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mare incognitum

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It's Angel's doing that he's even on Faith's visitation list. He doesn't think they can ever overcome the sordid history between them and he doesn't particularly care to try, but Angel had said, "It would be good for both of you," his voice heavy and his eyes shadowed, and, well. Angel has a way of making Wesley want to be a better man, so he had agreed to at least open the possibility, and apparently Faith had, as well. He hadn't actually visited before now, though -- he hadn't felt ready, and still doesn't, if he's honest.

Cordelia has been in Sunnydale this week and is, at this moment, on a Greyhound bus back from the memorial service, but Wesley knows full well no one there wanted to hear from him. Instead, he left the safety of the city and the still-traumatized Fred to Gunn and his axe, and roared up the 5 to Stockton in Angel's GTX. He's sure no one here wants to hear from him, either, but Angel would want this, would want Faith to know. Angel would come here and tell her himself, if the enormity of his grief hadn't driven him all the way to Sri Lanka.

Wesley is, perversely, almost satisfied that events have led him here. This is Slayer business. It is only fitting that Faith is once more his burden to bear.

She does a double take when they lead her in, her steps faltering. In the baggy blue jumpsuit she seems vulnerable, so much smaller than the grinning, hollow-eyed fiend his memory has built her into. She gathers her composure as she crosses to the stall, and by the time she sits in front of the thick glass barrier and picks up the telephone receiver she is practically swaggering. She gives him a pointed look and he belatedly lifts his own handset.

"Never thought I'd see you sitting in that chair," Faith says. "What, did Angel's sad puppy eyes finally wear you down?"

Wesley can hear the whoosh of her improvised blowtorch when she talks, can feel the bite of broken glass against his skin. He had considered how to tell her whilst driving up, but -- why soften the blow? "Buffy Summers is dead."

Faith freezes. "What?"

The remembered chill of that night seeps into his bones. It makes it easy not to react.

"No. No way."

It's been a long time, but he made a study of her. He can see the shock and panic mounting.

"Fuck you, you're lying!  She's not, fuck you!" Faith drops the handset and slaps her hands down on the counter, rising from her chair. She's screaming now, loud enough that he can hear her voice doubled: muffled through the barrier and tinny through the receiver still at his ear. "I'd know! You're lying, I'd fucking know!"

The guard hustles over and grabs her shoulder. She throws his hand off easily. "Fuck you!" she shouts again, but she studied him that night, cataloguing his reactions like she was dissecting him in a laboratory, pinning out his organs and labeling them neatly, and she knows what he's telling her is true. Tears start to stream down her face and she hits the counter again. "Fuck you," she sobs.

Wesley watches her slump back into the chair, watches the guard hover, undecided, and in his mind's eye he sees Angel's arms going around her in the rain, hears the clatter and splash of the knife falling from his nerveless fingers. He feels just as numb now, but Angel wouldn't want things to go this way. He sighs and catches the guard's eye, and the man backs off.

"Faith..." He trails off, realizing she can't hear him. DO NOT TOUCH THE GLASS, say the block-lettered decals on the barrier, so instead he raps his knuckles on the counter, and points at her abandoned handset.

She scrubs at her face and picks it up, still crying. "Fuck you," she repeats, "what the fuck happened?"

It's Slayer business. She should know. Feeling as though he is very far away, he tells her what he can, what he has managed to glean from Cordelia's tearful telephone updates and the single stilted conversation he'd had with Rupert Giles about whether reinforcements were needed in Sunnydale (not that Angel Investigations has resources to spare). She sacrificed herself. She saved her sister. She saved the world.

Faith hunches into herself on the other side of the glass barrier, clinging to the telephone receiver and wiping her nose on the sleeve of her jumpsuit. The skin already looks red and irritated, and her face is blotchy. She can't seem to stop her tears, or the imprecations she whispers at him. This is the last Slayer standing, Wesley thinks, looking at her as though from the opposite shore of a vast ocean, and seeing not a monster but a nineteen-year-old girl. At the end of their time, she hiccups a final, dejected fuck you into the handset and goes meekly with the guards.

Southbound, Wesley grips the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white.