AN: This is the beginning of a sequel to Solid Ground, so you might be a little lost if you haven't at least briefly skimmed that story. Thanks to Claddagh for the review that really prompted me to get working on this and illyria13 for her inspiration. All mistakes are mine! All Mine!

AN2: Set post Season 2 for CSI: New York and BtVS. Torture and AU ahead!

Disclaimer: Do any of us own it? Not freaking likely.

Prologue – Waking the Demon:

The night had been busy. Almost a week ago, Buffy had ridden into Meridian, Mississippi, hoping for a quick slay so she could continue her trip to Denver. At least Denver resembled civilization; calling Meridian a town was being generous. Regardless, a week had gone by before she was in a position to consider moving on. It wasn't that the vamp she was after was particularly powerful or old, but he had a tenacity that Buffy hadn't seen since Spike. Only, instead of attacking her at every chance, the vampire had avoided her like the plague. Which, okay, she was a Slayer, that didn't mean he needed to run away like a sissy did it?

The first two evenings into her stay in town had seen an end to the small vampire population, including four minions of the vamp she was chasing. For the next few nights Buffy vented her frustrations on every demon she came across, making sure to leave one or two alive to spread the news of the reason a Slayer was here. Normally, there she would have kept an eye out for some nonviolent demons, besides not wanting to kill something that didn't need it; peaceful demons were her best sources of information. But there were none. Apparently even the good bogeymen thought this place was too boring for words.

Just as the sun had set on the fifth day, a timid knock came from the door of her cheap and crusty motel room. Honestly, I've been to hells that were nicer than this; has anyone in this state heard of hygiene? The noise startled Buffy from her criticisms. Showtime. She crossed the room and opened the door, not bothering to check the peephole; her senses had already told her what was on the other side. Standing there, looking as sheepish as possible for a demon that looked like the offspring of Bigfoot and the thing from Jeepers Creepers. (A movie supposedly based on a true story that, after it came out, had Buffy driving all over the back highways in Poho County looking for the flying monster, wanting to prove to Lorne that it was too real!) Needless to say, it wasn't doing a very good job. Still, it wasn't here to kill her, otherwise why the hell would it knock?

Cujo had finally gathered its courage and smiled at her. If Buffy had been anyone but who she was, the sight of all those three inch long sharp teeth might have frightened her. Reality being what it was, she patiently waited for her visitor to get on with it.

"Slayer, I have come this eve at the behest of my kind to negotiate a cease in the hostilities between us."

Although the words were distorted by the demon's teeth, rasped and creepy sounding, Buffy understood just fine. Leaning against the door way, she considered its request for a moment.

"Why would I do that? Your kind has been feeding on and killing humans, not to mention causing large amounts of property damage. I've been thinking about extending my time here. Who knows, in a few months, I might have completely wiped out the demon population. That would be a nice gold star to place on my resume, don't you think?"

The demon winced at the idea of the Slayer staying in town for months. Things had been great before she'd come along, and now most demons just wanted to get through this visit alive and mostly intact.

"It has come to our attention that you search for a specific demon, a vampire by called Herbert."

Taking a moment to wrinkle his snout at the shame brought to all demons by such a name, Byn'vth, as he was known to his tribe, went on.

"I know where he is."

The statement hung in the air between them, each knowing that this would only end one way: blood and dust. Who would suffer this fate was there was to determine.

"I could make you tell me."

The flat, emotionless tone matched the cold look that stole over Buffy's youthful face. She was every inch a Slayer in that moment, ruthless and unstoppable in pursuit of her prey. A different change overcame the demon; his smiled stretched even wider across his face, lips pulling back to revel ever more teeth.

"And I could lie."

So there they were demon and Slayer, murderer and killer, destruction and decimation. Both strong and powerful in their own right, both with a goal to accomplish, both wanting to see the other beaten down and defeated, two more pawns in a battle as old as the world itself. The warriors faced their opponent on a field of blades and judgment, nodding in respect at what they saw.

