Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.
Author notes: In total disbelief of the way in which Faith reacted to and forgave her father so quickly in season nine of Angel and Faith comics, I attempted to reason out what she might have been thinking and feeling to do so. Here is the result.
She should not go to him.
She should not think of how he had looked at her with that familiar sheepish smile, his eyes glittering now with anger or intoxication, but with a softer emotion, something suspiciously like hope. She should not think of the way her name had sounded on his tongue, of how long she had wished to hear him speak it aloud, face to face, with affection and relief in his tone. She should not picture the way his face had sagged when she ordered him away, how he had shuffled with his shoulders slumped and defeated, callused hands buried deep in the pockets of his jacket.
Faith should not be feeling even a twinge of pity for her father, not now, not ever. And she certainly shouldn’t feel a need to bite down on the inside of her cheeks to keep herself from calling out his name.
No, what she should remember, what she should keep sharply within the focus of her thoughts, was all the reasons this man, her father, she had not seen, spoken to, or contacted in any way for almost a decade. What she should remember was his stained clothing, reeking of nicotine, and the whiskey lacing his breath, seeming to emanate from his pores. She should remember him more interesting in drinking than paying attention to or providing for Faith and her mother some days, how he could not keep a job for long enough to always pay rent or buy food. She should remember unpaid water and electrical bills, going to school hungry and in the same clothes she’d worn the day before because neither of her parents noticed she hadn’t washed or changed her clothes. Faith should remember how he had never watched her school plays or showed up sober for her softball games, how she never seemed to go to the dentist or doctor even when it was needed.
That man who called out her name with such gladness, that man who had tracked her down all the way to London and somehow managed to afford a plane ticket there, for all those hours to fly here, all that money and time on the chance that Faith would speak to him, that she would give him a chance…she shouldn’t think about that or what it meant, how it may be possible he had changed. She should think about the terrible screaming fights he and her mother had gotten into when they were deep in the bottle, how Faith had been forced to either shut the door of her bedroom and cover her ears, hoping to block out the raised voices penetrating the apartment’s thin walls, or else try to get in between them to stop them, which would often result in her getting blows to the face or slaps or pinches, whether accidentally or otherwise. She should think about the time one of her parents, and it could have been her father or her mother, either one, had grabbed her arm in an effort to thrust her away and very painfully dislocated her shoulder in the process, then stood dumbstruck as Faith screamed, unable to decide whether to call 911 for fear they would be charged with child abuse.
Then there was his tendency to drink until he passed out, his head hanging at an awkward angle on the couch, how he had sometimes been so hung over the slightest noise or defiance from Faith in the morning would send him into a rage, slurred voice rising so loudly she was disgusted and mortified, sure the neighbors must hear. The way he would bring over his drinking buddies, and they would stay up all night, laughing and drinking and smoking heavily as Faith’s mother yelled, nagged, or cried, depending on how much she herself had had to drink that night. The way some of them leered or snickered when Faith walked by, eyes glued to her chest or backside, how some of them had assumed her body was theirs to take or touch as they wished…and how her father had rarely noticed, let alone stopped them.
There were so many things to remember about her father and his drinking, so many reasons that whether or not he was sober now, Faith should never want to see or speak to him again. All those memories, it should make it so easy to let him go, to never look back…to know and feel glad to no longer have him in her life.
But no matter how badly she tried to remember and concentrate on the bad he had done, the damage he had caused her, no matter how hard she tried to keep it first and foremost in her mind, other memories mingled, tainting her emotions with wistful ambivalence…and those memories held just as much vivid feeling as the others, and were every bit as true.
Faith remembered the heavy, comforting feel of her father’s meaty hand clasping her shoulder or patting her back, the way he kissed the top of her head in a manner she had convinced herself was thoughtfully deliberate, so as not to breathe alcohol into her face. Faith remembered how exciting it had been to sit close to him on the couch when she was young, rooting for the Patriots, even with a soda in her hand and a beer in his. She remembered the way he danced with her once or twice, her feet atop his, turning her fast to the beat as he held her hands in his. She remembered the affection in his touch and tone when he called her his girl, his Faithie, and no matter how angry she had been at him before, no matter how drunk he was, hearing him call her Faithie always made her want to smile.
No! No, she shouldn’t’ think of any of that…those were not important to anything in her life today. None of the good could make up for what he had done. He couldn’t change enough for it to matter, and she could never, ever forget.
Remember the way he looked at me when Mom died, like it didn’t matter, like he didn’t care…remember how he was so dead drunk at her funeral he could barely stand or walk. Remember how when I ran to Sunnydale he didn’t seem to notice, let alone look for me or miss me, remember how all those years he never once tried to find me and see if I was okay. Remember that it’s too late now, don’t remember that you loved him. Don’t think how badly you’ve always wanted this day to come, for your father to stand here in front of you sober, sorry, and ready to take you in his arms again and call you his little girl. Don’t think about how much you’ve changed over the years…don’t think that maybe it’s possible for him to change too.
She had tried so hard over the past ten years of her father’s absence to fill the hole he had left in her heart, to fulfill the need for him still remaining within her. Sex and partying, slaying and thrill-seeking, destructive behavior, nothing had ever felt as good as it had simply to stand in the circle of her father’s arm…and no person she put in her life, whether Buffy or her Watcher, the Post woman or the Mayor, Angel or Giles, ever seemed enough. All along, it had not been any of them Faith wanted at all…she had wanted a father. Her father.
And here he was…and she was throwing him away.
He would hurt her. She knew that…more than anyone else in the world, her father could cause her pain, because it was he who cleaved most deeply into her heart. But what if this time was different…what if this time, they could truly be happy? Move on from the past, if not forget…what if now, she would finally be the center of his life?
What if she was rejecting all she had ever wanted in the world?
It was this last thought that broke the last string of resistance in her heart, and without any further ability to restrain herself, Faith found herself running down the street, shouting her father’s name. As he turned, surprised, expectant, and she hurtled herself into his arms, she found herself close to tears, embracing her father with such pained intensity she felt him wince, even as he gently touched her hair.
He would hurt her. She knew it…he always had. But it felt to her then that to let him walk away, to not even try to believe otherwise, would hurt her even more.