A/N: The story title and section title were taken from the Metallica songs off of the "Ride The Lightning" album(1984). The image of Ktulu was inspired by but not entirely copied from H.P Lovecrafts "The Call of Cthulhu" written in 1926. The name "Draco" was borrowed from the movie "Dragonheart" (1996). I do not own any Buffy/Angelverse characters. The world of Ærworuld and those in it are of my own creation. This story was also edited by the wonderful Alwaysjbj and Richard. You guys rock! Any mistakes left are all mine. Italics in the dialogue between dragons and people signals telepathic communication.
"Take a look to the sky /Just before you die /It is the last time he will/ Blackened roar massive roar Fills the crumbling sky /Shattered goal fills his soul /With a ruthless cry /Stranger now, are his eyes,
To this mystery /He hears the silence so loud/ Crack of dawn, all is gone/ Except the will to be Now they see what will be,
Blinded eyes to see
For whom the bell tolls..." Metallica "Ride The Lightning" 1984
"Let's go to work," Angel had said, and that's what they had done. Their meager group of four warriors, one already wounded and dying, stood and fought. Evil was pouring down on them from a vicious swirling portal in the sky, crackling with energy that would arc out, causing dark purple and black lighting to strike the ground at their feet.
Before long, Gunn was down and not getting up, and Angel had finally gotten his dragon. Despite the many hours they had been fighting, Spike knew that they would not win-that the messages for help Angel had left for Buffy and the others had been ignored. Reinforcements were not coming; they didn't seem to care enough to come.
Arms tired and soul weary, Spike hesitated for just one second, but it was enough. This time he wasn't fast or strong enough and his weapon wasn't sharp enough. Spike simply wanted a little of the peace that had been denied him the first two times he had died. As his world went black an irrelevant thought swam through Spike's mind.
"Third time's the charm…Bloody hell I've died more times than Buffy!"
(Three days later)
Staring at Angel, the Sunnydale survivors looked on in shock, horrified as Angel told them of his attempt at bringing Wolfram and Hart to its knees. He spoke of the fight like it had been his greatest achievement, how he had nearly single handedly stopped the flow of evil that the Senior Partners had unleashed. He barely mentioned any of his old crew, only stating that he had seen Gunn die during the fight and that Illyria had closed the portal with her life. He failed to explain why the God-King had sacrificed her life, never once saying that with tears flowing down pale blue cheeks she had cried out for Wesley as she had died. To Angel none of it was important because when the portal had closed Angel was given his reward.
He excitedly told the group how the Powers had bestowed their precious gift of humanity upon him-now that he had proven that he was the true Champion-conveniently forgetting the part the others had played in stopping Wolfram and Hart. Finished with his heroic tale, silence greeted Angel's narrative as he waited for the praise that was sure to come his way.
"What about Spike?" Dawn asked, blue eyes impossibly wide as she looked over the man she detested with everything she was.
"I didn't see him, but he's probably dead," Angel said with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "He's not important anyway."
"So you don't know if he's still undead or not?" Xander asked slowly, pointedly making sure that Angel knew exactly what he was asking.
"No, but there is no way he could have survived," Angel answered, sounding slightly irritated that they kept asking him about Spike. And why was Buffy not jumping into his arms? Seeing the shocked look on Buffy's face Angel consoled himself with the knowledge that his turning human was a lot to take in, but once she had, Buffy would be by his side the way they were destined to be.
"We have to find him," Dawn said, her voice strong and determined. A light had entered her eyes that reminded Angel a little of Spike and a part of him mourned that fact that Spike had had such an influence on her young life. Buffy should have known better than to let him get so close to her sister.
"Of course, Dawn," Willow replied. "I just need something of his to perform the search."
"Okay," Dawn said as she hurriedly got to her feet. "I have one of his shirts in my drawer. He gave it to me after…" Unable to finish, Dawn ran from the room, tears already streaming down her face.
"Xander, gather up the slayers and tell them what's happening," Giles ordered as he moved to help Willow gather the necessary supplies. "Even if Willow's spell works we still need to survey the battle grounds, that way we won't miss anything."
