Chapters One through Four
Hunters: The Beginning
Disclaimer: I don’t own BtVS, SPN, Harper’s Island, The Wire or Roswell, or any known characters that are referenced within or have cameos.
Warnings: Character Death, Language, Violence, Drug Use... more to follow.
Spoilers and Changes:
All of BtVS but not comics.
Roswell: AU. Ava is not an alien, but a street punk turned hunter. Both she and James are werewolves that can control the change.
BtVS/Angel: I also know that Katharine Isabelle did not portray Shannon on BtVS, but this takes place six years past chosen, so she’s gonna look different. Also I couldn’t remember the name of the original actress.
Also, while Dawn is not one of Azazeal’s ‘special children’ Cassie Newton is.
SPN: Jo centic for book one, some time before “All Hell Breaks Loose”, which for the purpose of this story will occur in 2009
Harper's Island: Events of Wedding pushed to Late 2009, arc starts at the end of 'Gurgle' and go AU from there.
AU for The Wire, so Bodie and those chars will be slightly OOC.
Chapter One: Desperadoes Under The Eaves
October 15th, 2009 – Early Morning
It came as no surprise to the survivors of the Cleveland council massacre that the tragedy would occur on a Tuesday. The police and federal investigators that were assigned to the case would eventually label it a gas leak and close it. The four lucky, or unlucky souls (depending on how you looked at it), that hadn’t been killed in the blast knew better though, they had seen the one responsible for the murder of their friends and colleagues. The yellow glint of those eyes had been burned into the minds of the champions, and the demon that had done it was going to pay.
Eight hours earlier (9:30 P.M.) – Cleveland ~ Crestview Cemetary
Faith Lehane ducks underneath a punch from a fledgling vampire and quickly swept its feet out, sending it crashing to the ground. The reformed ‘dark’ slayer quickly pounces stake first, at the demon. The vampire manages to block the wooden stake momentarily and glares angrily up at Faith.
“You have no idea what’s coming, do you Slayer?” the vampire snarls. “You wouldn’t be bothering with me if you knew.”
Faith kept the pressure enough to hold the demon down but hesitated from killing it.
“What the hell are you talking about?” She asks casually, not expecting to get a real answer from the bloodsucker.
“He is salvation, though not for you. He will lead us into the new Dark Age, and we will devour you all. He will strip your flesh from your body and chew on your URK!” The vampire’s ramblings were cut short as Faith, apparently having heard enough, shoved the stake down through the chest and heart of the re-animated corpse. She rolls off and jumps to her feet before looking down and seeing that the vampire hasn’t dusted, but seems to be dying anyways if the blood coming out of it’s mouth was any indication. She smirks down at the vampire from a few feet off. Her smirk widens as he glares up at her hatefully, wincing in pain at the same time.
“You fucking bitch! Do you have any idea how much that friggin hurts?” he snarls, struggling to get to his feet. Faith moves to knock him back down but the demon kicks out, his left foot catching the dark slayer in the gut and launching her into a tree. She hits her head on the trunk and her vision swims with black spots. The vampire yanks the stake out of its chest and grips it tightly as he moves toward Faith.
Faith shakes her head in an attempt to clear it, stepping forward to meet him head on. She receives a vicious backhand that sends her back to the ground after the demon ducks under a sloppy high kick. She struggles to get back up, but this time the vampire pounces. He drives his fist into the side of her face, snapping it to the side and causing her to expel saliva and blood from the force behind the punch. He drops down on top of her stomach, driving the air from her lungs and quickly straddles her body. He grabs hold of her arms and forces them to her sides before pinning them down with the weight of his ankles. Faith tries to push him off but he roughly presses his hands to the sides of her head and slams her skull against the hard ground a couple of times, further disorienting her. She receives several more blows to the face before he wrapped his hand around her neck and squeezes. She pales as he waves her stake in front of her and with one last burst of strength she manages to throw him off. She rises as fast as she can, but the vampire’s hand quickly finds purchase on her throat again. He forces her backwards as her hands grip at his wrist in an attempt to break the hold. He pushes her toward the tree that he had kicked her into before and when her back is firmly pressed against it, he lifts her up. She lets out a gasp of pain in the midst of choking for air as the skin on the back of her neck is scraped up by the back of the tree and her eyes widen as he brings the stake up in front of her again and then lowers it. She feels the sharpened tip of the wood press against the tender flesh that lay in the valley between her breasts and feels a trickle of blood run down as it breaks through the skin. She bites back a scream as something metallic flashes through the air, separating the vampire’s head from it’s shoulders. The head tumbles to the ground and rolls a couple of feet away. Faith pulls the headless demon’s arm off her neck and pushes him backwards, toppling him over. As the body falls, both it and the head burst into flames. Faith watches the fire for a couple seconds before turning to face her rescuer, blinking in shock as she sees a very familiar face from her past.
“Foley?!” she exclaims in surprise at the man who was wiping the blood off his battleaxe. His eyes widened for a moment as he looked her over.
“I’ll be goddamned, wee little Faith Lehane?” the man says with a heavy Boston Irish accent. “That ye lass?”
Faith surges forward and slaps the fellow Bostonian in the face. “I thought you were dead!”
“Sorry lass, but I had to disappear.” The man apologizes, rubbing the side of his face where a bruise is already starting to appear. “The night that Master vamp got Diana, he sent a couple of werewolves after me and Aves. We were both bit, and decided not to risk your council coming after us. We’ve been in NYC since 2002.”
“So you’re a werewolf.” Faith states and the Irishman nods. “Where’s Ava?”
“Back at our apartment, she had a class or she would have come. Neither of us knew you’d be here though.” James replies, finishing up with the cleaning of his axe.
“Why are you here then?” Faith asks, somewhat suspicious of her old friend showing up out of the blue after so many years.
“Tracking a demon.” James tells her, and Faith motions for him to explain. “It’s been kidnapping twenty-three year olds, and killing all the witnesses. There have been disappearances that fit the motif all over the country. I’m not sure on all the details, but I visited a psychic and she told me that the demon was gonna hit Cleveland sometime in the next week. He’s looking for someone, or something, here.”
“Any chance you have a name?”
“Azazeal.” James says grimly.
“I’ll ask Dawn and Andrew to look into it when we get back to headquarters.” Faith comments, as she turns around and starts to walk in the direction of the spot where she had parked her motorcycle. James watches the sway of her hips as she walks away, then shakes his head and follows.
Five Hours Earlier (11:42 P.M.)
Dawn Summers walked into the conference room where Faith and James were waiting with the one eyed Head Watcher of Cleveland Xander Harris, his slayer wife of three years Vi, and Deputy Head Watcher Andrew Wells. All five were sitting around the long mahogany table, and Dawn quickly took a seat as well. She places her briefcase onto the tabletop and opens it.
“I couldn’t find much about this demon Azazeal, but I did find a reference to an Azazeal in an original text of Paradise Lost, before the Christians edited it. He was one of Lucifer’s lieutenants and a real sick bastard.” Dawn informs the assembled members of the council. “Azazeal was one of Lucifer’s favorites, both him and Adam’s first wife Lilith, but in the end Lilith turned on Lucifer just as she had turned on Adam. She wanted to rule over Heaven, Hell and Earth and secretly helped Michael trap Lucifer in a cage in hell before being cast into the pits by Azazeal. If the stories are anything to go by, I’d say that Azazeal is trying to free Lucifer, and the twenty-three year olds that went missing are some kind of sacrifice.”
“So how do we kill this Azazeal before he takes someone else?” Xander inquires, sounding eager to take the demon out. “We can’t let Lucifer get free, somehow I doubt any of us would survive hell on earth.”
“I couldn’t find anything that could hurt him.” Dawn says with a sigh. “I did find a mention of a gun made by Samuel Colt that could kill almost anything, but the gun disappeared around the same time as Colt’s death in 1866.”
“Did Colt die a natural death?” Vi asks from her spot next to Xander. Dawn looks over the papers in front of her for a moment before pulling out a sheet of paper from the stack and putting it on top.
“Uhm, no. Colt was murdered in a field outside his home. By the injuries mentioned, I’m gonna say it was one or more vampires.” Dawn answers, reading off the paper.
“I’ve heard of him.” James says. “He’s considered one of the greatest hunters in history by the overall majority of the community. He is reputed to have killed hundreds of demons in his thirty years in the game. Always thought the gun was just an urban legend though.”
“Either way I’m gonna hazard a guess and say the gun is out, at least for the time being. What about the Scythe?” Faith suggests, looking around the assembled group.
“It’s feasible that it could work, if we can get close enough.” Dawn says. “Unfortunately the Scythe is currently with Giles, Molly and Cassie in the Cotswold’s. They had a warlock attempting ascension and needed the extra firepower. “They’re sending it back with Shannon and Wood in a couple of days.”
“Hopefully Azazeal doesn’t attack before then.” Andrew chirps, instantly receiving death glares from the other five.
“You do realize that you just jinxed us right? Damn it Andy.” Vi remarks in exasperation and throws her pen at him. Xander shakes his head at his wife’s antics and stands.
“There seems to be nothing else we can feasible do at the moment, so I suggest everyone head to bed and I’ll call Giles in the morning.” Xander suggests and the group does just that. Faith grabs James by the hand and pulls him away.
“Come on J, you can crash on my couch tonight.” She half offers, half tells him, as the two walk out into the main hall, and up the grand staircase towards Faith’s quarters.
One Hour Earlier (4:13 A.M.) Tuesday
Caridad Rodriguez was the first one to die. The twenty something slayer was on her way back into the council after a long night of slaying and was distracted lighting a cigarette when he materialized a few yards behind her. His yellow eyes bared down on her as she was struggling to keep a match lit in the wind, completely oblivious to the danger approaching.
She opened her mouth to scream upon feeling a sudden burning pain in her upper back and chest and had looked down to see a long blade protruding from her chest, the wound dribbling blood down her favorite shirt. Azazeal clamped a steely hand over her mouth before she could make a sound and positioned his hand to cover her mouth and grasp her chin at the same time. His other hand shot to the back of her head and with a quick twist he broke the young Hispanic woman’s neck. She crumbled to the ground lifelessly and he presses his boot against her back near where he impaled her with the sword and yanks it out of her body.
Azazeal steps back from the body of the slayer and raises his hand. He mutters an incantation under his breath and a fireball shoots out of his palm. It flies forward and hits Caridad’s corpse, engulfing her fully. Azazeal watches dispassionately as the magical fire quickly reduces the body to ashes, then turns and walks towards the Council’s HQ.
Forty Five Minutes Earlier (4:26 am)
Andrew had not been able to sleep all night, his overactive mind coming up with all sorts of doomsday scenarios and looming apocalypses. He rubs at his eyes tiredly as he makes his way down the hallway to the kitchens. He’s about twenty feet from the door to his final destination when he smells it. The overwhelming scents of sulfur and blood, the air was thick with it. He rushes to the kitchens and swings the door open, vomiting on the spot at the sight of a bloodsoaked Colleen pinned to the wall by various sharp kitchen implements. Her head is hanging to the side unnaturally, her eyes unseeing and already beginning to gloss over.
Taking a shaky breath Andrew slowly makes his way over to the body. He reaches up to feel for a pulse, hoping for the best, but knowing it’s already too late.
“She’s been gone for six minutes and forty-three seconds.” A chilling voice announced from behind him and Andrew whipped around to see a man with glowing yellow eyes standing there with a smirk on his face.
“You’re Azazeal.” Andrew states trying to remain calm. He catches sight of a large carving knife on the counter about seven feet away. Azazeal does as well, and looks at Andrew.
“Yes I am, and do you really think that you could actually hurt me with that knife?” the demon asked, with thinly disguised ridicule.
Andrew gulped, and backed away a couple of feet, then throws himself in the direction of the knife. He grabs it and brandishes it at Azazeal. “Stay away!”
“Alright, I’ll tell you what kid. I’ll let you take a free shot, go ahead and stab away.” Azazeal says arrogantly. He holds his arms out and stands still for the former ‘super villain’. Andrew glances at Colleen’s body, then lets out a anguished scream and charges Az, chanting a spell and imbuing the carving knife with pure white magick. He plants the knife into the demon’s chest and backs away as Azazeal stumbles back. “Goddamn kid, there’s only three things in the world that can kill me and that knife..”
Andrew watches in relief as Azazeal collapses to the ground in a heap. There are a few seconds of silence and then Andrew shuffles forward a few feet. He reaches out and nudges the demon’s body with his foot, and it shakes limply. Andrew lets out a small whoop of excitement, thinking he’d won, and then turns to head out and tell the others of his grand victory over the forces of evil. He doesn’t make it more then a couple of feet before he feels a hand grab hold of his hair and yank his head backwards.
“Idiot boy, that knife and it’s feeble enchantments are NOT one of them.” Azazeal hisses. “I don’t know how you’ve made it this long in the game, but this, my dear boy, is where you get off.”
Azazeal drags the carving knife across Andrew’s throat, slitting it wide open, and then effortlessly heaves the dying watcher into a glass cabinet with antique china in it. The demon chuckles to himself with perverted glee as he looks from Colleen, the slayer he had used as a human pincushion to Andrew’s mutilated body, all slashed up by the broken glass. He starts humming a tune to himself as he strolls out of the kitchen and further into the house. He had other people to kill and a key to collect.
Thirty Minutes Earlier
Faith and James snapped out of their sleep at the sound of someone pounding on the front door of Faith’s apartment. Faith jumps out of bed, and runs into the living room as James stands up from the couch, his axe already in his hand. Faith grabs her daggers off the wooden coffee table where she had left them a few hours earlier. She hurried down the small hallway to the door, feeling James following close behind and ready for a fight if needed.
Faith unlocks the door and throws it open, her daggers raised to strike. She finds no one there and cautiously makes her way out into the hall. She turns to look down the corridor and lets out a scream at the sight of Rona, or the pieces of what used to be Rona, strewn all over the hallway and even down the stairway, splattered with blood.
“Holy Fuck!” Faith screams in rage as James emerges from the apartment and sees Rona as well. His face pales considerably, and he looks violently ill.
“Do you like it?” a voice asks and the two supernatural warriors turn to see Azazeal standing behind them. Rona’s severed wrist is in his hand and he waves it at them morosely. “Rona says hi.”
“You bastard!” Faith screams, surging forward to attack, but Azazeal lifts his hand and Faith lifts off the ground, her feet kicking uselessly. James raises his axe and charges as well, but with a flick of the wrist Azazeal launches Faith at him telekinetically. The dark slayer crashes into the werewolf with considerable force and velocity, and the two are sent flying over the railing of the staircase, falling down two stories to the ground. Azazeal casually strolls over to the railing and leans over. Faith and James lay sprawled on the marble floor some twenty-five feet below, unmoving with the slayer half laid across the werewolf.
“Perfect.” He says to no one in particular, but still with a smug tone. He walks away from the railing and walks over to the apartment three doors down from Faith’s. When he reaches it he presses a hand to it and releases the spell he had placed on the door to keep it from being opened. He cracks the door a tiny bit, and it swings open and Dawn crashes into him in a mad dash for freedom. Azazeal grabs her and pulls her in close. “Not happening little green one. You’re coming with me.”
“What? No!” Dawn sputters, but Azazeal’s eyes flash yellow fire and both the demon and the key disappear in a burst of sulfur.
Only minutes later the council’s headquarters explodes in a fiery blast, killing all the people inside that weren’t already dead.
Fifteen minutes earlier
Xander and Vi had gone out early for a donut run, knowing that the day ahead would be research heavy. The backseat of Xander’s 2006 Honda Accord was piled with box upon box, each containing their own dozen of the sugary treat. If Vi hadn’t insisted on stopping to get coffee from Starbucks, chances are they both would have died in the attack on the council.
As it was, they were just returning to the council headquarters when the building went up in a deafening explosion. Xander lost control of the car as he veered off to the side to avoid being hit by a flaming piece of debris and crashed into a tree. The jarring impact of the vehicle and the tree did not do much to impair the quick exit of the married warriors from the ruined car. They both sprinted towards the burning shell of the former estate house, praying for survivors.
Their prayers were answered when they found the unconscious forms of James and Faith laying on the grass around the back of the house about twenty yards from the edge of the explosion. By the trail of blood on the grass, it appeared that James had been carrying Faith when the explosion went off and sent both flying. Vi made her way to James and hoisted him over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry, while Xander gently lifted a clearly more injured Faith and positioned her into a cradle hold.
“We need to get these two to the hospital as soon as possible. Faith has some pretty bad burns.” Xander says and Vi nods, but turns to look at the burning building.
“The others-” she starts.
“They’re all dead.” James mutters from his position hung over Vi’s shoulder, staring at her ass. “Not that I don’t appreciate the view but I think I can walk.”
Vi lets out a gasp and colors briefly, forgetting about the current situation momentarily. She quickly sets James on his feet, where he wobbles for a couple seconds before regaining his bearings.
“Azazeal was here.” James tells them. “He killed that African-American slayer, and probably others, and took that girl from the meeting who had the information on him and Sam Colt.”
“Dawn..” Xander realizes. “Buffy’s gonna kill us all if we don’t get her back.”
“She might kill us anyways.” Faith reminds him, returning to consciousness. “Please tell me you got the name of that truck Foley.” She gibes then winces as her pain receptors kick in, and she lets out a whimper from her place cradled in Xander’s arms. He lowers her down so she’s standing on her own feet but both he and James help to keep her steady. The four can hear the collective sirens of approaching fire trucks, ambulances and police cars that had been sent to investigate and put out the inferno. The four slowly made their way back to the front of the building in time to see a whole convoy of emergency personnel and cops coming up the road.
Xander pulled up into the parking garage of the hospital that the medics had insisted that James and Faith be brought to for examination. James had tossed him the keys to his ’73 Chevelle as he had been ushered to one of the waiting ambulances. Faith had been placed on a collapsible transport bed and loaded in moments later and the ambulance had sped off, it’s sirens wailing loudly. Xander and Vi had been held back by the police, giving the names of the people they knew to have been inside the building when it went up in flames and if they had seen anyone other than James and Faith make it out. It had been harder for Vi to hold back her tears at each of her sister slayers names that Xander was listing off, as well as the dozen or so watchers on staff. Rona, Caridad, Colleen, Chao-Ahn, Andrew, and Jessi were the hardest, having been present in Sunnydale, and Xander’s remaining eye was tearing up by the end of his report to the cops. When the cops were finished questioning them, they asked one of the remaining medics where the ambulances had gone, and then taken James’ car and left for the hospital.
