"I can contain even you... "
Chapter 26: "I can contain even you... "
Dizziness, and a sharp pain lancing through her temples. Screaming in her ears... no, not in her ears. A pressure on her mind, forcing it inwards to collapse in on itself. Something not-mind attempting to get in, from elsewhere...A cemetary at night, natch - when the hell else are you gonna find a Slayer in a graveyard? This one seems to stretch on for miles and miles, dead trees, shadowy movements, deep mist, and low lying fog wreathing the ground. There's headstones in haphazard rows stretching off into the limited visibility, and she can barely make out the forms of crypts off in the distance. Haphazard? Heh. S'a dream, folks. Guess the caretakers just ain't that careful in the dreamways.
Faith shook her head. Something familiar about all this. Been here before... huh. No music. Music? Why... ? Oh. Yeah. Slayer dream: dancing in the dark with Kendra, right.
Waitamminit. Wasn't she just up on the rooftop watching Elora burn? Or was that the dream, and this dismal graveyard the reality?
No. Not the dream. This was, dammit. She hasn't been stuck in the Sea of Dreams ever since. Fuck you - there were too many memories, real ones, between the last time she was here, and now. 'Been spending way too much time in the dreamways lately, gal. You're startin' to lose track of the difference.' Faith snorted and nodded decisively. Ok... thataway. She set off towards the center of the cemetary and the ancient crypt within. 'Might as well see what the Dream Gawds have in mind for me now. Then work my way the fuck out of here and back to what we laughingly call Reality.'.................................................................................'Shit! What the... ?'
Abby's eyes widened as she broke off from searching the prison yard below for targets. The blonde cop's - what was her name? - wordless shout drew her attention back to the rooftop near the rotunda and the base of the central tower. The older woman was bending over.. something on the rooftop walkway, a spill of long dark hair, legs akimbo...
"Shit." It came out out loud, this time. A movement below caught her eye and she tracked on it, drawing the bow and releasing almost as an afterthought. A UV-tipped arrow impacted with a lunging form and something burned below her. She never noticed - the shot had been aimed and released with slayer sense and reflexes, not eyes. Abby keyed her headset mike.
"Blade. Rooftop, near the central tower. It's Faith - go."
There was the briefest of pauses, followed by: "On it."'There's times I love that man's tendency to not waste words,'
she thought. She slung the bow, took a running leap over the low rail and off the top of the guard tower, somersaulting to land on her feet in the snow covered yard below.
When she came up out of her landing crouch, she was already moving, heading inward towards the wall beneath the central tower and rotunda roof. Shadowy forms moved to intercept, eyes and teeth gleaming.
They didn't make the cut. She was long gone by the time their headless bodies crumbled into rot....................................................................................She comes over a small rise and there's a break in the fog and mist, and through it she sees a mausoleum in a small clearing, surrounded by headstones and mist. No boombox this time. No dark, slender girl with laughing eyes and beaded hair and a lilting voice. Just empty space and clear ground...
"Boo!" The voice behind her ear sent Faith into a long reflexive leap towards the crypt, landing lightly and poised as she turned.
Elora grinned from just behind where Faith had been standing, "Surprise."
"Huh." Faith's eyes narrowed. "Fancy meeting you here again."
"As you said, there are no Rules to this Game," the blonde vampiress inclined her head, mockingly. "Shall we continue our Dance?"
"Dance is done. You're dust in the wind, vampire." Faith straightened, eyes narrowed. She prowled cautiously toward the blonde.
"As I said: there's a great deal you are not yet aware of about my kind," Elora gave her a mocking smile. "A pity the discoveries shall do you no good."
"You mean I won't get to help G-man update the Watcher's Codex? Damn. And I live for that." Faith snorted. "So... what? You have the vampiric mojo to fuck with my head after death? You'll have to stand in line - there's a lot of bodies ahead of you." She flowed into a balanced stance in front of the blonde woman.
"More than merely 'fuck with', child." Elora prowled in a slow circle around her, Faith turning with her. "Remember when I stated that I feed on those of my own kind? I neglected to mention that when I drain an Elder of our kind, one closer to the Primogens, I gain their powers as well as their essence."
"Powers, huh?" Faith's eyes narrowed again. "Power to become a ghost in my head after I've killed you?" She snorted, "Like I said: join the crowd."
"Not a ghost. And not your head, when we're done." The smile became mocking again, and tinged with a slight sadness. "If not my Childer... then you'll be mine in a different way. My body, my head, and you the ghost in me."
Faith felt that lancing pain in her temples again, doubling her over. Ghostly fingers seemed to stroke her mind, gently at first, then insistent. Seeking out the cracks and the fracture lines in the psyche she'd carefully rebuilt over the years...
"No!" The denial came out less forcefully than she'd intended. She wasn't certain if she'd shouted out loud, or only in her mind.
