|Chapter Title:||You have the Key, Chapter 39|
December 2002. Annie will be 4 years old in February 2003.
Buffy died in early May 2001, brought back in September 2001.
Buffy will be 22 years old in January, 2003.
|Summary:||Buffy gets Faith moved to Sunnydale and the gang is researching The First, but someone takes Buffy prisoner. Can Spike and the Scoobies find her and get her back?|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, violence, sex and adult themes which may include rape, attempted rape, blood play and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY. Parents, it is up to YOU to control what your children are reading.
Sunday, December 29th, 2002:
It was nearly dawn when Spike and Buffy arrived at the private hospital in L.A. that was caring for Faith. The staff was used to Faith’s friends coming and going at all hours, so the two blonds arriving so early in the morning didn’t even cause a raised eyebrow.
After Spike and the Scoobies brought Buffy back, there was a nearly week long discussion about what to do about the life insurance money that had been paid as a result of Buffy’s death. In the end, they decided that the half that went into a trust for Annie would remain there for her education. The other half, which was to be Spike’s, was put into another trust and would be used to help whoever the current Slayer was with living expenses, insurance and medical bills, since the Council never saw fit to do any of that for “their” Slayers. Giles and Wesley, as the only two Watchers with active Slayers, were made co-trustees of the fund. And so, as one of the current Slayers, Faith had the best medical insurance that could be bought, which now afforded her care in one of the best hospitals on the west coast.
Buffy and Spike knocked before walking into Faith’s room so that they didn’t startle Wesley and Gunn, who she knew would be on alert inside.
Buffy spoke first as they entered Faith's room. “Anything?” she asked simply.
“No, nothing,” Wesley replied, setting his cross bow down on a chair.
Buffy nodded. “We need to move her. Bring her back to Sunnydale where we can guard her. We can set up a room in the mansion, hire a private nurse - whatever needs to be done - until we get this figured out.”
Wesley sighed. “Do you think that’s wise? Moving her in this condition?”
“I don’t think we have a choice. Whatever this was, it was after Faith. It barely paid any attention to me and, until we can figure out who, what, where and why, we have to get her somewhere that she can be guarded 24/7,” Buffy explained.
“Are you going to involve Angel?” Gunn asked as he walked over to where Wesley, Buffy and Spike were standing.
Buffy took a deep breath. “No, not if I can help it. I’m sorry, Charles, I know you’re loyal to Angel, but I honestly don’t know what these things are that attacked us and I can’t be sure that Angel isn’t somehow involved.”
“It’s not Angel,” Gunn defended. “He wouldn’t hurt Faith, or you.”
“PFFFFTT,” Spike snorted at that and drew an angry look from Gunn.
Buffy looked at Faith. Her face, which had been covered in cuts and bruises a few days ago when she was admitted to the hospital, had healed, but the scar on her neck where Angelus had bit her, nearly drained her, would be there forever. The doctors couldn’t tell them when or if she would wake up from the coma. It could be today or it could be never. They couldn’t really even tell them if the coma was a manifestation of a physical injury or emotional trauma.
Buffy looked back up at Gunn. “Charles, I know you don’t want to believe this, but Angel is more dangerous than Angelus. With Angelus you expect it, you’re ready for it. With Angel . . .” Buffy’s voice trailed off. Gunn wasn’t going to believe her, just like she didn’t believe it when Spike had told her, even when Spike showed her what Angel had done. Not until “that night” did it really sink in for her what Angel was capable of.
She sighed. “We won’t need Angel’s help. I’m grateful to you for coming tonight to back up Wesley, though.”
Gunn shook his head and shrugged. “Fine, but I’m tellin’ ya’, it’s not Angel. You know where to find us if you need help.”
Buffy nodded. “I appreciate it, Charles.”
Gunn brushed roughly past Spike and left the room.
“What do you think, Wesley? Are you still in the Angel dugout?” Buffy turned her attention back to Faith’s Watcher.
Wesley shrugged and shook his head slowly. “How can I be when my Slayer’s in a coma? Although it was Angelus that injured her, it was Angel that orchestrated the removal of his own soul to unleash the monster.”
Buffy nodded, at least Wesley seemed to understand. “Ok, will you go talk to the nurses and find out what we need to do to get a place set up for Faith in Sunnydale and make arrangements for transportation? Spike and I will stay here.”
“Certainly,” Wesley replied and left the room.
Buffy walked over to Faith and took her hand. They weren’t really close lately, especially since Faith had spent most of the last four years in L.A. with Angel, but Buffy still felt they had a connection as Slayers, and it made her sad to see her in this condition.
Buffy’s phone rang, making her jump. She flipped it open quickly to quiet it. “Yeah,” she said tiredly.
“Buffy, we have some information.” It was Giles. “Willow’s going to send you a drawing, see if this is what you saw in your dream.”
