DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Well, the baddies are mine. OK, Cortina’s mine, too. But everything else really is his. Too bad.
SUMMARY: Celie has contained Spike in the Hound’s stables, while Buffy and the Scoobies have come face to face with Daymon in Cortina’s lair.

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Chapter 23: Blood Battles

This was not how she’d hoped it would come down. First of all, he wasn’t supposed to be a demon. The man who’d arranged her abduction was a too-soft, too-privileged, too-oozy Onassis wannabe, while the…thing that confronted her now was as far from that as you could possibly get. Disabling Daymon should’ve been startlingly simple; this demon was lethal, with menace dripping from his every sinuous move, his every muscular curve. She had no idea how or when this metamorphosis of his had happened, but at least one good thing was going to come of this. Now, Buffy thought grimly, I can just go ahead and kill him.

Watcher viewed Slayer, and Giles’ eyes narrowed. It probably wasn’t obvious to any of the others that she’d relaxed her hold on the crossbow, but to the man who’d spent the last five years training her, honing her skills, molding the perfect weapon against evil, the movement was as glaring as if she’d dropped it to the ground. Somehow, she knew this demon…it knew her…and now they faced off with each other, each armed, each dangerous, both deadly.

“Probably should’ve warned you about that desert sun,” Buffy said. “I’d suggest a good skin cream, but I’ve a feeling, it’s a little too late for that.”

“Do not suppose that sarcasm will protect you from your destiny,” Daymon elided.

“No, I’m thinking that killing you is going to do that for me just fine,” she retorted, her finger simultaneously squeezing the crossbow’s trigger.

The arrow whistled through the air, a featherweight missile slicing toward its target. Its aim was true and sure, and by all rights, should’ve embedded itself deep into the demon’s flesh. Instead, the sword came up, deflecting it in a single lightning move, causing the arrow to ricochet harmlessly into an adjoining corridor.

The surprise in Buffy’s eyes caused Daymon to chuckle. “I am afraid you won’t find me quite as…sluggish as I was in my human form,” he said. He swung the blade lazily in front of himself, criss-crossing the air with an ominous swish.

The Slayer let the weapon drop to her waist. His reflexes were incredible; she hadn’t even seen the sword move. If he could do that every time, this sort of attack would never work. “So do you still go by Daymon?” she chatted. “Or do you have some special demon name I should call you?” As she spoke, Buffy casually maneuvered herself between her adversary and the Scoobies, serving as a shield in case he chose to target them next.

Her action did not go unnoticed. “Your friends do not have to be at risk,” the demon oozed. “Give yourself over to me right now, and they can simply walk away unscathed.”

Buffy brightened. “Really? Why didn’t you just say so?” She swiveled to face the gang. “You heard him. Don’t wait up for me.” With a liquid motion, she tossed her weapon at Giles, who caught it single-handedly in mid-air, a frown worrying his brow. His mouth opened to argue with her, only to snap shut as…

…she feinted left, then broke into a run around the far side of the scaled demon. Godzilla may be fast with the weapon, she’d decided, but there’s no way he could match her on foot. If she couldn’t kill from a distance, then it was better to be up close and personal…

Although she’d skirted him on the side opposite his sword, the Slayer hadn’t anticipated the length of his tail emerging from the corridor, swinging around to slam into her abdomen, sending her flying against the stone wall. The dust from the ceiling crumbled into her hair as it cracked behind her, and she landed on her feet, winded and slightly sore, but still vertical.

“I don’t wish to hurt you,” Daymon explained. “This will be much easier for both of us if you’d just come quietly.”

“Sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “Always been a Big Bang kind of gal.” And gotta remember to avoid that tail, she reminded herself.

Launching herself through the air, the Slayer angled her leg into a kick, twisting her body so that she could connect with his jaw from above and to the right. It worked, snapping his head in a clean jerk, but not before the sword had come up, its tip slicing her calf, drawing a thin line of blood. Buffy rolled away, sweeping her foot beneath his, sending him to one knee as she crouched just out of his reach.

They regarded each other warily. The heady aroma of the blood trickling down the Slayer’s leg ignited Daymon’s senses, his tongue darting out to lick his lips, nostrils flaring in hunger. “I find myself jealous of your vampire,” he said thickly. “He is most fortunate to have tasted the Chosen One.” His eyes flicked over the Scoobies behind her. “I do not see him among your friends. Perhaps your attempts to save Spike’s life were for naught after all. Was it worth his feeding from you only to watch him die anyway?” Although he knew the blond vampire had survived long enough to at least be captured, the demon also suspected that the topic of Spike---his feeding, his potential demise---might be enough to spur the young woman into making a mistake by acting rashly, in the heat of anger.

The flush crept up her neck, warming her cheeks. She knew what he was attempting, and the frustrating thing was, it was working. Between flashes of worry about her lover’s safety and the growing fear about her friends learning the truth, Buffy’s emotions threatened to overwhelm her. Only one way to stop thinking about it, she thought, and threw herself into the battle.

