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16 August 2010 @ 05:59 pm
'The Frayed and Weathered Mantle' by Quinara (BtVS, R, S8 Spuffy/gen) [1/2]  
I was so very worried about being late to my own ficathon, but I made it! With Buffy fic after all (when in doubt it is my default), though bizarrely it's a long, quite serious (if bonkers) S8 fic, set just after the end of #35 and working sort of as a sequel to/with the same assumptions as my cracky bit of fluff If I'm an Actor then I Want to Know My Lines. (Which doesn't really assume much, apart from that Buffy technically knew Spike was alive all along - simply for my sanity's sake.)

I don't know how much this really references the comics - it'll probably work with simply knowledge gleaned from fandom, and might even be possible to read as an in medias res entrée to some serious crack, but it's a story that (strangely) wanted to be written, so I hope you enjoy it!

The Frayed and Weathered Mantle. [1/2]
by Quinara

Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (S8 Comics)
Rating: R for swearing and non-explicit sexual situations - see warnings.
Characters: Principally Buffy and Spike (with couple of Spuffy crescendi), plus Connor and Illyria. Also Angel, naturally, and some special guest stars.
Length: ~14500 words (~6500/~8000)
Wanky Summary: We could blame it on circumstance, if only circumstance had a voice with which to accept.
Useful Summary: Now Spike’s arrived in Scotland, Buffy joins the crew of the of the Good Ship Steampunk on a quest to find out what the heck is up with Angel.

Warnings: Serious issues of sexual consent (dealing with past canon events with a certain amount of flashback), references to torture, congealed moral soup.

The Frayed and Weathered Mantle. [1/2]

“So what’s this thing called, anyway?” Buffy asked as she followed Spike up the steps to his ship. She couldn’t keep calling it ‘the Spikemobile’ in her head, though she’d been calling it that for so long that she’d almost lost the urge to giggle every time she thought it.

“Oh, what, the ship?” Spike asked. He laughed, but then the humour died in his voice as he seemed to remember something not quite so funny. “Er, it wasn’t my idea, all right, so don’t…”

The steps led to a small bay with a ladder on the back wall, leading up to some sort of magic forcefield, shimmering white and purple in a way that promised lighting sparks if she tried to cross unwelcome. OK… “Is it like… The Yellow Submarine?” Buffy asked, trying to continue the conversation. “The Great Contraptionator?” (Well, that proved she wasn’t good at steampunk names.) Turning back to Spike, who was operating some sort of winch to pull the steps back in, Buffy was annoyed to find him looking away from her, avoiding the question entirely. “Fine; you’re not keen on the name. But electricity, Spike?” She couldn’t resist needling him. “You can’t tell me you couldn’t have stepped in when that got left off the plan.”

“Ah,” Spike said, now looking perversely proud of himself. “That, you’ll understand –” He met her look with a grin, still turning the winch. “– was a necessary part of the spec. We’ve got power inside the barrier, but for her chassis?” At last the steps returned to position, with a sonorous CLANG. “Nothing but steam and brass’ll translate across dimensions.”

“Dimensions?” Now that was actually ridiculous. “You cross dimensions in this thing?”

Spike raised his eyebrows – just you wait – then began climbing the ladder, up through the forcefield. She followed, to find herself on the ship’s industrial-looking bridge – where company was waiting, two people leaning against their two big chairs, one eye-like window behind each. On the right was a guy who looked like he could have stepped out of UC Sunnydale, while on the left was a woman who – didn’t. Her skin was, well, blue – almost lavender, with indigo hair tied back in a bun. And her outfit? It looked like a three-piece suit, made out of russet leather, trousers tucked into riding boots and completed with a frilly white shirt and a pocket watch.

“Buffy,” Spike told her, “this is Connor and Illyria.”

“Hi!” Connor waved, with an easy-going grin, while Illyria offered, “Charmed.”

“Don’t mind her,” Spike whispered, on Buffy’s raised eyebrow. “I showed her some books to explain the steam business; then she found my laptop and, well…”

“Had a makeover?” Buffy offered, though she could only imagine what from. “Hi guys!” she said more loudly, also waving. “Funky ship, huh? I never did catch its name…”

“Didn’t Spike tell you?” Connor said, with a sneaky hint of irony as the vampire in question glared, mulishly. “All of us had a name in the hat;” he admonished, ”you’re gonna have to get used to it sooner or later.” Spike rolled his eyes. “Buffy!” Connor spread his arms wide, turning to her. “Welcome aboard the SS Awesome.”

For a moment Buffy stared at him – at the glass-eye windows and the Titanic-engine-room walls – but then she couldn’t help letting forth yet another gale of laughter.

“It’s not that funny, slayer,” came Spike’s sulky comment, though he couldn’t quite contain his grin.

