Today I’ll give up Living
Chapter 8: Today I’ll give up Living
Jack cautiously followed the leather ‘God’ through the entrance of the isolation ward. His skilled gaze swept over the cavernous room noting Walker unconscious along the far wall and the blood smears on the concrete were the telling fact that he had been thrown there. Jaxon wasn’t fairing much better with his hand cradled to his chest, gun melded with the tissue as he muttered to himself, gaze vacant.
Jack’s focus then narrowed on Frasier, her dark eyes were wider than usual but she appeared unharmed and some of the tension in his chest eased with that kernel of knowledge. With his people accounted for he allowed himself a quick study of the creature wearing the face of one his soldiers. Wilson’s deceptively delicate form had kicked many an unknowing male’s ass during training sessions and that smiling face was now completely devoid of humanity and the same familiarity of the infinite he saw at times in Illyria’s unwavering stare was now reflected in Wilson’s.
The creature that was standing beside Dr. Evans thrashing form turned toward them fully and Jack ignored the whisper in the back of his mind shouting for him to fire, she’d never suspect a surprise attack. He pushed past his baser urges and allowed the Old One to lead his team—for the moment.
Daniel’s breath eased out at the sight of a completely new life brought forth within one of their people. It blinked and he watched as Illyria took point and brought Connors down to her knees with little effort. A look of pure rapture spread across Erica’s features and she stepped away from Dr. Evans to stand before the Old One.
Her hushed pronunciation of the demon’s name was filled with more hisses vowels than Daniel could ever hope to annunciate without deforming his vocal cords. The creature moved forward and the closer she came to them the more uneasy he felt and Daniel glanced toward Jack to see the muscles in his neck cording. The Colonel’s eyes narrowed as he willingly allowed the threat closer proximity and Buffy shifted between them, slightly before, taking the stance of defender as effortlessly as Teal’c had once upon a time.
Illyria came to one knee and regally bowed her head to the Elder. Buffy’s eyes narrowed as she watched her ally and then hesitantly followed suit, it wouldn’t hurt and it could help to show some respect. Daniel and Jack stayed standing beside her and with a roll of her eyes she reached up a hand to grasp either of their arms and yanked them down. Jack winced as his bad knee connected with the concrete and turned, ready to snap at her until he saw the pleading look she sent him. Buffy mouthed the words, ‘not now’ and turned back to watch Illyria’s interaction.
The Old One’s head remained lowered until she felt a gentle pressure on her crown as Terror splayed fingertips there. A spark flickered at the small contact and swept Illyria into kaleidoscope of emotions. She was suddenly swimming in the fear of the mortals occupying the small space around them and just out of reach was absolution. It hovered above her, perfect and pure as the Elder offered Illyria a place at her side once more. The Old One rose, eyes brilliant with the acknowledgment of Terror as she kept her powerful vise on Connors’ neck and she met her creator’s infinite stare, unflinching.
The void within Illyria’s gaze swept open wide and shown with bits of her essence as Terror reached out, the pure whiteness of her vessel to press a hand along the silver of Illyria’s jaw. Smoothed that hardened fleshed against her own until fingers coiled deep within blue streaked hair and began to twist the locks. She gripped the deadened cells and anchored herself to her child.
“Lord of the Elder.”
Terror’s lips spread with the show of reverence as she used her fisted hand to angle Illyria’s head back. Her brows drew downward as she leaned forward and pressed her face along her creations and inhaled the scent of human grief. It rolled from the Old One, brought forth the useless emotion within her shell.
She released Illyria and watched those startling blue eyes narrow. Terror angled her neck as she spoke, “Humanity has tainted you.”
“As you have tainted humanity.”
Terror blinked, “The Ancients were allowed bits of our essence to be sown within their construct.” She flicked her gaze over the three kneeling humans, her eyes locked on Illyria’s guide. “Some appear to have been given more than others.”
The Old One attempted to shift her Lord’s focus. “I ask a show of favor.”
The Elder brought her neck back around to gaze at Illyria. “Very well.”
“Return this one’s will to speak.”
She brought Connors up and forward, ignored the woman’s shudder under her Lord’s considering gaze. Terror’s lips thinned, “She insults me.”
Illyria nodded her understanding, “This bothers you.”
