The streets of Los Angeles seemed deserted. Kennedy couldn’t remember the last time a car had passed her, and people were curiously absent. Her slayer senses tingled. The night was too calm and Kennedy was certain the Senior Partners were up to something.
Coming around the corner, Kennedy scanned her surroundings. The Wolfram and Hart building lay in a pile of rubble. Yellow police tape was being used to deter anyone brave, or foolish enough, from checking out the unstable heap.
As she drew closer, she saw the figure of a man standing near the remains of the building. He was tall, broad shouldered, and well dressed. His hair was cut short and neat; his smile was cold. From the description Angel had given, she figured him to be Hamilton, the liaison he said he had killed. It looked like Angel hadn’t done a very good job.
He seemed to be talking to one of those lizardy demons, though she could not hear what was being said. Creeping forward Kennedy watched as their conversation appeared to wrap up and the demon disappeared into the shadows.
When Hamilton stepped away from the rubble, Kennedy tried to sneak away. This was definitely something that Giles needed to know. Unfortunately for Kennedy her right foot kicked a small bit of concrete when she moved. It went skittering across the sidewalk, and hit a metal dumpster with a clang.
Hamilton turned narrowed eyes in her direction as a smirk replaced his smile.
“Well, what do you know,” Hamilton said. His voice was smooth, casual, sounding as if he was simply speaking about the weather. “It seems I’ve found a little girl playing at being a slayer, and poking around where she shouldn’t.”
“I’m not playing,” Kennedy said, head high and eyes icy. She adjusted her grip on the handle of her axe as she prepared to fight.
“You’re not Buffy or Faith,” Hamilton said, his voice sounding smug. “So I’d say you’re playing pretend little girl.”
“That’s where you’re wrong Hamilton,” Kennedy smirked. “Looks like I’ll get to finish what Angel started. You really should have stayed dead after he killed you.”
“That would have implied Angel had succeeded.”
Rushing forward, Kennedy swung her axe, aiming for his head. Hamilton was fast though, and ducked out of the way. He was also stronger than she had anticipated. His punch caught her in her side and launched her into the air. Her flight was stopped when her back slammed into a brick wall. The impact knocked the breath from her lungs, and stars danced before her eyes. Sharp spikes of pain raced along her back, and her body begged her to lie down and stay still. Distantly her mind registered the high-pitched clang of her axe hitting the ground. It was by will alone Kennedy pulled herself to her feet. She was a slayer, and no two bit demon wanna-be was going to take her down.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Kennedy sneered, refusing to acknowledge the warm sticky sensation on the back of her head. “Cause if so, I gotta say I’m a bit disappointed.”
“I am a part of the Wolf, Ram, and Hart little slayer.” Hamilton smiled and casually cracked his knuckles. “You have no idea as to what I‘ve got.”
“You sure about that Hammy?” Kennedy asked, voice all little girl innocent. “Angel beat you once; who’s to say something like that won’t happen again?”
Hoping for the element of surprise, Kennedy lobbed a heavy chunk of concrete at Hamilton. When he moved to dodge the missile, Kennedy launched herself at him. Again, he was faster than she hoped. Hamilton caught her with ease, holding her off the ground by her forearms.
“We can not be defeated.” Hamilton grinned as he began to squeeze. Struggling, Kennedy tried to break free, but his hold was too strong. Pain flew through her body, as her bones were ground together. Gritting her teeth, Kennedy refused to give him the satisfaction of hearing her scream. Pulling her foot back, she tried to deliver a kick to his stomach, and prayed the impact would loosen his grip on her arms.
Before she could attack though, a sword was pushed through Hamilton’s chest. His eyes widened in shock and his grip slackened. Dropping to the ground, Kennedy scrambled away, her eyes wide at the surprise rescue. Suddenly, the tip of the blade was yanked free, and then, Hamilton’s head was flying across the room while his body tumbled to the ground.
Looking up, Kennedy came face to face with her savior. He was tall, with broad shoulders and blonde hair. He had a scar bisecting his left eye. He wore black military fatigues and had a gun clipped to his belt.
“Damn villains are all the same,” the man said with a shake of his head. “Love the sound of their own voice.”
