Where There's Fire...
Aesop


TITLE: WHERE THEREíS FIRE
AUTHOR: Aesop
EMAIL: ENOWON@JUNO.COM
DISCLAIMER: I donít own the characters from Roswell or Angel. Iím just
borrowing them so donít sue. They are the property of WB etc. and I
gain nothing by writing this. I always appreciate feedback and
suggestions so donít be shy.
SUMMARY: This is a follow-up to ĎSix Of One...í The Roswell teens face
a challenge from a different group of aliens.
CATEGORY: CROSSOVER
RATING: PG

 

Michael led Tess through the corridors of the old soap factory. They
had gotten Maxís call, a rather tense sounding call, that morning, and
agreed to meet at the factory that night. Both had found summer
employment and were busy during the day as were the rest of the group,
and both had had to suffer with their curiosity and worry all day. Now,
moving through the old building they were in a hurry to find out what
was so urgent and why they had had to wait till nightfall. 

"He didnít give you any idea?" 

"No," Michael said for what seemed like the hundredth time. "He didnít.
Isabel knows I think, but sheís not saying either and I havenít had a
chance to talk to Liz." Tess huffed and Michael suppressed a sigh. Lizí
determination to give Max space for his Ďdestinyí had lasted exactly
one week. Both were miserable and Maria and Isabel had finally
threatened to lock them in the same room together until they worked it
out.  

That hadnít been necessary though, and Tess had been quietly fuming
over Maxís choice. There wasnít time to fume now though. Sounds from
the room ahead drew their attention. 

"Ow!" Michael came up short. 

"That was Liz." He broke into a run, rounding the corner into a large
interior room. Liz was there, as was a stranger in long black coat.
They were fighting. Liz was fighting back and giving a good accounting
of herself, but it was clear the stranger was playing with her. Michael
ran forward, tackling him. 

"Huh?" The stranger grunted as he hit the ground. Michael straddled the
man and hit him hard in the face. "Bloody hell!" Spike could smell the
difference in the stranger and lashed out before realizing there was
Human scent as well. "Aarrgh!" Even as his attacker fell away someone
drove a stake through Spikeís head. At least that was what it felt
like. "Canít even hit frigginí half-breeds," he muttered. 

"Michael!" Liz ran forward and helped him up. He rubbed his jaw and
prepared to jump at the stranger again. "No. Itís all right. Heís a
friend." 

"Friend? He hit you!" 

"No. He didnít. He just moved too fast. I hit the wall." She held up
her right hand and showed him the bloody knuckles. He stared at her. 

"What the hell is going on?" Michael demanded. Liz looked down at the
ground, not sure where to begin. 

"Long story. When the others arrive, Iíll tell you." Spike had
clambered to his feet and was eyeing the newcomers with annoyance. 

"Two more? Really pet, how many of these things are there?" 

"What? He knows-" Michael broke off in alarm. 

"He can smell the difference Michael. Heís not Human." 

"Not Human?" Tess walked forward slowly, looking at the stranger who
regarded her warily.  "Alien? Nasedo?"  

The stranger laughed.  "Not bloody likely. I should be insulted." 

"Or complimented." They turned to see Max leading the rest of their
group into the room. "At least Nasedo had a mission, a purpose of
sorts. What do you have Spike?" 

"Oh donít get all moral on me. I got me a mission now, and Iím gonna
see the job gets done right, better than that ponce Wesley couldíve
done." 

"Iím sure youíll make a fine role model," Isabel said coolly as she
followed her brother into the room. The others, the entire group now
present, could only look at each other in confusion. They knew her well
enough to hear the heavy sarcasm in Isabelís voice, but it went right
over Spikeís head. 

"Iím sure Iíll do fine. Consideriní her predecessor is rottiní in
prison, how much worse could I do?" He looked at the others and sniffed
the air delicately, which only confused them more. "I guess its time to
make with the explanations." Max nodded and sighed. This was not going
to be easy. 

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

This was not going to be easy. Wesley sighed and added the last few
lines to his report, the laptop resting precariously on the food tray
before him, a tight fit in the economy class seat. He had never been
much of a storyteller and had taken the opportunity to organize his
narrative of events in Roswell. The only thing he regretted was the
necessity of returning to Los Angeles to deliver it. 

Max had vetoed the idea of sending the thing by email or fax though,
and he wanted none of what happened spoken of over an open phone line.
A rational part of his mind found the precautions excessive and
extremely paranoid, but he agreed nonetheless. As had Angel who
unfortunately couldnít make the trip at the moment. Wesley had managed
to communicate enough of it with vague language that Angel had told him
to wait until he was home to give a full report. After all, between the
Initiative hunting demons, the FBI hunting the group in Roswell, the
Council hunting Faith, and Wolfram and Hart stirring up trouble for
Angel literally for the hell of it, a little paranoia was justified. 

When did my life get so complicated?  Wesley wondered. If anything
though, it reinforced Buffyís assertion that the Council was out of
touch. The three operatives who had gone after Faith had been
completely unaware of the Initiativeís existence, and Wesley doubted
that the Councilís upper levels had any idea how complicated the world
had become. 

Shoving aside this depressing line of thought, he returned to something
more manageable. Angelís going to have a fit when he hears about
Spike. 

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

Sheriff James Valenti pulled up to the warehouse and got out, putting
on his hat as he approached the building. The call had been a little
vague as to what the problem was, but there was a dead body involved,
that much he knew. Violent crime was rare in Roswell, or at least it
had been until just recently. He sighed.  Why couldnít that damn
ship have crashed in Europe or Africa? Or at least Los Angeles where no
one would have noticed? 

He liked Max and the others, but they were turning out to be very high
maintenance. This business of vampires and Slayers was, as far as he
was concerned, an extension of the same problem. After quite a lot of
soul searching he had decided that it didnít matter where they came
from or what they were. It was his job as sheriff to protect them,
although, he might make an exception for Spike. The vampire made him
nervous, despite Lizí reassurances that he was harmless. Corpses,
Valenti firmly believed, should not get up and walk around killing
people.  Speaking of corpsesÖ 

"What happened here?" 

"Still working on that sheriff. This is a weird one."  Uh-oh.
Valenti nodded, and his deputy led the way into a cold storage section
of the warehouse. They ducked under the yellow crime scene tape. "This
section is used for food storage, ice cream, meat that sort of thing." 

"Whoís the victim?" Valenti asked, resisting the urge to hug himself.
The part of the warehouse they had entered was essentially a giant
freezer. 

"Night security guard. He was found in here, near an open crate, big
enough to hold an entire side of beef. The only thing in the crate
though, was ice. There are three others like it, all just containing
ice." 

