Once Upon a Time
DISCLAIMER: Listen up and Listen good, because I’m only saying this once! OC stuff, not mine. Buffy stuff, not mine.
SUMMARY: the OC/BtVS. Faith was taken from her family when she was ten. Now the Watchers Council is gone she’s free to go back, but it’s not that easy when over ten years have past and nothing’s the same as when you left.
RATING: PG-13 for language.
TIMELINE: Faith is aged 21 in this fic. That makes her 16 when she first arrived in Sunnydale (around the same age Buffy was when she was called). She was 10 when she was taken from her family, so they’ve been without her for about eleven years. Takes place after ‘the Blaze of Glory’ for the OC and goes AU (alternate universe) i.e. Trey will not show up. At least not for now, but I may change my mind later.
A/N: Okay, here’s my new story for 2006, and it’s something a bit different for me. A rather late happy new year to everyone who’s reading and please give lots of feedback!!
Distant Elephants by Kiara
PROLOGUE- ONCE UPON A TIME…
“No!” Giles hurried towards his apprentice and snatched the files he had been stuffing into a steel filing cabinet. “Xander how many times do I have to tell you: that cabinet is for finances only!”
The one-eyed-former-carpenter groaned. “Everything needs sorting. I don’t get it, how are these files in such a mess?”
“Two words- Quentin Travers.” Giles said without looking up from the script he was reading.
“So he’s still screwing us over even though he’s dead. I still don’t get how he stayed as head of the old council for so long. I mean, you know there’s something wrong with a guy when half his workforce is hoping he’ll be assassinated and the other half are actively plotting it.”
Giles ignored him. “Here; start going though the slayer’s files. They need to be filed alphabetically by the slayer’s surname.”
“Finally something logical.” Xander muttered, flopping back into a fake-velvet armchair and glaring at a tottering stack of yellowing files. He sighed, reaching forward and lifting the top few files onto his lap. “Right. Elliot comes before Parregello and after Anderson…”
It had been nearly one year since the defeat of the First. After a month holiday, Giles had gone to England to claim the funds and resources out of the Watchers Council’s various vaults, crated them up, and flown them back to America. His time in England with Willow had shown him that after over six years away, it wasn’t his home anymore. He’d never had any siblings and his parents were both dead so Xander, Willow, Buffy and the rest were the only family he had left. He’d been surprised when Xander had offered to help him out, but looking back it wasn’t really that surprising. Anya was dead; Buffy, Faith and Willow were fighting the forces of evil and Dawn was in school all day and often out with her friends in the evenings.
When Giles next looked up, Xander was already about a third of a way down the stack of files and was reading one of the labels on the front of a new-ish folder.
Xander looked up, clearly confused. “What did Faith say her last name was again?”
“Lehane. Why? Is something wrong?”
“You tell me. On the front of this folder there is clearly a picture of Faith, yet that certainly doesn’t say Lehane.” He held the files out for Giles to see.
Giles opened it and briefly scanned the first page before laying it down on the table. “Faith’s last name must have been changed.” He said matter of factly.
“What…How…Why doesn’t this surprise you?”
“Potentials were often removed from their families for training and if the council felt that the family might try to trace them, they changed their names.”
“But, but that’s so mean!”
“Yes, very…mean. Xander, you can’t read that. It’s confidential!”
Xander continued scanning the file. “It’s Faith- we already know her darkest secrets.” He murmured.
Giles said nothing. What did any of any of them really know about who Faith was before she arrived in Sunnydale? The fact that she refused to talk about it, even now, when she was starting to trust the Scoobies, told him that it was more than simple teenage stubbornness. Something told him that whatever had happened hurt the reformed slayer. A lot.
“Xander, have you ever considered there may be a reason Faith doesn’t tell you about her past?” Giles tried again half heartedly.
“Hey, did you know it’s Faith’s birthday next week? We should do something. It would be nice- See, good things come from snooping.”
Even Giles couldn’t deny that. It would be good for Faith to have a proper birthday- everybody else had one so it was only fair. It might make her feel more like one of the team.
Xander scanned the file, drinking in the information. Faith and he had gotten close since the destruction of Sunnydale. They’d found that they actually quite liked each others company, Faith even seemed to talk to Xander about things she’d never spoken to anyone else about before, and they’d developed a friendship that they didn’t really understand. She had tried to kill him; he’d hated her for years. Now they spent hours together talking or sparring or doing anything really. Something in the file caught his attention.
“Oh God.” Xander was looking at a yellow post-it note stuck on the page.
“What’s wrong?” Giles asked going over and taking the note off the page.
“That is. Well, that and what’s written in the rest of this thing. Faith was taken from her family.”
“Yes for her training, I told you that that was probably the case.”
“No, I mean forcibly taken. From this I’d say that they don’t even know what happened to her or where she is now.” Xander looked horrified. They’d all know that the Watchers Council hadn’t exactly been fair to the slayers, but this was in an entirely different league. “We have to do something.”
“Xander, it must be nearly a decade since Faith last saw her family- do you really think that it’s wise to drag it all up again? For her or them?”
“So what? We do nothing? Let Faith stay all moody and loner-y? Let her family keep thinking she’s dead?”
“She’s made no move to contact them herself, not even since we took over the council, we have no right to do it for her. Maybe what she left behind wasn’t all that great. Maybe she was happier in Sunnydale. I know you’ve gotten…closer to Faith, but this may be as good as it gets for her.” Giles said quietly.
“I don’t know if I can believe that.” Xander said after a pause, but he let the subject drop and filed Faith’s folder in-between Cesha and Copènt.
