Carved In Stone
Summary: Sequel to ‘After End Credits Rolled’. The PtB are at it again: a prophecy, multiple dimensions, imploding worlds, lots o’ mojo, an epic battle, three generations of Slayers. Can the Chosen Two save the world one more time? F/B, W/K, A/D
- Our story begins in 2021 - 18 years post ‘Chosen’, 8 past AECR and counting.
Chapter 1: Hell Again
THE SANAL HELL DIMESION
The heat is becoming unbearable; it’s so hard to breathe. Sweat slowly drips down my face, or is it blood, not sure anymore. As I pull myself along the dusty ground away from the creature that fucked me up I realize there is only one thing I am absolutely certain of: I’m too fucking old for this shit. Shaking my head, I try to focus. I need to get out of sight and rest. Need to heal, need to get strong, need to find her then keep her safe.
Crawling into a crevice, I allow myself to close my eyes and take a breath. It’s cooler here, behind these stones. Taking stock of my condition, I make a check list: broken right leg; three cracked ribs; there’s a gash running from my forehead to my collarbone and my shoulder is dislocated again, Gods how many times have I done that in my almost 40 years? Wedging my hand between my feet I pull sharply and hear my shoulder pop back into place as I choke the pain down.
Why is it creepy evil things always live in sweltering, oxygen deprived, grimy caves in hell dimensions? Is it written somewhere? Is it in the same moldy tome that states it must be a virgin sacrifice? And why are the virgins always female anyway? Do the Gods only see the fairer sex as a proper sacrifice? I wonder if in all the research Red and the gang has done over the years, they have come across the answers to my questions. Who am I kidding? This is just the way it is.
The PtB have had me hopping dimensions for six years straight. I’ve only been home a few times and then only when the trail got ice cold. I haven’t seen Buffy in over a year. Well, not really, she and I have been meeting up in Slayer dreams. She keeps me up-to-date on everything that’s been happening at home. What everyone is up to. Like how Emma decided to go to med school at Case Western Reserve right in Cleveland even though Sophia was trying to get her to go to her alma mater, Northwestern in Chicago. How relived she was when Sara stayed on to help out Ken and Red with the school. And how Andrew and Dawn found yet another way to track demons, those guys are just too much.
It had taken us a couple of years but Andrew had found the third Slayer, a two year old baby, in Toronto, unfortunately so had a group of inter-dimensionary bounty hunters. From what we could piece together, her parents found out about the prophecy and their daughter’s part in it. They tried to hide her but, when demons started to cross over into our dimension to find her, they jumped to another one before I could get to them, to explain how we could and would help.
They’ve been jumping ever since, and I’ve followed when I could. This is the closest I’ve ever been and I’m not going to let them jump again before I can talk to her parents. They were smart to come to this heavily guarded hell dimension though. Not many would be crazy enough to follow them here, well except yours truly here. That two headed snake creature is enough to put even some of the most seasoned bounty hunters off. It took me for a ride let me tell you, the fucker. I really just need to rest a little bit, just a few minutes. How did it get this hard?
Those first couple of years after the whole showdown at Mount Ebih it was pretty calm. We all settled into a rhythm: Emma excelled at her studies and training, Dawn and Andrew got married, Ken and Red took over running the school completely, and me and B? Well, we’re good, really good. She’s full time with the checking up on the girls that needed help and getting the ones already in trouble, out. Sometimes she traveled, sometimes they came to us, regardless, we made it a point to spend as much time together as possible. So I ditched my apartment, moved in, then with Andrew’s help, started to piece together how to find the third Slayer.
Two years, man, they were fucking incredible. I was beginning to feel I finally had a life, a real life, not just doing the time. Then we found the third Slayer and I had to go to her, leaving my new-found life, hell my whole world behind. And as I close my eyes, I reach for the memory of her arms around me, the feel of her body next to mine, the smell that is inherently Buffy and the comfort she brings me. For the moment I know I can lose myself in this reminiscence as I slowly slip away from consciousness.
After about an hour, something wakes me. I’m not sure what it is at first. It’s sweet, innocent, but probing. It hits me; it’s her, the kid; she’s reaching out with her mind, trying to see if I’m friend or foe. Of course, they must think I’m a bounty hunter as well. I try opening myself to her to tell her not to be afraid, but she shuts me down almost immediately. Fuck! But I got a read on where she is and I jump up to go to her. Instantly I regret it as my leg crumbles under me, the pain too much to bear.