"Whereís the body?" He followed the deputy around the side of the crate
and stopped, staring in disbelief. The body was blackened, burned
almost beyond recognition. It would likely take dental records to make
a positive ID. The face was the worst part of it. The eyes had burst at
some point and the skin was practically charcoal. Valenti had never
seen anything exactly like it. Not exactly like it. "Find out
where these crates came from. I want to know who has been in here. Talk
to all of the employees, night shift workers first priority. Talk to
anyone who had anything to do with these crates. Whereís the person who
found the body?" 

"Thatís him," the deputy gestured to an overweight man wearing a padded
suit for protection against the cold. "The shift supervisor. His name
is Cruz."  

"Okay. Letís start there." 

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

"You canít be serious." Tess stared at Max in disbelief. "You just let
him get carted away? Max we have to get the stones and get him back." 

"No." 

"What do you mean no?! Without Nasedo-" Max rounded on her angrily. 

"With Nasedo at least four people have died who wouldnít have if we
hadnít helped him. Heís a conscienceless killer and I wonít have any
more blood on my hands. If we hadnít brought him back before those
people would still be alive." 

"What about the FBI?" Michael interrupted. "Whatís to keep them from
coming after us again?" 

"Nasedo said that the other agents thought he was in Denver. No one
knew he was here." 

"That might buy us a little time, but-" 

"Yer friend killed a couple of people in Tucson too. If theyíre just
lookiní for one person it wonít take Ďem long to find out that you were
here when it happened." Max considered Spikeís words carefully and then
nodded. 

"Youíre right, but they had me in their hands once before and they ran
enough tests to know Iím not Nasedo." 

"Which is another argument for bringing him back," Tess insisted. 

"Waste oí time girl." Tess looked at the stranger Max had called Spike,
confused. 

"Why?" 

"Because, if you bring him back Iíll kill him myself next time." Tess
opened and closed her mouth silently for a moment. "Heíd be a threat to
Liz, which I wonít allow. Plus, heís a cold-blooded killer. Since Iím
all being one of the good guys these days I really think I should
object to such things." Tessí mouth stayed open this time, as she
digested this. She wasnít the only one staring either. Spike noticed
this. "What?" 

The blonde alienís jaw snapped shut and she began to concentrate on the
offensive Human. Liz looked back and forth between them nervously. She
knew what Tess was trying to do, but Spike only looked at her
curiously. Finally, he turned to Liz. 

"Whatís this?  A stariní contest?" 

"Tess can make people see things that arenít there," Liz explained. 

"Oh." Spike laughed and turned back to Tess. "Wonít work on me. Have a
look." He gestured towards the window of what had once been the factory
managerís office. It was dark enough in the room that what light they
had turned the window into a mirror. "What do you see?" The entire
group looked at the window, not understanding. Spike rolled his eyes.
"All right. What donít you see?" 

"He doesnít have a reflection," Liz told them, when no one else got it
after a moment.  "Although," she admitted, "Iím not sure what that has
to do with Tessí power not working on you." 

"Same reason." He gave Tess a cocky smile. "The thoughts are there, but
they donít create a reflection in you. So you have nothing to work
with." 

"I donít understand," Tess murmured looking back and forth between
Spike and his lack of reflection. "What kind of person doesnít have a
reflection?" 

"A vampire. What page are you on?" Spike turned back to Liz. "You still
have some training to do Liz. You ready to get on with it?" Liz looked
at her hand. 

"Yeah. My hand is better now." Spike ignored the others and began
instructing her in the next exercise. Max stopped Michaelís objection
with a raised hand and motioned them to just stand back and watch. The
next exercise was a test of control. At Lizí insistence, Spike was
focusing on such exercises. He had taught a number of new vampires to
fight and this wasnít all that different. It brought back fond memories
of sparring with Dru when Angel was teaching them both. 

The distraction that thought caused would have earned him a vicious
kick in the head if the Slayer hadnít been deliberately pulling her
punches and kicks to stop an inch shy of their target. 

"I donít believe this," Maria said quietly as she watched. "Iíve never
seen Liz do anything like this." 

"She never could before," Spike answered, having heard her perfectly.
"Being called has enhanced all of her physical abilities." They slid
into a new exercise involving balance and speed. 

The workout lasted another hour before Spike called a halt. Liz was
beginning to tire by that point and was amazed that she hadnít already
collapsed. "Tomorrow?"  

Spike nodded.  "Yeh, I got some things to do tonight. Find a place to
stay, get a demonís eye view of Roswell, that sort oí thing. Meet me
here tomorrow after your shift." The vampire left the factory and the
seven teens continued their aborted conversation. The events of the
previous night were retold and reexamined, and the consequences were
discussed well into the night. 

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

Spike wandered for some time, just following his nose. There wasnít
much besides the Humans in Roswell, which Spike found curious.
Eventually though, he did catch another scent. Following it, he came
upon a Human looking woman carrying a small sack of groceries down the
street. There was nothing about the woman that would have attracted the
attention of someone who lacked a vampireís keen sense of smell. 

He followed her for a time. Eventually she turned into a poorly lighted
side street, not much more than an alley. Spike stopped and quickly
backtracked around the building. He found her there, waiting.
Surprising her from behind, he seized and shoved her against a wall. A
subtly altered face stared at him in alarm. 

"Why do you follow me vampire? Iím not edible, or are you too young to
know the difference between Human and demon?" 

"I know the difference," Spike said, amused by her bravado despite the
fact that he had her pinned to the wall. "You tend to stand out in this
town, at least to someone with my sense of smell." The Anamovic demon
waited for an answer to her first question. "I was curious. I seem to
be the only vampire in town." She snorted. 

"You are. Demons tend to avoid Roswell. Anything even vaguely strange
here winds up in the papers. Your kind usually donít like that kind of
attention. A bloodless corpse would land on the front page." Spike
nodded thoughtfully. That made sense. "Which means I really wouldnít
appreciate you drawing attention by feeding here." 

"Iíll keep that in mind," he said dryly. Her tone rankled him, and he
wasnít about to tell her he was on an imposed diet. "Iím not hungry for
anything but information right now anyway. Tell me about the demon
community around here." 

"Youíre looking at it."  

Spike snorted.  "Not likely. Anamovic demons donít usually live alone.
Theyíre very into family." 

"My two brothers also live here, but thatís it. All we want is to be
left alone." Spike shrugged. 

"Suits me. Seems like a pretty dull town though." 

"Exactly. So why donít you move on?"  

Spike growled and shoved her away.  "Iíll do as I please." He turned
his back on her and walked away. 

The next thing that caught Spikeís attention was the flashing lights of
a police car, several actually, and a coronerís van. Curious, he
started to make his way across the parking lot, but was diverted by the
sound of something moving in one of the cars. As he got closer, he made
out a thumping sound coming from the trunk of a late model Ford. 

"Well," he said loud enough to be overheard by the person he could
smell inside, "either this is a rear engine car in dire need of a tune-
up, or thereís someone in the boot." He knocked twice and the person
inside knocked twice in response. Spike knocked out shave-and-a-
haircut. The person inside responded with several angry kicks to the
trunk lid.  

