|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Andrew has a plan. Is that frightening, or what?
The Reds have one more surprise up their sleeves and our heroes are about to find out what it is.
Click here to view history timeline and key dates.
Temple of the Jedi Order: http://www.templeofthejediorder.org/
Music Referenced: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve http://youtu.be/1lyu1KKwC74
Some Screencaps courtesy of Broken Innocence (others from ScreenCap Paradise which is, sadly, no more). http://broken-innocence.net/index2.html and also from BuffyWorld.com
|Thanks:||Giant thanks to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. 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.
Saturday, May 7th, 2011, Gift-less Universe, Room 314:
Spike looked past Buffy at Andrew. “What’d ya do with my bloody duster?” he asked just as he spied his sword and began stalking over to retrieve it. It was leaning up next to Buffy’s scythe near the door that led to the hallway … which led to the main complex and the Reds.
“You didn’t have it on. I dug in that sandbox a long time looking for it,” Andrew divulged with a disappointed sigh. “After all, what’s a superhero without his props? What’s Batman without the mask? What’s Superman without the cape? What’s Han Solo without…”
“I have it,” Buffy interjected, cutting him off. “Back … home.”
“Oh, right,” Spike groaned as he remembered shrugging out of it to keep her from pulling him into the portal with her and the Platelet.
“Feel naked without it,” he admitted, as he came back to where she was standing and handed her the scythe.
“Sorry. If I’d known I was coming by for a visit, I would’ve had it cleaned and returned it,” Buffy apologized with a hint of sarcasm.
Spike rolled his eyes. “No worries, reckon I can still fight just as well. Still the Biggest Bad, duster or no,” he claimed, taking a couple of practice swipes with his sword.
“The Biggest Bad right behind Andrew, you mean, who saved you and killed the bug, and me, who kicked your ass,” Buffy reminded him, giving him a sideways glance. “That makes you Third Biggest Bad … out of three.”
Spike narrowed his eyes at her. “Don’t start with me, Slayer. Not in the bloody mood for your…”
Suddenly there was a thunderous banging against the exterior door of Room 314, the door that led into the atrium. Andrew shrieked in surprise, covered his ears, and fled to another room while Buffy and Spike both turned towards the noise.
“Reckon it’s time to see who the biggest bad is, then,” Spike announced. “You up for a dance?”
Buffy’s fingers shot out splinters of pain when she gripped the handle of the scythe – Andrew’s neck had been a lot easier to squeeze, not nearly as thin; his flesh was all nice and squishy. She was also still woozy from blood loss and, to top everything off, her whole body felt like one giant bruise. “Born ready.”
The pair moved silently down the hallway towards the main door where the beating and banging was coming from. They flanked the door as the Reds outside continued to punish it, trying to get in. Spike stole a look through the small, thick, Plexiglas window and pulled back immediately. “Bloody hell,” he moaned as he leaned back against the wall and shook his head.
“What?” Buffy asked, leaning over to get her own look.
“Holy shit! What are they having babies or something!?” she asked rhetorically as she also pulled back from their line of vision. “There must be two … million of them out there!”
Spike snorted. “More like two hundred,” he corrected. “Might as well be two million,” he added under his breath.
Spike lowered his sword and let the tip touch the floor, then looked across the short distance at Buffy. “Right then. You’re the Biggest Bad, what’s the plan?”
“Oh no you don’t! You’re King Spike – you come up with the plan!” she shot back.
“Thought you didn’t like my soddin’ plans … said they always went to shite,” Spike barked back at her.
“Guys…” Andrew called from down the hall. They ignored him.
“What I said was, if you would tell someone the plan beforehand then they wouldn’t turn to shit,” Buffy corrected. “So … let’s hear it, Your Highness.”
“Hey, you guys,” Andrew tried again. They had to have heard him – but they just kept talking.
“Equal rights – you can be Queen – I’ll follow your plan,” Spike offered.
“Spike? Buffy?” Andrew tried. No reaction from the pair down the hall.
Buffy snorted a laugh. “Oh – well that’s really big of you! Make me Queen on the day we’re gonna die! Queen for a day – that’s swell, Spike. Very equal-righty.”
Suddenly there was an even louder crash against the door and the reinforced steel center of it crumpled inwards towards them. Buffy and Spike both shrieked slightly in surprise and jumped back.
“Need that plan now, Slayer!” Spike demanded as they both started backing down the hallway away from the door.
“You guys!” Andrew whined from behind them. “I have a plan!”
Another thunderous BOOM rattled the door in the frame and dented the metal in a different spot. It was still holding, but for how long?
“You want a plan?” Buffy asked Spike. “Here’s a plan: Run!”
They both turned and darted back down the hallway, bowling Andrew down as they entered the room they’d been in before.
“You guuuuys!” Andrew moaned as they slammed the secondary door closed and he picked himself up off the floor. “I have a plan!”
Buffy and Spike still weren’t paying any attention to him. They were both hauling cabinets and beds and bookshelves – anything they could move, to stack in front of the door.
Finally, Andrew stalked over and stood where they were piling the furnishings and, when they both got there with something new to add to the pile, he screamed, “I HAVE A PLAN!” at the top of his lungs, waving his arms out to his sides to add more emphasis to the shout.
Buffy and Spike stopped in mid-step and stared at him as if they’d forgotten he was even there.
“You have a plan?” Spike drawled skeptically, setting the TV he was holding down on the floor at his feet. “You have a plan t’ get us outta here?”
“No,” Andrew replied, folding his arms over his chest indignantly. “There’s no way out of here,” he began to explain.
“Oh, then you have a plan to make us dead quicker, then?” Spike shot back.
“If you would just let me finish!” Andrew whined. “When they were handing out ‘patience’, you must’ve thought they said ‘prudence’ and skipped it.” Andrew scowled at him.
