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Before The Storm Comes

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All three slayers were inside before the roar had even had a chance to bounce off the alley wall.

They came into total chaos.

Immediately, the three women were under attack. The two free rangers vanished into the swirling mass of demons, fists swinging and feet kicking. Buffy received a hit to the face that sent her flying hard into the metal wall, leaving a slayer sized dent behind as she slumped to the floor groaning.
Over the noise of what looked like dozens of horned demons, Buffy could just make out the furious roars of her vampires. Buffy felt strikes raining down on her and she battled to get to her feet, crushing a ribcage here, smashing a skull there. As soon as she took one down, two more seemed to take its place. Dodging a sword strike and kicking it away to imbed in the back of another demon, Buffy methodically fought her way through the crushing mass, trying to get to the caged vampires. But it was like jogging in quicksand.
Just as Buffy thought there were too many and that this wasn't a battle she could win, she heard a sound that sent power surging through her. Faith's voice yelled instructions and suddenly the press of demons didn't seem as bad as Slayers poured around her. Renewed, she leapt into the struggle again.
After snapping yet another neck of a demon and tossing it aside, she saw that she was finally at the cages. Doors were ripped open and Buffy could see that Spike and Angel were both surrounded and battling fiercely. Not the smooth, coordinated fighting she had always witnesses, this was the animal version. Teeth and claws, ripping and tearing, maximum blood loss. Spike's door was closer so she fought her way in, the backs of demons a much easier target to strike.
A scream tore her throat as she looked up just in time to see Spike go down under a particularly vicious sword swipe. An answering roar sounded from Angel's cage and demon screams filled the air to bursting.
Buffy, her heart in her throat, 'No no no!' on repeat in her mind, dove into the seething mass. She barely noticed the sounds of Slayers battling around the warehouse, her attention solely focused on the last spot she saw Spike.
A hand grabbed the back of her shirt and pulled but her foot kicking back and a sickening crunching sound made it vanish. A dart to the left and a sword swished past. Duck a punch and kick out a knee and smash the face as it goes past.
She was poetry in motion.
Suddenly a demon flew over her head and blood sprayed the side of her face and shoulder. What looked like an arm skittered along the ground and tripped another demon over.
Another body flashed past, this time Buffy recognised Angel as he literally ripped through the circle of demons surrounding Spike. Buffy was beside him in a heartbeat wrenching a horned head back and slamming a fist into the side of it. Ignoring it as it collapsed, she moved onto the next.

It was only minutes later when Buffy realised there were no more demons in front of her. Winded, she glanced around and saw pockets of battles still happening, but most of the fight looked over. Snarls brought her attention back to the centre of the cage and witnessed Angel hauling corpses from the floor to slam against bent cage walls. Dodging flying corpses and Buffy was on her knees at Spike's side, gripping his wrist. But she neglected to remember that Angel was there too and a flying fist to her shoulder caused her to remember quickly as she slid along the floor a foot until her progress was halted by a bloody torso.
Angel was crouched protectively over the unmoving Spike, dripping blood and body bits on the prone vampire. He was covered in wounds and gashes but it didn't seem to register them as he glared malevolently at the now gathering Slayers.
Buffy felt a hand on her shoulder and a lightning glance showed it to be Faith.
Buffy shrugged. But the single word and shrug had Angel roaring his rage at them, yanking Spike further under his protective stance.
Making a split decision, Buffy murmured to Faith to get the other Slayers clear and take as many bodies from the cage as possible without getting near the foaming Angel. Herself and Faith stretched forward as much as they dared, the red tinged demon eyes of Angel tracking every movement, snarls increasing if they got too close for his comfort.
One slayer had the good idea to reach through the bars, gasping a corpse and pulling it along the floor, working it to the reach of Faith. Others saw and quickly they were able to clear the cage, leaving Buffy and Faith to edge out and with some chains, secure the door.

A quick study of the cages showed that both were damaged badly, but that Spike's had taken the most of the assault.
"Buffy, it looks like the cages might hold, but not if they really want out.' A weighted pause then Faith breathed deep and continued, 'I dunno who or what they were, but they were definitely after the boys, Spike in particular."
A shiver clawed over Buffy's skin. She had had the same thoughts.
Turning her back to the furious vampire and his again silent and still childe, Buffy surveyed the destruction in her warehouse. Slipping into Commander mode, she directed the cleanup crews and organised the transport of the 2 slayers that had been the worst hurt during the attack. Overall, the 14 free range slayers that had come with Faith had gotten out with a few wounds, cuts and the 2 injured slayers had broken bones from being tossed aside in Angel charge from his cage to Spike's.
"Faith, these were not fighters, not really. It looks like they were going for numbers rather than pure skill. What the HELL is going on here?" She yelled, her anger and fear now making itself known. Angel roared back, shaking the rafters of the warehouse.