Spike pouted. "Oh all right, Iíll go get somebody to let you out. Donít
go anywhere." There was another furious series of kicks. 

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

Everything was finally wrapped up. It was late, and Valenti had had to
call Amy and cancel yet another dinner date. Consequently, he was
rather short tempered by the time the forensics people were done and
the body was removed.  

"Evening Sheriff," Spike said in his best cowboy drawl. Valenti turned
from his conversation with Dodd, one of his deputies.  

"What do you want?" Spike gave him cocky grin and nodded toward the
body being loaded into the coronerís wagon. 

"Someone haviní a barbecue?" Dodd stiffened, looking at the stranger
angrily. He was about to tell the stranger to move on, but the sheriff
spoke first, surprising him. 

"Do you know something about this or are you just trying to annoy me?"
Dodd gave the Sheriff a curious look. 

"Nothing specific, but that body may not be what you think." 

"Meaning?" Spike tapped his nose. 

"Guess youíll find out about that. At any rate I may not be a great
detective like me sire, but I donít think itís a coincidence that
someone is locked up in the back of their own car out in the parkiní
lot." With that he turned and walked around the corner of the building.


"Hey! Wait a minute!" Dodd rounded the corner and stopped, baffled.
After a moment of scanning the empty side lot he turned back to the
sheriff. "Heís gone."  

Valenti nodded, not surprised.  Probably turned into a bat or
something.  "Donít worry. I know where to find him." 

"Who is he?"  

"His nameís William something, but he prefers to go by Spike. I know
enough to know I donít like him, but I doubt he has anything to do with
this." 

"What did he mean about the body?" Valenti shook his head as he headed
for the employee parking lot. 

"Letís find out." 

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

Liz wiped down the last table and straightened. The café was
empty and her father was just beginning the process of closing down for
the night. It was a simple, routine task that gave her plenty of time
to think. 

The others hadnít taken the news well, especially Tess. She didnít
believe a word of the Slayer business and she didnít care that Nasedo
had killed people. They were only Humans after all. Max had stood firm
though and wouldnít tell anyone where the body was. Michael hadnít been
as upset as Liz had expected. She remembered a time when he had been
almost frantic to find the shape-shifter. Apparently the time they
spent alone at the Eagle Rock base had shown him what Nasedo was, and
cured him of any desire to be closer to the alien. 

Maria and Alexí concerns were more practical. Now that Nasedo was dead,
and Liz could have sworn their relief over that was tangible, what was
to keep the FBI from coming back to stir up trouble? 

The answer was nothing. No one knew he was coming to Roswell though,
and hopefully the Special Unit would begin its search elsewhere. If the
Unit came, Max said with finality, they would deal with it on their own
terms, without any bloodshed. 

Everyone except Tess was satisfied with that, and the one dissenter
wasnít going to cause Liz to lose any sleep. She had returned to the
café and helped her parents work till closing. Liz looked up
startled when the bell on the door rang. 

"Iím sorry," her father said to the man in the dark coat, "weíre
closing now." 

"Iím not here to eat," Spike assured him. "I wanted a word with Liz
actually." Jeff Parker blinked in surprise and looked over at his
daughter. 

"Liz?" 

"Itís all right Dad. I know him." They stepped outside. "Whatís going
on Spike? Iíd rather keep this from my parents if I can." 

"You may have work to do in a day or two. Slayer stuff." Lizí brow
creased with worry. 

"What happened?" Spike quickly filled her in on the corpse in the
warehouse freezer and on what Valenti hadnít discovered yet, the fact
that the victim wasnít Human. 

"What was he?" Spike shook his head. 

"Didnít recognize the scent, at least not over the smell of burned
flesh. Thereís something familiar about it though." A thoughtful
expression crossed his face. "I think I may have heard of something
like this. Iíll do some nosing around, see what else I can turn up. Be
ready though in case whatever did that decides to start frying Humans
next." She looked frightened, Spike thought, but she nodded gamely. 

"Let me know what you find out." She turned and went back inside. 

Spike headed for a Kinkoís heíd seen earlier that evening. Once there
he racked his brains for a few moments before coming up with an answer.
It wasnít the smell that was familiar. 

Using the computer there, he tapped into newspaper files in Los Angeles
and began looking for burned bodies. It took almost an hour, but he
found it. A private investigator burned to death in an ice factory.
Spike remembered part of an overheard phone call while he was staying
with Giles. Wesley had called about it. He had wanted to know if Giles
had any references about something calledÖ. Vigaries, that was it, the
Vigaries of Oden-Tahl.  With that memory recovered, Spike went to an
online demon database and began searching for information about them. 

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

The girls had finally adjusted completely to their new home. They no
longer needed the frozen water to keep them alive. At least, they did
not need to be packed in it. Even the princess found it comforting
though. 

Sedar, one of the first refugees the princess had rescued, fretted over
the latest close call. Such an incident was bound to draw the attention
of the slavers. The man that had been masquerading as a security guard
at the warehouse might just be the beginning of their problems. When he
failed to check in with Tay there would be trouble. The slavers would
come, and they would come in force. She had sent word to the princess,
but as yet there had been no response. The slaversí primary focus was
on her and it was possible that she was too busy staying ahead of them
to respond safely. 

Sedar currently had five young women with her. Shipped to the town in
crates by various routes to avoid detection, the plan had been to wait
here undetected. With luck, they might even be able to blend in and
settle. Sedar hoped so. She was discovering that she was not really up
to the task of evading slavers and hiding escapees. Although she would
never publicly question the princessí orders, privately she wondered
what the woman had been thinking. 

Burning the slaver had attracted the attention of the local
authorities, something else that they didnít need, and she hoped it
wouldnít be necessary to move too soon. The town was quiet and had the
potential to be just the kind of place they could hide unnoticed.
Unfortunately, it was entirely out of her hands.  

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

"Whoever he is, heís not from around here." Valenti took a moment to
glance at the particulars of the autopsy report the medical examiner
had brought him. He frowned thoughtfully. 

"No match on prints." 

"Thatís right, but thatís not all. There areÖ abnormalities." He
flipped to the next page and pointed to the section of the report in
question. Valenti was puzzled by what he saw there. His knowledge of
medicine was limited, but he had seen enough coronersí reports to
realize that what he was seeing wasnít normal.  

"What do blood chemistry results like this mean?"  

Dr. Kelso shook his head.  "I donít know yet, but there are also
abnormalities in the internal organs. Theyíre all there, but theyíre a
little different. Iím not sure what it means yet. Was the guard able to
tell you anything about his attacker?" 

"No." The sheriff shook his head. "He was hit from behind and woke up
in his trunk." He considered the problem of the dead end, but had
already concluded that that was what it was. He dismissed it and moved
on. "Iíd like to sit on this doctor. Donít share your findings with
anyone."
"Sheriff-" 

"This is Roswell. Any hint of anything strange will get into the paper.
Iíd rather not have the town besieged by UFO nuts." Kelso thought to
object on behalf of his staff, but decided against it. The sheriff had
a point, and it was his call. 

