Set it SITCOA but with a few differences. The biggest one being Veruca happened, Oz left and Willow became friends with Tara.
This fic contains events that may or may not happen in the future of Sitcoa, the Initiative/Faith story line that opened in Ep4 will not be mentioned here.
All the Characters I didn't invent are Joss Whedon's as is the concept.
Lyrics so far 'Avenues and Alleyways' by Mitch Murray and Peter Callender.
The dockside was bustling considering it was midnight. A Small rusting freighter that had slipped in at dusk was being unloaded by a large group of mainly pale-looking Chinese men.
The refugees were coming up a dozen at a time, clutching their pathetic bundles of belongings. They'd already had to sell virtually all they owned to pay the Triads to let them aboard ship. But that would just be the first part of the debt, the remainder would be paid in the sweat shops the organizations ran in Los Angeles, and in the case of the more attractive young women in other places entirely.
At least that was the idea.
The young were being separated from the old, the women and children from the men. Once this sifting had occurred for the most part they were being loaded onto trucks and driven away. Only those who looked sick or unfit for work or for the other uses their owners might put them too were being taken to the far end of the pier, quietly drained, then weighted and dropped into the sea.
The vampires of the Red Tiger Triad gang ran a tidy business, corpse strewn piers drew attention, sharks were such convenient creatures when it came to corpse disposal.
"'Ow many's that?"
"Bout three hundred." Spike kept the binoculars trained on the ship as he replied to Browne's question. "God knows how they managed to cram that many people onto a ship that small."
Actually he had a fair idea how from bitter personal experience. He'd spent three months on a prison hulk on the Thames back in 1796 back when he was still mortal. A small matter of a few penny's worth of potatoes stolen to keep the wolf from the door had seen him condemned to the rotting remains of an old Sixty-four gun sail of the line just up the river from London.
The vessel had been crammed and the turnover of prisoners fast. Some left for the gallows, others for transportation to the Penal Colonies. Most however were sown into a sack and dropped over the side, the victims of hunger, cold, murder or most often gaol fever.
He had known that he would die if he stayed there, his family being too poor to send him in, food he had been forced to live on the putrid rations that the State provided. Even though weakened by hunger he could see only one desperate means of escape.
In the dead of night he had somehow forced open one of the nailed down gunports and dropping through into the stinking cold black water that washed around the barnacle and weed encrusted bottom of the old ship.
And he'd survived, washing up on a mudflat ten miles down river to make his drenched way back into the city. To think that in this day and age people would pay to go on such a vessel, he shook his head in shock. "Knotted rope ends it used to be. I suppose they'd use cattle prods now."
"Poor sods," Browne murmured trying to sound like a caring vamp. "They're startin' the lorries."
"Do you think we could save 'em?"
"Sorry no chance." Browne had thought about it and dismissed the idea. "Despite your trek through there at the start of the last century you don't speak Chinese and nor do I. So 'ow do you think those poor buggers are going to react if we come in guns blazin?"
"By thinkin' we're after them and runnin' in the way." It bit, true, but Spike realized he was going to have to let the prisoners go to their fate. "But we fuck these bastards good and proper for it."
"Amen." Then the talking stopped as first the trucks drove clear and three black limos drove onto the pier. As they approached, the human crew of the tramp steamer came down the gangplank carrying several large suitcases, unaware of how keenly they were being watched. "There's the smack, get into position mate."
The Red Tiger was an ancient clan, it traced its roots back to 3000 B.C. and it had lived by time honoured traditions for the majority of those five millennium. Chung had changed all that. After securing control of the clan in 1850 he had seen the power that could be had and moved to take advantage of it. He had seen the potential offered by Western encroachment and made the most of that too.
Now the Red Tiger were present in Hong Kong, and Macao, in Singapore and Sydney, in London and New York. But the heart of the clan was now here in LA for it was in that city's China Town were Chung Kian-Si ruled.
The ship had begun its journey in Karachi Pakistan. At the dockside there it had taken aboard two million dollars worth of Afghan grown heroin and sailed away into the night. In the South China sea it had met a fleet of old fashioned junks and loaded its other cargo, 300 pathetic immigrants and 100 ex-People's Army Type56 assault rifles.
The illegals were just food and forced labour, the real means by which Chung ruled was the money he made from the sale of hard drugs and offensive weaponry on the streets of US cities. That financed his operations world wide, that had turned the blood drinkers who followed him into capitalists.
So now he stepped from the back of his car as his bodyguards took up positions amongst the cargo containers that screened the section of the pier from observers on the shore. Not that it mattered with the money he kicked back, but still, these were dangerous times in the City of Angels, and it wasn't just the humans he needed to worry about, there were other dangers to.
He had sent Gelfman presents, only to have them returned. He had asked to meet the old man but had been rejected. The tradition in his country was for the old to be treated with respect but this old one was costing Chung face. He must be dealt with, he would be.
This drug shipment was five times larger than usual, it was the first of four that would give the Red Tigers the money needed to wage a war against Gelfman's anti-vampire security force. The money to buy the human help that would tip the balance against the human-demon mix that followed Gelfman's orders.
Stern-faced, Chung stepped forward to accept the homage of the human members of his Triad. This was a great day and it would be the first of many to come.
*Fuck this is 'eavy.* Even morphed to use the full strength his demon embuded him, with Browne was having difficulty keeping his weapon centered and the reason was plain and simple. *Effin muzzle drag.*
The intelligence coming through so late Browne had not had time to equip properly and had had to make do with what was stashed in the armoury under the office. That was why he was about to try to fire a rifle grenade from a Car-15.
