CHAPTER 18 - PORTAL
Late Friday Night
As the van drove towards the ceremony, Spike slowly drank the last bag of blood and fought to remember. Physically he was a fledgling with all of hunger and explosive energy that implied. He remembered the last time he had been a fledgling, how he had cut a swath through London, leaving a string of death among the petty aristocracy. He had caused such an uproar that his new family had been forced to hide in a mineshaft in Yorkshire. He felt that violence welling up within him again.
But fledglings were stupid. Hell, most vampires were bleeding idiots. "You'll wake up alone, hungry and stupid. Mommy won't be there to feed you and Daddy won't teach you how to think. You'll have eternity to suffer." Dru had voiced his deepest fear, that this time he would be a brainless minion.
If he had a chance of rescuing Dawn, he had to think like a Master Vampire. For over 120 years he had hunted humans and had developed an almost uncanny ability to analyze and prey on their weaknesses. He tried to quiet his twitching body and considered the bastards that had captured him.
Wolfram and Hart had gone to a hell of a lot of trouble to do all this. Maybe they had needed him to help them find the Key, but that didn't explain why they had dusted him, revived him, and then had him turned again. They had not only used him to obtain the Key but had made sure he was a vampire without a chip. Probably they had read all that rot about him being a Keeper of the Key. If so, they must think they needed him to operate Dawn's talent. He smiled grimly, if they thought they needed him, he had found their weakness. He crumpled the now empty blood bag and contemplated Keys and portals and chipless vampires.
* * *
As the ride continued, it was getting harder and harder not to drain the little man in the van with him. "I'm still hungry," Spike muttered then watched with amusement as Ferris twitched. Hell, he could smell the fear and hear the man's heart fluttering, begging him to still it. He got up and strolled over to the man, relishing that once again he could inspire terror. Slowly he took the man's wrist and raised it. When his sense of smell told him that the little man had wet his pants, he laughed. "Just checking your watch, mate. It's not midnight yet." All right, he had decided not to kill the man, but it didn't mean that he couldn't play.
It was a relief when the van finally rumbled to a stop. He positioned himself to leap out of the vehicle as soon as the doors opened. He probably wouldn't get anywhere, but a little fist and fang action would be lovely. Then his feet tingled slightly and he realized that he wasn't going anyplace. The witch had whammied him before the doors were even open. I'll drink your life's blood, bitch, he promised himself.
He could appreciate the irony when the van door finally opened. There was Stanhope, radiating darkest evil, surrounded by crosses and holy water. Did they think he was going be able to attack with his feet magiced to stay still? Maybe they expected him to turn into fog, like Dracula? Then he perked up. They might be afraid that he had mystical mojo. If they read about his past, they knew he was the slayer of Slayers. They regarded him as the Keeper of the Key. They might think he had powers, like Dru minus the babbling insanity.
He decided to play with that image. He stood coolly, almost arrogantly, gazing down at the witch from the van. It was a shame he couldn't switch back into his human face, but still he couldn't control his vampire body well enough yet. Meanwhile Ferris climbed out of the vehicle, with wet pants and rubbery knees.
"You didn't eat him?"
He dropped his workingman's accent for a more educated tone, part William, and part Giles with a touch of Ripper for good measure. "I chose my own prey. I was saving my appetite," he gazed at her jugular, "for other food."
She smiled, her eyes remaining dark and cold. "You know why you are here?"
"To operate the Key. You need to go to another dimension."
"One with no existing portals. Only the Key has the power to create an opening to any dimension."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"We have the Key. Her blood creates portals and when her blood stops flowing, the portals close. My employers need to open a portal to a hell world and will not hesitate to kill her."
Spike radiated disdain. "I've killed thousands of humans. What's one more?"
The witch stared at him suspiciously. "The two of you share a bond shaped by destiny.
He shrugged, "I cared for her when I was chipped and when I was human." Neither one applies now."
"She is the Key to great power."
"Now you're talking. Tell me what's in it for me."
" The dimensions with portals to ours have already been explored. But who knows what treasure and powers await us if we are the first to enter a new dimension?"
"The Key can create a new portal with her blood, but it creates portals that expand and threaten the fabric of our world. Only her death can close the portal. Her blood must stop flowing. The prophecies, however, say that the two of you together can repeatedly open dimensions." She stared coldly. "I will use the Key tonight, even if it means her destruction. But I would prefer to have the Key be reusable."
"I understand blood. It's a gift." He smirked. "She opens portals, I can close them. Explain to me why we need you."
"I have studied portals and dimensions for centuries. I know the locations of treasure beyond counting. There is an elixir of immortality for me and for you, an amulet that will render you forever invulnerable."
He nodded slowly. "Let's deal."
* * *
His nostrils twitched when he smelled the first blood. It was faint and far away. He and the witch had gone to the clearing and he watched everyone set up for the ceremony.
There, a new flow of blood someplace else, then another. The cavalry's coming, he thought hopefully. He remained still. Not that he had much choice in the matter. The witch seemed to have fallen for his bluff, but she wasn't taking any chances with a blood-sucking, unchipped vampire. She had allowed him to walk until they made it to the clearing then froze him into position.
He watched unmoving as a terrified and fighting Dawn arrived and was carried to the platform. Xander and Gunn came into clearing and he was unable to shout out a warning before Stanhope paralyzed first them, then the other members of Buffy's ill-fated rescue squad. The goons gathered and tied the unconscious bodies, and stacked them like cordwood.
