They stopped at the broken door to give Spike a chance to listen for other minions and to try to sense where the Master was. Buffy’s vamp senses, which she had been ignoring since she arrived, were now telling her that there were a large number of vampires close by, including at least one very old and powerful one. She clutched the amulet that Dawn had given her, shivering as she remembered how easily the Master had enthralled her the first time she faced him. Spike saw her hesitation and the way she touched her protection.
“You’re not that girl, love,” he said softly. “You took him out when you were just a baby slayer; he won’t know what hit him this time.”
“I know,” she said with a small smile. “And, anyway, this time my vampire boyfriend isn’t sitting at home waiting for me to be killed; he has my back.”
“Always,” Spike replied, trying not to give her words about Angel more importance than they deserved. He pulled her in for a quick hug and repeated, “I will always have your back, Slayer. Count on it.”
“I am,” she whispered, brushing her lips across his briefly before stepping into the hallway and beginning a determined march towards the door to the blood delivery area. She hesitated as she reached the entrance, ducking back when she saw the number of hungry vamps that filled the room. The minions were pumping blood from what looked like a large beer keg, parceling it out in one-pint containers as the vamps moved through the line.
“Step up,” one of them said loudly. “As soon as the Slayer shows up and we’ve captured her, there will be Slayer blood for everyone.”
Buffy gave a credible growl under her breath, earning an appreciative smile from Spike. Before they could decide how to approach the coming battle, one of the female minions ordered a tall, skinny one that she called Ralph to “check on those idiots that we sent to get more blood. Tell them to get their asses out here with some fresh food.”
As the minion came through the doorway, Buffy tapped him on the shoulder, staking him efficiently when he turned around. They were able to do that several more times before the remaining minion halted the line, saying, “You’ll have to wait while I get some more help. I’ll be right back.”
She cast a look in the direction of the prisoner holding area, then changed her mind and hustled to the door to the Master’s throne room. She knocked, then stuck her head in.
“It’s me, Terry. Are Ralph and Alice in here? What about Michael?”
“No,” her master said with a snarl. “Nor is the underling I sent to find my Willow. What is going on out there?”
“I don’t know,” Terry whimpered, cringing in the face of her master’s wrath. “Nobody that’s gone into the hall has come back. It’s just me and a lot of hungry customers.”
The Master raised his head and sniffed the air, his face taking on a truly terrifying expression.
“Slayer,” he growled quietly.
“The Slayer? She’s here?” Terry’s eyes darted around as though looking for an exit that wouldn’t send her into the hall from which no one had returned. Before she could retreat to the blood dispensing area, the Master ordered her through another door and into the hallway where Buffy and Spike were preparing to attack the Master’s private quarters. Obeying her master very reluctantly, Terry slinked through the door, whirling when she heard it slam behind her. She reached for the doorknob, but found that it had been locked behind her.
She turned slowly, her vamp hearing telling her that there was a human heartbeat close by. When she saw, not the fearsome amazon that she expected the Slayer to be, but a petite blond girl and the grinning man behind her, she was temporarily nonplussed. This was the infamous Slayer that had the Master in such a tizzy? This rather ordinary-looking little girl? Terry narrowed her eyes at the man standing behind the Slayer and realized that there was no heartbeat coming from his body.
“So,” she said, stalling for time and hoping for reinforcements, “she claims to be the Slayer and you do her killing for her? Is that how it is?”
“You wish, pet,” he said amiably, leaning against a wall and lighting a cigarette.
Refusing to give up her misconceptions yet, Terry scoffed. “Yeah, and I suppose you don’t expect to take over from the Master? Why else would you be here?”
“I’m here ‘cause your ‘Master’ thought kidnappin’ me was the fastest way to get the Slayer. Turns out he was right. Girl got here a bit faster than anybody expected, yeah?”
“You don’t want to be the Master?” Terry was still struggling to understand what was going on. Buffy, in the meantime, was bouncing impatiently, tossing her stake from hand to hand.
“Spike, the longer we stand here talking to this ho-bag, the more old Bat Mouth has time to get ready for us.”
“You can’t kill him,” Terry said with great finality. “He’s the Master.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what everybody said the last time.” Tired of the conversation, Buffy didn’t wait for Terry’s “Huh?” to finish before driving her stake into the vampire’s chest.
Spike pushed himself off the wall, tossing the cigarette behind him carelessly.
