Pathways of the Mind

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Profiler crossover story.

Author: Ghostrider <skarman[at]>

Summary: The mind. It can be a beautiful thing. But what happens when it is corrupted by evil?

Rating: R

Authors Notes: This story takes place approximately 7 years in the future.

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Fox, Mutant Enemy, the WB and UPN own the characters.


The night sky had opened up several hours ago, turning the streets as shiny as dark mirrors, reflecting the light of the streetlamps like ghostly firelights and keeping most people off the streets. The rain had settled into a light drizzle, making everything look hazy. Suddenly, the late night quiet was disturbed by the sound of several vehicles approaching. The intersection of Long Wharf and Atlantic Avenue had turned into a large parking lot as several SUV's, two Step Wagons and several large Impala's stopped on all sides.

Almost immediately, they disgorged a large number of men, dressed in black combat gear; their heads and faces covered by helmets and masks, night vision goggles attached to the helmets. Uniformed officers began to seal off the area as the FBI's HRT, backed up by Boston's SWAT, rapidly made their way along the sidewalk towards the end of Long Wharf. Keeping to the shadows, the agents made their way towards one of the last buildings on the wharf, as other teams of Boston's SWAT did the same from the rear. Several officers had covered the rooftops on either side of the building, just in case.

Pressing his back against the wall, the lead agent tried opening the service entrance to the building, making sure his team was out of sight of the building's doorman. It wouldn't do to alarm their prey to their presence. When the door refused to budge, the lead agent motioned for another agent to move forward with the lock pick. Within seconds, the door opened and lead agent stepped inside, his MP5 moving in all directions quickly, the powerful tac light underneath the barrel sweeping through the semi-darkness. After giving the All-Clear-signal, the rest of the team followed in, quickly searching the area.

"Service area clear and secure. Team One and Two taking service elevator." "Copy. Be advised, Boston SWAT has secured all sides of building, except front. Also surrounding rooftops." "Copy that", the lead agent said, keying the throat mike closed.

The service elevator stopped on the 15th floor, Team Two quickly stepping out into the brightly lit hallway, covering every exit and stairwell. Nobody would be able to go either up or down, without running into several heavily armed agents. A couple that just stepped out of their apartment were immediately pushed back inside, two agents stepping inside and motioning them to remain calm. Other agents accessed the elevator controls and moments later, both elevators' doors opened and they engaged the emergency brakes, effectively rendering them useless.

The service elevator ascended to the 16th floor and here too a similar scene played itself out. Luckily, there was only one resident on this floor, aptly named the Penthouse Floor. Using handheld scanners, the agents checked for hidden camera's and other surveillance devices as the hugged the walls. Finding none, they quickly made their way to the double doors at the end of the hallway.

"Fiber optics."

The agent who'd opened the service entrance came forward, squatting between the lead agent and his 2IC, pushing a thin, black cable underneath the door. The small screen it was connected to, showed the image of an opulent hallway, leading into a living room.

"Infrared shows negative. No lifesigns here." "Check for surveillance."

The tech agent took out his scanner as he handed the screen to the 2IC and slowly, methodically checked the door and the surrounding frame for any evidence of an alarm system, cameras or any other type of security device. Finally, he shook his head, indicating he hadn't found anything. Removing the fiber optic camera, he stood back, taking out his entry toolkit.

"Team One ready for Silent Entry. Updates?", he asked quietly into his throatmike. "Negative on updates. Mission is go. I repeat, mission is go." "Affirmative."

After motioning for the tech agent to begin opening the doors, he turned to his team, giving them orders using handsignals. It was unneccesary as they'd done this kind of thing hundreds of times before, in training and in real-life situations. Each man blindly trusted his partners, knowing that they had each other's backs. As the doors swung open, Team One burst into the hallway and livingroom quickly and silently. Within minutes, the large penthouse had been searched and found empty. Recalling the blueprints of the penthouse, the team leader slowly turned in a circle, visually checking his surroundings.

Next to the fireplace, there was a hallway, leading to the master bedroom. Slowly walking into the bedroom, he turned his head to the left, noticing a massive walk-in closet. The two agents in the room looked at him questioningly as he stepped into the closet, checking the rear wall, measuring his steps. He then stepped out into the hallway again, looking over the wall; he quickly turned to the two agents who'd followed him.

"Check the closet's back wall."

Moving into the living room, he began to methodically check the fireplace. His 2IC guessed what he was doing and motioned for two other agents to help him. It didn't take long to find what they were looking for; one of the other agents pressed on one of the stones partly covered by the ashes, causing a soft click to resound through the room. The whole fireplace seemed to move forward slightly. All agents immediately stood at the ready as the team leader began to pull the fireplace backwards, revealing a steel door.


The girl, no more then fifteen years old, was lying on a steel autopsy table, her hands, feet and head tied off to the sides and top, making it impossible for her to move. Her breathing was frantic as she shivered from the cold feel of steel on her nude body. The whole room was huddled in darkness, except for the large operating room light right atop of her. She had no idea how long she'd been here; the last conscious thought she had was leaving school to go home. After that, waking up, shivering in a small room, alone, nude; she had screamed for help until her voice had given out. Then after God knew how long, the man coming to get her. She'd tried to fight, tried to run, tried pleading with him but nothing worked. He'd hit her hard, causing her to fall unconscious again. When she woke up, she was tied to the table, her mouth taped shut with duct tape.

He was still here, she could hear his footfalls as he walked around the room. Suddenly, he appeared beside her, his face coated in shadows. Megan looked up at him, fear and pleading in her eyes. A hand began to stroke her forehead, fingers softly stroking through her hair, like her father used to do. At the thought of her father, soft sobs wracked her body.

"You are so beautiful, my sweet. So very, very beautiful. And so full of pain. So much pain."

The man's voice had an almost hypnotic quality, as it seemed to drive away her fears. In the back of her mind, Megan knew this was wrong. She knew she should be frightened but somehow, he managed to calm her fears. It was almost like she was falling asleep again, as her father read her a bedtime story, making her feel save and loved.

"I'm going to take away your pain, my sweet. I'm going to take away your pain and make you soar like a beautiful eagle. You will fly away on the wind, you will be free of this mortal coil full of sorrow. Your beauty will shine for all to see. Everybody will see your true beauty, as you were meant to be seen. I promise you, my sweet Megan. My beautiful, sweet little girl."

Lulled into a daze by his voice, Megan didn't feel it when he began to draw lines on her nude body, the cold paint marking her perfect skin as he traced lines all over her body. One straight down from the hairline to the V of her thighs. Another one tracing the outline of her scalp, behind her ears towards her neck. Megan almost could feel her father there with her, holding her, comforting her.....

Until she caught sight of the razor sharp scalpel as it came into her field of view. Suddenly, the spell her captor had been weaving was broken as the scalpel, impossibly large as it slowly descended towards her, filled her eyes. Terror unlike any other gripped her and she screamed, her body convulsing in sheer terror, trying to get away. Her screams were muffled, causing her to nearly choke on her breathe, visions of all of the most horrific slasher movies she'd seen, dancing before her eyes as she stared at the scalpel. Feeling the cold sting of it as it made contact with her hairline....

Then suddenly....

there was light....

there was sound....

voices, lots of voices....

something like firecrackers at the Fourth of July....


lots of movement....

She kept screaming in terror, her heart pounding in her throat, her body convulsing, trying to get away from the vision of the scalpel descending..... Finally, blissfully sinking away in unconsciousness to escape the terror of her own gruesome death.


The agents moved down the narrow, darkened staircase single-file, the tac lights and red lasers casting ghostly shadows all around them. Judging from the length of the staircase, it went down one floor. For security reasons, the lead agent had cut his team in two, leaving a number of agents in the penthouse aparment. Coming to a stop at the end of the staircase, another steel door barred them further entry. Working quickly, the 2IC pulled a black-coated Mossberg M590 tactical shotgun from his back, aiming it at the upper hinge. After a nod from the team leader, he fired, the sound of the discharge deafening as it rolled off the walls. Pulling the slide back even as the steel of the door and the wooden frame around it were shredded, the agent lowered the shotgun, aligning it with the lower hinge and fired again.

Not even waiting for the noise to die down, the lead agent smashed his right shoulder into the door, making it fly backwards into the room, crashing to the floor. As he jumped inside, the sight that greeted him nearly sent him into an uncheckable rage. A young girl, barely a teenager, bolted to a table and the freak standing next to it, ready to gut her with the surgical scalpel in his hand.

Time seemed to slow down as he watched the girl's captor throw the knife his way. Ducking slightly, he swung the MP5 upwards, the red laserdot connecting with his opponent but before he could order the man to stop or pull the trigger, he was thrown backwards against the wall, his chest feeling as if it had been kicked by a mule. Time sped up again and only then did he hear the sound of a gun discharging. Their quarry had pulled out a gun from under his smock and rapidly fired at the doorway, pinning the other agents there as he moved to another door.

"Harris! What the hell is going on there? Harris, answer me!!! Sandoz! Come in!" "Harris's been shot! Send a med team up here, stat!"