Terror’s brow furrowed as she tried to comprehend her annoyance with the human in Illyria’s grasp. To allow a mortal thing the power to effect her emotions was inexcusable. To have such emotions was an affront to all that she was. Terror raised a hand to trail her fingertips through the crimson decorating the primitive’s chin.
Connors felt her touch and a burst of cold streamed across her face, forcing her teeth to clench as her skin absorbed the blood thickening on her face and her lips reformed. She opened her mouth and clicked her tongue, eyes going wide as she met the creature’s gaze. “Thank you.”
Terror frowned at the pleasantry, “Leave us.”
Connors flinched and took a hesitant step back, followed by another. Her eyes stayed locked with the Elder’s until she turned and fled the room. Buffy and the members of SG-1 slowly rose after Connors’ departure and Janet watched her with only a little envy as the creature moved back toward Sarah’s unconscious form and the monitors began an uneven rhythm.
The CMO moved quickly forward, ignored the threat Terror posed as she began to try and save at least one of her patients. The Elder stepped closer and watched the steady progressions of the doctor’s hands as she aided the vessel in its useless fight against her sister. The human female fought a battle that was already lost and yet even with the knowledge that her struggle was ineffective, she strived onward. Terror’s head inclined as she felt the first stirrings of amusement with this bit of humanity.
Evans’ frame began the same convulsive dance as Wilson’s and Janet managed to dodge the flailing limbs as she stumbled backwards. The EEG readings plummeted as Sarah’s spine bowed and the straps holding her in place snapped. She gave one last violent spasm and the gurney tilted, falling to its side and wrapping the woman’s frame within white linens.
Buffy darted forward past Illyria’s grasping reach to grab Janet’s arm, pulling her far from the awaking darkness as Dr. Sarah Evans, wife to her high school sweetheart and mother of two, expelled her last breath. The circulated air brought with it the faintness stench of burning as Buffy caught her ally’s eye and inclined her head toward the humans. Janet was gently pushed toward Daniel as the Slayer and Illyria placed themselves before the humans, mindful to avoid blocking Jack’s line of fire.
Sarah’s body lay motionless on the chilled concrete as Terror moved past the never ending chirp of the machines to kneel beside her. She gripped her sister’s shell and turned her onto her back. The limbs moved smoothly, following the commands of Terror as the vessel’s skin began to dry, crack.
The heat from the fires of Despair’s resurrection spread through the remnants of Sarah’s circulatory system. The licking flames churned beneath the vessel’s casing, hardening the inner layer and fracturing the outer. Through the cracks an onyx darkness peered out as large pieces of the husk, that had once been Dr. Sarah Evans, dissolved to ash and Despair’s true form was presented before mortal eyes. Her frame shuddered, loosening more of the vessel’s broken casing and her arms stretched upward. She rose as if pulled by invisible strings; her eyes opened wide, a pair of luminous pearls entrapped in the shadows of her features.
Despair stretched within her new form, the movements lethargic and controlled as she rolled to kneel before Terror who watched her rebirth. Her lips spread slowly, reveling in the feel of flesh moving over teeth. Her hands moved upwards from the chilled concrete to press the darkness of her vessel to the pureness of Terror’s form, confused by her ability to touch but not meld. Frustration roared to the forefront of her thoughts and the vessel’s broken mind whispered knowledge.
Despair’s voice was filled with such rapture that her sister ignored the mortal creatures gazing upon them and followed her vessel’s urges as she placed her hands to her sister’s neck. Their faces shifted, mouths sealing with the faintest sound of marble brushing stone and their tongues dipped forward to chase the other as the pair physically embraced for the first time in the eternity of their existence.
“Ah, now that’s sweet.”
The pair stilled, frightening eyes opening in unison, locking before they turned them on Jack. The Colonel felt the wave of unease roll up from his stomach to burn the back of his throat as their gazes filled with interest and for once in Jack’s long career he actually wished that he had kept a comment to himself. He couldn’t ignore the looks Buffy and Daniel were sending him so he shrugged and raised his P-90 to be held casually at waist level.
Buffy shifted back around to see the curiosity painting Terror and Despair’s features almost human. She didn’t like that their stares were directed at the loud-mouthed Colonel even if he had been nothing but a pain in her rear for the last week. Clearing her throat and trying to draw the Elders’ attention away from snarky males, she spoke.