The doors slid open as the redhead slayer and former carpenter made their way into the main lobby, Vi taking the lead. They made their way over to the reception desk and Vi got the attention of the on-duty nurse in the office behind the counter. The nurse, who was a slightly overweight middle aged woman, came up to the counter with a polite smile on her face. Judging by the woman’s slightly puffy and red eyes, Vi guessed the poor woman had had at least a double shift dumped on her and just wanted to go home. She shrugged off her commiseration for the woman, she had bigger things, hell the world had bigger things to worry about then ‘Peggy’s’ lack of sleep for at least the last 30 hours.
“What can I do for you?” Nurse Peggy asks, her exhaustion clearly evident in her voice.
“We’re looking for two patients that came in about forty minutes ago. Faith MacKenzie and James Foley.” Vi replies, giving the fake name that Faith had on her ID. The council still had not completely sorted out an official pardon for Faith with the government, but they were close. Or they had been before Azazeal blew up the Cleveland branch.
“Room 314, they were put in together.” Peggy tells them after typing on the computer for a few moments.
“Thank you ma’am, we appreciate it.” Vi says, and Xander nods his agreement. Peggy beams at their gratitude, thankful for the politeness from the young couple. She saw more than enough drug addicts and abusive people that gave her problems every day and the even semi-civilized people that came in were few and far between.
‘The world needs more young people like those two’ she thought to herself as she returned to the office for a nap as Vi and Xander made their way over to the elevators.
By the time they got to room 314, James and Faith were both waiting impatiently inside for them. Faith was pacing the room looking agitated, while James sat on the edge of one of the beds just watching her. Both turn to face the married couple as they open the door and enter.
“Took yah long enough.” Faith huffs. “I really hate hospitals.”
“Couldn’t be helped, you know how the cops are.” Xander tells her. “I called Giles three times, they all went to voicemail.”
“You don’t think that Azazeal went after them too do you?” Faith asks.
“I don’t know. We know very little about Azazeal and his plans.” Xander admits helplessly.
“What about Buffy?” Vi pipes up. “She’s gonna want to know that Dawn was kidnapped again.”
“She didn’t pick up either but-“ Xander cuts off his reply as his cell rings. He quickly pulls it out and flips it open. “Hello? Shannon, slow down, I can barely hear you. What?! No, no get out of there. Get to New York City, and go to ground, code lilac. Okay, good luck, and don’t attract attention to yourself.”
Xander flips the cell phone closed and re-pockets it, then turns back to face the other three, with tears once again forming in his remaining eye.
“Giles is dead. So are Wood and Molly. Shannon managed to escape but she says demons took Cassie.” Xander informs them and both Faith and Vi tear up as well. James looks torn, he had not personally known any of the deceased but he guessed that Giles and Wood were Rupert Giles and Robin Wood, both well known and respected within the hunting circles.
“It gets worse.” Xander continues. “Before Cassie got taken she told Shannon she saw the fall of the Cleveland, Tokyo and Rome branches of the council. I think we may be all that’s left of the council.”
“So then what are we going to do now?” Vi questions. “
“We disappear, if Azazeal finds out we’re still alive he’ll come after us again. Obviously the council was big enough a threat to him that he felt we needed to be wiped out. Our friends and family is mostly dead, and I’ll be damned if I spent almost three years in prison only to walk away now.” Faith answers. “If you guys want to go to ground, be my guests, but me and James are going to New York.”
James nods at Faith’s word, lending her his support. Xander and Vi glance at eachother for a brief moment then turn back to Faith.
“We’re with you Faith.” Xander says solemnly.
“That bitch Azazeal is gonna die.” Vi promises. “Let’s go to NYC.”
It had been almost three full days before Faith and James were finally allowed to be discharged from the hospital, and Xander and Vi took that time to get all the people who had been killed in the massacre cremated. The practice had been put into play by Buffy and Giles when the new council had been set up, to avoid unwanted resurrections as Buffy had been ripped from heaven and didn’t want anyone else to have to experience the loss of Paradise.
The dark slayer and werewolf exit through the front sliding doors of the hospital to find Xander and Vi already waiting for them in front of James’ Chevelle. Faith and James quickly make their way over to their remaining friends.
“Everything taken care of?” Faith questions, receiving a nod from Vi.
“We issued the cremation orders for all of our fallen friends.” The redhead slayer answers. “There’s nothing tying any of us to Cleveland anymore.”
“We also raided that weapon cache that Riley and Graham put into storage for us last year.” Xander tells them. “We loaded up the trunk.”
“Good, let’s get on the road then, we got work to do.” Faith says opening up the passenger door and pulling the seat forward so Xander and Vi can get into the back seat. They quickly get in as James moves around to the driver’s side as Faith gets in. He opens the door and slides easily into the leather seat, he starts the car up and starts driving out of the parking lot.
end chapter one.
Chapter 2: Fly By Night
(Introducing Ava and Shannon)
Two Days Later
James pulled up to the apartment building where he and Ava Rivers had been living for the last several years, although the home was little more than an occasional rest stop for the two lycanthropy-infected hunters as they made trips all over the country. He parks the car against the side of the curb, and the sudden jolt from the halted movement of the car wakes his three passengers. Faith and Vi blink a couple times before becoming fully alert, but Xander takes a few moments to push away the fatigue brought on by the events that had occurred almost a week ago.
“We’re here.” James announces as he shuts the car off and opens the door to get out.
Faith does the same on the passenger side and pulls the seat up to allow Xander and Vi to disembark from the car as well. The four of them cross the street and enter the expensive looking apartment building, heading straight for the elevators. Luck was on their side for the time being as one of the elevator cars was already on the first floor and they were able to catch it before the doors slid shut. James presses the button for the eighteenth floor and the car begins its ascent. He notices the others looks of surprise at the accommodations he had.
“For a mick from southie, you’ve done good J.” Faith drawls, looking at her old friend with a new respect.
“Me and Aves have been using the place as a rest stop in between hunting trips.” James explains. “We have a few safe houses throughout the country. Got a deal on this one after helping to exorcise the angry spirit of a mobster who was murdered here sometime during Prohibition, back when this place was a hotel.”
“How many places do you own?” Vi questions, still in awe of the elegant décor that had adorned the lobby of the building. “This place looks like a colossal version of the Hyperion, it can’t be cheap.”
James lets out a chuckle. “For most people it isn’t cheap, but Eddie Testagrossa, the guy that owns the building lets us hold onto the lease for two hundred a month, three if we actually spend any amount of time on the premises. I think he has it marked in the ledger as the live-in security team’s apartment for a tax write-off.” The werewolf informs them. “And we have six other safe houses.”
“Jesus, reduced rent or not, how can you afford all that?” Xander exclaims in shock. “Any chance you have any property in Vegas or Atlantic City?”
James shakes his head. “Not yet. We have apartments in Dallas, Seattle and Chicago; condos in Miami and Los Angeles and Ava’s grandfather left her a house in South Boston.”
The eyes of the other three are wide as James lists off the property owned by him and his hunting partner, Xander’s mouth even hangs slightly open as all four hear the electronic chime of the button control panel’s speaker that alerts them that they have reached the eighteenth floor. The doors slide open and James leads the way down the east hallway, stopping at apartment 1823. He raps on the wooden door and a moment later the door swings inward and a tiny punked out girl with pink and purple hair aims a shotgun at the group.
“Easy Ava.” James says, reaching out slowly and pushing the shotgun so it’s aimed downward rather than at Xander and Vi.
“Christo.” The girl mutters half under her breath, then nods after a moment and turns around and walks back inside. James gives the three former council operatives an apologetic look, then follows after Ava with the others trailing behind. Vi shuts the door behind them, being the last to enter.
“Sorry about the gun, way things have been the last few days I’m not taking any chances.” Ava tells them as they enter the living room area, glancing over them as they spread out. Her gaze falls on Faith last and her eyes widen. “Faithy?”
“Hey Aves.” Faith greets and is immediately pounced on by the small woman, who wraps her in a hug. “Whoa.”
“Sorry, sorry.” Ava pulls away. “It’s good to see you.”
“Likewise.” Faith agrees, “Been too long.”
Ava nods and turns to James, giving him a pointed look. “We need to talk in private later, some things have happened while you were in Cleveland.”
“This is what’s left of the Watcher’s council, aside from three others. Two of which are missing and the other will be meeting up with us before we leave New York. They all know the score.” James tells her. “I trust them and you can too.”
Ava’s gaze hardens for a few moments, then she lets out a sigh.
“The council weren’t the only ones hit. Colin Avery is dead. So are Tristen Rutherford, Davis Kent, and more than likely Emily Stone and Tommy Flanagan.” Ava tells them, but only James seems to know who she’s talking about.
“Tucson.” James mutters, dropping onto the leather couch heavily.
“Yeah, Tucson. The job you dragged me to almost against my will, all cause of what that damnable psychic Missouri claimed she saw in a vision. Now some one is going all the hunters who were there, and half of us are already dead.” Ava snaps.
“What are you talking about?” Xander asks in confusion, both slayers nodding to the question, just as lost.
“About a year and a half ago me, Ava and ten other hunters teamed up to take out a nest of vampires that had overrun an old office building and were preying on the local vagrants and drug addicts. Word on the underground was that they had an artifact in their possession that was both priceless and highly dangerous. We were contacted for the job by a woman named Missouri who lives out in Kansas saying that the world was going to end if the vampires activated the artifact’s power source.” James explains. “Ava didn’t want to go, saying the info that we had didn’t fit right, but I convinced her to come in the end. I should have listened, we managed to stop the end of the world it was at a high cost. I fucked up and it almost cost Ava her life. We lost two good men that day, and never did find Frank’s body.”
“J.T. called me two days after you took off. Said he had been hunting a Tarkash demon outside of Allentown, and decided to drop by Colin’s for a beer or two and found what was left of him splattered all over the walls of his living room.” Ava says, pulling a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket and taking one from the box. She puts it between her lips and lights it with her zippo. “He tried contacting Tommy and Emily shortly after and both had disconnected numbers. He got through to Darius and sent him to his brother. Davis had been dead for three days by the time Darius got there and said the cops had found Tristen’s remains in the woods behind the house as well. Darius went to ground and J.T. said he was going to get Cora and head for the Dallas safehouse. That was four days ago and I’ve heard nothing from anyone else.”
Ava inhales a deep drag of smoke off the cigarette and holds it in, trying to push off the stress that the past several days had brought upon her.
“Is there any chance that the council massacre and these murdered hunters could be related?” Xander inquires.
“It’s possible, but doubtful.” James replies after a moment’s silence, then he turns to Ava. “Did J.T. mention finding sulfur at Colin’s home?”
“Not that he mentioned to me.” Ava answers, after thinking back over the whole conversation from earlier in the week.
“Is it going to be safe here?” Vi asks the two werewolves, who exchange a quick glance.
“I don’t really believe that in this day and age, that there’s a single place on Earth that’s really truly safe.” Ava responds. “But we have the apartment warded to alert us of forced entry or a magical assault. Not to mention enough guns to take down a tank.”
“Handy.” Faith comments. “Any chance I could get my hands on one of those guns?” she asks hopefully. “After Assface, I don’t think I’m gonna feel secure with just a stake and a couple of knives in a fight anymore.”
“Yeah we have more than enough to spare.” Ava tells her. “Sides, if the next few days are as bad as I think they’re going to be, we’re going to need as many shooters as we can get. And at least Tucson taught James to trust my gut instincts when it comes to cases. Right?”
“Aye.” James says simply and rests his head back on the couch.
Xander and Vi walked up to the bench that was in a heavily secluded section of Central Park. The young woman sitting on it turns to face them as they approach and then lets out a whoop of relief as she gets up, moving around the bench to meet them.
“Shannon, thank god you made it.” Vi greets, wrapping her sister slayer in a firm embrace. She pulls back after a moment to look her in the eyes. “It’s just you, me and Faith left now. The others are gone, and we have to stick together now more than ever. Faith and I are going after the demon that did this and we want you with us, will you come?”
“I’d already made my mind up on the subject when those bastards shot Giles and Molly, then stole the Scythe.” Shannon says vehemently. “I’m absolutely in, that mother fucking piss eyed demon is gonna die.”
“That’s the spirit.” Xander chimes in, following after two of the last three surviving slayers that were known to the council as they made their way back to James’ borrowed car.
Xander had made sure to mention the fact that their hosts James and Ava were both werewolves, but on their side and were under no uncertain terms to be slayed. Shannon had simply shrugged and rattled off a sarcastic remark that was eerily reminiscent of Faith’s words upon being introduced to Oz over ten years earlier. With Vi at the wheel, Xander drifted off into the memories, and gave a startled jerk at the realization of how quickly the years had slipped by.
More than a dozen years now, he had been a soldier on the frontlines of the eternal war against the darkness. He’d sacrificed for the cause, everyone that had been in the new council had proven their worth in battle, and for what? In less than a week Azazeal had accomplished what the First Evil could not, and all but wiped out the slayer line. If there were any other slayers that had somehow survived the massacre, they couldn’t even track them. Not without Willow, who was most likely dead. It truly was down to Vi, Faith and Shannon, and Xander silently begged whatever higher power existed to protect their souls.
And somewhere in the cosmos where heaven was reputed to reside, a celestial warrior called Ezekial answered his pleas.
Ava walked out of her bedroom and into the living room area, carrying a shotgun with her. She walks over to where Faith is sitting alone on the couch, flipping through a motorcycling magazine, looking completely disinterested in it.
“Have you ever handled a shotgun?” Ava asks as she hands it over to the dark slayer, who nods her head.
“I used to go hunting with my uncle when we were kids in Boston.” Faith replies, as she grips the gun and pulls it toward herself. Suddenly she swoons as some invisible force collides into her and whatever it was set off the alarm wards that Ava had spoken of the previous night.
Faith quickly regained her composure and dropped into a defensive position, ready for combat but the alarm stops and she can sense that whatever it was is now gone. James comes running into the room, a pistol in his outstretched hand, cocked and ready.
“What happened?” he asks loudly, receiving twin shrugs from both Faith and Ava.
“I’m not sure, there was something here, but it’s gone now. I don’t think it was evil though.” Faith tells him. “It felt warm, soothing even.”
“Christo.” Ava and James say simultaneously, causing Faith to roll her eyes in exasperation.
“I’m not possessed you jackasses.” Faith pouts with faux indignation. “I don’t think slayers can be possessed by a demon. Other wise wouldn’t it have made sense for Azazeal to have slayers as the vessels for his lackeys, he’d be unstoppable.”
“Maybe he just wanted the council out of the way for his unleashing of Lucifer.” Ava suggest, but Faith immediately shakes her head.
“No, that was just an added bonus. He was after Dawn Summers, and Cassie Newton as well I suppose, though I don’t know the reason.” Faith rebuts.
“He went after Cassie because of her gifts. He called her one of his children before he took her.” Shannon informs them as she enters with Xander and Vi. “Did you by any chance feel something assault you a few minutes ago by any chance?” Shannon asks, the question directed at Faith, who nods mutely.
“Show her Vi.” Shannon says, and Vi moves forward. She takes the shotgun from Faith and at a fast pace breaks it down and re-assembles it in under thirty seconds.
“I’ve never handled a gun like that before.” Vi says as she sets the shotgun back down on the surface of the coffee table.
“Wow.” Ava breathes out, speaking for the others in the room. “It takes me at least three minutes to do that, and I’ve been handling firearms over half my life. Glad you’re on our side.”
“I think I know what it was.” Shannon tells the gang. “Remember the Moscow apocalypse in 2005, Willow and Althenea crammed all the information that we had into our heads. I think someone or something did the same thing only giving us, well us slayers anyway, extensive firearms and hunting knowledge.”
“Maybe the powers decided to throw us a bone for a change.” Faith says darkly, not sure she’s comfortable with an unknown entity playing round in her brain, friendly or not.
“Did they give you any information on Azazeal?” James inquires hopefully, but all three slayers shake their heads after a moment.
“They would never make it that easy.” Xander speaks, “The powers, if they are the ones that did this, did it more than likely for their own amusement.”
“Why does the council fight on the side of the Powers if they’re all a bunch of pricks?” Ava questions. “Sounds like a shitty partnership.” ‘The age of the Powers That Be is drawing to a close, my young friends.”
a voice drifts out of the shadows, and Ava, James and Faith point guns in the direction it came from as the other three turn around as a tall man with short black hair steps out of the shadows. “I assure you there is no cause for alarm, I do not seek to harm you.”
“Who in the hell are you, and how the fuck did you get in here without the wards being set off!?” Ava demands, not lowering her glock from where she had it aimed at the unknown man’s forehead.
“My name is Ezekial, I have been charged with guiding the six of you as you fulfill the trials ahead of you.” The intruder informs them.
“What trials?” Faith asks, not liking the idea of jumping through hoops for anyone.
“The end of days is bearing down on all of us, humans, demons, and angels. In a few short years the balance between light and dark is going to shift irreparably, and one side will be completely wiped out by the other.” Ezekial explains. “Azazeal’s strike against the council was planned for decades, he was just biding his time until the signs began to present themselves. The September Eleventh terrorist attack. Katrina. Waco. George Carlin’s death.”
“Okay hold on a fuckin’ sec!” Ava bursts out, “What does George Carlin have to do with the shit we’re in?”
“George was a herald, we had a dozen safeguarding the world for several millennia, but they all fell over time.” Ezekial says. “Joan of Arc. Malcolm X. Ghandi. Jimi Hendrix. Leonardo Da Vinci. Arthur Pendragon. Hunter S. Thompson. Warren Zevon. Cassandra of Troy. Winston Churchill. Cleopatra.”
“You knew those people?” Xander asks incredulously. “Some of them have been dead for hundreds, hell even thousands of years.”
“Time has little meaning for my kind, and yes I did know all of them.” Ezekial replies bluntly.
“Wait, you’re not Ezekial as in Pulp Fiction with Samuel L. Jackson my name is the lord blam blam, are you?” Ava asks with wide eyes.
“I am the angel Ezekial.” Ezekial confirms.
Ava finally lowers her gun as she collapses into the armchair behind her, looking dumbstruck.