Groaning in pain, Harris pushed his 2IC away, staggering forward and slamming into the other door, busting it off its hinges, surpressing the pain rushing through his chest.

"Belay the last message, team leader in pursuit of subject", Sandoz said, motioning the rest of the team to follow their leader. The rest of the entryteam had come downstairs, the medic quickly looking the girl over; finding her in good health, he radioed for the EMT's as he proceeded to cut her loose.

"All units! Subject is on foot, using secret passages! Watch those damn exits!", Sandoz screamed as he too took off after the other pursuing agents.

Harris ran, catching a glimpse of his quarry as it burst through a door; not stopping, he shouldered it open, coming up on another set of stairs, going up. Too late to stop his forward momentum, he could feel the heat of a bullet passing too close to his face for comfort. Falling forward, he fired the MP5 on full-auto, even as bullets kept raining down around him. Ignoring the sharp pain from his chest contacting the hard concrete steps, he surged upwards, taking steps two at a time and finally burst through the door, finding himself again in the same hallway his team had used to approach the penthouse. The wall opposite the hidden door stopped his forward momentum, knocking what breath he'd left out of him.

Bouncing off the wall, he was thrown against the closing door, saving his life as bullets ripped into the wall where he'd been only moments ago. The man turned his gun to the left, all the while pulling the trigger, the bullets ripping off fragments of wood panelling and rug. Without conscious thought, Harris depressed the trigger again, firing the remaining bullets of the clip in the general direction of his quarry.

Almost simultanuously, both weapons clicked on the last bullet, a deafening silence surrounding both men. Brown eyes behind a face mask met madness-tinted green ones. With a roar, the fugitive slammed his left shoulder into the wall next to him, a hidden panel coming loose and jumped in. Biting back a cry of pain and frustration, Harris got to his feet and ran to were his quarry had disappeared. Fury and adrenaline fueled his body as he jumped in headfirst, sliding down the steel chute, similar to waste disposal chutes in other buildings.

"One-Four to task force leader! Team Leader just jumped into some sort of chute."

The agent looked down the chute, trying to see where both men had gone as his comm-set crackled to life, the gravelly voice filled with frustration.

"Chute? What are you talking about?" "There is a hidden waste disposal chute in the wall of the hallway, sir. This guy had it all figured out. Don't know where it ends." "Goddamnit! Team 3 and 4, converge on the building! Get to the lobby and the cellar!"

A light up ahead announced the end of the dizzying slide and Harris prepared himself; jumping headfirst into a situation had always been his way, no need to go changing now. As his upper body emerged from the chute, he quickly put his hands on the floor, using them to contain his forward momentum, then pushing off as the rest of him cleared the chute, landing on his feet in a crouch. Looking around as he replaced the empty clip, he saw he was in what could be best described as a small storage room. Cleaning supplies, rags and all kinds of odds and ends were lying about, shelves everywhere. Hearing the click of a door closing, he ran towards it, nearly ripping the door off its hinges. The ping of an elevator opening caught his attention and he turned towards it.

For the first time, he got a good look at his quarry as their eyes met again for the second time. The stylishly cut black hair, aquiline nose, softly rounded chin and cheeks... The man could have stepped off any page of a GQ magazine. But it was the eyes that really caught his attention. The green eyes that glowed with madness and burning revenge. Revenge for being disturbed in his perceived safe haven. Revenge for not being able to finish his mad thirst for blood. He would make his hunter pay dearly for his interference. All of that was communicated through his eyes. Harris' face pulled taught, his eyes narrowing as time slowed down again. With an uneartly roar, he moved forward, the MP5 bucking in his hands as the bullets spit forward, slamming into the back of the elevator and making dents into the steel of the closing doors.


"We've got automatic weapons fire on the 7th floor", the voice said through the comm-link. "Team One and Two, converge on the 7th. Three, cover the 5th and 6th floor.


The lead agent cursed under his breath, knowing that again, his quarry had outsmarted them. He knew they couldn't shut down all the elevators in the building for fear of warning him. Standard Operating Procedure would dictate that only those elevators that went to the floor on which the suspect was believed to be, would be shut down. Pressing the buttons for the other three elevators, he spotted the windows looking out on the front of the building. Running towards them, he fired several rounds through the safety glass, shattering it. Removing the nylon rope from around his shoulders, he quickly tied off one end to the steel window frame, throwing the rest out of the window. Buckling it to the D-rings of his rappeling gear, he leaped headfirst out of the window. The rope pulled taught, as his feet managed to catch grip on the surface of the building and he began to run down the side of the building. Within seconds, Harris was standing on the ground, the few people outside looking on in fright at the black-clad figure who'd appeared like a ghost out of thin air. Immediately, several guns were trained on him as the officers of Team Four turned around to face the new threat. Just then, the elevator chime sounded and the doors opened.


As the doors opened, he could see his hunter standing outside, the weapons of his collegues pointed at him. Moving quickly he grabbed a frightened young woman, who'd been staring at the scene with suspended disbelief. Wrapping an arm around her neck, he raised his gun as his hunter screamed something that caused the other police officers to turn around. Maniacal laughter echoed in his head as he opened fire indiscriminately, the people around him running for cover. Counting off the rounds he'd fired, he removed his left arm from around the woman's throat, replacing it with his gun arm, the left hand plunging in his coat pocket and removing a fresh clip. Before anyone had time to react, he'd ejected the spent clip and slammed the fresh one into the gun, his left arm again wrapping around the woman's throat.

She smelled divine, the fear running through her system filling his nostrils like the finest jasmine in bloom. Running his nose along her slender neck, he inhaled deeply as he jammed the barrel under her chin. Crouching behind her, he began walking towards the entrance of the lobby, all the while grinning madly.


Harris slowly stepped backwards as the suspect and his hostage made their way towards the street. The other officers held their guns aimed at the suspect, trying to get a good shot, waiting for that one split-second opportunity.

"Everybody hold their fire. Suspect has a hostage. I repeat, suspect has hostage, hold your fire", Harris spat, as his eyes held those of his quarry.

"You really thought you could catch me, officer? You're not smart enough", he laughed as he stood facing his hunter. "I'm walking out of here and there is nothing you can do about it, absolutely nothing."

Harris didn't say a word as he watched the suspect walk backwards, he just matched him step for step, keeping the distance between them the same. The cat-and-mouse-game continued, as he kept on prattling, expounding on his brilliance and cleverness, taunting Harris and every other police officer and agent, until he had broken through the ring of law enforcement officers. Suddenly pushing his hostage towards Harris, the suspect broke into a run, all the while firing backwards. Harris managed to catch the woman, pushing her to the ground without a word and started to run after his quarry again, pulling out his KZ-45 .45 handgun.

The suspect shoved his way through the crowd at the entrance to the Marriot Hotel on State Street, rushing into the lobby amidst screams of fright and indignation. Reaching the bank of elevators, he rushed into one just as a couple emerged from the opening doors. Slamming his gun hand into the man's face, he pulled the woman inside with him as her male companion slumped to the floor, blood pouring from his head wound.

Cursing as he couldn't get a clear shot with all the panicking people around, Harris ran towards the bank of elevators, a Boston PD SWAT member on his heels. Jumping into an arriving elevator, he began pushing people out.

"Where is he now?" "Third floor and heading up!" "Watch where he stops and radio it through", he yelled back to the police officer as he slammed his finger on the button to close the doors.

Thoughts ran rampant through his mind, alternative scenarios colliding with each other as he reviewed the suspect's profile.

'The roof. The bastard is heading for the roof', he realized as the elevator headed up; moments later his suspicion was confirmed as the officer in the hotel's lobby radioed that the suspect's elevator had indeed stopped at the 7th floor. Not waiting for the doors to completely open, Harris ran out, his eyes searching for the fire escape doors on the 6th floor. Rapidly ascending the steps, he burst through the doors, his eyes zeroing in on the crumpled form of the woman. Kneeling next to her, he quickly checked her for injuries. Finding none, he roughly shook her.

"Where did he go? Where did he go?"

Sobbing, she motioned behind her, another emergency exit visible in the corner. Without a second's thought, Harris jumped up and stepped into the stairway, his gun waving around, as his ears tried to catch any sounds. The air was cooler, almost as if cool air from outside had been let in. With a determined grunt, he jumped up the last flight of stairs, barreling through the door, onto the roof. He could almost feel the bullets rushing past him as his ears resounded with the sound of gunfire. Rolling forward to keep his momentum, he returned fire towards where he thought the shots had come from.

Lying flat on his stomach, he looked around, his ears listening for any telltale sounds. The only thing he could hear was the soft sound of the rain as it hit every surface, mixed with the sound of night-time traffic in the city and the crackling of police radioes in the distance. Harris slowly got up into a crouch and began making his way forward, the gun in front of him, turning with his eyes, both an extension of the other.

