TITLE: Every Story . . .
AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod
CATEGORY: Challenge response, drama, series
PAIRINGS: Faith/Jack friendship
SPOILERS: BtVS – none; SG-1 – none
SEASON: BtVS – 3; SG-1 – pre-series
SERIES/SEQUEL INFO: Part 2 of the "Worth Fighting For" Series. Can be read on its own, but will make more sense if the first story in the series, "Worth Fighting For', is read first.
CONTENT LEVEL: FR13, C, 13+, take your pick
CONTENT WARNINGS: little bit of language, sexual innuendo
SUMMARY: Nine years ago, Faith and Jack met by accident. Neither could ever imagine the future their brief encounter would set in motion.
DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vamipre Slayer and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy . Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. I'm just borrowing them for a little while and will return them unharmed. No copyright infringement is intended.
ARCHIVE: TtH, Jackfic, Gateworld, any others please ask
AUTHORS' NOTES: After the overwhelming response to "Worth Fighting For", I discovered that Faith and Jack had a whole lot more of their story to tell me. So months later, after recovering from unexpected hard drive crashes and data loss, lack of internet and exile from civilization, here's the first bit of their continuing story. I can't thank my readers enough for all the encouragement and wonderful comments throughout the posting of "WFF." You guys are great! This fic is dedicated to you. A hug and huge thanks go to Lynette for her wonderful skills as my beta. You catch all the tiny mistakes and giant plot holes and make the story better. As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
Every Story . . .
"Hello, tall and gorgeous."
Leaning back against the bar, elbows hooked over the old-fashioned rail, Faith gave a predatory smile. She'd spent the last hour weeding through the available stock only to have him walk through the door just as she'd been about to leave. She should have saved herself the trouble.
She followed the man with eager eyes as he ordered a beer a few feet away from her, paid and headed for one of the five tables in the far corner. Sitting with his back to the wall, he portrayed the perfect picture of 'leave me alone.' She planned on ignoring the message. Tossing back the last of the beer in her bottle, she set the empty on the bar and held up two fingers. She slid a five and a suggestive wink to the young man on the other side of the bar. He blushed furiously and the two bottles clunked together as they hit the wood.
Loser, she thought, picking up the beers. Probably still hasn't gotten laid yet. It was too bad. He was cute in a puppy dog kind of way. But her chosen specimen for the night was neither cute nor puppy-like. No, he was all man, exuding heat and moving like he knew what to do with his rangy body.
She tossed her hair back off her shoulder, straightened to her full height and focused on her target. Each step was a calculated move as she made her way across the room.
Five days had passed since she'd left Boston. Five days of running, hiding in the shadows and getting from point A to point B any way she could. That's how she'd ended up in Colorado Springs. Her last ride had decided he wanted to give her a different kind of ride than the one she'd asked for. She'd left him and his truck on the outskirts of town, unconscious with a broken nose and possible broken ribs. He was lucky that's all he had, she thought darkly, face tightening with the memory. She had nothing against sex, but no man was ever going to force himself on her. Not no way, not no how. But the incident had served to show her just how tense she'd become. She needed to let off some steam, to get some of her pent up fear and frustration gone. She needed a clear head and a night of hot, hard sex would go a long way to getting her there.
Her chosen release valve was nursing his beer, hands and eyes on the table. She stopped a few feet away so he'd see the whole package with the first glance. Her leather pants cupped all the right places, her tank top displayed a healthy amount of cleavage and she was more than ready for a little action – all the signs were in place. She thunked one of the beers down on his table, drawing his attention.
"You and I are going to make each other's night."
She didn't know which surprised her more, the look of stunned shock on his face or his answer. She hadn't expected either.
"I'm not looking for any company tonight, but thanks for the offer."
Once she recovered from the shock of her first ever rejection by the male species, she took a long swallow from her beer, letting him get a good look at what he was turning down. "You don't know what you're missing," she said, not letting the surprise show on her face. She wasn't ready to give up just yet.
He smiled slightly, a cock to his head that told her he'd seen the show and wasn't budging. "I'm sure you'll find a substitute easily enough."
"My mistake." She curved her lips into a smile that held a final offer and turned as if to leave. Well, damn. Time to find another fishing hole. This one was tapped out.
"Hold on a second."