*Right caliber,* he'd thought. *But the barrel length's the bugger.*
Basically a cut down M-16, the carbine had 10 inches of barrel where the rifle had 20. Which meant the vampire had to keep his hands close together and was having a hell of a job keeping the heavy grenade aimed straight. *Who says size doesn't matter?*
*Three limos and a bloody ship!* he suddenly thought to himself, letting his shoulders relax. *You're bound to 'it somethin'.*
"Ready," he whispered, his throat mike picking up the word..
"Course." Spike's answer came back loud and clear. "Like a staff party from a dozen laundrettes out there tonight mate are you sure about this?"
"Surprise is on our side." He grinned and pulled the trigger. "Let's go to work!"
The chambered round was blank. The detonation of the cartridges charge sent a stream of gas up the carbine's barrel to impact with a small explosive cap at the base of the rocket grenade, this in turn threw the device forward a couple of meters in the air. Then when the missile was a safe distance from the firer the main charge kicked in send the fin stabilized grenade racing for its target.
The crack of the rifle was drowned out by the bloop of the first charge, then that was replaced by the roar of the tiny rocket motor as the bomb, trailing a stream of white smoke behind it, slammed into the back of the third limo. The hollow charge detonated on the metal skin of the vehicle and send a stream of molten metal straight into the gas tank, all this occurred before the vampires surrounding it could do more than blink.
The back of the heavy automobile exploded in a ball of fire, the rear wheels blew out even as the vehicle itself was lifted bodily into the air. Burning fiercely, it turned a fiery 180 degrees to land on the vehicle parked in front. Those vampires not struck by fire or shrapnel began to run frantically for cover, pursued by automatic weapon fire.
Spike smiled grimly as he sent controlled three round burst from his Heckler and Kock into the confused Triad members. Some dropped trailing white smoke as garlic went to work, others just dropped. He had separated from Browne once the heroin had been carried onto the dockside, positioning himself 80 meters down the pier from the ship. He was on the limit of his range but fortunately the Heckler was a highly accurate weapon and at this distance no one could see his weapon flash unless they looked straight at him.
Browne as he could see and hear was a different matter.
The Car-15 was a sawn down rifle. The 5.56mm cartridges it fired were designed to be fire from a full size weapon. Usually the carbine carried a four inch flash suppresser but Brown'd had to unscrew it to fire the grenade and, as a result, he now lit up the night sky as he fired on full auto. The carbine was roaring loud enough to sound like a heavy machine gun.
"Come on you bastards!" Browne roared as the firing pin clicked on an empty chamber. "Is this the best you can fuckin' do?"
The Chinese vampires had been panicked by the sudden attack and had suffered badly in the opening seconds from the incoming fire. However, they had not come to control the areas of the city they did without fighting, and now they gathered their courage and began to hit back at the only target they could see.
Browne felt something slam into the centre of his chest then another hit on his shoulder. He stepped back a pace under the impact of the bullets, but as they had failed to penetrate the body armour he was wearing concealed under his overcoat, he was able to almost shrug off the hits as nothing other than an irritant and continue fighting.
He let the Car-15 drop to the end of its sling, then he drew his Mini-Uzi's from the crude holsters he had fixed to the back of his belt, flicking the safeties off as he did so. He looked for targets then fired off a burst from both weapons at the pistol-armed group of his enemies, who were using the third and as yet undamaged limo as cover. They weren't armoured and those who didn't duck in time took hits that sent them spinning onto the pierside.
"This is too fuckin' easy." He grinned as the guns clicked on empty. Dropping to one knee he rapidly reloaded his weapons, his eyes taken off the battle for a few seconds. It was only a frantic shout in the earpiece from Spike that saved him.
"Movement on the boat!"
"What....." The side of the ship was suddenly lined by its crew and they were all pointing familiar looking weapons towards him.
Browne dove backwards sliding as he did so towards the back of the container. He had climbed up onto a third tier to get above his enemies and move importantly above the ship, now this saved him because when the Chinese made copies of the AK47 opened up all they could do was shred the metal of the container not the flesh of the vampire sheltering on it.
"Fuck it they got long guns!" he shouted into the mike. Frantically, he pulled the haversack he had brought up there with him towards him and, delving inside, pulled out another rocket grenade. "Can you do anything to distract the buggers?"
Spike was trying but the crewmen had taken up position in the ships bows and, though he could see, them the range was too great for his sub-machine gum. "Can't do more than just tickle 'em from back 'ere. Do you want me to try movin' up?"
"No." Browne pulled out a couple of hand grenades. "Just get ready to run to where we stashed the pig."
"The pig!" There was a note of disbelief in the vampire's voice even though it was almost drowned out by his own and the Triad's gunfire. "I thought the pig was for bloody emergencies?"
"What the fuck do you call this?" A line of bullet holes tore the metal of the freight containers roof almost up to his feet. "Distraction's coming up."
He pulled the first grenades pin and lobbed it out towards the ship. He knew it wouldn't reach the vessel but that didn't matter. Grenades make people duck. "Go on!"
The second that the hand grenade exploded, Spike was off and running across the pier, heading for a pile packing crates right on the edge of the water. The boys had rearranged them to their benefit at dusk just in case things went tits up. His duster blew behind him as he ran at full speed but fortunately unnoticed by the Chinese who had been trying to climb up to Browne's tier when the latest bomb landed in their midst.
