Render the Extra Mile
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They do not belong to me.
The loud booming crash of the tray against the floor quickly followed by the rattling of the dishes rang through the cell as Dawn stood there dumbstruck. She wasn't sure how long she stood there with her mouth open as time seemed to stand still. The sound of the ringing of the dishes went on and on as she stared at Spike. Dawn jumped when she heard a deep male voice pierce the dead atmosphere.
"Girl! Is there trouble in there?"
Dawn whipped her head around toward the voice of the guard coming in from the door way. The last thing she needed was for company to enter, especially when she wanted to talk to Spike. Taking a breath, she wiped her hands on the front of her stained apron.
"No, I uh…just dropped the tray." Dawn did her best to sound casual but even she winced when she heard her shrill tone. She swallowed hard and then nervously added. "I just banged the morning tray against the corner of the wall."
"Do you need me to come in there?" The guard asked, with a vaguely ominous tone.
Dawn could tell from the tone that the guard was looking for an excuse to relieve the boredom despite at whose expense. Once more, she mustered up her courage and did her best to deflect the possibility of the guard coming in.
"No, no. Everything's okay. I just need to clean it up. It will only take a minute." Dawn called over as coolly as she could manage to the doorway as she crouched down over the fallen dishes. She stared at the door in dread listening for a heavy footfall of the guard. All that greeted her was silence to her relief.
Picking up the upturned wooden tray and setting it rightside on the floor, she leaned over to look out the doorway to check one more time. She relaxed slightly as she took a breath and measured the distance from the dishes to Spike. Looking back to the door and then over to the figure huddled in the corner. She urgently called in a half whisper.
No response came from the hunched figure in the corner. Spike continued to sit hunched on the straw in the corner, facing the wall as if there was no one else in the room.
"Spike!" Dawn called again from her spot by the dishes as she gingerly picked up an overturned cup and set it on the tray as she glanced away from the vampire to the door to see if anyone else had heard her.
Quickly looking back, Dawn was disappointed to see no reaction from the vampire. He continued to sit there unaware with the top of his forehead pressed against the wall. Furtively looking back to the doorway, Dawn decided to leave the dishes and quickly scuttled away move over to the corner of the room. She raced hunched over till she was crouching next to Spike on the straw.
It wasn't until she was this close that she saw the damage that had been done to the vampire. He was ghostly pale with a pattern of half healed blue and purple bruises trailing down the side of his neck that disappeared within the heavy cotton gown's collar. His poor head was a myriad of small patches of uneven sproutings of white hair, punctuated by scrape marks and burns. She could see red and angry looking abrasions encircling the visible bony wrist and ankle from where he was crouched. It appeared as if he had been fighting restraints.
"Spike!" she gulped rather than spoke. She struggled to swallow the burgeoning emotions in her throat.
Unable to restrain herself, Dawn reached over and laid her hand over Spike's shoulder in comfort. She could feel the jutting bones of his shoulder through the thick cotton shift. Dawn bit her lip as she hopefully stared at Spike and willed him to respond.
It was the warm and gentle hand on his shoulder that penetrated the vampire's densely constructed wall of mental defenses. Spike was so accustomed to the casual violence that characterized his life in the asylum, that to feel a soft touch was unearthly. His initial reaction was to retreat father behind his carefully erected walls, to remove himself from this world; but the touch was beckoning some part of him to come forward. A loud and urgent voice in his head warned of it being a trick, danger; yet there was an old forgotten voice that firmly encouraged him to respond to the kindness. Unable to resist the urge, he slowly angled his head to regard the source of the touch. Keeping his eyes on the ground, he noticed the dingy stained apron next to him. He hesitantly and reluctantly raised his face. Although he had raised his face, he could not quite bring his eyes up to the face of the person beside him. Finally with a determined effort, Spike briefly raised his eyes and looked up. He froze when he saw the face.
For what seemed an eternity, the two stared at each. Neither of them moved as they took in the face before them for a moment. Spike's eyelid twitched as his eye welled with an unshed tear as he stared at Dawn's face.
"Spike. It's me. Dawn. I've come to take you home." Dawn whispered.
