Ch. 41 – Three’s a Crowd
A/N: Part 2 of “Doomed”
Buffy choked down the tears thickening in her throat as she took off toward the forest. She saw Dean weaving out of the trees and storming down a hill leading to level ground. She drew in a few deep breaths before she darted over to meet up with him. He was simply glowering when he met her eyes.
“Where the hell were you?!”
Buffy exhaled a long breath when the weight of his annoyed expression pressed on her nerves.
“I got – derailed for a minute but…”
Dean blew out some steam as he shook his head.
“Well, that damn thing pulled a disappearing act after a half mile of trekking through the woods….I tried to pick up its trail but then those commandos came out of nowhere, cordoned off the area and then kicked my ass out! I’m assuming GI Joe called for backup?”
Buffy felt her composure crack a degree as she thought back to her heated discussion with Riley.
After a few blocks, Dean let out all of his steam and spied a look at Buffy.
“Why the long face?”
“Um…it’s not important right now…we should get back to Giles and give him an update.’
He obliged as they reached the car without much more conversation. A few minutes later, he looked over at her after she slipped onto the passenger seat. He shifted out of his fighting frame of mind and regarded the doleful expression on her face.
“What’s going on with you?”
“Huh? Oh, nothing. Why do you ask?”
“Well, you didn’t seem too broken up when I told you that the demon gave me the slip. You’re usually bitching about as much as me.”
“I know it’s just……”
She heaved a huge sigh.
“It’s nothing, it’s pointless.”
Dean studied her for a short time before he let his concern go.
After Buffy finished briefing the group about the demon, Giles gathered a stack of old, thick books and dropped them on the dining table. Everyone hunkered down with a book and began to research. A short time later, Willow, Xander and Dean moved to the living room and continued to pore through their assigned books.
As the evening matured, Buffy, Willow and Giles continued perusing over books as Xander and Dean fell asleep in the living room. Buffy got up to stretch her legs and shuffled over to Dean on the couch. She gently pulled the book he had on his lap and set it aside. She noticed the same bottle of aspirin from the motel was sitting on the living room table. She yanked the plaid throw hanging over the couch and draped it over Dean.
Willow eyed her curiously when she returned to the table. Buffy went back to her research before eventually nodding off. After a few hours of trying to stay awake, Willow rested her head on the table and quickly drifting off to sleep.
Giles quietly thumbed through volume after volume as the sun began to peek from the horizon. Hours later, Giles paused on a page and shot up.
“Aha!” Giles hollered.
Dean bolted upright and shook off his weary state. He shot his eyes around the room as he clenched the handle of his knife. He relaxed when he was saw there were no demons in the room.
“I have identified the demon,” Giles announced.
The gang stirred from their slumber and gathered around Giles. They all glimpsed at the demon drawn on the page.
“We’re dealing with a Vahrall demon.”
Willow grimaced at the disgusting graphic.
“Major yuck factor,” she said.
Xander shared her look of revulsion, “Eugh!’
“Yeah, that’s Claw Boy,” Dean confirmed. “That picture does not do him justice.”
A little while later, after devouring doughnuts and several cups of coffee, the gang continued to research.
Later in the afternoon, Buffy eyed the leftover doughnuts on the kitchen counter and pouted.
“Hey, what happened to the last ‘chocolate chocolate’ doughnut? I called dibs on it earlier.”
She scanned the group looking for a guilty face but everyone seemed too involved in research to hear her complaint. She wandered over to Willow and Giles who were in discussion.
“It’s so creepy that it was collecting a child’s bones,” Willow replied. “It has to be some type of ritual that requires blood and bones.”
Giles looked incredulous as he stood up from the table.
“There are countless rituals that require those elements.”
Giles strolled around the room rattling off the types of rituals that came to mind. Willow began flipping through one of the books on the table.
“But a child’s bones,” she stated. “I think I remember reading about that somewhere….yes! Here it is….it’s a very old ritual which needs the blood of man, a child’s bone and the Word of Valios whatever that may be…according to this it all has to do with a ritual sacrifice….three sacrifices...”
“The sum of three equals the end of the world,” Buffy replied glumly.
Dean glanced at Willow. “Where is this ritual performed? How long does it take before we’re all kissing dirt? Are we going to be kissing dirt or eating ash for eternity?”
