StephenT (stormwreath) wrote,

(Meta) Thoughts on Faith

This is a post about the Slayer from Boston, not musings on religion, just in case you were wondering. :-)  For some reason I've got into the habit of writing things, but never actually getting around to posting them, so this is partially an attempt to break that. Also, the story about Faith I wrote two or three weeks ago, 'Fair Exchange Is No Robbery', was nominated for an award at Gotta Have Faith, so thanks to whoever nommed me, and go and vote, y'all!

I've written meta about Faith's childhood and teenage years before; this story was written to dramatise one possible way in which she learned to survive out on the streets before she became a Slayer. By writing a commentary on the fic, I thought I could in turn use it as a vehicle to expand on those thoughts.

The fic and commentary below the cut might be triggering for some people, as it includes references to underage sex, rape, prostitution, robbery, violence, drug use and bad language. The way I've always seen Faith is that she's a survivor - but one who narrowly avoided the path of becoming an abuser herself in order to avoid being a victim. This fic shows a possible milestone in her downward path.

Fair Exchange Is No Robbery

>> The title is ironic of course; this isn't a fair exchange, and there is definitely robbery going on. It struck me strongly while writing this that none of my characters came off particularly well. I mean, the male OC is certainly an adulterer, probably a paedophile and if he isn't a rapist, it's not through lack of trying: I don't think I've ever stacked the deck quite so heavily against one of my original characters before. Yet if he were your neighbour or work colleague, he'd probably seem like a nice guy; that was deliberate. As for Faith, she's the hero of the story, and a victim too... but she's also a manipulative thief who doesn't exactly come up smelling of roses either.

Faith was becoming quite the expert on ceilings. Cheap motels: low and grubby with peeling paint and the occasional suspicious stain. Expensive hotels: high, with fancy decoration around the edges -- there was probably a special word for it that she didn't know--

>> Believe it or not, I actually thought of the opening scene of this fic while lying in bed one morning, before getting up, and looking up at the ceiling of my bedroom. Though I wasn't having sex with anyone at the time, I hasten to add. And there are no suspicious stains on my ceiling. :-)

The weight on top of her started making gasps and grunting noises. She tuned it out, went back to her train of thought.

>> She's both disassociating herself from an unpleasant situation, and depersonalising the man she's with. The way I interpret Faith's sexuality is that before she became a Slayer, she saw sex as her only way to get power in a world that was otherwise wholly beyond her control. Men wanted her: that was the way of the world. (If the speculation about her being a victim of child sex abuse is true, then she's grown up with that knowledge; it's implicit in her worldview.) In order to sleep with her, then they'll often be willing to do her favours, buy her drinks, pay attention to her. Treat her like she means something to them, like she matters. Sure, it's a fragile and illusionary kind of power, and in her heart she knows it, but it's all she has. Until she becomes a Slayer, at least, and can turn the tables...

In people's houses -- it was odd how the rich dudes were the ones who left the ceiling beams uncovered in their fancy North End and Beacon Hill apartments; you'd think they could afford paint and plaster.

>> Those are wealthy districts of Boston. This is the early 90s so I'm thinking yuppy-style converted loft apartments would be all the rage.

Faith had a theory that you could tell the bachelors from the married guys by looking for cobwebs in the corners. She preferred the married ones--

The weight was moving faster now as it bounced and thrust into her. Not much longer then.

More opportunities. Wives had jewellery. Single guys went more for electronics. Hard to hide a VCR on your body.

>> And here's the real reason Faith's here; she's planning to rob the guy afterwards. For those of you looking for canon support for the idea she'd do something like this, I point you to 'Five By Five' and the way she lets Lilah pick her up in a nightclub, but has her eye on Lilah's expensive watch as they go back to her place.  Also, for the younger members of my flist: a "VCR" was an electronic device popular in the 80s and 90s, which recorded television programmes on special tape. They were valuable enough and resellable enough to be a popular target for burglars. :-)

This one: married. Unless it was him who read 'Cosmo', not his wife. Faith could see the magazine on the table next to the couch, out of the corner of her eye.

