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Chapter 28 Offer Your Throat
On a hot summer night
would you offer your throat
to the wolf with the red roses?
Will he offer me his teeth? Yes.
Will he offer me his jaws? Yes.
Will he offer me his hunger? Yes.
Will he starve without me? Yes.
And does he love me? Yes.
Will you offer your throat to
the wolf with the red roses?
You Took the Words
Right Out of My Mouth
Their animosity toward mankind drove the Horsemen into the little town; they lusted for its destruction. When the summons to the river came, the riders convulsed with rage. The traitorous Watcher had dared to call them with the stolen crystal.
Resentment toward the jailor pulled them away. They screamed of retribution for decades of imprisonment.
In one fluid motion, they wheeled around, changing course for the river. First, they would kill the traitor, their long despised enemy, and then they would revel in the complete destruction of the town.
When they grew closer to the river, their leader became aware of something else waiting there for him. It was her.
He grinned maniacally. This would be a good night. His fellow riders would slaughter the traitor and any others that stood in their way and seize the crystal, while he would yet capture what he craved and had been denied.
The bloodlust began to sing to him, a siren’s song of potency, strength and power. He moaned. Digging his spurs into its flanks, he goaded his horse forward. She was his and soon he would have her and her power. For all eternity.
Spike watched the Slayer walk confidently past him with her head held high. He lit a cigarette and glanced over at Rupert. The Watcher, his face a study in concentration, was notching his compound bow. Spike exhaled and listened again briefly for the other Watcher. He didn’t trust him. McGee had done the summoning and then slid away into the reeds where Spike was keeping tabs on him through his heartbeat. It was beating very fast. More than a century of hunting humans had made Spike an expert on fear and he could tell the cowardly old man was petrified.
Spike pulled at his cigarette and shrugged to himself. Going up against ancient and powerful demons wasn’t everyone’s cuppa.
He turned his eyes forward again and beheld the Slayer, resplendent and alone in the bright moonlight with her sword. No, not everyone had it in them to go full out, fists and fangs and sod all else, but the Slayer would. She loved the dance.
With the toe of his boot, Spike mashed the cigarette into the sand as the sound of hoof beats grew louder.
Sliding into game face, he tightened the grip on his sword. He had vowed to watch the Slayer’s back but understood that his main priority was keeping Red and Glinda safe and the crystal out of the hands of the demons.
He shifted, quickly scanning behind him. The witches were still chanting. They were sitting completely still, within their own private world, their hands linked around the glowing crystal. The crystal itself was glowing so radiantly Spike had to shield his eyes.
The crystal’s brilliant illumination coupled with the full moon had given everyone and everything the look of an otherworldly impressionistic painting. High noon at the o.k. corral as done in magicks. Spike listened to their murmuring once more and turned around.
Leaning forward on the balls of his feet, he glanced to his left. Rupert, holding his compound bow, caught the look and nodded. Spike returned the nod, faced front again and squared his shoulders. The loud staccato of the hoof beats had stopped.
Spike raised his sword.
It was time to dance.
Buffy heard the word before she saw the horseman. It floated through the darkness seductively.
The hoof beats had stopped several yards from the river. The black rider came striding forward out of the dark desert with his three fellow demons following behind. Using the long knife he carried, he waved the other demons forward.
His eyes caressed her as he stopped a few feet away. He smiled.
The Slayer watched as the other demons melted away. They were superfluous. It was him that she had to face.
Buffy suddenly noticed that a mistral-like wind had kicked up the sand, blowing strongly across the desert. Coupled with the harvest moon, it brought her fever dream back in vivid detail. She strengthened her resolve. Tonight must end differently.
She raised her voice defiantly. “I’m the one that summoned you. We have unfinished business.”
His voice wove sinuously around her. “And I have answered your summons.”
Buffy watched tensely as the demon seemed to subtly change form. His face and body elongated, assuming a skeletal configuration. His crimson eyes burned into her. Buffy could see the hunger and longing. For her and her power.
He held out his hand to her, the fingers long and thin. “You know you are mine. Come to me.”
Buffy stood her ground and answered forcefully. “No.” She tried not to stare into those fathomless eyes, but there was no way to shut out the smooth, beguiling voice. It seemed all at once to flow around, over, and through her.
Buffy shook her head to clear it and clutched her sword tighter. She could hear the fighting behind her and the continued murmuring chant of the witches. She had to continue to hold him off, to keep him away from the others. While the black rider stayed focused on her, he wouldn’t join in the fray and the others would have their chance.
She strengthened her resolve, pointing her sword toward him. “I won’t give in to you this time.”
His resonant voice began to weave a story for her. He painted a picture of lush verdant forests and spoke of the eternal serenity of the ocean.
Buffy remained steadfast, her sword held out in front of her.
The voice reminded her of how it had been before she was called, the summer nights of her youth under bright twinkling stars, of the innocent pleasure and happiness. He assured her that when she rested, it would be as it was then. She just needed to be his and all that she secretly desired would be hers. Forever.
