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


Part III

Strung between the first two columns my newest sculpture hangs, glorified for those lucky enough to see it. The whispers of this city at night make it hard to work. The people, the noise it all calls to me, asking that I release them. I drink and take from them.

Soon, perhaps, but not before I see the Council crumble. Not before I drink from the neck of those that have the hubris of a god.

I circle it once more, bringing me back to why I am here and who is with me. Running a nail down the length of her back, the skin splits, but does not bleed.

A shame really. Her cries would have been a balm to my frayed nerves. Instead, I settle on the look I'm given by him. Glorious and profound, I've loved telling him how none of this would have been possible without him.

I sigh under his touch and am centered.

The sun is about to rise and we need to be moving along so reluctantly, I pull away to finish the staging of my latest work of art. Loosening the rope of the pulley system holding her up, I hoist it just a tad higher; making sure that she will be noticed first.

Under her feet I place the objects of importance, the stake, the cross and the sword and for him, a slide of a single drop of blood.

Looking east, I see the first few hues of the sun rising in the sky. Quickly, I tie the rope and secure her. Grabbing his hand, we descend.

There is only one last task to complete her. A pity that it won't be my hand responsible.


Ch. 15 – Bring Out Your Dead

The lobby's quiet when I step through the doors to my apartment complex. I look down at my watch and see the brownish goop smeared over the face. Great. Sighing, I step in front of the elevators and wipe my watch on my pants. I look back down to read the display, five-forty-six am. Well, who needs sleep anyhow?

The bright side in Buffy's screwed up world is that no one is around to see me covered in dirt and demon goo. The dry cleaning bill on this outfit's gonna give Will kittens. I turn my attention back to the elevator doors as they slide open and I step through, deliberate for a second and then hit the button to take me to the top floor.

Some quiet time on the roof will be good. Then I can go and shower in boiling water and a full bottle of body wash. Maybe after I make Buffy soup, I'll smell like a person again.

Maybe…I'm really not holding out much hope.

The doors nearly slide shut, but an umbrella stops them from closing completely. Crap. A man in running shorts and a shirt steps on and looks me over.

"Rough night?" he asks, smiling at me.

"Just one of many," I chirp back and smile, "but you should see the other guy." I wink at him and fish my badge out of my jacket pocket to flash him my shield.

His eyes lock on the shiny piece of metal then skirt away. I smirk. People have such strange reactions to cops. They weren't ever really my favorite people either, but look at me now…well, some of them still aren't.

"What floor?" I ask.

"Uh, eighth," he says and goes back to studying his Nike's.

I press the button for his floor and a few seconds later, I watch as he scurries off disappearing around a corner. The doors close once again and I ascend to the floor with the easiest roof access. Running a dirty hand through my dirty hair, I wince as it catches on a few knots courtesy of the sweeps of the top half of New York's financial district. I wonder if 'rats nest' will become a trend in hairstyle? It would save me time in the morning.

The elevator stops, the doors slide open and I step off, head right and hit the exit door with a little more force than necessary. The fresh air hits my lungs first and I suck it in. Looking up, the last of the night is being pushed away by the predawn light on this Saturday morning.

I move to the east side of the building and hop up on to the ledge, letting my legs dangle over the edge. My arms prop me up and I lean forward, close my eyes and empty my mind for just a few moments. No job, no slayers, no vampires and certainly no sewer smell.

Happy, blissful, nothingness.

I release the breath and allow the world to encroach on me once again. I look out over the city that I've come to love. The tree tops of Central Park, the taxis and cars whizzing by down below and the tops of the buildings that surround ours, it's all come to mean more than I thought when I first got here. Now, there's all of this crap that's piling up. Between vicious attacks on slayer compounds, the Miami mess that's come north and the vampire that's responsible for this…I laugh bitterly…

Will says we'll get through this and it'll be back to normal.

Maybe, maybe not. Normal's relative anyhow.

I have five slayers here in New York with me and I've got Elliot, Olivia and Jimmy all running their own small squad to break the island of Manhattan up and make it easier to search. Willow's been eating up Alex's generous offer to assist in research so she has help outside of the Council and what Dawn and Xander have been able to put together.

Debra…I stretch and try not to think about the woman crashing in Jimmy's room. She's nearly healed thanks to Will, but she's snappy and impatient. It's helpful in the not sorta way. It grates on my last few nerves. Maybe we'll send her with Jimmy's team to help search tonight. That may help.

I look out, see the first piece of sun crest the top of the buildings and push myself over the ledge. I free fall for the briefest of seconds, enjoying the weightlessness before I touch the steel grating of the fire escape. I land softly and make my way down a few flights before slithering into the open window of my bedroom.

I take a second and let my eyes adjust to the lighting. The bed's rumpled, but empty so I look to the bathroom and see the light on and door cracked. Hearing the shower start, I shed my clothes and pad naked into the bathroom.

"Will?" I call out before entering the shower.

I step in and Will's smile falters, as she looks me over. "Didja leave any dirt for the streets?" she jokes.

"Nah," I say reaching for her. I spin us around and let the water cascade over me, tipping my head back to let it run through my hair. "I figured the city's had enough bonding time with the grime. I was feeling left out."

"Uh huh," I hear her say. I feel a washcloth begin working its way over my body, up my legs, over my hips and belly and then my chest. Moaning, I relax and let Will clean me. She's gentle and thorough and suddenly all the shit seems to slip away, going the way of the grime down the drain.

My lover presses her body against me and says, "Well, I've bonded with it enough. Turn around please."

I comply and she takes just as much care on my back as she did my front. Her lips press against a bruise on my upper back and trail their way to my neck. I spin around and pull her against me, making sure to capture her surprised lips.

The idea of sleep seems silly as her leg slips between my thighs and presses up.

Yep, it's confirmed, sleep's for dummies.

"Cabot," I answer stepping from the cab and into the mild April morning.

"Alex, it's Jack," my boss' voice comes through my phone. A call this early from Jack can't be good.

"Hello, what can I do for you this morning?" Walking north, I stop in front of the Starbucks a few blocks away from the courthouse and wait on Elliot and Olivia to show.

"Nothing. I just wanted to get an update on the joint case you're working with the A.U.S.A."

I sigh and hike my bag up higher on my shoulder. "For now there's really not a lot to report. The leads have been minimal and the team that's been assembled hasn't been able to drum anything up." I switch the phone to my other ear and lean against the building behind me. "The F.B.I. and the detectives are getting along well enough which is a surprise. No pissing contests and the A.U.S.A. has been great."

"Alright. Como isn't following up on anything, but let me know if you need any help," he says.

Right like you can do anything about vampires…

A sharp pain hits right between my eyes and I rub the spot hoping that it won't grow into a headache. I still can't believe the word vampire has become part of my regular vocabulary.

"As soon as there's a break, Jack, I'll let you know."

"Thanks and good work on the Gutierrez ring. Great press for the D.A.'s office and your squad of detectives."

Because press coverage was exactly what I was after there. "Thanks," I say instead.

"I'll talk to you later. Goodbye Alex," he parrots and disconnects.

I end the call, lock the keypad and drop the phone in my coat pocket thankful that he didn't want details. What exactly could I say to him? The suspect's a centuries old vampire that has a bug up her ass and likes to torture people?

If that didn't get me fired, then I'm not entirely sure what would.

