Title: Keep Faith (?) or maybe Memento Memori to Warriors
Author: Genevieve
Disclaimer: Not mine
Rating: 14a (that's my safety rating)
Summary: "Like Iíve always said, you either balance or fall, and one way or the other you canít go back to the way things were."
Spoilers: Ouch, a lot. Let's see: Welcome to the Hellmouth, The Harvest, Prophecy Girl, WML, Surprise/Innocence, Becoming, Faith, Hope & Trick, Bad Girls/Consequences, Graduation Part 1, Graduation Part 2 (major dialogue)
Distribution: Ask please, and ye shall receive.
Feedback: Of course!
Author's Note: Actually, the title's still pretty undecided. Any suggestions would be appreciated. This is kinda long, but worth it I hope.
adios,
Genevieve--

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I remember when I was a little girl, I would beg my parents for a little sister. Someone to play with, to magic marker the walls with, to whisper with when mommy and daddy were fast asleep and we were the only ones up. I remember closing my eyes every Christmas and thinking what it would be like to open my presents with my little sister, giggling over every parcel and ribbon, envious of what each got but in the end willing to share.

Thatís how I always imagined sisterhood to be. Something beautiful, where you could always find acceptance. After learning about my... destiny, I was actually thankful my parents said no. What if my sister was disgusted with what I became? Someone who killed those who were already dead, who was the "one girl in all the world with the strength and the skill to hunt vampires." I disgusted myself, and I honestly felt as if I were some freak of nature. Buffy Summers, the girl who inherited supernatural powers overnight. And I remember thinking ĎWhat would my sister say?í

And then I died.

After my sort-of death, Kendra came. She wasnít really like my sister. We had a bond, sure, like I suspect other Slayers would have had if there were more than one. Kendra died so suddenly, but she was more of a friend than a sister. There was no real kinship that lay between us, and for one, brief, selfish moment I was glad because then I wouldnít have to deal with the loss of a friend, of a... sister?

When I returned, I didnít expect another Slayer. But Faith came anyway, her brash, rough and tough attitude getting us both into trouble. She was always a little tipsy, always walked on the edge and sometimes even fell over. But I looked out for her, and she looked out for me. True, I was jealous at first. I mean, here was a girl that was everything I wasnít: gutsy, bold, wild - everything I pictured for a Slayer to be. She was out on her own, independent girl. She didnít need a backup group of friends to cheer her on, she did her own cheering.

She had a lot of things to deal with, and so did I. I like to think that we helped each other out, that I was able to show her she could be independent and in turn she showed me I could open up. We shared in-jokes, slaying, hell at one time we even shared friends. Just like I always imagined sisterhood to be.

Iím not really sure when Faith decided she was out of the loop. Maybe it was when she killed the Mayorís assistant, maybe even before. Some days sheíd be right beside me, cracking jokes or flirting with guys shamelessly. Or sometimes, sheíd be gone for days, only to return good as new. I never wanted to think what she was doing those days. She knew exactly how to manipulate me. She knew every dirty secret I had, and probably even some I had hidden away even from myself. She brought out the part in me I didnít even know existed - the rash, brash, and wild Slayer she was.

It didnít suck.

I remember thinking ĎGreat, this is it. Iíve got the little sister Iíve always wanted, and sheís just like me. Weíre the Chosen Two, freaks of nature by law, but weíre Slayers. Weíve got each other.í It was a high, and for the first time I felt good about my Slaying. I was saving lives, doing what I was built to do.

I was finally living my life through Faithís eyes.

I know the exact moment I realized that with the good, comes the bad. She was out of control, I was out of control. We both were. It wasnít Faithís fault, she didnít know. I had years of training behind me, she had what, months? Slayer reflexes or not, she wouldnít have been able to catch herself until it was too late. If I were holding the stake, I probably wouldnít have been able to stop myself either.

Right?

Iím just making up excuses for her. I always wanted to believe that she was a good person, despite what she let others see. I never gave up because I always believed there was nothing to give up on. She was there, she was a person, she was my Sister in Arms. And God help me if I were gonna give up.

I scrubbed my hands raw that night and I still could see his blood. Every time I looked down at the drain, I knew that it wasnít enough, that I had to keep on washing. I felt dirty, horrible. ButÖ I wasnít the one who killed him.

That thought didnít make it easier to sleep at night. The only thing I could see were his eyes, wide, anticipating death. It was like he knew his final card was up and had so many things unfulfilled. He was like me, the night the Master rose.

When I visited Faith the next day, I was planning on how to comfort her. It was her stake that pierced his heart - a human heart - and no matter what she said or what she did in the end it would always be her. But she wasnít crying. She wasnít scrubbing her hands until they bled, or asking herself how she could have done that. She never displayed guilt, and that was what scared me. She finally knew her power, and decided exactly what to do with it.

