Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...
Aesop

EMAIL: ENOWON@JUNO.COM

CATEGORY: CROSSOVER

RATING: PG-13

DISCLAIMER:  I donít own the characters from Roswell or BTVS, and I
donít profit by writing this. All rights are retained by the show's
creators. While Liz, Michael, and Spike are out of town the rest of the
Roswell teens are having problems of their own. An unwanted visitor
picks a very bad time to come around.

SUMMARY:  Liz, Michael, and Spike are in Sunnydale taking care of
business.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch...



Tess Harding scraped the last bite of Tobasco covered chocolate ice
cream out of her bowl. Kyle shuddered slightly, but smiled at the near
rapturous expression on her face as she licked her lips. "Mmmm." She
looked up at Kyle and caught the look. "What? Iíve seen some of the
Ďsnacksí you eat. Those microwave burritos? Now those are disgusting."

"No arguments. Even dad agrees with you there." He pulled out his
wallet as Maria put their bill on the table. "Time to go. The movie
starts in 20." The two teens left the CrashDown chatting comfortably
with each other. Maria and Isabel stared after them.

"Who woulda guessed?" Maria shook her head wonderingly, but Isabel just
shrugged, apparently not caring, although she was secretly relieved at
the unexpected development. Picking up an order, she carried it to the
corner booth before returning to the counter to pour coffee for another
customer. Filling in for Liz wasnít her idea of fun, but the money was
good, and it kept Mr. Parker from having to hire someone he didnít know
on a temporary basis. She glanced at Maria.

"At least sheís not chasing Max anymore." 

Maria rolled her eyes. "Come on Isabel, sheís proven herself by now,
hasnít she? I know she isnít always pleasant, especially to Liz, but
sheís not the enemy."

"I know," Isabel sighed, "and maybe itís mainly our fault that she
keeps herself at a distance. I need to start being nicer to her,
include her more."

"Wouldnít hurt." Maria caught Isabelís look and relented. "I know, I
know. I havenít been all that nice to her either, especially when she
was trying to get between Max and Liz. We will try to include
her more." Isabel nodded in agreement. "Maybe we should invite her for
a girlsí night out when Liz gets back." Isabel looked dubious. 

"Liz and Tess? You really think thatís a good idea?" 

Maria laughed softly. "Weíll take it slow." She thought a moment. "It
might help if they understood where the other is coming from." A glance
around showed her that no one was close enough to listen in. "I mean
you guys have your mission, and she has hers. Thereís got to be some
common ground for them. I mean Tess was the one who was so gung-ho
about you all following your Ďdestiny.í" Mariaís thoughts turned to her
absent friend and her Ďdestiny.í Liz and the others had been gone for
two days and hadnít checked in yet. Isabel saw the expression on her
face and braced herself for the inevitable question. "Have you heard
anything from them?"

"Not since the last time you asked." Liz had only called home once, to
let her parents know she had arrived safely and to discourage any
attempt to call her. The scholarship competition she was supposedly
attending at UC Sunnydale was going to be busy, and it would be
difficult to reach her. At least that was the story she had told her
father. "Relax okay? Theyíll be fine. Sheís got Michael and Spike
alongÖ Ah, I see why youíre worried." 

Maria scowled at her. "Thatís not funny. I trust Michael, and well,
okay, not so much Spike, but itís the caper itself that worries me."
Isabel nodded. She glanced around to make sure no one was within
earshot.

"The Skins have to be stopped though, and theyíre the only ones who
can. We couldnít just tell that Buffy girl. She wouldnít have any idea
how to deal with them." Maria nodded glumly. 

"I know, but I canít help but worry." 

Jeff Parker poked his head out of the kitchen. He always worked the
floor when there was a new or fill-in waitress. "Everything okay out
there?" Startled, the girls looked around and nodded hastily.

"Everythingís fine Mr. Parker." Maria scanned the room and picked up
the coffeepot. She nodded to Isabel and made her way to table three.

"Donít suppose youíve heard from Liz? She hasnít called here, I thought
she might have called Max." Isabel resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

"No. She hasnít called. Sheís probably pretty busy. Iím sure sheíll
call when she gets a chance." 

Jeff Parker nodded unhappily. "I hope she does well. A full scholarship
would be nice." 

Isabel kept herself from wincing, barely. It was the only thing they
could think of that would get her out of school for the time she needed
to be away. Liz hated lying to her parents, but the truth just hadnít
been an option. The fact that their parents knew about Liz was what had
kept Max from going with Liz instead of Michael. Philip and Diane Evans
had suggested that Liz tell her parents the truth, but she had decided
that it would only frighten them and complicate everyoneís life
unnecessarily. It wasnít like there was anything they could do to
change things.

Isabel welcomed the distraction of work when the next plate of food was
placed at the pickup window. She delivered a Will Smith burger and
Saturn Rings while turning her mind to things she could affect. Maria
had a point. Liz and Tess had to have something in common. Well,
besides Max. Destiny. Whether you were a Slayer or a...a...
reincarnated alien? Whatever. Any way you look at it, it
sucks. There had to be some way to get them to understand each
other. Maybe the girlsí night out that Maria had suggested would be a
start.

***********************************************************************

This is the place. It has to be. It had taken months to narrow the
search even this far. In the end, it was a rumor and a hunch that had
brought him to Roswell and everything was riding on it. Magic had done
all it could. Now all that was left was good, old fashioned research
and legwork.

***********************************************************************

Iím late. Iím soooo late. She was supposed to have been at the
CrashDown by 8:00 and it was almost 8:30. Jeff would be waiting,
impatiently, for her. The delay had been unavoidable, not that that
helped. As she hurried down the street, carefully balancing the bag of
supplies from the market, she saw the sheriffís son and a girl, Tess
she thought, coming down the street towards her. Kyle was a decent
sort. He was always polite to her. Tess was another matter. Nancy
didnít know the full story, but she did know there was some friction
between her daughter and the blonde girl. It didnít take a genius to
figure out that a boy was at the root of the problem.

Sheíd seen several confusing combinations in the CrashDown. Kyle with
Liz. Max with Liz. Max with Tess. Now she was seeing Kyle with Tess.
I donít want to know, and I certainly donít want to get into it
now. The last thing I need, she thought as she oriented on
the café just two blocks away, is another delay. 

Nancy Parker was more annoyed than frightened when she was pulled into
the alley. At least until she got a look at her assailant. Despite
being the co-owner of an alien-theme restaurant, Nancy Parker had never
really believed that anything other than a weather balloon had crashed
back in Ď47. It was a belief she didnít advertise, suspecting that it
wouldnít be good for business. The creature that shoved her against the
alley wall and held her, though, was decidedly not human. For one thing
its teeth were far too pointy when it grinned at her.

"Dinner time bro." Nancy looked around. There was another one close
behind the first, just as ugly and nodding eagerly. She didnít like the
sound of that. Do aliens really suck out your brain? she
wondered, as she tried desperately to push the creature away. Suddenly,
it was gone. The other creature looked as startled as she felt. She
looked around to see Kyle Valenti on top of the first one, punching it
in the face.

More annoyed than hurt, it slapped him aside and got to its feet. "One
for each of us," it noted casually to its friend. "You can have the
woman."

"No you canít," the second creature staggered as someone slammed into
it. "Get away from them!" Nancy stared in amazement as Tess faced off
against the creature. She looked like she was scared out of her mind,
but she wasnít backing down. The creature lunged forward, attempting to
catch her in a bear hug. Tess placed a hand against its chest in a
feeble attempt to ward it off. What happened next surprised Nancy as
much as it apparently surprised the monster. She straightened her arm
and the creature flew through the air, impacting with the back wall of
the alley more than a dozen feet away.

