Buffy the Vampire Slayer/BleachRating:
I have no rights or claims to the Bleach or Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchises, trademarks, copyrights, or characters. This is fun, not profit.Summary:
Faith has unfinished business with Yoroichi. Urahara owes Buffy a debt. The Slayers are determined to collect.Additional Notes:
Written to fill angeluscado's prompt for Wishlist 2011.
Faith had never been in the position of the Good Girl. It was a surprisingly difficult and stressful role to have. For one thing, she had to worry about what the right
thing to do was. For another thing, she was hurting but Good Girls did not take their pain out on others.
Faith was a Good Girl for about two days. Then she said, "Screw this. I'll be back later," and left Soifon to pick up the pieces alone. Instead of being a Good Girl, Faith was a selfish one who went into the wastelands past District 80 to fight marauding Hollows.
She went alone because, even in death, Faith was still a Slayer. And when worst came to worst, Slayers stood alone.
It was just easier that way.
Faith stayed there for awhile - three years, to be specific. That was a long time in the mortal realms but not very long in the way that Soul Society considered time - and came back to find Soifon was training to be captain of the division. She also came back to find that Soifon had filled Faith's third seat with an enormous slob.
Faith teetered between being amused and insulted - the man had not a single, stealthy bone in his body. Faith would have been hard pressed to find someone less
suited to being second-in-command of the Stealth Corps - and settled on feeling sad.
Soifon had worn her heart on her sleeve before Yoroichi decided to try out being a Bad Girl. Faith (and Yoroichi) had loved that about her. In the time that Faith had been away, Soifon had become cold and hard and brittle like dead grass. Faith was afraid to push or hit or shout at her for fear of crunching Soifon into smithereens.
Soifon had no such qualms. She threw herself at Faith the the furious desperation of one who was teetering on the very edge of being broken. It was the way that Faith, in another lifetime and a long time ago, once threw herself at Buffy. Faith had not wanted to be broken by Buffy. She had wanted to be seen and acknowledged and valued by Buffy. And between Slayers, what better medium was there to express that than with a good, solid fist fight?
What better medium was there to see, acknowledge and value a shinigami through than a good, solid sword fight?
The fight was long and vicious on both sides.
Soifon was better than great but Faith had cut her teeth on demons who were far more cunning and savage than any Hollow. At the end of the day, Hollows began and ended as human souls. Demons were never human and never would be - no matter what the forcefully ensouled variety liked to claim. And Faith was a Slayer. Even in the afterlife that mattered.
The fight went on for hours. It was only going to be over when Soifon said
it was over.
Soifon never said it was over. She burst into noisy, messy tears instead.
Faith, who had never been good with the squishier emotions, wished that Soifon had kept fighting until the bitter end when unconsciousness or blood loss would have stopped her. Instead of expressing any of that, she gingerly wrapped her arms around Soifon.
"Why did she leave me behind?" Soifon demanded. She weakly pounded the sides of her fists against Faith's shoulders. "Why? How can I protect her if she's left me here?"
Faith's heart clenched.
Faith had once thought the same thing about Buffy. Buffy had chosen Angel over her. Yoroichi had chosen Captain Urahara over Soifon (and her).
A lifetime later, coming second still stung Faith's heart. But for Soifon, who had never been relegated to the second string before, the pain was so much more acute.
"It's not your fault," Faith told her. "And it's not mine. She knew what she was doing. We didn't. We couldn't've stopped her."
"I would've gone with her! I would've followed her anywhere!"It's like talking to a younger version of myself.
Faith tightened her arms around Soifon's heaving back and dropped an absent kiss on the top of Soifon's shiny black hair. What did I need to hear?
"I know. We
would've. But she didn't give us that chance."
Faith wished that she had just once scraped up the courage to ask Buffy that. But she never had and now she had no answer for (herself or) this girl who was both older and younger than Faith.
What makes us so damn forgettable?
"We should ask her that," Faith said roughly. "When we find her."
"We can't! The Division and our duties and -"
"I'll find her," Faith interrupted. "And then I'll send for you. We'll ask her together."
Soifon pulled away from Faith. Her eyes were wet and fierce.
