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Fan Fiction: From the Shadows
Chapter Nine: Subterranean Encounter
"My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack."
Given the choice between standing in the lobby with that crossbow like a dumbass, or following the Dark Side Twins down the stairs and into the sewers, Jonathan didn't have to think very hard to make a decision. He was used to playing third-wheel, after all, and the idea of staying all alone in a known good-guy hangout while big things were going down creeped him out. He'd seen enough horror movies to know that wasn't a good idea.
Of course, Wesley and Faith were creeping him out too. What was going on? For a White Hat team, they were awfully grey. Unless it was normal for a White Hat to be a violent, freakishly strong woman with a history of murder, or a demon hunter rapidly turning into one of the things he usually kills, or... well, the half trained son of a chaos mage, who'd recently aspired to take over the world.
Jonathan shivered a little, and clutched his crossbow tighter. When he'd crossed the line back to the Light Side a few days ago, he'd actually believed there was a line to be crossed. The longer he stuck around in L.A., though, the blurrier that line seemed to get. It was disorienting, to say the least.
Of course, the environment wasn't helping any. Gaming never really prepared you for situations like these, Jonathan thought. You could talk about dank sewer passageways and things that lurk and attack plans all the time, but it certainly didn't prepare you for the slippery things that squeaked and slid underfoot, or the smell of the slime dripping from the tunnel brick onto your shoulder, or the noises of tiny creatures scuttling in the debris just out of sight.
"What gives with these tunnels, anyway?" Jonathan said, shining a flashlight around as he trailed behind the others.
"What do you mean?" Wesley asked, pausing to check the partial sewer diagram he was carrying.
"No, you got it the wrong way." Faith pulled the map from Wesley's hands impatiently, and turned it 90 degrees. "We went left back there, remember?"
"And then the tunnel curved," Wesley said patiently, tugging it back and turning it around again. "Do you see? We're here, facing... that way."
Jonathan rolled his eyes. "Seriously. Didn't you ever wonder why there's complete tunnel access in downtown L.A.? Not to mention Sunnydale. And they're all man-sized."
Faith snorted. "Come on, J, think about it. America's fairly new, and vamps have been around a real long time. It wouldn't be too hard to turn a few city planners."
"Not to mention the various nonviolent demonic races that wish only to keep out of humanity's sight," Wesley said, still pondering the map. "Hmmm. There's a rather large open area just ahead; we cleaned a nest out of there three weeks ago, but it's a popular spot, as there's a park just overhead. Faith?"
"What, you're asking me for advice?" Faith blinked at the Watcher. "You're plan guy."
Wesley lowered the map and stared steadily at his Slayer, wearing one of those What-are-you-missing? expressions any student would recognize the world over.
Faith sighed. "Slayer senses. Check. I'll be right back." She pulled a stake from one of her belt loops, held it up at the ready, and stalked off down the tunnel.
"She hasn't fought vampires in two years," Wesley said, watching her go. "And I still don't know what passed between her and Lilah when she was taken from the prison. There must be a reason Cordelia saw that conversation in her vision. I hope it wasn't a mistake to bring her."
"Oh, so now you get second thoughts," Jonathan laughed softly, thinking about his little confrontation with Spike the night before. "Trust me, not a good idea. Just go with it and worry about the shit when it hits the fan."
Wesley sighed and folded the map back up, slipping it into a pocket. "It isn't that I'm having second thoughts," he replied, "In fact, what worries me is that I'm not. I trust her, and I shouldn't."
Well, wasn't that inspiring, coming from the leader of their motley little group? "And what about my history?" Jonathan scoffed. "Come on. None of us takes the prize in trustworthiness just now. Especially you, if you go all fangy."
Wesley glanced over at him, his eyes shadowed and unreadable in the dim lighting. "Thank you for the reminder," he said, his voice heavy with irony. "I feel much better now."
Sudden splashing noises and heavy footfalls drew their attention back down the tunnel. Faith was running back towards them, still gripping her stake, with fresh vamp dust in her hair and a worried expression on her face. "Crossbows, guys," she yelled. "I'm being followed."
"Lock and load," Jonathan muttered, then stuck his flashlight in a pocket before following her suggestion and fitting a bolt into the mechanism.
"What happened?" Wesley yelled back.
"They're there all right." Faith said. "But the guard they'd posted saw me before I sensed anything! Something's wrong."
She slid to a stop a few feet in front of them and whirled around, stake at the ready, facing down the tunnel. The splashing continued, and a few seconds later the rest of the vampire nest came into view, eight or so hungry-looking minions and one older vamp in human face.
"Hey look guys, it's delivery," the leader said, grinning at Faith. He looked a little like Vin Diesel, tall and impressively muscular with strong, vaguely Latino features and a shaved head. It gave Jonathan flashbacks of "Pitch Black"; Riddick was just about the coolest anti-hero on the big-screen, but even he'd had some spark of humanity. This guy was just scary.
"Or is one of you named DiGiorno?" one of the younger vamps added, laughing. He was a slightly pudgy teenaged male, in ripped jeans and an EverQuest t-shirt, and he sounded a little like Warren.
"Come and find out, pizza boy," Faith challenged him, making a bring-it gesture with her free hand.
Jonathan raised the crossbow and stepped to the right, aiming at the pizza vamp's heart. Then he took a deep breath and started mentally running through the list of spells he knew. Unfortunately, none of them had "sewer slime" as a primary ingredient, and he didn't have any more UV-spell talismans. The odds didn't look good.
On the other side of the tunnel, Wesley whispered a few words in an unfamiliar, lyrical language, then unsheathed his sword and stepped up beside the Slayer. The blade shimmered briefly in the dim light, then quieted as he held it at the ready.
