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Chapter One: The Encroaching Darkness
Through some unknown portal, in some mysterious dimension, Buffy stood before three ancient shamans, chained to the rock face of a cold dim cave.
“What is this?” she inquired, as she came to and discovered her imprisonment.
In their primordial dialect, each one of the mystics responded. “We are at the beginning,” one said stoically.
“The source of your strength. The well of the slayer’s power,” said another.
“This is why we have brought you here,” finished the third.
“I thought I brought me here,” Buffy replied, confusion etched plainly on her face, which quickly morphed into annoyance. “Look…listen, you guys. I’m already the Slayer; bursting with power. I really don’t need anymore.”
“The first Slayer did not talk so much,” one shaman commented as Buffy struggled with the chains. Suddenly the three men began to stomp their staffs against the ground, creating an ominous pounding that resembled the beating of war drums. The beat intensified, sustained by two men, while a third approached the Slayer with a closed wooden box. Placing it on the ground before her, he slowly slid off the lid. “Here lies your truest strength,” he said, stepping away from the open vessel.
“The energy of the demon. Its spirit.”
Shocked, Buffy stared at the box. “This is how you…?”
“Created the Slayer? Yes,” one mystic answered her unfinished question.
Slowly, a black mist rose from the box, free from its confinements, remaining for the moment suspended above its former prison. Scared, Buffy frantically tried to follow its erratic movements, unsure of what was to happen, what the shamans intended to do with this demon spirit.
The drums continued to beat and the essence continued to dance in the air above her. “It must become one with you.”
“No!” Buffy refused, still struggling with her bindings.
“This will make you ready for the fight,” one shaman declared, in the hopes that she would cooperate.
“By making me less human?” she retorted, obviously unhappy about the catch to this offering of power.
“This is how it was then. How it must be now.”
“This is all there is,” one of the men warned. In their minds, there was no alternative to defeating the First.
And with that, the mist descended upon Buffy, assaulting every inch of her, consuming her entirely. Screaming, she tried to push it away; refusing to accept the supposed gift she was being offered. Pulling at the chains, the slayer glared at the men watching her. “Make this stop.”
“This is what you came for,” one said, again without any hint of emotion.
“No, this isn’t the way!” she declared angrily.
“Do not fight this.”
The blackness was upon her again, invading her very being. Buffy couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t breathe. It was like walking into the abyss, like drowning in dark waters where your lungs are about to burst but all you can think about in your last seconds is that you’ve gone blind. She was becoming petrified at the idea that this thing would take her over from the inside.
“No! Stop! Please, stop! I don’t want this! This isn’t the way!” Buffy screamed, struggling against the chains as she tried to flee from the demonic mist. But it was relentless and no amount of refusing and denial could stop it from consuming her. She would become one with it.
As the last bit of the essence entered her, Buffy collapsed face down on the ground. The inside of the cave began to spin, the emotionless faces of the men who did this to her started to blur into one another. But their eyes remained transfixed upon the slayer and she felt as though their gazes burned right through to her very core. Nausea took hold of her. Grabbing her side she sprawled out on the ground, clinging to it as everything around her spiraled out of control. Buffy shut her eyes and surrendered to the power.
The blinding light emitted by the portal filled the living room, touching everything and everyone within it. Shaking in Xander’s arms, Willow tried to calm herself down; too frightened by her actions to consider the ramifications of using Anya and, especially Kennedy as human energy boosters. Hauling the enormous, yet dead demon, Spike flung it into the awaiting portal anticipating the exchange and Buffy’s return. Before the portal closed, they found Buffy face down on the living room floor, unconscious.
“Buffy!” Dawn yelled, afraid that her sister was dead. Kneeling beside her and realizing she was alive, she turned to the group. “She’s alive, but she’s out cold.”
“We better get her upstairs,” Xander said. “I think we should all call it a night.”
Without instruction or hesitation, Spike knelt down and scooped the unresponsive Buffy in his arms and made his way upstairs, with Dawn trailing quietly behind him. Xander opted to stay downstairs with Anya when Willow had finally calmed down. The potential slayer and witch soon followed up the stairs.
“Hey,” Willow called out once they reached the upstairs hallway. “You okay? You’ve been kinda quite since…”
“You sucked the life out of me?” Kennedy asked, finishing Willow’s question.
“Yeah. Since then,” she solemnly confirmed. “Look, it’s important that you know what I am. What I’m like when I’m like that.”
“I thought it would be, I don’t know, cool somehow. It just hurt,” Kennedy replied, looking as though she was still in pain.
“Yeah, I’m really sorry. Just, you were the most powerful person nearby and well…that’s how it works. That’s how I work,” Willow stated sadly.
“I got that. You told me… I’ll see you in the morning,” Kennedy responded, turning into her room and closing the door on her girlfriend.
Needing a distraction, Willow headed to Buffy’s room where no doubt Spike and Dawn were. She found them both there, as she had expected. The Slayer had been dressed in her pajamas and was tucked into bed, just as unconscious as she had been when she had returned.
“Still out?” Willow asked, genuinely concerned.
Dawn looked up at the witch and nodded, “She hasn’t even made a single sound. I just hope she wakes up soon,” Dawn choked, her lip quivering, still a little shook up from seeing her sister so powerless.
