Epilogue: That which we are...
Epilogue: "That which we are, we fucking are."
Food and coffee and quiet conversation. Easy camaraderie. Something new.. something Faith thought she might could get used to one day.
One day when it stopped freaking her out a bit, maybe.
She'd been surprised to find that two days had passed while she slept, evidently exhaustion and stress knocking her out for the count in the wake of that hellish fight inside of her mind. Inside? Maybe not just... from the healing wounds and bandages she could see on her companions, and the things she could feel inside when she reached for them. Slayer healing had taken care of her cuts; taken care of all except the bone deep stiffness and ache of muscle pushed too far past its limits.
She watched King, Wesley and Abby talking together, Wes's easy laugh mixing with Hannibal's sarcasm and Abby's understated, always unexpected quips. Watched Blade watching them, ghosted smile barely curving the corner of one lip. Caught the occasional glances and comments her way, drawing her in, making her a part of things rather than leaving her outside watching. Thought about people, and connections, and things. Felt something inside unbreak just a little...
And felt the itch to be moving, still.
Not because she wasn't welcome, or had to get away. Or had to run, run fast before she could get touched by the people around her, push them away before they could push first. Because she had things to do still, and they weren't here, weren't now.
She came back to the room from a long way off, reaching back into the last few minutes for something Wesley'd been saying, dredged it up.
"Huh?" Her question drew a look. "New what
"Well, I'm going to have to run some more tests, of course, to be sure." He looked apologetic. "But the detection charm I used before we left last night definitely registered something."
"A new Hellmouth
? A tenth one?" She boggled. "I didn't think that was freaking possible?" She looked at him accusingly.
"Well.. maybe not quite," he gave her a 'not my fault!' expression. "A nascent one, definitely. Maybe a baby one, certainly."
"Ha. I share the sentiment." He looked thoughtful. "And now we know how they're born, I suppose. A weak place between worlds, influx of hell energies, desire, massive amounts of Power, and large amounts of life and death energies."
"And dreams," she made a face. "Don't forget the Dreams."
She looked over at Abby who was eying them with something like alarm. "Congratulations. It's a Boy."
"You." She snickered at Abby's expression and gave her a commiserating look that was spoiled entirely by the gleam in her eye. "You're now the proud Guardian of a Baby Hellmouth. I'm SO proud. Mommy's little Apprentice's all growed up now." She sniggered.
"But but but... " Abby shot her a glower.
"Yup." Faith gave her a dark look. "I'd run like hell if I were you," she grinned.
Blade *and* Hannibal were giving her
dark Looks. Wes kept his face studiously blank.
"Ah. It's not that bad. No Watcher's Council idiots dumped her in the middle of it with one old middle-aged geezer expecting her to croak in a few months. She's got you guys. And with the Slayer School across the river, there'll be access to backup and other people to help patrol it." She looked thoughtful. "Might not be bad for her to make contact with them... maybe get a Watcher assigned to help with instruction in the supernatural and mystical research."
Faith frowned. "I'll talk to Vi. Make sure she understands that it's up to Abby and you guys if they do. Watcher and the Council doesn't try to take her over." She grinned: "That I'll come back and kick someone's ass if that happens... assuming Blade doesn't eat them."
Blade gave her a look. "You're not staying?"
Wes gave her a curious look, knowing the answer already. "Not going back to the school and the IWC, then, certainly?"
"No." She shook her head. "Too much history, and I'm not sure any longer I want to be a part of making more. Not there. Especially not with me 'n Robin still raw and B pissed over my not agreeing with her view of the Universe. Not going to back down just to please them, not when I'm right." She grimaced, "I'm a square peg in a round hole there. I'm not a teacher, or an administrator, or a whatever. I'm a hunter - this is what I'm good at. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was breaking something inside trying to be something I'm not. For someone else." She looked out through a wall, speaking softly. "If we'd not blown up... I might have worked at it and made it. Or broke from trying, and then *really* gone back to psycho-Slayer, and hurt someone for keeps." She met his eyes. "That which I am, I am."
