You don't get a whole lot of proof, in this life, that somebody loves you. This is mostly because not that many people love you. Most people don't love much of anybody besides themselves. I learned that one early.
Later on I figured out that you don't ask people to prove that they love you. Not in the right way, anyway; not any way that actually tells you what's true. You ask them to stop the drinking, and they do, at least for a while. Don't prove nothing except that all that 12-step higher-power crap works just like brainwashing. You ask them to sleep with you and they do it. What's that prove, except that somebody's horny?
This last year, though, I finally realized that sometimes you just don't look in the right place for the proof. You gotta learn a lot before you can do what I'm doing right now -- look down at a styrofoam cup of coffee and smile like it was a fuckin' diamond ring.
"They had what they said were omelets," Chuck says as he starts pulling stuff out of a paper bag. "Looked like day-glo frisbees to me. So I went with the muffin option. You want apple cinnamon or banana nut?"
I don't each much in the mornings, so it's not like it matters. "Apple cinnamon," I say, and I musta guessed right, because Chuck grins as he starts unwrapping the one he wanted. "You know, I coulda gone for another Milky Way."
"Girl, you keep doin' damage to those candy bars like you did last night, and the train ain't gonna be able to pull you no further," he laughs. I flip him off, and he grins, and we split the newspaper he bought and eat the rest of our breakfast.
This would be a lot easier if we had a table. Damn Council takes this jail thing real serious. They coulda put the containment spell on a nice sleeper car, if they gave a shit. But instead me and Chuck get this freight thing with a couple of cots that aren't bolted to the floor, which made last night an adventure, let me tell ya. It's warm, though, and to tell the truth, if you just added an old tv and some pirated cable, it wouldn't suck that much worse than our place in Chicago.
And then I remember that -- like it was a million years ago, instead of one day -- me and Chuck curled up on our mattress, pretending like this cheap-ass comforter we got at the Salvation Army was enough to keep us warm, making out before breakfast. Then I remember the night before, when we got kinda wild and crazy in the shower and made the neighbors beat on the pipes. Then I think about the patrol we had before that -- did some serious slaying, showed off some serious moves. I'm a better Slayer now than I ever was back in California. Partly this is because I got Chuck with me now. But mostly it's because I know I'm the only one. I never was, before. B was always there, so I never really had to try on that "one girl in all the world" thing. I was kinda surprised how well it fit.
First time in my life I'm happy is when it all comes crashing down for good. First time in my life I'm happy is when Buffy is dead and gone. Figures.
"This is the high temple?" Buffy put her hands on her hips. "This is not the high anything. This is like a frat house, only without the cleanliness and tasteful decor."
"What do you expect from a bunch of wannabes?" I sat down on the sofa, total work of beauty in avocado green. These cult jerks had cut out for the night. I figured they were probably doing something stupid like buying sacred wine in a cardboard box. I didn't want to think that maybe they were after the dogs again. I didn't like thinking about the dogs, about the way they had to hurt so someone else could feel good.
I remembered what it was like to think like that, and I didn't want to remember it any more than I had to.
B and I were patrolling together that night. We didn't usually do that -- usually she hung with Angel, even though it seemed to drag them both down. But tonight Angel was off with his creepy kid doing their Batman and Robin routine, and Wesley was tooling around with Cordy. So it was just us. Just me and Buffy.
Buffy -- she wasn't really the person I remembered anymore. Still smart, still funny, still always with her perfect hair and nails and outfits even if we were going down to fight demons in the sewer.
But B used to be the platitude queen, all full of goodness and sunshine and light, like one of those damn greeting cards that sings every time you open it. She was plucky, brave, noble Buffy, and I -- well, I wasn't. I never believed all that rainbows-and-roses stuff, even when it came from somebody I liked (and looked up to, and wanted, and maybe just a little bit on the side loved).