"The one you seek has fled into the woods outside town."

The small concession by the demon allowed some of the tension to recede from the atmosphere. Instead of the manic battle-lust, a feeling of anticipation was growing between both parties.

"There are a lot of woods around here. It would take a long time for me to search them all."

A snort that was more a growl than anything escaped the demon. He was glad the Slayer had seen the game right away; he had no patience for the dim-witted, of any species.

"In the event an agreement is made between us, someone will lead you to the place."

"Don't you mean into an ambush? I was a blond several dyes ago, and I wasn't stupid then."

"I would be giving you my word as a demon, one of the child of Azathoth, that my intentions are truthful."

Giving the woman in the doorway a look that said much, the demon went on.

"Besides, we are not the only beings with a thirst for violence and a history of deception."

The old Buffy Summers of Sunnydale would have been offended by the implications of the last statement and mocked the former. But she was not that girl anymore. Buffy had seen and done things that the little girl she had been wouldn't have, no matter the reason. In her travels, as Isabel and other names, she had come to understand that even the worst of demons had a type of honor that guided them; it seemed oathbreaking was a sin even evil was not willing to allow. So, she understood the seriousness of what the demon was offering. Moreover, Buffy understood that if she wanted to maintain the respect this demon had for her, here were things she would have to guarantee in return.

"Okay. Let's bargain."

"Let us bargain."

The next night saw Buffy and the demon, whom she was still calling Cujo in her mind, meeting in the parking a lot of a 24 hour Stop-N-Go gas station at the edge of town. Her motorcycle was the only mode of transportation there. Inside the building she could see a clerk moving around stocking things on shelves, not many people were out getting gas at 11 o'clock in the dark. As she waited for her 'escort', Buffy stretched and removed her weapons from the specialty saddle bags on the bike. They were what Mika, the

blue-tinted daughter of Mika's mother's one night stand with dimension traveling insurance agent, called Tiny Tesseracts, a misnomer if she'd ever heard one. Although spatial manipulations were a well studied area of magic and technology, trying to contain and stabilize such phenomena was a migraine at best and a world-vaporizing catastrophe at worst. So, not wanting to have to explain to the PTB exactly why she had caused the world to end, Buffy had gone to Mika, then just an apprentice sorceress with radical ideas, for her opinion. When she had told the blue girl that she wanted an easy way to transport all her crap, mainly weapons, across the country with her, Mika had told her 'no problem' and handed over the saddle bags. Which, it turns out, weren't a fold in the space and time of the universe but a portable door that opened into several of Buffy's weapons caches around the country. Much less dangerous that way, the whole encounter had taken five minutes; a fact that made her highly suspicious until Mika had told her that she had a little bit of Seeing talent, a gift from her father, that had let her know who was coming to her and why. Buffy had ended up spending over two months hanging out with the half-human girl before leaving.

Shaking her thoughts out of the past, Buffy pulled her favorite pair of matched short swords out of her bags, Run and Catch, along with several stakes. Sometimes the old ways really were best. As she re-sealed her bags, Cujo loped out of the darkness around gas station and stood a few meters away from her.

"At your word, we depart."

"Lead on."

"Very well. Follow me, Slayer. Into the trees. Into the dark."

If Herbert the cowardly vampire had been afraid of the Slayer before, he would be wetting his pants right about now. It seems there was something about trekking through the marshes and woods of the Mississippi countryside that didn't appeal to the petite warrior. They were deeper into the woods than either one expected; Herbert really did not want to be found. Tough karma, not only was the Slayer after blood, but Byn'vth also noticed an increase in his irritation at the leech. Hours alone in the wilderness with the Slayer for company were not any demon's idea of a good time. Neither of them was willing to break the quiet, senses stretched to the max, listening, smelling, looking, and feeling into the night around them.

