Disclaimer: Faith and the Buffyverse are created by/owned by Joss Whedon (and his corporate partners/masters). Story and original characters are mine.
Is Faith insane?
I honestly don't know how to answer that question.
Is a Tiger insane? It hunts with lethal efficiency, it kills with a sometimes savage abandon. Is that madness?
Faith's mental situation is, I'll admit, somewhat… unusual. There are times when suffers bouts of what most people would call madness; when she becomes so violent and unpredictable that nobody, not even those closest to her are truly safe. But those episodes are increasingly rare, now, and the vast majority of the time she is quite simply the most amazing person I've had the privilege to know.
It would take hours to even begin to explain the complexities within this woman, and even then you wouldn't really understand what I was talking about.
It's a simple fact that Faith isn't something that can be easily described or explained; only after you experience her yourself will you have even the faintest idea of what she is.
If, on the other hand, you look at her from a distance, at the records of what she's done, it's all too easy to dismiss her as a psychopath, and most experts will tell you that a psychopath can't be cured.
Labels are cheap and easy, but they don't tell you the whole story. Go ahead, comfort yourself with the neat, simple category you've put her in, but I'll tell you this much right here and now: Faith isn't a psychopath. Not at all. She knows right from wrong, she deeply regrets some of the things she's done.
Of course, her definition of right and wrong might not be yours, or that of your average citizen, but at this point it seems to me that's your problem, not hers.
--From the book 'A light amidst the Shadows'
By Marcus Durr
Published by Baen Books; 2007
When Faith came back to herself, she was dancing. Techno music was pounding in her ears, resonating though her very body; the sound penetrated every cell, crackled down every nerve, driving her to move to its rhythm. She was surrounded by other dancers, several of them making every effort to stay as close to her as possible. She turned slowly as she danced, eyeing them in confusion even as she reached out to touch them. Her hands found the texture of clothing, the warmth of living flesh, and she smiled even as she wondered who they were... and where she was. It didn't seem especially important; not really, but in a vague way she was a little curious about how she'd gotten here. The last thing she remembered was-
--Finding a gas station, closed for the night but with a faucet around back that she used, first for water to drink, then to wash away the soot and blood that covered her from head to toe. She stripped naked in the darkness, rinsing away the disgusting residue of her night's activities. Afterwards, she changed into the clothes she carried under one arm, briefly mourning the loss of the leather coat, lost somewhere along the way-
She came back to herself, still dancing, still moving with the others, feeling energized as always by the overload of sensation that places like this brought her. One of the dancers put his hand in her hair, and she raised her own to touch it as well. The long strands were still damp, from roots to tips; it couldn't have been more than an hour since the scene she'd just recalled had taken place. She spun away from the man touching her, still dancing, half her mind lost in the pounding beat while the rest of her struggled to understand what had happened. Glancing down at herself, she saw that her clothes were not the same ones she'd been wearing this afternoon with Alex, so that part of the memory was true too; she had changed into a fresh outfit. Now if she only knew where she had found-?
--She was filthy, bloody; and completely intoxicated by the freedom, the power that had finally been freed from its prison inside of her. Even so, the rush was winding down; she was sated for the moment and ready for some fun. The club seemed like an excellent place to spend an hour or two; it was just blind bad luck that the pretty young girl with the nice clothes should choose that moment to walk out, arm in arm with her boyfriend. Faith barely had to exert herself at all, knocking them both unconscious and dragging them behind a dumpster, stealing the guy's wallet and stripping the girl naked. She was so pleased that she didn't even bother to kill them. After that, all that remained was getting cleaned up. Moments later she was a little way down the street, blessing her luck in finding a gas station, closed for the night but with a faucet around back-
She was back in the flashing lights and roaring music; on the dance floor, in the present. Shaking her head, trying to clear away the vivid memories that were surfacing in reverse order, the random bits and pieces leading back farther towards the beginning of the night, she struggled to bring some kind of focus to her chaotic thoughts. Her dancing slowed as she looked inwards.Okay, just stay cool. All I did was steal some clothes; I've done that before, and I don't think I did those two any permanent damage.