Still, though, when I got outta jail, I was staying on the sunny side of the street, you know? I still wasn't in rainbows-and-roses land -- two years of sleeping in the same room with your toilet kinda kills your illusions, even if you didn't have many to start with. But I was ready to straighten up and fly right. Floss. Wear a bra. Whatever normal people did. The next time Buffy started talking about all the things we oughta do and be, I was ready to listen.
Thing was, she never talked about that anymore.
"Can't we just call the cops on these guys?" I said. "Animal cruelty's a crime. They can lock you up for that."
"Can't prove it's them," Buffy said with a shrug. She started to sit beside me, then squinted at some stains on the cushions. I raised an eyebrow. B stayed on her feet. "They don't bring the dogs here, looks like."
"Don't look they do much here except drink and screw," I said. "None of that shit Wesley told us to look for is lying around."
"We'll still have to come back," Buffy said. "They can change at any time. You never know when the game could turn real."
Great. Two girls in all the world to battle the yadda yadda, and we're gonna be spending all our time spying on these losers. "This place is freakin' me out. Let's motor."
"Wait." Buffy said. Her voice sounded -- weird. Tense. Like she'd been waiting on this for a while.
And truth was, I'd been waiting on this too. She'd been totally cool with me since the day she came to L.A.; I figured she was too shell-shocked after all that went down in Sunnydale to worry about hating my guts. But we just kept on getting along, surprising the hell outta Wes and everybody else. Surprising the hell outta me. Buffy let it go. She liked me. She got me that kick-ass knife. Hell, sometimes she even flirted with me, though I knew that was just to give Angel some shit for dating Cordelia. (I don't know what tricks of the Kama Sutra Cordy was using to keep him under her spell, but hey, can't argue with success. The man didn't budge from her side.)
But I always knew we were gonna have to settle things between us sometime. And it looked like sometime had just turned into now.
"Back in Sunnydale -- all the stuff you did -- all the stuff you used to do --" she blurted out.
Here it came. I took a deep breath. I'd been getting ready for this for four years, but I still felt like I was gonna pee my pants. "Yeah," I said.
Buffy whispered, "I understand."
So that shoulda made everything good, right? All that time, I'd been wishing that B could find it in her to forgive me. And there she was forgiving me. I didn't have to ask for it. Didn't have to work for it. Just had it handed to me on that silver platter that hadn't been passed my way, like, ever. So what was my problem?
That I didn't have to ask for it. I didn't have to work for it. In prison I got used to thinking of myself as a person who had a lot to make up for. And if I wasn't making up for something -- what the hell was I supposed to do with my time?
"I'm sorry, B. But that -- that's all over now," I said, just because I had to say something.
"No, it's not," she said. I stared at her, and her eyes glittered in the dark room. The sofa smelled like old beer and older sex. "It's never over. I get it now. I finally learned that you were right."
"Right?" None of this was making any sense. It was like she suddenly started talking in French or something. "Right about what?"
"About taking what you want. About facing the fact that we pulled a bad card from the deck, and we get to play it any way we want. About looking out for yourself," Buffy said. "Because nobody else is ever going to look out for you."
"No," I said. "No -- that's not true --" My voice was all shaky, like I didn't mean it, which made me crazy, because I did mean it. We were both living under Angel's roof, right? Cordy and Wesley and Chuck and Fred and even Connor -- they all helped us patrol, kept us company, watched our backs. Sure, they were annoying as hell sometimes. But we were in this together.
The worst of all was that I knew all that, and what Buffy was saying still felt like it was true. Part of me wanted to believe it. If I could believe it, I wouldn't have to feel bad about what I'd done anymore. I wouldn't have to care. Sometimes I didn't want to care.
"Faith, they don't understand us," Buffy said. She knelt on the floor in front of me, brushed her hair away from her face. She actually kinda looked excited for what seemed like the first time in forever. "Not Angel, not anyone. They all act like there's some -- point to all this. Like they can beat this game, or win it. But we understand, don't we? What it's like to fight, and fight, and -- and know there's nothing else for you, ever, but fighting --"
"Yeah," I admitted. It made me tired, just thinking about it. And I'd gotten so good at not thinking about it.
