Someone Else's Hell by Djinn

Buffy stood near the rear door of the truck and listened to the sound from inside--a deep growling, like an animal.

Like a hungry vampire.

"Little sister's getting kind of antsy," Faith said as she unlocked the door and shoved it up in one move.

"Oh, sure, why bother getting a feel for how she's doing or anything before we throw open the door? Nice to see you haven't changed." Buffy scrambled into the truck, following Faith in to see the girl Andrew had sent them.

The latest of the new slayers. Dana. A young woman who made Faith look well adjusted.

Dana was launching herself at them--she'd had to be sedated for the ride from California with animal tranqs, but she'd woken up now. It had taken several slayers to subdue her, rather forcefully, if the bruises all over Dana were any indication. Although some of them looked like they'd been caused by her throwing herself against the bars of the cage.

Faith had sent the slayers who had driven the truck cross country straight out to patrol, to work off the nervous energy and boredom.

"Don't take your eyes off her," one of the slayers had said, as she'd handed Faith the keys to the cage.

Andrew had been the one to put her in it. Buffy hadn't been happy with him for caging a fellow slayer; now, she wondered why he hadn't included chains in the bargain.

Dana didn't look human.

"Jeeee-sus," Faith said softly as she backed away from the cage. "Someone is seriously off her meds."

"Yellow makes you weak," Dana said, then she looked up at Faith, her eyes going cold. "You're not weak."

"Dana." Buffy kept her voice low. "It's okay now. Everything's okay." She moved slowly, was careful to keep her hands in plain sight. "I'm Buffy. You're safe now."

"Not safe. It hurts. I hurt them back." Dana smiled, a slow, very oogly smile. "It felt good."

"She's making nuthouse sense, B." Faith jumped out of the truck. "I'm gonna see how Robin's coming with those tranqs."

"No more." Dana huddled in the corner, seeming more like a scared little girl than a psycho-killer slayer. "No more shots."

"We're not going to hurt you." But Buffy knew they had to sedate her just to get her out of the cage. She moved closer to the bars. "It's okay."

Dana leapt, hitting the side of the cage hard, scrabbling for a grip on Buffy. "Have to get out. Head and heart, that's how you do it."

Her nails raked Buffy's arm, but then she went limp, and Buffy turned to see Robin holding the tranq gun.

"You okay?" he asked.

"Been better. This is so not going to be fun." Her arm stung; Dana's nails had bit deep. "Let's get her out of here."

"Uh, Buffy, what exactly is our long term plan?" Faith climbed back up into the truck and hefted Dana up, looping an arm over her shoulder.

Buffy took the other side. "We see where this goes."

"See where this goes? Cleveland's on a Hellmouth, B. Have you really thought this thing through?" Faith let Robin take Dana while she jumped down. "Girl's going to get in the way of the war we're fighting. Or worse, she may join in if she gets loose. And who knows what team she'll pick."

"She's a slayer. She'll pick ours."

Faith gave her a look that spoke volumes--of days past, when she hadn't chosen Buffy's way.

"She's just confused."

"Right. And I was just acting out." Faith shook her head, but didn't say anything more as they hauled Dana to the basement of the warehouse Faith was using as a temporary base and into the cell they'd reinforced while they waited for the truck to arrive.

Staring down at her, Buffy could almost feel Dana's pain. "I'm going to stay here for a while."

"First watch is on you? Fine by me." Faith tipped an imaginary hat and left Buffy alone with Dana.

"You're going to be okay, Dana. I promise you that." It was a stupid promise, and Buffy meant every word.

Dana rolled over, into a fetal position, looking almost peaceful. She was mumbling in what sounded like Chinese.

Buffy leaned against the wall and waited.

--

"It stopped." Dana sat up and stared at Buffy. "You jumped. Fell, down and down. It stopped."

Buffy swallowed and nodded. Andrew had warned her that Dana appeared to be able to tap into other slayer's lives--and deaths.

Dana seemed focused somewhere deep inside herself. She hugged her arms tight around her body, rocking slightly. "It never stops."

Buffy moved closer, slowing when Dana seemed ready to spring. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything that happened to you." Even if Dana's early trauma had been nothing to do with slayers, she'd never have been activated but for the spell Buffy has asked Willow to do. So Buffy was responsible for some of this.

Dana cocked her head, watching Buffy like a dog would.

"I'm really sorry."

