I stare at the placard, reading the words a couple of times before I become aware of Tara standing behind me. Watching me examine her desk.
"What...?" I didn't realize I was really asking her a question until she answers.
"It's from a TV show. I m-mean, it's from a lot of places but that v-version is from a show."
I nod, reading the words again before dismissing them as just another new age, mumbo jumbo sixties hangover.
"Whatever," I say, turning and heading away.
"Are you going to p-patrol now?" she asks but I shake my head.
"Nope. Hot date with Willow's notes for tomorrow's test and then bed. Haven't been sleeping well."
I escape their dorm room with the notes and a couple of bags of herbal tea guaranteed to relax. More new age mumbo jumbo.
Dr. Steinman convinced me once to go to the prison chaplain once on the theory that if God could reform a Watergate conspirator then He could help anyone. Trust a hippy to recognize true evil.
I agreed, kind of hoping for Susan Sarandon and settling for some pudgy Mexican priest who looked fairly out of place unless you really looked at his eyes. You get to look for things like that so you know who you can push and who you can't. I've tried to explain it to Chuny but she can't do it yet. Maybe it's a Slayer thing.
Anyway, instead of telling me that God loves me no matter what or that Jesus died for my sins and the rest of the speech he just asks me three questions.
"Do you believe in Hell?"
"Hell, yeah," I said, amused by my own wit. He just nodded.
"Do you believe in Heaven?"
"Why," he asked me slowly, "can you believe in Hell and not Heaven?"
"Because," I thought at the time, "I haven't seen Heaven or angels or ten good men let alone fifty. But I know people who've been there, I kill things that come from there and I've seen more evil in a busy night than you saw in the lifetime that made your eyes so hard."
But you don't say those kinds of things aloud unless you want a vacation in the loony block. So we just stared at each other for a few minutes and then he nodded and pressed the buzzer for my escort to take me home.
"Ironic," he had said, "your name that is. Come back when you want. I'm usually here."
I hadn't gone back. Not even after the walkabout. Because I know what hell is.
And for the last six months it's been visitor's day.
There's a tap against the metal bars and, surprise, it's Luther. It's not like you get a lot of drop by guests at the door here. Anyway, he says visitors and I do a little Star Trek jerk on my overalls and head out, following Luther through the maze of corridors. At one intersection I just stop breathing because you can go straight through to the public visiting rooms or you turn for the private meeting rooms.
When Angel comes alone we have to use the public visiting area just like you see in the movies. Plates of reinforced plastic and old clunky telephone handsets. See but not touch, hear but not feel. I prefer that. The good doctor Steinman says some mumbo jumbo about distance and trust. It's bull though. Being taken to the public room means that he's alone which means that she isn't with him.
We turn. And, after a few steps, I finally draw a shaky breath. Five more steps and Luther's opening a door and I enter the room on autopilot, taking a seat and looking around.
They're both there, Angel sitting in the chair and Kate perched on the heating rad. As always I've interrupted them in the middle of some conversation and they flash each other these 'finish it later' looks. Then Kate glances me over, dismissing me as if I were some freaky psycho loser. Which, to be fair, is what I am to her. Angel just gives me a half quirk that's his version of a full smile and slides over a wrinkly brown paper bag. I glance inside seeing some comics and tapes and a baggie of chocolate chip cookies.
"Thanks," I say, watching Kate ignore me from the corner of one eye while Angel talks. He tells a few tales which basically tell me that everyone I know on the outside is still alive. I wonder what I'll do when he comes to tell me some bad news. Kate glances at her watch, then at me, then at Angel and then the watch again.
The first time they came I was in shock. The second time they must have thought I was on something the way I jittered. By the forth time I'd finally figured out how to act around them, to treat them like they'd been visiting every two weeks for the last two years. I had expected the visits to get easier then.
Kate looked in my direction again and I realized that she was looking at the wall behind me. Not at me. Through me.
"Hey, Cagney. Take a hike, would ya?"
Now she sees me.
She glances at Angel who frowns at me and nods at her. With one more poison glance she leaves and I hear the door click behind her.
"Don't bring her back," I say, my voice harsh even to my ears.
"What if you were handed what you wanted most in the world for all the wrong reasons?"
I hadn't meant to say that. His face shuttered and became even more emotionless. I remember what Katie had said, how he had been given a shot at what he wanted most and walked away from it. I look down at his hand that was suddenly on my wrist.
"She reminds me..." I begin but can't and won't say it aloud and make it true. "Please," and I'm shaken at the pleading in my voice.
"Faith," he begins but I wave him off and stand.
"Don't bring her back," I repeat as I wait for the guard to take me back to safety.
I actually make it out of the parking lot and to the street before I explode.
"What the hell is her problem! I have better things to do with my off night than visit her bitchiness," I think maybe I've gone to far but a quick glance at the passenger seat shows that Angel isn't even listening to me.
"What would Faith want most in the world?"
The question comes out of the blue. "Freedom," I suggest, my knee jerk answer. As soon as I say it though I know it's wrong.
"She could walk out of there anytime she wanted." I must have made some indication of doubt. "Any time," he repeats firmly. "That place wouldn't hold me, it certainly doesn't hold her."
"Then what does?" I ask, coming to a stop at a level crossing. "Guilt? Fear?"
"What would Faith want most in the world?" he repeats.
This time I give it more thought, waiting for the train that was the last barrier to getting onto the freeway.
"A second chance? To tell someone we love them before it's too late. To say sorry before the mess gets too big for words to fix? To bring a problem out into the open before it eats you alive?" I can feel his eyes on me and know he's wondering if I'm talking about Faith or me. I wonder myself.
The train is gone and the flashing barrier lifts. Ahead is the on ramp and home. Or at least L.A.
"I saw the Sunnydale PD jacket, Angel, and it reads like a bad '50s morals movie."
"You have access to her files?"
"The local stuff," I shrug. "She confessed. It wasn't like we had to build a case to go to trial."
"Do me a favour? Find out about her."
"Find out what?"
"Everything. What she wants most in the world. And why you remind her of it." The last was said so faintly I wasn't sure I heard it and one glance at his face told me that he hadn't meant me to. So I shut up and he doesn't say anything all the way back into the city.
The prison gym is quiet with the only real sound being leather against leather as I work out on the speed bag. It's a nice day out so most of the other guests of the state elected to spend it in the sun. Chuny tried to draw me out for the basketball game but I shrugged out of it and she didn't push.
Needed to work on my pallor, I had explained.
Steinman calls this zen meditation. Which, of course, calls up a mental image of Buddah in boxing gloves which, of course, makes me laugh which, of course, messes up my timing. However, I find the rhythm again and soon my mind starts the serious thinking.
About two years ago, in a glass filled alley with the rain pouring down like some damn metaphor, I finally woke from a life long sleep. And, after rubbing the sleep from my eyes and taking a good look around I pretty much sat here, in this prison, thinking and planning and dealing.
Kate, my Katie, had said I was waiting for a call. So when the call came, and when I'd heard it and when I'd answered the little motherfucker correctly I found myself back here, waiting for the next call but with a second load of pain.
I could feel, nagging at the corners of my soul, the darkness that use to send me into the streets and clubs. A coward's suicide is how Dr. Steinman had referred to my self destructive youth but it wasn't, not really. A Slayer needs that darkness, not a death wish exactly but more like a lack of life wish.
I turn myself up a notch, the speed ball a blur as I tried to beat the darkness down.
The FBI can be a righteous pain in the ass but they can gather information like no one else. After a two-day wait, three thick files were on my desk courtesy of the Feds to join her prison file. I started with the Federal files covering Faith and her parents.
The wonder of it isn't that Faith is in jail. The wonder is that it took so long.