It was hard to say whose attention was caught first. With nary a pause, the Slayer increased her speed, turning in a new direction to follow her prey. Similarly, accompanied only by the soft crunch of bark, Byn'vth launched himself into the treetops to follow the scent in the air. Two hunters stalked the woods, one from above, one from below, a shiver cutting into the night. We're coming. Run, dead thing, run. While you still can.

Leaving stealth behind, their prey darted and wove around fallen trunks and bushes. No more planning, no more hiding, just this, a desperate chase for the right to survive for another night. With all the speed available to him from over three decades of existence, Herbert fled a blur to even those with enhanced senses. Had it been any other pursuers, it might have been enough. But the Slayer would not be denied again, and the demon refused to let this worm escape. The night had awakened their hunger, and soon they would feed.

With a howl, Byn'vth pushed off the tree he was currently holding onto. The demon sailed through the air in a grace arch, landing mere feet in front of the vampire. As the vamp hurriedly tried to reverse his trajectory, the Slayer was there holding out a foot for him to trip on. The force with which the vampire hit the ground was enough to break a human neck; Herbert lay stunned, his brain twirling around in his cranium. Taking advantage of her quarry's disorientation, the Slayer drove one of her stakes into the thing's chest.

Herbert struggled and gasped as the stake punctured his lung and exited his back. He had never experienced such pain, the wound itching and burning. The thought flitted across his mind that he should have just walked into the sun when he knew the Slayer was after him; it might have hurt less.

As the smell of burnt flesh drifted upwards and light wisps of smoke drifted from around the stake, Byn'vth was too preoccupied searching the Slayer's face to notice the worm's whimpers and pleas. She stood without motion – stillness in every pore, leaving her eyes to swirl with a rage and a hatred that caused the hazel color to give way to gleaming yellow, so much like the creature at her feet. As he continued to study her, he became convinced that the old legends were true. With those glowing, golden eyes that radiated a blood-lust more consuming than any he'd felt, he knew. Knew that deep down, trapped beneath a soul and a smile, the Slayer was just as much a demon as he was.

"Hurts, doesn't it?"

The SoCal accent that tainted most of her words noticeably absent, the Slayer moved to crouch next to the vampire. When it tried to claw at her, another stake appeared in its arm, pinning the limb to the earth as the creature screamed into the darkness that had no consideration for it.

"Have you ever been staked before? Even come close?"

There was no discernable answer from the vampire, just rivers of red that streamed out its mouth. Byn'vth had no pity for it, for whatever crime had attracted this particular Slayer's… ire.

"It's not too pleasant, but you normally don't see this kind of reaction. A little blood, some cursing, the application of demon strength and the splinter's out."

With horror filled eyes, the vampire had no choice but to watch as in tauntingly slow motion the Slayer reached out and twisted the wood impaling his chest. Screaming didn't begin describe the clamor bursting from bloodstained lips.

"These stakes are special. Wood from a tree grown on consecrated ground, carved by a priest of true faith, and dipped in holy water: I made them just for you."

Byn'vth couldn't stop himself from starting at the revelation. No one had known what drove the Slayer to hunt this vampire so strongly, but he was beginning to understand. Vengeance. Breath-stealing, soul-crushing vengeance that made no apologies and knew no mercy.

As thunder rumbled in a cloudless sky, the Slayer brought herself down to the demon's level.

"For Jerry, for Evan, and for all the little boys whose innocence you stole and lives you took. Morning's a long time coming."

No words were necessary as dawn slipped in between the branches and trunks of the woods. The birds and animals were silent as the sun rose. Nothing disturbed the quiet scene. One Slayer and one demon, standing side by side, watching as corpse in front of them burned away, leaving no trace of the suffering and torture that had lasted hours and decades.

The journey out of the woods was quicker than the trip in. Before the sun had even been in the sky an hour, the pair stopped inside the last boundaries of trees, the gas station a hive of activity as people rushed in and out.

"This is where I leave you, Slayer."

Some part of Buffy wanted to ask Cujo if he had a way home, but that would have been an insult after everything and she was too drained to really care.

