Rock was watching an unconscious Revy with worried eyes. Whatever else was happening to her she was obviously having a particularly intense dream...or nightmare. She was moaning softly and would occasionally curse people who Rock knew were dead
"She'll be OK Rock." Xander sat quietly willing his life's blood into this woman who he considered for better or worse, a friend or at least an ally.
"Rock looked at Revy. His eyes taking in her pale and sickly appearance, "You would think I'd be expecting this, preparing for it. The risks she takes; the life she leads. There's only one way it all ends. I know that and yet, here I am again, holding her hand and hoping, praying that one more time she is going to beat the odds."
"You wouldn't be any use to us or Shunsi if you weren't the type of person who looks at the way the world works and says -- screw the world."
"You have no idea Xander, she’s ...there is a place she goes to. I try and understand but I can't; whenever I try..."
"Maybe you aren't meant to understand." Xander pointed out, "Revy's got battle scars she can handle that side of things but you’re there when she needs someone and trust me, for her, that means something. You don’t have to be a genius to realize Revy hasn’t had someone she can depend on in a long, long time.”
“Sometimes I wonder how much longer I can hold on.”
“You'll hold on as long as you need to. Of course now you got Shunsi to take care of but you strike me as a man who craves a challenge ...not unlike my own self."
"Is that why you settled on Eda because you CRAVE a challenge."
"I don't know if you've noticed Rock, but Eda and Revy have a bit of a problem with competition." Xander pointed out, "the only thing more hazardous to your health then the both of them fighting over you is picking one over the other."
"...And while I am grateful to you for taking that pressure off me. Xander do you really expect anyone to believe that you could have two attractive women fighting over you and not once did you enjoy it."
"I never said I didn't enjoy it." Xander said innocently. I'm just surprised that I survived it."
"I woke up the next morning and there's Eda and I realize I have about twenty four hours to get out of town. Then Revy's going to come looking for me with both guns blazing ---you do remember saying this right?" Rock asked innocently
"Hey Revy can be scary as hell when she's pissed off. Besides," Xander whined," I told you that in the spirit of drunken brotherhood. "
"You were drunk," Rock replied confidently, "I was fine, you really ought to cushion your system better if you’re going to try and out-drink a Japanese businessman."
Xander growled at Rock who looked at him arrogantly. Suddenly both men started laughing until tears flowed.
"So Rock, still wish you had a normal life. It’s not too late." Xander smiled at the man.
When Rock finally calmed down, he sighed, “Normal life is boring, for better or worse I'm right where I want to be standing. Beside the only people I want to be standing with. If that\ isn't the miracle of miracles I don't know what is."
Xander smiled grimly, "I don't believe in miracles Rock I believe in my friends. We just happen to do miraculous things from time to time."
Rock looked down at this amazing woman who had done some amazing things in the time he had known her. Surely surviving this crisis was well inside the abilities of the great and terrible Two Hands, deadliest Gunslinger in Roanapur, "I'm sure she'll be OK; Xander." Rock said resolutely, "Revy is a survivor, in Roanapur that's the only thing that matters."
Revy was not fine, in fact Revy was scared.
She was cowering on the floor of the Yellowflag. The bar had been attacked and bodies surrounded her. There's Dutch lying on the floor, staring up sightlessly accusing her of not being faster or smarter. Benny; also dead and then there's Rock. The only reason he was even in this was because of her maybe the reason he was staying was because of her and now he was dead. The whole crew was dead. Everyone was dead except for her, but someone was coming to take care of that; a lot of some ones.
"Survivors, I hate Survivors," hissed the Commander of Extra Order. She remembered she had mocked man when he had said that during their first encounter. There was no thought of mockery today.
At his side were the Vampire Twins. Little children who had been so maddened by years of abuse and brutality that they had become perfect and remorseless killers. Their names were Hansel and Gretel their grinning faces, a mask of blood-lust.
She also saw that fat bastard from her childhood. A degenerate who had liked to take pictures of kids and when the kids had cried too much he would film ... things ...happening to them. "Where is that little bitch Rebecca?" he hissed as he played his video camera around the carnage of the bar. “She was the one I really want to see die."