“There’s not much detail here about any of that I’m afraid.”
“So at some point, there will a triple homicide happening?” Xander asked.
“Not if I can help it,” Buffy interjected. “We need to stop the ritual from taking place. We have to figure out where that Word thingy is and get it before the demon does.”
“How do we know he hasn’t already found it? We don’t even know where he is,” Willow pointed.
Buffy glanced out the window and saw the sun dipping into the horizon. She formed a plan of action in her mind. She glanced at Dean.
“We’ll start at the magic shop, see if there’s a spell book about the Word of Valios.”
Her eyes shifted to Willow and Xander.
“You two should check the museum archives.”
Xander nodded as he and Willow headed for the door. They paused when Buffy called out to them.
“Please be careful, this thing was wicked strong,” she warned.
Xander and Willow nodded before leaving. Dean suddenly cracked a smile as his mind dwelled on a comment made earlier. Buffy gathered her bag and eyed him as they strolled down the sidewalk.
“What’s so funny?”
“The sum of three….three some….having a threesome is a bad thing….maybe the Christian extremists are behind the impending apocalypse.”
He chuckled for a short minute when his eyes shifted to the glare on her face.
“Oh come on, you have to find the humor in something…..”
She rolled her eyes before narrowing them on Dean.
“What is that?”
She picked up a dark brown fleck on the collar of his jacket. She studied the fleck before her eyes widened with recognition. She frowned as she chucked the evidence at Dean.
“Hey! You ate the last ‘chocolate chocolate’ doughnut!”
Her frown shifted into a glare of annoyance. Dean feigned an innocent look.
“I did no such thing,” he lied. “I think I saw Giles sneaking bites of it, he must have planted that crumb on me.”
Her glare shifted back to a frown heavy with skepticism. “Oh, right, blame a poor, innocent Englishman for your greediness! It’s not enough that you have to take my special cookie for yourself but my ‘chocolate chocolate’ too? God! You are impossible!”
He rolled his eyes. “Good grief, you’re acting like I threw your My Little Ponies in the ocean.”
Buffy gasped. “So you did do that! I knew it! I knew you were lying when you told me some random beach dog ate them!”
Dean stamped back the guilty look tugging across his face.
“Uh…I didn’t admit to anything. I was just…giving you an example to show how you’re such a drama queen sometimes.”
Seething from her precious childhood memories, Buffy whacked him hard across the back of his head. Dean grimaced from the force of her blow.
“Ow!! Jesus Christ woman!”
He massaged the back of his head as he regarded her with glaring eyes.
“Admit it Dean!”
She raised her hand to the back of his head, ready to deliver another hit.
“Are you serious?”
She clenched her hand into a fist. Dean rolled his eyes.
“Alright, fine,” he confessed. “I chucked those stupid dollies of yours into the ocean because you drove me crazy. What are you going to do to me? Call the stuffed animal police and have them arrest me for ‘dollicide’ or something?”
“Why did you do that? I almost had every Pony and then you tossed my entire collection into the water…why? I loved those Ponies,” she moped.
Dean rolled his eyes again as a memory from his childhood stirred within his mind.
“I know,” he groaned. “Every time we came to town, you wouldn’t shut up about them. It was always, “Look Dean, look at my newest Pony….Do you know what’s special about this Pony Dean? Want to play with My Little Ponies Dean? Huh? Do ya? Do ya?”
He mocked a childish, wide eyed look.
“And if that wasn’t bad enough, you lured Sammy into liking them. I caught that kid watching the cartoon on television one time….I could have killed him…”
He shook his head when he took pause.
“Why are we having this ridiculous conversation? That was ages ago, I figured you would have gotten over it by now.”
After a long moment, her pout broke into a silly grin. She snickered for a second. “Yeah, yeah….it’s silly now but back then it wasn’t….”
She noticed he was still massaging the back of his head.
“You were the first boy to ever make me cry,” she admitted.
Dean stopped massaging his sore head and glanced at her as she smiled.
“Yeah well, I’m not the last,” he said lightly.
“I mean, you teased me relentlessly and sometimes I thought you hated me. That’s why I always got in your face because I thought, one day, you’ll like me…”
“Hey, you should thank me for how often I teased you, it toughened you up and now look at you – you stare down a demon without an ounce of fear, you kick ass every day…”
“Yeah, I guess if I can handle your annoying comments, I can handle anything, huh?”
