I led everyone around me into some freakish downward spiral ending in death and general mayhem."

I stop to pose casually as another idea hits me, "I know, it's my keen fashion sense and general air of whimsy."

"Stop," Satsu half shouts. She finally stands up to me. Meets me in the eyes like she would anyone else. "When Miss Dawn, Mr. Giles, Mr. Harris or Miss Lehane speaks of you and of Willow, they talk about how you lead with your heart. That it may have gotten you into some trouble, but it always steered you through the storm." She steps into my personal space. "They talk about how much love you have and how loyal you are to those that you care for. They talk about your ability to forgive and your passion for doing what's right regardless of the consequences."

She shakes her head and gives me her own bitter laugh, "They tell us all how much they love you. That's how they begin your story at every academy. I'm sorry you don't see that as a good thing."

Her hand drops from my arm and she backs away. As she approaches the door, she looks back at me and shakes her head. "I'm sorry if I've offended you ma'… Buffy, but whether or not you want it, you're a hero to every girl that's a slayer. Even if you don't see it. That's the neat part, you don't have to. You just are." With that she opens the door and strides out, head held high, leaving me alone in the darkened crash room.

I drop to the nearest cot and hang my head. Well, don't I feel like a complete tool now. God. I really am an ass. On the plus side, at least my family thinks I'm the coolest kid on the block. Now if only I could believe it.

This is why I don't have anything to do with the Council anymore. Well, I mean the other reasons are good too, but it's also the girls that come through. I don't have to see them. I don't have to see the women that I've signed an early death certificate for. I think I could handle everything else, but what they don't see is that it's my fault they probably won't get to be old enough to drink. They also won't ever understand that I'm just like them; I've just beaten the odds with the help of a bunch of morons who love me.

I sigh and stand. I need to not go anywhere near any of that psychological mess. Like not even approach it.

What I need to do is get my head back and focused on finding the vamp from our sketch artist's drawings. Find the crazy bitch and stake her ass if only to make some type of amends to Debra and Dexter.

They deserve at least that much.

I saunter into the station and find that this morning I'm not alone. The two F.B.I. agents sit at a makeshift workstation and Buffy's coming down the steps to my right. She nods in my direction and says, "Good morning, Raph." For some reason that makes her smile.

I still don't get the whole Ninja Turtle thing, maybe one day she can explain it to me. Today, I can't even seem to care. Last night with Alex is still fresh in my mind. It'll take more than Buffy and the weird shit that swirls around her to get me out of my mood.

Alex is amazing. Last night was just…I grudgingly left her this morning, recuperating in my bed.

"Morning, Buffy," I chirp back and start making some drinkable coffee. "Good morning to you two too, Takeda and Kramer. You want some coffee?"

Both agents nod their head and I look at them more closely. Both look a little tired and rumpled. I wonder when the last time they actually took a break was.

I finish with the preparations and let the coffee maker do its thing. Turning back to my desk, I smile at the messenger carrying a large package. "Can I help you?" I ask going over to greet the man.

"Yeah, I've got a package for a Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg. I tried at the," he checks the details and says, "Twenty-fourth Precinct, but her boss sent me down here."

"Yeah. Hang on." I turn to call for Buffy but she's right behind me. I step back surprised that she was there and wonder why I didn't hear her approach.

"Hi," she greets the courier. "I'm Buffy."

The guy snaps his gum and gives her a once over. "I'm sure you are."

She cocks her head to the side, missing it. In her defense, I step up and make sure he sees my badge. "Look kid, give her the package and scram."

He backs down and hands Buffy the clipboard. She signs and takes the awkward package. The kid gives us a slight wave and I glare. Smart ass.

She bounces over to her desk and I notice that Jimmy isn't with her for the first time. With them living together, I'd assume they'd come in together, but…

El's not here yet, Munch and Fin caught the night rotation so they'll be in later.

Curious, I go stand by her desk as she shoots off a message with her phone. We both look over the package and if I didn't know any better, I'd say it was a picture or art of some kind beneath the brown wrapping paper. The script on the label is neat and it looks familiar. I wish I could place it, but…maybe a gallery down in the village?

Buffy looks at me and I shrug. She sighs and leans against her desk. "Will needs to get here soon. I want to open it."

"Patience?" I ask.

"Isn't something I think I've ever had. It got left out of my D.N.A." She grins and drums her fingers against her thigh.

"Jimmy?" I ask again. Maybe I can make a game out of how many one-word questions I can ask.

"At the hospital. Debra's awake and we're trying to jog her memory."

"She was tortured for weeks on end and dumped. She was left for dead in New York City during the winter. We'll be lucky if she can make a positive I.D. on the perp when we get 'em in custody."

Buffy shrugs while the feebs take an active interest in the conversation.

They won't speak to me for some reason. They'll smile and nod, but all questions get directed to Summers. I'm about to ask one of them why, when Willow comes breezing through, her usual bubbly self.

"Hi!" She waves at everyone in the room, but makes a beeline for Buffy. This is something that I've been interested in seeing. Neither one seem intent on hiding their relationship with each other, nor does Buffy hide the fact that she's engaged to a woman. For a cop, even in a large city, that's near career suicide. But she gladly accepts a peck on the lips from her lover regardless.

Willow's eyes go large as she eyes the package. Then her brow furrows and mouth pinches. "Baby, why would they send it to both of us at your work?" She looks at Buffy who just shrugs.

"It's a present, Will." She wiggles her eyebrows. "We all know about my love affair with presents…wait," she points to the feebs and myself, "well, at least Will knows. Jimmy would confirm, but he's at the hospital and Sweetie, he said to say that if you love him lots, you'd bring him by another change of clothes."

Willow laughs and shakes her head. "He could try coming home one time this week. He hasn't been there once since Thursday morning."

Buffy holds her hands up, saying, "Don't shoot the messenger."

A hand on my shoulder interrupts my watching and Elliot smiles at me waggling a finger between the two women. "What gives?"

"Don't ask, just observe." I say quietly. I also take my own advice and observe. Looking at the other women in the room, they seem just as intrigued by the play by play as I am.

"So," Willow says as she stares Buffy down, "A package gets delivered to your work with our names on it and you, the detective of the family, don't see a problem with that?"

"Uh," Buffy's mouth turns up in this small half smile and she bats her eyelashes at her wife. "Present?"

Willow rolls her eyes and looks at the package again. She kneels and runs her hands over the wrapping. "Does anyone have a knife?" she asks from the floor as she inspects the label.

Elliot fishes in his pocket and comes up with a pocketknife. He goes over and hands it to Willow. "Thanks," she says, taking the offered blade. "Gloves," she demands of her partner and holds out her hand. Buffy goes to her messenger bag and pulls out a couple of pairs of latex gloves.

"Will, don't you think…" Buffy starts

Willow interrupts, "The label's the same as the paper that's been found with our victims, Buffy. This isn't a wedding present. This is a message. Just like everything else." Buffy looks at her and then her eyes grow a bit large. "Trust me, baby. We want to process this like evidence."

"Satsu," Buffy calls, "call C.S.U. and get another tech down to help Willow process this."

"But, ma'am, you don't even know if it's from the va…unsub," Satsu tries to reason. She stops as Buffy stares her down.

"Make the call, Takeda." Buffy turns back to Willow and they both pull gloves on. El goes to help them, but I hold him back. It's addressed to them. I want to see this and I don't want him getting hurt if anything happens.

