Author's Notes: While there are some loose bits of information related to the comics, it does not entirely follow the season 8 timeline as it played out in the comics. Bits and pieces were borrowed to form this story around them.
Faith used the darkness to her own advantage, using the shadows of the large and very old headstones in the cemetery to stay hidden. Crouching low, she watched her prey, two vampires, both male, wandering through the cemetery. She knew why they were there, not because most vampires were always found in a cemetery, but because they had buried an innocent woman behind the Tomas crypt and tonight she would rise as one of them.
Watching and waiting, she saw the two vampires come to a stop, not even near their destination. The one of the right, head shaved bald, turned and looked around, his body language telling her that he could sense they weren't alone.
He turned back to the other vampire and a few words were exchanged between them. Faith shifted, the dry grass under her boots crunching softly. She had to make a move, take the two out before they reached the Tomas crypt and then she would have a newbie vampire to deal with. When the vampires disappeared out of sighed, she moved quickly and quietly, staying to the shadows as she caught up to them, getting herself closer, but still holding back until she found the right opening, the perfect moment to catch them off-guard.
"Shouldn't the girl have risen by now?" The bald vampire asked the other as they paced by the fresh grave behind the Tomas crypt. "I've never turned anyone before, but I rose less than a day after I was buried."
"It's sired," the other replied. "Not turned, sired, you dummy. And give it time. She'll rise."
Faith found her opening as the bald vampire turned his back to her, struggling to light a cigarette against the strong breeze. Using one of her smaller stakes she kept tucked in her jacket, she flung the stake towards the vampire from where she stood, stepping out of the shadows as he turned to dust.
"Callum!" The other vampire yelled out as he watched his companion crumble to dust.
Faith grinned, a swagger in her step as she walked over to the other, much smaller vampire. She grabbed him by the back of his ratty jean jacket before he could make a run for it. Delivering a strong punch to the side of his head, she let him go as he stumbled, dazed from the punch he'd just taken. He spun around, growling and he swiped at Faith, trying to get her, but she moved too fast for him and within seconds she had him in a choke hold.
Faith struggled with the vampire as she tried to get her stake out from inside her jacket pocket, but the position she was in made it difficult and the only way she'd be able to get her stake would be to let the vampire go.
Grunting, she shoved the vampire hard to the ground and pulled out her stake. Not giving him a chance to run, she plunged the stake into his heart and stood slowly, her attention not on the vampire as he turned to dust, but to the sight of the dirt over the fresh grave rising.
Smirk sliding into place, Faith leaned against the Tomas crypt, arms crossed casually over her chest as she watched the new vampire rise from her shallow grave. The new vampire struggled to get to her feet and she looked dazed, confused as she spun around, trying to figure out where she was. When she stopped and looked at Faith, she let out a low growl and lunged towards her.
Fueled by a rush of adrenaline, Faith got a few solid hits to the new vampire and even took a few sloppy ones herself. She rarely let loose on any vampire anymore, it was dangerous and reckless and put her at risk of getting injured or worse, killed. But she needed it, she needed to let loose like she did back in the good old days. A new vampire was strong, but they weren't in complete control of who and what they were, making it more fun for her than if it was just another regular, run of the mill, average every day vampire.
Grabbing the new vampire by her auburn colored hair, Faith pulled hard, forcing the vampire to the ground. Breathing heavily, Faith let go of her hair and held her down with her boot crushing her neck. Pulling out her pack of cigarettes and a box of matches, she bent down and pulled the match over the vampire's forehead, smirking as she rose back up and casually lit her cigarette.
"What was that?" Faith asked as the vampire struggled to speak. She lifted her foot from her throat and grabbed the vampire by her shoulders. "Didn't quite catch that on account of me crushing your windpipe."
"Why don't you just kill me?" The vampire rasped, her hands clutching at Faith's, struggling to get out of her hold. "Please."
Faith grabbed her neck with one hand and pulled the cigarette from between her lips with the other. "Well, this is new. A vamp practically begging for me to kill 'em instead of the other way around."
