|"The Long And Winding Road"
||[Sep. 12th, 2007|08:56 am]
Title: The Long And Winding Road|
Category: Crossover apocafic (SG-1,Buffy,SPN - Cameron Mitchell/Faith/Sam Winchester).
Summary: Survival is the new black.
“Can we at least pretend like I’m in charge?”
Faith was leaning across the hood of the pickup they’d been driving, something that looks like a throw-back from Roadwarrior but now she turned and raised her brows. The map she was looking at flapped wildly when she removed one of the hands she was using to pin it in place. “Excuse me?”
“We took a vote,” Cameron said, crossing his arms and dropping a knee onto his overstuffed duffle. It teetered because it was sitting precariously balanced on its end and Cameron jogged sideways a little when it toppled over. He kicked it towards the pickup with a grunt of dissatisfaction.
“You took a vote,” Faith corrected, turning back to her map and wrestling with the edge that was trying to make a break for it. “I abstained on the grounds of the whole idea being stupid.”
“Therefore, I won,” Cameron said, finally stooping over and grabbing both ends of the duffle, hoisting it up and into the pickup’s flatbed.
“Don’t be an ass, Mitchell. Help me figure out where we are.”
“The proper chain of command-”
“I’ve got a chain and I’m about to strangle you with it,” Faith warned and then noticed that Cameron was grinning. “Are you just messin’ with me?”
“Of course I am,” Cameron said. “I’d be bored out of my skull otherwise.”
“Look, the whole thing is pointless anyway. If we’d been invaded by aliens, I would’a let you be in charge since you have experience,” Faith said, finally giving up on the map and folding it roughly down into an eighth of its original size before shoving it into her jacket. “Since the end of the world is demon-related, I’m the boss.”
“You just keep on thinkin’ that darlin’,” Cameron sighed, slinging Faith’s duffle alongside his own and climbing into the cab of the truck.
It was hard not to dwell on it sometimes.
Cameron watched Faith out of the corner of his eye, face painted in the dying light of the afternoon, leaning up against the passenger side door. She spoke plenty but never said much and he’d been working on that. He was still mostly stumbling through the dark with his hands out, hoping not to hit a land mine and he didn’t like the feeling.
He owed this woman, this girl, his life.
She sometimes asked him about his family, friends. He told her about the Stargate program, building the world for her like an ongoing children’s story. She believed that his team got out, even now that Cameron is starting to doubt. Cameron always felt a weird pang when he talked about his job, what he did. It was odd that he didn’t really have to worry about classified anymore, but then he figured Faith was someone that would’ve been good at keeping secrets.
He didn’t really one hundred percent understand how the slayer thing worked. How there was only one but now there was dozens. He supposed they were all lucky that there were, a small army of girls that could fight the dark things. Maybe if there’d still only been one the world would have fallen already.
He tried to ask her why she wasn’t with them but she always changed the subject.
Cameron could sense when someone had blood on their hands and he was pretty sure with Faith, it wasn’t metaphorical.
Side of the road, a dusty green Gemini looked abandoned. Cameron was only planning to check it for gas, see if he could siphon if there was some still in the tank when he noticed the ring of what looked like white salt circling the thing. Opposite side, away from the road, a figure was curled in a sleeping bag.
"He's not a puppy," Cameron warned, watching the way Faith was edging around the sleeping stranger they'd just happened on.
"I didn't think he was," Faith protested with an arch of her eyebrow.
"Yeah, sure, but I know that look. It's the can we keep him look."
The boy came up, faster than Cameron thought possible, unfolding like a nightmare. He’d looked impossibly small curled on his side in the shadow of the car but he had to be six four, maybe five when he was up to full height.
Cameron didn’t see who struck first but suddenly the boy and Faith were fighting, short, compact brutal blows, nothing showy. The guy used mile-long legs to his advantage, keeping Faith out of reach so she couldn’t land a punch properly. Cameron watched for a moment, dumbfounded. He knew Faith was strong in an abstract sort of way, but he hadn’t seen her fight actual people very much and seeing her hold her own with someone who had height, weight and reach on their side was a whole different thing. He was starting to understand that the only reason the guy was holding his own was because he knew what he was doing.