I don't worry about Buffy and Willow. My gut tells me that if anything were to happen, they would come out virtually unscathed.

We all gather around a few feet back as the paper is carefully cut off and placed on top of a desk.

A painting underneath is revealed.

It appears to be done in hues of reds and browns. I step closer and I hear Buffy hiss, "It's blood."

Willow looks up at her and nods. "It's still wet too," the doctor adds.

All of us stare at the picture of a figure hanging with their arms wrapped around a bar. The figure hangs there. Below it are roughed out images of a cross, stake and sword. The image is feminine in form with long hair and exaggerated hips.

Satsu, Buffy, Amanda and Willow all see everything at the same time and it clicks for them. Buffy's the first one to hiss, "Son of a bitch."

She spins away from the painting and I step back from her. There's a fire in her eyes that I've not seen before. In fact, I haven't seen it in anyone before. It's like she's declaring war. "They just made this way too personal."

"Buffy, you can't assume it's you," Willow tries to calm her lover down.

"Bullshit, Willow. If it's not me that's hanging there, it's one of the girls." Her fists clench at her side before they rest on her hips, her knuckles white as she grips them. "Are you really going to try and convince me that that's not personal?"

Willow falters for a second, but shakes her head.

My face falls as I realize the truth in my slayers words. This whole damn thing has been personal. The kids, the names of the victims, this new present. It's all been geared at getting to us. To making sure Buffy and I are as involved as we can be.

I stand up and look at Satsu and Amanda. They don't look happy. Elliot and Olivia just seem sort of confused, not understanding the references in the painting.

I will say this, if that is supposed to be my Buffy up there, the vampire responsible for this, will have my face imprinted in their being as I send their ass back to hell. I grab Buffy's hand not caring who's around or that both of us are working.

This goes beyond professionalism.

One of the techs, a new guy shows up with a kit and I help him set up and start collecting samples. I glance back and the five with guns are talking quietly amongst themselves. I tune into some of the conversation. The two slayers are asking if we want the F.B.I. lab to process the painting.

"No," I answer for the cops standing around. "I want to process this here. If the bureau gets their hands on it, I think they'll trash it."

"Detective Summers, it's your call." Satsu says.

"Satsu, that's not your…" Amanda tries to correct her, but I'm up and in front of the other slayers face before she can finish.

"Look, in case you missed the memo, there's a crazy person out there not only coming after people we know, but they also seem to be targeting the woman I love. So you either listen to me or get the hell out of here!" I point to the door and wait for her to make her decision. Satsu's eyes drop to the floor.

"I…I wasn't…" she stammers.

"Will," Buffy's hand moves to my shoulder as she tries to calm me down.

"Doctor Rosenberg," the tech calls out.

I look in his direction and he holds a piece of paper out to me. I go over and take the item being offered. "It was behind the frame sealed behind the paper on the frame job."

"Thanks." I smile at him. I unfold the thick parchment and silently read over the message. My blood boils, and if it could really boil without killing me, it would be. I read for the rest of the group, "The glorious gifts of the gods are not to be cast aside."

I don't do what I really want to do which is crumble this up, find this bitch and stuff it down her throat. I also know that the reaction I'm having I blame on spending all of my free time around two cops with tempers, my lover's violent tendencies when she gets angry have started rubbing off.

What can I say, I'm easily influenced, especially by blondes with sultry smiles.

Olivia's left hand goes to her hip while her right massages the back of her neck. "I know that."

"Okay," Amanda says, "What is it?"

All of us roll our eyes, knowing that if Olivia knew what it was exactly she would have said something. The brunette detective paces back to her desk and forward again, trying to remember where she's heard those words before.

"It's Homer," Alex says from the doorway.

"As in Simpson?" Buffy asks.

I laugh and pull her by me, shushing her.

Alex's mouth turns up into a small smile and she answers, "As in the bard. It's from the Iliad."

Buffy leans in and whispers, "Is that something I should have read?"

I give her a quick peck on the cheek, unable to resist the cute befuddled look and nod.

"I could kiss you right now!" Olivia says. "I knew it but…"

Alex drops her bag by Olivia's desk and strides over to the group. I resist the urge to ogle. I mean I have a thing for blondes, but I'm also marrying the woman who gave me my thing for blondes in the first place.

Alex leans into her girlfriend and whispers something. I'm not sure what, but by the flush coming over Olivia, I'd say it was something fun.

"Okay, so I'm still not seeing the big with the quote," Buffy says behind me.

The details of the poem come back to me and I say, "Buffy, Satsu and Amanda, I need to speak with you in private." I turn and head for the stairs. If I remember correctly, there should be an interview room or two up there.

I don't give them much of a chance to protest, taking off for the steps. I go to the first empty room I find and wait for the three slayers to catch up with me. Quickly they file in and I slam the door closed.

"You two," I say pointing to the two young slayers, "I want this entire city searched top to bottom. I want this vampire or vampires found and staked."

"With all due…" Amanda starts.

She's cut off by Buffy, "Whoa, Will, chill."

Spinning towards my slayer I shake my head. "Buffy, in case the memo got trashed, this vamp is coming after you and it's coming after me. The Iliad was a poem about war. That's," I rage on, waving the parchment at her, "a huge honking gauntlet, Buffy."

"What makes you think I don't see that?" she snarls and then clarifies, "The coming after us thing, 'cause the whole Iliad-Simpson thing is a bit over my head right now."

I toss a quick look at the agents and Amanda, while she's seen us argue, hasn't seen Buffy or I argue like this. Satsu seems mildly pleased. I'll deal with that later. If I get a later. Instead, I redirect all of my attention to my dense lover. "Buffy, where were you when Nekko came after us? Because if you've forgotten about that, there are scars on your body that I can show you to help jog your memory."

Her face pinches and I press, "In case you forgot, the last time we were singled out, you and Faith both ended up in the hospital. Four people died, not counting Nekko and his wakcy warlock pal. We almost lost Jimmy and…" I swallow the bile that comes up the back of my throat and finish, "I nearly lost you."

"Will," Buffy says trying to dampen my growing wig. "I understand. I remember, but there's too much on this. There are too many eyes on this right now."

"Buff that would matter if the body count wasn't rising. I scanned the painting. There's at least seven different samples of blood on that thing. Let's assume that they aren't from any of our last seven victims and say they're all new. That makes fourteen."

She shakes her head. "Satsu and Amanda, excuse us. Don't sweep until I talk to you," she directs. As they file out of the room. Buffy inches closer to me. "Willow, baby, please okay, I get it. I'm beyond pissed right now, but I need you level headed."

Her arms encircle my waist and I lay my head on her shoulder. "I know," I mumble. "Just this vamp's different. Well, not horribly different, but she's like…"

"It feels like Angelus?" she whispers.

I can only nod. It feels like we're being played with. It feels like junior year and I'm scared that when I go home of what I'll find. I don't have goldfish anymore. I have a Buffy and a Jimmy.

Will I find them next?

Her hands run soothing patterns over my back but it doesn't quell the panic I feel right now.

"We'll find them, Willow. I'll find them and we'll dust them and we'll get back to being us again," she promises.

I smile at that. Buffy always has found a way to keep her promises.

"Two days," I tell her.

"That's a long time." She squeezes me and pulls back looking me in the eye. "Promise me," she demands.

"I can't." I won't tell her I won't go psycho if she dies. I can't make that promise.

Her eyes dart to the floor and she seems to accept it. "Well, Will that doesn't leave me much of a choice does it?"

