Title: L.A. Knights/Emerald Flame: Stolen Youth (2/2)

Author: Cyclone

Feedback: Please be gentle.

Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.

Rating: Just a little bad language.

Spoilers: Anything and everything.

Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.

Summary: Mayor Richard Wilkins III is not an idiot and adapts accordingly.

Author's Note: This story occurs after Emerald Transitions.

Xander hovered over Wilkins Manor. Contrary to the way it had almost seemed sometimes the last time around, Wilkins didn't actually live at City Hall. He did, however, work very late nights; some of his most significant contributors, after all, lived on nocturnal schedules.

He considered his next move. He had picked up a few things about entering secured buildings from Batman - that is, Terry McGinnis, in that other world he remembered - certainly enough to fool or disable any electronic security he had, and his power ring could mimic keys, rendering mechanical security irrelevant, but it was the mystical security that was the real threat. Not only was he ill-equipped to bypass them, but they likely held far more lethal consequences.

After another long moment of deliberation, he shrugged his shoulders and began his descent. There was something to be said for the direct approach.

The door swung open.

"Hello," he said politely to the man who had opened it. "I'd like to speak to Mayor Wilkins. Is he available?"

"So, what's the story with this 'Willy's'?"

Cordy looked over at Batman. Faith had given them a lift, and they were now standing in front of Willy's. She wasn't comfortable with Batman - she was well aware of her alter ego's rocky relationship with Batman in the comics - and she was having trouble wrapping her head around the idea that someone was crazy enough to do this without powers and without coercion.

She herself, of course, was most definitely being coerced. She wasn't quite sure how Willow had coerced her into this, but she most definitely had.

"Local watering hole for the demons around town," Willow's voice answered over the commlink. "It gives them an option besides eating people and serves as a useful information source."

"I see," Batman nodded. "Do we go in hard or easy?"

Cordy glowered and answered by kicking the door open.

"You know, I'd actually been wondering if you needed sleep," Xander said conversationally. "After all, you have your daily duties as well as your more, ah, nocturnal supporters to see to."

"Oh, I do," Wilkins nodded politely. "A few hours here and there. Not much, but everyone needs a little sleep. It keeps a man sane. Lemon drop?"

"No, thank you," Xander waved off the offered candy.

"So," Wilkins said, "I'd sort of been expecting you to drop by to see me eventually. How can I help?"

Xander shrugged and said, "Well, actually, I just came by to lay down some ground rules."


"Yes. I want to make something very, very clear to you," Xander said, an edge in his voice. "I know you'll become invulnerable a hundred days before your Ascension; I also know a dozen different ways to make you regret that invulnerability. I know how big and how powerful you would become if you successfully go through with your Ascension; I also know that I will still be able to pick you up and throw you into a star."

"I see," Wilkins answered, suddenly not smiling.

"Now," Xander said, leaning back, "I haven't done anything like that yet because you're useful - you generally keep a lid on things around here - but this whole 'kidnapping babies' thing isn't something I can let slide."

"Well, gosh," Wilkins frowned, "then we have a bit of a problem. After all, Lurconis has kept his end of the deal. It just wouldn't be right for me to try to welsh on it. I still have to pay him."

"Not if he's dead, you don't."

"That's an intriguing suggestion."

"Like I said, you're useful, and those babies are what matter right now. So, where. Are. They?"

Richard Wilkins was many things: a loving husband, once; a caring surrogate father, in another world; a reasonably honest politician, shockingly enough; a powerful dark sorcerer who had sold his soul as a small part of a bid to become an all-powerful True Demon, capital T, capital D. However, he wasn't an idiot, he wasn't invulnerable (yet), and he was sitting across from a man with a weapon that literally gave him the power to crush him like an insect with a thought.

He answered.

"...and there's a new vamp nest setting up in a warehouse by Pier Thirty-One," Willy babbled.

Cordy had to admit. She was impressed.

"And?" Batman growled.

"A Belgari demon and an illusionist just hit town. I don't know where they are, I swear, but I'd start at the Motor Lodge."


Willy fumbled for a moment, then whispered, "And I wet my bed until I was fourteen."

