These may be the last chapters I put up here. Chapter Eight is completed and Ch. Nine as been started, but that’s about it, so not ready to put up. I’ll come back and provide links to the other chapters as I get them posted either here or on my own journals.
So, under the cut, Chapters Six and Seven in which things come out and Glory gets closer.
By the time Buffy had made some stops to buy easily-stored food and bottled water to take to the crypt and spent some time with Willow looking up any information the computer could give them on Ben, it was getting later in the afternoon and she was becoming anxious to get Joyce out of the hospital. She’d already had Dawn’s school give her a message to go straight to the Magic Box. What they’d learned of Ben’s life sounded pretty ordinary until a few months ago, when he’d suddenly requested a transfer in order to do his internship and residency at Sunnydale’s hospital.
“Just about the time I had my first fight with Glory,” Buffy said.
“On the Hellmouth? Are you serious?” Buffy stared at Willow until she shrugged with embarrassment.
“There’s a first time for everything,” she said, then sighed. “But, yeah. Evil much more likely than coincidence.”
“The question is, is Ben evil, or is he just at Glory’s mercy? How does she make him do stuff for her? And why does he do it?”
Willow frowned. “Well, if she’s been hiding in him all along, then he must be tired of it. If she goes back to her own dimension, maybe that makes him free to be just Ben?”
Buffy sighed. “Makes sense. Which means, he probably can’t be trusted even when he’s not Glory. It’s in his best interest to help her find the key so she can leave.” She stood up straight and stretched. “All the more reason to keep Mom and Dawn away from him. They trust him.”
Willow nodded. “So, what’s the plan for tonight?”
“Scooby meeting, 8:00. Will you call Xander? I guess Anya will tell him, but just in case…”
“Sure. We’ll be there.”
“Thanks Will. See you later.”
When Buffy got to the hospital, Joyce was sitting in a wheelchair, dressed and ready to leave her room. She smiled at Buffy’s obvious relief.
“The surgeon said it was fine for me to go home. They changed the dressing, checked my staples, and said it looks great. I have to take it easy, of course, so you and Dawn will have to wait on me for a while. I’m only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom and walk around enough to keep my insides working.”
“Uh, right. Bathroom.” Suddenly Spike’s crypt was beginning to seem like a really bad idea.
“Is something wrong, Buffy?”
“Uh, no, Mom. Of course not. Nothing’s wrong. What could be wrong?” Buffy looked around the room nervously. “We should get going. Have you seen Ben today?”
“Ben? Or, you mean that handsome young doctor.” Joyce smiled. “Does Riley have competition for your affections?”
“Yeah, sorta, but—” Buffy cut herself off before she said something she really didn’t want to even be thinking about. “No. I just meant… he’s usually here and I just wanted to make sure he was doing what I asked him to.”
“What was that?” Joyce frowned, her mother’s intuition seeing right through Buffy’s attempts to be casual.
“To stay away from you,” Buffy said, getting behind the chair and beginning to push. “Do I need to sign you out or something?”
“I don’t think so. I signed all the release papers, and I have my meds and my instructions in my purse. I’m all set.” Joyce patted her purse and the overnight bag sitting on her lap. “I’m sure I could walk out of here. This is so silly.”
“It’s a rule, Mom. Even I know that. Nobody leaves a hospital under their own power.” She pushed down the hall as quickly as she could without appearing to be running away with a patient. She fretted impatiently in front of the elevators, sighing in relief when it finally opened – only to reveal Ben getting ready to step out.
“Buffy! I was just coming to see your mother. Where are you taking her?”
“She’s been released. I’m taking her… out.”
“Will you be taking her home?”
“Eventually,” Buffy said, pushing the chair past him and reaching for button to close the doors. Ben put his hand on the door to stop it.
“I’ll just ride down with you,” he said, sweat beginning to break out on his forehead.
“I don’t think so!” Buffy pulled his hand off the door with ease, shoving it and him away. “Don’t follow us, Ben,” she warned as she watched him begin to quake again. He didn’t respond, just ran toward a closet as he had before.
“She’s coming!” he gasped as he disappeared.
