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


Ch. 18 – If You Wanna Live…

I watch Buffy from the corner of my eye drink her second cup of coffee this morning. Granted she's only slept two hours, maybe, but with everything, and I'm really thinking about the everything being Angel, I can't help but worry.

"You know I found this really nice dress last night with Angel," I hear her say, but the words don't really register, "It was hot pink and just barely covered my ass…Willow!"

My head snaps in her direction and I shake my head. "Huh?"

Her eyes soften and she sets her cup down on the kitchen counter. "Will, you've been a space cadet for the past few minutes. What gives?"

I shrug and think of how to ask how she's handling all of this without sounding mother heny. "Nothing, just thinking, gettin' lost in the big old space that is my brain," I manage lamely.

Her eyebrow raises and she moves in front of me, pressing me against the kitchen counter. Her arms lace around my waist as she gathers me in her arms. "You are a horrible liar, Will."

Her smile and nearness cause me to give in and I rest against her, leaning my forehead against hers. "I know," I pout quietly. "Really, I'm worried about you. How you're handling Angel and stuff."

I feel her shrug as she says, "We talked a bit last night. Dawn sent him. And you know Angel, can't help wanting to get on that tarnished white steed of his to try and save the day."

"Still," I try to argue, "it's a lot."

We both still as we hear the front door open and the rest of our team arrive. We hear Debra greet Alex, Elliot and Olivia as she ushers them into the living room. "We can rain check this conversation for later, baby," Buffy says then plants a soft kiss on the corner of my mouth.

"'Kay," I agree straightening up. I grab our coffee cups and head to the living room to fill everyone in on what happened after Buffy and Angel left to check on Vlad's tip. We round the corner into the living room at the same time, both of us stopping to take in the people gathered there. Elliot is sitting on the arm of the couch next to Olivia and Alex. Deb's got the recliner closest to us, Jimmy has his usual spot, the tattered recliner we dragged from his house and Vlad looks like a giant on a dwarf's couch as he sits on the far end of the couch closest to Jimmy.

We had to break out the air mattress for him last night, but he didn't quite fit. The tattered piece of plastic lies in a heap over by the dining room table. I look at Buffy and see my thoughts reflected in her eyes. How we manage to collect people especially people so…unique is beyond either one of us. She smiles at me and starts in, "Good morning everyone."

There are pleasantries exchanged while I go over to my laptop and cue up the T.V. to act as a monitor. I power on the T.V. and pull up the address of the building Buffy gave me this morning.

"So, what did you find out?" Olivia asks.

"Maybe her spot," Buffy answers. "Will, you ready?"

I look up at her and nod.

"This building here," Buffy says, pointing to a satellite image of a four story apartment complex north of Harlem, "Angel and I cased it last night. The thing was crawling with vamps."

"And?" Elliot asks from his perch.

"And, there hasn't ever been one in the city since I started living here. It's our first solid lead on finding her," Buffy answers. Her face breaks into a genuine smile as she says, "That and I saw her."

A few mouths drop and she continues, "It was lucky, but we couldn't do anything. Angel and I were way outnumbered. So we hung back and watched her go inside. We watched the place until just before dawn. She's in there."

"See, I did good." Vlad grins from ear to ear. He really is a sweet guy. We talked a little last night trying to figure out how to help him.

"Fucking fantastic," Debra spits from the chair. "So when do we go in and get my brother?"

"Soon," I say.

Her eyes go large and she snaps, "Soon? What the fuck is that supposed to mean. If we know where she is, let's get moving."

"Hey," Buffy barks, "First, watch your tone with my fiancé and two, when I say we were outnumbered, I'm talking massacre here. There are at least seventy vamps in that place. I'm good Debra, I'm not that good. Even with Angel fighting by my side. We would be dead."

"There's more of us today," Olivia offers.

"Raph," Jimmy speaks up finally, "You saw Buffy fight that demon last night. It didn't look as strong as some of the vamps that I've seen fight. If there really are that many in there, it's a problem." He runs his hand through his hair and then says, "And as much as it kills me to say this, vamps are fucking tough to kill. They're fucking strong and can break anyone of us, Red and Buffy aside, with one hand."

"He's right," Buffy tried to reason, "This isn't the old west and we aren't pulling a John Wayne."

"You got an idea, Cupcake," Jimmy smirks.

"Actually, yes," she says, beginning a light pace across the living room. I should have known. I also know that the idea she has I'm not going to like even if I haven't heard it. "There's four stories and we have to assume that there's one vamp per room in that place. With the attacks on the Council, we're also short slayers."

"And the assumption that we need to draw?" Alex asks.

"Well, I was thinking that easiest solution to getting rid of the vamps is to blow the place up," Buffy says, stopping her pace of the living room floor.

"Not with my brother in there!" Deb tries to shoot the idea down.

Buffy rolls her eyes and says, "We'd get him out first."

"Huh?" Elliot asks.

"Come again," Olivia and Alex say at the same time.

"No fucking way," Deb states.

Yep, see I knew I wasn't going to like the idea.

"Cupcake, we can't just go around blowing things up," Jimmy says slowly.

