17 Impatient to be Free
Storm Warning by Lilachigh
Chapter 17 Impatient to be Free
The room above the demon bar was crowded, the atmosphere hot and sultry, air full of hissings and snappings, the crackle of scales, the flashing of different coloured eyes. The heat made the smell even worse - sulphur, the stink of sewers and the bodily fluids of things that had never ever ventured under a shower or washed their various limbs and heads in a bath.
In the middle of the room, a boxing ring had been built. Four black scaled demons, on at each post, stood guard. In the centre of the ring, a chair, like a throne, covered in black velvet, had been set up high on a dais so that the occupant could be seen by everyone, even those in the far back areas of the room.
Dawn Summers was dragged, kicking, scratching, fighting every inch of the way, but finally she was tied to the chair.
The noise in the room rose several degrees of hissing and she shrank back as several tentacles were thrust through the ropes of the ring and twined round her ankles. She kicked out viciously - they hadn’t bothered to tie her feet; after all, where was she going to run to, there was no escape.
The demon who’d first captured her, jumped into the ring, holding a microphone. He was wearing a tight, white suit and his blue skin glowed against the shiny material. “Good evening, everyone. Are we all having fun?”
“Get on with it!”
“Make her strip!”
“Had some yourself, have you!”
“She’s a bit thin. I’ll need to force feed her for a couple of weeks before...”
Luckily the rest of the shouts were drowned out by a hideous noise coming from the microphone. The demon shook it angrily, then it crackled back into life and his voice boomed out. “Right, listen! Betting for this fair virgin will start in five minutes. I’ll accept dollars, blood in pints, pounds of flesh - human or otherwise - but no magic beans, treasure maps or lamps that summon genies. No elderly relatives fit for sacrifice. Anything with more than twelve legs must be caged. All bets to be written down and handed in and the winner will be announced as soon as possible. Winner to make all arrangements to transport said virgin but be warned - she bites.”
“My sister’s the Slayer! She’ll kill anyone who hurts me,” Dawn yelled but her voice was drowned in the upsurge of demons baying their lust.
She watched in horror as small slips of paper began to be hurled into the ring and the tall demon ordered some tiny rat-like creatures to pick them up. He started sorting them, keeping some, throwing others aside.
Dawn struggled until she felt blood begin to trickle down her fingers as the skin on her wrists tore. She was certain that Buffy would be searching for her by now: Spike, too. And Eriddny had gone to Angel for help. She had to delay the winner of the auction taking her away immediately. The longer she stayed here - where Eriddny knew she was - the better chance there was of rescue. And if not...well, at least she had tried her best. She wouldn’t just give in.
“Right - bets are all in and counted. We have a winner! The fair virgin goes to - ” But before he could say, there was a violent hissing and steam filled the room. The temperature rose several degrees and two demons began a violent tango with each other before bursting into screaming flames.
A bright blue demon, wearing a sharp blue suit and tap shoes, appeared in a flash of light next to Dawn and she found herself oddly pleased to see him. It was Sweet, the dancing demon. He turned, smiled at her and with one sharp fingernail, burnt the cords holding her in place and pulled her gently to her feet, tucking his arm tightly round her waist. “Well, hello again, sweet-thing.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but the auction has closed. The fair virgin has already been sold to....”
“Me, I’m sure.” He floated off the ground for a few minutes, staring round the room that had suddenly fallen completely silent. Whoever had won the auction had the very good sense not to make himself known. Indeed, a group of fat, grub like creatures were all trying to exit through a doorway at the same time, leaving slime and filth everywhere in their wake.
The tall, thin demon gulped and rung his hands together. “Ah yes, of course, Mr.Sweet, Sir. You are indeed the winner. Er...will you take your prize now or send for her later?”
“Oh, I’ll take her when I go.”
“Fine, very good, right, then I’ll just....just....” He sidled towards the door and with another ingratiating bow, hurried out in the wake of everyone else, leaving the room empty, with just the sizzling ashes of Sweet’s latest victims on the floor.
Dawn struggled helplessly in the iron grip. “I did so not summon you again!” she hissed. “Let me go.”
“Now, now little lady. That isn’t the way to talk to an old friend. You may not have summoned me before - what a shame about that young man, Xander. Not really my type. But when your name came up as available, of course I had to respond to claim my bride. And where is that charming sister of yours? On her way here, I expect.”