"We all want to see that little skank die." The EO leader said. “You listening little girl, we’ve come a long way for ya and we aren’t going back to hell alone. Long past the time you burned like we burn. Long past the time you died like we did." he was practically creaming himself at the thought of the blood and carnage he was going to unleash.
"Do you think she wants to play hide and go seek Sister?" asked little Hansel.
"Of course Brother, she loves games just like we love games. Come out, come out Rebecca." Gretel sang "Come and play we've learned fun new games since we died; Fun games with burning and slicing.
”We can play House; you like House don't you Rebecca, " The Pale little boy hissed.
"Ooh House is fun Brother,” his demonic sister said with bloodthirsty happiness. “I can be Mommy who hates you for being too pretty."
"...And I'll be the Daddy who beats you for making him do naughty things to you." Hansel sang.
"...And when they're done with you; I'll finish you off." The EO Commander stepped closer to where Revy was cowering.
She suddenly sensed someone else there. A figure crouching next to her, the cloaked figure holds a bottle of Bacardi and is pouring shots out of it. "You know Rebecca, it's time to choose,” the cloaked figure said quietly.
"Choose what," Little Rebecca snapped, "I can't fight all of them. Not by myself and there's always more and more. They always want to hurt me."
"Poor little Rebecca the little gang-banger from Mott street," whispered Corruption with a note of sarcasm, "Not your fault how you were born; not your fault how you survived."
"Well it isn't" The little girl snapped, "I never had a chance did I? Family, friends I got screwed big time so who the hell are you to judge. What would you know?"
"You sound like your father. "Corruption downed another Bacardi shot, " You know little Rebecca, One day soon you will understand that wanting power and having power are two very different things."
"Elder brother..." Revy heard a soft voice in the shadows, "It has been so long elder brother; so hungry, the boy ...he starves me."
Corruption sighed, "Another is coming, too bad too I had so wanted you for my avatar but there is still the Japanese boy. What a man does for love can corrupt him so much more thoroughly then anything else."
"It's time to play." The Mercenary commander cried out in joy as he shoved a table aside revealing Revy sitting on the floor alone.
"It is time to feast." Corruption’s voice fills the bar, "Younger Brother welcome to a new and rich hunting ground. Feast and grow strong I think you will find this cub more to your liking."
A huge dog-like form leaped out of the shadows and landed atop the EO commander tearing at his throat with a vicious snarl. The man was dead before he even hit the ground. The dog then turned and tore at the Hansel, ripping the huge axe from his hands and crunching until the bones of his arm snapped like twigs. Gretel cried in fear at the leaping, moving shadow. She fired that huge Browning Auto at the shadow raking the bar as the Shadow flitted around. Then it was there, the dog jumped around the shots and landed underneath her bowling her over and grabbing her in its jaws. The creature tossed her into the air, and then caught her on the way down. It started shaking her from side to side until she stopped struggling. Now the beast moved at the fat man. Begging and pleading for his life he died on his knees the dog-like beast showed not a trace of mercy instead jumping on him and tearing at his chest and throat till he fell silent.
Revy backed away from the beast who was stalking toward her till it stopped and sniffed at her.
"You smell like pack but you cower like prey?" The Hyena asked,
"How did you...?"
"The boy inflamed his blood with the root of misery. What little trace remained of me was given strength, precious little strength to be sure. I was but a fading shadow. I might still pass from this plane to the next but you why do you smell like pack?"
"I don't understand." Revy whispered, suddenly, the beast jumped on top of her. She thought it would kill her but instead it pulled from her holster one of her guns. Had she really been carrying those all this time? Why had she not thought to fight, to kill, to defend herself?
"What is this?" The beast asked her, the gun clenched in its teeth.
"It’s a gun." Revy supplied
"No, it's a thing of power. You worship things of power don't you girl? You like power."
"If you aren't powerful, you're just ...nobody I don't want to be nobody."
The Hyena shook its muzzle, “There is only one constant girl. There is hunter and there is hunted. There is predator and there is prey. Now which do you wish to be."
"Hunter, I want to hunt and I want to never have to be afraid again." Revy snapped.
"This is much richer hunting ground then ever the boy was; but there is so little left of me. If I give you what you seek, I will be like a breeze a slight scent on the wind, a still small voice in your ear. But for you perhaps that is all that will be needed."
"What will I have to do?"
