Wet and Wild

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Part Seven

Buffy decided to go to the cemetery nearest the campus since that had been the one she had frequented the most in recent months. The thought of the walk exhausted her, so she swiped her mother’s keys and drove the five miles, not worrying about her unlicensed status. When she arrived, she parked at a convenience store that was closed and scaled the fence easily, dropping to the other side with a slight thud. She began to make her way through the headstones, expecting to find a floral arrangement made of roses somewhere that held all the answers.

Whatever the answers were.

For nearly an hour, she scanned the area, hoping to find something, anything, which would indicate that she was in the right place. When she heard the church bells in town ring out that it was midnight, she shivered and gave up hope. Maybe going home and falling asleep would cause Spike to visit her dreams again and actually tell her something worthwhile. As the clock chimed the twelfth and final time, she paused. Something caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, a name etched on a headstone.

Abigail Rose

With a small gasp, she walked toward the headstone, a large piece of decrepit marble with roses carved all over it. The one next to is bore the name, Samuel Rose and the one beside it said, Frances Rose. Buffy kept count and walked down the line. As suspected, there were twelve in a row. “Okay, Spike. I found the twelve Roses so now what?”

Glancing around the area closest to the Rose plots, Buffy noticed a crypt, small and just as drab as all the others. However, this one had a small red light on the top of it. It wasn’t on but it was there. Hefting her bag further up on her shoulder, she walked slowly toward it. Trying the handle, she sighed when she found it to be locked and turned, ready to find a rock to break through the window with.

What she saw shocked her. The twelfth Rose headstone was glowing at the base of the marble, a small red light illuminating just bright enough to cast the grass in a pinkish hue. It had not been shining until she tried the handle. Buffy dropped to her knees beside it and pulled the grass back. A little red button was blinking, almost completely covered by dirt and grass seed. Using a stake she had shoved up her jacket sleeve, she dug around it and exposed the button completely.

Taking a deep breath, she pressed it and expected to see commandos pop out of the ground all over the place. She heard a light click as the door behind her unlocked. Still kneeling, Buffy turned and stared at it, wondering if it would set off a silent alarm. She had no idea how advanced the organization was or what was inside and it made her tremble a little as she recalled being strapped down on the hospital stretcher and-

Rolling her eyes, she whispered, “You’re the Slayer! What are you so scared of? Just go in, check it out and leave. Is that so hard?”

She pulled a flashlight out of her bag and shoved extra batteries in the pocket of her coat. When she stood, she kicked the grass seed and dirt back over the tiny button and walked cautiously toward the door. Using the toe of her sneaker, she pushed it open and shined her light through. Nothing seemed amiss and she stepped inside, bracing the door enough to keep it from shutting with the stake she had.

The windows were stained and prevented anyone from seeing inside. As she scanned the area, she could see why. There were no coffins here. A burlap sack sat in one corner, half full of something she wasn’t interested in seeing and there was a riding lawn mower parked in the middle of the floor. “Great. I broke into the tool shed. I came to kill the weed-wacker.”

She coughed, the dust aggravating her congestion and slammed her hand against her chest. Steadying the flashlight against the lawnmower's hood, she opened her bag and pulled out a bottle of water. As she brought it to her lips, something scurried above her and fell onto her shoulder, causing her to drop the bottle. She didn’t scream, years of practice had pretty much deadened that reflex. Instead, Buffy grabbed it, flinging it across the room. The rat glared at her, looking hurt, before it vanished behind the sack. Snarling her lip in disgust, she started to turn and leave, then cocked her head.

She could hear her water. It was pouring out of the bottle and dropping into something under the building. Pressing her stomach to the ground, she lay flat beside the mower and shined her light. “A-ha!”

Directly beneath the shiny green contraption was a sewer grate. She pulled herself to her knees, debating how to move the lawnmower. If she took the time to push it through the doors, she would make a ton of noise and make it obvious to anyone who happened by that someone had tampered with the area. Stretching her arms over her head, she stood and glanced skyward. “I’ve been really good, Lord. Well, not good in the classic sense, maybe, because I know that one night stand with Parker was a big rule book no-no, but I’ve been punished. Let me have a good old shot of Slayer strength here. Please, let one thing go right.”

Leaning against the front of the mower, she gritted her teeth, straining to move it aside just enough to let her fit through. When it only moved a few inches, she swore a little and moved around it, gripping it right above the tire. Buffy pulled with all her strength, her feet slipping on the ground and her arms protesting the weight. Finally, she worked it aside enough to shimmy though and stood, stretching and trying to work out the kinks. “I am never doing that again. Oww.”

Buffy grabbed her water bottle and pulled it to her lips, relishing the few remaining drops before she tossed it and tugged the grate open. Hanging upside down, she poked her head through and scanned the tunnel. It was definitely one of the Initiative’s tunnels and not sewage. There was no water, except what had spilled out of her bottle. It was also completely dark; no lights were on except for her flashlight.

She pulled back up and grabbed a rope from her bag. Knotting one end securely around the lawnmower, she dropped the other one inside. Just in case she needed to make a swift getaway; she’d be able to climb. Buffy shoved her arms through her backpack and grabbed the grate, pulling it back over the hole as she lowered herself. One end wouldn’t go down because of the rope but that was as the best she could do and it was concealed by the lawnmower on that side anyway, just in case a gatekeeper made rounds and checked inside the shed.

Trying to remember what Willow had said about the Initiative digging up the road a few miles from the campus, she decided to go east, toward school ground and see what happened. Several flights of stairs led her further and further underground, until the air was so cold that she could see her breath in front of her face. It felt like she had walked forever before she came to a juncture. Killing her light, she closed her eyes, trying to reach out with her senses for anything demonic. Usually, the hair on the back of her neck would stand up when something was near. Feeling nothing, she resorted to Eeny-Meenie-Miney-Moe and chose right.

After walking through more tunnel that looked exactly the same, she groaned and checked her watch. “How can it already be two am?”

Picking up the pace, she made her way to another juncture and felt an odd sense of dread. Her flashlight flickered and shut off and she dug for more batteries, hoping against hope that she hadn’t gone in a circle. It took her a second to realize that the corridor to her left was fully illuminated. She fumbled with her batteries, changing them quickly and pocketing the old ones.

Something clanked down that path and she froze. If there was something in the tunnel with her, she had no place to hide and would be forced to confront it head on. She could make out faint voices and put a hand to her mouth, trying to decide what to do. There was another clank and something roared, loud and fiercely, almost making her cry out from the pain in her ears.

She dared a peek around the opening and saw a large pulsating glob chained to a wall. Directly above it, there was an opening covered with bars that someone, a someone with human hands, was dropping food through. The thing screamed again, grabbing for the bloody scraps and Buffy heard a man say, “If you don’t knock it off, we’ll just let you starve.”

“Nooo!” The demon squealed, tugging against the chains as it buried what appeared to be a face into something that looked like a ribcage. As soon as it leaned forward, Buffy got a view of the rest of the tunnel. All the way down the narrow area, there were demons changed to the walls. Some looked half dead, not responding to the food, and some were leaping against their chains angrily. Others were eating noisily, sloppily, their bodies making sucking sounds as they digested their meals.

