Taps.By Dave Turner.Disclaimer:
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I write these stories for fun not profit.Crossover:
None.Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar:
Written in glorious English-English which is different to American-English.Timeline:
Final story in the Faith in the Army series?Words:
One chapter of 4000+ words.Warnings:
A Faith in the Army story. The great and the good come to pay their last respects to Chief Warrant Officer Faith Lehane, US Army Rangers.0=0=0=0Author's note:
Just a note to say that if you've not read any of the previous fics in the 'Faith in the Army' series this probably won't mean very much to you.0=0=0=0"Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede away ".Grandview Cemetery.
Getting to her feet, Cordelia tucked her cap under her arm, pausing for a moment she straightened her uniform jacket before coming to attention. Taking a deep breath she began to walk down the aisle of the chapel, the heels of her shoes clicking loudly on the stone floor as she walked. Drawing level with Faith's coffin she hesitated for half a second before continuing on up the three steps to where the lectern had been placed. Turning she stood behind the lectern and looked out for a moment at the sea of uniforms; mainly army, but there were more than a few Marine, Air Force and Navy ones, that made up the congregation. Looking down at the surface of the lectern where her notes lay, Cordy paused once again and imagined what Faith would have said about all the fuss being made about her today. Smiling a secret smile, Cordy imagined that Faith would have laughed before grabbing her arm and dragging her to a bar for a beer. Shaking her head ever so slightly at the idea, Cordy took a deep breath, looked up she began her eulogy.
“Mister Secretary, General Mann, Director and Mrs Tasker,” Cody paused for a moment as her eyes rested on the faces of Faith's parents. “I am proud to say that I knew Chief Warrant Officer Lehane...Faith. I am also proud to say that I counted her as a friend, possibly the best friend I have ever had.”
Just for a moment Cordy thought about that, yes she had friends, good friends in the Corps, but no one had understood her like Faith had.
“I know, as a Marine officer and as the Chief knew better than most, that the world is not a safe place. But Faith endeavoured to make it, in whatever small way she could, a better, safer, more peaceful place.” Cordy took a deep breath before continuing, “She was devoted, she was true, she was brave and she made a choice, she chose to live a life of service.”
Or had that been programmed into her by Professor Walsh and her buddies? No, Cordy knew the truth, what Faith had done, what she had always done, she'd done of her own free will.
“She chose to put herself in harm's way, to be a guardian to the people of this great nation.” Cordy explained, “But we will never be able to thank Faith because she made the supreme sacrifice.”
“But this we can and will do,” Cordy's voice grew stronger as she spoke, “we will remember her always. We will remember that even when mortally wounded, she had the strength and composure to continue to fight the battle. We will
remember that in her life as in her death, she embodied all that we as her brothers and sisters in arms hold dear and can ever hope to be.”
“May god bless...” finally the emotion of the moment proved too much for Cordy and her voice broke as she tried to hold back her tears, wiping at her cheek with a white gloved hand, Cordelia regained her composure, “...May god bless Faith and welcome her home.”
Coming down from the lectern, Cordy stopped and laid a hand on Faith's flag draped coffin. Bowing her head she took her final farewell of her friend before walking smartly back to her seat.0=0=0=0
The last of the rifle shots echoed away to nothing as the bugler brought her instrument to her lips and she began to sound 'Taps' over Faith's grave. Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well,
God is nigh.
Captain Cordelia Chase, USMC, stood to attention and held her salute as the bugler played. The honour guard started to take the flag from Faith's coffin and fold it into a neat triangle to be presented to her parents, Harry and Helen Tasker. At least Faith had got to know her parents again before she'd died. They'd all had a little time together to make up for all the years Faith had been lost and alone.
Cordy glanced to where Helen Tasker sobbed into a handkerchief, she'd held it together to this point in the service. But now as 'Taps' was being played she'd finally broken down and slumped against her husband. Cordelia couldn't help but feel a deep sorrow for Helen, she'd had her daughter taken from her for a second time; but this time, Faith wouldn't be coming back.
