Spike in the City Of Angels, Episode 4:


Choices


by John Cope





Part Twenty-two



"But you let Angel hit him." The outrage in the Slayer's voice was plain. "If he's allowed to hit him, why can't the rest of us?"

"Riley was going to stake Angel, that gives Angel a justifiable excuse for hitting Riley." Willow replied, resolute in her opposition, her arms were folded across her chest and her chin up in full defiance of her friend. "But you, on the other hand, don't have any excuse at all."

"I do too." Buffy replied, raising her voice. "I've....I've got emotional trauma because my father figure's been removed."

"Your what?"

"Giles, you know that nice English guy we hang with sometimes." Buffy leaned back against the van as she argued. "Well he's like a father to me and I feel just awful that he's been kidnapped." She pouted for effect. "If I don't get some release on my anger soon then I don't know what'll happen."

"Well you'll just have to bottle it up till you get to wherever these guys are hiding, won't you?" Willow had so much resolve that it almost blazed from her, if Buffy defied her she was fully intent on defending Riley...for the two seconds it would take for Buffy to knock her down. "Do you think Giles will be happy if he hears you've tortured someone for him, no I think not."

Spike was just glowering staring hard at Angel as he muttered, "Wiccan's pet."

The vetala, on the other hand, stood round the front of the van, putting a sharp on his Khyber knife as a way to let of his anger. He had been busy hanging steel wires from a tree branch in the small wood he'd parked the van in when Willow had bawled him out. *Not allowed to string the bloke up by the thumbs! I ask you what is the bloody world comin' to?"

*I shouldn't have hit him, I mean how was I supposed to know that Buffy just meant grab him. Willow had said I could hit him, so I hit him.* Angel'd had a stern lecture from the red head about taking her too literally and "setting a bad example to the others."

"Look we wait till he comes round, then we threaten him a little, we pretend you're going to hurt him," Willow began her explanation for the fifth time her optimism sounding less and less with each go around. "But other than a slap or two, that's it, understand?"

The group stood around Willow sulking, and she was beginning to worry that she might find herself in there bad books for weeks if she didn't give something. *A little bit of torture? Oh goddess see how they weaken you. No torture, bad Wiccan, bad!*

Then another though hit her troubled mind. *Aha!*

"Truth spell!" she blurted, feeling like hitting herself for being so dense. "Why didn't I think about using a truth spell?"

"Probably because we were so busy trying to get you to agree to let us do what we wanted to do. Hurt Riley cause we don't like him." Buffy gave Riley a prod with her foot and got a shock when the supposedly comatose commando flinched. "And I think he's faking."

Since no one had bothered to tie up the supposedly unconscious person. ("But what about his circulation".) Riley was able to at least try to make a break for it before Buffy tripped him. Grabbing his arms, not caring about the dressing, the Slayer vampire used her unnatural strength to lift him up and slam him back into the side of the van.

"How long?" Her eyes flashed yellow as they looked into his.

"How long what?" Riley smiled as he looked down on her keeping his fear under control. "Oh have I been conscious? Long enough to know that you can't lay a hand on me."

"Oh is that right." Holding him solidly against the van with her left hand the blond balled her right into a fist. "I really wouldn't risk placing any bets on that."

"Poor Willow." Shaking his head in mock sadness Riley retorted. "Kidnapping, wounding, accessary to torture. I hope she's gonna like the food in Federal prison, because she'll be eating it for along time."

"Oh that's so rich coming from you." The Slayers fist sank a little though despite her denial. "You're the bad here, you kidnapped Giles and yet you're saying that we're the ones who'er going to be in trouble? I think not Mr."

"All depends who he is luv." Spike interrupted Riley's answer. "Who he works for."

"Huh?" Narrowing her eyes, Buffy was about to ask Riley in brutal terms who that was when another voice chimed in.

"I think what Spike's gettin' at is the fact the bugger could be a cosser or maybe a squaddie." Browne emerged from round the side of the van, sharp knife in hand. Faced by puzzled Americans he explained further. "A cop or a soldier."

"Guess there's one way to find out." Grinning Buffy waved the vetala forward. "And you're just the vampire to do it."

"Truth spell!" Willow shouted once more, wishing she'd brought Oz for moral back up."Why do you guys keep forgetting about that?"

"Cause it's boring." Spike threw his cigarette down and stomped on it before walking back to the van. "But face it Buffy, Red's not about to give in."

