author: Lucinda

rating: pg13

main characters: Faith, Mort(Toad)

disclaimer: I own nobody from BtVS or Marvel Entertainment/X-Men the Movie. I took the name for Toad partly from the comics, which had the name 'Mortimer Toynbee'.

distribution: Twisting, Paula, Wic, anyone else please ask.

note: Post X-Men 1, AU post season 4 BtVS

She was awake, and everything was whole, working again. She'd healed from... there had been a fight with a blonde girl... Buffy? Faith felt so confused. How had she ended up in a hospital? Where was she even at? Which way did she take to get out of here? Her thoughts felt fuzzy.

Eventually, she stumbled her way out of the hospital, her mind clearing as she kept moving. Had there been drugs in that IV? Something to keep her out cold? Got to get home, get some real clothing, find out what's going on...

But home didn't help. Her apartment had been trashed, the windows broken, her furniture gone, the kitchen empty... Dust and cobwebs had gathered in the corners, and the place had a funny smell, a combination of dust, animal musk, and something bitter that she couldn't name. Thank God there were still a few things in the closet, and the emergency stash that she'd tucked up the vent was still there. She felt so much better with clothing on. But Dick would never have let her place end up like this...

Something must have gone wrong with his Ascension. That could only be bad for her. He'd been the only person that had really cared about her in this place... well, him and B's mom. But Joyce would be alright, she had people to make sure of that, and B would be furious if she even suspected that Faith had been near her mom. She had this sudden flash of memory, B glaring at her, the knife that Dick had given her glittering in the streetlights as it plunged towards her stomach, burning pain as her body went cold and she fell backwards… No reason to stick around here, she could grab some weapons to go with the cash, and get out of this miserable town. Go somewhere else, somewhere that she would be the only Slayer, the only hero... It sounded good.

She hit a sporting goods store, grabbing a duffel bag, a couple good knives, an axe, a crossbow, and the entire stock of wooden bolts, maybe three dozen in all. And a leather jacket. After that, she caught a bus ride, heading home. Back to the East Coast, where she knew there was a call for a Slayer, and she wouldn't have to worry about competition.

Slowly, she made her way back to the area that she had grown up. Not the direct route, just in case someone was trying to follow her. She made trips north, and occasionally more southernly. There was even the occasional doubling back if she got a particular feeling about a place, and this one time when she'd just had to get a better look at some gorgeous mountains. The view had been amazing. Honestly, she wasn't in any real hurry to go back to the place that she'd spent her youth in.

It hadn't been the happiest of pasts, but it was hers, and she wouldn't be in the shadow of any other Slayer. Faith would be the hero, the savior, the focus of attention. Nobody would be looking at her like a second rate imitation… And she could mourn for Dick. Yeah, he may have been a bad guy, but he was the closest to a father that she'd ever had. Got to look hard for that silver lining… and hope that it wasn't really just tin foil.

Of course, the almost leisurely trip had a few side benefits. She'd regained most of her memories and sorted out the confusion, and had her muscle tone back. Maybe she wasn't in top shape yet, but there had been a lot of improvement compared to the way shed felt after waking up from an eight-month coma. She still shuddered to think about it. Would she have ever woke up if she hadn't been a Slayer? Would she have even made it to the hospital if she had been a normal girl? Faith was afraid both answers would be no.

But there was a downside to being back out, on her own. She had no watcher, no resources to figure out what the hell some nasty thing she bumped into was, nobody to help patch her up if she got hurt. She'd never been quite this alone since she'd been Called. Before, she'd had Melissa, her Watcher. But Mellie was gone now, killed by Kakistos. And it wasn't like she could just call up the Council and ask for a new Watcher. They'd probably have a few objections to the whole hanging out with a guy who aspired to near invulnerable demon hood. Not that they'd been very good about trying to help her, she was nothing to the Council. Just the current in a long line of Slayers, kill one and get a new one, all interchangeable and disposable. She almost wondered if the Watchers other than Mellie and Giles could even remember her name… Well, there had been that other one, Wesley Windy-Price, or something like that.