B rested her hands on my knees and leaned forward. "I'm sick of playing by the rules, Faith. It doesn't get you anywhere. You just end up alone." Her eyes were wide as she gazed at me. "I'm so tired of being alone."
The way she was looking at me -- I used to dream about Buffy looking at me like that. Hell, anybody looking at me like that. Like she thought I was beautiful, like she couldn't get enough of me. Like she had seen down deep inside me, and knew me, and wanted me anyway. I whispered, "B -- what are you --"
"I know what I need," she said. Her lips shone with gloss. Her eyes were wide. "You're what I need."
She kissed me. We're not talking tongue, here, but we're not talking sisters, either. It was a pretty good kiss, actually -- slick and sexy. Felt it from my lips on down. Maybe I shoulda kissed her back.
Instead I pushed her away -- not shoved or nothing, but yeah, pushed. "Buffy -- no."
"Faith -- you used to want this," Buffy said. Her voice was shaking. Her whole body was shaking. "I know you did."
"Yeah," I said. No point in denying it now. "I did. But I didn't love you, B. I mean -- not like that. I just wanted to take something from you. I don't want that anymore."
"That's not all it was." Buffy was getting mad, good and mad. And she was right to be mad, because that's not all it was. It was more than that. It was knowing that there was something down in the heart of her, something deep and dark and powerful, just like what was deep down in the heart of me. I hadn't stopped feeling that, not ever. Not one single day. Whatever that something was that tied me and Buffy together, it was too strong to ever really die.
But that was the same something I'd spent four years learning to ignore. I wasn't gonna listen to it ever again. Not for anyone. Not even for Buffy.
"We can't do this, okay?" I stood up fast, and that knocked her backwards. She was sitting on the filthy floor of this gross little room, and she looked more beaten than I'd ever seen her after a fight. I felt like total shit. But I wasn't gonna do anything different.
"Fine," she said. All that energy was gone. She was just limp and tired and mad as hell. "I'll just patrol with Angel from now on. Okay?"
"Okay," I said. It wasn't like we patrolled together that much anyway. She just wanted to try and hurt me, like I hurt her.
I guess I shoulda tried to talk to her. Not about us getting together -- but the way she was talking. Thinking the way she was thinking, wanting the stuff she wanted -- not good. Even wanting me. Hell, especially wanting me. Buffy was burying herself down in the dark where nothing else could get at her, like anything else could be more dangerous than what she was doing to herself.
But I didn't do it. Why? Get real.
Me save Buffy? The fuck-up of all time giving life advice to the Buffy the Pure? I mighta figured out how to save myself, but that didn't mean I had the first clue about saving anybody else. I'd just drag her down even lower, making her dredge up all that crap. I don't make situations better. I make 'em worse.
We went back to the Hyperion without a word.
Back at the ranch, looked like nobody else was real happy either. "Of COURSE I double-checked the reference," Wesley was saying as we came in the doors. "It's standard procedure."
Buffy smiled at him, a weird, thin-lipped smile. "I guess you double-check everything these days, huh, Wesley? You can only screw up so many times, after all. There's only so many of us to get killed."
Wesley went white. Angel looked surprised, but he didn't say anything as Wesley started for the door. "Uh, hey," I said. Wes didn't answer as he swept on out.
"So. You're -- back," Fred said to us. The awkward factor was already in force big-time.
"I'm sure you're glad," Buffy said. "Gunn almost had to go a whole hour without talking to Faith. He must be ready to pop."
Fred stared. "What the hell is your damage?" Chuck said.
"Sorry," Buffy said airily. But I knew was she was doing. I just told her we were in a good place. She was gonna prove to me that I was wrong. And if that meant pushing everybody's buttons to see who'd explode first, she was gonna do it. She glanced over at Cordelia, aka the next victim. "Did the gods talk to their messenger while we were out?"