The screams were loud. There was no garlic in the grenade casing, just slivers of metal that ripped up vampires' bodies, but the damage was still there and the bloodloss. They were left far too distracted to spot one running vampire however blond.
A third grenade exploded as he began dragging a crate out of the stack. Snapping the padlock off the side of the long box he grabbed the carrying handle of the ugly pig of a weapon that rested inside and lifting it out, then he snapped the bipod legs open and set it on a waist-high crate left there for use as a weapon stand.
A quick delve into the space the vamps had filled with their weaponry brought him a smaller green painted tin, painted on its side was the legend 7.62mm ball cartridge 250 rounds. Opening the lid he brought out the ammo belt and laid it on the crate's top. Then he disengaged the catch that held the breech mechanism of the weapon down and raised it to load the belt into place as Browne had taught him.
The cover replaced he pulled back the cocking handle chambering the first round and sighted at the ship. *Soddin' awful bloody angle I can only see two of them. Still that will have to do.*
"Will you get a soddin' move on!" a voice screamed in his ear as the assault rifle armed enemy got their courage back and started shredding what cover Browne had left.
"Hold your bleedin' 'orses." Bracing himself for the recoil, Spike gently squeezed the trigger and the M-60 roared into life. Empty shell casings and the metal strips that formed the ammo belt spewed out as Spike sent a stream of heavy caliber bullets towards the superstructure of the ship. Two of the rifle armed men were flung to the ground and others dived for cover. "Go on then get stuck in!"
Like an avenging angel, Browne rose, carbine ready. He took a second to spot a suitable target on the ship's cluttered decks. Six oil drums, whether they were full or empty he didn't know but he suspected they were part of the ships reserve fuel and so hopefully full. Bringing up the outbalanced carbine again he fired.
Then very quickly wished he hadn't.
They contained spare cooking fuel.
Two of the drums burst on impact sending a burning wall of kerosene sweeping across the deck, the effect was devastating and a screaming group of sailors went over the side of the vessel into the sea, their clothes and hair on fire. The other four drums however were less badly damaged and held together as a combination of the explosion and the rapid expulsion of their burning contents launched them spinning into the air like huge undirected fireworks.
A barrel spun a huge trailing arc as it shot up into the air a hundred feet above the containers. Browne watched it open mouthed as it reached the zenith of its ascent and then trailing flame behind it began to plummet back to earth... straight in his direction.
"Ohhhhhh Shhhhhiiiiiitttttt." Giving a great impression of an Olympic sprinter leaving the blocks, the vetala ran as he would later put it, 'like buggery,' for the far end of the container and took a flying leap. The heat of the flames as the barrel exploded on landing just caught him in the second before his body slammed into the cold night time waters of the San Pedro Channel.
"That torn it." Spike had seen the millennium firework display in LA but this was something else. Three of the barrels landed on the pier, the others in the sea, it was clear to him whoever hadn't heard the explosion would certainly have see in. The freighter was burning and so was every wooden board and old crate on the pierside beside it. The vampires were in the sea, dusted or about to be. "Time to go Browne."
He was about to fold the bipod legs of the machine gun prior to legging it when he realized he hadn't had any form of reply. "Browne!?!"
No reply. "Browne stop pissin' about mate, answer me....."
There was no reply. Browne was back up there in the fire. Browne was dead.
"Oh the idiotic sod," he started to whisper shaking his head. "I told 'im we needed to take our time, get ready properly I said, bring Reuben and the lads in and hit the next shipment. But no 'e 'as to be the fuckin' 'ero. And now he's gone."
The tears were unnoticed. Spike was unmorphed so they were of water not blood. "You dozy old bugger why couldn't you 'ave waited for the others? Why did you always 'ave to be the hero?"
Then the flames parted and tires burning fiercely the third limo came hell for leather out of the fire, heading straight along the pier for the dockside beyond.
Cheung had never experienced anything like it in nearly three hundred and fifty years of unlife. In that time he had witnessed civil wars that had claimed millions of lives and seen whole cities destroyed but his Clan had never suffered a defeat like this before. His clothes hung in tatters, his body was riddled with grenade shrapnel but his mind was clear he would kill his vampiric opponents slowly, then turn the mortal whose money financed them and everyone he held dear.
"They will suffer slavery for eternity for this night, by all the unholy ones I swear it." He had just three followers left of the escort he had brought with him but that didn't matter. "Do they think they can destroy the Red Tiger? I can have a hundred vampires here in a week."
"We will......" The driver began to say before his eyes opened wide as fifty meters in front of him a blonde in a long black leather coat stepped out into the path of the car.
The last sixty rounds of the ammo belt hung down to the ground as Spike stood aiming the M-60 from the hip. A look of hate suffused his face and he screamed, "THIS IS FOR BROWNE!"
The bullets chewed their way across the bonnet and then blasted the windscreen into a myriad shower of broken glass. The driver disintegrated under the impact of the belt's last thirty rounds leaving the limo out of control. It sped past a side-stepping vampire hit the side of the pier hard and went straight into the sea.
Lifting the machine gun by its carrying handle Spike set off back up the pier. He paused only to draw his pistol and neatly shoot three floating vampires who had made the mistake of leaving the sinking car. Afterwards they still floated only now they had vapour trails rising from their heads as garlic did its poisonous work.
"Red Tigers," Spike spat. "Dead Tigers."