Buffy laughed. “You got that right.”
“You too.” Andrew turned and shot her a stern look, silencing her.
“Hey!” she began to object, but Andrew just talked over her.
“I have a plan to kill all those Reds. We don’t have to leave … although, you might want to hide in a cabinet or something,” he advised Spike.
“Bugger that! Big Bad doesn’t hide in soddin’ cabinets!” Spike argued. “What the bloody hell kinda plan you cooking up, Andrew?”
Andrew gestured up at the fire sprinklers in the ceiling. “I’m gonna rain holy water down on them … and us.”
“Huh?” Both Spike and Buffy asked at the same time, following his pointing finger up to look at the ceiling.
Andrew smiled smugly and stood a little taller as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a minister’s vestment stole … a slightly untraditional one.
“I’m gonna rain holy water down from the sprinklers and dust them,” he repeated as he carefully placed the garment around his neck and straightened it with precise, reverent movements.
Buffy and Spike stared at him. Hanging around his neck was a fabric stole, like they’d both seen priests and ministers wear, but this one was a rainbow of colors and was adorned with symbols representing several of the Earth’s religions.
“You’re a … priest?” Buffy asked, her brows furrowed with confusion.
“Fully ordained,” Andrew affirmed as he pulled an amulet from under his shirt. It was a white five-pointed star, but more pointy than a traditional pentacle. The base of each point formed a circle, and inside the circle was a black, inner starburst with sixteen points.
“What bloody church would make you a…” Spike started.
“The Temple of the Jedi Order,” Andrew answered, cutting Spike off.
“Oh, bloody hell. It takes a real priest to…”
“I am a real priest!” Andrew defended, sniffing indignantly. “I have papers and everything. And, anyway, it’s the belief in a higher power that makes the spell work.”
“And you believe God is a soddin’ Jedi?” Spike continued, folding his arms over his chest.
“Dear, handsome warrior … ye of little faith,” Andrew cajoled Spike, shaking his head sadly. “I believe the Force is with me. The Force of Creation connects everything to everything else, it’s woven into all things, it is lightness and dark; everything is made from it and everything goes back to it in the end,” Andrew explained wistfully.
“You’re insane, aren’t you?” Spike asked Andrew as he looked the Jedi Priest up and down. “Totally off your gourd.”
“I am not! Why does everyone keep saying that?” Andrew demanded with a whine, stomping his foot down adamantly and crossing his arms tightly over his chest. “One day I’ll go home and get that test my mom had done. I am 100% non-insane … except maybe a little when someone tickles me on my sides. But that doesn’t count.”
“Andrew, do you even know how to make holy water?” Buffy asked him, changing the subject.
Andrew smiled when he looked at her as if she were a small child. “Has every Slayer of the Vampyrs fought to the death, battling every evil creature in her path for eons and eons in the unending struggle of light versus dark?”
Buffy and Spike’s eyes met for a moment, looking past Andrew, who stood between them. Then she looked back at the geek-priest with a doubtful frown.
Andrew looked between them, cleared his throat, and shifted uncomfortably. “Bad analogy,” he blurted out quickly. “I know how … there’s just one catch.”
“Oh, ‘ere we go,” Spike moaned.
“What’s the catch?” Buffy asked him, ignoring Spike. A small glimmer of hope shone through in her voice.
Andrew took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Well, usually, holy water is made from fresh spring water and sea salt. The sprinkler system here is tied into a pipeline from the ocean … so technically it has the sea salt but it’s not 100% spring water. I’m not sure if that counts … I mean, it must have some spring water, right? I don’t know if blessing the salt and the water at one time will work and I don’t know if diluted spring water will work. I mean, I guess all water was spring water at one time ... maybe.”
Buffy chewed on her bottom lip a minute as she thought, then raised her eyes back to Andrew. “It will – do it!” she assured him.
“How the bloody hell would you…” Spike began to ask her and she held up her hand stopping him.
“You told me the Reds are afraid of the water, remember?” Buffy reminded him, hope blossoming inside her. “Even if it’s not ‘holy water’ … even if the blessing doesn’t work, they’re still are afraid of the water!” she contended enthusiastically.
“Maybe they just don’t like fish and leeches nibbling at their dangly bits,” Spike argued. “Rain don’t bother the buggers.”
“Yeah, but this is salty rain. Maybe they don’t like salt … maybe they think it’s holy water just ‘cos it’s salty! Maybe they’re from a world where salt … I don’t know – ate their brains or something! One way to find out, isn’t there?” Buffy pointed out. She looked at Andrew. “Do it,” she ordered flatly.
Andrew looked at Spike for approval. “Hey!” Buffy exclaimed, grabbing his arm. “Don’t look at him. I’m Queen today – do it!”
Spike rolled his eyes and nodded.
“Ok, I’ll have to keep doing it as the water flows through the holding tank so …” Andrew started when a metallic crash suddenly echoed loudly in the room. They all turned to look at the door – the last door that stood any chance of holding the Reds back. All the furniture that was piled against it was still swaying slightly from the impact that shook it.
“Now!” Buffy ordered the Jedi priest, and Andrew scampered off in the direction of the bathroom.
“This’ll never bloody work, Slayer,” Spike moaned. “We need t’ get you outta here. There’s another entrance ‘ere somewhere – Adam used it,” he began, moving off to the side of the room to begin searching for some other way out.
“No,” Buffy grabbed his arm and stopped him. “I’m done running.”
“‘Ave you lost your last marble?” Spike exclaimed, meeting her eyes with his. “You need to get out! Your friends will be comin’ looking for you. You just need to get out and hide until they find ya. I won’t be responsible for them finding a soddin’ corpse down ‘ere!”
