Title: Shell of a Man
Spoilers: Series Finale for BtVS and up to S4 ep 10 for Supernatural
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and Eric Kripke own all the recognizable things within.
Summary: Castiel, perhaps, should have looked a bit harder when trying to find a suitable Vessel.
The stench was nearly a wall. Faith dry heaved for a moment before, against her better judgement, she turned the corner and walked into it, each step amplifying the smell. A few doors down she found the source.
Willow was seated on the floor of her casting room.
"Geeze, Red, crack a window," Faith quipped as she leaned against the door frame. Her gaze swept the room before narrowing on the iron pot emitting the foul scent and a purple tinted smoke. "Red," Faith said, a bit louder this time, "Willow, what's wrong?"
Willow turned finally, looking exhausted and red eyed. "I found him," Willow said quietly, dipping her hand into the cauldron.
Faith pulled a face as she watched. "Wait, him? You found who?"
Blinking in surprise, Faith moved into the room and crouched down next to Willow, "You've still been looking for him?" At the fiery look she received she backpedaled, "I just... I thought we'd," Faith stopped, because really, there was no good way to put the fact that they'd long given up on Richard being alive.
"I didn't stop," Willow said, turning her attention back to the cauldron. Removing her hand, Faith watched as she held it over a map. The inky, tar looking substance dripped off Willow's hand and started forming--
"Holy shit, is that?"
As the last of the substance dripped off Willow's finger, she finally looked at the shape her spell had taken. "This is where Richie is. A hotel in Minnesota."
The tar-y hotel was incredibly detailed, all things considered. Ignoring the smell, Faith leaned in closer. It hovered over a series of maps Willow had no doubt had laid out, dripping on the southwestern corner of Minnesota. A sign read Brite Star Motel and a small door numbered 26 was opened. All in all, pretty impressive. Looking up, Faith was surprised to find Willow tossing a jacket on and tossing a few odds and ends into her pockets.
"Red, what are you doing?"
"I need to get Richie."
"Well, gather a team first," Faith said, rising to her feet as Willow put the fire under the cauldron out. "You can't just go blazing in their solo."
"I have to."
Faith sighed, worrying that dating Robin really was softening her up. "You're taking me too."
"Here, take this."
Faith frowned at the crystal that was suddenly shoved into her hand. "What the hell is--" Faith was cut off by a gut wrenching sensation and found herself stumbling forward into a railing. "Jesus fuck, Red! Give a girl a warning!" The railing she was clutching gave the slightest bit as Faith focused. Below her were a few rows of car.
"That helps me with my 'porting spells."
The hotel, they were at the hotel. Already. Standing in front of room 21. Richard was merely doors down and Willow was a witch on a mission.
With a growl, Faith launched herself forward, grabbing onto Willow's arm. "What the hell?! Do you even have a plan?" Willow merely gave her a startled, wide eyed look. "Of course you don't have a plan. You know that something really skeevy is up, right? There's a reason you and B couldn't find him."
"I'll figure a plan out while we're walking." They nearly reached the door when Willow crumbled to the ground.
"Whoa, what the hell?"
Willow graciously accepts the Slayer's help to right herself and presses her hand to her forehead. "He's gone."
"What? They killed him?!"
"No, he's just not there anymore. I don't...I don't know how he's doing this. Or...or what magic's being used on him."
"Look," Faith started, eyeing the door warily, "maybe we can try ag--"
"No! There's still people in there. They'll know something. I'll just ask some questions," Willow's face fell suddenly, "Because I can just explain that I worked a spell that led me to their doorstop. Crap. Should I maybe try being a police officer? O-or an FBI agent? I could put the wammy on--"
"Nah, I'll take care of this."
Willow sighed, barely sparing Faith a look as she continued going through her pockets, "Faith, you clearly aren't--"
"Chill, my peeping tom skills," Faith drawled, her thumb jutting towards the window, "tell me that there's two guys in there. Nothing a little T&A can't take care of." Ha, Willow wasn't the only impulsive one here. Giving her hair a quick shake out and straightening her clothes just so, Faith finally reached out and knocked on door 26.
After a moment of suspicious sounding shuffling the door was opened partially by a man who quickly gave the two of them an approving once-over.
"We're looking for someone."
"Well, if this isn't your lucky day," The charm seemed to ooze out of the man, a smile wide across his face. The second man in the room moved closer to investigate, which would have put both Willow and Faith on guard if he didn't seem exasperated by his companions action. "Turns out me and my friend here--"
"Do you know this man?" Willow asked, holding a photo of Richard up for the two men to look at. Faith barely had time to roll her eyes at Willow's inability to follow her lead before she noticed the reaction the photo had garnered. The look of shock and recognition was immediately obvious on both of their faces but while the tallest only toned his down enough to close his slackened jaw the shortest of the pair seamlessly slipped into a look of indifference.
The taller man stared at the man in front of him. "Dean," he addressed him, giving him a hard look.
