- Fic: ‘In Remission’ by Quinara. [1/4; ~17K words total; PG-13]
- Fic: ‘In Remission’ by Quinara. [2/4; ~17K words total; PG-13]
- Fic: ‘In Remission’ by Quinara. [3/4; ~17K words total; PG-13]
- Fic: ‘In Remission’ by Quinara. [4/4; ~19.5K words total; PG-13]
Hi again! This is the second part of the story – first part here. I think my total word count might end up being a little short, but we’ll figure that out later…
In the five years Spike’s been missing, the world around Buffy has irrevocably changed. The general population has woken up to vampires’ existence and the kill count has dropped way down. She’s sharing a house with a soulless vampire, still going by the name of Faith. But what does Spike have to do with it? And what does it mean for their future?
Chapter Two: Faith
November 2014, San Francisco CA
“Hey, hey; it’s me and I’m in early…”
The welcome wasn’t exactly overwhelming when Faith walked into the office. First Response had replaced the old Wetworks division and got done most of the slaying-like slaying these days, so it didn’t attract sunniest people in the world. And hell, Faith was allergic to sun these days, so that mostly suited her just fine. But she still thought they could drum up something resembling enthusiasm. “Yo, Sash,” she said more pointedly, loud enough so Sasza could hear her through his headphones. “Are we paying you for that now?”
Flicking a button on his keyboard, Sasza looked around. In the last few years he’d started getting his hair shaved close, to mask his receding hairline, but he was the same boy nerd as ever; paused on the screen behind him was some shoot-‘em-up with an AK-47’s sightline and a bunch of dead bodies littering some sandy dunes. It looked fun, but Faith didn’t think she was the only one who should have to make herself do work.
“Why don’t you bite me, Faith?” Sasza snarked with a quick spin around on his chair. It might have been a joke, but they weren’t always, even a couple of years down the line. With her wacky lack of soul, Faith didn’t always find it so easy to tell. “You get me some work and I’ll do it.”
Thankfully the lack of soul came with some pretty epic super-strength, so she was able to grab the back of Sasza’s chair and pull him light as a feather towards the cluster of other desks where the rest of the night team were joking around. “It’s your lucky day,” Faith told his startled expression. “’Cause I’m calling a meeting.”
Troy, the other guy on the team, looked like he wanted to complain. And then he did. “Shouldn’t Caridad be here if we’re gonna do group stuff?”
Little Amy, who was always going to be Little Amy, looked almost apologetic, paperclip chain still twined between her fingers. “She’s not back until tomorrow…”
“I know C’s fucking schedule, OK?” Faith told them, glaring round the group. Two years ago these had been her people, but they’d cut her out quicker than anything. They were Caridad’s crew now, Number Two become Number One, while Faith wasn’t number anything. On a day to day basis it didn’t hurt so much as piss her off, but they were all going to have to suck it up. “But we’ve got something happening tonight and I wanna know if any of you have heard stories about vamps running scared from something, or else turning up starved in a bar somewhere.”
They all looked around at one another, like they were school kids and Faith was their teacher. She jumped back to sit on her own desk, trying to feel less edgy about the whole situation. These were her co-workers; if she had shit to say, then they were mean to listen. It wasn’t her fault she forgot what it was like every time she came in from hanging around Buffy. They didn’t have to treat her differently.
“I guess I heard something the other night,” Taya spoke up, sounding annoyed that she had to talk. But then Taya always sounded annoyed. It didn’t matter. “I was out at this new bar in SOMA, right, and while I was waiting fifteen goddamn years to get served this haemo starts getting chatty about credit cards again.” Faith bristled on the ‘haemo’, because Taya was a Slayer and in her day they’d had some class – but she didn’t interrupt. “You know, the usual shit about the NSA or whatever?” Taya continued. “But, I mean, I called him on it and he seemed to think he’d seen proof or heard it from somewhere.”
“Did you ask him what it was?” Little Amy asked, still playing with her paperclips.
But Taya shrugged. “I got served. He wasn’t hot. I moved on.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “First class investigating there, Taya. It’s almost like it’s your job to keep track of this stuff.”
