TOUCH OF GREY
By D.M. Evans
Disclaimer - All characters are the property of J. Whedon et al. I own none of them and make no profit off of this. I just like to day trip in his world.
Rating - R for violence
feedback - Yes, please, firstname.lastname@example.org
Spoilers - Set in AtS S5, Up to "Destiny" then goes AR from there.
Summary - Dreams of Angel dying bring Faith back to L.A. only to find him uninterested in her help so she teams up with Spike to save Angel.
Written for the Warm Champagne Vampire challenge. Challenge requirements at end of the story.
You can find the challenge at: ;
Author's Notes - Thanks to Sharon and Chris for editing this monster and giving me lots of cool ideas for it!
A lie never lives to be old.
Sophocles - Acrisius. Frag. 59.
Faith didn't like the new Wolfram and Hart building. She couldn't fathom why she was standing there giving the guard a hard time. Angel shouldn't be inside this place. She had thought it was a bad joke when they had called Angel to let him know what went down in Sunnydale and he told them what he was doing now. Working for the enemy, she couldn't wrap her mind around it. These were the evil bastards who had paid her to kill him. It had made no sense and she had put it out of her mind, too overwhelmed by the new Slayers to even think about it. If she thought about it, she'd start screaming at him. Since she didn't have many friends, and Angel being the best among them, she didn't want to lose him. That worked until the dreams started.
"No one is expecting you," the guard was telling her for the tenth time. "You're not on the client list. You have to wait here until I can clear you."
"Look, I've told you I'm a friend of your big boss. Call Angel and ask. Call Wes, Fred, Gunn; anyone. Just do it before I lose my temper." She smiled at him as cold as the winter she had just left behind in London.
Hearing the soft voice, Faith turned and saw Wes heading her way. Despite fighting at his side, Faith felt nervous around Wes. He had every right to kill her, torture her like she had done him but to his credit he hadn't said a word about it when he had helped break her out of jail. However, he was a changed man, stronger, almost scary, more like she had been. She wasn't sure it was a good thing.
"I've been trying to get a hold of you guys for days, kept leaving messages with that idiot Harmony. She said she'd pass them on when things weren't crazy. Giles got so pissed, he put me on a plane to come out here in person," Faith said, flipping off the guard.
Wes' blue eyes widened a bit. "It must have been very important. Let's not talk about it in the lobby."
To Faith's surprise, Wes led her outside and down several city blocks. He stopped in front of a hot dog stand. "Are you hungry, Faith? If you just flew in, it had to be a couple of very long flights."
"Hideously long." She cast a leery glance at the cart. "I'm hungry but I'm not sure I'm hot dog hungry."
Wes smiled. "Fair enough. Probably just as well. I wouldn't be surprised if Wolfram and Hart's surveillance extended as far as this stand. There's an English-style pub just a few blocks away that I like."
Faith made a face. "I just left England. I was lucky not to starve death. The food sucked."
"Common misconception of our cuisine. Besides, I know we have more than our share of American fast food there." Wes waved her off. "The pub has hamburgers and very good fish and chips."
"Okay." Faith followed him to the pub. It did have a passing resemblance to pubs she had been in in London. It was fairly empty since it was between the hours of lunch and dinner. No one was playing darts or pool. A few hard core drinkers were at the bar and some people at the tables eating.
"Hi, Wes," the mousy-looking waitress said, heading their way. "How about that booth?" She pointed towards the window.
"I'd rather the table in the back corner." Wes indicated the table and the waitress led them to it.
"What can I get you to drink? Your usual?" the waitress asked.
"That would be lovely."
"I'll just have water," Faith said, surprising herself. She wanted a beer but she expected it to put her right to sleep.
"What was wrong with the booth?" Faith asked after the waitress left them with menus.
"Sat there last time." Wes shrugged. "It's a good idea to never have a regular table just in case. Besides, it's not good to sit in the window where anything could see you.
