Justice League Xander:
An Arrow's Flight

By Paradox761
Paradox761@mail.com
http://memberstripod.com/~Paradox761

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor do I claim to. No copyright infringement is intended, so please don't sue. I don't have any money anyway.

Spoilers: “Halloween” (BtVS), “Graduation” (BtVS), “Pangs” (BtVS), “Grave” (BtVS), and “Patriot Act” (JLU).

Summary: When Xander dresses as one of his heroes for Halloween, the path his life takes is changed forever. Will his friends be able to deal with the choices he makes? (note: this is *not* YAHF)

Author's note: This story is part of the “Justice League Xander” series, the rest of which can be found at my website (link above).

*

(4/?)

 

April 2005

Somewhere on the outskirts of Metropolis

 

It was a little after one o’clock in the morning, and the dark streets of the small suburban hamlet just north of Metropolis were mostly deserted. A lone figure in red was making his way on foot through the parking lot of a strip mall. He was limping slightly and covered with a generous coat of demon viscera, not to mention a fair amount of scratches and bruises. “Next time, I’m just blowing the whole damn building up,” he muttered to himself.

 

It was a nest of Jaxo demons, holed up in a warehouse in a small industrial park right next to a housing development. They fed on the souls of innocence, that’s what his research told him. In plainer terms, they went after children. And this particular group had somehow acquired a fleet of ice cream trucks. With summer just around the corner, Speedy shuddered to think about what could have happened. His research also told him that they were vulnerable to copper. However, none of the books he read mentioned that when their skin was pierced with, say, a copper arrowhead, their bodies exploded. What a mess. He managed to pick most of them off from a distance before he was spotted. The last two he had to fight hand to hand, and when he plunged one of his copper-headed arrows into the last one’s chest, it exploded right in front of him. It was an experience that he would not soon forget.

 

As he often did when a mission came to a close, he found himself pondering his career with the Justice League. He had been a member for almost three years now. When he had first started, it was hard not to be awestruck. He was working with some of the biggest heavy hitters on the planet. In the beginning, his duty schedule was light and he wasn’t chosen for many missions. They needed to assess his talents, they told him, to see what missions he would best be suited for. The truth was he had enjoyed the break that the lighter schedule had given him. He had more time to relax, more time to train, more time to spend with Ollie and play sidekick once in a while. He got to spend time on the Watchtower, the Justice League’s space station, and he made friends with a lot of heroes from around the world. It was just what he needed, and he was glad that Ollie had convinced him to join. Then slowly but surely, he started to build a reputation. He was assigned as backup on a couple of missions involving the occult, and the League saw that he had a knack for it. Not magic or mysticism exactly, Dr. Fate was in no danger of losing his position as the League’s leading expert in that field. But when it came to the grunt work of dealing with vampires or demons, Speedy had more experience than most of the other Leaguers. He knew how to ask the right questions and how to find the right answers when it came to how to kill what, and he knew how to go about it in the safest way possible. He became the go-to guy when something demonic needed to be dead. At first, Speedy was just happy that he could contribute something. But the last year he had spent almost exclusively on solo missions taking out one demon nest or another somewhere around the world and he was starting to grow tired of it.

 

For one thing, it wasn’t what he had signed up for. If he wanted to fight demons, he could have stayed in Sunnydale. Of course Sunnydale was now a giant smoking crater, so chances were good that if he had stayed there that he’d be dead right now. Still, it nagged at him, and he kept playing that argument with Willow over and over again in his head. He told her, told himself, that he had left to find his own way because he wasn’t cut out for that fight. But hadn’t he proved otherwise at graduation, and then again on Thanksgiving? Could it be that he was so determined for Willow to accept him and the life that he had chosen, and so hurt by her harsh words that night, that he had ignored the point that she was trying to make, that he could do just as much good in Sunnydale as he could as Speedy in Seattle or Steel City. But then wasn’t the real reason that she wanted him back in Sunnydale because she didn’t trust him to be able to live his own life and make his own decisions without her there to watch over him? He could go back and forth like this all day, playing devil’s advocate with himself, but the fact was it didn’t matter. The past was the past, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do to change it. He had had contact with Willow several times in the last three years, and few phone calls and emails, mostly on birthdays or holidays. All the conversations were the same, short and awkward. It was clear that both of them wanted to mend fences, but neither of them knew how to go about it.