Too hard, Tess mentally kicked herself. Her goal had been to use
just enough of her power to force the vampire away, discourage it. It
hadnít been necessary to let it get that close to her, but she was
mindful of Mrs. Parker behind her and didnít want to have to explain
why the creature had fallen down when she hadnít even touched it. It
was something she had never tried before, which probably explains
why I overdid it, she thought ruefully. How was she going to
explain that? The other vampire was backing off as well. "Kyle?! You
all right?" 

"Yeah. Iím okay." He got to his feet and looked at someone behind Tess.
She chanced a glance toward the mouth of the alley and saw a well-
dressed man approaching them holding a wooden crucifix and a plastic
bottle with a cross on it.

"Back hell spawn," he commanded, brandishing the cross. The man wore a
three-piece-suit that looked like it had been fashionable a century
ago. He was dressed for the cover of Librarianís Quarterly not a
monster hunt, but the vampire that Kyle had attacked eyed the man
warily and backed away.

"Well, well," the other vampire got his feet under him and came toward
them. "Iíd heard this town had a Slayer." Tessí eyes widened in shock.
He canít meanÖ. It grinned, assuming a fighting stance that Tess
recognized from the only training session she had observed. Spike had
been teaching Liz about maintaining her balance while fighting.

"Here," the well-dressed man tossed her the bottle of holy water which
she surprised herself by catching. He then placed his free hand on
Nancyís shoulder. "Quickly. Get out of here. Iíll deal with them." She
backed quickly out of the alley. The man turned his attention back to
Tess and drew a stake from inside his suit coat and tossed it to her.
She almost dropped it, which made the vampire laugh. "You can do it,"
the well-dressed man told her in a calm, reassuring voice that made
Tess want to scream. 

This is not happening.

The first vampire was focused entirely on Tess. The second was dividing
his attention between the well-dressed man and the ĎSlayer.í He had
completely forgotten about Kyle. The broken board punched through the
skin directly under the sternum and the vampire vanished with a
surprised grunt. 

"Ow!" Kyle dropped the board and shook his hands staring at them,
annoyed.

"You okay?" Tess risked a glance away from the vamp. 

Kyle nodded. "Splinters," he said by way of explanation. "Look out!"
The remaining vampire, enraged by the death of his friend, used Tessí
distraction to his advantage. Tess stepped back with a frightened
squeak and reflexively squeezed the plastic bottle, sending a stream,
more by luck than design, into the vampireís face. It screamed and
covered its face as the holy water started to burn at it. Tess seized
the opportunity and plunged the stake into its exposed chest.

"Well done," the stranger enthused in what Tess recognized as a British
accent when the vampire crumbled. "At least itís not bad for a
beginner." Tess turned to face the man. She vaguely remembered Max and
Liz talking about a council of some sort that did things for the
Slayer. What did she call them? Lookers?

"Who are you?"

"Whatís going on?" Nancy and Kyle spoke at the same time, and the man
glanced between them, annoyed that the woman was still there and not
sure who to answer, or how to answer. He glanced at Tess. It was
imperative that he speak to her alone as soon as possible. She was
watching him suspiciously.

"I have the same questions," she told him. "You might as well answer
them now."

"Were those aliens?" Nancy asked staring at the piles of dust. Tess
closed her eyes briefly, to prevent herself from rolling them.

"Ah, not exactly," the man answered hesitantly, flustered by the
question. Aliens? Thatís a new one. "They-"

"They were vampires Mrs. Parker," Kyle interrupted as he plucked
splinters out of his palms. He had been briefed on vampires and demons
and on Liz being the Slayer. He glanced at Tess and realized that he
had probably paid more attention than she had. "I think theyíre local.
I meanÖ from Earth." He shook his head. "I donít know that much."

"Vampires?" Aliens were strange enough but vampires? Floundering for
something to say, she remembered what the creature had said. "What did
that one call you Tess? A Slayer? What is that about?" Tessí eyes
widened and she cast a glance at the stranger who, much to her dismay
was nodding in confirmation. He had an almost smug look on his face.
Nancy, entirely focused on Tess, didnít notice.

This is not happening.

"Itís an old vampire legend," the man said, surprising Tess. "The
Slayer is something of a boogie-man for them. When I realized that the
creature had jumped to conclusions about your rush of adrenaline I
thought it might be wise to capitalize on its error. Allow you to
distract it while I took the beast from the side. I must say, you
surprised us both. Good show MissÖ?"

"Harding," Tess heard herself say faintly. "Tess Harding." What was he
doing? A moment ago he seemed to be agreeing with the vampire.

"A pleasure. You seem to know something of vampires already." Tess
nodded. "I would like the opportunity to talk to you about that
privately."

"Now wait just a minute," Kyle interrupted. "First of all, who are you?
And second, what makes you think youíll be talking to her privately or
otherwise?" The man cast him a disparaging look, but his face softened
when he saw how Tess moved to stand next to him, as if seeking his
support and protection.

"My name is Nigel Hawkins. I am a scholar. I belong to a group that
studies, hunts, and eliminates vampires."

"So what are you doing here?" Nancy asked.

"Vampire activity has been on the rise in New Mexico. I was sent to
investigate. It seems my arrival was fortuitous." He looked back at
Tess, who had all but grafted herself to Kyleís side. "As you two know
something of vampires already, perhaps you wouldnít mind speaking to me
about your experiences?" Kyle and Tess traded uncertain glances.
Finally, Tess nodded. Kyle frowned but agreed.

He had not included Nancy Parker in the invitation, but she offered to
take them to her home for the private discussions and Tess and Kyle
insisted. No doubt, he realized, they felt safer on familiar ground. It
was a bad start, but one he could recover from. Mrs. Parker,
fortunately, excused herself, not wanting to deal with the subject. 

Soon three of them were seated around a table in the Parkerís home
above the café. Hawkins looked at Kyle, not at all happy to have
a civilian present, but realizing that Tess would not cooperate unless
he were there. He could work on separating them later. It was likely
that the Council would have him relocate the Slayer anyway. Once in a
new city he would have more control over her. He was determined that he
would not make the same mistake that Rupert Giles had.

"Since before the dawn of recorded history it has been the duty of
Watchers like myself to guide and train the Slayer." He saw Tessí
reaction and nodded. "Yes. I apologize for the subterfuge, but it is
essential that as few people know of your status as possible."

Tess glanced at Kyle, and then questioningly at Hawkins. He smiled.
"The two of you are obviously close, and he already knows of the
existence of vampires. I saw no harm in including him." He turned his
smile toward Kyle, trying to put him at ease. "You neednít fear for
her. She is my charge now and I will help to ensure that nothing
happens to her."

As they listened, he laid out the history of the world as the Council
knew it. Demons, vampires, the Slayer, and the Slayerís mission were
explained. When he had finished, he focused at Tess. "I really must
apologize my dear. You should have been found months ago, when the
previous Slayer was killed. Unfortunately, someone, or more likely
something, has been interfering. The Council has tried and true methods
for finding the new Slayer when the old one dies. This time, however,
we were prevented. Weíre still not quite sure how. It is possible that
a powerful demon wanted to delay the discovery of the next Slayer in
order to carry out some sinister plot uninterrupted." Tess blinked.

Did he actually say Ďsinister plot?í Who talks like that?

"The Council has been more vigilant of late, but we have discovered
nothing of the source of the interference. You might say our radar is
jammed. It was good old fashioned detective work and," he dropped his
gaze in calculated gesture of self-deprecation, "dumb luck that allowed
me to find you."

"What makes you so sure Tess is this Slayer youíre looking for?" Kyle
demanded. "You said yourself that your radar is jammed."

"She killed a vampire," he began.

"So did I."

