What makes one Chosen
A/N: I know, it’s been forever and a day since I’ve updated. I have no excuse, just an apology. If you’re still with me, then I hope you enjoy. :) If you’re just joining me, welcome, and aren’t you glad you haven’t had to wait? ;)
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these shows, or any of the characters mentioned.
Warnings: References to child abuse and torture- nothing more explicit than anything else that has come before this, but still present.
John felt every one of his forty-eight years as he turned the corner to his daughter’s hospital room. He hadn’t slept properly in what felt like months (really only a few weeks, he was pretty sure) and his last proper meal had been interrupted by the news that Faith was in a coma. He found it hard to eat, now. He found it hard to recognize when he was hungry, even.
Dean was there, of course. It was a day ending in Y, so of course Dean was there- camped out in her room as though he could force her into consciousness through will alone. Needless to say, it hadn’t happened yet but that wasn’t stopping Dean from trying. He watched crappy TV and kept up a running monologue, confident that she could hear him. John had overheard the nurses on the floor discussing him- they thought it was lovely, really, but heartbreaking.
They didn’t think she’d ever wake up, but then they didn’t know Faith at all, did they?
John took the seat opposite Dean, on the other side of the bed. He felt exposed, sitting with his back to the doorway, but he tried to shake it off.
“Bobby called.” His boy glanced over, eyes red-rimmed and dark circles making him look more like a patient than a visitor. Spending his days in the hospital and his nights hunting was beginning to take its toll. “He said that another girl has been Called.” Dean didn’t look too surprised.
“Her heart stopped- we knew that.” Dean had been there when it happened. John still felt sick at the thought.
“Bobby says that sometimes, the new Slayer will dream of her predecessor. Sometimes, the new one knows how the old one died.” Faith hadn’t, John thought. If she had, she hadn’t told him, anyway. He kept his eyes on Dean, refusing to look at his girl, so small and pale on the bed between them.
“Where?” Of course, Dean got it- John had dreaded having to explain.
“L.A, apparently. Bobby thinks that there’s something coming- something big, because two girls have been Called so close to the Hellmouth.” Bobby had told him that potential Slayers were Called when they were in the right place at the right time. He wasn’t sure what that said about Faith- that the Slayer needed to be on the move, maybe. Dean was nodding though, as if he understood. John wouldn’t be surprised. Dean knew as much, if not more, than John did about Slayer lore. He’d made it his business to know.
“If I leave tonight, I can be there tomorrow. Do the Watchers have her?” John shook his head, slowly. It would have to be Dean- John was working. An actual, real job, to pay for hospital bills and rent on the shitty house they were staying in.
“Not that we can tell. Bobby’s sources say she hasn’t moved in weeks- whatever the Council is trying this time, they haven’t snatched her up.” Neither of them knew what that meant. John didn’t want to know; didn’t want to think about another girl out there, giving up her life to the Hunt. This time, he was just grateful that there was another one out there, who might be able to tell them what happened to Faith.
“You’ll stay with her? She… she wouldn’t want to be alone.” But Dean couldn’t be here any longer- John could see that. Three weeks by his sister’s bedside and he was itching to be on the move; to be going somewhere and doing something. John knew the feeling. Hell, he was living the feeling already- but it was different, for him. He was her dad, not Dean.
“Sam and I are staying and Bobby’s on his way up. He tracked down some trippy African root that might let us contact her.” John didn’t mention that if any of them made a dream-trek into Faith’s unconscious, it’d be Sam. Sam knew her best. “Get some sleep and then get going. If we can find out what took her down, we have a chance at tracking it.” He couldn’t live with another unanswered question; couldn’t lose Faith to something the same way he’d lost Mary. It was a long shot, but there was still hope.
Dean just nodded, standing up and stretching, his eyes on his sister’s prone form.
“If I get nothing from L.A., I’ll swing by the Hellmouth and check with the Watcher.” He didn’t wait for his father’s agreement, just turned and left the room. John, alone with his daughter for the first time in weeks, didn’t know what else he could do.
Once his decision was made, Dean made quick work of it- straight back to the house to pack up the Impala and say goodbye to Sam. The younger boy was just back from school and he looked about as good as Dean felt- though he brightened some when Dean told him they had a possible lead and that he was going to follow it.
No-one mentioned the fact that Dean would be walking into the Watcher’s hands, but there was no time to worry about that- they could only hope that with Faith ‘dead’ and a new Slayer to play with, that the Council would forget he ever existed. Besides, what were the chances of the Council sending the same team to L.A. that they had sent after Faith? Dean just ignored the voice in the back of his head telling him that, according to Winchester luck, it was pretty freaking likely.
“You’ll be careful, right?” It was as close as Sam came to mentioning it.
“Of course. And I’ll have Angel with me- you know he won’t let anyone touch me.” The Vampire was in the basement room, sleeping, hopefully. Dean wouldn’t let him go to the hospital- just in case- but they’d spent their nights Hunting together and Dean trusted the Vampire to watch his back as much as he did anyone. Sam did, too.