“Wow,” breathed Willow, her eyes wide at the new revelation. Around her, the group was frozen, each in his or her own personal shock at the demon’s admission, as they watched the combat unfold before them.

For Xander, the surprise was combined with a slight sense of relief as the real reason for Buffy’s emphatic reaction to his betrayal unveiled itself. Somehow, some way, she reciprocated some if not all of Spike’s feelings. She had to; that was the only way she would ever allow a vampire to feed from her. Her past with Angel only proved that.

Even though they knew about the Slayer’s true feelings, the two witches were as stunned as their companions. After the debacle with Riley, they would’ve expected any association with humans feeding vampires to have turned her off. However, the demon had said that it had happened as an attempt to save Spike’s life. Did Buffy’s feelings for him really run that deep?

It was her Watcher who was the hardest hit by the news. As much as he may want to deny the existence of any positive feelings between his charge and the ex-Big Bad, Giles knew that that possibility was now out of the question. To share in such an intimate exchange, to risk her future as well as her own life, Buffy had to love the vampire more profoundly than anyone suspected. He had no idea how it had happened; the two had been fighting like cats and dogs since Spike’s first arrival in Sunnydale, trading barbs and punches with more passion than any other enemy she had faced. Even after he was chipped, her fervor in dealing with the demon hadn’t diminished, and, on more than one occasion, the Watcher had noted with pride that she refused to allow herself be taken in by Spike’s somewhat domesticated behavior. Still…

He watched the pair fight at the other end of the grotto. Although Buffy was getting her hits in, dodging Daymon’s direct blows, he was still managing to reach her with the sword every once and a while, creating little nicks---one on her arm, another on her shoulder---and drawing just enough blood for her to feel it. He seemed slightly staggered by the force of the Slayer’s attack, but he had yet to take any serious damage. In fact…

Giles’ eyes narrowed. If he didn’t know better, he almost would have believed that the scaled demon was merely playing with the young woman, forcing her to tire herself out before going in for the kill. He’d claimed not to want to hurt her, and as much as he didn’t want to believe it, the Watcher thought that it might actually be true. Perhaps that would work to her advantage…

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There had been nothing. Sagging against the wall of the pen, Spike’s head dropped into his hands and he closed his eyes as the reality of his prison sank in. The witch had made it impenetrable, and without the amulet they’d used to escape Daymon’s, there was no way he was going to be able to get out on his own.

“Did you honestly believe that I would allow you to escape after everything I have gone through just to get you here?”

Celie’s deep voice jerked Spike to his feet. There was no way he was going to let the bitch see him in such a vulnerable position, not while there was still the possibility of his getting away. “Can’t blame a bloke for trying.”

Her face darkened in rage. “It’s disgusting,” she spat. “How she can allow herself to consort with you, I don’t understand. Humans and demons do not mix. This Slayer of yours is an abomination of nature---.” She cut herself off as his game face slid into view, a snarl curling his lips. He stared at her, golden eyes glittering, daring her to continue, and she found herself shrinking back in spite of the knowledge that he was both contained and that he couldn’t hurt her even if he wasn’t.

“Don’t.” His single-word warning chilled the air, and Celie felt the familiar shiver of hatred down her spine.

“I will be glad when I am finally rid of you,” the witch managed.

His eyes narrowed. “Yeah,” he drawled. “About that…” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lit up. “I thought your boss had it hot for Buffy. Why the hell are you dragging my undead ass back to him?”

“This is not for Daymon. I captured you for my own purposes.”

His eyebrow lifted in amusement as his game face disappeared. “Really? Didn’t know I was that interestin’. Must be the English thing. You birds are always suckers for the accent.”

It was all she could do not to contain her revulsion at his attempts to charm. “Don’t flatter yourself, demon. I only want your blood.”

He hesitated as he lifted the cigarette to his lips. “I do hope you’re bein’ all figurative,” he said, taking a drag. “’Cause I don’t see you enjoyin’ the whole vampire gig.”

This time, she smiled. “No, I’m very much interested in your literal blood,” she explained, a smug note of satisfaction in her voice. “It will serve a very special purpose.”

“Only one thing a vamp’s blood is good for,” said Spike, exhaling a long stream of smoke. “And, hate to break it to you, but siring you is at the bottom of my Christmas wish list.”

Her laughter filled the close space of the stable. “I do so look forward to proving you wrong.” Celie’s black eyes grew darker. “Your ability to walk this plane for over a hundred years will serve me well. I am convinced that the power in your lifeforce will be more than sufficient for my needs.”

He had no idea what the witch was talking about, only that the certainty in her expression was more frightening than any words she might utter. What did she know that he didn’t? After a century of living the high and low life of a vampire, Spike could’ve sworn that he had it all figured out. Drink, kill, torture, mayhem…an existence based on violence…creating others when the mood struck…his blood could serve no other purpose…

His face tightened as the memory flickered into his consciousness. “That’s…a myth,” he said cautiously.

“Was a myth.” There was no mistaking her glee. “After so many years of studying, learning everything I could about magic and about vampires, I have finally managed to discover the means to make your existence worthwhile. And the answer lies in your blood.”

