A/N: In the comics, the baddie in this part was Amy. But since I offed Amy in my last story, I decided to dig up somebody else versed in magic that hasn't appeared in BtVS in quite a while.
Also, the masked villain by the name of Twilight who's out to destroy the Slayers and end all magic, not in this story. There will be something in my fanfic called Twilight, but it won't be that character.
Thanks for the reviews so far! :-)
(Note: Some dialog taken directly from the graphic novels.)
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon.
"Gotta have a redundancy system. Any incompetent knows that."—Tucker Wells
Buffy grumbled when she rolled over in bed to discover the space beside her was empty of a certain peroxided vampire. He was still in the room, though. She could sense him. Reluctantly, Buffy cracked her eyes opened and looked around until her bleary gaze locked on the sight of her lover standing naked in front of the window. The curtains were drawn back, flooding the room with early morning sunshine.
Months had passed since they discovered Spike's immunity to the sun's rays, yet he still hadn't gotten over the novelty of being able to stand in broad daylight without winding up a pile of ash. He hadn't realized how much he missed the sun. Now he couldn't get enough of it. He stood in the golden rays with his eyes closed, his lips curved in a faint, peaceful smile. The link hummed with his quiet happiness.
Buffy smiled and got out of bed. She was wearing one of Spike's T-shirts and its hem barely reached the tops of her thighs. She stepped up behind her lover and wrapped her arms around his waist. Her hands flattened against his sun-warmed skin. She nuzzled his bare shoulder. "Morning."
Spike turned and put his arms around her, pulling her even closer. He picked up a strand of her hair and watched the way the light played over the golden tresses. "Mornin', Goldilocks."
"I'm starting to think you're turning into a sun worshipper," she teased, "You ever gonna skip a sunny morning at the window?"
"Give a bloke a break," he grinned, "Been livin' in the dark for more than a hundred years. Got a lot to make up for."
Buffy was glad to see him this happy. It took seeing him smile almost every day for her to realize how grim their lives had been before. Sure, there was more joy for them once they Claimed each other; and sure, their days in Slayer HQ were always busy to the point of hectic; but all in all, their lives had a lot more carefree moments lately than either of them could remember experiencing in a long time.
A knock at the door interrupted her musing. "Ma'am?"
Buffy sighed. Speaking of hectic. "Yeah?" she called out.
"Everybody's finishing breakfast and heading out to the courtyard."
Oh, right. She had some new team-building exercises planned for the day. The Slayers-in-training were becoming excellent fighters, but they still had trouble learning to fight together as a unit. Buffy wasn't sure if it was some Slayer instinct telling them to go it alone, but she was determined to train it out of them. They'd all live longer if they watched each other's backs.
"Okay," she replied to the unseen girl at the door, "Give us about twenty minutes. Spike and I'll be out there."
There was a muffled acknowledgment, then the sound of retreating footsteps.
Spike cocked his head. "Twenty minutes?"
Buffy shrugged. "Figured it'd be quicker if we showered together," she replied innocently.
The vampire grinned, tongue curling behind his teeth. He stepped out of her arms, grabbed her hand, and hurried them both to the en-suite bathroom.
It was chaos out in the courtyard, Slayer against Slayer. Half of them wore ordinary street clothes, while the other half dressed in black ninja-wear. Not that it made any difference; it was every woman for herself out there.
Buffy watched the melee from atop the castle's battlements. Spike was at her side, his long duster flapping majestically in the morning breeze. His platinum blonde hair was almost blindingly white in the sun. Buffy thought he looked like an avenging angel—not that she'd ever use the "A" word in his hearing. Spike took offense at even the vaguest comparison between him and his grandsire.
Figuring that she'd seen enough pandemonium for one day, Buffy raised an air horn over her head and let loose with a deafening blast. She and Spike both winced. The Slayers gradually settled down and turned their collective attention to the blonde couple on the parapet.
"I'm seeing some superior fighting out there," Buffy's voice boomed impressively from her petite frame, "Technique and power that just might give even Spike here a run for his money."
The vampire in question smirked and raised a scarred eyebrow.
"Of course, it's all bloody useless," Spike declared. At the girls' confused looks, he elaborated, "You're all fighting alone. Gettin' in each other's way, not protecting each other's flanks. You're fallin' into the same trap every Slayer in history's wound up in, thinkin' you gotta fight alone. You're failing to use your single most valuable asset...each other."
Buffy resumed from where he left off, "One Slayer fighting alone is formidable. Two is formidabler. Three, mega-formidable. And after mega, it goes mondo, then super, hyper, beaucoup d'crazy stupid...it gets exponentially prefixy."