Taking a deep breath, I rifle through my backpack and find the stash of morphine vials Emma packed for me. They are human, not Slayer doses so it’ll wear off in a few hours and no wacky trippy shit either. I still don’t like fucking with it though, morphine is serious shit and after the whole Orpheus thing with Angel, I’m not so much into broadening my ‘inner mind’. Suddenly wishing Emma was here to do a healing spell instead of having to resort to this; I shake the thought and prep the needle. No time for wishes, there’s only time for action. Watching the liquid fill the syringe then tapping the air out, I jab the shot into my leg. Letting the drug course through me, I exhale then get up and make my way to the family that’s trying so hard to elude me.
It takes a while, but I find them. The kid is curled up in the corner crying as what must be her Dad cradles, another guess here, her Mom’s head in his lap. They’re all covered in blood, the mom’s I think, and I feel like shit cause if I hadn’t stopped to rest this could have been avoided. Slowly I step nearer.
“Don’t come any closer,” he’s trying to calm himself enough to send a spell my way. I can feel he is a very powerful witch.
Backing off, I hold up my hands in as a defensive a posture as I can muster. “I’m not here to hurt anyone, I’m here to help, to protect. The PtB sent me to help you.”
“Ha, the Powers the Be,” he snickers, “this is all their fault, manipulating bastards.” He still hasn’t raised his gaze to me. His hands are caressing his wife’s head. “And I know exactly who you are.”
“I have medical supplies in my pack. Let me help her.” I try to slowly inch my way to them.
“No one can help her now, she’s dead.”
Fuck! I look to the kid then back to him. “Are you two alright?”
He finally looks up at me, taking me in, gauging my appearance as well as my entire essence. “Better than you right now, that’s for sure.” It seems like he has somewhat accepted my presence.
“Yeah, the snake thing doesn’t like gate crashers…” I trail off as I see the two dead bounty hunters behind the kid.
He follows my gaze then looks back at me. “There are two more.”
Nodding, I realize there is only one way I will get this man to trust me. I take the pack off my back and toss it to him, “There’s food in there too. I’ll be back after I take care of it.”
Turning to go I hear him murmur, “Be careful, Slayer.” Feeling a smile slowly appear, I nod then make my way to the buzzing that will lead me to the bounty hunters.
They are easy to sneak up on, cocky and careless fuckers. I know I’ll have to kill them and for a moment I have to bite down the fact I have to take human life. As I get nearer I try to scan their souls and realize, neither of them have one. Mok’tagar demons, of course, they have the ability to easily move from one dimension to another. They can also disguise themselves as other beings, and because of the demon part of me I can recognize them by their lack of a soul. Well, that makes this a hell of a lot easier.
At a full run, I grab one of them, snap his neck then throw his dead body into the other guy, knocking him off balance. He scrambles up and comes at me with a decent kick to the face. I duck out of it and land a solid backhand to his jaw. He stumbles backward then goes for a jump kick. It lands me on my ass. Ok, now I’m pissed.
He spins away drawing a gun from his waist. “It’s over Slayer.”
I nod to the gun, “Coward.”
“Nah, this just evens the odds.”
He raises his arm to shoot as I spring forward. My foot hits his chest as the bullet tears though my stomach. We both go down.
Right now I’m thanking the Gods for morphine, cause I don’t feel a fucking thing. I jump on him, my knees hold down his arms as I straddle his chest. “You shoot me mother fucker?” Now I’m repeatedly pummeling his face. “You hunt down a family and try to kill a kid?” Not really sure if it’s the morphine, the adrenaline, the loss of blood, all three, or something else entirely, but I can’t stop.
He’s hanging on by a thread, but manages to sneer at me as my hand is cocked to hit him again, “Killing me won’t matter, neither will joining The Three. The worlds will not survive and there’s nothing you can do about it.” He smiles weakly then continues, “You can’t change what’s carved in stone.”
My control leaves me, my anger complete; it’s taken me over as I bring my fist down hard into his face again and again. The blood spurts out of his nose and mouth as his last breath escapes his lips. I know he’s dead. I know I should stop, but I don’t, I can’t. It’s not until I start to get light-headed that I realize what I’m doing, what I’ve done, what I’ve reverted back to.
Wearily, I crawl off him. Looking at the carnage I’ve caused with my bare, blood-soaked hands, I sit back on my knees and bow my head. How many beings have I killed in the last 25 years? How many gallons of blood have I spilled? Human, vampire, demon; does it really matter anymore? Somewhere along the way I lost myself again; I’m just a tool now, a killing machine. What’s the difference if it’s the Mayor or the PtB? I laugh, jail time is the difference. 25 to life, yeah that’s real fucking funny cause I’ve done the 25, so can I have a life now? My guess is no.
