Prompt: Blood loss for the hc-bingo; Faith/Derek Morgan for TTH Fic For All.
Warning: mentions of child death
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Criminal Minds. All rights remain. Written for fun, not profit.
Author's notes: This doesn't follow the Buffy Season 8 comics, but I took inspiration from one of them when I was writing this.
When he sees her for the second time, Death is eating cherry pie from her seat at the back of a greasy diner. The place isn't his usual pick, just the closest restaurant in relation to the hotel where the rest of his team is packing up, ready to leave another heart-breaking, but solved, case behind them. His stomach, not giving a good solid damn that he's spent most the day looking at pictures of brutalized women and listening to a sicko's confession, demands food. So, he knows this meeting wasn't planned by her; this is fate. Again.
He also knows her name isn't really Death. That was simply what he dubbed her, the first time they met, three years ago.
They lock eyes. No mistake on her identity. Even if she dyed her hair, got a nose job, and gained a hundred pounds, he'd still recognize those deep doe eyes. They're distinctive and contradictory. Cold, but inviting. Confident, but broken. Beautiful, but terrifying.
She rolls the cooked cherry in her mouth around, sorting out the flavors, and then her pouty lips break their straight line in favor of a small grin.
Derek takes it for what it is and forgets the counter stool, walking to her back corner booth instead. She sits alone, which isn't at all surprising, and she doesn't ask him to join her. Also, not surprising.
"Hey, handsome. Come here often?" she says in a husky voice, as if it's a pick-up. There's just a hint of a faraway Boston in her accent.
Derek sees past the line. She's waiting for him to acknowledge that he knows her, remembers her. It's a power play. Your move,she says, without saying.
He slides into the booth across from her.
"Faith Lehane," he says, taking that power right back. It's an acknowledgement that he looked her up, that he knows she's a murderer, that he knows she was pardoned but that she still lives like a criminal. She stiffens automatically, but doesn't leave, cutting herself another bite of pie instead. "Been a long time."
"Years. And look who's still kickin'," she notes. "Good to see you didn't croak after all, G-man."
Faster than he can follow, she's got the dull knife off her napkin and against his throat. He sucks in a breath at the touch of metal but stops himself from pulling his sidearm. From a sideways glance, he knows the move was too fast for the scattering of other customers to notice either—their booth might as well be invisible. The blade doesn't damage, doesn't even do more than tap his skin as she draws it down to the collar of his button down shirt, pushing the fabric away from the nape of his neck so she can get a better look at his shoulder.
The raised semi-circle, tiny marks, really, are much smaller than other scars he's carried for far longer and don't do the history of the wound justice. The blemish on his dark skin tantalizes her for a moment and those contradictory eyes of hers are wet, but frozen.
"Check that out—you healed up nicely," she says. "One day, you won't even know those are there. But I guess you'll still remember getting them, won't you?"
She wasn't wrong.
Derek thinks it's cold for August in the South. Or at least, he'scold. Despite the second-skin of moisture over his forehead, letting him know he's actually sweating. Despite the splashes of heat that rise up his back every few minutes, reminding him that there's a bruise across his shoulder blades and that his arms being cuffed behind his back isn't doing the injury any favors.
"Deputy," he mutters. Then flinches. He didn't mean to call out to the young man he'd arrived with. Deputy Campbell is dead; Derek saw it happen. Felt the arterial spray across his chest when the children yanked the uniform into the shadows and…and tore him apart.
Realizing his eyes are closed, Morgan opens them again. He wants to lift his head up off his chest, get a better look around. It should be an easy task as it currently feels like his brain has been replaced with helium, but he's too tired to manage. Probably a good thing, he thinks, as the tilt of his head is helping to apply pressure to the wound.
The still bleeding wound. Even with Deputy Campbell's remains splattered across his t-shirt, there's not nearly enough blood there. Not enough of hisblood. And Derek doesn't want to consider why that's the case.
They giggle in the background, running circles around the spot where he's been cuffed to the electrical tubing against the wall. The old mobile home factory is a long, gaping building, open to the outside world at two ends, bright from moonlight cutting through the lighting windows high above. But he still can't see his attackers, even though the laughter is closer again.
They're playing with him. Playing games like children do.
Derek wants to vomit, and he doesn't know if it's another symptom of the hypovolemic shock he's going into or if it's just a reaction to the knowledge he's just been forced to absorb.
He'd found them, the lost children. There were more than the four his team knew about. Six. Six little bodies, whose shadows now dance on the factory walls as they run and play and hunt…What he hasn't found is the adult unsub. The bad guy. He doesn't believe one exists.
He clinches his eyes shut, grinds his teeth.
They were too late. They were too late, because something happened to these kids already. Something terrible. Their faces…their faces are all wrong. And their teeth, too.
The reminder sends another shock of pain through the muscles of his shoulder, where the first set of fangs pierced. As if it were a daisy chain, the pain curves downward and up again, finding another blossom there, in the small tear at his neck.
A hand presses against his cheek. He can hear his own breath coming in short, fast gasps.