Xander walked along the grassy bank, keeping an eye out for the figure that he knew would be there. It was their escape- miles away from civilisation and almost completely deserted save for the occasional hiker or dog-walker. He finally saw her. She had her back to him, leaning on the wooden fence that ran around the old duck pond and staring into the distance. She was the only one there, no surprise. The ducks had been moved long ago to the new park so there was no reason for anyone to come this far from any of the roads, especially on a drizzly day like this one.
“I thought I might find you here.”
Faith didn’t turn around. There were very few people who knew where she went on the frequent occasions that she left Headquarters- Buffy had got curious within a week and followed her, Angel had tracked her down the first time he came to visit and Xander had just been there one day and they’d started talking. They actually had some things in common. That’s right; her, the murderer, and him, the carpenter.
“Maybe you realised that I wanted to be alone and know this is where I come.”
“Maybe I thought you shouldn’t be alone on your birthday.”
She didn’t say anything. Not for the first time, Xander wished he could know what she was thinking.
“You know Xander, sooner or later you’re going to land yourself in a world of trouble.” She said finally.
“Good job I know a bunch of super strong chicks to bail me out then. Why didn’t you tell anyone today was your birthday?” He pressed.
“Leave it, Xander.” She warned, turning towards him for the first time.
“What happened to you Faith?”
“Nothing, I’m fine.”
“Yeah, right. You’re always hiding something back, something about your past, about your family.”
“Xander, please, just let it alone.“ There was a note of pleading in her voice. He knew he was close.
“Why won’t you talk to me?”
“Because you wouldn’t understand. You wouldn’t understand what any of it was like!” She pushed past him roughly, but Xander wouldn’t be put of that easily.
“How do you know I wouldn’t understand if you won’t tell me?”
“Because I know, okay? You have no problems, not like mine. You don’t have a clue about what my life was like.”
“Then tell me about it! I thought we were friends. I know this is hurting you Faith, but you won’t let me help you.” He grabbed her arm, and was surprised when she stopped walking away and turned towards him.
“You have it easy Xander. Okay, so your family wasn’t so great, but you had friends that genuinely cared about you- that would have died for you. Your life was like a fucking fairytale; it wasn’t like that for me.” She spoke softly, but Xander could hear every word she was saying.
“Faith, you can’t run from this forever, it’s eating you up inside already. You said you trusted me, but you obviously don’t trust me enough. I hate to see you hurting like this.”
He tilted her chin up and was surprised to see tears spilling over onto her cheeks. Faith had always seemed so strong; he’d never seen her cry even with all she went through when they first met.
“You can’t help me.” Faith said quietly. “I want you to, but it’s too late. Please, just let it lie.”
“Is that what you really want?” He asked sceptically.
“Okay, but if you ever want to talk-“
Xander realised he was still cupping her chin. He removed his hand, wiping the tears from her cheeks with his thumb. “Sorry.”
Faith reached up, brushing a surprisingly gentle kiss against him lips. “Yes. Really.”
He stared at her for a moment, a million thoughts jumbling through his head. “You’ve got a class with the slayers in twenty minutes. We better go back.”
She nodded silently, making off towards Headquarters.
Xander shook himself mentally before heading after her. One thing was for sure, there was more to this than he originally thought and he couldn’t just let it rest as Faith requested. She wasn’t happy now, and his gut feeling told him that this was the key to unlocking the mysterious slayer.
In one of many rooms in an Orange County ‘McMansion’, an attractive woman sat with a well worn photograph. There was a chance that if she showed the photo to one of her neighbours then they would recognise it from the brief amount of time that it had been plastered on the front page of the newspapers or shown in the TV news. They’d give her a pitying look and hand it back, as if not wanting to catch whatever had brought down tragedy on the seemingly perfect family.
As she gazed into the deep chestnut eyes, her husband came into the room and sat down next to her.
He tried another tactic. “Seth and Ryan will be home soon.”
“They shouldn’t see you like this.”
“She’d be twenty-one today.”
He sighed. “I know. I’d never forget something like that.”
“We’d go out to a bar and then I’d buy her her first drink…well, legal drink.” She smiled wistfully, imagining her faked surprise as her daughter knew exactly what she wanted to order from the barman, pretending not to know what went on ‘behind-the-scenes’ at the typical Harbour School party.
“Kirsten, don’t do this to yourself.”
“Do what? Talk about my daughter?” She said harshly. “Why don’t you want to remember her? Don’t you want to know what she’s like?”
“She’s gone Kirsten, has been for over ten years. I think it’s about time we faced the fact that she’s probably-“
“Don’t you say that! I know she’s still alive. Why are you giving up on her?”
“Because I can’t take it anymore!” The usually level-headed Sandy Cohen burst out. “I can’t keep hoping that one day she’ll knock on the door because it’s killing me. I need, we need to move on.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Seth’s forgotten all about her, so has the rest of Orange County.”
“And that’s what you want me to do? Act like everything’s okay? As if we never had a daughter?”
“No, of course not. We’ll never forget her, but we have two sons who are here, with us right now. They deserve to have all the love we can give.” Sandy stood up and walked out the room.
He paused in the doorway. “I’ll always wonder if she still has my eyes.”
“I don’t think she would’ve changed that much.” Kirsten said softly, but Sandy had already left.
As Kirsten heard Seth’s voice, she hastily slid the photo back into her purse and wiped her eyes.
She still had one child left to protect, and she had long ago promised to never loose her son the way she lost her daughter. So the picture would stay at the back of her purse, a constant reminder to never stop believing, to never loose faith.
Once was more than enough.