As usual, I owe love and immense gratitude to cousinjean, fenwic, georgevna, and Aurelio Zen. Fair warning: there's a joke in here that's pretty dang similar to what the show did. But I wrote it before the episode aired, so I prefer to think of it as serendipity. [Because it's not like adjrun has a track record of writing things that eventually show up on-screen or anything ... --cj]
They were surrounded.
With a muttered curse, Giles gunned the gas pedal and threw the car into drive. It lurched forward, smashed into Darla and knocked her into the corner of the porch railing. Drusilla spun out of the way with an almost choreographed grace, twirling slightly off-center. Giles slammed on the brakes before he plowed into the Summers’ garage and the car jerked to a halt. He shot a quick glance over his right shoulder. Three vampires had moved to circle behind the car, and even more loomed beyond them. Another half-dozen stalked in towards the passenger side of the car.
“Giles,” Willow warned, her gaze intent and focused beyond him. Giles twisted in his seat and threw his left arm up to ward off the blow he couldn’t see coming. The vampire’s fist glanced off his forearm, so the punch skidded across the back of his head rather than knocking him cold. The vampire growled, grabbed a fistful of Giles’s hair, and slammed his head forward against the steering wheel. Again, Giles got a hand up to lessen the blow, but his mouth smashed into the steering wheel. He felt his lip split and tasted the quick warm tang of blood in his mouth.
Xander fumbled for the duffel bag at his feet, his fingers closing around the haft of a battle axe. He pulled the leather-wrapped handle free, but the wide steel blade caught in the canvas.
“Hold on to something,” Willow said. Giles tried to nod in response, but the fist in his hair precluded any real movement. His left hand clutched at the steering wheel, and his right grabbed the gear shift.
Willow released her seatbelt. She stood as best she could in the passenger seat, trying to get a clear line of vision. The bag resting on her hip, its long single strap slung over her shoulder like a bandolier, blocked her movement; she shifted it to the hollow of her back. She gestured at the vampire, a broad sweeping motion as though she was backhanding him away from the car. The vampire flew backwards, but kept its grip on Giles’s hair. Giles yelled as he was pulled against the side of the car, his head torqued painfully backwards. Willow gritted her teeth and waved her arm again. This time the gesture ended with her fingers pointing directly at the vampire. An electric blue pulse of light shot into its face and hurled it twenty feet across the lawn, strands of gray-brown hair still caught in his clenched fingers.
“Giles? Giles?” Anya asked from the back seat. “Are you all right?”
Giles sat up and touched his fingers to the back of his head. “Bastard gave me a bloody tonsure.”
He flicked his eyes to the left. Another half-dozen vampires. With a snort of frustration, he swiveled to look behind the car and shifted into reverse. The car rocketed backwards, plowing directly into two more vampires. One bounced off the trunk, but the other fell under the left rear wheel, causing a sickening lurch and snapping sounds that punched through the night air. The lurch threw Willow off balance, slamming her hips into the door. She yelped and caught the corner of the windshield with the fingertips of her right hand. From that fulcrum her torso swung wide outside the car, her left arm windmilling in a futile attempt to regain her balance. Her hips tipped over and her legs began to slide out of the car. She twisted to try to get her left hand underneath herself as she fell, but her shoulder smacked hard on the driveway. Stunned for a moment, she lay curled on her side. Then Willow pushed herself up to her knees and looked around. Five vampires closed in.
Giles hit the brakes hard, and the rear of the car slewed to the right. The sudden jolt of their deceleration shoved Anya, Xander and William deep into the leather backseat, and then sprung them forward again. Xander finally worked the axe free, unlatched his seatbelt, and vaulted out of the car. He stood with his back to the door, ready to fend off anything that came near. In this case, anything was the dozen vampires closing in to the left and rear.
William shot Anya a look of bewilderment and terror. “What do I do?”
“Here.” Anya thrust a wooden cross into William’s hands. “Stay down. Inside the car. And wave that at anyone who’s not us.”
William nodded. Though Anya’s words were hardly reassuring, they were simple and specific. Surely he couldn’t bungle holding a cross.
“Stake, stake, stake,” Willow chanted as she fumbled in her bag. She pulled out a double handful of stakes, and tossed them in the air. They arced upwards; as they fell back to earth, she caught five telekinetically. An extra stake, two pens and a hairbrush clattered to the pavement. One by one, Willow sent the stakes at the vampires moving in on her. One by one, the vampires clutched their chests and exploded to dust.
The injured vampire chose that moment to drag itself out from underneath the car, its pelvis shattered, legs twisted and bent in places that shouldn’t bend. Xander looked down at its mangled legs and shuddered.
“Guuhhh. Believe me, buddy, I’m doing you a favor.” With a quick swing of his axe he beheaded the vampire.
“Willow!” Giles yelled. “Get back in the car!”
“Okay, wait up!” Willow grinned as she got back to her feet. A sixth vampire darted out of the trees behind her. She hadn’t seen him before, and now she wouldn’t. He linked his hands and clubbed Willow just above her left ear. She flew the width of the driveway, already unconscious. Her temple cracked into the asphalt, bounced, hit again with a wetter thud. She lay there motionless.