“No.” Buffy stood her ground, folded her arms over her chest and set her jaw. “I’m staying here. I’m done running. I’m done hiding. This will work.”
“Surrounded by bloody idiots!” Spike exclaimed, looking at the ceiling and throwing his arms out wide. His silent plea for someone, anyone … even the soddin’ Force, to make her listen to reason went unanswered.
“You really have a problem with that word, don’t you? N.O,” Buffy growled out between gritted teeth. “I’m Queen, and I’m staying. The Queen always stays with the ship.”
"That's the soddin' Captian," Spike corrected. "The Queen's the first to leave a bloody sinking ship."
Suddenly, the furniture that stood against the door rattled and shook; some of it toppled over. Several long, bony fingers wedged themselves through a crack between the door and the jamb, and Buffy thought maybe Spike was right … she’d gone off her gourd. She was loony as a fruitcake to stay here … or was that nutty? Either way, she was a cake made of fruit, and that made her crazy because it ruined both the fruit and the cake.
Spike sprinted over and began pushing against the shelves and cabinets that were piled up against the door to hold the horde back. The door slammed closed with his weight and seven long, bloody fingers fell to the floor, severed cleanly by the door closing on them. Buffy moved over to help him, and they could both hear shrill screaming from the other side of the door. It wasn’t a battle cry, but wails of pain, and that brought a satisfied smile to Buffy’s lips for a moment.
The smile didn’t last, though. Suddenly, both she and Spike, and the pile of furniture, were shoved back at least a foot by a new surge of power from the Reds.
“C’mon, Andrew,” Buffy moaned as she and Spike pushed back against the pressure with all their strength.
An arm and hand with long, sharp nails snaked through the pile of cabinets and shelves and grabbed Buffy by the arm. Buffy screamed out in surprise and then in pain as the nails dug into her flesh. Buffy tried to pull free, but only succeeded in embedding the Red’s nails into her arm further. Slayer blood poured out of five deep gouges in her forearm, and the aroma must’ve made its way out to the Reds on the other side of the door, because now their ‘Xena War Princess’ battle cries filled the air.
Spike let go of the filing cabinet he was leaning on and the whole pile slid a bit further into the room. The Red holding Buffy yanked on her arm, and Buffy yanked back while at the same time trying to use her legs and other arm to hold the pile and keep the door from opening completely.
“Spiiike! Little help here!” Buffy screamed when he left her field of vision. Her feet slipped on the blood that covered the floor – her blood, she realized with a slightly sickening feeling, and the door opened a bit more.
“Damn it, Spike! I can’t hold it!” she screamed as she tried to hold the fort all on her own. Her legs were quivering with the effort, her arm felt like it was going to be ripped off or shredded any moment, and that woozy feeling in her head had returned. She was either gonna throw up or pass out – or both, very shortly.
Suddenly Spike appeared next to her, his sword raised. “No worries,” he assured Buffy as he slashed down on the Red’s arm that was holding her. He cut through it with a grotesque crunch of bone and tearing of flesh. The severed arm spewed blood all over them both, as Buffy pulled her arm back and cradled it against her chest.
The hand and forearm of the Red up to the elbow was still firmly attached to her own arm. Blood poured out of the severed appendage like a geyser. It painted the walls, the door, and the furniture barricade, as well as Spike and Buffy, with bright red gushes of wet color. It looked as if someone had shaken a cherry soda, opened the top, and waved it around the room wildly.
“Oh gross!” Buffy lamented as the blood rained down on her hair and clothes, covered her face and body, and made the floor all the more slick and traction impossible.
The other part of the arm, which had also been spraying blood, was gone now. Only a hemoglobin trail remained where the large vamp had pulled it back through the ever-widening crack in the door. Buffy’s foot slipped and she faltered – the door opened more. Spike dropped the sword and threw himself at the barricade next to her. The crack narrowed slightly with his weight, but then they were both slipping and sliding in the pool of blood under them, and the door began to open wider.
More arms and fingers with talon-like claws reached through, slashing and grabbing at the heroes as they struggled against the onslaught. A chair that had been piled atop the barricade crashed down on Buffy, knocking her to her knees momentarily. She cursed under her breath and stood back up as quickly as she could. Now her head was not only spinning slightly but throbbing as well. Perfect.
“Goddammit, Andrew!” Buffy screamed, lifting her face to the ceiling in hopes that he could hear her. “If you don’t start the rain this very minute I’ll…” she continued, but was cut off by freezing cold water pouring down on them from the fire sprinklers.
Nothing changed. Except now everything was wet … and cold and salty. The Reds kept pushing against the door, Buffy and Spike kept pushing back, trying to keep the door closed and the Reds out. Buffy blinked as the salty water stung her eyes. Her hair was plastered across her face, it made seeing a challenge, and the word ‘traction’ had apparently lost all meaning, because there was none to be found under their feet.
Then, out of nowhere, Spike began screaming in pain. Smoke rose up from his skin and he patted his smoldering flesh. “Bloody hell!” he screamed, running for cover from the onslaught of holy water.
“Great,” Buffy moaned as the door slid open enough for one of the Reds to stick their whole head inside. “It’s holy water, you freaks!” she yelled at the giant vampire. “Blessed by a fucking ordained Jedi Priest! Don’t you people have any respect for the rules?”
The glowing eyes of the vamp flickered brighter when it saw her and undoubtedly got an intoxicating whiff of Slayer blood. It tilted its head back and started that war cry again, which grated on Buffy’s last remaining nerve.
“Stop that fucking noise!” she screamed at it, still pushing as best she could against the lost cause of keeping them out.
Suddenly, the battle cry stopped and morphed into a shriek of agony. The Red jerked back out of the opening and Buffy fell forward when all the pressure from the other side of the door was released.
