A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Profiler crossover story.
Summary: The mind. It can be a beautiful thing. But what happens when it is corrupted by evil?
Authors Notes: This story takes place approximately 7 years in the future.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy, the WB and UPN own the characters.
A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Profiler Crossover story.
****Jackie's Bar and Steakhouse****
Alex sat in front of the bar, nursing his third bourbon. At this time of the night, or morning, the whole place was almost deserted. Only three other people were in the bar, the bartender and 2 other patrons. The rain had picked up again, coming down in sheets. The tv above the bar was out, instead soft music was playing. Alex sipped his drink, following it up with a drag on his cigarrete. He was tired. More tired then he could remember. This case had taxed him to his last nerve.
It had all come to a head just a few short hours before, as he prepared himself to kill the man responsible for all this pain. If it hadn't been for his collegeaus, he'd probably be in lockup right now. Or, infinitely worse, he could be sitting here, replaying blowing the SOB away. Feel it gnawing at what was left of his soul, taking his remaining humanity away piece by piece.
'Tired. I'm so damned tired', he thought as he sipped his drink, the alcohol burning his throat. This case had consumed him, more then any other. He knew the reason why. He just didn't want to think about it, shoving it into that deep dark place inside his mind where he kept all the darkness that he'd endured during his life. And now, Rachel had stirred up another memory that was locked away in that same desolate place. Another failure in his life was ripped out of its spot in the perpetual darkness. Another soul that he had failed to help had been brought back to haunt him.
A single word. A word fraught with meaning. To have faith. To believe in something. They hadn't believed in her. They had tried to change her instead of helping her. And when he finally had tried to do the right thing by her, it already had been too late. He had seen the darkness in her eyes. It was the same darkness he saw when he looked in the mirror. The same darkness everyone who had lived through the horrors brought on by men had in their eyes. She was a survivor, just like him. But unlike him, she didn't have anyone who could counter those dark dreams. Nobody to shoulder even a part of that burden, like he had had. In not doing so from the start, he had failed her and turned her to the dark side. A dark side he now was dangerously close to falling into.
Faith ran through the pouring rain. It was her first night back in Boston after years and she had gone to check out all her old haunts. Never a good idea to do so when it's raining like it's the end of the world but something told her to do it. Something had been calling out to her. And now, even though she was soaked to the bone, she was glad that she did. This trip down memory lane had helped in her recovery. Finally, it felt like she was on the right track with her life. Laying demons of the past to rest, Giles had termed it, she remembered, smiling slightly.
Faith had been out of jail for four years now. Four hard years where she had to work off all the feelings of distrust, anger, rage and every other emotion her name or presence evoked in the people whom she once fought alongside with. Four years of atoning for her sins, regaining their trust and friendship. In the end, it had been worth it. Slowly, her battered and broken soul healed. Now, she had a family. Not a family bound by blood but by shared experiences, spilled blood, trust and friendship. She knew they would die for her if necessary and they knew she would do the same without hesitation. But still, there was a part of her that was still enveloped in darkness. The darkness of the past.
Giles had been correct when he'd suggested that maybe it was time to go back to the past and heal those wounds. Only then could she be really free. That was why she was in Boston. Life here had been hard and miserable for most of her life. Until she found out she was the Slayer and had been taken in by her watcher. Even with the added burden of that mantle, even with all the demons and vamps she encountered, the short time she had with her watcher opened her up to a new world. For the first time in her short life, Faith had felt at home. At peace. Those few short months were like a dream as her watcher became more of a mother to her then her own had ever been.
Rainy nights were for long talks about all kinds of things, from boys to music to movies. Faith had opened up, talking to Amanda about her life. Telling her the hardships she'd had to endure, because of an indifferent mother who was either too drunk or doped up or both to even bother with her. Of every humiliation, every hungry leer or grope her mother's boyfriend of the week would throw her way. Even the truly sickening things she'd had to endure during those years. Amanda had listened quietly, just holding her as she talked, holding her, stroking her hair. And then, Kakistos had ended all that abruptly, coated it with blood and tears.
Yes, this town had a hold on her that needed to be broken before she could truly heal. That was why she was here, to walk the streets of her nightmares so she could burn all the filth, all the pain on her soul away. Tomorrow, she would start the search for her mother. Another part of her that needed to be cleansed. Another part of her soul that needed healing. Probably the hardest journey she had undertaken. Faith felt as if she needed a stiff drink to get the courage to face her mother after all these years. If the bitch was even still alive. But Faith was a survivor if nothing else and she would see this through. It was worth it just to have the peace she so desperately craved.