“It’s the best thing I’ve heard all year!” she replied, not holding back, because it really was. “Spike: Captain of the SS Awesome…”

“He is not captain,” Illyria interjected, drawing Buffy’s laughter short so she could hear. “I am captain of this vessel.”

“Uh, actually, Lil, none of us are captain, remember?” She couldn’t quite believe that, even as Connor put his hands in his pockets, affectedly casual. “We agreed?” The stance was completed with a (vaguely familiar?) self-deprecating shrug. “Besides – if we’re talking about who knows the ship best and spent the most time working on it, well…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Spike replied, waving a hand. “Let’s get on with this, shall we?” He immediately assumed a stance that Buffy recognised, with a jolt, as almost exactly like her own before she made a speech – though the hands-on-hips was all Spike. Ship didn’t have a captain, huh? “The plan is to rescue Angel,” he said, sounding certain though he glanced her way. She nodded, gesturing for him to continue, because that was definitely a good plan to have. “We know now that he’s under some sort of mind-mojo, or had his personality suppressed at least. So maybe a witch, or…”

Connor waved a hand in the air. “Yeah, hi, I told you ages ago that this wasn’t him.”

“Yeah, mate,” Spike replied, “and I told you I know firsthand it isn’t beyond the old man to want the whole world sucked into hell – Buffy here’ll confirm, won’t you, love?” His eyes met hers.

Startled at being called on again so quickly, she cleared her throat. “Oh, um, sure – with Acathla. But that was Angelus…”

Spike nodded, retaining control even though he seemed to want to give it way. “Yeah, right,” he said, “but point is we couldn’t get a conclusive reading on the soul, so bets were off in that department.”

Sounding as if she’d been thinking about this for a while, Ilyria added, with a sigh of regret, “One day I wish to meet this ‘Angelus’ of whom you speak so fearfully. I would perhaps be entertained.”

First Drusilla and now this? Buffy was really beginning to wonder where Spike found these women – thankfully he let them continue without paying Illyria much mind. “Anyway,” he cut across the silence, “since the problem’s in his head, rather than his soul, I suggest we go and take a look.”

And with that Buffy was definitely caught off guard. “Huh?” she asked, suddenly wondering if she was the only sane one here. “Take a look in his head? How are we gonna do that?”

Yet Connor carried on nodding, posing the nonsensical question, “Should we fire up the Dream Drive?”

Then Spike nodded too, as if this all made perfect sense. “Yeah, no time to lose.”

Now Buffy could only watch as Connor and Illyria took their seats, then listen as the pipes along the walls immediately began to gush and whirr. With a demanding look at Spike, who was grinning like the demon he was, she asked, “What the hell is this thing doing now?”

“You’ll love it,” he said, at last giving her his full attention. “Look at this.” With a gesture he directed her to a schematic on the wall, just next to where he was standing, and Buffy recognised it from the radar image Willow had shown her. It looked like it had been painted in careful, navy blue lines, but now she looked at it she could see parts slowly changing, the lines taking on a silvery hue as they seemed to streamline themselves into more organic curves, the body straightening. She looked to the front of the ship, where Connor and Illyria still sat before windows – but the window glass was changing too, not several clear panes anymore, but smooth and concave, imperfect in their clarity with a hint of cyan tinting them. On top of that, the world outside was growing larger and larger, strange and indistinct, full of shadow and shade. They were moving forward through a blurred, dark forest of a palette – when suddenly at the edge of the right window there was a bright and brilliant flash of green.

“Dawn,” Buffy knew, no matter where they were, looking to Spike again as the ship abruptly turned away from the dazzling light.

“Mmm,” he agreed thoughtfully, but she was distracted immediately by the schematic on the wall. It was clear now what the ship had become. In lines of rainbow-silver the side-view plan now showed very clearly a picture of a fish, round with big eyes and a grim-looking mouth.

She tried very, very hard not to panic. “Spike?” she asked softly. “Why, um, has your ship animorphed into a fish?”

“Well, got to blend in,” he replied, looking at her mostly seriously. “You wouldn’t notice an extra little fish in your dreams, would you? Spaceships tend to stick out a touch.”

For a moment she did nothing but stare at him, trying to work out whether that was supposed to make any sort of sense. He seemed opaque as he looked back at her, eyes guileless to the point of blank in the face that usually wouldn’t hesitate to share a joke. Was he hiding something? Quite suddenly she was attacked by a twinge of loneliness and uncertainty for having come aboard this ship with him – because how well did she know Spike these days, really? This was hardly responsible for someone in her position.

“Where are we going?” she asked more firmly, forcing herself to remember that this was the mission. Or at least it was supposed to be, if she could get her head around it.

