Chapter Ten: And You Must Live

Dawn looked up as the door opened again, Ben stepping in hesitantly. He held out a wad of cloth, saying, "They said you have to put this on...for the ceremony."

She tilted her chin up as she said, "What if I don't?"

Ben sighed deeply as he said, "Come on, just..."

"What if I don't like the color?" Dawn challenged and Ben said quietly, "Look I wish there was another way."

"And I wish," Dawn shot back as hatred dripped from her voice. "That you'd fall on your head and drown in your own barf but I guess we're both disappointed."

"It'll be quick," he offered after a moment. "I think."

A minion who had been guarding the door piped up, saying, "Actually sir, the bleeding is quite a slow process to give the portal time to-"

"Thank you!" Ben interrupted hastily as he realized Dawn's eyes had widened in shock and horror at the words the creature was spouting. "For the information." He turned to Dawn, adding, " I'll do what I can to..."

"Change."

"What?"

"Change," Dawn repeated. "Be her. I don't want to look at you."

"Dawn," he said desperately. "I don't think you want-"

"Be Glory," she said again. "Be Glory." As Ben looked at her helplessly, she began screaming, "Be Glory! Glory! Glory! Glory!"

Ben protested, shouting, "Will you stop..." He changed. "Shouting already?" Glory finished with a frown as Dawn scowled at her hatefully. The Hellgod grunted, cracking her neck as she said, "Huh, so, what's the hubbub bub?"

She shook out the cloth, revealing a medieval-style dress in a maroon color. Wrinkling her nose briefly in distaste, she looked at Dawn and said, "What do you got against old Benji?"

"He's a monster," Dawn retorted sullenly as she glared at the clothing the Hellgod tossed at her. "At least you're upfront about it."

"Don't be so hard on the boy," Glory said dismissively as she turned and picked up a dark blue robe. She pulled it on over her clothing, adding, "He just wants to live; most guys would do the same. Besides he's probably the reason your sisters and their little friends are still alive." She looked at Dawn with a grim smile. "That little nagging pinch of humanity that makes me go for the hurt instead of the kill." The Hellgod shuddered. "Lowering myself to trading blows with the Slayer when I should have just put my first through her heart..."

"Or maybe you just can't take them," Dawn shot back and Glory laughed loudly, turning to face the Key completely. "Funny thing," she said as she reached out and yanked Dawn to her feet by her shoulders. "You've been here a few hours now and I haven't seen anyone galloping in to save you." She smirked. "They probably know what a terrible mistake that'd be."

"My sisters aren't afraid of you," Dawn spat and Glory giggled insanely as she whispered, "Oh, no, sweetie baby. I'm talking about the ritual. 'Cause you know I bleed you, the portals open, but once you die, they close. The faster you die, the better for your sorry species."

Dawn swallowed, fear racing her veins as she clutched the dress to her chest, wincing in pain as Glory tightened her hands on her shoulders. "I'm betting Buffy knows that. Since she's not really your sister-"

Anger flared in Dawn's breast at that statement and she growled deep in her throat as her eyes flared bright green, causing Glory to step back with a cry of pain. The Hellgod stared at the girl for a few minutes before saying, "What in the hell?"

"She is my sister," Dawn said lowly as she glared at the Hellgod. "And I hope you burn."

--

"Buffy?" Giles peered into the Slayer's bedroom, frowning deeply as Spike stepped away from the young woman. Irritation and anger flared in the Watcher's chest as he watched his Slayer smile up at Spike and murmur something he couldn't hear. The bleached blonde vampire nodded and kissed the Slayer's brow before walking past him.

Silently, he stood in her doorway and said after a moment, "You must hate me right now."

"Hate isn't a strong enough word," Buffy replied as she got up and went to her closet. Opening the door, she pulled out a pair of leather pants and turned to look at Giles. "This is how many apocalypses for us now?"

"Feels like a hundred," Giles admitted and Buffy nodded as she turned back to the closet.

"I've always stopped them. Always won. I sacrificed Angel to save the world and I loved him so much." She stared at herself in the mirror. "But I knew what was right. I don't have that anymore; I don't understand. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices. If everything just gets stripped away..."

"Buffy," Giles began but her next words stopped him cold.