I am mildly surprised to see that both her parents were still alive. Not so surprised to discover that they were also guests of the state, in this case Massachusetts. I start with numerous records of the Boston cops getting called to increasingly violent domestic disputes as well as drunk and disorderly, assault, battery, prostitution, drugs which is part of the reason the Feds got interested. Around the time she was ten Faith graduated to her own file. There were some fairly dark musings by the children's services people that had resulted in Faith being put into foster care but she always ended back up with her folks. School records effectively end when she was fourteen and the Boston Police Department reports top mentioning her at all when she was around seventeen. Which, I figured, was when she became a Slayer.
That made her twenty on her last birthday.
I move on to the present. She left a swath of assault cases across LA but it was the confessions to the Sunnydale homicides that had put her into prison. A young but earnest public defender had taken three deaths and countless fairly brutal assaults and dealt them into Murder One and Manslaughter with concurrent sentences turning it from literal life to figurative. The District Attorney, despite all the evidence from Wolfram and Hart, had played ball.
I glance through the minute details of her prison life. For a self professed psychopath and a clinically diagnosed sociopath she was, to all intents and purposes, a model prisoner. Two serious altercations, both in the first few months and both deemed self defense. She held a steady job in the prison factory with three promotions. Reports from the other prisoners, the guards and the trustees all spoke well of her. She mentored abused inmates, intervened to defuse volatile situations and generally been as good as gold. On paper, a virtual poster girl for rehabilitation. The only one who had anything harsh to say was the prison librarian who bitched about over due books. I glanced down the list of books expecting... well, not sure what I was expecting but Greek mythology, Jungian psychology and sci-fi wasn't anywhere near the top.
So, what did I know?
Fact, Faith Lehane was a Slayer and that Angel was correct. She was sitting in jail because she wanted to sit in jail.
Fact, Faith Lehane had, from birth, been trained to accept or make the wrong decision. I jotted down the telephone numbers of the Sunnydale people from the files. I would call and get some more details of what had gone down in Sunnydale that year.
Fact, six months ago Faith Lehane's whole attitude toward me had changed. I really hadn't noticed then but the cop part of the brain had jotted it down in the subconscious. For a year and a half I had been pretty much ignored by her as I sat in the corner while Angel talked to her. But then, about six months ago, she'd acted really spooked by me; cutting the visit short and then acting disjointed on the next.
I pull the prison file back and begin looking for more clues.
I wake, not exactly screaming but close. I can feel it still in my mind trying to escape. But the last thing I needed was to wake mom and have her worry and tell Giles and then have to explain the dream to him and all the Scoobs.
If you dream about something that you want to happen, why does it feel like a nightmare?
Prophetic dreams pretty much suck.
I wake suddenly, sitting upright and nearly taking Chuny's arm off. The cell is dimmly lit and loud with the sound of ragged breathing.
I realize that the breathing is mine as I hear the thread of fear in her voice.
"Yeah," I manage. "I'm good," I lie.
I shrug, suddenly noticing that I'm cold beyond the chill of the sweat on skin. Part of my brain pokes at the dream but the other part, the bigger, stronger and more cowardly part, shies away from the memory.
And suddenly I don't want to think or remember or analyze. I just want to be and feel alive so I do the only think I can think of to turn off my brain.
"Faith. No. I..."
I cover her mouth with mine, silencing protests about the guards or the neighbouring inmates or the hour. I pull her effortlessly into my bunk, lacing my legs into hers. I pull back enough to see her face and she nods at me, dragging me back down.
I know I'm using her like we've used each other ever since I arrived here. I know I'm avoiding the message of the dream. I know I'm hiding. But I don't care because I'm finally warm again.
Summers, Joyce. Very suspicious of me and very up on Faith's situation. She had obviously followed the case in the LA papers but she didn't recognize my name. She had been the last Sunnydale victim and Faith had been temporarily captured at her house. She hadn't brought up her daughter's involvement and I hadn't asked. She had just answered my questions, expressed a hope that Faith would either get the help she needed or stay safely locked up and have a nice day, Detective.
Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles had replaced Mayor Wilkins as next of kin on Faith's hospital records but I really didn't want to talk to the junior Summers. I could still remember the amount of hate coming off her when Faith turned herself in. She'd be first in line to help strap her in and pull the switch. And use a dry sponge. Mr. Giles, on the other hand, sounded like a broken record of the senior Summers.
Giles returns to the training room with what Willow would call a pensive look on his face.
"Bad news?" I ask. I'm half kinda hoping for a yes. Just a small yes. An easy to deal with yes, so that I can do something instead of just thinking and worrying about dreams.
"No. Not really. That was a Detective Lockley."
"Angel's... friend. What did she want?"
"It was concerning Faith. Apparently they review sentences at the two year point. She mentioned transfer to a minimum security facility and day passes."
"Ooooh, good idea. Get out of jail and commit mayhem card. You told her that you hope Faith rots in a maximum security hole, right?"
"Actually," Giles answers, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes, "I said that if she was rehabilitated that I saw no reason for keeping her incarcerated."
"What! Giles, she lied to us..."
"...she betrayed me..."
"All of us, actually."
"...tried to kill us..."
It sank in that Giles was actually commenting on my rant instead of the required mindless agreement.
"Giles, she tortured Wesley."
"Yes, the similarities are amazing."
"They are not the same," I say as his meaning clicks in.
"No, Angelus managed to actually kill Jenny," he says, just as cold and unyielding.
"I'm sorry, Giles," I say and I am for reminding him, "But they're not the same," I repeat, wondering why he can't see that it is so different.
"Are they? For whatever reason both Faith and Angel found their souls and were given a second chance."
"You expect me to forgive her? Turn the other cheek and just forget about all that she did to us?"
"No. All I ask is that you give her the chance you asked all of us to give Angel. And to remember that her destiny is no less than your own."
The nothing dream wakes me up but not Chuny. The problem with Slayer stamina is that the traditional way of ensuring a good night sleep is likely to kill your partner.
I wonder what the outside world is doing. I wonder what Kate is doing. I wonder, briefly, what Katie and I would have been doing if we'd taken that flight to Cabo San Lucas. But that was a dangerous so instead I just count sheep.
I dream of Jesse. Which is bizarre because I never really knew Jesse. He was Xander and Willow's friend, the third musketeer and the first person in Sunnydale that I failed to save.
Well, the first one that I could put a name and a face to.
It was like he never existed. Xander and Will never spoke of him again, as if by speaking of his life they'd make his death real. It ain't just a river in Egypt.
The dream shifted, as dreams do, and more faces. All people who I'd failed to save because I'd made a bad decision or decided to go to a movie or simply because I'd checked out the east side of town before the west. Even in the nightmare was the realization that I couldn't save them all. But some, some I could have.
And in the crowd, hidden yet seen, is Faith.
I snap awake.
"Lockley, turn on your radio!"
I look up at the uniformed as I switch on the small radio. The call is nearly over but I catch the Hyperion's address and the request for ambulances. I'm at the door when I hear them call for the coroner.
I look up from the history text.
"Are you sure?"
I drop the book and head over to Willow, vaguely aware of Tara moving closer and placing her hands on Willow's shoulder. My attention is on Willow's voice and her hand gripping the phone so tight that the knuckles look like bones.
"No, of course you are. Yes, I'll let them know. Thank you for calling, Mrs. Chase. I'm terribly sorry."
It's Tara that takes the phone from her hand and pulls her close.
"How... how bad?" I ask, somehow knowing exactly how bad.
"Oh, God, Buffy. She's dead. Wesley too."
"She didn't say but..."
But vampires rarely leave bodies, right.
I have to get to LA.
Luther's jokes about being so popular are falling on deaf ears as he leads me to the conference room. My gut begins to twist into knots as I see the two people waiting.
Detective Kate Lockley. Buffy Summers.
"You two look like shit. Who died?"
There's gotta be some psycho babble term for saying something when your brain is not attached to your mouth. Asshole is the street term.
"Oh, God. I'm sor..."
