Justice League Xander:
An Arrow's Flight
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.
A bell sounding the elevator's arrival rang as the doors opened into the luxury penthouse that sat at the top of Wayne Towers. Willow Rosenberg and the five slayers that made up her team stepped off and took in their surroundings with wide eyes and slack jaws. "I guess the Justice League pays pretty well," one of the slayers commented.
Willow heard Xander's voice coming from the other room. It sounded like he was talking to someone else. She lead the slayers down the hall and into the living room. Xander stood, still in costume, talking to another masked man via a large flat screen monitor which hung on the wall. Xander turned and waved Willow over. "Why don't you girls take a look around," Willow said. "But don't touch anything, please." The slayers dispersed and Willow crossed the living room.
"So what you're saying is that you blew any chance that you had to observe the meeting secretly," the man on the monitor said. Willow recognized him now that she was closer, Mr. Terrific.
"Yes, but we were able to interrogate one of the vampires from the bar and gained some information. It looks like what we're dealing with here is the vampire mafia," Speedy said. "The meeting was between the heads of the four families, to divvy up territory in Gotham."
Mr. Terrific arched an eyebrow. "Then this is even bigger than we thought."
"How much does the League know about the mafia?" Speedy asked.
"Not much I'm afraid. It's never been sufficiently confirmed that they even exist. Give me a moment." Terrific turned his head slightly, probably to look at another monitor where he was accessing more information from the Watchtower computer.
Speedy turned to face Willow. "So, you found the place okay?" he asked with a smirk. The tallest building in Gotham City was not easy to miss.
Willowed smirked back. "How can you afford a penthouse in Wayne Towers?" she asked.
"I can't. Bruce Wayne lets the League use it whenever we're in town."
Willow seemed to consider that for a moment. "Why?"
It was always easier to believe the worst about the super rich. Xander had felt the same way before he met Ollie. He had never met Bruce Wayne before, but he wasn't above assuming an altruistic motive from Gotham's richest and most favorite son. "Maybe he's just a nice guy like that," he said. "Or maybe Batman threatened to break his thumbs, I don't know. I always got the impression that the Bat doesn't like him very much."
"What's Batman like in person?"
Speedy shrugged. "Quiet, determined, brooding, has a habit of disappearing from rooms without making a sound. He's not too unlike a certain souled vampire that we both know and tolerate."
On the screen, Mr. Terrific had turned his attention back to them. "I can give you a name, I'm afraid that it's all we have. Artemis Graymore. A vampire, believed to be very old. His name has come up several times with relation to the vampire mafia. As you know Speedy, this isn't exactly something that the League keeps extensive files on."
Speedy glanced back toward Willow. "But Watchers just might," he said, more to himself. "Mr. T, allow me to introduce Willow Rosenberg of the Watchers Council. Willow, this is Mr. Terrific. Willow is the one who…"
"Compromised your mission," Mr. Terrific finished. "Speedy, I have to say I'm surprised. If this is indicative of the way these people operate, I have to wonder about your recommendation to the League that we work more closely with them."
Speedy surprised Willow by becoming offended before she had a chance to. "The Watchers and the slayers have been saving the world since most people thought it was still flat. They have access to untold amounts of knowledge regarding the occult with contacts and allies all over the world. To be fair, they are operating with a new model now that there are thousands of active slayers instead of just one, and the team that was sent here was operating on spotty intelligence. But if there was more cooperation between our two groups, we could avoid these embarrassing little overlaps."
"A persuasive argument indeed, but I'm not the one you need to convince."
"Whether they're convinced or not, you can tell the seven that this just became a joint mission," Speedy said.
Mr. Terrific frowned. "You haven't been authorized to make that decision, Speedy."
"The decision made me. Five slayers just fell into my lap, what am I supposed to do, tell them to go home? They wouldn't even if I did. I'm not going to let red tape keep me from doing my job."
Terrific nodded, his expression sympathetic. "I'll report this to the seven, what happens to you after that will be their decision."
"Understood. Speedy out."
Mr. Terrific's face winked off the monitor, to be replaced by the Justice League logo. "I hope you're not going to get into any trouble for this," Willow said.
Speedy shook his head. "Nothing I can't handle. I've been trying to convince the League for years to pursue a more active relationship with the Watchers." Of course, if the League had the cooperation of the Watchers then he would no longer have to be their go to guy for all things that went bump in the night, which was a plus. But Willow didn't need to know about that particular ulterior motive. "Maybe this mission can convince them that I'm right."
"The Council can be just as stubborn. I'm not sure if they will be any more receptive to the idea."
