A/N: This is set mid-Season 5 of Buffy. No knowledge of Torchwood is necessary. (If you know Torchwood, it's set pre-Season 1)
Undead I: Blood-Eaters
Jack liked California, mostly for the weather. It wasn't that he disliked the rain and cold of Cardiff; you got used to it after a while. It was more what the weather did for fashion. The Californian girls didn't go much for macs and scarves, and he definitely approved of the hemlines. Almost made him feel at home. The weather also meant that lurking in the bushes was a lot more pleasant, even at this time of night. He'd barely moved for five minutes, watching the girl in the clearing do her thing.
There had been five creatures attacking her at first. Now there were three and, as Jack watched, she turned and almost absently kicked the next one in the knee. Jack thought he heard bone crack. She'd used a stake to dispatch the first creature, while the man with her had neatly beheaded another. He now threw her the sword, which she caught without looking, bringing it round and slicing at the thing coming from her right. Not waiting to see if she'd hit home, she continued the swing, turning and cutting across the one coming from the other direction. It fell back, pawing at its chest, which only left one uninjured.
Its attention was on her, and so it didn't notice the second man ramming a stake into its back. Jack resisted the urge to applaud and regretted not having his video camera to hand. They'd worked perfectly as a team, acting and reacting almost without thought. That kind of synchronicity only came from long practice and close familiarity and Jack was seriously impressed, especially with the girl. This was one he was going to have to watch.
She knelt, wiping the sword blade on the grass.
"Disappointing," she said, her words carrying clearly in the still night air. "No amusing banter or pithy comebacks. These vampires just aren't living up to their reputation."
"But on the plus side, no getting covered in vamp dust." The second man shrugged. He was younger than the first, and neither he nor the girl looked to be much more than kids. "That stuff always gets into your shoes."
The older man was examining the body of the vampire beside him.
"Curious. They're not exactly normal vampires."
The girl raised her eyebrows. "There are normal vampires?"
"Sure," the boy said. "The kind that just want a little house in the suburbs, a nine to five job and a Volvo."
Ignoring him, the girl crouched on the other side of the body. "Any idea why it didn't go 'poof'?"
"None whatsoever." The man pulled the stake out of the vampire with an unpleasant squelching sound. "Maybe they're a new breed of vampire."
Jack had seen enough. "Or maybe they're not vampires at all," he said, stepping out from the cover of the bushes, enjoying the surprised look he got. The girl whirled round, standing up and peering at him through the darkness.
"You an expert?" the boy asked, giving the girl a puzzled glance and confirming Jack's assessment. She was the one in charge.
"Not on vampires," Jack said, shrugging. "But on these things, yeah, I'm an expert."
"Then what are they, if they're not vampires?" the older man asked, coming to stand with the others. A united front seemed to be the order of the day.
"They're haemovores." Jack told him, adding the translation. "Blood-eaters."
"Er," the boy said, "not to be picky about it, but doesn't that kind of describe vampires?"
"It describes them," Jack said, coming towards them, "but doesn't mean these are the same things. Vampires are ancient, relics from a past age that just don't seem to want to go away."
"And haemovores?" the girl asked and Jack grinned. The pronunciation was going to take some work.
"They're from the future."
The headquarters for this crew was a magic shop on one of the main streets through town. Jack held back on any cracks about the setting, remembering that Ianto had spent twenty minutes one afternoon trying to get rid of a party of Japanese tourists who wanted to hire a boat. He was the last one to mock secret hideouts.
He felt the power as soon as he walked in the shop. It wasn't telepathy or anything as advanced as that, just an instinct that came in handy every now and then. Looking round, it was easy to see the source. Trinkets and orbs and strange boxes covered the shelves and tables. He ran his hand over a pack of tarot cards, peered into a cabinet at an unusual set of stones and finally turned his attention to the gathering in front of him.
Waiting for them at the shop were three more women, two blondes and red-head. Jack's day just kept getting better. Without waiting to be introduced, he held out a hand to the red-head.
"Captain Jack Harkness. Good to meet you."
"Willow Rosenberg. This is Tara Maclay."
It's always what they don't say, Jack thought, shaking the hand of the blonde girl now sitting rather closer to Willow.
"Hi, I'm Anya." Perky, keen, trying maybe just a little too hard. Jack smiled at her, sensing rather than seeing the kid – Xander, wasn't it? – stiffen a little. Something else for the mental notes.
"When you're done with the flirting," the girl, Buffy, said, throwing her jacket over the back of a chair, "could you get on with the explaining?"
"No reason not to do both." Jack gave Anya a wink, then slipped out of his coat, dropping it on top of Buffy's. "What do you want to know?"
"Can we start with who you are?" the older man, Giles, leaned against the counter, inspecting him. "And how you know so much about these things."
"I know about them because it's my job. The people I work with tracked the haemovores to California about three weeks ago and I've been driving up and down the coast trying to find them. Should have known they'd come here."
