Fic: Choosing Dreams
Title: Choosing Dreams
Characters: Faith, Angelus
Word count: ~2200
Warning: Character death
Summary: Angel made a different deal with Wolfram and Hart. Faith faces the consequences.
A/N: Written for the good__evil Artathon, for banner #34 by seductivembrace - thanks again for the inspiration!
They say a Slayer always senses danger. Not wrong there. Cuz danger's always out there. Sometimes it's hidden. Sometimes, like yesterday, it's pretty damn obvious. It's in a letter from an evil law firm. (And I mean really evil, not just the usual nastiness. Actual goat-sacrifice evil.)
Dear Ms Summers,
Due to recent unfortunate events at our Los Angeles branch we have been reevaluating our stores of mystical items. Please find enclosed an object which we believe is potentially of service to you in an imminent event of world significance. It is to be donned by a Champion with a soul and is likely to be a cleansing item, perhaps literally but more likely mystically. I am afraid we have no further information as to its provenance or use.
We also understand that a contract we have just concluded may cause you some inconvenience in the next few days. We would like to apologize in advance for any distress caused, but state clearly from the outset that no liability attaches to this firm as the result of personal contracts freely entered into by private citizens and at the behest of our now-terminated Special Projects department.
Some unreadable squiggle for a signature, and the title Associate Inventory Clerk – Wolfram & Hart. Along with the letter was a huge sparkly piece of tackiness. A necklace, I guess you'd say. But not the good stuff.
Buffy looked at me. I looked at her. A giant bi-Slayer 'huh?' hung in the air. Also, a giant shared 'uh-oh'. Because whatever was coming out of Evil Inc it wasn't gonna be candy and roses. They even told us so. But we had absolutely no fucking idea what it was.
"Champion, huh?" I'd never heard anyone but Angel use that word, not with the Capital Letter of Heroism. Seems I'd been living sheltered, which is pretty surprising when you think about it. "Slayers, Guardians, Champions, Watchers – it's getting like a damn tarot deck here. Who's gonna be Queen of Wands? My bet's on Amanda. She's tricksy."
"I have literally no clue what this means," said Buffy. Thanks, oh great returned leader. Really cleared things up. And I'd thought we were going to fight a world-ending battle any minute and needed every scrap of help we could muster. But… we'd been putting it off since Buffy ended Caleb the Evil Preacher's reign of religious mania and mass slaughter, hanging back through not knowing how to make that last battle a sure thing. Maybe asking the impossible. Still, those who survived my little mission to destruction were pretty much back on their feet now. We knew it was all going to have to end soon. Sunnydale was living its last days. So, pretty much, were the Slayerettes.
"Gonna get researchy on it? I'll patrol tonight." Even with a busted arm I could fight like hell, and I couldn't take another night over the books. I'm pretty sure in her long career, Faith the Vampire Slayer never located so much as a minor curse-breaking spell. But I'd been in there lately with the rest, showing willing, setting an example, boring myself shitless for no good outcome. Tonight, I needed freedom. Buffy waved me off like I wasn't a valued member of the research establishment (so very true) and I had the night to myself.
The last days of Sunnydale were looking crappier every time I left the house. Blackout, boarded windows, bits of household goods strewn on the roads where they'd fallen off of fleeing station wagons. A town on the scrapheap. Even the demons were leaving – like the rats, they know when something's sinking. Besides, not much left to feed on barring our girls, and they weren't the Twinkies they had been.
I wandered without thinking, sensing out trouble. Popped a couple of little fuzzies feeding off what was probably an ex-pet. Did not stop to check it out. Grossness.
Some things never change – I ended up at the Bronze, which was half full. Probably 90% of all the humans left in Sunnydale were in here. And so was a vampire. The old fighting juices went to full strength as I caught his presence. Walked, no strutted purposefully toward the back door, hoping to catch his interest and lure him into the old killing ground of the alley.
Yep, followed me right out. Hooray for nostalgia slaughter – first and last Sunnydale vamps slayed on the same spot. Maybe.
"Hello Faithy." Maybe not.
The voice was his. The bad him. Weird how losing your soul changes your accent, dontcha think? Yeah Faith, that's the important thought right now. I spun to face him, keeping the balance just right, ready for his next step, that potentially killing slash or swipe.
But Angelus timed his moves real carefully. He's more about the words, right? When he's in the mood, of course. Kept his distance, so I couldn't jump him and just… talked.
"Missed you, Slayer Two. Thought we bonded so nicely in LA, in my deep dark dreams. Why'd you have to go away?"
"Thought you were back in the cage, Mr No-Soul. Didn't stick around to watch you in jail."
"That's thoughtful, I appreciate it. Wasn't long to wait, though. Tiny little apocalypse and a family crisis and Angel's just begging to let go of his damned sticky soul again."
"That's not true. He wouldn't do this by choice."
"He did it a coupla months ago, you know that. For "the sake of the world", for all the good it did. And this time, he had a bigger reason. To save his son."
We were circling warily, but he wasn't going for me with intent. And I wasn't about to kill Angel, not till I knew what in hell had happened to him this time.
"What's Connor got to do with it?"
"Oh, everything. Angel's all about the Connor. His precious son. Messed up little freak that he is. Tried to blow up a hardware store full of people a coupla days ago. Angel found a way to stop it."
"By having a quickie moment of perfect happiness and losing his soul? Doesn't sound real likely. You're not telling me something." I was so pissed I almost turned my back on him. Stupid. He must have some plan brewing, cuz if not he'd have struck by now, but still – never trust a vamp.