Cringing when the thing closest to her bit the ribcage in two, she dared dart past that opening toward the next one. The squishy demon stopped what it was doing and bellowed, “What that? What that?”

Buffy pressed herself against the wall, fully expecting to be caught, and breathed a sigh of relief when a human voice shouted. “I said knock it off!”

The next tunnel wasn’t lit, save for a little light filtering through the overhead openings. She made her way slowly, carefully, wondering if any of the demons had ever gotten loose. Even if she was tiny, she’d make a great appetizer for a starving demon. Staying firm against the wall, she kept out of the light, not really knowing what she was searching for.

“I don’t care.” Someone shouted and Buffy saw a shadow move across one of the patches of light above her. “Riley, you just said that it is your opinion that she is a good candidate.”

“I know what I said, but you don’t understand. Buffy is small. Way smaller than what the minimum requirements are and she’s a girl, ma. She shouldn’t be having to do this.” Riley’s voice was strong and Buffy grinned, proud of herself for getting here and eavesdropping.

“We’ve already discussed this, Riley.” Professor Walsh slammed Buffy’s folder onto her desk and thumbed through it. “Now, she’s got a rather colorful background, which I have already begun erasing, so that won't be an obstacle. By the time she becomes fully functional in the ranks, she will have a pristine police record.”

Buffy perked and made a ‘yes’ motion with her hand, then grew calm as she listened to Walsh continue. “I’ll also see to it that the computers recognize her as one of us and keep her grade point average up. There will be nothing to indicate that she is doing anything abnormal and even if she becomes overwhelmed, she’ll never have below a 3.6 G.P.A.”

The Slayer couldn’t stop the little dance that erupted from her body. This was just too amazing. If only the council could give benefits like this, maybe she wouldn’t have fired them. She realized what she was doing after several seconds and stopped, feeling like a fool, but the smile remained on her face.

Riley spoke again, “I just don’t like it. It makes absolutely no sense.”

“It makes perfect sense, son. You’re in love with her and I want you to be happy. You’re always telling me that you can’t have a normal relationship with a normal girl and I’ve never seen anyone with as much potential to succeed as Buffy Summers. You saw her fight the other night. I’d be willing to bet she has a third degree blackbelt. The solution is perfect.”

“I don’t want her here because I’m in love with her mother. I want her here because she wants to be here and can get excited about our goal.” Riley spoke hatefully, cruelly, but it didn’t soften the way his admission affected Buffy. It felt like someone had punched her right in the chest and she had to prop herself against the wall. –He’s in love with me? He really wasn’t faking about being concerned about me. Shit. Oh shit. And he *was* there! Shit.--

“Riley, if she comes down and doesn’t like it, we’ll simply zap her memory and send her back home.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes. There would definitely be no memory zapping happening anytime around her. That was so b-rated movie anyway. Who in their right mind would zap a memory besides Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones? –Note to self,- she thought. –Find and destroy memory zapping device.—

“Don’t make it too hard on her. She’s been sick.” Riley said sadly, clearly giving in.

“I’m willing to forfeit some of the more arduous tasks that a new recruit must complete. But for the most part, I’m going to test her the exact same way.”

“I hate this!” Riley shouted.

“I have work to do with Hostile Seventeen. You know his chip will be diffusing on the eighteenth?”

“I know.”

“I think he’s rather fascinating. He isn’t like other vampires and I intend to find out why.” Walsh stood and picked up a file labeled ‘seventeen’.

“You can always install a new chip if you don’t get your answers by then.”

“Certainly not.” Walsh replied, staring at him like he had hatched a vampire through his forehead. “I don’t break protocol just because I get curious. You know better than that.”

"You're breaking protocol to let Buffy in."

"Don't you dare-!"

“Fine, whatever.”

“Make sure you lock my office when you leave.” Maggie instructed angrily.

“I’m leaving now.” His responses had grown clipped and lacked inflection. Letting his mother win had always been the only way to handle a situation and this wasn’t going to be the exception. He would just have to see to it that Buffy's needs were met, no matter what the cost.

Buffy listened to the sounds of a door shutting and smiled. There was a way to escape in Walsh’s office. Maybe it wouldn’t be that hard to get Spike and drop him through the bars. Together, they could make a mad dash to safety and Willow could figure out what the new chip meant and how to do it. Further down the corridor, another light blinked on and Buffy silently moved toward it.

She was almost directly under it when she heard Spike shout, “Oh, Bloody hell! It’s you again! Didn’t you get enough last time? I was sleeping.”

“I figured you’d be used to keeping the vampire’s hours by now.” Walsh replied.

“Well who could know what time it is cooped up in this hell-hole?” He crossed his arms and slumped in the chair across from the woman.

Parallel to him, a feet feet below, Buffy was staring upward, willing him to keep talking so she could hear that he was okay. Walsh spoke again, saying, “How old are you?”

“Eight hundred and eighty two.” Spike replied, matter of factly.

“I don’t believe you. Vampires who are that old begin to physically change.”

“Well, my dick got a lot bigger over the years.”

Maggie clucked her tongue and repeated her question. “How old are you?”

“I just gave you the answer in dog years. You treat me like a dog. You figure it up.” He replied. Buffy smiled and closed her eyes, picturing what he must be doing. She imagined he would be twirling something in his fingertips, scowling at Walsh and trying his best to intimidate her.

“Tell me in human years.”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Do I need to get the box again?”

“Oh, sod it all! I’m one hundred and twenty-six. What’s the matter, are you people to daft to do the math?” Spike shouted, grinding the heel of his boot into the floor. Playing twenty questions had gotten old the first night he had played and now he wanted to sleep. Sleeping was the only thing that made it bearable.

“Do you remember who sired you?”

“Oh, no. I repressed it because he’s the biggest arse who ever nanced about.”

“Is he still alive?” Maggie asked, putting a tape recorder next to the vampire.

“To my knowledge, he has not been alive for over two hundred years.”

"Then how did he sire you?"

"He'd have to be dead to sire me, you ninny!"

Maggie rubbed her forehead. “I don’t enjoy talking in circles with you.”

“Then stop chasing your tail. I have no interest in telling you about me because as soon as I do, you will kill me.”

“To my knowledge, you have not been alive for one hundred and twenty six years. I can’t kill what’s already dead.” Replied Maggie, not bothering to hide her smile as the man’s face contorted with rage.

“Oh, that’s fucking brilliant. I’ll teach you to mock me!” He grabbed her tape recorder and tossed it. It slid through the bars on the floor and crashed a few feet from Buffy. “What about that then?”

Maggie didn’t stop smiling and watched as one of the guards stepped forward and hit Spike hard against the side of the head. Spike howled out, pain mingled with fury and turned, already imagining the sound of the guard’s neck popping. As soon as he reached for the man, something triggered in his head and it felt like his scalp would blow off.

Buffy dropped to her knees in the tunnel as she heard his screams turn to broken pleas and apologies. Clapping her hands over her ears, she shook her head, tears streaming down her face and she whispered the same thing over and over. “Hold on, Spike. Hold on. Hold on, Spike. Hold on. Hold on, Spike. Hold on. Hold on, Spike. Hold on.”

