I stood in the darkened hall, listening through the door. Something was moving down there, but not a lot of noise. I pressed my palm flat against the door and pushed. It didn’t budge.
Okay. Locked. Kick it down. Sure, it’s not stealthy… but it’ll get the door out of the way…
I took a step back, and lifted my foot.
I stumbled to regain my footing, facing down the hall again. Giles jogged up to me, Spike stepping soft behind him.
"What are you doing here?" I asked Giles, but glared at Spike.
Spike lifted the blade of an ax, and then tossed it my way.
"Your intentions were to run down alone and unarmed against the ultimate evil? God, Buffy, I know you know better…" Giles shook his head.
I lifted the ax. "I am armed…" I glanced at Spike, "And I’m not alone."
Spike looked at the floor.
Giles rolled his eyes, placing his glasses on his nose, "Yes, well… a plan, then?"
I shrugged, "Kick down the door and start beheading… Spike, you help with the fighting. Giles, you run for the ritual stuff."
They both gave stunned looks back at me. I smiled. "Ready?"
Spike took Giles’ ax away.
"Oh, really now! You’ve got vampire-strength, here!" Giles pouted, pulling the ax back.
Spike let him keep it.
"I don’t care which one of you fights, just… somebody stop the ritual."
And with that, I kicked the door down.
"We’ve been walking around down here for ten minutes, Spike."
"Just… hold on… I think we’re close."
I gripped the ax, glancing back at Giles.
"Are we sure the ritual is on the seal?" Giles tried to help.
"No… but, where else would it—"
"Here." Spike pulled me to the left. "It’s through here."
I stared at the wooden door before us. A light flickered through the cracks.
"Okay, everyone knows what to do." I whispered.
Spike smiled, stepping forward. "I’ll get the door." He vamped, and Giles lifted his ax. One swift kick and the door was down.
The first Bringer went down fast—one swing from the ax. I caught the whole layout then: about twenty Bringers gathered around the seal, and a couple heading towards us.
The closest one swung his ax, and I easily ducked under it. Giles swung his ax over my back and swiped off the head. I grabbed his falling ax and swung up fast, knocking away the second.
"Spike!" I threw the Bringer-ax to him before picking mine up again. "Get to the seal!"
He gave a quick nod before batting another Bringer out of the way. That Bringer was up quick, and running at me. My foot struck him between the eyes… or, the no-eyes. Giles was behind me, and I could hear him struggling. I whirled the ax around, striking another Bringer in the back.
I turned to see Spike against a wall... unvamped and… losing. A Bringer held his ax up. He’s gonna…
"Spike!" my call came from nowhere, and I did a quick cartwheel, kicking away the Bringer. I pulled him forward, staring into his eyes. Wake up, that’s what I’m telling you, Spike. He gave me mooneyes back. Oh, that’s it Spike. C’mon. I pulled him with me into the circle of Bringers.
We pushed them out of the way until I finally saw the middle. Three stones circled around a table… and bright glowing lights twirling to the ceiling. What’s dripping? I looked up. Blood was dripping from the ceiling… from the center of the lights… down to… the seal! Another Ubervamp!
I rushed forward, but was forced aside. Three Bringers circled me.
"Spike!" I dodged one and kicked another, "Get the rocks! On the seal!" Another Bringer charged, "They’re gonna raise up—" the Bringer knocked me to the ground. My eyes widened when I saw the seal light up.
Spike struggled towards the glowing seal as I crawled for it. Another Bringer pulled at my foot, but fell dead when Giles landed his ax. I jumped to my feet, then flipped the table over onto two more Bringers.
The seal slammed shut, and I stepped on top of it. The ceiling was back to normal. A Bringer slammed into my back, and pain jolted down my legs when I slammed against the opposite wall.
"Buffy!" Spike swept up next to me, pulling me to my feet.
"I’m fine! Go help Giles!"
Spike looked hurt… not just Bringer-hurt, either. He tackled a Bringer behind Giles.
I rolled across the floor, picking up two of the stones. A Bringer beat me to the third. I stood slowly, never taking my eyes of his hand. He clenched it, and then threw it across the room. I watched it land, then felt a sharp pain in my neck. The Bringer’s feet tangled with mine and I fell to the ground, dropping both the stones. A kick to my side sent me flying, and I hard onto the seal again. My shoulder popped.
