"Why is it always me that seems to get knocked unconscious?"
This was the first thing to cross Amy's mind as she came to, shaking her head to clear the fog from her mind, and becoming aware of the fact that her lower body was in pain. Grimacing in pain, she turned her head to find that her right leg was trapped under a chunk of debris that had until moments before been a part of the wall behind her.
Turning her head to look around, Amy came to discover a new revelation about her recent experience. "Ah. Not only knocked unconscious, but also trapped in a burning building and nearly exploded, too. Great."
From her prone position, Amy found herself staring directly at the counter, noticing that one of the employees was still around. Unfortunately, the young woman was sprawled against the soda machine, no doubt blown back there by the force of the explosion. The impact was strong enough to shatter the machine, causing its contents to spill onto the floor. It was also sufficiently strong enough to cause the body to contort itself into a position that no human form should ever be able to pull off. It left little doubt that the young woman was dead.
"Just like I'll be if I don't find a way to get out of here," she thought, grunting with effort as she bent over and tried to free her leg from the weight being pressed down against it. Collapsing as her first effort failed, she wondered for a moment what the pain she felt was coming from. If it was because of the rock holding her down, she could probably find a way to free herself, assuming she could get it off of her. If, on the other hand, the pain she felt was because her leg had gotten broken...well, she would have to deal with that problem if and when that proved to be true.
But Amy knew that even if she were completely paralyzed from the waist down, she would do anything she could to get out of here. Nothing in this world was about to keep her here longer than she had to.
Heaving with all of her strength, Amy tried once again to free her leg, and once again came up short. Letting out a frustrated groan that morphed into a choked cry and dissolved into barely restrained sobs, she collapsed to the floor once again, slamming a clenched fist on the ground, oblivious to the fact that doing so brought it dangerously close to the shattered remains of the window she had been sitting beside.
Through her tears, Amy could see someone enter the Doublemeat through the hole that had been blown in the wall. At first relieved that someone had apparently noticed the explosion, called the police and was coming into the ruined building to look for survivors, her spirits immediately dissolved when the form resolved itself into the shape of a young man in a strange red uniform holding a sword, the tip of which was pointed in her direction.
The newcomer chuckled. "I had hoped that there were some of you that were foolish enough to stay, but I hoped that you would have been unfettered, as I do so enjoy an opportunity to hunt my prey." He raised the sword high, preparing to bring it down on her neck. "Not that I don't like it this way, of course, but I would have preferred you put up more of a fight."
Amy sobbed, her reaction a mixture of the pain she still felt, but also including her knowledge of her impending fate at the hands of this person, and the fact that there was nothing she could do about it.
And that was when she heard the voice from across the room, a voice that she couldn't recognize, but one that promised hope and freedom from this situation.
"Leave her alone!"
Angelus watched with barely contained amusement as the vehicles made their way towards him, the only things in the immediate vicinity to be approaching him; all others swiftly making themselves scarce. He wasn't aware of who the people were inside those vehicles, but his experience as a warrior had led him to conclude that there were only two types of people who would approach him in this manner: the truly brave and courageous, or the stupidly foolish with a wish to die.
They certainly were brave and courageous to confront him in this manner; now it was time to see if they were stupidly foolish.
The vehicles came to a stop a few feet away and formed a loose blockade, uniformed men emerging from them. Angelus smiled broadly at this display of force, confirming to him that these men were indeed stupidly foolish. They were certainly that if they could believe even for one moment that those pitiful devices could stop him.
Still, there was a humorous element to all of this, and he was fully prepared to indulge them...if only for a moment.
"All right, buddy!" one of the men, obviously the leader of the group, said, his weapon directly pointed at Angelus' head. "Put your weapon down!"
Looking down at the sword he held in his right hand, Angelus gave it a quick heft, more out of a desire to see the ones before him startled at his movement than anything else, and did as he was told. After all, these fools had no way of knowing that this wasn't his only weapon.
"Now get your hands on your head where I can see them," the same man continued.
"This is too easy," Angelus thought as he brought his hands up towards his head in compliance with the man's wishes. He watched as two of the other men stepped forward from under the cover of their vehicles, one of them moving to remove something from his belt.
