The axe handle felt slick in Buffy's hand as she looked up at the warehouse. She was built to slay. She'd trained with Wesley for months, and Merrick before that. There was nothing about this vampire she couldn't handle. But still....
"There's time to turn around," Wesley whispered. "We can call the Council...."
Buffy shook her head. "I have to do this."
Just then the front door swung open. "A wise choice," came an oily hiss from inside.
Readying their weapons, Buffy and Wesley peered into the gloom and spotted the ancient vampire grinning menacingly at them from across the room.
"If you had not come," he continued, "I would have had Rocco drop off another present for you."
Another vampire stepped out from behind the door he'd opened, holding on to a young, Asian girl who was quaking with fear.
"Let her go," Buffy said. "I'm here now, so let her go."
"Oh, no, no. I don't think I will. Not yet anyway. You see," Kakistos patted his shoulder, devoid of the arm Buffy had cut off, "I well remember what happens when I become too complacent near you. You will, of course, pay for that indiscretion. Yes, pet, I'll make sure you bleed when I'm fu--"
"Finish that thought, and I assure you the removal of your other arm will be quite painful," Wesley glared, raising his sword towards the vampire's throat.
Kakistos laughed. "Humans are such amusing creatures. But there's no reason we can't be civil, eh? In fact, I have a proposition for you. We fight. If you win, you, your Watcher, and the girl go free. If you lose, all three of you become my pets."
"I don't make deals with vampires. Let the girl go."
"Rocco?" Kakistos waved his hoof.
Rocco nodded and pulled a knife from his pocket. He brought it to the girl's face and made a small cut on her cheek. The girl whimpered.
"You see," Kakistos said, "I'm not fond of bargaining."
Buffy squeezed Wesley's hand and leaned in close. "Go stand by her. Make sure she's okay," she whispered.
He looked at her worriedly. "Are you certain?"
"Something to live for, remember?"
Wesley nodded and gave her a small smile before heading over to the vampire and the girl. Buffy scanned the warehouse. There didn't seem to be any other vampires in the building. Just Rocco and Kakistos.
Goes to show how arrogant this sicko is.
"Okay. You wanted me, you got me."
Remembering what Wesley had once told her, about being safer when you're low, she dove forward, rolling towards Kakistos and ignoring the pain of the spare axe pressing into her back. When her feet hit the ground, Buffy pushed herself into a crouch and swung her axe towards his knee.
Despite his bulky frame and whole 'no arm' thing, Kakistos moved fast. He grabbed Buffy's axe just before it made contact with his leg. He then twisted it around. When she felt her bones begin to crack, Buffy yelped and let go.
Using her momentary distraction, Kakistos cracked Buffy across the face and sent her flying backwards. She slammed into the wall and a fine spray of plaster rained down around her. Coughing and wiping her eyes, Buffy pushed herself to her feet. She could feel blood gushing from her lips, the skin completely split where his hoof had connected. But she had more important things to think about.
"Now, you know I won't kill you, Slayer. But I have no qualms about making you nice and tender before breaking you in," he said, licking his lips and stalking towards her.
Buffy glanced over at Wesley, who was wringing his hands. "I'm fine," she mouthed. To Kakistos, she said, "Sorry, goat-boy, but the only breaking that's gonna happen here is your ass with my foot."
Kakistos picked up her axe. "I have your weapon, little girl." He let out another one of his creepy laughs that made Buffy's skin crawl.
"Got another." She pulled the other axe from her waistband and closed the space between them, bringing the axe over her head and down towards Kakistos. Whistling as it cut through the air, she'd miscalculated and only knocked the other weapon out of his hand.
Still, it was enough to let Buffy gain some momentum. She spun around and kicked him in the head, her foot connecting dully and sending them both flying backwards. When he landed on his back with an "oof," Buffy skidded to a stop in front of him and raised her axe.
"It ends now, you bastard," she said.
"Yes," Kakistos nodded. "It does."
And Buffy was falling, the ground rushing up to meet her. At first she thought her legs had buckled, but she didn't fall to the floor.
She fell through it.
Just before the warehouse disappeared from view, she threw her arms out and grasped at the edge of the hole, hooking her fingers around the edge of one of the nearby crates. Before she could pull herself up, a dark shadow fell over her face, and she screamed as she felt Kakistos step on one of her fingers.
"This little piggy went to market."
Crunch. He smashed down on the next finger, causing her to yelp and pull that hand back.
"This little piggyeeeeeeeah!"
Kakistos's scream echoing in her ears, Buffy scrambled up and saw Wesley's sword embedded in the vampire's skull. The grunts coming from the corner of the warehouse indicated that Wesley was currently fighting off the lackey vampires, but Buffy didn't turn to look. Wes could take care of himself, and she had her own business to take care of.
Blood was running freely down Kakistos's face as he staggered around, trying to pull the sword from his skull.
"Here, let me," Buffy said, grabbing it by the hilt and tugging it free. Before Kakistos could recover, she drew the sword back, then brought it forward, burying it into his neck with a wet clunk.
Ashes exploded everywhere, spraying her face and hair. Buffy coughed and wiped at her eyes. When she felt something heavy settle on her shoulder, she started to heft the sword again, but the familiar scent of Wesley's aftershave flooded her senses and she leaned back into him.
"It's over," he said.
"Fainted, but otherwise unharmed."
