Faith in Possibility
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Author notes: Companion piece to Watch My Back. Takes place while Faith is recently fifteen and living with her Watcher Diana.
Christmas Eve, 1997
Faith stood very still, about six feet away, a distance adequate to observe the finished product of their work in all its colorful glory. And man, was it colorful. Heavily decked out with a rainbow of glass balls, red and green garland, clip-on doves, candy canes (though those were admittedly skimpy; Faith was a firm believer that candy was for eating, not decorating), flashing multi-colored lights, and glistening silver tinsel, topped by a golden star so shiny it cast reflections of any who looked at it up close. Professor Diana Dormer’s Christmas tree was a thing of beauty.
But it wasn’t just Diana’s Christmas tree…it was Faith’s too, this year. She had helped set it up, helped her decorate it, and Diana had even put on corny classical Christmas music in the background that Faith had mocked and rolled her eyes over, but had actually thought were kind of nice. The whole day had been nice…less training than usual, no schoolwork, and all this Christmas-y stuff that most girls Faith’s age were probably used to and bored with by now, but to Faith, were new. Her parents had never bothered with cooking or decorating or trees, and half the time Faith was lucky if her mother even realized what day it was. By the time Faith was twelve they had pretty much stopped even half-hearted attempts at a Christmas, and by her fourteenth Christmas, her mother was dead and Faith was living on the streets.
She’d never even bought a real Christmas present for anyone. God, she hoped Diana liked hers. After all she had done for Faith, what if she didn’t? What if she hated it?
This was Faith’s first Christmas tree that she could remember; it was possible, she guessed, that her parents had bought one when she was too young to remember, but not very likely. It was a silly, childish thing to be glad over, that she had a Christmas tree this year, but she was.
Of course, that wasn’t the only thing Faith was happy about or grateful for, not by a long shot. This year’s Christmas, compared to last year…well, there was no comparison. Last year Faith had been homeless for almost a month, stealing food, always freezing, always sick, and completely alone…last Christmas had been even before she met Legs. This year she had all the food she wanted, clothes, shelter, a warm house and bed, and the best of anything that Diana could provide for her, much more than Faith had ever really dreamed of owning or having, much less expected or deserved. She had a clear expectation of what was required of her and how she should be, what would likely occur in the course of her day. She was safe and cared for…she was loved. And Faith knew it.
Most of all though, she had Diana. And having Diana as her Watcher, her guardian, her teacher, friend, and what only in her head, Faith was beginning to tentatively think of as her mother, was what made her more incredulous and happy than anything else in her life.
It was insane…but as Faith observed the flickering tree in the dimness of the living room, there was a strange tightness to her chest…sadness. But as happy as she was and should be, how the hell could looking at their tree- her tree- make her sort of sad too?
“We did an excellent job, if I do say so myself,” came Diana’s voice behind her, and after an initial startled twitch and fast glance behind her, Faith relaxed, nodding, and turned to face the tree again.
“Told you I’ve got mad skills.”
Smiling, Diana stepped closer to her, not quite side by side with her, but not entirely behind Faith either, and gently smoothed her hand over Faith’s head. Faith held still, enjoying the touch and clear affection behind it, but trying not to reveal with any change in expression or shift in movement how much she did. Diana lightly stroked Faith’s hair again before resting her hand on her shoulder briefly, following the direction of Faith’s gaze as she spoke to her wryly.
“I would suggest you go to bed soon if you would like St Nicholas to pay a visit.”
Faith smirked; this was Diana’s way of saying that she would be going to bed soon and needed Faith to get out of her hair so she could lay out her gifts to her. Nevertheless, her smirk faded after a few moments, a more pensive look returning to her face as she continued to stare at the tree.
“It all seems so crazy,” she almost muttered, and Diana looked down at her questioningly.
“What do you mean by that, Faith?”
“Everything,” Faith shrugged, her voice still soft, and she was careful to keep her eyes fixed on the tree, even though she sensed Diana watching her. “Today. Tomorrow. Just being here…it’s so crazy that it’s real, you know?”
“It’s not crazy at all, Faith,” Diana countered, squeezing her shoulder, the softness of her tone matching her Slayer’s. “And it is no less than what you should have, no less than what you deserve.”
When Faith turned her face slightly, uncertainty and some embarrassment tensing her brow, Diana continued to look at what part of her face she could see and spoke with quiet sincerity and firmness.
“You’re a good girl, Faith, and a young woman of great strength and potential. You are only receiving now what is long past due unto you.”
Her slightly flushed skin deepening in hue, Faith’s heart squeezed at this affirmation. Nevertheless, she quickly attempted to redirect the subject at hand.
