Disclaimer: see Chapter One.
A/N: Right now I'm kinda busy with some other writing stuff. The next chapter could need some time. But you know, what'd speed up things? Reviews.
My wonderful Beta Chanel5 was great as usual. She keeps things going and makes them better, much better. Thanks honey!!! Without her the story would be horrible *lol*.
Serenity was steadily rushing closer, but was still too far away to do anything about the chaos that reigned at the secret base. The air seemed more frigid than normal though that was probably just an illusion due to the crew’s cold temper. Since leaving the Watcher’s headquarters Mal sat, brooding, on the bridge, driving Wash mad. Book had brought out numerous books that now lay clattered all over the kitchen table while the Shepherd hung over them like the Sword of Damocles.
Simon found him there, determined not to leave without information about Rivers whereabouts. But the older man had just shaken his head and explained in quick words what had happened.
Simon left, unsatisfied and even more worried then before. He sat on the couch, his arms lying protectively over his chest and deep in thought. He’d known River was just a guinea pig in the cruel hands of some overenthusiastic scientists but… she was also just a little girl who liked to dance.
How dare these people play with a young girl like this? How dare they tamper with her fate? Her future? Her life? She wasn’t a tool to be used when it suited them.
He felt utterly helpless and the last two days had dragged on longer than their respective 24 hours. His stomach cramped painfully and with an angry shove he hoisted himself from his sitting position to cross the room in several long steps. When he reached the door he turned around repeating his erratic strides thinking about ways to take revenge on them and the Vampire, who had taken her away from so bluntly.
His eyes fell on the book Inara had left lying around and he sat down in front of it.
“What spell?” Spike demanded to know and had to quicken his pace to keep up with Willow.
She answered without looking at him when he’d caught up. “I couldn’t just leave her alone.”
She sounded sad and forlorn. When she didn’t go on he carefully nudged her to tell more. “Buffy?”
“Of course Buffy. Kennedy and I, we tried to find a way to get her back. Months and months of futile research. We tried all kinds of locator spells, we even tried a really wiggy and not appetizing Resurrection Spell. Oh…” She sighed, heavyhearted. “Remind me to establish a ‘Save the Puppies & Kittens Foundation’ as soon as we’ve got time.” She stopped his question with a wave of her hand. “DON’T ask! Bad enough *I* have to remember.” Halting in front of a door she laid her hand against the metal which swung open without any noise.
“By the way, what date is it?” she asked waiting for him to follow. Spike gulped.
Spike was unsuccessfully trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Willow Rosenberg, powerful witch and computer nerd, the one with the pink colored teddy bear sweater, was walking next to him. Now. In the 25th century, like she had said goodbye yesterday to go to the grocery shop. In her case, she probably had.
“Uhm... 2518, I think.”
“What?” Now the witch stood still looking at the vampire like he had just told her the full moon was made of vanilla ice cream.
“Hey, YOU're the one who obviously made the mighty swan dive five hundred ago years just to get started. You must have been bored to death.” He rolled his eyes.
“Of course I wasn't since I was busy keeping the hundreds of slayers calm?”
“Hundreds of...” His face showed his confusion and Willow squinted her eyes, unsure whether the Vampire was pulling her leg.
“Are you serious? 2518?” She run her hand over her shoulder-length hair, pushing it irritably behind her ear. With erratic moves she began walking back and forth, quietly huffing. “Five hundred years. Oh my Goddess! This is not how I wanted this to work out.”
“Huh? Where have you been all this time then, that you haven't even realized how much time has passed?”
For a moment he thought she hadn't even heard him but after a minute she looked up, her expression changing between exasperation and astonishment.
“The spell connected me to Buffy's soul. Of course it wouldn’t have worked if she had already been dead at the time but...,” She giggled and a hint of maddened panic crossed her stoic features. “She wasn't. I wanted her to get out, give her some power to escape from wherever it was they hid her. I don't remember actually how it all started. But we... had some problems.” The last word was shaded with a trembling voice and Willow managed an unconvincingly smile.
“Problems?” Spike repeated.
“Uhm, yeah. Slayer problems actually,” she said and Spike could have sworn to see her flinch.
“But Buffy was the last Slayer. How could there be slayer problems with no slayers left?”
“That's the question! Uhhmm...,” She cleared her throat. “Somehow the power of all the slayers, of all the young girls affected by my spell, still existed when I cast the spell to search for Buffy's soul. It was like their powers were concentrating on revenge for their deaths. Since there were so many dead girls, all souls sharing the same pains, they kinda... glued to my attempts to find Buffy. Like a whole bunch of trampers jumping on a tiny Volkswagen.”