She was back in that filthy abandoned warehouse where they'd tracked Angelus, soon after first Angelus and then Jasmine's minion, the Beast had taken their turns beating her almost to death. Coughing up blood and scrabbling backwards in a futile attempt to back away from the Beast.
The beast kicks her across the room into another stack of crates, and moves forward to stand over her. She hears herself whimper, hating the sound.
"Better get up, Faithy." The thing with Angel's face says, smirking. She tries to crawl away and falls back. "Oh! Someone really should break this up."
"So this is a Slayer," the Beast was looking down at her with those almost human eyes, that deceptively gentle and compassionate gaze fixed on her. "I was told that the Slayer possessed great strength."
She spit blood at him, watching Angelus laughing behind him. Laughing at her with Angel's face. She tried to lever herself up, fell back gasping from the pain of shattered ribs. "This is all that you are?" The Beast looked down, shaking his head in disgust, "There is no power here. I had heard the slayer possessed great strength, but there's no real power here. My master's power is beyond all limits, beyond your petty imagining. You are weak. You're nothing. You cannot even defeat me." He stalked forward as she edged back shaking her head in denial, "Is this all that you are? Is this really all that you encompass?"
She tried to say 'No', and the words wouldn't come out. All she could so was shake her head wordlessly and try again to come to her feet and keep fighting. Try once again, and fail.
The Beast raised its arms, preparing to strike what she knew was going to be her death blow. "Is this really all that you are?"
Her voice wouldn't come, and she was going to die. Die with a thing wearing Angel's face looking down at her while the Beast struck the life from a body that had no more give left to it.
"no... " Her mental voice faltered, then strengthened, became firmer. "No. It's not. I'm more than that."
"I see," she heard Elora's voice coming as if from a long distance off. "You've already chinked those cracks. Let's examine another one... " Those ghostly fingers stroked and probed at Faith's mind again, relentlessly..................................................................................
The silvered sword swept across twice, sweeping heads from bodies that were long dead and yet still moving. Blade came to rest out of the follow through, rolling his shoulders, not even breathing hard. He turned his head toward his partner with a low growl. "Can you hold things here? Faith went down."
"I heard." Hannibal King nodded, slipping a new magazine into his empty handgun and thumbing the slide release. "Go - I'll fall back to the others and continue the sweep."
He found himself talking to empty air. The big man had gone on the nod, not waiting for the rest.
"Damned girl... " King fired twice as things came out of the openings in the corridor, moving backwards as they burned. "She best not have gotten herself dead." Seeing no further movement, he turned and ran back to where he'd last seen Vince and his thugs....................................................................................Dark fingers in her mind, probing, stirring up all of the useless crap that she'd thought she'd dealt with. Not even the First had been able to reach inside of her and twist like this. 'Course, the First had just been able to fuck with her head... it hadn't been inside of it. Darkness swept her into a maelstrom of memory, and darkness flowed up to meet her...
Dinner at Buffy's mom's place, not too long after she'd gotten to Sunnydale. Buffy's mom had asked her about slaying and how she felt about it, what it was like for her. Smiled and heaped more food on her plate whenever it started to run empty. Cool woman. Wish her mom had been like that, instead of a... never mind. Push it away. Noticing Faith's empty glass, Joyce asked if she'd like some more cola, getting up to head to the kitchen at Faith's smiling "You bet."
She grinned at Buffy, thinking things were starting to click, finally. 'She's pretty cool, huh?"
"Best mom ever," B replied, looking distracted. She looks into the kitchen after her mom, "Excuse me." B gets up and follows Joyce into the kitchen. Huh. Wonder what's up with her, still? Faith takes an experimental sniff of a bottle of hot sauce, and grimaces, waving her hand and setting it down hastily. Yeesh.
She wasn't trying to listen in, really. Slayer hearing: kinda hard to tone it down, y'know? She can hear Joyce taking another bottle out of the fridge and opening it.
"I really like this girl, Buffy," Joyce is saying, pouring soda. Wicked. She sneaks a few fries from B's plate, then a few more.
"She's very personable." Sound of a stool scraping. "She gets along with my friends, my Watcher, my mom..." Pause, "Look - now she's getting along with my fries."
Crap. Oops. Faith yanks her hand back like her fingers were scalded. Snicker... guess there's a better view into the dining room than she'd thought. She grins.
"Now Buffy... " Sound of a soda bottle closing. Joyce sounds exasperated with B.
"Plus, at school today, she was making eyes at my not-boyfriend. This is creepy." B's saying. Sigh... was so not making eyes at that dipshit. grow the fuck up, B. Xander, now, maybe...
She manages to, if not dial down the hearing, at least tune out what's being said. No need to eaves drop, especially not on Miss Insecurity Trip. Gods, B... what the hell do you have to be jealous of me for? Tunes it out until something Joyce is saying catches her ear again. Something about sharing the slaying. Yup. Cool mom.