"Hate to say it, but he's right," Angel gently put his hand on top of Buffy's fist. "Willow, do you have the stuff you need?"

"Well I gotta find the spell first, I'll have to look in the library at Giles' store." Willow felt as if she could hear the gears shifting in her friends heads as they considered how long that could take. "But I know which book it's in, and if we hurry we can get to the Magic shop before it closes."

"Too long." Buffy shook her hand free of Angels and got ready to go to work on her prisoner. "Guess we do it the bloody and bruised way."

"Buffy, no," Angel implored her. "You're just going to have something else to be guilty over if you beat him up."

"Alright mate so tell us an alternative," Spike spat from the back of the clearing, his nervous pacing sending him back and to. "You intended to go all round Sunnyhell knockin' on doors with a photo askin' everyone have you see this Watcher?"

"No and if you ever dare talk to me like that again, Spike, you're going to get hurt." Angel morphed in anger at his Childe's tone of voice. "We'll do it Willow's way, it's what Giles would want us to do."

"Ripper might not agree with that." Spike walked back and to, the tails of his duster flying around him. "And don't try comin' the big bad Sire with me, you wanker, cause it just doesn't impress anymore."

"Why you little..." Snarling, Angel came on towards Spike, fists raised. "Don't think I can't spare the time to break you."

"Try it," a new voice joined the argument. "And you'll answer to me, you bugger."

The vetala moved to stand between Sire and Childe, the khyber knife poised in his hand. "Are you listening to me, bastard?"

"HEY!" Buffy loosened her grip on Riley as she turned to intercede in the gathering fight. "James, don't you dare use that knife on my Angel."

"You think I'll let that bog trotter threaten my boy and do nothing?!" Browne's growled response was interrupted by a loud shout from behind him.

"YOUR BOY!"

"People!"

Riley watched bemused as the vampires squabbled, if they kept this up one hell of a brawl was going to break out amongst them. *And when that happens, I'm running.*

"But it was just a figure of speech," Browne was hastily explaining to his outraged friend. "I didn't mean nothin' by it so stop lookin' at me like that."

"Yeah right," Spike began his eyes flashing yellow in the darkness. "You're always tryin' to...."

"PEOPLE!" Willow screamed, then blushed as everyone looked at her like she was a crazy person. "Giles remember?"

"Giles." Buffy kicked Riley's legs out from under him and crouching down snarled. "Where is he?"

"Like the fangs are gonna work." The commando was still confident sounding however much he might be quaking inside. "You're bluffing Buffy, I know there's nothing you can do."

"Oooohh you are so asking for it." Buffy wanted to kick in a rib or two but Willow was watching. "Spike you're the fucking kidnapper here and you're English like those damn Watchers so where will they be hiding?"

"How the bloody hell should I know!" Spike looked at his Sire and snorted. "Might as well ask the poof as me he was just as bad at kidnapping as me in the pre-soul days."

"I was good at it Spike, that's the difference between me and you." Angel laughed and went on. "There's no way the Watchers would make the kind of moronic foul-ups you did. I mean if they were as stupid as you they'd be holding Giles in the Sunnydale Arms."

He tried not to react, his brain sent mental commands to every section of his body to keep perfectly still. But that was a microsecond too late.

"You blinked!" The ridges disappeared to be replaced by a cruel smile on Buffy's human face. "Riley Finn you blinked!"

"So what....?" Angel lost the vamp look as well as he realized what had just happened. "You don't think they'd really....?"

"Nar, they couldn't be that dumb...." Then the blond vampire paused as he realized the implication to himself. "Smart move actually, probably the last place we'd think to look."

"Bleedin' Watchers." The vetala shook his head sadly. "What an utter shower of useless twits. I mean they wander about bollocking things up and gettin' the poor old mother country a right bad name the whole world over...."

"I didn't blink." Riley vehemently assured the Slayer who was virtually straddling his chest now. "And I'm not telling you a damned thing."

"You already have silly boy." Buffy ran her hands up his chest. "And you're so strong and helpless and really a turn on....."

Riley flinched, wondering what the hell was about to happen when having distracted him Buffy suddenly snapped out. "Sunnydale Arms!"

"He blinked!" Willow had moved near enough to see Riley's face, she felt like jumping up and down with excitement. "We got them, we know where Giles is."