"Why?" Giles asked and Jack didn't miss the warning that Buffy shot him, but she had to know that it was too late to play ignorant.
"Oh come on." He lifted his arms, the gesture taking in the whole shop. "You guys spend your nights hunting vampires, you're clearly very good at it, you talk about demons and monsters knowing they're real, and you're living about two miles from a dimensional rift so big my granny could sense it. Not to mention the amount of raw power right here in this shop and I'm not just talking about the baubles for sale." He carefully didn't glance at the two women sitting at the table, keeping his eyes on Buffy.
"We call it the Hellmouth." Buffy said, meeting his eye for the first time and Jack wondered if the outburst had been a tactical error. The serious, intense expression on her face made him stop for a moment. "And if you know about power, then you know enough to stop screwing around and tell us what's going on."
Relaxing, in the hope that she would, Jack half-smiled, turning so that he could talk to everyone at once.
"Right, haemovores 101. They're a kind of mutant human, altered and warped by chemicals and psychic conditioning and who knows what else. They were transported from thousands of years in the future, back into the 9th century where the convenient vampire legend meant they stayed off the radar until about sixty years ago in England. It was thought they were all destroyed back then until they attacked a fishing village in Portugal six years ago and another in Argentina a few months after that. They can live underwater for an indefinite period of time, and mostly come inland to feed."
"What kills them?" Buffy asked.
"The important stuff, eh? Mostly the same things as vampires. Stakes, beheading, fire, but they've no fear of symbols. Crucifixes, bibles, things like that, don't bother them. They do have low-level psychic abilities, and can be held back or even driven off by faith."
Giles looked up, interested. "Faith?"
"If you believe strongly enough, it forms a kind of psychic barrier around you. The haemovores hate it."
"That's distinctive," Giles said, thoughtfully. "Might help us find references to them, especially if they've been around so long."
"References?" Following Giles' nod, Jack turned to see all the bookcases lining the back of the shop. "Oh. References. If you don't mind my getting all twenty-first century on you, and you've got an internet connection, I can have my people upload everything we've got on these things."
"My laptop's in my bag," Willow said.
"Let me have your IP address and our data is your data." Jack wrote it down as she read it out, then turned to Buffy. "Do you have somewhere I could make a call?"
The 'somewhere' turned out to be a large room at the back of the shop, half-storeroom, half-gym, albeit with rather pointier equipment than average. Jack examined some of the knife cabinets as he waited for Tosh to get back to him.
"I'm sending you all we've got," she said. "There's quite a bit on all of them."
"Thanks." Jack's PDA beeped and he scrolled through the first few pages of information. "Says that this Willow kid is a bit of a computer ace. If she traces us through the data you send her, I'm suspending your mainframe privileges for a month."
"She won't trace us," Tosh assured him. "Do you need anything else?"
"How are Owen and Suzie getting on?"
"There's nothing to see at Maiden's Point. They're talking to some of the locals, but they're fairly sure it's secure now."
"Well, have them check-in before they head back to the Hub. We need to be more than fairly sure."
"Got it. Good luck."
Jack hung up the phone, still staring at the case on the wall. Some of the knives looked vaguely familiar.
"Get everything you need?"
Startled, Jack turned to see Buffy watching him from a few paces away. He hadn't heard her come in.
"I think so. The files should come through soon." He waved a hand at the room. "This is pretty impressive stuff. Knives, daggers, axes, scythes; if it's sharp, you've got it."
"We like to think so." Buffy's tone was light but Jack had the distinct impression that he was being sized up, and not in a good way. He'd unbalanced her, invaded her home turf and she was not happy about it. Time for some more unbalancing, then. Turning his back on her, he stepped closer to the knife case.
"This is a Tibetan Spirit Dagger, isn't it?" he asked, pointing. Because of his height and the angle, she had to come towards him to see what he was pointing at. "The figure on the handle is supposed to frighten the demons. Although I think the six inch blade does that rather well, don't you?" He smiled at her, and had the satisfaction of seeing her blush as she realised how close they were now standing.
"Giles is the expert," she said, looking at the case. "I just use them."
"Shame. Some of them have got a fascinating history."
"What about you?" she asked. "What's your fascinating history?"
Jack raised his eyebrows. The tone had been more flirtatious than he'd expected. Interesting.
"Nothing thrilling I'm afraid," he said nonchalantly. "I'm just here to do a job."
He laughed. "So suspicious. If I was going to do anything, don't you think I would have done it by now?"
"Do anything like what?"
"I'm sure you all have your theories." He turned so that there were barely six inches between them, and she had to tilt her head or take a step back to look at him. As she raised her face towards his, he let a slow, knowing smirk spreading across his face. "What's yours?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." She did take a step back now, more than a little flustered. "Although I've got to admit that you do the dark, mysterious stranger thing real well."