"If I lose anyone else," she said turning to look at him. "I'm done with this. I'm quitting."

"Buffy," Giles said appalled. "You can't-"

"I can, Giles," Buffy said firmly. "And I will." She looked at the pants in her hands. "I need to change." She walked over to the door and gently, but firmly pushed him out of her bedroom. Giles stood in the hallway and closed his eyes turning to go back downstairs. He paused as he caught one of the oddest sights he had ever seen in his life.

Luna and Spike both stood in the doorway to Dawn's bedroom. The Seer was staring at the room with a blank expression on her features. The Cockney vampire was staring at the room with an expression of grief written on his own. The Seer inhaled sharply and exhaled, saying, "It's time..." as she turned, her eyes glittering silver as the Slayer stepped out of her bedroom, dressed from head to toe in black.

Meanwhile, across town, Dawn was being tied to the sacrificial post. She struggled, cursing as one of the little brown minions tightened the ropes and managed to kick one off the tower. Satisfaction filled her but she looked up at the sky, swallowing as the blood red color continued to grow darker as the seconds passed.

Softly, she whispered, "Help me."

--

Tara, Willow, and Xander all entered the house as the others came down. The white witch gently held out the Dagon sphere and the Seer's face relaxed as she took it, saying, "Thank you."

Buffy looked at them. "It's time," she said. "Everybody knows their jobs. Remember the ritual starts, we all die. And I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn."

"Ditto," the Seer said as she walked out the front door, the Dagon sphere held tightly in her hands. The others looked at one another and followed, Spike muttering, "Not exactly the St. Crispin's Day speech, was it?"

"We few," Giles said as he closed the door behind them. "We happy few."

"We band of buggered," the vampire finished as they followed the Slayer and Seer.

As they walked, Spike caught up to the Slayer and the Seer. He glanced at the two girls and smiled to himself at the identical expressions of grim determination on their faces. The Seer stopped suddenly and smiled wickedly as growling echoed in the dark night. She looked at the others and said simply, "Go."

At that moment, two Turok Han came slinking out of the shadows and Buffy cursed as she began to run, Spike and the others copying her movements. Luna smiled at the creatures, her eyes flaring silver as she said, "I'm in a hurry."

Then, a brilliant light erupted from where she stood.

--

The tower loomed over the city and Xander let out a squawk of "Shpadoinkle..." as Tara said worriedly, "What is that?"

"The portal must open up there," Giles said and Buffy nodded before looking at the others. Her eyes met Spike's briefly and she inhaled before turning back around, and walking forward. The minions all let out chittering cries as Glory turned to face the Slayer, frowning deeply as she said, "What hell are you doing here?"

"Well, gee," Buffy said innocently as she put her hands on her hips. "I thought I'd come join the party. I mean, it's a big day right?"

"If you think," the Hellgod began as she pulled of her robe to reveal the black dress beneath. "This will last more than eight seconds-"

"I noticed you're talking," Luna said as she appeared behind the Hellgod, the Dagon sphere glowing brightly in her hands. "Whereas in your position, I would attack her." The Seer smiled as the Hellgod turned to look at her. "Catch."

The Dagon sphere flew at the Hellgod, who caught it reflexively causing her to let out a groan of pain as the light inside of it wrapped itself around her. She cringed in pain as her minions scattered, some going towards the tower and others running at the Scoobies. Glory hissed as she dropped the sphere crushing it beneath her foot as Caleb's form appeared beside her.

"I'm a bit disappointed," the First said as he watched the Hellgod stagger sideways. "I mean, you're a Hellgod. Do something hellish."

Glory snarled at the First in reply as she spun to the Slayer who smiled politely. Luna let silver light filter out of her hands and swung her sword at the Hellgod as Buffy swung the hammer. As the the two sisters tag teamed the Hellgod, the others were occupied with the minions.

Spike cursed as he dodged a sword, his axe spinning in the air as he threw it at one that was sneaking up on Xander's back. He spun, fist reaching into the minion's chest and coming out through the other side. Muttering under his breath, he looked up as a scream came from above them.