"You said that, B." Faith stood in the door, had come down the stairs so quietly that Buffy hadn't heard her. "Guilty much?"

"Shouldn't I be?"

Faith shrugged and slid down the wall into a sitting position. "Way I see it, we saved the world...again. How many people on the plus side would that be? Oh yeah, all of them. So, one girl--who, by the way, was already crazy--goes a little nuttier? Scales are still on our side, girlfriend."

"You tried this argument after you killed the deputy mayor."

"Accidentally killed. And yeah, I did. And yeah, I still believe it; only in this case, we didn't kill her. We just made her crazier."

"And then she killed people."

"She's a slayer, B. And, bonus, a real looney toons kind of gal. Crazy comes with a hacksaw--what do you think? Kind of a dangerous combo, maybe?"

Dana looked over at Faith. She seemed surprisingly lucid. "You fell, too. Slept a long time."

"Yep, toots, I sure did." Faith stretched her legs out, looking like she was only concerned with getting comfortable. "You thinking of falling, Dana?"

"Faith!"

"What? She's the one fixated on the topic."

"I could fall. I could never wake up." Dana clenched her fists, beat them over and over on the concrete floor. "Head and heart for them. But we go smoosh."

"Actually, it takes a lot to make us go smoosh."

"Faith, you are so not helping."

"What kind of help are you looking to give her? Because from where I'm sitting, neither of us is qualified to do more than keep an eye on her. And I have about a gazillion other things to do, not the least of which is minding the hometown badness."

"So go mind it. And leave us alone."

"You're getting tired."

"I'm fine."

Faith pushed herself up. "You're not fine. And hey, while we're on the subject of who's fine and who's not, I'm betting Angel's not doing so great. It ever occur to you what your lack of faith would do to him?"

"It ever occur to him what heading up an evil law firm would do to my ability to trust him?"

"That's what I've always loved about you, B. You're so quick to forgive and forget." Faith hurried up the stairs, nowhere near as silent as she'd been on the way down.

--

Buffy fought to keep awake. Dana was watching her, eyes slitted as if she too was having trouble staying upright.

"I cut off his arms. But you cut out his heart. The blond one. The bad one."

Spike. Buffy was still trying to figure out how Spike could be alive, much less why he was working with Angel. At the evil law firm.

Both of them had sold their souls to Wolfram & Hart? It didn't make sense.

"I didn't cut out his heart. I broke it."

"Hurt him. I hurt him, too. We're the same."

"No, Dana. We're not the same." Only--she remembered the asylum that she'd thought she'd been locked in, back when she was fighting Warren and Jonathan and Andrew. Back when she was so tired and it was almost comforting to think her life was a lunatic's nightmare instead of reality.

But that wasn't reality. It had only been the poison. "I'm fine."

"I want to see how it ends," Dana said, throwing her head back and giving a laugh that was half growl, the same way Spike had at the end, when the amulet had finally done its thing.

"I thought I knew how it ended." Spike was supposed to be dead. Angel was supposed to be good. Slayers were supposed to protect people, not kill them. Nothing was how she imagined.

Dana crept across the floor, to the bars. "Let me out."

"No."

"Can't take it. I lived in a cage. In a room with no windows, with bars on the door and they shot me full of drugs. Just like the man did. Just like you did." Dana began to rock, English giving way to what sounded like French, then she began muttering in one language after another.

"Well, I see she's doing so much better. Oh wait, she isn't." Robin stepped into the room. "What the hell are we going to do with her?"

"Are you two rappelling down here?" Or was she just so tired she couldn't hear the stairs creaking under his weight?

Robin stepped toward the cage. He had a bottle of water. "Get away from the bars, Dana."

"It's okay, baby. I'll be home soon."

He stopped, seemed to freeze.

"She's doing Nikki, isn't she?"

"Yeah. Crappy impression though." Robin tossed the water into the cage. "She'll drink when she's thirsty."

"What about food?"

"Workin' on that." Robin pulled Buffy up, keeping clear of the cage. "Go upstairs and sleep. That's an order."

"You're not the boss of me anymore."

"Maybe not. But Faith is the boss here. And she says it's time for me to relieve you."

"You're taking orders from Faith now?"

He grinned. "When I feel like it. And I feel like it now." He turned her toward the stairs. "Up, one foot in front of the other."

Buffy glanced at Dana, who stared back expressionlessly. "Yeah. I could use some sleep."