The doors slid shut and the elevator dropped. It felt like forever before it hit the lobby floor and Buffy could wheel Joyce out into the gathering dusk. She was just trying to decide if it would be safe to leave Joyce while she went to get the car, when Spike stepped out from the shadows behind the entrance columns.
One look at Buffy’s frightened face and he held out his hand. “Keys.”
She tossed him the keys and watched as he moved almost faster than human eyes could follow. He was back with the car in only moments, leaving the engine running as he jumped out to help Buffy get Joyce into the back seat. They had just closed the door on her when Glory burst out of the hospital’s main entrance.
“There you are, Slayer. I’m getting tired of playing with you. Where is my damn key?”
Spike stepped between Buffy and the hellgod, saying, “Get Joyce out of here. I’ll catch up later.”
Buffy didn’t argue, just ran around and got into the driver’s seat. As she put the car in gear, she saw Spike throw the wheelchair at Glory, who caught it in midair and threw it back. Buffy whimpered a little as she drove off, hoping Spike would figure out how strong Glory was before she dusted him.
“What was that all about?” Joyce said, turning to look out the rear window. “Is Spike going to be all right? Was that Glory?”
“I hope so, and yes.”
“We’re not going home, are we?” Joyce asked, her tone weary.
“No, Mom, we’re not. Glory already knows where we live. I’m sure that’s why Ben asked if I was taking you home. We’ll go to the Magic Box right now, and then… I don’t know. I was going to take you and Dawn to Spike’s crypt again, but….” Buffy rested her head on the steering wheel as she waited for the light to change, visions of Glory waving off vampire dust and dragging Dawn off by her hair chasing themselves through her brain.
Once Joyce was resting comfortably on a pile of mats in the training room, Dawn sitting on the floor beside her and doing her homework, Buffy went back into the main room and sat at the table.
“Are we doing to have to close early and maybe lose customers?” Anya asked, her expression unhappy.
“No, Anya. You may remain at the cash register until the normal closing time.” Giles sighed as he sat down beside Buffy. “I presume you’re having brought your mother and sister with you means there have been more problems?”
“You might say that. I left Spike playing wheelchair catch with Glory in the hospitals receiving area. I hope he got away from her okay.”
“As in they were throwing them at each other – not sitting in them.”
“Spike is quite… inventive, I believe. I’m sure he will make an escape as sure as he knows you are out of danger.” Giles frowned. “Although, if Glory reverts to her human form, he could be incapacitated by the chip before he can get away.”
Buffy bit her lip, but decided there were some things Giles didn’t need to know just yet.
“He’ll deal with it,” she said shortly. “If he’s not dust already.” She stood up and walked to the front door, staring up and down the street. When she’d spent fifteen minutes pacing around the small interior of the shop, and Anya had begun glaring daggers at her, she yanked open the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t know. Out. To look for Spike, maybe? He’s supposed to be here by now. I told him to come early to talk to—Oh my God!”
Buffy disappeared from their sight, only to stagger back in a few minutes later, a barely-conscious Spike draped over her shoulder. Giles ran to support the vampire on the other side as they guided him to the training room and laid him out on a mat.
Joyce let out a gasp as she caught a glance at the vampire’s battered face and torn clothing. Dawn whimpered and approached Spike’s now unconscious body.
“Buffy? What happened to him? Is he going to be okay?”
“He isn’t dust, so he’ll be fine,” Buffy said, sounding very much like she was trying to convince herself. “I just need to get some blood into him.”
“We don’t keep blood here in the Magic Box,” Anya said primly. “We don’t want vampires for customers.”
Giles rolled his eyes at her, while Buffy and Dawn glared. “I believe the shop down the street is probably still open. I’ll go get some blood.” Ignoring Anya’s complaints, he took some cash from the register and hurried out the door to the nearby butcher shop.
“Did this happen because of me?” Joyce’s voice was shaky and full of concern.
“Only partly, Mom. It happened because I asked him to come back and help me. If he hadn’t been there, I would have been the target. I never meant for him to take her on by himself, though. I thought we’d fight her together.”
“Like a slayer-vampire tag team,” Dawn contributed, still watching the inert vampire with concern.