“Sweet?” She inclined her head and took another step in front of Jack, Daniel and Janet. “Are you sweet? ‘Cause I’m thinkin’ not so much.”
Illyria turned her head to frown at her guide and the false bravado she threw at her creators. Buffy had placed herself along side the Old One and watched, her face impassive as the Elders leeched their way forward, contrasting figures of dark and light.
“Mortal life?” Despair’s voice filled the room with hissing whispers that echoed through the shadows, worming their way into the human’s minds, their hearts. She reached Buffy a moment before Terror and raised a hand to hover inches from the Slayer’s face, confused by the construct of demon and mortal, of darkness and form.
“They rule now.”
Despair turned toward her sister after she spoke, amusement danced its way through her thoughts. Her eyes fluttered closed, shutting out the distraction of the outside for a few bare moments as she absorbed her vessel’s memories. Despair’s head fell forward, incandescent gaze opening slowly so that she stared into Buffy’s narrowed eyes and mocked her.
“Your kind is weak. Weak of flesh, weak of mind. How is it that you
stand before us?”
Terror’s chuckle fell across the room and she trailed a hand through her sister’s coarse hair. As her fingers fell away she stepped between Buffy and Illyria, infinite gaze tracking the rise and fall of the Slayer’s chest. “A world filled with their kind. So corruptible. So very powerless.”
Buffy stiffened as she was placed between the sisters and spared Illyria a glance out of the corner of her eye. The Old One’s head was inclined in thought and something close to confusion had entered her cobalt eyes. And that look meant no one had clapped and Tinkerbelle was dead.
Despair raised her hand to hover above the throb of Buffy’s heart and drew the Slayer’s attention away from her ally to the threat before her. She swallowed as a sudden wash of heat danced its way across her senses and hitched her breathing, forcing it into a heavy pant. Sweat beaded along her spine; fell in rivulets down her flesh to dampen her tank top. Her heart’s tempo increased, pounding beneath her breast as if it were a caged beast, clawing at the confines of her ribcage.
A pained sigh escaped paling lips and Despair pressed herself closer, mouth opening, face angled as if she wished to devour the sound, swallow it down. Her hand settled over the swell of Buffy’s breast, just shy of the heart and the beat pitched upward, her insides alight as pain overrode the heat.
Buffy closed her eyes, blocking out the sight of the radiance that emanated from Despair’s gaze. She swallowed around the pulse in her throat and shivered in the sudden darkness behind her eyelids. The sudden insight that these were the creatures that made mortals fear the coming dark. They made her fear the very darkness within her own body, her own mind.
The muscle working frantically in her chest clenched tight and she set her jaw; ground her teeth to hold back the hiss of discomfort. Hold at bay the satisfaction the creature before her would take with that small admission of her pain and fear. With the small rejection of Despair’s power Buffy felt the darkness behind her closed eyes shift and a sudden cold rose up to chase its way across her vision, down her quivering form. The heat burning inside cooled and her heart sputtered, slowing as the essence of her power rolled to the forefront and Buffy opened her eyes to glare into Despair’s confused features.
“Stay the hell
out of my mind.”
Buffy’s words held a rolling growl and Illyria shifted at the sound, at the power, again held just out of reach and placed herself between Buffy and Despair. Forced her creator to step back and drew that imaginary line between what she once was and what she had become.
Terror gripped Buffy’s shoulders and spun them face-to-face. “What manner of creature are you?”
Buffy ignored the tiny voice whispering to tread carefully and answered. “Your enemy.”
Terror’s grip on Buffy’s shoulders released and the corners of translucent lips pulled back. “You will stand in our way?”
She nodded, defiant. “Yes.”
Terror inclined her head as if she had already come to this conclusion and her lips spread to reveal the onyx darkness hidden by her vessel. “So be it.”
She stepped back and Buffy had a moments understanding to realize the Elder was going to attack. She stiffened, felt Illyria at her back follow suit but the rescue was too slow and she was no match for a creature that had watched the first universe evolve from the darkness. Terror had evolved from that darkness and Buffy had no time to ponder where her sudden flashes of insight were coming from as the Elder’s arm was already a blur taking aim for her face.
Buffy’s arm rose and the bone shuddered as Terror’s swing shoved its way past her defense. Made the block a feeble attempt and the back of the Elder’s closed fist connected solidly with the side of Buffy’s jaw. Her head snapped to the side and she tasted blood as her body became airborne and she collided with the infirmary’s wall.