"Promise me that you'll find her."
"Promise me that you won't forget about me when you find her."
"I won't forget about you," Faith swore. "I promise."
If members of the second string didn't look out for each other, who would?
About fifteen years into her search, Faith ran across Buffy.
Buffy (who had never aged past the moment she died to save Dawn) recognized her immediately, despite the gigai that Faith was wearing. She arched an eyebrow.
"Giving stick a test drive?"
"It was the only one I could steal," Faith said with a grimace. "Dicks are more trouble than they're worth."
Buffy grinned and fell into step with Faith.
"Gone back to stealing have we?"
"At least it isn't lipstick."
Buffy waved a dismissive hand at Faith.
"So? Got a new technique for killing me?"
"Not this time. This time I'm hunting."
When Faith finished explaining what - or rather who - she was looking for, Buffy looked thoughtful.
"Urahara Kisuke is in the mortal realms then?"
"Where I can catch him..."
Faith rolled her eyes.
"I thought you'd learned your lesson about relying on people with more brains and power than good sense."
"Faith, we've been at this for decades. We might need someone like that."
"Buffy, he's a mad scientist."
"A mad scientist did this to me. We might need a mad scientist to fix me. Just... not that other
"He's taken the captain's position in the science division."
"That's a mistake," Buffy said lightly. "But giving that person that opportunity has cost Urahara. He owes
me. And now, he's in this realm. Let me pack a couple of things and we can go."
"B..." Faith said as Buffy slapped a few notes onto the tabletop to pay for their drinks. "Are you sure you want to do this? It's probably going to take awhile. Years."
"Leslie's all trained up and I've got nothing but time."
It took them fifty-eight years, five more stolen gigai and the realization that Captain Yoroichi was secretly a black cat to hunt down the band of rouge captains and lieutenants. And in the end the group stopped running, turned and came after them
It was an interesting change of pace.
"How come their candy-coated shells are so much more durable than yours?" Buffy asked after she slapped Lieutenant Hiyori into a brick wall. The girl looked dazed but otherwise unharmed.
Faith finished her message to Soifon and sent the butterfly off before she answered.
"Gigai," Faith corrected, despite knowing that Buffy only said things like that to rile her up. The years had only honed Buffy's ability to sense weakness. Fortunately, they had softened her jibes too. "And it's probably that old Urahara touch."
The Slayers started running
"Any idea what they want?"
"It's just a theory but maybe they don't appreciate us hunting them," Faith said as she and Buffy scrambled up the side of a brick building. "Seventy-three years of it has probably worn them out."
"They've only known you, what, a hundred and forty years? They've got absolutely no endurance. Weaklings."
"To be fair, they haven't tried to gut me yet," Faith said as they hauled themselves onto the building's rooftop.
She had forgiven Buffy for that over a hundred and eighty years ago. With so much time and so many experiences between them, there was no room for grudges. They were sisters who had stolen clothes, makeup and boyfriends from each other and occasionally tried to kill one another. Everyone did stupid things as kids.
"So you've driven a band of saints to snapping," Buffy as they raced across the rooftop and leaped to the next one. "You have a way with people, don't you?"
"Says the girl who's killed every boyfriend she's ever had," sniped Faith.
"I have bad taste," Buffy grunted as they landed. "You drive perfectly rational people over the edge.""You
were never perfectly rational. Time hasn't improved that, by the way."
"Should handle me with care then."
After they leaped to the next rooftop, Faith said, "You like it rough. S'why you sleep with the people you do."
"I sleep with them because the sex is fantastic,"
Buffy corrected. "And sometimes, I'm in love with them."
Faith felt a glow of pleasure. She flashed Buffy a sharp, happy smile.
Buffy smiled back. That smile, soft and teasing, was one of the few bits left of the girl that Faith had known in Sunnydale.
They led the Visords (as they were now calling themselves) on a merry chase across the rooftops, down the streets and through the sewers of Karakura Town.
They were fast
. Faster than any normal Shinigami or Hollow would ever be, even those of captain class. Nearly as fast as a pair of Slayers. (Even dead and in a gigai, Faith was a Slayer. Being a Slayer was more than a body or state of being. It was woven into the fabric of herself.) Worse, the Visords worked like a well-oiled team.