"I've spoken to Giles about it before, he seemed open minded about the idea. I think the two organizations could have a good working relationship if they could just sit down together and talk."
"So, are these the kinds of missions that the League has been sending you on lately?" Willow asked.
Speedy inwardly winced. He knew that question was coming. It was Willow's subtle way of calling him a hypocrite. He had told her that this wasn't his fight, and now here he was, fighting it. He didn't know if that made him a hypocrite, he was only doing what he had always done, whatever was asked of him. It's true, he wasn't happy about being pigeon holed, he felt that he had more to offer the League than just killing demons, but if that was what they needed him to do then that's what he would do. He wasn't ashamed of what he did, so he answered the question honestly.
"Pretty much," Speedy said. "They try to fit the right person to the right mission, and somewhere along the way they decided that I had a knack for this type of work, so here I am. So what about you, what have you been up to lately?"
"Oh, you know, same old grind. Training new slayers, researching the latest apocalypse, that type of thing."
"So what brought you all the way out here?"
Willow broke eye contact and shrugged her shoulders in a vague way that didn't really mean anything. She always was a terrible liar. "Oh, I just wanted to get away for a while, and it seemed like a good chance to get some of the newer slayers out into the field, get their feet wet."
Speedy smirked. More like throwing them into the deep end of the ocean, he thought wryly. She was hiding something. He thought back to their conversation at the bar. 'Let's just say I took a personal interest in this mission,' she had said. What did that mean? What could be personal to her about a bunch of vampires meeting in Gotham City? And why was she being so elusive about it?
Before he had the chance to pursue the issue further, the slayers came into the room. Victoria, the one that he had faced off with in the bar, stood at the front of the pack. Willow cleared her throat. "We didn't get the chance to make formal introductions earlier. Speedy, this is Chloe," she said, indicating the blond with the young face who had inadvertently started the ruckus at the bar earlier. She nodded and smiled shyly. "This is Liz." A tall red head with freckles on the bridge of her nose smiled and offered a small wave. "Bianca." A dark haired girl with a dark complexion nodded. "In the back, that's Lu." An Asian girl with dark eyes and raven black hair also nodded. "And Victoria you've already met. Girls, this is Speedy." Speedy nodded in return.
"So what's our next move?" Victoria asked. Her arms were crossed over her chest as she glared at Speedy challengingly, as though she were daring him to give her an answer that she didn't like.
"We need more information about what we're up against," he answered.
She sneered, which Speedy guessed would have been her reaction no matter what he had said. "What a surprise, you want to hang out in your luxury penthouse and wait for the answers to come to you. We should be out there on the streets, finding these guys."
"And how exactly do you propose we do that?" Speedy asked. "Turn over every rock in Gotham and hope they come scurrying out?"
"It's better than sitting here and doing nothing!"
Speedy sighed. He suddenly found himself with a newfound respect for those with the job of training these headstrong young women. "A wise man once told me that if I ever find myself in a position where I don't know what to do, the reason will be most likely because I don't have enough information to make a decision. The next logical course of action then is to gather said information, because acting without it could be far more dangerous than doing nothing at all."
Victoria sneered again. "Let me guess, your buddy the Robin Hood wannabe?"
Speedy cast a glance toward Willow, his expression one of accusatory understanding. "Actually," Willow spoke up. "Rupert Giles said that." Her eyes met Speedy's. "A long time ago." She almost looked apologetic. "Can you girls give us a moment please?"
Speedy hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "The kitchen is through there," he said, remembering that slayer metabolism often called for copious late night snacks. "Help yourself." Willow nodded in approval and the slayers slowly filed out of the room.
There was only one other person that Speedy could think of who had had a similar attitude toward his mentor, and that was Willow. Suddenly Victoria's behavior and attitude toward costumed heroes seemed to make sense. "Someone has been telling tales out of school," Speedy accused. "Or perhaps in school. Are you and her…" Speedy let the question trail off, the meaning obvious.
"No!" Willow answered defensively. She then seemed to realize that what he was implying wasn't exactly without precedent and said the word again more gently. "No. I'm not involved with anyone at the moment." Speedy nodded, gesturing with his hand that she should continue. He was clearly waiting for an explanation. "Speedy's exploits on the Hellmouth during graduation and Thanksgiving may have been covered during some of our lessons, but your identity is safe, I promise you."
It wasn't exactly an explanation of Victoria's attitude, but Speedy was satisfied. He could fill in the blanks himself, and he trusted that Willow was telling the truth when she said that his identity was still a secret. Still, it hurt him that after all these years, she clearly still harbored feelings of disapproval regarding the choices that he had made in his life.