"Tie him up and throw him in the van." Buffy trailed her nails across the commando's cheeks warning him that, "If anything's happened to Giles don't you be thinking that this is over."

"And you guys," she said as she stood and gave her vampires an angry hard stare. "Do you realize how bad you're making me look with this constant squabbling and in-fighting. Ok I know we're demons, but, please, we still gotta have some standards."

She waited for anyone to start with the apologies, but no there was just scowling and foot shuffling. "Well don't we?!"

"Alright I'm sorry." Spike walked over to his Sire, hand outstretched, though he almost wanted to bite it off at having to make the gesture. "Slayer wants us to kiss and make up mate, waddya say?"

"She never said anything about kissing you," Angel replied, face expressionless but he loosely shook the proffered hand. "Just watch what you say in future."

"Sorry for calling you, 'My boy.'" The vetala sheathed his knife looking guilty about his transgression. "I didn't mean nothing bad by it."

"Ahem! Oh Browne."

He looked at the Slayer like a school boy caught bang to rights on an detentionable charge. "Oh Bahadur have I really gotta?"

"Yes."

Reluctantly he turned to a smirking Angel. "Im sorry 'bout the knife an I'm sorry I called you a bog trotter."

"That's a good Browne." Buffy nodded encouragingly. "But if you ever draw that knife again without my permission it's confiscated every time you come to town."

"What?" Browne began before receiving the look in full force. "Alright Slayer I won't do it again I promise. But the knife's like a part of me, please you can't take it off us."

"Well if you behave I won't have to." Buffy left Riley with Angel for a few seconds to go over and stand beside the crestfallen vetala. "But you are a good vampire arn't you James?"

"Yes."

"Good then." She gave him a half-smile and a pat on the arm. "Go help Angel tie up Riley."

"I'll help, too," Willow volunteered thinking to herself. *Cause if I don't Riley won't have any circulation at all.*

Spike stood round, a smirk on his face while the others worked.

"You think something's funny Mr?"

"Who, me?" Spike looked at Browne and the back at the Slayer. "I just never expected to see you pussy whip him."

"Pussy whip?" Suddenly Spike was looking down into yellow eyes. "You want me to find you a job and see how quickly you snap to it?"

"Now, now, pet, no need for that." But all the same the vampire went to open the doors to the back of the van so his friends could lift a hogtied commando in. *So that's why we call her a Vampire Queen.*

"So we know where Giles and me and the bad guys are," Buffy thought out loud for her toiling crew's benefit. "So now all we need is Doyle and the stuff, and we're on our way to get our friends free."



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Giles woke slowly, confused as where he was and how he had managed to get chained hand and foot to a bed. Looking round didn't tell him anything other than that night had fallen outside, the room's only lighting came from the part open door where creaking floorboards revealed the pacing of a sentry.

*Oh hell.* It all came back to him in a rush. Wesley's flawed escape bid and the resultant fight. *Where is Wesley?*

His accommodation had been downgraded. Before he'd been chained to a double bed but he was secured on a single. And he could make out the sound of someone snoring from the bed opposite. "Ah there he is."

"Thought I might as well put you in together," a voice said from the shadows. "Ope you don't mind sharin' with 'im, Ripper."

"Oh it's quite alright. He's nowhere near as annoying asleep as he is awake." Giles was trying to put a face to a vaguely familiar voice. "And the snoring's nothing compared to the racket I used to put up with in the school dorms."

"I know what you mean," the voice replied. "Though I'm thinkin' about Aldershot not Eton or wherever."

*The army.....* Giles memory began to work. "Jason Mitchell if I'm not mistaken? I seem to recall seeing you round head office a few times back in London."

"Not that you were there much, what with bein' such a bad apple." Jason leaned forward so Giles could see his face. "But of course when Buffy lost her Watcher and they needed a new bloke, out of your cushy job they dragged you. Tell me mate do you miss the British Museum?"

"What? Stuffy museum staff, nice safe archives and hideous quantities of cross referencing amidst the backroom dust. How can that compare to gut wrenching fear and repeated unconsciousness alongside the nicest, bravest young people a chap could hope to meet?" The ex-Watcher saw the understanding in his captors eyes. "What do you think is my answer?"

"That you wouldn't go back for nothin'." Jason wondered fleetingly what it would be like to be Watcher to a Slayer but he knew it would never be, he was working class and the bosses weren't. "You know that I respect you, don't you? That whatever the toffs on the Council think the lads at the sharp end know you're a diamond."