My lover's hands go to her hips and she shakes her head. "Look she's started this. I'm trying to end it. If she wins, we're talking no more slayers. Which means humans become fodder. Apocalypse for everyone. War remember? I've blown up schools and whole towns before to stop it. One little apartment building isn't going to make much of a diff."

"Town," I get out quickly, "it was only one town." I look between everyone making sure they get my clarification. The plural makes it sound worse than what it actually is.

"Will," she warns lightly. "I'm just saying in the face of the harbingers of doom and death, one tiny little apartment building is small potatoes."

Shaking my head, I try to wrap my head around what Buffy just said. Blow a building up? You've got to be kidding me. "There has to be another way," I say.

"Better idea, Olivia?" Willow asks.

"Uh," I stammer and feel Alex's hand on my thigh giving it a gentle squeeze in support, "well, uhm, not really. Not yet. But Buffy we can't go around blowing up buildings. What about civilians?"

"We can clear the area or at least try," the blonde answers.

"You said she's started a war right?" I ask and continue as she nods her head, "Well, it just seems to me that if she started it, she's the one coordinating it. Those other vampires have to be getting their direction from her." An idea begins to take shape in my head so I think out loud, "She has to be communicating with them. What if we did some surveillance, see if we can get information to help the other slayers to stop the other vampires? We pass that information along and create some type of diversion to try and clear the building of some of the vampires before we go in?"

I watch as everyone mulls the idea over. Buffy's the first to speak, "The extra info would be good, but we're still way out numbered."

"I could use a spell or two to try and thin the numbers," Willow offers as she sits on the arm of the recliner where Jimmy sits.

"A spell?" Alex asks. I turn my attention to her and see her look a little out of sorts. It's not something she is very often, but when she's a little shocked her lips part in this particular way.

"I have a few sunlight spells that work really well. Buffy, there's also the option that we lure them out and take care of them that way or oh, we could like be all sneaky and just try to get Dexter out or get her alone," Willow throws a few ideas out all of them sounding better than blowing a building up.

I watch as the slayer's mouth sets itself in a grim line. Her eyes skirt to Debra as she runs her hand through her hair. "Will," she stops and turns her attention to Deb, "Deb, I…God this sucks, but I have to say it, we have to assume that he's dead or at least been turned."

"No," Debra spits, "we fucking don't. He's alive."

Buffy shakes her head, but her resolve increases, as she stands up straighter. "I don't like it anymore than you do, but even you can't remember if he was alive before they tried to kill you."

"Sweetcheeks," Jimmy cuts in, "I…my partner's…"

"Don't," Debra shakes, standing up from the recliner, "I don't need to hear this shit." She spins away from the living room and heads towards the bedroom that I think belongs to Jimmy.

Without prompt, Jimmy stands and follows her. I get it. But I think that Buffy may be right. This woman or thing hasn't shown much mercy. Debra survived her stay with her, if only by sheer stubbornness.

"So," Elliot finally speaks, "we do a stake out and tap the place?"

We all turn our attention to Buffy who shrugs. "Baby," Will says, "it's actually a good idea. We can pass any information we get back to Xander and Dawn then maybe they can stop the other vampires. Find out where they're hiding or what they're doing next."

Buffy's head slowly nods and she goes to sit down in the recliner vacated by her partner. "I was kinda looking forward to blowing something up," she pouts.

I shut my eyes briefly to try and stifle my groan. She's nuts. That's the only theory that explains it.

Willow laughs and I open my eyes to watch her supportively run her hand along Buffy's back.

"You both are nuts," Elliot says what I'm thinking.

For their part, Buffy and Willow laugh and nod. Buffy grins at me and says, "I know. It just makes life more interesting."

"Says you," Willow scoffs, "I have to live with you."

Buffy looks up at her lover and sticks her tongue out. "You love me. I know it. You know it."

The redhead rolls her eyes and resumes talk of actual business. "Then I'll leave you cop types to actual cop type work. I have a meeting in an hour at the office." She gets up and extends a hand to Buffy, "Come on, shower." Turning to us, she says, "I'll send Buffy and Jimmy along in a bit and catch up with everyone later."

Elliot, Alex and I watch Buffy and her partner disappear around the corner and I say, "So I guess that leaves us…?"

Elliot smirks and shrugs, "We should head in and at least sign. Get the paperwork started on the taps."

"I'll contact the A.U.S.A. and let her do the grunt work on securing the warrants for the taps." Alex stands and I follow.

"Cabot, court?" Elliot asks.

"No, thank God. I've got a few motions to write and then a nearly clear slate. I'll come by later and drop the warrant off. I also want to catch up with Munch and Fin to see if they have anything going that I need to get them out of."

"Munch and Fin in trouble?" I ask incredulous.

Alex's left eyebrow arcs. "I understand, unlike the two of you, they are paragons of virtue, but on the off chance, I'd like to cover my bases."

Elliot snorts and I roll my eyes. I grab Alex's attaché and follow them out the door, not bothering to lock it behind me. I would normally, if it were anyone else, but with these people I think they'll be fine.

Buffy once warned me that once you know you can't unknow. There's a part of me that should have listened. That maybe I should have just let well enough alone and not pursued the truth. I'm still trying to figure out what it all means or maybe it doesn't mean anything at all.

