Render the Extra Mile
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They do not belong to me.
Spike was sitting in his new cell in the Middlesex Asylum Research wing. It was coated in built up layers of white paint applications that gave it a hazy ghost like appearance. There was no window in the room, but a gas light fixture secured behind a small metal cage gave off a flickering low light. There was a cot with a thin pallet pushed against one wall. Next to the cot by the door, was an outcropping of stone work that served as a ledge. In the far corner, there was a small pile of fresh straw and a bucket. Spike had been transferred to this wing a little over nine days ago.
One morning without warning, he was torn from his sleep when two large attendants flung open his door with a crashing sound. Before he was able to stand, he was grabbed and found himself brutally stripped, scrubbed and shorn. He was thrust into a gown made of heavier cotton before being strapped again into a straitjacket. He was summarily hauled through the institution. He was being moved from the halls of the inmates committed by the state over to the newer parts of the asylum. Spike was bewildered to find himself in the antiseptically frightening Research wing. This was the wing that the inmates whispered about in fear, whispers of tales of people disappearing into the halls of science never to be seen again.
He did not move for several minutes after the door slammed shut behind him. He slowly moved over to the corner with the straw and slid down until he was crouching. He slowly scrapped his fingertips along the wall, feeling the gummy surface under them. He pushed his thumbnail into the surface where he could see it leave an indentation. There was an atmosphere of suffering that seemed to emanate from the almost dough like walls. Spike wondered how much suffering was trapped in between the layers of paint on the walls. For the first few hours after being delivered to his new cell, Spike had stared at the walls of the cell like it was an apparition. He had become accustomed to living in the darkness of his previous cell. Spike knew it as well as the back of his hand, and in that respect, there were no terrors to frighten him there. However, in this cell all the horrors were illuminated, there was no escape from them.
The next morning, three pairs of brightly polished shoes entered Spike's field of vision as he stared at the floor. He looked up to see three men dressed in particularly fine Victorian garb. The man in the center leaned down to peer in Spike's face. A slow smile appeared across the hauntingly familiar face that addressed him.
"Good morning, Mr. Pratt." Doc easily greeted the vampire. Turning his head slightly away, he spoke over his shoulder to one of the men. "Prepare him."
Spike barely noticed the other man quickly step forward; but he could not tear his eyes from Doc's face as he straightened. Watching Spike for a moment, Doc dismissively turned his head to address the man on his other side and Spike felt the jab of a needle in his throat.
It was the fourth night that Dawn had participated in the food distribution. She was amazed by the sheer size of the institution. Each night, she peered up and down the dimly lit halls looking for Spike in the wing her cart was assigned. As she and the other maid pushed through a plate and small bowl through an opening at each door. Some of the doors had had a window that she could peer at the inhabitants, others did not. She got on her knees to peer through the small flap where she pulled out the previous' meals dishes and insert the next meal. Ever time, she pushed open every small metal flap at the bottom of the doors, she knelt down. Her knees wobbled on the hard uneven floor as the coldness leeched up into her knees. The smell of unwashed bodies and little available sanitation assaulted her senses; but did little to deter her from her quest to find and rescue Spike.
"You're just going to get filthy doing it that way. You should just reach in and pull out the dishes and push in the new." Warned the kitchen maid that was serving the cells on the opposite side of the hallway. "Be sure to not to reach too far in. Believe me! You don't want to get grabbed by one of them."
Dawn stood up and brushed off the bottom of her apron by her knees.
"I just thought it was important to get the empty dishes." Dawn replied as her reason for looking in the slot. She shrugged her shoulders in deference, desperate to avoid giving the impression that she was looking for someone.