"I prefer to think of them as the Powers," Cordelia said. "Gods sounds so -- mythology class. I don't think the visions are getting sent by a bunch of guys in togas."
"Like 'Clash of the Titans'?" I said. Cordelia smiled back -- not that she thought any of my jokes were funny, but she was pretty desperate to change the mood, too. Angel obviously did not have a damn clue what 'Clash of the Titans' was -- lucky him -- but he looked relieved, like maybe this was gonna pass.
B didn't let it pass. "Must feel pretty good, huh, Cordy? To have direct messages from heaven all the time? To know that you're so holy and pure and good that you can't do any wrong?" Buffy was looking at Angel then. "I get thrown out of heaven for no reason, and you turn 'em down, but they love you all the same. Some gals have all the luck."
"Some gals have all the nerve," Cordy snapped -- and for just that second, she wasn't acting all Goody Two Shoes. She was Cordelia Chase, Queen of Sunnydale High, pissed as hell. "The martyr routine's getting old, Buffy. Time to stow it."
Then Cordelia's eyes got wide, and she looked at Angel, who was staring at her like he'd never seen her mouth off like that before. Buffy was doing her wounded-deer look, and Angel always was a sucker for that. "Cordy --" he said quietly.
"Hey," Cordy said. Her voice was all shaky. "Whaddaya know? The bitch has come out of retirement." Then she ran out to the courtyard. Angel started to go after her, then glanced back at Buffy, and basically looked like he was about to split in two.
"I do not have to stick around for this," Chuck said, grabbing his coat and going to the door. "You want to play a little pool, Faith?"
One time I saw a Nyoier Demon shoot fire out of his eyeballs and fry a person. The look he had on his face right before the fire shot out was a lot like the look Fred had on her face right then. "No, I'm good right here," I said.
"I'll just bet," Fred said, and she stamped upstairs. Chuck swore and went out the front door.
Buffy sighed. "Well, now that I've proved that everybody hates everybody, most of all me, I guess it's time for bed."
As she headed upstairs, Angel called, "Buffy? Nobody feels like -- we understand that -- " Angel put his head on the counter for a minute, then looked up at me. "Connor. Where's Connor?"
"Wasn't he patrolling with you?" I asked. Angel didn't answer, just took off to the basement. Which left me standing all by my lonesome.
I thought about what had been happening. What had just happened. And then I realized something.
Out of all these people, I thought, out of everybody here -- I'm the stable one.
I muttered, "This is NOT good."
Chuck started fidgeting around ten in the morning. Getting us some lunch (microwaved hamburgers, soggy buns, total grossness) chilled him out for a while. But by about two in the afternoon, he was all wiggy again. He hates being cooped up almost as much as I do. I could deal with it when he was just pacing. I was even okay with him shadow-boxing in the corner. But now he's started humming, I have to draw the line. "You gotta get out of here."
"Tell me about it," he says.
"No, I mean NOW." He looks at me all weird, and I sigh. "You help me out. You know you do. But you don't have to be stuck in here all day. You're gonna be happier out there."
"Are you gonna be happier without me?" He's not hurt. He's not joking. He's just asking, straight-out. I like that about him.
"I'll be happier when you come back," I say. Musta been the right answer or close enough, because he smiles.
"I ain't gettin' you no candy bars," he says, and the way he says it makes me think he's gonna have a Milky Way in every pocket. "Maybe a diet soda."
"Maybe you oughta get yourself a new face to make up for the one I'm about to slap off." We kiss each other, and he's gone. He doesn't look back at me, and even though I knew before then that he didn't want to be in here -- it still kinda hurts.