We hit the street and Elliot slips behind the wheel while I hold the passenger door open for Alex, I wait for her to get in before closing it and hop in the back seat. I stare out the window and go through my list of to-dos for the day. Alex will secure the warrant for us and once that's done, I'll head down and grab the equipment and the van. Buffy and Jimmy should be there by then and we can start the stakeout.

With any luck this thing will be wrapped up by the end of the week and I go back to running down scumbags that can't keep it in their pants. Sighing, I lean back against the seat and hope that's the case.

Things had just started to get clear…or clearer at least. I'm by no means ready to start the life in Brooklyn with Alex, but I'm ready to start making compromises for a life outside of S.V.U. It may be what I do and it may define me to an extent, but I want more. I need more.

I just hope Alex wants those same things, to at least begin to build something together outside of work and our stolen moments at each other's apartments. Maybe once all of this goes away we can figure something out. We both know that if we keep an us in the mix that someone will have to leave the squad. It's not looked down upon as it used to be, but it's still a risk.

It's also one thing Buffy and Willow will eventually have to face, if the doctor continues to work her wife's cases with her. It'll open the door for motions upon motions that their A.D.A. won't want to deal with.

"Liv," Alex's gentle voice causes me to look over. She's got the back door open and there's a small smile playing at the corner of her lips. "Elliot doesn't want to play chauffeur."

I grin. "Wouldn't want to make him feel like a servant."

"Of course not," she teases back. Her hand gently squeezes my upper arm then her elegant fingers trail down my arm and over my hand. I shiver under her touch as she says, "I'll be by soon to drop the warrant off. You guys be ready."

I nod as I squint against the morning sun. "We'll be ready."

"Good," she says, offering me one last lingering glance before turning and heading up the steps to the D.A. building.

The back of the van is cramped and a little warm for this time of year so I loosen my necktie, take it off, shove it my pocket and open the few top buttons on my shirt. How I got stuck on stakeout duty with Cupcake's ex is beyond me. Deb really ain't talkin' to me right now so she stayed at the apartment. My partner and the two other D's had the shifts for the past twelve hours and I suppose my number came up.


It still sucks to be stuck in a van with Angel…what kinda name is that for someone like him anyhow?

I guess it fits right along with the names like Buffy and Willow, but…I mop my face with my hand and clear some of the perspiration. Let's face it, I'm just cranky 'cause what I really wanna do is punch the guy in the family jewels and tell him to stay the fuck away from my girls.

Of course that would piss Buffy off and she wouldn't talk to me for a month, but…hell it may just be worth it. Is it a protective, pissing contest?

Yeah, yeah it is.

The only thing is that it just may be worth it. I heard the stories. Of how much he's helped which I'm thankful for 'cause he's helped keep both of my girls alive at times, but he's also tried to kill them.

Soul or no soul it don't fly.

I'm just thankful that the other guy, Spazz, Puke, Spunk…whatever something a guy shouldn't be named didn't show up.

I might just die trying to stake his sorry excuse for a waste of space. A small beep pulls me from my thoughts and I dial up the volume on the monitor. It's all basic chatter. Nothing serious. I turn my attention to the video monitors and watch a few of its inhabitants come and go. No visual sighting of the dark haired bitch that's been causing all the fuckin' ruckus. She has been on the phone though talking to someone or thing named Matsui. The information relayed was about another set of attacks against Princess' own slayer school.

Hopefully it'll get to them in time to prepare for the attack. The last conversation we had, I know that Xander, Dawn, Giles and some cat named Wood were downplaying the situation, but Dawnie gave me a call to let me know to be vigilant. I know from her tone that the attacks are a lot more vicious than what they've let Cupcake in on.

Knowing Buffy, it's probably a good thing. She'd be on the first plane out to protect the girls that she still feels responsible for. Which shouldn't surprise, some of the conversations we've had…well, all I can say is that I'm happy she's here and not there. Angel shifts in his seat next to me and I see him cast a sidelong glance my way.

The cats been wearing a sulk since Buffy told him he was with me. As my partner would say what-the-fuck-ever. He got a problem he can bring it up; I'll just have to end it. I study him openly now, my eyebrow raised as I take in the haircut and the clothes. I may not know much about Buffy's taste in men, but for some reason he doesn't strike me as her type.

I may be biased as Red's the only one I've seen her with and I love Red just as much as I do my partner. I do know if he thinks he gonna come in here and fuck with them, vampire or not, I'll find a way to make sure he ends up gettin' cleaned up by a street sweeper.

Sighing, I rub my eyes and tire of the silence. Innocuous enough I ask, "First stakeout?"

His chin juts out and he shakes his head.

Alright I can take a hint. Fuck you too buddy.

I go back to watching the monitors and glance at my watch. Great. Three more frickin' hours to sunrise and we call it a night. Knew I shoulda brought the paper.

I watch the minutes crawl by and the only sound I get is the ticking of my watch between the chatter on the mikes. The funny thing, watching these videos, is that these vamps are regimented. There are always between two to four around the front and the satellite feed TARU hooked up shows that there're just as many around each side of building. Cupcake was also right, there's at least seventy vamps in this place and there are five heat signatures on the top floor, six on the third, seven on the second and only one on the first. My guess is they got feeders for their army.

