Death or Glory
By Ananda

Title: Death or Glory
Author: Ananda, ananda1@mailcity.com
Rating: PG
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: If wish they were, especially Spike, but they’re not mine.
Feedback: Please, or I’ll set the plot trolls on you!
Dedication: For Adrian because I wanted to.


WOLF HOWL,

OPENING CREDITS

The vamp had almost got the jump on her Buffy realised in surprise. She reached out an arm and hurled the vamp bodily into a mausoleum. He hit the wall with a thud and fell. Heavy, she reflected dreamily and sank to the ground. Somehow the random vamp she’d found in the cemetery had turned out to be a tougher proposition than she’d expected. But she had a secret weapon, a brain. She rolled onto the ground, pretending to be injured and surreptitiously pulled another stake out of her back pocket. The vampire pulled himself together and rose growling. He walked towards her slowly and Buffy shook her head, pretending to clear it.

The vamp reached out a long arm, its scrappy claws scratching her bare arm and lifted her bodily into the air. Her other arm, whizzed round in a long ark and plunged the stake into its heart. It looked at her in shocked surprise and then down at the stake embedded in its chest.

"Sorry!" Buffy said unapologetically as the vamp dissolved into dust. She dropped to the ground, brushed the dust off herself with a sigh and looked round.

The cemetery was lit by moonlight, greeny silver light reflecting off the tombstones and casting long shadows behind them. She paused, something was missing. With a grin she ran happily towards the gravestone opposite her. Looking round the side, she grabbed an arm and pulled. Giles made it to his feet and felt for the back of his head.

"Ow!" He said painfully.

"You know, if you ducked, you wouldn’t get hit on the head quite so often." Buffy said. "You should be more careful."

"Yes, well I’m sorry if my leaping to your defence upsets you but you weren’t paying attention." Giles said severely.

"Oh come on, who knew that some random vamp was going to turn up." Buffy objected.

"Buffy," Giles said disapprovingly, "After six years as the slayer, don’t you think you should know by now that vampires can turn up anywhere." She glared at him, grabbed his arm and pushing hers through it, and led him out of the cemetery.

They walked companionably through the town, arm in arm, making for Giles’ apartment. The night air was a little cold and Buffy huddled closer to his comfortingly tweed covered arm. He’d long since discarded the tweed for every day wear but, when hunting vampires he preferred the safety it offered to anything else. Buffy wasn’t exactly sorry that the tweed had disappeared, she couldn’t have borne having a boyfriend who wore it, but occasionally it was comforting.

"Bronzing tomorrow?" She asked suddenly. Giles grinned and nodded. "Cool." She said happily. They walked on, arm in arm. Out of the darkness a low growl sounded quietly. Buffy froze. Giles peered into the dark shadows.

"How many?" He muttered. Buffy shook her head slightly.

"Twelve, maybe fifteen." She said despairingly. She stared up at the vampires in front of her. They were huge. It looked like someone thought it was a good idea to turn an entire football team. "I don’t think we’re going to make this one Giles." She looked round, there was an alley off to their right. "When I tell you, run. Ok?" He shook his head.

"I’m not leaving you alone, Buffy." She turned on him.

"Rupert Giles, you do what you’re told. I can’t fight worry about you and I won’t let you die." She said firmly. He stared into her eyes for a moment, and nodded.

"I love you." He said quietly. Buffy smiled up at him.

"Love you too." He backed away from her slowly and the last thing he saw was the smile in her eyes fading, replaced by her habitual look of concentration. With a yell she ran forward, leaping at the lead vampire, he was dust before she hit the ground. She turned to the next.

Giles watched from the darkness of his alley as his lover fought for her life. He grimaced and came to a decision. Running low to the ground he made his way out from the alley skirting round the melee in the centre of the road. He pulled a stake from the waistband of his trousers and plunged it into the back of one of the vampires. He turned to dust soundlessly and Giles moved forward. He wasn’t so lucky the next time. The vampire he’d staked roared in pain and turning batted at him like a cat with a toy. Giles flew through the air and cracked his head on the pavement. Stars flew round his head and he lay still.

Buffy was getting tired. Her legs felt like jelly and blood was trickling down her forehead and into her left eye from a lucky scratch. She thought she’d got rid of most of the vampires but she wasn’t sure if it was two or four left. They seemed to melt and merge into each other, only to appear again. She poked blindly at one with her stake and was lucky enough to hit a heart. Two vampires disappeared on the breeze. How did that happen she thought muzzily. The last vampire standing paced round her as she shook her head trying to clear it. Outwardly he was cool but inside he could already hear his roar of triumph when she died. It was a done deal. He smiled, he’d just had an even better idea.

Buffy turned towards him, pulling the last vestiges of her energy together. One more and then she was free. The vamp walked towards her and she punched out at him, but it barely fazed him and she groaned.

"That the best you can do slayer?" It asked. She panted, stake still in hand, waiting for the attack. It came. A booted leg swung out of the shadows and hit her right temple. She staggered and collapsed to her knees, her strength gone. The vamp reached out and grabbed her neck forcing her head to one side. Tears streamed down Buffy’s face as its fangs broke the skin.