I nod at Buffy and sit down. Kate clears her throat.
"Angel and his two associates..."
"Cordelia and Wesley. You remember them, Faith?" Buffy interrupts.
"They were killed last night."
"And you came here to break it to me?" Not.
And suddenly it all made sense. Why they were here. Why we were in the private room. It was just like a cartoon light bulb going off. These two were blaming me for the big guy's death and were looking to kill two birds with one stone. I was so fucked.
And, so tired after the last six months, the idea is actually appealing.
"You want I should lunge at Buffy so Kate has just cause?" The legal terms you learn in prison.
"What?" they ask. In stereo no less.
"Hey, I've been sent to a 15 year shower and Angel is on the permanently disabled list. Team Good is down a couple of starters so I figure you were going to send me down to buy the farm team and activate the Slayer to be named later."
I was rather proud of that analogy, especially the buy the farm/ farm team one although, to give credit, I had seen it on Wheel of Fortune.
"You figured wrong. That's not why we're here."
"Although the plan has a certain appeal," Buffy mutters.
"So, why are you? I'm kinda out of the loop here."
"We thought you could help out, like you did with the Raymond Acevedo case."
"Rafael," I correct absently. "No, that was a fluke in the real world. How can I help? I don't even know what case Angel was working on."
"*You* are the case he was working on. He was looking into your weird behaviour over the last six months," Kate says. "What did he find that would bring down that much heat?"
I stared at them, they stared back. "I don't know. Whatever happened six months ago is six months gone. It's not a threat, certainly not enough to kill Angel."
Weird how saying something makes it real.
"That's it?" Kate asks. I can tell she doubts me from the tone. Needless to say Buffy does as well judging from the expression she makes no effort to hide.
"That is it. Can I go now?"
"Think about it. You owed Angel a lot that you can't repay now. Here's my card if you change your mind. Or think of anything."
In the parking lot the little blonde is wound tighter than tight
"That was a waste of time," she says, buckling into the car. "And joking about Angel's death.
"That was a defense mechanism," I say as I leave the grounds and head back to the city. "What do you know about time travel?"
"It's close to alternate dimension hopping. Major bad magic that W... witches don't like to mess with but there's likely people out there without the same moral fiber. Such as the person we were just talking to, perhaps?"
"After she turned herself in she gave me a solid tip that pulled in a perp which we tagged to a series of brutal home invasions. When I asked next day for details she had no memory, didn't even pick up that I accidentally used the wrong name. Now she remembers. Six months ago she began reading everything she could about time travel and alternate realities." I added a few more to my mental list but they were ones that didn't concern the blond. Who seemed to be fairly comfortable with the possibility of alternate realities.
"Angel had another person helping him," I continue. "A street kid named Gunn. If we find him alive then maybe we can get some more info."
Summers didn't look hopeful. But then, I'm sure I didn't either.
"You think she went time traveling six months ago?" Summers asks.
"Yeah, I do."
"Then..." she starts and then shrugs and looks out the window but it doesn't take Kreskin to finish the thought.
Then why is she still in jail?
I return to the cell and I ignore Luther and Chuny and the dinner bell and everything until suddenly the lights go out except for the dim glow of the corridor lights. There's a whisper of cloth on cloth and then I sense Chuny beside my bed and I shift over and she covers us both with her blanket before curling into my side and giving me a one armed hug around my waist.
"Sucks to be alone?" she asks and I nod, still afraid to open my eyes. I can feel her nod against my shoulder and the embrace increase to become a tight hold that gradually loosens as she falls asleep.
Two days pass. Two nights too but I was kinda ignoring them anyway as lying awake and staring at a ceiling is dull. Two days and not a word from Kate or Buffy. I'd flushed Kate's card down the first john I'd got to. Best way for me to avoid temptation is to remove it. Not that I needed the card. It was only ten digits
I look at Luther and sigh.
They looked much the same. Buffy staring at me like I was emerging from under a rock. Kate's face studiously neutral. Both look like they haven't slept or ate in two days.
"Hey," I say. Buffy's eyes narrow so I sit down and shut up. Kate smiles at me.
"What do you know about time travel, Faith?"
I resolve next time to have Chuny sign out my fucking library books.
"Just what I read pretty much. Why?"
Suddenly Buffy's there and in my face and I startle back in my chair.
"Cut the crap, Faith. We know all about the little jaunt. We found your friend Taylor. So save yourself some grief and tell us or maybe I will take you up on your little proposition."
I stare at her in delight. "B, that was righteous. You do the bad cop so bitchin'. Kate, I mean, Detective Lockley. Please don't let her hurt me."
I see a ghost of a smile on Kate's lips but not a peck of amusement on Buffy.
"Look," I go on in my serious voice. "Let's say I did do something. No one else can now because I broke the key. And, if I hadn't broken it, the thing is a one shot. I can't do it again."
"Can't or won't?" Buffy snaps out and I struggle to keep my temper.
"*Can't*. First, it's a one-time ride and I've been down it. Second, I put the fear of Slayage into Johnny and he's probably running a fruit juice stand in Cabo San Lucas. Third, I - broke - the - key. So if you're thinking we can just pop into the middle of last week and save Angel's undead life you have another think coming."
The silence is sudden and loud.
"Okay," Kate says in a patient voice. "We were able to salvage some of Angel's notes from a tape recorder that mentioned Taylor. And we finally found Angel's friend Gunn. He said Angel had sent him off that night to pick up this and then to lay very, very low. Any idea what it is?"
She slides it to me, an antique looking seam ripper with a long silvery blade and polished black bone handle.
"That's the key," I hear myself say.
"So this is possible?"
"Yeah, it's possible."
"Summers, we need to talk," Kate says and Buffy slowly follows her into the hallway. Leaving me with the mystic seam ripper. I'm thinking I should snap the little sucker but I had, unfortunately, seen the light of hope pop up in their eyes.
After about half an hour they come back, faces flushed from must have been some argument. Which, judging from their respective expressions, Kate won.
"Still willing to help, Faith?"
"Sure. Whatever help I can give from here," I amend.
"Oh, not from here, Eddie," Kate says as Buffy's scowl reaches new depths. I just stare at them blankly. "Haven't you ever seen '48 Hours'? We got you on loan."
So, here I am, nearly six months to the day, dressed in Kate Lockleys's button down shirt and faded jeans and walking out the police entrance and into the prison parking lot. Aside from Buffy hovering over me waiting for me to bolt and the charming yet chunky electronic tracker strapped to my ankle it is such an incredible rush of deja vu that I'm pulling the door open to Kate's SUV before I realize what I'm doing.
"How'd you know which car?" Buffy asks. I glance around the lot.
"Butchest ride in the lot. What else would a cop drive?"
I climb in the shotgun seat on the theory that Buffy would rather glare the back of my head than imagine me making faces at the back of hers.
"First stop..." Kate begins.
"...is food," I interrupt. "You two made me miss lunch. And supper which I am grateful for but you have one hungry, time travel expert here who thinks way better on a full tummy."
I can feel the twin lasers roll but fifteen minutes later we're in an In-n-out and I'm trying hard not to be totally obnoxious about stuffing one of everything into my face all at once. But it's been six months since I've eaten real food or talked shop and it appears I'm starved for both.
"The tailor demon tears a hole and you go back to some point in your life. Usually some place where you fucked up and that you want to put right. Then you come back and he repairs the hole and time sort of mooshes around the fix."
"Do you remember the old way, the original time line?" Kate asks.
I shrug. "I do but I cheated a bit. I don't know what would happen if it was done proper."
"Time limit?" Buffy asked, all business. Pumping me of info so she could return me to my cage.
"No. I mean, it's time travel. You could go back and rescue him right now or in 40 years. Doesn't matter. He's dead until you make the move."
"And then?" Buffy asks.
