Disclaimer: I own nothing but the first season Lie to Me DVD. (And I can't seem to find it anyway.) No copyright infringement intended.
Warning: Abuse and language.
A/N: Recently, I've been suffering from the symptoms of Lie to Me withdrawal. (Not to mention House deficiency.) So, I'm sorry for any OOC-ness; it's been a solid two and a half months since I last saw Lie to Me. And this story does focus on an OC of mine, but don't worry, you'll see the point before it's over.
Gillian felt a pull on her heart the moment she laid her eyes on the teenager patiently waiting for her.
Heidi had said that the girl had loudly demanded to see someone from the Lightman Group after originally being denied a meeting. Apprehensive, Heidi had escorted her to the conference room and told her that she'd see what she could do. She'd said there had been "something in that kid's eyes."
Now though, the girl seemed so unthreatening. Her gaze wandered aimlessly around the room, taking it all in. She had neon green headphones on and tapping her foot in time to the music. In strange places, people seek a source of comfort. The music was nothing more than a defense mechanism for a scared girl.
"Hi," Gillian greeted her, entering the room.
The teenager pulled off the headphones, turning her iPod off. "Hi." She smiled tentatively. "My name's Daniella Woods."
"Hello Daniella. What can I do for you?"
"You mean why did I demand to speak to you guys?" Daniella was stalling, and they both knew it. "Well… I want to find that man that hurt me."
"This is it," Lisa said, putting the car in park.
Daniella gazed sullenly out the window at the beat up house tinted by the setting sun.
Lisa turned around in the front seat to look at Daniella. "You'll be fine, sweetie. Remember, you can call me anytime you want."
Daniella didn't answer her social worker. She hopped out of the car, pulling the duffle bag containing everything she owned behind her.
She was seven years old, and had been in the system since age five. This was her third home in two years. The first family had changed their minds about a foster kid; the second had ended up moving to England.
Lisa took Daniella's duffle bag from her, and the two went up the driveway together. Three swift knocks and a smiling woman with thin, wispy hair and kind eyes opened the door.
"You must be Daniella."
She nodded, shuffling her feet.
"Say hi," Lisa gently prompted.
"Hi," she said automatically.
"She's just a little shy," the social worker said apologetically.
The woman – Callie Wagner, as she introduced herself – let them in and showed Daniella where she would be staying. The room was a fair size, with a dark wooden bunk bed, a desk with a lamp, and a long dresser. A clock ticked unobtrusively on the wall.
"Who're you?" a voice asked sharply.
A girl about five years older than Daniella was stretched out on the top bunk, watching the intruders darkly.
"Ritz, this is Daniella. She's your new foster sister," Callie explained.
"She's fine when you get to know her," Callie stage whispered.
"Yeah, as if you know me," Ritz muttered.
"Well," Lisa cut in, clapping her hands together. "I think we should let Daniella unpack." She gave Daniella an encouraging smile and left with Callie to examine the rest of the house.
The older girl jumped down from the top bunk, ignoring the ladder. She closed the door and turned to Daniella. "Rule number one: don't bother anyone. Not me, not Callie, and especially not Jack."
Ritz nodded, crossing her arms across her chest. "He's the 'man of the house.'" Disgust was obvious in her voice. "He's probably out getting drunk now."
Daniella took in this information unfeelingly. Her own father had been an alcoholic as well. "Oh." She swallowed and unzipped the duffle bag that lay at her feet, feeling Ritz's eyes on her.
"Left side's mine. You can have the right."
Daniella obediently placed her small supply of clothes in the right side of the dresser.
They were all the same. Everyone, everywhere. It was the nature of people, to love and to abruptly leave. At seven, Daniella no longer loved anyone. Her parents were dead, and her foster families were next to useless. Her closest encounter with love in the past two years had been with the first family's dog. He was an old lab named Jasper. Jasper used to lay his head on Daniella's knee when she did her homework, eyes glued to her face. She'd loved that old dog.
He was put down a week before that family kicked her out.
"How long have you been here?" Daniella asked.
"One year, one month, and fourteen days," Ritz answered promptly. She gestured to the bunk bed. "I'll show you." She climbed up the ladder, and Daniella scurried up after her. Ritz moved her pillow away from the headboard. "Look."