"Okay. Iíll keep it quiet. I can put this guy on ice for a time, but
Iíll need to know what to do with him before too long." Valenti nodded.


"Iíll come up with something."  I hope.

After Kelso left, Valenti headed for the CrashDown to meet Liz. He had
some questions for her. It was a short drive from the coronerís office
to the café and soon Valenti was walking through the door with
his thermos, just as he did every morning.  

"Morning Miss Parker." He put the thermos on the counter and she smiled
and started to fill it for him. 

"Good morning sheriff. How are you today?" Valenti looked around to see
that no one was close. 

"Not so good actually. A corpse turned up at the warehouse over on
Moore, in the freezer section. Whoever it is was burned to death.
Pretty ugly."  

Liz looked steadily at the sheriff, while she gathered her wits.  "And
youíre telling me this because?" 

"I just found out that the body isnít Human." Liz sighed. "Spike showed
up as we were finishing up there. I think he smelled the difference. He
also found the security guard the guy had stolen the uniform from,
knocked out and locked in his trunk." 

"He told me last night. Heís looking into it. Iíll let you know what he
finds." Liz switched back to a normal tone and asked if he wanted
anything else. 

"No thanks." Again sotto voice, "I would like to know where Spike is
though."  

Liz shrugged.  "Hasnít found a place yet. Even I donít know where he
is, and he keeps telling me I should be able to sense a vampire." She
shrugged and shook her head. Valenti nodded, resigned for the moment,
and left. 

"What was that about?" Her father asked curiously, coming to join her. 

"Nothing dad. Just catching up on Kyle. Heís visiting some relatives in
Austin." 

"Kyle? I thought you and Max were-. Um, never mind. Not prying."  

Liz almost laughed.  "Itís okay dad. Kyle and I arenít seeing each
other, but weíre not bitter ex-es either." 

"Thatís good," Jeff Parker smiled, glad he wasnít intruding in
something his daughter considered personal. He looked up as the door
opened. Speaking of personalÖ 

"Hi Liz." Max smiled as he came toward her, intent on a kiss. Her
father turned away, trying to look busy wiping the counter. Max
hesitated when he caught sight of him, but Liz was having none of it.
She reached across the counter and pulled him in for a kiss. Max was
taken by surprise, and it took him a second to respond, but when he
did, he did so whole-heartedly. Liz smiled when she broke off. 

"Good to see you. Cherry cola?" Max nodded, and Liz went to fetch it. 

"As I recall, you saw me last night." 

"Itís always good to see you." She handed him the drink and kissed him
again. Her father cleared her throat. Smirking, she pulled back and
shot a half-amused-half-nervous glance at her father. "So. Anything
else?" 

"Can you take a break for a few minutes?" Liz nodded. She looked at her
father and he waved her on. They went outside and headed down the
street a short distance. 

"How are they taking it?" Liz asked. "Not much was resolved." 

"Nothing was resolved. Theyíre nervous. Tess is furious." 

"Thatís new." Max didnít laugh. After a moment Liz sighed. "Sorry. I
kno-" 

"Thereís nothing there for me Liz. You know youíre all I want." He
paused, thinking. "This is not a joking matter. Liz, none of us
understands whatís happened. This Slayer business is weird even by our
standards and it seems, judging by what Spike said, weíre not as unique
as we thought. I mean, demons of all shapes and sizesÖ wow." 

"I donít understand it either, but it will work out. Weíve dealt with
everything else thatís been thrown at us. We can handle this." 

"Spike said that a Slayer draws trouble like a magnet. How long do you
suppose till something bizarre happens? Demon related?"