Another sudden flurry of images hit her, showing her assault on the couple in more detail. She had been especially rough with the girl for some reason, though she couldn't recall why that was. She could still feel the unique sensation of bone splintering inside the arm she held, the expression on the party girl as Faith snarled into her face, then shoved her naked body away to sprawl in the debris that littered the alley. The Slayer winced at the recollection; it was certain that she'd put the young woman in the hospital. She shook her head again. No, it's not a big deal; it's not. Want, take, have; remember? Besides, if they couldn't stop me from doing what I did, then they weren't real anyway. I've got no problem with anything I did tonight.
No, no problem with what she'd just seen, but why was she having to fight so hard to remember what had happened earlier in the night? Had she hit her head again? She realized that she'd all but stopped moving as she studied her recollections, while all around her everyone else was having a blast.Hey, whatever happened, happened. No sense in crying over it. I'm here, might as well enjoy myself.
She smiled at the thought; tossing her hair back from her face and taking a fresh look around. The club was crowded, though maybe it was just that so many of the dancers seemed to want to be close to her. She gave them an appraising look, wondering which of them might give her the best ride, afterwards, and then she threw herself back into it.
God, she loved this! The way her body moved, the feeling she got when the sound and the light seemed to run through her in thundering rivers of sensation. Someone, more than one someone, was running their hands over her skin, and so was she. There was more than one way for a Slayer to get drunk; and this way, driving every hypersensitive sense to the max and beyond, … well, as B used to say, it sure didn't suck. She slid her hands over her body, up through her hair, rode the torrent of input from eyes and ears and every square inch of incredibly sensitive skin… and gave a sudden gasp of pain. One of the others, a very sexy-looking girl, had been dancing right up against the Slayer, her waist-length hair shining a dark purple in the club's lights. Her fingers had hooked in the waistband of Faith's borrowed jeans, which was far from being painful, but when her other hand slid across the taller girl's ribs, something had hurt.
Her response was immediate. She drove her open palm into purple-girl's pretty face, smashing her nose into a flattened, bloody mass and sending her sprawling across the dance floor. Faith examined the wound, at the same time experiencing a surge of dark satisfaction at having ruined something so beautiful. It felt so good, lashing out like that. The energy of the music and the dancing was still flooding into her, demanding release. She could hurt more of them; draw them into her own private world of darkness and violence. She'd done it before, and she wanted--
She shook her head in irritation even as she peered curiously down at her side. A straight, shallow cut, long since crusted over with dried blood. It was already half-healed; there was no way that the girl had done this.
In the midst of the deafening music and blaze of strobing lights it seemed that only one or two dancers had even seen what had happened a few moments earlier. Someone was trying to help the girl to her feet, but she stayed down, curled up in a fetal position and issuing constant, gasping screams that no one could hear over the sound system. Faith looked down at her, and when the girl's horrified eyes met her own, gave her what she hoped was an apologetic smile. She then turned and walked away, the smile falling swiftly from her face; she really didn't feel like dancing anymore. As she stalked off the floor, she looked inside herself with the sense she'd honed while recovering from the injuries Buffy had given her. A quick scan revealed that while overall she was in good shape, there were definite signs that she'd been in a serious rumble. Two broken fingers now half-healed, multiple stab wounds from some very small blade, fortunately not in any vital areas, a load of bruises and scrapes, and a nasty cut of some kind across her upper back. None of the wounds really showed in the clothes she was wearing, and her body was blocking the pain from them even as it healed with its usual incredible speed, but still….Damn, what the hell happened to me? And who did it to me this time?
She was distracted from that path by a sudden touch. One of the men who'd been dancing with her had followed her, and now he ran his hand along her upper arm and across her bare shoulder, leaning close to whisper something meaningless that she didn't even bother trying to catch over the noise. Whatever it was he was offering would be empty, but that didn't keep her from purring softly at how good that caress felt. I go through so much, get shot and stabbed and burned and generally pounded on; sometimes it's nice to have somebody touch me who isn't trying to rip my limbs off.
The Slayer felt her smile grow a bit wider when another of her partners wandering towards her with elaborate casualness. Well, tonight is just looking better and better. Now, if only I knew the rest of what happened to me tonight, I'd be able to concentrate, and enjoy what I'm doing.
