Author’s Note: The first 250 words are an excerpt from Chapter 11 of To Ride a Pale Horse, by Athenewolfe and WeyrWolfen aka WeyrAtheneWolfen. This is a standalone fic that can be read separately and without any knowledge of the other story.
Thank you to Spikeslovebite for the beta, the support, and the wonderful banner. Without the story would not have been created as she nursed me through several writers block and helped me polish the story. And thank you to WeyrWolfen who co-created the Pale Horse Universe in which I play in. Written for the Jossverse – Faith month.
Word Count ~ 1800
Cleveland - Wednesday, January 28th, 2004
She ran. All thought fleeing her mind. Terror, pain, outrage – there was nothing more she could do but run.
She couldn’t believe it – didn’t want to trust the stories. Someone would have called, someone would have warned her. Giles, Buffy… someone would have notified her. If not her, they would have notified someone on the Hellmouth.
The threats were real, the dead were walking. The apocalypse was coming. Hell, the apocalypse was here and they’d forgotten her again. Just like before… left in a jail cell to rot, with no one to care. No one to warn her that the Bringers were coming, no one to tell her they were killing Potentials, no one realized that she would be an easy target. Left alone to die, until they needed her help with Angelus.
It was too late. She caught a sob before it could escape. It wouldn’t do to give her away her position. Not that it mattered. They had abandoned her here with no warning.
Wood – her watcher, her lover, perhaps one day her husband… he was gone now. Lost to a fight which they should have been warned about; why didn’t anyone call?
Logically, she’d known that there had to be something more to the news about the Los Angeles and London riots and a mysterious infection, but who really expected the dead to walk?
She ran faster. She couldn’t save Robin, she couldn’t save the other Slayers, why did she think that she would be able to save herself?
Blindly, Faith ran through the night.
Earlier that week …
The news reports were way bizarre. Every TV, radio, and newspaper was carrying stories about the massive terrorist attacks that were hitting the major cities in England and the U.S. There were stories of the subsequent London riots, then the Los Angeles riots, and now Atlanta and Washington had joined the headlines.
It was almost impossible to miss, and that was saying something for her. It wasn’t that she didn’t pay attention to current events, but that was more Wood’s job. Her schedule tended to run from 6 pm to 6 am, and it kept her wicked busy.
It was strange. She’d gone from being one of two Slayers, to being a jailbird, to being one of many Slayers, but the one who was ultimately in charge of the Hell Mouth. They even sent her a posse of baby Slayers to train … and a pay check. Her life was so surreal.
Wood had even been talking to her about going to the community college and picking up some classes. She didn’t think she wanted to. Even though she had gotten her GED in prison, there was nothing else she really wanted to do. She didn’t want a 9 to 5 job where she bored out of her mind. She had never been the one who wanted ‘normal’. That was B’s kick. Faith liked being special. She liked being a Chosen One. It wasn’t just some part-time job; it gave her life purpose, gave her a reason for being.
That was why she had resented Buffy so much back in Sunnydale. Buffy had everything Faith had always wanted; a mother who loved her and wasn’t a drunk who used her as a punching bag. She had friends who wanted to do more than smoke pot and watch the Simpson’s, a Watcher who was alive, and a boyfriend who wanted her for who she was and not just another piece of meat. Buffy had everything, plus the slaying power and the all-important title of Original Chosen One. Yet Buffy had rejected it all, craving normalcy. She didn’t know what it was like to truly be powerless and didn’t appreciate what she had. She was the golden girl, the perfect sister. Was it any wonder that Faith had hated her on sight?
Well, perhaps hate was a strong word. Or maybe it was the right word, but in sisterly way. If she was on one of those stupid reruns on Nick at Nite, she would be the one bitching out ‘Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!’ Not that she would ever admit that she watched the Brady Bunch… but hey, what else was on at 4 am?
Seriously, though, those news reports were freaky! London was the first city to dominate the news. The TV showed massive riots, and all phone and cell services seemed to be down. She was surprised when she heard nothing from the Andrew or Giles, but figured they had their own stuff to worry about.
Then Los Angeles had made the news.
