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Another update

It's thanks to this comm that I forced myself back on track with this long fic, so it felt only right to post the second update in a fortnight here too. As before, many thanks to brutti_ma_buoni for the inspiration which got me working on this again.

Chapter Twenty-five: Into the Dark

There was little light left in the sky by the time the group pushed through the battered barn door and into the farmyard. “We’re going to need some light”, Dawn announced. “Is there a flashlight in that rental car?”

“There’s probably a torch in there. Yes. Go look, will you, Bit?”

Rupert Giles nodded and moved to his own vehicle, rummaging in the door pockets. He swore under his breath after a moment and called his brother across to help with the search. After a moment he called again, with the same complete absence of a response. He jerked his head up, colliding with the door frame.

“Still bumping your head I see, Watcher,” Spike pointed out. It was quite unnecessary to do so, but fun.

“Thank you, Spike. I had noticed.” Rupert’s voice was sharp. “Where is my brother?”

Dawn and Buffy looked around, then at each other. Who had seen him last? They turned to the witches.

“I thought he was with us when we left the barn.” Althanea sounded concerned.

“He was. Took off thataway as soon as Big Bro went to his motor, though.” Spike sounded bored, but Buffy recognised an edge to his voice.

“Whichaway? Should we worry?” Dawn noticed the edge too – what had that fuss been about? Why would it make the other, non-Giles, Giles rush off?

Rupert Giles looked grim. “Some of you people seem to mistake rural prettiness for safety. California is far from the only demon-infested area, you know. Did I mention that this is a centre of mystical convergence? You ought to remember, Buffy. There was one of those in Sunnydale.”

“You mean this well thing is kinda Hellmouthy? Not cool.” Dawn felt she was doing quite a good impression of her sister’s way with words there. Twin glares from Buffy and Spike suggested otherwise.

“This is no Hellmouth, Rupes.” Spike sounded weary, almost defeated, “ It’s older and scarier than dear old Sunnyhell ever managed. I’ve been there. Hafta say, I kind of hoped I wouldn’t need to go there again.”

“That good? I can’t say I’m surprised. I suppose you have no memory of its precise location?”

“Pretty much over there, beyond that copse.” Spike pointed in the same direction he had indicated to be Oscar’s path. “Just over the rise there.”

Giles, Buffy and Dawn all stared at him. Andrew gave a low whistle. “So, Mr Smiley, you think we have a mole?”

All eyes swivelled towards him. Several pairs rolled.

“Right.” Buffy stepped forward. “Time for General Buffy, I think. Giles, I’d like you and Dawn to bring up the rear. Spike, you’re with me. Everyone else, in between.”

As Dawn started to protest at being yet again treated as a little girl, Witleof stepped forward, chest out and chin up. “I, too am a warrior. Put me in the line of danger.”

“I want to avoid danger, not court it,” muttered Buffy. The hopeful look on his face was hard to ignore, however. “OK. Spike’s to my left - you go to my right, but far enough behind that I don’t hit you on the backswing.”

“Backswing? Buffy, don’t you need a weapon…” Spike’s voice trailed into silence as Giles hauled a sports bag from the boot of his SUV and passed her a useful-looking sword. “You wouldn’t have another of those to spare, would you, Rupert?” he asked. “Think I know what I could do with that.”

Giles groaned and passed Spike a smaller sword, a viciously sharp scimitar. He had several more weapons, though he was deaf to Dawn’s plea and both witches refused to take even a club. Andrew hefted a cudgel, however, and seemed not to notice the scared expressions of several of his companions as he practised a few swings and swipes.

“Right, Spike. Anything we should know before we start moving?” Buffy turned for his advice.

“Beyond that copse there’s a slope down a field. About halfway down there’s another little spinney, around a bloody big tree. Last time I was here we had a spot of bother there. Dunno if that holds good now, mind - the Guardian’s not around any more.”

“Bother?” Buffy’s voice sounded wary.

“Nothing you can’t handle, Slayer - few demons, that’s all. Decapitation works really well on them.”

Ignoring Dawn’s melodramatic shudder and Andrew’s tiny squeak of panic, Giles straightened his posture and looked only mildly balefully at Spike. “So, is there a trick to this decapitation?”

“Not for you there isn’t. You heard Buffy - you get to stay at the back with the Niblet. Team Slayer at the front will sort it for you - no need for anyone’s knickers to get in a twist.”

Giles’s gesture of protest was damped as Dawn grabbed his arm. She didn’t care who was keeping whom safe as far as their leaders were concerned - she was just certain she needed to be close to someone who had never died and had no intention of risking doing so. Giles sighed with resignation, then coughed, that annoying noise that had nothing at all to do with clearing the throat or lungs and everything to do with attracting attention. “My brother. He’s annoyed you - hell, he’s annoyed me. But I’d take it as a personal kindness if you could try to avoid harming him.”

Spike and Buffy glanced back, then at each other,then nodded in unison. “If we can, Giles.” Buffy said, “But we don’t know where he’s gone or why. If he’s up to no good — well, I can’t make promises. Spike, you mentioned demon-wrangling?”

“Right, Slayer. If the demons attack, we deal with them. Peaches and I used an old trick with cheese wire, but these swords should work as well. Beyond that there’s a tree with a cunning little door in it.”

“To Halloween Land?” Dawn butted in from her place at the rear.

There was a harsh crack of laughter as Spike recognised the reference. “Well it’s not bloody Christmas, is it? Lots of things down there do a sight more than going bump in the night. No. It’s a hole. It goes all the way down.” his face contorted in a spasm of unwelcome memory.

Buffy stepped to his side and held his hand, briefly. He flinched a little, “Not now, pet. Don’t need distractions going in. After the demon hordes - well, hordlet - there may be someone else. There was last time. He’s not going to be there, but there’s no saying whether the Powers That Fuck Us Around will have replaced him. Leave the talking to me if so, unless I give the nod.”

“Play it your way. So, after the onrush of evil - how do we know they are evil anyway? No, don’t answer that. After we’ve dealt with the nasties, what next?”

The cloudless sky above was peppered with stars; they and a sliver of moon gave enough light, added to the orange glow of distant Oxford, for the group to see the tension in each others’ expressions. Spike’s face was set, his expression grim.

“Don’t rightly know. There’s a door and a long set of tunnels through stone and earth. Then a bridge. By the time we get there, should be some idea of what’s against us. You ready, luv?”

Buffy tested the weight and swing of her weapon. “As I’ll ever be. Let’s go.”

If you have been, thanks for reading.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 14th, 2012 04:19 am (UTC)
Oooh, so Oscar may be more than merely annoying...
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )