Storm Warning

by Lilachigh

The story so far: This story is set on the nights directly following the episode Fool for Love. Buffy's mother, Joyce, is in hospital awaiting an operation for a brain tumour: she asked him to do her a favour, distract Buffy to stop her worrying. Spike tells Buffy she must prevent a demon fight at the Bronze. Riley wakes to find the Slayer gone and leaving Dawn on her own, sets out to find her. As a storm rages, a lost demon child, Eriddny, wanders into the house and Dawn decides to find the child's parents. At the Bronze, Spike dancing with Buffy annoys Riley until they realise he's left Dawn alone. Back at the empty house, Spike believes that a Lynfra demon has taken Dawn. Buffy sends Riley to hunt for her sister, knowing that Spike is the one she needs on her side. Dawn has taken Erridny to the mall where she said she lived. But Erridny has now fallen ill and can't tell her mom that Dawn is her rescuer! Mrs Demon is about to kill Dawn when Buffy and Spike arrive. Buffy is ready to slaughter the Lynfra - but Dawn stops her. This is a mom, protecting her baby!

Chp 9 - final chapter: Demons and Death

"Nobody lays a hand on my little girl!" Spike's whispered words jolted through Buffy like an electric shock. The years rolled away and she was young again, in the school corridor, facing Spike in a battle to the death. And her mom had hit him over the head with an axe! It was still one of her happiest memories. She frowned, trying to remember; why hadn't she had a weapon in her hand when they were fighting? Oh yes, now she could recall them agreeing not to use weapons, just bare fists. That was mega weird but she had to admit she liked the feeling of her flesh sinking into his.

Spike felt the Slayer tense as his words hit home. Would she understand what he was trying to say? That moms were programmed to protect their kids. He'd admired Joyce from the second she hit him with a bloody great axe. That was the Summers women all over. Always wanting to hit him with something, although Buffy seemed to prefer skin on skin, trying to break his nose or blacken his eye. He had to admit he liked the feeling of his flesh sinking into her – he swore rudely under his breath – he meant sinking into her flesh!

But now he was standing, staring at the nape of her neck, exposed where her hair had fallen to one side. Her neck was delicate, smooth, fragile. He could see a scattering of tiny blonde hairs escaping to trail across it. He would have given up the rest of his unlife to bite it; but what was worse, he realised with a flash of unusual insight, he would give a lot more to kiss it. And now he knew for certain where his hatred of Riley Finn came from – good old-fashioned jealousy. What a bloody stupid situation to be in!

Buffy suddenly felt great tears well up in her eyes. Her mom had risked everything to protect her daughter and that was just what the Lynfra mother was trying to do now. And, although she wasn't even the tiniest bit superstitious, she wondered if letting this demon live would count on the plus side when her own mom had her brain surgery. "We need to get Dawn out of there," she said calmly.

Spike nodded. "I'll talk to it." His voice sounded odd, hoarse.

Buffy swung round, glaring at him. "You can speak Lynfra and you tell me this now?"

Spike shrugged and seemed to shake himself back to the present. "Didn't want to come between you and the killing. And I don't speak it very well: a few words and phrases. The demon kids speak English. They learn it early on, then they tend to forget it as they get older. Not a lot of chance to use it, I suppose. You know what they say, Slayer - use it or lose it – you should tell soldier boy that!" He grinned and effortlessly caught her hand as it headed for his face.

"Buffy! What are you two doing?" Dawn sounded angry rather than scared. The Lynfra mother had stopped trying to dismantle the barrier and was now prowling up and down outside it, growling unhappily.

"Listen, Dawn, we'll try really hard not to kill anything. Spike's going to try and talk to the mom. Just do exactly what he says and don't make any sudden moves or yell or anything."

"Yeah, like I'm going to do that! Spike, tell her that Eriddny's sick. She needs help. I'm not trying to hurt her."

