“Oh, bloody perfect.”
Angelus grinned ferally up at Spike, who was still perched precariously on the tender car. “Will, my boy. Good to see you.” Gestured to the upcoming tunnel. “Isn’t it wonderful? And without the fuss of Acathla, too. One way ticket, and this time, your precious Slayer isn’t here to stop me.”
Spike growled. “I don’t need Buffy to take you, Peaches.”
Angelus smirked. “Come on then, kid. Let’s go.” He vamped and growled.
Spike snarled and leaped at his Grandsire. The two vampires traded blows, snarling and even snapping at each other. Spike had never been able to take Angelus before, but in his years with the Scoobies, his strength had nearly doubled, making him almost an even match for the older vamp. But Spike had forgotten one thing.
The ‘older’ man had finally made it onto the tender, and when he caught sight of Angelus, he nearly fell off the train. “Good lord!”
Angelus threw Spike off of him, and nearly headfirst into the metal firebox door, stunning him. Then the older vampire turned and smiled evilly at Giles. “Rupert. Long time no see.” He lunged for the Watcher, only to be slammed to the ground when Spike latched on to his leg.
By then, at least half the train was already on the bridge, and heading for the fire tunnel very quickly, but Spike was still too wrapped up in his battle with Angelus to worry about that. The older vampire, however, now had his sights set on a new target: Giles. He shook Spike off again, and leaped once more for the tender car.
Spike roared and gave a desperate lunge, grabbing his Grandsire by the leg. This caused Angelus to fall short of the tender car, and be forced to grab the coupling between the two cars in order to keep from falling off the bridge entirely. And Spike suddenly had a flash of inspiration. He grabbed Angelus’ other leg and pulled as hard as he could. This caused the older vampire’s death grip on the coupling to work to Spike’s advantage.
Angelus pulled the pin out of the coupling, separating the cars from the engine. “NNOOOOO!!!”, he howled, turning to attack Spike, but the blonde vampire was no where to be seen.
Spike had jumped off the train, and was currently plummeting toward the river below.
The engine was quickly leaving the box cars and tender behind, and, despite spinning end over end, Spike caught sight of Angelus still hanging out of the back of the engine, yelling curses after him, as the engine disappeared into the hell tunnel.
‘Good,” Spike thought. ‘The people in the cars are safe, Angelus is gone, and… Oh look. The river.’
Spike woke up. Or, at least, he felt as if he had. The fact that he was soaking wet and seemed to have washed up on the side of a river told him that he was still in the dream. He pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, and promptly spit up a lungful of water.
Ugh. For a dream, this place was horribly realistic.
He crawled up out of the water, coughing and sputtering as his long dead lungs struggled for unneeded breath. He’d just about recovered, when he realized something.
Giles. He’d left Giles on the train.
He sighed. Well. If Rupert was his guide, he’d have to find him again. But looking up the river revealed no trace of the bridge or the train. He had no idea how far he’d washed before finally washing ashore. He cocked his head. “Rupert…” Suddenly, he felt very alone.
He had no idea how long he sat there, waiting for… he didn’t know what. For Giles to find him. For Angelus to show up again. For night to fall. But none of those things happened. Actually, nothing at all happened. Except for one thing.
What he heck was that? He turned on the rock to face away from the river. Huh. He hadn’t noticed that… he wanted to say ‘town’, but ‘rubble’ would probably be a more accurate term. It looked like a bomb had gone off. Repeatedly. Still, it was the only thing even resembling civilization anywhere around, so he got to his feet, noting that his suit was dry again, and wondering exactly how long he’d been sitting on that rock. And slowly began his trek toward the ‘town’. Maybe Giles would be somewhere in there.
A short time later, Spike was walking through the ‘town’. Now, *this* seemed more like his normal nightmares. Everywhere he looked, there were bodies. Most burned beyond recognition, and not all human, either. That ‘boom’ from before was a bomb, definitely. And not the first that this ‘town’ had seen. Where they were coming from, Spike didn’t know, and didn’t intend to find out. All that mattered to him at the moment was finding Giles, if he was indeed around. And something told Spike that he was…. Somewhere.
He wrapped his arms around himself, holding the jacket of his suit closed. He felt cold, despite the heat, and the strange red sky that seemed to have no sun. This place was bad. Very bad. And he desperately wanted to find Giles. Momentarily, the thought that his guide might have actually been one of the many charred corpses that he’d already passed went through his mind, and he shook his head hard to get rid of the image. Giles was his guide, and you couldn’t die in a dream… Right?
He passed tumbled down buildings, peering inside, hoping, just once, to catch sight of a survivor… No such luck. In on building, which had apparently been a family’s home, he found an old, yellowed photograph of a mother, father, and two children. Further search of the building revealed four more charred corpses. He had to fight down a wave of nausea. It was one thing to pass by nameless, faceless bodies, but he’d seen that photograph. He knew what these poor people looked like… before, and after.
