In addition to the standard disclaimers regarding the Sentinel characters, this story also includes characters and settings drawn from the hit TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon. No infringement upon his creative rights is intended nor is any profit being realized from this story. As always, comments are welcome.
"How many times do I have to tell you, this trip was not my fault?" The younger man stated for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Come on, Chief, you must have done something to piss Simon off. Rafe and Henri were up on the roster for the next prisoner transfer." Jim said with just the slightest hint of a whine in his voice. "We had plans to go to the Jags game in Seattle tomorrow night."
"I know, I know, but I swear I didn't have anything to do with this." Blair tried not to think about who would be using their tickets. Megan really didn't have a good appreciation of the game. He smiled to himself at the mental image of Simon trying to explain the ins and outs of the game to the Aussie inspector.
"And what are you smiling about?" Jim asked as he tried to find a comfortable position to sit in the narrow seat. Flying was not one of his all time favorite pastimes, especially when the department would only spring for seats in coach. Invariably they would get stuck over the wing and he would spend the entire flight trying to filter out the sounds from the engines. One of the drawbacks of being a Sentinel was the ability to hear all of the creaks and groans the aircraft made in flight, not very comforting at all. He focused on his partner.
Blair explained his thoughts and within minutes had Jim trying to muffle his laughter at the uncanny mimicry of the imagined conversation between the stalwart captain and the exchange detective. He could picture in his mind the two sitting at the game with Simon trying to explain and Megan touting the superiority of soccer. "I suppose we should be grateful we won't be there. With our luck a riot would start because of Megan and we would be right in the middle of it." The big man chuckled. "Hand me the folder on the prisoner Simon gave you. I want to see if we are going to run into any problems tomorrow when we reach Sunnydale."
Blair reached down under the seat and pulled up his backpack. After he pulled out the folder, he took out his ever-present laptop. "You read that and I will check out the info I downloaded about Sunnydale." He gave his partner a quick grin. "You know, forewarned is forearmed."
The two men settled back to their reading. Jim was alerted by his partner's increasing heart rate. "What're you reading, Chief?
Blair shook his head. "Man, I thought Cascade was bad, but Sunnydale has it beat on Crime Capitol of the world. Did you know they lead the world on missing and murdered persons, and that there is a 500% rise in the reporting of unexplainable incidents, fatal and otherwise." He turned the screen for his partner to see the pictures accompanying some of the files.
Jim's attention was caught by a couple of anomalies in the crime scene picture. The first were faded scars on the victim's neck the second was a stake just in the frame of the photograph. "What the hell?" He focused his sight on the blood stained piece of wood. He could see the flecks of blood dried on the point.
Blair looked up from his computer when his partner went still. "What is it?" He immediately registered that his partner had zoned. "Jim, Jim, come on, man...this is not the time for this." He said in a low voice. "You need to come out of it... we're about to land in a few minutes."
Jim took a deep breath and looked at his young friend with confusion in his eyes. "I zoned, didn't I?"
"Big time. What happened? What did you zone on?"
Jim thought for a moment. "It was the picture with the stake in it, I've seen it before. I just can't remember."
"Take it easy big guy, we're about to land and when we get to the hotel maybe meditating will help you bring back the memory." Jim nodded his agreement. His muscles remained tense; whatever was waiting in the wings of his mind was causing a gut wrenching level of dread.
The plane landed and the passengers quickly disembarked, some looking at their watches and glancing at the position of the sun. Both of the Cascade visitors noted the strange behavior and filed it for future reference. The ride to the hotel was uneventful; they took in the sights as they drove though the medium sized college town.
"What the..." Blair exclaimed. They had just driven past the devastated shell of Sunnydale High. He swiveled in his seat to watch as they passed. "Man, I wonder what happened here. I don't remember hearing anything on the national news this year about terrorists bombing a high school."
"It was about the same time you were starting the academy. Supposedly there was a major gas leak under the school and, during graduation, it exploded."
"I guess that could have happened." Blair said with doubt evident in his voice. He was remembering the litany of unexplained occurrences in the town stretching back over the past five years. At least in Cascade all they had were your run of the mill criminals and terrorists. This town sounded like something out of the old series 'The Night Gallery'. He watched the people walking down the street and noticed one thing they all had in common...an air of watchfulness he had only seen once before in a village in Kuala Lumpur after a series of deaths they attributed to a demon who killed at night. Even his legendary persuasiveness hadn't been enough to learn more about the demon and the anthropological expedition had been turned away from the village with the warning that to return meant certain death. Blair had never forgotten the intense fear he had felt until they were many miles away from the village.
"Man, all I want to do is get the paperwork started on Jameson and then get something to eat. I'm starving." The younger man said, knowing that it would be dark in a few hours. "I don't want to be out wandering around after dark in this burg."
Jim smiled. "I know what you mean, Chief. I feel like I've been put on alert."
"Spider senses on alert?" Blair teased.
Jim nodded, "I've never felt this on edge before. It's as if I'm expecting something to jump out from behind a tree or out of an alley any moment."
"I know what you mean." Blair said raising his arm. "Check this out." He pointed out the raised hairs on his arm.
They stopped at the local police station and began the paper work to take custody of Jameson when suddenly there was a major disruption in the back of the jail where the prisoners were housed. Both men turned when shots rang out, they heard a voice shouting from the back.
"Back off, man! I'll kill him in a heartbeat."
Jim had a sinking feeling that he was hearing the voice of their prisoner. His instincts proved right when the man came into sight with one of the deputies as a hostage. He pulled his weapon and aimed at the escaping prisoner.
"Jameson, let the man go." Jim ordered.
"Shit, Ellison, what are you doing here?"
"I'm here to haul your sorry ass back to Cascade." Jim answered.
"No way, man! I don't know what is worse...this x-files town or Starkville. But I'm not going back to prison." He continued backing out of the room with the deputy in tow. "You shoot me and I'll take him out, I swear." The big detective was frustrated by the lack of a good shot. He hoped that Jameson would release the deputy unharmed. "Drop it, Ellison, or I'll shoot."
Jim laid his weapon on the floor and made sure his partner was well out of Jameson's reach. He knew his partner could handle anything but Jim wasn't willing to tempt fate. They followed Jameson out of the station and onto the street. Fortunately for Jameson, a car pulled up just as he reached the curb. He opened the car door and pushed the deputy to the ground. He now had a new hostage in the driver.
"My karma must be really toasted today." The young redhead said exasperatedly when she felt the gun in her ribs.
"Just drive." Jameson ordered. The young woman put the car into drive and pulled away from the curb.
"Are you really sure you want to do this? It's almost dark and time for things that kill in the night." She said calmly. Silently she hoped that she would see one of the gang out and about before they reached wherever her kidnapper wanted to go. One of these days she would have an emergency spell on hand for these annoying hostage situations.
"Shut up and turn here." Jameson ordered indicating a left turn.
"Where are we going?" Willow asked in a relaxed conversational tone. She had a suspicion and hoped that the Slayer was on patrol. The Sunnydale cemetery wasn't a nice place to visit even in the daytime. "What part of the cemetery are we going to?" She asked nicely. Willow had learned that even demons responded in a not-so-evilly way if you stayed calm. Although it didn't work all of the time, the percentage was in her favor. She hoped that this would be one of those times.
Jameson stared at her with disbelief. He had thought when he jumped in the car that he would have to deal with a hysterical teenager, but was instead confronted with someone who didn't seem to have a care in the world. "Why aren't you scared?"
"You're human, right?" She asked with a smile. He nodded, now thoroughly confused. She shrugged, "Unless you are a flesh eating demon or a mutant cyborg or a vampire, the scare thing just isn't happening. Sorry."
He sat back, stunned. "Not even a little scared?" He asked hopefully.
"Nope." She patted his arm consolingly.
He sat back in disbelief, and sighed. "Pull over here." He indicated the side road at the entrance of the cemetery.
"Okie dokie, can do." She said pulling to the side. Willow saw signs of slayer visitation as she stopped the car. She turned to the kidnapper. "This really isn't a really good idea. There are some not nice things that don't live around here."
Jameson looked around trying to recognize where he had left the proceeds from his last heist. "Out of the car, kid." He motioned for Willow to stay in front of him.
"What are you looking for, maybe I can help?" She offered.
He prodded her in the back. "Just keep moving." They walked further and further into the cemetery.
Jameson didn't see the unmarked police car that had followed him to the cemetery. Jim had carefully stayed out of the sight of the vehicle's occupants, using his hearing to track the car. He slowed as they neared the graveyard. He heard an intake of breath from the deputy sitting beside him. "Oh man, why here?" The officer said under his breath. Jim was surprised by the fear radiating from the man. He pulled over just outside the gates.
