Chapter 37: Underground Travelers

May, 2001

When Dawn came home from school, she dropped her book bag at the bottom of the steps and headed for the kitchen, in search of a snack. “Spike! B minus in World Geography! Who's awesome, again?”

“Oh, yeah? Who'd you cheat off of?”

She followed his voice to the kitchen. “Very funny.”

“Your mum would be proud of you, Bit. That's a damned good turn around.”

She rummaged in the refrigerator. “I hope so. And I'm now officially on vacation, too! Ooh! Leftover Chicken Parmesan!”

Spike watched her plate her snack and put it in the microwave. “Do they ever feed you anything at that bloody school?”

“Nothing good. Have you gotten your afternoon check-in call yet?”

“Not yet. Friday's a late class. Another half hour, likely.” Spike closed the newspaper he'd been reading. “Bit, they think they were spotted yesterday, when they were leaving campus.”

“Yeah, they told me.” Dawn shrugged. “But you guys can take on those stupid knights. They're just human religious nuts, not the Hellgod herself.” She checked on her food, and then restarted the microwave. The silence behind her forced her to turn around. “What aren't you saying?”

“Eddie stopped by, just before sun up. Glory hit the knights' camp last night.”

“Good. Maybe they'll kill each other off.”

“She didn't take out many, though I gather it was a bit of a bloodbath. Most of 'em weren't even there.”

“Then where were they?”

“From what the hired help was able to gather, they'd gone to stake out other locations. Might have even been near here, for all we know. What we do know is the bloody bitch and her pets spent some time with the bloke whose marbles she'd already taken. Guess he was feeling chatty.”

Dawn stared at him, not noticing the microwave beeping behind her. “So there's a chance that...”

“If they think it's Glinda, so does she,” he finished.

She gulped. “But we don't know for sure if the knights have ID'd Tara. And even if they have, that doesn't mean the crazy one gave Glory any useful info. It's all just speculation. ...Right?”

“Things are gonna start happening soon, either way.” He gave her a hard look. “Need you to keep on your toes, Nibblet.”

Dawn saluted his stern demeanor. “Yes, Lieutenant.”

Spike broke into a smirk, just as the phone rang. “Earlier than I thought.” He answered the call. “Hello? ...Wait, wait. Catch your breath, pet. What, now? …Bloody hell.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Could mean they're close enough to wanna keep tabs on everyone. ...Pack a suitcase and sneak out. You're staying with us for the weekend. Don't need you there alone. We'll figure out the rest as we go along. ...Now, Watcher. Fast as you can.”

*~*~*

Buffy leaned against the tiny partition framing the payphone, watching Tara stand in line at a food vendor's booth twenty yards away. “Hey, Sparky.”

“You sound tired, love.”

“I was fighting the urge to nap through the entire lecture. I have no idea how Tara manages to stay alert through that professor's monotone, especially on Friday afternoons. This was his last chance to throw a verbal sleeping pill at them, and he held their exam results until the last minute. No wonder most of the class didn't show up. That guy is seriously evil. ...But I'll perk up soon. Tara's getting us some food at the multicultural fair before we head home.”

“Didn't think she'd wanna be anywhere near that fair, given the first time.”

“Me, neither. But she wants to prove to herself she can handle the tough stuff, so here we are.”

“Sure she's not trying to prove it to you, love?” Spike asked. “She knows you're not keen on her 'voluntary kidnapping' idea.”

“Spike, she was holding my hand when we walked out onto the quad, and it was shaking. This is about Tara proving things to Tara. Otherwise, why would she let me know she was scared?”

“Fair point.”

“So how is everything?”

“Rupert got Nibblet safe home from school and she's already on round two of her afternoon kitchen raid.”

“Geez. Where does she put all that food? And so fast? How long has she been home? Twenty minutes?”

“About thirty. And we got a call from Lydia a bit ago. She spotted one of Glory's pets trolling the halls of her building. Those buggers in broad daylight's not a good sign, love.”

“Yeah, that's pretty bold.”

“Don't know who they're looking for, but Anya and Harris are both at work.”

“Do you think they've decided to go after one of three of them?”

“Not sure. Told the little watcher to get her kit together and come stay with us, just in case.”

“Good. She'll be sa--” Buffy's words were cut off by a sharp pain at the back of her neck, as five painted fingernails dug into her flesh and a strong hand pressed against the top of her spine.

“Slayer? What's wrong?”

