The beginning starts here.
The passageway ran ahead in a smooth track, curving neither to the right or the left. The ever-present torches lined the walls. Buffy was beginning to be sick of the sight of them.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get this over with.”
Spike and Angel followed behind, and it seemed they were temporarily too tired to squabble, which suited her just fine. They must have walked at least half a mile before the tunnel opened out into one more cavern.
“Yay,” Buffy said dispiritedly. “Please let this be the last one.”
It was the largest cavern they’d entered yet. Fire rimmed the walls – she couldn’t see what fed the fires, but they glowed in reds, blues and yellows. A small waterfall at one end fed an underground stream, and moss hung from the walls at that end of the cavern. It would be almost pretty if she had actually come here of her own free will.
The air in front of the waterfall shimmered, and with a sudden snap a cloaked figure appeared before them. It stood at least eight feet tall, its deep red hood hiding its features.
“Welcome, brave ones,” it said in a booming voice. “Let the champion stand before me and make the final choice.”
Buffy exchanged puzzled glances with Spike and Angel. “Should we fight?” she asked in a quiet voice.
Angel shook his head and straightened his back. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” He stepped forward toward the cloaked figure before being jerked back by Spike’s hand on his shoulder.
“Excuse me?” Spike said. “Who died and made you champion? Clearly, it’s expecting me.”
Angel snorted. “Yeah, I don’t think so. Back off, Spike, and don’t take it so personally.”
“Excuse me?” Spike said again. Buffy didn’t think he was even aware that he’d gone to game-face. So had Angel, for that matter.
“Guys, cut it out,” she said tiredly.
“Not until he admits that I’m the champion!” Angel said.
Spike barked out a laugh. “Yeah, it’ll be a cold day in hell when that happens. Remember the last time we had a fight about this? You looking for another beat-down?”
“Champion!” the figure boomed, interrupting the brewing battle to Buffy’s immense relief. “Step forward.” It pointed a long-fingered hand. “Her.”
“Ha!” Buffy said, seeing Spike and Angel wilt slightly. She managed not to stick her tongue out at them, but it was a close thing. “Serves you right for being all… Teutonic,” she told them.
The figure seemed to grow even taller as she advanced to stand before it. She could feel Spike and Angel take up position behind her, one at each shoulder.
“It is time for your final choice that will bring you to the end of your quest,” it told her. “Before you lies the possibility of great reward… or terrible punishment. You must choose wisely.”
Buffy swallowed and glanced back at Spike, who nodded encouragingly.
The creature held out both of its hands. A large crystal lay in each, one glowing bright white and the other shining fiery red. It held the crystals aloft, and the light from them poured out and mingled throughout the cavern.
“Head,” the figure said, holding up the white crystal, then lifted the red. “Or heart.” It lowered them both and held them before Buffy’s eyes. “Make your choice, Champion.”
Buffy eyed both crystals warily, then looked up at the hidden face of the creature who held them.
“You know what?” she said. “I choose… hand.”
Her right hand shot out and knocked both crystals aside, grabbing for the throat of the figure in front of her. It gave a choking gasp and locked its hands around her wrist, trying to break her grip.
“Wait!” it gasped. “That’s not how it’s supposed to happen!”
As they watched, the figure shrank and softened, and the robe fell aside. Buffy let go and let Andrew collapse to the ground, massaging his throat.
“Ow,” he whined.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Get up,” she said, hauling him to his feet.
Andrew dug his hands into his pockets and grinned at Spike and Angel. “Hi guys. Cool quest, huh?” He flinched at Angel’s growl and turned back to Buffy.
“Why did you have to ruin the ending? That was the best part of the whole thing! And how did you know it was me?”
“I used my head,” she said dryly, then grabbed hold of his shirt collar and twisted. “Explain yourself. Five words or less.”
“Um…” Andrew started counting them off on his fingers. “Ultimate RPG opportunity. It’s fun!”
Buffy let go of him in disgust. “We’re not your action figures for you to play with!” she said. “Did you use Willow’s magic to do this? I’m telling her that you stole her books.”
Andrew paled. “I’m sorry. Please don’t tell her. I just thought… well, I heard you and Spike talking the other week about how it was getting boring, not living on a Hellmouth anymore. I just wanted you to have some fun! You’re heroes, after all!”
“I don’t believe this,” Angel muttered, stalking away toward the other end of the cavern. Spike had his head down, and Buffy wasn’t sure if he was furious or trying not to laugh.
“Look, Andrew,” she softened her voice. “I appreciate you being thoughtful. But this is really, really not the right way to go about it. Someone could have been hurt, or killed.”
“Oh, no.” Andrew shook his head. “I made sure of it – no deaths, no terminal injuries. Well, 85% sure. And look!” he hurried on before Buffy could say anything. “You’re all here, safe and sound! That has to count for something, right?”
Buffy closed her eyes and counted to ten. “We will never speak of this again,” she said heavily. “And in return, you will stay away from Willow’s magic books. I see you even looking at them, I’m breaking your fingers. And you have to lend Xander all your comic books.” Andrew looked pained, but nodded. “All of them. And you have to do Giles’s laundry for six months.”
Andrew winced and swallowed hard, then held out his hand. “Done.”
Buffy shook his hand, then shoved him into the center of the cavern. “Now get us out of here before I change my mind.”
Andrew sighed heavily and gestured towards one of walls. It opened onto a set of rough stairs leading upward. Angel bolted up the stairs with a muttered curse as soon as they appeared, and with a long-suffering glance back Andrew followed him.
Spike twined his fingers with Buffy’s and drew her toward the stairs.
“Come on,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.” He grinned at her. “My champion.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/394844.html