“Good. He’ll like that, I think. Bobby and Dad still don’t trust him, so he’s safer with you.” Angel was slowly coming back to himself, they thought, but it was a slow process- it had taken weeks for him to even talk again, and when he did it wasn’t in full sentences, and he got agitated sometimes, when Dean wasn’t there. Dean could only imagine the horror of spending years in hell- of course there was a price to pay and a long recovery process.
“Pull the car up to the door, will you? I’ll wake him.” There was a good chance that he’d woken as soon as they came in the front door and just hadn’t come upstairs. He didn’t breathe, so he could fake sleep pretty well when he wanted to. Dean thought that he liked being woken- that he liked being touched without the threat of pain.
Sam did as he was asked, moving with a slight spring in his step now that there was a lead. Tenuous though it may be, they had two possibilities now- one for Faith, and waking her, and one for finding out what had hurt her.
It was cold outside, but getting warmer as the days passed. Part of him wanted it to stay cold- cold meant that Faith wasn’t racking up the days in a coma. Cold meant it was winter and she could get better soon.
He’d always wanted to stop somewhere and spend more than a few weeks in the same school; live in the same house and have John working a real job. Whenever he had let himself think about it, it had looked something like what they had in Billings- a house with a yard; his dad working as a mechanic; a school where he had the chance to learn the names.
He’d never thought that when he finally had a house to call home, that’d he do little more than sleep there. He’d never imagined that they’d have stopped moving because his sister was in a coma. He shivered as he sat into the Impala, moving the car around the back of the house to the rear entrance- it was closer to the house and Angel was less likely to get hurt that way. Why Dean hadn’t just parked there when he got home, Sam didn’t know- though he suspected it was because he was arranging the quickest getaway, just in case. Old habits die hard, after all.
Inside, Dean flipped on the switch for the basement light and made his way carefully down the stairs. They were rickety and wobbly and not exactly safe. To his surprise, Angel was awake and even dressed.
“Hey- we’ve gotta job. You ready to go? Gotta get something to eat before we leave and then we’ll hit the road.” He was certain that Angel understood everything that was said to him- he didn’t always know how to reply yet, but he understood. Just like Faith could hear him, wherever she was, Angel could hear him too. He could feel it, somewhere deep in his bones. Angel nodded once and stood up from his cot, ever graceful. He’d started walking upright not long after they left the Hellmouth- the start of a long trek back to sanity. His duffel was already packed, ready to go, and Dean wondered at that- had Angel heard John on the phone earlier and put two and two together? He hoped so. He could use a partner in L.A. and not a guard-dog, and the flashes of personality that he’d seen had been enough to tell the Hunter that Angel would be an excellent partner if he were, you know, saner; less feral; less likely to bite anyone who approached him unannounced.
Bobby had learned that the hard way, but luckily, he’d laughed it off and let Dean bandage the wound without complaint.
Sam was back upstairs when they got there and Dean made sure that Angel ate before they left- three pints from the local blood-bank. O negative, in fact. They were closing on their expiry date, anyway, so they would have been thrown out soon. Human blood was better for him than animal, they’d learned. He recovered quicker from injuries and his eyes were sharper; more alert. He needed less of it, too, though he always refused to take theirs- Dean had offered, once, and the look he got in return was enough to convince him that Sparky was gone and Angel was back, more or less.
“Gotta jet, Sammy. Stay safe?” Safe, meaning inside and behind the salt lines. Sam rolled his eyes and huffed, but he hugged his brother goodbye and watched as the Impala drove off. The rear windows were darkened, so he couldn’t see in, but he watched all the same, until the taillights disappeared into the distance.
This had to work- they couldn’t lose Faith, in more ways than one. They just couldn’t.
He’d been driving for about eight hours before his eyes began to drift shut- Dean, accustomed to long drives, knew it was past time for a break. He pulled in at a rest-stop somewhere in Idaho and was careful to lock the doors, just in case. The last thing they needed was someone trying to steal the friggin’ car.
“I wish you could drive, dude, because it’d make this a hell of a lot easier. Angel just blinked at him from the passenger seat and Dean grinned in return. “Yeah, yeah, you’re so innocent and helpless. I get it.” The Hunter stretched out on the backseat, setting his alarm for just before sun-up. Angel would wake him if it got too close, he knew, but it wasn’t fair all the same. It didn’t take him long to drift off to sleep- he’d slept in the Impala a hell of a lot more times than he’d slept anywhere else, after all. She was home; all leather scent and gasoline.
When he woke, it was still dark out, and the car was moving beneath him, rocking gently on the road. He blinked, confused, before sitting up suddenly. Angel was driving. Angel
was driving. Angel was driving
. He was torn between triumph and terror- he could only hope that they were at least going in the right friggin’ direction.
“Dude, where are we?” They’d been three hours from Salt Lake City, maybe, and a quick check of the time told him he’d been asleep for more than six hours. The Vampire glanced back at him and grinned widely, the smile making him look more like a little boy than a mass-murdering monster.