“Why did you come here then?” Shannon inquires softly from where she is standing. She is visible shaken, having been brought up Catholic and then her exposure to demons and becoming a slayer, and now she was in the presence of one of God’s angels. It was almost too much.
“To warn you. This place is no longer safe.” Ezekial answers, his tone turning grave. “Azazeal knows that there were survivors of the council massacre and he has tracked you here. You need to get as much as you can and leave this within the hour.”
“If he tracked us down so quickly, I’d say magic helped.” Xander guesses and Ezekial gives a curt nod.
“So what’s gonna keep him from tracking us again with magic, regardless of where we go?” James puts in, and Ezekial reaches into his jacket, pulling out what appeared to be unchained medallions.
“These will prevent anyone trying to track you with magic, but there is a small amount of pain involved in the application.” The angel responds. “It merges with your body, in the end it will appear to be a well detailed tattoo.”
“I’ll do it, if it will help us. I’s been wanting to get a new tat for some time now.” Ava says after a moment. She steps forward and holds her right arm out, indicating a specific spot on the flesh on the bottom of her wrist. Ezekiel takes one of the medallions and presses firmly against the soft flesh of Ava’s wrist. A moment later it glows gold for a few seconds and then literally melts into Ava’s skin and she lets out a shriek of pain. Five seconds later she ceases and pulls her arm from Ezekiel’s grasp, examining her new ‘ink’ closely.
“Not too shabby, although it doesn’t really go with the rest of them.” Ava comments as she backs away from Ezekiel, rubbing at her wrist.
“You alright Aves?” James asks, his shotgun aimed at the alleged angel, and receives a quick nod from his hunting partner and closest friend.
“I’m fine, the skin is just tingling now.” The pink and purple haired girl replies, extending her arm out so the others can see the black imprint of the medallion on her flesh. “Hurt like a bitch for a couple of seconds, but then the pain was just gone as if it hadn’t been there in the first place.”
“White healing magicks.” Ezekiel intones, and then James lowers his shotgun, placing it down against the side of the couch. The male lycanthrope strides up to the angel and holds out his arm.
“Do it.” James says, and then lets out a hiss of pain through gritted teeth as Ezekiel does the same thing to him that he had done to Ava and a few moments later he has his own medallion tattoo.
Faith goes next, followed by Vi, and a reluctant Xander and Shannon. When all six had been ‘branded with the magical shield tattoo’ as Xander called it, Ezekiel spoke again.
“Now that I have gifted you with this measure of protection against Lucifer’s lieutenant, we must part ways for the time being, and you need to leave this place. Go south, there’s going to be an outbreak of zombies in the human city Baltimore, and you all will be needed. Good luck.” Ezekiel tells them as he backs into the shadows and fades into them. The group stands around in silence for a couple of minutes before James turns and starts walking out of the room.
“James?” Ava’s questioning tone halts him, and he turns around once more, this time to face the others.
“If Azazeal is on his way here, with as little we know about him and after what he did to us in Cleveland, then we’re gonna haul ass out of here and put as much distance between here and us before he comes knocking.” James informs the group. “Grab anything you feel you can’t live without, cause we’re out of here in fifteen minutes. And we’re taking the RV.”
With those words, he turns and continues his original journey to his bedroom to pack a few things. Ava mirrored his movements a moment later and left the four houseguests to gather up what few possessions they still had on them.
End Chapter Two
Chapter Three: Castles Made Of Sand
(Introducing Bodie, and the Baltimore crew from the Wire)
One Week Earlier
Baltimore, Maryland – The “Lowrises”
Preston ‘Bodie’ Broadus sat on the back of the sofa that had been dragged into the center of the courtyard, scanning around the area to ensure that none of the users were causing problems for any of his boys. Once he was satisfied that everything was square, he looked down at his best friend Malik Carr aka Poot, sitting on one of the cushions and smoking a cigarette.
“Yo Poot, you seen Wallace today?” Bodie asks, but Poot just shakes his head. “Goddamn unreliable kid.”
Suddenly someone off in the distance screams, and after a quick glance, both Bodie and Poot leap into action, literally jumping off, or in Poot’s case over, the couch. The two men rush in the direction of the scream, turning the corner around the side of one of the buildings to find a truly gruesome sight in front of them. Wallace was hunched over a still body, blood dribbling down his lips as he tore into what appeared to be a human lung.
“Holy fuck Wallace! What the hell you doin’?” Bodie yells, causing the reanimated corpse of the two men’s former subordinate to look over at them. The zombie lets out a guttural snarl and begins to run at them.
Instantly Bodie and Poot draw their hidden guns and take aim, opening fire when they feel he got too close. Six shots slam into Wallace, one of them finding his skull and he goes down.
“What the hell’s going on man?” Poot asks, not really expecting an answer. Bodie just shakes his head and then jumps as the body that Wallace had been chewing on re-animates and begins to rise. The two men share another look and then as one open fire on the new threat before it even fully stands.
Bodie spots several more stumbling into the courtyard and grabs the back of Poot’s jacket, pulling him back.
“There’s more of the fuckers over there, come on man lets get out of here. Let the pigs deal with this whack shit.” Bodie says and then the two of them take off for Bodie’s car.
Ava sat behind the wheel of the thirty two foot recreational vehicle that she and James had spent two years modifying into the perfect hunting rig. Faith sat in the passenger seat, looking over a map, while the other four are seated around the dining table fastened to the wall. There is an impressive pile of handguns on the table and all four were working on cleaning them out. They had entered the Baltimore suburbs a few minutes earlier and had found the streets to be oddly empty.
“Where in the hell is everyone? I mean it’s a friggin Saturday for christsakes, so where’s all the kids?” Ava mutters upon turning onto yet another deserted street.
“Maybe there’s a city holiday.” Faith suggests doubtfully. Ava shrugs her shoulders and then lets out a loud curse, jerking the wheel and swerving to avoid hitting a guy that just ran out into the road.
The RV skids to a stop and James flings open the door, his shotgun at the ready. He jumps out onto the street and sees the black man who they’d almost run over facing away from them, aiming two automatic pistols at the figures that were walking towards them. The werewolf catches the scent of death and decay on the breeze and curses under his breath.
“Fucking zombies.” He mutters and raises his shotgun as he strides forward. The first blast explodes the head of the closest corpse, and the black man whirls to face him, guns both raised. “Save your ammo for them.” James tells him as he reloads the chamber.
The man nods after a moment and then begins firing at the other zombies as Ava, Faith, Xander, Shannon and Vi get out of the RV as well, all carrying their own firearms. They collectively open fire on the zombies, their bullets ripping through the decomposing bodies. After a couple minutes they used to make sure the street was completely clear, the firing ceases.
“Thanks for not runnin my ass over.” The black man tells them. “Names Slim Charles. Welcome to Baltimore.”
James had taken the drivers seat when the group, now including Slim Charles, piled back into the RV. Slim sat in the passenger seat, rattling off directions to where the high rise that the Barksdale Organization had taken over when the zombies started attacking. Fifteen minutes and several dozen zombies turned into roadkill, the RV pulled up to a garage door, and Slim’s cell phone rang.
“Yeah boss, it’s me. Brought some help with me.” Slim says into the receiver after flipping it open. A moment later the garage door begins opening and James drives in, watching in the rearview mirror as the door shuts behind them. He drives over several empty spots and parks the vehicle.
Ava opens the door and steps out into the garage, followed by Faith and Shannon. Vi and Xander grab up their shotguns and follow James and Slim Charles out after a moment. Slim leads the way over to the elevator to the upper levels and gets on, holding the doors until the whole group has squeezed inside, then presses the button for the third floor.
“One of the cops we got in here rigged the car so it can’t go to the first two floors and we got the stairwells blocked off too.” Slim informs them. “Couldn’t have the zombies getting lucky and getting upstairs.”
The ride up was short and within a few moments the elevator dinged and the doors slid open once more.
“Shit.” Ava states as Slim Charles slips by, out of the line of fire of the eight men that are aiming guns into the elevator.
“Throw any weapons you have out onto the floor, slowly.” One of the man orders, and reluctantly the six hunters remove their weapons from their hiding places and throw them out as demanded. After a few moments all six are completely unarmed, and the man motions his gun at them. “Now come out two at a time with your hands where I can see them and do it slowly.”
Ava and Shannon step out first and are grabbed by two of the men with guns and quickly handcuffed. James and Faith are next, then Xander and Vi.
“You’re making a mistake, we came to help.” Xander says as the group is led away from the elevators, but they pay him no heed.
“Make sure none of them are bit. If they are, take em to the roof and shoot em.” The leader, Stringer Bell says, watching the captives until they’re led around the corner and out of sight. Stringer then turns to face Slim Charles. “You took a big risk bringing them here.”
“Sorry String.” Slim Charles apologizes, glancing over at the other.
“Take Bey and Bodie and see if you can salvage anything from that rig. Guns, food, anything useful.” Stringer orders, and Slim gives a quick nod before heading off to do just that.
The six captive hunters are led into and through the security room, and then into a back room with a couple of cells. Mindful of the guns aimed at them Shannon, James and Ava don’t fight as they are guided into the first cell with said guns poking into their backs. Faith, Xander and Vi are forced into the second cell and then all but two of the welcoming committee vacate the room, the remaining two acting as sentries against any funny business from the prisoners.
“Well this completely blows.” Ava sighs as she plops down on the steel cot fastened to the wall. There is a moment of silence before her eyes widen. “Oh, shit. James please tell me it’s not Wednesday already.”
James’ own eyes widen as she asks the question, and he gives her a nod.
“What?” Shannon inquires, looking confused.
“Full moon.” Is James’ clipped reply as he strides over to the front of the cell. “Hey man,” he calls out to the man on the other side of the room, whose response is to point his gun at him.
“What do you want?” the man replies gruffily.
“I need you to take her and put her in the other cell.” James tells him, indicating Shannon who looks confused at the exchange. The guard just stares at him in disbelief.
“Why the hell would I want to do that?” the guard asks bemusedly.
“You’ve obviously seen the zombies by now right?” Ava asks, coming up to the bars as well to face the guard, her hands now in front of her but still cuffed. The guard gives a nod. “Have you stopped to think about what else is out there?”
“What are you talking about?” the guard replies, somewhat anxiously as that particular thought had crossed his mind several times over the past three days.
“Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, Demons, etc, etc.” Faith chimes in from the other cell, where she is leaning against the bars. “Trust me, you wanna listen to them. Let the other one come over here. And can we get these damn cuffs off?”
“Fine, whatever.” The guard mutters moving forward with his gun. “You two get against the back wall.” He orders James and Ava, who comply quickly. The guard opens the door and grabs Shannon by the arm, then guides her out of the cell. He relocks the door and then puts the slayer in with Xander, Vi and Faith.
“Okay listen closely now, no matter what you see happen in here, do not open this cell until at least sunrise, even if you let the others out of theirs.” James tells the guard as he returns.
“And absolutely do not come within arms reach of either of us when it happens.” Ava finishes.
“That sounds an awful lot like a threat little girl.” The guard sneers, taking aim at her with his gun. Ava huffs and backs away, holding her arms up.
“Easy there sparky, wasn’t a threat. I’s trying to keep yous from getting hurt.” Ava says, sounding slightly offended. “I’s not gonna be so little in a moment or two.”
The guard turns away for a few second, shaking his head at the apparently insane people. His attention snaps back to the cell holding James and Ava at the sound of metal clinking against the concrete floor, and he sees that both occupants have gotten out of the cuffs.
“Holy fuck.” He exclaims as the forms of both Ava and James begin to lengthen and contort. He watches as the two quickly pull off their clothes as fur begins to sprout out of their flesh, completely covering them. A few moments later, two wolves have taken the places of the two captive hunters, both standing on four paws amidst the discarded clothing.
The Ava-Wolf was a reddish brown color, except for two patches of two different shades of red that covered either side of the wolf’s head. One was a very light, almost pinkish red color, and the other had a distinctive purple tinge to it. The James-Wolf on the other hand was a steely grey and a scar over his right eye stood out against the fur. Both also have a black spot on their front right paw, exactly where they had gotten the medallion tattoo in their human forms.
“Fucking crazy ass shit!” the guard exclaims at the sight. “Carv! Get over here, the Mick with the Boston accent and the punk looking girl just turned into fuckin’ wolves!”
‘Carv’s’ eyes are wide as he strolls over to look into the cell. After a few moments of silence, he gets over the shock and pulls his cell phone out of his jacket. He quickly taps a couple of buttons on the key pad and holds it up to his face.
“String, it’s Carver. You said to check for bites and by the look of things right now, I’d say the Irish guy and the girl with dyed hair were definitely bitten at some point, but it wasn’t by no goddamn zombies.” Carver speaks into the phone hurriedly. “No, they’re locked up fine. Man just get down here and see for yourself, Damn!” Carver curses, as he flips the phone shut.
“Please tell me this shit is all a bad dream Herc.” Carver says, turning back to his partner.
“If this shit is all your dream and you dragged my ass into it, all the rounds for the next month are on your ass man, s’all I’m gonna say.” Herc replies, staring at the two wolves, who are just sitting there, staring back at him and Carver, unmoving.
A few minutes pass in silence before Stringer, Bodie, Poot, Wee-Bey Bryce, Slim Charles, Jimmy McNulty, Detective Bunk Moreland and Lester Freamon enter the room. McNulty is complaining to Stringer as they walk into the cell block and hasn’t yet noticed the wolves.
“You can’t just put every survivor we take in through this shit String. We need every single person we can get if we’re gonna somehow take back the city from whatever the hell those things are.” Jimmy tells the drug kingpin.
“We will have every person able to fight, and if you have a problem with the way me and Avon run things around here then you are more than welcome to- FUCKING HELL!” Stringer cuts his nasty reply off to yell the last couple of words, as he catches sight of James and Ava in their lupine forms. The two wolves growl at the loud outburst from Stringer and back up defensively, with James placing himself slightly in front of Ava for her protection. The other seven newcomers finally take sight of the wolves and let out a collective cloud of curses. Off to the side, Herc sighs and pulls a twenty dollar bill out of his pocket and hands it to Carver.
“Fuck.” Came from Wee-Bey, Jimmy and Bunk; “Shit.” From Bodie, Freamon and Poot; and a long drawn out, “Daaaaaamn.” from Slim Charles.
“Gee you’d think none of yah, have ever seen a werewolf before.” Faith speaks out, from where she has pressed herself against the bars of the cell, looking out at the people gathered. She of course couldn’t see James or Ava’s unusual forms due to the concrete divider between the two cells, figuring that they looked like Oz always did during those three nights a month, all those years ago. She wondered how Oz was and where he was, if he was even still alive or had he too been killed for his former association with the council?
“Daniel Osbourne is quite well, Faith Lehane, and your friends James Foley and Ava Rivers are no longer normal werewolves.” Ezekiel announces as he enters the room through the door that Stringer’s group had used, and at the sound of his voice that group all whirl around to face the angel. Bodie and Poot raise their guns and take aim on Ezekiel, but a look from the heavenly warrior compels them to lower their weapons. “Easy now Preston Broadus, Malik Carr. We are all friends here.”
“How in the hell did you get into here?” Stringer demands, not liking the unpredictable events that had transpired over the last several days, and the stress of it all was chewing away at his nerves. And now this mess with the people Slim brought in was getting more and more bizarre with every passing moment it seemed. “What are you doing?!” he yells as Ezekiel begins walking toward the group of eight, the fact that several guns were pointed in his direction. The angel gets within three feet of Wee-Bey and Freamon who are standing closest before he disappears, re-materializing in front of the door to the cell that is holding Faith and the others. Stringer’s group turns in time to watch Ezekiel hold his hand out over the lock of the cell and it glows briefly before clicking unlocked and sliding open.
“Hey! Don’t move!” Stringer yells, aiming his gun at the angel, as well as Faith and Shannon as they emerge from the cell. Ezekiel raises his hand and a green mist forms in front of him, Faith and Shannon. The bullet that Stringer accidentally fires upon being startled by the appearance of the mist is stopped cold upon impacting the energy shield. A moment later the half melted projectile fell to the concrete floor. The gazes of Herc, Carver, String, Jimmy and the rest drop to the floor with the remains of the bullet.
“I beseech you to never do that again.” Ezekiel says stiffly, as Stringer nods and lowers his gun. After a moment the angel lets the shield drop. “These four mortals and the two wolves are under my protection and you will not endanger them. Are we at a peaceable understanding of that Russell Bell?”
Stringer gives a curt nod after a moment, and passes his gun back to Wee-Bey. “Would you kindly explain just exactly what the hell is going on here, and why you seem to be a part of all this weirdness.”
“His name is Zeke, he’s an angel, like from Paradise Lost, and those two are werewolf- Okay that’s different.” Faith says finally seeing that James and Ava have a different form than the one she had seen Oz shift into several times.
“My name is Ezekiel, Faith Lehane, and as I stated before, your friends are no longer ordinary werewolves. The medallion I gave you should allow them the ability to shift at will and retain control, rather than the three night curse of uncontrollable savagery. If they chose to they could easily shift back to-”
“Oh!” a startled Ava cries out as she suddenly finds herself back in human form, and quite naked. She looks out at the group standing outside her cell and flushes, quickly reaching down and attempting to cover herself with her arms. She locks eyes with James briefly and suddenly the world spins and she seems to shrink to the ground from her point of view as she shifts back to wolf form.
“What did you do to them?” Faith demands, marching up to Ezekiel with an angry glint in her eyes.
“I gave them the ability to control, not the ability to be all-powerful. It will take work, but they’ll figure it out eventually.” Zeke replies stiffly before turning to Stringer and his group once again. “Your city has been besieged by zombies that were summoned by a chaos mage. To get rid of them, you’ll have to find and kill the mage. I sent these six to help you, they have experience in.. situations such as this. Do not spurn my assistance or I shall not offer it again in the future, to you or any of yours.” The angel intones before disappearing in a flash of light, causing all present to shield their eyes, including the wolves.
“I really hate it when he does that.” Vi mutters as she tries to blink her eyes back to normal.
“Say what you want, the man’s got a chill as shit way of getting around.” Faith comments with a chuckle, then looks to Stringer and the other group including the two guards, all of whom look completely dumbstruck at the series of events that unfolded in the previous few minutes. “Alright over there?” she sasses.
Stringer shakes his head after a moment and focuses on the hunters. “Which of you is in charge of your group?”
