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Fan Fiction: From the Shadows
Chapter Sixteen: Twelve People in Search of an Exit
"The struggle is confused; our knight wins by no clean thrust of lance or sword..."
The trek back to the lift wasn't a long one, despite the length of time they'd taken in their earlier search. Wesley's small group had investigated many rooms and side passageways, but the main hallway was easily found and ran the entire length of the basement. Spike led them swiftly in that direction, pausing briefly at each corner to check for enemies.
At the last turn he froze suddenly and took a step back. "You might want to see this, Watcher. Looks like that demon fellow from the entry got free and found himself some company."
Wesley frowned and moved past him, peering carefully around the edge of wall. Spike was correct; there were three Vydd standing down the hallway, in front of the lift doors. Standing among them, bound and gagged, were Gunn and Fred. They didn't appear to have been injured, and he couldn't smell any blood, but he didn't trust his newly extended senses enough to be sure of it.
"Well?" Spike demanded, cocking an eyebrow at him. "This Rhaogan, he bowed to you before, but he didn't have any friends along. What do you think he'll do now?"
"You're sure it's Rhaogan?" Wesley asked. The Vydd all looked very much alike.
"It's the hair," Spike said. "The one in the lead's got that brilliant shade of green; the others are duller, a bit more olive."
Wesley couldn't really tell the difference, but when he threw a doubting look at Spike, the chipped vampire crossed his arms and smirked at him. "And which of us dyes their hair? Trust me on this."
He sighed. "Very well. Spike, Faith, I want both of you to stay behind me and let me do the talking. If things go poorly, try to collect Gunn and Fred and get them out of here."
"Wes..." Faith's expression was forbidding.
"I'm here for Buffy and Dawn, Watcher, or had you forgotten?" Spike added his objection.
Well, it had been worth a try. "At least let me do the talking," he said.
"Lead on, then." Spike gave him a shove, propelling him out into the main hallway.
Rhaogan and his fellow Vydd watched Wesley approached without any visible change of expression. They made no moves against him, nor did they do anything to harm Fred and Gunn; however, they showed no signs of friendship either. Only their wild, independently mobile hair disturbed their appearance of outward calm.
Wesley stopped a few meters from them. He cleared his throat, one hand on the hilt of his sword, and made eye contact with his friends. Gunn looked ready to fight, no matter how helpless the battle, at the slightest sign from Wesley; Fred looked scared, but determined to keep it together and support them as best she could. Encouraging signs. Finally, Wesley turned his focus back to Rhaogan.
"You refused my offering," the demon rumbled, breaking the silence.
"Yes," Wesley answered, simply. Where was this conversation leading? Was he about to be punished for not taking the Vydd's life?
"Perhaps you will accept my services instead," Rhaogan continued.
"Ah..." Wesley swallowed, surprised. "That would be acceptable."
In the back of his mind, his frazzled Watcher instincts began running in circles, wondering what sort of prophecy could possibly exist that would incline such a strong breed of demons to give their allegiance so freely to him. In his brief vision-battle, his double had implied that he and the original Slayer were of a kind, but what could possibly endear a Slayer to a race of Hellish origin?
The demon nodded thoughtfully, then spoke again. "These humans are your comrades?" he asked.
Behind him, Gunn had gone wide-eyed with surprise and was staring at Wesley; Fred had furrowed her brow and was eying the Vydd in confusion. Wesley dredged up a smile in their direction, and assured Rhaogan, "Yes, they are."
Rhaogan rasped a few words in his own tongue and gestured sharply to his companions, without taking his eyes off Wesley. The two humans were untied with brisk efficiency and pushed forward. Gunn wrapped a protective arm around Fred and moved swiftly to Wesley's side.
"Wesley, what the fuck is going on?" Gunn asked in a harsh whisper.
"Later, Charles," Wesley whispered back. He didn't dare turn his back on the Vydd yet.
"You have other comrades in the building," Rhaogan observed, then rasped a few more commands to the other Vydd. They bowed low in Wesley's direction and then turned to leave, disappearing quickly down one of the side halls.
