liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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Water Hold Me Down (Part 17)

It's a new year and what do I do on the first day? Heh.

But first, some words of wisdom from Neil Gaiman at officialgaiman

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprised yourself.

On looking at the outlines of the next few chapters, I decided to go with this pairing of chapters since they seemed to work better together.

Continued from Part 16.

Xander was frozen.

Not head-first-in-a-snow-bank frozen. Not one-more-winter-walk-on-a-great-lake frozen.

This was frozen frozen, the kind of frozen people probably felt when they were dead.

It was the kind of frozen that scared the fuck out of him on the occasions he felt it, like when Tony ran out of beer and Wild Turkey and began hunting for his car keys. Or when he'd witness Jessica crossing the line from whining about Tony picking on her to screaming that she was more of a man than he was. Or when they buried Buffy in a secret and hastily dug grave and returned to the Summers home to unplug the ’Bot. Or when Anya called him a scared little boy after he caught her with Spike in the Magic Box.

Frozen was when everything just stopped working beyond the basics of breathing, blinking, and taking a shit. Frozen was when he could only see the ugly.

Dinner was take-out Chinese. Other Xander joked that ‘Uncle Rory’ had messed up the home-cooking schedule and that he couldn’t wait for ‘Uncle Rory’ to leave so they could return to the usual fare. Anya was so goddamn serene during dinner that Xander was about ready to believe he hallucinated the whole car conversation.

Can you have a hallucination within a hallucination? He was half-tempted to ask the question out loud just so he could break the patina of unbearable normal smothering him.

There was other Xander—twitch, twitch, twitch—getting out of his chair every five minutes to get something else from the cabinets or the refrigerator or napkins from the countertop or because he didn’t want to use plastic utensils or because the silverware he got had water spots, or…Jesus does he ever stop?

When other Xander got up for the fifth, tenth, or maybe it was the hundredth time, Xander was about ready to launch out of his chair and force the motherfucker to Just Sit Down And Stay Down.

He childishly wanted to kick Anya under the table just to see if she’d lose her cool.

And Haley—Jesus Christ, Haley—was well and truly bothering him in a skin-crawly kind of way. It wasn’t that she was doing anything wrong, exactly. She was making with the happy talk with Daddy-o and chirping about schoolwork with Mommy-o, but every once in awhile she’d look at him like she was surprised he was still sitting across the table from her.

Plus, she just felt wrong in a way that Xander couldn’t put his finger on. The feeling was even stronger than it had been in the past two days to the point he almost felt overwhelmed with the sense of it.

Probably the way she was looking at him, all big eyes and caution. That had to be it. She was probably freaking a little that ‘Uncle Rory’ and Daddy looked just a little too much alike, like they were twin brothers born more than a decade apart.

And still no sign of a rescue attempt from his good buds in Cleveland. He was fast running out of hope that he’d wake up before dinner was over.

The ritual of clearing the table was finished. The ritual of Haley going up to her room to do homework was complete. The ritual of Anya plopping on the couch in front of the television was accomplished.

Other Xander entered the den and shuffled around, picking up various things and replacing them just so. Xander could see other him was fighting with himself, but as a not-so-proud member of the alcoholic-parents-with-a-waiting-bottle-in-the-cabinets club he knew the other him was going to lose this fight.

Just the same he took up the mental chant, Don’t you fucking dare. Don’t you fucking dare. Don’t you fucking dare…

“I need some fresh air,” other him announced.

Anya kept her eyes on the television screen. “We have a guest.”

Other Xander gave him an unreadable look. “He’s fine, Ahn.”

Xander’s fingers dug into his chair’s armrests.

“It’s rude to leave a guest,” Anya stated. “Come sit down. I could give you a back massage.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s rude, too,” other Xander grinned.

“I don’t mind,” Xander spoke up. “Go right ahead.”

Anya and other him gave him matching deadly looks, although he knew it was for very different reasons.

