Chapter 10 – The Blackest Plains in Hell's Domain:
Disclaimer: Do I really need to say it again? Not mine, never was, never will be.
AN1: Sorry this chapter took so long to get out, but I kept writing and rewriting the battle scenes. Finally, I'm happy with it and so….. here it is.
AN2: Special thanks to Lady for her review and the maps of the Underground she gave me. They helped me get a clear image of what is going on. So, 'Thank You'. Any mistakes you see are totally mine.
What was he expecting? That the demons would be stupid enough to run face first into a brick wall and crack their skulls open? As sweat and nastier things ran down his neck, Xander allowed the sarcastic remark to gain substance for a moment before throwing it as hard as he could into the recesses of his mind; it would really embarrassing if his internal punning caused him to lose focus and die. How would he explain that to anyone? 'Well, I was being chased like a rabbit by a bunch of demons on steroids and I realized how funny the situation was… Um…I guess you had to be there to get the humor.' That! That was exactly what needed to stop happening! 'Focus, brain, focus.'
Daring to stop, Xander released all the air from his lungs and tried desperately to slow the pounding of his heart. His armor was covered in vile fluids that didn't bare thinking about; his rifle was dry, three of the hand guns were lost in his mad flight, most of the knives were still with him, the throwing stars were almost gone, and Mortifera was still strapped to his back. She had yet to clear her sheath; most of the fighting so far had been at a distance. That wouldn't be true for long, he was running low on projectiles and the demons were getting closer, the noose around his neck growing tighter.
After provoking the mass of demons, Xander had left the building, winding his way down to the ground floor. He had made it out the doorway and into the street with relative ease. The demons behind him weren't so lucky. Loud screeches and howls emanated from the structure, their hard flesh being shredded by razor wire and falling through floorboards into pits of sharpened spikes. A thrill of joy driving him forward, Xander darted immediately for the alley across the street, hoping to confuse his pursuers, the ones that were still alive at least. But before he could even enjoy the moment, whispers started filling the shadows, telling him of another cluster of demons that were merely a block or two to the south.
As the cries from the demons faded away, a new sound took its place.
This was not what they'd been expecting. Upon entering the tunnels below the surface, the huge battle they envisioned never occurred. A few stabs, some bullets, and game over, that was it. After everything, was this all there was to victory?
'Apparently not,' Nix thought as his spear caught the throat of yet another diseased monkey, 'what's that now, eleven or twelve, I can't remember'. It didn't take much to put them down; they were extremely stupid, relying on large numbers to win. Beside him, her blond hair coiled in a firm braid, Yvonne hurled vials into their midst, silent as the rising vapors turned the demons' toxicity against them and their bodies collapsed under the weight of bleeding lesions. It wasn't pretty, but damn if it wasn't effective in a three meter radius.
So far, after Yvonne and he had split from Pollux and Ann Marie, the two of them had only fought lone demons when they came across some. The hallways of the Underground station were dirty and covered in the residue of past battles: blood, bullets, and burns. It was clear that they were not the first group to come this way, and in the morbid part of his head Nix wondered what fate that claimed those that had come before. Nothing good, if the occasional distinctly human remains they happened across were to be believed.
This had been the largest group the two had seen yet. What had once been a formidable group of several imps, an energy-stealing specter, zombies, and plague monkeys was whittled down to just the scavengers. From their position next to each other, it was a simple thing to finish off the remaining diseased mammals.
In the calm that followed, Yvonne quickly patched up his wounds while he returned the favor. Neither required any serious first aid but they didn't want the smell of fresh blood to attract and alert the demons before they had a chance to kill them. While impatiently waiting for the blond to finish her task, a shuffling noise drew his attention to corner that lay in front of them at the end of the hall.
Jerking out of Yvonne's hands, Nix brought one of his guns up and moved along the side of the hall, eyes open for any further motion. The noise ceased as he crept closer. Coming up on to the junction, a body slammed into the floor before him. As Nix rounded the corner, he fired.
Gareth knew his part was nearing its end. There was nothing left to do. All the pieces were in place, all the knots were tied, and only one option remained open to him. Wait. Here in the darkened shade of dead trees and broken childhood dreams, everything would be won or lost. All he had to do was wait. Wait for a morning that would never come, a deliverance that he would never see. Wait for the terror and the exhaustion to pull him under. Wait. Wait for the demons. Wait for the battle. Wait for Xander.
Wait for the end.
Right at the same moment that Gareth was prophesizing their doom, Pollux was cursing. He was surrounded by monsters, each one a different breed, all of them wanting their bit of flesh. His sword swung through limbs and necks as they were offered but they kept coming. The injuries they incurred did nothing to alter their determination to rind him into titty-bitty pieces, probably while he was still alive. 'That would really suck.'
At first, Ann Marie and he had no problems, killing the few packs of demons they met. Eventually, the groups had gotten larger and larger until he was separated from his brother's girl. Then, each of them was on their own. Unfortunately, as more demons poured in, the distance between him and Ann Marie grew until he couldn't see her anymore. The only reason Pollux knew she was still alive was because he wasn't fighting in complete darkness. As Ann Marie moved further away, so did the green light that she activated after Nix and Yvonne had taken the other with them. If she died, the light would go with her and leave Pollux alone in the dark with the monsters. 'You'd better not die on me!'
So, standing there in the catacomb of halls, with hampered vision and enemies pressing on all sides, Pollux was not overwhelmingly surprised when one got through his guard and sent him sailing towards the other side of his circle of demons. What was a surprise was that, instead of landing on the demons, the force of the hit bowled them over and he kissed the bare concrete a few feet away.
Thankful for the opportunity, Pollux grabbed the sword that had made the journey with him and one of his guns. It was the sharp sound of a bullet that brought his plans to a halt.