“Anya! Sword!” Giles said, his voice tense with urgency and fear.
Anya struggled to get the four-foot saber out of the open duffel bag. Giles, worried and impatient, opened his door, slamming it into the gut of an attacking vampire. The impact doubled the vampire over; Giles punched it, a short, brutal jab to the nose. As the disoriented vampire staggered back from the car, Xander swung his ax and decapitated it. Finally, Anya worked the hilt free of the canvas and handed the sword to Giles. He took it as he swung out of the BMW.
“Xander, stay close to the car. Anya, protect William. I’ll keep them off Willow.”
“No problem,” Xander replied, his pitch an octave higher than normal. “Um, An? How many do you count?”
Anya looked up from digging through her purse, and darted a quick glance around the car. “Eleven. Oh, plus Darla and Drusilla. So, thirteen.”
Xander gave a nervous giggle. “Oh, yeah, I’m loving these odds…”
Darla pulled herself free from the shrubbery surrounding the porch. She bled from a dozen different scratches, and one sleeve of her shirt was torn. She took a few steps forward, pushed some strands of tousled blonde hair off her face, and surveyed the fight before her.
“I feel the need for some killing,” she muttered. She crossed over to Willow, nudged the witch in the ribs with her toe. “Redhead. Not my favorite, but it’ll do in a pinch.”
“Back away from her,” Giles warned. He closed the distance between them, the tip of his sword never wavering from pointing at Darla’s right eye.
“Ooh, very threatening,” Darla replied. “I’m sure I’ll be scared. Any second now.”
They circled each other around Willow, crumpled on the concrete at their feet. The four feet of razor-sharp steel in Giles’s hands compensated for Darla’s blinding speed, so that he countered any feint she made. She aimed a backhand blow at his head; he pulled back and parried her attack. The blade slashed across the palm of her hand, cutting down to the bone. She lunged at him. He dodged left, and sliced a furrow along the top of her arm. Darla stumbled over Willow and fell to her hands and knees. He returned to ready stance but let his sword leap out and nick her across the ribs. She howled, and half-fell, half-rolled to a sitting position - to be brought up short by the sword point at her jugular. She started to slide backwards on her hands, and Giles took a step forward to keep her in range. Darla’s attention momentarily shifted to a point over his left shoulder. Then she looked back at him, and a smile played at the corners of her mouth. Giles rolled his eyes, flipped the sword in his hands, and thrust it behind him. The vampire sneaking up on him grunted in surprise as the sword skewered his intestines. Giles spun, pulling the sword free and bringing it around to slice through the vampire’s neck. Its head had just enough time to hit the ground before it turned into dust.
Darla used those few moments to scuttle back out of range. Then she jumped to her feet and stalked over to two minions who stood back from the fight. “You! Do me a favor?”
With almost identical cowed expressions, they nodded at her. She continued, “Great. Then pull your thumbs out of your asses and kill this guy for me, would you?”
The two vampires looked at each other, as if trying to decide who scared them more. Darla took a step towards them, growling. Their decision made, they shuffled over to face Giles. Giles rolled his shoulders, shifted his grip on his sword, and waited.
Xander fought three vampires at once. More stood behind them, but couldn’t close in. Xander took advantage of this, keeping his back tight against the side of the convertible. He held them at about a three-foot distance, and slashed at anything that crossed this perimeter. It meant that he wasn’t really killing anything. But he couldn’t risk an attack that might leave himself open, might take him out of the game. So he was stuck playing defense.
Anya knelt in the back seat, facing the trunk. She held a can of Extra Super Hold Aqua Net in one hand and a disposable lighter in the other. William hunched low in the seat next to her, breathing in short, erratic gasps. She tried to smile at him to reassure him, but only managed a rictus of a grin.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m sure they won’t kill all of us.”
A huge, beefy minion leapt onto the trunk of the car. William gulped and held the cross up over his head. Anya flicked the flint on the lighter, which caught on the first try. Then she held the lighter up to the nozzle and pressed the button. A three-foot jet of flaming hairspray caught the attacking vampire square in the face. He screamed and exploded into ash.
Anya’s smile was a little more natural this time. “Eleven. That’s much better.”
A vampire kicked Xander in the side, and sent him sprawling across the hood of the BMW. The impact knocked the axe from his hands; it skidded off the hood and fell in front of the car. Xander yelped and scrabbled after it.
Anya winced. “Well, it’s a little better.” She aimed her makeshift flamethrower over the now-unprotected left side of the car, sending a gout of fire at the encroaching vampires.
Dawn threw open the front door and brought a crossbow to her shoulder. She stood in the doorway, careful not to cross the threshold, and sighted at a vampire on the periphery. The bolt thudded into his chest. Not in the heart - he didn’t dust. Still, it knocked him to the ground. Dawn whooped, and grabbed a second crossbow at her feet.