Cameron finally shook off his paralysis long enough to pull the automatic from the waist of his jeans and hold it up in the air. “Hey!” he barked, cocking the gun and hoping he wouldn’t have to fire.
Couldn’t afford to waste the ammo.
The boy froze, still crouched in a fighter’s stance, leaning a little to the left because Cameron had seen Faith get in a shot to his ribs on that side and he was probably now trying to protect a weak spot. Faith scowled at Cameron, wiping the back of her hand across her brow. “I didn’t need help,” Faith snapped.
Cameron rolled his eyes. “Not saying you did. Just thought maybe we could try the talking thing before you went beating each other to a bloody pulp.”
“Sorry,” Faith said with a grin, leaning until her back cracked. “Got carried away.”
“I’m Cameron Mitchell. This here is Faith. You got a name?”
The boy had shaggy hair, mostly covering his eyes and he shook it out of his face before answering. There were more lines on his face than Cameron was expecting when he got an unobscured look. He would’ve first pegged the guy at about nineteen but he had to revise his estimation upwards by a good six or seven years. “Sam,” the guys said simply, still not having relaxed from his stance. Cameron nodded and made a show of putting the gun away.
“Okay, Sam. I see by the salt circle you’re not any kind of beastie so either we can be on our way or you can tell us a little about yourself.”
Sam finally seemed to relax marginally, shifting until he could prop a hip against his car. It was the ugliest thing Cameron had ever seen but if it was still running then these days, that was enough. “Military?” Sam prompted, half question, half assumption and Cameron had to give it to him. The kid was shrewd.
“Used to be Air Force,” Cameron allowed. He looked at Faith who stuck out her tongue at him. “She’s… not.”
“Where’re you heading?” Sam asked, stooping to gather his sleeping bag and other belongings. Cameron had his mouth open to answer before he realised that he was the one that was supposed to be asking the questions. He closed it with a snap and crossed his arms over his chest. Wily little fucker, he thought wryly.
“You from around here?” Cameron countered. Two could play at that game.
Sam snorted, opening the driver’s side of his car with an unholy screech of protesting metal to sling his stuff inside. “No one’s from around here,” he said. “No one’s from anywhere in particular anymore. You notice that?”
“Yeah, but there’s settlements. Few and far between but still there. People like to group together, feel safer.”
“Mostly so there’s someone else the dark things can eat while they escape,” Sam said, his voice level and Cameron couldn’t tell whether he was joking or not. He’d seen some pretty awful stuff in the last few months himself and he was willing to lay odds that Sam was speaking from experience.
Faith had sidled over to Cameron and in a low voice, lips not moving, she said, “I’ve seen him someplace before.”
The likelihood that they would run into someone familiar from their normal lives was remote. From the way Cameron understood it, Faith hadn’t exactly moved in the normal circles and what she said caught Cameron’s interest. The fact that the boy was out in the middle of nowhere, alone and still alive to talk about it, meant he knew enough to get by at the very least.
Either that or he was extremely lucky.
“There’s a group living about half an hour down the road. They’ll hide unless you know them and we do. They’ve usually got food if you’re hungry?” From the way Faith looked at him, Cameron knew he was taking a risk that she didn’t exactly approve of. They’d been travelling for a while by themselves and even though Cameron pretty much agreed with the guy’s views on larger settlements, he also appreciated strength in numbers. Two was far better than one in these dire times, and three might just up their chances of survival that small bit more.
Sam had stopped packing and his gaze was skipping between Faith and Cameron, as if he were maybe thinking the same thing. He seemed to weigh his options for a few more moments before he shrugged. “Sure, I could eat,” he agreed.
Patience looked abandoned at first glance, but you could see habitation if you knew what to look for. There were no abandoned cars in the roads leading in and out of town and even though most of the buildings had the look of the derelict about them, enough still had intact windows and clear porches to give a person pause.
That and a grouping of about fifteen houses towards the town center had markings on the doors and walls that looked like graffiti to the casual observer but wasn’t anything so benign.
Cameron also felt eyes on them as soon as they hit the town limits. They were being shadowed from the rooftops as they picked their way inwards, Sam’s Gemini rolling slowly along in their truck’s wake. Cameron and Faith’s vehicle was known but the presence of the strange car had meant that they hadn’t seen anyone yet. Cameron knew there would be rifles trained on them right up until they stopped.