“They glued onto a Volkswagen,” Spike said dazedly.
“Yes, I don't know how to describe it. They were... just there.”
“I have no idea. But I bet my bank savings the Powers That Be had their fingers in the pie – do I still have a bank account? Oh, whatever - At least they're good for something – the Powers That Be, I mean. I only just woke up a few hours ago. And my timing was good enough to save you out there.” Now she stood again, stemming her fists on her hips, shooting daggers from her eyes. “What have you been thinking anyway? Getting yourself caught like a fledgling.” She shook her head. “Don't tell me the future made you soft.”
“Look who's talking,” Spike grumbled, hastily changing the subject. “Fine, whatever. Where's Buffy?”
“Well… uhhm... we should probably follow the track of mayhem and destruction,” Willow said, looking up.
They reached the far end of the tunnel where a dusty ladder went up to a trap door in the ceiling. Recent feet had stirred up the dirty steps and a fine powder hung in the air. The door was open and a persistent thread of red liquid was dripping to the floor. The unmistakable smell of blood assaulted Spike’s nose and he felt his game face rise.
“She's not alone? – What’s that supposed to mean?” Gordon whispered, not daring to speak out loud. River stood in front of him, her concentration drawn to the door. Suddenly a sound at his back made him jump and in the dim light he could see three people coming, forming a line. They were wearing odd clothes, suits that looked expensive, like they had lost their way from an official Alliance gala. But what disturbed him most: Their hands were blue.
“Two by two, hands of blue,” he mumbled aghast.
“Aren't they pretty?” River said, obviously not yet aware of the blue men. “Too much rage and feet and glory to run away. Like little heroes lost in one soul.”
Finally the door swung open and Gordon had to cover his eyes to escape the painful brightness. He squinted into the light between his middle and index fingers but couldn’t make out more than a vague silhouette of a body surrounded by ethereal, nearly translucent strings. Like long hair in the wind they billowed around her, caressing her features and wrapping around her like a warm blanket.
Gordon gasped, the blue men forgotten. River never wavered in her stance as the silhouette formed into the body of a girl. She looked small, delicate with slender legs and arms. Her hair was long and reached down her back.
He realized the blue men were now alarmingly close and he turned around, willing to fight tooth and nail to get River and the girl he suspected to be Buffy out. Next to him Mika did the same. She held her hands in front of her like she was ready and waiting to break someone’s nose with a good punch.
The three men came closer and Gordon tried to keep an eye on both parties. Various voices whispered in his ears, making his hands twitchy and sweaty. He couldn’t understand what they were saying since their tongues stumbled over each other, swirling into a mix of hundreds of languages. Still, undoubtedly, they were angry.
A small, bright, soundless explosion made him duck, pulling Mika down beside him, and a pleasant warmth flooded along his back from behind. The light spread fast through the corridor and then struggling sounds could be heard from where the three blue men stood.
“What’s going on?” Mika cried, standing up as the light vanished. Two of the three men had fallen, lying unconscious or dead – Gordon really didn’t want to know – but one of them was still standing. His face was contorted in an angry mask and there was blood running freely from his nose and ears. He attacked Gordon with a grunt. Gordon gulped down his panic as he saw the small knife in the hand of his adversary. He managed to avoid being sliced open by stepping aside and turning as fast as possible, grasping the blue man’s hand and bending it towards the ceiling. A mix of spittle and blood splattered in Gordon’s face as the man gave a guttural scream, ramming his other fist into Gordon’s stomach so that he stumbled a few feet backwards. Only then the young man realized the voices were still around him and they seemed to grow in intensity and volume. They echoed from the walls, hissing and shrieking like mad.
Meanwhile Mika forgot about her terror when she saw their opponent coming at Gordon again. She jumped on the man’s back without second thought. Granted, not one her finest moves since the guy shook her off his back like she was nothing more but an annoying fly. Both she and Gordon were lying on the floor, struggling to get up fast, but there was no more time. The blue man considered neither of them an imminent danger and stalked towards River, his eyes never wavering from his goal.
Buffy moved with a breathtaking speed causing the light around her to blur as she positioned herself between River and her assailant. The small woman lifted her hand and the man bounced against an invisible wall, flying backwards with enough force to damage the solid wall he hit. The sound of breaking bones was quite satisfactory to Gordon’s ears but there was no time to feel victorious. More people were running through the open door that Buffy had destroyed, shouting orders and hastening their steps to reach the three intruders and the Slayer.
