Buffy replaced her stake in her waistband and pounded the dust out of her jeans and shirt. Ugh, it was in her hair too. Multiple vampire remains. It was going to take at least three shampoo latherings to get this stuff out.
For now, the room had returned to its quiet, non-demon filled state. She decided she preferred the fighting, at least she knew what she was up against. There was still no sign of Spike, unless she’d accidentally dusted him in her frenzy. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Naturally, as soon as that thought began to take root, he appeared, shirt shredded, covered in blood and with an eye quickly swelling shut.
“What happened to you?” she asked. Not that she really cared. “Meet up with a bunch of girl scouts during your little jaunt?”
“What?” He looked bewildered. “What little jaunt? Where have you been while I was in here by myself saving the…” he motioned around the huge room. “…the in here.”
“Yeah, nice job,” she said. “Except I was the one doing the saving and you were off somewhere getting all bloody and deader looking.”
“Sod off,” he muttered.
“Seriously, Spike, what happened and where did you go?”
He sighed and rubbed his forehead, wincing as he touched something he decided he really shouldn’t have. He was going to hurt for days. “I already told you, I didn’t go anywhere. I was sitting there minding m’own business and then you were gone, and she was there?”
Her eyes widened. “She? Who she?”
“Hell if I know. Slayer.”
Buffy shook her head. “That can’t be. I’m the only Slayer, except for Faith, and she’s in prison.”
“Don’t tell me you’re trying to apply logic here, love.”
He had a point there, but she hated admitting that he was ever right about anything, so she’d just skip that part. “And this Slayer, she kicked your ass?”
He sneered. “How’d you ever guess?”
“You are still alive,” she noted.
“Only because she disappeared before her stake made it all the way into my chest,” he muttered.
She almost felt sorry for him. Spike had a way of letting out his inner puppy dog that made her want to forget what he really was and what he was capable of. He also had a way of never giving up, no matter how hard he was beaten down. That was something she could understand. She absently reached out to touch his tattered shirt. “It must sting,” she said.
“Had worse in my time.”
First round goes to the woman.
The invisible voice again. She really hated invisible voices. Especially smug ones. The room was still as empty as before, so there was no face to put with the tones. Coward. She wondered if Spike was having the same thoughts, but when she turned to ask him, his attention was locked on her wrist.
“What’s that?” he asked.
Buffy withdrew her hand, which had somehow been on his chest throughout all this. “It’s my birthday present. From Dawn.”
“It’s not your birthday.”
“Yeah, kind of longish story there,” she told him.
He reached out for her arm again. “You’ve got some charms missing.”
She did. A few of the stars were gone, and the dolphin. Probably lost them during the scuffle with the vamps. Stupid vampires. “She’s going to be so mad.”
“Her big sis is the Slayer,” he said, smiling with his eyes. “She’ll understand.”
“Yeah. Maybe.” This touchy-feeling Spike was giving her the willies. Antagonism with the enemy was easy, but this? She pulled away abruptly. The expressions of surprise, confusion and, yes, relief took turn across his face. Funny how he could do that all at one. She was used to more emotionally reserved guys. His habit of letting his feelings show through was… uncomfortable. Not something she felt like examining at the moment.
“So,” she asked. “What’s next?”
“What’s next?” Damned Slayer changed moods faster than Dru. No telling what she was going on about.
She rolled her eyes at him and settled back into her superior act. “Challenge, Spike. She said ‘first challenge’, so there’s going to be more.”
The first one hadn’t been a picnic. He couldn’t say he was looking forward to more, unless they involved him being able to actually fight back. Right now, that would be a nice diversion. He tried to act nonchalant; let the Slayer stress over their predicament. She had it coming after acting so smug about winning her trial. Vampires, a great lot of them, judging by the dust particles clinging to her clothing and hair. Heh, that would take some washing to get out.
“What are you grinning about,” she groused at him.
“Don’t you love challenges, girl? Doesn’t the fight get your blood going, screaming for more?”
Her cheeks pinked. Fetching look on her.
“The only challenge I’ll have trouble with is not staking you,” she said.