>> A friend of mine once told the story how shortly before her divorce, she was having sex with her soon-to-be-ex husband in the missionary position, and was feeling pretty bored... so when she saw a magazine lying next to the bed just like Faith does here, she grabbed it, held it up over/behind his head and started reading it over his shoulder. In her words, "When he realised what I was doing he wasn't very happy". That anecdote partially inspired this scene.

The weight was talking to her, or rather at her now. It was saying things like "Fuck, yeah", and "Come on baby, come for Daddy." Faith swallowed her sudden feeling of white-hot homicidal rage at the words with difficulty. Time for the next part of her act. Keep it together, girl.

>> Faith really doesn't appreciate the guy she's fucking referring to himself as her "daddy". I'm also assuming that the occasional psychotic/homicidal flashes we saw her having on the show have been affecting her all along. She mostly learns to control them and not give in, although I suspect her friends/contemporaries still think of her as "that scary chick who's nice enough, but sometimes she goes crazy".

She wasn't going to fake an orgasm, not for anybody. Pride was an odd thing to talk about in her situation, but she still clung to some. But she started whispering urgently, the same sort of cheesy porno lines he was coming out with. He probably got them from watching vids, same as she had. Then he yelled out and stiffened all over, and she felt him twitching and jerking inside her, and it was finally over.

>> At this point I shifted pronouns from "it" to "him" because firstly, I couldn't really disguise what was going on; and secondly, once he started talking it was hard for Faith to keep on depersonalising him.

She lay there waiting as he got off her, his dick slithering limply out, collapsing back on the couch with a loud sigh.

>> This has to be the most unromantic and unsexy sex scene I've ever written. (Deliberately so, of course.) (Though I've got no problem if any of my readers do find it hot anyway ;-) ). I had to rewrite that line a few times to make it clear it was the man, not Faith, who did the collapsing and sighing.

Then she stood up, stepping in front of him as she tucked her tits back into her bra and did up her blouse.

>> As I've mentioned before in my commentaries, when I'm writing fic I generally use the names for body parts and actions I think my protagonist would use, in order to set the right mood. So Faith refers to her tits; if this were a Buffy fic she'd talk about her boobs, and Willow would talk about her breasts, or possibly Kennedy's breasts.

He watched, just as she'd planned. Catholic schoolgirl outfit - always a winner. She'd stolen it piece by piece from some of Boston's best department stores over the course of a week.

>> I imagine there are lots of Catholic schools in Boston. This is also supported by canon, incidentally: Faith telling Spike in 'Dirty Girls' that the men she "ran with" in the old days liked her to dress up as a schoolgirl or cheerleader or nurse.

With it on and her hair in plaits, she looked about thirteen.

That made it easier. The kind of creep who'd pay to fuck a thirteen-year old schoolgirl? Deserved whatever was coming to him.

>> For reference, Faith is actually 17 in this fic, which is over the age of consent in Massachusetts though not in California. I've left it open as to whether the guy believes she really is 13, or he knows she's playacting and he's just indulging a fantasy. It's pretty creepy either way, of course. What we see here is that Faith still has something of a conscience lurking in the depths of her mind. She's out to rob the guy, but it makes it easier for her to live with herself if she thinks he's nothing but a scumbag who deserves it.

She could feel an ooziness inside her as she stood there. They always offered more to do it without a condom, and Faith pretended to be reluctant then finally gave in. She'd never caught an STD yet; guess she was just lucky, or had good genes or some crap like that. She'd seen the AIDS warning campaigns, but didn't care about them. Frankly, she didn't expect to live long enough for it to matter.

>> I think it's at least possible that as a Potential Slayer, Faith had some kind of resistance (though not outright immunity) to disease and infection. Plus she's nihilistic and really doesn't care, or at least has convinced herself that she doesn't care.

She squeezed and bore down a couple of times, waiting until she felt the tickle of the guy's jizz running down her thigh, then went into her flustered teenager act, all "Eww!" and "I need to wash!" She made sure she turned so he could get a good look at his mark on her as she spoke. Sometimes it turned them on; sometimes they were disgusted. This one just laughed at her, then casually waved her away.

