Title: Ravages of Spirit
Genre: Angst (the request was for "darkfic-ish")
Timeline: After Buffy s5/Angel s2
Written for: The Angel Ficathon
Archival: Just ask, I'd be flattered.
Dedicated to: thenyxie, for requesting this delicious pairing, erinalbion for early-morning beta, and my devoted twin, theantijoss, for crying in all the right places.
What ravages of spirit conjured this temptuous rage,
created you a monster, broken by the rule of love?
And fate has led you through it.
You do what you have to do.
A glowing ember, burning hot, and burning slow.
Deep within, I'm shaken by the violence of existing for only you.
I know I can't be with you.
I do what I have to do.
-Sarah McLachlan, "Do What You Have To Do"
It feels as though he's been sitting in this chair forever.
Of course, everything seems to take longer now, everyone just stuck in time. Thoughts of Billy Pilgrim and battered Vonnegut paperbacks flit through Angel's mind as he shifts uncomfortably in the hard plastic seat. How easy it would be if he could just unstick himself and go back.
Then again, life has never been easy for Angel.
A loud buzzing noise sounds overhead, signaling the entrance of a prisoner. His insides clench, but the woman shuffles over to a different window. He wonders what is taking so long. Surely they've brought Faith out much more quickly than this in the past. He tries to recall his last visit and is embarrassed to find that he can't.
The emotion fades quickly, as all of his emotions do lately. Nothing holds but the emptiness. No rage, no denial, no depression … just nothing.
A movement catches his attention and he looks up to see her slump into a matching plastic chair on the other side. Her hair hangs in greasy clumps, uncombed. Her eyes are darker than usual, hollows in a face that has lost all color. She sits unmoving, head lowered and eyes burning into his through the glass.
Hesitantly, he picks up the receiver. After a tense moment, she does the same, holding the plastic loosely to her ear, the mouthpiece dangling under her chin.
"Faith," His throat seems too full and he shuts his eyes briefly. "Faith," he tries again. "How are you?"
A scornful gaze in reply to the inanity.
"I know I haven't been by in awhile. I've been busy -" But his mouth won't finish offering the excuse.
There is no response from the other side. A faint rise and fall of her chest is the only visible movement as her eyes stare dully forward.
"Faith." His voice cracks. "I don't - I don't know how to say this." He runs a hand over his haggard face, holding his fingers over his mouth as if to hold off the coming conversation. "It's Buffy. She -"
"I know." Faith speaks as though it's the first time in months. Her normally smoky voice is almost incomprehensible now.
Angel's head snaps up in a movement more sudden than anything he's done in the past few lethargic weeks. "You … did Willow come?"
A faint snort at that, derision on her face.
"Then how?" He can't seem to handle complete sentences.
"You think I wouldn't know? You think I wouldn't feel it? That ripping out of your guts, that fcking ache? You think I could breathe that night?" Suddenly her face is alive with emotion as she flings words at him, gripping the phone so tightly he can see her skin turn white. "You have no. Fcking. Idea."
All he can do is blink. He's agonized over this trip, held that agony close to ward off the rest of the horrors his mind forces on him. Put it off as long as he could, and she's known the whole time.
"You gonna tell me how?" she challenges.
"I don't know how. Slayers … I guess there's some connection." If only he could think, if he could get through all that cotton in his head.
"Not that," she says, teeth clenched. "How did she die?"
The intensity in her gaze clears away some of the fog. "Oh." Logic begins to catch up with him and he realizes she's been sitting here for weeks, knowing what had happened and not knowing what had happened. "Faith …" Flashes of pity and regret echo through him, briefly penetrating the emptiness.
"How?" she repeats.
Angel exhales heavily. "It was…there was a god. A hell god. Glorificus."
She says nothing, waiting tensely for him to go on.
"I don't know, exactly, how it all went down. Willow said it was pretty bad … " He tries to keep the despair out of his voice, unwilling to break down again, surprised he has anything left. "She jumped off a tower. There was a portal … she sacrificed herself to save Dawn. To save all of us."
The words sound foreign even to his own ears. He keeps waiting for the end, for some surprise twist. His life hangs in stasis as he keeps waiting and waiting.
Faith nods slowly, her gaze looking through the glass but not seeing him. "Did it hurt?" she asks quietly.
Her voice sounds so far away, coming through the phone as it is, adding to the surreal quality of the situation. "I - don't know. They couldn't really tell, with the magic and everything …"
"So that's it?" she says bitterly. "That's the big reward? She was the good one. She had all the right people. She did everything fcking right and this is what she gets for it? Fck that." Her voice trembles on the last and she looks away. "Fck that," she repeats.
"They said she's survived - she survived longer than most Slayers." He dislikes the past tense.
"Well, that's real comforting. Let me run right out and thank my lucky stars to still be alive," she says heatedly. "What the hell am I still doing here? What kinda redemption is out there for someone like me, if this is all that Buffy gets?"
Angel stares numbly at her, his mind void of answers. She's right. Why fight? What redemption is possible in this world? He tries to find some stirring of concern, the fire that seems to drive Faith, but there is nothing.
"Wanna know the really stupid thing?"
The eyes looking back at him are full of passion. He envies her.
"The really stupid thing," she continues, "Is now I'm all that's left. Me. They let her die and now I'm the only one, and I can't. I can't, Angel. I'm not ready. I'm not supposed to."