Blue eyes widened as Dawn's screaming voice reached his ears. Luna flew past him at that moment, landing in a heap against a brick wall that fell on top of her. Cursing, he made his way over to the Seer, who groaned in pain as he managed to dig her out quickly. She hissed as he helped her to her feet, saying, "Dawn?"

Another scream came from above them and the two looked up as Buffy managed to back Glory into a corner. Luna cursed as the Hellgod straightened up, saying, "You know what? I'm feeling a little bored."

"Shit," Luna said as she watched Glory pick Buffy up by the throat and begin to choke her. The Seer began to run as Spike did the same towards the tower. As she tackled the Hellgod, letting energy crackle around her, she shouted, "Go! Get Dawn!" to her sister. The Slayer gasped for air as she stumbled to her feet, running towards the tower behind Spike.

Glory swung, Luna spinning to avoid the bunch, and managed to kick out the legs from underneath her opponent. She jumped back as a chain was swung at her and managed to catch it with her hands, pulling Glory close and smiling as her eyes flared silver.

A scream ripped itself from the Hellgod's mouth as the energy wrapped itself around her, causing her to gasp in pain. "You're not the brightest god in the heavens, are you?" Luna asked as Glory clawed at her hands, her face shifting into Ben's face. Luna smiled grimly as the intern gasped, "Please, don't..."

"You sacrificed my sister," she hissed furiously. "So you cannot expect me to have mercy." She began to press down on the young man's throat, feeling the bone begin to give away. She didn't see Giles watching from afar, regret and acceptance written on his features. The First appeared behind her, laughing softly as he crouched down. "Do it," it said in Jamie's voice. "Kill him. Kill him like he would have killed Dawn. Like Caleb killed me."

"I am not yours," she snapped as she turned to glare at the apparition. The First cackled with laughter as Luna's eyes narrowed angrily but a scream tore through the air causing her to look up. Horror filled her as she watched a black and blonde figure go flying down to the ground. "No," she whispered as she saw the flicker of light in the sky. "No!"

Luna rose, dropping Ben to the ground as she ran towards the tower; blood and fear pumping in her veins. She ran, her heart pounding in her ears as she remembered the vision, the light...

No, it won't end like this

--

Doc snarled at Buffy, who narrowed her eyes as she studied the large knife in the demon's hands. She staggered to the side as the creature opened its mouth, Dawn sobbing in the background as blood pooled at her feet. The air crackled around them, causing the demon to laugh as he said, "Well, look at that? It's time."

"Buffy!" Dawn screamed as lighting shoots out of the portal. Below them, Luna let out a shriek of surprise as one of the bolts hit close to where she climbed. The Seer exhaled sharply and continued climbing, calling, "Dawn! Buffy!"

Doc lunged at Buffy again with the knife, the Slayer easily sidestepping his attack. Spinning, she kicked him hard in the jaw and the creature laughed as Luna appeared behind him. The Seer's eyes narrowed at the sight of the knife and she snarled, reaching out and grabbing the demon's neck.

A crack sounded as Doc's neck snapped and he was thrown off the roof without a sound. The two sisters turned to Dawn, Buffy stopping in shock as she saw a dragon hovering in the small portal. Luna tightened her mouth in grim acceptance as she hurried forward, saying, "Dawn..."

Buffy jerked out of shock as she also hurried forward, helping her untie Dawn. The trio stumbled, Dawn sobbing as she said, "It hurts..."

Behind them, the portal grew larger and Dawn turned her head to look at it. She gasped, saying, "Oh my God. It's started." The wind blew roughly around them, causing Dawn's hair to fly in her face as the other two watched in fascination. The Key stared, her eyes glittering green suddenly as she whispered, "It has to have the blood..."

Buffy's head snapped to the side to look at her and she gaped in shock. "No," she cried, grabbing Dawn's arms as the younger girl stepped foward. "No, Dawn, you don't have to do this!"

"Buffy," Dawn whispered as tears spilled down her face, meeting her sister's eyes. "I have to jump. The energy...look at what's happening..."

Tears of anguish slid down Buffy's face as her sister continued, saying, "I have to stop it."

Realization filled the Slayer's eyes and she swallowed as she met Dawn and Luna's gazes. The Seer was dead silent, her eyes blank as she met the Slayer's gaze steadily; something flickered in them that Buffy couldn't decipher as she said firmly, "Dawn."

