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PS: 100% fictional.

art by the fabulous slodwick!

Something Wicked
by astolat

Kansas City, 2008

"Yeah, it's in the can," David said. "They're printing it now, I'm hitting the talk shows next week. How far along are you?"

"Well, I recorded all the ones we have, but we need two more. They have this one song they really want me to do, a dance song, it's just—" Archie paused. "It's kind of really disco."

"Disco?" David said. "Seriously?"

"Yeah. Here, wait."

After a second, a boppy synthesized beat came over the phone, a little tinny over the connection. "Dude," David said. "Did they steal that from Ladytron?"

"It's, I mean, it's not a bad song," Archie said. "I just don't think it's really me."

"No kidding."

"Yeah," Archie said. "Except my dad said the same thing, and now the producers are being all weird about it."

David rolled his eyes and wondered who needed kicking worse.

"They want me to lay down some tracks tomorrow morning. I guess I'll try it."

"You track it, they'll put it on the album," David said. "You need to find another song and take it to them tomorrow to do that instead. What about that one you were working on, during the tour?"

"Oh, that's not good enough to do."

"Yeah, it is," David said. "Work on that tonight, take it in tomorrow, tell them you're really excited about it and ask if you can track it while you're in the zone."

"I don't know," Archie said. "It's just, it's like the fourth song I've ever written."

"It's still you," David said. "Disco fever isn't." Archie started saying something else and David interrupted. "Think about the video they'll make you do."

"Oh." Archie paused. "Um, okay."

"Good luck, man," David said.

After he hung up with Archie, he sat up and looked around. The backyard of his mom's house looked weirdly small to him now. RCA had him staying in a mansion with two pools and a yard like a football field. Meanwhile his mom had gotten ten foot fences installed after the time he'd stopped by in August, when the paparazzi had pretty much been sleeping in the bushes.

"Sweetheart, aren't you going to get cold lying out there?" His mom was leaning out the back door. "Why don't you come in and set the table, dinner's almost ready."

He could've gotten out of it on account of being on vacation after a solid year of work, but he didn't want to. Life had stopped feeling real sometime after that moment on the stage where Ryan had said his name. Walking around the dinner table, he put down plates like roots, and tried to feel like himself again, instead of the guy on the magazine covers. It worked, a little.

He was playing videogames after dinner when the text message came. hey rockstar im in town c u at the bar at 10 & dont keep me waitng

It'd been three years and the text message was from an unknown number, but he knew who it was from. He looked at the screen and tried to figure out if she really didn't know. Then he decided he didn't care, and texted her back. im in kc b there by 11. He grabbed his keys and his jacket and kissed his mom. "I'm going to see some people in Tulsa," he said. "I'll be back tomorrow."

"No, mate, really?" Michael said on the phone; David had called him from the car. "Some girl you were with once texts you out of nowhere and you're driving four hours to meet her? She was that good?"

David laughed and floored the accelerator. "And then some."

Tulsa, 2005

He wasn't looking, but she would've been hard to miss even if there had been more than ten people in the place. Gothy, with dark hair, dark red mouth, pale skin, leaning back against the bar on her elbows, long legs in black leather pants, crossed at the ankles. When he got done with his set and came down to get a beer—he was getting paid a grand total of seventy-five bucks and free drinks, so he figured he had better take full value—she swung her legs around and tipped her head sideways to look at him. "So, you're a rockstar," she said, mocking note in her voice.

"Working on it," he said, and because he didn't have any reason not to anymore, he asked, "Get you another?"

"I'm good," she said. "You taken?"

"Dumped, actually," he said shortly. "As of three weeks ago." He turned away; he wasn't looking to rehash it for some random chick in a bar.

"Good." She leaned over and cupped the back of his head and turned him back to face her, so smoothly it felt like he hadn't even tried to resist, and kissed him.

