Visiting Hours

by Christina Kamnikar

Comments welcomed! In fact, really craved.

Spoilers up through “To Shanshu in L.A.” and “Restless”.

Thanks to Dee & Perri for beta’ing, and to Perri, for letting me steal the throwaway bit from for a plot point in this story.

Probably becomes slightly AU half-way through, but what the heck? Joss won’t get around to this until at least Fall.

I don’t think you can get more pathetic than hoping it’ll rain on a Sunday, just so someone will visit you. On Sundays hardly anyone’s working or committing random acts of psychosis. And the one person who’d ever visit me could maybe, possibly, stop by, if he could get here. Except he can only get here if it’s raining, ’cause he’s got bigger problems with the visiting hours than the long bus ride out from Hollywood, like half the people who show up do. You have to be pretty damn bored to be looking at the sky and praying the lame “never rains in California” riff won’t be true over the weekend.

It’s cool when it works out, though — because it’s raining today, and Angel is visiting me.

“Ooo. Snickers bars, my fave.”

“They made me leave the cookies I brought with the guards. So I got these from the vending machine.”

We’re out on the shaded patio visiting area, at the table farthest away from the entrance. There’s about ten other women out here with their kids and husbands and boyfriends, and a few more out walking in the drizzle around the courtyard. The others are sitting at the plastic picnic tables laughing and talking like they’re all normal happy little dysfunctional families. Which, compared to the two of us, they are. They could go on Springer and at least people would believe them if they told how they ended up in here.

“Thanks. I’d offer to get you a drink from the commissary, but …”

“They don’t stock my favorite, I know.” Angel shrugs, looking kind of amused, which I’m still not used to. He was always really grim back in Sunnydale, but that place’ll make anyone brooding and nuts if they stick around too long. Witness me as a case study. “How are you feeling? I called as soon as I heard about the demon who broke into your cell, and they said you were in the infirmary with injuries.”

“Oh, that. Barely bruised me. He was huge but a total moron, and he couldn’t fight worth crap.” All true. Not that I wasn’t shaking like a junkie afterwards anyway. The bastard caught me when my cellmate was in the computer lab and the guards were doing a shift change. You ever been trapped in a 10'x10' cell with an 8-foot-tall by 4-foot-wide lizard-wolverine demon? Not a stick of wood in sight, every damn thing bolted down or too small to be a weapon — I had to trick him into bashing his head on the bars, and then strangle him with my legs. “They were keeping me there for security more than anything. The corpse freaked them bad, ’cause they couldn’t see how he got past the guards and all, so they figured I was safer in with the sickies. Extra cameras, yadda yadda.”

“You could have been really hurt if you’d still been there and the sorceror sent another one after you. I’m glad they moved you.” Angel’s the only person on the planet who would say that to me. Well, maybe my shrink. But she’s getting paid to. “Did you get into any trouble because of what happened?”

“Me? Nahhh.” I grin and take a bite of the Snickers, swinging my legs up on the bench. “I’ve got this place tapped, dude. It’s just like foster care. Except the clothes are snazzier, and there’s no boys you’d want to play with. They all think I’m ‘deeply troubled’ but trying hard. It helps being just about the youngest here, you know?”

Angel nods, and I look away, remembering some of the stuff I said to Joyce about Buffy going to jail, back when she thought I was B. Even if it had been true, and this place was like those ‘Women in Chains’ flicks, I’d’ve handled it. I’m the Slayer, I can take anyone in this place. But it’s good that it’s not as bad as I thought it’d be. “Mostly I’m just doing what they tell me, gettin’ into a routine, scoping out the jailhouse scene.”

“Don’t they have you working or something?”

“Not yet. They’re not sure I’m ready. My shrink doesn’t think I’m ‘completely acclimated to my surroundings at this time.’”

Another half-smile from Angel — I’m better than stand-up to him, seriously. The guy so needs to get out more. “She actually said that to you?”

“Unh-uh. Read it off my psych report. First thing you learn with social workers is how to read upside-down. I do better at that than reading right-side up.” I shrug, and pop another bite of chocolate in my mouth. “Speaking of social workers. How’s Wes?”

“He’s okay. The burns from the bomb are mostly healed, as well as the injuries from the demon attack. Cordelia’s fine too.” Angel’s watching me closely, maybe trying to see my reaction, see what I think of the guy now that I’ve had time to go over what I did to him.

