CHAPTER 19 - BATTLE
Saturday - Before Dawn
Spike's limp body crashed to the ground.
He had never counted on surviving. He lay unable to move as he tried to cope with the last remnants of shuddering pain.
Bloody hell, that was beyond anything he had imagined possible.
He didn't know how much time passed before he finally noticed the silence. No, it wasn't silence, there was wind. But there was nothing human. The sounds that the Wolfram and Hart people had made in the clearing were gone.
That scared him. What had happened to Buffy? Dawn? He painfully forced his eyes open.
He was in a wasteland. If he had needed breath, it would have stopped. All around him stretched barren sand and rocks.
Where the hell was he? Then he realized. He was in hell. Stanhope had talked about needing to open a portal to some sort of hell world. Here it was.
Panic filled him. Had he been wrong? Had he just stepped through the damn portal into a new world, leaving the portal to continue growing back on earth? Could only Buffy or Dawn close it? He remembered the agony and groaned. Was that what Buffy had felt when she had died last summer? Would she have to go through that again because he had failed?
He staggered upright and looked around frantically. There was no sign of the portal he had passed through. He was trapped on a hell world with no way of discovering what had happened to the woman he loved.
* * *
Buffy lay paralyzed, still recovering from the shock. Her neck throbbed and she felt slightly dizzy from the blood loss.
Dawn had run. Somehow her sister had gotten free. She heard the yelling and sounds of pursuit and she knew that the witch wouldn't let her get far. Buffy's eyes frantically scanned the unconscious bodies of her friends and Angel's team. They made a formidable fighting force, yet all their strength and power was brought to nothing by a withered little woman who could whisper, "Be still."
Dawn must have escaped when Spike had entered the portal. Her mind flinched when she remembered the horrible image of the portal flaring with blinding intensity as he writhed, trapped in it light. He had yelled, then his voice turned to a growl that rose in pitch as the pain rose beyond endurance.
She remembered her own pain when she had jumped in Glory's portal last summer. It had been a relief to die. But he was a vampire, already dead and the torment seemed to take forever. For several moments he had vanished in the blinding light. Then his body had fallen to the ground, silent at last.
The witch had stepped over to the corpse, staring at it curiously. Finally she had kicked it and watched it roll over limply. She had frowned and only then noticed that Dawn was gone.
Buffy looked over at Spike's body. Somehow the light had burned off his game face and it was the pale face of the human she loved. A hundred images ran through her mind. Spike's blissfully goofy face when she had led him to the shower. Watching him squint and run his hands through his hair as he tried to study the ancient scrolls. The look on his face as they lay in the grass on their picnic and he had finally made love to her as a man. Other images filtered through her mind. Their nights together and the ferocious, powerful sex that had terrified and thrilled her. Her vampire and the tenderness he had tried to hide behind the swagger of the Big Bad.
But it was the last image that haunted her. The monster, the walking corpse of the man that had loved her so sweetly only two days before, watching her with feral eyes. He had stalked over to her sister and her best friend and bitten them. Then he had violated her, tearing her neck, draining her.
She had heard his broken whisper. "It's just your blood that's going through this portal, not you. You and Red and the Bit are going to survive." And she had seen the monster's face, ridged and twisted, with bloodstained lips and tears in his golden eyes.
Tears were running down her face. They blurred her vision and she almost didn't see him move.
Her frozen body didn't permit her to gasp. The fall through the portal should have destroyed him. Instead she saw him slowly move his head and look around totally bewildered. Suddenly she remembered when Angel had closed the portal of Acathla. His blood had opened it and she had had to stab him and drive him back into the glowing opening to close it. He hadn't died closing a portal like she had. The vampire had survived and returned, but the horrors of the hell dimension had driven him mad. She watched Spike apprehensively.
He as was silent as a wild animal, sizing up its surroundings. Then he spotted Stanhope and his human face vanished. With impossible vampire speed, his eyes turned golden and he pounced. Before the witch could speak or react, he was on her, ripping her throat into a gory mass and spitting her blood back into her face.
