"The night has a thousand eyes and the day but one"
-- Francis William Bourdillon
The demon was big, scaly, and seemed to have more than its fair share of claws and teeth. And it smelled. A lot. "There's just no excuse for not flossing," Buffy said breathlessly as she fought to remain upright, her feet skidding on the wet earth. But then the demon's full weight was on her, razor scales pressing against her skin...and she no longer cared about the smell.
Buffy tumbled to the ground beneath the monster, its weight driving all the air from her lungs and for a moment it was all she could do just to breathe. It reached for her throat with its fangs -- and even oxygen didn't seem all that important anymore. The Slayer rolled aside, evading the teeth, and reaching out desperately for a weapon -- any weapon -- but her fingers encountered only empty air. The creature's first rush must have sent them flying -- and she couldn't see where they had gone. Unless she rolled over them by accident, she realized grimly, she wasn't going to be getting them back in a hurry either.
This was bad.
Gasping, the Slayer lashed upwards with both feet -- and missed. By a mile. She tried again and managed to land a weak blow on the demon's -- shoulder? -- which it ignored, backhanding her so that she found herself flying through the air, hitting the ground even harder than before.
Very bad. Badness on a cosmic scale.
Buffy sensed movement and rolled again hastily, barely avoiding the demon's raking teeth. One tooth-edge caught her along the back of the hand, drawing a thin line of blood, but she ignored it. Instead she aimed another kick up at the monster.
She might as well have kicked one of the tombstones. The demon rocked back slightly from the impact then lunged for her again, roaring in what she could only presume was fury. 'Great. Guess I made it mad.' Together Buffy and the monster rolled down a slight incline with it, their limbs tangling.
"Very nice," she heard Spike say distinctly as she fell. "Slayer mud-wrestling. Wish I'd known ahead of time. Could've sold tickets..."
Buffy came to a stop on top of the demon and, for just an instant, she had the upper hand. But no weapons. With a frustrated curse Buffy settled for hitting the demon as hard as she could. Maybe she could beat it to death...
Or maybe it would die of boredom. Her blow had no effect at all, at least not on the monster. Her own arm went slightly numb from the impact though, as her fist connected with its jaw. It was like hitting a slab of concrete. Big, angry concrete with fangs. With an ease that was frightening, the demon threw her off and she landed hard again, several feet away.
If she had injured it in her previous fight, the monster certainly wasn't showing the effects now. Which meant that it healed fast. Or was pretty much impervious to whatever she could throw at it. And it was fast. The Slayer barely had time to get her feet beneath her before the creature was on her again, roaring like a banshee and slashing at her with both sets of claws. She aimed a series of punches at it, driving it back a little by sheer force of will, but she was beginning to tire...and it still seemed as strong as ever.
* * *
What the hell was she playing at? Spike frowned and moved closer to the two combatants. He had been keeping out of the way, enjoying the fight...and the view. Wet, muddy Slayer, with bits of clothing starting to come undone... very nice. But she kept leaving herself open to hits that a child could have avoided, and passing up obvious opportunities to go in for the kill. And why she refused to use her weapons when they were so close was beyond him. As he watched, the Slayer reeled back from another blow and Spike's frown deepened. This was just...weird.
* * *
Buffy was still hitting the demon with everything she had, but all it was doing was making her arms ache. Whereas, when its blows connected, it felt as though buildings were falling on her. Big, bricky buildings. Her breath was coming in ragged gasps -- on the upside, at least she could breathe again -- and her reactions were beginning to slow. Actually, everything seemed to be slowing, the Slayer realized distantly. The world around her, what she could still sense of it, was fading, as if time itself were coming to a halt. For a moment, alarm darted through her...and then recognition banished the fear.
She had experienced this sensation before -- just a few times, true, but often enough that she recognized it for what it was. She had felt it when she had faced the Master, and when she had gone up against Adam. Had felt it at the moment when Angelus had had her cornered and defenceless. 'Take everything else away,' he had said then, mockingly, 'and what's left?'
'Me.' She had answered. Buffy.
No, not Buffy.
And, as simply as that, she forgot the rain, forgot her blindness, forgot where and when she was...forgot everything except the battle. And the enemy.
She was the Slayer. And she would not go down without a fight.
* * *
'Atta girl,' Spike thought, as Buffy surged back to her feet, landing two swift hits on the demon and following up with a roundhouse kick, one foot connecting squarely with its chest. 'That's the Slayer we all know and hate.' He took another step closer...which was when he noticed it.
She was fighting with her eyes closed.
* * *
The end came suddenly, unexpectedly. An unseen, unsensed blow caught Buffy across the chest and she found herself sailing backwards, crashing into a nearby statue, hard enough to crack the marble. And, for just a moment it felt as if something else, besides the statue, had cracked.
As quickly as that, it was over. The trance -- whatever it was that she had been in -- ended and she was suddenly all too aware of her body again, of the burning in her lungs and the way her muscles were trembling with fatigue. And most of all, of the pain shooting along her shoulders and down her back, over her right thigh and hip, and across the back of her hand. Once again she was aware of the cold rain pouring down on her and the ambient noises surrounding her...