Buffy lowered the sword slightly and listened.
The rider stepped closer and continued to weave his web of words. He whispered to her of a place that waited for her, of how the warm earth would enfold her as a mother swaddled a child within a beloved blanket.
Buffy continued to listen and began to wonder. Finally she took a step closer.
His voice cajoled and promised. It would be a place of rest, a place of utter calm and peace, complete serenity. Everything forgiven and everyone loved. A mighty warrior’s final wish granted. Just for her. Only for her. All she had to do was go to him and let him take care of her.
Buffy smiled wistfully and longed. She inched another step closer to him. Her sword dropped to her side.
The rider stepped toward her and then stopped; he could only go so far. The Slayer would need to cross the final boundary on her own. Her power had to be relinquished to him willingly. He held out his hand as he had in her dream and summoned her the final time. His voice was resonant and full of tender offering. “Come to me Slayer, it is time and you are mine. I will give you that which you seek and you can finally rest. It is your right as a warrior of the people.”
Buffy considered his words. She began to walk to him.
Spike watched as the black rider and the other demons walked in from the desert. He saw the rider stop in front of the Slayer. The three other demons were all at least a foot taller than Spike and when they suddenly appeared right in front of him and blocked his view, Spike knew there was nothing that he could do for the Slayer now. He had his hands full at the moment. Bloody hell, they move as quickly as I do. He raised his sword and started to move cautiously and slowly to the side, away from Rupert and the witches and toward the open desert.
Giles watched as the demons moved incredibly fast toward Spike. He immediately realized his bow was useless, they were much too swift. Dropping it at his feet, he picked up the ax he’d laid by his feet in the sand. There was nothing they could do but fight hand to hand. With their speed and size, Giles knew that it was going to be difficult to stop them at all. Squaring his shoulders, he knew he needed to try and at least waylay one of them long enough for Spike to gain the advantage. The longer he could hold one off, the better chance Spike would have against the other two.
When one of the demons pulled away from Spike and suddenly stood right in front of him, Giles grimaced and swung his ax. And missed. The demon, far faster than he, had ducked back away from him. Rising up, the demon kicked him in the stomach. Giles bent over from the pain. Grunting, he straightened up, resolutely stepped forward, raised his ax and swung again.
Spike had drawn the two demons as far away from the witches as he dared without being obvious. Moving lightly between them, he sized them up. They were both taller and heavier than him.
Although they matched him in speed, he was the more experienced fighter. It was patently obvious that neither demon was used to fighting hand to hand. Spike figured they had other powers like that thrall they drew upon within their own dimension. Here they were just stronger and faster demons stuck within a larger almost human form and that was a weakness Spike hoped to exploit. He figured if things continued as they were, he had a chance. He was light on his feet; he’d handle anything they could toss at him. He had to.
But it was difficult to keep his eyes on both of them at once. Slicing across with his sword, he managed to slightly wound one of them in the side, but the cut didn’t even slow the demon down. Spike whirled around to face the second demon. It was approaching Spike with a long knife held in its hand.
He’d be able to handle anything except for one thing.
Spike heard the seductive voice. Bloody hell, he definitely didn’t need that right now. He already knew he couldn’t look in the demons’ eyes. He’d just have to find some way to ignore their voices, too. He took a powerful swing with his sword toward the demon that had spoken.
The demon moved smoothly away. It spoke again and sounded more confused than persuasive. “Why do you fight for humans when I could help you hunt again?”
Before Spike could formulate an answer, he got kicked hard in the knee by the other demon. Wincing, he gave up on the discourse and concentrated on swinging his sword toward the second demon. Gotta stop listening. They’re already getting me off my game. The first demon took the opportunity, aimed and delivered a strong punch to Spike’s mouth. He felt his lip split. Shrugging it off, he aimed for the first demon again.
“It’s because I bloody well don’t like you gits,” Spike said loudly as he connected with a well aimed kick into the demon’s own knee.
The demon fell onto one knee. Before it could rise Spike kicked it under the chin. The powerful kick forced the demon’s head to snap back, driving it flat on its back. Before Spike could drive home the killing blow, he felt the other demon’s fist connect hard with the side of his head. He staggered sideways and dropped his sword. The demon kicked it away. Growling, Spike spun around. His yellow eyes gleamed as his own demon demanded revenge.
Spike and the rider slowly circled each other.
The rider’s red eyes glowed and his voice cajoled. “Let me help you.” He held onto the sharp knife. “If you allow me to place my hands on your brow, I can remove your restraint easily. Then you will be free.”
Spike shook off the voice once again although it was more difficult this time. “Told you, not goin’ to happen.”
“I could make you powerful again. You could join us, or not. It would be your choice.”
With the demon’s words concerning choices tumbling around in his head, Spike shook him off once again. My choice is to help Buffy.
