by Christina Kamnikar
Comments welcomed! In fact, really craved.
Spoilers up through To Shanshu in L.A. and Restless.
Thanks to Dee & Perri for betaing, and to Perri, for letting me steal the throwaway bit from firstname.lastname@example.org for a plot point in this story.
Probably becomes slightly AU half-way through, but what the heck? Joss wont get around to this until at least Fall.
I dont think you can get more pathetic than hoping itll rain on a Sunday, just so someone will visit you. On Sundays hardly anyones working or committing random acts of psychosis. And the one person whod ever visit me could maybe, possibly, stop by, if he could get here. Except he can only get here if its raining, cause hes 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 wont be true over the weekend.
Its cool when it works out, though because its 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.
Were out on the shaded patio visiting area, at the table farthest away from the entrance. Theres 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 theyre 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. Id offer to get you a drink from the commissary, but
They dont stock my favorite, I know. Angel shrugs, looking kind of amused, which Im still not used to. He was always really grim back in Sunnydale, but that placell 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 couldnt fight worth crap. All true. Not that I wasnt 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 couldnt 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 youd still been there and the sorceror sent another one after you. Im glad they moved you. Angels the only person on the planet who would say that to me. Well, maybe my shrink. But shes 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. Ive got this place tapped, dude. Its just like foster care. Except the clothes are snazzier, and theres no boys youd want to play with. They all think Im 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, Idve handled it. Im the Slayer, I can take anyone in this place. But its good that its not as bad as I thought itd be. Mostly Im just doing what they tell me, gettin into a routine, scoping out the jailhouse scene.
Dont they have you working or something?
Not yet. Theyre not sure Im ready. My shrink doesnt think Im completely acclimated to my surroundings at this time.
Another half-smile from Angel Im 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. Hows Wes?
Hes okay. The burns from the bomb are mostly healed, as well as the injuries from the demon attack. Cordelias fine too. Angels watching me closely, maybe trying to see my reaction, see what I think of the guy now that Ive had time to go over what I did to him.
Thats 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. Youd think hed go back to England. Same way youd think Cordelia would go back to Sunnydale, where she could be safer, and be Queen Bitch of Buffys crew. But then, shed still be one step down from the Slayer, and here shes the only girl in Angels Justice League. More perks in L.A., I guess.
I dont know what I think about Wes and Cordelia. I try not to. Its not as if Im 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, theyre fine. Giles and Buffy got hurt a little, so did Xander, but theyre all right now. Still doing clean-up from Adam and the Initiative, but summers always quieter in Sunnydale.
Hunh. If you say so. I was in a coma last summer, so its not like Id know. If I werent in here, I could help
Dont 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; shes 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 whod show up if I asked them to.
No, shes not angry any more Angels voice is quieter, and I turn back to look at him. Hes got this expression he always gets when you mention B. to him, like she gives him a headache but hed rather have the headache than feel good. Ill 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 shed been wrong about a few things too after she yelled at me for beating up her new boyfriend.
Damn, Id have paid money to see her reaction to that! You whipped Rileys ass? Not that I care if Buffys 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 hes getting into, any day over sweet. Nice is too much trouble.
Angels really uncomfortable about it; but then, almost everything with Buffy makes him act like he doesnt know how to stand or sit, or where to look. It was a misunderstanding.
Ill bet, I snort, almost choking on the candy bar. Hes 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 didnt do much damage. Angel doesnt have any problems with his control, except when it comes to the bump-and-grind kind, and that aint gonna happen again.
Im 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 Id bumped pelvises with, and all the time knowing that I wont be getting lucky again until I can legally drink.
So what have you been doing, if they havent 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 shes had something like five husbands, and a kid with every one. At least that wont be me in fifteen years. Slayers dont have kids. A good thing, too; I would suck at motherhood.
Oh, Ive been keeping busy. You know. Prison stuff.
Like what? Hes still looking over at the families when he asks, but I can tell hes 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 Cmon You know its not that funny. Faith Now hes embarassed. But smothering a smile so I dont see it, too.
Oh, yes it is. You should see yourself. Well, you cant, 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.
Dont you have anything better to do?
Like what? I rip open the other candy bar and start breaking it into pieces. I mean, dont get me wrong, man, I have a really full schedule in here. But its not the same as having a project, yknow? 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? Im 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 butchers for his beverages. Jeez. I swallow it and Angel shakes his head.
Is the therapist helping any? I mean I dont know. Does it make you feel better to talk to one?
I shrug. Doesnt make me feel worse. Its not like were getting the cream of the crop here or anything. Im guessing the ones that flunk out of UCLA and get their degrees from the Carribean universities get to work with us inmates, so its not like Im expecting anything. I smile suddenly. But itd 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 Ill 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. Its better than WWF and the Lifetime Channel combined!
Glad youre entertained, at least. Angel tilts his head, but hes 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.
Lets see, theres the weight and workout room spending a lot of time there. Dont wanna be out of shape when they finally let me out of here. Its not the same as staking vamps, but theyve 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 managements still a little dicey.
Itll come. I glance up real fast, then away, because Angels watching me too closely. Give it time.
Oh, I got plenty of that. I smile, then widen my eyes. And theres the TV room, with the exciting daily soap installments and Americas Most Wanted.
I thought that went off the air, Angel says, frowning.
It did. Whats your point? He rolls his eyes as I smirk, but doesnt interrupt. I shouldnt diss the TV here, theyve got cable. Im getting way caught up on the Sopranos. Theyre all new to me, what with that pesky coma taking me out for eight months. So Im 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 youre used to having your own space
I shrug. No problems. My cell mates cool. She leaves me alone, I leave her alone. The guards are way uptight around me, but I figure thats just a matter of time. All I have to do is not kill anyone while Im in here and theyll lighten up eventually.