But as long as it's time to face facts, I gotta face a few I don't like. One -- the place I hated most in my life, the place I swore I wasn't ever gonna go back to, was prison. And now it's looks like I'm headed there again, and I don't think the Council ever heard of parole. Two -- Fred's still got it bad for him. I saw her for about two minutes, but I could tell. Three -- I think he still misses her, sometimes, and if I get packed off to Ye Olde Big House for good, it ain't gonna take him long to start thinking Fred's looking okay again.
I guess I'm supposed to be all grown-up and mature about this. But the fact is, I want to rip this car apart with my bare hands. I want to throw this train off the rails, and to hell with everyone inside. Anything to stop Fred from getting him back.
And as much as I hate that idea, as much as I love him, you know what? If handing Chuck over to Fred would get me outta this mess, I'd tie a bow around him and give him back with a smile.
Oh, God, I don't want to go back to jail. I went there of my own free will once, but even now I gotta admit, that's mostly because I didn't know what it would be like. I don't think I can go back again.
But then, there's two kinds of jails. There's boxes and bars that hold you in, and then there's the jail you carry around inside your head. Ain't no getting out of that one, no matter what you do. I know. I tried.
Why did I ever think it would be any different? How come I ever thought I was gonna come out on top? For the past year, running around with Chuck, I let myself pretend I could beat this game. But I never was gonna be lucky. I never was gonna get it right. I shoulda known all along. It's not like I didn't have plenty of proof.
My jaw dropped. Then I started to laugh. "This is yours?"
"I admit it's impractical," said Wesley, standing next to an honest-to-God motorcycle.
"This is one sweet machine," I said. "What are you doin' with wheels like this? You havin' your midlife crisis ten years early?"
"The jeep's in the shop," Wesley said. He was being about as prim as you can get wearing a leather jacket. "And it would be twenty years."
"What?" I frowned at him while I picked up this dumb-ass Miss-Piggy pink helmet that was apparently his idea of revenge.
He straightened his glasses. "My midlife crisis would be twenty years early," he said. "I'm only 34."
"Huh," I said. "I thought you were older." I knew it would hurt his feelings. But you know, I wouldn't have said it if I hadn't meant it. Wes acted a little more -- wrung out than that. "You've got gray hair."
"I most certainly have not," Wesley said.
"Yeah, you do, Denial Boy," I said, leaning forward to look at his temples, where I remembered the gray. But there wasn't any.
"Told you," he said.
"Grecian formula," I said. I mean, he HAD to have gray hair. He was a gray-haired kinda guy.
He didn't answer, just got on the bike. 'Let's get to the waterfront," he said. "We're wasting time."
I was gonna bitch about the pink helmet, but what the hell. After prison coveralls, I figured my fashion score was pretty well shot.
We took off for the waterfront, where some Velga demons were supposed to be stirring up some hell in a shopping center. No big. You jab 'em a couple of times, they shriek and run off, end of story. Might have time to run by the Gap on my way out. Of course, the Gap is closed at midnight, so that would technically be shoplifting. Would've done it anyway, once. It's still kinda nice to think about.
It was also kinda nice to ride along the streets of L.A. on this bike. Wes knew how to handle the machine; when did he learn how? I didn't know, didn't care. It just felt good to zoom along, darting in and out of the city lights, racing toward the ocean.
When we pulled up to the shopping center, though --
"Hell," Wesley said.
"Not that nice," I said. The main entrance was surrounded by a glass wall, and through it we could see about four dozen demons rooting around, throwing stuff, having a big time. Not good. I know just how much ass I can kick, and this was over the line. Or -- maybe --
"We've got to run them out," Wesley said, like I didn't know this. "If the staff arrives in the morning and even one or two remain --"
I checked the knife at my belt - the knife B gave me. I'd been scared she'd ask for it back, but she didn't. I looked back at the demons. "We can do this," I said.
Wesley looked over his shoulder at me and raised an eyebrow. I waited for him to say something smart-ass, or just plain chicken out. But the expression on his face --
He was surprised that I said we could do it, that I trusted him. He wanted to hear what I wanted to say. He wanted a challenge. He wanted to go in there and kick some serious ass.
