They approached cautiously, even though, this early in the year, they had no reason to think there was anything down in the cellar but spiders, and maybe a few bats. Buffy yanked on the sagging door, leaving it hanging open while she stepped into the dimly lit entryway beyond. She immediately spotted the stairs leading down to the wine cellar.
“Let me go first, yeah?” Spike said, going into game face and peering into the darkness at the bottom of the staircase.
“I brought a flashlight,” Buffy grumbled, but got behind him anyway, resting her hand on his shoulder as he navigated the steps. By the time he’d stopped and was gazing around, her eyes had adjusted to the dimness. With the remaining outside light penetrating some distance into the big room, it was possible to make out the shapes of kegs and equipment.
“If we came here when the sun was up, I could see as much as you could.” She frowned suddenly. “Weren’t here some kind of lights before? I remember we could see just fine… except maybe back in the corners….”
Spike frowned also. “Good point. We should’ve needed torches and lanterns, but we didn’t.”
Buffy shrugged. “Good thing, since we didn’t think to bring them back then. But it’s weird that we didn’t.”
She watched Spike as he walked around the room, peering at the walls and the old light fixtures set high up on them and hanging from the ceiling. He stopped when he got back to the steps. He stared hard at the stairs, then jumped half-way up and reached forward to hit a switch. With a few flickers, several of the long unused lights settled into providing enough light to see around the big room.
“Now that I think of it, the fact that we had enough light to see by should have been our first inkling that it was trap. What the bloody fuck were we thinking?”
Buffy stiffened. “You’re right,” she said softly. “I should have realized the lights were on for a reason. Xander called it. He said it sounded like a trap, but I blew him off. Another way I screwed up that whole trip….” Her shoulders drooped as the full weight of what she’d just said sank in, and she shuddered. “It really was all my fault those girls were killed… and Xander lost his eye…. Even if I didn’t listen to him before, I should have realized about the lights and turned around…. ”
Spike had his arms around her before she even finished speaking, holding her tightly against his chest.
“There were plenty of other people there with you, love. Including yours truly. Not a one of us stopped to question why this old building still had working electricity or why the lights were on. Shake those thoughts off right now. We’re here to fix things so it’s different this time around. And we will. Harris can thank you for his two good eyes once we’ve kicked First Evil arse.”
Buffy turned her head around and smiled sadly at him. “What would I do without you to talk me into doing the right thing?” She rubbed her face against his neck.
He squeezed even more tightly and said, “Oh, you’d muddle along without me, sweetheart. I’ve got faith in you.” He nuzzled the top of her head. “Of course, your life would have been a lot more boring….”
“Very funny,” she said, turning around in his embrace to face him. “And possibly very true. I love you, you know.”
“I know,” he said, suddenly serious. “Still struggle to believe it sometimes, but I know it.”
“Just so we’re all straight about that.” She pulled loose and turned to go farther into the room. “Now, where is that trap door that leads down to my scythe?”
Spike followed Buffy as she tried to picture in her mind the route she’d taken to get to the scythe. Weaving her way past the kegs of the, by now, very well-aged wine, she came to an opening in the floor. One that led into complete darkness. She pulled out the heavy flashlight she’d brought with her and pointed the beam down into the hole. The stairs disappeared into more blackness, but she started down them anyway.
Grumbling about letting the creature of darkness go first, Spike was right behind her, using his own darkness-piercing vision and his enhanced hearing ability to search for any sign that the scythe, if it was down there, had any sort of unpleasant protection.
Even as his ears registered the sound of breathing, Buffy was already bringing her flashlight around to strike the face of the Bringer that had risen up in front of her. She used the few seconds that blow bought her to snatch the sword from its scabbard on her back and remove the creature’s head all in the same continuous motion. She was bending down to retrieve her light when Spike’s snarl alerted her to another presence. He hurtled over her to tackle another Bringer, his charge carrying them to the floor behind her.
Buffy straightened up, already swinging her sword in an arc to clear space in front of her. The flashlight was still at her feet and only illuminating the space directly ahead of it. But between the dim light coming from the top of the stairs and what the flashlight was able to make more visible, she could make out the dark shapes coming out of the shadows. Spike had ripped the head off his opponent and was now standing with his back to her. He had no trouble seeing into the shadows himself, leaving her to do what she could with the light she had.
I don’t hear much movement, Slayer. I think the ones we can see are all we have to worry about. I’ve got three in front of me, how about you?
Just the dead one in front of me and two more trying to get me to come to them.
“Not as dumb as they look, then?” he said aloud.
“Maybe not,” Buffy grunted as she met the simultaneous charges with a sword and a fist. She ripped the sword free of one Bringers chest, hoping that it was at least mortally wounded if not dead. The one she hit with her fist was quickly on its feet and attacking again, but a spin out of reach and a swipe with the sword took care of it.
