Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 27 - Pandemonium
woke in the dark.
felt cold and his limbs were aching. Instead of taking the straitjacket off and
shackling him to the bed, the attendants had roughed him up and left him lying
on the dirty floor, punishing him for God knows what. He'd curled up into a
ball and fallen asleep, trying to ignore the obscene shouts of a crazy person
two cells down the corridor, the nervous mumbling of his left cell neighbor,
and the insistent cramping of right triceps.
He woke in a state of fear. Not the omnipresent cold
dread the asylum instilled in him but a sweaty, run-away-and-hide kind of fear.
His heart was beating rapidly in his chest.
A scream had woken him. That, in itself, was strange
because there was always so much screaming here. It was hard to believe that a
single expression of terror should stand out in this din. But it did. It was
the scream of a woman, high pitched and frightened and when it subsided there
was an eerie moment of quiet, as if all the creatures who were trapped in this
hellhole were catching a quick breath.
Then the pandemonium started. Banging. Howling.
The noise reminded Xander of prison films, just as the
inmates gear up for a big riot. Here, the prisoners had no toilet rolls to
throw but it sounded like someone was smashing furniture.
Maybe a riot was what he needed. If he could get out
of this straitjacket... well, then there'd still be the locked door. And if the
attendants found him without the jacket, there was no telling what they'd do to
him. Their indifferent brutality frightened Xander more than he cared to admit.
"What I wouldn't give to see a familiar face right
now," Xander muttered under his breath, for the umpteenth time. He had no doubt
that his friends would do everything in their power to get him back. He just
had to try and stay in one piece until they found a way to do so. He struggled
to his feet.
He could hear heavy footsteps coming closer. Someone
was running. Probably one of the orderlies working the nightshift. Xander moved
closer to the metal bars to peer through but recoiled in shock when a burly,
middle aged man was slammed forcefully against the iron rods.
Xander thought he heard the man's skull crack. Blood
was gushing from his nose and mouth. His eyes were full of horror and pleading
but quickly became vacant, as needle-sharp fangs savagely tore into the man's
Xander stumbled backwards until his back hit the wall.
There were sounds of sucking and smacking as the blonde vampire drained the
orderly right before his eyes, clearly enjoying the tremors that shook the
dying man's body. Feral yellow eyes met Xander's panicked stare. Blood stained
lips curled into a wicked smile as chilly hands released the cooling body. It
slowly slid down, smearing blood all over the bars of Xander's prison, eyes
open but unseeing.
But Xander's attention was on the vampire's features. *Did I really ask for a familiar face?*
If he'd had a hand to spare he would have smacked his forehead. *Stupid. Stupid. Be careful what you wish
for...* Because even though it was dark and even though the vampire's visage
was disfigured by scars and burns, he had no difficulty recognizing Darla.
Outside his cell the screaming continued. The
nightmare had only just begun.
Spike had expected the portal to work like a normal
door. One step and presto, London 1880. Instead, he first felt a strange
vertigo and then increasing pressure. The feeling of constriction turned into
excruciating pain, as if an impossible force was trying squash him into a pulp.
Just as he thought his skull would pop like a ripe melon, something gave way
and he felt propelled forward and ejected into a dark and gloomy room.
He managed to stay on his feet, barely. His nerve
endings were still prickling painfully and he felt disoriented. Colorful spots
were dancing in front of his eyes. He took a shuddering breath and was
assaulted by a long forgotten combination of odors, unwashed bodies, dried
human blood, cheap liquor, soot, horse manure and human waste.
"Home sweet home," he choked out, when something hit
him squarely against the side of his face. He yelped in pain. Still staggering
from the impact, he tried to get into a defensive stance but his reflexes were
still recovering from temporal jetlag. The crowbar arched towards him again and
he took another blow. This time he could feel his jaw break.
Momentarily stunned, Spike flew backward and landed in
a heap on the floor of what looked like a severely damaged dining room. His assailant must have assumed that he was
dead because a third attack never came.