“Alright, pet. I guess it’s show-time.”
As Buffy preceded him to the entrance of the large area full of expectant vampires, Spike leaned in to whisper in her ear, “You know I love you, yeah?”
Buffy nodded silently, turning her head to meet his eyes. “I know”, she responded, hesitating just long enough that he nuzzled her neck and rumbled, “Wasn’t askin’ for a reply, love. Don’t worry yourself. Jus’ needed to say it.”
She smiled gratefully, then turned to take in the crowd now staring at them in confusion.
“Hi, guys!” she said, waving cheerfully with one hand while she pulled her sword off her back with the other. “There’s been a little change of plans. All the meals have gone home. Guess there’s nothing for you to hang around for now.”
“You’re still here,” a familiar-looking vamp growled. “You look like a meal to me.”
While Spike went into game face and snarled at him, Buffy just nodded. “Good point. Kinda like the one on my sword. Which is gonna make eating me kinda tricky, doncha think?”
The one that had spoken, which Buffy now recognized as one of the bouncers from her first visit, gestured to a few others to spread out. He narrowed his eyes at Spike, who was still snarling at him and moving into position on Buffy’s left. None of the vampires in the room had ever seen a real Slayer – in fact, most of them had assumed that she was a myth.
Several minutes after the first coordinated attack, the remaining vampires were clustered on one side of the room, their faces reflecting a new understanding of just what it meant for a girl to be called a Slayer. Those who were merely injured, rather than dust, crawled away glaring at the impossibly strong and fast girl and the traitorous vampire who was watching her back.
Although Buffy had made a serious dent in the number of vampires facing them, those that were left were not only wiser, but angrier. As she and Spike worked their way towards the entrance to the Master’s quarters, they could see the remaining vampires gathering their courage for another attack. Quickly, they kicked the door open and slammed it behind them, locking it and shoving a heavy table in front of it.
While Spike looked for more heavy furniture to pile in front of the door, Buffy turned to face several of the Master’s bodyguards who obediently followed his order to “Get her – but get her alive.” It took Buffy several minutes and an assist from Spike before she had turned all of the Master’s favorites to dust that coated the floor. From the other side of the door they could hear the snarls and roars of the other vamps, and they could feel the door shiver as they pounded on it. The remaining bodyguards looked to their Master for instructions, none of them being very interested in testing their own luck against the deadly girl in front of them.
The very old vampire waved them back and arose from his throne, walking slowly to the edge of the dais upon which it sat. He studied the girl in front of him, his eyes narrowed and his mouth twitching.
“There are no slayers in this world, he said finally. “I made sure of that a hundred years ago.”
‘There is now,” Buffy said cheerfully. “And this one has already kicked your ass once. Second time should be a breeze.”
Instead of answering her, he held out his taloned hand, curving it into a macabre gesture of welcome. As he drew it back towards his chest he frowned when Buffy just stood there, grinning at him.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was supposed to do something there, wasn’t I? Like walk over and let you bite me? Sorry, BatFace, not this time.” She touched the amulet around her neck and shook her head. “It’s just you and me – no thrall, no magic tricks.”
The old vamp shifted his gaze to Spike and frowned again. “Do I know you? Why do you feel like family? Surely no one from the Aurelian line would stoop to helping a slayer against the head of his family?”
“Always been a bit of a black sheep,” Spike replied. “Even Angelus couldn’t beat the disobedience out of me – not likely you’re gonna be able to talk it out of me.”
“Angelus...He was your sire?”
Buffy was getting impatient as the Master seemed more interested in discussing Spike’s ancestry than in fighting, but the mention of Angel’s name got her attention. She listened with interest as Spike nonchalantly replied.
“Grandsire, actually. Guess that makes you my great, great granddaddy.” He grinned wolfishly and continued, “I’ll try to make you proud.”
He whirled just in time to intercept one of the bodyguards that had been trying to get behind Buffy, taking a minimum amount of time to dispense with what the Master had considered one of his smartest and strongest minions. The Master gestured with his clawed hand, and the other bodyguard minions attacked, two of them going for Spike and the other three leaping at Buffy. The old vampire watched with interest as the two blonds moved so that their backs were to the outside wall and Spike was on Buffy’s left where he wouldn’t interfere with her sword arm.