“The whole Christmas thing is pretty crazy too. A virgin giving birth, son of God in diapers, angels and guys bringing oil to a guy who’s supposed to be God and could probably do better with like food…kinda sounds like someone was on an acid trip when they came up with THAT psycho story.”
“We’ve seen stranger,” Diana remarked mildly, and Faith turned towards her, looking her in the eye for the first time.
“Diana…do you believe in God?”
The woman considered the question carefully, her brow furrowing as she tilted her head slightly. She had seen the serious look in the girl’s eyes and realized that the question was not bred of merely idle curiosity, and she considered her thoughts with the merit and respect that she felt the question deserved before meeting Faith’s eyes again.
“I believe that there is great good in this world, whether from powerful forces or from the efforts of humanity, just as there is great evil from similar and like sources. I believe that there is careful balance in life, and for every act of evil there is an act of good that may simply be harder for us to take notice of. I believe that there are higher powers that help guide the forces of good and do not allow for the full reign of forces of darkness. I believe that in the end, each of us will see justice. Whether or not it’s God or another being…I do not know,” she admitted, and then smiled at Faith. “I certainly do not buy the view of God as an elderly bearded man in the clouds, shaking his finger and scowling down at his wayward creations. That sounds to me like the imagination of a man with one too many drinks upon his conscience.
Faith snickered, and Diana continued to watch her as she asked, “And you, Faith, what is your view of the possibility of God?”
Faith exhaled, rolled her shoulders, and her expression unconsciously mirrored the earlier thoughtfulness of her Watcher’s as she too considered the question.
“I don’t know,” she said finally. “I never used to. I mean, if there was one, where the hell was He, you know? Either He was a jerk who didn’t care or I was never gonna be good enough to be his little choir girl, so it didn’t’ really matter anyway. Plus it’s not like the guy’s got an ID he can show around. Now though…I don’t know. I mean, if vampires and demons are real, who knows? Maybe there is a God. I mean, why not good to balance out the bad, like you were saying? So yeah…I guess. Probably.”
Diana smiled at her as she touched her shoulder again, giving her an affectionate squeeze.
“I see…so you’re gaining faith, Faith,” she replied with a hint of a smirk. Faith made a face at her, but she was smirking too as she rolled her eyes.
“I don’t know what the hell my parents were thinking naming me that. It’s not like they were religious freaks of the year. And as many friggin’ corny jokes as I’ve had to put up with…”
“Perhaps they hoped to gain it through you,” Diana said quietly, keeping her hand on Faith’s shoulder as she looked over at her, their faces pale in the reflecting lights of the twinkling tree. “Life has a way of not going as we hope or intend…and then the consequences can be severe for more than our own selves.”
Faith’s eyes flickered, then quickly grew blank and hard as she turned her face back to the tree, her face setting, muscles slowly tensing. Diana, still watching, squeezed her shoulder again, and then slid her hand down to rest between her shoulder blades. She continued to look in the direction of Faith’s eyes as she spoke to her softly.
“I know that this must be a difficult evening for you, Faith. On some level, you must miss them.”
She did not clarify that she was speaking of Faith’s parents, but she did not need to. They both understood the implication.
Faith shook her head quickly, and Diana felt her muscles tighten further under her hand. Nevertheless she did not remove it.
“No, I don’t,” Faith replied somewhat tersely, in spite of the attempted nonchalance of her tone, and Diana continued in the same firm yet understanding tone that left little room for argument, a tone that Faith had never been able to combat effectively.
“It is quite normal and to be expected, Faith, and it is quite all right. You do not have to deny any part of your feelings, much less from politeness, loyalty, or any other ideal that pushes you to deny your biological ties in favor of your emotional and mental ones.”
She moved her hand to the back of Faith’s head, not stroking it now, simply cupping it, as one might touch the head of a beloved small child, even as she looked her in the eye the best that she could and spoke to her like the young woman that she was.
“You can be happy and prefer it here, and still miss what you knew.”
Faith remained silent, her brow furrowed as she began to consider Diana’s words. Smiling at her slightly, with some traces of sadness in her gaze as well, Diana ran her hand down the length of Faith’s hair, fingering its ends, before stepping away.
“I think it’s time we both prepared for bed. Good night, Faith. I would bid you visions of sugar plums, but I suspect you would merely wake up ravenous and rummage through the larder.”
Giving her another quick smile and a brief touch on the arm, Diana turned, exiting the room. As Faith followed slowly, casting one last glance backward at the tree, her expression remained thoughtful.
Having faith…if just for one night, just for this one moment, she was tentatively able to believe that it was within her grasp.