DEEPER THAN THE TOP NOTES
Written for the Faith Ficathon for doylesb4, requirements at the end of the story
Disclaimer - Nope, I'm not Joss. I don't own these characters and we all know that.
Spoilers - mild ones for S 5, takes place after Damage
Rating - PG-13
Feedback - pretty please,
Summary - Faith returns to L.A. for her own peace of mind
Author's Note - I've never written these two as a pairing before. The beginning is a tad angsty but it doesn't last, I promise. It was sort of a necessary set up to explain why Faith came back.
Faith stared up at the glass monolith that was Wolfram and Hart. It was insane that Angel and company were working inside. Willow's resouling spell had worked. They all knew that. Angelus had been put back in his cage. It wasn't so simple to write off Angel's change of loyalties - if it could be called that. Wesley had spoken briefly to Giles, told him how they were trying to use the resources of Wolfram and Hart to do good but that conflicted with Andrew's report that Angel had refused to entrust Dana to Andrew's care.
In the conference call between the Scoobies and herself, Faith had argued that proved nothing. She wouldn't trust Andrew to pick up take-out without screwing it up. His pompous Watcher act made her first impression of Wesley like a hundred times more favorable in retrospect. If someone spouted off to her the way she had heard Andrew do to the younger Slayers, she would probably not be inclined to be cooperative either. She hadn't been with Wesley and his pompous ass, back in Sunnydale. Neither had Buffy, something Faith had been quick to point out in that conference call.
Giles suggested Faith check up on Angel, put all their minds at ease. She was in the States, after all, kicking demon ass to her heart's content in Cleveland. Faith jumped at the chance. There was so much left undone in L.A. She and Wes had worked good together, like he had forgiven her and all. She had yet to forgive herself so she wanted to at least apologize properly. Then there was the whole thing with Angel and the Orpheus. She had never known anyone as well as she did Angel. She had been fast to point that out. She hated its effect on Buffy. That had to be a sure sign Faith wasn't the twisted young lady she had once been. Faith knew normal was never going to happen for her but this new state of mind was good enough.
"Get your ass inside, girl," she muttered. She half expected to be stopped as she headed for Angel's office. She had worn loose jeans and a rock and roll hall of fame t-shirt on the plane for comfort's sake. She didn't fit in with the corporate scene. However, Faith managed to get to the office without any problems. She paused just a moment seeing the blonde secretary. Maybe she was wrong and Andrew had been right. If Angel had a vampire working for him, maybe he had gone evil. "Harmony?"
Harmony's eyes widened. "Boss! Boss! We have Slayer problems."
Faith was too amused to be offended or even alarmed. She had vague recollections of Harmony from Sunnydale. She couldn't imagine her being much trouble now, demon or no. Angel didn't look terribly alarmed either and upon seeing Faith, he grinned. She hadn't really seen him smile much before. It looked goofy on him.
"I know you wanted to hug when I left last time." Faith bounced across the office and tossed her arms around him.
He squeezed her tight, lifting her off her feet. "I think you're the one who wanted the hug." He let her go. "Business or pleasure?"
"Just a little of the first," she paused, making a face. "and hopefully more of the latter."
"Come on in." He waved her on. "Harmony, hold my calls."
Harmony got up from her desk. "But Angel, she's..."
"No calls, Harmony." Angel shut the door.
Faith froze seeing all the glass windows, sunlight just pouring in. Even though she knew Angel had come out of this office, knowing he had to be aware of the dangers, she still nearly panicked on his behalf. It took a moment for it to percolated through her mind that Angel wasn't frying like a ham steak.
He smiled again and gestured at the windows, "Necro-tempered glass."
"One of the perks of the job?" Her voice was harsher than she meant it to be.
His happy expression faded. "One of the very few."
She tossed herself into one of the buttery smooth leather chairs, the weariness of travel sucking at her bones. "You look good in light."
He brushed self-consciously at his thick pelt of hair, sitting down. "Spike was just telling me I cast a shadow as big as a barn."
"Yeah, well there's not much to Spike. He's not the best judge of size."
"So Dru used to tell me." The smirk - something far more suited to his face than his smile - made an appearance.
Faith snorted. "So, business first?"
"Why not?" He sat down.
"Buffy, Giles and I decided I ought to pay you a visit," she said cautiously.
"Because I'm not trustworthy?" Angel's eyes turned flinty.
A cool fear bubbled up in her. It was worse than she was expecting. "Why would you think that?"
Angel's lips thinned as he swivelled to look out the window. "Maybe because Andrew flat out said it. Buffy doesn't trust me so she sent you here, right?"