Dean just ignored his companion and turned the charm back on. "While I can't give you the baby blues, I dare say I'm a might bit better looking and worth your time. My friend here, he's...tall. Why don't you--"
"Please," Willow said, cutting Faith off, "He's been missing for months and we finally managed to track him down."
"Sam," Dean snapped back. Holding his hand out, he motioned for the picture and stared at it a slight bit too long. "Look, clearly your friend here can take care of himself. Maybe he just," he paused, his eyes still on the photo as he swallowed thickly, "went on sabbatical."
"Richie wouldn't have just left like that. Not without saying something. I know he was taken and I know you know something."
Dean muttered a curse and rubbed a hand over his suddenly weary face. Both women were rather impressed by how quickly he'd managed the 360 with the charm. He shared a look with his companion, Sam, and stepped back, leaving the door open.
Faith shouldered past Willow, making sure to enter the room first. She caught Willow gazing upwards and quickly cast her own gaze up noticing a symbol of sorts sharpie-d onto the ceiling above the door.
"Your friend," Sam began after a silent standoffish stretch, "uh, Richie? You said you've been tracking him? And you think we know about it?"
Willow pointed to the symbol on the ceiling. "I used a tracking spell."
"Spell," Sam parroted, "You know about spells and demons?" he asked, his own gaze following Willow's to the devil's trap.
The men share another long, silent conversation before Dean finally gave thumbs up and a forced smile. Looking up, he yelled, "Cas!"
Faith and Willow frown, and as much as they fought it, they both followed suit and turned their gaze upwards.
There's a static crackle, an odd rustling sound and, suddenly, there he is. Richard.
Willow let out a stilted sob and started towards him. She only makes it two steps before the Slayer's iron grip stopped her.
He was standing there dressed in one of the five suits he owned. It was the cheap, off-the-rack one he wore for the Aww Shucks affect. And that stupid trench coat Andrew had given him while the pair laughed over comic books.
"Friends of yours?" Dean asked, needing to break the silence.
Richard, Cas?, cocked his head to the side as he studied the two women standing before him.
After several long moments of being stared at by Richard's unblinking gaze, Willow exchanged a look with Faith and turned to the brothers, "Is he--?" She's cut off though, when 'Cas' snaps out from what she'd thought was a trance.
"Faith LeHane. Slayer. Willow Rosenberg. Witch."
The reaction from the two men is impressively quick. Both have guns out and trained on Willow in the blink of an eye.
Also impressively fast is the fact that not!Richard is at Dean's side, lowering the man's gun before Faith could lash out in defense.
"She has been touched by Grace."
"What are you talking about, Dick?" Faith questioned, shooting a confused look between Willow and whatever the thing was that was wearing Richard's body, her body still wound like a spring.
"There is Light within you." And Castiel turned briefly from Willow and nodded his thanks to Sam, who'd already put his gun away and was trying to get Dean to follow suit. "Willow is not like the other witches you have encountered, Dean. Some do do good work."
Faith nodded slightly, knowing the spell that had been the turning point for Willow. Glancing over, she frowned at the look on Willow's face, "Hey, you ok, Red?"
Willow shook her head. "No. That's...that's not Richie."
"No, it's not," Sam confirmed, trying to give the women a comforting smile, "Look--"
"My name is Castiel," Not!Richard interrupted again. "Willow is trustworthy and she deserves the truth."
"Ok," Dean said, "there's some bad crap going down and the man upstairs got involved."
"You needn't be so vague, Dean. I am an Angel of the Lord. I have been sent to Earth to aid in stopping the End of Days."
There's a moment where the two women simply stare before they both break. It was, perhaps, a combination on the matter-of-fact-tone and the words themselves but Faith snorts and Willow chokes out a laugh. "An...an angel? Oh, that's sweet."
"Ok but...why Richie?" Willow asked, her smile melting away as Castiel continues to look both sincere in his declaration and slightly annoyed in the reaction it garnered, "Why shack up in him?"
"He is a devote man. He prayed for this."
"That's a lie. Richie wasn't religious."
Castiel moved in, eyes glinting in anger as he got right into Willow's face. "My Father does not lie."
Sam finally stepped in when Willow took a stumbled step backwards. "Look, why don't we all just... Let's just grab a seat and calm down?"
"Sasquatch's right. Let's just chill." Faith grabbed two of the chairs for herself and Willow and tried not to chuckle at the look she received from the Sasquatch. "So you know who we are. You know who Dick isn't. Who are yous?"
"They are Dean and Samuel Winchester. They are Hunters."
"Wow, maybe you should just tell them all our secrets, Cas." Dean leaned it, "Jesus, shut up!"
Castiel paced behind the chairs of the brothers, his crawling over the two women. "I already told you, Dean, they are trustworthy women."
"Dick, just sit down."
"Would you stop calling h--"
Castiel perched on the edge of the closet bed to the group. "Faith uses nicknames as a form of endearment. I do not believe she means any dis--"
"Ok," Faith cut off, "So our friend goes missing months ago, apparently hijacked by an angel believing he's doing the lord's work."
