Render the Extra Mile
Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They do not belong to me.
Buffy was not sure how to react when that large man wrapped his large hand around her bicep and escorted her out of the ward. Puzzled, she looked at the man's inscrutable features, maybe he wanted to help, maybe not, maybe he just thought she was crackers like many of the other occupants. He was much taller than she and seemed to have no difficulty dragging her along. The uneven floor seemed to have no effect on his well soled feet, but she hopped from foot to foot as her tender feet suffered small injuries from the rough stones as they traversed the hallways. At the start of their trek, she had been trying reason with the man, but he just calmly ignored her. He seemed to be able to navigate the labyrinth of the facility quite well and only let go of her arm momentarily when he had to use keys to open imposingly large doors.
After a while, Buffy began to become curious about the building as they entered new and diverse sections of the institute. She would have never had made it out of that ward where she had arrived. As the man turned corner after corner, Buffy was able to peek down hallways and notice some of the layout of the building. She began to anticipate the scenery change as they moved quickly through the institute. She kept an eye out for Dawn as the hallways began to look more and more maintained. Finally, they stopped in front of a large ornate gate. The attendant waved over to one of the guards to come forward. A weathered looking guard approached the grate to talk to the attendant.
"Hey, is there an empty cell I can put her?" The attendant asked as he pulled Buffy around to show to the guard. The guard on the other side did not seem impressed as he looked Buffy up and down.
"You know these cells are reserved for the medical team's pet projects." The guard responded as he looked back to the attendant,
"Believe me, the doctors are going to want to see this one." The man held up Buffy's arm by the bicep.
"Why, what's wrong with her?" The guard asked as he looked back at Buffy.
"Hellooo? Standing right here! Rude much?" Buffy announced with a huff and an eye roll.
"Ehh, she started talking about portals." The attendant ignored Buffy's comment and went on to inform the guard. "You know the standing orders that we gotta take any one who makes mention of that to the doctors. I just need a place to stash her while I go submit a report. I don't dare leave her in the general populace."
The guard walked over to the desk and looked in the ledger. His finger ran down the list before he walked back, pulling out a ring of keys as he stated. "Well, we do happen to have cell that is not occupied. They moved the inmate out earlier today. We'll just put her in there for tonight. We will leave it up to the doctors to see what they want to do with the bint."
The guard moved over the lock on door side of the grate. The sound of the large keys bouncing against each other as he wrestled with the lock. Finally, a resounding clunk as the mechanics of the lock turned and allowed the guard to pull open the door. He motioned with his head for the attendant to move Buffy over to the desk where another guard was sitting. The first thing that Buffy noticed was the cool slick floor she felt under her feet once they crossed the hall threshold. The chill radiating up from the soles of her feet, up her spine and till it pooled in the back of her head. The attendant pulled out an archaic looking clipboard and began filling it out. The guard at the desk looked up and the attendant held out Buffy's arm. There was a woven bracelet holding a small metal plate encircling her wrist with what appeared to be an eight digit number inscribed upon it. The guard grasped her forearm, twisting it to read the numbers and wrote something down on the sheet of paper on the clipboard.
Without looking up from his desk, the guard gruffly informed the attendant. "Put her in the third cell on the left."
The attendant roughly pushed Buffy in front of him before she had time to say anything. She gasped in affront as she stumbled along with the man's momentum. Before she had time to gather herself, she found herself deposited in a dimly lit cell. She whirled about just in time to have the heavy door slammed in her face with an abrasive clang. Wanting to vent her opinion on the customer service, Buffy was startled to see there was no window or opening on the door as her hands flew over the joints. Finding no opening, she gave up on her fruitless endeavor to breach the door. She slowly turned to look at the cell she now occupied. The smells and sights of her new lodgings assaulted her. The room radiated the stink of unwashed bodies and desolation. The meager sputtering gaslight bathed the opaque gummy walls in a sickly yellow light. Buffy's eyes examined the dirty abraded rope threaded over the roughhewn wooden brace that composed the depressing looking sleeping platform, the meager pile of stale straw surrounding a shabby looking bucket brought one word to Buffy's mind. She wrinkled her nose slightly as her mouth pressed in a tight pursed line as she pronounced her thoughts regarding her situation.