Which was why she was in a foul mood when she arrived at the Meyerston Cemetery. The only good thing was that there weren't the same teeming hordes of vamps and demons that showed up in Sunnydale. Granted, the ones here tended to be smarter, but sometimes the sheer numbers could wear you down. Probably the whole point of bad guys having armies of minions anyhow. She could hear the sounds of a fight.

She drew a stake and a knife, moving towards the fight quickly. Best be ready for anything, and there was no guarantee of vamps. She was almost relieved when she found that yes, it was vamps. Four of them were trying to catch... well, she wasn't quite sure what the other guy was. His skin had a sort of green cast, and he kept making these impossible jumps… she wasn't even sure that she could jump like that. But hey, nothing said that she only had to save humans from the baddies. Faith jumped into the fight, staking one vamp in the back before the others had quite figured out that she was there.

She'd just started to enjoy the fight when the last vamp was suddenly pushed forward, impaling himself onto the stake. His ashes fell away, revealing the greenish guy standing behind him. He had brown hair, and big dark eyes that were full of questions.

"Could I get an answer if I asked what the hell just happened?" His voice didn't quite sound local, and there was something slightly off, as if something wasn't quite put together quite the same as a human's.

Faith slid the stake and knife back into her jacket, wiping the dust from her hands. "Vampires. You don't see quite as many here on the east coast, but… those were definitely vamps. Stake in the heart, fire, beheading. Holy water and crosses burn them."

"Here I thought vampires were just fiction." He shook his head, rubbing at his arm. "What else is real that isn't supposed to be?"

That stopped Faith for a moment. If he was asking what else was real, did that mean that greenie wasn't some sort of not so hostile demon? "Well, there's magic, werewolves, all sorts of demons some of which are real nasty characters… which brings up the question what are you? I was sort of thinking maybe some type of demon on account of the green and jumping, but…"

"I'm a mutant, not a demon." He looked part way between offended and afraid.

Faith grinned, everything making sense now. "A mutant… huh. That explains that then. Lot more fuss about mutants over on this coast too. You might not want to go spending too much time in the cemeteries, there might be more vamps in the area."

"I find it a bit disturbing that you can talk about vampires as if it's an everyday occurrence." He made a sort of stretching motion, and his back made a few popping noises. He looked at her, seeming a bit uncertain of himself. "uggh. I guess I should say... thanks."

Faith had the oddest feeling that she'd just bumped into someone as lost as she was. "Hey… do you need a place to crash for the night? There's a second bed at my hotel room, and I got a shower…"

He looked surprised, as if he couldn't quite believe the invitation had been extended to him. Still, he picked up a duffel, one similar to her own, but a good deal more worn and dirty. "That would be good. I'm Mort."

"Faith. Come on, let's get back to the hotel… then maybe I can have you help me figure out what's been going on the past few months." She smiled, starting back towards the hotel.

"You hadn't heard? About the Mutant Registration proposal, Magneto, any of that? Where have you been, in a cave somewhere?" He sounded astonished as he glanced at her, actually pausing in his walk.

"A coma, actually. For the last eight months." She scowled, not liking the thoughts of how she'd spent her time before that. Faith didn't even realize that her hand had touched the scar, a tiny reassurance that she was feeling better, that it hadn't opened up, wasn't bleeding. Logically, after nine months, there was no way that would happen, but shed only been awake for one of them.

"Right… that would do it. It's a long story." He sounded a bit quieter, as if he hadn't quite expected that sort of an answer. One hand raked over his hair, as if trying to sort his thoughts from the outside.

"I got time. Plenty of time... well, enough time for that anyhow." Faith smiled a bit, thinking about the contrast. She didn't have anything to keep her from a long explanation, but the odds were good that she'd never see twenty. Yeah, it was just… incomparable, the life of a Slayer.

End part 1.

He'd let her have the shower first, and she'd felt much better when she emerged, the warm water and scented body wash making her feel much better. She still had bruises aching at her, and a lot of questions, but waved Mort towards the shower. Faith had just sighed, closing her eyes. When was the last time she'd been alone with a guy that hadn't been trying to screw her? Other than Dick and the people he'd had her kill? She wasn't certain.

