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Through the thick of it

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Karen paced nervously as she waited for Frank to show up. He already knew about her relationship with her girlfriend, but Frank hadn't really met her. She wasn't even sure how he felt about it. She and Frank had...she didn't know what they had. There was something between them, it didn't go away. He hadn't seemed mad, surprised definitely.

Frank's form appeared walking towards her, as Karen stood across from the seedy motel Faith insisted on staying at. He frowned a little seeing the outright fear on her face. She launched herself at him and hugged him and for a moment he just held her stroking her hair. "Karen, what's going on?"

"It's Faith...you remember when I told you she reminds me of you a little?" Karen drew in a breath as Frank nodded, actually quirking the smallest bit of a smile, "Not all of the similar traits are good, she's been showing up with cuts, bruises...I swear I saw a knife wound once, I think she might have broken some ribs but she wouldn't tell me...but this time...it's bad and she refuses to go to the hospital."

Frank frowned and nodded slowly, "You know why?"

"No, I have no idea," Karen frowned, "Can you please take a look at her?"

Frank smoothed down her hair and nodded. If she was too bad he'd call Curtis, but hopefully, it was something he could field dress. He glanced around at the seedy area unable to stop himself from thinking neither woman should be there. It wasn't the best area of town, the motel looked like one that should charge by the hour.

When Karen opened the door she immediately gasped, "Faith...What are you doing? Don't drink that it'll thin your blood more."

Frank stepped in and saw an attractive brunette sitting on the edge of the bed, with a bottle of Jack to her lips. He blinked a little, he didn't know what he'd expected from a woman Karen would date but for some reason, this wasn't it.

Jack Daniels, leather and the heavy smell of cigarettes in the room. There was a knife sitting on the nightstand next to her, and a few empty bottles of liquor and pack of Marlboros scattered about. A duffle bag that was shoved mostly under the bed, no doubt so she could easily pack up and leave. He couldn't help but think perhaps Karen had a type...and the type wasn't good for her.

"Blood? There's not much of that in there, mostly just whiskey," Her eyes fell on Frank, regarding him with something he could only identify as suspicion. She was pale as if she'd lost a lot of blood, dark circles were under her eyes but she seemed to be handling it well.

"Faith this is my friend P-..." she started to give Faith his fake name but she cut Karen off.

"Anyone that's watched the news around here in the past couple months knows who he is," Faith commented.

"Right...Faith, this is Frank...Frank this is Faith," Karen let out a bit of nervous laughter, "He's agreed to help."

"Karen...I'm fine, I'm telling you it's nothing, I've had WAY worse," Faith insisted.

Frank quirked an eyebrow, even he didn't believe her, "Karen's worrier, that's what she does, 'course, it doesn't help that she tends to surround herself with people that tend to do things to make her worry."

He took a few steps closer trying to figure out where she was injured, but he stopped when he saw her tense, her whiskey-colored eyes darting to him.

"Faith...it's okay...you can trust him, Frank's a good guy," Karen told her reaching out to Faith and running a hand through her hair.

"I'm just here to help," Frank added, he watched as it seemed to hurt her to breathe, "Show me."

Faith's eyes darted up to Karen and then to Frank shifting to face him as she regarded him. She looked at Karen once more before standing up and tugging off her shirt. There was a blood-soaked bandage over a spot at her lower abdomen on the left side, immediately Frank wondered if it hit her kidney.

"What happened?" Frank asked approaching slowly.

Faith looked away immediately and shrugged sheepishly, "I got in a fight...you should see the other guys."

As Frank looked her over, she didn't look like she was lying. Her knuckles were scraped up and swollen possibly broken, she had bruises littering her arms, there was one around her neck as if someone grabbed her. His eyes darkened as he moved to remove her bandage, "Looks like it was one hell of a fight..." his voice trailed off when he saw the round hole in her torso...an entry wound, he looked at her back and pulled off that bandage and found another hole, the exit wound, "What the hell?"

"Karen get me a towel now," Frank said quickly as blood started to ooze out immediately, it wasn't long before he had a white motel towel in his hand, "You can't stitch that, might be able to cauterize it though, I think for now we can pack it with gauze and see how it heals on its own, the bandages will need to be changed frequently and you're gonna need antibiotics...what did this?...this ain't a bullet wound..."