Buffy heard Giles hand the phone to Willow and within a few seconds a picture appeared on small screen on her phone. It was the man/demon that had attacked Faith in her dream.
“Giles?” Buffy put the phone back to her ear.
“Yes, Buffy?” Giles came back on.
“That’s it. What is it?” Buffy asked.
“They're known as the, uh, as the
Bringers or . . . or Harbingers. They're high priests of an Ancient power called The
First - they're it's foot soldiers. The First can conjure spirit manifestations and set them on people,
influence them, haunt them,” Giles explained, reading from the book he’d found
“Ok, great! We know what it is! How do we fight them?” Buffy brightened. Finally, something to do!
“Y-you can't fight The First, Buffy. It's not a . . . a physical being . . . it can't manifest,” Giles explained to her.
“But the, what did you call them? Bringers? They are, right? Killable, I mean?” Buffy suddenly felt tired again.
“Yes. Yes, but they aren’t the real threat. Buffy, The First is . . . it’s larger than anything we’ve ever faced. It is pure evil, The First Evil, and it cannot be fought,” Giles explained further.
“If The First can't manifest, then it can’t hurt us,” Buffy countered. “If we kill it’s foot soldiers, then what can it do? Talk us to death?”
“Buffy, we have no way of knowing how many ‘foot soldiers’ it has or even what form they may take. The Bringers may be only one of many beings under its control.” Giles tried to get her to understand how grave their situation would be if they had to fight the First Evil and its foot soldiers.
“Oh, you’re just trying to make me feel better, now, Giles!” Buffy said sarcastically.
“We don’t even know where to look for them, Buffy,” Giles reminded her.
“From beneath you it devours,” she repeated what Faith had said in her dream, more to herself than to Giles. “Giles, we were in the library at the High School in my dream – they’re in the Hellmouth.”
“Dear Lord,” Giles said despondently. “Buffy, you can’t go down there, it’s . . . it’s extremely unwise.”
Buffy sighed and rubbed tiredly at her eyes. She had no desire to go down there either, remembering the huge monster that came out of there and nearly killed all her friends the night she defeated the Master.
“What about Angel?” Buffy asked.
“What about Angel?” Giles countered.
“Do you think he’s involved in this? Could he be under the control of The First, one of its foot soldiers?” she clarified.
“Buffy, I simply don’t know. I’m sorry,” Giles was sounding more tired now, too.
“Because our Bringer-buddy, he was after Faith, not me. He barely paid any attention to me, except for the small part at the end when I killed him. He had me down and didn’t even attempt to kill me, Giles,” Buffy explained.
“Oh dear, well that is a problem, Buffy!” Giles replied sarcastically. “Perhaps next time you can invite him to tea and ask him about it.”
Buffy sighed. “You know what I mean. Why didn’t it try to kill me? What’s so special about Faith?”
Giles thought about this a few moments. “I don’t know Buffy. Perhaps Faith was its mission and you were simply there, in the way.” Then, sardonically he added, “Fear not, I’m sure your turn will come.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. This is what I get for walking him up in the middle of the night, she thought.
“Ok. First things first. Urrggh, forget I said that!” Buffy moaned and started again. “We’re going to begin by bringing Faith back to Sunnydale and then . . . and then we’ll figure out what to do second. Thanks, Giles.” Buffy flipped her phone back closed and sat down heavily in the chair next to Faith’s bed, resting her head in her hands.
Spike walked over and put his hand on her shoulder. “It’ll be alright, Buffy. We’ll figure it out.”
Buffy gave him a small smile. “Yeah. Yeah, I know,” she said, but her voice lacked conviction.
Monday, January 6th, 2003:
“OK, if everything’s under control here, I’m gonna head over to campus and get this paperwork filled out to drop my classes,” Buffy said to the room in general. Giles, Willow and Anya were at the research table looking up what they could about the First and the Bringers. Spike was sitting on the couch with Annie watching “Barney” for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
Willow was the only one who responded. “Sure, Buffy. We’re fine. Go do what you need to do.”
It had taken longer than Buffy thought to make arrangements for Faith’s move from L.A. They’d finally gotten her to Sunnydale and set up in the mansion. A private nurse came by a few times a day; there really was no need for a full time one, they’d been told. Faith would either wake up or not.
Though Spike objected, Buffy decided that trying to take the classes she’d signed up for at UC Sunnydale this semester would be impossible with this new threat from The First, so she was dropping them. She had to get the paperwork done soon, though, to keep from getting penalized for doing so.
“Ok, see you guys later,” she said as she walked out the door. Spike was obviously still mad at her for dropping the classes; he didn’t even look up as she left.
Spike was starting the video over for Annie again when he suddenly screamed in pain and grasped at his head before collapsing on the floor.