"How long till something alien related happens? That message said that your enemies were here." Max shrugged conceding the point. "Actually, Spike told me that a body turned up in the freezer section of a food warehouse. A burned body. A non-Human body." Max didnít respond for a time. "Heís not sure what it is, but it is close to Human so no alarms went off immediately. No front-page stories. The coroner will find out though." "Will Valenti keep quiet about it?" "I hope so," Liz sighed. "I think he likes it peaceful in Roswell." Max nodded thoughtfully. Valentiís behavior since he had decided that he had been wrong about Max had indicated that that was indeed the case. "So what next? Wait until Spike, where did he get a name like that anyway, finds out what it was and what it was doing here?" "I guess." She thought a moment. "Where did he get a name like Spike?" *********************************************************************** "Itís right here." Spike pointed to the book. "The Vigaries of Oden- Tahl." "What are they doing here?" Liz sat back on the couch, feeling tired just thinking about what she might be doing later that night. They had gathered at Maxís house, as his parents already knew her secret. This kind of meeting would have raised questions at the CrashDown, and Liz did not want her parents to know about her new profession. "Well, I have a guess or two, but we have to find Ďem first." "Is that safe?" Max sat forward, looking worried. "Well, according to the books theyíre fierce fighters, but they arenít violent by nature like some. We watch for a bit, aní if necessary, kick the crap out of Ďem." "You said you had an idea about why they were here," Isabel reminded him. "What is it?" "Well, yeah, according to the books the women live as slaves to the men. Itís only the women that have the fire touch. I canít be sure until we know what the body was, but it could have been a slaver trying to track down escaped women." Diane Evans chose that moment to enter the living room to ask if anyone wanted food or a drink. "Can you be sure the body wasnít Human?" Max asked. "Given how badly it was burned Iíd think the smell would be hard to distinguish." Diane stopped in her tracks and reversed course, having lost her own appetite. "Iím sure," Spike nodded. "We need to find these women." "How?" Spike wanted to know. "Donít put too much faith in my nose. Iím not a bleediní bloodhound." "We have other ways," Liz assured him. "Normal means of investigation. Weíre looking at new arrivals in town." "Letís find them then," Max said, "before they start killing Humans." *********************************************************************** Liz watched the last few customers leftover from the lunch crowd. They were lingering over their meals in a manner that usually annoyed Maria. After a busy shift she usually looked forward to the break that came between lunch and dinner. That was why when Liz heard the frustrated moan, she knew that more customers had come in and were probably settling at one of Mariaís tables. Liz hid a smile and came up beside her friend. "Take a break." "No," Maria protested, "you must be a lot more tired than I am, considering that workout last night. Looked like you picked up some bruises." "A few, but nothing that didnít mend before I finished walking home." Maria looked incredulous. "Really. Iím fine. There are some advantages to being a Slayer I guess." Maria shook her head wonderingly. "I think this is a topic Iíd like to avoid." She regretted it instantly when a hurt look flashed across Lizí face. "Sorry. Itís just thatÖ" "I know. Take a break. Iíll get them." ĎThemí turned out to be three women. Liz collected some menus and walked over to the table and passed out the menus. "Hi. Welcome to the CrashDown. Iím Liz." "Hello," the woman who seemed to be in charge said. "We would like some food, and some ice water to drink." "Okay. Iíll get your water. Why donít you look over the menu while I do that?" All of them looked at the colorful menus in puzzlement as Liz fetched their water. When she returned she realized that something was wrong. The women werenít actually reading the menus; they were looking at them but not actually lingering anywhere long enough to pick up words. One was holding her menu upside down. "Everything sounds delicious," the spokeswoman said. "What would you recommend?" Liz pointed out a couple of possibilities, and the three agreed to have the same thing, a large salad. Liz returned to the kitchen to place the orders. "Maria?" "Yeah Liz?" The blonde picked herself up from the chair she had been lounging in. "When those three women leave, do you think you could follow them for me? See where they go?" "I guess so," she said, confused. "Iíve done it before. Whatís the problem?" Liz nodded through the pickup window to the women who were talking quietly. "See anything unusual about them?" Maria looked briefly and then turned away, guessing that Liz didnít want attention drawn to them. "Theyíre wearing way too much makeup. You had another reason?" "I donít think they can read, at least not English, but they tried to hide it." "So what are you thinking?" "Not sure, but I want to know more about them. Can you follow them? Please?" "Okay, and donít worry. They wonít even know Iím there." *********************************************************************** Sedar opened the door of the small house they had rented. It was a tight fit, but they managed. There was so much adjusting to do. As yet, she was the only one who could read and write the human language with anything resembling fluency. Teaching the others was taking time, but it was necessary to their survival. She set down the bag of groceries and called to the others. Food at least wasnít a problem. Vegetables were plentiful, and while they did not need to eat as much as the males of their species a large amount of vegetable matter was still required. No one responded to her call. She knew that some of them were out, absorbing the local culture. It was a risky thing to do, but after some argument she had agreed that it was necessary. They had to learn their way around the town. If nothing else it would come in handy for a quick escape. For that very reason, the used car they had acquired had been a priority. It wasnít that different from the vehicles they had at home, but it took some time to get used to the differences. Faked licenses and records were prepared for each of the girls deemed ready to face the world, but there were still adjustments to make. "Iím telling you that car was following us." Sedar stood up from the refrigerator where she was stashing their food and turned to face the others as they came into the kitchen. Miri led the way, looking exasperated. Shalei followed close behind. "Did you even look at the car?" "I did." "It was following us. You may have led the slavers right to us!" "Unlikely," Miri said, confidently. "You were followed?" Sedar demanded, grabbing their attention. "Explain." "We stopped at a local diner for lunch," Miri began. "Shortly after we left," Shalei interrupted. "I noticed a red car following us. It kept its distance, but it was there through three turns." "For one thing, there are a lot of houses in this area," Miri said tiredly. "For another, it didnít follow us into our street." "This street is a dead end, maybe literally if we ignore this," Shalei rejoined hotly. "And lastly," Miri finished. "I did see the car, and the driver was female. Even if Tay hired someone to find us, do you think he would trust a woman of any species to do his dirty work for him?" That, Sedar had to admit, was a telling argument. "We should remain cautious regardless," she told them. "If you see this car again, or the female who was driving it, tell me immediately." It was possibly a reason for concern, and no such possibility could be ignored. *********************************************************************** "Do we know itís them?" Alex asked. They had assembled at the Evansí house again, much to Diane Evansí consternation. "I mean they might be from France, not another planet." Liz nodded, acknowledging the point. "Agreed, but the timing is right. That house was rented out just last week." She thought a moment. "I think we need more information." She turned to Spike. "You said that Wesley and Angel had run into these Vigary guys before. Think heíd share information?" "I think so." He got up. "You got a fax machine here?" Max nodded and pointed toward his fatherís office and rose to join him. Phil Evans looked up as Max entered his office, something he rarely did. He glanced nervously at Spike. "Something wrong Max?" "Need to consult with um, a business associate of Spikeís, in Los Angeles. Wesley might need to fax us some papers." Phil looked at his son curiously. "This have something to do with that dead body you were discussing last night?" Max nodded, uncertain as to how his father would react. "All right. Make it quick though. You know how to use the fax?" Spike nodded. Phil rose as Spike went to the phone and dialed the number of Angel Investigations. Phil stepped into the hall with Max. "Can we talk?" Max nodded. His father led him down the hall to Maxís room. "Itís