"The magic works and the world unfolds based on the new thing. Angel and the others won't have died. You'll be in Sunnydale and Kate will be doing cop stuff and I'll be in prison eating baked fish instead of this burger. Because Angel hasn't died so you two didn't go all wiggy and bust me out."
"So we can take our time to get a plan?" Buffy continues.
"Yeah. The longer we wait the more the magic has to do but that's what magic is for."
"Where do we find the demon?"
"He was on Melrose but I told him to leave town."
"That can be on the way to my place," Kate says.
"What's the trade off? What does the demon get?"
"The traditional, your soul when you pop off," I don't mention the pro bono as they don't seem to care that I potentially sold my soul.
"Is there a time limit on how long we can be in our previous life?"
"Can I travel in my previous life? Get from Sunnydale to LA?"
"What do you know?"
"That you're pushing all my buttons and I won't give you the satisfaction of trying to knock your block off so that you can pound me silly and say told you so to Kate and throw me back in prison and then fucking fail because you don't have me and my memories right there and handy.
There's an awkward silence before Buffy heads to the check out while Kate escorts me to the door.
"That she'd win a fight with you?"
"She always has in the past. Especially when he's involved."
After In-n-out the car ride was fairly quiet. Faith had dozed off in the passenger seat while Summers was alternating between sight seeing, glaring at Faith and avoiding my eyes in the rear view mirror. I wondered what had happened between her and Faith that rated so much hate. Her reaction to me was more understandable although we hadn't discussed her past or my current relationship with Angel.
Guess I should be past tense as well
"Detective, stop the car.
The only way to describe her voice was a hiss. She leans forward, her hand on my shoulder as if to will the car into stopping. I pull into a convenient parking spot, turn on the hazard lights and reach down to the special compartment under the driver's seat
"Human, demon or vampire?" I ask, my voice as quiet as hers. My hand hovers between the stake and the sawed off shotgun.
"No, a store I want to check out," and she's out of the car before I can think of anything to say. I release the breath I'd been holding with a half laugh before relaxing. Kids.
I watch her for a few seconds until she pauses in front of a window and then Faith moves in her sleep and I find my attention shifting to her.
In sleep she actually looks her age. A young woman barely out of childhood. The old shirt and jeans from my car's emergency stash are slightly too big but fit well enough.
She murmurs something in her sleep, again moves restlessly before her eyelids flutter open. She smiles, and I wonder who she's smiling at because it was way too intimate to give to a near stranger.
"Nice nap?" I ask, purposely breaking the moment.
"Yeah, haven't been sleeping well lately. We there yet?"
"Not yet. Summers saw something in a store window and made me pull over. Be another half hour 'till we get to my place."
She nods. "Detective... Kate. There's something..."
Suddenly she's looking around wildly, twisting around in the seat to look behind her and muttering a fairly profane sentence over and over.
"Which store?" she asks, getting out of the car.
"That one," I point at where I last saw Summers but from this angle I can plainly see that it's empty. I jog after Faith who is peering into the dusty windows.
"Kate, does Buffy have the pointy thing?"
"Yeah, she said it would be safer with her," and I'm treated to what is apparently Faith's mantra of profanity.
"Kate, I have to go after Buffy. I may be gone for a while but I will be back."
She stresses the word 'will' and I nod. Where can she go with the tracker on her wrist and another in her belt? Then she turns to the plate glass window, focuses on something beyond vision and disappears.
I am such a total idiot. I concentrate and then relax. I don't pray so much as wish. I wish I had a bitchin' leather jacket to cover up this shirt and maybe some kickass boots 'cause my life is full of regrets and things undone that gnaw at my poor Slayer soul. I'm beginning to think I was laying it on too thick when I begin to see my leather jacket appear so I take a deep breath, hold it and enter the store.
It's much the same as the first time; the bushels of roses, the terrazzo flooring. And John Waters helping Buffy into my jacket.
I'm just about to yell Buffy and my two timing slut jacket when what passes for Faith sanity returns. I shudder slightly as Buffy caresses my jacket with a little giggle. I line up my shot and put Johnny into a wall with a front kick, just enough to shake him up because I know we need him alive. I'm running out of air way too fast and I know I need to get Buffy and me out of here before I either breath or pass out.
I grab Buffy by the wrist, starting a whole new bout of giggles, and drag her out the door, stumbling into Kate. I suck in a lungful of air, waving Kate off to help a slightly spacey Buffy. Hands on knees to keep me upright I suck more air, the dizziness and nausea passing.
"How long was I gone?" I ask. It felt like fifteen seconds and my lungs feel like they haven't breathed all day.
Kate slips an arm around Buffy's waist and starts her walking to the car. "Twenty-five, maybe thirty minutes," she says. I follow on my own. Slowly. Very slowly.
Suddenly Buffy twists out of Kate's grasp, fist wind milling around towards my head. I figure I deserve it and take it. I don't think I deserve the next one and block it. The third and forth are misses as Kate drags Buffy backwards until they stumble into the Dodge and kinda collapse. Buffy's eyes are still wiggy and I figure maybe my being, shall we say experimental, in my youth may not have been all bad.
"Why didn't you warn me?"
"I told you there was more. I told you we had to plan." I sound defensive even to me.
"You'll tell us everything," Buffy says firmly. I nod and we get back in the car.
I hadn't seen much of Kate's living room the first time so now I look around curiously. It suited her. Good quality stuff, some of it looking like it might have belonged to her dad. Not the cheap stuff that I grew up with. I sink into a chair and begin to speak. I tell them most everything from my so-called jail break to waking up in the prison again. Well, most everything.
"So you're not going to tell us how you got out of prison?"
"And you're not going to tell us what you went back and changed or what the demon tempted you with."
"Those," I say, feeling stubborn, "are none of your business." We have a little stare contest.
"Fine," she stands suddenly and sways a bit. "I better get to..."
"Why don't you crash here?" Kate says. "There's a pull out in the office you can use and we can get started faster tomorrow looking for this Rick." Buffy nods and they both disappear into another room for a few minutes, Kate returning with a pillow and blanket. In all that time I've managed to get off my prison sneakers and realize I must be way more wasted than I thought.
"I take it I get the couch?" I ask. She nods, tossing me the pillow and blanket.
"It was me, wasn't it?" She says softly. Suddenly terrified I freeze. "It was me and the thing you changed was the Acevedo tip."
"That person doesn't exist anymore," I say bleakly, my story and I'm sticking to it. I can't tell her and I won't lie to her.
I shuck off the jeans and shirt before what I'm doing sinks in. In prison, patience you learn, modesty you lose. I glance at Kate but she's looking at me without seeing so I doubt my little strip tease was even noticed.
"I must have screwed up pretty badly," she continues. I fluff up the pillow and arrange my blanket. The couch is way softer than anything I've slept on since my apartment. Or the trailer six months ago. Both are very bad trains of thought and I sidetrack them. I plan on ignoring her question when she reaches out to touch my shoulder. "Thank you."
"For what," I shrug lightly and her hand falls away. Instant regret and relief.
"For helping that person who doesn't exist. For protecting her from people who have no right to hear about her screw up. Even if that person is me. Most people would have bragged about it, Faith."
"Yeah, well, us failed heroes have to try." A random thought crosses my mind and I grin in amusement.
"Just thinking how popular I'd be if they knew I could go half an hour without breathing."
And she looks blank and then blushes and it's so heartbreakingly familiar that I throw my arm over my eyes so that it's the last thing I see. And so she doesn't see any tears.
I'm asleep before I hear her leave.
The dream returns. I wonder, dreamlike, if the dream is reality and the waking world is the illusion. Too philosophical so I wake, surrounded by someone else's home. I rise and go to the door, looking out into the living room.
On the couch Faith twists in the blankets, fighting something and loosing. It's a bit of a sadistic pleasure to know she's sleeping as badly as I. Suddenly she awakes, sitting upright and looking around like a wild animal. I take a step back so that she won't see me but it's a wasted effort. Instead, she sees Lockley sleeping in the big easy chair.
