For his efforts, Xander got a mouthful of coffee spewed all over him. He dabbed at it with a napkin, feeling glad that he was wearing a dark shirt. “Demons?” Barry asked incredulously. His eyes narrowed. “Wait. Are you going to pull out some other device? Or is this going to turn out to be a joke?”
“Well… no. I’m being perfectly serious. Although I’m glad that you think that my sense of humour is up to the task of convincing you that demons are real. With a comedic appreciation like that, you’ll go far.”
Barry blinked. “So. Demons. Convince me.”
Xander grinned. He loved explaining the supernatural to scientists. They were always sceptical, but at least they were willing to listen to proof. On the other hand, it meant that he couldn’t use the monstrously outdated ‘the world is older than you know’ speech, which the Council had been using for centuries. “Come with me.”
As they walked, Xander said “Humans aren’t the only sentient life on Earth. There are… others, others that have been here at least as long as humans. Vampires, demons, werewolves… things like that. They try to keep themselves hidden, mostly, but sometimes they aren’t quite so careful about it. Those crimes that you like looking into, the weird ones? Supernatural.”
Barry, to his credit, seemed to take this in his stride. “And you? What do you do? No, wait, let me guess. You work for the Van Helsing Corporation.”
Xander laughed. “Something like that. I’ll explain in- ah. Here we are.”
It was a wine dealer. A perfectly ordinary looking wine dealer. There was absolutely nothing that seemed supernatural. Barry wouldn’t have thought about it twice if he passed it on the street. Now that he was being led inside by someone who may or may not be telling the truth about there being a whole hidden supernatural world, he as looking at everything.
There wasn’t a lot to see. Or, at least there wasn’t a lot to see that wasn’t wine. There was, however, a man waiting behind the counter. If he wasn’t human, then Barry couldn’t tell. “Ah, Mr Harris. Come to see the cellar again?”
“Of course. Thanks again, Bill.”
“No, thank you.”
Xander led Barry into the back and then down a flight of steps. “Bill wanted to expand his wine cellar, but he, um, found a little more than he expected. Now, Barry… don’t touch the walls. I am serious about this. Don’t touch them. Don’t even think about touching them.”
They came to a steel door. Lying next to it was a long, thin pipe which had been flattened at one end. Xander picked it up and opened the door, revealing a small room.
The walls were covered in some kind of pinkish crystal. There were no light bulbs in the room, and there was no need of them. The crystals pulsed gently, giving off their own light. They were faintly hypnotic – despite himself, Barry found himself reaching out to touch them…
There was a clang, and Barry whirled around to find that Xander had wedged the pipe under the door, keeping it open. The same crystals covered the back of the door. “What is it?” Barry asked.
Xander just grinned, and pointed up at the ceiling. Barry looked up.
On the ceiling was a jellyfish. At least, he thought it was a jellyfish. It certainly looked like a jellyfish, except that it seemed to be using its tentacles to walk on the ceiling, and there was no water to be seen. It was also pulsing with the same pinkish light as the crystals on the walls.
“We’re not quite sure what they are. We know there aren’t many of them. We know that it makes the crystals, and will only go where they are. We know that if anything organic touches a crystal, then it will come flying at it and eat it, and then spew crystals everywhere. We also know that if you take a crystal out of the room, then it will wait a few hours and… well, get it back. But otherwise, they just walk around like that. They don’t seem to need to breathe - I think this one was walled up here ages ago until Bill hired some men to knock the wall in. Thankfully we heard about it and no one got hurt.”
“And it’s a demon.” Barry said, staring at it.
Xander nodded. “And it’s a demon.”
Barry looked at him. “Why are you telling me all of this?”
“Because I think you can help us. Sooner or later, we’re going to catch the man who broke into Queen Consolidated and we’re going to put him in here, because not even super strength will help you here, and I think that you might be able to help with that.” Xander didn’t add that he thought that he knew who had killed Barry’s mother. Now wasn’t the time. “Anyway, how would you like to come with me and meet the rest of the Van Helsing Corporation?”
Barry didn’t answer. He just looked back up at the jellyfish as it continued its slow dance across the ceiling. He didn’t need to answer. Xander could tell that he was hooked.
“So, we’re not really Van Helsing Corporation. We’re actually…”
“Hey, everyone. This is Barry. Say hi.”
“Hi.” The Slayers called. One of them near the back added “Xan, why do you have coffee on your shirt?”
Xander mumbled something under his breath which sounded suspiciously like “Damn super sight”. Then, louder, he said “Rose, Lizzie, can I talk to you for a moment?” Barry watched as two young woman left the group. One of them had an arm in a sling. Despite everything that Xander had said, despite seeing the jellyfish demon, he still couldn’t quite believe that these girls were everything that Xander had said. “Rose, how’s the arm?”