Then as the noise of the first siren reached his sensitive ears, he really started to run. There was a limit to what a letter from the Chief of Police could get you out of, even in LA. The tears had stopped flowing he could grieve later. *What am I going to tell the others, what do I tell Buffy? She loved that old bugger.*
The getaway van was concealed behind another pile of cargo containers. Spike slid the M-60 into the vehicle and dropped his submachine gun and pistol in with it before slamming the rear doors shut. Four seconds later he was behind the wheel and had the van moving even before the drive side door was closed. The sand was hard and the van four wheel drive so he cut across it heading for a slip road that would lead him up to a different part of the rundown old dockyard.
And the door being opened allowed him to hear a shout off.
"Oiiii you ferwerhj nonce. Where the hersefd are you going?" The waves that kept crashing over Browne's head as he tried to wade ashore were really irritating him. They made shouting difficult.
That voice. Spike nearly went through the windshield he rammed the brakes on so hard. "Browne!"
The vetala was walking up out of the sea with a murderous-looking expression on his face. Squelching with every footstep he left the water and dripped his way across the sand. His guns ran with water as they hung from their soaked slings. He was holding his drenched pants up with one hand whilst clutching a dark unidentifiable object in the other.
"Fine way to treat a mate this is!" He shouted breaking into a jog as the noise of impending police cars penetrated his water filled ears. "Runnin' off and leavin' 'im for the cozzers."
"I though you were dead you ninny." The relief was plain and palpable in Spike's voice as he slammed his foot on the accelerator and got them back on their way. "You picked a bloody stupid time to take up swimming."
"Swim?" The dripping vetala rattled his weapons dramatically. "Carryin' this lot are you 'avin' a laugh."
"You mean you walked it?"
"Right the way back." He held up the blue grey triangular object he was carrying. "And a bugger of a journey it was too."
"What the fuck is that?" It looked organic and it trailed tissue and what looked like blood vessels from a ripped looking uneven bottom edge.
"Shark fin." The van soared up the slip road as Browne leered evilly.
"What happens round 'ere if you dump a load of dead people in the sea, the marine life comes in for tea." He held the trophy up admiringly. "He was a whoppin big bugger who looked like 'e'd 'ad a bleedin' big 'ammer for lunch. Eyes was right out from 'is 'ead on these stickin' out bits an' 'is cake out was packed full of teeth."
"Alright David Bellamy I know what a shark looks like." Spike checked his rearview mirror saw nothing behind him and hung a sharp right up an alley. "How did you kill it, you shoot it?"
"Guns don't go so well under water." Browne had spent a second reflecting that a spear gun would have been a sound investment at the moment the shark attacked. "But nature 'as seen fit in 'er infinite wisdom to equip me with a defense mechanism against which the shark didn't stand a chance."
It has been cold and deep and a lesser vampire might have been in trouble. Browne however was firmly convinced of his invincibility in all situations and had simply improvised.
Firstly by ducking at the last second using his speed to drop below the shark even as it powered in to attack him. Too late to stop itself the shark had gone straight over the vampire and taken the deadly tip of the blade straight in it's belly. "Then I grabs his tail turns 'im round an slices off me souvenir and pushes 'im back towards 'is incomin' mates. They ripped 'im apart whilst I skedaddled."
"Very impressive." Spike still looked askance at the fillet of shark fin. "But why did you whip that off the bugger?"
"Thought I'd get it stuck on a plaque for Jeannie." Browne grinned at his own ingenuity. "What do you think?"
"Jeannie Hopkirk the posh bit of English talent who you seduced due to the most bizarre set of circumstances ever known to man or vamp?"
"The very same."
"Jeannie, she who'd rather go naked than wear fur, 'er as and considers cruelty to animals to be the eighth deadly sin?"
"That's my girl. And fish is different."
"Jeannie, who's gone back to blighty to do a film for the Beeb and who'll be expecting roses and a shopping trip or maybe a nice diamond or two when she comes back for her shows next season in a month or so?"
"Yeah, but they say it's the thought that counts..." Suddenly he slammed his elbow through the glass of the vans side window and tossed the fin out through it. "Ok so your right I admit's it, now were the fuck is the car mate dead or not I'm perishin' in these soddin' clothes."
"Hold onto your 'at." Spike took a sharp right into an old abandoned warehouses lot. "Cause 'er she is now."
The De Soto was discretely parked out back. Spike hated taking unnecessary risks with his pride and joy no matter how many scratches it bore. And gunfire was bloody bad for the paintwork.
So just in case their escape had involved pursuit by a big gang of gun carrying Chinese vampires, the vetala had arrange one of his ever-growing fleet of completely illegal fake number plated vehicles to serve as the get away transport. Now, however, having served its purpose it would be abandoned and the duo would switch to the Spikemobile and "Away."
"Keys please." Browne held out a water-wrinkled hand.
"Fuck off." Spike looked at the vetala as if he had sprouted a second head. "Do you seriously think I'm lettin' you drive my motor?"
"I don't want to drive your poxy old motor you effin' sod." Browne shook his water soaked coat sleeves sending spray around the van cab. "Do you want your upholstery more ruined than it is? I got me spare kit it the boot, you bleached buffoon."
"Buffoon?" Eyebrow raised Spike handed the key over. "You're banned from even lookin' at the Times crosswords again, it's ruinin' your grasp of English. I mean you can't even insult people properly anymore."
"Up yours." Browne exited stage left quickly retrieving a bag full of clothing from the trunk of the De Soto and, without further comment, vanished into the warehouse to dry off and change.