"Thank you, it's nice to know I have your respect." Giles gave what he hoped was a cooperative smile. "So perhaps we can agree to dispense with the chains?"

"Sorry no can do." Jason sat back in his chair hiding the discomfort his task caused him by letting the shadows conceal his face. "Travers wants you 'ome where an eye can be kept on you. Your families talked round into thinking you've reverted to your old carry on. They're gonna take care of you......If I take you back."

"You're not certain?" The smile changed to encouraging. "If you're unsure, why don't you just let us all go?"

"Cause I know what would 'appen." The sadness in his voice sounded genuine. "Even though you've got yourself a bird 'ere and kids who might as well be yours, you'd come after us. And then Travers would make me kill you."

"Or I'd kill you, or Travers," Giles spoke with a quiet intensity. "He means to hurt Buffy, either mentally or physically, and there is no lengths I wouldn't go to defend her from pain if I can."

"So it's better if you go to the bosom of your family, after a while the Slayer will get used to her new life and then we'll let you go back to the teacher." He was making it up as he went along but Jason saw no reason why it couldn't happen. "I might even leave Wesley behind to watch the hellmouth, see if workin' out of your shadow makes a man of 'im."

Giles considered that for a second or two before smiling thinly and answering, "All very well and good but rather pointless. You see, old chap, arn't you rather lacking the Slayer?"

"It's true we don't 'ave the Slayer vampire...." The boys were downstairs checking out their new guns, soon they'd be ready to go out and find the girl. "But it's just a question of yet!"



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

Albany's fingers scrambled round in the darkness searching for a nail in the rotten floorboards of his improvised cell. *I need one, just one. If that utter tit Windy can pick a lock so can I.*

He groped around even as he mentally pictured a knife plunging into Jason's back. *And then we'll see who's the hard man round here!*



Part Twenty-Three



"I hoped I'd never have to see that place again."

There was a deathly silence on the street, it was midnight in Sunnydale and anyone who had the least degree of sense was indoors right now. The populace might be unaware of what went on around them but the natural instinct for survival was still there, telling them that darkness and alone wasn't a good combination in this town.

"Twas the night before Christmas an' all through the 'ouse...." Browne began before realizing how very quiet indeed it was in their position behind a fence outside the abandoned house opposite the hotel. And also that Buffy was most definitely giving him the look. "Sorry yer Majesty I was just attemptin' to inject a little humour."

"Do you know what happened to me over there?" Buffy had assumed that by now the chatter in the cafe would have filled both the two newbies in on why she had no official Watcher. Browne nodded reluctantly so she went on. "So you must also know how much I'm not loving this."

"Sorry," he gave her a half bow. "You got my full unhumourous attention."

"No sentries." She had taken a long look at the building through binoculars. She had night vision in her morphed state and the lenses just served to help her. "Kinda casual aren't they?"

"Guess they figure we might go lookin' an' blokes standin' outside abandoned buildin's is obvious." Half the houses on the street were boarded up and the other half showed very little life. "Though even in this dead part the manor you'd fink someone would 'ave rung the filth over the lights bein' on in the place."

"People in Sunnydale have a vague idea of what goes bump in the night." The windows were all still bricked up she noted. "And a nice sunproof building like that is not one that the local law is going to want to be visiting after dark."

She took another hard look before adding bitterly. "They did a good job of fortifying that place didn't they."

"Wankers," Browne murmured before going on louder. "Great way to encourage the troops doin' that to 'em. Anyway though gettin' to tonight's caper can you remember if there's a back way out of the gaffe."

"Bricked up, last I looked anyway." There had been blood on the walls and a body on the table and Buffy hadn't wanted to go back in there after it was over, so Giles had seen to that. The doors had been sealed though that much was sure. "Better send someone round there though just in case. Karen and Anya?"

"Agreed." The T vamp had nothing against the girls being involved, but it was just ground zero was an experienced fighters only gig in his not overly humble opinion. "Limit to how many you can cram in through that doorway in my estimation, layout you've given me suggests it could get crowded in there."

"You sure Doyle.....?" Her question was unnecessary really, Browne had already considered it.

"Doyle'll manage, I know he will." Browne grinned as he turned round and headed them back to the van. "You see the git knows if 'e let's me down I'll rip 'is fuckin' lungs out and that's a real motivator for the bloke let me tell you."