Spike was barely conscious and racked by pain. All his instincts urged
him to get up and either run or fight, but he remained still, lying on his side
like a broken doll. He tried to absorb what was going on around him. *No shirt, no shoes,* he thought. *Nasty company.* In front of his unblinking eyes, about a yard
away, he saw a crudely sharpened piece of wood, a stake, lying among glass
shards on the floor. He heard several voices and tried to focus on what they
"Is... is `e dead?" a young voice could be heard,
"I reckon," a gruff voice replied. It came from
Spike's left, where the two blows had come from. *Bet that's the bastard who hit me.* Spike could hear - and smell -
the man come closer. He neither blinked nor flinched, not even when a booted
foot painfully connected with his ribs. "Since 'e's not breathin'..."
"Where did `e come from? You said the house was
empty," a third, slightly wheezy voice complained.
"It was, I swear," the young voice replied, on the
verge of tears.
"Don't matter. What's done is done," the gruff voice
spoke and moved away. "Leave the paintings but make sure ye take all the silver
and the linen from the cupboard."
There were sounds of knives and forks being gathered.
Meanwhile, the heavy set man with the gruff voice left the room. Spike could
hear him rummage around in other parts of the house, tapping on wood paneling,
and occasionally using his crowbar on parts that sounded hollow.
"What ye reckon 'appened 'ere," the youth whispered.
"Did ya see the mess? They say the innkeeper got slaughtered by a man-eating
"Shut yer gob! Go to the window. Check for peelers.
See if someone's lookin' for the toff we just done in." A fourth voice sounded.
*Toff? I'm not
a bleedin' toff!* Spike thought indignantly but he decided to lie still until the thieves
had taken everything they came for. He was glad he'd fed so well before leaping
into the past. He could already feel his broken jaw mending. *God, that hurts!*
Suddenly heavy footsteps approached. "Found it," the
gruff man said and set down a heavy box. "Told ya the big feller was as daft as
they come. Hid his money in the bedroom, like I said."
"Let's go then," the wheezy guy said.
"Check the stiff," the gruff voice ordered. "Fleece
thought. He momentarily considered
letting the thief feel him up, but then he remembered the Watcher's
timepiece. He fervently hoped - against all
better judgement - that the cracksmen weren't human, because if they were, he
was surely going to be in a world of hurt that went beyond his bleeding head
and broken jaw.
A pair of shoes approached him in the darkness. Spike
recognized Wheezy Guy by his labored breathing. The man hesitated, then Spike
felt a warm, coarse hand on his face pushing his eyelids closed. The man began
patting Spike's jacket, searching for a bump or bulge that would give away the
location of a small treasure. He reached
into the inside jacket pocket. Spike remained still. "Nuthin'," the guy mumbled. "Toff's got no
shirt on, an' no shoes."
"So what. Maybe they're in one of the other rooms."
Spike felt relieved; the watch was in his pants pocket
and it looked like this crook might not... *Damn!*
The thief's hand closed on the timepiece in Spike's
pocket. As he pulled the loot from its hiding place, Spike's hand closed on his
wrist. The criminal yelped in fear as
the corpse turned to look at him. Spike stood up, still holding his arm. "Help," the man yelled. Spike was fast. Holding the man's arm with
his right hand, and bracing himself for a severe case of migraine he used his
left elbow to silence the man's cry. The
thief's nose was gushing blood and he stumbled backward, trying to free himself
from the undead's iron grip. Spike was surprised when the headache didn't come
but decided not to look the gift horse in the mouth. His assailant had looked
and felt human enough, but he obviously wasn't. *Maybe a hybrid or something.* He happily elbowed his opponent
again, with more gusto, and then kicked him in the stomach, sending the man
flying across the room.
*Now, this is
what I call fun!*
There were three more people in the room. A lean man
in his forties who was whirling a small
steel ball on a string; a large thug with a crowbar, who looked about twice as
heavy as Spike; and a boy, about sixteen years old with the sharp features of a
rodent. *Human or half-demon? Whatever
they are, they're a sorry lot!* Their threadbare clothes were filthy but
they had the calculating eyes of predators. Spike rubbed his aching jaw. *Doesn't mean Stan and Ollie are harmless.*
There had been considerable strength in those blows against his head.
