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Posted November 18, 2007

Fan Fiction: Adventures in Rome

Adventures in Rome:
Chapter Four

Gaining entry to the Wolfram and Hart offices in Rome was a much more difficult task for Buffy in her role as the Slayer than it would have been had she chosen to march in the front door in her other guise as the Immortal's arm-ornament. Even if that role hadn't been past its best-buy date, though, she was pretty sure she'd never be able to get the likes of Rick and Evy O'Connell through with her: the living hand of an ancient Egyptian deity, and his consort, a woman gifted with immortality by another. They'd trip the office wards even faster than she would.

Especially if the lawyers' goal really was to take down the current champion of Anubis, as they suspected. The Powers only knew who they'd try to set up in Rick's place, but it was pretty much a given that the world would be worse off for the switch. Buffy might have the Scythe now to give her a chance against beings of Caleb-level power, but she'd much prefer never having to face one ever again. Especially if it meant an ally of hers would have to die for that to happen.

A quick phone call to Willow unearthed the location of the nearest practical subterranean access, and the quickest route from there to the basements of Wolfram and Hart. The underground portions of Rome were honeycombed with more secrets than even the historians and archaeologists of the area were aware of, and the supernatural world, demonic lawyers and Watchers' Council alike, knew and used many of them.

Buffy's group would have to deal with any vampires or demons in the firm's employ who might also be using that route into the building, but aside from that, it would be fairly simple to gain entry that way unannounced. A few words of Latin would disguise their auras just enough to sneak them past the wards, since they were already set to allow a certain selection of nonhumans anyway; one of them would have to cast the spell themselves-- all Willow could do over the phone was tell them what to say-- but Evy had enough natural ability that it shouldn't be a problem.

There were too many if's and should's in the plan to make Buffy feel confident in it, but at least it was something. The idea that someone in Wolfram and Hart's control might have power over her just because Willow had invoked Osiris in her resurrection was giving her the creepy crawlies, and taking action was the best antidote she knew for that feeling. Maybe a couple of years ago she wouldn't have cared so much, but she'd finally made connections in the living world again; unnatural second life or not, she didn't want to let go of it so soon.

Could Imhotep affect Evy, too? Or would the fact that Rick had used the Book of the Dead instead of invoking Osiris directly make a difference? Buffy didn't know, and given the set of Rick's jaw, she wasn't going to ask. Regardless, the sooner they got their hands on the Book of Amun Ra, the better.

Buffy lowered herself into the tunnel system first, then pulled a glow-stick from the inner pocket of her jacket and snapped it to life. Its cold green glow lit up cobwebbed walls and a dirty stone floor, filthy enough to make her wrinkle her nose and mourn her current outfit, but at least there wasn't any slime to be seen. Behind her, she heard the O'Connells offering their thanks to the woman who'd allowed them access to the place, followed by the thuds of two more pairs of booted feet hitting the ground and the scrape of stone sealing the entrance overhead.

"This feels familiar," Rick murmured, a note of amusement in his voice.

"I know," Evy said, matter-of-factly. "Do you ever miss it?"

Buffy pulled another glow-stick from her jacket, and turned to toss it to Rick. He caught it absentmindedly in one hand without ever turning his gaze from his wife; they were locked in another of their warm, meaningful, married-person looks.

She shook her head and started down the tunnel, her emotions a mixture of annoyance and yearning. It seemed pretty unlikely, at this point, that she'd ever find a relationship like theirs for her own. That didn't stop her from wanting one, though, or mourning the loss of what she'd had, however flawed, with her two vampires.

"Miss what? Crawling around in tunnels so you could desecrate more graves?" Rick's words carried down the passageway behind her.

The sound of flesh smacking against cloth came next. "Not the archaeology. The adventure," his wife replied.

Rick chuckled. "We may not face as many deadly mummies or ancient curses these days, but I'd say we still have plenty of adventure in our lives."

A pause, then: "Mmm. Good answer."

Buffy was almost far enough ahead of them to miss the soft sounds of a kiss that followed Evy's comment, but not far enough to miss the rapid fall of footsteps as the lovebirds rushed to catch up to her. A glance over her shoulder showed sheepish, but unrepentant expressions; she rolled her eyes at them, then shredded a particularly wide-reaching cobweb with her glow-stick and led their small party around a corner into a narrower maze of tunnels.