>> All of this is an act, planned and done deliberately - including the earlier part about her standing in front of him while she adjusts her clothing so he can watch, and the whole thing about trying to seem much younger than she really is. She wants an excuse to go upstairs by herself; she needs him to regard her as just a sexy but silly girl he doesn't have to take seriously or see as a threat, because otherwise he might be suspicious about letting a total stranger wander around his house unsupervised...

She took that as an invitation, saying "Your bathroom's upstairs, right?", then grabbed the rest of her clothes and the all-important money lying on the table before dashing towards the stairs, hiding her grin as she did.

>> Originally I wrote that the money was in an envelope, but I wanted to tone down the obvious prostitution elements of the fic a little. There's no doubt that something of that nature is going on here, but I didn't really want to make the fic about how teenage Faith is A Prostitute with all the baggage and associations that implies. I don't see her as being controlled by a pimp or anything like that, for instance, though she might be a member of a street gang. I think she probably survives by a mixture of petty theft and what the Japanese call "compensated dating" -- going on dates with rich older men who buy her meals and expensive presents: a sort of prostitution-lite. Given how Faith talks about dressing up in costumes and playing with bullwhips for "granola dudes", I think that's pretty much canon. But occasionally when money gets short -- I assume for the purpose of this story -- she swallows her pride and actually turns a trick for cash.

She had to work fast. A tissue from her pocket took care of the mess between her legs as she quickly finished dressing then pushed open one door after the next, glancing inside. Main bedroom, spare bedroom, study, bathroom. Eyes peeled for small valuables left lying around; a watch, a necklace, prescription drugs... once she'd found a guy's actual wallet left on his bedside cabinet, and cleaned him out of two hundred bucks and a credit card.

A pair of gold cufflinks with a tiny diamond in each glinted at her archly. She swept them up, tucked them into the hidden pocket she'd sewn into the hem of her skirt. They looked pretty valuable, although when she fenced them she'd be lucky to get a tenth of their worth. If she was really honest with herself, it was the thrill of stealing the stuff more than the money that did it for her, but even so...

>> I added the last line in during the second draft, when it struck me that most people probably don't leave a whole lot of small, portable valuables lying openly on display around the house where Faith can spot them and scoop them up. Occasionally she'll get lucky, but I think it's in character for her to be doing it mainly for the excitement, and because it's a way of striking back at The Man. Also, it's clear she's done this before; she's even sewed a secret pocket into her skirt. The idea of Faith sewing amuses me; I think she'd prick her finger  and swear a lot. :-)

"Score!" A jewellery box lay on top of a woman's dressing table, and the key was still in the lock. Faith rummaged through; some good shit here. The genuine article, she thought, not cheap and flashy costume stuff. She tucked several pieces into her secret pocket until it was full. Then picked up a pearl necklace and looked at it regretfully. There was enough money there, she wouldn't have to do this again for a month at least if she was careful - but how could she smuggle it past him?

>> The bit about "not having to do this again for a month" is there as another indication that she's trying to find a way to assert herself in a situation which frankly she hates, but wouldn't admit to hating because she daren't show weakness.

Greed warred with caution for a long moment, then with a muttered "What the hell" she coiled up the pearls and tucked them into the front of her knickers. She'd just have to hope he didn't want second helpings when she came downstairs again.

Okay, she'd been long enough. Better go back before he got suspicious. She ran into the bathroom - then gasped as the pearls slipped and rubbed against her pussy as she moved. Damn it; she'd just been fucked and it did nothing for her, but now she was getting off on this?

>> Faith on the TV show has lots of random meaningless sex with guys she doesn't respect, but she does seem to enjoy it physically. I was conscious when writing this that it might seem out of character for her to show such lack of interest in the sex here. One explanation, of course, is that to add to his many other crimes the man in this story is simply selfish and only interested in his own pleasure, and therefore a bad lover. :-) Also, Faith is doing this because she has to (she needs the money), not because she wants to. In this way as in so many others, I think becoming a Slayer changed Faith's life fundamentally. Once she had power, she stopped looking at sex as something men did to her and started thinking of it as something she could do to them. Payback time.