She dropped down onto her knees as the cold water rained down on her and puddled on the floor, mixing with the blood and spreading the red stain out in all directions. She turned over and sat on her butt on the floor, keeping her back against the barricade of furniture, and worked on prying the cold, dead vampire fingers out of the muscle of her forearm.
She swallowed hard and tried not to scream, but it hurt just as much coming out as it did going in, and she couldn’t stop the screech that came from her throat. Her chest heaved in pain, adrenaline, and exertion; every muscle in her body felt like it had been beaten with a meat cleaver. Buffy’s head felt airy, and she was starting to think the way the red color on the floor swirled and splattered when the rain hit it was awfully pretty.
Buffy tossed the demon appendage down and clamped her hand over the gouges in her arm to staunch the bleeding. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against something hard behind her. She sat there, perfectly still, and just let the holy salt water wash over her face. Her heart was still racing in her chest, her breathing still labored, but at that moment the only thing she wanted to think about was how good that rain felt on her skin. She was just too exhausted to think about much else, plus, she was fairly certain that the raindrops splattering the blood on the floor should not look pretty to her.
Suddenly, her eyes shot open and she looked around the room. “Spike!?” she called out as she scrambled to her feet shakily. “Spike!?” She hadn’t really seen where he’d gone, but there were only a couple of choices. She lit out as quickly as she could towards the closest doorway. It led into a smaller room that had been made into a bedroom. There was a large, king-sized bed in the center, a dresser drawers off to one side, and two large metal cabinets – taller than her and about four feet wide and two feet deep, on the other wall.
“Spike?” she called again. The only place he could fit would be in the cabinets. Oh God, please… she prayed silently as she opened the first. It was full of hanging clothes with shoes down on the bottom underneath them – it had been turned into a wardrobe. Spike wasn’t in it.
She went to the other cabinet and pulled the two double doors open. There were shelves in this one, each full to over-flowing with … action figures? She recognized some from things that Billy either had or wanted, not that she knew any of their names, just the faces – ‘Star Wars’ faces. There were other things in there too, bigger things: Stormtrooper helmets, a model spaceship of some sort, a stuffed Chewbacca head … or maybe it was a Halloween mask …
“OI!” Spike cried from the bottom of the cabinet. “Shut the soddin’ door, or are you trying to dust me?”
Buffy jumped back and looked down in surprise. In the very bottom of the cabinet was Spike. He sat, crammed in the small space, with more movie paraphernalia all around him. His head stuck out between a hard, shiny Darth Vader mask and a soft, fuzzy Yoda head. Behind him, a life-sized C3PO looked back out at her. Then Buffy realized that it wasn’t just the head of the android robot thingy, but a whole C3PO … A doll? A model? What would you call that? Whatever you wanted to call it, a complete, life-sized C3PO, with arms and legs, torso, shoulders, and head, sat in the bottom of the cabinet and Spike was sitting in its lap.
For a moment Buffy flashed to the scene in ‘ET’ when the alien hid in the closet with all the stuffed animals. She began to laugh. “You look like one of Andrew’s blow-up dolls. Does he take you out of the closet and play with you at night when he’s all scared and lonely? Awww … does he cuddle you?”
“Not bloody funny, Slayer,” Spike snarled at her. He reached a hand out and up towards her throat, aiming to throttle her, but jerked it back in as soon as the holy water rained down on it.
“Oooo … the dollie king is gonna get me. I’m so scared!” Buffy taunted, holding her good arm out and shaking her fingers as if they were trembling.
“Sod off!” he cursed, yanking the doors closed on his hidey-hole.
Buffy laughed harder. The cold, salty rain poured down from the sprinklers; she felt like a Mack truck had run over her. She was trapped in this hell dimension, with no way back home, her arm was still bleeding with dark purple bruises blooming down its length, and she couldn’t stop the laughter. She dropped down to her hands and knees, and then rolled onto her back, as the exhaustion, fear, adrenaline, and blood loss ganged up on her and flooded her body with hysterical fits of glee.
“Not. Funny,” Spike growled out from behind the door and Buffy burst out laughing even harder, rolling around on the wet floor like a crazy person who had just been released from Bedlam and was off her meds.
“Bloody hell,” Spike moaned, his voice muffled behind the doors of the cabinet. Could this day, this life, get any more humiliating and pathetic?
“You’re crazier than a shithouse rat!” he growled tersely through the door.
Buffy roared louder, tears welling in her eyes and her whole body shuddering with the fit of giggles she was trapped in. He was, undoubtedly, right. A shithouse rat revved up on crazy-Slayer fruitcake.
William ran through the dark tunnels in an absolutely hysterical panic, looking for Bess, calling her name. He stumbled on unseen obstacles, cracks and crevices, caught himself using the blade of the sword like a ski pole, and continued on blindly. He had no idea where he was going or where the girl had gone. After running for what felt like hours, but was certainly no more than fifteen or twenty minutes, a thought suddenly occurred to him. If she’d run away from him in fear, then chasing after her and screaming her name was probably not his best course of action.
William stopped, his chest heaving with overwhelming terror, and leaned his free hand down on his thigh to try and calm his racing thoughts. He’d always relied on his mind to solve problems, and now should be no different … should it? But everything here was different; even he seemed different. He no longer seemed to need his spectacles at all – he could see things near and far with amazing clarity. He felt somehow stronger, fitter than he’d been. He’d fought and killed those monsters – how had he done that?
He ran a hand over his head, as he always did when he was perplexed or nervous, and was reminded again that his hair was not there – or not much of it. Just short fuzz remained – his long curls, Elizabeth’s curls, were gone. Perhaps this had something to do with that – like Sampson, but in reverse.
Flashes of … something darted through his mind like ghosts – visions of other fights, of other monsters. Were they portents of the future or memories of some past life? He couldn’t be sure – they were there and then gone in the blink of an eye.