"I bet at heart your just a big old softie." Buffy creaked along beside the vampire her clothing restricting her movements. "Tell me again vampire how the fact I can barely move in this won't matter because we won't have to go hand to hand in it."

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(Earlier that night)

"Jesus why me..." Doyle held the icepack more firmly to his forehead with his left hand as his shaking right hand tried to bring a half full tumbler of whiskey to his lips. "Working with those two fellas is bad enough without havin' to put up with fuckin' head aches like this as well."

"But you see things man." Oz replied wondering what that might be like. "Things that'll help people, doesn't that make it worth it?"

"No." Doyle forced out ignoring the fact that the two guys were looking at him like he was some kind of hero. "I like too help people don't get me wrong but without the pain I'd like it a whole heap more."

"And in the spirit of which..." Catching Doyle's glass holding hand Xander symbolically refilled his tumbler. "Any chance you might get a vision of the next State Lottery draw?" He smiled encouragingly and put a pen and paper on the table ready. "Anytime soon."

Doyle looked at him wearily and put the glass down on the table. "Xander ya do know the two vampires I work for don't ya?"

"Yeah, I have that misfortune." The teen saw the way the conversation was about to go and shrugged to confirm it was no big. "And if you had those kinda visions...."

"Then I wouldn't be working for those guys, I wouldn't even be in the same country." Doyle managed a grim smile. "I mean the pays lousie and the workin' conditions..."

"Can suck. I'm totally taking your point." Xander was used to his plans for achieving serious riches crashing before they cleared the runway so he took it philosophically. And his share of the vamp cash was amounting to serious green anyway so it wasn't really a problem. "So what did you see, I mean all the head clutching and the loud groaning has to be for something important right?"

"Other than dramatic effect." Oz added encouragingly.

"Better had be important for the kinda life the powers that be are leading me, blinding pain all the time for very little reward." Doyle took a couple of sips of what Angel called whiskey and wished he hadn't, the headache was wearing off and his taste was returning. "I saw some blurry people tied up, an old building and alot of guys with guns."

"Old building." Xander and Oz exchanged glances. Old building was a surprisingly large part of Sunnydale when you were hunting vampires round it, but if they could find out the location of the bad guys hideout before the others got back the kudos was theirs. "Can you give us a better description than that?"

Doyle looked back at Oz wearily. *Tell people about the visions and this is all you ever are to them just a cellular with a line to the powers, still better telling them than that eejit Browne.*

"Well it's a big old one, made of wood, windows looked to be bricked up though and there was some kinda sign outside, too blurred to read but like a Pub sign if you you know what I mean." He looked at them uneasily. "Ya do know don't' ya cause I'd hate to have gone through that for nothin'."

"Sunnydale Arms?" Oz asked his friend.

"Yeah." Xander shook his head sadly as he considered Buffy's potential reaction to the news. "And I know someone whose really not gonna love hearin' this one."

"But on the upside if they missed Riley we can tell them where Giles and the alternate are." Oz could picture Buffy a little upset but. "I'm sure Buffy can deal if we help her."

"Xander." The teen looked up to the kitchen doorway to see his girl standing there. "Have you finished talking to the strange guy now?"

"Yeah Anya he's been real helpful." He had been onto lover number forty seven when the half demon had arrived to save him from the conversation. The fact that he'd collapsed just as Anya was about to drag him back to their important discussion had put Doyle even further into his cool book. "Arn't you supposed to be keeping watch?"

"Yes." She gestured angrily pointing back into the corridor. "I'm keeping watch on my own."

"That's good." The frown he received showed this was totally the wrong answer. "Or possibly bad?"

"I think you should come and watch with me," she waved her hand dismissively at the rooms other two occupants. "Oz can look after the strange person, he doesn't need your help."

"Don't mind me pal you go sit out front with your girl." Doyle who was still feeling sorry for himself and starting to remember a horse race the vision had driven from his mind failed to notice the horror on Xander's face. "We'll be alright won't we Oz?"

"Most likely." Oz answered with a smile. "How's Cordelia these days?"

"I'd really like to....." Xander saw the black look that Anya was throwing him on mention of his ex and getting to his feet capitulated. "Well I'll see you guys later."

