Author: Dark Star
TIMELINE: Set during Buffy’s Season 3
DISCLAIMER: Joss Whedon is creator and owner of all things Buffy and Angel.
RATING: Anyone old enough to watch it
The peaceful quiet of the graveyard was shattered by a loud thump as a vampire landed heavily onto his back. Buffy dropped down after him, her wooden stake finding his heart with practised ease.
She looked up when she heard a muffled noise from her partner. Angel was struggling, stake-less, with a vampire who was hanging determinedly from his back; one arm wrapped in a stranglehold round his throat.
“Catch!” Buffy whipped a spare stake from inside her shirt and hurled it in Angel’s direction. He grabbed it out of the air, elbowed his attacker in the ribs so that he released his grip, twisted and drove the stake through the vampire’s heart.
“That’s OK,” Buffy responded brightly. “What are friends for?”
Angel moved to join her, brushing dust from his jacket as he did so. He seemed a little distracted, and Buffy asked, “You OK?”
“Yeah. It’s just…” He shrugged.
“Hard to explain. Something in the air, you know?”
Buffy gave him a cheerful smile, refusing to let his mood depress her.
“Well, when you figure it out, let me know. In the meantime, we’ve got a job to do.”
She turned and walked away, expecting Angel to follow her. He did, catching her up before she’d taken many paces. Buffy stopped abruptly, her Slayer senses picking up danger signals. Following her instincts, she and Angel ended up at the nearby crypt.
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Angel told her as he followed her down the steps.
Buffy entered the crypt cautiously, and came to a halt. In front of her was a swirling green mist, spiralling away into a vortex.
“What’s that!” Buffy exclaimed.
“Good question. And I think we’d better get out of here.”
The couple started to move away from the mist, when the vortex flared and expanded, enveloping them both.
Angel made it to the steps and looked back to see where Buffy was. She had been unable, with her lighter body weight, to break free of the vortex; Angel could sense that it was closing down. His eyes caught hers, wide with fear as she struggled to free herself. He stepped back into the mist, wrapping her in his arms, just as the vortex collapsed round them.
Buffy instinctively moved closer to Angel as the vortex’s crushing weight closed in on them. She couldn’t breathe. Gasping for air, she glanced up at Angel who seemed to be in as much distress as she. Her chest hurt from the strain; just before she lost consciousness she thought ‘We’re going to die.’
When she came to, with some surprise, she was aware of the hard floor under her legs. Her head was against Angel’s chest and she could feel his arm round her waist. She opened her eyes.
“Are you OK?” Angel’s voice sounded concerned.
“I’ve been better.” Buffy got to her feet, unsteadily. She accepted Angel’s helping hand gratefully. “Where are we?”
“I have no idea.” He indicated the area around them. “Cave of some kind.”
Buffy surveyed the area. It was a large cave with a high ceiling. A glow seemed to be coming from the walls, which gave them an eerie feel. There was no other light that she could see, and she couldn’t tell why the walls gave off any either. There was no sign of the vortex.
A movement in the cave caught both their attentions at he same time. A figure stepped into the light. The figure was a humanoid male with a shimmering grey skin. He was dressed in cream coloured robes with what looked like intricate embroidery on them. When he spoke, his voice sounded course and scratchy.
“Welcome. I am Voss.”
“What do you want with us?” Buffy said, curtly. She was in no mood for pleasantries; She didn’t appreciate being whisked away and dumped in a strange cave, at who knows where?
Voss didn’t seem to mind Buffy’s tone. He gave her a big smile, which did nothing to lighten her mood.
“I don’t want anything from you. You are free to go.”
“Go where? Home? And how are we supposed to do that?” Buffy snapped back, something about Voss was really annoying her.
“All you have to do is find your way back.” Voss smirked. “Of course, it won’t be all that easy; you may not even survive.”
“We won’t play your stupid games.” Buffy told him.
“You have no choice. You can stay here and die, or try and find your own way home. At least that way you have a chance.” Voss studied the pair in front of him. “No-one ever has, though.”
“Or,” Buffy muttered through clenched teeth, “I can….”
Whatever Buffy was going to say was drowned out as Voss raised his arm and a blue flash smashed her and Angel against the far wall. Staggering back, they discovered that Voss had gone.
Buffy turned toward Angel, much of her anger dissipatating; she just felt tired. She allowed her head to rest briefly on Angel’s broad shoulder, needing to take comfort from him. He held her in silence. Finally, equilibrium recovered, she stepped away from him, her head held high.