 

Speedy reached the end of the parking lot, where there stood a four story brick building with a hand-written sign in the front window that read ‘Discount Furniture Warehouse – Going Out of Business Sale!’ The building was empty, and the roof was flat and mostly clear which made it the perfect place to park his Javelin where it would go unnoticed for a few days. He wasn’t exactly operating covertly, but he also didn’t want to draw any extra attention to himself that might filter back to his quarry and warn them that death was coming. As it was, the operation only took three days. One day to research, one day to acquire the copper he needed and have the arrowheads made, and the third and final day for planning, recon, and execution. Apart from his sure to be astronomically high dry-cleaning bill, the mission had gone perfectly. He should have been thrilled, but instead he felt oddly unsatisfied. He missed his friends.

 

Speedy took his bow off of his shoulder and retrieved a grappler arrow from his quiver. He attached a line to the arrow, knotted it, and shot it up onto the roof of the building. He tugged on the line to make sure it was secure before retrieving a small mechanical ascender from his belt and attaching it to the line. Activating the ascender, it pulled him up the line and onto the roof in less than a second. He retrieved the grappler arrow, detaching the line and letting it fall to the street, and replaced it in his quiver. The Javelin sat on the roof several yards away, its white finish and forward swept wings giving it a vaguely swan-like appearance. The Justice League kept a small fleet of the short range space craft aboard the Watchtower for transport back and forth to Earth. They weren’t used for that as often anymore since the League started using the matter transporter, but Speedy still preferred them for missions because they allowed him to carry his research material with him at all times, not to mention a generous supply of trick arrows, and a spare costume or two.

 

Speedy retrieved a small remote control from his belt and used it to deactivate the Javelin’s security system and power up the engines. He climbed inside and settled into the pilot’s seat, setting his bow and quiver down next to him. He laid his head back and briefly considered if he should change his clothes now or wait until he got back to the Watchtower and could take a shower first. A blinking red light on the console in front of him caught his attention. It was the comm system indicating that there was a request from the Watchtower to check in as soon as he was able. They could have just as easily contacted him through the ear piece that all Leaguers wore at all times, but that was usually only done in cases of emergencies, especially if someone was already in the middle of a mission as he had been. It could just be a request for a status report, but something in Speedy’s gut told him that it was more. He typed a few commands into the console and a moment later his comm was connected to the Watchtower. The face of an African-American man with a large letter T painted on his face appeared on the monitor in the Javelin’s console.

 

“Watchtower, Mr. Terrific here,” he answered.

 

“Hey Mr. T, what’s the what? Pity any fools lately?”

 

“That joke got old two years ago, Speedy,” Terrific answered, somewhat annoyed. “You look like Hell, I take that to mean that you’ve completed your mission.”

 

“Twelve dead Jaxo demons, you can send a clean-up team whenever you’re ready. Tell them to bring their galoshes.”

 

“I know it’s short notice, but I have another assignment for you.”

 

“Let me guess, undercover work. You need me to infiltrate a gang of high society jewel thieves based on the French Rivera, seduce their stunningly gorgeous ringleader, and get her to reveal the location of the secret microfilm which contains the top secret recipe for the best cup of cappuccino in the universe! Come on, I’m ready for the big leagues, put me in coach! What do you say, should I get my tuxedo pressed?”

 

“Actually, it’s vampires.”

 

“Fuck!” Speedy exclaimed, not bothering to hide his displeasure.