It was some time later before she realized the room above her had gone dark and had been that way for a while. She stood slowly, absently brushing the tears off and looked at the broken tape recorder. Buffy debated taking the tape, then figured if Maggie sent someone to retrieve it, she would wonder how it wound up missing.

Moving solemnly and not really caring if she got caught at that point, she walked past the opening of the demon tunnel. The obese demon glared at her, it’s pulpy eye glistening as it blinked. “What that? What that?”

By the time she navigated the tunnels and found her rope, she was sobbing again, the pitiful sounds bouncing off the walls. She had never felt more alone or more desperate to end Spike's pain. As she pulled herself up and pushed the grate aside, Buffy the Vampire Slayer made a vow to herself.

She was going to take Maggie Walsh’s son away from her and make her hurt as much as Spike had hurt. By the time she finished, Riley would be eating out of the palm of her hand and would help her go against the Initiative. He was already taken with her, apparently he thought he was in love with her, so how hard could it be? Gaining an ally on the inside, one who knew the ropes, would give her an edge. If she knew Riley at all, and she felt like she did, he would protect her at all costs and see to it that she was happy. It was his way.

No matter what she had to do, she would see to it the Maggie’s whole organization crumbled and fell.

Buffy would be the last recruit the Initiative ever saw.

Sunnydale was only big enough for one demon hunter.


Xander flipped the light on and glared at Anya, who was straddling his legs. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he watched her peel her shirt over her head and said, “How did you get in here?”

“I’ll never tell.”

“What do you want?”

“I want to screw. Wasn’t that made apparent by my exposed boobs?” Anya wriggled her hips and beamed at him, holding her hands up. “And look, I don’ t have a screwdriver.”

Xander looked at the clock and flopped his head back against the pillow. He had been having an absolutely wonderful dream where he was Keanu Reeves in Speed and Sandra Bullock was driving the bus with no clothes on. “It’s almost four in the morning!”

“Your boner can slam into my soggy, er …” Trying not to appear obvious, she glanced at the words she had scrawled in the palm of her hand. “beef curtains.”

“Beef curtains?”

“Would you prefer beaver? Aren’t you excited? This is a booty call!”

Xander sat up and pulled her hand around, staring at it intently. “I see you mastered the ‘B’ section of the slang book.”

“Does that arouse you? Wanna bang me? Boink me? Bash me with the bell end of your big one until you blow your wad?”

“No, pretty much all I want to do is sleep.” Xander let go of her hand and laid back on the bed again. He didn’t know what he was going to do. Between the things she blurted out and her insatiable appetite, she was going to be the death of him. It was a toss up, die from Anya induced humiliation or die from a sexually induced heart attack. At this point, he was leaning toward humiliation as being the less painful alternative. “I’m sleepy. Tired. Exhausted. Broken down and put away.”

Anya poked her lower lip out and said, “That’s fine. I can give you a blow job.”

He gripped the sheets as she wrenched his boxers down and began to use her mouth in ways he couldn’t begin to resist. His eyes rolled back in his head as she slowed to a stop, giggling at his frustration. Moaning, he gripped her and rolled, pinning her under his body, “You win.”

“That’s a good boy. Now I’m going to slap your ass and call you my bitch while we bounce the bed.” Anya hit him hard as he entered her and threw her head against the pillow. “That’s it, you bastard.”

Xander almost went completely soft as soon as she said it. “Bastard?”

“Doesn’t that mean big hairy animal?”

“No, I think that’s a bear and it’s still not endearing.” Xander shook his head, intent on finishing so she would let him sleep. “Let’s play the quiet game.”

For several seconds, she was completely quiet and nothing could be heard except for their heavy breathing. Xander used that to his advantage and concentrated hard, forcing himself to come as fast as he could.

He rolled to his back and Anya nestled into the crook of his arm. “This is better than fornicating.”

“God help us all.”

Part Eight

Buffy was staggering around the kitchen the next day, half asleep and trying to locate a cup for her coffee, when the doorbell rang. Not caring about the fact that she was wearing a pair of men’s boxer shorts and a baggy tank top, she stumbled to the door and pulled it open. A woman wearing a suit stood with her back toward the door. “Yeah?”

Maggie Walsh turned and smiled at her, glancing her up and down. “Hello, Buffy. That’s quite an outfit.”

“Professor Walsh?” It had taken all of Buffy’s self-control not to reach out and strangle her visitor the second she saw her face. Instead of acting annoyed, she acted half asleep and rubbed her eyes groggily. “God, what time is it?”

“It’s after noon and don’t rub your eyes like that, hon. You can damage your corneas.” Maggie motioned toward the door and said, “May I come in?”

Playing it casually, Buffy smiled and moved aside. “If you’re here to complain to my mom about my grade, she just left for work.”

“Quite the contrary. I’m here to commend you for your grade and let you know that I think you have what it takes to succeed in other areas.” Maggie spoke quickly, feeling pride that she was about to make the young girl in front of her a better person. “How would you like to get dressed and go for a ride with me?”

“You’re kidding?” Buffy forced her grin to remain in place and shook her head. Surely no one, even a hateful bitch like Walsh, would be that obvious.

“I’m actually not kidding. You don’t have to wear anything fancy or worry about your clothing. We’ll take care of that.” Maggie put her hand on Buffy’ s arm and said, “Your life is about to change, sweetheart. Riley is going to be there and so will several other people you know.”

“Riley?” Buffy pretended to be really excited by the prospect of seeing him and nodded. “Riley told my mom I had one of the highest grades in class. Is this a party?”

“It is.” Maggie lied easily, happy to see that the girl seemed to be as interested in her son and he was in her. “Now, why don’t you run get dressed and I’ll wait for you down here.”

“Make yourself at home.” Buffy beamed at the woman and started to walk away before she turned and added, “You know, I always heard that UC Sunnydale was good, but a teacher who throws parties and makes house calls just defies logic.”

Buffy left her and jogged up the stairs two at a time, shaking nervously. She had expected that Riley would be the one to bring her into the fold, not Walsh, who made her stomach ache. She snatched her phone up and dialed Giles ’s house while she shoved her legs through a pair of jeans. As soon as he answered, she said, “Giles! Oh my god, you’re there. Listen to me! Professor Walsh is here and she asked me to go somewhere with her. She claims it’s a party or something but I know better.”

“Don’t go anywhere!” Giles shouted, shutting off the stove and pulling his tea kettle to one side. “Do you understand me? Stay there and I’m on my way.”

“I have to do this, Giles. Now pay attention.” She yanked on a pair of boots and walked toward her closet to select a shirt. “I left some instructions on my dresser, just in case they plan on keeping me hostage or something. I found a way in last night-“

“You went out last night? Alone?” Giles shouted, slamming his palm flat down on the stove. “Ahhh, hot burner!”

“Are you listening?” Buffy pulled her shirt over her head and grabbed her brush, yanking it through her hair. “It’s on my dresser but don’t try to go down there, Giles. That’s only for an emergency, like, if I’m not back by tomorrow. I have to go. I’ll call you later.”

