Ch 12 - Monster Hunters
In the aftermath of the tragedy at the Steins’, it was decided that Dawn would stay for the night at Giles’ apartment. There was damage there, of course, but it wasn’t as extensive as at her own home and Giles’ lease didn’t expire until December. The Scoobies had decided that the Steins needed an evening alone to just be with each other after coming so close to losing one another. There was no explanation for Detective Gannon’s behavior and she remained sedated at Sunnydale General under guard.
Dawn had called and spoken to Kevin Berman to explain why she wasn’t able to come back following the trip to the airport to see her friend off. He had been sympathetic and after his party finally wrapped up, had dropped by unexpectedly at Giles’. The two of them, along with Kim and another girl, Raye Cassidy, were playing cards and watching a teen comedy. Tara was playing housemother, popping corn and whipping up a batch of brownies while trying not to hover over the kids. Willow had been there as well, but hadn’t stayed long. Taking Tara’s car, she’d gone back to the Summers’ to work on the robot.
Informing Xander about what had happened had caused some consternation for him. He’d assumed that at least as long as Dawn was with the detective’s family, she’d be safe. It just caused him to wonder how he was going to convince Spike that it wasn’t necessary to follow her when she left Sunnydale to spend time with Cordy.
Spike, upon waking, was told the bare minimum about what had happened that day, everyone glossing over Dawn’s immediate danger. It didn’t stop him from throwing a fit about her needing more 24-hour type of protection… a supernatural bodyguard who didn’t have to sleep most of the day away, useless.
At the moment, he and Xander were on a patrol in the Buffybot’s stead, though because Spike was worried about him as well, he’d insisted that they leave the usual hotspots of the cemeteries alone. He would patrol them later by himself.
“Spike, I’m not helpless,” Xander had objected, but it hadn’t swayed the stubborn vampire. Spike was worried that they didn’t know the complete effects, yet, of his drinking Tara’s potion to dispel the Hyena animal-spirit from his system.
There was also a lingering undercurrent of tension between the two, as neither knew how to go about bringing up the change in their relationship or what they were going to do about it. Spike didn’t bring it up because he was trying to convince Xan (and probably himself) that it wasn’t a big deal either way, while Xan just didn’t know what to say.
Now they were in the middle of downtown and headed in the general direction of the eastside warehouse district, where Riley had once lived. There were usually vampires stalking those darker alleyways or trying to establish nests in the abandoned buildings.
“I’m starting to think that these attacks in Dawn’s vicinity aren’t exactly random,” Spike said thoughtfully.
“What do you mean? She doesn’t get into any more danger than the rest of us.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“Well, with the Glory matter settled and the Knights seemingly wiped out, who else would be after her? Besides, the attacks haven’t seemed very related… Warren was more after Buffy and this psycho at Rick’s was after his wife.”
“I’m not saying that they’re specifically targeting the Bit, just that circumstances seem to be putting her in the middle of the danger repeatedly. Like, she’s attracting trouble.”
“Like a curse? You think maybe somebody is hexing her?”
Spike shook his head, “Not specifically.”
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Baby,” Xander said automatically. He quickly met Spike’s surprised expression and quickly looked away again. “Sorry. That slipped in there on accident.”
“Sure. I meant that Dawn’s whole existence is kind of a freak-of-circumstance. She’s literally supposed to be a ball of energy locked away from the world. Instead, she’s been given a mind, a body and a life… not that I’m complainin’ about it. I’m just saying, she might be attracting a… warp… or something. It’d help if we could come up with some more info on her. Seems like our research about ‘The Key’ sort of petered out after that night. Maybe, we shouldn’t have given up on it so soon. Honey,” he added awkwardly, with a glance in Xander’s direction.
Xan gave him a sly glance in return. “Vampires can’t pull off ‘Honey-talk’. What say we speed this up a bit, go back to my apartment for a few beers and a bad movie?”
“Just hang out a bit? Don’t know if I can be that close to you, that long alone, and not try something.”
Xan sighed, clearly frustrated now, “I’m sorry, Spike. I know this is hard for you. It is for me, too. It’d be easier if I could just decide in my own head what I want. Either the guy sex is good for me, or I’m a straight flyer again… but I just don’t know.”
“So, get me naked and find out whether you get sick or horny….”