“Let’s go home, Angel.”
Buffy led the way through an arch and down a narrow tunnel, lit by the strange glow. She stopped when the tunnel branched into four.
“Eenie, Meanie,” She said, softly. Selecting the far right tunnel at random, she started toward it.
She glanced back at Angel; He was standing very still.
“That way.” Angel indicated the tunnel next to it.
“Are you sure?”
Buffy shrugged, and stepped into the tunnel indicated by Angel. He’d told her once that vampires usually have an excellent sense of direction, and as far as she could recall, he’d never been wrong before. It was a good a direction as any.
The tunnel began to spread out, becoming wider, until it opened out into a large cavern. As Buffy and Angel stepped cautiously into the area, dark shapes began moving along the perimeters. They both stopped, attention focused on the slithering shapes. A squat creature ambled forward. It looked vaguely like a large crocodile. It had a green scaly hide, four chubby clawed feet and a long snout over a mouth of wickedly sharp teeth. It’s tail swished behind it as he and his brothers crawled toward the Slayer and her mate.
“My, what big teeth you have,” Buffy couldn’t resist the comment as she and Angel stepped forward, as one, and kicked the nearest creatures out of the way. At the same time they tried to clear a path through the cave as the creatures threatened to surround them.
“This isn’t going to work,” Angel grunted as he picked up a creature by the tail and swung it like a club. Croc-things flew in all directions as the club hammered home.
“Nice strategy,” Buffy commented, approvingly. Angel was right, though. There were far too many of them. Casting around for another exit, she had an idea.
He stole a quick glance in her direction. She was looking across the backs of the crocs, at a ledge that ran around the cave wall, about seven feet off the ground.
“Let’s do it.” He agreed, knowing that they had very little option; that her suggestion was very dangerous, and likely to be fatal if they misjudged at all.
Buffy and Angel darted forward, using the ‘crocs scaly backs as stepping-stones, and vaulted onto the ledge.
Scrambling to their feet, they made their way into another tunnel and continued the journey. The glow from the walls was fading, and before long they had to continue in complete darkness. Even more disconcerting though, they could hear the crocs shambling after them, having found other ways into the tunnel. They quickened their pace but the going was painfully slow due to the lack of light.
“Buffy.” Angel’s voice sounded tense in the darkness.
“I know, they’re gaining on us.” Buffy retorted.
“We have to go faster.”
“I can’t.” Buffy snapped, irritably. “I can’t see a thing.”
“I assume there’s a point to this?”
Angel halted, and turned toward her. “Let me lead us.”
Buffy considered Angel’s suggestion. She didn’t much fancy dashing headlong down the tunnel and not see where she was going. But she knew Angel’s night vision was much better than hers; and she didn’t much fancy fighting croc-creatures in a confined area in the dark either.
She took a deep breath. “OK”
Angel’s hand found hers in the darkness. A tingle shot up her arm at his innocent touch, and she marvelled that he could still do that to her, even under these circumstances.
Angel sprinted forward, confidently guiding Buffy through the maze of tunnels. He moved slowly at first, so as not to scare her. Buffy clung to Angel’s hand as his pace quickened, and they careered through the darkness. She found it exhilarating after the initial fear had passed, and apart from bouncing off the tunnel walls once or twice their flight was uneventful.
Rounding a curve of the tunnel, Angel stopped abruptly. Buffy’s momentum carried her forward, and Angel yanked at her hand and pulled her backwards.
Buffy yelped. “What’s up?”
“Chasm. Right in front of us.”
“I don’t see it.” Buffy replied, trying unsuccessfully to see what lay ahead.
“It’s there.” Angel assured her.
“What now? Can we jump it?”
“Yeah, we can do it.” Angel had hesitated for only a heartbeat, but Buffy heard it and knew he was worried.
Slowly Buffy and Angel edged as far back from the chasm as possible, to give themselves a good run at the jump.
“Buffy.” Angel’s soft voice betrayed none of the anxiety he felt. “The chasm’s pretty wide. It’s not gonna be easy.”
“Talk about a jump in the dark.” Buffy muttered. She half-turned, hoping to see Angel in the darkness. She could sense him, feel him, but she couldn’t see him. She was very afraid; afraid that if she jumped too soon, too late or too far she could kill them both. Reluctant to put him in danger, she tried to pull her hand away from his. But he was having none of it, and tightened his grip.