Once he had left the room Doyle turned to Oz and asked him straight. "Do you not think it's strange that your cruel streaks not so widely noted?"

"It's the rep for coolness." Oz answered straight faced. "Covers a multitude of sins, stuff like that just doesn't even get noticed. I sometimes consider murder just to see if I could get away with it."

"Is that right?"

"Probably not."

"You think he'll be okay."

"It'll be good for him, secrets just arn't good in a relationship and Anya wants to level with him." He shrugged. "If he screams we're in easy running distance anyway."

Doyle shook his head and regretted it.....then broke the pack open to get some ice for his drink.

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Outside Xander wasn't experiencing quite what he'd expected instead of getting the story of Anya's love life 1404 to 1999 he found himself being kissed passionately.

"I think we can save the rest for some other time." Anya explained when they parted for air. "We were getting to my really bitter period when being a vengeance demon really started to turn me off boys, and male demons, and anything else that had a pen....."

"Ok!" Xander interrupted before the conversation could potentially turn insulting. "So what else do we do other than watch."

"Well...." Anya looked around. "There's a big bush there with a convenient window sill behind it. A window with it's curtain drawn."

"Uhu." Xander's raised eyebrows could mean alot of things but in this case Anya assumed agreement and kissed him.

"So do you want to have inter....." *Oh I'm saying it wrong again.* "So shall we make love?"

*Great save.* Xander looked around, it was going dark and there were no vampires stupid enough to risk being anywhere near the mansion anyway. *And the others are sure to be a while yet. And I don't figure Oz or Doyle for coming outside so.....*

"Ok." He grinned holding out his hand. "Let's go shake those branches."

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They had arrived back at the mansion to find a strange truck parked outside the building, strange that was to everyone save Browne. "He made it, great stuff now we can get on with it."

"What exactly does 'it' consist of?" Buffy asked on behalf of herself and a very curious group of friends. "There some kind of disassembled bomb or artillery piece in the back of there?"

"Bahadur I'm surprised at you!" He attempted to look as benign as he could and gave a good impression of a happy go lucky gangster. "I am a peace lovein' vampire what would never blow a thing up...." He paused to let the hoots of laughter subside. "Less 'e absolutely 'ad to."

"Yeah right." Buffy shoot her head smiling at the look of mock humility that crossed the vetala's face. "Amazing how you always find an excuse. Anyway it'll be nice to see Doyle again he's such a happy guy."

She looked at the door, then at the gardens in front of the building and a frown crossed her face. "I thought I told them to keep a watch?"

"Oh this is so like them, groups of armed bad guys wandering around and we've got nobody on the door." Buffy got out of the van and stormed up the path. "Hey where the hell are you people?"

"Oh shit," a voice whispered from the bushes once she'd passed. "We really are in trouble!"

"Keep still, wait for them to pass." Another low voice hissed. "Then we sneak out and pretend we were patrolling the other side the building when they got here."

*Her demoness makes her so snippy, and if she bawls the guys out she'll hate herself later.* Willow looked a little doubtful about that for a second or two. *Oh well then when she gets her humanity back she'll tell us all she's sorry for sometimes being a bitca.....I expect.*

Angel was walking just behind her grim faced as he carried Riley's legs a cursing Spike behind him.

*Why do I have to carry the soddin' heavy end?* He looked daggers at his Sire's back. *I mean he's the bloody tall one shouldn't he have the heavy end? I don't know why we didn't just off the bugger anyway and bury 'im in the woods....and why isn't Browne helpin' me?*

*Wonder if 'e got all the stuff?* Browne went over to the truck that Doyle had driven up. Reaching into his pocket he found the large keyring on which he kept keys for most of his numerous hideouts and stashed vehicles. It hung on a length of chain inside his jacket making it not just a useful means of getting into things but also a heavy instrument for hitting people he developed violent objections too. *And that's gettin' to be a lot of the population you wicked vampire you.*

The metal of the trucks door rattled as the vampire opened it. He nodded in satisfaction as he studied the vehicles contents. "Sorted 'e got the lot. Guess the booze money must 'ave run out early an' 'e was sober for once the bloody Mick sot."

Slamming the tail gate back down again Browne headed after the others for the mansion smiling at the thought of the impending violence. The night was still and cloudless stars were gleaming in the sky that he usually couldn't see in LA, his sensitive ears could pick up traffic noise from back in town and something else too.....*Hold up!*

"You know lurkin' in the bushes round 'ere ain't the cleverest of ideas." He addressed the night air casually, withholding all trace of the laughter that threatened to burst forth at any second. "Somebody might think you was a vampire and shoot you in the jacksie with a crossbow....."

