All About Spike

Chapter: Prologue  1  2  3  4  5

To Carthage They Came
By Chris

Rating: PG-13
Summary: The obligatory post-Grave speculation fic. There were a jillion loose ends dangling. This is my attempt to tie some of them together.
A/N: This prologue is short, and not terribly narrative. It's a set up for a fairly lengthy story -- I don't want to say how many chapters, because I always end up with more than I've outlined. I tend to get a chapter out appx. every 7-10 days, and I'm a good bit of the way into it, so patience, please :-) Credits to T.S. Eliot and St. Augustine for inspiration, and the usual suspects for keeping me in line. I'd do shout outs to everyone, but geez, it's a long list. You guys are the greatest!!


The second stair from the top creaks when he steps on it. It is strange to be in this house, in this town he once called home, walking up these steps to watch these women--the ones he thought of as his children. Daughters of his heart, mind, and soul.

Giles stands at the top of the landing and listens. It is the one thing he could not do for them when he was gone.

The one thing they needed most.

-- -- -- -- -- --

The silence of the night chokes her with its demands.

Lie still, stop thinking, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite. Buffy rolls over for what must be the ten thousandth time, tangling the sheets into a tighter knot between her knees and arms. Nighttime used to be her element, cool and comforting--she had been in control. But not tonight, or any other night for some time now. Tonight, the darkness brings no quiet. The mental repetition of recent events coils her emotions in ever tightening knots.


Blond on blond, sucking her fears out through her toes; comfort flashed in contempt at a lost child.


Love denied, shrieking pain through hands and face and voice; redemption brought low with a single blow.


Splashing red, announcing life's loss in dissonant patterns; friendship ground from warm brown to glittering black.


Buffy flails in her sheets, wringing small comfort from the wrinkled cotton remnants of childhood between her limbs. One after another, distorted images light the screen of her closed eyelids.


Blinding white light, calling her to serve a third time; confusion dashed hope on yellow highway stripes.


Masculinity, safety and abandonment, joining her in laughter; absolution sacrificed to unfairness.


Beloved burden, crying out for independence; guilt surrendered in final acceptance.


Her fist flies into the pillow as she sits up, furious. With herself. With him. A vision of her headstone lingers in her mind's eye. "She Saved the World. A Lot."

It never ends, does it?

Except this time, she hasn't managed the task at all. Only sheer chance and Giles' arrival stopped her morose self-absorption from allowing the world's complete destruction.

Buffy swings her legs over the side of the bed and stares at the door. A shower would probably clear her head, but Willow's asleep in the other bedroom. She likes, no, needs things clear and simple. Good and evil, right and wrong, happy and mad -- these are not mixy things in her world. And she can't remember when the blurring started, but she knows things may never be clear again.

So much damage to repair. And left alone, again, to fix it. She pushes back the rage and stands, eyes still fixed across the room.

She has to start by saving herself.

-- -- -- -- -- --

A startled cough emerges from his throat when the doorknob turns and Buffy appears in her bathrobe. ", Buffy. I was just..."

She smiles a sad, knowing smile and helps him out of his predicament. "Checking on Willow?" Two...three...four, and there it is.

Giles removes his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose as he nods towards the master bedroom. "Yes. Precisely. But if you're going in..."

Buffy scuffles her feet and looks at the floor. "Actually, I think Willow's sleeping. I'll...Dawn'll be done in there in a minute." Frightened, angry eyes shoot a sidelong glance at the hall bathroom door. She knows he knows why she hesitates.

"Right, then. Well, I'll just..." Now he is the one looking at the floor. He feels a hypocrite, wanting to offer soothing words when his anger is as rough as her own.

His quiet, deliberate footsteps ring behind her as he leaves to care for Willow. Gathering her courage, she pushes the door open.

-- -- -- -- -- --

Dawn stares at the water swirling down the drain. Atoms and molecules, all doing the orderly dance her chemistry teacher described in such excruciating detail. Gravity, giving inanimate, un-seeable objects their pattern in life. Just what was supposed to give glowy green Keys their patterns?

The shine of the light in the mirror draws her eyes upward. An ordinary human face in the mirror stares back at her.

Nothing remarkable.

The mirror can't show what's really there. The hollowness inside doesn't melt the shine in her eyes or streak the gloss of her hair. She thinks maybe Buffy is fighting her way back from wherever she's been since they called her out of her grave. But her own emptiness echoes in the room as loudly as it has since the day her mother died. She closes her eyes to shut out the silence and, after a moment, feels the touch of her mother's hand on her hair.

When she turns, it's Buffy who's standing nearby. Mother. Sister. Self. The thin-as-rails arms enfold Dawn as she speaks.

"I'm here."

-- -- -- -- -- --

Giles raises calloused fingertips to trace the frame of the door to Joyce's room. It's like so much in this house -- neglected. Chipped at by time and inattention, until the cracks in it warp the weft of the wood. He isn't sure that even the touch of a skilled carpenter could put that to rights.

His finger snags on a splinter when he hears the groans from within.

-- -- -- -- -- --

The water rushes in the pipes, reminding Willow that there is a here, that someone feels. The magic is gone, but she still knows their pain; she will always know the pain.

Her stomach clenches in agony. Oh god how it burns. It might never leave her. Her thoughts skitter -- synapses fire, but nothing quite connects. Sharp jerks of knowing dominate what should be a fluid pattern of grief and sorrow. Something in her is cracked. Maybe beyond repair.

Willow rolls in the bed and hears Buffy's rage in the floods of falling water. The coldness seeps through her veins even now. She wants to care, but caring has gone on the wings of an angel.

She hears him in the hallway. If she could find a way, she would tell him, her surrogate father -- her judge, jury, and executioner. But words are not enough.

He knows. All the yellow crayons in the world won't fix what's broken now.

-- -- -- -- -- --

Slender arms slip around his waist, and Giles hears her sigh as she presses her face into his arm. In that sigh, he hears everything she doesn't say.

"I can't stay, Dawn. There's no hope at all unless I take her back."

She pushes him away. She's learned her sister's lessons well, and she throws the most bitter of them in his face. "Of course. Come in, let us believe you want to help, then go. You think you're different, but you're not."

He watches as she runs down the hall. He knows to whom she was speaking.

-- -- -- -- -- --

Broken shrieks pierce the air. No one dares enter to discover whether the pale stranger lives or dies, but the sentries keep watch.


Laughing faces name him, know him; he is naked before their judgment -- Orestes, laid bare.


Screaming women line the hallways of his mind, holding cold babies that live but do not breathe.


Rivers of blood drown his senses, tainting sight, taste, smell, and sound with the salt of a thousand souls.


The fires told their shaman that with the shaking of the earth, a new danger woke. Their bones know that the one in the cave is essential. For three days and three nights, they have beat their drums and drained the blood from their goats. It will be needed.


Dark beauty slinks into the crevices of his mind, shrieking mad laughter at the jerking of his flesh beneath her torture.


White-hot lightening seizes his essence, returning through his soul every moment of fear and pain and torment he's ever delivered.


Wide green eyes stare at a broken man, seething hate past clean white tiles.


The most electrifying scream yet splits the air. The drummers cease their beating, and a young boy walks forward from their midst to the mouth of the cave. A wraith-like figure emerges, and the boy reaches out a hand.

"Come. It is time."

-- -- -- -- -- --

Leaving the sound of rushing water behind, Giles descends the stairs in search of hope.

Continued in Chapter 1

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