FIC: Riders PG-13 (8/30)

This entry is part 8 of 30 in the series Riders
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Chapter 8  All You Wanted

I’m Sinking Slowly

So hurry hold me

Your hand is all I have

To keep me hanging on

Please can you tell me

So I can finally see

Where you go when

You are gone.

            -Michelle Branch

             All you Wanted

Buffy carefully picked her way around a spiny green barrel cactus. “Huh, imagine that. This hell dimension looks amazingly like the Nevada desert.” She stepped over a tarantula sitting on a low flat rock.

Wiping the dripping sweat from her face with the corner of her shirt, she turned back to look at Spike. He was cursing and wrenching his duster free from an offending Joshua tree. “Do you think this means a heavenly dimension would look like Alaska or maybe the North Pole? Are you absolutely sure you said the portal stuff right?”

He stopped next to her and examined his side pocket for a rip. “Yeah, I’m sure. The language was Devernish and I’ve been able to read and speak it for years. I’ve used a few Deverna Demons for heavy lifting in my time; they’re stronger and easier to get along with than Fyarls.”

“Well, I don’t know which is worse, the pouring rain before or this glaring sun and heat.” She glanced sideways at Spike. “I can guess which you’d choose. I suppose we aren’t really in Nevada, or you’d be Mr. Big Pile of Dust about now.” She glumly moved forward, dodging a large agave and another tarantula. Somewhere ahead she could hear what sounded like the hiss of another desert snake.

Spike shrugged and followed along behind her. “Yeah, couldn’t exactly stroll around like this in our own dimension.” He smirked. “Can’t wait to see if I freckle.”

He wrenched his coat from another long limbed cactus. “On the other hand, bein’ back in Sunnyhell has its perks. My coat wouldn’t be a target for every bloody barbed plant, for one.”

Spike had easily opened the portal using the words from the rock, but since Buffy had no real idea of where to find the mystery horseman; they’d made the decision to locate a town. After walking cross country for over an hour, they’d finally met up with a well trod road and started following it, theorizing that eventually it would lead to civilization. Their immediate goal was a rocky hill they could see ahead in the distance. Once at the summit, they would be able to see the surrounding desert and hopefully find some type of civilization.

The sun was at its zenith and it had become incredibly hot and sticky. Spike didn’t mind the heat, even refusing to remove his coat, but Buffy was ready to melt. She would have easily handed over her brand new skirt and matching blouse for some really cold water and something shady to sit under that was taller than sage brush. She had finally elected to abandon her sword and just keep her knife stashed in the band of her skirt. It was too hard to carry the sword, and the cooler when her throbbing arm felt like it was on fire. Buffy fervently hoped her Slayer healing kicked in soon; this was just too much to deal.

When the Slayer silently laid her sword down in the desert sand and continued walking, Spike quietly reached down, picked it up, slid it into his backpack and continued on behind Buffy. He was really starting to worry about the Slayer, it just wasn’t like her to leave a weapon behind and it was really hot for a human in this dimension. He guessed the temperature was at least 10 or 15 degrees higher than the real Nevada desert and they needed to find water soon. Even though he had dressed her arm, he could see Buffy was still favoring it, grimacing whenever her swollen forearm came into contact with anything. They would need to change the dressing again and Spike was afraid to see what lay under the bandage.

By early afternoon, the couple had finally reached the bottom of the hill and begun the steep climb when they heard a faraway noise that sounded like someone pounding on the road with several large jackhammers.

Buffy stopped, shaded her eyes and peered into the distance. “Any idea what that weird noise could be?”

Spike recognized the sound immediately. “It’s horses, Slayer. I think we should try to get to the top of the hill as fast as possible, I don’t know how far the sound would carry and from up there, we can check out the locals without ‘em seein’ us.”

They scrambled the rest of the way and had barely hidden behind the rocky outcropping at the crest when a group of a dozen riders came galloping into view.

Their horses seemed to be bred purposely for the desert climate, with lean bodies and small heads and the men astride them seemed comfortable, as if they rode often. The riders stopped at the bottom of the hill to confer, obviously trying to decide on a direction.

Spike watched them from his vantage point, noting the six shooter revolvers holstered and strapped to their legs. They appeared human and much like cowboys from the glory days of the American west. Every man in what was undoubtedly a posse wore an older version of blue jeans and boots and had a wide brimmed hat pulled low across his forehead to avoid the hot sun.

Spike and Buffy sat perfectly still, well hidden by several large boulders and sitting upwind, they were confident they couldn’t be detected by the men below.

Buffy quietly inched forward, stared through a crack between the boulders at the cowboys below and whispered. “Spike, I believe their leader’s the man from my dream.” He had a shiny sheriff’s badge pinned to his dark shirt that glinted in the afternoon sun.

“Yeah, he does look like the bloke from the cave.” He studied the man intently.

A large, deeply tanned man with a bandana that covered his face bandit style, he sat astride a massive black stallion. The horse had a unique appearance with its’ large head, thick flowing mane and tail and a long tapered body. The high strung horse fidgeted constantly, tossing its head with nervous energy. The rider sitting atop the powerful horse appeared different, too. Along with the gun strapped to his leg, he had a large compound bow resting nonchalantly on his shoulder and a quiver filled with arrows on his back. Suddenly the spirited horse reared, but the Sheriff easily reined in the big stallion, while continuing to stare around the immediate countryside. He seemed to be scrutinizing everything, almost as if trying to sense something.