Meanwhile Spike set to work transferring weapons to the boot. The evening hadn't gone too badly if you enjoyed participating in World War III, but it would, he knew, have repercussions.
*Giles will be on the dog an bone tomorrow asking what the bloody hell I'm playin' at, Wesley will look all meaningful and ask why he wasn't invited, Doyle will be bloody glad 'e wasn't and Cordelia will file 'er nails, phone 'er friends and completely miss the atmosphere in the room. And Buffy.* He sighed as he considered the cause of his depression. *Buffy just won't bloody care.*
She barely ever called, she never wrote, if a crisis hit Sunnydale she handled it. There was an occasional encouraging phone call from Giles and a lot of e-mail from Red but other than that it was as if the LA branch of the operation had been left to fend. Spike was pining cruelly.
And Browne's state of bliss was not helping.
*It would be great if she'd ring me an slag me off.* He stowed the M-60 away and turning leant against the car as he watched the glow of the burning pier. *Just to show me she cares. That's if she still does.....God I miss her demoness.*
She was human now, she was good. One vampire in her life was obviously enough. *And the vamp ain't me.*
There was a huge explosion as the flames reached the freighters fuel tanks and a loud ripple of gunfire began. "Do you suppose somebody else 'as kicked off?"
The vetala came out of the warehouse drying his hair. He cocked an ear listening carefully. "I reckon the buggers was runnin' guns as well as drugs and illegals, what you're hearin' there my son is the noise of overheated ammunition cookin' off. All the same though let's get the flock out of Dodge, we don't want to be caught round 'ere lookin' sheepish do we?"
"Suppose not." Spike ignored the joke, it wasn't difficult. "I need a drink, how 'bout you?"
"Hah I've....." Something about the look on Spike's face told the vetala that he didn't mean the red stuff that flows from veins. "Ah well if your buyin'?"
Spike just nodded and headed for the car. Browne dumped his damp body armour and guns in the trunk and slammed the lid before following him. *Fuck 'e's a miserable vampire, but then can I blame 'im? Suppose I'd better buy an try to cheer I'm up poor sod."
Their problem proved to be finding a place that was open. They cruised around the streets but most places were shuttered and locked by this time in the night/morning. However finally they pulled up outside a garish looking nightspot in a respectable looking area of shuttered shops and small businesses which from the music coming from it appeared to still be open.
Walking in, the two vampires looked round then at each other and then around again. "What the......"
A large number of respectfully dressed Asian men were sat round the bar watching one of their number who was on stage. He in turn was slaughtering what sounded like Tom Jones's 'It's Not Unusual' and doing it in Japanese.
"Oh just what I needed." Spike had a deep edge of disgust in his voice. "The only bar that's bloody open and it has to be a Karaoke place."
"Beer's beer." The vetala placed a gently hand on his shoulder and steered him towards a group of bored looking Asian and Anglo girls in Kimonos who stood behind the bar. "Two Buds and two Jack Daniels on the rocks please luv."
The barmaid addressed looked puzzled by both the accent and the none Japaneseness of her customers but dollars were dollars. She served the drinks and almost smiling tendered the information. "That'll be sixteen dollars please."
Browne dropped a twenty dollar bill on the bar top and grinning at the girl who though obviously not interested in him was very pretty in an obvious kind of way. "Keep the change sweetheart."
Finding a table the vamps sat as someone began to butcher 'My Way.'
"I 'ear there's some Yakuza style vamps startin' to move in on Manhattan Beach," Browne offered rifling through the drinks menus and song lists in the holder on the table. "Maybe we should go fuck 'em over too."
"Do you think tonight will have scuppered the Triads mate?" The weariness in Spike's voice was obvious. "We kicked off a fuckin' war tonight and you seriously want us to start a second to go? Takamoto has around thirty former Samurai protecting 'im and they all 'ave minions in turn. It's just fortunate for us that the Red Tiger are 'is worse enemies and now they're weakened...."
"They'll try to move in on the Chinese and let us sit back and watch for a while." That sounded logical but dull in the technically younger vampires opinion. "Bollocks."
"You'd prefer 'em to join forces to cut ours off? We sit back and we wait till they've finished slaughterin' each other, then we move on 'em." The matter was closed but Browne had to try hard not to look like he was sulking on the subject.
Instead he empted the menus onto the table, the better to read them in the dim light. "There's some weird stuff on the food menu."
"It's a Japanese gaffe of course there's weird stuff on the menu." Spike started on his beer and added. "Though comin' from a bloke with your diet that's rich. I mean to say blood and Bombay mix...."
"Gives it body, Mr Weetabix." Browne held one of the menus up for Spike to see it. "They've got these little silver discs below everythin' see."
"Well so what?"
"I'm just wonderin' what the bloody hell for is all. No need to be so bleedin' moody." Sniffing at the way he was being treated Browne got ready to sulk harder when a voice interrupted.
"Scratch and sniff."
He looked round to a nearby table when a group of Japanese men where regarding the two vampires curiously. One of them bowed and repeated, "Scratch and sniff."
"Blimey?" Browne took another look, each of the discs was below an item on the menu. Scratching one he inhaled the aromas of egg roll with fried rice. "What ever will they think of next."
"Earplugs." Spike heard the opening strains of 'Hard Days Night' and suddenly got up. and headed off towards a comforting looking door in the far wall. "Karzi paper might do at a pinch."
"No stamina some folk." Browne started reading the song sheet the slowly smiled as inspiration hit him. "When in Tokyo......"
