Faith brushed her fingertips over the dust free shelf, her gaze roaming across the trinkets and ornaments on display; every odd shape and texture clashing with the drab tones framing their existence. The place was like a stuffy old people’s home, only. . .weirder.
Picking up a small wooden box with intricate carvings detailing the lid, she turned towards Giles. Her voice, darker than the room’s deep shadows, broke a silence that had lingered too long. “What the hell is all this stuff anyway?” she asked.
Sighing, Giles approached the confused girl. “That is an ancient Indian dart box.” He paused a few feet away from Faith and looked at the array of curios and oddities he had picked up over the years. “Most of these things are very rare examples of their type, or come from long forgotten tribes with long forgotten beliefs.”
Faith just nodded and replaced the box to its rightful place on the shelf, shifting her attention to the greying man before her. She did her best to avoid looking him directly in the eye. Feeling uncomfortable and not knowing what to do with her hands, or the rest of her body, as the quietness of the room hung its stagnant net around them once again.
She wasn’t sure how she should be acting. If there was an etiquette to this kind of thing. To being landed with somebody you had not so long ago battled against. Had bruised in deeper ways than it was possible to see.
Giles wasn’t sure exactly how to handle the situation either, but he was positive about not allowing things to go horribly wrong this time around. He had failed the young girl once, and he wasn’t about to do it again. Despite his wariness and his anger, he couldn’t turn his back. Not when he was aware that’s all the girl had ever known. That all her life she had been left to fend for herself, not knowing how to take help and friendship when it was offered to her. Not knowing when the offer was genuine or just a ploy to take advantage of her.
“So,” Faith mumbled, “are you gonna hand me over to the Council?” She looked directly into Giles’ eyes for the first time, as she asked her question, completely unsure of the answer despite Angel’s assurance that Giles had promised not to turn her in.
“No, Faith,” Giles answered truthfully. “I don’t believe that’s the best place for you. Their methods of ‘rehabilitation’ are somewhat. . .”
“Fucked up?” Faith interrupted.
“I was thinking more. . .crude,” he replied, taking off his glasses. “You’ll be safe here, Faith, as long as you’re committed and do exactly what you’re required to do.”
“Which is?” Faith asked.
Resting against the back of his sofa, Giles recounted to Faith the agreement of her release.
He had received a phone call from Angel only a few weeks after Faith had made her hasty confession. After extensive questioning, it was discovered that there just wasn’t enough solid evidence to hold Faith on anything. The only witness couldn’t be relied upon.
Faith’s confession was deemed inadmissible, after she’d had a long talk with the psychologist her state appointed attorney had insisted be brought in. He concluded that any confession she signed was no more than the confused and misguided babble of a teenager in need of therapy. He hadn’t room in his scientific mind to allow for the ideas of demons and vampires that slipped out while Faith was under hypnosis.
Little evidence, and a clear case of a troubled youth with possible schizophrenia, meant the cops couldn’t charge her with anything solid.
There was sufficient worry, however, for the authorities to insist that she either be taken to a psychiatric ward for therapy and counselling. Or alternatively, that she be placed with a guardian, who would ensure that she visited a therapist once a day to help treat any psychological or behaviour problems she may have.
Angel had stepped forwards immediately. Offering his home as a safe haven, and assuring that Faith would receive the treatment she needed.
Kate Lockley soon put an end to that plan. She convinced the authorities that he wasn’t the type of responsible adult that Faith should be placed with.
He could think of only one person to turn to, and as risky and as crazy at it seemed, he knew deep down in his un-beating heart, that Giles wouldn’t turn Faith away. Despite everything that had happened. Despite how much damage Faith had done in Sunnydale, Angel was hopeful that she would be safe there.
He’d been accepted by Giles after all, and he’d done far worse throughout his un-dead life. Had hurt and killed far more people. If there was acceptance and forgiveness for him, he was certain that there would eventually be the same acceptance and forgiveness for Faith.
She wanted to change. She wanted to put right her wrongs. She needed a safe place to do it.
It took Angel a little time and convincing to get Giles to accept his plea. Giles was worried about how the others would react. Worried about Buffy mostly. Worried because there was so much that could go wrong.
