Title: Just an Echo in the Night
Summary: Set during "Sanctuary". Haunted by her thoughts and cornered by people looking for...justice, Faith is made an offer. Eventually Crossover with Dollhouse (AKA Joss and Eliza's new show)
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series, characters, plots and dialogues belong to Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt and Mutant Enemy ("grrr argh"), The WB and Twentieth Century Fox. Echo and her Dollhouse belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Eliza Dushku and Boston Diva Productions (insert fitting Eliza-y quote here), FOX and Twentieth Century Fox. No copyright infringement intended. This has been made for entertainment purposes solely.
Author's note: Ignore the timeline. No idea "when" Dollhouse is supposed to take place, but I guess it's not the year 2000 :P
Thanks to my betas Will-Lehane- and K (she goes by many names)
Everything that happens in the third and last chapter is a SPOILER for Dollhouse (or at least, what I think might happen at some point of the series - or at some point predating the series)!!So, if you don't wanna be spoiled, stay away from it - I don't wanna be held responsible for ruining it for you :P
She stopped dead in her tracks. Was it a member of the Watcher's Council, anyway? Why else should this guy know her name?
Inwardly preparing for a fight, she turned around slowly. If he wasn't with the council, he could be another kind of threat. In her current situation…she also had the police and possibly even Lilah and her Wolfram and Hart flunkies looking for her.
The guy she now faced did not look like a particular threat. She could fight him easily if she had to. Trusting her judgment, she eased up…a little. If he were with the police, he would have overpowered her by now. If he were with the evil law firm, he would have put a magically immobilizing whammy on her, maybe. If he were with the council, he would…have done worse.
"Miss…may I ask you to come with me, please?"
She considered her options. Jail. She was determined to go there. To make up for everything. But this guy…why did going with him suddenly seem so much more enticing?
This can't be?
He put a hand on her back and she let herself be lead. The guy, maybe forty years of age, tall and slender, had a gentle, unthreatening aura around him. He looked as if he couldn't harm a fly. But then again, she could be wrong.
Still confused at why he knew her, but also curious in her own way, she entered the unobtrusive black van that stood around the corner.
Immediately her eyes fell on the side wall, full of monitors with pictures and video material of…herself.
One of Los Angeles' local TV stations that was still exclusively reporting her case. Several monitors with old and recent material of observation cameras – of her leaving Angel's apartment through the sewer access before being stopped by him, of her fight in the bar a few days ago, of her in the Wolfram and Hart headquarter, of her lying in bed in the basement sickroom at the Sunnydale General…even material from Sunnydale's city hall, interior and exterior.
Several screens displayed part basic and part more detailed information about her. Everything down to a comparatively short school career, at times peppered with cross-references to multitudinous hospital stays, which themselves started as early as mid 1985.
She turned around when he shut the back doors behind them and locked them, with door closers in several places. He checked twice to make sure the doors were locked tight, before thumping his fist against the side of the van twice. Seconds later, the vehicle started to move.
What was this? She wasn't even planning on a ride. Especially not in an eerie van that looked more like a multimedia museum, engaged in an exhibition about her life. "What's going on?" she inquired, a little concerned. A side effect of the being-trapped-and-confronted-with-her-life basically.
"Please, have a seat," a kind hand motioned to two chairs, positioned in a corner. She sat down slowly, watching closely as he approached and sat down in the other chair. Half hidden by the futuristic-looking screen table between them, she could see the butt of a gun peeking out of the waistband of the otherwise inconspicuously clothed man.
Okay. Still a threat.
"Miss Lehane…," he faced her and fixed her with a look that was gentle and… understanding …? "You might wonder why we have been monitoring you, how we know you…"
Understatement. Faith nodded slowly, suspicion increasing.
"You came to our attention a while ago. We are well aware of your unique situation, your calling, the...pivotal...happenings in your life, especially in recent months."
Looking over to the wall full of monitors…she ssubconsciously rubbed her hands on her pants…the blood was still there. And she feared that she wouldn't get it off any time soon…
The man caught her movement but didn't comment on it.
"We can help you with this, Miss Lehane. All of it. We can help you start a new life. You would not have to put up with this," he watched closely for her reactions. "The memories. The people…We have our ways of making you…forget about what happened."
What was he saying? How was that supposed to work?
Not that she was surprised that something like this was possible. This was a crazy world, full of demons, witches... slayers... and other otherworldly things going on. A little mind-wiping on top of that…it wasn't a big thing.
But…her? In her life, no one ever really promised to give her something she wanted. Except for her Da-…the Bo-…the Mayor. And this had ended in a catastrophe. So, why would this guy…whom she didn't even know the name of and what he was about…promise her this? The thing she wanted.