She slammed the phone down, silencing his protests and bolted down the stairs. It would be pointless to try to arm herself. If they frisked her, and they probably would, she would draw unneeded suspicion by having a weapon. She found the Professor glancing at various photos of her family and cleared her throat.

Maggie turned and glanced at Buffy, shocked … not for the first time, at how delicately pretty she was. Even now, devoid of make-up and wearing casual clothing, the girl was breathtaking. “Ahh, you look wonderful.”

“Are you ready?” Buffy asked anxiously, aching to get out before Giles showed up.

“I was curious about this photo.” Lifting one of the pictures, Walsh held it up. It showed a young girl with brown hair dressed in a Karate suit. “Is this you?”

“Oh, yeah.” Grinning, Buffy stepped forward and took the photo of her cousin, loving the fact that she was about to lie and tell the woman what she wanted to hear. “I’m a third degree blackbelt in karate and have studied other areas of martial arts my entire life.”

Maggie gasped and raised an eyebrow, marveling at how perfect it all was. “Really? Well, that’s just amazing.”

Buffy put the photo back on the table and led Walsh out the door. As soon as she had strapped herself in the seat, the woman started the car and pulled away from the curb. Daring a glance back at her house, Buffy hoped that she would live to see it again.

Then she faced forward, resolved to do just that.


Riley paced back and forth in front of Lowell house, waiting for Maggie to arrive. His mother had insisted that she be the one to escort Buffy and see for herself that the recruit was a regular girl and wasn’t spending her time in a demonic cocoon or something. He had never gotten used to what the night would bring or what seemingly natural occurrences simply were not. There had been times when he was convinced that someone was absolutely normal, then he would glance again and see ridges and fangs where the human face had been. He had actually seen worse than run of the mill vampires and he didn't want Buffy to see that stuff. He wanted her to see movies and concerts and school ... and him.

It took a lot of time to get used to the blood and gore aspect of it, which is what he feared for Buffy. What if she couldn’t handle it and had to have her memory erased? It wasn’t fool proof, his father could attest to that. What was supposed to erase his memory of the demons had wound up costing him his memory of how to be a human and function. Frowning, Riley recalled the final moments before his father had been led toward the lab. He had gripped his shoulders and whispered, “Never forget what you just saw and don’t you let her make you proud of what you do.”

“I hear you, dad.” Riley shook his head as the car came into view. There was no way he was proud of what he was doing and he had never forgotten what he had seen.

Buffy waved at him from the passenger seat and he opened her door, offering his hand to help her out. She stepped up on the curb and into his arms, hugging him lightly. “I’m sorry about falling asleep last night. Did it make you mad?”

“Nah, it’s fine.” He smiled down at her, letting his thumb brush across her cheek. “You look like you feel a lot better.”

“I feel great.” She stepped away when Maggie joined them. “So, what are we doing?”

“You didn’t tell her?” Riley asked, glaring at Walsh. “I thought you were going to tell her. She can’t be expected to just go in.”

“I think that seeing it would be better than hearing about it. She can-“

Buffy held up a hand and cleared her throat. “The she in question is getting a little wigged here, so let’s get on with it.”

Riley took the hand she had held up and started toward the house, leveling his mother with an icy glare, which she ignored. He had assumed that Buffy would be told something, anything at all, to make it easier. Leading the way through the various rooms, he pulled a tag from around his neck and slid it down a clearance strip beside a door in the back of the house. He was very aware of the fact that Buffy was eyeing every move he made, trusting him completely. Sighing, he turned and stared down at her. “You’re about to see something that will-“

“Riley!” Maggie snapped as the door opened. “Come on.”

Buffy couldn’t have hid her anxiety if she had to and stood outside when they both stepped in. Her mind kept telling her feet to move but they seemed to have a will of their own. Knowing she had to say something, she stammered, “Y-You guys are freaking me out. Why is there an elevator in your house?”

Riley stepped out of the elevator and stared at her. “Buffy, I’ll explain it all to you as soon as we get downstairs. I promise you that it’s going to be okay. And,” he pinned his gaze on his mother so she could make no mistake about the next thing he said. “I would die before I would let anything happen to you.”

Buffy let him lead her through the doorway and watched as a green ray of some kind passed over them. A voice spoke and said, “Retinal scan confirmed on two of three passengers. Clearance requested for non-scanning entity.”

Riley leaned forward and spoke into a silver microphone on the wall. “Riley Finn.”

The computerized voice spoke again. “Special Agent Finn, confirmed. Welcome back.”

The doors shut and Buffy swallowed hard, wondering if she would be able to do it. Spike would see her and give her away. Worse yet, some vampire would see her and call her a Slayer. Giles was right, they hadn’t planned this out. She was forced to fly by the seat of her pants and, having done that once or twice … literally, it wasn’t much fun. –You’re the Slayer! Pull it together.--

Maggie put an arm around Buffy when she heard her heavy breathing and squeezed her reassuringly. “It’s okay, Buffy.”

“It was you, wasn’t it?” Asked Buffy, feeling like she needed to provide a reason for her unbridled panic. No matter how hard she tried not to be … she was terrified. What if she got confused about all the lies she would have to tell? “You people are the ones who shot me with something in the sewers and then tried to poison me.”

Riley stared over her head and nodded at Walsh, who nodded back. Riley took a deep breath and said, “Yes. Our organization was responsible for the ordeal you went through and we apologize for that.”

“Organization? We? Suddenly you’re an institution?” Buffy cried, yanking her hand of out his. “Who are you? What are you?”

Maggie reached out and stopped the elevator, pausing it halfway down into the facilities. “Buffy, you need to calm down.”

“You kidnap me again and you expect me to be calm?” She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. Not all of it was an act. It felt like the walls were closing in on her. Part of it was the fact that she would see Spike and he would see her interacting with these people and think that she was against him. Some of it was the fact that they had weapons she had never seen and a small portion of her anxiety was caused by who she was. A Slayer, trained in the most archaic ways known to man, who was physically stronger than a man three times her size … but still just a girl.

“You were with a vampire.” Riley blurted, trying his best to soothe her with the truth.

“Vampires are real.” Maggie nodded in agreement. “So are many other things that you wouldn’t believe and we saw you fight and thought you might want to help out with our mission.”

Buffy pushed her hair back, trying to decide how she should react to that comment. If she pretended that she didn’t know what demons were all about, then she’d be forced to act scared all day and be a girly-girl; which could make her fail the tests. On the other hand, if she didn’t pretend, she would have to offer an explanation as to why she was so strong and wasn’t shocked at the demons on display. Her answer came when Walsh saw the scar on her neck and said, “What happened to your neck?”

“One of those vampires you just mentioned.” Buffy said with a shrug and lifted the front of her shirt, exposing another small scar on her abdomen. “And this one came from a fight with a Der Kindestaad and this one over here happened because I got swallowed by a mother bezoar. So yeah, demons are real.”

“What are –you-, Buffy?” Riley asked quietly, turning her question around on her. Her demeanor had suddenly changed and he half expected to see her morph into something. The hair on the back of his neck began to dance upward and he watched her expectantly, almost frantically.