She had been worried about Fang, but the last time she had called Angel, Wood had flipped. It was another thing she wouldn’t admit – it was kinda nice to have a guy be jealous for once. He actually cared for her and was jealous of her relationship with Angel. She hoped everything there was okay, but if it was serious, they would call.
Headlines and rumours filled her thoughts as she drifted off to sleep.
Her dreams were of terrorist attacks and whispered rumours of a deadly virus; quarantines and troops, the end of the world. She tossed and turned until a dark arm pulled her close, lending her comfort. Even in her dreams, she knew everything would be all right. She was home.
The Cleveland Free Times
Monday, January 26th, 2004
Appetite for Destruction?
It is a scene from a bad movie. The streets are deserted. Everything is quiet and tense; one could hear a pin drop. Our brethren report on the Los Angeles and Atlanta riots, but the underlying question we dare not ask haunts us - are we next?
Official reports blame diverse terrorists’ cells, but one has to wonder whether or not it is all some strange cover-up. This reporter wants to know why? Why is it that before each riot begins, the hospitals fill up? Is it that the terrorists are utilizing some new form of chemical or biological warfare? Or is the truth far darker than anyone could imagine?
They have quarantined one of the busiest hospitals. The Ohio National Guard have been called in to assist with the quarantine. The mayor has called a conference, and rumours abound that there have been an upsurge in violent deaths in the last twenty-four hours. Unconfirmed reports state that the mayor’s family has left the city in anticipation of further terrorist attacks and possible riots. Others have been reported as fleeing the city, while the grocery stores and guns shops have reported an increase in sales. People are anticipated something, yet no one is sure quite what. But there is no doubt—at least in this reporters mind—that something wicked this way comes.
Sarah was sick. Wood had given her the task of figuring out what the hell was going on at the hospital. It was supposed to be a simple mission. Sneak in near the quarantine area, eavesdrop on the military guards, do a bit more recon and get home. In and out without notice or detection; and at all times stay safely away from anyone who was displaying violent tendencies. Something had gone wrong of course, and Sarah had returned, wounded from a fight, swearing the strange creature that had bitten her had been a zombie At first, no one thought anything of it, but then Sarah had gotten sicker.
They called London repeatedly. Over and over. All circuits are busy. They tried cell phones. No answer from anyone who might have information. Those they did get hold of knew even less than they did. In general, there was nothing but silence.
She knows she should be used to that by now. It wasn’t like they communicated with her or Wood unless they had orders. But still, she’d thought they would be more responsive. Get hold of them somehow. They were supposed to be the new, improved Council, for crying out loud!
Her first real position of responsibility – Head Slayer of the Hellmouth. Her first Slayer sent for training and defense of said Hellmouth – Sarah.
It had been three days, and Sarah kept throwing up. She was running a temperature and kept getting worse, not better. Something had to be wrong; Slayers didn’t get sick like that.
She couldn’t cry. It wasn’t a Faith thing to do. So she was angry. Violently angry, beating up any hapless demons or vampires she could find.
Wood gladly sent her out to fight; he couldn’t take her pacing, but knew she needed some outlet - another patrol, another creature to pummel.
Perhaps when she got home it would be all right.
Faith quickened her steps. She needed to be home. She was too on edge, something felt all wrong.
So much blood.
It was everywhere. What the hell had happened? Wood lay still on the ground, his beautiful ebony skin pocked with unsightly wounds that looked almost like bite marks. Faith squated down at his side. Her trembling fingers searched for a pulse and came away smeared with his blood. He was dead. How could he be dead?
It was Sarah.
Or, rather, what used to be Sarah.
Everything was a blur. Sarah and Claudia were fighting. Sarah moved so fast, it was inhuman, even for a Slayer. The moves are all wrong, though. No defensive moves, no blocking. Just vicious blows, and then Claudia was down. Sarah was biting her, she was chewing. She was eating Claudia, who was still alive, still crying.
The sounds—the chewing, the squishing, the snap of bones and the moaning—then even worse…the silence.
Faith threw up.
Claudia was dead. Sarah was also dead, and Faith’s axe gleamed with oily, black blood. Bodies littered the ground. Some were twitching. Someone moaned again.
Wood lurched to his feet and began to amble towards her with dead eyes and a horrible, vacant smile. He moaned something that sounded like her name.
Faith ran blindly into the night.
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