It was a little weird and a lot fast, but he sure as hell didn't have anything better to do tonight. And she was a fantastic kisser: pushy until he got on board, a hot sweet tease after, lick of her tongue over his lips as she broke it off. "Got someplace to go?" she said, like it could be as easy as that to get back up on the horse, and he figured if the universe wanted to give him one, the least he could do was grab hold of it.

He leaned over the bar; Eric was on shift tonight. "Hey, man, do me a favor and make sure my gear doesn't walk? I'll swing by and get it tomorrow."

"Yeah, no kidding," Eric said, eyeing the girl. "Go ahead, man."

It was pretty sharp outside and she was only wearing a skinny top, but she shrugged away his offer of the leather jacket. "Nice wheels," she said to the old Jeep, with eyebrows lifted, but she climbed in without hesitating.

He had a moment after he'd shut the door on her and was walking around the other side. He pulled his fair share, and a little extra for the voice and the guitar, but nobody pulled this: hot babe appearing out of nowhere, jumping in his car for a ride back to his place, and he wondered if maybe what she really needed was crash space. He tried not to think about it, because fuck, she was beautiful, and forget three weeks, it'd been two months of everything falling apart little by little before they'd finally pulled the plug, and he was wanting this more every minute.

But when he let her into the apartment and saw her standing in the middle of the living room—she looked tiny, barely over five feet if you didn't count the big platform boots—he thought about it anyway, and instead of going for the gold, he said, "You want to get something to eat?"

"Order a pizza, and have them bring it in an hour," she said. "I like a snack between rounds."

"All right then," David said under his breath, and called it in.

"This your room?" she said.

He looked up from the phone. "Uh, hey, you should let me clean that—no, sorry, hold on a second—" he said to the pizza guy, but she'd already gone inside. He finished putting in the order and went after her.

She was standing just inside the door, and she caught him and swung him around and pushed him backwards onto the futon. She'd already cleared it off by shoving everything onto the floor, where it piled in with the rest of the dirty clothes. He thumped down onto the mattress and she climbed on top of his hips.

"Hey," he said, clearing his throat while he took his shirt off. She was already working on his belt buckle. "I, uh, listen, what's your name?"

"Don't get attached, baby," she said, tugging her shirt up off over her head. She shook her hair loose over her shoulders, unselfconscious. "I'm just passing through."

He couldn't help laughing. "Okay, so you're leaving town, and I'm on the rebound. I just want something to call you."

"Faith," she said, and prowled up him to straddle his shoulders. "Now come on, rockstar. Show me what you've got."

She had a few days of light stubble on her thighs, enough to feel under his thumbs and scrape his tongue over, and she was wearing a little scrappy silk thing, tied over each hip, thin enough he could put his mouth on her over it and still feel how hot she was. He breathed through it, rubbed his nose against her until she squirmed and said breathlessly, "So what are you waiting for?"

He hooked the ends of the ties with his fingers and pulled them loose, tugging the whole thing off and dropping it off the side somewhere. She was wet already when he slid his thumb between her legs and up over her clit, and his hips strained into the air helplessly at the noise she made. "Jesus," he said, groaning, and licked deep into her.

"That's it, baby," she said. "Oh, fuck, yes," and he had to reach down and unbutton his jeans so he could reach in and ease his waistband down over the head of his cock. He let his thumb rub over the head while he fucked her with his tongue, timing it to match every time he went over her clit. She started to rock with him after a while, panting quick and fierce, and he gripped her thighs with both hands and went for it, pushing deep into her while she arched against him and came, so hard he felt her throbbing against his tongue.

She sat back on her heels and gulped a few breaths. He could feel her wet against his collarbone, and his dick was taking him somewhere between desperate and crazy. She looked down at him and laughed and backed down his body, sleek and catlike and fucking slow, and all he could do was lie there and watch her taking her own sweet time. She sat up over his thighs and worked his jeans open even slower before she pulled them and his boxer-briefs down.