"You know, if you hurt her, I will kill you," Angel's voice sounds for the first time that night.

My head snaps around to him and I raise an eyebrow.

"If I had to pick someone that would be her type, it wouldn't have been you," he spits.

I take in his posture, slouched, arms folded with his bottom lip sticking out. Guy looks like a three year old in a time out. And type? "What the fuck are you talking about?" I ask.

"You know I've been sitting here trying to see it and I can't." He levels a glare at me, continuing his rant. "I hoped she would have found someone…younger and less…" he waves a hand at me, "you. So if this is some midlife crisis, and I've had a few, and you hurt her, soul or not, I'll make you pay."

Uh? I'm truly lost.

"How'd you do it? Ask her to marry you?" he seethes.

Me propose? Wait. I take a moment and review the last few moments of conversation. He thinks I'm marrying Buffy...Did he get high when I wasn't looking.

He continues to glare at me and I'm trying figure out what to say. Should I tell them she's not marrying me. Should I play with him and fuck with his head. I scratch my chin and rub my stubble.

"Look, Angelcakes, I can see why you're upset. You're you and you were her first in a lot of ways." I turn a nasty smirk his way and say, "But bud I can tell you she ain't an innocent teenager anymore."

His face despite the lack of blood flow pinks and I continue on brazenly, "Fact that Buffy of mine can do this thing with her tongue…" I trail off and shake my hand like I burned it.

Yeah I'm a fuckin' bastard. And if Cupcake finds out about this, she'll ream me, but to fuck with him it'll be worth it. I look at him and his jaw has dropped a little. Might as well go in for the kill.

"Willow absolutely loves it. Rocks her world." I wink at him and give it a minute for him to catch up.

"What?" He gaps.

"Look numb nuts, maybe princess didn't fill you in so let me clue you up." I point a finger in his chest and spit, "If you came here to see who she was fucking that wasn't you, go the fuck back to L.A. and stay your ass there. As for me proposing to my partner…I didn't. She ain't marrying me you ass. Her and Willow have been together about four years. She's switched teams."

His jaw nearly drops to the floor then he stammers, "You…Willow…her and Willow?"

I nod slowly.

"You didn't pick up on the engagement rings both are sporting?"

He shakes his head as he sinks in his seat

I shake my head and say, "Pull your head from your ass. Talk to Buffy if you want the rest."

My pocket vibrates and I pull my phone from my pocket, answering, "McAllister."

"Old man, you and Angel can call it a night," Buffy says. "We have what we need from the surveillance."

"You sure?" I ask. I look down at my watch and see that we still have another hour and a half scheduled.

"Yep. Will sent the transmissions over to Dawn and they have enough info to go after the vamps tomorrow."

"Roger that. We'll pack it in. See you at home."

"'Kay, be careful." She ends the call and I slip the phone back in my pocket.

Least there's some good news there. "Come on," I say to Angel and move to the front of the van, "we're done for the night."

He doesn't move, but instead just sits there still stunned by tonight's little revelation.

I squeeze behind the wheel and pull away. Good. Maybe he'll leave town now and I won't have to kill him.


Ch. 19 – …You Better Not Fear How You Die

My arms fold across my chest and I listen to Buffy go over the information we got from the taps on the building. Olivia looks at me and I give her a tight-lipped smile. My partner's looking a little better this morning which is a good thing. I think I worry about her just as much as I do my kids.

"Dawn's teams of slayers have started to gather and put together an offensive attack. I'll know more tomorrow," Buffy stands center in the small interrogation room. The usual people are here, but the room was preferable to being out on the floor talking about vampires.

"Do we have a plan on how to get at the building?" Olivia asks.

Buffy nods. "I do, but…" she looks between me, Olivia and Alex. "It doesn't involve you guys."

"The hell it doesn't," Alex snaps.

"Alex," Willow tries to reason, "None of you have any real experience going into a situation like this. It's safer for everyone."

I would protest my lack of involvement, but I can't. They're right. I wouldn't send a rookie in with a S.W.A.T. team especially when the numbers are so skewed.

I watch as Alex considers the reason and she sighs, pursing her lips. I know that look. She doesn't like it, but I think she understands. Olivia nods to me and I dip my chin in agreement.

"Hey," Cragen's head pokes through the door as he says, "We need to move this downstairs. Buffy there's a group from the government, said that you called them."

Buffy nods and moves towards the door, following Cragen out. We all file out behind her and take the stairs to one of the conference rooms on the second floor. We file in and take seats around a large table waiting on the feebs to get up here. It takes a few minutes of waiting, but as the door opens I recognize, Takeda and Kramer following a dark haired woman in tight fitting cargo pants, tank top and F.B.I. jacket.

Buffy and Willow both squeak, "Faith!"

"Heya B. Hi, Red." The brunette leading the pack, Faith I guess, chirps back. Jimmy stands and shakes hands with Faith.

Willow stands and both Faith and her do a small dance before committing to an uncomfortable looking hug. Buffy just nods in Faith's direction and I wonder what kind of history they have.

