Render the Extra Mile
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They do not belong to me.
"Oh, man! What have I landed in?"
Dawn moaned a little as she fought against the exhaustion that threatened to overtake her as she sat cross-legged on the worn kitchen floor. She looked down at her abused and reddened hands cradled in her lap. Looking at them now, there was no indication that these hands had recently sported pale purplish pink nail polish and had not possessed a blister or callus before arriving in this dimension. She carefully inspected her insulted fingertips with their chipped and ragged nails in front of her. They were so swollen and bruised that it hurt when she pressed down on them. The muscles in her upper back and arms also joined the symphony of agony as she tried to readjust herself to a comfortable position under the large kitchen table. She had been trapped in this large institutional kitchen for days, the longest days she had ever experienced.
Looking around her, Dawn saw the sleeping figures of the kitchen staff scattered around the area between her and the only source of heat in the kitchen. She was sat on her thin coarse pallet under the kitchen table farthest away from the fireplace. The kitchen staff members with more seniority were closer to the warmth issuing out of the fireplace. She could feel the cold air swirl on her side farthest from the fire as she pulled her mother's shawl out of its hiding place. She had tucked into the boards of the table overhead to keep prying eyes away from it. Looking around to see no one was awake, she carefully untied the shawl with her aching hands.
It had been eleven days of torment since she had opened her eyes to see an imposing greasy looking woman towering over her. The woman's formless dingy blouse was underneath a large apron that had so many stains from cooking, blood and other fluids appeared to be pattern similar to lizard skin. The bedraggled collar of the woman's blouse hung lopsidedly around the area between her large head and her vast upper body that might have once been termed a neck. The stains from sweat decorated the threadbare sleeves that were rolled up over her knobby elbows and substantial forearms. Behind the woman, in the uneven glow from the fireplace and gaslights, Dawn could see several large tables with foodstuffs surrounded by a bustling number of people. Over by the oversized fireplace, there were several large kettles hanging suspended. Dawn blinked at the bright light from the fire bouncing off the cracked tiles in the back of the fireplace.
"I suppose you're the girl the foundation sent over? Stand when your betters address you! This is an honest kitchen. You'll do an honest day's work. There will be no relying on charity, I tell you!" The gruff and intimidating woman declared and then stared at Dawn with a malice filled glare. "I know your kind; you'll try to shirk your part. I have no problem heaving back to find your way on the street!"
Um..." Dawn uttered. She looked up at the looming figure and swallowed hard as her eyes roamed around the scene she found herself in. "Where is he? Where's Spike?"
'What's the matter with you? Get up before I put me boot to ya! Please spare me another simpleton! There is plenty of work to be done."
"Where...What is this place?" Dawn stammered, still trying to register what type of place this was.
"Cor Blimey! I do not have time for lay-abouts! Get up! You won't be pleading weakness in this kitchen! If you want food, you'll work for it! Now, on your feet, before I throw you back in the gutter where you came from!"
Dawn looked down at her legs and did not see Willow's cotton skirt. She saw a shabby worn woolen dress covering her legs that had obviously see better days. Instead of the rounded toes of her solid hiking boots, she saw the sharp pointed toes of scuffed and bedraggled high laced boots peeking out at the other end of her dress. She turned and placed her hand on the wall as she brought her feet under her. Suddenly, she felt an iron grip of the woman wrap around her bicep as she heard the woman's impatient huff. As she bounded upwards, Dawn's senses were assaulted by the woman's rather ripe aroma and tried to pull back from the woman's grip. In the next instant, she was violently jerked by the sweaty and grimy looking woman further into the kitchen and her new situation.
It turned out the Dawn found herself in the large institutional kitchen of the Middlesex Asylum. She was the new scullery maid reporting for her first day of work. She found the woman was one of the kitchen staff that she would be reporting as the woman flung a large worn apron and cap at Dawn. What surprised Dawn the most was that no one seemed to notice her accent or for that matter to ask what her name was. She was simply called 'Scullery' by the entire kitchen. As a scullery maid, Dawn would be tasked with scrubbing the large collection of dishes, copper cooking pans and implements. Her other task was to stoke the fires and provide hot water for the kitchen. The water had to be toted in by hand and poured into a kettle that hung near the fire. The hot water was in constant use in the kitchen which meant many trips to the well pump and lugging heavy buckets of water through the traffic of the kitchen. Her remaining hours would be spent in the endless task of scrubbing the tables and floors of the kitchen.
The staff moved like machinery around her as they prepared the vast amount of poor quality and equally depressing food for the inmates. Along the side of the kitchen there were doors to the employee dining room and to the private bedroom of the head cook. There was a large door at the opposite end of the kitchen that was kept locked that led to the asylum. The only key that unlocked the door hung around the waist of the head cook. The door was only unlocked when the number of carts carrying the thin gruel or soup with rough bread was carted out into the facility for consumption by the poorer inmates. Each cart was pushed by a pair of kitchen maids.
As the lowest ranking in the kitchen, Dawn found that she also had to wait on the table of her fellow kitchen staff while they dined. Once everyone was fed, Dawn was allowed a few moments to scarf down a dismal tasting meal before she was expected back to her unceasing cycle of dirty dishes and pans. She tried on several occasions to question the kitchen maids about the asylum but was soon met with derision and scoffing. Once she had tried to follow one pair of the maids with a cart out the door where she was met with a backhand from one of the maids.