A figure stepped out into the street before them and Cameron recognised an older woman named Tracey who was the self-appointed Mayor of Patience. She was tough, crass but fair and was touching sixty if Cameron had to guess. He pulled the truck off the road just before her, rolling around so he was angled back into the street again in case they needed to make tracks fast. He watched Sam copy his action in the rear vision mirror and nodded to himself.
“You pickin’ up strays, Mitchell?” Tracey hollered as he emerged from the truck. She was watching as Sam got out of his vehicle with a hand shading her eyes and her mouth twisted in disapproval.
“They keep followin’ me home,” Cameron said, taking the bag Faith was holding out to him of their tradeables. No matter how much people liked you these days, nothing was for free and it was always a good idea to bring something to the table. He hated feeling like carrion but the truth was that every time they travelled, they had to pick their way through what other people had left behind for simple survival. Cameron had left his visa card on the counter of the first store he’d looted, feeling inexplicably guilty.
“It’s amazin’ to me Faith hasn’t dumped your skinny ass on a road somewhere by now,” Tracey continued, approaching with a wary eye still on Sam who, for his part, was keeping a respectful distance.
“It’s temptin’,” Faith contributed from her side of the truck, aiming a smirk at Tracey. “He’s lucky he’s so pretty.”
“It’s good to see you anyway,” Tracey said. Long wisps of white hair had escaped her braid and she scraped them impatiently out of her face. “We haven’t had anyone pass through for more than a month now.”
“Not even Eddie?” Cameron asked, stopping short. There’d been a few people they’d run into regularly at Patience and a forty year old ex-cop by the name of Eddie had been someone Cameron had looked forward to seeing. The man had refused company the couple of times Cameron had asked, preferring to live in a cabin an hour from the town and only coming in when he’d run low on supplies and had killed himself enough rabbit and wild pig to trade. The longest between visits as Cameron understood it was about three weeks usually.
“I’d send someone on up to check on him but if something’s happened...” Tracey looked torn and Cameron understood why. They’d lost quite a few Patience residents to the mountains that Eddie called his home because other things had chosen to settle there, probably waiting for a time when nature took back the cities properly.
There was cause for concern though. While the town was mostly self-sufficient because it was ringed by farmland and they’d gotten a few animals and were able to plant the first year, they still relied on people coming in from the outside with essentials. Cameron thought about the single barrel of gas they had covered in a tarp in the back of the truck and how he’d been planning to trade some of it for a couple of days in a bed and the only fresh food they’d see for weeks.
“We can go up and have a look?” Faith volunteered for them. She had a soft spot for Eddie herself even though she’d never admit it. Faith didn’t smile very often, but Cameron knew she couldn’t resist cracking a grin every time Eddie had called her pumpkin.
“We’d appreciate it. There’s some new corn and bread in it for you.”
Cameron felt like a heel for accepting payment, but he was a realist as well. Faith merely nodded acceptance for them and he looked back at Sam. “You want to stay here?” he asked, fully accepting that Faith could rope him into something but knowing they would be pushing it just assuming Sam would come along.
“Nah, I’ll come with,” Sam said, leaning back into his car and coming out tucking a gun into the back of his jeans and a knife into his boot. He leaned in once more and came back out with a fairly ornate looking crossbow and a leather sling of bolts that he dropped over his head and strapped down across his chest. “I need the exercise.”
Faith disappeared into their truck and came out with her own compound bow, something passing between her and Sam like mutual appreciation and Cameron fought the jealous flash that gripped him. He’d never been proprietary about Faith and he wasn’t about to start now. When Sam turned a sweet grin on him and there was a deep dimple carved in his cheek, Cameron forgot his jealousy and instead thought, huh, interesting.
“We’ll take the truck,” he invited, holding the back door open. Sam nodded and jogged over, stepping up into the cab and sliding across so he was in the middle. Cameron knew it was a bit mean considering how long the kid’s legs were, but he couldn’t help himself. Faith got in next to Sam and Cameron got back behind the wheel.