“Yeah, well,” Taya shot straight back, acid in her glare. “The job description’s kind of in flux these days, don’t you think?”
The silence that followed was icy and Faith caught herself on edge. This wasn’t quite how she’d expected this meeting to go, and, actually, had that line from Taya been a threat?
“Vamps have been saying this stuff for years, Faith,” Shivani cut in before Faith could decide, speaking up from her and M’s part of the desk. She sounded like she was tired of all the bickering. “D’you have some reason to think it’s changed?”
“Right,” Faith agreed, taking the olive branch as it was offered. She could never manage to resist these arguments, for some reason. She had to keep acting like this was a meeting, not a fight. “Yeah,” she confirmed, uncrossing her arms. “We had a thing, me and Buffy, when we were out downtown tonight. D’you remember that Spike guy? Big name back in Sunnydale.”
“The vampire with a soul?” Little Amy asked, scrunching up her nose like it was a memory she’d long forgotten. “Didn’t he go missing?”
“I thought he was the one who made Buffy leave the Council,” Troy added – because of course he’d transferred out of Cleveland too. Faith couldn’t help but smirk at the expression on his face. He’d always had the hots for B – the whole Spike thing had to chafe. It was funny, not least the part about some vampire making Buffy to anything. “What’s he got to do with this?”
“Well, he’s back,” Faith said, glad to finally have their attention. It was almost like she was in charge again, ready to take on the world with her crew right behind her, set to get some bad guys’ heads a-rolling. The whir of computer fans couldn’t even keep her down. “Starved like no vamp I’ve ever seen and on the run from somewhere. Said they let him go, which sounds to me like there must be someone out there bagging vamps. Possibly the big guys.”
It didn’t quite have the effect Faith intended. As far as she was concerned, this was pretty big fucking news. Even on top of every other part of the story, the last thing Faith wanted was to end up as a lab rat.
But for some reason Faith’s went down like a lead balloon. She watched it drop with one long slow thud into the biggest anti-climax ever seen by the naked eye.
“So what?” Taya asked with a shrug – speaking, it looked like, for all them. “If they let him go then there’s no problem, is there? Besides.” She sat back, raising her hands like she was out of the conversation. “My guy in the bar said his source was a chick. I figured she whored his credit card right out of him and bailed so he could turn his whining on the rest of us.”
There was silence. Faith stared, remembering the days when they were out every night and back in every morning. HQ was more their home these days, still too small but way more lived in. They had a coffee maker and a microwave; a box of decorations waiting for December so they could deck out the desks for the holidays. It was like they were working the dead-end cubicle jobs none of them were meant for, and Faith figured that could almost explain why everyone was so damn touchy all the time.
They were getting fat, Faith realised. Just a little. And lazy too. They could have taken her down, back when she’d first been turned, but she ran through a little scenario in her head right then and she figured she’d have them all dead in five minutes, tops. Taya would go first, then the guys and M while she was loading up. Amy and Shivani last, because they’d be the ones feeling the shock. Two minutes was all it would take.
They were an embarrassment. And they weren’t the people Faith had known when she’d died. “Am I actually hearing this right?” she asked, not caring to keep the contempt out of her voice. “You figure something’s happening to vampires and it’s not your problem? What, like this is the Council for people who don’t give a shit about what happens so long as it doesn’t interrupt your coffee break?” How was it that Faith had never got an education, didn’t have a soul, but still figured it better than any of these people that someone messing with vampires was pretty much bad news? Maybe the whole lot of them were in remission, maybe the demons kept out of people’s way if they weren’t feral and off breeding by a Hellmouth, but the balance was tentative. Vampires were touchy. Right now things were as easy for them as it was for the Slayers, but it wasn’t exactly going to take much to get them ripping out throats again.
If this was the way the world was going, they were in trouble. Big time.