And he quickly discovered that it was possible to throw up in a dream.
When he felt a little better, he did his best to bury the four bodies. That, at least, gave HIM some closure. He leaned on his shovel, after throwing the last shovelful of dirt on the fourth grave, wiping his brow with the back of one hand. His formerly immaculate suit was covered in dust, and he’d discarded the jacket in the process of digging. He drew in deep, slow breaths, and suddenly his head shot up when he caught a strange, and yet, familiar scent.
Glancing around told him that whatever he was smelling wasn’t nearby. It had been blown in on one of the few breezes that permeated the rubble of the town. He followed the direction that the breeze was coming from, and blinked a couple of times. There was a huge, almost castle-like building where he was certain there hadn’t been one before.
At least, he was relatively sure that it hadn’t been there before. Things in this dream world just seemed to get more and more confusing. At least, he figured, it probably couldn’t get any weirder.
Right that moment, a large white rabbit, wearing a waistcoat and carrying a large pocket watch hopped past. “Oh my ears and whiskers! I’m going to be late!”
Okay.. so it could get weirder.
Still, the rabbit was the only living thing he’d seen since washing up on this forsaken land, so he followed it. After all, it seemed to be heading for the castle, anyway, and, being that it was where the familiar scent was coming from, he was about to head there anyway. Still, he felt rather foolish, following a rabbit. Chuckled to himself. If he’d had any doubts that he was insane, they were gone now.
He trotted to keep up with the rabbits quick pace, chasing after it quickly. Fought the insane urge to call for it to slow down. “Perfect,” he muttered as he followed the immaculately dressed bunny. “This bloody dream’s turnin’ into William in Wonderland.” Snorted. “I knew I never should’ve read that book more than once.”
The bunny was crossing the drawbridge into the castle, and Spike chased after it, his sensitive ears picking up the creature’s strange mutterings. “Oh, the Arbitrator isn’t going to like this… I can’t believe I forgot my gloves.”
‘Arbitrator’? He blinked. And since when do rabbits wear gloves… “Probably since they started wearin’ waistcoats and talkin’ English, genius,” he muttered to himself, following the bunny across the bridge. “And now I’m talkin’ to myself. Bloody wonderful.”
The rabbit suddenly paused and turned around, holding a surprisingly human hand up to it’s mouth and “Shhhhh!”ing loudly, before turning and hurrying into a very small door. Spike cocked his head. Until that moment, he’d been certain that the bunny was totally unaware of his presence. And now, more to the point, that door was much too small for Spike to fit through. He shrugged. Oh well. No reason to keep following the bunny, anyway. Now that he was inside the castle, it would probably be better to just keep exploring on his own.
He wandered through the massive halls, pausing to observe the occasional tapestry or suit of armor. Suddenly, he caught that same, strangely familiar scent again. Following his nose brought him into a huge chamber, filled, once again, with hoards of people. Thankfully, they all appeared to be alive and well, which made them the first of their kind in this world.
And they also appeared to be waiting for something. In line, actually. Spike shrugged and moved to stand at the end of the line. By having some… rather strange discussions with other ‘people’ in line, he found out that this was the line to meet with this ‘Arbitrator’ person. Apparently, whoever it was, they were supposed to settle disputes among the ‘townspeople’. Spike figured that, if he was going to get answers, this person was a good enough place to start. And then there was the possibility that Giles might be somewhere nearby. He was getting that feeling again.
He must have been in line for the better part of a day. It moved…. slowly, to put it mildly. Finally, after much shifting on his feet, and just general nervousness, he found himself in an even bigger room, which signs in several languages proclaimed “The Arbitration Chambers”. So it made sense that the person who was sitting up on that huge judges’ bench would be the Arbitrator.
He was very close to his goal… So why did he have a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach? And why was that familiar scent making him nervous now? And why-
It was then that he got a good look at this Arbitrator. He inhaled sharply, and took a step back, nearly bumping into the people behind him. He muttered apologies, and started to get out of the line, suddenly desperate to get out of that line.
“William, whatever are you running for?”, called the Arbitrator in a beautiful female voice. “Don’t you wish to know why you are here?”
He paused in his tracks, and turned around, finding that everyone else in the room had vanished, leaving him alone with the Arbitrator. He gave a deep sigh. “Fine. You’ve got answers, I’m listening.”
“Don’t you feel it would be proper for you to say hello to me, first? After all, it’s been a very long time.”
He sighed again, and slowly approached the bench. He paused at the bottom, gazing up into eyes that he hadn’t seen in a century.
She smiled down at him. “Hello, William.”
He gave a long deliberate blink, then sighed again. “Hello, Cecily.”