“That’s good.” I nod, not looking up. Wes really did have a sucky month there; first me, then blown up, then beat up by demons wanting to sacrifice him. You’d think he’d go back to England. Same way you’d think Cordelia would go back to Sunnydale, where she could be safer, and be Queen Bitch of Buffy’s crew. But then, she’d still be one step down from the Slayer, and here she’s the only girl in Angel’s Justice League. More perks in L.A., I guess.

I don’t know what I think about Wes and Cordelia. I try not to. It’s not as if I’m likely to see them ever again. So what does it matter?

“Things okay Sunnydale way? They got everything cleaned up from that convergence crap?”

“Yeah, they’re fine. Giles and Buffy got hurt a little, so did Xander, but they’re all right now. Still doing clean-up from Adam and the Initiative, but summer’s always quieter in Sunnydale.”

“Hunh. If you say so.” I was in a coma last summer, so it’s not like I’d know. If I weren’t in here, I could help …

Don’t go there.

“Buffy still mad at you because of me?” I stare off across the courtyard, watching Rosalita laughing with her boyfriend. He just got out of Folsom; she’s been looking forward to this all week. They might get a ‘family visit’ next month, if she behaves. 48 hours with her honey. Damn. I wish — right. Like I even know any guys who’d show up if I asked them to.

“No, she’s not angry any more …” Angel’s voice is quieter, and I turn back to look at him. He’s got this expression he always gets when you mention B. to him, like she gives him a headache but he’d rather have the headache than feel good. I’ll never get that. “I went up to Sunnydale and apologized for a few things. Not helping you, but — everything else.” His eyebrows jerk, and his mouth works for a second, and he shrugs, kind of rueful. “She took it well. She said she’d been wrong about a few things too … after she yelled at me for beating up her new boyfriend.”

Damn, I’d have paid money to see her reaction to that! “You whipped Riley’s ass?” Not that I care if Buffy’s sweetie-pie gets his butt kicked. The guy was too dumb stupid to tell me and B. apart in bed, for chrissakes. Yeah, he was nice, but so what? Nice can get you dead faster than stupid. Gimme someone smart, who knows what he’s getting into, any day over sweet. Nice is too much trouble.

Angel’s really uncomfortable about it; but then, almost everything with Buffy makes him act like he doesn’t know how to stand or sit, or where to look. “It was a misunderstanding.”

“I’ll bet,” I snort, almost choking on the candy bar. He’s trying not to smile, but I can tell he enjoyed it. Probably got rid of most of his mad at Buffy by punching out Soldier-Boy. Whatever — if B. forgave him after that, then he didn’t do much damage. Angel doesn’t have any problems with his control, except when it comes to the bump-and-grind kind, and that ain’t gonna happen again.

I’m sort of glad we never did get really hot and sweaty together. Forget the soul-losing schtick, it would just be too freakin’ weird to be sitting here eating candy bars and watching the rain frizz on the electric fence with someone I’d bumped pelvises with, and all the time knowing that I won’t be getting lucky again until I can legally drink.

“So … what have you been doing, if they haven’t put you in a work program?” Angel asks, his gaze wandering over to one of the families on the patio. Jane and her sixty kids, or maybe it just looks that way — she’s had something like five husbands, and a kid with every one. At least that won’t be me in fifteen years. Slayers don’t have kids. A good thing, too; I would suck at motherhood.

“Oh, I’ve been keeping busy. You know. Prison stuff.”

“Like what?” He’s still looking over at the families when he asks, but I can tell he’s paying attention. Mostly.

I roll my eyes, then grin evilly. “Figuring out how to break out of here without anyone noticing. Wanna help?”

He whips his head back to glare at me, all shocked and worried, and I fall off the bench laughing at the expression on his face.

“Faith … C’mon …You know it’s not that funny. Faith …” Now he’s embarassed. But smothering a smile so I don’t see it, too.

“Oh, yes it is. You should see yourself. Well, you can’t, I know, but if you could …ohhh, god...” I gasp for breath and pull myself back on the picnic bench, holding my side. The guards are looking over here with the little tension lines around their mouths, but they relax a little when I fold my hands and smile sweetly at Angel, still feeling the giggles in my stomach.

“Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“Like what?” I rip open the other candy bar and start breaking it into pieces. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, man, I have a really full schedule in here. But it’s not the same as having a project, y’know? My shrink says I should have a goal to work toward, something to look forward to besides getting out.” I pop a bite in my mouth and chew on it before I replay what I just said in my head. “Damn. Second time I said that, hunh? I’m gonna sound like one of those California dead-heads pretty soon. My shrink this. My shrink that. Shrinky-dinky-twinkie-dink.” I stick out my tongue, and Angel squinches his forehead at the sight of the chocolate in my mouth.

