Lyrical Ficathon Challenge: Outta Me, Onto You by Ani Difranco —One of these days, You're going to push too hard, We'll go on like we've always done, 'til you go to far.

Note: Many thanks to the luscious Moonbeam for volunteering as beta.

Self Improvement

by Red Wolf

Faith leaned against the balcony railing, face turned up to the sky to let the light drizzle patter against her eyelids. The rain was cool on her skin and she sighed, enjoying the sensation but knowing it wouldn't last long. Once the rain stopped, the day's heat would turn into an oppressive humidity, lying over the city like a heavy, damp blanket.

A light breeze picked up, bringing with it the rustle of leaves and the unexpected sound of a space battle. Admittedly, the sounds of battle were echoing, slightly tinny and seemed to involve extremely small aliens with very cheap weapons.

It caused Faith a moment of confusion before she realised that her neighbour Peter, an arcade nut who collected and restored pinball and gaming machines, must be working on his latest acquisition. Smiling to herself, Faith shook her head. She walked past Peter's place daily and quite often saw him working away on his machines, but it was such an out of place noise for the area that it took a second to identify it.

The wind changed and Peter's electronic mayhem faded out, replaced by the soothing music drifting out of Papa Joe's. The establishment had no actual name, just a prominent street number by the door. This minor omission served to confuse many a stranger who mistook it for a brothel; a mistake that was soon realised when the waitress they'd propositioned hit them.

A frequent visitor to Papa Joe's, Faith enjoyed the beer, the ambience and the music, and was known well enough that she could relax without getting hit on every five minutes. Papa Joe treated the regulars like family and flirted shameless with all the women. It was a running joke, as it was plain to see he was still completely besotted with the woman he'd been married to for thirty odd years. Music wasn't what she needed at the moment. She needed to think.

Faith chuckled as she caught herself in the lie. There was always time for music and flirting with friends. Just as there was always time for drinking way too much alcohol and grinding up against pretty boys on the dance floor.

It would have to wait until she'd taken the chance to sort through the mess of her love life; the latest chapter of which had been blinking on her answering machine when she'd come home.

She was still shaking vampire dust out of her hair when she'd hit the button on her machine. Playing the message had made her want to put her fist through the wall. She restrained herself, the thought of costly repairs and bond forfeiture served as quite the behaviour modifiers, and took it out on her training equipment instead.

The essence of the message was that Darryn was sick of Faith breaking their dates. She'd been as up front with him as possible, considering he was a civilian, and explained that she kept irregular hours and was always on call. But the novelty of dating a night owl had soon worn off. Darryn just didn't get that not everyone worked a nine-to-five gig.

This was just the last is a series of unsuccessful romances. Before Darryn there was Bernd. He'd seemed all charm and delight until he tried telling Faith how she should behave with his fists. Last she heard he was still in traction and, none the wiser for the pasting he'd received, had transferred his abuse to the nurses. It seemed he'd come very close to suffering a not quite accidental overdose on more than one occasion.

Stephen was fun, but his first love would always be surfing. Chet had been a laugh and, if only he hadn't tried to alphabetise her entire apartment, he might have been a keeper. Carlos was still hung up on his last girlfriend; Warrick was a mother's boy; and the less said about Johnny, the better.

The rain got a little heavier. Not enough to warrant seeking shelter, but it may actually wet the ground rather than drying on impact. It helped clear Faith's head.

While the excitement of one night stands was always a turn on, she'd discovered that the whole relationship thing had its own charms. Learning someone's body, letting them learn yours, that was of the good.

Unfortunately, it came with the downsides of discovering they loved the Bee Gees or left little boomerangs of toenail clippings all over the house. Faith knew some of these eccentricities she could learn to live with, perhaps the Bee Gees was a bit much to ask of anyone, but she was yet to find someone who was worth the effort.

Yet for all the things that driven them apart, she gained something from every one of her failed relationships. Faith had learned that while she may not understand another person's musical taste, it was never worth fighting over. She seen the sublime beauty of a Winter's sunrise and mastered the art of making a decent omelette from next to nothing. Sometimes she just gained a forgotten shirt or, the case of Bernd, the delicious pleasure of their blood on her knuckles.

Faith had never thought she would be the one to look on the bright side of life, but had to admit she was a better woman for having known them all. She laughed, the sound bright and clear over the rain and looked down the road where light and music was spilling out of the bar.

Spending the evening at Papa Joe's was exactly what she needed. Cold beer, great music and friendly faces would do her the world of good. There may even be someone new at the bar and at least they'd have the same taste in music for a change. Stranger things had happened.

The End