At This Moment
At This Moment
Did you think I could hate you
Or raise my hands to you?
Now come on, you know me too well.
How could I hurt you when darling I love you,
And you know
I'd never hurt you.
– Billy Vera and the Beaters, "At This Moment"
The tires squealed as Rory's borrowed convertible inserted itself in the parking spot. Xander batted the shift into park, and a second later he was following Faith up the stairs to her motel room. Several quick glances over his shoulder revealed nothing behind him, but he couldn't shake the feeling that they were still being chased. Faith slammed through the door to her room and Xander flowed in right behind her. He slammed the door and locked it behind them.
"You think Demon Mama followed us?" Xander went to the front window and peered out between two blades of the Venetian blinds. Nothing. Everything looked clear. He rushed over to the room's other window. That too looked clear.
"No, we're cool." Faith was wincing visibly as she took off her leather jacket. "The bitch dislocated my shoulder, though." She tossed the jacket to the side, obviously being careful not to move her left arm too much. Worried, Xander gave her an appraising look. She responded with a slight 'come here' motion with her head. He approached her, not sure what to do. "Hold me," she instructed.
Xander looked at Faith, not sure what she wanted. He stepped closer and raised his arms toward her. Before he came into physical contact, she grabbed one of his hands and put it on her injured arm, and the other on her opposite shoulder. Xander nodded slightly, suddenly understanding that she was using him to keep her steady. Faith reached up and grabbed him by his jacket for extra leverage. He kept his eyes locked on hers and watched as she took a few quick breaths.
Without warning, Faith pulled her left shoulder back, then just as quickly rammed it forward toward him. There was a loud SNAP, and Xander shuddered slightly as he felt the arm he was holding vibrate as Faith's shoulder joint fell back into place. Xander let her arm loose and stepped back, watching her. "That's better," Faith sighed. She rotated her left arm forward and back, pressing it forward and pulling it back.
Faith sniffed the air around him and stepped closer. "She got me really wound up." Xander jerked his head downward and she ran a hand across his chest. "A fight like that and... no kill... I'm about ready to pop!" She smiled up at him. It was a dangerous and enticing smile. He tried to concentrate on what she was saying, but her hand on his chest was way, way distracting.
"Really?" Xander wasn't sure what she expected, or how he should respond so that she didn't get pissed off. He looked down at her hand again, then back to her face. "Pop?"
Faith's smile widened, showing her incredible dimples. Her voice acquired a low, smoky quality. "You up for it?" Her other hand was suddenly running up and down the back of his neck. How it got there, Xander wouldn't have been able to tell. Suddenly Xander got it. His eyes widened.
"Oh, I'm up!' He nodded. Xander's eyes almost bugged out when the hand that was rubbing his chest was suddenly lowered and he felt her massaging his cock through his jeans. "I'm suddenly very up." He grinned; it was not a cheerful grin. Rather, it was the grin of someone who knew they were about to go over the big drop on the roller coaster and was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. "It's just, um... I've never been up with people before."
Faith's grin turned devilish. Xander was about to say something when she grabbed his jaw without warning. Her lips met his, and abruptly her tongue was filling his mouth. She tasted of bubblegum and cherries and cigarette smoke.
"Just relax..." She pushed his jacket off of his shoulders, followed swiftly by his shirt. "... and take your pants off."
He blinked, unable to really believe this was happening. "Those two concepts are antithetical."
Faith actually giggled at that, and for a moment he felt relieved that his sense of humor wasn't failing him. She yanked his shirt and jacked down his arms and off, tossing them in the same direction as she earlier tossed her own jacket. Faith was suddenly in his arms, kissing him hard. Xander held her for a long moment while they kissed, feeling her return the embrace. She moved, stepping to his right while staying in his harms, turning them...
Suddenly Xander found himself falling backward. It took him a second to realize that she'd shoved him backward so that he fell onto her bed. His feet stuck out over the side. Faith leapt onto him, driving the air out of his lungs. Xander swore that she was more predatory cat than girl right then. Like a tiger, pouncing on its prey.
"Don't worry." Faith maneuvered up him, straddling his waist. She sat up and tugged her own shirt over her head, revealing her breasts clad in a see-through black bra. It was a beautiful sight, and it caused him to smile. "I'll steer you around the curves."
Xander's smile became more than a little apprehensive. "Did I mention that I'm having a very strange night?"
