Title: Downslide
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Dollhouse crossover
Rating: R
Genre: Dark, AU, general, surreal
Warnings for drug use and character death
Character: Willow Rosenberg
Set: Post-Chosen, and between Spy in the House of Love and the Attic of Dollhouse
Summary: Willow learns that when you work for the Dollhouse, your options tend to slim to three: carry out Rossum's work without question, death or the Attic.
Notes: Written for whichwillow and the prompt, "Willow accepts the offer to go work for the big computer company in What's My Line." Thanks consumedly for your feedback.

There was no fog quite like the creeping gloom of cemetery fog, Willow thought as she walked between the tall headstones, chilled and uncertain. A marble forest appeared, as the fog faded, stretching out into the distance. The dead out numbered the living in this neck of the woods. Somewhere along the line she had lost Xander and Buffy, but she tried to keep her cool. Willow checked her pockets. Where was her stake? She just had it.

A stick crunched behind her.

Willow jumped. What was that? This wasn't good, Rosenberg, she thought. No stake. No slayer.

An owl hooted and shrieked as it swooped overhead.

She dodged, watching it pick up a frog in its talons, with a grimace. Bumping into a broad chest, a sinking feeling grew in her stomach. Code blood.

"Hello, Willow," Angelus said, silky and dark, fangs out, before he threw her to the ground. "I never did get to thank you for the soul." He smirked in the darkness as his long coat flapped around him as he lunged for her.

Willow screamed as she fell. Trying to scramble away, crab walking back and pushing herself up, she felt him tug her by the ankle. She yelled for Buffy.

Angelus smiled at her, fangs out, ridges on his brow, pure evil in his yellow eyes. "You must know, this is just what you deserve." He pushed her face into the grass to bare her neck then bit down hard and drank deep.

Stars glimmered down at her from the unusually bright sky. No clouds above the thinnning fog. The moon, cratered and harvest orange, was the last thing she saw until she opened her eyes again.

To see her reflection, vertical, not-dead, and older, sitting in a sparse hotel room with the furniture pushed to the side. A sacred if dark circle was outlined in salt and dried hemlock on the floor. Just another traveler in a dingy motel to the cracked green walls and scratched furniture. Swirling and dull from a calming bump of ketamine, Willow tried to stay focused on the coke, doling it out of the thin metal pill box, and snorting the line in a quick snuff. If she was in a joking mood, she would have giggled at the thought of blow for the whistle-blower. She needed to stay on course, stay focused, just like she planned it, and not freak out. That's how they got you. Freaking out meant fucking up. Willow only had to keep it mundane until she handed it all off to Marie then she'd go down paths that Rossum could never reach.

A manila envelope took up a corner of the vanity.

Willow put her pill box back into her purse before tapping her fingers against the vanity. She knew that they would be coming for her, nothing got past Rossum, but Willow couldn't stay a cog in a evil machine anymore. Once she had been brave and selfless, wore stupid hats, and was besties with the Chosen one. Willow looked at the solemn and gaunt woman in the mirror, long red hair windblown, red tint to her nostrils, and wondered if that perky little do-gooder was still buried in there. Standing up, she tossed the folder into her purse she left after blowing dried calliope root over the circle.

She had paid for the room with her credit card.

Rossum Actives would find a surprise when they came to investigate.

Willow jumped in her stolen sedan and drove out of the motel parking lot.

Swirling, sinking, fading in and out, Willow took another ketamine bump of the back off her hand as she waited in the second floor ladies bathroom in the fourth stall from the door of a Raleigh department store. Death in a form of a manila envelope sat in her purse next to her cheap prepaid phone and gun. Time slowed down and her breathing evened as she leaned her head back against the stall. A pentagram and surrounding druidic symbols looked back at her. In the flickering fluorescent light, the black symbols danced and promised safe passage through space and distance. Even Rossum's science couldn't beat magic. She would hand the thumb drives and the encryption key to Marie, a news hound for The New York Times, and then disappear. Fade into the underground. Become a new person.

"Did anyone follow you?" Willow asked as she stepped out of the stall.

Marie shook her head, confidence clear on her thin face, secure in the thought that she was middle age's answer to Lois Lane.

The bathroom door opened behind her and Hecate, a doll Willow had wiped only last week, stepped in with a raised gun and shot Marie point blank in the head. The silencer muffed the sound. She had two guns in her hands and a merciless frown on her face. Her dark braided hair swayed as she turned to Willow with programed precision.

She had given the woman a caramel candy after her last engagement just as she did with all the rest. Her real name was Lucy Rodriguez, Willow never could forget their names. She was just as bad at being a villain as she was a hero.

