"Slayer." The vampire drew the word out in a hiss. She was still hunched over the ground, sucking in deep breaths, the sound rattling through her fangs. "We thought you were still behind bars."
"What?" Faith staggered over to her. After the fight she had just been through, she still had enough strength left to kick the vamp across the face, sending her flying across the street. "Babe, update your sources. I've been out a month already."
The demon was laughing as she got to her feet, sliding up against the wall and seemingly past caring about the pain. The slayer had just gone through five of her gang, there wasn't any doubt of her own fate. Yet when she spoke again, she still made the words come out in a taunt. "We vampires all know that our greatest foe is in Sunnydale. Why bother with a spare fool slayer who was stupid enough to get arrested in the first place?"
Faith suddenly saw red. She snarled and launched herself at the vamp, rolling with her briefly before she was finally able to straddle her. Grabbing hold of her hair, she repeatedly slammed the vamp's head into the ground. "Bother with this, bitch." she snapped. "Fool slayer? Is that the best you can do?!"
The vampire's mocking laughter continue to ring in her ears. Faith growled and hit the vamp harder, until she felt the wet crunch of her skull shattering against the concrete.
She stopped and let go. The red film seemed to lift from her eyes and she stared at the demon that laid motionless on the ground beneath her, at the blood and gore pooling and mixing with the grime of the street. She rubbed the tips of her fingers together unconsciously. That had felt good. Way too good.
Untangling her stake where she had tucked in into a belt-loop, she pushed it deep into the vamp's chest, running it all the way through until it scrapped against the gravel. Her thigh muscles flexed and tensed as she braced herself, waiting for the tell-tale pop that meant the vamp had turned to dust. A second later, she was alone again in the alleyway.
Faith slowly got to her feet, dusting the ashes off her leather pants. "And just for the record, I was the one who turned myself in," she muttered.
She sighed as she looked at her watch. It was still early, but she wasn't in the mood to play Girl Scout anymore. She wanted to find a club, a real club with a pumping beat and nothing else. Not some yuppie place where rich kids could come and shoot pool and order iced mochas. She'd get hammered, find herself a little action and cap off the night. Yeah.
Faith sighed again as she pulled her jacket tighter around herself. She kept her head down as she began to head away from the warehouse district where she had been fighting the gang of vamps, and into the better lit parts of town. Detouring down another side street, she was walking pass the backs of a couple of bars when she suddenly heard a familiar voice.
"Fellas, please. Surely we can work this out... without resorting to violence?"
+ + + + +
Wesley had his hands up as he backed away from the two men. They were scruffy looking guys, big and flabby, faces contorted in ugly grins. One of them had a knife out as the other flexed huge, ham-like fists. "I'll be happy to play you again. Double or nothing! I'll buy you a drink and we can talk this out. What do you say?" The Brit was speaking quickly, his words almost falling on top of one another.
"I say that you should shut up, faggot," one of the guys growled. He lunged at him, and Wesley dodged out of the way. But his sudden move only put him closer to the other man, and he wasn't in position to sidestep again as the guy slashed at him with the knife. He felt his skin tearing, the pain searing up from his stomach. Wesley grunted and stumbled back a few steps.
The men were on him immediately, one of them grabbing hold of his arms and pinning them behind his head. Wes screamed as he felt his skin ripping apart, the hole stretched open even further. "I'll teach you to fuck with us," said the man who had locked him into the hold, his foul breath hot on the ex-Watcher's neck. He nodded at his partner. "Do it!"
Grinning evilly, the guy advanced towards them, the light catching the steel of the blade in his hand.
"Hey." A smoky voice suddenly called out from near the doorway. "Is there gonna be a fight?"
From behind some stacked packing crates, Faith stepped forward, into the dim circle of light provided by the globe that hung above the back door of the pub. It was enough to illuminate her dark prettiness, wrapped in a bad girl outfit of black leather pants and tight, white tank top. The guy with the knife leered at her. "Wanna watch, sweetheart?"
Faith smiled sweetly at him, her cheeks dimpling. "No. I wanna join in."
She suddenly jumped up on a crate and used it to propel herself into a kick that landed on the face of the man who was holding her ex-Watcher. He fell backwards, arms flailing and Wesley dropped to the ground, groaning loudly as he clutched at the slash on his stomach.
The other guy came towards her, the one who held the knife that still dripped with Wes' blood. She blocked his clumsy lunge with the weapon, and grabbed hold of his wrist, twisting hard until he screamed and dropped hold of the knife. Faith pulled him closer and slammed her foot down on the back of his knee, listening for the satisfying crunch of his kneebone shattering. He screamed again, and Faith threw him hard at the ground.
She turned around and dove for the knife, reaching it just before the first guy that she had hit. He backed off as soon as he saw the wild light in her eyes. "I've killed two men already." Her low, throaty voice was like a velvet caress, intensifying the threat behind her words. "Unless you wanna be the third, I'll take your buddy and get the hell out of here."
Faith waited until they disappeared from sight before she threw the knife away and ran over to where Wesley was still lying on the ground. She dropped to her knees beside him, reaching out gingerly to lift up his shirt and inspect his injury. "Wes... Wes, you still with me?"
He turned bleary eyes up at her. "Faith?"
The cut didn't run too deep. But if she had come by five minutes later... "Yeah." She smiled at him, as she ripped off a piece of the shirt that he was wearing, pressing it hard against the gash to stop the flow of blood. "Not the most welcome sight, I know."
Wesley looked around, at the now empty street. "You saved me?"
"Your lucky day." She tried to help him stand. "C'mon, we gotta get you to a hospital..."
"No..." Coughing a little, he steadied himself on his feet. "I'll be all right... I just need a minute or two... to recover."