Turning back, she raised an eyebrow, keeping her smug grin under control. Or maybe not. Her record was going to remain untarnished yet. "Yeah?"
"You look hungry," the man said, his words a little stilted, as if unsure he wanted to say them. "Sit down and I'll buy you some dinner."
Her stomach took that moment to grumble its protest over the liquid diet of the past few days. It wasn't loud, but she felt the quivering reverberate throughout her entire ribcage. Okay, maybe she could do with some food. And then the sex. "All right." Pulling out the chair opposite him, she twirled it around and sat, straddling the seat. She'd always found it worked miracles with members of the male species for some reason.
"Stay here. I'll be back in a minute." He gave her a long look, brown eyes serious in his compelling face. Pausing halfway out of his chair, he set his beer on the table, a signal in man-speak she didn't need interpreting. "Anything in particular you don't want?"
The unexpected question cracked her siren persona just a little. Without thinking about it, she gave him the truth. "Food is food. I eat so I don't die." He gave a surprised grunt of laughter, smiled carefully and moved off.
Not bothering to be subtle, she watched him cross the room to the bar, enjoying the easy stride and lean form encased in worn jeans. She'd been right – he was a feast for the eyes. After speaking to the young guy on duty for a few seconds, he came back, eyes shifting quickly over the room. Faith sat a little straighter at the seemingly automatic gesture. What had he been looking for? Or had it merely been a habit? One she recognized since she did it every time she entered a room.
Before she had time to answer her own questions, he was at the table, sitting across from her once again. She shook off the annoying thoughts and focused on getting her goal. Now that she had his attention it shouldn't be that hard. "What's your name?" That was as good a way to get started as any, although his name didn't really matter, just his body. She'd noticed some guys had a thing for names.
"Jack." He said it like she'd jabbed skewers underneath his fingernails. "And what can I call you?"
She smiled, just the tiniest bit, at his carefully phrased words. This one wasn't stupid, not by a long shot. And again, she found the truth spilling from her lips. "Faith. My name's Faith."
That drew his eyes from his reclaimed bottle to her face. "Sounds like there's a story in there somewhere."
"If there is I don't know it." Where the hell had that come from? While it wasn't the least bit informative, she'd never even gotten that close to telling someone about herself in years. He gave an odd sounding grunt and took a long swallow of beer. Draping herself over the back of the chair, she waited for him to ask the inevitable questions. What was she doing here? Why was she alone? How long did they have to hang around before he could take her someplace a little quieter? She'd heard them all in her life, had even started some of them herself. But they never came.
She grabbed her bottle, the chilly condensation wetting her fingers, shocking in its suddenness. Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, she put the beer to her lips, but couldn't choke down more than a small sip. This was not going the way she'd planned and her uncharacteristic lack of forward momentum started a tiny knot forming in the pit of her stomach.
Jack continued his silent perusal of her face, eyes darting every now and then down to the table and over the other people in the bar before returning. Discomfort was quickly turning into uneasiness, not a feeling she was accustomed to. About to chuck it all and leave, hot and gorgeous notwithstanding, she froze when he spoke, his voice quiet yet carrying easily over the din of the crowd.
"How old are you, Faith?"
Staring into his brown eyes, she found she couldn't look away and had to force her standard response past a suddenly tight throat. "Old enough to know what I want."
His eyes bored into hers, his face serious, and yet she couldn't see any judgment in either. He simply sat, waiting for her to answer truthfully, his attention never wavering from her. He didn't look at his bottle, didn't scan the room, didn't fidget restlessly in the silence of their little bubble in the busyness of a Friday night. She couldn't break his gaze, couldn't look away from his undemanding eyes. And yet it was as if those brown eyes were compelling her to tell him, to trust him. His face gave away nothing, a calm mask of patience, the clean lines she'd admired from the bar thrown into sharp relief by his stillness.
He was older than she'd realized, the fact suddenly clicked into her brain. Quite a bit older, but the way he'd moved and carried himself had shouted an age at least a decade younger than the scattering of grey in his hair and the lightly engraved lines of his face now spoke. For some reason her age-o-meter had failed her with Jack, but somehow it didn't seem to matter as they stared across the short distance of the table. He repeated, even more quietly than before, "How old are you?"
