In addition to the First’s minions being out and about, the normal vampire population was increasing. After Buffy had dispatched another Turok-Han, and Winston’s ability to set fire to things had prevented a group of Bringers from throwing a net over Spike, they made some changes in how and where they took the potentials out at night.
The girls had enjoyed multiple opportunities to practice their slaying skills, and even though they didn’t have any powers, their numbers made up for it. So far there had been no casualties except for Roxy’s arm, which was raked by Amanda’s stake as they both struck at an unfortunate vampire’s heart at the same time. However, concern about the chance of having to face multiple Turok-Hans at once made them more cautious.
They started splitting the girls up into squads so as to cover more ground. Buffy took half of them with her, bringing Willow along as magical backup; and Spike and Winston took the other half.
The first time Buffy’s squad encountered a Turok-Han, the girls huddled together at first, more than happy to follow instructions to “stay with Willow”. However, as they watched Buffy squaring off with the ancient vampire, they began to remember what they were, and moved to where they could see what was happening.
“Why don’t you throw fire at him?” Mel asked, just before Buffy took a hit from the Turok-Han, fell backwards, flipped over, and came up stake end first to turn him to dust.
Willow just smiled and said, “That’s why. Did you know in her—I mean, I’ll bet she could beat one even if she didn’t have the scythe.”
“I want one of those,” Kennedy grumbled. “I could handle it just as well as she can.” She smiled up at Willow. “Don’t you think so? I mean, especially if I had you backing me up.” She winked as Willow blushed, and Mel turned away, rolling her eyes.
Buffy walked back to the cheering potentials, smiling and shaking her head as they congratulated her. She looked right at Kennedy as she said, “The scythe helps a lot. But they can be dusted other ways. Cutting their heads off works, it’s just a little harder to get into position to do it because they are so fast and strong. But any time you have help, one of you ought to be able to get a chance to whack a head off. Stakes are trickier. This one–” she held up the scythe so they could all see the wooden stake at the end–“is stronger than most wood, and maybe has some magic to it. I don’t know exactly, I just know a regular stake doesn’t usually work. Those ugly uber-vamps are just too tough.”
“You can do it because you have that special slayer weapon.” Kennedy pushed to the front of the group. “You should allow us to take turns with it so we know how to use it.”
Buffy studied Kennedy through narrowed eyes, then said, “Oh sure, here you go” and tossed it to her. Surprised by both the toss and the weight of the weapon, Kennedy dropped it with a curse, shaking out the hand she’d tried to catch it with.
“Oh, sorry. I forgot you aren’t as strong as me.” Buffy smiled innocently as she picked up the scythe with one hand and twirled it. “And you don’t have slayer skills or reflexes.”
“Let’s get you home, girls. I need to talk to Spike and Winston to see if this was the only one out tonight.” She paused. “Until we know for sure, nobody goes out alone at night. Or at all….”
They caught up with Spike’s group as they turned down the street Sara’s house was on. The girls ran to each other, comparing notes about what adventures they’d had. As it turned out, Spike and Winston had also met a Turok-Han, which Spike was happy to allow Winston to set on fire.
“Well, we know Winnie’s fire can dust them. If he can teach Willow how to do that, you and I can handle the Bringers.” He sighed and grinned at Winston. “I really want to see if I can beat one of those ugly wankers by myself. Always happy for the save,” he said, as Buffy started to speak, “but I really need to know I can kick one’s arse when I need to.”
“The girls can help with Bringers,” Buffy said quietly, as she smiled her understanding. “I need to be where I can use the scythe. That’s what it’s for.”
They watched together as the group of chattering potentials walked toward their temporary home. Suddenly, there was a grinning Turok-Han between them and the safety of the grounds. The girls hesitated, but hefted their swords and stakes.
“Bring it, you ugly… bad person!” one of the youngest said, raising her stake.
The Turok-Han appeared to blink in surprise, but his grin never faded as he stalked toward them. He was just reaching for Abby, who held her ground with her sword, when Spike flew past her and tackled him to the ground.