“Beers and a movie is the best I can do right now.”
“I’ll take it,” Spike shrugged.
Flashback to earlier that day….
The Hellmouth Wisp was bitterly angered by Its lack of any bloodshed at the Stein house. It had had to spend a lot of emotional energy to get the stupid bitch It had possessed to ready herself for murder in the first place, and the conclusion of the theatre in that house had been extremely unsatisfying.
As It lost Its purchase in Marsha Gannon’s mind with the conclusion of her burst of violence, despite it having no effect on those around her, It was seething with petulant rage. It glared at the red headed witch as she immobilized his plaything before It could even induce her to shoot herself, which would have at least tempered Its feelings of failure.
Drifting immaterially and unnoticed above those gathered below it, It focused on trying to let go of the disappointment and focus on Its new opportunities. Taking possession of one of the witches in the room would have been ideal, but not possible. It had made that mistake before long ago, which is how It had ended up behind the Hellmouth gate in the first place. Unfortunately, witches seemed to have a natural resistance to Its manipulation.
The irony of Rick or Carole did not escape Its notice. To have their deaths be the driving force behind Marsha, only to now have one of them be the murderer was delicious. But, the teen girl in the room had Its attention in a way that could not be resisted. There was something about her It could not define, but also couldn’t deny. Like a siren song, It felt itself pulled toward her as she hugged the two magic casters in the room.
Like a moth to a flame, if that moth were self-aware of what it was doing getting so close to the fire, It couldn’t seem to stop itself from entering her, even though an alarm was buzzing in Its mind that this was going to be a horrible mistake.
Green energy surrounded It, filling It with delight and wonder. Drifting deeper through her, It began to realize that this wasn’t human, though what exactly It had found itself interacting with, the Wisp didn’t know.
The sense of mystery and delight quickly gave way to a sense of worry, however. The Energy was now penetrating It, in a way that shouldn’t happen. It struggled to back away from the matrix that was calling It forward, but like in a spider’s silk, it was held.
Panicked now, the demon struggled and raged against the pull of the energy matrix binding with It, but could not exit from the ‘girl’. The Energy bore ever deeper through the layers that made up Its form. Screaming now in denial, It found itself merging uncontrollably and inexorably with this new strange energy form and worse, It was coming out on the dominated end….
End of flashback
Spike led the way through a hole into a dark interior of a non-descript warehouse. Because they had wandered through downtown, Xan wasn’t armed with his usual axe, but instead a simple dagger and a few wood stakes. It didn’t make the vampire happy that he refused to remain outside the building, until he could figure out the situation. His predator’s instinct told him that there was something close by.
He stopped short, putting a hand out to stop the human, as well. Xander’s eyesight in the darkness was back to normal without his spirit and Spike could tell by his heart rate that he was having trouble with fear. His stumbling footfalls also told the vampire that he couldn’t see what the hell he was doing - another good reason for the stubborn man to have remained outside.
“What,” Xan whispered very close to his ear, giving him an unintended thrill down his spine.
He was standing so close, and the scent of his adrenaline-spiked perspiration was enough to force Spike to get hard. He forcefully pushed the X-rated thoughts of what he and Xander could be doing right now instead of this away and listened. A few rooms away, there was definite activity…
“Fight going on,” he replied in a low voice. “There’s at least two attackers, humans?! And, I don’t know… maybe a dozen bloodsuckers.”
“Then let’s go,” Xan called out as he rushed past the vampire, eliciting some swearing.
Spike hadn’t liked how Buffy’s whole crew always seemed to want to throw themselves into the lion’s mouth, even before they’d lost her. Now, especially with Dawn and Xander, he was often frustrated in his attempts to hold them back and keep them safe. It was enough to piss him off. Should have just insisted that I could patrol on my own, damn it.
Xander kicked open a door, before being shoved aside by Spike so he could cross into the room first. He exclaimed an angry word at the vampire, but followed him close on his heels, dagger already exchanged for the more helpful stake.
Within was a skinny guy and a young looking girl already fighting with the demons. He was wielding a sword, clumsily hacking and slashing at those nearest him. She had a vampire on the ground and was plunging a wood stake into its chest in rapid succession. Though she was certainly getting success in causing a lot of pained swearing and roaring from the demon under her, she seemed to be having problems with penetrating its heart.
