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Fight the Good Fight

Chapter Text

“I’m just saying that if someone has say, written their name atop a particular item in the refrigerator, it is that person’s item,” Wesley said. 

He had ‘just said’ the same thing three times already and Cordelia was getting a pretty bad headache. She flicked her pen back and forth, hoping that somehow her checkbook would balance in her favor or that her math skills were so crappy that the next time she ran the numbers she would magically have about ten thousand more dollars, but no. Sometime after high school graduation she had finally managed to pick up the skills necessary to keep her accounts. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean she had enough money to pay all these damn bills. 

Wesley bitching about the loss of his yogurt was not helping. He paced the lobby of the hotel, obviously in need of something to do, and continued anyway.

While she was happy that they had moved operations out of her apartment (though she had made Angel pay her a slight fee for the inconvenience and now she wouldn’t be getting that anymore), she wasn’t liking the amount of dust in their new digs. Or the spiders. Or that chilling after effect of getting rid of a fear demon. Or that she could hear the echo of every step on tile off the walls. The hotel had been past its prime for a while and the sheer rundown nature should have prevented echoing.

Wesley leaned on the former check in counter and stared over at her. “I know it was you.”

Cordelia flashed him a broad, sparkling smile—the one that should have gotten her an acting award already, damn it—and said, “You’re wrong.”

“But Angel doesn’t eat yogurt. He has no need.”

“I’ve seen him chowing down on ice cream, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he loved other dairy products. And besides him, there’s Gunn. He could have eaten it.”

“I suppose I haven’t thought of that.” Wesley went back to pacing. “I’ll have to have a word with them.”

Wesley would chicken out from that. He was far too intimidated by both men to attempt to scold them. If he did, he might discover that Cordelia had lied to him. He’d get angry about that, but he deserved it for putting her head through this much stress.

If the splitting headache would just go away, she’d be a far more pleasant person. Okay, maybe not to Wesley, but then she’d at least feel like she could try. She took in a deep breath.

The vision slammed into her head, making the headache seem like a tickle. Her vision went black, then white. Then—

A man swung shut the door of his truck and walked across the dusty yard. He was tall, with dark hair, dark eyes too. Stubble. And he walked like someone who was expecting trouble but didn’t have a defined enemy at the moment. He climbed the steps of the short porch and knocked on the door. It swung open on its own. “Hello?”

He never saw the vampire waiting on the other side, the one that lunged and ripped out his throat. He fell to his knees, trying to hold his throat and failing to keep the blood inside.

Cordelia groaned as she came back to her own body. The after vision hurt worse than the before and she’d probably have a headache for a few days. Great. Just what she didn’t need. She wrote down as many details about the vision as she could, getting a partial on the truck’s license plate, writing down a few more bits about the house. She had a sense that the home belonged to someone who hunted. A hunter. Maybe a Hunter? She scratched her forehead.

Wesley set a bottle of water and one of aspirin next to her. Thankfully, he spoke with a soft voice. “Is that it?”

“I keep getting ‘Winchester.’” Cordelia made a funny frown up at him. “That’s a kind of gun, right?”

“Yes.”

Cordelia wrote that down and scowled at the name. “I don’t think it was about the gun. I think that might have been his name. Otherwise, I think this is it.”

Wesley took the note. “Well, the Powers That Be aren’t very forthcoming sometimes, are they?”

“Nope.”

“Suppose we should begin our research. Any idea how long we have?”

“It was night. What time is the moon up?”

“I’ll check.”

“I think it was setting, so we have until then.”

“Best we get to work.”

Cordelia booted up her laptop. Some days were just made to suck.

 

******* 

 

John couldn’t stop hearing the message left on his phone playing back in his head. Elkins had sounded more than petrified and in this business that meant he was more likely to find a corpse than his former acquaintance. The drive back to California would be worth it if he swung by Sunnydale before his next case. The boys might not need him or want him around, but he could check on them all the same. Word was from Bobby that they were doing well. That would be bittersweet if true.

John turned on the dirt road and continued up the mountain. Elkins always preferred isolation. Made it easier to see the bad guys coming. He pulled the truck into the house’s yard beside the old sedan. Seemed like hunters always had old rust buckets. Damn, he hoped Dean was taking care of the Impala. He’d tan his hide if he wasn’t. He stepped out of the truck and swung the door shut. There was noise coming off the road behind him. Odd. Elkins place was the last one up here, but it was possible the valleys of the mountain were echoing the sound up this far. He ignored it and headed for the door.