She didnít care anymore. Faith didnít care whose lives she ruined as long as it wasnít hers.

The next few months were a blur. So much went on, but still, in the back of my mind, I expected Faith to come and admit to me what she truly felt and cry it out. And I would hold her, and rock her, and wait until she fell asleep like the way I always pictured it to be with my sister. But the part of me that wasnít naÔve admitted that Faith was a big girl, who made her own choices. Unfortunately, her choices werenít always tipped towards the scale of good.

Iím not sure if I hated Faith, but I knew the moment she tried to take Angel away from me that she was gone. Little sis was all grown up and stalking the streets at night looking for innocents, not the undead like she was supposed to.

I donít know if it was for vengeance, or if it was because I wasnít ready to let Angel go, or both, but I needed Faithís blood. My knife slid into her... and it was so easy. One minute, she was there, and the next... I didnít understand, though, what kind of euphoria that held for her. How could someone gain pleasure in taking another personís life? It was just... wrong.

And it was then that I realized little sis wasnít all she was cracked upto be. When Faith jumped from the roof of her apartment, I suddenly realized what happened. In a moment of clarity, I realized that I had just possibly killed the only sister Iíve ever had. Then suddenly, the Slayer part of me took over, and I let it. Faithís a big girl, she knew what she was doing when she got involved with the Mayor. Let it go. So I did. I pushed it back so far that not even my emotions could reach it. To the darkest, deepest recesses of my being where Iíve hid away every failure Iíve ever had in order to be a better Slayer.Slayerís canít cry. So Faithís in there, along with Miss Calendar, and Gilesís torture. Along with Angelís broken curse, Willowís goldfish, Momís kidnapping. With every failure Iíve ever had, Faithís is now a part of them. I went to Angel that night and forced him to drink. I didnít care that he was leaving. This was my chance, my moment of redemption. The world needed him more than they ever needed me. Who am I? Iím weak. My emotions run me. Iíve been living lucky far too many years. Itís like that old clichť, ĎMy luckís finally run out.í This was it, and Iíll be damned if the only thing that could save him wasnít something I wasnít willing to give up.

Iím not entirely too sure how long I was out. Hours, at the most. Balancing on the brink of death isnít the same as dying. There is no darkness that surrounds you, nothing numbing you from your pain. Itís just... flashes of white. Like youíre ready to come back. It gives this false sense of security, that you know youíre going to pull through, but no one really does. All they do is either balance or fall... and one way or the other, they donít go back to the way thingswere. One of those flashes of white was a message. Maybe it was because weíre Slayers and we just know, or because we were both trying to make up for our failures. Maybe it was something else, I donít really know. I canít remember everything that she said to me that day. I remember riddles. And Ďa higher power guiding usí. It was like a dream, where, if youíre lucky, you can get out with little patches of memory before it all completely fades. But this wasnít a dream. I know, because she said it, said the thing Iíve been afraid of since becoming a Slayer because itís the simple truth.

Human weakness. Never goes away.

Not even when youíre invincible, or if youíre a Slayer, a vampire or a cursed demon. Itíll always be there, your weaknesses, because itís a part of you.I once told Kendra that emotions are a major asset. They fuel your fight; when you have a reason for doing something, itís so much better. Thereís a... zing to your punch, an extra motivation. But never once did I tell her that feeling too much can get you killed. Finally breaking through the Slayer she was brought up to be I found a little girl who never really was. She would train with her Watcher and sleep with her stake instead of playing in the park or sleeping with her stuffed animals. But she was a Slayer, thatís what she did best. And the day I finally got through her she died.

Sometimes when I close my eyes at night the deep, dark part of me emerges and I can see them. I see Miss Calendarís eyes, begging for the forgiveness I should have given. I see Gilesí broken face, enduring torture to do the duty I should have been there to perform. I saw Willow and Xander, their faces after losing Jesse. They all hurt the same, there is no winner for Who Buffy Betrayed Most. But at times the only things I see are Kendra and Faith. Both dead because of my mistakes. It was a six degrees. If I hadnít slept with Angel, he wouldnít have lost his soul. If he wouldnít have lost his soul, Miss Calendar would have never died trying to find his cure, and Giles wouldnít have been tormented with his dead love. If Angel hadnít lost his soul, Angelus wouldnít have tried to summon Acathla and Kendra wouldnít have had to come back to Sunnydale to give me the sword. If Kendra hadnít come back to Sunnydale, she never would have fallen to Drusilla. If Kendra hadnít died, Faith wouldnít have come, the Mayorís Ascension would have been easily and earlier diverted, and no one would have had to die.

If I had been a better Slayer - a better person - none of that would have happened.

