Disclaimer: Buffy & Co. belong to Joss, Marti, and a bunch of other brilliant, yet sadistic people. This story belongs to me. Kindly ask permission before using it (but let's face it—the odds of me turning you down are about 1000-1 against).

Note: This takes place post-"As You Were" and pre-"Hell's Bells."

Thanks: To my Darling Betas, Tanja, Gyrus, and Aurora. What would I do without you?




"Hey! Over here, Big Ugly!"

Buffy, the Slayer, danced a few steps backward, swinging her favorite axe up into position. The creature she'd temporarily dubbed a "What-the-Hellbeast" snarled, whipping its spiny head around and crouching on all fours, glaring at Buffy with its blood-red eyes. It was a fairly big thing, about the size of a minivan, and was covered with armored scales. Its head, though, had a number of sharp spikes protruding from it, and its whip-like tail was tipped with another. A forked tongue flashed as it hissed at the Slayer tormenting it.

"That's better," Buffy said. "Your full attention should be on the little girl with the big axe. 'Cause if it's not . . ." The Slayer darted in, her axe shearing one of the spikes off the beast's head before she tucked and rolled smoothly out of the way of its vengeful tail. ". . . bad things can happen." The beast bellowed.

Adrenaline pumped as Buffy continued searching for any weakness. She'd had a close call earlier when her axe had almost stuck in one of the creature's scales. At the moment, using her small size and swiftness to keep the creature off its guard seemed the better part of valor.

Exciting, too, and Buffy didn't object to that. It figured the one night she could take extra time on patrol—Tara had taken Dawn to dinner and the university's production of "The Mikado"—would be the slowest night Buffy could remember. It was like all the demons had gone into hiding. No vampires, no demons, no nothing until she'd run afoul of this thing on her third sweep through the cemeteries.

"Are you one of those things that has a soft underbelly?" Buffy asked conversationally as the creature took a swipe at her with an oversized, clawed paw. "Don't suppose you'd roll over for me?" The tail whipped around again, and the Slayer jumped to avoid it. "Just a suggestion. No need to get all huffy. Besides, you could put someone's eye out with that thing. Hey, watch the gravestones!" The creature's hind feet demolished yet another headstone.

The What-the-Hellbeast struck at her with its claws again. This time, Buffy was forced to raise her axe to fend off the blow. The shaft promptly snapped in two.

"That was my favorite axe!" the Slayer protested. "You know, a girl could start to take offense at all this." She spotted something—a patch of what looked like unarmored skin near the base of the creature's throat. Gripping her foreshortened axe, Buffy dove in. She stabbed at the spot with the sharp tip of her axe.

Her sortie had the desired effect: brownish blood spurted from the wound, covering the axe-head. This time, as the beast howled, Buffy ducked almost underneath the thing's body, coming up again near its left flank.

"That's what we call 'hitting paydirt,'" she told the What-the-Hellbeast.

Insane with rage and pain, the creature wheeled toward the Slayer. Buffy nimbly skipped out of its way. Suddenly, though, it whirled in the opposite direction, whipping its tail along with it.

Fiery pain shot through the Slayer's body as the spiked tip of the tail struck home just above her belly button. Gasping, she retreated a few steps and tripped over a piece of broken gravestone. The beast's eyes narrowed as it found her.

The pain was excruciating, even worse than when Buffy had gotten stabbed in the belly with her own stake. It was all she could do to not pass out. Summoning the last of her strength, she hurled her axe at the beast's head. The axe-head struck it in the left eye, sticking on the spine just above it. Screaming in pain, the beast reeled and ran away.

Doubled over in agony, the Slayer, too, ran for safety.