“Papa!” Annie screamed, jumping up from her position on the couch and running to him. Giles, Willow and Anya, who were still seated at the research table, also jumped up and ran over. Spike convulsed on the floor as he continued screaming in pain from the unknown attacker.
Willow grabbed Annie up, pulling her away from her father. “Anya! Take Annie upstairs,” Willow instructed the ex-demon as she pushed Annie towards her.
“NO! Papa!” Annie screamed, not wanting to leave. Willow ignored her and Anya grabbed the child, pulling her further away from Spike as he continued to writhe in pain on the floor. “BUFFY!” Spike screamed as he held his head, every muscle in his body taught to the point of tearing, before suddenly, he went perfectly still.
“PAPA!” Annie screamed again, pulling away from Anya and flinging herself atop her father. Willow started to pull her off, but Giles stopped her with a shake of his head. Giles bent down to check Spike. What on Earth do you check on a vampire? he thought. Pulse? Heart rate? Respiration? Temperature? He was pulled from his thoughts by the phone ringing.
Willow answered it. “Buffy?!”
“No, I’m calling for Buffy. Is she there?” a female voice asked.
“No, please call back later,” Willow answered and started to hang up the phone.
“WAIT! This is Fred, I need to talk to Buffy. It’s about Angel.”
“Fred? Hi, it’s Willow. What about Angel?” Willow suddenly had the attention of Giles and Anya.
“Willow! Thank God! I don’t know what happened! We were talking and suddenly he collapsed screaming in pain and calling Buffy’s name,” Fred told her.
“What?! How’s that possible?” Willow looked at Spike, still unconscious on the floor. “Is he alright now?” Willow asked Fred.
“Well, he stopped screaming and convulsing, but he’s unconscious,” Fred told her. “What do I do? Has he lost his soul again?”
“No, I don’t think that’s it,” Willow told her. “Just make him comfortable and wait for him to wake up. Call me when he does, ok?”
Fred agreed and thanked her before hanging up.
Willow looked at Giles and Anya. “The same thing happened to Angel that happened to Spike,” she informed them. “He’s unconscious, too. How’s that possible?”
“It’s the claim,” Anya answered matter-of-factly.
Willow and Giles looked at her. When Anya didn’t elaborate, Willow said, “But Buffy didn’t do a claim with Angel.”
These people live with vampires and know nothing about them, Anya thought. She sighed. “The claim wasn’t just with Spike, it was with the clan.”
“But, that’s never happened to Angel before!” Willow countered.
“How do you know?” Anya asked her.
Willow looked wide eyed at Giles who shrugged and shook his head. Removing his glasses and rubbing is eyes he said, “We have no real way to know if this has happened with Angel before.”
“Of course,” Anya continued. “It is two generations removed from Angel, so, it could be that it only happened this time because the pain Buffy was in was extraordinarily intense.”
“Oh, God! Buffy!” Willow exclaimed. “We have to find her!”
Willow ran back to the research table to set up a map for a locator spell while Giles and Anya tended to Spike and Annie.
“Looks like we’re gonna have to do this the old fashioned way,” Willow said, disappointed. She’d tried the locator spell five times and couldn’t find Buffy. She even widened the search to include all of California, then the entire world, and nothing came up.
Fred called and said that Angel had woken up. Giles questioned him, but Angel insisted that it had never happened before and, no, he couldn’t tell exactly what happened, just that whatever it was, had happened to Buffy. Spike was still unconscious, so they couldn’t question him or find out if he could contact Buffy. Giles and Anya had gotten him up off the floor and settled him onto the couch. Annie lay down on top of his lifeless body, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, her face buried against his shoulder, as they all waited for him to wake up.
“I’m going to go to the campus and see what I can find,” Willow announced after giving up on the locator spell.
“You shouldn’t go alone,” Giles said, concerned. “Anya? Will you be ok here with Spike and Annie while we go?”
“Sure! Annie and I are great buddies,” Anya said happily, glad that he hadn’t suggested that she go with Willow. After all, whatever had hurt Buffy may still be there and, if Buffy was no match for it, certainly they would be nothing more than bugs to be squashed. “Be careful!” Anya smiled brightly and waved as the other two left and headed for the UC Sunnydale campus.
Buffy woke with a pain in her head that made it feel like her brains were surely oozing out. She tried to move a hand to check the current state of her skull when she realized that she couldn’t. Shackled again?! What is with the bad guys and shackles!? she wondered as she looked around through half open eyelids, afraid that, if she opened her eyes all the way, her eyeballs may pop out of her head from the pounding behind them.
Dungeon, she realized. And not one of the upscale dungeons all the self-respecting demons had these days. Well, at least my feet are touching the ground this time. She looked around the dark, dank place. She not only was shackled, but locked in a cell, as well. Heavy steel bars covered the entrance and there were no windows to be seen. The whole place smelled of something rotten, but she didn’t want to think about what it might be. She pulled on the shackles, but they didn’t budge. Crap!