"Nope." I smile at her and draw her in for a kiss. I'm still cranky at her, but that really isn't a reason to deny myself smoochies.

I'm not that stupid.


Ch. 13 – Watch Your Back

Standing as unobtrusively as possible next to the door, I try to wipe the smirk off my stubbly mug. The poor doctors have no idea how Deb is healing as quick is she is. Which is good for us but confusing as hell for them. I think they can take a bit of mystery though, God knows I've had enough of it in my life.

"Jimmy," Debra calls out, "Can you grab the duffel bag in the closet?"

I nod and move towards the closet, nearly getting run over by a nurse with a tray in his hand in the process. I catch him by his arm and he smiles at me, sorta embarrassed. Moving to the side, he goes around me while I continue with my task.

"Ms. Morgan," the doctor tries for the fifth time this afternoon, "While you have healed extensively, I can't, in good faith, recommend a discharge so soon after such serious injuries."

I hear Sweetcheeks sigh and a well of sympathy hits for the doctor.

In five…





"Look," Deb snaps, "I get you gotta job to do. Well, I have a fucking job to do to. I need out of this place. My brother's still missing and sitting here on my ass while your staff annoys the shit out of me, is not helping. Just let me go."

I turn around and jiggle the gym bag. Debra rolls her eyes at me and continues her pose, her casted arm resting across her chest while her other hand grips her hip. She and Buffy both use similar poses to look intimidating.

I'm surprised by how often it actually works. Catching my eye, I see the hatching of a plot. "How about this," she tries a softer approach waving me over, "This is Detective McAllister. He's in charge of watching out for me, I'll be under his care." Her hand clamps over my left forearm in a silent plea.

I turn my attention to the weaselly looking doctor standing in front of me. He looks up and I give him a hundred watt smile, trying for reassuring and responsible. I think it'll work.

He sighs and looks down at his chart, scribbling his name across the bottom. "Sign here," he says handing Deb a pen. He holds the clipboard out for her and she scrawls her name. "I'm going to ask you to come back in a week." He returns to the clipboard, pulling out a prescription pad and begins writing things on it. "I'm also giving you Norco for the pain, some antibiotics for secondary infection prevention purposes and a salve for the cuts you have sustained."

He rips off the prescription sheet and starts to hand it to her. Thinking better of it, he hands it me and says, "Detective, I am assured that you will make sure she follows those instructions and you will bring her in if anything happens." His statement sounding more like a question. I don't think this guy trusts me. I'd be offended if I really cared.

"Deb's one of us. She'll get what she needs," I say, smiling.

"A nurse will be in with the discharge papers shortly," he clucks, offering us a curt nod before turning on his heel and walking out of the room.

We're left alone for the first time this morning and Debra drops to the bed, groaning. "I swear you'd think that I'd just had a heart attack and I'm asking them to let me go have pizza and beer." I know her standing that long had to hurt. Girl's got a set on her that's for sure.

Smirking, I sit down next to her and pat her knee. "They didn't like it too much after mine, Sweetcheeks. The doc I had was just as confused as yours."

Her head swings around to me, her eyebrow arcs and she asks, "You, heart attack?"

I shrug. "Yeah, happened a while back. Willow, Buffy and I were tracking down this psycho. Red teleported us out. My ticker said 'what the fuck?' and decided to quit for a few minutes."

"Ouch." Her free hand squeezes mind. "You're okay now though?"

"Yep, Will did for me what she did for you. That and Buffy made me quit smoking and work out with her twice a week." I smooth my hand down my deflated gut. "I'm all svelte now. I work hard to keep this extra ten pounds." I wiggle my eyebrows at her and she smacks me in the arm with her cast.

As the hit lands, she winces. "Fuck, I told you making me laugh just makes it hurt more."

Bumping shoulders with her I smile and ask, "But it hurts less?"

"Hell yes. I can actually breathe without wanting to cry."

"Good," I say, looking up as a nurse walks in carrying a clipboard. They seem to do that an awful lot. I wonder if it's part of the interview process, 'must be able to carry clipboard and medication at the same time'.

She clicks her pen and hands it to Debra, telling her where to sign and initial. As they finish up, an aide brings in her wheelchair and I watch Deb's eyes narrow at the sight.

The nurse notices it too so she cuts Deb off, "I'll meet you two down in the lobby with the crutches and further instructions for you, Ms. Morgan." Her gaze shifts to me and I lean back. "Wheel her out of here, she is not to walk. When you get her to where she's going, don't let her do it all alone."

I resist the urge to salute and nod instead. I forget sometimes that regular people can be scary. After dealing with Buffy and Willow having P.M.S. at the same time, I didn't think any other woman could set me on edge.

Nurse, I look at her I.D. badge, Bedonski does it just fine. She nods and accepts my nonverbal assurance. She helps Deb into the wheelchair and then says, "I'll see you two in a few minutes."

Just as quickly as she came in, she's gone. I move behind the wheelchair as Debra sits and holds her bag, enjoying the ride. We make it to the bank of elevators and she taps the 'down' button. Her head arcs back and I look down at her, offering a small smirk.

"That nurse," she says, "was she a little scary or was it just me?"

I nod. "Not just you."

The elevator doors open and she pulls her head forward. "Good to know."

The ride down is full of people so we keep conversation to minimum. A little girl is with us, holding the hand of her mom. The mom, I notice, looks horrible, puffy eyes, red cheeks.

This is why I hate hospitals. It's not so much that if I'm in here it means something's wrong and I'm showing weakness. That I could actually handle. It's the desperation of the place. Any hospital you go to it's all the same. Palpable desperation combined with helplessness, regret and fear.

It's worse than driving north of a hundred-twenty-fifth in Harlem. Least I think so.

The elevator dings and we wait for the mom and her kid to get out before I push us out towards the lobby. True to her word, Nurse Bedonski is waiting for us near the door. As we approach, she asks me, "Do you have your car here?"

"Nope, we're gonna cab it."

"Very well." She holds the crutches out to Debra and I take the bag from Deb's lap. "Have you used these before dear?"

Debra nods and takes the crutches. Tucking them under her arms, she tries for one-step, but I stop her as I see the pain etched on her face.

I lay a hand on her shoulder and tip my head in the direction of the chair. She takes the hint and sits back down handing me the crutches.

"Nurse, uh, maybe we could take a wheelchair?" I ask. I should have thought this through. Even with Will's magic-cure-thingy, Sweetcheeks still has to be in pain.

The nurse looks between my charge and me and asks, "I'm going to do this once because you both are policemen. Take the wheelchair and return it when you're done. We won't miss one, but make sure it gets back here and you come see me when you return it."

"Yes, ma'am," I agree readily. I also get the nagging feeling that she's not above hunting us down if we don't.

"Good. Now get out of here and take care of her, Detective McAllister." Her face breaks into a warm, encouraging smile and all of a sudden, the woman reminds me of my Aunt Jo.

Aunt Josephine scared me too, but boy could she cook a mean lasagna.

Handing Deb back her bag, I nod once to the nurse then push us out into the cold winter weather. As we step out a cab pulls up and I open the door, letting Deb maneuver herself in.

Ducking my head in the open door, I ask, "Pop the trunk?"

The driver shakes his head and I glare, finally reaching for my wallet and flashing my badge. Grudgingly he hits the button and the trunk pops open. Asshole.

