Character(s): Faith, Wesley, rest of the Angel posse
Warnings/Notes: The odd bit of violence; AU; set mid season 3. I’m not sure my version of Faith here really tracks here with her later appearances on Angel and Buffy, but this was written a long time ago, so hey.
Chapter One - Dancing to the Piper
Faith was out of prison.
She'd spent eighteen months of her life locked up in an LA penitentiary, and two days ago she had been released on parole. And she didn't know why. People were paroled every day, but not when they'd served a measly eighteen months for a conviction of murder, assault, and pretty much every other crime involving personal violence. They'd given her her clothes, an envelope of cash, and the address of her parole officer - check in every day, or else. So she'd gone to some crummy motel, and stayed there, only going out every evening at six o'clock to visit the parole office. No one knew she was out.
Then she received the visit, and realised what the deal was.
It was a Wednesday, warm and muggy in the motel room, and Faith was stretched out on the bed idly watching daytime TV and trying not to think too much. A knock sounded on the door, and instinctively she leapt up, grabbing the knife off the bedside table. It was always better to be prepared - not that Faith's motives were really boy scout material. Whoever was at the door wasn't waiting for an answer, and it opened, to reveal an elegantly clothed woman. She was familiar and it took Faith a moment to place her.
"The lawyer chick," she drawled, not missing the two hunks of muscle standing behind the lawyer, like a couple of broody hens guarding their only offspring.
"It's nice to see you again, Faith," Lilah replied, holding out her hand, professional as ever, only to withdraw it as Faith made no move to take it. "Though I imagined you would manage to do better for yourself than this," and she dismissed the questionable virtues of the motel room with a wave of her perfectly manicured hand. Faith's eyes narrowed suspiciously.
"Let's just drop the bullshit already. What do you want?" A gleam of appreciation showed on Lilah's face, just for a moment.
"We made an agreement, as you may remember. Wolfram & Hart would like the terms of that agreement to be fulfilled." Faith stared at her.
"You want me to kill Angel? Don't tell me - it slipped your notice that I obviously decided not to."
"Faith, I understand that Angel was trying to…help you. But, let's face it, his help got you in prison. Our help got you out. I think it's time you looked at what's best for you, don't you?"
"Fuck you, lady. And fuck your stupid company. I'm not gonna kill Angel."
"If you refuse to fulfil the terms of our agreement, Wolfram & Hart will have no alternative but to arrange for your return to prison. Faith, work with us, and we can protect you. We can pay you, as you may recall. And if you are so concerned with Angel, if the two of you are so close, why are you staying in the motel from Hell instead of Angel's hotel?
"Ask yourself who your friends really are, Faith."
Chapter Two - Filing Theory 101
And ten minutes later, Faith had agreed. She was out of jail because of Wolfram & Hart, and they could pay her, and pay her well. Angel had promised to help her, to help make the darkness go away, and it hadn't. She had been left with it 24/7, stuck in a cell, wearing bright orange. Left with nightmares and demons and guilt, and the unstoppable desire to hurt, to lash out. A funny look from one of the other girls, or the warden, and she had to clench her fists, bite her lip till the metallic taste of her own blood filled her mouth. And here was the opportunity to give in, go back to what was easy, and felt good.
And maybe, just maybe, if she immersed herself in enough blood, if she inflicted enough pain, all the voices in the night, and the unstoppable ache in her chest would disappear.
*** *** ***
Angel Investigations was not a place of calm. Or order. Or anything approaching reliable organisation, which is why, on Thursday morning, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, head honcho, was on his knees in front of the filing cabinet trying to find a file about a case of possession by a Panakcha demon. It wasn't under P. The possessee had been a young girl by the name of Emily Andrews, but it wasn't under E or A. Cordelia's filing system was, as she liked to put it, perfectly logical. Logical, that is, for someone who regarded the alphabet as an inconvenience. He advanced this theory as he rummaged through F.
"Wesley! Who looks up P when looking for a large orange demon? Is P the first thing you think of? No, you think about that large tentacles and the brain sucking."
"T?" he ventured.
"B," came the reply. "For the whole brain sucking thing. It stands out."
"It's not in B," Wesley responded irritably, getting up and shooting Cordelia an unpleasant look. She looked up from the magazine she was perusing, and shrugged.
"Try O. Or maybe S - that was the really smelly one, right?" Wesley took a deep breath, and tried to think patient thoughts.
"Cordelia. Much as I appreciate your…creative approach to filing, I think that a better method could be found than by cataloguing cases by the personal characteristics of the demon involved."
"You know, Wes may have a point." Angel, looking slightly harried with a restless Connor in his arms, came down the staircase, and leaned over the front desk. There were times when he almost resented Wesley's position as their leader, but at times such as this - and Angel had been well versed in the joys of looking for a case about a Mirwaur demon only to find it under G for gross - the job was all Wesley's.