Cordy placed a hand on Batman's shoulder. "I think we've got all we're gonna get from him."

As the three of them left, Faith murmured, "Not bad."

"And what would you have done?" Batman asked.

Faith shrugged. "Dunno for sure," she admitted. "Probably just fly him off and play a little catch."

"Crude," Batman said after a moment's consideration, "but probably effective."

"So, what next?" the illusionist asked as he lay back and paged through an issue of GSM Magazine. "I was thinking of heading to Vegas. Play the card tables. You?"

The Belgari demon shrugged. "Not sure, Timothy. San Francisco, perhaps. I hear the Charmed Ones have awakened there."

Timothy turned the page and snorted derisively, "And you want to go looking for them?"

"I've got quite a few specimens I've been dying to share with someone like them," the demon answered with a feral grin.

"You do that, and you're on your own, buddy," Timothy warned his partner as he turned the next page. "I didn't last this long by picking fights with chosen types. I'm just glad we haven't run into the Slayer yet."

It was then that the door crashed open.

Xander found them exactly where Wilkins had said they would be. A quartet of vampires held the kidnapped infants in a large underground chamber that connected to the sewers. Torches ringed the chamber, giving it a medieval atmosphere.

Those wacky Public Works people, he thought dryly. Does every city sewer system come complete with sacrificial altars?

The vampires were dust before they even knew it, and as he scooped up the infants, he paused as Lurconis emerged from one of the larger sewer tunnels and reared his head, roaring in anger.

"Well," Xander said, resigned, as he looked up at Lurconis, "I've been meaning to brush up on my giant-snake-killing skills." With a focused thought, he formed a six foot long Bowie knife construct and declared, "Now that's a knoife."

It was at times like this that he missed E. Sure, they still met to train in the Dreaming, but it just wasn't the same. She was never one to let a line like that pass, and what good was a joke if there was no one to appreciate it?

Admittedly, that was for a rather flexible definition of "appreciate," and even he had to admit that it was a pretty lame line.

And, admittedly, it also said a great deal about his sanity that he actually missed the voice in his head.

Batman, Huntress, and Jade approached the Sunnydale Motor Lodge when a young man burst out the window from one of the rooms, running for dear life.

He paused as he skidded to a halt in front of them. He looked at the three costumed heroes.

"Great," he sighed, a note of resignation in his voice. "First the Tarrack daemonling, now this. And I'll just bet one of you ladies is the Slayer, right?"

"Actually, no," Cordy said, raising her crossbow. "She had to sit this one out."

"That makes me feel so much better," the illusionist muttered sarcastically as he threw up a glamour; nothing fancy, just enough to add an extra touch of sincerity and harmlessness. "I should point out," he said, quite honestly, "that I'm just a human bystander here who's running because a demon and a half-demon are brawling in my motel room."

There was a loud crash as a huge man hurtled through the wall and into the street. An even larger demon stepped out carefully, almost daintily avoiding the rubble. Harmless green energy washed over both of them.

Faith's power ring chirped and said, "Scan complete. Subject: Belgari demon. Subject: Tarrack daemonling."

"Oracle?" Cordy prompted.

"Belgari demon," came the reply over the commlink. "Possesses a natural ability to store and culture various diseases within their bodies, highly resistant to physical damage... silver will work, but magic's more reliable."

"And the Tarrack?"

"Tarrack daemonling. Human half-breed, prone to violence, extremely strong and resistant to damage. No special vulnerabilities. Just brute force." She paused and added, "I'd be very careful. Most Tarrack daemonlings don't survive to adulthood due to their violent tendencies. This one must be very smart and strong-willed."

"Joy," Cordy snarked. "A walking cootie factory and the poster boy for 'roid rage."

Timothy watched as the trio turned their full attention to his erstwhile partner and his opponent. With a quick whisper to make himself seem less important, he tried to slip away, only for Batman to negligently toss a set of bolas around his legs, sending him toppling to the ground.

Batman stepped forward and hissed, "Bandit."

The human-looking of the two, the Tarrack daemonling, turned and glowered, "Batman."

The caped crusader tilted his head - first to the Belgari demon, then to the human off to the side - and asked, "These the ones who hired you?"