"Getting paranoid, Wes?" She grinned.
"I work for Wolfram and Hart. I am not so naive as to think they have completely changed. I wouldn't put it past them to have us all under surveillance." His eyes dimmed briefly like a cloud moving over the face of the sun. "I doubt Angel knows half of what is going on...none of us do."
"Paranoia's good." Faith nodded appreciatively. "I wish I just understood why you guys were working for those bastards. You know what they hired me to do to Angel. Evil doesn't just change."
"And yet they appear to have done just that," Wes said as if unconvinced of it himself. "At least on the surface. Don't worry, Faith, none of us have blindly put our trust in Wolfram and Hart, however tempting they make it."
"Think I don't know that? Lindsey and Lilah watched me beat a coworker for the hell of it. She was amused and his reaction was to change dinner plans." A violent shiver coursed through her body. "These are bad people."
"Aren't you proof people can change?" Wes asked and Faith became instantly interested in the menu. "Besides, Lindsey deserted them a few years ago and as you know Lilah's dead. Ah, Mandy." Wes looked up over Faith's shoulder at the waitress who had come back. She set an ale in front of Wes and handed Faith her water. "I'm ready to order. Faith?"
She twisted to look at the waitress. "I'll just have the bacon cheeseburger and can I have onion rings instead of fries?"
"I'll have the Desperate Dan pie," Wes said, handing back the menu and Mandy moved off
"The pie's based on a comic book character by that name. It's a meat pie. They make very good puddings here, too."
Faith made a face. "Yeah, with beef fat in it."
"Not all puddings are that type. We do know how to make desserts," he said, miffed. He took a long swallow of ale, looking pleased to have it. "So what was so important that Giles sent you across the pond?"
"I've been having dreams about Angel."
"A Slayer's prophetic dream?" Wesley's body tensed with excitement at the idea.
Faith would have been amused if the dreams hadn't been so disturbing. "Giles was pretty jonesed that I was getting in touch with my Slayer heritage. Hell, he was excited that it was still possible to have those kinda dreams. We don't know what the fuck Buffy did to the Slayer power, spreading it all over the damn place like that."
Wes bobbed his head. "An understandable concern."
"Of course, who knows if it is a prophetic dream." Faith shrugged. "It is a repetitive one. I can tell you that much. Never really had one of them before. That's why we started calling to warn Angel but we never could get through. Harmony kept giving us the runaround. Angel never answers his phone, either."
Wes' lips twitched up. "He's not very technologically savvy at times. We have been terribly busy, however. Teenagers have been turning up dismembered."
Faith wrinkled her nose. "Ugly. So, when can I talk to Angel? I have to tell him about that dream, 'cause I'm dreaming something big and bad is killing Angel. I never see what or how only that he's dust." Faith saw the startled expression on Wesley's pale face and felt her heart seize. "I'm too late, aren't I? Oh, fuck."
"No." Wes held up his hands. "But very nearly so. Angel got surprised last night. He barely escaped."
Faith shook her head as if to clear it. What could have taken Angel by surprise? From the look on Wes' stubble-cloaked face, he was equally shocked by it. "Surprised by what?"
"He says he didn't get a good look at it and given he took a full load of holy water to the face, that's hardly surprising." Something in Wes' voice was off, almost as if he didn't believe Angel.
"Angel's hurt and you have me sitting here for lunch?" Faith popped up, nearly taking the table with her.
Wes caught her arm, pulling her down. "Angel will heal, Faith. You can't do anything for him now but later, if he needs you, you'll be too tired and hungry to help so eat."
"And if something comes for him while I'm here?" Faith tugged free but didn't try to get back up.
"Spike's guarding him," Wes said.
Faith made a face. "Spike on top of being hurt. Are we punishing Angel for walking into a trap?"
Wes smiled briefly. "It would certainly seem that way. Fred, Gunn and I are taking turns watching Spike watching Angel."