“Get behind the bloody barrier,” he grunted, struggling to hold on to the snarling vampire as the armed potentials obediently ran into the yard and then turned to watch.
In spite of the Turok-Han’s obvious advantage of speed and strength, it didn’t have a hundred plus years of fighting and brawling experience to call on, and Spike, now wearing his vamp face, was able to hold his own better than he had in his previous encounters. Buffy ignored the Bringers trying to keep her away from the snarling tangle, except to behead any that actually got in her way. Behind her, she was confident that Winston and Willow were using fire to hold off any others.
Spike broke free of the Turok-Han’s grip and flipped over its back, landing with one arm around it’s head and one on it’s chin. With a roar that had the potentials cringing away, he wrenched as hard as he could and there was an audible “snap” as he broke his opponent’s neck.
“Bollocks,” he muttered. “I was going for ripping his head off.” He gazed down at the still snarling creature that, while clearly paralyzed, seemed to have no sense of its own impending demise, but kept snapping its teeth at Spike.
“Are you okay?” Buffy asked, although she could see that he was already healing from the damage caused by the Turok-Han. He shook off his demon face and smiled at her.
“You know I’m fine, love. Just need to put this thing out of our misery.” He turned to look at the old vampire and narrowed his eyes. “I would swear this was the one….” Conscious of the girls now moving closer and listening, he didn’t finish just turned to Amanda asking, “May I borrow your weapon, pet?”
She nodded and handed him the sword she’d been carrying. He walked closer to the Turok-Han, watching carefully for any sign it might be recovering from its paralysis. He stared into the furious eyes and whispered, “I owe you more than this, but it’ll have to do.”
He swiped the sword through the Turok-Han’s neck and watch impassively as it crumbled to dust.
“Thank you, luv,” he said, handing the sword back to Amanda. She gave him a small smile and nodded as she took it back.
The few Bringers that hadn’t been beheaded or set afire ran away as soon as Spike had clearly conquered the Turok-Han, so the girls slowly stepped out of their safe area. They milled around, not sure what to do, but being too hyped up by the night’s activity to go quietly to their beds. Before Buffy could order them into the house, Sara came out and called to them.
“Why doesn’t everyone come in to relax for a bit and tell me what happened tonight?”
“Good idea. Let’s go, girls.” Buffy herded the girls ahead of her, frowning when Kennedy hung back to walk with Willow.
What do you think? Is she gonna talk Red into it again?
I don’t know. I kinda hope not. I’d like for Willow to be happy, but Kennedy is just….
Were they still together where you were?
Yeah, but I don’t think it was going well. I’d be surprised if it lasted.
Winston stepped up beside them. “Something I should know?” he asked softly.
Spike shrugged. “Looks like that Kennedy bint is putting the same moves on Willow that she did in our time.”
“She’s a bit full of herself, isn’t she?” Winston said with more tact than Buffy would have expected.
“You have no idea,” she sighed. “But in our time, she helped Willow get over Tara’s death. I guess if she’s important to Willow’s emotional… happiness, we’ll have to live with it for as long as it lasts.”
She laughed at the expression on Winston’s face.
“Relax, Winnie,” Spike said, slapping him on the back. “Maybe Willow won’t be as interested this time. Tara’s not dead, just away. And Red’s got you to help her see what an obnoxious bint Kennedy is. If they weren’t together in your time, she probably isn’t interested.”
“We can hope,” Buffy muttered. “I don’t want to be any nicer to her than I absolutely have to.”
Spike and Winston both snickered as they followed her into the house.
It took a little while to calm the girls down after their adventure with the Turok-Han. Rosita, especially, seemed very bothered by the sight of the old vampire.
“So, is Buffy’s scythe the only thing that can kill them?” she asked in a tentative voice. “How are we supposed to protect ourselves?”