She was pointing to a series of scratches in the wood. Every day she'd been with the Wagners' was etched onto the board.
"I hate every minute of it. It's just another house that'll never be home." She shrugged.
Daniella crossed her legs, staring at the tallies.
"I'm sorry," Ritz said to her.
"Why?" She cocked her head to the side, bright eyes meeting her new foster sister's.
"Because you're stuck here. Now get off my bed."
Daniella scrambled down just as Lisa knocked on the bedroom door and stepped in. "I'm leaving now, hon. Mrs. Wagner seems like a nice lady. Don't you think?"
Daniella nodded mutely.
Lisa gave the girl a hug, but Daniella didn't respond. Stiff as a board, she stood in Lisa's arms, unblinking. The social worker let her go and left, but only when the front door slammed shut behind Lisa did Daniella lower herself onto her unfamiliar bed. Hugging her stuffed turtle to her chest, she sucked in deep breaths of the stale air.
The clock read three in the morning when Daniella met Jack.
She awoke to hear someone storming around in the kitchen. There was a loud thump, and then cursing.
Moments later, the door to the girls' room flew open. A steaming, red raced man stood there. His eyes were bloodshot, his clothes wrinkled.
"You," he hissed to Daniella, "Come here."
She did so as quickly as she could, visibly trembling before him. The moment she'd laid eyes on Jack, she knew that he had a violent nature. Experience had taught her that much.
"Who the hell are you?" Jack's words were slurred, and Daniella could smell the alcohol on his breath.
A shaking voice answered: "I'm Daniella."
"Daniella," she whispered.
"You have to speak up, girl." Jack raised his hand and brought it down on her. Tears sprang in her eyes, but she didn't move. Cackling madly, Jack grabbed her shoulders and threw her to the ground. "Bitch," he spat.
Daniella hugged her knees to her chest, memories flashing through her mind. When Jack's hand twitched, she saw her father's fist flying towards her. When the man towering above her laughed, she thought about how her father had broken her rib when she was five and laughed as he did so. Jack's breath reeked of alcohol as he leaned down to taunt Daniella. She remembered the way her father used to come home drunk and rave around the house until he finally passed out on the couch.
Jack kicked Daniella in the side, making her cry out in pain. With another sadistic laugh, he kicked her again and left, slamming the door behind him.
Daniella, wincing in pain, crawled back to her bed and reached for her turtle. She laid on top of the blankets, swallowing her tears.
"Hey," Ritz said softly. She sat on the edge of Daniella's bed, laying a hand on the younger girl's arm. Feeling her flinch, Ritz removed her hand and sighed softly. Daniella was already started on her way to distrust and hatred. Ritz had been careful to always find someone she could talk to wherever she went. She didn't talk about her past though, but anything else was fair game. That was her secret to keeping her head.
"Cry, Danny. I did," she admitted.
Daniella curled up in a ball, helplessly searching Ritz. She allowed herself to be pulled into Ritz's arms. She allowed the tears she normally kept bottled up to fall down her cheeks. She allowed Ritz to stroke her hair until she cried herself to sleep.
When Daniella fell silent, Ritz tucked her in and returned to her own bed.
Jack was awful, but the house was warm and dry, at least. Callie cooked for them, and it was easy to get away should she care to. There were worse places to be. Ritz's birth father had been ten times worse. Jack never had, thankfully, turned to sexual abuse. Not yet, anyway.
Daniella awoke to the sound of pans clanking in the kitchen. Holding her turtle tightly, she padded out of her room and down the hall. A sharp pang of pain shot through her with every step she took, but it was bearable, at least. Worse had been done to her in the past.
She poked her head around the corner. Callie was humming to herself, cooking bacon and eggs. Daniella swiftly retreated to her room as Callie turned around. When she got back, Ritz was sitting attentively on her bed.
"I think he's out," Daniella shrugged. "Callie seems alright though."
Ritz jumped to the ground. "She's pathetic."
"What's that mean?"
"It means she's a coward. Sure, she's nice enough, but she does nothing to try and stop Jack. Just lets herself get pushed around by him." She began pacing, talking more to herself than to Daniella. "I don't see why she doesn't just leave him." To the wall, to the door, and back. Over and over. Then Ritz paused. "When d'ya start school, Danny?"