There's the idea that that might not be a bad thing. I know Olivia wants to know what's happened with me. Why I came back to S.V.U., but what can I tell her, that if Cragen hadn't called and asked for a favor until they found a replacement for Greyleck I don't know if I would have.

I was honest when I said I had pulled my head from my ass, but there was still too much time between my return from witness protection and my return to S.V.U. I didn't know what to expect when I showed up at that scene. Until the call from Don came in, I had been debating leaving the D.A.'s office. My political aspirations are…were…they aren't there anymore.

The only good I've ever felt that I was doing was working with S.V.U. and I'm not even sure if this stint is permanent. There are underlings gnashing their teeth trying to get me put back in Appeals.

Appeals, I snort, they should re-label the whole division as the "Asshole of Hades" and be done with it.

Still, there is value in S.V.U. and for now, I'm staying. I've faced the squad, Olivia and I are together. Finally. After so long and so much, things are going in the direction they should have three years ago.

I look around and notice that I've been standing around for a few minutes. Glancing at my watch, I see the dynamic duo is late so I check my phone. No missed calls and no text messages. While they may run a few minutes behind, this isn't usually like Olivia. She usually sends me a text message.


The last week or so, she's been…different. That's the only word that comes to mind. Like she's pulling away and I wonder if this is what Willow was talking about a few weeks back. Is this what she meant when she said Buffy had tried to pull away from her? The only time that I've seen Olivia outside of work has been at Willow and Buffy's apartment when I'm helping the doctor with research and she leaves to search the city.

Sighing, I run a hand through my hair and twirl the phone in my palm. Should I call? Give them a few more minutes?

"Alex?" A woman's voice causes me to look up and I see Liz Donnelly and Lena Petrovsky looking at me oddly.

"Liz, hi," I smile and slip the phone back in my coat pocket, "Judge Petrovsky, what a pleasant surprise."

"Alexandra," Lena says, "Is everything okay?"

I look at both of them for a moment wondering what they're doing this far away from the courthouse, usually they stay with in a block of the place. "Yes, everything is fine. I hope. It appears two of my detectives are running behind and haven't bothered to let me know."

"Well," Liz says, holding the door to the coffee shop open, "Let's wait inside and catch up a moment."

I nod in acquiescence, following the two older women inside. "So what brings you two out this way?"

"We needed to stop by our office before we leave," Lena says, "Liz offered to pick me up as we have a conference in D.C."

"Ah the International Franchise Associations' Legal Symposium?" I ask. It was something I had debated on going to, but I'm never that bored.

Liz snorts, "Alex, your tone on the matter suggests that you may feel just like we both do." Her eyebrow rises and she smirks.

I tip my head and say, "The implication was one of mere curiosity, your honor."

Lena laughs as we sit down at a table near the door and says, "Counselor, we aren't in court, there will be no contempt charges ordered inside of Starbucks."

"But if you could, you would," I say smiling.

"We all would!" Liz barks. Our table howls with laughter for a few brief moments all three of us knowing that some days it would be appropriate. "So," my old boss and mentor starts in, "waiting on Elliot and Olivia?"

"Yes." I check my watch again and see they're over a half hour late. "It appears I've been stood up. Usually Olivia lets me know if she can't make it." My mouth sours and I sip my coffee to rid myself of the bitter taste that's built up in the back up of my throat.

"I'm sure it was unintentional." Lena smiles at me and I realize that I actually like the woman outside of the courtroom. She's actually not half bad in either.

"Did you know they saved my life while you were buried in Appeals," Liz says

I shake my head. "Was the defense tired of your lack of sympathy for repeat offenders?" I joke.

"Ha! I wish. No, actually it had been one of our own C.S.U. techs. If you've met Ryan O'Halloran, he was injured and the tech, uh…Stuckey…something Stuckey, went off the deep end on the thought that killing the people damaging his credibility was the smart way to go about increasing his credibility."

A little shocked because I had no idea, I ask, "Why did he come after you?"

She shrugs and Lena fills in, "She dressed him down in court during a cross."

"And the little shit poisoned me! If it hadn't been for your two white knights, I would be six feet under," she states matter of factly.

I smile at her and say, "Well, Liz I think it's safe to say that we all know a little poison running through your veins can do nothing to the occasional toxic slip of your tongue."

She nods and smiles at me.

"She does have your number Liz," Lena jokes.

"Be that as it may, I think that on a personal level, now that we're done laughing about my near death, we should turn a more critical gaze to Alex. Counselor would you like to tell us what is going on with you and Detective Benson?"

"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean," I say shifting in my seat. I maintain eye contact with Liz because if I do back down Olivia and I are hosed.

"Alex," Lena steps in, "Don't be coy. You wouldn't be the first A.D.A. to get involved with a detective and trust me you certainly won't be the last." The other judge offers a kind, motherly smile and I have to wonder what they're up to.

I'm about to respond, but I feel my coat vibrate so I reach in and pull my phone free. I see Olivia's name and hit 'talk'. "Cabot."

"Lex, it's me," Olivia's voice comes through clear and safe.

"You and your partner stood me up, detective."

I see Lena and Liz nod while I listen, "Yeah, I'm sorry, but there's been a new development. Do you want to meet us at the scene?"

"Bad?" I ask while a knot forms in the pit of my stomach.

"I haven't seen anything like it," her voice goes softer and she sighs. "We're at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Riverside Park."

"I'll be there in twenty minutes," I say.

"Alright. Lex, I …" she stops talking and I know what she was going to say.

"Me too, Liv. I'll be there soon." I disconnect and see that Liz and Lena are standing waiting on me.

"Come on Cabot, I'll give you a lift," Liz offers and I accept as the knot in my stomach grows.

"Jimmy," Deb calls my name and I look up and over the small stack of books between us on the kitchen table. "How did you handle all of this?"

I raise an eyebrow and shrug. "You mean the whole vampire, demon world thing?"

"Yeah," she says fidgeting with the fork in her good hand.

I chew my lower lip a moment before answering. There really isn't a good answer one way or the other and I think she needs to hear something reassuring so I venture, "It was hard at first, ya know. Irish Catholic kid and you get these clear perceptions of right and wrong of how the world's supposed to be ya know?"

She nods and I continue, "But I think of it sorta like when you were little and your parents tell you about Santa Clause, the way he's painted, and then as you grow up you realize that that's not true that it's really your parents." I scoot the stack of books over to the side and she searches out my hand from across the small table. "So you just find a way to accept it, because it's fact."

"And how do you reconcile that with the idea of God?" she asks softly, running her thumb over my knuckles.

"God? I don't really know, Sweetcheeks. It's like solidified the idea of a God in my mind just 'cause the world works that way, positive and negative ya know. I've come to think of it like this, the idea of a higher power is really complex. So knowing about demons gives me proof that there's something more out there. What it is?" I shrug. "Who knows? Maybe we're not meant to know. I know that doing good things and trying to be a good person counts in the positive way more than just blind faith."

"So, you're getting new age on me and you're saying you don't know?" She smirks and her eyes go to our entwined hands.

"Well, yeah. So what if I don't know. I don't really care. There's something out there and I can understand that when it's my time. If there's a heaven or a hell, it shouldn't matter. I can only concern myself with how I live my life. If I do what feels right, then the things that may or may not judge us when we die can't ask for more than that."