Willing himself not to falter, Spike quickly danced forward, kicked out with his leg and connected with the demon’s arm that held the knife. The demon winced and dropped the knife into the sand. Spike moved forward and balled his fists. The demon, unsure of what was happening, tried to move to the left. Spike anticipated the movement and quickly drove toward the demon’s face. Each alternating punch punctuated his words. “I-have-made-my-choice-and-it’s-not-you!!”
With the final powerful blow, the demon screamed, fell to its knees and shook its head, trying to clear its vision. Spike connected a hard kick that drove the demon from its knees to the ground. It lay there temporarily stunned. Spike licked the blood away from his split lip and hurriedly turned toward the second demon, but it was too late.
He had lost track of it. During Spike’s assault, the other rider had recovered from the earlier blow and moved swiftly away from the area. Spike looked around him and then over at Rupert. He was still standing and swinging his ax at the third demon. Spike knew the Watcher couldn’t hold out forever. He had been wounded already; Spike could smell his blood.
Wheeling around, Spike hurriedly ran toward the witches searching frantically for the missing demon. Suddenly he heard a loud scream in the reeds that ended abruptly. The demon had circumvented the witches and gone straight for his old nemesis. Cut his throat from the sound and smell of it.
Spike stopped at the witches’ circle. They’d stopped chanting and were struggling to move the crystal away from the riverbank.
Spike stepped forward and spoke urgently. “Where does it need to go?”
Willow, exhaustion etched on her face, nodded toward the desert in front of her. “It seems to have become slippery during the spell somehow or maybe we’re just tired, but we need to move it away from the riverbank and onto solid ground.”
Spike picked the crystal up for the women, carried it away from the riverbank and set it down at the edge of the flat desert. Willow pointed to Giles a few yards away still grappling with the demon. “I can direct the beam but no one else can be near. It’ll pull in everything within direct proximity.”
“I’m totally guessing here, maybe two or three feet in diameter.”
“Hurry and aim it at that wanker lyin’ on the ground over there, he’s startin’ to get up. I’ve got to track the one that got the old Watcher, and then I can pull Rupert away.”
Willow immediately started murmuring an incantation while running her hands along the crystal. Spike hated to leave the two women alone again, but with the second rider still free, he didn’t dare remain. He looked at Tara’s face, quickly assessing the blonde. She looked tired but determined. Good. He knew housed within the quiet witch was a strength that people often overlooked.
“Here, Glinda, just in case.” Spike reached into his boot and handed Tara his short serrated knife. He watched as she carefully tucked it into the high waistband at the back of her skirt. “You two stay with the crystal. Don’t try to move any closer.” When she nodded firmly, he turned around and waded into the head-high reeds. He had to find that other rider. Fast.
Giles tried to catch his breath. Bugger all that hurt. During one of its assaults the demon had managed to plunge its knife into the Watcher’s side. Giles figured from the way it felt when he tried to catch a deep breath; it had struck close to his lung. Shaking off the acute pain again, he hefted the ax. The demon held its long knife out in front and lunged forward again. Giles stepped quickly away from the knife. Gathering his strength he swung the ax and finally managed to connect it deeply within the demon’s upper thigh. It screamed and viciously drove forward, favoring the leg. Giles quickly backed up and tried to catch his breath again.
Warily watching the knife, Giles moved forward and swung the ax again. He missed. He took a ragged breath, pulled back and tried to assess his opponent. The demon had slowed down. Its leg was bleeding heavily and it was having trouble putting any weight down on it, but it still drove forward. When it quickly swung its knife at his stomach again, the Watcher realized that the rider had no intention of stopping; it thirsted for the power and the pain too much.
Giles knew this would end soon, one way or the other and tried to think of a plan. Behind the demon’s back, Spike lifted the crystal and moved it forward. Giles cautiously avoided the demon’s knife again as he watched the activity out of the corner of his eye. He watched Willow aim the crystal at the demon groggily getting to its feet.
Suddenly there was a swift pulse of brilliant light and the demon quietly and utterly vanished, sent to the hell dimension. The crystal worked.
Giles had managed to move in such a way that insured the demon had its back to the witches when the silent beam discharged. Now Giles knew what he had to do. The demon raised its knife again as the Watcher summoned every last ounce of will left and slowly inched backward. When the demon finally realized that his prey was moving backward instead of forward, it prepared to hobble toward him. But before it could completely compensate for the unexpected change in direction, Giles turned and ignoring the excruciating pain in his side, ran as quickly as he could away from the demon.
Willow had been watching the struggle closely and suddenly realized what Giles had planned. When she saw him begin to inch away, she turned and aimed the beam. When he bolted far enough away from the demon, she turned it on. Unable to move as quickly as the Watcher, the rider vanished as quietly and completely as its fellow demon. Willow turned off the beam and high fived Tara. They turned back in time to see Giles turn pale and collapse heavily on the sand.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/191132.html