|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Spike, Bess, and Angel are gone fighting the sea monster. Buffy’s attempts to keep busy, to try and keep her mind off her worry about her husband and daughter, turned into a nightmare for her and Annie. How bad will the nightmare get?
Music Referenced: Night Prowler, AC/DC http://youtu.be/8Qj372Bt1xw
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
|Thanks:||To Capella42 for her great suggestions that made the chapter, and the whole story, better. Thanks also to u2fan2005 and epd4 for their suggestions, corrections, and help betaing this chapter and to Anona for her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
(Ten years ago) May 2001, Sunnydale, Glory’s tower, “Gift-less Dimension”:
Spike lay there with the Slayer, his Slayer, his dead Slayer. His own body was broken, bloodied, bruised and mangled, but still inexorably undead. Her body was now as cold as his, as cold as the steel girders that pressed against his back. Spike had been here a while. He didn’t really know how long and he didn’t really care; it didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.
The sun had just colored the sky a violent crimson when the tower fell, now it was pitch black again. He could hear the cracking energy and feel the whipping wind of the portal above him, still open, still spewing demons from every dimension into this one.
He cursed the thick layer of debris for shielding him from the sun as it had passed across the sky. Dusting would’ve been so much easier than waking up. It would’ve been a blessing with no disguise. He didn’t think much of God, hadn’t actually talked to him in over a century. If not for taking the Dios’ name in vain, he wouldn’t have had any reason to utter His name since he’d met Dru. He’d wondered at times if God wasn’t simply the Biggest Bad in the universe. The one that had beaten out all the other Big Bads for the job, the one with the most warped and sickly twisted sense of humor.
But just then, as he lay there with his crushed heart and shattered bones, he broke that long streak of silence between them. Spike prayed to the Biggest Bad for one of those demons to come by and take him out of his misery. To actually rip his unbeating heart from his ribcage rather than just having it feel like it had been. He’d never had a pain stab him so deeply before; not when Dru left him, not even the horror of his mother’s death had shredded his heart so completely as losing his Slayer.
Of course, that was the rub, wasn’t it? She wasn’t his Slayer at all, as much as he wished she was. He’d hoped that by standing by her, fighting at her side, by proving his loyalty and his love, that one day she would be his, but that day would never come now. He had let her down. He’d made a promise and had failed, and now it was too late for any of that. Not only was Buffy dead, but those dreams he'd harbored that one day she could see the man and not just the monster were dead, as well. Those long clung-to, and now shattered, dreams made this loss so much worse than any he’d felt before. That and one undeniable fact: this was his fault.
And so now he prayed for one of these demons to rip his head off, dust him. Get it over with. But God, having that twisted sense of humor, did something else instead.
“Buffy?” It was barely a whisper. The voice was hoarse and frightened. The call of a child lost in the dark woods, afraid to cry out too loudly lest she attract a wolf. It seemed distant, many miles away.
For a moment, Spike thought he’d imagined it, but then he heard it again.
“Dawn!?” he called back as he began pushing the heavy steel beams and debris off his back. Every bone, every muscle, every cell in his body hurt – his hair hurt, but it didn’t matter. Dawn was out there, alive.
“Spike?” he heard Dawn’s tentative answer. Her voice trembled. “Where’s Buffy? Is she with you?”
“Hush now, Niblett, quiet!” he admonished her in a low voice. He had to get to her before one of the demons heard them and came looking. It was frightening how quickly his silent prayer changed. It was a whole new game now that he realized Dawn was out there, alive, alone, and vulnerable.
He looked down at Buffy one more time. This brave, beautiful Slayer, always so full of fire and light now lay still and silent beneath him, all her spark was gone. Despite knowing the brilliance that was Buffy no longer lived in this body, it still pained him to leave her here alone. But he’d made a promise to look after Dawn; a promise he would keep if it killed him.
“I’ll be back, luv,” Spike promised softly, caressing Buffy’s cheek gently with the pad of his thumb.
After considerable effort, Spike freed himself of the mangled remains of Glory’s tower. His broken leg had already started to mend – still painful, but useable. Spike didn’t mind pain. There were times when pain was the only thing he had to prove that he still existed, and in this moment it seemed a fitting punishment for his failure.
He scrambled over the mish-mash of girders and ladders and junk searching for Dawn, trying to catch her scent. It seemed like he looked for hours, but it was actually only a few minutes before he found her.
“Dawn!” Spike called in a hushed exclamation when he caught the first glimpse of her. Relief crashed over him like a tidal wave – she really was alive, not some figment of his grief-stricken mind.
Dawn was half hidden under the debris but thankfully not crushed. Blood still trickled from the slashes Doc had made on her abdomen, but it had nearly stopped. Deep purple bruises and angry red cuts and scrapes covered her face and arms. Her leg was caught under one of the heavy beams, most certainly broken. But she was alive, and that was all that mattered.
“Where’s Buffy?” she asked again, her voice quavering, like a small, frightened child.
A lump formed in Spike’s throat and he felt his heart being ripped from his chest yet again. How many times could his heart be ripped out before he dusted?
“Dawn … I …” he finally stammered out, but it was too late – he knew she knew. There was nothing he could say that could make this any easier for either of them. There was nothing he could say to excuse his failure or ease her pain.
Dawn’s face fell as realization washed over her. Spike could see her crumble inside, more than crumble, shatter.