A light scratching sound alerted him as he came up to a roof-mounted heating exhaust, making him jump and roll, coming up in a crouched position as his gun trained on the area. He saw a flash of the suspect's head as it went down the sloped side of the hotel's exterior and ran towards the edge of the roof. Cursing under his breath, he jumped to follow, grabbing the nylon cable, attached with steel O-rings to the angled sides of the building.

The suspect suddenly slowed down and swung sideways, into one of the open balconies. Harris approached the same spot rapidly, just as two bright flashes shattered the darkness of the night, the bullets chipping away the concrete around him. The sound of breaking glass and screams echoed through the night as he too jumped down onto the balcony and ran through the smashed sliding door, not even looking at the terrified couple in the bed.


'Must get out of here! Cannot let them catch me. They don't understand! I'm an artist!'

These thoughts ran through his mind as he ran down the 4th floor hallway, his clothes soaked to the bone and ripped from when he'd slid down the side of the building. His fingers were bleeding, leaving grotesque prints on the wall as he tried to catch his breath. Hearing the door he'd come through only moments ago, crash open, he ran towards the emergency exit, jumping down the short flights of stairs and bursting out on the 3th floor. Turning around on unsteady legs, he saw that both sides of the restaurant's entrances were covered by police officers, screaming for him to drop his weapon and surrender.

'No! I won't.... I can't..... No surrender! My work! All my precious work! It can't be for nothing! I won't let it! You hear me? I won't let you take away my work and make it meaningless! It's not meaningless! You bastards!'

With a roar of defiance he fired shots towards both sides of him, then ran straight for the large windows, as hotel guests and employees scattered out of his way, effectively blocking him from view. He didn't stop, letting his momentum propel him forward, smashing through the 3rd story window into the rainy night.


Pushing and pulling scared, stumbling people out of his way, Agent Harris fought his way to the broken window, not even sparing a glance as he jumped feet first, out into the rainy night. Coming down, he let his weight bend his legs together, falling towards the side, letting the rest of his body take and cushion the impact. Immediately rolling over his back, he sprung up into a low crouch, the MP5's powerful Xenon-tac light turning a complete half-circle. Almost immediately, it caught sight of its quarry, the figure stumbling towards the docks and the boats that would lead it to freedom.

Suppressing the pain in his chest with a groan, Harris got up, running after the suspect unsteadily. With each step, his strides gained more power, the adrenaline flowing through his system, fueling the building rage. The gun didn't waver from its target as he closed in, his footsteps echoing impossibly loud from the wooden planks. The bastard wouldn't get away. Not after what he'd seen moments after stepping into that chamber of horrors.


Tourboats were lined up along the slip as he made his way forward. There, at the end, his salvation awaited. A fast, powerful boat, ready to take him away from his pursuers, those that didn't understand his genius. Then, he would show them! Every single one of them would receive a personal introduction to his genius. Yes! They would become his next works of wonder. His greatest triumph! He could see it all so clearly now. Using his last bit of strength, he started running, his injuries making his body flap around awkwardly. Almost there... Almost there... Almost to freedom...


He pulled the trigger, the bullets ripping up the wooden planks beneath the suspect's feet, chewing into his soles and throwing him to the ground. The man turned onto his back, his gun aiming death center of mass, his index finger applying just the right amount of pressure to start the hammer's backward's travel, before striking the bullet's primer.

Using his left foot, Agent Harris kicked the suspect's gun away from its intended target, the shot ringing through the night, the bullet embedding itself into the side of one of the tourboats. Both agent and suspect were breathing hard as the rain kept coming down. Pulling the helmet off, he threw it to the side; next, he removed the empty clip, replacing it with a full one and sighted the gun at the suspect, turning off the tac light.

The suspect looked up into the face of his pursuer, seeing nothing but intense coldness in the dark orbs of his eyes. Nothing but the fire of death superimposed on ice, colder then the iciest glacier. And then it started. Laughter bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of him. Mad laughter as he realized his reign of terror was at an end. His body convulsed with maniacal laughter, almost rolling him off the slip into the murky water of Boston Harbor.

"You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions."


The first shot impacted next to his left ear, showering him with wood chips, drowning out his laughter.

"Anything you do say can and will be used against you in a court of law."


The second shot scratched his right cheek before digging into the plank, choking off his laughter, his eyes going impossibly wide.

"You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future."


The third shot hit the wooden plank, directly next to his elbow, wooden splinters embedding themselves into his skin. Fear, real fear began to fill his crazed mind as he tried to backpedal, using his feet to push him away from this madman standing over him.

"If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish."


The fourth bullet nicked the skin on the left side of his neck, a small stream of blood splashing out as he screamed in fear.

"Stop it! Stop shooting! I give up! Don't shoot me! Please don't kill me!"

"If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney."


The fifth bullet passed so close to his head, he could feel the buzzing in his skull as wood chips rained down on his face.

"I have money! Lots of money! Just let me go! Please, just let me go!"

"Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?"

The gun slowly moved sideways, until the barrel rested in a perfect line to the head of the suspect.


"Damn it! He's out of the hotel", Bailey Malone said gruffly as he finished talking on the radio.

"Where is Alex?"

"He went out the window, after the suspect. Seems they've taken off to the slips near the hotel. John, stay here and coordinate with the locals", he ordered as he ran off towards the pier, Rachel falling into step with him.

"I just hope we're not too late." "What's that supposed to mean, Bailey?"

Malone turned to the redhead running next to him.

"You tell me, you're his best friend. This case has been giving him nightmares for weeks. I've seen men near the edge before, Rachel and right now, he's just about ready to topple over." "Let's go."

Rachel picked up the pace as they reached the boating slips, her eyes searching for any sign of her partner and friend. Bailey's words had scared her. It wasn't that she didn't believe he had any evidence for them. It was because she knew he was right. Even before this case, Alex had been sullen, withdrawn and irritable. He'd always been a quiet, reflective person, at least since she'd known him. Her instincts had told her that it wasn't his usual demeanor and she'd tried to get to know him. While not succeeding to draw the real Alexander Harris out, they did become fast friends. But lately, it seemed he was slipping deeper into whatever pit of despair he carried within him. Bailey was right, they had to get to him before he did something.

The sound of gunfire pulled her from her thoughts, her eyes focusing on the area the sound came from. Both agents set off on a run towards the two figures there. Snippets of words were carried to their ears over their pounding feet, sounding suspiciously like the Miranda rights. Sending a quick Thank You to the heavens, Rachel slowed down. Until the last sentence rang in her ears, sending a blood curdling chill through her body as time seemed to slow down around her.

"Finally, you have the right to die, so others may live free from the disease you spread."

"Alex, no!"

She didn't know who shouted those two words. It couldn't be her. Her voice couldn't sound so full of fear. Coming to a stop near the agent and the suspect, Rachel's eyes took in the scene before her. It couldn't be real, yet it was. Her mouth was moving, words were coming out of it. Words she couldn't seem to understand herself. Her mind seemed to have taken leave. Comprehension had gone.


"Alex, don't do it!", Rachel Burke shouted over the pounding of the rain. "Put the gun down, Harris. You don't want to shoot him.", Bailey Malone added as he and the red-headed profiler slowly advanced on the two men, their weapons drawn, barrels aimed at the ground.

"See? Now they're going to follow the age-old cliche of trying to talk the cop down. Try to make him see that if he pulls the trigger, he is no better then the scum he's taking down", Harris stated casually as he kept the MP5 trained on the suspect.

"I tell you, every cop show has at least one episode where something like this happens. And they always manage to get the frustrated cop to give up and put down their gun. It's just not realistic, you know? I mean, what happens if I don't kill you right now? Let's see. Those clothes your wearing? They cost at least twice as much as I make in a month. That watch? Heh, it'd take me a year's salary just to buy it. Obviously, you've got money. So what does that mean?

It means you'll get the best lawyer money can buy. You or your family is well-connected, so they'll call in favors. Your lawyer will spin the truth so much, he'll have the jury thinking your victims death was a good thing for society. You'll probably get maybe two years in a max security mental hospital because you're 'mentally unstable' because of trappings of your life and your demanding parents screwed up your perceptions. Then be paroled and shipped to some minimal security country club sanatorium for a few months and then hit the streets again, completely cured. And what happens then? Come on, tell me."

Harris kicked the suspect hard in the ribs as he asked the question.

"Tell me! You murdering bastard! Tell me!"

Harris kicked him again and again as he screamed out the questions, before calming down a bit, the gun still aimed at the suspect's head.

"Fine, be that way. Doesn't matter, I'll tell it for you. When you get out, you'll start again. You're going to find a nice secluded place where no one can find it. Then you're going to kidnap those young girls again and start your slicing and dicing routine again", he continued in a conversational tone, as if he was talking about what groceries he was going to buy.

"Alex, he is not worth it", Rachel said softly. "Yes, it may sound cliche, but don't pull the trigger. He'll be death and you'll be in jail for murder. What kind of justice is that?"

"Justice? That isn't justice, Rachel and you know it. Killing this freak is justice. Killing this monster who did what he did to all those kids is justice. Pulling the trigger and ending his pathetic existence would constitute breaking the law and administering justice. Another paradox for the philosophers to ponder, don't you agree? Just like the chicken and the egg."

