Disclaimer: Swear words! Mwa ha ha ha ha! (oh, and I don't own any characters yadda yadda yadda) (oh, except for Terese Augustine)
Author's Notes: Um, I'll be gone for a few days, so this is my parting blow. Mediancat, there is a special note for you. *g*
My back slammed into the flatbed of the track with stunning force. Though compared to the agony ripping through my abdomen, it was a walk in the park.
I looked back at the roof, and I couldn't help but be mildly impressed. Good old Slayer physiology. A fall from that height would have left anyone else no more than silly putty on the ground. I caught just the faintest glimpse of blond hair. That would be Buffy, I guess.
I'm going to die.
There's too much blood. And I'm feeling fuzzy..... But I did it all. I chose my path, and Angel is going to die. And Buffy is going to watch.
Or knowing her....she'll probably go to him like a lamb to the slaughter... Maybe two Slayers will meet their Maker tonight....
Funny that I should be thinking like that. The only thing I'm going to meet is the Hell that my Catholic teachers loved talking about so much.
I can't see.
Nothing at all. It's all black, and it's like I'm being pulled under. I don't want to go! This isn't fair!
What was that that Sister Anne always said? Something about letting God be my eyes. Sorry, Sister, I really wasn't keen on doing whatever He had planned for me. All that would take me to would be an early grave. Some plot somewhere where all the Watchers could come and make little tsking noises, writing down in their little books that I didn't last as long as the wonderful Buffy Summers.
Second Slayer. That's what they all called me. But I showed them.... If it comes to serving in Heaven, or ruling in Hell, than just let me throw some sunscreen in a bag.
I'm not going! This isn't supposed to happen! I'll show them! I'll get through this, and I'll watch while the Mayor destroys them all! Let's see Buffy just try and stop him. He's going to kill her, kill them all....
It just hurts so much..........and there's so much blood....
When I opened my eyes, I was standing in the park.
The park was where I used to play, when I was small. In summer, I would swim in the fountains with my friends until the policemen came by to chase us away. We played tag until we were exhausted, then we would throw grass at each other, and then we would just lie back and watch the clouds.
I was standing next to my favorite statue, the one of the girl who warned the revolutionaries that the British were coming. Paul Revere's lesser known counterpart. The irony of not remembering her name wasn't quite lost on me. The bright sunshine warmed me, flowing over and embracing me.
Bemused, I gently touched my hand to my stomach. The skin was unbroken and smooth; had never known the bite of a knife.
Behind me, I heard steps. Then a well-remembered voice.
Turning, I looked at Terese Augustine. She was dressed the loose, flowing clothes that she had loved so much. Her warm brown eyes were full of love, and her smile was one of welcome.
The last time I saw her was when Kakistos was tearing open that face. Those brown eyes had been slashed into darkness. The blood had poured over the floor, and her screams seemed to last forever. And instead of helping her, of saving her, I had run.
I started to turn away. I had left her to die. She had believed in me, had trained me, and then thrown herself in front of a killing blow meant for me.
Her arms wrapped around me, bringing me close into her embrace. I buried my face into her shoulder, lost in the simple joy of that action.
Then her words, with their clipped and oh-so-proper British inflections, broke through my haze.
"It's your choice." she said, looking at me calmly. I opened my mouth to question her, but she just took my hand in hers, and it seemed as though I remembered every line, every callous.
Seeing her, just watching the serenity of her face, was too much. "How could you leave me?" I yelled. All the pain, all the anger, all the guilt came out. It wasn't her I was yelling at, though.
"I never left you, Faith." she said. "I've always been within your grasp. All you had to do was reach."
I knew where I had heard those words before. The days when I knelt before the tabernacle in the church, begging Him to grant me His light. The days when I listened to what the priests and nuns told me. The days when the only alcohol that passed my lips was given to me in a small sip from a sacramental chalice in a holy ceremony. The days when I truly believed.
"No!" I yelled, pulling my hand out of her grasp. "You left *ME*! I was true to you, I did what I was told! And what happens to me? I'm suddenly told that I'm not going to live all that long! I'm going to spend every night of what's left of my life killing the beasties of the night until one of them eventually kills me, and no one will ever know! I'll just be one more body in the morning! I asked you to save me, and you do that to me? If that's your idea of saving, then it looks like I should be shopping around for a new Savior!"
