They arrive in Cleveland looking for Faith. Wanting something from her. This makes it kind of familiar ground – been there with Wes before, and really, it worked out just fine in the end, acid trip and broken bones aside.
They find her at a club she sometimes visits when patrolling – they don’t card much, so throw a stake and it’s fifty-fifty you’ll hit a vamp or a teen, and not unlikely you’ll get a skulking paedophile. If you’re really lucky it just might be two in one, teen- or paedo-vampire.
She’s just flirting with a kiddo who’s not even pretending to be sneaky – pupils flashing yellow, almost in game face right there, in the middle of the crowded room – when she notices them from the corner of her eye. Wesley’s gone even darker since she last saw him; five o’clock shadow, brown coat, no glasses and guns at the ready were all there, but now she can guess he’s got the drinking heavily thing to go with them. A comic contrast with the time he’d wanted her to do beck and call at Sunnydale.
The woman is strange. It takes Faith a moment to even notice the odd – no, not odd, disturbing similarity of face and proportions to the person Faith once met. She seems taller than Faith remembers, and not just older, ancient. There’s also the being blue part, but hey, who’s getting bent on details.
Wesley nods almost imperceptibly (Slayer senses account for the almost) and it’s a flash for the woman to approach and rip the head off the undead’s shoulders. Body turns into ashes, and there’s disappointment in the woman’s voice (no accent, Faith registers, and a different cadence altogether) when she says, “I despise these creatures.”
Wesley’s closer by now, close enough to stretch out his hand in greeting. She ignores it and throws a “What the fucking hell happened to Fred?!” at him. His answer is mechanical, as if rehearsed.
They arrive in Cleveland looking for Faith and trouble.
“Is this the city?” Illyria asks, without turning to look at him.
“It will do.”
Cleveland has it’s own local Wolfram and Hart, smaller than the one in Los Angeles or Rome. Just a couple of offices, really, maybe fifty employees. They look out for clients L.A. branch would send away in a heartbeat (or lack thereof).
Wesley seeks to attract their attention. There’s little doubt he will. After the City of Angels went to hell and he did not, they have to be eyeing Illyria and him with interest. He’s a player these days. That would have given him satisfaction, once.
“If we cross them enough times, they’ll attempt to threaten us. When we don’t let them, they’ll do what they can to destroy us. If we survive that, they’ll offer us a trade,” he explains.
“The three won’t release your friends.”
“I don’t need them to.”
They all live in Cleveland together.
It’s not a comfortable arrangement. Wesley doesn’t forget to mention time and again that he’s only in Cleveland for a while, Faith knows better than to expect (or want) stability, and Illyria, if she even gives it a moment’s thought, calls all human affairs momentary.
They nest in two rooms that Faith’s wage from the Council can afford them, eat whatever Wesley’s leftovers from his spell at Wolfram and Hart pay for, and cause disturbance whenever they go out in public together. A blue-haired woman is not exactly a shocking sight these days, but the same can’t be said for one who’s blue all over, and Wesley never asks her to turn her skin skin-coloured. It irritates Faith to no end, but after the first time she breaches the subject to no result other than Wesley’s deep and vocal displeasure, she lets it slide.
They might not be inconspicuous, but they are quite efficient. That’s what counts, right?
It’s not a comfortable arrangement. There’s always something like antagonism between Wesley and Faith, and Illyria has a tendency to hold the two of them in contempt whenever her wishes are not guessed and fulfilled promptly.
Faith has had worse.
The first time Wesley tastes Illyria’s skin he’s painfully sober – his defences are up when he’s into his liquor, actually. It’s almost a funny story, except there’s no logic nor punch-line.
It’s another part of her education, one he despises as much as comes to crave. She asks him to tell her about the pleasures of the human flesh, and he has no more dignity left with her, does he? She’s seen him retch his stomach dry and she’s walked in on him masturbating. She has no concept of intimacy, or privacy, or boundaries. He doesn’t have much of anything apart from debt and self-loathing, so it works out just fine. So it’s almost obvious, natural for him to just show her.