It took hours for Angel to calm down to a rumbling growl and still even more for him to relax his stance over Spike. Bags of blood were ignored and even struck away when Buffy tried tossing it to the angry vampire, bursting as it hit the bars.
Buffy groaned as the thought of the cleanup that had to be done or the sheer smell would be overwhelming soon.
But Robin apparently thought of that when he arrived shortly after the thought with containers of chinese and an odd little man in a trench coat and fedora.
At Buffy's suspicious look, he was quick to offer his explanations, with a smile.
"Here is Sam, he's our local cleanup crew man. This isn't Sunnydale Buffy, you aren't left to the cleanup by yourself here." With a cheeky wink, he waved Sam forward and then dumped the food on the mended table, calling over the hungry group. While everyone ate, Buffy watched as Sam, still in his body covering clothes, set up a bowl and herbs and lit his candles. A moment of chanting and a silverly fog crept from the bowl and spread over the warehouse floor. Buffy tensed as it crept into the cages and surrounded Angel and Spike, waiting for the eruption that would occur and wondered if the bars would hold. Robin saw her face and came over to her.
"Sam assured me that the vampires wouldn't see it, so it shouldn't set him off." Sam apparently hadn't lied as Angel didn't even blink.
"What the hell is it Robin?" But the exheadmaster refused to answer, merely returning to the table and grabbing another serve of rice. But her answer was soon given as the silver mist turned a murky orange and then seemed to bleed away into the floor and vanish. Sam silently packed up his bowl and candles and with a nod to Robin, handed over an envelope and shuffled out of the warehouse.

Buffy looked around in wonder. The entire warehouse was now clean. No blood, no randomly missed fleshy bits laying around. Even the swords left behind that had been piled up were sparkling clean as though hours had been spent scrubbing and sharpening them.
"Woah Robin! Where was HE when I was scrubbing blood from Mom's lounge room carpet!?" Robin laughed, but smothered the sound at Angel's answering snarl.
Buffy sighed. All that work she had done calming the vampire, now looked to be thrown out with the demon corpses. But she couldn't spend time worrying about that now.

"Faith, what do we know about these attackers of ours?" Faith motioned forward a free ranger, one of the older women that had been called. Simone had grasped her new life with both hands and had become one of Faith's more knowledgeable slayers. It was all due to her apparently that the Cleveland slayers had demon help and contacts. An Equal Opportunity Officer in her old life, she had quickly transitioned those skills into her new life.
"I sent the photos off as soon as we commenced cleanup and from initial thoughts, looks like they are Fecc'lar demons, not a particular smart demon and breed like rabbits, so tend to be used by more intelligent types as low grade mercenaries."
"So clearance store muggers for hire then. Don't know if I'm insulted by that or relieved!" Buffy huffed. "Anyway we can find their payroler?" Simone nodded and left the group with her phone already in her hands.

It was completely dark by the time everyone else left. By agreement, the free rangers had worked up a new roster so that there were 4 slayers at the warehouse at all times, two outside and two inside, having taken over Faith's old pod that now stood empty. Buffy was slightly miffed at the fact she had lost her privacy but recognised the fact that they were needed. Other Slayers would stop by to check up as they went about their own duties during the days and nights.
Buffy walked the darkened warehouse towards the cages. Angel had remained in the centre of the cage with Spike still pressed next to him protectively. But he had relaxed and now slept slumped over, the battle and his wounds obviously wearing him out.
Buffy settled in to her spot and studied her two vampires. Just when she had thought that Spike was getting better, had started responding more, this happened and now look. Angel had started calming down as well and Buffy had been hopeful that the demon's grip on the man might have started weakening. Was it all lost now?
The Slayer's eyes skimmed over the sleeping Angel and up Spike's body. His wounds were healing, so at some point, Angel must have fed him again. His jeans were more than rags now and his bare chest was still narrow and bony. A nasty gash ran from Spike's shoulder, up his neck and over his chin, ending at one cheekbone that was so defined, it could cut paper. That had been the strike Buffy had seen and her heart shuddered at how close it had been to a beheading.
But then Buffy realised with a start that Spike's eyes were open!
Yellow glowed from between slitted eyelids and Buffy gasped, thankfully softly enough that Angel in his exhaustion, didn't register.
Her hand reached out of its own accord and tears burst forth and ran down the blonde slayer's face. Forcing sobs quiet so as not to upset Angel again, her eyes locked with Spike's and she watched as they opened further until they were gazing back at her. She watched as Spike's hand slid out from under him and pressed flat against the cage floor as he levered himself up enough to slide his other hand out as well. Little by little, Buffy stared transfixed as Spike pulled himself across the floor towards her. Finally, shaking from exhaustion, Spike sagged against the bars of the cages and Buffy was finally able to touch her beloved again. Stroking his hair, and ignoring the filth encrusting the once beautiful curls Buffy allowed the tears to run her face as she gazed at Spike. His eyes were closed now and he was so still again.
Buffy realised with a start, that she missed the breathing motions Spike had always done, even while sleeping. She missed the human things Spike had incorporated into his every day 'life'. Breathing and eating human food, darting around during the day, he had been such his own person, even from when she first knew him.