Toilet paper jammed firmly into his ears and a soothing cigarette left floating in the toilet bowl behind him, Spike emerged to the weirdest sight and sound he had seen or heard all night. Correction, all year.
"In the avenues and alleyways
While you sleep there's
a whole world coming alive.
Ain't no one a brother,
fighting one another,
in and out of every dive..."
*Is it the toilet paper or is he actually quite good?*
The vetala stood at the mike foresquare and singing his heart out whilst the rest of the audience sat stunned.
"In the avenues and alleyways.
Where the strong and the quick
alone will survive.
Look around the Jungle,
see the rough and tumble.
Listen to him scream and cry.
Then a little later,
in the morning paper.
Read about the way he died."
*I wonder why he chose that?* Spike thought sarcastically. *Oh let me guess.*
"Then a little later,
in the morning paper.
Read about the way he died!"
The applause was loud enough and Spike found himself joining in. "Bravo you old git, whatever you do don't give us another."
"Face it mate that tune was written for us, all about mayhem an' killin' people." Browne looked happy but sad as he sat back down at the table. "You know 'Arry loved 'is Karaoke. It's real popular down the Eastend specially in the pubs we used to 'ang in, places where the gangsters 'ang."
"Times have fuckin' changed then." Spike tried to visualize Mad Frankie Fraser or the Krays belting out a tune and laughed. "Tell me old son 'ave they got 'White Weddin'?"
"Yes." There was a note of resignation in Browne's voice. "But do you 'ave too?"
Summer nights are short but all the same it was two reluctant vampires who were ejected into the night. "That cheered you up then Spike?"
"A question for you." Browne leaned against the passenger door. "What time of year is it?"
"Summer." Spike was beginning to get early inklings of dawn.
"And where does Buffy spend her Summers." He grinned at the unintended joke.
"I......oh." A brainwave large enough to light the city shot across Spike's cranium. "At her Dad's?"
"She drives in tomorrow." The vetala saw the hope that sprung into his business partner's eyes and hoped it wasn't going to be crushed. "Red rang me yesterday, guess who'll be coming to see us?"
Open toed sandals, a pair of blue jeans, a pale blue tee and shades. Buffy was dressed for the holidays and as she loaded her luggage into the outsized trunk of her jeep, she was in a relaxed carefree mood.
A definite distance had grown between her and her father this was true, and the only reason she was going to LA was out of filial respect and to stop her Mom giving her the look. She considered it, however, to be a major bind and for that reason had come up with a contingency plan.
Face it Dad would not have the time to spend four weeks quality time with his daughter. Leaving her to just hang round missing Angel. Invitations to friends, therefore, made an ideal solution.
"Ok so we get the remaining two square feet of space," Willow joked though admittedly Buffy had packed large. "Gee Buff doesn't your old man have a washing machine?"
"Will it's just essentials." Buffy shifted a small trunk a little to the left. "And I'm going for a month and I need weapons, you and Tara are just coming with to tide me through the first two weeks."
Actually it had just been Willow initially, but the redhead had successfully pointed out that that would leave Tara in Sunnydale alone for two weeks. Ok she got on alright with the rest of the gang but the she was Willow and Buffy's friend. *Well mainly Willow's friend actually.*
It had started when the trio had got the message from the rest of the sisterhood and left the Colleges Wiccan group. The basic point of the falling out had been that they wanted to do spells whilst the remainder of the group wanted to raise political awareness, organize social events, and look pretty for boys.
Not that Buffy hadn't fitted in fully with the latter and Willow tried to but post Oz leaving her heart wasn't in it. Anyway the actual magic use having scared the Sisterhood the duo had left. And Tara had followed them.
They were a sort of Coven but it was Willow and Tara who did the magic. Buffy had the abilities her demoness had left her which she mainly employed for free beauty therapy and to fox an occasional vamp. Aside from that she wasn't that committed, and she had Angel and hunting to eat into her time, so that left the serious chanting to her friends.
And Willow was still Buffy's best friend. They roomed together in the off campus house the vamp funding sponsored, they fought demons together and partied together. But for all that, Willow was drawn to the shy retiring girl who's magical abilities so complimented hers. On her own she was a powerful Wiccan but if her hand was in contact with Tara's it seemed like there was no spell that together they could not cast.
"We'll be okay." Tara smiled shyly at Buffy. She hero-worshipped the Slayer and was nervous about speaking to her. "There's enough room left."
"Do you guys want to sit in back?" Opening the doors Buffy looked expectantly at Willow.
The Wiccan had been worrying on that score since the trip had been planned. Should she sit up front with her best friend and leave Tara on her own, or sit with Tara and appear disloyal to Buffy. Fortunately however Buffy chose to resolve her difficulty.
"It's okay Will it's not like it's a bus, we can talk between the seats."
Five hours drive to LA. Well, the girls took longer stopping for plenty of breaks in the more scenic areas on route. The Slayer was glad of every second off the road, she had weight enough on her shoulders and the journey wasn't helping to ease it.
Despite a steadily increasing amount of freeway experience Buffy was still not unconvinced that she and cars were unmixy things. The fact that she had other peoples lives in her hands only made her nerves worse, she had subjected Willow to one car wreck already she did not want to put her through another.
That wasn't the problem though. Throughout the journey, as she chatted with her friends and listened to CD's and the radio, Buffy was thinking about the other conversation she had to have. A conversation that she couldn't have with anyone back in Sunnydale.