She grinned, "I can't be what someone else wants. I'll do anything for love, but I won't do that
Blade looked her over. "You're welcome here." He nodded, decision made.
She shook her head, not wanting to deal with the sense of loss having to say "no" to that was going to leave behind. "I know." She met those eyes. "But I have something to do, and it's not here. Someone I have to find."
"Someone?" Wesley gave her a curious look.
"Think back to that night, Wes. In the crowd working with us... girl in a white jacket?" She saw him puzzling at it, sorting through images from that hellish jumble. "Picture with regular clothes, not as a biker's leather fantasy. Brown hair, with gold highlights - not almost black." Saw his eyes register the memory.
"Oh." Raised eyebrow. "I did. Thought she was something from the dream images?"
Faith shook her head. "No. Came in with us, not with them later. Behind Angel... didn't have time to question then. And then she was gone with you guys, and I still hadn't had time."
"Somewhere out there, I have a double. Clone. Doppleganger. Maybe a sister? Something... " She looked off into the distance. "Have to find out."
"But how? With nothing to go on?" King looked dismayed by a thought, "And what if she's not even in this dimension?" He definitely looked like he'd bitten a lemon having to even consider 'other dimension' and have to use it in a sentence.
"Heh. Dunno. I'll find out." Faith grinned. "Have to. I can feel it." She glanced at the weapons bench... "And I need to either figure out somewhere safe to put that damned sword where no one can get to it, or how to get it back to where it belongs," Faith made a face. "Guess I'm stuck with it for now," she said, "It's too damned dangerous even for the Council vaults." Wes glanced at it himself, met her eyes, and nodded. She noticed he didn't offer to lock it up in Wolfram & Hart's vaults for safekeeping, either, or else guessed that she wouldn't agree and didn't want to argue it. Too damned dangerous to trust anywhere near W&H, either, even with Angel in charge of the place.
Blade nodded, and met her eyes evenly. "Come back. We'll be around."
"Thanks." She laughed to hide the sudden pang that shot through her. "You're not rid of me that easy. I have it on Good Authority that I make an impact," she winked.
"That you do."
Nod. "Can you guys make sure Wes gets to the airport?"................................................................................
came to her room after Faith had showered and changed, sitting cross legged on the bed while she sorted out gear and packed away items and weapons. "We'll miss you."
Faith looked at her, not showing the prick of surprise that still shot through her. Put it away to save for later. "Me too, you guys." She leaned against a door frame and studied the girl that she still saw as 'younger', even though talking, she realized in her head that Abby was a couple of years older than her. "I wasn't expecting this when I stumbled into that alley to investigate those screams."
"Ha!" Abby grinned. "Neither were we."
"I'll stay in touch," she said, and was surprised to discover she meant it.
"You'd better," Abby responded. "Can't just dump an infant Hellmouth in my lap and ride off forever without a by-your-leave. You're going to have to help me pick out baby booties and a crib."
Faith grinned, "You'll do good." She went back to putting away her small amount of possessions.
"You know... that's not going to fit in that bag," Abby started as Faith took down her sword and slid it into the leather gear bag. "Uhhhh... Never mind," she finished when it disappeared completely. "Huh?!?"
"Ha. Shows you." Faith winked. "Gift from a fr... kinda acquaintance. Witch. It's lots bigger inside than it looks, but anyone except me reaching in only finds clothes and toiletries and bottom."
"Yeah. Keeps me from having to explain to cops why I'm lugging 25" of steel and tons of knives and axes just tooling around normally," she said. "I don't worry about it when I'm patrolling."
Nod. "You take care of yourself, Faith. Don't die." She looked at the dark haired girl seriously, "And... think about what Blade and King were saying. You're not what you keep seeing yourself as. Not any more."
"I'll... try." Faith nodded. "It's not easy." Abby nodded and slipped out, left her to her business.Blade
leaned in the doorway as she was checking over her long coat for wear. "Finding it yet?" She lifted an eyebrow. "Redemption."