But when I wake up again, I push them all back. Iíve tried to redeem for my failures as much as Angel does. For every life I save, I say a little prayer honouring that life to them. Giles would never let me live with my guilt, he would tell me there was nothing I could do. No one will say it was my fault, even Cordelia. Sometimes Xander says it, but I know he doesnít think itís true. None of them will admit that I walk on the edge as well, and none of them will admit that sometimes even I fall over, because when it comes down to it Iím all theyíve got. Buffy Summers, the Chosen.We wouldnít be alive without her.

So I did what I had to do. I got up again, like I always do. But one of these days, I wonít get up. One of these days, Iíll be the one lying prone unable to move, teetering on the brink, and one of these days Iím gonna fall.

I saw it in the Mayor after his metamorphosis. When he saw the knife, I knew I had him. And I ran.

Through the hallways, and over the woods, to grandmotherís house I go. Or something like that. I crashed through the window to meet Giles and we blew the library up. Ascension done, dealt with. No more crazy demon-Mayors trying to kill us. We were out of the woods. But there was someone who wasnít.

Faith.

A few days after the Ascension, I visited her. She was struggling on life support, but she wasnít going to give up. The Mayor wouldnít allow a DNR. He loved her like a daughter. Like his daughter.

Her bruises are healing now, at the rate only Slayers could. We asked the hospital, and they said thereís a wealthy benefactor whoís paying for Faithís treatments. We didnít need to ask, we already knew. His weakness was Faith because he loved her.

I look at her now and realize for the first time that she might actually die. It was different from before, because I thought I had killed her. Now, sheís on the same brink I was on, that Iíve been on so many times. And the only thing I can pray for is that she manages to balance herself before itís too late.

The Watcherís Council tried to kill her. Several times, in fact. We had to set up guards near the entrance to make sure that they wouldnít try to kill Faith again. Sheís a murderer, not fit to be a Slayer. If they think sheís a murderer, imagine that they think of themselves. Centuries - no, millenias - of deaths, of them choosing one girl and making her "special" enough to fight vampires. They claim itís for the common good, they say itís for humanity. Save the fact that this one girl in all the world never wanted her destiny, save the fact that they took the choice away from her and gave it to themselves. Save the fact that they were the hunted and the hunter, and that eventually, whether she knew it or not, she would fail. Save their families, their friends, their loved ones losing another joy in their life.Screw the Council. I stroke her hair gently. Someone comes in every day to wash it, to make sure sheís presentable. Because comatose or not, if the Mayor had lived through the Ascension, if he had managed to re-transform himself back to the human, he wouldnít have stood for Faith being dirty. He wanted her clean, healthy. I guess somehow he knew that one day Faithís destiny would catch up with her, and sheíd die.

Iím not sure what kind of music she likes. Last I checked, it was the loud, rocker type. Stuff you could mosh to. They let me play her music once in a while, usually itís something quiet, but I try to bring in something fast. To some extent, music reminds me of Faith. The way she describes Slaying was almost lyrical. She loved it.

I stay in her room a little while longer. I like to keep her company, tell her about my day or about the latest baddie Iíve Slayed. Thereís not much left in Sunnydale, theyíre scattered now ever since the Ascension. The townspeople are coping with what we told them - freak gas leak and the combination of a really big snake igniting some sort of involuntary spark caused the school to explode. Snyder was killed from the venom, and the guys that attacked us were hitmen sent to kill the Mayor. Oh, and did we mention that the snake got the Mayor too? Itís a really hazy explanation, but theyíre willing to believe it. Theyíre afraid of ending up in the psycho ward of Sunnydale General, because if you scream loud enough about the dark theyíll silence you. Thatís what this townís like, what itís about. Itís built on denial and the fervent want of believing everythingís gonna be okay. It doesnít matter anyway. Our alibiís tight, now that Sunnydale Grads of í99 know the deal. And theyíre too scared to tell. The only thing they cling onto is the thought of someone fighting for them, which is what we do. What I do, now that Iím alone.

I lean over and kiss her on the forehead. Sheís still paralytic, and the doctors donít know when sheíll wake up. They say that if she does... thereís no real chance that sheíll come back the same. Like Iíve always said, you either balance or fall, and one way or the other you canít go back to the way things were.

Not the first time in my life Iím glad my parents said no. Here she is, my little sis in arms, lying prone on the bed unable to move, speak, or even breathe on her own. Just a broken shell of what once was. It doesnít make my failures any less tangible, doesnít make the fact that I did this to her any less horrible, but I go out there and Slay baddies for Faith. She would have loved it.

What would my sister say? Well, she canít really say much. But I like to think that sheíd understand. Fallen Warriors donít get any tributes. No one likes to believe that people that great can just... die. Faded pictures - in our minds, or in print - are our only memorials, a memento mori to other warriors, no matter how fierce. Human weakness is always there.

I like to think little sis would be proud. It doesnít really matter to her right now - this dimension, I mean - but sometimes I like to think that sheís smiling - even better, laughing - while I tell her about the latest demon Iíve battled. And sometimes I think I can see the tiniest smile on her lips while I tell a story.

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