Rating: PG-13 for violence
Summary: Sequel to Reassembling. Principal Wood's arrival wrecks more havoc than anyone could imagine
Beta read by the wonderful incandragon
Reassembling can be found at: http://spanderfiles.com/arvs/texanfan/r
Previous chapters at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
AN: This chapter contains heavy borrowing from the episodes Villians, Two to Go, and Grave.
“Not asking for permission, mate,” Spike told the villager who babbled at him in some local lingo he didn’t understand. The man was obviously trying to come between him and his goal. If Xander’s entreaties couldn’t dissuade him, this man’s warnings, or threats, had no chance of swaying him.
The entrance looked like a completely ordinary cave, but he could feel the power emanating from it. The villager left him before he got anywhere near the opening. Spike guessed he didn’t fancy getting too close. Spike entered cautiously, it wouldn’t do to get his head ripped off by some nasty before he even got to the challenging stuff.
He snapped his lighter open and played the flame over the wall. The decorations in the front room resembled the scribblings of a disturbed child. Probably cave paintings from millenia earlier. Some of the images actually looked fresh, like the wall itself was bleeding.
Deeper inside the cave broke into multiple passages. Uncertain which direction to go, Spike scanned the area for a clue when a voice boomed out of the darkness. ”You seek me, vampire?”
“You do the finger painting?” Spike asked just to be a smart ass. He hardly wanted this thing to think he feared it. “Nice work.”
“Answer me,” the demon intoned. The thing had a distinctly craggy appearance, as though it were made from living rock. A couple of ridiculous spikes rose from its shoulders like stalagmites, and its eyes glowed a phosphorescent green. It stood some seven feet tall.
After an appropriate interval to show fear had not prompted him to answer, Spike responded, “Yeah, I seek you.”
The thing cocked its bullet head, as if listening to messages sent from beyond. “Something about an unintentional death.”
“Yeah, if there’s killing to be done I do it because I want to, not because I can’t help myself,” Spike said. He suspected the demon already knew all this but Spike wanted no misunderstandings.
“So, you want to return to your former self.” The booming monotone rang out again.
“Yeah,” Spike replied, wondering if the demon drug these exchanges out because he got so few visitors.
He didn’t expect the dark chuckle that emanated from the creature. Not in a mood to be laughed at, Spike demanded, “What?”
“Look what they‘ve done to you,” the demon responded in a mocking tone. “You were a legendary dark warrior and you let yourself be castrated. Chained to a groups of humans like a leashed dog. And you have the audacity to crawl in here and demand restoration.”
Massive wings flapped slowly behind the demon, irritation radiating off of it. Spike stomped into the demon’s space, bristling with indignation. “I’m still a warrior.” He shoved at the demon only to get the same reaction as punching the nearest stone wall. The thing just didn’t budge, acted like he didn’t even exist. That incensed Spike all the more. How dare tall, dark and gruesome question his status. “I helped take down a hell god.“
“You fell from a great height into a broken heap, pushed by one of her minions. Hardly impressive,” Rocky sneered. He had to call it something and it’s not like they’d been formally introduced. “You’re a pathetic excuse for a demon,” Rocky spat.
Spike struggled to get his temper under control, he wanted something from Rocky and beating it out of him appeared to be off the menu. He wanted to pound Rocky’s head in for parading his failure to protect Dawn out as an example of his unworthiness. He’d killed dozens of minions that day, gotten up the stairs faster than any of the others could have dreamed of and yet that one moment of failure would haunt him forever. If he hoped to win here he couldn’t let this psychological warfare stop him any more than the physical.
“Think we could get this show on the road, chum,” Spike challenged, “I’ve got a plane to catch.”
“You’d never endure the trials required to grant your request,” Rocky said with smug certainty.
“Do your worst,” Spike slung back, equally smugly. This thing didn’t have the first clue what he was capable of, but before the end Spike intended to show it. “And when I win, I want what I cam here for. And no nancy boy escape clauses either. I win my soul back it‘s stuck on good and tight.”
Rocky sounded like a rusty water pipe in its exasperation. Did it really think that after traveling this far, prepared to risk his existence for what he wanted, some idiotic posturing was going to make him just give up. The demon was the one who was pathetic.
