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Still Not Her

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Summary:

Once Upon a Time, I wrote a drabble called “Not Her” – a BtVS/OITNB crossover.  This little Anniversary one-shot for C2 takes place in that same world where Faith has been transferred to Litchfield Prison due to overcrowding in Los Angeles.  Takes place about three years into Faith’s prison sentence (cusp of BtVS season 6/7, Angel 3/4) and Season 1, OITNB.


Categories: Buffy/Faith Characters: Buffy Summers, Cordelia Chase, Faith Lehane
Genres: Angst, Crossover, Drama
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: Anniversary Hootenanny 2014
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes
Word count: 5860 Read: 612
Published: 06/15/2014 Updated: 06/15/2014

Chapter 1 by lizardmm

The two slayers stood on the terrace of Faith’s Sunnydale apartment.

“What’s the matter?” Buffy spit out. “All that killing, are you afraid to die?”

Faith didn’t respond to the blonde’s bitter question.  She spun the other girl around to gain leverage.  Using her legs, she snapped the handcuff chain that had bound them together. 

The two women slowly circled each other.  Faith held a length of pipe gripped tightly in one fist.  Buffy pulled out a uniquely shaped blade from the liner of her leather jacket.

“That’s mine,” Faith growled, recognizing the knife.

“You’re about to get it back,” the elder slayer shot back.

The two women exchanged blows, with Faith effectively dodging the slice of Buffy’s knife.  They moved to the edge of the terrace, which overlooked the northern Californian town.  Faith held Buffy at the edge.

“Man, I’m gonna miss this,” the dangerous brunette breathed.

Buffy broke out of Faith’s grip and without hesitating, plunged the knife into the Boston slayer’s abdomen.  Both women looked stunned.

The brunette touched her wound and weakly smiled. “You did it.”

Buffy reached for the injured slayer, but Faith, mustering her last ounce of strength threw the blonde away from her.

“You killed me,” Faith rasped.  She climbed onto the low wall that ran the perimeter of the terrace and looked down.  “Still won’t help your boy though.  Shouldn’t been there, B,” she smiled, lips quivering from a cocktail of adrenalin and pain. “Quite the ride.”

The blonde slayer could only stare in mixed horror and awe as Faith fell backward off the wall.  Buffy scrambled to her feet and made her way to the wall.  Two stories below she could see Faith’s body, stationary, in the bed of a moving truck.

++++

I wake up, gasping for air. 

Ever have one of those dreams where you’re falling and your body jumps you out of dreaming?

My roommate, Nichols, is thankfully already gone to breakfast.  She used to relentlessly tease me when I’d wake up gasping and flailing, but instead of the good-natured taunts, lately I’ve just been getting sympathetic stares.  The nightmares are a constant, but they become the most vivid around this time of year.

I touch my abdomen through the course material of our standard-issue uniforms where the phantom pain resides.  It was three years ago today when she buried that knife in my gut.  Happy anniversary to me.

“Inmate!”

I suppose it’s an improvement after being a number in Los Angeles - 43100/430019.   Even if I forget my own birthday one day, I’ll always remember those numbers.

The guard is tall and mustached and fuck if just the sight of him doesn’t make my skin crawl.  He’s one of those fuck-faces who gets off on the power he holds over us.  I’ve been felt up by him once too often during a “routine” check, but I suppose this place is preferable to my existence in the Los Angeles prison.  I honestly wonder who screwed up the paperwork that sent me here – a self-confessed murderer – to live among these small-fry drug dealers and white-collar criminals.

“On your feet, Inmate,” he sneers. “You’ve got a visitor. Although I don’t know why anyone would want to visit a piece of crap like you, Lehane.”

He’s not too far from the truth.

I follow the mustached guard down a wide, windowless corridor.  I haven’t had a visitor since my transfer from Los Angeles out here to Litchfield.  They hadn’t told me where they were taking me.  They’d simply opened up my cage, boarded me on a bus and then later an airplane, and when I woke up, I was in New York. 