He admitted that there really was no other option, however. Neither of them wanted to see Faith in an institution, and they both agreed that the Council should have no involvement. They would no doubt be on the search for Faith again soon, but for now the Council were apparently on the back foot and on the plane back to England, empty handed.
“So I gotta see a shrink once a day? Fuck. . .that’s all I need.” Faith slumped down onto Giles’ sofa, her feet immediately going up on the coffee table in front of her.
“They’ll help, Faith. You need it. And you need some kind of normality, so I’ve arranged for a tutor to come here every other day. He’ll be here for a few hours to school you. I don’t think it’s prudent you attend college right now.” He ignored the fact that Faith didn’t quite seem to be listening to him, deciding that just straight out giving her the facts and ground rules was the best way to go.
She needed stability. She needed him to be strong and resolute. He wasn’t hiding the fact he would be guarded around her. He was jaded enough not to just take Angel’s word on the fact she wouldn’t hurt him, or anybody else. There was a lot of bridge building to be done. But he sensed defeat in her, regardless of any attitude she cloaked herself with.
“Sure,” she uttered as she picked up a spell book from the table.
“And, Faith. . .boots are not for putting on the table.” Giles raised his eyebrow and Faith clattered her heavy boots to the floor.
She wasn’t going to argue. Not now. She wanted to change and knew she had a chance here. She had a real chance at getting it right this time. Of course she wasn’t looking forward to the rules that were going to come her way. She was looking forward even less to facing her old enemies. Her old battlegrounds.
But what choice did she have? She didn’t want to go down the ‘evil path’ again. She didn’t like how far she’d slipped into the role of bad-guy so easily.
It had never meant to go so far. She had never imagined she could allow herself to be so cruel. So detached. And so blind to the choices she’d had.
After Angel had dropped her off at Giles’ small apartment, she was extremely wary. Angel had been her shield. He didn’t judge. He didn’t look at her like she needed washed, or beaten to death. But now here she was, alone again, in surroundings that had caused her pain. In a place that had driven her over the edge and into situations she had never wanted to find herself.
She was half expecting Buffy to jump out at her, knife in hand, when Giles had shown her to her room.
There was no Buffy, though. Nobody but Giles telling her the house rules. Telling her that she had to follow his guidance if she truly wanted to get herself on the straight and narrow.
She nodded at every rule with an internal wince of pain. It wasn’t going to be easy, but it was going to be worth it. She would prove to herself that running wasn’t her only option. She had to, because she had run out of places to escape to. As much as she hated defeat, Sunnydale was her salvation, and she was smart enough to realise that.
“What about Buffy?” Faith asked, her voice tempered by a slight quake as she spoke the other slayer’s name aloud.
“She won’t be told. At least not yet.” He began shuffling papers into a neat pile on his desk, not wanting to think about how Buffy would react if she knew Faith was ensconced in his home.
“But. . .” Faith furrowed her brow, her heart quickening as she thought of Buffy. Not knowing if it was fear she felt, or something else.
“She’s busy with college. With slaying and. . .Riley.” Giles cleared his throat, subconsciously airing his feelings of unease about Riley, and about Buffy’s relationship with him. “I’ll let her know of the situation once I feel you’ve become a little more settled.” He didn’t want a repeat of their epic fights, and he certainly didn’t want Faith pushed back into a corner again. She knew only one way to get herself out of a corner, and the world didn’t need a rogue slayer on the loose again.
Nodding a little, her dark hair falling in waves around her shoulders, Faith thumbed through the little spell book she was holding. She didn’t see what was on the pages. She didn’t notice words or phrases. All she could see was Buffy. All her mind would allow her to see was Buffy.
The happy carefree Buffy she had wanted to see more of. The troubled Buffy that did her best to hide how isolated she felt too. The hurt Buffy that made Faith’s heart sink to her feet. The anger. The pain. The bitter sting of unforgiveness.
Feeling tears begin to sear the back of her eyes, Faith placed the book to one side and stood. Taking a deep breath that would never stop the sensation of chocking that her regret caused, she walked over to the window, allowing the faint light to settle on her face.