Up ahead Faith saw the lighted sign of a bar she remembered. The place was open 24 hours a day and served some of the best steaks in town. Deciding that it would be a good place to hide until the rain had slowed down some, she stepped inside, not bothering to look at the few patrons sitting at the bar. Ordering a cup of hot tea, she walked over to one of the tables situated between the wall and the large window and sat down. Closing her eyes, she put her head back, taking deep breaths as she let the warmth of the place seep into her cold bones. The sound of someone putting down a cup shook her eyes open and she paid the bill before taking a sip of the hot liquid, savoring the taste. Damn Giles and his tea.
The sound of the tv coming on shook her out of her musings and Faith turned towards the sound, watching the picture settle.
**CNN Breaking News**
'2 hours ago, Federal and local law enforcement authorities rescued the latest victim of the Boston Butcher and apprehended the suspect. Neither identities have been made public. Sources tell CNN that the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team entered the suspect's apartment, causing the suspect to flee. A running gun battle through Boston's wharf district, specifically the Boston Marriot on State Street, ended when the suspect tried to reach the boat slips near the hotel. He was apprehended and brought to the Boston FBI offices for interrogation. We will bring you new information as it becomes available. Again, for those of you who just tuned in..'
"May his bones turn to ashes as he burns in Hell", Alex said as he lifted his drink to the CNN reporter in a silent salute.
Faith turned her attention away from the tv set as her ears picked up the softly muttered curse from one of the men sitting at the bar. His back was to her as he stood up, placing a few bills on the bar. Dark, short cropped hair, a classically cut suit that was rumpled as if he'd slept in it for days and a black trench coat he was just shrugging into. The vibe she was getting off of him was one of defeat and despair, feelings she knew intimately. Faith's eyes followed his movements to the door; as he stood outside, he looked to the left and up, noticing the downpour. Faith nearly gasped out loud as she finally saw his face.
The dark-haired Slayer sat at her table, stunned and unable to move as her mind tried to grasp what her eyes were seeing. Finally, her brain kickstarted itself and Faith moved with coiled grace out of her seat, sprinting to the door, nearly ripping it off its hinges. However, as she set foot on the wet, slick pavement, Faith already knew it was too late. The rear lights of a cab glowed red in the distance as it turned the corner and out of sight. Not waiting a single second, Faith ran after it on the near empty streets, closing the distance to the corner in record time. Faith rounded the corner, her head rapidly scanning the area as she slowed to the stop in the middle of the street. The cab was gone, no where in sight. Her heart thumping in her chest, Faith ran her fingers through her wet hair, despair and anger filling her chest.
'Damnit! Just a second! If I had been a second faster!'
Pulling out her cellphone, Faith pushed the speed dial and brought the device to her ear, listening impatiently to the beep as it tried to connect. The sound of a car horn shook awareness back to her and Faith quickly moved to the sidewalk, flipping the bird to the driver who'd almost hit her. Hiding from the downpour in a dooropening, she waited patiently as the ringing was finally answered.
"Whoever this is, your call better be about the impending end of the world", a sleep-laden voice came over the line.
"B., I've found him! Actually, I didn't really find him, I just saw him and lost him again! But he's here! Do you hear me, B.? HE'S HERE!"
"Whoa, slow down, girl! You've been hanging with Willow too long coz you're babbling a mile a minute and right now, I'm not in the mood for that. Sleep-deprived Slayer here."
"Sorry B. But I found him!"
"You said that already. What time is it anyway?"
Some grunts and other noises came over the line as Buffy Summers, the older Slayer turned to look at her bedside table and the clock situated there. An indignant scream caused Faith to remove the phone from her ear.
"It's nearly 2 AM here! What the hell are you doing calling me up at this time of the night? For that matter, what the hell are you doing up at this time of night? It's got to be close to 5 AM in Boston!"
"Buffy! No time to talk about the time right now so shut up and listen!"
Silence was the only answer.
"B., you there?"
"Make up your mind, will you? First you tell me to shut up and now you want me to talk? You really need some sleep, Faith. You're not usually this indecisive."
Faith let out a breath of relief as the other Slayer berated her.
"B., I am sorry for calling so late but I was just cruising the old neighborhood. Checking things out, you know? So I lost track of time, big deal. Anyway, it's raining and I stopped at this all-night place for a cup of tea and wait for it to stop raining. Guess who I saw there?"
The growl that assaulted Faith's ear brought a grin to her lips. A Buffy who'd been woken from a sound sleep was something most people feared. Only two people alive took it in their stride and one was Faith.