Faith stands, moving cautiously toward the sleeping cop and I tense, ready to take the psycho bitch down when she simply drapes the blanket over Lockley. She murmurs something and then returns to her couch, curling up facing the chair.
I head back to bed but sleep is elusive.
I wake up to the smell of bacon and eggs and the sound of a toaster ding. Once again I have the blanket and I just spend a few seconds being lazy and warm. Then I clue in that Kate and Buffy are talking, that I'm the topic of conversation and maybe that's a line that should get headed off at the pass. I grab the jeans and pull them on.
"Just what exactly did she do that started all this? Not the bitch fighting I'm putting up with now but what started it?"
I wait just outside the kitchen for Buffy to answer. Only fair. It was me that started it so she should get to vent.
"She's a Slayer. She was my partner and she turned bad. How would you feel if your partner started taking graft?"
"Dirty," Kate says, giving the frying pan a shake and spilling the bacon onto a paper towel lined plate.
Buffy apparently doesn't like that answer. "No, angry. Betrayed."
Kate shrugs. "You asked how I would feel, not you. I've seen cops go bad. Sometimes it's because they're crooked. Sometimes it's simply because one day they decided their kid should have a new bike. But whatever the reason, bad cops diminish the good ones. And make us all a little dirty."
"Why are you defending her? She's a murderer."
"Yeah, she is."
"But she's human and human's make mistakes."
"Slayers have a duty. A destiny," and I nearly laugh at how stilted little Ms 'I will make my own destiny' sounds.
"Yeah, and I'm just a cop for the money and benefits. Faith, you going to hover out there all morning or eat? You know what they say about eavesdroppers."
I enter the kitchen, mouth watering again at the smells. I figure if it wasn't for the Slayer metabolism I'd gain about a million pounds when I get out. If I get out. Kate, taking her cue from my performance at In-n-out, puts a plate with about a pound of bacon and a half dozen eggs. I decide that a million pounds would be worth it if I had Kate as my own personal cook. Which, of course, starts off a line of thought on how I could burn off all the extra calories.
I glance up, straight into Buffy's eyes. Which are narrowed and sharp and I realize she's reading my expression and not liking what she sees. A flick of her eyes to Kate standing at the toaster and then back at me.
Except for that one blow up at In-n-out I've been deferring to her but not this time. I hold her eyes until she nods. She's not giving me the win. She's just dropping it for now.
As I eat they question me and each other about a number of things. The powers of the demon, the layout of Angel's place and what weapons he has and where, Cordy's new abilities and such. I'm smearing jam on the last slice of toast in the place when they finally finish.
"Here's the plan then. We get this Rick fellow to make the protection inhalers. We three go in and get the demon to send Summers and I back into time. Summers comes up from Sunnydale and we meet at Angels'. We help Angel and his people beat the bad guys. We return to the now and life goes back to what it should be."
"I have a problem with that plan," Buffy says. Color me surprised. "It means Faith is free guarding our backs. Likely with a knife."
"And you don't trust me?" I ask in what would, in a book, be termed as rhetorical as she doesn't bother to answer. She and Kate glare at each other a bit and then begin discussing timing, entry points, cross fire, fire power and crossbows versus Glocks.
I let them play for a bit before speaking.
"Seems like a rather violent solution," I say casually.
Buffy stares at me as if I've grown a second head.
"And," I continue, "it doesn't seem very subtle."
Buffy opens and closes her mouth a few times, clearly wanting to say something.
"What would you suggest, Faith?" Kate asks.
"This whole thing started last month when you visited me, right?" Kate nods. "Okay, Kate goes back in time to that visit and tells Angel just to ask me. I'll tell him everything and then he won't get nosey looking for the magic seam ripper and get himself offed. Buffy can stay to make sure I don't do anything bad. And if it doesn't work it leaves the big gun for plan B. No offense, Kate, I know you have a very big... never mind."
They stared at me. Mulling it over or dealing with Faith babble, I don't know.
"That's it?" Buffy finally asks. I suddenly feel mischievous and grin at her.
"KISS, Buffy? Keep. It. Simple. Slayer," I explain before she can deck me again.
"Thought your motto was 'see, want, take'?"
"Yeah, well, it was turning into 'want, have, lose' so screw that. Time for a new motto," I stand and stretch and suddenly become aware that I'm just wearing a short tank top with Kate's jeans because suddenly there's two pair of eyes on my brand new washboard abs of steel.
Or, rather, the scar there.
I catch Kate's questioning glance. "Appendix?" I offer up, even though I'm fairly sure that it's on the other side.
"It scarred," Buffy says. So much for nobility. Her face is pale.
"Yeah, guess the mojo was too busy fixing my brain to worry about a little plastic surgery."
She stands so abruptly the chair nearly falls and then she's brushing past me. I follow. Why I don't know.
"Don't call me that!"
I put up my hands in surrender. "Sorry. I just..."
"And don't do that. Don't ever apologize to me..."
"...or you'll beat me to death. I remember." I take a breath and continue, unable to just let this lie for some reason. "But..."
"Nothing," she says, up close and intense and her finger nearly breaking my collar bone. "Nothing you say or do will ever make up for what you did to me. What you did to my mom and my friends. Nothing. Right now, you're just a tool. And when you've helped get Angel back I'll just put you back into the box and forget about you again. Got it?"
I nod. So much for the Chosen fucking Two. "Got it."
"I'll find Rick and get what we need. When I do, I'll phone Lockley. Try not to kill anyone while I'm gone."
I stand for a few minutes, staring at the still vibrating door.
"She always this intense?"
"Nah," my voice sounds harsh and close to breaking even to my ears. I try again, "Nah, this is a pretty mellow day for her."
Every muscle in my body tenses as she places a comforting hand on my shoulder.
"Five by five," I lie.
Another severe case of déjà vu as I line up a shot, hold my breath and then stroke the cue. The light tap of the cue on ball, the crack as the white hits yellow, the muted thud as it falls into the pocket and then the rolling as it travels back to it's coin protected home. I flash a cocky grin at Kate. I have her.
I glance at the barkeep, again déjà vu. He's watching us but there's a sort of twisted satisfaction that this time he isn't going to be calling Angel. I realize that I don't think of Angel as dead and just file it away without analyzing it to deeply. Until we try and fail he's as alive as he ever was.
This is the second game, Kate winning the first despite my best efforts. Or rather worst efforts. Drinking, setting my glass down, subdued cough. It was actually a combination of all of the above that finally got her rattled enough to miss a shot and finally give me a turn.
"Corner pocket," I say confidently.
I can feel her breath on my ear, the heat from her body just before she steps away. But it's too late. Brain, blood and coordination have all gone south and I nearly miss the cue ball.
"F... damn," I say. She looks at me with what can only be described as an evil grin. I know she doesn't get it, doesn't totally get what I'm feeling and what my subconscious expects her to feel in return. But she knows something's up and isn't afraid to use it.
"So, tell me. Why are they called the Scoobys?"
I shrug. "The cartoon? Those pesky kids in the acid van doing the ghost buster thing."
She nods and takes the shot, sinking it easily and walking around the table to get a feel for the lay of the balls. "Angel's people didn't have a nickname."
I laugh. "But there's so much to choose from. The A-Team? Angel's Angels?"
She grins briefly before leaning down and taking another shot. Another tap, clack, thud. I am so going to lose this game.
"I used to get teased so much about watching that show. Being a blond you can guess what they called me."
I nod, unseen as she lines up a shot, and wait for the perfect moment.
She'd started the stroke but manages to catch it in time. The stick freezes mere millimeters from the ball and she looks up.
"Ha ha ha," she says and then draws the cue back. Tap. Clack. Thud.
I swear this is the most fun I ever had losing.