The two former slayerettes were spared from their awkward silence by the arrival of the elevator, and with it the Crimson Avenger. "Sorry I'm late," he said, strolling into the living with his hands casually in his coat pockets. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an animal shelter that's open this time of night?" A few of the slayers wandered back into the room upon hearing the Avenger's arrival. "So what's our next move?" he asked, unknowingly echoing Victoria's earlier question.
"Research," Speedy said. "Do you still have your contacts in the police department?"
Crim nodded. "Sure."
"I want you to find the police report from the incident at the Rupert Thorne social club that you told me about. Also, I want you to see if you can find similar reports from Metropolis, Chicago, Detroit or Central City involving missing mobsters. Get pictures of the missing if you can so we can try to match them with the faces we saw at the Bloodbath tonight."
"You got it."
"If you need an extra pair of eyes or two, grab a couple of slayers, I'm sure they'll be happy to help," Speedy added, ignoring the dirty looks that he got.
"And what are we going to do?" Willow asked.
"Artemis Graymore," Speedy said. "If he's as old as our intel says, the Watchers should have a file on him. I have a feeling that he may be the one behind all of this."
Willow nodded. "Do you have a computer that I can use?"
"In the study, through here," Speedy said, making his way through the penthouse. "Come on, I'll show you."
A couple of hours later, the group gathered in the penthouse study. It was a cozy room with leather furniture and bookshelves lining the walls, filled with everything from reference material to the latest pulp fiction. A large oak desk sat at one end with a computer on it and a high backed leather arm chair behind it. Speedy sat at the desk while the slayers occupied the leather sofa and loveseat. The Crimson Avenger stood in the corner by the door, fingering a stack of manila envelopes that he held. Willow stood next to the desk, leaning down and looking at the computer monitor which she had turned to face her. "Okay, let's go over what we have so far," Speedy said. "Willow, why don't you start."
Willow nodded as she stood up straight and turned to address the room. "We started with the name that the Justice League gave us, Artemis Graymore. As it turns out, the Watchers Council does have a file on him." She picked a piece of paper up off the desk and tacked it to the bulletin board which hung on the wall behind her. It was a scan of an oil painting, depicting a stern looking man with piercing blue eyes and a high forehead with jet black hair. His face was twisted into a sneer of contempt. The painting was so disturbing that Speedy half expected Willow to turn back around with a demon's face and shout 'I, Willow, am Viggo! Be gone pitiful half men!'. When Willow turned around however, her face was intact. "This is an oil painting that Graymore had commissioned in 1780, it's the only image that we have of him. The file only chronicles a handful of encounters with him over the past three centuries, which isn't a good sign."
"Why not?" Victoria asked.
Speedy answered. "Because it means that he's smart enough to evade detection, and that he has the wherewithal and the patience to operate under the radar when he needs to."
Willow continued. "I've been pouring through the information that we have on these encounters to find something useful. His actual age isn't known, but the first confirmed contact with him is over 300 years ago, in Scotland. He was terrorizing a small farming community. He had them convinced that he was some kind of deity, demanding sacrifices from them to insure the health of their crops. This could mean that he's too lazy to hunt, which is unlikely. More likely he enjoys being worshiped and feeling superior to humans, tricking them into giving him victims willingly without having to lift a finger. This suggests that he is highly intelligent, with an organized personality and a need to be in control."
"This is an alpha dog," Speedy added. "Almost every incident in the file describes a group of loyal followers, willing to stand and fight and die to make sure that their master can escape when the time comes."
"Subsequent encounters with Graymore over the centuries took place in Germany, Turkey, Taiwan, and most recently San Francisco in 1939," Willow said.
"So, this guy hasn't said boo for almost 70 years?" Bianca asked. "What makes you so sure that he's our guy?"
"For one thing, he fits the profile," Speedy answered. "To put something like this together, you would need an intelligent and organized mind, someone who can inspire both loyalty and fear. And second, the intel that we got from the League. If they say that he's involved with the vampire mafia, then he's involved, you can take that to the bank."
Victoria snorted, but no one else commented.
"One watcher described him in his diary as 'cunning, methodical, and cruel beyond measure.' That same watcher and his slayer were later lured into an ambush by Graymore and killed," Willow said. "All total, Graymore is believed to have killed two slayers and four watchers."
"So how do we find him?" Victoria asked.
"We don't," Speedy answered. "He's too smart for that. However an organization this size is not easy to hide, we can use that to our advantage." He looked toward the Crimson Avenger in the back of the room and nodded. "Crim, why don't you show us what you found."