“Not that I’d watch,” he quickly added. “I could go upstairs and leave you with the privacy because privacy is good. I’m all for privacy. Even if it means earplugs. And a blindfold. Or, you know, going to bed early.”

Other Xander’s eyes slid over to Anya. “I really need to get away from him.”

“No you don’t,” Xander said. “We barely know each other. How about we, all three of us, sit down and, ummm, talk. Maybe play a game of cards. I know! Kitten poker. Without the actual kittens, because I don’t eat kittens and I don’t think you eat kittens, either. Do you?”

“Eat kittens?” other him asked with a look of disgust.

“You know how to play kitten poker,” Anya deadpanned.

“Clem, I mean Buffy, wait, no, one of the Sl—…I learned while doing undercover work at Willy’s.”

“Riiiiiiiiight,” other Xander drawled. “I know that’s not true. I never did undercover work at Willy’s. Besides, you’d stand out human-boy.”

“It is!” Xander protested. “I mean, I had to be glamoured up via spell to look like some demon or another, but Willow…wait, I mean Tara…well, there was a spell involved. And I had to roll around in demon goo to actually smell like a demon, which, yuck. And ew. And it took me a week to not stench. Plus, I won all the kittens. Beginners luck. I had to tell everyone I wasn’t hungry and couldn’t eat the kittens right away, which started a brawl because then I wouldn’t share the kittens with demons who were hungry which was…”

Other Xander and Anya were leaning away from him.

“Y-y-you don’t want to hear this story do you,” Xander lamely said.

“Ahn, really, I have to get away from him,” other Xander said.

“Or I could get away from you,” Xander cheerfully volunteered. “That bedroom is waiting right upstairs and it’s no problem at all.”

Anya was glaring at him.

“I have to go.” Other Xander crossed the room and leaned down to kiss Anya on the cheek. “I won’t be gone long, okay?”

Anya deflated, but Xander knew it was a big show. “Okay.”

Both he and Anya maintained a tense silence while other him clopped around for a coat. It lasted exactly 2.5 seconds after the front door closed.

“What did you think you were doing?” Anya hissed.

“Preventing him from going?”

“We had a deal.”

“No. You asked me to do you a favor. Big difference.”

“I’m going to help you research alternative dimensions tomorrow.”

“You were going to do that anyway because you and my twin wanted me gone before I even got here, so don’t give me that.”

“Rrrgh,” Anya growled in frustration. “You’re wasting time. Hurry up and get out there.”

Xander leaned back. “Give it a minute, hunh? If I walk out that door and he sees me, he’s going to know who sent me out there.”

“Well, just so you know, even if you managed to keep him in tonight he would’ve been worse tomorrow,” Anya said. “And he’d be taking that walk anyway, only it would’ve been tomorrow instead of tonight.”

“Yeah, but I might not be here tomorrow.”

“But you are here tonight and he’s going on his walk tonight,” Anya said.

“Change your mind. You don’t want me to do this.”

“I’m not changing my mind. And I do want you to do this.”

Xander and Anya exchanged glares. It really wasn’t a contest. He knew he lost the second other Xander walked out the door. Plus, he and Anya could barely maintain civil with each other. The Anya bit, more than the other Xander bit, was really the reason why he didn’t stubbornly dig in his heels and refuse to go.

That’s right. Keep telling yourself that, delusional boy.

Just the same Xander took his time going up to his room to retrieve his borrowed coat and his two purloined stakes, although after dealing with Cleveland cold he thought southern California cold wasn’t all that cold. Still, he needed to hide the stakes and a coat was the best way to do it.

As he made for the back door, Anya asked, “Where are you going?”

“Out the back,” Xander mumbled. He added before Anya could ask why, “Just in case he’s still watching the front.”

“Oh. That’s very paranoid of you. Good thinking.” She even gave him a friendly pat on the arm as she handed him the house keys. “These are for the front door, these are for the back. We’ll talk tomorrow morning because I’ll probably be busy when Xander gets back.”

“Really didn’t need that information,” Xander grumbled as he took the keys with bad grace.

