Secret Slasha — The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha — The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

In Darkness, Their Absence
By Lily Lovely
For lolkat

It's too dark.

You're not used to it being this dark. There are things in the dark, Tara taught you...they taught you. Your mother and your Buffy and your Giles they taught you.

This one didn't. She forgot how, she forgot why.

You don't like the dark. You're not supposed to.

Who is this, here who sits, here who laughs? This one's nobody...they call her Faith but what does she have faith in, not you, no. She gives the face of, oh, her again, why is this.

You think it used to be a different face, happy like you're happy-making. Too late, all the happy bled away, greasy fish popping out of your hands.

You used to love her or was hate. But there it was, hatelove lovehate now it's melted around your feet.

Willow she says gently, it's really gently, reallyreally gently. No no no, you're sick of this, this dark this sitting-and-laughing. Why does she?

The dark, afraid of the dark, things in the're the dark you lost her lost them all all gone all fall down, ring, ring, black roses.

Now her eyes are too wide, too open and empty and wide. On the ground, fragments of chair, in the air fragments of magic. A breeze as the air realizes the chair is gone.

Goddammit Will, every goddamn time.

You just didn't like the dark.


Faith follows the familiar routine...get ice bag, wrap in dish towel, apply to face.

She locks herself in the bathroom. She hates being around her after Will gets into this weird funk of being clingy and mopey and frustrated and scared, but if she's just left alone for awhile she gets over it.

She looks in the mirror. Yeah, she's going to have a big shiner. It's already purpling, her eyelid's swelling up. Lovely.

She rests her elbows on the sink and blows out a huge breath.

It had been so good for awhile. Every time she thinks it's going to get better it all goes to shit.

It's almost hilarious how she can still get her hopes up so high after three years.

But that's how it always went, right? She dealt with this shit even before she met the gang. Hide, smile, hide, cry. It works.

Faith sits on the closed toilet seat and puts her head in her hands. She starts to pull at the skin on her face, ridging it in red lines, while hot tears slip through her fingers.

She curls into a ball and tries to sob as quietly as she can.

God, it's just too hard sometimes.

She pulls a sleeve across her face and stands up stiffly. Her reflection is more red now, more raw.

Looks like it's time to call in a favor.


Gone now

She was always gone if you think...if you think about it. Cages and crying and she wouldn't let you hold her only touch.

She know she goes. She goes in her mind.

What's in there you wonder. Is it prettier, are there castles and colored icing or is it darker. Plagues and scars.

Your head's darker now. Not on the's all gone now, tore it off so you wouldn't have to know.

But the secrets and the loneliness and you can't control it or anything, it slips from you as you try to grab it, running just out of sight giggling like a girl...

you're no girl who giggles. Those are gone too. You don't like the dark.

Oh and she's here! Back she's back, back back.

Yeah, yeah, you're sorry. It's cool., please don't touch it.

She looks away, no, shouldn't be away come back. Please please please.

I just gotta go make a call, okay? Yeah? It won't take long. I'll just be in the other room. Okay? I'll be right there. Not going away.

You squirm under her words...they press down from the ceiling and pin you to the floor. You can't breathe.

Aw, Will, come on. I swear it won't take long, then we can do whatever you want. We could break into the ice cream.

Twist your head fiercely, no no, no. Don't like it, don't have to like it, too dark, far too dark.

She makes the face...doesn't want to but thinks she has to...and does the head kiss and does the leaving.

Always leaving.


Faith locks herself in the bedroom this time. It's bigger.

She leans against the door after she's retrieved the plastic box from the top of the closet...rule number one when it comes to living with Willow is keep anything that can't be replaced out of reach.

She flips through the address book. She hasn't had to get this out since...well, a long time, anyway.

Turning the pages quickly, the letters look like spiders, or a rot, crawling up into her...

No. That's Willow talk.

She checks under X, but apparently that would have been too easy. A for Alexander? H for Harris? D for Dumbass, Big Fat?

Finally, she locates his number in S for Scooby, Xander. Oh, gee, she used to be so adorable.

Her chin trembles when she sees, a little ways below it, Slayer, Buffy. The entry is crossed out in even, composed lines...the only sign of emotion in the ink on the tail of the 'y', crinkly and blurred with a tear drop.

Further down, Vampire, Angel is scribbled out so hard that the page is a little ripped, the blank page beneath it showing through.

Turns out the whole 'losing people you love' thing doesn't get easier over time.

She lets out a shaky breath. What if this isn't even his number anymore? What if he won't answer?

Faith stares at the retro rotary phone Willow had insisted on getting online, because it was just so cool-looking, and totally worth the price. Before, of course.