She burst out laughing as she watched Dean brush off her comment. After a moment, they exchanged complimentary smiles.
A short time later, Buffy eyed the downtown district in the distance. She stole a glance at Dean as her mind reflected on their long history.
“Seems like you’re always getting stuck with me,” she said.
He drew his eyes to hers in curiosity.
“What do you mean?”
“Stopping an apocalypse,” she said. “You could be a million places right now but somehow you got roped into this gig – again.”
She smiled apologetically.
“You didn’t force me into it,” he replied.
“I know it’s just…..this is my town, my fight…you don’t need to be here…you’ve got your own work to do, your own demon that got away….I’d hate to think that I put you and your dad off track by helping me.”
“Dad and I want to help,” he assured. “We’re always able and ready to help you when you need it. You should know that by now. Besides, it’s not like I’m taking time away to help you knit some stupid sweater, I’m eradicating evil, I’m saving lives, it’s what I do whether it’s here or somewhere else in the country.”
She saw the deep reflection in his eyes and wondered if she had struck a painful nerve. She gave another apologetic look, knowing the darkness that had painted his childhood. The Winchesters were the only ones in the world who truly understood the burdens of her life.
“We make a good team,” she remarked.
“That’s because I’m awesome.”
She rolled her eyes at his smug smile until she couldn’t help but join in on his amused laughter after awhile. She swatted him lightly on the arm.
“You do okay on occasion,” he cracked.
She mocked a hurt expression before the spark in his eyes caused her to smile. Dean had managed to lift her out of her black hole of emotions with just a few sarcastic remarks. She was surprised at how in the past, she had taken such offense to his insulting quips but now knew him well enough to know it was all in jest.
Her smile faded when she glanced down the street. Riley was cradling some electronic device in his hand and swinging it around the shops in a very discreet manner. Buffy paused and pivoted toward another end of the street when he caught her eyes. In a few quick steps, Riley had joined the duo.
Riley nodded at Dean in acknowledgement.
“Are you that addicted to video games that you have to play every second?” Buffy asked lightly.
Riley looked confused until he followed her eyes. Dean noticed the contraption was made to look like a sophisticated PDA.
“Oh, no, it turns out the demon leaves a pheromone signature. This device is set to take trace readings.”
Forrest and Graham approached the three in their civilian clothes. They pulled Riley aside. Buffy pivoted toward the magic shop.
Dean glanced at Buffy’s awkward expression before eyeing the magic shop. Sensing a tense moment between her and Riley, Dean gently clasped the crook of her arm to draw her eyes back to him.
“I’ll go talk to the staff, see what I can find out,” he offered.
She gave an appreciative smile as he ambled into the shop. Riley broke away from his team and stepped onto the curb in front of Buffy. A long, uncomfortable silence slipped between them. Buffy nervously shifted her stance and found she was watching Dean through the magic shop window as he questioned the clerk.
“Um, I really need to get moving on the whole big bad squashing….”
“Yeah, I’m working on that as well,” Riley started.
He let out a frustrated sigh.
“But first I just need to say….the whole issue, the thing between you and me? It’s completely ridiculous,” he blurted out.
Not sure about the tone in his voice, Buffy shot him a perplexed expression.
“Um, okay, yes, it’s ridiculous – which is why there isn’t going to be a thing between you and me,” she said warily.
“No, no, I meant to say, you’re ridiculous…..” he stuttered,
Riley shook his head, tripping over the words flying through his head at lightning speed.
“No, I didn’t mean to imply that,” he clarified. “Well, no, yes, yes I think I do mean to imply that.”
She scoffed, “Well, you sure know how sweep a girl off her feet with sweet talk like that.”
Riley blew out another frustrated sigh as he hitched his hands on his hips. He took a moment to collect and sort through his thoughts.
“I’m being completely honest here,” he said. “I think you’ve got this really unhealthy view of seeing things. It’s very pessimistic. You can’t tell yourself that everything is going to end badly because eventually it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy…you subconsciously sabotage potentially great relationships because if it goes bad then you’ve proven yourself right….”
She rolled her eyes, “There is nothing more deadly than a psyche grad student armed with too much time on his hands….”
