Chp 5 Squalls
Buffy erupted through the door of her house like a small blonde whirlwind. “Dawn! Dawn!” She was shouting before she’d reached the family room, but with a cold chill running through her veins, she knew there would be no reply. She was coming downstairs from her sister’s empty bedroom when Riley arrived, out of breath. Even for a guy as fit as he was, trying to keep up with a Slayer at full speed was a hopeless task. “Buffy?”
“She’s not here.”
Riley winced at the expression on her face. “Buffy – listen – she’s not a child. I never gave leaving her a thought. But even if Dawn woke up, why would she leave the house in the middle of the night? Why should she? Where would she go?”
Buffy stared at the remains of a mess on the carpet by the sofa: cereal, milk and strawberries by the look of the pink pulp that was left. But the cushions were still in place; there was no sign of a struggle. The door hadn’t been kicked in; the windows were unbroken. So what the hell had happened? She struggled to keep calm, to not turn and thump her boyfriend where it would hurt the most. Because she was the Slayer and when she hit someone, they stayed hit. “She’s – I know she’s old enough to know better, to stay here by herself, but – it’s – she’s Dawn. She’s my sister. We never leave her on her own. Not because of her age but anything that wants to get to me could try by going through her. Surely you realised that?”
Riley pushed his hands deep into his pockets and stared down at her, his face a picture of misery. “No – I’m so sorry, Buffy. This Slayer business is still a learning curve for me. Let me help you look for her. She can’t have gone far. Perhaps Xander or Willow came round and took her back with them.”
Buffy shook her head. “They’d have left a note. They all know the rules.”
A sound at the door made her spin round, but it was only Spike. He glanced at her face and vamped out. “Gone?”
Buffy nodded wearily.
“Perhaps you should get her one of those fancy collars with a bell, like they put on cats to tell birds they’re around?”
“Not funny, Spike. Are you helping? If not, clear off. I can’t cope with your nonsense tonight.”
Spike crossed to her in two great strides, his face shimmering back to human. “Oh great, Slayer. Was it me who left the Niblet on her own? No, it was your lover boy here. Why aren’t you shouting at him? Or is it just easier to take out your temper on someone who can’t fight back?”
Buffy glared into the bright blue eyes. This was all Spike’s fault. She wasn’t entirely clear how, but he was usually behind everything that went wrong in her life. Without thinking, she bunched her fingers and swung a fist towards his nose, but she’d reckoned without his responses when he was angry. His hand flashed up and caught her fist inches from her face.
For ten long seconds they stood, Riley forgotten, flesh to flesh, fighting to see who was the strongest. Thoughts poured through his mind. God, how he hated her! He’d like to do things to her body that he couldn’t even put into words. God, how she hated him! She’d like to tear off that stupid coat and slam her fists into his bare flesh and –
Suddenly Spike pulled away, dropping her fist and staring over her shoulder. “What the hell’s that?” He pointed towards the floor, his voice suddenly anxious.
Buffy followed where he was looking. “What? Don’t change the subject – it’s just a mess Dawn must have made earlier. She dropped something on the floor and didn’t clear it up.” She glanced at his face, frowned, then turned to Riley. “Look, we’ve got to find her - fast. Riley – check the graveyards just in case she’s gone looking for me. I’ll go into town. This might just be a silly prank and she’s been sheltering from the storm and couldn’t get back before us.”
“OK – and Buffy – “
“Yes, I know. Sorry and all that. Don’t worry. Talking about who’s to blame won’t do any good. We just need to find her.”
Riley reached out and touched her cheek, pretending he didn’t notice when she froze for an instant. Then he turned and hurried out into the dark night.
Buffy turned to Spike, hands on hips. “OK, what’s up? What have you seen?”
Spike knelt by the sofa, ran his hand across the pinkish goo on the carpet and then raised it palm towards the Slayer. “Can’t you see it?”
Buffy frowned. “See what? Jeez, Spike. Is this some sort of stupid game you’re playing? It’s just a mess which I’ve got to clear up because Dawn is oh, far too young to know where the cleaning things are kept!”
Spike stood up and stared down at his hand, ignoring her rant. He knew she'd caught and understood his expression. That was why she’d got rid of soldier boy so swiftly. The Slayer might hate him, but she knew who was most likely to be of use in this situation and she would use him accordingly. And even though this wasn’t a part of his plan, it was certainly taking her mind off her mum’s problems tonight.