Buffy quickly took the head off one minion, ignoring his dust as she spun out of reach of the other two. The vampires she and Spike were facing now were older and smarter than the others they had disposed of so easily. Now well aware of what they were facing, they were appropriately careful as they worked to separate the two warriors. While the door to the outside room continued to hold against the onslaught of hungry vampires left behind, Spike and Buffy tried to dust the remaining bodyguards before the door could give way and allow those overwhelming numbers to pour in at their backs.
When Spike threw one of his assailants towards Buffy with a “catch, Slayer”, she staked the vampire with her left hand without even looking in his direction or interrupting her swordplay. When one swing hit a pole in the center of the room, breaking the blade, she threw the remaining stub at the Master before switching the stake to her right hand and glaring at the suddenly more-confident vampires facing her. An angry snarl from the dais told her that her throw had reached its target and she grinned at the minions in front of her.
“Oops?” she chirped. “My bad!”
With only one vamp left to fight, Spike let his demon take full control, and he was soon holding the head that he had wrenched off his last opponent, watching it crumble to dust in his hands. Carefully positioning himself between Buffy and the still non-participating master, he watched as she spun and kicked, jumped and ducked, and flowed around the two snarling vampires until she could plunge her stake into the taller one’s chest. Spike was already moving as the tiny interruption in Buffy’s constant motion gave the remaining vampire the opening for which he’d been waiting.
Suddenly Buffy was being held against a powerful chest, her arms pinned to her sides and her feet dangling off the floor. Spike was behind the vampire that was holding her before his fangs could reach Buffy’s throat, grabbing the vampire’s head with his hands and twisting it completely around as he snarled a guttural “Mine” into the vamp’s ear. As soon as she felt her arms released, Buffy turned and drove her stake into the vamp’s chest so hard that Spike had to flinch back to avoid being staked himself.
They looked at each other for a second, sharing a triumphant grin before turning as one to glare at the ancient vampire now frowning at them from his raised platform. Appearing more angry than frightened, he gave them a toothy grin as he said, “I believe you will find me a more difficult kill than you did my soldiers.”
Buffy shrugged. “Yeah, that’s what you said the last time. Right before I dropped you three stories onto a really big stake.”
Taking his eyes off the slayer, he addressed himself to Spike.
“I can see that you are a fighter worthy of being called an Aurelian. If you deliver your pet slayer to me, I will seat you at my right hand and you will rule with me. I will even permit you to turn her, if you desire to keep her. She can continue to be yours.”
“Think you’re a mite confused about who belongs to who here, Grandpop.” Spike moved closer to Buffy and touched her arm lightly.
“I heard you claim her as yours. Your demon spoke.”
“Figure of speech. I jus’ meant I wasn’t lettin’ any other demon’s teeth anywhere near her neck. I’m hers – for as long as she wants me – and I won’t let you put your fangs anywhere near her. Or,” he continued with a sideways glance at Buffy, “I wouldn’t allow it if I thought I had any reason to get in her way. But I think the girl can take of herself. I’m just here to keep the fight honest.”
“Nice save,” Buffy muttered, letting go of the righteous indignation she’d been building up as he and the older vampire discussed her as if she wasn’t even there.
“I’m not completely stupid,” he smirked. “But, just so you know, , if I think you’re losin’, I’m in and you can yell at me after.”
“If I’m losing, I expect to find you with a mouthful of ugly before I have time to yell for help,” she admitted with a small smile.
“You’ve got it, love.” He grinned and gestured towards the Master who was still staring at them with curiosity. “Show him what it means to face a real Slayer.”
Spike began to move away, giving Buffy room to fight the older vampire. The Master seemed to have resigned himself to having to kill Buffy himself, and had just gathered himself to leap at her when the door finally burst open. For a few brief seconds, the press of bodies attempting to get inside kept the horde of hungry vampires trapped behind a dam of snarling minions; but it quickly dissolved and the vampires fell into the room. With a quick shove, Spike propelled Buffy towards the dais, saying, “Do what you need to do, pet. I’ll deal with the riff-raff.”
With a nod, Buffy left her feet, flipping herself up and over the Master’s head and landing behind him. She swung at him with her stake, hoping for a quick kill, but his speed made that impossible and she settled down for a prolonged battle.
Spike rolled his shoulders and snarled at the hesitant vampires in front of him. “Alright, then, who wants to be first to go to hell?”
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