Summary: 5 things that will stick with you. (Faith)
I can only write in 5 things format. I have lost all ability to do anything else. Title from Ladder by Joan Osborne, which I can't stop listening to. Thanks to fox1013. Unbetaed.
Faith comes home from school, and the front door’s banging against the doorframe, an echo of a slam. Her throat gets tight, and she drops her back-pack on the green tile.
“Ma?” she calls. The rattle of blinds against the window is louder than her.
She clears her throat, falters into the living room. “Ma?’
The mattress in her mother’s bedroom is falling off the bed frame, and the hall way outside smells like smoke. She can see her mother’s fingers in the doorway of the bathroom, half curled toward the palm, chipped nail polish that looks black in the dark.
“Ma?” she whispers, tripping over a shoe lying on its side on the carpet. She falls into the doorway, jarring her shoulder against the wall.
Her mother snores with a cheek pressed against the floor, shirt rucked up to show the thin cotton of her panties. A glass lies on its side by the toilet, in a pool of something dark and sweet smelling.
Faith reaches out a hand, and settles it over her mother’s wrist. She can feel the pulse there, steady, slow.
She eases herself down, lies on the floor next to her ma and holds on to her wrist. Faith waits there, lying on the cold floor, thumb pressed to her mother’s pulse, until she coughs and stirs.
Air’s hot and angry in Faith’s throat, her palms burn from slamming against the concrete where she was thrown. Her skin’s on fire where the cold knife point pricks it beneath her chin.
“Watch,” the vamp whispers in her ear. He smells like bad meat, and Faith tries to pull away again. Bloods runs down her neck.
She can’t see her Watcher past Kakistos’ broad back, just her legs, splayed out on either side of him. White shins, scuffed black heels, tattered hem, brown blood crusted over that pale skin.
“It’s foolish not to wear suntan lotion, Faith.” Pursed lips, fond eyes. “You’ll get old before your time.”
Her Watcher isn’t screaming. Faith can hear the wet sound of bones popping, Kakistos’ pleased rumble.
“Watch,” the vampire behind her says again as Kakistos straightens, and turns toward her, licking his thick lips, eyes yellow and cruel.
He bites into his own wrist, eyes locked with Faith’s, and pulls her Watcher up by the hair. She tries to turn her head away, but Kakistos holds her in place, and pushes his hand toward her lips.
Her eyes slip closed, and Faith can see her throat moving.
“Watch,” Kakistos growls.
Faith can’t look away.
She leaves a pile of clothes on the floor of the closet - discarded husk-like jackets, crumpled skirts, creased blouses.
The house is quiet, and Faith pulls another sweater over her head. Loose knit, and air breezes through to her skin. She pushes hair off her shoulders, and lies back on Buffy’s bed, buries her face in one of the pillows there.
Buffy’s at school, her mother’s at work.
Faith pulls up the covers, hugs one of Buffy’s stuffed animals tight to her chest, and closes her eyes. The sheets slide over Faith’s legs.
It’s comfortable here, smells sweet. There’s lipstick and moisturizer on the bedside table. The color’s lighter than Faith would wear – peachy – and the moisturizer is melon scented. Faith slicks the lipstick over her lips, squeezes a dollop of moisturizer onto her hands, and smoothes it over her arms.
When she brings her hand to her face, it smells like Buffy. When she puts that same hand to her chest, it feels like Buffy’s touching her, or she’s touching Buffy.
She pinches her own nipples, runs her hand up under the sweater, cups her own breasts, eyes squeezed shut as her head thrashes back and forth on Buffy’s pillow.
“Yeah,” she pants, as she slips her hand into her underwear, “fuck yeah, B.”
She spreads her legs wide, and bites Buffy’s comforter. She groans into Buffy’s bedroom, and when she comes, she yells Buffy’s name so loud, if this was anywhere else in the world, the neighbors would come running and ask if everyone was okay.
Afterward, Faith makes the bed, and hangs up Buffy’s clothes, and touches her finger tips to a smiling picture of Buffy tucked into the frame of the mirror as she stands naked in front of it.
“Love you, B,” she whispers.
The letter’s from Cordy. Just one line
Buffy’s dead, if you even care.
It’s the only mail Faith’s gotten since turning herself in. One line, on printer paper, written in blue ink.
Cordy didn’t even know her last name, or if she did she didn’t bother to write it down. Like there was only one Faith in the world, only one Faith in prison.
Faith stares at it for a long time, sitting on her bunk, in the barred light through the slit of a window over the toilet.
She traces Buffy’s name over and over with her little finger. The sounds she’s gotten so used to in the past month seem louder than usual – the clank of the bars, the loud laughs and cat calls of the girls down the hall. The static and hiss of the guard’s two-ways.
Outside, it sounds like someone’s playing a game of pick up on the basketball court.
“Come on, come on, shoot you bitch, oh yeah,” Faith hears one of the players shouting, and then the swish and bounce of a ball going through the hoop.
Faith swallows hard, her fingers rip into the paper and it flutters to the ground. She stands, and leans her head against the cement wall, breathing hard.
She slams her hand against the wall, and mortar breaks loose. Again, and again, and again until one of the blocks turns to dust and the skin on her knuckles breaks. She hears the alarms go off, the jingle of keys, the sound of feet slapping down the corridors, the clatter of her cell being opened.
“She’s lost it,” one of the guards yells as they pull her away from the wall, and slap cold metal cuffs on her hands. “She’s fuckin’ lost it!”
Faith doesn’t fight them when they throw her in solitary. She sits in the corner, draws her knees up to her chest, and shakes.
There are two cuts on her forearm. One’s a little more than a scratch, and the other’s pretty deep. Faith hisses in a breath when she peels her shirt away from the wound, and tosses it aside.
She runs the water over her arm, leans her head against the cabinet. The door to the kitchen swings open with a whine, and someone shuffles in.
“Didn’t mean to wake anybody up,” Faith says. “Got restless. Went hunting.”
She shuts off the water, looks back over her shoulder. Fred stands next to one of the steel-topped island tables, hair up in a messy bun, rubbing her feet together in her too-long pajama pants.
Fred pushes her glasses up her nose, frowns at Faith’s arm. “Did you get hurt bad?” she asks, fidgeting with the waist of her pants.
“Nah,” she says without thinking.
Fred’s dark eyes widen at the blood dripping onto the floor. “How about you let me take a look at it anyway?”
Faith shrugs, and hoists herself up onto the counter as Fred digs through drawers until she finds one of the first aid kits stashed all over the Hyperion. She flicks on a switch as she passes, and Faith squints into the flourescent glare.
“Sorry,” Fred murmurs. “Just want to get a good look at it.” She pulls Faith’s arm out full length with her soft hands. The alcohol burns against the gash when Fred cleans it, and Faith winces.
“Sorry,” Fred says again, looking up with a guilty smile. “Can’t let it get infected.”
Faith half-laughs. “Yeah, can’t let the secret weapon get gangrene.”
“You should be more careful,” Fred says, ignoring that and taping gauze over the cut. “You could have gotten killed out there, maybe worse.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t.” Faith drums her heels against the counter as Fred finishes, staring down at the top of Fred’s head, the cartoon patterned scrunchy in her hair, her thin t-shirt, the frown of concentration.
Finally, Fred smiles up at her, taps her elbow lightly and says, “There. Good as new, or you will be in a couple of hours.”
“Thanks for patching me up,” Faith says, smiling back.
Fred shrugs, blushes a little. “No problem,” she says, shuffling back toward the door. “You’re one of the good guys now.”