The Road Buster nodded.


The three heroes turned their attention to the Belgari demon.

"Hi, guys," Xander greeted the other heroes. The four infants were sleeping soundly in the construct baby carriage trundling along in front of him.

Batman glowered. Xander smirked.

Faith created a construct hand that smacked him upside the head.

"Ow!" he muttered, rubbing the back of his head. "What was that for?"

"You could have mentioned you found them," she retorted.

"Oh," he said. "That. Yeah, it was a human sacrifice thing. Four vampires, no trouble, really. Oh, and the demon they were being sacrificed to, a giant snake demon called Lurconis."

"What happened to the demon?" Cordy asked.

"I made like Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets," he answered. He paused. "Wait, is that book out yet?"

Batman frowned. "Where did you get a phoenix?"

There was dead silence for a long moment, and Faith turned on him. "Okay, seriously. A few months ago, you didn't even know who Batman was, and you know Harry Potter? What is wrong with you?"

"Be nice, Jade," Xander reprimanded. "He had a very deprived childhood and is just trying to make up for lost time. And for the record, I meant I went stabbity stabbity on it with a large sharp object."

Faith sighed. "What was the quip?"

"'Quip'?" Xander repeated innocently.

"You don't go facing down a big bad without a quip," she said, crossing her arms, "so since you had no audience, what was it?"

"I wouldn't exactly call Lurconis a big bad," Xander hedged. "It's not like he had any intentions or ability to end the world or even devastate a significant portion of real estate."

"He was gonna eat babies. That's bad enough."


"So what was it?" she asked, tapping her foot impatiently.

"It really would lose something in the retelling," he said. "You kind of had to be there. The context is what sets it all up."

"You know the ring has a playback feature," Faith pointed out.

Xander froze. "How do you know that?"

"Cortana was showing us your greatest hits while you were in Japan."

"Damn it, Cortana," he muttered, hanging his head, "stop copying Willow and recording things you shouldn't."

"Wait," Cordy said.

Oh, thank you, Cordy, he thought fervently. I love you. He frowned at the amusement glittering in her eyes and the sinister smile on her face. The combination inspired a deep-rooted sense of impending doom.

In truth, he remembered that look rather fondly. From about this time the last time around at that. It had been so worth it then.

Now? Not so much.

"Canary should see this too," she declared.

"'Now that's a knife'?" Buffy deadpanned. Her head whipped around, and her gaze pinned Xander to the couch. "You call that a quip?" she asked incredulously.

"I didn't call it anything," he grumbled, pouting as the girls snickered.

"Hey, Xander," Willow spoke up. "I've been meaning to ask you something."

"What, Will?"

"With Batman," she said, "why'd you use the name Hal Jordan? I mean, you're the first of a new generation of Green Lanterns. Wouldn't Kyle Rayner have been more appropriate?"

Xander shook his head. "I met Kyle once, in the other world. He was retired by then, of course. That kind of power... it never leaves you, not completely. It changes you. But even with those side effects, he's still human, still mortal." Xander's eyes took on a far-off look as he continued, "He was a good man, Will, and it... it just wouldn't have felt right to use his name."

Silence filled the room, the humor leeched out as they remembered what Xander would never forget. Along with his power ring and the future knowledge that had helped them so far, he carried with him memories of a life he could never return to.

And also, Willow recalled soberly, of a love forever lost. Her gaze flicked over to Tara, and her thoughts turned to what Faith had said about them. I wonder, do either of us really have a chance?

Jarod paused in the darkened parking garage. The garage was in a building he now owned, and it was almost completely deserted.


It took him half a second to identify the man leaning, arms crossed, against the support pillar near his car.

"Sergeant Spartan," he said. "Can I help you?"

"You know," John Spartan started, "I called the DEA, Mister Bruce. Apparently, they never heard of Agent Jarod Watts." He stood up and confronted the now-wealthy man. "So, who are you really, Jarod?"

"Someone who's making a difference."

"That's not your job," John snapped.

"Then whose is it?"

With that, Jarod got into his car and drove off.

Author's Postscript:

I'm not completely satisfied with this one for some reason, but I just can't put my finger on why. Oh, well.