And, honestly, right then Faith thought it would teach them a lesson if they were all the first to die. “Do any of you even bother thinking anymore?” she demanded, stabbing a finger to the side of her head. “D’you think this is why everybody died? So you guys could sit around here swimming in some old British guys’ cash? Back in the day this guy and Buffy –”
She was cut off by Sash, his voice riding over hers. “We stopped working for Buffy Summers back in 2010. We don’t need –”
But Faith rode right back, leaping from the desk back onto her feet. There was a growl in her throat and it got the Slayers, at least, rising to their feet. “You don’t ever know what you’re gonna need, so shut the fuck up.” She put a foot on one of the chair’s wheel spindle and shoved Sash out of the way, heading back out of the door before she started a fight none of the rest of them would win. Hinges complained as she smacked straight through the panelled glass.
If they could all just work out that she actually gave a shit about their asses, she figured she wouldn’t want to kill them quite so much. But it had always been the same. Human fucking complacency. None of them knew what it was like to make the choice.
June 2012, San Francisco CA
When Faith rose again, she’d been pissed off.
Because the thing was, it shouldn’t have killed her, that patrol. She’d been doing better and there was no way she’d wanted to die. As she’d drunk down her killer’s blood, all she’d been thinking was that there was no fucking way that her life was allowed to be over. After the twenty years she’d wasted as a child, being useless, being at least some grade level of evil, it did not get to be that some bozo footnote in vampire history struck her down at the nothing age of thirty-two, damning her to rot on some nothing page of Slayer nobodies.
When she’d risen, damp from the air in some mildewed basement apartment – the sort of place she’d started out the first time – Faith decided to skip the part where she had to fuck or kill her way into a halfway pleasant bed and go straight to trying out the good guys. She’d done the evil thing before, and the fact was Buffy’s team got better towels. And sheets. And hand lotion, which you needed after a night out in the winter. You couldn’t be evil and have pepper-jasmine scented hands.
So bozo vamp bit the dust within about three words of his Welcome to the Damned speech, and Faith hightailed it back to the Council. She figured all she could hope was that they hadn’t had time to blitz her computer account, because there was some important shit on there.
Sneaking onto site, Faith didn’t risk crossing the wards, but she was able to get onto the roof, heading immediately to the skylight over the main meeting room. There was a blind they were meant to use, but no one ever did. Even the good guys could get complacent.
Generally she meant to eavesdrop, to figure out the lay of the land before she made her approach. But in the silence she found her mind drifting. Watching everybody swarm around below her was the first thing that made her realise she was dead, actually fully properly dead, never going to be alive again. And a snarl ripped through her, straight from her gnawing stomach to her throat and she was pissed off, hungry and hormonal.
It consumed her. She’d been expecting for it to consume her, but it had taken that little while. And while she was conscious of it happening, because she knew how vampires worked, it didn’t stop the fact that her situation was motherfucking unfair. She was the oldest Slayer on the books, the best now that B had gone off-roster. She’d had respect. She’d had the mission. She’d had everything she could have ever wanted and now one mistimed punch had landed her with the goddamn undead.
Before she could even think about it, Faith was punching the glass underneath her and falling through, an animal’s raw ripping her face apart as she curled and rolled to land on all fours amongst the glass.
She shook the fragments from her clothes, feeling pain where she was cut, smelling blood. In the shock and unsubdued anger she felt threatened as people started moving, hungry and unfed as their hearts pounded in her ears, just full of the red rage. She heard the twang of a crossbow and caught the bolt in mid-air, right on instincts she still had, rolled away and grabbed hold of the nearest body amongst the blurry crowd of people. It was in front of her like a shield and she growled again; the blood was pounding harder and she could smell her captive’s sweat, their fear, the traces of pepperoni pizza on their hands where they grabbed faintly at her wrist and the peppery scent of coffee on their breath…
It all good enough to eat – and they’d threatened her first, so who the hell could hold her on self-defence? But then Faith’s ears were ringing with a single, authoritative shout.
The cacophony halted. Faith’s head felt like someone had loosed it from a tether. The pulse of blood still drummed in her ears and still she was hungry, but part of her remembered that this wasn’t really what she’d meant to do.
“Faith,” the voice came again. “Look at me. And lose the bumpies.” Woozily, Faith raised her eyes and tried to relax her face. Standing right in front of her was Buffy, face set with that hard look she hadn’t worn for ages – and with a shiver, almost like she’d been splashed with cold water, Faith felt the bones of her skull shift into some other order.
