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My contribution for the winter_of_faith project. A little bit stressful, since I've never written Faith before, but it was fun.

Fic: Dirge Without Music (No More Funerals)
Fandom: BtVS
Characters: Faith Lehane, Rupert Giles, mentions of Merrick
Pairings: none
Rating: PG-13
Word Count:1,778
Beta: None 
Spoilers: AU, but references spoilers to original Buffy movie 
Authors Note: I've never seen the original movie, so I'm working off what we learned of Merrick in Becoming. Title taken from Edna St. Vincent Milay poem.
Summary:In an AU where Faith was called first, instead of Buffy, Faith still mourns Merrick. Three parts. This assumes that everything that happened to Buffy, including her arrival in Sunnydale, happened to Faith in the exact same way.



The night of Merrick’s funeral, Faith goes on patrol. She starts at dusk, heading out, heedless of her mother’s worried pleas to come home. She prowls through graveyards tirelessly, a crossbow in her hand, a stake in her belt and a cross at her neck. She slays 11 vampires that night, a new personal best. Eleven times that night, she growls, “This is for Merrick,” and watches another vampire turn to dust.

Faith tries not to think about Merrick’s death too hard, because each time she does, she blames herself a little bit more. If she’d tried harder, trained longer, staked the bastards faster, maybe she could have changed things, maybe she could have saved him. It’s not a sure thing, but it’s enough to make Faith feel like shit. 

As it gets closer and closer to dawn, Faith gets more and more desperate and out of control. She’s running on fumes now, and she left rationality behind six vampires ago. She’s stopped just killing the vampires a while ago, becoming less merciful each time she remembers the undead freaks who killed her Watcher. Instead of cleanly staking them and moving on, she beats the vampires, pounding and punching them so they hurt and suffer just like she does. She leaves bruises and breaks bones, but eventually she stakes each and every vamp she runs across.

She fights like a girl possessed, more Slayer than Faith, more supernatural than human. She’s merciless as she rains blows down on vamps, venting her anger and pain with sharp jabs and inhuman growls. Her eyes are desperately wild, and gleam like those of a predator, all brutal savagery and hunger.

The last vampire she finds, she beats until he can’t fight back and then sits on his chest, just waiting for dawn. After a little bit, Faith doesn’t know how long, (things like time just don’t seem important any more) the sun rises. As the vampire begins to scream, Faith stands up, next to it, and watches quietly. He flails weakly, still unable to sustain much motion, as his flesh begins to crumble and burn away, flames licking at the grass below him.

His shrieks grow louder and louder, and finally, as they reach a crescendo pitch, he flares brightly before burning out, into a pile of dust. A breeze picks up and lifts some dust off of the ground, spinning it in vague eddies and curls, lit by the barely risen sun.

Faith doesn’t notice; she’s already turned her back, uninterested now that the vampire isn’t writhing in pain. She thought it would help, making the monsters hurt like they’d hurt Merrick, like she was still hurting.

Making them suffer hadn’t helped, though.

She still felt empty inside.
* * *
The library is dark, musty, and completely empty when Faith enters it, after her first day at Sunnydale High School, months after she left L.A. She’s already feeling antsy and bored and hopes the librarian gets his ass into gear so she get her books and get out. Faith makes her way to the circulation desk, hoping he’ll pop up from behind or something stupid like that. There’s nobody standing behind it, and the desk itself is uncluttered, only a few pens and pencils, and this mornings edition of The Sunnydale Inquirer. 

“Hey!” she calls. “Anyone home?”  She turns away from the desk and spins, full circle, taking in the poorly lit ambiance of the library, and, unconsciously searching for exits and possible hiding places. As soon as she faces the desk again, her circle complete, she feels a hand on her shoulder and jumps.

“Can I help you?” Faith jumps, startled, and dislodges his hand, her Slayer instincts and reflexes still as sharp and honed as ever. She’s been slaying, even after the move to Sunnydale. She slays solo now, but even without Merrick’s guidance, she’s better than ever.

“Yeah, you can make some noise! Jeez! You always sneak around the library?” The man scowls at her, and Faith belatedly realizes that this must be the librarian. The man is much older than her, but his hairline and unwrinkled brow tell her that he’s not as old as she thinks. His tweed suit, grey temples, and ancient eyes tell her, maybe, he’s seen as much as she has. She can’t help but wonder where he would have seen her flavor of horror, and enough to put that look in his eyes. 

“Uh, sorry,” she mutters insincerely, not making eye contact. She’s stuck here until she graduates, might as well not piss off everybody in one day. Besides, her Mom would kill her if she heard Faith talking to a teacher like that, and after the gym incident, she was already on thin ice. “But, yeah. I’m new and need some books. Think you can help?”

“Miss Lehane.” Faith nods, and the old Brit’s face suddenly lightens, as if he had been waiting for her. Almost as if he had known she was coming, and was here, just for her. Almost like-

She bites off the thought, before she can think it, but it slinks around the back of her head, unbidden and unwanted. 
Almost like a Watcher. Just like Merrick. She can’t help but acknowledge the parallels between the two meetings, and prays that this man isn’t who she thinks he is. She doesn’t need a new Watcher. 