“Hi!” Glory said cheerily, standing close enough to Buffy to hide the vice grip she had on her neck from passersby. “Who ya talking to? Is that your snuggle bunny? Aww! Tell him I miss our little talks.”

Buffy didn't move.

“Is that...?” Spike's voice came through the receiver. “Buffy! Talk to me!”

Glory's voice turned from cheery to ominous. “Ok, fine. Then tell him this: I didn't need him, after all. I figured it out all on my own. And then tell him whatever magic is it that makes you flash white isn't going to save you.” She jerked the back of Buffy's head against the edge of the partition. “Tell him!” she hissed.

Buffy felt warm blood seeping from her scalp, and the fingernails digging deeper into her neck. She spoke into the phone, her voice coming in a rapid-fire whisper. “Lieutenant, run the chloroform play to second front. Use the house guest. Grenade party. I'll me--”

“What?!” Glory snatched the phone with her free hand. “Hey! What did she say?”

The call was immediately disconnected from the other end.

“What was that?” she demanded, crushing the receiver in her hand. “Was that some kind of code? What did you tell him to do?”

Buffy kept her lips tightly closed.

Across the crowded quad, Tara glanced over her shoulder as she stood in line. At the sight of Glory jerking Buffy's head back against the partition, Tara quickly slipped away, losing herself in the crowd. As soon as she was safely out of sight, she took off running, as fast as her legs could carry her.

The back of Buffy's head slammed into the edge of the payphone's partition for the third time. She thought she saw Tara disappear into a crowd of people just before Glory's face became the only thing in her field of vision. “I'm not playing games anymore, Buffy. I know your new best friend is what I'm looking for. And I know she never goes anywhere without you. Where is she?”

*~*~*

Spike hung up the phone and returned to the kitchen, where Dawn was munching on potato chips. She frowned at the expression on his face. “What's up?”

“Dawn, pack a bag. Now,” he ordered.

Seeing he was serious, she started down the hall without argument. “Where are we going? Where are Buffy and Tara?”

He pointed up the stairs. “Go. Need you out the door in five minutes.”

Two minutes later, Lydia's knock was answered by a shout. “Come in, pet!”

She let herself in, and left a small suitcase on the floor by the door. She followed the sound of shuffling paper to the dining room.

Spike had the phone to his ear while he dug around in the drawers of the sideboard, pulling out folded maps. “Bloody hell, Peaches. Never around when you're actually needed,” he said to the answering machine that picked up his call. “Sending someone to you for a few days. Take good care of her for us. Keep your guard up.” He ended the call and threw the phone across the dining table.

“What's the matter?” his guest asked.

“Looks like Glory's coming for the decoy.” He grabbed a pen from one of the open drawers and wrote an address on the cover of a map of Los Angeles. “Take Dawn to the Hyperion Hotel in LA. No one's answering, but make yourselves at home.”

“A hotel?”

“It's shut down. Angel owns it. He'll see that the Bit's protected.”

“Angelus? Are you sure that's wise?”

“I'm sure it's necessary.” Spike shoved the map into her hands as he brushed by her. “Get her out of town.” When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he shouted, “Nibblet! Now!”

Dawn came thundering down the stairs a minute later with a backpack slung over one shoulder.

“You got everything?”

“Clothes, bathroom stuff, journals, a few CDs, and sharp knife. Now tell me where we're going.”

“I'm not going with you.” Spike grabbed her by the upper arms, and looked her in the eye. “Dawn, she's coming. Lydia's gonna take you to Angel's. Don't kick up a fuss, and don't come home 'til you hear it's safe. You understand me?”

Her eyes were wide with fear as she nodded. “Are Buffy and Tara alright?”

“I don't know.” Spike eased his grip on her as he swallowed back his fear. “I hope so.”

She pulled him into a hug. “Be safe.”

“You, too.”

Dawn turned away and nodded to the watcher “Come on, Lydia.” She gave Spike one last look as she opened the door. “Everything will be ok when I come home, right?”

“As good as we can get it.” Spike glanced at Lydia. “One second.” He darted into the living room, popped open the weapons chest, and came back with one of Buffy's favorite swords. He handed it to the watcher. “Keep our girl safe.”

As soon as the door closed behind them, he was back in the dining room, putting the battery back into the phone he'd thrown. He dialed a number from memory as he headed down to the basement.

“Magic Box.”

“Anyanka, close up shop. Call Harris. Need you two to pack for the weekend and head to the bunker. He knows where it is. Run by the grocer on the way, grab some things. Naught but pig's blood and dry goods down there. Get us some basics.”

