Everyone Has Secrets
Chapter 8 The Portal
The atmosphere in the family room was not good: Xander’s endless stream of frantic chatter had, finally, died away and now he sat, whittling a piece of wood into another stake for Buffy when she came home. If she came home.
“It’s getting really late now,” Dawn said, sitting on the stairs and refusing to go to bed. “They should be back by now.”
“It isn’t late for Buffy. They’ll be patrolling - killing demons, dusting vamps, all the usual fun of the fair.”
“Perhaps you should go look for them.”
Anya looked up from the magazine she was reading. “That is so not a good idea, Dawnie. They could be anywhere in Sunnydale. Our job is to stay here to look after you and the child.”
Dawn bit her lip hard. If it wasn’t for Becca, she knew she could persuade Xander to take her with him on a hunt for Buffy. “I still don’t understand why we couldn’t give her back to her father. I know he was horrid to Tara, but he is Becca’s dad. He’d take care of her. And he even said she was in danger. So he must care about her.”
Xander dug too viciously with his knife at the piece of wood and it splintered into shards. Sighing, he swept them into a pile. “Buffy doesn’t want him to have anything to do with Becca.”
“Legally, that could be really awkward,” Anya said brightly. “What do we do if he comes back with a policeman - two policemen!”
“I’ll phone Giles. I’m sure he’ll deal with it until Buffy gets back. Meanwhile, the kid’s safe upstairs in bed asleep and we - well, we’ll just wait. You should go to bed, too, Dawnie. Buffy will be furious when she gets home and finds you still up.”
But Dawn just shrugged and ignored him. Of course she was pleased she hadn’t given Becca to Donny, but life would have been so much nicer if she had. It was all the silly cat’s fault!
Upstairs, Becca tossed and turned, half asleep, half awake. If she was dreaming, then they weren’t happy dreams of rainbows and ice-cream. Sitting by the window, the big black cat turned slitted green eyes to stare at her, then turned his gaze back to the dark world outside, almost as if he was waiting for something, a sign, a message.....
Miles away, Buffy and Spike had stopped fighting the energy tentacles that held them fast, pulling them through the glowing layers of the light globe that surrounded them - white brilliance burnt her eyes and she managed to turn her head enough to check that whatever this light was, it wasn’t burning Spike to a crisp! She shut her eyes against the glare and tried to take in small gasps of the air that stung her lips and mouth with an acid tang. Then, must as she thought she would choke, the white light vanished, the tentacles loosened and she found herself falling onto a hard, smooth surface, Spike tumbling after her.
With a leap she was on her feet, stake in hand, crouched, ready for fight. She felt Spike at her back, was aware of the swish of his leather coat as he swung round to check out who was about to attack them.
There was still light streaming from the energy globe that was beginning to shrink. It showed - nothing - black expanse that stretched away, cold metal under their feet, walls of some metal, dull and boring. A room without end and Buffy shuddered as the globe finally shrivelled into nothing and the dark fell completely upon them.
“Right here, pet.” The voice at her ear sent a quiver through her. “Hang on a sec.”
She could feel him fumbling in a pocket and then he clicking of his lighter. He might not smoke too much around her anymore, but she knew the lighter was always with him.
Now the yellow flame shone on the angles and planes of his face and gleamed in his eyes. And he was grinning.
“Us,” came the brief answer. “Why does nothing we ever do together ever end well? Hey, let me rephrase that! Some things we do end brilliantly every time.”
Buffy tried not to smile, but couldn’t help herself. “What’s annoying is that we start out with the best intentions, like this time, and now look what’s happened.”
“This place is weird, pet. Floor, walls, all fairly modern, but that glowy thing, didn’t feel like demon. Something else. And I’ve not a bloody clue what.”
“Did you feel something when it pulled us through?”
“Yes, fear. Big time fear.”
Buffy nodded. “So someone or something is scared of us. Well, they should be. Why don’t they come out and show themselves?”
Suddenly a blast of freezing air surrounded them, the flame from the lighter snapped out and for a few seconds the darkness seemed to cling to their faces, smothering, choking, draining all life out their bodies. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, the icy blast eased and Buffy realised there were two figures outlined in the dark, glowing orange around the shape of their bodies.
Slowly the dark began to fade and a pale pinkish light began to glow from the ceiling. The shapes solidified into what appeared to be a woman and a man, although Buffy was quite certain neither of them were human. They both had smooth dark hair and blank white faces.
“What do you want here?”
“And good evening to you, too,” she snapped. “What the heck is this place and who are you?”
“We are The Others. You should not be here. You have no place with The Others. You are Beyond.”