Concrete and steel bent inward, collapsed around her as she didn’t just hit the wall but went through it. Buffy heard Jack’s startled shout of her name and Illyria begin her attack but she couldn’t raise her head. Couldn’t bring the forth the will to resist the sucking black that welled up around the edge of her eyesight and rolled her under with little protest.
The sun peaked the far off horizon, sweeping the shifting dunes out of the shadows and into the light and in that moment of release Buffy was blinded. She blinked, turning her head away from that shimmering light as a tanned hand rose to shade her face from the heat. Her eyes narrowed as she caught sight of two figures sitting, facing one another in the distance. Their dark forms outlined by the rising sun and she stepped forward, toward them. Sand shifted beneath her bare feet and Buffy glanced down, frowned at the malleable surface.
Her toes flexed, digging into the finely grained mineral, delicate enough to remind her of silt. She knelt, slid her hands into the stone dust and watched it glint through her fingers, remnants of quartz capturing the dawn’s light. She smiled at the sugar soft sensation and glanced up, eyes widening at the sight of the two figures from moments before sitting just before her. She shook her hands free and watched as the first one moved, brought them out shadows and into the light.
Buffy’s lips turned down, her brows following the dip as Jack sat forward, one arm braced across his up turned knee the other leg folded beneath him. He reached out, grasped the onyx shine of his chess piece, wrist twisting above the board. Lean fingers grasped the knight, tossed it to the side to be replaced by his rook. The sand shifted, swallowing the piece as if it had never been and Buffy turned, watched Daniel reach forward.
Her arm shot out, fingers wrapping around his wrist and yanking him away from the marble figures. “They’re not toys.”
“They’re not the threat.”
Buffy shook her head, turned toward Jack. “Then what is?”
The sand beside the chessboard, shuddered, concaved before a sleek head pushed its way through the shifting minerals. The sun reflected off the sliver and white scales as the snake eased its way between the marble pieces toward her. It rose, back arching and Daniel’s arm twisted, yanking her hand from the cobra’s strike.
It hissed in irritation and turned a bottomless gaze on Daniel who stared back at it, eyes narrowing. Jack’s voice drew her attention toward him, “The real threat’s still coming, Summers.”
Buffy shuddered suddenly feeling cold and alone, despite being surrounded by desert heat and her allies. “When?” Her question was a hoarse whisper as the cobra swayed, distracting her.
“Soon.” Her gaze was drawn back to Daniel, who shifted his grip so that he held her hand in the palm of his. “She’s coming and you have to be ready. You have to remember.”
“What has been and what is to come.”
She winced, “What if I can’t? What if I stay here?”
His lips pulled up at the corners and his free hand rose to trace the slope of her cheek. “I have more faith in you than that. And that’s just what you need.”
Laughter and the rustling of paper woke her, pulled Buffy away from the brilliant light and Daniel’s touch. She jerked up, eyes opening wide as her elbow slid across a clay desk and knocked a book to the linoleum-tiled floor. Her head cocked, gaze narrowing on the geometric design gracing the front. A muffled giggle drew her attention away from the Asgard symbols and her head swiveled, lips quirking at the sight of Xander haphazardly doodling across Willow’s notes as she tried to swat his pencil away.
Her best friend turned to her, sent Buffy a pleading look but the green of her eyes was bright and filled with such joy. The very sight of it drew Buffy’s brows down, her lips thinned. Willow didn’t smile like that anymore, not since Tara.
The cheerful question pulled her back into the moment and Buffy grinned, leaned forward and snatched the pencil from Xander. She twisted, hand darting toward Willow’s paper and before the redhead could utter protest a loopy heart with a stake going through the center appeared in the margin of her spiral notebook.
“Hey!” Willow lifted the college rule from her desk and mock glared at the two accosting her work. “Some of us like to pass our classes and thus some of us need to take notes!”
Xander’s lips quirked, eyes shifting toward Buffy before darting back toward Willow. “Did you actually use the word ‘thus’ in a sentence?”
Buffy’s eyes widened, “She did!”
Willow frowned, “Thus is a perfectly fine word.”
“If you’re Giles.”