“Um... Ok... Do we need ice and coolers? Is there a fridge?”

“Fridge, microwave, camp stove. Did Rupert head over there after the school run?” Spike pulled his duffel bag from the bottom drawer of the dresser.

“Uh, yeah. He's right here.”

The scythe case went into the bottom of the duffel. “Put him on.”

“Hey, Giles? Spike wants to talk to you. I'll be on the office phone.”

“Spike?”

“Rupert, time to bug out.” He opened the other drawers and threw some items from each into the duffel. “'Fore you leave the shop, check 'round the training room and the store room. Might have one of Glory's minions lurking about. You find one, bring him with you. We need to know what she knows.”

“Where are we going?”

“My old crypt. There's a place to hide there. Bring a couple days' worth of clothes and whatnot.”

“And how exactly are you going to get to--” Giles looked over his shoulder, suddenly paranoid of being overheard. “--there this time of day?”

“I'll manage.” He flung open the wardrobe.

“What aren't you saying? Where's Buffy?”

“Buffy's with the bloody bitch. Outdoors.” Spike started shoving aside hangers, looking for certain familiar articles of clothing.

“Oh, dear lord.”

“Slayer knows where to go, and she'll get there. Just the same, might be on the verge of disaster, here. Not sure inviting the wayward witch home can make it worse.” Clothes were jerked off their hangers.

“I'll put in a call to the sanctuary. Are you sure you want her involved?”

“I think we'll need her. Promised Glinda we'd call if we did. Gonna make run through the sewers near the university. Should be at the crypt by the time you are. See you soon.”

Spike ended the call and tossed the phone onto the bed. He finished packing the duffel, then ran upstairs. Leaving the bag by the front door, he ran up the other flight to Tara's room. He yanked an oversized messenger bag from the hook on the back of the door, and threw in two days worth of clothes. He detoured to the master bathroom to grab some toiletries, figuring Tara and Buffy could share. He was back downstairs, slipping into his duster, within three minutes. He slung one bag over each shoulder, grabbed the wool blanket from behind the umbrella stand, and hurried out of the house, bound for the nearest manhole cover.

The hatch to the crypt was opened with a slam, jolting Eddie awake.

A breathless Tara came down the ladder, visibly shaking. When her feet hit the floor, she turned to the young vampire with tears in her eyes. “Eddie,” she gasped, nearly breathless from running. “We've got trouble.”

He ran to her side, and led her to a chair. “Are you ok, Tara? Where are Spike and Buffy?”

“I-- I panicked. I saw she was with Buffy, and I... I left her there. I ran.”

“She? The Hellgod?”

Tara nodded. “Buffy was on the phone with Spike. I don't know if she was able to tell him...” She grabbed his sleeve. “I left her, Eddie. Alone.”

*~*~*

Eddie's head poked up from the open hatch. “Tara, it's some old guy in a tweed jacket.”

“Giles?” came a voice from below.

“Giles?” Eddie echoed. “Is that your name? You have an ugly prisoner.”

“Yes, young man, I'm Rupert Giles. Who are you?”

“I'm Eddie.” He started to back down the ladder. “Push the prisoner down to me, then your bags.”

With a shrug to himself, Giles complied. Jinx, bound and gagged, was lifted and dropped straight down through the hole, landing in Eddie's arms. Eddie put Jinx on his feet and lifted his hands in time to catch a book satchel and an overnight case. By the time Giles had negotiated the ladder, closing the hatch behind him, Tara was holding Jinx at sword point, and Eddie was digging through a drawer full of weapons, trying to unearth the rope that had once been used to tie the vampire himself to a chair.

Tara looked relieved at Giles' presence. “If you're here, Buffy must have gotten word to Spike.”

“She did, but I'm unclear about the details. I was told to check my shop for this miscreant, and to come here.” He looked around. “What is this place?”

“Spike and Buffy's emergency bunker. I live here. Sort of like a caretaker.” Eddie looked up at the ceiling. “More company. Two heartbeats.” He tossed the rope to Giles and went toward the ladder. He brought forth his demon face, sniffing.

“Good lord,” Giles exclaimed. “Tara, back away.”

“It's ok, Giles. Eddie is Spike and Buffy's... um...”

“Minion,” Eddie finished. “It's ok to say it.” He sniffed again, just as the hatch opened. “Xander?”

“Eddie! We've got a bunch of grocery bags up here, buddy. Catch?”

“Ok.” Eddie's demon face disappeared as he started catching bags and handing them off to Tara.