"You are too young," she says, "to have appreciated them the first time around. I use to watch it, after my bed time, eating twinkies and drinking a cola when my dad worked nights."
"Twinkies and coke," I say, my tone deadly serious. "That your idea of cheap drugs, Lockley?"
She laughs again and I realize that she looks about a decade younger than she did this morning. A decade younger than when she told me Angel and Cordy and Wesley had died. I wondered what it would be like to have someone love you so much that your death would age them so much. I have a pretty hard time imagining anyone giving a damn if I live or die.
She bends over the table again, stretched out, jeans taunt and the deja vu comes back yet again. I feel ten different things in a hundred different flavours. Cue prepped she glances back at me, questioning look in her eye and I realize she's waiting for my next distraction attempt. I smile and shake my head and, still watching me, she makes the shot blind.
Tap. Clack. Thud.
She's won again. And, just like last time, I never really had a chance.
The bar is dark and dingy and maybe dirty but it's hard to tell what with the dark and dinge. I had double-checked the address before entering and even then I wasn't sure. Not until I heard their voices.
I glance toward the barkeep, the lone occupant of the front area, and he nods either a greeting or a confirmation that I should head back to the alcove where the voices are coming from.
It's a small area, just big enough for a large pool table and enough room around it to take shots without worrying about banging into walls. I wait, watching them, as they play.
I can't make out words but obviously it's amusing to them. Lockley looks younger and I realize for the first time how much his death has affected her. Lockley makes a shot and leans over the table to make another. I watch Faith's face, watch her check out Lockley with lust and desire and something that looks like tenderness and protectiveness.
I decide I don't like it.
Lockley looks over her shoulder and, not taking her eyes from Faith, makes the shot and, from the look of the empty table, wins the game.
I decide to make my presence known and take a step into the room.
"Summers," Lockley says. Faith is quiet. "Did you find Rick?"
"Yeah, when all else fails try the yellow pages. Got him and he'll have the stuff ready for tonight. Then I called Giles to find out what he knew about Tailor Demons."
I'm feeling fairly smug.
"And?" Faith asks, tone bored. And suddenly I realize that Giles and Anya really didn't tell me anything that we didn't already know. My bubble bursts and I realize how appropriate the word prick is.
"Giles and Anya both agree with what Faith told us. Giles thinks they're extinct and that their reputation may not be as black as it's painted. Anya thinks that there may be a few last survivor hangouts but that they're master manipulators and amongst the most dangerous of Demons."
"Okay," Lockley says, obviously picking up on the tension and trying to defuse it. "Secondary confirmation is good. That means that even if it isn't the same specific demon Faith dealt with before we know that the facts seem to hold for them in general."
Faith looks mollified. I figure Lockley must have taken some cop/ hostage negotiation courses.
"Okay, I'm going to grab a beer. Another Coke, Faith? Anything for you, Summers?"
Faith nods, I shake my head and Lockley leaves. And I snap.
"Alley. Talk. Now."
I push her through the doorway into the alley.
"What are you talking about?"
"My God, can't you turn it off? She's grieving over Angel's death and when we get him back she's his so stop trying to get into her pants."
Faith rolls her eyes and sighs. "I know I can't have her. I know she's Angel's girl." She pauses and I can see her struggling not to say the next. "But for two days she was my friend."
Something twists inside me. It's not jealousy; jealousy I know. It's anger that she had comfort that she didn't deserve then and that the memory is enough to comfort her now.
"But she never really existed. Did she Faith? She was just some shadow born from a timeline gone bad. Why does she matter so much?"
There's a slight pause and I begin to think that Faith isn't going to answer when she does.
"She matters because I mattered to her. I had worth."
"And for that she gets your undying devotion? I... we... we gave you that in Sunnydale."
"Did you? I had worth because I could take the pressure off so you could see Angel and have a social life. Your mom liked me because it meant maybe you could retire or go to college. One person in Sunnydale wanted me, me Faith and not some sidekick or easy roll in the sack. And I was number one, not the second, not the other, not the replacement."
"He was just using you, Faith. He didn't love you."
"Yeah, he did, because when he talked to me I felt cared for. Wanted. Loved. Same as your boy made me feel."
The slap is like a shot. I'm not aware of my hand moving or the stinging pain I know is there.
"Is that why," Faith continues, after a pause, "you were so pissed I slept with him, because he couldn't tell the difference? I used him, didn't give a rat's ass for him and he couldn't tell it wasn't you? Is that why you never gave Xander or Willow a roll? Because you gotta know they'd go down for you like puppies in the street if you gave them the nod. Were you afraid they'd find out that you didn't love them like they thought you did?"
"Shut up now, Faith. Or so help me I'll..."
Her face contorts. "You'll what, hate me? Forget about me? Fucking kill me? You've done all that, Buffy." She takes a shuddering breath. "There is nothing more you can do to me, B. There's nothing left now," she says as she turns and reenters the bar.
I enter the alcove and find it empty. The slightly open door suggests where they might be. The ringing sound of a slap confirms it.
"...used him, didn't give a rat's ass for him and he couldn't tell it wasn't you? Is that why you never gave Xander or Willow a roll? Because you gotta know they'd go down for you like puppies in the street if you gave them the nod. Were you afraid they'd find out that you didn't love them like they thought you did?"
I miss Summers' answer, a low threatening growl, and I'm so busy trying to make sense of what Faith said originally that I nearly miss her response. I step back just in time that they don't catch me eavesdropping. I hand Faith her coke and wait for them to say something. When they don't I try to pick up the thread. All three of us are ignoring the angry red mark on Faith's cheek.
"Did your friends know anything else?"
There's a pause as Summers seems to make a near visible effort to switch gears.
"The pointy thing is usually called the Sundering something. It apparently opens a gateway to the past. Any demon or someone destiny touched can open a hole and sew it up again but only a Tailor Demon has the fine control. Anya is fairly sure that a couple of demons have killed the Tailor and then gone on a rampage in the past."
"We don't want that to happen."
"We need to move quickly," Faith says.
"I thought you said we had all the time in the world," I ask.
"All the time to rescue Angel, yeah. But the people that killed him were looking for the mystic seam ripper. We gotta use it and break it or something before they figure out we have it."
It was pretty obvious, once she said it. We'd been so caught up in how to bring them back we'd pretty much ignored why they'd been killed in the first place.
"We stick together until we pick up the inhalers. We go tonight. You two ready?" Summers asks. I'm vaguely annoyed at her taking charge but, hell, she been doing this since she was 15 so go with the experienced person.
"I'm ready," I say.
Faith looks around the bar, at each of us, then the floor. I recognize it having seen it a thousand times at the station and the courtroom and arrest scenes. It's what you do when you're trying to memorize something, some place, some time because you're never going to see it again. I realize that if we succeed she goes back to jail which is hardly a positive motivating factor. She looks up at me and smiles slightly before nodding to Summers.
I look at them, my so called partners, and pull the inhaler from my jacket. Kate looks scared and tense. Despite what she knows this is still new to her. Faith on the other hand looks bored with her smirk and "been there, done that" attitude. I take a hit, grimacing at the old gym sock boiled in rotten cabbage taste and pass it to Faith.
"Ghaaaa," she chokes and the smirk is momentarily wiped away. "How can he make the shit worse the second time around?"
"It's the first time for him. Just the second time that ..." Kate says, pausing as she sucks in the smoke and blinks a few times. "That's really vile."
She passes me back the inhaler and pulls out her gun, holding it down by her leg like they do on those cop shows.
"You won't need that," I say as I slip the inhaler back into my jacket in case we need a refresher. She just stares at me.
"Are you ready?" she asks coldly.
"When you are, Bosley," Faith says.
There is about five seconds of stunned silence before Kate begins to laugh. Faith's smirk morphs into a genuine smile and I feel like an outsider left out of a private joke. The laughing escalates until Kate is nearly collapsing and Faith is making little snorting sounds.
