Methos watched as Buffy paced restlessly and angrily around the Magic Box. Giles had just returned with Spike. Strangely enough, the vampire seemed almost as angry as the Slayer, and was hovering protectively over Dawn -- who was warily tracking her mother's movements --. The two witches were off in a corner looking up the city plans for the drive-in on Willow's laptop. They had only six hours before the allotted time of the challenge to come up with a plan to save Angel.
The Ancient Immortal remembered when they had called Angel's group an hour ago, and they're reactions. The most vocal argument that had followed had been between Cordelia and Buffy.
We're coming down there to help. "No!" What do you mean 'no'?! We're coming and that's it! "With you guys here, there would be too many people...and I don't know how you guys work as a team. Since I don't know that, I won't know where to put you in my plan. The others I know, and can put them in without fear that they will mess-up."
Methos recalled how Buffy's cold logic had won out over Cordelia's irrational need to be here in the end. Although, they had had to promise to call them the moment everything was finished.
As everyone but Willow and Tara watched the enraged Slayer finish her fiftieth circuit around the shop -- they knew it was that many as Methos had been bemusedly marking on a chalkboard beside him each time she passed him --, Willow called out excitedly, "Got it!"
Instantly, Buffy stopped pacing, and everyone looked at Willow. Moments later, the city plans were printed out, and all were standing around the back table looking at them.
"The most logical place for them to hold Angel would be the manager's office and employee's rec room," Methos said as he pointed to said location.
There were murmurs of agreement all around.
"Ethan will most likely be waiting for you, Buffy, in the middle of the car-park," Giles supplied, as he too pointed to the location he spoke of.
Buffy nodded, then said, "Ok, guys, here's what I have planned...."
The black convertible pulled up to the entrance of the drive-in with its top down, and the lights off.
Spike parked the car, and turned the ignition off as he said, "I 'ave to admit, the Great Poof 'as taste!"
"Please don't call him that," Buffy said in annoyance.
"Although...'e's always 'ad good taste -- even if it's toned down now than it was in 'is soulless days --," Spike said thoughtfully, as though he hadn't heard Buffy.
As Buffy was about to make a rude comment, Adam cleared his throat. Spike grinned in amusement, as the ancient Immortal said, "I recommend you say nothing, Buffy. We don't want them to know we are here yet...and at the rate you two are going, they will
The chipped vampire watched as the eldest Slayer's expression turned dark. It reminded him of a time not long after he had been Turned, when Angelus had gone on a rampage. He did not remember the cause of his Grandsire's anger, only that he had not
been at fault...that
With a curt nod, Buffy said, "Right. I want Angel safe and away from Darla and Dru. We can't do that if we just sit here arguing."
With those words, Buffy, Spike, Adam, Dawn, and Eve climbed out of the car. Silently, they retrieved their weapons, and moved towards their destination.
Spike was scowling as he came back from scouting out the area. When he came in sight of the group, Buffy asked in a strained voice, "Well?"
Tightly, he said, "It's not good Slayer. There're thirty vampires and fifteen demons keeping watch over me Grandsire." He looked down, then back up, his face grim. "Dru and Darla are torturin' 'im senseless.... I couldn't even tell if 'e's awake or not. All I can say is that 'e's pretty bad off -- even for 'im --, and 'e'll soon be beyond 'elp at the rate they're goin'."
The vampire watched as the eldest and youngest Slayers held hands in a desperate grip, their faces beyond white. The mortal Slayer beside them was thin-lipped, her emerald green eyes dark with some unknown emotion...rage and fear were on the top of Spike's list of possibilities. The Immortal was gazing out at nothing, clearly in deep thought.
After a moment, Adam nodded and focused on everyone, saying, "That equals out to each of us fighting nine apiece. But knowing how such creatures fight, the odds will be a lot more uneven."
Buffy nodded agreement, before saying, "That's why I want you guys to fight in teams of two. Dawn, you're with Spike. I like how you two work together. Adam -- as you volunteered -- you will be fighting with Eve."
"What about you?" Dawn asked as she gazed worriedly at her mother.
Smiling thinly with no humor, the eldest Slayer said, "My fighting partner is being tortured to death at the moment, so I'm going it alone. Believe me when I say that they wont know what hit them when I get there and see Angel." If she only knew how true that will be. I didn't tell her how bad off he was
, Spike thought darkly.