"Faith, guessing games are so not what I want to play. Either spill or I'm hanging up and going back to sleep."
"Okay, fine, go back to sleep, blondie. Then I won't tell you that I saw the one person we've both been looking for, for a long time."
With that, Faith closed the connection, leaning back against the wall, a sly grin on her face. True enough, less then thirty seconds later, her cellphone rang. Once Buffy's curiosity was aroused, nothing short of the apocalypse could stop her.
"Are you gonna listen now or do I have to shut this damn contraption as Giles calls it, off?"
"Fine! Play your damn stupid games, Faith! Now tell me who you saw and lost already!"
"Well, he hates his middle name with a vengeance, has the ability to get G-man to pinch the bridge of his notes several times in under a minute, has saved both our Grade A asses numerous times and is a great lay in the sack, even if he was a first-timer then."
The silence that followed Faith's bold statements was laden with meaning and she could practically hear the wheels turning inside Buffy's head. The voice that filled her ear, however, wasn't the one she associated with her sister-slayer. It was rather the voice of a scared, little girl, laden with fear and hope.
"Did... did you really... are you sure... Xander?"
"Buffy, it was him. Older, little worn down maybe, but it was Xander."
"He's alive then?"
Faith could feel the hope coming through the line as Buffy's voice seemed to gain strength with each question.
"As far as I could tell he was."
"You said you lost him", Buffy said with an accusatory tone in her voice.
"Hey, he was leaving the place and I only saw him when he was standing outside. I couldn't believe it and before I could get to him, he'd already gotten a cab. I ran after it but when I turned the corner, it was gone. It was, what, five, six minutes ago. I called you right then."
Silence reigned for several heartbeats as both women thought about recent events.
"I'm going to call the others! Willow and Tara can try a location spell centered on Boston. Maybe this time, we'll get lucky."
"Fine, I'm catchin' a cab and go back to my motel. Need to get out of these wet clothes. You can catch me either there or on my cell, once you've got a hit", Faith answered, marveling at the change in Buffy's demeanor. They were going to get their friend back this time, it seemed to say.
Faith threw the phonebook through the room in a fit of anger, the crash it made as it hit the wall a small consolation. The location spell had been a bust and they'd resorted to old-fashioned legwork. Faith had gotten her hands on any and all Boston phone books she could get, while Willow was searching every available database regarding the City of Boston and the state of Massachutes.
They had found nothing. After all the hours of searching, nothing was all they found, Faith thought grimly. Right now, she was even beginning to think that she'd imagined the whole thing. Shaking that thought away immediately, Faith threw herself down on the bed. She was certain it had been Xander she'd seen. That was the only thought in her head. No way was she going to second-guess herself on this. He was older, as were they all, but it had been him. He was alive, of that they were all certain. Either Xander was using an alias or he was in a database that resisted Willow's attempts at cracking.
Looking out of the window, Faith noticed it was already around noon. Finally registering the fact that her stomach was empty, the raven-haired Slayer tiredly got off of the bed and headed outside. Sitting inside, stewing had never been her strong point. Action was what she was good at. And she was in Boston to put ghosts to rest. Something the search for another ghost of her past had put on hold. Shaking out her hair, Faith decided that for right now, she'd get something to eat then go and finish what she came to her old home for. And after that...
He was alive, that much she knew. But the despair coming off him in that one glance she'd caught of him... Faith had mostly lost her dark outlook on life but in her gut she knew Xander was in a very dark place. A place Faith knew intimitately. A place she vowed to herself he would not slip into any deeper, if she could help it. It was time to find him and offer him the help he had once offered her.
**Two days later**
Faith listlessly stirred her coffee as she looked outside the window of the diner she was sitting in. The weather was as bleak as her mood, the rain pouring down, the sky an angry dark grey, almost black. Lighting and thunder rumbled through the sky, making it look much later than it actually was.
All these things, signified by the weather. Sighing, she took a sip of the bitter liquid, not even the generous helping of sugar helping to revive her weary bones. Faith was exhausted, sleep had been a luxury she hadn't afforded herself these last two days. First there was the search for the suddenly resurrected, then disappeared again Xander Harris. Every favor, every acquaintance, every snitch she had had here way back when, everything was called in to find the wayward Scooby.
As if that wasn't enough, she had just finished the true purpose of her visit to Boston. A visit she'd hoped would have gone better then what had actually happened. A visit she had been dreading ever since she'd agreed with Giles that she needed this trip to put her past in order, so she could move forward.