"Harris, the moment you pull that trigger, you become him. I've been there. I know."

"Really, Malone? What is this? Another one of your wisdoms from the old days? Another story about 'Nam? This freak kidnapped kids and cut them to pieces, placing their body parts into jars like they were specimens in a lab. What do you think his lawyer is gonna claim, huh? Multiple personality disorder? Or some other kind of mental illness. He's going to have the best minds money can buy parading like a flock of geese on the stand, scrambling our minds so badly that by the end, we'll be thinking we're the ones that killed those girls."

Rachel pushed Bailey's gun down, softly shaking her head at him as she stepped closer to her friend and partner.

"Alex, right now, you're on the edge. You kill him, you will slip into the darkness. Once you're in there, it becomes a vicious circle. One you can't escape anymore. You'll become what he is. A murderer. No matter what else you have been, or will become, you don't want to become that. I know it, you know it. You, of all the people I know, have a greater understanding of that darkness. You've seen it up close. You've felt it. You've fought against it for years. Do you really want to immerse your soul into that pit? Do you really want to give yourself over to its darkness? Think long and hard about it, Alex, because once you take that first step, getting back is impossible. If it is what you really want, kill him and step out of the light. Become what you've always despised. If it's what you really want, I'm not going to stop you, Alex. But remember that it's the easy way out. The coward's way."


The suspect's labored breathing had slowed to near normal levels as he saw the fire and ice in his pursuer's eyes slowly begin to ebb, the words from his friends seemingly taking effect. He began to rejoice, victory was at hand. He would live and continue his magnificent works of art. Even if he would be locked up for a while, it was worth it. Wasn't Columbus ridiculed for years, until he discovered the West-Indies? Weren't all the great artists scoffed at during their life, only to have their works admired as genius by the generations that followed them? He would bide his time and then, he would regain his position among them. Millions upon millions would see his works and be hit by their magnificence. He would get the adulation he so richly deserved. Oh yes, they would clamor around him like they did with Andy Warhol. And his tormentor would be the first one to exclaim his awe and adoration for him. Yes, he would.

And he already had the perfect canvas for his next creation. This heavenly creature with the hair of spun copper, she would be the crowning glory of his work when he was finished. And then everyone would bow to his genius. He would show them. He would show them all.


Harris let Rachel's words sink in.... stirring a memory... an echo from the past. Raven tresses framing a soft face with full lips, perpetually adorned with a sexy, enticing smirk. Dark, smokey eyes that could turn you into a quivering mass of mush. But he'd seen behind what was hidden behind those eyes. And he had done nothing about it. Only when it was too late did he try and salvage what was left. But it had been too late and they had all paid the price.

Now he was on that same edge. That same point of no return. He knew, intimately, the pain it would cause if he stepped over it. The abyss of despair he would inflict upon his friends. Could he willingly live with himself if he did that to them? She couldn't. She didn't. She'd craved death. Actively sought it, to release herself from all the pain she'd caused others. Wanting to die to make all the pain, the hurting stop. To find some semblance of peace, of rest. Taking a shuddering breath, he bend down, turning the suspect onto his belly and slapped the cuffs on him, tightening then as hard as possible, then lifting him up and pushing him forward.

"Get this freak out of here before I change my mind", he said harshly before walking away, leaving his friends breathing a sigh of relief.


Walking up to the gathered vehicles, Bailey and Rachel spotted John Grant, the other member of their team, with a sick look on his face, leaning against on of the SUV's.

"You look a little green around the gills, John. How bad is it?" "Bailey, if they need volunteers to turn the switch, put me on the list." "That bad?" "Worse. Way worse."

John took a moment to gather his wits about him, then recounted what he'd found out so far.

"There is no question as to whether or not we have our perp. We've found the 10 missing girls. Or rather, what's left of them." "What's left of them?" "Yes, Rachel, what's left of them. This guy is the sickest bastard we've ever trailed. 10 jars. 10 jars with their heads on alcohol! He cut off their hair, complete with the skin! He just cut the skin then ripped it off by the hair, cleaned and prepared it and put it on mannequins. He cut off their heads and placed them into those jars. He did it while they were alive, Rachel. They felt everything. Everything. Those faces.... They hold such horror...."

John couldn't continue, taking deep breaths to stop the feeling of nausea from overwhelming him. The chamber of horrors he'd just witnessed would haunt him for the rest of his life. Not even when they were pursuing Jack-of-all-trades had he seen such madness as displayed today.

"John, Grace is up there?"

Nodding affirmative to Bailey's question, Grant pushed himself off the SUV and walked over to talk to some of the Boston office agents. Bailey and Rachel looked at each other, their gazes speaking volumes. Steeling themselves, they started for the building.



Malone's voice cut through pathologist's thoughts, alerting her to the presence of the VCTF's commander. Meeting his gaze, she took a deep breath, trying to calm her frayed nerves and the feeling of nausea.

"Hey, Rachel, Bailey." "What have we got?" "Well, his latest victim is sedated and or her way to the hospital. Poor girl will probably have nightmares for the rest of her life. I'm going to recommend to the attending physicians to have the best psychiatrist assigned to work with her."

Motioning around the sterile room, Grace continued.

"Well, our perp certainly knows his way around medical equipment. All of this is state-of-the-art. But instead of playing doctor, he was into practicing vivisection."

Following her gaze, Malone and Rachel saw the reason for John's sickly look and the tremble in Grace's voice. Staring back at them, were two rows of large glass jars, human heads floating inside the alcohol solution. The mouths were opened in grotesque displays, eyes bulging, as if the victims died screaming their lungs out. Rachel had a feeling that wasn't far from the truth here. Feeling the bile rise in her throat, she quickly turned away from the display, only to be greeted by a cart filled with jars containing other bodyparts. The agents cataloguing them had sickened looks on their faces and Rachel had a feeling a lot more people then the rescued girl were going to have nightmare or need counseling. Grace's voice broke into her musings.

"We've just started cataloguing everything but I'm confident that we'll be able to match everything up. There's a nice computer database here that I'm sure George is going to have a field day with. Our forensics team is already going over everything with a fine tooth comb. This is a slamdunk, Bailey." "Yeah, although Alex thinks otherwise." "What do you mean?" "He thinks our perp is gonna walk with just a slap on the wrist." "Because he's rich, white, successful and from one of Boston's oldest families? I think he might be right."

Bailey walked off to confer with some of the agents on the scene as Rachel came to stand next to the team's pathologist.

"Alex almost snapped down there, Grace. He was moments away from killing him." "He probably should have." "Grace, I'm serious!" "I know you are and I'll say it again. He probably should have. This guy, he's a monster! Take a look around you and tell me if I'm not right. Alex is right, this guy is not gonna get the chair, or an injection or life times 10. We'll be lucky if he spends more then 3 years in some federal country club."

Looking bewildered at her friend, Rachel Burke reached out a hand, touching Grace's shoulder, squeezing softly.

"I'm sorry. It's just.... I'm looking at all of this and it hits me. What if it had been one of my kids? I'd go crazy. Now, I've got to tell 10 families that their children aren't going to come home anymore. And I'm thinking, what if one of these days, that is going to happen to me? That some police officer is going to come to my house and tell me that one of my children is dead?" "I can sympathize. It's never easy. At least, most of the time, you have the knowledge that they didn't suffer much at all. but here...." "Their minds were probably completely gone by the time he was halfway through getting his jollies. The pain must have been so intense, the brain just shut down, allowing only the most basic operations like trying to breath. God, I hope their hearts gave out long before that. Nobody deserves to go like that."

The two women stood there for several moments, thinking about the trials ahead as they cleared up this case.

"I'm finished here", Grace stated with a shaky voice, removing her gloves. "Forensics will bag everything and send it to the lab at Langley." "Let's get out of here, then. This place ...." "Yeah, I know. Me too."

Walking out of the apartment, the two women headed for the elevator, passing several FBI agents and local police officers. Stepping inside, they waited until the doors closed.

"How is Alex?" "Physically, fine, even if he took two bullets in the chest." "Whoever invented the vest should get a medal. And mentally?"

Rachel Burke took a moment to gather her thoughts before responding.

"Mentally, he's nearing the breaking point. I told you, he almost shot the bastard. If Bailey and I hadn't shown up, he would be in cuffs right now." "I've never seen him bite into an investigation as he did with this one. I doubt he got more then 8 hours sleep during the past few weeks. It's almost like this thing touched him personally." "Yes. I asked him about that. All he said was that he wanted to give closure to the families. It's like he knows how it feels to lose someone and not know whether they're alive or not. If they're safe somewhere or lying in a ditch." "He needs to rest, get a grip on everything. Maybe talk about it with someone he trusts."

Rachel turned towards her friend, giving Grace a wry smile.

