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: Buffy and Spike are on their way to Daymon’s home in Greece, while the Scoobies are hatching a plan to stop the ritual.
She was asleep, curled into his shoulder like a kitten, the beating of her heart a welcome tattoo against his skin. The combination of the food and the sex had taken its toll on her quite quickly after her declaration, and Buffy’d found herself unable to hold back the yawns. Pulling her down onto the blankets, Spike had wrapped his long arms around her tiny form, and within moments of resting her head in the niche of his neck, the Slayer was out like a light.
He couldn’t sleep, not after everything…the rest he’d had back at the stable…the rush of their earlier argument…and especially the avowal of her true feelings. In so many ways, he felt like he had after he’d first been turned, unsure, eager to please, floating on a cloud as the constant refrain of she loves me, she actually loves me tumbled about his head. Of course, he had over a hundred years of cynicism and experience under his duster now; he wasn’t exactly the naïve, nancyboy poet of yesteryear. There was no reason for him to worry about what to do, or how to please her…except he would, because that was who he was. Spike…ever the hopeless romantic…
Buffy sighed, rolling over in her slumber with a small smile on her lips. Not yet willing to break the contact with her, the blond vampire matched her movement, slipping his forearm around her waist, burying his nose in her hair. His attention was rewarded, as the young woman unconsciously nestled her bottom into his hips, her buttocks cupping him perfectly, bringing his erection firmly back to life. As much as he loved the idea of just ravishing her there and then, Spike knew that time was ticking away. Each minute they spent in the air meant they were that much closer to Daymon’s little cleansing ritual. And they had yet to figure out a plan of escape.
He didn’t like the sound of this prophecy Giles had dug up. Although he’d never heard of this particular rite, the vamp knew that such things existed. Almost anything was possible in this world; he’d learned that ages ago. All you had to do was be willing to pay the price.
How long before they landed? he wondered. For that matter, where in the hell were they going? Buffy had her money on Greece, seeing as that was where the bastard was from, and Spike hoped to God that she was wrong. He and Dru had been to the islands once many years ago, and the whole experience wasn’t exactly fraught with happy memories. That, combined with the incessant sunshine, was enough to make him want to avoid the place altogether. But since the Slayer seemed fairly certain, those were the contingencies he had to plan for.
There was a niggle of an idea brewing somewhere in the back of his chipped head, but that damn sunlight issue kept coming back to bite him in the ass. What he wouldn’t give for the Gem of Amarra right about now; then they’d have no problem getting away from the wankers. Him and Buffy could just hop out of the plane, give them a taste of the old one-two, then sort out that Daymon once and for all. He couldn’t help the wrinkle of disgust that pinched his nose. No way was he going to let the Slayer hog that one; too much had happened over the past few days for him not to get his share of the killing when it came down. And Daymon was most definitely going to feel the pain.
Against his chest, the Slayer suddenly twitched, jerking in her slumber, and the blond vampire felt her heartbeat begin to quicken. He leaned forward, gazing over her shoulder, and saw that her smile had disappeared, replaced by a tiny line between her brows. Dreams, perhaps even nightmares…? Although he knew it wasn’t possible, Spike wished that he could somehow crawl into her head, help her fight whatever personal demons were destroying her rest. No one hurt his Buffy, not in his world.
She couldn’t move…why…was she tied down? Couldn’t feel the bindings…so no…but she still couldn’t move and she had no idea why. Magic…had to be, that was the only answer…which only posed the question, who was doing the magicking? Buffy couldn’t see---overhead was pitch black---and she couldn’t turn her head to check if there was light from anywhere else. A void…that’s what she was in…nothingness…
And then she was blind…the sudden flash of radiance a shock to her system…dripping its fingers of flame down the sides of her body…and it was there…and she couldn’t stop it…
Burning…crimson alternating with white…and it slammed into her chest, stealing her breath…couldn’t…replaced by didn’t…no need…and the hunger…
And she was rising…straightening…and all of a sudden she could see again…the world around her tinged in gold…
An earthen floor…the carved walls…for a moment, she thought it was Cortina’s…but not the white demon’s…another…and the world began to quake…the ground to open…an ocean of gaping mouths…hungry…needing to be sated…
It wasn’t time…she wasn’t ready…but they didn’t care…leaping at her…attaching themselves to her body…sucking…draining her lifeforce…eating her very core…
And then there he was…forcing his way through the throng…him but not him…beaten back…and forward again…grabbing hold…pulling her to the ground…and then his mouth…joining the others…and all she wanted to do was look into his face…
…But she couldn’t…
As Giles rubbed tiredly at his eyes, his glasses dangling from his free hand, Cortina reached down to pull out the bottom drawer of her desk. “I think you need a little pick-me-up,” she said, extracting a dark flask from its depths.