She tried to remember more, but trying to force the images come only seemed to make them recede; the time between this afternoon and mugging the couple remained a blur. She and Alex had been robbing cars, she'd decided to leave, and then…. --Blood, Fire, Pain--
These were barely even images, more like torrents of pure emotion that threatened to sweep her away with their sheer intensity. The guy next to her was still talking, beginning to look a little impatient, but she barely noticed until his caressing hand grabbed her roughly by the shoulder, igniting an instant wash of blind, unreasoning fury that made her earlier flash against the purple-haired girl look pale by comparison. The wild, seething energy that had been building inside her now blasted its way out in an explosion of movement. She lashed out, both fists connecting with flesh and doubling the man up where he stood. He never even had a chance to regain his balance before her forearm smashed down like a club, taking him across the shoulders and hammering him strait down and onto the floor. The spike of emotion subsided nearly as quickly as it had come, leaving her blinking stupidly at the sight of the guy, lying there unconscious at her feet. She raised her eyes to the other one, but he'd seen enough. With hands raised to ward her off, he backed away, leaving her there alone.
The rush of emotion had left more memories drifting in the wake of their passage, and she tried to sort through them as she turned and wandered farther from the scene of her outburst, along the back wall of the club, dodging the small groupings of people that were clustered there. She remembered a fire… there had been fighting, and a mob of opponents that had managed to hurt her…. She flexed her left hand again, testing the broken fingers. They were slightly swollen, and they ached a little when she moved them. There had been more than just one melee, though. It had been a big fight, and she could remember the beginning of it now, but the further along it went, the dimmer the images became.
Something bad had happened during that wild skirmish, she could feel that much of it, lurking in the back of her head. Was that why she was having trouble remembering? Had someone gotten killed? Faith felt a sudden frisson go through her, and she closed her eyes. That's it, I'm sure. Someone got killed, and I'm upset about it; my subconscious or whatever must be blocking it.... Who was it?
"Hey!" She looked up, into the eyes of a skinny guy in a black tee shirt. He gave her a smile as he leaned close in order to be heard without shouting quite so loud. "I saw you dancing, you're really something. You must be thirsty though, want something to drink?"
After a moment she nodded, and he walked away.Amazing. The last two people who got within arm's reach of me are both leaking blood somewhere in this place, but there's still someone who wants to get some of this Faith action. I think I really do want that drink.
Now that she thought about it, she could taste a faint trace of alcohol lingering on her tongue. She'd been here in the club long enough to be drinking, then. Maybe she'd already drunk a lot; she was feeling a little… odd. Even allowing for the way she'd been intentionally overloading her senses, the lights in here had a strange intensity to them, and the music blasting from the club speakers was going through her body in the most interesting way. Despite the dread that was lurking at the edges of her mind, and the uncertainty about what exactly had happened, she felt this strong sense of… happiness. Nothing silly or giggly, just… cheerful acceptance. Not at all the way you'd expect someone to feel after they had just sent their best prospects for fun tonight to the emergency room, or after she'd-
--Ripped the knife upwards, baring her teeth as the ganger went down in a fountain of blood. The huge, gaping slash through his chest showed her his still-beating heart, the severed aorta providing the spray of crimson that gave her more of a kick every time she saw it. With their three strongest members down, the remaining five men turned and fled, but she was too fast for them to escape. Each of them died as she caught them, even the one who managed to run three blocks and make it into the parking lot of an all-night coffee shop before she could finish his friends and catch up with him. The men hadn't done anything to her; they had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. They weren't her first victims of the night, and they wouldn't be the last, either. The howling rage inside her demanded its due, it refused to stop until it was sated, and so she ran on through the dark streets, killing and killing, with her knife and with her bare hands, one person after another, on and on until finally she heard the music calling to her and the rage finally eased by the slightest degree and she-
Faith gasped, pushing away from the wall and hurrying towards a barely-visible alcove nearby. The cocoon of warmth that had been wrapped so comfortingly around her dissolved in a wash of horror even as she ducked into the shadowy nook and through the door at its rear. The bathroom was empty, for which she was grateful. She remembered now, most of it anyway.
She found herself wishing that she didn't.