In the beginning, once the basket came to a halt, it jounced with its trapped occupant like a marionette on a string. As the cage's bounce began to still, Spike's eyes bounced back and forth as he waited the curtain to raise on the next act. He heard the rasping sound of his breath in the complete silence as he waited. At first, he felt a slight prickle of the on the surface of his skin. Something that did not garner his immediate attention. The prickle turned into a light scrape then a scratch as the point began to become more intense. The sensation began to multiply until it felt like rows of freezing sharply honed needles were being dragged around his body. The point of every needle leaving a small track where the next needle would start. His body bucked against the cage, his eyes clamped shut in an effort to evade the onslaught. Every movement offered the opportunity for a needle to cut a little deeper into his already scored skin. As layer upon layer was shredded, Spike tried to evade the pain of the needles. He could not escape the perforation of the tiny points as they continued through layer upon layer of his raw epidermis. Nothing he could do would abate the suffering. He opened his eyes and cast them downward expecting to see blood flowing over the canvas strapping, but there was nothing. No blood, no evidence of anything physical happening to him. Yet, he could feel it, every needle catching a little bit of his flesh as it sliced a little deeper. That's when he realized that the needles were not physical as he bit back a pained groan, each track of a needle digging a little deeper into the firmament of his mind.
Are you alright?" Giles asked as he came to his feet outside a huge brick structure as he leaned over to help Tara stand amongst all the layers of skirts and large cape swamping her.
Yes….yes, I think so." Tara answered as she pushed back the rounded brim of the prim bonnet that was suddenly appeared askew on her head. She looked down with confusion at the heavy layers of skirt, cape and gloves that had appeared on her body. "What happened to our clothes?"
"It seems that the dimension is intuitive to projected direction." Giles stated as he looked down at his own outfit he found himself in. Taking in the long coat, vest and slim trousers he himself was wearing, he spied a tall dress hat on the ground. "I simply impressed the image of a traveling doctor and nurse during the Victorian era and here we are, garbed as such.
"O..okay." Tara had to place both of her hands in Giles' as she awkwardly levered herself up. She staggered a few steps as she placed her hand on her ribcage to feel an alien architecture there. "Thanks. I don't think I could have gotten up by myself. For some reason, I am finding it hard to breathe."
"Oh yes. You're probably experiencing a particularly vicious bane of Victorian women: the corset." The watcher momentarily sympathized.
"The corset?" Tara asked, perplexed.
"Yes, proper young women of the Victorian age wore corsets. I've heard they are quite uncomfortable. They're made out of whale bone and push the figure in, constricting the lung capacity." Giles said as he bent over to sweep up the hat from the ground. "Try to take shallow breaths."
Tara attempted to adjust the oppressive clothing to become more comfortable without success. With a resigned sigh, she plaintively asked. "Oh, do you think you might help me off with this thing. If I am to be any use, I don't see how I can keep wearing this thing."
"Oh, my goodness no. Not in this era." Giles looked appropriately affronted at Tara's desire for comfort as he responded. "Besides, it is highly likely that your dress won't fit without the corset. Perhaps we can find something in the asylum that might be more forgiving. I assume the nurses should be able to handle a number of physical tasks without getting lightheaded."
"So, I'm stuck with it for now? " Tara moaned, resigned as she pulled at her clothes.
"Sadly, yes, for the time being." The watcher responded.
"Uh, fine. Let's just hope I can change into something more functional once we're inside." Tara stated as she made a final tug on the corset. "When we get back home, I will never say a bad word about lycra ever again."
Once Tara stopped fidgeting, she and Giles looked up at the immense building to the auspicious façade of the Middlesex asylum. Huge pillars stood on either side of the oversized doorway as glowing light of early twilight made the pale stone almost spectral look. A feeling of unease overcame the two as they looked up at the majestic building. For all the apparent grandeur, there was an element that you were looking into the open jaws of a beast, a beast that had hold of two, no, three of their people that it would be reluctant to release.
Taking a halted breath, Giles adjusted the high collar that was cutting into the skin below his jaw. His eyes were drawn to the brightly polished brass plaque that announced the name of the institution in front of them. It innocuously read Middlesex Research Hospital and Asylum. He drew his mouth in a thin line as his eyes left the plaque to regard the immense building behind it. He looked over at the young witch and raised his arm in front of him.
Pushing the heavy cape back over her shoulders, Tara swallowed a knot in her throat and nervously nodded. She pinched the front of her heavy brocade skirt to pick it up to climb the widely spaced steps as Giles held her elbow to steady her. The pair steadily approached the heavily painted surface of the colossal front doors. Giles leaned over and pulled a stout looking chain that was heavy with oxidation.
The sound of a far off bell could be heard on the other side of the door. The door soon rocked with effort before it was jerkily pulled back by a rather backward looking guard wearing an officious uniform.
"Yes?" the guard looked at the pair with suspicion in his eyes
In response, Giles stood a littler straighter as Tara took a half step back as the man's hard glare took in the pair. Giles raised his head in superior attitude as he met the man's gaze.