It was really weird, how different the world suddenly looked. The colours were brighter, but everything else suddenly flattened out – the angles of things, the sounds and smells around her. It felt like she was watching TV. It didn’t feel natural.
“You know,” she said, thinking out loud, finding it all kind of funny, “your pet vampires made this whole thing seem a lot less difficult.”
There was a teeny-tiny wrinkle of skin which flinched in the corner of Buffy’s eye, and Faith remembered that Buffy didn’t like thinking about the vamps who’d disappeared; still felt a bit burned about it. But she didn’t feel guilty for saying it; not at all. It was kind of hilarious. And weird.
“Faith,” Buffy repeated, overly-serious. Didn’t she get the joke? “Are you going to kill Caridad or not?”
“Huh?” Faith asked, not sure where that had come from. As Buffy made a pointed glance down, however, Faith realised she was still holding her second-in-command under a death grip and getting a buzz off how she smelled. “Oh, right. No way!” She let her go, the muscles in her hands a little reluctant. “Sorry, C.”
“No worries,” Caridad replied, like it was an automatic response – before she spun around and took it back, “I mean, get your fucking hands off me!” She pointed a finger, face drawn inside a frame of scraped back hair.
The finger pointing hurt. As did the expressions on everybody else’s faces as Faith looked around. There was her group – Troy and Sash; Amy, Shiv, Taya and M – all holding weapons. Dawn had a sword, back to the bookcase.
The only person unarmed was Buffy. Though she was bound to be packing something somewhere. “But I was gonna say,” Faith promised, meeting B’s eyes again. “You know, therapy works!”
Now, Faith had known Buffy a long time, so a lot of the time she could work out what the other Slayer was thinking. This was no exception. There were regrets Buffy had by the shitload, mostly about the way she’d treated a certain on-again-off-again fuckbuddy-slash-life partner, who just so happened to be a vampire with a cute ass and a name like a dog. And, sure, Spike had a soul, but as far as everyone could tell he was basically the same as he’d always been. (B claimed he was actually different when it was just them, but that had been true before the soul as well, so wasn’t anybody’s business – something something, entitlement TMI.)
After this certain vampire had disappeared, Miss Buffy had decided to change her life. She’d quit the Watcher’s Council and gone into high school counselling for real – and for the most part seemed pretty mellow. But Faith still got the feeling she was wound up tight about stuff she’d done and thought when she was younger. After all, if anyone knew about teenage issues, it was Faith.
So, when Buffy asked, “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Faith found it pretty easy to read between the lines. The line was spoken like a hard-ass, but hope was feeding the whole question. “Are you actually…?” These days, Buffy didn’t want to believe in destiny.
And Faith never had, so she was hoping they’d be able to get along OK. Honestly, with her human face on, there was a worry at the back of her mind about what she’d do if she had to go off alone. Also if she didn’t get anything to eat soon, but that was something to think about when she wasn’t dead.
Before Faith could reply to Buffy, however, little Dawn spoke up. “Goddammit, Buffy, don’t listen to her. We went through all this with Kerry.”
Faith glared, annoyed. She’d thought Dawn liked her. “Hey!” she said. “If I wanted to eat half a sorority I’d have gone straight to campus.” It almost sounded like a good idea, actually. Those girls were bitches. They looks they must have had on their faces when Kerry came back to haunt them… “But I didn’t!” Faith caught herself, looking around again at the meeting table where she’d fallen, the shards of glass spread like glitter. Everybody’s judgemental faces. “I came back here to you guys, because I was hoping maybe you’d have a little sympathy… I’m freaking dead here!”
There was a sob from one of the younger Slayers in the room. Faith couldn’t remember her name, but she’d been in Faith’s dirty tricks class, just for the compulsory part before she’d switched completely to research. Mandy? Was that her name? She had big ringlets and was officially Faith’s favourite person right then. If it came to a fight, she wouldn’t get eaten.