Faith rolled her eyes. "You don't know Andrew, and what he knows about you Xander told him so you can imagine it was biased. I told them just to send the Slayers to retrieve Dana. I mean, what could Andrew do to stop her? He talks his head off in any patrol I've ever been on. We might as well wear a flashing sign on our heads saying 'here we are! Kill us now'."
Angel turned back to her. "Spike mentioned something along those lines. Andrew went with him to find Dana, which turned out to be a very big mistake."
"Yeah, I heard about the cutting off of hands." Faith shuddered. "Wonder if Spike realizes Andrew sort of has a crush on him. That's probably why he went with."
Angel's smirked reappeared and a wicked glint kissed his eyes. "I'll be sure to tell him."
Faith laughed. "I bet. That shit aside, you know B, Angel."
"I used to," he said, quietly.
Faith curled her lip at him. "You know her well enough to know she trusts you, and I know it don't make you feel any better but she trusts Spike, too. What are the chances of both of you going evil at the same time? It's your decision to work here that we don't trust, Angel. That ain't the same as not trusting you. It just got lost in Andrew's translation of what was said."
"We haven't gone evil. There are reasons for all of this." His eyes told her that the reasons weighed heavy on him and, to her surprise, it hurt her to see his pain.
"Beyond you getting some safe sunlight," she tried to joke and realized it fell flat. "Sorry, cheap shot. It's just that these guys once hired me to kill you and now you're working with them. I can't wrap my head around that."
"You tried to kill Wes and he worked with you to stop me," Angel countered.
At that reminder, she had to look away. "Guess I can't argue that. We just need to understand the move here, which I know you don't owe us an explanation for."
"No, I do. There's never enough," Angel muttered, spinning away from her in his Italian leather desk chair.
"Communication. So much heartache could have been avoided if we just talked about things. It was like that in Sunnydale. It's the same here. I'm guiltier than most." He looked utterly regretful.
She wasn't expecting that and he was right. If she had just told Buffy and Giles she needed help, that she hated being forgotten in that horrible hotel room, then maybe she wouldn't have gone so wrong. Pride hadn't let her. Pride had a way of doing that to everyone. "I get that."
"So ask away. I know Wes has already given the party line about using the great resources here to do good."
She drummed her fingers on the desk. "So that ain't a bullshit line?"
"No, it's real, as naive as it sounds." He turned back to her. "They made us the offer, Faith, take it over, Angel, we're pulling out. Either we took the offer and tried to find out what Wolfram and Hart is up to, because they have to have ulterior motives, or we don't work with them and try to find out from the outside, which isn't likely to happen."
"So what have you found out?" Faith asked.
Angel's eyes went downcast. "Sadly next to nothing. They aren't getting in my way. I've put an end to the killings sanctioned by Wolfram and Hart, stopped the practice of harvesting lives or body parts for clients and there has been no backlash. It's like they've honestly did just give up the L.A. office."
Faith wagged her head. "Doesn't sound right."
He shrugged. "Not to me, either. We've got our eyes open, Faith, waiting for that other shoe to drop but until then we're doing what we can to cleanup our section of the city."
"It's L.A., Angel. Even without demons and evil law firms, it ain't ever gonna be the city of Angels no matter what the tourist guides say."
A thin smile touched his lips. "You're saying I'm the little Dutch boy with my finger in the dike."
For a moment, her mouth worked without uttering a sound then she managed to say, "Boy, I hope that means something other than what I'm thinking 'cause it'll be one pissed off dyke."
Angel shook his head. "Don't they teach that story any more? I know no one can clean up this city, Faith, not completely, but we're doing good things. I can have Harmony make up a list of things we've done if it'll make you feel better."
"It would and I'll send it to Giles, Buffy and the rest." Faith kicked her feet up on his desk. "And that can be the end to the business part of my trip. So, what do we do for fun around here?"
His smirk returned. "It's L.A., there are thousands of things to do."
Faith shifted, putting her feet down and leaned on the desk. "Name one fun thing to do."
"Venice Beach's boardwalk," he said without missing a beat. He flashed a quick smile.
Faith slapped his desk, laughing. "Fine, so you can have fun. Tonight, you and me hit the boardwalk. I'm gonna go catch a few Z's and I'll meet you here later."
Angel's expression said he knew that he had little choice. "Where are you staying, Faith?"
"Got a cheap motel not too far from here."
Angel shook his head. "You can stay here. We have corporate suites. I'll have one ready for you."
"Are you sure?" Excitement gleamed in her eyes.
"Of course. You are not staying in a cheap hotel. I won't have it," he said sternly. "If you want to call Giles and Buffy and let them know you're here, feel free."
She held up a hand. "Overseas calls are expensive."