“What I need is a good nights sleep,” he muttered.
“Well, yes, that too,” the white demon conceded. “But this will help.”
The Watcher replaced his glasses and peered at the label. “I thought Buffy said you were allergic to alcohol,” he said.
“I am. I just keep that for…special guests.” She held up a warning finger. “But don’t you dare go telling Spike that I had some.” At his confusion, Cortina rolled her eyes. “Have you ever seen a vampire drink?” she commented. “They are not exactly masters of control.”
The liquor burned as it swilled down his throat, leaving a fiery almond trail in its wake. Giles could feel it etch its way down his gullet, and his eyes almost immediately began watering.
Cortina giggled. “I probably should’ve warned you, it’s a little strong.”
Before he could respond, the ex-librarian felt a languor begin seeping into his muscles, a molasses swamp begin forming in his head. “And it works amazingly…fast…”
“Well, better you than me,” she commented. “I’ll have one of my men escort you to a spare room.” As he began to sway, her hand darted out, grabbing his arm, steadying him. “Or maybe you can just sleep in here.”
“Somehow…that seems like…a very good idea,” Giles murmured, using the desk to help support his weight. He managed to crack a smile. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think…you’d poisoned me.”
“No,” Cortina said gently, rising so that he could take her chair. “It’s only poison to me.” She hovered behind him as he settled, her hand reaching down and pushing the hair away from his eyes. “You sleep,” she murmured.
“We need…Celie should be…”
“I’ll send somebody to take her to another room so that you can rest. As long as I’m around, she can’t use her magic, so you shouldn’t be at any risk.” As the Watcher rested his head on his folded arms, the white demon leaned over and kissed his temple. “Good night, Rupert.”
He heard her leave the library, her robe rustling softly as the door clicked shut behind her. The combination of exhaustion and that mysterious alcohol was melting his body into the chair, dragging his eyelids down. To sleep, perchance to dream…
“Do you all consort with demons?”
The voice filtered through the fog in his mind, and Giles lifted his head, blinking rapidly as he tried to focus. Someone had spoken…oh yes…the witch… “Pardon?” he asked, trying his best to sound coherent.
Celie’s black eyes bore into him from her chair in the corner. “The Chosen One has a vampire for a lover, and you are obviously on intimate terms with…” She gestured abstractly to the door behind her. “…her. Is this standard practice amongst those who claim to be fighting to free our world of demons?”
“We’re not…intimate,” he managed, and reached for his glasses. Perhaps wearing them would make him wake up. “Cortina’s a friend. She’s merely helping us.”
The dark witch snorted in contempt. “You are just as blind as those children you lead,” she said. “She will turn on you. They all do.”
Giles frowned. “Is this a personal vendetta for you or are you just completely daft?”
Slowly, Celie stood, gliding across the room until she stood before the desk again. “Are you not curious as to why I wanted the vampire?” she queried.
“Yet you followed the Chosen One to save him. If you care so little about him, why would you do that?”
Although the questions were cutting through his fatigue, the Watcher was still struggling to stay awake. “For Buffy’s sake,” he replied, and rubbed again at his eyes.
“Yes…Buffy…” Her long hands began running down the sides of the desk, a hypnotic dance as she slid herself around to his side. “For one so young, she certainly inspires…devotion among those who encounter her.”
“She’s a remarkable young woman,” Giles argued. The witch’s hands seemed to be everywhere, here floating above the desk, there gliding along his arm. He didn’t know if it was a side effect of Cortina’s alcohol or a product of his own imagination, but he could’ve sworn she was deliberately trying to entice him.