What followed passed like a blur, and in years to come he'd only carry spotty memories of specific events. Sex with Faith was singular, and exciting, and frightening. In some ways it was draining and painful. In others, it was the greatest physical experience of his life. He surprised himself by lasting longer than three and a half seconds the first time. They had rested, Faith allowing Xander to recuperate, before going again. And again. After the third time he realized that he had become a dry-firing, fleshy version of a dildo that Faith was using for her own gratification. He was fine with that.
After the fourth time she came, while they cuddled in the afterglow, he began thinking strange thoughts. Thoughts he figured occurred to young men in their prime who'd just had sex with an amazingly beautiful and physically exciting woman. Did it count as having sex only once, since it was pretty continual with only short breaks in between? O did it count as having sex four times in the space of about an hour because there were short breaks in between?
He was still wondering about it when he found himself abruptly found himself shoved out the motel room's door completely naked, holding his clothes in his arms.
One month later...
Faith was bored. Bored bored bored. She lay on her bed, not really paying attention to what was playing on the television. She'd thought about going out and killing something, but decided against it. Actually thinking about doing something, anything, brought back visions of the dead guy, and his blood all over her hands. And how he was just there, and she had stabbed him with her stake before she realized... So she didn't do anything. She kept her mind as blank as possible. She just... didn't. It didn't keep the nightmare images out of her head completely, but it helped.
Faith looked up at the unexpected knock on her door. She rolled off of her bed and opened it with a jerk. It was Xander.
"What?" She wasn't in the mood to hear moralizing from Buffy or any of Buffy's friends.
"I just, uh, came by to see how you are, actually."
Fucking perfect. Here it came. "I'm sick of people asking me that, for one thing." There was a long moment of awkward silence.
He gestured toward her room. "Can I come in? Jut to talk. I promise."
Faith snorted. "Like you could make something happen if I didn't want it to?"
"Hey, yeah. Got me there." He nodded, agreeing. She couldn't tell if he was actually agreeing, or if she scared him. "Pretty much not gonna try to... take you under any circumstances." The goofball actually held out his arm and pointed to his bicep. "See, here, feel that. Probably like a wet noodle to you, huh?"
For a moment Faith actually remembered thinking better things than 'wet noodle' about being held in his arms, but she wasn't about to encourage him. She stepped aside, allowing him into her room. "Five minutes."
"That's all I need." He stepped past her. "For talking and conversation. I'm, um, quick as a bunny." Something else she remembered he hadn't been, the last time he was in the room.
"Clock is running." Faith closed the door and turned off the TV.
"Its just, uh... I heard about what happened." The fear and distress she had been feeling over the death of Alan Finch had returned, accompanied by the anger of being trapped by it, and Buffy's ever-present need to make her feel inferior. "I thought you might need a friend."
"So then, go talk to Buffy. She's the one who killed a guy." Faith seethed. She thought Xander might be cool, but he was like everyone else. Getting on her case. Grinding her down. Treating her like trash.
"Yeah, I heard that version."
"Version?" Faith couldn't keep the anger out of her eyes anymore. She watched him take a deep breath, calming herself, and for just a second, just a small moment, she thinks that she might be judging him to harshly, that he really does want to help. But then that feeling is washed away in a flood of of guilt and anger and shame. No, he's not different. He doesn't really want to help. He's like every other guy who ever entered her life.
"Either way, it sounds like it was an accident. That's the important part."
"No." She wasn't going to hear this. "The important part is that Buffy is the accidental..." Faith made air-quotes. "... murderer." The lie slipped through her lips facilely, but no matter how easily it came to her, she knew it was a lie. She knew she was a murderer. That she was bad. Just like her mom had always told her.
"Faith, you may not think so, but I sort of know you. And I've seen you post-battle. And I know firsthand that you're, um... like a wild thing. Half the time, you don't know what you're doing."
"And you're living proof of that, aren't you?" She knew what he was saying was true, but she didn't want to admit it. Instead, she fell back on her usual tactics: when someone attacked, attack right back. Take the offensive, don't admit weakness or wrong-doing, beat the other guy into submission and make them back off. She could see it, though Xander wasn't going along with the game plan.
"See, you're trying to hurt me. But right now, you need someone on your side. What happened wasn't your fault. And I'm willing to testify to that in court if you need me."
"You'd dig that wouldn't you?" Since insults weren't working, she switched targets. She was a long-time expert in using her sexuality as a weapon. She threw him a sultry look. "To get up in front of all your geek pals and go on record about how I made you my boy toy for a night?"
Direct hit. Xander was obviously thrown by her change in tactics.
"No. N-n-n-n-no, that's not it."