 

“Tell me how you really feel,” Mr. Terrific deadpanned. “Look, these aren’t your typical bloodsuckers. They’re holed up somewhere on the South side of Gotham. The intel we have on them is sketchy, but they’re keeping a low profile so we think they’re up to something. Could be big.”

 

“Join the Justice League, meet new and interesting creatures, and then kill them,” Speedy muttered mockingly. “I can do other things too you know, I’m not just some demon killing machine that…wait a minute, did you say Gotham?” Terrific nodded. “Since when does the Bat let junior leaguers like me anywhere near Gotham? Does he know about this?”

 

“Batman is on another operation overseas, he recommended you for this mission,” Terrific answered.

 

Speedy’s eyes widened. “He did? Really? He asked for me by name?”

 

“Actually his exact words were ‘Send the archer kid, he’s good at that kind of stuff’.”

 

“He…he said I was good?”

 

“Yeah, but I guess I’ll have to tell him that you can’t do it because you’re not a demon killing ma…”

 

“Wait, wait, wait! Let’s not be hasty here! Let me consider it for a moment. Okay, I’ll do it.”

 

Mr. Terrific smiled. “Glad to hear it.”

 

“So what have you got?”

 

“Like I said, it’s not much. There’s an underground vampire bar called The Bloodbath, we don’t have an exact location. According to our sources there’s some kind of big meeting going down there tomorrow night.”

 

Speedy nodded. “It’s a place to start.”

 

*

 

The flight from Metropolis to Gotham was uneventful. Mr. Terrific had informed Speedy that arrangements had already been made for his arrival. One bonus to working in Gotham City, the League had an agreement with Wayne Enterprises to use Wayne Towers as a base of operations whenever they were working in the city. Speedy was given access to a penthouse apartment as well as the helipad on the roof so he didn’t have to worry about where he was going to park his Javelin. Speedy wasn’t quite sure what Bruce Wayne got out of the deal, but he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. The apartment gave him a place to take a shower and catch a few hours sleep before hitting the street to do a little recon to find the location of The Bloodbath. A few visits to known demon haunts in the city, a few discreet inquiries and he learned where the bar was located. The word on the street also confirmed the intel that he had gotten from Terrific, that there was a big meeting that night. Rumors ranged from apocalypse cult to Oprah book club meeting, but two things were constant. It was very big and it was very secret. Ever since the activation spell two years earlier that had awakened thousands of slayers all over the world, vampires had started operating differently, especially in big cities. They were more underground, more cautious and less brazen. After all, there was no telling where a slayer could be. Why call attention to themselves?

 

A quick stop at a magic shop for a talisman that would mask his scent and a stop back at Wayne Towers for a change of clothes and he was ready. A long black coat to cover his costume and hide his bow and quiver, and a pair of wrap around sunglasses to go over his mask. He made it to The Bloodbath and was let in with little fanfare, the talisman having magically hidden his human scent from the vampire working the door. To call the bar a dive would be unfair to dives. To call it a rats’ nest would be more accurate, though probably insulting to the rats. It was a dirty, musty, poorly lit basement under an abandoned building, and it smelled of blood and decay. It took all of the willpower that he could muster not to let the revulsion he felt show on his face. On one side of the room sat the bar, a lone vampire standing behind it dispensing blood or yak urine or whatever the hell else vampires drank to get wasted. The rest of the room was filled with tables, no two alike. One in particular caught his eye. A man in a long red coat sat with his back to the corner and a fedora hat pulled down to hide his eyes. They looked to be playing some kind of card game, and the man in red smiled as he laid down the cards in his hand for the rest of the table to see. There were growls and grumblings from the other players and a moment later a basket filled with kittens was pushed across the table toward the man in red.

 

Xander spotted an empty stool at the end of the bar and made his way over to it. He scanned the room casually as he walked, looking for other exits. There was a single door on the back wall with a vampire seated in a chair next to it trying to hard to look nonchalant. He was burly and looked to be a biker, the perfect fit for hired muscle. Xander sat with his back to the wall and when the bartender approached he just pointed to another drink that was sitting on the bar and handed the bartender some money. A glass was set down before him and he pretended to look at it while he scanned the room, paying particular attention to the back door.

