by Tesla

I can tell you what they say in space
That our earth is too grey
But when the spirit is so digital
The body acts this way
That world was killing me
That world was killing me
Disassociative ----Marilyn Manson

Funny that the two men who loved me the best, in the purest way, were both demons. I'm not talking about the Watchers and the Watcher-lite, no. I can't say that Giles loved me or that Wes and I had the purity going on. Lot of other stuff went down in LA, but Wes and I were the ones trying to save Angel from the grip of Angelus, and it was generally kind of rushed.

But he's dead, Wes is. So is Cordelia. She never forgave me for clipping her, though. Wes did, eventually, and I did a lot worse things to him. I left scars on Wes, and I'm not talking metaphors. He was pretty familiar with the heart of darkness by the time he came to me, when I was in prison. I wish I'd known what they were doing in Los Angeles, because I would have come sooner and helped. I owed Angel, owed him something that I couldn't explain to B. or the others. Sometime after we went to Cleveland, I got a parole, somehow, from the State of California. It was one of the first things the big guy did when he got hold of Wolfram & Hart.

The lawyers I knew, back in the day, the ones that hired me to kill Angel, they were all dead, too. Too bad. I liked that Lindsey. Sexy.

Spike got out, again, of course. No surprise, man's like a cat. Nine lives and always landing on his feet. One of our Slayers found him under a collapsed brick wall, alive. He got the redemption, because Angel signed it away so he could take down the Senior Partners. So, of course, Spike got B., too.

I can't say that I cared one way or the other. Human Spike is a hell of a lot better than the shitheads that B. was kicking with. I'm not talking about demon, here, just personality. I guess she wanted lightness instead of all of the heavy shit, after years of the Good Fight. Probably would have been a good time for that Riley to be around. He wasn't bad in bed, just not very, I don't know, imaginative. I don't care about that bullshit Robin was always giving me, I know what I'm doing. He was just using psychology on me.

So when Spike said he didn't actually see Angel get dusted, I don't know, something happened to me. I decided I had to go find him.

"Find what? Dust?" B. said, long distance from Rome. She called at one her time, seven in the morning mine, and she always sounded sleepy. Too much Italian food for lunch.

"Don't think he's dusted," I said. Wasn't about to tell her about my dreams. "I wasn't asking you for permission. I'm goin'."

That got me a hang-up. B.'d never really gotten over me having Angelus' bite scar on my neck, let alone all the other shit from my first go-round in good old Sunny D.


All I had to go on was a dream. I can't even call it a Slayer's Dream. But the good thing about being the Senior Slayer in the entire continent, I can generally do what the hell I want about the Mission. And I happened to feel that I had to find the guy who gave me back my mission, gave me back me, even though it hurt him pretty bad at the time. And me getting out and throwing down with the Beast and with Angelus didn't even begin to pay him back. I figured, I owed him, and all the people that didn't get killed because I was there, owed him, and all the little Slayers I was training, owed him. Owed Angel, the original and now the only vampire with a soul.

Besides, I'd been inside his head. I knew a lot of his secrets. I thought I could know where he'd hide, where he'd rest up. And if what Spike told me, he'd be feeling bad because all of his people were dead: Fred, Wesley, Gunn, Cordelia. He could be with that retired God- King, and he---she---had probably been Angel's best shot.

So here I was, in LA, with a backpack with freeze-dried plasma and a Council credit card, and I was taking a cab to the Hyperion. No one had bothered to look for Angel, so why wouldn't he be found? Why would Spike tell the truth? He was human, now, too. Just a regular guy with a British accent.

Never been real thrilled with regular people.

So, not too hard to break into the old hotel. I'd cased it, once before, and then been there for a little while, before Willow and I skated on down to Sunnydale and the big blow. Spent more time in Angelus' head, though.

Spent some time in Angel's head, only he was letting me. When he visited me, in prison, he talked to me about his personal shit. That he was scared that something would make him turn bad; that his crew made fun of his paranoia and his smothering behavior, but they blamed him if he wasn't there. Stuff like that. Because I had the same thing. I could have broken out, easy. I could have killed any other bitch who gave me a problem. He could kill anyone, take what he wanted, really. He could have stayed in Sunnydale. Or he could have just let himself go and lived under the radar.

Neither one of us could do that. Hell, talk about being the real Destiny's Child---you can't avoid it. I was a Slayer and he was a Champion and we weren't supposed to spend our time kick-boxing and watching television.

I worked my way around the place, through all the wings, just for shits and giggles. I didn't really think he'd be there, waiting to be found. But, if he ever came back, he'd smell me there. Slayer-smell's pretty strong to a vampire.

He wasn't going to be in his old suite, or in one of the dusty old bedrooms, or even in the rooms full of broken furniture and stacks of old mattresses. I really did know where he'd go. He'd be in the sewers, somewhere, eating rats. Punishing himself for failing. I just kind of wanted to put off the search.

I didn't really think it would be too hard. The Slayer, the one who found Spike, was rescuing a human being. She wasn't looking to save any vampires, or blue-faced gods.