Buffy closed her eyes and concentrated on reaching her husband. SPIKE! She waited. No response. She tried again, and again, and again. Nothing. Ok, fine, she thought, I’ll just have to do this myself. She started pulling on the shackles with renewed vigor, but they didn’t give at all. She continued jerking and yanking on them, trying to work the chains free of their moorings, but no matter how hard she pulled and tugged at them, they didn’t give. Her wrists were bruised and bleeding and she was getting tired. Buffy stopped struggling. Obviously, whatever they were made out of and hooked into was stronger than she was. Someone was well prepared to keep a Slayer prisoner. Maybe if she could just find out who, she could figure a way out.
At the campus, Willow and Giles started retracing where Buffy would've gone. First to the Admin building and then to the office or classroom of each of her would-be teachers.
“How do you know which teacher she would have seen first, Willow? Or what path she took?” Giles questioned the witch. “Perhaps we should wait for Spike to wake up and he could follow her scent.”
“Buffy’s somewhere and she’s hurt, Giles! We can’t wait for Spike. We’ll just do this logically.” Willow stopped and reviewed the list of classes that Buffy was dropping. There were only three. “European History,” Willow announced confidently. “That’s the first one she would have gone to.”
“How can you possibly know that?” Giles looked at the list and at the map of where the classrooms were. “That’s the furthest from the Administration building. Wouldn’t she have started with the closest one?”
“Not Buffy,” Willow assured him. “She hated history. She would’ve dropped that one first.”
Giles sighed. He wasn’t too sure about Willow’s so-called Buffy-logic, but Willow was adamant. “Fine. Lead on, MacDuff,” he said, at last.
Giles checked with the first two teachers that Willow said Buffy would’ve gone to and they both confirmed that she had been there and dropped the class. On the way across the Quad, heading to the third class, Willow stopped short.
“Do you feel that?” Willow held her hands up like a mime pretending to be stuck behind an invisible barrier.
Giles put a hand out and waved it around near hers. “No, I don’t feel anything.”
Willow kept moving, outlining a circle about six feet across. “Something used a lot of power right here and recently, too. I’m betting they opened a portal,” Willow explained to Giles.
“And you can feel it?” Giles looked at her with doubt.
“Sure. You mean you can’t?” Willow continued to circle around where the energy had been disturbed. “That could explain why I couldn’t find Buffy with the locator spell. She isn’t in this world.”
“Good Lord,” Giles removed his glasses and cleaned them before also rubbing hard at his eyes. “If that’s true, then she could be in any of a thousand dimensions.”
“I think we need to talk to Anya,” Willow said. “She's the expert on dimensions.”
When Willow and Giles got back to the mansion, Spike was up and pacing back and forth across the great room.
“Did you find ‘er?!” he asked, moving towards them as soon as they came through the door.
“No, I’m afraid not,” Giles told him. “You can’t contact her?”
Spike shook his head. “Got nothin’.”
“Well, Willow has a theory . . .” Giles started before Willow cut him off.
“Not a theory! I know that’s what happened!” Turning to Spike, Willow explained, “I think Buffy’s been taken to another dimension. We need to talk to Anya.”
“Another dimension!? Bloody hell!” Spike’s pacing resumed. “How do we get ‘er back? A spell?” He stopped moving and looked hopefully at Willow.
Willow sighed and gave a small shrug. “That’s why we need Anya. Where is she?”
“Upstairs with Annie,” Spike informed her and resumed pacing back and forth across the room.
“There are thousands and thousands of dimensions, Willow,” Anya was saying. The entire group was now gathered around the research table, including Wesley, Tara and Xander who’d been called to come and join them. “The hard part is knowing which one she’s been taken to.”
“So, how do we figure that out?” Xander asked.
“Well, the easiest way would be to go to where the portal sucked her up and open another one. It should take you right to her,” Anya informed them.
“It should take us right to her? What if it takes us to Disneyland, instead?” Xander questioned his wife.
“Well, there are no guarantees, of course. But usually, once a portal is opened in a certain spot, it’s like a worm hole, every time you open it, you go to the same place,” Anya explained.
“Again with the ‘usually’, Ahn. Even used cars come with thirty day guarantees!” Xander pointed out.
“Sorry, Xander. I can’t manufacture guarantees when there aren’t any,” Anya told him and shrugged.
“That’s fine. It’s good enough,” Spike said. “Red, you open the portal and I’ll go in and get ‘er.”
“Spike, I’m not sure I know how to open a portal,” Willow said hesitantly.
“You’ve got the bloody Library of Fucking Congress here, Red,” Spike waved his hand at the thousands of books that now occupied nearly half of the great room. “Look. It. Up!”
“Oh, opening a portal is easy!” Anya said cheerfully. “After all, you have the Key.”
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