Rose shrugged. “It’s fine. It’ll be better by tomorrow.”
Xander blinked. That was fast, even by Slayer standards. “Good. How do you feel about being terrorised by Barry here?”
Rose looked at him. Despite the fact that he was probably more than a foot taller than her and she seemed to have a broken arm, she seemed to completely dismiss the possibility that there was any chance of Barry being able to threaten her. She shrugged again. “Sure, why not?”
“Hold on.” Barry held up his hands. “Why am I supposed to be terrorizing her?”
“Because somewhere out there is a vigilante who happens to show up to help damsels in distress. Rose looks the part. Plus I stand out too much, and Roy… she’s met Roy. Sort of. You might have noticed that we’re kind of short on men around here.” Xander ignored the wolf whistle. Barry decided not to ask who Roy was.
“And me?” Lizzie asked. “What do you want me to do?”
“Follow them. Keep out of sight until the Black Cat shows up. Then take her down. Carefully. She’s dangerous. Yes, even for Slayers. Take her alive. I want to have a word with her.”
“On it, boss.”
Barry followed them out, too dazed to wonder why there were trying to capture a Marvel character.
Barry was bad at acting like a bad guy. Very bad. To be fair, Rose was also bad at acting like she was even slightly scared of him. Lizzie, from her hidden vantage point on a nearby rooftop, contemplated filming the whole thing and showing it to the other Slayers, but decided against it. Rose would probably beat her up, broken arm or no.
After going through the act in five times in five different places, there was no sign of the Black Cat.
Then, suddenly, on the sixth attempt, there she was. She dropped down from a fire escape and landed in front of Barry, staff already swinging towards him.
She missed completely, as Barry vanished in a red blur.
She recovered enough to turn around and face Rose, but that was about as far as she got. A couple of seconds later, she was on the ground, unconscious.
Meanwhile, the Slayers at Magnuson Plaza all went silent and stopped what they were doing.
This was because Oliver Queen had just walked in.
“Ollie. What a surprise.” Xander said flatly. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to talk to you.”
“And how, exactly, did you know that I was here to talk to?”
“I bugged Barry.”
“I noticed. I also destroyed the bug.”
“If I learned anything as a businessman, it's redundancy.” Oliver said, a faint smile playing around his lips. “There was more than one bug.”
“Of course there was.” Which meant that Oliver had heard everything. Fantastic. That was just what he needed. “So, you just felt like dropping in and having a chat?”
“Not exactly.” Oliver paused. “You offered to help me before. Does that offer still stand?”
“It does.” Xander replied. Although he couldn’t help but wonder why Oliver would come to them for help now, given everything that he had heard. “What do you need?”
“We’ve found out where the thief took the centrifuge. An abandoned sugar factory. Now, normally I’d go to the police with this-“ Oliver politely ignored Xander’s incredulous snort “-but I get the feeling that this is something that would be better for someone of your… skillset to handle.” He handed Xander a slip of paper with an address on it.
“I see. And can we expect the Hood to join us?” Xander said acidly.
“I wouldn’t know.” Oliver said innocently. “The vigilante doesn’t exactly give me his schedule.”
“Of course he doesn’t. He’s got a secretary – sorry, executive assistant to do that for him.”
“I really couldn’t say.”
“Well, in any case, we’ll make a move at sunset. That way the Hood can keep to the shadows.” Xander said. “Goodbye, Mr Queen. We appreciate your custom. Please come again.”
Oliver left. Vi asked “We’re not really waiting for sunset, are we?”
“Of course not.”
About half an hour later, an abandoned sugar factory was raided by a group of heavily armed Slayers. They found absolutely nothing. There was no sign that anyone had been there recently, besides a suspicious lack of dust. So they left.
They went back, and Xander listened to Rose’s report on what had happened, and made a note to ask Giles to check whether Glory really was dead. He settled down to wait for the Black Cat to wake up. He watched the news, and saw a speech by a man named Sebastian Blood, who said that he was going to run for Mayor and fix the city. He made jokes about how someone called Blood was obviously evil, and he made a note to look into two police officers that stood on either side of him as he gave his speech. One or both of them might be involved in the Mayor falling off the face of the Earth. He kept watching the news, and saw the particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs explode. He made frantic calls to see if Willow and the other Slayers who had made their way to Central City were okay, and upon finding out that they were he gave a sigh of relief.
But at the back of his mind, he watched the Slayers, the Slayers that he had worked with before, the Slayers he had chosen himself to come here. He watched them, and he wondered which of them had told the priest in the mask they were coming. He wondered who had given them enough warning to get out.
He wondered which one of them was the traitor.