Just before he went to knock, the sound of a car kicking up rocks got closer. He frowned and turned to see a black 1967 Plymouth GTX—a long convertible with its roof down—roaring up the road. A man in a black trench coat was driving and he hardly seemed to get the car stopped before he literally hopped up and onto the hood of the car. “Duck!”

Usually, John would argue such an order, but the man was throwing something and instincts kicked in. He flattened in time to see a piece of wood go over his head.

When he hadn’t been looking, the door had opened. The stake hit the vampire in his heart and he hissed until he became a pile of ash.

The man in the trench coat continued towards the house. As John stood, the man tossed him a stake, which was good because suddenly he had three more vampires to deal with. Between the two of them, the three vamps went quick. John batted the dusty air a few times.

The house was a disaster. Whatever Elkins had been hiding in here, the vamps obviously wanted. John scowled at the mess and picked his way through the living room. Just as he expected, the poor bastard was dead. The vamps had torn out his throat and left him to bleed all over his study. “Damn it.”

“What is it?” the stranger said.

“Friend of mine’s dead.” John took out his cellphone and dialed. “Bobby. Elkins passed on. Let people know.” He snapped the phone shut.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, well, hunter’s life. Guessing you’re one too.”

“Something like that,” the stranger replied. He picked up a chair. “I didn’t catch your name while I was busy saving your life.”

“John Winchester. You?”

“Angel.”

John snorted. “What, one name, like Madonna?”

“Something like that too.” Angel was poking around the rest of the room.

“How’d you know Daniel?” John asked.

“I didn’t. I came up here for you.”

That rang a few alarms. John eased his hand back towards his gun. “That so.”

The tiny movement made Angel slow down and gently gesture with a hand like John was some kind of ramped up animal. “Relax. A friend of mine has these visions of people in trouble. She had one of you.”

“That’s not exactly calming.”

“Yeah, I guess I can see how it’s not. Still, you needed help, I was here.” Angel frowned, a deep line settling across his brow. “What would vampires want with your friend? They were obviously after something.”

“Seems that way.”

“Do you have any idea what it was?”

Long conversations about vengeance and weapons came to mind. Oh, he knew exactly why he’d be the one to get the call from Elkins instead of Bobby or Ellen. Elkins had been looking for him, not any help he could get his hands on. John shook his head. “No clue.”

Judging from the state of Elkins’s body, they’d tried to torture the info out of the poor bastard before killing him. Most likely, he hadn’t given it up. Daniel was good like that. John scratched at his jaw. Something about the stranger wasn’t adding up. Help never showed up so timely. Hunter’s instinct or outright paranoia. Either way, it was what had kept him alive this long in a game that brutalized so many. 

A cross was on the floor under an end table, half-hidden by opened drawers. John squatted and feigned interest in the contents of the table. Angel was busying himself over by Elkins’s bookcase, squinting at the various tomes collected. Quiet as he could, John picked up the cross. “Hey.”

Angel half-spun. John hurled the cross at him and at the same time shouted, “Cristo.”

The cross did the trick. Only a flash, but that was a vampire’s face. Shit. John pulled his gun and grabbed the nearest piece of wood.

Angel got his human face back in the space of a heartbeat. “I’m not here to hurt—”

John got off three rounds, center mass, before another word was said. He hefted the—what was this, a chair leg?—in his other hand, ready to shoot and stab.

A crash of noise in the next room broke his concentration. John frowned. He hadn’t stopped to consider Angel wasn’t working alone. He put one more round in Angel’s kneecap for good measure and bolted out the door. Stupid to have wasted this much time, to have trusted Angel as long as he had. A hundred other hurried, angry insults festered while John got into his truck and made his way back down the mountain.

At the bottom of the trail, John stopped and slammed his hand against the steering wheel. Elkins dead and his place was in the hands of monsters. They had to be looking for it. Bastard had been holding out on him all this time. But if it had been up there, then the vamps would have found it, or would find it. John needed information and a chance to regroup. Nothing he was going to get out on the road. He turned back towards Los Angeles. It had to be close, and he was going to find it or tear this city apart trying.