Giles watched the vampire carefully as he tied Jinx to a chair. “I had been assured Spike was not hunting at all,” he mumbled.

Eddie caught two gym bags, and backed away, so Anya and Xander could come down the ladder. “Spike's not my sire,” he said to Giles. “Not directly. I'm from his clan's minion line, that's all. He and Buffy just kind of... adopted me. They let me stay here and give me money for the butcher.”

While Tara began putting away the groceries, Xander dropped into a chair. He gestured to Jinx. “Hey, G-man. Nice bunker-warming present you brought with you.”

“So you're Eddie, huh?” Anya patted Eddie on the head as she passed him. “Xander's right. The littlest vampire is like a puppy.”

Eddie looked offended. “Hey! I can be scary. I fought a slayer!”

Xander laughed. “A slayer who didn't stake you out of pity.”

“I still survived,” the vampire pouted. “So is the Hellgod why everyone is here?”

Anya shrugged. “All I got was a cryptic phone call from Spike, ordering me to call Xander and bring food. Giles? What did he say to you?”

“That Buffy was facing off with Glory, and that I should put a call in to Althenea.”

“Willow?” Tara asked.

Giles glanced at his watch. “She should be teleported in about five minutes.”

Spike came in through the sewer entrance. He tossed Tara's messenger bag into her hands. “What the hell happened, Glinda?”

She sank into a chair, holding her bag to her chest like a child with a stuffed toy. “I-- I freaked. I was a little away from Buffy when she called you. I looked over, saw Glory was with her... and I ran. I didn't even stay long enough to try to help her. I'm so sorry... I just panicked.”

“Suppose it's probably for the best, anyway. You getting snatched isn't anyone's first choice for playing this out.” Spike put his duffel on the bed and dug down to the bottom of the bag, pushing aside clothes so he could pull the scythe case out. “Headed out the second the sun sets. Who's with me?”

Anya held up a hand for pause. “Hang on a second. If you're here, and Buffy's out getting her ass kicked by Glory... Where's Dawn?”

“Gone. Had Lydia take her out of town. The general's idea, just before the bitch took the phone.”

Xander's eyes went wide. “And you think Glory's not going to take that as a big, obvious tip off as to who the Key is?”

“The order was in code, Harris. Something only I would understand. Told me to send them off and get you lot here.”

“Are you sure Glory wouldn't figure it out?” Anya asked. “I mean, you guys might be great with weapons, but Navajo Code Talkers you aren't.”

Spike raised an eyebrow. “See if you can figure it out, then. She said, “Run the chloroform play to second front. Use the house guest. Grenade party.'”

This was met with confused silence.

“That's what I thought.” Spike's bravado faded as he sat on the edge of the bed beside the scythe case. “Bloody long wait 'til sunset.” He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his forehead resting against his palms. “Where are you, love?” he whispered.

“So how does this code work?” Anya asked, taking a seat on a mattress.

Giles threw her a glare. “I don't think now is the time, Anya.”

“Sure it is. He needs a distraction. We all do. What's the code?”

Tara put down her bag. “No, what we need is a locator spell.” She went around to the other side of the bed and opened a drawer.

As she began pulling out supplies, Spike slowly looked up. He sniffed. He stood up, walked to the middle of the room, and sniffed again. “Fledge?”

Eddie brought forth his demon face and sniffed. He shrugged. “What?”

“It's faint, but I'm sure...” Spike went back to the bed, opened the scythe case, and pulled out both weapons. “Harris?”

“Sure. I'm with you.” Xander took one of the scythes and followed Spike toward the sewer entrance.

Anya called after them. “Wait! Where are you going?”

Spike's voice echoed into the sewers. “To find my wife.”

Willow arrived with a white flash, holding a suitcase, just after the two men left the bunker. She looked around. “Um... aren't we missing some people? Like half of them? And who is this guy?”

Tara drew her into a hug. When she pulled back, she explained. “Willow, meet Eddie. Spike and Xander just hit the sewers to look for Buffy. Lydia's taken Dawn out of town until the crisis has past.”

Willow's eyebrows shot up. “We've misplaced our slayer?”

*~*~*

The scent grew stronger as they walked the tunnels. Spike increased the pace.

Xander struggled to keep up. “What do you smell?”

“Slayer blood.” Spike sniffed at a ladder leading up to a manhole cover. “She was here. On the ladder, but no further... Like she came down and went right back up.”

Xander frowned. “Why would she do that? She was almost to the bu--”

“Bloody hell, love.” Spike whispered, zeroing in on the source of the scent. He pointed it out.