“Just show me to the first trial,” he said, disgruntled. He’d beaten scores of demons in the last couple years alone. Spike expected he’d already faced worse than Rocky could throw at him.
“Strip to your pants,” Rocky said with a dismissive gesture to one of the side chambers.
Spike found himself supremely grateful he’d left the duster in the car. He didn’t trust he’d successfully retrieve anything he let out of his sight here. He really hated to lose the docs but sacrifices had to be made, he guessed. Spike hurried to divest himself of his shoes, socks and shirt in the hopes that the demon would shut up about the difficulty of the trials ahead. Possibly Rocky was trying to talk him to death.
After arranging his belongings along the wall he moved to the center of the cavern. Sand covered the floor of the largely circular room. It reminded Spike of a Roman arena, which seemed appropriate. . .
“You understand then,” Rocky repeated.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s not like you haven’t been clear about it, oh great mysterious one,” Spike couldn’t have kept the sarcasm out of his voice if he’d tried, so he didn’t bother trying. He paced, trying to burn off his eagerness to get started and to loosen up tense muscles. “This is a test. I don’t get what I want unless I pass said test. That about the size and shape?”
“Yes.” Rocky’s voice once again rang out in a monotone. If he was still irritated he hid it well. Stupid sod probably thought Spike incapable of besting his champion. Spike intended to show him the error of his ways.
“And since your pad is decked out gladiator style, and no number two pencils have been provided, guess we’re not starting with the written.” Spike despaired of the demon ever just shutting up and getting on with it already.
A mountain of a man lumbered into the arena. If this bruiser was going to present any challenge at all Spike couldn’t fathom how. “Oh, here we go then. Just me and the walking action figure.” Contemptuously, he turned from his opponent to address Rocky. “I’m venturing this would be the kill or be killed type of situation then.”
“To the death,” Rocky confirmed.
Spike turned back to his opponent, eager to begin the trial. “Right. Here we are now, entertain us.”
The walking action figure slammed his fists together and they caught fire. “Son of a --!” Spike was taken so by surprise that the action figure landed a punch before Spike managed to defend himself. Spike sprawled on the sands of the arena. He glowered from the floor, flaming fists definitely hadn’t been in the brochure. Sustained contact with those fists would be nastily fatal, made for one hell of a handicap. Spike propelled himself back to his feet but received a glancing blow to the chest before he was set. Flaming fist boy was fast, faster than someone of his bulk had any right to be. Doubt niggled at Spike’s mind, fear that he might not be up for the task ahead.
As much as he hated taking a defensive position, in this situation he had little choice. Spike dodged until he could get the measure of his opponent. He barely ducked another haymaker aimed at his head, and felt the flesh of his bicep char. Defensive moves worked about as well as the offensive ones and Spike was losing ground. He circled the columns of stone that supported the roof to put some space between him and those burning hands. He threw his own flurry of punches that local boy evaded too easily. In desperation, Spike caught one fist as it descended toward his chest and tossed local boy back.
“Bad move, bad move, bad move,“ Spike chanted as he flexed his singed hand. Avoiding the flames surrounding those hands limited his range of attack too much. Grappling was out of the question. He needed to hit him lower. His bare feet lacked the solidness that his docs provided, but they could still do damage. He snapped a kick to his opponent’s stomach that staggered him and nearly sent Spike to the floor himself. Local boy’s next punch was less controlled, and Spike managed to grab his bicep, well out of flame range, and throw him to the ground. He put everything he had into several kicks to the ribs, hoping to keep him down. He felt something give in his right foot but he kept at it. It kept the action figure down long enough for Spike to straddle him and snap his neck.
The fight took more out of him than he expected but that didn’t mean he couldn’t gloat. “Looks like local boy loses.”
“So it would appear,” Rocky sounded disappointed and Spike couldn’t give a shit.
“Good on me then. I get what I came for. I passed.” He smirked at the demon, showing weakness here could get him seriously dead.
“Indeed, you have passed the first stage of the test.” Spike thought he detected just a slight tone of triumph in the big demon’s tone.
