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Highway Summer

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Summary: In a midst of a battle gone horribly wrong the unthinkable has occurred and the walls between realities crumbled. Nothing isconstant as universes intrude upon each other. Among the survivors wandering the worlds gone mad, this changes are known as Shifts

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Dawn-CenteredParadoqzFR13624,925022,65023 Aug 0423 Aug 04Yes

2

Disclaimers: See part 1.

***

The asphalt feels warm and cracked and springy under the worn soles of
her Nikes. Zuny is right behind her, his breath like the twin streams
of hot wind ruffling her hair.


Tap-tap-tap, squee, thump-thump, bang-baw-beng, tap-tap-tap.


There is a bewildering assortment of random objects tied haphazardly
to the wagon. With every step they move, it chimes in an odd melody, a
bizarre soundtrack of sorts that, it seems, she always knew and loved
but had forgotten until now.

Six people and her and the wagon pulled by a creature out of time. The
balmy, split black road stretching out before her into nowhere and
all. Warm breath in her hair and the music of the forever highway
washing over her.

And Spike is here.

Tap-tap-tap, squee, bang-baw-beng, thump-thump, tap-tap-tap.

Spike's duster is swishing behind him and he's bantering with Adam and
Remy, and Saul is up on the roof, and Jamie's needling Faith and Spike
is HERE.

She thinks about the roads and the Shifts. How many are there? Empty,
unused, deserted?

Abandoned superhighways stretching across the universe... It seems
right.

There is a sound of a smack, shockingly loud among the routine and
Jamie screeches in indignant protest and Faith snarks something back.
Jamie, Dawn thinks, has a crush. Faith, she thinks, doesn't.

Unrequited love is romantic and then she thinks of Spike.

He's wearing that mask now. He wasn't, not that first day when her
life came crashing back together on a bloody road. Only when she came
to, on the second day, did he dig it out and put it on. Trying to
protect her. She shrugs. Or maybe himself.

She doesn't remember the scars very well. Her eyes were stinging and
she couldn't stop the sobbing and it felt like her chest was
tearing...

The new Shift had left them in the desert and the cacti were blooming.
It was a strange day.

She shakes off the queer feeling and quickens her step, sliding her
hand into Spike's. His right hand, the ungloved one. He looks down,
quick soft grin and his fingers tighten around hers. Remy glances at
them, the odd red-on-black eyes unreadable but lips quirking in
knowing smile and Adam winks at her, pulling on the Cajun's sleeve to
fall behind.

Spike's palm feels smooth, his skin chilly. She presses closer,
rubbing her cheek against the sleeve. Smooth. She breathes in the
familiar-never-quite-forgotten smell of leather and tobacco. He is
here.

"You all right, Platelet?"

"Yeah." He is here.


Tap-tap-tap, squee, bang-baw-beng, thump-thump, tap-tap-tap.


It's been almost a week now. Maybe. Hard to keep track of time in the
Shifts. But she is sure it’s been six, seven days at the most
since the Gigglers' attack.

"Gibbers," Jamie had corrected her sternly, the effect spoiled as he
yelped in pain, burnt by the fresh bread-roll he was passing her.

"Giggler demons!" she insisted, slightly affronted. Who grew up on the
damn Hellmouth, him or her?

Adam winced and squinted and she glanced at him suddenly unsure. "I
swear! Gigglers."

Faith snickered then, one hand snaking out of the blanket cocooning
the dark-haired Slayer. "Toldja. Pay up, kiddies."

"Fuck," Jamie muttered and narrowed his eyes at Dawn, the left eye
half-closing in a slow conspiratorial wink. "Are you entirely sure
about that, kid? I mean, if these by any chance were not demons but
say aliens then we'd be in such great mood we'd SURELY split the
winnings with someone. Like say 5'6, short brown hair, answers to the
name of Dawn?" He glanced behind him, "Right?"

"Sure."

"Absolutemont, ma petite."

Neither Adam nor Remy sounded terribly optimistic. Saul chuckled,
elbowing smirking Spike.

"I'm not a kid." She bit into the scalding, creamy cake glaring at
Jamie.

"Yeah," Faith hissed. "She ain't a kid."

"And I'm 5'7."