Faith was confident that she had him by the balls. "I know what this is all about." She stepped closer to him and ran her fingertips all around his face. "You just came by here 'cause you want another taste, don't you?"
"No!" His denial was shaky. She'd made him unsure of himself, and now he was on the defensive. "I mean, it was nice. It was great. It was kind of a blur. But okay, some day sure, yay, but not now. Not like this."
Time to move in for the kill. "More like how, then? Lights on or off? Kinks or vanilla?"
He jerked himself away from her. His eyes held a sudden fear, and seeing it excited her. "Faith, come on. I came here to help you." The eyes turned all puppy dog, but the fear was still there. "I thought we had a connection."
Faith couldn't help but laugh at his gullibility, and when he cringed she exulted in it. She grabbed him by his shirt front and shoved him backwards toward the bed. Once again, she pounced on him, straddled him, over-topped him.
"You wanna feel a connection? Its just skin." She tore his shirt open, popping the buttons. "I see... I want... I take..." She bent over him and kissed him hard enough to bruise. It was a mean, spiteful kiss. "I forget." She began rocking back and forth against him, grinding her pelvis into hers. Her hands were all over his chest and shoulders.
"No." Yeah, she could almost taste the fear in him now. "No, wait. It was more than that."
The fear in him was intoxicating. It fueled the anger she needed and wanted to feel so she wouldn't feel the shame of killing a human being. Feel the rage of not being able to control her urge to slay long enough to realize that Alan Finch wasn't a vampire. Feel the self-loathing at knowing that in the end, she was worthless after all.
"I could do anything to you right now, and you want me to. I can make you scream." She licked his face, then kissed him again. Another spite-filled kiss. She seized his lower lip between her teeth and pulled at it. Faith found herself getting aroused. "I could make you die." It was almost a whisper.
Faith bent her mouth to his again, but this time, the kiss was surprisingly tender. Her hands went round his neck, and when she pulled her lips from his, he was already choking. She kissed him once more, again tenderly, lovingly almost. Faith rose above him, never once letting up on the choke hold. Xander reached up, attempting to push her away, push her off of him, escape. His other hand clawed a his neck, trying to pry her hands off. She ignored his efforts. Both of her hands were tight around his neck, and she squeezed, hard. She watched as the light in his eyes began to dim. He was staring at her, meeting her eyes, and for a moment, what she saw in his eyes terrified her.
Absolutely terrified her.
It was in his eyes. He was beyond fear, beyond worry, beyond shame, beyond her and what she was doing. He had made a choice, somewhere in his head. A choice about her. And it was in his eyes. She was going to kill him, and he knew it. He knew it.
Acceptance. Caring. Understanding.
In his eyes, as she strangled him to death.
It was enough to cause her to relax her grip. The release came too late to keep Xander's eyes from rolling up into the back of his head. Faith sat up, and just as Xander began gasping for air, she heard a noise behind her. Faith looked over her shoulders to see...
And suddenly everything went black.
Two months later...
Richard Wilkins couldn't take his eyes off of the still form that lay in the ICU bed. He'd received word that Faith had been brought in only twenty minutes earlier; he'd immediately dropped everything and rushed to the hospital. Over the last couple of months she'd become his daughter in every way but blood, including a full adoption done with her consent and agreement. His only family left. He loved her beyond his own life, a fact that would have surprised his enemies.
Next to him, the doctor was yammering on, making a report of her condition. He didn't look at the man; he was too busy keeping his eyes on Faith. Willing her to be better. Wanting her to get better. Needing her to open her eyes and wake up and be the lovely young woman he knew her to be.
"We had to remove her right kidney. I don't know what she landed on, but when it penetrated it just did too much damage. But the other kidney is perfectly fine and functioning. She can live with just one. Lots of people out there do so every day." The doctor eyed the distraught-looking Mayor, who still wasn't responding, before continuing his report. "But the head trauma, its... well, its simply too severe. We removed several bone fragments from... sir, its a miracle she's even alive, what with the blood loss and the..." "I'm sorry, sir. There's almost no chance that she's ever going to regain consciousness.
Wilkins' gaze flowed over the oxygen tube, the multiple IVs, the heart monitor, the electrodes on her chest and her stomach and her arms and her temples, the various tubes and wires and readouts and beepers and other electronic doo-dads. It all looked very scary and imposing. He took in the bandaged sutures on the bald spot shaved into her skull, the bruising on her face and her shoulders, the casts on her arms and legs. Gently, he reached down and looked a loose lock of hair behind her ear.
"It's your day." He trailed finger lightly along her face, wishing her to be okay.