"True, but you did not throw him through the air almost half-a-dozen
meters before you did so. Only a Slayerís enhanced strength would allow
such a feat." He turned back to Tess. "There have been other such
incidents, have there not? A marked increase in your physical strength,
faster reflexes, minor cuts and bruises healing quickly." Tess opened
her mouth to deny it, but hesitated, overwhelmed by what the man had
told her. She had had no idea of what it meant to be the Slayer, no
idea of what Liz was up against. It was incredible, and she suspected
that Liz only knew a small portion of it, especially since she had
taken such pains not to attract one of these ĎWatchers.í

Hawkins interpreted her hesitation as an admission and did his best to
look sympathetic. He only managed to look smug again. "I know it is a
lot to deal with, but you do not face it alone. That is why I am here.
It is a Watcherís duty to train and protect the Slayer." Tess opened
her mouth to deny it, to set him straight, but then she glanced at the
door. 

Nancy Parker came in carrying a tray full of drinks. As badly as Tess
wanted to set him straight, she couldnít, not in front of Lizí mother.
Nancy saw her look and, like Hawkins, misunderstood.

"I think sheís a little overwhelmed. I know I am." She shook her head
in wonder as she set the tray on the table, playing the hostess almost
by reflex. "Vampires." She broke off and shuddered. "I know you want
their story, but give them a little time. Itís not something that
happens every night, I hope." That thought unsettled her still further,
and she left the room.

"That reaction is common Iím afraid." He looked after Nancy Parker with
a genuinely sympathetic expression. "Donít worry about her. She will
rationalize it soon enough and get on with her routine. You
unfortunately donít have that luxury." He raised a hand to forestall
the objections he saw coming. "I can grant you a little time but not
much. What you must understand is that the war with the demons is
ongoing. It has been fought in secret for thousands of years. Any delay
in the assumption of your duties may have disastrous consequences. I
will meet you tomorrow night at sunset, downstairs at the cafe. There
is something I want you to see." He rose from his chair and placed his
hand over hers in what he probably believed was a comforting gesture.
"It is important work, vital work, as you will soon discover." 

Before he left, Hawkins extracted a promise from Kyle to keep their
discussion, and Tessí status, a secret. He spoke a few reassuring words
to Nancy Parker as well. Then he bid them all goodnight. 

***********************************************************************

"That guy gives me the creeps," Kyle opined as he and Tess walked home.
Neither was sure how to proceed. Tess nodded.

"He isnít looking at you like the grand prize in a scavenger hunt," she
griped. "How do you think I feel?" Kyle knew better than to offer an
answer to that. They walked in silence for a while. The two teens had
been growing closer ever since a break-in at Tessí home had convinced
Max that she wouldnít be safe living alone. It had been awkward at
first living with an alien, and at times it still was, but Kyle had
gotten to know her very well. He knew, for instance, when to keep his
mouth shut. After waiting what he deemed a safe amount of time, he
ventured a suggestion.

"We should tell the others. This affects everyone." Tess nodded
reluctantly.

"Itís late. Weíll tell him tomorrow. I want some time to think on this
anyway."

"What about Liz?" he asked carefully. "She should know." Kyle knew that
Liz was a touchy subject. The fact that Tess continued to resent Liz
hurt him somewhat. She still wanted Max to notice her, to want her.
Kyle tried not to show it, but he suspected she knew how he felt.

"Iíll let Max tell her," she sighed. "Itís not something I want to deal
with right now." Kyle looked away, not wanting her to see his reaction.
When he glanced back Tess was eyeing him curiously. Thinking quickly he
pasted a look of concentration on his face.

"We need to convince him that he made a mistake," he mused. "Get him to
look elsewhere."

"That would be ideal, but what if we just tell him that Liz is the one
heís looking for?" Kyle stiffened at the annoyance in her tone. He knew
Tess disliked Liz, but would she really wish Hawkins on the other girl?

"If itís that simple," he ventured, "why didnít you tell him earlier?"

"In front of her mother?" Tess sounded honestly surprised by the
question. Kyle glanced at her, surprised himself, and Tess sighed. "Liz
has kept our secret. I guess I can keep hers, at least from her
mother."

"Speaking of secrets, how are you going to explain what you did in the
alley? How did you do what you did in the alley?" Tess made a face,
realizing that he had a point. How could she explain throwing a vampire
as far as she had? Kyle was watching her curiously. She sighed.

"I just focused the energy the way I taught Michael to do. Youíve seen
him breaking rocks?" Kyle nodded. "I just concentrated on pushing that
vampire away. I didnít want Lizí mother to see it explode. I just
wanted to get us away from it." She shook her head in frustration. "I-
Iíve just never done anything like that before. I didnít mean to throw
him."

"You did the best you could." He tried to sound reassuring, but she
didnít look reassured. "Donít worry. Weíll find a way out of this
mess."

"I hope so. I donít see a way out right now." They continued home in
silence, both lost in their own thoughts. For the life of her, Tess
couldnít see a solution. Telling Hawkins the truth was out of the
question but convincing him that heíd been mistaken would be very
difficult. Maybe some insight was needed. Perhaps getting Isabel to
dreamwalk him would help. Unfortunately, she hadnít thought to get a
picture of her new Watcher. She never thought sheíd be missing Liz.
It should be her here, figuring out what to do with this unwanted
Englishman. Thoughts like that didnít help matters though. Besides,
Tess realized, Max would still insist on trying to help Liz, Watcher or
no. It would only be a matter of time before the nosy Brit discovered
there was something unusual about Lizí boyfriend. It would be Pierce
all over again.

She glanced at Kyle. She still didnít know what to do about him or the
feelings he was developing for her. That she thought she was starting
to care for him was something her mind skittered away from whenever she
tried to confront it directly. Tess wasnít even sure why sheíd agreed
to go out with him. The rationalization had been there at the time, but
she couldnít remember it now. Whatever her reasoning had been, she
decided, going to dinner and a movie with him had turned out to be a
bad idea. It was no fault of his she knew, but she didnít pursue it
beyond Ďbad idea.í Her life was complicated enough. 

Kyle opened the door and let them into the house. His father and Amy
Deluca looked up from their place on the sofa, surprised. They quickly
moved apart like guilty teenagers caught by their parents. Kyle blinked
slowly a couple of times with the look Tess had come to realize meant
he was readjusting his worldview. Heíd been doing that a lot lately. It
was an expression Tess found adorable, although sheíd never admit it. 

"Um, hi, didnít expect you home so soon," his father said with the
cheerful expression that he could paste on at a momentís notice. Tess
managed not to smile. "Movie a bomb?"

"Yeah," Kyle hedged. "Not worth it." Amy was rather embarrassed and
quickly excused herself. Jim saw her to the door and wished her
goodnight. After she had gone, he turned back to his son and Tess. Both
were looking at him with matching troubled expressions.

"Whatís up?" Kyle and Tess traded unreadable looks before glancing back
at him. Kyle answered.

"We have a problem."

Once seated around the kitchen table, they told him about their
evening, from the encounter with the vampires to the appointment Tess
had at sunset the next day. Jim Valenti listened without interrupting.
Finally he sat back and ran his hand over his face.

"I donít believe this. A Watcher?" They nodded. "We donít need this."
He thought quickly. "So we need a way of convincing him that he made a
mistake without making him suspicious." He rose and began pacing the
room, frowning fiercely. "This is not going to be easy. You say heís
convinced youíre the Slayer?" Tess nodded mutely. "When that Wesley guy
was here he convinced Liz she was something special by throwing a knife
at her."

"What?!" Kyle demanded. "No one ever told us about that." His father
nodded. 

"It was only when Liz caught it, something she could never have done
before, that she started to listen." Again he shook his head and went
back to pacing. 

"I canít catch knives! I donít have Slayer reflexes. I canítÖ" Tess
began to pace as well, gesticulating frantically while trying to find a
suitable analogy to finish her sentence. "Leap tall buildings in a
single bound!" she finally blurted out. "This isnít funny Kyle!" she
snapped, her back still toward him.