It took them most of an hour to reach their goal. Fortunately, the closer they got to the area of the city dominated by Wolfram and Hart, the brighter and cleaner the tunnels became. Buffy and Rick left their glow-sticks in a niche several hundred yards from the subterranean door into the lawyers' complex when the flickering glow of torchlight became bright enough to outshine their feeble efforts. A handful of heavily built human-faced guys in suits were posted outside the massive wooden portal, but not as many as Buffy had expected-- and no other people trying to get in.

"It must be a slow day," Buffy said, eyeing the guards' muscles as she eased the short sword out of its concealing sheath in her jacket.

"Either that, or they deliberately warned their less savory clientele not to interrupt today's proceedings," Evy added, thoughtfully.

"I hope it's door number one," Rick said, easing a gun out of its holster. "I really don't want to find out the hard way that they've changed the wards just for the occasion." Then he cocked his chin in Buffy's direction. "Hey. You think these guys are human?"

She shook her head. "I can't tell from here," she said. "Faith might be able to, but not me. I really doubt it, though. If they're guarding this door, they'd need to be able to defend themselves against anything that might want to go through it."

"Well, let's find out." He narrowed his eyes, then raised his gun.

Buffy winced as a series of shots rang out in quick succession, but refused to turn her face away. She didn't want to be caught off guard just because she found gunpowder-driven weapons distasteful. The guards' attention turned toward their tunnel entrance immediately, but not quickly enough to save them from Rick's fire; they stumbled back into the wall, clutching at wounded hands and shoulders.

Then, one by one, they all shifted into game-face.

"Ah, crap," Rick scowled, then holstered his gun again and drew a sharpened stick from his pocket. "I was hoping they were human." Then he charged into the fray, two steps behind Buffy. Behind them, Evy drew a pair of short, wicked, three-pronged blades from somewhere under her flowing over-shirt and charged in as well.

The struggle was fierce, but in a three-on-four battle where two of the three had superior strength and reflexes and the third was a master of her chosen weapon, it didn't take long for the human team to finish the four vampires off. Buffy, relying on her greater experience, drew two of them away, and Rick and Evy each faced down one of the remaining two. There was a bad moment early on when Evy was thrown into a wall and dropped one of her sais, which in turn distracted Rick, but both were back on form fairly quickly with only a few extra bruises to show for it. After they each finished their own target, they were able to jointly take on one of the two Buffy was dancing with and leave her free to focus on the other.

When the last vampire was finally finished, they congregated before the door, shaking dust out of their clothes.

"We gonna do this your way? Or my way?" Rick said, smirking at his wife.

"You don't have a crowbar this time, so I think we're going with my way," Evy said dryly, then sheathed her sais and reached into her pocket for the piece of paper with the words of the disguising spell Willow had dictated over the phone.

The Latinate words tingled as she spoke them; Buffy shuddered as a sudden chill walked up her spine. When the incantation finished, she took a deep breath and placed a hand on the doorknob. It opened easily, without any audible alarm or rush of guards; Buffy breathed a sigh of relief, then took a step into the hallway beyond, her short sword still naked in her hand.

The O'Connells followed suit, closing the door behind them as they entered. Then they all took a moment to examine the expanse of tile unfolding before them, and the many dark openings spaced out along either side. Willow's quick check of blueprints had told them the vault where the Book of Amun Ra was most likely kept would be at the end of the hall and behind another layer or two of security; they'd have to pierce those without outside help. In the meantime, however--

"Is that chanting?" Buffy asked, cocking her head as she listened to the faint sounds issuing from one of the rooms ahead of them.

"Sounds like it," Rick said, echoing her movement. "Five are dead, yet they live-- and then Latin--" He wrinkled his brow. "Et illi quinque sacrificum est et illi que est mortuus vivet."

Clearly, he'd had some experience with dead and dusty languages; she couldn't have even separated that blur of syllables into coherent words, much less repeated them. "Which means?" she asked.

"And the five shall be a sacrifice, and the one who is dead shall live," Evy said, grimly.

"You mean they're raising him right now?" Buffy hissed. For all that she'd been expecting the law firm to be operating on an accelerated timetable, it still came as a shock.

"Dum vita et mors non duae res sed una sunt. In tenebris lux est, in luce tenebrae sunt," Rick murmured, quoting the next line of the chant. He didn't finish it off, but Buffy could hear the final, shouted words for herself: "Surge! Surge! Surge! Surge! Surge! Surge!"

An intangible pressure pushed against Buffy's skin with every repetition of the final word. Just as the incantation finished, a bright blue-white light shone around the edges of one of the doors on the left side of the hall, and an inhuman howl briefly sounded from several throats before blurring away into nothing.