I wrangle with the wheelchair a minute trying to get it folded properly and into the back. After a pinched thumb and more cursing than a bar hears on a Friday night, I manage to stuff it in there and get the lid closed. I scramble around to the other side of the cab and hop in. Debra and I shut our doors at the same time and I direct the cabbie on where to go.

"Jimmy," Deb asks, "where are we going?"

I beam and say, "Home. You get to stay with us until this whole thing wraps up."

"Us?" Her face scrunches.

"Yeah. I live with Buffy and Willow. You get to spend your healing time with us."

She pales a little and I laugh. Maybe if I were her I'd have the same reaction. For her troubles, I give her an encouraging pat on the knee.

"Dad!" Dickey's voice calls out from the front of the house. Curious about what he wants I pick up my namesake and make my way out of the kitchen. I round the corner into the living room and see John Munch standing there talking to my son.

"John, what's up?" I say, bouncing Eli in my arms.

"Uh," he starts. It's then I notice the file clutched in his hands. It's a large brown file. "I needed to talk to you about that stuff you talked to me about." He looks over at Dickey and then back to me. "Where's Kathy and the rest of the kids?"

"Here," Dickey says, motioning me to give him Eli. "We'll be in the living room." He hoists his little brother in his arms and spins away from us.

"Come on in," I say, smiling. I lead him towards the kitchen and finally answer his questions, "Kathy and the girls went to the mall. Something about it being a girls day since I got out of the station early."

I open up the fridge and grab a bottle of water. "You want something to drink?"

"Water would be good," he says taking a seat on a barstool. I toss one at him and grab another one for myself. "I was wondering where you ran off to. Liv said that she let you cut out early until forensics comes back with something."

I roll my eyes. "Let me, eh?" I snort and pull up a stool next to John. "She about bit my head off. Said I needed to go home, there wasn't anything that I could do at the station."

John nods. "She and Buffy were looking at some old cases, nothing too serious." He opens his bottle and takes a sip, his eyes darting between me and the file that he placed on the counter. "I think they were also going to go down and see if anyone in the lab could give them something on a preliminary basis." He smiles and shakes his head. "I'm sure Detective Summers can get some gears greased with her wife."

He winks at me and I can't help but laugh. "You ever see anything like that?"

"What lesbians?" he deadpans. "All the time. What I haven't seen is someone like either of them doing the jobs that they are." He clears his throat and rubs the back of his neck. "Elliot, I did some digging, like you asked."

"I figured. You wouldn't be here otherwise. What gives?" I ask. I've rarely seen John Munch nervous.

"There's some things that I'm going to tell you and whether you believe me or not is one thing, but this joint case you guys are working on has me worried," he admits.

I smirk and say, "I'm a big boy John. I can take it."

His lips purse and dips his chin. "Fine, but when I'm done telling you, you didn't get this from me." He pulls out several files plus the one I left him with this morning. "I did some asking around first. With the clearance needed to access these files, I called in about every favor I had left. There won't be any more information for a while."

He sets the biggest in front of me and flips it open. "Around two-thousand-one, the U.S. government set up a secret military installation in the town of Sunnydale, California. I wasn't able to get much on what went on, but from everything that was pieced together; we figure they were experimenting on college kids."

He swallows and continues, "There's a small part of the community that believes in… Elliot I'm telling you, you need to suspend disbelief and just be open to me on this. A small portion of us think that what they were actually doing was experimenting on demons."


Come again?

His hand goes up and he tries to explain more, "The small pocket that believes this also thinks that vampires, witches and werewolves exist too. I'm not one of them, but some stuff in those files can't really be explained. There are two other files here. One on Buffy and one on Willow. Buffy's is vastly more interesting because of the medical and training information. Buffy was brought in from the outside by Colonel Riley Finn. Finn was killed in the line of duty almost four years ago by the same guys that came after Buffy here in the city. Buffy's training reports indicate that she took out teams of highly trained soldiers Elliot. She's more advanced in different forms of combat than almost any soldier training available."

My eyebrows go up and he smirks. "Yes, Elliot we are talking about the same five foot nothing detective that's currently working with your partner. Buffy Summers is dangerous. With a capitol D."

"What about Willow?" I need to know.

"Besides being one of the smartest girls on the west coast?" he asks nonchalantly. "Because of the source of some of this information I went and talked to a buddy. The buddy's one of the believers in the occult, owns a few shops in Cleveland and Baltimore that trade in the stuff."

"And…?" My arms fold across my chest, trying to hide my erratic heartbeat, the conversation I overheard with Buffy and Jimmy ringing loudly in my ears.

"Willow Rosenberg is said to be the most powerful witch in the Western Hemisphere and maybe the world," he says this as if he's reading it out of a file. "As my partner would say, the word on the street is this kitten's got claws."

"The doctor? Willow?" I ask just to get clarification.

He rubs his chin and nods. "Look, I know it's a stretch, but if there was an inkling of truth to it, I would believe it from Luca. His family and his people, they know about a lot of stuff. The Kalderash family is one of the oldest Romani tribes."

"Gypsies?" I roll my eyes.

"Just because it seems farfetched to you or to me doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You're the guy who puts his faith in a disapproving father figure that's like Santa Claus but meaner." He waggles his finger at me and all I can do is shake my head.

"There's more, Luca said that before Sunnydale became that big crater, which by the way is a whole different issue that we can discuss later, Willow's lover was killed. A girl by the name of Tara Maclay." Looking over to me, I assume he's checking to see how much of this I'm absorbing. Satisfied by what he sees, he continues, "Around the time that she died, there was a huge storm in the area. The storm caused a mudslide and revealed an old pagan temple. Luca says that Willow caused the storm, caused the unearthing of this temple."

I snort. "What she'd do, try to avenge her lover by trying to destroy the world?"

"You hear this before?" he asks, a hint of a smile on his face. "That's exactly what Luca said happened. Buffy and another guy stopped her. Was able to talk some sense into her. It lines up with her getting ferried off to England by a guy named Rupert Giles, and he's a whole different mess that's involved with this secret organization that trains little girls in combat…"

"The Watcher's Council," I supply, the pieces clicking into place. I'm not saying that I believe in the vampires and witches thing, but there are too many over lapping coincidences in what Munch has unearthed and what I've been able to piece together.

"You know about them?" he asks, his eyes large.

"Buffy's sister is the C.E.O. for the group." I shrug. "The stuff I found on this Watcher's group pretty much just said that it deals in antiquities, scholarships and governmental consults."

"How far back did you go for their business records?" He digs in the folder and pulls out another folder.

"Not far," I say, the corners of my mouth turning down.

"The Council is dated back to when England first started accepting business applications. Do the math."

"Okay, but…" I falter and mop my face with my hands. I don't really know what to make of all this. I mean the pieces all kind of fit, but it doesn't make any sense. At least not the sort of sense that keeps me out of the nuthouse.

"Look," John says, "read through what I've brought. I'm not sure what to tell you El. The most I can say is that Buffy and her girlfriend are well, and I mean well connected. Be careful and if you can, drop it." He stands and pats my shoulder. Retreating from the kitchen, he makes his way to the front of the house and I hear the front door open and close.

My head drops into my hands and I rub my temples.

What the hell does this all mean?

I look around the empty precinct and shake my head. It's me and Olivia with a few Uni's. Nice way to spend a Wednesday evening. Looking down at my phone, I reread the text message from Will, 'At the lab running samples, be home later. Love you.' At least I got a love you and hey, the hours for this job are far better than what she's had for the past six months.

I sigh and prop my head up with my hand. "Olivia," I call out. Her head pops up from the stack of reports she was working on and she looks at me with an upturned eyebrow.