"I've got, in the—" he said, and choked off, squeezing his eyes shut as she wrapped her hand around his cock. He counted by threes and breathed while he heard the drawer slide open and heard her rip the condom open. It got a little easier once she rolled it on him, and then she just climbed on him and slid down in one move, and it went straight from hard to impossible. He heaved up from the bed and she met him midway, sliding her arms around his neck and licking into his mouth. She could probably taste herself on his tongue, he thought, and he gripped on to her tight and rolled her over onto her back.

David usually felt pretty good about how he rated in the sack, but this time he was pretty sure only the pizza guy had saved him from a choice between a fatal heart attack or the serious humiliation of having to ask for a break. When the doorbell rang, Faith swung off him like she was getting off a motorcycle and stretched her arms out lazily before picking a dress shirt up from the floor and slipping it on. It went to mid-thigh on her.

"I'll get it," he said, a little hoarsely, and completely failed at actually getting up either of his first two tries. The third try, he gave up on making his abs do any of the work and just rolled off the side of the bed and pushed himself up. Even that was pretty iffy, and it was lucky his jeans had ended up slung over the arm of the futon, because bending over to pick them up would not have worked out.

The pizza guy got an appalled look on his face when David opened the door. "Yeah, thanks," David said, and shoved a ten dollar tip at the guy and shut the door in his face quick. He turned around with the box in his hands. Faith was across the room, getting a couple of beers out of the fridge: all legs under the shirttails, with her dark hair a tangled mess. He felt like a wrung out dishrag, but his mouth watered anyway.

"Carb up, rockstar," Faith said, thumping the bottles down and popping the caps off with a spoon, and all of a sudden he was starving. He worked his way through four slices while she ate two folded together, licking her fingers clean when sauce leaked out over them.

"By the way, it's David," he said, and caught her wrist to lick one spot she'd missed, putting his mouth over the pulse point. She smiled, white teeth bright, pushed his chair back with one foot, and climbed into his lap. So of course, that was when the door opened and Todd and Alex came in.

"Holy shit, man," Todd said. "Bedroom!"

"Uh, yeah, sorry—" David said, trying to ease Faith off so he could get up. But she put her arms around his neck and looked down at him, a gleam of challenge in her eyes, and stayed right where she was. He gritted his teeth and took a grip on her and forced himself up, her legs wrapping around his waist as he stood.

He managed to carry her into the bedroom without falling over, at least until he'd dumped her back onto the futon. She was laughing out loud as he kicked his jeans off again and got onto the bed. He wanted to be pissed off at her instead of just turned on, and then she pulled him on top of her and said in his ear, "Maybe you really might be a rockstar."

"Jesus, man," Alex muttered to him at the kitchen table the next morning, somewhere between congratulatory and freaked-out. David knew his face was probably about as red as humanly possible. Faith was standing by the coffee maker drinking the entire pot one mug at a time. Somehow she didn't have any hickeys showing, but David hadn't been able to totally avoid seeing himself in the bathroom mirror, and he had enough for both of them, not to mention the other bruises, scratches, and one set of bite marks where she'd almost broken the skin, the last time around.

At least this time she had pants on.

A cellphone went off with a Tegan and Sara ringtone. Faith reached into her pocket—he wasn't sure how she got anything into those pants—and took it out. "Yeah, talk to me," she said, and after a minute listening she said, "Whatever, not a problem. No, I don't need help, Giles." She flipped it shut again and tipped her head back to finish off the coffee, and then she sauntered over and said, "Give me a ride to the Greyhound station?"

"Yeah," David said, and got his jacket and his keys. The station wasn't really a station, just an overhang, and the bus wasn't coming in for another forty minutes.

"I don't need a babysitter," she said.

"I haven't got anywhere else to be until four," he said. "Just stay in the car, okay?" He left the heater on, and went to the Dunkin' Donuts across the street to get them more coffee and a box of donuts.