Jim turned to the deputy. "Why don't you stay here with the car?" He could see the man visibly relax. "Let's go, Chief." Blair quickly opened the door and stood next to his partner. He gave Jim a questioning glance. The big man gave a barely perceptible negative movement. Jim leaned down. "We will call if we need backup." Closing the car door, they moved away from the car and into the cemetery.
He turned up his hearing and over the usual animal noises he could hear a young woman's voice.
"This is a really bad idea. When things go bump in the night here you usually wind up dead."
"What are you looking for? I do happen to know every inch of this place so maybe I can help." Willow said hopefully. She was starting to get goosebumps on top of goosebumps, which was always a bad sign.
"Fine, you tell me where the grave is for George McGuffie." Jameson said angrily.
"Six rows to your left and four rows back." Willow said calmly. She was starting, however, to get a bit stressed having just seen a wolf and a panther flitting between the graves. "Come on, I'll show you." She started toward the grave but only got a few feet when the panther and wolf jumped in front of her blocking the way.
"Get moving." Jameson ordered pulling on her arm.
"Don't you see them?" She asked.
"See what?" He turned angrily.
"Them." She pointed at the animals in her path and then looked up and saw a vampire two graves away. "Where's Buffy when I need her?" Willow said under her breath.
Jameson pulled his gun from Willow's side and aimed at the slim blond man who had just appeared a few feet away. "Who the hell are you?" He demanded.
"A bad dream."
Jameson pulled the trigger when the man's face changed to that of a hungry vampire. "Shit, shit, shit." He exclaimed as he fired.
Jim heard the shots and started running.
Jameson paled as he watched the bullets hit and the vampire remained standing. "Ouch, that smarts." Spike said looking down at his chest. "This was my favorite shirt."
The vampire kept coming and Jameson pushed Willow towards him then turned and started to run only to trip over a headstone and knock himself out.
"You okay, Red?" Spike asked as his face changed back to normal.
Willow nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine. Optimal timing, by the way."
"Well, it didn't look like you were having a good time on your date." He pushed Jameson over with his foot. " And I didn't want to explain to Blondie why I let her precious witch get toasted. Plus you now owe me. Do you mind calling off your pets?"
"Now that's more like the Spike I know and don't trust." Willow smiled. "You can see them, huh?" They both heard people running towards them. Spike started to move away the panther suddenly blocked his path. Buffy was the first to arrive.
"I heard gunshots." She said as she ran to her friend. "What are you doing here, Spike?"
"What is it...a bloke can't go for a walk and save a damsel in distress without suspicion?" He started to pout.
"No." Buffy said bluntly.
Jim, followed by Blair, arrived a few seconds later. He saw Jameson on the ground. "Is everything okay here?" He had seen the blond put what looked like a stake in her purse as they ran up.
"Everything is fine." Buffy gestured at the unconscious man on the ground. "Did you lose something?" She asked with a smile.
Blair had stopped at his partner's side and was trying to catch his breath when he saw the wolf and the panther standing in protect mode facing a young man with spiky blond hair. "Uh, Jim."
"What?" Jim looked up from where he was handcuffing Jameson.
Jim's eyes narrowed when he saw the two spirit animals. He turned his senses on the man they were watching and promptly zoned.
"Oh, crap." Blair fell to his knees beside his partner. Spike, seeing his chance, decided to take off while everyone's attention was on the statue like detective. "Come on, Jim. This is getting old."
Jim suddenly awoke. He looked around for the man he had zoned on. "He didn't have a heartbeat, Chief."
"No kidding, vampires don't." The blond girl muttered. Jim turned to look at her. He surged to his feet and was quickly standing in front of her.
"What do you mean, vampires don't?" Jim demanded. The blonde's eyes widened and she stepped forward.
"Hold up a minute, big guy." Blair walked up and interrupted what looked like the beginnings of a confrontation. "Why don't we introduce ourselves and then get the heck out of this graveyard." He at least had the agreement of the two spirit animals and the redheaded girl with the aura of power. "Hi, my name is Blair Sandburg and this is Jim Ellison. We are detectives from Cascade Washington, here to pick up wonder prisoner over there."
The blond girl spoke up. "I'm Buffy and this is Willow, enough chit chat. It's time to get out of here."
Jim pulled Jameson to his feet and the group headed out of the cemetery.
After locking Jameson in a cell and taking Willow's statement, the girls were allowed to leave before Jim had a chance to question them about the stranger in the cemetery.
"I don't know about you man, but I'm starving here. We never did get anything to eat." Blair looked at his partner. "I asked around and found out they have a Wonderburger just a few blocks away." He laughed as his partner jumped up and headed for the door.
After they sat down to eat, Blair asked between bites, "Did you happen to notice the extra company we had in the cemetery?"
"You mean our furry friends?
"Yeah, they seemed to be in a major protect mode for Willow."
"I think they were just making sure the vampire, Spike, didn't get too close to her or us."
Blair spewed out the mouthful of soda he had just taken. "Vampire?"
"Yep, and I think some of the answers just walked through the door."
Blair turned in time to see the two young women enter.
Buffy checked out the fast food restaurant as she walked through the door. She quickly spotted the out-of-towners. She motioned for Willow to follow and made her way to their side.
"Hi, sorry for the weird welcome wagon." She slid into the booth next to Jim trying to ignore the strange feeling she was getting from the tall detective. Blair scooted over and Willow sat next to him. "Wil' here says we are going to need your help with a big problem coming up and so we're wondering if you would be willing to hear us out?"
The two men looked at each other. Jim shrugged; he had a feeling that this was going to be one of their stranger trips. "What do you think, Chief?"
"Okay by me." Blair grinned. "You know how much I love new problems." He looked at Willow. "We're ready to listen."
"Not here." Buffy spoke up. "If you will come with us, we have some people who need to be in on the discussion."
Jim and Blair agreed and, once they had cleared their table, the four headed out to the rental car.
Buffy and Willow had beat feet once they were released and headed straight for Giles house. Buffy gave a cursory knock on the door before bursting in. As expected, the former librarian was buried in one of his dusty tomes trying to figure out a way for the Slayer to avert the usual threat of Armageddon on the horizon. He raised his head as the duo walked in.
"Giles, do you have any books that talk about people who are helped by..." Buffy looked over at Willow for the young witch to finish the explanation.
"...Spirit animals." Willow finished the sentence. "It was so totally cool! They were, like, protecting me when Spike showed up and rescued me from the kidnapper."
Giles turned from the pile of books he was preparing to look through. "Spike, our Spike, rescued you from a kidnapper?" Disbelief was evident in his voice.
Willow nodded with a grin. "Back to the animals, one was a wolf, a real type wolf not a changy one, and a black jaguar. They were connected to these two cops who were trying to catch the bad guy." She turned to Buffy. "There was something different about them. I don't know what but I don't think it threatens us."
Buffy shrugged. "I don't know. The big cop had a strange feel but the younger one kind of felt like you. Plus the big guy had some good ears. I was like ten feet away and didn't even speak out loud and he heard me identify Spike as a vampire."
Giles asked questions as he rifled through the books. "Could they be something from the Initiative? We still don't know if they had anything else on the burner besides Adam."
"I don't think so." Buffy said thinking out loud. "I can't explain it but they felt good."
"Who felt good?"
Buffy jumped, she hadn't heard Xander enter the house.
"Are we getting a bit jumpy?" Xander grinned at the distracted Slayer. "Who is they of the feeling good?"
"Not that kind of feel good. The opposite of evil feel good." She explained.
"Found it!" Giles exclaimed holding an old dusty book for the gang to see. "There is a complete description of the how and why spirit animals." His brow creased. "It does say though that they only appear to the person they guide, you say you both could see them?"
Willow nodded. "Spike saw them, too."
Giles double-checked the reference book. "Ah, a footnote, they will also appear in times of danger to those exposed to the mysteries of the other side." He looked up at the group. "Well that explains how you could see them. I think we need to have a talk to these cops. I have a feeling that we are going to need their help." He tapped the book he had been studying when they arrived. "We have a new disaster in the making."
Buffy sighed. "Had a feeling it was too quiet. Come on Wil'. Let's see if we can convince this new dynamic duo to help."
The drive to Giles house was completed in silence, neither side wanting to tip their hand. Jim felt increasingly on edge during the short drive. "It's okay, big guy, I feel it, too." Blair said just loud enough for his Sentinel to hear. Jim nodded.