The doctor sighed. "Sir, there is some good news, though. Sir! The baby is..."
Mayor Wilkins attention snapped immediately to the doctor. "Baby?" He stared at the man. "She's pregnant?"
"Yes sir, about three months now. She hasn't started to show, but that's not uncommon, especially for a first pregnancy. As I was saying, sir, the baby seems fine. We've got a monitor on her and will be tracking the progress of her pregnancy. She'll be well-cared-for, sir. Don't worry. Your daughter is in good hands, and so will your grandchild."
"Good. Spare no expense. No matter what you need to do, you do it." The mayor dismissed the doctor, thinking. He'd finished all his preparations. All the spells were cast and the omens found. He would succeed in Ascending and would use the power of Olivkan to rule an earthly empire. But it wouldn't be the same without his Faith by his side. Victory would taste like ashes in his mouth without his little girl there.
He put a gentle hand on her belly, trying to feel the new life that was there. He'd always wanted children, but he and his darling Emma had been barren. He had happily taken Faith in as his own. And now his little girl was going to be a mother. It was wonderful, exhilarating – and terrifying. That thought almost made him laugh. Here he was, on the doorstep of ultimate power, and he was terrified of the future. What if Faith didn't make it? What if the baby... Worse, what if he didn't make it? What if... what if somehow the Summers girl found a way to put a stop to him? He had no illusions at all that losing to the Slayer would entail his death. That's why they called her Slayer, after all. Without him here to protect her, Faith would be a sitting duck. He had no illusions about what would happen to a comatose Faith left alone to the mercies of the Slayer and her friends. Faith's child would disappear into the uncaring foster care system, and Faith would rot, uncared-for and alone, in a long-term care facility.
If only there was a way...
A slow, easy smile crept onto his face as he realized that there was, in fact, a way. The Mayor stepped into the corridor and pulled his cell phone, blatantly ignoring the signs forbidding such devices. Several of the hospital staff gave him dirty looks, but they knew well enough to bother him. He punched in a number from memory and waited as it rang. He didn't have long to wait.
"Holland? Dick Wilkins here. Yes, I know what time it is, Holland, but I promise, I wouldn't be calling this late if it wasn't important. Tell Catherine I'm sorry for waking her." He nodded and smiled as if the person on the other side of the phone could see him. "I'll make it up to the two of you, I promise. Yes." He nodded again. "Well, the reason I'm calling is because I need you to send one of your people up here and I need them here within an hour. I need to make some changes to my will, and I need to set up some powers of attorney, and... oh, what do you call those darn things... medical proxies, I think. Yes, exactly, so someone can make medical... no, not for me, for my daughter. Faith, yes. No, Holland, I don't think they can wait. I don't think they can wait at all. They can't. No, they can't Holland. Today's going to be a world-changer for me, and I might not have the opportunity to... right. I don't care. Either would be fine, Holland. Okay. Okay. Good, good." The Mayor listened for a moment, then grinned again. "That's fine. I'll be looking forward to Ms. Morgan's visit. Ciao!"
He returned to Faith's bedside and took one of her hands in his own. "Its going to be okay, sweetheart. Even if they win, you'll be taken care of. I'm going to make sure of it." He stood there, holding her hand, willing her to get better, despite knowing that he had better things to do.
Eventually his reverie was disrupted by a voice from the corridor. It was one of the nurses, speaking to the doctor who'd briefed him.
"We have another girl with severe blood loss. Doctor Pal wants you to prep this on a..."
Wilkins saw red. He knew who that other girl must be. Barely able to contain his rage, he strode from Faith's room with a purpose.
Four Days Later...
Xander dropped his duffle bag into the trunk of the car, shoving it in next to the gym bag that held his anti-vampire supplies and the car's spare tire. He was just about ready to see America. The car was all gassed up, all lubed up, and all packed up. All he had left in the house for his trip was his snack bag filled with Twinkies, Tornado bars, and beef jerky, plus the clothes he'd be wearing. Everything else was in the car.
This time next week, he'd be in Texas. Or maybe Kansas. One of the -as states for sure. Xander was looking forward to it. While the rest of the gang went on to become thriving, successful college students, he'd be a student of the road, learning what life could teach him. He'd be back, eventually. He couldn't just turn his back on Buffy and Willow; but he understood that everyone's lives were going in different directions. Or at least, his life was moving away from Buffy and Willow.