His body was nothing but a flame of agony. He knew that they were doing things to him, but he could no longer feel individual injuries, for his entire body was one enormous wound. Not one inch of him was untouched. He knew he would not last much longer. As wound was placed upon wound, a sensation that was not pain slowly made itself known. Distantly, he recognized the feeling, and knew that only one being in existence could make him feel that way. As though in a dream, he heard the enraged battle cry of his beloved.
As she had promised, the moment Buffy laid eyes upon Angel, the rage she had barely held in check since reading the note concerning her mate broke free of its constraints. As though one possessed, the eldest Slayer unsheathed her sword, and screaming her hatred and rage, decapitated three vampires with one stroke of her sword. Before the dust could even begin to settle, she lunged forward, and decapitated another vampire while staking its companion. As her cry of agonized fury ended, two demons found themselves cut in half by the sword the Slayer welded.
Stunned silence fell, as Buffy stopped in their midst, her breath hard, eyes wild, and lips pulled back in a snarl.
As all were focused on Buffy, Spike, Dawn, Eve and Methos slipped into the room unnoticed. Splitting into their respective pairs, they attacked.
Pandemonium ensued, as an all out war began.
A sneer upon his lips and his eyes virtually golden, Methos fought savagely with the demon before him. He was dimly aware of the Slayer who fought by his side. As he pierced the creature's heart, he glanced at Eve. She was fighting two vampires at once, and he could tell that that was the limit of creatures she could handle at one time. She has a long way to go yet
, he thought as he turned back to face the three vampires in front of him.
Dawn had just staked her second vampire, when Spike was thrown against her by three others. Practically growling as Spike did
growl, she quickly stood -- barely avoiding the knife that would have been in her side --.
As one, Dawn and Spike lunged forward, each staking one vampire.
Buffy was a maelstrom of motion, as she fought her way to Angel. Two demon bodies and five vampires' worth of dust littered the direct path she was making. Through the haze of red that colored her vision, she could see Darla waiting for her with a sword to Angel's neck. You will pay for what you have done to my mate...Bitch!
the eldest Slayer thought fiercely, as she savagely cut down a vampire and demon in the same stroke.
One more demon lay dead behind him, as the last vampire in his reach exploded into dust. Another demon was coming towards him, but he had just enough time to once again check on Eve.
The young Slayer had a nastily bleeding cut along the side of her face, and seemed about ready to collapse, as she fought the extremely large demon in front of her.
The ancient Immortal frowned as he readied himself for the twin demon of the one Eve wearily fought. She's going to be another short-lived Slayer. Too bad...she had great potential.
Dawn watched wide-eyed from the ground as Spike swiftly twisted the neck of the demon that was about to cut off her head. The now dead demon fell down limply besides its already slain companion. As the chipped vampire sneered at his conquests, Dawn noticed the demon sneaking up behind him.
With instincts she didn't even know she possessed, Dawn grabbed the sword sticking out of the demon beside her, stood -- lunging forward as she did so --, shoved Spike to one side, pierced the demon in its stomach, then -- with a scream of anger -- moved the sword up through the body...until it became stuck in the skull. Drawing breath quickly, she jerked the sword free of the demon's body.
For what felt like eternity, the young Slayer gazed at the sword she held, then slowly shifted her gaze to the corpse of the demon she had just slain. So. This is why we are called Slayers
, Dawn thought numbly.
A moment later, the sword clattered to the ground as she collapsed to her knees...vomiting, Spike standing guard over her.
The silence of death fell suddenly, as the last vampire became dust. No more stood in the enraged Slayer's way to her mate...but Darla and Drusilla.
Behind her, the sound of gagging stopped, as Dawn got shakily to her feet. Seemingly as one, all on Buffy's side moved to stand behind her.
Before the warriors, Dru swayed as though mesmerized, humming giddily. Beside the insane vampire, Darla stood -- still holding the sword to Angel's unprotected throat --, her eyes colder than ice.
"Pity," said the remade vampiress -- her voice as cold as her eyes --. "I thought that would be enough to stop you. Seems I didn't take into account how much your emotions determine how powerful you are."
Buffy's eyes were fixed on the sword that Darla held, as she said lowly -- with death in her voice --, "Release him."
With a sneer, Darla said, "I think not! I am not yet finished with him."
The fire within Buffy's eyes seemed to grow, as she shifted her weight to the balls of her feet. Quietly the Slayer said, "There's an interesting fact that you should know about me, Darla...two actually. One: I have in my possession all
the memories of fighting techniques of past Slayers. Two: Nobody -- and I mean nobody
-- messes with my husband!"