This time the truth fell out without thought. "Seventeen." The fact she'd just told him she was a legal minor nursing a beer in a public bar didn't register until her voice was hanging in the air between them. Once it hit, she pushed back from the table almost frantically, mind in shock at her stupidity, her lack of caution. The veneer of sophisticated confidence disappeared at the sheer panic that filled her. She couldn't afford any trouble with the cops. She had to get to California, to Sunnydale. This was just one tiny stopover on her trip.
Moving faster than her stunned brain could register, Jack had her forearm gripped tightly with his right hand, not hurting, simply holding her in place half out of her chair. Her hand flew to his wrist, ready to break it if necessary when he spoke.
"I'm not going to turn you in, Faith."
She paused, hand floating an inch above his flesh, her eyes narrowed and meeting his suspiciously. It didn't matter she'd been ready to go with him less than a minute ago and get hot and sweaty with his body. Now he was a possible threat to her freedom and that couldn't be tolerated. And yet his voice called to her, asked her to listen, to trust him. She stayed silent, waiting for him to continue. It was the best she could manage with her heart pounding in her chest and everything within her shrieking at her to simply run.
"Let's just sit down and eat. I'm not going to tell if you won't."
And then he sat back in his chair, hand trailing off her arm, leaving the decision up to her. It was that tiny act that settled her weight onto the chair again, her gaze never relinquishing his. What was his game? First he turns her down, then he invites her to eat with him, even bought the damn food. His face was carefully blank as he stared back at her, not giving anything away. She'd been around all kinds of people in her life, from the nicest, sweetest old ladies to the ones who'd knife their own mothers for a piece of bread. None of them had mastered the fine art of blank-face as the man sitting across from her.
But somehow she knew he wasn't lying to her despite the lack of facial expression. Something inside her urged her to sit back and listen to every word he had to say. With little thought and even less motion, she flipped the chair around to sit normally, one leg crossed over the other. The restlessness that had driven her into the bar was slowly melting under Jack's silence.
Minutes passed without words, each taking the random swallow of their drinks. She heard one of the waitresses approaching over the background noise of the bar long before she reached their table. Two baskets of fried goodness were deposited before them, two napkin-wrapped sets of utensils, a red plastic bottle of ketchup and a yellow one of mustard following with a dull thump.
Her stomach growled loudly as the scents assaulted her nostrils, almost drowning out Jack's quiet thanks to the waitress. Pushing one of the baskets closer to her, he slid the other in front of him and grabbed the bottle of ketchup. She watched in silence as he doused his fries in the red sauce then unrolled a knife and fork from their paper shroud. "So what's the deal?" It came out with no warning, surprising her with its abruptness.
"No deal," he replied, not looking up from his grease covered meal. "Just dinner before you head out."
"How do you know I'm leaving? Maybe I live here." Her fingers twitched unconsciously toward a fry, bringing it to her mouth before she could stop it.
Jack finally looked up, swallowed his bite and gestured with a new fry. "Let's just say I recognize the signs."
"Good Samaritan, huh?" She ignored his knowing gaze, pushed aside the tiny flare of curiosity and concentrated on the food in front of her. Her stomach rumbled happily with each bite as she waited for him to answer. The pause was long enough to have her frowning, chicken strip sinking back to the basket.
"Something like that." And then he went back to making precise cuts in his own chicken.
A little weirded out, but with a stomach still clamoring for food, Faith allowed her hands to bring the chicken and fries to her lips. She waited for the questions to start, for the what-are-you-doing-out-alone spiel, but they never came. Just quiet and grease in the midst of a Friday night. The silence that had surrounded them while they'd waited for the order to arrive came back, separating them from the rest of the crowded bar, an island of stillness in her mad dash across the country. Without meaning to let it happen, her shoulders relaxed and the tensed muscles of her back eased from the cramped rock they'd become over the last five days.
She lost all sense of time as they ate, the swirl of people and music strangely muted in their little space around the table. Finally, she pushed the basket away and settled back into the chair to watch Jack finish what was left of his fries. It was suddenly imperative to know. "So really, why'd you buy me dinner?"
His eyebrows flew up, face a study in surprise. "You really want to know?" At her nod, he wiped both hands on his napkin and met her eyes solidly. "You looked like you needed it. And I've got nowhere else to be."
