Memories of his childhood weren’t pleasant ones; that was one thing they had in common. His were filled with lectures; lessons; stern, disapproving looks from a father he could never please; whippings; long hours spent locked in darkness beneath the stairs and then later, as he grew, the relative tranquillity of the months away from home attending school.
Hers were filled with neglect; abuse, both physical and sexual from her mother’s endless stream of ‘friends’; a drunken mother who forgot to feed her for days on end until she took matters into her own hands, learning to fend for herself using whatever means possible.
He knew, now, why Faith was being so obstinate about wanting to find a place to settle; a place where they could build a home of sorts. She wanted to give the boy what neither of them had; happy memories. Something about the child brought out a softer, caring side to his fearsome slayer; maternal, nurturing even. A side he’d never have imagined was there, hidden beneath a hard protective shell and layers of bravado and hurt.
He’d catch her sometimes, when she thought she was unobserved, playing a game with Connor. She’d tickle him until he giggled helplessly and then cuddle him close and sooth the resulting hiccups. Her face softened when she looked at the boy, a gentle smile curving her lips and hushed words muttered against his cheek, words for them alone.
At these times he would often find a harsh, irrational stab of jealousy twisting in his gut. That this child, the son of two beings who’d wrought such horrors upon this earth should be deserving of such gently bestowed affection.
His mother’s affections were rarely given, an occasional smile of encouragement, a brief flash of pride in her eyes before they quickly dropped away. He remembered once when he was small, sometime before he’d started school, he had been deemed by his Latin tutor as having committed some reprehensible sin or another and had been called before his father. His mother had tousled his hair—he remembered that clearly because it was the last time he remembered her showing him any physically sign of affection—and spoken up in his defence. His father’s response had been both swift and unconditional. He remembered vividly the blood that had fallen from his mother’s lip, staining the pristine white of her blouse. The deep purpling on her cheek had lasted far longer than the welts his father’s belt had raised on his backside. The absence of his mother’s love had left an even longer lasting bruise.
Faith was right. The child deserved the chance to have more than they’d been given. He would see what he could do about finding somewhere safe, somewhere they could make a home, somewhere they could watch a small boy grow into a man. A place where they could learn to let go of the past. Perhaps they also deserved the chance.