Chp 17 For the good of the World
Forever and a Day
Chapter 17 For the Good of the World
As Spike dropped down through the hole in the ground at the bottom of the Devil’s Punchbowl, he was aware of the fog rushing past and a blast of hot air surrounding him. The hole fell away steeply into the earth and ahead of him he could hear Buffy sliding and slipping her way forwards.
“You OK?” he yelled and heard her shout back as they shot down, down, down – the mist roaring past them, the heat increasing with every foot they travelled.
Then, suddenly, there was a lot more light, Buffy’s body vanished and with a shout he found himself plunging out of the tunnel into thin air and thumping down on hard rock. He rolled over, gasping for breath. “Buffy?”
“Here! You OK?”
“Well, I don’t think anything’s permanently damaged! You’ll need to check it all out later.”
She grinned. End of the world, apocalypse, come what may, she could trust the man she loved to keep his mind firmly on the important things of life!
Gazing round she saw they were lying in a small rocky cavern. The mist was surging over a ledge and vanishing into a sullen crimson glow. She crawled forward and peered over the edge. Thirty feet beneath her was what looked like a heaving molten mass. Waves of heat shimmered across its rolling surface that changed from scarlet to crimson to maroon. The mist was vanishing into it with a constant hissing that was so loud it almost sounded like a high-pitched groan.
As she stared, she realised Spike was lying on the ground next to her. He raised an eyebrow. “So that’s it, Slayer? That’s what we’ve risked life – well your life, and limb to kill? Hasn’t got a head that I can see. Or a heart. You going to stake it or flatten it?”
Buffy wiped the sweat out of her eyes. She couldn’t tell if the Blob was liquid or solid. But apart from being a nasty red and sort of sick-making the way it curled and flopped, it didn’t look particularly – well – threatening!
“That can’t be it,” she muttered thoughtfully, pushing her the hair that had escaped the ribbon out of her eyes. “There’s no sense of a brain or intelligence there, Spike.” She sat up and hugged her knees, strangely glad of the heat from the Blob on her back. “I was expecting – I don’t know – a…a…thing…. a demon…monster type thingy I could kill.”
“You sound disappointed.”
Her eyes looked big and tired in her pale face. “Don‘t you get it? We’re no further forwards. Whatever that is, it’s obviously incredibly hot. I can’t get anywhere near it and I’ve no idea at all how to destroy it!”
Spike draped an arm affectionately over her shoulders. “You’ll think of something, Slayer. If I’ve learnt nothing else over all these years, it’s that you can always find ways of killing things!”
She rested her head against him for a while. Spike’s confidence in her was nice but she wasn’t sure if it was completely justified. She wondered if the day would ever come when she wouldn’t be faced with a decision to make about life and death. When she and the man she loved could just – well – just be. Somehow she doubted it. Having all the new Slayers didn’t seem to have helped. She was still being faced with problems and emergencies.
“The mist’s still flowing down into the Blob,” she muttered. “I wonder what’ll happen when it stops?”
Spike gently rubbed the back of her neck, feeling her arch against him as the muscles eased. “Something tells me I don’t think we should be sitting here when that happens,” he said wryly.
“At least I’m feeling warm for the first time in days,” Buffy said. “My jeans are dry! And I can’t remember the last time my boots didn’t feel all squelchy.”
Spike frowned. Now she mentioned it, the temperature in the little cave did seem to be increasing. He could sense the heat and the red light from Blob was growing brighter and brighter….
He threw himself flat again and slid to the edge of the pit. “Bloody sodding Hell!”
“What?” Buffy slid down next to him and then gasped. When she’d first looked at the Blob it was a good thirty feet away – now it was only three or four feet distant. She could almost reach down and touch it. Great waves of heat blasted up at her and as the mist flung itself into the mass, another sickening roll of motion made it jerk up another six inches, heading straight towards her.
“Obvious statement number one, sweetheart,” Spike growled and, standing up, pulled her to her feet. “And I don’t think we want to be here to greet it when it comes of age and spills out of its pit!”
“Spike, that’s what the mist is doing! Feeding it. It’s not just mist – it’s some type of food.”
“Prefer a nice glass of O-neg myself, but each to his own. Now, can we be somewhere else – soon – please?”
* * * *
Outside in the Devil’s Punchbowl, Giles and Willow were standing, watching as the Plague mist roared in a solid rope of white through the rocky entrance into the ground.
Willow was shaking; the strain of keeping up the shimmering silver barrier that was protecting her and Giles from the effects of the Plague was immense. “Giles, I don’t know if I can do this for much longer,” she gasped.
Giles hardly heard her. He was staring at the marks on the rocks; boot prints in the mud, some large, some small. Obviously Buffy and Spike had gone into the ground at this point – together with the mist.
“Giles! You’re not listening to me. I can’t hold the barrier up for much longer.” Willow sank down onto muddy ground. The barrier faded, then pulsed brighter as she shut her eyes and concentrated again. It was taking an enormous amount of magical power to surround her and Giles with protection when they moved. It was far harder than just throwing a band around a house.