There'd be enough time to contemplate his future when he was on the road. Not now. The rest of the day was going to be all about spending time with his friends for one last day before heading out of town for the great American frontier. Xander turned back toward the house; he'd drop his keys off on his dresser, then foot it over to Willow's place.
He grabbed the mail from the slot box by the side of the door. Most looked like credit card advertisements, along with a smattering of recipe card subscriptions his mom loved; couldn't cook worth beans, but loved her recipes. A letter to his mom from his Aunt Carla up in Arcadia, a recruitment ad from the Marine Corps addressed to him, asking if he'd thought about his future now that he was a High School graduate. The usual collection of trashmail. He shook his head at the credit card spam. "Who in their right mind would want anyone in this house to have a credit card?" he asked rhetorically.
"Excuse me... I'm looking for Alexander L. Harris. I was told he lives here?" Xander's head jerked up to see a severe-looking woman approaching. She was dressed in a Sunnydale County deputy's uniform, which was odd because for the most part the County cops avoided Sunnydale like the plague. Despite the city being the County Seat, the county cops were actually headquartered in Lompoc, fifty miles up the coast.
"Sure, I'm him. He's me, I mean. I'm Alexander Harris."
"Here you go." The female deputy smiled at him and held out a thick envelop. He could see his name written on it in a fine, looping script. The moment it was in his hands she said, "You've been served. Have a good day, Mr. Harris." He was so stunned that he never noticed her walking away.
"What the hell?" He opened the envelope; inside it there was two court document. Xander skimmed the first of the court documents, since it was the just a single page. It was a summons. He was being summoned to appear, along with his attorney – he didn't have an attorney but was suddenly thinking he might need one – at an emergency conference with a judge and a bunch of lawyers at the hospital in four days.
He looked over the second document. It was about Faith, he knew that much, but the rest didn't make much sense to him. He only had a vague idea what a power-of-attorney was, and had no idea at all what a medical proxy was and he had no idea why such terms would apply to him. Especially when you factored Faith into the mix. And what the hell did 'custodial status' mean? Custody of what?
"Four days. I'm supposed to start my road trip tomorrow, and some judge wanted to talk to him in four days. Crap. Time to talk to Giles."
"Mister Harris, Mister Giles, Miss Van Owen, thank you for coming. I'm David Hotchner." The judge shook everyone's hands. "This is Lilah Morgan, attorney-of-record for Faith Wilkins and for her father, the late Richard Wilkins."
It had taken Giles nearly five hours to find Grace Van Owen; she was the first attorney he contacted who was willing to represent Xander on such short notice, and to meet with them over the weekend before the conference with the judge. He was paying her bills, because there was no way the boy could afford her services on his own. Giles had a sneaking suspicion regarding what this was all about; he wasn't a lawyer, but he was educated enough to gain the gist of it. He hoped that he was wrong, but he somehow suspected that he wouldn't be.
"Her father? Mayor Wilkins was her father?" Xander looked confused. "I thought she was from Boston? Didn't she say she was from Boston, Giles?"
"Yes. All the information I have about her says she was from Boston. Her last name is Lehane, not Wilkins. Her mother was Bridget Lehane; her father is unknown. Given that her mother was a prostitute, most likely he was one of her, uh, clients." Giles stated, flatly. "She was taken into foster care by Dr. Diane Dormer, a historian at Harvard University. Doctor Dormer was later murdered by a serial killer, which was the reason why Faith fled to Sunnydale."
"All true. Mayor Wilkins formally adopted Miss Wilkins two months before he died. According to the records of the adoption hearing, Faith was happy to have a new father in his life." The other lawyer, Lilah Morgan said.
"Oh." Xander looked at Giles. "We, uh, we didn't know."
"That's quite alright, Mr. Harris." The judge shifted some papers on the table in front of him, then turned to the court reporter. "Go ahead, Mary. Let me know when you're ready." After a minute, the young woman nodded and the judge continued. "Okay then. Let the record show that I am David Hotchner, Civil Court Judge for the Central Family Law Judgment Unit of the Los Angeles Superior Court. With me today are Lilah Morgan, attorney for Faith Wilkins, Grace Van Owen, attorney for Alexander Harris, Mr. Harris himself, and uh, Mr. Rupert Giles, who is here as... Hell, what would you call it, Mr. Giles? Moral support? Guidance?"
"I'm here at Xander's request." Giles responded. "He..."
"He's my mentor. Closest thing I've ever had to a real father. I want him here."