Xander kept the kitchen lights off as he peered out the window into the dark backyard. Even though he knew what he was looking for, his heart still skipped a beat when he saw a shadow leave the workshop and disappear around the back.

He took a deep breath and quietly stepped outside. For a moment he was almost tempted to slam the door shut, just to let other Xander know he wasn’t alone and maybe should abandon whatever it was he planned to do, but he didn’t. When he heard the door latch, he crouched low and scurried across the lawn to the opening in the fence. He cautiously inched forward until he could clearly see the back of other Xander as he stepped onto the sidewalk.

Please don’t turn left. Head away from the cemetery you idiot.

Idiot went left. Great. Fantastic. It wasn’t looking so good if he wanted to be wrong about what other him did with his nights.

Xander went into his crouch-scurry routine down the path. He had to concede that it wasn’t a bad secret entrance. The bushes blocked the windows from the neighbor’s house and the darkness coupled with the white picket fence would make it difficult for Anya or Haley to see him even if they happened to look out the windows. You’d almost have to know someone was here to even spot a shadow.

Xander winced with every half-stumbled step he took. He could hear the bushes to his left rustling and there were more branches on the path snapping underfoot than he liked. Other Xander had managed to keep silent, but he could barely keep upright. When he reached the path’s end, he took a deep breath and poked his head forward.

There. Other Xander was walking down the sidewalk. He had an enclosed elongated bag slung across his back—probably where he’s hiding the bow—and was carrying a fairly large gym bag that would be just perfect for stowing arrows, stakes, and god knows what else.

Other Xander reached the corner and crossed the street to the next block, yet more confirmation that he was heading for that damn cemetery. Xander slid out onto the sidewalk, stuck his hands in his pockets, and did his best to look like just another guy taking an after-dinner walk. He almost wished Faith were around so he could steal her pack of cigarettes and make it look like he was contemplating a smoke.

Oh, wait. Faith was trying quit. While good for her, the gambit they had where he’d play stupid guy walking around with an unlit cigarette in one hand and a cigarette pack in the other was pretty good vamp bait. They had to switch to him looking like a strung out partier which…just no. He sucked at the jittery thing. He didn’t care how mussed Faith and the Slayers tried to make him look when they resorted to trying it on a slow staking night. It never seemed to attract anyone, let alone vampires looking for an easy kill.

Right about now he really wished Faith were here. She was better at the skulking thing. Plus, she didn’t look like the guy he was following, which was definitely a plus in this situation.

Xander reached the corner of the second block and was forced to scurry back a few steps until he was obscured by some bushes. Other him was looking suspiciously around. He panicked a moment, thinking he might’ve been seen. When other Xander didn’t march over to him and ask what he was doing here, Xander realized that he actually hadn’t been spotted. Other him was just making sure no one was watching him.

Unbelievable. I know I must’ve made noise and I wasn’t that far behind him. When doing sneaky after-dark things you’re supposed to be just a little bit more aware of what’s going on around you.

Terrific. He was starting to sound like Robin in his own head. Really, he didn’t have a whole lot of room on the talking front since he’d more than once had been blind-sided back in Sunnydale.

When other Xander started crossing the street, Xander held his breath and didn’t release it until he saw other him walk through the Swan Point Cemetery gates.

No longer caring whether or not he was seen, he drifted up the sidewalk until he was opposite the gates. The cool breeze started playing with his bangs while he clutched one of the stakes in his right-hand pocket. There was a roar in his ears. He could feel his heart thump in his chest. The night air tasted sour in his mouth.

He’d been wrong so many times before in his life. Why couldn’t he be wrong just this once?

Xander stepped off the sidewalk and headed for the gate.


Faith was in a foul mood by the time she crossed the town line into Zihuatanejo in her tiny rental car. It seemed everything mundane and supernatural was doing its best trip her up. First, her flight out of Ohio was cancelled because of some weird shit with one of the wings. She got a later flight, only to have it re-routed because of storms over the Rockies. One unexpected layover in Dallas later, she finally made it to San Diego.