 

Twenty minutes passed before another figure entered the bar. He was well dressed, wearing a suit and tie, which made him look about as out of place in The Bloodbath as Xander felt. If any of the other patrons thought it strange they gave no indication. The man spoke to the bartender briefly before making his way to the back and entering the door with a nod from the biker. Fifteen minutes after that, another man entered the bar, also wearing a suit. He made his way into the back room as well. Twenty minutes later, two more men. Ten minutes after that, another. Xander was positive now that the meeting that he had come to observe was taking place in that back room and he started considering what his options were. He could probably get past the biker, but not without raising suspicion from everyone else in the room. He could leave and venture into the building above, try to find another way to access the room, maybe through the ventilation system. It was risky though, there was no guarantee that he would be able to find a way in. He could wait and see if any other attendees for the meeting came, try to plant a bug on them. He was sure he had a listening device in his belt somewhere. That seemed risky too though, hard to do without drawing attention to himself. He could go back outside and wait for them to leave and then follow one of them. But that would mean missing the meeting, and how would he decide which one to follow?

 

Xander was still sitting at the bar calculating his next move when trouble walked in, in the form of six young women. As his eyes fell on the woman standing in the front of the group he again had to force his face to maintain a neutral expression. Of all the vampire bars in all the world, why did she have to walk into this one? He immediately turned back toward the bar and lowered his head. He didn’t need her recognizing him and blowing his cover. It was possible that he could still salvage this little operation. But all of that went out the window as soon as he realized that all other activity in the bar had stopped, and every eye was on the new arrivals standing in the front of the room. If she had been hoping for an inconspicuous entrance she was sure to be disappointed. There were only two reasons that a group of young, good looking women would enter an establishment like this. The first was dinner, and there wasn’t one vampire in that room stupid enough to think that it was dinner time. The second meant that the shit was about to hit the fan.

 

Willow strode up to the bar purposefully, and the five slayers with her followed her closely. Xander would have been able to tell that they were slayers even if he hadn’t inferred it from Willow’s presence. The way they moved, the way they carried themselves, it projected power and grace. Unfortunately for them however, they did not project confidence. And if there was one thing that vampires could smell better than blood, it was fear. Willow made eye contact with the bartender and he walked over. “What can I get you ladies?” he asked.

 

“How about some information?”

 

Subtle Willow, very subtle, Xander thought. The room had gotten so quiet that he could actually hear the kittens mewing from the poker table behind him.

 

“I’m afraid I can’t help you.”

 

“Are you sure about that?” Willow pressed, trying her best to be intimidating. “My friends and I heard that there’s something big going on here tonight, and we want in on it.”

 

Xander could feel the mood of the room slowly shift from cautious curiosity to open hostility. Whether it was the fact that their sanctuary had been so easily infiltrated by the enemy or the gall over the sloppy attempt at subterfuge, Xander didn’t know or frankly care. The vampires at the bar were openly eyeing them now, and some of the vampires at the tables were starting to get up and make their way to the bar. They outnumbered the slayers at least five to one, and it was clear that they were going to try to use their numbers to their advantage. Normally those kind of odds wouldn’t worry Xander at all, but these slayers didn’t strike him as field veterans. In fact, some of them were starting to look down right panicky.

 

There was one girl in particular, standing closest to Xander, with short blonde hair and a young face. Her eyes were darting back and forth like a nervous animal, and her hand was in her coat pocket, clutching what he could only guess was a stake. There was a vampire standing behind her, breathing down her neck, staring at her so intently that she could surely feel his eyes on the back of her head. That’s when it happened. Willow was still trying to convince the bartender to tell her what she wanted to know, when the vampire standing behind the blonde brushed up against her. Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head, and in one swift motion she pulled the stake from her pocket and slammed it into his chest. Her aim was true, and the vamp exploded into a cloud of dust. That’s when all hell broke loose.

