Title Crimson Regret
Author Shona aka Mara
Rating 15 (probably be higher by the end of the whole thing to be honest)
Disclaimer Not my sandbox, Joss said I could play here
Summary Xander is spiralling into depression while Faith tries to help. Things aren't so cut-and-dried however...
Previously The group has relocated to a temporary location in a hotel between Sunnydale and LA, they are gradually coming to terms with what they did to close the Hellmouth. Xander has retreated into himself in grief and, although Faith has managed to reach out to him in the immediate aftermath, he is shutting her out now. She won't let him and, with the encouragement of both Giles and Willow, is continuing to force him to get out of his room. During a patrol they end up in a bar hashing things out and an uneasy peace settles between them right before they return to find the hotel on fire, Kennedy missing, and Willow casting a spell. Xander rushes in to stop Willow and inadvertantly traps them both in the flames, Faith has faced a choice of who to rescue. Xander has woken in hospital and Dawn has confirmed to him that Willow caused the fire.
A cacophony of voices, machines, sounds wake her but she doesn’t open her eyes, doesn’t want to see, to face the world. She lies there, wonders why she’s alive, wonders why her head feels like it’s wrapped in cotton wool laced with razor blades. The tang of antiseptic in the air barely masks the other smells – sickness, death, decay – and even if there were no other clues she’d know from the smell alone that she’s in a hospital.
She tries to focus, tries to remember why she’s here but can’t. All she recalls is heat so intense it felt like her blood was boiling in her veins, a fear so sharp she thought her heart would never start beating again.
She drifts away, unable to remember, unwilling to try.
When she wakes again everything is sharper. Light shines into her eyes, blinding her, she tries to turn away but hands – and other things – hold her down. Voices are talking to her, hurling questions her way – does she know where she is, who she is?
She doesn’t answer. Too many questions, too many people, too much chaos. She lets the blackness take her.
The next thing she’s aware of is of being watched – no, not watched. Regarded. There’s a malevolence in there that belies the simple act of watching. She feels the way she imagines bacteria in a lab would, having some superior being observing her. She wants to squirm away, escape that malevolent gaze, but her limbs won’t move. She’s stuck firmly in place.
A cold sweat born of fear prickles her skin and she shivers involuntarily.
“She’s waking up!” A familiar voice, one that makes her heart sink for some unknown reason. She's hurt the owner of the voice in ways she can never redeem.
“Faith? Can you hear me?” Another voice she knows, this one bringing images of sunshine and pain all rolled into one.
She knows them, she can see them in her mind. Why can't she name them?
She struggles to open her eyes against the blinding light, the disorientation makes her cringe and for a moment she panics. She's helpless, she doesn't know these people, her mind is playing tricks on her. Then everything clicks and she knows she's fine.
She knows that's a lie.
Blurry shapes hover at the edge of vision and she knows they are the owners of the voices she recognizes. She blinks away the glare, remembers how to focus, and looks at them.
As soon as she sees their faces their names fall into place. Willow is perched on the end of the bed and Dawn is at her side. She starts a little when she sees the young girl. Dawn has been crying, that much is clear from the puffiness around her eyes, but there's something else. Something missing in her eyes.
Faith searches Dawn's face, trying to figure out what's wrong. She frowns. The drugs they’ve put her on must be really strong – memories keep replaying in her head but it’s like there’s two of each, she doesn’t know what to believe.
Dawn holds her hand lightly until Faith pulls away, she doesn't know why, something in her can't stand to touch the girl (not a girl) and in that moment she knows what's wrong. She knows Dawn set the fire. Knows Dawn is…
Fresh tears spring to Dawn’s eyes at the sudden rejection and she stands so quickly that her chair hits the ground with a crash.
“I’ll… uh, I’ll go get a doctor. Tell the others you’re awake.” She babbles a little as she beats a hasty retreat. Faith watches her go with relief, doesn’t let herself believe the innocence is real.
She turns to see Willow watching her wide-eyed, not understanding, not getting it. But she’s the pivotal point. She sees that now, she’s the one thing she can count on to be who she was made to be. She’s the only one Faith can trust. Well, /she/ is, and then there’s –
“Xander.” Her voice rasps in her throat and she realizes her mouth is dry. “Where is he?”
Willow looks down, not able – or not willing – to look her in the eye. “He…” She stops, gulps, takes a breath. “He’s still in the ICU. They... they don’t think he’s going to pull through.”
Faith slumps back, defeated. She can’t find words and something about the way Willow’s looking at her, the sympathy, the worry, makes her skin crawl.
Finally she has to know. “What happened?” It comes out as a demand but she doesn’t apologize. She can’t. Not now.
Willow doesn’t seem to notice, she just looks down at the sheets. Finding something interesting in the weave of the material she focuses on that as she answers.
“Dawn.” She whispers.
to be continued...