I watch Angel step out of the shadows from the corner, a grin gracing his otherwise morose features. "Hello Faith," he says softly.

I watch her spin around at the sound and her face lights up. "Angel!" She practically runs over and stops short of jumping into his arms. Instead of the hug I expect, she punches him the shoulder and he staggers back. "You fucker!"

Angel for his part takes it on the chin and shrugs. "Uh, sorry a little too late?"

Faith eyes him a moment and then shakes her head. "You try and take on three different hell gods again and don't call and invite me to the fight, I'm gonna come out to L.A. for you." She wiggles her eyebrows and finishes, "And you won't like what I do."

He smiles and before I can register, he has her in a hug.

"As much," Buffy says from the other end of the room, "as I love a good reunion, I want to know what you're doing here, Faith."

Angel releases her and they both start around to Buffy's side of the room. "Dawn called. Said that I should be here with my team. So here I am. You got the head bitch here. We're here to help, B. not start any trouble."

Buffy nods, her face finally breaking into a smile. "Good I can use the help. So who's who and what?" she asks pointing at the 7 girls standing against the back wall of the room. "I've met Satsu and Amanda, but…"

Faith nods and points to each girl as she goes through names, "This is Ang, Missy, Kelly, Lori and Rory." Each girl smiles and offers a small wave.

"Nice to meet you," Willow waves at the girls. "I'm Willow, this is Buffy obviously and that's," she says pointing, "Jimmy. The rest of the people here are Detective's Olivia Benson, Elliot Stabler, Debra Morgan and Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot."

All of us wave or nod while Willow pulls Lilah's building up on the screen behind her. The satellite image is decent and shows a real time display on the current activity of the building. Since it's three in the afternoon, there isn't a lot.

I watch as Buffy stands and goes to the screen to point as she talks, "This is where they're calling home. It's a four story building in a rundown neighborhood north of Harlem." She points to a set of doors and says, "The good with this building is that there are only three ways to get in and three ways to get out. The roof, the basement-sewer access and the front doors. The bad with this building is that there are only three ways in or out."

"Assuming we don't make any ourselves," one of the slayers, Missy, speaks up from the back.

Buffy rolls her eyes and looks at Faith. "I can see why she's on your team," Buffy says, smirking.

"We like our free thinkers, B." Faith leans back in her chair looking over the building.

"Will got us a full count on the building's occupants. Eighty-four total bodies, heat signatures put actual humans at eight in the building. Three on the fourth floor, two on the third and second floors and one on the first." A thermo image of the building pops up and Buffy points to a few large splotches, saying, "These here are where we think the demons are. They're large enough and they're giving off enough heat. So that takes our total of eighty-four and breaks it down like this, eight humans, three demons and seventy-three vamps."

I watch as the faces of the slayers fall. Faith looks at Buffy from the corner of her eye as she purses her lips.

"That's gonna be bloody impossible," Rory moans. "Just how many of us are gonna be goin' in to the building?"

"So far, Me, Willow, Faith, Angel and the seven of you." Buffy folds her arms across her chest as the rest of the group takes in the ramifications. By my count, assuming the humans are friendly, that's still over ten demons to one person. Those aren't good odds on any day.

"You realize Ms. Summers that it's a fookin' suicide mission right?" Rory looks Buffy in the eye.

For her part Buffy shrugs and replies, "I've faced worse odds. Besides we will be taking care of some of them before rushing in there." The building rotates and she points to several windows. "We do have a plan. Would you like to hear it before you throw yourself on your sword?"

The other slayer nods and Buffy smiles. "Good. Deb, Jimmy, Olivia, Elliot and Alex are going to be given tear gas. You five get to have fun shooting canisters into the front part of the building first, then we'll hit the second, third and fourth floors. While Willow seals the roof access, the vamps are going to try and scatter. They will try going outside, but since we're planning an assault during the day, they'll only kill themselves. Will, Angel and I will go through the basement access hatch and work our way up. Faith, you and your team will hit a set of fourth floor windows." Her hands go to her hips and she levels a glare at them all as she says, "Gas masks firmly in place. The attack from the top down will give you time to work your way through the building. Kill anything non-human and save any of the humans you find."

Faith chews her lower lip before nodding her head. "It seems solid." She grins and shoots Buffy a wink. "Almost like you've been doing this for a long time."

Buffy's middle finger rises directed towards the brunette and all Faith does is grin wider, saying, "I tried, but you said you weren't gay."

My eyebrow's rise in response and I hear a small snicker from some of the other rooms occupants. Buffy takes the ribbing well and lets it drop. I watch Willow shake her head, but her hair doesn't quite cover the smirk at the corners of her mouth. Angel, I observe, looks a little pained as he shrinks back against the wall.

"So when are we planning this assault?" Alex asks. "I have no idea how to fire a tear gas gun so someone's going to need to teach me."

"Oh," Buffy says.

"Don't think we'll need her, Cupcake," Jimmy speaks up from his chair on her left. "We've got four people that have the training. We can manage while you and the others take the building. 'Sides, Alex we don't need an A.D.A. being questioned about their involvement on a raid that's not gonna give us any bodies."