Everything was there; from the confrontation with Alex and Kelly to the… killing spree. Even at her very worst, back in Sunnydale, she'd never done anything like that. Killing someone on orders, yeah, defending herself from a group of five vigilante cops who'd put the pieces together and then come after her, sure. This, though… she didn't know how many people she'd killed at the apartments, but she did know that she'd killed more than that afterwards. Running through the narrow, dirty streets, stalking anyone she found… she'd killed them just because they were there, for no better reason than that. Some she'd finished quickly, but others had suffered for a fair while, as she played with them, and it had felt so good….
Dropping her hand to her waist, she found the knife sheathed there. Apparently whoever the club had manning the door had let her in, despite having a weapon in plain sight. Maybe they'd thought it was just some kind of fashion accessory. Even sheathed and dormant, the weapon was all but humming with contentment under her hand. She must have given it plenty to eat in the last few hours….
Yanking her hand away, she scrubbed her hands through her hair, thinking furiously.
The knife; it was magic, it must be doing something to her, manipulating her into killing just so it would have lives to feed on. It was forcing her to do things that she never would have done, otherwise. All she had to do was get rid of it, dump it somewhere, and everything would be okay; she would be back to normal. She turned back toward the door, and caught sight of herself in the mirror over the sink.
Her face looked back at her; pale skin, dark eyes and hair... it was a pretty face.
It was a murderer's face.
Staring at herself, feeling the revulsion that had been growing along with the sickness inside her, Faith lost her grip on one of the lies that were so much a part of her, the ones that let her make it through each day.
"It wasn't the knife." Her voice was rougher than usual as she stared into her reflection's eyes. The realization there was plain for anyone to see, even for someone who didn't want to see. "It was all me."
It would have been different; easier, if when she'd snapped it had been the weapon's fault. It would have been easier if there had been some kind of alternate personality, or something that had climbed up out of the depths of her mind and taken over. Angel had that excuse; it was never his fault if he hurt someone, or had the urge to kill, it was Angelus. If she could have said 'No, that wasn't me who did that, it was 'Evil Faith'', then maybe everything could have come out okay; maybe everyone would have been able to forgive her, like they had Angel. Sure, that would have been nice… but it wasn't true.
The person who had gone crazy, who'd killed all those people at the apartments (with maybe some cause) and all the people afterwards (with no cause at all); it was just her. Not 'Evil Faith', not some demon or magical piece of steel that had taken over her body… just her.
Faith leaned her head forward, supporting herself on the counter as she stared down at the sink.
There it was; it had happened. She'd finally gone all the way 'round the bend. Everyone had been saying that about her, almost since day one in Sunnydale, and she had only laughed. She'd known all along, deep inside, that she was in control of what she was doing, she had made the choices she'd had to, that she'd wanted to, and she'd done it with a clear head. She'd never actually been crazy… until now. For those few hours just now, she'd lost it; totally… but that didn't mean that it wasn't her fault.
She still couldn't remember everything she'd done during that time, either. For all she knew, she might have killed somebody's harmless old aunt; somebody just like Sylvia, or some happy yuppie drones on their way home from the movies.
She might have killed somebody's kids; as in, little kids. She'd never even considered doing something like that before, but then, that was… before.
No, she definitely wasn't feeling all warm and cozy now. At least she'd gotten away from Alex and Kelly before she'd totally lost it; of that much she was certain. If she hadn't run away, she knew for a fact that she would have killed them both."You're as much an addict as I am!"
Kelly's voice rang through Faith's head, as loud as if she'd been standing there. The Slayer gripped the edge of the counter as hard as she could, eliciting creaks from the tough material as her fingers whitened.
"No. That's not true." Her whisper lacked conviction, even in her ears."You wanted to hurt those men, you needed to hurt them. If they hadn't come to you, I'll bet you would have gone looking for someone; because you-can't-quit!"
"No." She looked up at her reflection again, seeking reassurance in the familiar features. "I'm not some kind of junkie. I'm the Slayer."
The Faith in the mirror seemed to be smirking at her, and her eyes were black pits. Liar.
"She doesn't know me, she doesn't know anything about me!" From very nearly the first instant after they'd met, Faith had hated Kelly. It was instinctive; there was just something about the other girl that made her want to smash her into oblivion. "That weak, pathetic, little bitch is just jealous of me!" Weak? She's stronger than me. She's not the one who ran away, is she? I'm the one who went on a murder-spree, and killed who knows how many people, just because I was upset, and frustrated, and afraid. Only a really sick chick needs to off somebody just to feel better about herself, y'know? The truth of it is, I'm the weak one.
