See Chapter One for Disclaimer
December 23, 1999
Clarita was watching the monitors anxiously when she felt a presence behind her. Glancing back over her shoulder, she was unsurprised to find Janice standing there watching.
"What are you doing here?" Her voice was snappish; she had lost a measure of her fear for the sorceress after the events two months earlier.
"I often come here, you know that. What is wrong?"
The physician shook her head impatiently, withdrawing a ready syringe of stimulant from her coat pocket.
"I came in a while ago and found her half-out of her bed. Her resistance to the compound keeps increasing, and the proper dosage is nearly impossible to calculate. I think I may have given her too much." She administered half of what the hypodermic contained, then watched for the result. The Slayer's vital signs slowed in their descent, then held steady for a minute, then two. From where she stood, Janice spoke.
"I received a call from Ian today. He will arrive here tomorrow afternoon."
Clarita turned to stare at the other woman.
"Did he say why?"
"I expect he will tell us why when he arrives; that is his way."
True. She could only hope that it would be good news. From beside the bed, the heart monitor alarm gave a sudden, piercing buzz. Clarita whirled, staring at the readout in dull shock.
Faith's heart had stopped.
* * * * *
December 24, 1999
Clarita sat awkwardly in her seat, watching as Ian ordered wine for the three of them. Janice looked as inscrutable as ever, but the doctor was nervous. After the waiter had departed, the leader of their group turned once again to face her.
"The Beta did survive her little misadventure, though?"
"Yes. The trauma team restarted her heart and got her stabilized. I even managed to alter the tox-screen they ordered afterwards. There is no evidence to show that it was anything other than a random event."
"I see." He looked thoughtful, but there was a burning question in her mind that had to be asked now.
"Ian. Her heard did stop. She was in full arrest for over eight minutes, and only CPR and a ventilator kept her alive. Doesn't that mean that the next Slayer was called?"
He gave her a wry smile, shaking his grey head as he chuckled.
"Ah, if only it were so easy." Reaching out, he patted her hand like she was an overly curious child. "No, dear. The next Slayer has not been called. We believe that only the Alpha line is capable of initiating such an event, and surviving it. If the Beta had done such a thing, them you would have been unable to revive her. Unfortunately, we don't think that Miss Summers would allow us to put her into arrest to see if she could provide us with another recruit. So we are left with our current course of action."
Oh. Clarita tried to hide her disappointment. She was not to be relieved of her duty here anytime soon, then. Across from her, Janice stirred.
"There was something. Something... unusual."
Ian fixed his gaze upon her.
"I was observing as the girl was revived, and something happened. Her soul left her body." Her fathomless dark eyes met both of theirs, and her level tone left no doubt of her certainty on the matter. "She was dead, not just stilled. Her essence fled, and was gone for those eight minutes."
Clarita was staring. None of this had been mentioned to her earlier.
"But, she's alive, now. We brought her back."
The sorceress gave her a look that was almost pitying.
"No, doctor. She came back. Her soul returned. Only then were you able to revive her. What returned, though.... It was different. Weaker, as if she had left a piece of herself behind in whatever place she had gone. It's already regenerated itself, but I find myself wondering where--"
The man waved the young woman's comments aside.
"Forgive me, Janice, but the mystical details are beside the point. The important thing is that she remains alive. Because I've brought some news you both should find welcome." He leaned forward, a smile tugging at his lips as they both focused on him. "We have finally determined the location of the Heir."
Clarita gasped, and even Janice looked surprised.
"What? Where, where is she?" Christ, she sounded as eager as the other woman looked. She couldn't help it. If they found the next Slayer, then all of this would finally come to an end. She was so tired....
"Now, don't get too excited. We have determined the general area. It may still take us several weeks to locate the girl precisely."
"Why so long? If you have even a tenuous link, it should be a simple matter to narrow the search."