Blinking, Spike glanced away for a moment, as if expelling an errant thought. “Sorry,” he said, though Buffy wasn’t sure why he was apologising. “I know this must all seem mad – I keep forgetting you only…” He sighed. “We built this ship to take us anywhere, which you know, but that includes a lot of the stranger places, that don’t quite make it onto the atlas. The way the magic works, it – the ship decides the best way to get there, and usually it’ll camouflage itself, make itself fit into its surroundings.” Now he rolled his eyes and she felt like they were at last on the same page. Because this was kind of ridiculous. “So,” he finished dryly, “for a trip into Angel’s head we’re a fish. Not sure why, but you get used to it.”

“OK,” she replied carefully. “So we’re actually going inside Angel’s head?”

“His mind,” Spike confirmed, “yeah.”




It was slow going through the dreams – or whatever it was that filled the air around them now, in blurred and glimmering shades of grey. For ten minutes (or so), Buffy watched out of the ship’s eyes, sitting with Spike on a convenient couple of chairs to the side of the bridge, but she couldn’t tell where they were or where they were headed.

“I know where we’re going,” she said eventually, loud enough for the pilots to hear, “but is there anything to, like, look for? Say a landmark? A sign saying ‘Angel’s Brain Here’?”

Casting her a quick glance over his shoulder, it was Connor who replied, “Can you make out that patch of pale peach in the distance?” He gestured his arm above his controls and, if she squinted, Buffy could sort of see what he was pointing at. “That’s the system of Angel’s aura, and that’s where we’re headed.”

“Oh,” she commented, “huh.” Then she tilted her head to one side. “It looks beige to me.”

Spike snorted, in response to which she had to suppress a grin. She should have remembered that making fun of Angel was a sure-fire way to bring out the Spike she recognised. Unfortunately she wasn’t entirely sure what having sex with Angel did, but she was trying to suppress that…

Hang on, where was that memory? Shouldn’t she be able to picture what she’d done in toe-curling-if-cringe-worthy detail?

They were drawing closer to the beige swirl, but she was still wracking her brains for a sensation other than wow, which was still the only word she could associate with the experience. Not that this was a time to panic, but it was more than a little disturbing… They’d flown round the world, hadn’t they? Through space?

It was then, as if to say she wasn’t meant to remember, the ship shuddered. “What was that?” she asked. Other than a grim silence, Spike’s only response was to clip a hefty-looking seatbelt across his stomach, an action she copied nervously, looking around the bridge for potential flying objects.

“We are unwelcome here,” Illyria confirmed; Connor grunted, leaning into his controls as he directed them closer to the growing swirl of peachy beige.

Buffy wondered what Spike was thinking; he wouldn’t look at her now, just stared past her to the outside world. As the shuddering came again, and again, growing constant and more violent, she tried to work out if she was supposed to say anything, not entirely sure why this didn’t feel like she was in a sci-fi show, about to crash land on Mars. Her chair was practically a bucket seat, curving to hold her body and padded, but she was being thrown around inside it like it had been built for someone with a much larger frame.

Across the room, the schematic of the fish still glowed on the wall. Buffy stared at it, trying to focus, but eventually it made her feel too sick, so she shut her eyes, to darkness and the thundering creaks that filled the silence.

The shaking kept coming, on and on, harsher and harsher. In the moments Buffy’s eyes rattled open, she thought she could see a great wash of peach, definitely peach, engulfing the front of the ship –

And then, quite suddenly, it was over.

The ship stopped moving. Carefully, Buffy opened her eyes, glancing at Spike as he glanced at her – they were both OK, it seemed. Then she turned to see where they were, coming face to face with two big windscreens showing nothing but… Water?

“So maybe my record’s developing a scratch,” she commented, “but, uh, where are we now?”

“If Scott Tracy steered us right,” Spike replied, unbuckling, “we should be in Angel’s dreamscape.” He got out of his chair to get a better view through the window-eyes and Buffy followed, feeling a little like a lemming – hopefully without a cliff.

“I know dreamscapes!” she began, but Connor was saying at the same time, “I don’t know what weird British thing you just compared me to, but I resent...”

“Never mind that,” Spike murmured, looking at the computer readings and then peering round the side of the notably wide peripheral vision offered by the fiship (that she still couldn’t work out what to call). It was definitely water outside, with twitches of shadows and greens and purples beyond the murky blue – like they were in the sea, maybe? Like it was an afterthought, he asked, “What did you say about dreamscapes, Buffy?”

“Oh,” she said, shaking herself from the distraction of the outside ocean, “I was just gonna say that I went on a dream journey – a while ago now, and it was inside my own head, but there were doors to go different places, and, um…” Embarrassing threesome dreams, which had obviously been directed subliminally by bad porn, because Naughty Nurse wasn’t even one of her fantasies… “It was hard to control what you found.” Or at least Ethan Rayne had made it seem that way.

“Well, hopefully we’ll find something useful.” Spike nodded, the slightest twinkle in his eyes that told he’d read a hint of the truth in some or other reaction of her body – but she held her head high, because it wasn’t like you wouldn’t find dirtier stuff inside his head.