"Go on! Get about your work!" An irritated frizzy haired maid barked at her before swiftly turning her back on her to push the cart into the hallway.
She stumbled back into the kitchen holding her cheek, shock bringing the sting of tears to the back of her eyes. The door was then securely shut behind the last cart as the key spun in the lock, closing the only avenue to finding Spike. As she stood there, Dawn heard the ominous click of the key in the lock, imprisoning her in the kitchen once again. She stared at the key as it swung back and forth like a pendulum hanging from the head cook's waist. The head cook turned and stared at Dawn with an uncompromising gaze, till Dawn retreated back to the sinks.
It was roughly around two in the morning, as Dawn sat there looking at the items in her shawl. If it wasn't for their presence, she might have doubted there ever was a Sunnydale. The items such as the dagger and the candles were a comfort, but it was the flashlight that was the telling point for Dawn. It could have only come from Sunnydale; it was her physical tie back to Buffy and the Scoobies. She let the coolness of the aluminum tube sink into her skin as she let it rest in her hand for a moment. Then putting it back and rewrapping the shawl, she secreted her bundle back under the structure of the table. With new determination, Dawn knew she had to get out the kitchen soon and rescue Spike, if not for his sake; but for hers as well.
It was mid morning of the next day that one of the maids was injured in the butchery. With her hand wrapped in her apron, she was sent off to the wing of the teaching hospital. Upon returning from a discussion with the head cook, another maid walked over to Dawn who was busy trying to remove some baked on drippings from a pan. The maid clapped her hand on Dawn's shoulder and announced.
"Since Pansy won't be able to assist with the mid day food distribution, you're to take her place."
Dawn looked back over her shoulder and solemnly nodded. It wasn't until she turned back to the sink that she allowed a small corner of her mouth to pull up into a smile. She knew that now she was going to get out of this kitchen and hopefully find Spike soon after.
As the portal closed, a ripple of magic flowed out into the surrounding area. At the sensation, Tara and Willow sat bolt upright in bed. They had both been awakened by the shudder issued by the closing portal downstairs. Looking at each other, their eyes locked, each knowing what they felt did not bode well. Willow bolted out of bed in only her pajamas while Tara grabbed her bathrobe and quickly followed. The sound of their running feet in the hallway brought Buffy to her door in time to see the two witches noisily clamber down the staircase.
By the time, Buffy grabbed her robe and fuzzy slippers and made it down the stairs, she found the witches standing in the dining room. Willow and Tara were standing inside the circle. Tara held her hand up in the air as if she was playing blind man's bluff while Willow was examining the sacred circle items.
"Hey, guys. What's going on?" Buffy asked, widening her sleepy eyes and blinking as she leaned against the corner of the dining room entrance.
"Buffy...we felt…Someone was practicing magic." Tara responded softly as she dropped her hand and looked back at the slayer.
"What do you mean 'someone'? You're the only witches in the house." Buffy said, as she pulled up a hand to scratch the back of her head with a yawn.
"Buffy, you know that with the right supplies and incantations, anyone could cast a simple spell." Willow leaned forward to look at Buffy before her eyes went back to their search.
Slowly, Willow knelt down and picked up a piece of paper that looked like it had been torn from a book. Reading the piece of paper in her hand, she walked over to Tara with a serious look. She silently showed it to the other witch. After reading it, Tara's eyes flew up to look at Willow's grim face.
"Who would be casting a spell, this time of night?" Buffy mumbled as she was still struggling to wake up. "I mean there is only the four of us here in the house. Who would be interested in casting a….DAWN!"
Suddenly awake and alert, Buffy turned and flew up the stairs as she called her sister's name.
Willow and Tara looked at each other as they listened to Buffy's feet run thunderously down the hall to Dawn's bedroom. The sounds of doors being flung open and Dawn's name came barreling down the stairs. After a few moments of quiet, Buffy finally reappeared at the dining room entrance.
"She's gone! You don't think..." Buffy admitted as she looked worriedly at the witches. "That...that she...she."
"From magic still reverberating around this room, I would say she pretty much did." Willow said sadly, nodding her head at the slayer. Tara looked away with a pained look of agreement to Willow's statement.
"Well, can we get her back? I mean, you're both witches. Is there a way to put the spell in reverse to bring her back here?" Buffy asked with urgent hope. "Because I so want to wring her neck and I really need to have her neck BE HERE to do that!"
"Buffy, the spell she used doesn't work that way. It was specific to a point and place and in this case to a person." Tara answered, not quite daring to look at the fierce look in Buffy's eyes.
"What do you mean a person? You mean she went where Spike was?" Buffy gruffly demanded. Upon seeing Tara's reluctance to answer, she added "Oh, crap!"
"Well, maybe it's not that bad." Willow weakly proffered with a small flame of hope. "Just because Spike came back all broken and…oh, forget I said anything." Willow groaned as her attempt to keep be positive failed.
"I'm calling an emergency meeting of the Scoobies!" Buffy declared as she turned toward the kitchen and the phone. "The rescue of Spike and my pain in the butt little sister has just been moved up on my list of priorities!"