"Bullshit!" Turning away from the mirror so she wouldn't have to look at herself anymore, she stalked across the room. A pair of stalls filled the back third of the room, and she leaned against one, pressing her palms flat against the smooth, cool metal. "I'm stronger than she'll ever be. Just look at the two of them; they'll be dead inside a year." So? At least they've made it this long, and without any special powers, either. Look at you; you're sliding downhill even faster than they are, and you're a Chosen One. Who's the bigger loser here? Who's the weakling in this picture?
"No!" Grabbing hold of the door to the stall, she twisted with all her strength, wrenching it off its hinges. She was left holding a double-walled metal panel, nearly three feet wide and as tall as she was. "I'm not weak!" Whirling, she stared at her image in the mirror. "I've never been weak!" Of course I am, and I always have been. Kelly is real, Kelly is loved. She lives in the real world; even if her life is crap, she still has one. I'm nothing but a ghost; prowling the streets at night, no friends, no family, no place to call home. When I'm gone, nobody'll care; they probably won't even remember I ever existed.
With a banshee shriek of fury she drove the door she held upwards, shoving nearly half its length through the ceiling. Bits of plaster showered down on her and she left it lodged there as she staggered back towards the sink. Even with the look of stark desperation on her face, her reflection seemed to mock her. I've always thought I was so tough, so strong; and it's a lie. It's always been a lie. I've been telling myself that I'm better than all of these people, but I'm just that much more pathetic than they are. I'm as bad as the worst of them; I blew my chance, now it's all but over. I'm so tired of being alone all the time; scared all the time.
"No." She was pleading now, but her fists still lashed out at the image of herself in the mirror. She had to make it stop; she needed to hold on to the few illusions she still had. Without them, she didn't even know if there would be anything of her left. The glass shattered under her attack, shards of glittering debris raining downwards to collect on the sink top. That won't help; it won't change anything. I can't even fool myself, anymore.
With a sound that started as a snarl but ended up as something more like a whimper, Faith launched herself into the air; a spinning kick that drove her foot into the fractured image of herself with room shaking force. Her boot punched through glass, and through the plaster behind it. As her body started downward she tried to retract the foot, but it was caught on something and all she did was pull herself in towards the wall. Twisting, flailing awkwardly, she landed on the glass-covered sink top. Her foot then came free of the wall, and before she could catch herself she'd rolled off and down, onto the floor, where she lay for several long moments. Blood oozed from cuts on her hands for several moments before they healed enough for it to stop, and she took a deep, shuddering breath.
"I'm the nothing." She whispered it; if she'd said it any louder then she would have begun screaming again. "I'm the one who's not real."
Beaten, defeated, she slowly pulled herself to her feet. Moving mechanically, she rinsed her bloody hands in one of the sinks, brushed away the worst of the bits of plaster and glass that covered her, and then walked back out into the club.
* * * * *
BellDonna flashed into view beside where he stood leaning against the wall. Across the street was the club entrance, and inside was the girl they'd been following for the last several hours. Whistler let his farsight of her dissolve. The scene inside the bathroom just now gave him a renewed sense of hope.
"Are you going to try it now?" She asked him, her face worried. "You know I didn't say it was a good chance, just that it's the best chance I see happening anytime soon."
He nodded his understanding.
"Yeah, I know. But I think if I can catch her in this mood then she might actually listen to what I have to say."
The glowing spirit frowned, her beautiful face scrunched up in distaste.
"I suppose there's nothing like mauling a few dozen people, and then killing a few more to help a girl work through all that inner turmoil now, is there?"
Her sarcasm was noted, but he pushed away from the wall and headed across the street. Glancing back over his shoulder, he gave her a serious look.
"If she was to whack me, you know who to go to, right?"
BellDonna nodded silently, her eyes solemn. He looked away before the urge to throw in some wiseass comment became too strong, and lengthened his stride. After what they had witnessed tonight, their duty couldn't be any clearer. Faith absolutely had to be contained. Either she listened to his pitch and agreed, or she turned him down; at which point he would have no choice but to call in the team he had on standby. One way or the other, the rogue Slayer had taken her last human life.
* * * * *