**Three hours previous**
Faith looked up at the old, dilapidated building in front of her, her heart hammering in her throat; boarded up windows, the front door, or what was left of it, hanging half out of the frame. Garbage was strewn all over the street, burned out hulks of cars lying helter skelter. The few people shuffling along on the streets were dressed in rags. If one could look in their eyes, they would see nothing there. No looks of hope, no looks of despair. No feelings at all. The residents here were akin to the walking dead, living out their existence, until, one day, they'd be no more.
The whole area was what city planners called 'low income housing'. Boston PD called in the 'The Pits', a name that was more accurate. It was the poorest section of Boston, not even the gangbangers of Boston's poorer parts ventured here. Even the homeless avoided it. It was a haven for addicts, strung out on the cheapest stuff they could find. A place were having a dime could mean getting a knife shoved in your back.
Faith had tracked her here. It had taken some doing, calling in a few markers. The runner she'd gotten the info from, had told her that the info had been a few weeks old, that her mother had problably already bolted from the address. Or more likely, that she had died already.
Faith ascended the stairs with trepidation, the familiar fight-or-flight response running through her veins. It took all her strength to put one foot in front of the other. Crouching slightly, she entered the lobby; the stench hitting her like hammerblow, making her gag. Quickly stepping back outside, Faith took several deep breaths before stepping back inside. Looking around the lobby, the Slayer spotted the rotting stairs. Carefully making her way through all the thrash and other unidentifiable stuff on the floor, she reached it and started upstairs. Straining her senses, Faith tried to make out anything that would suggest someone was living here.
Once, decades ago, people had lived here, in clean, if somewhat modest surroundings. Children had played in the street, couples had strolled around after a hard day's work, savoring what little time they'd had together before going back to a hard day at the factory or cleaning for the more affluent people living in the nicer neighborhoods. Now, it was the sanctuary for rats, cockroaches and the dregs of humanity. Faith had reached the first floor of the building; looking left and right, she tried to find any indication of numbers on the doors that remained in the darkened hallway. Finally spotting something down the left hallway, she walked slowly towards it.
The door was almost intact, slowly wafting in the wind that was coming in through a broken window, the area where the numbers had been attached, lighter then the surrounding area. Faith noticed that she was on the wrong side of the hallway and started back. Passing the stairs again, she continued looking for any signs of life. Most of the doors had gone missing, or were boarded up. Those that remained had been damaged by the weather or had been kicked in or had other damage inflicted on them.
Faith's ears pricked up as she heard something. If she hadn't been a Slayer, she wouldn't even have heard it, the creaking of wooden floorboards and limbs moving around, as if someone was turning around on the floor. Immediately, Faith went into a defensive stance as she neared the doorframe where the sound had come from. Flattening herself against the wall, she crept towards the edge, her heart hammering in her throat. This place was perfect for a vampire or demon to lurk. But even if those particular kinds of creatures weren't here, there were other kinds of evil lurking around, she knew. A bitter experience she'd learned early in life. Cursing herself for not bringing her knife with her, the dark-haired beauty peered around the frame.
The room was coated in shadows, making some parts appear darker then others. The stench inside was even fouler then the one wafting through the building. Faith didn't want to even think about what could be the cause of it, although she could imagine well enough. She had after all, spent some of her years on the street. Stretching her senses, the dark-haired Slayer surveyed the room. It wasn't big by any means but looked to have been a small livingroom in another era. At the end was a dark opening, another doorway, probably to the kitchen or a hallway, she realized. Then she heard the sound that had gotten her attention in the first place again.
Slight movement on the floor, as if someone was trying to get comfortable. Labored breathing.
With her heart hammering in her throat, Faith softly stepped into the room, scanning side to side. Her eyes fell on a small bundle nestled against the far wall. The slight movements indicated it was alive and probably the cause of the sounds she'd heard. Approaching it slowly as not to scare whomever it was, she called out to it.
The response was immediate as the bundle suddenly sat up and pushed itself into the corner as if trying to burrow into the rotting wall. A pathetic sounding gurgle of fear escaped it as it cowered there, trying to roll itself into the smallest ball possible. Faith's heart was hammering at the response, even though she'd been prepared for it. The sight that assaulted her eyes almost made her feel sick. What looked like a small child, dressed in filthy rags, cowered in fear before her. The Boston native crouched down a few yards away from the figure, her hands extended to the side to show that she didn't intend any harm.
"Hey. I'm sorry I scared you. I'm not gonna hurt you, okay? I just need some information. Okay?"
"Wh.. what.. what do you... want? Don't... don't hurt... me, please."