And, more than anything else, you know what I really want right now? I want to cry. I want to lay my head in Buffy’s lap and cry the way only she can, to allow myself that kind of release. I want to bathe in my tears, to feel the pain, the humanity, the sorrow, all of it. But I can’t, because I can’t feel anything anymore, and that scares me. My soul feels barren, vacant, devoid of emotion. I long for the time when I could feel, when I didn’t need the emptiness to survive, but that seems like it was a very long time ago. Sighing, I steel myself and get up. Immediately, I lay a shaky hand against the wall to steady myself as a wave of dizziness hits me. Taking a last look around I realize that right now, I need to be empty like I need the air to breathe. It’s the only thing that’s keeping me alive.
By the time I get back to the father and child I can barely walk. They both look up at me wide-eyed as I stagger to my pack and grab the med kit. Sitting heavily, I take out the antibacterial wipes and attempt to clean my wounds. From the blood I feel dripping down my back; I’m guessing the bullet when straight through; cool. Whoa, I sway back against the cool rock wall and strain to keep my eyes open. I know I’m fading fast, but I need to stop the bleeding and dress this before I pass out.
“Here, let me.” The guy takes the wipe out of my trembling hands and lifts my shirt up. “Your shirt is soaked through, you have another one? If not I can give you...”
“I got another,” not thinking I’ll be able to lift my arms, I just rip it off me then lean back against the wall. Good thing for sports bras, huh?
He carefully wipes away the blood and holds a compress to my abdomen as the bleeding finally begins to abate. After then cleaning the exit wound on my back, he gets the gauze and tape from the med kit. Taking in the connect-the-dots map of scars in front of him he comments, “Looks like people have an affinity for you stomach.”
Not really feeling like having a conversation, I shut him down, “Yeah, sometimes it really sucks to be me.” He gets the drift and concentrates on dressing my wound while I regard my two companions. I know the kid will be 8 in a couple of weeks and I’m guessing the father is around Dawn’s age, so say 34ish? They cleaned up and changed since I left. They’re like mirror images of each other: shoulder length dirty blonde hair, blue eyes, T-shirts, jeans and hiking boots. They could be in a Father-Daughter Hiking Adventure commercial for the Canadian Tourism Board. They just look so, I don’t know, healthy, athletic, honest, good-natured. I laugh to myself; why do we Americans seem to have this love affair with our neighbors from the north? It’s funny when you think about it.
Looking around their little base camp, I notice the wife is now off to the side, their blood-stained clothes draped over her like a burial shroud. The two bounty hunters are gone. I’m guessing he dragged them off somewhere. That was smart; it was probably freaking the kid out.
The little girl is furtively looking back and forth between me and her Dad, trying to read me without her Dad noticing. I send out a quick ‘Not feeling too good right now, but we’ll talk tomorrow, ok?’ She looks a little startled to hear the thoughts I sent her, so I add, ‘I’d never hurt you. I just want to keep you and your Dad safe.’ She looks intently at me and nods then slips into her Scooby Doo sleeping bag and promptly sacks out.
I feel him watching me so I look over to him. He narrows his eyes at me as if deciding weather to say some thing or not, “Thank you.”
I wince as the pain starts flooding into me. “You’re welcome,” I manage through clenched teeth.
“I saw some morphine in your pack. Do you want me to get it?” He asks as he finishes wrapping me up.
Oh yes, I do, I want it desperately, more than I could ever say, “No.” I exhale slowly, “I’ll probably pass out in a minute anyway.”
He furrows his brow not understanding why I would say no, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, can’t afford to be too out of it, the snake thing is,” I close my eyes and concentrate for a moment – oh man, this is really hard, “sleeping now, but will probably be on the move soon. Need to be ready.”
He shakes his head, “Goddess, do you ever stop?”
“Can’t afford to now,” I level my gaze at his, “but I will once you both are safe at the Cleveland house.”
“What makes you so sure we’ll go with you?”
I give him my best, ‘you gotta be fucking kidding me’ stare.
He laughs at himself, “Yeah, so, I’m Martin, and that’s Nicola, Nicky.”
Nodding, I softly murmur a protection spell.
“You don’t have to, I already said one.”
