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Chapter Five: Faith
Fan Fiction: Never Look Back
Chapter Five: All Fall Down
SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 1:19 PM (GMT)
She knew that voice-- knew it pretty well, actually, though it usually rang a lot louder in her ears. B's little sis had been through a lot for her age, but fifteen was still fifteen and the girl could squeal and shriek with the best of them. Quiet and serious from Little D meant something was very, very wrong, and the elder Slayer felt a pang of alarm as she turned to get a better look at her.
The first thing she noticed was Dawn's face-- thin and paler than she'd seen it last, framed by that shiny mane of brown hair. She was wearing a long black duster that looked suspiciously like Spike's over a sparkly blue top out of Buffy's wardrobe and a pair of snug black jeans. There were two stakes tucked in a loop at her belt, a sword naked in her hand, and a crossbow slung across her back; she was poised in a ready stance, and there was no innocence left in her steady blue gaze. She looked scarily like Buffy standing there, despite her different coloring, and Faith knew instinctively that she was the Dawn that could be, not the Dawn that was.
And that meant Faith was Dreaming. Shit.
"Hey, D," she said warily, unsure how she was supposed to respond. "So, uh, what's going on?"
Dawn didn't answer immediately, just watching her with wary eyes, and Faith took the opportunity to glance around a little. The scenery wasn't very inviting; in fact, there mostly wasn't any. The glossy black surface that they stood on had no edges or interruptions that Faith could see, and the night sky arched above them like a starry bowl turned upside down. It reminded her a little of the Great Plains at night, actually. She'd crossed that vast sea of open earth at some point on her trek from Boston to Sunnydale and found it too exposed, too vast for her to really appreciate. It made her feel tiny and insignificant, and she'd never liked that feeling.
Besides which, the last time she'd talked with someone in a Dream she'd been in a coma, trying to tell Buffy how to stop Mayor Wilkins. What a fucked up trip that had been, too. Every time she opened her mouth, riddles came out; then, after B exited the Dream and went back to the real world, Faith had dreamt of nothing but B trying to kill her over and over again for the next eight months. Yeah, Faith got that her subconscious mind was punishing her for betraying the man who had treated her like a daughter; her therapist in prison had been kinda fond of repeating the obvious. Still. Not a pleasant precedent. It kind of colored her expectations, now.
Fucking PTB. She would have got the message just as easy if they'd set the Dream in the Hyperion, or their apartment. Used a face that wasn't in the Hellmouth prophecy. Even just showed her what she needed to see, like an ordinary Dream-vision, without taunting her with a creepy-ass conversation first. Linda, her first Watcher, had always said Slayer Dreams were a neutral thing; they were meant to share information and warnings, not to punish or manipulate or whatever. Yeah, right. Wes would be getting an earful about it when she woke up.
The Dawn-figure finally came to some conclusion. She nodded at Faith, and her intense gaze softened a little as she spoke. "Little Miss Muffet, curds and whey... It sat down beside her, and yet she stayed."
The words didn't make much sense, but they sounded familiar, and the old scar on her stomach twinged unexpectedly when she racked her memory for details. Coming on the heels of her earlier thoughts on Slayer Dreams, it raised her hackles something fierce. She frowned at the younger girl and shrugged her shoulders a little, then indulged herself in sarcasm.
"Sorry, D. I don't do this cryptic shit. Can you be a little more specific?"
Once again, Dawn didn't answer, not directly. Instead, she gestured at herself with her free hand, slowly repeating a line from the damned prophecy. "Then shall the Chosen make their choices," she said, as if that would explain everything. Then she looked away from Faith off into the vastness at her right, and pointed that way with the sword she held.
Faith followed the other girl's gaze, and flinched at what she saw. A stone crypt had suddenly appeared in the middle of nowhere, its grey bulk improbably welcome in that forbidding place. The scene taking place against it was less so. Buffy slumped there, pinned up against the near wall by a vampire with bleached hair; her eyes were wide and frightened, and her lips kept shaping the word 'no' as she pushed at the leather-clad shoulders above her. It wasn't any use. The vampire lunged for her, biting deep into her throat, and the light slowly faded from her eyes.
"Fuck!" Faith strained to move, to run over and stop it from happening, but her muscles refused to obey. She couldn't even turn her head to glare at Dawn, or to look away-- but even as the thought formed in her mind, the scene before her shifted and changed.