Another vampire lunged at the rear of the car. Anya flicked the lighter and aimed the hairspray at his face. The vampire jerked back so hard he overbalanced and fell to the pavement.
William looked at her, astonished. “That… that’s amazing!”
Anya beamed. “Yes! It also provides all-day flexible hold.”
The two minions circled Giles, doing their best to stay on opposite sides of him. His focus shifted from one to the other, his weapon constantly on guard. He couldn’t allow them to draw him too far away from Willow. He hadn’t even had time to check if she was breathing; for all he knew, he was defending a corpse. The vampires were overcautious, having witnessed Giles’s prowess with the sword. So they waited, testing him with subtle feints and shifts. Searching for the flaw; waiting for the weakness. To capitalize on it, get within his guard and rip out his throat. So he could make no mistake. Because it meant not only his own life, but any hope for Willow’s. The result was a standoff: a slow, circling, wearying standoff.
Swinging his axe in great, sweeping arcs, Xander fought his way back to the side of the car. Four vampires menaced from the left. So Xander let his blows get wild, chaotic, forcing them away from the car. The axe clipped the frame of the windshield, screeching along the chrome. Xander winced. Maybe Giles hadn’t seen it, and he could later blame it on a vampire - the one who now reached across the driver’s seat to swipe at Anya. Xander struck quickly, embedding his axe in the back of the vampire’s neck. He made a thick, choking gurgle, and staggered back a step, his fingers scrabbling at the axe blade. Xander tugged on the axe once, twice. But the blade had lodged deeply in the vampire’s vertebrae. Xander only succeeded in pulling the wounded vampire towards him. Great, no weapon. And another vampire moved in on his right.
“Hold that for me, will ya?” Xander said. He let go of his axe; the half-decapitated vampire just stood there, wobbling in the moonlight. Xander turned and popped the second vampire in the nose. Then he grabbed the axe again. Sliding one hand halfway up the handle, he used the axe to lever Nearly Headless Nick away from the car. Then Xander braced his foot against the vampire’s back and yanked hard on the axe. The blade slipped free, but the sudden release sent Xander staggering back into the car door. Back to where he started the fight. Nearly Headless reeled forward, bounced off the second attacker, and slumped to his knees. Xander brought his axe up over his head and aimed a cut at the other side of Nick’s throat. This blow finished the job, and the vampire turned to dust before his head could hit the ground.
“Ten!” he called to Anya, working to catch his breath. She smiled quickly over her shoulder, and then aimed a shot of burning hairspray at her nearest assailant. There were still three vampires looming on the left side of the car, and Xander moved back to playing defense.
Dawn loosed another crossbow bolt at the attacker farthest from Xander. The bolt missed by yards, and went skidding off the pavement across the street.
“Dangit!” Dawn muttered, as she struggled to reload the crossbow. “Buffy never has a problem with these things. Nooo. Buffy has Super Slayer aiminess. Oof! Not to mention Slayer strength. Stupid crossbow…”
Anya flicked the wheel on her lighter. But her thumb was sore and raw, and the lighter burned. So she botched it. Before she could try again, a vampire backhanded the lighter out of her hand and halfway across the lawn. Anya sprayed him right in the eyes with a hefty shot of Aqua Net; he lurched back, temporarily blinded.
“Crap.” Anya threw the can at a second vampire, then ducked down to rifle through the weapons bag. There had to be a baseball bat in there, somewhere.
A frustrated minion picked that moment to tackle Xander. Xander had time only to get the axe up between them, to grasp the shaft in both hands like a quarterstaff, before the minion barreled into him. They slammed against the driver’s seat. With a dull metallic snap, the seat broke, collapsed back onto the passenger seat, and trapped Anya facedown underneath it.
“Honey!” Xander cried.
“Mm fnnn.” Anya said, muffled. The seat bucked slightly underneath him. “Mmm stk.”
The vampire pinning Xander to the seat chuckled. “I’d worry less about your girlfriend, and more about me.”
He sprawled on top of Xander in the driver’s seat, his face near Xander’s shoulder. The vamp’s knees were jammed into the steering wheel, his torso pressed hard against Xander’s, his hips wedged between Xander’s thighs. Xander had one leg hanging over the car door and the other foot wedged between the windshield and the dashboard, and could get no leverage to shove the vampire off. He held the axe across his chest, as though he was about to bench press the handle; the vampire strained to get a grip on the seat back, to push his upper body off Xander and aim a punch at his face.
Xander snickered. “Okay, the last time I was in this position? It was a lot more enjoyable. And you-” He cracked the vamp in the cheek with the axe handle. “Were a lot-” Now the other cheek.
“Prettier!” And now he did bench press the axe, under the vampire’s chin. The shaft across the vampire’s throat forced his head up and back, arching him into an unnatural arch. Xander locked his elbows and ducked his chin to one side, hoping to avoid the blind, ineffectual swipes the vampire made at his head. Xander’s continued survival depended on one thing: someone else coming to his rescue before the strength in his arms gave out.
William was alone now. Unprotected. Weaponless, save for the cross clutched in his right hand. He huddled in the back seat, as if he could make himself small enough to be invisible.