“I guess that responsibility would fall on me.” Faith says, walking over to the group followed by Xander, Vi and Shannon. “Faith Lehane, senior surviving vampire slayer. These are my sister slayers Shannon Campbell and Vi Harris, and Vi’s husband and former watcher Alexander Harris, but we all call him Xander. Our two werewolf friends are James Foley and Ava Rivers, who will be back to human form at sunrise by the latest for sure.” Faith introduces herself. “Zeke called you Russell Bell, I hope we can get out of our current situation peaceably, I prefer to keep my battles sole against the demons.”
“Call me Stringer.” Bell replies. “This is Wee-Bey Bryce, Bodie, Poot, you already know Slim Charles, the two guards are Herc and Carver and the other three with me are cops, Jimmy McNulty, Bunk Moreland and Lester Freamon.”
“These pigs always be trying to bust us, but they come running to us when the shit hits the fan.” Poot ridicules the former police.
“Silence!” Stringer yells at Poot, who immediately falls silent. Stringer shakes his head in frustration and then turns back to face Faith. “Sorry about the treatment, but we had a problem on the first night with a couple of people that were infected but not dead getting in. They turned and killed seven others, including the boss’ sister. I trust you can understand that we’ve been just a tad bit on edge over the last few days.”
The four hunters not in wolf form nod, sympathizing. “We can relate.” Faith says honestly, speaking for the rest of the hunters as well. “We’ve all lost people in this war.”
“What war?” McNulty questions, “Surely if this kind of thing has happened before people would know about it, most of the world even.”
“Some people know about it, most just don’t want to accept things as they truly are, so they either rationalize what they’ve seen as an elaborate trick of the light or forget it ever happened in the first place.” Xander explains.
“It’s probably for the best any ways, people tend to fear what they can’t or don’t understand, and sadly more often than not that fear turns into violence.” Vi adds, recalling the mission in Egypt where she and two of the slayers that they’d found after Sunnydale had been captured by insurgents and accused of being witches. They had all exhibited their enhanced strength and other abilities to a large group of rebels while trying to prevent a Fyarl from tearing up the local marketplace. They’d stopped the demon, but had been shot by the humans. Beth, one of the two others that were captured alongside Vi didn’t make it out of there, her cold body found in the basement with numerous puncture wounds. Vi and the other slayer that had survived named Felicia had never spoken about what had happened in the prison camp, Vi hadn’t even told Xander, at Felicia’s request, not wanting people to know about the humiliation and pain she had suffered there. Vi had obliged her close friend and kept her mouth shut, but now Felicia was gone, having been at the Tokyo headquarters when they’d been hit with a ‘gas leak’. Vi shook off the reveries, and focused back on the conversation.
“Well the boss is going to want to meet you, so if you could follow me, I’ll bring you to him.” Stringer says, leading the way out of the room, followed by his crew and the hunters. McNulty, Bunk, Freamon, Herc and Carver remain alone with the wolves, when the others have left.
“How do you want to play this?” Bunk asks McNulty, who simply shrugs.
“Not much to do about anything now, String ain’t holding them prisoner for no reason, and with what’s out there we’re just gonna have to deal with whatever shit happens, when it happens. Thirteen years I’ve fought to try and make Baltimore a better place and for what?” McNulty wonders aloud. “Mother-fucking Dawn of the Dead here. If by some miracle we can kill all the bastards, let Barksdale have this whole godforsaken shithole. I’m done playing cowboy in a city that will never get better.”
“Yay for pessimism!” Ava chirps as she pulls on her shirt, her voice causing all five cops to turn and face her. She looks through the bars unblinking for several seconds, with all five looking back at her in silence. She frowns and opens her mouth to speak. “Uhm, could you let me get the key and then give us a little privacy, he needs to change back, and I’s think it’d be best for all involved if you’s were to all leave.”
There is a further moment of silence before Carver lets out a burst of laughter and pulls the key to the cell door and tosses it to the werewolf girl, who catches it easily. The other four cops get it and both Herc and McNulty color slightly before leading the way out of the room.
When the two werewolves are alone, James shifts back and begins to put his clothes back on, but Ava takes hold of his wrists with her small hands, stopping him. He gives her a look and she shakes her head.
“We haven’t had a moment alone since before you left for Cleveland three weeks ago. I’ve been in constant close quarters with three slayers, all alpha females. I need to know that I still have a place in your life as something more than just a sidebar.” Ava tells him, moving her hands up his arms and pulling him down into a lingering kiss to which he eagerly reciprocates. After several minutes, they finally break apart to breathe.
“Ava, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear, I’m not going to leave you for anyone else. I can’t promise that I’ll make it through to the end, but every moment that I am here and am able, I will make sure that it’s at your side.” James whispers to her, holding her small form in a firm hug as she rests her head against his chest and whimpers contentedly.
“Can we just stay like this forever?” Ava asks, looking up at him. James flashes her a wily grin.
“I wish we could love, but they’ll most likely come back in here if they don’t see us for long.” James replies, before leaning down and planting a tender kiss on Ava’s forehead, then backs away to finish dressing. Ava stands there for a moment, feeling slightly dizzy for a couple moments before she manages to shake it off. She quickly strides over to the door and uses the key to unlock it as James pulls on his pants and boots. Once James is done he joins Ava at the door leading to the hallway and together they pull open the door and walk out into the hallway where Herc and Carver have remained.
“You guys aren’t gonna just wolf-out at any bad shit are you?” Herc asks, sounding somewhat intimidated, despite the fact that the cop seemed like one of the ones who would normally be the intimidator of the game.
Ava giggled lightly at the thought of a random person seeing the Brooklyn born police, if Ava guessed his accent correctly, all badass Baltimore cop made nervous by a tiny, seemingly unthreatening natural blonde, with dyed pink and purple hair.
“Do I make you nervous?” She asks, slipping away from James’ side to sidle up to Herc’s, poking the large man in the stomach, a playful glint in her eyes. Herc all but throws himself backwards away from Ava, who looks hurt for a brief moment, but hides it quickly with a chuckle at the expense of Herc. Carver and James laugh with her, but James looks conflicted, having seen the expression of sadness that had flickered over her face. “So where do we go from here?” Ava chirps, glancing away from Herc to face James and Carver.
“The others in your group went to meet with the boss, but didn’t expect you to be ‘ready’ for a while, so you can just find somewhere around here to hang out.” Carver replies, leading the group down the corridor.
“Any chance we could get a hold of a pack of cigarettes?” Ava asks, glancing between the two cops walking ahead of her and James.
“There’s a couple of vending machines around the place that have them, not sure which ones though.” Herc answers, glancing over his shoulder at the two people he’d seen change into wolves with a wary look.
“S’cool, I’ll find one I’m sure.” Ava says, pulling open the door at the end of the corridor and hurrying through, clearly eager to escape the company of the two cops. Or at least that’s what James told himself as he followed after her, leaving the two cops behind.
Most of Stringer’s posse had broken off from the group as he led the hunters to where his boss Avon Barksdale had made his quarters, and when they arrived only Wee-Bey and Slim were still with them, Slim looking apologetic upon the glares he’d received from Faith, Vi and Shannon.
Seeing the death glares the slayers had thrown at Slim, Xander leaned in to whisper at him as they walked.
“Faith loves knives and other sharp things, Vi likes chocolate, and Shannon is quite fond of hazelnut coffee.” Xander says, giving the other man a pointed look, smirking as he receives a nod. “Small hint for the future, never get on a slayer’s shit list, it’s terrible for your health.” The one eyed former carpenter advises.
No more words are spoken until Stringer stops the group in front of a door, and then says something privately to Faith, who looks at him quizzically for a moment, then nods.
“You guys wait out here, I got this one.” The dark slayer says as Stringer leads her into the room and closes the door behind them. No sooner is the door shut before Faith’s arm shoots out, catching the object that had been hurled at her in the palm of her hand. She unclenches it after a second and finds the object is a golf ball.
“Welcome Miss Slayer.” Someone says from within the room and Faith looks around to see two black men sitting on the other side of the ornately decorated office. One is behind a desk with money spread out on it, and the other sits in a chair to the side of the desk, pulling the bills together and counting them out before wrapping stacks of the bills up with pilfered bank tape.
“So you know who I am, but I didn’t catch your name?” Faith sasses, hiding the unease of the man’s casual reveal of the knowledge he had of her.
“Avon Barksdale, descended from Corinne Barksdale, the slayer from 1833 to 1836.” The man behind the desk introduces, then motions to the other man, “My nephew D’Angelo. It is truly an honor to meet a slayer in the flesh.”
“Well you have two more outside the room, if it’s such a thrill.” Faith tells him, then adds. “And don’t leave X by himself out there, poor sap actually seems to attract demons on his own.”
Avon gives her a look of mirth. “My great uncle Malcolm was reputedly the same way. Washed out of the Watcher’s academy and started the Barksdale Organization here in Baltimore, back in the fifties.” Avon says, throwing a quick nod to Stringer who turns and goes to bring the others in. Faith strides forward to lay claim on one of the leather chairs on the side of the desk opposite Avon, flicking the golf ball back at him. She smirks as the small white ball clips him in the shoulder and almost knocks him right off the chair.
“Whoopsie, my bad.” Faith’s grin is the evidence of her less than sincere apology, but Avon just shrugs it off as Stringer returns, leading Xander, Vi and Shannon into the room.
“No worries, Miss Slayer.” Avon says off-handedly, waving away the matter.
“Faith.” The dark slayer tells him. “None of that miss shit neither. I’m a southie, born and bred, we ain’t into that refined shit. Here’s the skinny, you don’t double cross us, and get your man Stringer and his boys to put back anything they took out of James’ and Ava’s rig, including our guns, and let us do our job here then we’ll get on like old chums. Sound good?”
“Perfect.” Avon agrees quickly, knowing full well the benefits of having a slayer on your side, not to mention three. “What can I have my people do to help?”
“I don’t suppose you know of any magic users in the Baltimore area that would have been powerful enough to raise the original zombie?” Xander questions.
“Unfortunately while my ancestor was well-versed in the supernatural community, I’m afraid my knowledge on the subject is sorely limited to slayers. Aside from the occasional vampire passing through, this kind of shit just doesn’t really happen in Baltimore. I always just figured they thought us humans were doing a perfectly good job in ruining it ourselves.”
“So why make it worse by selling drugs?” Vi questions, getting a look of surprise from Avon, Stringer and D’Angelo. “What? That’s where the money came from right?”
“If it wasn’t us, someone else would be right here in our place. It pays, and for the past forty years an average of fifteen percent per year has been used to fund hunters that come through our territory, we just never had a need for them to be here on a permanent basis.” Avon admits. “Truth be told if I wasn’t in charge of the drug trade in West Baltimore, either Prop Joe would expand, seizing control of the entire city, or it’d be Marlo Stanfield, this young independent punk. Been a thorn in my ass for going on a year now, he controls the northern-most section of the west side. Arrogant prick too, had his crew taking potshots at my boys Bey and Stinkum when I sent them to see if the little shit needed assistance. If these damned zombies get them it’s their own damn problem.”
“Who have you supplied to?” Shannon inquires, feeling the need to contribute to the conversation.
“Gordon Walker, Robert Singer, Ellen Harvelle, Crystal and Alan Rockwell, and John Winchester, up until recently anyways, poor fuck got took out by some demon he’s been tracking for like two decades since it killed his wife.” Avon answers.
“Did he at least get to kill it?” Vi asks hopefully, but her hopes are dashed when Avon shakes his head.
“Nah, his sons have taken over the hunt. They were in Missouri last I heard.”
“Any idea what the demon was?” Faith asks.
“Yeah some real sick fuck. Way John told it, he was crashed out in his living room, woke up to his wife’s screams and ran upstairs to find her pinned to the ceiling, gutted open above their younger son’s crib. Said there was a fire that came out of thin air and burned the house and his wife up. He got out with his sons, and they’ve been hunting the bastard ever since. He told me the name once, years ago. Azorean? Nah. Arzinian. Fuck, that ain’t it either.”
“Azazeal?” Faith throws out, hoping to be wrong, and her eyes darken as Avon’s brighten.
“Oh yeah. That’s it!” He says, nodding emphatically, then gets a confused look on his face. “Wait, how’d you even know that name..”
The looks on the faces of Faith, Xander, Shannon and Vi speak loud enough and Avon bows his head.
“Shit.” He mutters under his breath. “He hit the council didn’t he.”
“We don’t know if anyone else made it.” Vi says as she blinks back tears. Avon looks thoughtful for a moment, before speaking again.
“The Barksdale Organization offers it’s allegiance to the International Watchers Council. I have over three hundred men working for me and they will all follow by example.” Avon informs them.
There are a few moments of terse silence before Faith breaks it.
“We appreciate the offer Avon, if I can call you that, but the council, for all intents and purposes must remain dead for the time being. Any attempt to resurrect it while Azazeal is still around will just lead to another attack, and I’m not going to hire your people just to see them massacred by that son of a bitch.” Faith tells the drug kingpin, who nods upon hearing her reasoning for declining her offer and was impressed. Most generals would prefer the larger fighting force, regardless of the lives that would be lost. Faith was quite the opposite, looking out for the safety of her people and getting the job done herself so the others would remain safe. She was a warrior.
“Well, regardless, until this zombie shit is dealt with, my men are at your command. This is your game slayer. What do we need to do to get rid of these things?”
Faith grinned, and made herself more comfortable in the leather chair before she began to explain what they would need to do.
James caught up to Ava as she stalked away from the third vending machine without cigarettes, quickly dancing in front of her to block her path.
“Aves, slow down love.” James says and Ava complies, tilting her head up to look at him through watery eyes. James reaches out and tucks a few strands of his girlfriend’s pink hair out of her face, rubbing the side of her face with his palm as he does so. She leans into it and closes her eyes for a few seconds before opening them and allowing a stray tear to streak down her face. “What is it, what’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing.” Ava denies with a shake of her head, but James isn’t buying it.
“Bullshit.” He rasps, and she gives him a look of anger before pulling away, walking around him to the next vending machine. He remains for a moment, cursing at himself for swearing at her. He turns to follow her, seeing that she’s stopped and is now trying to flatten out a ten dollar bill to put into the machine. James walks up to her, pulling a fresh bill out of his wallet and offering it to her. She reluctantly takes it after her third attempt at making the machine take her own results in it being spit back out at her. James’ money goes in with no problems and she lets out a sigh of relief as the pack of Marlboros plummets from the row second from the top. She quickly pulls out her much sought after prize and unwraps the cellophane casing, pulling out two of the cigarettes and offering one to the man she believed in her heart to be her one and only mate. What neither James or Ava had told Faith or the others was that Ava, after being bitten against her will by a nomadic alpha wolf, had been the one to bite James, in the hopes that he would be able to protect her. James had been resentful of her for a bit of time after the incident, but when he finally understood why she had done it, and how much she had needed him in her life he had forgiven her and the two had fled from Boston, hunting for the wolf that had made them like this.
“So are you gonna tell me what the problem is?” James asks again, as he pulls out his Zippo and lights both of their cigarettes with it. Ava is silent for a moment, before she lets her resolve go.
“That cop, the big one was terrified of me, of both of us and what we are. I hate that he’s afraid of me, for the sole fact that I have a furry problem.” Ava complains, taking a drag of smoke into her lungs and exhaling after a couple moments. “I know that werewolves have been responsible for some pretty heinous shit through-out the centuries, but in human form we’re pretty much harmless.”
“Who gives a fuck what some cop thinks about you. We leave here, and you’ll never see his ass again. Ava, look at me.” James commands, tilting her face toward him to look her in the eyes. “You’re beautiful, in whatever form you are in. You’re strong and determined and you kick demon ass. So what if some oafish boy in blue can’t handle the way the world really is, and the people, normal or not, that fight to make it a better place. Fuck him, you’re Ava Rivers, an alpha female and a hell of a good friend to people that matter. You’re strong Aves, you just need to admit it to yourself.”
Ava looks at him for a moment, her mind working over her lover’s words, then her face brightens and she launches herself on him, wrapping him in a tight hug.
“I love you James Foley.” She whispers before kissing him on the cheek. “Sorry about the emo-moment.”
Her apology makes James chuckle and she throws him a playful glare before drawing away to take another drag of her cigarette, James mirroring her from where he stands. After a few moments Ava has composed herself enough that no one else would ever know she’d been upset and had a cheery expression on her face as James reached out and took her hand and they began to walk off to find the others.
Faith found herself standing at the edge of the woods, looking out at the old graveyard. There is a large Mausoleum in the center of the clearing surrounded by old, and in most cases crumbling tombstones. She tries to move forward, but finds that her body won’t obey her brain’s commands. She swears mentally and then her eyes widen with a mix of fear and anger mixed into them a horrific scene plays out in front of her. A black man comes out and is ambushed by four people with guns, all aimed at the former. A few words are exchanged and then only woman in the group suddenly presses the barrel of her shotgun under her chin as the three men that were with her began to freak out, trying to get the shotgun away from her. The black man takes the opportunity to slip away and stick what appears to be a key into the door of the crypt, the doors open and Faith can see flames licking the walls of the interior from her position.
‘Shit, it’s another goddamn hellmouth.’ Faith thought with growing trepidation, shaking off her distracting thoughts, and focusing on the scene once more. The three men have managed to get the gun away from the woman just in time for her to fly backwards as if by telekinesis and crashes into a tree. The man with shaggy brown hair raises the gun and shoots the black man in the chest, sending him falling to the ground. The shaggy man moves to stand over the wounded man, speaking with him for a few moments before yelling something at him. The gun is raised and fired, and the black man collapses to the ground, dead. Then all hell breaks loose. A metal spike from one of the cast iron fences rips from it’s post and flies through the air, impaling the oldest of the group through the chest and he falls dead. The shaggy haired man and the other remaining guy, who looks to be the former’s brother, both turn to face the direction that the spike had come from, and Faith can do nothing but watch as Azazeal strides into view, dragging Dawn and Cassie with him.
Azazeal speaks with the two brothers for a moment, ignoring Dawn and Cassie’s attempts to free themselves from his grip. Whatever it is that Azazeal says to the shaggy haired man makes the man’s face contort with visible rage, and with a flick of the wrist Azazeal hurls Cassie into the two brothers. All three are sent to the ground and held down with telekinesis as Azazeal drags a struggling Dawn towards the open door of the crypt. When the two reach the entrance, Azazeal forces Dawn to the edge of the hellmouth, but keeping her from falling for the moment. Faith watches with horror filled eyes as Azazeal draws the scythe from thin air and in a blur of movement slams the spear part of the scythe into Dawn’s stomach. Dawn’s eyes widen as she gasps in pain, she reaches out in attempt to grab hold of Azazeal’s shoulder to steady herself, but he yanks the scythe out and shoves her back over the edge. Faith screams as Dawn plummets into hell, bleeding profusely from the abdomen and her blood ripping open a dimensional portal to the original hell.