It was replaced by an equally disturbing vision of Wesley, chained hand and foot to a nondescript wall. Solid, no windows; it could have been any room, anywhere. But it wasn't. She knew before the image of Travers formed in the flickering shadows next to him that it had to be Council property.
'Should they ever find out what I've become...' Wes had said one night, when they'd compared their darkest fears. He'd never finished that sentence in her hearing, and remembering what the Council was capable of where she was concerned, she hadn't asked him to. 'I know,' she'd told him, and they'd left it at that. Maybe they shouldn't have. They could have planned, or ran, or something. Anything but what she was seeing.
The Travers-figure sneered something at the bound Wes, who glared back, eyes sparking with anger. Faith saw the flash of gold in their depths, and the way his muscles strained against the metal links; they had to've drugged him, or the chains would never have held against his new strength. There was a reason the prophets called him the Destroyer, after all. Did Travers know that? She shuddered, watching them, and kept straining to move... but she was still frozen, helpless to intervene when Travers suddenly pulled a stake from his pocket and drove it into Wes with all his might.
He didn't dust. But he bled. And his eyes, like Buffy's, slowly dimmed and then went flat.
"NO!" she screamed, at the top of her lungs. It wasn't the only thing she'd screamed, either; her throat was raw and her ears were ringing, but she couldn't remember one thing she'd said since the first strangled "Fuck" had left her lips. The two people who'd just died before her eyes knew her better than anyone else on the planet, except for Angel; sister Slayer, Watcher turned lover. The last month had seen bridges rebuilt, friendship reknitted, and lust kindling into something more. She would not believe it would all end that way, in violence and blood. Not so soon.
The wall faded from view, and the chains, with their prisoner. And Travers. Faith went silent again as they vanished, and felt angry tears pooling in her eyes. She wouldn't let them fall, though, not in front of some face-stealing avatar of the fucking Powers that Be. During the pause between that scene and the next one that had to be coming, she took a few deep breaths to calm herself.
The blackness lifted to reveal Faith herself, sprawled atop the coverlet of a massive four-poster bed. She was wearing black leather pants, high-heeled boots, a necklace Wes had given her, and a clinging maroon top; normal Slayage-wear. A perfect copy of the clothes she was actually wearing, as a matter of fact. Faith glanced down at herself in dismay, then up at the matching figure on the bed, and realized with a dizzying sense of shock that that was her, at that very moment, and that behind those dark lashes the Dream she watched from was playing out.
I was captured, she remembered suddenly. Lilah had set a trap with herself as bait, and Faith had sprung the fucking thing. Sold her to the Council, drugged to the gills, put her life in the hands of...
Sure enough, there he was, sitting in a heavy, ornate chair that materialized next to the bed. She'd recognize him anywhere; he was one Watcher she'd give her eyeteeth to have at knifepoint. Wes' dad. Or, at least, the man he'd called Father for too many years. He cradled a finely crafted pewter goblet in his hands, and he watched the sleeping Faith with a frightening intensity. Waiting for her to wake?
This was so far from five-by-five, it wasn't even funny.
Dawn chose that moment to interrupt her train of thought, walking into Faith's line of sight with a determined air. She extended her sword again, pointing directly at the goblet Mr. Wyndam-Pryce held, and made one last announcement.
"Ashes, ashes, we all fall down," she said, with a stern frown. "You must choose... wisely."
Instantly, Faith's mind flashed to an aged knight, standing watch over the Holy Grail, and Harrison Ford's character urgently searching through shelves full of cups. She didn't think that was what the Dawn-being meant, but even so, it was a disturbing comparison. In the movie, Indy'd at least had his dad's diary to help him with the choices he had to make; Faith had nothing.
"How am I supposed to choose?" she demanded. "How am I supposed to even know what choice you're talking about?"
Dawn shook her head and gestured at the goblet a second time, then gave her a sad smile. The scene faded away as the others had before it, taking Dawn with it that time. Faith was left with only the endless starscape for scenery, and even that started to fade after a few seconds.
"It has begun," a quiet voice whispered. And Faith woke up.
Faith stifled the urge to groan, suddenly aware of a throbbing pain in her temples and a heaviness in her limbs. She sucked in a slow breath, then flinched as the movement awakened all the bruises from her first awakening in Council company. After so many centuries of Cruciamentums, they ought to have known that even a drugged Slayer was never helpless, but she'd done a surprising amount of damage before they'd found a needle and put her back down.
A faint squeak of chair legs and the brush of fabric over skin alerted her that she wasn't alone, and the last vision from her Dream came rushing back. Bed, Watcher, goblet-- a choice. From what she could sense with her eyes shut, it had been pretty accurate. Unfortunately.