“No, no, no, no…” Dawn began muttering, over and over, shaking her head in disbelief. It was all she could say. It was all she could think. “No…” Her whole body trembled and shuddered uncontrollably, but no tears fell from her eyes – she was beyond tears. She stared at him, her gaze never wavering, as he freed her from the debris. She chanted her mantra the entire time he worked, “No, no, no…”
Despite his injuries, Spike scooped Dawn up into his arms and limped away from the battleground and out to the street. He wanted to bring the girl back to Revello Drive, back to her room, her bed, where she’d feel safe and warm. Somewhere familiar to help ease her pain.
The panicked residents of Sunnydale were packed in the streets – running, walking, driving, trying to get away, get out of town. Demons of every size, shape and description, from the smallest to the largest, had descended on their town and shaken them from their long-held embrace of denial. There was no denying this – hell was alive and well and living in Sunnydale … again.
As Spike started down the street with Dawn in his arms, horrified screams filled the air. He could hear people pleading for mercy, praying to God for help, even trying to bargain with the scourge of demons that were raining terror down on them. Down at the next intersection, he heard gunshots ring out. A group of people were barricaded behind a cluster of cars fighting off a group of very tall demons with red glowing eyes. The bullets were having little impact on the demons, however. The wounds appeared to be more of an annoyance to them than a life-threatening injury.
High above the mayhem, large bat-like creatures circled. They dove down and snatched up unwary humans who didn’t have the good sense to look up. The luckiest never knew what hit them. The unlucky lived long enough to feel themselves being torn apart by the flying demons’ razor-sharp talons and vampiric teeth. Their shrieks of terror and agony rained down on the town like fire and brimstone falling from the sky.
Spike blocked out their screams. He couldn’t stop – he couldn’t help the citizens of Sunnydale. He had one mission now: keep Dawn safe.
Spike was wary, keeping to the shadows with his precious cargo. Thankfully, many of the bands of different monsters were fighting each other, fighting for dominance in this new world. Most showed no interest in him. Those that did were met with his vampire visage and assumed that the human in his arms was his kill. So far, none had challenged him for his prize – he wasn’t sure how long that would last, though.
Spike quickly realized that the sewers were safer. The newcomers hadn’t discovered them yet – plus there were no Happy Meals down there for them, no reason for them to even go down there. When Spike reached their ‘exit’ in front of 1630 Revello Drive, he set Dawn down on the damp floor of the tunnel.
Her chant of, “No, no, no,” had softened and now came out as barely a whisper, but never stopped.
“Just gonna take a look around, pet,” Spike assured her as he crouched next to her. “Dawn? …Niblett?” Spike sighed worriedly and waved a hand in front of her eyes. She didn’t even seem to know he was there.
Spike left her sitting on the tunnel floor, climbed the ladder up to the street, and lifted the manhole cover just enough to look around.
Most of the residents of Revello Drive had already fled. Front doors were left standing open in the owners’ haste to get away. There were no cars in the driveways or on the street here. He saw a small band of the tall, glowy-eyed demons loping down the street towards him. He held his breath as he watched, afraid to drop the manhole cover back down lest he draw their attention.
They stopped abruptly about two houses down from Buffy’s and started up the walkway towards the now abandoned home. A cat screeched and ran from under a thick jasmine vine that wound around the front porch of the house as the demons approached. The gangly, red-eyed demons, which Spike had mentally begun calling ‘Reds’, took off in pursuit of the frightened pet that had been left behind.
After they ran around the side of the house and out of sight, Spike let out a relieved breath, slid the manhole cover completely out of the way, and quickly retrieved Dawn. By the time he’d carried her through the front door and into the house, she was in a state of shock. Whether it was from the physical trauma and the blood loss she’d suffered, or from the emotional trauma of realizing Buffy was gone, he didn’t know. She just repeated, “No, no, no…” as if that was the only word she knew.
Spike cleaned her wounds, stopped the bleeding, bandaged her cuts, and set her leg in a splint. Dawn never screamed or moaned. She didn’t even try to move or pull away while he attended to her – even though he knew full well how badly it must’ve hurt. Only the forlorn chant of, “No, no, no…” passed her lips, her eyes staring blindly at the ceiling, but no longer seeing.
Present day, Friday, April, 15th, 2011:
If you aren’t familiar with a doodlebug/ant lion and how they trap their prey, check this:
Buffy fell the twenty or so feet from the portal opening and landed hard, directly on the back of the overgrown doodlebug. The demon was now kicking sand up onto her daughter’s back and over her head in an effort to slide the juicy morsel back down into its waiting pincers.
Annie was still scrambling, trying to get up the side of the pit and away from the monster. She wasn’t making much headway, however, as the sand under her simply calved off as she climbed. She didn’t even realize Buffy was there in her panic to get away. She felt like one of those cartoon creatures whose feet moved a hundred miles an hour, but their body simply stayed in one place.
Buffy came down on the head of the giant bug with her fists clamped together like a hammer and for a moment it stopped kicking sand on Annie. Unfortunately, that didn’t actually hurt it so much as just piss it off. In a fraction of a second, Buffy found herself embroiled in a life and death battle with the creature as it turned this way and that, like a bucking bronco, trying to dislodge her from its back. At least while it was battling her, it couldn’t be kicking sand up on her daughter.
She hung on for dear life even as she screamed at Annie to, “RUN!”
The demon bug swung its large pincer from side to side, trying to catch her legs with it and pull her off. Buffy kicked at the bug’s large claw as she held on to its armored back with her hands, but her efforts had little effect other than to incite the beast further.
Through the commotion, Buffy heard Annie screaming for her, “MOM! MOM!”