"Fine. I can deal with that. And Mister Rupert Giles, friend and associate of Mr. Harris. Everybody here knows that this is a legal proceeding and the usual penalties for perjury apply and all that. So..." The judge cleared his throat. "Now, Mister Harris, I want to personally apologize for the speed with which this session was called. Normally these sorts of things would be handled over a matter of months, but because of the specific circumstances being what they are, well, we just don't have that kind of time. So I'm sorry if this caught you unawares."
He turned to Lilah Morgan and nodded. She, in turn, produced a small packet of papers. "Mr. Harris, the late Mayor Richard Wilkins III left behind a rather detailed set of instructions regarding the care of his daughter, Faith, who as I presume you know is currently in a coma." She looked to Xander for confirmation, and at his nod continued. "Her father, Mayor Wilkins, filed papers before his death indicating that you, as the father of Faith Wilkins' as yet unborn child, would be the logical person to assume his power-of-attorney authority, as well as his authority as medical proxy for Faith."
Xander heard everything, but his brain stopped at the phrase father of Faith Wilkins' as yet unborn child. "I'm the what now?" Faith was pregnant? He thought to himself. Why didn't she ever tell me? To his shame, he immediately came up with an answer: Because she saw me as someone who was only out to hurt and use her.
"You mean she didn't... you didn't know?" Both Morgan and the judge looked truly surprised.
"She never told me. I never knew." He glanced at Giles, who shook his head. "I, uh... we were sort of not getting along. We fought. Argued, I mean, about, uh, the nature of our relationship. It didn't... I didn't want... I dunno. I just don't know. I think I might have, uh, I mean our fight might have, uh contributed to her... uh... I mean, the last time I spoke to her, it wasn't... um... we sort of had a, uh... "
"Its all right, Mr. Harris. The fact that she attempted suicide by jumping from her apartment window is a matter of record, and its clear from the note she left behind that while she jumped because she was depressed and lonely, you can't blame yourself because you had no idea what would happen. Obviously, she cared about you a great deal, if breaking up with you caused so much misery for her." Lilah Morgan met his eyes, and an understanding passed between the mayor's attorney and Xander. No mention would be made of the fact that Buffy Summers was in Faith's apartment, trying to kill the girl, and in return no mention would ever be made of Faith's criminal activities. And as a cherry on top of an unpleasant sundae, Morgan got to make a bunch of digs at Xander being the cause of Faith's "suicide attempt."
Could he live with that? Could he live with taking the blame for Faith's being injured, if it meant that Buffy walked free? Even if it meant that Faith would never be held accountable for her actions? Could he stomach that? Xander was surprised to find that he could. He looked to Giles, who nodded just enough to signal that he, too, understood.
"We're sorry you're hearing it from us, first. We thought you'd be aware. The way Mr. Wilkins spoke about you when he altered his will made us believe that you were still in an active relationship with his daughter.. That you were aware of your responsibility to Faith and her baby." Morgan paused. "Are you going to have a problem caring for either of them, given the state of your relationship with Faith Wilkins the last time you talked to her?"
"No." His voice was steady, if weak-sounding. "No, its not going to be a problem. Is – is the baby okay?"
"According to the obstetrician, the baby is fine." Lilah passed him a photograph. It was a sonogram photo; he recognized them from seeing them on TV. It was mostly just gray static, but in the middle was a definite head, and arms. It was a baby. His baby. His and Faith's. "You can keep that, by the way."
Xander passed the photo on to Giles. The older man stared at it before handing it back."Excuse me, but how, exactly, do you know that Xander is the father?"
"Faith told Mr. Wilkins that she hadn't been with anyone but Mr. Harris. Of course that's hearsay, and thus not evidence. So we had a comparative DNA analysis done. A prenatal paternity test. There's a 97% match. You're the baby's father." Morgan produced another document. It looked scientific and medical and complicated. Xander glanced at it, tried to figure it out, and passed it to Van Owen and Giles.
"We'll have to have our own comparative test run..." Van Owen began.
"No. It's mine. I'm not going to contest being the father." Xander shook his head. "I got a question, though. A DNA test means you got my DNA from somewhere? Where did you get my DNA?"
"Sunnydale Memorial has your DNA sequence on record. Standard in child abuse cases." Lila Morgan shrugged at him.
"But... but I didn't give you permission to access my medical records. Don't you need my permission?"
"We subpoenaed your records." This time Lilah Morgan smirked.
"Without notifying me?" Xander looked to the judge.
"He has a point, Ms. Morgan." The judge arched an eyebrow. "Accessing his medical record, even with a subpoena, without notification is a violation of Mr. Harris's rights."
"We apologize, Your Honor. In the interest of expediency..."