"Pull in right here." Buffy directed.
They entered the house. Jim immediately did a sensory sweep of the house and Blair just as quickly focused on the books scattered about. "Wow," the young man said under his breath as he recognized some of the more esoteric titles. "Jim, take a look at these! I haven't seen some of these outside of major collections." He continued to look through the stacks of books. Jim tried not to smile as the enthusiasm took hold of the younger man.
"GILES, WE'RE HERE!" Buffy shouted when the older man didn't appear immediately.
Giles stood at the top of the stairs. "Children are so impatient...man can't even go to the loo without someone shouting." He said under his breath as he walked down the stairs.
Jim tried to muffle his laughter as Giles walked down the stairs. The former watcher used his skills of observation to check out the two men in his living room. The taller of the two, was the more authoritarian, the second was... "Blair Sandburg, is that you?"
Blair turned around and his mouth dropped open. "Uncle Giles?"
"Close your mouth, boy. You don't know what you might catch." Giles said with a smile.
The rest of the group turned to each other and mouthed. "Uncle Giles?"
Blair quickly moved to Giles and enveloped the reserved Brit in a hug. "Man, I never thought I'd ever see you again." He said stepping back. "Mom will never believe we ran into you in California of all places. Did you ever get your..." The younger man turned and looked at the teenagers in the room. He focused on the attractive blond and nodded to himself. "So she is real." He said to himself.
Giles looked closely at the young man. "It looks like I'm not the only one to find what he was waiting for." He raised an eyebrow.
When Blair didn't immediately dissuade the other man, Jim felt a moment of alarm when he realized that Giles knew what he was. He took a deep breath and released the moment of fear. He trusted that his guide wouldn't allow the knowledge of what he was into the hands of someone who would do harm. He just hoped he would find out soon why he felt so unsettled in the presence of the young blond. Jim cleared his throat to get his partner's attention.
"Introductions, Chief." Jim requested. The others leaned in, wanting to hear more about their staid friend's life before Sunnydale.
Blair grinned. "Sorry, Big guy. Rupert Giles, this is Jim Ellison. Jim, this is Giles." Blair could feel the questions Jim was trying not to ask. "On one of Naomi's trips to England when I was a kid, she met this really cool guy at a pub. If I remember right he had pretty good singing voice in a folksy kind of way." Blair chuckled. "It was actually one of the best times I can remember as a kid. I mean, who wouldn't like being shown the scariest castles to include all of the grossest history." Blair seemed lost for a moment in his memories. He smiled a melancholy smile. "I was a small 13 year old who loved to read. Giles had the most awesome collection." He shook his head. "He always had time to answer whatever question a geeky little kid had to ask." Blair looked directly at Giles. "I missed him more than anyone we ever stayed with."
Giles smiled, remembering the hyperactive boy who had tested his patience and knowledge. He had wondered what had happened to the brilliant boy who had dreamed of finding a myth. He was thrilled to know the child he had known had grown to a man who had found his dream.
"Sorry, Giles, I don't mean to butt into your trip down memory lane but you did say that there was a time factor thing going here." Buffy interrupted.
"Oh, yes, sorry about that, you're right." Giles took a deep breath. "We have a major disaster in the making but to prevent it, we will not be able to have any secrets between us."
"Giles," Buffy protested.
"Chief," Jim whispered, "I trust your decision." Blair lit up with the trust his Sentinel had given him.
"If we're going to do some major discussion time, might I mention that food is an option." Xander piped up. "I have a feeling that this might take a while and I'm like starving here."
"I could eat." Willow added. "Pizza work for everyone?" The group quickly decided and ordered enough to feed an army or maybe a group of teenagers. They decided to table the discussion until after they had eaten. The group listened as Giles and Blair reminisced. They laughed at the stories of the young boy and the sometimes absent-minded librarian.
"I remember when we went to an estate sale. They had the most awesome collection of books I've ever seen in one place. They even had Burton manuscripts." He grinned at his partner. "Giles had gone to the main ballroom for the auction. I quickly got bored and, with an active imagination in tow, decided that there had to be hidden rooms and, accordingly, hidden treasures. I mean the place was, like, so gigantic all it was missing was the moat. I got caught up in the search and completely forgot to keep track of the time. By the time I realized how late it was, the auction was over and Giles had left with the items he had managed to purchase."
Giles took up the narrative. "I had found some rare books on a subject I had been researching and didn't realize until halfway to my flat that I had misplaced my young passenger. Death would have been preferable to facing Naomi." Jim laughed, as he knew the feeling. He had been on the receiving end of the protective mother instinct. "I drove back to the estate. After convincing the caretaker that I had indeed left someone behind, the search began. We started combing the building starting at the bottom floor. I found him in a small out of the way room surrounded by a stack of books that hadn't been deemed saleable. He was so wrapped up in a book he had found, he didn't even look up when I called his name."
"I've seen him like that." Jim smiled at his young friend. "He does get a bit single minded."
"Talking single minded here." Buffy interrupted. "But you did mention earlier that we have a crisis on the way and soon. Sorry to rain on the reminisces but..."
"Too right." Giles said. "Just give me a minute. I just need to find the correct reference." He searched through the stack of books. "Yes, this is the one." He moved over to the table and opened the book. The group gathered around the open book.
Blair took one look at the picture and shuddered. "This is what we're going to face?"
"No, that's a Polgara demon." Giles explained. He pointed to the opposite page. "That's what we're going to be up against."
"Doesn't look like much in the scary department." Xander commented.
Jim took one look at the picture and promptly zoned. Blair turned to look at his partner. "Oh hell, come on, Jim. This isn't the time for this." Giles, realizing what was happening, directed the curious teenagers to the other side of the room.
"What's with the statue?" Buffy asked.
"They will explain in a few minutes. Right, Blair?" Giles said.
Blair nodded as he continued to talk to his zoned Sentinel. Jim suddenly came to and immediately checked the area with his senses on high. When he determined they were safe for the moment, he turned to his partner. "We're in big trouble, Chief."
"You okay big guy? What was in the picture?"
"A memory." Jim stated. They turned to the rest of the group. "You know what we're up against, don't you, Giles?"
Giles nodded and sighed. The teenagers looked at each other with confusion. "First, we need to make sure we all know where we stand. We'll start since we are in a way the home team, so to speak."
"So much for secret identities." Buffy muttered. Jim smiled to himself.
"Buffy is the Slayer. The Chosen one." Giles started to explain.
"That's me, first line of defense against ghoulies, ghosties, vampires and other assorted monsters with my faithful Scooby squad, Willow apprentice witch, pretty good with the odd, strange, and peculiar spell. Xander, who I trust to watch my back." Xander straightened his shoulders at the compliment. "And most likely to be possessed or have a demon for a girlfriend." He made a face at her. "Giles, our trusty den leader and others to be named later." She watched for the visitor's reaction. Outsiders usually laughed with disbelief but the two men looked as if they believed.
"Well, that sure explains the feelings we've had." Jim said turning to his partner. "I'll let you fill them in, Chief."
Blair nodded. "Jim is a Sentinel, all six of his senses are naturally enhanced." Blair took a deep breath. "He can hear a whispered conversation a block away and see... well we haven't found a limit as long as it is line of sight. The rest are equally hypersensitive. I am Jim's Guide." Blair grinned. "A kind of walking restart button. Plus a practicing shaman."
Willow smiled. "Explains the furry ones with the big teeth."
"Six, I thought it was five senses?" Buffy questioned.
"No it's six, you know, ESP." Blair explained.
"Now that we have the players, what are we up against?" Blair asked. Jim picked up the book. "Careful, big guy."
"It's okay, it just took me by surprise." He tapped the picture. "Giles, you say this is here in Sunnydale?"
Giles nodded. "If not now, it will be in short while. The trail is headed in this direction."
Jim sighed. "It may not look like much on paper but it is one of the most destructive creatures in this world or any other." He looked at Blair. "I've seen one before, in Peru. It took out an entire village in a week's time without anyone seeing a thing." There was a haunted look on the Sentinel's face. "We got there too late; the only survivor was a young boy who had been sent to find help. The bodies had been eviscerated. It was what the Chopec called a 'mogoldi' ...a shapeshifter. It could mimic anything or anyone and had the ability to move with hardly any sound."
"But you found it right?" Blair stated.
"Yeah, I found it alright. I tracked it to a neighboring village. I managed to trace it by its sound and scent and caught it in the process of killing another family. It was close to impossible to kill but we did and the Chopec, following ancient myths, dismembered the shifter and salted the pieces and buried them a deep as possible in widely separate places."