It didn’t work. The vampire who’d caught a faceful of hairspray saw him. Grinned. Sauntered over to the right side of the car to loom over him. William meeped, and waved the cross at the vampire, who recoiled, but then pressed in again. Testing, pushing boundaries. Toying with him.
Then a shadow pulled free of the darkness. “Now, now,” it crooned. “Don’t play with mummy’s things, little one.”
Drusilla grabbed the vampire by the scruff of the neck and tossed him into the street. Then she closed on William.
William held the cross out at her. “S-stay away from me…”
Her eyes widened with delight, and her fingers played back and forth against the bodice of her gown. “Naughty William. Thinks a nail and a thorn will protect him.”
Her right hand snapped out and grabbed his wrist. She watched her hand as it tightened around his wrist and forced his fingers open, the cross clattering to the asphalt. She kept squeezing. Feeling the bones of his wrist grate and shift in her hand, savoring the expression on William’s face as it battled between incredulity and pain.
“Please…” he whispered. “Don’t.”
Making soft cooing sounds, she dropped his wrist and circled around William. He tried to follow her movement, but she grabbed his shoulders and turned him to face away from her. She pressed into his back, slid her hands under his arms and around his chest, and lifted him from the car. Hard up against the lap belt. She pulled again. The seatbelt held firm, cutting deeply into his thighs. William screamed. Drusilla tore at the strap, yanked at it with all her strength. Nothing.
She let out a siren wail of frustration. Fine, then. The deed could be done here.
Drusilla pulled William’s back against the side of the convertible. She bent to loop her left arm under his chin, taking a moment to nuzzle the side of his throat and whisper soft reassuring nonsense in his ear. Then her features shifted, and she buried her fangs in his neck. He kicked out, a rabbit in the talons of a hawk, legs drumming in a frantic, futile effort to escape. His hands batted at the air in front of him, pushed ineffectually up at her hands, her face. He howled and keened and whimpered in her embrace, a litany of pleas bubbling from his lips. She drank it in. His fear intoxicated her, like the thick hot salt of his blood gushing into her mouth. She ran her right hand down the front of his shirt, reveling in the slight friction of the cotton against her palm, at the fluttering sobs of his breath. The hint of warmth and smooth skin underneath. His body arched in her embrace, taut with fear and pain and something he didn’t quite understand.
Then he felt something sink inside. He relaxed involuntarily in her arms, like the quick shuddering exhalation after holding one’s breath too long. As if strength, or will, was being leeched from him along with his blood. Stars burst in front of his eyes, and a dark, warm, swirling heaviness rose in him. His head fell back on her shoulder. And he lost himself.
Buffy and Spike raced homewards. They moved easily and comfortably through the night: Buffy pistoned along with short, choppy steps, never slowing; Spike loped at her side, fluid and graceful. Tara gamely fought to keep up, but a lack of superpowers and the annoying need to breathe hampered her efforts; her face was turning red, her breath was erratic and gaspy, and her running had an element of “stagger” in it.
They heard the sounds of battle in the distance: dull thuds of metal, quick yelps. Then a scream. Spike froze, his forward motion shifting from full-out run to dead stop. Unable to avoid him, Tara thudded into his shoulder and caromed back a few steps. Buffy stopped a second later.
“What? Come on!” she asked, turning to look at him. “Spike! What’s wrong?”
Spike looked off into the night, to Buffy’s house, now just half a block away. He stood motionless; his expression held both disbelief and horrible, horrible knowledge. His voice came, thick and broken.
“She’s killing me.”
Buffy followed his gaze. Then her dismay turned to resolution. “No. She’s not.”
She took off again, heels clacking in a quick staccato across the pavement. Spike shook his head once, and followed. A low growl built in his chest as he dashed towards the fray.
Buffy’s boot connected with the side of Dru’s head, ripping her fangs from William’s neck. Drusilla stumbled away a few feet from the force of the unexpected blow, but then rallied. Wiping the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand, she whirled to confront Buffy.
“Giles doesn’t let people eat in his car.” Buffy, fists on her hips, smirked at Dru. “You might get something on the leather.”
Drusilla growled, and launched herself at Buffy.
The vampire who’d been tossed into the street turned to face Spike. Spike leapt into the air and kicked both feet into his torso. The vampire hit the ground, stunned. Spike jumped on his chest, cracking sternum and ribs. Again. The ribcage gave way under his feet; the chest wall collapsed. And again. He booted the vampire in the face. Another vamp attacked, and Spike dealt him a vicious backhand. Using the momentum of his turn, he punched the attacker square in the face. The blow rebroke bones in his left hand. He couldn’t feel it. He was too lost in rage. Despising himself for his initial terror, he gratefully gave in to an overwhelming rush of bloodlust. Spike grabbed two handfuls of the second vampire’s hair and slammed a knee up into his face, shattering his nose. Then, one hand fisted in the minion’s hair, Spike drove a flurry of vicious jabs into his gut; each impact lifted his victim off the cement. Finally, the vampire sank to his knees, held up only by Spike’s grip on his hair. Spike wrapped his other hand around the vampire’s jaw and twisted, the snap of spine like a rifle shot through the night.
