Chapter Eight: Guilt and Desperation
It was funny how despair brought such clarity. Every word, every thought cut into her with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel; emotions were clearer and time seemed to slow as she spent her last moments with Angel. Soon that teasing light in his eyes would turn to disgust and disappointment and all she would have would be the memories of their time together. She wondered if he had any idea of how she really felt about him. She guessed it didn’t really matter what he knew; soon she’d be gone and he’d probably be glad to be rid of her.
“I don’t know though. What do you think?” She glanced up and gave his question some serious thought before answering.
“Well, the duster is okay, but I think the shorter jacket looks better. You should try going without a coat once in a while; see how that look works for you.” She grinned impishly. “I mean, you don’t have to be the dark prince all the time. Try throwing a little color into your ensemble every now and then. You know, mix it up.”
“I wear black because it’s easy to match. I can’t stare into the mirror for hours like you do checking out my ‘look’ every time we go somewhere.” She whipped a fry at him in mock indignation.
“I do not stare into the mirror for hours!”
“I guess it just seems like hours when I’m waiting.”
“What are you complaining about; don’t you have, like, eternity? It’s not like it’s gonna kill you to wait a few minutes.”
“Yeah, but you’re trying to keep a low profile. When you go out looking all gorgeous it only means more people notice you.” She smiled.
“Gorgeous, huh? You sure know how to feed a girl’s ego.” She eyed him seriously for a second.
“I’m trying to decide if we should do something about your hair.”
“What’s wrong with my hair?”
“Well, you’ve kinda got bed head. It sorta suits you though, hence the indecision.”
“‘Bed head’ suits me? Is that an insult?”
“No! I like it. It’s kind of tousled and sexy…” She broke off, blushing and muttered, “You know what I mean.” The corner of his mouth twitched as he held back a smile. She picked up her burger and took a bite. She’d thought it would be difficult to smile and joke considering what she had planned for later, but somehow he brought it out effortlessly. For brief periods of time she was able to forget that she intended to kill someone tonight and just immerse herself in the friendly atmosphere of teasing and conversation.
Spike had never been one of Angel’s biggest fans. She wondered if they might have been friends under different circumstances. She wondered what he would think if he knew she was harboring feelings for his enemy. Guilt hit her hard, but she pushed it aside. She was doing what she had to for Spike later; now was for her.
“You feel like sparring after you’re through eating?”
“Sure,” she replied. “I got a little time to kick your ass.”
“Feeling a little cocky tonight, huh?”
“It’s not being cocky when it’s the truth.” She smiled when he gave her a gentle shove. “It’ll be good to work out a little tension.”
“What are you tense about?” Her smile faltered, but she covered easily.
“You know I get twitchy ‘cause I haven’t been able to make with the slaying.”
“Yeah, it just sounded like maybe there was something else.” She shook her head silently, unable to look him in the eye.
“Nope. Just plain old stir-craziness.” She downed the rest of her burger, and took a swig of her soda. “You ready?”
“Bring it on.”
Circling him, her senses attuned to even the slightest twitch of his body, she felt almost at peace. This she knew; this she understood. The thrill of the hunt, the clarity of the fight; it was as necessary to her as breathing, and as enjoyable as sex. Sparring with Angel was a little different than regular slaying, of course. The obvious reason being she didn’t kill him in the end, but there was more to it than that. With slaying the hunt and the fight called to a dark side of her, a side that enjoyed the final deadly outcome. With Angel her enjoyment was based in lighter emotions. It was enjoyable not because of the killing, but because of the exhilaration that raced down her spine at matching him move for move, the suspense of who would win the competition this time. It was fun, and her life of late had been sorely lacking in that department.
They fought until they were bruised and exhausted, neither one willing to concede defeat. Faith was trying to decide if she should just call it a draw when he caught her in the head with a roundhouse kick, and she dropped like a stone. He pinned her easily and she wondered how he had suddenly gained the advantage. She tried to buck him off, but decided it was just easier to score this one as his victory. With a weary sigh she relaxed.
“Looks like you won.”
“So you gonna let me up now.” He rolled sideways to lie on the floor. Faith remained flat on her back as she turned her head slightly to look at him. “I have to say, that was pretty intense.” His fingers gently probed his side and he winced.
“I think you cracked a rib.” She smiled and touched her tongue to her bottom lip.
“You split my lip.” He laughed raggedly.
“Yeah, that’s the same.” She rolled towards him, reaching out to touch his ribcage.
“Which one?” He guided her hand to the spot, wincing as she ran her fingertips over the sore spot. “I’m sorry. Are you gonna be alright?”
“Right. I’m still sorry.” He smiled and threaded his fingers through hers.
“I’m fine; it was fun. Although I was beginning to think we might go all night.” She laughed at his phrasing and he shot her a look. “With the fighting.” She lay there watching him and her smile faded away as she realized how late it was. It was just about time to tell Angel goodnight; she needed to get ready for later. He glanced over, catching her look and tugged on her hand. “Why are you sad?” She looked away, upset that he’d noticed.