She could feel the life draining out of her and struggled to stay awake, but she couldn’t move. Darkness was closing over her when the exquisite pain at her neck lessened. She peered up. A grotesque face, the ridges easily visible despite the fuzziness of her vision smiled down at her. It raised its wrist to its lips and bit into it. The blood flew free, spattering her chest with steaming drops. The vampire pushed its wrist towards her mouth and Buffy frowned. Why would it want…She shuddered. It wanted to turn her. She struggled fitfully, unable to break the hold it had on her and closed her mouth. She couldn’t stop the terrible moment when she drank, but if she could put it off she might die before it happened. The darkness was coming closer and her head lolled in the vampires embraced.

With a groan Giles pushed himself off the pavement and stared through the gloom to where Buffy had been fighting. Everything was silent and for a moment he thought he’d imagined it. Then he heard a whispered word.

"Drink." It said. "Drink." Giles frowned. He couldn’t begin to understand what was happening. His head was throbbing and when he touched it he felt blood on his hands. The moon came out from behind a cloud and he saw the brownish stain on his fingers. He groaned inwardly and pushed himself to his feet. Rotating his neck he stared round him and gasped. There was a vampire, he hadn’t imagined it. He tottered forward and picking up a stake, inexplicably discarded, plunged it into the vampires back.

The vampire disintegrated and Giles stared down into the face of his dying lover.

"Buffy." He knelt quickly. Her eyes stared up at him, the life had been drained out of her by the vampire he’d dusted. Her face was covered in blood and the cause of her imminent death, a huge bite mark marring her neck, was bleeding sluggishly into the tarmac. She was already too far gone to recognise him but staring into his face dreamily she smiled, her mouth opened to reveal pearly white teeth.

"Hold on, Buffy please." Giles pleaded. He looked around desperately but the street was empty and still.

The threat was gone she realised. The foul smelling hand had disappeared from her face and she smiled vaguely up at the face which had replaced it. It was a nice face, brown hair greying at the temples and kindly green eyes. They looked scared though and she thought the other thing was coming back. She struggled slightly and the nice face crumpled unhappily. It stroked her hair and she realised she had nothing to worry about. The man with green eyes would keep her safe. She should thank him, she thought, did he have a name? With the last of her strength Buffy concentrated and dredged up a name.

"Giles." She whispered. Her eyes fluttered shut and the blackness closed in.

****

White credits, some giving the disinterested viewers a holo-vision of the person, some not, floated gently down the screen which hung in the air in front of the seats. In the front row a young girl, blonde hair falling over the severe shoulders of her grey ship-suit in unfashionably long waves, dabbed at her hazel eyes, sighed with delighted melancholy and turned to the man seated next to her.

Tantalus’ only cinema was a relic of the old days when two-D entertainment had been all the rage and was prized by those who wanted to experience what the twentieth century had been all about. It was a gloomily ornate building, the red and gilt fading gently into different shades of brown which the owner, Thadius Molt, thought was very authentic. In the foyer you could still buy popcorn or, if you had a few thousand dollars, even chocolate.

The girl in the front seats, who had cried during the film, had been coming to Molt’s cinema ever since she and her companion had arrived in Tantalus, more years ago than she felt it necessary to remember. She loved the faded grandeur of the picture house and the aging films they showed. Black and white classics, technicolour masterpieces and even some of the early tri-D flicks.

The girl swung back in her seat watching for the golden moment she had come for. There it was, half way down the screen in front of her, fading gently into the black, the picture of the girl, her hair down her back, dressed in a bright coloured shirt which hadn’t been seen in Tantalus for a hundred years and actually wearing makeup. Under the happily smiling picture were the words.

Elizabeth Anne Summers,

1981-2001

She sighed again and turning, picked up her wet-coat.

"Every time I see that it makes me want to cry." She announced happily. The man next to her grinned but said nothing. They stood up together and linking arms walked out of the empty cinema and into the foyer. The girl stared unhappily out the glass in the doors. It was raining again.

"I hate the rain." She said gloomily. Her companion laughed.

"Then you shouldn’t have demanded to come to Tantalus during the rainy decade." He said. She pouted.

"You know the Institute wanted us here for the dig. We are the experts when it comes to this part of California."

They walked out together into the falling rain and stared up at the towering residential blocks which dwarfed the old fashioned cinema. They headed for the walkway which ran above their heads and crowded onto to it, joining the commuter traffic heading for the suburbs. In front of them an old woman, one of the last remaining relics of those who had refused Vecchis, stood on the walkway. She was the only one not crowded against other people, those around her having moved back instinctively to make room for the muttering witch. Her hair was wildly untidy in the rain and her wrinkled face held no trace of the person she had been before she refused the immortality drug and chose to rot into senility.

The girl from the cinema stared at her, perplexed, and then looked back up at her companion. He hadn’t wanted to accept the drug either, and it had taken her weeks of pestering and talking and pouting before he’d finally agreed, judging that defeat was easier than continuing. She’d even dragged him to the appointment herself, knowing perfectly well that he meant to make up some story and not go through with it. She grinned, forty two years old and he had still been such a baby. But she was ever thankful he’d gone through with it. Eternity alone would have been a bitch. The woman standing next to her on the walkway suddenly gave a strangled scream and leapt towards her. The girl stiffened but relaxed when the paper was thrust under her nose.

"Would you mind?" The woman asked breathlessly. The girl smiled, pulled out a pen and signed her name with a smiled.

"I am such a fan, really, your life, I mean, it’s just amazing!" The woman gushed and the girl smiled again. Her companion pulled her away, one arm round her shoulders protectively. She smiled up at her companion. Even he’d admitted he liked the attention they got these days. After all, Buffy Summers reflected,even Giles had agreed being a legend in your own lifetime was better than being dead.