A/N: This is a companion piece to "What's to Come", though you don't absolutely have
to read that to get this. I just felt the need to write down a little piece of Faith's past. And yes, this is complete.
WARNING: Minor spoilers for my fic, character death, a multitude of vague references that will likely never be expanded upon.
Disclaimer: I am not Joss, nor am I anywhere near as cool as him. I do have more hair, but alas this fact alone is not enough to grant me the rights to any of the characters in the story below.
Nightfall just wasn’t the same anymore. Faith remembered when sunset was a significant daily event, a time when the sky darkened and stars winked slowly into existence. She remembered a time when the transition from day to night really meant something to people, when mothers told their children not to go out after dark. Nowadays even vampires couldn’t tell the difference most of the time. One could usually search the sky for that diffuse circle of dim golden light in the smog, but there were generally more important things to look at than yet another reminder of how much man had failed his planet.
It was night now, but there was nothing about the vast expanse above her to suggest this. The sky glowed in patches of dim orange and sickly pale green, the colors and brightness a constant for years now, reflections of the sodium and neon that illuminated the world below. The other day she’d heard a child ask her father if the sky had really once been blue; she’d nearly choked on the bark of hollow laughter that threatened to escape at the girl’s innocent question. What would the girl say if Faith told her she had seen a pale blue sky in which the only clouds were white and gray, that she’d seen stars from this side of the atmosphere? Shaking her head ruefully, she shrugged the weight of her pack back into place.
“Reminiscing?” Angel asked from beside her, his familiar voice breaking through her sense of alienation.
“Aren’t you?” she challenged.
He smiled grimly and shrugged. “I guess.” Of course he was; he was Angel, the Brooding Wonder.
“Scared?” she teased, though the both knew she wasn’t really teasing.
He shrugged again. “Who isn’t?” he asked philosophically, making Faith sigh. He was in an honest mood; not surprising, considering what lie ahead. “Aren’t you? You’re leaving everything you ever knew behind.”
Silence stretched between them as she gazed at the eerie smog that hung over their heads. “Nothing I haven’t done before,” she answered softly. She was feeling honest, too. How many times had she left everything, everyone she knew? How many times had she headed down an unfamiliar road without so much as a backward glance?
“Not like this,” he argued, another desperate attempt at helping to see the gravity of the situation. All their time together and he still mistook her familiarity and apathy for ignorance, denial.
“Exactly like this,” she said, “just now it’s on a slightly larger scale.”
“Except this time there’s no coming back.”
She laughed, the dry sound causing a few bystanders to glance her way. “There’s a lot of places on this planet I never planned on going back to, Fang. This just puts a few more on the list.” She patted her pocket, the ticket inside stiff against the fabric.
Angel grabbed her wrist. “Don’t do that,” he hissed.
She rolled her eyes. Like she couldn’t deal with a potential thief. Still, he was probably right. They shouldn’t call attention of any kind to themselves. Blend in, that was the plan, and blending in meant acting wary, never revealing the location of anything that held value. Paranoid, Faith usually called it, but she had to admit that paranoia was a modern requirement for survival.
“Sorry, mother,” she grumbled. Just because he was right didn’t mean she had to be gracious about it. She shifted her pack again.
“Almost there,” he observed, dropping the subject.
Faith looked over the crowd around them. Humans, most of them. Demons of any kind wouldn’t be hanging around this close to a launch, too many Slayers about. No use chancing a Slayer when demons had pretty much free run of the rest of the city. The majority of the people were heading in the same direction as she and Angel, ticket-holders like themselves. Those that weren’t, the homeless that populated the area around the airport, watched the rest with shifting eyes and envy, each hoping for a chance to slip their fingers into an unsuspecting pocket. Most of them would never leave Earth.