“You were just looking at me, and your eyes were all big and sad. You’ve been looking like that a lot lately.” She pulled her hand away and sat up; she couldn’t look at him and lie.
“It’s just personal stuff. I’ve been thinking about Spike alot.” Okay, not a complete lie.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No!” she snapped. She looked at him, apology in her eyes and said softly, “No, I- I can’t, not yet. It’s just too…” He sat up and turned her to face him.
“Hey,” His voice was gentle as he tipped her chin up slightly. “It’s okay. I’m just…here if you ever do want to talk.” She looked at him, his face so sweet and serious, and thought she might cry. She put on a smile for his benefit and caught him off guard with a hug.
“You’ve been such a great friend; you mean more to me than you’ll ever know.”
“You sound like you’re saying goodbye.” She let out a brittle laugh.
“Of course not. It just means a lot to me that you’re here for me.” Without thinking she hugged him even tighter.
“Sorry,” she laughed, releasing him. She rubbed his side soothingly and then got to her feet. “I had better get to bed; that fight really took it outta me.” She yawned for effect as she offered him a hand up. “You’ll be okay?” He nodded.
“I’m fine. I’ve been hurt a hell of a lot worse than this before.”
“I know; I just worry.” She took a long look at his face, memorizing his expression. It was that perfect mix of happiness, teasing, and affection, and she wanted to be able to remember it when he looked at her with disgust later, to remember that they had been friends before she ruined it. She started to turn away, but he tightened his grip on her hand and pulled her back.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” She didn’t even bother faking a smile this time; she just looked at him silently and nodded. Then she turned her back on him and walked away. She barely made it to her room before the tears came.
Lying there in the dark, she tried not to think. If she thought about it too much she might decide not to go through with it. If she thought about it long enough she might walk out of this room and tell Angel the whole sad story. Then he’d talk her out of it, she’d cry for the millionth time since coming here, and he’d hold her. Spike would still die in the future, it would be all her fault again, and she would have traded his life for a few moments of comfort. So she pushed it from her mind and focused on the time, trying to figure out how long she needed to wait. She knew Angel wouldn’t be going to bed, but she wanted to make sure she waited long enough that he wouldn’t be right outside when she left. A loud knock on the door startled her and she bit back a scream. God, she was just a big ball of nerves! Another knock, softer this time and she hurried to the door.
“I’m going out for a bit, just wanted to let you know.” She pulled the door open.
“Um, where ya goin’?” He shrugged.
“Faith, the other one, said there’d been a lot of vampire activity recently over near Restfield. Thought I’d check it out.” She breathed a sigh of relief. Restfield was in the opposite direction of where she needed to go.
“Okay. I’d offer to help, but I’m wicked tired.”
“Better for you stay out of sight anyway.” He looked at her silently for a moment, his gaze intense and then, “Get some sleep; I’ll see you later.” She nodded and closed the door as he turned to go. She rested her head on the door briefly and then slowly got ready to go. She pulled on dark clothes, a hat and gloves, hoping they would disguise who she was if Buffy or the other Faith were out. She moved to retrieve the satchel she’d hidden after one of her first few trips into town. Opening it, she removed a small wooden box, and opened the lid to look inside; the contents had cost a lot, but she had wanted to make sure she got the good stuff. She debated whether or not she should bring the other item in the bag. She drew it out of its leather sheath and examined it closely; the dagger was both beautiful and frightening, and she didn’t really want to use it. She slipped it back in the sheath, looked at it for another second and then tucked it in her belt. Just in case, she thought.
The walk there seemed to take hours, and she jumped at every noise she heard. She couldn’t believe she was going through with this; it went against everything she believed in and everything she stood for. She laughed bitterly. I guess this is what happens when your boyfriend is a vampire. Only she doubted Spike would approve of what she was doing. Odd how much he’d changed in the time they’d been together. He’d become one of the good guys, and she’d become the kind of girl who committed murder for purely selfish reasons. She wondered if he’d still love her after this. Maybe she didn’t have to tell him. Maybe I won’t be around to tell him.
When she got there she just stood and stared for a long time. She remembered staying at this motel when she’d first come to Sunnydale; it looked darker and lonelier than before, but that was probably just her mood. She experienced a panicked moment when she couldn’t remember the room number, but then it came to her and she wondered how she’d managed to let it slip her mind. Her brain’s last attempt to stop her from going through with it, she imagined.
She took a quick look around before heading towards the room. Standing to the side of the door she gave it a quick rap and then pulled back out of sight. After a couple seconds and not even a ‘who is it?’ the door opened. Idiot! Who just opens the door on the Hellmouth? She brought her arm up quickly in a stinging blow; elbow to the face, dropped like a stone. Stepping into the room, she crouched down and her face filled with sadness. She reached out and gently touched the bruise already forming, her voice barely even a whisper,
“I’m sorry, Wesley.”