And with a swiftness that caught them and the others off guard, he brought his hands down and sent a massive bolt of energy directly at them.
The men in the immediate path of the projectile scattered immediately, running as fast as they could away from the area. Their comrades held their composure, however, and at their leader's command began to discharge their weapons.
Angelus watched as the small silver specks made their way towards them, bringing one hand up to stop the incoming fire. They slowed down, came to a dead stop and, bereft of their forward momentum, clattered to the snowy ground.
The others chose that moment to withdraw, any hints of containing the situation having fallen with their spent firepower. Angelus watched them go, laughing as they showed their true colors.
And that was when he heard the voices from behind; voices belonging to those whom he knew would be of more sport than those who had just tried to attack him.
The smile on Angelus' face widened further as he reached down to pick up his fallen sword. Yes, Faith may have taken Sailor Mercury, but now that the others were here, they had granted him the opportunity to do whatever he wished to them.
And what he wished more than anything else in the world at that moment was to see them dead by his own hand.
Buffy and Cordelia sent their attacks, a condensed ball of lightning and sphere of fire respectively, at the enemy the police had distracted. Having seen one of the enemy head into the ruins of the Doublemeat, and knowing that they couldn't afford to wait forever for Willow and Anya to show up, they had decided that then was the best time to come out into the open, hoping to take them out before they could cause any more trouble, even though the three to two odds weren't that better than four to two.
But their hopes were dashed when they watched their opponent bend down to retrieve his sword and bring it up to block their attacks. It surprised them how fast he had been able to do that, though they didn't allow their surprise to show, though the look on his face indicated that, were they a few seconds earlier, their combined attack would have worked.
It pained Buffy to realize this, though she consoled herself by being glad that the police had scattered, making their job all the easier. "The less people that are around, the better it is for us." She gave a look at Cordelia, then to herself, adding, "Not to mention that we'd have a hell of a time trying to explain this to anyone who might recognize us."
"Too slow," came the expected retort from their adversary, a smile on his lips that took the bulk of Buffy's and Cordelia's patience to resist wiping off. "And too late. Our leader has your friend under her power, and nothing you can do will save her."
"That doesn't mean we won't try anyway," Cordelia snapped back.
"Oh, I certainly wish you to try," was the reply, the man spreading his arms out as if to dare Cordelia to advance. "Though I wouldn't hold your breath to succeed, and even if you do, I highly doubt you'll be able to breathe at all by the time I'm done with you."
That broke through Cordelia's calm, and before Buffy could warn her, she was rushing forward to strike that smug look of calm satisfaction off his face. She never made it, however, as a few feet into her stride, she was knocked off balance by a blast impact directly in front of her which sent her sprawling into the snowy concrete.
Buffy snapped her head around and found the source of Cordelia's distress nearby, not entirely surprised to find it coming from one of their opponent's comrades. This one, the one in white with platinum blond locks, she knew to be the most dangerous of the four.
"You're too easily amused," Angelus," this one said, obviously directed to the one Buffy and Cordelia had been facing. "I've told you before about the foolishness of taking the slow approach when dealing with our enemies. It leaves you too open to ambush."
If Angelus was offended by these words, he didn't show it, at least not by his facial expression. But from the way his body had suddenly become more rigid and stiff, Buffy knew that the words had deeply struck him, and knew that she and Cordelia had only a few seconds to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to them here.
She looked down at Cordy, who had gotten to her knees, and nodded. Cordy nodded back and moved to get up when a scream came from within the Doublemeat. Buffy turned towards the ruined building at the noise, Cordy doing likewise. This, however, left them open to attack by the two men who, noticing their split second distraction, took advantage of the opportunity to blast them backward.
Falling to the ground and managing to turn it into a shoulder roll at the last possible moment, Buffy saw Willow and Anya out of the corner of her eye. Despite the pain from her fall, she allowed herself to smile.
"Odds are a bit more even now."
Tara blocked the strike to her side with her walking cane, the effort of doing so causing her to wince. For a fleeting moment, she wondered in surprise how much this was beginning to tire her. Never before had she felt this way when facing off against the enemy.