“What should we do?” a voice asks from beside Faith and she turns to see one of the guys that worked for Barksdale standing there, Bodie was his name if she remembered correctly.
“Nothing, it’s too late.” Faith says miserably.
“Are you sure?” Ava asks as she comes out of the woods, flanked by James, Shannon and another man she’d never seen before.
“Azazeal stabbed Dawn and threw her into hell.” Faith tells them. “If what happened during the incident with Glory all those years ago is any indication of what’s to come, then we’re all fucked.”
“I thought slayers never gave up?” Xander speaks this time, walking up to the group that had gathered around Faith, followed closely by Vi and a blonde woman who looked every bit a hunter.
“They don’t, they fight with both tooth and nail, and if they get knocked down, they get right back up swinging.” Vi answers her husband’s question before Faith can reply.
“You must press on, these events have yet to come, and are not set in stone.” A voice drifts in from the forest and Faith can make out the outlines of seven other figures, their features obscured by the shadows.
“Who are you?” she questions the figures suspiciously.
“We are the future, the ones you will know only if this series of events are kept from occuring. If the key is cast into the pit, then all is lost.” The figures speak out in unison and Faith shudders as a chilly breeze floats through the graveyard.
The dark slayer closes her eyes for a moment and when they open again, the graveyard is empty again and she is now standing by the crypt, which is once more closed. She looks around the area and no longer sees Xander, James, Ava or any of the others. She throws out a silent thanks as she discovers she has regained her ability to move, and walks around the side of the crypt.
“Hello?” she calls out, hoping maybe there was someone else around, who could tell her more about exactly what it was that she needed to do. The soft sounds of a guitar drifts up from the way she had just come and she quickly turns around and returns to the front of the crypt to find Rupert Giles sitting on a grave marker, strumming his acoustic guitar.
“Giles?” Faith asks incredulously. “Shannon said she saw you die.”
Giles doesn’t acknowledge her, just continues to pluck at the strings. After a few moments Faith shakes her head and turns away, muttering after her breath about un-helpful British tightasses, when a voice she’d hoped never to hear again speaks out from behind her. She whirls around to find the late mayor of Sunnydale, Richard Wilkins the Third standing there, staring blankly ahead at her.
“Three come from a sisterhood generations old,
Two that change form are welcomed into the fold.
Glued together by the one-who-sees,
Ten hunters will join them while riding the breeze.
A pair of lost friends will once more show their face,
The last two will come when wolves lose their place.
Pressing onward to keep up the fight,
Blazing fires in the shadow of night.
But beware of the pretender in the crowd,
The final gift is heaven endowed.”
Faith opens her mouth to demand what the hell her old boss is talking about when the doors to the crypt explode open, sending Faith flying through the air. She lets out a scream…
And shoots up into a sitting position in the bed she had fallen asleep on, her body drenched with sweat. D’Angelo quickly sits up from where he had fallen asleep next to her following their sexual romp.
“You alright Faith?” the Barksdale heir inquires, looking worried. Faith shrugs and fixes him with a lopsided grin.
“Just a bad dream lover, don’t worry about it.” Faith assures him. Go back to sleep Dee, we got work to do in the morning.
Dee nods and lays onto his back again. The dark slayer watches as the younger man closes his eyes once more and keeps her gaze on him as his breathing evens out and she knows he’s asleep. A conflicted look comes over her face as she rests her head on Dee’s chest and stares into the darkness of the makeshift bedroom. She knew she would have to talk to the others about it in the morning, and find out exactly what that guy Bodie had to do with being in her slayer dream. It was the first she’d had since before the fall of Sunnydale and she’d been damned if she wasn’t going to take it deadly seriously.
Shannon was unable to sleep once again. Every time she closed her eyes to try again, the Cotswold massacre would play out again in her head and it was slowly driving her crazy. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to have a peaceful night’s sleep again. She shivered at the unsettling thought and rubbed her bare arms as she walked into the small kitchen
on the third floor.
“You aiight?” Bodie asks from where he’s leaning against one of the bulky freezers, eating what looks to be a burrito. Shannon turns her head to look at him, the bags under her eyes enough evidence of her lack of sleep. “Damn girl, you looks like shit.”
“Thanks.” Shannon replies with much sarcasm as she ambles over to the closest fridge, pulling the door open. Her eyes widen in delight as she reaches her hand in and pulls out a plastic bottle of Hazelnut coffee creamer, then looks to Bodie. “Please tell me there’s a working coffee pot around here.”
“Yeah, Bey and Slim made a pot about a half hour ago.” Bodie tells her.
“They didn’t stick around to drink it?” Shannon asks, not having seen anyone else on her way over.
“Nah, they took a couple of cups and went up to the roof to snipe at the zombies as the sun rises.” The drug dealer answers.
“Ooo that sounds like fun, how do we get to the roof?” Shannon inquires with a twinkle in her eyes. “I wanna try.”
Bodie grins and tosses the burrito wrapper into the trash barrel, then walks up to Shannon. He holds out his arm for her and says with a faux gentlemanly disposition.
“It would be a great honor to accompany you to the roof, where we might rain death down on unsuspecting walking corpses.” Bodie says with a smirk.
“Lead on then, good sir.” Shannon plays along, letting out a southern sounding giggle at the end to add to the effect, but then she gets a determined look on her face. “But first coffee.”
Shannon had become quite popular with the Barksdale boys after that morning, having impressed them by using her slayer eyesight to locate and snipe out the fasteners holding one of the large glass windows on the building across the street. Using only five bullets to send the slab of glass plummeting downward, falling atop a grouping of the walking dead and at least twelve of the bastards were either crushed or cut to pieces by the explosion of glass as it impacted the pavement. Twenty two bullets, five windows and about sixty destroyed zombies later, the street was mostly clear, and Shannon passed the rifle back to Slim Charles, who takes it gingerly.
“Girl where in the hell’d you learn to shoot like that?” Wee-Bey asks incredulously. “I’ve been handling guns for more than fifteen years and I ain’t that good.”
“Would you believe me if I said it was natural talent?” Shannon asks, but Wee-Bey shakes his head, looking bemused.
“Nah, yah been trained up damn good girl. Shame we couldn’t get you on the payroll if.. when we get out of this shit.”
“Sorry Bey, but the last organization I worked for was massacred by a demon, one that’s still out there. I’m strictly independent now.” Shannon declares, and with a nod from Wee-Bey, the matter is dropped.
“Not a problem Shan,” Slim assures her, “The boss figured you’d say something along those lines, but wanted to throw the offer out on the off chance.”
“What are you talking about?” Bodie asks, looking confused “Why would Avon want to hire her?”
“Avon wants to hire me, because of the fact that I’m a slayer. We make excellent bodyguards and assassins, which is what I’d most likely doing if I were to agree, or am I completely off?”
“That’s more or less the draw.” Slim nods.
“You’d have had better luck recruiting last year, back when there were hundreds of us. Now it’s down to me, Faith and Vi, we don’t know of any other slayers that made it through Azazeal’s attack on the council.” Shannon says, reflectively.
“What’s a slayer? Is it like those two freak wolf-people?” Bodie asks casually and Shannon’s eyes darken in rage. In the blink of an eye she has knocked Bodie’s feet out, toppling him to the ground, before pouncing upon him, and holding him down at the neck with her wrist pressed firmly against his windpipe.
“James and Ava are my friends and if I ever hear you call them freaks again, I’ll carve that awful word into the skin on your ass, do I make myself clear?!” Shannon screams into the face of the man who she had up to this point been attracted to, before he disparaged her werewolf friends.
“Easy Shan.” Slim says, slowly pulling her back off of Bodie. Shannon relaxes and allows the tall black man to drag her from her victim. Bodie hurriedly stands and backs away, rubbing at his neck.
“What the fuck are you, you crazy white bitch?!” Bodie snarls, and Bey and Slim do all they can to keep the angry slayer from murdering Bodie for his careless words.
“Bodie, man, just shut the fuck up and get outta here bro.” Wee-Bey yells at him as he and Slim continue to try and keep Shannon from going after the younger drug dealer.
Bodie’s eyes widen at how easily Shannon fends off the other two, slowly stalking toward him and takes the hint, fleeing for the door into the building with a shouted apology over his shoulder.
Once Bodie is out of sight, Shannon immediately ceases struggling against Bey and Slim and backs away from them. She pulls out a cigarette as she strides over to the edge of the roof and looks down. She has just finished lighting it and takes the first drag off it when Wee-Bey and Slim walk up to stand on either side of her, looking out over the ruined city.
“Care to explain what that was about?” Bey inquires, getting a shrug from Shannon.
“I just lost pretty much all the people I care about because a demon thought we were in the way. Xander, Faith, Vi, James and Ava are all I have now, and I’m not gonna let some asshole, who can’t tolerate some minor differences to normal people, disparage any of them. Maybe I took it a little too far, but it’ll have undoubtedly gotten the point across.” Shannon explains in between drags.
“Fair enough.” Slim nods looking up at the sky, and no more is said.
Xander and Vi had just finished setting up for the ritual, having just weighted down the rolled map onto the conference table when the door to the room opened, allowing entry to Faith, James, Ava, Shannon, Avon, Stringer, McNulty, Bunk and another officer named Kiba. The last one had been smelt out as having magical potential by James and Ava, the talent apparently another side effect of the two werewolves having accepted Ezekiel’s offer of protection.
Faith and Shannon had approached the female officer and upon talking with her, found that Kiba’s maternal grandmother had been a practicing shamaness, and she had herself dabbled a bit during her college years. Kiba had agreed without hesitation when they explained the plan to locate the chaos mage who had summoned the zombies via a scrying spell.
Once they were all present, they found that the ritual itself only took a couple of minutes, the crystal Kiba was swinging over the map quickly drawn to the northern part of the west side. The group all leans in over the map, to see what is at the place where the crystal had marked on it.
“Corner of Maple and Luther, that’s Marlo Stanfield’s territory.” Stringer notes with a concerned frown on his face.
“Any chance this is Marlo’s doing?” McNulty asks Faith.
“Hard to say. If it isn’t him, with how tight your crews are, I’d guess he at least knows who did it.” Faith replies. “I’ve never met the guy to base anything on.”
Avon opens his mouth to speak, but is interrupted by the door opening and Wee-Bey walks in, four youths around the age of thirteen or so following behind.
“Sorry to bother you boss, but my son and his friends saw something when they snuck out the other day and haven’t told anyone until now.” Wee-Bey explains. “Tell him what you told me, Namond.”
Young Namond Bryce looks over at Avon and Stringer, with much trepidation in his eyes before opening his mouth.
“Well me and Michael convinced Randy and Dukie to try and go kill one of those zombies and we followed one up to the park in the north end and then there was like twelve of them and they were all just uh… they looked like they was walking around high on the product, all bleeding and shit too.” Namond rambles, and his friend Michael decides to take charge.
“We saw Marlo, Chris and Snoop there too, but the zombies wasn’t bothering them none.” Michael gets to the point, making the adults in the room start speaking at once about the implications of the new information, and after Bey ushers the four boys out of the room they begin discussing how to eliminate Marlo and his crew, hopefully banishing the zombies.
“An all-out assault is not a particularly smart move when it comes to zombies. Without knowing the length of time it takes for an infected person to re-animate once deceased, you could just be sending them a buffet.” James points out the flaw in the latest suggestion.
“Ten of us will go. A force that small will be able to slip by most of the zombies without being caught, provided they know what they’re doing.” Faith decides.
“Who are the lucky ten then?” Stringer asks the question on everyone’s mind.
“Me, Shannon, James, Ava, three of the cops and three of your guys or whatever combination you decide on, I don’t care. I’m leaving in an hour, and if you plan on fighting, be there.” Faith says, then turns and walks out of the room, the other five hunters following after her.
In the end it was decided that Bey and Bodie, as well as Bird and Stinkum would be the ones representing the Barksdale organization, and the police had drawn straws to see who would be going, with Herc and Freamon being the lucky ‘winners’.
Xander had initially been put out over the fact that Faith had deliberately left both him and his wife out of her plans, but after getting smacked around a bit by both the dark slayer and his wife he had quickly accepted Faith’s reasoning that she had wanted at least one or two people that she knew she could trust without question covering the departure and if necessary, the re-entry of the group into the building should the plan fail. Xander finally acquiesced and went off with Vi to find Slim Charles, Poot, McNulty, Carver and Bunk before heading to higher ground to cover the outgoing group.
Faith was already standing at the closed garage door when she was joined by James, Ava and Shannon.
“All good?” James asks the dark slayer, who gives only a brief nod of acknowledgement to the Irish werewolf. Herc and Freamon walk into the garage next, coming out of the stairwell and walking over to the group. Neither Ava nor Faith miss the brief look of trepidation Herc throws at James and Ava herself as he sees them. Faith doesn’t miss Ava’s turn of the head, nor the tinge of sadness in her eyes.
The elevator nearby dings and the doors open, then Wee-Bey, Bodie, Bird and Stinkum stroll out, all four wielding guns. They join the already assembled group and then Faith speaks, but not before catching the glare Shannon throws at Bodie and the somewhat ashamed expression on his face.
“Okay, since we need to conserve ammunition, head shots only. Tagging them anywhere else will only momentarily slow them down.” Faith informs the group. “Everyone ready to go? Well, it’s too late to back out now.” She gives a nod to James and he hits the button that controls the garage door. The door is pulled up and Faith ducks through the opening, the others following her lead, and when the last is out, James hits the button again and rolls under the closing door.
Faith and Shannon are the first spot one of the walking dead, the collective blasts from their shotguns blow apart everything above the zombie’s chest. The majority of the trip was largely uneventful, each of the people assigned to Faith tagging a zombie or two each along the way. The actual entering of Marlo’s territory was going to be just a tad more difficult as several hundred zombies were milling around the street corner where the Marlo’s crew resided.
“Great so what now?” the Barksdale enforcer known as Stinkum demands upon seeing the obstacle ahead of them. He misses the searching look Wee-Bay has on his face as he looks from the zombies in the street, to the hundreds of large glass slabs being used as windows, and finally his gaze falls on Shannon.
“Give Shan the automatic sniper rifle.” Bey orders, reaching his hand out for Bird’s weapon, and the fellow enforcer passes it to him after a questioning look.
“Do that thing you showed me, Slim and Bodie on the roof.” He tells the slayer as he gives her Bird’s rifle. She gives him an uncertain look before nodding, gripping the rifle tightly in her hands. She lifts it and takes aim above the street. Four quick bursts from the gun send the first slab crashing down on top of six of the zombies, crushing them instantly. The resulting explosion of flying glass that came with the impact shreds out a further four zombies, and Shannon manages to get off about fifty more shots, dropping ten more slabs that took out about a hundred and forty further zombies before they finally wise up to the attack on them.
Shannon backs out of view as the remaining zombies begin to hobble toward them. A couple of quick motions from Faith have James, Ava and a reluctant Herc sprinting across the street, drawing the zombies away from the other seven. Once the zombies are a far enough distance away from them, Faith cocks her shotgun and strides down the now empty street, flanked by Wee-Bey and Freamon, and followed by the other four. She strides up to the building that Stringer has told her was the headquarters of the Stanfield crew, and kicks the front door wide open, her shotgun at the ready. Finding nobody in the immediate area, she motions for Shannon to stay and guard the entrance with Bird and Stinkum, as she moves further into the building with Bey, Freamon and Bodie. Shannon nods and after reloading her rifle, takes up a sentry position with the two enforcers.
A few minutes pass before Shannon realizes that something is wrong, the final capper on her worries being when Bird and Stinkum recognize the zombified incarnation of an old adversary as he stumbles into view, then goes back around the corner.
“Yo Bird, wasn’t that Omar?” Stinkum questions, glancing at his friend, who gives an uncertain nod.
“Yeah, definitely looked like it.” Bird agrees, throwing a pointed look at the other man, one that Shannon catches and doesn’t like. A moment passes and then the two enforcers give chase, leaving the slayer in their wake with an indignant yell of “Hey! Get back here!” from Shannon, who runs after them when they ignore her and continue after ‘Omar’.
“Goddamn assholes, the whole lot of them.” Shannon mutters angrily under her breath as the two men disappear around the corner. The slayer reaches the corner after a couple more seconds, and is just able to let out a scream, which is cut off abruptly as a fist crashes into her face and sends her to the ground in a heap, her mind swimming with pain, creeping towards unconsciousness. “Fai-!” She only manages to yell out half of her sister slayer’s name before a boot stomps down on her face, sending her into oblivion.
James, Ava and Herc had managed to duck into a alleyway and take refuge behind a dumpster, waiting and watching until the zombies that had been following them amble by the mouth of the alley and continue down the street. A few minutes pass before they feel it’s safe enough to come out of hiding.
No sooner do they leave the safety of the alley when a lingering zombie leaps at Herc, who raises his gun, but he isn’t moving fast enough. Time seems to slow, at least for Ava as she shifts into wolf form, her clothes disappearing to into her to make way for thick fur and she lunges forward, tackling the zombie away from Herc while both are in midair. The speed of the world around her returns to normal as Herc and James watch as Ava tears up the attacking zombie with her sharp canine teeth and claws with wide eyes.
Once the zombie lays in several pieces scattered over the concrete, the Ava-wolf ceases it’s assault and she shifts back to her human form, complete with unshredded clothes. She looks herself over, surprised that she hadn’t ruined her garments, and then grins at the looks her mate and the cop are giving her.
“So Herc, do I still intimidate you?” Ava sasses, and the cop looks at her incredulously for a moment before replying.
“Immensely, but only at the thought of how much damage a werewolf would be able to do on us if they were on the other side.” Herc answers after thinking it over. Carver had none too gently informed him of the inner-turmoil that his obvious fear he had exhibited of the two wolves after the scene in the security room had caused Ava and Herc wasn’t looking to cause anymore stress for her.
His words were obviously the wisest choice that he could have made, as Ava’s face brightens considerably and she gives a brief nod.