Alex thinks about this for a moment and nods, asking, "Just how exactly are we going to explain that little detail?"

Faith speaks up and chirps, "We'll sweep it under the rug. I also don't think there won't be bodies. If it is a suck house, they've got dead bodies in there. We'll just use them until we can clear the minimal media attention."

I raise my eyebrow and wonder aloud, "Done this often?"

The brunette shrugs. "Too often for my liking, but it's what it is and we'll deal. B. we gonna be ready to roll soon?"

Buffy nods and says, "We'll be leaving here as soon as the S.W.A.T. truck's ready. Jimmy you're driving us there."

My foot squishes down on something and I cringe. Yep, this is my life, can't get enough traipsing around through sewers on a hell mouth in high school, I feel the need to do it now at twenty-eight years old. I shake my head and continue to follow Willow a few feet in front of me. I also remember why we offered to take the sewer entrance in the first place, Angel.

I cast a quick glance back over my shoulder and wonder why the reason I'm in the sewer has been sulking all damn day. I know the stakeout with Jimmy wasn't going to go great, but I at least thought both of them would work together. Jimmy doesn't know him and really isn't impressed with the stories he's heard.

I would agree if I didn't know Angel. Will says it's okay that he still has a piece of my heart. For one, it's annoying that he does, two, it's annoying that she knows this and is understanding and three; I'm annoyed at being annoyed.

"Buff, we're getting close," Will says as she stops.

"Jimmy," I say into the com-mic that's in my ear, "what's your twenty?"

"En route," he replies. "Give me five and we'll be in position. Over."

"Faith," I call out her name.

"We're ready B. As soon as the tear gas flies, we'll roll," her voice is crisp in my ear and I nod absently.

"I can't do this," Angel says on my right.

"Can't do what?" Will asks. Yeah. Can't do what, I want to know.

"Why didn't you tell me?" He looks at me, eyes sad.

"Angel," I stop, knowing the what he's talking about is my engagement. At first I'm a little angry; I don't need to clear it with him, but…

If the roles were reversed, I'd want him to tell me.

Sighing, I shift on my feet and shrug. "Just what exactly would you want me to say? 'Hey, ex of mine, I'm gay now and marrying my best friend from high school. Just thought I'd let you know.'"

His lips purse and Will sighs.

"Angel, I can be all irrational and annoyed that you're annoyed, and I am a little, but…" I fold my arms across my chest, my bottom lip quivers involuntarily and I can't complete the thought.

His face droops and he pouts, "But we talked there were cookies and…"

"Oh Criminey, not the cookie analogy again…," Willow grumbles, but she lets us talk. She'll never know how grateful I am that I have her by my side.

"Angel," I say, "I know," it's all I offer and I hope he gets it. I held out the same hope for the two of us for so long. I'm just not sure when I became okay with not having it anymore.

"But you…" His eyes skirt between Willow and me.

"Guys," Will's voice breaks through and she pleads, "as much as I think you two need to have this conversation, does it have to be done now?"

"Willow," Angel starts and stops.

"No," she says stamping her foot, causing a splash of sewer ick to dust our pants legs, "You two need to talk. I'm on the talk train. I'm not on the talk train in the middle of the sewer while we get ready to bust in on a building full of vamps. After or whatever, but not now."

I watch him nod slowly and I say, "Later, Angel. I promise."

He dips his chin in submission and we resume our walk. The hatch that leads to the basement is about fifteen feet ahead and I motion for the other two to stand back. It's a large steel grate in the ceiling of the sewer with a set of rungs embedded in the side of the concrete to climb up.

I inch my way up, tuning an ear to any sounds that may come from the area above us. I hear the drip of water and nothing else. Carefully, I tug the grate down and the hinges give way easily. It swings down and I tense. When nothing comes shooting from the entrance, I grip the edge of the hole and hoist myself up and in.

I breathe in the smell of rot, blood and mildew. It's pleasant in the torture chamber kinda way. The space is empty and I poke my head down and offer Willow my hand. I grip her forearm as we work together to pull her up. We both stand once she's on the basement floor and dust our clothes off. Once Angel jumps through, I pull a stake from the small of my back.

Willow turns to the hole and says some words in Latin. The grate rises and latches closed. It burns red as she sprinkles some powder over it. The powder fades as she dusts her hands free.

"Ready?" I ask through our link.

She looks at me, offers a soft smile and nods. We move through the basement in sections. The part we came up was obviously used for torture and some of the other rooms we clear were too. Nicely enough, the bottom part of the building is empty. If I believed in God, I may say thanks; instead I find the steps to lead us to the first floor.

We climb the steps slowly inching our way up. Stopping before I reach the landing, I look back at Will and Angel, two of the people that mean the most to me. I nod slightly and I hear Willow in my head, "After this, I want new shoes."

A grin comes over me and I reply, "And some new outfits. I've ruined two suits this week."

"Fine," she says, "and Buffy?"

"Yeah Will?"

"I love you," her words envelope me in warmth and strengthen my resolve.

"I kinda love you to Will." I reflect back at her. Touching the com-mic I say, "Jimmy, we're in position, we'll wait for your go."