"And love?" She grinned as he nodded, sobered, "Not yet. Expect to be looking for some time yet."
He nodded, slightly. "Let me know if you do." He inclined his head a fraction. "I'll leave you to it."'Ha,'
she thought. 'Too late for that. You're going to be sticking with me for a long time yet, big guy. In here.'
She had a thought and said, "Blade?" He turned back and looked an inquiry at her.
"I checked on the name you gave me in the Watcher Journals. Your mother was a potential." He raised an eyebrow fractionally, then narrowed his eyes. "It would explain a few things, maybe?"
He nodded, eyes unreadable. She sighed, "Ask Wes, if you want details. He can fill them in for you."
"Thanks," he said, nodding slightly, and left. And she hoped she hadn't wrecked that fragile trust that'd been building....Hannibal
found her as she was rummaging through the fridge in the kitchen area, grabbing a snack to go with a last mug of coffee before the road. "Bill for all the groceries is on the counter." He grinned.
"Heh." She snickered, "Put it on my tab?"
"Sure." King looked at her seriously for a bit as she slid onto a stool with her coffee and a sandwich. "So... was all of that real?"
"With that dreamways sword lying on your counter last night, you still have to ask?" Faith gave him a wondering look, then shrugged. "Going to bother you, huh? Did you really save the world and get sucked into a dreamways battle? Or just get sucked into the crazy chick's psychosis?" She laughed.
"Something like that." He nodded, smiling. "I'm finding there's more to this war than just vampires and familiars. Not sure I like it."
"Magic and demons and and slayers and evil undead-oh," She finished her snack. Stood up, and drew on something inside of her. Green fire flickered around her hands, and the two curved Valdris blades she took off the Hellspawn lord came into her hands. She tapped the counter with a blade tip and let him hear it ring.
King stepped back with a 'Whoa!' expression. "All real." Faith grinned. "Welcome to the Saving the World Club. Membership dues need to be in by Samhain, latest."
"Put it on my tab," He straightened. "Wow. Fuck me. That's... "
"Freaky?" Faith nodded and made the blades go away. "Kinda freaks me too." He nodded.
"Still think you're nuts. You just managed to infect me too," he grinned and she met it with a laugh. "Here you go." He reached over and pulled a polished wooden box from a table, and handed it to her, heavy and smooth. She examined the catch and small lock, and gaped at him. He added a smaller, thicker, leather case on top. "Put them away somewhere safe until you get a chance to examine it and think about where you want to go with it."
She closed her mouth and nodded, opening her bag to slide it in. It was about the size of a small briefcase, and he started to say something, shaking his head as it disappeared. "I don't *even* want to know."
She laughed and he wandered off, still shaking his head. "Damn," she said.Wesley
met her by her bike. "Where are you headed first?" he asked.
She shrugged, crossing her arms. "Back across the river, first. Settle things with Vi before I go, and make sure they're closed. Pick up a few things I left. Explain what all went down, if I can. Then... ?" She shook her head. "Don't know. South for awhile."
Wes nodded. "I'll look around through when I get back, see if I can turn anything up for you."
He looked thoughtful, "I'll start with the birth records. Might not be anything there, if you haven't found it, but it can't hurt."
"Hrrm. White coat... lab coat?" She frowned thoughtfully. "When I asked if she was a doctor, she said 'something like'. Medical?"
"Maybe. Hrrm... " Wesley's eyes narrowed, thinking, "Medical school records, hospitals... Without a name, it's much more difficult."
"Maybe impossible," She nodded, eyes thoughtful. "Wes? Thanks. For all... " She made a gesture that encompassed the last several days and everything.
"You're welcome. And it wasn't anything special."
"No." She shook her head. "It was."
"Quite. Right, then." He nodded, "How about: it wasn't anything you wouldn't do for Angel, or for us?"
"maybe." She nodded, meeting his eyes. "Wes, I'm not sure I managed to say this before when... " She paused, "I'm sorry."
He smiled, "It's done, Faith. What's a little spot of hot, blunt, and sharp between friends, after all?"
