Metaphors

Disclaimer: All Joss's.

Author Notes: Takes place third season some time after "Choices" probably.

She stood disbelieving, her leather-clad arms limp at her sides, blinking with utter stunned incredulity… and also more than a little warm affection at this unexpected gesture of attempted fatherly kindness towards her. Or was it more like grandfatherly? Great grandfatherly, great-great-grandfatherly? Being immortal, he was over 100 years old in comparison to her sixteen human years…

Just ahead of her he stood beaming, one hand proudly resting on the gift he was presenting her with, his eyes sparkling with pleasure at himself and his presented prize. If he hadn't generally been such a self-contained man… demon…thing… whatever… she suspected he would have been bouncing up and down with his glee. As it was, he seemed fairly close to actually doing so.

"I told you I'd get you one!" Mayor Richard Wilkins III proclaimed, his smile widening still, just a tiny bit more than his already generous previous one. "Only the best for the best Slayer /I/ know!"

Faith shook her head slowly, laughing a little out of both shock and amusement at him and his expression as she narrowed her eyes, coming a little closer to the item the Mayor was offering her.

"God, you were serious… I didn't think you were serious. Damn…"

The Mayor's grin faded abruptly then, and his eyes shifted slightly, the glow dimming somewhat as his face took on a disapproving look. He shook an admonishing finger at Faith, shaking his head as well.

"Uh uh, language, young lady! Or I may have to find some other worthy young woman to give this to, and it would certainly be a shame to have to deny you when I chose it just for you…"

"Sorry, sir," Faith amended quickly, barely suppressing a grin at her boss's threat, and arranging her features into the appropriately respectful and subdued expression he expected during her apologies. "I mean, darn…"

"That's better, Faith," the Mayor replied, renewing his delighted warm smile in her direction. "Unclean language is so unbecoming in a pretty young girl such as yourself… and of course I was serious. I told you I'd get one, and I never lie. Filthy habit, quite an unsavory practice… now aren't you going to try it out?"

In spite of herself, Faith could feel her mouth open into an instinctive grin almost rivaling the Mayor's as she eyed the brand new, rather expensive-looking ten-speed bike he was holding out to her by the handlebars. She really didn't know why she was so surprised… he was right, he always had kept his promises to her. Not that he'd exactly promised her a bike, but he had mentioned it when she casually said on one of their "fun-seeking" dorky-but-kinda-nice outings that she'd never learned to ride a bike since she'd never had one. She guessed the Mayor's seemingly casual "mentionings" were in his mind as good as blood vows. No wonder he got irritated and impatient with her if she dawdled or failed to do what she had told him she would…

And now here he stood with the supposedly promised bike, a sleek black one with a polished gleaming surface and a narrow but comfortable-looking seat. She would have preferred a motorcycle over a bike if the Mayor was going to get her something in the two-wheel-transportation category…but still…

Faith's heart squeezed with what she was still somewhat hesitant to label as fondness- even love- for the expectantly beaming figure before her. He was so weird, so dorky sometimes… but no one had ever treated her as he did, bought her things the way he did, just to make her happy. No one had ever looked after her in such a genuinely caring almost fatherly fashion, without expecting something in return or doing it because they felt they had to. And okay, maybe it /was/ for a reason- maybe it was just because she was helping him, because he wanted to make sure one of his was getting along okay and happy- but she didn't think that was all. Faith was pretty sure he really did care about her… he must, right? Or why else would he get her an apartment and a Playstation, a wicked knife, make her cookies and tell her to drink her milk like some fifties father or something?

Yeah, he was different from everyone else… he really did care about her. The bike was just more proof. And it didn't even have a white flowery basket or streamers to embarrass her…

"Go on, Faith, try it out!" the Mayor called again, gesturing her closer. "Don't worry, I won't let you fall!"

Still smiling, but a little self consciously now, feeling somewhat silly, Faith nevertheless walked to stand alongside the bike. She wasn't about to hurt his feelings… and besides, she kinda did want to learn to ride.

As she swung her leg over it, adjusting herself somewhat awkwardly into a riding position, the Mayor held the seat and handlebars steady for her, giving her a reassuring smile and wink.

"There you go… now, to stop, you squeeze the things here on the handles, but careful not to break them! I'd say we should start at the lowest speed and resistance now while you're learning… now, if you'll just start pedaling, Faith, I'll hold the back of the seat until you're steady, just until you're good and ready to have me let go…"

Normally Faith would smirk at that bit of corniness, for she knew she was more than capable of learning to ride a bike on her own. But today, for reasons she didn't quite understand, she found her thoughts following a different track…

If he really doesn't let go until I'm ready, he'll be the first person in my life not to…

She tried to shrug it off as she started to pedal. The Mayor followed her at a slight jog as her pedaling confidence increased, and yes, he was still holding the back of her seat, as he had said…

Maybe he /is/ different… maybe he's right, maybe he's different. Maybe he really will never let me go…

Just then the Mayor released her seat, standing back to watch her with a grin. Caught up in her own thoughts, Faith kept pedaling at first, not realizing…but when his absence suddenly dawned on her, she turned her head instinctively, immediately causing herself and the bike to topple over. As the Mayor exclaimed in his slight distance, "Well gosh!" and started towards her, Faith shook her head, quickly getting to her feet and noticing faintly the blood soaking the knees of her jeans.

She always had sucked at metaphors.