Pulling herself to her feet, Kennedy raised her fists, and prayed she wouldn’t have to fight the newcomer. Hamilton had taken more out of her than she thought, and it was by will alone she was standing.
“Who the hell are you?”
A slight smile crossed the strangers face. Shaking his head, he put the sword in a sheath resting along his back.
“I’m Riley Finn,” he said as he took a step towards her. “We’re on the same side.”
Eyebrow arched, Kennedy glared at the man, refusing to answer. Her fists were still raised, and she took a step back, putting some distance between herself and the solider.
“And I’m supposed to take you at your word?” Kennedy asked with a disgusted snort. “Please.”
“Look, just talk to Buffy,” Riley said. “She’ll tell you.”
“How about I get back to you on that one?” Kennedy kept her eyes trained on the solider before her. An exasperated sigh answered her obvious suspicion. With a roll of his eyes, Riley pulled out a card and slowly placed it on the ground between them. Straightening to his full height, Riley held up his hands and started to back away.
“Fine, just tell Buffy that she can call me at that number.”
Kennedy stayed silent, watching as the soldier disappeared into the ruins of Wolfram and Hart.
Darting forward she scooped up the card and ran back to the hotel.
“And he said his name was Riley?” Giles asked, again, as he paced his hotel room.
“Yes,” Kennedy growled. “He kept talking like he knew Buffy.”
Pausing briefly, Giles eyed the card in his hand and the telephone sitting on the end table. Making up his mind, Giles picked up the handset and dialed. The phone rang three times before a familiar voice answered.
“Sorry, to disappoint,” Giles said, his tone cool.
“Giles,” Riley said. His sigh carried over the phone. “I thought Buffy would be calling.”
“I gathered,” Giles replied. “Though how you figured it was her is beyond me.”
“The card has my personal cell number on it.”
“I see,” Giles said. “Frankly, now that I know it was in fact you who approached our Slayer, I can’t help wondering what you are doing here.”
Riley‘s exasperation could be heard clearly. “I guess there’s no point in saying that information is classified since we’re probably here for the same reasons.”
“I doubt that.”
“We received intel saying there was something going on in Los Angeles and that whatever it was; it was connected to Wolfram and Hart. Since I heard Angel was running the Los Angeles branch, I thought it would be a good idea to put a team together and find out what was happening.”
“And when you got here you found a group of slayers and a destroyed building,” Giles summarized.
“Exactly,” Riley answered. “I thought my team and I could help Buffy get rid of these demons and try and figure out what happened here.”
“Well,” Giles said with a sigh, “I’m pretty sure you already know what hotel we’re staying at. Be here within the hour, if possible. There are many things to discuss, and I’d rather not do it over the phone.”
“I’ll be there.”
Hanging up the phone, Giles prayed he wasn’t making a mistake in taking Riley up on his offer of help. However, with Buffy gone and only a handful of slayers left, any help against the hordes of Wolfram and Hart was welcome.
“Giles,” Riley nodded in greeting once the door was opened.
“Riley,” Giles said. Nodding, he stepped back and allowed Riley to enter. Kennedy was still sitting on the couch, watching his every movement with wary eyes.
“Hey,” Riley said with a friendly smile. “I didn’t get your name earlier.”
“This is Kennedy,” Giles said when it was obvious she wasn’t going to introduce herself. “She’s one of the slayers called during the last battle in Sunnydale.”
“I heard about that,” Riley said. “We sent a team out to investigate but we didn’t find any answers.”
“An entity known as The First Evil, rose and tried to raise an army of prehistoric vampires,” Giles answered. “Buffy took her group and a handful of potential slayers down into the Hellmouth. Needless to say, we won.”
“So,” Riley said as he looked around the room. “Where is everyone? I thought they’d be here.”
Taking off his glasses, Giles let out a tired sigh. “Buffy and a few of the others are in another dimension, looking for Dawn and Spike.”
“What?” Riley shouted, his eyes wide in shock. “Okay, Dawn I get, but Spike? I know Buffy had his chip removed, but Spike?”
“A lot has changed since you left.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” Riley said as he ran a tired hand over his face. “Alright, I guess this is where we share information, huh?”
“That it is.”