"Are you sure this is what you want Rebecca?" Corruption asked
Revy looked over and saw the hooded figure sitting at the bar.
"More then anything I want to be powerful." Revy insisted,
"The path of power is a dark path, darker still then the path of corruption you were already on. It is a pathway that the boy already rejected."
"You will be nothing more then a cub for a time but given some time even a cub may grow then you will hunt and stalk prey, kill at your whim indeed, the female of is much more deadly then the male."
"I want that I want to be strong; I want to be powerful."
"Then look in my eyes Cub. Look in my eyes so that our souls can see into each other."
Revy looked into the eyes of the Hyena and she realized at last this was a primal force of nature; One that had existed since the dawn of man, maybe even before that. She looked and looked and as she fell into the vast teeming depths of the hyena's eyes she felt herself becoming part of something larger then herself. She was becoming part of a greater whole; she was becoming -- pack.
Revy opened her eyes. The hyena was gone, so too was the Yellowflag. Instead she was propped up on a pew in the Rip off Church and Rock was looking down at her while his little Slayer was bouncing around excitedly.
"Someone want to tell me what the hell happened to me? Cause I feel like crap. Did I get drunker then usual?"
"Those dragon guns you were using, they sucked out all your blood. You could have died; Xander and I had to carry you into the Church. Eda helped us save your life with a blood transfusion. You should take it easy you were pretty on the wire there for a bit."
"Whose blood, if you let that skanky bitch nun put her diseased blood in my body…”Revy growled.
Xander's blood," Rock couldn't help but grin even as he tried to sooth her, "you are now the proud owner of a couple of pints of – grade A Harris - or at least that was what he told me to call it.”
Slightly mollified, Revy sank back with her head in Rock's lap. “I was having weird dreams; about dogs I think and being in a pack and a guy with good drinking rum."
"Sounds like you had a bad dream, " Rock sighed, "The Door opened Garcia is in some kind of coma The Slayer is dead. Her body had been taken over by the thing in the basement. It’s walking and talking for her now. It wants us to fight the army outside. The feeling is the enemy of my enemy..."
Revy continued for him, "...Will most likely kill the other guys before he thinks about fucking us. As plans go that sucks."
"I agree but it looks like we need her help to get out of this mess."
Revy grunted in pain as she struggled up from the reclining position and got to her feet unsteadily. "No way I’m sitting around while you play nursemaid if cool and freaky shit is going down."
The three of them wandered over to the tense gathering.
"OK one more time and this time use little words." Xander was saying as they joined the larger group.
"Look,” Buffy said, “I'm going be the one to say what we’re all are feeling. I have no intention of trusting that Old One as far as I can throw him."
"It doesn't matter if we trust it or not, that army outside will rip us to shreds if we don't do something and right now that something involves using every resource at we got. You think I like trusting my life to magic or whatever else is going on. But the dead are walking, and they can kill me just as dead regardless of if I believe in them or not." Dutch mused.
"I would feel better if we had an Option B," Buffy said and Xander nodded
"I think I might have something but I would need to talk to Sister Yolanda in the meantime, we got to finish fortifying the Church."
Eda exploded, "You’re talking about turning the whole place into a fortress." She snapped.
Dutch nodded, "Every window and every door --except for the front door of course. I don't need a degree in mysticism and magic to realize that the last place we want to be is Ground Zero when that Old One drops the Hammer."
"I guess we could break up the wood in the church;" Xander said thoughtfully, “the pews, some other things. That would give us the material to create barricades for the doors and windows." He turned to Yolanda, "Assuming you don't have a problem sister."
Yolanda smiled wryly, "Given the choice between tearing up my church and dying I'll go with tearing the church apart thank you." she said.
"Are you all nuts," Buffy snapped, "does it at all register with you people that this thing hallowed out a young girl and is using her as a puppet."
"The young lady would appear to be dead already and it would appear to have been what the young lady wanted." Balalaika said calmly.
"Look I realize that end-justify the means is like the town motto. But out in the real world we try and make things better. And we sure as hell do not let some girl off herself out of a confused belief that saving the rest of us requires that kind of sacrifice."