My breath hitches when I see her sitting by herself at a table in the visiting room, looking like the beauty queen she was.  

I rapidly blink.  My eyes had begun to sting, touched that she made the trip.   But that gratefulness is immediately replaced with a sinking feeling of dread.  Something must be wrong.

She stands from the table when she sees me.  My heavy boots thud hollowly on the thin carpeting.

“Is everything okay?” I worry aloud.

“Hello to you too, Faith,” she smirks, jutting one hip out.

“Cordelia,” I warn.

“Everything’s fine,” she insists.

“Angel, he’s…”

“He’s fine,” she confirms. “He would be here instead of me, but visiting hours…”

“It’s daylight,” I finish for her.  “I get it.”

“They told me I’m allowed to hug you.”  She looks uncertain and she worries her hands in front of her as if she’s grown an extra limb and doesn’t know what to do with it. “Once at the beginning of visiting hours and once at the end.”

“Are you asking for my permission?” I cock an eyebrow.

“I didn’t think you were a hugger,” she explains.

I can’t help the smile that quirks at the corners of my mouth.  “Let’s just take it slow for now.”

We sit down at the table for two, surrounded by other inmates and their loved ones, all under the watchful eyes of Litchfield’s finest.  It feels surreal to have her seated across the table.  There’s no glass between us, like there had been when Angel used to visit me in Los Angeles.  I could reach across the table and touch her face.  I could reach across the table and snap her neck.

“So if nothing’s wrong, why are you here?”  My eyes drop to the tabletop.  “Um, not that I don’t appreciate you coming.” I don’t want to sound ungrateful to see a familiar face.  No one’s visited me since I got transferred, but I shouldn’t feel injured.  They’ve all got their own lives out on the West Coast. 

“Well, I was getting a little tired of all that Los Angeles perfect weather,” Cordelia sniffs, “so I thought a trip to the Middle-of-Nowhere, New York was called for.”

Normally her antics would bring a smile to my face, but the timing of this visit is too much of a coincidence.  I stare at her, hard and unblinking until she recants her lie.

“Fine,” she sighs, pushing a sweep of brunette hair out of her eyes. “We’re retrieving an artifact that Fred located in New York City.  I’m not sure what it’s for, but Angel seems to think it’s important.  He figured that since we were going to be in the area, I might as well visit you.”

And?” I press.  I know there’s got to be more to this.

“And…” She bites her bottom lip. “And, Angel wanted me to check in on you.  We all know this isn’t the easiest time of year for you.”

“You do, huh?” I bristle.  I don’t like this feeling – like they all think they know my business.

“Don’t get mad, Faith.”

The sound of a choked sob erupts in the visiting room.  A shock of blonde hair is hugging a lumpy-looking man.  I recognize her as one of the inmates who just arrived a few days ago.  She looks a little worse for wear, and she hasn’t yet been issued a regular uniform. The orange sticks out among the sea of khaki, making her a damn easy target.  She looks a little pinched and she probably hasn’t showered since she arrived.  The sight of her certainly doesn’t take my breath away, but her hair is just the right amount of sun-kissed blonde to squeeze my heart in its ribcage.

“How…how is she?” I hear my voice asking.  I want to take it back as soon as the words slip out of my traitorous mouth.

Cordelia looks momentarily confused, but I suppose when she sees where my eyes have landed, she realizes the object of my question.

“You know how it is,” she shrugs delicately. “It wouldn’t be Buffy if she wasn’t getting in trouble.”

I lick my bottom lip. “But not like real trouble, right?” Fuck, why do I even care?

Because you’re in love with her, you idiot.  You always have been.

Cordelia gives me a gentle smile. “You heroes are all the same.  Always wanting to save the girl.”

I lean back from the table, loudly scoffing. “Hero.  Right.”