Buffy glanced up quickly. Her daughter was up on the rim of the Punjab pit! She was out! Buffy quickly realized she was not going to slay this thing without weapons and immediately changed tactics. The next time the demon bug swung to the left, towards where Annie now waited on the rim, Buffy let go and used its momentum to propel her halfway up the side of the pit. As soon as she hit she began scrambling, as Annie had done, to get away.
It only took a moment for the huge demon doodlebug to begin kicking dirt up on her, trying to bury her and slide her back down the side. Now it was Buffy’s turn to feel like a cartoon character, her arms and legs moving with lightning speed, but her body not moving up the incline at all. Finally, she found something buried in the soft sand, something hard, and grabbed a hold of it and pulled up a bit farther. She was able to get her foot on it and lifted up even more. That made her feel a little more secure, but the sand being kicked up from the demon bug was raining down on her in torrents. She couldn’t see; she could barely even breathe.
“MOM!” she heard Annie’s voice again. “GRAB MY HAND!” her daughter screamed at her.
Buffy tried to look up, but got a face full of sand for her effort and was forced to close her eyes and sputter the dry grit from her mouth and nose.
“REACH UP!” Annie commanded again and Buffy complied – not having any choice or any other ideas at that moment.
Annie hooked her feet under a steel girder that lay next to the demon bug’s pit and stretched her body and arms down the side of the incline towards her mother. Buffy’s arms were flailing above her head, trying to find purchase on the loose sand or find her daughter’s hand, but not having any luck with either.
“REACH UP!” Annie screamed again as she tried to lengthen her own body down to her mother. She was six inches away from being able to reach her. Annie demanded her mother, “JUMP!” as sand began to pour down on her again. Annie was forced to close her eyes and try to breathe through barely parted lips to keep the grit she was inhaling to a minimum. Her throat was dry and raw from screaming and swallowing the sand and her eyes were watering fiercely, leaving dark, dirty tracks on her face.
If I could fucking jump I would have! Buffy growled mentally as she tried to reach up higher. She was loath to take her foot off the only solid thing she’d found in this dry quicksand lest she slide back down, but sometimes you have to go on faith. She pushed off with all the strength she had. Then suddenly Annie’s hand was in hers and her little fingers gripped her mother’s with strength fueled by fear and absolute terror.
Buffy scrambled, using Annie’s grip for leverage as the sandstorm continued to rain down on them. Finally, she was able to climb up her daughter’s body and she collapsed on the rim of the crater. She only allowed herself a second’s rest before she grabbed her daughter’s legs and hauled her back up to the edge. Once Annie was back on solid ground, she lunged at Buffy, wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck in a fierce hug as tears continued streaming down her dirt-streaked face.
Buffy wrapped her arms around her daughter and pulled them both back away from the edge of the pit as she tried to get her bearings and figure out where they were and, more importantly, how to get back where they belonged.
The immediate area around the pit looked like a junkyard or a metal recycling business. There was a huge pile of steel girders and other debris to one side – on the other side of the pit was an old warehouse. Buffy realized immediately that they were in Sunnydale – that was the warehouse that had been torn down to build the Green Grocer store – but they weren’t in ‘their’ Sunnydale, obviously.
Above them, the sun was nearly blocked out by a thick layer of dark smoke, like that from a giant forest fire. Buffy realized it wasn’t just the sand in her eyes and mouth that was a problem with her breathing, but the acrid smoke that hung in the air. Now that things had calmed down a small bit, she could feel the smoke stinging her eyes and burning her throat as she breathed. The smoke seemed to cast the entire world into perpetual twilight, despite the fact that Buffy knew it was early-afternoon, or, at least it had been where they’d come from.
Buffy began to stand up, to pull Annie with her. They definitely needed to get back home. “Oh, God – MacKenzie!” Buffy exclaimed as her brain started running everything back for her. “I left her in the minivan – alone!”
“How do we get back?” Annie wondered, eyeing the pit, which now looked empty, but which she knew was not.
Buffy looked around quickly. “We have to build a bridge out there to the middle and up … up higher. I think we need to be at least ten feet above the rim here to get back to the portal … maybe twenty.”
But before Buffy could even start looking for girders long enough to use to put across the top of the wide pit as a base for such a bridge, she and Annie were both attacked from above and knocked to the ground. Buffy held to her daughter and rolled away from whatever it was, pulling Annie with her. Buffy could feel warm blood dripping from her back where she’d been hit and she looked around quickly to determine what it was that had attacked them.
Sitting atop the pile of girders was what could only be described as giant bat, at least six feet tall. But, unlike normal bats, it wasn’t hanging upside down; it was sitting on the pile of debris like a bird – like a huge bird of prey. Its leathery wings were now folded against its back, its body was completely covered with shiny black hair, and its red, beady eyes were trained on Buffy and Annie. It was obviously sizing them up as it regrouped for another attack. The red eyes were bad enough, but the worst part was its mouth, which Buffy could only think was akin to a vampire’s, with two razor-sharp canines that hung down well past its smooth, wet, black, lower lip.
“Run!” Buffy yelled. Pulling her daughter behind her, Buffy began running towards the warehouse.
The giant bat wasn’t giving up, however. As the girls ran around the pit and across the open ground between them and the cover of the warehouse, it took flight again. Buffy could hear it this time as its leathery wings flapped behind them. When the flapping stopped she knew it was diving and she swung around just in time to cold-cock it right in those deadly fangs. The giant bat squealed a high-pitched objection as it tumbled down into the pit. The stunned demon rolled all the way down the soft sides to the very bottom of the trap where the giant doodlebug waited, hidden just under the sand.