about Liz and Spike." He got straight to the point. "I donít pretend to understand a lot of what I saw that night, but I know it has the potential to be very dangerous. I mean... demons? Aliens? It doesnít matter what you call them, dealing with them may be a Slayerís job, but it shouldnít be yours." "DadÖ" Phil held up a hand to forestall protest. "I know you care about Liz, and Iím not asking you to stop seeing her. I know that wouldnít work. I just want you to try to keep a little distance between yourself and her work. Stay safe. Iím sure thatís what she would want too." Max considered this and then nodded. "I understand dad, and youíre right. Liz wouldnít want me getting hurt, but I donít want her getting hurt either, and if thereís a way I can help prevent that I will. I promise Iíll be careful." Phil wasnít entirely happy with the answer, but decided to take what he could get. "Okay Max. Be certain you do that." *********************************************************************** "Angel Investigations, we help the helpless." "íEllo Cordelia, do I qualify?" "I said helpless Spike, not hopeless." Spike chuckled in spite of himself. One thing he had always appreciated about Cordelia was her ready wit. He had even considered turning her a time or two, might have if not for Dru. "Is Wesley there? I need to speak to him, itís important." Cordelia sighed. "Hang on." She put him on hold. "Wesley," she called. Angel and Wes looked up from where they were talking in his office. "Spike is on the phone. He wants to talk to you. Says itís important." Wes looked at Angel who looked back curiously. He had just started to tell his story. The time since heíd been back had been a busy one. He had been immediately swept up in the current crisis, involving a swarm of carnivorous demonic insects. He shuddered inwardly at the memory. Angel had his report on the disk in his hands. He nodded to Wesley and went to plug it into the computer on Cordeliaís desk and read it. Wes picked up the phone and nodded for Cordelia to transfer the call as Angel left. "Yes Spike, Iím here." He listened carefully and nodded. "Yes, that does sound similar to the situation we had here. I wonder if the dead Vigary is Tay." "If it was the grand high muckety-muck himself, then we can expect more of his kind here, pretty fast. What can you tell me about Ďem, strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, that sort of thing?" Wesley briefly outlined what he knew of them and promised to fax relevant pages from his books as well as Angelís drawings of Tay and the princess just in case. "Yeah. Thatíll be a big help. Thanks Wes." He read off the fax number and hung up. Wesley went to gather the appropriate books. Angel was staring at the screen incredulously as Wesley emerged from the back office. He looked up at the ex-Watcher and started to speak, but nothing came out, and he looked back down at the screen. Wesley gathered up the books and drawings and went to the copier, which was a fairly recent addition to their office. "I donít believe this," Angel breathed, which was a neat trick, Wesley reflected as he copied the last page. "Wesley why didnít you tell me about this immediately? Or over the phone?" He shook his head. "Never mind, my idea, I know." He rubbed his eyes tiredly. "A new Slayer, with Spike playing Watcher." He shook his head incredulously. Iíve got to get out there. Again, he looked up at Wesley who was sending his drawing of Tay, the fourth of five pages, through the fax. "What are you doing?" "Spike requested information on the Vigaries of Oden-Tahl. I donít have much faith in Spike, but the new Slayer seems fairly sharp. Hopefully sheíll be able to make effective use of the information until you arrive." "How did you know I was going?" His friend smiled. "With Spike Ďplaying Watcherí as you put it? It doesnít take one of Cordeliaís visions to guess your next move." "Thank God for that," their friend muttered. "Iíll leave immediately. You two hold down the fort here." *********************************************************************** Spike passed around the pictures Angel had drawn. "The guy is Tay. Heís in charge of the slavers. The woman is the leader of the female resistance, got her own Underground Railroad working. It seems when the females come of age the men remove some organ or other, itís their kindís equivalent of a lobotomy." The others stared at him shocked. "Well," Liz said after a moment, "at least thereís no question as to who the bad guys are." "So what do we do now?" Maria asked. "Do we just watch and wait for this guy Tay to show up?" Liz shook her head. "I think we should approach them. Spike and I will go see them tonight. Tomorrow morning Iíll give this to Valenti," she held up the pictures, "and ask him to keep an eye out for them." She folded them and tucked them into her pocket. "In the meantime it wonít hurt to do some watching of our own. Check the motels and the trailer park for new arrivals." "Good idea," Max nodded. "Iíll check the motel near the warehouse. Michael, why donít you see if thereís anyone new at the trailer park?" Michael nodded. He had been uncharacteristically quiet, barely speaking during the meeting. Now as everyone prepared to go their separate ways he put a hand on Maxís shoulder. "Max." "Yeah?" Michaelís shoulderís slumped. "Nothing." He turned and vanished into the night. Max frowned after him. What was that about? He then gave a mental shrug and his usual answer. Itís Michael. "We should get in a little training on our way there," Spike commented on their way out. "How?" Liz wanted to know. "We might attract attention brawling up and down the street." Spike chuckled. "Not what I had in mind." He grinned. "This is a test of endurance. Letís have a race." They went out to the street, got set and started to run. Max stared after them as they vanished into the darkness. "It looks," he said to his sister, "like weíre not the only ones with a destiny." He didnít know precisely what he meant, but the fear of losing Liz, something he hated to feel, was suddenly there, clamoring for his attention. He ignored it, telling himself that this wouldnít make a difference between them personally. He wasnít sure he believed it though. *********************************************************************** Dodd sat in his patrol car, eating his midnight snack a couple of hours early. It had been a quiet night. Nothing since that murder, and it was starting to look like that one might not be solved. The victim seemed to have literally appeared out of nowhere. There was no trace of him at the local motels and no trace of a vehicle he might have arrived in. All of their normal means of investigation had been exhausted. Dodd turned his thoughts away from the case, frustrated. Just as he was thinking that a distraction would be nice, one happened along. He heard the sound of running feet approaching from behind. Looking out the open window of his cruiser, he saw Liz Parker and the man the Valenti had called ĎSpikeí running at top speed along the road. Dodd relaxed a little. They were laughing. It wasnít a purse snatching, they werenít being chased; they were moving very fast though. Curiously, he fished out a radar gun from the floor of the passengerís side and aimed it at them "Huh?" He stared at the readout. 25 MPH? "Time to get this thing serviced." He started his car and followed them as discretely as possible. *********************************************************************** "Itís Dodd." "So thatís his name. I saw him with Valenti." Spike glanced at Liz where she was concealed in the bushes. He had pressed himself against a tree and was glancing curiously down the street as the patrol car slowly passed by. The driver, looking confused, was scanning the street for any sign of them. "Whyís he followiní us?" Liz shrugged. "No matter. Next lesson, evading pursuit." Spike was really starting to enjoy himself. *********************************************************************** Sedar armed herself before going to the door. It was late for visitors, but she doubted Tay would knock. She looked through the spyhole and saw a young woman, a Human woman standing on the porch. Confused she opened the door. Liz had come prepared for the meeting with a memorized phrase of the Vigaries own language. She greeted Sedar in the name of the princess of Oden-Tahl. Sedar stared for a moment, then responded in the same language. Liz shook her head. "Sorry. Thatís all I know. Iím a friend of Angel, whom your princess trusts." "I remember Angel, but I donít know you." "Iím a new friend of his and his employee Wesley Wyndham-Price. More importantly I have a solution to your problem. You know, the dead slaver." Sear hesitated a moment, stunned by the girlís directness. Friend or foe, she needed to know what this stranger knew. She stepped back and held the door open. "Let us talk then. I am Sedar." *********************************************************************** Jim Valenti came in to get his thermos filled on schedule, and Liz smiled and nodded as she fetched the coffeepot. "Deputy Dodd had an interesting shift last night," the sheriff said without preamble. Liz tried to