He took a deep breath to calm down, then leaned back against the wall of the tunnel and tried to take stock of his situation logically. He went over it and over it in his mind, but without the girl, Bess, he had no idea where to begin to look for Avengelyne or how to get back to Macaulay Road.
After trying for some time to suss it out, he shook his head in resignation – he needed a new plan. The fight in the basement came back to him and he saw it as if looking at himself from the outside. It hadn’t been him in that fight – or so it seemed to William. There had been no logical progression, no silent contemplation, no time to think; there had been only instinct. He rarely trusted his instincts; it seemed a base and feral way to conduct himself. Logic and reasoning were what separated us from the animals, after all, and he was no animal. Or he hadn’t been before … before Avengelyne.
He couldn’t help but think: if he had listened to his instincts when the dark stranger offered his help on the street that day that Avengelyne cut her arm, she might be with him now and he wouldn’t be in this predicament. And what if he had ignored his instincts that night Avengelyne came to him in his bed chamber? What if, instead of running after her, he had simply done the logical thing and locked the door at her back?
William bit his bottom lip, and then drew in a deep breath. “Instinct it is then,” he murmured to himself. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on not thinking, but rather turning control over to his gut or his heart or wherever it was that instinct dwelled. After a few panicked moments of his mind telling him he was a knacker-headed fool, he opened his eyes and began to walk deliberately in the direction his gut directed.
After walking for some distance in the tunnels and not meeting Bess or any monsters, William was starting to have grave doubts about his ‘gut’ theory. Perhaps all that dwelled inside his guts were … guts – entrails, offal, chitterlings – not instinct.
When he turned a sharp corner in the tunnel and was slammed to the ground by a stampede of the tall, red-eyed monsters, he thought his grave thoughts would become an all too literal grave for him.
His sword clattered to the ground uselessly as he rolled into a ball and covered his head. A stream of monsters flowed over top of him, stepping on his hands or feet, or kicking his sides as they sped by; but none stopped, none attacked him. It was like he was just a speed bump in their path, nothing more.
Some were screaming in apparent agony, and the smell of burning flesh made him dry heave as he lay on the floor. It suddenly occurred to him that he was hungry. How long had it been since he’d eaten? He tried but couldn’t remember, and then he pushed the thought away – that really was the least of his worries. When the stream of vampires slackened, he rolled off to one side, making himself as small and unobtrusive as possible as he pressed up against the side of the tunnel. The monsters continued to just run right by him, as if they were being chased by something much larger and scarier than themselves.
He lay there, unmoving, for a long while after the last monster passed, waiting for whatever that had frightened them and burned their skin … a dragon, perhaps? … to pass by. He waited and waited, staying perfectly still, but nothing else ever emerged from the wide doorway just a few feet away.
Finally, he ventured a glance at the door. Inside the door it was dark, and water was raining down. It made no sense … indoor rain? And yet, there it was. He sat up and felt his ribs – not broken, he decided, bruised perhaps, then rubbed a nasty bump on his head. It hurt, and he assumed it would get larger, but there was no blood.
William decided his wounds weren’t serious, and stood up slowly, keeping a wary eye on the doorway. He really didn’t want to meet whatever it was that had frightened the monsters so.
He gathered up his sword and stood watching the indoor rain fall in torrents for a good while. The water formed puddles on the floor and ran in small streams from high ground to low. When enough had fallen that it reached the top of the threshold, it spilled over and began to flow out in a miniature waterfall, into the sewers, and towards him.
Nothing else came out of the darkness beyond the doorway – just the water. He looked back the way he’d come. Going through those doors into the rain was madness … beyond that, it was most likely suicide. And yet, that is exactly where his instinct was saying he should go.
“Whose ludicrous idea was this, anyway?” he asked the empty hallway, looking between the doorway in front of him and the tunnel behind.
“Yours, you sodding fool,” came the answer in his own voice. He hadn’t even realized he’d spoken until the words bounced back to his ears, echoing off the hard walls around him.
He sighed, lifted his sword, gathered his courage, and headed into the rain to face the dragon.
Buffy had fallen silent, finally. The fits of hysteria, which had come out as laughter, had passed. Except for the shivers that shook her body from the cold sea water raining down, she lay still and quiet on the floor outside Spike’s Star Wars ‘safe-house’. She no longer heard any banging or shrieking from the Reds outside – she didn’t hear anything at all actually, other than the spray from the fire sprinklers and the water as it splashed softly in the puddles on the floor around her.
She sat up, wiped the salty water from her eyes, and pushed her hair back out of her face. She was exhausted. She hurt everywhere and was pretty sure she was nothing more than a giant, walking bruise. But, she was alive, and that was a start.
She stood up stiffly, groaning with the effort. “You all right in there?” Buffy asked Spike, rapping on the door of his cupboard with her knuckles.
“Peachy,” Spike growled back at her. “Tell the little ponce to stop the flood ‘fore we have to start gathering up two of everything and build a soddin’ boat.”
Buffy snorted a laugh. It made her sides hurt. She wanted to say something witty, but her brain was too muddled and exhausted, so she just said, “Ok,” and went to find Andrew.
Buffy could hear Andrew’s voice droning in a low chant. It was drifting through the open door of the bathroom. She walked in, and then followed the sound through another door that led into the bowels of the old Initiative headquarters. There were pipes and wires and air conditioning ducts running in crisscrossing tangles of steel and plastic. She followed the sound of Andrew’s earnest voice as he recited a blessing over and over again, and found him next to a fairly impressive tank of what she assumed was the sea water that fed the sprinklers.
“From the Force of Creation, all things come and all things return. As a humble Jedi servant of your power, I cast out the echo of evil. May all evil forces be driven far from the place you are sprinkled … or … ummm … sprayed,” Andrew was saying as she walked up behind him.