"Yes, well. 'Simple' is a relative term. The process is complicated by the Heir's location." He stroked his neatly trimmed beard meditatively. "She is somewhere deep inside China."
Clarita sat back in her chair.
He gave her a faint smile.
"Indeed. Our access there is a bit limited, to say nothing of the sheer number of potential candidates. I feel we can do it in four weeks, but it may take as long as six or eight. If you can keep the girl alive and under control for that long, then you will have done all I have asked of you. I promise you, I won't forget your work here."
She flushed a little at that, but the woman seated across from her was giving Ian a very intense look.
"And my reward?"
"Shall be yours, as we agreed."
She smiled, positively radiating satisfaction.
"Excellent. I have located a suitable site here in Sunnydale. I will begin my preparations tomorrow.
The waiter returned with their wine, and Ian raised his glass in a toast.
"To the Slayer. May she return to her intended calling as the servant and protector of humanity."
The two women raised their glasses, but an instant later Janice let her's fall from her hand, a look of incredulous terror on her face. Ignoring Clarita's startled look and Ian's stern question, the sorceress lurched to her feet, a hiss escaping her. She stumbled a few steps, and then stopped and stared at the wall facing the center of town. The doctor and the Council Elder shared a look of incomprehension. What had gotten into the woman?
* * * * *
The mystical shockwave was not detectible by mortal senses. It began in the exact center of the valley that held the town, then rolled out in all directions like a silent, invisible tsunami.
It washed over Sunnydale General, where a very ill little girl was making her nightly journey to see her friend.
It washed over the campus of the local university, where the personnel of a secret organization were just settling into their new quarters.
It washed over a slender young blonde woman who was patrolling a desolate graveyard.
The wave traveled outwards for several miles before its expansion halted abruptly. The force that composed it never slowed, it merely altered direction, traveling both down into the ground and upwards into the sky, arcing back on itself until the wavefronts converged, forming an enormous, perfect sphere. This invisible structure hung in place for a long moment, it's energies permeating every particle of matter that made up the valley and the town it held, a crystalline tone echoing faintly in the ears of any being able to perceive it.
Then it simply faded away, as if it had never been.
* * * * *
In the restaurant, Janice had been as motionless as a statue for over a minute. Faint mewling sounds had escpaed her lips, leading Clarita to stand and cautiously approach her.
"Janice? Hello? Are you all right?"
With a shudder, the younger woman seemed to return to herself. She turned at gazed at the two of them, her strange eyes seeming to stare into the far distance.
"T-this...." She swallowed, then tried again. "This place; the strangest things occur, here." She slowly sank back into her chair. Clarita glanced at Ian, but he merely shook his head wordlessly. The sorceress looked confused, maybe even, afraid. The doctor opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but she was forestalled by the younger woman reaching out to seize her glass. Ignoring the older woman's protest, Janice used the wine bottle to fill the glass to the brim. Her murmured words had the sound of a prayer, but they were too quiet for Clarita to make out.
"What is it? What did you see?"
Janice shook her head silently, then drained her glass in a long swallow. She took a shuddering breath, then poured herself another drink; the first of many more.
* * * * *
Author's Note: Well, there you have it. If you've made it this far, you have my congratulations, and my thanks. It's not exactly a fluffy-bunny sort of story, is it?
And... it isn't finished, either.
to finish it, but other stories got in the way, and this kind of got left by the wayside, and the next part, where we see Faith bounce back (to some degree) and deal with that 'Twisted Man' guy and grab Kira and actually make it out of the hospital and then get into a brawl with more Watcher's Council goons and Giles is there and, and, and....
Um... never wrote it all out.
On the other hand, there IS an odd sort of sideways sequel thing to this, which I guess I'll post here very soon.
And then after that there's my Faith novel, which is another dark, dark story, though with perhaps a bit more in the way of hope sprinkled through it than this one has....
Anyways, I know this wasn't a crossover or anything, and it's a definite downer, but I hope some of you got some enjoyment from it.