disclaimer in part one

wanting me
reaching me
wanting me
knowing me
believing in me

love labours on

Love Labours On
-Billy Idol

Buried Alive

by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part Nine

The air in front of Angel shimmered slightly, as if giving off heat waves, then the BloodHound filled what had been empty space. He stood before the vampire, his leather clad figure towering above the others in the room. Buffy swallowed. She had forgotten just how big he was. He moved toward Angel immediately, seeking to grab the vampire before the humans could react. Angel cowered back, snapping hesitantly at the Hound when he drew nearer.

Buffy leapt toward the giant man and heard the whir of the crossbow bolt as it passed near her ear and sunk into the Hound's back. He ignored the wooden shaft and closed his hand around Angel's wrist. Angel pulled at the caught wrist, rolling his eyes in fear, but was unable to loose himself.

Buffy flew into the BloodHound feet first, sending him staggering forward from pure momentum. He let go of Angel's wrist but regained his balance quickly and turned to face the tiny blonde Slayer.

"Do not involve yourself," he warned, showing her empty hands.

"I'm involved," Buffy said grimly. "I know it's a hassle for you, but I don't have a choice in the matter."

"Nor do I," the man said. Buffy thought she could hear a note of regret in his voice and wished briefly that she didn't have to fight him. There were so few demons out there who weren't evil. But then he reached toward Angel again, and it no longer mattered who or what he was. She kicked his hand away from the vampire, saw her blow had little effect, and punched him in the face. A shock of pain exploded through the bones of her hand, but he barely flinched.

She ignored the pain and twisted around his body so she was behind him. Remembering her moderate success with his hair the last time, she grabbed for it and pulled his head back. His huge hands reached behind him and enveloped her wrists. Jerking upwards, he flung her over his head. She braced herself, rolling to her feet as she landed. Pain surged through her knee, but she was still mobile. She heard a muffled thunk as a crossbow bolt sunk into his chest. It had as little effect as the first, which still protruded from the broad, muscular surface of his back.

She noticed that Angel's face had turned at some point after she had attacked the Hound. Maybe sometime during her flight over the man's head. Oddly, the vampire no longer seemed afraid. Rage had taken over; he growled and snarled, clawing and snapping, completely focused on freeing himself to run to her. He jerked against his chains so hard she was afraid he would hurt himself. Blood stained his fabric that wrapped his wrists, but he seemed impervious to any pain he was inflicting on himself. The chains held fast, but Buffy thought she saw the ring in the wall shift a bit. She dismissed it as her imagination when the Hound moved closer to her, and she prepared for another attack. Angel's feet kicked out at the Hound, but his blow barely landed. It served only to drive him to a feverish new high of fury. Whirling into motion, he attacked again, lashing out with chained hands.

The larger man came within his circle of grasp, and Angel bit the Hound as he attempted to grab the vampire again. His fangs tore a hunk of the larger man's flesh from his arm. Immediately, he spat to the side and attempted to attack again. Buffy could clearly see that the Hound's flesh was ravaged by the teeth, hanging in strips; but no blood dripped from the wound. She wondered desperately if anything could cause a BloodHound pain. Then her eyes fell on the large silver knife hanging from a loop on his black belt. The shining metal winked at her, and she flew at the Hound. Blocking the fist he threw at her head, she faked a punch at his chest, snatched the knife from his belt, and spun beneath his huge arm. Her arm felt like it had gone numb where she had blocked his blow, but she gripped the knife tightly in her other hand.

"Please work," she muttered. She plunged the knife with all her strength into his heart through the leather vest stretched over his back. It sunk in up to the hilt, leaving him with three weapons sticking out of his body. The BloodHound turned to face her, his eyes slightly wide. Buffy felt a surge of hope, then his hand smashed into her temple. She flew several feet to the side, her vision dimming as she landed against the stone floor. He plucked the knife from his back and returned it to the loop on his belt. Buffy shook her head slightly, fighting the grey which encroached on her vision and the nausea rising in her stomach. She inched forward toward him, knowing she would never be able to reach him in time to stop him. And that even if she did, she had no way to beat him.

She watched through blurry vision as Giles ran at the Hound with a shout, stake in hand, while Angel snarled and jerked against his chains like a man possessed. The Hound brushed Giles aside with barely a flick of his wrist, and the Watcher fell unconscious. Buffy tried to scream, but she could not find the breath. She managed to pull herself to her feet and staggered a step toward the Hound.

He turned from Angel to look at her. She took another step and then another, gaining speed as she went. She shivered violently as his white eyes bore into her while unconsciousness threatened at the edges of her vision. She thought for a moment that her vision was worsening as everything began to shimmer slightly. Then she was standing where the Hound had been a moment before, and he was gone. Her mind briefly struggled to understand why, then everything went black and she crumpled. Angel's arms catching her were the last things she felt before awareness faded completely.

* * * * * * * *

Buffy woke to the sensation of Angel nuzzling her face with his own. He pushed anxiously at her with his head, stroking and pawing at the side of her face with gentle fingers.

"Wake," he whispered roughly before a plaintive whimper escaped his lips. She opened her eyes in surprise as he drew his tongue along the side of her cheek. Buffy stirred weakly, but his grip on her tightened. Crushing her against his chest, he made joyful cooing noises while his hands ran over her body reassuring himself that she was real. When he licked her again, she managed to sit up and push him away. He stuck his head under her upraised arm, trying to reach her; and she pushed him away again. But her hand lingered in his hair a moment longer than necessary before she scuttled out of his reach.