"Wish me luck, Slayer. Any fond words of farewell if this is my finest hour? You know, 'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever —' "

"Get on with it, Spike!" Buffy hissed.

"Not a Dickens fan, then?" He shrugged and strode forward. Buffy listened, fascinated as he stopped, bent his head in a sort of bow, then a mixture of clicks and hisses came from his mouth.

The Lynfra mother turned on him, towering up to her full eight foot, her face level with Spike's, the rows of fangs gleaming as brightly as the rows of claws in the three arms that sprouted from the top of her purple head. Spike clicked and hissed again, more urgently, and the demon stopped growling and made a noise that sounded almost human; a despairing whine of concern. At last Spike said quietly, without turning away from the Lynfra, "Niblet, I need you to stand up very slowly and walk out from behind the rocks. But slowly."

"Do I bring Eriddny?"

"Bloody hell, yes. Hold her out very carefully, don't squeeze her or make her cry out if you can help her. The mom will sniff her, then snatch her away from you. Can you stand still when those claws come close?"

Dawn sounded scared. "I'll try."

Buffy walked forward as quietly as she could, her hands in tight fists at her side. Most of her instincts urged her to fight this thing, kill it, destroy it, but Spike's words had recalled memories of her mom and all she could see in her mind now was Joyce Summers lying in that dreary hospital bed, waiting…. Not that mom wasn't going to be ok, of course. Doctors did these operations all the time these days; people kept telling her that. Hey, Willow had been on line and given her the exact numbers of successful brain operations in America last year. But none of them had been on her mom.

She watched, holding her breath as Dawn edged cautiously out from behind the barricade, holding in her arms a tiny lavender demon wearing silvery shorts. The Lynfra growled deeply and Spike spat out a string of hisses and grunts until she fell quiet. Then with one swift movement she leapt next to Dawn and sniffed at Eriddny, the same moaning whine coming from her vast frame.

"I…I'm real sorry she's sick. I didn't do anything. I promise. I tried to look after her," Dawn whispered. She held out the little child and Buffy sighed with relief. It was all going to be OK.

Then, suddenly, with yell, a figure exploded from the mouth of the tunnel. Riley flung himself at Dawn shouting, "I've got her, Buffy! She's safe! Kill the thing! Quick!"

Dawn screamed and as she tried to pull away she dropped Eriddny. Spike swore violently and somehow flung himself forward to catch the little demon before she hit the ground.

"Riley! Don't!" Buffy shouted but it was too late. The Lynfra had tossed him aside as if he were made of paper and grabbed Dawn.

There was a shocking silence as Dawn's scream faded away. Buffy and Spike stood on one side, holding Eriddny, the Lynfra clutched Dawn in two of her great arms and waved the other at Buffy and Spike, trying to reach her child. Then Riley groaned from where he was lying on the ground, there was blood staining his hair where he'd cut his head. Buffy glanced at him, worried by the force of the fall he'd taken. "Are you OK?" she muttered.

"I'll survive. What happened?"

"Fools rush in," Spike said sarcastically, pretending not to smell the blood. "That's what happened, mate."

"Don't call me mate! Buffy?"

She bit her lip. She was so fond of Riley but it was always exhausting when he got involved in her work. She thought she'd got him neatly out of the way. "I'll explain later. Just stay still for a moment. This could get tricky. Spike?"

He stared down at the limp body he was holding carefully in his arms then across at Dawn's terrified face. Checkmate! Buffy listened as Spike began to talk to the Lynfra again. It seemed to be a long, involved conversation with a lot of arguing on both sides. Riley had clambered to his feet, ignoring her hushing sounds. "What's going on? What is that and why is Spike talking to it?"

"We're trying to do a swop," she muttered. "It should be easy, we've got her kid and she's got Dawn. I'm not quite sure what the problem is."

"And when Dawn's safe, then we kill it?"