“Something like that,” Buffy murmured, her hand hovering over Spike’s chest as if trying to decide where it might be safe to touch him. No matter where she looked, he was bruised or cut, and from the way his shirt was torn, it looked like Glory might have tried to dig his heart out rather than put a stake through it.
“Holy, trashed vampire, Batman!” Xander’s exclamation as he came into the training room was the first indication that he and Willow and Tara had arrived. Buffy looked up, her eyes going, not to Willow, but to Tara.
“I don’t know what to do for him. Except give him blood. Giles went to get it.”
“Well, why don’t we get him cleaned up a bit?” Tara said, turning to go into the kitchen. She returned quickly with a pan of warm water and some soft cloths. She started to wipe the blood off Spike’s face, then noticed Buffy’s frown and handed her the washcloth. “Here, why don’t you do it?”
Buffy nodded and began to gently rinse the blood away from the cuts and bruises, making it possible to see how badly Spike was injured. He had a big gash on the back of his head, an eye swollen shut, his nose was crooked, his lip were split, and he had a bruise on his chin. Taking a pair of scissors that Anya handed her, Buffy cut away the remains of his tee shirt and began cleaning the gaping wound in his chest. One arm was awkwardly bent, and there was blood caking one leg of his jeans. Tara silently picked up the scissors and began to slice the jeans open to expose the laceration on his left calf. She reached for one of the cloths and dipped it into the now-pink water.
“Do I want to know what did this to him?” Xander asked, looking like he might be sick any minute.
“Glory,” Buffy said, concentrating on trying to clean the blood away from the chest wound without making it worse. “Where is Giles with that blood?” she muttered, worried that the wounds had stopped bleeding, but didn’t seem to be closing.
“It’s right here.” Giles’s voice preceded him into the room. “I got several quarts of it, just in case.”
“I think I’d like to go to the bathroom now,” Joyce said. “Dawn, will you help me please?”
“Why don’t we all go into the shop and allow Buffy to feed Spike.” Giles began to herd everyone from the training room, watching over his shoulder as Buffy tried to find a way to get the blood into the unconscious vampire without pouring it all over him.
When everyone had gone, she dipped her finger into the blood and rubbed it on his lips. “Come on, Spike, it’s not the good stuff, but it’s better than nothing.” She dipped her finger again and slipped it inside his mouth, making a little pouch in his cheek. With her other hand, she tipped the container so that a small amount of blood ran into his slack mouth and pooled in his cheek.
She snatched her finger out just in time as his fangs came down and he snarled, swallowing the blood without opening his eyes.
“Whoa there, William. Don’t bite the hand that’s trying to feed you.” Buffy quickly brought the container of blood to his lips, watching in sick fascination as he tried to sink his fangs into the plastic. She kept it tilted up so the blood ran into his mouth, and he began to swallow it in great gulps. When the container was empty, she took it away and watched him for other signs of life.
He gave a soft sigh, fading back to his human face, but giving no other indication of awareness as he remained corpse-like on the mat. Buffy sank back on her heels, staring at his face and biting her lip. She was trying to decide if she was imaging the wounds were beginning to close, when she heard Xander’s voice.
“So, what’s the what with fangface? Are you his go-to-girl whenever he’s in trouble? Last time he showed up on our doorstep, he was starving.”
“He’s here because I asked him to help me,” Buffy said, shooting Xander an irritated glance. “Glory did this to him while I was getting away from her with Mom.”
“Oh. So he’s on our side? Guess that explains the dirty look he’s giving me, then.”
Buffy’s head whipped around to find that Spike was, in fact, glaring at Xander. His gaze shifted to Buffy and he managed to croak, “Are you and Mum all right?”
“We’re fine. A whole lot better than you are. Why didn’t you run?”
“Soddin’ bitch had scabby little minions, came out of nowhere and kept trying to trip me. Was too outnumbered to do much else than bite as many as I could reach, and then she got her hands on me….”
“Should I be jealous?” Buffy whispered to him as she opened another container of pig blood. His answering smirk was all the proof she needed that he was recovering, and she let herself relax. “Can you hold this, or do I need to hold it for you?” she asked in a louder tone of voice. To her surprise, Xander came around behind Spike and lifted his shoulders off the mat so that he was almost sitting up. Spike gave him a startled look, but opened his mouth so that Buffy could begin pouring blood into it again.