“First checkpoint,” Angel whispered. The airport loomed before them, harsh metal angles gleaming in the sodium glare. Faith touched the pendant at her throat surreptitiously, moving her lips as little as possible as she hissed the words to activate it. It was a clever spell, lasting long enough each time she used it to get past the infrared sensors but subtle enough that the power signature of the spell itself wouldn’t trip the alarms. Reminding herself to breath, Faith swiped her ticket card through the reader and walked through the doorway and the sensors, watching the guards out of the corner of her eye.
No reaction. Checkpoint one cleared.
“There’ll be Slayers at the next one,” Angel reminded her under his breath so only she could hear. She gave a slight nod, sweeping her gaze over the checkpoint ahead. The two Slayers stood to either side of the guard station, watching for anyone that broke from the crowd.
“They’re looking for demons to try to get around the system, not through it,” she told him. They were depending on the equipment to out any vamps that tried to sneak in with the stream of people filing through security.
“Just be careful,” was Angel’s only response.
It was eerily quiet now, the seriousness of the situation weighing down on the crowd like a thick blanket, discouraging conversation. The faces around her all wore identical masks, features stiff and drawn with fear and exhaustion. There was no exuberance, no relief at finally making it off the dying planet. That would come later, far later, when grief and uncertainty had run a better part of their course.
The second checkpoint went off as easily as the first, leaving only the final scan at the gate. No one gave Faith and Angel a second look; as long as they had their tickets and passed the scans, they were just two more faces in an endless, listless crowd.
“This is freaking surreal, man,” Faith mumbled under her breath. “Too quiet, too many Slayers.” She could sense them, like flashes of light at the corners of her eyes. She could only hope they couldn’t sense her back, but it was a rare gift among Slayers these days. Even the ones that did have it would be hard pressed to pick a single vamp out of a crowd this large.
He nodded. “Haven’t seen this many in one place since Mexico City.”
“Thanks, because I just couldn’t go on without being reminded of that
spectacular clusterfuck,” Faith groaned. On the upside, the government had learned a valuable lesson about mixing nukes and Hellmouths. ‘The Edelweiss will begin boarding in approximately fifteen minutes,’
a tinny voice announced from the speakers. ‘Please make your way to the gate and await further instructions.’
Faith snorted. “’The Edelweiss’? Don’t tell I’m leaving the planet on the freaking VonTrapp family spaceship.”
“Don’t knock The Sound of Music,” he teased. “Besides, it could be worse. Remember when they first started leaving, and every other ship was named ‘The George Washington’ or ‘The Molly Brown’?”
“At least they were actually made out of metal,” Faith scoffed.
“You know this is no guarantee, right?” Angel asked, suddenly serious. “Even if we do get on this ship…”
“I know,” she assured him. “You’ve versed me in the risks a couple times now, old man. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m getting into.”
“I’m just saying-“
“The spaceship could explode,” Faith interrupted, ticking the list off on her fingers. “We could be discovered. They might not have enough fuel on board to actually reach the destination. I might trip and fall on a toothpick. I know
Angel sighed. “It’s just that… I don’t know, after everything, I feel like I should be able to offer you some sort of guarantee. I should be able to promise you that you’ll get out of here, that we’ll
get out of here, and actually mean it, you know?”
“I do. And I also know that it’s not you’re fault. I realize you’re a big fan of beating yourself up, but this one’s a little beyond even you,” she reminded him gently. “If we’d gone before, we would have been caught before we made it through the first checkpoint. Yeah, the ships are a little crummier nowadays, but they’ve got class, you know? Got that whole 20th century garbage dump chic thing going on.”
“That and the fact that their security sucks,” he admitted. “I mean, come on! Anybody could just waltz on through here-“
“I think ‘anybody’ already did,” Faith interrupted, rolling her eyes.
“Yeah, but evil
anybodies-“ he protested weakly.‘The Edelweiss will be boarding in approximately ten minutes…’
“Come on! You can worry yourself to dust after
we get on the spaceship.” Faith grinned and grabbed his hand, practically dragging him along behind her.