“Yes, of course.” Dawn only hoped that was true. “And Spike will be with her. He’s a vampire. You saw him in Sunnydale. He’s dangerous - very dangerous.”
Sweet smiled and tapped three or four times across the floor, swinging Dawn along with him. “Oh, yes, I know all about the vampire, Princess. I’d love to watch him dance, oh what fun that would be, him and the Slayer...” He laughed and swung around to sit back down in the throne chair with Dawn on the ground in front of him. One thin finger held her motionless, the other stroked her hair. He smelt of fire and ash and death but, in an odd way, it was a familiar sort of smell. “So, you think he’s on his way to save you, do you. Well, you may be right, Sweetness. Let’s just wait a while and see.”
And he settled back, singing quietly under his breath and tapping his feet to the rhythm, “All you need is love, da di da de da, All you need is love, Love: love is all you need.”
Dawn sat very still: oddly she didn’t feel scared. Sweet might be saying all the same sort of things he’d said that night in The Bronze, but he wasn’t looking at her when he said them. He seemed almost absentminded, as if he was thinking, waiting for something else to happen....
Spike heaved himself out of a storm drain and reached down to pull Buffy up beside him. They had come through the tunnels at express speed and Buffy was only thankful that in these situations they somehow oddly never needed to talk to communicate because she had no breath left. Eriddny had said she would travel overground back to the bar: she was now far too big to fit into the smaller tunnels. Spike had told her to stay out of the fight, keep safe and not get involved. He was quite sure that by now her parents - or one of them, at least - would be in L.A. looking for their runaway daughter. The last thing they needed was a fight with a fully-grown Lynfra demon!
“Too quiet,” he muttered to Buffy as they ran across the road. “Not good. There should be noise, music, lots of vamps and demons. God, I hope we’re not too late.”
His foot shot out and the door crashed to the ground as his boot kicked it flat. There was a general screaming and hissing as demons and vamps, who’d been sitting having a quiet drink, fled in all directions.
Buffy’s stake flashed twice as two vamps tried to take her down: her foot lashed out to catch a snake like creature hard in one of his two throats and he fell writhing to the floor.
Eyes glowing gold, Spike had another vamp by the throat, listening as words gurgled out of his mouth.
“They’re upstairs,” he snapped. “Auction’s over. Some poxy high-flyin’ demon arrived and they handed Little Bit over to him!”
“Jeez - Spike - quick! ” Buffy leapt for the stairs before Spike could drop the vamp to the ground. How much time had passed since the auction ended? Dawn could be anywhere by now, in this world or some hell dimension they would never find.
The door at the top of the stairs flew open and she raced through, stake in hand, skidding on some slimey mess that covered the wooden floor. And there was Dawn - wearing a revealing white dress, sitting at the feet of - Sweet - the one demon she’d never thought she’d see again.
The room was empty; no sign of his wooden henchmen, which was one blessing. She prowled forward, aware without thinking about it that Spike was at her back.
“Buffy! I’m so sorry - I didn’t mean - we were only going - oh, is Eriddny OK?”
“She’s fine. We’ll talk later. Right now - Sweet - I want you to let my sister go. Again!”
The demon smiled down from his seat on the platform. “I’m not keeping her, Slayer. Although I could. Who knows, one day, when she’s much older - no, you see she’s marked for me for ever now and when she came up for auction, then of course I had to come back to this dimension to make everyone realise she was already taken, so to speak.”
“She never was yours and never will be.” Spike strode forward and held out his hands to Dawn, who suddenly realised the grip on her shoulder that had somehow stopped her from moving, had gone. In a flurry of white silk and lace she hurled herself at Spike. He stopped for a second to smooth her hair and then placed her behind him. “Stay out of the way, Dawnie.”
“Don’t hurt him. He kind of saved my life. I was going to be some slug demon’s slave girl.”
“Hmmm, the vampire is protecting the Slayer’s little sister - little demon sister, I sense. Well, perhaps not demon, but not quite human, eh? Now, I wonder why you would do that?”
“You’re all with the questions,” Buffy broke in impatiently. “So here’s one for you. Why did you come for Dawn. I don’t believe all that ‘she carries my mark’ .”