"Aw, Faith, be nice. I'm not holding back. Just giving you the truth you can handle. And nope, no happiness involved. He did a deal with good ol'Wolfram & Hart: a new life for Connor in exchange for his soul."
"No way! Angel would die sooner than give up his soul for good." Although… there was the "recent contract" W&H mentioned in their letter. "Some inconvenience" to Sunnydale looked about right. He might actually be telling the truth. Damn. This wasn't going to go well.
Angelus was still narrating. Definitely in the mood to make his point, not get to the slaughter. Maybe he'd had a big lunch. "Yep. That was the plan exactly. Lose the soul, then immediately get terminated by the grieving acolytes. Selfless to the end. But Wolfram & Hart don't make contracts with loopholes. They wanted me walking the Earth for their own purposes. Angel didn't read the small print. Now all his little buddies have forgotten he ever lived – no execution squad, and I'm all free again."
"Till we put your soul back." No room for doubts in my voice. Not so much in the brain.
"Not gonna happen. I'm tired of this crappy existence. Siamese twin living, in and out of prison, cat and mouse, I won't stand for it. Got to break that curse for good and all."
"No, that's what's not gonna happen." Be strong. Be sure. Keep thinking. You've beaten him before.
"Oh yeah. I figured it out, after our last little mystical encounter. I need to go back there, fight that fight again, get back what I lost. I need to beat him so hard he's never coming back. So I need Orpheus. And that means I need a vessel. Who knows the ropes better than you, Faithy? Slayer's something special, Slayer blood's got extra powers. Who knows? Maybe some ordinary gal off the street, or on the streets, maybe she just won't be the same. And I can't take that risk. I need this to work. I need to be free. So you're gonna shoot up and I'll drink you into our special dreamworld hell."
"And I'll do it because?" Couldn't wait to hear that one.
"Because you're wounded and you wouldn't win a fight tonight. And if you don't do it I'll break your other arm and then take you into the Bronze to watch me eat the rest of Sunnydale. If you ask very nicely, I'll kill you slowly at the end of it." He held out a vial and syringe to me, flat palm, not about to grab me that I could see. He was serious. This was his big plan, why he'd come to Sunny D, home of the Slayer tribe. To get high and kill his other self in a hallucination.
How that vampire lasted more'n two centuries I do not know.
Now, I could say I went along with it to save the Bronze and because of my busted arm and to carry out my special secret cunning plan I'd been making while he yakked on and on, and all of that's true and you'll see how it worked in a sec. But the thing they don't often say about Orpheus is how damn good it makes you feel. Right up until you die. But I didn't die. And I remembered. And there, in that dying town with my last battle coming up, I wanted it again. So I took it. Held out my hand, took the syringe, found a vein and went to dreamland.
The hit is just… like nothing you ever felt. Like flying and floating and coming and giving birth all rolled together and you scream and laugh and pass out except it's all just in your incredible mind. Some vamp setting his teeth to your jugular doesn't compare, though I guess he must have done it, cuz then it was him and me, in that old alley of the mind where he fought his other self just a few weeks ago.
Angelus had his back to me. Dumbass. He was looking for Angel, looking for the fight to set him free. He hadn't guessed what I already knew. Sometimes a Slayer just knows. Angel was gone. There was no soul to return. Like the vampire said, Wolfram & Hart don't make contracts with loopholes. Which made what I had to do a hell of a lot simpler. It's what Angel wanted, after all.
Thing about vampires is, they don't have Slayer dreams. I've been dreaming mystic since I turned ten, and I've learned a lot. I know that sometimes in dreams, all you need is to want it bad enough. Cuz dreams do come true, at least when you're dreaming.
I dreamed my knife. You know the one. My special gift, that was turned against me. Stuck in my gut. Luring my not-Dad to his death. My symbol of power, mine to reclaim. I dreamed of how it felt, that handle in my palm, the sound of that blade slicing through flesh. And my dream came true.
It's hard to kill a vampire with a knife. Unless you're a powerfully good dreamer, and they think you're injured and irrelevant and a spectator. Then you make'em turn towards you, stick it in the chest, give it a good twist, and they die just like regular folks. Angelus, disbelieving, looked down at the blade in his heart. He really didn't have much luck with women and sharp objects. I waited till I knew he was gone, then blinked hard, clicked my heels and shazam: bye bye Dreamworld. Back to the Bronze.
Yes, I was still in an alley. My life's just full of glamorous locations. This alley was a little different though. Just in front of me there was a small heap of vamp dust.
I didn't tell Buffy. Sadism's not my line these days. Walked into Revello like a Champion, cuz I'd worked out what that is. It's someone who does the right thing, no matter how much it hurts. I picked up the amulet (they were calling Big Sparkly that now. Think it had more dignity).
"So, this'll help us save the world? Sounds like it's time we tried."
And I wore that shiny sucker, into the battle, down in the Hellmouth, in among the scared little girls as they joined Buff and me in the Slayer line. Saw all that power surge through them and felt it answered in me. Saw the battle won, and took cleanup duty. It was probably my turn – I've never been one for rosters.
I burned up from the inside, brought the place down on me, closed the Hellmouth, saved the world. Just like a Champion should.
So that's how I'm here. I'm a Champion – passed the test and got the prize. Don't know where I am exactly. Didn't expect there to be anything After. But there's a place for Champions, turns out. Cuz Angel's here too.