Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or the setting of the story. All things I borrowed from the Buffyverse are a creation of and belong to Joss Whedon. I have also borrowed several ideas and concepts from to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, I used some in this chapter, some will be in the rest of the story. (the mirror of Erised, the Room of Requirement)
Timeline: two months after NFA ("Angel"), and before Faith runs into Spike (see "Needed").
Faith was running after the demon. She had been running for hours and she couldn't seem to get tired. The demon sped up on the downward slope; Faith adjusted her pace with ease. Tracking and chasing was fun and well, but this guy was almost making it too easy for her. She cut through some bushes and reached the clearing in front of him.
"What's the rush, big guy? I thought you're all about killing girls."
The thing growled and attacked her. Faith ran punches and kicks on him until, with a final effort, the demon feigned to the right and ran past her by the left. Faith swore under her breath and followed him. She caught up with him just as he reached the entrance to a cave. Faith jumped on his back and twisted his neck in a swift movement until it snapped. Its body went limp and fell to the ground with a thud.
"Let's see where you were heading," she said.
She took a stake and a torchlight out of her backpack and entered the cave. She went through long, empty corridors, permanently wary of any sign of danger. There were no signs of habitation, or other exits. Faith couldn't help fearing she was missing something. If this wasn't its lair, or a way for it to escape pursuit, why had it run this way? She was approaching a state of panic so she hurried toward the exit. But she couldn't find it. The corridor began fading.
All of a sudden, Faith found herself trapped in the prison cell she had inhabited for two years. With the difference that where the bars and door had been, there was only another solid wall. Her pulse began to race and she felt her head spinning. She closed her eyes, trying to get a grip on herself. When she opened her eyes again, she saw that she was no longer alone.
She reacted instinctively. She put her knife through the man's shoulder and pinned him to a wall.
"Who the fuck are you?" she asked the familiar figure.
"I think I'm Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, but I'm also fairly sure I'm dead."
"I'm in no mood for games, mister. Try again. And make it the truth this time," she said twisting the knife in his flesh.
The man groaned. Faith saw the pain on Wesley's face, and her stomach heaved. She was hurting him again. She was back at the same point she had been before prison. Before Angel. Angel... Gone. All gone. She pulled the blade out of the creature, no longer carrying what it was. Being killed by something wearing Wesley's guise seemed karmicly appropriate. She turned her back to him and walked slowly away.
"Faith, are you all right?"
She heard Wesley's voice. She heard the concern. It seemed so realÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
"Wesley's dead. I saw his body myself. His was the only one we've actually found."
"I know. I don't understand. But I know I died two months ago. And yet the last thing I remember is you, walking out of the Hyperion a year ago."
"Shut up. Please, shut up," Faith whispered, unable to stand his soft tone. "You're not real."
"Could've fooled me," he murmured.
Faith turned to look at him. He was pressing his palm over the wound. He was bleeding.
"OK. I'll play," she said and walked back to him. "Let me take care of that."
She gently took his hand away from the wound. She unbuttoned his shirt, and pushed it off his shoulders to expose the injury. She gritted her teeth at the sight. It wasn't the blood in itself. The problem was that it was Wesley's blood, and it was spilled by her hand again.
"You avoided any major arteries. I should be fine."
Faith took a bandage and a flask of scotch out of the backpack, and poured a few drops over the wound. Wesley stiffened a little and let out the faintest hiss of pain. Her stomach churned again at this sound that echoed the muffled groans she had extracted from him four years earlier. She proceeded to dress the injury, almost numb under the flood of guilt. She pressed her fingers on the bandage making sure it stuck to the unbroken skin around the wound.
She began mapping his scars with trembling fingers. There they were. The long scar on the left side of his neck. The criss-cross of her own handiwork. And the new one.
Faith put her palm over the ugly scar in his lower abdomen. She had seen the fatal wound on Wesley's dead body less than two months earlier.
"This one killed you," she stated, unable and unwilling to remove her hand and in so doing, exposing it again.
"I know," he said.
"Why are you here? Did I drop in a Hellmouth or something?"
"Does it hurt that much?"
"What?" she asked looking up at him confused.
"Seeing me again."
"Yes. So much more than I would've thought possible."
"Long is the road and hardÃ¢â‚¬Â¦" he began the quote pensively.
"That out of Hell leads Up to light," Faith finished.
"You read Milton," he said, appreciatively.
"Paradise Lost was on your... on his desk when we went to clear up his apartment."
He put his hand over hers.
"I'm starting to enjoy this," he said with a smile.
Faith startled out of her reverie. She noticed that her palm was still on his belly, close to the waistband of his jeans. She trailed her fingers over his torso before removing it. She smiled when she heard his soft intake of breath. Apparently he was really enjoying her touch.