Xander peered at the wall behind the ladder. “Is that what I think it is?”

Spike's stomach dropped as he read the message. Buffy had written 'KoB' in her own blood on the wall. He started back toward the bunker. “Gotta get back, get everyone geared up.”

“Spike, what's going on?”

“She must've gotten clear of Glory, but somehow picked up the Knights of Byzantium. The blood's a warning, so we'd be ready. If she can't shake 'em, she's gonna bring a war to our door.”

*~*~*

“The great Glorificus is coming for her Key. You will all suffer for withholding it from her. That is all you need to know,” Jinx said again.

With a growl of frustration, Spike slammed his open hand against the wall of the tunnel. “Rupert, why don't you head back up to the bunker? Think I might be able to get some answers out of him.”

Giles looked worriedly into the amber eyes of the vampire. “What are you going to do?”

“Got a few ideas. You weren't the first man Angelus ever tied to a chair, you know.”

Fifteen minutes later, Spike returned to the bunker, carrying a length of coiled rope and a metal folding chair. He returned the chair to its place by the table, and returned the rope to its drawer. Every eye in the room watched him in tense silence.

Anya was the first to give voice to the obvious conclusion. “The body isn't close enough to stink up this place, is it?”

“No.” The drawer was kicked closed. “Glinda, we're good. Everyone looks to have fallen for it, and none of 'em likely know anything else.”

“Thank the goddess.” Tara fell back against the mattress on which she sat. “So no one's looking for Dawnie?”

“Not as far as I can tell.”

Willow looked back and forth between them. “Can someone fill me in?”

“Um, Wils, don't get mad, but...” Xander looked at his shoes. “Tara's our decoy. She's wearing a glamour that makes crazy people think she's the Key.”

Willow jumped up from her place beside Tara. She turned around, looking at everyone around her. “You're using my girlfriend as bait? For a Hellgod?

Xander looked at Tara as she sat back up. “Told ya.”

“Willow, sweetie. This was my idea.” Tara kept her voice low and calm. “This could not only keep Dawn safe, but it might even save the world. My blood isn't going to open any portals for her.”

“You... You expect her to try?”

Tara nodded. “This is going to get worse before it gets better, Willow. The Knights believe killing the Key is the best way to stop Glory. Glory wants the Key for herself, of course. We already know how the Knights know... Spike? What did he say? Did the knight she victimized tip her off?”

“More like confirmed a guess. You were already on the radar. Glory's spies have been watching you for a while. Staying at our house, rarely seen out without Buffy at your side, all of that.”

“It took them long enough to notice!” Anya put in. “We've been working the escort plan for months!”

Months?!” Willow turned on her girlfriend. “And you never mentioned it?”

“And last night, that brain-sucked knight told her how shiny the slayer's new best friend is. Congrats, Glinda. The glamour's done its job. You're officially in play.”

Eddie raised his hand. “Can I ask a question? If this Glory was after Tara, and Buffy was just the person with her, why is Tara here and Buffy... not?”

“Because Glory's never actually seen me herself,” Tara explained. “I'm sure she has a good description, but she came looking for us at a bad time, from her perspective. We were in a crowded area, and had split up so Buffy could check in with Spike while I got us a snack. Glory knows Buffy on sight. But I wasn't right next to her, like I usually am. I was just a face in the...” She gulped. “How much of a beating did she take to protect me?”

Spike crouched in front of her and took her hands between his own. “She's still moving, pet,” he said softly, trying to comfort them both. “Still on her feet.”

“At least she was when she popped down a manhole, bleeding enough to use her blood for ink. And that was at least an hour ago.” Anya looked around at the dark expressions being thrown her way. “What? We're all thinking it. If Buffy was just trying to lose some medieval guys on foot, in a town she knows better than the city planners do, it wouldn't have taken this long.”

*~*~*

Buffy ducked into a dead end alley. She stayed perfectly still for a minute, listening. At first, all she could hear was the pounding pain in her own head. Then, just around the corner, on the narrow side street from which she'd come, she heard the distinctive rattle of chain mail. She hid behind a dumpster. Footsteps came closer, slow and deliberate, accompanied by metallic rattling. As the sound grew distant again, she dared to peek out. One of the knights was still standing at the opening of the alley, the light of the late afternoon sun reflecting off his armor. She scanned the buildings around her. A set of fire escape stairs that went all the way to the roof. A few connected buildings. She struggled to concentrate around the pains in her head and neck, trying to gauge the viability of the plan.