Tara reached the car, trailing the others by only seconds. She took a moment to regroup, putting her hands on her knees and gulping air. Then she crossed over to the driver’s side of the car, where Xander still struggled to stave off the vampire on his lap.
“Mind if I cut in?” She pulled a stake out of her jacket pocket, and drove it through the vampire’s back.
Xander sat up, coughing and brushing dust off his face. “Thanks, Tara. I tried to tell him, I’m not that kind of girl.”
“Wouldn’t take no for an answer?” She helped him to his feet.
“Yeah.” Immediately, he turned back to the car seat and tried to lift it upright. “How many times can you tell a guy, no means no?”
Tara grinned at him, and bent to help. “Makes you want to give up on men altogether.”
“Hyyy!” Anya yelled. The seat above her shook as she shoved against it. “Ghhhd mmmm ahhhd!”
Tara released the latch at the side of the seat, and Xander pulled up the back. Anya pushed herself off the floorboards. She launched herself at Xander, throwing her arms around him and tucking her head in under his chin. Still kneeling on the seat, he held her tight, and stroked the nape of her neck with one hand.
“Well, that was fun,” Anya said. “I’m using my sarcastic voice here, if you couldn’t tell. Because it wasn’t fun at all.”
He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Yeah, honey. I got that.”
“You okay here?” Tara asked Xander.
“Yeah. Thanks. I think Spike’s got the fighting…” He turned to look at Spike, who was repeatedly smashing his opponent’s head into a tree. Xander blinked - the head wasn’t quite head-shaped any more. “Yeesh. Out of control.”
“When we got here? Drusilla was biting William.” Tara said. “Spike got a little freaked.”
She glanced over at Spike and flinched. “Make that a lot freaked.”
“William got bit?” Xander asked. Tara nodded in response, a little nauseated by the carnage she’d just witnessed.
“An, baby, you need to let go,” Xander whispered into her hair. “We need to check that William’s okay.”
She moaned a protest. “He’s not dead. If Spike’s still here, he can’t be dead.”
“Oh. Right.” Anya scowled up at him, but then her arms loosened. She turned to Tara. “We’ll look after William. You might want -”
She nodded towards Giles. It took Tara a moment to see the unconscious figure at his feet.
“Willow!” Tara raced to her lover’s side.
Xander slipped between the front seats and knelt next to William. “Hey. Hey, buddy. How you doing?”
William slumped in the seat, boneless and sapped. His eyes stared ahead, unmoving, his gaze fixed and vacant. The simple holes of Dru’s bite had torn into rough teardrops when she was ripped away; blood welled from these gashes, threaded down his neck, and soaked into the collar of his shirt. This flow of blood was the only movement Xander could see. In that long moment of terrifying stillness, Xander had just enough time to consider grim, strange possibilities.
A thick, shuddering breath. William’s throat worked as he swallowed once, twice; then a calmer exhalation. His head flopped to the side as he tried to focus on Xander. He smiled, a sweet, loopy smile. “I feel… funny.”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded. “Massive blood loss’ll do that to you.”
William giggled, his attention sliding off Xander to the women locked in combat at the side of the car. Drusilla slashed at Buffy with her nails, gouging parallel furrows along her shoulder. Buffy yelped, and snapped a kick into Dru’s solar plexus. Then a second kick at her jaw.
Tara stood helpless, frustrated, by the hood of the car. The vampires circling Giles made it impossible to approach Willow. And Willow looked so… broken.
Tara raised her hands, shaping a ball of air in her palms. “Occaecare!” she cried, lobbing the imaginary ball at the nearest vampire.
The vampire shook his head, trying to clear his vision. He blinked, and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. Giles took full advantage of his foe’s confusion, his sword taking off head and hands in one blow. Now he faced only one opponent. One incredibly intimidated opponent.
Tara pushed through the dust of the slain vamp and dropped to her knees. She put her fingers to Willow’s neck, searching for a pulse.
“Is she breathing?” Giles asked, his voice betraying his exhaustion. “I haven’t had a moment to check. She was hurt so - her head. Is she breathing?”
“Yeah.” Shallow but steady breaths. And a strong, regular pulse. Tara sagged in relief. “Yeah.”
Anya stood beside the car and held a gauze pad to William’s neck, wiping at the blood to assess the depth of the punctures. His attention remained fixed over her shoulder, locked on Buffy. He clung to the sight of her. As if her fight - or her presence - was the only thing keeping him conscious.
“Buffy’s…” He searched for the right word. Why were his thoughts so muzzled? “Pretty…”
“Pretty what?” Anya asked.
“Pretty,” he agreed, nodding slightly. “She - it’s like she’s dancing, isn’t it? Some beautiful, violent dance. Beautiful for the violence.”
“Yup.” Xander looked up as Buffy clobbered Dru with a roundhouse. “She’s a fighter, our Buff.”