“No.” He said, softly. “We face this together. Are you ready?”
“Nope.” Buffy tried to say, but only managed a croak.
As one, Buffy and Angel sprinted forward.
On Angel’s command, they both sprung into the air. It was terrifying. Buffy had no idea where the edge of the chasm lay or where the other side was; her heart was hammering in her chest so hard she was sure it would burst. She guessed that the other side of the chasm was close, and she braced herself for impact. She hit the ground heavily, Angel’s hand torn from hers by the sheer force. Instinctively she
rolled away from the edge and lay still; her body shaking from the rush of adrenaline.
“Buffy?” Angel materialised next to her
“I’m OK,” She managed to say, and then promptly cried out as pain flared through her arm. Buffy winced as Angel, apparently unharmed, helped her to her feet. “Just bruised, I think.”
“There’s another tunnel.” Angel told her. “Do you feel up to carrying on?”
“Like I have a choice,” Buffy retorted.
Angel’s hand gripped hers once more. His skin felt cool against hers, but she was grateful for the contact. She was tired of wandering about in the dark. True, her eyes had adjusted a little and her enhanced senses helped; but essentially she felt helpless, and really didn’t like the feeling.
The tunnel began to curve upwards and to Buffy’s intense relief, the glow on the walls reappeared. There was no longer any reason for Angel to guide Buffy since the light had returned, but he still didn’t relinquish his hold on her hand.
The tunnel levelled out and from somewhere up ahead, they heard a loud bellow. Buffy cursed softly; Angel raised an eyebrow but knew better than to comment on it. Whatever was ahead of them sounded pretty big.
The ground underfoot felt softer and spongier. An unknown type of plant was growing there, some moss perhaps, or fungus. The green plant covered the walls and ceiling as well as the floor, and in several places roots and vines sprang out of the wall.
The tunnel opened out and the origin of the bellow was revealed. A very large and distinctly prehistoric looking creature gnawed at the vines. It was huge. Standing twice as high as Angel, its leathery brown skin rippling as it shuffled along on four powerful legs. It had a row of thick spines running down from the neck to the pointed tip of its tail.
“Maybe it’s vegetarian,” Buffy muttered hopefully, indicating the lush vegetation.
“I doubt it,” Angel shot back, his gaze on a pile of bones; some of which looked suspiciously human.
Buffy’s eyes met Angel’s. Neither wanted to fight the creature – not least because they had no weapons with them. They began to edge round the beast, hoping it wouldn’t spot them, when it looked up and growled.
Buffy and Angel separated instantly, one each side of the creature, hoping to confuse it. No chance. With a snort, it spun round, surprisingly fast for a beast of its size and headed straight for Buffy.
Buffy somersaulted over its head, desperately looking around for some kind of weapon. There was none. Angel went round the other side of the beast, trying to distract it from her. It snapped menacingly at him and he had to sidestep to avoid it. The movement took him close to the spiny back and he had an idea.
Moving inhumanly fast, he grabbed hold of one the spines, and yanked. Each spine was a narrow horn-shape, tapering into a wicked point. Hanging on to the horn part, Angel twisted and pulled, until the spine broke off in his hand. The monster roared in pain, trying to snap at the parasite that had hurt it. But Angel was faster, and had already gone.
“Buffy!” Angel threw the spine at her when she looked up. She grasped the improvised weapon gratefully and thrust it several times into the creature’s side. Angel had already gone back and was trying to wrench another spine out. By now, the beast was thrashing around madly in pain and anger and it was hard to hold on. Angel lost his grip, and grabbed the beast’s hide to steady himself. He hissed as pain stabbed through his palm, and his hand was covered in blood when he snatched it back.
“Don’t touch its hide,” Angel warned Buffy. “It’s like a razor!”
“Got it.” She acknowledged, still attacking the beast fiercely while trying to avoid being monster food.
Angel returned to his task of freeing another spine, this time avoiding touching the rough skin. Buffy squealed, and he glanced over to her. She was fine, fortunately, but in the fraction of a second his attention wandered, the beast swung its tail round and speared Angel straight through the chest.
Buffy heard Angel’s scream, and could only watch with horrified eyes as he was lifted up on the spiked tail and shaken like a rag doll. Angel grabbed the tail, tried to lever himself away but the rough hide cut into his hands; ignoring the pain in his hands as best he could, Angel used all his strength to push at the hide, but he was unable to prise himself free.