I felt myself start to grin. "I've got a GREAT idea."
"Uh-oh," Wesley said. But he was grinning back.
I don't spend a lot of time wondering what demons think. They go grr, they kill stuff, they get killed, end of saga. But sometimes I wonder what those demons thought that night, while they were going crazy in the shopping center. When they heard the roar of the motor. When they turned to see what was happening.
Or when they saw me and Wesley come smashing through that wall, tires and glass and metal screaming, motorcycle catching air, Wesley like a bat out of hell in black leather, and me -- Faith, the Vampire Slayer -- with my knife in my hand and a smile on my face, swooping down like the angel of vengeance herself.
We landed hard, but Wes kept our balance, tilting us so the bike slid into -- through -- a couple demons to the left. Bits of glass were raining all around us. Anyplace I felt scales, I slashed. I heard 'em howl. "Go!" I yelled.
The minute he could get the bike back up, Wesley turned us around and we started charging demons right and left. On our feet, we were slower and weaker; with 500 pounds of Harley-Davidson between our legs, the odds changed in our favor.
I hopped up on the back of the bike, clamped one hand on Wesley's shoulder and kicked out. Caught a demon right in the jaw, sent it down. Tried stabbing the demons from above instead of the side. Worked good. Wesley kept swerving like crazy, steering us around benches and trash cans -- and it was like I could read his mind. I knew when we were gonna turn before we turned. I knew which way he was gonna lean, when he was gonna gun it. And I could use it all. Before we accelerated, I'd find my target, get in place. Before we swerved left, I'd kick right, get the momentum. It was like that bike was a part of me, like Wes was steering us both without saying a word.
I knew I wouldn't fall.
Right about the time we sent two demons crashing into the Disney store, the rest of 'em finally got the message. Pack demons are like that; you spook a certain number, and you've spooked 'em all. They started running for the exit and the water, howling the whole time. Usually we just let 'em go, but that night Wesley and I ran them all the way out of the shopping center, down the pavement, all the way to the beach. "You better run, motherfuckers!" I screamed after them. I was laughing. And Wesley was too.
Then he drove me back into the city. And I swear to God, L.A. was more beautiful than it had ever been before. Everything was more beautiful than it had ever been before. This bike was bigger, and the lights were brighter, and Wesley was the greatest Watcher in the world, and I was the greatest Slayer. The only Slayer. The wind around us felt like silk, and I knew we couldn't crash. We couldn't fail. Whatever it was -- that shine Giles and Buffy had, that something about them that told you they weren't gonna get it wrong -- Wesley and I had that, then. Just for one night.
We went back to his place, where the bike belonged, and where Cordy would be coming to get me at dawn. Wes and I stopped in the garage, and he killed the motor, and for a long time we just sat there, my arms around his waist, like we didn't want it to end.
I tried to tell him that. I said, "I hate to get off."
Wes said, "That's not what I heard."
And it was the funniest fuckin' thing ever, except that I wasn't laughing, and neither was he, and the next thing I knew we were kissing. His mouth was open, and mine was too, and the leather jacket crunched as I grabbed him, and I couldn't get him turned around so I slid to the front of the bike, straddled him, felt him hard and ready for me.
When I could pull my mouth away from his, I panted, "Get me inside." He dragged me off the motorcycle and we started heading upstairs, away from his garage. Wes pushed me against the wall of the stairwell -- cement blocks in my back, his hand down my jeans. I pushed him down on the stairs -- my knees on either side of his shoulders, my hand hanging onto the rail for balance. It was like some bizarre, fantastic wet dream, something where you'd wake up the moment you came.
Instead, I woke up the moment we got naked. Last piece of clothing hit the floor, and all of a sudden I wasn't the Slayer anymore. I was Faith, same old screw-up Faith, taking what had been the world's greatest Slayer-Watcher moment and turning it into -- what? A doomed fuck? This redefined doomed.