Buffy turned and glanced at him, her eyes very green in the light that came filtering down from somewhere high above them. The sun was up and shining down on a new day in Sunnydale. She so needed to be home, to go to the hospital to be with her mom. And there was Glory to worry about – and Dawn. She felt a rush of anger at her sister for putting them all in this position.

"I don't want to kill it if I can avoid it. She's only trying to protect her kid. All moms do that."

"Right, I'll add mother demons to the list of things that go free!" Riley said sarcastically and then wished he could take the words back as he saw the expression on her face. He dabbed at the blood running down his face. "Hey, come on Buffy, there are so many dos and don'ts in your world, it's hard to keep up. Vampires with chips in their heads, demons you like, now demons who have kids. It gets confusing and it shouldn't be. It should be quite straightforward. Demon equals death."

Buffy turned back to watch Spike. Riley made it all sound so straightforward, but it wasn't. She'd believed once that life was all black and white, then Angel had happened and now there was Spike - not in the same way, she thought hastily, because – well, because that would be wrong – but she'd learnt over the years that you can't draw a nice tidy line in the sand and never cross it.

Spike was beginning to remember more and more Lynfra and the conversation began to pick up speed. They'd stopped shouting personal insults at each other, which he reckoned was good – and anyway, what was wrong with the colour of his hair? At least it wasn't purple.

The demon towering above him was angry and upset and wanted to eat them all, starting with Dawn. But he had her kid, although she didn't look that good and he only hoped she didn't die before they got Niblet back.

"This one stays here until Eriddny is well again."

"No. She goes, this little one stays. That's the deal."

"You've brought the Slayer into our home, vampire!"

"I didn't bring her, she brought herself. And if you could tell me how I could have stopped her, I'll be eager to hear it."

"Eriddny is sick. This one touched her, infected her."

Spike nodded. He'd guessed that was what had happened. "She didn't know you mustn't touch a Lynfra. And I reckon your daughter's too young to understand otherwise she'd have steered clear of humans."

"Spike, what's the problem. Why haven't you just given her the kid and got Dawn back?"

Spike sighed, wondering why patience wasn't high on Wanker Giles' list of things he should have taught his Slayer. "Got a small problem, Slayer, but I'll sort it. Just don't let soldier boy do any more sodding damage!" He knew exactly what he had to do – knew the remedy for what ailed the little demon girl. Blood – it was always blood.

"This one must let Eriddny feed to cure her," the Lynfra hissed.

Spike shook his head. "Never going to happen. And no good looking at her sister. Slayer blood's far too strong for a nipper. And I wouldn't wish the soldier's blood on any innocent demon. No – " he sighed. "It'll have to be mine. Let Dawn go and I'll stay and let Eriddny feed."

Puzzled and worried, Buffy watched. What the heck was Spike doing? Then, just as she was about to intervene, the huge Lynfra put Dawn down and let her run to Buffy who wrapped her arms round her and gave her a quick hug.

"Buffy, I'm sorry, I didn't mean – the house was empty – there was no one to ask - Eriddny came in from the storm – she's so sweet – I couldn't make her mom understand but I'm so glad you didn't kill her."

"It's OK, Dawnie. Not your fault. Tell me about it later. Riley – can you take Dawn and get her home safely."

Riley felt a surge of irritation rush through him. She was using him as a babysitter again. Why couldn't they all go? Why did she want to stay here alone with Spike? Exactly what had they been doing in the back seat of his car? "Buffy – don't shut me out like this."

She shut her eyes for a second, fighting back the weariness that threatened to overtake her. All she wanted was to crawl into bed, pull the covers over her head and sleep for the next month. But there was Dawn, Glory and, pushing everything else into the background, her mom's operation. Why couldn't Riley understand that and just – well, help. "Please, Riley. I need Dawn to be home and safe. I trust you to do that."

"Buffy – I want to stay, too. I want to know that Eriddny's OK."

"No!" Buffy felt her temper fraying alarmingly. "Dawn, please don't argue. Not now. Not today. Go with Riley. Have a shower. Get some sleep. I'll be home as soon as I can."