"Nice one, doc. But you're right. He's on the edge, teetering and ready to fall over. I've never seen him like this and I've known him for over 9 years now and tonight it was like looking into a black hole. I have never been so scared." "Then I suggest you get out there and save him, girl." "I intend to. I don't have a boatload of friends and I sure as hell am not going to lose this one."

Chapter 01

Jackie's Bar and Steakhouse

Alex sat in front of the bar, nursing his third bourbon. At this time of the night, or morning, the whole place was almost deserted. Only three other people were in the bar, the bartender and 2 other patrons. The rain had picked up again, coming down in sheets. The tv above the bar was out, instead soft music was playing. Alex sipped his drink, following it up with a drag on his cigarrete. He was tired. More tired then he could remember. This case had taxed him to his last nerve.

It had all come to a head just a few short hours before, as he prepared himself to kill the man responsible for all this pain. If it hadn't been for his collegeaus, he'd probably be in lockup right now. Or, infinitely worse, he could be sitting here, replaying blowing the SOB away. Feel it gnawing at what was left of his soul, taking his remaining humanity away piece by piece.

'Tired. I'm so damned tired', he thought as he sipped his drink, the alcohol burning his throat. This case had consumed him, more then any other. He knew the reason why. He just didn't want to think about it, shoving it into that deep dark place inside his mind where he kept all the darkness that he'd endured during his life. And now, Rachel had stirred up another memory that was locked away in that same desolate place. Another failure in his life was ripped out of its spot in the perpetual darkness. Another soul that he had failed to help had been brought back to haunt him.


A single word. A word fraught with meaning. To have faith. To believe in something. They hadn't believed in her. They had tried to change her instead of helping her. And when he finally had tried to do the right thing by her, it already had been too late. He had seen the darkness in her eyes. It was the same darkness he saw when he looked in the mirror. The same darkness everyone who had lived through the horrors brought on by men had in their eyes. She was a survivor, just like him. But unlike him, she didn't have anyone who could counter those dark dreams. Nobody to shoulder even a part of that burden, like he had had. In not doing so from the start, he had failed her and turned her to the dark side. A dark side he now was dangerously close to falling into.


Faith ran through the pouring rain. It was her first night back in Boston after years and she had gone to check out all her old haunts. Never a good idea to do so when it's raining like it's the end of the world but something told her to do it. Something had been calling out to her. And now, even though she was soaked to the bone, she was glad that she did. This trip down memory lane had helped in her recovery. Finally, it felt like she was on the right track with her life. Laying demons of the past to rest, Giles had termed it, she remembered, smiling slightly.

Faith had been out of jail for four years now. Four hard years where she had to work off all the feelings of distrust, anger, rage and every other emotion her name or presence evoked in the people whom she once fought alongside with. Four years of atoning for her sins, regaining their trust and friendship. In the end, it had been worth it. Slowly, her battered and broken soul healed. Now, she had a family. Not a family bound by blood but by shared experiences, spilled blood, trust and friendship. She knew they would die for her if necessary and they knew she would do the same without hesitation. But still, there was a part of her that was still enveloped in darkness. The darkness of the past.

Giles had been correct when he'd suggested that maybe it was time to go back to the past and heal those wounds. Only then could she be really free. That was why she was in Boston. Life here had been hard and miserable for most of her life. Until she found out she was the Slayer and had been taken in by her watcher. Even with the added burden of that mantle, even with all the demons and vamps she encountered, the short time she had with her watcher opened her up to a new world. For the first time in her short life, Faith had felt at home. At peace. Those few short months were like a dream as her watcher became more of a mother to her then her own had ever been.

Rainy nights were for long talks about all kinds of things, from boys to music to movies. Faith had opened up, talking to Amanda about her life. Telling her the hardships she'd had to endure, because of an indifferent mother who was either too drunk or doped up or both to even bother with her. Of every humiliation, every hungry leer or grope her mother's boyfriend of the week would throw her way. Even the truly sickening things she'd had to endure during those years. Amanda had listened quietly, just holding her as she talked, holding her, stroking her hair. And then, Kakistos had ended all that abruptly, coated it with blood and tears.

Yes, this town had a hold on her that needed to be broken before she could truly heal. That was why she was here, to walk the streets of her nightmares so she could burn all the filth, all the pain on her soul away. Tomorrow, she would start the search for her mother. Another part of her that needed to be cleansed. Another part of her soul that needed healing. Probably the hardest journey she had undertaken. Faith felt as if she needed a stiff drink to get the courage to face her mother after all these years. If the bitch was even still alive. But Faith was a survivor if nothing else and she would see this through. It was worth it just to have the peace she so desperately craved.

Up ahead Faith saw the lighted sign of a bar she remembered. The place was open 24 hours a day and served some of the best steaks in town. Deciding that it would be a good place to hide until the rain had slowed down some, she stepped inside, not bothering to look at the few patrons sitting at the bar. Ordering a cup of hot tea, she walked over to one of the tables situated between the wall and the large window and sat down. Closing her eyes, she put her head back, taking deep breaths as she let the warmth of the place seep into her cold bones. The sound of someone putting down a cup shook her eyes open and she paid the bill before taking a sip of the hot liquid, savoring the taste. Damn Giles and his tea.

The sound of the tv coming on shook her out of her musings and Faith turned towards the sound, watching the picture settle.

**CNN Breaking News**

'2 hours ago, Federal and local law enforcement authorities rescued the latest victim of the Boston Butcher and apprehended the suspect. Neither identities have been made public. Sources tell CNN that the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team entered the suspect's apartment, causing the suspect to flee. A running gun battle through Boston's wharf district, specifically the Boston Marriot on State Street, ended when the suspect tried to reach the boat slips near the hotel. He was apprehended and brought to the Boston FBI offices for interrogation. We will bring you new information as it becomes available. Again, for those of you who just tuned in..'

"May his bones turn to ashes as he burns in Hell", Alex said as he lifted his drink to the CNN reporter in a silent salute.

Faith turned her attention away from the tv set as her ears picked up the softly muttered curse from one of the men sitting at the bar. His back was to her as he stood up, placing a few bills on the bar. Dark, short cropped hair, a classically cut suit that was rumpled as if he'd slept in it for days and a black trench coat he was just shrugging into. The vibe she was getting off of him was one of defeat and despair, feelings she knew intimately. Faith's eyes followed his movements to the door; as he stood outside, he looked to the left and up, noticing the downpour. Faith nearly gasped out loud as she finally saw his face.


The dark-haired Slayer sat at her table, stunned and unable to move as her mind tried to grasp what her eyes were seeing. Finally, her brain kickstarted itself and Faith moved with coiled grace out of her seat, sprinting to the door, nearly ripping it off its hinges. However, as she set foot on the wet, slick pavement, Faith already knew it was too late. The rear lights of a cab glowed red in the distance as it turned the corner and out of sight. Not waiting a single second, Faith ran after it on the near empty streets, closing the distance to the corner in record time. Faith rounded the corner, her head rapidly scanning the area as she slowed to the stop in the middle of the street. The cab was gone, no where in sight. Her heart thumping in her chest, Faith ran her fingers through her wet hair, despair and anger filling her chest.

'Damnit! Just a second! If I had been a second faster!'

Pulling out her cellphone, Faith pushed the speed dial and brought the device to her ear, listening impatiently to the beep as it tried to connect. The sound of a car horn shook awareness back to her and Faith quickly moved to the sidewalk, flipping the bird to the driver who'd almost hit her. Hiding from the downpour in a dooropening, she waited patiently as the ringing was finally answered.

"Whoever this is, your call better be about the impending end of the world", a sleep-laden voice came over the line. "B., I've found him! Actually, I didn't really find him, I just saw him and lost him again! But he's here! Do you hear me, B.? HE'S HERE!!!!" "Whoa, slow down, girl! You've been hanging with Willow too long coz you're babbling a mile a minute and right now, I'm not in the mood for that. Sleep-deprived Slayer here." "Sorry B. But I found him!" "You said that already. What time is it anyway?"

Some grunts and other noises came over the line as Buffy Summers, the older Slayer turned to look at her bedside table and the clock situated there. An indignant scream caused Faith to remove the phone from her ear.

"It's nearly 2 AM here! What the hell are you doing calling me up at this time of the night? For that matter, what the hell are you doing up at this time of night? It's got to be close to 5 AM in Boston!" "Buffy! No time to talk about the time right now so shut up and listen!" "....."

Silence was the only answer.


Still nothing.

"B., you there?" "Make up your mind, will you? First you tell me to shut up and now you want me to talk? You really need some sleep, Faith. You're not usually this indecisive."

Faith let out a breath of relief as the other Slayer berated her.

"B., I am sorry for calling so late but I was just cruising the old neighborhood. Checking things out, you know? So I lost track of time, big deal. Anyway, it's raining and I stopped at this all-night place for a cup of tea and wait for it to stop raining. Guess who I saw there?"

The growl that assaulted Faith's ear brought a grin to her lips. A Buffy who'd been woken from a sound sleep was something most people feared. Only two people alive took it in their stride and one was Faith.