"On it G-man," Xander said, with a parting wave of his hand, he headed out the doors of the conference room. He had slayers to find and possibly a future friend to save.
"What's going on?" Angel asked, confusion and no small amount of frustration showing clearly on his face. They should be congratulating him not rushing off to try and find the bleached impostor. Angel was the champion, not Spike. "Why are you guys going through all of this trouble? It's just Spike! I say we let him rot in whatever hell he has landed in."
"Angel," Giles said, his voice frigid. Staring the newly restored man straight in the eyes, Giles spoke quietly and with deadly intent, "Do not presume to speak for us on matters you could not possibly understand."
Leaving the stunned ex-vampire standing in the rapidly empting conference room, Angel let his mournful brown eyes land on the quiet face of his true love. Buffy's eyes were dull, as if an important part of her had simply gone out.
"Buffy," Angel said, his voice pleading. "We can be together now."
Looking her at her former love, Buffy was barely able to keep all of her pain and regret from filling her voice. Now was not the time. They would find Spike and then she would be able to make Spike believe her. She would spend the rest of her life making sure he never doubted her again.
"No, Angel," Buffy said with a slight shake of her head. "We'll never be together, not now, not ever." Standing, she turned and exited the room, a small bit of hope refusing to die within her. Maybe, just maybe they would be able to find Spike alive, and if not was it selfish of her to wish that he were trapped in a hell dimension so that she could have Willow resurrect him?
The alley lay in total darkness, seemingly devoid of any life. No one seemed to notice the bodies of the fallen warriors-both good and bad-that lay scattered throughout the tiny space. Slowly, a slivery glow lit up the sky above the massacre, causing a soft wind to pick up and blow dust and debris around the alley's cluttered floor.
The gentle sound of beating wings drifted through the night, as a massive winged figure landed on the ground. A long serpentine neck stretched out bringing its head down to nudge at a crumpled blonde figure lying on the ground at the end of the alley. Two more nudges confirmed that the blonde was not waking on his own and so the large beast gently rose into the air, catching the body up in its massive claws and cradling him as a mother would her child. Flying upwards, the beast disappeared through the silvery portal-leaving no trace of it having ever been there. All that remained were the tattered remains of the man's coat. It was this coat that the hooded figure found. Picking it up from the ground, a look of distaste showing on its bone white face, it turned to the large suited man and handed him the ruined garment.
"Hess's gonessss, ssssirrrr," The figure hissed.
"Find him," the man growled. "The Senior Partners will not have this one getting away."
There was no pain; only a gentle warmth that flowed through his body causing him to sigh in relief and pleasure. Even the pain from his guilt was gone, leaving him feeling lighter and surprisingly more like himself.
Opening his eyes, Spike was shocked to see that he was lying on a pile of soft torn cloth. It looked to have been made into a large nest of some kind. It was certainly too large for one person and for a brief moment, as Spike took in the enormous cave walls surrounding him, he was a bit scared. Whatever used this mass of fabric as a bed had to be something Spike wanted no part of.
Rising up on unsteady legs, the material beneath his bare feet making it difficult to stand, Spike started to climb his way out of the large nest. When the massive dragon's head suddenly appeared around the slight bend in the cave before him, Spike fell back onto his rear, a high pitched shriek emanating from his throat.
Scrambling to his feet, Spike watched with growing panic as the large beast glided towards him, surprisingly agile and silent for such a large creature. It was definitely not like any dragon Spike had ever seen; the whole two times he had actually seen one that is. This one was bigger than the other two and actually quite beautiful. Blood red scales covered its massive bulk and its leathery wings went from dark red to glittering black as the torches lining the cave walls caused the dim light to dance across the dragon's scale-covered body. A beautiful red stone shone brightly from between large dark eyes that assessed Spike with a cunning intelligence that had been absent in the two dragons Spike had seen previously. If Spike didn't know any better he would have sworn that the dragon was laughing at him but, he had no way of being sure.