"Yeah, dumbass! So you can quit your lousy bribing shit, Maddrox." She
turned to Dawn the fire's dancing flames throwing whirling shadows
across her face. "Gigglers?"

"Yep!"

"Ha."

Faith took great pleasure in counting the coins, before nonchalantly
dropping a portion of the small mound at Dawn's feet. "You mess with
the bull you get the horns, know what I'm sayin'? Girl power."

And Dawn giggled, running her hand over the smooth metal surface of
the coins.

Adam dragged the long fingers through the short, brown hair glancing
at Remy speculatively. "A week?"

"Our princess?’ The chief of the little caravan grinned
ruefully, "Two at least. And jus’ wait till she tell th’
rest."

"Damn." Adam grimaced, "A month at least before they let us live it
down."

"At least."

In the darkness Jamie groaned, pained.

Faith disdained to answer, her teeth gleaming in the dark as she
recounted the money with an almost catlike delight. She looked
remarkably... other. Not at all like Faith that broke out of jail and
came to Sunnydale when Giles wrote her for help. Her quips didn't
sound acidly defensive, she didn't look haggard and dangerous like a
starved wolf, nor was she lining every word with poisonous innuendo
that oozed raw sexuality and was frankly kinda scary...

The black leather was still there though, Dawn allowed. So different,
yet still Faith. Maybe not the same one that taught her how to make a
knife out of a bedspring but nevertheless... Dawn liked her. She
frowned. Both of them.

Behind her Adam snorts and says something, his voice pitched too low
to carry but the tone clearly sarcastic. Adam Pierson reminds her very
much of Giles, Dawn decides. And he is an Immortal. But not vampire.
Or a demon. She shrugs.

Adam... uhm... Methos, she corrects herself absently, seemed a little
taken aback when she calmly and readily accepted his explanation. Dawn
was pretty sure he expected exclamations of surprise, demands of
proof, that sort of thing. He seemed a bit sulky when none
materialized.

Silly, in her opinion. Even if she wasn't from Sunnydale, and didn't
see him walk away from an evisceration, the Shifts jaded people to the
shocking, to the amazing. Too many surprises in the Wilds, too many
wonders. Too few miracles, she thought. But some.
Spike is here.

They seemed very surprised when she told them that he was the first
Spike she met since she'd been in the Shifts.

The time snaps back to present suddenly.

Ah.

Checkpoint.

Ahead the rotted metal guardrail is hanging half off its hinges,
blocking the way. The toll booth might have been red once now just
dead and empty. The shadow of the overpass cloaks them and for a while
they walk in chilly cement darkness, the echoes fluttering and
ricocheting off the bridge's supports.

Tap-tap-tap, squee, bang-baw-beng, thump-thump, tap-tap-tap.

Underneath the bridge it's dank and gloomy and starkly loud, the
clashing colors of the tags on the ferroconcrete out of place and
imminently at home.

She tugs her hand free, throwing Spike a quick smile before pushing
the rail out of the way. It screeches and gives, the rust crumbling
under her fingers like dried skin and staining her hands with the
color of old blood.

She walks ahead just to the edge of gloomy cavern, stopping before the
blurry golden border, squinting and raising her face into the blinding
glare. Basking like the sun-lizard Logan told her about.

Tap-tap-tap, squee, bang-baw-beng, thump-thump, tap-tap-tap.

The wagon creaks by, Spike stopping behind her as it passed. She leans
back into him. "What's he doing?"

Remy's cigarette glowed, a spark in the shadows as he lingers near the
toll-booth, his left hand hidden among the folds of the duster thrown
over his shoulder. "Merde."

"Catch." The silver dollar sings through the darkness, glittering in
the sun's echoes for a seemingly endless minute before Remy plucks it
unerringly out of midair, sketching a mock bow to the vampire.
"Merci."

Dawn turned around, her brows gathered in a puzzled frown as the Cajun
drops the coin into collection box.

"I don't get it."

Spike shrugs. "It's a thing he has." He ruffles her hair again,
brushing her forehead with his thumb, the blue eyes glinting strangely
amidst the face half-hidden by black cloth. "A ritual."

She nods then. Rituals she understands. They are power in the chaos
realm. They are safety. They are... Are.

