Blipping in to post a new Living History part. I'm not sure I'm going to have time to post anything new between now and Wednesday. I leave for writercon at 5 a.m. Thursday.
The good news? I'll have my new Dana on the plane with me, so I can actually finish fleshing out the sketched closing parts of Living History. No way can I avoid blowing out the birthday candles on this story. Now that I've accepted that, the pressure to HURRY UP AND FINISH is off. It'll probably be completely posted by the end of September but...duuuuuude. A year? I spent a year plotting, writing, and putting this together?
itwassupposedtobeshortasinIshmael Sings of the White Whale short.
Anyway, for previous parts:
Up to Part 56 can be found here
Continued from here
This is the part where I call myself an idiot.
What the hell was he thinking?
Why, no, Faith. I think you should grab the wounded and run. I’ll just stand here like a lump and let something evil snack on my steaming entrails. What steaming entrails? Why, the steaming entrails that will be all over the place when something evil rips my guts out. I’ve already been stabbed in the gut once. Don’t need a repeat. Have you ever been stabbed in the gut? It sucks the big one…
Somewhere in his panicked mental babble, he realized he was having an imaginary screaming hissy fit with an imaginary Faith who damn well did know what it was like to get stabbed in the gut. Since they both got stabbed by supernaturally strong whatevers, it was going to come down to who got stabbed with the bigger point-y thing.
Yeah, well, you got stabbed with a pussy knife! I got stabbed with a sword. Okay, not a sword, but a really big knife! Top that one baby!
Oh, wait. She got a coma. He got a dirty bandage and a chance to loudly bitch that he wanted to be gay.
Yeah, well…at least you’ve got both your eyes!
Ha! Let’s see her beat that on the my-battle-scars-are-worse-than-your-batt
Dear god. He’s already beginning to sound like his mother’s father. I was at Anzio you little prick! Don’t tell me burning your hand hurt!
You know? That whole thing about getting a vasectomy? Sounded better and better the more he poked at it.
“Xander?” Vi tentatively asked.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Why? Don’t I look fine?”
“It’s just, ummm, you’re kind of smiling. Crazy flakes smiling.”
“Vi? My scariest relative on this or any other planet, plus some of her best friends, are staying the week at our humble home and spending mucho quality time with us. I deserve parade for holding on to the tiniest of tiny threads of sanity I’ve got left.”
“Yes. Yes I am. I’ve earned this rant,” Xander huffed. “Ergo, I rant, therefore I’m still sane. Sort of.”
Vi considered that a moment. “Oh. Well. As long as you’re fine then.”
“Now that that’s settled…”
Whatever Xander was about to say was cut off by a screeching roar.*
(*OW! OW! OW! OW!)
“You know,” Vi nervously licked her lips, “I’m amazed we sorta forgot about the snake.”
“Yeah, well, nothing a like little uproar and a few injuries to distract you from the little things,” Xander said grimly.
Vi blinked at that. “That snake is a little thing?”
“Not so much, which means we better get to it then,” Xander said absently. “Yo! Ladies! Anything?”
“There’s movement,” Barbara said nervously as she backed away from her cave opening.
“What?” Xander strode over to her, crossbow at the ready while he grabbed a bolt with his free hand. “When did it start?”
“I’m not sure,” Barbara seemed embarrassed. “I got kinda distracted what with Willow and the spell, and Faith and you arguing about who was going to get Robin and Willow out, plus with all the roaring and noise and…”
“Ooooh! Way to go Barbara!” Sally shouted sarcastically. “Way to stay on the case!”
“Hey! I didn’t hear you shouting a warning!” Vi snipped back at Sally while Lisa shouted a “yeah” to back Vi up.
“Ladies! Not now! Bigger problems!” Xander snapped. He turned to Barbara and could see the Slayer literally shrinking in on herself, as if she was something resembling worried that he’d land on her like a ton of bricks for not saying something sooner. “Look, Barbara, I’m not going to say it’s okay because it’s not. If our friend’s made a break for it, our sitch just got a whole lot more complicated.”
Barbara looked down and nodded.
“But I understand, okay? Besides, you aren’t the only one who got distracted by everything.” Did he sound reassuring? God, he hoped he sounded reassuring, because he didn’t feel reassured at all. Even his not-at-all-Slayer hearing could pick up movement and growling in the echoes. “Let’s just concentrate on the problem we’ve got right in front of us.”
“How?” she asked.
There’s Barbara looking at him with her big green eyes asking him that question. For the millionth time since he landed in Cleveland, Xander seriously wondered when the hell people started looking at him like he was an adult, because right about now he felt like he was fifteen again and dealing with vampires for the first time.
“Just listen for a sec and see if you can pinpoint where mouse-breath might be lurking.” He turned around and faced the three other ashen-faced Slayers and added in a slightly louder voice. “Same goes for the rest of you.”
“Ummmm, Xander?” Lisa asked as she took a step back.