"I was wondering if you want to go with me to follow up with Willow on the painting?" I ask.

Not that I don't like Olivia, I just don't know what info my Wiccan Wonder will have. But I need the lift. She can drive in the city. I'm lucky if Willow or Jimmy let me ride a bike.

She looks around, a little surprised. "Uh, yeah. Sure," she says.

I smile and reach behind me for my jacket. "Sweet. You can drive."

"That's right, your partner's babysitting." She stands and reaches for her own coat and I meet her by her desk.

"He is. The good here is that Deb got released from the hospital today, so he should be at home." I grin and add, "If he doesn't have dinner waiting for us when we get there, he's in trouble."

Her head tilts to the side for a second. She shakes whatever thought she has off and we head out of the station house. "Buffy," she starts, "Look, I know it's none of my business, but what's up with you, Jimmy and Willow?"

I stop on the steps and look down at her still descending form. Wanting to be clear in my understanding I ask, "More please?"

She looks back up the half flight of steps that separate us and stops. "Well, look. It's like I love Elliot. We're a team. I don't live with him. Why do you live with your partner?"

Oh, okay. That I can answer without wanting to rip out her spine. It really just does piss me off that people automatically assume that two people, male and female, can't be close without having sex. I start back down the steps and make it all the way out to the car before answering.

"Let me guess, you think it's strange?" I raise an eyebrow at her as she unlocks the sedan and I get in. "Why can't people be close to one another and not be…" I trail off resisting the urge to say what I really want and go with the softer, "intimate. I mean is there some rule out there that I don't know about?"

She cranks the engine and looks at me. "I, Buffy I didn't mean to offend you…"

"It's just that you were curious." I purse my lips and try to understand where she's coming from. "Ya know, here's the thing. I know Jimmy and I have chemistry. We're a great team. It's what makes good partners. You and Elliot are the same way. There's chemistry there. You feed off one another, but you aren't hopping in the sack with him. Are you?" I raise my eyebrows in her direction and she flushes. I smirk. "You haven't, but you've thought about it?"

Her eyes go back to the road as we travel south towards the O.C.M.E. offices. "It's the same here. Well, sort of. I've never really put much thought into getting pelvic with Jimmy. Hugging, we do that all the time. He's even a good cuddler. I just don't think of him that way."

"So then you guys are just really close?" she ventures.

"Yeah, we are. He was the first friend I made when I came to the city. He's the only one that I've kept." I shrug. "He gets things that even Will doesn't. He respects the way I do things without question or reservation. He's smart, kind, funny and sweet."

She smirks this time and says, "Sounds like a catch, but why do you guys live together?"

I grin. "It made tons more sense. Will and I wanted to be back in Manhattan." She looks at me and I know a better explanation is needed. "We lived next door to each other in Brooklyn. We both sold our houses and bought the condo." Her eyebrow is raised, still questioning. I wave a hand at her and try again, "Will made this chart with numbers about our finances. It boiled down to money."

A light bulb seems to go off and she nods.


I retort to her comment, hoping that this lies to rest my living arrangements. Which I don't get, 'cause it's none of her damn business anyhow, but whatever… "He is a catch. I'm just not in love with him. I love Willow. It's the same for her. She feels the same way I do about Jimmy. She respects our bond and doesn't question it."

Olivia looks at me for a second before the light we're stopped at turns green and she nods. "I…think…I get that."

"Good," is all I offer as the car lapses into silence. The rest of the trek down to see Will is pretty silent and I'm happy Olivia didn't press it.

The M.E.'s office is on the corner of first and thirtieth and as we approach, I realize that the winter weather has done nothing to make the place look even remotely fun. It's a tall, grey brick building that's got an outside to match the insides. The fact that Will is working where we met Nekko is just kinda weird, but she's happy.

We're happy with her here. We're actually talking again, too. Like really talking. She gets home at decent hours and is guaranteed two days off in a row that we can have together. It's a vast improvement than her working at the hospital and clinic.

The other great thing is that as I walk in the receptionist smiles at me and waves me and Olivia through. They know me enough that I can just walk in. No need to deal with cranky nurses and their attitude.

I lead Olivia up three flights of stairs and down one of the monotone painted hallways to my Willow's office. Stepping inside, I see her secretary's packed up for the night, but her office light is on. I don't bother knocking and peek my head in. Will looks up from her computer and her face breaks into a wide smile.

Pushing the door open, I walk in and around to her side of the desk to peck her on the cheek but she turns her head capturing my lips. I lean down and into the unexpected, but totally welcome embrace as my right hand goes to the edge of the desk for support. Willow's tongue teases my lips apart and I allow her entrance as I lose my sense of place.

It's only the loud cough from someone in the office that breaks up apart. I break away and pretend to be mildly ashamed. By the smirk Olivia is wearing, she isn't buying it. A glance at my lover and I see her lips are pressed together. Her face is beat red. I give her hand a squeeze and wink. She lets out the breath she was holding and relaxes a little.

"Uh…," Will stammers, "I…uhm…sorry?"

And hey look at that, no embarrassing babble. Wonder of wonders.

Sighing, I back away and shake my head at the half formed pout on my lover's lips. "So, doc, how's the day?" Olivia smirks.

My redhead shrugs and says, "Got better a few minutes ago." Her embarrassment a moment ago forgotten as she wiggles her eyebrows at me and I flush to match the blush she was sporting a second ago. She's in trouble when we get home.

"Find anything, Will?" I ask.

She nods. "I'm waiting on two more tests before I release any official findings but the blood is from seven different sources." She flips through a few papers on her desk and plucks the one she's looking for from a small stack. "Dexter's, Debra's, Siobhan's and four others that I can't place. We don't have their information on file to bump it against anything."

"CODIS? NCIC? VICAP?" I supply.

"We have them being run against all known databases that house genetic information," she says, frowning.

"So then we know that the missing people in Miami are here," Olivia says, trying to fill in the missing pieces. "We know at least one of them is alive. My intuition says that Dexter and this Siobhan are still alive. If they weren't we would have found those bodies already."

I sink down into the chair opposite Willow, right next to Olivia. "Yeah," I groan. "At least we hope."

"Buffy," Will starts, softly, "Maybe you should have the two federal agents sweep..."

"No." My eyes snap in her direction and I shake my head fiercely. "They aren't going to find anything."

"Baby," she tries, "The body count here is way past anything we've dealt with in a long time."

I know she's trying to be helpful, but I really don't want those slayers poking their noses in my city. "No, Will."

She sighs and runs her hand through her hair.

"Do you have anything else?" I ask, trying to change the topic.

She shakes her head and I slump further in my chair. Shit.

"Any trace evidence that could give us a location or kind of location?" Olivia asks.

"Not enough to go on." Willow shuffles some papers off to the side and looks between the two of us. "I think the rest of the reports should be in tomorrow."

Well this just adds to a whole bunch of me sitting around with my thumb up my ass. I look between Olivia and Willow.

Coming to a decision, I stand and say, "Olivia come on. Will, I'll see you at home in a while?"

My lover nods. I turn and make my way out of her office. I'm not sure how much good it's going to do, but I may as well take Olivia to check in with some C.I.'s. See if they've heard anything.

It's going to be a long night. That much I can be sure of.


Ch. 14 – Something in the World Today

I slurp up the last of my lo mien and watch my lunch buddy daintily eat her fried rice. It's amazing how a few weeks not working eighty hours a week will really improve your disposition.