Dawn's eyes widened as she realized what Buffy was going to say. "No!" she cried horrified. "Buffy, no!"

"Dawnie," she whispered softly. "I have too."

"No!"

"Listen to me," Buffy said urgently grabbing her by the shoulders. "Please, there's not a lot of time..."

"You're right," Luna's voice interrupted her, causing her to look at her. "There isn't."

Pain flared in Buffy's face as she spun around in a complete circle from Luna's punch, landing in a heap on the ground. The Seer winced as she pulled her hand back and looked at Dawn, who stared at her with her mouth open in shock. Gently, the Seer tapped her on the nose and said quietly, "Tell her that it's not her time to go, Dawn. Tell her that she's right; it's not just her blood. It's mine too."

"Luna?" Dawn asked her voice trembling as she realized what the other girl was going to do.

The Seer smiled as lighting crackled in the sky, green threads of energy floating into the air. She leaned foward and pressed a gentle kiss to Dawn's forehead, a silvery glow surrounding her as Dawn's body was outlined in green. The Key let out a gasp as the cuts on her flesh healed, Luna grimacing as they appeared on her own skin. She stepped away from Dawn and said, "Tell Buffy she has to let go. To love. To live. I wish I could have been there for you Dawn. I wish I could have had a real family with you and Buffy and Spike."

A sad smile lifted her lips as she said softly, "But it's not meant to be..."

"What?" Dawn gasped as Luna glanced over her shoulder at Buffy. Sadness and something like hope flared in the Seer's eyes as she said, "Tell her she's got so much more life to live. She's got so many people to love. And I'm not one for mushy scenes, but hey, I love you both. More than you'll ever realize or know."

Then, Luna turned and ran towards the edge of the tower. Buffy stirred, her eyes fluttering open as she groaned in pain. Dawn sank to her knees as tears blurred her vision. Luna turned briefly, spinning her body around so that she faced the other two girls, a smile on her features.

Energy crackled around the Seer as her eyes glittered on odd combination of silver and green. She fell off the tower, causing both girls to let out cries of horror as the lighting and energy crackled, writhing and spitting.

Pain flared inside her body, everything inside of her ached as she arched her back, mouth opening in a silent scream. She closed her eyes as more energy was poured into her, thinking, 'I told you didn't I? I created you Powers. I can stop your stupid plans for my sister's life. She deserves more than what you can give her.'

Her body bowed back, almost in half as the energy tore into her skin, Luna's breath caught in her throat as she spasmed once and then twice. She let out a rasp of air as her vision swam before her, her back slamming into something as darkness overcame her.

--

Buffy stirred, pain blooming in her body and in her face as she opened her eyes. Her breath caught as she watched Luna turn and run, her form outlined in green light as she threw herself in the air, a perfect swan dive off the tower. Swirls of silver and green energy collided as she hit the portal, and Buffy clung to Dawn as she tugged her off the tower, going down to the ground where they could be safe.

Dawn felt Buffy tugging on her hands, but kept her eyes trained on the form of her sister who had come into her life and given her someone to lean on. She watched as Luna's body flew through the air, grace written in each line, watched as the energy that was Luna and the energy that was her, twisted and turned around her body.

She can feel the pain in Luna's body as if it were own.

Dawn struggled, sobbing as she and Buffy stumbled down the stairs, the lighting and energy crackling around them violently. The wind died down suddenly, the energy and everything gone as the portal closed. As soon they reached the ground, Dawn jerked as suddenly that connection that she has always known was there, vanished. Snapping into nothing as the remains of the body she looked for is nothing, and there is only darkness and memories of wise words, and unfathomably sad eyes. Later, she will find Luna's cigarettes sitting on her dresser, left in her haste to rescue her. To save the sister she has dreamt of but never really known.

There is no body.

It's as if she has never existed.

Buffy felt her body sag with exhaustion, and Dawn crumbled to the ground as she said brokenly, "Luna. Luna. Luna..." over and over, and she sank to the ground as she gathered her sister, her only sister, into her arms and grieved. She can feel Spike hover behind them and reaches out to him with one hand, trembling as his broken fingers entwined with hers, and she mourned for her small family that is now broken into pieces.