"Yes," Wesley agreed, mentally kicking himself for never having learned the Vydd language. He barely knew anything about their race; clearly, that had been an oversight in his studies. He knew very little of their motivations or their prophecies or anything else that might tell him what to expect next. Was it a bad sign, or a good one, that Rhaogan had sent the other two away?
The tension in his spine eased a little when he felt one of Faith's strong, small hands settle in the middle of his back. Whatever happened next, he had her support, and Gunn's, and Fred's, and even Spike's, it seemed.
Rhaogan studied them a moment more, then bowed and turned to open the lift doors. "I shall take you to them," he announced, and stepped inside.
Well. That was certainly unexpected. Wesley swallowed, fighting down a slight case of nerves, and glanced around at his companions, suddenly uncertain how to proceed.
Spike was growling at him impatiently; Gunn and Fred seemed as determined as ever, but also a little confused and alarmed about what was going on. Faith... Faith frowned at him, searching for something in his eyes, then sighed and reached out to rest a hand on his cheek.
"I'll get them out," she said, anticipating his problem. "You and Spike had better follow me in thirty minutes, or I'm coming back in."
He smiled wryly and reached up to trace his thumb over the back of her hand. He shouldn't have been surprised; she'd spent the last two years growing up. "Thank you, Faith."
"Now wait just a minute!" Gunn objected, but Faith was already pushing him and Fred back while Wesley and Spike stepped into the elevator with Rhaogan.
The lift doors closed, leaving the two least empowered members of their team in the company of the Dark Slayer. Wesley knew he might regret leaving the three of them behind later, but he had a feeling that this wasn't going to be pretty, and he'd much rather know they were safe.
The Vydd demon reached for the control panel, pushing several buttons in quick succession with one sharp claw. A large green button shimmered into existence above the lesser buttons once he'd finished, glowing the same shade as the Vydd's hair.
"Sodding security code," Spike muttered. "Lucky we ran into this bloke, innit?"
As demon reached to push the green button, a sudden white light seemed to come out of nowhere, seeping through the walls and blinding them all with its brightness. Wesley instinctively clapped a hand over his eyes and heard a few choice curses beside him as Spike did the same. It didn't help. The light seemed to burn straight through him, tingling all the way down to his bones.
After a moment the glow seemed to abate, and Wesley opened his eyes with a relieved sigh, blinking back the afterimages.
"That was bleedin' painful," Spike hissed. "Felt like someone was tryin' to put a blessing on me."
Wesley squinted at him in surprise; he wouldn't have labelled the experience painful, merely disturbing, but perhaps the effects of that supernatural light differed with each species? Curious now, he glanced towards Rhaogan-- and gasped as he registered the fact that they were suddenly alone in the elevator. "Is it my imagination," he asked, "or are we down one demonic tour guide?"
The vampire snorted. "Why am I not surprised? This whole adventure has been one near-disaster after another. Funny, since I was doing well enough until I ran into you."
"Shut up, Spike," Wesley grumbled, and reached out to press the green button himself. He had no idea what just happened, but there was still a rescue to complete. The button vanished as smoothly as it had appeared, and without further ado the lift began slowly ascending.
Wesley guessed that it had traveled about three floors when it stopped, which matched his original guess as to the location of the Summers sisters. He still had no idea where to look for Angel, Cordy and Groo, much less Jonathan, but it was a start. He braced himself as the doors opened with a cheery DING, revealing...
...a gun, pointed directly in his face.
"Jesus, Wes!" Angel said explosively, and lowered the weapon.
"Angel?" Wesley exclaimed, equally startled. He took in the presence of Buffy, draped over Angel's shoulder, and around him Jonathan, Cordelia, Groo, another unconscious form that had to be Dawn, and Ethan Rayne. That was one more person than he'd been looking for, but he wasn't going to quibble. "Thank God. Let's get out of here."
"We were about to," Angel said, gesturing at the interior of the lift. Then he saw Spike, and went hostile again. "What is he doing here?"
"I came for Buffy and the Bit," Spike said curtly.
"They don't need your help," Angel growled.