William continued to babble, only half-aware he said anything aloud. “Gleaming like… like white gold in the moonlight. Not pale and silver. Warm. Gold. Even at night… as though she’s lit by sunlight. Bringing day to the darkness.”
“Great.” Anya shot a knowing glance at Xander over William’s head. “Like human, like vamp.”
Drusilla caught her fingers in Buffy’s hair, and tossed her into the car’s right front fender. Then she lunged after Buffy, hoping to pin her against the car. Buffy put her palms on the hood, shifted her weight backwards, and slammed both her boots into Dru’s face. Dru sat down, hard.
“God, Dru,” Buffy quipped. “You fight like a girl.”
Dru tried to grab Buffy’s ankle and pull her to the ground. Buffy kicked her in the face again.
“If this degenerates into a slap fight, it’s so not my fault.”
Buffy had Drusilla figured, now. Not much of a fighter, Dru liked to get close to her victims. So Buffy kept her at a distance, using her feet as her primary weapons. She connected time and again: Dru’s face, gut, legs, ribs. Dru tried to block, or evade; but each parry came later and later, and more kicks landed solidly. Did more damage. She was on the ropes - Buffy could tell.
Buffy pulled out a stake.
“Wait!” Tara shouted.
Buffy turned to Tara, baffled.
“She has the spectacles! If you stake her, there’s no way to break the spell!”
Buffy shot Tara an incredulous look. “So, she’s trying to kill me, and I have to be Non-Lethal Force Chick? What - I also gotta fight with one hand tied behind my back?”
In the moment Buffy looked away, Dru leapt at her, and tackled her to the ground.
“Okay,” Xander said. “We’ve got to get William in the house.”
He scanned the front yard. Darla watched the action, looking pissed; Dru and Buffy rolled back and forth on the lawn; a vampire stood by Darla, trying to pull a crossbow bolt from his chest; another fled from Giles to join her. Spike sat on the chest of a third, pummeling his face over and over. Sprays of blood arced into the air after every punch. Xander saw the maimed bodies of two more vampires in the street, and another on the lawn.
“Spike? Spike!” Xander yelled from the car. Spike looked up at him, blood spattered across his face and dripping from his mouth. “Um, ya gonna kill that thing, or just pound him into pudding?”
Spike continued to stare at Xander, but then held out his hand. Xander threw him a stake. Spike plucked out of the air, then buried it in the vampire’s chest and watched it disintegrate beneath him.
“Great.” Xander shot Spike a thumb’s up. “Now you want to get the other ones you mangled, or you having too much fun as Berserker Boy?”
Eyes closed, Tara muttered a few words under her breath. Glitter swirled up from her outstretched palm, wended its way towards Drusilla, and slid into her skirt pocket. Tara sighed, nodded, and opened her eyes. Then she turned back to Willow, supporting her head as Giles lifted her into his arms.
“Dammit!” Darla fumed. Of the twenty vampires at the beginning of the attack, she had only two left. Well, two that were functional. “Dammit, dammit, dammit!”
They were losing. They had already lost, unless she could figure out… There. The girl. The little sister. Tucked away all safe inside the house.
“You,” she commanded her two remaining henchmen. “With me.”
She rushed up the steps and onto the porch, the two minions following. Dawn met her at the door, the defiant set of her chin belied by her unconscious steps backward. She lifted a reloaded crossbow to her shoulder. “Get back. I’ll shoot you, I swear.”
“You can try,” Darla laughed. She paused for a moment, trying to scare the girl just a little bit more. “Think you’re safe, little sister? You forget. I’ve been in your house. Okay, I’ve been dead since then, but I’m sure my invite’s still good.”
She lunged at the door. And rebounded off the barrier.
“Duh. I was home all day, idiot,” Dawn said. “I think by now I know how to do an uninvite spell.”
She fired the crossbow. The bolt buried itself in Darla’s eye. “Ew. Sorry!”
Darla staggered, fell back against her minions, and rebounded into the doorway. The barrier held her there, twitching and yowling. Dawn shrieked. She grabbed her second crossbow, and fired again. This time the bolt went right through Darla’s neck, spearing trachea and esophagus.
Dawn dropped the crossbow and danced backwards, completely squicked. “Sorry!”
Drusilla heard Darla’s strangled screech, and went wild. With a superhuman effort, she flung Buffy off her and into the hedges bounding the yard. She sprinted across the driveway, knocking Tara into the garage door, and up the front steps. Shooting a feral, defiant glare at Buffy and her friends, she swept Darla into her arms. Then she leapt off the porch and fled down the street, her minions sprinting to keep up.
The fight was over.
Giles cradled Willow in his arms, her head lolling against his shoulder, and crossed into the living room. As he set her down on the couch, she made a soft mewl, her face scrunched up with pain and reluctance to regain consciousness. Tara slipped both Willow’s shoes off her feet and positioned her feet carefully on the couch. Then she took a seat by Willow’s knees and held her hand, while Giles maneuvered a throw pillow under her head. Xander and Anya followed Giles into the room, a semiconscious William slung between them, his neck wounds still oozing blood. They eased William into the chair opposite the couch. Anya stayed with William and worked to staunch the bleeding; Xander had to reassure himself about Willow. Buffy brought up the rear, picking bits of hedge out of her hair.