She nods and lets it drop. I get where she's coming from, I had the same questions about it, that same doubt.

Maybe we all do at some point. But it's not like things have changed. We just know more than what most people do. I look to my right as my cell rings and pick it up. "McAllister," I answer.

"Detective, it's Captain Cragen. I need you and your partner over at the Soldiers and Sailor Memorial in Riverside Park A.S.A.P."

I nod and say, "We'll be there in fifteen, we're in the neighborhood."

"Elliot and Olivia will meet you there." Cragen says and disconnects.

I flip my phone closed and stand. "Seems we got some trouble." I move away from the table and call out to Willow and Buffy, "Red! Cupcake! Get out here!"

As I approach the door, they both come out tugging on clothes. "You get a call?" Willow asks.

"Yeah," I say, "Partner, we're needed over in Riverside Park." I look at Willow and she's gathering her gear. "You comin'?"

"Yep, Melinda called and told me this was one I'd probably want to take." She's tugs on her jacket then hands Buffy hers.

"Alright then. Red, coat?" I ask holding out my hand. I catch my sports coat as she tosses it to me and feel Debra come up behind me.

"You got one I can borrow?" she asks.

The three of us turn and look at her. Debra's arm's still in a sling, but she's on her own two feet and moving pretty well. Her eyebrow raises and she huffs, "Don't think you're cutting me out of this anymore. I'm healed well enough. I can go to a fucking scene." She stands firm.

Buffy and I exchange glances and we both shrug. "Go change," my partner says.

Debra turns around and disappears into my room it takes them a few minutes to get Debra something to wear and to change into before we're all downstairs and in the squad car. The short trek over to scene was quick with minimal traffic which on the whole was good, but once we got there, there was a fifty yard barrier of crime scene tape and between the tech's and media it took a half hour to clear the barrier.

The first thing we see before looking at the memorial is a few Uni's losing their lunch in the bushes nearby. The thing about the memorial is that it's right next to a running path where you walk a series of steps and a wide concrete path with benches along the side. There's a small fountain towards the large set of steps that lead to the memorial's door.

I look around not seeing anything out of the ordinary and then I hear, "Sunavabitch," hiss from Debra's lips.

Buffy taps my shoulder and points upward. My eyes follow her finger and I look up. Involuntary, my right hand goes to my forehead, down to my chest, to left shoulder and then my right as I make the sign of the cross. A body is strung between two of the pillars at the top of the memorial, techs are skirting around the base placing markers of footprints and other things of interest.

The four of us silently move forward and see Olivia, Elliot and Alex standing in a semi-circle engaged in hushed conversation. They nod and make room for us as they see us approach. Liv has her notebook out and is scrawling notes as they talk.

"Who found the body?" Buffy asks.

Elliot points over his shoulder to a jogger sitting on a bench near the base of the steps, his head's between his knees and a medic has a blanket draped over his shoulders.

"Has anyone been up to look at the body?" Willow asks.

Everyone shakes their heads and she follows up, "So we get to it how?"

"There's a set of steps inside that lead to an access door. We can go that way," Olivia says.

Running a hand through my hair I begin to make my way up and inside with the rest of the team following. It wasn't warm outside and inside there's a dampness in the air that causes the chill to set in your bones. While we make our way up the steps, I prepare myself mentally. Whatever's gonna be waiting for us up there is gonna be lots worse than anything I've seen. Just from the glance at it from the ground up, it wasn't pretty. Blood ran down the side of the monument and the body was wet and red from head to toe.

The access door empties on to the reverse side of the monument and we hang a right and work our way around. As the body comes into view, all I see is blood and exposed muscle tissue. Buffy hisses behind me, Elliot gulps, Deb cusses while Olivia and Alex remain silent.

Willow brushes past me and gets closer. Her hair's in a ponytail this morning and I see the blood drain from her ears to the base of her neck. Quietly, she says, "Buffy, come here."

My partner moves past me to stand next to her wife while both women slip gloves on. Buffy grabs the envelope taped to the left pillar that the body's lashed to. I move and stand behind them as they slit the envelope open and peer inside. A slip of parchment sits inside, mocking us. Rage burns through, hot, bright and fierce. Buffy moves first and taking it out, unfolds it so that we can all read together.

"The past is never forgotten, the hubris of man will be their downfall. Gaze upon the sins of the past and quake. Your judgment is near."

My jaw clenches and I whip around. Needing to lash out, but Deb catches the fist that went swinging towards the concrete wall behind me. I stand shocked, numbed and frightened. "I…" I stutter.

She shakes her head and releases my hand. Nodding, I turn my attention back to our task. From behind us, Olivia says, "We're going to need an I.D., is there anything that can be used here?"

"We know who it is," Buffy hisses.

I look down, between the feet of the victim, resting there are a stake, a cross and a sword.

"It's Siobhan," Deb finishes.

Her words turn my blood to ice and for the first time in the years since I quit smoking, I itch for one so bad it hurts.

"Okay," Willow says, too evenly, too calmly. "Let me and the techs start processing the body."

"Will," Buffy lays a hand on her lovers shoulder and Willow whips around.

"Not now Buffy," she pleads, eyes closed.

"Will, baby, look at me please." Buffy grips Red's shoulders and forces her to open her eyes.

I stare in shock, Red's eyes are coal black. I know from experience that this isn't even sort of okay. Buffy and I crowd around her, blocking the others from seeing her.

"Don't," Buffy clips in a harsh whisper, "This isn't your fault."

Willow scoffs and pulls away. My Red rages just as quiet, "The hell it's not. Who else do you know that has a sin like this? Who else do you know that's flayed a person alive?" She spins away and opens up the kit she carried with her. Kneeling down, she begs, "Just let me do my job."

"Will, you're…" my partner tries to reason.

"I know. Okay. I know." She fishes in her coat pocket and pulls out a pair of sunglasses. "Give me a few minutes before you send any other techs up. Please?" her voice hitches on the request.

Buffy's head drops as she squeezes her wife's shoulder in support. Turning away, Buffy heads back the way we came with the rest of us on her heels. I glance back for one last look at my girl before disappearing around the corner.

It's going to be a long fucking night.


Ch. 16 – Modern Rome Burning

The smell of Incense calms me and as the priest says, "Please stand." I cast a discrete look to my left and watch as Liv rises with the rest of the congregation. The fact that she asked to come to Sunday mass with me and my family was enough to check for the signs of the Apocalypse. When she showed and Kathy opened the door, I coulda sworn there was going to be a rain of toads on the way over.

There wasn't and she's sat going through the motions with us this morning.

I turn my attention back to the priest as he says, "The Lord be with you."

We respond en masse, "And also with you."

My eyes train on his movements as he walks to the lectern. "These are troubling times and a lot of the prayer requests that have come in have reminded me of a few simple things that get lost in our daily struggles. Today I ask that you pray with me."

I bow my head and prepare to follow his words, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;" we take a breath and continue the prayer as one, "where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy."

"O, Devine master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life," we end the prayer and a solemn cloud hangs over the mass.

"We must not forget these things. They are the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. May almighty God bless you," Father Williams says. Making the sign of the cross over the entirety of his flock, he finishes, "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

"Amen," we all say as I cross myself.

"Go in the peace of Christ," he says smiling.

"Thanks be to God," we finish as one.