It was mainly because of Harry Tasker being the Director of Omega Section that they'd been able to launch the mission to recover Faith's remains. Harry had been in 'National Security' for so many years that a lot of very important people had owed him favours. Six months after the fiasco in Yemalia that had ended with Faith and most of the mercenary force sent to rescue El Raisuli lying dead in the Yemali dust; a mixed force of Rangers and Marines had been choppered in to find her body.
Faith had died when she'd been hit by a stray round and couldn't make it back to the helicopter, Cordy supposed that even super-soldiers had their limits. Shot in the back, Faith had watched as Cordy had taxied the old Chinook along the runway of that dusty airstrip before coxing the machine into the air. Cordelia knew she couldn't have waited or gone back for her friend, if she'd tried all the survivors would have died. But that didn't stop her from feeling guilty; she'd flow away while the only real friend she'd ever had had died, hacked to death by Yemali soldiers with their machetes.
Shaun Fynn, one of the mercenary officers (and Cordy's sometime lover), had seen it all go down. He'd watched helplessly as Faith had stood like a little lost figure looking up at the chopper as it gained altitude. He said that Faith had looked as if she was laughing at something before she'd picked up a discarded rifle and turned towards the Yemalies who were coming to kill her. Sitting in the dust, Faith had shot them down, one round one hit. But there were too many even for Faith to defeat and eventually they were on her. Shaun had seen Faith toss the first few Yemali soldiers to get to her through the air as if they were rag dolls. But slowly her strength must have ebbed because the Yemalies eventually closed in on her, the machetes rose and fell and they hacked her to pieces and then...and then, Faith was gone.0=0=0=0
The actual mission to retrieve Faith's remains only lasted a day or two. Two Blackhawks had flown in, under cover of darkness from the Indian Ocean where the assault ship, USS Vera Cruz was steaming. The choppers flew at bush top height until they came to the deserted airfield where Faith had fought her last battle. For once Cordy wasn't at the controls of either of the choppers, she was going to land with the Rangers and Marines and help them find Faith.
At first glance the task looked impossible, it had been six months since that fateful day and Faith's remains could be anywhere. However, they had good intelligence that the Yemalies had simply dug a pit into which they dumped the bodies of the dead mercenaries. The Pasha could not admit to anything that had happened, the Raisuli was supposed to have been killed months before the rescue attempt and not be being held in a prison. To admit that the Raisuli had still been alive when the mercenaries had come to rescue him would have meant a lot of trouble for the Pasha; possible even another civil war, so everything had been covered up.
The retrieval team had one asset that the Pasha probably couldn't even imagine. The US team had a psychic with them who specialised in recovering the remains of murder victims, she'd worked quietly for years with several police departments and she was well known and trusted in the law enforcement community. The psychic was why Cordy had managed to get herself a seat on the mission. Officially she was there to look after the woman, to act as her bodyguard, in reality Cordy was there to bring her friend home again.
The psychic was good, it didn't take her long to find Faith's shallow grave. The Rangers dug down into the sandy soil as the Marines kept watch, After all Faith had been a Ranger and the Rangers never left a man, or woman, behind. Watching over the shoulders of the digging Rangers, Cordy had seen her friend's remains as the sand was carefully cleared away. The body didn't look as if it had been disturbed by animals, but it was plain to see how Faith had been hacked to death by the cut marks on her bones.
Reverently gathering up Faith's remains the Rangers had put her and the pieces of her uniform and equipment they'd found into a body bag before returning to the waiting helicopters. With a last look at Yemalia, Cordy had climbed aboard the chopper. Pausing to both figuratively and literally knock the Yemali dust from her boots, she'd made her way across the cargo compartment of the Blackhawk to sit down next to her friend; she held on to the body bag all the way back to the Vera Cruz, like she'd been holding Faith's hand.