Willow’s eyes fluttered open a fraction of an inch.
“Hey,” Tara smiled.
“Hey,” Willow murmured, her voice high and childlike. “What happened?”
“You got knocked out,” Tara replied.
“I did? Crud. How many times is that?”
“Don’t worry, Will,” Xander said, perched by her feet on the arm of the couch. “Giles is still way ahead in the ‘knocked unconscious’ tally.”
“And by a fair margin, I might add,” Giles said. He sat down on the coffee table and carefully examined the bruise on Willow’s temple. “I’m not sure we shouldn’t take you to hospital.”
“No. Don’t need it. Just…” Willow winced. “Somebody pounded my head flat with a mallet.”
Tara rubbed her hand a little and smiled at her. “Yeah, baby, you got conked pretty good.”
Giles checked her pupils. Her right eye was more dilated than the left: a clear indicator of concussion. “We need you to stay conscious for us, now. Can you do that, Willow?”
“Sure. Anything you want.” She tried to sit up. Tried and failed. “Oooh. That doesn’t require moving.”
“Buffy? Um, William’s getting blood on your chair. ” Anya said. She held up a once-white square of bandage, now dripping crimson. “And this gauze pad thing is… well, full.”
“Yeesh,” Buffy said. She leaned over William to examine the tears in his throat. “We’ve got to stop this bleeding.”
“We’re lucky it’s not irreparably worse,” Giles said. “I must say, your timing is impeccable.”
“Timing, schmiming,” Buffy replied. “Dawn saw lurkers outside, and called me on my cell.”
“Yup!” Dawn, looking more than a little smug, dragged the first aid kit into the living room and heaved it onto the coffee table. “Plus, if you’ll notice, I was Crossbow Girl tonight. Shot two vampires - not dead dead, though - and, I never crossed the threshold.”
“Full points for the Dawnster.” Xander shot her a grin.
“Thanks, Dawn,” Buffy said softly. She went over to the first aid kit and gave her sister’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “You were really smart tonight.”
“Yeah. Fine. No problem.” Dawn’s voice got a little short, to cover her embarrassed pleasure. She looked around the room, searching for another topic. “Everyone else okay?”
“Minor.” Xander waved a hand, dismissive. “Cuts and bruises.”
“Rugburns on my face,” Anya added, slightly petulant.
“Completely knackered,” Giles said.
“What about Spike?” Dawn asked. She turned, looking for him. And saw him. “Omigod! Spike!”
Buffy looked up from rifling through bandages. Spike stood a few feet in from the front door, turned slightly towards her, framed by the French doors into the living room. His eyes were distant, unfocused. Hollow. There were crimson streaks and spatters on his face, up into his hair. A smear of ash blackened one cheekbone and temple. His once-gray shirt was dark and wet, sticking to him, and a faint reddish sheen glistened over the dark brown car coat he wore as substitute for his stolen duster. Dust-thickened blood dripped from his hands onto the hardwood floor of the foyer.
“Spike!” He didn’t move. Buffy took a few steps toward him. “Are you hurt?”
He flinched back. “Don’t know.”
“Buffy?” Xander caught her attention. “Spike went a little… Wolverine out there. I don’t think that’s all his blood.”
“Oh. Ew,” Buffy said. “Go wash up, willya?”
Spike didn’t move. He turned his head to face her, but his eyes were still… elsewhere. Buffy considered taking him by the arm, walking him into the kitchen, talking to him about nothing in particular, bringing him out of this slightly intimidating haze. But she had more immediate concerns, like the guy bleeding to death on the La-Z-Boy. Sighing, she grabbed an armful of medical supplies and turned back to William.
William looked like a little boy woken up from a nap: his hair a tousled mess, his mouth open, jaw lax. He struggled to keep leaden eyelids up. Then he saw her, and a light rekindled in his eyes. “Buffy.”
Now that sweet, diffident smile. “Drowning. You saved me.”
“I’m in the process.” Buffy tore open an alcohol wipe. “Let’s get you patched up, shall we?”
He kept trying to look at her, even as she held his chin up to work on his neck. “I’ve never seen anything like…”
“The fighting? Yeah. Now you see why the whole pants thing. Kicking in a skirt gets a little breezy.”
“A goddess.” He struggled to find the words, the perfect description. “Warrior goddess, dancing battle in the moonlight. Artemis, or Athena.”
Spike laughed, a hysterical spiral of a giggle. “Oh, yeh. Virgin goddess, that’s our Buffy.”
“Spike, shut up.” Buffy hardened her tone into a verbal slap. She straightened, turned, and scowled at him. “You’ve got clumps of something in your hair, and the minute I figure out what it is, I’m gonna lose my lunch. So go. Kitchen sink. Clean yourself up.”