"Unless, I mean, you heard her. She *loves* the slaying." Joyce is saying. "Couldn't she take over for you?"
Take over for... oh, ok. Got it. Thanks, 'Joyce'. Yup. Cool mom. Make nice with the new slayer, make her feel at home. Maybe she'll take over and get your kid out of the line of fire so she can like, go to college an' shit, have a life. Who gives a fuck what Faith might need, or like, right? Gotsa spare, now.
Faith clenches her fists under the table, food turning to a lump in her stomach. Just a spare, nobody. Everyone wants what they can get out of her, Cool Mom Joyce, too. Just. Like. Everyone. In. Her. Whole. Damn. Life... Thanks, Mom.
"NO!" She pushes it back, feels something recoil and the graveyard comes back into focus. Elora is picking herself up from a dozen feet away, looking startled but not displeased. "It's not like that any more!"
"More armor there than I thought." Elora stands easily. "Oh well, nothing that's worth having and all that. Just have to find a different chink."
"Chink this, bitch." Faith hands blur and suddenly her sword and the Mayor's knife is in her hands. She steps forward, a feral smile on her lips...
"Oh, excellent." Elora laughs, a sword and dagger of her own in her hands. Not taking a stance of her own, though, just smiling. "Thank you. That will do excellently."
She takes the case that she took from the Mayor's demon messenger and ducks a police car. When it moves on, she scrambles up a ladder out of sight, opening the case. Mayor Wilkins image comes onto the small screen speaking directly to her. "Hey, Boss." She reaches to touch the screen, knowing he can't hear her - he's dead dead. B and her Scoobs killed him.
"Now, Faith, as I record this message you're sleeping. And the doctors tell me you might never wake up. I don't believe that. Sooner or later you will wake up, and when you do, you'll find the world has gone and changed on you. I wish I could make the world a better place for you to wake up in. But, tough as it is to accept, we both have to understand that even my power to protect and watch over you has it's limits. See, the hard pill to swallow is that once I'm gone, your days are just plain numbered. Now, I know, you're a smart and capable young woman in charge of her own life, but the problem, Faith, is that there won't be a place in the world for you anymore. By now I bet you're feeling very much alone. But you're never alone. You'll always have me... "
No place in the world for her any more. And she doesn't have Wilkins, never will, never will again. Because Buffy and her friends killed him. Killed the only person in her life that ever really gave a shit for more than just what she could do for them... The urge to scream in rage is so strong she can barely stand it.
Scream, hell. She watches the rest of the message, holding the small device from the box in her hand. Go out with a bang, all right, Boss. But B's gonna go out with one wicked motherfucker of a bang, first.
"No... " She remembers something else from that day, and it pushes the black away, just a bit. Buffy's idiot boyfriend making love to her rather than just banging her stupid like she'd tried to make him do. And standing in that church, looking at those vamps in B's body, cocking her head and thinkin': "It's not right. No."
She snarls and lunges in, sword and knife swinging. Elora sidesteps easily. A wordless growl comes out of Faith's chest, the Killer coming up to play.
"Hrrm. This may be harder than I thought." The blonde cocks her head with a thoughtful expression, stepping under another flailing swing. "Let's see what else is in here... ".................................................................................
The word's gone out all over the city. The Dark Slayer's on a rampage. A Kindrel Court and a Draaken Elder are dead or vanished - the Thing That Hunts and a handful of normal cops took them down, along with the Daywalker and Hannibal King. Both vampire courts on fire and burning. Vampire bars and lairs are in flames all over town, or just empty of unlife. Even now, she's sending out some sort of weird challenge for Santos' assassin bitch, using some bizarre Slayer Power that no one's ever heard of before. Some weird projection that screams through your mind and makes you feel like she's right there, about to tap you on the shoulder and give you that blazing smile... just before she takes your head. The Thing The Darkness Fears... and she's already given her word that when she's done with the assassin, she's coming after everything that's left. Her and those spooky ass cops...
The smart ones are already leaving, or packing up to do so. Even the street Kindrel and the Draaken newlings with an ounce of self preservation to them. Too many vampires remember the multi-day rampage through J-City's demon underworld and the line of dead that her and that Nightstalker bitch left in their wake. Even the ones that weren't there... the rumor mill painted a clear enough image for even the stupidest of Kaineron minions. Some of them are even having enough brains to split - and they gravitate to Hellmouths.
The ones that aren't so smart... they're heading in, looking for the source of that wave of power and challenge. Not hard to focus in on: anything that's not completely mind blind felt that wordless snarl ripple out through the city. All of them wanting a taste of slayer blood, and a piece of the Daywalker, maybe.
