I do not own the Stargate or Buffy franchises, or Cabaret. Everybody loves a winner
So nobody loved me
'Lady Peaceful,' 'Lady Happy,'
That's what I long to be
All the odds are in my favor
Something's bound to begin
It's got to happen, happen sometime
Maybe this time I'll win
~"Maybe This Time" from Cabaret
Faith and the girls had been gone for four days when Angel burst into the Trust’s hidden laboratory. Four days of searching and waiting and worrying, four days of experiments and testing and fuck knows what, and when Angel burst into that lab he was afraid even to imagine
what he might find, because Faith was strong but not invincible, and the mini-slayers were so, so young. And Angel, more than anyone, knew there were things worse than death, and what this Trust would do—what the Trust would make them
do—would be on that list.
He burst into the room anticipating disaster, and he was right.
The room was painted with blood. Blood, blood everywhere, so much he could not have kept his human guise if he tried, and bits of skin and bone that might have been human, once. Carnage so great that Angelus approved, rattling in his cage and singing in Angel’s bones and he needed to kill but there was no one left
One heart beat in the room, one life remained, and it was not one he would ever be able to take.
Camouflaged in blood and gore, Faith stood in the center of the room, clutching a silver object that looked a bit like a metal football, except that it glowed, practically radiating death.
But death and Angel were old friends, and he approached her easily. “Faith,” he said, trying to meet her eyes, but she was in another place, another dimension, another world. He put a hand on her arm, and her skin burned like sunlight. He hissed a breath, but didn’t let go. “Faith,” he said louder, giving her a good shake, and she blinked out of her trance.
She met his gaze, and the Slayer looked out of her eyes. “She saved me,” she whispered, sounding like the little girl she never was, and he was not sure to whom he was talking.
“Who saved you?” Angel asked gently, still holding her arm as if she might otherwise disappear.
Faith’s smile was incandescent, and there was blood, like lipstick, on her teeth. “Atlantis,” she breathed. “Can you hear her? She’s calling me home.”
Faith was never big with the Slayer dreams, but after they left the Trust’s hideout, she and Angel each carrying the corpse of a baby Slayer, it was like a fucking multiplex had opened on the inside of her eyelids, and only one flick was showing. And maybe she should’ve complained, because everybody knew that Slayer dreams meant a big bad was on the horizon, but they started so nicely she thought a little apocalypse might be worth it for this feeling of belonging.
Atlantis was calling her, the city’s name whispering through her mind like a leaf in the breeze. She dreamed of blue skies and sweeping spires, doors that open and rooms that light for her
, a bustling consciousness thrumming in the walls that speaks of home in a language she doesn’t know. She dreamed of a pilot with flyaway hair and a sad smirk, and a scientist with bright blue eyes and a crooked smile. She dreamed of a woman who carried parts of the enemy within her, so much like a Slayer, and a man who became a hunter of those who made him prey. She dreamed of a doctor with a gentle voice, and the woman who led them all. She dreamed of Atlantis and her people, and she knew them.
She dreamed of devastation, self-destructs and hostile takeovers, death on a scale she’d never really contemplated, and when she woke she worked on getting stronger, getting ready.
The silver football sat on her dresser, and no one else, not even Buffy, could make it light. “How does it feel?” Willow asked, somewhere between wariness and envy, and Faith shrugged. It felt like part of her, like she was meant to use it.
It felt like the Scythe, except it called to her
, not the Slayer.
But Faith didn’t have the words to say any of that. Instead, she said, “When the military comes for this, I’m going with them.”
The others wanted to argue, but Buffy took one look at her, Slayer to Slayer, nodded, and that was it.
“Why am I here?”
Daniel grit his teeth in frustration, and tried to remember why he missed this man when he was in Washington. “Since you haven’t listened the last nine times I answered that question, or the six times General Landry answered that question… I’m not talking to you anymore.” He wondered if that sounded as petulant as he thought; judging by O’Neill’s smirk, it did.
“I listened,” Jack protested, all wounded innocence that didn’t fool Daniel for a second. “I get why you’re here.” He flapped a hand in Daniel’s direction. “And after the way you started salivating when talking about Sanjaya—“
“I get why Landry wanted someone else here to make sure you remember to come home.” With the ease of long practice, Jack ignored Daniel’s glare and continued. “What I don’t get is, why am I
here? Wouldn’t this be a better job for Carter? Or Mitchell? Or Teal’c?” He got that distant look that meant he was actually hearing what he had just said. “Okay, probably not Teal’c. But still—“
“I’m getting out now,” Daniel announced, and climbed out of the car. Hiding a smirk, he started for the entrance, judging Jack’s progress by sounds: the dampened wisecrack he made before realizing Daniel could not hear him, the door opening and closing, and finally the footsteps that quickly overtake him. Weirdly, Jack was silent, walking slow and easy beside Daniel in the way that meant he was expecting danger at the next turn, and something twisted in Daniel’s chest as he recognized the difference between Jack being Jack
and Jack being genuinely uneasy.
Just before ringing the doorbell, Daniel paused. “Why are you here? You’re the one who wanted to be General,” he muttered. “Now play nice with the adolescent super-heroes, would you please?”