"I Chose you to send to my children, Faith." Terese said, only by this time I knew that this was not Terese. "To protect my lambs from the wolves."
"Screw your lambs. Screw the wolves, too. I never asked for this!" The words were tough, so damn it, why was I almost crying? Terese opened her arms, offering comfort, but I stepped back.
"I love you, Faith. You asked me for grace, and it was given. You were to be my Sword, to protect the innocent, the helpless. You were given the power to do true good."
"I bet you wouldn't have given me this great 'gift' if you'd known I'd turn Judas on you, huh?" I sneered. "You expected me to be another perfect Slayer, like little Miss Buffy."
Terese's eyes showed only sorrow as she looked at me. Damn it, why did it have to be those brown eyes that always seemed like they could look right through me?
"I gave you the gift, Faith. What you did with it was always your decision, your choice." Once again, Terese reached out - and once again I evaded her hand. "I never wanted you to be like Buffy. I wanted you to be yourself, to be the person I knew you were."
I snorted. "What was this grand plan of yours? Because it doesn't seem to be going all that well."
"I needed you to change the Council of Watchers. They have grown stagnant, inflexible. More of a danger to my Slayers than the demons themselves." Terese's eyes were deep and meaningful, but this was reading just a little too much like Touched By An Angel for me.
"So that's why you let Terese die? To change the Council? Well good luck! From the look of that new pansy, Wesley Woosey-Price, the Council will stay the same for a long time."
"Terese chose her death. She died for someone she believed in, someone she loved." I felt tears prickle in my eyes, and I wiped them away with a quick hand. I hadn't cried since her death, and fuck it if I'd start crying because of some Being masquerading as her! Terese - or whatever controlling her - continued. "Wesley was sent for you. You could have influenced him, shown him that alternate methods were required for a new era. He is young, but once his beliefs were changed, he would convert others. Stop barbaric practices that kill my Slayers. The testing, the inadequate preparation for certain trials. The lying."
"What do you mean?" I asked, intrigued despite myself. My sister Mercy had always said that if you dangled something shiny in front of me I'd forget everything else. Mercy was long dead, but I can't help that I have all the inquisitiveness of a crow. Shiny objects 'r' us.
"The Slayers were originally a Sisterhood. Dozens of young women, hunting in teams. Not just one lone voice in the wilderness. Potential Slayers were located early, and brought into the sisterhood. It was dangerous, but many women lived full lives. Children, families, friends, love. And always the support of the Sisterhood. For hundreds of years, it was like this, with the Watchers serving a lesser role, that of guardians to the young girls. They sought out potential Slayers, and cared for them. They protected the books of wisdom, read the stars, and advised the Sisters."
"So what changed?" I asked. It was a pretty picture, but I've noticed that things never stay perfect-pretty for long. That whole universal sisterhood crap could never last. Terese closed her eyes, as though overcome by sorrow.
"One of the sons of a Slayer was wonderfully gifted. He soon rose to the leadership of the Watchers, but still he longed for more power. He extended the control of the Watchers, and the Sisterhood objected. But Navarre had gathered a large following made up of those who resented the power of the Sisterhood. Through treachery, they murdered all but one of the Sisters."
"But wouldn't that just activate another batch of Slayers?" I asked, my mind reeling. Not that I showed it, of course. If you play it cool and close to the chest, they tend to tell you more. With women, anyway. With men, just wear a nicely skimpy tank-top.
Terese shook her head. "A Slayer isn't just activated, she has been a creature apart from others all her life. An infant girl will be born with the potential to become a Slayer, and at her fifteenth birthday, the seeds come to flower. But a Slayer is a creature of magic, and other such creatures are naturally attracted to them. Some benevolent, others not. Without the protection of the Sisterhood, many potentials were killed by demons before they came of age. Navarre knew what would happen, but made a dark pact with a demon. Sealed with the blood of the Sister Superior, the demon placed a geas on all those with the Slayer magic. Only one girl at a time was able to come to flower, all the others remained dormant."
"Then how come I'm here? Buffy's still alive." I asked. Despite my best efforts, and trust me, that rankled.
"The pact would only remain active until the coming of the Luetten."
"The what?" Didn't *anybody* use *English* words?