"Thought yer dead," the big guy said, with a gravely voice.
"Just resting," Spike mumbled, his speech impeded by
"We were `ere first," the tall man said. He was
swinging his crowbar menacingly, regarding the pale man before him warily. The
toff had taken two hits already. It was a miracle he was still standing.
"There's three of us und yer jus' one man... So, why
don't yer piss off!"
*My kind of
Spike reminded himself that if these fellows were human, the chip might make a
brawl just a little one-sided, whereas if they weren't they might have some
other tricks up their sleeves. *Paralyzing
mucous, maybe.* Plus, he had no time for quarrels. So, maybe a non-violent
"Wasn't planning on staying," Spike answered, "Just
need to get my watch back first and find a couple of friends..." He scanned the
floor looking for Giles's pocket watch.
It wasn't visible among the debris. The first guy, the one who had
nicked the watch, remained still on the rubble in the corner of the room.
The men noticed Spike's preoccupation and rushed him.
Instinctively, Spike threw himself into the skirmish. Kick. Punch. Duck. The
big thug was coming at him brandishing his crowbar. Spike successfully ducked a
swing aimed at his head, but took a painful hit from the thin guy's weapon. He
caught hold of the man's arm and yanked him forward. When he stumbled close
enough, the vampire picked him up and threw him against a wall. He followed up
by overturning a heavy table and
trapping him underneath it.
Spike evaded another swing of the crowbar. But when
the thug charged him he grabbed the weapon in mid-arch. The big guy's momentum carried both of them
into the wall, crushing a person-shaped depression into it. Spike pushed him
backwards then yanked the crowbar from the fat man's grasp. He wielded the tool
as if it were a sword and rammed it into the man's gut. There was enough force behind the attack to
run the man through. The delicious smell of blood filled the air. Hot human
blood that gushed out of the man's guts and ran down the crowbar to drench the
cold hand that was holding it. Human!
Spike froze as the realization hit him. *I'm free!*
Just then something sharp slashed his arm. The boy!
He'd forgotten about the boy. And now - despite his injury - the large man
began to pummel the vampire's face with his fists, which was already cut,
bruised and swollen from two hits with the iron rod. Spike's visage changed. He
growled and shoved the man off of him, then whirled around. He caught the youth
with one quick grab. Holding him by the throat and lifting him up effortlessly,
like a kitten, Spike reveled in the power that had been restored to him, the
power over life and death, the power to feed and to kill.
"Ow," Spike said succinctly, grinning evilly. "That
hurt - a bit." The boy's eyes were wide with fear. Even so, he tried to kick his captor and
slashed at him again with his knife. Spike just swatted the weapon away. "Tut,
"Y-y-yer a monster," the youth choked out, barely able
Spike chuckled internally. "And you're a skinny little rat. Hardly worth
eating," he said, which earned him a look of defiance and another kick.
Spike was torn. He was fluctuating between the
feelings of elation, freedom, fear, pity, amazement... It occurred to him that
this wasn't the best of times to contemplate the implications of his new
freedom. He was, after all, on a mission. Or was he? He still wanted to help
Buffy get back to her own time, right? Right. Once she was back in Sunnyhell
they'd be on equal footing. The thought evoked a certain thrill.
"Consider yourself lucky, that I've already eaten,"
Spike said, telling himself that it was the boy's defiant attitude that kept
him from wanting to tear his throat out. "Fly, fly, little birdie." He opened
his grip, dropping the boy like a sack of potatoes and shook off his vampire
The boy scrambled backward to get as far away from
Spike as possible. As he backed away, he
tripped over a broken piece of furniture.