He gulped hard as his hysteria rose. "Please...please bear that in mind. Oh and don't rush....whatever it is your doin'."

"He knows we're in here!"

"So?"

"And what we're doing."

"So?"

"Is that all your going to say? What if he tells the others?"

"He won't."

"What makes you so sure?"

"He thinks it's funny but he knows the others might not like it if he snitches.....So you can finish."

"What!?!"

"You'd leave me in this state.......unsatisfied? Don't you love me Xander?"

"Course I do, you sure he won't come back out?"

"Yes!"

"Ok then."

Tentatively the bushes went back to shaking.

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"Hey guys have we got news for you." Oz began as soon as his friends walked in. "Doyle's had a vision."

"That's nice, but whatever it is doesn't matter right now." Buffy looked at the clock on the wall. "We know where our friends are. We also got every reason to suspect the Watchers will be out gunning for us again so I need you guys ready to saddle up in ten, that ok?"

"But my vision was where the prisoners are!" Doyle sat there stunned. "You mean to say I had my cerebral cortex violently rearranged by the powers that be to tell you somethin' you already knew?"

"Their at the Sunnydale Arms." Buffy replied as she casually confiscated the drink. "Oz you know he shouldn't have this pre fight."

"Sorry." Oz looked at Buffy and Doyle as he made the double apology. "And their at the hotel."

"Soddin' migraine for nothin."

"There, there Doyle." The Wiccan cast around in her mind for a healing spell as she went on. "Least your confirming what we found out from Riley and that's a great help....isn't it Buffy."

The emphasis was obvious, as was the meaning. 'Please comfort the half demon.'

"Yeah, it's a help. Thanks Doyle your a brick." Buffy swung herself up onto the work top and sat there waiting for people to move. "Karen back yet?"

"She rang, she's inbound."

"Xander and Anya?"

Oz looked puzzled for a second then replied. "On the door last I heard."

A knot of tension grew in Buffy's stomach. *God they could have been snatched by the bad guys.* She turned sharply. "Angel I need you to....."

"Already on it." Angel morphed to improve his night senses and scent. "If there's any trace of strange mortals round the grounds I'll find it."

"Hold on there Dead Boy." A familiar voice shouted from the hall. "We're here."

The couple where flushed and disheveled. "We we're patrolling." Anya began to explain."Round the gardens out back."

"Did you fall in 'em." Browne delicately for a vamp of his appearance and rep pulled a leaf from out of Anya's hair. "You should be more careful grass stains can be really difficult too...."

"Hey!" Xander was seeing the look that Willow was already sending his girlfriend. "That's enough man!"

"Quite enough." Willow sounded as cold as she could in the circumstances. "And we have work to do, James I think we've wasted enough time don't you?"

"It's not me as was shag..." He saw the warning look in Spike and Buffy's eyes and abandoned the line of conversation he had begun. "Well wait until you blokes see what I've got outside. You'll be amazed......"

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"You've got to be kidding?"

"Bahadur as far as non lethal kit goes that's the best there is." Browne looked a little crestfallen at her reaction. "Ideal for a job like this."

"Where the hell did you get this stuff from Browne?" Angel broke in. "Steal it from a police station?"

"Steal!" The vetala pointed a thumb at his own chest. "Why is it that everyone h'assumes I'm a thief?"

"Cause you are...." Spike said into the night sky not looking at his target to avoid the outraged look he threw back.

"I'll 'ave you know I bought all this all legit and on the QT." The Englishvamp declared. "I sent a bloke who own's a gun store what owed me a favour to an auction of police surplus goods."

"Do they have those?" Xander asked suddenly very interested. "Really?"

"Yeah. Depending on the attitude of the city authorities when a police force updates its equipment it'll sell it's old stuff on."

"And they sell this stuff to just anyone?" Xander heard a low growl and added hastily. "I mean your an upstanding vampire but why would a civilian need stuff like this?"

"Other than this being America." Oz contributed.

"He told em he had a contract from a bloke who was settin' up a security firm. He told me that after he signed the check they offered him a good deal on their old point 38's."

"What!" Came from several startled listeners at once.