Chapter Text

Victims had turned on him before, but few had been so determined. Angel managed to get his leg back under him. The only good thing about being a vampire was healing from the injuries. If he’d been human, John’s four rounds would have him either dead or bleeding out. Not that he was doing great at the moment. He groaned as he got back onto his feet. Three out of four shots had been thru and thru, but one in his gut was still in there.

On top of all that, he had another vampire in the other room to deal with. Angel had smelled the vamp a second before John spooked. No doubt John had caught some sense of the extra party in the house and that had driven him off. Something Angel should be thankful for. A few seconds later and he would’ve been a pile of ash. He grabbed a stake from his trench coat and moved as silently as he could towards the other room. Grateful as he was for the coincidence, he couldn’t afford to turn his back on another vampire or let it go back to murdering innocent people.

“Rider? You out there? What’s all the shooting about? You find it?” The vamp turned out to be a young man coming back through the kitchen, not bothering to hide his demonic side and cursing up a storm as he dug through cabinets. He was making a lot of noise now. 

Clueless vamps gave them all a bad name. Angel crept into the kitchen while the man was knocking aside boxes of cereal and alcohol. The vamp kept calling out to his friends, right until Angel shoved the stake through his back. The look of surprise on his face as he turned to ash was one Angel had seen dozens of times. 

The house was clear. Angel sagged against the counter. The only thing worse than getting shot was having the bullet stuck in there. If he waited until he got back to Cordy and Wes, they’d have to cut him open to find the bullet. Technically the damn thing couldn’t kill him, but it was going to bother him if he healed around it. Angel grabbed the nearest dishcloth—regretting that he didn’t check to see if it was clean first—and went digging. Took longer than he liked, but he got it. He dropped the bullet onto the counter with a relieved sigh.

Why couldn’t people just let him save them? Probably a joke on the Powers That Be’s part. After causing so much pain, of course no one was ever going to be happy to see him.

John was long gone, but Angel had the house now. The pieces of the larger puzzle were coming together. For once, Cordy’s vision hadn’t led them into completely vague territory. The PTB wanted John saved, check. John’s friend had passed and there had been substantial tearing up the place looking for something. John had asked if Angel was a hunter. Logic said that what the PTB really wanted was to keep whatever the vampires were searching for out of the hands of evil. John and Angel were mere vehicles.

That didn’t negate the responsibility, but having a clearer sense of purpose helped him think through the pain. Now, if he was a paranoid hunter living on the outskirts of a major city, where would he hide something valuable to demons and higher powers alike? Assuming, of course, that he knew what he had. Given that the place was in a disarray and the vamps had still be looking, Elkins must have known he had something important. 

Hiding something on the property would keep it close. Out in the desert made sense, unless heat or dust could damage it. 

But there was a whole city full of hiding spots a short drive away. Angel had a few stashes of items in the sewers, things he hadn’t told Wes or Cordelia about either. Security came in obscurity. Question really was, what kind of man had Elkins been? Would he trust a valuable out of his sight or would he need to keep it close?

Angel stepped through to the study. Elkins was across the desk and John’s assessment was right. The man was definitely dead. Tortured, too. At the hands of amateurs by the look of it. After all, if Angelus had been after the information, he would’ve gotten it. Suppressing the resurgence of a slew of memories, Angel methodically searched the room. Hunters kept journals and somewhere around here would be Elkins’s. That would give him the information he needed. They tended towards leather-bound or binders these days.

“Jackpot,” Angel murmured as he squatted beside the desk. Three journals had been dumped onto the floor, pages given a good shake. He turned them over and flipped a few pages. These would be useful and if John didn’t come back to claim them, he had every intention of adding them to his library. Hunters were the first line of information in an ever changing demonic world. There would be stories here that deserved preservation.

More importantly, in the back of the half-finished journal, Elkins had used packing tape to secure a key. This was the clue he needed. No doubt the journals would provide some additional information, but that was something that could be done back at the hotel. Getting caught over a dead body wouldn’t improve his night, and Elkins, dead as he was, smelled too tempting. The blood wasn’t that old. And he was injured. And it had been such a long time.

Angel closed his eyes, took in and let out a deep breath. Sort of a mistake, since he didn’t need to breathe and all that did was remind him that a body was right there. He’d eaten worse.