"Look at me, fed," a voice orders.
So he does. Death stares back at him with dark, dark eyes. She has a flushed face, red, shining lips and long brunette waves of hair down her shoulders, hiding the top of her tank.
"'Atta boy," she says, her low voice barely a whisper. She pats his side, finding the keys to his cuffs. A second later, his arms swing down, and he falls over, against the wall. The woman catches him, holds him upright, and then presses his hand against his neck. "Hold that. Be right back, G-man. Do me a favor and stick around—got enough messes to clean up as it is."
At some point, awareness comes back to him. He thinks it must be like the calm before a storm, a last glance at the world through clear eyes before everything goes black forever. Because, Derek is fully aware of what comes next. He can picture in his mind the report, filled out by Hotch when his body is found—not Reid…the kid won't be in any state to write one right away. It'll say "exsanguination" instead of "bled out," and that'll be more accurate anyhow, because no one is going to find the blood he mysteriously lost. It'll say "the victim, SSA Derek Morgan," instead of "Morgan," because the title will be a way for the agent to distance himself from reality. It'll say "penetrating neck trauma" instead of "child-sized bite wounds," because. Just because. If Derek can't process that part, than Hotch won't be able to either.
Derek swallows, forcing his fingers to stay clamped and his eyes to stay opened. This final moment of clarity is lasting longer than expected. Or perhaps it only seems to. He hears the fight in the distance. It's taking place behind three walls of a would-be house. The mockery of a dwelling seems like a giant, open-faced dollhouse, and he can spot the movement through the wide windows on the other side.
It takes him a second to understand that a fight means those children who…The woman who uncuffed him is fighting those children. Those children he was supposed to save. Supposed to find either dead or alive, not in this in-between state.
He hears one of them scream and tries to pull out a weapon he lost even before Deputy Campbell died. His instinct is to save the children. That same instinct is also the reason he froze up when two of them had him down on the ground, draining the life from him, promising they'd save what was left of him for a late-night snack.
The scuffle moves far enough to the right for him to see the shadow-play on the far wall, if not the figures themselves. The woman is curved and powerful, and they're all so small as they swarm her. She kicks and stabs out with a pointed weapon; he tells himself he's well into shock, so visual confusion is expected.
People who are stabbed don't crumble away.
The slap across the face is enough to make him stir, make him realize he was out, but his words drag in his mouth. He knows no one hears him ask if the children are still alive, but the question, half-formed, shames him. Derek is on his feet a moment later, unsure of how that's possible until he realizes that Death is strong, almost carrying him from this place.
When he awakens in the hospital hours later, he wonders why she didn't carry him further.
Three years later, Derek smirks, not quite letting it reach his eyes. The group around them, made up of old men drinking coffee and waitresses who smell like tobacco, doesn't seem aware that the world is upside down, has been for a while now, and he finds that funny.
"Oh, come on now, Faith. We both know you stuck around afterward, made sure I survived."
She gives a hard glance, then snorts. "Yeah, whatever, G-man. I got my perv on watching your wounded ass get sponge baths by the male nurses." The extra detail lets him know he's right, and she rolls her eyes, as if demanding he should be satisfied with the admittance. "You profiling types always think you know everything."
"Not everything," he assures and feels a chill run over the mark on his neck. "You looked me up, too."
Faith shrugs, not committing to a yes. "Didn't think I'd run into you again. At least not unless I was running from you. Am I running from you, G-man?"
There's weight in the question. Derek cuts it loose. "That's Agent Morgan," he finally gets around to correcting, "and I think you'd know if I were chasing you."
"You should try the pie. Hits the spot." A folded bill slips out of her fingers, onto the table, and she pushes the plate to him. "If you don't mind, a girl's gotta keep up her reputation, you know. Can't be spotted with a fed or people might start mistaking me for something I'm not."
Before she can stand up, he shakes his head. "The bodies." The words still her, and she waits for more, a brow raised. "It bothered me, afterward. That there weren't bodies," he said.
"You'd rather have seen dead kids?"
He winces, and she sighs.
"Listen, G—I mean, Agent Morgan.You need to forget about what happened to you. You've got your hands full enough dealing with human problems. Let people like me take care of the rest."
He frowns. "Why you?"
It's obviously not the question she's expecting because she hesitates, and from what he's seen of her behavior, she's not the kind of woman who hesitates when talking to men.
Faith meets his gaze. Eyes somber but committed—not so contradictory, after all. "Someone has to do the dirty work, someone has to do what normal heroes like you can't."
"You're saying you're not a hero? Then what's that make you? Just a person who goes around saving people's lives?"
She smiles, standing up. "Not a villain, if that's what you're asking. Been one of those before. Lesson didn't stick. Nah, I'm just a girl." Faith dips down as she passes him, her lips close to his ear. "Stay safe, G-man."
When Reid comes into the diner a moment later, he asks about the phone number on the napkin sitting under his saucer of half-eaten pie. Derek rubs his neck and pockets the paper.
"Just a girl," he replies. Not Death; not his. Just another lost girl.