"The Luetten was a legend among the Sisterhood. They believed that a Slayer would come one day whose skill would exceed that of any before or after. Navarre believed that the Luetten was nothing more than a tale, and so agreed. But she is very, very real."
"It's Buffy, isn't it?" I said bitterly. Terese nodded her head. Gee, what a shocker.
"Buffy's birth brought balance to a magic wildly out of control. When she became the Slayer after Julianna died, the geas was weakened. But it was only broken when she offered herself to Death - facing the Master even after learning that it would result in her death. Dark magic can only be broken by a selfless act, by ultimate sacrifice. Her sacrifice gave Kendra and five other girls the ability to finally reach their potential. You yourself became a Slayer several months later."
"So where are these other five girls?" So instead of being part of a duo, I was now part of a club? Gad. I really hope none of them would be into hair-braiding or other sistery things. It would kind of kill the sister-mood if I puked all over her.
"Dead." Terese said bleakly. "The Council fears change, and loss of control. The members of the inner circle have begun killing many new Slayers, and as many potentials as they can. Most Watchers don't know this, just a select few. Gwendolyn Post was one who did. She was sent specifically to Sunnydale to get the Glove of Minnegon, a weapon to be used *against* the Slayers. Her orders were to kill both you and Buffy. While the Glove was attached, she would not age. The Council planned to use her to kill any potentials who did not conform to the Council's view of a proper - submissive - Slayer."
"Well, it looks like you have all that you need. Well, *if* Buffy lives through the Ascension." I wasn't betting on anything. Knowing Buffy, she was probably already feeding her blood to that vamp boyfriend of hers. An anemic Slayer wouldn't stand a chance against the demon Shaavran, which is what the Mayor would be pretty soon. I bet the higher powers weren't too thrilled about that whole Slayer/Vampire thing that those two puppies had going there. Hell, even *I* thought it was disturbed, and I've dated a few drummers in my time.
As if she heard what I was thinking - and who was saying she couldn't - Terese shook her head.
"Buffy will succeed, but she can't rebuild the Sisterhood by herself. The prophesies also stated that the Luetten would have a companion, the Miasmar."
"Where do you get these names?" I asked with a snort. Ancient history and prophesies were just as boring now as they had ever been before. I guess not even a higher power can make them interesting.
"'Luetten' means 'Radiance'. 'Miasmar' means 'Redeemed'."
Gee, someone searching for redemption. The person who sprang to mind was Buffy's little brooding shadow. Terese had better not be suggesting I go back and offer myself as a snack for old fangface. "So Angel is in on this prophesy?" I rolled my eyes. A 10,000 year old prophesy fortelling that the two of them would get together. Could their relationship get *any* weirder at this point?
"No, Angelus has his own destiny. You, Faith, are the Miasmar." Shit. I *really* should've guessed that one. Terese just kept talking. "You know the darkness in your own soul, because you have lived it. You betrayed those who trusted in you, you killed for the sheer joy of death, and you took active participation in the attempt to massacre a town."
That pretty much summed it up. Well, except for the drinking and sleeping around. I'm pretty sure God wasn't too happy about either of those.
"So what makes you think that I'm going to decide to repent all my sins and go help Buffy form the spiritual answer to a girl gang?" I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned against the statue.
"It's your own choice. It always has been." Terese once again gave me that look of sadness as she reached out and took my hand. This time, I let her. For old times sake. Yeah. Her voice dropped, became a crooning lull. "You're in a coma now, in the hospital. You'll wake up, but you won't remember anything of what we've talked of. In the meantime, Faith, you will still be greatly injured. For the first time, you will have to depend on others, on the ones you betrayed the most."
This was sounding less fun all the time. I tried to yank my hand away, but her grip was like iron. "BITCH!" I yelled in anger. If I wasn't damned before, than cursing at God probably finished it. But, hey, if I was going to go, I planned to go cursing the whole way.
All she did was smile. "We'll talk later." she said softly.
Then there was darkness. Damn predictable if you ask me.
When I opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was Buffy, changing a bandage on my arm. Looking around, I realized that I was in her room, only it had been converted into some kind of sick room. Half a dozen IVs were stuck into me, and looking down at my arms, resting on a quilt, all I could see were more bandages.
AND I COULDN'T MOVE.