"Faith, guessing games are so not what I want to play. Either spill or I'm hanging up and going back to sleep." "Okay, fine, go back to sleep, blondie. Then I won't tell you that I saw the one person we've both been looking for, for a long time."

With that, Faith closed the connection, leaning back against the wall, a sly grin on her face. True enough, less then thirty seconds later, her cellphone rang. Once Buffy's curiosity was aroused, nothing short of the apocalypse could stop her.

"Are you gonna listen now or do I have to shut this damn contraption as Giles calls it, off?"

"Fine! Play your damn stupid games, Faith! Now tell me who you saw and lost already!"

"Well, he hates his middle name with a vengeance, has the ability to get G-man to pinch the bridge of his notes several times in under a minute, has saved both our Grade A asses numerous times and is a great lay in the sack, even if he was a first-timer then."

The silence that followed Faith's bold statements was laden with meaning and she could practically hear the wheels turning inside Buffy's head. The voice that filled her ear, however, wasn't the one she associated with her sister-slayer. It was rather the voice of a scared, little girl, laden with fear and hope.


"Yeah, B."

"Did... did you really... are you sure... Xander?"

"Buffy, it was him. Older, little worn down maybe, but it was Xander."

"He's alive then?"

Faith could feel the hope coming through the line as Buffy's voice seemed to gain strength with each question.

"As far as I could tell he was." "You said you lost him", Buffy said with an accusatory tone in her voice.

"Hey, he was leaving the place and I only saw him when he was standing outside. I couldn't believe it and before I could get to him, he'd already gotten a cab. I ran after it but when I turned the corner, it was gone. It was, what, five, six minutes ago. I called you right then."

Silence reigned for several heartbeats as both women thought about recent events.

"I'm going to call the others! Willow and Tara can try a location spell centered on Boston. Maybe this time, we'll get lucky."

"Fine, I'm catchin' a cab and go back to my motel. Need to get out of these wet clothes. You can catch me either there or on my cell, once you've got a hit", Faith answered, marveling at the change in Buffy's demeanor. They were going to get their friend back this time, it seemed to say.


Faith threw the phonebook through the room in a fit of anger, the crash it made as it hit the wall a small consolation. The location spell had been a bust and they'd resorted to old-fashioned legwork. Faith had gotten her hands on any and all Boston phone books she could get, while Willow was searching every available database regarding the City of Boston and the state of Massachutes.


They had found nothing. After all the hours of searching, nothing was all they found, Faith thought grimly. Right now, she was even beginning to think that she'd imagined the whole thing. Shaking that thought away immediately, Faith threw herself down on the bed. She was certain it had been Xander she'd seen. That was the only thought in her head. No way was she going to second-guess herself on this. He was older, as were they all, but it had been him. He was alive, of that they were all certain. Either Xander was using an alias or he was in a database that resisted Willow's attempts at cracking.

Looking out of the window, Faith noticed it was already around noon. Finally registering the fact that her stomach was empty, the raven-haired Slayer tiredly got off of the bed and headed outside. Sitting inside, stewing had never been her strong point. Action was what she was good at. And she was in Boston to put ghosts to rest. Something the search for another ghost of her past had put on hold. Shaking out her hair, Faith decided that for right now, she'd get something to eat then go and finish what she came to her old home for. And after that....

He was alive, that much she knew. But the despair coming off him in that one glance she'd caught of him.... Faith had mostly lost her dark outlook on life but in her gut she knew Xander was in a very dark place. A place Faith knew intimitately. A place she vowed to herself he would not slip into any deeper, if she could help it. It was time to find him and offer him the help he had once offered her.


Two days later

Faith listlessly stirred her coffee as she looked outside the window of the diner she was sitting in. The weather was as bleak as her mood, the rain pouring down, the sky an angry dark grey, almost black. Lighting and thunder rumbled through the sky, making it look much later than it actually was.





All these things, signified by the weather. Sighing, she took a sip of the bitter liquid, not even the generous helping of sugar helping to revive her weary bones. Faith was exhausted, sleep had been a luxury she hadn't afforded herself these last two days. First there was the search for the suddenly resurrected, then disappeared again Xander Harris. Every favor, every acquaintance, every snitch she had had here way back when, everything was called in to find the wayward Scooby.

As if that wasn't enough, she had just finished the true purpose of her visit to Boston. A visit she'd hoped would have gone better then what had actually happened. A visit she had been dreading ever since she'd agreed with Giles that she needed this trip to put her past in order, so she could move forward.


Three hours previous

Faith looked up at the old, dilapidated building in front of her, her heart hammering in her throat; boarded up windows, the front door, or what was left of it, hanging half out of the frame. Garbage was strewn all over the street, burned out hulks of cars lying helter skelter. The few people shuffling along on the streets were dressed in rags. If one could look in their eyes, they would see nothing there. No looks of hope, no looks of despair. No feelings at all. The residents here were akin to the walking dead, living out their existence, until, one day, they'd be no more.

The whole area was what city planners called 'low income housing'. Boston PD called in the 'The Pits', a name that was more accurate. It was the poorest section of Boston, not even the gangbangers of Boston's poorer parts ventured here. Even the homeless avoided it. It was a haven for addicts, strung out on the cheapest stuff they could find. A place were having a dime could mean getting a knife shoved in your back.

Faith had tracked her here. It had taken some doing, calling in a few markers. The runner she'd gotten the info from, had told her that the info had been a few weeks old, that her mother had problably already bolted from the address. Or more likely, that she had died already.

Faith ascended the stairs with trepidation, the familiar fight-or-flight response running through her veins. It took all her strength to put one foot in front of the other. Crouching slightly, she entered the lobby; the stench hitting her like hammerblow, making her gag. Quickly stepping back outside, Faith took several deep breaths before stepping back inside. Looking around the lobby, the Slayer spotted the rotting stairs. Carefully making her way through all the thrash and other unidentifiable stuff on the floor, she reached it and started upstairs. Straining her senses, Faith tried to make out anything that would suggest someone was living here.

Once, decades ago, people had lived here, in clean, if somewhat modest surroundings. Children had played in the street, couples had strolled around after a hard day's work, savoring what little time they'd had together before going back to a hard day at the factory or cleaning for the more affluent people living in the nicer neighborhoods. Now, it was the sanctuary for rats, cockroaches and the dregs of humanity. Faith had reached the first floor of the building; looking left and right, she tried to find any indication of numbers on the doors that remained in the darkened hallway. Finally spotting something down the left hallway, she walked slowly towards it.

The door was almost intact, slowly wafting in the wind that was coming in through a broken window, the area where the numbers had been attached, lighter then the surrounding area. Faith noticed that she was on the wrong side of the hallway and started back. Passing the stairs again, she continued looking for any signs of life. Most of the doors had gone missing, or were boarded up. Those that remained had been damaged by the weather or had been kicked in or had other damage inflicted on them.

Faith's ears pricked up as she heard something. If she hadn't been a Slayer, she wouldn't even have heard it, the creaking of wooden floorboards and limbs moving around, as if someone was turning around on the floor. Immediately, Faith went into a defensive stance as she neared the doorframe where the sound had come from. Flattening herself against the wall, she crept towards the edge, her heart hammering in her throat. This place was perfect for a vampire or demon to lurk. But even if those particular kinds of creatures weren't here, there were other kinds of evil lurking around, she knew. A bitter experience she'd learned early in life. Cursing herself for not bringing her knife with her, the dark-haired beauty peered around the frame.

The room was coated in shadows, making some parts appear darker then others. The stench inside was even fouler then the one wafting through the building. Faith didn't want to even think about what could be the cause of it, although she could imagine well enough. She had after all, spent some of her years on the street. Stretching her senses, the dark-haired Slayer surveyed the room. It wasn't big by any means but looked to have been a small livingroom in another era. At the end was a dark opening, another doorway, probably to the kitchen or a hallway, she realized. Then she heard the sound that had gotten her attention in the first place again.

Slight movement on the floor, as if someone was trying to get comfortable. Labored breathing.

With her heart hammering in her throat, Faith softly stepped into the room, scanning side to side. Her eyes fell on a small bundle nestled against the far wall. The slight movements indicated it was alive and probably the cause of the sounds she'd heard. Approaching it slowly as not to scare whomever it was, she called out to it.


The response was immediate as the bundle suddenly sat up and pushed itself into the corner as if trying to burrow into the rotting wall. A pathetic sounding gurgle of fear escaped it as it cowered there, trying to roll itself into the smallest ball possible. Faith's heart was hammering at the response, even though she'd been prepared for it. The sight that assaulted her eyes almost made her feel sick. What looked like a small child, dressed in filthy rags, cowered in fear before her. The Boston native crouched down a few yards away from the figure, her hands extended to the side to show that she didn't intend any harm.

"Hey. I'm sorry I scared you. I'm not gonna hurt you, okay? I just need some information. Okay?" "Wh.. what.. what do you... want? Don't... don't hurt... me, please."