Faith hesitated her jaw tightening a little, clearly very hesitant to say. Frank wasn't relenting though. Something was very clearly going on here. This wasn't just a simple fight, and she refused to go to a hospital to boot. She was doing something she shouldn't be. His dark eyes focused on hers not saying a word but he wasn't going to let this go. He kept the pressure on both the entry and exit wound, Karen was already collecting a bunch of gauze, she'd paused to look at Faith as well.

"Rebar," she admitted after a moment of silence. She used that silence to come up with a plausible lie, one that was close enough to the truth to be semi-believable. The truth was far less believable.

Karen went pale and her hand went to her mouth, "You were impaled on Rebar? Faith what the HELL were you doing?"

"Look I can't tell you everything, client confidentiality, and all that shit, the boss is a stickler about it, I tracked this dude for a client to a construction site, he was meeting up with a few other guys, they caught me there because part of the floor started to give, not so structurally sound, I was able to move before I fell but those guys jumped me, I fought them...was doin' pretty good until one of them kicked me through a hole in the floor, I fell a story down and landed on a peice of rebar, lucky me, it stopped me from cracking my head open on the floor, I had to rip myself off of it."

It wasn't ALL a lie, they were demons...not guys...and Faith was caught because they SMELLED her, and she was lifted up and slammed in the rebar so they could get away.

Karen's eyes grew and her hand was still pressed firmly against her mouth. One shaky hand handed Frank all the gauze she could find. Her eyes dragged over Faith again, the bruises, the cuts...she still felt like Faith should be in worse condition than she was.

"This didn't happen tonight..." Frank said flatly now staring intently at her.

"Two days ago..." Faith confirmed. It had happened 12 hours ago, she hadn't seen Karen for three days so it worked out. Her more superficial wounds had started healing already.

"Faith you could have died," Karen breathed out her voice raising an octave, the concern laced in her words. Her eyes had started to water, Frank had just calmed down started a new life, but now she apparently had Faith to worry about too. She didn't know how she just sniffed out people like this.

"Karen told me you were a PI, but I ain't seen a PI go through some shit like this," Frank said flatly.

"Yeah well, we don't do the cheating spouses bit that most do, we take jobs no one else can," Faith told him honestly, some part of her wanted to tell him just to mind his damned business. However, another part of her could tell that she WAS his business, and she had been long before she came around.

"What were you supposed to do when you got there?" Frank asked her.

"Just watch and snap a few pictures of the people he met up with so we can figure out who they are," Faith replied.

"How many were there?" Frank asked her, his voice sounding for all intents and purposes like he was interrogating her, while he worked on patching her up, "I need something to clean this with."

Faith handed him the bottle she'd been drinking out of and he stared at her for a moment, "There were five, the guy I was trailing and four others."

"This is gonna hurt like hell ya know?" Frank looked from her to the liquor in his hands, then paused, "Five?" he quirked an eyebrow.

"Just do it," Faith said flatly, Karen had moved to her side now offering Faith her hand, but Faith shook her head, she'd shatter Karen's hand, "It's okay...definitely not the first time..." She only took Karen's hand to kiss it lightly before letting it go and gripping the bed.

"Karen, keep the pressure on the wound for a minute," Frank said, making a note to question her further after he was done patching her up. He stood letting Karen take over as he grabbed two washcloths from the bathroom soaking both in liquor.

"Faith, I really wish you would have told me you were doing something this dangerous," Karen said softly her trembling hands keeping the pressure on the wounds as instructed, "I don't even know how you can even function."

"Wasn't supposed to tell you," Faith said flatly but offered her a small smile, "Liquor and sheer spite."

She cracked the barest hint of a smile as Frank rejoined them, handing her back the bottle. Faith took it from him and finished the remaining amount. It wouldn't be enough to numb the pain. As a Slayer, she needed a lot more liquor than a normal person and considering the amount she drank, she had a high tolerance even for a Slayer.