"Look around, Faith. Do you think money's an object?" Angel gestured to the expensive surroundings. "Ask Spike how much money the science department spent on making him corporeal. He likes to brag about how much he's worth."
Faith cocked up an eyebrow. "I guess it has to be tough on you to have him here in the flesh."
Angel shrugged. "It's better this way. I can punch him in the face as the need arises and he can't ghost into my bedroom, which was getting disturbing."
She reared back, stunned. "I didn't think you two were into that scene."
He glared. "Not even on threat of death. He'd get all weepy on me about being a ghost and I don't want to think about it. We'll set you up here. You can make your phone calls. I'll meet you after sundown and we can go to the beach."
"Thanks." Faith got up. "You know you could call her yourself, tell what you just told me."
Angel's gaze dropped. "She specifically asked me to give her space. If I don't, then I'm the jerk."
"Yeah, there's no way of not being the asshole if you don't do that. Women get funny about that," Faith said, wanting to slap Buffy for not seeing the specialness in Angel. This man had saved her body and soul, hell he had saved Buffy, too, for that matter. That alone made him very special.
"I have a letter I started thanking her for the donation to the Make-a-Wish foundation she made instead of sending flowers for Cordy's funeral," Angel said softly.
"Yeah, we all thought that was better," Faith said softly. She hadn't liked Cordelia but she hadn't wanted her dead either.
"I saw you made one to a battered women's shelter. I had a letter for you, too," he said.
Faith ducked her head. That had been a very telling donation. She had almost made it to something more benign like an animal shelter.
"I could always finish that letter to Buffy, explain a little in there that might help without making it look like I'm courting her again," he mused.
"Courting?" She raised an eyebrow. "You really are a couple centuries behind."
He shrugged. "A little, maybe. Come on, I'll show you to your room."
"Are you sure you don't want any?" Faith stabbed the huge mound of cotton candy at Angel.
"I have no real sense of taste," he replied, wondering why he had never taken the time to come to the boardwalk just to unwind.
"It's not just about the taste. It's about how it melts on your tongue with just a sweet little tingle, like you know," she said with youthful glee.
"Yes, I know." He smiled wryly.
Faith hip bumped him. "After two hundred years you probably know way too much. Come on, try some."
Angel pulled off a hunk of pink fluff and popped it in his mouth. "Happy?"
"Yep. Come on, I want to go to the water's edge." Faith grabbed his hand and dragged him along the sand away from the crowds. The waves looked black as they softly slapped the land again and again. She watched the surf silently for a while, tucking strips of cotton candy into her mouth.
Finally, Angel touched her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Just thinking. I love the ocean. In Boston I never really got to the water much. The harbor wasn't what I had in mind anyhow. Once, when I was fifteen, I ran off and hitched to Cape Cod. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I stayed for a couple days, sacking out wherever, stealing food, thinking if I could just stay everything would be all right, like somehow all the class and wealth would just rub off." Faith's voice was small and sad. Her body trembled.
Angel didn't say anything but he rubbed between her shoulders, hearing the pain in her voice.
"I was eventually arrested for shoplifting and when Mom came for me, she hadn't even known I was gone. She thought I was at a friend's, that's how drunk she was. Didn't miss me for days." She wiped at her face, obviously struggling not to cry.
"Sorry." Angel thought about how inadequate that word really was some times. "I wish there was something I could do to help."
She brushed at her eyes again. "Can't change the past." Faith squared off her shoulders. "I refuse to be all sad. Come on, eat more cotton candy. I need to polish this off and I want to find a place selling candy apples and oooo, fried twinkies."
"You can fry a twinkie?" Angel asked, horrified.
She looked at him askance. "You know twinkies?"
"Xander lived on them. I read the ingredients once. I'm not sure how he's alive," Angel replied.
"Well, you can fry them. Don't know what it tastes like but I plan on finding out."
She dragged Angel back to the board walk for some mindless fun. Things between her and Angel always got too close to the heart, too heavy. She wasn't going to let that happen this time. She wanted something more for herself.
Faith breezed past Harmony who gave her ensemble a hairy eyeballing as Faith went into Angel's office. Poor Harmony had tried unsuccessfully to 'help' Faith's image for the last several weeks. Faith let her simply because it amused her to drive the poor ditzy vampire nuts. Angel hunched over his desk signing papers. Gunn fed more paperwork to him. Spike sprawled in a chair smirking at Angel's dilemma while scratching his balls.
"I was gonna see if we could go have some fun tonight but fun and this crew just don't go hand in hand," she said, sitting on Angel's desk.
"That's because the dateless wonder has a black tie to-do tomorrow and he's all pissy about it," Spike said, gesturing at Angel
"That's because I've better things to do." Angel eyed Spike. "Unlike some people, I don't have time to just lie around playing with myself."
