Author: Beer Good
Word Count: ~1750
Warning: Character death. Sort of.
Summary: Post-series: Buffy is busy setting up the new Slayer organisation when a bureaucratic mix-up kills Faith. Well, that's the official story, at least. There's always more to the story, and even official death might be only the beginning.
"Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof."
Steve yawned. He'd been working overtime in the Red Cross station on the edge of what had once been Sunnydale, California for three days now, compiling lists of survivors, dead and missing. He had to work from hastily jotted down scraps of paper, phone calls and vague rumors about who had seen whom when, and the coffee machine had broken down on the second day. Fuck it. It was Friday. He picked one last name off the top of the pile – this one scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper with the heading SUNNYDALE PD – quickly typed the name on one of the lists, nevermind which, and logged off. It was a two-hour drive back to LA, and his girlfriend had better be impressed by all the non-profit work he was doing.
"You're late," said Willow as Faith opened the door to her room.
Faith snorted bored disdain; she seemed to do that a lot lately. "Yeah, story of my life. Had to wait for a cop car to leave. Sorry if my problems messed with your schedule. If that's all you got for me, I've got some newbies to babysit, so -"
"Oh, no, I didn't mean... um... silly attempt at levity..." Willow quickly back-pedalled while she pulled out a sheet of paper from one of the piles of no doubt carefully indexed chaos that her desk had become over the two weeks since they set up in Cleveland. "I-I mean... you're kinda late. Which is to say not late late, though I guess you're that too a little bit," glancing quickly at the clock on the wall, "but... um..." She handed the paper to Faith.
Who read it once, frowned, read it again, and looked up at Willow with narrow eyes. "What. The fuck. Is this?"
"The official death list from when Sunnydale went shwoop," Willow nodded. "I got it off the police network."
"And I'm on it why?"
"Dunno. I guess the cops knew you were in town, and nobody knows that you made it out, and..."
"So you're saying, what, I'm... dead?"
"Pretty much. Legally. Well, I'm sure you could convince them you're alive if you wanted to, but... right now, all the official records have you down as officially deceased, and I don't think anyone here has a problem with... I mean, that's good, right? No more most wanted lists and so on?"
"Yeah. Never been better." Faith read the list again, shaking her head. "I'm dead."
"So? How'd she take it?" Kennedy asked as Willow got ready for bed.
"Pretty well, I guess. Y'know, for Faith. She just put on that usual strong silent don't-need-to-talk-about-it frown and left, which I guess is better than if she'd started yelling and killing people..."
"What, you thought that was a risk?"
Willow got into bed. "You don't know Faith."
Kennedy protested that she did, she'd been working with Faith for a month now, and sure she'd noticed that the older girl was a little tightly wound and Andrew had made sure they all knew the details of her backstory, but that was all years ago and she was doing everything right now, wasn't she? She was helping out with the new Slayers, playing the patient and wise mentor role, talking about working together... she hadn't even been arguing with Buffy since they left Sunnydale.
"Yeah," came Willow's reply. "When Faith starts bottling things up? Usually not a good sign."
"Oh." Kennedy thought about it, then grinned. "Well, maybe being dead will finally give her the nerve to ask Buffy to uncork that bottle..."
"What do you me..." Willow read her grin. "Oh. Eww!"
"I mean, from what you tell me about her old boyfriends, Buffy's a bit of a necrophiliac already and Faith's not exactly subtle about how she -"
"I believe I said 'ewww.'"
"And you giggled."
"That was..." Willow gestured awkwardly. "No fair! You tricked me with your inappropriate RPS-iness! What's a gal to do but giggle?"
The next morning Faith was gone. Her room empty, nothing to pack, like nobody was ever there in the first place. They asked around, but nobody had seen anything. She was just... gone.
And the strange thing was how quickly things adapted. To be perfectly honest, ever since Sunnydale she'd been toeing the party line and generally helping out, but not taking up a whole lot of room. The only thing that really changed with her death, such as it was, was that the others had to do a little more of the work. And considering they were going to have to build a brand new not-council – name pending – to find, train and organise Slayers from all over the world, there was rather a lot of work.
"It's just like her," Buffy moaned when the subject came up a week later as they relaxed after one particularly hard day. "Soon as things get tough, she skips town without thinking that we might need her."
Kennedy poked Willow playfully in the ribs.