Her muddled gaze fell on the still unconscious Giles, and she hurriedly crawled to him. Kneeling beside his body, she grabbed his hand. She felt for a pulse, breathing a sigh of relief when there was one. Gently she shook her Watcher, calling his name until he slowly opened his eyes.

"Thank God," she whispered. He attempted to smile at her, wincing as pain began to register all over his abused body. Suddenly his eyes flew wide, and his breath caught.

"Angel?" he asked.

"Still here," Buffy told him She glanced at the vampire, who was watching them intently while he continuously, but absently, pulled at his chains as though his mind were elsewhere.

"But how?" Giles asked. "Did you defeat the Hound?"

"No," Buffy said ruefully. "I was trying to attack him, and he disappeared. But believe me, it wasn't because he was afraid of me."

"I am certain this was his final warning to us, Buffy," Giles observed as he slowly sat up. "He showed us we cannot defeat him, and he is giving us one more chance to let him do his job without interference."

"I guess that flies," Buffy said. "But I think he could have taken Angel today. I mean we couldn't have stopped him." She shivered, turning her eyes to Angel again as if afraid the Hound had stolen him away in the brief moment that her attention lay elsewhere.

"True, but you said you continued to attack, despite your injuries. He must have seen that you would die before you let him take Angel. He would have had to kill you, not just beat you."

"He's giving me one more chance to back down on my own, so he doesn't have to kill an innocent," Buffy agreed, indirectly confirming Giles' assessment that she would die before losing Angel again. The Watcher smiled without joy at her affirmation of his grim assumption, then winced and clutched at his aching head.

"I suppose we won't be backing down," he said matter-of-factly.

"I won't be," Buffy said. "You guys are another matter." She gently probed the bruise rising on the Watcher's face. "You didn't have to fling yourself at the Hound like that, you know. Especially to save a guy you hate."

"I couldn't just let him be taken," Giles said sheepishly. "It was rather foolish of me, I suppose."

"You say foolish, I say incredibly brave. Tomato, tomahto. Whatever." She smiled at him, and he smiled back. "This doesn't seem too bad," she said about the bruise. "But I don't know if you have a concussion or not. Maybe you should get it checked out."

"I'll be fine," Giles assured her. "What about yourself?" Buffy stood up cautiously, testing the knee she had hurt earlier.

"The knee's a little weak," she said, grimacing as dull pain shot through her leg when she put too much weight on it. "But I think if you tape it up, I'll be okay."

"But you are weakened," Giles said with a sigh. "And when the Hound comes again, which could be at any time now, he will not hold back. He has given us the final warning, and he will kill you the next time."

"And I can't even handle him when he IS holding back. And now I'm not at full strength," Buffy added. "I know. But there's no way out of it. I have to TRY to stop him. Even if I know I can't."

"I know," Giles said miserably.

"I might as well just camp out here," Buffy said finally. "We don't know when the next attack will come. But it probably won't be long. I think he's getting impatient."

"We can camp with you," Giles offered. "You'll need all the help you can get. And I can continue my search for the Hound's weaknesses here, though I have yet to find any hint of one."

"I don't think he has any," Buffy said sourly. "And I don't want you guys getting killed."

"We feel the same way about you," Giles said dryly. "And to be honest, you can't stop us from staying if we want to." Buffy's lower lip jutted into a stubborn pout, but after a moment of thought she nodded her head.

"Fine. But you can't speak for the others. They have to decide themselves. And if they do want to stay, you guys will stay in shifts. I don't want everyone sitting here in a big group like lambs to a slaughter if the BloodHound goes ballistic. Numbers don't really matter since the guy is practically invulnerable. And I want everyone to be able to get some rest and all that if he does take a while in getting here. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Giles said. "I'll take the first shift. The others are coming by after school, and they can decide what they want to do then. Faith may come by sooner, depending on what she's up to, which of course she did not tell me."

"Typical," Buffy said with a cheeky grin. "Here I am about to get myself killed over a vampire, and I'm still the model Slayer comparatively."

"You will not die," Giles said roughly. "I will not allow it."

"Thanks for the sentiment, Giles," Buffy said flatly. "But we both know how this is going to end." She shrugged. Her eyes met Angel's, her attention drawn by the painful, protesting whine that scraped from his throat. "This is how it has to be." Giles clutched her arm tightly, his fingers digging painfully into the flesh. He shook her slightly, forcing her to meet his gaze.

"You are not giving up," Giles said softly, his voice commanding. "This is not over. And I will not sit by and listen to you refer to your own death as if it would mean nothing. Your life may not mean anything to you, but it means a great deal to a great many other people, including myself. And I refuse to give up on you or allow you to give up on yourself." He shook her again, attempting to force his words into her soul.

"Thank you, Giles," she said softly. "But you don't need to tell me this. I don't want to die. For God's sake, it scares me so much I can hardly think." She turned her gaze on Angel, reminding herself of her reason for doing this, drawing strength from the reminder of him. "But this is who I am. You and I both know it. This is what I do."

"Just don't give up," Giles begged.

"I won't," she promised gently. He released her arm and brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. The thought that he might lose her filled his stomach with icy dread which shook him to the core. He lived with that fear every time he sent her out into battle. But this time the fear touched him like it had only once before. Like the first time he had translated the prophecy in the Codex foretelling her death, he felt immobilized by fear so deep and immediate it made everything else pale by comparison. As they had then, they were facing her assured death. But they had cheated death that time, and he prayed they would cheat death again. He loved her too much to consider any other possibility.