She had dragged him inside and tied him to the chair to wait while she prepared the syringe. She blindfolded him just in case he woke up before she was ready; she didn’t think she could bear it if he knew who she was. She flipped open the box and took out the bottle of pentobarbital and the needle. She wanted to give him enough to at least knock him out, but she wasn’t sure if she should give him an overdose or just knock him out and then snap his neck. While she knew the dosage needed to sedate him she wasn’t sure how much was needed to kill him. She didn’t want to leave the job half done; that wouldn’t be good for her or Wesley. Snap his neck, she decided and then had to put out a hand to steady herself as a wave of nausea hit her.
The injection went smoothly, and she was happy that he wouldn’t experience any pain. She felt like she should hate him, hating him might make this easier, but she didn’t and that made it worse somehow. She set the used syringe down and moved behind him, taking hold of his head. She leaned her cheek against his hair for a moment, her determination slipping away now that she faced the reality of it. She took a breath and when she lifted her head the door was open.
“Angel?” Her brain couldn’t seem to process what was happening.
“Faith, you don’t want to do this.” He knew! How did he know?
“How did you find me?”
“I followed you.” She still didn’t understand.
“I thought you left to- to…patrol.”
“You’ve been acting strange, especially tonight. I wanted to find out what was going on.” He took a step forward and her brain finally kicked into gear as she fumbled for her knife. She almost dropped it as she pulled it out but, recovering quickly, she held it to Wesley’s throat.
“Back off, Angel! This doesn’t concern you.” She tried to sound angry, but her voice broke and she just wound up sounding scared. Angel stopped when he saw the dagger, but his voice was gentle,
“It concerns me when you’re getting ready to kill a man.” She shook her head slightly.
“You don’t understand. This is the only way.”
“The only way to do what?”
“He killed Spike. This… this is the only way to be sure that never happens!”
“There are other ways, better ways. You can’t do it like this.” He took a step forward. Faith’s lip trembled as she shook her head again in denial.
“No. No, I…have to. I- this is what has to happen. You,” she looked at him and then quickly away, “You can’t…you can’t stop me.”
“Faith, you don’t want to do this. You don’t want to go down this road. Believe me. Killing a human… murdering a defenseless man… this will change you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. This isn’t who you are. Please,” he paused, “don’t do this.” He moved further into the room and her hand shook.
“He… killed Spike.” Her eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill over. “He and that- that group of his; they waited for me to leave. They knew. They knew about the chip. They knew he couldn’t defend himself; that he wouldn’t be able to fight back. And they still came. They came in and, and they… they killed him. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there!” A sob broke free and she tried desperately to hold back her tears. “Don’t you see? He…has to die. I have to stop him this time.” Angel moved closer and shook his head slightly.
“You’ve already changed the future so much; you can’t be sure that will even happen. You have to trust me. You have to trust me to help you. We can find another way.” He stood only a couple feet away now. He held a hand out to her and she wavered. “Do you trust me?” Their eyes met and she saw sympathy and concern where she had expected to see only disgust. Her hand lowered slightly. “Faith?”
“I trust you,” she whispered, and the knife fell to the floor as she let go of Wesley. When she started to collapse Angel rushed forward to catch her. As his arms closed around her she began to sob, her words an incoherent mumble. “I just wanted to save him. I wasn’t there…to save him.” He held her tightly as she completely broke down, finally letting go of the guilt she’d been carrying for so long.
She didn’t remember leaving or going home, but when she woke up they were at the mansion and Angel still held her in his arms as he slept. She touched his cheek, his face so innocent in repose, his body unnaturally still, and she wondered why he should be so good to her. So understanding. She felt sad that such a wonderful man had to spend his life alone. He had so much love to give; he deserved the chance to be happy.
Maybe she could ask Eliana about that; maybe there was something she could do. Faith bit her lip as she realized Eliana wasn’t likely to be granting her any favors after what she had done. Faith hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with her plan to kill Wesley. She was supposed to be here to save lives not take them. Eliana would be very disappointed in her.
As she watched, Angel’s eyes opened and for a moment he just stared at her. She wondered what he was thinking. He was probably very upset with her; she had kept things from him, snuck around behind his back, and nearly killed someone. She braced herself for a lecture.
“Are you alright?” he asked softly. She blinked in surprise and nodded. Then she jerked upright.
“Wesley! Is he- what-”
“I called Giles. Everything is fine.” She looked at him nervously. “I didn’t tell him it was you; all he knows is that someone drugged Wesley. Giles took him to the hospital and he checked out okay.” She slumped back down on the bed in relief.
“How did you explain finding him?”
“Told him I heard a commotion, and when I checked it out the guy was dragging Wes inside the room. Guy got away, I called Giles.”
“I’m sorry you had to lie for me.” Their eyes met and he reached for her hand.
“You should have told me.” She closed her eyes sadly.
“I wanted to, but…”
“You were scared and confused.” She nodded, and when she looked at him his eyes were filled with emotion.
“You don’t have to try to be so brave all the time, Faith. You’re not alone anymore.” For a second she thought she might cry again, but instead she gave him a tremulous smile and moved to hug him.