Work Header

Stringing the Labyrinth (A Watcher's Remix)

Work Text:

The Slayer--her Slayer now, Mildred supposes, even if she never supposed she would be granted a charge in such an orthodox manner as all this--comes out of her trance.

Faith looks disoriented for a moment, then shivers, and suddenly her eyes have lost their glazed-over quality even as they continue to stare at the wall.

“Did you find your answer?” Mildred asks, and for several seconds Faith doesn't answer.

“Yeah," the girl rasps, then, a second later, "Oh, yeah. Hell, yeah."

Mildred waits, infinitely patient, wondering if Faith will elaborate, but all the girl says is, “Next time I ask a question, just punch me in the mouth. It’ll be easier.” Mildred has to keep hersef from laughing in commiseration. Some lessons need to be learned the hard way, but--well, they call it the "hard way" for a reason, don't they. Mildred is still intensely curious what lessons Faith might have learned from this particular "hard way," but knows better than to push.

Faith pulls herself up into a half-lotus positions, pivots, then looks at Mildred with a steady, discomforting concentration. Her Watcher's instincts are glad that her Slayer is paying attention to her. Her survival instincts, on the other hand, are wishing the homicidal girl with supernatural strength were directing her concentration anywhere else. With a practiced force of will, she focuses on the first set of instincts and forces herself to ignore the second set. It's not easy by any means, but her self-mastery is sufficient to the task. If it were not, she'd be no help to Faith at all, after all.

"Yes, well—” Mildred says, then breaks off, even as she watches her charge. So soon out of the trance, Faith is as vulnerable as the Watcher has ever seen her, and a manifold of conflicted emotions play across the girl's face.

Mildred just waits, watching. “Is it messed up that I think that becoming a worm, no matter how big and scary is less ‘ascension’ more ‘regression’?”

Mildred smiles. “Yes, good point," she agrees, then continues, carefully choosing her words, "Your friend was playing by a different set of standards, Faith. We’re very grateful that he did not succeed." Faith's expression doesn't change, and Mildred can't resist adding, "However, you should note that Bezael was actually more of a serpent. We had to make do.” She knows Faith isn't really listening, but she continues the demonological explication anyway as she collects up the candles and other spell components. She wouldn't be a Watcher if she didn't, and Faith expects it--especially considering who her previous Watchers had been.

Faith allows her to go on for about a minute before interjecting, “Can I go now?”

Mildred sends one more investigatory glance in Faith's direction, but she's not certain what it is she's looking for, exactly. “Certainly,” she answers. “I suppose you’re fairly knackered.” She opens the door, then watches as Faith exits through it and is led away by the guard.

"Well?" asks Roger Wyndam-Pryce.

"Yes?" Mildred responds, instantly defensive.

Quentin Travers sighs. "How is the girl, Mildred?" he asks, gently.

"Broken," she answers simply. "The fact that she has decided to face the consequences of her previous actions speaks well to her ability to put herself back together again. But in the end, whether she does or not is going to depend on her."

Travers nods, but Wyndam-Pryce doesn't seem satisfied. "For the moment, we are in the fortunate position of having another active Slayer on hand to discharge her duties. However, as we all know, the nature of those duties are such that that position may change at any time."

Mildred crosses her arms. "You mean the Summers girl might die," she translates, unwilling to hide behind euphemisms.

"Of course," Wyndam-Pryce answers, as if confused by her need to state it outright. "Was I unclear?" Before she can answer, he continues, "When that inevitable state of affairs occurs, we need to know whether Faith will be able to return to her calling. If that is not a viable option, then other measures will need to be taken."

Mildred feels her previous frustration at Wyndam-Pryce transform into a seething rage as her features tighten. Faith's only been her charge for a couple of weeks so far, but apparently she's already grown protective of her Slayer. Wyndam-Pryce seems oblivious to her anger, but Travers raises a placating hand. "Let us hope it is several years before we need to have that conversation," he says. "Given Miss Summers' proven resourcefulness, that may not be an all-together implausible contingency, even given the unorthodox nature of her some of her methods and training."

Wyndam-Pryce looks like he wants to disagree with Travers' analysis of Summers' ability, but miraculously, holds his tongue.

"You will keep us apprised of Faith's progress?" Travers asks Mildred.

She nods. "Of course, sir."

Travers nods back, then turns. "Come, Roger," he says. "I suspect we will be of much more use now back in England, not joggling Mildred's elbow as she works with her Slayer."

Roger looks at her with cold, compassionateless eyes, then turns and follows the other Watcher.

When the two men have left, Mildred leans back against the wall and lets loose a long, slow sigh. Oh, Faith, she thinks, then stands up straight and continues down the hallway.

She cannot, will not, fail her Slayer, she vows. She won't.

She doesn't.

"She's escaped," the guard tells her, breathless. "Her lawyer visited, and she just broke through the glass, and then--"

Mildred only half-listens to the guard's description of the technical elements of Faith's escape. Mildred has always known, as had Faith herself, that it was not steel nor stone which were Faith's true prison. Those she could have escaped at any time in the last few years. If there was anything which truly held Faith prisoner, it was her own fear of herself, her own self-doubt.

Mildred thinks of the weeks without sun, of murdered potentials, of the way the Council itself has fallen at the hands of the minions of the First Evil.

It's about bloody time, Faith, she thinks to herself, but she doesn't allow herself to smile until she is in private.

Godspeed, my Slayer.