>> So, I wrote her getting turned on by the pearl necklace partly to reassure us that she's still the highly sexual person we know so well from the show, and also symbolically because she's getting excited by the danger and the theft and the transgression, rather than the sex.

Part of her wanted to grab the ends of the necklace and slide it up and down over her cunt until she came on the bathroom floor - but there was no time. Reluctantly, she pushed the flush lever on the toilet so the sound echoed through the apartment, turned around and went back downstairs.

>> Her fantasy will become reality at the end of the fic. She flushes the toilet as camouflage, so the man sat downstairs will hear it and assume that's what she was doing that took so long, rather than getting suspicious that she was robbing him.

She felt all heated and woozy by the time she got to the bottom of the stairs, and had to cling to the bannister for a moment to recover. Damn, what was wrong with her?

>> You're supposed to assume her physical reaction is sexual arousal because of the pearls rubbing against her, but actually it's something more supernatural that's going on. Several thousand miles away, Drusilla just slashed Kendra's throat.

He was surely going to suspect something when he saw her like this. Or worse, he'd think his studliness was turning her on again, and he'd want another go, and he'd find the pearls. Maybe she could offer him a blowjob instead?

>> Another line that will come up again shortly.

"What the hell's the matter with you? You look pale as a ghost! Christ, have you been shooting up in my bathroom?"

>> Ironically, he does suspect that she went upstairs for a different reason -- but not the real one. He thinks she was taking drugs up there. The fact that she looks unwell rather than flushed and horny is the first clue that all is not what it appear to be.

Huh? Faith's head was spinning, and it was hard for her to think straight, but what she heard sounded like it might work as an excuse. She muttered a non-committal, "Uh, yeah, that. Whatever. Can I go now?"

But the man got a predatory look on his face, and said, "You can't go out like that: what if someone sees you? They'll think I gave you the drugs! Better stay here until they wear off." And he grabbed her arm and started pulling her back toward the couch.

Faith tried to tug her arm free, but he was too strong for her, and she couldn't think straight for all the warm cotton wool in her brain. She started to panic, and that just made him laugh. He said something about him getting a freebie in return for looking after her, because she should be grateful, and with his other hand he grabbed one of her tits and squeezed it hard.

>> This would be the attempted rape part of the story. I try to make it clear that at this stage, Faith is no stronger than a normal girl, to contrast with what's about to happen.

And so Faith blurted out the first thing that came into her head: "Can I give you a blowjob instead?" And mostly she just wanted to stop him from finding out what she had inside her pants (literally), but her clouded mind also had some vague plan of running away while his trousers were round his ankles.

>> This really sums up Faith's life before becoming a Slayer for me; she offers sex as an alternative to having it taken forcibly, giving her an illusion of control that she knows is all but meaningless; but she never loses hope that she'll somehow win an advantage out of it. Also, note that while Faith was upstairs robbing him the guy presumably got dressed himself, hence why he's clothed again now.

Then he got a big stupid grin on his face, and said, "Of course you can, baby", and he unzipped his fly and pulled out his dick and pointed to the floor in front of him. Faith's head was spinning, and she started to kneel down as instructed and instead half-collapsed, grabbing a nearby chair for support. To her horror her body seemed to be rebelling against her, losing control; her back arched and her legs jerked out wildly, and the guy stepped back hastily in alarm as she convulsed in a full-scale fit in front of him.

>> Her physical reaction is based on that of the unnamed Slayer from 'The Chain', though not quite as spectacular.

And that wasn't the worst of it, because as her limbs flailed and kicked she felt something shifting and moving inside her pants, and then the string of pearls dropped free from beneath her skirt and cascaded down onto the hardwood floor with a loud rattle.

>> I fudged this a little because I need her to be more or less vertical for the pearls to be obvious and loud when they fall out of their hiding place; but if she 's having a fit, wouldn't she be on the floor? So she's kind of in a half-fallen position clinging to the chair.

"What the hell? Those are my wife's!" His face, cast in an expression of disgust as he watched her collapse, now turned ugly with anger. He grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet, still twitching limply, and shook her violently. "You thieving little bitch!"

>> You're supposed to lose any shred of sympathy you might still have for him around now. The bit about him standing back in disgust while she convulses, rather than being worried about her, was the cincher for me.

