Two Steps from Hell

A/N: Over on Twisting the Hellmouth, this chapter is posted with links to the music for each segment. The artist (and inspiration) for the selections is a group known as Two Steps from Hell. The individual song titles serve as section headers. I actually recommend going over to tth and reading it there with the music selections playing in the background.


So Lynn Minmei won. I don't care. I mean I only did this to tweak Buffy... Besides second runner up? And I beat-out that stuck up movie starlet has been too! So why am I crying?

-Dawn Summers Diary

Act One - Silence

The stage is dark and cold as I step from the wings. I am dressed as a cheerleader. Wearing the red and white colors of my sister's first High School. Hemery. Glimmering in the distance, beyond the boundaries of my world I vaguely sense them. Those who watch. My audience. Dim lights reflect from their various shiny accoutrements like nighttime stars. Silence fills the amphitheater as I step to my first mark at backstage left. A follow spot high overhead flicks on, enveloping me in a warm glow from above. The count in my head begins. Three. Like the crawl of electricity across my skin at the edge of a thunderstorm I sense the beginning of my prepared track. Two. I look up, beyond the audience. One.

Naive.

As the echo of my recorded voice dies I smile and skip three steps forward on the stage.

A child.

I slowly turn, and take five casual steps toward stage right.

I walk alone.

The spot blinks out and I freeze.

In the darkness.

Dim red spots cast an evil glow across the eleven.

Among the monsters.

Dressed in black and wearing masks of incomparably hideous evil, my opponents begin to drift across the stage in my direction. On the giant screens flanking the stage images flash. Simple line drawings of the manifold supernatural beings.

Demons!

I again turn to the audience as the others all brandish ancient weapons. Half bear swords. Half battleaxes.

Vampires!

My spot snaps up to full brightness, they charge and I unleash a piercing scream.

Every light snaps off and the music begins.

Act Two: Two Steps from Hell – Birth of a Hero

The others rush from the stage and my spot comes back up slowly. The click of footsteps on the hardwood of the stage come from my left rear. Xander coming out on his cue to stand by my shoulder, he is wearing khaki pants, a red henley shirt and one of Giles' brown tweed jackets. He leans in as if whispering.

I shake my head no and move away from him to stage right.

He follows.

The big screens to either side showing our actions to the audience. I spin, face him with my hands on my hips and mouth an exaggerated NO. Pointing a finger in his face, I brush by him, stomping to stage left. Our individual spots following the motion.

As my step count reaches ten, behind me, Xander throws his hands in the air and mouths an exaggerated HEY.

Turning, I face him. The moment we had rehearsed endlessly upon us. In a flash, his hand moved behind his back, coming out with a large knife.

As he flipped it in his hand his eyes locked with mine and I gave a subtle nod.

Cocking his arm he flung the knife at my head, its chromed metal blade flashing in the lights of the amphitheater. A foot in front of my face my hands slapped together around the flat sides of the blade, stopping it there.

Screams and applause momentarily drowned out my soundtrack, but neither Xander nor I allowed that to stop our movement as he walked up and took me by the shoulder. Pulling a stake from behind his back, he pressed it into my hands and lead me to back stage right.

Prone on the floor, Faith lay in wait, her vampire mask in place. Our approach triggered the red spot focused on her and she clawed her way off the ground. Xander fell back as she charged at me.

At her swing I fell to the ground, rolling as she dived after me, dodging her punches and lunges at my neck. Scrambling backwards I made sure to click the stake loudly on the floor for the audience. On her feet, Faith charged me again and was met by my feet which launched her into brief flight and roll to backstage left.

Climbing to my feet at center stage I met her next charge stake first, mid-chest. The collapsible stake appearing to sink in.

Faith threw herself backwards, arms spread, the red light snapping off as she hit the floor.

Act Three: Two Steps from Hell – Spirit of Champions

Xander resumed his place at my shoulder as the screen flanking the right side of the stage began to cycle rapid-fire images of fallen potentials, slayers and watchers. On the left scrolled the words Giles had drilled into us since we each first found out about that which hunted us in the darkness.

In every generation
there is a Chosen One.
She alone
will stand against
the vampires,
the demons,
and the
forces of darkness.

She is

the Slayer.

This was followed by a list of the names of every known slayer in the order of their deaths, beginning with Sineya. Buffy's name was on there three times, once before and twice after Kendra Young before all the potentials killed by the First and those slayers we had lost since Willow's spell.

Xander stepped beside me and threw a punch with his right fist. I copied his stance and did the same. He did the same with his left, again I followed.

Moving in front of me, I punched at him and he blocked. He then punched and I blocked. Slowly we built up from stationary to taking small steps forward and back as we punched and blocked. Kicks were added and our movements grew until we were moving back and forth across the width of the stage.

When our movement took us all the way to stage right he turned, picking up a pair of swords. Tossing one to me, he stabbed and I blocked, the ring of steel on steel shocking the audience. I swung at him and he blocked. His block rotated around into an overhead swing which I met with my blade, both hands firmly grasping the hilt.

Somewhere in the audience, over the music I heard a guy yell "There can be only one!" and almost laughed.

Cold metal flashing in the bright spots, I let that laughter channel into a grin and our swordplay expanded from the basic to include every move and dirty trick we could work into the time.

At stage left we switched to wooden quarterstaves. This time I attacked hard and fast, Xander matching my moves with a smile on his face that I had seen only rarely since Sunnydale. We spun around each other, the clack of the wooden weapons a counterpoint to the beat of our music.