Giles glanced down at the young woman crouching behind him. He moved a couple of feet to one side, the barrier following him. He glanced at her again. The red head was bowed and she didn’t see as he scuffed his foot across the boot marks, wiping them out.
“Willow, we can’t allow ourselves to be infected. We have to find Buffy and help her. Spike is dangerous. I know you don‘t believe me, but he is.”
Wearily, she raised her head and stared up at him. He looked and sounded implacable, cold, uncaring of the strains and pressures she was suffering. There was something about his face, his eyes, that worried her. Rupert Giles was her saviour, the man who’d brought her back from the depths of despair and horror. She couldn’t imagine not doing exactly what he wanted, not believing that where demons and monsters were concerned, he knew best.
She was worried sick about Kennedy who was still, as far as she knew, down in Wales, demon hunting. Had the mist travelled that far west yet? She doubted it, but her phone wouldn’t connect through the barrier so she couldn’t contact her to give her a warning.
She was just as worried about Buffy. Giles seemed to think that Spike had turned into some super-vamp. But even if he did, she knew with every bone in her body that he wouldn’t hurt the woman he had loved for so many years. Why couldn’t Giles see that?
“Where do you think they’ve gone?” she said, staring around. It was getting a little lighter now. A long way above their heads, the sullen sky was turning from dark to light grey. “I suppose Spike can be outside in this half light.”
Giles nodded. “There’s no sign of them down here. I suggest we go back to the car and try to find somewhere to shelter and get some food.”
Willow was puzzled. “Shouldn’t we keep looking for them? I thought you were worried about Buffy?”
“I am, but we need to sit and think, rather than blunder about down here. They could be miles away by now. And look - !”
Willow spun round and gasped. For the first time for days, the thick white mist was thinning to the point of invisibility. And as they stood, watching, the final wisps flicked inside the earth and vanished.
And a few stray sunbeams began to find their way down into the bottom of the Punchbowl.
“It’s gone!” Willow said shakily and swayed with the relief. Without consulting Giles, she let the protection barrier fade away and felt she could breathe properly for the first time in days.
“Do you think Buffy has defeated it?” she asked eagerly.
Giles frowned, then smiled at her. “Yes, I think she probably has! Why else would it stop? Willow, you don’t look well. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have dragged you down here on a wild goose chase. Why don’t you go back to the car? I’ll just check that there’s no sign of Buffy and Spike on the other side of that stream, then I’ll follow you up.”
Willow nodded, reaching into her pocket for her phone. She was desperate to call Kennedy and needed to get somewhere she could receive a signal.
She scrambled away up the steep, muddy path, wondering what she would find when she got to the top. Would the children have reverted back to adults? Would everything be back to normal? How had Buffy managed it?
Giles stood, watching the witch clamber up the slope towards the car park. He admired her powers, admitted that he would have been in dire straits without them – indeed at one point he‘d even wondered if she had got the barrier up around them in time.
But he was obviously unaffected. His mind was clear and not at all childish. In fact, his brain felt sharper than ever before. He was in perfect control. Had no doubts any more about anything. He knew in his bones that he what he thought and felt was right, no matter if evidence to the contrary was shown him.
Willow was waving at him. Irritated, Giles waved back as she vanished out of view. He was wondering now if the Plague mist had touched her in some way. Her childish belief that Buffy and Spike were a partnership made in heaven he found extremely irritating.
Spike had been changed into a Super Vampire. He knew this. Buffy was deluded; he knew this. His Slayer, the girl he had moulded and groomed, protected and led for all these years, was just one of many now. And if she died, well, he’d be sad, remembering the girl she had once been, but there were so many others now, one Slayer more or less didn’t matter.
Giles shivered. The temperature was dropping again. He couldn’t remember when he had last felt so cold.
He stared at where the last wisp of mist had vanished. Their tracks had showed him quite clearly that Spike and Buffy had gone underground to fight the Plague. Imprisoning themselves. Well, that had been their decision. Letting Spike out would be extremely wrong. He had to die. And if that meant sacrificing Buffy – well, so be it.
He had a clear memory of killing Ben all those years ago. He’d been faced with a decision whilst everyone around him was weeping and wailing. Typical! Now he was faced with another decision and he would make it, coolly, calmly and for the good of the world.
It was quite satisfying to once again be the person whose actions, although unappreciated, would change everything.
Grimly, but calmly, he kicked out at the rocky area around the entrance. A few seconds were all it took to bring down a cascade of stones and mud and within seconds the entrance was blocked.
Giles found he was smiling and shook his head to clear it. This was no laughing matter. He was ashamed of himself for hilarity at this serious time. And with a strength that didn’t surprise him, he picked up a huge boulder and placed it firmly across the only exit that Buffy and Spike could use to escape.
To be continued
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