The raspy voice surprised Faith, it sounded far older then she'd have guessed from the person's form. Female too. Her eyes, having adjusted to the darkness and with enhanced Slayer abilities caught a glimpse of the woman's face behind stringy, unkempt and filth-encrusted hair. What she saw nearly made her gag. The woman could have been anything from in her teens to her forties but you'd never know. Her face was sunken and sallow, the skin almost translucent and mottled. There was absolutely no flesh or fat left, the muscle tissue almost non-existent. She was literally skin on bones and Faith was again reminded of scenes she'd seen of Nazi concentration camps. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Faith thanked whatever God was out there that she'd been spared this downward spiral she saw before her. True, her life hadn't been easy but being Called did seemed to have saved her from ending up like the poor unfortunate before her.
"No, I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. I just need some info. Maybe you can help me? Can you do that?"
The huddled form seemed to tremble all over, her eyes rapidly moving around the room, seemingly trying not to make make eyecontact with the person squatting in front of her. Fear seeped off her in waves.
"You're... you're not gonna... hurt me?"
The plaintive question asked in a voice that seemed to belong to a little girl, clenched at Faith's heart. She had to restrain herself not to reach out and stroke a hand through the woman's hair.
"No, I'm just looking for someone, maybe you can help?"
Faith smiled, hoping it would reassure the woman in front of her. Opening the flap of her right front pocket, Faith removed a picture, turning it towards the woman.
"I'm looking for this woman. I don't know what she looks like now but her name is ..."
Before Faith could continue, the woman had made a grab for the picture and ripped it from her. Pushing herself back into the corner, she stared at the picture with wide eyes, the fingers of one hand brushing over the old image, reverently.
"Claire... Claire Kincaid."
Faith stared at the woman in shock. Her jaw muscles worked valiantly, trying to say something but failed miserably. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Faith managed to push her surprise away together with the lump in her throat. However, it had been replaced with an even larger one inside her stomach. How could this woman before her know that name? Wariness and excitement battling in equal measure inside of her, Faith spoke.
"Yeah. Since you seem to know her, maybe you could tell me where I can find her?"
A hacking cough broke off the woman's words and this time, Faith did reach out, steadying her as throughout the episode. Finally, when the coughing subsided, the woman looked up into Faith's eyes. Faith tried to turn away from the penetrating gaze but it was as if something held her firmly locked in the stare. Swallowing several times, she was about to repeat the question.
Faith fell backwards in shock at hearing the name, her face frozen in surprise as she looked at the broken form of the woman in front of her.
"Jor- Jordan? Is... Is it really you?"
Faith swallowed hard as she watched the woman leaning forward slightly. Her face conveyed both trepidation, hope and fear as she looked at the dark-haired beauty. Faith herself didn't know what to think, didn't even want to think about what it meant. Finally she was able to form a coherent sentence.
"How... How do you know that name?"
"I think I would remember my daughter's name."
Faith's mind still couldn't fully comprehend what she'd seen and heard that day. She couldn't comprehend that she'd been face-to-face with her mother for the first time in more than ten years. She couldn't comprehend that the woman she'd talked to that day was the same one as in the photograph now riding in her pocket. Couldn't understand why someone would do such things to herself, to let themselves fall down so far.
Faith had come to Boston to find her mother. Find her and talk to her. Ask her why. Faith had needed the answer more then she cared to admit. Well, she'd gotten her answer, Faith thought, as she looked into the dark colored liquid in her cup.
Faith stared in shock at the slight figure huddled in the corner, not willing to believe what she was seeing and hearing. This couldn't be her mother, it just couldn't. This had to be some trick. Her mother wouldn't... would never...
With a sob, Faith threw herself into the arms of the woman who claimed to be her mother, holding on for dear life as the tears flooded her eyes. She didn't care about how bad she smelled, she didn't care about how fragile the woman in her arms felt. All Faith cared about was that she'd finally found her mother again. She didn't know how long they'd sat like that, wrapped around each other, until she felt tremors shaking through her body. Faith quickly pulled backwards, holding the other woman at arm's length, eyes roving over her.
Her mother was trembling.
At first, Faith thought it was the emotion of the reunion but then, it dawned on her. With a strenght fueled by desperation, Claire Kincaid pulled herself from her daughter's grasp and tore through the small pile of her belongings. Pulling out a small plastic back, Claire upturned it, spilling its contents on the dirty floor.
A soft rubber hose, it's original color almost completely obscured by the dirt congealing around it.
An old teaspoon, blackened by soot and rust.