 

Three things happened at once. The vampires crowding the bar swarmed the slayers, attacking them from every direction. At the same time the biker vamp guarding the back room ducked inside and closed the door behind him. And a few feet from him in the back corner of the bar, the man in the long red coat stood up and turned over the poker table, sending a half a dozen glasses crashing to the floor. He reached into his coat with a cross draw and pulled out two of the strangest looking guns that Xander had ever seen. When he lifted his head up, Xander could see the part of his face that the brim of his fedora had been hiding and saw a red mask covering his eyes. He wasn’t a vampire at all, it was the Crimson Avenger. He pistol whipped the vampire closest to him, then brought his other gun around and fired. A glob of green goo shot out from the gun and struck the vampire, sticking him to the wall like a bug. Xander looked back to the door and briefly considering going inside. Any hopes at eavesdropping on the meeting were gone, but he might be able to corner one or two of the participants and question them before they had a chance to flee. A quick glance back toward the slayers and he revised that thought. They were fighting hard, but they weren’t fighting together. They hadn’t established a perimeter around themselves and the vamps kept getting in behind them, attacking unseen. The slayers were holding their own, but they were becoming overwhelmed.

 

Shedding his coat and sunglasses, Speedy jumped up onto the bar and took up a position to best backup the slayers. He came prepared, with a quiver full of wood tipped arrows. He pulled an arrow out and knotted it, taking quick but careful aim he fired, and the bartender disintegrated into ash as the arrow pierced his heart. The slayers were already positioned against the bar. If he could keep the vampires from getting behind it, it would make it easier for the slayers to establish a stronger perimeter and keep the bloodsuckers from sneaking up on them. The Crimson Avenger caught his eye and gave him a quick nod with a smile, acknowledging that the odds were beginning to sway in their favor. Crim, block the other side of the bar!” Speedy called out to his fellow Leaguer. The Avenger nodded and made his way through the room, cutting through the vampires with his gadget guns.

 

He took position at the other end of the bar and Speedy started picking off any vamp that he could get a clear shot at, paying careful attention to any that may be trying to get behind the slayers. Willow, who had been knocked to the ground during the initial rush and subsequently pinned against the bar by the sheer mass of bodies, finally made it back to her feet. It was probably less than a minute since the battle had begun, but already the tide was turning in their favor. She locked eyes with Speedy, a look of surprise on her face, maybe even relief. They shared the look for only a moment before she turned back to the fight and started casting spells against their attackers.

 

Once Speedy was sure that Willow and the slayers had things well in hand, he hopped down off the bar and headed for the back room. He bound inside, his bow at the ready, but the room was empty. A long conference table and a few overturned chairs the only evidence of anyone’s presence. Another door on the other side of the room hung open. Speedy ran through it and up a flight of stairs which led to another door, which opened out into the alley. He heard the sound of screeching tires, but there wasn’t a trace of the biker or any of the well dressed vamps anywhere. He cursed under his breath before making his way back into the building and down the stairs. He did a cursory search of the conference room for any evidence that could lead him to any of the meeting’s participants, but there was nothing.

 

Back in the barroom, the sounds of the fight had died down to almost nothing. Speedy walked back in to see that all the vampires were either dust or had escaped. All except for the vampire that The Crimson Avenger had stuck to the wall with his goo gun, he was still struggling in vane to free himself.

 

“I should have known the League would send you eventually,” the Avenger said, crossing the room with a smile on his face. He extended his hand as he got closer. “Good to see you, Speedy,” he said as they shook hands.

 

“You too, Crim,” Speedy replied. “It’s been a while.”

 

“At least two years, since that thing in Marrakesh.”

 

“That’s right, you were there for that,” Speedy said, nodding.