Surprised, Kyle swallowed the smirk that had begun to appear on his f
ace. The superman analogy was far too close to something she had said
to him not too many days in the past. "What now?" he asked, wanting to
move past the awkward moment. "We have to figure out something before
tomorrow night."

"Maybe we can stall until Liz comes back," his father suggested. "Then
this can get straightened out." Kyle shook his head.

"That would mean telling him about Liz. You donít know this guy. You
didnít hear the way he was talking. HeÖ" Kyle glanced at Tess who had
stopped pacing and was scowling at him. He met her unhappy gaze and
held it until she nodded reluctantly.

"All right, weíll try to think of some way of keeping Liz out of it,"
she agreed, sounding a little petulant about it. "Any idea how? I mean
I canít do what a Slayer can do. I canít masquerade as one." Kyle
looked surprised. "Donít even think it. Iím not playacting to get Liz
off the hook."

"Damn right youíre not," Kyle spluttered. "Way too dangerous." She
stared at him, surprised by his tone. "What makes you think I would
even ask you to do that?"

"W-wellÖ uh, you and Liz used toÖ" 

"Doesnít matter," he said shortly. "Weíll find a way to do this that
doesnít involve life-threatening situations."

"That would be a nice change of pace," his father said to no one in
particular. "Maybe we should call Max and the others over. A few more
ideas wouldnít hurt at this point."

"Itís kind of late," Tess hedged, unwilling to draw the others into it
for some reason. Kyle shook his head.

"The sooner we start working on a solution, the better." He picked up
the phone and began dialing. 

"Something wrong?" Jim Valenti saw her expression and wondered at her
reluctance.

"ItísÖ Well its just that Max and I arenít talking much lately or
making eye contact orÖ" She shook her head. "Itís just awkward. I mean
the whole thingÖ itÖ"

"I think I understand," he said not understanding at all. The
relationship between Max and Tess was something he tried not to think
about. Married in a previous life then killed and put through some kind
of hi-tech reincarnation. It made his head hurt to think about it.
"Under the circumstances, though, I think itís necessary." Tess nodded
glumly, not looking forward to seeing Max, which was something that
amazed her. 

There had been a time when she couldnít wait to see him, to get a
chance to help him see how things were supposed to be. Max had pretty
much proven though that he would never come around to her way of
thinking, and strangely, the thought didnít frustrate or depress her
the way that it once had. She looked at the father and son who had
taken her in and wondered.

"Theyíre on their way," Kyle hung up. "Max said he would pick up Maria
and Alex. I didnít tell him what itís about. Too much to go into over
the phone." Tess nodded distractedly.

***********************************************************************

"Do you suppose this has anything to do with the Skins?" Max glanced at
his sister and shrugged.

"Kyle didnít say. He just wanted all of us to come over. Said heíd
explain the problem when we got there." Maxí voice was calm, despite
his worry over Liz. What else could it be but something involving Liz
and the Skins?

When he pulled into the driveway next the sheriffís truck, Max was
first out of the jeep. He knocked on the door and ignored the odd looks
he was getting from the others. They didnít need his haste to tell them
he was worried, and despite the potential seriousness of the situation,
the contradiction between his calm facade and his actions had the
others exchanging bemused, knowing looks.

Kyle answered the door. "Whatís happened?" Max asked without preamble
as he entered.

"Have a seat," Kyle suggested as the others followed him in. "This is
kind of strange."

"Kind of?" Tess asked sarcastically. Max glanced at her and saw how
upset she was. "Kind of doesnít cover it," she muttered from her place
on the sofa. Max took a seat next to her.

"What happened Tess?"

Once again, Kyle and Tess recounted the eveningís events, just as they
had told them to the sheriff. The others only interrupted with
questions a couple of times. When they finished, all sat in silence for
a moment, contemplating this latest development.

"Not good," Maria stated. "So not good."

"That we know," Tess cast an annoyed glance at the Human girl. "What do
we do now is the question. If I canít convince this guy he made a
mistake heís gonna start throwing knives at me or something. Heíll
expect me to do things I canít do." 

Max frowned thoughtfully. "What are the options? We canít chance him
learning the truth and we canít reveal Lizí secret, at least not
without her consent."

"So how do we handle this guy?" Alex asked. "We have to delay him at
least. Unless we can find a way of explaining what she did."

"How do we explain it?" Maria asked. "Adrenaline?" Kyle shook his head.

"I donít think heíd buy that. She threw him likeÖ" he looked around the
room and pointed. "From that wall to that one, and then some." The
distance he indicated, from the far wall of the Valenti's small kitchen
to the far side of the living room, was farther than anyone could
reasonably believe Tess could shove someone, especially a vampire. It
was an exaggeration, Kyle realized, measuring the distance with his eye
again, but not much of one.

"Thatís a lot of adrenaline," Maria admitted. "Maybe if we all went
along," she suggested after puzzling over it for a moment. "I mean Kyle
knew they were vampires. This Hawkins guy has gotta be wondering about
it." Max looked intrigued.

"What do you have in mind?"

"Well, weíre looking for a way to delay this guy at least," Maria
thought out loud. "What if we told him about Seth?" 

"How will that help me?" Tess wanted to know. Maria scowled at her.
Getting along with Tess wasnít going to be as easy as she had hoped.
Admittedly the situation was stressful, but when werenít their lives
stressful? She suppressed a sigh.

"I think we can use that to delay him. What if we convinced him to
investigate the place where you guys fought him? Cole I mean. Hawkins
would want to know about Seth and Cole and all that anyway. We just
wouldnít tell him all the details. Maybe we can even convince him that
it would be a good way to break in a new Slayer. We know all of the
vamps were killed, but he doesnít know that. It would be safe to go
poking around there." 

Kyle was shaking his head. "That would keep him in the area for a while
and away from any vamps, but heíd still think Tess was the Slayer. Even
having him believe that is dangerous even if he doesnít expect you to
kill monsters." He saw Maria about to object, but raised a hand to
forestall any objections. "No argument. Isnít her life dangerous enough
as it is? Arenít all of your lives dangerous enough?"

"Is he really sure of himself?" Alex asked. "I mean if we can make him
doubt himself, how likely is he to throw knives at her to prove his
point?"

"I say we donít find out." Alex glanced at Kyle, who was now standing
by Tess where she sat huddled on the couch looking equal parts
frightened and angry. He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. The
only thing that surprised Alex more than this was that Tess didnít seem
to mind. In fact she seemed glad to have him there.

"Well," he said, shaking off his surprise. "Do you have any better
ideas?" When no one answered, Alex sighed. "I think we should do as
Maria suggested. Get him to look at that mine where Cole was holed up.
We can go with them and try to keep Tess and Hawkins apart. Maybe he
wonít want to risk her life if there are other people around. While
weíre looking around maybe we can find ways of showing him heís wrong."

"How?" Isabel asked.

"Well," Max thought a moment. "Liz is pretty strong, a lot stronger
than Tess. If Tess canít demonstrate the same kind of strength then
heíll have to conclude he made a mistake. Liz could probably move
boulders that Tess canít budge. Things like that."

"Manual labor," Tess mused. "Well, its better than trying to catch
knives." 

Max nodded in agreement. "Just watch for opportunities to prove that
you canít do what a Slayer should be able to do." He sat back on the
couch and looked thoughtful. "So what do we tell him about Seth?"

***********************************************************************

"Iíve found herÖ Yes, Iím certain." He frowned. "The signs led us to
Roswell. I saw this girl send a vampire flying with a mere shove. The
tests are mere formalities, but I will conduct them." His frown
deepened. "Sheís not ready. She will require time to train and adapt as
any Slayer doesÖ It would be foolish to waste her in such a way when
there are other options availableÖ I donít like it either, but there
may be no option but to request Miss Summersí help." The conversation
was not going well. Travers could be so hard headed at times. Hawkins
listened as patiently as he could to the arguments he already knew
would be trotted out. He did have one trump card to play though.