She’s apart from Fred by then in his mind, as much as possible. Her skin is blue everywhere, her hair is blue everywhere, and she is what he would describe as surprised when she comes under his hands and tongue, and cock. She calls what he does “worship”, and he doesn’t correct her. Maybe she’s right anyway. Maybe that is the best word.
That first night he brings himself off in the bathroom afterwards, thinking about Lilah Morgan and how easy his life used to be. He laughs at the thought, and the sound of his own laughter makes him uneasy.
All other nights and days, he comes after she does (“God-Kings first”), in the beds they don’t as much share as occasionally co-habit.
The first morning Wesley and Illyria spend in her place, Faith finds Wesley in the kitchen, helping himself to her eggs and doing a crossword puzzle. He only made enough for himself of course.
She’s not hungry right away anyway, she has to work up an appetite.
The first smoke of the day has its time after she’s cleaned her teeth and done a couple of sit-ups and push-ups. That’s when she rests on the chair, one leg tucked up under her, the other propped on the table or wherever, blood coursing through her veins upbeat, and lights the cigarette.
“It’s a filthy habit and indulging it will kill you, Faith.” He doesn’t even raise his eyes from the crossword.
“Funny, that would sound so much more convincing if you cared. Or if my life expectancy wasn’t past due as it is.”
He ignores her pointedly over the cup of coffee.
“Speaking of, where’s the blue run off to?”
“I am not master of Illyria’s comings and goings.”
“You know I just can’t let that one slide, don’t you.”
He looks at her then, calmly and coldly.
“You’ll find my sense of humour severely limited when it comes to jests about my personal – intimate – life.”
“Nothing intimate about these walls, Wes.” Daggers he’s glaring her way just get her going. “By the way, never thought I’d be so tempted to get off to your voice.”
“You really don’t know when to stop, do you? Something you should have learnt long ago, Faith.”
She inhales loudly, then lets the smoke out. There’s a lot of things she doesn’t know, names of the American presidents in chronological order included, but how to recognize that a guy wants to fuck her is not one of them. Whether they’re predatory, pretend-cool, silent and forceful or just plain leering, she’s a pro at seeing their signs.
She spreads her legs just a little, just because she wants to, just because she can. Maybe because that’s her thing. She’s not the one to say “stop”. Not any more.
He’s looking at her. Of course he is.
“Teach me then, watcher. Shut me up.”
They’re out slumming it (or Wesley and Illyria are – Faith’s in her element) at another of those free blood buffet spots. Faith’s humming in German, lyrics she only half-understands and that’s just because a kid she was hanging with the other night translated for her.
“Can she get drunk?!”
She doesn’t really expect Wesley to answer, but he does.
“Not that I’ve observed. My estimate would be that for one thing, she would require great amounts of alcohol to manage such a feat, and perhaps more importantly, it would quite likely lead to mass slaughter.”
“Gee, a simple ‘no’ would suffice.”
Wesley orders two shots of Absolut for them. Illyria is watching the people around with something that borders on interest but doesn’t quite get there. It’s probably monumental progress.
“These creatures pleasure one another in this place. I do not find the sight altogether abhorrent.”
“She’s not looking the same direction I am then, cause that fat bald guy should be forbidden to so much as think about sex,” Faith says at no one in particular, and downs her shot in one go. The burn is so divine. Good stuff, if a bit pricey. But she’s not paying, so hey, no complaints.
“Maybe we could at least get her a coke,” she tells Wesley, indicating Illyria. “She does, you know, digest stuff, right?”
“Do you want an actual answer?”
“Then I’ll just order for her.”
Illyria considers the glass and its contents and then takes a sip thoughtfully.
“I find it strangely familiar.”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You two wanna dance?”
They two don’t, not right then at least, so she prowls the dance floor all alone, feeling a lot of pairs of eyes on herself. This changes to almost every pair the moment after she starts to dance in earnest. She is not technically impressive, but she knows she fuels other’s fantasies. It’s equal parts her natural sex appeal and self-confidence. And just a bit of cruelty.