"Oh I am laughing at you," a smooth voice said, echoing through the depths of Spike's mind and causing him to fall to his rear once again. Looking up at the dragon, Spike was shocked to find amusement shining back at him from its gentle dark gaze. Tilting its head to the side the dragon seemed to be studying him with a curious intensity, as if it could not quite believe what its own eyes were showing it.
"I would have thought you bigger," the dragon ventured, in its smooth, slightly-hollow sounding voice.
"Get the bloody hell out of my head!" Spike growled as he shook his head in order to dispel the dragon from his mind.
"I am sorry for the discomfort this is causing you Father," the dragon replied with a slight apologetic bow to its great form. "But you do not speak the language of my kind and this is the only way I have of communicating with you."
"Wait a bloody minute here!" Spike said as he finally managed to stand on wobbly feet. Pointing an accusing finger at the large beast, Spike leveled the dragon with his best 'Big Bad' glare. It did not seem to be working but it was all that Spike had left at the moment.
"Look, Draco," Spike growled as he shook his head in an attempt to rid himself of the dragon's intruding voice. "I may not know who you are or where the hell I am, but I do know one thing at this moment and it's this; I am no one's bloody 'father'!"
Head tilting to the side once more, the dragon lowered its head and took a gentle sniff of the fuming vampire standing before it. This slight sniff caused Spike to lurch forward as the pull of the air into the dragon's lungs dragged him along. Stumbling, Spike somehow managed not to end up flat on his face-he did land painfully on his knees instead, causing a string of colorful curses to flow from his mouth.
"You do not know?" the dragon replied, shaking its head in wonderment. "How peculiar."
"Damn it, Draco!" Spike growled, rubbing his head. It was starting to ache. Seemed even Spike's head could get too crowded.
"I'm sorry, Father. The discomfort of speaking this way will pass with time, but one thing does confuse me. Why do you keep referring to me as a 'Draco'?"
"You're a dragon," Spike stated firmly. "Dragons are called Draco. At least the one in that bloody stupid movie Dru made me go see was."
"Movie? How interesting. Your thoughts are very amusing, Father," the dragon replied, a slight chuckle flowing through its words.
"Why in the bloody hell do you keep calling me 'father'?" Spike grumbled losing what little patience he had left.
"I apologize once more, Father. Thoughts of your strange world fascinate me," the dragon explained while it somehow seemed to 'shrug' its shoulders. "I forget that you do not know."
"Don't know what, you over sized lizard?" Spike snarled.
"That you are the Father of the Key, of course," the dragon's gentle voice responded.
Sitting on the plane headed towards Los Angeles, Buffy kept a firm grasp on her sleeping sister. Once the spell had been preformed-neither confirming nor denying Spike's death-the weary group had climbed aboard the Council's jet and had headed out to personally check over the site of the battle. Looking at her sister's troubled face, Buffy once again cursed fate and the Powers that Be. Had she not been handling a very delicate case, she would have flown to Los Angeles the moment she had found out that Spike was back. It had been impossible though, and now it seemed that Spike had gone from this world once again not believing in her love for him.
"So let me get this straight," Spike said from where he was now sitting among many soft pillows and blankets, food and a large pitcher of blood having been placed before him by Draco. "You lot guarded the Key…"
"Our gods created the Key for us to use during the Great War."
"Right then, Draco." Spike nodded. "You and yours guarded the Key after using it to momentarily trap this 'Dark One' in a dimensional prison specially made for him until the time came that the Key's Father would arrive and help the Key destroy this 'Big Bad' and his loyal followers. Then this beast from another world steals it and you dragons waited all this time, knowing exactly where it was I might add, for it to simply return to you all on its own?"