She had her eyes closed when he came back, with her head tilted back against the headrest, napping. He got in and offered her the box. She went straight for the frosted chocolate. "So look," he said.

"What did I tell you last night?" she said, around a mouthful.

"Does that chip on your shoulder ever get heavy?" he said. "I'm just trying to say, if you're in trouble—"

She rolled her head back and then looked over at him. She hadn't put makeup on. Without it she looked less like a cover girl, but maybe even more beautiful. "What would you do, rockstar? You're living in your pal's spare room and singing for beer money, and you met me yesterday."

"You know what, I don't have a fucking clue," he said. "And maybe I couldn't do anything. But I'd try."

"I was that good, huh," she said, her smile turning sly.

He huffed a laugh. "You were that good and then some, and you know it. But I'd try anyway."

She shook her head and looked out the car window the other way, but she was kind of smiling a little for real, with just the corner of her mouth that he could see, like she didn't really want to. But after a minute she looked back and said, "I don't have more trouble than I can handle. And there isn't anything you could do. Trust me on that."

He nodded shortly and looked away to watch the traffic going by. He felt kind of stupid for having offered, for wanting to. She was right. He'd met her yesterday, he was never going to see her again, and even if he had, he probably wasn't cool enough for her to date. He was supposed to be psyched about something like this, a crazy hot one-night-stand with no mess afterwards, but it left a weird taste in his mouth, like eating way too much cotton candy and washing it down with beer. He couldn't help thinking about that last time with Lisa, the last good time, a long lazy Sunday morning in bed, half asleep while she read to him.

"That's my ride," she said. The bus was pulling into the station. She looked over at him, and then she took out her phone and said, "What's your number, rockstar?"

He paused, and then he gave it to her and said, "So I was that good, too?" while she punched it in.

She gave him that wicked grin. "Don't get a swelled head about it," she said. "But maybe I'll text you if I'm ever in town again."

Tulsa, 2008

If David didn't show in another fifteen minutes, Faith decided, she was going to take home the cute drummer up on stage instead. Of course, she'd made that same plan half an hour ago, so obviously she was way off her game, and the only sane thing to do was go back to the motel and crash. It'd been stupid to save the guy's number this long, and even more stupid to use it. It was stupid to even be here like this, a day early, just to get laid. Yeah, he'd been good, but there were plenty of guys who were good like that, and so what if he'd gotten all wet-eyed and happy when she'd taken his number. By now he was probably living in a suburb, working a nine-to-five, playing guitar as a hobby. She had a museum to break into and an apocalypse-maker artifact to steal, so this was a waste of time.

Another guy slid onto the empty stool next to her, because they just wouldn't get the memo. "It's taken," she said.

"Hey," he said. She jerked, looked over, and it was him, although she needed a second look to be sure. He'd dropped twenty pounds, and added on a beard and at least five hundred bucks of clothing.

"Check you out." She flicked the jacket lapel and his jewelry. "Who cleaned you up, rockstar?"

"So, I guess you don't watch a lot of TV," he said.

"Turner Classic Movies, baby," she said, and leaned over to flag down the bartender. "Since you kept me waiting, you can buy me another drink."

"Actually, I was going to say, maybe we should—" he started, and then the bartender was in front of them saying, "Get you something—uh, whoa. David Cook?"

The chick on the other side of him, who'd been giving Faith dirty looks all night for saving the stool, turned around and squealed, "Oh my god!" loud enough to get five other people looking, and it was like watching a wave travel over the room, the way people's heads all turned.

"I'm so sorry," the girl was saying, "I'm just, I'm such a huge fan—" and she was actually fumbling in her purse for a pen, and David was going, "No, it's fine," and signing her bar napkin.

"You're seriously kidding me," Faith said, and he looked over at her and sort of gave a little shrug and smirk. Faith rolled her eyes. "Come on, rockstar, we're out of here." She grabbed his hand, pen flying away, and hauled him along with her: step onto the stool, steadying him when he wobbled, then another one up onto the bar and jumping down the other side.