“I appeal to the Force of Creation, let all things that this wondrous element of water touches be delivered from all that is unclean and hurtful and subjugate the evil within. Let everything unclean be repulsed by its power and return to the Center, to the Force of Creation. Cleanse the evil from the souls of … ummmm … or … well … I guess they don’t have souls … uhhh …” Andrew stammered and started again. “Cleanse the evil from their minds and bodies, absorb their power back into your bosom. From the Force of Creation all things come and all things return. Selah, shalom, amen, aho, live long and prosper, so mote it be. May the Force be with us.”
Andrew took a deep breath and got ready to start again when Buffy touched his shoulder. He jumped two feet straight up in the air, and spun around at the same time. Buffy didn’t know he could move that fast. She took a step back, just in case he had a light saber or something in his hand.
“Jiminy Christmas!” he exclaimed when his feet hit the ground again, his eyes wide with surprise.
Buffy cocked a brow at him. “The Force has a bosom?” she asked, ignoring his shocked expression.
Andrew scowled at her. “It’s metaphorical. You wouldn’t understand.”
Buffy shrugged. “I understand metaphorical – that means you just made it up.”
“It does not!” Andrew defended with a huff. “It’s symbolic.”
“Yeah, symbolic of lonely geeks sitting at home with their C3P0 doll and wishing they had a bosom to cuddle with instead,” Buffy retorted.
“I do not cuddle with C3P0!” Andrew exclaimed with an edge of panic in his voice. “Who told you I cuddled with him? He’s too hard and angular … and … anyway, I don’t cuddle with … stuff!” he sniffed angrily.
“Did you want something?” he demanded with a frown, changing the subject.
Buffy smiled at him, thinking that Spike was rather hard and angular too, but she didn’t say it aloud. She cocked a brow at the tank. “You can stop. It worked.”
Andrew’s eyes brightened. “It did?” he asked with more disbelief than Buffy expected.
Andrew shrieked in glee and grabbed her in a tight hug, then released her suddenly and backed up. “Sorry…” he mumbled, wiping at her shoulder as if he was wiping his cooties off her.
Buffy snorted a little laugh. “It’s ok,” she assured him. “You can turn the water off now.”
“Oh! Right!” Andrew bubbled, still giddy with the knowledge that his plan had actually worked. He practically skipped around to the other side of the large tank and pulled on the valve that shut off the flow to the sprinklers.
He leaned back, sticking his butt out, bracing his legs hard against the floor, and pulled with all this strength. Nothing. He bent his knees and tried pushing hard with his legs, putting all his weight into it. Still nothing.
Buffy rolled her eyes and dropped her arms in a dramatic sigh as she started over towards him. With her one good arm, she pulled the valve closed with a little squeak of metal rubbing on metal. Geeks!
“You can come out now, cuddle bunny,” Buffy called to Spike, pulling the doors open on the cabinet he was hiding in.
He gave her a low growl and stood up stiffly from his cramped hiding place.
“Oh, don’t be that way … grumpy bottoms,” Buffy cajoled him as she stepped back to allow him to get out of the cabinet.
“Not another bloody word ‘bout this rubbish,” he warned her, narrowing his eyes at her angrily and waving a hand at the collection in the cabinet.
Buffy rolled her eyes and smiled a little as she watched C3PO fall against Darth Vader in the cabinet when Spike vacated the spot in between. “Don’t they make a cute couple?” she asked wistfully, moving out of arm’s reach of Spike.
“You, missy, are asking for it,” Spike threatened.
Buffy laughed lightly and kept moving away. “Promises, promises…”
They dismantled the barricade, Spike dodging stray drops of holy water that dripped from the sprinklers or the ceiling as they worked, then opened the first door. In the corridor lay the crumpled outer door – it looked like it was made of aluminum foil instead of steel. That was a bit disconcerting, but, there was good news too. The floor was littered with red glitter. The holy water had actually dusted at least some of the Reds!
“Andrew, you’re a genius!” Buffy gushed when she saw the sparkling red floor.
“I am? … Uhhh … I mean …” he stuttered, then composed himself. “Well, duh! Of course I am! The Force is with me! I told you I was a real priest! I can even perform marriages,” he hinted, looking between the two blondes.
“That’ll be the bloody day!” Spike retorted immediately. “I pity the fool that married the likes of this stubborn bitc...”
“Watch it!” Buffy warned him. “I’m still Queen today – I might decide we need a beheading or something like that … I’m feeling very Marie Antoinette-y.”
“Gone sack a’ hammers, you ‘ave, Slayer. Wasn’t the king that got beheaded in that jolly tale,” Spike reminded her.
“Equal rights. Men can be beheaded now too,” she asserted. She grabbed her scythe and started walking down the hallway cautiously, looking out through the now open door of Room 314 into the atrium area for any Reds left alive.
Spike had to locate his sword, so he was a few steps behind Buffy. As he walked, the puddles of holy water on the floor began to seep into his boots and burn his feet. He tried to avoid the worst of it, but smoke was starting to rise from his lower extremities.
“Oi, Slayer!” Spike called as she stepped through the door and out into the atrium itself.
Buffy looked back and Spike waved at the smoke that was now billowing up from his feet. She frowned. “Go back and get somewhere dry,” she instructed. “I’m fine … I don’t think there are any left, but I just want to make sure.”
“Don’t do anything bloody stupid,” he advised her as he started backing up so he could climb up on some furniture back in the room they’d been defending and get his feet dry.
“Gee … that’s so … sweet,” Buffy retorted, rolling her eyes. “‘Don’t do anything bloody stupid,’” she mocked. “I’ll have to remember that sage advice.”