Willow turned to glare at Buffy and then her eyes widened, a small, evil smile gracing her lips. The blonde shifted nervously, glancing at Xander, then back to Willow as the redhead began in a soft, almost conversational tone. “If somebodies’
wanted to borrow someone’s
notes I’d suggest less mocking and more groveling. Oh and bribery. Bribery is always good.”
Xander grinned, eyebrows rising. “You love us too much to let us fail, Wills.”
Her head cocked, long hair trailing over a striped cardigan. “Maybe.”
“You miss this. Them.”
Buffy stiffened, watched as Xander and Willow began to loose pigment, become washed out. Their conversation, the casual banter faded away, until only muffled static remained. She slid out from behind the small desk and stood, turning around to face Cordelia.
The Ascended still watched Willow and Xander, her head tilted toward them, eyes soft and filled with more emotion than Buffy had ever given her credit. She blinked, visibly pulled herself back and ran a critical eye over Buffy as she slipped past her and headed toward the front of the classroom.
“There’s this nifty thing called moisturizer, Buffy.” She stopped in her stride to smirk over her shoulder. “Just because the world’s going to hell doesn’t mean you should let your skin go right along with it.”
Cordelia’s eyes flicked to the left and Buffy followed her gaze, eyes widening with the sight of a hospital bed set up along the far wall beneath a row of windows. The thin layer of glass and metal kept out the night, stopped the shadows from descending over Faith’s broken form.
“This isn’t right.”
Buffy stepped around the desks, made her way to her counterpart’s side and watched the steady rise and fall of Faith’s impressive chest. The side of her face covered in the remnants of a harsh battle, a battle that had ended years ago.
Buffy blinked, glanced to see Cordy was at her side and watching Faith much the way she had watched Xander and Willow. “She’s awake.”
“Is she? Or does she need to be awoken?”
Her hand rose slowly, fingers tracing whisper light across Faith’s bruised cheek. Her skin felt warm, flushed beneath her touch. Dark lashes fluttered like a captive moth beneath glass, trying frantically to free itself. Buffy frowned, jerked her hand back as Faith’s body became wracked with shudders, the thin straps of leather holding her in place pulled taunt against her struggles as the gurney rocked.
She shook her head, “I don’t know how.”
“You do. You can.”
Buffy shook her head, stepped back, throat suddenly dry. “No. I can’t.” Faith’s chest lurched upward, breath rattling out in steady stream until her eyes opened, sightless. “NO!”
Cordelia’s sharply ordered words narrowed Buffy’s eyes, she spun, arms rising to grip the other woman’s shoulders. She met the Ascended’s saddened gaze and felt a world of rage fill her. “I don’t know how!”
“Let me show you,” and Cordelia touched her face, her mind and Buffy slid from the dream realm, into the present and called out to her counterpart.
Warmth eased its way up from Faith’s stomach, worked its way through her veins and filled her lungs. Brought the cavern around her into crystallized focus and she blinked at the thin layer of cooper dust that covered each rock like a shimmering armor. Her hand reached out, dropping the bottle of water and fingertips made contact with the wall just in front of her. Faith forgot her meal as she trailed pale digits through the colored dust, smeared it and chuckled. A low, delighted sound that pulled a sideways glance from Dawn.
With a shove she pushed herself from the wall and stumbled forward past a now frowning Little D as the coil of warmth acted as a compass and directed her deeper into the ‘Phoenix’ site.
Brown eyes rose, stared at the bird bursting forth from the rough surface as she ignored the worry in Dawn’s voice. The phoenix was claiming the sky that was rightfully hers, an image brought to life by stone and carved lines. The warmth swept her forward, past the cavern entrance and she heard Dawn shout for Willow as her boot covered steps picked up speed. The warmth became licking flames, dancing over her senses, pulling her deeper. She shuddered under the overwhelming euphoria and paused only long enough to smile at the two soldiers guarding the doorway to the temple.
Her voice came out as a soft purr and the two men glanced at one another with raised brows. Faith strolled forward, her hips cutting through the air with practiced ease. She watched their gazes drop and for a split second they lost their game as she reached them. Her hand snaked out, grasped the wrist of the male nearest her and she stepped into him, pulling his arm up and behind her as she arched her back and threw him easily into the wall of hieroglyphs.
The other soldier’s eyes widened as she bent at the waist and sent a boot into his Kevlar covered chest. The air left him with a harsh bark of sound as he collided with the edge of the wall allowing entrance to the main chamber and slid downward. The air rushing back into his abused lungs burned as the brunette absently patted his head as she stepped over him.