"Alright, Karen..." Frank told her and she moved the towels, "Faith, you ready?"

"Just do it," Faith told him taking a deep breath and gripping the edge of the bed.

Frank pressed the first rag to her wound, letting the liquid soak the area using it to wipe away the blood. She let out and cry of pain and she panted her head turning upwards to look at the ceiling as colorful curse words slipped from her lips. To her credit though...she didn't move, she didn't thrash around nor pull away from him. He packed that side with gauze, before moving to her back, repeating the action. This time she let out a strangled cry as he cleaned it he could feel her muscles trembling but even then she held relatively still. He packed that side as well then put a bandage on it, as Karen took it upon herself to bandage the opposite side.

"Got an ace bandage?" Frank asked her.

"Top drawer," She muttered still feeling heady from the pain. Karen was running her hand through her hair to soothe Faith as she tried to steady her breaths.

Frank opened the drawer, and frowned a little finding a pointy wooden...stake? There were a few more items...another bottle of liquor, the motel bible, a sewing kit, he presumed she probably used to stitch herself up and the ace bandage. He plucked it out and used it to wrap up her entire torso firmly but lose enough to keep from constricting her breathing.

"Faith...you said you fought off five men?" Frank arched an eyebrow, "Not exactly an everyday skill."

"A shame isn't it? Should be..." Faith chuckled then winced in pain.

"Where'd you learn to do that?" he asked her.

"From a stuffy British woman that could kill a man wearing heels and a pencil skirt," Faith smiled fondly, but sadness soon touched her eyes. Diana Dormer was her first Watcher and the closest thing Faith ever had to a parent. She still had nightmares of Kakistos ripping her in half before her eyes.

"She's dead..." Frank said gently, watching Faith for a moment, he knew that look, he knew it because he saw it in the mirror, "and you saw it didn't you?" He could tell whoever the woman was, they'd been close.

She looked away from him but nodded slowly, swallowing a lump in her throat. He was observant, way too observant if you asked her. He was still looking at her like he was trying to piece her together, she knew he was missing far too many puzzle pieces for that though.

"Sorry about yer loss," he told her with a certain sincerity in his voice that made her look back at him then lower her head.

She shrugged a little, "It was a long time ago."

"Doesn't make it hurt any less, Was she family?" Frank asked. He could tell he was pushing a few boundaries, she didn't talk about it. He could tell because of the way Karen was looking at her. Somewhere between sympathy and surprise.

"...Closest thing I ever had to it," she muttered, then quickly rearranged her face into something more neutral, "Look I appreciate the help and all, but I'm fine, hazards of the job, I knew that when I took the job, it isn't the first or the last time I'll get hurt."

Karen recognized immediately when Faith wasn't going to offer any more information. She did have to marvel at the way Frank handled Faith, patient, firm and honest. It was the way you had to be with her to make any headway and instinctively he seemed to know this, "Does your boss...um...Angel, you said his name was? Does he know you're hurt?"

"Y'up, I mean I didn't tell him I was turned into a shishkabob but I told him I needed a day or two," Faith shrugged, "It's not like there's workman's comp."

"Faith...is it legal?" Karen asked after a moment.

"His business? Yeah, his clients are good people, we don't handle any that aren't, I can't say our methods are always legal, but ya do what ya gotta to help people," Faith shrugged, "Half the time that bastard doesn't even bother to ask them to pay," she rolled her eyes.

"You're working for free?" Karen's eyebrows furrowed more.

"Angel's got a problem asking people for money," Faith shrugged a little.

Karen scrubbed a hand over her face and looked at Frank who was quietly taking this in. Karen paced the room a bit discreetly reaching out to palm one of the Angel Investigations business cards that lay on the table.

"Not much of a businessman..." Frank commented.

"Nah, he's not, he's just a bleeding heart with...not to go all Liam Neeson, but a bleeding heart with a particular set of skills," Faith chuckled lightly, though neither seemed to be amused. Frank had a pensive look on his face and Karen looked worried," Karen relax, I'll be fine, shit happens sometimes."

"Yeah like....getting impaled on a piece of rebar is something that happens occasionally," Karen frowned with frustration.