Completing my spell I breathe out, “Then we’ll be doubly safe. I’m Faith.” It feels like I’m in slow motion, as I slide down the wall The last thing I remember is Martin pulling my pack under my head as I close my eyes into oblivion.
We’re at Wolfram and Hart, me, Angel and Gunn. It’s right after the whole puppet thing. Man how I wish I was here for that, why is it that no one takes pictures when you need them to, huh? Angel had asked me to meet them here when I got back to the states. So, after helping out a couple of confused Slayers in Paris, I flew to LA.
This place always creeps me out. Not just the people here but the whole place. It’s like I know the whole AI team won’t turn evil or nothing, but I just don’t trust that the Senior Partners won’t try to do something that might...
“Time is money, Faith,” Gunn is waving his hand over my eyes, “you with us?”
“Sorry, dude, jetlag.” I strike my pose: leaning on one leg, head coked to the side, arms folded. “So what’s the deal? Why did you guys need to see me so bad?”
Angel looks at me for a long time then nods to Gunn, “Go ahead Gunn, it was your case.”
“You’re clean now Faith,” he smiled smugly.
I look at him like he’s nuts, “What the fuck are you talking about? I know I’m clean! I showered. Has that brain they gave you started to malfunction?”
Angel is laughing and Gunn is just shaking his head, “No, Faith,” Gunn walks over to me, “I got the State of California to throw out your case. We went over the extenuating circumstances: mainly how the Mayor used his influence to sway your teenage judgment and your role in “rescuing” the survivors of Sunnydale. Although the biggest mitigating factor was the fact that all the crimes you were convicted of were committed when you were a minor. The appellate court ruled to drop your charges with time served, parole is not necessary.”
My eyes are darting back and forth from Gunn to Angel.
“You put him up to this?” I don’t want to fucking owe anybody anything, even Angel.
He looks at me, “Actually, I wish I did but I just found out about it a couple of days ago.”
Narrowing my eyes at him, “I don’t believe you.”
“He’s not lying,” Gunn approaches me, “I wanted to see what I could do to work it out. We’re helping evil beings get off on legal loopholes. So I decided we should help someone that truly deserves it. We need you on this side of prison walls Faith. It benefits the cause as well as keeps you out of trouble: the proverbial ‘win-win’ situation.”
Now what the fuck do I say to that? “Oh.” Yeah, that’s clever, moron. I play it cool even though I’m bursting inside, “Thanks man, that’s mighty white of you, brain-boy.”
He shakes his head and laughs heartily, “You’re real funny Faith, real funny.” He knows exactly what’s going through my mind and every reason why I can’t show him how happy I am. He used to be like me, he understands how people like us think.
I miss them. The AI Team meant a lot to me, they trusted me, gave me a chance to prove myself. They gave me my freedom and I let them die alone. I know the PtB forbade me to go to LA, but when did I ever listen? I could have snuck back to LA in time to get them out, fuck. They deserved more from me.
The faint whispering shakes me from my half slumber. Martin and Nicky are up and trying to be quiet so as not to wake me. I slowly get up and lean against the wall. The pain seems to have become one with me. Every inch of my body hurts. Taking a ragged breath I psych myself up: Ok, I can do this, soon we’ll be home and I swear I’m staying in bed for a week. “Morning,” I mumble wishing for a special Andrew mocha laced with Jack Daniels right about now.
“Hey, feeling better?” Martin asks.
“Yeah,” hey, what’s a little lie between new friends? I take a couple of snack bars from my pack and pass one to him. Nicky still hasn’t said a word to me. “Hungry little one?” I ask.
She looks directly in my eyes, “Kinda.”
“Then here,” I throw a bar to her without using a tell. Of course she snatches it in mid-air without a glance. I laugh, “Ken is so gonna love you.”
“Is that your husband?” She nods to the ring on my left hand, her face showing every ounce of curiosity in her soul.
“Nicky...” Martin says lightly, shaking his head.
I laugh again, “No, Ken is a woman, short for Kennedy. You’ll meet her soon.”
“Oh, is she your wife?” The apparently incredibly precocious tyke asks not missing a beat.
“Nicky...” Martin’s tone is cautioning now.
I laugh again, “No she’s not. She’s my best friend.”
“Oh,” she seems to be mollified for a moment then the interrogation continues. “Then is Buffy your wife?”
“Nicky!” Martin has had enough, “It’s not polite to ask personal questions, now stop it.” He turns to me, “I’m sorry.”
“But Dad, she’s wearing a wedding band, that makes it public, not private!”