"Don't trust Spike?" Faith's dark eyes narrowed only slightly.
Wes took another contemplative drink of his ale. "Buffy and the others might. The rest of us believe he has his own agenda. We don't quite trust him."
"Probably smart. Those two sound like a bad combo anyhow," Faith replied.
"They do have an extensive history of mutual antagonism," Wes admitted. "And Spike can be highly abrasive."
"Does it on purpose," Faith said.
"Doubtless. He can get you angry enough to make careless errors that he can turn to his advantage."
Faith flipped her hair back. "Sounds like you got a handle on him. Good, 'cause I was thinking you all had been infected by brain suckers making you work for Wolfram and Hart."
Wesley's lips thinned. "My brain remains unsucked."
The waitress hesitated a moment, overhearing that. She set down the plates of food. "Anything else I can get for you?"
"I'm fine," Wes said as Faith chowed down without preamble. He shrugged and Mandy headed for her next table. "Slow down or you'll choke."
"What are you? My Mom?" She crammed an onion ring into her mouth as if daring him to do something about it.
"I should hope I would have imparted better table manners," Wes said lightly.
She flipped him off. "Don't turn back into that ponce you used to be."
He smiled, showing all his teeth. "Ponce? Dare I ask when you picked up that term?"
"Giles kept moaning about us mangling the Queen's English so we started picking up a word a day. Ponce, tosser, blighter, shag-bag, leg over, get pissed." She grinned broadly.
Wes laughed lightly. "I'm sure Rupert appreciates your attempts to sound like Spike."
"Oh, you should hear what comes out of his mouth when he's hanging out with some of his old buddies and he doesn't know we're around. Willow, B and I were spying on him, making a game of counting how many Spikeisms he'd come up with when he's out at the pubs." Faith scowled. "Then he caught us. Did you know he could make your skin turn neon pink?"
"Serves you right. Never mess with a mage, Faith. It'll only end badly." His blue eyes danced.
"Where were you a few months ago when I was practically glowing in the dark?" She polished off the rest of her sandwich.
She filled him in on the things Giles was doing to help rebuild the Council. She wished he'd eat faster. She didn't want to wait on seeing Angel but Wes wouldn't be rushed. Soon enough, they were back in Wolfram and Hart's building heading to the penthouse suite. Fred and Spike were watching tv when they got there.
"Faith, I heard you were in the building," Spike said, getting up. He surprised her with a hug. Spike coping a feel didn't come as a shock.
"Here to help the big guy. Any chance I can talk to him...alone?" she asked, giving them a knowing look.
"Sure. I'm all for getting off Angel duty," Spike said. "Just get me when you need me. I'll be in my suite trying to get a nap."
"I'll just go back to my lab," Fred said. "He might be asleep, though." She pointed to the bedroom.
"He'll want to wake up for this," Faith promised and didn't wait to see if they were going to leave.
She wasn't prepared for what she saw when she turned on the soft lighting in Angel's bedroom. The sheet, red and apparently silk, was rumpled around his waist. At any other time, it might be sexy but now it just highlighted the paleness of his skin. His chest and belly were bright red and covered in blisters. His shoulders and face were more deeply pitted, to muscle and bone in places. His left eye was covered over by gauze. The right one opened, blood shot, and stared at her. What was left of his lips twisted into something that might have been a smile. The room stank of cooked flesh.
"Nice to see you, Faith," he slurred, like his tongue was too thick for his mouth.
"Wish I could say the same. Someone fucked you up good." She sat on the bed in the crook of his hip. "Demon?"
"Don't know...don't think so. I got hit with a water balloon filled with holy water." Angel hitched up a bit on the bed.
Faith pulled him up, resting him against her so she could fluff up his pillows and let him recline back against the cushioned headboard. "Okay?"
"I'm good." He settled in gingerly.
"Water balloon? Why didn't me and B ever think of that?"