"Buffy, Please..." Xander began
"Don't Buffy please me Xander Harris." Buffy snapped angrily "I've put up with a hell of a lot considering the fact you've been lying to us and keeping us in the dark about stuff. Judging by this hell pit you obviously had reasons, but this is Slayer Business now and the Xander Harris I know wouldn't sacrifice an innocent to achieve a goal under any circumstances period."
"Well if you have another option lets hear it B." Faith asked pointedly
"Lets do what we always do, FIND a way, research, work the problem; there must be an end run we can pull that we just aren't thinking of."
"...And what, we sit around and wait for the solution to bite us on the ass while Hell's Army marches into to kill us all. If that's your idea of a plan Cheerleader, you can play hide-and-go-fuck-yourself." Revy sneered.
Buffy sneered right back at her, "Yeah I’m really going to take my social cues from someone who almost died cause she had to screw around with magic weapons cause they were like sooo cool. Let me tell you The Rules of this game sister, you’re lucky Xander was able to save your ass cause in this weight-class you could have lost a lot more then blood you could have lost a soul assuming you have one to lose."
“Well let me tell you how things work in Roanapur," Balalaika hissed while drawing her weapon,
Xander along with everyone else in the room tensed. Buffy was capable of and had in the past, dodged bullets. However even she couldn't possibly dodge a point-blank range attack. She would survive it however, and if she survived Xander was betting that no matter which of them won the inevitable fight every one depending on these two women would lose. However Balalaika seemed disinclined to use the weapon on Buffy so much as to display it as part of a tersely delivered lecture.
"Let me tell you about rules Ms Cheerleader. Weak people hide behind them because they are afraid; a nice warm blanket that coddles them from the harsh cold of reality. The truth is that power determines what is right and wrong. Regardless of if is this gun or your strength or Ms Rosenberg's abilities. Your power allows you to force your will on a world. Remake it as you wish it to be and make no mistake you are forcing your will on the world."
"I'm nothing like you people." Buffy snarled
"Really" Balalaika snapped, "How exactly are you are so different then me. One girl in the entire world that was the rule was it not but you broke that rule. Didn’t you?"
" If I hadn't the world would have been swallowed whole. "
"A rule that served the world for thousands of years but you decided you knew better. You forced your will on the world and use your power to maintain that status quo. So far I'm not really seeing much of a difference between us."
"I'm not a criminal."
"I think the United States Government would beg to differ on that point are you not considered a terrorist organization. An interesting co-incidence how much a recent snatch and grab from a bank in Zurich resembled a similar one hatched by Mister Harris during his time here. I'm still not seeing any difference between us Ms Cheerleader. Save that I no longer bother trying to fool myself. There is no right; no wrong, no good no evil there is only Power and the willingness to use it. Who you use it against, that is the sum total of right and wrong in this world or any other."
Buffy was losing her temper fast in the face of the Russian's cold indifference, “There is a Slayer in there, one of our own."
"How can you help her B," Faith asked, "What, are you going to wave a wand and undo the powers of an Old One cause that's no easy feat. You’re talking about something as powerful as that Hell Goddess Glory and the truth is that it wants to fight on our side. It wants our enemies defeated.”
"Which should scare the crap out of you," Buffy snapped, "Nobody ever wants something for nothing. What are we going to pay for accepting her help defeating that force? “
“That’s a question I would rather explore without the enemy's knife at my throat." Balalaika sneered.
"At least you can see the knife at your throat," Buffy reminded the Mob Boss, "how are you supposed to defend against the knife at your back."
By being powerful enough that the one holding that knife won’t dare consider using it. As I said there is no difference between us Ms Summers except that you have so deluded yourself into thinking that wishing the world were a better place will make it so. I do not intend on dying here and I will do what is necessary; sacrifice what is necessary to achieve THAT goal and yes; that ends justifies any means in my mind. “
So the preparations began. The Corrupted retreated to the holy alcove where she sat murmuring to herself while Willow and Giles studied the markings on the wall to determine if there was anything they were missing. Fabiola watched over Garcia while Roberta loaded and reloaded her weapons while staring daggers at the Old One. At one point Willow was looking at Roberta's antique rifle and then the symbols on the wall.
"It couldn't be as simple as all that could it?" she asked aloud before asking the Maid for her weapon. Willow had a well deserved and notorious distaste for firearms so it was with some surprise to Giles that far from gingerly handling the weapon like it was a foreign thing, Willow closely inspected the rifle's stock and barrel. Finally calling Roberta's attention to the markings along the barrel.