Before Darla could even begin
to react, Buffy leapt into the air, flipped over the vampire, and as she landed on her feet, swiftly disarmed said vampire. All this was done within the matter of seconds.
Stunned, Darla gazed at the sword placed against her own throat, then at the sword pointed at Dru.
"That's not possible!" Darla whispered hoarsely.
"Then I am able to do the impossible," the Slayer said coldly.
She glanced at Drusilla, then Spike, before saying, "Spike, I'm leaving Drusilla to you. Deal with her however you want."
Spike nodded, before walking over to his Sire. Drusilla gazed at him sadly, before murmuring, "My Spike. I 'ave lost you. You belong to them
now.... I smell my sister on you!"
Grimly, Spike clutched the stake in his right hand, as he said, "I once loved you. But this past year I 'ave learned to love another."
He glanced at Buffy, then Dawn, then looked directly into his Sire's eyes. "I give you one chance, Dru. Leave this town, and never return. We are through."
The understanding in the insane vampiress' eyes was terrifying, as she said, "Baby 'as grown up. No more can we play." She tilted her head to the side, and then said in an eerily sane and haunting voice, "We will meet again when death no more touches our family, and the swords have been given."
With no more words, Drusilla turned around, and walked away.
As the vampiress disappeared from view, Spike whispered, "Farewell, Sire."
Buffy's eyes had remained focused the entire time on Darla, as Spike did what she had asked. She remained motionless for a moment after Drusilla left, then moved. As though she were in a hypnotic dance, the Slayer walked around until she was behind her prey, sword still at the vampiress' throat. Slowly she stepped forward until she was flush against Darla, her other hand holding the blade of the sword...effectively trapping her prey -- the only escape being death --.
Placing her lips beside Darla's ear, the Slayer whispered quietly, "How does it feel: to be the Prey, and not the Hunter, hmm?"
"Terrifying," Darla choked out.
Buffy's expression hardened, before she said curtly, "Good."
, removed the sword from Darla's throat, and shoved her.
As Darla staggered, then turned around quickly with her vampiric face on, she suddenly found herself impaled in the stomach. All she could do was grunt before the sword rose swiftly with savage fury through her body and out of her head. Before she could even start
to turn into dust, she was beheaded.
Stunned silence accompanied Darla's remains falling to the ground.
The pain still blazed through him, but he could sense that something had changed. A moment later, he felt the gentle and soothing touch of his beloved. She was calling to him, begging him to open his eyes and look at her.
Using the many techniques he had learned in his centuries in Hell, he embraced the pain consuming him, and made it a part of who he was. Minutes passed, before he slowly opened his eyes. Above him, a golden cascade of hair framed his wife's face.
With great effort, he breathed out his beloved's name. "Buffy."
Tears falling down her face, the Slayer smiled weakly. At that moment, Angel felt the overwhelming need
to touch and feel his beloved. Something of his want must have shown itself, as Buffy very carefully and gently took his right hand, and placed it against her face -- kissing it softly as she did so --. The feel of her broke something within him, and he suddenly knew that he was crying.
He was beyond exhausted, when he stopped, Buffy gently and soothingly holding him within her embrace.
As he lay there, he heard Buffy whisper as she wiped the tears from his face, "Sleep, my Angel, you are safe now."
He fell into oblivion with Buffy's lips softly pressed against his brow.
Once she knew Angel had completely fallen to sleep, Buffy looked up at the others. Her expression grave, she said, "Dawn, Spike, Eve, you know what to do: take the car, and take him to the Magic Box."
Dawn nodded as she knelt down beside her father. Spike followed suit as Buffy stood up. Carefully they shifted the souled vampire between them to hold him in a human chair of sorts, and rose to their feet. Silently, they carried Angel out of the building, Eve following and keeping watch for any surprises.
Methos looked on as the Slayer watched after her husband until she could no longer see him. A dark looked of determination shown from her eyes as Buffy turned around to gaze at him. He could tell that she was running on sheer willpower alone right now...and it made him make a decision that he would probably later regret making.
Buffy watched as Adam's expression changed to one of firm conviction.... She did not like it, and what the Immortal said next confirmed it.
"You are not going to fight him...I am."