Using her cigarette, she stabbed the vampire in the eye, the embers burning and sizzling. Pushing the screaming vampire away from her, she grabbed her stake from where it'd fallen to the ground earlier. Not giving the vampire another chance to run or try to fight, she plunged the stake, hard and fast into the new vampire's chest, blowing a kiss as the vampire turned to dust.
She loved slaying, it was a part of her life, her destiny and she was damn good at it. Her skills had improved over the years, new ones learned along the way and some less than ideal habits still lingered. Faith always had a plan, instead of just jumping into the fold. She was cautious about her surroundings at all times, well aware of the vampires near and around her. When it came to more than just one, she always struck down one before making herself visible to the other. When it came to more than two, she normally had a team with her, but tonight had been different.
In the two years since the Battle at the Hellmouth in Sunnydale, Faith had come a long way, changed in ways that left her former self in the past. While she wasn't a part of any of the squads, she was a part of the Slayer Organization, and most of her time was spent working with Giles to find and help rehabilitate young troubled slayers, sometimes taking the task on themselves, sometimes sending them to Scotland, the command center, lead by none other than Buffy Summers.
While Faith didn't have a permanent home and she wasn't a part of any specific squad, she had her place, her purpose within the organization itself. There were things she had done over the last two years she wasn't proud of, things that included having to kill some of the young slayers Giles sent her to find because they posed a threat to themselves, to Faith, and to the world itself. There had only been four of them, but the guilt she harbored would always be there.
Over the years, Faith would return to Cleveland with Giles every couple of months. She had been all over the world, to every major city and small towns that appeared on the map, looking for those young slayers that fled as soon as they knew they were being sought out. What Willow and the rest of those who worked directly under Buffy's command couldn't do for those girls, it was left up to her. And she very rarely failed when it came to finding these girls and forcing them to get the help they so desperately needed.
She'd been in Cleveland for barely a day and just twenty hours ago she'd been tracking down a young slayer in Miami. It was one of her most difficult captures and it had been nothing but a struggle with the girl, Karyn, to get her on a plane and fly her back to Cleveland. She had ignored Giles when he told her to stay in, the urge to get out and slay too much to contain. Besides, Faith knew that this girl was in good hands with Wood. Before she left the house, she'd already calmed down and stopped trying to lash out at everyone who so much as just looked at her.
Lighting another cigarette, she headed down the gravel path towards the cemetery gates, very much aware of her surroundings even in the darkness that surrounded her. She let out a loud sigh as she reached the dimly lit street and found her motorcycle tires had been slashed.
"Well that's just fucking perfect," Faith muttered and she knelt near the back tire to examine the damage. Like the front tire, it was a clean cut, one made quickly with an extremely sharp blade.
Leaving the bike where it was, she started the four block walk to the apartment she and Giles stayed at whenever they were in Cleveland. The apartment was the only place-other than the farm and the flat in England-that felt almost like home to her. At least she had a bed of her own, a room to call her own, and it was something she had never had in her entire life until Giles made that possible for her.
Giles placed his trust in her and they had formed a bond over the years. It hadn't taken long for her to look at him like the father she never had, a friend and a mentor all wrapped up in one Giles-sized package. There was nothing she couldn't talk to him about and it was during those long trips from city A to city B they'd talk for hours, each time learning something new and different about one another that proved they were a lot more alike than either had ever thought they were. Faith was grateful for Giles, for him taking her in under his wing after Sunnydale, for him placing his trust in her when nobody else was willing. She was grateful for all the things he'd done for her, and even the things she had to do to eliminate those four girls that had been a threat.
Faith walked up the three flights of stairs to their floor and unlocked the door to the apartment quietly. She wasn't even remotely surprised to find Giles had waited up for her and he was in the kitchen, the small TV on the counter turned on to the late night news and a cup of tea in front of him on the table.
"How was patrol?" Giles asked, not even taking his eyes off the TV.
"Eliminated the two vampires that kidnapped that girl."
"And the girl?"
"She was a vampire?" Giles asked and Faith nodded her head. "New?"
"Yeah, but not anymore. Got her fresh out of the grave," Faith replied, deciding it was probably best she left out some of the grotesque details of the slay.
"While you were out, I received a rather interesting phone call," Giles said and Faith sat down at the table across from him. "It seems that things have been out of sorts in Scotland."