Sweet stroked his beard, eyes gleaming. “You’re wrong. She is marked - your plump friend, Xander, saw to that. Whenever she’s in danger, I will know. Of course, I might not bother interfering; I do have a life to lead. I get updates about her, about all my Sweet-things. She was safe with the Lynfra girl, but only until she grew up. But you two, you didn’t know about that, did you? To busy enjoying, well, shall we say enjoying each other’s company to know she was in terrible danger.”
“Eriddny’s my friend. She would never hurt me.” Dawn peered round Spike’s shoulder, sounding indignant.
“Friendship? Now there’s a difficult thing to quantify. Are you and the vampire, friends, Slayer?”
“What? Friends - no, yes. Jeez, it’s nobody’s business what we are.”
“Of course Buffy and Spike are friends.”
Sweet tap-danced round the boxing ring, sparks flying from his feet, singing a song from the old movie, Calamity Jane. “Once I had a secret love, that lived within the heart of me, All too soon, my secret love, became impatient to be free...”
“Never going to happen,” Buffy said grimly. “Spike and I would never let you touch her.”
“Well now....” Sweet shuffled slowly on the spot. “Spike and I - there’s a statement to conjure with. I have the feeling that’s the first time you’ve ever said that, Slayer. So it’s a start...a good start.... And now I must fly. To the next time, Sweet-thing!"
“And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain, Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders. For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder...nah nah nah nah nah nah.....”
In the dark outside the bar, Buffy stood with Spike’s arm draped over her shoulders, watching Dawn talking to the tall purple demon that was now a fully grown Lynfra. Lurking in the shadows she could see the even more enormous shape of one of Eriddny’s parents who had, as she had guessed, come to L.A. to help hunt for the girls.
“They can’t stay friends,” she said at last, “can they?”
Spike pulled her a little closer. “Eriddny’s all grown now, an adult. She’ll have a very different life, want different things, hey, even though she thinks it’s too awful to imagine, she might even build her own nest and raise kids under the mall in Sunnydale.”
“Who might have Auntie Dawn as god-mother!”
They were silent for a while and then, "Did we put Dawn in danger? Being us….being together. I mean should we have taken greater care, paid more attention to where she was, who she was seeing? Is all this our fault?"
"No, probably, probably, no. She's a teenager whose big sis is the Slayer. Having demon fiends doesn't seem weird rot her. After all, you're sleeping with a vampire. We do our best. We'll try to do better. Being together - well…"
“And is that what I do, as Sweet said - make your world a little colder?”
“It’s your secret, luv. Us. Yours to tell or keep. I’ve always known that. Sweet’s choice of verse was OK, but I prefer the last one....Remember to let her under your skin. Then you’ll begin to make it better.....”
Buffy didn’t reply directly, just said, “We must get Dawn home.”
Spike sighed as she left him and walked across to the two friends. Then something inside him broke into a million shining pieces because she was singing under her breath another line from Sweet’s old song from Calamity Jane, “...at last my heart’s an open door, and my secret love’s no secret any more.”
“Thank you for fetching help,” Dawn was saying, wanting to hug her friend, but knowing she mustn’t touch her.
“That’s OK. Only glad you weren’t sold as a slave girl. But it might have been fun.”
Dawn shuddered. “They were all gross. Not one cute demon or vamp amongst them.”
“I've got to go home with Mom. She and Dad are sooo cross that I grew up without a party with all the fun and killing things. They're threatening to send me to stay with my aunt and uncle in St.Louis. But they've got a son: he was gross when I last saw him but he might have changed, I suppose. Hey Dawnie. One odd thing. When I went to that hotel to find your sister’s friend, Angel. He was there with some other people.”
Dawn was watching Spike and Buffy. They looked - close - Spike’s arm tight across her shoulders. “Did you speak to him?”
“No. Hey, were they close?”
“I think so.”
“He’s got a baby, does she know?”
“Yeah. A boy. I heard them talking. That Angel was all “my son” and “I must protect him” and all that sort of thing. They were getting ready for some big fight, so I didn’t talk to him. But will you tell her? It might upset her.”
Dawn stared across at her sister, watched as she left Spike and began walking towards her. She had no real idea of Buffy’s feelings for Angel, but somehow she knew that even though a few months ago she would have blurted out this exciting news without thinking, now, even if Buffy grounded her for months, she wouldn’t. She wondered if Sweet would agree that some secrets just shouldn’t be told. She sighed: she had a feeling that this was all a boring part of growing up.
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