When they got back to the ship, Cordy found that there was a Marine honour guard waiting to welcome Faith home. Some medical orderlies took the body bag and placed it on a gurney. After covering the black, plastic bag with the Stars and Stripes, they wheeled Faith away to the Sick Bay, where experts would start the process of positively identifying her remains. Standing on the flight deck, Cordy had watched her friend being wheeled away. Letting a Marine take her weapon from her limp hand, Cordy turned and walked towards the edge of the deck. Looking out across the sea she could just see a thin brown line on the horizon. That, she told herself, must be Yemalia, she hoped she'd never see the place again, or if she did that it would be through some sort of weapon sight.
“She's not really gone, you known.”
The voice startled Cordy and she turned to see who was there. It was the psychic, Cordy couldn't remember the woman's name or if she'd ever been told it. The woman was as tall as Cordy but about twenty years older, strands of grey hair had escaped from under the cap she was wearing and she looked out of place in the Marine camouflaged fatigues she was wearing.
“W-what?” Cordy swept a strand of her own hair that had escaped the bun on the back of her head away from her face.
“She's not really gone,” the psychic smiled sadly, “she'll always be with you, here” the woman put her hand over her heart, “The ancient Greeks used to say that as long as you remembered someone they would never die,” the psychic put her hand on Cordelia's shoulder, “I think Faith will live on for a very long time...come on,” the woman pulled Cordy away from the edge of the deck, “lets go clean up...and I need your help”
“You do?” Cordelia let herself be lead back towards the ship's island.
“Yes,” the woman grinned, “I'm damned if I can remember the way back to my cabin.”0=0=0=0
Back at the funeral, Cordelia watched as the mourners filed passed Mr and Mrs Tasker, each one shaking the grieving parent's hands and saying how sorry they were for their loss. Faith's funeral had been very well attended. Almost everyone had been military of course, Faith had no real civilian friends, the army had been her life and now in death they'd all come to pay their respects. There was the Secretary of Defence, General Mann and more high ranking officers than you'd expect to see at the funeral of a Chief Warrant Officer. Then there were the lower ranks, mainly Rangers (Faith had been popular in her own unit) but there were also a surprising number of Marines.
There was even an officer in an RAF uniform standing talking to a grey haired National Guard Colonel, Cordy wondered how they'd both got to know Faith. There was a tall, very upright old civilian man, obviously ex-military. Cordy smiled, that must be Gunny Highway, Faith had told her about him. Cordy recognised most of the Marines, Captain Ring, Gunny 'Stitch' Jones and some of the others who'd pulled Faith and herself out of Neda and from under the guns of the Pasha's troops.
There was a short, blonde, pregnant woman sobbing into her handkerchief as she held onto the arm of an Army First Sergeant; was that the infamous 'Sergeant Scream', Cordy wondered? The woman, Cordy told herself, must be 'Mrs B', Brenda Mitchell, who'd been Faith's friend and lover from after Iraq. Raising an eyebrow, Cordy realised that the woman must have gone back to guys now. Whatever, Cordelia sighed and made a mental note to try and have a quiet word with Mrs B before she left.
The line of mourners moved slowly and steadily onwards and Cordy wondered what she could possibly say to explain how she felt about Faith. About how much she regretted not being able to wait for her, how sorry she was that she'd left the Tasker's daughter to be hacked to death by those Yemali savages. How if she had the chance she'd have swapped places with Faith and died in her stead...or at least died by her side. Snapping out of her visions of Faith's last moments, Cordelia found herself face to face with Helen Tasker.
“Mrs Tasker...Ma'am...” suddenly Cordy found she couldn't speak.
“I know dear,” Helen Tasker held out her arms and enfolded Cordy in an embrace that Cordy's own mother would never have been capable of, “You did everything you could and you brought my little girl home.”0=0=0=0
It was dusk now and everyone had gone home. The grave had been filled in and the chairs removed, but the flowers and wreaths remained. Staring down a Faith's grave Cordelia read the words on her head stone for about the hundredth time; she'd helped the Tasker's chose them. Now Faith could rest in peace and if there was any justice in the universe, perhaps she could go somewhere where she could forget all the terrible things that had been done to her in her too short life.Chief Warrant Officer Faith Lehane.