"Gimme that, Katie," Faith says, pulling the gun from Kate's hand. I tense but, before I can do anything, Faith hands me the gun. I hold the gun and watch as the two of them slowly regain control.
"Did he put some cheap drugs into the bottom of that thing?" I ask, which has the unfortunate effect of sending them off again.
"That's not like me," Kate says finally.
"Yeah, but I figured you needed it," Faith says flashing her a look before studying the toes of her sneakers. Bashfully. Except you don't use words like bashful with Faith.
Kate tucks the gun back under her jacket and nods. I open the door and in we go.
It looked the same. Roses, fancy floor, skanky demon waiting. He nods at us as we enter; giving a little bowing motion that makes him look like a marionette.
"Dark Slayer," he says.
"He's got you pegged, Faith," I say but he shakes his head.
"I was referring to you, Dark Slayer," he says to me. And then he gives another jerky bow nod at Faith. "Welcome back, Lost Slayer."
"Hey, Johnny. Sorry about that kick the other day."
"Think nothing of it, Lost One," he says with a negligent wave of his hand. "I had not thought to lure you here so quickly otherwise I would not have attempted to ... "
"Hold it. Lure?" Kate interrupted.
"Detective Lockley," the demon said with yet another bow. "How pleasant to finally meet you. I trust the previous matter was successfully resolved? And I see by your pleasantly confused expression that it was so the less said the better. Now, ladies, I believe you have something of mine and I have something of yours."
"You set us up," Faith said with a mixture of offended outrage and grudging admiration.
"Explain," Lockley said, her hand drifting toward her holster.
"Peace, ladies. I meant no harm. No lasting harm that is. But the Lost One destroyed the device I need to fulfill my function and I needed it returned. My best hope was the vampire and those who would risk seeking it for his life."
"You killed Angel?" I ask.
"No," he says. "At least not directly." He sighed dramatically and gestured toward an overstuffed leather couch and a couple of matching chairs. "Please, some tea to take the taste of the potion from your mouth and I'll explain."
Feeling slightly over my head we sit. He pours some tea, sounding like Giles as he offers lemon and milk and apologizes for the lack of little cakes. Finally he sits back.
"When the Lost Slayer broke the Tool of Sundering I was somewhat at a loss. The tool is essential to my purpose of existence."
"That thing is very dangerous," Lockley says.
"No more than your gun in the hands of an evil doer."
"Scale, Johnny," Faith disagrees. "Someone can pop maybe a hundred people with a gun. The seam ripper could destroy millions. Demons live a hell of a long time and you know what's going to happen. Go back and start a war. Go back and stop the peace makers. And, no offense, but you're pretty much a wuss when it comes to one on one."
"You killed Angel?" I ask, trying to get this back onto track because, fascinating as this is, it's not why we're here.
"No. To tell the tale from the beginning," a hard look at me. "After the Lost Slayer destroyed the Tool of Sundering I began to search for a replacement. I'm very much afraid," he said, turning to Faith, "that the fruit stand wouldn't have worked. I found one but, as it has been pointed out, I am pretty much a wuss and required someone stronger than I to reclaim it. And then someone strong enough to protect it until they returned it to me."
"Angel was the one to find it," Kate said.
"Yes. But he is somewhat... blind to the shades of gray. As many of his kind he tends to see the world in black and white. I knew that he would find the Tool of Sundering and that he would destroy it. I tucked the fabrics of his life so that he would search for and find it."
"So you tipped off a bunch of baddies to off him before he actually took possession," Faith asked, expression neutral.
"Everyone desires the Tool of Sundering. A tuck and his young paladin had the Tool. A tack and he was temporarily removed. Another tuck in the fabric and the good detective was involved. She had the desire to help Angel and the ability to involve the Lost Slayer."
"Where do I fit in?" I ask. Feeling oddly left out.
"Ah, the Dark Slayer was a bonus," he says. I actually feel hurt. I also have the feeling that he's not being entirely honest but then demons rarely are. Hell, humans rarely are.
"So, what's the plan, Johnny-boy?"
"Detective Lockley returns in time to warn Angel and thus prevent his death. I will waive the usual fee of one soul in exchange for the Tool of Sundering. I will then remove myself and the Tool and the other tools of my trade and hide in time - in a place where my people have fled. The Lost Slayer is required to repair this last tear in the fabric. And then you all leave the protected area and your life will go on.
"And that's it?"
The demon looks at me and smiles and I remember Anya's warning.
"That is all I require."
"Then lets do it," Kate says.
I'm sitting in my car, watching a train. Angel is beside me, regarding me, waiting for me to say something. I shake my head a bit, to clear the last of the magic and the sense of deja vu.
"A second chance? To tell someone we love them before it's too late. To say sorry before the mess gets to big for words to fix? To bring a problem out into the open before it eats you alive?" I can feel his eyes on me and know he's wondering if I'm talking about me or Faith. I don't need to wonder any more; I know I'm talking about myself.
The train is gone and the flashing barrier lifts. Ahead is the on ramp and home. Or at least L.A.
"Angel, go back tomorrow night. Remind me tomorrow morning and I'll arrange for you use the room, to have sole access. Ask her."
"That's it? Just ask."
"Just ask. Tell her I... Tell her 'Katie says tell Angel everything'. Got it?"
He raises an eyebrow at my sudden use of third person reference.
"I'll try that then."
I adjust the rear view mirror and make a small cut with the ripper, click my mental heels and pass out.
Kate falls out of the rip, limp and silent. I reach for her, grabbing her awkwardly so that her momentum pulls me down as well. Shifting I pull her half onto my lap and lean back into the bolts of someone's life. Johnny appears and hovers, rubbing his hands nervously. I figure he's either worried about me pounding him or bawling like a baby on his shoulder.
Right now, it's fifty-fifty.
"What's wrong with her?"
"The human mind is fragile, Slayer. The magic makes it sleep while it works. When she emerges from this place, into her rightful place in the world, she will not remember this."
"Again, Slayer." He pauses and looks as sad as someone can with that stupid mustache. "To lose her again..."
I shake my head. "But I'll remember."
"This place is protected. Those touched by destiny are always aware of what is, what was and what could have been. That is your strength."
I shake my head again. I wonder if maybe weakness wouldn't hurt so much. Hell, I know it doesn't.
"It's not fair, Johnny."
"No, Lost One, it isn't. It rarely is."
"Can I have a bit?"
He nods and heads off towards Buffy, leaving us. I duck down, kissing her forehead. One of Steinman's books had this quote. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
I don't want to be any stronger.
I don't want to always remember what is, was and, most of all, what could have been.
I sit there, saying good-bye to Katie. Again.
Lockley falls out of the rip, limp and silent. Faith grabs at her and they go down in a pile. As the Demon and Faith talk I reach out, grab a double handful of cloth and pull.
It's like looking at a movie reel. The bolt stops and I see Faith wearing my body watching a TV at an airport and a question is answered. I pull again and I see Faith and I in an alley, Alan Finch dead at our feet. I pull again and see Faith and I at her room, the word 'nothing' on her lips and tears start to sting so I pull the bolt hard, feeling it slip through my fingers.
"It will only stop at the decision points of her life for you, Dark Slayer. Allow me."
I look up and see the demon standing beside me. I follow his glance down and see Faith, alone and terrified and staring at the torn body of her Watcher.
"Will this tell me why?" I ask angrily?
"'Why'?" the demon asks. "It shows the past, present and into the near future. It can explain nothing that you are not willing to see."
He motions me to step aside and pulls on the bolt. "Such a muddle, I must straighten it."
He pulls and Faith's life flashes in front of my eyes. She grows younger as I watch and, with the demon controlling the fabric, it's like watching a movie in rewind. I watch her as a teenager, as a child, as a baby until the bolt stops and the demon fusses as he straightens it. Eighteen years in as many minutes and two years of questions answered.