Meanwhile, Spike was in a snarling, biting tangle with two of the three that had been approaching from behind Buffy. The third one tried to attack Buffy from the side as she moved around trying to find a way to strike a killing blow without accidentally beheading her mate. With the confidence born of having already survived the First and its minions, and with even more years of ordinary slaying under her belt, Buffy quickly showed it that her peripheral vision was working just fine. As were her reflexes when she met its charge with the point of her sword. She kicked the body out of her way, then stepped over the one she’d stabbed in the chest, pausing to remove its head when she thought she saw it twitch, then picked up her flashlight.
She turned to the ongoing melee to see that Spike had managed to rip the throat out of one of his opponents, and it was trying to crawl away from the now much more even battle between Spike and the remaining Bringer. Buffy put the bleeding creature out of its misery and stepped closer to Spike.
“Say when, Spike,” she said, leaning on the sword.
“I’ve got this,” he growled, as he sat up and twisted the head off the Bringer now beneath him.
Buffy shined the light around the area, shuddering a bit at the headless and bleeding bodies. “Why can’t everything go poof like vampires do?” she whined, only half-seriously. She raised the light and sent the beam out into the darkness, turning slowly until she’d illuminated every corner of the area as far as the beam could reach.
“I don’t see any more of them, do you?”
“Don’t see any and don’t hear anything, but doesn’t mean they aren’t just biding their time…”
“Maybe. But if their boss isn’t expecting me yet….”
“They were just-in-case guards. Could be right, pet, but let’s not hang around to find out. Do you see any sign of the scythe?”
“It should be just about…..” As she spoke, Buffy’s gaze was following the beam of light to a pile of dirt from which they could just make out a familiar-looking handle sticking up. “Here!”
Without further conversation, she gestured to Spike to stay back and keep watch, then walked up to the dirt pile to grab the handle. Which didn’t budge….
“Damn! It’s stuck in there. It was easy last time.”
“Last time it wasn’t buried in a pile of hardened clay mud, was it?”
“No,” she sighed. “It was stuck in a big stone, but just the blade, and it came right out for me.”
“Just like Excalibur, yeah?”
“Something like that.” She looked around for a tool to use, finally locating a pick and shovel nearby. “Do you think they were trying to hide it?”
“Hide it or get it out so they could put it somewhere you wouldn’t find it. Doesn’t matter, it’s yours now. Let’s get diggin’, love. It’s already dark outside. No sense staying here any longer than we have to.”
Without further discussion, Buffy propped the flashlight up on one of the Bringer bodies so that it illuminated the mound of hardened dirt which she started whacking at with the pick. Spike attacked the other side with the shovel, and eventually was able to begin tossing dirt over his shoulder into the shadows. After some time, where the only sounds they made were grunts of effort, they had managed to uncover more of the scythe. Buffy stopped swinging the pick, afraid she was going to hit the scythe with it.
She gave Spike, who was still throwing shovelfuls of dirt over his shoulder, an apologetic smile.
“I’m afraid to hit it.”
“I’m pretty sure you can’t hurt it, but better safe than sorry,” he agreed. “So, dig with our hands now?”
“Maybe…. or maybe we’ve loosened it up enough to….” Buffy grabbed the handle and pulled as hard as she could. She flew backward and landed face up, holding the scythe up triumphantly. “Ta da!”
“On your feet, love. You can celebrate after you try it out.” Spike stood between her and a Turok-han that had suddenly appeared out of the darkness.
Buffy was on her feet, weapon in hand almost before he finished speaking. The Turok-han backhanded Spike out of the way as if he was just a human, its gaze focused on Buffy and the scythe. She could feel the power flowing from the weapon into her body, and she waited, balancing on the balls of her feet, for the attack. Which came much faster than she was expecting, sending her to the ground again while the Turok-han tried to wrestle the scythe away from her. Clinging to it with everything she had, Buffy glared back into the yellow eyes challenging hers.
“Not on your life, you ugly bastard,” she gritted out. Unable to do anything to him without releasing her two-handed grip on the scythe, she was reduced to exchanging hate-filled glares as he also used both hands to try to wrest it away from her. From the corner of her eye, Buffy could see Spike, shaking his head to clear it as he approached them, his demon to the fore.
He didn’t respond, just leapt onto the old vampire’s back and began trying to twist its head off. With no choice but to relinquish his grip on the scythe, the Turok-han gave a guttural snarl and let go to reach behind him and grab Spike’s head. Buffy didn’t waste time on quips or thought, only turning the scythe until she could shove the stake through the Turok-han’s chest.
Released from the painful grip on his head, Spike fell back and lay there for a few seconds, taking unnecessary breaths. Buffy sat up and shook the dust away, still hanging on to the scythe with all her strength.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m fine. But really glad we didn’t have to test the ring’s ability to repair me if something pulled my head off.” He stood up, rubbing his neck as he held out one hand to Buffy. “Don’t know about you, love, but I’m ready to get the hell out of this bloody place.”