Word has gone out elsewhere, too. No one, but no one is going to investigate the sound of shots or the reports of gunfire from inside of Eastern State Prison tonight. Doesn't matter if it's right in the heart of the city. Word's gone out, and any cops and any firefighters that don't want to end up on graveyard shift out in the bad parts of town, alone, are ignoring calls. Donut shops, Denny's and I-Hops are doing a booming business. Lots of cops wanting to pick this particular timeframe for lunch breaks. Awful lot of cooping going on, too. Station houses are a real good place to find a cop if you need one: there's an awful lot of them sitting around doin' nothing. As for the ones with more guts or more responsibility than brains, well...
An awful lot of dispatchers are ghouls or Familiars. So are an awful lot of police and fire department brass.
Cops that don't see getting a career sidelined as the end of the world... get emergency calls that take them far away from the area of Eastern State. Others find themselves involved with major car crashes blocking ways into downtown Philly with lanes and lanes of flares and emergency vehicles.
Others find themselves in major car crashes... and things swarming suddenly over their cars from the darkess of broken streetlights. Things with teeth...
Some of them actually make it through. A pity that they find that normal firearms aren't much good against things that have already died at least once.
Elsewhere... there's other things with teeth prowling the darkness. Open season on vamps, huh? No questions asked. And open season on familiars? Wicked cool. There's a lot of things out there that love a guaranteed freebie human lunch tray, and don't really mind if it has a vamp tat on it. Who's guarantee? Haven't you heard? The Dark Slayer said there's a free pass on Familiars and ghouls. All you can munch buffet. Just watch what you eat: if it ain't got a tat, you be dead dead. No free pass on normals.
More than a few politicians and fat cats suddenly discover that there really are things under the bed....................................................................................Nothing in there for you, bitch. But Faith can't make the words form, even in her mind. Because in her mind is where this is all happening. It's into her Self that the blonde slayer vamp is digging claws, searching deep into all of the dark places looking for cracks. Finding them...
There's a knock at the door. It's that Xander Scoob - all nervous and shuffling and all I-wanna-help and shit. Yeah. Right. Look, boy toy. Was a sweet ride, and maybe it was nicer than I though it'd be, but that trains done been pulled.
"*I* know what this is all about. (steps closer) You just came by here," Faith runs her fingertips all around his fac and grins when he goes all sweaty trying to hide the instinctive reaction, "'cause you want another taste, don't you?" Yup. Just another guy, like any other.
"No! I mean, it was nice. It was great. It was kind of a blur. But, okay, some day, sure, yay, but not now. Not like this." Xander's not even trying to fight it, not really. Damn - he is kinda cute when he's all nervous and sweaty.
Faith grabs him by the head. "More like how then? Lights on or off? Kinks or vanilla?" God - she loves it when they roll their eyes like that.
He actually jerks away, sayin': "Faith, come on. I came here to help you." Help. Right. He gives her a direct look. Never said he didn't have a pair. "I thought we had a connection."
Got your connection, Boy Toy. Feel it? Hands aroun' your neck? "I could do anything to you right now, and you know you want me to. I can make you scream.... " She takes his lower lip between her teeth and chews on it, feeling him squirm. Gazing lovingly into his eyes. "I could make you die." When she pulls away from his lips the next time, he's choking, and the light is starting to go out. She wants the last thing he sees to be her eyes and that sensual smile on her lips. One last gift to go along with the biggest gift of all... the Gift of Death. Death is her Gift, and she gives it away to everyone she meets. Always will.
"no... " She's surprised when the kick she throws connects, knocking Elora back and breaking the tendrils of dark running into her brain. She breathing like she's just run a thousand laps, hot harsh breaths, panting. She can still feel what it was like to straddle Xander and watch the light start to go out in his eyes. What it felt like to watch him die. And want him to die.
She'll never be able to wash that feeling out of her soul. It's a part of her, always will be.
"Yes." There's not enough of a break for her to gather herself, find anything of the tatters that are left of her center. Those green eyes are locked to hers, and those sensuous lips are pursed, head cocked in thought. "Almost. We're getting closer, Slayer."
"no... " Faith can't even recognize the tortured whine as her own voice. She's not even sure if she's saying the no aloud. She's not even sure if she's really saying no, any more...
She jumps into Wesley's lap, snickering when she hears him scream. She rubs the discolored place under his eye, cooing at him. Good toy. Nice toy. Toy not break yet. No fun when the toys stop moving. She purrs like a contented cat. "All these little cuts and bruises - they just bring out the mother in me." Mommy's little boy got all banged up and a kiss ain't gonna make it all better. She giggles. "Come on. Now, now, don't poop out on me, damn it! Otherwise this all just going to be over too fast, and you'll be dead and I'll be - bored. Come on, Wussley! Where is that stiff upper lip?" She swings her leg over him, getting off. And boy, is she getting off. Snicker. "Now, we've only done one of the five basic torture groups. We've done blunt - but that still leaves sharp, cold, hot and loud. Have a preference?" Heya, like it's always better with audience participation.
Broken glass and long shallow cuts. Time to try the hot group before moving on. He's no longer the dapper Watcher who was going to help drag her off to jolly old England for trial and execution.
