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The Worst Betrayal by TwilightChild
Signal by Fire
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Alright, so I’ve dropped off the face of the earth for…what…a year and a half? In all honesty, I thought I would never pick up fanfiction again, mostly because I’ve been in college for most of that time and maintaining a 3.78 gpa (hurray for my obsessive desires for education in all forms!) Anyway, I promised myself when I went to school that I wouldn’t write fiction again until I got to a creative writing course. But, here I am, only in English 1102 and burning to write something that’s just for me.

I’m still determined not to write my original fiction until I’ve been to a class for it, but I figured I could at least work on the stories I have left my readers hanging with. This is by no means a guarantee that I will be finishing this and every other story as I had originally intended, nor will I be starting new stories. However, I do find it slightly encouraging that I: 1. Finished a 3000 word chapter in one night while also writing an annotated bibliography when previously it would have taken me the whole night to write five hundred words, 2. Suddenly, on a whim, wrote a chapter that had been the source of a year and a half long fanfiction writers block, and 3. Can vividly picture the next piece of the story in my head even after being up all night.

So, if I have any readers willing to give my stories a second chance after their previous disappointments, please enjoy my little nugget of sudden creativity.


Signal by Fire

Buffy had one of Spike’s arms draped over her shoulder and she kept the vampire marching at a quick pace up the stairs. She had removed his chains, which allowed her to position him easily. Danaia was in the lead, and she turned and beckoned the two inside the council chambers before closing and barring the door behind them.

“What kept you guys?” Xander frowned when he saw the blood running down the vampire’s back. “And what happened to him?”

“I’ll explain later.” Buffy allowed the vampire to slump against the wall a few feet from the window closest to the door. “How’s that spell coming, Wills?”

Willow stared down at the inside of her bag in dismay before looking once again at the pit of glowing stones. “It’s…” she sighed. “It’ll be as ready as it’s ever going to be in two minutes.”

“Good. Danaia? We need that gateway.”

The half-demon nodded as she brushed her hand over the stone of the one gateway on the south side of the room, behind the alter. “I shall require less time than the witch for this.”

Willow grumbled under her breath in a low voice. “I shall require less time…”

“Easy Wills,” Xander crouched down beside his best friend. “We all know who’s got the big mojo here. I’d take your cajones over hers any day.”

The red head flushed with embarrassment as she drew symbols in front of the pit. “Can you hand me one of those glowy stones?”

Buffy felt Spike’s weight sag against her shoulder and she slowly lowered him onto the ground so he could resume what she had come to think of as his normal crouched position. It hurt to watch him make himself as small as possible, but she wasn’t going to be able to stop that hurt until the job was finished.

“Hey…” she was crouched down in front of him, refusing to be anywhere but at eye level with him. “Spike, look at me, ok?”

She was immensely encouraged when the vampire barely hesitated to look her in the eye. His brow was wrinkled in confusion, and his eyes would dart away, over the slayer’s shoulders to take in the rest of the room, but they would always come back to her, waiting for her explanation or for the next piece of the puzzle.

“I need you to do something for me…I need you to stay here with Willow…” she frowned then pointed back towards the red-headed witch, never taking her eyes off the vampire. She made sure that he looked that way before looking back at her. “Willow,” she repeated, unsure if he even remembered half of them. “You have to stay here with her, and you have to do absolutely EVERYTHING she says, understand?”

Spike’s stare was unwavering at first, but soon he bowed his head, a sign of submission that always disturbed Buffy when she saw it.

Willow set a small wooden stand to the left of her symbols and set a thin stick of sandalwood incense on it before lighting it. She then breathed in deeply.

“Is that mystical incense or something?” Xander asked.

“No…that’s just to keep me calm.”

Buffy watched her two best friends before turning back to the vampire. His eyes had lost focus and he was shrinking back against the wall, his shoulders hunched. She placed a hand on his shoulder, rubbing the cold skin with her thumb and then raised his chin with the other hand. His gaze was still cast down, even as the slayer tilted her head and pressed her lips reverently to his.

It was impossible to believe as she reacquainted herself with his mouth that for him it had been ten years since their last kiss, when for her it had been only weeks. The softness of his lips was unimaginably familiar, even if the softness of the kiss was foreign. The only time she could remember such a tender touch was when she had thanked him for allowing Glory to torture him to keep Dawn’s secret safe. And sure enough, when she lifted her head and opened her eyes it was like they had never left the crypt; he even had same searching look on his bruised face.

“Stay safe,” she told him.

Xander’s gut clenched him contempt as he watched the pair on the opposite side of the room. ‘Isn’t that just great?’ he thought. ‘Vampire plus soul equals ‘at least Buffy doesn’t need a condom’.’ He looked away and shook his head, refusing to let the rising bitterness have a single speck of his attention before their mission was over.

There was a crack and a flash and the air within the gateway wavered like disturbed water before settling again.

