He let his hair grow long during his time in the hospital and managed a scraggle of beard on his baby-smooth face.
Faith was glad for that - major way glad. Otherwise, she felt like Mrs. Robinson, doing what she did with Connor. That was not a role she was ready for, not for like another thirty years.
He had also taken up random smiling. She put that down as progress.
Faith, sitting on the window sill of her second-floor walk-up in Brooklyn, spooned Haagen Dasz from her dish and glanced at Connor, who ate his while lying stretched on the bed, half-draped in chocolate satin sheets. They didn’t go with his worn Fugazi T-shirt. Hell, they didn’t go with anything, but they were an indulgence. He’d spent so much time in scratchy hospital linens, she figured why not splurge on $80 sheets?
They adopted a cat, little orange scrapper named Logan. He swaggered in, sniffing for leftovers from the Thai place around the corner. It was raining out, but the windows were open. Over the endless sound of traffic, Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” came up on the iPod.
Connor sat up. The trace of a smile brushed his lips.
“’Sup?” she asked. Setting her ice cream aside, she, in black panties and halter, climbed into the bed behind him and wrapped her legs around his waist.
Together they stared at the twinkling cityscape, part of it obscured by a gauze of clouds.
He was silent for about half the song before he said, “Everyone in this world survives, in their way. We all make it.”
Faith rested her forehead against his arm. “Deep,” she said.
He shrugged. She felt his spine and shoulder blades against her body, and she shuddered. He turned to kiss her.
They let the ice cream melt.
Filling out a credit application, pencil between lips, Connor asked, “How long we been here?”
Faith calculated mentally. “Six months,” she realized. “You came right after Spring Break. And every night since.”
Connor grinned. He looked up at her through his lashes. He penciled in the dates on the form.
Six months, yo? She thought. She went to the fridge, got out a bottle of green tea. Six months was about five and a half months longer than her regular sack-time with a guy. Except for… that one time.
Faith wondered when it would end.
Connor tapped the page with the eraser. “Explain any gaps in your employment history,” he said. “How’s this sound: possessed by an inter-dimensional object that led me on a four-month demon-killing sabbatical.”
“Harsh,” Faith said, her heart in her throat.
He hit her again with that lop-sided smile. “Okay, this one: five weeks in intensive mental rehab to overcome delusions related to aforementioned possession, not to mention the physical therapy...”
Suddenly he seemed fragile, like the answers to his questions only brought to mind more questions. Faith had been with him through all of it, but the relapses rattle her cage. She put the tea back in the fridge and left without a word. Patrolling to do, world to save, vampire sightings in New York. Yada yada.
When she came home after midnight, Connor was already asleep.
Connor was quiet and still the next evening, a whole 'nother breed of brooding from his father. Except Faith liked it when Connor sat and studied his hands. She liked the way the light trickled through the window and his water glass, casting little circles of light on the lacquer black coffee table. His cat has gotten spoiled and fat. It never left Connor’s side.
Faith lacked the language to describe Connor. He was sober and intense. When he was in her, it was like the world stopped spinning. But when he was out, he was out and alone. Totally alone.
“Faith,” he said, startling her, making her hate that he startled her. “I think I want to go back to California.”
She stared at him. “How the fuck can you say that to me?”
His eyes never strayed from hers. He said, “The Department of Physics wants me back. They said I can have my scholarship.”
Faith felt like hitting something. Instead she threw a bottle of wine.
He was calm throughout the argument that followed. His gist: “It’s not like we even talk. All we do is fuck and eat and fight.”
Her answer: “What the hell else is there?”
Faith wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. She wanted to kill something. He was the only one there.
She knew she could kill him. She’d done it before. But she couldn’t say it. It’s the big silence in their freak-show relationship. The huge mangled scar on his chest.
Connor left without a word. A port wine stain trickled down the white-washed wall. Faith, drunk, opened her fortune cookie:
Today you are lucky and loved.
Faith put her fist through the plate glass window.
Hadn’t they seen enough of hospitals?
Not like it was necessary, anyway. They took down 99.9 to the zillioninth percent of demonkind in their last big Apocalypse-a-Go-Go, but she still had Slayer healing.
Connor sat with her in the lobby.
“I’m still leaving,” he said. “I just… wanted to make sure you’re all right.”
“I’m fine,” Faith said, shrugging off his hand on her shoulder. “Five by five.”
He kissed her forehead before he got up.
“Aren’t you even gonna fight for me?” he asked. She wondered if he was crazy, if he even knew her at all.
“Take care in LA,” she said.
When he left, she didn’t look to see if he looked back.
He did. Twice.
Connor took his cat, she thought. She sat alone, on the edge of her bed, listening to traffic sounds and rain.
Everything she feared was true. Her own whack sense of life and love wasn’t enough. He wasn’t dead, but she killed it all the same.
It was the one thing she did really well.