Spike bit back an amused chuckle and jumped down from the wall. The girls automatically stepped back to give him a clear space, their eyes wary. Buffy was a harsh enough taskmaster, but when Spike got involved with the training, it wasn't unheard of for unlucky girls to require a trip to the castle's fully stocked clinic. Spike did not believe in holding back.
The vampire's piercing blue gaze surveyed the nervous young faces around him. "Leah, Satsu, Rowena."
The three Slayers tensed as he barked their names.
Spike widened his stance and squared his shoulders. His eyes gleamed in anticipation. "Would the three of you ladies kindly kick my arse?"
To their credit, they didn't hesitate. All three girls raised their wooden practice swords and rushed him all at once. Unfortunately, that was as far as their teamwork went. Each Slayer was so busy trying to score a hit on the preternaturally agile vamp, she didn't even pay attention to the other two. Spike knocked Satsu back with a brutal kick to the face and grabbed her sword from her slackened grip. He spun, blocked a swing from Rowena while at the same time elbowing Leah in the solar plexus. One last punch to Rowena's jaw, and the fight was over before they'd barely started.
Buffy leapt down from her perch and approached the three groaning trainees. With her hands behind her back and her stern expression, she looked like a disapproving drill sergeant—which, in a way, she was.
She tsked. "So. Three perfectly valid avenues of attack, good form, on three seasoned, well-trained corpses."
The girls lowered their heads in shame.
"So, let's break this down," Buffy continued, "The first clue this was going downhill? Clearly..."
As usual after a full day's rigorous training, Buffy was exhausted. All she wanted to do was fall into bed for some well-deserved sleep. She would've even skipped dinner, but the last time she missed a meal, Spike chewed her out for a good half hour before he made her a sandwich and practically shoved it down her throat.
Spike was still outside, grabbing a smoke. He'd cut back a lot on the cigarettes, mostly because people kept complaining about second-hand smoke, but he wasn't willing to give up his nicotine fix altogether. He simply limited himself to lighting up outdoors. He was probably chatting up the girls standing guard at the outer wall.
Buffy let out a jaw-popping yawn. God, she was tired! To hell with dinner. She was willing to go through another one of Spike's lectures on proper nutrition if it meant a few extra minutes of REM. She entered her bedroom and froze.
"Hey, Buffy!" Dawn waved from where she was seated on the bed.
"Dawnie!" Buffy's eyes widened in amazement. "You're person-sized again!"
"Yeah, isn't it great?" the teen beamed, "Now I can go back to Berkeley and you don't have to pretend you care anymore."
Buffy's smile waned. "Dawn, I... O-Of course I care! You're my sister."
Dawn gazed solemnly at her. "You've got a whole castle full of sisters, now."
The window suddenly shattered inward. A violent wind screamed through the room, grabbing at Buffy with invisible hands. She flailed in panic as she tried to fight it. "No, I can't go outside! I'm afraid of the dark!"
A disinterested Dawn watched her panic. The teen was untouched by the sudden gale. Her hair didn't even stir. "Buffy," she stated calmly, "you are the dark."
"That's what I meant!" Buffy cried just before she got sucked out the broken window. I make a wish that I don't fall...I make a wish that I don't fall...
Buffy landed spread-eagle on something and screamed as her hands and feet were impaled. "AGH! New wish! New wish!"
Something massive loomed over her, a gigantic dragon with glowing eyes. Buffy realized the things piercing her hands and feet were the creature's talons. She hyperventilated, but even in her panicked state, she thought that something about the dragon's features seemed weirdly familiar. "I know you..."
"Yesss," the creature hissed, "Ssscream..."
"So," Spike flicked the ash from his cigarette over the side of the parapet, "What's the deal between you and Harris?"
The Slayer standing guard, a pretty dark-skinned woman named Renee, gave him an unconvincingly puzzled look. "What? There's nothing between me and Mr. Harris."
The vampire snorted.
"There isn't!" she insisted.
"No, right. Of course," Spike drawled, "So, the sudden interest in comic books, James Bond movies, and drywalling has absolutely nothing to do with the one-eyed whelp." He watched in amusement as the girl spluttered. Even if he hadn't witnessed the awkward flirting between Renee and Xander for himself on numerous occasions, their budding romance was the talk of the entire bloody castle. Not as if there was much else for the birds to gossip about.
He took a final puff of his cigarette and tossed the smoldering butt over the side. Much as he'd like to continue watching the girl squirm, he needed to get inside. Buffy was already asleep and he could tell she was having one of her less pleasant dreams. He found that the best way to calm her was for him to hold her while she slept.