“It’s opened,” Danaia informed them. “We don’t have much time.”

“I’m ready.” Willow was sure she would have sounded much more convincing if her throat hadn’t threatened to close around her vocal cords and turn her voice into a sound that only dogs would enjoy.

It was Buffy’s custom not to say goodbye when separating for a mission. She squeezed Spike’s shoulder reassuringly before standing and taking her place by Xander’s side. Danaia joined the two of them, her lips tight with impatience. Buffy looked down at Willow and managed a small smile. “Good luck, Willow. And no matter what happens, get yourself through that portal.”

The witch nodded, giving her a bright smile of her own. “I will. You guys make sure of the same thing. And don’t worry, I’ll take care of Spike.”

Xander removed three wound pieces of rope from his back sack, each with thick metal hooks on the end. Each of the departing took their rope and hooked the metal tips onto a windowsill, then each put on a pair of thick, black gloves.

“I hope this holds…” Buffy pouted before swinging her legs over and dropping a few feet, wincing from the thought of the rope burn she would soon have despite the gloves they had brought. Danaia followed, soon surpassing the Slayer who bit her lip and wondered if Xander would be able to keep up.

Xander waved to Willow before looking at Spike one more time. “Keep an eye on him…” he warned his friend. “I know you’re going to be busy, but also keep an eye out.”

“I will,” Willow’s voice was soft, absent, because her mind was elsewhere. A stone lay cradled in her palm, and its light cast an orange glow on her face.

“Right…” Xander grunted as he climbed over the window and gasped as he lost his balance and barely caught himself with the rope in time. He swung and scraped his knuckles against the stone, and clamped his eyes shut to keep away the nauseating view.

“Xander!” Buffy was a fifth of the way down the wall and terrified that she wouldn’t be able to catch her friend of he fell.

“I’m fine! Just great…” Xander braced his feet against the wall and hesitantly leaned back, thinking that the feeling of vertigo was going to send his lunch (or lack of) straight down on top of the two women beneath. He was also afraid of the idea that he might not make it at all, that he’d be stuck half way in between like a cat on a high branch. The idea of guarding Willow from the supposedly former evil vampire suddenly had an appealing –“

“No,” he told himself firmly. “Just…try to think of it as extended rope climbing in gym class…” He lowered himself a little, and then a little more. “…which you were always bad at…” By keeping his eyes on his hands and the wall he was able to pick up speed.

Willow could see only flames. The room around her and the fear washed away, and all she could see was the little flame that had washed over her awareness. It felt alive, like a tiny pulsing heartbeat trapped cruelly in an even tinier prison.

“You want out, don’t you?” She whispered, barely hearing her own voice. “But if I let you out, you’ll extinguish…and you may take many, many souls with you…”

She closed her eyes, not letting herself be distracted by the pretty flame anymore. All she needed was to feel the magic trapped inside. When she tried to touch the flame with her mind it felt like the air that should be still became a vibration, and she knew she had to be stronger than it could be. “Sorry…” she whispered to it softly. “I can’t let you go; I can only use you up.”

Grunting and sweating heavily, Xander hung in midair on slack arms. He looked down at the two women, only twelve feet below him, on the ground. They had cut the rope to make sure that no one could climb up the tower from the ground on the ropes they left behind.

“Come on, Xander. It’s not that bad. It’s only twelve feet. Just don’t stiffen your legs when you land. Keep limber.” Buffy smiled encouragingly from below while Danaia sighed.

“Limber…” he kicked his legs futilely. “Right…”

He let go and dropped, his legs barely getting any force since he fell almost immediately onto his ass. The shock to his tailbone made it impossible for him to breath and he tried not to gasp like a fish.

“Are we done wasting time?” Danaia had her arms crossed in front of her.

Buffy wished she knew the half demon well enough to dig her elbow into the woman’s side. Painfully. “We only had to wait two minutes for him.” She held out her hand to help Xander up. “You ok?”

Xander raised his hand and shook his head, turning down the help. “I’ll be fine. My manly pride broke my fall.”

Danaia turned, heading towards the gateways without them. “This way! We must hurry!” She shouted back over her shoulder.

Buffy sighed. “Come on. Time to go to work.” She followed the green skinned female.

Xander sighed, already feeling useless. He took a second to look around himself, again becoming familiar with the bleak surroundings, noticing again that not a single bit of life existed in or on the ground he had landed on. The earth was cracked and dry…all except for blood pooling around the corner of the building.

Eyes wide, Xander stood, ignoring the soreness of his muscles. He stepped further around the building and saw hair in the blood on the ground. With another step he finally saw the vampire that had jumped. She had landed right beside the wall, her hips twisted at an unnatural angle and blood pooling under her head. Her ink-colored eyes were open and staring blankly at the black sky.