With an ease borne of doing this a thousand times, Claire tied off the rubber hose around her left arm, then poured some white powder from a little bag into the spoon, following it up with some kind of liquid. Holding the lighter underneath it, she heated the mixture until the powder dissolved into the liquid. Carefully putting it down so the rear of the spoon rested on top of the lighter, she grabbed for the syringe.
Faith looked on in disbelief, not knowing whether this was a nightmare or if she was awake. As Claire was about to pull back the plunger, Faith shook of her stupor and pounced, knocking the spoon away, spilling its contents all over the floor.
The wail of the older woman echoed through the building, tapering off into a quiet sobbing as Faith stood in front of her, rage, disgust and unbelief warring with each other.
"How could you? I need it... I need it. I need my fix. It was the last I had..."
Faith kneeled down in front of Claire, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her.
"No! You don't need that shit! You hear me? You don't need it! It's killing you! Look at yourself! You're nothing but skin and bones! How long have you been living like this, huh? How long have you been slowly killing yourself with this shit?"
Faith was shaking her so hard Claire started convulsing; fearing the worst, Faith released her but not before getting vomit over her chest. Claire fell to the floor, coughing and spitting out what little she had in her stomach. Suddenly, her body was still, panicking Faith. Forgetting everything else, Faith grabbed the slight frame in front of her, turning the body over.
"Mom? Come on! Don't do this to me! MOM!"
As she was shaking the woman, her eyes opened and she pushed Faith away from her with surprising strenght. Sitting up, Claire pierced Faith with an angry stare.
"You little bitch! It's not enough that you ruined my life when you were born! Now you have to go and throw away the last of my shit?"
Faith couldn't belief her ears. She didn't want to belief the words that were coming out of her mother's mouth. Looking at the hunched woman in front of her, she couldn't see one single part of the woman in the photograph. Memories she'd pushed back into the darkest, deepest recesses of her mind broke free and assaulted her as she let Claire's tirade wash over her.
Her mother coming home to the small dingy apartment several times a night, each time with another man, turning tricks to pay for alcohol and drugs.
Finding her mother in the small bedroom in the morning, curled up in a ball, beaten black and blue by some john who got off on hurting women.
The screaming, ranting and cursing when she'd drank a couple of bottles of cheap booze to dull the pain, blaming her tiny daughter for the situation they found themselves in.
Her new 'daddy' coming to live with them.
Her mom and him drinking booze and doing drugs.
Him taking all the money she earned with her body, beating her if he thought she hadn't worked hard enough.
The night that changed a twelve year old child's life forever. The night when her 'daddy' took away her innocence, 'breaking her in for the job'. The next day, the girl had gone to her mother, haltingly telling her what 'daddy' had done to her, hoping, begging, praying that her mother would just hold her and make the pain go away. Hoping to be protected.
And for a moment it looked as if that was precisely what happened as her mother started throwing things at 'daddy'. Calling him names, hitting him.
Jordan, even though she was in pain, was elated. Her mommy was protecting her. Her mommy did love her.
But just as surely as a soap bubble bursts, so did the pre-teen's elation when she heard the next words from her mother.
*** "You fucking shit! I just made a deal with Manny! He was gonna get to pop her to square what we owe him! Now we don't have that anymore! How the fuck are we gonna get three grand in two days? Huh? You tell me, you fuck!" ***
In that moment, hope had died. In that moment, a little girl named Jordan died and Faith was born.
She'd snuck out of the kitchen and into her mother's bedroom, grabbing all the cash she could find, then made her way to her own room and proceeded to put some clothes and other stuff into a small duffelbag. When she had finished, Faith stepped out onto the rusted fire escape, climbing down into the streets and into her new life.
The ranting didn't stop, didn't abate at all and something snapped inside Faith. With a growl, she pounced on the woman she'd once called mom and started shaking her.
"I said SHUT THE FUCK UP, BITCH!"
Silence greeted her as she stared down into frightened eyes. Her mother's eyes.
"You were gonna give me to Manny, your dealer, so you could square the money you owed him. What kind of mother sells out her child like that, huh? What the fuck happened to turn you into such a callous freak? I've known a lot of creeps in my life, I've faced a lot of things that scare the hell out of me, but I've never seen anything that even resembles what you are. Why? Just tell me what happened to turn you into this... this... whatever you've become!"
Claire looked into the eyes of the young woman who was once her daughter, seeing the disgust and loathing there and for the first time in a very long time, her mind cleared and old memories came back. Haunting and bittersweet memories. And the tears started to roll down her cheeks as she remembered. Turning her head away from her daughter, she answered the question.