"Well, in fairness," Giles replied, "she chose to break out of jail and come to Sunnydale when she could have just stayed away, which - " He caught Buffy's glare. "Yes, shameful. Andrew, any luck with the search?"
"Not really. I even checked that neighborhood in LA where Buffy lived in when she left town, which, yuck, but... no dice." He looked pleased with himself for the use of the reasonably badass phrase "no dice."
"I just don't get it." Xander threw his hands up. "I mean, she was doing good. Between whatever it was she learned from Angel and everything she did when she came to Sunnydale, it's almost like she was a completely new person. It's supposed to feel good to help out, right?"
Dawn nodded. "Plus, come on, it's not like she's actually dead. I don't get why we're playing along with that. I've known her since I was twelve, and she can take care of herself."
"That's not the point," Buffy said and sighed. "Look, I get that Faith had... stuff to deal with. But what we do in the next few months is going to be incredibly important to thousands of girls, and I don't want any mixed messages. We need to present a united front." She paused, looking for the right words. "So that means, and I'm talking to you, Andrew, no more exciting stories about who killed whom and who kicked whose ass – me hers, for the record – and who died. Or didn't. Just... don't ask, don't tell. If Faith wants to play dead, I say we let her."
And so Faith got to rest in peace. Meanwhile, new Slayers kept pouring in. Within a month they were up to 200, approaching 500 a couple of months later. Between the old Council funds and the willingness of the local authorities to not notice what was going on (possibly somehow related to the local hellmouth, though they were keeping close tabs on the mayor of Cleveland just in case) they soon had a nice little setup going: organising standardised training for new Slayers worldwide, teaching them teamwork, co-operation, rah rah, good against evil, all for one and one for all for the good of the common goal. The veterans who had survived Sunnydale formed the backbone, the leaders who were looked up to, and the ones who had ended up at the bottom of the crater (if only officially) were always mentioned in the past tense. Decisions were taken by majority vote. Vampires were always outnumbered. Nobody had to face demons alone anymore.
At least, that was the idea.
Until they raided a vamp nest in Boston. If by "raided" you mean "walked into" and by "nest" you mean "former." This had been one of the oldest, most feared vampire clans in New England; now there were just ashes, broken furniture, spatters of blood. And spray-painted on one of the walls, like a carved Z:
Vi, who had been leading the raid, wouldn't explain it to the new Slayers. In a very obvious way. Enough so that when they got back, being teenage girls, they gossiped. Speculated. Pieced together what they knew about Slayer history. Kept it amongst themselves, whispered in the dark, like you do with ghost stories.
The next find was a few weeks later. Similar situation: an entire gang of vampires dispatched, that one word painted on the wall, but this time with a survivor: a vamp who'd somehow managed to hide and now seemed almost relieved to stumble onto a dozen heavily armed Slayers. He lived long enough to tell them, trembling with fear, what he'd seen; one lone girl, armed only with a stake, ripping through his friends and staking them one by one like an avenging angel.
Then another one, a week after that, leading to even more whispers and stories among the newbies. Then another, and another. And soon, strangely, two on the same day, at opposite ends of the continent – Calgary and Tijuana. Buffy, who insisted on seeing each of the scenes for herself, was seen comparing snapshots of the two, looking at the handwriting, and frowning. One of the Canadian Slayers, one who had had a little trouble marching in step with the standard Slayer army, was released from the hospital two days later. Her clothes were stained with both blood – not all of it hers – and red paint. She wouldn't talk about it when she got back, but then as far as the others were concerned, she didn't need to. It took maybe six months for it to spread across the globe. Wherever there were Slayers, working together in harmony by day, there'd occasionally be a night raid by some girl needing to let off steam, needing for a little while to not be just one in a crowd, with FAITH painted on the wall of whatever vampire or demon had had it coming. Then somehow, the teamwork would run a little smoother. Nobody talked about it, and it never showed up on any official expense reports, but team leaders started making sure there were always spray cans around. It was a thing.
On the one-year anniversary of the battle, the veterans return to Sunnydale. They park the bus at the roadside and walk up to the crater, lay down a few flowers, stand in silence, tell an inappropriate joke or two. At the edge of the crater sits a spray can. Buffy picks it up and shakes it; empty. She tosses it into the pit and hears the echo as it rattles all the way down. One by one, they turn from the crater and walk back.
When they get back to the bus, Faith is sitting in the back, looking like she never left. "So," she grins, "are we there yet?"