“Okay, listen,” Buffy said. “I killed my first Turok-Han before I had the scythe. It wasn’t easy, and the first couple of times I fought him it didn’t go all that great for me. But I survived it, and I learned, and eventually I was able to remove his head with a piece of wire. And you all just watched tonight as Spike fought one vamp to vamp, and beat him. So, are they tough and scary? Yes, they certainly are. And I have no intention of sending you girls out after one. But, they aren’t invincible. If they can make you afraid, they’ve already won.”
“But you and Spike have, like… powers. We don’t have them… yet,” Kennedy said. “And we won’t unless something happens to you.”
Buffy gave a short laugh. “Even that wouldn’t help you out,” she said without explanation. She saw Sara’s eyes widen and realized she’d never told her that the line seemed to run through Faith now, not Buffy.
“Look girls, the point is, we’re not going to let them at you. If it turns out that there are more Turok-Hans than just the two or three we’ve seen, then….” Buffy sighed. “Then I might have to go to Plan B. But we’re not going to worry about that right now. All you need tonight is to get some sleep and be ready for tomorrow. We’re going to teach you how to kill Bringers.”
Buffy and Spike walked home together, taking their time and watching carefully for any other Turok-hans that might be lurking.
“You know what Winston said about putting that Gem someplace safe?” Buffy said, not looking at Spike as she tried to be casual.
“Yeah? What about it?”
“Is it the ring that keeps you safe, or is it the Gem itself?”
“Dunno, love. Always assumed it was the Gem. It’s why it was so hard to figure out which piece of jewelry to grab. If Harm hadn’t had such bad taste in rings…. no tellin’ how long it would have taken me to find it.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You probably shouldn’t be reminding me that you actually tried to stake your old girlfriend.”
“Prob’ly not,” he laughed. “But I know you don’t care what happens to her, so…. just goes to prove that I loved you already.”
“You tried to kill me! That’s what you wanted the ring for. Don’t hand me any how-much-you-loved-me crap.”
She stopped walking and stood there glaring at him, hands on hips.
Spike sighed and shrugged an apology. “I’m sorry, love. Been awhile since my mouth got me into that much trouble, hasn’t it? Reckon I was due again.” He nudged her arm, but carefully, in case she really was as angry as she seemed. “What can I do to make it up to you?”
“I’ll have to give that some thought,” she said, hiding her smile. “I’ll come up with something. Meanwhile, you don’t really know if it has to be in that ugly ring, or if it’s just the Gem you need?”
“Not for sure, no. What are you thinking?”
“I’m just wondering if something as small as the Gem would be rejected by your body. It seems like it should just heal over it.”
“Could, I reckon. If you want me to try it, I will. Maybe before I pry the stone out of the ring, we could try it with something else small and see what happens.”
“Let’s do that. Winston’s right. The Gem is just too easily taken away or lost from that ring.”
“Alright, love. I’ll find something else that size to use and I’ll stick it in my arm. If it stays there, then we can do it with the Gem.”
She sighed in relief. “I won’t worry about you nearly as much if I know you can’t lose it somehow.”
Spike put his arms around her, pulling her into a tight embrace.
“If I thought for one minute it would work for your demon as well as mine, I’d stick it in you somewhere in a heartbeat. Speaking of worryin’….”
“It’s for vampires. I’m sure if there was anything like that for Slayers, the Council would have destroyed it years ago.”
He sighed. “I reckon you’re right at that, love. It’s not like you’d be high on their list to receive it if they did have such a thing.”
“I think the Guardians were probably the closest thing to Slayer protection we ever had. Maybe Sara and I can bring that back….”
“You’ve got an almost undustable vampire, and a former Guardian on your team. Maybe that will be enough.”
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe. I hope so. At least until I die of old age….”
“Bite your tongue, woman!”
“Isn’t that your job?” she said with a giggle as she ducked under his arm and into their apartment.
He slammed the door, not bothering to lock it, knowing a normal lock would be the least of the obstacles facing anyone or anything trying to get in. He paused for a second to appreciate the relative safety of their ordinary-looking apartment before licking his lips and prowling after Buffy.
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