“You’re her, aren’t you?” Maggie stared at the waif of a girl before her and took a deep breath. “All this time I thought she was a myth but here you are.”

“What is she?” Riley shouted, feeling like his entire world had just deflated and the woman of his dreams had been handed a death sentence.

“I’m a who.” Buffy pointed out. Something about them knowing who she was made her feel more confident. If she didn’t have to worry about her identity then she could concentrate on other things. Namely Spike.

Walsh stared at her in awe and then glanced at Riley. “She’s the Slayer. I had heard rumors but I never dreamed it was real. Vampires have their mythology just like people do and I thought that it was nothing more than a tale passed down. Something sires would talk about to make their childer behave.”

“A Slayer?” Running a hand through his hair, Riley loosened the top button on his shirt to keep it from choking him to death.

Buffy shifted her eyes to his and said, “In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.”

“Who chose you?” He asked, clearly unconvinced and very ill at ease.

Shrugging, Buffy said, “I don’t know. The people who are chosen to choose the chosen one? All I know is that you people shot me when I was about to bag a vampire and then you scared the hell out of me.”

“Do you always make out with vampires before you kill them?” Riley raised an eyebrow, daring her to deny it.

“No.” Buffy snapped. “I was trying to coax some information about a demon out of him.”

“Would you have slept with him?”

“Hell no.” Buffy made a disgusted face and shook her head. “That’s sick.”

Walsh rolled her eyes before Riley could reply and said, “Buffy, are you ready to see what we’re all about?”

“Sure, but I don’t want to see that hospital room thing again. Ever.” She held onto a handrail as Maggie pushed the button and the elevator sprang to life. So far, so good. They didn’t seem to be terribly put off by who she was even though Professor Walsh was acting like she was the Holy Grail and couldn’t take her eyes off of her.

The doors opened and Buffy gasped. The machines towered over her and she glanced upward, seeing the platform she had used to escape. From this vantage point, it was even more intimidating and high tech than it had appeared from the rafters. All around the main area were observation rooms that contained various demons. People rushed back and forth, some carrying containers and others were carrying trays of food ... if glops of bloody messes could be considered food. And oddly enough, there were military jeeps inside the underground facility that made Buffy wonder where the hell they were getting in at.

Riley nudged her and took her hand again. “Are you okay?”

“What? Yeah, I’m fine.” She smiled at him reassuringly and then turned her attention toward the Professor. “So, what exactly is it you want me to do?”

“I have a few tests for you and if you pass, I’d like to offer you a job.”

“A job?”

“Here with us. Helping us put an end to human suffering at the hands of demons.”

Buffy pretended to really think about that and then glanced up at Riley. “You work here?”

“Yes, I do. I’ll see to it that you get to work with me as much as possible. I’m pretty much in charge of who goes where.”

Nodding, Buffy took a deep breath, scanning the area for Spike and gritting her teeth when she didn’t see him. “Where do I sign up?”

Beaming, Maggie motioned for Buffy to follow her into an office. “I was hoping you would say yes and took it upon myself to purchase you some training clothes.” She lifted a bag and put it in the girl’s outstretched arms and smiled. “I hope I got the sizes right.”

“I’m sure you did.”

“I’m not going to lie to you, Buffy.” Maggie stepped closer and grew serious. “What you are about to be subjected to is going to make today go down in history as one of the hardest days of your life.”

Buffy shrugged, not allowing the woman the satisfaction of intimidating her. “You know, I think I can take it.”

“I certainly hope so. You can change in here and we’ll be outside.” Professor Walsh nodded at Riley, who patted Buffy on the back, and they walked out of the room. As soon as the door was closed, Maggie grabbed his arm and said, “Oh, son. I can not believe our luck. A Slayer! Here in the group.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me that there were Slayers?” Riley asked, nodding at several men who passed. “Chosen ones. Chosen girls. Chosen Buffy!”

“Like I told her, I didn’t believe it. Your father claimed to have met one once. He apparently saw her fighting in Iowa before we moved out here. She saved his life and he heard the vampires calling her a Slayer. And then there were several instances here, I would encounter a vampire who would ask me if I was working for the Slayer.” She shook her head, trying to digest the possibilities. “Riley, you saw her fight. She was like a machine. That thing in the tunnels-“

“Absolutely not. Buffy is not to go near that thing.” Riley growled, turning to glare down at her. “I mean it. I don’t care if she is a fucking real life pink ranger, she is not going to do that.”

Maggie’s eyes widened. “Don’t you dare use that word in my presence!”

The door opened suddenly and Buffy stepped out. The athletic clothing that the Professor had chosen fit perfectly. A jog bra under a tight black tank top that showed a portion of her stomach and black spandex bicycle shorts. There was also a pair of what appeared to be mountain climbing shoes that had taken Buffy forever to lace and tie.

Riley’s eyes almost bulged out of his head when he saw her. The disagreement with his mother was forgotten as he let his gaze wash over her firm stomach and slim hips, then back up toward the cleavage at the top of the tank top. “I’d say it fit.”

Buffy nodded and stepped out into the main floor again, feeling embarrassed. “I’d say so. Does everyone have to wear this stuff?”

“No, thank God.” Riley chuckled. “I don’t think I have the chest for it.”

Maggie had not really thought about how sexy the outfit would be when she purchased it. That certainly would pose a problem with the boys there that day. Odds are nothing would get done. It couldn’t be helped though. “We’ll start on a bike. It’s stationary and it simulates going uphill. It will gradually become steeper and you have to pedal it without leaving the seat one time.”

Glancing around at the men who paused to stare at her, Buffy could only nod. Maybe it was part of the training to make her stick out like a sore thumb. Maybe they had to leave her pretty exposed in order to add pressure and see how she handled it. She was still analyzing the reasoning behind it when she climbed onto a bike with a horribly hard seat and let Maggie attach several sticky things to her chest and back, then snap cables in place. “What’s this for?”

“It’s an EKG. We’re going to monitor your heart rate while you exercise.” Maggie flipped the switch on the machine and brought it closer to her. “Just keep pedaling and don’t stop. By the time the test is finished, the bike will be in a wheelie position and will let itself back down. You can start now.”

Taking a deep breath, Buffy began to pedal. It was smooth and proved to be no problem. She glanced in the corner at Riley, who was sitting behind a computer screen, watching her progress and said, “So, how long does this test last?”

“Until your heart rate speeds up enough for the next test. You have to be really pumped and tired.” He grinned at her. “Because if you’re not miserable when you climb the rocks then we have no fun.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Riding bikes and rock climbing? Buffy had to force herself not to laugh. How could this possibly train anyone for fighting demons? The bike moved upward a little and she sighed. It would probably be ages before they would decide she was ‘tired’ enough for her next test.


Almost an hour later, the bike was tilted to the maximum incline and Buffy was still pedaling away. Walsh stared from the screen, to the recruit and then back at the screen again. “Increase the weight on the pedals.”

“It is.” Riley said, turning the knob again just to make sure. “It’s been all the way for fifteen minutes.

“This is uncanny. She’s not even sweating.”

Buffy cleared her throat and glanced their way. “I don’t sweat. If you’re waiting for me to let go or faint from lack of oxygen, it’s not going to happen.”