"If we send her in unprepared, she will die. The mission will fail. If
the situation is truly as grave as you believe it to be then we dare
not risk it." He listened again as Travers essentially repeated what he
had already said. "She is not ready," he snapped. "You will simply have
to swallow your pride and approach Miss Summers." He knew it was a
mistake as soon as he had said it. There was a tense silence at the
other end of the line. Hawkins knew that the only thing that would make
matters worse at this point would be to backpedal and try to make
amends for his outburst, so he held his tongue. Finally, when the
silence had dragged on longer than he had expected he tried again, "The
protection of the Slayer was entrusted to me. What kind of Watcher
would I be if I allowed her life to be thrown away? The girl is not
ready. She will fail and almost certainly die if we throw her into the
fray at this point. There is simply too much at stake." Finally, reason
began to take its toll on the person at the other end of the line.

"Yes sir. Iíll keep you updated on her progress. Please keep me
informed. If my assessment of the new Slayerís abilities leads me to
believe she can handle this, then I will bring her in to assist." He
hung up the phone with a sigh of relief. That hadnít been as bad as he
had feared. Stubborn as Travers was, the man wasnít stupid. He wouldnít
squander a valuable asset like a Slayer without good cause, and Hawkins
wasnít about to let him.

After laboring in obscurity in the Councilís lower ranks for almost two
decades he finally had the chance to work with a Slayer. It was what
every Watcher aspired to, and he was not about to throw it away
foolishly just because Traversí pride had been injured by the renegade
from California.

He glanced at the clock. His meeting with the Slayer wasnít for another
twelve hours and he hadnít slept for nearly two days. There were still
preparations to make, but it was important to have a clear head when he
was making them. Stretching out on the bed, he closed his eyes and
drifted off to sleep.

***********************************************************************

Tess could see that her Watcher was not pleased at the gathering that
awaited him. The CrashDown had been fairly crowded when he arrived, but
Tess was there as he had requested. She had been sitting at the counter
where she could watch the door and had spotted him as soon as he came
in. Tess said something to Nancy Parker and the woman had nodded and
gestured toward the kitchen door. "Follow me," she said simply. "We can
talk in private." She had turned and walked through the door before he
could protest, and he had followed, somewhat irked at having her take
the initiative in such a fashion. He was angrier still to find a group
of teenagers in the basement.

"What is this Tess?"

"Friends of mine. Donít worry, they already know." Tess bristled when
she saw his thunderous look. "They are my family. I donít keep secrets
from them. Besides, they already knew about vampires and vampire
hunters." She looked at the others who kept carefully neutral
expressions. "There was some trouble awhile back you see. I thought you
might be able to shed some light on it, maybe give them some peace of
mind."

"Indeed? Perhaps you should explain." One of the cardinal rules had
already been broken. He had no one but himself to blame for not
impressing the need for secrecy on her. In the long run it wouldnít
matter. Roswell wasnít big enough to warrant a Slayerís presence, and
unlike Sunnydale it didnít boast a Hellmouth. As soon as he got her to
see the light she would be leaving town with him. There was no point
getting angry with Tess. It would only serve to alienate her at this
point.

"Introductions first." Tess motioned him to a chair. "Thatís Max." She
indicated a dark-haired young man with a solemn expression. "This is
his sister Isabel." A beautiful young woman with long blonde hair
nodded. Her face was more open than her brotherís, but still guarded.
Hawkins got the impression that he made her nervous. "This is Maria."
She indicated a shorter girl with blonde hair a shade darker than
Isabelís. She looked downright suspicious. "Alex." A tall lanky
teenager only nodded, his face almost as blank as Maxís. "And you
already know Kyle." The young man Hawkins had mentally dubbed Ďthe
boyfriendí nodded and mumbled a greeting.

"A pleasure Iím sure. As Tess may have told you, my name is Nigel
Hawkins. IímÖ an expert on supernatural phenomena and creatures." Tess
nodded. They let that pass. Perhaps Tess and Kyle hadnít told them
everything.

"Then you probably keep track of people who hunt vampires and other
demons," Isabel guessed. Hawkins nodded, wondering where this was
going. "Does the name Seth Gecko mean anything to you?" 

Hawkins blinked, recognizing the name instantly. "Indeed I do. The man
is a menace. He leads a group of revenge bent fanatics that hunt
vampires. They have a well deserved reputation for causing more
problems than they solve."

"We know," Max said, nodding. "He and his group came through town a
while back looking for a vampire named Cole. Itís kind of a long story,
but his little feud came close to wiping Roswell off the map."

"What can you tell me?" Hawkins was now honestly intrigued. The teens
glanced at each other uncertainly before Max began the story they had
carefully crafted.

"We first learned about vampires and Seth and his feud with them by
accident. He saved Isabelís life when a couple of Coleís lackeys came
through town looking for a meal. We were grateful and happy to help him
when we found out what was going on. He wanted information about
Roswell and about anything unusual going on. We filled him in as best
we could. We didnít like the idea of a big group of those things coming
through town, and Seth and his bunch seemed our only defense." He
paused, looking down unhappily. "We didnít know at first what sort of
person he was. The guyís a complete psycho. Yeah, he wants to kill
vampires, but he doesnít care if innocent bystanders get hurt in the
process. He was more than willing to have it out with Cole right here
in the streets of Roswell." Hawkins stiffened, genuinely shocked at the
prospect. 

"What happened?"

"Weíre not entirely sure," Max allowed. "We knew we had to find a way
to get them to fight somewhere else. From what Seth had learned, Cole
had a lot of vampires with him. Since something like that is kind of
hard to hide in a small town we figured that he had to be hiding
somewhere outside of town, somewhere close." He looked at Alex and the
other teenager picked up the story.

"Max had me do a computer search, looking for any place that might make
a decent hideout for a bunch of bloodsuckers. You know, some place with
plenty of room, minimal sunlight, that sort of thing." Hawkins nodded.
"Well as you can probably guess, there werenít too many possibilities.
We gave Seth our two best guesses and suggested that he would stand a
better chance if he attacked them where they were hiding or set an
ambush."

"That pretty much ended our involvement," Max said. "Seth took his
people and left town. It was the last we heard of any of them." Hawkins
didnít respond for a moment, too astonished by the tale to muster an
immediate response. He knew that Gecko had a large group of amateur
hunters with him and he had heard of Cole, an ancient and very powerful
vampire. Was it possible that the two had wiped each other out? If the
boyís tale was true it showed an admirable inventiveness and a cold-
blooded pragmatism that Hawkins had to admire.

"You have no idea what happened after that?" 

Max shook his head. 

"There havenít been any armies of demons rampaging through the streets
or any sign of Seth or his men. Weíd like to know what happened. Weíre
pretty sure of where he went, but we havenít gone out there to see."

"Probably very wise. I can understand youíre concern. I will speak to
my colleagues to learn what they know of this."

"Weíd like to know what happened," Max explained. "If youíre willing we
can take you out there and try to find out." 

This was unexpected. He had heard of Sethís activity in the area. It
had been one of the things that turned up while he was researching
Roswell and the surrounding towns for any sign of the new Slayer. No
one knew the details, and the chance to find out what happened had a
definite appeal. 

"You think it would be safer with me along?" The teens traded dubious
looks, but finally Isabel spoke up.

"The only thing we really know about vampires is that you donít risk
running into them unless you know what youíre doing. We donít, but you
do." The others nodded in silent agreement.

"It is something that bears investigation. I should look into it," he
gave Tess a possessive look that made her shiver. "Tess can serve as my
guide."

"Tess doesnít know where it is," Max hastened to say. "Isabel and I
will need to go along." 