Now he's just a not-quite-broken toy that still moves and makes squeaky noises. Still gots a lot of life in him, though. Not even close to dieing. He's still got to be alive long enough for Angel to see. Alive long enough to piss Angel off... Why does she want to piss Angel off again? She's supposed to kill him, right? Wants to kill him. No.... yeah...
No. She wants something else. Can't quite figure it out. Squeaky toy keeps distracting her...
It's like getting your head forced into a bucket and coming up for air. Gasping, not really sure if that's air you're grabbing or if you gave up and breathed water. Not going to be able to do this much longer. There' too much dark down there, too much that just wants to sink into it and give up, let it drag her down. Let the bitch have her.
Not like she ever did anything worthwhile with her body, anyway. No one's probably even going to notice the difference if Elora's walkin' around in it, wearing her skin, looking out through her eyes, smiling with her lips.
She looks at the bitch with eyes gone dull. Not even able to muster a "no." this time. Just shaking her head slowly. There was something right at the tail end of that one, though. Something she almost saw... and it was yanked away as she came back up for air.
Doesn't realize that the phrase that's running through her mind's eye is on her lips like a mantra: "That's not all that I am. That's not. Not. Not... "
Dark fingers reach into her mind again, stroking gently and whispering....................................................................................
A bizarre ringing drags her out of a dream. Not sure it is ringing at first... in her dream it was an alarm bell. City was on fire and all she has is a super soaker to try to put it out with. Running back and forth... Sits up and realizes it's the phone. Jeeze.
"Hello?" She glances at the bedside clock. Christ. 3:30 a-fucking-m? Something the voice on the other end is saying grabs hr sleep muzzled attention and drags it back to the phone. "Huh? Run that by me again? What? Fuck... me."
It can't possibly take as long to lay out for her as it seemed like. Must be the blood draining out of her head that's making the time stretch out. Out of bed and vaulting down the hall while she's still trying to process. Banging on a door - shit. Could have used the phone. Too late.
"Giles! Wake the fuck up! It's Vi."
Seems like it takes forever, but it can't be more than a few seconds before the door's flung open and there's a sleep tousled head sticking out, blinking owlishly at her. She bites back an urge to snicker - does he sleep with glasses on? "Vi? What the... " Giles takes in her face and swallows hard. Or maybe its her state of dress that does that... "Good lord. Is the house afire?"
"No. I think Philadelphia may be, though." He blinked, and took off his glasses to polish them. "According to the call I just got from one of our demon underworld contacts... it sounds like Faith may have just kicked the city over on edge. And all the vamps are pouring out of it."
"Good lord." He stares at her. She resists the urge to take his glasses away from him. "Are you bloody serious?"
"As a heart attack, Giles." Vi shakes her head. "First time I've heard a demon sound scared when it wasn't one of us making it happen."
"All right. I believe you. Can we believe the source?"
"Yeah... " Vi thinks about that one for a minute. "Yeah. I think so. He's friendly, and he's usually reliable." Heads are starting to pop out along the hallway. Not many - this is the guest wing, mostly. And admin... most of the heads are teachers and watchers/watcher trainees.
"Hrrmm." Giles puts his glasses on, looking thoughtful. "I know that look, Vi. What do you have in mind?"
"Going down there to see what's up."
"Are you quite certain that's a good idea?"
"No. But I'm not going to leave Faith swinging in the middle of whatever just went sideways." Giles looked dubious at that and she crossed her arms over her chest.
"And we know that this isn't something that some demon made up to draw off people from here, while something is being done in New York? Or in New Jersey, at the nascent Hellmouth?"
"Crap." Vi thought about it for a minute. "We don't." She thought about it for several minutes longer while he studied her thoughtfully, both of them ignoring sleepy queries of 'What's going on?' from the handful of onlookers. "Only one way to find out for sure. I'm going - and I'll take half the Wild Bunch with me. That leaves half here, Andrea, and over thirty slayers of various levels of experience. And you." She grinned, "And if you guys can't handle an apocalypse, we've been wasting our time with all this training."
"No." Giles sighed heavily and raised a hand to forestall the lifted eyebrow and incipient rebellious look she turned on him. "It leaves Andrea, half of the Wild Bunch, thirty or so junior slayers, and the Watcher Trainees. I'm going with you."
"You are?" She took a step back. The lifted eyebrow became Both of them.
"Well, yes. I was a field Watcher, once. I can't very well let you run off doing something preposterously asinine without proper Watcher support, can I?"
Vi snickered. "No.... I suppose you very well can't, can you?" She gave him a long look, "Meet you at the weapons locker after we get dressed. I'll have someone bring down the ever-full coffee pot for us."