“Can’t you see the glitter?”
Buffy stared harder at the hand he pushed in front of her face. She could see the thin white fingers, the palm that looked so hard from one angle and soft from another. She knew his nails were dreadful – there was a little scar on the base of his thumb and she wondered where he’d got it and –
“Oh!” There, across his fingertips, was a smearing of lavender glitter. “What the hell is that?”
“That is not good, Slayer. In fact that is bloody bad.”
“Are you going to tell me, or have I got to stand here guessing until I’m an old, old Slayer?”
Spike winced. Slayers didn’t get old. Ever. Which shouldn’t have bothered him at all. Sooner she died the better. He pushed away the thought that her death would not fill him with the glee it should. He’d think about that tomorrow; now he had to find Dawn. “You only get glitter like this from a Lynfra demon. They shed it from their skin. There’s been a sodding Lynfra in the house, Buffy. And it’s got Dawn!”
Buffy felt a wave of panic sweep over her. “A Lynfra? Is it dangerous? Why does it want Dawn? Is it something to do with Glory?”
“A demon, yes, don’t know and no.”
Buffy picked out the part of the sentence she needed to focus on. “How dangerous?”
Spike wiped his hand across the seat of his jeans. “They stand about eight feet high, dirty great purple things with faces in the middle of their bodies. Three rows of teeth that I bloody well wouldn’t want anywhere near my bits and pieces and arms on the top of what should be their heads. Each arm has seven fingers and seven claws.”
Buffy stared at him. “And there’s one loose in Sunnydale? Where the heck has it come from?”
Spike headed for the door, coat flying. “No idea, Slayer. All I do know is that it only kills on its home ground, in it’s lair. So if you don’t want Joyce to be the mother of just one daughter by morning, we need to find where it lives - and fast!”
A mile away, the eye of the storm was slowly passing over the Sunnydale mall. Great black clouds began to swirl up from the west and lightning cracked to the ground. The little demon girl, Eriddny, squeaked and grasped Dawn’s hand even tighter with her seven fingers. “Oooh, that’s scary, Dawnie. I wish I was home. I do want my mommy so badly.”
Dawn gulped. She wanted her mother, too. She was terrified of lightning, but there was no way she could show Eriddny that she was afraid. Buffy wouldn’t have been scared of a silly storm. “Oh that’s nothing. Don’t worry. I’ve been out in far worse storms with my sister. As long as you don’t stand under a tree, you’re OK. My friend Xander taught me that. He’s very clever. He knows all sorts of things. And my other friend, Willow, knows even more.”
She stopped suddenly as the demon child jerked to a halt and stood, gazing down at the sparkling shoes she’d said she’d taken from a shoe shop window. They were far too big and now she kicked them off, giggling as they sailed into the black sky. “Nasty poo shoes. They made my toes hurt. Dawnie - I’m tired. Carry me!”
Dawn sighed. The imperious tone was irritating. Strangely it wasn’t as much fun being the adult and in charge as she’d thought it would be. “Can’t you walk? Is it much further to your home?”
The small face in the middle of the demon’s waist, screwed up and a wail echoed round the deserted shopping mall. “I’m tired! Carry me! You’re not nice. I don’t like you any more. You’re not my friend. I want my mommy and daddy!”
Dawn sighed; they'd walked a long way and surely it couldn’t be much further. Eriddny had said they lived under the mall, which was odd, but then she supposed demons had to live somewhere and little lavender ones wouldn’t take up much room. She reckoned Eriddny’s parents wouldn’t be that big, otherwise she was sure Buffy and Giles and all the Scoobies would have mentioned them.
She stared down at the small demon girl who was now sitting in a heap on the ground, the arms on top of her head firmly crossed, all three eyes stubbornly shut tight. Eriddny was obviously not going to walk another step. Just then another crack of thunder hit the town and Dawn picked up the child and raced for cover. She had to get inside the mall out of the storm.
On the other side of Sunnydale, in a small room in the hospital, Joyce Summers was woken from her fretful sleep by the storm crashing down once again. She’d been dreaming of – it started to slip away – she couldn’t remember. The only feeling she was left with was one many mothers know – her children were in danger.
And deep in the bowels of Sunnydale’s sewer system, another mother was standing staring down at an empty nest. She raised vast purple arms, flexed her claws and roared in despair, answering the storm with a thunder that was just as loud and just as violent.