"How big was the shifter that you killed in Peru?" Giles asked reading the description again.
"It was about a foot shorter that I am, in its original form, why?"
"According to this that was an adolescent. A full-grown shifter can be over eight feet and incredibly powerful. It is also resistant to magic." Giles explained.
They looked at each other in disbelief. "And we will find it how?" Buffy asked. "And we will kill it with what, our winning personalities?"
Giles took off his glasses and answered her as he cleaned them. "If it is an adult shifter, it will take a concerted effort by everyone in this room plus..." He turned to the young witch. "Willow, can you ask Tara if she can help."
"Can do, but I thought you said this changy monster thing was magic resistant."
"The two of you may not be able to affect him directly but you can slow it down by affecting the area around it."
Willow nodded. "I'll go talk to Tara and be back in two blinks of a newt's eye." She gathered up her stuff.
"If this thing is this bad, I don't think anyone should go anywhere alone." Buffy stated.
"Good point." Jim agreed. "Blair and I will take Willow to her friend while you plan how we are going to find this thing." They headed out the door.
"We don't have to go very far. The dorm is only about a mile away."
Blair leaned forward and draped over the front seat. "How long have you been involved with spells?"
"For as long as I can remember. But I can only do small ones on my own." She grinned. "But I'm getting better all the time, especially when I work with Tara. Turn left up here." She pointed out the upcoming street. "It's the third building on the left."
"Is Tara Wiccan also?" Blair asked.
"Yeppers, we've been learning together. My turn. How long have you been a Shaman complete with furry beasties?"
"A couple of years now. I can't believe you could see them! That is so cool! They don't appear to just anyone, you know. They must have been responding to the power you have inside."
"Yeah, power that sometimes gets all wonky. You wouldn't believe the things that can go wrong if you say the wrong thing while working a spell, especially if you feel even a little revengy. I baked a lot of cookies after that one." Blair looked puzzled. "I wished for whatever I said to come true. Big bad, I'll tell you. I caused Giles to go blind, Xander to be demon bait and..." She winced. "Buffy to fall in love with Spike."
"Ouch." Blair said under his breath.
She smiled. "It's not every girl with an open invitation to be a Vengeance Demon."
Jim pulled into an open parking slot. "Everyone out."
"Giles, are you sure we can trust these guys? I mean, they just showed up out of the blue just when their skills are needed. Sounds suspicious to me." Xander said, after the newcomers and Willow left the house.
"Yes I do. They risked everything to tell us about themselves."
"What risk?" Xander asked.
"Think about it. What would the Initiative do to have an army of Ellisons to play with? I wouldn't trust anyone connected with the Initiative with their secret." Buffy answered. The two men paled at they thought of someone like Adam, the Initiative's version of Frankenstein's monster, with Ellison's abilities added into the mix.
"Not even Riley?"
She shook her head. "Only as a absolutely last resort." Buffy turned to the two. "Now we have a monster to track and dismember so let's get to it."
Giles was trying to use Willow's code program to hack into the local police department to watch for signs of the creature's presence. Buffy started pulling out the weapons stored at the former librarians for just such an emergency. "Giles, what is the best way to kill this thing?" She asked, trying to decide between a broadsword and a crossbow.
Giles looked up from the computer screen where he was growing increasingly frustrated with his lack of computer access. "What?"
She held up the two weapons. "Which one, slice and dice or the pin cushion maker supreme."
"I'd start with distance and, when it is somewhat incapacitated, the sword." Giles answered.
"Personally I'd go for a rocket launcher and a flame thrower." Xander piped up from his work checking over the ammunition stored in the back closet.
Giles took off his glasses and ran his hand over his face. "Where is Willow when I need her?" The young woman had the ability to make the computer perform the most amazing feats with just a few keystrokes.
Willow knocked on the door and stepped back as Tara opened the door with a shy smile. "Willow, you won't believe..." Her voice trailed off when she noticed the two men accompanying her friend.
"It's okay, they're friends." She put her had on Tara's arm.
Blair was struck by the surge in the two young women's auras. He could see a very visible connection between the two. He knew it was very rare to see a pair of soul twins with power. He clasped his hands in front of him. "I'm Blair Sandburg and this is my partner, Jim Ellison. We are not a threat." He could feel the power the girl was generating to protect her friend. "We need your help."
Jim felt as if he were looking at someone with an old soul, a very lonely soul with a hint of darkness. He didn't feel threatened by the power that he could feel raising the hairs on the back of his neck. He could tell that they were two halves of the same whole. This was something he could relate to as he looked toward his guide.
Tara focused on Willow. "What do you need for me to do?"
Willow gave her a quick hug. "I knew I could count on you." She pulled Tara towards the door. "I'm not sure what we'll be doing but there's a monster coming to make munchies out of the town and Giles said that we need the whole Scooby gang. You are a member, remember." Willow grinned. She caught Tara's questioning glance at the two visitors. "They're, like, visiting monster busters." She looked around the room. "Is there anything you need to take with you?" Tara shook her head, not wanting to stutter in front of the visitors. "Okie Dokie then lets hit the road." Willow took her friend by the hand and led her down to the car.
Willow proceeded to fill Tara in on the latest threat to the life and limb of the denizens of Sunnydale, monster murder capitol of the world. "There's this mega bad shifty changy thing coming to town. Giles says it's going to take all of us to stop it. We get to do the zappy stuff. The detectives here will be doing the tracking part."
"Detectives." Tara mouthed.
Willow nodded and continued. "And Buffy will be doing the slaying thing with Xander back-up."
As the young women were talking in the back seat, Blair and Jim were carrying on their own low voiced conversation in the front. "Did you feel the power the two of them have when they are together? It's amazing." Blair said.
"Yeah, I felt it, Chief, but I don't think they do. I get the feeling that they haven't been together for very long. They're both still learning."
Blair nodded. "How do you feel about the rest of this? It's not like it's part of the job description."
Jim laughed. "Which one, the cop or the Sentinel? I'm getting used to a lot of weird stuff since we hooked up and I don't see it coming to an end any time soon. I think the job description is being rewritten every day."
"You have a point, big guy. You have a point."
"That's why I wear a hat, Chief, so it won't show." Jim said, looking straight ahead.
Blair looked puzzled then suddenly got the joke and started laughing. He was still laughing when they arrived at Giles house.
"Good to see someone has a sense of humor." Buffy said as they entered.
"Yep, I carry it with me where ever I go." Blair answered. Buffy shook her head and moved back to the map of the town.
"Don't mind her." Xander said. "She gets like this when she's in mission mode. Short tempered, no sense of humor, basically PMS with weaponry."
Buffy tried to hide her smile; Xander had such a way with words and at times he was the most important member of the gang. He had the ability to lighten the mood just when things were starting to get tense. "PMS with weaponry, huh? Just wait until you need my help defusing Anya and see if I don't remember that crack."
Xander pulled a face and was starting to plead for leniency when they could all see two large animals, a black jaguar and a gray wolf facing the front door. The door was flung open and a battered and bloody Spike fell through.
"I thought vampires had to be invited in?" Blair asked.
"They do but Spike is a special case. He's been, how can I put this, neutered." Buffy said, watching as Giles bent down to help the wounded vampire to his feet. "He can't attack humans no matter how much he wants too."
The two spirit animals sniffed around the vampire as if trying to decide the danger he presented. Spike looked down and saw the pair. "Bloody hell, tell me they aren't looking for a snack." He tried to make himself seem non-threatening, as he had no wish to become a munchie.
"Don't worry, they don't bite, much." Jim said watching the wounded man.
"Great, comedians. Say, you're the two blokes from the cemetery. Call off your pets." He waved at the two animals. "I do have information on a new baddie in town."
"Spill it, Spike, before you turn to dust." Buffy said with a hint of threat in her voice.
"Easy pet, you'll get wrinkles frowning like that and then what would your soldier boy say." She moved toward him. "All right." He sighed. "I never get to have any fun any more. There is a new demon or what ever in town. It was down by the demon hobo jungle a mile from the rail yard.
Earlier that evening
The demon hobo jungle was a mirror image of the human one just over a mile away. The itinerant demons that rode the rails had set up a reasonably structured society with their own rules and laws. Sunnydale wasn't one of the more hobo friendly communities and the hobos were very careful to not attract the attention of the authorities. They were not prepared for the deadly menace that had entered their midst.
Spike, bored to tears, decided to go slumming. There wasn't anyone of interest hanging about the bar that catered to both demon and human. The nastier clientele hadn't returned since the last time that the slayer had trashed the place while looking for information. The blond vampire just wanted to fight something that would give him a halfway decent fight. Spike remembered the transient camp. There was usually someone there big enough to give him a bit of a challenge.
