Disclaimer: I own nothing. Whedon is the one.
As Faith came up the steps to the door of her family’s trailer, she squared her shoulders, clinching her jaw unconsciously before steeling herself to walk inside. It was growing dark out, so she had come home knowing that doing so now, earlier rather than later, would be less likely to get her harassed than if she totally blew off coming home at all. Like she’d totally blown going to school today, and the day before that, to hang out with Kenny in the park instead. She would sneak out again later tonight, if no more shit than usual went down.
She’d learned the hard way the past couple of months that coming home after dark was a good way to invite dramatics she’d rather avoid. Not that they’d be avoided anyway, but it was just another reason her parents would have to be on her case. Her mother would scream, throw things, try to smack her around, if she could catch her, and if she wasn’t too unsteady on her feet yet, she usually could. The woman was wicked fast. Her father would come after her, try to track her down wherever she was and whoever she was out with.
Not because he was worried about Faith and her safety or what she was doing, though that was the pretense he operated under. No, the guy just wanted to make sure that he didn’t have to share for too long with anyone else, that she would be in bed if he got it in his head that he wanted to “tuck her in.” He wasn’t totally stupid; he hadn’t been as bold since she threatened to bite him or cut him if he ever touched her again, but since he wasn’t completely brain dead and he was still a sick bastard, his mind was probably still working. It probably wouldn’t be too long before it occurred to him that the next time he wanted to “tuck her in,” he could bring a knife or a gun, and nothing Faith threatened would much matter. She was strong, and she could fight as fiercely as any of the guys she knew, but she was still thirteen years old and didn’t even weigh 100 pounds yet. If her father wanted to find a way to have her, he would and he could. And short of leaving every night that she could manage and continuing to fight back, there wasn’t’ much she could do about it.
As she opened the screen door, cringing inwardly at the loud groaning noise the rusted springs made as she prepared to step inside, Faith’s eyes darted, watching for her mother or her father to appear. Even before she was inside she expected to hear the clink of ice in a cup or the sound of her mother gulping, straight from the bottle, in the open kitchen/living room area that was the first section of the trailer. She hadn’t heard screaming from inside, so her father must not be home yet; damn she hoped so. That was likely going to change the section her mother heard her come in though. She waited for a second, tensing, expecting to hear Diane Lehane’s slurred voice raising as she called out to her daughter for whatever transgression of Faith’s she was going to pull out of her head to give her an excuse to be angry. Not that she needed one anymore these days. Just seeing Faith’s face seemed enough…
But there was nothing. The house was deadly quiet; not even the TV was turned on, from what Faith could hear.
Shrugging inwardly, relief settling over her quickly, Faith stepped inside, glancing towards the living room and kitchen hurriedly even as she turned towards the hallway, heading towards her room. To her disgust, she saw that her mother was lying on the couch on her back, one arm dangling limply over the side, her head tilted back, bottles scattered on the floor by her head. Obviously she was either passed out or asleep, even though it was only seven pm. Anger curling in her chest, Faith clinched her jaw, shaking her head as she walked away as quietly as she could. She was glad she wasn’t going to get screamed at or decked in the face tonight, but damn, that meant she had just come home for no good reason, she could have stayed out at least another hour probably.
Her memory drifted back to her time at the park, and she smiled to herself faintly as she envisioned Kenny’s stubbly face grinning at her, lopsided, his arm slung around her, pulling her close to his chest as his larger hand groped under her shirt, laying her down beneath him. He was the best boyfriend Faith had had so far, definitely better than Ronnie or Steve…he was seventeen, older than Steve and younger than Ronnie, a pretty good age Faith thought. And he was a drummer for a real band. Okay, so the band wasn’t exactly Slipknot or anything but it was still pretty freakin’ wicked that he wanted her.
She could have stayed with him a while longer. Damn her mother for this, why couldn’t she get a life?
Faith had turned into the hallway, taken a step, before a nagging half memory came to her mind, something that had bothered her about the glimpse she had caught of her mother’s form on the couch. Something about it had been odd…had she seen her chest move?
She stopped abruptly in spite of herself, and slowly turned around, gritting her teeth; this would be just her luck, that she would wake her mother up now because she was stupid enough to stop once she was practically home free. But she knew that she would be restless with the stupid thought if she didn’t look again, so Faith turned around, frowning, her eyes narrowed as she looked back at her mother, more closely this time.
She didn’t step any closer to her, still standing at the edge of the hallway, but this time Faith was almost sure of it. Her mother’s eyes were closed, yeah, but there was something weird about the way she was laying.
And she still couldn’t tell if her chest was moving.