The organ starts up and the procession from the pulpit files down the aisle as the alter boys swing the censer of incense. Father Williams follows and the rest of us exit the church. I know the last few weeks have been tough on everyone, but Liv seems to have taken it worse than most.

I bring up the rear of my family and we file out of the church heading towards the two cars that we brought. The morning is overcast and dreary. Not a big stretch for the type of weather we've been having lately, but a little sunshine to warm us up wouldn't hurt.

"Honey," Kathy's voice causes me to look down and over at her. "We're going to go to brunch. Do you two have time?"

I look at Liv and know. Shaking my head, I say, "We should be getting in. We're late as it is." Turning to my partner, I say, "I'll meet you over at the car in a minute."

She nods and a few of the kids hug her goodbye. "Olivia," my wife says, "It was good to have you with us this morning." She hikes up my Elliot Junior on her hip and asks, "Will this be a regular thing?"

"I," Liv falters, "honestly, probably not."

Kathy dips her chin in understanding. "Well, you're welcome, anytime."

"Thanks, Kathy." Liv smiles and waves goodbye. "El, I'll meet you at the car. You guys have a good day." With that she spins and heads across the street to our unmarked while I walk Kathy and the kids to our van a block down.

"Elliot, is everything okay?" Kathy asks as I buckle Eli in to his car seat and check that the rest of the kids are buckled in.

I shut the van door and lean in the open driver's side window before answering, "It's the case we're working on. It's…it's shaken a few of us up." I shrug and cover her hand with mine, resting it on the steering wheel. "I think she's looking for a few answers. I don't think she's gonna find them here."

Kathy's mouth pinches and I know from our years together that she wants to say something. But she thinks better of it and instead leans to plant a chaste kiss on my lips. "Okay," she says, "Call me later."

I nod. "Love you," I say smiling as I lean further in and tell the kids the same.

"Be safe, El," my wife says.

Turning away, I jog across the street and down the block to meet up with my partner. She's in the drivers seat with the heat on as I climb inside.

"Everything cool?" she asks.

I shrug. "I don't know if cool is going to happen anytime soon Liv. But Kathy was just worried. You and church? I didn't think I'd live to see the day."

She smirks at me as she puts the car in drive. "Me either partner."

She signals left and we head towards the bridge to take us to Manhattan. The drive ain't so bad and we make it to the one-six in less time than I anticipated. We park in front, but she doesn't kill the engine.

"How are you handling all of this?" she asks, licking her lower lip.

"This is what?" I ask her. What the hell is she talking about?

"This whole," she looks over her shoulder and out the windows, before saying, "Vampires, demons, slayers stuff."

"Partner, this, the vampire, slayer stuff, is just actual proof that there is a God."

She shakes her head. "No it's not. You saw what happened to Siobhan."

I lean back against the door to turn and look at her. "So, because of that, you have no faith?"

She rolls her eyes and it nearly comes out like a pout, "I didn't have any to begin with, El. All of this just seems to reinforce it. The God that I've heard about…it's not one that I want anything to do with even if He does exist."

I open up the passenger side door as she kills the engine and we step out into the late morning. "I think you're looking at it wrong. It's a balance thing. Right and wrong, good and evil."

She quirks an eyebrow at me and scrunches her face, "After all the shit we've seen in the past ten years you really believe it's that black and white?"

We walk inside and sign in before I give her an answer as we step in the elevator. It's only us so I say, "Not everything. Some stuff, definitely. God is to me."

She looks at me, leaning casually against the back of the elevator as it takes us up to the bullpen. Her hands are hooked in her pants pocket and she's dressed a little nicer for her trip to church this morning, but it's still Liv. Actually it's a little more of the layered look she sported the first two-thirds of our partnership. I forgot how much I like that look on her.

"I say your full of shit," she says.

I laugh as the doors slide open and we step out into the hallway. "Say all you want. I'm calling you chicken." I smirk at her and jog down the hallway afraid of getting kicked.

"Stabler," she calls after me, jogging behind.

Laughing for the first time in I don't know how long, we rest against each other and walk through the doors. I look up and see Munch, Fin, Buffy, Debra, Jimmy, Alex, Cragen, the federal agent-slash-slayers and Willow all standing around looking at us.

Fin looks between the two of us and says, "What's so funny?"

Liv and I look at each other and shrug. Nothing, everything, the look between the two of us conveys. It's her that answers, "Life, Fin. Life is absurd. Sometimes," she says dropping her coat on the back of the chair and clapping him on the back, "you just need to laugh about it."

I lean against Buffy's desk and watch as Elliot and Olivia come in laughing. It's a nice change. Knowing the meeting's about to start, I stand up straighter as Buffy's hand gives my arm a gentle squeeze. I offer her a small smile and a silent, 'love you' before turning my attention back to the conversation going on around us.

"While we need the levity," Cragen says directing his attention to me, "Doctor Rosenberg wanted to go over the preliminary findings and the autopsy with us."

I smile and say, "I just thought it would be easier to go over this with everyone here. Thank you, sir."

"Hey," Munch says, "How come Melinda doesn't ever come down and do a little dog and pony show?"

Odafin rolls his eyes and says, "Willow's new ya old goat. Cut the doc some slack and let her tell her business."

I laugh a little at the two of them. If I weren't so damn tired it'd be a nice hearty type of laugh. Considering I've been up since about three a.m. Saturday morning and it's now past noon on Sunday, my feeble attempt at a laugh should be appreciated.

"Thanks, Odafin." I watch him nod in my direction and then approach the bank of computer screens pulling up a photo of Siobhan's body against the cold steel of the autopsy table. "A lot of stuff we lost because her skin was missing. I confirmed yesterday morning through dental records that we correctly identified Siob…" I stop and regroup, remembering that just using her name makes my tummy rumble, "the victim. Given the lower ambient temperature and the missing skin, pinpointing time of death was difficult and even then I'm only going to say that she was dead a minimum of twelve hours prior to the jogger finding her."

I tap the keys and bring up photos from the autopsy. "It was also impossible to determine cause of death. The blood loss was severe, but," I point to a marks on her upper left thigh, right shoulder blade and right arm, filling in, "these marking here tell me that her skin was removed in strips. There was no severe pulmonary damage to suggest cardiac arrest, but I wouldn't rule out hypovolemic shock as a cause of death, but then that would have been brought on by the low blood volume and body shutting down to protect the cardiac muscle and brain. I'm waiting on a few tests that will be analyzing oxygen concentration in the deeper muscle tissue and organs to finalize my report. I…"

"Red," Jimmy barks, "breathe."

My face heats up and I nod, sucking in a breath. Breathing helps, it's helpful and…gah! I need sleep.

"So, tests. Waiting on those." I punch up a few more graphs and diagrams. "Debra, the results from the trace evidence came back and I need to know if you remember anything about where you were being held." I look at her, hopeful.

Debra chews on her lower lip and shakes her head, looking at her feet. "I don't remember. I mean…we were brought in with bags around our heads. I just remember going from the van to the building." She looks up at me sadly. "I'm sorry."

I see Jimmy's hand go to the small of her back and I watch as she loosens up a little. I raise an eyebrow to Buffy and she smirks. We're going to talk about this later. I've been meaning to find out what's been going on between those two.

"That's alright," I say, smiling. "We did get some stuff back, but it's not a lot. I have a friend at Columbia that's like the Einstein of soil and all things dirt like. He should have something for me within the next few days.