Just as they reached the cover of an overhanging roof that ran the length of the warehouse, Buffy heard a mind-numbing crunch of bones and flesh and more shrill screeching and thrashing from the wounded bat-monster. Buffy stopped and pulled Annie to her as she pressed her back against the cold block wall and scanned the sky for more attackers.
“What is this place?” Annie asked, her voice quivering with fear and panic as she turned her head to look around them.
“It’s … it’s Sunnydale, but … something went terribly wrong,” Buffy explained as she held Annie to her tightly and tried to formulate a new plan to get them home as she continued scanning the sky and the ground for more demons.
“Look! What’s that?” Annie exclaimed, pointing to her right and directly down the wall they were plastered to.
Buffy forced her eyes away from the open area behind the warehouse and followed Annie’s gaze. Against one of the wide loading dock doors was an altar of sorts. It reminded Buffy of one of those roadside tributes that loved ones left when someone died in a car accident. Buffy and Annie walked down there to get a closer look. There were candles burnt down to puddles of wax, dried flowers, obviously many months or even years old, a couple of necklaces which held gold crucifixes, a few stuffed animals, and some very old chocolate bars. And there were pictures – photographs and drawings … of her.
Buffy stared wide-eyed at the display, picking up some of the photos and looking at them. There were a few with her and Willow and Xander, but mostly they were just her alone, or with her mom or …
“Dawn,” Buffy muttered, picking up one photograph and studying it carefully. Just as some things began to click into place, like where exactly they were and why that huge pile of steel beams and girders was here, her thoughts were punctured by someone shouting at them.
“OI! Get the bloody hell away from there!” Spike yelled as he came around the corner of the warehouse and saw them.
“PAPA!” Annie exclaimed, reacting to his voice and pulling free of Buffy’s hand. She hurtled towards the man that was walking determinedly towards them.
“Annie! No!” Buffy yelled and started after her daughter, but it was too late. Annie had launched herself at Spike in a flurry of relief and wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“Papa! Papa!” she continued to scream, her face buried against his chest and her arms hugging him with every ounce of strength she had left.
Spike stopped, momentarily gobsmacked, and looked down at the girl. He’d been attacked by lots of different demons over his long unlife, but this was the first ‘little lost lass’ demon he’d encountered.
“Annie, no!” Buffy repeated as she reached them and pulled her daughter back away from the vampire.
The man standing before them was Spike – there was no doubt, but Buffy knew it wasn’t ‘their’ Spike. First of all, her husband was thousands of feet underwater battling an octopus demon right this moment, and second of all, this man’s light brown, curly hair fell past his shoulders, only the very ends showed any signs of previously being blond. She didn't think there was any way her Spike would let his hair grow that long or let his curls get that untamed. But the real kicker was her inability to get any sense of a soul off him – not like when she was near her Spike.
Spike regained his composure and regarded the pair, hooking his thumbs over his belt buckle and glaring at them. “Couldn’t kill me with your uber-vamps so now you’re gonna try to wriggle under m’ skin with a little munchkin, eh?” he questioned, cocking a brow and looking at Buffy.
“Spike – I know what you must be thinking but…” Buffy began, holding one hand up as if in surrender as she held Annie back with the other.
“Oh, well, we already know that you know what we’re all thinkin’, yeah? But your little games don’t work with me anymore, so sod off – and take your little boatload of manly responsibility with ya!” Spike ordered, narrowing his eyes at Annie angrily.
“Spike, I’m not The First. It’s me, Buffy,” Buffy tried to explain, reaching a hand out towards him.
In one deadly fast move, Spike drew a sword from a scabbard at his back and swung it at them. Buffy turned at the last moment, shielding Annie, and he caught her on the arm with the tip of the blade, slicing through her shirt and nicking her flesh with the sharp weapon.
“Guess you don’t know as much as you think, then, do ya?” Spike smirked. “Found a way to turn into a real girl, did ya? That’s bloody brilliant … real girls can be killed,” he threatened as he moved forward again, raising the blade for another strike.
“Run!” Buffy commanded her daughter for the third time in the last few minutes as she turned and began running back the way they’d come, dragging a confused and frightened Annie along behind her.
“That’s right! Who’s Big Bad now?” Spike taunted as he watched them run away, past the pile of steel that represented his biggest failure, out the gate and into the street. “Blighters…” he muttered as he picked up the photo that Buffy had dropped and gently brushed it off, then placed it back in its rightful spot on the altar.
“They try to look like you, luv, but I know the truth of ya, don’t I?” Spike spoke to the pictures. “Try to fool ole Spike into thinkin’ he’s off his bird, even makin’ the Buffy solid this time,” he continued.
“But no one could be you, pet – you are the one and only Slayer. They’d never be able to copy your sweet blood,” he asserted as he touched the blood on the end of the sword with his finger and brought it to his lips. Spike’s eyes went wide when the blood hit his tongue and he quickly wiped the other side of the blade with his finger and drew it into his mouth.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered as he turned and looked in the direction they had gone. For the first time in eleven years he felt a fluttering beneath his breast, not a heartbeat, but his heart, just the same.
Buffy dragged Annie behind her as she ran down the sidewalk as quickly as her daughter’s legs would move. She kept a wary eye on the sky and the street in front of them for demons as they went. Spike had mentioned uber-vamps – she soooo couldn’t afford to meet any of those with Annie in tow. She needed weapons and they needed to get somewhere safe … and soon.
Buffy took a quick right at the next street and headed for the closest place she knew: downtown and the Magic Box.
“Mom! Please! Stop! I have to stop!” Annie cried, protesting the pace her mother was setting, as she pulled out of Buffy’s grip.