 

“Half the League was there for that, that thing was huge,” the Avenger pointed out. “What was it called again?”

 

“Ascended demon,” Speedy answered.

 

Willow was on the other side of the room, making sure that her slayers weren’t injured. Her head popped up when she heard Speedy’s answer. “What?” But neither of the Leaguers heard her.

 

“You did some damage with those incendiary arrows of yours if I recall.”

 

“I pissed it off. Superman did most of the heavy lifting that day.” The Avenger just nodded in agreement. “So what are you doing here, Mr. T didn’t say anything about any other Leaguers in town.”

 

“I’m not here on League business, just happened to be passing through. I was here six months ago with Batman on a mission, that’s when we first noticed the vampires in town acting strange. So when I heard that something big was going down tonight, I thought it might be worth checking out.”

 

Willow was slowly making her way across the barroom toward the pair of costumed heroes.

 

“Strange how?” Speedy asked.

 

“Secretive, cautious, not as bold.”

 

“I’ve noticed that too, in most of the larger population centers around the world,” Speedy said. “It’s a reaction to the activation spell.”

 

“It was more than that. These vamps were organized, almost…disciplined. There have been rumors.”

 

Speedy nodded. “I think I know what you mean. I’ve heard those rumors too.”

 

“What rumors?” Willow asked.

 

Speedy turned, not realizing that she was standing right behind him. For the first time since the fight ended they looked at each other. It was the first time they had seen each other in person for almost three years. The silence grew longer as neither of them seemed to know what to say to the other, so they just stared. The slayers and the Crimson Avenger seemed to notice too. Somebody cleared their throat just to break the silence.

 

Crim, this is Willow Rosenberg, Watchers Council,” Speedy finally said, shaking himself out of his daze. Willow, this is the Crimson Avenger, Justice League.”

 

The Avenger reached up and touched the brim of his hat. “Ma’am,” he said in greeting. “Watchers Council, eh? I guess that makes you fine young ladies slayers. A pleasure,” he said, tipping his hat again in their direction. He made his way over to them and started making conversation.

 

That’s when Speedy noticed some of the slayers were openly staring at him, almost literally with their mouths agape. Something about the look in their eyes reminded him of his days with the Titans, the throngs of girls screaming at him in the streets like he was one of the Beatles. That cover of Tiger Beat had been a bad idea. He never should have let Cordelia talk him into it.

 

He noticed Willow staring at him again, like she was afraid if she took her eyes off of him that he would disappear. “It’s good to see you again, Willow,” he said. And he found that he fully meant it. As strained as their friendship had been these past few years, something about seeing her again reminded him about why he cared so much about her in the first place.

 

“It’s good to see you too, Xa…Speedy.”

 

“So, what brings you to this side of the pond,” Speedy asked.

 

“The Council still has Watchers in the States,” Willow answered. “We heard the same information that I’m sure you did, that something major was happening here tonight.”

 

Speedy’s brow furrowed. Something didn’t add up. “So, the Watchers thought it was important enough to send you, their most powerful magic user, but for backup they gave you a team of rookie slayers?”

 

Willow frowned. “Let’s just say I took a personal interest in this mission. It was my choice to come, and I took who was available.”

 

Speedy just nodded. It still didn’t add up but he didn’t push the issue. “Fair enough.”

 

Somewhere across the room he absently noticed as a couple of the slayers became interested in the vampire who was stuck to the wall. One of them, a brunette with a pony tail and a leather jacket, pulled out a stake and was getting ready to use it when Speedy called out. “Wait, stop!” If the slayer heard him, she gave no indication. Speedy crossed the room quickly and put a hand on her wrist. “I said, stop.”

 

She wrenched her arm free with a little more force than necessary and looked at Speedy like he was something that she had just scraped off of her shoe. Clearly not a Tiger Beat reader, he thought. “I don’t know why you people are here, but we came here to *kill* vampires,” she spat venomously. The inflection she put on ‘you people’ was particularly angry.