Faith sighed running her hands through her hair. She didn't know how she ended up in a relationship, to begin with, it didn't start that way but at some point...it became that way. She didn't DO relationships and this was one of the reasons why. Thankfully her phone rang and she quickly grabbed it off the dresser, "Yeah, Connor what's up?" she frowned a little as the boy didn't normally call her.

"Whoa whoa whoa, what do you mean odd?" Faith frowned deeply, "Like...how odd?"

Frank watched her intently as worry settled on to her face, and if he wasn't mistaken, fear came next.

"Fuck...me...I hope you're wrong, maybe he's just grouchy?" Faith tried, "A girl can dream right? I'll be there in a few," she hung up the phone and stood up with a light groan drawing in a sharp breath as she pulled her shirt back on.

"Faith...where are you going?" Karen demanded, "You need rest."

"Angel's is havin' an issue and his kid needs help with it, no rest for the wicked," Faith muttered with a light shrug.

"You can bleed out if you're up and moving around like that," Frank said flatly.

"Whatever it is, he needs to deal with it himself, you already told him..." Karen started.

"I know what I told him," Faith said firmly, "and if this was something he could deal with himself, I would let him, but he can't and neither can his son," she started putting on her boots, she grabbed her jacket then the wooden stake from the drawer, this time Frank openly giving the weapon an odd look, "They get passed metal detectors," she said with a shrug, but then grabbed the knife that lay on the top of the drawer and sheathed it at the small of her back.

"What kind of issue with your boss needs weapons?" Frank asked crossing his arms and narrowing his eyes a little.

"The kind where someone might need an ass-whoopin'," Faith grumbled really getting tired of the third degree.

"Then let me help," Frank offered and Karen frowned a little.

"Nope," she said tersely, she went to grab her keys but Frank moved faster and picked them up, holding them in his hand. She frowned deeply, and looked to Karen, "Get your friend before I whoop his ass, I got shit to do."

Karen's eyes bounced between them, she didn't want to tell Faith that she wasn't too concerned about her hurting him. She wasn't even concerned that Frank would hurt Faith, she was more concerned Faith would hurt herself. She wasn't really sure if she should tell Frank to just let her go, or tell Faith to just lay down and get some rest and deal with whatever it was tomorrow.

"If you've got shit to do, it'll go faster if you let me help you," Frank said flatly.

Faith stepped closer to him, her eyes boring into him, "Karen..."

"Faith...maybe you could just wait and deal with it tomorrow...you drank a lot..." Karen noted.

Faith sighed heavily scrubbing at her face, and with a sudden movement, her fist shot out like a snake striking its prey, striking him directly in the jaw.

Frank was utterly surprised to find himself on the ground, her keys flying out of his hand. She grabbed them and stalked for the door.

"God damn..." Frank muttered rubbing his jaw, and pushing himself to his feet, "She's a lot stronger than she looks."

Karen quickly moved to his side wincing at the swollen purplish lump quickly forming, "Frank I'm so sorry..."

Frank grabbed his jaw and with a grunt and a sickening pop he put it back into place, opening and closing his mouth a few times to test it. He smiled a bit and put a hand on Karen's shoulder, "I see why you like her," he paused, "Karen go get some rest, I'll follow her, Do you know where she works?"

Karen opened her hand and held out the business card she'd taken, first pulling out her phone and snapping a picture of it before giving it to him, "Frank you know you don't have to do this," she said quietly, "You don't even really know her."

Frank leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, "If she's important to you, then she's important to me, I'll keep my distance, make sure she doesn't get hurt, if she doesn't need help, she'll never know I'm there."

Karen drew in a breath and nodded, "Please be careful, I can't deal with worrying about BOTH of you," she sighed flopping down on her bed, "I guess I'll head home, please, call me as soon as you know something."

"Yeah, get outta this shit hole, you need to talk her out of it too," Frank looked around disdainfully, more worried something would happen to one of them there than about the actual quality of the motel.

"I've tried, she said it reminds her of home," Karen shook her head, "Don't worry, I'm armed."

"Good, I'll walk you to your car anyway, and give you a call later," Frank told her, holding the door open for her.