Buffy slowed down to a fast walk, admonishing her daughter to keep moving. The street was empty save for her and Annie, but Buffy thought she could feel eyes on them, looking out from long-abandoned houses and storefronts. The Slayer’s eyes darted around, sweeping the surrounding area for demons as they headed for the Magic Box.
Weeds had grown in the cracks of the road and sidewalk, even some trees had pushed up through the broken pavement at some point in the past, but now everything was dead and brown. Even the trees and lawns and flower gardens in the yards along the street were all completely dead; not one speck of green remained – not a dandelion, not a sandspur, not even a cactus. For all intents and purposes, Sunnydale was a ghost town – or more accurately, a demon town; not even the plants could live here any longer. Buffy wondered how far the demons had spread. Were they all over the world, or just here? What about the rest of her friends? The Scoobies? Giles? Dawn? Had they survived? Is that who Spike was talking about when he said she knew what they were all thinking?
Suddenly Buffy’s spidey-senses started screaming at her and she turned and looked up. The giant bat obviously had friends and they apparently decided a demonic visit from the Welcome Wagon was in order.
“RUN!” Buffy screamed at Annie, pulling her by the hand again, as they dodged abandoned cars, downed power poles, and even a living room set that had been dragged out of a house and into the street.
“I can’t!” Annie protested, her legs quivering with the exertion of the day. Her knees nearly buckled when Buffy began pulling her along faster once again.
“It’s only a little ways! You can do it!” Buffy admonished her as she felt and heard the bats approaching. They would be attacking en masse at any moment.
“Mom! Please!” Annie begged, her voice a high-pitched whine.
“Annie! Run to the Magic Box! NOW!” Buffy insisted, pushing her daughter ahead of her as she turned in time to punch the first bat in the jaw and send it rolling off to the right.
When the bat dove at them, Annie screamed and ran. Her legs suddenly found power she didn’t know she had as adrenaline surged yet again. Her muscles trembled with exhaustion and her knees buckled more than once as she ran. She had to catch herself with her hands time and again to keep from falling as she scurried ahead of her mother towards the Magic Box – it was less than fifty yards away now.
Buffy kept moving backwards as she fought the oncoming flock of bats. Were a group of bats called a flock, like birds? Or … a herd or a gaggle … maybe a pack, like hyenas? They weren’t actually birds, after all – although at the moment they did seem somewhat hyena-like.
Buffy punched at their slick, black mouths and flaring nostrils as they grabbed at her with claws and teeth. They weren’t that hard to take down; it was just that there were so many of them now. Without the giant doodlebug to actually finish them off, they were able recover and rejoin the barrage. The realization that she wasn’t really doing any permanent damage to them made her stomach lurch and her chest tighten. How was she going to survive this battle? How could she protect Annie from the hordes of airborne attackers?
Their claws dug into Buffy’s arms and shoulders, drawing more blood which just seemed to incite them further. She punched with both fists, flailing wildly at the never-ending stream of them, but she couldn’t keep up with the onslaught – there were too many. Buffy kept trying to move backwards, towards the Magic Box. She could hear Annie screaming for her, but she couldn’t turn around to look.
Then suddenly Annie was next to her, handing her something long and flat. Buffy couldn’t even focus on what it was, but whatever it was was better than her bruised, raw and bloodied fists. Annie was swinging her own weapon at the bats as Buffy did the same. They were pickets from a fence, Buffy realized, as the two continued backing towards the safety of the shop swinging the makeshift bats at the … uhhh … bats.
Just as they reached the door to the shop, one of the flying demons dove at Buffy before she could pull the fence slat back to swing. In a last ditch effort to make it inside, she stabbed at the thing’s chest. To her surprise, the bat dusted, covering both her and Annie with a fine layer of grit.
“Oh my God,” Buffy choked out as she and Annie got inside and slammed the door closed. “They’re vampires!”
Annie was crying and choking on the dust as she collapsed down to the floor in utter exhaustion and relief. Buffy locked the door and dropped the heavy, metal security gate over the whole front of the store. The burglar bars had just fallen into place when two of the bats flew into them. There was a loud, violent crash when they hit the metal gate and the bats dropped down to the sidewalk outside, momentarily stunned. If that had just been glass, they would’ve likely made it inside.
Annie screamed and jumped when they hit the metal barrier and she began to slide across the floor, away from the storefront. Buffy quickly picked her daughter up by the shoulders and half-dragged, half-carried her away from the windows. She guided Annie behind the counter the cash register sat on before letting the worn out, frightened girl drop back down onto the floor.
“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” Buffy asked as she quickly examined her daughter for injuries. Annie had some scrapes and scratches, quite a few deep purple bruises and the large gash on her arm. The cut on her arm had stopped bleeding, clotted with sand and dirt. To Buffy’s utter relief, none of her injuries looked life-threatening.
Annie nodded. “I … think … so,” she pressed out between sobs and deep shuddering breaths. “Is there … any … water?”
Buffy’s eyes scanned the shelves near them, but didn’t see anything that resembled water. In fact, she didn’t see much of anything at all. The store had been looted quite thoroughly. “Stay here, let me look around,” Buffy instructed Annie.
“No!” her daughter begged, reaching out a hand to keep Buffy there.
“It’s ok, I’m not going anywhere. Let me look for some water,” Buffy assured her as she pulled away.
Buffy stood up and scanned the interior of the store quickly – it was practically bare. A few trinkets remained strewn haphazardly over the floor: some glittery unicorns and a cracked crystal ball along with some little plastic toy trolls were about all that remained. Anything of any magical significance, or that could be used as a weapon, was gone. There were no candles, no eyes of newt, not even any chicken’s feet remaining. The cash register, however, also remained. Its cash drawer was standing open and full of money. Cash, apparently, didn’t buy much or mean anything in a world full of demons.