“Are you going to swallow that, or just chew it up and gross me out?”

“This from the guy who shops at the butcher’s for his beverages. Jeez.” I swallow it and Angel shakes his head.

“Is the therapist helping any? I mean …I don’t know. Does it make you feel better to talk to one?”

I shrug. “Doesn’t make me feel worse. It’s not like we’re getting the cream of the crop here or anything. I’m guessing the ones that flunk out of UCLA and get their degrees from the Carribean universities get to work with us inmates, so …it’s not like I’m expecting anything.” I smile suddenly. “But it’d be fun to tell her the whole truth someday, and watch it blow her teeny little mind. I daydream about that if the session gets too dull. If I ever want to switch to the State hospital, I figure I’ll just ’fess up to killing demons for the last two years.”

Angel raises his eyebrows and fights a smile again. “What are you doing, besides seeing a therapist?”

“Hey, that takes up a lotta time. Three days a week, plus group hugs on Saturdays. Way fun. Tamara nearly went after Renae last time. It’s better than WWF and the Lifetime Channel combined!”

“Glad you’re entertained, at least.” Angel tilts his head, but he’s still paying attention, so I sigh and kick my feet up on the bench again, leaning back before I go into my exciting social whirl.

“Let’s see, there’s the weight and workout room — spending a lot of time there. Don’t wanna be out of shape when they finally let me out of here. It’s not the same as staking vamps, but they’ve got a good set-up. And no one bugs me when I work the bag.” I grin a little guiltily. “At least, not since I killed that first one. My anger management’s still a little dicey.”

“It’ll come.” I glance up real fast, then away, because Angel’s watching me too closely. “Give it time.”

“Oh, I got plenty of that.” I smile, then widen my eyes. “And there’s the TV room, with the exciting daily soap installments and America’s Most Wanted.”

“I thought that went off the air,” Angel says, frowning.

“It did. What’s your point?” He rolls his eyes as I smirk, but doesn’t interrupt. “I shouldn’t diss the TV here, they’ve got cable. I’m getting way caught up on the Sopranos. They’re all new to me, what with that pesky coma taking me out for eight months. So I’m set for the rest of this summer if no one tells me who shot Tony. I might have to hurt someone if they do that.”

Angel involuntarily smiles again, then looks concerned. “Are you getting along with the others here? I know you’re used to having your own space …”

I shrug. “No problems. My cell mate’s cool. She leaves me alone, I leave her alone. The guards are way uptight around me, but I figure that’s just a matter of time. All I have to do is not kill anyone while I’m in here and they’ll lighten up eventually.”

Whoa. Okay. That’s a little too close to the bone … “You ever been in jail?”

Angel isn’t real comfortable with confessions either. He laces his fingers together and stares at them for a second, then just blurts. “Only once since I’ve been — cursed. It was an assault charge, self-defense, back in the thirties. Montana. It was only for twenty days, but — I couldn’t eat anything they offered me …”

“Yeoow,” I mutter. “Talk about prison menus. At least we get to fix our own. Not that that means much. I stay away from the soup out of self-defense.”

“It’ll get better.”

“Are you kidding?” I laugh a little and pop another bite of Snickers in my mouth. “How would I stand it? The therapy, the gym, TV, and ooo, Internet access! Okay, so it’s restricted access, but I figure, once I’m in the work program and they have me doing mindless word processing and data entry to prepare me for life outside, I can sneak in a few classes in white collar crime online. None of this low-class violent crime crap when I get out, I’m going strictly for financial fraud as a career choice.”

“You might end up liking it, you know.”

“Hey, I’m sure I will. Especially when I can sign my own paychecks.”

He knows I’m kidding. Mostly. So he lets it slide for now. “I talked to your public defender. She seemed to think that you could be out of here in three or four years, if things go well. Maybe sooner.”

Four years. Jesus. Not like I don’t deserve longer, but …“If I live that long, sure.”

“What are you talking about?” I finally managed to rattle him. Good. I know he cares about what happens to me — and maybe he cares a little about me personally, too. But it’s just not as easy as he keeps making it out to be.

“C’mon, Angel. Think about it, will you?” He still doesn’t get it, just gives me that blank stare. “I’m a sitting duck in here. If another sorceror doesn’t send some more demons after me, then one of those stooges for Wolfram & Hart will try to off me to fulfill a contract.”