She turned toward the door of the magic shop but Riley clapped a hand firmly on her shoulder and drew her back.
“Buffy, just give me one reason why you think this won’t work out,” he demanded lightly.
Buffy blew out a breath as her eyes flooded with aggravation.
“Especially now that we found out we are more compatible than we first thought,” he stated. “Since you’re a…”
Riley paused when a few people walked by them.
“Gardener,” he finished. “Like me.”
Buffy eyed a thick crowd of businessmen strolling toward them.
“Yeah but you haven’t been….gardening as long as I have….and for generations of….gardeners who tended to….gardens before me….they’re retired before the age of twenty-five…..” she replied glumly.
“You see, that’s the attitude I mean,” he said. “I know the dangers involved in….gardening but I also know that the rewards that make it worth the risks we take. Not to mention that sometimes it can be fun.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh right, fun….I knew someone who thought this job was all about fun and you know where she is now? She’s taking a very long nap at Sunnydale Mercy.”
“I didn’t mean that the job is just a party,” he replied.
“You just think I need to lighten up? Easier said then done,” she replied cynically. “This isn’t the kind of job where I come home after a long night and kiss my honey hello.”
Riley looked puzzled. “Well, why not?”
“Because it doesn’t work, it never works, I’ve tried in the past and yeah, it’s good in the beginning but then everything starts to unravel quickly and all I’m left with is a big sack of – emptiness.”
Riley flashed an optimistic smile. “But that is life! That’s the way of the world Buffy. Good things happen, bad things happen. But you get through it, you have to choose to get through it, pick up the pieces – but not by yourself – you lean on each other, you make each other strong and sometimes you have fun doing it….but that doesn’t happen if you choose to shut people out….”
Buffy let out a breath of aggravation as she glanced through the magic shop window. She couldn’t see Dean anymore and suddenly felt a sharp pain blasting through her system, twisting her muscles into a million knots. Her face shrouded with hurt.
“You have no idea what you’re saying,” she said bitterly. “You don’t have a shred of knowledge about what my life is like, what I’ve been through.”
She forced her feet to move and headed toward the shop door. Riley stepped in front of her as tears pooled in her eyes. She stamped back the impending flow and reached for the shop door. Riley gently snatched her hand and pulled her back to the walkway.
“I think I can guess,” Riley replied. “Some handsome, mysterious guy burned you one too many times – so you linger on that – let yourself wallow in that dark pit because you feel safe there, you feel certain no one can hurt you, you can keep people at arms length…”
“You’re wrong,” she replied.
“I don’t think I am,” he said confidently. “I think you’ve seen a glimmer of hope in what we started – you’ve seen a chance for things to be different than the past – and that terrifies you that you could actually find real happiness – so rather than step out on an adventure, you choose to crawl back in that dark place……..”
Buffy shook her head, her face thick with hurt and anger. She bolted toward the shop door and ran right into Dean as he came out. He blinked in surprise before his eyes shifted from Buffy to Riley. They each held an intense expression on their face as an uncomfortable silence lulled between them.
Dean drew out a breath at the familiar sight. Once again, he felt like a third wheel.
“Three’s a crowd,” he muttered under his breath.
He nodded toward the Espresso Pump.
“I’m a…going to grab some coffee….”
“No,” Buffy replied firmly. “Riley was just leaving. Right?”
Riley dropped his eyes to the ground and let out a frustrated breath. He met her eyes, looking defeated.
“Right,” he said.
Riley turned and walked back to his team. Buffy bore her eyes into his back. Dean noticed the look of complete exasperation on her face.
“Trouble in paradise?”
Buffy rubbed her face and let out a sigh. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well, no bloodshed, so that’s different.”
Her eyes snapped up to his as she threw a deep glare at him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Forget it,” he said lightly.
She hardened her glare.
“No, I won’t forget it. It’s obvious you have some biting commentary about this so say what’s on your mind,” she barked.
Her face was painted with anger and pain. Dean knew if he uttered one sarcastic word she would surely rail on him.
“It’s none of my business,” he replied softly.
“Well, you always made it your business in the past, so why stop now?”
Dean studied the scowl on her face and gauged the caustic tone in her voice. He noticed she had curled her hands into fists. She was goading him into a fight.
He sighed, “Whatever shit was said back there, just let it go because now is not the time to start taking your digs at me. We’ve got an apocalypse to stop.”