I don't know what we'll find through that door. I just know what I need to do. Willow hands me my gas mask and I slip it on, turning back I see Angel and her already wearing theirs.

I finish the last few steps and grip the doorknob at the landing. In the distance, I hear the muffled shattering of glass. Taking my cue from Jimmy, I push the door open. The hallway's empty as I motion the other two forward. Around me and through the walls and ceiling, I hear vampires start to panic. Their erratic movements and disorientation becoming more pronounced as we move through the first floor of the building.

The rooms that we clear are empty. It's not something I'm happy about. The first vamp we encounter comes from a set of steps to my right. Angel has him staked and ashed before I even bring my stake up. Footfalls from above tell me more are coming. He looks at me and I know.

Trusting that I'll see him again, I grab Will's hand and pull her forward letting Angel take care of the vamps coming from that entry point. Rounding the corner on my left, there's one lone door midway down the hall. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Briefly, I close my eyes and let myself feel.

There are only two other people down this way. I just can't tell if they're human or not.

Not bothering with the caution thing anymore, I rip my mask off, certain no tear gas is coming this way, charge down the hallway and kick the door open. Walking through, I look around. A bed is on the far side of the room about twenty feet ahead. I groan as I look around. The place is lit by candles. Sheer curtains surround the bed. All of it done in red and black. Rolling my eyes, I grumble, "Does taste go out the window when you die?"

Will removers her own mask and snickers behind me as we approach the half-cloaked king bed. I gather a bit of the soft cloth in my hands and rip off the canopy. Dexter's pale face rests in front of me.

Expecting his eyes to open or for him to go all bumpy, I'm mildly surprised that he's still warm as my finger tips brush his stubbly cheek and across stained lips. The constant outside noise of terrified vamps and breaking windows and walls fade away. I allow myself a brief moment of guilt and regret.

I pull down the collar on his shirt and see the fresh wounds on his neck still leaking blood.

The reality of what that means hits me like a sledgehammer. I jump away like he's going to catch fire.

That stupid, fucking, bitch!

"You're a bit behind schedule, dear," a voice sounds over my shoulder. Will and I spin around and Lilah stands in the doorway. "I so wanted you to see his death."

Knowing she isn't going to throw down that far way, I effect a more casual posture and say blandly, "Here I thought fashionably late was all the rage."

"For some things yes, but others, it's only proper to be on time." She sighs and steps into the room, her hand trailing behind to caress the frame of the door. She moves carefully to the bed, sitting down next to Dexter. Running a hand through his hair she reflects, "He was quite the trooper, you know. I kept him alive through it all. He watched in horror as I tortured his sister, the slayer and those children with their families. He was particularly reticent after I had killed those kids." Her fangs flash for a brief second as she spits, "Vile little creatures."

I take a step back as she turns to me, mouth full of fangs. "I wanted to show him how wrong he was. He picked the wrong side you see. He finally gave in and admitted it." She stands and pats his arm one last time before turning her attention to me and Will. "I let him go this morning."

Not waiting for her to make the first move, I launch my attack. A left hook snaps her head back as her fangs cut into my knuckles. My right fist shoots out and my hit lands squarely on her nose. She staggers back into the bed and rolls to the other side.

"You are in my home," she hisses, "don't be rude."

Willow steps in front of me and spits, "You know, this whole crazy, vampire, stalker act. I'm really over it." I see the ball of light form in her hand and I have a brief urge to stop her so that I can kill the bitch, but…

I realize I just want this over with.

"Drusilla had that spot way before you. So do us all a favor and just shut the fuck up already," she snaps and lets the small ball of sunlight shoot from her hand.

We both watch as it hits the center of Lilah's chest. Shock registers across her face as she begins to burn from the inside out then falls to ash on the thick carpet.

Without thought, I return to the bed and look back at Dexter. Debra will want to see him. Disregarding protocol, I gently scoop him up in my arms and allow Willow to lead us out to the front of the building. As we move forward, I hear the sounds of fighting above me and I hope Angel, Faith and the team are doing well.

I squint as we reach the entrance. Sunlight and fiery ash rain down on us as we step outside.

The whir of lights from the two fire trucks and a few scattered police cars cause me to squint in the late afternoon sunlight. I look around and cradle her injured head in my hands. Making sure to keep the compress tight against where she was hit.

My hand shakes as I replace the compress and look down into half lidded, pain filled brown eyes. "Are you sure, Liv?" I ask gently. I think we should take her to the hospital, but she's been insistent that we don't.

"I'm okay, Alex, really," she says a little thickly. "I'm actually more worried about Elliot."

I concede as I think back to the beginning of the mêlée. Everything began as planned, except for the clouds. We hadn't planned on those. They covered up a lot of the sunlight as the vampires began coming out of the building. Not wanting to let them get away, Jimmy started to wade through them, hitting and staking them as he took them on one by one. Elliot, Olivia and Deb jumped in to help.

Somewhere, at some point, the building caught fire. The F.D.N.Y. showed up and so did some regular patrol cars. Right now, Faith, Buffy and Isabel are talking to the uniforms and getting everyone's story straight. While I sit with Olivia on the back of a bus making sure her head is going to stop bleeding from the knock she took. Her second vampire slammed her into the building and I watched as her head bounced off the wall.