The demon howled, as if sensing its triumph and then, to Buffy's complete and utter lack of surprise, it came at her once more. Only this time the Slayer couldn't seem to move. Her battered body refused to surmount the wall of pain that had risen up around her. She managed to get her hands up in time to grasp the creature by the neck and hold it away from her, but that was all. She could do no more. And she couldn't keep this up much longer...
* * *
Spike was becoming seriously worried. Stupid git was going to get herself killed. And she wouldn't even ask him for help. Bloody arrogant Slayer. He should just walk away and let the demon finish her off. Serve her bleeding well right...
Only...he couldn't. Much as part of him would like to, he couldn't really let her die. Could he?
* * *
Buffy's fingers were starting to cramp, the muscles in her arms and back screaming from the strain of holding the demon back, and her tired mind was all out of options. She couldn't let go of the monster or it would kill her. On the plus side, the demon could get no closer while she had it by the throat. So the only question was which one of them was going to weaken first. And, given the way Buffy's arms were trembling, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which way the fight was going to go.
The impasse was finally broken when the demon suddenly did the unexpected -- pulling backwards and breaking her grasp. Before she could move again, before she could even think about moving, the monster was lunging at her, raking downward with one set of claws...
...and the world stopped.
The horrible sound of something tearing...
Something warm and wet pouring down her left arm, mixing with the rain...
The feeling when the body knows that it has been injured but the pain hasn't had time to travel up the nerve-ends to the brain yet...
And then the agony. Like a wall of flame, tearing through her body, burning every nerve end and scorching her soul. 'Didn't think it would hurt this much,' Buffy had time to think...and then her eyes were sliding shut as the world around her began to fade away.
* * *
Spike was already in motion. He had begun moving the moment that the scent of the Slayer's blood, sharp and metallic, had pierced the night air. As the demon's claws were ripping down the length of her left arm, starting at the collarbone and ending just above the back of her wrist, he was launching himself through the air toward the monster.
Once, Spike would have stood back, admiring the details as he watched the Slayer die. He probably would have applauded...or helped. Or he might have attacked the demon himself so he could be the one to finally end her life. He had fantasized about this moment so many times, had visualized what it would be like to stand over this Slayer while her blood poured out onto the ground and the light faded from her eyes. He had dreamed about it, had envisioned every nuance, every motion, every word...
But never once had he pictured himself leaping into the fray to save her. To save the Slayer.
Spike's rush hit the demon with enough force to send it staggering to one side, away from Buffy. His game face on, he threw everything he had at the monster. Just keep it on the defensive, keep it moving away from her...but then it hit him on the jaw and the vampire's goal changed to merely staying conscious. Damn, the thing was strong. Spike ducked another blow and backed up a step, wondering what to do next.
In his right mind he never would have taken on something this big. At least not without a hell of a lot more reinforcements and/or weaponry. Yeah -- heavy ordinance would be good. And a plan. Definitely a plan. Like running. Spike had never had a problem with running away. Live to fight another day, or at the very least come back and stab the enemy in the back -- that was his motto. Well, one of them, anyway. He could just go, take to his heels -- odds were good the demon wouldn't even follow him. Only...
"Stupid bloody pillock," Spike snarled to himself as he launched himself forward again and swung another punch at the demon. "Bleeding soft-hearted prat." He punctuated every word with a hit to the creature. "It wasn't bad enough you went and got this sodding chip in your head, that you're about as scary as Donald-Bloody-Duck now. But no, now you have to go and risk your stupid un-life for the stupid bloody Slayer. Isn't that just great? How pathetic can you get?"
On the other hand -- it did feel kind of good to finally have something on which to take out his frustrations. A little violence to take the edge off. Couldn't hurt, could it? For just an instant Spike found himself grinning as the demon reeled back under his assault. But then it struck him in the middle of the chest...and the vampire's grin vanished.
Spike went down like he had been hit by a wrecking ball, enveloped in pain. For a moment the world spun and it was all he could do to keep his eyes open...to see the monster reaching down for Spike's head with both sets of clawed hands.
The vampire's mouth went dry as the demon took a good grip on both sides of his head...and began to twist. Fear tore through him. The sodding demon was going to rip his sodding head off and smile at him while it did it.
Spike was struggling frantically -- and futilely -- reaching for something to use as a weapon when the creature suddenly stiffened. A surprised look flitted across its face and then its eyes rolled back in its head. A thin stream of dark blood trickled out of its mouth...and it collapsed. Right on top of him.
Well, that was unexpected.
Hesitantly at first, then with more force Spike reached up and shoved the creature off then put a hand that was shaking slightly up to his neck, as if to reassure himself that his head was still attached to the rest of him. It was. Oh good.
Another movement caught his attention and Spike looked up, blinking away the rain that was running into his eyes. Someone was standing over him, he realized, a long silver knife held in a bloodstained hand.
"Is it dead yet?" Buffy managed to ask, her voice reed thin and shaking. And then she too crashed to the ground beside him, her legs crumpling beneath her.
Continued in Part 3