look innocent, but couldnít help snickering. "Itís not that funny." "Depends on your point of view. We were having a race when Spike spotted Dodd following us and decided to turn it into another lesson." "A lesson for who?" the sheriff asked irritably. Liz looked down, and when he decided she looked suitably apologetic he relented. "Youíre lucky Dodd assumed his radar gun was malfunctioning. Were you racing to anywhere in particular?" Liz nodded. "I asked Max to go by your office before he goes to work. Iíll meet you there during my morning break. If everything works out, we should be ready when and if that guyís employer arrives." She handed him copies of the pictures Wes had sent. "We can fill you in then." *********************************************************************** Tinted windows were a wonderful thing a wonderful thing, Angel thought, especially to a vampire who needed to travel during the day. He had made good time and by his estimates, should be in Roswell shortly after sunset. He still couldnít grasp it. Spike training the new Slayer? What sort of sick game was his childe playing now? *********************************************************************** The two teens sat across from Valenti and laid out the basic idea for him. "I donít like it. It means breaking the law." "Think about the tradeoff," Liz urged. "I talked to the women. Theyíre tired of running." That was true enough. "If Tay finds them theyíre ready to fight, and they will. That could get messy." That was misleading, but mostly true. "If we can find Tay before he starts looking for them here and convince him that theyíre not here, heíll leave and thereíll be no trouble. If he finds them, well think of that corpse in the warehouse as a sign of things to come." "That kind of trouble," Max put in, "might attract the special unit." Valenti raised his hands in defeat. "Okay. Iím convinced. Iíll have my deputies look for him." He sighed, "as soon as I figure out what to tell them." Max smiled confidently. "That might not be necessary." Valenti didnít answer but motioned for him to continue. "You see the Vigaries have some very specific dietary needs." *********************************************************************** Roswell only had one plant nursery. The greenhouses of which provided for all of the flower shops in town as well as selling grass, seed, and implements for local farmers and people obsessed with their lawns. Business was good, as it was the only one in town. Valenti watched from an unmarked car, hoping that Max and Liz were right about the Vigaries. It had been two days since the death of the one who had found the alien girls in the warehouse. Presumably the man was now overdue for check in with his superiors. A failure to check in would constitute a lead for someone like Tay. That was the theory anyway. Tay would come; Valenti would be there to meet him while the slaversí quarry stayed safely hidden. They arrived shortly after sunset. Valenti watched them gather near the back gate of the lot and decided to intervene before any laws were broken. He didnít like the secretive manner in which they were operating. Getting out of the car, he approached them. One of the strangers noticed him and turned, speaking in a language that Valenti didnít recognize, not that that should be a surprise, he reflected, if they came from another dimension. He noted the odd formation of ridges on their foreheads and knew he had the right bunch. Stopping ten feet from the group he repeated a carefully memorized phrase. A ripple went through the group. He saw shocked expressions on some of the faces. Then the group parted and a man he took to be Tay came forward. "Thought that would get your attention. You in charge?" "I am," the man came to within a few feet of Valenti and stopped. "I am Tay. Who are you and how do you know our language?" "Iím Sheriff James Valenti, and I donít know it. I just memorized a few phrases while I was researching your people. Thought it might make a nice little ice breaker." Tay scowled. "All right then, down to business. You came here because youíre looking for a friend of yours am I right?" "How do you know this? Where is he?" Tay was suddenly tensed, wary of a trap. "Thereís no easy way to say this, so Iíll just say it. Your friend is dead. I was called to a warehouse over across town two days ago. It didnít take long to discover he wasnít Human. A little research though and I managed to pin down his species. Thatís why Iíve been here waiting for you. Donít worry. Iím alone. Most of my people donít have a clue about this." "How did he die?" This was going to be the hard part. Valenti wished heíd rehearsed a little more, but there was nothing to do but sell the story theyíd concocted as hard as he could. "He was tampering with the fuse box in the warehouse, trying to shut down the freezer for some reason. Trouble was he didnít really understand the equipment. He managed to start an electrical fire that did quite a bit of damage to the warehouse, but luckily only claimed one life. His." Tay was immediately suspicious. "He was burned?" "Over sixty percent of his body. We had a time identifying him, but you guys are kind of distinctive." Max had given the body the extra burns and repaired some of the existing damage; making it more generalized. Tay wasnít buying it though. "And there were no others of our kind? No females?" "Females? As in escaped slaves?" Tayís eyes narrowed at his tone. Clearly understanding that Valenti disapproved. "Not that Iíve found. We reconstructed his trail as best we could and found heíd been poking around a freezer truck that had come in that day." "Was there anything unusual about the truck?" Valenti shook his head. "Only thing in there were some crates of frozen chickens and a few dozen bags of ice." "Ice? No sign of anyone in the truck?" "No. I keep an eye on newcomers in town, especially non-Human newcomers as they tend to cause trouble." Tay opened his mouth to protest, but Valenti forged ahead. "I like things quiet. I wonít have strangers tearing up my town, attacking and killing my people. Your man got into the warehouse wearing a uniform heíd stolen from a guard. That guard is still in the hospital with a concussion. I want to know what your intentions are. If youíre here to turn the town upside down looking for escaped slaves you can turn around and leave now. I wonít have it." "They are escaped criminals from my own world. If they are in your town sheriff they pose a greater risk to you than we do." "If thatís so, and if theyíre here, and they break our laws, then Iíll deal with them. You have no authority here, and I wonít tolerate your goon squad causing trouble. Do we understand each other?" "Perfectly. If they do not break your laws?" "Then Iíll deal with them. If they show Iíll tell them what I tell everyone. Stay out of trouble. Obey the law, and we wonít have any problems." It was not what Tay wanted to hear. *********************************************************************** Angel watched the sheriff confront Tay and his men. Uh-oh. This could get ugly. The meeting seemed peaceful enough, but he knew what Tay was capable of if he didnít get his way. Angel moved from the recessed doorway where he had been hiding and started down the street, intent on making his presence known and giving Tay another warning if necessary. He had only gone a short distance when he was seized from behind and pulled into an alley. "Shhh!" Angel found himself pushed against a wall, and when he looked down, a small dark-haired girl was looking up at him with her finger to her lips. "You want to ruin everything?" She whispered fiercely. His confusion lasted only a second or two. "Slayer?" "Got it in one. Youíre Angel right?" He nodded. "Nice to meet you. Now stay out of this." "You donít know how dangerous they are." "Wesleyís notes were very thorough. You can thank him for me when you get back. If the sheriff can convince Tay or whoeverís in charge, that the people heís looking for arenít here then theyíll leave without the need for fighting or any kind of violence." Angel nodded thoughtfully. That made sense. "I see. If they donít believe it?" "Then weíll think of something else. They know you though donít they?" "Yeah, which is why-" "-they wonít believe the sheriff if they see you here, and things will get violent. So stay out of it or Iíll stake you." If he hadnít known she was a Slayer, the threat would have sounded absurd. She barely came up to mid-chest on him. If anything, the young woman before him was less imposing than Buffy. "All right, but you should be prepared to fight." The Slayer nodded, not looking happy at the prospect, something that struck Angel as very unusual. There would be time for that later though. At the moment Valenti was heading back toward his car and Tay was following with two of his men. *********************************************************************** "So they bought it?" Angel wasnít sure he believed what he was hearing. "Yep." Valenti nodded. They had all gathered at the soap factory, where Spike had established a temporary home and training area for Liz. Max had decided that having the gathering at his house might strain