"Do you have anything else?" Alex asks me. "I also can't believe Melinda just passed the case to you like she did. That says a lot Willow."

Shaking my head, I sign the final findings on one of Alex's cases and hand the report over to her. "She's a pretty neat woman. I'm not sure how I'm going to do on the stand though," I admit blushing.

"You'll be fine. You have a sincere, earnest face. The jury's going to love that." She sets down her take out container, wipes her hand and takes the offered report.

"Yeah, but when I get nervous, I have a tendency to babble. It's uhm, well, it usually ends with me saying something either completely embarrassing or completely irrelevant."

She smiles at me. "You trust me and the rest will work out."

"Yeah, but…" I start to say.

"No, yeah but's. Look, just like dancing or anything else that takes a partner, this is the same thing. You need to trust me. The evidence is there Willow; what I need you to do is explain it so the jury can see it for what it is. Then when they come back with a guilty verdict, I take you out for drinks to celebrate." She grins wolfishly. An air of confidence just seems to flow from her.

Idly, I can't help but think that Alex Cabot missed her calling. She would have made a great slayer.

"Okay," I concede. The vibrations in my lab coat pocket cause me to dip my hand inside to pull out my phone and read the message that I just received. Reading it over, I sigh. "Well, that takes care of the last of that," I say, dropping my phone on top of my desk.

"Takes care of what?" she asks as she clutches her stomach, rubbing it. "And really, Chinese for breakfast is a bad idea. How did I let you talk me into it?"

I giggle. "It's one of my favorite breakfast foods, next to pancakes."

"But it's…dinner food," Alex nearly pouts. "And take care of what?"

"Rearranging the wedding stuff," I say, leaning back in my chair.

She looks at me and I know she wants more than that for an explanation. At least I know she's effective in the courtroom if her skills outside are any indication. "Buffy and I decided to postpone the ceremony until things here get saner. We really want this case wrapped up."

Alex nods. "That's too bad. I'm sorry, Willow."

I shrug. "I mean I kind of expected it. We haven't been the poster couple for lesbians."

Alex's mouth quirks into a smirk. "What exactly is the poster couple for lesbians supposed to look like?"

"Oh, ya know, talk to each other, spend time together, be in the same room without needing a referee. Have sex every now and again," I mumble the last part.

"So things aren't going well?" she asks, leaning forward in her seat.

"They weren't, but things are better, just not great. Everything's gotten better, but…" I trail off unable to reveal the particulars about this case.

"It's still not moonlight and roses," she supplies.

I nod and say, "It's more like a mixed bouquet and cheap wine right now." I sigh again, needing a topic change. "What about you and Olivia?"

Alex falters not answering the question. Maybe I shouldn't have asked. "If you don't want to say anything, Alex, I'd understand." I give her a way out.

"No," she says and dismisses the idea with a wave of her hand. "I…just, things with Olivia are good. It's that there's so much history between us and I think that we can get past it. I just don't know how long it's going to take."

I nod. I know exactly what that's like. "Let me guess. Olivia wants a serious relationship, but can't commit 'cause she's doing the 'loner, brooding' thing? With an added, 'you don't need my shit. I'm screwed up and you deserve better' pout?"

Alex lets out a full laugh and says through breaths, "Uh, not yet. I've seen a little bit of that though."

I nod. "You'll see it full force before you two settle down," I say. I've been there. I've gotten the t-shirt which I threw in the trash. I'd rather not remember some of those times. You know her and Buffy are really alike. It's kind of funny."

"How so?" Alex tilts her head to the side.

"Both are strong, independent, fiercely protective and loyal to the ones they love. Both are damaged from their past. They both do the hero-complex-loner thing really well. Well, Buffy used to. She tries to not do that anymore, but she has her moments."

"Hmmm," Alex hums. "You may be right."

I scoff and roll my eyes. "No may be about it." I nod for emphasis and she breaks out into a grin.

"I take it you and Buffy went through similar things?" she asks.

I nod some more. "After we left Sunnydale, we went our separate ways. If it wasn't for her sister and my ex-girlfriend, I wouldn't have come here. When I did, it just…I knew what I needed to do."

Alex nods, sympathetically. "I know that feeling."

"Lots of apologizing and trying to get past the past." I say and run my fingers through my hair.

"But you guys have?" she digs.

"Yeah. We have, but sometimes the past has a way of coming up to bite you in the tush, making it hurt again."

"That I get," Alex commiserates.

"Doctor," the admin I share with Melinda Warner and Vlad Dagostino rings through the intercom, "There's a Xander Harris on the phone for you."

My face breaks out into a grin and I say, "Thank you."

"He's on line two." The speaker clicks off and I pick up the phone, holding up a finger to Alex asking for patience.

"Xander?" I ask.

"Willow!" his voice rings loud and reassuring into my ear.

Sighing, I slouch back into my office chair. "It's good to hear from you. Things around here are a bit crazy."

"You, Buffy and crazy? Nah, I don't believe it," he says with too much sarcasm. "It's good to hear your voice too Will, but this is a business call, not a social one."

Well poop.

"Alright, Xand lay it on me." We may as well get this done and over with.

"Alright, Dawn forwarded me some of that information that you sent to her. About those killings and the people from Miami going missing, and don't think we won't talk about that. I'm not clear on the particulars, but…"

"Xander," I clip, "I don't need to be chastised like a three year old. We did what we had to do. What do you know about the stuff I sent to Dawn?"

"Fine, but Will, you're not off the hook just yet." He's wearing his Bluetooth and he's in the com-center, I know it.

"Don't you need to get someplace a little more private for this?" I ask.

"I'm the only one here. It's too early for the teams to start rolling in."

"Alright, info." I shift in my seat and grab a pen and piece of paper. He starts filling in the missing pieces. I write down names and meanings as I picture him walking back and forth in the Cleveland communications center. I wonder how many earpieces Faith's broke.

The information I've written lies before me, clicking the pieces into place.

"Will, this vamp is organized in the major way. You guys need to be careful," he warns.

I roll my eyes. "Worse than Angel and Spike?"

"I don't know," he admits. "Different. Very different."

"I think we can manage," I say. His tone's just pissing me off. I know he's worried, but we can handle it.

"Alright," he concedes. "Just call if you guys need anything, okay?"

"Fine. We'll call if something comes up, but I think we'll be okay," I say, motioning for Alex to get ready to leave.

"Bye Will," he says disconnecting before I have time to say goodbye. Sighing, I rip the paper that has my notes scrawled on it from my pad.

He's right in a way. If this is what I think it is, the situation just got a heck of a lot worse. The drawings, the quotes, it all adds up to a big 'duh!' and none of us were paying attention. It also means that we're going to have to come clean to Alex, Olivia and Elliot.

They're going to have to know what we're dealing with. We're also going to need their help.

"Come on," I say, moving out of my office, expecting Alex to be behind me.

"Willow, where are you going?" she asks.

"Home, we need to talk and I need you to call Olivia and Elliot and have them meet us there." I turn towards the steps and sigh as I hear her on the phone.

It's going to get interesting.

Yawning, I stretch and reach for my cell phone turned alarm clock vibrating across the coffee table. Trying to sit up, I groan, thinking that this whole couch thing is gonna get old really quick. Maybe I can have my son bring over a bed we can toss in the dining room until Deb's healed up.

