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Hell's Heart (fic)

20th April 2007 (18:34)
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This is inspired by - and a tribute to - the rather wonderful Good Girls Go To Heaven – Bad Girls Go Anywhere by beer_good_foamy. You can consider it a sequel, if you like. 

ETA: Now with Director's Commentary (and theological discussion) here.

Faith Lehane, born 30 December 1980, died 19 April 2007. This story is set three days after her death.
Rating: 15   Wordcount: 1,400
Warnings:  violence, bad language, character deathdamnation, blasphemy and heresy. 

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Hell's Heart

The songs of choirs of angels made a soft, soothing hum through the thick walls of the office. The clerk peered at his ledger, ticking off another name. Every soul balanced, every deed accounted for. Everything was right with the world. He smiled his thin smile, placed his pen down on the desk - aligned precisely with the edge of the blotter - and sat back, stretching cramped muscles.

Time for a short break. In front of the desk, the endless line of souls stretched away, anxious eyes waiting for his approval, but he paid them little mind. They could wait. Impatience showed lack of faith, which was a sin, and there were no sinners here. Pretty much by definition.

It was a pleasant change, he mused. Back in the old days they'd all been brought before him, the righteous and the damned alike, and it had been his job to tell them their fate. He shuddered delicately. The pleas, the tears and curses, the excuses, the frantic attempts to explain. To challenge the verdict of impartial divine justice. All in vain, of course, but he so hated it when they made a scene. Much better now that arrangements had been made to deliver them directly to their eternal punishment. He glanced at the iron door behind him, barred and bolted. It was three centuries now since the last damned soul had been flung screaming down the staircase behind it, and he hoped the door would never need to be opened again.

He stood up, replacing his chair carefully under the desk, and walked over to the cabinet at the side of his office, oblivious to the waiting eyes. A cup of tea would be refreshing right now, he thought, and opened the drawer to take out his silver tea caddy.

A sudden crash behind him like the crack of doom whirled him around. The silver box fell from nerveless fingers, spilling Earl Grey heedlessly across the pristine marble floor, as a massive weight smote the iron door from the other side. Even as he watched the bolts were bending under a tremendous force, the hinge-nails grinding slowly out of the wall. Paralysed in disbelieving horror, he saw the door shake again to another impact... then in a tortured scream of metal tear loose from its mounting and slam down flat on the floor, cracking it asunder.

And from behind it, looming dark in the doorway, smelling of blood and brimstone, strode the figure...

...of a girl. A once-mortal girl, clad in torn and ripped rags of denim, head crowned in a halo of singed and blackened chestnut hair. Smeared with blood, some of it her own. Most of it not. Her right hand held a weapon, her left something large and round, which she flung onto his desk. It rolled across the surface, leaving a black trail of gore behind it, and came to a halt with sightless eyes gazing blankly at the ceiling.

"I'm here for some answers."

Her words shook him out of his frozen incomprehension, although his eyes still darted around, desperate for help. This couldn't be happening. It was impossible. He waited for the universe to reimpose its rightness... but she was still here.

And the crimson blade in her hand looked sharp and deadly.

"Well? You gonna talk to me, or do I need to see the Big Guy?"

His voice came quavering and stammery, but he forced the words out. "W-who are you?"

"Damn. Thought you knew everyone, 'Rocky'. Least, that's what the nuns used to say - you know all our sins, huh?"

And of course it was true. He knew who she was. Still, to recover some of his fragile calm, he placed his glasses on his nose and sat down at his desk again. Pulled the ledger towards him gingerly, trying not to meet the cold dead eyes of the former Angel of the Morning Star. He turned back a page, ran his finger down the neat columns.

Sucked in his breath. Really, he couldn't help it. The stink of death and danger might surround him, but he forgot it as he read this woman's list of sins. It was...impressive. Lust - lots of that. Greed and envy. Limitless anger. Fierce pride and bottomless despair. At least she wasn't lazy...but that just gave her more energy to break even more of the Commandments. Adultery. Theft. Murder. False witness. Coveting. She'd done it all. She'd even managed to dishonour her father and mother - not that they were exactly blameless themselves, he recalled, but that was no excuse. He shook his head.

She had no place here. She had no right. He told her so, his certainty in his own rectitude restoring his courage.

"Like Hell. Sure, I've done wrong, but what about the other column? The good I've done? Does that count for nothing?"