After a long minute, he watched the anger fade from her face and noticed her fighting fists uncurling at her sides. She let out a huge breath as she roped in her shaky emotions.
“Um….yeah, right,” she conceded. “Did you have any luck at the magic shop?”
“No, there’s no spell book on the Word of Valios, so as usual, we’ve got a whole lot of nothing,” he replied.
“Well, maybe Xander and Willow had luck. Let’s head back to Giles’ place.”
After a few blocks, Buffy was grateful she had convinced Dean to walk to town instead of driving. By the time they reached the outskirts of Giles’ neighborhood, she had blown off all her anger.
“You didn’t take the bait,” she replied.
Dean eyed her and noticed the hard lines from her face had softened.
“I tried to pick a fight with you,” she confessed. “But you didn’t bite.”
“I know,” he replied. “That’s issue number four on my list of all things annoying about you.”
He broke into an amused smile. Buffy let out a short gasp.
“Are you serious? You have a list? An actual written list?”
“It’s a mental list,” he admitted.
“How long is this list?”
She probed him with her eyes. He widened his grin.
“Well, how long have I known you?”
Buffy watched him chuckle for a long minute. His smile seemed to disarm her sour mood. She smacked him lightly in the shoulder and exaggerated a pouty face.
“After we stop the end of the world, I’m so writing a tell-all book about your annoying habits!”
“What are you talking about? I’m perfect.”
“Perfectly annoying,” she shot playfully.
As they strolled through the door the apartment, their jovial smiles faded when they saw Xander and Willow tending to a badly beaten Giles. Buffy rushed over to him as Dean noticed the state disarray in the living room. His eyes froze on Spike in the corner. The vampire was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and denim cutoffs.
Dean blinked a few times to see if he was dreaming. When he realized he was awake, he grinned and bolted over laughing.
“Well Alooooooooha!” he replied before breaking into another fit of laughter.
Spike shot him a murderous look, “Oh sod off!”
Dean feigned a look of fright. “Ohhhhhh, I’m soooooooo scared!”
Buffy steered everyone back on topic. “Giles, what happened here?”
“Mmm-my complete error,” Giles stammered. “Th-the Word of Valios was not a spell book. It’s a talisman….I made a grave mistake….I had the talisman here…”
Dean blinked with annoyance. “What? The third item needed to bring forth the apocalypse was in your hands the whole time?”
“I didn’t think much of it at the time,” Giles imparted shakily. “I acquired it at an estate sale, the owner claimed to be a sorcerer but I honestly believed it was a just replica.”
“Well now the demons have everything they need for the ritual. I’m betting they have their sacrifices too,” Buffy said.
“They are most likely en route to perform the ritual,” Giles assessed.
“Please tell me you know where,” she said.
“They are headed to the Hellmouth – under the library – they plan to open it.”
Dean tensed when he heard the revelation. “Are you kidding me?”
“I wouldn’t make light of this,” Giles replied flatly.
“Jesus, this day just gets worse by the minute.”
While Xander and Willow stewed with worry, Buffy shifted into warrior mode.
“Break out the old locker combos guys, cause it’s time to go back to school.”
Buffy followed Dean out to the Impala as Willow and Xander lagged behind. Dean unlocked all the doors as Buffy climbed into the passenger side. After a few minutes, the back door opened as Xander, Spike and Willow piled inside.
“I hate to admit it but – nice set of wheels you got here.”
Dean glanced in the rear view mirror when he recognized the clipped accent. He frowned when his eyes were blinded by a pasty white figure seated between Xander and Willow. He swung around in protest.
“Woah, woah, woah,” he said. “What the hell is Bat Boy doing in my car?”
Buffy joined in on the glaring. “Yeah, what reason does he need to come along? He can’t exactly fight.”
Willow drew a sympathetic eye toward Spike. “Well, we can’t really leave him alone.”
“Uh yeah, you can,” Dean replied. “He’s a vampire, being alone is part of the gig.”
“But he almost threw himself on a stake,” Willow reasoned.
Dean cocked an eyebrow at Spike. “You tried to dust yourself?”
Spike fidgeted in his seat, feeling the heat of humiliation returning. Dean chuckled for a long minute.
“Well, why the hell didn’t you call me? I would have gladly put you out of your misery.”