As Buffy walked further into the large common area and up towards the deep pit in the center, she started getting an uneasy feeling. Her eyes scanned the area as best she could – it was still pretty dark, just a few emergency lights shone. She thought she saw something move on the floor to her right and swung toward it quickly, but there was nothing there. Nothing but the red vamp dust floating in the salt water, that is.
Her eyes moved methodically over the area, straining to see into the darkest corners. What she wouldn’t give for vampire sight just now. You’d think when the Shadowmen made Slayers, they would’ve borrowed the handy-dandy night vision and enhanced hearing from the demon too, not just the strength and instinct. Men!
Her heart thudded in her chest. That instinct that they’d crammed into her was screaming at her now that something was amiss … but her mind couldn’t find anything to be afraid of here. To top it off, her vampire tinglies were screaming up and down her spine, but it wasn’t from an unknown vamp: it was Spike. She knew the feeling as well as she knew her own name, but that feeling should be fading the further she moved away from the room where she’d left him, not getting stronger.
She’d been feeling ‘Spike’ for a while – well, since she woke up on the gurney in Andrew’s superhero hospital. She not only felt the vampire warning that he, and all vampires, conjured within her, but she could feel his soul. It had been much more pronounced this time than when she’d been here before. The first visit, when Annie was with her, Buffy had to concentrate to feel it; this time it felt, well … just like Spike – her Spike. She had pushed it to the back of her mind because, honestly, there were plenty of other things that needed her attention, but now, as she walked through the darkened, cavernous complex, that feeling rose back to the surface and she wondered what it meant. She had no real answer for that puzzle.
She crept forward, scythe at the ready, moving from pockets of shadow into pools of light, then back again into darkness. Then there was a noise… a weird squishy noise and something definitely moved somewhere off to her right. She turned and looked in the direction of the sound. She saw nothing, but the noise remained and then began to grow. It sounded like worms wriggling around in something sticky, or maybe someone squashing a bunch of rotten tomatoes. Then she saw the movement: it was the red sparkling glitter – it was moving, expanding, wriggling. It looked like it was absorbing the water and turning into little bits of jiggly, cherry Jell-O.
Buffy watched it for a minute, trying to figure out what was happening, then she looked down at her feet and found that it wasn’t just some of the dust doing that, but all of it. It was all expanding like marshmallows in a microwave. She stomped her feet down on it and started backing up. It was sticky, and clung to her shoes, but didn’t seem to be burning or biting or … well anything, other than growing – swelling up like a sponge as it absorbed the holy water. The deeper the water, the faster it was growing – but to what end?
Buffy reached down and touched it. Nothing physically happened, but her instincts were screaming at her again to run, get away from it. She swallowed the panic back that was rising in her – there was no need to panic until something gave her a reason, and this gooey stuff hadn’t … yet.
She picked up a pinch of the small, squishy crystals between her fingers and brought it up to her nose to smell it.
“Just think positive. And honey? Try not to get kicked out,” her mom’s voice came from behind her. Buffy looked around. She was sitting in the passenger seat of her mom’s Jeep, parked in front of Sunnydale High. Joyce was in the driver’s seat. Buffy remembered this day clearly: her first day at Sunnydale High.
“Mom?! What’s going on?” Buffy asked, but the words didn’t come out of her mouth. It was like she was inside herself, but not in control. She could feel herself getting out of the Jeep and heading into the school, but she couldn’t stop it or change it.
“Do you think Santa will want chocolate chip or oatmeal this year?”
Buffy spun around. It was her mom again, but now Buffy was … five, maybe six years old.
“Chocolate chip!!” her younger-self shouted, jumping up and down gleefully. “Oatmeal is yucky!!”
“Nice work, luv,” Spike’s voice called from behind her.
Buffy spun around again. She saw Spike step out of the shadows in the alley behind the Bronze. She heard herself ask, “Who are you?” But Buffy hadn’t said anything – it wasn’t her; it was her past-self talking.
“You'll find out on Saturday.”
“What happens on Saturday?” past-Buffy asked him.
“Nothing!” Buffy yelled at herself. “He’s too damn impatient to wait! He has to ruin Parent-Teacher Night.”
Her past-self tilted her head, as if she might’ve heard her, but then just
stared at Spike, waiting for his answer.
“I kill you.”
“Lighten up. It was a good time. It doesn't mean, like, we have to make a big deal.”
Buffy spun around again. Angel stood in front of her, pulling his shirt on. Oh fuck, not this. Her chest tightened as she watched, and worse, felt, her younger-self’s world shatter.
“It is a big deal!”
“No, it’s not!” Buffy shouted at herself, but the girl didn’t hear or react. “He’s not worth it! Don’t let him…” Her advice to herself was cut off by Angelus talking again.
“It's what? Bells ringing, fireworks, a dulcet choir of pretty little birdies? Come on, Buffy. It's not like I've never been there before.”
“Fucking asshole,” Buffy seethed within herself. Buffy felt her younger-self buckle and nearly implode. Every emotion that she had felt during that moment in the past came crashing down on her again. She felt her heart being torn to shreds, her trust broken into a million irretrievable pieces, and her self-esteem crushed like a bug on the sidewalk.
Buffy watched helplessly, unable to stop the emotions that washed through her. She was living it all over again. Her own heart ached; she felt like she was falling directly into the pit of hell, just like she’d done on that horrible, horrible night so long ago.
“Buffy,” Spike’s deep, emotional voice pulled her up from the depths of hell, and she spun around again.
Spike was kneeling before her in the softly lit garden at the mansion, looking up at her with eyes so full of hope and love, that it made her heart skip a beat. “I love you more than life itself. I told you before and I’ll repeat it now: I’ll love you forever, until your body returns to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I’ll lie atop your grave and join you on that day, because I don’t know how I could go on without you in my life.
“Buffy Anne Summers, will you do me the honor of being my wife? Will you marry me?”
