TITLE: Worth Fighting For
AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod
CATEGORY: Challenge response, drama, romance, angst
SPOILERS: BtVS Chosen; SG-1 Fragile Balance
SEASON: BtVS: Post Chosen; SG-1: 8
CONTENT LEVEL: FR15, T, 13+, take your pick
CONTENT WARNINGS: little bit of language
SUMMARY: When Faith wakes up missing three years of her life, all she seems to find are more questions. Can the answers lie with a man she only remembers meeting once before?
DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vamipre Slayer and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy . Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. I'm just borrowing them for a little while and will return them unharmed. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVE: TtH, Jackfic, Gateworld, any others please ask
AUTHORS' NOTES: While reading through the Challenge pages on Twisting the Hellmouth, this idea grabbed ahold and wouldn't let go. As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
CONTINUITY NOTE: I've fiddled with the timeline just a little so don't bother trying to add up the years. It'll all make sense, I promise.
CHALLENGE BASIC DETAILS: Challenge 1737: Waking Up to The Married Life
A Scoobie wakes up one morning next to a complete stranger. A stranger that he/she has supposedly been married to for the past two years. Pictures, a home, and the rest of the scoobies all point to a reality that he/she cannot remember, but is obviously true.
The Scoobie has to learn to get along with his/her new spouse and perhaps even remember the forgotten feelings of love. And what if she wakes up to find out it's all a dream? Or slayer prophecy?
She woke instantly.
There was no gentle slide from slumber to consciousness, just one moment suddenly awake. Her eyes opened, all senses flared wide. Nothing. No demons of any kind in the immediate vicinity. She flung the sheet and blanket off, surprised to see she wore an oversized t-shirt and a pair of men's boxers. Were these hers? She sure didn't recognize them if they were. Standing, she took a look around the room.
Welcoming. That was her first thought. The second was comforting. A frown covered her face at the uncharacteristic descriptions. Home, her brain added to the confusing list.
"Yeah, whatever," she muttered, heading for the door. She didn't have a home, not really. How would she know what a home was supposed to feel like? Bypassing the bathroom without a glance, she ignored the impulse to peek in the closet for a smidge of information on where the hell she was. She'd woken up plenty of times in a strange bed, usually after a night of mutually beneficial sex. But she'd never woken up with absolutely no idea of the night before's events or how she'd gotten into said bed.
A quiet clatter from somewhere in the house – or was it an apartment? – alerted her to another occupant. She sidled out the door and down the hall on silent feet. Framed pictures she didn't take the time to look at hung on the walls to either side. Stopping at the end of the hall just before the entryway, she scanned the large room sprawling out in front of her. A fireplace dominated one wall and comfortable looking furniture was scattered around the room while more photos and nick-nacks turned it into a place people lived.
Getting a little sappy in your old age, aren't you? Shaking her head at the thought, she focused once again on gathering what information she could from her senses. Footsteps sounded to her left, around the corner, bare feet on tile. She sank back into the wall, breathing shallowly. Whoever it was didn't know she was awake. Uneasiness curled into her gut, not a feeling she was accustomed to.
A man rounded the corner, making the sharp turn with the ease of familiarity. His appearance was so not what she was expecting, she must have made some involuntary movement because the man moved before it registered in her brain.
Yanked away from the wall, she found an arm around her throat, one hand pressed against the back of her head, closing her windpipe. Before she'd even tensed her muscles to throw him off, he released her with a heartfelt curse. The sudden changes had her frowning as she looked up to meet brown eyes. Damn, he was fast. Much faster than she usually attributed to a full human. At least as far as she could tell he was human. Except he was almost Slayer fast.
"God, baby, are you okay?"
His voice was shaking and filled with so much concern, her stomach actually clenched as she held his gaze. Whoever this guy thought she was happened to be one lucky lady. Too stunned to react – which was saying a lot for her - she didn't bat away the hands gently lifting her chin to stroke the neck he'd just had in a very competent choke hold.
"Why didn't you let me know you were awake?" the man continued in a tone as unsteady as his hands. "You know not to sneak up on me like that."
The man was freaked out he might have hurt her. She barely restrained a snort. Him hurt her? Yeah, right. His fingers were gentle but something in them sent shivers of awareness through her entire body. Shifting her focus from what he was doing to what he looked like, she frowned again.