Stage right again, and for the final pass of this act we scooped up a pair of battle axes and came up swinging. Once more the crash of metal on metal had people involuntarily jumping in their seats.

As the last note of the music struck and began to fade, our lights snapped off and the red spots came up, again illuminating my eleven friends, masked and armed as in the first act, standing evenly spaced along the back curtain.

Act Four: Two Steps from Hell – Forces of Destiny

I strode to front stage center, facing the audience, my head looking at the foot of the stage, shoulders shoulders slumped. The stake in my right hand and the axe held loosely in my right. I had meant this moment to represent Buffy's prophesied death at the hands of the Master, but a single opponent could not convey his threat, so I chose to represent him with a fight against everyone. The music track began and slowly I raised my head, looking out beyond the audience. Squaring my shoulders I set my features in my own version of Willow's 'resolve face'.

Behind me, the girls had moved together at center stage back, brandishing their weapons threateningly. Turning with the swell of the music I unleashed a primal scream and charged.

I was first met by Faith, her sword tangling my battleaxe. She kicked out and I twisted, letting it brush past my stomach while lifting my own leg to sweep across and then behind her other leg and letting her take herself down around it. Her sword clattering free as she slid out of the light.

Rona and Vi jumped forward, one swinging high, the other low. Again I avoided the attacks, throwing one into the other and they too fell from the light. The remaining eight came at me from both sides simultaneously. My axe flashed in the light. Weapons rose and my axe met them. Punches were thrown and dodged or blocked. I kicked and a friend would go flying backwards from the fight, but there were so many and I was constantly turning in place to meet the next one.

The moment came and Kennedy swung. I glisaded the strike with my axe but let it appear as if it struck me and I fell. As I hit the floor at center stage, there was a loud gasp from the audience. The others retreated to backstage right.

Xander ran across the stage, sliding on his knees to my side, his arms wrapping around me and cradling my head against his chest. His expression distraught, he lowered me to the floor leaned over and kissed me. Oh goddess, all the rehearsals for this and he never... He kissed me. All my daydreams back in Sunnydale about a romantic moment and he kisses me in front of over five thousand witnesses.

I had to put that aside. The last note was fading.

As I sat up, a dim spot began to build on a white dressed figure at backstage left.

Buffy.

Act Five: Two Steps from Hell – Protectors of the Earth

Xander helped me stand. Putting on a pair of glasses, he pulled a book from his pocket and wandered to front stage right while pretending to read. As I watched him walk away, I was attacked from behind.

Hearing the steps, I turned and met Buffy's punch with a block and threw one back at her. We exchanged blows toward front stage left as Xander ran back over, grabbing and separating us. Shaking a finger in our faces, he pushed us together then pointed to the group at backstage right.

The demon group moved forward two steps. I looked at Buffy and she looked at me. We nodded and charged to meet the others at center stage. Buffy zeroed in on Faith and Faith did the same with her. The rest of us were choreographed in what we were to do, but from this point until almost the final moments, Buffy and Faith would be sparing full out along the back curtain.

Appie came at me swinging. I captured her arm, spun her too me, wrapping an arm around her throat I grabbed the mask and pulled it free, before throwing her toward backstage left, where she slid beneath the curtain while I turned to the rest of the fight.

Moments later, Appie ran from backstage right, her black clothes removed to reveal a white outfit like Buffy's. Appie moved to my side to defend as we faced off against the other nine. Vi came next, grappling with me, wrapping me up and leaning in like she was going to sink fangs into my neck. I dropped, slithering out of her grip and swept her legs from under her. Before she could rise I had pulled off her mask and sent her sliding the same direction as Appie.

Then there were three of us against eight while Buffy and Faith wailed on each other behind us.

We began to demonstrate teamwork, with Vi tossing Rona to Appie who spun her to face me. Again I removed her mask before Appie sent her sliding under the curtain. The odds were now evening out. Vi presented me with Leah, then Appie held out LuAnn as Rona ran back into the fight.

I faced off with Debbie, while Appie faced off with Mandy, Rona took Emmy and Vi had Liz. Behind us, Buffy sent a madly smiling Faith flying across the entire width of the stage. I threw a kick that sent Mandy flying, allowing me to close with Debbie, who found herself maskless and sliding under the curtain as LuAnn and Leah ran out to front stage right and began doing a Tai Chi form.

Mandy knocked Appie sliding towards Leah and charged me. In the midst of a rapid series of blows I closed with her and moments later, her mask came free and she too went sliding backstage. Debbie came out, she and Appie joining the group doing the form as Rona tossed Emmy to me. As I removed Emmy's mask, Rona fell back to join Mandy with the others. Vi soon did the same with Liz, leaving me in front of Buffy and Faith.

Grabbing each other shoulders, the two threw themselves in my direction, rolling across the stage. Drawing my stake I knelt at their side and dropped it into Faith's chest as Buffy pulled her mask free and sent it skittering across the stage.

Rising we turned to face the audience and I stepped to front center stage, my sister and the dark slayer standing at center stage. The others moving swiftly across to fan out, fading back on either side of me, all of us standing at rest as the music faded.

"WE," Buffy's voice echoed into the silence. "Are Slayers!"

"We stand against the darkness," Faith answered.

"/Ad Esse Fortis!/" The other ten shouted.

"Ready," I lifted my arms out beside me as to say, this is who I am, there is nothing more as time ran out on my talent presentation.

"Ready to be strong."