Doing something that actually pleased Wesley. Well, wasn't that a novel concept? She was smiling at the thought, but soon the notion of causing him to make similar noises became appealing. She hadn't been able to let Robin touch her for the past couple of months. Since she had gone with Giles to collect Wesley's body and clean up his apartment. Now her body was reacting to this presence.
Faith took a long look at Wesley's half naked body. He was so thinÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ No longer whimpy-thin, but steely-thin. No bulging pecs on this man, no thick biceps, and just the sketch of six-pack abs. Then how did he emanate such strength?
"You're not real," she said again while she began caressing his uninjured shoulder. She slid her hand along his arm. When his bicep twitched beneath her palm, her stomach did a back flip, but this time with desire, not guilt.
"What are you doing?"
His voice had acquired an arousingly husky quality.
"C'mon, babe, I know you're brighter than that."
She intertwined her fingers with his. She looked in awe at their linked hands. Robin Wood had been the first man she had ever allowed to hold her by the hand, but it had never felt this right.
'Not real,' the little voice inside her tried to wake her up.
The soft whisper felt like silk on her skin. She leaned closer, brushed her lips against his neck. She felt his pulse quicken beneath her lips. He took in a deep breath and spoke in a barely controlled voice.
"You know I can't resist you. If you don't stop, I'm not going to."
"Good. No stopping."
As soon as she said it, Wesley put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her closer. His right hand slid into her hair, and Faith relished the sensation of his long, elegant fingers tangled in her thick, unruly mane. When he pulled her head gently away, she followed his lead dutifully, allowing him to expose her face. The expectation of their first kiss was putting her on edge. He did not disappoint. He lowered his head slowly and pressed his lips against hers. Despite expecting the kiss, Faith gasped.
So gentle. She knew it. She had always known it. He had changed from his Sunnydale days, but even under all the roughness he had so amply demonstrated during their Angelus hunt, she thought she could see an underlying warmth.
For some reason, Faith couldn't bring herself to take control of the kiss. By this time her tongue should have been all the way in his mouth. She fought the urge to sink her teeth into his lips. She fought it because, for once in her life, she didn't want to be on the offensive. For once, she wanted to be wanted, and not the one wanting.
He was cupping her face now, thumbs brushing her jaw. He kept kissing her; delicate, feather-like kisses. He was kissing her like he cared about her. She squashed the knowledge that he never had. Except, maybe that short time when he was her Watcher, and she hadn't yet fallen into darkness.
If he kept this up, she might well do the unimaginable and no longer contain the tears she had held back since she had seen his dead body two months earlier. Fortunately, Wes spared her the embarrassment when he opened his mouth. He trailed her lip with his tongue, maddeningly slow, but even his patience seemed to shatter under the force of his desire. Faith felt her body catch fire when his tongue entered her mouth. She hung on to his shoulders, while her head was spinning. Wes moaned into her mouth when she unwittingly squeezed his fresh injury. Faith pulled violently out of the kiss when she heard it. She was already half way across the cell when Wesley grabbed her arm.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Wesley."
He took no notice of her apology.
"You said there would be no stopping," he reminded her.
"I don't want to hurt you... again."
She hadn't even finished speaking when he wrapped his arms around her. He swooped in for another searing kiss, and Faith was back in the whirlwind of desire. He was holding her so tight her breasts were crushed almost painfully against his chest. He led her back to the bunk bed without easing the embrace for a single moment.
Faith could hardly believe what was happening. She was flattered by the intensity of his desire, but was amazed by his tenderness and warmth.
Between kisses, Wesley managed to undress her almost without her noticing it. She was fully aware that she was naked when he abandoned her mouth in order to explore other arias of her body. When his tongue flicked over one of her nipples for the first time, she was shocked to hear herself yelp. She thought about flipping him over and impaling herself on him. Get some, and get gone. His approach to sex threatened to burn her alive. And yet, she didn't act on her impulse. Her curiosity proved to be more powerful than the wish to reach climax sooner. What would he do next? What else was there to sex other than fast, and hot, and hard? She knew it wasn't real, so if she was weak, and submissive, and girlish no one would ever know. So she closed her eyes and gripped the bed harder and let him take things as slow as he wanted.
She heard him undo his jeans, and opened her eyes. He was hard and ready, and she couldn't remember ever being so wet and eager. Faith was surprised that she enjoyed the feel of him on top of her.
"I want you inside me," she whispered.
He slid inside her without warning and without hesitation. She was already very slippery and welcoming. Faith knew good sex, and this had all the makings of great sex. If he would just pick up the pace.
"Harder. Faster," she whispered between moans.
