THE FIRE WITHIN.
By Dave Turner.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Buffyverse or ‘Dies the Fire’, I write these stories for fun not profit.
Crossover: The Buffyverse with the S. M. Stirling novel ‘Dies the Fire’ and ‘A Meeting at Corvallis’.
Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation; Written in glorious English-English. American and English idioms are used throughout this fic.
Timeline: Alternate Universe; Kendra is called as per canon but is killed early after which Faith is called. If we assume that Faith is ‘called’ in December ’97 she’ll have been a slayer for about four months by the beginning of this story. I’m also assuming that her watcher found her at least a couple of months before she was called.
Words: 22 chapters each of 3500+ words.
Warnings: Dark fic, with violence, strong language and unpleasant situations. Assume FR18 throughout the story.
Summary: Faith and her watcher are caught up in ‘The Change’ and must adjust to the ‘Changed’ world.
This is sort of a companion piece to my earlier fic ‘The Fire that Died’. Once more you will not need to have read the book to understand the plot because I’ll be following one story thread so you’ll find out stuff as if you were reading the book…at least I hope you will.
Please don’t complain to me about the science of ‘The Change’, I’m just following what the author wrote. Think of it as; ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology will appear as if it is magic’. So if anything in the science doesn’t appear to make sense, it’s ‘because it’s magic!
“All the nightmares came today,
And it looks as though they’re here to stay.”
David Bowie (Oh you pretty things).
Early Evening, Tuesday 17th March, 1998.
Driving through Montana along Highway 12, Miss Penelope Frost kept the car to a steady fifty-five miles an hour. On either side of the highway trees crowded in on the road preventing her from seeing much of anything other than trees. Ahead the road snaked off into the distance until it too was swallowed up by more trees; behind the road disappeared into even more trees. This part of Montana really did appear to have more than its fair share of trees.
“…and then there’s this enormous bang and cloud of stinky black smoke, and out stumbles Wyndham-Price covered in soot with his clothes in tatters!”
Chuckling Faith shifted in her seat as Miss Frost finished her tale, “This Wyndham-Price guy sounds like a complete ass…”
“Faith,” warned Miss Frost, “I hope you’re about to compare Wyndham-Price to some sort of donkey.”
“Sorry,” Faith ducked her head as she tried to think of an alternative to ‘asshole’, she came up blank.
“If not try ‘pratt’,” suggested the English woman, she glanced over at Faith and smiled.
Miss (not Ms and definitely not Mrs) Penelope Frost had been Faith’s watcher for about six months, having taken Faith away from ‘that woman’ (Penelope never referred to Faith’s mother as ‘Faith’s mother’ she was always just ‘that woman’) about two months before Faith was called in December ’97.
Aged thirty-nine, Penelope Frost was gifted with a good figure, still trim from all the work-outs she did with her young slayer. Her hair was blonde, and at the moment tied back in a rather severe bun, normally she let it hang loose in soft curls around her shoulders, but not when she was driving Today her outfit consisted of a short-ish tweed skirt, sensible shoes, white cotton blouse and a stylish tweed jacket that was at the moment hanging on the hook behind her seat.
When Penelope had first found her slayer, Faith had been little more than a feral street child who would’ve inevitably fallen into prostitution; followed by drugs and finally an early grave. Now Miss Frost was trying to turn Faith into an approximation of a normal young woman as well as a slayer; she was even having some success. At least Faith usually managed to stop herself before she uttered some obscenity and she’d also stopped eating with her fingers…well, mostly. Penelope still shuddered when she thought back to the meal they’d shared at the spaghetti restaurant.
“There’s nothing wrong with a good earthy expletive in the right situation,” the older woman explained, “but you should try to cut them out in normal conversation…I have no objection to you calling a vampire an ‘arsehole’ during a fight but not while taking tea with the vicar.”
Chuckling again Faith glanced at her watcher. She was so cool, for an oldie, it was the way she’d just say stuff in that posh English voice of hers that kept Faith in stitches some days; she never knew what her watcher would come out with next. When they’d first met, Faith had not been so impressed. One day this weird Brit woman with her posh voice had come up to her in the street and started to tell her about vampires and that she might become some sort of mystical warrior.
Telling the mad bitch in the tweed skirt where she could stuff her vampires and slayers Faith had tried to walk away. She’d been grabbed from behind and put in an arm-lock. Faith had screamed as her arm was twisted painfully up behind her back and a tweed clad arm was wrapped tightly around her neck. Struggle as she might Faith couldn’t break free. It was only when the woman had asked her if she’d like to learn what she’d just done to her had Faith nodded ‘yes’ only then had she been released. When she’d tried some immediate payback she’d been knocked flat by the tweed clad woman and told not to be so silly.