Buffy couldn’t help but think of Anya and how appalled she would be that someone had just walked away and left all that money there, not earning any interest or anything. Buffy bit her lip and her chest tightened again. Obviously, whoever had been here hadn’t just walked away and left that. Most likely, they had been dragged away. Most likely they were dead.
Buffy shook the feeling off as she walked silently to the closed door of the training room. She gingerly put her ear up against it to listen. She didn’t hear anything, so she slowly pushed it open. Here too, everything was gone; not one knife, not one stake remained. She first tried the sink for water, but nothing except a small hiss of air came out when she turned the handles. She then went over to the refrigerator in the corner and opened it. It smelled of mold and mildew. The food that had been in there had long ago rotted and now was nothing more than greenish-grey dust, only recognizable as food because of being in Tupperware and take-out containers. In the freezer, she found a Ziplock bag – with slightly green water in it. At one time it'd held ice. Someone was always getting bonked on the head, it seemed; now the bag of slimy water was their salvation.
Buffy ripped a small hole in the corner of the bag and emptied the contents into a glass, then brought it back to Annie. The girl slurped the stale, off-color water greedily. Annie only realized that Buffy hadn’t had any after she’d emptied over half of it. “I’m sorry … here,” Annie offered, but Buffy held up her hand.
“It’s ok – go ahead, I’m fine,” Buffy assured her. The dirt and dust Buffy had swallowed earlier was starting to feel like it was multiplying in her throat. On top of that, anytime her teeth came together there was a feeling of grit grinding between them, but Annie needed the hydration more than Buffy did.
“No – I’m ok – here,” Annie insisted, holding the three-quarters empty glass out to her mother.
Buffy smiled thankfully and took it from her, swishing the water around in her mouth a while before swallowing it. It was warm and stale and gross and probably had any number of mold or mildew spores growing in it, and it was the best thing Buffy had tasted in a long while.
Buffy got back up and started searching the shop again, looking in every chest, every drawer, every nook and cranny for any kind of weapon, but there was absolutely nothing left.
“C’mon – let’s go downstairs and see if there’s anything in the basement,” Buffy suggested, reaching her hand down to help Annie up off the floor.
Annie got up on wobbly legs and followed her mother to the stairs that led into the storeroom/basement of the shop. Out of habit, Buffy flipped on the light switch – nothing, of course, happened.
“Well, that’s not gonna…” Buffy began as she started to turn around on the stairs and head back into the shop. She stopped abruptly when she heard a loud crash from the training room. Buffy immediately pulled Annie onto the landing at the top of the stairs that led down into the basement and closed the door, which cast them into complete and utter darkness.
Buffy sat Annie down on the top step and gently ‘shushed’ her. The Slayer then turned and peeked out through a small crack between the door and the jamb to see what or who had entered the shop. Buffy held her breath as she watched three tall, thin humanoid demons enter her line of vision. They were easily eight feet tall, with legs and arms disproportionately longer than their torsos. Their thin frames made them look even taller than they actually were and their heads were more oblong than round. They all had long black hair that hung down their backs in thick braids, which contrasted dramatically to their pale ivory skin.
One was obviously a female, the other two male. One of the males wore khaki cargo pants, the other had on what appeared to be green army fatigues. The legs of their pants only reached slightly below the knee, like Capris or old-fashioned breeches. Both males were shirtless and, despite their reed-like builds, had wiry muscles in their arms and chests which rippled with every movement.
The female seemed to be in charge, directing the others with nods of her head or a long, bony finger. She wore what had at one time been a white Naval officer’s dress uniform, right down to the stars on the collar and ribbons on her chest. Now the white was dirty, stained with mud and what Buffy could only assume was dried blood. Like her counterparts, the hem of her pants fell just below the knee; her stark white legs and feet below were bare. The female demon wore no shirt or undergarment under the jacket and her ample cleavage, which Buffy thought Dolly Parton would be envious of, played peek-a-boo with the open front of the uniform. It actually made her look almost comical, her thin build in sharp contrast to those fleshy twin mountains on her chest. Her companions, Buffy noticed, stole furtive glances at said mountains when they thought their boss wasn’t looking. Buffy rolled her eyes – as if the she-devil didn’t know what she was doing with that jacket and those boobs.
When the female looked at Buffy directly, the breath the Slayer had been holding came out in a gulp. Just like the bats, this demon had teeth that could only be described as vampiric. Long, sharp incisors protruded dangerously from unexpectedly bright red lips, but what sent a chill through Buffy were the eyes. All the vampires Buffy had ever known had had yellow eyes; the eyes of these demons were blood-red and glowed like a candle burning behind the crimson, rippled glass of a stained-glass window. Buffy stood perfectly still as the female seemed to lock those demonic eyes on her through the small crack in the door. Could she actually see Buffy through that tiny crack? Or perhaps she could sense her, or smell her.
When the female tossed her head back and let out a long, high-pitched, falsetto screech, Buffy jumped back from the door, grabbed Annie’s hand, and started scurrying down the stairs in the blackness. When Annie started to say something, Buffy clamped her hand over her mouth and pulled her forward. At the bottom of the stairs they banged into overturned furniture and crates in the dark and stumbled over unknown obstacles that littered the floor. So much for stealth.