“Good boys, now stay.”
Dawn rushed behind the wall of armed men, Willow a step behind with Kennedy leading them. They slowed to a standstill just outside the entrance of the temple and she spared the soldiers placed to guard it a passing glance, as they painfully rose to their feet.
“How the fuck
did I get in here?”
Faith’s disgruntled shout had her darting around Kennedy and between the six men blocking her line of sight. Dawn’s eyes widened, breath drawing painfully outwards as she caught sight of a very pissed off Slayer within the cylinder of light.
Willow said it best, “Well crap.”
The sound of gunfire awoke her, pulled away from the warmth of Cordelia’s tutelage and into the present. Dust coated her mouth, dried her throat and she coughed, shoving at the concrete blocks pinning her to the cold ground. Her world was pain filled and the blood seeping from gash in her forehead had tinted her vision red. She coughed again and winced, rolling her shoulders as she inhaled through her nose and pushed away more of the debris blocking her path to freedom.
It groaned and crumbled away from Buffy, allowed her to rise unsteadily to her feet. She swayed and absently wiped at the blood coating the right side of her face. It smeared and clotted with the dust covering her as she kicked out, knocking more concrete out of her way as she climbed over the small pile and toward the Buffy-shaped hole in the wall.
She paused long enough to survey the wreckage for a possible weapon and her brows rose at the sight of a metal rebar protruding from the pile. She grasped it and tugged, dislodging a chunk of concrete still attached to the end. The bullets died and she winced knowing that Jack and Daniel had finally realized they were useless against this threat. With a shrug and a small glance skyward she absently whispered, “Wish me luck, Cordy.”
She spun and hefted the rod onto her shoulder as she ducked down and stepped through the hole and back into the medical isolation ward. She frowned as she watched Despair and Illyria spin around the room, their movements controlled and graceful as the Old One kept herself between the humans and the Elder. Buffy’s lips thinned as she caught sight of Terror, her head cocked and thin arms crossed loosely beneath her shell’s breasts. Spent bullets surrounded her and the wall beyond, leaving sharp impressions in the concrete and the machinery—that had finally shut up.
Buffy moved silently forward, ignored the startled noise Janet made when she caught sight of her abused form and lifted the metal rod from her shoulder. She twisted her body, took aim and brought the concrete heavy side into the back of the Elder’s head.
It shattered. She sighed.
Terror twisted her head slowly toward the Slayer who offered her bright smile. “Miss me?”
She ducked the Elder’s swing and then rose, brought a closed fist into the underside of Terror’s jaw. She winced as the force of the blow sent shockwaves down her arm and into her shoulder but the pain was worth the shocked look on Terror’s face as she stumbled back a step. Buffy twisted, spinning the now bare bar above her head and brought it forward toward the Elder’s chest.
A colorless hand shot out, grasping the rough metal and halted its momentum. Buffy shrugged and launched herself forward, boot heel catching Terror where the rod had been aimed. She winced when her foot impacted, feeling as if she were striking a steel wall but the Elder stumbled back, releasing her improvised and useless weapon. Buffy blinked, frowning at the rebar and tossed it over her shoulder to land noisily against the ground. She scanned the few humans standing on the opposite side of the room for signs of injury—Janet looked alarmed, Daniel looked pensive and Jack looked pissed. She spared the Colonel a nod before Terror swung at her head.
The impact left the right side of her face numb and she blinked up at the ceiling before managing to roll away from the bare foot aimed for her midsection. The concrete cracked beneath the impact and Buffy lifted her arms and tucked her legs into her stomach before thrusting them up and into the air, flipping her onto her feet and she narrowly missed Terror’s next swing. She spun toward the humans, ignoring Daniel and Janet; instead she focused on Jack, “Side arm!”
Surprisingly the Colonel didn’t argue as he reached for his hoslter and waited for an opening, wincing as Buffy was tossed into a wall. She ducked the fist aimed at her head and it sank easily into the concrete and lodged there. Her own fist struck Terror’s side and the Elder made an unhappy noise as she absorbed the impact and placed her left palm against the concrete to aid in pulling her other limb free.
He spared Daniel a frown, ‘Yeah?”
“Bullets are useless against them.”