Remy approaches noiselessly behind them. "We always pay the road tax,
petite. Always."

***

"How'd you do it?" She was kind of ashamed that it took her an entire
day to catch on, so the question came out sharper than she intended.
Spike turned to look at her, unhurriedly lighting his cigarette. "Hm?"

She hit him then. Not hard. Just to show she was serious. "Ey!" he
protested, dropping the cigarette and swearing softly. Not paying any
attention at all. She punched him, aiming for the shoulder again but
hitting his back instead and making him drop another cigarette and
growl in irritation. "Stop that."

She ignored him. "Tell me! You're all with the day walking, all sunny
and...." She frowned and hit him again, tilting her head, suddenly
curious. "You're jingling."

She should have known of course. Duh.

The necklace glittered, gold chain and silver. A neat row of rings.

"Amara Gems."

"Yeah." His voice suddenly flat and toneless.

One ring glinting on his finger, left hand - the ruined one. And
another on the chain, apart. The slender golden chain tied in an
awkward knot to keep it separate. Bent and scorched, not polished like
the others.

Spike was running the necklace absently through his fingers, eyes
intent on something far away. "These..." Long pallid fingers counted
off a dozen rings. "All Spikes." He smirked, all cocky arrogance and
unmistakable Spike hauteur. "Took exception to a souled reflection of
themselves."

"And..."

The fingers paused for a split second, briefly caressing the flame
stained metal. "Angel."

"Not Angelus?" She should stop pushing she knows but the question
escapes before she can.

The smirk is gone. "No."

***

Questions, questions. Tricky things.

People are wary of questions in the Shifts. Some answers are best left
alone. And everyone has something to forget. Everyone in the Shifts is
a survivor of the world, after all.

Ragnarok, Methos thinks, rolling the word over his tongue, tasting it,
becoming it. Apocalypse. Gotterdamerung. The Eschaton. Millennium.

He wonders sometimes how wild the Shifts really are. He remembers
stepping through and finding himself in Kiev one day. And ice was all
around him. Ice and snow and wooden steeples and frost-statues of the
Batu-Khan's Horde frozen in the midst of killing frenzy. 'How
apropos,' he remembers thinking. The mother-city of Russia left
forever in a winter's death-embrace.

Was it an accident, one of the myriad of possibilities? Or was it
something else? The sublimated fear of generations, the nightmare of
the Slavs and Vikings given flesh in the twilight of all days. Ice and
snow coming to claim their own.

Our dreams are to become death.

"Hi." Dawn smiles at him, the quick grin impudent on the urchin face
framed by the short and haphazardly-cut brown hair.

Methos snorts in faint, almost reluctant, amusement, the train of
thought broken. "Why, hello. To what do I owe this honor, Rory?"

The girl nose-wrinkles, puzzled. "I keep meaning to ask you about
that. Why do you keep calling me Rory?"

He feels his lips quirk. "I'm afraid I have been mingling with the
rest of these vagabonds too long and the plebeian amusement of giving
everyone and everything under the sun a nomme de guerre rubbed off on
me." He frowns slightly. "Quite distressing actually."

The girl's eyes register a faint bafflement and he sighs. "Nomme de
guerre means nickname, Dawn."

"I know what it means!" she protests indignantly. "And you're evading
the question!" She paces herself by his side, matching Methos's
leisurely stride. "Why Rory?"

"Because Aurora doesn't suit you of course."

She frowns, the slender eyebrows drawing together in thought and they
walk in silence for a while, the sand on the asphalt crunching under
their boots.

"Is it true you were the first one?" Her voice is hesitant, almost as
if she thinks she's broaching a forbidden topic. And she is, of
course, Methos thinks, right.

First One. The Oldest. He's been that in many things. In myth and in
legend, in terror and horror, first over the walls of Nineveh and
first on the Omaha beach in '44.

He remembers Nineveh, the victorious armies of yesterday's slaves and
victims turned conquerors, drinking their fill of gore and vengeance.
He remembers Nineveh, Nahum's prophecy wrought large in blood and
ruin.

"And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall
flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her?
whence shall I seek comforters for thee?" he whispers, suddenly back
there, deafened with the rattle of wheels and chariots, the screaming
horses and frenzied riders, the smell of smoke and the cracks of the
dancing whips.