"Oh yeah quite a few forces sell their old shooters too when they get new ones, it's amazin' the stuff that goes on cause of that one clause in a constitution."

"Ok much as I'd like to continue our debate....." Buffy jumped up into the back of the truck and started passing the gear out. "But we gotta get into this stuff and moving....."

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"Now that's nifty." Jason aimed the taser at the kitchen door way and dry squeezing the trigger. "So the little darts would shoot out...."

"Trailing the wires behind and when they hit the target wham out shoot the blue sparks." Forrest was at the kitchen table loading darts into the clip magazine of his automatic gas gun. "My man nothing lights a vampire up like one of those."

"I really wish those bastards back in London would cough up the readies for some kit like this." He looked jealously at the disassembled assault weapon on the table. "I mean you'd think we were back in the Middle Ages the weapons they expect us too use."

"Stuff I hear the Professor types saying I'd have to agree with that. They was arguing over which type of axe was best for killin' Sassanid Corba demons earlier.." Forrest somehow controlled his laughter at that concept. "I mean who'd want to go hand to hand with a seven foot or so red demon when you could just dart that ugly mother and then have the leisure time to cut him up for spares with a chain saw."

"A fuckin' idiot who works for a low payin' bunch of bastards." Jason was wearing a flak vest for the first time since he'd left the army. Watchers were expected to die nobly if they met armed opposition it increasingly seemed to him, not to survive and need medical care to increase the burden on the organizations expenses. *Either that or wear a lot of tweed.*

Forrest had his own concerns principally where was Riley Finn. *Ok so the Professor said to leave him to make his own way back but you'd think he'd be here or back at base by now.....I sure hope the opposition didn't go looking for him*

Still things were going ok now, their dartees were awake and sufficiently recovered to guard the Arms whilst the rest of the gang went out on another Slayer hunt. The troops were rearmed and motivated and since the local boys had taken a greater share of authority less of an armed mob and more of a military force.

"So we wait till near dawn then we hit them." Forrest snapped and slid the peices of the dart gun back together as he spoke. "Maybe we should send a patrol or two out to you know, just to keep a presence out on the streets of this burgh?"

"Give em someone to follow back 'ere more like. Don't forget knowing where they are is the main advantage we got over them. We don't want to throw that away." Jason loaded the batteries into the taser and switched the system on and off a couple of times to check it. "But your the man in charge so if you like?"

"No, it's cool we'll wait till later then do it with overwhelming numbers." He grinned. "Shit man there's no way they'd try to attack this place, even if everyone came through that last fight there's only eight of them tops. We got they by nearly four to one."

"They'd have to be crazy....and Buffy sure as hell isn't that."

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

Adjusting the clear visor of her ballistic helmet Buffy looked round the circle of faces that surrounded her. "Ok so are we clear, go in hard, go in fast, aim at anything but eyes. These darts don't make to much of a hole but they can still blind."

She gave her vamps a hard look. "Avoid hand to hand were possible, these are not demons their humans so just drop them don't take them apart."

"Any questions?"

There weren't any, the ones already raised had been handled. Anya and the almost late arriving Karen were coming in with the others refusing to miss out on the fight. Browne had quibbled but on reflection Buffy had to agree it was better to leave the Watchers and their friends an out anyway so long as it wasn't big enough to carry a Slayer through. So any back way out would be left as an escape route to stop a desperate last stand.

"Ok saddle up, Browne you take the battering ram."

It was a solid piece of lead filled steel pipe with an iron handgrip welded to the top. Browne hefted it easily enough as he fell in beside the other three vampires and Xander. They would form the vanguard with the rest of the crew coming in by van behind them.

"You know what to do?" Buffy asked Oz seriously freaked at how he looked in a visored blue police helmet.

"Wait till you reach the yard of the building opposite then drive out without lights, run the van onto the lawn even as you guys pile onto the door then we come in straight after you."

"You got it." She looked around one more time at her back up team. "You guys cool."

"Darn tootin." Willow had had to put on two sweaters to get the 'Safety Equipment' Browne had brought along to fit and was cooking as a result. "And could we be quicker about this cause some of us still sweat you know."

"Ok," Buffy smiled glad that everyone was so wired to go do this, adjusting the stiff neck pieces of her armour so they completely protected her throat she morphed and worked the bolt on her dart gun. "Let's go!"

Continued

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