He was back on familiar ground now. The same old whining. It never helped them...

...and behind her, he saw a glorious sight at last. The Guardian of Heaven's Gate had heard the commotion and was walking over to investigate, bright wings shining and flaming sword in his hand. Rescue was on its way. He stared over his glasses at the impertinent girl.

"You had your chance. You deliberately turned your back on grace when it was offered you, sinner."

"But I changed. I thought you guys were all about forgiveness?"

"What makes you think you deserve it?"

"That ain't fair."

In her anger she was focussed entirely on him, oblivious to the winged nemesis coming up behind her.

"There is no such thing as fairness. There is only justice."

She seemed to crumple inwards a little. Behind her, the archangel was raising his sword. Just a moment more... keep her distracted...

"You rejected the Light. Now you will have nothing. No kindness, no mercy, no hope. You have nothing."

"You're wrong." The flaming sword swung, slicing through the air towards her neck, but suddenly, impossibly, her hand was raised, her weapon parrying the blow - and she hadn't even looked round. She grinned at him fiercely. "I still got faith."

And she turned, and stared unafraid into the eyes of the angel, her blade lifting...

...

Smoke curled across the shattered ruins of the office. The waiting souls of the blessed had fled in panic long since. Smashed kindling marked the ruins of the desk, and from beneath it the little clerk stirred feebly, astonished at his own survival.

A hand grasped him by the neck, pulling him up and slamming him against the wall. Her voice was hoarse and smoky, but implacable.

"Enough of this crap. You're so hot on justice around here, I'm gonna give you some. Starting at the top. So open the gates, old man."

"I - I can't..."

"Sure you can. They taught me all about it, back when I was a good little Catholic schoolgirl. You've got the keys."

"I'm... not allowed to..."

Suddenly she was in his face, body pressed against his, taut and firm and wriggly and awakening thoughts he'd hoped had been dead and buried two thousand years since. He shuddered, as she whispered right in his ear, "I. Don't. Care. Give me the goddamn keys."

But he could only shake his head, rigid with - with fear. Sweat beaded on his brow...

And suddenly she kissed him, right on the forehead, and spun away laughing. "Whatever, dude. You've still got a pair on you... gotta respect that in an old man. Don't worry, I'll find my own way in. Come too far to stop now."

She walked over to the fluffy white snowdrift of feathers heaped in the centre of the room, limping slightly. She rummaged beneath the broken wings and drew out the shattered stump of a sword, flames still curling gently around its blade. Without a backward glance she strode over to the vast, gleaming gates that towered high overhead, barring her way. She thrust the broken sword between them, leaning her weight on it - and slowly, painfully, with a groan like a million tormented souls the gates bowed open. Just a crack... just big enough for a single young woman to squeeze through.

Faith squared her shoulders, tossed back her hair, took a firm grip on the Scythe and stepped through the gates of heaven.

And choirs of angels fled before her face.





We may with more successful hope resolve
To wage by force or guile eternal war
Irreconcileable, to our grand foe,
Who now triumphs, and in th'excess of joy
Sole reigning holds the Tyranny of Heaven.
- John Milton

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Comments

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 18:27 (UTC)

*cries*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 19:42 (UTC)

Happy crying or upset crying? 'Cause the story does have a happy ending, you know...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 20:34 (UTC)

Damn. Thought you knew everyone, 'Rocky'.

Oh this was... this was... simply TOO FUCKING COOL. I quite literally squeed, and that takes some doing. I love St Peter The Old Civil Servant, I love the imagery, and I love Faith more than ever before. And I love you for writing this. Trust Faith to not forgive betrayal...

*runs off to rec*

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 20:50 (UTC)

Yay! Glad you liked it (and wasn't offended that I stole your idea... ;) ).

I've never been quite sure what real-life sound *squee* is meant to represent, however...

Posted by: Beer Good (beer_good_foamy)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 21:16 (UTC)

Offended? I consider myself highly honoured to inspire something this good!

I've never been quite sure what real-life sound *squee* is meant to represent, however...

Well... you know that insane high-pitched giggle Renfield does in the original "Dracula"...?

Posted by: globalfruitbat (globalfruitbat)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 21:10 (UTC)
sexy eliza

wonderful. I love this piece. Thank you so much for writing it.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 11:09 (UTC)

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting and thanks for friending me. :)

Posted by: shinodabear (shinodabear)
Posted at: 20th April 2007 23:38 (UTC)

Here on beer_good_foamy's rec.