"Dunno." Daniella had always had mixed feelings about school. She loved the learning, the new information. But the other kids always treated her differently because she was a foster kid. "Do you go to school?"
"Gotta. But it's easy, so I don't really care. And at least I get outta this hellhole for that much of the day. What's today?"
"Saturday May 29."
"Hm. School's almost over, so they probably won't bother starting you." Ritz began rummaging through the dresser – the left side – pulling out a pair of torn jeans and a faded Nirvana tee shirt. "Wanna come with me to the 7-Eleven down the street?"
"I don't see why not. How old're you anyway?"
"Seven and a quarter," Daniella told her proudly.
"Cool." Ritz flashed her a smile. "I'm thirteen. Get dressed, kiddo."
"Follow me," Ritz said to Daniella. She opened the bedroom door. They heard Callie cooking in the kitchen still. Putting a finger to her lips, Ritz led the way down the hall, away from the front of the house. They came to a screen back door. Ritz carefully unlocked it, opening it slowly to minimize the noise it made.
"They don't like us leaving?" Daniella asked once they were outside.
"Nope," was the short answer.
A chained pit bull growled menacingly at them from the shade of the single tree in the back yard. He stood and took a few steps in their direction.
"Don't worry, he can't reach us," Ritz said reassuringly. "Can you, Duke?" The dog barked, and she laughed. "C'mon."
Staying close to the house, the girls went around the side. A chain link fence confronted them, separating the back from the front. Without hesitation, Ritz scaled it, dropping lightly to the other side.
Daniella swallowed and grabbed hold of the wire. She pulled herself up, ignoring the pain in her side. She almost fell once she made it to the top, but she managed to get down without further problem.
"Nice," Ritz said approvingly.
Daniella smiled and followed Ritz down the street. The neighborhood they were in was run down and foreboding, but Ritz strolled confidently down the sidewalk. As they wound their way through the streets, not a single other soul revealed himself.
Despite the fact that there were no people in sight, Daniella didn't feel as alone as she had in the past. Now she had Ritz to watch over her, someone who understood what she'd been through. Both still had their own secrets, though. Nothing would ever change that.
The 7-Eleven was much farther than "down the street," but it didn't take long to get there. The building was a dirty old shop among other forgotten stores.
Ritz strode in, Daniella following uncertainly. The bell on the door announced their arrival.
A boy, about the same age as Ritz, was sweeping the floor. He looked up at their entrance, a grin spreading across his face. "What's crackin' Ritz cracker?"
Ritz returned his smile, gesturing to Daniella. "This is my new foster sister. Danny, this is Matt. Matt, Danny."
"Hey," Matt said.
"Hi," Daniella replied shyly.
"She's a quiet one," Ritz said. "D'ya got any pain meds for kids?"
"Yep." He led Ritz away, leaving Daniella standing awkwardly at the front of the store. They were back quickly though, and Ritz handed her two small purple tablets.
"Chew these," she said. "It'll help with the pain."
Daniella put them in her mouth, wrapping her arm around her stomach. The medicine was gross tasting, but if it helped it would be well worth it. "Thanks," she said.
"No problem." Ritz turned to Matt. "Monster?"
"We're never out of Monster," he said.
The two disappeared again, and Daniella wandered the aisles of the small convenience store. She kept her arm wrapped around her stomach, absently running her thumb over the bruise she knew had formed. She reached out to touch things she'd never had. Wistfully, she paused at a bag of M&M's. Chocolate was one of the things that had left with her mother.
The memories Daniella had of her mom were faint. The one thing she did remember was the days they used to go to the park together, swinging side by side, racing down slides.
"Do you want them?" Matt asked, startling her.
Embarrassed, Daniella put the M&M's back and shook her head. Matt picked them up again.
"Hey D!" he called, bringing them up to the cash register.
An older guy appeared from the back room. "Who's that?"
"Ritz's new foster sister." Matt handed him a wrinkled twenty dollar bill. "For those chewable Tylenol meds, two Monsters, and a bag of M&M's." D wordlessly rang up Matt and handed him the change. "Thanks bro," Matt said. He handed the candy to Daniella.
"Thanks," she said in amazement.
Ritz appeared by Daniella, a can of Monster in her hand. "We gotta go, guys."
"Jack still keeping you on a short leash?" Matt asked, leaning against the counter.