She was promptly distracted by several vamps that had decided the baggage pick-up was a primo supermarket.

Plus, her luggage was fuck knows where because American West lost it while she was cooling her heels in Dallas.

Then there was the joy in finding a rental car without a reservation. Fucking conventions.

In short, she’d been swearing, fighting, and sweating her way to her destination for almost 24 hours.

Needless to say, she was more than a little cranky when she found a motel in Zihuatanejo and checked in. The motel services were limited to being handed a key to a room because it was the off-season. December was too early for the snowbirds to visit, it being the holiday season, and too late for the summertime skin cancer bake-off crowd. The only thing it had going for it was that it was open, unlike many of the other beachfront motels in town.

Faith tried to take a quick nap, but every time she closed her eyes, she felt frustrated, nervous, and helpless, which didn’t make for all that great a rest. She finally gave up after two hours and hit the diner across the street. A few carefully placed questions later, she found out that Harris and his wife owned a custom furniture business and that they were some kind of big social mucky-mucks around town. She even got to hear about how they were little snobby on account of them serving the real rich bitches here abouts and how that wife of his—Anna? No, wait, Enya? Oh. Anya. That’s right.—was a sweet piece of ass.

She wondered if this Anya chick was the same one he was married to when he was living in the shadow of Disneyland or if he’d dumped that one for a trophy wife now that he was successful. Shit, she was in the same town as Disneyland and didn’t get to visit the park so she could make fun of the Mickey Mouse costumes. While low on her list of reasons for wanting to kick Harris’s ass, it still was on the list if only because she never did get that trip to Disneyland, or Disney World for that matter.

Well, wasn’t that just lovely. While she was getting bitch-slapped seven ways to Sunday by the First, Harris was grabbing a piece of the good life for himself. It was enough to make her want to turn around and leave him to get eaten. Only two things stopped her: the Slayer dream and the threat of a long-distance temper-tantrum from Willow-ween if Rupert didn’t manage to drug her ass back into useless again.

She quickly came up with a story that she was a buyer for some computer mogul living on the East Coast and she was looking for Harris to commission a piece from him. That netted her not only his business and home phones, but also his business and home addresses.

Christ, people in this town were mega stupid for giving out personal information like that. Unless the Harrises were cool with ‘potential clients’ ringing them up and the homestead, in which case it was the Asshole who was an idiot, especially given what he knew about living the nightlife.

She grabbed a street map of the town and her spy-girl and Slay-girl gear from her motel room and started scouting. She found the business easily enough, but it was already shut for the day when she got there.

Finding the house was a little harder and it was already after 7 p.m. when she parked across the street from it. And yeah, it was a dead-ringer for the one in her dream, complete with the white picket fence. No desert next door though, just another oversized house.

Well, Harris has sure moved up in the world. This is a big leap from that piece of shit trailer he was living in when me and Rupes paid him a visit.

Faith tapped the steering wheel in irritation as she thought about her next course of action. She suspected that walking up to the front door and ringing the bell was going to be problems, even though Harris was the one who contacted her first. Well, he was actually trying to find Rupes and he did hang up very fast when he found out who was on the other end of the line.

But if she thought about it, it had all the earmarks of a call being made in secret. Harris’s voice was pitched low, he didn’t use the video option, and he sounded pretty unsure of himself, nothing at all like the guy who loudly said ‘fuck off’ to her and Rupes when they asked him to help with the situation in Sunnydale. He was pretty goddamn sure of himself then and he wasn’t afraid to yell it at the top of his lungs.

So maybe something was going down that he didn’t want the family to know about? Could be. Still meant that knocking on the front door was not the way to go.

She watched the house for a bit, letting her fingers play across the radio’s buttons in search of tunes that wouldn’t annoy her. She was just about to give up and head back to the motel when she saw a figure step out of the bushes on the far side of the house. She squinted her eyes and saw that it was none other than Harris with a long bag slung across his back and a gym bag in his right hand.

Well, well. What have we here? She glanced at the clock and saw that it was 8:05 p.m.