He wasn’t going to stoop to that. Not again. He tightened his grip on the journals and departed the house, trench coat swooping down the front steps as he went.

 

******* 

Get enough hunters in the same area and they congregated in a seedy bar. City the size of Los Angeles had several. John preferred the one that had a strict humans-only approach. Ages had passed since he’d stepped into this particular room. Somehow it was grimier than places like Karitos, but that suited him fine. He’d rather drink and swap stories with other hunters than chat up a demon on accident. That was a weekend he was never getting back.

There was a table in the back where men were openly cleaning their weapons while sharing beers. Harsh looks shot John’s way were meant to make him feel uncomfortable, only they didn’t work. John slid onto a barstool like he’d been a regular at this joint for decades and ordered a double whiskey.

Strangers in these kinds of places were interrogated within minutes. John could practically feel the room trying to figure out which hunter was going to lead the charge. Then he felt a clap on his shoulder as a man took the seat next to him. An almost joyful voice said, “Look what the cat dragged in.”

“Gordon,” John said, and felt the slightest twinge of relief. If Gordon was here, then the joint was still solid hunters’ territory and if the joint still let Gordon in, then the room would ease off and re-accept him. In fact, he could already feel the room’s alert level drop back down. Good. He didn’t want another bar brawl to prove his worth.

Though with Gordon Walker, getting into a fight wasn’t out of tonight’s agenda. Still, he smiled, heartily shook Gordon’s hand, and gratefully accepted the round Gordon offered to pay for. The other man took the barstool next to John’s. “So what brings the great John Winchester to LA? Last I heard, you were a little ways north of here.”

Sunnydale. Shit. John set his glass down and wiped his lip. “How long ago you hear that?”

Gordon raised an eyebrow. “There is some truth to it then. You making pit stops at the Hellmouth now?”

“At the Hellmouths,” John corrected. “Been out to Cleveland a few times too.”

“Shit, even the demons don’t bother with Cleveland these days.”

“Some of them do.”

“You thinking your prey’s sticking to them or something?”

“Good place to go for a hunt,” John replied.

“Well, that’s right.” Gordon chuckled. “Doesn’t tell me what’s bringing you here and now.”

“Elkins. He’s dead.”

“Shit. How?”

“Vamps.”

“Wished you’d saved me a piece of that action,” Gordon said.

John finished off his drink. “How long you been here?”

“On and off the last few weeks. Seems like California’s always having one crisis or another lately. Planned on heading out tomorrow, unless there was something you need help with.”

The last thing John needed was Gordon finding out about it. “Information. Ran into a guy and something’s bugging me about him.”

“Who would this fellow happen to be?”

“Goes by the name of Angel.” 

And with that one word, the tension in the bar rose again. John resisted the urge to look around. He could feel it, like he’d brought up politics in a mixed room. Some faces were curious, most others were nervous or outright angry. Far too long since he’d been in LA if he didn’t know that this was going to be the reaction. The bartender was the first to break the charged silence. She leaned on the counter in front of John and Gordon. “You been saved by him?”

“Take it he makes that a habit,” John said slowly.

“When he’s not on his high horse getting in the way,” another man down the bar said. When John frowned at him, he added, “He’ll protect demons, if he thinks they’re good enough.”

“Of course he will, he’s one of them.” With familiar hate, Gordon spat out, “Vampire.”

“With a soul, so the rumor goes,” the bartender said.

That caused a round of chuckles and uneasy laughter. For some, like Gordon, there was no merriment. John kept a careful eye on the room. This wasn’t the reaction he was expecting.

Gordon, however, was predictable in his growing hate. No vampire would ever get his trust again and John had no cause to blame him. “He’s still a bloodsucker.”

“He’s saved my life,” a guy at the weapon’s table said. 

The small round of murmured agreements spoke volumes about Angel. John almost felt guilty for having shot the guy, but better caution than winding up dead.

“Bloodsucker’s a bloodsucker. Nothing can change that,” Gordon argued.

The bartender sucked in a big breath. “Charles Gunn’s been vouching for him.”

The room stilled. The name wasn’t one John had heard before, but he knew this kind of reaction. The man was well-respected by those who had heard it. How did people react to his name? To Dean’s? God, he hoped Dean was well-liked. The boy was a good hunter and even though he had a lot to learn, he was solid, reliable. John had made damn sure to raise him that way.