"Even as life and death are not two things but one," Evy translated softly, then swallowed. "In darkness is the light, in light is the darkness. Arise! Arise! Arise!"

"Damn it," Rick growled. "We're too late."

"Not yet, we're not," Buffy said, then strode determinedly toward the door that had been lit up by the resurrection spell's effects. "Don't forget, he's human right now. They still have to do the other thing, the curse. And no matter how much they can accelerate the process, they still have to mummify him first, right?"

"Right," Evy said, then took a deep, shaking breath. "But wait-- what about the book? If we interrupt what they're doing--"

"We won't have time for both," Rick concluded. "But if we can stop them now, before they make him a weapon, we won't need it. We'll let the Medjai know where it is, and Ammar and Rashad will send help to get it back."

"Shh, we're here," Buffy said, raising a hand to halt their movement. Then she crept to the far side of the door, grasped the doorknob, and nudged the door open just a fraction of an inch.

Inside, a large, wooden crate stood in the middle of a five-sided star made up of colored tile. It had to be a ritual room, for there to be a permanent pentagram; no one was visible around the crate or in the small, barred windows set near the top of each side of the box itself, but her hearing picked up movement around the edges of the room and a quiet rush of near-sobbing breaths. The sobbing had to be either the caster or Imhotep himself; the other sounds had to belong to the witnesses and the caster's backup chorus. She cracked the door open a little more, peering around at all the visible figures, and finally nodded to her companions.

"No Ilona, no Paolo. I think we can take these guys."

"How many?" Rick asked, drawing his gun again.

"Seven," Buffy answered, shortly. "Ready? On one, two--"

She threw the door open, and they entered in a rush, immobilizing-- either through a strategic wound, or a good rap over the head from the hilt of Buffy's sword-- every one of the Wolfram and Hart employees in the room. Unfortunately, the one furthest away from the door-- blocked from Buffy's direct attack by a hospital bed outfitted with heavy-duty restraining straps, and a portable tray-table full of vicious-looking medical equipment-- managed to hit some kind of an alarm before he went down, and a shriek of magic went up as they approached the still-locked crate.

"This is never going to fit through the doors," Evy said despairingly, shaking her head.

"We'll have to break him out, then," Buffy decided, and nodded to her. "Can you look around on that table over there, see if you can find some kind of sedative? There should be something; I doubt they were planning to do the full-on mummy-making thing with him awake and screaming."

"You never know, with guys like this," Rick commented, frowning in distaste. Then he gripped the lock tightly with both hands, braced a boot against the crate, and wrenched with all his muscular and metaphysical strength.

The quick, harsh breaths from inside the crate momentarily sped up, then slackened at Rick's activity; Buffy stepped closer as the lock sprang apart in a shriek of metal, then grabbed the filled syringe Evy tossed to her, threw the lid of the crate open, and jabbed swiftly down at the waiting flesh within.

Green-hazel eyes met dark, uncomprehending brown as she injected the sedative into a naked man's shoulder. He was completely bald, but unlike most bald guys she'd seen it enhanced, rather than detracted from, the strength of his features; but it was his eyes that had her arrested, drawing her in as she put him to sleep. The depth of pain, of betrayal staring back at her was--

His eyelids fluttered shut, and she blinked, suddenly dizzy as though she'd been released from a spell.

"No sympathizing with the enemy," she chided herself irritably, then reached into the crate to lever the resurrected priest out and over her shoulder. And blushed, as the evidence of just how naked he was swung free, mere inches from her face.

Rick chuckled, darkly, from just behind her, then wedged strong hands under Imhotep's armpits. "Here, I'll take him. He's only about an inch shorter than I am; you'll drag him on the ground trying to carry him."

"And then let's get out of here," Evy said, hurriedly. "I hear voices from the hall."

As soon as Rick had Imhotep's dead weight slung in a fireman's carry, Buffy threw the door open again and took up a rearguard position while the O'Connells snuck out behind her.

"I might have known it would be you," Ilona Costa Bianchi snarled, rushing down the hallway toward them with a small crowd of anonymous thugs on her heels. "Paolo said you would not be a threat, but I knew you would not be able to resist interfering."

Buffy snarled back, then reached into her jacket for an experimental weapon Andrew had prepared for just such an occasion-- a modified tear-gas grenade he called the "Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch" for indecipherable reasons. She threw it down, careful not to breathe in any of the holy-water-and-mace mixture that immediately erupted into the hall, then turned and ran for it, as swiftly as she could.


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