It's seven thirty in the morning, the house is quiet. I heard Red leave earlier this morning and I know Buffy got home late so if she's up I'll be surprised. I shuffle my way into the kitchen and hit the switch on the coffee pot, turning it on.

From there, I head to the bathroom to take care of the morning necessities. It's like the one thing that I hate about getting older, aside from the aches and my body not acting like it should. My bladder is the size of a thimble in the morning.

I flush and wash my hands, looking at myself through half open eyes. At fifty-three I don't look too bad. Too much gray for my liking, but from what I hear it's to be expected and it's suppose to make you look distinguished. I'll also never tell Buffy or Willow, but I'm sorta glad they made me go back to the gym. Cupcake's fun to work out with.

I swear that girl missed her calling as a Drill Sergeant.

I come out of the bathroom and see the door to my bedroom cracked open. I give a soft knock and poke my nose in. The bed's empty, but rumpled. Tuning an ear to the living room and kitchen, I hear someone out there and head that way.

Rounding the corner into the kitchen I find Debra standing there, a cup of coffee in one hand while her other's in a sling. Her eyebrow rises as she takes in my pj's.

"What?" I ask, mocking offense.

She shakes her head and smirks. "Those are some sexy boxer's your sporting." I look down at the N.Y.P.D. boxers Red got for me a few years back. I wiggle my sock covered toes and look back up at her.

"What of it?" I grin and scratch my stomach.

She points to my chest and the scar from my heart attack. "That from…?"

I nod. "Yeah, Red says they didn't do too bad a job. A few lines over my chest ain't so bad if you consider the alternative." I bump her over and grab two mugs from above the coffee maker. I pour one for me and one for Buffy. I need to get her up soon.

"True," she says and yawns.

Grabbing the creamer, I fix mine and Buffy's cup, saying, "Be right back." Hanging a left at the kitchen, I see Buffy's door is closed. Debating the pros and cons of knocking is short lived as I reach for the handle with my free hand and push the door open.

The room's dark, but I make out the lump that is my partner. I set her coffee on the bedside table and scoot her over to sit down. "Partner," I say softly, shaking her shoulder. "Up and attum Cupcake, we got bad guys to catch."

She grunts and rolls away from me.

That makes me wonder what kind of night she had. My guess is she went to patrol.

"Whatimeisit?" she mumbles.

"Around seven-thirtyish. Give or take. I got coffee here and I was thinkin' eggs and toast for breakfast?"

"'Kay," she grunts and pulls the covers off her head. She blinks and blearily looks up at me then looks me over. "The no-shirt look is so last season, Jimmy."

I roll my eyes and say, "But for a beauty like me, it's timeless." I waggle my eyebrows and it gets her to laugh.

"Fine, but if we go blind, we know the reason," she snarks, sitting up and reaching for the cup of coffee.

"Yeah, yeah." I stand and say as I make my way out the door. "See you in five, Blondie."

I get back to the kitchen and Deb's still there, brooding over her cup. "The meaning of life cannot be found in that, just so you know Sweetcheeks."

"Who says I'm looking for the meaning of life?" she shoots back.

I shrug. "Just sayin'. You were looking at it like it was going to give it to you."

Sighing, she sets the cup down and looks at me. "I was actually thinking that I want this damn cast off. Can Willow look at it and see if it can come off soon?"

"Sure, we'll have her take a gander at it when she gets home." Shrugging, I add, "At least she got your legs and ribs all healed up nice and proper." I reach in the fridge and grab the eggs, milk and butter. "I'm making eggs and toast for me and Buffy, you want?"

She shakes her head and I scowl. "When's the last time you ate?"

"Yesterday," she says as her mouth pinches and she frowns at me.

"You're eating," I declare leaving her no room for argument. I start getting the food together, when Buffy comes out, freshly showered and looking only slightly haggard. I raise an eyebrow at her and say, "World's quickest shower?"

She nods. "We need…" she trails off rethinking what she was going to say, "Are you coming in today?"

I look between Debra and Buffy. "Deb, you want company today?"

"If you got work, I say go."

"We'll play it by ear," I say non-commitally. Truthfully, I'm not too thrilled with the idea of leaving Debra alone.

"Well, even if you don't which is okay because really, tap dancing around the Turtle Gang while hunting down the actual vamp that's doing this," Buffy says leaning against the kitchen counter, "is all sorts of not fun."

"We could send them on a goo…" I try and offer, but stop as the sound of the front door opens.

"Jimmy, Buffy!" Willow calls out.

Alarmed, the three of us leave the kitchen and hit the entryway. Willow's coming through the door and I see the A.D.A. with her. My eyebrows are in my hairline, the spatula in my hand raised and it's then that I realize I've got a pair of socks and boxers on, but nothing else.

Fuckin' fantastic.

Alex looks between the three of us and her arms fold across her chest. The black glasses she's wearing only add to the smart Alec look she has. I scowl and say, "Red, what's up?"

She looks at me and her mouth breaks into a wide grin. I lower my cooking utensil and try for annoyed.

The four ladies in the room tell me that ain't happening. Thankfully, my partner comes to my rescue, "Baby, what's up?"

Willow quits smirking at me and turns her attention to Buffy. "I got a call from Xander. We need to talk. I've got a name and some other information. Alex called Olivia and Elliot so they should be here soon."

Buffy and I lock eyes then glance at Willow then to Alex. We both shrug. "We tellin'em?" I ask.

Willow nods. "There isn't another way without completely shutting them out and even then something tells me Olivia won't go for it."

Buffy sighs and runs a hand through her wet hair. "She's right. We can also protect them better if they know."

I look over at Debra and she's looking over at me amused. "What?" I ask.

She shakes her head and snorts. Looking back over to Willow and Alex, I see Alex is genuinely confused.

I know the feeling.

"Alright," I say, "Any of yinz want breakfast?"

Both of the newcomers groan and shake their head. Buffy's hand goes to her hip and she eyes Will. "You had Chinese didn't you?"

My Red's face goes red and I know she's caught. "It was Wong's," she says in her defense. I snicker and Debra and I exchange looks. Both of us thinking that Willow's in trouble.

Doing her best to ignore her lover's annoyed posture, Willow reaches out and pulls Buffy with her, saying, "You three sit tight. We'll be right back."

My free hand scratches my chin, rubbing the stubble. I need to shave. In fact, I really need to put some clothes on. Sheepishly, I hand the spatula to Deb and warn, "Don't burn my eggs." I turn to Alex as Debra shuffles into the kitchen. "Excuse me a minute, I'm going to go uhm…"

She just smiles and begins to wander into the living room. I turn on heel and head to my bedroom in search of some clothes and that scrap of dignity I hid in a shoebox.

Alex opens the door, giving me a small smile then ushering me inside. I look at her, trying to figure out what's going on. Her face gives nothing away.

"Good morning, Olivia," she says.

I want to wrap my arms around her, kiss her, but I don't. Instead, I parrot back, "Morning, Councelor."

We both move into the living room and Elliot is there perched on the arm of a chair, Debra and Jimmy are sitting on the couch together and Buffy's pacing the length of the living room. "Hi," I offer to the occupants.

El smiles at me and shrugs. There's a file folder by his foot that he taps with his heel as his leg swings back and forth. I go and stand by him when Debra and Jimmy both say hello and Buffy nods in my direction.

Alex comes and stands next to me, searching out my hand and entwining our fingers.

"So," I venture, "What's going on?"

Buffy's head snaps in my direction, looking between Alex, Elliot, and me. Her shoulders square and she looks pissed, but as she studies us, her shoulders slump and she turns away.