"Your grandfather, okay? He threw me out when he found out I was pregnant! I was fifteen and pregnant and he threw me out on the streets", she screamed before a heavy coughing fit took hold of her.
Claire's words stunned Faith into silence. After several minutes, the coughing stopped and Claire pulled herself back into a sitting position.
"I'd met this guy, he was older, drove a motorcycle. The bad boy type, you know?"
At Faith's nod, Claire continued her story.
"When I was with him... God, everything was so much fun! Driving around, having fun... drinking, dancing... they were fun times. When my parents found out, they were furious. No daughter of mine is going to be wasting her time with trash like that! That's what daddy said. Called him a gold digger coz daddy had money. Did you know they threatened to have me shipped off to boarding school? In Switzerland? As if that scared me. I told them where they could stick it and got the hell out of that house."
Faith had sat down, her back against the wall as she listened to her mother relate her story. Her mind was still trying to grasp what she'd heard and the dark-haired girl couldn't help but wonder if her own stubborn streak was something she had gotten from her mother. Yet through it all, she couldn't help but remember every single thing that had happened to her as a child. All the pain and grief she'd suffered through because of the shell sitting in front of her.
"For a while, everything was fine. We partied, had fun and drove arond the country. Then I found out I was pregnant. When I told Gary, he said it was okay and not to worry. What a bastard he turned out to be."
"He sneaked out on ya."
A statement, not a question. Faith's stare pierced into Claire's eyes, willing her to answer.
"Yeah. He left. I woke up the next morning in bed, alone. No note, no nothing. I had to hitchhike my way back. I didn't have any money or a place to stay. Manny helped me out with that, got me a little place, you remember? Course, I had to work it off. I wasn't showing yet so I could make good money. Even after I started showing... some johns like laying it to pregnant girls, they'll pay extra..."
"Why didn't you go back to your parents? Let them know what happened?"
"What? And hear them say 'I told you so'? You don't know your grandfather, Jordan! He would've never let me forget! He'd hound me all my life about how I ruined my life and shit. I wasn't going to listen to that!"
"No, you'd just go and ruin your life further and as a consequence, ruin your daughter's life too! All in the name of pride! Have you looked at yourself lately? You look like a walking corpse", Faith screamed angrily. She was livid, her body shuddering with rage as she confronted the woman who'd brought her into this world.
"You drank booze, shot up, snorted, popped every kind of shit you could get your hands on, just to drown whatever pain you're feeling! Trying to deny that you were feeling miserable. You didn't dare take the risk that your parents might actually care about you. It was better for you to think of them as the ones who'd brought this upon you. You sold yourself and were planning on selling your own flesh and blood to feed your habit and it's all your parents fault. Instead of looking at yourself and facing the consequences of your actions."
Faith squatted down in front of Claire, grabbing her chin and pulling her face roughly towards hers. Claire could clearly see the rage, hurt and anger in Faith's eyes.
"You want to know the truth? I'd pushed all the shit you put me through away. Every little thing that happened. Every time you hit me. Every time you'd come home with another asshole, just so you could feed your filthy habit. Every time I found you beat up and had to clean up after you. I shoved all of it into this deep dark hole as if it was some stinking nightmare."
Faith's voice was hoarse as the tears streamed down her face as she confronted Claire. Grabbing the picture she continued her tirade.
"But it wasn't a nightmare, huh? It did happen, every single thing. I came back to Boston to find you, to find out why you did the things you did. What reason you had to live like that. Why you would subject your own child to such abuse. And guess what? Just stupid fucking pride. That's all it is!
Your stupid pride is to blame for what happened to you. And you are to blame for what happened to me that night. All the other stuff that happened to me? That's my fault and I paid the price for it. Just like you are paying the price, mother.
And the sad thing is, I was just like you. I went down of path of self-destruction. I wanted to die because of the things I did. If it wasn't for some people who believed in me, I would have. The same people I'd hurt so badly took me in. They helped me. Yeah, it was rough. It hurt like hell but in the end, I survived and learned to love and trust again. I paid for the crimes I commited. Every day, I try to find redemption. It's hard. Often painful but at the end of the day, I feel good about myself. Knowing I make a difference. Knowing I'm important, even if it's only to the people who care about me gives me strength."
Faith got to her feet, turned and headed for the door. As she stood in the door opening, she turned around, looking straight into the eyes of the woman who'd brought her into the world.
"I forgive you, mother. For everything you did to me. For the abuse. For trying to pawn me off to pay for your habit. For what your boyfriend did to me. I forgive you. Maybe now, you can forgive yourself and clean up your act. I hope you do."