Her sister is dead. Dead. No longer will she appear at the house with a look of curiosity in her eyes, looking at everything with awe and wistfulness. No longer will she say her name as if she's said it all her life. No longer will she look at her with a small smile as if the act is too foreign for her face. No longer will she ask about Joyce and what it was like to have a mother like her. No longer will she put everything on the line for Dawn...

Her sister is dead.

And Buffy's tears taste like ashes.

Dawn feels Buffy gathering her close and Spike is there, a silent and sad shadow to her grief. She feels Buffy's grief, tangible and there, and she wondered how she is supposed to go on with her life knowing that her sister is dead.

Her sister is dead. Beautiful, witty, lost, alone, and craving love Luna is dead.

And Dawn mourned for the sister she never really got to understand.

--

Three Weeks Later,

Los Angeles, California

The alley was silent and deserted, the darkness of the California night hiding that sometimes the worst things happen in dark alleys. The sound of mice squeaking and glass breaking down the block broke the silence as a tiny sliver of silver-green light sparked to life in the air. The energy moves along the alley walls and cement ground as if it has a mind of its own. It curls around as something shifts through it, a black hulking shape that takes off into the night towards the alley entrance.

The portal opens wider, revealing a vast wasteland with red sky and a feminine yet callused hand grips the edge of the portal like a doorframe. The hand curled around it as the energy hummed, a voice saying harshly, "Goddamnit!"

The energy fluctuates, like a heartbeat as a figure falls through, a female form. The woman's hair is matted and dirty, the color a dark shade of blonde. She wears a shapeless brown coat and torn jeans, nails dirty and crusted over with dried blood. She lay on the floor of the alley for a few minutes, panting heavily as she muttered, "Fucking hell..."

The black figure from before stops at the edge of the alley, turning to snarl at the woman. The woman stiffened immediately, getting onto her hands and knees as she said lowly, "Kitty..." as she peered at it through a mass of hair. Hazel eyes glittered as she smiled, revealing white teeth as she said, "Growl..." as the black figure loped back towards her in a blur.

Meanwhile, Angel strolled down the sidewalk, searching for the vampire pack he and his team had been hunting for a few days now. He paused, frowning as his nostrils flared at the scent of fresh blood before taking off to his left.

The woman cursed as she ran awkwardly down the sidewalk, her left leg stiff beneath her. She muttered under her breath as she wrapped her left hand around her right arm, saying, "Shit, shit, shit..." as she skidded painfully around a corner. A roar sounded behind her and she turned to face the demon she had been fighting, saying smartly, "Still alive?"

Angel rounded the corner at full speed, almost tripping over himself to see the oddest thing. A woman stood proudly despite her obvious injuries as a demon he had never seen before let out a roar of rage and flew at her, claws stretched out to kill her once and for all. Before he could shout out a warning, the woman's eyes glittered silver and she became enveloped in a silver light. Throwing his hands up, Angel winced at the light as he heard a scream of pain.

The light died and he blinked owlishly as he stared at the woman, who panted heavily as she leaned against the wall. She blinked at him, hazel eyes wide as she breathed, "Home sweet home..." before her eyes rolled into the back of her head as she fell into unconsciousness.

Alarmed, Angel went over to her, fumbling for his cell phone. Thankful that Gunn had programmed it to his voice, he called the others to pick him up and then studied the young woman before him. She looked to be about twenty-two or twenty-three years old, with a full mouth and straight nose. Her eyes were shut, the lashes dark against her tan skin as she breathed deeply. A scar ran from the top of her right temple to the edge of her jaw line, giving her a rough look. She was still devastatingly beautiful despite the scar, the darkness of her hair contrasting sharply against her skin.

Angel inhaled and his eyes widened as a familiar scent filled his nostrils; sweat, copper, and spices tinged the girl's skin but what he knew and recognized was the scent of someone miles away in Sunnydale.

Buffy.

"Who are you?" he whispered to the unconscious girl, who stirred long enough to reveal a pair of shockingly familiar eyes and to say one single word. She smiled briefly as she murmured a name that gave him even more question before slipping back into unconsciousness:

"Liam."

To Be Continued in Book Two: The Key...