And then time seemed to slow down. Faith could see with perfect clarity the flaring of his nostrils, the little bead of saliva at the corner of his mouth. She could see his chest expand as he took a breath. Watched his arm go back. His fist clenched; he was going to hit her, not a slap but a full-on punch, and he was much, much bigger than her. Faith had been hit plenty of times in her life already; she knew this was going to hurt. But everything was still moving so slowly; so when his arm came forward again Faith could just twitch her head to one side and watch him stumble forward as he missed her. Then her own hands came up, slowly as if in a dream, moving by instinct without conscious direction from her brain; and one caught his elbow while the other grabbed his wrist and tugged slightly downwards, and there was a crack like splintering wood and now his arm hung limp and broken at his side.

>> And Faith is now a Slayer.

>> It was important that her powers activate at a moment when she's fighting to defend herself from attack. It might even be that's why she in particular was Chosen rather than one of the other Potentials: because her life was in imminent danger. The idea that when a Slayer's in battle she sees every detail of the fight working around her in slow motion, allowing her to react far quicker than a normal human could, is something that appeals to me and I've used it in several fics.

But rage and adrenaline were driving him on, and he didn't stop to feel any pain; he roared and hooked the fingers of his good hand like a claw and leaped forward to grapple and bear her down beneath him. And Faith's right hand shot out in a punch, hit him clean on the jaw, and knocked a man almost twice her weight so hard that he flew backwards across the room and crashed into the couch, which broke under the impact and left him slumped down in its wreckage.

And Faith looked at him in sheer bewildered astonishment and said, "Fuck!". She held up her hand to look at it; it was still her own tiny fist, but there was blood on her knuckles, and it wasn't hers. She said "Fuck! again and staggered backwards, grabbing the chair behind her for support, and instead snapping the wood in half so she was left holding the chair's back in one hand. She said "Fuck!" for the third time, a note of hysteria in her voice, and grabbed the solid piece of timber in both hands and cracked it in half as easily as a matchstick. "Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck..."

>> It seemed kind of appropriate for that to be Faith's first words after she became a Slayer. :-)

She tossed aside the two billets of splintered wood and staggered dazedly over to the ruins of the couch, still half-wondering if this was just some weird dream, if she'd gone mad when she had that fit and was just seeing things now. But the guy seemed real enough, his chest heaving convulsively, his eyes glazed and staring, blood and broken teeth all round his mouth. It looked like she'd shattered his jaw, but at least she hadn't killed him; she was weirdly glad of that. The motherfucker deserved to suffer, sure, but Faith didn't need a murder rap over her head.

>> O irony, irony. The idea here is that the man is not outright dying, but he is in a very bad way; probably concussed as well as the broken arm, shattered jaw and maybe some internal injuries when he hit the couch. He might die if he were left like that too long, which is why I have Faith calling the paramedics for him later on.

Then she saw something that finally broke the crumbling walls of her reserve and set her howling with hysterical laughter; the guy's dick was still hanging out, where he'd unzipped expecting the blowjob that never came. It seemed like a lifetime ago now, even though really only a couple of minutes had gone by. She had a sudden urge to tuck it neatly back away for him, which set her off giggling madly again.

>> This was one of those moments where I think through the logistics of the fic after drafting out the initial idea, and I remember a continuity point. "Oh yeah, he thought he was about to get a blowjob just before Faith broke his jaw, so he's still be exposing himself, wouldn't he? We'd have to assume he was so shocked and taken aback by Faith throwing a fit that he forgot to zip himself back up during it, though...

Better to leave him like this; a treat for whoever found him. Let them see what a scumbag he was.

>> Presumbly it'd be his wife who finds him. Faith's chain of thought here isn't entirely logical, but she's thinking that if you find your husband lying unconscious with multiple injuries in his own living room, you'd think he was attacked by an intruder; but if he also has his penis out, you might assume he was trying to rape someone who fought back. It's a long shot, but hey.

But she did rifle through his pockets, until she found his wallet and skilfully emptied it.

>> The irony here, of course, is that Faith calls him a scumbag even as she robs him while he's lying there unconscious.