Cordelia took Connor, and raised her eyebrows at Angel, who backed off quickly. He wasn't going to piss off Cordy unless it was strictly necessary - and this fight was Wesley's.
"Wes, you've just got to start thinking outside the box."
"Outside the box? Cordelia, filing, traditionally, goes in the box. It's right in the middle of the box. In alphabetical order."
"My filing is alphabetical!" In the ensuing sniping, nobody heard the door swing open. Nobody heard the faint snick as a bolt slid into place in a crossbow. Nobody heard anything until she spoke.
"Gee, Wes, and there was me thinking you'd managed to get that stake out of your ass."
Chapter Three--Who Has the Crossbow?
A still silence drifted over the hotel foyer, and Wesley, bizarrely, found time to note that the spider plant on top of the bookcase needed watering as he turned to face the slayer. He also saw Angel and Cordelia turn, the latter holding the baby in her arms close, an expression of fear and…well, general snootiness, flitting across her face.
"Faith." Angel, master of the obvious, stepped towards the girl…woman standing before him, cocky attitude firmly in position, crossbow pointing at his heart. Her finger tensed, and he halted, his hands raising instinctively. "I'm not going to hurt you." A laugh erupted from the slayer, and genuine amusement seemed to flash in her eyes.
"Okay, who has the crossbow here?"
"So, Faith, nice to see you. Why aren't you in prison? Preferably being beaten up." Tact and Cordelia, Wesley recalled, had never been close friends.
"Well, looks like they let me out. Tough one to figure out, I know."
"I'll say," murmured Cordelia.
"You know, C, you're looking a whole lot braver over there than when I knocked you out."
"Bite me, Faith."
"If you really want me to, I'm game."
"Faith." Her attention switched back to Angel, the crossbow, lowered slightly during her exchange with Cordelia, rose to its former position, perfectly placed for reducing Angel to a pile of dust. "What are you doing here?"
"Well, I was planning to kill you. Then, I don't know…coffee?" Silence reigned once more, as vampire and slayer stared at each other. Dust motes sparkled in the morning sun, while outside the muted drone of traffic could be heard. Connor fussed, and Cordelia stroked his head gently, murmuring to him. Wesley noticed that a book had fallen off the shelf, and made a note to pick it up later. And Faith and Angel just stood.
Slowly, the crossbow was lowered, until she finally let go, and it clattered to the marble floor. She followed, crumpling to a heap on her knees, hair falling forwards to hide her face.
*** *** ***
"I didn't know what to do." Faith felt the floor beneath her hands, and spread her fingers wide, absorbing the cold smoothness of the marble. Her hair swirled around her head, and for a moment, just for a moment, she didn't feel anything at all, just the cold floor at her fingertips. But then, "I didn't know what to do."
Footsteps came close, then hands closed around her arms, drawing her up, leading to the plush round sofa in the middle of the foyer. A hand brushed back her hair, and she looked up.
"What happened, Faith?" Angel knelt in front of her, while Cordelia, and Wesley, further back, hovered behind him. Faith took a moment to register the baby - when did that happen? - then turned her attention to Angel.
"They just let me out." She shrugged. "I don't know, I thought it was weird. It wasn't real - nothing was real. Then they came to see me."
"Those lawyers. They wanted me to kill you. Said they got me out of jail, they could help me."
"And you just said yes?" The astringent tones were pure Cordelia.
"I didn't know - it's so hard. I want…I should be good, but all the time, inside, I just want to hurt people." A tear fell, and she looked at Angel. "This redemption - I don't think it works. Or maybe I don't work."
Chapter Four - Mr Redemption
Angel sat back on his heels, a frown furrowing his usually, well, furrowed brow.
"Angel, much as I understand your desire to help Faith, I think we need to consider the immediate matter at hand." The soft voice broke the connection between vampire and slayer, and Faith turned towards her ex-watcher, eyes lowering as they met his. It was all very well trying to atone - although whether trying to kill the man responsible for trying to redeem her could actually be considered a form of atonement was a question she didn't really want to go into - but almost impossible to face the people she hurt so badly. Angel didn't really matter so much. The two of them could beat the crap out of each other seven ways from Sunday and not feel a thing the next day. And Angel didn't care. That was, he cared; he wanted to help her, but she couldn't hurt him, not like she had hurt Wesley. Wesley, who had been her watcher, who had wanted to help, but, honest to God, didn't have a clue about it all.
And spending hours lovingly torturing someone did not endear you to them.
"What's to consider? Wes, they're always trying to kill him! It's like, the status quo round -"
"No, it's not." Wesley interrupted Cordelia firmly. "Remember, Angel features in their plans; they don't want him dead - not yet, anyway. Faith, what did they say exactly?"
"Well, it was that lawyer chick, the bitch, you know?"
"Lilah," three voices spoke together, and Faith smothered a grin before nodding.