He remembers Nineveh.
Omaha is a blur.

"What?" The girl's face is puzzled once again. He chuckles and shakes
his head.

"I am getting old, Dawn." His lips twist wryly. "Mind's starting to
wander, senility is around the corner."

She grins at him and he winks and finally answers her question. "Yes.
I was the first one Remy met. First of this tribe after him."

"Tell me?"

It's been ages since he thought about that day. But today it's fresh
in his mind. Perhaps because the smell of sun and sands and coffee is
in the air, filling his throat, enveloping him like a well-worn
blanket. Just like they did on that day when he stumbled through the
Shift to find himself in the middle of the desert.

"The tragedy of Greece," Toquemada had said thoughtfully, pouring the
Manhattan into a jigger glass, "Is that it was forever doomed to be
destroyed by its own mythology."

Baruch Spinoza nodded and bit carefully on his oatmeal cookie,
motioning for the Spaniard to continue. Pursing his lips into a
careful pucker, the Grand Inquisitor sipped daintily from his glass
and passed the carafe to Alexander Borgia.

"Some dreams," he said, the black eyes calm and sure. "Are too big to
be contained by people. Some are too large to be contained by nations.
Hellenes dreamt like unto Lord Of Hosts, but in the end they were but
men." He took another sip, squinting in hedonistic appreciation. "The
sons of Heracles came back as Dorians to tumble the walls of the
palace kingdoms, the dreams of Mycenae and Tyrins for naught, and
usher in the Age of Darkness."

His soft accented voice, melodious and rich, washed over Methos,
punctuating the surrealism of the scene and in a kind of a daze he
accepted the tray from the Accursed Pope and numbly passed it to the
Cajun sitting next to him.

"In Philip and Alexander," Toquemada continued musingly, "Heraclidae
came back anew, Argives dispossessed and back for their due." His long
aristocratic fingers brushed the richly bejeweled cross lying on the
table before him and he smiled. "And in the crowning touch of the
divine sarcasm the sons of Ilios and Alba Longa came back to make the
Aeneas' curse come true."

Spinoza, the Jew Apostate, nodded again and sipped gingerly the
scalding tallat, the bitter Catalan coffee, from his glass, the long
mustaches dipping into cream, the full-to-bursting pack of Camels
sliding unnoticed out of his pocket and sinking into sand. And Borgia
smiled, sardonic at the mention of God. "Our dreams are to become
death."

And the midday sun beat down on their heads, the scorching air
shimmering before the gazes of three wise men. The Great Inquisitor's
eyes disappeared behind his opaque Raybans and languidly he stirred
his cocktail with a silver tea spoon.

The brown-red mountains, half-crumbled and stark in their otherness
among the sands, cast no shadow. The camel tethered to the Doric
column snorted at the Louis's bust weathered by the winds and times
but securely atop the pillar still. Kerouak silent, grim on the beast,
resplendent in a borrowed tuxedo. Two boats, beached and dead, sea
shells and broken amphorae around the stretch of the square tiles laid
over the sands and the table standing in the middle of it all. The
polished top capturing the sun in the mahogany blackness, the silver
coin glinting as it whirled, slowing, the spinning dying until it
finally lay still between the cups and the rings left by the sweating
glasses. Dali, his hands thrust into the pockets of Bermuda shirts,
squinting at the rising sun, his face split in the grin of
understanding.

Methos's head swam, and he felt the time melt and lose all meaning,
Himself vanishing in the chaos of being, the inner Him splintering and
folding under the onslaught of the unbearable impossibilities.

The Cajun was pulling, prodding him and the screaming silence of the
coming Shift woke his mind but still he looked behind.

The sun table and three men drinking Manhattans and tallat amidst the
remnants of civilizations at the bottom of the ocean that dried out in
a blink of an eye one day.

He followed the Cajun, the siren call of the chaos Dreaming silenced
by the cacophony of Passing.


Blinking into the sun's glare he came to the present. "And that was
the beginning. We hooked up back with the Summers' kumpanie that he
walked with back then and one evening over the fire he asked me if I'd
come with him when he started his own." His throat feels dry and
scratchy in the desert heat and Methos reaches for the wine flask. "I
told him yes."

***
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