Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer was created by Joss Whedon and is copyright Twentieth Century Fox. The property is used without permission. This is a non-profit making work of fan-fiction.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Cauldron

By Duncan Johnson

This story is set during the first half of season five.

Prologue

Few people visited Sunnydale's cemeteries after dark. Few living people, that is. Few residents could have told you why that was, however. It was simply the way things had always been.

Ironically, one of the residents who could have explained things was currently flouting this particular unwritten rule.

Rupert Giles, former librarian and current owner of The Magic Box, was crouched in front of one of the headstones. He clasped a single rose between thumb and forefinger, a thorn tearing at his skin. Delicately, Giles set the rose on top of the grave.

The name on the stone read 'Jenny Calendar'. It was not her real name, but it was the name he had known her by, the name by which her friends wanted to remember her. Jenny was the woman to whom Giles had lost his heart and he had never managed to get it back.

The wind picked up, tugging at his hair. The rose rolled off the grave and onto the grass so Giles bent down to retrieve it. A twig snapped.

'Giles, stay down!'

Buffy Summers vaulted the headstone and planted herself squarely between Giles and the approaching vampire. She spun the stake in her hand as an Old West gunslinger might twirl his pistol.

'The Slayer,' the vampire drawled. His voice sounded as if he had a throat full of crushed glass.

'Well, d'uh. Surprised to see me?' Buffy circled left, trying to draw the creature away from Giles. 'Don't you people ever learn? This is my town.'

'Buffy?' Giles said, peering over the headstone.

'What?' she asked, then added, 'Oh,' as she saw the other three vampires approaching. 'They hunt in packs now? Whatever happened to the good old days, y'know, one vamp, one slayer, toast?'

'I think you may have answered your own question,' Giles commented.

'Did I ask for backseat slayage?' Buffy demanded.

The first vampire clamped his hand on her shoulder and spun her around. Buffy jabbed her stake up under his rib cage and watched him crumble to dust.

'Who's next?'

Two vamps, one male, one female stalked towards her like two feral cats. With their pale skin, black hair, green eyes and narrow faces, they looked alike enough to be twins. Buffy did not care one way or the other.

The male lunged at her, all fury and no finesse. Buffy blocked his strike with her forearm and then tripped him. As he fell, the vampire tangled his feet around Buffy's ankles, bringing her down with him. The female dived on top of her.

Buffy tried to roll clear, but the woman managed to land on top of her arm. Buffy's wrist cracked against the hard edge of a grave and her stake fell from her fingers. The male snatched it up. He licked his fangs as he approached the prone slayer.

Buffy slammed both her feet into his abdomen and, when he doubled over, slammed the heel of one boot into his face. As he staggered away, Buffy turned her attention to the female. Having established a firm grip on Buffy's arm, she bared her teeth as she prepared to tear out the girl's throat. Buffy's free hand scrabbled spider-like across the grass searching for something, anything. The vampire leaned in close and licked Buffy's throat.

'Mmm,' the vamp purred. 'Have you any idea how good you taste? Almost too good to eat.'

'Then let's don't and just say we did, huh?' Buffy retorted. Her voice was flippant, but her heart was pounding. Her hand kept searching, fingers racing until they closed on something useful.

Buffy slammed the rock into the vampire's temple. The pressure on her arm eased and Buffy snatched it back, executing a back flip to get to her feet.

Trying to keep an eye on the two vampires, Buffy examined her wrist. It was sprained, possibly broken. With her Slayer powers it should heal quickly, but the hand would be no good to her tonight. She fumbled with her left hand as she tried to draw her spare stake.

'Buffy!'

She looked up. Giles had his back to a headstone. The fourth vampire was closing on him, muscles rippling beneath its tattered jacket.

'Here, catch,' she shouted, hurling the stake to her Watcher.

Giles caught it one handed and slammed it into the vampire's chest.

The vampire laughed. 'Guess you missed.'

Without missing a beat, Giles grabbed the stake with both hands, pulled it out and then stabbed again. The vampire exploded in a cloud of dust.

'Guess not,' he whispered.

Buffy was unarmed and injured, not to mention outnumbered. The twins circled her, the male darting forward, taunting her with her own stake.

'How's it feel to be on the receiving end for a change, pretty, pretty,' he mocked.

Buffy shrugged. 'If you manage to hit me, I'll let you know.'

'Oh, I'll hit you, my pretty,' the vampire claimed. 'I'll hit you and I'll cut you and I'll leave you here, blood pooling at you feet, food for the jackals.'

'Blah, blah-bitty-blah,' Buffy replied. 'You bad guys do love the sound of your own voices. And do we actually have jackals in Sunnydale?'

'Does it matter?' the female asked, her breath hot on Buffy's ear.

Buffy tried to turn, but the female vampire clamped her hands around her upper arms, holding Buffy in place.

'Game over, pretty,' the male said, stake leading the way as he lunged forward.

Buffy dropped to her knees, using her momentum to flip the female vamp over her head. The stake impaled her in the back, the strength of the thrust carrying it through her ribs and into her heart. Buffy felt the pressure on her arms ease as the vamp disintegrated.

'A word to the unwise,' Buffy said to the sole remaining vampire, 'don't play with your food.'

She smashed the heel of her hand into his nose. Had he been human his face would have been covered with blood, but the demon had none to shed.

Enraged, the vampire charged forward, lashing out with clawed hands. Buffy managed to block his strikes, but found herself forced further and further back.

'Not so flip now, are you?' the vampire said. Buffy could not argue.

The vamp crouched and sprang, launching a flying kick at Buffy's head.

How come all vampires know kung fu, Buffy thought as she instinctively raised her right arm in a blocking move. Is there an all night dojo I don't know about?

The vampire impacted with her arm and the pain shot through her injured wrist. She cried out and failed to react in time as the vampire grabbed her and slammed her against a tree.

'Playtime's over, pretty,' he said as he prepared to feed.

'Got that right.'

A crossbow bolt whistled through the air and struck the vampire in the back. It hung unsupported in the air for a moment as the vampire dispersed around it, then fell to the ground at Buffy's feet.

'Miss me?' Riley Finn asked.

'Next time, could you try to arrive before the nick of time?' Buffy complained, but her actions belied her words as she put her arms around her boyfriend. Riley silenced any further complaints with a kiss.

When she came up for air, Buffy glanced round to see if Giles was okay.

He was standing over Jenny's grave, his eyes fixed on the ground.

His rose was just a red and green smear in the dirt.