"Thanks. I'll be out of town by sundown. My oath, as a daughter of Sineya."

An equal promise that had as much weight as the one the demon had given her; on her lineage, the source of her power, she swore. Without glancing back, she had barely taken a step when the demon spoke again.


The word was unfamiliar. Buffy debated on ignoring him and going forward, but he had remained with her all night, keeping a silent vigil and not interfering, a witness to the happenings beneath a Mississippi moon. She turned and faced the demon.

"The name my tribe bestowed upon me. Byn'vth."

There was a power in names. For the demon to tell her his own was sign that he considered her an equal and deserving of respect. After everything, she didn't even think to withhold her own.

"I'm Buffy."

They both vanished. He glided back into the trees, and she faded into the sunlight.

It hadn't taken her long to get collect her motorcycle and get back to her motel room. After scrubbing her skin nearly raw and shedding a few tears in the hollow comfort of the crappy shower stall, Buffy saw that she had at least six hours until the sun went down. Now, she could have hopped on her bike and driven away, but the entire situation had worn her down and all she wanted to do was sleep. Setting an alarm for four hours later, Buffy slept like the dead once her head hit the pillow.

She was dancing in Paris. The lights merged into a cocoon as she spun and spun. Her hands clutched the sides of her dress and together they twirled like red flames….

She was laughing in Savannah. The three men onstage, tripping and pushing each other, wavered as she shook with mirth. Her delight and astonishment echoed inside the theatre and they leap in the air like silver waves…

She was getting married in Dublin. The breath fled from her body as her mother tightened the corset, breaking the room into fractured images that reflected her excitement. Her feet and veil floated toward the isle and they glittered like falling stars…

She was crying in Liverpool. The casket winked in and out of sight as it was lowered into the new grave. Her child and her tears mingled and they screamed like the damned…

She was a farm girl in Romania. The silver bell that hung in the church's steeple tolled into the cold day. Her mind drifted from the ground she was tilling as she rose and stared in the direction of the ringing. An accented voice broke into her reverie.

"You might wanna get that, Princess. When destiny calls you gotta answer."

The Irish brogue reminded her of her wedding day… except she'd never been married.

She was Slaying in California. The future had abandoned her, leaving only empty promises. Her hands were fists and weapons and they felled the mighty…

"What destiny? Mine was over long ago. Pain. Death. Apocalypse. Remember?"

Shaking his head, the man with green eyes changed. Pale skin became green and eyes went red; curved blue thorns jetted out from beneath green. Then he was a man once more.

"It's been what, five, six years now? Time to wake up, Slayer."

The phone startled her into the land of the living, loudly complaining at her inattention. Its ring tone indicating the number was unavailable. With a groan Buffy realized she hadn't even gotten two hours of sleep. The continued shrieking caused her to lunge at the dresser on which the annoyance sat, pressing the stupid thing to her ear.

"Isabel Nix."

A voice that she had only heard once before came over the line.

"I need to get a message to Buffy. This Mac Taylor from New York, we met under, um, strange circumstances almost six months ago. I need her help."

Within thirty minutes Buffy had packed, checked out, and was just now breezing past the sign that said 'You are now leaving Meridian.' The next time she stopped to rest was early Friday morning as she stopped to refuel at Texaco just over the North Carolina state line.

Inside the motel room was a wooden box that contained a steel dagger engraved with set of three runes: the jagged slashes of Sowilo, the slanted H of Hagalaz, and the thorny spear of Thurisaz.

And the last thing Buffy had grabbed before she left was the black knife embedded into the door of her motel room, whose hilt was encircled by red stakes and yellow eyes.


-Sowilo (the sun): success, goals achieved, honor

-Hagalaz (hail): destructive and uncontrolled forces, wrath of nature

-Thurisaz (thorn): reactive force, cleansing fire, directed force of destruction and defense

Taken from www .sunnyway runes/meanings.