As Spike gulped down his meal, Xander watched in fascination. “Man, you could ace a chugging contest. I think I see a lot of free beer in our future.”
“Our future?” Spike shook his head when Buffy offered to open another container, keeping his eyes on Xander who had lowered Spike to the mat once he’d stopped swallowing. “In your dreams.”
“Well, yeah. You’re going to need a… an assistant. Somebody to lure the marks in.” He grinned as Spike scoffed. “Welcome back, by the way. Not that anybody missed you, but….”
“Quit while you’re ahead, Xander,” Buffy said, relieved that the two seemed to have fallen right back into the mutual bantering that they’d indulged in the previous year. Those exchanges of verbal insults had never resulted in anything but more insults, and they seemed to be picking up right where they’d left off. She’d always suspected they’d bonded over a mutual dislike for Angel and were just too stubborn to admit they didn’t hate each other.
Spike shifted uncomfortably, his knitting bones and the still-visible wound on his torso providing their own level of pain even as his body tried to heal itself.
“What’s wrong? Do you need more blood?” Buffy’s obvious concern made him smile, forgetting for the moment that Xander was in the room.
“No, love. All I need right now is some rest. Body needs some time to pull itself together. Pig blood is all well and good, but it’s not going to work as fast as the good stuff.” He peered at her hopefully, sighing when she stood up with her hands on her hips.
“I am not feeding you human blood! Deal with it.”
He nodded and closed his eyes. “Right you are, Slayer. Give us a little time to ‘deal’, yeah?” He immediately became still. Only the rare rise and fall of his chest gave any indication that he wasn’t an unanimated body.
Buffy jerked her head toward the door, and she and Xander walked out into the main part of the store. Anya had put the closed sign on the door, and everyone was gathered around the table. Buffy looked around for her mother.
“She’s resting on the sofa in my office,” Giles said. “But this is not an ideal situation for her. If you are afraid to take her home, we need to come up with a better plan than this.”
“I know,” Buffy sighed, slumping into a chair. “I know. I’d just take her away somewhere, but she has to go back to the doctor next week, and…. I don’t know what to do. If Ben-Glory knows where we live, it just isn’t safe to take her home. Dawn either.”
“Why is she interested in Dawn and your mother?” Tara’s question was innocent, but sent Buffy’s eyes skittering to Giles’s.
“I think it would only be fair to tell them, Buffy,” he suggested gently. “They are at some risk as well.”
Buffy sighed and looked around the table at her friends. She glanced toward the back of the store where Dawn was keeping her mother company, and nodded.
“Here’s the thing, guys. I know we all think we remember Dawn from when she was just a little kid, but we don’t. The monks that… made her… made her out of me somehow – don’t ask, I don’t even want to know – and put her here for me to protect. She’s the Key Glory is looking for. Her blood is what Glory needs to open the portal between our world and the hell dimension she’s from.”
She looked around the table at their astounded faces. “I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. So, not only is Dawn in danger because she could be used as a hostage to get me turn over the Key, but she is the Key. If Glory gets her hands on her…..”
“Does Fangface know this?” Xander frowned, casting a glance toward the training room. “About Dawn?”
Buffy nodded, putting up a hand to stop him before he could go on. “He wouldn’t tell. Spike likes Dawn. He won’t put her in danger. He’s here to help me protect her.”
“Buffy…” Xander shook his head. “How do you know that? He’s been gone for a year! Left without saying why or telling anybody good-bye, and now he’s back, just when there’s a hellgod looking for your sister? Doesn’t that make you wonder?”
A sound from the doorway brought all their heads around to see Spike leaning against the jamb, holding himself up with one hand, his damaged arm hanging at his side. He looked directly at Buffy, as if asking permission to speak. She nodded, jumping to her feet and helping him to a chair. Spike took a deep breath and looked right at Xander, who managed to look ashamed and defiant at the same time.
“It’s a fair question,” he said, meeting Spike’s gaze.