No, she remembered. None of them would get eaten. It wasn’t a guilt thing, it was a simple life, no complications, hand lotion thing. She’d do the part where she played a pain in the ass in a crypt, but she wasn’t killing people. Just like she’d thought back in the nights when she’d figured dying was a possibility.
“How can we trust you?” Caridad interrupted her thoughts, speculative and still damn hurtful. There was a stake in her hand – the one Faith had given her a few weeks ago.
In a surge of desperation, Faith swore, “Because I’m me!” Ever since Robin had transferred out East, C had been the one Faith had spent most time with. How could she have the hate in her eyes? They all knew vamps didn’t have to kill these days. It was getting harder for them to do it discreetly. “I can do what the hell I like. You know it, everybody knows it.” She glared around the room, disheartened to see there was only one expression looking at her without the hate, and it was the one Slayer with whom Faith figured she’d never be properly friends. “I didn’t think you’d all be so quick to want to get rid of me!”
Faith hated feeling powerless. She hated it. But they were all bringing it back on her, she could see it on their faces. Forty-eight hours she’d been dead and they’d already damned her out of the life she’d made for herself, telling her to go back to the gutter and live with the rest of the filth. And, really, part of her was surprised it had taken this long – but her therapist had said, because she’d got one for the divorce; her therapist had said she had to take things as they were, keep trusting people and expect the best while she let go of disappointment. But it obviously meant jack shit and she was so hungry…
“Have you eaten, Faith?” Buffy was talking to her again. Faith opened her eyes to look at her and knew her face had slipped. Buffy didn’t seem to mind – and her stern face was even more angular now. She smelt like fucking lighter fuel, but it still made Faith’s mouth water.
“Does it look like I’ve eaten?” she snarled. All she wanted was for things to stay the same; why couldn’t she just get a break?
Whatever the answer, there was no pity at all on B’s face. She told her, no mercy. “It’s easier when you’ve fed, but you have to control it. You’re always gonna have to.” She sounded like she knew what she was talking about. But then B had always struck Faith like someone who had nothing good for pillow talk. “D’you think you can?” came the final question, and Faith knew it was make or break.
So she told her the truth. “That was the plan. Although, I’ve gotta say I’m feeling less and less…”
Quickly, Buffy shook her head, and Faith realised that Buffy had actually made up her mind already. This was just for show and – was that humour in her eyes, like they were sharing a joke? B was so fucking twisted.
Before Faith could tell her, though, and before anyone could complain, Buffy came out with a statement that would change the course of the Watcher’s Council forever. Faith could never tell how she made it look so easy. Or if she even realised how much it pissed other people off.
“I’ll watch out for her,” was what Buffy said, assuming her old authority and staring down dissent around the room. No one said anything, but Dawn rolled her eyes. She did look a tiny bit proud. “If she’s too strong for you, Caridad,” Buffy continued, “then we can’t make her do anything anyway.” Caridad shrugged, like she might’ve been a little relieved – but she always had been a cagey bitch. As Buffy finished, there were no complaints. “We can’t keep throwing away opportunities like this.”
Part of Faith resented that she was now in debt to B’s old guy, not least because of that time he’d punched her in the face. But she’d take it. And she hoped Buffy realised she’d do her turn if he ever came back.
Or, hell, she’d try at least.
November 2014, San Francisco CA
Control. That was thing, Faith thought, as she pummelled the Council’s punching bag. It was all very easy to want it, even easier to say that you could have it, but not always that easy to exercise, especially when there seemed like very little reward for doing the right thing.
She always tried to think long-term. Ever since she’d got out of prison, she’d made certain she had plans, to keep her on the straight and narrow. She’d even done the whole commitment thing, sticking with Robin and thinking about how their life would work out together, ten years down the line – only for him to decide that he couldn’t do being married to her anymore, couldn’t handle the pressure or her fit and kick-ass bod or the fact she wasn’t actually his mother and didn’t plan on acting noble so he could get off on someone like her finally loving him enough.
Buffy had always had it easy. All the guys were lining up to change themselves just to be worthy of her, but no one ever changed themselves for Faith. No one would make even the most basic concession. Spike and Angel, they’d kept up with Buffy for years, while as far as she knew Robin hadn’t even sent a single greeting’s card for her.