"How do you mean? Thought Buffy had things under control?"
"It appears that Buffy has become a problem. A liability. One that needs to be taken care of as soon as possible."
"What's that have to do with us?"
Giles sighed and took a sip of his tea. Faith could see the worry and the concern in his eyes as he stared at her. Whatever was happening in Scotland and with Buffy was more than just a small problem. If it was a small problem, it would've already been taken care of, that much she knew.
"Buffy has been missing," he said after a long pause, his voice soft yet broken. "Nobody has been in contact with her for weeks. I have been informed of some troubling information regarding Buffy."
"What? Did she go off the rails and turn rogue or something?"
"In short, yes."
Faith couldn't help but laugh. "That's rich. Gotta be a joke or something, right? Buffy turned rogue?"
"I wish that were the case," Giles replied sadly. "But after a series of incidents that resulted in the death of several young slayers, unfortunate accidents really, she began to neglect her role as a leader and began to ignore her responsibilities. The others, they tried to reach out to her and she snapped."
"And then she ran."
"Willow informed me that even with a locator spell, she hasn't been able to find her anywhere. She believes that Buffy had sought out a witch to cast a spell that would cloak her presence. Either that is the case, or something has happened to her."
"Again, what's that got to do with us?"
"You've become an excellent tracker, one of the very best, and I agreed with Willow when she said that you would be the only one who would be able to find her and bring her back home."
Faith leaned back in the chair and thought about it. Tracking Buffy would be difficult, but she knew she'd find her sooner or later. Bringing Buffy back to Scotland would be harder than rounding up a young, out of control slayer who was on the run. It wouldn't just be hard, it'd be downright almost impossible.
"How long has she been gone for?"
"Just a few days short of a month," Giles replied. "I've already booked us a flight. We leave at ten tomorrow morning."
"Willow tell you anything else?" Faith asked and he shook his head. "It's gotta be more than her just not being able to handle losing a couple of girls, Giles."
"I'm not certain of the entire story behind this situation, but Willow promised to catch us up once we join them in Scotland. I suggest you get some rest before our flight in the morning, Faith. This is a fairly big job you have ahead of you, that is, if you're willing to take this on and find her at no matter what the cost."
"I'm in," Faith replied and she stood up from the chair. "But there's just one thing I gotta do before we leave. You know a number for a tow company around here?"
"Dare I ask why?"
"Some asshole slashed the tires on my bike. Left it parked outside Woodland Cemetery. Don't wanna just leave it there, you know?"
"I'll see that it is taken care of. Get some rest, Faith."
Faith stared out the plane window, watching as the plane flew over an empty ocean, the sky a cloudless day. They'd been on the plane for five hours and it had given her more than enough time to think up a plan for when she was in Scotland. Like many of the girls she had tracked, she had to start where Buffy was seen last, hopefully picking up on a trail sooner rather than later.
This was no different than the other girls she had tracked down, some she even followed for months before she caught up to them. But this was Buffy and she probably had a few tricks up her sleeves and would be able to keep herself hidden and lost for as long as she wanted to. If she was the only one who could find Buffy, then she was going to do the job she was asked to do, no questions asked.
"We'll be landing in a few hours," Giles said as he returned to his seat next to her on the small, private jet. "Have you gotten any rest since we left?"
"No, just coming up with a game plan."
"I see. Where are your notes?"
Faith laughed and tapped the side of her head. "Don't need notes. When we hear the whole story from Willow, I'll share my plan and you guys can write it all down, how about that?"
"Care to share what you have so far?"
"Gonna go in to this like it's any other girl on the run. Already know it's not gonna be easy cos it's Buffy we're talking about here," she replied and she sighed heavily. "She's got a few weeks head start on us. It's gonna take some digging to get the information I need to pinpoint a location. There's one thing I have in my favor though, Giles. I've been around the world how many times and what, Buffy's been to Italy and Scotland? Already got a one-up on her on that end."
"It may work in your favor, yes, but there are factors to keep in mind, Faith. If Buffy does not want to be found, she will make sure that it stays that way at all costs."