There was a world of story in those short sentences and Faith shook off an uncharacteristic curiosity to find out what that story was. It wasn't any of her business and she had more than enough trouble with her own life. She didn't need anyone else's sob story to add to the mix. But she couldn't keep her mouth shut completely. Jack had done something nice for her. She supposed she owed him, at least a little bit. "So you travel the city looking for women in need of dinner in your spare time?"
"Not hardly." The snort of derisive laughter seemed to come from deep within his gut. "I'm not known for any kind of White Knight sensibilities."
A blinding flash of insight curled her hands into fists, nails digging into her palms. She'd been trying to decipher that look in his eyes, the utter blankness that matched the face, ever since she'd sat down. His self-mocking had snapped it into place. She recognized those eyes because she saw them in every mirror. Whatever had happened to Jack, to make him have "nowhere else to be," he'd lost something or someone to put that look there.
Instantly, she shied away from the thought, discomfort too tame a word for the terrible twisting that rose in her gut. She shoved the feeling aside, locking it back into the hole it was supposed to stay in. Mouth opening to rush past the moment of weakness, the words stopped when he spoke, leaning forward over the table.
"Look, let's not make anything more out of it than it is. We were both hungry. We both needed to eat. End of story." He shrugged lightly, eyes suddenly holding a small flame of mischief. "Besides, you saved me the hassle of fighting off my adoring masses."
That surprised a laugh out of her. Not just some tiny giggle or a little snort, but a full blown laugh, one she hadn't felt in longer than she cared to remember. When she finally came back up for air, Jack's face held a smile. It was a small one, but it was still a smile. "Well, I'm glad I could be of service."
"So am I." He seemed taken aback by the realization, as if he hadn't expected to feel anything at all. A raised voice from a nearby table pulled his gaze for a moment, eyes narrowing as he scanned the area. After a long few seconds, he turned back, met her watching stare, then glanced to his watch. She knew what he was going to say before he opened his mouth. "I need to head out. You'll be okay?"
The question seemed to have been pulled out of him reluctantly, as if he really did want to know, but didn't like the fact that he did. She stopped the smile that tugged at her lips before it could make an appearance. This stranger, this man she'd known for not even a couple of hours, showed more concern for her than she'd seen in years. How wigged out was that? "I'll be fine."
His eyes searched her face intently for a long moment before he nodded and climbed to his feet. He held his hand out to her from a safe few feet away, clearly expecting her to take it. Standing slowly, she stepped closer and wrapped her hand in his much larger one. "Thanks for dinner."
"You're welcome." It sounded as rusty as her unsolicited thanks, as if he hadn't used the words in a long time. "Be safe, Faith." After one final, serious look, he turned and left, his tall figure moving gracefully through the people around the bar.
And then he was gone.
A strange lump filled her throat as the door swung shut, the normal sounds of a crowded bar filling her ears once again. What was wrong with her? She shook her head sharply, clearing the fog. There'd been nothing special about him, he was just a man, okay a nice man, but a man nonetheless. Pushing to her feet, she scanned the customers to see if anyone was paying her more attention than normal for a weekend night. All clear, she thought, heading for the door. With Jack gone and her jitters strangely calmed, there was no need to waste any more time. She had to get to California.
Clearing the door in a wash of warm beer smell and grease, she shoved her hands into her pockets against the chill of the night air. Her feet stopped abruptly, her left hand fisting over the something in her pocket that wasn't supposed to be there. Without thought, she spread her feet, seeking a good balanced stance, eyes darting everywhere for movement. When nothing but the light wind answered, she drew her hand from the pocket. And stared down at the bills in her white knuckled grip.
Somehow Jack had managed to slip forty, no, sixty dollars into her pocket without her knowing. A shivering tingle worked its way down her spine. He hadn't touched her, except for a hand on one arm when she'd tried to leave and a handshake when he did. A grudging smile covered her face at his talent. Damn, he was good. No one got past her defenses.
She tightened her fist over the money, somehow not insulted at his presumption that she'd needed it, because she did. With what he'd given her, she could take a bus the rest of the way instead of hitching. How had he known? Another searching look around the parking lot gave her nothing. Jack was gone.
Shaking her head, Faith eased from her defensive stance and tucked the money back into her pocket. "Thanks, Jack." The words whispered through the air, fluttering to find a set of ears to land on.
The door opened behind her, breaking her frozen moment of paralysis. She had a bus to catch and a Slayer to find.
It was time to move on.