The horrendous sight momentarily froze Buffy; then rage took over. It was anger so deep, so primeval in its intensity that it wiped away every other instinct and she darted underneath the monster’s body, and hacked away at the sensitive underside. She had no regard for her own safety; she was driven on by Angel’s agonised screams and an overwhelming instinct to protect him, whatever the cost. This fight was personal.
Buffy grunted as she forced her makeshift weapon into the soft flesh. Again and again, she rammed the spine home, ignoring the blood that ran down her arms. She allowed instinct to guide her movements; twisting her body to avoid the monsters thrashing death throws.
The noise in the confined area was deafening. Angel’s cries were overshadowed by the beast’s agonized screams. The thick tail swished about wildly until it finally managed to dislodge Angel from his skewer, and hurled him crashing into the wall. Buffy rolled out from underneath the beast as it toppled, dying, onto the ground. She dropped to her knees, exhausted by her frenzied assault.
Buffy looked around for Angel, afraid that she would find him squashed under the huge carcass of the beast. Instead, she saw him lying unmoving at the base of the wall, his body a crumpled heap.
She was on her feet in an instant as panic overwhelmed her. Logically, she knew that as long as he wasn’t actually dust, he would recover. Her chest hurt as her anxiety mounted, and she rushed to his side. It took a lot to seriously hurt Angel, and she was appalled at the bloody mess of his chest. She tried not to think about what the spines had done to his internal organs.
For several long moments there was no response. Then, with a great deal of effort, Angel opened his eyes to look at her. Buffy gave an involuntary gasp. His eyes, normally so intense, looked glazed; the pain reflected in them was horrible to see.
Unable to stand the sight of the gaping wound in her partners’ chest, Buffy stripped off her bloody overshirt, and tore it into pieces. Using the cleaner bits, she bandaged the terrible wounds on Angel’s chest and hands. That done, Buffy took a moment to stare at his handsome face. He was sleeping now and he looked peaceful. Buffy suddenly felt her energy drain away. She was so tired she could hardly think straight. Exhausted, she lay down next to Angel, wriggling as close to him as she could, and being very careful not to touch anything that looked remotely painful, she slept.
Buffy’s eyes snapped open as she felt Angel moving.
“Are you OK?” She asked, reaching out to touch his cheek, his colour even paler than normal.
“I’ve been better.” Angel winced as he tried to sit up. Then he noticed the dead beast and his gaze scanned Buffy; she seemed to be all right. He couldn’t believe that she had killed it, alone, with practically no weapons. She was really something.
“Can you stand?” Buffy’s voice broke into his reverie.
“I think so.”
Buffy slipped an arm round his waist to help him up. But his legs held no strength and he collapsed again.
“Angel,” Buffy said slowly, choosing her words carefully. She didn’t know how he would react to what she wanted to say. “You need blood.”
“I’ll be all right.”
Ignoring him, Buffy said, “I heard some rats in the tunnel back there. I could get you some?”
“I don’t want rats.” Angel’s gaze had dropped, refusing to meet hers.
Buffy’s mouth suddenly went dry. “You can feed from me.”
Angel’s head snapped up, anger replacing the pain in his eyes. “I would rather die than feed from you.”
Buffy sighed. “Angel, we don’t really have a choice here. You can’t move, and you know I won’t leave you. You need blood, Angel. We both know it. So what’s it to be? Mine or the rats?”
Angel looked away, a tiny muscle twitching in his jaw as he struggled to contain his anger. Finally, his shoulders slumped in defeat. “The rats.” He said, so softly that Buffy could barely hear him.
“Rats it is.” She said brightly, deliberately ignoring his moroseness.
When she returned a short time later, she carried her precious cargo of two live rats contained in a makeshift bag, fashioned from the remnants of her tattered over-shirt. Angel didn’t look up, didn’t acknowledge her in any way. Buffy dropped the wriggling bundle into his lap, and still he refused to look at her.
“It won’t take them long to get out.” She warned him. There was no response from the vampire; without another word, she turned and left the cave. On reaching the tunnel, out of sight of Angel, she sat herself on the floor; resting her head against the tunnel wall, and waited.
After a while, Buffy stirred. She guessed he’d had enough time to digest the blood. He hated reminding her of his vampiric nature, and he had never drunk blood in her presence. Returning to the cave, she was relieved to see Angel leaning against the wall, looking stronger and more like his normal self. There was no sign of the rats.