Wesley’s not watching her. He’s got his hands all over the blue woman, who in turn does observe Faith. It’s unnerving. Faith needs a drink.
Someone else buys her one and another. She stakes a vamp in a dark corner and, hips swaying just a bit more than usual, she walks over to the weirdo pair.
“I’m beat, gonna crash. You finished?”
If Wesley’s smirk is anything to go by, they are.
They leave Los Angeles burning behind them. Wesley is quite confident Angel and Spike will get out of the skirmish undead, or, as the case may be, alive. If this is not the apocalypse that promises shanshu, he doesn’t want to be around to see the next one.
Illyria requires him to show her more of humanity. She takes on Fred’s face, and he almost turns to look back. Wind tastes of ashes. Literally.
“You feel shame for weakness.”
Thus begins the first of their lessons.
“Weakness is human, Illyria.”
So is shame.
Winter turns into spring. Cleveland is clean when compared to most other cities Faith has seen. Despite the port and the sewers, the streets look welcoming and cheerful during the day, and surprisingly safe during the night. There are fewer vampires than ever, all thanks to the blue God and trigger-happy deadly handsome psycho of a watcher she houses under her roof. Yeah, she’s got her part in the deal too, but they make the difference.
It’s spring. Faith brings home a future hangover and a pushy, clingy chick of a lesbian, who has the best tits Faith’s ever seen. She breathes relief at the absence of Wes’s shoes next to the door, and gets the girl to the bedroom.
“I haven’t had any in ages,” the girl says, and her squeaky voice kind of grates on Faith’s ears, but it’s not about commitment or true love, and she’s not Buffy nor even Willow, she’s Faith and she’s horny, and overanalysing is not in her repertoire, but having a virtually nameless cutie come with Faith’s fingers up her cunt is.
“You’re gonna have the best of your life,” Faith answers mechanically, taking her own top off.
“Let me,” is the chorus, and they unhook bras, and unzip pants, and take off panties and socks. Socks are never all that sexy, but the girl has amazing calves and long legs, like some fucking human giraffe.
It’s the voice that’s the spoilsport.
“Fuck. Who the fuck is that?”
Faith turns around and sees Illyria standing at the threshold to the room, staring at the two of them, head tilted like a bird’s, undeniably blue and looking like she’s straight out of a sci-fi B-class flick.
“Oh. That’s… That’s just a roommate. No problem, really. I’ll just-“
But the pretty girl is getting dressed already, and she leaves without another word to Faith, like it’s somehow her fault that the God-King has no manners. The only thing that is her fault is not having heard her earlier, but who knows how quiet Illyria can be if she wants to. Maybe she can make some sort of anti-sound; that would be just like her. Faith closes the door behind the legs and the tits.
“That was not your mate. Yet you intended to fornicate.”
“I don’t get paid for the talks about the birds and the bees, so don’t expect me to answer that non-question.”
“You mated with Wesley. I know this.”
“And I know you and your man-toy do the horizontal nightly. Will you just let me go take a shower?”
“This does not concern me,” Illyria says, finally, and walks by Faith, her arm brushing against Faith’s. Faith feels the raw power, the ruthlessness, the ages and her heart rate spikes. Illyria stops in her tracks, and Faith knows what she’s about to say – “This one lusts after me,” or some such crap; it’s happened twice already.
She doesn’t wait for it. She opens the door to the bathroom and slams them behind, enters the shower cabin, turns the water hot (screw the bills) and scrubs.
When they enter her flat for the first time, Faith is a bit drunk. She staggers to the kitchen and almost lands sprawled on the floor, giggling and somewhat clingy. She gives them the grand tour.
“My room. Your room. Bathroom. Kitchroom.”
Wesley rolls his eyes and drops his bag on the floor. Illyria stares out of the window. It’s almost dawn.
Faith gets a grip on herself and tells them she needs to shower and crash. The look she gives Wesley is a quite clear indication that he’s not to think their talk about what he’s doing in Cleveland is anywhere near over.