Within days of meeting Miss Frost, Faith had moved out of her mother’s apartment and into the one rented by her watcher, it was situated in a much nicer part of Boston. Here Miss Frost started to work on Faith with a mixture of kindness and strict discipline. By the time Faith was called in early December she was well on the way to rejoining the human race.
“When’re we gonna stop?” Faith tried to stretch cramped muscles.
“About an hour,” Miss Frost glanced up at the sky it was starting to turn a little dark, “there’s a respectable guest house along the road a ways…I’ve booked us a room there for a couple of nights.”
Penelope noticed Faith’s face fall at the mention of ‘a room’ no doubt Faith was hoping she’d be able to sneak out while her watcher slept. Of course Penelope encouraged such behaviour; it was good training for her slayer, and it prevented Faith from getting bored or feeling overly restricted in what she could, or could not do in her free time.
“I don’t want you slipping out at night on your own Faith,” Penelope smiled inwardly while Faith looked guiltily out of the passenger window, “who knows what might happen to you, the worlds a dangerous place for a young woman,” she looked away from Faith trying to hide her sly smirk while Faith looked at her as if she’d gone insane. “Such temptations could easily turn a young girl’s head.”
“MISS P!” cried Faith in despair, “I’m a slayer I can look after myself, I…”
“I’m only teasing,” laughed Penelope, “but you should have seen the look on your face.” Penelope mumbled under her breath in imitation of a teenager complaining, “D’you think I want to be stuck in a hotel room with a grumpy slayer all night? No way Jose`,” she went back to her normal voice, “you can have a bit of a workout when we arrive, then you can shower, change and we’ll have dinner, then, and only then we’ll see about whether you can go out.”
After nearly six months Faith knew her watcher pretty well, from the tone of her voice it looked like she would be going out tonight. It also sounded as if Miss P was going to get dressed up and go out on the town herself…which Faith always thought was a bit gross what with her being so old an’all. But if it meant that she could get a little ‘Faith-time’ without nosey watchers looking over her shoulder. She didn’t care if Miss P screwed every truck driver in town as long a Faith got to have a good time too. All she had to do was keep quiet about it and not whine and…
Slapping her forehead Faith looked at Miss Frost with renewed respect verging on hero-worship. The crafty bitch, thought Faith, suggest that a night off was possible if the teenager kept quiet and didn’t whine. Faith smiled and shook her head wistfully no wonder she’d never gotten the better of the sneaky bitch.
“Mind if I switch on the radio?” Faith reached forward and hit a button when Penelope didn’t object.
There was some sort of news broadcast going on and Faith was just about to switch channels when Penelope told her to leave it where it was for a minute, Faith sighed and went back to looking out of her window.
“That’s odd,” muttered Penelope.
“What’s that?” Faith turned to look at her watcher; she noticed the look of concern on the woman’s normally calm face.
“Some sort of electrical storm near Cape Cod…”
Faith looked blank.
“…out east near Boston, or as near as anywhere is in this damned oversized country…listen.”
Faith did; the reporter was going on about a big dome of lights over Nantucket; Faith laughed at the odd name.
“There was a young man from Nantucket, with a dick the size of a bucket…” Faith was quickly silenced by a withering look from her watcher.
The reporter went on and on about all the different colours and how the weather people were saying that there’d never been anything like it since records began. Noticing how the reporter’s voice went from awestruck to hysterical Faith turned to Penelope to say something.
White light flashed in her eyes, it was so strong it felt like white hot needles were being driven through her eyeballs and into her brain. For a moment all her senses were overwhelmed by the unbearable pain that filled her head. An instant later she could see and hear again. The wheels squealed as Miss Frost tried to control the car as it swerved from one side of the road to the other. Reaching over Faith grabbed hold of the wheel and helped her watcher guide the vehicle over to the side of the road where it slowly came to a halt. Putting on the handbrake Penelope stared out of the windscreen before turning to look at Faith.
“What the fuck happened there?” it seemed to be the right time for one of those ‘earthy expletives’.
Faith burst into near hysterical laughter at her watcher’s comment and the relief of not being killed in a road accident. She put her hand over her mouth a moment later and looked guiltily at her watcher.
“I don’t know why you’re looking so shocked,” Penelope said matter-of-factly as she reached forward and turned the ignition key; nothing happened, “Damn!” she looked back at Faith, “Are you alright?”
“Yeah fine, I…” it was then that Faith realised she should be feeling the after effects of the pain that had momentarily turned her mind to jello. She did indeed feel ‘fine’, it was like the pain had been turned off at a switch, “You?”