*That's if he'll speak to me after the way I've treated him these past few months, ignoring him, abandoning him like what we had meant nothing. And now just cause I'm scared, I go asking his advice. Oh god I hope he'll talk to me.*
Willow watched the orange groves go past on one side of the road and the ocean through breaks in the hills on the other. It was a beautiful place, California, when you were traveling it at your leisure. And she felt happier at the moment than she had done for months.
Sunnydale was her home but it all seemed to fill her with sadness now that Oz was gone. Every place in town had a memory of him, everywhere she went she saw him. *It'll be good to be away from that.*
She had her right elbow rested on the door rest and her hand was under her chin. Her left hand rested on the seat cover and now she felt a gentle pressure on it and looked down to see Tara's hand upon hers and her fellow Wiccan smiling at her as sweetly as ever. Willow smiled back then cast a glance at the vehicles driver.
Tara moved her hand and mouthed. 'Sorry'. Though she was glad to have been invited along she could see that the not freaking Buffy out thing might become a drag. Her relationship with Willow consisted of too few stolen moments as it was. *I'll be lucky to get a kiss goodnight for the next fortnight. Why can't she just level with her?*
*Would she really wig?* Willow pictured the various horrified reactions her best friend might have to finding her best friend. *Errm swings both ways? Well do I?* It was after all just a few kisses and cuddles, they were hardly rolling round naked and having anything that could be called sex. *Though I guess I am thinking about it a lot.*
She still loved Oz. She was real close to Tara but she loved Oz. The fact that her new friend'd had experiences with other girls and found her desirable had shocked her at first. But Tara had been honest and there had been no pressure. *Is that why I'm getting to gradually like her more and more, because she's so not like a guy.*
Not that there had ever been any pressure from Oz.
*I still like to look at boys.* There were some absolute honeys on campus and she was sharing accommodations with a girl who was increasingly regarded as a lust bunny round said College. Buffy's reversion to humanity had not caused major changes to her wardrobe, without realizing she dressed in a way bound to impress. The fact no one had managed to get anywhere with this very level-headed Freshman girl only added to the roommates party invites. *It's the halter tops, they speak volumes to the guys.*
And Angel was an enigma round campus, from time to time reports would come back that Buffy had a mysterious older boyfriend. Her obvious financial security made the mystery even greater, and as her best friend Willow found herself constantly being pumped for information. *But only verbally, physically would be so much more fun.*
*What is it about me?* she asked herself. *The only boys who've ever loved me have been Xander and Oz. Xander's in love with Anya now and Oz has gone off into the wild blue yonder. I'm beautiful, I have a good body, I know stuff that boys like, yet the only reason the studlies will speak to me is if they think it'll help them get next to Buffy.*
*But I think Tara loves me. And she's nice, and fun to be with and I like her a lot. But....?* Her vampiric sister wouldn't have hesitated, but that wasn't Willow, that was someone else. *And if I was her I'd have had the pants off half the male student body by now. Maybe I should just buy a halter top and take advantage of some of the disappointed Buffy groupies....maybe?*
They came off the interstate at Dana Point heading on up to Huntington State Beach, a quick change later saw they picnicing on the beach enjoying a late lunch.
Buffy had strolled off to the nearest newstand to get an LA Times just to check if there was anything she "needed to know."
"Do you think she notices the guys noticing her in that bikini?" Tara asked as she carefully positioned plates away from the sand. "You'd think she would."
"She's used to it," Willow responded. "But she gives off this low key menace that stops boys wolf whistling, she has it worse post-demoness than before. At High School, guys got the message loud and clear, step out of line round Buffy and you'll wind up on your ass and embarrassed."
"Do you think there'll be slaying in LA?" Tara had helped Willow to do magic to help Buffy since that night she'd almost become a close acquaintance of the Gentlemen but so far hadn't been to close to blood and guts.
"It's possible, Buffy's on vacation but if she sees vampires, expect a reaction." And that was a scary point too. Away from the hellmouth, vampires tended not to have the feeling of invincibility that the hellmouth imbued them with. They sometimes used guns. "But don't worry we won't let anything happen to you."
"I'm not worried." Tara again gently putting her hand on top of Willow's. "I have you and Buffy to protect me."
"Boys have been busy." Neither girl had heard the Slayer returning and they started at the sudden sound of her voice. "Large scale mayhem to go."
"What?" Willow grabbed up the paper and read the front page aloud. "Docks torn apart by Triad battle. Large Scale Bloodletting. Multiple arrests in subsequent police raids. How do you know this is Browne's work?"
"Somebody sank a ship and blew up two limos with what the cops think were anti-tank weapons. And they also used a general purpose machine gun. Whatever that is. This is your classic Browne and Spike way over the top slaying action." She shrugged. "Wesley had sent reports to Giles of there being high levels of activity by Chinese vamps but I didn't expect this."
"Do they do this sort of thing a lot?" Tara had been advised that she might be called upon to socialize with vampires, but nice ones who didn't bite good people. Kinda Anne Rice like guys, guns had not been mentioned. "I thought it was...?"
"Stakes and crossbows." Willow looked at Buffy and got a nod. "That's Sunnydale not LA, but down worry Browne and Spike will make sure we're ok. And you'll like the vetala, just don't eat his Indian food."
Willow read on reaching the bottom of the article. "Oh gosh."
"What is it?" Buffy looked over her shoulder. "I only read the top half of the page."
"It's about what the cops found in the sea. When you see the detail I think your view of what happen....." Willow saw the anger blazing from Buffy's eyes. "Might change."