She knew him.
Well, not really. But she recognized him. She hadn't seen him in years. Six years, to be more precise. A single night stopover in Colorado Springs during a hellish week of panicked flight from Boston. A bar to find a little forgetfulness. A soft rejection followed by her one not awful memory of those horrid days. A dinner full of quiet talking and even quieter understanding.
He was older, but not changed for the worse for all the added years. His hair was fully grey now and a few more lines had been added to the face. His voice was only slightly different, a lighter tone in it than all those years ago, as if some great big hurt inside him had been healed. However the eyes were the same: deep brown and could still look straight into the middle of her soul.
He was still muttering softly under his breath, concentration on her skin. The clenching in her gut grew with every word. He had no reason to be so concerned. Reaching up, she grasped his wrists, pulling his hands from her neck. "I'm five by five. Really."
He literally froze. She almost took a step back at the blank mask that covered his face, her hands still gripping his wrists. She'd never seen someone's face change that fast. Then she reminded herself she was a Slayer and he couldn't hurt her. Not physically anyway.
The voice had hardened, turning flat, uncompromising. Gone was the gentle caring that shivered over her skin. In its place was suspicion underlaced with something she wanted to call fear. He was still staring down at her, obviously waiting for an answer. She had no idea what he was expecting her to say, so she answered with the first thing that came into her brain.
"Yeah, I'm Faith. You're Jack. And you want to explain what I'm doing here?"
He blanched, the mask disappearing as fast as it appeared as his face went white as his t-shirt. "That's not funny."
"Not much with the laughing here." Dropping his wrists, she turned away from the look on his face and walked down two short steps into the large room she'd examined just a minute ago. "Want to explain what we did last night to make me not remember it? At least tell me I had a good time."
She prowled around the room, glancing back to see him sink down onto the steps at his feet. His eyes followed her every movement, sending a shiver running along her spine. What was it between them? Jack had struck a nerve with her in the bar that night, which was why she'd come onto him. The fact he was quite a bit older than her hadn't put a dent in her thoughts. Something about him had just called out to her. But he'd turned her down in a way that hadn't offended her. It had, in truth, made her feel more cared for than at any other time in her short life. His hands, voice and look just moments ago had all but screamed a familiarity she should have remembered. Yet again, what the hell was going on?
Jack still hadn't answered her, seemingly too stunned to do more than sit and stare at her pacing. About to ask one last time before heading for the door and out of there, her eyes were caught by a picture prominently on display above the mantle. Her pacing halted in mid-step, eyes seeing but brain unable to process the information.
It was a close up shot. The woman, her dark brown hair swept up in an elegant looking knot with artfully draped locks framing her face. The man, holding the woman's right hand in his placing a soft kiss on the knuckles. Both of them looking directly into the other's eyes from scant inches apart, expressions filled with joy, confidence and love.
Somehow Faith tore her eyes away from the sight only to find herself confronted with more pictures surrounding the first. This one of the couple in full length, smiles still firmly in place. That one of them dancing, cuddled close together. And yet another, obviously a candid shot, of them parting from a kiss, eyes once again locked together.
It took three tries to get the words to form. "We're married?"
"Yeah. Two years last week."
His voice was carefully bland as if he knew she was about to split. She was married? To Jack? What the hell was going on and why couldn't she remember any of it? Wanting to see what was on his face but too confused to handle it, Faith looked down at her left hand instead. A wedding set circled her ring finger, the stones glittering with inner fire. A simple platinum setting held a diamond so big she nearly choked. Small, blood red rubies sat offset to either side in what should have been a study in how to not make a ring, yet was somehow the perfect showcase for the beautiful center stone. The band was alternating diamond and rubies, simple, elegant and, again, perfect.
Faith couldn't pull her eyes from the rings, her vision becoming unfocused. It was perfect. The few times she'd ever let herself waste time on what her future husband – and wasn't that worth a laugh and a half – would get for her, she'd pictured what was now sitting on her hand.
"I always thought you had too much passion for diamonds alone."
She whirled around, heart suddenly pumping furiously. How the hell had he gotten that close without her hearing him? He was human, wasn't he? "What year is it?"