"Yeah. C'mon Danny." She saw the bag of M&M's in the girl's hand. "Don't let Jack see them," was all she said.
The left the 7-Eleven, playing kick the can with the empty Monster. Jack was home when they arrived, and Ritz took all the blame for leaving the house. Her black eye didn't fade for a week.
The hell continued that night, and the next, and the next.
One night, Daniella came out of the bathroom to hear Ritz screaming in their room. Jack yelled back at her, words unintelligible. Then she heard Ritz crying – strong Ritz, who jumped fences, taunted pit bulls, and put up with abuse day after day.
Daniella had escaped to the back yard and leaned against the house, watching Duke watch her. When she returned to the house, neither Ritz nor her said anything about what had happened.
Another night, when Daniella was going to throw away her uneaten food from dinner, she dropped her plate and it shattered.
Jack had begun cursing at her, calling her a clumsy bitch. He'd taken off his belt and whipped Daniella, over and over. He ignored her tears, ignored her pleas, ignored her bloody back. He was only finished when his hand was aching.
Daniella had laid on the ground and cried until Jack had left and Ritz and Callie dared to touch her.
For a long time, she had been unable to even sit up. But like all wounds do at some point or another, they healed. The scars still remained, though.
Life continued that way for what seemed an eternity.
The doorbell rang, and Callie went to get t.
Ritz and Daniella stared stiffly at the TV. Jack lounged lazily on his arm chair, smoking cigarette after cigarette.
A second later, Callie cleared her throat loudly to get their attention. All of them turned to her. Standing by her side were two police officers.
"I'm officer Wolverton. We got a tip that there were children here being abused," the older one said.
"No, nothing happened here," Jack said a little too quickly. "I think you have the wrong house."
They nodded, but turned to the girls. "Are you two okay?"
They glanced at each other, afraid of what could happen if they spoke up. "Well…" Ritz began. She paused, and continued. "No." Her voice didn't waver, but Daniella could see the fear on her face. Ritz stood, pulling the other girl up with her. "Jack did this." She pulled up Daniella's shirt, exposing the long scars that crossed her body.
The police officers sucked in a breath. The younger clenched his hand into a fist, nostrils flaring with silent rage.
Daniella let her shirt fall down again.
"Sir, you need to come with us," the elder said tensly. The younger held his hand out to the girls. They both ignored the hand, but followed him outside to where two police cars were waiting. Callie watched anxiously from the door.
Daniella and Ritz were loaded into the back of one of the cars. They silently crossed their legs and waited for them to force Jack into the other car. That never happened.
When the officers tried to get him in the car, Jack slammed a fist into the younger one's face, breaking his nose. He kneed the man and hit the ground running. Wolverton pulled out his sidearm reflexively, but Jack cut through a backyard and was gone.
The girls watched the scene from the police car. They were afraid, because if the police didn't have Jack he was out there, somewhere. He was dangerous, and on the loose. Daniella looked up at Ritz, to all appearances calm. Ritz knew better.
"What now?" Daniella asked simply.
"Now we get new families."
"Maybe." But she was betting that they wouldn't end up together.
And they didn't. Daniella was given to an older couple, Ritz to a picture perfect family: the dutiful housewife, successful father, model son. She hated them for having everything she was denied. They tried to get her to open up, but like always, she shut them out.
She's learned it was best that way. Even with Danny. The moment she let the little girl worm her way into her heart, she was taken away.
Ritz would always wonder what had happened to Daniella. She hoped that the family she'd been placed with was nicer than the Wagners, and that she went to school and lived up to her potential.
There was this deep rooted feeling of guilt, though. It stayed with Ritz wherever she went. The remorse was over that one day that Jack had whipped Daniella. Ritz had sat at the table, anger bubbling insider her, but she hadn't done anything. It was her fault that Danny carried those scars on her back.
Daniella sat quietly at the dinner table, pushing her food around her plate with her fork.
"Why don't you eat something, dear?" Mrs. Woods asked her.
"I'm not hungry," she replied.
The couple she had moved in with was older, they were maybe in their 60's. They were undeniably kinder, and more humane, than Jack had ever been. Daniella couldn't get herself to trust them, though. They were her fifth family, counting her birth parents, and there was nothing to make her think that they would be any different. Sooner or later, they'd realize that they didn't have room for a child, that they wanted to live the rest of their lives in peace. And when that day came Daniella would be glad she hadn't loved them.