“We should head back before they give up the search.” James intones, motioning his head in the direction the zombies had gone. Both Ava and Herc nod agreement and the three begin jogging back towards Marlo’s hideout.
“There’s no one upstairs either.” Freamon tells the dark slayer as he and Bodie return from the second floor, meeting Faith and Wee-Bey as they come back through the basement door. “Something isn’t right about this shit.”
Faith opens her mouth to reply when Shannon’s frantic cry of “Fai-!” filters into the building from the open door and the four inside burst into action, stampeding outside just as the wolves and Herc run up the street to meet them.
“Did you hear?” Ava questions, not getting an answer as her group and Faith’s both sprint up the street in the direction of Shannon’s scream and turn the corner to see an SUV speeding away from them.
“Fuck!” Wee-Bey exclaims as he spots the torn up bodies of Stinkum and Bird, then he and Bodie run over and check them. After a moment Bey ends his examination of Bird and rises to his feet. Bodie looks over at him a moment after with a forlorn look in his eyes, as his hand drifts over Stinkum’s unseeing eyes, closing them. The two walk back over to the others once more.
“Those fucks took Shannon.” Faith snarls as she paces angrily in front of the spray painted message that had been left on the side of the building. The message is an ultimatium; ‘Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell and Proposition Joe - the north end park @ midnight or the girl dies.’
With one last enraged look at the side of the building Faith turns to Wee-Bey, who takes a step back at the sight of the fire dancing behind the eyes of the dark slayer.
“Call your boss and tell him about this.” Faith orders, not giving him any other choices. “Tell him to get Stringer and this other guy Joe, and bring the two of them with him here. Tell him that I don’t give a shit if it causes problems with his business, if Shannon is killed over a turf war that you couldn’t deal with peaceably, I will hold him personally responsible and he’s not gonna like me at my worst.”
Wee-Bey pulls out his cellphone during Faith’s tirade and by the time she finishes, the phone is already ringing. After a moment the other end picks up.
“Boss, it’s Bey, we ran into a couple of complications. We were able to confirm that Marlo’s crew is behind all this shit, but both Stinkum and Bird have been killed and Marlo took Shan, the slayer you wanted me to try and recruit.” Wee-Bey says into the phone. “They want you, String and Prop Joe to meet with them at the park in the North end of town at midnight or they’ll kill the girl. Yeah, I’ll tell them.” Wee-Bey says before he hangs up and turns back to face Faith and the others, the former looking even angrier than she had before telling him to contact Avon.
“When we get Shannon back, if your boss manages to survive what ever that shitstain Marlo has planned, me ‘n’ him are going to have words.” Faith snarls. “If he wanted to hire a slayer, he should have come to me.”
“I’ll let him know.” Bey promises. “In the meantime, he wants us to set up in a place where we can get the drop on Stanfield if and when things get hairy.”
“Fine.” Faith grits out through clenched teeth. “How far is it from here?”
“Bout a mile and a half.” Bodie answers after a moment.
“Then that ought to come in handy.” James notes, pointing at the abandoned land rover that is parked on the curb.
“Doubt the keys will be inside.” Freamon comments, but Ava shrugs it off as she strides toward the vehicle, throwing her reply over her shoulder as she moves away from the group.
“He never said we’d need the keys.” The she-wolf sasses as she opens the driver’s side door and ducks under the console. A few moments pass before the Land Rover’s engine sputters to life, and Ava steps back to throw a smirk at the veteran cop as the other six come over. Bey and Bodie give the small girl a look of newfound respect, and all of them pile into the vehicle. Bey and Faith take the driver and passenger seats, Bodie, Freamon and Herc claim spots on the backseat bench, while James and Ava climb into the back. Bey presses on the gas and pulls away from the curb, driving north to find a place to wait for Avon to meet them.
“Slim said you had some news on Faith and the others that went out.” Xander gets right to the point as he and Vi are led into Avon’s quarters by the aforementioned enforcer, finding Avon, Stringer, D’Angelo, McNulty, Carver and Bunk already waiting inside.
“Bey called a few minutes back, said they ran into a couple of complications.” Avon informs the group. “They were able to confirm that Marlo is behind the zombies, but Bird and Stinkum got dropped and Marlo took Shannon. Punk ass left a message behind.”
“Which is?” Vi questions, seething internally at the capture of her sister-slayer.
“He wants me, Stringer and Joseph Wagstaff to meet him at a park he deals out of, more than likely to kill us.” Avon replies gravely.
“You’re going.” Xander tells him under no uncertain terms, and the older man nods.
“Yes I am, Stringer too.” Avon agrees, “I’ve already called Joe and he should be calling back in the next few minutes.”
“Will he agree to Marlo’s ultimatium?” McNulty inquires, and Avon fixes him with a piercing gaze for a couple moments before answering.
“Can’t say for certain, there’s some bad blood between the Barksdale Organization and Joe’s group, but Joe has always been a rational and honorable man. If he says he’ll come, you can be sure he’ll come.” Avon tells the assembled group, drawing on his memories of his past dealings with the East Baltimore drug kingpin. “Truth be told, if Joe is made aware of Marlo’s involvement in this zombie shit, he’ll be bringing half of his crew to take out the son of a bitch.”
“Good.” Vi says with a nod of approval, before turning to her husband. “Come on Xan, I wanna get a good gun for this before they’re all taken.”
The three cops present watch as the redhead leads her husband out with hands clasped before following after them, leaving Avon, Stringer and D’Angelo alone.
“So what do you really think?” Stringer asks his long time friend.
“It’s a trap.” Avon replies, “That much is obvious. If Marlo kills you, me and Joe, it’ll leave all of Baltimore leaderless and even without the zombies he’ll be able to easily assume control of everything. Years of work will just be gone. Joe will understand this as well and come regardless.”
“How many do you want to bring with us then?”
“The married couple will go apeshit if we leave without them, so those two, Slim, Shamrock, Poot and a few of the cops will probably want in on the action, and we’ll just adjust any plans made to include whoever Joe brings with him.”
“I’d like to go too.” D’Angelo speaks up from where he is seated of to the side of Avon’s desk, and both his uncle and Stringer glance at him.
“No.” Avon refuses, and D’Angelo’s expression goes from hopeful to angry in a moment.
“Why the fuck not? I’m more than capable of handling a gun, and you can use all the help that you can get.” Dee argues.
“If something happens to me or String, that leaves you, as the only remaining Barksdale, to take the reins of the organization.” Avon tells him. “With your mother gone, the responsibility of running this business falls to you. I won’t jeopardize your safety and the future of this family so that you can go out there and play the hero to impress Faith.”
“What? That’s not why-” Dee starts but is cut off by his uncle.
“I know you slept with her, and that she intrigues you, she is of great interest to me as well, but she and the others have been dealing with this kind of shit for years and still lose people in the fight.” Avon states, his temper rising. “I am not going to let you go off half-cocked when we are going into what is clearly a trap. You’re staying here.”
D’Angelo looks ready to argue the point further, but an icy glare from his uncle keeps him from continuing.
“Fine.” He grumbles before skulking out of Avon’s quarters.
“You do realize that he’s gonna go regardless.” Stringer says a few moments after D’Angelo has left, and Avon gives his friend a long look before finally nodding.
“Yeah, I know.”
‘Proposition Joe’ Wagstaff had never thought he’d see the day when Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell would contact him for his help with a problem. He knew that especially with the recent invasion of what seemed to be zombies in Baltimore that in order to survive sometimes petty grievances needed to be set aside. Which is why he had wasted no time in returning Avon’s call to his lieutenant Christopher Gunn, the west side Kingpin answering after only the second ring.
“A little birdie told me you wanted to talk.” Joe says into his cell phone. “Yeah, they hit us pretty good out here too. A bunch of us barricaded ourselves in at the docks. Stanfield’s behind this, you’re sure?”
A conflicted look passes over Joe’s face as he listens to Avon speak on the other end, and the color drains from his face.
“Yeah, if that’s what it takes to end this craziness, I’ll be there.” Joe agrees. “I’ll bring three of my best shooters, and we got a couple cops here too, and a few of the dock workers have also been itching for some action, maybe twelve in total. Alright yeah, I’ll meet you there in an hour.”
Joe ends the call and returns his cell phone to his pocket before striding to the door of the office he’d appropriated when they’d taken refuge at the docks and opens it to address Chris Gunn who is standing guard on the door.
“Go find Brooks and Milford, then get Sobotka and his crew and those homicide cops and bring them here. Barksdale called with a plan to end this craziness, and I told him he would have our help.” Joe orders his enforcer, who nods and starts to head off to complete his boss’ instructions, pausing as Joe throws out one more stipulation to the request. “And if you see my nephew, tell him to come see me. I need to speak to him as soon as possible.”
“No problem boss.” Gunn replies as he resumes his departure, and Joe closes the door after his lieutenant turns the corner and disappears from view. The kingpin lets out a sigh that shows his age as he walks over to the metal storage locker turned liquor cabinet and opens it. He pulls out a bottle of whiskey that predated Joe himself as far as age, and one that he had received as a wedding present from his former father-in-law and had saved for nearly twenty-five years.
He grabs several shotglasses as well and brings them over to the desk, putting them down on the desktop just as someone knocks on the door.
“Door’s open.” He calls out and a moment later his nephew, Calvin ‘Cheese’ Wagstaff enters.
“Chrissy said you were looking for me.” Cheese says, and Joe nods an affirmation.
“Have a drink with me Cal.” Joe tells him, indicating the bottle of whiskey on the desk, and his nephew moves forward to open the bottle and fill two of the glasses, but the label on the bottle stops him from proceeding.
“Uncle Joe, this is the stuff that Gramps-” Calvin starts, but Joe waves his hand, cutting him off.
“I know what bottle it is. I was waiting for the right time to open it, and this seems to be about the best time to do it.” Joe says, and Calvin quickly resumes his movements, unscrewing the cap of the bottle and pouring some of the whiskey into the glasses. After handing one to his uncle and throwing back his own, he speaks again.
“So what’s the occasion, we ringing in the end of the world?” Calvin inquires, but Joe is silent for a moment, staring at the shot glass for a long moment before throwing it back as well and returning the glass to the desk.
“Barksdale called. Turns out Stanfield is behind the zombies and he has a plan to get rid of the walking corpses, but I have to go with him and Stringer to meet with Marlo.” Joe informs his last living family member.
“He’ll kill you.” Calvin notes, not looking happy at the turn of events.
“He’s definitely going to try.” Joe agrees. “Avon came to the same conclusion, the little shit dragged this city into hell so that he could force Barksdale and myself into giving ourselves up and he could take our territory. Avon and Stringer have decided to meet him, and I’m damn well not going to be shown up by that goddamn punk.”
“What do you need me to do then?” Calvin asks.
“I need you to stay here.” Joe replies. “If things go bad and I don’t make it out, I’m going to need someone I can trust to be able to step in and take over the East.”
Calvin looks thoughtful for a couple moments. “Fine, I’ll do it.”
“You’re a good kid.” Joe praises his nephew, the moment cut short by another knock at the door. “Come in.”
The door opens once more and Gunn enters the office, followed by Frank and Nick Sobotka, Steven Brooks, Lamar Milford, Officers Roland Prezbeluski and Beatrice ‘Beedy’ Russell and three of Frank’s dock workers.
“Gunn said you had a way to get the city back to how it was.” Frank states gruffly.
“In a sense.” Joe answers cryptically. “Avon Barksdale found out how to get rid of these things, but I don’t know that the city will be back to normal, at least not right away.”
“Huh.” Frank grunts. “So what’s the plan then?”
“Where in the hell is your boss?” Faith demands of Wee-Bey after checking her watch for the thousandth time that hour, finding it to read eleven twenty-four p.m.
“He’ll be here.” Bey assures her, then goes back to cleaning his gun. A moment later the handle of front door to the building the group had taken up refuge in turns and the door swings open. “Joe.” Bey gives a short nod to the portly man as he enters followed by his group.
“Mr. Bryce.” Joe acknowledges. “Has Avon arrived yet?”
“We’re still waiting.” Faith answers, not waiting for another of Bey’s excuses. Joe turns to face her, then his gaze passes over the nearby James and Ava as well, before finally landing back on Wee-Bey.
“Just how, pray tell did Avon get a slayer and two werewolves on his payroll?” Joe asks the Barksdale enforcer after a moment, causing the aforementioned supernatural creatures eyes to widen in surprise, as well as those of the others from Barksdale’s compound.
“Shit, does every damn person is this city know about slayers?” Faith curses and gives Joe a dark look at the sound of his chuckles. “And I don’t work for Avon, neither do they.”
“In that case would you care for-”
“No.” Faith cuts him off. “How do you know about what we are?”
Joe taps the side of his nose with his left index finger. “Half-Bracken, on my mother’s side.”
“Oh.” Faith nods and turns back to Wee-Bey. “Call Avon again.”
“That’s not necessary.” Avon announces as he comes in with Stringer, Xander and Vi. “The others are waiting outside. We should head over to the park, I don’t think Marlo would be too happy if we were late showing up for our own murders.”
“Then let’s go.” James says, cocking his shotgun and walking out of the building to join the rest of the people waiting outside, Ava following close behind, clasping twin pistols in each of her tiny hands.
When the sizable group of twenty five got within a quarter mile of the park where Marlo instructed them to meet, they broke up into three groups. The first group of Avon, Stringer and Joe would be going directly into the park to meet with Marlo. The group that would be pushing in from the southeast end consisted of Faith, Wee-Bay, Xander, Vi, Frank Sobotka and his nephew Nick, Gunn, Pryzbeluski, Freamon, Beedy, and Sobotka’s men Malone and Corman. The other group which was going to come in from the southwest side was made up of James, Ava, Slim, Herc, Carver, Shamrock, Brooks, McNulty, Bunk, Milford, Poot and Sobotka’s last guy Chik. The plan that had been devised on the way over by the dark slayer, James, Avon, String and Joe was the classic pincer strike, and the group had gone their separate ways for the mission.
The full moon was shining down brightly on the park, filling the area with a luminescent glow, as the three kingpins cautiously made their way down the broken concrete path. A few moments later they come upon an ruined basketball court and find Marlo seated on a metal chair, his lieutenants Chris Partlow and Felicia ‘Snoop’ Pierson standing on either side of him, and the slayer Shannon tied to the metal post that had once been a hoop behind them.
“She’s alive, but if her wounds aren’t treated soon, I don’t like her chances.” Joe whispers to Avon, having smelt the coppery tinge of blood that got caught on the breeze that had just whipped by them.
“Welcome.” Marlo greets, looking more than pleased with himself. “The great Avon Barksdale and Joseph Wagstaff, the kings of Baltimore, oh and you even brought Mr. Bell. I trust you know my associates Chris and Snoop?”
“Get to the point Stanfield. What do you want?” Stringer demands.
“Straightfoward, very good.” Marlo says with an air of condescension in his tone. “Gentlemen, I want Baltimore, and in order for me to be able to get what I want, the three of you need to die.”
The aspiring druglord turns to Chris and gives a short nod before chanting a couple of words under his breath. Mere moments later several hundred zombies stagger into the area, completely surrounding them.
“Thank you for your cooperation.” Marlo announces as he gets up. The three kingpins watch as he casually walks away from them, following Chris through the crowd of the walking dead, Snoop right behind him. Stringer moves to go after them, but the gap in the wall of zombies closes up and he instead opts to unbind the semi-conscious Shannon from the metal post, and she half collapses against him as the ropes are no longer holding her upright.
“Please tell me this wasn’t the plan.” Shannon pleads weakly as she catches sight of the approaching flesheaters.
“Hardly.” Avon replies, pulling a flare gun out of his jacket and sending a burst into the air, then takes aim at the closest zombies and fires again, the fiery blast engulfing a couple of zombies.
The sound of gunfire from both sides echoes through out the park, and the zombies begin to drop like flies. Seeing what’s happening behind them, Marlo, Chris and Snoop quicken their pace as they flee from the area.
The two strike teams converge quickly on the three Kingpins and Shannon’s location when the last of the zombies fall, and Vi and Faith immediately move to their sister slayer’s side, making sure she isn’t going to die on them.
“Someone needs to get her to a hospital.” Faith orders, looking around the group. “I’m finishing this now, so by the time you get there, there shouldn’t be any zombies left.”
“I’ll take her.” Bodie replies as he steps forward and helps Shannon to her feet and over to a nearby car. Thankfully the keys are still inside and after putting Shannon in the passenger seat and then unlocking the back doors so that Xander and Vi could get in as well, then drives off in the direction of Baltimore General.
“Avon, String, Joe, Bey, James and Ava are with me, we’re going after Marlo.” Faith announces. “In case the zombies don’t just disappear, the rest of you will need to keep the area clear so we can get out of here. Let’s end this.”
Faith then turns and walks off in the direction that the three had ran off in, the ones she told to come with her silently breaking away from the group and following her.
Bodie had been driving for four minutes when Shannon had a moment of lucidity before passing out.
“Not Marlo, just controlling the master. Chris is the real threat.” She murmurs and Bodie gets a look on his face before slamming on the brakes, and spinning the wheel to spin the car a hundred and eighty degrees, ignoring the loud protests from Vi and Xander in the back.
“We’re not going to Baltimore General, I’m gonna take her to the university hospital, but I gotta go do something real quick.” The drug dealer says, slamming back on the gas and heading back the way they had come.
Marlo Stanfield was pissed, his plans to have the three main players in the Baltimore drug trade killed had been a dismal failure and now all three would no doubt be gunning for him. He shook his head in rage as he and his crew sprinted across the street, unaware of just how dangerous their pursuers were, or how fast an enraged slayer and a couple of werewolves could move.
The three turn around the corner and the thunder of a rifle is all the warning the have before Snoop gets launched off her feet as the bullet collides with her chest.
“Aha!” D’Angelo crows from where he stands about ten yards away. He adjusts his hold on the rifle for a moment to take aim at Marlo next, but a flick of the wrist by Chris sends a knife flying at Dee, catching him in the lung and the heir to the Barksdale organization falls.
Marlo looks down at the corpse of Snoop for a moment before catching sight of Faith and her group coming up the street.