“It is,” Spike surprised everyone by agreeing. “Problem is, most of the answers are nobody’s business but mine and the Slayer’s. She knew why I left, and why I had to go right then. Said our good-byes, we did.” He glanced from Xander to Willow and Tara. “Truth be told, it never crossed my mind that anybody else would give a flying fuck if I was gone. So draggin’ it out with a lot of good-byes didn’t seem like a good idea. Said my farewells to the only people I thought cared enough to hear them…” He jerked his head toward the back of the store, wincing when it jarred his head wound.
“If I was wrong, I apologize. But I had good reason for leaving, and when the Slayer called me, I had good reason to come back. I’m here to help her keep the Niblet safe. That’s it.”
“And then you’ll leave again?” Anya’s sudden intrusion into the conversation brought the attention to her, and no one noticed Buffy’s wide-eyed response except Spike. He held Buffy’s gaze while he responded.
“Reckon that’s up to Buffy,” he said. There were varying amounts of shock and understanding on faces as they all stared from Spike to Buffy and back. The emotion in their locked gazes was hard to miss. A groan from Xander snapped everyone out of their shocked realizations and they all began talking at once.
“Well, that was subtle,” Buffy muttered, sitting down in the chair next to Spike’s.
“Sorry, pet. Didn’t mean to do that. Guess that whack on my head didn’t do it any good.” He cocked his head at her. “Is it going to be a problem? It’s not like I announced we were engaged again or anything like that.”
“No. You didn’t really say anything. I think it was our faces that gave it away.”
“That’s assuming there is something to give away….” he said, giving her a hopeful smile.
“Don’t….” she began, not sure what she didn’t want him to do. “I—”
She never finished as the door was opened and Riley came into the store. Giles turned to Anya. “Didn’t you lock that door?” he whispered.
“I thought so,” she whispered back. “Are we keeping Riley out?”
“Apparently not,” Giles said, putting on what he hoped was a welcoming expression. “Hello, Riley.”
“Giles.” Riley nodded, his gaze going around the room, halting when he came to the battered vampire sitting next to Buffy. “Hostile Seventeen. Haven’t seen you around for a while. Come back to see what else you can steal?”
“Steal?” Buffy looked back and forth between Spike and her boyfriend. “What did he steal from you?” She carefully avoided meeting Spike’s eyes, knowing she would see there exactly what he hoped to be stealing from Riley.
“That chip in his head. Belongs to the US Army. We were about to reclaim it when you let him escape with Giles. I never expected to see him back in Sunnydale again.”
Buffy gave a guilty start as she remembered how she’d danced around telling Riley that Spike had left Sunnydale with her blessing – and a promise to call him. Being Spike, of course, he couldn’t let it go.
“Was needed,” he said, leaning back in his chair as insolently as his wounds would allow him to.
“Needed?” Buffy winced at Spike’s unfortunate choice of words as Riley had the expected reaction to them. “Who or what would need a neutered vampire?”
“Somebody fighting a hellgod all by herself,” Spike snarled back. If he noticed Buffy’s nudge to his foot, he ignored it.
“Stop it,” she hissed. He shrugged and settled down to give Riley one of his iciest glares.
“Yeah,” Riley laughed, “I can see how well that’s working out for you. What’s wrong? Did you run into a pack of angry Boy Scouts?”
Buffy looked back and forth helplessly as Spike and Riley traded words and glares.
“Ran into a hellgod and her scabby minions whilst helping the Slayer get her Mum safely away,” Spike said, again ignoring Buffy’s much stronger nudge.
Riley’s expression darkened and he turned on Buffy. “If you needed help to get Joyce home, why didn’t you just call me?”
Buffy waved her hands around aimlessly, while giving Spike a look that promised imminent dustiness. “It was all kind of spur-of-the-moment, Riley. We got some new information that meant I needed to get Mom to a safe place. Which probably isn’t our house just now. I didn’t have time to think about calling anybody else. Spike just happened to be there.”
“You ‘just happened’ to be at the hospital?” Riley transferred his suspicious glare to Spike. “Why?”