"Uh-huh. And when was this test run?" The judge didn't look like he was buying it.
"The same day the gas main beneath Sunnydale High exploded, killing Mayor Wilkins. We felt that it would be faster, and thus better for Faith and her baby, if paternity..."
"Yes, I get it. I'm sure Miss Van Owen and her client get it to. And I'm sure that when the time comes, the settlement you offer Mr. Harris for damages because of your violation of his rights will be quite generous." The judge leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. "Mr. Harris, its my advice to you and your counsel that you hold off on any lawsuits until this particular issue is completed. Let's move on."
"Yes, Your Honor." Lilah looked appropriately chastised, but it only felt skin deep. She pulled a document from a file and put X's at certain points, including a signature and date line at the bottom. "Mr. Harris, if you'll initial here, here, and here, and sign and date here..." she handed the document over to Van Owen, who gave it a quick scan. "... this will confirm your assumption of Miss Wilkins' power-of-attorney. This one..." a second document was pulled and X'd. "... gives you Miss Wilkins' medical proxy. This one..." a third document. "... grants you access to the trust fund that Mr. Wilkins established to cover Miss Wilkins' needs, such as her medical care and her eventual education. Just so you are aware, its an interest bearing account and won't be running out of money any time soon."
"Okay, what am I doing?" Xander's question caused Lilah Morgan to pause, two more documents in her hand. She looked at the judge, who looked at Van Owen.
"You're assuming responsibility for the care of Faith Wilkins, Mr. Harris." The judge explained, patiently. "It was the wish of her late father than you assume his position as her caretaker, since you're the father of her child."
Xander stared at the documents. "Are there any traps in here?" he asked his attorney. "I'm not signing away my soul, am I?" He was looking right at Lilah Morgan when he said this. The judge and Van Owen both laughed, thinking he was kidding. Giles had warned him about Wolfram and Hart, though.
"Not that I can see. They're all fairly straight-forward. You're going to be able to make medical decisions for Faith Wilkins, and in order to care for her you're being allowed to access her money to pay for it. And the care of the baby, as well."
"Yeah, the baby. Wow." He still hadn't figured out what he was going to do about the baby. The thought that he was going to be a dad had hit him in between the eyes and was the primary reason why he wasn't fighting anything. Faith hadn't had the baby yet, which meant he had to take care of her, and if taking care of her for the rest of however long she'd survive in a coma was the price of having a son or daughter, he'd pay it. "So what's the deal with the baby, anyway? Is she... is Faith... she's in a coma, how does that work?"
"Mr. Harris, I do have two more documents I need you to sign." Morgan held the papers up.
"Right, sorry. Okay. Um. Hit me."
Morgan smirked again. "This one is acknowledgment of paternity and acceptance of full custody for the child." He signed it. "This last is a special codicil to Richard Wilkins' Last Will and Testament. It specifies that, should you accept power-of-attorney and medical proxy, not to mention custody of Mr. Wilkins' grandchild, he was bequeathing you the remainder of his estate, including all funds and properties not already disposed of by his will."
"He's leaving me his estate?" Xander was confused. Why would the mayor do that?
"Actually the overwhelming majority of his estate was liquefied and put into trust for Faith's care. Should the odds actually fall in her favor and she wakes up, she'll receive the remainder after her medical bills are paid as a trust until her eighteenth birthday. What the mayor left you was his house in Sunnydale and cash in the amount of $4.25 million. He wanted you and his grandchild to have a good life."
"Four and a quarter million? And a house?" Xander looked pale, suddenly.
Lilah Morgan nodded. "The Mayor was a rather wealthy man. In his will he stated that his grandchild was going to have a full and happy life, and to that end he left you the money so you could take of him... or her... to your fullest ability along with the child's mother."
"Right. Um... Your Honor, could we, uh... could we take a break?" Xander asked. "I need a drink of water. Maybe visit the restroom."
"Certainly. We're almost done here, anyway. Let's adjourn for ten minutes, stretch our legs, and so on." The judge stood, nodded to everyone, and exited. Giles and Xander followed with Miss Van Owen, while Lilah Morgan stayed where she was.
The three of them stopped next to the water fountain. Xander got a quick drink, then turned to Giles, outraged. "Can you believe this?"
"Actually, yes, I can believe it. This entire scheme is ingenious in its subtlety." Giles began cleaning his glasses. "What better way to tame an enemy than to force him into being an ally by playing on his better nature."
"What are the two of you talking about?" Van Owen asked. "What do you mean when you say 'enemies'? Is there something going on I should be aware of?"