Now, he was literally as still as a corpse.

A soft scuffing beside her and a free ranger squatted next to her with a warmed bag of blood. Wordlessly but with a nod of gratitude, Buffy took the offering and pressed it against Spike's lips, jiggling it until his fangs slid out and he gently bit the bag and drained it dry. Another bag was pressed into her hand and again Spike drained it dry. A third was refused and Buffy handed it back, a warm smile of thanks for the Cleveland Slayer spreading across her pinched looking face. A hand gently squeezed her shoulder and she was left on her own again with her vampire.

A crooning woke her the next morning. She was on her side, her arm through the bars of the cage with Spike wrapped around it like a snake. Angel couched behind Spike with his hand resting on Spike's shoulder crooning softly, but his attention was on the pods where the Slayers were chatting quietly as they ate their breakfasts. As though he sensed her watching him, his gaze switched to her and his hand tightened on the pale shoulder. A second of eye contact and that was it, Angel was back to watching the slayers again. But his crooning never faltered. Buffy watched in silence as his whole demeanour tightened and the crooning slowly morphed into a low growl, but that was as far as it went. Buffy heard soft footsteps as a slayer came over and placed a tray of warmed blood bags by her side. A barely heard whisper reached Buffy's ears and other than Angel's shoulders tightening he merely watched and grumbled his low growl.
"Morning Ms Summers, got the boys breakfast here. Did you want me to grab you something as well?" Without moving, Buffy murmured 'coffee' and with a nod, the slayer padded away again. Carefully and as smoothly as possible, Buffy retracted her arm without joggling the silent vampire and handed Angel a feed. He crouched there simply staring at Buffy for a few heartbeats then without taking his eyes off her – he was apparently in full creepy stare mode today, yay – reached out and took the blood and drained it quickly.
Buffy leant through and shook Spike, his eyes opening slowly with numerous blinks and focussed on the blood Buffy was holding. As slowly as last night, he reached out and took the blood but drained it as quickly as Angel did.
Buffy was very surprised. She had fully expected that after yesterday's little fiasco, they would have gone all the way back to when they had first returned from the other dimension. But if anything, they actually seemed better. Huh.
She sat by them as she had her coffee then disappeared to her pod for a long hot shower and a rest on a padded surface for once.

Faith called a little while after Buffy woke up with Simone's update and it wasn't what Buffy had been prepared for. It had taken all night and a few broken faces but they had traced the money back to a demon dealer in LA. There it had gone cold but Simone promised that she would head to LA with a couple of free rangers and suss out the situation there.
Faith and Buffy sat in silence, the buzz the only thing that broke the tension.
"Doesn't mean jack B, it's probably Angel's old bosses getting a little payback, you know?"
"You're right Faith, that is the more feasible option, rather than..."
"Come on Buff, do you really think they would be like that? That's more like the old guys, not..."
"Faith you can't even say their names. And honestly, remember the Robin and Spike thing? Yeah, it could definitely be Giles. Getting someone else to do his dirty work? Totally Giles."
"Yeah I remember, but he also made sure that you weren't risked. He would never put you in danger B."
Buffy merely grunted, not wanting to discuss it further. But she thought on it and even though her anger spoke loudly, her fairer side meant that she recognised at least that.

But there was one way to find out.

"Andrew, you and I need to talk..."