Cameron had been preparing himself for the worst, but Eddie’s cabin when they reached it looked only looked deserted. Not having been up there before, Cameron couldn’t tell if Eddie had taken anything with him but his four wheel drive was gone and it was a good bet he’d finally made tracks.
“You smell that?” Sam asked. He’d moved closer to the cabin and was casting around like he was looking for something. He touched the railing by the door and held his hand up, fingers coated in something white.
“Dammit,” Cameron sighed, scrubbing a hand over his face.
“You think they were just opportunistic?” Faith asked. She was up on the porch now too, cupping her hands around her eyes and peering inside. Cameron caught out of the corner of his eye Sam put a hand to the door and then pull it back with a hiss. Inscribed in the door were protection symbols but they shouldn’t have harmed…
Cameron brought the rifle he had up and around, centring it on Sam’s back. “Faith, step away,” he ordered and watched Sam stiffen, fingers at his mouth. “Goddamit, should’a known,” Cameron added to himself.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Sam tried, turning around slow with his arms held loosely at his sides. He still had the crossbow in one hand and hadn’t made to bring it up which was the only reason Cameron hadn’t shot him. Faith was by Cameron’s side in a moment, looking confused.
“Yeah? Because it looks like you were just stung by protection symbols meant for demons,” Cameron gritted as Faith’s eyes narrowed and she brought her own bow up.
“I’m not a demon,” Sam spat, sounding disgusted.
“This was you, wasn’t it? We found you on your way back from this.”
“No. Would you just let me-”
“Tell us a big whopping lie about how you’re a good demon?” Faith sneered and Sam seemed to look exasperated rather than angry which gave Cameron pause.
“I’m not a demon,” he repeated. “These are Kaelish symbols, kind of all-purpose. They stop anything even slightly non-human.”
“You’re not a demon but you aren’t human either?” Cameron prodded.
“I am a human, I’m just a little different. Man, this is why I travel by myself.”
“Oh wow, I knew I’d seen you before,” Faith said suddenly, dropping her bow. “Last Stand Sam.”
“How did you… where did you hear that?” Sam asked, colour draining from his face.
“Whole host of psychics came out of nowhere right when the balance tipped and we were on the ropes. Mostly kids and led by a guy they were calling Last Stand Sam,” Faith said, looking at Cameron like he should know this story. He didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. She sometimes forgot that he was on a planet designated P56-988 when the Earth tipped dark.
“Dean thought that was hilarious,” Sam mumbled, looking stricken. “I couldn’t shake that name once he’d made sure to tell everyone.”
“Who’s Dean?” Cameron asked, watching Sam’s face close down. There was hurt there, pain that ran deep. Faith was hopping from foot to foot though, more excited than Cameron had ever seen her.
“I heard you can kill people by just blinkin’ at them.”
“Sorry, just to clarify,” Cameron interrupted. “Good guy?”
“Yeah, good guy,” Faith nodded. “At least, he was then. Closed the Hellmouth in Boston and stopped one opening in Philly. We didn’t see you in Kansas though, that’s where we lost.” Faith was looking less excited and more introspective now.
“You’re just going to have to take my word for it that I’m sorry about that,” Sam said cryptically. “And no, I can’t blink anything to death. Not anymore at least. Something happened… I got most of the power burned out of me.”
“Just enough left to trip something like that?” Cameron asked, leaning sideways and jutting his chin at the door.
“Yeah, seems like it,” Sam agreed. “And Dean’s my brother. We were… hunters before this whole thing went down.”
“Where is he now?” Cameron asked and then winced. If Sam was alone there was a good chance his brother was six feet under.
“Not sure,” Sam said though, still looking distant. “We got separated in Mexico when we were doing an ammo run and something tracked us across the border. I keep… hoping I’m going to run into him.”
Cameron could understand. The loss of long-range communications of any kind meant people separated by swathes of country when the world went to shit lost any ability to track each other. “We had an end-of-the-world emergency meet-up place but either I missed him or he missed me or he couldn’t get back there. I check it every couple of months, leave coordinates to meet somewhere else but…”
Cameron nodded, appreciating Sam’s need to keep his brother alive, even if it were only in his mind. There were plenty of people Cameron didn’t know for sure were dead and he preferred to keep it that way. Sometimes ignorance was bliss.