The raspy voice surprised Faith, it sounded far older then she'd have guessed from the person's form. Female too. Her eyes, having adjusted to the darkness and with enhanced Slayer abilities caught a glimpse of the woman's face behind stringy, unkempt and filth-encrusted hair. What she saw nearly made her gag. The woman could have been anything from in her teens to her forties but you'd never know. Her face was sunken and sallow, the skin almost translucent and mottled. There was absolutely no flesh or fat left, the muscle tissue almost non-existent. She was literally skin on bones and Faith was again reminded of scenes she'd seen of Nazi concentration camps. Swallowing the lump in her throat, Faith thanked whatever God was out there that she'd been spared this downward spiral she saw before her. True, her life hadn't been easy but being Called did seemed to have saved her from ending up like the poor unfortunate before her.

"No, I'm not gonna hurt you, I promise. I just need some info. Maybe you can help me? Can you do that?"

The huddled form seemed to tremble all over, her eyes rapidly moving around the room, seemingly trying not to make make eyecontact with the person squatting in front of her. Fear seeped off her in waves.

"You're... you're not gonna... hurt me?"

The plaintive question asked in a voice that seemed to belong to a little girl, clenched at Faith's heart. She had to restrain herself not to reach out and stroke a hand through the woman's hair.

"No, I'm just looking for someone, maybe you can help?"


Faith smiled, hoping it would reassure the woman in front of her. Opening the flap of her right front pocket, Faith removed a picture, turning it towards the woman.

"I'm looking for this woman. I don't know what she looks like now but her name is ...."

Before Faith could continue, the woman had made a grab for the picture and ripped it from her. Pushing herself back into the corner, she stared at the picture with wide eyes, the fingers of one hand brushing over the old image, reverently.

"Claire.... Claire Kincaid."

Faith stared at the woman in shock. Her jaw muscles worked valiantly, trying to say something but failed miserably. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Faith managed to push her surprise away together with the lump in her throat. However, it had been replaced with an even larger one inside her stomach. How could this woman before her know that name? Wariness and excitement battling in equal measure inside of her, Faith spoke.

"Yeah. Since you seem to know her, maybe you could tell me where I can find her?"


A hacking cough broke off the woman's words and this time, Faith did reach out, steadying her as throughout the episode. Finally, when the coughing subsided, the woman looked up into Faith's eyes. Faith tried to turn away from the penetrating gaze but it was as if something held her firmly locked in the stare. Swallowing several times, she was about to repeat the question.


Faith fell backwards in shock at hearing the name, her face frozen in surprise as she looked at the broken form of the woman in front of her.

"Jor- Jordan? Is... Is it really you?"

Faith swallowed hard as she watched the woman leaning forward slightly. Her face conveyed both trepidation, hope and fear as she looked at the dark-haired beauty. Faith herself didn't know what to think, didn't even want to think about what it meant. Finally she was able to form a coherent sentence.

"How... How do you know that name?"

"I think I would remember my daughter's name."


Her mother.

Faith's mind still couldn't fully comprehend what she'd seen and heard that day. She couldn't comprehend that she'd been face-to-face with her mother for the first time in more than ten years. She couldn't comprehend that the woman she'd talked to that day was the same one as in the photograph now riding in her pocket. Couldn't understand why someone would do such things to herself, to let themselves fall down so far.

Faith had come to Boston to find her mother. Find her and talk to her. Ask her why. Faith had needed the answer more then she cared to admit. Well, she'd gotten her answer, Faith thought, as she looked into the dark colored liquid in her cup.



Faith stared in shock at the slight figure huddled in the corner, not willing to believe what she was seeing and hearing. This couldn't be her mother, it just couldn't. This had to be some trick. Her mother wouldn't.... would never....

With a sob, Faith threw herself into the arms of the woman who claimed to be her mother, holding on for dear life as the tears flooded her eyes. She didn't care about how bad she smelled, she didn't care about how fragile the woman in her arms felt. All Faith cared about was that she'd finally found her mother again. She didn't know how long they'd sat like that, wrapped around each other, until she felt tremors shaking through her body. Faith quickly pulled backwards, holding the other woman at arm's length, eyes roving over her.

Her mother was trembling.

At first, Faith thought it was the emotion of the reunion but then, it dawned on her. With a strenght fueled by desperation, Claire Kincaid pulled herself from her daughter's grasp and tore through the small pile of her belongings. Pulling out a small plastic back, Claire upturned it, spilling its contents on the dirty floor.

A soft rubber hose, it's original color almost completely obscured by the dirt congealing around it.

An old teaspoon, blackened by soot and rust.

A lighter.

A syringe.

With an ease borne of doing this a thousand times, Claire tied off the rubber hose around her left arm, then poured some white powder from a little bag into the spoon, following it up with some kind of liquid. Holding the lighter underneath it, she heated the mixture until the powder dissolved into the liquid. Carefully putting it down so the rear of the spoon rested on top of the lighter, she grabbed for the syringe.

Faith looked on in disbelief, not knowing whether this was a nightmare or if she was awake. As Claire was about to pull back the plunger, Faith shook of her stupor and pounced, knocking the spoon away, spilling its contents all over the floor.


The wail of the older woman echoed through the building, tapering off into a quiet sobbing as Faith stood in front of her, rage, disgust and unbelief warring with each other.

"How could you? I need it... I need it. I need my fix. It was the last I had...."

Faith kneeled down in front of Claire, grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her.

"No! You don't need that shit! You hear me? You don't need it! It's killing you! Look at yourself! You're nothing but skin and bones! How long have you been living like this, huh? How long have you been slowly killing yourself with this shit?"

Faith was shaking her so hard Claire started convulsing; fearing the worst, Faith released her but not before getting vomit over her chest. Claire fell to the floor, coughing and spitting out what little she had in her stomach. Suddenly, her body was still, panicking Faith. Forgetting everything else, Faith grabbed the slight frame in front of her, turning the body over.

"Mom? Come on! Don't do this to me! MOM!"

As she was shaking the woman, her eyes opened and she pushed Faith away from her with surprising strenght. Sitting up, Claire pierced Faith with an angry stare.

"You little bitch! It's not enough that you ruined my life when you were born! Now you have to go and throw away the last of my shit?"

Faith couldn't belief her ears. She didn't want to belief the words that were coming out of her mother's mouth. Looking at the hunched woman in front of her, she couldn't see one single part of the woman in the photograph. Memories she'd pushed back into the darkest, deepest recesses of her mind broke free and assaulted her as she let Claire's tirade wash over her.

Her mother coming home to the small dingy apartment several times a night, each time with another man, turning tricks to pay for alcohol and drugs.

Finding her mother in the small bedroom in the morning, curled up in a ball, beaten black and blue by some john who got off on hurting women.

The screaming, ranting and cursing when she'd drank a couple of bottles of cheap booze to dull the pain, blaming her tiny daughter for the situation they found themselves in.

Her new 'daddy' coming to live with them.

Her mom and him drinking booze and doing drugs.

Him taking all the money she earned with her body, beating her if he thought she hadn't worked hard enough.

The night that changed a twelve year old child's life forever. The night when her 'daddy' took away her innocence, 'breaking her in for the job'. The next day, the girl had gone to her mother, haltingly telling her what 'daddy' had done to her, hoping, begging, praying that her mother would just hold her and make the pain go away. Hoping to be protected.

And for a moment it looked as if that was precisely what happened as her mother started throwing things at 'daddy'. Calling him names, hitting him.

Jordan, even though she was in pain, was elated. Her mommy was protecting her. Her mommy did love her.

But just as surely as a soap bubble bursts, so did the pre-teen's elation when she heard the next words from her mother.

*** "You fucking shit! I just made a deal with Manny! He was gonna get to pop her to square what we owe him! Now we don't have that anymore! How the fuck are we gonna get three grand in two days? Huh? You tell me, you fuck!" ***

In that moment, hope had died. In that moment, a little girl named Jordan died and Faith was born.

She'd snuck out of the kitchen and into her mother's bedroom, grabbing all the cash she could find, then made her way to her own room and proceeded to put some clothes and other stuff into a small duffelbag. When she had finished, Faith stepped out onto the rusted fire escape, climbing down into the streets and into her new life.

"Shut up."

The ranting didn't stop, didn't abate at all and something snapped inside Faith. With a growl, she pounced on the woman she'd once called mom and started shaking her.


Silence greeted her as she stared down into frightened eyes. Her mother's eyes.

"You were gonna give me to Manny, your dealer, so you could square the money you owed him. What kind of mother sells out her child like that, huh? What the fuck happened to turn you into such a callous freak? I've known a lot of creeps in my life, I've faced a lot of things that scare the hell out of me, but I've never seen anything that even resembles what you are. Why? Just tell me what happened to turn you into this... this... whatever you've become!"

Claire looked into the eyes of the young woman who was once her daughter, seeing the disgust and loathing there and for the first time in a very long time, her mind cleared and old memories came back. Haunting and bittersweet memories. And the tears started to roll down her cheeks as she remembered. Turning her head away from her daughter, she answered the question.

"Your grandfather."