This was really really awesome. Leave it to Faith to break into Heaven. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 11:10 (UTC)

She can be a determined young lady when she wants to be. :) Thanks!

Posted by: Corinna (alwaysjbj)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 00:51 (UTC)
Faith

Sent here by beer_good_foamy.

ROFLMAO! I love this! It is just... perfect! Thank you for many laughs (and many tears).

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 11:10 (UTC)

Aww. Thanks!

Posted by: slaymesoftly (slaymesoftly)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 00:53 (UTC)

This was wonderful. Go Faith! Thanks to beer_good_foamy for the rec. :)

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 11:20 (UTC)

Glad you liked it, and thanks!

Posted by: draconin (draconin)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 05:24 (UTC)

This is absolutely brilliant!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 11:20 (UTC)

Why, thank you. :)

Posted by: keith5by5 (keith5by5)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 11:42 (UTC)
Loved the prequel

And this is cool too. Although you've gotta wonder about redemption if someone like Faith who repents of her sins can't get into heaven while someone like Buffy who thinks of no-one but herself can...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 12:24 (UTC)
Re: Loved the prequel

Oh, I know. Hence the warning about 'heresy' in my preamble. :) I could go into it in much more depth (if I do, it'll be in a separate post) but the original insiration for the fic was reading foamy's original story and thinking "any God who sends repenty-Faith to Hell deserves a pissed-off Slayer with a Scythe coming after him..."

Though I think you're being a tad unfair on Buffy: she might whine occasionally or develop a martyr complex about having to sacrifice so much of her own life for others, but it never stops her from doing the right thing in the end.

Posted by: keith5by5 (keith5by5)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 12:30 (UTC)
Re: Loved the prequel

I agree with you 100%, you realise your mistakes as Faith did, are punished, and then do good, and you still can't get in heaven?

Show me where Buffy admitted she was wrong about Angelus or Spike, and I'll show you a char who learns from her mistakes. But the Immortal is supposedly evil, so she's 1 for 4 in the partner stakes, and if the Immortal starts killing people I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Buffy to do anything about it. Angelus' death count in Sunnydale or Spike's death count under the First's control (and she didn't know he was free of it, but was prepared to risk Xander's life by putting him in her apartment and the potentials' when she brought him home), both out-weigh Faith's death-tallies. And she was better brought up than Faith, had more choices, more support etc.

Still, whatever our differences, a great fic.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 15:13 (UTC)
Re: Loved the prequel

Incidentally, I've written that separate post about the theological implications, if you're interested. :)

I think Buffy learning from her mistakes is the main theme of season 1; she refuses to act as the Slayer in the first episode (because she's 'retired' and wants a normal life) and it gets Jesse killed and Willow almost killed. And likewise in 'Prophecy Girl', where she sees that unwillingness to fight against evil results in the slaughter of Willow and Cordelia's friends in the A/V room - and so she accepts her duty even though all concerned think it will mean her death.

And Buffy was offering Spike forgiveness and a chance at redemption in S7, which kind of fits into the overall theme here...

Posted by: keith5by5 (keith5by5)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 16:53 (UTC)
Re: Loved the prequel

See, I see Buffy's mistakes in S1 and her trying to push the others away in S2 as normal mistakes that anyone could make. Her weaknesses over Angel(us) and Spike are the very anthesis of a hero for me.

She risked innocents' lives with her forgiveness and that to me is beneath contempt.

Posted by: keith5by5 (keith5by5)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 16:59 (UTC)
Re: Loved the prequel

Oh and together with her double-standard and lack of care for Faith, someone who needed her help (an innocent as regards body-count when she arrived in town), but was too unimportant for Miss Bad-Boy.

Posted by: Rebecca (nikitangel)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 15:06 (UTC)
Faith Looking Away - bruisedcreation

Wow! That was completely awesome. Very Faith.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st April 2007 15:14 (UTC)

Gl;ad you liked it!

Posted by: δημιουργός (somercet)
Posted at: 20th May 2007 01:09 (UTC)

I liked the stories, but as Christian theology, they rather leave a bit to be desired:

Rev 3:14-6:

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Faith is NOT lukewarm.