“Does the heat in the room not bother you?” Maggie asked. At the thirty minute mark, she had turned the heat up, trying to make Buffy as uncomfortable as possible.

“Not really.” Shifting slightly, she readjusted her hands and pedaled a little faster. The muscles in her legs were stretched tight and her back and arms were starting to ache from keeping herself upright, but she was fine.

“Should we just move on to the rocks?” Riley shook his head and pointed at the screen. “She’s been holding steady the whole time. She beat Forest’s record ten minutes ago.”

“I’ll beat it by an hour if it’ll help.” Buffy smiled at the two, enjoying the fact that she was apparently doing well.

“Shut it down.” Maggie nodded and watched as Riley moved the lever to lower the bike. As soon as it was grounded, she walked out and unstrapped the cords from the EKG. “Good job. We’re going to have you climb now, because if your legs are weak then now is when it will show.”

“That’s fine.” Buffy stepped off the bike, not letting herself groan as her ass shifted back into place and tried to push the bicycle seat indentations out.

“Have you ever climbed before?”

“Rocks? A couple of times. Not massive-fall-and-die climbing. But I have climbed to save my ass a time or two.”

Nodding, Maggie walked through a set of doors on one side of the room and pointed at a huge wall. There were several different colored pegs sticking out at various angles and one side protruded more than the other side. “You’ ll start out on the beginner’s side here and if you make it up quickly and without incident, you’ll move to the middle. You’ll find the middle to be quite difficult but if you make that one, you’ll move to the expert area. I have to tell you that of all the boys here, Riley is the only one who has scaled the expert wall and never fallen.”

“Ohhh, fun.” Buffy smiled as Riley secured a harness around her waist and tied one end of a rope into a knot. The other side connected to a harness around his own waist and he tugged that, making sure it was secure. “Are you going to keep me from getting killed?”

“I won’t let you fall.” He glanced up and pointed at the top of the wall. “When you begin to climb, a clock will start counting and when you get to the top, you have to hit that red button to stop it.”

“Gotcha.” Buffy wriggled a little, trying to get the harness comfortable and then paused when several boys walked into the room and sat down. “An audience?”

“Don’t worry about them.” Riley watched his mother walk toward them, telling them that they were to remain quiet. “Most of them are just curious about why a girl is here.”

“I guess I should show them then, huh?”

“You ready?”

Buffy’s reply was a nod and she moved toward the wall. Lacing her fingers together, she cracked her knuckles and dared a peek behind her. Several of the boys were laughing and whispering to one another. Facing forward, she grabbed one of the pegs and began to climb. She had expected Riley to talk to her as she climbed, but he was silent and she didn’t want to glance down to see what he was doing.

Her feet and hands moved fast, finding foot and handholds and she was at the top before she knew it and hit the buzzer. The clock stopped and she glanced at it. One minute and twelve seconds.

Riley held the rope tight and said, “You can let go.”

Buffy complied and let herself drop, suspended by Riley’s rope. She landed a few feet in front of him and said, “Now what?”

Riley untied the knot and nodded toward the second rope, the one in the middle of the wall. “This one’s a little harder. Right at the top you’ll really have to stretch because of how small you are. It’s best if you just keep going, no matter how intimidating it looks.”

Part Nine

When the knot was secured, she turned and faced the wall again. The minute she began to climb, she heard the clock begin to tick. At the halfway mark, she had to struggle with the spacing and pull herself up with only one handhold that she could reach. Having both hands together threw her balance off but she quickly tossed one leg out, hooking her toes in a groove and shoving upward. Her thigh muscles began to protest and she sighed when she reached the top and hit the red button. The clock stopped at one minute and forty-five seconds and two of the boys seated in the room applauded her.

Riley untied the rope when he had helped her down and motioned at the third wall, ignoring the chatter around them. “You okay with this?”

“Fine.” Buffy stared out at the boys that had gathered and then at Riley. “Let’s get it done before they make me nervous.”

“Are you sure you’ve never done this before?”

Holding up two fingers, she smiled. “Scouts honor.”

“Why don’t I believe you?”

With a shrug, she waited for him to knot the rope again and turned toward the wall. She stared up at it, trying to decide the best way to go about it. Almost at the top, it jutted out about five feet. Five feet that she would have to be horizontal to hang on to. Massaging her fingertips on her thighs, she chewed her lower lip. “Do a lot of people fall?”

“Yeah.” Riley moved closer to her and laid his hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to do it. None of them made it.”

“I’m gonna make it.” Buffy grabbed the wall and hoisted herself upward.

“Don’t worry about the clock. It took me almost ten minutes to make it. Judge your moves carefully because it can be confusing. And tricky, Buffy. Tricky.” Stepping back, Riley watched the curve of her ass and the way her calf muscles danced as she moved and wondered if she could be more perfect. Everything about her was beautiful. Each step higher seemed to increase her confidence and she didn’t slow once, which made her even more intriguing.

The bottom part was as simple as the one before and Buffy moved faster over it than she previously had, intent on making good time. Instead of trying to pick and choose her moves, she simply climbed, letting her body mold to the wall. A few feet from the rough part, she paused and glanced up, trying to decide the best way. She could dangle from her hands and just try to use the monkey bar technique or she could attempt to keep herself close and let her legs take some of her weight.

Reaching for a blue peg, she latched onto the bottom part and pulled. The peg came loose and she almost fell away from the wall, her toehold keeping her in place. She let it fall and shook her head, figuring that this was the tricky thing Riley had mentioned. Using her free hand, she reached for a red peg, deciding to test the weight from here on out. When she couldn’t reach it, she let herself dangle from one arm, using her momentum to swing back and forth. She caught another toehold and pulled herself sideways, inching up enough to grab the red peg.

Professor Walsh watched her with equal parts shock and amazement as she went horizontal and used only one arm to support her weight and lift her high enough to make it over the top. The hardest part of the third climb was the protruding areas and Buffy flew across it, making it look easy. Once she made it past the jagged edges, she was home free.

“Damn, she’s good.” Forest shook his head when Buffy hit the buzzer and the clock stopped at three minutes and fifty-four seconds. “I have never seen anything like that.”

Buffy stood on top of the rocks and waited for the go ahead from Riley before she stepped off. He let her drop quickly and slowed her down before she hit the ground. She giggled when he caught her around the waist and said, “Coming down is a lot better.”

A man named Michael that Riley didn’t like at all shouted, “Hey Riley, your girlfriend’s better than you are!”

“Oh please! He was probably pulling her up and she was just making it look real.” Another one shouted, pointing at Buffy. “Look how little she is. There’s no way she actually made that climb.”

Maggie glared at the boy and he shut his mouth so fast it made a hollow pop. She stalked onto the mat in front of the wall and smiled. “Buffy, that was amazing. I’ve never seen anyone go up that fast.”

Buffy grinned and pulled her harness off, handing it to Riley. “I guess it helped that I had a rope around me. I wasn’t afraid of falling.”

“Do you think you could do that well if you didn’t have the rope?” Maggie asked causally.

With a small shrug, Buffy nodded. “Sure.”