“We’ll talk in the morning – or whenever it is you wake up,” he corrects himself.
“Count on it,” she replies, banging the bathroom door shut behind her.
The mini-bus is all over the news – twelve massacred bodies don’t happen every night. Wesley’s quick on the uptake.
“Wolfram and Hart will have had someone involved one way or another.”
Of course, it’s quite the opposite. The murders are gruesome and imaginative, guts strewn around like serpentines, bloody footsteps left on the road photographed for the papers. He suggests that they go to the crime scene immediately. Illyria scoffs at him for his tone and agrees, Faith says she calls shotgun. Wesley considers a headache as an acceptable stress management technique.
He breaks speed limits on the way to the park and almost gets into a potentially fatal car accident. Illyria wouldn’t be amused, having to bring him back again.
He tries to focus on the road. Faith’s hand on his thigh? Not helping.
One evening Illyria comes back from a patrol with her own blood on her face. She moves slowly and laboriously, and Faith can hardly believe her eyes. She usually thinks about the God-King as untouchable, if not invulnerable.
“Wesley’s still AWOL,” Faith says to her. The moment the words leave her mouth she’s pretty sure they are redundant. Illyria can probably tell Wesley’s position from miles away.
Illyria doesn’t respond. Her communication with Faith is strained in general; maybe she’s jealous of Wesley, or maybe she just doesn’t consider Faith interesting enough to wish to speak with her.
Illyria coughs. Faith makes up her mind.
“You need to get these taken care of.”
“Wesley is not here.”
Faith has seen Watcher-man do his thing a couple of times before, and she’s fairly sure she can do what he’d do in cases such as these. And if she mixes the ingredients wrong, hey, Illyria is as well as immortal.
It takes her almost half an hour, compared to Wesley’s ten minutes, to get the mixture ready. Illyria reclines on the bed in her room, when Faith enters, big ashtray full of the healing stuff in one hand. She sits down next to Illyria.
Illyria graciously allows Faith to apply the salve to her back and arm. Muscles flex and twitch under the touch; Illyria must be in intense physical pain, but she doesn’t give Faith as much as a sharp inhalation to confirm her suspicions.
“You’ll be as good as new. Or ancient, as the case may be.”
“Your assistance was not required.”
“You say ‘thanks’ in civilized circles, but I’ll let that pass on account of your ass being kicked today.”
“My enemy perished.”
“You mean I should see the other guy.”
“Nothing remains of him to be seen.”
Faith smiles at that. She never suspected otherwise.
“What was it?” she asks, lighting a cigarette. Wesley won’t even have the right to have a fit when he comes back and smells the smoke, this being her flat and all.
Illyria’s thigh next to hers feels cold. Faith notices and feels weird for paying attention.
“I wish to explore this further,” Illyria says, leaning towards Faith. Pointing at the pack of cigarettes. “This… body has memories of burning these.”
Faith nods, then hands Illyria a smoke and fire.
Illyria takes a couple of deep breaths, and then lets the cigarette burn on its own, her eyes never leaving the orange point glowing in the approaching darkness.
She should look ridiculous. She doesn’t. It’s Faith who’s left feeling insignificant and strange.
She never finds out what it was that Illyria killed.
Whenever his relationship with Faith is concerned, Wesley’s mind consistently goes back to two moments in the history they share.
The first one is the evening he spent with her, her fists, and the glass. A starting point, an exclamation mark, what have you. Inescapable and looming.
The other one is the time when he wiped her face, after her fight with Angelus and the Beast. She was trembling – her legs shook even as she was sitting, pain cursing through her in waves he could almost feel himself. Her hands were cold. He felt satisfaction at the sight of her suffering. Ground was being levelled between them.
She went to take a shower to wash down all the blood. From his room, he heard her shout and punch the wall.
They are under another shower now, and the sound of the water drowns out all other sounds. Faith is wet and slippery, and her hands are hot when they tangle in his hair, pushing his head downwards.