Tension coiled in her gut as the seconds ticked by. Soon she’d be on a spaceship, her first ever, though hopefully not her last. In less than half an hour she’d be on her way to one of the supposedly-terraformed planets and Earth…
“What do you think will happen?” she asked in a hushed voice. “To the people that stay behind, I mean.”
Angel grimaced. “I don’t know. The lucky ones won’t last long, but the others…”
Faith nodded and swallowed hard. “I just wish…”
“There’s nothing we can do. Nothing anyone can do,” he said, as much for his own benefit as Faith’s, she was sure.
Silence again, minutes slipping past.
“I visited their graves,” she said.
“What? Whose?” Angel asked, startled out of his thoughts by her sudden proclamation.
“You asked where I went before we met up again last year,” Faith explained. “I visited their graves.”
“Whose?” he asked again.
She chuckled a little and wiped at her eyes, not letting the tear form enough to fall. “All of them. Everyone… the Scoobies, the Fang Gang. I went by the Sunnydale Memorial, too, said goodbye to Joyce and Mayor Wilkins. Went back to Boston to see my mom and my first Watcher. And…” she took a deep breath. “I visited all of them, or tried to. Every last one of the people I killed.”
Angel blinked, amazed. “That must have taken…”
She nodded. “Years. I couldn't find them all, of course, but…”
“Yup.” She leaned against the wall. ‘The Edelweiss will be boarding in approximately five minutes…’
“I haven’t been by the memorial in years,” Angel admitted.
“It hasn’t changed much. Doesn’t get many flowers anymore, though.” Faith closed her eyes, let a tear fall. “Seeing them again, knowing
it’s the last time, no matter what…”
Angel pulled her into his arms; she let him, even if she didn’t really need it. “There’ll be memorials,” he promised.
“And how long until we’re the only ones who remember what they stand for?” she whispered, pulling back. She wiped her eyes again.
“You going to be alright?” he asked softly.
“Five by five,” she promised with a smirk.
“Come on, we’re boarding,” he said, tugging at her elbow.
One last checkpoint.
Faith stared at the doorway to the boarding ramp, scanners and guards on either side. There was no turning back- not that there had been before, but the finality of it all somehow felt more concrete. Tangible. Reminding herself again to breath, she activated the talisman. Tried to keep her hand from shaking as she focused on the doorway before her.
Angel noticed them first, but Faith wasn’t far behind. Muttering and gesturing, a small group of Slayers near the door. Words, sense
jumbled in among meaningless verbs, and suddenly the girls were moving in their direction.
“I’m sorry,” Angel whispered behind her, his words just more piled onto a string of events that Faith had yet to process, and he was grabbing her shoulders. She bit back a cry at his roughness as he spun her around.
People around them were shrieking, screaming. Angle’s face filled her vision, eyes gold, fanged mouth wide as he dove in for her neck. She wanted to act, to shove him away, but the memory of his words made her hesitate long enough that there was nothing to shove against.
“It’s alright, you’ll be okay,” a young girl was telling her. Another Slayer was speaking into a walkie-talkie, ‘hostile identified and destroyed’. Faith raised her hand to her neck, torn and bleeding, but it wasn’t deep. She pulled it away to look at her palm, red smeared across faint gray dust. Someone, another Slayer, pushed her gently toward the door.
“Make sure she sits down right away,” the girl told someone. “She hasn’t lost much blood, but she could still go into shock.”
“You alright, miss?” the guard asked her. She was at the doorway, blood dripping to the collar of her shirt. She nodded, dazed. Passed through sensors that remained silent. The talisman was still active.
The seat next to her was empty, would remain so for the entire trip. She wiped her neck with her sleeve, the dark red blending into the pattern of the fabric. By tomorrow, her neck wouldn’t even have a mark.
The screen at the front of the cabin showed the earth as it fell away behind them, a dim gray-brown speck that bore not a hint of sparkling blue or green. Within minutes, it was nothing more than a fleck of dust lost in the blackness around it, as lifeless as anyone Faith had left behind.
Faith closed her eyes to the image of Earth shrinking into the distance. There was nothing left there to cry for.