"She's bound to slip up at one point or another and when she does? I'll be ready and waiting for her."
Giles nodded and picked up the small glass he'd poured some Scotch Whisky in hours before and had been nursing it slowly. He swirled the amber liquid in the glass, watching it as it sloshed around. Sighing, he lifted the glass to his lips and finished off what was left.
"This is a good thing you're doing here, Faith."
"It's my job, ain't it?"
"But this is Buffy, not a young slayer on the run," Giles said as if she had forgotten it was Buffy they were talking about. "I fully expected you to back down, tell me to relay the message on that they were on their own in finding her. Of course, not in such a polite manner, but you do understand what I'm getting at."
"Yeah well, things change," Faith shrugged. "But it's Buffy and I'm taking the chance that maybe her being on the run ain't entirely her choice."
"Do you believe someone has taken her?"
"It's a whole world of possibility that anything could be behind this, Giles. I haven't forgotten how strong Buffy is and a couple of deaths and she flips a switch and runs? No, she wouldn't do that. Girls died back in Sunnydale and she kept going on, barely missing a beat. Kind of refuse to believe she went all rogue cos she lost a couple of girls."
"I believe we should just recoil on the conclusions until we hear Willow's details in regards to the story behind this."
Faith sat back in her seat and turned her attention back out the window. Giles was right about one thing. They couldn't jump to any conclusions until they heard Willow's side of the story.
Whatever the reason Buffy had bailed and was on the run, in hiding from the people who cared about her the most, Faith would find her and bring her back, no matter what it took, no matter what the cost.
Following Giles up to the main gates of the castle, Faith felt in awe of the sheer size of the place. She'd been there only once before, fourteen months ago and that was a quick stop-over to drop off two girls she and Giles spent weeks working with. Buffy hadn't been there at the time and the only one there that she knew that was there at the time had been Kennedy.
"Keep forgetting how huge this place is," Faith muttered under her breath and she stood by Giles side as he knocked loudly on the large wooden door. "We're not gonna get attacked by a bunch of young slayers playing guard the castle, are we?"
"They're expecting us."
Shifting her duffel bag in her hand and placing the strap over her shoulder, she waited patiently for the door to open. Night had already fallen long before their plane landed and the drive from the local airport to the castle had been a long one, the driver slow and a little bit too cautious of the winding, hilly roads.
The left side of the large double wooden doors swung open and Faith was nearly cast aside as Dawn ran out to hug Giles tight. Stepping off to the side to give the two a moment, she looked inside the castle door entrance and saw Xander headed straight for them.
"You made it," he said, his voice soft and tired. "Willow is waiting in the conference room. She sent me down to retrieve you."
"Right down to business," Faith said, smirking as she followed him inside. "Is that how you guys operate here these days?"
"Most days, yes," he replied with a nod, not looking back at her.
"We should've called you sooner," Dawn said to Giles as they walked closely behind Faith. "We kept thinking she'd come home, that she'd at least call, but the days turned into weeks and we didn't know what else to do."
"It's all right, Dawn. We'll help in any way that we can and I can assure you that Buffy will come home safe."
Faith fought the urge to scoff. If Buffy was out there on her own, by her own choice, getting her to come back home would take more than just convincing her. It could take violence, potentially even knocking her out just to get her back there. If she'd been kidnapped, she could be in bad shape and getting her out of the clutches of whoever had her would mean putting both their lives at risk just to save her.
Xander led the way to a set of elevators, the left one opening as he slid a key card into the slot. Faith followed him on and Giles was right behind her with Dawn. As the doors slid shut, Faith shifted her bag to her other shoulder, trying hard not to feel the awkward tension in the tight space between the four of them.
After a short elevator ride, the doors slid open and led straight into what Faith recognized as the conference room. The only difference since the last time she'd been there, there hadn't been an elevator and it was seven flights of stairs to get up there. Willow sat at the long oval table, a mountain of papers laid out in front of her and Kennedy sitting at her side.
Faith hung back, watching the slightly awkward reunion between Giles, Willow, Dawn and Xander unfolded. She tossed her bag near the door where Giles had put his down and she walked around the large room, examining the rare weapons that were hung on the walls, displayed as if they were art and not weapons she'd definitely put to better use killing things that went bump in the night with.