 

Any other time, he may have let the comment go, but Speedy was not having a good night. “I’ve killed more vampires than you’ve ever *seen*, little girl! And thanks to this little stunt of yours, I had to stop and save your asses before I could do what I came here to do, which is find out what this meeting was about. And I’m not going to let you kill the only source of information that we have left!”

 

“You son of a…”

 

Victoria!” Willow’s voice boomed like a whip crack. “Stand down.”

 

The dark haired slayer backed off, shooting Speedy a glare that could make a grown man wet himself. The rest of the slayers’ expressions changed as well. Hero worship time was apparently over for the time being. He looked over at Willow and saw that she was clearly angry. Though whether it was at him, at her slayers, or at the situation in general, he wasn’t sure.

 

Speedy turned to regard the vampire stuck to the wall. He looked jumpy and scared, his near demise obviously at the forefront of his mind. Speedy briefly wondered if the Crimson Avenger had chosen this vampire specifically, judging him to be the easiest to interrogate. He had been one of his former poker buddies. Pushing the thought out of his mind, he focused on the vampire. He would need to establish his authority, make this vamp believe that he was the one in charge here. His recent outburst should do well to reaffirm that. “All right blood-sucker, here’s the deal. You tell me what I want to know, and you get to continue to not breathe.”

 

“I don’t know anything!” he insisted.

 

Speedy shook his head. “See, I don’t think that’s true. And the longer you draw this out, the angrier my friends are going to get. And the next time that one over there decides to stick a stake in your chest, I might not be as inclined to stop her.”

 

“Okay, okay!” the vamp pleaded. The presence of so many slayers in a single room seemed to be having the desired effect.

 

“What was going on in that back room tonight?” Speedy asked.

 

“It was a meeting, between the heads of the four families and their lieutenants.”

 

“The four families of what?” Speedy asked.

 

The vampire looked reluctant to continue. “If they find out I squealed, I’m as good as dust.”

 

“And if you don’t, same outcome only much quicker,” Speedy said. “So what’s it going to be?” The vamp remained silent. Speedy shrugged and turned to walk away. “You’re funeral.”

 

“No, wait, wait! It’s the vampire mafia, okay! And that’s all I know, I swear! I’m just a low level goon, I hustle card games for cats!”

 

“What were they meeting about?”

 

“The same thing they always meet about, territory. Gotham is still no man’s land, they haven’t decided who gets what yet.”

 

“Is that why they meet here, because it’s neutral territory?” The vamp just nodded. “How long have they been here?”

 

“Few months.”

 

“I want names.”

 

“I don’t have any names, I swear!

 

“How big are they? What cities?”

 

“Metropolis, Chicago, Detroit, maybe Central City. It’s all rumors, nobody talks about anything, it’s all need-to-know. Some vamps swear it doesn’t exist, others say it’s bigger than the human mob.”

 

Speedy turned and started toward the bar. He motioned for Willow and the Crimson Avenger to join him. Once he was sure that they were out of earshot, he asked them what they thought.

 

“Vampire mafia?” Willow repeated. “It’s ridiculous, there’s no such thing.”

 

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” the Avenger said. “I’ve heard these same rumors, they’ve been persisting for years. Ever since one of Rupert Thorne’s social clubs got hit, here in Gotham. They found a lot of blood, but no bodies. The word on the street was that they were all turned.”

 

Speedy nodded. “It makes sense. If the Powers That Be are all about balance, then this is the perfect reaction to the activation spell. If the slayers get organized, then it stands to reason that the vampires would get organized in response.”

 

“So then why haven’t we heard anything about them until now?” Willow asked.

 

“If they really have been in Gotham for months, and the League is just learning about it now, they must be operating with a seriously low profile,” Speedy surmised.

 

“Makes sense,” Crimson Avenger agreed. “Their best defense would be in making sure that the Watchers don’t even know that they exist. The cities that he mentioned, do the Watchers have a major presence in any of them?”