Eddie’s four-wheel-drive it turned out wasn’t actually gone, just mostly submerged in the lake at the back of his cabin. Cameron kicked at the rocks on the edge of the water in frustration. “They’re going to hit the town,” Cameron said, resignation in his tone.
“Looks like,” Sam agreed. “It’s pretty standard to pick off the people in the area surrounding when they’re going to hit a larger population.”
“We can evacuate them,” Faith proposed but she was biting her lip.
“We were allowed in but I doubt we’re going to be shown the same courtesy leaving,” Sam said and Cameron had to agree. He’d seen settlements hit by a group of demons before. They’d ring the place for days, picking off anyone that made a run for it before moving in on the main group.
“We’d better get back to the town,” Cameron suggested, moving back towards their truck. “Get everyone ready.”
Cameron watched Sam work, grateful that he’d trusted his instincts on the kid. Sam had a battered-looking journal open at his feet and was referring to it every now and again as he reinforced protection symbols on the doors and windows of the houses that were being used. Some of the stuff Cameron hadn’t seen before but after all this time, he was sensitive enough to feel the power come off in waves.
“I just… hope they didn’t follow me in,” Sam said as he worked, having noticed Cameron watching him.
“Tracey told me they haven’t heard from Eddie for weeks. I don’t think this is about you. I think it’s just bad timing.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Sam nodded, tone telling Cameron that he didn’t really believe it.
The demons came in at midnight, looking like people except when their eyes flooded black. Most of the Patience residents were hunkered inside the strongest of the houses, Sam, Faith and Cameron outside along with Tracey and two men in their forties.
There were eight of them, and they all converged on Sam when he started with the Latin, reciting something Cameron didn’t recognise. Faith moved in, looking grim but determined and she was able to hold them off while Sam worked. Cameron hung back with Tracey and the two men, all with rifles with consecrated rounds, wanting to only start shooting as a last resort.
People were few and far between and any chance they had of saving the ones possessed was worth it.
When they started dropping, demons pouring from their mouths on a dirty exhale, Cameron knew there was no chance saving these people.
They’d died weeks, maybe months ago.
“I don’t think we’ll be welcome back there again,” Sam said as they were packing. Cameron watched him put his stuff in his car and wondered if he should ask Sam to just drive with them in the truck or if it was more prudent to have a backup. An extra vehicle may have been a pain to keep fuel for but if the truck bought it, it would be better than walking.
“We saved their asses. I’m pretty sure we’ll be fine,” Cameron said but Faith was looking like she agreed with Sam’s assessment.
“Sam’s right. We can’t come back here,” she said and Cameron frowned at them both. Faith sighed heavily and leant her elbows on the hood of the pickup. “They won’t be here next time we pass through anyway if they know what’s good for ‘em.”
“I guess you’re right,” Cameron acknowledged. No one really knew how demons communicated and the locale of Patience could’ve been passed on like Chinese Whispers down the line, more demons heading for it as they spoke. He knew warning the residents wouldn’t do any good, they’d either decide to leave or they wouldn’t. In the future when they passed that way, taking an alternate route so he didn’t have to see Patience raised to the ground sounded like a good plan.
“Well, I guess…” Sam started, looking uncomfortable and Cameron realised that Sam didn’t know that he and Faith had started regarding him as a permanent fixture. He actually thought it probably would’ve been wise to ask Sam what he wanted, the possibility that Sam was set on travelling alone a very real one.
“We could head west?” Cameron interrupted, pre-empting Sam making awkward excuses. He was pleased to see Sam looking relieved rather than uncomfortable.
“Haven’t been to Mexico in a while,” Sam proposed, looking at them both from under his bangs.
“Me neither,” Faith agreed, slamming a hand down on the roof of the pickup. She hooked an arm around Cameron’s neck and rubbed a fist over the top of his head. “You ever been, Mitchell?”
“No, always wanted to though,” Cameron said, wriggling out from Faith’s grip with a laugh.
“I’ll ride with Sammy,” Faith said and Sam looked at her sharply for a moment before he relaxed.
“Let’s go then,” Cameron said, swinging into the cab of the pickup. He let Sam take point and saw Faith flip him off through the back window.