September 5, 2016
“Fall back! Fall back!” Vi’s scream was lost in the roar of demon voices.
Willow’s army poured out from her compound in every direction, ten thousand demons strong. The vampire herself stood on the roof, arms raised to the heavens, black hair wild in the magical wind as she sucked the power directly out of the air.
She’d...collapsed...the mages, all fourteen of them, spoken one word in a dead language and pulled the life from their bodies. They lay on the ground at Vi’s feet like deflated basketballs.
“They’re still coming,” Geoffrey whispered, hissy through fangs. He didn’t need to say it out loud. She could hear him through their link.
“Yeah.” She squeezed his hand. “We gotta run ‘em down.”
As one, they turned, vampire and slayer, and sprinted for their own front line. “Move move move!” she yelled as she ran. “The mages are down! Retreat!”
The Dexters heard her first, with their vampire hearing, and she saw the slayers’ heads snap up as the command came through their links. One at a time, each vampire/slayer pair joined hands and ran.
They moved together like fire, even though most of them were wounded. They leapt hedges, scrambled over abandoned cars, and shimmied up light poles to drop past debris. They were her slayers, her pack, and she loved them.
That’s when Willow’s demons started firing.
“Guns? They have guns?” Trish gasped beside her. Her mate shook his head grimly and pulled her along. She’d expected fists and fangs, simple demon brutality. That was her failure. They couldn’t afford to play by made-up rules. Willow wasn’t going to.
Ahead of them, someone went down, screaming. A slayer. The bloodsmell was cloying, fogging Geoff’s head. He stumbled.
Vi’s vision went white with pain. She reached for Geoff, but she couldn’t find him, couldn’t feel him. She tried to say his name, but she couldn’t talk. Then the world tipped over and the ground fell down to meet her.
“Vi. Vi! Stay with me, girl. Stay with me.” Rona whispered a stream of urgent babble into her ear as she dragged her into camp. “Your Spike is hit, but he’s alive. You hear me? Geoff’s alive. I just had to smack him. It was pretty bad.”
Rona talked; Vi listened, tried to focus on the words. Rona and her slayers had held the front line while Vi took hers ahead to scout. Rona recounted a list of injuries. Two of Vi’s slayers were shot on the run back, but they were alive. They would be okay. She couldn’t feel Geoff because Rona knocked him out so he wouldn’t eat anyone. He would be okay. “I’m sorry,” Rona said. “I didn’t mean to take you down, too, but he was out of it.”
Someone brought her water and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders. Someone else brought a bowl of something with beans in it. Eventually, someone brought Geoff. He was in human face, pale, but alright. He even managed a little smile for her. She tucked against his side and pulled her blanket over his shoulders.
When Rona appeared again, she looked tense. Tony stood behind her like a shadow, his hand resting on her shoulder. Rona hadn’t picked Tony out of the Dexters, like most slayers. Tony hadn’t been an ally when they met. He’d become a Dexter, allied with the slayer army, for the sole purpose of getting to be near Rona. They had all been shocked, but Buffy said, “I don’t care how they get here, as long as they’re ready to fight when the time comes.”
“You about ready to debrief?”
“Gonna have to be. We’re out of time.”
“Yeah.” Rona nodded. “That’s what I told her.”
A crowd had gathered while they spoke, and now it parted. Buffy walked, and the crowd parted, like she shoved them aside with her strength of purpose. That was her in a nutshell: powerful, purposeful, and alone, like it used to say in the Slayer’s Handbook. She didn’t have a Spike.
Vi cringed. It was her fault the slayers called them that. She’d been the first one to take a mate.
Geoffrey was an early joiner. He’d just walked out of the darkness, one night, into camp. He said, “I don’t want the world to end,” and put his hands in the air. Most of the girls were in favor of staking him, but not the Sunnydale slayers, and they were the ones in charge. Geoffrey stayed.
And then his friends came.
Not everyone was happy with it. When the number of vampire allies rose to half a dozen or so, Kennedy threw a fit. “They’re like Dexter. Sure, they’re working for the good guys, but they’re still serial killers.” It was a fair point. And the vampires thought the name was funny.
She ended up working with Geoff a lot. Their strengths were compatible, Buffy said, and trained them to fight as a pair. Naturally, they spent a lot of time together off the field, too—so much that the other girls started to talk.
“So...what? Is he your Spike or something?” Colleen asked when she walked in on the gossip. She had to admit that yeah, he probably was.
“You better be careful,” Dawn said, grinning. “Vampires—they’re not human. Spike chained Buffy to the wall of a crypt to tell her he was in love with her.”
“Damn,” Rona said.
“Well, at least you wouldn’t have to guess,” Shannon said.
“Nah. He wouldn’t do something that stupid,” Vi said.
“Uh huh.” Dawn raised one eyebrow and cocked her head, which made her look just like Spike. “So...guys, call Geoff anything you want when you’re alone, but please, for me, never, ever call him that in front of Buffy.”
So Geoff became her Spike, and she was not even a little bit surprised to come to in shackles with Geoff pacing the floor in front of her. She got so mad she pulled the chains right out of the wall and—.
“Vi?” Buffy said. “You up for this?”
Buffy stood in front of her, tiny and imperious in fatigues and a flak jacket. “Now or never.”
“How many are there?”
“Thousands.” She closed her eyes. “Armed with semi-automatics.”
“I don’t know what they can do. She was on the roof....”
“Saw that on the camera feed. Can we get close enough to do damage?”
“Sure—but I don’t know what we’d use, Buffy. She took the entire circle.” Geoffrey wrapped an arm around her, cool and soothing. “We couldn’t afford to lose them.”
“No,” Buffy said. “We couldn’t.” She was staring over Vi’s shoulder. Vi turned to look.
A contingent of Initiative soldiers camped maybe five hundred yards south. They weren’t exactly allies, but nobody wanted to turn them away—the old enemy of my enemy thing. Plus, they were armed for bear.
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “We can’t afford to lose anyone else,” she whispered, and then she was sprinting. Before anyone could stop her, she was in the Initiative camp kicking soldiers in the face. It looked like she was dancing: Spin, kick, spin, duck, jump, stiff-arm, dodge, spin, stronger than any of the slayers, faster than any of the vampires, and better than she had any reason to be. She took six of them, and then she took their helicopter.
“What’s she gonna do with that?” Trish asked, but Vi knew.
“Oh, hell, no,” Rona said.
Tony squinted up at the sky. “Is that thing carrying a—.”
“Yeah.” Rona leaned against him. “It is.”
The helicopter flew low, straight for Willow’s stronghold. Like everybody else, Geoff watched it go. Vi didn’t. She hid her face in his chest and wrapped the blanket tight around her head. It didn’t work. When Willow was engulfed in silver fire, she saw it through his eyes.