"It was a setup."
Dean looked over to the redhead who'd spoken quietly. "What?"
"Richard was a pawn, to get to us..." Willow continued quietly, leaning forward to rest her head on the table.
"Red, what are you talking about?"
"Think about it Faith.--
Faith snorted, "Slayers. They wanted some Slayers chippin' in for some..." she trailed off as Willow wouldn't meet her eyes, "Shit. You."
Dean caught the look Faith threw Castiel and let out a laugh, "Dude, you were bangin' a witch? I'm both impressed and horrified."
"We weren't," Willow ground out.
"Dean," Sam warned his still chuckling brother. "Ok, so you and Ca -- er, Richard are a couple and--"
"I knew you two were dating!" Faith cried out as she jabbed her finger at Willow.
"Faith! And, no, we weren't."
"You were. His memories--"
"And you," Willow said, jabbing a finger Castiel's way, "stay out of Richie's mind! The point is, this was all manipulated into getting to me. And now I know."
"You can't go back," Willow said suddenly, looking at Castiel. "They know that we know and now you're no longer of use to 'the cause'. Mission accomplished as far as they're concerned. They figure I won't walk away from helping to stop yet another apocalypse now that they've gotten Richie tied up in this all."
Faith frowned and seemed to be the only one who caught the word 'figure'.
Tensing, she realized the conversation was slowly spinning out of control.
"I have my Orders. If I am Called, I must obey."
Willow narrowed her gaze on Castiel before she, much to the amusement of the Winchesters, tilted her head to the side just so.
"Do not think you can tread through my mind." Castiel snapped.
Slouching low is his chair, Dean muttered, "Not so fun when you're on the receiving end is it?"
"There's just the slightest trace of Richard in there. It's like...it's a hollowed out shell," Willow finished in a whisper. "Where is he?"
"He has been released from his Earthly duties."
A cold breeze swept through the room and Faith knew it was Willow's doing.
"You killed him. For nothing. There's nothing..."
"Look, I'm sorry your boyfriend got mixed up in this. I am. But there's something bigger than all of us going down and--"
Willow cut Dean off, "No there isn't! We have people employed with the sole duty of keeping a look out for anything, anything... Two odd rituals, random gatherings, hell, fish raining down from the sky. There hasn't been anything!"
"Willow," Faith warned suddenly, a trickle of worry seeping into her as she realized the witch was becoming Mad.
"What the hell are you going on about?" Dean asked, oblivious to the rising tension.
Before Faith even knew what was happening, Willow was out of her chair and standing before Castiel. His head was grasped tightly between her small hand as Willow began chanting in a language only barely recognizable to Faith.
There's a blinding flash of light and a wretched inhuman wail.
Faith is pretty sure she's the first to recover. Willow is moving away from Castiel and breathing hard, blood trickling from her nose. And Castiel...
Castiel is writhing on the floor, his face twisted in pure agony.
"You push Richard out of his body? Than you can have it. Have fun trying to fly home." Willow wavered suddenly at the look that shone across Richard's face. She locked eyes with Faith and her words echoed within the Slayer's head. "It isn't Richard," Willow snapped mentally, unintentionally sending images of the pain ridden look on the man's face along with her words. "No. This is the Powers That Be messing things up. Again. They deserve this! They deserve a whole lot more than this simple wrench being tossed into their plans!"
"Jesus," Faith was pretty sure she vocalized the word. There's a difference between 'they' and 'he' she wants to say but she'd transfixed by the sight on the ground. Her ears are still ringing with Willow's mental rant and she finds herself unable to look away from the writhing man on the floor.
"What the fuck did you do?" Dean cried out, kneeling at Castiel's side, hands hovering over the body.
"Faith, we're leaving."
Faith hesitated, her wide eyes still locked on the men on the ground.
Willow started weaving a spell around them, her face still in a hard stare. "You can tell the Powers That Be that they can go to hell. We're The Council. Things like 'The End of Days' don't go unnoticed."
Andrew had found Willow and Faith moments after they returned to The Council. He paid no notice to the awkward way Faith was patting Willow on the back or Willow's silent crying. "Geeze, where have you two been?! Mr. Giles is calling for a meeting and we're all held up waiting for yous!"
Faith gratefully moved from Willow, "Meeting? Is everyone ok? Shit, was it the team we sent down to Ibiza?"
"Well, remember how someone maybe, not quite, kinda raised Samhein? We think there might be a pattern we missed connecting everything."
Willow stumbled to a stop, hastily rubbing wetness away from her reddened eyes, "Pattern?"
Willow's gaze dropped to the ground, refusing to meet Faith's, as she hurried to catch up to the pair.
Andrew, still completely oblivious to the last two minutes, smiled excitedly as he held the conference door open for the two woman. "If we're lucky, it may actually be an apocalypse."