I remove the compress and watch as no blood oozes from the laceration. Satisfied, I take the bandage the medic left me and gingerly apply it over the cut. I resist my urge to kiss it and hold her closer, knowing that there are some cops from the one-six around and I don't need to deal with what will ensue if they see.

Instead I squeeze her shoulder and look over to Elliot resting on the gurney. His arm is in a sling and there's a drip connected to his free arm. Poor Elliot.

He was tossed over a set of vampires exiting the building and crashed down onto the unyielding concrete. They think his arm's broke. He will be going to the hospital as soon as the medics get back.

"Come on, counselor, take a seat," Olivia says patting the steel of the vehicle.

I concede and rest my head against her shoulder. Her cheek nestles on top of my head and I stare out at the scene.

God this is such a mess.

I look out to my left and see Jimmy standing behind Debra. My jaw clenches as I feel sympathy for the woman who's lost her last remaining family member. I know all too well what that's like. She guards the gurney with her brother's body on it. Standing vigil in the dying light, I haven't seen her move or shed a tear since we all watched Buffy carry the man out of the building.

I sneeze as the smoke and ash tickle my nose. Olivia hands me a crumpled tissue from her pocket and I nod, thanking her. Willow emerges from the smoldering building with C.S.U. techs. A group follows them out of the building carrying two more body bags.

They stack them to the right of the building and head back in. I look at the small pile, fifteen so far and from what Faith said, there's a few dozen more victims that need to be carried out. "I wish there was someone to prosecute for this?" I grumble.

Olivia laughs and pats my knee. "Easy there Alex. We're going to have too many holes to cover up in our DD-5's."

I look at her crossly and she relents holding up a hand, "Alright more holes than usual." She hooks a thumb over her shoulder and says, "And I need to ride in with Elliot to make sure he's not alone until Kathy comes."

I wince, knowing that that conversation won't be a pleasant one.

"I can ride in with you. Maybe keep Kathy from ripping you a new one." I smile at her and wink.

The corner of her mouth rides up in a half smile and my stomach flops. When I first came to S.V.U. and I had that reaction for the first time, I thought it was indigestion. When it happened the second and the third…I had no idea I was in as deep as I was. Now, I'm just thankful that she'll smile at me like that again.

"It's a mess out here," she whispers quietly. I look at her and nod. The firemen are still putting out the fourth floor while C.S.U. is going in and removing bodies. There's a barricade set up on the east side of the building blocking the T.V. cameras from some of the more grisly money shots.

My mouth sets a grim line taking in the sight in front of me then I say, "It looks like a battlefield." A small gust of wind picks up and the ash either from the vampires' bodies or the fire picks up and swirls in the air.

"It was," my lover says solemnly next to me. "We won though. That's what counts."

"It does, I just hope it's over." I pat her knee and sigh.

She shakes her head and says, "Some of the stuff I saw, Alex…I don't think it'll be over for a while. I just…if there is a God, I hope this isn't the start of a new trend. Those slayers are good women, good girls. I hope their time as a slayer is better than what Buffy went through. The few stories she shared…" she trails off and runs her hand through hair.

"Willow too. She shared a few tidbits. Can you imagine growing up with that weight?" I ask.

"Not really." She manages to smile and says, "Knowing now though, I think that if there were any group that could, it would be them."

"I see they've earned your respect." I look up at her and she nods.

"A lot more than that."

"Liv," Elliot rasps from the gurney behind us. "Did you call Kathy?"

"Yeah partner, she's going to meet us at the hospital," Olivia says moving inside to sit on the bench next to where Elliot is laying. I move with her and finally feel like we're away from enough eyes to grab her hand. Greedily she takes it and with her other hand reaches out and takes her partner's free hand.

"How's Morgan?" he asks thickly.

"They found Dexter's body," I say quietly.

Elliot's eyes close and he nods. "That sucks."

"Counselor," A.U.S.A. Cohen looks up at us from the back of the bus. "I was going to address media concerns. Would you like to make a statement for the N.Y.P.D.? Perhaps you and Detective Benson would like to. Buffy wants to avoid the cameras if at all possible and from what I've been told you are both versed in camera time."

I look at Liv and she shrugs.

"Go on partner," Elliot urges. "I'll be here when you get back."

We both nod and hop down on to the black top. "What's the story?" I ask.

"In a joint effort with local law enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has closed the operations of a small terrorist cell that was responsible for a house burning and the subsequent death of Miami Dade's respected blood spatter analyst Dexter Morgan," she pauses and straightens her jacket. "Along with Dexter, the deaths of his wife and children have also been closed as the surviving members of the cell are being detained in Federal lock up, pending arraignment and trial."

I look at her and raise an eyebrow. "That's all?"

She grins at us and shrugs. "I could give you more detail, but with situations like this, I find less is more."

"How are the rest of the girls?" Olivia asks.

Isabel shrugs and says, "A few scrapes and bruises, but they did well. I suspect they'll be back at their home base before tomorrow."

I nod and prepare myself to address the public. Just another day at the office.

Part 20

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