Much to her despair, he slowed down the pace even more. She wasn't going to reach her orgasm any time soon, but she was beautifully aware of every inch of him. It suddenly became important to Faith to see him. She fought the haze of pleasure and looked at him. His beautiful blue eyes were studying her. She had seen steel and ice in those eyes a year ago, now she was seeing warmth and affection. For a second, the expression on his face seemed familiar. Another face, leaning toward her, another pair of eyes looking at her with the same... love. The remembrance was accompanied by a sharp pain. Riley. Riley making love to 'Buffy'.
"Oh, God," she whispered and close her eyes, overcome with shame.
"Faith! Faith, look at me!"
She obeyed with difficulty.
"You are here. With me. There's no past. No guilt."
"You bloody bastard, how did you get to know me so well?" she asked, fighting tears again.
"I was your Watcher. I've been watching you."
"Fucking the Slayer was in the handbook?" she panted.
"No. Just in every fantasy I've had since I first saw you."
"Liar," she accused him grinning.
He grinned back, and sped up. Not as rough as she used to like it, but it did the trick. She came noisily, only seconds before he did.
Wesley rolled off her on the narrow cot while she was still throbbing in aftershock. She heard his voice when she moved the first muscle to get out of bed.
"There's no way out, Faith. You can't run this time."
"Fuck you," she said without much anger, and dropped back into bed.
"I rather think you just did."
She made an effort to overcome the rising claustrophobia. She watched him relax, eyes closed, breathing returning to normal.
"There must be a way out. I didn't just teleport here."
His features morphed into an impressed smile.
"I didn't know you knew about teleportation."
"I watched a couple of Star Trek episodes like any red blooded American."
He laughed softly, his eyes still closed, his face still calm.
"I was thinking of magical teleportation."
"Can I do that?" she asked hopeful.
"Probably not. It's advanced magic. And even if you could manage to channel the necessary energy, we don't have anything we need. As you may have noticed, I don't have my books handy."
"Note to self: scan and archive books," she said to herself.
Wesley opened his eyes and looked at her with something bordering on admiration.
"You're turning into a real girl scout, aren't you?"
She smiled thoughtfully. She decided that talking to this Wesley-looking creature was better than talking to a headstone.
"I always intended to come see you in L.A.. Try to straighten things up between us. I just kept postponing. Couldn't really imagine what I could say to make it right. By the way, thanks for cleaning up the mess about my escape. It felt sort of icky to be rescued by the likes of Wolfram and Hart, but thanks. You gave me back my life, Wes."
"You've always lived in the moment, Faith. You should've known better than putting things off. Did you really think that working at Wolfram and Hart was going to end well for us?"
"Never could picture myself saying 'Jee, Wes, sorry I tortured you'. Doesn't sound right, you know."
"Maybe you could've left out the 'Jee'," he said, finally looking at her, the warmth in his gaze melting away some of her guilt. "I knew you were sorry, Faith. The path you have chosen made the point more clearly than anything you could've said."
"Yes. You needed to say the words."
He propped himself on an elbow and gazed at her. He caressed her idly as he began to speak.
"You would have been a perfect Slayer. If Buffy had died fighting the Master, Kendra would've still died young, you would've been the Slayer, and not a Slayer. And none of this would've happened. Not the killing. Not the Mayor. Not the coma. Not the body switch. Not prison."
"Not Angel. Not you."
"No. Neither of us."
"We would have never met."
Her voice trailed off. She let the image of that alternate universe wash over her. No guilt. No being second best. No need to live up to a living icon.
"It is only an exercise of imagination. No one can change the past," he said in the same calm voice.
"I don't know if I wish it was possible."
"Faith," he called her name softly, and although she was listening for it, she could hear no recrimination.
"I'm a horrible person."
"Not from where I'm looking," he said and leaned in to kiss her.
He was kissing her like she was worth it. There was desire in his kisses, but it was more than the animalistic lust she usually inspired. She looked up at him through her lashes.
"Are you up for another round?"
He bit her bottom lip playfully.
"I was up for it since I started touching you again," he said, and sneaked his hand between her thighs.
He made love to her passionately, time after time, and with each orgasm, the guilt inside her receded.
Faith saw the exit reappearing in one of the walls. She pulled Wesley on top of her again, and for the first time in her life, she begged:
"Slower. I want this to last forever."
He slowed down the pace, but the pleasure kept building up inside her, and the orgasm came heartbreakingly soon. Faith held him tight, long after he had emptied himself inside her, long after she had stopped throbbing. She hung on to him, willing not to spill the tears that were filling her eyes.
"You're leaving," he said, nuzzling her neck.
"I don't want to," she confessed.
"You're alive, Faith. Live! And just a little, live for me, too."
She looked at him trying to imprint this image permanently in her memory. The image of a man who loved her.
When she blinked, everything was gone. The cell. The bed. Wesley. She was near the exit of the cave. She got dressed, and bent down to pick up her knife. The dried blood on its silver blade was the only physical proof of his existence.
To be continued...