“Get in line,” Buffy said. “Forget about him for the moment. We need to get a move on.”
Dean fired up the engine and in a quick minute set off toward the high school
Dean pulled up along the curb of Sunnydale high. The building was completely black and charred and surrounded by a high chain link fence. Several signs were posted along the fence with the warning “Condemned Property Keep
“Welcome Back Summers,” Dean quipped.
Buffy eyed him, the reference completely lost on her. Everyone climbed out of the car and slipped through a small
space in the chain link fence. As they crept inside, Buffy precariously eyed the internal structure.
“Watch your step,” she advised. “It looks like this place could go under without much disturbance.”
“Well, that’ll be alright. If I die, all of you will too,” he said petulantly.
Buffy rolled her eyes and glared at Spike. “Just stay out of the way.”
Her eyes shifted to the rest of the group.
“Once we get to the library, keep an eye out for the ones deemed as sacrifices. When you pinpoint them, get them out,” she instructed. “I don’t want you fighting these demons.”
Willow and Xander nodded as Buffy and Dean lead them down the remnants of the hallway leading to the library.
Buffy, Willow and Xander glanced around in awe at the damage. Dean couldn’t help but be a little taken aback by the sight as his own memories of roaming around the high school came to mind. Xander began to make comical notes about the debris when Dean heard his foot crunch down on something. He got a sinking feeling in his stomach as Xander bumped into him and looked at the blackened floor.
“Eugh!” Xander said.
Dean shut his eyes for a second and grumbled under his breath.
“What the hell did I just step in?”
“That’d be the beef of the Dishonorable Mayor himself,” Xander answered. “By the looks of him, he’s a little on the overdone side.”
Dean opened his eyes and let them drift down until he saw his booted foot in a pile of burnt reptile flesh.
“Great, just great,” Dean groaned as he shook the crap off his foot.
The gang bounded around a corner and abruptly stopped when they saw a gaping hole where the library used to be. The three demons that attacked Giles roamed around inside, standing at the base of the opened Hellmouth.
Buffy eyed Willow and Xander.
“Get to the sacrifices, the spell ingredients…” she said.
Willow hitched her head around the library.
“What sacrifices? I don’t see any bloodletting alters or pentagram tables….”
“Maybe they haven’t started the ritual yet,” Buffy replied.
Buffy flung a stake across the room and hit a demon holding the talisman in its hand, knocking it loose. All three demons swung around and quickly charged toward the group. Buffy snapped her eyes at Willow and Xander.
“Go!” she commanded.
Dean fired off a bolt from his crossbow as a demon sailed toward him. The demon roared and tumbled to the ground. Willow scrambled over to the demon and stole away the chalice of blood. Buffy fought her demon hand to hand and after a succession of brutal blows, managed to knock away the bag of child’s bones. The bag flew a few feet away from the fight. Willow frantically crawled over to the bag and snatched it up.
Buffy’s demon counterattacked with full force. She shook off the blows she received and dove back into her fight.
Dean’s demon had quickly recovered from the fall and lunged at him. He went hand to hand with the demon, dodging and delivering his own series of punches.
The third demon took chase after Willow, flailing his arms out at her. Willow ducked out of his hold while continuing to run around the library.
“Xander!” she hollered.
She chucked the items to Xander who swiftly caught them. The demon pivoted toward Xander and charged at him like an angry bull. The keep away game continued a few rounds with the one demon. Xander and Willow exchanged victorious looks. Xander widened his eyes when he spotted a demon charging Willow from behind.
Suddenly, Dean sprung up from behind the demon and got it in a chokehold, drawing it away from Willow. The third demon flung Xander to the ground, knocking the chalice of blood from his hands. Willow ran over and snatched up the chalice. She eyed Spike who was the only one not busy fighting. She called out to him before tossing the items him. Spike instinctively caught the items and noticed the third demon encroaching upon him.
“Oh great,” he groaned.
Dean let out a loud groan when he hit the ground hard. His back rang with pain as his eyes quickly shifted onto the demon he had been fighting. He was surprised that the demon had wandered away. The demon picked up the talisman and swiftly dove into the Hellmouth. Within seconds, the ground beneath began to shake violently.