He blinks, and his jaw gets all clenched. “Okay, maybe that’s true —”

“You know it’s true. The Slayer, locked up where only the rest of the criminal scum can get at her? It’s just way too perfect. The Evil Dudes of the world must have wet themselves when they heard about my sentencing.” I drop the Snickers bar on the table and hunch over the bench, pulling one knee up and hugging it to my chest.

“Faith — look …That doesn’t have to happen. Hey! Are you listening to me?” I stare out over the exercise yard, and Angel makes a frustrated noise, then gets up and walks around the table to sit directly in front of me on the bench.

I jerk back, but he doesn’t let me get up, lowering his voice as I keep my eyes trained past his shoulder. “I did think of this, alright? I mentioned it to Kate. She’s not real fond of Wolfram & Hart, and she knows there’s weird stuff out here. She talked to the Warden about threats to your life. That’s part of why you’re in the medium containment facility, instead of minimum, to make it harder to get to you. You don’t qualify for maximum and I’m not sure it would be safe for you there. And I had Wesley do some checking about warding cells —”

“Bet he was thrilled to do that.”

“Will you knock it off? Just.. listen.” I lift a shoulder, then drop it, and he takes that for agreement, I guess. “I included a ritual he found in with the rest of the stuff I brought you, and all you have to do is get your cellmate to go along with it. It should keep your cell clean from magic, and the rest of the Institution is public, so different rules apply.”

I turn my head to look at him, wondering if he knows what he’s talking about. “I’m serious, Faith. They can’t get to you in here, except in your cell. And they can’t go there if it’s warded. Not magically, anyway. They’d have to physically walk in the door, or get arrested. So no more demons, no more vamps, nothing is going to come after you in here that you can’t handle.”


“Yeah. I swear.”

I sigh, and let my knee drop, then reach for the rest of the chocolate. “That’s …cool.” I smile for a second before taking another bite of candy and looking away. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” He gets uncomfortable again, and shrugs. “I was going to bring it up before I left anyway, but I didn’t want to scare you and ruin your afternoon...”

“Angel, I’m the Slayer, remember? One of them, that is. If I can see it, I can fight it. I don’t freak if I have something to punch or a plan to work with. Just don’t keep stuff from me, and we’ll be good, okay?” Even if I’m not sure how I’ll talk Nina into a magic spell. Oh, hell. I can always bribe her or sing Mariah Carey until she gives in. She hates Mariah. Well, so do I. But you use what works, you know?

“Okay.” He smiles for real this time, and I grin back. Damn, he’s cute when he does that. Almost makes you forget that whole ‘cursed and repentant’ riff he’s usually into. Really not worth the pain, but pretty enough to make a girl wonder.

“So, you brought me more than cookies?” I ask, finishing off the candy bar and wiping my fingers on my jumpsuit. “Like what? Smokes?”

“A carton. I thought you could use them to trade, if you needed anything in here. And some CD’s. A couple other things.” Angel shrugs again, embarassed. He’s a total soft touch. Okay, that’s not true, he’s no pushover, but he does great guilt when he thinks he screwed up. He still feels bad that I’m in here, I know.

“Wicked. Toys! Thank you, Angel.”

“Yeah, well...”

“Maybe I’ll take up smoking, you know, as a hobby. I should have a hobby while I’m in here, right?” I smile brightly, waiting for his reaction.

“Faith —” He’s almost smiling again, so I’m doing this right. Yeah, Angel. No guilt. No pity.

“Besides, it’s not like I’ll live long enough for it to kill me. Inside, or outside.” Angel’s face gets serious, and I tilt my head. “Hey. Lighten up. It’s cool, I’m okay with that. At least I know I’ll never die of cancer, right?”

“It’s not cool.” He’s thinking of Buffy more than me, but it’s still a good try at denying the inevitable. “And it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“Dude, were you not listening to the disclaimers when you met Buffy? One Slayer dies, the next one’s called. Ever since forever. That’s the deal.”

“It wasn’t for Buffy.”

I look away, do a little drum solo with my fingertips on the bench. “Yeah, but that’s B. I’m me. Different flavor, different deal —”

“You can’t be sure. And I don’t want you thinking like that while you’re in here, got it?” I start laughing and drumming faster, and he grabs my fingers to make me stop. “Faith, you have to have something to live for so you keep fighting. Something you want. Like getting your life back, getting out of here —”

“Where I’ll go right back to killing the undead, won’t be able to get a job with my record, no family, no friends, no life — right. Lots to look forward to. Aside from showering alone, it won’t be any different.” Crap. I can’t keep this happy-cheerful routine up; why the hell did I want to see him? Or anybody? Just more reminders of how bad I’ve screwed myself out of a life …

“That’s not true.” He’s getting quieter, so I know I’m right, which pisses me off ’cause he won’t admit it.