“Oh man…” he crouched down beside her and waved his hand above her face, looking for any sign of life. “It just doesn’t end for you, does it?”

“You know, I’ve always been told you should never move someone with a head injury,” he said as he put an arm under her legs, and then another under her shoulders. “I don’t even know if I’m helping or not…right now I just really hope you don’t wake up.” He scooped her up and made sure to support her head with his upper arm.

As he jogged to catch up with his companions he tried not to think of the sticky blood soaking his sleeve or the fact that he could very well be carrying another Drusilla in his arms.

Willow finally connected her will with the magic inside the stone, and was almost thrown back out. Exercising her will at all was becoming a challenge when the energy of that dimension was threatening to bounce her back and forth like a balloon caught in a storm. She realized immediately that if she tried to seize complete control the power would burst free from her in no time and kill every slave the stones were embedded in. Instead she let the power she grasped onto take her where it would. She rode it like a wave that split her into multiple minds and took her into a hundred different directions, until the awareness of tiny power sources opened up everywhere and she could feel the location of every slave.

All at once she knew she could not force this power at all. And why would she need to? It was looking for a place to go, some stability…

Instead of pushing, she began to pull. She beckoned the power within the stones to find stability in a foreign home. She pushed the violent energy of the dimension itself away from her body very suddenly, creating not only a warm embrace for the power rushing from hundreds of directions to meet her, but also a sudden vacuum that made her a conduit.

Willow opened her pitch black eyes and clenched her hand around the suddenly burning stone. “Oh…Goddess…”

When Xander entered the building that housed the gateways he passed both women without a word and knelt down in front of the portal that he knew led to the California hellmouth. As gently as he could, he leaned forward and gently placed the unconscious vampire on the ground on the other side of the gate. With a crackle of energy, he watched both the vampire and his arms disappear, even as he felt the cool grass he laid her down on. After depositing her he yanked his arms back, thoroughly disturbed by the idea of his body in two different dimensions at once.

“You two have to stay here,” Buffy suddenly said. “You both need to lead the vampires that I set free to these gateways. Try to heard them to that one if you can,” she nodded to the gate that Xander knelt in front of. “But the most important thing is just getting them out.”

There was a roar of noise that drowned out all other sounds, and all three turned. The top of the tower that they had just left had been blown off, and pieces of debris flew everywhere. A mass of flame rose into the sky, and then came crashing down in another direction with resolute purpose.

Demons of various species sat in rows of seats that surrounded a pit in the ground. The walls of the pit were covered in crosses that the vampires below began to use as foot and hand holds to get away from holy water that was being poured into the pit until it was ankle-deep. Five of them had severely burnt toes because they had been too terrified to climb the walls until they had felt the agony they would endure of they refused.

They climbed quickly and the skin of their palms and soles bubbled after the first row of crosses. The screams didn’t begin until they reached the third row, when the muscle began to burn and cringe towards the bone. One girl, who appeared no older than eleven, froze half way up the wall, terrified and unable to continue after the first digit, a ring finger belonging to a male climbing above her, dropped by her ear and bounced off her ankle, sizzling and dissolving as it hit the holy water below. The girl screamed in agony and watched her hands smoke. She choked on panicked sobs that were drowned out as the crowd stood and roared their approval.

The crowd’s roar was drowned out by another one, and the dome shattered like glass. Heavy pieces of stone the size of Buicks rained down and crushed observers in the stands, silencing them but encouraging screams of survivors that leapt from their seats to flee but were almost instantly consumed by flame.

Heavy chunks of stone fell into the pit and one struck the girl. When she fell onto her back and into the holy water another rock fell on top of her, crushing her body from the ribs down while her back, sides, legs, shoulders and scalp began to sizzle and melt. Unable to make a sound to express her horror, she watched as the vampires still climbing the walls were consumed by flame and flung her hand upward to reach for the cloud of fire that was barreling down on her at the speed of a freight train.

When he could see again, Spike stood up and with mouth wide open and took in the sight of the scorched debris littering the floor, which was all that was left of the ceiling that had been over his head a moment ago. He raised his hands to examine his skin but found no new marks, and across the room the witch’s hair hadn’t even curled from the heat. He stepped carefully over each rock and felt grit digging into his feet. He soon stood at the north side of the room, holding on to what remained of a wall as he took a long look at the woman’s face.

Willow’s eyes were pitch black and her face expressionless. She held the stone she had used, now without its glow, in front of her before dropping it into the small pit with all its lifeless cousins. And as if on cue, part of the floor between the pit and where the wall had been crumbled and fell away to the ground bellow, and the red pebbles followed behind like a crimson rock slide.

Spike raised his eyebrows before looking out over the landscape. The rubble that had once been the arena was still on fire, but the flames were quickly dying out. He could hear screams, shouts and orders and see figures running in a panic below them. The vampire decided without any doubt that if it was all a dream – he liked it.

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