Dean blinked as awareness clicked in his mind. He whipped around to assess the offensive attack when he spotted something. Just as he was about to yell words of warning, Xander bolted to his feet, having come to the same conclusion.
“Buffy! The three demons are the sacrifices!” Xander yelled.
Buffy looked away for a brief moment, giving her demon the chance to sneak a powerful blow to the head. She stumbled back several feet, feeling quite winded. She nearly fell on her butt when Dean caught her and set her back on her feet. The two of them charged toward the demon.
Xander gasped when he saw Spike raise his demon above his head with a victorious smile. The demon was discreetly clutching the chalice in his hands.
But Spike was lost in his own newfound confidence to hear Xander’s warning. He hurled the demon straight into the Hellmouth. The ground trembled with twice the magnitude as the first sacrifice. The remnants of the walls began to crack and crumble around the gang. Buffy and Dean were immersed in a tag team attack on the last demon when the intense rumbling caused them to pause for a very brief second. Buffy drew a worried look at Willow and Xander.
“You guys need to get out of here now!” she hollered.
Willow and Xander nodded as a large piece of debris cracked from above and knocked Spike down to the ground. Buffy got back in the fight when she saw Dean’s strength was fading fast. The demon seemed to gain strength after the first two sacrifices and showed no sign of weakening. Buffy gave everything she had and was stunned when the demon barely howled. The demon came back fast on her and sent her sailing through the air. Dean jumped on the demon’s back and jammed his knife into its belly. The demon howled as it pitched its body forward, throwing Dean to the ground.
Dean swore he heard every bone in his body breaking when he hit the floor. He slowly rolled onto his side and saw the bleeding demon crawling toward the Hellmouth, clutching the bag of bones.
Buffy was pulled to her feet by a pair of hands. She swung around to see Riley, dressed in full combat gear.
“Are you okay?” he asked with great concern.
Buffy shook off the dizziness swimming in her head. “Yeah, I….”
The intensity of the tremors grew with each second. Buffy steadied herself when the floor beneath began to rumble loudly. She whipped her eyes around and spotted the last demon crawling toward the Hellmouth.
Dean lunged toward the last demon and landed on its back just before it edged over the Hellmouth.
“Where do you think you’re going Claw Boy?”
Dean summoned the last of his strength and threw a hard punch across the demon’s face. The demon wasn’t phased and quickly countered with a head butt.
Dean crumbled slightly feeling the sting of the demon’s powerful attack. Before he could recover, the demon tumbled toward the Hellmouth.
“Oh no you don’t!” he yelled.
Dean locked his hands around the demon’s ankles and struggled to pin it down to the ground. But the demon was too strong and clawed its way over the edge, taking Dean along for the ride.
Buffy gasped in horror and felt her heart stop when she saw the last demon sailing into the Hellmouth with Dean clinging to his back. She frantically hopped over a pile of debris. Riley was right on her heels. She was about to jump in to the Hellmouth when Riley stopped her. She frowned.
“I have to go down there!” she cried.
After a brief second, Riley reached into his backpack and retrieved a thick batch of rope. He began to tie a rope harness around her.
“Then I’m helping you get back out,” he said firmly.
Riley finished securing the line and gave a nod. Buffy swiftly dove inside the Hellmouth.
Buffy saw nothing but darkness as she soared several feet into the Hellmouth. Eerie howls echoed from the depths of the tunnel as the walls around her shook violently. Packs of pebbles and dirt smacked her in the face. After a minute, her Slayer vision caught sight of something in the tunnel. She threw her body weight forward and flung herself into a wall of the tunnel.
Dean was hanging from a small notch in the tunnel wall. He had one hand crooked in the notch and the other firmly gripping the last demon by its scaly neck. He was muttering under his breath when the walls began to tremble fiercely. Pockets of rock cracked and fell around him. A chunk of dirt and small rocks blasted over his face.
“Hey, you okay?” she asked.
Dean stared down at the abyss of darkness with wide, fearful eyes.
“Yeah, I’m good, I’m just….hanging out,” he answered dryly.
Buffy snorted unexpectedly at his attempt to make light of the situation. She kicked her feet out and stepped onto a very narrow ledge. She quickly began tying the demon to her rope line before cautiously edging closer to Dean. She pressed herself against him and flung the rope around the three of them. She pulled taut on the loop, securing the hold.