John motioned to the bartender for another round. He needed to get the image of his son looking half-dead and defiant out of his head. He wanted—needed—Dean to be a man, but he hadn’t expected it so soon. Not that twenty-one was that soon. Not that he hadn’t seen this coming. He just had never expected Dean to disobey an order and yet couldn’t be prouder that he was sticking to his guns.

Soon as the drink was filled, John downed it. Chatter had returned to the bar, though he still had Gordon and the bartender’s attentions. In a softer voice, not wanting to drag the spotlight back onto him, he said, “Take it Gunn’s a good man.”

“One of the best. He and his crew keep their neighborhood safe. Solidly, too, considering this is LA,” the bartender said.

“Vampire’s still demon trash,” Gordon hissed.

The bartender glared at Gordon and then went to ignoring him. “Gunn has every reason to hate vampires, much as any other hunter. He’s been working with Angel lately.”

John was beginning to believe he’d made a serious miscalculation. At least he hadn’t staked the guy. He switched topics with Gordon since chatting about vampires was an endless cycle of hate with the man and John had too many thoughts to get bogged down in someone else’s crusade tonight. When, finally, Gordon got up to relieve himself, John snagged the bartender’s arm. She was more than a little pissed off at him and he couldn’t blame her. Hunters could be assholes, even he had made that mistake a couple of drunken times. He released her the second she looked at him, tried to wave it off in apology though she didn’t look like she was accepting. “Angel. Where can I find him?”

That shifted her mood slightly. “Taking your friend with you?”

“No.”

“Break your word and I’ll have half a dozen guys breaking your kneecaps.”

If this woman was a tenth of what Ellen Harvelle was, then she could do that five times over. “Promise.”

The bartender pulled a business card out of her back pocket and slid it over to John. 

Angel Investigations. We help the helpless. Along with the phone number and address.

He picked it up and frowned at the tiny lineart. “What is that supposed to be?”

“It’s anyone’s guess,” she replied.

And that was the end of that because Gordon was making his way back across the room. John got up from his seat and slid the business card in a back pocket without anyone besides the bartender seeing him. He feigned exhaustion, which wasn’t too hard, and in a few minutes had Gordon’s blessing to go get some rest and the reassurance that they’d keep in touch. They wouldn’t, but they went through the motions of making sure they had each other’s latest numbers.

John went outside. Still night, still a vampire’s time. He got into his rundown truck and made his way towards the Hyperion Hotel.

Chapter Text

“You saved his life and he shot you?” Cordelia repeated, her voice going higher.

“Hunters are known to be a jumpy sort,” Wesley said. “It’s why the Council never really employed them. Too many twitchy trigger fingers.”

Cordelia scowled at him. “Weren’t you a ‘rogue demon hunter’ for a while?”

Wesley straightened, putting on an air of trying-too-hard-to-be-an-actual-badass. “I was. Which is how I can say, they are a surly type.”

Angel tossed the journals down in frustration. He’d hardly gotten a word in since getting back and he wasn’t in the mood to spend the rest of the night listening to a Wes-and-Cordy vaudeville routine. When both his friends glared at him, he pointed at the journals. “We need to figure out what Elkins was hiding and where. See what all of this has to do with Cordelia’s vision and where this leaves us in the long run. He might not want our help, but something tells me that our case with John Winchester isn’t over yet.”

Now the two of them looked like they were scolded school children, which was not much of an improvement over the former attitude, but they’d be productive. Wesley fixed his glasses. “Cordelia’s visions are rarely simplistic. I think you may be right.”

Of course he was. Angel was the champion here and if his gut was telling him something, he had to listen to it. “I’m going to change my clothes. I’ll be right back.”

By the time he had gotten into a fresh set of clothes, the guilt of being a jerk was weighing him down. He pushed up the sleeves of his black shirt as he quickly made his way down the steps. An apology was ready on his lips, but the two of them were deeply engrossed in their work. Wes was at the counter with the journals and had a notebook at hand. 

Cordelia typed a few more keystrokes before uttering. “Huh.” She glanced over Angel’s way and then dragged the laptop to the counter for him and Wesley. “Do you think it’s the same guy?”