He fucks her with his tongue and with his fingers, thinking about the time she called him “boss”.
She always gets defensive after an orgasm, her need for distance suddenly overwhelming any other impulses. She dries herself off with a towel and practically runs out.
“I hope you’re making progress on whatever it is you’re doing,” she says, opening the door.
He doesn’t answer.
There is a moment when Wesley is dead.
The place – if it can be called that - is not full of light or darkness, doesn’t resemble heaven nor hell. It’s nothing. The nausea stays with him for days afterwards.
Illyria pulls him out, coughing and screaming, overwhelmed by sudden sensations. The world feels intense, even in the dark, red room of the warlock she’s just killed.
“There is no time,” she tells him, clutching his hand, dragging him away.
Time and space fold behind them. He doesn’t need explanations – her one act of selfish kindness sends Los Angeles into a hell dimension, he can see that. The dying wizard’s power released her own, contained one, but she doesn’t seem to be unstable. She brought him back. The laws governing the passage from this world are younger than she is.
She tells him she felt Gunn die. He doesn’t bat an eyelash. There are many things he has better reasons to feel guilty, angry or sad about.
He should curse her for choosing him over the city; making him responsible for so much destruction. Yet, he has learned to be selfish, and he has learned to be grateful – on the other side of nothingness, eternal servitude to Wolfram and Hart loomed threatening and inescapable.
Above all, he’s too tired to curse anyone or anything.
Faith answers the insistent knocking with the towel tied around her, hair dripping water.
“What do you want?” she asks, opening the door.
“I would like to speak to Mr Wyndam-Pryce on behalf of my employers.”
“It’d be funnier if you were a vampire, but you’re not invited anyway.”
The woman on the other side is dressed in a black and white suit. Her eyebrows look like two straight brown lines drawn over her blue eyes. At least Lilah Morgan had style.
“I must insist to speak with him.”
“Wesley’s not here.”
“I will leave a message then-“
Faith smiles. The woman hesitates.
“I did not mean to impose.”
“Yeah well, you did.”
“My employers have reasons to believe-“
Faith wishes she was dressed. As it is, she can’t really indulge in pushing the woman off the stairs.
“I don’t give a fuck what your employers want, or believe, or have to say. Get out of my face.”
She closes the door. The towel drops. She walks to the bathroom on her toes, heels of her feet don’t touch the coldness of the floor. She’ll have questions to ask Wesley, too.
“What did you do to chase Wes away for so long?”
He’s been gone for three days now, and Faith’s fairly sure it’s not anything she did. So either he’s actually getting something done for a change, or Illyria really stepped on his toes.
“I neither know nor care why he shuns my presence.”
Right. Someone’s being irritable today. “Just asking.”
“Your questions offend me.”
“What doesn’t,” Faith mutters.
Illyria’s spins to face her with inhuman speed. Faith is prone to forgetting just how much more power the God-King has compared to anything she’d ever faced.
“Humans offend me. This world tires and disgusts me. Yet I made a pact with the killer of my Qwa'ha Xahn, and upheld my side of the bargain. Do not try me with your insolence.”
Faith shuts up. Sometimes she recognizes the right moment.
“Tonight we shall hunt and kill the vampires which nest near the park.”
“I thought you wanted to wait for Wesley?”
Illyria doesn’t look at her. Faith sighs.
“It’s cool with me.”
Faith lights a cigarette and hands Illyria another. She doubts if Wesley will care.
Taking care of Illyria is not unlike what he was born, bred and raised to do: controlling a Slayer. Similarities are numerous and obvious, starting with their strength, which could so easily be turned against him, and ending with the superiority complex. Illyria is as edgy as any teenaged drama queen he could have been forced to assist in her quest against evil.
Admittedly, her power and indifference to human rules and morality can be a problem, but at least she exhibits no interest in make-up, hair-styles and other such nonsense.
She’s more predictable than he had once thought Faith. Of course, he might be wrong again.
There are moments when he can’t stand the sight of her.
“I am leaving, Illyria.”
She’s facing away from him, her hand clutches the window handle.