“And you’re a great one to talk about something to live for, your deal sucks worse than mine all the way through. Eternity by yourself, yeah, you’ve got a lot to look forward to —” Shit. I wasn’t gonna say that. Damnit. Why do I do this …Shit, shit, shit …

He lets go of my fingers and leans back, but he’s smiling again. Which is kind of weird. No, a lot weird. Why isn’t he telling me to blow myself?

“Actually, I do have something to look forward to.”

“Oh, really?” I’m not gonna ask if it’s having Senior Citizen’s discount for the next six centuries, but it’s the only thing I can think of. “Like?”

“Becoming human.”

I stare at him. “Say what?”

He chuckles. Angel actually chuckles. The look on my face must be as funny as his was when I asked him to help me break out. “Wes translated a prophecy from a scroll that Wolfram & Hart had. It said that if I survive a series of challenges —”


“Demons, evil magicians, the usual.” Our idea of the usual is pretty bizarre, but hey, what can you do? It is the norm for vamps and Slayers. “If I get past those, I get my reward. I get to be human.”

“No shit?” He shakes his head, still smiling that secret pleased smile, and I chortle. I don’t freakin’ believe it. “Whoa! About time! That’s so totally … I don’t know what it is, it’s that cool! You know what I mean? Damn!”

Angel nods, even his eyes getting into the smile for once, then he gets serious again. “So you can’t say you’re stuck with nothing more than being a Slayer with a prison record. If there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you.” He’s not letting go of my hand, and I can’t look away. “You can make friends, once you’re out of here. I’ll help you get a job. And if you want more in your life than killing the undead, you have to plan on how to get it — and I’ll make sure the Watcher’s Council doesn’t take it away from you. It’ll be hard — it’ll feel impossible — but you already did something harder, when you turned yourself in. You won’t convince me that living is beyond you, Faith. I know what you’re capable of.”

Shit. He might be right. Christ. That’s …too much. A life after prison, that’s not just about killing the Bad Guys — I can’t imagine it. I don’t know what to even …damn. I can’t …

“Hey.” Angel squeezes my fingers, and I come out of the fugue state, swallowing and shaking. “It’s not right away. You have a while to think about this.”

“Yeah. Yeah.” I blink, nod my head hard, manage a smile. “You’re right. No reason to lose it just ’cause I might live to see thirty, hunh?”


I smile a little, then groan as the downside hits me. “Which means I’m gonna have to sit through those computer courses and maybe try to learn something, just in case. Oh, mannnn …”

He laughs a little, then stands up and pulls me to my feet. “Come on. Let’s walk around the yard. Show me the rest of this place.”

I shove the candy wrappers in my pockets, and make a sweeping gesture in front of us as we walk into the rain. “Okay. In front of you, we have the exciting exercise yard. Home of fifty million games of basketball and seven hundred million jumping jacks.” Angel smiles and pulls up the collar on his coat as he keeps pace with me across the lawn. My shoes are getting soaked, but I don’t care. For once there aren’t a couple hundred people around, and I’m talking to someone who understands my life. It’s almost fun.

“Behind you are the beautiful phallic guard towers, where the paranoid keymasters watch our every move … Right over there lolling on the grass is LaWanda Ortiz, who does awesome tattoos. I was thinking of getting another one, but then I decided it would be like doing all the rides at Disneyland on your first visit, so I’m saving that for next time —”

“There won’t be a next time.” Angel sounds so sure, he’d convince anyone else.

Seeing’s believing, though. We’ll see. First I have to get out. And if I can do that …who knows?

“Maybe. Maybe not.” I grin, and bump a shoulder against his side. I tilt my face up to the rain and open my mouth to catch the raindrops, like when I was a little kid. Stuff like that used to make my day, about a thousand years ago when I didn’t have anything else. Not even being the Slayer, or having a friend. “Hey. Did you know they train firefighters here? My shrink said they let some inmates transfer to the wilderness camps and fight the hill fires, if they’ve been really, really good. I think I could get into that better than the computer stuff …”

There’s a lot of other impossible things I’ve been wanting. Making up with B, maybe. Getting a real guy to play with, not another loser like all the guys I’ve known before. Other stuff I won’t even think about if I can help it; I’m too afraid someone will find out, and it won’t come true.

But you never know.

It’s raining in California on a Sunday, and I’m strolling around at three in the afternoon with a souled vampire. And it’s not even an apocalypse.

So anything can happen, I guess.