“I see something,” Illyria said shortly, distracting them. “We must turn to port and dive.”

Port? she mouthed at Spike, and he jerked his head in Illyria’s direction, to Buffy’s left, as Connor turned the wheel and pulled on a lever. Oh, right, she thought – shippy port.

“What is it?” Connor asked, eyes flicking between his monitors and the window. “I can’t see…”

His voice drifted off as clear shapes came into view, off in the distance, and Buffy and Spike on his side of the bridge looked too as they pulled closer. It was a table, or something, on the seabed, with people sat around it like the Mad Hatter’s tea party. They seemed very close, though all readings indicated they were still far away – of course, they’d shrunk, Buffy remembered.

The figures became taller than life-size as they approached, at least from Buffy’s perspective, and she suddenly recognised the back of Angel’s head. He was sat at the head of the table, while sitting along it, passing food between plates and tureens, were other people she didn’t recognise.

No, wait – “Is that Cordelia?” she asked, looking at the woman sitting on Angel’s right. There was something wrong with her face, though. “And, hey, isn’t that you?” she asked Connor, looking at the boy version of him on Angel’s left, wearing really strange-looking brown clothes. There was something wrong with his face too.

“The gang’s all here,” Spike said, and she assumed these were all the people she’d heard about from Willow – the black guy and the white guy, the green demon guy and the not-Cordelia white woman whose features, hollow-looking like the others’, were nevertheless somewhat familiar as she smiled and laughed. More people were there with them, indistinct as they seemed to sit too far away. Spike, however, was not there, she was almost certain, and she wondered whether she shouldn’t be annoyed his behalf.

“What’s going on with their – our faces?” Connor asked, looking round to Spike and revealing his youth in his eyes.

She watched as Spike set his mouth in a tight line. “They’re all dead,” he replied.

Suddenly it was obvious: the skin of everyone at the party was stretched taut over their bones, sinking into the hollows of their face (and not in a good way). Their eyes were barely visible in the gloom, but Buffy didn’t think she could see much colour in them, and the more she thought it the more milky-white they seemed, not focusing or reacting though the corpses mimed conversation.

“This dream is of no pertinence to us,” Illyria said, across the central console – which had more buttons on it, but also what looked like storage containers. Knowing Spike they contained beer. “It speaks of past regret, of present dissatisfaction; it is Angel’s emotions, not his intentions, nor direct cause of this situation.”

“You’re right, you’re right,” Spike replied, visibly shaking himself, though he didn’t sound entirely convinced. “What was it you said, slayer? Doors? We need to be moving on.”

Speechless, Buffy nodded, unsure what to think about this dream. This scene could only be a fraction of a second’s thought during a nighttime of sleep, but that it was here waiting for them, the first thing they found in Angel’s mind… It seemed important.

“There is a magic boundary within the table’s covering; take us closer, child, and I shall traverse it.”

Connor glared Illyria’s way for a moment, before steering them closer. “The ‘child’ thing is getting old, your majesty.”

The Awesome swam past Angel’s ear, and it gave Buffy more than a little pause to realise that they were not only small, they were tiny, not much longer than the distance between Angel’s ear and the end of his nose. They were accelerating as they dived down to the tablecloth, however, and even though gravity didn’t seem to shift (or was at least shifting in their favour), Buffy reached out for a convenient brass bar near the ceiling, her other hand latching onto Spike’s sleeve. He offered her the crook of his arm.

The silverware on the table vanished, quite suddenly, and the white seemed to disperse around them, flurrying and flashing and breaking up a bright blue sky. After a moment it became obvious that the white was forming snowflakes, swirling and slapping against the eyes of their apparently airborne fish.

“Can’t we sort this out?” Spike asked exasperatedly, and, after she had snorted his displeasure, Illyria tapped some buttons so the snow began to be deflected from the cornea-glass, not that it did much to clear their vision through the snowstorm.

Knowing it was redundant, still Buffy asked, “Where’s Angel?” She scanned the sky – and was that grass below? – for a figure hopefully wearing a big black coat. There was something in the distance. “Is that him?” She pointed forward, and Connor immediately responded, leaning on the accelerator. “It looks like he’s… Pacing?”

Spike put his head next to hers, looking where she was pointing, then leaned back to address Illyria, commenting, “Look’s like he’s talking as well – audio might be nice.”

Almost immediately, the sound of the storm filled the bridge, the keening and whining of the wind. Behind it, Angel might have been shouting – there was a deeper tone cutting through intermittently, but not clear enough to be heard.

“I’ll take us closer,” Connor stated loudly, having to raise his own voice above the sound of the storm.