He didn’t answer, though, and Dean hadn’t really expected one.
“Pull over at the next gas station, will ya? I need to take a leak.” And recover from his heart attack somewhere with people around. And he could find out where they were, too, while he filled up the tank- if they’d been driving for so long, they’d need fuel. Angel didn’t nod or agree or anything, but Dean decided to take it on faith that he’d do as he was told- he always had, before. Not like he had much of a choice in the matter, anyway.
To say he was pleasantly surprised to discover, when they’d stopped, that they were less than two hours from Vegas was an understatement.
“Dude, good going.” He tried not to sound surprised. “You make pretty good time for someone who claims to have been born before the combustion engine was invented.” Angel looked pleased, he thought.
He gassed up as the sun was rising and the Vampire retreated to the backseat. Dean insisted that he cover up, even though the sun would be behind them for hours, yet, and he got the guy in the gas station to microwave the travel mug of O neg without asking questions. This close to Vegas, Dean thought the guy probably couldn’t be surprised anymore. Angel drank without saying anything and Dean sat back into the driver’s seat, relieved in a way he hadn’t really been expecting.
“So you’ve remembered how to drive? Nice. That’ll come in handy.” The Vampire didn’t cast a reflection, so Dean couldn’t see him, but he thought he heard a quiet huff that might have been a laugh. “And you didn’t put a scratch on her, so you’re already one up on Sammy.” This time, the huff was more pronounced and Dean allowed himself a smile. “And hey- if you’re able to drive, this means you’re officially on the overnight shift. I can finally catch up on my beauty sleep.” Dean paused, waiting for a reply, before sighing dramatically. “That was your cue to say ‘Dean, you don’t need beauty sleep, you fine hunk of man, you.’” He waited another beat before twisting in his seat to meet the Vampire’s amused (bemused?) stare. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Stating the obvious is beneath you.” He smiled, amused by his own chatter, and something in Angel’s expression changed subtly, moving further toward amused and Dean counted it as a win.
They’d struggled in the first few weeks after the Hellmouth- Dean hadn’t known how to handle him and Angel had been flipping between fierce rage and overwhelming protectiveness. They still didn’t know why Angel felt so protective of him, because it was limited to just Dean, and that was…odd and strange a half-dozen other things, really. Bobby said it might have been because the first time he’d seen Dean, the Hunter had been injured and in danger and that had appealed to everything good that lingered in the Vampire. His father had just shrugged and deferred, for once, to Bobby’s wisdom and Sam didn’t question it.
Faith explained it better, taking him aside one day after he’d snapped and shouted at Angel to leave him alone.
They’d been in Michigan and it had been snowing, but they’d sat together on the hood of the Impala, drinking crappy motel coffee.
“Do you remember when you found me? Do you remember what I was like?” Her voice was pitched low and she sounded embarrassed. Young. She didn’t talk about her pre-Winchester life often.
“I could never forget.” That was certainly true- there are some things that you can never forget.
“Before you… no-one had ever been nice to me before, ya know? No-one had ever looked at me and promised to look after me and not hurt me. No-one
.” Her voice remained steady, but he could hear the hurt in her all the same and he ached the same as he had then. “And now… now that I’m strong I am never, ever going to let anything hurt you if I can help it because I know what it’s like to not have you. Dad and Sam, too, but you were the first. And I didn’t know what it meant for things to be good and for people to be good and it had been so long since anyone had been kind…” She’d taken a mouthful of coffee and swallowed hard. Dean remembered following suit. “You have to treat him like you did me, Dean. He doesn’t know what it’s like to have someone look after him. He keeps expecting there to be pain and you can’t hurt him. Not now. Maybe not ever.”
If any of them understood what it meant to be tortured for years, it was Faith, and Dean had taken every word to heart. He’d already been Angel’s staunchest defender, but from that night onward, he’d accepted whatever the Vampire had to share- he’d tolerated constant touching; the over-protectiveness; the constant shadow on a hunt. Whatever Angel needed to do to heal, Dean was okay with it.
No chick-flick moments, obviously, but within reason.
He drove on, mostly in silence, and they made good time, blowing past Vegas and into California in a wave of heat and sand. Bobby had given them an approximate location- a square mile of real estate where the plan was to scout for Watchers and hope the Council could lead them to the girl. It was a vague idea at best, but Dean had Angel on his side and the Vampire had really good eyes and ears and knew the difference between a British accent and an American one.
Which is why, at about two am that night, Dean found himself woken from a light sleep to find Angel clambering back into the car. He’d been out, scouting, and Dean had blinked bleary eyes at him and asked what he’d found.
Angel had led the way, down the street and two blocks over. The Vampire had stopped him and pointed at the dark sedan parked across the road- in the streetlights, Dean could see the two men in the front seats, and he trusted that they were Council. Angel knew what they were Hunting.
Their car was idling at the pavement, smoke curling from the exhaust- ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Behind it rose white walls and chain-link fencing; barred windows and locked doors.
It was a mental institution.