Buffy’s slayer sense tingled.

The black rider suddenly searched the crest of the hill. Buffy slid farther back in the shadows created by the big boulders and glanced at Spike. Every muscle tense, he had unconsciously vamped, golden eyes glittered in the sun as he watched the man stare directly up at their hiding place.

The rider abruptly dropped his gaze, wheeled the beautiful horse to the east and gestured to the rest of his party. The men quickly followed his lead and galloped out of sight, kicking up a cloud of dust and sand that remained long after they disappeared.

Once the dust had settled and they were sure the men wouldn’t return, Spike and Buffy stood on the backside of the hill and gazed around the valley. They were relieved to see a river in the direction they were currently walking and away from the group of horsemen.

Buffy slumped back down against the boulder, taking advantage of the little patch of shade. “I guess I won’t be helping Sheriff Evil.” She popped the top on her last soda and took a long swallow.

Rummaging in their cooler, she pulled out the last bag of Spike’s blood. “Spike, do you want this now? I’m gonna ditch the cooler, the cold pack isn’t even slightly cool any more.” She reached in her backpack for the last of the beef jerky. They would need to find food sometime before tomorrow.

He nodded and reached for the bag of pig’s blood. “Yeah, I’ll finish it off; it’ll go bad in this heat pretty fast.” He slid back into game face briefly and nicked the corner of the bag with an incisor, drained the bag and grimaced. “This stuff is horrible when it’s cold, but I think it’s worse at desert temperature.”

Spike dropped the empty bag in the cooler and shifted to his human aspect again. “Slayer, that bloke was pure evil, but that was the best lookin’ horse I’ve ever seen.”

“We should follow him and try to find out what his evil plan is, ‘cause there’s always some plan. That’s what evil guys always do, they make plans.” Buffy picked up her can and finished the diet soda. “I guess this is the last sugary goodness I’ll see for awhile.” She set the can down and bit into the beef jerky, chewing audibly.

Reaching over, she handed the last piece to Spike. While they companionably finished their meal, he mused, “It’s really desolate out here. This road isn’t fit for anything mechanical and those men were wearing six shooters and carrying bedrolls like they were planning to camp out somewhere. I’m beginning to believe this dimension is fairly primitive, Slayer.”

“Yeah, it does have that whole ‘Little House on the Prairie’ vibe.”

“We’ve walked maybe eight or nine miles from that bloody portal and with the river the only water source around here, I’d guess we’ll be able to find your baddie again fairly easily. There can’t be too many places that would hold so many men and horses.”

Spike turned back to Buffy and raised an eyebrow. “My question is, what are you goin’ to do with him when we find him again?” He lit a cigarette. “This looks like it could take a bit of time to sort. Then there’s Teague and your Watcher. Old Rupes is gonna be sore for bein’ kept out of the loop and it’s not like I can use my toy here to reach out and touch someone.” He played with the small black phone, idly punching the buttons.

Buffy chewed her lip. “I know we should have kept hunting for Teague, but my dream felt so urgent and he can’t exactly kill me when I’m in a whole different dimension from him. Giles will understand about this, he always tells me a Slayer should follow her instincts and my instincts are screaming to go after this archer guy. My Slayer dreams are always important so I know that guy is important in some way. I’ll figure out what I’m supposed to do when we find him again.”

She rubbed her sore arm. “I sure wish we had that hover board that Michael Fox used. ‘cause this feels a lot like we’re in that movie, Back to the Future III.

“It was Back to the Future II with the wild west, Slayer, not the third one. But, now, I wouldn’t mind that hover board either.” He put out his cigarette. “Even a horse would be nice at this point.”

“Maybe when we reach the river we’ll find other people, you know, normal people, not big evil guys on really pretty horses.”

“Well, there’s only one way to find out.” Spike stood up and reached his hand down to Buffy. She gave him a genuine smile. Wow, Spike’s got really nice manners. Add that to my reasons to date Spike list. “Thanks for everything you’ve done Spike.”

She scrambled to her feet. “I really like having you here watching my back and helping me.”

His smile mirrored hers as he watched her reach for her backpack.

Buffy brushed her arm against the rock formation and grimaced in pain.

Spike, more concerned then ever, gazed into her eyes. They appeared to shine a little too brightly. “Slayer, how do you really feel? That arm doesn’t seem any to be getting any better.”

“I’ll heal pretty soon. It really hurts but, hey, at least I didn’t pass out on you.” She reached down for her backpack again and her knees buckled.

Spike saw her eyes roll up and caught her before she hit the ground. “Bollocks, Buffy.”

Now that Buffy was in his arms, he could feel the heat rolling from her in waves; she was burning up with fever. Spike gently shifted Buffy, picked up the backpack, slung it over his shoulder and started gingerly working his way back down the hill. He knew the only way to get the fever lower would be the cold river water.

He sidestepped another cactus, stared down at the unconscious girl and drawled, “I have to say, Slayer, this quest is rapidly losin’ its allure.” He carefully shifted her unconscious body and resolutely hiked toward the river.

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