It took some convincing, but Hawkins finally agreed, with bad grace, to
let them come. He was forced to comply when Tess had declared she
wouldnít go without them. Hawkins still needed to run the tests, and
this little field trip would provide the perfect opportunity to do so.
Assessing her skills was the first step in training her for her duties,
and having the others around would not inhibit the process too much.

He knew that Tess didnít believe that she was the Slayer. It was an
obstacle that he had been told to expect and trained to deal with.
There were things that only a Slayer could do. Might as well get it
over with. Investigating this incident would give them the perfect
opportunity without actually risking her unnecessarily. 

Getting organized was more difficult than he had expected. Tess had to
talk Kyle out of going. Max delayed them for time as well. Hawkins
didnít know what the delay was, and didnít care. The boy had invited
himself.

***********************************************************************

"Come on," Max growled. "Who talks on the phone this much?" He hung up.
He hadnít been able to reach Buffy Summersí home all day, and it was
the only number he had. First there was no answer, then this constant
busy signal. Max glanced at his watch. He couldnít keep the others
waiting. Hawkins was already impatient.

Time to go.

Max rejoined the others and they piled into the jeep. His inability to
reach Liz wasnít his only problem. Ever since their parents had found
out about demons, even if they didnít know that he and Isabel were half
alien, they had become increasingly protective. All they knew was that
Liz was the Slayer and did very dangerous work. Max could understand
why they didnít want their children involved. That didnít make it any
easier to help Liz though or to deal with any alien issues that cropped
up. The recent discovery that there had been eight pods on the ship,
maybe more, was something they would have to learn more about. Not
having the slightest idea how to begin was the biggest obstacle.

He glanced at Hawkins who was silently fuming over having two civilians
along for the ride. Ah, well. Misery loves company. It was nice
to know he wasnít the only one frustrated by overprotective people. He
wasnít being fair to his parents he knew, and it was possible he wasnít
being fair to Hawkins either. He rather doubted it though. Max had
watched Hawkins closely, remembering what Tess had said about the
possessive way he had looked at her. It looked like her worries were
well founded.

They knew so little about the Watchersí Council. Wesley had seemed like
a decent enough person, but one couldnít judge from just the one
instance. Is Hawkins a more representative sample? That was no
good. They needed answers, not more questions. They might not have
answers, but they had, he hoped, the beginnings of a solution. They
needed a plan. Liz always has a plan. Playing it by ear, hoping
for the best, relying on luck. They did it more often than he liked. 

Would it be enough to convince Hawkins he was wrong if Tess couldnít do
what a Slayer could? They hadnít found a way to explain her throwing
the vampire, but they would be satisfied if he could live with the
mystery. If. Too much was being left to chance.

***********************************************************************

The land near the silver mine, where the battle had taken place, was an
especially desolate stretch of ground, Max thought. Or maybe it just
seemed that way. He tended to remember the battle in flashes. Mostly he
saw the faces of the people he couldnít save. Occasionally he saw and
even thought he could smell one of those bodies burning. He remembered
how the battle had raged around him, made visible by that macabre
light.

A glance at Isabel showed him that she remembered as well. Her skin had
taken on an unnatural pallor and she trembled slightly when passing a
particular rise or ditch. Hawkins was too busy speculating and looking
for evidence to notice his guidesí reactions. Tess noticed though. She
had flatly refused to take part in the effort. Vampires werenít their
problem she had insisted. It was foolish, she believed, to risk
themselves in order to help the hunters in their fanatical quest to rid
the world of vampires.

She had been almost flippant, she recalled. Now, watching Max and
Isabel as they remembered that night, she felt anything but flippant.
The pain the memories caused them tore at her conscience. Max had said
nothing to her about what happened that night, and Tess had simply been
glad to have him back safe. How had she not noticed? She glanced at
Isabel and found the other girl staring into a small gully. Hawkins
came back to join them and looked down, aiming his flashlight at the
area that held Isabelís attention.

"Well spotted," he praised her as he descended the small slope. "I
would surmise that these are the remains of one of the hunters." The
blackened bones scattered about were obviously human even though some
of them, including the skull, were missing. Hawkins droned on, unaware
that Isabel was trembling violently, barely able to hold her own light
steady. Tess placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. 

"It is not uncommon," Hawkins lectured, "for vampire hunters to burn
the remains of fallen comrades or victims in order to keep them from
rising as vampires." Tess looked back and forth between Max and Isabel.
Max nodded grimly as Isabel turned away. Hawkins went into details
about the means vampires used to change humans and the preventative
measures that needed to be taken. Tess felt her stomach heave. "Burning
the body is rather extreme, but it is efficient and prevents even the
possibility of a new vampire being born."

"So," Tess interrupted, a little louder than necessary to stop the
lecture. "This confirms that the battle took place here?"

"Iíd say thatís a safe bet," Hawkins agreed straightening up. He
noticed the reactions of the three teens. "Oh. I am sorry. This is a
bit much for you I suppose." He climbed out of the gully and quickly
led them away. "I have spotted shell casings as well," he added. "Guns
wonít kill a vampire, but they do hurt. Seth Gecko has been known to
use guns in his battles. First wounding and then killing a vampire is
an effective technique I suppose." They entered the relatively flat
plain near the mine entrance. Here also, there were signs of the
battle.

"I saw some of the things Seth was taking with him," Max spoke up. "He
had flare guns and several bottles with twisted pieces of newspaper
stuck in the neck."

"Molotov cocktails," Hawkins said, nodding. "Those bottles would be
filled with oil or gasoline. Light the fuse and throw one into a group
of vampires. Very effective." He pointed out the large area near the
mine entrance where time had not completely erased signs of blackening.
"Here. I suspect one was thrown into the crowd as the vampires emerged
from the mine."

"Good place for an ambush," Tess commented looking around. The area
immediately surrounding the mine entrance and the out buildings had
been leveled by heavy equipment to make it easy for trucks to come and
go. Beyond the leveled area were a series of small hills and ridges
that had begun their lives as debris cleared from the mine entrance.
There were piles of dirt and stone that gradually gave way to a natural
landscape farther from the mine. Scrub had eventually grown on the
artificial hills and ridges, making it difficult to distinguish them
from the natural formations. Both Max and Isabel remembered them well.
Those same hills and ridges had provided excellent cover when they had
ambushed Coleís group. 

"Indeed," Hawkins nodded approvingly. "It would appear that that was
just what happened. I believe itís safe to assume there was a huge
battle here. Gecko was known to have a fairly large force. If Cole
intended to face him he would have needed a large force himself, maybe
dozens of vampires." Tess glanced at Max furtively and he nodded, again
confirming the Watcherís conjecture. Hawkins, oblivious to the silent
conversation, continued to speculate as he moved closer to the mine
entrance. "I wonder if any of them retreated into the mine?" Measuring
the distance with his eye from the burn on the ground to the mine
entrance he opened his mouth to speak, but a voice from behind them
interrupted.

"None of them did." They spun around and looked up. Atop the small
artificial ridge directly behind them stood a huge humanoid figure. For
a moment they could only stare at the newcomer. It descended the ridge
in long strides, coming quickly into their midst. They backed away
hastily when they got a good look at the stranger. 

"What is it?" Tess breathed, getting her first good look at a demon.
Hawkins took in the hairless head with the distinctive arrangement of
horns and tusks.

"A Rokesh demon," he identified it, not sounding terribly concerned,
but backing away nonetheless. "Basically a scavenger." It wasnít a
terribly strong or vicious breed as demons went, but it was still more
than he believed his untrained Slayer could handle. Best to try to
scare the creature off, he decided. "No match for a Slayer." The
Rokesh snorted contemptuously. It wasnít the reaction Hawkins had hoped
for. He moved in front of Tess, and ignoring his stake, drew a long
knife from inside the coat he had worn against the chill. A Watcherís
first duty was to protect the Slayer, and he knew that Tess, untrained
as she was, couldnít handle even this minor threat.