He quietly made his way to the camp and stood on the outskirts still hidden watching to see who would be up to a challenge from the baddest vamp in town. His mouth turned down as he remembered the bad old days. The days he thought of as B.C. (before chip). At least demons weren't off limits. He would truly go over the edge if he couldn't hurt something once in a while. The only problem was the rep he was getting as a slayer groupie. It was disconcerting to walk into a bar and have the room go silent. He shuddered at the thought. He knew it was only enlightened self-interest but the other demons saw a traitor.
He started to move into the camp when he noticed the sudden silence; he pulled back and tried to find the source. Spike watched as a figure exited a lean-to and saw that it was covered with the greenish blood of one of the more unpalatable subdemons. He saw the creature move to another hut and as it moved it changed its form to that of a Gelper demon. "Oh bloody hell." He uttered out loud. The creature's head immediately turned toward Spike's position. He started backing up and turned to run. He could hear the creature closing in on him. He ran as fast as possible for a vampire with death on his heels, ignoring the branches and brambles tearing at his clothing and skin. If his heart could beat, it would be pounding with fright. It took a few miles but he managed to outdistance the monster. He was on autopilot and, without even thinking about it, found himself at Giles place bursting through the door.
Spike finished telling what he had seen. He walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a sealed container of beef blood. Jim turned green when the blond vampire put the cup in the microwave to warm it up.
Spike noticed the reaction from the visitor. "Wot, it's not like it's human. Sheesh over sensitive sots." He said as he sipped the viscous liquid. Feeling the thick salty liquid slide down his throat calmed his rioting nerves.
"Dial it down, big guy." Blair whispered seeing the discomfort on his Sentinel's face.
"That's not the only problem, Chief. I'm getting some very weird vibes from him." He gestured at the vampire. "I feel like I should be doing something about him, I just don't know what."
"You think you have it bad, think about her." Blair gestured toward Buffy and her crew. "Her entire being is focused toward ridding the world of vampires and other evil beings and she has one in her living room. The hair must stand up on the back of her neck all of the time she is around him."
"I'm surprised she hasn't, what do they call it, oh yeah, dusted him." Jim mused.
"Won't happen anymore that your shooting an unarmed man." Blair said quietly.
They walked over to the group standing around a large map of Sunnydale. Giles had already marked the Hobo camps location. "Spike, if you would be so kind, would you show the route you ran?"
Spike drained the warmed blood and, not wanting to lose one of his best supplies of fresh blood, even rinsed the cup. He remembered Giles many lectures on the importance of not leaving cups with blood drying in them. He shook his head, how the mighty William the Bloody had fallen. With a sigh he walked over to the group standing around the map on the table, careful to step around the two animals in his path.
"The demon camp was here." He pointed out and traced his route. "This is where I lost it." Spike pointed out a spot three miles outside of town.
"It looks like it will head into town right here." Buffy pointed to the area on the south side of Sunnydale just below the college campus. "The campus will make a prime killing field for it. We just have to get there before it does." She gestured to the arms behind her. "Choose your weapons, people, and let's go make this monster a deader."
Jim checked his pistol and picked up a crossbow and quarrels from the impressive array. Blair chose a spear and also checked his handgun. Xander also choose a crossbow along with a selection of stakes. Willow gathered her collection of spells and potions dividing them between herself and Tara. Giles carried the excess ammunition. Buffy had her best bow and stakes. Spike looked over the selection and picked out set of throwing knives and his personal favorite, a broadsword. "William the Bloody rides again." He muttered to himself.
"Okay, team, let's saddle up and get this thing." Xander said as he led the way out the door. They piled into Jim's rental and Giles' car. Jim was amused by the way the group split up. The magic rode workers in one vehicle and the warriors, except for himself, in the other. He tried not to laugh at the conversation in the car ahead. Spike was doing his usual complaining.
"Why do I have to sit in the back with him?" He whined. "Why aren't you sitting back here, Blondie, making sure I stay a good boy."
She turned to the petulant vampire. "Because if I had to sit next to you, you might become a pile of dust."
"Tsk, tsk, is that how you talk to a former fiancée?"
"Keep it up and you will be a former for good." She said in a humorless voice.
Xander shook his head. "Do you have a dust wish or what? Remember it wasn't one of your most stellar moments either."
"Put a sock in it, soldier boy, you could get hurt."
"By you? I think not, chiphead."
"Children, don't make me stop this car." Giles warned. Buffy tried to hide a smile; the two in the back seat reminded her of a pair of obnoxious siblings. She had a feeling that both would be needed before this hunt was over.
It didn't take very long to reach the camp. They pulled up to the outskirts and left the cars. Cautiously they made their way to the camp with Jim and Buffy in the lead. Jim could smell the bodies long before they came into sight. He turned to the small group behind him. "Willow, is there a spell you could use to pick up the shifter's trail?" He asked not wanting the young people to see the mutilated bodies of the dead.
"Yes, but it takes a lot of power."
"Blair could help with that, couldn't you, Chief?" He asked.
Blair knew that his partner was trying to spare him the sight of the dead bodies. He didn't do it very often anymore so Blair knew it was going to be bad. He nodded, partly curious to find out if he could use his abilities as a shaman to help with a spell.
Jim looked at Buffy. Under her breath she muttered. "Don't even think about it, Ellison. I need to see what this thing will do to my town if we don't stop it." He inclined his head in agreement. "Xander." She gained her friend's attention. "I need for you and Giles to watch the perimeter while the three of us," she gestured to herself, Jim and Spike, "check out the camp."
"What if you run into trouble?" Xander asked not happy with the thought of Spike and a stranger accompanying his friend.
Jim overheard Xander's comment. "It's not in there, so keep on the alert in case it decides to come back. You are the first line of defense." The young man straightened his shoulders; responsibility always worked wonders with Xander. Others having faith in him bolstered his wavering belief in himself.
"You got it." He took his position watching out for the two groups of three.
Jim, Buffy and Spike entered the camp looking for clues to help find the shifter. The sentinel dialed down his sense of smell and wished he could also dial down his sight. Buffy looked around with a growing sense of dismay. She had seen great carnage but this had a viciousness that pushed it well above the norm, at least Sunnydale norm. This even surpassed Adam. Spike looked around with the realization that if he had been bored sooner he would have been in the middle of this and most likely a pile of dust by now. Jim could see the same destruction he had seen in Peru. It didn't matter that the victims were all demons; no one deserved to die like this.
Willow, Tara and Blair created a protected magic circle. They each lit a candle for focus and joined hands. The young Shaman was almost overwhelmed by the power raised in the circle. He could see a wall of light surrounding them. Willow recited what she had called a finding spell. Her goal was to find the area where the shifter had passed since it was doubtful they would be able to see the creature they were tracking. Blair's eyes widened when he saw the outline of a map of Sunnydale from where they were seated to the college. A trail gradually appeared in the air showing its path. The three noticed a blank spot on the map.
"Giles said this thing is like null magic, right?" Blair asked quietly.
Willow nodded. "The blank spot must be where it is."
"We need to hurry." Tara said. "It is too close to the school." They gathered the power back into themselves and Tara dismantled the spell. Blair watched closely, it was even more evidence that the two were linked. It was extremely rare for someone other than the caster of a spell to be able to reverse cast.
Jim was aware of the power raised. He could feel it as the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He kept a portion of his attention on his partner. They had never been in this type of situation before. He could feel when the power was pulled in and heard Tara's comment. He motioned for the rest to gather around.
"What did you find out, Wil'" Buffy was the first to ask.
Willow drew a map in the dirt at her feet.
The group converged on the null spot the spellcasters had found. Jim started sensing the shifter once they were within a mile of the creature. Blair noticed the older man stiffen and focus ahead.
"What is it, Jim?" Blair asked.
"It's up there." Jim motioned to the wooded area ahead of them. When they were within a half-mile, they pulled off to the side of the road. Everyone gathered his or her weapons and, following a plan outlined by Jim, moved into position.
Blair close to his partner's side quietly asked a question that had been bothering him all evening. "Jim, you said that the Chopec dismembered the shifted following ancient myths. Did they give a reason?"
Jim nodded as he scanned the area ahead of them. "The thing is a shapeshifter, right? It can change into anything but if you don't cut off its head, it doesn't die, so..."
Blair looked queasy. "So you cut up everything and eventually you will cut off the head."
"I knew there was a brain under all that hair." Jim put out a hand to stop the group and motioned the group to move into position.
