Chp 14 Cold Blood
Forever and a Day
Chp 14 Cold Blood
The journey back north up the A3 road was a nightmare of the worst kind – the one when you knew you were dreaming but couldn’t make yourself wake up. The snow was still falling and all along the side of the road were wrecked vehicles, some burnt out, others lying on their sides, mute testimony to what had happened to their drivers as the mist reached them – reverting to small children, unable to control their cars and lorries.
Buffy stared, grim faced, as they passed. She could only imagine the fear and sheer horror that those people must have felt. Looking in their little vanity mirrors and seeing – a child gazing back where only seconds before, an adult had been.
Suddenly something hard smashed against the roof the truck and Spike vamped out as he swerved viciously to avoid a pack of small boys who appeared, screaming and yelling, out of the fog. He shouted a warning and reached over to pull Buffy down as stones rained against the truck and the window on the passenger side shattered, sending murderous glass shards flying towards them.
Then they were past. “Spike! Slow down! You can’t see where you’re going. You’ll hit someone.”
Spike turned and winced. She had a cut across her forehead and blood was running down her cheek. The truck screeched to a stop with the engine still running and he leant against the steering wheel, his hands still clenched tightly around the rim.
“Check the doors are locked, Slayer,” he said, his eyes still gleaming gold.
“We can’t risk them getting in.”
Buffy shuddered. Through the mist she’d caught glimpses of wild faces and eyes lost in tangled hair. Dirty, blood-smeared cheeks of children no older than nine or ten, but who were probably twenty or thirty years old in real life.
She turned round in her seat to see if they were still in view. “Spike – they’re only little kids, we should – ”
“There’s nothing we can do for them,” Spike said bleakly as he eased the truck forward again. “This is what the Plague wants, luv, complete anarchy, destruction of human life.”
Buffy wiped her fingers across her cheek and, without thinking, held them out to Spike. He shimmered back to human, threw a startled sideways glance at her and gently licked the blood from her skin.
“Are you hungry?” she asked quietly, shivering at the touch of his tongue.
She smiled slightly. “I meant for blood.”
“Well, if someone was to offer me a nice jug of pig at this very second, I don’t think I’d take it. A little Slayer goes a long way!”
She sighed and huddled inside her damp jacket. She felt fine, thanks, she knew to Spike’s blood he had forced her to drink earlier, but the freezing wind whistling through the open window still had the power to chill her to the bone.
“How much further?” she asked at last.
Spike shrugged and fiddled with the radio on the dashboard, but all that came out of the speakers was a high-pitched whining. “Reckon we must be nearly there. We’ve done a good few miles. Look – there’s a sign for Hindhead. The Devil’s Punchbowl is just the other side of that cross roads.”
”Is it my imagination, or is the mist getting thinner?”
“Yes, we’re outrunning it at last. And the snow’s almost stopped.”
“We need to get in front of it, Spike. I want to be able to turn and face whatever it is. Meet and fight it head on, not skulking around in its wake. I am so tired of Evil things that think they can do just what they like.”
As she spoke, the final wisps of mist vanished and they drove out into a bright, star-filled night. A skinny moon dipped backwards and forwards between the clouds but its light made very little difference to the darkened, empty village they drove through. None of the streetlights were working and even the traffic lights were permanently set on red.
Spike cautiously drove across the junction and then pulled the truck off the road, into a big open space. The headlights shone on a rundown wooden snack bar with benches and tables set out for the customers who might never come to eat and drink again.
He turned off the engine and glanced across at Buffy. “Well, we’re here, pet. What now?”
“This is the Punchbowl? Doesn’t look very bowley to me. More sort of flat.”
Spike glanced again at the map and nodded ahead of him. “Right there, pet. See where the path heads out through the trees. It drops down, hundreds of feet. The main road runs right round the rim in a vast semi circle.”
Buffy sighed. “OK vampire boy! I haven’t got your night vision, remember?”
His smile was warm, even through the strain on his face. “Stick with me, pet. I won’t let the nasties eat you!”