Now the kitten’s claws were out. Before he could comment on her loss of composure, the floor rumbled and from openings he hadn’t noticed before, cage walls rose on three sides, creating a box with the wall behind him as the fourth side. Buffy spun outward, her stake already back in her hand. It sent a chill through him, but he didn’t know if it was from fear or admiration. She was a great warrior, the best Slayer he’d ever encountered. For a brief instant he felt pity for the vampires that had been pitted against her in her challenge, but then again, they probably didn’t suffer long.
“Looks like we’re doing this one together,” she said.
Oh lord, he didn’t have to fight her, did he? That last little bit had taken the edge off him and he knew he wasn’t up to full strength Buffy.
The great room wasn’t done changing, and holes opened up in the floor outside their cage. He could hear the roars before the creatures even crawled up into the room.
“Tell me I’m not seeing this,” Buffy said.
“Wish I could. Hell, it’s bloody tigers.”
Were they to be served up for lunch? Then why the cage.
The next challenge begins now.
“Thanks ever so,” he yelled into the empty space above them.
“Spike, behind you,” Buffy said.
He turned and watched as two footprint shaped stones rose slightly from the floor, pointing outwards, and two handprint shaped tiles protruded from the wall above his head. What in hell?
“It’s a puzzle,” Buffy said, “like a carnival game.”
“Feet and hands?”
She didn’t answer, but instead pushed him out of the way and stepped onto the stones. She jumped and slapped her hands against the prints on the wall. The only thing that happened was that the walls around them started to slowly lower. And the tigers roared.
“Lovely, Slayer. Did it occur to you to put some thinking into this?”
“Shut up and help, you idiot.”
“Let me try,” he said. She moved over and he stood on the prints. He was tall enough to make the handprints without jumping, but the walls didn’t stop their downward movement. The tigers paced impatiently, a few of them jumping against the bars.
“Hurry up, Spike. We’ve got to figure this out.”
“We’re facing the wrong way,” he said. “The feet are pointing out, not in.”
He turned, matching his feet to the prints. Yeah, this felt right. He craned his head back to look at the prints on the wall. Thumbs facing in. The backs of his hands? He raised his arms and matched his hands to the outlines. They fit, but nothing happened.
“Let me try,” Buffy said. She moved him over and took his place. She jumped and spun, smacking the wall with her hands.
The walls around them were barely six feet high now, and the paws of the tigers were reaching over the top.
“We don’t have much time. Seconds.” She was panicked.
Spike wondered how long it would take a vampire to die if he were being eaten by one of those beasts. No, that wasn’t something he was going to focus on. He searched the wall, looking for a clue, anything. Buffy stood there looking at him, reaching for her stake again. It was the only weapon they had. Wait a minute…
“Buffy, stand still. Trust me.”
For once, she actually complied. Could have had something to do with the beast that had almost made it over the wall on its last jump attempt. Don’t think about it, Spike. He moved close to Buffy and reached up to touch the handprints. She reached around him to keep her balance. He pushed hard.
The walls stopped moving downwards. There was a loud creak and more rumbling as they began to rise once more.
Spike felt Buffy’s breath on his chest as she sighed out her relief. They stayed like that until the cage stopped rising with a clang.
The second challenge goes to the man.
“I’m really starting to hate that voice,” Buffy said.
He looked down at her, her face so close to his that he could see the different flecks of colors in her eyes. He’d forgotten. Back when Red had cast that bloody spell on them and she’d spend half the day sitting on his lap. Her skin was still that soft and warm, and her lips looked…
Pain exploded in his head as her fist connected with his jaw.
“What in bloody hell?” he yelled.
“You were in my space.”
“I just saved your pretty Chosen One neck.”
“And that gives you permission to make with the gropage?”
“My hands were on the wall,” he spat.
“That’s why you still have them,” she said, brushing past him.
He touched his fingertips to his jaw. Not broken. She was strong enough to have done worse.
The quiet of the room registered to him, and he looked up, noting that the tigers and the cage had vanished, as had the hand and footprints. This place was really pissing him off.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/146519.html