As Angel’s form became more distinct, so did his voice, though the angry words remained indecipherable. Then, as they were drawing closer, they all jumped as another voice spoke, disembodied and clear as a bell:

“ANGEL, THIS IS OUR LOVE. THIS IS HOW WE SHOW OUR LOVE. THIS IS HOW YOU EXPERIENCE OUR LOVE. OUR LOVE IS TO BE EXPERIENCED.”

They were less than a metre from Angel now; his frustrated reply rang through the bridge, “This is a snowstorm!” he shouted. “It’s nothing I can touch; nothing I can hold! How can I know love when it isn’t there?”

Buffy found her stomach clenched, hearing his voice – her hand tightened on Spike’s arm. It wasn’t as if Angel’s protestations about Twilight were old in her ears, but to hear him talk passionately to someone other than her, as if the rest of the world existed, it… She wanted him back. Maybe not in any capacity of a baked goods’ consumer, but back to where he said things that made sense.

Although, ‘sense’ was possibly the wrong word, almost definitely as the disembodied voice continued, “WHAT IS LOVE IF NOT METEOROLOGY? TO CHANGE THIS WORLD AROUND YOU? WE MAKE THIS WORLD OUR OWN FOR YOU.”

“I never asked for snow!” Angel shouted again. “Don’t I have more to offer? Than to be cold but still not freeze? There is more to love than this!”

Suddenly the world began to change around him, around them. The storm slowed and stilled, until it was night and Angel stood quite clearly on a snow-drifted hilltop. For a moment he stood in silence; then he began scooping up armfuls of white.

“Angel?”

They all jumped again, though Buffy was sure she jumped higher than the others, because that was her voice, familiar but embarrassing as a recording. Her heart started thumping.

“Should’ve seen this bloody coming,” Spike muttered, feeling like he was suppressing shivers. Connor was pulling the ship away from Angel, until they could see her, standing just on the other side of the hill.

She looked like a child. Not how Buffy knew she’d actually looked as a child, but unmistakably herself and unmistakably small and young and, well, childlike. No older than ten.

Angel approached the mini Buffy with his armful of snow, dumping it at her feet then packing it around her ankles and their frilly little-girl socks. “Gotta grow you big and strong,” he said, turning away and gathering more snow. “One plant left in the garden; gotta make this work.”

He built up the snow, armful after armful, though it never seemed to rise above her knees.

“Angel?” mini-Buffy asked again, as they all watched from the ship, not sure what to say. “Angel!” And then the mini Buffy was growing, turning into teenage Buffy dressed in awful nineties clothes, growing taller than Angel and wearing things that Buffy found more familiar. “I’m growing without your help!” she cried, her voice anxious but deep with age, the edges of the sound whistling like the storm that had just left. She was still growing taller and taller. “Angel!”

“Um…” Buffy said to the others on the ship, before pausing, unsure how to express that this was really, really creepy. “It might be time to go?”

“I see no path to leave this dream,” Illyria replied, leaving Buffy with no option but to grit her teeth and press her fingers into Spike’s arm.

Looking at her with an expression of sympathetic annoyance, but actually very little pain, Spike eased her hand down his arm so he could clasp it with his own. She took the comfort gladly, leaning into him as Connor asked, “What’s happening now?”

What was happening? Angel was beginning to climb the mound of snow, which still only went up to dream-Buffy’s knees, but that, because of dream-Buffy’s ever-increasing height, was almost three times as tall as him. He crawled up the snow, but as he did so the night grew darker and darker, until his face was barely visible against dream-Buffy’s denim-clad leg, which he was still climbing. His snorts of exertion were soon more present than him.

Nevertheless, they could still see that dream-Buffy was shrinking back to proportion as he climbed, slowly returning to normal height again.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Spike then commented, and Buffy knew what he meant as the figures’ clothing seemed to pale in the slight, slight starlight. There was a breeze starting, the merest suggestion of a coming gale.

The two figures weren’t standing anywhere, she realised – the ground had gone and they were in space, just floating. Angel’s breathing was growing heavier, and the dream version of her own seemed to be joining it. The paling clothes were growing sleek and tight, becoming skin on bodies that were slowly revealing themselves… “OK!” she said abruptly. “Nothing to see here, let’s turn this baby around, all systems go, full throttle, pedal to the – ”

GAHH!!” she was cut off by her own scream, by light, by the violent convulsion of bodies and the complete removal of doubt that a very naked vision of her and Angel weren’t orgasming in front of them, bodies fifty times the size of theirs.

It was like time stood still.

Then the bodies began to fuck again. The storm kicked up from nowhere, loud and howling as the noises Angel and dream-Buffy. She could do nothing but stare, mortified.

Was this what she didn’t remember? Was it? Why couldn’t she stop looking?

“Why aren’t we going yet?” she heard Spike ask through gritted teeth, his hand twitching in hers with every pant, moan, cry and scream that echoed through the sound system.

A particularly high-pitched whine caused Connor to jolt in his seat; Buffy felt her face burn bright red as she at last cringed away. “On it!” he said, and the ship began to turn.