He continued his backward movement on the floor, afraid. When Spike made
a shooing gesture, he got to his feet and ran outside as fast as his feet could
Spike looked down. At his feet, the tall guy was
moaning in pain and trying to quell the bleeding with his hands. The vampire
bent down and checked. The injury did not look fatal. "Aren't you a lucky
bastard. Guess you'll live after all," Spike said as he squatted next to the
man to frisk him. He found several picklocks and pocketed them. "D'you think
your little crow will come back for you?" Spike asked, using the underworld
term for a `lookout' to refer to the youth.
He didn't really expect a coherent answer. He got up
and scanned the room around him. It was
a beautiful catastrophe. *Where is that bloody watch?* He kicked debris around on the floor as he
approached the man he'd knocked out first. He checked the guy's hand. Sure
enough, he was still holding on to the watch. Spike bent down to pry Giles's
heirloom out of the man's hand only to realize that there wasn't a pulse. The
man was dead. Spike dropped the guy's wrist like a hot potato. He'd just killed
a man. A human. The first in two years. He hadn't meant to, but the result was
all the same. *If Buffy finds out about
He looked at the watch. The face was cracked and it
was no longer ticking. The pin must have broken too, because the lid was
hanging off of it at an odd angle. Spike shook his head. *Bollocks!* He glanced at
the dead burglar and hurled the watch against the wall where it shattered into
He stood, intent on leaving but then thought better of
it's not like I haven't done this before...* He went back and removed the
dead man's shoes. *Decent enough,* he
thought as he slipped his bare feet inside. He debated on whether or not he
really needed a shirt, but realized that if he had to walk around in public, he
couldn't go half-naked. He lifted the
table. The thin man was still alive but unconscious. Spike stripped the gray
shirt off the unconscious man. It
smelled awful and it was spotted with blood, but Spike didn't take much notice.
He wiped the crowbar clean and forced the lock of the
metal strongbox the burglars had been after. He whistled as he looked at the
small fortune. There were over 50 Sovereigns and about twice the amount in
smaller coins. More freedom.
He thoroughly searched the thieves' possessions,
stuffing a few more burglary tools and half a bottle of cheap gin into a bag.
The crowbar also got added to the loot.
He looked around one more time at the huge mess that
was left. *Buffy will kill me for this,*
he thought and shook his head. *Bollocks!* He wandered out of the beat up inn.
The blonde vampire gave him a triumphant smile that
made it very clear to Xander that he'd be allowed to marinate in fear for a bit
longer, but ultimately he'd end up dessert. *Beam
me up, Willow?*
Darla swept out of view, the rustle of her red skirts
drowned out by faraway screams.
Blood ran in a thin rivulet into his cell. Xander
cautiously went to the door and checked the hallway. Darla was gone. He stared
at the dead orderly. It was too dark to make out any details. *Keys, there must be keys!* He slipped
his naked foot between the bars and tried to search the body with his toes. Was
that a bunch of keys in the dead man's pocket?
Two minutes later Xander had managed to pull the keys
into his cell. *And now a healthy round
of applause for Mr. Alexander Harris as he proceeds to Houdini out of his
straitjacket. Applause, applause!* The key to getting out of the jacket had
to be getting the leather cuffs off, ergo he'd have to open the buckles that
connected the canvas sleeves with the cuffs. Mind over matter? *Use the force, Xander? Guess not. That
means go for plan B: Use your teeth.* Xander tried to lift his arms up high
enough to be able to reach the buckles with his teeth, but the jacket was too
tight. *Okay, plan C: Rambo style, also
known as using brute force.*
Grateful for the muscles his construction work had
given him over the last year, Xander used sheer strength to force his elbow
toward his head. Using the bed frame for better leverage Xander strained and
struggled until he was finally able to bring both of his encased arms in front
of his body. It felt like it took forever. Any minute he expected Darla to come
back for him. Effectively, it took him about twenty minutes to get his arms
into a position where he could reach his buckles with his teeth.
