Beware the Jabberwock
Summary : An Alternate ending to the Series 5 Episode 'Tough Love' In which Buffy makes a deal with Glory to safeguard 3 people close to her while also restoring Tara's broken mind. In the end though the 3 of them will travel much further than they would have guessed.
Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS or any of it's characters, just these words.
Warning: This work is unbetaed proceed at own risk. War Never Changes By Fallen Gods Chapter 2 : Beware the Jabberwock
There was no inside to the portal just an instant transition with no warning. The RV lurches and jumps as the suspension futilely struggled to cope with the suddenly broken road. Spike hit the brakes hard to try and regain control, which was unfortunately the last straw for Dawn and Tara's hopes of staying in their seats. Checking the back end is clear of the portal in the mirrors Spike sees it close behind them, wherever they are they are here to stay. The view from the front windscreen didn't exactly fill him with hope.
"What the hell Spike, when did you start driving like Buffy?"
"Oi nothing wrong with my driving bit, it's the bleedin' road that's wrong." There was no heat in his words, he looked over his shoulder at the tangle of limbs on the floor. "You two alright?"
"We're fine Spike, thank you." Tara was helping Dawn up first, looking to the front she asked the question he'd been dreading all day. "What's going on Spike? Where are we?"
Looking at them both staring at him with complete trust that they were safe, that he had the answers and would explain it all made something inside Spike twist. He really didn't want to be the one to do this but Summers had asked him and that was enough. He motioned for them to join him on the sofas they'd just fallen from, "The Portal was unexpected, yeah but the plan was basically get Dawn out of town an' save the world. Slayer even managed to get Glory to fix your noggin into the bargain."
"I'm glad believe me, but why would Glory go along with that?"
"She made Summer's give up one of her fighters, think she expected it to be Red coming with you. Plus she probably thought we'd try to sneak the Key out and she'd nab it."
Dawn snorted "Like we'd try something like that." she smiled sweetly.
"Yeah innocent as nuns we are." Spike responded smirking.
Tara wasn't smiling "But what about the others, will they be all right? What happens when Glory figures it out?" Her hand throbbed and she shivered from the remembered fear.
"Hey now luv none of that. Red already hurt her once after... ya know." he finished awkwardly gesturing to her hand still in a cast. "They'll be fine now they don't have to worry about the world or fixing you an' rescuing me." Spike stood and offered his hand to help Tara up, "Us on the other hand I'm not so sure."
"What do you mean Spike?" Dawn frowned briefly, "We've got loads of food I mean like tons
! and you got us this totally awesome RV which by the way has way better furniture than we have at home! and we got Tara back! and the three of us are going on freaking road trip! this is so
cool!" Dawn finally stopped to a bemused Tara and a slightly horrified Spike who couldn't begin to fathom where she was getting this much energy from, teenagers weren't like this when he was young.
Still bewildered from the explosion of teenage energy Spike responded to the one part he felt he could respond to "Your mum only got the cheap furniture 'coz big sis' kept wrecking it. She'd have loved better stuff but it was too expensive to keep replacing."
"Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense" Dawn was returning to normal human energy levels, "Wait how do you
know so much about our furniture?"
Spike shrugged with practiced nonchalance "Showed her a couple of cheap second hand stores, carried some bits from Ikea for her, that's all."
Dawn stared at him "Mum hates Ikea, she says the instructions are just a cruel trick to drive the unwary insane." She tried raising one eyebrow at him but it didn't work so went back to staring.
Spike mumbled something inaudible but the staring continued he sighed then rolled his eyes just so everyone would know how put upon he was. "Might have put some of it together too."
"Some?" Dawns hands were on her hips now
"All right, all." Spike all but shouted exasperated "But your mum made the best hot chocolate around that's all. Now if your done with the bleedin' Dawnish Inquisition?"
"nobody expects the..." She stopped and pouted realizing the joke wouldn't quite work.
Spike responded with pure smug "Hah." his eyes teasing gently.
Tara had been silent throughout their exchange and had tuned out there verbal play fighting in favour of her own thoughts. She'd known that Spike wasn't the bad guy he seemed to want people to think he was, she knew about hiding behind masks after all. This though was beyond anything she'd imagined. Not that she'd ever imagined Spike all that much but still. Trying to picture him as the guy who'd carry a lady's heavy shopping for her, then put up her furniture in exchange for just a friendly chat and a mug of Coco, simply came back with 'Does Not Compute'. She realized that she had still misjudged him along with the Scoobies. She remembered how upset he'd been after Mrs Summers death, remembered Xander ranting about Spike taking advantage by bringing flowers only for Anya to quietly mention that they'd been anonymous after Xander stormed off.