She still likes to play with the rotary dial, sometimes. Mostly, it stays in the box in the closet with the address book, since it's just about as useful now.

She hears Will making those little kitten noises outside the door.

She dials.


You feel...there are tears bubbling up in you, tears and raging but nono, she'll be right back, she said she, said. She said it.

You hold your hands try to believe her. Back against the wall knees in clutch at your legs. Put your head in them. Back and forth, cry cry.

Not too loud, can't interrupt her, she's busy. Too busy for you, too, too angry too tough.

She always was, off with her or them or someone, she never slammed the door for you. Never called for you, her voice on the phone always wanted someone else.

Too nervous too mousy, too filled with words. Too. You were both too.

Now here, here she is, she does things for you. Too much maybe. It feels like too little, it feels like...not enough.

You know you're not right, used, you used to be better. Something else. It happened and now you're not. You can't stop it, though, no you can't, can't wake up, it's dark. Oh god not the dark.

You always try to stop doing it because because what if. What if even not enough is too much and she leaves for always. And forever.

Only darkness to hold you after nightmares if she left, only screaming to talk to.


Faith picks at her fingers as the endless rings of the phone drone on.

Why do there have to be so many rings, anyway? If they don't pick it up by three or four, they're probably not gonna.

It's gotten to enough that she assumes it's going to go to the machine. So then, of course, he actually picks up the phone.

"Hello, sorry, I was in the back."

"Hey, it's, uh, it's Faith."

The pause seems to stretch out in the long, lonely miles between New York and Cleveland.

She wishes he would say something, before she has to make some awkward comment about his non-talking.

Oh, crap. Crap crap crap. If he doesn't say something soon, it means this will never work.

"Faith," he says finally, in a rough, carefully non-committal way.

She bites her lip and just dives in. "Okay, so you have pretty much no reason to talk to me after all the shit that's gone down, but Willow needs you."

His silence seems more shocked than angry. "She doesn't even remember me," he mutters bitterly.

Faith barely manages to keep herself from whipping back some nasty retort about how that's because he never talks to them anymore, because he hasn't seen them, because he left them.

Her big mouth isn't going to make this any better.

"That's not true. She...she talks about you sometimes. You and everyone else."

"Oh?" It comes out small and distant, like he's thinking too hard.

"Yeah. She used to...think you guys were still around. Ask about you and stuff. Or talk to you like you were there."

"She did?"


He huffs out a breath, long and kind of desperate. "So you want me to come out there and help you? With her?"

For some reason, the part where he used the word "come" instead of "go" makes Faith more hopeful. Like it's almost already decided, like he's tipped over to the other side of the question, about to plunge to the bottom.

"Yeah. I know it's way too much to ask, but it's getting really hard."

She bites at one of her nails. "And kind of lonely," she adds quietly.

She can almost hear him looking around his house, considering it. She tries to picture it...probably messy in a comfortable way, smelling like sawdust and sweat.

"I'd have to leave everything here. Find the girls a new Watcher."

The nail is stubbornly clinging to her finger. "I know. But...Xander, it's Willow. She needs you."

She rips the loose nail off, watching the blood well up where it came off too close. "We need you."

She imagines there will be another long silence, possibly followed by an "I'd love to, but..." or "Stop guilt-tripping me, you asshole," or in the best of cases, "I'll think about it."

But instead, pretty soon after: "I'll book a flight."

She slumps over, her muscles tight and sore like she's been out punching sheet rock.

"Thank you," she manages.


You don't have it like you used to oh no, not the spark that changes things, makes them go boom and turn the colors, color of blood, dripping. No that would be dangerous, aha, hahaha, oh you're funny.

But point is no you don't. But sometimes, some of the times things bleed through. It comes to a storm, in the wind, like a breeze carrying smoke.

You sniff and sigh. Wind smells like home.

How long's it been you wonder. Since you saw him your one-eyed hero, dashing knight who left the castle (they all left, couldn't stay, of course, no of course).

Years and years you think. Ever since you've waited for the prince to come home, cause he's the only one who's, don't think it. Let down your hair, he'll climb.

Your heart's grown empty without him. She's good to you, you know it but something's missing. Lock's rusted up and the key is lost.

The Key. Does that make sense? Those words had some sense, sense that's other.

Not going there. Girl, sitting looking like her who shouldn't have none...girl sitting blood pouring not dying when she should have. Where'd she go?

In dreams, you think.

But she's good to you the girl who stayed. So good but oh, prince come home.

They could all dance in the fire and leap over brooms, clutch hands and sing. Don't mind the blood in the slippers, just a spot, we can wash it out we have soap, good soap. They wouldn't mind, they would be...

Oh knight bring them back.