It took him just as long to undo the buckles of the
straps of the cuffs. The first buckle was the hardest. A few times he almost
cried with frustration. But once he knew it could be done, he doggedly
continued. *I can do it. I know I can,*
he kept telling himself. Finally, all the straps were loose and he slipped his
arms out of the leather cuffs. His hands were still encased in the canvas
sleeves of the jacket, but at least he could reach around to his back and undo
the two buckles that kept the whole jacket together. Once those were open it
was easy to slip out of the offending garment. *Yay!*
Xander felt the insane urge to break into a Snoopy
dance. *Okay, not now! Maybe later. Outside.
Yeah, do the Snoopy dance outside.*
He dropped the straitjacket to the floor and picked up
the bunch of keys. It took him about half a dozen attempts to find the right
key. The sound of the key turning the tumblers in the lock and the bolt sliding
back was music to his ears. He pushed the door open, dislodging the orderly's
Xander shuddered but dragged the dead body inside the
cell to perform a quick search. The orderly didn't wear a uniform or anything,
just ordinary clothes. Xander's clothes marked him as a patient. Not good.
Xander decided it just wouldn't do to be squeamish. The man had been broadly
built, like Xander, just not as tall. *Yay!
Lucky me.* Xander thought, unable to generate a great deal of enthusiasm.
He took the man's shoes and tried them on. Not terribly comfortable; better
than none. The jacket was next; good fit. Pants; short but decent enough.
The man's pockets yielded a handkerchief, a few
unfamiliar bronze and silver coins and some brass knuckles. *Bet they're not standard equipment.*
*Okay, time to
get out of here. I just hope I don't bump into Angel, I mean Angelus.* He thought that over. *Let me rephrase that: I hope I don't bump
into anything or anyone that's got pointier teeth than me. Let's hope there's
no residual demon magnetism left and I get out unmolested and uneaten.*
The passage was dark but there were lights at both
ends. *Okay, Darla went that way, so I'll
go the other way.* He quickly walked down the passage, as far away from the
other cells as possible. Everything was reminiscent of Clarice Starling's visit
to Hannibal Lecter - it was actually creepy. He briefly contemplated setting
the other inmates free but remembered that this was the part of the asylum
where the murderous nutcases were housed. *Letting
loose a bunch of psychos really sounds like a plan. Not.*
At the end of the passage there was a dimly lit
stairway. Xander tiptoed down to the ground floor and hastened through dark
passages, looking for doors or windows that might lead outside. He tried to
avoid the noisier and therefore scarier parts of the hospital. He unlocked a
few doors, hoping they'd lead to exits but ended up in a rather scary room
filled with large specimen jars with pickled brains and other body parts. *Eow!*
Another room contained damaged furniture. Xander
decided to risk a certain noisiness and picked up a three-legged chair. It
turned out that smashing chairs into serviceable stakes looked much easier on
television than it really was. But he ended up with a reasonably sharpened
piece of wood and immediately felt better. *Not
safe but safer. Yup. Now all I need is a compass and a map. A kingdom for a
map! Where is the freaking exit?*
Xander felt increasingly desperate. The asylum felt
like a maze. All the passages looked the same to him. There were very few
signs. *Wait a minute!* This area
looked familiar. Wasn't this where the medical facilities had been? He
quickened his pace, rounded a corner, took another corner and found himself in
a cul-de-sac, with just one door to choose. He turned around to backtrack his
steps but froze. He could hear someone approaching. He slipped through the door
and stumbled into a small unlit lecture room, that was shaped like a round
amphitheater. There were no seats, though, just stands.
Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. In his desperation
Xander resorted to the only plan his brain could come up with at such short
notice: play dead. He was wearing the bloodstained clothes of a dead man.
Perhaps that was enough to fool the cursory glance of a vampire and give the
impression that he was already dead or dying?
Xander slipped between two stands and laid down on the
floor. He tried to make his breathing as slow and shallow as possible. He heard
the swooshing of skirts. A flowery scent made his nose itch. Then a chilly hand
closed around his wrist. "You cannot fool me, you know," a familiar voice
sing-songed. "I know you are not dead. I can hear your heart race, and what a
pretty sound it is."
Continued in Part 28 - Under Scrutiny