Leap of Faith
similar to the series, with chances of violence and moderate sexuality
main characters: Riley, Faith
Faith and Second Chances 21: Leap of Faith
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Distribution: Wic, Paula, Cat - anyone else ask first.
Set in season 4, just after the body switching has been reversed.
Faith zipped the bag, pressing it slightly to force it closed. She'd tucked in a few shirts, her other two pairs of pants, her one skirt, and some weapons. Well, mostly weapons. A half dozen knives, a pair of short swords, a little crossbow and some bolts for it, and some stakes. Just the basics, really.
One bag. Her life fit into one duffel bag, with a lot of ugly memories. "Damn."
"Faith? Did you still want to head out of town with me?" Riley's voice was soft, non-threatening. As if either option - to stay or go - would be just as acceptable to him.
Blinking, she looked at him, the fading bruises over his arm and face, the slight stiffness of not-quite healed muscles, the tentative smile on his face. He was worried about her, asking if she wanted to go with him, but he wasn't asking her for anything, not like Penny or Dick had asked.
"Yeah, I'll go with you. I want to get out of this hellhole before it eats me up and spits out a messy lump of flesh that might not even be identifiable as me," Faith replied, hefting the bag onto her shoulder.
"Graphic," he muttered. "Then again, considering what I've seen here, entirely possible."
"It's one of the things I learned early on," Faith murmured, following him out of the house. "If I'm lucky, though I'm not sure if that would be good luck or bad, I might die from being hit my a truck or drowning or something like that. Otherwise, it's painful death at the claws of something most people won't want to admit exists."
"I guess that might explain why you don't worry too much about some rules. How about taxes?" riley looked like he was trying to change the subject from gory, painful death.
"The odds were against me even living to be legal to get a job with a paycheck," Faith snorted. "And what would I be qualified for? I don't think slaying monsters and sensing imbalances in the force go on a resume, and who'd believe that I can lift a guy your size and toss him?"
"Anyone that you pick up and throw across a room," Riley muttered, and then rubbed at the back of his head. "Though I have to admit that the whole Slayer thing does sound pretty unbelievable the first time."
"I suppose Buffy told you," Faith muttered, feeling annoyed at the other Slayer. Buffy got the good mom, the sexy Watcher, the friends... and of course, she gets a guy who'd understand.
"She didn't tell me anything until a bunch of demons stole everyone's voices, and I ended up there with a couple guns, and she was there, and then she screamed and made their heads explode. That's what it took for her to share things with me," Riley sounded hurt.
"I didn't think she was enough of a loudmouth the really kill something by screaming," Faith whispered.
"Wha..." Riley shook his head, chuckling. "They were some kind of demon. I think Giles called them the Gentlemen, and I'm not sure why."
"Probably something tied up in centuries old myth," Faith grumbled. "It's either old myths or translations from other languages."
"If you say so. Apparently, the reason they took everyone's voices - and I don't know how they did that - was because a woman's scream would kill them. That sounds pretty weird to me, but if some water hurts vampires when other water doesn't, and some metals hurt demons when others don't... I guess it's not that much stranger."
"Lots of mystical stuff going on with the whole hundred and one ways to kill demons thing," Faith smiled. "So, where are we going?"
“Well, I have orders to go to Houston, Texas. After some time there for a few tests on some of the stuff I’ve been allegedly learning and a lot of paperwork…” Riley paused, eyes half unfocused as he leaned against his jeep. “I don’t know where I’ll end up stationed. I’m hoping that it’s not dull, but not deadly.”
“I know there’s a lot of vamps near the Rio Grande, I’ll have a lot to keep me busy.” Faith commented. “Maybe I’ll pick up some Spanish, get used to tequila.”
“Aren’t you underage for that stuff?” Riley sounded as if he was torn between amusement and dismay.
“Like I’m going to live to see twenty one…” Faith snorted. “Thanks to that coma, I’ve lasted much longer than most Slayers, but… I doubt I’ll have a few years ahead of me.”
Riley was quiet, watching as she dropped the bag onto the back seat. He started the car, and began driving away from the coast. “How many years would it take, Faith? How far from twenty one are you?”
“Riley? Can you jump across the Grand Canyon?” Faith asked, deciding that he didn’t need to know just what her age was. It wasn’t very good at explaining her anyhow. She wasn’t legal to drink alcohol, but she had to fight monsters that could rip spines out and devour livers. She might as well be a hundred.