Willow and Tara joined hands and with a deep breath and a few well-chosen words created a barrier between the group and the creature masking their approach. Blair stayed close to Jim; this was a potentially dangerous situation for zones. The guide had a healthy respect for the 'demons' from his Sentinel's past, and this one looked like it was going to be a doozy. Spike and a reluctant Xander moved toward the left of the creature and Buffy and Giles moved to the right. Once they were all in position the two young witches dropped the shield.
The creature had just finished shifting into human form when the shield was dropped. It whirled in place as it saw that it was surrounded. The shifter dropped to a crouch and shifted into the form of a Polgara demon. Its eyes were constantly shifting between the people surrounding it.
"Be careful." Buffy warned. "In this form it probably has the same capabilities as a real Polgara."
"What capabilities?" Blair asked, eyes wide as he watched the demon.
Buffy realized that the two detectives were at a serious disadvantage due to their lack of knowledge of demon lore. "A Polgara has spikes it can project out of its forearms. So be careful and don't get too close."
"No problem." Blair said, swallowing.
As the weapons were raised, the creature charged toward the two detectives projecting its spikes as it attacked. The rush took them all by surprise. Jim managed to fire a shot at the advancing monster before it knocked him to the side where the tall detective's head struck a tree and he fell unconscious. The Polgara's spike went through the younger man's thigh, dropping him in his tracks.
Blair clawed his way to his partner's side while the remainder of the group attacked the demon. They harried it with arrows and the occasional thrown knife. They managed to keep it contained until it shifted to a nine-foot tall tigeran demon. Spike in total vamp mode attacked the demon and was thrown across the small clearing twenty feet. Where he lay stunned. Xander rushed in from the side as Buffy attacked from the front. The Slayer leapt up with a high kick, trying to knock the creature off of its feet. She only succeeded in rocking it. Xander was tossed to the ground and the group heard an audible snap as his arm broke. Giles maintained position between the two young women trying to cast a spell to help their beleaguered friends.
Willow and Tara had built a circle and, hands together, began to recite a protect spell. Buffy continued to fight with the shifter; her only goal was to keep the shifter from attacking her fallen companions. She felt the power build and somersaulted out of the path of the spell. A wall of debris and wind formed between the shifter and the rest of the gang. The demon made a couple of forays against the wall only to be pushed back. It suddenly whirled and ran back into the wooded area. Buffy followed for a few steps but stopped and turned back to her wounded friends.
Muted groans filled the clearing as the group took stock of their injuries. The smell of his partner's blood had awakened Jim faster than smelling salts. He was applying a pressure bandage to Blair's thigh, trying to staunch the flow of blood. The young man was barely holding on to consciousness. Willow was in the process of splinting Xander's arm.
"This is like so not fun." Xander said through clenched teeth. His face paled as Willow fastened a make-shift splint.
"Hang in there, Chief. Once the ambulance gets here, you'll get something for the pain." Jim reassured his guide.
"How's your head, big guy?" Blair gasped out "You almost took out that poor tree."
Jim gave his friend a smile. "You know me. The tree was in more danger than I was." He tilted his head slightly relieved by the sound of ambulance sirens closing on their position. "The bus is almost here. We'll be at the hospital before you know it."
"Who do you think won the injury pool this time?" Blair asked trying to keep his mind off of the pain in his leg.
Jim paused trying to remember the list he had seen before they left. "Hmm, I think Megan will win this time. If I remember right she bet in the 12 - 24 hour window for one of us to require a visit to the hospital. Maybe she'll use the proceeds to replace the pink dingo coat."
"Don't make me laugh." Blair said after he gave a burst of laughter.
Buffy turned to the group. "I think we need to regroup." She looked at the wounded. "Maybe we need to call in some reinforcements."
"You mean the Initiative?" Xander said through clenched teeth.
She nodded distractedly.
"What about our other concerns?" Giles asked, looking pointedly to where Jim was bandaging his partner's leg.
"He'll just have to be careful." Buffy shrugged. "We can't do this alone. We need their firepower."
Jim had listened to the conversation as he worked and felt a shaft of fear. His secret was in the hands of a group of teenagers who would be working side by side with a secret offshoot of the military. He felt as if his greatest nightmare was about to come to life.
Blair could feel the tension increasing in his friend. "What is it?" He whispered.
"They are going to ask the Initiative for help to kill the demon." Jim answered the muscle in his jaw tensing.
"Shit, we need to get out of here." Blair said trying to get up.
"Take it easy Chief, you aren't going anywhere and neither am I."
"But what if...?
"We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. I can't leave, not with this thing on the loose."
Blair gave a heavy sigh. "I know. I just had to say it." He closed his eyes. "So what's the plan?" He asked loud enough for the rest of the small company to hear.
"The first step is to get those of us who are wounded to the hospital." Jim said. "Willow, do you and Tara have enough reserves to set a magic trip wire. Something that will give us warning if the creature with it's null magic crosses the line.
"We need to see the map, but we can do." Willow said with Tara's second. They laid the map out on the ground and set a trip spell around the city.
"Won't this take a lot of energy from them." Buffy asked Giles, worried for her friend.
"I don't kn...."
Blair interrupted; he had been following the spell and recognized what they were using for a power source. "No, they are only setting the spell. The magnetic lines in the earth will feed it until they are ready to take it down."
Jim could see the lines on the map begin to glow as the spell gathered strength.
At the hospital, Jim pulled Buffy and Giles to the side while their friends were being treated. "Okay, I need to know everything you do about this military group."
Buffy looked at her former watcher. "I can't, it's not really my secret to spill."
"It was nice knowing you." Jim turned away and started walking toward the treatment room his partner was being examined in. He was determined to gather up his guide and leave. He felt a strong grip on his arm a second before he was spun around. He jerked his arm out of the Slayer's grasp.
"You're just going to walk out on us." Buffy said angrily. "What's the big? The Initiative will just be there to help. You saw what it did to us, we need the extra firepower."
Giles tried to interrupt. "Buffy, hold on, let the detective explain."
She glared at Giles before turning back to the angry Sentinel. "So explain." She demanded.
"Listen." Jim said through clenched teeth. "I will not risk my guide with a group in any way connected to the military, especially one that is 'secret'. It's happened once and never again. So unless you tell me something about this group that I can use to defend Sandburg and myself from them, we are gone."
"Give me a minute, detective?" Giles asked. When Jim nodded, the former librarian pulled the angry young woman to the opposite side of the waiting room.
"What are you doing? He will leave to protect Blair. You need to tell him about the Initiative." She shook her head. "They are linked and if the government gets hold of them..." He gave a sigh. "Think, you know what they do to sub T's, what do you think they will do to them? They are already trying to enhance humans as it is. Remember the drugs they were feeding to the soldiers, including Riley."
The anger left the young woman's face as Giles words finally got through the Slayer mindset. "You're right. Sorry, Giles. I'm just not used to someone else who has protectitis as much as I do." She walked over to where Jim stood. "I suppose you heard that?"
"No, I try not to listen to private conversations, especially when I have something more important to listen to." He gestured toward the treatment rooms.
"I want to apologize. You do have a right to know who you will be fighting alongside. Truce?" She held out her hand. Jim hesitated for a split second and then took her hand. "So, how are they doing?" She asked.
Jim smiled for the first time since his partner had been wheeled away. "Blair is distracting himself by trying to convince the nurse that giving him her phone number would be beneficial to his continuing good health." He chuckled. "She's not buying it. Xander is trying to convince the Doc that a pink cast is not the fashion statement he wants to make." He looked at the rest of the group sitting around the waiting room. The only member of the small company missing was Spike who had chosen to return to Giles house. Stating that being in hospital was torture and the blood bank too much of a temptation since they wouldn't let him make a withdrawal.
Buffy took a deep breath and began to explain about the Initiative. "We first became aware of the Initiative when we heard about these guys running around dressed like commandos. We noticed fewer attacks in the area, but I just thought the baddies were just taking a rest break. Then Spike returned to Sunnydale after a trip to LA. The commandos caught him and implanted the chip that keeps him from fighting or killing humans, no more late night snacks for poor Spike." She said sarcastically. "He escaped and told us about an underground facility with soldiers and scientists who captured and experimented on demons. I had met Riley but I hadn't caught the clue bus yet. I found out what the Initiative about the same time as they found out about me being the Slayer. I was 'recruited' to help capture the baddies." She stared off into space. "They were trying to make a super soldier using demon parts adapted to a human. They managed to create a creature without conscience. Adam felt his duty replace humans with mutants like himself. When the professor thought I was becoming a threat to her pet project, she tried to have me killed. She was killed by her monster." Buffy shrugged. "Guess she should have read Frankenstein."