Buffy glanced at Spike and mouthed the word to him, but he shook his head. “Told you, pet. This place is modern but they aren’t.”
“We’re looking for a young woman, her name is Jan. We think she might be here somewhere. Do you know her?”
“You should go away. You are not wanted here.”
Buffy took a deep breath. She had no idea how dangerous these creatures could be, but she could sense great power and still that overwhelming feeling of fear. “Look, we want to leave here just as much as you want us gone, but we’re not going without some answers. Jan Maclay - is she your prisoner? We know she’s here somewhere.”
There was a long silence; the orange borders around the shapes flared back and forth and Buffy was certain they were communicating with each other without words.
“I don’t think they know what to do, pet,” Spike muttered. “We could try rushing them.”
Buffy shook her head. “No, we’ve no idea what weapons they have. Jeez, give me a good old fashioned vamp or demon any day. At least you can usually see by the fangs and teeth and tentacles exactly what you’re fighting. Listen, Mr and Miss Other, Jan has a little girl. Is she in danger? Why did my friend take her away from her family?”
The orange flares grew more and more agitated and the woman stepped forward. “You have the child? She is safe? Can you bring her to us?”
“Oh yes, we’re going to do that! Like not.”
“The child must be kept safe.” More orange flickering, then, “Come with us.”
“At least we all seem to be agreed about protecting Becca,” Buffy muttered.
“Just watch your step, Slayer. I can’t sense anything from these things. They’re cloaked in some way.”
Buffy flashed him a glance as they followed the pulsing shapes. “Oh not more gods like Glory, surely? Not in the mood to die again today.”
Spike didn’t even try to smile. That day, the tower, Glory, Ben, the Doctor, the whole bloody mess was still too raw, too vastly painful, even though she was now back with him again. One thing he did know, if this was a demon god thing then this time he would protect her with his unlife. And this time he wouldn’t fail.
Their footsteps were echoing on the metal floor although the shapes ahead of them seemed to flow silently onwards. “Does this place still smell like the Initiative?”
Spike shook his head. “I don’t think so. I get the feeling no one’s been down here for years though. I reckon it’s some sort of old army or airforce base that’s been shut up and left. Perhaps from the Cold War days when your government thought the Russians were going to nuke the States. A lot of shelters were built then all over America and Europe.”
“The Others don’t sound Russian.”
At last a grin broke over Spike’s face. “I reckon they’re a long way from home, pet, but it certainly isn’t the gold old U S S of R. And it’s not another Initiative.”
Buffy could hear the bitter disappointment in his voice. She didn’t know what to say: had he really believed they were going to find some place down here where they could take the chip out of his head? And why did he mind so much? Was being able to kill humans so important to him? Well, being with her was obviously not enough. Good old Buffy Summers, the girl who was never quite good enough for a guy. After a while, she realised she hadn’t replied and said instead, “We must have walked miles.”
“Well, at least half of one. You need more exercise, Slayer. I know one or two fun things we could do to tone up your muscles!”
Buffy swung her fist effortlessly towards him and grinned as he ducked and cursed. Why didn’t she feel it was weird that here they were, striding out towards goodness knew what battle and yet it felt like coming home, a comfort that she couldn’t fathom or understand.
“We’re coming to somewhere.” Spike’s words broke into her thoughts - he was right - up ahead the dark began to glow orange and apricot, peach and mauve as an opening grew in size and the two dark figures vanished through it without another sound. “Right, do we stay or do we go?”
Buffy hesitated: she could see nothing through the swirling apricot mist. There was no way of knowing what lay on the other side. She would cheerfully back her and Spike against any number of demons or vamps, but this was different. If she died, what would happen to Dawn? Yes, she wanted to help Becca and Jan but surely her first loyalties lay with her sister? Would her father come back from Spain to claim her? Unlikely. Hank would probably have memories of Dawn implanted by the wretched monks, but there would be no connection, no love. How could there be? You might be able to manufacture memories, but not love, not an emotion.
But on the other hand, Dawn was fifteen now, she would survive. Giles, Xander, Willow they would all help. But Becca was just a little girl without anyone to look after her except Donny, a father from whom she’d been hidden for years. OK, if she died in the next few minutes, then whatever Tara had been trying to do would all have been wasted and Donny would claim his daughter. But at least she had to try. Buffy had the strongest feeling that Becca’s life was now in terrible danger. There really was no choice.
She hesitated for a second or two longer, wondering exactly what Spike’s response would be if she told him to stay here and wait for her, smiling for an instant as she realised he would probably use swear words she didn’t fully understand! Then she reached out her hand and found his waiting and together they stepped through the portal.