Wesley was staring at me, and I was staring at him. He had a nicer body than I would've thought. But we weren't looking at each other like lovers. It was -- colder than that. I was staring at his scars, the ones I made on his body. I had scars from him too, but they didn't show.
I felt weird. I wanted to say, Let's stop. But Wesley stepped toward me, and I knew he still wanted this, strange or not. And how was I supposed to say no? Because I knew what that had to mean for him, to drop his weapons and his clothes in front of the person who tortured him, who nearly killed him.
Wesley had less reason to trust me than anyone else in the world, but that was what he was doing. Trusting me. I was just gonna have to trust him back.
His lips were cool when he kissed me again. I put my hands up to his shoulders, but he pushed them down again. Was he gonna stop? I wondered. But instead he started tracing over my body with his fingertips, going straight for the hot spots -- no sweetheart stuff, just pushing the buttons. I tried to put my hand on his cock, but he pushed me away again, and then I got it.
This wasn't about what we were gonna do together. This was about he was gonna do to me. He wanted to control me. No way in hell he was gonna let me control him again, even if it was through feeling good instead of feeling bad.
He got me onto the bed, and I was kinda freaking out -- I'm not big on letting go. Wesley's hands felt good, but I couldn't stop thinking about what that would mean -- giving myself over to a guy I tortured. Sex or revenge? What was it gonna be? And I was thinking there was just no way I was gonna get through this when Wesley got his face between my legs, and GODDAMNED if his tongue ain't as overeducated as the rest of him.
I stopped freaking out. I started enjoying the ride. He enjoyed it too -- I'm damn sure of that. I let him hold me down. I let him fuck me hard. I let him make me scream. By the time we fell asleep, the sheets were sweaty and our voices were hoarse from yelling and I had some new marks on my skin to match Wesley's old ones. I felt good. No, I felt great. It wasn't the best fuck of my life, but it was definitely in the semifinals bracket.
Of course, I knew it wasn't gonna last. Me and Wes? Crazy. But I figured it was a good thing, you know? We'd have a big "friends" talk in the morning, grab some coffee, make dirty jokes the others wouldn't get. It was stupid to think that screwing could count as Slayer-Watcher bonding, but if I was that smart, I wouldn't have screwed him in the first place.
When I woke up, instead of the chummy coffee run, I saw Wesley standing at the foot of the bed. He was already dressed. It was right around sunrise; the curtains were closed, but you get a feel for that when you're a Slayer. "No rest for the wicked," I said as I stretched. I heard that someplace.
Wesley didn't smile. "You should get dressed," he said. "Cordelia will be here any moment now."
Oh, yeah. Cordy. I started to laugh. "Yeah, don't want to shock the locals." I jumped up and starting looking for the panties -- I thought they landed somewhere near the fern. Wesley turned his face away. "What's the problem?" I said. "You've seen the merchandise."
"Don't remind me," he said. And that seriously pissed me off. What the hell? I knew Wesley hadn't had a whole lotta nights like that one before. Guy oughta be grateful.
I tried to be cool about it. "Hey, bad idea. I know this." I slid the panties on, started looking for the bra. "Spare me the no-strings talk, okay? It was just one night. That's all you wanted, that's all I wanted."
"You cannot possibly be misguided enough to think that I would ever have contemplated anything else," Wesley said, which was really fancy for, "Like I'd want you."
I pulled my T-shirt over my head. "Coulda fooled me on the stairs last night," I said. He drew back, all offended, and I tried to calm down and chill out. "Wes -- come on. We don't gotta be ugly about this. Last night wasn't a big thing. Okay? We just had a moment where -- where --" Where what? I thought about it for a minute, then said, "Where we kinda understood each other. You know?"