The Crimson Avenger stepped forward and put the manila folders down on the corner of the desk. "Four police reports from four different cities," he started. "All involving known mob associates who are now missing, and all with similar crime scenes. A lot of blood, but no bodies. I got pictures of the missing mobsters and matched them to faces that I saw tonight at the Bloodbath."
The Avenger opened the first folder and pulled out a picture. He tacked it onto the bulletin board under the picture of Graymore. It was a mug shot of an Asian man with a dragon tattoo on his neck and a pair of dark sunglasses over his face. "This is Jimmy 'Snake Eyes' Kashikami, member of the Yakuza. He and his crew operated out of Central City, mostly drugs and protection. He was the first one I saw arrive at the Bloodbath tonight and enter the back room, the tattoo and the sunglasses were a dead giveaway."
"Let me guess, he doesn't just wear his sunglasses at night so he can be more like Corey Hart," Speedy commented.
"He's blind. The story goes that when he was four, his mother dripped snake venom into his eyes to give him 'The Sight' against evil spirits. What he got instead were some series mommy issues and a sadistic streak a mile wide. He also has a reputation as a gifted martial artist."
"A blind vampire ninja, that's one for the scrapbook. What else?"
Crim picked up the next folder and removed a picture from it, tacking it to the board next to the first. It was another mug shot, this one of a skinny man with slicked back hair wearing a wifebeater and several gold chains around his neck. "Joey 'The Bone' Falcone, one of Uncle Carmine's many nephews," he said, referring to the legendary mobster from Gotham. "He ran a numbers racquet in Detroit. He disappeared one night along with most of his crew. Again the police found a lot of blood, but no bodies. Just another unsolved mob hit, or so they think."
The Avenger picked up the next folder and pulled out another picture. "'Crazy Ivan' Kalishnikov, Russian mob, Chicago." The picture showed a burly man with a bushy moustache and a creepy smile on his face.
"He doesn't sell discount stereos by any chance, does he?" Speedy asked.
"Actually, he's a hitman. And a particularly brutal one at that. He's also the only one out of the four who disappeared alone. He was last seen walking to his car. The car was later found with two broken windows and a large pool on blood on the driver's seat. Unfortunately, Chicago PD doesn't have enough information on the Russian mob to be able to link any other disappearances to this one, so we have no way of knowing if any others were taken in Chicago as well.
"And last but not least, Bobby Casavelli," Crim said, pulling out a fourth picture and tacking it to the board. It looked like a surveillance shot, showing an older man in a suit walking down a sidewalk. The man walking next to him was Rupert Thorne. "One of Rupert Thorne's chief lieutenants, he disappeared along with a room full of goons from one of Thorne's social clubs in Gotham, the Double Deuce. Again, the police wrote it up as a mob hit. He was spotted in Metropolis a few weeks ago, so the authorities believe that he survived the hit and is no longer working for Thorne."
"Why Metropolis?" Willow asked. "Why didn't he stay in Gotham?"
Speedy spoke up. "My guess is that the mafia didn't want to reveal themselves until they were stronger, so they stayed out of Gotham because they knew that Batman kept a close eye of the city's underworld. The fact that they're here now means that they're no longer afraid of the Justice League, which is not a good sign."
"So what do we do now?" Willow asked. "How do we find them?"
"More than likely Casavelli still has contacts in Gotham within the Thorne organization that are still human, we'll start there. Crim, anything in Casavelli's police file about local hangouts?"
Crimson Avenger paged through the police file in his hand for a moment before nodding. "There are three listed."
"Good, we'll split up," Speedy said. "Crim, take two slayers, you'll be Team Alpha. Willow, two slayers, you'll be Team Beta. I'll take whose left and we'll be Team Gamma." He reached into a pouch on his utility belt and pulled out a small object, tossing it to Willow. "Stay in touch," he said. Willow looked down at the Justice League communicator in her hand and nodded, putting it in her ear. "If we spot anybody, we let the others know, and we tail them. We don't engage, understand?" he said, emphasizing the point by making eye contact with all of the slayers around the room. "We want them to lead us back to wherever the rest of them are holed up." Speedy stood and walked over to the bulletin board, taking Casavelli's police file from the Avenger as he passed him. He pulled down a map of Gotham city that was hanging over the board and began marking the locations. "Wayne Tower here will be Fall Back Position Alpha, Thompson Park will be Beta, and the docks will be Gamma." He marked those locations on the map as well, for the benefit of the girls who probably didn't know the layout of the city very well. "Any questions?" No one spoke up. "Then let's go to work."