Just as Spike was about to take his leave, Renee suddenly tensed, her embarrassment abruptly forgotten. "You hear that?"
Spike frowned, his sensitive ears picking up the faint noise right away. It sounded like...clawing?
Spike whirled and peered down. Staring back up at him were hundreds of zombies scrabbling up the wall. Moonlight glinted off the weapons they carried; swords, axes, maces. The breeze shifted, bringing up the stench of decayed flesh.
"Bugger," the vampire growled. Renee gasped beside him.
"Yes. Scream... I couldn't bear it if this was painless."
Buffy writhed in bed, face twisted in terror. She was trapped inside the nightmare just as her body was trapped on the bed. The posts at the head and foot boards were magically induced to coil around her ankles and wrists, holding her down like a human sacrifice. An accurate comparison, considering there was a man standing over her clutching a dagger. The man grinned and raised the blade over his head with both hands, ready to plunge it into the helpless Slayer.
The bedroom door slammed open to reveal Xander and a couple of Slayers, drawn by Buffy's distressed cries. All were dressed in their pajamas and Xander had a crossbow aimed at the intruder. The former carpenter's remaining eye widened in surprised recognition. "Well, I'll be damned," he drawled, "Tucker! Long time, no desire whatsoever to see."
Tucker Wells, Andrew's older brother. The last time any of the Scoobies saw him was when he tried to release a bunch of hellhounds during prom. Buffy had stopped him, of course. Now it seemed he'd finally returned for some payback.
"Wait!" he shouted as Xander pointed his crossbow at him, "We can talk about this—" He abruptly drove his dagger into Buffy's chest. "After."
Buffy screamed. Xander fired off his crossbow. The arrow penetrated Tucker's left shoulder a second before the two Slayers tackled him to the floor. Xander rushed over to the bedside and reached for the dagger's handle jutting up from Buffy's chest. "Oh, my god!" He raised the dagger; its blade had split apart like a dry piece of straw, utterly useless. "This is the crappiest sacrificial dagger I've ever seen."
"What?" Tucker exclaimed. He flung off the Slayers with a jolt of electric blue magic, then touched the arrow in his shoulder and caused it to dissolve, sealing the wound in the process.
Xander snorted, "You really think we let Buffy sleep without mystical protection? This isn't open-wand night in Sunnydale, pal. You're dealing with pros."
The dark-haired warlock laughed in disdain. "Any of you 'pros' notice she's still asleep?"
It was true. Buffy's eyes were still tightly closed, her face contorted in fear and pain.
"She's living a nightmare, genius," Tucker sneered, "And the only thing that can wake her up..." dramatic pause, "...is the kiss of true love."
This declaration was met with silence. Not stunned silence, but the kind where one would expect a cricket to start chirping. It wasn't quite the reaction Tucker had expected.
Xander finally cocked an eyebrow and flatly replied, "Seriously? You really haven't been doing your research, have you?"
"What're you talking about?" the warlock snapped, "Your star player's out unless she receives a kiss from someone passionately devoted to her!"
"Yeah. Got that." Xander turned to one of the girls, "Go get Spike."
"Spike?" Tucker sputtered, "What's Buffy's mascot got to do with...oh."
Xander smirked. "Boy, are you ever clueless. You're Andrew's brother, all right."
"He's Andrew's brother?" one of the Slayers asked, incredulous.
"Yep. Bet it's gonna be a fun reunion."
Before the girl could leave to fetch the vampire, Renee suddenly burst into the room, out of breath and frantic. "We're under attack! Full breach on the east wall!"
"Who's breaching?" Xander asked.
"Living dead, sir!"
The former carpenter threw Tucker a mildly impressed look. "Man, you're doing all the classics tonight." He turned to the Slayers. "I need all of you in the field. Keep a guard on him," he pointed at Tucker, "He's bound by our security or he'd've bailed by now. And somebody find Spike!"
"Spike's trying to fight the zombies off at the east wall," Renee informed him, "He told me to get reinforcements."
Tucker laughed as they all rushed out to meet the undead invasion. Ignoring the girl left to guard him, he sauntered over to the window and threw open the shutters. He leaned out and watched the ensuing battle. So far, the Slayers were holding their own, but they wouldn't last against the undead horde forever. The zombies were relentless. Not even head shots so much as slowed them down.
"All that time spent in that crappy institution my parents dumped me in," he mused, "Nothing to do but get stronger. There's not one person here who can take me on."
"Oh, I don't know about that..."
Tucker's gaze jerked up towards the source of the unexpected voice. A woman levitated into view, red hair waving in the breeze.
Willow smiled. "I think I'd like to test that theory."