"Has your sense of fun." He grimaced. "Personally, if I can avoid having this happening again, I'd be happy."
"Where did it happen? It can't be easy to carry around loaded water balloons."
"Outside of Madigan's, a pub Doyle used to take me to not to far from the college. Doyle used to like to girl watch there. I go there when I'm trying to avoid Spike. Lots of IRA types in Madigan's. He opens his mouth there, someone might just cut out his English tongue." Angel managed a happy look at that thought.
Faith licked her lips considering not only what Angel had been up to but the rather unwanted image of a tongueless Spike. Then again, there could be advantages to that, no whining for one. "So your attacker might have just waited for you to show?"
Angel's eye closed briefly as if his energy was gone then he rallied. "Thinking that's how it happened."
"And you didn't see the bastard?"
Faith didn't believe him. She wasn't sure why but she didn't. "Uh-huh. Did you lose the eye?"
Angel's fingers brushed the gauze. "Nearly. It's burnt...can't see out of it. Should be better by tomorrow."
"You and Xander, only his eye won't grow back."
Angel nodded. "Buffy told me about it. So why are you here, Faith? You had to have been en route before I got hurt. Didn't you like Europe?"
"I loved it. Really love London where we are now but I didn't like being the House Mom to a bunch of new Slayers and being held up as a bad example." Faith crossed her arms, a frown tugging at her lips. "I know why they're doing it. No one wants a repeat of Sunnydale but...."
"But it hurts," Angel finished for her, his fingers straying to the peeling flesh on his face. She slapped them away, shuddering. He reached down and covered himself with the sheet best he could. "Trust me, Faith, I know. Between the 'look what happens when Angel's happy' riff from my mortal friends and getting held up as a 'don't let this happen to you' by the vampires, I know how you feel. But that can't be the whole reason you're here."
She shrugged. "We did want to check up on you, Angel. B's concerned but she's just not ready to be here, you know."
"I know," he said sadly, putting a hand over his face. "I wouldn't blame her if she never wanted to see me or Spike ever again. You don't need to be concerned about me."
"No, actually I do." Faith touched his arm, gingerly, not sure how much pain vampires actually felt. From Angel's face she was guessing it was as much as a normal person. "Angel, you're working for Wolfram and Hart. You have me half convinced you've lost your fucking mind."
He scowled or tried to. The burnt face manifestation of the emotion was far creepier. "I haven't. You don't have the whole story, Faith."
"I don't want it. I told you that when we had this argument on the phone. You know how I feel about it. I wanted to come to L.A. and kick some sense into your dumb ass, make this look like nothing." She gestured at his scalded body. "But I didn't. Then the dream started. Giles thinks it's one of those fortune-telling Slayer dreams. We tried to call. Harmony never put us through."
He curled what was left of his lips. "She's an idiot."
"No kidding. I couldn't get through to you or Wes either." She shot him an accusatory look. "Wes told me about the dismembered kids, well, not much but enough to let me know you guys have your hands full. Giles put me on the plane to tell you in person."
"How bad is this dream?" Angel sounded weary, like he couldn't bear one more burden.
"Well, not apocalyptic shit if that's what you're worried about." She tossed her hair back.
Angel sighed, his eye shutting.
"But I keep seeing you dying. You get turned to dust in my dreams," Faith said and the eye flickered open again. "Thought that would get your attention, 'specially since I get here and you've already been fragged."
Angel hitched himself up. "You saw this happening to me?"
She shook her head. "I don't see how you die or who kills you. I just know that you get killed and I keep thinking its someone you know who does you in in my dreams. You weren't on guard and you end up dead."
"So you think I know who doused me with holy water." Angel bristled at the idea and Faith had to wonder why then suspected her feeling was dead on.
"Well, I don't," he said grimly.