When the pair returned to the kitchen with their cart, the kitchen was in an uproar. It seemed while Dawn had been out, the lack of incoming hot water that Dawn supplied had become an issue. The kitchen was now behind on the scheduled production of the next meal. As a complicating factor, due to no one manning the scullery, the dishes from the other returning carts had created a massive pile in the scullery. On top of Dawn disappointment of not locating Spike, she had to contend with this onslaught of dirty dishes. She grabbed a stack of dirty dishes from the cart and was moving them to the scullery when the Head Cook stopped her. She was informed that it was imprudent for Dawn to be absent from the kitchen as long lengths of time. As a result, the maids were going to be reassigned for different carts. Dawn would be assigned with one of the kitchen maids with a smaller area, so she could return to the kitchen more readily. Starting on the next distribution, Dawn would be pushing the cart for the asylum's Research wing.
"Where is everyone?" Buffy asked as she paced back in forth by the stair case, still in her pajamas.
"Buffy, it is the middle of the night. Everyone was asleep. They'll get here as soon as they can." Willow stated as she came downstairs, having quickly dressed. "Why don't you go throw on some clothes?"
"Fine! Yell, if anyone shows up!" Buffy grumbled after looking down at her pajamas and then charging up the stairs.
"Wow! She's barely keeping it together." Willow stated as she entered the kitchen where Tara was making coffee.
"Well, Dawn disappearing was the last thing she expected. You can't b...blame her for being upset." Tara replied as she got the milk out of the refrigerator and placing it on the island. "Coffee?"
"Sure." Willow replied with a sigh as she climbed up on a barstool. Tara turned around with a pair of coffee mugs. Placing both mugs on the island, she poured them each a cup of coffee. Tara pushed one of the mugs over to Willow, before she turned to replace the coffee pot back in the coffee maker.
"Thanks, hon." Willow picked up the mug and brought it to her mouth. She took a sip and looked thoughtfully at the mug.
"Do you think Dawn went where that demon hand was?" Willow hesitantly asked, looking intently at the mug in her hand.
"I think so."
"So…you got any ideas on finding out what we're dealing with?" the redhead tilted her head as she thought about the situation.
"I don't know. I hope Giles has some ideas." Tara replied as Buffy suddenly appeared in the kitchen.
"Ideas about what?"
Spike was sitting in the corner, trying to quell the spasms in arms and legs. His head ached with every sight and sound, making him wish for death. He felt like he had been chewed up by a massive machine. Every one of his nerve endings felt like they were on fire. On top of that, whatever they were injecting him with was making him so incredibly nauseous he could barely move. At the end of the most recent session, they had thrown him face down, haphazardly across the cot. When he woke, he shakily crawled on his hands and knees over to the corner where he curled up, trying to block out the painful light and sound. He tried to find some respite from the pain. He concentrated on becoming blank as he closed his eyes and ears to everything around him.
It was time for the dinner carts to be pushed out. Dawn had just finished refilling one of the kettles by the fireplace to heat water, when a tall kitchen maid with a narrow face came over to grab her.
"You're supposed to help me with the Research wing cart." The maid said as she pulled on Dawn's arm. Dawn put the water bucket down and swung the kettle over by the flames before going with the maid.
The maid waved Dawn over to a table on the far corner of the kitchen. On the table were thirty dishes with a small card with barely discernible writing on each one.
"You can read, can't ya? These trays are for the research subjects. They're supposed to get special food. Make sure ya don't mix-em up. Those doctors up there aren't known for their forgiveness." The maid casually informed Dawn. "Pick up the trays with the cards and place them in the cart. You mix-em up and it's your neck!"
Dawn and the maid picked up the trays with the cards and carefully loaded them onto the cart. Dawn realized that the writing of the nineteenth century was a lot harder to read than in the twentieth. Or maybe, someone just wrote with their foot, she joked in her head. A smile appeared briefly on her mouth that made the other kitchen maid scowl in response. Dawn cleared her throat and quickly reached for another meal and card.
Ten minutes later, after leaving the kitchen area, Dawn and the other maid arrived with their cart at the entrance of the Research wing. There was a large metal portcullis across the entry to the wing. A guard moved forward to unlock one side of the double doors in the center. Dawn and the other maid grunted as they pushed the obstinate cart from a standstill and through the doorway.