Cf the story of the Prodigal Son.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 23rd May 2007 16:09 (UTC)

Oh, I'm well aware that the story isn't good Christian theology. It wasn't really supposed to be... hence the warnings for not only bad language and violence, but blasphemy and heresy.

Although that passage from Revelations seems to be saying that if you're either good or evil (hot or cold) you'll be fine, but if you're morally ambiguous and grey, you're in trouble. Which seems odd... Plus Faith certainly is lukewarm in some senses, at least in early season 3 - she's closed in, unwilling to commit, unable to reach out...

Posted by: δημιουργός (somercet)
Posted at: 23rd May 2007 20:32 (UTC)

I think the Revelations passage means what it says. God would rather sinners be sinners than pretend to sanctity. God would rather the sinner return, repentant, than stay in the outer darkness. Jesus mentions this a couple times: he loathed those who obeyed outer forms but had no love of God or their fellow man in their hearts. He wanted to write the new law on the hearts of men.

And remember Abraham and Sodom and Gomorrah: with balls and a righteous heart you can ask God for almost anything.

I realize a lot of Christian sects babble on and on about the old Mosaic laws, but, in fact, the law specifically divide the Gentiles from Torah; more commentary here.

Posted by: {¯`·._.·Kitten·._.·´¯} (not_purrrfect)
Posted at: 21st July 2007 01:16 (UTC)

Wow both stories were just amazing. I loved them both!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 21st July 2007 13:37 (UTC)

Thank you!

Posted by: I write tragedies, not sins (mabus101)
Posted at: 31st December 2007 22:01 (UTC)

Given how late I've arrived, I dunno if you'll see this...but fascinating story.

I'm an Evil Soulless Fundie (TM) myself, but I don't have a problem with encountering alternate fictional theologies--or with the characters correcting them, if they're sufficiently off-kilter. (Someday soon, I'll...er, no spoilers.) Go Faith!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 31st December 2007 23:02 (UTC)

The comment notification email still appears to work, no matter how old the original entry. :-) Glad you liked it!

And glad that I don't need to expect the Spanish Inquisition ;-)

Posted by: I write tragedies, not sins (mabus101)
Posted at: 1st January 2008 03:22 (UTC)

Ahhhh.....I tend to forget about those. I don't get them--probably because I only have a basic account--and might not notice if I did, as I'm bad at checking email.

As for the Spanish Inquisition...they're a bunch of heretics. ;-)

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 4th January 2008 18:23 (UTC)
Faith chaines scratched

Same as I mentioned on beergoodfoamy's, this kinda reminds me of the Preacher graphic novels. Loving the take on hell/heaven. Excellent writing, quotable and everything!

"And choirs of angels fled before her."
That's my girl! Seriously, big grin on my face.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 4th January 2008 19:33 (UTC)
faith

\o/ yay! :-) (This is one of my own favourite bits of writing).

Yes, there may have been a deliberate resemblance between Faith and the Saint of Killers here. Even though i've never actually read the whole of 'Preacher', just skimmed bits of it. (I disliked the deliberate prurient nastiness, to be honest. A bit like why I can never get into Iain Banks' books too).

Thanks!

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 9th June 2009 20:10 (UTC)

A bit belated - but better late than never!

I totally adore this fic! I'm exploring the Faith corner of the fandom and I'm awed by the stories I discover. Poignant, powerful story - indelible imagery and fantastic Faith voice.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 10th June 2009 18:35 (UTC)

Thanks! It's one of my all-time favourites of the fics I've written too.

Posted by: Elena (moscow_watcher)
Posted at: 10th June 2009 18:52 (UTC)
Faith

one of my all-time favourites

Oh, it shows. It definitely shows. In a way, I'm happy I didn'r read it before I finished my fic, because I think I just couldn't follow my initial plan - to use Faith as a catalyst to reveal a lot of hidden discontent and disaccords within the Core Four - as soon as I read it.

Your Faith is so feisty, so full of life, so indomitable - I feel a bit guilty for making her relatively subdued in my fic. (But even in that state she almost monopolized the plot, and her Buffy issues - as well as Buffy's Faith issues - practically became the heart of the story.)

Oh - and I changed Central California Women's Facility to Northern California Women's Facility in the first chapter. So when you will read that Xander goes to Stockton, don't be surprised.

Posted by: Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures)
Posted at: 20th December 2012 20:57 (UTC)

Awesome! Here via beer_good_foamy's rec. Love what you've done with the premise.

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