She watched his retreating back as he walked away from her position down the sidewalk and shook her head. Dude was walking like he didn’t want to be noticed, which meant if someone did bother to notice him he’d stand out like a sore thumb. Fucking amateur.

She was about to get out of the car to follow when a second figure slid smoothly out of the bushes. She froze, her disbelieving eyes trying to make sense of what she was seeing.

“Harris?” she asked. She fumbled through her duffle for her vision-enhancement goggles and slipped them over her face. With a light tap on a button on the goggles’ frame, she brought the second figure into sharp focus.

“Holy fuck, two of them,” she said quietly as she tracked from the second Harris to the more distant first Harris.

Harris number two was a good bit younger than Harris number one, just like in that Slayer dream. Faith leaned back against her seat. Usually those things weren’t quite so literal, yet here she was faced with two Harrises. That meant the younger one was the one set for trouble while everyone stood around with their thumbs up their asses.

So then what was the deal with the second her in the dream? She’d like to blame the special guest appearance on Willow’s manipulation, but she suspected that wasn’t the case.

She ripped the goggles off, studied how Harris Junior moved, and smiled. Boy was moving so as to be invisible and not doing too bad a job at it either. He was just another dude taking a walk, so there nothing to see there. Even if he registered, people were going to forget they saw him unless something bloody happened in the area, and even then he’d probably not be the first thing they remembered.

Now that? That was the sign of someone who knew how to follow someone. That skulking shit always was the thing that got you caught. It was walking down the sidewalk like you were minding your own business that made the eyes slide off you.

She shoved her vision enhancement goggles in her coat pocket and waited until the second Harris crossed the first street before getting out of the car. For all she knew, Harris Junior was hyperaware of his surroundings, so she didn’t want to tip him off that he was being followed by getting too close. She kept to her own side of the street and made as much use of the shadows as she could as she skimmed down the sidewalk.

Harris Senior slipped around a corner. Harris Junior stopped, which forced Faith to come to a halt while she was still a block away. The only misstep was that he fell back a few steps, but he did a pretty good job of covering by scratching his head like he forgot something. Still pretty smooth. Only way you’d know that was a fuck-up was if you were paying attention.

After a few moments, Harris Junior turned the corner and Faith put in a burst of speed to catch up. She made it just across the street from the corner of no return in time to see Harris Junior crossing the street. Still not bad. Hands in the pockets. Casual stroll. She was almost surprised she couldn’t hear him whistling a happy tune.

When he reached the opposite side he didn’t turn right or left like she expected and instead went straight on through a gate into what looked like a park. Not wanting to lose him, Faith put in another burst of speed. She stopped long enough to read the plaque.

A cemetery? What the hell?

Given that Harris Junior went in and that Harris Senior was nowhere to be seen, good bet they were both in there somewhere.

Faith put on the stealth and slipped between the gates. She paused for a moment as she scanned the immediate area. Fuck. She’d lost both of them.

I well and truly hate this bullshit, she thought as she walked down the road, once more keeping to the shadows. Last thing she needed was to get accidentally spotted by either Harris, at least until she figured out what the hell was going on.

The brush-heavy entrance went on longer than she expected, but she was still surprised when she turned the bend and almost stumbled out into the more open area of the cemetery. She scooted back and scanned the open ground.

With a huff of irritated breath, she fished the vision-enhancement goggles out of her coat pocket. She hated using them when out in the open because they cut off her peripheral vision, but she needed to see the two Harrises before there was even a chance of them seeing her.

Fixing the goggles over her eyes she tapped the magnification button and tried another search.

Still nothing.

They were probably deeper in the cemetery then.

She yanked the goggles off with an annoyed move and made for the small hillock located a quick jog away. There was a small copse of trees, so she could just shimmy up the trunk and probably get a pretty good look at the surrounding area without getting spotted. Thank god the trees were leafy instead of lame-ass palm trees.

Once she was settled in her in a sturdy nook, she put the goggles on again and restarted her search.