Without another word the two of them vanished back up the tunnel towards the mall basement.

"You might as well go, too, pet," Spike said. "Nothing to keep you here."

Buffy crouched down on the rocky ledge and stared at him. He was sitting now, jean-clad legs stretched out in front of him, still holding Eriddny in his arms. "What's going on? Why haven't you handed her back?"

Spike raised an eyebrow and smiled. "She got infected when Dawn touched her. Lynfras must never touch humans but unluckily this one's too young to know the rules. She needs blood now to cure her."

"Blood?"

"Yes, you know, nice red shiny stuff. Mrs Demon wanted Dawn's; I persuaded her that mine would taste better."

Buffy stared at him, her eyes widening. "Let me do it. She's my sister."

Spike reached out a hand and without thinking, she linked her fingers in his. He smiled at her and for once there wasn't a trace of sarcasm in his expression. In fact, if she'd wanted to put a name to it, she would have called it affectionate, even loving, which was ridiculous. "I think you'll need every drop of blood you've got in the next few days, pet. Get off home and look after Niblet and your mum. Sun's up so I'm not going anywhere. Might as well do something useful for this kid while I'm here."

"Spike – why -? "

Spike pulled his emotions back under cover and reluctantly untangled his fingers from her strong warm grasp. He still had a reputation to keep up, even now, even with this woman who somehow made him feel things he'd never thought he would or could. "Oh don't worry, Slayer. I'm not doing it out of the goodness of my undead heart! You never know when you might need a favour in the demon world and Mummy Lynfra could come in very handy in a fight. Oh, and tell Dawn not to worry, Eriddny will be fine."

Buffy stood up, hesitated, then turned and walked away back into the tunnel. After a few yards, her steps slowed and she stopped and slowly retraced her tracks. She peered out of the tunnel and winced. Spike was sitting on the rocky ledge, surrounded by vast purple demons. His duster had been discarded and the mother Lynfra was holding Eriddny so that her little mouth fastened on his pale arm, just above the wrist.

And although her rows of teeth were small, they were obviously still needle sharp because Spike's face was contorted with pain.

Buffy started to go to him, then stopped as his gaze turned to where she stood and the blue blaze told her there was no place for her here. She sped away, back to the mall, the sunlight, home and the questions from her nice, normal boyfriend who would never understand exactly the price Hostile 17 was paying.

Joyce Summers was determined to go home, leave hospital, sleep in her own bed for the nights before her operation. She'd had enough of the hospital, the smells, the noise, doors banging, nurses calling out, patients shouting. She wanted her own room where she could relax and prepare for what lay ahead.

Clutching the pills the doctor had given her, Buffy helped her mom outside. They would need to get a cab home. She'd been tempted to drive her mom's car to the hospital but decided perhaps having her laid up in ER with broken bones from smashing the car wouldn't help her mom to relax. But the cab rank was empty. Buffy stared round in despair, her arm tightly round Joyce's shoulders. God, if only Riley hadn't totalled his car he could have picked them up. But he had, so he couldn't. Get over it, Buffy, she shouted inside her head. The storm wasn't his fault. But leaving Dawn alone was, a little voice whispered and she shut down the thought as soon as it happened.

"Buffy – I'm not complaining, but feeling a little whoozy."

"Need a lift, ladies?"

Buffy spun round. Spike was leaning against the wall, smoking. He flung the cigarette away and strode towards a long dark car.

"No. We're waiting for a cab. Anyway, what the heck are you doing here? And whose car is that? It's brand new. If you've stolen it - " Buffy hissed.

"Buffy – don't be so ungenerous. Spike, if you can give us a ride home, I'll be grateful for ever," Joyce said calmly and let him help her into the front seat.