"Why haven't they tried to pull you back into the Initiative?" Jim asked.
"Riley told me that I was on the hands off list. I think they're afraid of what might happen if they upset the balance that we have here. The Hellmouth has been open too many times to ignore. They are just happy that Riley agreed to return." She grinned. "I guess they finally bought a clue."
Their discussion was interrupted by the arrival of the ER doctor. The group as one stood unnerving the doctor with their intensity. Jim was the first to speak. "When can we take them home?" The others looked at him with surprise for a brief moment until they realized he had been listening in on their friend's treatment.
The doctor was momentarily put off stride and looked suspiciously at the group. Then he shook his head and filled them in. "Your friends have some serious injuries and I would like to keep them overnight for observation." He held up his had to forestall any interruptions. "But they have both decided to sign themselves out AMA. So I have no choice but to release them, however, at the first sign of a fever I want to see Mr. Sandburg. His wound had some kind of contaminant. Hopefully we cleaned all of it out and he has been prescribed some heavy-duty antibiotics." He looked at the tall detective. "He has made it known that he prefers natural remedies; in this case he doesn't have an option. If he doesn't take them, he will be staying with us for an extended stay."
"No problem, Doc, he'll take them. Just give me the prescription. I'll take care of it." Jim assured the doctor.
"They will be out in a few minutes, then you can leave." The expression on the doctor's face left the impression that he would be glad to see them leave. He turned to go and treat patients who would be more appreciative.
A few minutes later, the two wounded were wheeled out of their treatment rooms. There was a collective sigh of relief when they came into sight.
"Man, I will be so happy to be out of this place." Blair said when he reached his partner.
"You and me both, Chief. Just a quick stop at the pharmacy and we'll be out of here." He saw the mutinous expression begin to form on the younger man's face. He leaned down so only Blair could hear him. "If you give me any grief about the meds, I'll have you admitted before you can blink."
Blair starred at his partner for a moment, gauging the seriousness of the threat, and realized that Jim meant every word. The younger man reluctantly nodded. Thinking that he would give in on the antibiotic but the pain med...
They finally reached Giles' house and settled the wounded as comfortably as possible and the rest of the crew after checking the status of the early warning system decided to get as much rest as they could before all hell broke loose. Giles, always the perfect host, found rooms and blankets for all of his unexpected guests and retired to his own room trying to figure out when his life had become so complicated.
Blair refused to take his pain medication; he didn't want to have his abilities muddled by narcotics. He decided to try an idea that had been in the back of his mind since he had started to get a handle on his own gifts. "Jim." He whispered to get his partner's attention. Jim was quickly at his side.
"Do you want your pain meds?" Jim asked worried about his partner.
Blair shook his head. "I want to try something but I need your permission." Jim looked puzzled. "I'm going to try to connect with you to see if I can control the pain."
"What ever you need, Chief. Just one proviso, if it doesn't work you take a pain pill."
"You got it, man."
"What do I need to do?" Jim asked ready to help.
"Just sit right there where I can reach you. I'm going to try and center myself and reach out to try and tap our combined power. If it works the way I think it will, I'll be able to use your dials to turn down the pain." His face brightened. "Just think if this works..."
Jim held up a hand to halt the younger man's rush of word. "When it works we can figure out the potential, but right now let's work on the pain thing."
Blair grinned and nodded. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes reaching out to grasp his partner's shoulder. He could see in his mind the line that connected them both. He followed it to the solid source of energy his partner contained within. The power enfolded him when he drew close. He could feel his own strength growing. Suddenly he could see the dials he had come to find. He carefully created a duplicate set for himself and started to slowly turn them down. He was careful to not turn it all the way down. Remembering all of the lectures he had given Jim about the need to keep some sensation. He remembered the first time the Sentinel had turned the pain dial all the way to zero. Jim still had the scar from the burn he had received when he had set his hand on the still hot stove burner. Not feeling any pain he had left it on the burner until he smelled the burning flesh. It had taken weeks for the burn to heal. The scar a permanent reminder of his folly.
It was tempting to stay in the comfort of his Sentinel's strength but the young Shaman knew it was time to return. He pulled back to himself feeling stronger and with only minor pain remaining.
Jim had felt his partner grasp his shoulder and rested his back against the couch, relaxing all of the barriers in his mind. He felt the first tentative connection as Blair reached out. He held out a mental hand to pull the younger man closer. He could feel the connection grow stronger. Jim mentally pictured the dials in his mind and projected them to his friend. He could feel when his guide recognized the dials and began to use them to blunt the pain. The edginess Jim had been feeling all evening eased and he realized that the younger man must have unknowingly been projecting a small portion of his discomfort.
"Wow!" Blair exclaimed after resurfacing. "This is like so totally awesome. I always wondered what it would be like to have the ability to do that." He grinned at his partner. "No more mega Blair pain. This is like so cool." He thought for a moment and Jim could almost hear the wheels turning in the younger man's head. "I wonder if it would work for other sense?" Blair mused.
"You can work out some test when we get back home, Darwin." Jim pushed the younger man's head back down on the pillow. "Right now you need to get some rest."
"But, what if...?"
"No buts, you get some rest or I'll knock you out myself."
Blair chuckled. "Okay, mom, I'll go to sleep." He curled into his blankets and closed his eyes. As Jim walked to his own bedroll he heard the younger man mutter under his breath. "At least I didn't ask for a bed time story or a drink of water." Jim tried to suppress a smile as he lay down. Anchoring himself with his partner's heartbeat, he also drifted off to sleep.
The restless movements of his guide awakened Jim. He was fully awake when he saw Willow at the top of the stairs. "What's going on?" He asked the frightened young woman.
"It's coming." She stated. "I can feel it getting closer."
"Can you tell where it's coming from?"
"Not alone, I need the others."
The gang quickly gathered in the living room. Willow was shaking as she tried to explain what she was feeling. With the help of the other magic workers in the group they were able to pinpoint the exact location of the demon. It was frightening to find that it was only a short mile away from Giles home.
"We have to figure out a way to kill it for good this time." Xander said as Buffy called for reinforcements. "I don't really want to rack up any more plaster accessories, if you get my drift."
"I think your cast is kind of sexy." Anya purred as she rubbed Xander's shoulder.
"You won't think so if I roll over and hit you with this thing." He replied.
Anya looked taken aback for a moment, then turned to Willow. "Fix him." She demanded.
Willow smiled and shook her head. "Don't know any fixing bone spells yet. Breaking yes, fixing nope."
"It was a thought." Anya muttered.
Buffy rejoined the rest of the group. "Riley and his team will meet us there in a few minutes. We need to make sure they are only told as much as they absolutely need to know." They all nodded their agreement.
They gathered their weapons and waited.
"Jim, I don't like the idea of your going out there without me. What if you zone?" Blair said quietly to his partner.
"I have an idea about that, Chief." Jim began to explain. "Remember what you did earlier with the pain dial thing?" Blair nodded. "Well, I could feel you in my head when you did it. I think that if you try you will be able to keep me grounded even from a distance."
Blair looked at his partner with amazement. He was thrilled that his Sentinel had grown so comfortable with their growing abilities that he was actually thinking up new uses. "Okay, Big Guy, let's give it a shot."
They moved to a quiet corner of the room. Jim helped to get Blair settled into a comfortable position to begin meditating. The younger man, ignoring the background noise in the room, quickly found his center and reached out. Following the thread-like link that had been forged earlier he was able to connect without any problems. He tried to mentally speak to his partner.
"Can you feel that?" He asked his Sentinel.
"I know that you're there." Jim answered.
"Can you hear what I'm thinking?" Blair asked.
Jim shook his head. "Nope."
Blair started to get frustrated, as there was no response from his partner. He felt Jim's attention drift toward the Slayer's group, and the Slayer in particular. With a burst of humor Blair pictured a Wonderburger in his mind.
Jim swung around. "Very funny, Chief."
Blair's eyes widened. "It worked." He said with a big grin. "I just had to find something you could relate to."
Jim smiled at his young partner. He could feel the relief in his Shaman's mind. He hadn't felt all that comfortable about leaving his guide behind, but now he was comforted by the knowledge that they could reach each other with out relying on technology or magic.
The Sentinel walked over to the other wounded member of the group. He quietly gained the young man's attention. "Xander, would you be willing to stay here and watch my partner's back?"
"Why? He'll be safe here at Giles' while we're gone."