Spike was next to me again, helping me up again. This time I let him, because every inch of me felt sore and tired. I took a deep breath and sprinted back towards the two stones. I dove and grabbed up one, and again a Bringer beat me to the second. He held his hand high… is that a smile? I glared up at him from my hands and knees. His arm moved to throw, and I swept an ax from the ground and sliced him good.
The stone fell to my feet, along with the Bringer’s body. I bent over, grabbing the second stone. "Not so funny now, is it?"
"It was fun!" the excitement was still pumping through me, "C’mon, Giles… you know you had fun!"
"We’re all lucky to be alive."
"Um…" Spike lifted his hand.
"Oh… right." Giles removed his glasses, "I’d like to look at the stones, Buffy. Do you have them?"
"Nope! Left’em all in the basement."
Giles’ face looked horrified. Oh, right… no more jokes. Serious time. I pulled the stones from my pockets and handed them over. He lifted one close to his face. His pace slowed as he examined it, and soon he was walking behind Spike and me.
"Good fight tonight, Slayer… bit of slicin‘ an—"
"Yeah. My fight was great. Don’t know about you two."
His eyebrows got all furrowed… frustrated. Spike’s frustrated face. I almost giggled.
"Oh, come on… You saw you."
"I saw you."
There wasn’t anything about that sentence that was sexy, but I suddenly felt everything tingle. I tried to hide it, taking a deep breath… trying to slow my racing heart. It must not have been what he said… it was how he said it. I kept taking deep breaths.
He eyed me, "You alright, Slayer?"
He did it again. More tingles… and the heart raced again. Oh, God… Oh no. It’s all that slaying… that’s what does it! God, he’s staring! Say something… anything…
"Fascinating, really." Giles muttered from behind us. Oh, thank you, Giles!
"What is it?" I turned around, pretending to be interested.
"Well, this one should be the Breath of Fire stone… triangle-shape for a flame… nothing very special about it," his voice got all excited, "At least, it appears that way to us. But it is, indeed, fatefully important. I’m… I’m much looking forward to further research!"
"What’s this one here?" Spike pointed to another.
"I can only assume that is the Ghost of Passion." Giles held it up. The carving in the center looked like a stick-person.
Spike shuddered, backing away. He turned around, trying to get us to walk again. I jogged up to him.
"Hey, what’s wrong?"
He shrugged, "Just looked familiar, is all."
His fingers raked through his hair, "Later, Slayer."
"Okay," I stepped down the last stair, "Tell me."
He turned the water off and faced me. "Tell you what, pet?"
"About the stick-person." I stepped closer, "You’ve seen it before?"
He was looking everywhere but at me… breathing quickly. "I, uh… I’m pretty tired, Slayer."
He crossed over to the bed, lifting his chains. I was at his side when he clicked the first cuff around his wrist.
"Tell me." I placed a hand over his wrist.
His eyes were closed. Why won’t he look at me? Why won’t he tell me? I unlocked the shackles. His arm lingered towards mine, then dropped to his side.
I stepped back as he began tugging at his shirt. He pulled it off, and every part of me jumped. Then my eyes settled on his bare chest. Scratched into his pale skin were all the markings from the stones. Scars from when… when The First had him…
He took slow, deep breaths… the patterns heaving up and down again. Rhythmic… dancing… hypnotizing... I couldn’t look away from them. My hand was rising now, drifting near them.
"It doesn’t… doesn’t hurt. They’ve all healed now. Scars’ll go too…" he kept his eyes on my hand, "Don’t scar easily…"
Our eyes met then. I was supposed to be looking at his scar… that eyebrow-scar that he’s always had. I was supposed to make some comment about it, but words had run off and left me. And now we were just staring, and my hand was just drifting.
His eyes glanced down before returning to my gaze again. He blinked, as if… what? Give permission? I rested my hand to his chest, over the stick-person scar. He let air out, but kept his eyes open… focused in mine.
And I saw it then… at least, I think I saw it. Something past the lashes… past the deep blue, and the promising look of his swollen eyes… Something sparked.
I think… maybe something sparked.
Continued in Part 14