“Are we really going to spend our half an hour talking about her?”

“Sorry, Cordy,” I apologize.  “You’re right.  Let’s talk about you instead.”

The smile returns to the former beauty queen’s face. “That’s more like it.”

+++++

Cordelia’s visit leaves me feeling unexpectedly melancholy.  I kind of regret that I didn’t let her hug me when we said our goodbyes, but she promised she’d be back next Saturday, anticipating that her business in New York City would keep her in the area for at least another week.

When I leave the visiting area, there’s a kind of commotion coming from the common room.   I spot my roommate’s unkempt mop of wavy dish-blonde hair just outside of the room.  

“What’s the occasion?” I ask.  There’s toilet paper taped to the walls, twisted and styled like someone’s trailer-trash wedding, and the heavy bass of rap music practically vibrates the single-pane windows.

“One of the girls from the ghetto won parole,” Nichols tells me with a wistful smile.  “It’s a regular hootenanny in there,” she chuckles.  Her eyes train on me. “Say, when’s your release date, Lehane?”

My lips form a tight line.  “Not for a while.”  Even when I finish my prison time, I doubt my sentence will truly be over.  I’ve done too much fucked up stuff in my life to ever really be free.  There’s too much to make amends for.

“You never did tell me what you did to get yourself locked in here,” Nichols continues to press.

“I read somewhere you’re not supposed to ask that.”  A new voice, significantly higher pitched and feminine, joins our conversation.

I turn and I see her – the blonde whose simple presence has been fucking with my head these past few days.

Nichols snorts, unkindly. “Oh yeah, Chapman?” Her lip curls at one edge and I see her take a long, lazy look at the new inmate. “Did you do a lot of studying about prison before you came here?  And what did those fancy books of yours tell you about prison wives?”

The woman, Chapman, I suppose, darts her eyes away.

I nudge my roommate in the ribs, probably a little harder than I should have.

“Damn, Lehane!” she scowls, holding her side. “Easy with the merchandise.”

“Be nice, Nichols,” I hiss.

That lazy smile is now targeted on me.  Her eyes seem to like up in recognition as if she knows all my secrets.  It’s unsettling.  “Anything you say.”

Chapman’s mouth twitches erratically on her face.  Her face is earnest, but there’s a flicker of fear behind pale blue eyes.  She sticks out a feminine, boney hand in my direction.  “I’m Piper – I mean – I’m Chapman.”

I stare at her hand, not taking the proffered greeting. 

Nichols snickers beside me.  “Oh, don’t let this one rain on your parade, Princess.  Lehane doesn’t like anyone.”

“Not even you, Nichols,” I bite back.

Nichols’ hands fly to her chest, where her heart would be if she had one.  She takes a few staggered steps, like I’ve physically wounded her with my words.  I can only roll my eyes at her exaggerated antics.  She’s a rich bitch with mommy issues and a heroin addiction, but I kind of think we would have been friends if we’d grown up in the old neighborhood together.

But I’m not here to make friends, I silently remind myself.  Keep your head down; do your time.  Then maybe – maybe – you can start atoning for all the shit you’ve ever done in your life, Lehane.

+++++

The two slayers pulled the sheet taut over Buffy’s bed. 

“They smell good, don’t they?” There was a warmth to Buffy’s voice that Faith hardly recognized.

 Faith looked up from her task. “What?”

“Clean sheets,” Buffy explained.  “Like summer.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

Buffy’s eyes flicked down to the bed briefly. “Right.” The word fell out from between parted lips and she looked guilty about Faith’s unstated accusation.  “I forgot.”

A small smile, almost forgiving and understanding, curled at the edges of Faith’s mouth. “I noticed.”

The Chosen One’s bottom lip trembled and she looked off to the side. “I-I wish I could stay, but…” Buffy trailed off, looking helpless and awkward.

“Oh, you have to go.”