"Announce that Dr. Giles has arrived to your administration, my good man." Giles loftily enunciated for the man holding the door and proceeded to march by the stunned man with Tara in tow.
"Who? Whadya say?" the guard asked dumbfounded by the presence of the pair that had marched by him so haughtily.
"I said I am Dr. Giles with the Royal board of Social and Institutional Health. Please inform the head of your administration of my arrival." Giles smoothly informed the man and the other guard standing slightly off to the side.
"Well, I don't know. We don't have any important visitors listed on the schedule." The flustered guard answered.
"That is exactly the point. The board appointees do not inform the subject of an inspection in advance. I would like to speak with the head of this institute immediately. Now, go on and inform them at once." Giles directed the guard as he narrowed his eyes at the man. "My time is valuable. I do not like to be kept waiting."
The guard dragged his eyes away from Giles and Tara and looked uncertainly at his counterpart. Shrugging at his comrade, he nodded his head at him to inform the higher levels of authority. After watching the other guard leave, the first guard wrestled the heavy door closed and locked the heavy mechanism across the two doors. As the solid sound of the bar falling into place echoed in the hall, Tara nervously clutched her hands as she realized that she and Giles were now locked in. Giles caught her eye as he spun to speak to the remaining guard.
"See here! Please show us to an appropriate room to await your director. I refuse to be kept waiting in the hallway like a rag merchant." Giles threatened the guard.
The guard looked unsure at the vehement demand from the officious looking gentleman. He looked to see that the other guard had disappeared, leaving him alone with this important visitor. He hurriedly rushed over to a door to one of the largest offices and opened it. He stood at attention as Giles confidently swaggered by him to enter the office. Without raising her eyes from the floor, Tara meekly and quickly followed Giles into the room.
Hearing the door latch click behind her, Tara looked quickly over her shoulder to see they were alone in the room. She turned her head back to see that she and Giles were now in an elegantly decorated office with low padded chairs in front of a brightly polished walnut desk. On the far side, Giles now stood by a large dark fireplace with a small fire in the grate which warmed the room. She was glad to feel the welcome heat permeate her chilly limbs. She quickened her steps toward the watcher as she asked in a hushed tone.
"Giles! What j..just happened? How di..did you do that?"
"Fortunately, this dimension is based upon Victorian society and I possess an abundance of knowledge on that era. I am able to wrest that to our advantage." Giles stated confidently.
"Yes, b..but how did you know…they would re..react like that?" The young witch asked.
"It is a typical reaction when faced with the impervious wall of supercilious authority. I cut my teeth on that at the council." Giles said with a smirk.
"Yes, but..but they're not human. How did you know they would react like that?" Tara asked again.
"I was counting on one thing." The watcher boasted slyly.
"What wa..was that?" Tara tilted her head.
"This is a hell dimension, isn't it?" Giles said, as he swept off his glasses and began to clean them. "Of course, they are bureaucrats. "
The final tasks were almost completed in the kitchen, as the large prep tables were being scrubbed with gargantuan brushes and hot water. Several of the kitchen maids were bent over the tables as they pressed the bristles into the dented and notched surface. Dawn carefully walked over to the table that held her treasures. It was getting close to the time that she had appointed to meet the guard from the research wing out at the pump. Making sure that no one was watching, she stealthily reached under the table and pulled out the bundle that had somehow accompanied her from Revello drive. Securing the bundle under her apron, she looked over to the maids and began to move toward the door that led to the yard with the pump. The young guard should be waiting there and with him, her avenue to Spike.
As the needles felt like they were slowly and methodically carving another sensitive layer of flesh with every movement. Each change of movement, the needles travelled a little further down through all the layers of epidermis and were now catching bits of muscles, tendons and nerve endings. Fraying them into a fine mush as the points invaded the most sensitive part of himself, opening him up so he could feel as if tiny bits of flesh being snagged and then ripped away. He felt there was not a part of him that wasn't a raw and open sore. He clenched his eyes closed as he tried to distance himself from it.
Spike froze as he heard that gentle voice he had known so well. How could it be? They had told him she had died. Could they have been mistaken? It was a miracle. He could feel relief flow over his deeply bruised heart like a cold water in the desert. She was alive. She was here. Dare he even think it, that there was a hope?
"William, open your eyes and look at me."
Spike's brow smoothed as he responded to the voice. He slowly opened his eyes hoping to see the lovely compassionate face of his mother. His eyes were blurry as he looked toward the visage and blinked to clear them.
"Why? Why did you do this to me, William?"
A tortured sound issued out of Spike as loss, pain, regret, misery and guilt all combined to escape at once. The cage rocked noisily as screams filled the hall.