his parentsí good will too much. "He was suspicious at first, but I was able to convince him that they werenít here." "How?" Angel wanted to know. "By convincing him that I didnít care if they were." He looked over the group meaningfully. "And as long as they obey the law and stay out of trouble, Iíll continue to not care." He focused on Liz. "I trust youíll make that clear to them?" She nodded. "Donít worry Sheriff. They donít want to attract attention to themselves." "I handed the body over to Tay. You did a pretty good job with the burns Max. It looked like the guy died in a perfectly normal fire. It was enough to fool Tay anyway. He left thinking that his man had come here on a wild goose chase and had some bad luck." Max nodded, not really pleased that Valenti was drawing attention to him in front of the stranger. He looked over the newcomer, Angel. He checked the manís reflection on a hunch and discovered that, like Spike, the guy was a vampire. Not wanting to waste time or risk Liz in any way he had gotten Michael and Isabel to help separate them during the Sheriffís story. They then demanded answers. Angel had been evasive at first, but Liz had cut in and given them the back-story she had received along with Faithís memories. Angel had stared at her, shocked that she would know so much about him, and Liz, rather annoyed with his interference, wasnít inclined to enlighten him. "So heís harmless?" Michael asked. Liz shrugged. "Not the way Spike is if thatís what you mean." She shot her teacher an apologetic look, but the blonde vampire shrugged indifferently. "He doesnít have any imposed restrictions on who he Ďcaní hurt. He just chooses not to kill Humans." "Interesting distinction," Valenti gave the vampire a wary look. "Iím not here to hurt anyone," he gave Spike a warning glare, "unless I have to." He walked toward his childe eyeing him curiously. "Whatís the game Spike? Why are you here?" "To train the new Slayer," Spike answered honestly. "Someone needed to, and better me than some Council wanker." "Spikeís done well by me so far. Heís the one who spotted the Vigary in the first place. Things might have gotten messy if Tay had turned up without any warning." Angel considered that and nodded reluctantly. "Whatís in it for you Spike?" "Iím enjoying myself. Maybe Iíll find out what you find so appealing about being a white hat." Spike managed to say it with a straight face, but Angel wasnít buying it. His sire scowled and looked back at Liz. "Donít get used to him being around. He bores easily. When he does, heíll be on his way." "Maybe." Liz shrugged. "Until then, heís a pretty good teacher." Spike grinned and preened a little, knowing it would annoy his sire. Then he brightened, and Liz could practically see the light bulb over his head. "Long as youíre here Angel, why donít you make yourself useful? Liz and I canít have a proper sparring session cause oí this damn chip. Why donít you try out her skills? Iíd love to see how she does." "Weíve mainly been working on control," Liz hedged as she came around to face Angel. Max started to intercept her, but stopped, knowing she wouldnít appreciate it. "Precision and reflexes, that sort of thing." Angel didnít acknowledge Spike, addressing Liz directly as they squared off. If this was what it took to have a conversation with her heíd do it. "Spike canít be trusted, chip or no," he told her. "Itís only a leash. He hasnít even been paper trained." His head rocked and he staggered back, a shocked look on his face. "That was rude." Spikeís first impulse was to laugh, but he decided another approach would have better results. "Nice shot Liz. Tell me, was that planned or reflex?" "Uh," Liz looked uncertain. "Iím not sure. Maybe fifty-fifty?" "Well, youíre still new at this. Give it time." He hadnít even glanced at Angel, let alone laughed at him. His sire was looking back and forth between them. "What about it Angel? Give her a try?" "This is a bad idea Liz." "Talk while we spar," she suggested. They began to circle, and the others backed off to give them room. "Iíve known Spike for over a hundred years. He only cares about his own pleasures. When he gets bored. Heíll leave." "You said that already," she replied. Liz ducked a swing moved in for a quick jab at his ribs. Angel countered easily. "Heís done well by me so far though." "It wonít last. Heís just amusing himself, and sooner or later that amusement might come at the cost of your life." They traded a series of blows and backed off. "Good thing sheís not alone then," Max said from the sidelines. Angel glanced at him and got a shot to the jaw. "Iíll protect her." "Yeah," Spike scoffed, "when youíre not hiding from alien hunters." This earned him some dark looks from the teens. "Look Angel, Iíll take care of her. In fact, Iíll make you a bet." Both Angel and Liz stopped and stared at him. "With me watching after her, Liz will live at least twice as long as a Slayer as your precious Buffy, and sheís still going strong after four years." Liz could barely believe what she was hearing. "Spike! Youíre making a bet over how long Iíll live?!" "Sadly," Angel said, "that isnít a new low for him, not even close." Spike shrugged, honestly baffled. "Hey, youíre benefiting from it Liz, whatís there to complain about?" That stumped her. It was logical in a bizarre, twisted kind of way. "Is that typical Spike logic?" She asked his sire. He nodded. "You going to accept the wager?" Everyone turned to look at Michael. He shrugged and said. "Hey, like Spike said, Liz benefits from it, and he wants to win the bet. Thatís probably the best we can expect." Maria rolled her eyes. "It sounds like Spike logic isnít that different from Michael logic." Her boyfriend looked at her, hurt. "Just trying to make the best of it. Maybe youíd rather call in that Council bunch. The one Wesley made sound like a dirty word?" Angel frowned at the idea. "Iíd advise against it, but SpikeÖ" He glared at his childe. Liz stepped between them, glaring at the older vampire. "Itís not really your decision Angel. I know you mean well, but you donít have a say in this." He let out a frustrated sigh. That was true, but he couldnít walk away without doing something. The options were very limited. He couldnít stay. He couldnít spare Wesley from the battle in Los Angeles. He didnít trust the Council. What other options were there? Spike had spoken the absolute truth in one thing. A Slayer attracted trouble, whether she wanted it or not, and he got the impression that Lizí friends had their own problems, although Spikeís crack about alien hunters made no sense to him. It left only one option, not a perfect one, but perhaps he could help the new Slayer in a small way. After all, he knew Spike very well. "All right Spike. Iíll take your bet. You can keep her alive for four years at least? I think youíll get bored and leave long before that." "Youíll lose." Spike extended his hand and they shook. Liz turned away, making a disgusted noise. *********************************************************************** "You probably donít want to hear this," Max said as he followed Liz. She had left the building and was walking off the anger. "I think that Angel was just trying to make the best of a bad situation."
"I know that. Iím just rememberingÖ" "What happened the last time we made Ďthe best of a bad situationí?" He finished. Liz nodded, thinking of Nasedo and what he had done with the chance Max had given him. Max said nothing more, but he paced her, lending support by his mere presence. She was grateful for that. She stopped and he turned and took her in his arms. "At least this turned out well. Your idea worked like a charm." "This time," she answered glumly. "You did it without slaying anything," he offered, determined to brighten her mood. It seemed to work. She chuckled. "Please, donít say that in front of Spike. Heíd probably try to cheer me up." She cleared her throat and did her best to imitate his cockney accent. "íCheer up pet, youíll get lots oí chances to kill the things that go bump in the night.í" Max chuckled, but the gloom had all ready settled back over her. "Thereís no good answer is there Max?" He was silent for a moment. "I donít see one," he sighed finally. "Whatever comes though, Iíll be here to face it with you." "Thanks Max. I love you." "Love you too." He kissed her forehead and they stood silently for a few moments, just enjoying the closeness. Finally, Max sighed and released her, all too soon he thought. "What are we going to do?" "Youíre options are sort of limited." They turned to see Angel emerging from the shadows. "There must be a better way." "If you know what it is say so now," Max challenged. "Otherwise, get out." Angel blinked. "You heard me. You havenít improved the situation here, youíve only made it more awkward. We donít need that." Angel nodded in resignation. The boy was right. Angel had rushed out to Roswell with no clear idea of what he would do when he got there. He still didnít know what to do. "I can put you in contact with the Slayer and some friends of hers in Sunnydale. Theyíre good people, and you can always use friends. Other than thatÖ Good luck." Angel turned and left without another word.