Her frown deepening, telling herself to turn away, to stop looking, stop worrying, Faith nevertheless found herself stepping forward slowly, her heartbeat increasing in its speed. Even a few steps closer, she wasn’t yet assured, and she swallowed, the beginnings of dread beginning to stir itself in her stomach…why?
“Mom,” she said quickly, her voice a normal speaking volume, even, and calmer than she felt; she was just now beginning to realize that she was starting to be afraid, that only fear of something worse than causing her hung over mother to awaken would ever make her talk to her mother when she was passed out or asleep. “Mom, you alright?”
Her mother didn’t respond; she didn’t’ so much as twitch or sigh, certainly didn’t’ come up swinging and cursing like she usually would have. And Faith realized, her stomach twisting more sharply, that her mother was not snoring…her mother, who she had never known in all her life to sleep without loud, obnoxious snoring, was not snoring now.
Faith took a step closer, not yet daring to draw up beside her mother’s body, to crouch down beside her and look her in the face. She could barely stand to look at her face as it was, but instead fixed her eyes on her mother’s collar bone, her mother’s stomach.
It still wasn’t moving.
“Mom. Mom, get up,” she said, more loudly this time.
Her mother didn’t respond. Her mother didn’t move, and Faith swallowed again, a horrible dryness forming in her mouth, a slowly dawning knowledge that she refused to put a name to.
“Mom. Mom, stop all this bullshit,” she said, more loudly this time, her voice almost angry. “Mom, get up, get your drunk ass up and go to bed!”
She had known as she said this that this was guaranteed to not only wake her mother, but bring her up swinging…but Diane Lehane didn’t so much as blink.
For a few seconds Faith couldn’t move. Then she was moving all too fast, hurrying to her mother’s side, shoving the empty bottles by the couch away violently so she could kneel in front of her, bending down in front of her face, her voice rising up loud, urgent…scared.
She was terrified.
“Oh no, oh shit, this is not happening. This is not…Mom! MOM!”
She reached for her mother’s shoulders, shook her as hard as she could…and her mother’s head flopped heavily, slumping forward as though her neck would not support its weight. Faith felt the coolness of her skin beneath her fingers and her eyes widened; she quickly removed her hands and shook them, trying to remove the feeling of what she knew was not living flesh from her own skin.
Her eyes lifted slowly and she stared at the woman who had been her mother with her eyes wide, but barely seeing anymore, her voice emerging in a faint croak she barely heard.
A shuddering began to take over her body, slowly at first, and then she was shaking so hard she heard her teeth click together sharply, her stomach roiling. In that moment as Faith stared without seeing at her mother’s dead form, she could not see her drunken, her lips twisted into a sneer, her eyes glittering with malice. She could not see her upraised fist, swinging in an arch into her face, could not hear her voice raising as she told her that she was worthless, that she wished that she had never been born. What came to her mind was her mother’s smile as she reached to gently tuck her hair behind her ear, the genuine tenderness in her voice as she called Faith her Firecracker.
Without thought Faith scrambled to her feet, fleeing into the kitchen, and blindly grasped the edge of the sink as she began to vomit. When she could only dry heave, her body shaking roughly, she gripped the sink’s edge with her knuckles whitening, her head bowed, and closed her eyes tightly against the tears rising to surface, choking her throat.
Her mind raced, unable to form coherent thought for several minutes, and then her thinking began to clear up somewhat, to follow a more linear path. Her mother was dead. Her mother was dead, she was only thirty and she was dead. They would think it was her. They would think that Faith did it…they would think she had killed her.
Everyone would. The cops…her father…everyone…they all knew they fought, Faith and her mother, they all knew that she had said she hated her, they all knew, they would think…people don’t just die, no one just DIES, they would think she had killed her. Even if they didn’t…even if her father believed her, he would lie, he would say she had, he would say anything to get back to her, or to blackmail her, to keep her here, keep her from telling anyone, keep her from getting away. Her father, he would…
Just the thought of her father, of being alone with him now, with no buffer, no distraction between them, her father, with this now to hold over her head, this now to keep her down, keep her in his grasp, panicked Faith to the point that she nearly vomited again, that some of the tightly reined in tears escaped past her lids. With no further thought she let go of the sink, running into her bedroom and blindly reaching for her backpack, tossing out the textbooks she had rarely used in the past year and throwing in whatever she could find close enough to throw in. She had to get away. She couldn’t stay here, not one second, she had to leave, she had to…
As she hurried into the living room, grasping for the door, she couldn’t stop herself from looking over at her mother’s unmoving form. Biting her lip hard enough that she tasted blood, Faith tore her eyes away. She felt that she should do something, say something…say goodbye. But she couldn’t move the words past her throat. Instead she ran down the steps of her trailer and out into the street. She didn’t know where she was going. But it didn’t matter. Not very much did. Anymore.