“That’s just what…”

“Lil sis coming,” Faith interrupted with a knowing smile.  “I know.” They continued tucking the white sheet under the double mattress. “So much to do before she gets here.”

The two slayers walked around to the end of the bed, meeting in the middle.

“Now I really have to…” Buffy sighed, looking all the world overwhelmed and apologetic. 

“So go,” Faith interrupted sharply, not liking the annoyance that had crept into her tone. “ Don’t let me keep…” She paused, feeling and hearing the wet dripping.

Red blood spatters stained the fresh linen.

“Damn,” Faith frowned. “Just when we’d made it so nice.”

She looked down at the knife in her belly and Buffy’s hand curled tightly around its handle.  Pain shifted in the dark slayer’s eyes. “Are you ever gonna take this thing out?”

++++

“What’s Little Miss Blondie’s problem?” Big Boo asks as she settles her generous weight onto the bench of our shared cafeteria table.

I look over in the direction of where Chapman sits by herself even though I really don’t care what her problem is if she even has one – or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.  The scar that twists across my abdomen flares with inexplicable pain at the shock of familiar blonde hair. 

Morello’s painted face seems to light up. “I heard that her ex-girlfriend – the one who got her into this pickle in the first place – just arrived.”

“As in she’s an inmate?” Yoga Jones’ already buggy eyes pop out even more.  “Oh, that’s the worst kind of karma.”

I spot the ex-girlfriend sitting by herself at another table across the cafeteria.  She’s the only one in the room wearing prison orange, so I know it’s got to be her.  She looks sullen and untouchable, but attractive in a vintage kind of way.  Her skin is so pale that if I didn’t instinctively know better, I might have mistaken her for a vampire.  Her arms are painted with rockabilly tattoos and her raven hair shines under the unflattering glow of halogen lighting.  That won’t last for long though – the conditioner they sell at the Prison Commissary is shit. 

“Well, if either of them needs a shoulder to cry on to help them through this difficult period,” Nichols leans forward and grins like the Cheshire Cat, “I’ve got two of them.”

Big Boo’s smile is oily and it makes my skin crawl. “Let the dyke drama begin,” she purrs.

“You’re ridiculous.”

I feel all eyes at the table train on me.  I’m not much of a talker, so I suppose when I do open my mouth it’s a surprise.  But it’s not like I’m a mute like Martha in the kitchen.

“What’s it to you?” Boo sneers.  I have a feeling that she and I are gonna throw down before my time in here is over.

“Ya’ll are like vultures,” I spit out.  “Just circling the carcasses, waiting for the first opportunity to strip the bones clean.”

Some of the women look properly chastised, but not enough of them for my liking.

“We’re criminals,” Nichols reminds me through gritted teeth.  “What did you expect?”

I don’t have an answer for her and my uncharacteristic defense of the blonde suburbanite has me rattled.  I don’t know why I opened my big mouth.  I grab my tray of unfinished breakfast slop and relocate myself to an adjacent empty table. 

I don’t look up when I feel the bench shift from another inmate’s weight and hear the ugly rattle of a plastic food tray.  I just keep shoveling oatmeal into my mouth.  It’s actually not too bad today; it’s almost at the right consistency.  Sometimes it’s like soup when Red’s gotta make the food last.

“I’m sorry.  Did you want to be alone?” It’s Chapman’s obnoxious, hesitant voice.

I grunt noncommittally and shove more oatmeal into my mouth.  To be honest, I’m sick of being alone, but I’m not going to admit that to her.  I’m surrounded by women all day long, but that nagging feeling of not really having someone, it’s worse than solitary confinement. 

I recognize the noise of a spoon scraping along the bottom of her oatmeal bowl and the crisp snap of burnt toast. “So I’m sure you’ve heard, but my ex, Alex, is here.”