Angel looked away from her, his shame palpable. Sighing, she held out her hand.
“Come on, Angel. I want to go home.”
Avoiding her outstretched hand, Angel got himself unsteadily to his feet. Buffy was hurt that he had so pointedly rejected her, but she followed him without comment as he went towards the far tunnel, stumbling on the uneven floor. He was mobile but still weak and Buffy caught him as his footing slipped and he lurched forward. Almost immediately, Angel twisted out of her grasp, and Buffy was furious.
“What?” She snapped. “You drink blood and suddenly you’re Superman?”
“It’s not that.” He still didn’t look at her.
“So tell me,” She coaxed, but he wouldn’t reply. “Talk to me, Angel!” She exploded. “You think that I don’t love you? That I’m repulsed by you?”
Angel flinched, dropping his gaze even further from hers. So that was it, Buffy thought. She stepped closer to him, deliberately invading his personal space, and reached up to touch his face. Unexpectedly, his skin felt warm; no wonder he hadn’t wanted her to touch him. She had completely forgotten that a vampire’s body temperature increased after feeding.
“How can you have lived so long, and still be so stupid?” Buffy scolded him gently. “Don’t you know me at all? I love you, Angel; I really don’t care if you’re human, vampire or…or Slime Demon!”
Angel lifted his head, finally meeting her eyes. He said nothing, just looked at her. He didn’t understand how she could love him, how she could even bear to be with him sometimes. He was just glad that she did, and he pulled her into his arms and held her against his chest, ignoring the pain her contact caused him.
Buffy pulled away first. “Do you know how much further we have to go?”
“It’s not far.” He replied. “I can feel the vortex.”
Buffy helped to support Angel’s weight and they carried on down the tunnel.
“It’s close,” Angel confirmed. “We only have to…”
His words trailed off as the next obstacle confronted them. They had come upon a clearing, and a fierce wind howled along the tunnel. They looked at each other. The clearing wasn’t very wide, but the wind was exceptionally strong. Angel’s mind was working overtime. He didn’t think he had the strength to cross it, and Buffy’s small body would get swept away. They didn’t stand a chance.
“We need some of those vines.” He said suddenly.
“I’ll get them.” Buffy offered instantly. She always felt better if she was doing something. She returned a short time later, the vines coiled round her arm like a snake. She handed them to Angel.
Angel moved against Buffy’s body, wrapping the vines round them, effectively tying them together.
“Kinky.” Buffy grinned at him. “You sure we have time for this?”
Angel chuckled. “We’ll make time,” He replied, playing along. “We can always pick it up later.”
Their eyes met, and the same thought passed between them. ‘I wish’
“Here, let me.” Buffy took the vines from Angel, as he was unable to tie them with his lacerated hands. She made short work of the knots and Angel tested them for strength
“I’m impressed,” He commented, surprised.
“Yeah, well I do pay attention to Giles sometimes.” Buffy grinned. “We did ropes and knots last week. He said it might be useful sometime.”
They stepped carefully into the wind. Angel used his large frame to shield Buffy’s smaller one, but he needed Buffy’s superior strength to help pull them across. The few feet that they had to manoeuvre seemed to take hours, and it needed their combined strength and determination to navigate it.
After what seemed like forever, they eventually stepped out the other side, exhausted by their physical exertion. Together they sagged against the wall and Buffy fumbled with the knots and untied them.
“If I ever see that Voss again,” Buffy snapped irritably, “I’m gonna kill him.”
“Join the queue.” Angel agreed quietly. He sounded tired, and Buffy glanced at him in concern. He gave her a weak smile and allowed her to support him as they stumbled the last few feet down the tunnel.
The vortex swirled in front of them, and they both sighed with relief.
“That’ll take us home?” Buffy looked at Angel for confirmation.
Buffy resisted the urge to ask him if he was sure. They were both tired and a little grouchy, and Angel was injured and…. Oh!
“You gonna be all right?” She asked him, nodding toward the vortex.
“I’ll live.” He replied grimly.
In truth, Buffy wasn’t looking forward to the pain of the vortex either. But she took Angel’s hand and they stepped into the iridescent mist.
As the vortex folded in around them, Buffy’s last words echoed round the now empty chamber.
“Sunnydale, here we come.”
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