“I saw that.”
Buffy managed to dodge out from beneath Terror’s form and placed a heavy kick to the Elder’s lower back, slamming her forcefully into the wall and turned back to him. He tossed her the Berretta, “Safety’s on.”
She nodded, forefinger already slipping over the trigger as her left hand released the safety and she spun away from Terror, took aim down her arm and fired three times. Each bullet impacted Despair’s upper body and Jack swore under his breath as he realized he had been ignoring Illyria’s battle, more concerned with Buffy, and Despair had their other ally pinned to the ground.
Buffy’s distraction was enough and a bloody Illyria pushed a leather-encased fist into her God’s chin, knocking herself free. There was a loud crumbling behind Buffy and her shoulders dropped, a sigh falling past her split lip as she turned to take on Terror.
The Elder cocked her head, ageless eyes narrowed as Buffy raised the Berretta, “That weapon is ineffective.”
She shrugged, “I know,” and fired anyway.
Terror’s head slammed back with the impact and Buffy leapt forward, body checking her into the wall and pushed the gun up and under the Elder’s chin. Turning her head away from the flash as she pulled the trigger until the gun clicked empty and she tossed it aside and brought a closed fist against a smoke marked chin.
“I grow tired.” Terror caught her shoulders and drew her forward, slamming her forehead down into Buffy’s and shoved her away. Forcing the Slayer to stumble back as she darted around the annoyance of a half-breed and came to her sister’s aid. Catching the crook of Illyria’s arm as she raised it to strike, the Elder held the Old One immobile. Cobalt eyes clashed with onyx as the two lost a moment, caught in an ageless battle of wills before Despair struck Illyria in the abdomen, bending her at the waist and brought her face into a bare knee.
Terror tugged Despair free of their collapsing child and placed a gentle hand to her lover’s cheek. Their eyes met, locked and they vanished within a flash of wavering light.
Buffy blinked, stared at the place they had been and her gaze shifted to Illyria, on her knees, shoulders slumped. She turned to find Janet suddenly at her side, a gentle hand cupping her elbow as she watched Jack make his way toward the Old One, his face set in grime lines as he spoke into a walkie-talkie. Her knees buckled and Janet made a startled sound as she shifted, caught Buffy against her side rather than letting the Slayer fall.
“Well that sucked.” She frowned as Daniel pulled her away from Janet and she leaned against him, her head beginning to throb as Illyria rose and wiped at the blood streaking her face. “You look like hell.”
The Old One raised a brow and mimicked Fred’s cheerful voice. “Bite me.”
Buffy snorted and then laughed, withering against Daniel as the inhalation made her chest feel as if a lead weight had dropped onto it. She winced, “I hate broken ribs.”
Jack finally dropped his arm and the black contraption that was still squawking. “Summers, you went through a wall.”
She shrugged and let Daniel take more of her weight, his legs shifted, spreading to accommodate her weight. “Not for the first time.”
He blinked and Daniel’s arms tightened, “The General wants us in the briefing room.”
They turned toward Janet and she glared at them, “Illyria and Miss Summers need medical attention. You said so yourself, she went through a wall. I’ll send them to you once I’m done.”
“Colonel.” Her eyes narrowed, “I am not allowing them to leave my sight until I’ve satisfied that they are in working order. Tell the General I’ll escort them myself afterwards.”
Jack opened his mouth to argue but paused, brown eyes shifting to Summers and her still bleeding head wound. His gaze dipped, taking in the fact that Danny was holding her up and he winced at the condition of the knuckles of her left hand, the only hand he could see at the moment. His shoulders dropped, “Alright.”
“Good.” She turned to Daniel, her voice brisk and leaving no room for argument. “Dr. Jackson if you’d escort Miss Summers to the infirmary.” She turned on her heel and shot the Old One a pointed look, “Illyria please follow them.”
Her head cocked, blue tinted lips quirking before she turned to Buffy and stated, “She amuses me.”
Janet’s brow rose and she stepped back as Daniel passed her and motioned for Illyria to pursue them. A narrow chin lifted as the Old One strolled past her, the groan of her leather armor almost comforting after what had she had just witnessed. Janet’s face dropped into her hands and she inhaled slowly twice before lifting her head to see Jack watching her.
She raised a hand, “I believe you have a debriefing to attend, Colonel.”
He nodded. She left.