"And why should I bother with you?" the demon asked bluntly. This
wasnít typical behavior for a Rokesh. They were scavengers, like
coyotes, basically timid despite their fearsome appearance. Momentarily
at a loss, Hawkins stopped his advance. To cover his confusion he asked
the question foremost on his mind.

"What are you doing here?"

"None of your business. Go and Iíll let you live."

"Sounds good to me," Isabel said cheerily. "Come on." 

Hawkins was beginning to believe it might be a good idea. If the
prospect of facing a Slayer didnít disturb the demon then it seemed
unlikely that he would be able to defeat it.

"I suppose heís doing no harm out here," Hawkins allowed. "Very well."
He lowered the knife.

"You would allow a Slayer to leave after discovering our presence
here?" The voice from the mine entrance caused them to turn quickly.
The figure that emerged was far more menacing than the Rokesh.

"Oh dear," Hawkins murmured as he caught sight of the creature. The
teens looked at him.

"What does that mean?" Isabel ventured. She looked back at the mine
entrance to see five more Rokesh demons emerging behind the newcomer.
"Oh. Never mind."

"Whoís brilliant idea was this again?" Max asked rhetorically. They
quickly moved back to back as the demons surrounded them.

"Coleís treasure is ours," the demon in charge snarled. "You canít have
it."

"What makes you think we want it?" Isabel asked, eyeing the group in
dismay. There was no way they would survive this without using their
powers. Hawkins would see.

"Slayer," the first one to approach them practically hissed, staring at
Tess.

"No," the demon in charge focused on her. "Sheís mine." Tess eyed the
creature in a near panic as it moved towards her, intent on gaining the
prestige that would come with killing a Slayer.

Is this what Liz puts up with? Tess marveled. How does she
stand
it? Hawkins put himself between her and the demon, brandishing his
knife. The Rokesh kept their distance, watching gleefully for the first
sign of blood. 

Their leader, Hawkins couldnít place the breed at the moment,
approached confidently. Hawkins lunged, but the demon sidestepped and
backhanded him, sending the Watcher sprawling. It never took its eyes
off Tess the whole time. Hawkins was on his feet in an instant and
slashing at it again. The shallow cut along its arm only irritated the
demon and it swung at him again. This time Hawkins ducked and stabbed.

The demon roared in pain as it twisted away from the blade that had
found its way into its side under the ribcage. The next blow knocked
Hawkins down again and sent the knife spinning. Glancing at Tess the
demon hesitated a moment. Tess shrank away from it and the demon
returned its focus to the Watcher. Hawkins was on his feet again,
trying to draw the demonís attention.

Heís trying to protect me, Tess realized with a stab of guilt.
Regardless of his motives or the fact that their current predicament
was mostly the Watcherís fault, she wasnít prepared to see him killed. 

Darting forward she reached for the creature, intent on Ďshovingí it as
she had the vampire. With a snarl it swung back faster than Tess would
have thought possible. Before the blow that she felt certain would take
her head off could connect, she released the energy she had built up
within herself in one massive burst, a second before she could make
physical contact.

The snarl turned into a scream as the demon was flung back. Propelled
through the air as if struck by speeding truck, it impacted with the
support beam at the mine entrance with a sickening crunch.

Tess watched it slide to the ground amidst a small avalanche of
dislodged stone. Harder than last time, she noted. Much
harder. I am so screwed. She looked at Hawkins who was staring at
her, mouth hanging open. 

He closed it slowly and a thoughtful look crept across his face. "Is
that what you did last night?" 

Tess thought frantically. What could she possibly say? Isabel saved her
from having to make an immediate response. "Whatís with them?" Tess
looked around to see the Rokesh hastily backing away. Hawkins looked
around as well.

"Without their leader they are reverting to type." He glanced at Tess
and spoke softly to her. She shook her head, but he persisted and after
a few seconds she walked toward the nearest one and raised her hands,
palms toward the creature. With a despairing wail it turned and fled.
The others did the same. "It will take them a little time to sort
themselves out and gather their courage," he told them, "but they will
return. I suggest we be elsewhere when they do." The others quickly
agreed and they set out for the jeep.

Once on the road, he gave Tess another thoughtful look. "Was that what
you did last night?" he asked again. Tess didnít answer. "You neednít
fear me Tess. Iíve kept bigger secrets than that of a lone
telekinetic." Her head came around sharply and she stared at him.

"Te- Tele-what?"

"Telekinetic. It means you can move things with your mind." Tess
continued to stare at him. "Did you think you alone possessed this
talent?" 

Not knowing how to respond to that she turned the question back on him.
"There are others?"

"Oh yes. Itís very rare to be sure, but it does crop up now and then.
Recently," he paused, considering, "there was a young woman in Los
Angeles. A former colleague of mine ran into her." He was fairly
certain that Wesley was unaware that the Council kept track of him and
his vampire employer. They werenít constantly watched, but agents did
look in on them from time to time and certain incidents couldnít help
but catch the Councilís attention. 

"She couldÖ" 

He nodded. "As I said, itís rare, but not unheard of. Is that what I
saw last night?" She nodded mutely, not daring to look around at Max or
Isabel for help. Max and Isabel could only listen, not knowing what to
do at this point. "Why didnít you tell me this before?"

"Why do you think?" Max stepped in, drawing Hawkinsí attention away
from Tess. The jeep had slowed almost to a stop. Max pulled off the
road and turned around so he could face the Watcher. He wasnít quite
sure, but he thought he saw a light at the end of the tunnel. "Why
didnít she tell you?" Like Tess, he turned Hawkinsí own question back
on him. Maybe heíll give us the answer himself. It seemed too
good to be true, but it was the best chance. 

"I believe I understand why she would hide it. Fear of being seen as a
monster, a freak." He turned back to face Tess. "There are certain
varieties of demon that possess that ability, itís true," he mused,
"but there is nothing inherently evil in the ability itself."

"ThenÖ What are you going to do?"

"Why thatís up to you. Itís not my place to say. You are not the Slayer
and do not answer to the Council. You are, however, quite powerful. Can
you control your abilities?" His tone was gentle, almost casual, but
Tess could see that the answer was very important to him.

"I can. I had to learn to control them." It suddenly occurred to her
why he was asking. "Donít worry. I donít use them to hurt people. The
whole reason for learning control was so I wouldnítÖ hurtÖ anyone."
That sounded familiar to her, but it took her a moment to realize that
Liz had given the same reason for taking on Spike as her trainer.
Michael had given the same reason for isolating himself after killing
Pierce.

"Is something wrong?" Hawkins asked.

"I just realized something." She paused a moment, phrasing her next
question very carefully. "Youíll be going to find the new Slayer
right?" He nodded. "When you find her, youíll spend some time teaching
her control?" He gave her an odd look.

"Of course. Itís an important part of a Slayerís training. A Slayer who
hasnít been properly trained, who hasnít learned proper control of her
reflexes and strength is a threat to others."

"Just like I would be if I didnít know how to controlÖ what I can do?"
Her voice had a contemplative edge. She thought about Michaelís
reaction after heíd killed Pierce and Lizí obsession with training.
Hawkins watched her curiously. Tess smiled. "This Slayer of yours has a
big job ahead of her."

"Yes, she does," he replied gravely. "What are you thinking?" 

Max was beginning to wonder that himself. He eyed Tess curiously, not
sure what she was going with this.

"Um, about some of the problems I had learning control. I had help,
butÖ Well, nothing like a Watcher; someone there for the sole purpose
of training me." Nasedo had been there to guard her, nothing more. He
had taught her enough to keep her from accidentally revealing herself,
and she had picked up a few things by copying him, but he hadnít been a
teacher, let alone the father he had pretended to be for the sake of
the few people they dealt with. 