With one more glance at the mouth of the alley, she made a run for the stairs, hearing shouts behind her as she climbed. When she reached the rooftop, she ran, jumping over the low brick walls separating the flat roofs of the buildings. By the time she'd spotted another fire escape, her pursuers were on the roof she'd first climbed to. She jumped off the fire escape as soon as she was low enough to take the impact, and bolted for the park, forcing herself to fight through the lightheaded feeling caused by the rapid movement. The shouts above her told her she'd been spotted, and her destination was known.

Buffy disappeared behind the treeline, stopping to catch her breath and attempt to shake off the raging pains and persistent pounding. She followed the trees that edged the park, keeping the street in sight. When she spotted a manhole cover, she slipped out to the road, hid behind a parked car, and listened. None of the pursuing steps sounded close. She stole a peek around the fender, then ran. She got into the sewers as quickly and quietly as she could. She stopped again to listen. The foot steps didn't seem to be getting closer. They thought she was still in the park.

She climbed down the ladder, and into a section of the Sunnydale sewer system she didn't recognize. “Shit. Now what?” she whispered to herself. “Sparky, I could really use the maps you keep in your head right now.” She took a deep breath to center her thoughts, and immediately regretted it. “Ugh. Speaking of shit... Ok. That road runs north to south, and matches this tunnel. The drainage runs west. Restfield is northwest of here. Or is it northeast? I can't think straight. Stupid payphone... Northwest? Maybe. I am so, so screwed.” She started walking north, for lack of a better idea, peering up through storm grates as she passed under them, hoping to get her bearings.

As she went from pursued to wandering, the adrenaline began to ebb away, and the pain of her injuries became difficult to ignore. Still feeling lightheaded, but desperate to keep moving, she kept a hand on the horizontal pipes lining the tunnels, hoping they were strong enough to use as handrails.

After what felt like hours of walking, the faint signature of a vampire wandering the sewers with her came into range, getting closer with each of her slow steps. She called out, “I don't care who you are. If you bring me an Excedrin, I'll give you a pass.”

The signature came closer, bringing with it a hint of familiarity. “Buffy?” a voice called back.

“Eddie? Is that you? Where the hell am I?”

“Stay put. I'm almost to you.” A few seconds later, Eddie came into view, only a few yards from where she was standing. “Um, just so you know, you smell fantastic.”

She attempted a glare. “Don't get any ideas, kid. I'm not dead yet.”

He beckoned for her to come to him. “But I have Excedrin. And a bunker full of humans who are really worried about you. They've had a second witch teleported in, and everything. That was pretty cool. But they can't track you. Their locator spells aren't working for some reason.”

She walked beside him, barely resisting the urge to lean on his small frame, instead leaning more heavily on the pipe on her other side. “Where's Spike?”

“He's with them. He's pacing a lot. He came looking for you earlier, but had to go back. He said you might bring the knights with you when you came, so he had to stay there.” Eddie looked over his shoulder. “I don't hear anything.”

“I lost them. But I'm glad he got my message.” Buffy paused, fighting off a wave of dizziness. “Tell me the truth, Eddie. How bad is the head wound?”

He stepped behind her. “Um, it looks like you lost a lot of blood, and most of it stayed in your hair. It's kinda gross looking, even to me. But still...”

She sighed. “Lovely. You've fed recently, right?” There was no response. “Eddie, walk in front of me, please. I can practically hear you drooling back there.”

He trudged in front of her with his head down, meekly leading the way. “Sorry. I told you...”

“I smell fantastic, I know. I'm dinner at the Ritz.”

When her knees gave out a few minutes later, her hand slipped between the pipe and the wall, catching her by the wrist. “Whoa!” She was caught before she hit the damp tunnel floor, and pivoted to lean against the wall in a crouch instead. “How much further?”

“Not too far. Spike should be able to smell you in another quarter mile.”

She bowed her head, her blood-matted hair on full display. “I'm not sure I can make it that far. Run ahead. Bring help.”

He hesitated. “Um, maybe I shouldn't leave you here alone.”

Buffy brought her head up, and gave him the sternest look she could manage. “Eddie. Get Spike. Now.”

As he ran down the tunnel, she bowed her head again, trying to find a position that made the pounding in her brain and the ringing in her ears lessen. “I can hang on for a few more minutes,” she whispered to herself. “He will come for me. A few more minutes...” She passed out, crouching against the sewer wall. Her wrist was still hooked behind the pipe, holding her up.





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