“Bugger.” He knew it couldn’t be that easy, but a guy could hope. He hoped the next trials didn’t involve fire.
His next opponent was a scaly monster with a wicked tail who slithered out of a side passage with a speed and grace that had Spike wishing he‘d listened to Xander. He danced out of reach of the grasping arms but took a glancing blow from the tail. The impact to his ribs knocked him completely off his feet. The thing had a vicious mouth and long taloned hands in front and a whip fast tail behind. Spike ducked both ends as best he could but he was taking damage and inflicting none of his own. Spike longed for his two handed axe but, as it seemed disinclined to materialize into his hands, he rushed the monster, taking the blows it dealt while forcing the head back until something snapped and the creature went limp.
He gasped a little as he moved away from his kill. The ribs on his left side felt bruised or cracked. He knew this wouldn’t be a walk in the park but two fights in he felt pummeled flat. “So, Rocky, how about some refreshment for the victor?” He needed blood to heal, but even buying himself some time with a water break would help.
“You are conceding?” Rocky asked in that annoying monotone.
“No,” Spike growled. “Just figure I deserve a bit of a nosh between bouts here.”
“You may refresh yourself when the trials are finished,” Rocky decreed, and a creature that resembled an upright moose trotted from another of the side passages.
Spike’s fighting suffered from the wounds he’d already sustained, his responses much slower than normal. When fighting a parade of nasties the situation promised to lethal. Eventually, he spotted an opening and darted in with a killing strike on the moose thing. He punched through its midsection and got gored for his trouble.
Spike stared at the bloody hole in his side, wondering just where he was going to draw up the reserve energy for the next fight. “Just how many of these trials are there anyway?”
“As many as are necessary,” Rocky responded with infuriating calm.
Spike cursed himself for a fool. It was all a trick, a scam. He’d fight until one of these things killed him, there was no prize, just some sick game for the demon’s amusement. Spike doubted Rocky could even fulfill his request. Rather certain what answer he could expect Spike asked about the only out that seemed possible. “Hypothetically, if I did concede, what would happen?”
“You would be granted a swift death.” And that was exactly the answer he expected. Even though he believed opting for the slow, painful death merely served to entertain his host, Spike didn’t have it in him to simply give up.
“In that case, let’s get on with this.” Spike readied himself as much as he was able with his strength waning and his injuries making maintaining his feet, let alone fighting, difficult.
His next opponent was a two headed scabby thing with horns sticking every which way. It didn’t do any fresh damage before he ripped both heads off, but the ribs that had been aching now felt like liquid fire. Spike ventured a guess they were now officially broken, and that would slow him down to an unacceptable level. He found himself infinitely grateful that breathing was an optional activity for him. The foot he’d injured on flame boy protested his weight. More worrying, his other leg threatened to dump him summarily on his ass.
He kicked one head toward Rocky and tossed the other head at his feet. “Well that was a bloody doddle and a piece o’ piss,” he gasped out, agony shooting through him every time he took breath to speak. He was just about out of juice, and defiance could only sustain him so long. His leg buckled, forcing him to his knees. Unless his next bout involved taking candy from a very weak baby, the next fight would finish him. That didn’t mean he turned the attitude down any. If he had to crawl to his last bout, Rocky was not going to get the pleasure of watching him beg. No matter how much talking made his ribs scream he forced out his challenge. “You got any more ruddy tests for me, you ponce? I’ll take anything you can throw at me.”
The big demon looked down on him with disgust and Spike wished he possessed the energy to spit in the craggy face. Sadly, he had to make do with an insolent sneer. “Your final battle awaits you,” the demon intoned. “However, I have called a brief recess. You have a visitor, vampire.”
If big and ugly wanted to throw him off by confusing him, then the strategy was succeeding. A cave in the middle of Uganda was not the sort of place old friends popped in for a visit. Rocky stepped aside to reveal a tall figure scuffing the ground with his work boots. He bowed his head and looked up through the fringe of overgrown bangs like he expected Spike to yell at him.
Spike fully intended to yell at him, once he got over the shock. “Xander?”
A sheepish grin spread across Xander’s face. “Surprise?”