Returning to the present and seeing the two big kids in front of her 'Good grief are they still going back and forth, and how on earth did they get on to pirates vs ninjas
' Tara realized that she would have to try taking charge, for some reason that didn't seem as terrifying to her as it once would. "S-Spike y-you said we're in trouble?"
Spike and Dawn both with big smiles on there faces stopped and turned to Tara before Spike answered a little chagrined "Umm yeah sorry Glinda got a bit distracted, you two should probably have a peak outside."
"Oh my goddess, what happened?"
"Whoa Spike, where did that portal send us?"
"Not sure Nibblet, Glory said there'd be no demons here and Red backed her up, also modern humans and less hocus pocus. Other than that no clue" Spike looked out the window himself "Alright it's night right now 'bout the same time as in Sunnyhell by the looks of it, so I'm going to have a quick look round an' be back before you know it. Mean time I want you two to stay inside and keep the door closed."
"Wait! Spike you can't go alone who knows what's out there."
"Vampire luv, wont be seen by myself."
Spike shared a look with Tara who turned and put her arms around Dawn then said "Dawns right Spike at least take a weapon."
Spike reached beside the drivers seat and came out with a baseball bat, noticing the girls questioning looks he smirks "Didn't fancy explaining a sword to the law if I run into them."
Spike stepped down onto the cracked and broken road he hadn't mentioned to the girls that Red hadn't been able to confirm Glory's claim that there were humans here. Obviously there had been at one time but this road looked like it had been neglected for agood long while. There had been a bridge over the road once but it had collapsed right behind the camper, they could only drive out forwards so that was where Spike was going. Spike focused his supernatural senses and stalking ability and started to move silently along the wall to his right, there was a few meters of cover as the former road rose to ground level after that Spike would be exposed.
As he approached the top of the hill all he could see were rocks and some scattered desert plants, the only noises he could hear were from insects, no traffic or other signs of human inhabitation. There was a beat up billboard over to his left to damaged to see anything except a cartoon boy. Looking to his right Spike thought he could make out a petrol station as broken and dilapidated as everything else. Edging forwards out of cover revealed more the most obvious was a lot of wrecked cars and lorries all heading south west up a large hill, almost none coming the other way. Still no clue as to what had happened here but it wasn't looking good, standing up and walking over to the decades old traffic jam Spike almost misses an old road sign lying flat in the dust. "I 15, North East of LA and up through Vegas" he mutters to himself trying to recall the last time he was on this road and how far north it went. Nothing looks familiar though, especially two large statues at the crest of the hill that seem to be shaking hands.
The Cars are wrong too, he may have never been a petrol head but Spike has prided himself on at least recognizing the classics. These cars have a 50s - 60s feel to them but they're not like anything he remembers the few that still have their innards look wrong too. Spike's gaze follows the line of traffic up the hill looking for anything familiar he suddenly goes still. There's movement, a man or at least something man shaped and sized. He or it is moving between the wrecks heading up the hill away from him and the girls. Spike starts breathing again at least this means there is something still alive here and it's not a T-Rex 'Thank you, Rupert for that bloody nightmare' he thinks. Looking further a field Spike can just make out what look like towns to the North and to the East a few miles off.
Spike starts circling North to come out behind the RV and hopefully get a better look at that petrol station before heading back. he's just past an small lorry or maybe a big van when he hears it, movement. Spike cocks his head and listens letting his senses guide him, it's some sort of skittering or scurrying movement ahead and to the left closing fast. He abandons stealth and readies his bat he sees it from a way off it's a bug, a really big bug, with a nasty looking sting in it's tail and a little behind that it's two friends.
As the 'freaky alien bugger' got close it tried to take him down with it's tail but Spike was faster and caught the tail with his own strike. The sound of bat meeting chitin cracked loudly in Spikes ears and the bat now sported a nasty scratch but the scorpion came off worse it's tail hanging crippled and the tip snapped off. "Pretty sure that's called a home run mate" Spike mocked the creature, "probably 'coz if you had sense you'd be running home." The bug wasn't done though it tried to use it's pincers to punish the thing that had hurt it, Spike danced back out of the way, smirking. The other two were nearly here he had to finish this one quick, with a grin he leapt forward onto the creatures back his weight briefly driving it into the ground before he drove the bat straight down on the creatures head like a spear killing it.
The next two were ready to go and Spike had to immediately jump over one of them using it as a defence against the other. "Now now don't be impatient, plenty of violence to go 'round." The one he'd leapt over was less than half the size of the others. Just as Spike had hoped it's armour was thinner too, so it only took one solid overhand blow to crush it's head.