The anger that lay simmering just beneath the surface once again roared like a wildfire to the surface as she snapped, "Like Hell
you are! He's mine! That...man
has messed with me and mine one too many times. This time...there will be no
coming back for him!"
Methos' eyes flashed with his own anger as he practically growled, "You're not ready!"
Buffy's eyes seemed to glow with the power of her rage, as she snarled menacingly, "Oh...I'm ready. You're just not ready
to accept that I am!" "You are in no condition to be fighting him!"
"I'M IN PERFECT
CONDITION TO BE FIGHTING HIM!"
Methos stepped threateningly into Buffy's personal space, as he whispered harshly, "Really? Tell me: How
are you ready to face him?"
Refusing to be intimidated, Buffy said firmly -- knowing she was right --, "First: I have reserves of strength and stamina that I have yet
to touch. Second: According to the rules that you
gave me...this is my
Challenge, not yours. You have no say in this. I
am the one being Challenged, not you."
Methos' eyes flicked downwards in acknowledgement to what the Slayer had said. She was right...but she was also wrong.
Suddenly calm, he said softly as he looked directly into her eyes, "You are correct, Buffy. This is your Challenge, but you are also wrong. I do
have some say in this."
"How?" was the curt reply.
"This has not happened often, but just enough times to make it a rule. I will be your second, Slayer. Should you lose the Challenge, I will then Challenge your Challenger."
Buffy felt shocked to the very essence of her being. From what she had learned from various people about this Immortal -- and what he himself had said --, she knew he wouldn't do something like this for just anybody.... There had
to be a reason behind his offer.
Voicing her thoughts, she asked, "Why? Why would you do this for me?"
Seriously and humorlessly, Adam said, "First: I don't want Angel coming after my
head should I not at least
attempt to take down the one who took you
down. Second: I would say your Quickening is the most powerful in existence. I don't want any but those who are definitely
on the side of the Powers That Be to have it. Third: It is my duty
as a Warrior for the Powers That Be to make sure that that man doesn't get your Quickening. Fourth: You are my student. Fifth: There are very few Immortals -- and mortals -- whom I call friend, and you are among them. I will do everything in my power to protect -- or avenge -- those that I hold close to my heart."
For several minutes, she just stared at her teacher -- face expressionless --, then closed her eyes and bowed her head to hide her tears.
The mist on the ground was thick, and Ethan could barely see fifty feet beyond where he stood. He knew he had chosen the best spot for the Challenge as he could: secluded and no one would question what they might see here. He gazed at his watch. The Slayer had only five minutes left before the time he had ordered the vampires to kill the souled vampire.
At the same moment that he lowered his arm, he felt the familiar sensation of an Immortal. He turned to gaze in the direction that the sensation was coming from, and drew in breath sharply at what he saw.
As though she were part of the very darkness and mist, the Slayer slowly walked towards him. She wore all black, golden hair flowing loosely down her back. Her outfit consisting of tight leather pants, mid-calf heeled boots, and a form-fitting tank top. The sword she would use in their Challenge was strapped across her back, the hilt glinting in the moonlight.
Only when she was ten feet away from him did the mist seem to relinquish its hold on her. Five feet away she stopped, folded her arms defiantly across her chest, and leaned back on her heels, head tilted to one side.
"I'm here," was all the Slayer said.
Inwardly regaining his composure, Ethan nodded, then said, "So you are, Slayer. I hope you enjoyed the wonderful chaos that your vampire left behind when I went to retrieve him."
Buffy's lips thinned as she thought, So, we're going the small talk route, huh? Fine...two can play this game.
Forcing herself to smile, she replied false-cheerfully, "Oh, just fine. Did you enjoy the nice indent that my husband made in your minions? How many did he kill before he was overwhelmed? Twenty? Thirty? Forty? There were too many body parts to tell for sure."
She watched as Ethan scowled before saying, "If you must know: fifty-five, which was a little over half of my force...and as you could tell, they were all demons."
Buffy blinked as her lips parted slightly. She knew that her husband had become a force to be reckoned with by what she had heard about him from others, but she had not understood until now what they had meant.
"So," she said around her shock, "those demons knew they were walking into my home to die, and they still went and fought Angel."
Buffy knew that she had struck a cord, when Ethan said abruptly, "Correct. But enough about my former minions, let us do what we came here to do, shall we?" About damned time
, Buffy thought as she stood straight, and pulled her sword from its sheath across her back. Ethan followed suite, as he pulled his own sword out of his trench coat and discarded said item of clothing.