“Let me get this straight,” Riley said as he began pacing Giles’ hotel room. “Spike has a soul, and on top of that, he purposely got it back, all for Buffy. Then he goes and sacrifices himself to close the Hellmouth and stop this “First Evil?”
“Essentially, yes,” Giles said.
“And then he gets brought back only to fight in another apocalyptic battle with Angel and is now in another dimension, one that Dawn was later sucked into?”
“As ridiculous as it sounds, yes,” Giles answered. “I know you find it hard to believe, what with your past experience with Spike, but he really has changed. He’s a champion now.”
“Oh no, I believe you,” Riley said with a chuckle. “If that harebrained story could be true about anybody, it would be Spike.”
“Well, when put that way I see your point.”
Pausing, Riley turned and locked eyes with Giles. “She really loves him, doesn’t she?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Buffy,” Riley clarified. “She loves Spike. Doesn’t she?”
“Yes, she does,” Giles answered. “Though I don’t see how that’s any business of yours.”
Riley’s face broke out into a grin. “I bet it really pisses Angel off.”
His words caused Giles to choke on the water he was drinking.
Spike was having trouble focusing. His thoughts were a chaotic swirl inside his mind, and it was taking every ounce of willpower he possessed not to start breaking things. Spike had awoken abruptly the previous night, the image of a ruined city and a grinning monster frozen inside his mind. The dragons’ anguished howls, and the cries of the people, still rang in his ears.
To help take his mind off the horrific visions swimming inside his head, Spike forced his attention to the morning’s menial tasks. First, Spike rolled up his bedding and secured it, setting it aside to be packed away later. Then he started a small fire in the hearth, and began to put together a small breakfast- porridge for Einarr and blood for himself. Spike made a mental note to go hunting again soon. Rabbits only held so much blood in their small bodies, and Spike was currently heating up the last of his reserves.
Despite his current mood, Spike was glad Einarr had been able to find the small hunting cabin he had frequently utilized when he would make the trek to King Aneirin’s castle. It was still cold and miserable, but it had kept them out of the weather for the night. Luckily, the snow had stopped falling, and the skies had cleared. Spike prayed their luck would hold a bit longer and they would not fall victim to the mountain’s ever-changing weather patterns.
Looking over at his companion, Spike silently watched as the other man stretched out sore muscles. He could tell old scars and injuries were bothering his friend, so he had made sure to pack up the bulk of their gear into his pack. Spike knew Einarr noticed his fretting, but chose not to bring it to light. Spike figured Einarr thought if he wanted to burden himself with all of their equipment then it was his choice; Einarr would simply get him back later, probably by kicking his butt in sword training.
Sighing, he went back to watching the lump of blood gradually defrost and the porridge heat through. Spike wanted to take action, not go off and meet with some pampered king who knew nothing of what war really meant. Planning had never been Spike’s strongest characteristic, but ever since he had arrived in Ærworuld he had been forced to curb his natural impatient tendencies.
“You’ll have action soon enough, my friend,” Einarr said as if he had been reading Spike’s mind.
“Yeah, I know. It’s just bloody frustrating not being able to do something,” Spike grumbled.
“Politics is always frustrating,” Einarr stated firmly. “The nobles want to sit around and argue the cost of sending in an army, or discount it all as someone else‘s problem. They seem to forget while they’re squabbling, their subjects are getting slaughtered.”
“Speaking from experience mate?”
“King Edderon never tolerated such petty bickering. Unfortunately, from what I hear the same can not be said for his son.”
“Great, a spoiled rich kid,” Spike growled. “And this would be one of the blokes we have to convince to let us play with their armies.”
“The last time I saw King Aneirin he was a young, naïve child who was easily manipulated by those with stronger wills than his own,” Einarr sighed. “He wasn’t even king yet.”
“Maybe he’s done some growing up since you last saw him,” Spike suggested as he sipped his now lukewarm blood. Einarr was quiet for a moment, staring into the small pot holding his food.
“Again, what I’ve heard doesn’t hold much promise.”
Silence descended once more as they moved to clean up their breakfast. All too soon, in Spike’s opinion, they smothered the fire and he found himself trekking through a deep layer of snow. If the weather held it was possible they could make it to the castle in four days. Glancing at the sky, Spike prayed their journey would not be delayed any longer.