“Shit.” He curses, turning to Chris. “Grab Snoop and let’s go.” Marlo turns to continue down the street as Chris picks up the body, but finds his way obscured by two wolves, one red and one grey, that have seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Marlo flinches at the seemingly synchronized snarls and growls coming from the two canines, and then raises his gun, firing several bullets at them. The wolves prove agile and dodge out of the way, diving behind a stoop for cover. Marlo attempts to make a run for it, but is stopped cold at the sound of thunder in the air as Faith fires her shotgun. There is a moment of silence and the world seems to freeze for a split second, then Marlo pitches to the ground, his back torn apart by Faith’s shot.
Chris Partlow drops the body of Snoop and his eyes bleed black as he turns to face Faith’s group, who have now been joined by the wolves who had snuck around the back of the building. The zombie master holds his hands out and Faith and all the others find themselves frozen in place.
“Well that was deeply stupid slayer.” Chris mocks, grinning at the struggling captives held in place by his magic. “Although I must express my gratitude at ending my services to Mr. Stanfield. Now I can take the city as my own, and with you and your little band of warriors out of the way, there’s no one that can- URK!”
Chris’s exclamation of pain is followed by the crunch of metal on stone as Bodie rams the car into Chris from behind, then crashes it into the side of the building they were standing around.
Faith and the others regain their movements as Bodie opens the drivers door, and gets out of the car. He moves to the back to help Xander and Vi take Shannon out of the ruined car as the others approach.
“Oh fuck.” Avon breathes out heavily, rushing forward to kneel by the fallen D’Angelo, joined after a moment by Bodie and Poot. “Dee, I thought I told you to stay at the compound!?”
“When have you ever known me to listen?” D’Angelo cracks, his chuckle turning into a painful cough. “Are the zombies gone now?”
Avon nods. “Yeah it seems that way.”
“Good.” Dee coughs again, his eyes falling to Faith as she looks over Shannon. “Uncle, do me a favor and help them, help her, if the time comes that they need it.” The younger Barksdale requests, as blood dribbles down from his nose.
“I will.” Avon promises as tears pool in his eyes.
“I’ll… I’ll tell mom you said hi.” Dee whispers and then falls limp. Avon cradles his nephew’s body as Bodie and Poot look down at them, the others, including a woozy Shannon gather around them and rain begins to fall from the sky.
Two Days Later
Faith walks into Avon’s office, catching sight of the drug kingpin staring out of the window. The office has been seemingly stripped down, the contents packed into a few boxes that are scattered through out the room.
“Avon?” Faith questions, and the man in question turns to face her. “I just wanted to tell you that James and Ava finally finished the repairs on the RV, we’re going to be heading out tonight after Dee’s funeral.”
Avon gives a brief nod of acknowledgement before he turns back to look out the window. Faith sighs and heads back to the door, stopping as she opens it to look over her shoulder at him.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Dee was a good man.” Faith says, “If anything like this comes up in the future, give us a call and we’ll come to help. Goodbye Mr. Barksdale.”
Faith leaves the room and Avon continues to stare out the window for a few more moments, before he pulls out his cell phone and dials a number.
“Bey, I need you to find Bodie for me and send him over here. There’s a favor I need to ask him.” Avon says before hanging up and putting the phone away.
Several hours later the hunters have gathered at the RV, Wee-Bey, Slim, Carver and Herc standing with them, saying farewell to the departing warriors.
“So where are you all heading now?” Herc asks Ava and James as they stand slightly removed from the main group, so the cigarette smoke wouldn’t bother Xander or Vi, who were not fans of the tobacco.
“Not sure yet.” Ava replies between drags. “Faith said she wanted to try and track down the Winchester brothers. Azazeal has apparently pissed them off too, Avon said that they’ve been hunting the bastard since they were kids.”
Herc nods, not really knowing what the werewolf was talking about, but humoring her anyways. He doesn’t fool James however, who just smirks at the cop.
The attentions of all present shift to the elevator as they hear the tell-tale ding of the machine, alerting everyone that a car had just descended to their floor. They all watch as the doors slide open and Avon steps off, followed by Stringer and Bodie, the last with a large duffel slung over his shoulder. Avon leads the other two over to where Faith is standing.
“One of the last things Dee asked of me was to help you. Due to the fact that I have obligations that require me to remain in Baltimore, I have decided to send one of mine with you, if that is acceptable.” Avon informs her.
“I’m guessing Bodie drew the short straw?” Faith replies, casting a glance past the kingpin at the younger drug dealer.
“He’s good with a gun, and Ellen Harvelle knows him which will be useful when you get to the Roadhouse.” Avon says.
“Ellen Harvelle?’ Xander asks, at the same time his wife says “Roadhouse?” in a questioning manner.
“Ellen Harvelle is a semi-retired hunter in Nebraska. She and her daughter Jo run a tavern frequented by hunters. If anyone might know how to find the Winchesters, they’d be the ones, or at least know someone else who could.” Avon tells them.
“We can handle one more, I guess.” Faith decides, recalling Bodie’s presence in the graveyard during her slayer dream, making a mental note to have Ezekiel give him one of the protection medallions the next time the angel popped into their lives. Avon nods his head, and Bodie moves away to store his gear in the RV.
“Let’s get on the road.” Faith says, as she passes a piece of paper over to Avon. “It’s all of our cell phone numbers, if you could make copies for Joe and the cops I’d appreciate it. Call us if anything supernatural comes up, and we’ll come running.” The dark slayer tells him as the other hunters climb into the RV.
“Thank you, Faith.” Avon replies and she walks away from him and climbs onboard. He turns to Stringer. “Get the door open.”
His second in command nods and walks over to the control panel. He presses the big button and the door raises up, reaching the top just as Xander drives the RV up to and then through the open. Avon, Stringer, Herc, Wee-Bey, Slim and Carver spill out into the street after them, watching as the RV drives off down the street and out of Baltimore.
End Chapter Three
Chapter Four: Bar Room Heroes
(Introducing Jo, Ellen, Ash and Bobby of Supernatural)
The sound of the Dropkick Murphy’s “State of Massachusetts” breaks the silence of the forest road as the RV drives around the bend, Ava sitting in the driver’s seat. The young werewolf bobbing her head to the beat of the music as the vehicle rolls forward, enjoying herself for the moment at least.
Suddenly the crunch of metal is heard over the music and Ava feels the tires on the right side of the vehicle lift up as they encounter an object in the path and simply run it over. Ava swerves the RV to the right and slams on the brakes. James and Bodie jump into action, exiting the rig and running around to the other side, with guns at the ready.
“Ah fuck!” James swears as he catches sight of the hellhound that they just turned into roadkill.
Ava, Faith, Xander, Vi and Shannon join them a moment later, with both Ava and Faith grimacing as the recognize the species of hellhound they’d killed. It was a D’Thala breed, and in addition to the well known fact that they were arguably the most vicious breed of the species, they were also noted to always travel in packs of twelve, which meant that there were at least eleven more of the killing machines out there.
“Get back into the RV.” Ava says suddenly, catching a scent on the breeze that makes her teeth elongate slightly out of reflex and she bites back a growl. “There’s more of them coming at us from the east.”
The seven hunters all quickly return to the relative safety of the rig and James gets into the driver’s seat, leading further down the road that they had been told they could find the Roadhouse on, soon afterwards passing an old wooden sign saying it was two further miles to their destination. James just hoped they were able to get there before the hounds did.
“Jo!” Ellen Harvelle called up the staircase that led to the apartment above the Roadhouse. She waits for a few moments, hearing footsteps coming over to the door and then it opens revealing her daughter, Jo Harvelle standing at the top, looking down.
“What’s up mom?” the younger Harvelle questions.
“It’s gonna start getting busy down here, and I’m going to need another person behind the bar.” Ellen replies and Jo nods her head.
“Let me just change and I’ll be down.” Jo says, turning and walking back into the apartment.
“Thanks hun.” Ellen calls and returns to the bar room, swatting at Ash who is sprawled over the pool table, staring up at the hanging light above him and a half smoked joint in between his fingertips. “Go use one of the couches in the backroom Ash, how many times to I need to tell you?”
“Sorry Ellen.” Ash apologizes, quickly pulling himself up and off the pool table, before heading to the aforementioned couch in the back. Ellen shakes her head at the man, and continues on to re-take her place behind the bar just as the door opens and someone walks in she’d never thought she’d see come out her way, and neither is he alone, as six others follow him inside. Ellen made note of the concealed weapons each was carrying, she was fairly certain they were all hunters.
“Bodie?” Ellen calls out incredulously, catching the attention of the ex-Baltimorean drug dealer, who gives her a brief nod of acknowledgement before he says something to the other two men and the girl with dyed hair, who quickly nod and head back outside. Ellen watches the other three women take a seat at one of the tables nearest to the door and Bodie walks toward her.
“Sorry to drop in like this Ellen.” Bodie apologizes, “You need to tell everyone that they have to get out of here, there’s D’Thala hellhounds in the area and we need to lock this place down.”
Ellen’s eyes widen at the mention of the species of demon that had killed her father, uncle and two cousins, knowing from memory how savage and bloodthirsty the creatures were. She opens her mouth to warn the patrons of the bar, but the door flies open once more and the three people that had gone back outside rush back in. One of the men, the one that’s clearly Irish and the punked out girl slam the doors shut and press their weight against it as something throws itself against the wood, pushing it in slightly against the efforts of the pair. The other man grabs a two by four that had been left laying around after the renovations and quickly shoves it through the handles of the door, preventing the hellhound outside from entering.
The five regulars present in the bar have all gone silent as they look blankly at the door, unsure of what is happening. The fact that the bar only opened a half hour before and already four of the five are piss drunk, the odd man out being Robert Singer, a local mechanic and part-time hunter.
There is a thump and a scream from above, sending Ellen rushing to the stairwell, vaguely aware that Bodie and the raven haired woman are right behind her. The three run up the stairs and Ellen throws the door at the top open to find a very dead and visible hellhound slumped lifelessly atop her daughter, who is struggling to push the dead weight off, her face streaked from the blood that had spurted from the hellhound’s throat when Jo had slammed a knife into it.
Bodie and the other woman quickly grab hold of the corpse and heave it off of Jo, who is quickly pulled to her feet by Ellen. The two Harvelles watch as Bodie and the woman drag the body away and with a little effort toss it back out through the window it had broke through to attack Jo, and all four hear the thud as the dead weight hits the ground below.
The raven haired woman turns to them and opens her mouth to speak but is rendered silent when her eyes fall upon the younger Harvelle and her eyes widen as she recognizes the blonde woman as being the one that had appeared to stand with Xander and Vi in the slayer dream she had had in Baltimore after her brief fling with the late D’Angelo Barksdale.
“We need to either get this window sealed off or the apartment itself. It’s clearly easy enough for them to get through up here.” The dark slayer says when she finally finds her voice. “I’m Faith by the way.”
Ellen nods, and leads her daughter, Bodie and the self proclaimed ‘Faith’ back downstairs, locking both the doors in the stairway as they go to block off that entrance to the bar.
The four re-entered the bar to find that several of the tables have been moved to barricade the glass windows, and Bobby and the one eyed hunter are working together to secure the last one.
“Jush whazz in the heel is goint on here?” one of the regulars, Daniel Ross slurs from his spot at on of the tables by the fireplace. He tries to stand up, stumbling back into the stone masonry of the fireplace itself. The rest of the bar patrons fall silent at the sound of a snarl from somewhere nearby, but Daniel pays no heed to it, or it could be that he’s too drunk to be bothered. He slumps against the cement wall of the inner part of the fireplace, and his head lolls back so he’s staring up into the chimney. “OOO look, itsa doggie. Come ‘ere doggie!”
“Daniel! Get away from there!” Ellen screams upon realizing, but her warning comes to late as a clawed appendage shoots out from the ventilation and grabs Daniel, dragging him screaming up into the chimney. She watches as the Irish man bursts into action, grabbing two of the handguns he’d brought in off the table and diving at the fireplace. As she watches in stunned silence, the man somehow manages to twist his body mid-flight to slide the last couple feet on his back on the polished floor before being in the position to fire both guns right up into the hole that the hellhound had dragged Daniel up into.
All of this happens over the span of about eight seconds, and no sooner has the Irishman sat up, do the body of the hellhound and Daniel’s remains fall out, landing in a heap right where the man’s head and upper body had been just a moment prior. The man jumps to his feet and flips a table on its side and pushes it to the fireplace, blocking off the hole there. When he’s finished, he turns to look at Ellen.
“I’m guessing you’re Ellen Harvelle?” he inquires, and she gives him a nod of confirmation. “Name’s James Foley, got anything good on tap?”
Ten minutes later introductions had been made all around and Ellen stood behind the bar once more, keeping a wary eye on the front door as if expecting it to burst open at any point. Her fear was summarily dispelled as the redhead slayer Vi dumped a line of salt across the inner threshold of the doors to ward off the beasts, then sauntered over to her husband Xander, who was seated further down the bar from where Ellen was standing. The one eyed man was cleaning out his shotgun, and several bullets made of consecrated steel that Bobby had provided lay on the bar’s surface in front of him.
The Irishman and the girl with the dyed hair, James and Ava, were sitting on a couch that had been moved to face the doors. Both had their own shotguns lain up against the back rest of the couch as Ava curled herself into James’ side, relaxed but ready for action at the drop of a pin. The slayer named Shannon was standing off in the furthest corner from the bar, a pistol in her hand as she kept watch out the small window there, conversing with Faith and Bodie who were seated at one of the remaining upright tables nearby the brunette woman.
Ellen is drawn out of her thoughts as Jo emerges from the back room with Bobby and Ash, and makes her way over to the bar as Bobby and Ash move off to sit on the other couch that’s set up near where the other three regular patrons have gathered in the booth.
“Everything’s set.” Jo tells her mother as she drops onto the stool. “We only have to make it to sunrise and those hounds’ll burn up in the sun right?”
Ellen nods, thinking back to her previous experience with the satanic beasts.
“So who are all the people that came with that friend of yours, Bodie?” Jo inquires, glancing around the scattered group before turning back to the elder Harvelle.
“The two on the couch are James and Ava, they’re both werewolves but have the ability to control their beasts, making them more like the mythical Loup-Garou really. The brunette by the window is Shannon, and then obviously Bodie and Faith, and the ones at the end of the bar are Xander and Vi, they’re married. Faith, Shannon and Vi are also slayers.” Ellen informs Jo, “Most of them used to work for the Watchers Council, but that demon the Winchester boys are hunting massacred their organization and they’re the only ones left, that they know of anyways.”
“Wait, Slayers are real?” Jo exclaims in surprise, looking at the last three slayers with a deep respect. “Wow.”
Faith gets up from her seat, picking up her shotgun off the table and walking over to where Xander and Vi are sitting, poking Xander in the back as she reaches them.
“Mind if I borrow your husband for a moment or two?” she asks Vi, who gives a nod, then Faith pulls Xander toward the back room.
“Just don’t break him or nothin’.” Vi calls over her shoulder before going back to loading up her revolver.
Faith opens the door to the back room and walks in, waiting a moment for Xander to enter before shutting and locking it behind them. She pulls a round crystal out of one of her waistband pouches and holds it in front of her.
“Involvare” she mutters and light burst forth from the crystal, washing over Faith and Xander before filling the room with blinding light for a brief moment before everything returns to normal. “Sorry about that, Angel gave me the spell. We need to talk.”
“About?” Xander asks quizzically.
“I had a slayer dream in Baltimore.” Faith informs him, and his eyes darken.
“I thought you and Buffy both stopped having them after the Great Calling and Sunnydale?”
“We, well at least I did. Baltimore was the first time in almost six years.” Faith replies, “I would have said something earlier, but I wasn’t a hundred percent sure it wasn’t just a normal nightmare, until we got here.”
“What happened?” Xander presses.
“I was on the edge of a graveyard somewhere, and I couldn’t move only watch as the events unfolded.” Faith starts. “I saw four people in the middle of the yard, two of them I believe to have been the Winchesters. They attacked a black man, who had telekinesis or something, cause he made the woman in the group hold her gun to her head, then unlocked a crypt that was covering a hellmouth. The others managed to get the gun away from the woman, but the black guy used his powers to throw her into a tree and kill her. Then the guy with shaggy hair shot him twice and killed him. Azazeal showed up and killed the oldest one with a steel fence rod, then dragged Dawn and Cassie into the graveyard. Azazeal talked to them for a bit and then the shaggy haired one said something that pissed him off, cause he threw Cassie at them and none of them got back up. Azazeal stabbed Dawn with the scythe and threw her into hell. That’s when you, Vi, Shannon, James, Ava, Bodie and two others, a man and a woman that I’d never seen before showed up to talk to me.”
Faith falls silent for a moment before finishing. “The woman was Jo.”
Xander remains silent for a few moments, pondering what it could mean, and Faith speaks out again.
“X, I don’t think the dream was a normal slayer dream either, they were always so vague.” Faith admits. “I think it was a direct vision of something we need to keep from occurring. To do that, we’re going to have to somehow convince Jo to come with us when we move on, and also find out who the other man is. But more than that, in the vision Bodie, Jo and the other man had this on their wrists as well.” The slayer holds up her wrist where the medallion had melted into a tattoo in her flesh.
“You think that Ezekiel has been less than forthright with us.” Xander states and Faith bobs her head in a quick confirmation.
“I talked to James and Ava in private when we broke down outside St. Louis, neither of them had the control or actual wolf form prior to taking the protection mark.” Faith tells the former carpenter. “Look, I’m not saying he can’t be trusted, but he has an agenda somewhere in all of this, everyone does, and it’s centered around us, the ones who have taken or will take the mark in the future. He’s being selective about who gets to have his protection, and from what I know from Willow, normal protection marks do not allow for greater control for werewolves.”
“How so?” Xander asks, sounding confused.
“The council may have been taken out, but we have other allies out there that we know to still be alive. Oz. Riley Finn. Graham Miller. Gwen Raiden. Connor. Why wouldn’t he go to any of them?”
“Maybe he did.” Xander suggests, but Faith shakes her head.
“It’s possible, but I highly doubt it. I think he would have mentioned Oz having taken the mark when he brought up the fact that he was still alive when Stringer had us locked up.”
“Oh.” Xander deflates. “So what do you think it means?”
“I think Zeke is creating new heralds.” Faith says after a moments pause.
“You’re half correct, Faith Lehane.” Ezekiel intones as he materializes a few feet from the dark slayer and ex-carpenter, causing the latter jumping a couple feet in the air with a startled yelp.
“Jesus Christ man, you gotta quit doing that.” Xander exclaims once the shock wears off.