The room was lit by a harsh, white light from a small, battery powered lantern dropped to the floor. Xander recognized it as a camper’s lantern - he’d used one himself several times while sleeping outside to avoid the annual Christmas Drunk-N-Fightapalooza of his parents.
“Help the girl,” Spike exclaimed to Xan as he threw himself at two more demons threatening to overwhelm the man, driving them to the ground under his momentum.
The vampire in the meanwhile, had managed to roll over on top of the girl and she was struggling to hold its face away from the side of her throat. Xander shoved his stake expertly between its ribs from behind and then withdrew and spun to meet a vampire woman as it ashed behind him. A quick rabbit-punch knocked the vamp-girl to the side enough to avoid her lunge.
In the basement of Dawn’s house, Willow sighed with frustration at the results of her scan of Buffybot. There was damage to its motor control functions from some sort of blows to its chest and there was more wiring that needed replacing in its abdomen than she had hoped.
Her neck had also been damaged, so that when she’d tried to straighten out her head after dragging her to lie flat on the concrete floor in front of the washer and dryer, the plastic tubing that gave her flexibility tore through her fake skin covering. She wasn’t able to get her face to stare straight up at the ceiling.
The only good thing was that, though time and money consuming, there didn’t seem to be anything that she couldn’t repair. It was just a matter of doing it quickly enough to be ready for Mrs. Sinclair.
“You and I are going to be spending a lot of time together on your blow-avoidance programming,” she sighed at the robot. “But first… coffee….”
In the warehouse, Spike was able to stake three vampires in quick succession while Xander was occupied standing side by side with the mystery girl and holding off two more of the fang-crew. The sword guy was swinging it around inexpertly, threatening to cut his own leg off if he wasn’t more careful. Through luck, he’d managed to behead two more and another was lying on the ground with a grievous throat wound, though whether it would be fatal in the long run wasn’t clear.
Xan figured it didn’t matter, as its blood loss had it weakly crawling toward the exit and he’d easily be able to pick it off later. Assuming the idiot spastically dancing around the room didn’t accidentally cut of his head, too, while he was at it.
Spike took a quick glance to make sure Xan didn’t need immediate saving and took a blow to the side of the face, knocking him across the room.
That happens every damned time, he complained to the universe.
The vampire who’d apparently hit him, rushed up behind him, but Spike sensed his approach. With a quick backward jab, he impaled the other demon instinctively and heard the instant grunt of pain and the sounds of a dusting. His demonic senses immediately confirmed that he’d struck true and his attacker was gone.
Two more of the vampires rushed past him with hisses and roars and out into the night. They didn’t bother to avoid trampling on their fallen and bleeding comrade.
“Stop ‘em,” the guy with the sword yelled as another vampire lost his head.
Instead, Spike made a several foot leap, landing behind the vampires menacing Xan and grabbing one of them. Yanking it away, he began beating at the back of her head.
Xander took advantage of the distraction of the other vampire and with a yell, threw himself at him. They were knocked to the floor with the girl trying to help by pinning the demon’s legs.
As he struggled to lean against the vampire’s resisting arms with enough leverage to force the stake through its chest, he heard the girl give a shout of indignant pain. The guy yelled the name ‘Donna’ and rushed by him, but didn’t bother to help him out.
Beheading this guy would’ve been nice!
From across the room, the sound of a dusting was heard and then Spike was on his back, adding his weight. The vampire grunted with effort, but it was too much and momentum carried the stake right where it needed to go.
With a roar and explosion of dust, Xander fell forward onto the concrete of the floor, Spike’s solid weight baring down on him. From the side there was another roar and when he turned his head slightly, he saw the sword guy kneeling there huffing and puffing.
Spike got up off of him and helped him to his feet, “That was fun.”
“Yeah. A blast,” he returned sardonically. A glance showed his knuckles swelling up where they’d impacted the vampire’s jaw. “And, ow.”
Donna and Sword-guy embraced and then turned to the newcomers in their midst, while Spike and Xander stared back at them. The three humans were huffing for air, while Spike of course just wished for a cigarette.
“Who the hell are you guys,” the young man asked.
“I was thinkin’ the same thing,” Xan returned.
End Ch 12