Jim gave a short laugh. Blair glanced over and was reassured when his partner smiled. "You don't know my partner, he managed to get kidnapped in the middle of a police station surrounded by cops." He paused. "Seriously, we are going to be trying something new and I don't know how much energy he will need to use, I need someone I can trust to make sure he keeps breathing."
Xander considered the request. He knew how much the young man meant to the tough cop and felt honored that he had been asked to watch his back. "Sure thing, detective."
Buffy had kept an ear on the conversation and was relieved that the cop had found a way to keep her overzealous young friend safe.
The group prearranged to rendezvous with Riley and his compatriots at the open field near the campus. They had agreed to use the soldiers to herd the demon to a controllable arena. Through a miracle of timing, they all arrived at the field at the same time.
The sight of the tall detective standing shoulder to shoulder with Buffy took Riley aback.
"I don't know why you called in the heavy artillery on this demon. It's just a Polgara demon." Riley asked gesturing toward the surrounded creature. "We can take it easy."
"I thought you understood that it's a shifter, not a run of the mill monster of the week." Willow said. "It's in the iffy column whether it will die or make us munchies."
Jim stood staring at the demon. He could see a shimmering aura beginning to surround it. "Get ready people. We need to be in position now!"
"Who do you think you are tr..." Riley began to protest.
"Look, kid, we don't have time to have a pissing contest about who's in charge. That thing is about to change and there's no telling what it will wind up becoming."
Riley was about to say something when Buffy shook her head and pointed toward the Shifter. They watched as it morphed into a demon previously unseen by anyone in the group except for the Sentinel. Momentarily he froze.
Blair had been keeping tabs on the group through his link with his partner. He was amazed at how easy it was to stay connected. He could feel Jim's annoyance with the posturing of the young soldier, and the fear when he saw the demon shift into it's native form. He felt the instant his Sentinel zoned, and began to work to bring him out of it. //Come on Jim, this is not the time or place. You are not allowed to zone in front of Buffy's toy soldiers so snap out of it.// He was relieved to feel Jim respond.
The reality was so much more frightening than the picture in the book. Jim had known this demon would be larger than the one he had faced previously, but he hadn't realized that it would be three times the size of the one in Peru. "Oh my God." He whispered. The fear shot through the connection to his guide faster than the speed of light. A ripple of terror flew around the group. Willow and Buffy paled at the sight. Riley cursed and fought the primitive impulse to run. They could see the intelligence in the eyes of the demon. It was sobering to realize that it had no fear of the humans surrounding it.
Riley and his group began firing on the demon. At first they had hope when is staggered under the hail of bullets. But then it straightened and started toward the initiative soldiers. Buffy rushed up behind it and launching herself in the air with a flying kick caught it in the middle of its back. The demon wasn't moved by her attack. It turned and with a sweep of its long arm caught the Slayer on the side and tossed her across the clearing.
Jim fired the curare tipped arrows trying to remember the vulnerable spots the Chopec had used to kill the demon in the past. He had a nagging feeling that he had forgotten a very essential detail.
Blair had been jolted by the fear felt by his partner. He could feel the sense of inevitable defeat from the group. His mind was busily working to find a solution to the problem faced by his Sentinel and new friends. Suddenly he was on the spirit plane and had the mental image of the Jaguar and wolf, he was confused by the addition of an Aboriginal woman running along side the spirit animals. She turned and looked back at the wounded shaman. Blair was surprised to find that he was wounded even on this ethereal plane.
She spoke directly to his mind. //Do not worry, Shaman; we will defeat the evil one. Support your guardian.// She turned away and ran.
Blair found his spirit had projected to the clearing. He stood behind his Sentinel and focused his energy toward the group, augmenting each one's innate abilities. Willow was the first to see the spirit animals and the woman she and the rest of the Scooby gang knew as the first Slayer.
"Okay, we've got magicy strange things happening." She blurted out. "Can you see them?"
Jim focused his sight and with the connection to his Guide was also able to see the newest inhabitants of the clearing.
"What's going on?" Buffy asked as she rejoined the others, growing increasingly stressed by the unknown.
"It looks like we have some new reinforcements." Jim answered. "I know the cat and the wolf, but the woman...?"
Buffy turned to Willow. The young redhead nodded. "Yepper, It's Ms. Primal Slayer herself."
"Why do you think she's here to help?" Buffy asked keeping her eyes on the Shape shifting demon. She trusted Willow to keep her apprised of the First Slayer's intentions.
Jim answered for the young witch. "She answered Blair's call. She respects the Shaman and Guardian. We aren't a threat to her." He could feel the comforting presence of his guide. "Willow, Blair wants you to focus your and Tara's power toward the spirit animals and slayer. He says they are the key."
With the power of the combined magics, the spirit animals and Slayer manifested into the physical plane. The Demon, for the first time, seemed afraid. Its eyes were in constant motion watching the circling animals and people. Suddenly, in one seemingly seamless burst the entire company attacked. The Shifter didn't have a chance to defend itself from the onslaught. Within moments it was down on the ground spirit animals at its throat and various forms of ammunition piercing it's body. The Wolf and Jaguar began to fade as soon as the demon stopped moving and it was clear it wouldn't revive. Remembering Jim's warning the group proceeded with the grisly task of dismembering the body. The Primal Slayer stood watching as the messy detail was being accomplished. She too disappeared when the job was done.
The group stood staring at each other the adrenaline that had been sustaining them was beginning to fade. //Hey, big guy, they are all starting to crash, you need to bring them all back to the house.//
Jim started to chuckle as he looked at the blood-spattered group. They one by one looked at him confused. "I think we might want to find a carwash to run us through."
They looked at each other and the combination of relief that it was over and the exhaustion caused by the long days conspired to send the entire group into hysterics as they watched the bonfire consume the demon's remains.
Jim herded the group to the cars and they proceeded back to Giles house. Blair stayed with him the entire way, knowing how close his partner was to zoning on anything and everything on the drive back. He kept a constant commentary going until Jim walked in the door.
Blair was lying on the couch, his face drained of all color barely holding onto consciousness. Xander, standing guard, looked up as the group entered the room. "I did what you asked."
Jim patted him on the back. "I know, I felt every time he started to falter, and could tell when you lent him some of your strength. You did good, kid."
Xander stood taller as Jim knelt down next to his partner. Placing his hands on Blair's face, he focused his energy to his partner and was pleased to see the color return to the younger man's face and drift into a natural sleep.
The next morning, the group woke up in their own time. Jim stood in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee watching as they, one by one, drifted into the room. He could see the caring in their faces. Their eyes held the memories of all of the evil they had seen, but they still had the ability to care for each other. He knew they would stay in contact with the Slayer and her team when they returned to Cascade.
He felt a tug at his mind. //They did good, big guy. I'm glad they're good guys.//
//You and me both, Chief. Now get your tired butt up, the plane leaves in an hour and a half.//
Blair slowly opened his eyes and sat up. He was reluctant to leave the warm confines of his cocoon of blankets. "You know, we are going to have to find a non-magical way to explain what happened here and how we got so beat up on a routine prisoner pick-up."
Jim laughed. "Chief, Simon will believe anything if you say it's a Sentinel thing. You just have to come up with a obfuscation for the rest of the crew." He pulled the blankets off of his partner. "Now get up, Hop-a-long." After helping the younger man to his feet, Jim chuckled as Blair complained the entire way to the bathroom.
He turned and saw Giles standing behind him watching the younger man. Giles shook his head. "I hope the two of you will be able to return to Sunnydale for a more relaxing visit next time."
Jim looked at the former librarian and raised an eyebrow. "You mean this wasn't relaxing?"
Giles laughed. "We do have odd hours with relative calm. You must come and visit then."
"I take it that All Hallows Eve is not one of those times?" Blair asked as he entered the room.
Giles visibly shuddered. "Not particularly."
Jim loaded their bags into the rental car while Blair finished his good-byes. Buffy followed Jim out to the car. He turned to her a serious expression on his face. He handed her a card. "This has all of our contact numbers. If you ever need any help, just give us a call and we will be here as soon as we can." She looked at the card. "Giles already gave us all of your numbers in case we need your help in Cascade." He shrugged. "You never know."
Blair walked out of the house leaning on a cane he borrowed from Giles. "You ready, big guy? Jameson isn't getting any younger and the plane leaves in an hour."
As the two detectives from Cascade drove away Buffy turned to her watcher. "Do you think we'll ever see them again?"
"If the book of Taldos is correct, we will see them again before the year is out."
He turned to reenter the house with Buffy on his heels wanting all of the details. "Come on, Giles, what's the deal? Giles, Giles...."