Then she scooped up the pearls off the floor again, had a quick look around to make sure she hadn't left anything else behind, and walked out the door.

>> Actually, she's almost certainly left lots of fingerprints, but I don't think it would be realistic for Faith to think of that detail. Let's hope her prints aren't on file with the police yet.

Her conscience got the better of her halfway down the street, and she stopped at a public callbox, dialled 911 and gave them the address then hung up when they asked her for her own details. She wasn't worried. The guy didn't know her real name or where she lived, and besides, men who hire underage girls for sex are generally not too keen on chatting to the police about their hobby. Funny that. So no, she wasn't worried.

>> See, she does have a conscience after all.

God, was she not worried. There were some heavy metal railings at the bottom of the street, to keep pedestrians safe from traffic on the main road, and Faith grabbed them and twisted the metal into a pretzel shape. She'd secretly been a bit nervous that her new superstrength might have deserted her once she was no longer in danger - but no, it seemed like she still had it. She didn't have a clue how or why this was happening, or if it would be permanent, but God, it felt so good now! She started laughing again as she looked at the ruin of the railings, and stared at her hands that had done it; and some passers-by made a wide detour around the crazy woman. Faith didn't care. They couldn't touch her now. Nobody could touch her now.

>>It's starting to sink in that Faith doesn't have to be a victim ever again... "You can't touch me" is what she screams at the random vampire she's beating up in 'Faith, Hope and Trick' -- prime evidence, in my mind, that before she became a Slayer lots of people assumed they could touch her.

There was a Mickey D's just down the road, and she had money in her pocket and suddenly felt ravenously hungry.

>> That would be the money she just stole, of course. Also, Faith's been in her first big fight as a Slayer, and now she's feeling hungry...

The food vanished almost as soon as she sat down at the table, she wolfed it down so quickly; and she was about to get up and go for more when she had a better idea, and slipped into the restroom instead. She pulled out her spoils of conquest, and looped the necklace round her fingers then did the thing with the pearls she'd been wanting to do almost since she first found them.

>>... and also: well, you know the other part of the famous saying. She's doing this in a public restroom rather than, say, going back to her own home for a few reasons: to reflect the earlier scene with the pearls in the bathroom, to suggest urgency and need, and most importantly to show that Faith no longer feels she has to care about social proprieties now she's Superwoman. That's why I put in the detail of her not caring if other people hear her: their opinions no longer matter to her.

They became slick and wet as she sawed them backwards and forwards, and her gasps and moans of pleasure were easily loud enough for anyone passing the restroom to hear what she was doing. She didn't care: what could they do to her now? What could anyone do to her?

Afterwards she held up her hand and looked at it once again, the damp string of pearls looped around it, and she breathed in her own musky scent from them and grinned a wide smile of triumph. She was a fucking superhero or something now, and she could do whatever the hell she liked and nobody could tell her different. Oh sure, she'd use her powers for good and all that crap, but no reason she couldn't have a little fun while she was at it. Or maybe get some payback; Faith had a long list there.

>> When we first meet her, that seems to sum up Faith's attitude to Slaying.

She pushed open the restroom door, ignoring the stares, and walked out into the rest of her life.

>> The people are staring because yes, they heard her. :-)

(Which didn't exactly go as planned, but you already know that part of her story.)

>> My biggest problem with this fic was finding a way to end it before it turned into Faith's Lifestory. I was thinking of how I could explain her meeting her Watcher, and her first Slayer dreams, and all that... but if I did, the fic would never be finished. For reference, I think it's pretty clear that Faith wasn't tracked down by the Watchers' Council until late in her life, and possibly even after she was Called (as I assume for this fic). The Council might be arrogant and bureaucratic and uncaring, but I can't see even them being happy to leave a Potential leading the sort of life Faith apparently led. Not to mention that, as an orphan and a school runaway, nobody would miss her if the Council took her to England to be brought up in the old style as a Kendra clone - which clearly didn't happen.

So, that's my thoughts on Faith's way of life and how she became a Slayer. Q/C?
Tags: buffy, faith, fic, fic commentary, meta
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