“Just takin’ care of one of the women I care about,” Spike said. “Didn’t know Joyce was goin’ to be released and thought I’d drop in and make sure she was all right. Already knew the Niblet was okay for the time being, but hadn’t seen Joyce yet.”
“Buffy’s family is my responsibility,” Riley said in dangerously calm tones. “They don’t need any help from you.”
“They’re my friends,” Spike said stubbornly. He was careful not to look at Buffy as he said it, but Riley was already reading between the lines.
“Stay away from Buffy and her family,” he warned, not noticing Buffy’s narrowed eyes.
“Not your decision to make, mate.”
Before the argument could escalate, Buffy stood up and began to cough violently.
“Slayer? What’s wrong?” Both men spoke simultaneously. Once she had their attention, Buffy stopped coughing and glared at them both.
“What’s wrong,” she ground out, “is that the testosterone in the room is choking me. That’s what’s wrong.” Xander could be heard snickering from his place near Anya and her cash register, and even Giles had to turn away to hide a smile. Willow and Tara nodded at each other, while Anya whispered to Xander, causing him to snicker again.
“I have a hellgod to kill or avoid for another week or so – that’s the topic of discussion, by the way, in case you guys forgot – a Key to protect from her, a post surgical mother to keep out of Glory’s way, and a little sister who would make a great hostage. And you two, both claiming to want to help, are busy having a pissing contest when we’re supposed to be having a meeting.”
She stood rigidly, hands on hips, glaring from Spike to Riley and back. Neither of them would meet her angry gaze, and the others began to gather around the table again as the storm seemed to have passed. Finally, Spike pushed himself to his feet, waving Buffy off when she went to help him.
“Want more blood,” he muttered, limping his way toward the training room. “If you need me, I’ll be in my room.”
An awkward silence reigned for a few moments, broken when Dawn came out of the back to ask, “Is the yelling all over? Mom wants to lie down again, and it’s time for her meds. Which are in the training room,” she added when they all blinked at her.
“We’ll get her,” Willow volunteered. “We—Tara has some healing spells she thinks will help your mom and Spike.” The two witches went down the hall and were soon back, walking slowly with Joyce between them. She halted when she saw Riley, her eyes going wide, even as she tried to hide her surprise with a pleasant “Hello, Riley. I didn’t know you were here.”
“Apparently I’m not supposed to be,” was his ungracious response as he folded his arms and leaned against a bookcase. “But obviously I should be, so here I am.”
The three women continued their slow progress into the training room, where Dawn had already joined Spike and was sitting beside him as he downed another pint of blood. When Joyce tottered into the room, he jumped to his feet, wiping his mouth with his hand.
“Joyce! How do you feel? Can I get you anything? What do you need?”
She looked at the still-battered-looking vampire and smiled. “I think you and I constitute the sick and injured ward today. But thank you. I just need to lie down for a bit and sleep off some more anesthesia. Please, finish your meal.” Joyce let Tara lead her to the make-shift bed Buffy had thrown together for her and lowered herself with a relieved sigh. “If no one minds, I think I’d just like to get some more sleep….” She closed her eyes and became still.
“Mom?” Dawn’s voice was a soft whimper, and Spike put his hand on her arm.
“She’s alright, Bit. Can hear her heartbeat and all. It’s nice and steady and her breathing is regular. Blood whooshing along like it’s supposed to, and not whooshing anywhere it shouldn’t.”
Spike returned to his mat and picked up the almost empty blood container. “Could use a bit more kip myself, actually,” he said, tipping it up and swallowing. He set the container down and looked at Willow and Tara.
“Shouldn’t the two of you be part of the big confab in there?”
“They won’t start without us,” Willow said confidently. “Tara wants to… she can do healing spells. If that’s okay with you, she’s going to work a spell to ease the pain and help you heal faster.”
“Not gonna cause any spontaneous engagements, is she?” He narrowed his eyes at Willow, but his lips were curling up in a small smile.
“Very funny,” she sniffed. “That was just a… an accident.”
“Just rattling your cage, Red. Anything that gets me back on my feet faster, and makes this hole in my chest close up is fine with me. Go for it. I’m going to catch a short nap. If they need me out there for something, somebody can come and get me.” Suiting actions to words, he relaxed back onto the mat and shut his eyes.