I don’t look up, yet she continues.  “She’s the reason I’m in here,” she scowls.  “Just once.  Just one time.  That’s all it takes, apparently.  I donned an ugly wig and a business suit with padded shoulders, with my suitcase full of dirty drug money.  And for what?” Her voice pitches up in her hysterics. “Because I was in love with her.”

She keeps prattling on and I do nothing to encourage it, but I also don’t stop her.   Her voice is annoying and her story eerily familiar, but it’s better than nothing.

+++++

Buffy walked through Faith’s apartment with her arms crossed in front of her.  The space looked different since the last time she’d been there – her fight with Faith.  Cardboard boxes littered the rooms, stacked precariously high.  The blonde was momentarily stunned by all of the…stuff…Faith had.

She stifled a startled noise when a cat jumped up on Faith’s bed.

“Who’s going to look after him?” she asked aloud.

She oddly wasn’t surprised to find Faith in the room.  “It’s a she,” the Boston girl corrected. “And aren’t these things supposed to take care of themselves?”  She walked up behind Buffy and stopped beside her.

The blonde turned to look briefly at the younger slayer.  She looked pale.  “A higher power guiding us?”

The taller girl glanced at the Chosen One. “I’m pretty sure that’s not what I meant.”

Buffy looked down at the floor and she thought hard.  “There’s something I’m supposed to be doing.”

“Oh yeah.  Miles to go,” Faith remarked.  She walked away from her sister-Slayer and stood near the broken window she’d so recently been thrown through. “Little Ms. Muffett counting down from 7-3-0.”

The golden-haired slayer grimaced. “Great.  Riddles.”

“Sorry.  It’s my head,” Faith apologized.  She looked out the broken window at the day outside. “A lot of new stuff.”

Buffy looked at the other slayer with a lopsided smile on her face.  The body of the cat on the bed seemed to blur like a television picture fuzzing.  For a split second, the image of a young girl in a white hospital gown appeared on the bed.

Faith frowned at the broken window. “They’re never going to fix this, are they?”

“What about you?” Buffy asked, concerned.

Faith turned away from the window and gestured toward her head. “Scar tissue,” she said. “It fades.  It all fades.”

Buffy looked away from the other girl, her eyes falling toward her hands.  Faith’s bloody knife – the knife Buffy had stuck into the brunette’s stomach – appeared in the palm of her hand, and then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

“You want to know the deal?”

Buffy looked back up at the sound of the younger woman’s voice.

“Human weakness – it never goes away.  Not even his.”

Buffy lightly laughed. “Is this your mind or mine?”

Faith gave a short laugh. “Beats me.”

Buffy responded with her own laugh and then looked back down.

Faith walked toward the other slayer. “It’s getting towards that time.”

Buffy looked around at all the boxes and the weapons laid out on the table beside her.  “How are you gonna fit all this stuff?” she asked the other teen.

“Not gonna,” Faith grunted.  “It’s yours.”

“I can’t use all of this!” the blonde protested.

“Just take what you need,” the other slayer gently replied.  She reached her right hand up to softly touch Buffy’s cheek.  “You ready?”

+++++

The nightmares have become less violent as of late, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less disturbing.  Instead of waking up as though I’ve been ejected from the dream, gasping and flailing about like a fish out of water, I’ve been waking up with an ache in my chest cavity.   The resulting feeling is something hollow and detached. 

I wonder if Buffy’s been having the same dreams, or if I’m all alone in this.  But it’s not like I can just call her up and ask.  I’ll admit to a moment of weakness; when I first arrived at Litchfield and didn’t know a soul, I called her mom’s house from the bank of public phones, but no one answered.  The voice on the answering machine was female and unfamiliar, but she said it was the Summers’ home, so I knew I had the right number.

Chapman’s sitting next to me on my bed, going on and on about the soap and lotion company she and her friend – I don’t remember her name – Holly?  Polly?  Molly? – one of those – started just before she got sent away. 