“We all need to really listen.”
“Xander?” Barbara tugged at his sleeve.
“Maybe between the five of us…”
Sally drew her sword. “Xander, I think…”
“Let me finish! I was going to say that between the five us we might be able to triangulate where that thing is.”
Vi darted forward, grabbed Xander by the arm, and dragged him forward. “Would right behind you be a good enough guess?”
Xander jerked around just in time to see a very large forked tongue flick out of the cave. “Oh shit! Nice warning guys!”
(*Walnut brain! You. Are. Going. Down.)
As the snake thrust its head through the opening, Xander could see that patches of its skin were rubbed raw and that it was bleeding from countless places. He figured rage must’ve been fueling the thing because the injuries sure as hell didn’t seem to slow it down.
He retreated behind the girls and began loading the bolt. “Wait for an opening before you attack,” he hissed. “No running right into that thing’s teeth.”
“Aim for the eyes, right?” Vi asked. She winced. “Ummm, sorry about that.”
“Vi? Eyes are always a good place to start,” Xander grimly replied while he took aim.
He would’ve had a clear shot, but the snake had ideas that didn’t involve sitting pretty and letting itself get seriously clobbered by a one-eyed guy with a crossbow and four Slayers with swords. With a drawn-out hiss*, the snake charged straight for them.
(*Wonder if you’ll keep running after I bite your head off Walnut Brain.)
The five combatants scattered rather than risk getting scooped up in the snake’s open jaws. When Xander felt he’d put enough distance between himself and the snake he turned, aimed…
…and noticed the snake was looking right at him.
(*Know what pisses me off? You smell like you’ll taste like dead, wet, rotten rat.)
Xander let loose with a bolt.
The snake charged.
Xander zigged and barely avoided getting turned into lunch by a mere two feet.
He spun around and noticed that he was close enough to the snake to see yet another new detail. “Terrific,” he muttered as he stumbled backwards, juggling the crossbow as he reached over his shoulder to grab a new bolt. “Hey guys! Looks like this thing’s got superfast healing. There’s new scales already growing in.”
(*And your voice? Gets. On. My. Nerves. You squeak worse than a mouse.)
The snake was busy orienting itself for a new angle of attack when Sally and Barbara zipped over to their target. He noticed that the two Slayers were worrying at the still bleeding areas just behind the snake’s head with their swords.
“Lisa? Vi? You okay?” Xander asked as he looked desperately around.
“We’re good,” Vi shouted as she trotted over to him with Lisa in tow. “We’re trying to figure out the best way to get at this thing. Not too sure swords are going to do more than get it angry.”
(Owwwww! Hey! That hurts! Behave!)
Xander muttered a string of curses under his breath as he loaded his crossbow, took aim…
…and Sally stepped right into his line of fire.
“Damn it!” Xander shouted as he moved to get into a position that wouldn’t take out a Slayer.
Yeah, good luck with that. Barbara and Sally are all over… “Barbara what the hell are your doing?” he yelled.
Barbara had somehow, don’t ask him how, managed to get on top of the thrashing snake just behind its head. She held on a few seconds before she was unceremoniously tossed in his direction. Xander, Vi, and Lisa jumped out of the way as she landed with a grunt on the gravel ground.
“You know? I’m really sick and tired of getting tossed around,” she snarled. “I suck at this Slayer thing.”
Xander would’ve offered something reassuring had the snake not decided to make a run for their happy little group.
Five minutes of scrambling later, Xander once again found himself the focus of the snake’s less-than-fuzzy intentions.
(*For the record? I’m going to win.)
“Unh, Xander?” Vi’s voice echoed from an unseen shadow. “Is it me? Or does that snake really want you?”
“Suuuuuuure. Why not?” Xander rhetorically asked as he skittered to the right. He was not comforted to see the snake make a darting motion in the same direction, all while keeping its visible eye on his person. “Demon magnet man strikes again,” he added bitterly
“Maybe it hates you because you got it stuck in the tunnels?” Lisa asked as she ran by the snake’s nose and swiped at it with her sword. She twisted backwards when the snake rewarded her efforts with a snarl* and a tongue flick.
(*Ooooo, but you smell gooooood.)
“Nope. I’m pretty sure my aftershave is involved.” Xander carefully scanned the area and saw the triple cave openings to his left. Terrific. Right on my blind side. I hate having one eye. Figuring there was nothing for it, he attempted to skitter to the left, only to see the snake dart in the same direction and a little closer to his position. He growled with frustration. “I’ve decided. Change my aftershave. I should go with Old Spice instead of that Calvin Klein stuff Dawn says makes me stink good.”
(That explains the dead, wet, rotted rat smell.)
“Use Old Spice, you’ll drive everyone away,” Vi remarked as she appeared out of the shadows and moved over to Xander’s blind side.
“What’s wrong with Old Spice?” Xander asked as Vi grabbed him and yanked him away from yet another attempt on his life.