Faith slowly curls the cord around the handle of the phone, dazed that he actually said yes.

This had all been some sort of crazy fever dream until a few minutes ago.

Sure, she's been tired before, she's felt burned out, she's felt ready to take off and leave Will for's been three incredibly long years.

But crap, now she's let someone else in, into their dirty, shitty, crappy life. Someone who isn't the delivery boy, and Jesus, she hasn't seen other people she actually knows in exactly forever.

Crap crap crap.

Did she just screw him over? He doesn't know what Will's turned into. Doesn't know what he's really gonna find.

Hell, Faith's not sure if she's totally sane anymore, either.

She stares at the open address book with glazed eyes. Slayer, Buffy ..Vampire, Angel...Vampire, Spike...Watcher, Giles...Watcher, Dawn...Witch, Willow...

Something about the list of useless, crossed-out names drives her fucking nuts so she rips the thing in half.

Just: bam. No longer an object.

She tosses it into the box with the phone and hoists it up onto the closet shelf.

Fuck it. He's the one who fucking abandoned them, when there was no one else left, fucking literally.

Goddamn him, he deserves it. He deserves to have to put up with this shit. She's not going to pretty up her life for him.

He's the one who left, him. Not her.


It was him. Really.


She comes out oh she's back! She's here again. Didn't leave you never ever please.

Hey, Will, Xander's coming! You remember Xander. You guys go way back, you've been hanging out since you were in diapers.

You were right he comes. Your knight oh brave brave savior, save. He saved you now he comes again.

He did not forget you. He is not lost.

He was just gone for a little while, Will, it's cool. He's gonna be here, and I'll have some help around here, and you'll have someone else's face to float chairs into.

Back back he's back. Like her. They're back out from behind the door smiling.

Will he smile or is it a frowning time? Surely he wants to save her

Don't you worry about it, sweetie, he wouldn't come back if he didn't want to. Didn't we say something about ice cream earlier? Let's go fix some bowls. We can put coconut in them too, I got some cause I know you like it.

She says he'll smile but you're still not sure. Not even sure if she's smiling, her words flow out too fast to tell.

It's not clear none of it.


He calls and says he'll meet her at the airport. Faith laughs for a long time, catches herself before she starts crying, and reminds him that she can't go that far away for that long.

He calls a cab instead.

As Faith runs to answer the door with a pile of laundry in one hand and dinner a la Pizza Hut in another, she wonders what he'll look like. Three years can change everything, or nothing.

She wonders if she looks different. She hasn't really thought about it.

Not that it matters. She's not here to please him, she just does what she has to do.

She shifts the laundry on top of the pizza box so she can open the latch.

She would've expected Willow to be clawing at her ankles to get to him, but instead she's crouched nervously under the table.

Well, so she's nervous. Makes sense.

She finally swings the door wide, a "Hey, Xander" automatically flinging itself out of mouth before she can register any details.

And the details...not bad.

His hair's still all floppy without being too greasy or in his face His skin looks rough and weathered without the dreaded old age-ness about it...which she's pretty sure she's starting to get. Clothes are a little mussy, but in a sweet way.

Maybe he's not such a big fucker. Maybe there's reasons.

His answering smile's a little awkward, a little wary. "Hey ..Faith." He's staring at her head, waving his fingers vaguely upwards. "Your hair."

She grimaces. "Oh. Right. Forgot about that." Runs her fingers through the buzz cut. Just shaved a couple days ago, so it's extra shocking. "Marine look's not the most flattering, but it's easier. Keeps it, y'know, out of the way."

"Oh. Well, I don't know what you're talking about, it looks great. Totally stylish. You got the whole...butch thing going on."

She knows he's lying...she has mirrors. Maybe it would have looked good ten years ago, but now she's too tired-looking, the cut's too uneven.

She smiles. "I always do. Come in, please, I'll show you where to put your stuff."

She quickly points him to the spare bedroom, tossing the laundry in the hamper and setting the pizza on the counter. She separates the slices expertly, two to a plate, napkin under each, set each at a chair with a cup of tap water.

Faith is halfway to the fridge to get a plastic bowl of grapes for the table...vitamins and all that...when she notices he hasn't moved from the center of the room.

She stops. Forcibly releases the tension in her shoulders. "You can just go right in and put your stuff down, it's cool. Have you eaten already?"

It takes him a moment to stop staring at the clutter balls... big heaps of dirty-whatever kicked into the corner and out of the way, to be dealt with in ha-ha-ha never.

He jumps a little, then starts to shuffle towards the room under the weight of his duffel. "Right. Sorry."

"Let me get that."