So I went to the basement, and pried up the trapdoor.

The kinky thing about sewer systems, is that they're so perfect for demonic activity. It makes you wonder about who the hell is on the water boards. I mean, come off it. Ventilation, lights, catwalks. If you didn't mind the rats and the smell, the temperature was usually constant. That's why some clans of demons had condos down there, actually.

Demons tend to stay away from Slayers. Some of the girls are kinda over-enthusiastic, y'know? Kill first and apologize later. I didn't expect to find any trouble, and I didn't.

I walked a route from the Hyperion to downtown, wondering.

In my dreams, Angel was walking with me through a night landscape, just like I had taken Orpheus, again. I kept hearing that Marilyn Manson song, "Disassociative". That's how it started. I just knew, that if I went down to the places where the demons hide, I recognize the place in my dreams. I knew I'd recognize where he slept.

That's what some of the prison shrinks thought I had goin' on. Why else would a girl knife two guys in Sunnydale, and then kill a guy in Los Angeles, and then confess? But see, the Mayor had taken care of the two guys in Sunnydale, just in case I woke up. He'd destroyed all the evidence, I guess as a back-up plan in case I didn't make the body-switch with B.

So I know about real disassociative disorder, when you're in someone else's body, in someone else's life. I know all about it. I always figured, being a Slayer meant that you had a kind of a demon in you, too. I didn't get to go to school like B. and Willow and people. But I know what parole officers and social workers had said about me over the years; that I was disassociative due to my growin' up with the old lady in Boston.

The real thing was seeing my first Watcher killed. It was like, I found an adult to trust, who knew the answers, and then---I still don't like thinking about it. I think that's what I was doing to Wesley, that time---and I don't like thinking about that, either.

I used to talk about that stuff to Angel, though. He'd done things a lot worse than I ever did. He understood me. And I think I trusted him, because he wasn't going to be killed; he wasn't going to leave me or betray me.


The nervous systems down, the nervous systems down

I don't know why I connect Angel to the Mayor, but it's true; the Honorable was like a Daddy to me. No nasty motel room for the Mayor's Slayer, but the dee-luxe apartment. Oh, yeah, evil demon, killed people. But the weird thing was, he was sincere with all that drinking milk and early bedtime stuff, and he really loved me.

I think Angel felt guilty, too, about the time we knocked boots when he was pretending to have lost his soul. It was damn good sex, but Angel always had to get the maximum guilt out of his enjoyment. Buffy probably gave him shit and then he told me he felt bad for using me.

"De nada, dude," I told him, staring through the Plexiglas and thinkin' some warm thoughts, vistors' room be damned. "Best wrestlin' I ever had."

So maybe that was my secret. I compared everyone to him, because, damn he was a good lay, and he was my only vampire, too.

"Right now, I just want you to wriggle."

Damn, Deadboy, where would you be hidin'?


I know
I can never get out of here
I don't want to just float in fear
A dead astronaut in space
"Disassociative" by Marilyn Manson

When Spike was staying in Cleveland, on the way to London, he told me a little about Angel, and the whole Wolfram & Hart gig. What stuck in my head was, that he and Angel and the rest of the gang got involved in a whole Caveman vs. Astronaut argument. Trouble was, I think of cavemen as those guys in the insurance commercial. But later, Keyshonda, one of the junior Slayers, told me that it was the old argument of science vs. nature. Kind of like the whole way the old Council tried to run the slaying, to me. Like a business, instead of something that came from the heart, from magic.

Seemed to me that Angel started thinking all about business and science, because he thought he didn't have a heart. I think his heart was broken, myself, when his friend Fred died, and that's why he signed away the promise of mortality. The guy has too much heart, that's his problem and always has been. Coolest fucking thing he ever did was to lock those lawyers in the room with Drusilla and Darla, if you ask me. Like each and every one of them didn't have blood on their hands. Hell, Lindsey and Lilah were makin' plans to have me kill other people, after I took Angel out. That's what that firm did.

Then, I guess, the kid. Boy, you know that Spike couldn't tell everyone about Connor, Angel's kid, fast enough. Like he wanted to make sure that B. knew everything. Spike wasn't shy about his own shit, though, and that's what I like about him, he was quick to say that he tried his best to get to Angel, that he would have "done for him" if he could. Whatever, Spike told me a lot, while he was healing up. And, freaky thing: he could tell us exactly where the closed Hellmouth was in Cleveland. He was completely human, but he could still feel the vibe.

I think he's meant to do more than be Mr. Buffy, but it ain't my problem at the moment.

I thought a lot about that kinda stuff when I was strollin' around the sewers for a couple of days. I didn't know what else to do. I just knew that I was supposed to be there. It was in my dream. I had a Browns ball cap on so the crud wouldn't drip on my hair---save the BoSox stuff for dress-up---and a coverall and a backpack. Stakes, of course, and Docs. I always think about weird shit when I'm doing something like this. Giles said it was kind of Zen---relaxing and concentrating at the same time. Disassociative, too. You never get over being afraid, walking around in sewers. You have to be, too. It doesn't pay to be fearless.