If Xander thought his days of fleeing from danger in Sunnydale and his sequential banishment to a place where running for your life was an hourly occurrence had prepared him for this particular journey, the boy was dead wrong. Well, he wasn't dead yet but all the signs clearly indicated that he'd be exiting the mortal coil in very short order. Good thing the fighter in question sucked at probabilities and didn't know exactly what 'the mortal coil' was.
He had traversed the roofs and floors of a half dozen buildings, leading his pursuers into steadily more and more devastating traps painstaking set up earlier by Gareth. Of those six buildings, only two were still standing. He'd have to talk with the old man about that; they couldn't let the demons think they would all get off that easy. The remaining buildings were a testament to human ingenuity; maybe someday they would be turned into a museum for the tourists from hell. Look kiddies, see how clever the monkeys can be? In a final attempt to save their worthless hides, the humans had created a nifty maze riddled with deadly tricks like impalement, flamethrowers, and acid baths.
Seeing a twisted sign pointing to his destination, Xander willed his legs to go just a little faster. Dead end, the rusted letters spelled out for him. Nearly flying past his marker, his free hand reached out and activated the last present Gareth had rigged for him. With the roar of fire and whistling shrapnel in his ears, Xander headed for the abandoned playground where the older man waited for him. Together they would face the coming hordes. And then the fun would really begin.
If you had asked Pollux what he loved most about his brother at this moment the sword-wielding twin would have said his anger management issues. Sure, it had gotten them into more fucking trouble than he could count sometimes, but watching his reflection open fire on the group of demons that had happily been kicking his ass twenty seconds ago was doing wonders to change that attitude. That the woman Nix cared about was on the other side of the crowd also seemed to be driving the man onward with a vengeance.
As the blonde that had accompanied his brother moved forward and helped him up, Pollux couldn't help but envy the cathartic release his twin got from pummeling his enemies. Sure, Pollux loved a good brawl but Nix was a simple enough man that bloodshed and violence soothed him to his core. Glancing at the woman helping him, he shot her a quick smile.
"So, ready to go have some fun?"
The dry tone was nearly lost in the growing clamor of battle.
Men. Why in the hell had god created men, Ann Marie wondered to herself was she caught Pollux's brief impression of a bird as he flew over the heads of several demons. He was just like his brother, always getting banged up and thrown around, then proceeding to stand up again and repeat the process. That adequately described Gareth and Xander too; nutters the lot of them were. And who did they think was going to be patching them up later? Her, that's who; she would have to take the time and sew, staple, and glue the men back together. Maybe if she threatened to make them into Siamese twins next time they got hurt, they'd be more careful. And then the squid demons in the sky would turn into rainbows and candy canes would fall from the heavens.
Snorting, Ann Marie brought her big jump up to stomach level and let it rip. Her blessed ammo ripped threw the demons around her much more effectively than her ole shotgun; she hadn't wanted to accidentally hit Pollux with a discharge so she hadn't used the semi-automatic sooner. Now that he was out of the way, she was free to do what she did best: pull a trigger and blow shit all to hell. There was no sound quite like the wails of monsters as bullets shredded them to shit.
Demons fell. By twos and threes and in great clumps, demons fell to the floor. Some were twitching spastically in their final death throws and others were dead before the bullets exited their flesh. At some point Nix had met up with his lady love and together the machine gun wielding duo cut down their enemies with gleeful efficiency. Ann Marie couldn't help but smile as she watched her man yell challengingly at the few remaining monsters; several clips had diminished the mass to a scant half dozen. Nix's sword cleared its sheath as he dove headlong into the clamor; five minutes later, the demons were history and the pair were locked in a more intimate duel.
A wail of despair that was shockingly brief brought Ann Marie out of her lustful stupor. Twirling around to search for the source of the noise, she saw Pollux's spear pinning a lizard beat to the wall. Yvonne had one hand over her face to stifle what sounded like laughter. With a manly grunt of effort and a flex of tricep, the wet splat of a body hitting bloodstained ground was heard.
"So, next time you try to suck my brother's tonsils out, do you think you could make sure all the demons are dead first?"
A tilted eyebrow accompanied the honeyed statement. If she had been that kind of woman, Ann Marie might have blushed. Instead she did the adult thing: turned and pointed at Nix.
"He started it!"
Xander was done. Finished. There was no way they were gonna accomplish it. Demons he could handle. Bloody battles he had no hope in the Hellmouth of winning were cake walks. But it was this moment that made his stomach turn and his vision waiver in and out of focus.
A slightly whiney tone reverberated the war-harden man's tone. He stood covered in bandages and his right arm was splinted to his chest; Xander moved to hover over Gareth's bed. The older man looked much worse, his head wrapped in gauze and missing his left leg from the knee down. Not even temporarily loosing his sight or permanently loosing his leg could keep Gareth from laughing at the pathetic boy. Xander and he had survived their suicidal plan to confront the remainder of the demon forces searching for them. Despite their best efforts to get themselves killed by playing bait and facing the demons with only the two of them, they were still alive. Banged up but alive, thanks to their friends having finished clearing out the underground station with less difficulty than expected and coming to save their asses. Still, they had triumphed and had the clean up to prove it.
"But I can't help scrub away the demon goo and blood. I'm hurt." Frantically waving his damaged arm like a deranged chicken, Xander tried to weasel…er… respectfully bow out of the work.
A bang, muffled curses and several cries of 'Xander' spoken with varying degrees of menace sufficiently answered his plea. Shoulders dropping, he walked to the door.
The last thing Gareth heard as the noises Xander was making faded away was, "You'd think coming up with and executing a brilliant plan to ensure we had to survive would get a man a day off."