She comes up from behind him and lifts the bag off his shoulder with one hand, spinning around to face him and tossing it back and forth between her hands like a basketball. Hopefully showing off will get him to loosen up.

He rolls his eyes, laughing. "And I see nothing ever really changes."

She finally throws it onto the bed, grinning. "In the part where I can still kick the crap out of you? Nope."

They're still standing there, smiling at each other and not really knowing how to stop, when Willow crawls out from under the table and launches herself at Xander's ankle, shrieking nonsense syllables.

Faith laughs nervously, not sure whether to drag Will into her chair or let her hug him. "And our lovely lady emerges. I think she was a little nervous."

Xander ruffles her hair, mostly covering up his weirded-out-ness, which Faith appreciates.

He looks up, and his face flashes "oh my god, what happened to her" for a minute before quickly morphing into eager-to-please-puppy. "Did I hear something about dinner? I'm starved."



[last time you saw Buffy she was just normal, going out for patrol, never came back, her body's still in your took hours they quick hero's death just surprise, were all surprised, not even an apocalypse, regular day, they dragged her to a cave...hours]


[last time you saw Giles you were walking into his office, you had something to tell him, didn't see his legs were hacked off and he was already dead of blood loss, until you went around to the front of his desk. political rivalry, of course, hardly unusual, big Council job like his, happens all the time]


[last time you saw Kennedy she slapped you for being so self-absorbed and mopey, then she went out and got killed by some vampire, you distracted her by being sad, your fault fault, yours]

He's heeeeerebackbackbackback not gonna leave nonnononnoooonnnno never

[last time you saw Dawn...who? you don't know anyone named Dawn, never did, you're going crazy]

Ohhhhahahaohohahaohahoahdon'tgoawayyy please they all left

[last time you saw Angel you never did, died in the fight, last big glory wasn't it? didn't even make a dent in them, always more lawyers]

Yes, Will...baaaaaybyy, let's let poor Xander sit down, he's awfully tired and hungry, I'm gotta let go of his leg, he's just right across the table I swear, see, okay, fine, you can sit right next to him, I'll move the chair

[last time you saw Spike he was too tired for this, asked Illyria to do something you never found out what...but now he's gone. told you to be strong. guess you're not]

You can't sit next to both of us, sweetie, it's one or the, you can't just sit under the table, it's dirty. We have a nice big table just for eating on.

[last time you saw Andrew he was in charge. sorry. scared. sorry, again. he tried]

Alright, alright, we don't have to throw a fit, we'll eat under the table if you really want to. Let me just bring down the napkins and plates.

[last time you saw Xander you were still right, he was so distant but you were right, all right in the head, now you're wrong but he's close, so close]


Faith finally gets Willow tucked into their bed...all the Xander-excitement made her extra jumpy or something. She sneaks out of the room and into Xander's, putting a pillow between Willow's arms so she doesn't wake up and freak out.

He's sitting on the edge of the bed, half-unpacked bag spewing its contents across the pillows.

He's looking at a framed picture of the three of them...Buffy, Xander, Sunnydale High days, when Will's hair was still long and red and Xander was still young and goofy and Buffy was still alive.

They're laughing, all on top of each other...but they're frozen. Moment's gone.

Xander looks up quickly when he realizes she's in the room, a loud sniff telling her he's been crying.

She sits down on the bed next to him and puts her arm around his shoulder.

They sit and look at it for awhile, in silence. Faith thinks the world has never been so quiet's like all the background noise has been muffled out of existence, like there's cotton stuffed in her ears, all the way to her brain.

"Did she cut her hair?" he asks suddenly. "Or did you?"

The question is so startling that she has to think about it for a minute. "Uh...oh, she did, at first. But now I shave it for her when I do mine."

Faith looks down at the picture, their smiling faces accusing her of something...failure. "She...she didn't want to know if her hair turned black," she adds.

"I thought she lost her magic?"

"Sort of. Sometimes when she gets really upset, random stuff happens..." Her hand automatically moves up to her face. "And that was before, anyway."

He nods, slowly.

Faith feels so weighed down. By all of it, this...everything.

She thought Xander coming would make it all better, but really, she's not sure there is a better.

Xander turns around to face her. "With's so depressing. Like everything that made her her is gone."

Faith shrugs tiredly. "You get used to it. You stop thinking about who she was as something related to who she is now. It's just...different."

He grabs at her arms, a wildly helpless look on his face.

"How do we even keep going? I mean, sometimes if I don't keep not thinking about it...all of's all I think about, and then...then I just can't do it. The thing."

Now his eyes are too wide, too open and empty and wide. "So do you do it?"

Faith opens her mouth for an answer, but nothing comes.

She thinks nothing ever's too dark.

You don't like the dark.