"I try." Sticking his hands in his pockets, he looked upwards as though thinking. "Your friend Giles is wondering how I know so much about haemovores; Xander's worrying about his girlfriend, who probably thinks I'm cute, but have nothing to offer her; Willow and Tara, well, if I had to guess I'd say that they're wondering the same thing about me as I'm wondering about them – if they ask, the answer's yes, by the way; then there's you." He looked back towards her, watching her eyes widen a little. Suppressing a smile, he leaned closer. "Well, let's just keep that between us, shall we? And I won't ask why a college undergrad and a former librarian have enough weapons to equip half the town."
"Then I won't have to lie to you." She'd folded her arms, glaring at him as though challenging him to ask more. Jack knew when not to push his luck.
"That's always preferable." He crossed the room and opened the door for her. "Shall we see how the others are getting on?"
Most of the hunting was done through the usual dusty tomes. Buffy spent half her time leafing through books of monsters and the other half watching Jack move between her friends. There was some predatory and calculated about him, in the way he looked at people and the way he moved, as though he was always assessing them, just in case. He didn't frighten her exactly, but there was something about his absolute confidence and easy manner that made her uncomfortable in ways she didn't like to think about.
"If you're attempting to read through your fingertips, I'm afraid you're doomed to failure." The voice in her ear made her jump and nearly drop the book she was half-holding. She was sitting on the steps up to the balcony and as she looked through the banisters, she saw Giles regarding her with a gentle smile.
"It's just..." she paused, trying to put words round the thought. "Jack makes me nervous." When Giles pursed his lips, she went on, "Don't you think it's weird? I mean, everyone's just cool with him, just like that. He's flirting with Willow and Tara, laughed at Xander's jokes."
"Which makes him instantly suspect," Giles interrupted dryly.
"You know what I mean." Buffy closed the book, leaning on it as she watched Jack talk to Anya and Xander over the counter. She noticed that he was careful to look mostly at Xander, while his body was turned towards Anya, including them both equally. Her life usually depended on reading body language, making her hypersensitive to it. Jack's obviousness was making her uncomfortable.
"I have the impression that it's nothing personal, more that we happen to fit into his main categories of interest," Giles said. When she gave him a curious look, he half-smiled. "Upright and breathing."
"Please don't tell me that he…that you…" Buffy's mouth opened and shut, trying not to visualise the scene. Giles managed to look offended and amused at the same time.
"You may not have noticed, but I fulfil both of the criteria. He's really quite polite about it, though."
"Okay. Okay." Stamping hard on the mental image, Buffy scrabbled for what was left of her composure. "It's fine. World still turning? Good. Right."
"You're the only one who's actually been alone with him," Giles pointed out, not helping at all with Buffy's temporary confusion. "Do you think he's working to another agenda? One besides…" he trailed off, waving a hand in the general direction of the group.
"Hitting on everyone in the room?" Buffy frowned, trying to remember exactly what had been said in that unsettling conversation in the training room. "He uses it, the whole 'flirt with everything that moves' stuff?" she said with growing certainty. "I think it all comes naturally, but he's using it to play us, keep us distracted."
"What's he hiding?" Giles asked. "What's he trying to distract us from?"
"I don't know," Buffy said thoughtfully, "but we're going to have to keep playing along until we find out."
It was nearly an hour before they'd got anything useful. Giles had found the odd reference to a strange breed of vampire in central Europe and parts of England, while Willow had been scrolling through the pages of information Jack had got for her. They'd been talking quietly for a while, until Willow nodded and looked round at everyone else.
"Guys? I think we've got something." She gestured at the screen and Buffy came to see. "It says here," Willow went on, "that the toxin, mutation, whatever you want to call it, is carried in the blood. That's why haemovores need more of it. The toxin converts the blood into more toxin, so their bodies feed off themselves somehow, and the fresh blood is what keeps them going, providing new supplies, like fuel to a fire."
"So far, so gross," Buffy observed, trying to read the tiny writing. "Where does it get us?"
"Jack's people have already managed to identify the toxin, but if we could get a sample of their blood, we might be able find a way to destroy it with magic. Kind of isolate the bad stuff and wipe it out."
"That's pretty powerful magic, Will," Xander observed.
"And a pretty ambitious plan," Buffy added. "You want me to go get a blood sample from a haemovore? Do you want me to stop by the zoo on the way back and stick my head in a lion's mouth?"
"Actually," Jack said, "it could be done." He'd moved out of the way when the others came to look at the computer and was now leaning against one of the display cases, watching everyone else. "Remember I said they're vulnerable to psychic attacks? If we could find them, we could probably disable them long enough to get a sample."
"If we can do that, why can't we just, you know," Xander picked up a stake and thrust it forwards violently enough that Anya took a step backwards.
"You'd run out of stakes," Jack told him, obviously amused by the demonstration. "And we can't be sure that we'd got them all. This would guarantee it."
"Sounds like a plan." Buffy looked at him. "Let's hunt."
A/N: The haemovores are from the Doctor Who story The Curse of Fenric.