"It was foretold that our Key would return from your world," Draco clarified. "Our Gods confirmed this many years ago, but the Key did not return and still we waited with no word on the fate of our Key. After many years had passed and still our Key had not returned, we began to search the dimensions for any sign of its existence. Then the Dark One began to build his army once more with the help of his servant Ktulu and its followers. Ktulu wishes to use the Key to release its Master so that the Dark One can seek vengeance on our world. But he would not simply stop at ours alone. While trapped in his temporary prison it has been said that he has learned of a strong foe that spans several dimensions. They are simply known as the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart. Some say that the Dark One wishes to join them in order to bring our worlds back to the evil they once started out as. For years we have fought to keep Ktulu's uprisings from being anything more than a mere nuisance, but when the Seers began telling that the Father of the Key had finally arrived and of the power the Father and his Daughter-Key shall wield together, steps were taken to locate either of you, thinking that if we could find one of you then we could use the one to locate the other. We would have simply hidden you both but the Gods are adamant that only you and your Daughter-Key can stop these dark beings once and for all."
"Still don't know why you need me, though," Spike said with a shake of his head. "Should have brought the Slayer in, mate. Those monks made Dawn from her blood, after all. If anyone could help Dawn defeat your Dark One it's her big sis."
"Who is this Dawn?…..Oh, our Key's human name. Forgive me," Draco said as he digested Spike's words. "But why would we need the Key's human protector? In this word we dragons-along with other-allies protect our Key at all times."
"Did you not hear me?" Spike grumbled. "They made the Key human using the Slayer's blood, giving her a little sister."
"The Slayer closed Glory's portal using her blood instead of Dawn's, so it seems to me that you would want the one chosen by the Powers and a bunch of nosey monks to protect the Key."
"We do not require the human Champion of your world Father," Draco scolded gently. "Her place is in the world she is destined to protect."
Sighing Spike placed his weary head in his hands. It was all a bit much to take in. For years he had been nothing more than second best and at worst a convenient replacement until the real champions arrived. During that horrible summer when Buffy was dead, Spike had thought that he was actually doing something good, something that would make those around him take notice. Buffy had not been around for Spike to try and impress but he had stayed anyway, taking care of Dawn and helping the Slayer's friends keep Sunnydale and the world safe. Then the Scoobies had brought Buffy back and Spike had learned the hard way that nothing he did mattered; that he would never be good enough.
Despite learning his lesson the previous year-that last awful year in Sunnydale-Spike had begun to hope once more that what he did actually mattered to Buffy, that she was finally seeing him. He had won his soul back for her, after all, negating her 'evil, soulless thing' mantra. When he'd seen her kissing Angel the night she'd killed Caleb, Spike had again known the truth. He was being used as nothing more than a replacement for his Grand-Sire, the true Champion, once again. That had been the main reason Spike had stayed in L.A. He figured that someone needed to keep the Great Poof safe for whenever Buffy came to claim her one true love, and all Spike had ever wanted was for her to be happy.
But now, here in this strange world with dragons and God knows what other magical beings, it was Spike they needed, Spike they wanted. Draco had even told him that their Gods had foretold of the day when he and Dawn would possibly defeat their world's 'Big Bad'. Here he was a champion, and the thought left Spike stunned and feeling more than a little unworthy. Spike was no champion. He had seen champions in battle and in life, he was just one demon who was trying to make things right. He didn't deserve the title of Champion.
"What do you need me to do?" Spike asked, despite his feelings of unworthiness. This world needed to be protected and Spike would do so, until the time came for him to step aside for the real champions once more.
Hiding a sigh of his own, Draco watched the Father with saddened eyes. He could feel the emotions pouring out from the vampire's tired form. The Father truly did not feel worthy of the status bestowed upon him by the Gods so many years before. It also made Draco's heart a little lighter. The Father had reacted to the news of his prophesied deeds with humility and grace, accepting his burdens because he wished to help make their world-which was not yet his own-safe. It was these characteristics that were the true marks of a Champion in Draco's mind, unlike those who boasted and bragged of their deeds, holding themselves high above those they claimed to protect.
Placing a surprisingly gentle clawed foot on Spike's shoulder Draco gave what comfort and assurance he could.
"In due time, Father," Draco said his hollow-sounding voice soothing Spike's exhausted mind. "For now you shall rest. Let 'Draco' take watch over you, as you once watched over your Daughter-Key."