To her surprise, the vampire wrinkled his brow. He then balled up his bottom lip and jerkily turned his head back to the wall. He pressed his head back toward the wall as he muttered. Dawn leaned forward to hear when another voice jarringly broke the silence
"Girl! What is taking so long?" the guard's voice once again disrupted the calm of Spike's cell
"Coming!" Dawn called back. "Spike! Hold on! I'll be back." Dawn whispered before she darted over the dishes and rushed to clean the mess. She pulled the rag that was tucked in the ties of her apron out and balled in her hand. She lifted the cheap ceramic bowl and placed it on the tray. When she turned to scoop up the spilled food, she stopped and stared puzzled at strange congealed mass on the floor. There was a faintly red ring of liquid seeping around the edge of the gruel. As she starred at it, she recognized he substance as blood. It occurred to her that someone else in the asylum knew Spike was a vampire.
Hearing the sound in the hallway, Dawn broke out of her stupor. She hurriedly scooped up the gruel in her rag and flung it on the tray. She stood up quickly with the tray and moved over to the door. She looked back briefly at Spike who now had his hands bracing the wall as he stayed in his corner. Taking a breath, she turned to calmly walk back to cart, leaving Spike alone again in his cell.
When he was alone again, Spike curled his fingers and dug his nails into the soft surface of the walls. He was floundering in despair. He had been shocked when he had seen the face. Oh God. He was getting worse. Now the hallucinations were now appearing to him in his cell. They had always been separate. He had been able to cope knowing that this horror would never impinge on that world. Now they had collided, taking with it any hope he still held. He was never going to get better. He had gone mad and he would never leave this place. He closed his eyes as he pressed his forehead against the pliable surface of the wall. It would be better if he just died than prolong this existence, he thought.
In the very early hours of the morning, Dawn sat on her mat under the table staring at the small brown glass bottle along with some twine that she had managed to snag earlier from the pantry. It was used to hold some kind of meat juice from the letters that boldly stood out across the surface. She inwardly chuckled at the irony that she would use it for "meat juice" herself. Listening to the steady breathing and occasional snores, she rose quietly from the mat. Since her pallet was the farthest away from the only heat in the room, she was accustomed to sleeping in her woolen dress. In order to be silent, she had taken off her shoes; the tiles felt cold, slippery and sharp on her threadbare stocking feet as she gingerly tiptoed across the kitchen. She carefully picked her way around the tables and sleeping forms until she made her way to the butcher block in the charcuterie. She pulled a bottle out from under her skirt. She carefully dipped the neck of the bottle in the collection vat that was situated under the blood channel from the butcher's block. Wiping the bottle with a rag, she stuffed a little bit of oil cloth in the neck as a stopper.
She silently made her way back to her pallet. Once there, she tied the twine into a noose around the thick lip of glass that surrounded the bottle's neck. Unbuttoning her high neck dress, she stuffed it even with her breasts, tying the cord around her neck. The voluminous apron would disguise any bulge from the bottle. She made sure there was no evidence to be seen of the cord as she pulled up the collar to fasten it once again. Once that was done, she let herself relax on the paltry pallet she used as a bed. Only then, did she allow her tears to flow from her eyes as she lay on her side, her arm pillowing her head. The lumpy pallet did little in comfort as she used the flat of her hand to wipe the tears from her cheeks. Spike's state had haunted her for hours after she had returned to the kitchen. She knew that he was not healing well due to lack of blood. She was determined to get him more blood. As soon as she could get him better, the sooner they could leave.
The next morning arrived and with it, the normal rush to produce the meals and distribute them for the asylum inmates and staff. The kitchen staff woke hours before the sun to start the fires and the large kettles on top of them to produce the vast quantities of gruel for the facility. Dawn made numerous trips out to the well pump, toting in the water to fill the kettles. Once that task had been completed, she was dismissed to her location in the scullery. All morning, she had hoped to see who was preparing Spike's meals; however her location in the scullery did not allow her a good view of the food being produced for the research wing on the far side of the kitchen. It was only when she was on one of her trips to resupply the water for heating that she noticed the trays were already prepared. Within the hour, Dawn was called to set up the trays in the cart for the Research wing.
Just then, the front door opened as Giles, and Xander appeared in the doorway. They entered the house followed by a very grumpy looking Anya.
"Buffy? Are you alright?" Giles asked as he strode into the kitchen, reaching forward to grasp the slayer's biceps in his hands
"Yeah. Just about as alright as you can get for someone whose little sister not only runs away, but has to go to another dimension to do it!" Buffy grumbled as she shrugged and looked away.