“You are to be my guide in this world.”
“I have to find a way to save L.A. Ridiculous as it sounds.”
“What if I tell you the only way to do that is to die?”
“I would have to keep trying anyway.”
“You grieve still. My sight is unpleasant to your eyes.”
“I do not hate you, Illyria.”
“I brought you back.”
“I am grateful for your kindness.”
She tilts her head, looking at him with such intense focus that he flinches.
“I was worshipped by thousands. Blood of my enemies and my acolytes was spilt in my name and I knew no mercy, no regret. I didn’t pity anyone’s fate. I breathed their pain and I breathed their fear the same as I breathed others’ joy and love. They all tasted the same to me.”
Her voice is almost hoarse, low and devoid of intonation, flat.
“I am tainted with it. Values. Memories. Ideas. If I am to live in this way, I must do… what you said. Adapt. But I do not want it. I felt grief.”
“When I was dead?”
“I felt grief for your passing. I knew none when you killed my Qwa'ha Xahn. This world is soft. It changes me.”
“Your power was diminished.”
“This shell is inappropriate.”
Wesley’s voice is clipped and sharp. He has little patience.
“You know her name.”
“Winifred Burkle. She is important to me.”
He looks at her suspiciously. “Why?”
“In my world thousands died on altars. She was the only sacrifice in my name in this one.”
There’s nothing he can say to that.
“You will stay with me and teach me.”
She’s waiting for Wesley next to his Frontera when the shots sound. They both drop to the ground. She can almost see him smile as he reaches for his own gun. That son of a bitch.
“Wesley? You might have mentioned the possibility of assassins,” Faith hisses at him from where she’s crouched on the other side of the car.
“I thought it would be more fun this way.”
“I’m gonna kill you if they don’t.”
He ignores her. “Are you’ going to lie there and whine or help me take care of the problem?”
Another round hits close to them, shattering the windows and puncturing the body of the car. Faith swears.
“I really hate guns, man.”
Wesley jumps to his feet and shoots twice before getting back to the ground level. She doesn’t look up to see if he missed.
“How many were there?” he asks.
“How the hell should I know?”
“I thought you had a better look. I think at least four.”
“Three or more to go, then.”
Faith waits a moment and runs. She throws a knife at another hired gun while still in motion. Wes uses the diversion to take out two more.
She kills the last one – five of them, after all; that could almost be seen as sign of esteem – with his own gun.
“One of them almost got me,” she declares.
“He didn’t. And I spent most of what I had on this car.”
“You owe me so many dinners,” Faith says, taking the knife out of the dead guy’s eye socket and wiping it against his shirt.
There are good reasons for sticking to slaying vampires, relatively low gross factor included.
Illyria and Faith patrol a cemetery; Wesley decided to stay in and research. That, or he’s just glad to be rid of them for a change, both seem just as likely to Faith.
They’re an effective team. They dust twelve bloodsuckers before Faith starts feeling a bit worn out and they stop to have a breather. Faith’s out of cigarettes; maybe that’s better anyway, these things are kind of bad for you.
No, that doesn’t even sound convincing in her head. She needs a smoke.
Illyria runs away in pursuit of another vamp; Faith watches her from the distance, feet beating against the grass-covered earth; her hair doesn’t look blue in the moonlight.
Illyria rips off the demon’s head and then comes back to the grave Faith is sitting on.
“What is the purpose of this place?” she asks, shaking dust off of her arms.
“I thought you covered that with Wes. Customs and habits of the human race, 101.”
“I know you bury shells in this place and visit them. Why does your kind do it?”
“I dunno,” Faith says, after a moment. “I guess some people like to sort of, keep in touch with their dead families. Personally, I think it’s convenient to get the rising vamps all in one place.”
Illyria looks away. “You grieve and you mourn. You are attached to that which is gone, always. And then you are gone, after a short moment.”
“Yeah, it sucks to be us.”
“It is… intense.”
It will soon be sunrise; the sky in the east is greying already. The air is cold, and Faith shivers when the wind gusts by.