“And get that sound off!” Spike barked.

But it wouldn’t end that easily. Just as the gyrating bodies moved out of sight, the breathiest of gasps roared into the bridge like a hurricane, rattling fittings. “The receiver is jammed!” Illyria exclaimed; Buffy took a moment to curse steam as a design philosophy.

Worse than that, on another breath the whole ship shuddered, as if caught in a squall, then rolled so she and Spike were thrown away from Connor’s seat to the side of the hull. More breaths shook them, pulled them in and sent them away; skin filled all the windows, another angle, stomach against stomach, and they were being pulled closer and closer –

Angel drew a dragon-like huff of air, which buffeted them again, spinning the ship past chests towards faces; Buffy was slamming into the ceiling as a dark red nipple rolled in front of the fish’s eyes. The wind was fast around the ship and the bodies now, screeching like they were in a wind tunnel and probably doing more damage.

Then they were somewhere else, held in a hand and forced into hair, into a different type of hair, which was when Buffy covered her face (because no, no, no, this wasn’t happening) and braced her head. The forces on the ship getting stronger; she and Spike were thrown to the floor, to the ceiling, soundly against the walls, against their seats which they at last managed to grab hold of.

“There is a breach!” Illyria roared at last, against the sound of sex and storm-battered brass.

Jerkily, the ship accelerated forwards and Buffy raised her head to see where they were going. It looked like empty space, but but they were getting away and she was too grateful to care it could be a black hole. Gradually the ship regained its stability, speeding faster and faster away from the roaring cries Buffy refused to believe she made as she approached orgasm.

In a moment it was like they were sucked through the star-shot blackness, to arrive somewhere new.

Silence. A well lit room with untended plaster walls.

Where the hell is this?

For a long moment they didn’t move. As her heart rate slowed, Buffy steadily unclenched her hands from around her chair, rising to her feet a little shakily. Spike joined her and hey stepped back to their place behind Connor, watching the room for whatever was about to happen.

Another few seconds, and then the dream revealed itself. “This is your fault,” yet another vision of Angel was saying, pacing across an unremarkable off-white floor about ten feet below them. With shaky fingers, Connor steered their tiny ship to get a better view of the room, dropping lower and hugging one of the walls like a fly.

It looked like Angel was talking to another version of himself, strangely enough. “Keep telling yourself that; it’s fun to watch.” The other Angel was sitting on the floor, back to the wall almost indolently with one knee drawn to his chest. He smirked as the other Angel frowned, before scoffing – at which point Buffy decided he couldn’t be anyone but Angelus. Great. “It’s not exactly a secret that you want to bone the girl,” he continued sarcastically. “Or, at least, not anymore.”

“I didn’t want it like that,” Angel argued back, clearly frustrated. “Anyway, you’re the one who tries to bring on apocalypse, not me.”

Angelus rolled his eyes, not moving from the floor. “You know, I find it so hard to keep track… Are you telling me you’re not the brave and valiant superhero? You’re not fighting for love and redemption? For a brighter and better world? Well, great; I know this hellgod - he wants to make a deal…”

Clearly at the end of his tether, Angel’s fists clenched as he stormed over to his double, only to halt as he realised he was being laughed at. “God, do you not stop talking?” he growled instead, turning and pacing back to the other side of the room. “This is like having Spike in my brain.”

The real Spike laughed at that, short and sharply; Buffy looked at him, more than a little confused that his reaction hadn’t echoed her mental ‘hey!’. He waved a hand dismissively. “Just thinking that dear old Angel knows how to hit Angelus where it hurts.” Grinning, he added, “Even if he meant it, I think he knocked the old git speechless.”

“This is Angelus?” Illyria suddenly chimed in. “He appears… Bored and ineffectual.”

“He’s probably been stuck here a long time,” Spike mused.

Buffy watched the image of Angelus scowl, silently glaring around the room as he drummed the fingers of one hand against his knee. It was fair to say that he looked very, very bored. “I hate be petty about semantics,” he commented offhandedly, “but your brain is my brain, and you do enough for my reputation as it is without pretending you can’t even grasp simple metaphysics.” His gaze wandered around the bare room, landing on Angel’s back – and then, worryingly, he looked straight at them.

“Oh, shit,” Connor said. Angelus’ eyes didn’t move.

“Is that supposed to happen?” Buffy asked nervously. Why wasn’t Angelus looking away? They were only a fish. Maybe this was a time to panic.

Back in the dream, Angel pivoted on one foot and began, “Spare me the intellectual superiority…” Then he paused too. “What is it?”

“Tell me, Soul Boy,” Angelus asked, slowly and carefully, “has there always been a lanternfish on that wall?”

Connor again: “Double shit.”

“Huh?” Angel looked where Angelus was looking, giving them a direct view of his eyes.