Not believing the act, Giles pulled her into an enveloping hug. Embarrassed at first, Buffy relaxed after a moment and allowed her head to lean on his shoulder. Xander stood at the entrance of the kitchen watching the scene as a yawning Anya moved aimlessly around him.
"Anybody make coffee?" Anya asked as she blearily looked around the kitchen.
"It's over on the counter." Willow responded, tilting her head toward it.
"Thanks." Anya uttered as she blindly staggered as she wandered around the perimeter of the kitchen in her quest for the liquid energy. "Xander, you want some?"
"Sure, Babe." Xander, who had been staring at Buffy, broke his trance when he heard his name, responded breathlessly.
Buffy finally pulled away and gave Giles a grateful smile as she sniffed slightly. He reached up and smoothed the back of her hair.
"Uh, Giles. Willow and I were wondering….well, if you had any ideas…about, you know, that thing?…" Tara haltingly asked as she looked between the floor and Giles.
"You mean, that hand we saw extinguish the plume in the circle?" Giles asked as he took a step away from Buffy toward the two witches.
"Nothing, but!" Willow breathlessly interjected as she placed her mug on the island. She crossed her arms, leaning on the counter with her elbows. "Tara and I never had that happen before. Just kinda wonderin if you knew how to deal with something like that?"
"After witnessing that event, I did not go to sleep when I arrived home. I've been pulling up research on creatures able to act cross dimensionally." Giles stated as he pulled off his glasses. "I believe I know what we're dealing with."
"Great! Now we know what we're dealing with…Let's go get Dawn!" Buffy exclaimed as she moved toward the watcher and the witches.
"I am afraid it is not going to be that simple." The watcher warned as he replaced his glasses on his face.
"Why did I know you were going to say that!" The blonde slayer sighed and shook her head. "Alright, let's have it!"
"The creature I believe we're dealing with is incredibly powerful. It won't be easily defeated."
"So, you're saying my usual routine of going in and kicking butt is not going to work this time?"
"I don't believe that will be successful."
"So, Giles, what should we do?" Willow asked "We have to do something! Dawn's out there."
"Yeah, We got get Dawn back!" Xander announced. "As for rescuing Spike, I'm still kinda on the fence. You know, he's tried to kill us before..vampire and all."
"Xander, you saw the state Spike was in. No one deserves that." Tara spoke up, her voice ringing with determination. "We all owe him for what he did on that tower. Even you, Xander."
"Okay, okay." Xander floundered back with his hands up. "When did you get so direct?'
"Look, guys, knowing Dawn, she won't leave unless we bring Spike back too." Buffy interrupted the pair as she held up a hand. "This action has turned into a rescue one, get one free thingy."
"So, Giles" Willow looked over at the watcher. "It sounds like it's going to be hard defeat this thing and get back Dawn and Spike."
"Yes, most definitely; but there is one good thing." Giles announced. "I have a plan."
Dawn and the other maid pushed the cart into the dazzling environment of the Research wing with the morning meal distribution. Dawn could feel the bounce of the chunky bottle against her chest as she leaned forward to throw her weight behind the obstinate cart. She took a quick look down and saw the bilious top of the apron did indeed disguise any movement from the bottle.
The same guard from the previous day accompanied Dawn while she delivered food to the cells. At the fourth stop of the cart, she made sure to stop and read Spike's card. She did not want the guard to become aware of any different reaction on her part. The last thing she needed was a suspicious guard. Turning from the card, Dawn went to retrieve Spike's tray from the cart. As she did so, she heard the door open and the heavy steps of several men walk out of Spike's room behind her. The men were heavily involved in a discussion. One man's voice carried over the others, he was obviously in charge.
"The results of the process are still inconclusive. I believe we should extend the trial for another six weeks minimum." An insufferably self pleased voice announced.
Dawn had just closed her hands around the ends of Spike's tray when she froze. She recognized that voice. Suddenly, all the events from that night on the tower came back to her. The bonds holding her in place as that freakish little man…No, that creature came toward her with a knife, smiling that eerily unsettling grin. She held her breath as she stood by the cart with her back to the men and waited for them to leave. She had just found Spike. She could not allow herself to be caught. Spike was depending on her! I just have to wait my time, she thought. And this time, it will be your turn to be surprised, Doc!