"Quite." Giles sighed heavily again. "Tally-ho and all that bloody rot.".................................................................................She can almost feel the fingers sifting through her memories as the tatters of her soul and her control start to erode. Hunting for odds and ends of all of the broken places, finding them, and unraveling to follow them back. A stream of images go past her mind's eye: her mother, drunk and hgh and staggering in after a three week absence. Diana crucified lying on the floor of Kakistos' lair, bloody and whimpering, moaning under the moving weight of a vampire while Kakistos probes her with his claws and Faith stares, shocked and unable to quite move to do anything after bursting in. Watching the life go out in that professor's eyes when she stabs him. Staring at Alan Finch's corpse with her stake in his heart and her mind stuttering while she hears her mouth telling B that she doesn't care. B and Angel laughing at her after they tricked her out of the Mayor's plans with Angel pretending to be Angelus helping her get ready to torture B. Overhearing Willow calling her a skank to Xander. Miss Post, the bitch, calling her an idiot for trusting her when she finally has that damned glove and is getting ready to fry them...
Buffy. Xander. Joyce. Angel. Wesley. Watcher's Council. Diana. Chains. Kakistos. Running. Coma dark hurting alone waking up no one visited mayor dead B killed him prison breaking down crying screaming Kill me Angel the Beast Angelus laughing....
She starts walking towards her bed, or at least the one she's using here and stops. Mayor Wilkins is there, looking at her the way that he always did. "I'd say you're doing better than fine. I'd say you're doing a bang-up job, Firecracker."
She stares at him, uncomprehending. "Get out."
He laughs in that semi-bashful way he always had, shaking his head. "Well, gosh." Wilkins smiles at her, "I think, you know, a 'hello' or a 'nice to see you' might be a little more welcome. It's the end of humanity, Faith," He shakes his head, "not the end of courtesy."
Wilkins walks up to Faith, ignoring her protests, brushing away everything she has to say. "No matter what you do, Buffy will always see you as a killer, not as a person. And now you have what she so desperately wants: the respect of these girls. All she needs is an excuse, and she'll finish what she started when she stuck that knife in your belly. You stay on guard, Faith. Buffy's dangerous. If you're not careful, she'll destroy you." He shrugs, "I'm just saying. Deep deep down, you always wanted Buffy to accept you, to love you even. Why do you think that is?"
He ignores Faith shaking her head in disbelief, asking him if he thinks he's a shrink now, or what? Wilkins paces back and forth in front of her, "You keep looking for love and acceptance from these people, these friends of yours, but you're never gonna find it. The truth is, nobody will ever love you. Not the way I love you."
"Yeah, I know." Faith nods. "Not the way you love me, Boss. Never the way you loved me... "
It's like breaking through dark water again, coming up this time. Swimming through frozen syrup. "Never the way that you loved me... " Faith shakes her head. There's something... something... "Never. The. Way. You. Loved. Me. Never." That wasn't quite right, was it? Something... if she can ony breathe, only find her center for a minute, a second even, maybe she can figure it out. The dark fingers are back, stroking, Elora's voice whispering, probing in her mind...
"Never the way that you loved me... " Faith shakes her head again, pushing away the stroking fingers with a kind of a dim, distracted terror. Trying to concentrate through a mind made of syrup...
Richard Wilkins gazed at them from the side, smiling at the exchange. "I'm proud of you, firecracker. Almost worth not making it to see you grow into yourself."
She gaped at him, stunned almost beyond comprehension that he'd be here, on this side of the Gates, still looking at her with exasperated fondness. "What the... ?"
He laughed, "I didn't take you in just because you were a tool, Firecracker. You were special." Her first watcher nodded agreement, blood about her...
"Never. The. Way. He. Loved. Me. Never." The kick comes out of nowhere, from some place deep inside where there was nothing left except animal fury, desperation, and a deep, deep, deep loathing. It's a tossup which of them is more shocked, Faith or Elora lying sprawled on the ground a dozen yards away in the ruins of a shattered gravestone, looking up at Faith astonished with blood on her mouth. "Never."
Faith bent over at the waist, glaring through her tangled hair at the blonde vampiress. If only she had enough strength to follow that one up. If only there wasn't all this blood... she looks down, seeing blood running over her arms from the open stab wound in her gut.
"Never. The. Way. You. Loved. Me. Never." She says again, eyes narrowed. "That one didn't happen. That was The First, wearing the Boss's body. Talking through his dead mouth." Faith gasped it out, her head spinning. "The way you want to wear mine."
Faith falls to her knees. "No. Not gonna happen."
"You can't stop me. You have nothing left." Elora stands and stalks over, slowly. "If you won't give in to your own darkness and let me in, I'll force my way." The dark fingers are back, insistent and tearing this time rather than stroking and seductive. Ripping her head apart, ripping into her mind. Memories go whirling past her minds eye, almost faster than she can focus on them.