Bingo! One of the Harrises was standing on top of a crypt with what looked like a bow in his hands.

“Betchya it’s Harris Senior, ’cause he’s the one who shoots arrows into a desert,” Faith said as she tapped the magnification button. She grinned as she watched Harris draw the bow and let loose with an arrow. “Right in one.”

Which meant Harris Junior was around somewhere with a stake in his hands.

“Great. So does he get his ass killed here? Or back at the house?” Faith asked. Since her dream was a lot more literal that she expected, it was a good bet that the killing would be back at the house. Maybe the fight moves there while Asshole is fucking around here? Could be. She’d have to keep an eye out and if she saw the party leave the cemetery she’d follow and intervene when it got hairy.

But first she had to find Harris Junior.

As she scanned she saw that Harris Senior was shooting at a gang of vampires moving among the graves in front of him. She frowned as she watched them attempt a frontal assault on Harris’s position and fall back whenever one of their number got dusted. Then they regrouped and tried again. While most vampires weren’t the most strategic of thinkers, self-preservation alone should’ve made them re-think the tactic.

“Something just ain’t right,” Faith said.

She turned her head to take in more of the scenery and finally spotted shadowy movement coming from the rear of the crypt. A few button taps later to magnify and alter the electronic image so it looked like broad daylight revealed that she was looking at a vampire.

Made sense now. The frontal assault was to keep Arrow Boy occupied. The real danger was right here.

She tapped the buttons again to ‘pull back’ to 20/30 vision and saw that her vampire wasn’t alone. There were several of the bastards lurking around out there. They were all spread out, which was definitely smart. If Harris spotted one, the others could do a duck and cover before he realized there were more.

Shit. Maybe she should shimmy on down and deal with this. It wouldn’t do to have one of the Harrises offed before she got the full story.

While contemplating that course of action, a shadow popped up from behind the vampire on the extreme left flank and it disappeared in a puff of dust before it even knew there was a shadow there.

Well, well, well. Looked like she found Harris Junior.

She hit extreme magnification again in time to see Harris Junior duck down behind a grave. He was keeping very still, but she could see he was watching the three remaining vampires for an opening, probably for them to spread out a little more. His face radiated tense concentration, but not much else.

With a sudden movement, Harris Junior disappeared, but she caught flashes of him as he moved low and fast between the graves, keeping behind the next vampire in line.

The vampires were so focused on the Harris on top of the crypt that they didn’t seem to notice the shadow stalking them.

“Smart. That’s very smart. He’s using the flashy show to keep the bastards busy while he works the edges,” Faith said as she nodded with approval. While she wasn’t fond of Watchers as a species, there were one or two that had her respect because she’d seen them do the same thing when things got dicey for their Slayers.

Harris Junior was very obviously used to working this way. While the tactic would never win him hero of the year, it was a great way to even the odds.

Since she knew where Harris Junior was headed, she chanced a quick look at Harris Senior. He was making pretty good headway against the vampire gang, which meant he was deadly with a bow and arrow, but there were more vampires joining the front ranks.

Two words: ‘cannon fodder.’ Fuck. Someone went through a lot of trouble to make those guys. That boiled down to one simple word: ‘trap.’

Harris Senior was obviously too stupid to realize this because he was grinning like a fucking loon while he picked them off. Sure, there was a lot of scrambling and zigging and zagging among the graves, but the vampires in the frontal assault were still practically walking right into the arrows. That alone should’ve tipped him off that something wasn’t exactly right.

Faith turned back to the rear-guard action and swore when she realized that three had become two. Son of a bitch. She missed it.

“Junior, you’re wicked good,” Faith mumbled. “Now where did you go?”

The two remaining vampires separated a little. One looked like he was moving to attack the right flank of the crypt while the second was heading right for the back. She kept her eyes trained for the one moving in a straight line and was rewarded with the sight of Harris Junior leaping up from behind the grave.

He didn’t move quite fast enough and the vampire roared in surprise before it was dusted. Harris Junior ducked down. He kept his feet underneath him, probably in case he had to make a run for it, and waited with that tense concentration on his face.