The last scorpion didn't seem deterred "Alright then, just you and me now." He danced with this one unable to get off a strong swing as the bat was constantly fending off its pincers. Spike quickly got fed up with this stalemate and kicked out at the pincer to his left and swung at the one on the right, it recovered too quickly though and Spike had to leap away to the side. He was a fraction of a second too slow and his right calf was scratched by the beast. Scowling at the bug and his torn jeans "Ok then beastie, first blood to you. But if you think the big bad is gonna be lunch best think again." He continued moving to the side forcing the scorpion to turn on the spot. Seeing it's ungraceful and slower movements Spike couldn't hold back a predatory smile "Gotcha." He moved around the bug in a circle quicker than it could turn taking a few swings to cripple it's legs and slow it further "Yeah that's right who's bad now." finally breaking it's tail and then finishing it off.
Shaking his head Spike took a quick look for further threats and seeing none decided it was time to get back to the girls. The collapsed bridge over the I 15 was directly ahead with a quick look over the edge to judge distance Spike jumped down on to the rubble his right leg gave a twinge on landing but other than that he was fine, a look to the left revealed that someone had felt themselves profound here once as the words 'The Centre Cannot Hold' had been graffitied on the wall. Turning to the right he dropped back on to the broken road and jogged back to the cab of the RV.
Two simultaneous cries of "Spike" greet him as he climbs through the door followed by Dawn's "What did you find?"
Spike shoots her a look "Let a fella sit down first, yeah. Maybe get a cuppa in him before he tells all."
"Spiiike!" Dawn stretches his name an a frustrated whine, His answering grin tells her he knows what he's doing to her.
"Spike, you're hurt!" Tara gestures to his leg then standing to search for first aid supplies.
"S'alright Glinda just a scratch and it's already healed" he reassures her, at her uncertain look he adds "I promise." and for reasons he doesn't understand that's good enough for her and she sits back down while Spike tries to ignore the unfamiliar feelings of mattering to someone and being trusted by them. He noticed her eyes were a touch puffy and figured she'd been crying while he was gone. It was probably a good thing for her to let it out after what she'd been through, but he knew he couldn't help so just ignored it and hoped he was doing right.
"If you're sure S-Spike but w-what happened I thought there weren't any demons here?"
"Weren't a demon luv, just a really big bug." he pats his coat looking for his ciggies.
"A bug?" Tara can't help but be incredulous, Spike, Slayer of Slayers injured by an insect. The small smile is unavoidable especially when she sees Dawn looking at him as if he'd just spoken in French.
Spike finds a cigarette and looks back up only to frown at the looks he's getting. "Not just a bug, a bloody great big bug, as big as me from tip to stinger." blustering at their amusement.
"Oh poor Spikey, we'll protect you from the mean old wasps." Dawn's not as sympathetic as he'd hoped
Loosing his temper just a little "First off bit they were scorpions not wasps and second if you don't believe me I'll be happy to drag a body back here for you." He gets out his lighter, This is one bloody fag well earned.
Dawn's a little shocked that he wasn't just teasing her and telling exaggerated stories while Tara looks increasingly concerned "Sorry Spike, I d-didn't mean to belittle your injury or what you're d-doing for us." She hated that his small flash of anger could set off her stutter when she knew she was perfectly safe.
"Me neither." Dawn added quickly, upset that she'd said the wrong thing to the coolest guy she knew and desperate that he not think her too childish and loser-ish to hang out with anymore.
"Maybe you should tell us everything from the beginning." Tara suggested putting her hand on his, surprising him until he realized it was the hand that held his lighter and she was pushing it back down to the table with a look that said 'don't even think of lighting that thing in here' it was the same look Joyce had given him so he knew better than to argue with it.
With a token 'Bloody hell' he started to relate everything he could finishing with his coming back here and being doubted cruelly by his companions, he managed a very good 'woe is me' tone but gained no sympathy for it. Dawn revealed that she and Tara had managed to find a couple of radio stations playing oldies but nothing else, it did at least make it likely there were more people here than just Spike's lone wanderer. He did notice that no mention of any conversations was made but again just kept quiet.
"So what now?" Dawn innocently cut to the heart of the matter.
"We could follow the man Spike saw maybe he could tell us what happened and if not there might be some information on those statues."
"No guarantee he wont be trouble though and if he is human there's not a lot I can bloody well do about it." Spike added bitterly. Spikes fingers twitched for a cigarette before remembering. The other options are the two towns, one to the East looks to be a little closer.