“Good call. Guess I’m the only new kid, huh?” She sucks in a breath and holds it for a beat, not entirely sure how to handle the situation. 

He nods, then, still with that damn British accent, “I’m Mr. Giles, the librarian.” She tries to smile politely, but it comes out strained and tense.

“Great. So, about those books—”

“I know what you’re after.” Cool, she thinks, because she couldn’t remember the textbook’s name for the life of her. Doubly cool, because if he’s going for textbooks, chances are good that he’s really just a librarian. He walks back around the check out counter, and Faith strolls behind him, leaning against the front of the desk in front of him.
He pulls out a large, leather bound book, and drops it onto the counter with a resounding thud. 

“Are all my textbooks that heavy?” Faith quips before she catches the print on the cover of the book.“VAMPYR”

Faith pales, all of a sudden, knowing for certain that she had been right. Her eyes grow wide and panicky, and she shakes her head. A mantra of ‘no, not again not again not again’ silently pounds through her mind like a heartbeat, and her breathing gets a little short.

She takes a step back, away from the desk. “No,” she finally whispers, unable to meet her new Watcher’s eyes. She can’t do this again.

“That’s not what I’m looking for.” Her voice sounds strained, and she’s sure that Mr. Giles knows that something’s up with her, but she can’t bring herself to care. She stares resolutely at the clock over Mr. Giles’s shoulder, unable to look at him or his book without seeing the image of Merrick’s twisted corpse behind her eyelids. 

 “Are you sure, Miss Lehane? You don’t know what I’m talking about?” The man deflates, and Faith’s almost sorry for ending his momentary happiness, but it’s better than ending his life.

“I’m way sure. I know exactly what you’re talking about, and it’s a no. I don’t need a new Watcher. I don’t need you dying on my account.” Her voice is laced with acid, and she practically hisses her last admonition. She’s not gonna let this man get killed over her, not like Merrick.

 “My mistake.” Pain flashes across his face, and Faith realizes, too late, that he must have known Merrick too. He squats down, the book in hand, to put it away. “Miss Lehane, I realize that the death of Merrick, who was actually a dear friend of mine, was incredibly hard for you, but you simply cannot continue on without a Watcher.”

He pops back up and sweeps his gaze across the library, searching for her. She may not like it, but she would work with him, or else, the Council would have both their heads.

“Please, Miss Lehane,” he begs her, as she turns and runs.

“Miss Lehane!” he shouts desperately, hoping to stop the Slayer before she runs out on him. He’s too late.

She’s gone.
* * *
Outside the doors, Faith takes a moment to catch her breath. She’s not going to cry, she promises herself. She’s not going to cry. 

Merrick is gone, and it’s her fault. They hadn’t been especially close, but she had liked the old man. He was pretty cool, and he did introduce her to slaying, at which she kicked ass. Literally. 

But, despite all the time and distance and grieving, she still has flashes of his face, deathly still and pale, and his broken body in her nightmares. He is dead because of her, and she’ll be damned if she’s going to let it happen again. 

Faith doesn’t need a Watcher, Faith doesn’t want a Watcher, and Faith won’t have a Watcher. She doesn’t need anyone, because she leaves a trail of bodies in her wake, and the last thing Faith needs is more blood on her hands. Merrick had died, protecting his Slayer, and she wouldn’t let that happen to Mr. Giles. She wouldn’t let anyone else die for her.

She understands death, better than anyone she has ever known. Death is Faith’s calling, her destiny, her life, as she’s all too aware. She’s intimately familiar with her own mortality, and rejoices in the rush of each stolen day. She knows people are temporary; just collections of bones, wrapped in skin, and knitted clumsily together with sloppy stitching. They’re fleeting, here for a moment, before they’re shut away beneath the earth. Faith gets it, but she’s not okay with it.

Faith is the Slayer, the Chosen One. It’s her job to fight, no one else’s. She’s destined to die, she knows this better than her own name, and nobody else is going to fall in her stead. 

There will be no more funerals. She’s not going to mourn in black anymore, standing by fresh graves with  repressed tears in her eyes. No more corpses, coffins, and graves. No more wakes and mourning and no more sermons of ashes to ashes and dust to dust. No more, she promises herself. 

But, Faith knows, there will be one more casket, wake, and burial for her, one more painfully bright day with dark clothes
and heavy hearts and freshly turned earth, because even Slayers can’t live forever.

fin.

“Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
-Edna St. Vincent Milay, “Dirge Without Music”

Comments

( 2 Hats Tipped — Tip Your Hat )
snowpuppies
Jan. 17th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
Wow. This was a wonderful AU! I enjoyed it immensely!

The only small thing I'd suggest is putting a space between paragraphs. For me, it all runs together and I have a hard time keeping up with where I'm at.

Other than that…it was lovely! Almost makes me want to see how it all pans out.
tiny_white_hats
Jan. 18th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
I've been toying with the idea of expanding this AU to see how the show's plot would have changed, so I'm glad you liked the concept.
Also, thanks for the constructive criticism; I'll be sure to watch out for that.

Edited at 2012-01-18 03:48 am (UTC)
( 2 Hats Tipped — Tip Your Hat )

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