Eventually, he came out of the bathroom, wearing just a pair of green plaid boxers. He didn't look bad that way, and the greenish cast had a slight mottling, being paler over his stomach and thighs. Mort had some good muscles, especially through his legs. He carried the bag in his hand, looking at it with a mixture of dismay and apology. "Everything's dirty."

She just chuckled, a little amused. "Yeah… my stuff needs to see the washer pretty badly. We can hit it a bit later. You were going to tell me about this whole mutant legal thing, and Magneto."

He let himself fall backwards on the other bed, a near blissful sigh escaping. "Ahhh… mattress. Wonderful things. Right… I assume you have the basic idea of what a mutant is?"

"Yeah. I know what mutants are. People who were born a bit different, so they don't all look the same, or they can do weird things like run faster than a car, or toss cars, or read minds. And a lot of people are really freaked out by the whole thing, and are making a big fuss and beating up mutants." Faith stretched her leg, frowning as her ankle crackled when rotated. "I've been a bit too busy worrying about vamps and demons to have much more of an idea than that."

"That's enough to start with." He rolled over, leaning on his stomach and looking at her. His voice was bitter when he continued. "Someone had the idea that all the mutants should be listed in an official government registry. Who they were, what they can do, where they live. They wanted to make it something that every mutant was required to do. And mandatory testing to make certain there were no mutants trying to hide themselves among the normal humans.""

"Is that even legal? Wouldn't that be sort of like… registering everyone with German ancestry, or Japanese?" Faith frowned, thinking the whole mandatory registration thing sounded a bit… much. It sounded suspicious, and probably up to no good. What would be done with that information? Who would keep it?

"Funny you should make the German comparison." He shook his head. "From the sounds of things, it would have been closer to the mandatory registration of Jews before the second World War. Maybe not with the little badges, but… Some of us were worried. If they get a list of names, what happens if a mutant wants a job? Do employers start checking for criminal background, drug use, and genetic mutation? Would mutants start disappearing in the middle of the night? Government controlled mutant spies?"

Faith shivered, her mind envisioning those possibilities. She could imagine that sort of thing all to easily, especially after working with Dick. He'd found all sorts of uses for her Slayer strength that weren't killing vampires. "Nice images, Mort. Eeee. Or would a crime against a mutant be investigated as seriously?"

"Yeah, that sort of thing. Only, nobody in the legislature was going for the 'separate but equal' line. Just… the mutant menace, and fears of 'Them'. Of course, there really wasn't anything for them to be afraid of until they started this whole registration thing." Mort grinned, looking like he found the memory amusing. "Magneto came from Europe… he was in the whole mess of the Second World War. A Jew in Poland. He took the whole idea of any sort of ancestry or gene based registration real bad… They created their worst fear."

"So, where's this Magneto guy now?" Faith felt so curious. It sounded like she'd missed some interesting stuff.

"He had a plan to make certain the world leaders couldn't ignore the mutant question, that they couldn't just push mutants into a dark corner and shut a lid. But this group of idiots who think the government wants to keep them safe stopped him. He's in prison now." Mort was glaring, eyes filled with anger and pain and worry.

Faith sighed, wondering if Mort had ever had anyone else with him, offering to try to help make his life better. How Mort had been useful to Magneto, what skill of talent he'd brought to this master plan… there was always something that made you useful to them. People didn't just lift the hopeless and desperate up for nothing. There was always something in it for themselves… Faith didn't realize it, but her fingers were tracing over the scar on her stomach again. "What was your part in that plan? There's always some way that you can be useful when someone takes you in."

He looked at her, his eyes full of conflicting emotions, and his mouth opened as if to shout something angry, defensive. The words were silenced before they could emerge as his eyes spotted the edge of her scar. "I build things. Metal, electronics… I don't do very much innovation, but give me blueprints, tools, and materials and I can build it."

Faith sighed, leaning back against the headboard of the bed, her eyes closing a bit as she considered things. "So, here we are. Magneto's in prison, and Dick's blown to bits, and now both you and me are left dangling. Or maybe the thread broke, and we've fallen away, out of the fire. What do we do with ourselves now?"

It was an awkward question. Neither of them had an answer for it, and an almost uncomfortable silence filled the room, gradually replaced by even breathing, and a slight gargling snore.

End part 2.