Suddenly, the door above them opened with a crash and some soft light filtered down into the dark basement. It wasn’t really enough to see by, but compared to the pitch black that had been there before, it was like a floodlight. Buffy smashed her fist down on a crate she’d stumbled into and picked up two jagged, roughly stake-shaped pieces of wood. Then she hurried towards the sewer entrance, pushing Annie ahead of her, keeping her body between her daughter and the new danger that was approaching. She heard the tall vampires descending the stairs with fast, heavy footfalls as she struggled to find the latch on the door.
Buffy knew the vamps were right behind them and she had to give up her search for the latch and turn to fight or they’d take her out without a struggle. Buffy swung a high straight leg kick at Cargo Pants, the first to reach her, a kick that would’ve hit any normal vamp or human in the chin, but only reached the middle of his abdomen. It served to make him stumble backwards, at least, and she raised her stake to strike when she heard Annie yell that she got the door open.
Buffy plunged the stake into what should’ve been the heart of Cargo, but nothing happened. Well, that’s not entirely true. The vamp’s eyes seemed to glow even brighter and flicker, like a slight breeze was blowing the flame of the candle. He looked like a demonic jack o’ lantern in the dark of the basement, and his red lips curled into a sardonic smirk. Then he began to laugh. Buffy could only gawp at the sight.
“MOM!” Annie screamed as she reached back and yanked on Buffy’s belt, pulling her into the sewers. Buffy and Annie both slammed the door closed and slid the one and only bolt to lock it and then they took off running. Buffy knew that wouldn’t hold the tall demons for long. They needed to find somewhere safe – but where would be safe?
While they ran, Buffy’s mind whirled. Were those demons vampires? Her Slayer senses told her they were, their fangs seemed to bear that out, but the lack of dustiness was perplexing. She had to go with her gut, which was telling her they were vampires. She reasoned that they may be like the Turok-Han and needed a little more ‘oomph’ behind the stake to actually do any damage.
“We need to get home!” Buffy announced as they ran. Annie was in front while Buffy watched their back for the vamps.
Annie nodded and, when they came to an intersection in the tunnel, she turned to the left.
“No! This way!” Buffy insisted, pulling her to the right.
“No, Mom! Home’s this way! I’ve been this way with Dad a million times!” Annie argued.
“Not Crawford Street … Revello Drive,” Buffy clarified as she yanked Annie along behind her.
Annie didn’t understand, but didn’t argue further as they heard the door from the Magic Box splinter and crash open.
After running for what felt like miles, Buffy finally stopped and lifted Annie up onto the ladder that led to the manhole cover that was directly in front of 1630 Revello Drive.
It worried Buffy slightly that they hadn’t heard the demons’ footsteps behind them for a while. Certainly those vamps would’ve been much faster than an exhausted Slayer and her even more exhausted twelve year old daughter. But Buffy didn’t have time to ponder that long; her focus now was on getting into the house. Hopefully, the same rules applied for these vamps as did ‘normal’ vampires. She also hoped the universe, or whoever it was that made the vamp barrier, would recognize her as the owner of said house, despite the fact that she was apparently dead in this dimension.
Buffy climbed up behind Annie and reached over her, carefully lifting the heavy manhole cover up just slightly so she could look around. She didn’t see anything or anyone. She concentrated on her spidey-senses for a moment – nothing. Buffy slid the cover off to the side and urged Annie forward, up onto the street above and followed right behind her. Buffy looked around quickly, scanning the sky, street, and sidewalk in all directions, still nothing.
“Ok, go!” Buffy instructed Annie in a low voice as she guided her up the walk towards the front door of the house.
Suddenly, the female vampire from the Magic Box dropped down out of the oak tree in the front yard, directly in their path. Buffy grabbed Annie by the shoulders and turned to retreat when the two male vamps dropped down behind them. Buffy’s mind raced, how was she going to fight on two fronts and protect Annie, as well? Buffy kept turning in a circle, Annie plastered to her back, as the vamps approached slowly.
“Sssslayer …” the female vampire whispered through her glistening fangs, her voice low, almost seductive. The slight hiss of the single word made it sound like a threat.
“You know, your boys could probably fight better if they weren’t walking around with perpetual hard-ons and betting which of your boobs was gonna fall out of that top first,” Buffy informed the female. “Plus, seriously, how can you fight with those big, honkin’ hooters in your way? Have you ever considered breast reduction surgery?”
The female paused, a frown turning the corners of her blood red lips downwards as she glanced down at her chest. Apparently no one had ever suggested that to her before. It was the break Buffy needed. She charged the female, knocking her to the ground.
“Get in the house!” Buffy screamed at Annie as she tumbled to the ground with Dolly.
Annie sprinted past the two females who were wrestling on the front walk, ran up the stairs, and threw open the unlocked door. She stopped just inside the threshold and turned around to see what was happening. The two male vamps were descending on the fighting women quickly. Annie screamed out a warning, but there was little Buffy could do, her hands were full just with the one vamp as they each wrestled for control of the other.
“Get the other!” the female ordered her minions. “Ssslayer’s mine.”
Buffy felt panic explode inside her as she saw the two males pass by them and head for the house – for Annie. She stabbed her stake into the female vamp, not aiming, just flailing wildly to get away from her and go to protect her daughter. The tall Navy vamp Buffy was fighting was unimpressed, however. The wounds Buffy was inflicting were doing nothing more than angering the female and making her grotesque red eyes glow brighter.
Buffy could hear Annie screaming and again Buffy advised her to, “RUN!” Buffy’s head was rocked to the side from a hard blow from the strong, wiry female as soon as the word was out of her mouth.
Annie turned and scampered away from the door, and began running up the stairs as the two males lunged for her … and bounced off the vamp barrier.