It suddenly came to her why she was behaving this way: her mind wasn't focused on the matter at hand, but on the words Willow had spoken to her earlier in the day. Her best attempts to keep her mind on the fight certainly weren't helped by the fact that the person she had to rescue was Willow's best friend, who several seconds earlier had let out a shriek of pure terror as part of the ceiling above her collapsed, striking the ground dangerously close to where she was trapped.
Tara knew that she couldn't have her attention divided as much as it was for much longer, but knew also that she couldn't focus exclusively on one at the expense of the other. If she devoted her time to defending herself against her opponent, Amy would be left defenseless, and no doubt would be killed. If, however, she let her guard down for even a moment to rescue her, Tara would be leaving herself vulnerable, and would doubtlessly be killed herself.
It wasn't that great of a choice, and it reminded Tara of the fact that, regardless of what happened, it was to be her last fight. It had been a painful decision for her to come to, but she knew that she had no other choice; she couldn't knowingly put herself in danger night after night to protect Willow, not when she was doing the same thing to protect her. Of course, Willow was unaware of the fact that Tara had done this, and Tara was going to make sure that she would never know.
"I can't continue to do this, especially since I'm a princess," Tara thought, allowing herself to smile faintly as that thought crossed her mind. "I never really thought that I was a princess, but if I am, I guess I have to start acting the part. No acting like Xena for me. I've got to start being all dignified, refined and feminine like."
Blocking another blow and forcing her opponent back, Tara's grin widened. "In other words, exactly the opposite of how I truly am. I mean look at me. I'm wearing a man's tuxedo. How butch is that?"
Sword impacted against walking cane once more, and Tara gave her enemy an icy stare. She knew that she had to do something in the next few moments to save both herself and Amy; otherwise the building would collapse around them. Looking around, she began to conceive a plan that, while dangerous, would fulfill both goals if she were to pull it off.
Allowing herself to get knocked to the floor, Tara twisted her body, leaving her back exposed and letting go of her cane, letting it clatter to the floor beside her. As she heard footfalls behind her, she looked ahead and saw the battered remains of one of the molded plastic chairs in front of her. Reaching out, she grabbed onto the back of the chair as she heard the male speak.
"It's so typical of women. You always think you can best a male stronger and faster than you are."
"Oh, I don't know," Tara commented absently as her gloved fingers tightened around the chair. "I think women have one advantage over men."
"Oh? What's that?"
Getting to one knee, Tara twisted her upper body around, bringing the chair she held around with all her strength to slam it against his side, sending them stumbling to the countertop. Leaping to her feet, Tara moved to take advantage of her opponent's momentary lapse in judgment. Grabbing him by the scruff of his neck, she tossed him through the ruined doors nearby and out onto the parking lot beyond.
"We can always coerce big, dumb men to be where we want them to be," she muttered under her breath, taking a few moments to compose herself before moving over to Amy. "Are you OK?"
"Oh, I'm fine," Amy replied, her response so dripping in sarcasm it wasn't impossible for Tara to imagine it being a doughnut she could dunk into her morning coffee. "I'm pinned down in a burning building with a possibly broken leg, fighting the urge to pass out while a woman in a tuxedo battles some strange guy who wanted to take my head. It's a shocking event for most people, but just your average day for me."
Tara bit her lip and chose to ignore Amy's comment, lest any rebuttal on her part accidentally give Amy a clue as to the identity of her rescuer. Instead, she moved to the debris pinning Amy's leg down and, after working her cane into a gap between her leg and the debris, bore down to lift it off Amy's leg. Tara watched as Amy crawled away and, as soon as she saw her safely away, released her hold on the debris.
Moving over to Amy, Tara helped her to her feet. "Can you walk?"
Amy winced as her weight shifted. "My leg. I think it's broken."
"Don't worry," Tara reassured her. "I'll get you out of here."
As Tara and Amy made their way towards the exit opposite the one that Tara had thrown her opponent out of, Tara gave a glance back towards the hole blown in the wall on the opposite side of the building. And saw through it a familiar blonde pigtail form, along with three others, confronting the other three men outside.
Faith stared intently at the rose, whose petals had finished their shift from white to black. A smile faintly appeared on her lips as she snapped her fingers, the rose disappearing with her gesture.
Everything was going according to plan.