"Does it matter how far it is we can drive there pretty quick right?" Dawn asked
"Can't drive Bit, we'd stand out too much. Besides not sure we'd make it past the traffic jam heading towards LA."
Dawn's eyes lit up "What about Sunnydale we could head back there!"
Spike didn't know how to burst her bubble gently so looked to Tara for help unfortunately her words weren't what he wanted to hear
"I-it could be nice to have something familiar around and the differences might be easier to make sense of there."
"Mayor Wilkins only built Sunnyhell there 'coz of the Hellmouth, no Hellmouth no town. Hell probably no Wilkins. Sorry pets but there wont be anything there and it'd be a one way trip." Spike felt like a heel as he watched the optimism fall from their faces. "Maybe I should head up the hill check out what's there, have a chat with that bloke if he's still hanging about. Then we can decide where we want to go either one of the towns or somewhere else." He cocks his head and offers his most salacious smirk "Y'know pet Vegas can't be to far, we figure out which way it is we can have our fill of buffalo wings and showgirls."
Tara gives him a disapproving look that is only slightly spoilt by the gentle smile on her lips. "I don't think you should go alone Spike."
"Been taking care of myself for a while now luv, think I'll be alright"
Tara remains firm "Not against humans, and besides are you sure we'd be safe by ourselves?"
Spike considered the risks "No people about that I could see and keeping the door closed should keep out the bugs, wouldn't leave you if I didn't think it was safe"
"I know, but we can't stay in here forever and if we can handle Sunnydale I'm sure we can deal with whatever's out there" Tara was convinced that remaining together was very important for the three of them.
"At least back in Sunnyhell we knew what the dangers were." Spike commented
"At least we'll be facing them together." countered Tara.
Spike looks at her for a moment before coming to a decision, he pulls a beat up holdall from one of the cabinets opens it and pulls out a pistol and loads it he offers it to Tara "You ever fire one of these pet?"
Tara takes the gun carefully in her good hand while gently shaking her head "No"
"Well it's pretty simple just point that end at what you want dead and squeeze the..."
"Spike" Tara interrupted "I know how to shoot, I've just never shot anything this small before."
Spike just stared at her with wide questioning eyes and a slightly open mouth.
Tara's smiles "I grew up in a rural community I've been shooting since I was a child, rifles and shotguns though not handguns."
Spike and Dawn are both floored as Tara checks the gun one handed then bracing it against her cast she unloads and reloads it like a professional. Dawn recovers first "Whoa go Tara you're like Lara Croft." Tara blushes
"Bloody hell Glinda you kept that quiet." Spikes sincere appreciation and openly assessing gaze only make her blush harder. His gaze had always been a little intense but it had never stopped on her, now it felt like he was peeling back layer after layer leaving her exposed.
Fortunately she was unknowingly saved by Dawn. "Do you have one for me too?"
"Yeah, bit. but only after me and Tara have made sure you're safe." Spike spoke forcefully, while retrieving and loading .38
"Really?" Dawn was caught off guard
So was Tara, "I don't think Buffy would approve of that Spike." her nervousness returning
"I'm bloody certain she wouldn't but Slayer ain't here so it's my call." Turning to Tara and trying to be reassuring "We'll go though the basics outside and if you see her waving it around or being dumb you can take it off 'er. But I think we can trust her to be responsible with it."
Tara understood what he was trying to do Dawn needed to be shown that she was trusted to be responsible so she'd have something to live up to. Buffy for all her trying just wanted to lock her away from all risk and it had caused problems, she just wasn't sure this was the right time or place. She began explaining the different parts of the gun how it worked and how to care for it promising they'd go over it in more detail later on.
As they moved to the door Spike put his hand on Dawn's shoulder "You keep that hidden, only pull it out as a last resort." Dawn looked like she might object Spike continued. "No point making yourself a target until we've taught you how to use it."
At his insistent look Dawn's potential teenage rebellion crumbled. " I promise Spike."
"Ok Bit let's go" They left the RV and started along the same route Spike had taken previously. Spike followed the two girls up the short rise, his senses were on alert but his mind was repeating an endless litany 'Gotta keep them safe' he just wished he knew how.
Authors Note: The fight scene with the Radscorpions gave me some trouble, it's my first fight scene so any feedback would be appreciated. Also I am actually acting out the story in game so the descriptions should all match up and any random events the game throws at me may well end up here. If anyone has anything they'd especially like to see please feel free to comment but no promises. I sincerely hope you all enjoyed this chapter and just want to warn you that my work hours will be increasing so updates will likely be rare, sorry.