Disclaimer: Joss owns all the characters. I burglarized his wall safe and made photocopies for my own use. I own nothing but a beat up car, a personal library of 600 books and a finicky Muse.
By IceWing (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Faith stood at the door of her cell, looking for the last time at the bare concrete walls. The prison had given her a cheap duffel bag to put her belongings into. Even with the contents of her care package carefully nestled inside, the bag wasn't anywhere near full.
Looking down at herself, she once again wished she had some different clothes to wear out, but thanks to the California Penal System, she was leaving the big house with the same clothes on her body that she had arrived in. The only difference was covering her skimpy midriff top was a UCLA sweatshirt she had traded a couple of oranges for. Somehow, leather pants and a sweatshirt just didn't quite seem right. But it was all she had. And, truth be known, she really wasn't all that concerned with what she was wearing as long as she was able to step beyond these walls today and into the future that lay beyond.
One thing was bothering her somewhat. Even before she was really even adjusted to the concept of being free, she was going to have to face someone who had every right in the world to hate her. The dark haired slayer sighed. She had spent the time that the state, that society said she owed for the death of Alan Finch, but now she had to start the much more daunting task of earning forgiveness from those whom she had betrayed during her foray into the dark side of the Force. Forgiveness that she really had no right to even ask for. Forgiveness that she really doubted would be offered or given, even if she tried her best to prove that she was no longer the person she had been.
The guard approached the door of her cell, calling for the door to be opened. The track grated a bit, like it had since the day she had moved into the cell, as it opened its maw to release her from the grayness of the cell. A perfunctory check was made by the guard to make sure that she hadn't left anything obvious behind. The prison really didn't care all that much, as anything still in the cell would either be disposed of during the cleaning which was slated prior to the next occupant's arrival, or one of the convicts would make off with anything left behind as if it were some valued treasure.
Faith knew that there was nothing left behind. She had gone over the cell top to bottom a half dozen times to make sure that what few treasured possessions she had were going to remain her's and remain in her possession.
The guard gestures for her to exit the cell and start the walk to the administrative offices, where she would spend the next two hours going over discharge paperwork. As she walked, she said goodbye to the few convicts she was on speaking terms with, pointedly ignoring all the rest.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
Faith saw him as soon as the outer gate swung open. He was laying back on the hood of the same car he had used to save her life with all those months ago. A lifetime removed in the past. She saw that he was working with a pocketknife and a piece of sandpaper on what looked to be a finely crafted stake. Drawing a deep breath, she hesitantly approached the curb.
The sound of the gate closing behind her got his attention, and he swung his feet to the ground, facing her.
"Faith," he said, his voice revealing nothing about what emotions he was experiencing as she approached.
"Um, hey Xan." She hesitated for a moment, not knowing quite what to say next.
"Want me to toss that in the trunk for you?" Xander asked while pointing at her duffel.
"If you don't mind, could I just put it in the back seat? There's a couple of kinda delicate things in here and I don't want em to get damaged."
The Slayerette simply shrugged. "Whatever You ready to hit the road?"
Faith placed the bag in the back, then turned to face Xander once more. "Nothing holding me here. But there is something I wanted to say to you before we headed back to the Dale." The raven haired young woman looked down at her hands for a moment, almost hoping there would be something written there for her to say. "I know I've treated you bad before Xan. You didn't deserve to have me try and kill you like I did. And you didn't deserve the badmouthing I was always giving you. And I shouldn't have tossed you out of my room right after you saved my life and then I dragged you back there and screwed you. I don't know if I can make any of that stuff up, but for what its worth, I'm sorry."
Xander looked at her for a moment as he gauged her words. After a moment's hesitation, he simply responded that it was in the past. This was the now. As long as she was willing to give her best attempt to reform, then he would give her the chance to prove herself.
The dark haired Slayer moved to get into the car, but hesitated. "Xander, if you don't mind my asking, who was it that asked you to come get me today? I mean, I appreciate it and all, but you and I don't exactly have the best track record in the world. So why are you here?"
"Sorry Faith, but I'm not supposed to tell you who it was. All I can say is that I was asked to be here by some one I trust."
Faith shook her head with a faint smile on her lips. "Somehow I didn't think it would be that easy Oh well." She opened the door and slid into the car. "SunnyDale here we come." As she tried to get comfortable, she realized that she was sitting on something, and reached under to pull whatever it was free. An envelope, with her name written on it. She looked at Xander quizzically, but his only response was a silent shrug.
Without another word, Faith sliced the envelope open with the tip of a nail, pulled the letter out and began to read
Well, how does it feel to be able to see the sun as a free woman again? I have to say that I am glad that you're out. I hope that as time passes, you'll realize that there are some good people out here and you don't have to be as guarded as you were before. You're a wonderful woman Faith, I hope you know that.
You have a second chance Faith. Not a lot of people get that. Know that, whatever you do, I'll be by your side to help you in the days ahead. Its not going to be easy for you. A lot of the people in SunnyDale aren't going to believe you've changed. That you genuinely want to do the right things. I'm not one of them. Of course, I haven't actually told anybody that you're getting out. As far as I know, Angel hasn't told anybody either, and I asked him not to. So, what you do from here is completely up to you. No matter what happens, I'm here for you Faith, all you have to do is ask and I'll do anything I can to help you.
I'll stand by you even if nobody else does, so never doubt that there is at least one person who is behind you and backing you up.
I think I'm going to wrap this up, because I think we have a lot to talk about and for the first time, you now have a person who cares about you and wants to see you happy.
Faith looked at the letter, tears welling up in her eyes. She felt Xander's arms wrap around her, pulling her close as the tears rolled down her face. "Its ok Faith I'm here for you, just like I promised I would be."
She tried to wipe the wetness away, but her eyes kept welling up with tears of happiness. "Thank you. For everything."
Xander simply smiled and softly squeezed her hand. "Time for you to come home Faith."
Faith looked at her friend, and for the first time in a very long time, felt that she indeed had a place that was home. A place were at least one person cared about her and wanted her there "Let's go home."
End - Lonely Letters -
Thanks for coming along on this little adventure, Folks. I appreciate all the feedback and kind words. Look for a followup as well as an interlude piece, which will take place before chapter 12.
I hope that everybody enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Also, I would like to thank Calen and Jason for their help beta-reading in this and serving as sounding boards for this and my other pieces. Plus, they didn't run screaming for the hills every time they got a message for me.
Since I'm stealing his characters here, I'll thank Joss for coming up with such a cool universe to let my mind go crazy in, as well as Nicholas Brendan and Eliza Dushku for doing such a great job with their characters. I doubt any of them will read this, but they deserve a hearty well done.
And finally, I want to thank my fiance for putting up with my constant babblings about the characters and their reactions to different things. You're my Muse. I love you honey.