With those final words, Faith left the apartment, never once looking back as she heard the keening cries of the woman she'd once called mother.
Faith stared listlessly outside, the forgotten coffee, long gone cold still clutched between her hands. She'd gotten her answer, even if it wasn't what she'd expected. Still, the last of her demons had been slayed and strange as it may seem, she felt lighter, more free then she'd ever felt before.
'Like cutting out the diseased flesh so the rest of the body can heal', she thought as she watched the rain beat down on the street and passing cars. It was time to go home. Faith smiled slightly as the thought passed through her mind. It had been so long since she'd had a place she could call home. Living on the street, or in shelters or finding a place with some of the small-time gangs that hung around the streets, that's what her life had been like. Until the Watcher's Council had found her.
For the first time in her life, Faith had had a home. A home where there was someone who cared about HER. Hillary may have been strict at times, but the woman had loved her. She'd taken in a rebellious, opinionated, willful teenager and slowly broke down the barriers the child had built around herself. Love had been extended without any thought of getting any in return. Understanding and discipline when they were needed. Space when required. An ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or a voice to give advice during those times that asked for them. For the first time in her life, Faith had had someone who genuinly cared about her, even if she was a Watcher. And then it was taken away.
But now, Faith had a family. A crazy, disfunctional family that was constantly at each other's throat, yet gave unconditional support. They could be screaming at each other one minute, the next they were hugging each other, sharing ice cream and talking about everything and anything.
Two sisters, two best friends, a mother and a father.
Buffy and Dawn. Tara and Willow. Joyce and Giles.
Not to mention L.A.'s Black Sheep Squadron.
Angel, Wesley, Gunn, Cordelia, Fred and Lorne.
One big, happy, crazy-ass family with one missing member.
With a deep sigh, the brunette stood up, leaving some money for the untouched coffee. There was one more thing she needed to do before she could leave the city and its memories behind her. Standing under the shop's extended roof, Faith looked up at the sky. The clouds were dissipating, being driven apart by the sun. It somehow felt almost symbolic to her as she quickly made her way through the slowling rain.
Leaning against a tree, Faith stood watching the large, expensive brownstone across the street. The place breathed understated elegance and old money as did every other building in this area of Boston. It was a place where you'd see Brooks Brothers and Burberry's, not Levi's and T-shirts. Faith shook off the bout of self-consciousness she was experiencing. Now was not the time for such things.
After finding out her mother's name and the fact that she'd been from a wealthy family, it had been rather easy to find out which family that was and where they lived. Faith had debated with herself furiously whether or not to approach the family regarding their daughter and granddaughter. In the end, it was a telephonecall that had made the decision for her.
Dawn had called because she'd had some problems with her current boyfriend and while Buffy may be her sister, the girl really needed to get away from the "slay all my sister's boyfriends" routine. If it was up to the blonde Slayer, Dawn would spend the rest of her life locked in a convent, Faith thought with a grin.
The talk had taken up several hours the night before and in the end, Faith knew what she would do. Buffy, Dawn, Joyce and Giles may not be family by blood, but they were family nonetheless. Each would die for the other, kill for the other if necessary. They loved each other with a fierceness that Faith had never experienced anywhere else. The people she was waiting to catch a glimpse of... she didn't have such a bond with them. The only bond they shared was made up of shared bloodlines. They'd had enough grief in their lives and Faith didn't have the heart to add more to it.
She just wanted to see who her bloodrelatives were. Just so she could say goodbye in silence and close that chapter of her life. Just then, a large, expensive car moved down the street, turning into the driveway of the house she was watching. Just as the car's doors opened, disgorging a tall, good looking man, a woman and two little children, the front door of the house opened. Faith watched as a fiftysome couple stepped outside, the two children running up to them, hugging them enthusiastically.
Words like grandpa and grandma filtered through to where she was standing, watching the scene. The young man had his arm around the woman, an African-American. She too was greeted like she was part of the family, warm hugs and kisses extended and received.
Faith watched the scene in front of her, oblivious of the tears rolling down her face.
Her uncle and his wife.
Sometimes, the only way you know you're alive is because of the pain you feel.
Right now, Faith's whole being was suffused by pain as she watched the family interact with each other. Knowing that because of some stupid act of misplaced pride, her whole childhood had been devoid of the obvious love that emanated from the small group of people on the other side of the street. With an angry shake of her head, the brunette Slayer pushed off from the tree and made her way down the street.
It was time to go back to her own family. It was time to go back to the people whom she loved and who in return, loved her back.