Vi began slowly herding him towards the cave openings. “It stinks. It reminds me of a boy that used to make fun of me. Plus, I’m allergic.”
“Okay, how about something bug spray-ish. Think Off makes Demon Off or Demon Be-Gone?”
(DO YOU TWO EVER SHUT UP?!?!)
“Yike!” Vi and Xander shouted and stereo.
“CHARGE!” Lisa, Sally, and Barbara shouted as they descended on the snake’s head, whacking and smacking for all they were worth.
It at least bought Vi and Xander some breathing room.
“We’ve got to get you out of here,” Vi said quickly. “That snake is really out to get you.”
“Yup. It sure is, which is why I’ve cooked up a cunning plan.”
“Please tell me it involves you running for safety?” Vi pleaded. “I really don’t want to have to break the news that I let you become snake food.”
Xander’s head snapped around and he fixed Vi with a deadly glare. “Let’s get one thing straight: you don’t ‘let’ me do anything, hear?”
Vi hunched her shoulders. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to…what I mean is, that snake really is aiming for you and I couldn’t stand it if you were hurt.”
“Getting hurt’s part of the game, Vi,” Xander said quietly. “If you stick around you’re going to have to learn that and fast.”
Vi gave him a hesitant nod.
The snake chose that moment to try and run over the three pests between it and Walnut Brain. The three attacking Slayers were forced to scramble closer to Vi and Xander in an effort to form a human shield while Vi dragged Xander closer to the three cave openings.
“Vi!” Xander shouted in exasperation. “Let me go!”
“Now!” Xander roared.
Vi loosed her grip just enough to let Xander wiggle out of it. He hustled over to his human shield with Vi hot on his heels.
“Right. Quick plan guys. Vi! Stop trying to grab me and listen for a second, will you? We’re going to make the snake’s obsession work for us.”
“How?” Sally asked.
“I’m going to play bait.”
“Bait?” Barbara’s eyes remained fixed on the snake, which had stopped charging. Its eyes remained fixed on them as its coils restlessly undulated and slithered. Xander could swear that monster was considering a new line of attack.
“But…” Vi began a protest.
“No buts.” The tone in his voice managed to kill all debate. “See those caves behind us? I’m going to try to lure it back in there. Maybe try to get it stuck again.”
“You only have two choices,” Lisa pointed out. “You probably won’t be able to get it to follow you down the cave you went in before.”
“You guys went down the other two. Did they narrow at all?” Xander asked.
“Ours did. A lot,” Vi said. “But it’s not smooth running. We had to climb all over the place.”
“Okay. Good. That’s good,” Xander nodded. “Vi, I’m going to run into the same cave you did. Make sure the snake sees me do it. Hold it just long enough to give me a good head start. Then, I want all three of you to back off and let it chase me.”
“But…” Vi began again.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re not having a lot of luck even hurting that thing,” Xander interrupted. “Sooner or later one of us is pulling a Jonah unless we stop it from actually moving so we can kill it once and for all. Does anyone have a better idea? No? Okay then. Vi? Which tunnel?”
Vi tried one more protest. “I don’t like using you as bait. It’s wrong.”
“Yeah, well, if you used me as bait without asking, you’d have a point. Since I’m volunteering, wrongability doesn’t come into play.”
Vi shook her head and finally capitulated. “You’re the Watcher.”
“I don’t want to even know how you found that out,” Xander flatly.
“Hey! Watcher Xander!” Barbara grinned.
“Yayness!” Sally cheered.
“Does this mean I have to let you win when we play video games?” Lisa giggled.
The snake started a feint, which was good enough to get Sally, Barbara, and Lisa to scatter and for Vi to make one more attempt at dragging Xander to the caves.
“Okay, okay. I’m going,” Xander huffed. “Remember: make sure it sees me ‘escape.’ Got it?”
“Got it,” Vi saluted while the other three Slayers began running interference with the snake.
“Vi…” Xander warned.
“Let it see you. Make sure to hold it long enough to give you a good head start. Let it go.”
Xander glared at her while Vi gave him a pinball smile.
“Make sure you do,” he ordered. He jogged over to the cavern entrance Vi indicated and shouted, “Yo! Rat breath!”
“I’m out of here!” Xander shouted. He turned and scrambled into the entrance.
(*Coward! Get back here and fight!)
Vi tightened her grip on her sword and jumped into the fray. Between swings she announced, “Guys, change of plans.”
“Change of plans?” Barbara asked.
“But Vi, Xander said…” Lisa began.
“Xander is dead meat if this thing catches him,” Vi cut her off. “We’re Slayers. Our job is to keep him safe. Got it?”
“Fine,” Sally agreed as she breathlessly aimed for and missed the snake’s nostril. “So what’s the new plan?”
There was very Slayer glint in Vi’s eyes. “Kick. Its. Ass.”
“Kick its ass!” the other three Slayers roared.
And then the four pressed in for the kill, swinging their swords every step of the way.