In was around two in the afternoon when Spike came up from the basement into the light but sunshine free main office of Browne and Everidge Investigations. He wasn't surprised in the least to find that as usual his main researcher was hard at work on some project or other. Or that his chief contact with the low life scum of LA was half-dead with a hangover.
"He's been out all last night drinking as usual," Cordelia explained unsympathetically as she placed a coffee on her quasi bosses desk. "Why you just don't shoot him and get it over with I don't know."
"Oh please do." Doyle clutched his head as he slumped back from the desk he'd been lying half across. "Put me out of my fuckin' misery, you know I'd do the same for you."
"Think I'd waste a bullet on you mate you're tripping." Spike checked the mail not looking at the Irish half-demon as he spoke. "But I guess if you go ask Browne nice he might help you off this mortal coil with that big old knife of his."
Doyle went paler than he already was at the thought of a one on one meeting with that particular vampire. "Second thoughts I think another gallon of coffee might just restore the use of my limbs. Cordelia?"
"No." She headed back to her desk and the beauty magazine she was reading. "You know where the machine is, and I saw how fast you ran for the bathroom ten minutes ago which means Mr that I know you can walk."
"Jesus but she's ruthless," the half demon moaned. "Maybe you should take her with next time you go on the hunt."
"Please mate think of the poor bloody vampires, I'm not an entirely unhuman being I have to show them some mercy." He watched Doyle as expected stagger from the room before turning to his acting Watcher. "Alright then mate what did Giles have to say?"
"He has rung." Wesley'd had a surprisingly heated discussion with his former colleague that morning. "And I've advised him that I completely approve of your actions."
"What?" Stunned the vampire sat up straight and gave Wesley a look of sheer amazement. "Did you just approve of our blastin' the crap out of an entire ship and killin' a load of folks?"
"I concur with Giles that any loss of human life is to be deplored, but let me read you this." He raised the LA Times and read aloud. "'The chief investigating officer, Detective Kate Lockley, declined to comment on the origin of the nearly eight hundred sets of human remains reportedly found strewn across the sea bed. However she has confirmed that though the LAPD has yet to reach any conclusion as to who is responsible or how the remains came to be there they do exist.'
"Spike we knew the Red Tiger were a particulary active set of mass killers but this information...." Wesley dropped the paper and took of his glasses. "God knows how many people have come ashore and been killed there, or at other landing points. And thousands may have perished later in some cellar under a sweat shop. One other thing the LAPD has taken full advantage of Chung's removal to rush through search warrants. They've rescued nearly four hundred illegals and discovered ten mass graves so far. The Red Tiger are running scared old chap and you and Browne are the fellows responsible."
"You telling me I'm a hero?"
"Don't answer that Wesley, his head will explode." Cordelia didn't look up from her magazine as she delivered the sotto voice comment.
"I hate having to admit it but you're a hero."
"Shit." Spike opened a packet of cigarettes despite a very black look from the rooms only female occupant. "Blowin stuff up and killin' peoples just a bit of fun really, now I've got to be a hero that just adds pressure. Mind you it's an impressive concept. kind of impressive title too. I wonder what...."
"Buffy will think." Cordelia was wafting the deadly carcinogens back across the room. "Three to one she still whups your ass for making such a racket last night. Do you know that your ship blowing up woke me, and hey I need my beauty sleep. Mr. Being A Hero involves showing consideration for others Spike, try to remember that!"
"Yes Pet, I'll bear that in mind." He sent a look of pure sympathy at Wesley who since Doyle had kept on drinking and the vetala had met Jeannie had Cordelia's undivided attention. "Must try to show more consideration when I'm fightin' for me life."
"And possibly learn to speak good English. Try copying Wesley, he has great grammar."
*Poor bastard.* The vampire grinned and went back to his mail. "Oh I think Browne has more need of his talents than I, he's downstairs greasing his shooters as we speak due to the extreme soaking they took on an unscheduled trip into the briney. Perhaps you should go and get him started mate."
"Oh there's no need." Wesley didn't have any objection to Browne or his earthy manner of speech. "If you'd ever conversed with him in Pushtun Cordelia you would find that Browne is a very elegant speaker. It's just that his upbringing left him disadvantaged..."
Wesley tailed off as he realized he was getting the look. "Well anyway Spike good work and keep it up. I know Mr Gelfman is pleased and if my research into the Fendahl demon bears fruit I think we may have something else for you to do this weekend."
"Take your time on that one mate. I'm due R & R and I'm taking it easy for the next two weeks."
"Why ever's that." Wesley began about to launch into his duty speech. Before realizing that Spike wasn't a teenage girl and might actually kill him if he got angry enough. "Well I appreciate that you need to take a break but usually you're such an active fighter I must say that I wonder why you'd want to pause now?"
"So he can be snubbed to the max by a certain blond." Cordelia replied with her usual hard edged grasp on the truth. "You remember don't you Wes? The one who doesn't return his calls, never writes and despite having a computer genius tramp for a best friend can't seem to get the hang of e-mail."
"Oh, I see....."
*Note to self.* Spike didn't say a word just gritting his teeth. *Next time Cordelia gets impregnated by a huge demons offspring wait until they've torn her apart coming into the world before you intervene.*
*Oh now there's a pleasant mental image, and I can't wait to see Buffy's face when I tell her that story. She and Red will love it.*
Payback's a bitch, but then sometimes so was Cordelia.