Whoa. Okay. Thats a little too close to the bone You ever been in jail?
Angel isnt real comfortable with confessions either. He laces his fingers together and stares at them for a second, then just blurts. Only once since Ive been cursed. It was an assault charge, self-defense, back in the thirties. Montana. It was only for twenty days, but I couldnt 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.
Itll 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 its restricted access, but I figure, once Im 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, Im going strictly for financial fraud as a career choice.
You might end up liking it, you know.
Hey, Im sure I will. Especially when I can sign my own paychecks.
He knows Im 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 dont 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 its just not as easy as he keeps making it out to be.
Cmon, Angel. Think about it, will you? He still doesnt get it, just gives me that blank stare. Im a sitting duck in here. If another sorceror doesnt 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 thats true
You know its true. The Slayer, locked up where only the rest of the criminal scum can get at her? Its 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 doesnt 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 doesnt 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. Shes not real fond of Wolfram & Hart, and she knows theres weird stuff out here. She talked to the Warden about threats to your life. Thats part of why youre in the medium containment facility, instead of minimum, to make it harder to get to you. You dont qualify for maximum and Im 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 hes talking about. Im serious, Faith. They cant get to you in here, except in your cell. And they cant go there if its warded. Not magically, anyway. Theyd 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 cant handle.
Yeah. I swear.
I sigh, and let my knee drop, then reach for the rest of the chocolate. Thats cool. I smile for a second before taking another bite of candy and looking away. Thanks.
Youre welcome. He gets uncomfortable again, and shrugs. I was going to bring it up before I left anyway, but I didnt want to scare you and ruin your afternoon...
Angel, Im the Slayer, remember? One of them, that is. If I can see it, I can fight it. I dont freak if I have something to punch or a plan to work with. Just dont keep stuff from me, and well be good, okay? Even if Im not sure how Ill 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, hes cute when he does that. Almost makes you forget that whole cursed and repentant riff hes 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 CDs. A couple other things. Angel shrugs again, embarassed. Hes a total soft touch. Okay, thats not true, hes no pushover, but he does great guilt when he thinks he screwed up. He still feels bad that Im in here, I know.
Wicked. Toys! Thank you, Angel.
Maybe Ill take up smoking, you know, as a hobby. I should have a hobby while Im in here, right? I smile brightly, waiting for his reaction.
Faith Hes almost smiling again, so Im doing this right. Yeah, Angel. No guilt. No pity.
Besides, its not like Ill live long enough for it to kill me. Inside, or outside. Angels face gets serious, and I tilt my head. Hey. Lighten up. Its cool, Im okay with that. At least I know Ill never die of cancer, right?
Its not cool. Hes thinking of Buffy more than me, but its still a good try at denying the inevitable. And it doesnt have to be that way.
Dude, were you not listening to the disclaimers when you met Buffy? One Slayer dies, the next ones called. Ever since forever. Thats the deal.
It wasnt for Buffy.
I look away, do a little drum solo with my fingertips on the bench. Yeah, but thats B. Im me. Different flavor, different deal
You cant be sure. And I dont want you thinking like that while youre 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 Ill go right back to killing the undead, wont 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 wont be any different. Crap. I cant keep this happy-cheerful routine up; why the hell did I want to see him? Or anybody? Just more reminders of how bad Ive screwed myself out of a life
Thats not true. Hes getting quieter, so I know Im right, which pisses me off cause he wont admit it.
And youre a great one to talk about something to live for, your deal sucks worse than mine all the way through. Eternity by yourself, yeah, youve got a lot to look forward to Shit. I wasnt gonna say that. Damnit. Why do I do this Shit, shit, shit
He lets go of my fingers and leans back, but hes smiling again. Which is kind of weird. No, a lot weird. Why isnt he telling me to blow myself?
Actually, I do have something to look forward to.
Oh, really? Im not gonna ask if its having Senior Citizens discount for the next six centuries, but its the only thing I can think of. Like?
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 dont freakin believe it. Whoa! About time! Thats so totally I dont know what it is, its 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 cant say youre stuck with nothing more than being a Slayer with a prison record. If theres hope for me, theres hope for you. Hes not letting go of my hand, and I cant look away. You can make friends, once youre out of here. Ill 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 Ill make sure the Watchers Council doesnt take it away from you. Itll be hard itll feel impossible but you already did something harder, when you turned yourself in. You wont convince me that living is beyond you, Faith. I know what youre capable of.
Shit. He might be right. Christ. Thats too much. A life after prison, thats not just about killing the Bad Guys I cant imagine it. I dont know what to even damn. I cant
Hey. Angel squeezes my fingers, and I come out of the fugue state, swallowing and shaking. Its not right away. You have a while to think about this.
Yeah. Yeah. I blink, nod my head hard, manage a smile. Youre 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 Im 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. Lets 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 dont care. For once there arent a couple hundred people around, and Im talking to someone who understands my life. Its 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 Im saving that for next time
There wont be a next time. Angel sounds so sure, hed convince anyone else.
Seeings believing, though. Well 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 didnt 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 theyve been really, really good. I think I could get into that better than the computer stuff
Theres a lot of other impossible things Ive been wanting. Making up with B, maybe. Getting a real guy to play with, not another loser like all the guys Ive known before. Other stuff I wont even think about if I can help it; Im too afraid someone will find out, and it wont come true.
But you never know.
Its raining in California on a Sunday, and Im strolling around at three in the afternoon with a souled vampire. And its not even an apocalypse.
So anything can happen, I guess.