“Cheers,” Wesley said, clinking his beer bottle against Faith’s. They were sitting in the courtyard of the Hyperion, relishing the brief peace that came after restoring Angel’s soul and before Faith was to head up to Sunnydale to be of use there.
“What are we toasting?” Faith asked.
“Saving the world? Averting the apocalypse? Restoring Angel’s soul?”
“Eh, that sounds like our average Tuesday. How about the fact that you and I are having a drink together after all we’ve been through?” Faith smiled her devilish grin.
“Yes, that sounds like much more of an accomplishment. Let’s drink to that.” Wesley took a sip of his beer, and let out a sigh. They sat in companionable silence for a few moments.
“Hey Wes?” Faith asked, looking uncharacteristically nervous.
“How come the whole drive down from the prison you didn’t mention that Angelus had just killed your girlfriend? Seems like a pretty crucial piece of information.”
“She wasn’t my girlfriend. Definitely not anymore and not...technically...ever.”
“So let’s just call her the woman you loved. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Faith, I never, I didn’t love...”
“Wes, don’t lie to me. You’re terrible at it. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I rather think that it wasn’t your business,” Wesley shrugged, and Faith could see his face closing off to the mask he had been wearing when he showed up at the prison. The dark cloud was returning. She couldn’t let that happen.
“Don’t shut down on me, man. I’m not like, offended you didn’t tell me. I just...I wanna make sure you’re okay. Cuz I have a feeling that the rest of Team Angel aren’t Lilah’s biggest fans.”
“And you are?” Wesley raised his eyebrow again, the cloud of protectiveness still putting a careful mask of indifference on his face.
“I mean, she gave me a place to stay, and she was really kind to me. Wolfram and Hart wanted Angel dead, but I’m pretty sure it was her who made sure that they didn’t pursue my contract after I bailed on them. And, I mean...” Faith looked down at her toes, her confidence dropping in a way that Wesley felt alarming.
“Faith, what are you not saying?”
Faith looked up for the ground with false bravado on her face. “Hey man, you and I are one degree of body count away from each other. And I just wanted to make sure it didn’t get awkward if you found out at some point down the road.”
“You’re saying you slept with Lilah.”
“Might of. Yes. Wasn’t a big deal, man. Though I have to say, for all those suits and all that power, that was one lady who liked to be dominated,” Faith grinned, but wasn’t looking directly at Wesley, since she was still in fear of his reaction. When she did, she saw that the mask was dropping. “Listen, I’m not trying to disrespect the dead. I’m trying to tell you that you’re not alone. I’m gonna mourn her, too. She was one...is classy dame disrespectful? I have trouble not using like, black and white movie slang when describing her.”
“She was one classy dame. Evil, jealous, mostly out for herself...but classy as hell.”
“You seem a bit conflicted, Wes. Like you’re trying to come up with bad things to say about her so that it hurts less. Believe me, it doesn’t work that way.”
“She was evil. That’s how she described herself.”
“And how’d she die?”
“Angelus killed her.”
“And why was she somewhere where Angelus could get at her?”
Wesley paused for a second. He knew what Faith was trying to get out of him. “She was helping us.”
“And you said she was jealous. Is it possible that that was your fault?”
“I don’t need to justify myself to you, Faith.”
“No. You don’t. But you kinda gotta justify yourself to yourself.” Faith let out an exasperated breath as Wesley looked like he was about to call her on her shit. “Listen, Wes, they have me in group therapy every damn day up in murder rehab. I’ve learned to stop lying to myself about a lot. And obviously it’s working. You’re having beer out of glass bottles with me, and I bet it’s been at least five minutes since you remember that...thing I did to you when I was seriously fucked up. Which i’m going to apologize for again right now, since I want to make it a practice to apologize to you for that until, well I don’t know what until, but until I stop feeling so shitty about it. If I wanted to, I could lie to you about anything I wanted. But I’ve learned that if i lie to myself, all it’s gonna do is back up on me.”
“She was threatened by my feelings for...someone else, yes.” Wesley had almost said her name. But Faith didn’t need to know that much.
“It’s honestly kind of gross, Wes.”
“What is?” Wesley looked genuinely confused.
“Your crush on the girl version of your dorky pre-cool self. Oh, don’t look at me that way, Wes. I have eyes. You have a crush on Fred,
and Lilah probably knew she could never compete with your virgin/whore complex, and I’m guessin’ it made her wicked crazy. But what I don’t get is why, when you’ve come this far, become this authoritative, confident, experienced guy...why you’d want to date someone who reminds me of what you were like when you were too young and inexperienced to be my watcher. This guy you are right now? I super dig him. And he was in there all along. Why try to fuck your way back inside that guy that I don’t even think you liked all that much?” Faith drained her beer and plonked it down on the table. “I’m getting another. You want more?”