"When did she go missing?" Faith asked, interrupting the little catch-up session the three were having. "Do you know when she left?"
"Uh yeah," Willow nodded, taking her seat again and pulling out a piece of lined paper. "August 2nd, approximately just after eight. She was supposed to take a team of girls on patrol and never showed up."
"And before that? Who saw her last?" Faith asked, taking a seat near Willow. She grew quiet and Faith looked around the room, the only one not looking strange was Giles, who was just as curious as she was. "Come on, Willow, who saw her last?"
"Satsu. She's one of our best slayers we have here," Willow replied after a pause. "They had an argument from what Satsu said when I questioned her a few days after Buffy's disappearance."
"What kind of argument?"
"Uh, she wouldn't say," Willow said quickly and Faith rolled her eyes.
"That's bullshit, Willow. You want me to find her? You're gonna have to give me all the details. Every little bit helps."
"What does it matter what happened before she disappeared?" Dawn asked her, arms crossed over her chest as she stood at Xander's side. "You are only here to help us find her and bring her home, nothing else."
"How else do ya expect me to find her?" Faith asked, cocking her head to the side as Dawn looked at Xander as if she expected him to step in and stand up for her. "Look, the more I know, the easier it's gonna be for me to pick up on a trail that'll lead me to her. You want to find her? You want her back home? Then I'm gonna need every bit of detail you can give me to go on."
"We don't know exactly what's going on between them, but we think that maybe Satsu has a thing for Buffy," Willow replied, a slight blush creeping over her cheeks. "They had a disagreement over the role that Satsu has here."
"A thing?" Faith laughed. "What, is the girl in love with her or something?"
"It's no secret that she is," Dawn said and she shook her head when Xander nudged her. "What? It's not! Satsu practically followed Buffy around like a little puppy, making with the moon eyes and the dreamy smiles every time Buffy so much just looked at her."
"This girl a threat?" Faith asked, trying to stay on point, not at all interested in whoever was fawning over Buffy this time. "Guys, is she a threat?"
"No," Willow replied. "She's not. She's been distraught and worried ever since Buffy went missing."
"Let me guess, wandering around like a lost puppy looking for its master?" Faith chuckled and she shut up when Giles glared at her from across the table. "Okay, Sushi isn't a threat, but she is the last one who saw her. Anything else I oughta know about what happened before Buffy played the disappearing act?"
"There were a couple of girls who didn't make it," Willow said sadly. "Routine patrol, an in and out operation with a nest of vampires a few towns over. Buffy blamed herself for bringing them and putting them in harms way, but it didn't matter how much we tried to convince her that it wasn't her fault. Those girls were ready, they'd been ready for a long time. They slipped up, made a mistake and they ended up dead."
"She wouldn't run because of that," Dawn cut in. "I know her. She wouldn't run because she felt guilty and that it was her fault those girls ended up dead."
"Okay, so," Faith said and she cracked her knuckles as she looked around the room. "The day she disappeared? Anything unusual happen?"
"No. It was just like any other day," Willow replied. "That's just what we can't figure out. What made her leave. Was it her choice or did something or someone take her?"
"Where can I find Sushi?" Faith asked and she rose to her feet. "The sooner I talk to her, the sooner I can start finding a trail."
"Are you a tracker?" Faith asked Dawn, cutting her off before she could finish speaking. When Dawn shook her head no, Faith raised an eyebrow. "See, I am and I've found a lot of girls not even Willow here could find using magic. The thing about people? Whether they want to be found or not, there's always a trail they leave behind for someone like me to pick up on it sooner or later. Let me ask you again, where can I find this Sush-"
"Satsu," a quiet voice came from the doorway. Faith turned to see a small Asian girl standing there. "My name is Satsu, not Sushi."
"Satsu," Faith tried the name out, hating the way it rolled off her tongue. She stared at the younger girl, noticing she wasn't quite as young as the other slayers, likely closer to Kennedy's age. "Let's make this quick and save me the details I don't care about."
"Do you think you'll be able to find her?"
"Wasting time here, Sushi, just like you people have already wasted enough as it is."