Before Jack could respond, the door opened. Daniel turned his best smile on the brunette in the doorway. “Hello, I’m Dr. Daniel Jackson, and this is General Jack O’Neill. Is Faith available?”
Faith blinked at the two men on the doorstep, and thought about what to do next. Even without the dreams, she wouldn’t have been surprised when the military came. Get kidnapped by the bad guys and steal their metal football of doom and yeah, somebody’s going to come knocking.
Although, without the dreams she would’ve expected some men in black. Not that she was complaining—what girl didn’t like a man in uniform?
Decision made, she backed away from the entrance. “If you know how to find me, you probably know why I won’t invite you in.”
The younger (and sadly, non-uniformed) man—Jackson—smiled at her as he entered. “Yes, we have received a bit of an introduction on your calling.” Something in his eyes reminded her of a younger version of Giles—earnest eagerness in the pursuit of knowledge. “I’m hoping you might be willing to answer a few questions about your origin myth and—“
The heavy thud of O’Neill closing the door ended Jackson’s rambling. The general was also smiling, but there was something hard and suspicious in his eyes. “We’re both hoping you’ll answer some questions,” O’Neill said evenly.
Something about his gaze made Faith straighten out of her slouch. She stared back for a moment before deliberately turning away, heading for the downstairs sitting area and knowing they would follow.
Once both men were seated, Faith threw herself sideways in an armchair, one leg dangling over the side, and raised an eyebrow at them. “You’re lucky,” she observed, “that I’m the only one here right now.” Her eyes narrowed. “Or is that not luck? You been watching us?”
“No, no,” Jackson said hastily, holding up his hands in a pacifying gesture. “I’m a bit disappointed, actually. I was hoping to meet Willow Rosenberg.”
Faith smirked. “Sorry, doc—she doesn’t swing that way anymore.” She was a bit surprised to catch a smirk on the general’s face at Jackson’s discomfiture. “They’ll be back soon,” she lied, “so let’s get this party started.”
Jackson paused, glancing at O’Neill. “Well, we know what happened, for the most part, from the security footage.”
Despite herself, Faith blanched. “You mean, there were cameras? You got it all on tape?” She shot to her feet, ready to run. “I wasn’t—there wasn’t anything else I could do, okay? They shot me up with something, took my strength, and they tied me up while they took Lis and Ana and they, they—“ took them apart
, looking for a magic Slayer part somewhere between the hip and the clavicle, leaving her girls to lay in pieces, staring with empty eyes, and there had been no choice, she had no chance to save them but when they handed her that football she knew how to save herself and—
“Hey.” Jackson’s voice broke into her spiraling thoughts, and Faith’s head snapped up to stare at him. He was standing too, suddenly, and moving closer with slow, nonthreatening movements, one hand extended. “Hey, we know. You did what you had to do to come home. We know.” He cautiously took her hand, and she surprised herself by gripping it tightly.
“Not going to tell me it’s all going to be okay? Isn’t that what comes next?” Faith asked bitterly.
“Of course it’s not okay,” Jackson replied, as matter of fact as if they were discussing the weather. “You know that. But you will be okay, eventually.”
Faith wanted to argue, but couldn’t find the words. She glanced at his friend, General O’Neill, who was still seated and watching the pair of them with something close to compassion. “It tells me about Atlantis. The football.” Beyond a sharply drawn breath, O’Neill did not react.
“Can we see it?” Jackson asked quietly.
She studied him, then nodded. “Yeah, okay.” Moving quickly, before she changed her mind, she hurried into her room and back. She hesitated for only a moment before offering it to him.
Jackson accepted the football with gentle hands, carefully studying it from every angle. “Jack,” he murmured, and O’Neill approached and took it away… and it began to glow.
Faith started. “Nobody but me has been able to do that,” she said, her voice unsteady. “Not even the bastards that had it before.”
O’Neill gave her a ghost of a smile, but it was Jackson who replied. “It’s in your blood,” he started, cut off by her dry laughter.
“Yeah. Where else would it be?”
He blushed, and she pushed her advantage. “I’m going to Atlantis,” she said, aiming her words at O’Neill. Eyes narrowed, he gave her a long look.
“So the President tells me.”
“The President?” Faith echoed, skeptical. “The one in the big white house? That President?”
O’Neill nodded. “That’s the one. He tells me he’s been trying to get us a Slayer for a while.”
“Yeah, some of us have a thing about the military.” Faith gave him a half-hearted onceover. “Don’t know why, when the package is so pretty.”
Jackson made an odd sort of choking noise, but O’Neill just rolled his eyes. “I can’t help but notice that you’re not very surprised by any of this,” he commented, obviously changing the subject. “I was told you hadn’t been briefed on the Stargate program yet.”
“The Star-what? Ain’t no briefs but the ones you’re wearing,” Faith said, smirking. She tapped the side of her head. “Slayers have dreams, sometimes. They don’t tell me everything, just enough to get started. And these dreams are telling me to haul ass to Atlantis.”
“Dreams, you say?” Jackson asked, fascinated. “Can you tell me—“
“Later, Daniel,” O’Neill commanded, and Jackson obediently quieted, although he gave O’Neill a look of protest that the general easily ignored. “Alright!” he said, clapping his hands together. “You ready to come with us?”
Faith hesitated, her past pulling at her, before she leaped into the future. “Hell yeah. Even already packed.”