Chapter One: Reunion
She walked slowly down the street, her head down, unwilling to meet the eyes of passing strangers, arms wrapped tightly around her waist. It was cold, and she wondered if maybe she should’ve taken that jacket they offered her. It had been an old, disgusting piece of junk, nothing like the smooth leather she preferred so she’d just sneered in disgust and walked away without a word. Wouldn’t have been much in the way of fashion, but at least she wouldn’t be shivering so hard her teeth rattled. Oh well, too late now, and besides she deserved the cold, didn’t she? Why should she be warm after all the things she’d done? She smiled slightly. Seemed Angel had taught her something after all. Well, if you’re gonna do the whole guilt parade, might as well learn from the best, right?
What a fucking joke! All she’d learned from Angel was that people really didn’t stick around. He was all caught up in his shiny new life now. Way too busy to come see the chick who’d gotten herself a nice little jail sentence. Redemption. What the hell had she been thinking? That he’d come for regular visits and they’d have “deep meaningful” conversations and then maybe he’d love her just a little bit too, the way he’d always loved Buffy? Yeah, right. ‘Cause she looked so stunning in her prison grays and ratty hair, he wouldn’t be able to resist, right? Bastard.
Honestly though, what had she expected? She’d already learned over and over again that she didn’t deserve love. Why should Angel be any different? Why should he be the one guy that stuck around? Maybe she was being too harsh. He did have a lot going on; maybe he’d really meant to keep in touch. Then again, maybe he just hadn’t felt the need to bother. She wasn’t too eager to find out which one was true. Better not to know.
As she reached her destination, she slowly stopped walking. Well, here it was. The place she’d been walking around trying to avoid for hours. She wondered what he’d think when he saw her. Probably slam the door in her face. Oh fucking well. She had to at least try. Even if Angel had given up on her and she was alone in the world again, she still felt this annoying need to make amends.
Had she even apologized to him before? She didn’t remember. That night had been kind of a blur; running for her life, dealing with B’s scorn, and then the whole ‘doing the right thing’ routine with the cops. She was pretty sure he’d probably saved her ass. He could’ve let the Watcher thugs take her, helped them out even, it was no more than she’d deserved. But he hadn’t. He’d warned that they were coming, and she’d gotten away. She was pretty damn sure he hadn’t done it for her; the thought was so fucking ridiculous it hurt to think about it. But even if it wasn’t for her he had done it, and she’d never thanked him or said she was sorry. She owed it to him to at least give it a shot, then she’d get the hell out of his life and get on with trying to figure out her own.
As she watched, the door opened and a woman walked out. She looked like she’d been roughed up, but she had a big grin on her face as she draped herself all over a half naked Wesley. If Faith had been someone less experienced with the morning after a good fuck she might have been shocked and embarrassed at the length and depth of the couples goodbye kiss. Well, not so much a kiss as a goodbye grope and fondle. As it was she was mostly just surprised to see that Wesley was even into that sort of thing. She was even more surprised when she saw the woman’s face. It was Lily or Lilah or whatever from that law firm that had tried to kill Angel. A smile spread over her face as she realized this was definitely not the Wesley she had known. He even looked different. All rough and unshaven, pants barely thrown on. This was just fucking amazing. After Lilah left, Faith moved swiftly and rapped on the door.
“Back so soon?” Wesley asked with a smile. A smile that quickly disappeared as Faith stepped into the apartment.
“Well, well, well; what have we here? Sleeping with the enemy, Wes? Never knew you had it in ya. And the new look? I gotta say, I am just full of approval on that one. Turning into quite the stud there.” He slammed the door as she moved further into the room as if she owned the place.
“Ah, Faith. Finally busted out, I see. Didn’t think it’d take you quite this long. You must be losing your touch.”
“Such sarcasm! Looks really good on you so I hate to disappoint, but I got out all legal and aboveboard. Guess they could just see how much I’ve changed.” She heard his disbelieving snort and smiled as she turned to face him again. “Didn’t you get the memo? I’m a good little girl now.” She moved towards him. “I see things have changed around here though. While I was being all good and proper you went and turned all naughty on me. What gives?”
“As you’ve so astutely pointed out, things have changed. So if you’ve come looking for a punching bag to beat on, I’m afraid you’ll find it won’t be quite so easy this time.” Her face fell and the smile disappeared as she took in what he’d said. “What? No quick retort, no snappy comeback? My, my, Faith; you really have lost your touch.”