Her eyes clouded and he reached and took her chin and tipped it up. "Faith. It's done. It's hard to forget, but it was forgiven a long time ago." He met her eyes. "Just forgive yourself now."
He held her eyes until they cleared finally and she said, "Right."
"Right then." He looked at her bike. "Take care, Faith. Stay in touch."
She watched him walk back in, and watched the door for a long time after it closed, seeing nothing. "Damn."'Is that what forgiveness looks like? I don't have any way to know... '
She buried the still voice inside and kicked the bike to a start.................................................................................
She rode out by dark-thirty, heading into New York. At some point, much later, she knew she'd stop and examine the unexpected package Hannibal'd pressed on her near the end, as she was finishing up. And spend a *lot* of time examining the other things left behind from that, things she hadn't expected a few days back when she rode out of another place with tears blinding the road ahead of her. Much betterer.
"'For I am become a Name'. Damn' right, Slovotsky." She laughed and kicked the bike up to speed. To seek, to find, and not to yield. "Fuckin' A."
"Gonna hit the highways like a battering ram -
On a silver black phantom bike
When the metal is hot, and the engine is hungry
And we're all about to see the light
And you know that...
Nothin' ever grows in this rock and roll Hell -
And everything is stunted and lost
And nothing really rocks, and nothing really rolls
But everything is worth the cost
And I know that I'm damned if I never get out
And maybe I'm damned if I do -
But with every beat I've got locked in my heart...
You know I'd rather be damned with you.
Well if I gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned
Dancing through the nights with you.
Oh and baby you're the only thing in this wide world
That's pure and shining and right
And where ever you are, and where ever you go
There's always gonna be some light."
is the spot where you're going to find all the odd stuff and little bits of trivia I didn't include at the front because it would ruin the story to give it away ahead of time. Various acknowledgments.You can skip this part if you don't like glimpses into the writer's mind. Wouldn't blame you: it's a dismal swamp full of old clutter and warped byways in there, anyway.
I've always liked this character, along with Dawn, Xander, Cordy, Wesley, and a few others. An' it were up to me, following "The Gift", Buffy'd have stayed croaked and it would have become Faith the Vampire Slayer
. And while I've read almost all of them and enjoyed quite a few... I've never quite bought the concepts that Faith would have settled in training mini-slayers and/or ended up settling down with Xander and living happily-ever. For the one, she's too edgy to last long as a teacher or administrator without going buggy and killing someone... and she doesn't really seem to really like
a lot of the people involved in the Post-Chosen IWC, ties that bind notwithstanding. Too much bad history there to get beyond easily. While I could see her liking Xander... they're a bit too different to click as anything except friends and comrades in arms. I could see her clicking with Dawn, Vi, and Wes: it just worked. Robin just didn't
click: a bit too slick a fellow in my view.
So rather than bitch in comments on someone else's fics about directions and interpretations, I headed off on my own instead and this is the result. More entertaining, at least to do, and it annoys fewer people.
Not that annoying people really bothers
me, you understand, but I like
This was written in a dead heat over the course of about a week and a half, all 70+ thousand or so words of it. And then proofread, polished, spell checked, and rewritten a bit more gradualy over the course of a month or so. Many thanks to my friend SamanthaDancer for being my beta-reader and pointing out several places where the dialogues didn't quite click, or it needed a bit more fleshing out in areas.
Naturally, Faith's heroes are her own, and as I don't really have access to the inside of her head [I just tried to fake it convincingly], I had to kind of guess at it. But... given the background and personality of the character as established, and the glimpses of her personality given, I think it's safe to assume that with few exceptions, she's going to lean more than a bit to the broken heroes: the slightly bent ones who know what it's like to feel the blackness inside and strive past the darkness in their souls to reach for something else
. Not pure, not clean, and not by any means white hats... but still managing to reach out of the black and end up however precariously on the side of the good.
People that speak to what she's trying to become and leave signposts along the road map to how it might be done.