Connor’s fingers moved to the controls, but Spike put a hand quickly on his shoulder. “Don’t move,” he said shortly. “If this isn’t a dream…”

“…We need to find out what we can,” Connor finished with the slightest laugh, nodding as he forcibly relaxed back into his seat.

They needed to stay as long as possible, Buffy could recognise that, but at the memory of their recent manhandling her heart began to rush. Dream-sex was one thing – uncontrolled and out-manoeuvrable for a start – but she wasn’t sure how well the ship, or they, could hold up against two Angels intent to destroy them. More than that, squished on the floor of Angel’s dreamworld was not on her list of glorious ways to go out.

“D’you think it’s a spy?” Angel asked, drawing closer.

Behind him, Angelus rose to his feet. “Why would he need a spy?” Buffy made a mental note of that ‘he’. Maybe there was information to be gleaned here. “There’s no way out and thankfully even you realise our killing each other wouldn’t be useful.”

“Maybe he gets off on it,” Angel answered, stopping below them, one foot from the wall. “The watching.”

“So under everything he’s a control freak?” Was it noteworthy that Angelus didn’t sound convinced? “After surrendering himself so utterly? It would be perverse, I suppose…”

As Angelus drew closer, Buffy’s pulse sped even faster. She wasn’t scared of him – after all, without his mocking eyes actually meeting hers he didn’t quite feel real – but the situation was going to break soon, and she had no idea how it was going to go.

“Blue,” Spike asked through gritted teeth, probably hearing her heart, “is there a way out of here?”

“No,” came Illyria’s reply.

“We can still shift,” Connor suggested shakily. “But I don’t know what that’ll do inside…”

Buffy kept her eyes on the action of the room. Both Angels were looking up at them, both calculating, both reserving their anger for when it was needed.

Until, quite suddenly, they both jumped. Buffy jumped too, but kept her ears open for Angel’s “What’s that?” It was followed seconds later by a far-off sound.

“What is that?” Buffy asked her shipmates. It sounded like the storm was coming back, but without any wind. Far in the distance, a high-pitched whine was starting up, just at the edges of her hearing. It was completely out of place

“Not a clue,” Spike replied, before pre-emptively covering his ears with his hands, grimacing. This wasn’t good.

They all followed suit as the noise grew louder, including the Angels in the dream room. Unlike before, however, it didn’t stop at storm-levels; instead the keening rose on, to bad-screamer-metal-concert levels and beyond, aggressive against Buffy’s eardrums, against the hands that covered them.

More than that, the room was growing brighter, whatever bulbs there were increasing in wattage to match the decibels – and then it was just whiteness coming, filling the ship’s bridge and Buffy’s vision as the screaming ringing still filled her ears.

“What the hell is this?” she tried to shout, but she couldn’t hear herself, only the screeching in her ears.

Coloured lights (on Connor’s controls?) were flaring through the white and then, suddenly, through the panic kicking in against the sound, she had a feeling in her gut like she was accelerating. It wasn’t the ship – she was still standing up, not being thrown around like before – but she was being moved away from the sound and the white, white light. Maybe they were all being moved? The acceleration was sickeningly fast, dragging and clawing at her insides, the noise still ringing in her ears. She shut her eyes, but her eyelids burned red from the assault of the light. She had her mouth open and felt like she was screaming, her throat was hoarse, and she couldn’t take it anymore so she gave herself up to the sound – I give myself up, I give myself

Then it stopped. Everything stopped. Unsure what thought she’d been trying to complete, she collapsed to the floor of the bridge, throwing up like she was rejecting the memory of the light, keeping her eyes closed as her ears still rang.

Now her throat hurt.

(And shit, shit, shit, she thought as the nausea subsided. She knew exactly what the content of her stomach was at that moment. Gross with a capital G; please let it just look like sick; oh please let no one realise…)

Eventually, at the touch of Spike’s hand between her shoulders, she straightened her back and opened her eyes. “All right there, slayer?” he asked, crouching at her side with, of all things, a red fire bucket full of sand. His voice was affected by the ringing, a weird number of tones above its own pitch, but she nodded anyway.

“Where are we now?” she asked as he poured the sand over the floor in front of her, her eyes somehow averting themselves from catching a glimpse of what she’d sicked up. There was the sound of footsteps around them, like Connor and Illyria were moving.

Not meeting her eyes anymore, Spike answered, “Connor made the call to do an emergency escape. With the noise and the light…” He sounded serious, but not as if he’d had the same experience she had. “Plan became a bit of a bust.”

“Huh?” she asked, still feeling shaken.

“Need a dustpan and brush,” Spike muttered, standing up. “We’re at our HQ,” he told her. She swallowed; they’d met up quite a few times, but Spike’s base was in Africa. (Tanzania, she remembered – some city. Arusha?) A long way from home. “How about I meet you on the ground, yeah? Got a few things to check on board.”