Dawn screamed and struggled as she was carried back to the platform and tied. They twisted her arm cruelly so that her wrist was out and exposed.
Then Dawn saw him. Her eyes widened in shock and he died inside as he stood by helpless, unable to speak, unable to move while Stanhope slashed the teenager's wrist and arm. He couldn't even switch back to his human visage, but remained an unmoving monster as his Niblet suffered and bled.
The portal shimmered and about half the goons in the clearing mounted an armored truck that rumbled through the opening. When they were through, the witch returned to him. "It is time for you to close the portal, vampire."
Spike heard the faint scuffle and carefully avoided looking towards the sound. The witch didn't seem to notice anything wrong and mumbled some sort of spell to let him speak. Frantically he tried to keep the witch's attention away from whatever was happening. Then a shot fired and he heard the clear voice of the woman he loved. "Let Dawn go or I kill this son-of-a-bitch!"
Bloody hell, Buffy was pointing an automatic rifle at the lawyer. "Shoo . . ." he needed to warn her that the real danger was here, the witch. But before he could yell a warning, Stanhope muttered, "Be still," and the last stand of Buffy Summers was over.
The witch glared at him suspiciously. He put on his most innocent look, or at least as innocent as his ridged game face could achieve. "What? I tried to warn you."
Buffy was looking at him in horror. He knew she was seeing a soulless monster. What was it that the watchers had taught her? That all he was now was the murderer of her former lover, walking around in the lover's body. I'm still Spike; he wanted to scream to her. I still love you and I'm trying as hard as I can to get us out of this mess. He turned away, numb from the look of betrayal on her face.
The witch was looking at him strangely, so he forced himself to chuckle. "Humans keep looking for a man in the monster. I find it useful when I kill them."
"Is that what you are going to do with the Key?"
"No, I have a much better plan. It will be much more entertaining and useful to let her live."
The witch questioned him on his plans. He stonewalled and finally she backed up and freed his upper body. His feet were freed enough to allow him to walk over to Dawn. He experimentally tried to change course, but the witch was still controlling him.
It killed him. Dawn was looking at him with big hopeful eyes. I'm not the cavalry, Niblet. They already have arrived and failed. I'm just trying to see if I can get you and your Sis out of this alive.
Spike grabbed Dawn, shoving her roughly against the stake. He wrapped himself around the helpless girl and bit her neck. She screamed in terror and surprise.
Spike's fangs barely scraped the soft skin of her neck, releasing her as the first blood oozed out. "Keep it up, Lit' Bit," he whispered almost inaudibly. "I need to talk to you and I dont want the witch to hear me." Dawn struggled, moaning and screaming. He held on to her, his hands flitting down and untying the rope. "I'm going to pretend to drain Willow and Buffy. Then I'm going to create a distraction and you need to run for you life. Understand?"
The teenager was still screaming shrilly as she nodded slightly. She gazed over at the growing portal. "I'll shut it, Dawn. You and Buffy are going to survive, I promise." Dawn looked at him, and his heart ached as he saw that somehow, through all the bloody times he had failed her, she still trusted him.
"Now Dawn, moan a little and pretend to faint. If they think you are unconscious, they might not watch you as hard." As the girl slumped, Spike turned. He pointed at Willow and called out to the witch, "I'll need blood from her." His feet were released and he was able to stumble over to the unconscious redhead.
He tried to shake the girl awake, but she remained under. Only his glaring sire and Buffy were conscious. He held her up and bit deep enough to draw blood. His fledgling hunger made him lust to tear her throat and he was trembling when he let her go.
Finally he approached Buffy. She glared at his bloodstained lips with hate.
He lifted her and felt the invisible vibrating as the Slayer struggled to regain control of her limp body. "Buffy, forgive me," he whispered. And he bit deep into her neck. The sweet wild taste of her blood filled his mouth and his stomach twisted in nausea.
Her body was rigid at first as pain and shock flooded her system. Then her eyes became slightly unfocused as the twisted ecstasy of dying began. The fledgling part of him gibbered in rapture at the blood of a slayer, and he flushed with shame.
Finally he had enough. He let go and whispered. "Pretend you're unconscious. I think I have enough Slayer blood in me to get the portal closed. You see, the dream was false. It's just your blood that's going through this portal, not you. You and Red and the Bit are going to survive. Between your strength and Willow's power, you should be able to figure out how to get away from these bastards." He longed to kiss her goodbye, but his lips were stained with her blood and he knew he was too foul to touch.
He strode back to the witch, and she stopped him too far away for him to strike her. He gazed at her bitterly. "That's how it's done, bitch." He had one last bluff. "You need the blood of three, the Key and two of her bloodline. Drain them, feed the blood to a vampire and toss it through a portal. Its blood will stop flowing and the portal should close."
"Those two are of her bloodline?"
"Her sister and her . . . cousin. Check it out, they all live in the same house. Keep all three of them alive and you'll have a reusable Key."
"Are you sure this will work?"
"Let me go to the portal and I'll show you."
Once again his body turned without his control and he approached the glowing ripple of light. He sighed, looking around. Dawn's desperate eyes were the last things he saw on earth before he stepped into the portal.
He had meant to scream. He wanted to focus all attention on himself, to take as much attention off the Niblet as possible. But he hadn't realized how the portal would rip and boil his blood and his cry of agony was genuine. Fire twisted through his body as he writhed, trapped in the light. It was forever before blackness finally overwhelmed him and he disappeared.
Continued in CHAPTER 19 - BATTLE