Liz didnít have a teacher either, Tess realized. Spike wasÖ Well he was
Spike. The vampire grated on her nerves, and she honestly couldnít
understand how Liz stood him. Realizing that she had trailed off and
Hawkins was watching her expectantly. Tess shook her head. "I donít
know. Um, I can control my powers fine, so Iím not a danger to anyone
if thatís whatís worrying you."

"Thatís a relief, but I would like to make you an offer."

"Offer?" 

He didnít answer immediately. Instead he took time, choosing his words
carefully. "You did quite well against that vampire, but not as well as
you could have if you hadnít needed to restrain yourself. Iím guessing
you didnít want Mrs. Parker wondering about you, and that you shoved
harder than you intended." Tess grimaced and nodded. "It occurs to me
that these abilities of yours could be further honed. I will be in the
area for a while, as I still believe that the Slayer is here and it is
my sacred duty to find her and prepare her for the battles ahead. While
I am looking for her, I want you to consider some additional training.
Perhaps I can help you. Think about what you did tonight, and then
think about what you could accomplish if you truly mastered your
abilities."

"Maybe," Tess hedged, having no intention of doing so. "But I can tell
you right now, Iím not getting involved in what the Slayer does."
Hawkins couldnít quite hide his disappointment. "I mean the whole idea
of demons scares me. Iím not going to take up hunting them."

"I understand the sentiment," he nodded. "Demons do exist though, and
they are a threat. I hope you wonít allow yourself to forget that the
way so many who have fleeting encounters do. Think of it as self-
defense training if you like, and by all means take your time."

The drive back to Roswell was uneventful. Max and Isabel told him that
they had learned of Tessí talent by accident and had agreed to keep her
secret. The previous evening there had been some speculation about mind
warping the Watcher, but Tess had said that she couldnít affect a
personís memory after the fact, not without consequences for the person
she warped.  Eventually, he would have remembered and that would have
made things worse.  Instead they had devised a plan that had worked
almost by accident. 

Max told Hawkins that the group he had met knew about Tessí telekinetic
abilities, but no one else, and they wanted to keep it that way.
Hawkins agreed to keep the secret.

The three teens told him part of the cover story that Nasedo had relied
on for so long, making sure that there were no avenues of investigation
into Tessí past, and they were careful to give no hint that there was
anything unusual about them. Then they began to divert him, asking
about others with strange powers.

Hawkins obligingly told them about seers and healers. He told them of
the rare telekinetics and the even rarer cases of telepathy heíd
learned of in his years with the Council. 

"I had no idea," Tess breathed. "So many strange things."

"Most people donít want to know," Hawkins told them. "There are those
who accept it as part of the everyday world without difficulty. They
accept the existence of demons and vampires calmly and take sensible
precautions. Others, however, do not react as well. Some refuse to
believe in demons even when they see them. When offered unequivocal
proof of the existence of the supernatural they work desperately to
either rationalize or forget." He shook his head. "Frankly, we of the
Council prefer it that way. It makes our work easier."

"I suppose I can see that," Max allowed. "I guess youíre wondering what
category we fall into?"

Hawkins nodded. "That is really not my concern, but Iíll admit to being
curious."

"Weíll do what weíve done since we found out about them," Max answered
for the group. "We watch out for ourselves and our families. Thatís all
we can do though." Hawkins nodded thoughtfully. It was actually more
than he had expected from them. He glanced at Tess.

"Max speaks for me too," she told him flatly. "So donít think youíre
gonna be seeing me in spandex and a cape." Hawkins was momentarily
baffled, but then the reference clicked.

"Ah, I should hope not," he answered while trying to purge the
unwelcome mental images that statement conjured up.

"I think Kyle might like the spandex," Isabel offered her friend a
suggestive grin. Tess turned bright red.

"On that note," Hawkins cut in, "I think Iíll be going." Max pulled up
to the motel where Hawkins was staying and the Watcher climbed out with
as much dignity as the vehicleís design would allow. He reached into
his coat and handed Tess two items. One was a wooden cross, the other,
a business card.

"I suggest carrying the cross with you. It wouldnít do to get caught by
surprise again, and Iíd like you to think about my offer. I will be in
the area for a while."

They watched him enter his room and made a note of the room number
before driving away. No one spoke for a while. No one knew quite what
to say. Max drove to Tessí home while Isabel used her cell phone to
call the others together.

***********************************************************************

"Well, that worked outÖ uh, I wanna say well, but-"

"I know Kyle," Tess assured him. "The only thing that saved me was that
your planet turned out to be weirder than we thought, and I didnít
think that was possible." Kyle managed to look hurt.

"He said that telekinetics, healers and the like were rare," James
Valenti spoke up. "Any chance that some or even most of them have ties
to your planet?" Max shrugged.

"I donít know sheriff, but I think itís something worth pursuing."

"Set that aside for a minute," Kyle interrupted. "Is this guy really
gonna leave Tess alone?" Tess looked up from her brooding and smiled
slightly at his concern. Kyle was being protective again. I think I
like that. It was the first thing sheíd been happy about that day. 

Neither Max nor Isabel had said anything about Tess using her powers,
and the others hadnít commented either. No one was happy about the way
it had turned out, but no one had suggested that she should have let
Hawkins die either. Nasedo would have been furious with her, she knew,
but Max and the others accepted it as the only thing she could have
done. An unfortunate necessity. Isabel was saying something, she
realized, and focused on the conversation again.

"He said he would," Isabel confirmed, "but I donít know if we can trust
him." There were noises of agreement from around the room.

"So we keep an eye on him while heís here," Maria said decisively. "We
make sure that he doesnít find out about Liz or cause Tess any more
problems."

"It seems that the only thing we can do is wait and watch," Max said,
for once sounding frustrated at the prospect. "In the meantime, we can
contact Wesley and see what he can tell us about humans with powers."
He glanced at Sheriff Valenti. "Were you able to reach Liz?"

"I got through to Sunnydale about an hour ago, but was told that Buffy
and Liz werenít there. I did get her Watcherís number though. We can
try that in the morning." Max nodded, already moving on to other
matters.

"So we go about our normal routine," Max said. "We keep an eye on him
without doing anything to draw attention to ourselves." 

The rest of the meeting was taken up with the details of keeping
Hawkins under surveillance.

***********************************************************************

"Yes, admittedly I was mistakenÖ Her attempt to appear Ďnormalí fooled
me as readily as it did the witness. On the upside I believe this girl
may be valuable to us in the future. It would be worth our while to
keep an eye on her." Nigel Hawkins listened patiently to his aggrieved
superior. It had been an honest mistake and one that, he believed, any
Watcher could have made. Travers disagreed, and he refused to see a
Ďbright sideí to the whole mess.

"No sir, I still believe that the true Slayer is in the area. I would
like to spend another week here." He had told Travers about the
vampireís assertion that there was a Slayer in Roswell. Travers hadnít
been impressed by his subordinateís source. Again, he listened
impatiently. "Even if the Slayer does not reside in Roswell, I believe
there is something else here worth investigating. One of the Rokesh I
encountered said something about Coleís treasureÖ Yes sir. As you know
Cole had a reputation for collecting magical items. If his hoard is
indeed in this area, it is worth our time pursuing it. I also believe
that Cole may have had another reason for being in New Mexico. I think
he may have been on the trail of something elseÖ Youíve heard the
rumors sir? Yes. I canít say that Iíve ever heard of this Granalith
before, but if it is truly as powerful as Cole believes it to be, then
it is not something that should fall into the hands of demons." He
listened to Traversí instructions and nodded even though his superior
couldnít see it. "Yes sir. Iíll keep you apprised."

NOT THE END