“Or maybe since I’m such a bad boy now, you thought you’d take me for a little test drive.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’re a good girl now. Well, as you can see, I don’t do good girls anymore.” He gave her a disgusted look and headed into the other room. “You know where the door is; I’m sure you can find your way out.” He was almost gone when she finally spoke up, her voice soft and tremulous,
“I came to say I’m sorry.” He stopped walking but didn’t turn around. “I know it doesn’t really make a difference to what I did to you, and I’ve managed to really fuck it up so far, but I don’t think I ever said it before. So… I’m sorry.” He didn’t say anything, just stood there all immovable. “Anyway, I’ll get out so you can get back to… whatever it is you do now.” Moving quickly, she yanked the door open, nearly ripping it off the hinges.
“Faith?” She refused to look at him. Fuck, she could do stony silence with the best of ‘em. “Do you have somewhere to go?”
“You know me; I always land on my feet.” God, she had to get out of here before she started crying or did something else equally girly. “I’ll manage; it’s one of the few things I’m good at.” He didn’t say anything, and she shifted uncomfortably. “We through here?”
“Thank you,” he said softly. “For the apology, I mean.” She glanced back over her shoulder, meeting his eyes briefly before looking away.
“Yeah. Whatever. Look, I gotta go; it’s been… special.” She slammed the door behind her and took a deep shaky breath. Why had she even bothered? It’s not like he gave a shit. What? She thought she could just go in, say sorry, and suddenly his life was changed all thanks to her? Sure. Like she ever made a difference in anyone’s life. God, she couldn’t even get an apology right. All sex and swagger; that was her. Busting in all big bad bitch and fucking everything up left and right. Dammit. Well, time to get the hell outta town. The sooner she left L.A., the better. This town was just sucking the life right out of her.
She’d come to apologize, and he’d been such a bastard. She’d glanced back at him when he’d said thank you and she’d looked so… lost. He understood the feeling, perhaps better than she’d ever know. After all, that’s why he was the way he was now. Being cold and bitter sure as hell beat the vulnerability and the searing pain that he lived with every day. Acting like a coldhearted bastard for long enough almost fooled him into thinking that’s who he really was, made the pain somehow less. Being with Lilah made him forget for awhile too. After all, if a cold bitch like her wanted him then maybe he was capable of being this new man he longed to be.
He was fooling himself, he knew. All it had taken was one sad doe-eyed look from her, and he’d felt like the lowest sort of scum. And then the pain came rushing back, making him feel again, making him wish things were different, that everything could be like before. But it never could. Things had changed; he had changed – maybe not as much as he’d like, but enough – and he couldn’t go back. Ever. Even if they asked, which, of course, they hadn’t. They came to him when they needed help, but they didn’t want him as a friend again. That much was obvious.
Maybe he should go after her, make sure she was going to be okay. He shook his head. Now that was a laugh. What the hell did he know about helping anyone anymore? She’d be better off without him tagging along after her trying to fix her, trying to make things better. He’d probably just been an item on a list to her anyway. Get out of jail, learn how to be bitchy again, apologize to Wesley for the unfortunate torture, find a place to stay – yeah, she was a big girl. She didn’t need him looking out for her. Still… maybe he’d just check around, make sure she was able to check off that last item on the list. No harm in making a few calls, right?
She was all the way inside the train station, waiting in the damn line when it struck her. How the hell was she supposed to pay for a fucking ticket? Yeah, she’d really thought this plan through. Walk two hours, wait another twenty minutes in line, and then remember you have no money. She was a fucking brain trust that was for sure. If these were the bad old days she could saunter into the ladies room, knock some poor bitch unconscious, and just like magic – traveling money. No hassle, no worry, just a little violence and problem solved. Yeah, those were the days, alright. Being a white hat sure was a pain in the ass.
She supposed she could fuck her way into some money, but that plan held even less appeal than the violent one. She had nothing against sex with a stranger. God, half the guys along the eastern seaboard knew that for a fact, but she’d always done it for fun. Doing it for money just seemed so… movie of the week. Desperate girl, down on her luck turns to prostitution to avoid a life on the streets. Yeah, whatever. She was no man’s whore, and she didn’t ever plan on that changing. Sex for her was definitely about power, but her power, not some random dick in a train station. Time to find a place to stay then. That would’ve been easier for the old her too, now she guessed she’d have to hit a women’s shelter. Yep, this being good thing definitely sucked major ass.
“What do you mean you didn’t know she was out of jail?”