“Right behind you,” she said, allowing him to pull her to her feet. “Or in front of you….” she amended when he pushed her to the stairs and boosted her up by putting both hands on her butt. “Hey!” she yelped when he pinched one cheek.
“Get that luscious arse up those stairs and out of this place, Slayer. Then you can yell at me for pinching it.”
They went through the wine cellar quickly, with Spike slapping the light switch on the way out and plunging them into more darkness.
“Now, I’m leadin’,” he said, waiting for her to grab on to his coat and follow him to the car. Once safely inside, they sighed in relief and exchange rueful smiles.
“We did it,” Buffy said. “And nobody got hurt or killed.”
As he turned the car on and began drive away, Spike shook his head. “Nobody we know got killed. We don’t know what brought that meant-to-be-extinct vamp out here. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m bloody grateful for this ring right now.” He shot a sideways look at her. “Protection you don’t have, I’d like to point out.”
“Pffft. I’ve got slayer healing. Almost as good.”
“Is not,” he growled. “You need to get into a hot bath and then get a good night’s sleep.”
“I want to show the scythe to Giles and Winston,” she said with a distinct lack of conviction in her voice.
“Tomorrow,” she agreed, leaning back and caressing the scythe.
“You keep petting that thing like that, I’m liable to get jealous,” Spike said with a smile in her direction.
“I don’t think I realized how much I missed it until I got my hands on it again. I mean, I knew it would have come in handy to have already, especially when Glory was around, but I didn’t physically miss it. Now I can’t believe I wasn’t jonesing for it for the past three years.”
A much rested and recovered Buffy preceded Spike into the Magic Box the next morning, the scythe carefully tucked into an extra-long duffle bag. She smiled at Winston and Giles, saying, “I’ve got a surprise!”
“Shall we assume from the size of the bag that you are not referring to shoes for the wedding?”
Buffy blinked for a second, then laughed. “Well, I did get beautiful sandals to wear at the wedding, but that’s not the best thing Mrs. Johnson gave me.”
She plopped the bag on the floor, opened it, and pulled out the scythe, laying it on the table for them to admire. Before putting it in the bag, she had carefully cleaned off all the dirt still sticking to it and it now gleamed. Even the wooden parts seemed clean and shiny.
“Dear Lord,” Giles whispered. “Is that….” He walked around the table looking at it from all angles. Meanwhile, Winston was doing his own visual inspection. He glanced at Buffy, his hand hovering over the weapon.
“Huh? Oh yeah. You can touch it. But Willow said she didn’t feel—”
Before she could finish her warning, Winston had placed his hand on the scythe, then snatched it back with a shocked, “Bloody hell….” He stared at Buffy. “I don’t know when I’ve felt such power in an object.”
“Huh. Willow couldn’t feel anything in our time. I can feel its power, but it’s meant for me. It’s made for a slayer to wield.”
“And wield it she can,” Spike said. “Even if I hadn’t seen her in action back in our time, the way she used it last night would have convinced me.”
“Last night? Is that when you got it?” Giles spoke as he rested his own hand on the handle, trying to feel the power for himself. “Are you saying that the wedding shop owner gave this to you yesterday?” He removed his hand and, in response to his raised eyebrow, gave Winston a disgruntled shake of his head.
“Not so much gave it to me, as hinted very strongly that the vineyard we’ve started looking for, but haven’t been able to find yet, would be findable. And she was right. We found it, walked in, found the scythe where it had been buried for a long time, dug it out, and—”
“And then had to fight our way out past a Turok-han that came runnin’ to try to stop her.”
Giles got paler. “A Turok-han. There’s one here, in Sunnydale?”
“Was one here. The Slayer and her shiny new favorite toy did for him.”
“So, you had no trouble then? Not like in your own time?”
“Oh, we had trouble. It was guarded by a bunch of Bringers, so we had to get rid of them before we could dig it out. And the Turok-han showed up just as I pulled it loose. But between the two of us, we took care of all of them. It wasn’t as bad as it was in our time, when it was a trap and Caleb was already powered up, but it wasn’t exactly easy peasy either.”
“But you were able to find and retrieve it in your time, isn’t that what you said?”
“I did, but it took a couple of tries and a lot of bruises before I was able to take it out of there.” She smiled at Spike. “I had my own sort of power-upper person, and he gave me the confidence I needed to go get my weapon.”
Giles and Winston looked to Spike for an explanation, but he just shrugged, saying, “All I did was remind her of how special she is. She did all the rest herself.”
“What are your plans for it now?” Giles tried not to stare at it too eagerly, but Buffy noticed and put a proprietary hand on the scythe.
“I’ll use it when I need it. If we don’t get to Caleb before he gets powered up, I might need it for him. And if any more Turok-hans show up… it’s about the only thing that can dust them easily.” She glanced at Spike. “We need to get down into that school basement and see if the seal has been broken.”
They all nodded, although Winston offered, “It’s possible the Turok-han has been there guarding the weapon for centuries. Never leaving its post.”
“Maybe, but we’re going to check anyway.”