"Just, I mean, when you guys need me to help, I'm here. I want in on this," Debra says.

"Detective," Captain Cragen starts, "I'm not sure that's such a good idea."

She looks him over and shakes her head. "With all due respect Captain, but fuck good ideas. I shouldn't be shut out."

For some reason, Amanda steps in, "Captain, we've actually got the okay. She won't be a serious participant in the investigation, but she will be useful."

The captain looks between Debra and Amanda. "Fine, but keep it light, Morgan. I told Lieutenant Laguerta that you would be in good hands. Detective Batista says that two phone calls in the time that you've been gone is unacceptable." Don smiles and says, "I suggest you call your department a little more regularly."

Debra smiles at this and nods.

"Also, Buffy and Jimmy," he continues, "Patrick and I have agreed that you won't be pulled onto any more active cases. Olivia and Elliot that goes for you two as well. Munch and Fin will be picking up some of the slack as will I."

"Captain," Olivia starts, "That's really not necessary. There are plenty of hands in this that we can divert some of our…"

"Olivia," Don says, his arms folding across his chest, "This isn't something that you get to negotiate. I don't care what needs to be done, but you and you're partner's sole duty is to this case and this case only."

I watch Olivia huff for a moment, but see Alex run her hand over Olivia's shoulder, causing the detective to back down.

"Now that we've got that, who wants to fill me in on the latest vic?" Don asks, looking at each detective involved in the huddle.

Buffy steps and says, "Siobhan Brady. She was twenty-one; date of birth is August first of nineteen-eighty-seven. She attended the Holland School for girls in England." Buffy goes to the computer and shows a photo of Siobhan taken a few years ago when she was on Faith's squad. "She graduated a year early and was hired by the Watcher's Council as a consultant."

"Family?" Elliot asks.

Buffy shakes her head. "The only family that she had was in the form of a few friends from school, but even then from what I've been told she wasn't in contact with any of them for at least a year."

"She was funny," Debra says softly. "She was smart and she was good at what she did."

"Just what exactly did the girl do?" Odafin asks.

It's Alex who answers, lying smoothly, "She was a buyer for the Council. I was in contact a bit with her boss and Siobhan's specialty was in Cuban artifacts."

"Cool. So Deb, how'd you meet her?" he follows up.

"Through Dexter, well, I guess through Buffy and Willow. They introduced us when they were in Miami." She looks between the two of us and then back at Odafin. "She was young, but she had a better grasp on reality then people twice her age."

"No known enemies?" Munch asks.

"No. None that I ever ran into or heard her talk about." Debra leans against one of the desks as everyone begins grabbing a chair. Alex leans against Olivia's desk and Buffy hops up on hers while Jimmy stands shoulder to shoulder between Buffy and Debra.

"Alright, then we still don't have much in the way of a suspect." Don rubs his neck and sighs. "Olivia see if we can get anything from Miami Metro. Maybe they have something that could be useful to us."

I watch Munch and Fin shuffle to their desks and I look over at Alex. "We have court soon?"

She nods and says, "An hour, which means we should be going."

I make my way over to Buffy and squeeze her shoulder and pat Jimmy's arm before waiting on Alex to say goodbye to Olivia. I sigh as I realize it's going to be another very long day.

The speaker on the phone is loud and I cringe as the woman on the other end squeaks, "Buffy just shut up and listen!"

I look over at Alex who shrugs then leans in and uses the pad of her thumb to wipe the corner of my mouth. "Liv, you really should be more careful."

"Hey," I protest, "I may have been saving that sauce for later."

Her eyebrow rises at me and she says nothing more.

"Dawn," Buffy's voice is low, "You need them at the other places more than they're needed here now. I'm sending them away. Satsu and Amanda can go to Los Angeles and the other two…" Buffy falters.

"Claire and Denise," Willow supplies.

"Thanks Will. Claire and Diane can go to Austin," Buffy says.

I wonder if she did the name thing on purpose. She has warned that she sucks at names.

"You realize that I'm going to tell Xander and he can call and yell at you, right?"

I take a sip of my Coke and laugh. I think I may like Buffy's sister. She seems like a riot.

"You and Xander can go blow the whole Council out of your aa…" Alex and I watch amused as Willow's hand clamps over Buffy's mouth muffling her words.

"You can tell Xander that it's the right thing to do, Dawn," Willow finishes for her wife.

"Princess," Jimmy starts in from his position on the couch, "we got it here. If it gets crazy, I'll call you myself."

"Fine." We hear some rustling in the background and Dawn says, "Look, fine. Do what you want. I need to go."

"We love you, brat," Buffy says smirking as she pries Willow's hand off her mouth.

"Love you all too," Dawn parrots back before the line goes dead.

"Well," Alex says, "that was certainly enlightening. What side of the family is the howler monkey on?"

"Our dad's," Buffy says not missing a beat. "Although, I'm not ruling out that she wasn't adopted or something."

"Buffy," Willow warns and I smirk. The blonde rolls her eyes and takes a bite of the pizza.

I look around at the people here, Debra, Jimmy, Buffy, Willow and Alex and realize that today, despite the lack of serious progress, has been okay. Since I found out what's really been going on, I've felt…off. I look up as I feel someone's eyes on me and see Alex looking at me. I smile at her and realize that I've been pretty distant with her recently too.

I sigh and stand up. I go over to Buffy and lean down whispering, "I need to talk to Alex privately, you mind if I use your room?"

She shakes her head and I turn pulling Alex up from her chair. I lead her down the short hallway and into the bedroom, closing the door once she's in the room.

"Olivia?" she questions, arms folding across her chest.

I smile at her and lead her to the bed to sit down. "Sorry, I just didn't want anyone else…this is a conversation for you and me only."

Her hand finds mine, lacing them together. I almost want to pull away as the touch is almost too much, but I don't. I need to get over this. "I, uh, I'm sorry."

"For?" Alex asks, her eyebrow rising.

"For not… for just not being really available the last week or so." I look at our hands and I run a thumb over her palm. "It's just I was thinking today about how out of my element I've felt, ya know?"

She lets my hands go and I run my left one through my hair. "I'm afraid, I don't Liv."

"Alex, I work sex crimes. It's me. It's more of who I am than anything else. This whole thing with the…"

"The monsters and vampires," she supplies.

"Yeah, it's been weird. There aren't… I don't have a rule book for this," I try to explain.

"You use a rule book?" she jokes.

"No, I mean yes, but this is different. And today, I went to church with Elliot and after that it made less sense than it did before."

"Wait," my girlfriend says, "you went to church and didn't take pictures?"

"Alex," I nearly whine. "I'm trying to tell you something."

"Oh really, Detective? And what exactly would that be?" she smiles and tucks some of my hair behind my ear.

"I'm saying it doesn't matter. I've been freaking out and I don't need to. When this is all done, I'll go back to catching rapists and child molesters and Buffy and Jimmy and Willow and this whole thing can go away." I sigh and finish, "So I'm sorry I haven't made myself available, I just needed some time."

She nods at me in understanding and her eyes soften. Leaning in she captures my lips in a chaste kiss. Pulling back a few seconds later she says, "Does this mean I can take you home tonight?" She wiggles her eyebrows at me and I laugh.

"We're trying to stop a crazy vampire from killing a bunch of teenage girls and your thinking about sex?"