The article she brandished was from a newspaper archive out of Lawerence, Kansas. Angel scowled as he scanned the article. Fire starting in a nursery, killing the wife. Why did that sound familiar? Without a picture, the article was useless for identification, though it did mention John, his wife, and two sons—one six months, one four years. The boys would be teenagers, maybe a little more than that now. “Could be. Check this MO against other cases. Something feels off about it.”

“Something from your Angelus years?” Wesley tentatively ventured.

“Something you did in your Angelus years?” Cordelia bluntly asked.

“More recent than me. It’s like I’ve heard about it before somewhere. Can’t remember,” Angel said.

“Well, do you want me to search for John or check out his dead wife’s case?” Cordelia took the computer back to her desk.

Someone was walking through the courtyard leading to the front doors. Vampiric hearing had its perks. “I don’t think we need to worry about finding John after all.”

The door to the hotel swung open and John Winchester strode through it, doing an evaluation as he came down the steps into the lobby before his eyes settled on Angel. “Sorry, about before.”

“For the shooting him or leaving him?” Cordelia said.

“Both, I suppose.” John held out his hand. “Thank you for saving my ass out there.”

Angel shook his hand. He didn’t need the thanks to get the job done—he was supposed to champion the good guys to make up for past sins—but hearing it once in a while felt like he’d accomplished his goal. “How’d you find us?”

“Local hunter dive bar. You’re a detective?”

“Of sorts,” Angel said. “Covers the important work and we help where we can.”

John held up one of the white business cards. “‘We help the helpless.’”

“That’s the motto,” Cordelia said. “It really helps when jerks don’t shoot up the boss.”

Angel leveled a glare her way, though that wouldn’t dampen her attitude. She was protective of him, which was a sign of some strong personal growth. Back in high school, Cordelia had never seemed to care about much beyond herself or her appearance. While all that still mattered, people like Angel and Wesley were the priority. He was proud of her and couldn’t really mean the anger over her tactless comments.

“This line of work, you hesitate, you wind up dead, princess,” John said.

Cordelia stiffened and Angel got a glimpse of the rising anger. He stepped between her and John, breaking their line of sight, and cleared his throat. “How can we help?”

“Elkins and I caught wind of a legend a long time ago. Been going back and forth for a decade trying to authenticate stories, see if we could find it,” John said. “Only reason I’d be one of his last calls is if he found the damn thing.”

“What thing?”

“A special gun made by Samuel Colt, I’m guessing,” Wesley said. When John shot him a startled look, he waved a hand at the journals. “He’s rambled quite a bit about it in the last few entries. A gun designed to kill anything.”

Cordelia leaned her chin on her hand. “Don’t they already do that?”

“Actually, as you well know, there’s a great many creatures that are either impervious or can survive such a wound,” Wesley said, the old Watcher tone coming back to his British dialect. “What Elkins suggests is that Samuel Colt’s gun would inflict fatal damage on creatures that typically don’t have a weakness to lead, such as Angel.”

“Why would he call you about it?” Angel said.

“Like I said, we’d been discussing it for years.” John went around Angel to the counter, looking into the journals with Wesley. “Does he say where he hid it?”

“There’s a key in the back of one journal.” Angel flipped open the unfinished journal to reveal the key. “Storage locker?”

“Possibly. That’ll take a while to find.”

“What’s his full name?” Cordelia said. “I’m sure we could find it.”

“Daniel Elkins, though I doubt he would’ve used his real one.”

“Why not?” Wesley said.

“Because then it’s not hidden very well,” Angel said.

John nodded. “And Elkins was a paranoid son of a bitch. Whatever vamp was in charge of that pack probably has any remaining members out hunting for it.”

“So the real question is, how would Elkins hide the storage unit?” Wesley said. “Assuming that it is, in fact, a key to a storage facility. Los Angeles must be covered in hundreds of them.”

“I know a few of his aliases, could give calling a chance,” John said.

“And he might have hidden a clue in the journal,” Angel said. “Wes and I will analyze them. Let’s get to work.”

 

******* 

 

Wasn’t enough coffee in the world to get him through this morning. John scratched his jawline, running into the harsh bristles of stubble. He thought about asking Angel if there was some whiskey lurking around the office, but he needed to keep his senses sharp with this group. Especially the vampire. Only a moron would trust a vampire—soul or not—completely. 