The bartender yelped and ducked out of the way as she hauled David past him and through the door to the back. He was cracking up—"You're being way not helpful," she said, and shouldered open the back door.

"Just so you know, this is going to be on TMZ in ten minutes," he said. "And my car's this way."

It was a hella sexy car, low-slung and growly, but he was looking way too smug about it, so Faith just dropped into the front seat and slid it back and propped her boots up on the dashboard. "At least you upgraded the wheels," she said. "Let's go."

He took her to a fancy hotel where the desk clerks fell over themselves giving him the nicest room in the place and sending up champagne before the door even had a chance to close. Faith wandered over to the windows and looked out over downtown while he made nice with the room service guy. It was the nicest place she'd been in for a while. Big plush bed all in white behind her, flat screen TV and huge windows. Apart from a few taller buildings, the lights made it anonymous, like any other small city trying to pretend to be bigger than it was. It could've been her view in Sunnydale, the condo the Mayor had given her.

She turned around and watched David getting rid of the room service guy. He belonged in a room like this, black jacket and bling and movie-star smile, signing another autograph. Then he shut the door and turned around, and stopped looking all that sure of himself. It took her a moment to realize it was because she'd let her game face slip.

"I'm pretty sure my old roommates would let us crash," he said, after a second. "We could order pizza again."

Faith gave it a thought, and then she got over herself. "That's okay, rockstar, I can let you show off." She crossed the room and jumped onto the bed. "Just take off your clothes."

He hung his head. "You just want me for my body."

"I'm digging the jewelry too, actually," she said. "Leave it on."

She liked the feeling of the chains brushing between her breasts, and hey, they were handy for tugging on when he got too close to the edge. He groaned and held still and deep, panting. "Jesus, you're mean."

"You can take it," she said, and rocked her hips up into him. Sweat looked good on him, thin damp tendrils of hair sticking to his forehead and against his neck, and his arms and shoulders braced tight to hold him up. She bit at his lower lip and let her thumbs settle against his hipbones, still a little bit of softness there to pad her grip, and rolled up again, feeling him, the head pressing in right on the sweet spot, just where it almost hurt. "Come on, baby."

He made a low noise in his throat and leaned in to wrap an arm around her and pull her up into his lap, and fuck, she loved it when a guy pulled that move, got her that extra inch right—there—"Oh, fuck," he said, and buried his head against her neck while he came, so hard she could feel it the whole way. He let his head fall back, shoulders going limp. "Fuck."

"That's okay," she said. "You'll make it up to me."

He laughed weakly and toppled the rest of the way back against the sheets, pulling her down with him.

He crashed hard after, boneless and sprawled out with his face mashed into the pillows, breathing deep and steady and exhausted. Faith peeled away the crumpled sheet and wrapped it around herself, getting up to look out the window again. Streets gone empty, only the office building lights left on. She curled up in one of the big overstuffed recliners and thought about it. She still liked it all—the big bed, the view, the champagne and the rockstar boyfriend. She could wake him up and there'd be steak and strawberries. He'd probably think it was cool if she wanted him to buy her a big, shiny knife.

It was like having a cloud go over the sun on a hot day, cool dark feeling on her skin. Faith curled her shoulders forward a little and shivered hard, once, up and down, and then she went back to the bed and climbed in with him. She had a job to do tomorrow.

David woke up before she did and there was a giant plate of bacon and waffles waiting when she stirred. Faith had been planning to take off, but she didn't actually need to hit the museum until late afternoon, and okay, fine, it was bacon. She ate a pile of it and three waffles, and then she was feeling a little charged up after, so she let him get away with the I'm going to get laid again! smirk on his face and took him back to bed.

Afterwards, she even let him cuddle her a little, his hand with the guitar-string calluses spread out over her belly, pulling her into the curve of his body. He nuzzled sleepily at her neck, and she was making a deal with herself she could stay for another ten minutes, and then he said, quiet, almost in her ear, "The offer's still on the table."