She nods and stands. "I have my priorities, Olivia."

We laugh our way back to the living room where everyone is putting together some ideas about where to start looking.

"Will, what about a spell?" Buffy asks.

The doctor shakes her head. "I tried that. They really aren't using any. Even the demon locator spell didn't turn anything up."

"Shit," Buffy moans. "Alright. I'm going to head out and start a sweep."

"Uh, not without Red or me, Cupcake," Jimmy moves to stand.

"Jimmy," Buffy warns, "I can handle a sweep without you two."

Jimmy rises to his full height, squaring his shoulders. "And you must think I'm a fuckin' idiot if you think that you aren't taking at least one of us with you."

I watch amused as they stand toe to toe. Neither budging as Alex nudges my shoulder. "We ever get that confrontational?"

I smirk and shake my head, "Councilor there were some days I couldn't make up my mind of wanting to punch you or take you on my desk in the middle of the squad room."

She blushes a little and nods. "Good to know."

"Stop," Willow gets between the two of them. "Jimmy you're staying here with Debra and I'm going with Buffy."

"Uh, no Will you're really not," Buffy says looking at her wife.

"I'm not?" Willow's hands fist at her side.

"You haven't slept in two days. You need to," Buffy tries to reason.

"Do I need to remind you who is the boss of me?" The doctor's arms fold across her chest and she raises an eyebrow at her blonde counterpart.

Looking between the two of them, I'm not sure if I could cross either one of them. Truthfully, they both kinda scare me.

"Honey," Buffy's tone softens, "I get it okay. I just think that I can handle a sweep on my own and everyone else can get some sleep. We're all in serious need."

"Baby," Willow's tone matches Buffy's, mocking a little in its sweetness, "You haven't slept since Thursday night. If anyone can use the sleep, it's you." Willow smiles at her and I watch amazed as Buffy's posture droops. "I think it would do everyone some good, if ALL of us got some sleep."

"Fine," the detective mumbles.

"And on that note," Alex says standing, "I think we should go."

I move and gather our coats and Jimmy says, "Cupcake, listen to your wife. Alex, Olivia, good to have you over for a round of 'which Summers Woman Can Screech the Loudest'. Oh, and diner too."

"Dinner was good, thanks, Jimmy," I say as he helps me into my coat.

"Willow," Alex says from behind. "Good work in court today. We'll see all of you in the morning."

I wave a goodbye before following Alex down the hall to the elevators. Sleep sounds damn good right about now.


Ch. 17 – No War Without Warriors

I flick the windshield wipers on as the storm that's been threatening to break finally manages to spit out some water. A quick check of the dashboard clock and at ten at night, I'm thinking of telling Elliot that we should probably finish this up soon. Truth, today ain't been all bad. We got some more info back on the vamp, Lilah, that's proved a little bit useful.

We know what kinda places she likes to live in and the group's busted up. Today I got Elliot while Cupcake and Olivia went to shake down a couple more places. Red's been stuck at the morgue for the past twelve hours and Alex and Debra started going through the stuff Deb's boss sent up from Miami.

"You think we have a shot at stopping this thing?" Elliot asks from the passenger seat.

I turn my attention to him as I rub my eyes. "We will," I say with more resolution than I feel.

I look back out through the windshield and rain pounds the car. I turn the wiper blades to a higher setting and sink back into the seat. Peering through the sheet of rain that's coming down, I go back to watching the bar door. Elliot and I have been waiting for a snitch that Buffy occasionally uses to see if he can come through with anything.

"So," Elliot says, "how long have you and Buffy been partners?"

I suck my teeth and do the mental math, "About five years give or take."

"And you've been doing this demon hunting bit for?"

I shrug, and explain, "Not as long." I look over at him and give him a once over. Guys alright, I know that, but talkin' to people especially when it ain't my partner or Red, well and now, Deb, is something I've never been good with. "I'll give you a brief recap. Buffy and I were partners a little under a year and a half when these bodies started poppin' up with her friends and hers California DL's on 'em. Red came to town shortly before that which is when my partner and Willow started shacking up."

I run a hand through my hair and continue, "It took a week or two after the bodies started to pile up when I call my partner on her bullshit. I mean we weren't as close as we are now. When she told me, a few things I'd seen her do sorta clicked." I smile over at him and say, "You've seen her move. Cupcake doesn't move like most."

Elliot nods. "There's been a few things. She moves a little more graceful than most, quicker too."

"Exactly! So that case was the first where we worked together on the demon stuff." I turn down the radio and say, "Since then, we've been thicker than thieves. I go on patrol with her every now and again. Like tonight, the cat we're lookin' for, Vlad Hladysh, is a demon groupie that likes to keep his parts. Cupcake leans on him and to keep the parts he likes, he talks."

"Dangerous?" my partner for the night asks.

"Nah, not really. He's more of an all talk no walk kinda guy. But the last time we shook him down, when a low level demon thought that coming to set up shop here in the city was a good idea, he pulled a knife and ruined Buffy's coat." I smirk and let out a small laugh. "Cupcake's gotta thing about her clothes. She decked him for it and took the money to cover the cost of her jacket." I smile and crack my knuckles.

"The guy knifes your partner and you did what?" He smiles at me and qualifies, "The last guy that tried to do that with Olivia, I accidentally rammed him face first into a brick wall."

"He caught the business end of a collapsible night stick I keep with me when I patrol with her. "

Elliot laughs at me and raises his hand in a high-five gesture. I laugh and give in.

Looking him over again, I ask, "So, I know Olivia and Alex are…uh, but you and Olivia ever?"

His eyebrow rises at me, countering my question, "You and Buffy ever?"

"Hell no, Red'd kill me." I grab my chest and mock, "Red's got a set on her. Don't let the babbling and the cute smiles fool you. She's just as, if not more, dangerous than my partner."

Elliot rubs his chin and says, "That's what a friend of a friend said."

It's my turn to rub the stubble on my chin and ask, "How much you actually know Elliot?"

He shrugs. "It's all pretty much second hand, but the guy said she tried to end the world."

I debate on going into it, but decide against it. If Red wants anyone to know, she'll tell them. I grunt and let the conversation lapse before asking, "You never did answer my question, what gives?"

"No." he says flatly, "Liv and I have always been above board."

I shake my head and smirk. "I know the tune, you've thought about it."

"Hell yes," he admits free and easy. "You've seen her right?"

"But," I probe.

"But let me count the ways why the few close calls we've had ended." Elliot's fist is held in front of my face, as he ticks off, "One, I'm married. Two, we're partners; sex will complicate an already complicated relationship. Three, Cabot or not, if something ever happened and she found out, I'd have to change my name from Elliot to Ellen 'cause Cabot would make sure my balls were mounted on her wall."

Smiles break out on our faces and we both laugh easily. "Yeah, you're A.D.A. seems like one to do some shit like that."

El nods his head. "She's one of the toughest women I know. Her, Liv and my wife."

"Yeah, Red and Cupcake are for me. It's funny ya know. I got two kids, grown, and my daughter Susan thought that me, Buffy and Willow were sleeping together."

"Get out?" El

"Hand to God. She flipped out." I smirk and groan, "You shoulda seen my daughter's face when I told her I was moving to Manhattan with'em."

"Yeah, I can imagine. Olivia and I have been partners ten years. There's jealousy on my family's side."