Dawn was surprised once she passed through the doors and encountered the majestic beauty of the Research wing. It differed vastly from the other parts of the Asylum where she had been. The hallway was reminiscent of a cathedral with gleaming white arches and vaulted ceiling. A large window was located at the opposite end of the wing. The window was imposing enough to be expected to be stained glass, but held only plain glass instead. The maroon floor shone with a high shine that made it almost iridescent. Dawn was so awestruck, that she had to tamp down her initial reaction to whisper.
As the women pushed the cart down the wing, the maid signaled for Dawn to stop. Inside each arch was a door. It was a large shining wooden door which possessed a small metal panel that could be slid back. Below the panel, there was a card holder that held a velum card with the name of the patient inside. Beckoning Dawn over to the door on her side of the cart, the maid pointed at the card.
"You read the card and then you go get the matching tray. Wait for the guard to open the door. There's a ledge inside the doorway. Place the tray on the ledge. Grab the old tray and get out." The maid instructed Dawn with a pinched mouth. "What does this card say?"
"I thought you said you could read!" the maid grumbled as she took a threatening stance.
"Oh, I can. I just wasn't expecting…." Dawn responded flustered. Then gathering herself, leaned forward to read the card. "It says 'Hutts'." Dawn reported and turned to see the maid's back as she went back to the cart.
Dawn took a step back as she saw the maid motion toward the guard watching them. The guard moved forward and unlocked the door. He stood there while the maid went in with the fresh tray and returned with the used one. The guard swung the door closed and locked it.
"So, that's it?" Dawn asked slowly as she looked over to the maid.
"Yeah, I'll do this side. See that guard over there, you and him will do the other side. Once ya've done three cells, come back to the cart and we'll move it down the wing."
Dawn nodded as she walked uncertainly across the wing. She read the card on the door. It said "Bailey". She turned and located the tray on the cart. She motioned to the guard. He opened the door for her. She entered the hazily lit room and stopped for a second, looking for an occupant. There on the end of the cot, sat a figure rocking back and forth. Seeing the ledge with the old tray, Dawn pushed the new meal onto the ledge. She picked up the old tray as he eyes landed on the figure. Seeing the misery of the poor being, she felt she had to say something.
"Hello." Dawn said softly.
The figure frantically jumped up and scrambled toward the wall, whimpering. Dawn backed up with the old tray in her hands, apologetically stumbling out of the cell. As she passed the guard, he looked at her with the old experience in his voice.
"Don't talk to the subjects." He advised her as he shut and locked the door. Dawn nodded mutely as she turned to place the used tray on the cart.
It was at second cell of the fourth stop of the cart, that Dawn found herself already becoming strangely inured to suffering she found inside the cells. Within seconds, she could tell if the inhabitant was the person she was looking for. She sighed as she turned from the cart and went over to the door and read the card. Her eyes stared blankly at the name as she trudged back to the cart and located the tray. Nodding at the guard to open the door, she waited as she held the tray at arm's length in front of her.
Dawn walked into the cell. She was surprised to see that the inmate was not sitting on the cot as all the others had in the previous cells she had visited. She glanced around to see a figure huddled up in the corner, arms wrapped around him as he kept his face to the wall. Dawn continued to stare at the figure. The hair had been shorn so close that she could see the scalp. She could see the red scrape marks and burns blazing fiercely against the pale skin.
Shaking herself aware, she took a step over to ledge where she deposited the fresh tray and picked up the previous meal's tray that lay untouched. Sighing at the lack of appetite and the state of the individual in the corner, she looked over at the man in the corner. From this angle, she could see the bare edge of his profile. There was something about it that caught her eye. The man slightly turned his head and then she saw it. The man's eyebrow had a cross cut scar
Dawn's hands inadvertently opened when the recognition hit her. The tray and dishes clattered against the cement floor causing the uneaten food to splatter. Dawn stared at the man in the corner as she breathed one word.