Because truth be told…she didn't want jail, though she it was the right thing…the legally right thing. Jail meant living with her thoughts and memories. She didn't want death either. If she had, she would have been faster back there in the kitchen, would have jumped off the roof or would have let herself be shot by the council guys.
Childhood promises of ending up 'dead, alone, as a loser' had burned themselves into her brain. Two of the things had become true already…the third thing…no. She wouldn't let that happen.
If there was another way to start again…without constant reminders from Buffy and anyone else about what she had done…
"Forget. Isn't that what you want…Faith?"
'Faith'. Why did he just…
'What have I been thinking when I gave you that name… 'little, ungrateful bitch'. My life would have been better without you.'
'Faith, a word of advice. You're an idiot.'
'Faith, you don't get it. You killed a man.'
'We don't want a replacement slayer anytime soon. They can't all turn out like my girl Faith.'
'I was your watcher, Faith, I know the real you. And even if you kill me, there's just one thing I want you to remember...you...are a piece of sh-'
'Five by Five, right, Faith? But it swallowed you whole.'
Faith knew what the emotion in Buffy's voice had been… 'Faith' was nothing more than a curse word…and everything her name stood for…
Looking at the screens again, she had to close her eyes…it was too painful to see. The memories of all the things she had done…and everything anyone else had done to her, were wreaking havoc in her brain.
She didn't want this anymore.
"Yeah…," she replied. She didn't manage more than a low whisper.
It was enough for the man. He knew he had gotten through to her.
With a smile that was somewhere between genuine and smug, he leaned back and let her in on the plan, on the operation.
Told her about a secret laboratory. About the people running the operation. About the process of mind-wiping that would render her and other people without memory of their previous life.
But then came the twist. She should have known that this wouldn't go as easy as she had thought and without counterperformance.
Things about the 'Actives' – the official name of the people turned into virtual childlike tabulae rasae – being imprinted with personality packages, memories, skills for various assignments, re-enacting scenarios...adventurous, sexual, outlandish, sometimes illegal.
Before they forget all about it. Until the next mission.
She could see that it wouldn't be all good...from a moralistic point of view. She also knew that she couldn't back out now that she knew all about it – he wouldn't let her. He wasn't wearing the gun for no reason and she figured he would not be afraid to use it.
But most importantly – she didn't want to back out.
Between going back to Angel…Buffy and the others, going to jail or dying at the hands of godknowswho…this seemed her best option.
As long as…
She asked the man about what would happen to the others. Angel, Wesley, Buffy. She knew that the police was looking for her. She was sure that Wolfram & Hart were looking for her. She knew about the watcher guys. The latter two had connections to them in some way or the other. And from Angel's reaction earlier on, she knew there was something going on between him and that detective on TV. She didn't want them to get hurt or worse because she had decided to cop out...again – and for real this time.
She still cared about them. Even if very soon she wouldn't remember them.
Only now this thought hit her. She wouldn't even remember the good things in her life… conversations with her first watcher, that Christmas at the Summers' house, those few times in which Buffy had really allowed her in her life – as more than just a slayer, father-daughter moments with the Mayor (regardless of his villainy), even one or two childhood moments.
Still she stood by her decision. Even keeping that in mind…the bad things outweighed everything good in her life by far. The bad things she had done weighed even more.
She listened as he assured her that no harm would come to her…friends. The organization had their way of 'fixing' all problems connected to her disappearance. On a legal basis, a personal basis, a mystical basis.
She had no idea how this…especially her link to the mystical world, was supposed to be solved. From what her watcher had told her, she was the rightful slayer, the latest girl in the slayer line. Her death alone would lead to the calling of a new slayer.
But his assurance that it everything would be fixed and turn out okay was enough.
Content she looked down at the contract that had appeared on the screen table.
The past seventeen years…they would soon be forgotten. The pain, the loneliness, the rage, the guilt. The good times…
Savoring the good memories one last time, she got ready to sign the contract. But how? 'Faith Lehane'? No, she couldn't…She wasn't this person…not anymore.
Knowing about her apprehension, the man solved this problem for her. He motioned her to a flat panel next to the table, told her to lay her hand on it.
Doing so, she watched as the thing scanned her hand and a print of it appeared under the contract seconds later.
This was it.
She felt fatigue wash over her and closed her eyes. When she woke up the next time, she would not be herself anymore. Only her body would be left, not her soul, her consciousness.
She would be transformed. Someone else... No one.
A soft smile played around her lips.
That night… Faith Lehane … the Slayer … the failure … the killer … ceased to exist.
Thank you for reading, guys. I hope you liked it :)
The last chapter sounded a little brainwashy (I hope) since one of the series descriptions said "ostensibly volunteers" and I figured something like this might have happened to the actives. Well, not that I know :P