"Gentlemen," Wesley said dryly. "Can we save the posturing and explanations for later? This elevator isn't going to be of any use, unless one of you knows the code, so we'd best start looking for another exit."
"I know it," Jonathan said, looking up at him. "If it's the same as the one to bring it up; I watched Lilah punch it in. How'd you get up here, anyway, if you didn't know it?"
"Well, we had a tour guide, before some bloody burning light came out of nowhere and zapped him away," Spike said, irritably. "He was blocking the buttons when he typed the code in."
"Burning light?" Cordelia said, wide-eyed. "You mean my glow reached all the way down there?"
"Your glow?" Wesley blinked at her. That had come from Cordelia? Was this another aspect of her new demonic side? Yet another thing to research. He rubbed his temples, wondering just when he was going to get the time for a sufficiently lengthy session with his books. And he'd have to order new books, too, now that he knew about the Vydd... and no longer had a Vydd around to ask questions of.
"It didn't burn you up?" Angel narrowed his eyes at Spike, sounding disappointed.
"Guys?" Jonathan raised his voice. "Just so you know, I'm going to try the code now..."
They all managed to crowd into the lift, and Jonathan tried the buttons. It didn't work the first time, but then he laughed suddenly and tried again. "Five is right out," he muttered, pushing the buttons in a slightly different sequence. This time he was successful, and they got the elevator moving downward again without further incident.
Wesley ended up standing directly behind Angel and had an excellent view of Buffy's slack face when she suddenly blinked, staring in puzzlement down at the floor.
"Unnnhh?" Buffy mumbled, and twitched the muscles in her arms. "Ugh." Slowly, she brought one hand up and tried to brush the dangling hair out of her eyes, then swiped at her mouth. "I'm drooling?" she asked softly, staring at the hand in confusion, then suddenly seemed to realize someone was carrying her. She turned abruptly into a flailing mass of superstrength arms and legs. Wesley took a punch to the jaw before ducking out of her way, and he heard Jonathan let out an "Oof" of dismay from the front of the car.
"Buffy, it's okay... Ahhh!" Angel bent forward suddenly, dumping Buffy unceremoniously to the floor in front of him, and Wesley winced in sympathy. The Slayer's feet had apparently connected with some sensitive anatomy.
"I thought you said she'd be out for hours!" Jonathan groaned, bent over in pain and clutching at his back.
"Well, she was heavily sedated," Ethan said sourly. "How was I to know it would wear off so quickly?"
"Angel?" Buffy struggled to a sitting position, staring up at the souled vampire. "Oh! Angel, did I kick you? I'm so sorry!"
"I'll be okay," he managed to answer her.
Spike laughed. "Glad I wasn't the one carrying you, luv. Hell of a way to greet a man."
The blush drained out of Buffy's face and she shot the chipped vampire a chilling look. "But you would have deserved it," she hissed, then accepted the nearest outstretched hand and got to her feet. Then she looked at the hand more closely, and up at its owner. "Cordelia?" she asked, confused, and glanced around at the rest of the car's occupants. "Jonathan? Wes? Ethan??!! And... do I know you? Why are you holding my sister?!"
"I am the Groosalugg," Groo told her calmly, and adjusted the still-sleeping form of Dawn in his arms. "You may call me Groo. Your sister is unconscious, but she will undoubtedly be fine."
"She better be," Buffy muttered, and touched her sister's face with a gentle hand. "So. Anyone want to tell me what's going on? I mean, I thought we were here to talk with my dad, which is bad enough, but he never showed, and next thing I knew the lawyers were holding us down and coming after us with needles."
The lift had come to a halt while Buffy spoke, and its doors opened again, revealing a blessedly empty stretch of hallway. "It's a long story," Wesley sighed. "Best told back at the hotel, I'd imagine. Faith is waiting for us in the sewers with Gunn and Fred, and I'll feel much better once we join them."
"Faith?!" Buffy suddenly looked murderous again.
"Buffy..." Angel spoke quietly and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Oh, all right! But this had better be really, really good." She turned and stormed out of the lift with a frown on her face.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.