"Woah." Faith caught him again as he stumbled suddenly. "You're in need of some serious medical attention. Don't do the British thing on me, damn it..."
"Ha." An odd, slightly bitter smile surfaced on his face. "I seemed to have heard similar words from you before. Only I was bound and gagged and being tortured at the time."
Faith let go of him immediately, her hands dropping away as if he was on fire. Wesley continued to look at her; his eyes were slightly red but his gaze was clear and hard as flint. She lowered her head, looking down at the ground. "I... I had that coming."
Wesley didn't say anything for long moments. But she could still feel his eyes on her, the weight of his gaze like the world on her shoulders. In all the time that she had been out of jail, she and Wes had never actually talked. A brief word here and there, the odd shouted instruction as she fought alongside Angel and his crew. Too much had went down between them for the tension to be easily worked out, and even Angel and Cordy knew enough not to push. Wesley finally spoke again, one harsh word slipping out. "Yes."
"No." She lifted her head. A look of resolve had come to her face, matching the determination in her tone. "Dude, you're bleeding. We're in the middle of happy hour for vamps and you're practically sporting a 'bite me' sign right now. I know that I can't just turn up and think that everything is all right again... but can we remember our mutual dislike for each other later?"
For one more moment, he looked like he was about to refuse her offer of help. But then he suddenly groaned as the pain hit him again, and he touched his fingers to his stomach, grimacing as he looked down at the blood seeping through the material of his shirt. "My apartment... isn't that far away..." he finally managed to grit out.
Faith nodded, and slipped one arm around him for support, the other hand pressing against the hole in his stomach. Guided by the ex-Watcher's clipped, occasional directions, they made their way slowly to Wesley's apartment. Once inside, Faith left him on the couch as she hunted for his medical supplies. "Where do you keep your bandages?" she called out, opening a drawer in the kitchen.
"Inside the cabinet in the bathroom. Behind the mirror."
The slayer soon emerged again, carrying an army-sized first-aid kit. "I'm impressed, Wes," she said lightly, indicating the kit as she knelt down in front of him. "Once a Watcher, always a Watcher."
He lifted his head sharply, not missing the faint traces of sarcasm in her voice. But Faith was focused on assessing the damage done by the knife, carefully peeling away the material that was sticking to the cut on his stomach. A low whistle escaped from between her teeth as she studied it under the brighter lights of the apartment. "Man, it's worst than I thought. You're gonna need stitches." She looked up. "I know how it's done..."
Wesley paused for one moment, before he gave a brief nod of acceptance. The slayer rummaged around in the kit before handing him a pain-killer. "Here. This should help." Yet there was a dangerous edge to her smile. "But if you want to scream, feel free."
He shouldn't trust her. The thought had been in the back of his mind from the moment that he first saw her appear, but it roared now, rushing to the front of his brain. Yet Wes knew that - as things stood - he had no other choice. "Were you planning on trying to make me scream?" he asked quietly, no trace of fear in his expression as he looked straight into her eyes.
He saw several emotions pass cleanly across her face. Mostly surprise at the directness of his question, and more than a little amusement. But there was something else as well, a tiny bit of grudging respect that he had never seen in her before. It all disappeared quickly with a shrug of her shoulders, and her voice was matter-of-fact when she replied. "I could have left you there. I didn't."
And it was as simple as that. Wes relaxed against the couch as he felt the slayer begin her task. In a manner that was efficient and assured, she quickly cleaned out the wound, threaded a needle and began to suture the skin closed again. Wesley looked down, surprised at how neat her stitches were. "Where did you learn to do that?" he asked, wonder edging out the distrust in his voice.
Faith smiled, a bitter smile without any warmth. "Misspent childhood," was all she volunteered before she quickly changed the subject. "What were you doing in a rumble with those assholes anyway?"
Wesley sighed. "We were having a game of darts in the pub. I won quite a bit of money off them, and they seemed to believe that I was cheating."
"No!" The Brit looked offended. "It was all pure skill."
Faith looked up at him, giving him a brief grin. "I bet." Tying off the ends, she cut the cord then dumped the equipment back inside the kit. The slayer stood up. "Wes, word of advice. Next time you're planning on scamming a guy, pick someone smaller than you, huh?"
A faint smile appeared on his lips, as he closed his eyes and leant his head back on the edge of the couch. "I'll keep it in mind."
Neither of them said anything for long moments. Wesley continued to sit unmoving on the couch, keeping his eyes closed and his gaze off her. Faith began to feel uncomfortable in the long silence. Glancing around at the spartan apartment, she shifted uneasily on her feet. "Look... if you're gonna be ok... I think I'm gonna motor."
At his nod, she turned away and headed towards the door. The light poured into the darkened room from the hallway, silhouetting the slayer's slim figure. She was reaching out to shut the door, when Wesley's voice stopped her. "Faith?"
She looked back, over her shoulder. "Yeah?"
His tone was hesitant, strangely almost apologetic. "I... I know that you're trying to change. And I sincerely thank you for saving my life tonight. But with everything that has happened in the past, I... I still can't find myself trusting you."
For long moments, Faith didn't move, standing where she had paused in the doorway. A hand reached out, almost unconsciously, to pick idly at the splinters in the door frame. When she finally began to speak, there was a distant note in her voice. "You called the Council as soon as you found out that I killed the Deputy Mayor. You knew that they coulda tried and executed me for slipping up that one time, and hope that my replacement would be a Watcher's puppet who wasn't such a monumental screw-up. And even if the Council didn't kill me, they would've brainwashed me into being their good little Slayer robot. They came for me and put me in chains for fuck's sake, I wasn't going to the Mother Country for tea and scones and a nice afternoon chat." A dark smile began to dance on the slayer's lips. "It's funny, Wes... I can't find myself trusting you much either."