"Running's getting boring," Buffy puffed. "We should turn around and kick their asses."
"Not yet. Soifon's not even halfway down the path."
It took the group hours
to corner the pair of Slayers. When they ran the Slayers down and surrounded them on an abandoned hospital's roof, Faith smirked.
Her luck on rooftops had never been the best. Buffy had gutted her on one. She had died on another. But it was time to change that.
"You're faster than you should be," Faith noted. Her eyes picked out Yoroichi. Her captain was in her black cat form. She was perched on Captain Urahara's shoulder. Captain Urahara was standing with a mountain of a man on the other side of the circle of Visoreds. "Is that from the masks?"
"You're faster than you should be," returned Captain Urahara. There was genuine interest in his voice. "But I can see from here that you've got an inferior gigai and she's in a preserved corpse. However did you manage that?"
Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Natural talent," she said.
"Some people have it and some people don't," Faith agreed. "But then, I don't have to tell you
about natural talents, do I Captain Urahara?"
Next to Faith, Buffy perked up.
"Captain Mad Scientist?" she asked with very real interest.
Faith, Yoroichi and several of the Visoreds snickered. The mountain hid his smile behind his hand. Captain Urahara's eyebrows flickered into the beginnings of a frown before he smoothed them out.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said stiffly.
"The same," Faith confirmed at the same time.
"I've been looking for you for a very long time, Captain," Buffy said. Her voice was very calm, very level and deceptively friendly. The darkness that made her The Slayer - the greatest of them, the most winningest of them, the one who could never say die
even when she wanted to - snapped through the air around her. "You owe
Buffy's spiritual energy tugged at the shinigami surrounding her. While the other tensed or felt for their blades, Faith relaxed. Buffy's rising spiritual energy called to hers. Faith allowed her own spiritual energy to rise and flare and twine with Buffy.
"What the hell are you two?" demanded Lieutenant Hiyori. Her words were brusque but her voice was high and frightened.
"Slayers," Faith said.
"The King's -"
"Yeah," Faith interrupted. "My older sister has some business with Captain Urahara. And Soifon and I've got some things we'd like to discusss with Captain Yoroichi. The rest of you are free to do whatever it is that you do, so long as no one gets hurt."
"You've been chasing us for over seventy years," said Captain Shinji Hirako, "and it's not to eliminate us or drag us back?"
His disbelief was clear in his voice.
"To us, you feel human," Buffy said without taking her eyes off of Urahara. Heaven help the man if he tried to run again.
"You haven't killed anyone or eaten any souls," Faith said. " So long as you're not harming anyone, you're all five by five with me."
When Captain Hirako arched an eyebrow at her, Faith shrugged.
"I was never a big believer in the cause," she admitted. "I just wanted to know enough to help B."
"Plus, you've always really liked a good fight," Buffy pointed out.
"Well, yeah, but don't we all?" Faith said with a laugh. "It's practically a requirement."
"I'm sorry," Captain Urahara said. "But we've never met. And I can say with absolute honesty that, outside of the third seat, I've never met a Slayer."
"When you were the commander of the Maggot's Nest, you questioned the imprisonment of a certain soul there," Buffy said. Her voice was low and hard. "You described the soul as brilliant but selfish and unstable. You felt it would be a better use of resources to allow that soul to live an active life outside of the prison. You were told that some debts follow you past death. As the Captain of the Twelfth Division, you promised to pay that soul's debts if the person that soul had wronged ever approached you. On that agreement, the soul currently known as Mayuri Kurotsuchi was released into your care. My sister has told me that soul is currently the captain of your division.'
Buffy's smile was cruel.
Faith loved it.
"I'm here to collect on your promise, Captain."
The look of blank confusion on his face reminded Faith so strongly of Willow that, if she did not know for a fact that Willow was Mayuri Kurotsuchi, she might have thought it was the same soul.If he was Willow, B'd probably be trying to bash his brains out with a rock,
"It seems cruel to hold a grudge so long, Slayer."