--

Faith was waiting for her at the top of the stairs. "Cot's this way." She reached into the pocket of her jacket, handed Buffy a cell phone. "Call him. His number's programmed in."

Buffy tried to give it back.

"B, quit being an asshole and call him." Faith pointed to a screened off area in the warehouse. "Sleep there. Call first."

Angel was the first entry in the address book. Buffy's finger hovered over the send key, then she put the phone down and rolled onto the cot, not bothering to pull off her boots.

Sleep came quickly, but it didn't touch her gently. She woke thrashing from the last in a series of nightmares. This one about the night Dawn had tried to bring their mother back--only this time Dawn didn't tear up the photo, and Buffy let a thing that looked like her mom into the house. Dawn didn't survive. Buffy woke to the sound of her own screams as in her dream, her mother tried to tear her throat out.

The screaming went on, and Buffy realized it was Dana. She heard Faith yelling, couldn't hear anything from Robin. She sprinted across the warehouse, taking the stairs three at a time and nearly barreled into Faith as she ran into the room where Dana was locked up.

Dana had Robin by the throat, a plate of food spilled at his feet. It looked like any second she might twist and Robin's neck would snap, even though he was holding on to her hands as if he could stop her from killing him.

Everything seemed to change to slow motion: Faith pulling a knife from somewhere, the snap of the blade as she released it, as it flew, deadly true, past Robin's head, into Dana's eye--into Dana's poor tangled brain.

Dana jerked back and let go of Robin as she yanked the dagger out of her eye. Blood spurted from the ruined socket as she tried to stab Robin with the knife, but he launched himself away from the cage, falling hard and scrambling for the door and Faith.

Dana stood, studying the knife with her one eye. Then she smiled, and it was a wrenching expression, a happiness born of violence and horror. "Falling makes it better," she said, as she pushed the knife into her chest and fell forward.

Buffy could hear the blade as it cut into her, moved but felt Faith grab her.

"She's not dead yet, B."

"We have to help her."

"No. She's finished. Just let her bleed. It's what she wanted. It's what she needs." Helping Robin up, Faith touched his neck where bruises were already springing up. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Nice shot."

Buffy knelt, then slid down to lie on the cold cement, her cheek on the floor, a mirror image to how Dana lay.

"Missed the heart. This way's slower. But close enough." Dana reached out, her hand stretching across the growing pool of blood. "No more pain. Falling makes it stop."

Buffy reached into the cage, past the bars, and touched Dana's hand. "No. No, it really doesn't."

But Dana's smile changed, and she turned her hand so her fingers could touch Buffy's. "It will. It has to." And in that moment, she almost sounded sane.

They lay like that while Dana bled and the light went slowly out of her eyes. They lay like that long past the time when it was needed. Faith and Robin went upstairs, and Buffy didn't move.

When she finally got up and walked to the stairs, she saw the cell phone waiting for her on the bottom step. Sitting, she found Angel's entry, hit send.

It only rang a few times, then "Hello? Faith?"

"It's me."

There was silence. She probably deserved that. But...no. She didn't. Angel wasn't supposed to work in that place, with those people. He wasn't supposed to--

"You couldn't have saved her," she whispered into the stillness. "I couldn't save her."

"She's dead?" Angel's voice was cold.

"Yes."

"Spike will be relieved."

It was odd. Angel caring more about Spike's feelings than hers. Or his own.

"I'm sure he will be." It wasn't the right thing to say. She should say she was sorry for not trusting him.

She should say she still loved him.

She should say anything, not just hang on the line waiting for him to say more.

"I have things to do," he finally said. "And we're...finished. Right? No trust anymore?"

Andrew had told him that. She'd told Andrew to tell him that. But they weren't finished. They'd never be finished. He was her soul mate. Wasn't he?

"I have to go." Her soul mate hung up on her. The cell helpfully telling her that the call had ended in case the extreme lack of words during the minute more she hung on didn't clue her in.

Pushing herself to her feet, Buffy saw Faith waiting for her at the top of the stairs. She tossed her the cell phone, then turned and headed back to sit with Dana.

"She's dead, Buffy."

"And we did all we could, right?"

"We did." Faith sounded tired--sick to death of Buffy and this poor, doomed slayer she'd brought her. That was what a Hellmouth could do to a girl.

Make her strong. Make her hard.

And falling would never make it better.

FIN