 

“No, they don’t,” Willow admitted.

 

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” the Avenger added. “If the leaders of the vampire mafia are here in Gotham and we can take them out…”

 

“Then we can cut the head off of this snake before it bites us,” Speedy finished.

 

“The League sent you here for this, Speedy,” the Avenger said. “I defer to your expertise. What’s our next move?”

 

Speedy was about to answer when Willow interrupted. “Expertise? Speedy, don’t you think you’re getting in a little over your head here?”

 

Speedy leveled a glare at her that could have melted glass. The Crimson Avenger for his part looked both puzzled and uncomfortable. Crim, could you excuse us for a moment.”

 

“Of course,” he answered, taking his leave as quickly as humanly possible. He decided to busy himself by gathering together the kittens into the basket that he had won earlier in the poker game in the opposite corner of the room.

 

Speedy seemed to be trying to chose his next words very carefully. “Where the hell do you get off…

 

Xander, I’m just trying to…”

 

“You have no right to tell me what’s over my head, do you understand that?! This is what I do Willow, this is all I do! I’ve worked damn hard at it since I was seventeen years old and I’ve earned the respect of my colleagues, even if I haven’t earned yours!”

 

Xander, that’s not what I…”

 

“Do you think I was given this assignment by accident?! I know what I’m doing here. I’m not the one who bumbled their way in here with a half assed plan and five newbie slayers and almost got them all killed. Not to mention completely blowing any chance I might have had to get into that meeting.”

 

“I’ve been doing this just as long as you have, I think I know what I’m doing!” Willow protested.

 

“Really? Before tonight, when was the last time that you were in the field?” Speedy didn’t wait for an answer. “This isn’t Willy’s Alibi Room and this isn’t Sunnydale. It’s Gotham City, and things work differently here. Now if you want to pull your head out of your ass and accept the fact that there may be people in this world who know more about something than you do, then maybe we can work together on this. Frankly, we could both use the help. What do you say?” Speedy extended his hand. He didn’t want to have this fight with her, not now and not ever. But the way he saw it, they needed each other right now, and things couldn’t continue without there being some kind of understanding between them.

 

Willow took his hand and shook it. She didn’t seem happy either, there was so much unresolved between them, but she seemed to accept that this wasn’t the time or place to hash it through. “Agreed,” she said simply. “So, what do you think we should do next?”

 

“We need to regroup, and someplace a little more private than here.”

 

Willow nodded. “We have a motel room in town, we can do it there.”

 

Speedy smiled despite himself. He reached into a pocket of his utility belt and pulled out a business card. “Head to Wayne Towers, show the man at the front desk this card. He’ll tell you where to go.”

 

Willow looked down at the card. It had a Justice League logo emblazoned on it, along with a smaller Wayne Towers logo below it. She flipped it over and saw a series of numbers on the back. She looked back up to Speedy, but he was already walking across the room toward the Crimson Avenger. She made her way back to her slayers to gather them up and head out.

 

Crim, regroup at Wayne Towers,” Speedy said to his fellow Leaguer. “We’ll figure out or next move there.”

 

The Avenger nodded and held up his basket of kittens. “I just need to stop off at the animal shelter and I’ll be on my way.”

 

Speedy nodded and started toward the back room to make his way out through the alley. “Hey, what about me?!” the vampire on the wall spoke up. “You said you’d let me go.”

 

Speedy smiled. “I said we wouldn’t dust you, I never said anything about letting you go.”

 

“You can’t just leave me here! How am I supposed to get down, no one will ever find me!”

 

“True, considering what happened here tonight, no vampire will probably ever set foot in here again. But look on the bright side, maybe the rats will chew you free. Should only take a couple of decades.”

 

The vampire card shark continued to yell and struggle while Speedy turned to leave again. From the corner of his eye he could see the dark haired slayer across the room, Victoria, smirking as Willow led them out through the front door.

 

*