"Okay, Daniella," Mr. Woods said. "You may go up to room, if you'd like."
She stood and cleaned off her plate, careful not to drop it. After putting it in the dishwasher, she darted up the stairs, taking them two at a time.
Her room was where she speant most of time nowadays. It was quiet, and the Woodses treated it as a no-go zone. Daniella's room was hers alone.
Her eighth birthday had been a week ago. They'd celebrated by eating dinner out and going to Toys R Us. Mr. Woods - she still refused to call him 'Dad,' had told her to pick out anything she wanted. She'd picked a stuffed turtle, one bigger than the one she already had, and named her Ritz.
Daniella curled up on her bed and hugged the two turtles to her chest.
The day she expected - the day when the Woodses would abandon her - never came. A week turned into a month, a month into a year. When Daniella looked at the tally chart she had made on her headboard and there were 365 marks, she closed her eyes.
The Woodses had persisted this long, and for that she gave them credit. Eight year old Daniella, then and there, made the desicion to trust.
One night, at the dinner table, she told them everything. She told them about her alcoholic father and how she learned to recognize when he would beat her. She told them about her mother, and the days they'd speant at the park. She told them about the day she rode a pony at her friend's birthday party, about when she learned to ride a bike, about the pet fish she once had, about the M&M's, about Ritz, about Jasper and Duke, about her scars, about her fear of Jack, about why she hadn't want to trust them.
When she finished, she was crying. Mrs. Woods held Daniella in her arms and told her it was going to be okay.
Daniella believed her.
Daniella gazed levelly at Gillian. "Doctor Foster, I want justice. I don't want other kids to ever have to deal with Jack. No one should have to go through what I did."
Gillian nodded slowly. "You think it's your responsibility to lock him away."
"It is. Look, you have to believe me. And don't lie," she added when Gillian started to say something. "The reason I came to the Lightman Group was because you guys can see the truth. Look at me and tell me I'm lying."
Gillian folded her hands on the table. "I believe you, but the Lightman Group doesn't do manhunts."
"Oh." Daniella chewed her lip thoughtfully.
Gillian watched Daniella, thoughts racing through her head. One stood out. She had to help this girl.
In her time of need, Daniella had come to her. It would cruel to turn her away.
The psychologist in Gillian agreed with her decision. She could see how trouble Daniella was by the idea of this Jack Wagner still being on the streets.
The mother in Gillian saw a broken teenager seeking comfort and reached out to her.
Gillian sighed inaudibly. "Can you tell me the address of the Wagners?"
A smile tugged at the corners of Daniella's lips. "Thank you."
Gillian Foster leaned against the counter in the front lobby, worn out by the day's events.
They had found Callie Wagner and were bringing her in.
"Hey Foster," Torres said, striding up to her.
"Hey Torres. How's your and Cal's case coming?" She didn't bother hiding her tired expression and worried eyes.
"Fine. What's got you running around like this?"
The two began slowly walking in the direction of the room where Daniella was.
"Oh, just a girl searching for a man she used to know." They turned a corner.
"Romantic," Torres commented, smiling.
"He wasn't a lover or anything," Gillian corrected her quickly, repulsed by the idea. "Not even close."
"Oh. Lightman wants me to tell you that he wants your help analyzing the emotional state of this stockbroker who was accused of stealing money from his client."
"Tell him I'll help as soon as I close up this case," Gillian said, stopping at the conference room, hand on the handle.
But Torres was no long looking at her. She was staring at the girl in the room, who had her headphones on again. Every muscle in Torres' body was rigid, and the shock on her face was clear.
"What did you say her name was?"
"I didn't. Torres, do you know her?"
"Is it Daniella?"
"Yes, but Ria-"
Torres pulled open the door, striding past Gillian and sitting across from Daniella. Her lips were parted, eyes wide. Daniella was blinking rapidly, comprehending.
"Danny?" Torres finally asked.
"Oh my God… You're okay!"
"So are you!"
Both of them broke out in huge ear to ear grins.
"Ritz?" Gillian cut in questioningly.
"Yeah." Torres looked up at her boss. "R-I-T are my initials."