He was distracted, she could tell that. Dizzy as she was, however, she wasn’t sure how to contradict him, so as he left for the bowels of the ship she slowly rose to her feet, made her way to the ladder, then down, out of the bridge.

.

[2/2]
 
 
Shapinglightshapinglight on August 16th, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
Wow! That was amazing. I have no clue what's going on just yet (forgive me, I'm thick these days) but I'm enjoying the ride enormously.
Quinaraquinara on August 16th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
Oh thank you! I'm not sure there's much to know at this particular moment in time, but I do hope you like the rest of it. (I fear I may not have reined in my tendency towards the bizarre quite as much as I should...)
zanthinegirl: Angelzanthinegirl on August 16th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
I like this a lot! I only vaguely understand what the heck is going on (I gave up on the comics ages ago, though I'm aware of the Angel/ Twilight thing, the Buffy/Angel space sex thing, and Spike's steampunk owl ship.

Nevertheless I'm enjoying the heck out of this story. I think not really understanding what's going on is a help; Buffy doesn't understand either!

Though hee! At Angel's fish issues...
Quinaraquinara on August 16th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm glad you like it - thanks for telling me. :) Hopefully the second half will help things make a bit more sense (though, er, it's definitely a bit of an odd one...).

Though hee! At Angel's fish issues...

:D
brutti_ma_buonibrutti_ma_buoni on August 16th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
You have a very weird brain, but a fascinating one that also makes me laugh a lot. I love your transmogrifying ship, and the idea of Angelus seeing through the disguise. Also Illyria and Connor, together (again?) as the weirdest crewmates ever. I'm saving the second half till tomorrow to make sure I don't miss anything.
Quinaraquinara on August 16th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thank you - I'm glad I can make you laugh! If Illyria and Connor don't turn out to be Spike's crewmates I shall be very disappointed, because who else could they be?? I hope you enjoy the rest (where the weirdness keeps on giving). :)
hello_spikeyhello_spikey on August 17th, 2010 03:32 am (UTC)
Very intriguing!

Connor and Illyria make for a fun crew, actually.

Angel's dreams are super creepy and awesomely so HIM.

I keep wondering if they'll run into a man with sliced cheese...
Quinaraquinara on August 17th, 2010 05:38 am (UTC)
Oooh, thank you!! I'm very glad you like the dreams (I don't write much Angel, but here I suddenly found myself having to write his subconscious - it was an interesting exercise!). Of course, I couldn't possibly reveal what happens in the second part...
ever_neutral: s+bever_neutral on August 17th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
... Dude.

There is so much that is win about this fic. The awesomeness of Team Spike/Buffy/Illyria/Connor, the exploration INTO ANGEL'S BRAIN VIA STEAMPUNK SHIP (one of the more original fic ideas I've heard this century), Angel and Angelus bickering in his brain, and this:

“I am captain of this vessel.”

BAHA. Illyria, ILU.

And your portrayal of Angel is devastating and so, so spot-on. (Also, uh, kudos for tackling the uber-disturbing sex. You are a braver soul than I.) Ironically, for a pro-Spuffy fic, I feel like Angel is the one stealing the show here. WHICH I DO NOT MIND. Because your Angel is fascinating. And a more interesting exploration of the character than I suspect the actual comic canon is going to give us.
Quinaraquinara on August 17th, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
I am not entirely sure where the plot for this came from - at least the first part about the dreams. It seemed like the natural thing to do! And then everything strangely flowed from there...

But, anyway, THANK YOU! (I <3 Illyria too!) I wasn't really sure how the Spuffy-Angel balance would play out in this, but in the end it really seemed like Angel deserved more of the spotlight. He's been so hard done by!
ninglorethningloreth on August 17th, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
Wow! This is so inventive!

I loved that the ship turned into a fish (a bit like the Tardis being a Police Box); the giant sex scene was stunning, and Buffy's expressions of embarrassment were spot on, and so was Spike's being all strong and supportive.

And I love the way Spike's so proprietorial about his ship!

My favorite was line:

Buffy took a moment to curse steam as a design philosophy. :-)
Quinaraquinara on August 17th, 2010 07:46 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you! So much of this fic was like a bizarre free-writing exercise - I'd write and then I'd realise that I'd turned the ship into a fish, Angel having an argument with a snowstorm etc. etc, but it all seemed to work out. (Definitely a case of the characters solving their own problems! Though I had to reel them in sometimes when they went thematically off-base.)

No matter what happens, I don't think Buffy is going to stop seeing that ship as silly. ;)
Elenamoscow_watcher on August 17th, 2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
I'm totally captivated. What a great, inspired idea to connect all the dots in Whedonverse!
Quinaraquinara on August 17th, 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, yay!! Thank you very much - I hope you like the conclusion. :D