United States Army Rangers.
‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;
It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.’
Standing there in the gathering gloom, Cordelia waited for the last mourner to arrive and pay her respects. Feeling a gentle breeze on her cheek, Cordy turned to see the woman who'd appeared beside her.
“I had to come.”
“I know, that's why I waited.”
Willow stepped forward and put a small posy of flowers on Faith's grave, before stepping back to once again stand next to Cordy. The two women stood in silence a little longer before Cordy spoke.
“Aren't you supposed to be restricted to New York City?” Cordy glanced at Willow who was still standing looking down at the grave.
“I escaped,” Willow grinned a little, “hell, I'm a mega witch, do you really think the US government could hold me if I didn't want to be held?”
“Not now you put it like that,” Cordy replied, “so, I'm guessing you're not going back.”
“No point,” Willow admitted, “now Faith's gone there's no point even staying in the country anymore. Whatever,” Willow sighed heavily, “the Government would like me gone. After all the stuff about Sunnydale and Faith came out they were almost falling over themselves to buy me an airplane ticket for somewhere far, far away. So, now Faith's gone I'm going too...”
“Where will you go?” Cordy wanted to know.
“Oh,” Willow sighed once again, “Giles has been badgering me to come and live in London, so I'm heading for England once I leave here.”
“You know she still loved you,” Cordy said quietly, “she was talking about finding you and trying to make it right again...” Cordy waited for Willow to say something, when she didn't Cordelia tried to fill the silence, “...she wanted you back even if it meant the end of her military career...”
“I know,” Willow replied quietly, “and I wanted her back too, that's why I held on so long, but now...”
“Yeah,” Cordy agreed, “there doesn't seem much point now does there?”
“Nope,” Willow shook her head, “What about you, what will you do now she's gone.”
“I'm going back to the Marines,” Cordy shrugged, “I've got these shinny new captain's bars and I want to use them.” Again she shrugged, “After that I don't know...maybe I'll resign in a couple of years time, find something else to do, I mean it's not like I have to work any more.”
“Well, good luck with that,” Willow turned to face Cordelia, “I've gotta go...plane to catch, y'know?” Willow held out her arms to Cordy, “You wanna hug?”
“Erm...” Cordelia shook her head slightly, “...I don't think so...”
“I know,” Willow dropped her arms to her side, “we were never that close,” she held out her hand instead, “shake?”
Clasping Willow's hand in her own, Cordelia shook hands with the witch.
“I doubt we'll ever meet again,” Willow said, “no hard feelings?”
“None,” Cordy agreed as she let go of Willow's hand.
“Like I say,” Willow stepped away from Cordy, “got to go...”
Suddenly Willow was gone as if she'd never been there, Cordelia shrugged as she turned back to Faith's grave. Pulling her uniform straight once more, she came to attention and saluted her friend's grave for the last time.
“Rangers lead the way...” Cordy said as she held her salute before adding a heartfelt, “...Semper Fi...”
Lowering her hand, Cordelia turned and slowly walked away.0=0=0=0
It was very nearly one o'clock in the morning when Willow reappeared at Faith's grave side. Every body thought that the hour between midnight and one o'clock was the 'witching hour'. In reality anyone who knew anything about real magic knew that the witching hour was really the hour between one and two. In that hour the magics that Willow needed to use would be at their strongest and she'd need all the power she could get for what she was going to attempt.
When the government had more or less imprisoned her within the limits of New York City they'd only allowed her to use small amounts of magic for low power spells. This had shown Willow that the government had no real idea of how magic worked. You couldn't just stop using magic, it was there, it was part of you and if you didn't use it you'd melt down like a nuclear reactor only worse, a lot worse. So, Willow had secretly channelled her unused magic into objects that acted like magical batteries and it was these 'batteries' that she now placed at the cardinal points around Faith's grave.