"Why didn't she tell me?" I ask. But she had. With every flinch and look that spoke of both suspicion and hope. Just not in words and I wondered why I expected more from her that I was willing to give.
"You mean, why didn't she trust you with her past? Only you and she can answer that." He begins to wind the fabric but between the speed and my tears I can't see the pictures.
"Here we are, nearly finished," he says and I wipe my eyes with my sleeve. The fabric slows and shows the four of us here before continuing. I see Faith back in prison and then nothing.
"I thought it showed the future?"
"It does. Right now the Lost Slayer has no future."
"Because she's in jail," I say without the satisfaction that statement brought mere moments ago.
"No, because she has nothing left. Do you wish to see the fabric of the next Slayer?"
I grab his arm and stop him from moving away.
I look at the fabric and remember. I remember Giles' words and what Faith and I once were, the Chosen Two. I remember the stare of a scared child in the fabric, the same fear I saw in her eyes that night in the alley.
Over in the corner Faith is sitting on the floor, Lockley sprawled unconscious across her lap. Faith's eyes are closed but I know that if they were open, if I looked closely, what I would see.
But I hesitate.
"For those touched by destiny there is no charge if their motive is pure," the demon says gently.
I wonder if that was why I was hesitating. I wonder if Faith bothered to ask the cost before she did her time trip. And suddenly I know the answer to both those questions and I'm ashamed.
"Show me mine, Demon. Show me my past."
I stare at the placard, reading the words with new eyes, waiting to become aware of Tara standing behind me. Watching me examine her desk.
"What...?" I didn't realize I was following the script until she answered.
"It's from a TV show. I m-mean, it's from a lot of places but that v-version is from a show."
I nodded, reading the words again before reaching for the placard.
"Can I borrow this? Rather, can I have this? I'll get a new one when the bookshop opens?"
Tara looked at me, using that look that seemed to be older than her. "Keep it. I don't need it anymore."
And you seem to, her eyes added.
"Thanks," I said, turning and heading away. "See you two tomorrow. I've something I need to do."
I wondered how pissed Anya was going to be when I borrow Xander to get me to LA.
I still haven't shaken the feeling of disorientation by the time we reach Angel's place. I'm about to suggest the Paragon for a late night movie when he suddenly looks up sharply at the front door. A few seconds later it opens and a blonde head hesitantly looks in.
"Hey," she says, sparing me a nod before turning her attention back to him. "I, ah, don't have much time but," she reaches into her handbag. "Could you give this to Faith when you see her tomorrow?"
"How did you know I was seeing Faith tomorrow?" he asks.
"You're seeing Faith tomorrow?" I ask.
"It's a Slayer thing," Buffy answers him.
"Yeah, you said you'd set it up to see her alone," Angel answers me.
"Sure," I lie, "Slipped my mind. Thanks for reminding me."
"Anyway, can you give her this?"
Angel takes the square envelope doubtfully but doesn't say anything. I do.
"What, a Hallmark moment?"
"Something like that, Detective." She turns to him, "I have to go. I'll see you..."
She turns to go.
She only looks over her shoulder, smiles and says "Me too."
There's only silence after she's gone. Angel is playing with the envelope and I'm trying to remember why I had ever thought I had a real chance.
"You, ah, want to catch an all-nighter at the Paragon?"
"No, I think I'll just go home and crash. I'll set that thing up."
"What are friends for?"
I'm lead to the room where Angel and Angel alone waits for me. He smiles which really is just one corner of his mouth lifting slightly so I know it's not bad news that brought him. With only a few days between visits I had been expecting bad news and the first glance of him without Kate was like a sucker punch.
"Hey, big guy, two nights in a row. Where's the side kick?"
He ignores that, motioning for me to sit. "I pretty much suck at small talk so I'll just cut to the chase."
I try to shake the disjointed feeling. I just know he's going to ask. He's going to ask what the hell I was talking about yesterday and I haven't had a chance to make something up and I wonder to myself what I'm going to tell him.
"I'm to say that 'Katie says tell Angel everything'."
"Guess the truth then," I say bewildered, not realizing right away that I'm talking aloud. I start to gather my thoughts, totally squashing any urge to try to figure it out. Like the redhead says in that space show, time travel gives me such a headache. "Just promise me that you won't tell anyone."
"Just you and me. Unless we're dealing with demon hordes or the latest apocalypse in which case all bets are off."
"No, no real demons. Just a human who made a mistake, that's all."
And so I tell him. Everything. Well, almost everything as I don't think the fact that I kissed his girl before she was his girl even though now its after she was his girl is really important. Or easy to explain.
"You two were close?"
"C'mon, Soul Man. I'm good but in one day...?" I ask with all the bravado I can muster.
He stares at me silently for two minutes.
"Yeah, we got close," I finally say and he nods and I change the subject. "What's this all about?"
"I have no idea. But I think the Powers That Be are involved again and telling me to mind my own business."
I file away the info. "You gonna? Mind your own business, I mean?"
"I'd better," he said with a theatrical sigh. "I can't take anymore weirdness. Cordy had a vision while I was here yesterday that she couldn't remember when I got back to the office, Kate was talking cryptic and Buffy showed up out of the blue. Oh, and Buffy asked me to give you this."
I take the envelope warily. "Ah, probably an 'eat shit and die' card," I say and he winces slightly. Upon reflection I guess that was pretty rude.
"I don't think so," he says as I carefully open the envelope and pull out a square of card. I read the words.
"The only way to break the cycle of hate is through love and forgiveness." Written underneath is B's scrawl. "Three by three. B"
I turn it around so that Angel can read it as well.
"Three by three?"
I look up. "I think Hell finally froze over," I say in bewilderment.
He looks at me, then nods. I always suspected that he maybe knew more than he let on about what happened in Sunnydale between Buffy and me. "I'm glad. Look, I hate to run but..."
"...but it's getting sentimental and you just can't handle it?"
He grins. An actual, genuine grin and he looks almost human. "Gotta be the dark broody type. You know the type."
I nod, head bobbing a bit as I grin back. "Every time I look in the mirror, Soul Man."
"Kate wants to see you."
That came out of nowhere. "When?"
"Now. She's waiting for us to finish up. If you don't want to..." he makes a vague circular motion, covering pretty much our conversation and her place in it and my reaction to her last visit.
"Better see what she wants," I say, casually. Not fooling him for a second.
He waits, looking at me before nodding. "See you in a couple of weeks." And then he's gone. And she's there.
"Detective," I say. All cool and professional.
"Hey," she answers. She looks around the room, as if looking at it for the first time. She glances at her regular seat before sitting in the chair that Angel usually uses.
"You wanted to talk?" I prompt.
"Yeah, well, just wanted to make sure that everything was okay. Between you and Angel. Things have been weird the last few days..."
"Tell me about it," I mutter, tapping the Buffy's card a few times on the desk. I see her glance at it, reading the words and shaking her head.
"Things have been very weird the last few days and he was worried about you and I thought I'd just check and see if there was anything I could do that he couldn't or something that maybe you couldn't talk to him about or..."
I hold up my hand and she grinds to a halt.
"No. We're cool. We talked and it's okay."
She nods but shows no sign of moving.
"Was that the only reason you wanted to talk to me?" I ask.
"No, not the only reason," she says, sounding fairly ill at ease. "I, um, pulled your files."
I feel an eyebrow rise at that. "Who asked you to do that?"
"No one. I was just curious... you being a Slayer and here and all."
"That file isn't me, you know. I'm not that girl." I repeat the words from six months ago and I don't know if my heart has stopped because of hope or fear. I stare down at my hands, clenched and white knuckled in my lap.
"No. You're not. That's why I'm here. I thought maybe you were worth knowing. I mean, if I'm willing to give him a second shot then..." and she shrugs.
"You okay?" Kate asks softly.
"No," I say, looking up. "But I will be."