Nichols teases me that I’ve earned myself a new puppy dog, but I think she’s a little jealous that Chapman’s warmed up to me of all people.  It was never my intention when I stood up for her, but her company is a nice distraction to the monotony of the days in here. 

She pauses her story.  She’d been telling me something about a contact with someone named Barney.  “Am I boring you?” 

“What? No.” Yes.

“You’re fidgeting like you want to run away,” she suspiciously asserts.

My hands go to the side of my neck.  “It’s nothing.  I just slept funny last night.  Got a kink in there.”

“Oh!” Her entire body becomes animated.  “Let me help you.”

“No, really, Chapman,” I dismiss.  “It’s not that bad.  I’m fine.”

“Stop being so stubborn, Lehane.”

Deceptively strong hands go to my neck and she starts to knead at my stiff muscles.  I close my eyes and force myself to allow her hands to work over the knots in my neck and shoulders.  It’s been so long since anyone’s touched me that even an innocent neck message feels like Heaven.

“When the fuck did prison turn into a day spa?”

I crack open an eye to see Nichols standing in the doorway of our shared cubical.   Her hands are on her hips.

Chapman doesn’t stop what she’s doing. “I’m just helping Lehane get the kink out of her neck.”

There’s a queer smile on Nichols’ face. “Yeah, there’s something kinky about this situation alright,” she barks in her gravely tone.

She flops down on her bed and pulls out her walkman.  She punches the foam pillow at her back to get comfortable.  “I’m taking a nap,” she announces before putting her headphones on.  “Don’t keep me up with your pillow talk.”

Before long, I can hear my roommate lightly snoring.  It’s always impressed me how quickly that girl is able to fall asleep, even with the lights on full blast.  For myself, falling asleep has been more of a chore, especially at night when my body hums with unused energy.  Yoga Jones has been helping me get rid of some of that excess chi, but it’s still a nightly battle.

When I feel lips unexpectedly press against the nape of my neck, I immediately stiffen. “The fuck?” I murmur quietly as a warning.  

But Chapman isn’t to be discouraged.  I feel the scrape of sharp teeth at the skin where my neck meets my shoulder.  “I can be quiet,” she responds in a hushed tone.

“Th-that’s hardly the point,” I stutter quietly. “What about Vause?”

Her lips curl into a frown. “I’m not with anyone, Faith,” she says, boldly calling me by my first name for the first time.

“What are you playing at?” I stare hard at her.  “Is this to make her jealous?  Are you trying to get back at her or something?”

“I…” Her pretty face crumples.

“C’mon,” I grunt.  This isn’t a conversation to have when the walls have ears as well as eyes.  I grab her hand and jerk her up from my bed.  She looks confused and a little bit scared, but she obediently follows.

There’s an unlocked supply closet in the hallway outside of Dorm B.  Besides going outside to the yard, it’s about the only space in this godforsaken place where you can actually get some privacy.

I close the door behind us and keep my hands on the doorknob so no one can interrupt us. “Chapman.  What are you thinking?”

She drops her eyes in defeat. “I’m just so angry,” she mumbles.  “And I should hate her; and I do.  But another part of me….” She sighs and her whole body sags.  “Another part of me can’t help wanting to be close to her." 

I bite my bottom lip.  Her words cut a little too close to home for me. 

“I thought maybe if she thought you and I were…” She trails off and looks visibly embarrassed by her plan.

“I’m sorry…I-I wasn’t thinking.  But it’s just so hard to be in this place.”  She throws her hands up in frustration and tears begin to fall down her cheeks. “And now she’s here.” She futilely wipes at her face, but fresh tears continue to replace those she’s wiped away.

I’ve never been good with visible emotions.  I’ve always just shoved those shitty feelings down.  “Piper…d-don’t cry.” My voice is little more than a whisper.  I push a stray sweep of blonde hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear.

She sniffles and rubs at a leaking eye with the back of her hand. “You’re very nice, Lehane.”