And Buffy could move. Angel roared and everyone was awakening. Tara was whispering and ropes were falling free. Gru and Angel tore their own ropes off and charged into the confused mass of goons. Buffy danced forward, kicking the gun out of a guard's hands, adrenaline wiping out any weakness from blood loss.
Xander lunged forward and picked up the gun as soon as it touched the ground. The puffy face of the carpenter seemed to have hardened and he held the automatic competently as he backed up to protect the two Wiccas. One of the thugs shot at Spike twice before the vampire wrenched the weapon from him and smashed his face in. The vampire tossed the weapon aside and Gunn grabbed it. By this time Buffy had dashed over and grabbed the lawyer by his lapels.
A series of five shots rang out and everyone looked up. Two guards stepped forward, dragging a struggling Dawn with them. One shot his gun again to get their attention. The other held his weapon firmly at her sister's temple. "Stop now or we kill the girl."
Park looked down at the Slayer and smirked. "I suggest you and your team drop your weapons and back off." When Buffy hesitated, he called out, "Shoot the girl someplace non-lethal." Immediately one of the guards shot Dawn's foot and she shrieked in pain. Buffy blanched and let go. She glanced over at Spike, afraid he would be too far gone to stop, but the vampire was frozen. His golden eyes blazed and he clinched and unclenched his fists.
The other members of the team slowly, reluctantly backed up. The guard shot again, this time missing Dawn's foot by inches, and even Gunn and Gru surrendered their weapons. They stood, lined up and helpless as the guards released Dawn and she crumpled to the ground.
Park watched their surrender, a look of cold satisfaction on his face. "Kill them," he ordered quietly.
The guards looked at each other in confusion. Dawn lifted her pale face and stared, her eyes glaring with pain and hate. Finally one stepped forward and fired. Gru's chest exploded in a welter of blood and he collapsed. Cordelia shrieked and threw herself on him. Next the guard turned his gun on Buffy.
But Cordelia's cries were insignificant compared to Dawn's shriek. The teenager suddenly stood up, glowing with a harsh, eerie green light. Her hands were cupped in front of her, holding the blood that hemorrhaged from her foot. Her eyes glowed with the same intense green. She screamed with hate and opened her cupped hands. The blood, instead of falling to the ground, began to spin, growing brighter and brighter.
Suddenly it was no longer blood, but a growing portal, suspended in the air. But unlike the other portals that stayed in one place, this swooped and engulfed the guard that had pointed the gun at Buffy. Then it swirled backwards and the two men that had held Dawn ducked and scattered.
Angel was the first to move, his face twisting into ridges and fangs. The rest followed. A grim faced Xander picked up the fallen automatic and coldly began shooting. Buffy raced to the lawyer in command of the operation, but had to swerve to avoid the swirling portal.
Spike reached him first and lifted him off the ground. The lawyer struggled frantically, and then Spike chuckled and held him until they were face to face. "This time it's your turn to die." As the lawyer gasped and whimpered, Spike sank his teeth into the man's neck and began to drain his blood. He almost moaned at the sweetness of human blood in his mouth again.
Then he opened his eyes and saw Buffy's horrified face. He choked, and stopped drinking. The man was bloody and pale; his eyes glazed with terror as drool ran down the corner of his mouth. But he was still alive. In disgust Spike threw the lawyer into the spinning portal and with a wail of despair the man disappeared.
Buffy stood looking at the vampire with his fierce eyes and bloody mouth desperately searching for any trace of the man she had loved. Only the monster showed as he watched as the portal lifted and spun to the side. There were screams as guards ducked and scattered. Spike turned, his face lit with the joy of violence. "Got your back, Slayer!"
He was a monster again, but she remembered when he had stopped fighting rather than endanger her sister. "We need to get to Dawn!"
He grinned, fangs gleaming, then dived at the nearest guard. Her presence was obviously holding him back, now. Instead of biting, he punched and kicked them, Jackie Chan on steroids. Normally he liked to watch her fight, stood back and entered when he knew she needed help. But these were humans, his prey, and he enjoyed hitting them far more than she did.