"Yeah," I sigh, "I get that. My son's alright. He actually hangs out with them sometimes, but Susie…"

"You feel like shit 'cause she can't understand and you can't explain," Elliot finishes.

A glance out the window and my timing couldn't be more perfect. "Come on," I say pushing my door open and stepping out into the rain. Where's a fuckin' umbrella when you need one?

Elliot comes up next to me and we both turn the collars on our coats up to block some of the rain from slipping down our necks. Looking over, Vlad's about twenty feet in front of us on the opposite side of the street. I start up a jog and my temporary partner keeps up.

Vlad's a big guy. I think he's part moose myself, but Buffy says he looks like an experiment gone wrong. At six-foot-six, he's easily three hundred pounds of muscle with a face that looks like something out of a bad interpretation of Frankenstein. Cupcake says the reason he got involved in the demon community is 'cause he couldn't function in regular society.

"Vlad!" I call out a few feet from him.

He stops and looks at us. I see his struggle to stay or run, but when he stays put I say a silent prayer of thanks that I don't have to run after him. Chasing this fucker down in the rain wasn't on my list of things to do tonight. "Mister Jimmy!" he says and looks to my left where Elliot is standing. "Where is the Buffy and who is your friend?"

"She's around and don't worry about him. Come here," I say motioning to an alcove carved into the side of a building. The less soaked we all get the better. "And keep your hands where I can see 'em big guy!"

His hands go up to his sides and he complies with my demand as we all move to get out of the rain. I fish a copy of the picture of Lilah from the inside of my coat and hold it up for him to see. "You see anyone looking like this around?"

He dances on his feet like an overgrown kid and his eyes skirt around checking the shadows, but he doesn't answer me.

I snap my fingers in front of his face. "Vlad! Vlad, answer the question."

His face looks pained as he answers, "Mister Jimmy, after…when I misbehaved, it wasn't, some of the demons were hurting me, I thought you would let me alone."

"I'm back now and I need to know what you know." I look him over and El taps me on the shoulder.

Leaning back so that he can whisper to me, I hear, "Jimmy, the guy's scared. Let me try."

I nod my head in Vlad's direction and El steps forward, extending his hand. "Elliot," he says introducing himself. Vlad's big meat hook of a hand gently shakes the one Elliot offered. "Who's hurting you, Vlad?"

It's one of the oddest things I've seen and for me that's saying some shit, but as Elliot asks his question and Vlad sees that the guys sincere, the big guy's eyes well up and tears slip down his cheeks.


Sighing, I run a hand through my wet hair causing some of the water to snake down my neck. Shit. "Come on," I say, taking Vlad's elbow gently and steer him towards the car. "Let's go someplace we can talk and get outta this mess."

Pushing my black framed glasses up, I rub my eyes and listen to another round of thunder rattle the apartment windows. Willow sits next to me as I wonder if Debra going with Buffy and Olivia will actually garner some results.

"Jeez," Willow says from her spot next to me at the kitchen table, "it hasn't rained this bad in a while."

I shrug. "We'll get a few of them for spring." I look at her and ask, "How long have you been in New York?"

"About four years," she answers, "but the storms still sorta freak me out. We never got huge amounts of rain in Sunnydale."

I cluck my tongue and ask, "If I'm to believe you and Buffy, you've been fighting demons since you were a teenager, but thunderstorms freak you out?"

She smiles, turning to me. "What can I say, Alex? It's all about what you know."

"And you know demons?" I smirk.

"That and other stuff." She sticks her tongue out at me and says wistfully, "In high school, things were rough, but after, things just got worse. I mean we dealt with fish-man-thingies on the swim team, poltergeist, werewolves, a snake-demon-mayor…" Her face lights up as she says, "there was this really cool time when Buffy used a bazooka on this demon called The Judge. And I turned into a ghost one Halloween."

I cast a long glance at her and shake my head. "You did all of that in high school. What was that like?" I ask. Rapists, murders and molesters are one thing, but this…

"High school was like any other. We just had a higher mortality rate than most." She closes the book she had open and smiles, "It was similar to this. Late night research. Lots of doughnuts. General hijinx." Her face sours for a moment and she says, "Sometimes it was bad. When the hellmouth opened or there was an apocalypse. Things got tense then, but then things were always sort of tense."

"An apocalypse?" As in more than one? My head spins and I want to sit down. I am sitting. Shit.

She must see my face lose color because she asks, "You okay?"

"I'm just trying to understand," I mumble.

"Alex, you don't have to. My life is crazy or was crazy. And yes, apocalypse as in more than one. We've stopped a few. Four during high school and a few more after that."

Her hand covers mine and she gives it a gentle squeeze. I really don't know the woman I'm sitting next to. I remember, vaguely what high school was like. To deal with the regular things that a teenager does is a nightmare, but to…I think that for the first time I can recall, I'm at a loss for words. I gather myself and sigh. "One night, when we aren't hunting a vampire that's declared war on your family and friends, we're going to have to talk."

She smiles warmly at me and a little of my unease abates. Knowing what I know of her now, I can see that the reason Buffy's been as successful as she has is due in part to having Willow by her side. "Buffy's lucky you know."

Her head cocks to the side as her face scrunches. "Uh, not, I mean she is lucky, but I think I got the better deal. I was this mousey-geek girl that no one besides Xander and Jesse would talk to. Buffy changed me a lot, knowing her has changed me," her voice goes solemn and I wonder what she isn't telling me.

"There's more story isn't there? " I ask.

"Lots, but later. Right now, we need to see if there are any other ties that Lilah has."

"Fair enough, Willow," I concede, "but we will talk more."

She nods enthusiastically. "Okay." Her phone vibrates on the table just as mine does.

We reach, pick them up and look at the displays. I look at the clock and reread Olivia's text message. Well there go my plans for the rest of the night. Willow's look matches my own and I ask, "Buffy?"

"Yep, guess Jimmy and Elliot caught some information so their meeting up. It's going to be a little bit longer. Olivia?" she asks.


"And how's that going?"

I shrug. "Good, actually. Things were tense for a few weeks, but we've talked and I think it's all sorted out. Sometimes Olivia's the most infuriating person I know. Of course you probably understand."

"I do. It's always been that way with Buffy. As much as she doesn't want to sometimes, there are things that have to take priority. Being a slayer was the first and everything else took a back seat some times." She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and shrugs.

"I think that that's the same with most of us." I play with the watch on my wrist and lean back in the chair. "We're all married to our jobs."

Willow snorts. "Yeah some more than others, it's a wacky way to live, but…"

"It's a good fight," I finish.

"Yep." Willow agrees. I watch as her lips purse then she says, "It's all a good fight. Fighting the demons and saving lives that way and fighting for regular people against humans that may as well be monsters." She grows quiet for a moment and in a hushed voice says, "Sometimes, I think humans are worse than the demons."


"Well, it's like we've, Buffy, me, Xander, Giles and the rest of us, we've fought and lost to save the world from being taken over by demons. I lost count of the number of times we've stopped demons from making snacks of the human population. I know I'm not without fault. I've got fault and big big guilt and I've done bad things, really uber bad, ugly things, but…" she falters, gathering her thoughts, "Demons, as bad as this sounds, are hell beasties, it's genetically coded for them to want to be destructive and there are a few out there that want to live and let live. Most don't. Humans aren't. But they do the worst of it."