"Get your crossbow, Wes," Faith hissed at him. "Back the fuck up. You'll get us both killed."
Wesley's jaw set in a hard line. "Faith, I'm not the Watcher I used to be. I thought we were clear on that. I can defend myself."
"And which of us has the strength and the healing? Oh, right, that would be me." Faith rolled her eyes, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "Besides, your aim is probably better than his."
"Hey!" Jonathan objected. "Less insulting, more fighting!"
The lead vampire laughed at that. "Look at this, guys, they think they're Slayers or something. Go on, get 'em. This ought to be fun."
The minion vamps advanced with a snarl.
Jonathan's first shot missed by a couple of inches. The crossbow bolt sprouted out of the vampire's left shoulder and had no visible effect except to catch his attention. Jonathan quickly reloaded and fired again, but this time the vamp was ready for him and jumped to the side. The bolt whizzed by and buried itself in the chest of another vamp, a female with short dirty-blonde hair and a floral-print sundress. She jerked in surprise, staring right at Jonathan with shocked yellow eyes, then dissolved and sifted to the floor.
That was all the shooting Jonathan had time for. The remaining vamps quickly closed on their small group, six ganging up on Wesley and Faith and the wounded one making straight for Jonathan. Obviously, they decided he was the lesser threat.
Faith leapt into the fray with her stake, ducking out of reach of the vampires' grasping arms and feinting at them with the wooden point. She knocked one out of the way with a low kick, but there were enough of them to severely hamper her style. One of others got in a lucky punch and sent her stumbling back a few feet, but his triumph was cut short by Wesley's sword. The offending fist parted from the vampire's arm with a strange sizzling sound and thumped to the ground before shattering into ash.
The vampire screamed, sinking to his knees and clutching at the wrist-stump with his other hand. The wound smoked as if acid had been poured onto it, and the other vampires near Wesley all paused and took a step back, staring at him.
"Blessed blade," Wesley said, grinning ferally, then swung the sword again, slicing through the fallen vamp's neck. Faith took advantage of the distraction to lash out at another vamp with her stake, and the number facing Slayer and Watcher was reduced to four.
Meanwhile, Jonathan had dropped his crossbow and pulled out a stake, edging towards the wall as his attacker advanced. "You don't want to drink me! I won't taste very good," he said, trying to buy time while he struggled to recall the details of Ethan's invisibility spell. He wasn't a complete wimp, but hand-to-hand with a supernaturally strong guy double his size wasn't anything near a fair fight, no matter what skills he had. If the vamp couldn't see him, however, that might tip the odds in his favor.
"Oh, come on," the vampire said, grinning at him. "Like I'll believe that. 'I won't taste very good.' Ha!"
"Bobby!" The Vin Diesel vamp had let his demonic face out to play, and he was beginning to look a little upset. Jonathan's vamp jerked in response to the name, then stepped back and glanced over at his leader. "Finish that weakling later, help the others!" the leader snarled.
Bobby whirled back to Jonathan with an unexpected, quick punch, and connected solidly with Jonathan's cheekbone. He heard something snap, and then there was flying, and brick, and raging pain as he slid to the floor. Hazily, he wondered if hitting a wall had felt like this for Wesley.
Then Bobby was abandoning him, joining the other four, who were busy trying to separate Faith and Wesley without getting in reach of either stake or sword.
The battle continued, but Jonathan found it hard to focus so he ignored it and concentrated instead on staying conscious. The pain flared for several seconds, then receded a little, like an ebbing wave, and the black spots at the edges of his vision disappeared. When he was pretty sure he wouldn't pass out, he climbed slowly to his feet and tried again to remember the spell. It wasn't complicated, and he didn't think Ethan had used any components; there was just this sequence of words in Latin, and a little energy...
It came to him abruptly, and he mumbled the words as fast as he could, trying not to jar his cracked cheekbone any more than he had to. He must have gotten it right, because the world immediately started dimming futher, until everything looked as though he were viewing it through a dirty window. None of the vamps had been watching him when he did it, either, which gave him some breathing space. Quietly, he tiptoed over to the fallen crossbow and pulled a few more bolts from his pockets.
The light bubble he was in wavered a little when he picked up the crossbow. Jonathan figured it was adjusting to make the crossbow vanish, too, which was pretty cool. He wasted no time loading it up again and turned back to the fight, sighting in on one of the vamps attacking the others.
There were only three minions facing Wesley and Faith now, so they must have accounted for at least two more, but the vamps had been connecting too. There was blood on Wesley's forehead, and Faith had shifted her stake to the other hand and was holding her arm close to her body as if it were damaged. One of the vamps had produced brass knuckles from somewhere, another a knife, and the lead vamp had gotten frustrated and was closing in.
Jonathan fired, and the leader whirled towards him with a curse. He took two steps, his expression fading from anger to confusion as he failed to locate his attacker, then denial as destruction overtook him and he crumbled to join his defeated companions on the floor.
The remaining minions faltered, and Faith took the opportunity to grab Bobby by the bolt sticking out of his shoulder and hurl him out of range.
"Down!" Wesley exclaimed, then swept his blade in a high, swift circle as she dropped into a crouch. The two vamps still standing near him barely had time to register the attack before they were dust; his sword took the one, and her stake the other as it tried to pull away.
As quick as that, Bobby was the only vampire left. He scrambled backwards on the floor as Faith turned to look at him, then jumped to his feet and took off at high speed. Jonathan fired again, smirking as Bobby jerked in mid-step and then tumbled forward, breaking down into his component parts.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust," Jonathan said. "You were saying, about my aim?"
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.