Xander and Giles shared a look. "Miss Van Owen, the late Mayor of Sunnydale was, in a word, corrupt. It would not be out of line to describe him as a crime lord."
Xander picked up on it. "Yeah, he was a regular Vito Corleone. If you look into Sunnydale's crime statistics, you're gonna find all kinds of violent crime happening all over the place. Lots of other crime, too. And the Mayor was right in the middle of it, sitting there like a big evil spider on a big evil web. He coordinated the various street gangs active in Sunnydale and effectively turned them into a criminal army."
"And Faith..." Van Owen prompted.
"Faith was... let's say she was lured into criminal activity by a very charismatic, very evil man who manipulated the tragic nature of her background for his own ends." Giles held up a hand. "I'm not saying that he didn't honestly care for Faith. There's every evidence that he did, despite being a criminal mastermind. But the fact is, she was lured away and fell in with him, and he used her to perform certain tasks he needed done. Criminal tasks. She was eventually one of his lieutenants."
"And your involvement in all this?" Van Owen took the two men in, immediately aware that they were not telling her everything. She looked at them sharply. "Enemies. Mr. Harris, are you in one of the gangs?
"No. Absolutely not." Giles was angry at the implication. "We are both a part of a, uh, neighborhood watch group. On of those 'take back the night' initiatives, where young people patrol the town in groups, in an effort to discourage criminal activity. Xander here is one of the leaders of the effort. He's an honest and upright young man who I would be proud to call my own son."
"So what happened?" She turned to Xander.
"There was an accident. Someone got hurt, and it was Faith who did the hurting. She thought we were going to turn her over to the cops, have her imprisoned. So she ran. The Mayor took her in, took care of her, told her she was special. Played to her insecurities." Giles explained. "It was a masterful piece of brainwashing on his part."
"She was on the ragged edge before that, though. She didn't have a very nice childhood, and her foster mom was murdered in front of her." Xander shrugged. "I cared... I care... for her. Sure, she did some bad things, but... yeah. I just didn't expect any of this to happen. Damn it." Xander covered his face with his palms. His next words came out in a whisper. "Fine. Fine. It doesn't matter." His next words were so soft that Van Owen and Giles almost didn't hear them. "I'm still gonna taking care of you, Faith. I'm still helping you. I told you I'd be there for you, and I'm going to be there."
Van Owen cleared her throat to get Xander's attention. "I have a question, Mr. Harris. If Faith is a criminal, why is no one talking about it? You could avoid all of this as you call it, just by bringing up the fact that..."
"No. I'm not going to do that, and neither are you. She's in a coma. She's already being punished for what she did wrong." Xander's eyes got hard. "Its time to start forgiving, so I'm taking the first step and forgiving her." He nodded toward Giles. "I don't care what you or Willow or Buffy do, but I'm forgiving her. I'm taking that step."
He swallowed, forcing down his emotions. "And I want to make it clear, Giles. Crystal clear. I want all of you, all of my... my family... to be a part of this kid's life. I want him or her to know their Grampa Rupert and their Aunt Buffy and their Aunt Willow, but I swear to Jesus Christ himself that the moment one of you says an unkind word to this baby about its mommy, you'll be out of my life in a fucking heartbeat." Xander wiped at his eyes. "Faith's going to have my kid, and I'm not going to poison a baby against its mommy. I know how shitty it is to be a kid caught between your folks, with them each telling you what an asshole the other one is. I'm not playing that game. I'm not letting anyone play that game."
"Xander, that may well be the most mature thing I've ever heard you say. I'm proud of you for it." He straightened. "Which means I'll just have to endeavor to match it. If you need help with anything, anything at all, ask and I'll try."
"Thanks. Let's, uh, let's just get this done. I want to go home. There's a lot I need to do."
Author's Note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are the property of Warner Brothers. L.A. Law is the property of 20th Century Fox Television.
Author's Note the Second: This story just sort of sprung on me last night. I was intending to work on the next chapter of Origin Story but this came out of my head instead. I do intend to continue it, but this is a back-burner story (as opposed to Origin Story, Vintage Season, and The Devil in the Details, which is where my primary fanfic efforts are right now) and thus will be updated pretty slowly.
I don't do songfics. At least not the usual songfics that are text mixed with song lyrics (I hate those). But I do stories inspired by songs. This was inspired by the song from which it takes its title, "At This Moment", by Billy Vera and the Beaters. If you're unfamiliar, find it and listen to it. You absolutely will not regret doing so.