She picks up her mug of water and takes a drink before continuing, "I know it's been hard on Buffy and she's asked what was the point of saving the world when there are some days when the only thing people want to do to one another is hurt each other. And I can't blame her for that. I feel it too 'cause it's a good point."

It's my turn to take her hand in mind and give it a squeeze. "Willow, I can't say anything about this whole demon thing because I feel really out of my element, but despite me feeling that, some days you have to see that it's not always like that. There are definitely good people out there."

"I do. I guess just some days it's worse than others. Like that woman that you were telling me about that let men come into her home and do stuff to her kids. For a while, I kinda wanted to find a demon and let them eat. I didn't and I won't, but…"

I smile softly at her and nod. "Some days you want to pull the trigger yourself." I give her hand another squeeze and amend, "We don't though because we know the difference. We don't because if people like us, those that swore an oath to protect and fight for the law then we can't expect the regular people, Joe Public, to follow them either. How could we?"

Sighing, she gives me a gentle nod. "Yeah, that's the what and sometimes it's a great big heaping pile."

I laugh. "Absolutely, but it's a war. I've seen that much to know that on the demon side it is. We're just the poor bastards that can't see themselves doing anything but fighting it."

We sit in silence for a few moments. I'm not sure what to say. I know a little bit of what she's feeling. I feel it every time I lose a case or can't get the right evidence or the right motion, but I can see that for them, doing what they've done, that it's magnified and it can't be easy.

Our heads swivel towards the front of the apartment when we hear knocking. Willow makes a face and stands. "I didn't buzz anyone up." I watch her disappear through the kitchen and hear the door open.

I'm up and out of my seat when she squeaks, "Angel!"

"Now look," I say circling the demon that I've been trying to talk sense into for the past ten minutes, "There's no reason I have to kill you." It grunts or chortles or something that seems very mocking and it's pissing me off.

I look over at the group I'm with; Jimmy's got his arms folded across his chest watching what the demon's going to do. Elliot and Olivia look like they're at a boxing match watching a heavy weight fight, or at least what I think people watching a heavy weight fight would look like. Deb is standing against the wall smirking, if her hand wasn't still broke I might just want to break it.

The reason why I'm here, the reason why I ruined my boots, is standing behind Elliot next to Jimmy. A fist comes at me slowly. I dodge it easily. "Hey, didn't I say I wanted to do this in a peaceful fashion."

I hop out of the way of a misplaced kick and roll my eyes. "Look, all I wanted was to come tell you that Vlad isn't working for you anymore," I throw a punch and it lands on the left side of the demon's head. I take the opening and deliver a short set of punches to the things stomach that send it sailing back into a pillar. It bends but doesn't break and the floor above us shakes from the impact. The last thing I need is to get buried in a building.

It, he, whatever gets back up and charges me. Using its own momentum, I toss it against the far brick wall and stalk up to it, punching it in the face. "Stupid demon," and I hit it, "stupid bullying demon," and I hit it again. "I told you I didn't want to kill you!" I hit it one last time and its head snaps back as its eyes roll back in its head.

I stand over it and wait. When it doesn't move anymore, I stand straighter and glare at Vlad. "You know this would have been so much easier if you had told me you were doing a forced Jeeves to this thing," I grumble hooking my thumb over my shoulder.

A few crackles sound behind me and my attention turns back to the demon that I just killed. I watch horrified as a loud pop echoes around the basement and it explodes. I cover my eyes, but still manage to get slammed with the full force of the explosion.

Blinking I look up at Jimmy kneeling beside me covered in blue slime. "Cupcake?" His lips say, but I can't hear him all that well,

I open my mouth to speak and taste demon. Icky, gross, disgusting, blue demon goop that just completely ruined my outfit! I spit the paste from my mouth and gag. Rolling over onto my side I wave him off and push down the bile in the back of my throat. My hands are covered in the same stuff as Jimmy, as the same stuff in my mouth.

Finally managing to get my voice, I say, "Tell me that just didn't happen?"

Jimmy looks at me like I just asked him if the pope was gay and then his face cracks. He grins, laughs and gathers me in his arms. "Christ, kiddo!"

I let him get his need to make sure all my parts are good, squishing down the squick that comes from smashing our bodies together. I feel blue goo slither down between my breasts and that's when I break the hug. "I'm good Old Man. Just need space and oxygen is good too."

Under the blue, I see his cheeks tint pink. I smile at him and his shoulders drop. I look over at the voyeurs and shrug. "So uh, that usually doesn't happen."

Olivia, Elliot and Vlad didn't catch all of the blast and their only partially covered with globs of goo while Deb got about as much as Jimmy and she doesn't look happy. Yeah, well I'm not either. Can I go a day without ruining an outfit?

I look back down at the leather coat, the nice tailored pants and cute blouse only to realize that the answer's probably a no. Fuck!

"Well, now that we're all slimed, let's get going. I need a shower. And Q-tips." I spin around and not waiting on people, trudge up the steps of the basement and out into the rainy night. The plus side of the rain is that it kinda cleans us off, but we're left cold and wet.

The ride home was quiet except for the traffic, Debra's in the backseat and Olivia's driving while Jimmy, Vlad and Elliot follow behind in the other car. This should make for an interesting night. I rest my head against my palm and close my eyes for a few minutes. A headache's started right above my left eye and the growing concern of what the hell I'm going to do with Vlad just makes the pounding that much more intense.

I didn't know. That's really all I got. I didn't know he was being abused by a demon half his size. Crap, shit and damn. Will's gonna move out if we start housing anyone else. I don't think she minds Deb 'cause I don't and well Will's way more patient than me so…

I just can't be sure of her right now. Of what she's thinking or feeling. Which is…I used to know, not that long ago too.

I sigh and look up as the car stops. We're home. We all pull ourselves from the vehicles and I ask, "Anybody else's legs feel like they weigh six tons?"

I get grumbles of agreement from most, Vlad's a different story as he says, "I feel good, thank you for asking."

I shake my head and laugh a little, who knew such a sweet guy lay under the big, hulking mass of gorilla. I stop as we approach the door to our apartment. Uh, something feels off. Jimmy comes up behind me and says, "You gonna go in or look at the pretty blue of our door?"

Shaking my head, I drop it and unlock the front door. I just hope Will will see reason and let me get cleaned up so I can check up on the information that Vlad gave us. The kitchen and dining room lights are on and it takes a minute to register the three bodies sitting at the table.

"Angel?" I hiss. He stands up, looking sheepish and how he does it is beyond me.

"Hi Buffy," he says smiling at me. Time sort of stands still as I realize I haven't seen him since Sunnydale. He's still hot, still got that smile that make my knees all jelly like…

Fuck! I look like hell!

And he can't make my knees jelly, that's for Will and Will only. It's also her voice that snaps me back to reality. "Buff, you didn't get the text message or twenty I sent? Maybe the phone call?" my lover looks up from the table to the group.

Absently, I shake my head while Jimmy spits, "This is Angel?" I close my eyes for a brief few seconds knowing that tone. I really don't need a pissing contest between these two.

"Uhm, I'm going to go get cleaned up. Exploding demon and all." I don't bother with any other pleasantries as I turn around and dart towards the bedroom.

I feel Jimmy then a moment later, Willow, follow me in.

Part 18

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