It was like dropping a lit match into a barrel of gasoline. Wes grabbed my arm so hard it hurt, and his face -- I've seen people that mad, but not much. He said, "I do not understand you. I am not like you. I am nothing like you. I have made -- mistakes in my life, but I have never, ever -- I didn't let myself -- I stopped -- I'm not like you." He was shaking. I knew my jaw was hanging open. He let go of me and stood there for a minute, and then he repeated, "I'm nothing like you. If you think that, you don't know me at all."
Right that second, he didn't look familiar. He didn't look old. He didn't look smart. He didn't look kind. I just said, "Check."
I grabbed my jeans and went out. Put 'em on in the hallway, and waved at a very surprised guy coming home late. I waited on the curb to get picked up, just like the trash.
I hear someone at the door of the car, and I figure it's Chuck. Back already. I start smiling, and then I hear the Watcher on guard talking with someone -- not Chuck --
A man steps into the jail car. He's wearing a long coat, gloves and a ski mask. I laugh before I can help myself. "Angel."
He pulls off the ski mask, and his face looks so weird --
Then I remember just why Angel's been hunting me down the past year, and I figure he doesn't have a handcuff spell, and I wonder just how this is gonna go.
But he doesn't attack. He doesn't yell. He just studies me for a minute before saying, "Hello, Faith."
The Watcher is staring through the window in the door. I guess if Angel goes for my throat, he'll step in and save me. So not confident about this.
Angel is trying to get up the nerve to say something to me, but he's taking his time. I say, "So, you didn't have a speech planned for this? A lecture all ready for when you hunted me down?"
"I didn't think we'd ever catch you," he said. Angel stepped a little closer. "I hoped we wouldn't."
Hoped? Angel hoped he wouldn't find us? I stared up at him, and I didn't know whether to be scared or start crying or what --
The doors slid open, and the Watchers came in. "Well, well," said the old one. "Angel. Come to threaten the defendant?"
"No," Angel says. He doesn't say anything else.
The Watchers kind of relax, and I realize they must have been called by the guard. "You guys just showed up to make sure I wouldn't get killed?" I say. "That's real nice. Like making sure I don't slip and fall on my way to the electric chair."
"You do know you're not going to be executed for your crimes?" says the woman. She seems a little nicer than the others, which wasn't saying a whole lot.
"Yeah, I got the part where I just rot in jail forever," I say.
"What's going on?" Chuck comes in. He looks kinda surprised to see that I'm throwing a party. He glares at Angel, but he keeps his mouth shut.
"We were explaining to your friend that she's going to be tried for her crimes in accordance with our process," says the old one.
"Just what is this process?" says Gunn. "Is this medieval crap? Dunking or iron maidens or --"
"Good lord, no," says the woman. "What do you take us for?" Gunn opens his mouth to answer that, but she keeps talking, "We will hold a trial."
"You guys got fingerprints or something?" Gunn says. "I'm kinda doubting the due-process thing."
"There is only one witness," the old man says. "Faith herself."
"What do you mean?" Angel says.
The old guy says, "She will be put under the influence of a spell that will compel her to tell the truth. She will tell us all she knows, all she has done. And we will make our judgments accordingly. So you see -- Faith has nothing to fear but the truth."
Like that ain't enough to be afraid of. I need to be alone for a second -- no, not alone. Just with Chuck. "Everybody out," I say, holding my hand out to him. "Except you."
"You heard the lady," he says. The others go -- and Angel shoots me this weird look as he goes. Chuck sits down with me on the cot. "You okay?"
"Yeah," I say. Because I am. I'm better than okay. I'm so much better than okay I can't even believe it.
The truth. All they want is the truth. For the first time in forever, I don't have to lie anymore. They'll know I didn't kill Buffy.
Chuck brushes my hair. He's so gentle; you wouldn't think he could be gentle like that, but he is with me. And I'm gentle with him. You put us both together, you get about one good person. I'm lucky to get even that close. "Hey," he says. "Who's your man?"
It feels nice to give him a straight answer. "You are," I say. "You're my man." And the look on his face --
Now I know that old saying is true. The truth shall set you free.