“I’d like to see them try. Sadly, I don’t think this particular nasty is the type that I can stake, do you?”
Spike shook his head and jumped out of the truck. He stared back up the road. “Don’t look now, Slayer, but the mist’s getting closer.”
Buffy joined him, pulling her hair back from where it was tumbling loose around her shoulders and tying it tightly. Spike smiled to himself. He’d seen his Slayer do that so many times in he past. It was her final ‘going into battle’ move. In the starlight, he could see her face, pale, determined, resolute. Whatever was causing the Plague, he didn’t give it much chance of success with Buffy Summers in this mood.
“We’re taking a chance, Buffy, that this Devil’s Punchbowl is where the Plague is heading.”
She nodded. “I know, but it’s our one and only clue. And I’ve got a strange feeling that we’re right. It’s too big a coincidence. Come on, let’s see exactly what’s down there that’s so interesting to Mr Plaguey!”
“Wait a second, luv.”
She stopped and looked up at him, inquiringly. Spike hesitated, then reached forward and ran a finger slowly down her cheek, as if he wanted to imprint on his skin every cell of hers. “I just want to say – these few days since we met again – they’ve been – I’ve never – ”
Buffy smiled, cupped his thin face in her hands and kissed him. “Shut up, idiot!” she said softly. “I know what you mean. Don’t think you’re the only one in this relationship who’s had the happiest week of her life!”
“True! Now, let’s go kill things!”
“Romance thy name is Buffy Summers!” he said jokingly, but she winced and tightened her hands on his face, rubbing her thumbs along the cheekbones that had haunted her dreams for so many months.
“Spike – I’m sorry. I know you deserve more from me, but I can’t…. I can’t do the pretty words. I’ve tried. I used to lay awake night after night, making up all these speeches I should have given you. In my head they sound great, but when the words come out of my mouth, they don’t even come close to explaining how I feel inside. I just can’t do romantic.”
“Buffy – ”
“OK, I know, wrong place to start telling you this. But you know I love you, right? You honestly and absolutely believe that?”
Spike nodded cautiously, wondering where the hell she was going with this.
“Then that is all that’s important, isn’t it? I think I’ve spent too long with death and destruction to suddenly become poetic girl.” Her eyes suddenly sparked with mischief. “I’ll leave that to you - William!”
And before he could reply, she reached up and kissed him, her fingers tight on the back of his neck, her body – almost as cold as his - molding itself against the steel of his muscles.
When they finally broke apart, they stood, forehead to forehead and Buffy felt an odd peace sweep through her. They’d experienced every sort of emotion in the last few days, passion, pain, terror, bliss – but for these few seconds, the world and all the evil in it had been pushed down into its rightful place, and they were at peace with each other.
They didn’t speak as they broke away and moved silently and fast down the path that led through the trees into the Devil’s Punchbowl.
In the shadows behind the snack bar hut, Willow and Giles stood by their car, cloaked in the shimmering circle that provided the spell to keep them from the Plague. Keeping the barrier in place around the car as they drove had proved harder than Willow had imagined. She felt exhausted and wondered if this dreadful night would ever end.
She’d wanted to rush out and tell Buffy they were there, but the relentless pressure of Giles’ fingers on her arm had stopped her. She’d glanced up at his face, a question on her lips, and the words had shrivelled and died. This was a Giles she didn’t recognise, implacable, intent, frightening.
And so they’d stood in a silence that was so tense it made the barrier ripple, watching as the Slayer and the vampire kissed and then vanished down the track, through the bushes, into the vast hollow.
At last Giles relaxed his grip and Willow rubbed her arm, trying to ease the ache. She looked at him again, trying to remember why his expression, or rather the lack of it, seemed so familiar.
Then suddenly she was back at the bottom of Glory’s tower, watching Giles as he bent over Ben, remembering with a sickening chill, exactly what he’d done and how the look on his face had never altered, not once, as he killed him, not in the heat of a battle, but in cold blood.
And a wave of fear for Spike and Buffy’s lives flooded over her.
To be continued
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