Annie stopped halfway up the stairs and turned back when the two vampires fell backwards and landed hard on the floorboards of the front porch. “MOM!” Annie screamed. “They can’t get in! They can’t get in!”
Buffy heard her but it didn’t really register as she had her hands full with Dolly. These vamps were extraordinarily strong – stronger than her, certainly stronger than normal vamps. Buffy felt some ribs crack when the female punched her in the middle of her chest as they continued to roll around in the dirt of what used to be the front lawn. The next time the demon’s fist connected, it felt like a ten pound sledgehammer slamming against the Slayer’s sternum. Buffy’s breath was knocked out of her with a whoosh and her head began to spin as pain flashed through her body like razors.
Buffy willed herself on, fighting through, and in spite of, the agony and lightheadedness. She stabbed her stake into the larger vamp’s flesh and punched with her bloodied fists, but nothing was working. She felt like a mosquito buzzing around an elephant – nothing more than a minor annoyance to the preternatural demon. Hell, the vamp’s neat braid of dark hair didn’t even look like it had been disturbed; not a hair out of place. Suddenly, the demon was atop her, gripping both of Buffy’s wrists in one of her large, powerful hands, effectively stopping the Slayer’s annoying assault. Buffy watched with wide-eyed horror as Dolly licked those bright red lips seductively, then lowered her mouth towards Buffy’s neck. Any doubt that these demons were vampires evaporated in that split second.
“MOM! MOOOOM! MOOOOOM!” Annie screamed over and over again in utter panic as she watched, horrified.
As the women fought, the male vampires snickered at the girl’s terror as they got back to their feet. The smell of her blood and fear and adrenaline wafted off her in waves, calling to their most primal instinct. They tried once again to get to the child, cursing when they were again thwarted by the magical barrier.
Buffy kicked her legs up and tried to dislodge Dolly, tried to flip them over, but the Slayer’s efforts were ineffectual against the stronger and fresher opponent. Buffy felt the vamp’s fangs pierce her flesh and she kicked and flailed with wild abandon to get the demon off her, but it wasn’t working. She could not lose – Annie needed her. She had to find a way … some way to get free, to protect her daughter. But despite her conviction, Buffy remained trapped by Dolly. She could feel her blood draining out of her as the large female sucked violently against the Slayer’s overheated flesh and she could feel hope dwindling along with her life’s blood.
Suddenly, the vampire atop Buffy was ripped away. Dolly’s fangs tore the flesh of Buffy’s neck as the vamp was lifted off and tossed across the yard like a rag doll. For an instant, Buffy’s only thought was that Spike was there – that he had torn the vamp away from her. But her relief was short lived. Instead of Spike or one of her other friends, a Turok-Han stood over her, slavering and growling menacingly. The drool dripped from its grotesque, toothy mouth as the aroma of Slayer blood filled his senses and Buffy thought she might vomit from the stench of it.
Buffy’s head spun and her stomach churned as she jumped up to her feet, barely avoiding the clutches of the large vampire as he lunged for her. She clenched her jaw and swallowed back the bile in her throat. With sheer willpower, she forced the whirling in her brain to stop as she quickly backed away from the monster. When the two male, red-eyed vampires saw the uber-vamp, they gave up their vain attempt to get to Annie, leapt over the railing at the end of the porch, and ran away with long, loping strides.
“Well … I guess that makes you the Biggest Bad,” Buffy observed as she stalked slowly to her right in a circle. She was trying to get around the vamp so she could make a dash for the house. Her attention was focused entirely on the uber-vamp. All she could hear was her own heart thudding in her chest, all she could see was its venomous eyes and jagged fangs, all she could feel was the warning of danger tingling down her spine and all she could smell was the putrid stench of clotted blood and rotting flesh that oozed from its gaping mouth. Not even Annie’s screams of terror penetrated her concentration as she continued to move slowly, trying to appear calm. She had no weapon – the stake she’d had before was nowhere to be seen. Even if she’d had it, she knew killing this demon with a regular stake was nearly impossible.
“Wrong,” a voice informed her from the street as Spike strode up, sword drawn, and whipped the razor sharp weapon in a wide arc at the uber-vamp’s neck. “That makes me the Biggest Bad,” he informed her as the uber-vamp disintegrated into a cloud of dull grey dust.
Buffy’s eyes went momentarily wide with shock. Where had he come from? Then her survival instinct kicked in and she sprinted past the remains of the Turok-Han that hung in the air and leapt towards the house. She dove from the top porch step through the open door, and behind the safety of the vamp barrier. Before Buffy could get back to her feet, Annie was there, wrapping her arms around her neck, sobbing uncontrollably as she clung to her mother.
“It’s ok … it’s ok, baby,” Buffy assured her as her chest heaved with exertion and adrenaline. She lifted a hand and pressed down against the wound on her neck to staunch the bleeding. “They can’t … get in here…we’re safe here,” Buffy continued to assure her between gasps of air.
Spike strode purposely up the steps, across the porch and into the foyer. “Wrong again,” Spike announced as he calmly laid the tip of his sword in the hollow at the base of Buffy’s throat.
Buffy’s eyes went wide. “How?” she questioned, looking into the angry eyes of the Spike’s demon, who now stood over them.
“A lady invited me in … a lady that I buried with m’ own hands. A lady that still rests in that very place. A lady that’s not you,” he informed her as he pressed the blade harder against her flesh.
A drop of blood formed against the sharp blade and ran down her hot, dirty skin like a trickle of fear, sending a chill down her spine and flooding her heart with dread. There was no where left to run.
Night Prowler, AC/DC
a clock strikes midnight
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