What are these?" she asked.
"Manufacturers markings; most weapons possess them." Roberta explained.
"Not like these I'm guessing. ...And this is exactly the weapon that hung in your house?"
"That weapon has been in the Lovelace family since the first Lovelace patriarch used it to tame the land or so he said." Fabiola supplied.
"I had the weapon modded to accept modern ammunition but it is still essentially the same weapon that the First Lovelace used."
"The markings on the barrel match the ones on the wall. Those are similar to the markings on those Carpathian Dragons. I’m not sure but I think this is one of the Thirteen."
"Of course, " Giles said with shocked realization, "that would explain why the markings on the wall are so jumbled they have been rendered in the languages of the thirteen who came here."
"I'm not sure I know this tale please explain." Fabiola asked politely.
"Its an old tale that shows up in the myths of many different nations." Giles explained "The story goes that thirteen warriors were chosen to go forth and battle demonic evil they empowered several weapons to help them do it Willow believes your rifle to be one such weapon."
"Then this weapon can defeat the creature this weapon can kill it?"
"Oh Maid." The Corrupted mocked, " you can not use that on me. You are like family to the boy but you aren't family by blood. He is the only one who can use such a weapon. Of course if you have no problem with him doing your killing FOR YOU..."
"Its not that simple anyway." Willow said to calm Roberta down, "The Corrupted is transcendental being it manifests in a body but it doesn't require one anymore. If this body were damaged or destroyed it would just move on to another or retreat to the place it was in beforehand -- this sanctum."
"So we are helpless against it?" Roberta sighed.
"The only chance we had of stopping this thing died when Manuela choose to surrender her body to it."
"What do you mean?" Roberta asked.
By ancient pact no creature even one as powerful as this Old One can take a body without permission. Giles explained.
The Lovelace maids looked confused so Willow tired to explain, "Think of it like this," she said, "you are allowed to ring the doorbell, knock on the door, even play cheesy power ballads at 3am but the person inside the house must open a door or window for you to get inside."
Fabiola who had been raised in a barrio grasped that concept right away. "But doesn't that mean Manuela could revoke permission, fight for control of the house and force the creature out?"
"Yeah if she was still alive, standard procedure in situations like these is to destroy the current occupant. There is nothing left of Manuela now. Nothing except for a few memories that are hardwired in. That's why the Old One moves and speaks like her.
The rest of the team fell to preparation quickly. In moments Xander and his team had torn apart several pews and were nailing them quickly in place to shield windows and doors. With the sounds of sawing and hammering in the background the Foxes and Hotel Moscow gathered in the main lobby.
"Let's be on the same page folks," Claxton shouted, "We need to hold this spot until the doors and windows are sealed. After that Ms Rosenberg will need time to..." Claxton hesitated.
"…Work magic?” Riley supplied helpfully, clearly the commander was still having trouble incorporating the reality of magic into his world view.
Claxton made a painful face before nodding and continuing, “That will secure this place against all possible invaders both the Russians and my men are on Fire support which will provide back up tactical support and secondary defence. Slayers will be on point they will co-ordinate their attacks with the fire teams. Once the hostiles are down it should be easy for the Slayers to dismember and kill them."
Xander piped up, "My team will be on fortifications. Willow will be using her abilities to re-enforce the barricades. But she will be available for emergency assistance as needed."
"What's the definition of emergency?" One of the Foxes asked
Willow answered the question herself. "A zombie chewing on your leg is not an emergency, anything higher up then that maybe --but that is a big maybe." Everyone in the room noticed that she did not sound as if she was joking.
Balalaika stepped up, "Gentlemen we have survived much this day our enemy believes they can scare you by using the dead as troops but they forget one thing. Most of the troops out there have fallen at your hands. That means if they weren't good enough to kill you before they sure as hell won't be able to do it this time. There will be no mercy and no pity. We will exterminate every one of them make them regret crawling out of their shallow graves to stand against us."
There was loud cry from the troops
"Excuse me," Claxton snapped loudly, "Sound out like you've gotta pair." The assembled troops shouted still louder until their voices echoed off the very rafters of the Church of Violence.
"Then let's get to work." Balalaika shouted.