She watched his face morph back to human as they reached Dawn. Then Buffy had eyes only for Dawnie. Her sister's eyes lost the deep green glow and her face crumpled as she lunged forward and grabbed Buffy and wept like a terrified child. The two of them sank to the ground in the turmoil of fighting, clutching each other. After two long days of terror, the Slayer had finally saved her sister. Spike stood over them like a fierce watchdog as they wept.
Xander's approach was the first clue that the last of Wolfram and Hart's goons had fled and the fighting was over. The hard soldier face was beginning to fade back into the countenance of a very ordinary, very tired man who had faced death for his friends. The Wiccas joined and Tara looked over Dawn's injuries.
"Can you help her?" The blood was still flowing from the arm and the foot and Buffy was terrified.
Tara turned towards her lover. A moment of doubt flickered through Willow's face; then at the almost invisible nod from Tara, she reached forward and touched the injured foot. Tara held her other hand and Willow bowed her head. Her eyes remained clear and focused and the blood stopped flowing. She looked up, almost apologetically. "I can help with the pain, but I don't think it's safe to do any more. I'm sorry, Buffy. Tara is weak from trying to protect everyone and it's so difficult for me to tell when I'm going too far." Her eyes were wet and Buffy pulled her into a grateful hug.
It was dissolving into a group hug and Spike, standing over them, guarding them, felt dizzy from the smell of so much blood. They were the Scooby gang, the gang he had fought with, and now they smelt like food. He had lost his humanity and was a monster again. The fledgling part of him wanted to continue to rip and tear, to kill the irritating Harris, to drain the sweet ripeness of Tara. He groaned and staggered away.
He still ached from the portal. He sank to the ground, exhausted, bewildered and desperately hungry for the blood that surrounded him.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up. It was Peaches and it must have been a sign of exhaustion that he couldn't muster up a snotty comment for his grandsire. "How long was I gone?"
"It didn't even look as if you went anywhere. You seemed to flicker. How long was it for you?"
"Days. I thought I was trapped there."
"Time moves differently in other dimensions."
Spike looked around at the bodies. There weren't many and the portal seemed to be cleaning them up, sucking them to a different world. "How do you stand being surrounded by all this food? How do you keep from killing them when they trust you?"
"The soul. It's still hard sometimes with people I hate."
"I don't have the chip anymore. And they took my soul when they killed me. Everything feels different."
He shook his head. "Not really. She just stood by and let her minions drain me." He looked up and saw sympathy and understanding in his grandsire's eyes.
Spike felt Buffy's presence before he saw her. Awkwardly he wiped the blood from his mouth before he turned and looked up at her. He could see the hesitation and the deep distrust in her eyes. As a newly created vampire, he shouldn't care what a human thought. Instead, it hurt.
"Dawn wants you."
"Right, the Niblet." Buffy didn't come near him as he struggled to his feet. His legs were weak and rubbery and it was hard to walk. He could feel her watching him and he wondered if she though he had become such a monster that he would try to hurt the child. But then, last time Buffy had seen him without a chip or a soul, he had tried to murder her and her friends. Does she think I'm back to that?
Still, everything was worth while when he saw Dawn. Humanity had once again turned to happy meals on legs, but his Summers women were still the lights of his dark world. He may have lost everything, but at least they had managed to rescue his Lil' Bit. He got on his knees and held the child close to his unbeating heart. "I knew you would save me," she whispered. If he had been a blithering git, he would have wept for joy, but instead he quietly held her and let her sob with relief.
Finally Dawn looked over at the portal she had created. It had swallowed the last of Wolfram and Hart's forces and hung pulsing and growing over the bloodstained platform. "I'm so sorry. I didn't even know what I was doing. I just had to stop them from shooting Buffy." She looked at him, her eyes troubled. "Can we close it?"
Continued in CHAPTER 20 - THE MONSTER AND THE PORTAL