Elliot leans over to me and whispers, "You and I need to talk when we get out of here."

I only give him a nod as I see Willow come around the corner with a few old, and I mean really old, books in her arms. She places them on the coffee table and looks at Buffy, nodding her head.

Walking to her lover, Buffy briefly allows Willow a small embrace. She breaks away and turns to my group. "Alex, Olivia and Elliot," she starts stiffly, "There's never really an easy way to tell people. I guess we should start with some of what Elliot's already found out." She looks at the folder at Elliot's feet and he blanches.

"I'm not sure what all you have there Elliot. I really don't care. Right now, I'm a little too pissed that you went fishing," she spits. "I asked you to trust me that I would give you answers," she growls, turning to me, "You couldn't leave it alone though."

"Buffy," Willow says softly.

Shaking it off, the blonde detective starts back up, "But really I guess it doesn't matter. You're going to get the whole truth right now." She faces us fully now, her hands rest casually on her hips. "You know my name, Buffy Summers; you know where I used to live, Sunnydale. What you don't know is what I am."

Her eyes lock briefly with each of us and as I stare back, I see something in her that I haven't seen before. "There's this speech that we give to people when we tell them who we are. I'm going to spare you and just come right out and say it," Buffy starts in again. "The Boogeyman exists, vampires, demons, ghosts and all the things they teach you to fear and parade around as at Halloween exist."

I snort. Alex chuckles. Elliot, the one I'd expect to make a sound, sits rigidly from the arm of the chair.

Willow turns to him and says, "How much do you actually know?"

I watch the Adam's apple in his throat bob and he finds his voice. It's weak as he rasps, "Most of my information is on this thing called the Initiative and a second hand source."

"You believe any of it?" Buffy asks.

Elliot's mouth turns down and he shakes his head.

"I would if I were you," she warns.

"Wait," I say holding up a hand and releasing my grip from Alex's. "You…El, you want to explain this to me?" I'm missing something and Elliot's holding out on me.

Jimmy stands and moves next to his partner, laying a hand on her shoulder. "Look," he says, "What info Elliot has or doesn't have, don't matter. We all need to focus."

"Focus?" Alex clips. "You three are trying to convince us that monsters are real. Next you're going to be telling me that Santa Clause exists too."

At the same time, Buffy and Willow say, "He did, we slayed him when we left for Europe." They say it casually, like they're reporting the weather and my mouth can't help but drop open a little more.

Alex just rolls her eyes.

"Olivia," Buffy asks gently, "When you went with me last night, what do you remember?"

I think back to last night, after we left the M.E.'s office and Willow. Buffy took me around to a bar and then we walked half the length of the island. Nothing major happened.

Except when I was getting a hot dog.

There was some noise in the alley behind me. I finished my dinner and I go to find Buffy because that's where she was. I peeked around the corner and thought I saw her fighting with two guys. The light was crap, but what I could make out in that glance, their faces were messed up. I removed my eyes from the line of sight and drew my gun. When I went in to the alley gun drawn, Buffy's brushing soot off her pants and the place is dusty, but no people.

She must see my conflict because Buffy says, "Last night, you saw me fighting two vampires. I convinced you that you were seeing things."

I shake my head. "No, I know what I thought I saw. But…"

"But, I convinced you to drop it. It's easier for most people if we give them a lame excuse to replace the idea of what they actually saw." She walks over to the fireplace and snarks, "I've ruined a few too many of these." She picks up a poker and hands it to Elliot.

He takes it even though he doesn't understand why. "What your file probably doesn't have Elliot, is what I am," Buffy says. "A long time ago, these men thought they'd make a warrior to fight off the demons that were killing their people. In short, they took a girl no older than fifteen and turned her into a killer. She became a slayer. One girl at a time. One girl in the whole world to fight against the demons."

Willow takes hold of Buffy's hand as she continues, "When I was fifteen, I was called. I became a vampire slayer my first year in high school. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I moved from L.A. to Sunnydale. With Willow and a few others, we stopped a lot of bad things from happening, but the reason why Sunnydale's a landfill now, is because of what we did to it."

"Prove it," Alex snorts. "How can someone like you," she waves her hand up and down indicating Buffy's stature, "fight things that are reported to have superhuman strength?"

She smirks and walks over to Elliot. "It heavy enough for you?" she asks, pointing to the fire poker. He nods and she takes it back. Passing it to Alex, my girlfriend hefts it in her hand, unimpressed. "Alex?"

"It's a wrought iron poker," she confirms.

Satisfied, Buffy takes it back. She stands in front of the coffee table and holds it by the ends, straight out from her chest. She then takes the poker and bends it into a corkscrew shape, saying, "The way to fight things with superhuman powers is to be just as strong as them."

A quick glance tells me that Elliot and Alex are both wearing the same expression that I am. We're all staring mouth agape, eyes locked on the poker.

First, I think that it was some type of trick, but Buffy hands me the item and I heft it in my hands, feeling its weight.

"It's okay," Jimmy says, "When she told me all of this, I sorta passed out." He tries to reassure us.

Debra backs him up, "It took me about a day to really believe it."

"I," Willow says, "wouldn't have if Buffy hadn't saved me from a vampire the first day we met."

"Do you need more proof?" Buffy asks.

I give Alex credit as she says, "You can bend that. That's nothing more than a parlor trick. It's circumstantial at best."

Willow concedes the point and says, "I hate doing this." She takes Buffy around the waist and her lover's arms lock behind Willow's neck.

My head tilts to the side and as they begin to spin slowly, rising off the floor of the apartment. They hover above the coffee table, looking at us. "I'm a witch. Wiccan actually," she chirps from above.

All three of us are looking for wires or harnesses, but we all look and can't see anything. Debra must know because she says, "Get over it you guys. Their floating, or flying or what the fuck ever you want to call it. I know it's a shit load to buy, but they're telling you the truth. The things that did this to me weren't human. One was a vampire. The rest I couldn't tell you, but they sure the fuck were evil."

Buffy and Willow slowly touch ground and I feel a little light headed. Willow, forging ahead, says, "We thought you needed to know. The thing that killed those people, sent us that painting and took Debra, her brother and the other woman is a vampire. She's actually from an old clan that was started in England around fourteen-hundred A.D."

"The vampire," Willow says, "Goes by the name Lilah. She was an artist before being turned. Lived in Paris for a century or two. She's also had a habit of fixating on people and then turning them. From what we can see, she started fixating on Dexter then her focus turned to us," she finishes waving a hand between Buffy and herself. "The first two things were the kids. That was to let us know about Dexter. The next two were the drawing of the Lion and the star. Those are symbols for the Babylonian goddess of love and war, Ishtar."

"She's was trying to communicate," Buffy snarls, "The quotes. The drawings. It was the future resident of my dust buster calling me out."

Willow nods and starts back up, "We think she's essentially trying to start her own war." Willow goes over to a computer on the kitchen table and hits a few buttons. The flat panel T.V. against the wall comes to life and a map of the world pops up on screen. "Xander," she says, hitting a few keys as we watch a few points pop up on the map, "says that there are reports across the Council that heavily armed and vicious bands of vampires are attacking groups of slayers."

Wait. "Hang on, I thought you said there was only one," I interrupt. Buffy and Willow exchange looks.

Smiling sweetly, Willow says, "I think you guys should sit down. There's lots more to the story." For some reason I take her advice and they begin to tell me the craziest story I've never dreamed of.

Part 15

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