“Great,” sighed Penelope as she rubbed her left shin, “apart form banging my leg against the dash board…and the battery appears to have died on us. Oh-well never mind I’m sure someone will come along and rescue us,” she smiled in the gathering gloom of the car’s interior, “might as well make ourselves comfortable while we wait.”
Opening her door Penelope stepped out into the dusk that was rapidly turning into night.
“I’ve got some emergency supplies in the boot,” Penelope called as she headed around to the rear of the car. Noticing Faith’s complete lack of movement she came back and stuck her head back into the car, “Come on, I’m not doing everything by myself.”
Slowly Faith opened her door and stepped out onto the road, it was starting to get cold and she shivered in the thin pink shirt and black tank top that Miss Frost had bought for her for the journey. Looking around at the dark brooding woods she started to imagine all sorts of monsters lurking out there in the dark. She walked around the car to join Penelope.
“You brought weapons right?” Faith eyed the woods: didn’t they have bears out here?
“Of course,” Penelope moved things around in the trunk, “fine watcher I’d be if I didn’t pack your weapons, here,” she passed Faith a short sword. “That’s odd,” she’d picked up a flashlight and clicked it on and off while banging it against the heel of her hand, it didn’t work, “I’m sure I put new batteries in this before we started out…never mind I’ve got some candles here somewhere…”
Breaking off her lone vigil for a moment Faith looked at her watcher in surprise, “You packed candles?”
“And just as well I did don’t you think?” she held up a lighted candle, “There,” she smiled triumphantly, “better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
“Yeah, right,” agreed Faith before she went back to watching the trees; was that a demon leering at them from behind that clump of bushes?
It wasn’t that Faith was frightened…not really, not as such; it was just that everything was so unfamiliar. If she was in a back alley in a city or something she’d be fine…no problemo. It was just…well, it was just that she’d never been out of the city before and quite frankly the woods were starting to make her feel just a little edgy. Taking a tighter grip on her sword Faith tried to pull herself together; she was the slayer. She was the meanest, badass in this fuc…damn wood. She sighed she’d even started to censor herself in her head. Faith smiled in the darkness…she’d deal…somehow.
“Here let me take those,” she went over to Miss P and took a bundle of blankets off her.
“Thank-you dear,” Penelope picked up a large cardboard box and led the way back to the front of the car.
“Full house!” Penelope laid down her cards and started to sweep her winnings into her hand; they were playing for boiled sweets as she had a strict policy against playing for money.
“Jeez,” groaned Faith as she threw down her own two-pair, “how’d you do that?”
“Oh it’s easy,” Penelope placed her ‘winnings’ in her lap and started to sort them into their different colours, “the girl’s boarding school that I attended had a most eclectic syllabus,” she passed Faith a red sweet will she unwrapped a black one.
“Huh!” Faith unwrapped her candy and put it in her mouth, “I mean, what?”
Deciding not to correct Faith’s poor grammar Miss Frost explained; “St. Trinians believed in fully preparing its girls for the outside world, as the school song said…” Miss Frost sang a few lines; she had quite a good singing voice spoilt only by singing around the sweet in her mouth.
“Stride towards your fortune,
Boldly on your way.
Never once forgetting
There's one born every day…”
Laughing Faith forgot for a moment that they were stranded on a deserted road in the middle of a forest in Montana. It was quite cosy in the car with the candle light and the warm red blankets that Miss P had produced out of the car’s ‘boot’ (as she insisted on calling the trunk). They’d had a meal of tinned stew with tinned vegetables and crackers, cooked over a small camping cooker; Miss P had packed for every eventuality. They had talked and played cards as the darkness closed in around them, the moon had come up and the stars filled the heavens as the temperature dropped.
“What are we going to do?” Faith asked suddenly sobering, “You know…tomorrow?”
“Well,” Miss Frost shifted in her seat and pulled her blanket more closely around her shoulders, “we’ll see if anyone comes. If no one does by…say ten o’clock we’ll walk on down the road a ways and see what we can see, eh?”
Faith thought she could detect a hint of worry in Miss P’s voice; they had broken down sometime after six, it was now just past nine-thirty and no one had driven by. Even out here something should have come down the road, a truck or a police cruiser…something, but the road had remained empty.
“Won’t this make us late?” Faith collected up the cards, she could tell from Miss P’s body language that they had finished playing for the night; looking at her much depleted store of candy Faith sighed with relief.