Wesley looking at her outside of Blade's compound as she's getting on her bike. "Faith. It's done. It's hard to forget, but it was forgiven a long time ago." He met her eyes. "Just forgive yourself now." Xander looking up into her eyes that first time, before the time she tried to strangle him. Synchronized slaying with B, before things went irrevocably bad. Blade nodding, looking at her with that flat uncompromising gaze of his. "You haven't fucked up since you been here." Faith's mouth opening and hanging there. Nothing coming out - her mind completely blank and running in circles, stuttering. "Uhh... " Dawn's voice going all soft over the phone... "Yup. Maybe you're not the only one who isn't real tightly wrapped sometimes. I have a lot of acquaintances, it seems like. Somehow you're the only grownup friend I've made so far that's mine, you know? Not Buffy's friend who's just nice to the kid sis." Gunn looking at her in awe as she slams someone back against the fence because they won't accept that she's not going to let them ice Angel, "Damn. I like her." Vince stands up from the table at Perditions, a smoking shotgun in his hands, looking over the body... "I know who my friends are," Vince says, quietly. "And you ain't one of them." Spike giving himself over to the fires and closing the pits and sealing in the Turok-han. We shouldn't be doing this it's rape just not one girl at a time it's all at once and it's not right what do I know about 'Right, anway' no... The other black girl looked at her, looked around. "I Chose you, I tink?" Yeah, but you made a mistake, Choosing me... O'Brien watching his dead lover go to the flames from the inside out, turning those terrible, empty eyes on her... and not blaming. Harmony and her bank of television monitors... all those lives... all the lives she had, could have had, and never would have...
Xander. Buffy. Vince. Wilkins. Blade. Wesley. Angel. Spike. Cordelia. Kendra. Gunn. Diana Dormer. Abby. Sensei Kanno. Dawn. Hannibal. O'Brien. Giambione. Master Caine. Vi...
XanderBuffyVinceWilkinsBladeWesleyAngelSpikeCordeliaKendraGunnDianaDormerAbbySenseiKannoDawnHannibalO'BrienGiambioneMasterCaineViXanderBuffyVinceWilkinsBladeWesleyAngelSpikeCordeliaKendraGunnDianaDormerAbbySenseiKannoDawnHannibalO'BrienGiambioneMasterCaineViTheBeastJoyceXanderBuffyVinceFredWilkinsBladeWesleyAngelSpikeCordeliaKendraGunnDianaDormerAbbySenseiKannoDawnHannibalO'BrienGiambioneMasterCaineViXanderBuffyVinceWilkinsBladeWesleyAngelSpikeCordeliaKendraGunnDianaDormerAbbySenseiKannoDawnHannibalO'BrienGiambioneMasterCaineViDeanSamAbbyHarmonyCordeliaPlace Where Only That Which You've Loved Can Save You Place Where Only That Which You've Touched Can Save You WhatYou'veTouchedIsAlwaysThePeople NeverHadThingsNo I'msorryI'msorry I can't make it up can't make it right I'msorry wanna die kill me please Angel...
The scream came out of deep inside of herself. Elora was flung smashing up against the side of the mausoleum, looking up at her, dazed and astonished. Blood came out of Elora's mouth, and she looked down to see that wicked looking Hibben style knife, the Mayor's knife, sticking out of her stomach. She put her hands on it, trying to pull it out.
"No." Faith straightened, hair wild around her face. She noticed absently that the blood was no longer flowing out of her stomach. "That's what I am. But that's not all that I am." She shook her head, her voice getting firmer. "It's not."
Elora managed to pull herself to her feet, slowly, shaking her head. She walked towards Faith slowly, weaving, one hand still wrapped around the knife grip jutting from her abdomen.
"No. It's not all that I am." Faith glared at her, daring her to start with the dark stroking mind fingers again. "I may have been like you, but I'm not you. I won't become you. You can't make me. I'm not." From somewhere, she felt strength she didn't realise she had flow into her. It almost had seemed as if there'd been two voices saying those words, one from outside of herself reinforcing her faltering voice, making it stronger...
"Of course you're not." Elora whirls, staggering towards the second voice. Faith's voice, coming from behind her now. "You're the Black Angel, remember? Dancing against the Dark," the voice sounded amused, dark eyes measuring Elora and finding her wanting.
Faith straightened a bit more, pushing her hair back from her face with her hands. Looking past, looking through the vampire as if she wasn't there. Her voice. Her face... Older maybe, just a bit. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and a light jacket. Eyes not as dark, lighter hair. She nodded, meeting those browner eyes...
"Damn straight." Her voice was ragged, but firm. Elora whirled back to her, gaping, her eyes wide.
"That's not all she is, you know," the other Faith, not-Faith said. Elora spun back to her, eyes narrowing. "And you can't have any of her."
"The hell I can't," the blonde slayer vampire snarled, whirling back on Faith. Her eyes lit, desperate. Her body turned insubstantial, black swirling smoke, and she flowed across and around Faith, smashing and battering at her mind and her defenses.