Each new memory began coming faster and faster. They flashed through her heart and mind like a million small suns exploding inside her, each one hot and blinding.
One moment she was tumbling backwards off the fire escape, watching Spike and Annie fade from her view as she fell towards the pavement below. The next moment she was rescuing Spike from the Initiative, carrying him through the mayhem she’d caused, determined to get him out. Then Buffy spun again and the goons in the Council’s dungeon were beating her with their batons; the pain was just as real to her now as it had been then. In the next moment, she was making love with William in the bandstand in the Common; her body quivered and tensed, reacting to the feel of his body moving against hers. Then, she was tied to a table, and Ethan Rayne was tattooing the mark of Eyghon on the back of her neck. Another spin and Buffy was standing in front of Spike as he was engulfed in flames; her heart and soul suddenly felt as black and empty as any black hole in outer space.
Buffy’s head whirled wildly as she relived each one. She was no longer able to even offer advice to her younger self as the scenes swam through her – or, more accurately, she swam through them. She was feeling every emotion and every physical pain; she could hear every word, smell every smell – every sensation that she’d experienced in the past washed over her again. Buffy could see each memory through her own eyes, just as if she was living it again, but she had no control over any of it. She was a ghost within herself – an apparition, unable to touch or change anything, forced to relive each one, good and bad.
Buffy fell to her knees as she hurtled through her life and continued bouncing back and forth between memories and emotions. She felt like a small boat being buffeted by a raging sea. She'd be lifted up to the highest heights one moment, then slammed down as the wave crested, sending her to the deepest depths of the ocean. Tears flowed from her eyes while laughter and sobs and screams fought for dominance in her throat. Her heart sang and shattered, danced and died. One minute her soul was full, complete with the love of her husband, and the next second it was a gaping maw, devoid of hope, as she watched him burn and disintegrate into dust. She was at once terrified and comforted, hot and cold, resentful and grateful, alive and dead.
Unable to stop the madness, just barely coherent, Buffy tried to crawl away from the red goo, but it seemed to be everywhere. She couldn’t see the base camp any longer; all she could see were unwoven, random snatches of her life in excruciating detail. Each memory tore and thrashed wildly at her heart, as if they are all living, breathing beings trapped within her. She tried to squeeze her eyes closed – the ghost’s eyes, but it didn’t stop her from seeing…
“Am I … am I a bad person? Is that why? Am I being punished ‘cos I opened the portal?” Annie’s face was contorted in pain and confusion in front of Buffy. “I didn’t mean to! Tell them, Mama! Tell them I didn’t mean to! Please … please give me my legs back!”
Buffy collapsed down onto her side, sobbing, her eyes still closed tightly. She covered her ears with her hands, but that didn’t stop her from hearing …
“Listen,” Giles was admonishing Angel. “Some prophecies are ... are a bit dodgy. They're, they're mutable. Buffy herself has ... has thwarted them time and time again, but this is the Codex. There is nothing in it that does not come to pass.”
“Then you're reading it wrong,” Angel insisted angrily.
“I wish to God I were! But it's very plain! Tomorrow night Buffy will face the Master, and she will die.”
Even the knowledge that she had survived that attack by the Master and ultimately prevailed over him, did nothing to ease the utter terror that washed over her, just as it had done that night in the library.
Buffy writhed on the floor as she ghosted through her life, banging back and forth over the last thirty years like a hockey puck being slapped around on the ice. Bam, bam, bam! Each scene left her weaker, overloading her emotions with wild, dizzying ups and downs. The twists and turns of her life were tossed at her like volleys of gunfire from an Uzi on full auto: rapid, unending, and deadly.
There were scenes that she barely remembered – things that were so mundane as to not even make an imprint on her conscious psyche, and there were things that she'd tried very hard to forget. But no matter how old or recent, all are vivid, lifelike, and cover every color in the spectrum of emotions.
Buffy’s body began to convulse as she continued to be deluged with laughter and tears, utter joy and devastating heartbreak. Every emotion she’d ever felt tugged at her, fighting for dominance: lust and revulsion, love and hate, heaven and hell, pain and bliss, birth and death. Bam, bam, bam!
The warring emotions ripped at her, pulling her apart from the inside, as each round hit her like the bullets from a gun. One moment, her skin was flushed with heat and perspiration, then in the next breath it’s chilled, and she begins to shiver uncontrollably. Buffy’s body started to quiver with exertion and physical strain as she tried to get out of the soaked vampire dust. Her muscles began to cramp painfully; her arms and legs pulled tight as bowstrings as she rolled around on the wet floor in agony, covering herself in even more of the red, gelatinous muck of the vampires.
Not real, not real, not real, she admonished herself, trying to bring her mind back under her own control. She became vaguely aware that she must calm her heart. It was straining to the very edge of its capacity, stampeding painfully in her chest, and threatening to literally explode beyond its physical limitations.
“Avengelyne!” William exclaimed and Buffy was back on the sidewalk in London in her long dress and crinolines. Her arm is cut and bleeding from the broken brown glass she’d fallen on.
“I’m alright,” she watched herself assure him.
“I’m quite certain that you are not,” William insisted.
Buffy felt herself being lifted up and then everything finally, thankfully, went black.
The Temple of the Jedi Order: http://www.templeofthejediorder.org/
Jediism is the religion of The Force and this is their creed:
I am a Jedi, an instrument of peace;
Where there is hatred I shall bring love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
I am a Jedi.
shall never seek so much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Force is with me always, for I am a Jedi.
What is the red vampire dust-goo doing to Buffy? Will getting out of it stop the bittersweet memories? Can she get out of it in time to stop her heart from exploding in her chest from the emotional rollercoaster ride?
Lots more to come!!
Bittersweet Symphony, The Verve
‘Cause it's a
bitter sweet symphony this life...
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