“Can’t be done,” Spike said, grinding out his cigarette under the heel of his boot. “Better witches than you have tried and failed. You will, too.”

“We shall see. And when it is all over, my…diversion will be easily forgiven. Daymon will understand that I had to forsake my responsibilities for the greater good.”

He watched her out of the corner of his eye. “For bein’ so pissy about my kind mixin’ with yours, you seem awful eager to be pleasin’ the boss man.” Her confusion at his meaning was written across her eyes, and Spike almost laughed as he realized that she really had no idea. “This is just rich,” he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Here you are, throwing a wobbler that me and Buffy have this thing goin’, while over in the red corner, you’re tossin’ around your respect and admiration for a different demon who’s actually got---I’m sure---diabolical motives when it comes to the Slayer.”

“Demon? I don’t…Daymon isn’t…” She didn’t know what to think. He wasn’t actually suggesting that…

“…he may look like a man, he may talk like a man, but somewhere under the George Hamilton tan lies the heart of a demon. Oh, he keeps it hidden well, but it’s there. I smelled it on him…” His voice trailed off. Bollocks, he suddenly thought. I never told Buffy. In the barrage of events from their escape to his capture by Celie, it had somehow slipped his mind. Inwardly, he groaned and wondered, how is she going to fight him if she doesn’t know what he truly is?

*************

She didn’t want to admit it, but it wasn’t going well. Although she was landing the occasional solid blow, too many were just sliding past, or dodged completely, and Daymon was having far too good of luck with that blade of his. Too many cuts now graced her body, and although the vast majority of them were superficial, it was really too soon since her recent incapacitation for her to be really at her best.

Buffy dodged another swing from the sword, and rolled out of his reach for a quick assessment. Scoobies safe albeit stunned into silence…Slayer still in one piece…samurai snake still armed and dangerous…entrances still…

Her eye caught a flash of white within the far entrance, and it was all she could do not to jerk her head around for a solid look. She could hear the dull thud of feet scurrying along the cave’s corridors, and felt a glimmer of hope for the first time since starting this skirmish.

The sounds were not lost on Daymon’s sensitive ears, either. His scaled head turned in time to see Cortina appear in the opening, a horde of men just behind her. They scattered around the grotto, leaving their mistress alone where she stood. “I don’t appreciate uninvited guests,” she said coldly, “especially those who leave behind the dead bodies of my men.”

Daymon sneered. “This does not concern you, Vrolek.”

“These are my friends. Of course it concerns me,” and with that, she threw her head back and opened her mouth.

Her shrill scream pierced the air, causing everyone except her own men to clap their hands over their ears, trying to mute the cry cutting into their spines. Even the scaled demon was affected, and he shrank away from her, hoping distance would achieve what his hands could not. In a last ditch attempt to silence the penetrating shriek, he flung his sword directly at the white demon.

It sailed through the grotto, impaling Cortina in a single graceful stroke, and she went flying against the wall behind her. Her scream became gurgled before trailing off, and she slumped to the ground, the blade sticking out her back.

“Cortina!” The roots that had bound Giles’ feet to the floor disappeared, and he raced to the far entrance and the white demon’s side. With two hands wrapped around the hilt, he struggled to pull the sword from her stomach, listening to the sucking sound of her blood as it finally gave way, letting it fall to the ground as he knelt down to lift her head up and nestle it in the crook of his left arm. The red was flowing freely, staining the ivory of her robe, and he pressed his free hand against the wound, trying to staunch the tide.

The white demon’s eyes fluttered open, and a wan smile curled her lips. “Ever the gentleman,” she murmured.

“Just hold on,” Giles encouraged.

Willow appeared at his shoulder, her face tight with worry. “Can I do anything?” she whispered.

The Watcher was about to respond when Cortina interrupted him. “My library,” she said softly. “I have…medicinal herbs…”

Very gently, Rupert laid the female down on the ground. “Watch her,” he ordered the young redhead and dashed for the appropriate tunnel.

Buffy knew that this was her chance. Daymon still reeled from the aural assault and now, he had no weapon outside of his own two hands. Well, and that tail, of course. A powerful leap into the air brought her down on his back, and she pulled him over onto his side, rolling and mounting him so that his upper torso was pinned underneath her muscled thighs. Mercilessly, she began pummeling him…punch after punch…her face tight with anger and determination.

At first, he struggled, but as her attack became more vicious, the struggling grew weaker, less focused, until finally, he was just taking her hits, his head swinging back and forth as each fist connected with his face. Seeing that the scaled one was no longer a serious threat, Cortina’s men rushed in, using their blades to weaken him even further.

When he felt the Chosen One’s hands grasp either side of his head, Daymon knew that he was too drained to fight her further. “I am sooooo going to enjoy this,” she said, and he felt her tiny hands tighten their grip. Desperate times…

“Kill me,” he rasped, his tongue thick in his mouth, “and your vampire dies as well…”

 

To be continued in Chapter Twenty-Four: Deal with the Devil