“Good move, sport,” Faith said quietly. “Wait to see if you’ve been seen before fleeing. Last thing you need is to get their attention when you’re out in the open.”

Now that was what she’d call a pro.

The remaining vampire was wildly looking around. When he couldn’t see his buddies, he charged forward yelling, “Retreat! Retreat! It‘s a trap!”

It took a bit for the cannon fodder to hear him, but when his warning was interrupted by a righteous arrow-dusting the group turned tail and ran. Harris Senior kept shooting into their backs, but by Faith’s reckoning at least a dozen vampires still managed to escape.

Jesus. How many did I see in that dream? Not a dozen, that was for sure, but definitely a crowd. Shit. She’ll have to follow the Harrises back to the house in case there was a welcoming committee.

She checked out Harris Senior as he stowed his gear with a triumphant smile. She supposed he thought he earned it since he did manage to make quite the dent. “Wonder if you’d be smiling so big if you knew it was a trap, dumbass,” Faith said.

Faith scanned the landscape to see if she could find Harris Junior. It took a bit to find him, especially since he had shifted position, but he wasn’t too far from where she last saw him. He was still keeping low, but this time his attention was focused on the crypt. Unlike Harris Senior, the younger-looking Harris’s expression was neutral bordering on unhappy.

“Betchya thinking what I’m thinking,” Faith said with satisfaction. “Asshole showoff was looking to get himself good and killed. Plan could’ve fucking worked too if you weren’t around.”

She kicked back and watched as Harris Senior tossed knotted rope over the side of the crypt. Once he was over the lip, she saw him flick a lighter and set the rope alight with a practiced move. He scrambled partway down until he was close enough to the ground to leap the rest of the way. He scanned the area with stake out while he waited for the rope to burn through a little more. He finally tugged the loose end until it broke free. When it hit the ground, he stomped the flaming end out, quickly coiled the rope in his hand, and made a beeline for the cemetery entrance.

Harris Junior watched the whole scene without moving and without any expression on his face, like he was checking out a not-very-interesting bug as it crawled across a leaf.

Well, at least Faith would like to believe that Harris Junior saw Harris Senior as a bug.

Well that’s just fucked-up, she thought as she shimmied down the trunk. I don’t know shit about either one and I’m taking sides like they’re deadly enemies.

The trip back to the Harris homestead was hella uneventful, although Faith found it amusing that she was taking up the rear in a secret parade.

Harris Senior ducked down the bushes, which prompted Harris Junior do a little stalling before he followed suit. Faith decided to do the same. For all she knew that fight between the vampire and Harris Junior started somewhere else before moving to the front of the house.

She was surprised to see there was a well-worn path running along the exterior of the white picket fence. She crouched low and studied the area in front of her. Slayer eyesight was good enough to pick out a shadow standing still a little way down the path. At a guess it was Harris Junior.

After what seemed like forever, the shadow moved forward, which was Faith’s cue to move down the path, keeping low so that her head was underneath the top of the white picket fence. She reached the opening and saw that a large shed was blocking her view, so she backed up until she was clear and chanced a peak over the top of the fence.

Harris Junior was sitting on some sort of picnic table, keeping very still as he watched the house. Since his face was turned slightly away from her, she couldn’t tell what his expression was.

God knows how long he sat on that table and she crouched behind the fence before he fished a set of keys out of his pocket.

Well, looks like Harris Senior is aware that Harris Junior is around, Faith thought as she watched the man walk to the back door. She waited until he was inside the house before moving back to the street and her car.

While not a cautious creature by nature, Faith decided she needed to play more I Spy to figure out the real deal before announcing to one or both Harrises that she was in town.

DOWNLOAD (good for seven days): Coal Tattoo by Jim Croche
(This tune was recorded before Jim Croche became Jim Croche and he was still a hardcore folky in the late 1950s. I've been holding on to this song for this part almost since I started plotting this story. I just love the idea that the dark marks us in ways we can't see.)


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