"Oh no. Not you again."
"Come on Earl, I can't look that bad!" Gunn said throwing his hands wide for a hug.
"Forget it. And keep your icky paws off me. You guys caused me enough trouble already. Don't think I don't know what happened to your last informant! I'm not going to end up in li'l chopped pieces like he did! And how in the 27th level of hell did you find me anyway? I thought I left you guys behind for good."
"Well, I have sources. Like you have," Gunn stressed.
The green skinned demon rolled his eyes. "Well, you scared them all off. You happy? And hey-" Earl noticed Fred in a corner. "-you brought your girl with you? Is she an offering?"
Gunn's expression darkened.
Earl raised his hands in protest. "Can't you guys laugh when you hear a joke? Sheesh!"
"I need information on a pair of demons."
Gunn sighed. "I need to know what they are," and went on to explain how the demons looked like.
"Wow. You're desperate, aren't you? Don't you guys have people that do this? That British guy?"
Fred looked away, biting her lower lip.
"Oh wait ... I remember. A friend of mine told me you guys had some kinda falling out. He okay?"
"Shut up and tell me." Gunn snapped.
"Hey! Mind your manners. You know, that's the problem with you and Angel. No manners. Not like that English guy -- he knew how to appreciate good help like me. Hey, once he even-"
"Earl," Gunn warned.
"Okay! Getting on with it. For free. Again. Just to let ya know, it's because I like you guys."
Gunn shifted impatiently on his feet.
Gunn waited for more, but Earl was silent. "And?" he prompted.
"That'll be $100."
Gunn moved threateningly towards Earl, but before he could do anything, Fred moved to intercept a possible confrontation.
"Please," Fred put on her best winning smile. "It's Anne, you know, at the shelter house? These demons are stalking her."
Earl looked puzzled. "So? Am I supposed to be touched here? Hey, I'm a demon. I don't care about gooey stuff."
Fred put a restraining hand on Gunn. Then reluctantly she reached into her purse and gave him a fifty.
"That's all I have," she looked at him morosely.
Earl took the note quickly and said, "Don't look at me like that. A guy needs his dough."
"Sure you do," Gunn said bitterly.
"Alright. Gurnak demons. If they're stalking her, it means that they want her for a sacrifice. Means that a female Gurnak is giving birth soon and Junior has to be fed."
"So they chose females as sacrifices? Really, this is discrimination!" Fred protested.
"Especially blondes. Real blondes. And you can't get more blondes in California," Earl said with a big smile.
"So we have demons with a blonde fetish," Gunn said dryly.
"Well, yeah -- it's a preference thing. You guys better move fast though -- usually these sacrifices take place during a full moon, and there's one comin' up in two weeks."
"Only the full moon?"
"Yeah. Only then. If the sacrifice is made after, Junior can get a li'l testy and eat mommy."
"Great. Maybe we can keep Annie safe until it happens. How can we shake them off?" Gunn turned expectantly to Earl.
"Hey. Do I look like I know how to kill every single demon out there? It's not my style to hand out ways to kill my own kind. Ask your British guy," Earl snorted. With that, he made a quick beeline out of the alley into the night.
He took out three vampires with his crossbow easily enough, and for a while the horde stood back uncertainly. He used the time to make his way further up the stairs.
"I didn't take the lot of you to be cowards," he commented dryly.
At that, the pack of vamps snarled once more and surged forward.
Wesley tossed his crossbow aside and took out another stake. He dusted the first foolish vampire up the stairs, and then another.
"His feet! Get his feet!" he heard someone shout.
Too late -- someone snagged his feet and pulled him down the stairs. His head slammed on the stairs, and for a while Wesley saw only stars. Then his vision cleared, and he realized that he was on his back.
"Hello pretty," said the angelic vampire. Her cronies leered around her.
"Can we eat him now, April?" asked the vampire beside him.
The female vampire, April, shrugged. "Sure. But leave the neck for me. It's smooth and nice ... and warm," she crooned, stroking his neck. He jerked away, but she only clamped his hand around his neck.
"What's this? You've been bitten before! By a knife, unfortunately," she murmured, tracing his scar. "I'll be more gentle, my pet," she whispered, bending forward.
He heard a snarl, then a sharp pain on his thigh. Wesley bit back a cry and fought to get to his feet, but the vampires held him in a viselike grip.
"What were you thinking anyway?" asked April, so close they could almost kiss. "Comin' all alone likes, my lamb" Don't you have any friends?"
Wesley felt another sharp pain -- this time on his right wrist. He was starting to feel light-headed.
The vampiress reached out with a pale hand to brush a lock of his hair aside. "Maybe I shall turn you and we can be playmates forever ... my beautiful, warm, English dove," she crooned in her sweet, sing song voice.
"No thank you," he whispered, wincing against the pain. "I don't date females who call me names." He gathered his will and hissed: "Dego!"
April shrieked when she was flung away by the spell. She barreled into the vampires standing behind her, and they dropped together in a heap.
Distracted by the spell, the feeding vamps released their hold on him.
Wesley took the chance to move, and he did, bursting out of the mass of vampires surrounding him to float seven feet off the floor.
"Oh man! He's a warlock!"
Wesley did not hear that. He could only hear the voice of the Fire Element as she whispered suggestions on what he could do; he could only feel the savage strength coursing through his veins and filling his being with magical energy. And he felt fury. Fury!
His eyes snapped open. They were glowing a furious green.
"Now. Who bit me?"
Two vampires tried to discreetly creep away.
"Estrudo!" he snarled, flinging a ball of energy towards them. The ball barreled into them and crushed them through a wall of the basement. The vampires stared at the hole in shock, then back at Wesley. Some started to back away, hissing apprehensively.
He landed gently in the circle they created, his eyes on the female vampire.
"I'm here to cleanse this place of your filth. After all, it's now my house. But first. We need light."
He motioned towards the ceiling of the basement and clenched his fist. There was a rumble and then the floorboards above began to crack. With a loud groan it gave way, showering splinters of wood and plaster on all of them.
The vampires shrieked in terror and covered their faces, sure that the blazing noon sun would fry them. Then-
Wesley looked up in astonishment. At the same time, he heard the rumble of thunder. It was raining, and from what he could see from the hole he made in the ceiling, very dark.
"Drat," he muttered.
"Get him!" April shrieked. "Don't let him speak!"
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