“She will, Nibblet,” Spike said in an effort to comfort her while his eyes never left Buffy’s sleeping form. Though she was never out of his sight, Spike did not sit by her as Dawn did, but kept his vigil in one of the room’s corners. Unfortunately, by keeping his eyes on the Slayer he never noticed Dawn’s big doe eyes gleaming with tears.
“You called me Nibblet,” she stated, matter-of-factly.
Pulled out of his concentrated observance of Buffy, he glanced over to Dawn, which upon setting his eyes on her face, almost made his heart beat again. Her response to his long unused nickname for her and the sentiment behind it slowly sunk in. “Yeah, guess I did.”
Staying seated in the chair next to Buffy’s bed, Dawn didn’t move, but every emotion crossed her face. She suddenly became very aware that Spike and Willow were watching her, making her turn her gaze down to the floor as a tiny smile spread over her lips. “I guess you really are back. God, I didn’t think I’d miss your annoying nick names so much,” Dawn said, with a slight touch of melancholy.
Thrown by her sudden and unexpected affirmation, a tense Spike gradually relaxed when she lifted her head again and smiled at him.
Before he could respond, Dawn started to speak. “I get that you want us to see you the way we once did; Big Bad attitude and all. But if… if you want me to see you the way I once did, you gotta promise me something. You gotta not do anything to make me hate you again. Cuz, it really sucks not being able to talk to you and last year was just horrible and I don’t know if I can go through that again,” Dawn slightly rambled, staring at the floor. “So, don’t screw it up. I don’t want to hate you anymore,” she finished, lifting her eyes up to meet his, wishing to see how he responded.
Gazing down into her bright blue eyes, Spike melted and guilt ripped his insides into a million shreds. “I promise. Never again, Bit,” he croaked, not wanting to go all weepy in front of the girls. After all, he had a newly restored Big Bad persona to maintain.
After a few seconds, Dawn nodded, assured by his sincerity before turning her attention back to her sister. Spike looked at Willow, who smiled at him with a reassuring look of acceptance. Taking in an unnecessary breathe in hopes of easing his nerves, he slowly inched closer to the Slayer’s bed, but stopped dead in his tracks when she began to violently thrash.
“Buffy?!” Dawn called out to her sister.
She didn’t answer, her entire body convulsed and arched off the bed. It was like watching an exorcism, but for all they knew, she wasn’t possessed. Soundlessly she continued to thrash around and those that loved her stood there, unsure of what to do. It was eerie. Her face was set in a painful grimace, but she didn’t even make a whimper, as though it was too agonizing to scream. All that could be heard was the loud squeak of mattress springs giving in to the force of Buffy’s spasms. It ended as quickly as it started with the deafening sound of silence filing the room once again. Wide-open eyes stricken with terror stared up at the group before her. “Buffy, luv?” Spike peered down, scared of what the portal might have done to her.
Willow made her way towards her friend and knelt by her bed. Taking her trembling hand, she began to speak to her. “Buffy, you’re safe and home. Dawn and Spike and I, we’re here. You’re safe.”
Her chest had been heaving the moment since she had awakened and slowly it stilled into a steady rhythm of breaths. Emotion returning to her eyes, she appeared to recognize those around her. “What happened?” she asked.
Spike, Dawn and Willow all exchanged worried glances. “We were hoping you could tell us,” Dawn said, giving her sister an encouraging smile, though the knot in her stomach was still churning. Buffy made herself sit up, in obvious pain; she accepted Willow’s assistance in propping her up with pillows. Letting out a sigh that was a mixture of exhaustion and relief, she stared up at those around her.
“I was there, with those shadow men, the ones who created the first Slayer.”
“Did they tell you how to defeat the First?” Willow inquired, praying the dangerous and potentially relationship-damaging use of her magic had not been in vain.
Buffy looked at the three, eyes once again glazed over. “Before I passed out, I think they sent me a vision or something. I saw what the First is hiding beneath that seal.” She paused, uncertain of how to tell them.
“What Buffy? What did you see?” Willow prodded.
“I saw that we might not win this,” Buffy answered, tears streaming down her face. “An army of hell doesn’t even begin to describe.”
Her words had left them all stunned. If Buffy believed she couldn’t defeat it, that this was going to be the end, then what did that leave them? Spike was the first to break the silence. “Best you get to sleep, luv.” It was all he said. It was all that he could say. Curling into her comforter Buffy watched as they left the room, only allowing sleep to take over when she finally felt too tired to be petrified.
“This isn’t good,” Willow stated as she closed the door behind her.
“No kiddin’, Red. Never seen her so distraught. Not even with Glory,” Spike said, concern marring his brow.
“Maybe, she’s just really tired,” Dawn suggested, knowing it wasn’t the case.
“Maybe,” Spike mumbled. He couldn’t get over the feeling that Buffy had been keeping something from them, that she was hiding what was actually scaring her. Understandably, an army of Hell was frightening, but it didn’t explain the fact that she sounded like she was ready to give up. He didn’t say anything to Dawn or Willow. He knew they wouldn’t believe him, or wouldn’t want to, anyway.
Wishing them goodnight, Spike headed to the basement to spend the night alone with the gnawing suspicion that the woman he loved was lying to them, and that it was going to be the ruin of them all.
*some dialogue taken from Get It Done