Sometimes we walk like we were shot through our heads, my love

I couldn't have been less surprised that all of the Scoobs went to Europe with Giles and Buffy, including Robin. They were all fucking traumatized, seeing their town turn into a sinkhole. Me, I had just spent a couple of years in one, myself. I didn't feel like going to Europe and building a new Council. But I was surprised that I ended up with a Slayer's Halfway House near the Cleveland Hellmouth, me in charge, mostly. Giles got hold of Mr. Sam, Sam Zabuto, and he's kind of our consultant Watcher. He says he's too old to deal with training a pack of Slayers, so Giles found us another one. Mr. Sam is too old- school to deal with me, anyway. He apparently had the perfect Slayer in Kendra, the one I was Called to replace.

I was never really trained, myself, I know. I did a few months with Wesley and Giles, and we all know how well that ended.

It was a tough year, building a life in Cleveland, but, Cleveland. Cleveland rocks! Pro teams, decent taverns, real seasons. Lotta vampires, but we took care of them. They were still coming from all over to the new Hellmouth, but they hadn't got the message that the Slayers were in town. So it was busy. I didn't think too much that I hadn't heard from Angel, until Keyshonda showed up with Spike.

Man, I couldn't sleep for a couple of nights, just went out and slayed. Then, I had the dream, where I was walking down the sewer, and came up a trapdoor, and there was a bunch of homeless guys, all wrapped up in the packing crates and the sheets of plastic they use. I wandered around this decayed warehouse---like the one I fought Angelus in. One of the guys looked up at me, and it was Angel.

"I've killed them all," he said. Then, I woke up, and I knew.

I knew that Angel living like some homeless guy. Looking out for the other homeless people, maybe. Skin a little dry from not enough blood. He didn't want to connect to anyone or care about anyone, ever again, because they all died.

We write our song in space like we are already dead and gone

On the third night, he found me. I was standing on an overpass, looking down at a camp of homeless, next to one of those concrete riverbeds all over LA. After a while, someone came out of a stack of crates, right under the bridge. He trudged up the hill, and walked down the sidewalk toward me, leaning hard on the railing and limping.

It was Angel.

"You look like shit," I said, when he got close enough. "Eatin' rats and listening to Manilow?"

His face nearly fucking cracked when he tried to smile at me. Skin was cracked all over, and he was thinner than when I saw him last.

"Faith," he said, all hoarse. "What is it?"

"Got a Hellmouth in Cleveland," I said. "What's a Hellmouth without a vampire with a soul? Got ten baby slayers to train, and for some reason, Giles can't get me anyone to help who'll stay around."

"Everything I touch turns to shit, Faith," he said. "You don't want me around." He was still leaning on the metal railing.

I couldn't stand it any longer, and I hugged him. He wasn't clean, but he didn't smell rank or anything. I didn't let go until he hugged me back. "We're not done, Angel," I whispered. "We're not done until we say we're done ."

"I---" he stopped. At least he was still letting me hold him.

"Look, there's sewers and homeless people in Cleveland, too," I said. "I can rent a car with big old pimpmobile dark windows, and we'll be there. I hate flying. If you don't like it, I'll turn around and drive you right back here." I let him go. "At least come back to my hotel before the sun rises."

He gave me a long look. "All right."

I turned around and whistled up a taxi. I'd paid the cabbie to shadow me. He was pleased as hell to have his meter running, and all he had to do was listen to the Dodgers on the radio.

I figured I'd get Angel some of that plasma, and lace it with a little Slayer blood. And if I had to, I'd tranq him and get him on the road east. But I didn't have to. He got into the cab like a lamb, and when we were back in the hotel, he drank up the reconstituted blood. It hurt me to see his swollen, broken hands, that hadn't healed, because Angel'd been eating rats and shit again. He probably had worse under his clothes, but his hands had always got me hot.

I talked him into taking a shower. I was in one of those expensive places, with bathrobes and shit and the good shampoos in the little bottles. When I heard the water running, I got the rubber tubing and the syringe out. He came out with his hair slicked back, his skin looking better already. His feet and legs looked pretty good, so he must not have got hurt too much.

"You gotta come back with me," I told him. "You woulda healed by now, if you'd only been eating pig blood. And I got the good stuff, remember?"

"I'm not feeding from you," he said, with his old haughtiness.

"No fear, man, I put it in a cup." I reached into the mini-fridge and got out the plastic cup of my blood. "You better drink it, or I'll tie you up and pour it down you."

I set it on the bedside table, and when I looked up, he had tears in his eyes.

"You gotta come back with me," I repeated. "I'm not good at this stuff, Angel. But if you don't come with, I gotta go live with you under the bridge."

"That would be a waste," he said, and finally picked up the cup.

His hands were shaking, so I had to help him.

We left for Cleveland that night.

See, here's the thing. B. and the rest think I've done this because I love him. That doesn't have a fucking thing in the world to do with it. I went to LA to find Angel because, once, he was the only one in the world that loved me.

Don't matter if he loves me now, or not.

We're gonna help the helpless.


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