She sat up, shrugging him away, but he caught her wrist and looked up at her. "Hey," he said. "I'm just saying, I'm not sleeping in a spare room anymore."

She pulled free and got out of the bed and looked back at him. "Okay, listen to me," she said. "You're a nice guy, and I don't know how that's going to work out for you, being famous and shit, since you seriously need a judgment check. Because I'm not a nice girl."

"I'm not that nice," David said. "And I don't give a fuck whether you are. I'm just saying I like you, and I'd like to see you some more. And if the reason you blow town after two days is because you're in trouble, then I'm up for helping you out of it."

"Yeah, well, what I'm looking for is more of it, so that's not going to work out." She left him and went to the shower, but it was a big standing stall, and when he followed her in she didn't kick him out.

When they finally got out, it was getting close to five, and there was a frantic voicemail from Willow on her cellphone. "Faith, I just found out, the museum installed a new security system, and the code I gave you won't work, so, um. I'm working on it? Call me! Oh, I really hope you get this in time."

"Shit," Faith said, glaring at the phone, and called her back. "Okay, there had better be a plan B, Willow."

"Well, it's kind of complicated," Willow said feebly.

"There's thirty minutes left before the Gilcrease security flips the switch for the party, there isn't time for complicated," Faith said.

"The Gilcrease Museum?" David said, and she looked at him. "Tell me you're not an art thief or something."

"Yeah, that's it. Not," she said. "And please, you would totally think that was a turn-on."

"For sure, but we just agreed I have bad judgment," he said. "Why are you trying to sneak in?"

"Because they aren't going to let me in the front door, baby," she said.

"They will if you're with me," he said.

"Shut up, this isn't Pretty Woman," Faith muttered at him.

David just grinned at her. She was smoking hot in the blue dress, with her hair piled up on her head and the knee-high leather boots. The guests were still looking mostly kind of stunned since they'd walked in. The director had looked a little confused at first—she had to be at least sixty, and he got the idea she didn't so much watch Idol—until someone had given her a whispered explanation, and then she'd asked to show him around and give them the tour, and he'd said yes, since he figured that was a fair trade for crashing.

"And the Calcified Scepter, of course, is our newest acquisition," she said, "on display tonight for the first time. It's believed to be a Native American artifact, found by some local hikers buried in a nearby cave in what appeared to be a ritual circle, pictured here—"

"So obviously they couldn't leave well enough alone," Faith said, sounding kind of bitter, and David looked over at her, and then the far wall exploded.

He couldn't make anything out for a few minutes after. Faith had let go of his hand and there was dust and noise everywhere, and when he finished coughing, he looked up and there were three huge guys standing in the empty gaping hole where the wall and four paintings had been, all of them about seven feet tall, tattooed all over, wearing yellow contact lenses and fake devil horns. "What the fuck," he said, and Faith was grabbing him by the arm and hauling him up.

"Get her out of here!" she said, and shoved her cellphone into his hand. "And then call Willow and tell her about those guys."

"Who is—"

"My last call!" Faith said. "Go!" Then she was running right at the three guys, and somewhere she'd gotten a fucking sword

"That's from the Civil War display," the museum director said faintly, wavering; she had blood streaking down the side of her head. "The battle of Wilson's Creek—"

"Yeah, sure," David said, and bent down and swung her up into his arms, because she was maybe five feet tall and she wasn't going anywhere fast otherwise.

The fire alarms had gone off, and people were streaming out of the other halls for the front door. David found a security guard and handed the director over, and then he turned and ran back to the other room, hitting redial on the phone.

"Hi, Faith, did you get it?" a girl on the other end asked.

"Uh, hi, is this Willow?" he said. "Faith's kind of busy. These three guys showed up—are they in some kind of weird gang? They had—holy shit," he said, skidding into the doorway in time to see one of them try to smash Faith over the head with a sledgehammer and miss.