So, did that mean the other visions had come true? Doubt and fear snagged momentarily at her gut, sending chills through her, but she pushed them away as quickly as she could. She had to believe everyone else was still OK, at least until her part in things was over; she couldn't afford to get caught in that emotional undertow. Besides, why would the PTB put the visions and the whole 'choice' thing in the same Dream if they weren't connected to each other? Choose wisely, and they live; choose poorly, and... "ashes, ashes," Dawn had said.
Hmmm. Maybe the Indiana Jones thing wasn't such a bad analogy after all. Xander would get a kick out of that, if-- when!-- she saw him again.
Well; time for the villain to speak. She didn't have the patience to wait him out, so it looked like it was her move. Slowly, she blinked her eyes open, and focused on the figure beside the bed.
"Hello, Faith." The man spoke quietly, his voice low and infected with malice. His fingers tightened on the stem of the pewter goblet, and his lip twitched in a sneer.
Whatever else was going on with him, it was obvious he hated her quite thoroughly. The similarity to the Dawn-thing's words wasn't lost on her, either. She let her lips curve in an ironic smile as she answered him.
"Hey, Rich. Got your grubby hands on me at last, huh? You know, kidnapping your son's lover probably isn't the best way to patch things up."
"Kidnapping? No," he said, and made an ominous noise that might in some other universe be called a chuckle. "Iím merely offering you a choice. Kidnapping involves a lack of consent, and your fate is entirely up to you."
A choice? Already? What the fuck? Talk about your last minute warnings.
Faith narrowed her eyes at him, and let her glance stray to the cup in his hands. "You think Iíd consent to anything you could tempt me with? Even you arenít that stupid, Rich."
Surely that couldnít be the choice the PTB were referring to. They were never that obvious. Never. So what the hell was going on?
"Did I say anything about temptation?" He rose smoothly out of the chair, the better to dominate the room with his presence, and took a step toward the bed. "For such a simple choice, that's hardly necessary."
From her new perspective, Faith thought, he really did look intimidating, even in tweed. Something about the conviction in his voice, and the glint of enjoyment in his eyes.... He was getting off on it, and there wasn't much she could do about it until her strength came back. He was too smart to get caught the way the others had, and there was something about the way he held that goblet....
"So what's behind Door #1?" she asked, defiantly.
He raised an eyebrow at the sarcastic tone of her voice, but held his ground. "You live. Under my control, as the good little Slayer you should always have been."
Flashes of early Wesley danced in her thoughts, and he'd only been parodying the source. Wyndam-Pryce senior, as her Watcher? That would happen when Hell froze over. She'd sooner....
Oh. Of course. "And Door #2?"
He gestured with the goblet. "You drink from this cup, and we'll have a new Slayer under our control. Young, sheltered, impressionable... They're so eager to please at that age."
The words were calculated to provoke, and he oozed smugness like rank oil. Anger burned bright in her thoughts-- fuck that, she'd take Door #1 and break free as soon as she could!-- then fizzled and left her feeling remarkably hollow. If Door #1 were the answer, then why the fuck send her that Dream? Because that's what she would have chosen, anyway. Was there something else? What was she supposed to do?
Just what were the Powers asking of her?
She cleared her throat and diverted the subject. "You're so sure the next Slayer would be yours? What if she's another one like me or Buffy?"
He chuckled again. "And what do you imagine we've been doing while you were behind bars? We devised a more certain method of locating Potential Slayers, and gathered them all within our walls. Forty-seven young women, all of whom now know better than to defy us."
She stared at him, aghast. Forty-seven? Shit. Her throat tightened, and her next question came out a lot weaker than intended. "And Door #3?"
"There isn't one," he announced. "Don't worry; I'm not going to pressure you for a decision. I'll come back in a few hours, and then... well, we'll see, now won't we?" He flashed his teeth in a predatory grin, then set the goblet on an elegantly carved table next to the bed.
"Fuck you," she hissed, thoughts racing as she tried to come up with an alternative.
"No, thank you," he answered, and strode unhurriedly out of the room. "I have a bit more taste than my son."
The door closed behind him, and she heard a key turning in the lock. The sound it made was remarkably like the sound the goblet had made when he set it on the table; ominous and final.
"We all fall down," she whispered, staring at the demonic figures molded in the goblet's outer surface. Fuck. It looked like she had a decision to make.
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