Threnody for Fallen Warriors

by Christina K
Copyright 1999

Nine thirty, half an hour past sunset. Time to go visiting some friends.

The Sunnydale Sanitarium is where they put people who need more help than they can get from a stay in a hospital, or a visit to a shrink's couch once a week. The ones who need 24-hour care and constant attention: some old people who can't manage on their own, some patients just so sick that they're waiting to die in one of the pretty, quiet rooms. A few of them are here so they won't be dangers to themselves and others. A couple just need a good place to hide because their ability to play the denial game has worn out. They know what Sunnydale's *really* like: and if you say it loud enough, and draw the wrong kind of attention, they put you inside this place. Until you can start lying to yourself again, or at least fake it for the doctors.

Chris Epps was here for a while. His friend Eric still is, since he keeps flunking the "playing well with others" tests they give him. I try to keep track, just in case someone decides he ought to be out performing premature autopsies without anesthesia again, or playing "cut'n'paste the body parts". Call it damage control. Paranoia is when you don't have a reason to be worried.

There's a long drive planted with palms and oleader and orange trees that leads up to the front entrance. The sanitarium looks like a really ritzy mansion, something from "Gone with the Wind" or one of those other old movies my mom likes. Verandas, balconies, lots of pretty flowers and grass for the sick people and the mixed-up-unhappy-unhinged people to walk around and admire. You'd think it was a vacation resort--- until you noticed how high the brick walls around it are, or the cameras on every corner, or that the orderlies look like extras from a World Wrestling Federation tournament. Then this trapped feeling kicks in and you just want to run, even if you're only there for a visit, even after you've signed in at the front desk and gotten your little I.D. badge as a visitor and everything.

I never sign in; they wouldn't let me past the lobby. I'm not an approved visitor, big surprise.

So I go in the back way. One jump up to the top of the back wall. Another jump down, too fast for the cameras to pick me up --- the guards think there's a cat that likes that wall. Under the bushes, all the way around to the side of the building, wait for the three-second gap in the camera sweep, then run for the tree next to the balcony. Shimmy up the tree on the side where the cameras don't cover it, then hop onto the balcony.

I'd like to walk in right there, but there's an alarm on the French doors, so I have to scale the ivy climbing up the chimney; this is the part where I'm in the open the longest, where I could get caught, and get in real trouble. So far I've been lucky, because the guards haven't seen me do this. No more visits, if they ever catch me at this point. Inside I can explain, or fake an explanation at least. If they catch me on my way in, though... well, Giles would be really torqued at having to bail me out of jail, but he'd still do it.

I think. Yeah, of course he would. But he wouldn't exactly sympathize with why I'm here, and that's one lecture I want to avoid.

Up the chimney, and there's my entrance: a teeny window on the roof, a skylight they put in and didn't bother to hook up to the alarm system, because anybody bigger than me wouldn't be able to get through it --- and it's a tight fit on me as it is. And anyone who isn't a Slayer wouldn't get this far, so I don't feel like I have to tell the staff that they've got a breakdown in their security system.

I drop into the room, then tiptoe around the storage boxes and ease the door open. The floor creeks, the doors squeak --- the day I get caught, it'll be because the stairs screech when I walkd down them. Something totally unplanned. Which doesn't stop me from coming back at least once a week ever since Graduation.

One flight down, ducking in and out of doorways as the nurses go by, and I'm there. The door isn't locked; this isn't the maximum security wing. It would be, if the occupant were conscious, and I had anything to say about it. But she isn't and I don't.

I'm not sure if I'm sorry about that or not.

The bruises on her head and around her shoulders have faded. She's only hooked up to a few tubes and a heart monitor now, not like she was in the hospital right after our fight. More than anything else, Faith looks like Snow White waiting for her prince to come and rescue her. Perfect and beautiful and completely dead. The slight rise and fall of her chest and the soft beeping of the machines are the only giveaways that she isn't.

I take the Walkman out of my jacket pocket and settle the headphones over her ears, then slip a cassette into the player. Indigo Girls, tonight. Faith usually liked louder music, stuff that you could play while driving at seventy miles an hour with all the windows down, stuff that you'd have to scream to hear yourself over it in the Bronze, but I've played all that for her before, and I don't like to repeat tapes. I don't want her getting bored.

I don't want her to wake up.

I put her here, it's my fault she's doing the Sleeping Beauty impression. Not all my fault, but mostly mine. I stuck the knife in her. I didn't push her off that ledge, but if she hadn't jumped ---

She might still be alive. We could have gotten her to the hospital in time after Angel drained her, given her tranfusions, just like they did for me.... I'm pretty sure we would have done it. I don't think I would have just let her die.

Or maybe I would have. I was trying to kill her, wasn't I? I wanted her dead, right? There's no taking that back.

Either way, it didn't happen like that. Angel drained me and took me to the Emergency Room, the same one where Faith ended up after her dive. And somewhere in there, she decided she'd had it. She handed in her resignation the only way a Slayer can. She might still be on the official company letterhead, but she's a sleeping partner. A retired soldier. Gone to Bermuda, don't bother to forward her e-mail, she's not picking up her messages anymore.

I dream about her, sometimes, but after that first time in the hospital, I can't tell if they're Slayer dreams or just dream dreams. Some of them are about Faith, growing up, some of what she went through --- most of it isn't pretty. I'm almost sure those are real, that those are her memories, the boxes of junk she left me to deal with when she checked out. It's like watching someone else's bad home movies, and not having the remote to turn off the VCR. Thanks a lot, Faith.