I feel myself smiling. “Yeah, well, keep it to yourself; I don’t show this side too often.”

She mimics my gesture and gently strokes a few brunette locks strands away from my forehead.  “I like all of your sides,” she murmurs.  Her blue eyes seem to go darker.

“Chapman,” I warn with a growl.

She covers her mouth with her hands. “I’m sorry.  God.  It’s just that you’re being so nice.”  She buries her face in her hands. “It’s a bad habit. I don’t know why I always show gratitude like that.”

I pat her back.  “Don’t beat yourself up over it.”

She looks up, her eyes bloodshot from tears.  “Please don’t tell anyone I tried to molest you,” she pled. “I mean, not that I’d be embarrassed to have people think that we, uh, you know,” she says, gesturing between our two bodies, “Because you’re a very attractive woman and I…” She winces. “But I don’t want to encourage the others.”

Big Boo’s smarmy smile floats into my vision.  “Not a word,” I readily nod.

She flashes me a brief, brilliant smile of gratitude.  “So how do we…”

“You go first,” I say, moving out of the way.  “I’ll wait a little bit so no one sees us leaving together.”

The corner of her thin, pink lips twitches.  “Thanks again,” she breathes.

All of this gratefulness is making me itch.  I scratch at the back of my neck. “Don’t mention it,” I grunt.

She wiggles past me and opens the closet door.  My eyes reflexively follow her backside as she walks by.  The shapeless prison uniform is anything but flattering and her ass is a little flat for my liking.  I avert my eyes as soon as I realize what I’m doing.  Looking at Chapman like she’s a piece of meat isn’t going to help the situation.

I wait a beat before leaving the supply closet as well.  When I exit, Chapman is nowhere to be seen, so I return to my shared bunk space.  In the second bed, Nichols is still sleeping, hopefully unaware of the conversation that just transpired between Chapman and myself.

I let out a deep breath, steeling myself before grabbing a towel from my laundry pile. It’s been too long since I had a good fuck; I need to visit the showers before dinner and just stand under a cold spray of water.  I’m thankful that Chapman was able to stop herself because I doubt I would have been able to if she’d pushed a little harder.

A person can only have so much willpower, after all.

+++++ 

The following Saturday, Cordelia is back.  She tells me that their business in New York is nearly over.  I haven’t seen Angel since they’ve been in the area and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement.  But I also understand that things are different here at Litchfield.  Even if I find the majority of employees to be inept idiots, the lights are still too bright and watchful eyes too keen to slip a vampire into the sun-spilled visiting room.  At least back in Los Angeles the visiting room was windowless.

“I wrote her a letter.” I slide the carefully folded paper across the table.  I’ve opened and closed and handled the letter so many times that the creases are worn and the paper curls at the edges.

Cordelia arches an eyebrow.

“I was hoping that…” I clear my throat and avert my eyes. “When you go back to Los Angeles, think you could take a little detour?”

“To Sunnydale?” Cordelia’s mouth forms the name of the town as if it leaves a bad taste in her mouth.

“I’d send it to her directly, but I’m afraid she’d just throw it away without even considering reading it.”

“And you think there’s a better chance of her reading it if I grease the wheels,” Cordelia guesses.

I shrug, uncomfortable with the weight of her incredulous stare. “It’s worth a shot, right?”

Cordelia thankfully doesn’t open the letter and read it in front of me.  She at least has the tact to slip it into her pocket, unexamined.  I assume she’ll read it the moment she leaves my sight, but I’m not allowed the luxury of secrets or privacy anymore.  Not when I’m the property of the United States Government.

++++

I can feel her eyes on me, but I’m used to it by now.  We’re like animals in the zoo in here.

I look up from my task; Alex Vause is carefully folding sweatpants.  When our eyes meet and I catch her staring at me, she doesn’t look away.  Her gaze is steady.  It’s not really threatening or warning, but more contemplative and curious, I suppose.  I wonder if Chapman ended up saying anything to her about us to rile up her ex-girlfriend.