Red mist hit Willow's face.

She raised her hands to begin the spell but the tranquiler dart hit her in the stomach.

Hecate's face swam and twisted as darkness sprouted as if kudzu and dandelions. The lights flickered out. In the silence, she could hear a beep, constant and fuzzy, like her own heartbeat.

Bennett Halverson stared down at her, face clear and devoid of emotion, brown eyes deep and darker than any mausoleum. She was the new Death, a technowaif with glasses on a chain, and her scythe was a computer chip.

Bodydeath was so last millennium.

"Their bodies are shells, the actives, but in the Attic your body will be a prison. I had warned you. I'll take good care of Willow Rosenberg though. Until you turned out to be a traitor, you had been my second best assistant."

Willow had envied her so much.

"There not much I can do for you. These types of situations never turn out well." Bennett turned to the computer screen to type in a last bit of paperwork while the imprinting server fired up.

Willow recognized the form even upside down and heavily drugged. Uppers and downers. She would have laughed if not for the mouth guard to stop her from biting her tongue off during the convulsions.

The body never wanted to let its brain go.

"Tried. I tried. Walk more than softly, just stick to your places, you know I said that, Willow, over lunch. Not more than 10.76 yards from here." Bennett stuttered even as her fingers smoothly typed over the touch-pad on the control panel of the imprinting table.

Her body felt like it was oozing into the table. Sparks flashed in front of her vision and she couldn't concentrate enough to draw on her only advantage over Bennett—Magic. Sunnydale's brightest academic star paled in comparison to the unflinching brilliance that Rossum ensnared in its grip. Willow had kept lethe's bamble in a vase on her desk right next to her pencils and a picture of the old Scooby Gang. She knew they wouldn't have recognized her towards the end.

The old 'bubble bubble toil and trouble' lingered under the numbing narcotics but the strapped in mouth guard stopped her chants and her fingers couldn't trace symbols in the air when her hands were tied. Tears dripped down her temples as she felt herself crash from the tranquiler and reality.

"Four terabytes of betrayal. Robots can never forgive; idealism isn't rewarded." Bennett adjusted her glasses as she frowned. Judgment clear on her face even as it began to ripple. "You must know, this is just what you deserve."

Willow arched up as the purple lights blinded her, dissolving into billions of stars falling and screaming so loud that she couldn't hear anything over her mental death. She fell and dissolved, crumbling and fading, before Willow found herself on her feet musing about the creeping gloom that the cemetery appeared in.

There was no fog quite like the creeping gloom of cemetery fog, Willow thought as she walked between the flat headstones, goosebumps along her arms.

A shadow rushed by her in the gloom, a black mass of muscle, wraith in the fog.

Gasping, she stepped back and tried to find her stake. She just had it a minute ago, Willow frantically patted her pockets, wondering where in the frilly heck that Buffy and Xander had gotten too.

An owl hooted and swooped in as the fog cleared. It picked up a frog in its talons.


Willow jumped back into a broad chest, a sinking feeling grew in her stomach as she turned around to see the shadow man.

More like a comic book meets Wrestlemania villain, he loomed and hulked over her, but before Willow could place the right pop culture reference, he stabbed her.

Again and again.

The world was reduced to the knife in her belly, painpainpainpain, her nerves screamed at her and she screamed along with them.

He pushed her off the knife as soon as he heard the first gun shot then he was running out of her nightmare. Gone like fog.

She fell to the grass, gasping, keeping her insides inside.

An armed man in a worn leather jacket, gray in his blonde hair, ran past on the trail. "Arcane!" His call echoed off the headstones and into reality.

Willow opened her blurry eyes. Like a can of peaches, she sat pickled and preserved, cold and wet.

The beeps of the heart monitors slowed.

Willow didn't see her life flash before her eyes. No science fairs or scooby meetings came to mind. She only remembered Adelle DeWitt and the moment after she signed up for Mad Scientist Incorporated.

Adelle DeWitt had worn a lab coat in those days without sexy business woman shoes and her own Dollhouse around her. She did already have the steely eyes though. Taking the freshly signed contract off the table, she spread out the contents of a manila folder.

Willow's gaze drawn to the photos and files of her own computer laboratory. She'd have to move away from California, but it was hard to say no to the resources that Rossum had at its disposal. The monitors were so shiny and they had super fast servers that made her drool.

Buffy would understand.

"Its completely state of the art and quite fit to make the most of your talents." Adelle smiled and poured her tea. "You must know, this is just what you deserve."