“No!” Riley tossed the harness into the floor and stalked toward his mother. “Absolutely not. She climbed all three walls without any problem. You know she can do it now let's move on.”

“And you know that the recruits always climb the wall once without the rope.” Walsh snapped.

Riley put his hands on his hips and pointed at Buffy. “Absolutely not. Look at her and tell me honestly that you think she can do it.”

"Excuse me?" Buffy swallowed hard and peered up the wall again. If Giles had been there, he would have slapped her for even thinking of saying yes, but he wasn’t there and she had to pass the tests. “If other people do it, I’ll do it.”

“Buffy, it’s a thirty foot drop from the top and the climb down can be worse than the climb up.” Riley said, grabbing her by the arm when she walked toward the wall. "I said no. Tell her you don't want to do it."

“She can climb the middle.” Walsh said, as though she was doing her a favor.

“What do they climb?” Buffy pointed at the boys in the chairs who were watching.

“They climb the last wall they made it up.”

“Then I’ll climb here.” Pointing at the third wall, Buffy leaned against it and stretched her muscles. Bending at the knees, she squatted and then rose again, pushing her arms over her head.

“You’ll climb the beginner wall and you’ll do it with a net under you.” Riley turned and shouted for Forest to get the net.

Several of the boys laughed, calling out that the net was still in the box since –they- never had to use it. Buffy reddened and narrowed her eyes at Riley. “You don’t tell me what to do and don’t you dare make special arrangements for me. I can do this and I don’t need a baby-sitter.”

Riley watched her start to climb and caught her around the waist, pulling her off the wall. He sat her on her feet and turned her to face him. “Let’s get something clear right now. If you make it into the Initiative then I will be the one telling you what to do, where to go, and how to handle it. I take orders from Walsh and you'll be taking orders from me. You will respect that, Buffy.”

“And you will respect me.” Buffy fired back. “I haven’t made it in yet so you don’t make the decisions for me. I’ll do it just like anyone else does it and if you try to hold me back then I won’t join. I may be a woman, but I am not helpless and I don’t need some guy thinking that just because he’s bigger, he’s better.”

Michael shouted out, "Day-and! She told him, didn't she?"

"Hey Riley, does she tell you what to do all the time?" Another boy shouted, his words almost drowned out by the laughter around him.

Forest stood beside the supply closet and said, “Do I get the net or not?”

“No.” Professor Walsh held up her hand and motioned for him to go back to his seat. “If she wants to climb, she climbs and that’s that.”

“Thank you!” Buffy said angrily and turned toward the wall again.

Riley crossed his arms over his chest and watched as she began to pull herself along, his heart pounding wildly. Maggie went back across the room and said something about him joining them, but he stayed close to the wall, moving as she moved so he could catch her if she fell.

Buffy forced herself to remain calm and tried to think of it as an adventure. Not only would she prove herself to the people in the room, she would take great satisfaction in the fact that none of them could claim to have gone up the expert wall with a rope, much less without. Telling herself that she would be fine, she climbed steadily and reached the halfway point in no time.

It got rough when she came to the same place as she had before, where the handgrip had come out into her palm. She dangled again and tried to toss her leg up, but her lower extremities protested, causing her to groan at the pain. She glanced to her right and grabbed a green prong, easing herself to the other side of the toughest part. It looked even worse from that side and she shook her head, not daring to look down. Someone chuckled and she eased forward, her fingertips going into a groove in the rock as she inched upward, taking her time.

Buffy estimated that she was almost completely upside down. The stress on her fingers and toes was almost unbearably painful. She kept trying to reach a yellow grip to no avail and finally gritted her teeth and lunged, silently praying that it wasn’t a faulty one again. It held her up and she let go with her toes, relying on just her arms to pull her over the face of the rocks and her legs to keep her balanced while she did so.

Riley shook his head when she vanished over the top and hit the buzzer. He waited for several seconds and then she appeared again, making her way back down. He moved side to side, holding his arms up and motioning, even though she couldn’t see him. Effortlessly, she lowered herself and within seconds of the ringing buzzer, he had his hands around her waist and was helping her down.

“That was incredibly stupid.” He growled, lowering her and dropping her to her feet roughly.

"Well, HotShot, blame whoever invented the test. Not me." She fired back, rubbing her hands together.

Riley glared at her for a second and then turned toward the others. “If you’ re all satisfied that she can climb without my help then we have other things to do.”

All of the boys simply stared and nodded, none daring to speak again. Walsh joined them and took Buffy’s hands into hers, staring at her fingertips. “Are your hands sore?”

“Just a little.” Buffy replied; trying not to notice the way Riley was watching her again. “Am I done?”

“Not even close.” Gesturing for Buffy to follow, Walsh moved through a side door and indicated a large aquarium.

From bottom to top, it looked twenty feet tall and when Buffy stepped closer, she could see that it was deeper than just the ground level. Several fish swam by the glass, and the bottom area was thick with reeds and branches. “Wow. That’s even more impressive than the tanks at Sea World.”

“We’re quite proud of our utilities. We feed the carnivorous demons fish that we tend ourselves and we use various animal blood for the vampires. No human lives are ever endangered to sustain our Hostiles.” Maggie smiled and stared around the room, trying to see what Buffy must be seeing for the first time. “Can you swim?”

“Like a fish.”

“Good, good.” Leading the way toward a ladder, Walsh patted the side of the tank. “Buffy, this test will show us your ability to handle yourself in cold water. It simulates the ocean and I want you to just jump right in and swim for a while.”

“The ocean, huh?” Putting her face to the glass, she peered through the water skeptically. “Are there sharks in it?”

Walsh laughed and shook her head no. “No. We don’t deal in sharks or anything else like that here.”

“But, there will be something in the water? Something demonic?” Buffy turned to face her and noticed that Riley had joined the boys from the other room and didn’t appear interested in what she was doing anymore. It stung and she was tempted to go and ask him why he was so mad at her for doing what she was supposed to do.

“Buffy, if I tell you what to expect then you have an unfair advantage.” Maggie replied apologetically.

Riley glanced toward them and narrowed his eyes, wondering what they were talking about. He excused himself and walked the short distance. “Is there something wrong?”

“No.” Maggie shook her head and nodded at the ladder. “I was just telling her a little about the test.”

“So, I just jump in and swim?” Buffy asked, stepping up on the ladder.

“Back and forth. I want you to start and one side and swim to the other, then go under do a lap there. Alternate every time. One lap above water and one lap below.” With a nod, Walsh waved her up the ladder and turned to join the others.

Buffy wanted Riley to say something to her, but he only glanced her way and followed Maggie to the row of benches in the back of the room. Annoyed, she climbed to the top and scanned the area. On one side, there was a small waterfall, trickling water over brown rocks. One corner had steps that led out onto smooth, flat stones and she wondered what exactly lived in the tank that could climb out onto the dry area.

From the top, she could see another pane of glass and another tank directly across from the one she was about to jump in. Several boys in trunks were swimming around and she squinted, trying to see what they were doing. Walsh cleared her throat and raised her voice a little, “Buffy, are you okay?”