Holding Willow’s hand for extra power, Tara began to chant softly, waving her free hand over first Spike, then Joyce. It took only a few moments for her to chant over both of them and give a satisfied smile.
“I’ve done what I can. It should help. At a minimum, Joyce will need fewer meds for pain, and when Spike’s vampire healing kicks in, he should be almost good as new.”
They turned to go join the others, leaving Dawn torn between staying with Joyce or joining the meeting that was, after all, about her. Spike raised a hand and beckoned her over.
“Go on out there. I’ll keep tabs on your mum. Need to know what’s going on, but I’m too much of a distraction right now. Your sis needs to concentrate on making a plan, not be worrying that the toy soldier and I are going to go at it in the middle of her meeting.”
“Could you?” Dawn asked, giving him a shrewd raise of her eyebrow. “Go at it, I mean. Could you?”
Without directly saying that his chip was out, he just said, “Not quite the pushover he thinks I am.”
She nodded and turned to go. “Is that why you left?” she asked, keeping her back to him. “Did Buffy tell you to go?”
“You think too much,” he growled. “Jus’ go listen in and let me get my beauty sleep.”
Giles filled everyone in on what they knew so far about both Glory and her plans for her Key.
“So, as you can see it is vitally important that we keep the Key away from Glory – not only to avoid the apocalypse opening the portal would initiate, but for… it’s… own safety.”
Without any conversation to that effect, everyone in the group had understood that sharing Dawn’s Key status with Riley might not be a good idea. It wasn’t that anyone doubted his inherent decency or desire to take care of Buffy and her family, but his lack of experience with the supernatural and his need to believe that everything had a scientific explanation – however bizarre it might be – meant that explaining that Dawn was the Key Glory needed so badly would have taken valuable time from planning their strategy.
“So, what are we thinking? She knows where Buffy’s family lives, she knows who most of us are, and now she knows about Spike. How do we stop her from catching somebody Buffy cares about and either torturing the information out of them, or using them to make Buffy tell?”
“Just a thought – why the hell doesn’t Buffy just give her the Key and let her go wherever she wants to go?” Riley looked around the table as if he’d just solved all their problems.
“There are a couple of problems with that,” Buffy said. “The only one you need to know about is that where Glory wants to go is back to the hell dimension she calls home.”
“So, let her go. Good riddance, isn’t it?”
“Would be, if it wasn’t going to require damaging the Key, and if Glory was planning to pull the portal closed behind her. But even if she did – and she has no reason to – it would destroy whatever might be left of the Key.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Perhaps you were not present at the meeting where we discussed what would likely happen when the portal is opened. There would be an open connection between this world and the rather unpleasant place Glory wishes to go. All the creatures in that dimension would be able to use that portal to pour into our world. Buffy is a wonderful slayer, but I’m afraid keeping up with the uncounted numbers of demonic beings that would enter our unsuspecting world would be beyond even her amazing capabilities. It would, in all likelihood, presage the end of the world as we know it.”
“Then we just need to have control of the Key. Let her use it to open the portal, shove her through, and then use the Key to close it. What difference does it make it if it’s used up?”
Dawn jumped to her feet and ran from the room. She went into the training room and threw herself down behind Spike, trying to smother her sobs.
“Bit?” His sleepy voice sharpened instantly as he smelled her tears. “Dawn? What’s wrong?” He sat up, his fangs dropping as he looked around for the source of danger.
“R… Riley… he said… “ She gulped and tried to get her breathing under control. “He said… and then I realized… it’s because of me! Glory is doing all this stuff because of me. She’s killing people, and brain-sucking, and beating people up… and trying to kill my sister, and you, and…. And it’s all because of me! It’s my fault!”
“Not your fault, Bit,” he said, putting one arm around her and trying to hold her without pressing her up against the still-open hole in his chest. “It’s not your fault at all. It is what it is, and your sis’ll do what she always does and make it come out all right.”
“Wh… what if she can’t? What if Glory kills both of you? What if she catches me and I open that portal for her? Everybody’s going to die and it will be all my fault!”
Chapter Eight and all future chapters on my journal.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/813660.html