For anyone who didn't catch all of the dream references because they don't quite have the same eclectic reading history I do, the decidedly odd group of individuals on the gates are, in no particular order:
* Karl Cullinane, Ahira, Andrea, and of course Walter Slovotsky from Rosenberg's Sword and the Chain novels.
* Legolas, from LOTR by Tolkien. Possibly an exception to the 'slightly bent dark hero' thing, possibly not.
* Elric of Melnibone and Stormbringer; by way of Michael Moorcock.
* Travis McGee by way of John D. MacDonald.
* Jacob McCandles, Big Jake; ala John Wayne. Hell, we thought you were dead, too...
* Nicos Bando from Barry B. Longyear's Infinity Hold.
* Jianna and Wave, of Dafyyd ab Hugh's Heroing.
* Corson and Nyctasia from J.F. Rifkin's Silverglass.
* Mack Bolan aka The Executioner, ala Don Pendleton.
* Mike Hammer, by Spillane. No doubt snarling curses all the while at the Pit and the mind of the young dame that drug him in there.
* Jame of the Kencyrath from P.C. Hodgell, Godstalk.
* Hell Tanner of Damnation Alley from Zelazny.
* Hell Spawns from Tod McFarlane. The actual "Spawn" from the comics, movies and series isn't in here, just *a* Hellspawn or a few, or at least the concept thereof. And no actual hellspawns were harmed during the making of this fic, just in case any members of the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Spawnlings is reading this. We only maimed them a bit, and we put them back where we found them when we were done, honest.
* And near to last but not least, Vlad Taltos, former Jhereg, of Steven Brust's Jhereg cycles and whom without which Faith would never have made the Spire...
* Sword of Morgaine from C.J. Cherryh and somehow separated from its owner. Boy, will she ever be pissed when she notices...
* The Pit by way of Larry Niven and Pournelle's Inferno and the Place Where Only That Which You've Loved Can Save You also from Rosenburg.
Seventeen because that's a mystical number (just ask Vlad) and one to draw them.
Plus a cameo from Will Turner in a guest role in the Adventures of Captain Faith Sparrow, in one of Faith's alternate dream lives.
I'm going to leave the wizard as an exercise for the student. If you've read any or all of the source materials... you probably already have a good idea of some of his thousand or so names, anyway. If not, nyah. Read more. As Faith said: doesn't matter. None of them are now nor ever were his True Name, anyway.
Other Credits: "Bat Out of Hell"
lyrics by Jim Steinman, filtered through mine and Faith's heads. "If you could read my mind"
from Gordon Lightfoot, and filked a bit by me. "Nowhere Fast"
and story title also from Steinman. Other movie, song, and book quotes scattered through are from far too many sources to list: if you're widely read and viewed, you probably caught most of them.
I'm certain there's going to be some readers who may object to my interpretation of Faith-as-reader, and her knowing some of the references herein. All I'm going to say to that is: the girl's got like, facets and shit, and she did spend an awful long time in the crowbar hotel. It's entirely possible that at points in my misspent youth, I've known and talked to a few more ex-cons than possibly Whedon and some folks. When you're in stir, especially when in for the reasons established that Faith stayed in, you find some way to assassinate the clock and make the bars go away... or you die. Find God, join AA, study things you'll never use, become a yard monster, get a degree... something
that makes the bars fade. Or read. A *LOT*. Anything that takes your mind off of the excruciatingly slow tick of the clock and keeps you even semi-sane, stops the rot that kills your soul inside.
Faith chose to read. Losing herself in other worlds gave her a way to recover some sanity and try to stay sane in this one. Deal with it.
Other readers may have issues with my interpretation of Faith as being a pretty damned intelligent young woman. All I can say there is to refer to that misspent youth I mentioned, and reflect that it's possible I know a bit about coming back from the dark and the mean and the violent, and the kind of person it takes.
There aren't many stupid
recovering street rats. Not living ones, anyway.