But I can't bitch too much about that --- she gave me all her strength, Slayer strenght and just soul-strength too; I could feel it in that one soft touch on my cheek. If she wants me to take care of her past while she's gone... well, it's better than having to feed her cat, I guess.

In some of the dreams I'm talking to her face-to-face, but I don't know if it's really her I'm talking to, or just the inside of my own head talking to itself. I've tried to explain it to Giles, but I don't think he really gets it. Mostly because I don't feel like I can tell him all of it, and because I just can't explain it right.

The first time I dreamed of her, she was in her loft talking to me, while a cat wandered around the room. The cat flickered in and out, first looking like a cat, then like Faith sleeping, then disappearing. Maybe it was just one of those dream metaphors, how she saw herself, like a stray that no one wanted. Or maybe it means something more. Maybe after she gave me her memories and all of her Slayer strength in the hospital, whatever was left just wandered off into a kitten and split Sunnydale, with her body still breathing because it didn't realize it didn't need to.

It wouldn't be so bad, being a cat. Not compared to the life she had this time around.

You can say this about Richard Wilkins III: he was Detail Guy. The minute Faith went into the coma, he had a trust and medical care program set up for her. He might have planned on waking her up after he Ascended, but he covered his bases in case he couldn't. No matter how long this body lives, there'll be money to take care of her and a place for her to be safe. No one is supposed to know she's here. Which is probably a good thing.

If the Watcher's Council knew where her body was, I think they'd disconnect her so another Slayer could be called. Or they might try to wake her up, and force her to come back and make up for what she did, and start the nightmare all over again. I tracked her down through Slayer instinct and Willow's hacking skills. They don't have either one on their side.

I can blame a lot of people for what Faith became, including me and Faith. I can blame her mom, and those guys her mom dated. I can blame the teachers that never took an interest in her, and the friends that bailed on her, and the guys that used her and blew her off. I can blame Mayor Demon, and the way he gave her everything she wanted and nothing she really needed, and rewarded her every time she did something evil.

But the ones I really blame, aside from Faith and me, are the Watcher's Council. They screwed up over and over with her, the same way they've screwed up everything with me. They could have saved her. They could have gotten her her own Watcher right after the last one died; they could have kept Mrs. Post from showing up and messing with Faith's head; they could have handled that whole mess right after she killed the Mayor's assistant about ten million times better than they did. But they didn't.

And they wonder why I sent back my Slayer T-shirt with Wesley.

I never talk to Faith when I visit. I talk to her enough when we're both asleep. Besides, I'm still mad at her. What would I say: thanks for bailing on me? Thanks for not dying all the way, so there's no new Slayer? Thanks for telling me how to defeat the Mayor? Thanks for not killing me? Thanks for leaving me alone?

There's something really scary about that, that I've outlived the two girls who were supposed to replace me after *I* died. I'm the only Slayer now, even if Faith's still breathing.

I don't want her to wake up. If she wakes up, we have to deal with all the stuff that got left unfinished. That fight we were having when she jumped. All the people she hurt that I care about--- Angel, Xander, Willow. The guy she killed on accident, and the ones she killed on purpose. Just because she helped me live and fight Wilkins doesn't mean she'll change. She'll still be a mess if she wakes up as a Slayer, or just as a normal girl.

But it really looks like she's never going to wake up at all. I'm trying not to feel glad about that. I'm trying not to feel guilty, either, at least not all the time.

This is probably what it's like to have a sister. Somebody who's really like you and really not like you, and who brings out the worst in you and is a lot of fun to play with all at the same time. Who understands you better than anybody and knows just how to hurt you. I can't tell where my mistakes stopped and hers started after a while. It's all tangled up inside me, worse than the things that happened with Angel ever were. Because there's no magic here --- just two girls who were almost best friends, and one mistake in a dark alley that ruined everything.

The tape clicks off, and I take the headphones off her ears, and smooth her hair back out of her face. If she ever does wake up, I'll be there. To stop her or help her --- whichever it takes.

I sneak out of the room, and back up the stairs to the skylight, ducking out when I know the cameras are turned away, and slide down the ivy to the balcony. Then I swing over to the tree, drop, and make my way off the grounds. Ten o'clock; almost time to patrol. The vamps will be coming out, one by one. There's not as many since Graduation. Partly because of summer, Giles says. Partly because a lot of them left town when the Demon Administrator got blown into orbit. So I have some extra time to make one more stop.

Riverside Cemetary. No new vamps popping up here, just some old ones that'll stay in their mausoleums if they know what's good for them. They never do, of course, but it's still empty enough to give me a little time.

They didn't bother putting any dates on her stone. We didn't know when her birthday was, and I guess putting down just her death date seemed kind of pathetic. So the only thing on the headstone is her name, and underneath, a little quote that Giles picked out: "Now cracks a noble heart... And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

"Hey, Kendra." I drop to the ground in front of her grave with my legs crossed, and take out Mr. Pointy, tossing him in the air and catching him every once in a while as I talk. "Not much new to tell you this week. Amy's still a rat, 'cuz Willow hasn't figured out a cure yet. You know, I had this idea while I was visiting Faith? Maybe we should get Xander or Oz to kiss the rat.... Well, not Oz, he's Willow's, but maybe Xander.... "

Every once in a while, I see a cat beside this grave before I show up. It always leaves when it sees me coming, so I never get a good look at it, but sometimes it stays way up in a tree and listens while I talk to Kendra.

It probably doesn't mean anything. But it makes me feel better anyway.


"Now boast thee, Death, in thy possession lies
A lass unparallel'd"
-- 'Antony and Cleopatra', William Shakespeare

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