The question slapped the returning warmth off his face. "2005. You going to tell me what's going on?"
2005? Three years? She was missing three years? She must have gone as pale as she felt because Jack was suddenly guiding her to sit on the couch, one hand under her elbow. Some really twisted things had happened to her over the years, but this was the first time she'd ever heard of being transported into the future. The world took on a surreal overlay, her eyes jumping from one random thing to the next until they were drawn back to the pictures of her wedding day. If she could have found the breath to do it, she'd have been laughing hysterically at the moment. There was no question in her mind about that. But the world was spinning crazily as she continued to stare up at the evidence of her future self's happiness.
She heard him from a distance, could feel the warmth of his hands on her arm. Struggling to pull herself together – she was the Slayer, damn it, she'd been through worse than this, hadn't she? – she focused on one tiny fact from the photos and used it to try to bring her back to reality. "You're military?"
"Air Force." Jack's hand never left her arm, the pressure an anchor she grasped.
"Military." For some reason that simple fact snapped everything into focus. There was no way her subconscious would have come up with that one. She met his eyes, the dark brown filled with concern and not a little uneasiness. "So, not bad for my first panic attack." Even to her own ears it sounded forced.
A smile twitched at his lips before the serious expression returned. At least he hadn't gone back to that blank mask. "I'm afraid it's not over yet."
"What does that mean?" Faith leaned away from him, muscles tensing to fight, to flee, to anything but sit there.
Jack lurched to his feet, one hand coming up to scrub through his hair. "It means that I have to call Brightman and have her check you out." He met her eyes, apology mixed with that same uneasiness. "My job requires it when something," he paused as if searching for the right word, "unusual happens. This is unusual."
"Who's Brightman?" Yeah, she sure as hell sounded suspicious.
There was no way she was agreeing to an examination by his doctor. Who knew what might turn up in the results. All she needed was to become some lab rat locked in a cage by the military. Suspicion was turning into pissed off. It was the most normal she'd felt since waking up in his bed. Their bed. She shoved that thought aside for a better one. "You have a job that requires," she felt his wince at the emphasized word, "me to be checked out by your doctor? What the hell kind of job do you have?"
"Deep space radar telemetry."
"What is that?"
"Exactly what it sounds like." Now he was starting to sound pissed. Great, she'd married a man with as volatile a temper as hers. What had she been thinking?
"It sounds like a bunch of crap. Care to explain a little?"
"You know I can't talk about it."
"Well apparently I don't know about it!"
The shout rang through the room, freezing them both motionless. Jack broke first, a sigh lifting his shoulders. "Faith, there's nothing I can say that will make this situation any easier, but I don't have a choice. I deal with too much craziness to not follow the rules." He held her gaze, face expressionless but for a tightening of his lips. "I don't have a choice."
His quietly repeated words hit with the impact of a troll hammer. As far as she could see she had two options. One – she bailed. Right out the front door without looking back. She'd lived most of her life by wits alone more often than not. She could do it again, three years out of her time or not. If that story was true. Or two – she trusted Jack, the man who she'd supposedly married. The man who'd befriended a scared teenager with more power than sense. The man whose touch felt familiar yet new at the same time.
"Where are we?" she asked, stalling, thumb unconsciously rubbing the smooth band around her finger.
"Thank you, Mr. Obvious. I meant what state? City?" She couldn't help the sarcastic tone, it was as natural as breathing.
Once again, that tiny smile twitched at the corners of his mouth. "Colorado Springs, Colorado."
Well damn. Even that matched. A sinking feeling filled her gut. Somehow she didn't think Jack was the butt of this particular joke. No, that was her specialty. Meeting his eyes solidly, she nodded once before she could chicken out. "Call this Brightman person. Let's get this over with."
His smile widening slightly, some of the tension eased from his tall frame. "Why don't you get dressed," he suggested, stepping over to the phone.
Watching him dial from memory, Faith stood on not completely steady legs. She could always bail if things went south, right? Jack's voice was a low rumble that followed her back to the bedroom. Yeah, bailing was always a good Plan B. But as she pulled jeans in her size from the dresser that sinking feeling became a full flood of nausea.
Definitely the butt someone's twisted joke.