“What?” Buffy jumped a little and glanced down, shocked again at how far up she was. “I was just wondering if I’m supposed to wear these shoes.”

“Yes.” Riley replied and checked his watch. “We’re ready when you are.”

Gulping air, she dropped in and almost screamed at how cold it was. It felt like her body was being assaulted by a thousand tiny needles. Well aware of the fact that they could see her every move through the glass, she began to swim. Doing as instructed, she swam one time across the top of the water and then kicked off, diving deeper to swim the next. It was impossible to keep her eyes open underwater, therefore, she made it a point to scan the surface every time she swam a top lap.

Back and forth, she paddled her arms and legs, feeling like a sitting duck. There was no doubt in her mind that something was going to happen so it came as no surprise when she felt the water shift a little and something caused a ripple to build from the bottom up. Off to her right, she saw water bubbles and stopped swimming, pausing to tread water instead. She was directly in the middle of the water, not pinned in a corner and not willing to move until she could figure out what it was.

“She’s going to freak out.” Forest shook his head and smiled up at Riley. “She knows it’s in there and she’s going to faint or something.”

“Nonsense.” Maggie said, watching as the Helathon demon began to swim under Buffy. It had the body of a large eel, easily twelve feet long with four tentacles that stretched out, giving it a span of about twenty feet when fully opened. It also had a brain larger than any sea dwelling creature she had ever seen so she had kept it, training it to aid in the recruiting process. It knew exactly what to do and even if it did become aggressive, it was unable to harm a human being. Buffy didn't know that though and this was the perfect way to see how she handled a demon in it’s element. It was easy to stake a vampire. Anyone could do it. Wrestling around with something in the water though was something entirely different.

Riley felt guilty for not telling her that the demon, affectionately dubbed ‘Helix’, couldn’t hurt her. His anger over her making him look like a fool and risking her life was beginning to abate and he took a few steps toward the tank. “Maybe I should go up and stand on the-“

“Absolutely not.” Walsh pointed at the spot beside her. “We don’t get involved. Helix knows what to do and he’ll do it.”

Buffy wiggled in a full circle, eyeing the water cautiously. She could feel fish brushing against her skin and was about to go under and start laps again, when something wrapped around her ankle and yanked. Pain seared through her hip, making her wonder if whatever it was had dislocated it, then it let go and she swam upward and the cramp vanished. Taking a deep breath, she dove back under and forced her eyes open. It stung but she could make out a shape in one corner and swam toward it.

“My god!” Exclaimed Michael, pointing as though no one else could see what he was seeing. “She’s going down to it!”

Maggie stood up and moved closer to the tank, gasping when Buffy pressed Helix against the glass and tried to get her arms around his chest. One tentacle came around the girl’s waist and the demon moved her upward, toward air. “Helix is forcing her to breathe.”

Riley shook his head beside her and said, “This isn’t right. He’s fighting her off and it’s supposed to be the other way around.”

Buffy took a gulp of air and gripped the tentacle around her waist, hanging onto it as she swam for the stairs and the flat stone. Once she had it out of water, she could see how to kill it. The demon struggled against her, pulling one way while she pulled another and then it yanked her under, unwrapping itself and pushing her away. It swam fast, moving back toward it’ s habitat and she followed, disappearing into the thing’s lair.

“Get in there!” Walsh screamed at Riley when a big red bubble came from the bottom. “She’s bleeding.”

Riley ran up the ladder as fast as he could and jumped into the pool. He propelled himself quickly, slicing through the water and ducked into the cave where Helix lived. He couldn’t see well, but he did see a flash of white skin and grabbed it, pulling Buffy out with him. By the time they made it to the top of the water, the froth on the edges was red with blood and he pushed her onto the stone quickly, checking every inch of her exposed flesh for the bite.

She turned onto her side and coughed, then sat up quickly. “Riley, what are you doing?”

“You’re bleeding.” He lifted her leg and felt her hip, trying to see if the gash was hidden under her shorts.

“I’m not bleeding.” Buffy pulled her leg out of his grip and stood up, glancing at the water. Something surfaced a few feet from them and she pointed, “That thing is though.”

“Helix!” Riley shouted, grabbing a net from the sidewall. He pulled the demon to the steps and lifted an eyelid before he stood again and opened a small door, lifting a phone. “I need the paramedic at Helix’s tank. Now!”

Buffy watched him cradle the demon’s head and then glanced up in time to see Walsh and several of the men hurrying toward them. Forest glared at Buffy and shouted, “What the hell was that? What did you do to him?”

“Stabbed him in the head with a rock.” Buffy replied, glancing back down at Riley, who was applying pressure to the demon’s wound. “Wasn’t that what I was supposed to do? Kill it?”

“No.” Riley shook his head and motioned for Forest to take over. As soon as the boy was in position, Riley stood and rubbed his forehead. “This isn’t going to work, Buffy. You’re a Slayer. That means you kill and we don’t do that here.”

Buffy almost snorted her nose and asked where the chip that was killing Spike came from. Instead she said, “How was I supposed to know what to do? You put me in there with it and it attacked me. For all I knew, it was going to kill me.”

“You should know better!” Riley shouted.

“How should I know better? It’s been my experience that demons kill you if you don't kill them first.”

“You should know better because I already told you that nothing was going to happen to you.” He yelled.

Maggie moved between them and handed Buffy a towel. “Michael will show you where the shower is. Your clothing is already there.”

“So that’s it?” Buffy stared at her, shivering as the water droplets rolled down her legs. She glanced at the faces on the people who had come up on top of the tank and then lowered her eyes, dreading the inevitable. “I failed?”

“Yes.” Riley said, looking at her like she had just asked the craziest thing in the world.

“No.” Maggie said at the same time.

"What do you mean no?" Riley grabbed a towel off of a peg and wiped his head furiously. "She's not going to fit in. You saw the way she challenged my authority and now this. Haven't you seen enough?"

"Yes, I've seen enough. I think I can safely assume that she has proven her ability without the obstacle course. Unless of course, you want to fight her, Riley." Professor Walsh waited for him to reply and when he simply shook his head no, she stretched her hand out toward Buffy. "Buffy Summers, welcome to the Initiative."

"I passed?" Buffy squealed, a large smile replacing her frown as she shook Walsh's hand. "I passed!"

Michael stepped forward and extended his hand, "I'm Mike. It's nice to meet you, Buffy. If you'll follow me, I'll show you where the shower is."

Riley stared at their clasped hands and stepped forward, pulling Buffy his way. "I'll show her."

Professor Walsh smiled as Riley wrapped another towel around Buffy and led her toward the back exit. It was obvious to anyone with eyes how taken he was and she was compelled to encourage the two of them. Turning her attention back toward Helix, she realized the full magnitude of what they now possessed. This girl, this adorable girl, was a lethal weapon ... able to kill with her bare hands. Buffy would be able to ingratiate herself into most any situation.

Even go undercover.

Maggie shook that thought out of her head. It would be a long time before she would trust just anyone to do the hard stuff. After all, she didn't trust her own son to do it and she had known him over twenty years. She would bide her time and see how the Slayer handled herself.

After all, the Initiative was for life.

The Story Continues

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