“Do you wonder what her life would be like, should she not be forced to follow the path of the Slayer?” Celie questioned.
What if there were no more vampires for her to kill? What if there was no need for you to train her to fight, to lead her in the battle against the demon world? It’s possible, you know. There are magics, very old, very powerful, that could make it so.”
“I told you…no trade…” He was losing the battle, his lids growing heavier by the moment, and it was all he could do to remain sitting up. What was she suggesting? No vampires? How was that possible…?
“I am not asking for a trade,” Celie crooned. “Merely for you to…consider the possibilities. A world where young girls are not forced to die battling evils they shouldn’t even know about. A world where a man can choose his own destiny, to love instead of to war…to watch his own children grow instead of watching his charges get slaughtered…to die in the comfort of his own bed instead of being savaged by ungodly demons. Is that not a world that appeals to you, Mr. Giles?”
The pictures she painted danced across his mind’s eye in a kaleidoscope of images, dizzying him into dropping his head. I’ll just shut my eyes for a moment, he thought, just to clear my thoughts…
Her eyes were inscrutable as she watched him drift off to sleep. She needed no response; the seeds she’d sown were planted, taking hold in his subconscious. Even without her magic, she knew he would dream of those very things she’d described, and he would wake with an overwhelming ache to have them. Perhaps the Watcher would not be an active ally, but Celie refused to believe that he would stand in her way, should she get close enough to the vampire again. And the opening was all that she needed.
The witch’s gaze settled on the flask still sitting on the desktop. If they’d wished her to be helpless, they should never have allowed her to sit in on their conversations. She had honestly believed that her powers were gone, that she had no recourse for getting them back. But the white-haired hellbitch---what did they call her? Cortina?---had admitted that Celie was only helpless for as long as she remained in the demon’s presence. Perhaps the solution to her current quandary lay in the drink, or rather, in Cortina’s purported allergy.
The shuffle from outside the library door startled her from her reverie, and the witch turned to face the door, blocking the desk, her fingers wrapping around the alcohol. As the entrance opened to reveal two of the horned demons who guarded the caves, she slid the flask into her waistband, under her blouse, staying as straight as possible in order to avoid their suspicion. Her face remained stoic as they grabbed her arms, yanking her away from the sleeping Watcher. Just don’t search me, she thought, and stumbled out into the hall.
The sunshine beat down on them as they stood before the cave, their tools slung over their shoulders, eyes squinting against the bright afternoon light. This was not a part of the property that was frequently visited. Most of the staff chose to ignore it, avoiding it at all costs, and it was only when the master made a direct request that it got approached. Even then, though, there were often arguments about who would go, and who would stay. It was then that Thora would step in to mediate, making the final decision in a tone of voice that broached no disagreement. One did not argue with the stout housekeeper; she was Daymon’s right hand and when he was away, her word was law.
“We should hurry,” Thanos said, shifting the weight of his
pack. “We can finish before sundown if we don’t waste our time.”
He was only voicing what all of them were thinking. Of the group, not one man would’ve been comfortable being in the cave after dark. Even though it had been sealed for over twenty years, the stories still abounded---screams of agonizing pain echoing throughout the countryside, ethereal forms walking along the mountain, the dead rising to avenge injustices. Some would argue that they were only myths, tales concocted to explain natural phenomena, and that those who believed were fools being led around by their cowardice. But Thanos and his men knew differently, had seen the truth, had faced the mask of the monster…and feared it.
Silently, they crossed the threshold of the cave, their footsteps all of a sudden too loud for the tiny space, forced to go single-file as it narrowed. It was only a matter of feet before it widened, but in those few seconds it took to traverse the path, each felt the terror choke his breath, and kept his eyes straight ahead on the back of the man in front of him. Don’t look down, don’t look around…thus was the mantra of the ones who were subject to duties within the cave. To do so was to invite madness, or worse; they had all been witness to the last victim the cave had claimed. Even though it had been over a year earlier, Thora still arranged to have fresh flowers placed on his grave every week…
To be continued in Chapter Thirty-One: Rage…