"Locking that soul away in a cell was the prudent thing to do and it was no worse than locking my soul into this
"It's cruel, especially since he doesn't remember -"
"More cruel than ripping a soul from its afterlife, forcing the thoughts and memories and feelings from its old life onto it and then chaining it into an undying, unageing corpse?" Buffy demanded. "I did my duty in this world and I died protecting someone that I loved even more than my honor. I was in my afterlife for one hundred and forty-seven days as time is counted here. And then that person resurrected me." Buffy's mouth twisted into a parody of a smile. "Too bad she didn't think to dig me up first."
"I - I didn't know -"
"No. You didn't. But I'm still going to collect."
The 'or else'
hung between them, silent and lethal.
The captain's shoulder's slumped.
"I can't put him back in that cell. If I go back to Soul Society, I'll
be the one locked away forever."
"I don't want anyone to be locked away, Captain," Buffy corrected. "I want you to figure out how to free me from my corpse."
Most of the Visoreds lost interest and left shortly after that. Only Captain Hirako and Hiyori remained with Captain Yoroichi, Faith, Buffy and Captain Urahara. When Faith refused to discuss her business with Captain Yoroichi without Soifon, the four of them settled a discreet distance away from the other two.
They watched as Captain Urahara poked and prodded Buffy. Lieutenant Hiyori was scowling ferociously and worrying her lower lip. Something was obviously bothering her.
"I'm surprised you're not a captain by now," Captain Yoroichi eventually said. "Even at the academy, you seemed to have an instinctive feel for combat and command."
"S'not my thing," Faith admitted. "I was a Slayer and a general under B in life. It was hellish."
(Generalship of Buffy's short-lived Slayer army had been like trying to herd cats - bad-tempered, violent, man-eating tigeresses. Faith had been privately relieved that the army had lasted only a single generation. She imagined that being a captain within Soul Society was a lot like leading an army of Slayers.)
"You've never liked taking orders," Captain Yoroichi pointed out. "I bet you're AWOL right now."
"The trick is to get a really competent lieutenant," Captain Hirako cheerfully confided. "Then you get to give orders and dodge the more boring parts of command."
"I'll remember that," Faith said.
They lapsed into silence again.
"D'you think she's -" began Hiyori before she cut herself off. Whatever she was thinking was apparently too terrible to say.
"Probably not," Captain Hirako said. To Faith, he said, "How long has... B... been a Slayer?"
"Since forever," Faith said. "It's not something that you become, it's something you are."
"Just like you're one," Captain Yoroichi pointed out. "Just like you've always been one. Why were you even in Soul Society to begin with?"
Faith darted a glance at her captain. Captain Yoroichi arched an eyebrow at her.
"Unless that has to wait for Soifon too?"
"I thought, maybe if I became a soul reaper, I could help B out of her prison. So I left the court and took one of the paths to Soul Society. But no matter how good I've gotten or how much kido I've learned, I've never been able to break her free from that spell." Faith shrugged. "We thought, maybe it takes a mad scientist to beat a mad scientist."
Captain Yoroichi grinned. "It's as good a theory as any."
"How long has she been trapped?" asked Captain Hirako.
"Over two hundred years."
The captain and Hiyori traded significant looks. Some sort of tension leeched out of Hiyori's slim shoulders.
"That's good. It's not her then," Hiyori said to Captain Hirako.
"Good for you and whoever you were worried about B maybe being," Faith corrected. "Not good for B."
Hiyori made a rude noise. She sat back, crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Faith.
"It's not our problem."
"I could make it your problem," Faith purred. "Hollow or Shinigami, you're still only human."
Captain Yoroichi's eyes flashed with mirth. Captain Hirako grimaced at them both.
"You couldn't possibly get any more irritating," he said.
"B and I've both mellowed a bit with age. But I'm sure that, properly motivated, we could give you hell." Faith's mouth quirked up in a wry smile as she imagined how that would play out. "Might be fun."
"Soifon," Captain Yoroichi said as the woman in question silently touched down on their rooftop.
A white captain's haori swirled around Soifon's small frame. It was belted by a bright yellow sash.
Faith admired her style.
Soifon's lip curled at Yoroichi. Her eyes darted over to Faith who shook her head.
"I promised, didn't I?"