As Buffy started to smile, the cracks across her lips sent jolts of pain shooting through her face. Reflexively, she clenched her fists in pain, and remembered too late that at least two of her fingers were broken. The last thing she saw before passing out was the sunlight, streaming through the warehouse windows and catching the dust and ashes in its beams.
Something smelled good. Really good, in fact. Buffy opened her eyes, blinking against the sudden rush of light. Everything in the room had the fuzzy edges that meant she'd been asleep for way, way too long.
The distant sizzling and popping confirmed that whatever smelled good definitely included bacon. Yawning, Buffy pushed herself into a sitting position, wincing as her left hand pressed against the bed. She looked down and saw that it was wrapped in gauze, fingers tightly bound. Sometime between passing out and waking up, Wesley had dressed her in long flannel pajamas that were dorkier and less revealing than what she usually wore to bed. Than what most people wore to bed, actually. Excluding maybe lumberjacks.
Buffy giggled, and a second later, there were footsteps thudding down the hall.
"You're up!" Wesley said. The sight of him standing in her doorway, a giant green apron over his clothes and a giant red ovenmitt over his hands made her giggle even more. "And feeling much better, I see."
"Much," she nodded.
"Good, because breakfast will be ready in two minutes."
She watched him leave, a dopey grin spreading across her face. Remembering the cut to her face, she brought her good fingertips to her lips. The skin had already started to knit itself back together.
"Go Slayer healing," she murmured, standing up and heading into the hallway.
The flannel scratched at the cuts on her stomach and back as she walked, but nothing was gonna keep Buffy from the big plate of bacon and eggs she could see waiting for her on the table. Two strips were already in her mouth with a third following before she was seated.
Wesley took his seat across from her and chuckled. "Are you sure I made enough?"
Buffy shook her head. "Probably not."
"Well, I'll gladly make more later if you wish. I'm just relieved you're awake."
"How long was I asleep?"
"Nearly two weeks."
Buffy dropped the piece of bacon and blinked. "Wha?"
"Kidding," he said, eyes twinkling.
"Not funny." Buffy pouted and tossed a piece of bacon at his head, which he ducked, laughing.
"Couldn't resist, sorry. It's Sunday. You were only out a day. You did have me worried, though."
"Don't be." Wesley reached across the table and covered her hand with his. "You did good, Buffy. Kakistos is gone, because of you."
She smiled. "Good riddance." Dipping the last piece of bacon into the egg yolk before popping it into her mouth, Buffy pushed herself back from the table and stood. "I think I'm gonna hop in the shower."
Wesley stood up, too, and started to reach for the plates. "I'll start cleaning up."
"Well, before you do that...." Doing her best to look sexy while awkwardly unbuttoning her shirt with one hand, Buffy drooped her eyelids and said, "With this nasty hand injury, I sure could use help...."
Buffy held her good hand out and Wesley grabbed it, allowing himself to be led towards the bathroom with a grin.
"I'm sorry, it's a surprise."
"Which I'm fine with, Wes, but if you don't give me some idea of where we're going, I won't know how to dress."
His head popped into the bedroom, and he said, "Dressy."
"Dressy. I can do that." With a nod, she pawed through her closet, finally selecting a low-cut, red satin shift with spaghetti straps. She slipped it over her head and admired herself in the mirror. It clung to her curves like a second skin and brought out a strawberry glow in her hair.
Finishing it off with the pearl necklace her mom had given her -- at the thought of her mom, Buffy started to get choked up, but she blinked back the tears and took a deep breath, because tonight was about having fun -- and black platforms, Buffy knew she was pretty head-turn worthy, but it was still fun to see Wesley's jaw drop a little when she walked into the living room.
"You look ravishing," he breathed, still looking at her in slightly glassy-eyed wonder.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Geez, you act like you've never seen a woman before."
"Not one so beautiful who actually allows me to kiss her." He bent down and brushed his lips against hers. "Now, come on, we have reservations to keep."
People were looking at them like they were crazy. Buffy shivered in her coat and thought maybe they weren't wrong. But the garden outside Tavern on the Green was so beautiful, she couldn't resist dragging Wesley outside after dinner.
The sky was perfectly clear, save a few lazy clouds that obscured the stars as they meandered across the sky. And for once almost the entire winter, there was no cutting wind whipping through the city.
To the faint strains of jazz music wafting out from the restaurant, Buffy and Wesley danced together, feet shuffling against the brittle winter grass. When a vibrant jazz solo cut through the air, Wesley suddenly dipped Buffy back. She giggled as the blood rushed to her head, then away again as he snapped her back up to him.
"Check you out, with the fancy moves and all."
She again rested her head against his chest, listening to the steady thump of his heart mixing with the music and traffic and other New York sounds. After a while, she tilted her head up and looked at him.
"I'm glad we're doing...this. I mean, us."
"Me too," he said, kissing her on the forehead.
A second later, a scream echoed from somewhere in the park, followed by sounds of struggle.
"Here we go," Buffy sighed, already reaching for the stake in her handbag. She took off towards the park, Wesley following. "Guess it's always gonna be like this, huh?"
"I'd venture yes."
Slipping her hand into his as they ran, Buffy gave it a squeeze and smiled. "I can think of worse ways to live."
(Note: The version on fanfiction.net is missing one scene that's rated NC-17. To read the full version, visit my site, which is linked from my author page.)