She didn’t want to cry. It hurt too much to cry. It brought out too much pain. Too much heartbreak. Not only from Sunnydale, but from as far back as she could remember. It seemed like the only heart she had ever had was broken.
It would still beat. It would still pound in her ears when she felt fear, when she felt lust, when she felt Buffy close by. But it was bits and pieces in her chest. A jigsaw she had no hope of putting back together.
“I trust Angel, Faith. . .but you’re going to have to prove to me that I can trust you too. I don’t want you near Buffy, or the others. You will stay here, unless I’ve given express permission for you to leave.” He made sure she was listening to every word. “You will visit your doctor and learn to take responsibility for your actions and the suffering you caused. It’s not going to be easy, Faith.”
Faith looked towards him. The light from the window struggling to illuminate her shadowy frame as she stood clothed all in black. Her eyes looked hollow and darker then ever.
She was a powerful presence in the small and cluttered room, but evil didn’t have a hand in that presence. It had left her. It had chewed her up and spat her out, and through the defeat and the pain. . .she still had the ability to stun. To cause Giles to wonder in awe about the mystical and powerful being that was the slayer. That was Faith in particular.
He tried his best not to see things as Buffy being the light and Faith being the darkness of slaying, but it was a hard analogy to discount.
They reflected each other. He hoped that didn’t mean Faith had a life sentence of always being on the outside. Of always being seen as the ‘bad’ one of the two. He knew deep down that she wasn’t truly bad. She was just lost. Lost and alone, and unable to reach out, or understand and accept the offer of a friendly hand.
Shaking his head from his musings, Giles sat at his desk and continued his schedule for Faith.
He planned to get her training again. To get her focused on what the true meaning of her nature was. To give her an outlet for her pain and anger. To give him a reason to be there again.
He had felt useless for too long now. Buffy didn’t need a watcher. Buffy didn’t need his fatherly hand, but Faith did.
He had seen a little shop for sale in town, and in his mind he was already detailing training facilities. A place for him to work with Faith. A place for him to show her the true path of the slayer. To show her that allowing herself, and teaching herself to be in charge of the force within her, to garner it and use it for good. . .would make her feel far more powerful than she had ever felt under the influence of the Mayor.
And Giles was well aware of how influential the Mayor been in her downfall, and the way Faith had looked up to him.
Giles saw the little lost girl under all the black leather and red lipstick. He doubted she had ever had a true home, or anybody that cared. He hoped in some way she could learn to look up to him now, before it was too late. Before she became lost to regret and slid down the wrong path again.
There was a lot of work to be done, though. A lot of hurt to get through in order for Faith to grow and become the responsible young woman he hoped she would be.
“Do I get to slay?” Faith asked abruptly, startling Giles, and causing him to wonder how she’d moved so much closer without him noticing.
“All in good time, Faith.” Giles smiled a little, feeling the energy crackling from the young slayer in her need to satisfy her desire as one of the chosen.
“Cool,” she said almost cheerfully. The darkness from her eyes giving way to a small speck of light within.
Slumping back onto the couch, leaving Giles to do his paperwork, Faith flicked on the TV by the remote. Her feet hovered above the coffee table in her natural instinct to sully all manner of surfaces with her boots. She looked across at Giles. He wasn’t looking her way, but she lowered her feet back to the ground anyway.
“Little steps,” she thought to herself. “Then I get to beat un-dead ass again.”
For a split second she felt easy in herself. There was no threat of impending doom hanging over her head.
But it didn’t last. Buffy was never far from her thoughts. Her own monumental screw up was never far from her thoughts, and never allowed her to settle. Knowing she had probably lost her chance at having something, having friends, having Buffy in her life. . .never strayed from her mind at all. Even in sleep, where her nightmares tore at her shattered soul.
Aimlessly switching channels in the vain attempt to distract herself from the pain and guilt, from the need to slay, and from the feeling of being trapped by rules already, Faith tried to focus her mind on the future instead of the past.
But the future was terrifying. And she was scared. Fighting to keep her sanity, but scared of herself. More so than she was of anything Sunnydale or Buffy could throw at her.
Her future was in her own two hands, but she’d only ever used them to bruise, and hurt. . .and kill.