"Oh, that's not of the good," Willow said. "Can you cameraphone them?"

He took out his iphone and snapped a few shots. "What's the email?" he said, and punched in to send it. Faith was doing circles around the psychos, keeping them off with the sword. "Look, should I be calling the police or something? These guys are seriously on drugs—"

"No, no!" Willow said. "Ixnay on the opscay, that is—oh, that's bad."

"What the hell are these fuckers!" Faith yelled.

"Tell Faith they're Vickla demons," Willow said. "She has to chop off their hands and feet before she can kill them."

"What?" David said.

"Oh, um," Willow said. "It's, um, a code? She'll understand? Hey, you know what, you sound just like that guy from American Idol."

"I am that guy from Idol," David said.

"Really? I loved Billie Jean," Willow said.

"Tell that goddamn witch she can get your autograph later!" Faith said.

"She says, uh, you have to chop off their hands and feet before you—" David said, and before he could finish, Faith had ducked under another sledgehammer blow and taken off two of the guy's feet with a swing. "You said it was a code!" he yelled at Willow, and then he noticed the guy was bleeding bright green as he fell over. "Jesus Christ, what the hell."

Faith took the guy—demon—whatever's hands off, and then the head, and it finally went still; the other two backed off and hissed at her, and they had forked green tongues, too. "Slayer," one of them said.

Faith tossed her hair and swung the sword in an easy arc, like it didn't weigh a thing. "You got it, boys," she said. "Still want to rumble?"

"Um, David, do you see the portal fulcrum anywhere?"

"What?" David said, still staring.

"The scepter thingy," Willow said, and he looked over and saw there was some other kind of freak, a tall thin bloodless creep with long spindly fingers opening up the case.

"Faith!" he said, and pointed. She whirled and took off straight at the guy, and then it was like she hit a wall in midair and thumped back onto her ass.

"Fuck!" she said, rolling back up to her feet, just in time to meet the two big demons coming in again. She ripped into them without even slowing down, though, and they hit the floor already dead. Their bodies slid the rest of the way and hit the same invisible wall, green blood pooling and running away in thin streams around the edge of it.

Inside the shell, the creepy gray-skinned thing smiled horribly out at them and kept waving the scepter around, chanting.

Faith glared at the Sklanda demon and pounded on the shield a couple of times with the butt of the sword, mostly to make herself feel better; this had that impending-apocalypse feel to it, and she was pretty sure she wasn't getting through. The portal was a thin slice of white in the air, just starting to open. She jogged back to David and grabbed the phone. "Talk to me, Willow."

"It's a timed shield, you can't get through," Willow said, voice tinny from the speakers. "It'll come down in ten minutes."

"How long will it take that fucker to open the portal?"

"Eight minutes," Willow said.

"That's brilliant," Faith said, and shoved the phone back at David. "Time for you to get out of here, baby," she said, and tugged him in for a kiss. "Get in the car and drive the hell out of town."

"Right, because I'm leaving you here."

"This is what I do, rockstar," Faith said. "Whatever comes out of there isn't gonna be impressed by singing."

"Actually," Willow said.

"What?" Faith said.

"It's just a portal to the aether dimensions," Willow said. "The Sklanda is trying to call something bad, but you could try to call something good, instead, and—"

"By singing at it," Faith said.

"Well, do you have a better idea!" Willow said.

"This is the stupidest plan ever," Faith said. "Okay, rockstar, I hope you can do a capella."

He stared at her. "What should I sing?"

"Something with angels would be good," Willow yelled from the phone.

"Uh," David said, and then he started singing something gospel-y about God and angels and shit, and the Sklanda demon inside the shell looked up from its chanting with a scowl.

"Okay, that's got to be a good sign," Faith said. "Can you get louder?"

"—power and majesty, praise to the king—I'm building to it!" David said.