Buffy glared at the back of Spike's head as he drove them away from the hospital. Then the comfort of the soft leather seats, the carpet under her feet began to soothe and relax her. For a few glorious minutes she knew she could hand over her burden to someone else, shut her eyes, drift away, not think about demons or Glory or Dawn or …

Joyce glanced back over her shoulder, wincing as the pain in her head caught her. "She's asleep."

Spike spun the wheel and accelerated down the street. Joyce smiled to herself. This was one of the reasons she liked the vampire. Anyone else would have driven as if she was made of eggshells. Spike drove as if she might enjoy the speed – which she did. She leant her head back and watched the town speed past. "Buffy told me you took her to the Bronze to stop a demon fight."

Spike threw her a look. "You wanted her to be bloody well distracted."

Joyce nodded, biting her lip as the tyres screeched. "And you kept your promise."

The vampire shrugged. Joyce smelt bad – sick – every instinct told him she was very ill. "I suppose you thought I wouldn't?"

Joyce didn't reply until they were pulling up outside Revello Drive. Then, as Buffy woke and scrambled out of the car, she turned to Spike, the warmth in her eyes sliding into a sore place in his head and soothing it with motherly affection. "Spike, it never crossed my mind that you wouldn't be there if Buffy needed you."

He watched her walk up the path and vanish indoors. He sat for a long while, wondering bitterly what the next few days would bring. Then the door opened and Buffy ran down the path and leaned in through the open car window. "Thanks for the ride," she said. "I needed to get her home."

She hesitated, wanting to say more, but not sure what. His eyes were too bright, too intense. She felt they could see right through her and they were telling her something she didn't want to know. She wanted to stay safe with her nice, normal boyfriend. Life was too weird for any more complications.

"Any time you need transport, Slayer, just let me know. Cars, bikes, trucks – "

She ignored his words; she couldn't imagine a situation where she would need Spike to steal a vehicle for her. "Mom'll be OK, you know," she said abruptly. "Everyone tells me that."

Spike drummed his fingers on the steering-wheel. People lied.

Suddenly Buffy frowned and pulling open the door, got into the car next to him. She reached for his hand. Just now his duster had slid up his arm revealing a row of inflamed teeth mark. She stared down at the wound and winced. "Does that hurt?"

Spike pulled his hand away, then grinned idly. "Yes, Slayer. Like hell. Lynfra demons produce poison when you touch them. You have to take it out if they're going to survive. So they suck blood and the poison comes into you. It burns like hell. Dru used to keep one as a pet, just so she could feel it's mouth on her skin occasionally. She loved the pain. Said it reminded her of rhubarb. But at least the kid's fine now. Skipping around without a care in the world when I finally crawled out of there."

Buffy pulled a face, irritated at hearing about his mad ex-lover, although she didn't know why she should mind. But that was just a fleeting thought. What remained was the fact that if Spike hadn't done this, then the Lynfra mom might have made Dawn give her blood. And Dawn wasn't real. Her blood might have killed Eriddny and then she would surely have died as well. But Spike didn't know that. So why had he helped them? She knew he would never tell them.

"Buffy!" Dawn was calling from the doorway. Buffy turned to get out of the car then stopped. She bent forward, her hair blonde and loose swinging down to hide her face as he kissed the burning marks on his wrist. Then she was out, whirling up the path and the door closed behind her.

Before she got into bed, Joyce opened her window and stared out into the dark. The storm had long passed, the air was cool and calm. She wished she could sit outside; her house seemed strange, foreign, uncomfortable, as if part of the hospital had come home with her. She could hear her girls talking and wondered what the future held for them all. She wanted them to be safe, happy, cared for, loved. And as Joyce drew the curtains across the window, she saw under a tree a tiny red glow as a cigarette was lit. And she smiled.

The end

Do hope you have enjoyed this story. Your comments have been greatly appreciated. I try to reply to each one but apologise if I have missed anyone. Starting a new story, Cousin Arabella, very soon. Watch out for it. We Will Remember Them... still going strong and pleased most of you are enjoying that one, too.