Faith still didn't believe him but for the life of her couldn't figure out why he'd lie. Maybe one of his crew had gone schizo and was after Angel and the vampire was protecting him. She had her money on Gunn since he was the one who let Wolfram and Hart screw with his brain. "Okay. Anyhow, since no one really wants you to be fitting in an ashtray...well, except maybe Xander, they sent me here. Giles thinks you're too important a source of knowledge to let die. Me, I'm thinking if you're working for Wolfram and Hart, knowledgeable isn't the word for you."
He tensed. "Faith..."
She held up her hand. "Anyhow, that's why I'm here. To save you."
Angel snorted. "Been alive a long time and there are days when being dust doesn't sound bad. Days like when Spike would ghost into my bedroom and harass me all night." He sighed. "I'm glad he got his body back. Those nights were getting very disturbing."
Faith gave him a bemused look. "I can only imagine. No, on second thought I don't want to. But, Angel, this attitude."
He held up a hand. "I'm not going to commit suicide, Faith, just being honest with how I feel. If I die now, Spike wins the shanshu by default. That alone is reason to keep living."
Faith gave him a dark look. "Wes told Giles about the shanshu prophecy. He told Buffy. Buffy's pretty pissed neither of you told her about it."
Angel's pained expression made Faith wish she hadn't mentioned it. "I didn't want to believe in it...only I do...always did even when I was too disheartened to care."
"Guess we've all felt low like that from time to time," Faith said. "I just don't want you giving up 'cause I won't let you, no more than you did me."
He smiled, part of his lip cracking and peeling away. He caught the dead flesh and pitched it in the garbage can by the bed. "Sorry. And thanks. It's appreciated."
Faith sighed. "Okay, the heavy shit's out of the way, so now what?"
"I'm pretty much bed ridden until I heal up a little more. Wes and the others could probably use your help with finding the killer of those children. It's possible my attack was related to that or to anyone and everyone who hates the changes in Wolfram and Hart and wants me dead." Angel relaxed some. "Maybe sometime, once I'm looking less like something out of a slasher flick, I'll take you out somewhere to thank you for coming to my rescue again. I still owe you for saving me from myself."
"We're even for that. You saved me, I saved you. Right now, I'm pretty exhausted. I just flew in but I could sack out on the couch to make sure no one sneaks in and finishes you off," Faith offered.
"We have suites for clients. I'll have Harmony set you up in one," Angel said. "Send Spike back to watch over me. He likes it. Makes him think I'll owe him down the line."
Faith pulled a long face. "Okay but I still don't like this, Angel, you living and working here. I told Buffy what I know about what these people. They've done so much evil I don't see how you can trust them."
"I never said I trusted them, Faith. I don't. I don't even trust things that seem to have worked for the good since I've been here. The good things...I trust them the least," he said grimly.
"Then why are you doing this?" Her exasperation echoed through his bedroom.
"I have to. I can't explain it better than that."
"Hmmm, maybe Xander was right."
Angel lifted his head off the feather pillow. "About what?"
"When I filled them in on Wolfram and Hart, we wondered first if you were Angelus again but Willow's test said the spell was holding and you didn't sound insane. Neither did the others so we started playing the 'Angel's dumber than' game trying to find a logical reason for you doing this. Xander said he finally found someone dumber than him." There was only a hint of humor in Faith's eyes.
"Dumber than Xander? That hurts." He gave her a crushed look.
Faith shoved her dark hair back. "Not meant to be a compliment, Angel."
"I'm not an idiot, Faith." He clamped his jaw shut as if swallowing his ire. "But I guess I can be occasionally foolish. Don't think I haven't considered it. I'm not ready to blindly trust Wolfram and Hart but right now they're a useful tool."
"Yeah, that's what the nuclear bomb guys thought, too." Faith held up her hands. "I know, I know, enough already. That's the last you'll hear about it from me."
"Thank you." He fumbled for the phone on the bed stand. Faith passed it to him and he arranged for her to have a place to crash.