Angel’s assistant, Cordelia, was a pretty woman, though probably around Dean’s age and that dampened his desire to flirt with her. She powered through the list of storage businesses like a pro. With the multiple aliases that Elkins had used, they were going to have to call some places a few times. John was following up on two names, Cordelia had another three, and they staggered the lists to hopefully throw off the staff.

However, sometimes, he needed a damn break. He grabbed his empty coffee mug and went over to the pot. This crap was some of the worst he’d ever drank, but it’d keep doing the job.

“Fascinating,” Wesley mumbled. He was doing that a lot. When he spotted John glancing his way, he said, “The Watcher’s Council has material, but I’m beginning to believe their American knowledge is severely out of date.”

“Watcher, as in, one who watches over the Slayer?” John said slowly.

Wesley pushed his glasses up. “Technically there are many Watchers who never have that privilege.”

“Wesley pulled double-duty though,” Cordelia said as she hung up her phone. “And failed twice as spectacularly at it.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, Buffy flat out refused to work with him and Faith turned out to be a psycho.” Cordelia snaked her way in and got a fresh cup of coffee for herself.

John frowned, flat out ignoring the wounded pride look on Wesley’s face. Some coincidence hearing that girl’s name in LA. “You know Buffy.”

“Cordelia went to high school with her,” Wesley said.

Apparently offended, she said, “Angel dated her!”

Coincidences were piling too high for John’s comfort level. He itched to get back on the road. “So you’ve all spent time in Sunnydale.”

That made Wesley and Cordelia pause and gawk at him. Wesley recovered first, clearing his throat. “You know where Buffy’s based?”

“Yeah. My sons are there.”

“Sons?” Angel said. The vampire crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe leading to his office.

“Sam and Dean. They’re staying with Rupert Giles.” John took a sip of the horrible coffee in order to hide how he felt about that. He hadn’t appreciated getting his ass kicked by the stodgy Brit.

“Giles has kids at his place?” Cordelia asked.

“Dean’s twenty-one, Sam’s in high school. Just staying there until they get on their feet.” Or John managed to convince them that they needed to leave town.

Angel looked more ruffled at the idea while Cordelia whistled. “Wow, Giles with a teenager in his actual house. I wonder how his poor glasses are holding up.”

“What I want to know is how this all connects,” Angel said. “Can’t be a coincidence that they’re in contact with the Slayer and you come to town and the Powers that Be give Cordelia a vision of you.”

“Sort of a bigger picture moment,” Wesley said.

“As if they ever give us a clear idea of what that is,” Cordelia complained.

“Unless an apocalypse is brewing and somehow the Winchesters are key players in it.”

John’s stomach churned at the thought. He’d long suspected something was up with Sam. He didn’t need more supernatural signs that his son was heading for trouble. “I doubt a couple of humans can do much to change the bigger picture.”

“In my experience, they’re the only ones who do,” Angel replied.

“Buffy’s stopped like three?” Cordelia said. “Or is it four.”

“As many as five, depending on how you count,” Wesley said.

John raised both eyebrows. That was a shock to hear. Any story he heard about the Slayer was about the general run of the mill hunting. Or about their deaths. Never that many victories. Maybe Dean was right in wanting to stay near her. “Wait, hold on.” John pointed at Angel. “You dated her. You’re a vampire.”

“And wasn’t that a melodrama for all of us,” Cordelia said.

“We’re getting off track,” Angel said roughly. “If Elkins had Samuel Colt’s gun, we need to find it, before the vampires do.”

“What would vampires want with it anyway?” Cordelia said.

“What better way to ensure it’s never used on your kind than to destroy it?” Wesley replied.

John snorted. “They’re never altruistic like that. Probably want to use it as a power play against other demons.”

“Whatever the reason, we’re not finding it this way,” Angel snapped. He grabbed the key and held it up. “Is there any chance he hid it somewhere else? Another house? A safe? Safety deposit box?”

“Beyond me,” John said.

“There’s the other option,” Wesley said.

“What other option?” Cordelia said. When Angel and Wesley looked her way, realization dawned on her and she groaned. “Oh, come on. Not again.”

“I’m not that bad,” Angel said.

“Besides,” Wesley cut in, “there’s a good chance Lorne will make John do the singing.”

Now John groaned. Karitos. Just one of the many places he never wanted to see again.