“Dear God, yes, if you’re going to keep haranguing me like this, I’ll need one,” Wesley said, finishing his.
“I’ll be right back. Don’t miss me too much.” Faith walked back into the hotel, leaving Wesley by himself.
He’d never honestly thought about how much of Fred’s personality was remarkably similar to the way he had been most of his life. Had he not liked himself before everything went pear-shaped and he ended up this husk of a man he now was? He rather thought that he liked himself better before. And while Faith says that this new man that he now was was superior in her books, he could hardly trust the character reference of his former torturer. He moved over the beer bottles and put his feet up on the table that Faith’s had inhabited, and slouched comfortably, feeling the effects of the alcohol flowing through his body. He noticed his loose long limbs and casual posture, and imagined maintaining this casual slouch in a three piece tweed suit with a ramrod up his ass (and not in a fun way.) While he might have liked himself at the time, he, in fact, was almost embarrassed of how he used to relate to the world. That was always a barrier in his relationship, yes relationship with Lilah: he never had the bravery to ask her how much she knew about what a dork he once was. They’d never conversed directly. He knew of her, of course. But it wasn’t until after the kidnapping that he got her professional attentions. And he knew that she was attracted to the man he had become. She didn’t want to know if she had ever observed him and laughed at him for being, well, less masculine than the man that she eventually had. He both wished he could become the old Wesley and got a terror feeling of embarrassment in his stomach when confronted by his own past.
But was Fred part of that? Sure, Fred was a bit nervous and uncomfortable in her skin, but that was charming in a woman. She was cerebral to a fault and didn’t always notice if someone was coming on to her. She wore glasses and opted for a conservative manner of dress. But he didn’t like her because she reminded him of who had been. He had liked her before he had become this man. He just liked her for herself. Faith was wrong. What did Faith know?
“You took my foot rest.” Faith sat down in her chair, and handed him an open beer.
“You abandoned it,” Wesley said, glad to be talking about something trivial for a second.
“Well I’m not going to fight you for it, cuz I’m too bruised for that.”
“Good, because the tiles in my shower tell you that I wouldn’t win.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Faith took a sip, and her face became contemplative. “Wes, I’m just going to say one last thing about it, and then I’ll leave it alone. You can say that you weren’t in a relationship. You can say that she was evil. You can say that it wasn’t going to work out anyhow. But she died trying to help, and you know it. If I could change, I’m sure as hell that she could have. And I’m not going to let you tell yourself that her jealousy ruined what you had when you were the one making her jealous. No girl is at her most sane when she’s in love with someone who pretends to not be in love with her while he pretends to pine for some other girl. That’s seriously crazy-making, so it’s amazing if she was at all under control by that point. You can lie to me all you want, but stop lying to yourself. She’s dead. You admitting to yourself that you were in love with her has no real world options. Lying to yourself is stupid. I’d be pot calling the kettle black if she was still alive and I was telling you that you had to tell her, to be honest with her...”
“Yes, when will you ever tell Buffy about your feelings for her?” Wesley smirked, not sure if he was trying to provoke her for revenge or actually asking a meaningful question.
“See, I’m not even going to get upset you said that, Wes. I’m hella in love with B. Have been for a long time now. Telling her straight ass that wouldn’t do much, and I’d rather have things be cool with us for once, so no, I’m not ever telling her that. But I’m also not lying to myself about it. See what I’m saying? You love her. You’re allowed to be sad that she’s gone. She’s not just some crazy psycho bitch that you were boning for 6 months. She was a classy dame, and the world is a worse place without her in it, especially for you.”
“Because I loved her,” Wesley said, his lips pushing together to fight out the emotions he was finally letting himself feel.
“Because you love her. Her being gone doesn’t make it stop.”
Wesley nodded. He then took a deep breath and wiggled his jaw loose. He wasn’t about to cry in front of Faith, of all people. “Did we just have a group therapy session? Is it your turn to talk about how you’re about to head off to do the bidding of the woman you just confessed to loving?”
“Nah, we’re good, here. But one last thing...I know that the goody goodies inside this hotel will never understand what you had with her. They never saw her vulnerabilities. All they saw was the evil suit. So if you ever need to, I’m like, here for you, Wes.”
Wesley chuckled. “That’s very emotionally receptive of you, Faith. Thank you.”
“I mean, especially if you want to reminisce about those gorgeous breasts of hers. Or the exact noises she made when she...”
“Thank you, Faith. That’s quite enough of sexualizing the dead.”
“Sexualizing the formerly alive. I’m not into the dead,” Faith grinned. God did she need to lighten the mood. This got way heavier than she was emotionally prepared for. “Anyhow,” she said, clinking her beer bottle against his one last time, “Here’s to one hell of a classy dame.”
“To Lilah,” said Wesley, nodding solemnly as he clinked back.