“Just what I said, Wesley. I didn’t know; she didn’t let me know. I haven’t heard from her since before…” Angel paused a moment, “everything.”
“You mean, all this time, and you haven’t gone to see her?”
“Well, I kind of had a lot going on what with being at the bottom of the ocean.”
“She didn’t even have a jacket,” Wesley muttered, staring blankly at the floor.
“Nothing. Look, if you hear from her would you give me a call. I shouldn’t have let her leave without being sure…”
“Listen to you! Those old Watcher instincts rising to the surface again?” Wesley shook his head slightly.
“Just call if you hear anything alright?” Angel was silent, and he realized how harsh he’d sounded. Oh, who cares? He could be harsh if he felt like it. He really had very little patience for talking to Angel right now.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll let you know.”
“Thanks.” He heard Angel start to say something else, but hung up without letting him finish. Insensitive bastard. Didn’t even realize that he’d severed Faith’s only lifeline out of the darkness she’d been fighting for so long. But then Angel’s focus had shifted to something a little closer to home, hadn’t it? Best not to think about that. That way lay pain and guilt, and he’d had enough of that to last him a lifetime.
He grabbed his coat and headed for the door. Faith really must be feeling alone if the only person she’d come to see was him. And of course he hadn’t been very welcoming, although to be fair she hadn’t exactly acted like she’d changed much. Just seemed like the same old Faith until that broken little apology. Had to have been hard for her and pretty brave in the face of his scorn. He knew before he’d even made up his mind about what to do that he was getting too involved. Involvement meant pain, and he really wasn’t up for taking care of someone else’s damaged soul when his own was torn to shreds. He sighed; he couldn’t very well leave her on the street though, could he? No telling what might happen.
In the end she decided against a shelter. Those places were too depressing, all those weepy women running from their abusive men. Made her angry, angry at the women for having put up with that shit for so long, and angry at the men for thinking a dick gave them license to do as they pleased. Brought back too many bad memories, memories better left behind. So she wandered the streets. Yeah, this was so much better, what with the hookers and the homeless and the druggies all competing for the award of biggest fuck up. She laughed out loud and a couple street people gave her wary glances. That’s right, folks, this bitch is crazy. Stay back so she doesn’t hurt you! She’s liable to lose it any second now. She’d probably win that fuck up award hands down.
She wondered what Wesley was doing right now then shook her head in disgust. She didn’t know why she couldn’t get him off her mind. It was annoying, especially since he’d probably gone right back to his comfy life of evil lawyer fucking and friends who actually gave a shit about him. Although she wondered what those friends thought about his new bed buddy. Maybe they didn’t know. Or maybe he wasn’t friends with them anymore. Kinda wished she’d gotten that story out of him before storming out. But then she doubted he’d have been sharing confidences with her even if she’d stuck around. And why the fuck did she even care? Time to think about something else.
Like this guy that had been following her the past six blocks. She smiled slightly, a bit of her old self returning. If this guy thought he’d found an easy mark, boy was he in for a surprise. Maybe kicking this prick’s ass would help jolt her out of her annoying thoughts. She ducked down a dark alley and her smile grew wider when he followed. Yeah, this was gonna be fun. She stopped suddenly, turning around and giving her best scared helpless girl look.
“Who- who’s there?” she asked. Wow, that little tremor really made things seem authentic. Seemed she’d picked up a little acting skill, maybe she could make the big time. This was L.A. after all. She couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face, but the alley was pretty dark so she figured it probably didn’t matter. The guy moved closer and she could tell he was pretty big. Better and better, it was even more humiliating for the big ones when they got their asses handed to ‘em by a little girl.
“Don’t you know it’s dangerous to roam around dark alleys at night?”
“Wow, that’s what I was gonna say. You must be psychic or something.” She smiled and he took another step closer. That’s when she saw the gun. Fuck, maybe this hadn’t been such a brilliant idea after all. She could probably still take him, but a gun was a lot more dangerous than some jacked up hard body looking for a good time, and she was a little out of practice at dodging bullets. How did she always get into these situations? Too cocky, never thinking things through, going for the fun instead of worrying about her own ass - that about covered it, she figured. Well, too late for thinking things through now. She’d already fucked it up; now all she had to do was get out alive.
She stepped forward, preparing for battle when the jerk suddenly grunted in pain. She watched, puzzled as he crumpled to the ground, the gun skittering out of his hand and across the pavement. Her eyes widened in surprise when she looked and saw Wesley gripping a crowbar.
“Knew I’d find you wherever trouble was brewing.”