Morning made everything seem a little… well, maybe not better, but calmer. Bruises and aches had healed, and unsettled emotions and memories had been given a little time to settle again. There was also a couple of simple goals – getting their laundry clean, and finding some breakfast.

"Ahh… simple goals. It's a wonderful thing." Mort sighed, leaning against the wall of the laundry room with a smile. "And I don't need to worry about someone stealing the washer and dryer, or having to fight through a crowd to get here."

"You haven't seen how these places get at about three, have you?" Faith chuckled, looking at her new… what exactly was Mort to her? A friend, a partner? They weren't lovers, although that could still change. But… what were they?

"Hmmm… no. Not to welcome in most places, being green and all." He grinned suddenly, looking at her as if wondering something. Then, in a somewhat rusty sounding voice, he began to sing, slightly off key. "It's not that easy being green… having to spend each day the color of the leaves…"

Faith burst out laughing, wondering if she would have tears running down her face from the intensity of her amusement. Mort was singing the song of Kermit the Frog… from Sesame Street. "That's… oh Mort, that's just hilarious. You're the first guy I've been around who just bursts into muppet songs. You're great. Well, maybe not at the singing part, but…"

"Glad to be of service." He smiled at her, trying to look calm and ending up with more of a smug expression than anything else.

Faith just laughed. When the buzzer rang, she pointed towards the dryer. "Your turn to check. Is that load dry yet?"

Opening the door on the front, Mort peeked inside, grinning as his hand became buried in Mountain Spring scented laundry. "Not quite dry, but it looks like your underwear is trying something fresh and perverted with my boxers and your bra."

Faith glanced at him, and with an almost serious expression asked a question. "How do you know it's something fresh, and not a stale old perversion?"

"Scented dryer sheets, my dear. Nothing stale smelling about that." He managed to keep his voice level, waggling his eyebrows in an exaggerated manner that had Faith laughing again.

"Good grief… and you actually managed to keep a straight face…" Faith laughed, having slid down the wall, ending up in a sort of crouching half seated position, just laughing. "I suppose that is the whole point of the dryer sheets though."

"Yeah, that and getting you to shell out another couple dollars at the grocery store." He shrugged, looking at his hands, one finger rubbing at the edge of his thumbnail. "Sometimes… Faith, do you ever wonder how your life would be if you were normal? Not a Slayer, not a mutant, well, that would be me, but… if things were different?"

"All the time. Not just if I were a normal human, but… all sorts of if things were different. If I were human, if I'd never gone to California, if I'd stayed with Mellie… If I'd had two good parents… lots of if's. And it doesn't change anything, except that I can generally come up with a way that things could have been worse than they are." Faith shrugged a little, having spent far more hours than she wanted to admit playing the 'what if' game.

He chuckled a little, still looking at his hands. "I know how that goes. No matter how bad things are, they could always get worse. Worse for me, worse for you, worse for everyone. And I'd like to try to keep everything from going to hell, you know?"

"Got a plan for that?" Faith sort of lurched to her feet, feeling the faint ache of a couple bruises that hadn't quite healed up.

Glancing at her, Mort smiled a bit, although his eyes looked sad. "Not really. I'm not too good at plans, more of a follower and construction sort of guy. Original thought was never really encouraged from a guy who looks like an amphibian. Never. But I'd like to try to make a difference."

"Then stick with me. I don't really have too much of a plan yet, but I'm ready for action. Hunt some vamps, kill the occasional demon menace, see the sights… It might be good to have someone with me. Very least, I'll have someone to take a look at cuts on my back and help with bandages." Faith made the offer impulsively, but she meant it. She was tired of being alone, tired of having nobody that she could talk to, of risking her life and staggering back to a cold dark room and collapsing into stiff bruises.

He smiled, something that might have been hope dawning on his face. It was a good look for him, and it made him look quite fine. Maybe he was a little off from normal, but so was she. And he still looked good, and seemed cool with the whole Slayer mess. "Sounds quite educational. And naturally, the pair of us together should be slightly safer than either of us separately…"

"Yeah, safer." Faith smiled, thinking of all the other possibilities that had just opened up. They would be… sort of partners, traveling companions. Maybe more, eventually. But they wouldn't be alone.

End part 3.