I mentally shrug it off.  Head down.  Do your time.  Don’t get involved in other people’s drama when your own life is fucked up on its own.

“I gotta take a leak,” I announce to no one in particular.  I feel the heated gaze of the meth-heads who run the laundry room, but I grab my jacket and I’m out the door.

It’s cold outside, but the brisk air actually feels good rattling around inside of my lungs.  The smoke from the cigarette doesn’t feel too shabby either. 

“You got an extra one of those?”

My eyes narrow when I see Vause.  “You following me?” I ask between drags.

She shakes her head and lightly laughs.  “Sorry.  I’m Alex. Vause.”

I can’t help my scowl.  Why do all these chicks feel the need to introduce themselves?  I pull the cigarette away from my mouth and let gravity do its job before smashing out the embers with the toe of my boot.

Vause stands there awkwardly and picks at her cuticles.  She looks like she wants to say something, but doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it.  I know it has something to do with Chapman.

“Listen, Vause,” I grit out.  “If you came out here to, I don’t know, threaten me to stay away from Chapman cause she’s like your property or something, let me save you the breath.  She’s pissed at you for turning her in, but she still has feelings for you.  Do what you will with that knowledge, just leave me the fuck outta your drama.”

When I leave her to return inside, there’s a hint of a smile at the corner of her wide mouth. 

  ++++

“Inmate!  Mail!”

It’s been a few weeks since my meeting with Cordelia.  Since then I’ve done my best to keep my nose clean.  For the most part, I’ve been successful.  My blonde puppy dog has lost interest in me, her tail wagging after another dangerous-looking brunette, but I’m honestly okay with that.  I like to entertain the fantasy that I’m in some small way responsible for their reconciliation.

Two envelopes are unceremoniously flipped onto my bed.  I snatch them up, possessively.  There’s a card-shaped yellow envelope with a Los Angeles return address in barely legible handwriting.  My hands are shaking when I see the handwriting and the return address on the second envelope.

The seal has already been cracked – the prison staff pours over all of our stuff before handing it off to us – I hope she’s smart enough to realize that and hasn’t Outed me as a Slayer or something.  That’ll take some fancy talking to explain.

I remove the letter from its envelope.  I’m sure I’m imagining it, but I can almost smell her on the paper.  That’s fucked up, Lehane.  Even for you, I scold myself.

My eyes drink in the delicate, rounded handwriting:

“Faith – I wasn’t going to read your letter, but Cordelia convinced me it was the right thing to do.”

I smile at that; I can almost visualize the interaction between the two women, Buffy self-righteous and stubbornly clinging to her disgust over me and Cordelia…well, she’s about the closest thing I’ve got to a friend if you don’t count Angel.  I bet she resurrected some of that old Queen C attitude to get her way.

I read on.  There’s not much left to the letter:

“I’m glad you’re in prison.  I’m glad you’re making amends.  I hope you’re able to do that.”

There’s no closing signature; her message is short and to the point.  My own letter to her had gone on for pages about wanting to do the right thing, but I had been purposely careful not to apologize to her.  She’d once told me she’d beat me to death if I ever tried to apologize – I haven’t forgotten that warning.

From my metal locker, I retrieve a safety pen and a stack of stationary with the New York State Department of Corrections logo watermarked at the top. 

She hadn’t written me that she hated my guts.  She hadn’t told me never to contact her again.  It’s a start, albeit small, but it’s enough for now.  And for the first time in a long time, I feel an emotion I thought I’d long ago banished.  It feels a little bit like hope.

++++

FIN

End Notes:

Thanks to Alice and Topak for peer-pressuring me into writing fuffy again :)  I've been on hiatus to write original novels -- check me out, Eliza Lentzski, on Amazon *end self-promotion* :)


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