“I’m starving,” she says, in the end, when the silence stretches between them, and she’s starting to feel awkward.
Illyria approaches her, head tilted in this weird way she has that makes her look even less human. Her hand brushes against Faith’s.
“What the hell do you want now?” Faith asks, and when Illyria doesn’t answer with insults, she pushes her against the stone monument.
This is the moment when Faith asks stupid questions, like: “Do you feel everything like we?” and, “Like that?” Illyria replies with a short speech which can be summed up with: “basically, yeah,” and “go ahead.”
Faith rubs her leg against Illyria’s inner thighs, and watches the armour dissipate into skin, disappear from view completely.
“That’s fucking convenient,” she says, when her fingers ghost over a blue nipple. “This whole clothes thing. No laundry ever. I love it.”
Illyria doesn’t say a word; she seems to be focusing on the sensations completely, head tilted back and knees buckling. Faith pushes two fingers up her cunt and enjoys the gasps.
“Feel free to reciprocate any time, Blue.”
They fuck against the cold marble, Faith with her pants down, shirt and coat unbuttoned; Illyria naked, bathed in the pale light of dawn.
Faith comes thinking that Illyria could tear her in two with her bare hands.
Illyria comes a moment later, her clothes (if that’s the right word) blossoming on her skin, even as she is shivering in aftershocks.
“This is something your kind does to cope with mortality,” she tells Faith, when they are walking towards Wesley’s SUV. Faith isn’t sure if she means sex or burial of the dead, or maybe both.
Faith drives them home fighting sleepiness and the urge to glance at Illyria searchingly every other minute. Blue would show no face expression she could read anyway.
“Now you managed to piss me off, Wesley.”
The three of them stand in front of the block of flats where Faith’s flat was before it went up in flames. Faith indeed doesn’t look amused.
“One would think it natural for you to be angry with the persons who set the fire to the building rather than me.”
“One would go get himself buggered. Assassins are one thing. I had stuff in there.”
“Yes, this is correct. As it happens, so did I. Some quite valuable texts-“
She moves as if to hit him; he twists her arm, and she works on instinct then, throwing him to the ground and putting a knife to his throat in one swift motion (memories rush back in Technicolor). Illyria doesn’t waste time speaking; she hits Faith so hard the Slayer is thrown a couple of feet into the air before landing sprawled on the pavement. She drops the knife and stands up, dusting her knees and elbows, face twisted in pain.
“Texts shmexts, Wes! I’m fucking tired of this game you’re playing without bothering to explain anything to me!”
“I don’t think this is the best time-“
“This is the only time, Wes. I’ve had it with you and blue. What’s your deal anyway? I’m not that stupid. There’s branches of W&H all around the world. You have another reason to be here.”
“I requested that he teach me about humanity,” Illyria interjects.
Faith stops in her tracks. He has a sudden urge to clean the glasses he lost years ago.
“Is that the point, Wesley? Am - am I somehow part of your curriculum?”
He doesn’t answer.
“Now don’t get shy on me all of the sudden,” she taunts. “We’re well past that, aren’t we? I thought so when you fucked me over the kitchen table.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“So what the fuck is it that you needed me for? What am I the example of, if you’d-”
Faith looks at him incredulous.
“Illyria doesn’t really understand need. Want. Lust. Hunger. Thirst. You’re the most… hungry person I know.” He breathes deeply. She doesn’t interject him.
“That, and as it happens, having the support of a Slayer does increase the chances of my plan.”
They sleep in a hotel, and find a new flat to rent within a week.
Faith initiates it the first time. They’ve all come back to the flat tired from the running around, hacking monsters to pieces; Wesley goes to the kitchen to put the kettle on, and Faith suddenly doesn’t remember why it’s so much more than bad an idea.
She kisses Wesley on the mouth, and one of her hands grasps at his hair, while the other works the zipper of his jeans. He’s immediately hard. Illyria stands right behind the two of them, watching intently.