“Oh I wouldn’t worry,” the older woman reassured, “it’ll be another five or six days before this ‘dark power’ rises in Portland…you know those people who wrote these prophecies must have taken courses in ‘cryptic’.” She sounded as if she’d like to take one of these medieval writers, shake them by the collar and give them a ‘damn good talking to’ and a lesson in clear, concise English.
Smiling at her watcher’s annoyance Faith looked out of her window, it looked awfully dark out there. Okay, she had her slayer night vision, but even so in a city it was never properly dark; out here the darkness seemed to press in on her eyeballs.
“Once we’ve dealt with this ‘Dark Power’,” the phrase simply dripped sarcasm in Miss Frost’s mouth, “we’ll drive on down to California and see this Summers gal…do you want some hot chocolate?”
“What?” Faith was taken unawares by the sudden change of topic.
“Not ‘what’, say ‘pardon’ or even ‘I’m sorry?’,” Penelope tutted at Faith’s poor education, “I’m sure I’ve got some somewhere,” she made to open her door, “it’s only packet stuff but its better than nothing.”
“Yeah please,” Faith opened her door and stepped out of the warm car and into the cold night.
“Oh my!” gasped Penelope as she walked around the car and opened the trunk, “March and the temperature’s almost freezing…ridiculous country.”
While Miss P busied herself with boiling water and making hot chocolate Faith prowled around the car watching the trees for wandering vampires and demons. It was only on her second turn around the car that Faith realised that there probably wasn’t a vampire for miles. Why would one come out here when there were nice warm cities just overflowing with food?
“Faith dear,” Faith looked around at Miss P’s call, “it’s ready, lets get back into the car shall we?”
As Penelope headed for the driver’s door Faith noticed she was carrying a wooden box about two feet long under her arm. She picked up her own cup of steaming chocolate drink, closed the trunk and went to join her watcher in the car. She shivered as she sat down and wrapped her blanket around her shoulders.
“Soon be warm again once we get the doors closed,” Penelope shut her door, “here,” she held the box out to Faith, “present…I was going to give it to you when we got to Portland…but I thought you looked as if you needed cheering up.”
Taking the box from her watcher Faith looked at it suspiciously, she wasn’t used to people giving her things.
“Well open it you silly girl,” Penelope nudged her slayer with her elbow, “it won’t bite.”
Opening the box Faith caught sight of what lay within and her eyes grew wide with surprise and joy.
“Miss P you…you…” she held up the knife and gazed at the blade as it reflected the moonlight, on an impulse she turned and kissed Miss Frost on the cheek.
“OH!” Penelope said in surprise, “I take it you like it?”
“It’s a thing of beauty Miss P.”
The knife was a little short of twenty-two inches long, it had a simple wooden hilt that fitted Faith’s hand perfectly; a brass guard separated the hilt from the long wickedly sharp blade. The weapon was really just a simple Bowie knife, but as she turned it in the candle light Faith could see just how well made it was. It was the sort of thing that if you looked after it – it would never let you down. Something on the blade caught her eye, Miss P’d had Faith’s name engraved on the blade, and under her name was a line of writing in a language she didn’t understand.
“It’s slightly charmed,” explain Penelope when she saw Faith trying to decipher the lettering, “it’ll always stay sharp and it’ll always ‘return to your hand’…though I’m not quite sure exactly what that part means.” She watched the smile on her slayers face, Faith had such a pretty smile, she thought, it was a pity she didn’t get to use it more often.
Holding the knife in her lap Faith studied the blade as her eyes became blurred with tears, no one had given her anything so…so freaking fantastic before. No one had given her much of anything they didn’t need to; her mother had given her twenty dollars for Christmas once but that was years ago, and Faith’d had to spend that on food when her mother disappeared for a week over the holiday.
“Well you can play with it in the morning,” Penelope pretended not to see the tears rolling down Faith’s cheeks, “I think its time we tried to get some sleep.”
“But,” Faith sniffed and wiped at her eyes with her hand, “but it’s only ten o’clock…”
“And what else are we going to do?” Miss Frost gestured out of the windscreen, “You could patrol I suppose…but all that would achieve, I’m thinking, is for us both to catch a chill.” she smiled across the car at Faith. “Don’t let me stop you if you really want to go out…in the cold…and the dark…”
“Yeah okay,” Faith admitted after glancing out the windscreen, “you’re probably right.”
“I’m always right dear,” Penelope pulled her blanket up around her ears and tried to get comfortable, “that’s why I’m your watcher…now go to sleep.”
“Goodnight Miss P,” Faith yawned and turned on to her side as she snuggled into the big soft blanket, “and thanks.”
“My pleasure,” and it really had been a pleasure to see her slayers eyes light up like that, “now sleep.”