"That wasn't playing." Spike smirked. "If you want to see that..."
"No!" Angel, Gunn, and Faith said at once. Spike seemed utterly unashamed, however.
"So someone doesn't have a date." Faith drummed her fingers on the desk.
"Look at him." Spike flung his hand in Angel's general direction. "Who'd date him?"
"Everyone who's ever dated you when I was no longer available," Angel snapped.
Spike's jaw dropped and Gunn snickered. Faith grinned.
"I don't even want to go. I'm not good at charity events," Angel lamented. "I don't see why Lorne can't just represent the firm."
"Lorne is attending but you're the big boss. You have to go," Gunn said.
"I should be allowed to appoint someone to go in my stead," Angel said, glancing up at Gunn. "Like you, Gunn."
"We've been over this, man. I have a prior engagement," Gunn replied, shoving more paperwork at Angel.
"So do Wes and Fred. If there's this much going on, I really shouldn't go to this charity event. I'm obviously needed here." Angel looked to Faith for back up but she left him hanging.
"Not really. We're not doing anything big," Gunn said. "It would just be rude to break our engagements."
"When you say stuff like that Gunn, I'm not sure I even know you any more," Angel said and Gunn curled his lip at him. "I can't even send Spike. He's not actually an employee."
"Wouldn't go anyhow. Like I'd want to go to some bloody boring charity function." Spike cracked his knuckles.
"I'll go," Faith said.
"What?" Angel swivelled in his chair to look at her.
"You need a date and hey, let's face it, I've missed every opportunity most girls have to get dressed up. No prom, no homecoming, nothing, not even a bridesmaid. I'd love a chance to dress up for a fancy party." Faith hoped she didn't sound too needy but she really wanted something normal like that, a chance to show off a little.
"Faith, you can do better than Peaches." Spike rolled his eyes. "Go with Lorne."
"Hmmm, green skin, huge nose, flaming ensemble versus all black leather, broody face and a different flavor of huge nose. Choices, choices." Faith tapped a finger on her lips.
Angel touched his nose. "I have a huge nose?"
"You don't need a mirror to see what you look like, Nancy boy. Go to the museum and look at the Neanderthal exhibit. That'll be just as good." Spike shrugged.
"Someone wants to go sunbathing," Angel growled, half rising from his chair. "If it helps you decide Faith, Lorne's heart is in his butt and I'm not sure where his other parts might be."
Faith sucked in her bottom lip, trying to not to laugh. "That could be interesting or challenging but I think I'll go with a known quantify. That is, of course, if you want me to go with you."
"I'd love for you to go with me, Faith."
Harmony came in. "Here you go, Boss. It just got here." She set a box on the desk.
"Great, I've been looking for that package all week."
"Did your vibrating tight-as-a-virgin wank-off sheath finally get here?" Spike kicked his feet up on Angel's desk.
"Shut up, Spike." Angel grabbed his boot and yanked him out of the chair onto the floor. "Why would I need that?"
"Hey, you're the one who can't have sex without going all evil." Spike got up and tapped Faith on the shoulder. "You might want to remember that, love."
"I can so have sex, so long as I'm not perfectly happy." Angel got to his feet, his hands gripping the desk in an effort not to put them around Spike's skinny neck and squeeze until he popped like an overcooked sausage. "Not that I'm expecting sex... that is, it's not why I said yes to you coming to the charity ball." Angel flopped back down, looking embarrassed.
"I know, Angel." Faith put a hand on his broad shoulder. "Ignore the pig. He just likes yanking your chain."
"You're going out with Angel?" Harmony turned to Faith, shocked.
"Yes, please make sure they know I'll have a date for the charity dance, Harmony," Angel said.
"Okay." Harmony eyed Faith critically. "Do you actually have a dress appropriate for that dance?"
An embarrassed flush hit Faith's cheeks. "Um, actually no."
"Ooo, no problem. I can help. We can go shopping." Harmony's eyes gleamed, as she grabbed Faith's arm.
"That's a good idea. Use the corporate card," Angel said.
"Are you sure, Angel?" Faith shot him an dubious look.
"You'll be representing Wolfram and Hart, so yes. Only Harmony, let's not go nuts. I don't want to see five thousand dollar dresses and shoes on the charges," Angel cautioned.
"I'll try but the right Fendi purse could easily cost a thousand dollars," Harmony protested.
"I'll keep her in line," Faith said, grinning
"I'll give you the credit card, Faith," Angel said and Harmony looked crushed.
"Cinderella gets to go to the ball," Spike said and Faith slapped him on the back of the head.
Angel smiled at that. Faith grinned back, actually feeling like Cinderella.