"So Ritz was just a nickname," Daniella said.
"Of course. I didn't want them to call me Ria."
"Ria." Daniella turned the name over in her head. "Ria. Suits you."
"More than Ritz?" she asked, eyebrow raised.
"I did like Ritz," she admitted.
The both laughed, eyes shining.
Torres had never given much thought to the term 'foster sibling.' To her, it had always just been a name that was given to kids she shared a house with. But now, sitting across from Daniella, she realized there was meaning in the title. Foster siblings went through a lot together, and in the process they grew close. Ritz and Danny were yet another example of that.
Their laughter died, and the two faced each other, smiles lingering.
"I'm sorry," Torres said, like she had twelve years earlier.
And in the same way, Daniella tilted her head to the side, expression inquisitive. "Why?"
"Because I didn't do anything to stop Jack."
Daniella immediatly knew what Torres meant. "There was nothing you could have done," she said dismissively. "Don't blame yourself."
Torres looked down and away, at her hands.
"Really, don't worry. Just forget about it."
Torres swallowed and licked her lips. "I try, every damn day." Then she caught herself, and her face returned to its mask.
Gillian coughed as a reminder that she was still there. "Callie's in the next room," she told them gently. "Do you want to talk to her?"
"Yes," they both answered.
They followed Gillian into another room, identical to the one they'd just left.
Torres and Daniella slid into two chairs opposite Callie and sat side by side, arms almost touching. Gillian stood in a corner, an outsider looking in.
"Ritz?" Callie asked, squinting. "Daniella?"
"So you remember," Torres said curtly.
"Of course." She smiled weakly. "Why do you want to speak to me?"
Daniella said: "We're trying to find Jack and bring justice."
"He deserves to be caught," Torres said, barely keeping the hatred out of her voice. "He raped me, and scarred us both."
Gillian's breath caught at the revelation, but she didn't say anything. Daniella flashed back to the day when she'd heard Jack and Ritz in their room, and Ritz had been crying. Only now did she understand what had happened.
"Where is he?" Torres steadily asked.
A brief flash of pain crossed Callie's face. Her forehead creased for a fraction of a second before smoothing out, and she swallowed tightly.
"What happened to him, to make you so sad?" Daniella asked.
"You saw that?" Torres asked, glancing sharply at her.
"Yeah." She blinked. "Didn't you?"
Torres looked over Daniella at Gillian. "She's a natural," she stated.
"You can read emotions," Gillian told her.
"Yeah, I've been like that," she said with a shrug. That had been one of the real reasons she had chosen the Lightman Group. She'd been curious about what they could do.
"So am I," Torres said.
As the two met each other's gaze, Daniella realized that their 'gift' had resulted from their childhood abuse.
"Damn," she muttered.
Torres shrugged, having made the discovery that abuse was the cause of her ability to read emotions long ago.
"So do you know where Jack is now?" she asked, sounding only a bit out of it.
"Yes," Callie said simply, recovering from the exchange that had just been made between Torres and Daniella.
"Dead," she repeated. "Girls, I was the one who called the police."
"You?" Daniella said incredulously.
"Yes. I could stand seeing him hurt you like that, and I was much too intimidated to stand up to him on my own."
"More like scared out of your wits."
"Well, yes. But I can assure you that he's dead. His grave is an hour away from here, if you'd like to visit."
Torres nodded. "We would."
Daniella and Torres stood under a shady oak, watching Callie kneel in front of her husband's grave. He'd died of a cocaine heroin mix a year after he ran away from the cops.
"I never thought I'd see you again," Torres said, not taking her eyes off Callie.
Maroon, dark yellow, and orange dotted leaves fell around them in a gust of wind. Daniella pulled her jacket tighter around her.
"I used to dream that we'd run into each other on the street," she said softly. "I gave up on that dream long ago."
"But it came true anyway," Torres said.
They watched Callie cross herself. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to the cold stone. Wiping her eyes, she stood.
"Do you think we could catch up sometime?" Torres asked. There was so much she wanted to know. When Daniella got out of the system, if she was going to college, what she was doing now…
Callie was heading towards them, head down.
And maybe since Daniella was a natural, she could at least intern at the Lightman Group.
"Maybe over coffee?" Torres suggested.
Daniella smiled. "I'd like that."