“We have to get out!” Mika said what Gordon was thinking and grabbed River’s arm to pull her along. Gordon stayed a moment longer. The slayer seemed oblivious. Through the hazy, yellow mist he could see her eyes, white and unblinking.
“Come on! We have to go!” he said, feeling rather stupid for stating something that obvious. Carefully he stretched his hand out, hoping for a nod or a glimmer of understanding. But the entity – or whatever the girl was – kept her manners calm and whispered with an urgent undertone “Go! We’ll make sure you get away.”
“No, I won’t go without you,” he answered.
She smiled at his stubbornness. “You remind me of someone.”
“Gordon!” he heard a scream from far ahead. Mika had reached to door to the staircase and waved her arms frantically. “Come on!”
Buffy nodded and the slightest hint of amusement teased the corners of her mouth. “You NEED to go! We’ll take care of me. We waited for such a long time.” Now Gordon was sure. A wide smirk appeared on her face. “We’re ready to do some ass-kicking.”
Minutes later, his chest heaving with the effort of taking three steps at a time, Gordon pushed open the door and found himself back on the roof. The small transporter was only a few feet away and he could see Mika helping River into the vessel. His shoes made creaky noises on the sand concrete and the mighty sandstorm tormented his ears and his nose. Holding his hands up to protect his eyes, the wind was pushing him sideways and he felt like he could be swept away any second. With great effort he reached the door and a hand from the inside grabbed his wrist, pulling him inside. He fell to his knees on the cool, smooth floor, puffing breath in and out.
“We have to…” he said and doubled over with coughing fit. “We have to go back. Buffy’s still in there.”
“Gordon…” Mika said. “There’s no way we’re going back in there. Buffy can take care of herself.”
Another hand lay down on his shoulder and he looked up in River’s intense eyes. She was smiling, the first time that Gordon could remember and a peaceful air seemed to surround her like she “knew”. Knew things other people didn’t.
“Don’t worry,” she said and nodded slightly. “No power in the ‘verse can stop them.”
Gordon opened his mouth to reply but thought otherwise. He’d wait.
But waiting was not something he liked very much. Time stretched into eternity. A tingling sensation spread out over Gordon’s back and down to his fingers. He stood up, trying to loosen the tension in his body, risking a glance through the front window of the transport that faced the entrance. The door was still open, slamming repeatedly against its frame in the ongoing storm. Buffy was definitely taking her time with her ass-kicking, Gordon thought.
He could feel River’s eyes on his back and did his best to ignore them.
“She should be here by now,” he complained for the fourth time that minute. “We should…” he started but was interrupted by River. With surprising strength she wrapped her fingers around his arm.
“Look!” she ordered and indeed… seconds later the inside of the staircase was shining with that warm yellow light, which intensified until Buffy stepped through the door. Seemingly undisturbed by the chaos around her she walked… no, floated closer, finally reaching the vessel, her hair dancing softly around her face. Mika opened the airlock and the entity entered the ship. A few seconds passed and the whole room was filled with light and joy and an enthralling feeling of power.
“Buffy?” Mika asked quietly, gently reaching out a trembling hand but not quite touching the Slayer. She pulled back her hand as a voice - or better - many voices started to speak, meeting a single tune and the three witnesses felt their teeth rattle.
“No power in the ‘verse can stop us!” she repeated Rivers declaration underlined with a daring vehemence and then the light seemed to implode back to Buffy. The Slayer, suddenly without ethereal protection, sank down to the floor, her eyes rolling back. Gordon had caught her before she could hit the floor, pressing her close to his chest.
Shocked silence filled the room until Gordon could feel her shaky breaths against his cheek.
“We have to go. NOW!” he cried and Mika took place in the front seat, starting the engines.
Two floors below an angry growl emerged from Spike’s throat. His teeth sank down in the tender skin of someone’s shoulder. He didn’t care. The only thing he knew was: He had to get to Buffy.
He and Willow followed the trail of blood and groans and exploded ceiling lights without meeting any resistance. Whoever had walked this very path was really, really angry. And the only person he knew with a temper like a mad rhinoceros was Buffy, it had to be.
He started running after they came across the first puddle of blood, Willow following behind him and yelling at him to wait for her. She might be a witch who was able to turn him in a turnip with a flick of her wrist but she definitely had to work on her stamina.
They were close to the top of the building when an armed security unit crossed into their path. A shot of electricity found its aim and Spike screamed in pain and frustration. Willow helped him, a fireball ending his torture, and they finally began to get the upper hand.
Until now! A sharp pain spread from his butt. He turned, glaring at his backside, and ripped out the protruding projectile.
“Well, shit,” he mumbled and felt his vision swim.