"My name is Sat-"
"Enough!" Willow yelled out and Faith stood down, trying to remain calm.
"Well?" Faith asked, staring hard at Satsu who stood cowering by the door.
"We had a little argument and she left. I went to her room and she'd packed a bag and I thought maybe she just needed more space and moved to a more isolated part of the castle," Satsu replied quietly, sounding nervous as Faith's stare burned into her. "I went looking for her, but then the alarm went off for patrol and I had to go meet up with the team."
"So the last place you saw her was where exactly?"
"Outside my room."
"Damn, we got nothing to go with here," Faith said as she looked over at Giles. "We're gonna have to dig a little deeper."
"Indeed," Giles nodded. "You are all positive she's not hiding in the castle somewhere, are you?"
"We've searched the place a hundred times," Willow replied. "We had all the girls look everywhere for almost a week, thinking maybe she was using the maze of hallways and rooms to slip past us. She's not here. It's been confirmed already that she is not here or anywhere on the grounds."
Faith started pacing, trying to think that if she was in Buffy's shoes, where would she run to. But it proved to be impossible because her and Buffy were cut from a different cloth and they thought and acted differently in similar situations.
"You guys ever go anywhere in town for fun? You know, live it up a little, let your hair down, dance, get your drink on?" Faith asked, the question directed to everyone that was in the room. "Come on, don't tell me you people never have some fun and cut loose every once in a while."
"There's a place," Kennedy said when nobody else stepped forward. "Quinn's Pub. We've gone a few times. I'll take you there tomorrow. It's too late to go now, Quinn would've closed the place by now."
"How early are we talking?"
"He serves breakfast," Kennedy replied. "So, early."
"Kenny, can you show them to the guest quarters?" Willow asked quietly while the others started to leave the conference room.
"Of course," Kennedy replied with a smile and she turned to Faith. "Come on, looks like I'm on involuntary butler duty."
With a laugh, Faith grabbed her bag and followed Kennedy out into the corridor. Giles followed close behind and the three never spoke the long walk through the castle to the guest quarters, which was just a small suite with a bedroom and a pull-out couch in the main room. Faith remembered the room, having stayed in there just once before during that quick stop-over, using the couch for a quick nap while they waited a few hours before they had to fly out again.
"Giles, you take the bed," Faith said as she tossed her bag on the couch.
"If you insist," Giles replied with a sigh of relief. "Goodnight, Faith. Kennedy."
Faith sat on the couch and pulled off her boots, finally feeling the fatigue hitting her like a Mack truck. Kennedy lingered by the doorway, running a finger over the empty desk near her, collecting up the fine layer of dust that coated everything in the room.
"We don't really use this room," Kennedy said absentmindedly. "I guess nobody thought to get a team of girls in here to clean before you guys arrived."
"Been in worse. Little bit of dust won't kill me."
"Things haven't been the same around here," Kennedy said and she glanced out into the corridor before stepping in the room and shutting the door behind her. "With Buffy gone, it's been hard to keep things together and keep the morale up with the girls. We've been trying, really trying, but it's getting harder every day."
"You need your leader back," Faith stated. "That's where I come in. I'll find her, Kennedy, and whether she wants to or not, she's coming back home."
"Preferably in one piece."
Kennedy smirked and reached for the door. "Get some sleep, we're headed out first thing. I'm hoping to get to talk to Quinn before he opens in the morning. He'll likely talk without any customers around."
"Got it. Later, Kennedy."
Faith waited for a few minutes after Kennedy left before she got up and locked the door. She started thinking as she paced the floor by the couch, thinking of where the hell Buffy had taken off to. She could literally be anywhere in the world, hiding herself from the people who cared and loved her the most. Or, the worst case scenario, she'd been kidnapped and being held against her will by someone or something powerful enough to keep a slayer locked up and hidden from the rest of the world.
Something felt very off to her about the whole situation. She wasn't sure what it was, she couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she just had a feeling that something was very, very off.
Whatever it was, she'd figure it out and she hoped it'd be sooner rather than later. The quicker she found Buffy, the sooner she'd go back to her own life.
And it couldn't happen fast enough.