Well, she didn’t need him. She didn’t need her crew. She didn’t even need Buffy, who had her pet project back now and wouldn’t need Faith to help him out. Faith couldn’t even get a straight answer out of people she’d worked with for years.
Hunger was meant to be the worst of it, but it wasn’t. Faith knew that, as her knuckles started to bleed and made her stomach growl. The bloodlust was just desire, another bodily impulse you could order and shape into line if you wanted it enough. It was the control you had to keep a hold on, the reasons for you to keep it. Without that, you had nothing.
“Bad day?” a question came from behind her, sneaking in between punches.
Faith spun around, not totally surprised to see Ivy, the only other vampire who usually found herself in the building. She’d started off a contact, but then the witches had said a vampire helped out their casting balance, so everyone had relented. They were way less judgemental in Spellcasting.
“Same as usual,” Faith replied to her question, wiping some sweat of her forehead – because that still happened if a vamp worked hard enough.
Ivy nodded, setting a carton of coconut water in the treadmill and pressing some buttons to get going. There was an expanse of gym between them, but thanks to their demonic perks it was easy to hold a conversation. “That bad, huh?” Ivy added, proving a point, and Faith remembered she was one of those vampires who’d somehow made it to demonhood without the rage. Just the urge to run through her despair. Or something. They really had nothing in common. “I still can’t believe you’ve never killed someone.”
“Only while I was alive,” Faith said shortly, turning back to the bag. “Kind of made myself a promise down in prison. Don’t see much point in breaking it.”
“I sometimes think I should’ve taken it up,” Ivy twittered inanely. “Then I wouldn’t have to deal with all the idiots in my department. Sometimes you’ve gotta work it off, you know?”
It was an invitation to a pity party, but Faith couldn’t be fucked to take it up. She grunted in solidarity, but otherwise got back to punching. Other people weren’t her biggest problem – at least not her colleagues. She didn’t care about that junior high bullshit. Especially since her junior high experience had been really more about vodka and underage sex. It was herself – remembering to go on when they treated her like shit. Because she wasn’t shit. She didn’t have to be. However it was they spoke to her.
A few punches later, Faith had had enough. It was hard to work out the stuff in her head when all she could hear behind her was some ex-beach bunny squeaking rubber like a prom queen giving head. It was only going to get her more angry.
“So,” Faith started the conversation up again, turning back around. “You heard anything from the vamps in town?” She could be a good little Nancy Drew, whoever the hell that was. Big-ass teeth wasn’t all there was to her. “Apparently some chick’s spreading rumours about the government and I saw this guy earlier who’s been starved out of his wits.”
“Huh,” Ivy replied, pumping her arms as she jogged. She was wearing freaking pastels. Faith had thought they burned vamps even harder than the cross. “Oh, you know what?” she added. “One of my girlfriends did just take a job in a bar downtown – V19? – and she was saying something the other night about this guy making noise about the NSA. I’m sure he wants a panic, but pur-lease…” Ivy rolled her eyes. “Didn’t we do this paper round already?”
“Is he serious, d’you think?” Faith asked. She made a mental note of the bar name. Because if it was the same guy as Taya’s then that was one hell of an over-used pick-up line… “D’you think it’s gonna go anywhere?”
Ivy shrugged, chugging her natural electrolytes. “I don’t know,” she said more seriously. I mean, I find it kind of surprising more vamps don’t fall off the wagon anyway. They’re all so violent as it is.” It was a weird thing, when someone’s empathy got removed. Demons like Ivy couldn’t even understand the ones who got cravings for something more than full-fat fro-yo. “You wonder what keeps them going.”
Sometimes Faith wasn’t even sure herself. She didn’t have philosophy and she sure as hell didn’t have religion. The yoga back in prison had made her even more inclined to hit stuff. “But I don’t know,” she said, feeling some of that determination she sometimes got. “The two of us have lasted this long – and I don’t see what makes us so special.”
Ivy shrugged again, as if to say she didn’t see what was so special about Faith either. But Faith didn’t take that personally. People didn’t, as a rule – and she was long done letting that hold her back.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/487764.html