"Yeah, her. It was just all this crap, you know. Wolfram & Hart got me out, I fulfilled the…the terms of the agreement, she said. They paid me, I stayed out of jail. It's not like she went all super-villain on me and explained every detail of the plan. I am just the paid muscle, after all." The bitterness in her tone was obvious, but Wesley ignored it.
"Jeez, Wesley, we weren't exactly trading pleasantries. This was pretty much, business as usual." Wesley opened his mouth to question her again, then thought better of it.
"Go and get your things. You'd better stay here for the time being." Faith stared at him, bemusement evident in her face.
"What?" Wesley walked over to the desk, and busied himself with some papers lying there, seemingly oblivious to the fact that not only Faith, but Angel and Cordelia were staring at him. Not turning, he continued,
"It's only a matter of time before Wolfram & Hart realise that you haven't, er, fulfilled the terms of the agreement. You'll be safer here." He swung round, face impassive, as he looked coolly at the three of them. "Until then, there a couple of things I need to look into, so if you will excuse me…" His voice trailed off as he entered his office, closing the door decisively behind him, leaving three bewildered people behind him. Cordelia was, characteristically, the first to recover.
"Well, better do like the bossman says," she chirped, making shooing motions at Faith. "Go, Faith, go! Get your things, and move in with us, thereby making the hotel a safer place for us all."
"Cordelia." There was a warning note in Angel's voice, which was rather wasted as Cordelia payed not the slightest attention to it.
"Oh, come on, Angel! I mean, I understand you being all 'Mr Redemption' and 'ooh, let's help Faith, 'cause that's a plan', but Wesley? What's with that?"
"Okay, C, I didn't come here looking to move in…"
"Damn straight! You came here looking to kill Angel! And, as a plan, not making us love you, Faith. I mean, you try and get our entire graduating year eaten, try and kill Buffy and Angel, several times, you hit me, giving me one heck of a black eye, which I did not appreciate by the way, and, oh yeah, let's not forget the whole torturing Wesley thing. Then you're all 'I want to change', and confess to the police, but then, what? They let you out, and ten minutes later you're trying to kill Angel again? News flash, Faith! You haven't changed!"
"Cordelia." She frowned, and fell silent. "Faith, just get your stuff. You heard what Wesley said - you'll be safer here while we decide what to do." She walked towards the slow, hesitating for an instant as she passed the fallen crossbow. "And, Faith?" She stopped.
"Make sure you come back. Or I will come and get you."
Chapter Five - Brother Anselm and the Sheep
Brother Anselm had lived in a monastery off the north-eastern coast of England in the ninth century. His days had been typified by early mornings, cold water, and a large amount of praying, all of which, for some reason, he had felt obliged to chronicle in a series of excruciatingly boring manuscripts. However, during one spring, Brother Anselm had ended up slaying a Kavlar demon, which he had, dutifully, added to his blow by blow account of the day. So, slipped in between, "the morn was cold and Brother Eleric did lose three sheep", and "we broke our fast with bread made from the new miller's flour while Brother Alfred read a psalm", was an accurate description of how to kill the mighty Kavlar demon, and it was this that Wesley was studying with an intensity unusual even in him. An intensity that seemed somewhat misplaced since the Kavlar demon slain by Brother Anselm was the last recorded Kavlar demon to ever walk the face of the earth.
In fact, so entranced by Brother Anselm's account ("and then I smote the beast with a large stick borrowed from the wife of the new miller") was he, that Wesley failed to look up when Angel, having knocked and received no answer, entered the room quietly, closing the door behind him.
"Wesley." No answer. "Wesley."
"Mm?" Deciding that the direct approach may not be the best idea, Angel sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the desk. He sneaked a peek at what Wesley was so engrossed in, and grinned.
"Brother Anselm, hmm? Hey, you read the part yet where he catalogues the monastery's sheep? Definitely the high point for me." Mild curiosity prompted Wesley to look up.
"You've read Brother Anselm?"
"Classic bedside reading. Guaranteed to have the most die-hard insomniac asleep in ten minutes. In fact, I kind of have this theory that the whole counting sheep thing came from Brother Anselm's cataloguing."
"Hmm. Angel, about Faith-"
"Wesley, she wasn't going to kill me."
"I know." Angel looked up in surprise, and Wesley smiled ruefully. "Contrary to popular belief, Angel, I am not a fool. Faith isn't going to hurt you; I know that and so do you. The problem is, she doesn't. She's so used to being cast in the role of an evil murderer - not without some cause, I must admit" - and he unconsciously rubbed his right arm, feeling now returned - "that she can't see how else she can behave. We must remember, that for most of her life, it is Faith's violent tendencies that have been rewarded - by the Mayor, and also by us, initially. After all, she is the slayer - we expected her to be slaughtering demons every night. Unfortunately, I believe it became her way of connecting with the world. And we owe it to her to help."
"She hurt you."
Wesley's smile was faint as he carefully closed the chronicles of Brother Anselm. "People hurt people, Angel. Unfortunately, that's a part of being human."