“Of course not.” Riley glanced at her, frowning. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“If you know that you can’t make it, does it really matter how far it is?” Faith whispered. “Most Slayers are considered really good if they make it for six months. Three is more normal. Considering that, it doesn’t really matter how far off twenty one is, I won’t live to get there anyhow.”
“You’ve got this fixation with death going, Faith. It’s probably unhealthy.” Riley paused, licking his lips before he continued in a softer voice, “But I see your point. As a Slayer, you’re probably not even being paranoid about that estimate. My Psych classes all suggest that I should try to convince you that you’ll probably have a long life ahead of you, full of opportunities… This is where you try to contain the laughter, because we both know that whoever wrote those books has no idea that there are monsters out there.”
Faith pondered his words as Riley started the jeep, and started to drive away from Sunnydale. The tires hummed over the road, and the engine made its own noises, and the radio was playing, some random station with the assortment of current pop music. Riley knew there were monsters, knew that the world was dangerous. “Not all of the monsters have claws and fangs. I knew about those a long time ago.”
“That was a more recent lesson for me,” Riley admitted. “Would it be nosy to ask when you learned that one?”
“A long time ago,” Faith whispered, hoping the sounds of the jeep would drown out her voice. “Before I even knew that the other kind was real.”
Riley’s jaw dropped. “But you said that you’d been training to be a Slayer for several years before you were called!”
Faith just nodded, fighting to keep the memories from changing her expression. Memories of screaming matches, of her mom’s boyfriend shattering a bottle of some sort of drink before waving the sharp edges at her mother while she’d cowered in the pantry, hoping that he didn’t know she was there. Seeing bruises on her mom from a different boyfriend, knowing that nobody would believe a single mother instead of an ‘fine upstanding accountant’. Remembering how she’d gotten her first kiss from another one of her mom’s lousy boyfriends when she was eight, and the way her skin had crawled from feeling his hands on her skin. The way she’d gotten drunk for the first time after that, trying to wash away the taste of his tongue in her mouth.
A long, awkward quiet hung between them, as the radio played several songs. Finally, Riley spoke again. “Maybe what you need it so learn about heroes. I don’t mean Slayers, though there is something heroic in what you do. I mean, people who didn’t have to, but did great things, or more than others thought they were capable of doing.”
“I’m too old to believe in Prince Charming,” Faith retorted, pulling her uninjured leg up on the seat. While her other one was doing better, it would still hurt to pull it up so far. “And Robin Hood was just a thief who knew his PR.”
“Faith…” Riley sounded lost. “There are good people in the world. Sometimes it’s just harder to see them. They aren’t the ones in the spotlight, smiling for the cameras. They aren’t there in the front of the crowd, or wearing shining armor. I’m pretty sure there’s no Superman. But there are people, trying their hardest to make things better. Even when they don’t see much progress, even if they feel like nobody’s going to notice. Even if they can only help one person.”
“You really believe that, don’t you?” Faith wondered how Riley could still have so much faith in people after Sunnydale. After his friends had died, after the monsters, after Walsh. “You really believe that there are good people.”
“Yes, I do. That’s part of what lets me sleep at night,” Riley paused his words, passing a slow moving pink car. “Well, that and exhaustion.”
“I get the exhaustion part, but I’ve had to depend more lately on the knowledge that if something tries to get me in my sleep, I’ll wake up and slice it open with the knife under my pillow,” Faith commented. For a moment, she was jealous of Riley’s confidence in people. Nobody had ever tried to tell her that there was someone out there trying to keep her safer…
“You sleep with a knife under your pillow?” Riley sounded shocked. “Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Life’s dangerous, Riley. Sometimes, you just have to decide which danger’s bigger, the danger of your preparations, or the danger of not making them. Sometimes, the questions easier to answer than others, and sometimes, you make the wrong choice.”
“Sometimes, all the preparations that you make still aren’t enough, are they?” Riley murmured, though he might have been talking as much to himself as to her. “They weren’t enough for Forrest.”
“Sometimes they aren’t,” Faith agreed.
The next forty miles were driven in a gloomy, thought-filled calm. Faith was trying not to think of everyone that she knew who had failed to be ready enough, strong enough to prevent disaster. She presumed that Riley had similar thoughts that were just as unwelcome.
“I’m going to try to teach you to believe in heroes,” Riley spoke suddenly. Glancing over at her, he added, “If you stick around, that is. You don’t have to stay where I am.”
Faith could feel herself start to smile. Maybe he could even succeed at such an impossible sounding task – teaching her to believe in heroes, in the good of human nature. “Where else would I go?”
End F&SC 21: Leap of Faith.
End Faith and Second Chances.