There is no way that that character as was portrayed is stupid. Ignorant maybe, and semi-educated, at best... but that's not
the same thing. She's not used to thinking of herself as smart, certainly. And she's hot-tempered and impulsive and forgets to think when her temper kicks in, definitely And, like a lot of abused kids from bad backgrounds... at some point she's probably been brutalized early on into believing she's stupid and will never amount to much. But being at the top of the food chain in a dangerous lifestyle kills smart
people: stupid ones die fast
. Think it through.A quick character note:
Faith's age when she arrived at Sunnydale seems to be a bit ambiguos, as does her actual birth date. And I personally have never read anything canon to pin it down to a hard date. I have noticed that "Go Ask Malice" and the Faith page at Wikipedia list her as being born in 1980, making her around 17-18 when she appears in "Faith, Hope, and Trick", but I'm not certain just how canon that is (or how 'canon' I want to consider it for my fics). Fanon seems to often consider her as being quite a bit younger... which fits my reading of the character as she was portrayed in the actual series: her attitudes, actions, and relative maturity levels become suddenly a lot more explicable if you consider you're dealing with a fifteen to sixteen year old kid rather than an eighteen year old. So... for *my* purposes, I'm going with a fanon consensus that she was born in '83 and was 15 when she arrived in Sunnydale after her Watcher was killed. (A pretty well developed 15 year old, yeah... but you should have seen some of the 15 year old girls I went to high school with. It happens.) Which makes her 17 when she went to prison... and around 19 at the events of Chosen
and in this fic: "Anything for Love" takes place about a month before her 20th birthday.Continuity notes:
I've played around with the Buffyverse timelines a bit to make things work out between it and my Faith series here. "Anything for Love" takes place about six-and-a-half months following Chosen
. At the tme of this fic, Angel Season 5 hasn't started yet: none of the events in AtS5 begin until around November 20th, 2003, picking up with the events in the AtS5 episode "Conviction" around the 20th or so. "Life of the Party" gets taken out of sequence, still falling in October (Halloween, right?). I'm going to treat the time span between "Conviction" and "Not Fade Away" as being a bit elastic for my purposes - in my head as I have things roughed out, there's roughly a year and a half of time between "Conviction" and "Not Fade Away". Hopefully no purists will be offended too badly. Advocates for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Purists can talk to Faith about it. So there. Nyah.
Lack of sex: Umm... wah. Don't care how promiscuous someone is portrayed as being, after a relationship crashes in on you along with your hoped-for-future, a lot of time that's the last thing someone is in the mood for. Having been through a few bad breakups... I'm kinda familiar with that. She'll probably get back to the mood eventually, but I'm not sure the "Get some, get gone" days are due for a return.
If some of the spellings strike you as odd, they're British. Colour, humour... I'm not a Brit, but I've been friends with too many of them in my life. Damned language is insidious. So is the accent. And the spellings. Faith's spent too much time around British Watchers, and she's probably been infected a bit too. Deal with it.
As always though... you can't ever address all the nits someone might pick, so if the voices in my head are really bothering
you, kiddo - apologies, but move on, and write your own. Fanfic's a big place: don't waste time here if it annoys you. Arguing with the 'Bear only frustrates you and amuses me. Just ask my friends.
Other: A quick note of thanks to the various other authors on Twisting the Hellmouth for all of the hours of entertainment and bemusement I've gotten from reading your work. Especially the Faith-fic authors. Not going to list every one: the list would be longer than the credits for Faith's dream sequences. ;) But... thanks muchly.
I don't think
that anyone else's stuff influenced me much outside of the credits I've already listed, but... ideas and plot bunnies have to come from somewhere, and everything I've ever read *is* a part of me. Rest assured at least that any plot seeds that have taken root from elsewhere are going to get filtered through those odd mental swamps and junk piles I mentioned and twisted all out of shape into my own directions. Thanks much for the loan, and I'll try and treat them if not gently, at least honorably.
Anyway, hope ya'll enjoyed it. Future installments and vignettes will be posted as I get a Round Tuit and finish them.
We may well see a lot of Faith's travels through the inside of my head. She certainly left me enough plot hooks to play with... It'll be interesting to see where they take her.- Ironbear