"Faith," He struggles with the effort to be encouraging. "You're not. You're not the only one left. We're all here."
"No, you're not. You're not anywhere. You're both gone, except you still walk around pretending. I sit in that cell every day and I am the only one." She laughs humourlessly. "Now that's the stupid thing. B's never been here once, but I feel so fcking alone now. She's never gonna come."
He closes his eyes, fighting to hold on to the emptiness. Maybe he doesn't envy her after all. It looks so exhausting to maintain that kind of righteous anger and bitterness. Better to just stay quiet, move slowly, don't disturb anything and nothing will disturb you.
"How do you do it?" Faith's voice breaks into his efforts at isolation.
"Do what?" he asks wearily.
"You've been around a couple hundred years, right? How do you handle this, your friends, your - people dying, over and over? How can you?"
She looks at him with such need, expecting him to make it better again. But there is nothing left to make better. It's all gone. "I don't know," he answers flatly.
Faith glares at him. "Yes, you do. You must. You loved her. You knew what would probably happen to her and you loved her anyways. That's just stupid. And now she's left you all alone. You should know better by now." She stops abruptly, lowering her gaze to her lap. "You should know better."
He narrows his eyes. Buffy never said much about her relationship with Faith. Refused to speak of her, actually, other than thinly-veiled digs for information on his own dealings with the other Slayer. He's seen them together, noted the tension, and attributed much of it to Faith's intense personality.
That personality seems long gone now, drowned in grief. With her slumped shoulders and hair hanging in her face, she suddenly looks like the teenager she must have been at one time. How young had she been in Sunnydale? Had he ever really thought of her that way? Had any of them?
"They think I'm crazy."
The words are low, hardly whispered into the mouthpiece, but he hears every one.
"Crazier than usual, I mean." She smiles wryly, and even that cheer is out of place in her expression. "I just wanted to sit. If I was gonna be alone, I wanted to be left alone. I sent back three guards in pieces before they finally stopped coming. Warden didn't go for it, though," she says wistfully. "After a couple days, they came in with the stun guns. Told me if I didn't start eating and "participating", they'd toss me in the medical ward." She shudders. "I don't do hospitals."
"So now I walk around "participating", and it freaks them out even more. 'Ooh, look at the crazy girl who doesn't talk anymore. She's so scary.'" She sticks her chin out sullenly. "They don't know scary."
He finds the struggle to come up with a response exhausting. He's been doing it for weeks now, and he doesn't think Faith would mind if he took a break.
"What are they gonna do now? All the little Scooby friends?"
He lifts tired eyes. "I don't know. I think they're still in shock."
Faith snorts softly. "They don't have time for shock. Word gets out the Slayer's gone, demons are gonna come running. Did she ever think about that? Did your precious Buffy even consider the mess she was leaving behind before she jumped off some tower and left them all alone?"
He sighs. "Faith,-"
"I mean it! How could she do that? I thought she was all responsible! She just goes off and leaves them? What the hell?"
He watches her through the glass as though it were a screen, a show, set far far away. "Portrait of An Angry Young Woman". Blood rushing to the pale face, bringing color where it doesn't belong. Shoulders heaving slightly as she breathes heavily, quickly, keeping her jaw clamped shut. Eyes burning, always burning. She's so … human.
Angel blinks, surprised by his own word choice. He is surrounded by humans every day. None like this, though. None who understand. None who rage. There are tears, of course. Pity, shoulder-patting, concerned inquiries, and all those expected tears. Somehow, he doubts the turbulent girl on the other side of the glass has cried since last in his arms.
"Every time I close my eyes, I fall a thousand feet into nothingness. Did you know that? Slayer dreams, what a blast. One last parting gift from the great Buffy Summers," she spits bitterly. "Couldn't mess up my life enough while she was alive, she has to keep it up after-" Her voice breaks.
"You can feel her? You saw it?" he can't stop himself from asking urgently.
"I couldn't see enough. Not enough to stop it. Not enough to know what happened."
Just enough for nightmares in the dark. He is suddenly desperate to break through that glass and touch her, desperate for any connection with Her, no matter how unwilling or second-hand. He is jealous of her nightmares, her precious link. He wants more, he wants everything she has. He doesn't care if they're painful for her. He would welcome the pain.
He keeps coming back. He tells them he's investigating a case, but they know. He slips out of the hotel in the dark early mornings, avoiding sunlight and worried glances.
Sometimes they don't talk at all. Sometimes he is surprised the glass survives the encounter. Usually it is her, just her, talking and raging and spitting and whispering and growling. He knows they are watched, knows what they scribble in their neat little clipboards.
Subject is unresponsive to other prisoners or personnel, interacting only with regular visitor, Mr. Smith. Highly unstable.
One day, they bring him to a different room. Small. No glass. No phones. He doesn't know how she's arranged it. He doesn't ask.
It's a no-talking day. She strides up to him, kicking the door shut in the face of the smirking guard behind her. Attacks his face, gripping tightly with too-skinny fingers, tongue desperately seeking.
He answers back, gripping hair, skin, bones. He is careful not to rip her uniform, unwilling to get her in trouble and endanger further meetings.
He thinks he hears her whimper, at the end, but perhaps it was he. He politely ignores the wetness on her cheeks as she pulls away.
It's a no-talking day.