Written for genfic_minis' Faith round, and brutti_ma_buoni's prompt Faith in jail, that gator-wrestling story, craving for something unattainable.
"My sins, my own, they belong to me." - Patti Smith
She's thinking about that gator she killed, half a lifetime ago. Funny, she hasn't thought about that in a long time. Her first proper mission that almost ended when she was shoved into the alligator pit and had to fight her way out.
"...Faith? Are you listening to me?"
It's not like it was her idea to have Wolfram & Hart represent her in appeals, or to appeal at all. But somehow (paperwork, they're good at that) they hired themselves as her lawyers, no charge, and so here she is in the prison visiting room with a ridiculously thin sheet of glass between her and the woman who hired her to slay Angel. She leans back in her chair and meets Lilah's eyes. "Yeah?"
Lilah smiles. "Like I said, we at Wolfram & Hart really are deeply sorry for the way your previous engagement turned out, and we feel that we owe you a chance to..."
Lilah keeps talking about extenuating circumstances, invalid confessions, complete exoneration, no money down, no strings attached, and Faith listens as she lets her eyes drift from Lilah's face to the phone handset that lets them talk through the glass, the grey wall of the visiting room, the armed guards keeping a careful eye on everyone, back to Lilah, her professional business suit, and then once again at the crocodile-skin purse sitting next to her, no doubt containing all sorts of interesting information about one F. Lehane. She thinks about the gator again. Teeth the size of Bowie knives snapping at her. "Nice purse."
She's interrupted Lilah in the middle of yet another reassurance how she wouldn't owe them anything, how she'd be completely innocent in the eyes of the law, just a girl who fell in with bad company and couldn't help what happened, who can do so much more good outside than inside. Not in any way a pawn in some intricate plan at all, thanks for not asking. Lilah smiles, all pearly white teeth and friendliness. "You like it? It's Gucci, next year's model."
She looks at the purse, at the scales, tanned into soft, yielding skin. Remembers the rough ridges of the alligator's back digging into her belly, shredding her t-shirt as she struggled to wrap her hands around its jaw, keep her fingers out of its mouth, not pass out as it pulled her underwater. "Must have set you back."
"Oh, you can't buy these." That reassuring smile again, all this can be yours.
"You got that for free?"
"Let's just say we have very satisfied customers."
Faith looks at her hands, remembers how she locked them under the gator's chin and pulled. The dry ripping sound as she broke its neck, pulling her arm out of whack in the process. Dim light going out in those ancient dinosaur eyes, the huge dumb beast that never knew he was just a minion twitching and dying beneath her. She had to climb out over the bones of others that the Count du Whatshisfang had thrown in the pit. There was blood on her hands by the time she got out – most of it her own. She dusted him a little extra for that. But she'd fought her way out of that pit on her own.
"I know this is a lot to take in. Tell you what; why don't you sleep on it and I'll be back tomorrow. But just think, Faith – do you really want to spend the rest of your life behind bars?" Lilah smiles again. She never stops smiling. "Just stay out of trouble and we'll have you out of here in no time."
It's not that it's not tempting, obviously. Doing life is no picnic, and just the idea of wiping the slate clean, "not guilty" stamped on her forehead, telling herself she's free... She looks at the purse again as Lilah picks it up, getting ready to leave. She wonders how that animal died. If it knew it was going to end up someone's accessory.
And so, when the guards come to collect her (they always have three on her, the meanest bastards they have) she shoots Lilah a fuck-you grin, wheels around on the guards and gets into trouble – not properly, she holds back just enough to not hurt any of them for real, just enough to give them an excuse to take her down, cuff her and throw her in solitary. Make sure nobody thinks she's innocent.
Sometimes, she thinks, free might be too high a price to pay.