"Build quicker!" Faith said, because the portal was widening, almost to a perfect circle now, just before David took a deep breath and cut loose with a note so huge she nearly jumped out of her skin. The Sklanda actually stopped chanting for a second and looked back at them, gawking, and then the portal blazed white and something came through, huge and tendriled and glowing.

The Skanda screamed once. Then it was a thin grey smudge on the floor and the thing was coming towards them. David was staring up at it, a weird ghostly white light on his face and in his eyes that was only partly a reflection, his mouth open. Faith yanked him down and broke the line of sight. The sword was clattering away over the floor; whatever this was, she knew that wasn't going to do her any good. David kept trying to look at it again, and she forced his head down against her shoulder. "Don't look," she said, shutting her eyes too. "Don't look at it."

The glow came in through her eyelids and through the fingers of the hand she had over her eyes, just there and blazing, but cold, and then finally it started to fade, and she risked cracking one to see it slipping back away through the shrinking portal. When it was gone, she staggered up and grabbed the scepter and threw it through, just before the portal winked shut.

Then she limped over and picked up the phone off the floor where Willow's voice was squeaking, "Faith? David? Oh my god, we got the American Idol killed."

"Thanks for the priorities," Faith said, picking up the phone.

"Oh! Are you okay? Is—"

"We're five by five," Faith said. "Send in the cleanup crew, and I'll check in sometime next week."

"Um, could I—"

"No," Faith said, and hung up on her and went to David, who was kneeling on the floor with a hand over his face. "Hey."

"Was that—" His voice sounded thick.

"No clue," Faith said. "Don't let it get to you."

"It told me," David said. "It said I could—"

"Trust me, you don't want what they're selling," Faith said. "No matter what direction they come from."

They sat together in silence for a while, dust drifting down around them. He had his arms around her, and his face tucked against her hair, and she found herself relaxing into him a little. It was a weird way to come down after a fight, the adrenaline just seeping away while his heartbeat under her cheek slowed back to normal. It was almost peaceful or some lame shit like that. Faith thought about getting loose, then decided it was just because she'd already gotten laid four times in the last twenty-four, so she could let it go, this once. She curled in a little closer instead.

The sound of sirens finally broke the mood, and a shower of sparks from some wire shorted out in the broken wall. David wiped his face, she tugged him up to his feet, and they staggered out together to the main lobby, his arm still around her shoulders. She kept hers around his waist. Outside in front of the museum, ambulances and fire trucks were gathering on the roundabout with a crowd of reporters already milling around them, talking to the guests. Faith pulled up in the shadows of the entryway. David looked out and rubbed his hands over his face and straightened up; she could see him putting on his game face, turning into somebody she couldn't have.

Okay, she wasn't going to cry about it. "I think this is where I let you go talk to your adoring public, rockstar," she said. "Tell them it was a ceiling collapse—"

"Oh, no way," David said. "Come on. I just saved the world with my singing. That's got to be worth at least another round."

She looked at him with her eyebrows up. "You want anouther round. After that."

"Fuck, yeah," he said. "Aside from thinking I was about to die, that was the coolest thing ever."

"So why would I want to go out with you again?" Faith said. "Seeing how you're crazy enough to think that it's a good idea—"

"Hey," he said, and he was tugging her a little closer, and for some stupid reason she was letting him, "you're a superhero, I'm a rockstar—"

"This is not the start of a sitcom," Faith said, and then he was kissing her.

"Besides," he said, when they stopped for breath, "no one is going to pay attention to the dead demons inside if we give them a photo op."

"Well, okay," Faith said. "I guess I'll have to take one for the team."

= End =

With heaps of thanks to Terri and Slodwick for beta ♥ and to all the fabulous voters who chipped in for DC in reply to my finale-night plea. 1397 of these words are for evilgeniusmouse and malnpudl! (I tacked on a few more for good measure. *g*)

All feedback much appreciated!
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