Faith reeled back, her double's eyes going shocked and wide across the clearing from her. She could feel her mind and what little was left of herself crumbling under the savage assault. She shoved back with her mind and all of herself, and felt it not being enough. 'I can't stop her. Can't push her away... there's not enough walls left,' she thought, despairing, reaching deep inside for something, anything. 'Can't push... can't shove... ' Faith felt the vampire's essence flowing into and through her, flooding her soul and pushing her Self out of the way.
She found a core of something, almost gone. Something... she wasn't sure what exactly. Faith grabbed hold of whatever it was and clung to it like a lifeline, forcing herself up under the insistent battering. 'Can't push... pull. Meet weakness with strength. Step aside from force and turn it in on itself... '
She let herself fall inwards, searching for that deep center place. That Centered place... Not Slayer. Not Killer. Not victim. Not... not anything. Just... Faith. All of the above. None of the above. Huh. Just a Name, and a Self. All there is.
"I am become a Name. I contain multitudes. In the Place Where Only That Which You've Loved Can Save You, you'd better have touched an awful fucking lot." She straightened up and let go, let go of everything. Let go of self, let go of hate, let go of love, let go of hopes and dreams and all of the things she thought she wanted once... all that she'd fought for once... everything except for that deep, bright, shining steel core.
"I contain multitudes." She wasn't certain if she spoke it or thought it. Heard it echoed from that other voice, so much like her own. "And I can contain even you." She quit pushing against Elora and pulled... feeling a brief momentary astonishment that seemed to come from outside of herself, and then inside. And then gone.
Found herself standing at the edge of the clearing in the darkened graveyard clad head to toe once more in gleaming black armor of leather and golden steel, both Valdris blades clenched in green glowing hands. Met her own eyes across the clearing where her other, older self/not-self had made it half way across the open ground before it... whatever... had happened just now... was over.
"I think I may be ill." She managed a half grin without it feeling like it was pasted on. Well... almost like. Kinda pasted. "I just know something I ate is going to disagree with me."
"Gotta feeling, huh?" Her other self grinned back, and knelt to pick up the knife from where it had dropped when Elora went insubstantial. She crossed the remaining space casually, her eyes giving Faith a critical once over. "I don't have to ask if you're still you - I can feel it. Where is she now?"
"Inside of me. Yuck." Faith relaxed her hands and the Valdris blades went away. She accepted the knife the other-Faith handed to her, grip first. "Thanks."
"No problem. I didn't really do much."
"Oh... " Faith laughed, stopped herself. Better not. You may not ever stop. You can die laughing like that... she shook her head. "Wouldn't say that. I'd say it was a lot."
"Maybe. All I did was lend you a bit of strength." The brown eyes were laughing with her, not at. Concerned.
"Was a lot. Enough, when I needed it," Faith drank in the other girl, eyes searching. "I have to ask. Who are you... ? Not me... "
"No. Not you. I... " She shook her head, frustrated. "Guess I can't. Not time yet, and I'm not really here... and you have a long way to go before it is."
"S'allright. I can wait." Faith grinned. "I'm getting better at this patience thing."
"Good." The other not-Faith's eyes crinkled at the corners. "You need to work on this not getting beat to hell thing. You may not live long enough to wait, at this rate." She gave her a concerned look, "Are you going to.. " she made a vague gesture, "be ok?"
"Yeah. Think so." Faith nodded. "Going to have a lot to absorb though. I think I just absorbed a lot."
"Yeah." She did the smiling, crinkly eye thing again. "Guess you did."
Faith cocked her head and gave her other not-self a serious look. "I am all of those things she showed me. They're inside of me still. Always will be."
"Yeah. Just like she is, now. But you were right, right? That's not all that you are. Not any more."
"Yeah... " Faith looked inward, thinking. Searching. She could feel Elora way down in there, still shocked and drowning inside of her. Something else to deal with and sort out. "Guess not. I think I'm becoming something else somewhere along the way."
"Good. Don't lose your way, huh?" The other not-her got a distant look in those brown eyes. "Well, hell. Later, I think. See ya." She began to fade out, slowly.
"You bet." Faith nodded. She felt herself fading as well. She hoped like hell her first act on waking up wherever wasn't going to be horking the hell up all over everything. She hadn't been joking about feeling ill - she could still feel Elora's... essence... buried deep inside.
She let go and the graveyard dissolved about her, and someplace else gathered her up and spit her out...
"Fuck me." Faith struggled up to something vaguely resembling consciousness, then gave up the effort and regular sleep grabbed her and took her under. "I hope we won," she murmured. "Gettin' vamped in my sleep after that would just... "
Author's Note: Episode quotes and dialogue come from various episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the series. I'll chase them all down and list the episodes in the afterword, promise. Other quotes come from previous installments in this series.
Not sure about the rating on this one - it's pretty dark in places. Then again... the Wesley torture scene and the Xander strangling *did* come from the actual televised episodes. So it may still not be over the top for FR18.