As they stood facing each other, Buffy said quietly -- her voice deadly --, "There's something you need to know, Ethan. Something that even the Taraka Order learned: Anybody who messes with my people -- and especially
my mate -- will pay for what they have done.... I will show you no
With those words, she moved forward to strike Ethan, to only find the blow deflected.
Ethan grunted, and watched as sparks flew from where their swords met. Bloody Hell!
, he thought in shock as he saw a nick in his blade as the Slayer moved away from him, bouncing with suppressed energy. This sword is magically enforced! That shouldn't happen!
From a distance, Methos watched the two Immortals dual, dread beginning to twist his gut with certainty as an obscenely large amount of time passed. Something is wrong. He should not be able to stand against a Slayer like he is...especially this long. His sword alone should not be able to withstand the blows it's taking. He must be using magic.
As Buffy barely avoided a cut intended for her neck, he remembered what he had said to Tara only four days ago: the final outcome will be decided by Buffy, but I must be there to help
. He knew that now
was the time that he needed to do what was necessary.
With great urgency, he grabbed his phone, and dialed the Magic Box's phone number, thinking, I'm not interfering. I'm only aiding her in an unfair Challenge to make it more even.
On the fifth ring, the answering machine picked up. As the machine beeped, he ground out, "One of you bloody people pick up the bloody phone and talk to me now
if you want your precious Slayer to live!"
Instantly, he heard the sound of the phone being fumbled, arguing, and then Tara say breathlessly, "What's happening?"
"Just the person I wanted to talk to," he said tensely. "I need you to do a spell to banish enchantments in a specific area. That bloody Immortal she's fighting is using spells to make himself stronger than her, and I will not allow it!"
Shocked silence fell, then Tara said quickly, "Understood." "Good,"
was all he said before turning off his cell phone.
He looked back at the two Immortals fighting, and noticed how Buffy seemed to be adding even more force than she had been to her blows. He had a sneaking suspicion that the Slayer had heard his conversation with Tara.
Sparks continued to fly, as blade crashed against blade. Both Immortals taking wounds that healed instantly, neither giving ground in their dance to the death. In a moment when both paused as they glared at each other over their crossed swords, a brilliant light flashed above them momentarily...causing both to back away from each other.
Ethan gasped, as he unexpectedly fell to his knees, his face ashen with a suddenly overwhelming exhaustion. In his hand, his sword shattered. Stunned, he dropped the hilt and gazed numbly at Buffy. What he saw terrified him.
"No," he whispered. "It cannot be!"
Buffy stood in front of him, her sword pointed directly at his throat. The blade that had been iron now was crystal. A pale blue color seemed to shift and move just like water within the crystal.
Her eyes promising death, the Slayer said quietly, "But it is. You weren't the only one using enchantments." She nodded at her sword. "I know you know what this sword is, but I'll say it anyway. It's a Sword of Light...the water element to be specific. This sword -- and three others like it -- only the Champions for the Powers That Be can use." Her eyes seemed to grow even deadlier, as she whispered, "And now: you die Ethan."
The Immortal Sorcerer shook. Only now did he understand the forces that he had been playing with all these years. // No wonder I never seemed able to kill her. \\, he thought dumbly, as he watched the crystal sword rise, then rush towards him.
In what was possibly the most haunting dance of elements that he had ever seen, Methos watched as the mist surrounding the Slayer seemed to shift and roll, moving towards her. The mist swirled around the Slayer, as the blue lighting of Ethan's Quickening slowly rose.
The Quickening lanced across the ground as though angry to be released from where it had resided all its existence. Sparks ignited the dry weeds around Buffy, yet she did not move from where she stood.
A wind suddenly blew around her with gale force strength, yet she did not even stagger to stay upright. It was as though she herself was part of this deadly play of elements.
The Slayer slowly raised her sword above her head, her eyes closed. As though it were a signal, the Quickening struck. Buffy's body arched, as she threw back her head and screamed.
Pain engulfed her as memories not her own battled for dominance within her mind. For what seemed like hours -- but was in truth only minutes -- the battle raged. In the end the Slayer won, as she collapsed exhausted to the ground. She numbly registered the Immortal presence coming towards her, but somehow knew that she did not need to fear for her life. Gently, arms lifted her up, and carried her away from her first Immortal battle. Moaning faintly, she allowed herself to fall into the welcome darkness awaiting her.