Having worked on the resurrection spell since just after she'd found out that Faith had been killed, Willow was fairly certain it would work. It had worked on the dead animals she'd brought back to life so she was fairly hopeful that it would work on Faith. Of course she didn't have an 'Urn of Whoever' or any one of a dozen other artefacts that were supposed to be essential for bringing someone back from the dead. But she was the mega witch now, didn't everyone say so? She was more powerful than any witch had ever been before so what was a little raising from the dead to her?
Having set out all her magic items and said the prayers and made the sacrifices necessary to placate the gods of the shadow lands, Willow stood at the foot of Faith's grave and prepared herself for the final rites of the ceremony.
“Rule One;” Willow reminded herself, “when raising someone from the dead...always dig them up first!”
Having made that mistake with Buffy, Willow was determined not make the same mistake with Faith. With a gesture of her hand, earth flowed from Faith's grave as her coffin rose to ground level before floating to one side of the grave where it came to rest. With another gesture Willow caused the coffin lid to open. Stopping herself from going over to look, Willow stayed where she was, she didn't want to see Faith's death head.
The ceremony only took ten, maybe fifteen minutes to complete, during which time there were lots of bright lights, spectral creatures and general moaning as the entities of the shadow lands fought to keep Faith within. But Willow was too powerful for them and eventually they retreated back to their own realms leaving Willow triumphant and standing next to Faith's open coffin. Finally as Willow said the last line of her spell there was a bright multicoloured flash from inside Faith's coffin and everything went quiet and dark again.
Standing there, not really believing what she'd just done, Willow watched the coffin. At first nothing seemed to have changed. But, just as she was beginning to think she'd failed, Willow saw movement in the coffin. Stunned, she watched as a pale skinned figure with dark hair sat up and looked around in confusion. Of course, Willow kicked herself for being so foolish. Only Faith's bones had been buried so she'd reappear naked. That wasn't a problem, she could soon magic up some clothes for her girlfriend.
“Faith?” Willow took a hesitant step towards the coffin, “Faith honey its me, Willow...”
The figure in the coffin turned its head towards the sound but made no move to climb out onto the dark earth, Willow took another step towards the grave.
“You're probably wondering what happened,” Willow said soothingly, “you'll be a little confused an'all I expect, but don't worry I'll look after you 'til you're on your feet again.”
Still the figure didn't move, she just sat there regarding Willow with dark eyes. Standing about three feet from the coffin, Willow could see that the figure sitting in the coffin, like someone would sit in a bath, was definitely female. But there wasn't enough light for Willow to see her lover clearly.
“Hold on honey,” Willow opened a pouch on the belt of her dress and took a pinch of magic dust between her fingers, “I'll just get some light on the subject and them I'll get you outta there.”
Throwing the dust into the air Willow was immediately surrounded by hundreds of little Tinkerbelle lights that glowed softly in the dark. The figure winced away from the light for a moment and hid her eyes. Moving slowly across the last few feet to the coffin, Willow squatted down, reaching out her hand she touched the face of the girl and turned her head towards her.
“Hey!” Willow cried in surprise, “You're not...”The End? That's all folks...or is it?
This was not how it was supposed to end, but unfortunately I've sorta grown bored with the characters as I've written them here. Plus, they always did say you should leave people wanting more. After all this started out as a 'One-shot' so this series hasn't done too badly. As you can see I've left things open ended enough that I could restart this series or at least a spin off of it at some point in the future. So far I've thought about three ways this could go!
Anyway, I'd like to thank everyone who, read, reviewed and recommended these stories, its been fun reading your comments.
As I never did get round to writing the SG1 xover for this series, there's a slim chance that I might send Captain Chase on a mission to the SGC just to use up the story plan I've got worked out. Or I might use the story line in a one shot or as part of another series. No idea when that'll be though.
Finally Faith will continue to appear in my 'Grim Up North 2' series and I'm hoping to do some more Wild West Hero stories sometime.