“Let’s move it to the bedroom, ‘kay?” she suggests, tugging at Wesley’s waistband, but looking at Illyria. Then she turns her head to Wesley, and his expression is almost worth the one she never got to see – the one he must have had when Illyria told him about their cemetery incident. Air in the kitchen is heavy with tension. Wesley’s shoulders drop suddenly.
“Let’s,” he says, and turns the stove off.
They stumble onto Wes and Illyria’s double bed; undress or vanish clothes, throw the pillows away. It’s disorganized and awkward; they don’t speak, as though speech could somehow prevent it from actually happening, and now that they’ve decided to do it, they don’t plan to back out.
Faith’s not sure what she’s supposed to do, so she goes straight for the big guns and dives headfirst between Illyria’s legs, while Wesley almost shyly caresses her tits. After a moment everything comes together anyway, and it matters little who’s touching what; one of them teases her clit, one of them kisses her breast (that’s actually Wesley, unless Illyria’s growing a beard), then she’s going down on Illyria, Wesley’s fucking her from the behind, and finally she comes, and falls on the bed limp and spent, her legs tangled with four others.
She ends up sleeping in between the two of them; she wakes up sometime later in the middle of the night, sticky with sweat, and hears two synchronized breaths.
She counts them until she falls asleep again.
The day Wolfram and Hart come to them with a compromise, Wesley’s makes scrambled eggs for breakfast. Faith eats fast, as though someone just might take the plate away from her any moment now.
“This is actually excellent,” she says, afterwards. “You’re a treasure around the kitchen, Wes,” she adds, mockingly.
“It’s very nice of you to say that,” he replies, before answering the door.
There are three lawyers and a bodyguard Fyarl demon outside. He lets them all in. They squeeze around the kitchen table, the demon standing in the doorway, and Illyria right behind him.
The lawyers have some reasonable suggestions as to ways to resolve the conflict of interest which could be summed up as: “You’re killing our clients, and we want you to stop.”
Wesley turns them all down, and then says:
“There’s a text in Ancient Babylonian I just might be interested in.”
When he names it, they call their bosses and talk on their mobile phones for a good fifteen minutes. Wesley makes tea for Faith and himself.
They put away their BlackBerries and turn to Wesley. One of them speaks:
“The text will be made available to you upon leaving Cleveland.”
“No. The text will be given to me right now, and we’ll leave once we’re absolutely certain it contains the relevant information. In the meantime, we’ll refrain from going out of our way to step on your toes.”
Three hours later, they have a deal.
There’s a dream that haunts Wesley once in a while.
He’s dressed in a suit and bespectacled, walking the corridors of his former employers’. Outside the window, the moon and the sun share the cloudless sky; monsters overrun the streets of Los Angeles.
Angel is lying on a cot, mortally wounded Fisher King. Human at last.
“The land is dying,” Wesley says.
“None of us is worthy,” Angel answers.
It’s Faith’s birthday, and they cook. That is to say, Faith buys frozen French fries, which Wesley puts in the microwave, and Illyria deigns to observe the process. That, or she’s napping in the kitchen. Faith isn’t entirely sure.
It’s all very domestic, in a heart-wrenching Hollywood sob-story way. Wesley hands Faith her gift, a very nice knife, sharp blade, simple design.
“This is a promise.”
Faith stops memories from surfacing. Other promises, other knives. Blade first and handle first. In her, and his, and other hands.
“So you’ve found your answer?” she asks, nonchalantly. Not that it will fool him.
“Illyria and I are leaving for Los Angeles tomorrow.”
“There is something I want you to consider.”
Faith swallows her French fries, washes them down with coke. She waits a beat, then another. Wesley’s gaze is steady and calm. Illyria’s face is inscrutable, but Faith’s willing to consider her body language as welcoming. Weirder things have happened.
“Yes?” she asks, finally.
“Judging by the importance of our mission and the obstacles we are likely to encounter… We could probably use backup.”
Faith smiles. This is familiar ground. Wesley wants something from her. Been there before. Worked out for the best.
“Yeah. I bet you could.”