“I apologize for that.” Ezekiel remarks, “I did not create the new heralds, I am merely helping them to find each other so they can fulfill their destinies. The final days are-”
“Upon us, yeah yeah. I know the drill.” Faith interrupts. “Why us?”
“I do not know Faith Lehane.” Ezekiel replies honestly. “The prophesy had been playing itself out for years prior to our initial meeting. Everything has happened as it should thus far.”
“Wait, what do you mean that it’s been playing itself out for years?” Xander questions. “Just how long?”
“It was started on the night that the slayer line was first divided.” The angel admits.
“So everything that’s happened to any of your heralds since that night has been planned?” Faith asks, a deceitful calmness to her tone, which Xander knew from experience was the most definitive sign that one should run for their lives from the dark slayer. “My fall from grace, Ava and James being infected by lycanthropy, Xander’s eye, the murders of Vi and Shannon’s families by the bringers, all of it was foreseen and nothing was done to stop it. The council massacre?”
“Yes.” Ezekiel answers and Faith launches herself at the angel, but is held back effortlessly by the man.
“YOU ROTTEN LYING ASSHOLE!” Faith screams at him from where he is holding her away from him. Xander moves to attack, but Ezekiel fends him off as well.
“I am gravely sorry for the trouble the prophesy has brought upon you, but I was not the one to record it nor did I set in it in motion.” Ezekiel says calmly. “Alexander Harris is the one who set it off. Will you attack him as you have me?”
Faith still has fire dancing in her eyes as the angel releases her and she backs away, and for a moment Xander thinks she might try to attack again, but she loses the spark after a moment when Ezekiel disappears.
“You higher powers are all the same, everything needs to be done for the greater good, bunch of self-righteous jack-offs.” Faith mutters. “Fuck it. I’m done.”
“Faith?” Xander inquires as she heads for the door.
“I’m not done fighting X, just done fighting for a place in heaven.” Faith says forlornly, not turning to face him.
“No, I mean look.” The former zeppo says, and she turns to see two more of the medallions lying on the floor. She quickly moves over and takes the pair, stowing them away in her jacket pocket.
“They’re for Bodie and Jo if they’re willing.” Faith says as she pulls the crystal back out and shatters it on the floor, breaking the spell she’d cast before. “I get why Ezekiel told us that bullshit at first, he may have lied but he had his reasons. He doesn’t want the world to fall into the complete control of evil, and if they don’t take the mark and their place among Zeke’s heralds, then we’re all fucked.”
“How long left until sunrise?” Ava asks James a couple minutes after Faith and Xander went into the back room.
“I dunno, maybe five hours.” James guesses.
“Four hours and forty-eight minutes.” Ash supplies from where he is once again laying on the pool table a few feet from them, a Wesson pp7 laying on the edge of the table right by his hand.
“That’s precise.” Ava comments, looking over at the scruffy man.
“I’m a genius.” Ash informs her, catching her disbelieving look. “It’s my blessing and my curse.”
“We can relate.” Ava commiserates, and Ash’s eyes brighten at her words.
“You’re geniuses too?” He inquires eagerly, but a wry look and shake of the head from Ava puts the Kai-Bosh on his hope of meeting a likeminded individual around these parts.
“Nah, I meant the curse thing.” Ava replies. “Me and James are werewolves, or at least we were, I’m not quite sure what we are now.”
“The closest thing I could think to call us would be Loup-Garou, but they’re only myths.” James says. “At least before now.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard the stories.” Ash replies. “I think they did exist at some point but are all extinct now. There was a report of a tribe in Europe in the early eighteen hundreds, but no proof was ever found.”
“It was probably just another witch hunt.” James remarks, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and offering it to both Ava and Ash, who each take one. James pulls one out for himself as well and lights it. He takes a drag, inhaling just as something starts scratching at the outer wall of the bar, causing both the wolves to grab hold of their guns in case.
“There’s half an inch of steel plating under the drywall, it’d take them days to scratch their way through it.” Jo tells them as she walks by, heading back towards the bar, carrying a case of beer in her hands.
The blonde hunter puts the case atop the bar’s surface as Faith and Xander emerge from the back room once more and Xander reclaims his spot next to his wife as Faith heads over to where Jo and Ellen are standing, taking a stool.
“So you’ve both been hunters for a while, right?” Faith inquires, receiving nods from both of the other women.
“Bout twenty years on and off.” Ellen replies, “Jo had her first kill when she was thirteen, nine years ago now.” Faith gives a nod, and then her expression turns serious.
“Have you ever met an angel?” the dark slayer asks, causing the two Harvelle women’s eyes to widen.
“You’re not a, I mean are you?” Jo stammers, to which Faith lets out a short bark of laughter.
“Me? Hardly.” Faith retorts, “But I know a guy, real cryptic douche, but he helps out from time to time. Point is, the war is about to hit its final years, the ones that will decide the fate of this world, and Ezekiel, that’s the angel, is gathering soldiers for God’s army. There’s even a prophesy about the whole thing.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Ellen asks with baited breath, already knowing she’s not going to like the answer.
“Because I am one of those soldiers.” Faith replies after a moment. “And not by my choosing so are Xander, Vi, Shannon, James, Ava, Bodie…. And Jo.”
“No.” Ellen whispers, as Faith takes one of the two medallions left by Zeke out of her pocket and sets it on the bar in between the two Harvelles.
“I’m sorry.” Faith tells the older woman with sympathy clear in her voice. “It isn’t a life I’d have chosen for myself in a perfect world, but we’re all dealt our cards and have to roll with what we’ve got, and if Jo opts not to take the mark and her place among the new heralds, then Earth will be sucked into hell.”
“Not much of a choice then, is there?” Jo remarks bitterly.
“Again, I’m sorry.” Faith tells her. “I gave you the full story as I now know it, when the rest of us took the mark, Ezekiel had been less the forthcoming with the details of what we were getting ourselves into. If you decide you want in, press the medallion against the flesh here, and it’ll take care of itself.” Faith finishes, showing the other two her own mark before standing and walking off purposely towards Shannon, leaving Jo and Ellenm at the bar, looking down at the medallion.
“Jo you don’t need to-” Ellen starts, but Jo grabs up the medallion and puts it in her pocket. “I see.”
“Mom, you know how bad it is out there. If joining this ‘army’ means that I can make a real difference in this war, maybe even help win it, then I’m damn well going to do it.” Jo declares passionately, before she herself stands and makes her way to the back room for privacy. Ellen watches her until the door closes and she vanishes from view, then turns a steely gaze on Vi and Xander who had glanced in her direction after Jo’s departure, and the married couple looks away quickly. Ellen lets out a sigh and reaches into the private fridge under the bar to grab the bottle of Russian Vodka she kept there. She pours out some into a shot glass and slams it back just as Jo lets out a brief cry of pain from the back room and a tear runs down the side of her face. A glance to the back corner allows her to see Faith pass something to Bodie a couple moments afterwards and he gives a short nod of the head before standing and making his way to the bathroom.
The sound of the back room door opening shifts her attention to it and watches as her daughter emerges, rubbing at her right wrist, where a black inked tattoo is clearly visible in contrast to her pale skin.
“Are you alright?” Ellen inquires and Jo looks at her with slightly red eyes.
“Yeah, I’m all good, just stung a bit.” She replied, saving her mother of how much pain the medallion melting into her flesh had really caused her. All of the people in the bar whip their heads in the direction of the bathroom when a loud ‘Fuck!’ is heard, followed by the sound of a trash can crashing against the wall. Ellen gives a quick shake of the head and throws back another shot glass of vodka.
A few hours pass without any further incident before the sounds of growling pick up again outside, followed by the thump of a heavy object impacting the outer wall. James and Ash stand from their places and get close to one of the front boarded window, peering through the divide between the table they put there and the glass. One of the regulars gives a shake of his head as he gets up to head to the bathroom, shaking his head.
“S’all bullsheet.” He slurs, pushing the door open and disappearing into the men’s room.
“I don’t see nothing.” Ash notes upon pulling back, then another thump is heard against the wall near where Shannon is sitting. “What the hell are they doing now?”
“They’re testing the infrastructure of the building, searching for weak spots.” Xander announces, drawing on his construction experience.
“All the walls are imbedded with re-enforced steel.” Ellen calls, then gets a panicky look on her face. “Except the bathrooms, they were renovated without them.”
As if to prove the truth behind Ellen’s realization, a loud crash is heard from within the bathroom that the drunk patron had just entered, and then a scream. Faith and Bobby jump up from their seats and run to the door, which Faith kicks open. The sight that greets the two has them opening fire immediately, riddling the feasting hound with bullets and it falls dead. Faith quickly pulls the doors shut and locks them as Bobby catches the container of salt that Vi throws at him and makes a line across the threshold.
Having figured out through their drunken haze that people are being killed, the two remaining bar patrons, Stan and Kyle, begin to freak out.
“Jesus Christ, those fuckers killed Kenny.” Stan cries out, knocking his beer off the table as he jumps to his feet. Kyle does as well, hobbling in the direction of the front door.
“Less go ‘n’ get the bastards.” Kyle slurs as he reaches the door, breaking the salt line and pulling the wood out from the handles as Stan joins him. Ava turns to just in time to see the drunk start to open the front door.
“No!” Ava yells too late as the doors burst open and both drunks are grabbed by the hellhounds gathered right outside the door and dragged off into the night screaming. Ellen sees this happen and grabs the open bottle of vodka, quickly stuffs a paper towel down into it and sets it ablaze before hurling it at the hound that stands at the threshold. The bottle shatters on impact and the beast is immediately engulfed in flames. Ava and James quickly hurl themselves forward, in an attempt to get the doors closed, but two of the other hellhounds manage to get in first. With a quick look shared between them, Ava and James shift into wolf form as they pounce at the hounds, all four rolling out of the bar.
Bodie, Ash and Shannon get to the doors, firing out, but careful not to hit the wolves, noting that the sun is beginning to light up the sky. Each of their individual shots score hits that shatter the skulls of three of the remaining hounds, as the wolves manage to tear out the throats of the ones they’ve been grappling with. The sun is high enough now, that the last two hounds decide to find shelter for now and jump up the tree that had been used by the hound Jo had killed hours earlier to enter the apartment above.
Faith and Jo stood at the bottom of the staircase going up the apartment, staring up at the door at the top, Jo with no small amount of trepidation. She hadn’t told the others, but her earlier kill had been sheer luck. Still she felt a thirst to prove her worth as a hunter to the leader apparent of this group of heralds she was a part of now. She shook off her musings and fell into step behind Faith as the older woman led the way up the wooden staircase, and stopping at the top, and turning to her.
“I’m sorry I pulled you into shit.” Faith apologizes, “You could’ve had a normal life.”
Jo shakes her head in disagreement. “I may not be a slayer, and while I am new to this supernatural warrior club, my life has never been or would ever be normal Faith. I would have still been a hunter, and sooner or later I would’ve clocked out against something. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve already prolonged my estimated lifespan with the protection of the medallion, so don’t beat yourself up over it.”
Faith gives a grateful nod at the blonde herald’s words. “Ready?”
The resulting nod from Jo was all the dark slayer needed before turning and throwing open the door to charge in, Jo right at her heels. A shotgun blast from Faith takes care of one of the final two, but the slayer gets swatted aside by the last hound, sliding across the floor and hitting her head against the wall. The hound decides to take advantage of the disoriented slayer and begins to stalk toward her fallen form. Jo raises her shotgun to shoot it, but it jams up.
“Shit!” she cries out, tossing the gun to the floor and bum rushing the hound that was looking at Faith as it’s next meal. If the hound hadn’t been as close as it was to the hole it’s fallen brethren had created, then what happened next may have gone the exact opposite way, but sheer dumb luck saved her again. As when the entire hundred and five pounds of blonde Harvelle slammed into the hound, it slipped on a large shard of broken glass that had been on the floor, losing it’s balance and both Jo and the hound went falling out through the hole.
The hound hit the ground first, with Jo landing on top of it, driving the air out of its lungs. In a split second, Jo’s hand flashed out with her knife and opened up the hound’s throat, just as the sun hit it. Jo scrambled backwards, away from the hound as it weakly attempted to rise, but collapsed upon catching fire from the sun’s rays shining down upon it.
A grin formed on Jo’s face as she stood and made her way over to the front door of the bar, pulling it open and walking in, immediately grabbed by her mother and drawn into a tight hug, which was eagerly reciprocated on her end.
A few moments later Faith stumbles back into the bar from the other side of the room, her hand pressed to the side of her head as a thin stream of blood trickles down her cheek, coming from under her hand.
“I think I’m gonna need stitches.” The dark slayer mutters, as Xander, Shannon and Vi flock to her and begin looking her over for other wounds.
“Are you alright?” Ellen asks her only child, who gives her an assuring nod.
“It was like I had no fear, rushing headlong into the fire without getting burned. It was exhilarating.” Jo gushes out, immensely proud of herself. Ellen allows a small smile to come out, although she still is clearly worried for her daughter. The older Harvelle opens her mouth to speak, but the shrill ring of the phone stops her cold and she moves away from Jo to answer it.
“This is the Roadhouse.” Ellen says into the receiver, then listens to the voice on the other end for a moment. “Yes, hold on. Faith, it’s someone for you.”
“Barksdale?” she asks, making her way over, the other survivors starting to gather around as well. Ellen shakes her head, causing Faith to frown. “Who else would know we’re here?”
Faith takes the phone from Ellen and holds it to her ear. “Hello?”
“Faith? Oh thank god, I was afraid I’d missed you.” Cassie Newton’s voice comes through the receiver and Faith nearly drops the phone.
“Cassie?!” Faith exclaims with a shocked yell. “Where the hell are you, we’ll come and get you!”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea Faith, I’m not even sure where I am, or how I even got away. He’s not looking for an army, just a general, and he’s making a game out of it, making us kill each other for the spot. I need to- Oh goddess no! Faith, he’s found me.” Cassie suddenly screamed on the other end. “Harper’s Island, Washington, fourteen days, there’s another there. I-”
The line goes dead, but Faith continues to hold the phone for a moment. “Cassie? CASSIE! FUCK!” She slams the portable phone onto the bar and slumps onto the stool that Xander had strategically placed behind her when she made mention of the fact it was Cassie on the phone. He puts a comforting hand on her shoulder and she calms.
“He took her again.” Faith says softly, then grabs a pen on the other side of the bar and one of the napkins. She quickly writes out Cassie’s final words onto the napkin so she wouldn’t forget, then looks up at the group that has gathered around her. “She had enough time to give us another job. We’re going to Washington.”
“Are you sure about this?” Ellen asks her daughter for the hundredth time since Jo had announced that she would be joining Faith’s group in their travels. “You only just got back a week ago.”
“I know mom, but this is something I need to do.” Jo replies. “You and dad made names for yourselves in the hunting community, and now it’s time for me to make mine. You knew I wasn’t planning to spend the rest of my life as a bartender. I would have gone back out there eventually, least this way I’ll have seven other hunters watching my back. Safety in numbers and all that jazz.”
Ellen gives a nod of understanding and lapses into a watchful silence as Jo goes back to packing up her clothes and weapons into two separate duffel bags. When she’s finished Ellen grabs hold of the weapon bag and hefts it up.
“Mom, you don’t have to-” Jo starts as she lifts the bag of clothes, but her mother cuts her off.
“Hush, I know. But I’m gonna do it anyways.” Ellen informs her and then the two women exit Jo’s bedroom, and make their way over to the stairwell. A couple minutes afterwards they exit the front doors of the bar and find the others waiting out by the RV.
“All ready to go?” Xander asks, seeing the two women come outside, Jo nods and walks over to the rig to throw her bag aboard. Ellen moves to follow, but is intercepted by Faith.
“I know you probably hate me for bringing your daughter in this, but I promise you’ll see her again, and sooner than you’d think.” Faith tells her, now fairly certain that the woman in the graveyard that the black guy had killed was Ellen, and silently swore to herself that she would prevent the older woman’s death at any cost. “We’ll keep her alive.”
“But you can’t promise actual safety.” Ellen notes, and Faith gives her a wry look.
“Is there really anywhere on Earth that’s truly safe?” the dark slayer ponders.
“Fair enough, but if I hear you got my daughter hurt, then there’s no force on earth or in heaven that will stop me from exacting my pound out of your ass.” Ellen threatens, but Faith doesn’t even blink, just gives her a simple nod.
“I’d expect nothing less.” Faith comments, then relieves Ellen of Jo’s bag of weapons, heaving it effortlessly over her shoulder. “You’re a rare woman Ellen, don’t ever stop fighting the good fight.”
“You either, Faith.” Ellen replies. “Take care of my daughter.”
Faith nods once more, turning away to face the rest of the group. “Lets get on the road.” She says before climbing into the rig, followed quickly by Xander, Vi, Shannon, Bodie and Jo.
James and Ava linger a moment longer, waiting as Ash runs back out of the bar, carrying a large brown paper bag in his hands. He quickly strides over to the two wolves and hands the bag over.
“On the house.” Ash waves off the hundred dollars that James offers. “Consider it a road trip present.”
“Thanks again.” Ava says, leaning up to kiss Ash on the cheek and he colors slightly, causing her to giggle. “Goodbye Ash.”
Ava and James turn and walk off, getting into the RV and closing the door behind them, as Ash walks over to where Ellen is standing. The two watch as the RV roars to life and drives off out of the parking lot and then down the road, heading west.
“You think they’ll come back?” Ash asks his boss when the two of them can no longer hear the rumble of the motor in the distance.
“Faith told me that I’d see Jo again, sooner than I’d think, so I’m gonna hold out hope we do.” Ellen replies, then turns to face him. “So what was in the bag you gave to the werewolves?”
Ash suddenly looks uncomfortable and Ellen lets out a low chuckle.
“It’s uh.. It’s a secret.” Ash stutters, but Ellen just shakes her head in amusement.
“Don’t ever change Ash.” She says, then turns and walks back into the bar, Ash watching her until she’s out of view.
“Oh please tell me that you two DIDN’T just buy pot off Ash!” Jo exclaims, holding a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing.
“Well technically it was a gift.” Ava says, receiving a doubtful look from Jo. “He wouldn’t take the money, so I can’t say we actually bought it.”
“The world is doomed.” Jo mutters as she settles back into the leather couch in the living room area of the RV.
End Chapter Four