Spike swallowed. His hands balled into fists, relaxed, and clenched again. He met her gaze finally, with a hot, sullen glare; a battle still raged, but lucidity now held the field. He nodded - the gesture a sharp vertical jerk of the chin - took three steps backwards, and pivoted towards the kitchen. Buffy watched him leave, and listened for the sound of the faucet.
Back to the William triage. It was as though he’d heard nothing of the previous exchange, and still muddily pondered Buffy’s divinity. “Andraste, leading Celts into the fray. Or Nike.”
Xander crooked an eyebrow. “Goddess of shoes?”
Giles looked up at him, both exasperated and amused. “Nike is the Greek goddess of victory, Xander.”
“I know,” Xander said, shrugging his shoulders. “I just do it for the look, now.”
Giles chuckled softly, and resumed cleaning Willow’s bloody temple. Anya grabbed an alcohol wipe, and started swabbing the scrapes on Xander’s hands. Buffy finished putting butterfly bandages over each torn bite wound on William’s neck.
William continued, his attention now focused on something only he could see. “So very different from her. My own personal deity, divinity, pantheon.”
Buffy folded a pad of gauze in half, and started to cut strips of tape. “This other goddess have a name?”
“Cecily.” He smiled at her name, but a sadness crept into his dreamy expression. “She doesn’t - well, of course she wouldn’t. She’s…”
“Doesn’t return your feelings?” Buffy asked sympathetically.
He pushed himself a little more upright in the chair, and lifted his chin. “I know I love in vain, strive against hope, yet in this captious and untenable sieve I still pour in the water of my love, and lack not to lose, still.”
“That’s beautiful. You write that?”
William snorted. “Shakespeare. Me? My verse is rubbish, it’s - doggerel.”
Buffy tried to reassure him. “I’m sure it’s- ”
“If I were a good poet. Perhaps then she could love me? If I could capture her beauty in words, my emotions in ink. But I never.” He shook his head, despairing. “It’s always just abysmal. And so she looks at me and there’s this… disdain.”
“Shut up.” Spike stood in the doorway. He had sluiced the blood and ash from his face, his hair now a wet slick of pewter. Each hand clutched opposite sides of the jamb, pink-tinged droplets of water tracing paths down the wood. Buffy could see the fury in Spike’s eyes; he barely held himself in check.
William took no notice. He leaned towards Buffy, sharing a bittersweet confidence. “My love is an embarrassment to her.”
“Shut up!” Spike charged across the room, grabbed William by his shirtfront and shoved him up against the far wall. Buffy, caught off-guard and off-balance, sat down hard on the coffee table. Anya gasped, and backed into the corner of the room. Everyone else just watched, stunned at Spike’s sudden explosion. Spike held William against the wall, clutching a fistful of shirt. William, still reeling from blood loss and trapped in his private castigation, seemed not to notice.
“I truly am a wretched creature. Inherently…,” he laughed, bitter, soundless. “Unlovable.”
Finally he saw Spike’s face, mere inches from his own. He struggled to focus. “She’ll never love me, will she? You could tell me.”
“Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!” Spike punched William in the face, hard. Feedback from the chip jolted through his head, making him scream and spasm, knocking him to the ground. An instant later he bounced back to his feet. He punched William again. This time the feedback was even worse. He convulsed, grabbing his head, and keeled over to the floor. Small tremors shook him. The moment he could control his motion, he once more pushed himself to stand.
Buffy grabbed his arm and pulled him away, putting herself between Spike and William. “Spike! Stop it! Stop hitting yourself!”
In the awkward silence that followed, Xander raised his hand. “Whoa. Flash back to fourth grade recess, anyone?”
More silence. Spike lunged at William again; Buffy held him back, her arms locked around his ribcage. He tried again.
“Dammit, Spike!” Buffy yelled.
Spike froze. Then he pulled back, shaking himself free from Buffy’s restraint. He sobbed, once - or perhaps it was a gasp. A short, cruel bark of laughter. He shrugged his shoulders, again in an iron grip of self-control. His eyes slid up to lock on William. Then he spoke. Light, conversational.
“Do you know what I did to Cecily? I killed the bitch.” He twisted the last word, letting anger and cruelty seep into his tone.
“No.” William shook his head, pleading. “You couldn’t…”
Spike continued, implacable. “I ripped her throat out and gorged on her blood. I held her pretty, vapid face in my hands and watched as the life faded from her eyes. It was beautiful. It was a bloody poem, William.”
Spike held William’s gaze a moment more. Then, defiant, sneering, he looked around the room, taking in the shock and dismay. Something flickered across his face; with the same adamantine, merciless control, he strode from the room.
No one moved. It was as though everyone present held their breath, trapped between one instant and the next. Then the backdoor slammed.
William’s knees buckled; he slid down the wall.
Dawn looked at Buffy, a question in her eyes. Then, answering her own question, she bolted out of the room after Spike.
William lay slumped against the wall. His eyes stared at nothing. He didn’t notice the trickle of blood from his nose, or the blossom of bruise on his cheek and upper lip. Buffy had to look away - there was something on his face that spoke of a pain too great to encompass, like a bolus of grief great and hollow in his chest.