“You know, I usually don’t mind being tied up with a girl but this….not really what I had in mind.”
Buffy snorted again as she tugged on the rope. She kept one hand curled around the demon and the other on the base of the harness holding everyone. She became acutely aware of just how snug she had tied herself to Dean when she could feel the firmness of his body against hers. She gulped back the heat begging to flood her cheeks when he briefly met her eyes. Dean glanced at the demon.
“This is the freakiest threesome I’ve ever been in,” he quipped.
Buffy snorted a third time before throwing him a disapproving frown. “Is this really the time to make jokes?”
“Hello? I’m dangling in the friggin’ mouth of Hell! Forgive me if I want to distract myself from that reality.”
Buffy noticed his eyes were fixated on the black hole below them.
“Well, just don’t look down,” she replied.
She watched his eyes snap up to meet hers. She saw his eyes glowing with fear and annoyance.
“That’s the most ridiculous piece of advice, you know that? It never works, never!”
With that, Buffy saw his eyes drifting back down to the abyss. She glanced up and saw the opening of the Hellmouth slowly angling closer.
“What is taking so damn long,” Dean grumbled.
“Well, I’m sure Riley’s doing his best but he’s carrying a lot of weight.”
“Oh,” he said. “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have packed away all those doughnuts this morning.”
She frowned indignantly. “Oh, if I had a free hand I’d smack you!”
Dean glanced up to see the light of day and let out a huge sigh of relief. Buffy pushed the unconscious demon onto level ground before pulling herself out of the Hellmouth. Dean followed on her heels and dusted himself off.
Buffy wiggled out of the rope harness and swiftly charged over to him. She smacked the back of his head as she had promised. He gave her a miffed look as she stuck her tongue out at him.
Riley blinked in wonder when he watched the dynamics between Buffy and Dean as they emerged from the Hellmouth. The demon on the ground let out a soft howl before quieting. After a short time, the tremors finally dissipated. Rocks and dirt slowly formed over the large hole in the Hellmouth, sealing it shut.
After the adrenaline flooded out of his system, Dean felt an enormous wave of pain blasting through his spine. He drew a hand to his back and grimaced. He glanced over at Riley as he hovered over Buffy with great concern. After a second, Riley walked her out of the library.
“Don’t mind me,” Dean grumbled. “I just saved the damn world from ending.”
Dean was slow moving as he made his way out of the building. Xander and Willow shot over to Buffy, their faces flushed with relief. Xander and even Spike blinked with shock when they saw Riley in his commando gear. Riley was startled as well when all eyes fell on him. Dean caught up to the group just as Riley stumbled through a cover story.
“Hey…Willow….um, Xander is it? How funny it is running into you guys here. I was in the neighborhood and I thought I heard a noise in there and….”
Xander looked at Riley suspiciously. “You were in the neighborhood in your army costume?”
Riley gave a sheepish smile. “Uh….yeah um…my friends and I…we’re part of a neighborhood watch…we dress up in the costumes for more…impact.”
“Oh,” Xander said. “And here I thought you were part of the commando unit we’ve seen in Sunnydale.”
Riley forced out a laugh.
“Uh….ha ha ha - commando unit?”
Riley shot his eyes around and stopped on Spike.
“You look familiar,” he replied. “Have we met?”
Spike gulped as Riley studied him intently. He attempted his best American accent.
“Um, no, no...I just got into town a few days ago visiting…Xander, we go way back.”
Spike drew a friendly arm around Xander and pried a smile on his face.
Riley nodded, “Oh…I guess I was mistaken.”
Spike nodded a little too enthusiastically. “Yep, yep, honest mistake.”
“Yeah, um….I’ll see you guys around.”
Riley departed in a separate direction as the rest of the group piled into the Impala. Dean released a long groan after he eased into the driver seat.
“If you’re in too much pain, I can drive,” Buffy offered.
Willow swallowed a gasp as she went sheet white upon hearing Buffy’s offer. Dean gave Buffy a disapproving glare.
“I think I’d rather let the Hellmouth swallow me up.”
“I was just trying to help!” she said.
Dean shook his head and started the car. Buffy sunk in her seat and sulked as the rest of the group began to boast about their victory.
MORE TO COME. FEEDBACK APPRECIATED….THE UNION IS A FEW CHAPTERS AWAY. STAY TUNED!