Shaking my head I look at Martin, “Is this kid for real?”
Exasperated, he rolls his eyes, “You have no idea.”
I look back at Nicky, “Yeah, she is. How do you know about Buffy?”
“You called out her name when you were sleeping,” She says offhandedly. “My Mommy was Daddy’s wife.”
Shit, the poor kid, “I know; I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet her.”
Nicky looked at Martin then me, “She told me she was going away, but I didn’t believe her, now I do.”
“Hey, I know it’s hard, I lost my Dad when I was your age, and in a way Mom too. It made me very sad.” I glance up to find Martin watching us with tears in his eyes. Turning back to Nicky, I try to change the subject for all of our sakes. “Buffy and Kennedy are very excited to meet you. They’ve been looking forward to it for quite a few years.”
“Are Buffy and Kennedy Slayers too, like us”?
Now I smile, “They’re Slayers, but not like you and me. They are very strong though, and very smart. You’re going to meet a lot of people who will help you understand and grow your powers.”
Intrigued she comes over and sits in her Dad’s lap, “Don’t all Slayers have powers like you and me?” Her eyes are wide with anticipation of my answer.
I lean over to her and fake-whisper, “Not all of them, only one other girl does, her name is Emma and she’s studying to become a doctor.” So yeah, I can’t keep the ‘parental pride’ out of my voice. Martin picks up on it right away and gives me a knowing smile
Nicky’s face is full of wonder, “Really?”
I nod solemnly, “Really.”
“Wow, being a doctor’s cool.” She looks up at Martin, “Isn’t that cool, Dad?”
“Yes, sweetie, it’s very cool.”
Slowly standing on both feet now to test my leg, I’m amazed, it feels pretty good, not gonna run any marathons, but it’ll do for now. “You guys ready to go?” I pull on a sweat shirt, zip it up then swing my pack over my shoulder.
Steadying myself against the wall, I watch them gather their belongings. When they’re ready, they nod as they shoulder their own packs.
“Ok,” I slowly make my way over to them and take one of each of their hands, “Follow my lead and don’t let go.” Then we begin the jump back to our dimension.
As the colors fly past us as we tumble through pasts and futures both true to the mark and those that could have been. I look over to Nicky and smile at the wonder in her eyes. Was I ever that young and innocent? Nope, not a chance. Turning to Martin I see he’s crying, feeling the loss of his wife as he sees her presence in all his possible paths. I don’t know why the PtB are showing them this, but it looks like they need to see it.
As we get closer, it feels like my body is being ripped apart. I probably should have rested another day to allow myself to heal better, but I didn’t want to take the chance on more bounty hunters coming. And the Gods only know when that snake thing was going to make a special guest star appearance. At least we’ll be on our turf if anything comes after us.
When I open my eyes again we’re in the basement triage room. I slide the pack off my back as Buffy sweeps me into her arms, “I felt you getting near.” Gods, she feels so good, so warm, it’s nice because I’m suddenly very cold. I can barely wrap my arms around her; I’m so tried. Knowing my stomach and back have started bleeding again and my broken leg is throbbing, I will myself to remain vertical.
Ken takes one look at me, then is on the intercom, “Dawn? We need Emma in triage, now.”
Slowly, I push my words out, “Guys, this is Martin and the little one there is Nicky,” I take a cautious step out of Buffy’s embrace being careful to rest all my weight on my good leg. “If you guys haven’t guessed, this is Buffy and that’s Kennedy over by the intercom.” Nods and smiles make their way around the room as I lean harder into Buffy, putting my arm around her shoulders to keep my balance.
“Babe?” She questions, her arm slides down to my waist. Her eyes grow wide as she feels then sees her hand and arm are covered with my blood.
I hear footsteps, running, coming closer as I start to sway. I’m back to slow motion now. Buffy’s other hand steadies me as she backpedals us to the exam table. Kennedy starts to make her way over to us as Martin and Nicky watch with twin furrowed brows. Looking over at Buffy, a wave of relief hits me. I can rest now that I’m here with her, really rest, and I’m so very tired. Slowly, I blink but it’s only half a blink cause I can’t seem to find a way to open my eyes again.
“Babe?!?” It sounds more desperate now, and I feel kinda bad because I don’t have the strength to answer her. I don’t want to worry anyone, I just want to sleep.
Then I hear a voice, “For Christ-sake, get her on the gurney.” It’s so clear, so strong, so… and my last thought is - when the hell did she grow up?