"Your grandfather, okay? He threw me out when he found out I was pregnant! I was fifteen and pregnant and he threw me out on the streets", she screamed before a heavy coughing fit took hold of her.

Claire's words stunned Faith into silence. After several minutes, the coughing stopped and Claire pulled herself back into a sitting position.

"I'd met this guy, he was older, drove a motorcycle. The bad boy type, you know?"

At Faith's nod, Claire continued her story.

"When I was with him.... God, everything was so much fun! Driving around, having fun... drinking, dancing... they were fun times. When my parents found out, they were furious. No daughter of mine is going to be wasting her time with trash like that! That's what daddy said. Called him a gold digger coz daddy had money. Did you know they threatened to have me shipped off to boarding school? In Switzerland? As if that scared me. I told them where they could stick it and got the hell out of that house."

Faith had sat down, her back against the wall as she listened to her mother relate her story. Her mind was still trying to grasp what she'd heard and the dark-haired girl couldn't help but wonder if her own stubborn streak was something she had gotten from her mother. Yet through it all, she couldn't help but remember every single thing that had happened to her as a child. All the pain and grief she'd suffered through because of the shell sitting in front of her.

"For a while, everything was fine. We partied, had fun and drove arond the country. Then I found out I was pregnant. When I told Gary, he said it was okay and not to worry. What a bastard he turned out to be."

"He sneaked out on ya."

A statement, not a question. Faith's stare pierced into Claire's eyes, willing her to answer.

"Yeah. He left. I woke up the next morning in bed, alone. No note, no nothing. I had to hitchhike my way back. I didn't have any money or a place to stay. Manny helped me out with that, got me a little place, you remember? Course, I had to work it off. I wasn't showing yet so I could make good money. Even after I started showing... some johns like laying it to pregnant girls, they'll pay extra..."

"Why didn't you go back to your parents? Let them know what happened?"

"What? And hear them say 'I told you so'? You don't know your grandfather, Jordan! He would've never let me forget! He'd hound me all my life about how I ruined my life and shit. I wasn't going to listen to that!"

"No, you'd just go and ruin your life further and as a consequence, ruin your daughter's life too! All in the name of pride! Have you looked at yourself lately? You look like a walking corpse", Faith screamed angrily. She was livid, her body shuddering with rage as she confronted the woman who'd brought her into this world.

"You drank booze, shot up, snorted, popped every kind of shit you could get your hands on, just to drown whatever pain you're feeling! Trying to deny that you were feeling miserable. You didn't dare take the risk that your parents might actually care about you. It was better for you to think of them as the ones who'd brought this upon you. You sold yourself and were planning on selling your own flesh and blood to feed your habit and it's all your parents fault. Instead of looking at yourself and facing the consequences of your actions."

Faith squatted down in front of Claire, grabbing her chin and pulling her face roughly towards hers. Claire could clearly see the rage, hurt and anger in Faith's eyes.

"You want to know the truth? I'd pushed all the shit you put me through away. Every little thing that happened. Every time you hit me. Every time you'd come home with another asshole, just so you could feed your filthy habit. Every time I found you beat up and had to clean up after you. I shoved all of it into this deep dark hole as if it was some stinking nightmare."

Faith's voice was hoarse as the tears streamed down her face as she confronted Claire. Grabbing the picture she continued her tirade.

"But it wasn't a nightmare, huh? It did happen, every single thing. I came back to Boston to find you, to find out why you did the things you did. What reason you had to live like that. Why you would subject your own child to such abuse. And guess what? Just stupid fucking pride. That's all it is!

Your stupid pride is to blame for what happened to you. And you are to blame for what happened to me that night. All the other stuff that happened to me? That's my fault and I paid the price for it. Just like you are paying the price, mother.

And the sad thing is, I was just like you. I went down of path of self-destruction. I wanted to die because of the things I did. If it wasn't for some people who believed in me, I would have. The same people I'd hurt so badly took me in. They helped me. Yeah, it was rough. It hurt like hell but in the end, I survived and learned to love and trust again. I paid for the crimes I commited. Every day, I try to find redemption. It's hard. Often painful but at the end of the day, I feel good about myself. Knowing I make a difference. Knowing I'm important, even if it's only to the people who care about me gives me strength."

Faith got to her feet, turned and headed for the door. As she stood in the door opening, she turned around, looking straight into the eyes of the woman who'd brought her into the world.

"I forgive you, mother. For everything you did to me. For the abuse. For trying to pawn me off to pay for your habit. For what your boyfriend did to me. I forgive you. Maybe now, you can forgive yourself and clean up your act. I hope you do."

With those final words, Faith left the apartment, never once looking back as she heard the keening cries of the woman she'd once called mother.


Faith stared listlessly outside, the forgotten coffee, long gone cold still clutched between her hands. She'd gotten her answer, even if it wasn't what she'd expected. Still, the last of her demons had been slayed and strange as it may seem, she felt lighter, more free then she'd ever felt before.

'Like cutting out the diseased flesh so the rest of the body can heal', she thought as she watched the rain beat down on the street and passing cars.

It was time to go home. Faith smiled slightly as the thought passed through her mind. It had been so long since she'd had a place she could call home. Living on the street, or in shelters or finding a place with some of the small-time gangs that hung around the streets, that's what her life had been like. Until the Watcher's Council had found her.

For the first time in her life, Faith had had a home. A home where there was someone who cared about HER. Hillary may have been strict at times, but the woman had loved her. She'd taken in a rebellious, opinionated, willful teenager and slowly broke down the barriers the child had built around herself. Love had been extended without any thought of getting any in return. Understanding and discipline when they were needed. Space when required. An ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or a voice to give advice during those times that asked for them. For the first time in her life, Faith had had someone who genuinly cared about her, even if she was a Watcher. And then it was taken away.

But now, Faith had a family. A crazy, disfunctional family that was constantly at each other's throat, yet gave unconditional support. They could be screaming at each other one minute, the next they were hugging each other, sharing ice cream and talking about everything and anything.

Two sisters, two best friends, a mother and a father.

Buffy and Dawn. Tara and Willow. Joyce and Giles.

Not to mention L.A.'s Black Sheep Squadron.

Angel, Wesley, Gunn, Cordelia, Fred and Lorne.

One big, happy, crazy-ass family with one missing member.


With a deep sigh, the brunette stood up, leaving some money for the untouched coffee. There was one more thing she needed to do before she could leave the city and its memories behind her. Standing under the shop's extended roof, Faith looked up at the sky. The clouds were dissipating, being driven apart by the sun. It somehow felt almost symbolic to her as she quickly made her way through the slowling rain.


Leaning against a tree, Faith stood watching the large, expensive brownstone across the street. The place breathed understated elegance and old money as did every other building in this area of Boston. It was a place where you'd see Brooks Brothers and Burberry's, not Levi's and T-shirts. Faith shook off the bout of self-consciousness she was experiencing. Now was not the time for such things.

After finding out her mother's name and the fact that she'd been from a wealthy family, it had been rather easy to find out which family that was and where they lived. Faith had debated with herself furiously whether or not to approach the family regarding their daughter and granddaughter. In the end, it was a telephonecall that had made the decision for her.

Dawn had called because she'd had some problems with her current boyfriend and while Buffy may be her sister, the girl really needed to get away from the "slay all my sister's boyfriends" routine. If it was up to the blonde Slayer, Dawn would spend the rest of her life locked in a convent, Faith thought with a grin.

The talk had taken up several hours the night before and in the end, Faith knew what she would do. Buffy, Dawn, Joyce and Giles may not be family by blood, but they were family nonetheless. Each would die for the other, kill for the other if necessary. They loved each other with a fierceness that Faith had never experienced anywhere else. The people she was waiting to catch a glimpse of... she didn't have such a bond with them. The only bond they shared was made up of shared bloodlines. They'd had enough grief in their lives and Faith didn't have the heart to add more to it.

She just wanted to see who her blood relatives were. Just so she could say goodbye in silence and close that chapter of her life. Just then, a large, expensive car moved down the street, turning into the driveway of the house she was watching. Just as the car's doors opened, disgorging a tall, good looking man, a woman and two little children, the front door of the house opened. Faith watched as a fiftysome couple stepped outside, the two children running up to them, hugging them enthusiastically.

Words like grandpa and grandma filtered through to where she was standing, watching the scene. The young man had his arm around the woman, an African-American. She too was greeted like she was part of the family, warm hugs and kisses extended and received.

Faith watched the scene in front of her, oblivious of the tears rolling down her face.

Her grandparents.

Her uncle and his wife.

Her cousins.

Sometimes, the only way you know you're alive is because of the pain you feel.

Right now, Faith's whole being was suffused by pain as she watched the family interact with each other. Knowing that because of some stupid act of misplaced pride, her whole childhood had been devoid of the obvious love that emanated from the small group of people on the other side of the street. With an angry shake of her head, the brunette Slayer pushed off from the tree and made her way down the street.

It was time to go back to her own family. It was time to go back to the people whom she loved and who in return, loved her back.