Disclaimer: I own nothing. Whedon owns Faith, Joyce Carol Oates owns Legs.
Author notes: This takes place after my story "Anymore," a kind of sequel to it and a prequel to "Jailbait." Faith is recently fourteen, and living on the streets, when she befriends Legs Sadovsky of Foxfire (the movie version, played by a young Angelina Jolie, not the Joyce Carol Oates book).
Faith stood in the narrow aisle of the small gas station food area, carefully scrutinizing the row of crackers, cookies, gum, candy, and chips before her. She could already feel her mouth watering in anticipation, her heart beating faster underneath her dirty long-sleeved shirt and torn jacket, neither warm enough for early January Boston weather. She picked up a package of crackers in one hand and cookies in the other, pretending to study their ingredients. All the while she was really attempting to determine without looking whether the Indian store owner was watching her. It was the middle of the school day, and most young teenage girls would be in school- already she looked suspicious, and the fact that she hadn't done more than clean herself up in the library bathroom or managed to get hold of a change of clothes for a couple of days couldn't be a plus on the inconspicuous side either.
Still pretending to examine the packages in her hands, Faith made a show of casually putting them back on the shelves, now picking up a bag of chips. Her plan was to keep picking things up and looking at them, and then, while in the process of switching them out, quickly slip a few items inside her jacket pocket or down the front of her loose jeans. After all, how many people would really ask you to stick your hand down your pants? Okay, well, if it was a guy, every one of them, every time. But this guy was foreign- maybe the rules of guy-dom were different in his country and hadn't been passed onto him yet. Fat chance, but Faith could hope.
She was starting to pick up another small bag of chips when a husky voice whispered nearly directly into her ear and she suddenly sensed the presence of a larger, taller form behind her, so close that Faith felt warm breath stir her long tangled waves of hair.
"You haven't been doing this too long, have you, babe?"
Faith's hands stilled, her features tensing, pupils widening quickly, and she jerked around, one hand fleeing to her hip to close her hand around the knife she always kept inside her left pocket. The amused face that she scanned with rapid, nearly angry instincts behind her was unique, intense in an oddly androgynous way, in spite of the almost swollen-looking and obviously female lips. The person who had spoken was somewhere around 16 or 17 years old, a couple of years older than Faith herself, and dressed in a similar vaguely masculine outfit of baggy jeans, jacket, and t-shirt, also ill suited for the current winter weather. The girl had very bold, dramatic features that seemed slightly too large individually in her small face, but somehow worked well together to make her an interesting, if not quite stunning, person to look at. Her hair was short and dark, her limbs long and bony in her tall, slender frame, and she looked at Faith with her blue eyes shimmering with intensity even as her lips quirked, as though she found the younger girl and her actions to be quite entertaining.
Faith, however, wasn't enjoying the girl's private joke, and especially the fact that she had just ruined any attempt at shoplifting she could have gotten away with. Her dark eyes narrowing, she scowled fiercely up at the taller girl, keeping her voice low as well in hopes that the store owner wouldn't eavesdrop or become too suspicious watching them together.
"What the hell are you talking about?" she said defiantly, lifting her chin. "I'm just picking out a snack."
"Yeah, and hoping for a five finger discount on it, right?" the girl chuckled, not backing down or seeming the least bit bothered by Faith's stare. If anything, she almost seemed to enjoy it as she leaned her elbow casually on the shelf behind her. "Don't get all bent out of shape, kid, it's nothing to me. Believe me, I'm far from appalled. I'm just giving you a little tip here. Obviously you haven't been doing this too long, so I thought I'd help you out."
"I don't' need your help," Faith said quickly and rather rudely, almost through her teeth, but the other girl ignored that, continuing like she had never said a word.
"First off, don't go for the chips. They're big, bulky, and they make too much noise- they crinkle," the girl instructed in the same low, throaty tone, looking into Faith's eyes so directly and deeply that Faith wanted to look away. She didn't dare to do so, to lose at what she saw as a challenge, and so instead she stared back, unbudging, into the older girl's eyes, not willing to be the first to look away. It crossed her mind that the girl might be trying to stab her or pick her pocket, and she redoubled her watching of her at that thought.
"What you do is get something small and noiseless. A candy bar, or a can of tuna or something," the girl continued, reaching to briefly touch the mentioned items, her eyes still locked on Faith's. "But you also shouldn't do it at a gas station. If you can help it. Dollar stores and grocery stores have way less security and visibility and way more aisles to blend into. Same with K-Mart. Wal-Mart has cameras, it's a little more risky. Now clothes are easy, thrift stores are a good place to swap and they'll never notice if you have the same jacket, you can even get bras and underwear sometimes. But the main thing is you can't look so sneaky about it. You have to be casual and fast. If you stand around looking at shit for two minutes everyone and their mother is gonna know exactly what you're up to."
Faith wanted to tell her she hadn't been about to take the chips, that they were a distraction. She wanted to tell her that she knew damn well how to steal by now and didn't need her advice. But instead Faith stared at the other girl, her eyes still narrowed, but she was looking her over more closely now, not just her face and hands but all of her. From the way she was talking, it sounded like she was used to taking things to get by, like Faith…like maybe, like Faith, she too spend her days living on the streets. The girl looked fairly clean, rather self-possessed in a way that didn't seem to be bluffing, but she did give off a certain vibe.
That didn't mean she wasn't up to something though. If anything it made it more likely that she was.
"Been doing this almost three months now and I'm not in jail yet, am I?" Faith said quietly but gruffly, still defiant, and the girl raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms.
"Yeah, kid, but how many times did you get caught and run out with the cops on your ass?"
Faith didn't reply, her jaw tightening; the answer was more times than she was happy with. Seeing this, the girl smiled, a little mocking, a little affectionate, and straightened.
"Thought so…come with me. Listen and lean and lose the lucky rabbit's foot way."
She casually slid an arm around Faith's shoulders and began to walk away; Faith stiffened, wary, but after an inward brief battle, gave in and followed. In spite of herself she was intrigued by this girl. What could it hurt anyway? Faith could take care of herself if she tried anything.
The store owner was eyeing them by now, but the girl simply turned her head and gave him a wide, sarcastic grin and cheery wave as they exited, her arm still casually encircling Faith's shoulders. Faith tensed again, expecting to be stopped, but he let them go without questions. What the hell… and this chick had drawn more attention to them than Faith would have too.
"Legs Sadovsky," the girl said in an almost confidential tone, her mouth turned towards Faith's ear as she continued to walk with her down the street, still touching her as if she had known her all her life and was quite accustomed to doing so. This partly irritated Faith, and yet she could not quite bring herself to pull away. "On the street on and off since I was 11. I'm 17 now so trust me, you can learn a lot from me in two minutes if you're smart enough to listen. I'd say you're about fifteen and been out less than a month, am I right?"
Faith had turned fourteen a couple of weeks ago and she had been gone from her "home" for nearly three months, but she shrugged, not bothering to correct her. It wasn't her business.
Seeing this, the girl- Legs, as she called herself- smiled, her voice casual. "Don't worry, I'm not giving you my whole life story or anything, and I don't want to hear yours either. You want to call yourself Flying Saucer, that's fine with me, you want me to keep calling you kid, that's cool too."
She shrugged, continuing to almost guide Faith down the street, and Faith hesitated before inwardly shrugging. What the hell did it matter, it wasn't like she was going to have her identity stolen. Who the hell would want it?
"Faith," she told her, and as they came into the parking lot of a Kroger's grocery store, Legs smiled as she casually touched her arm.
"Well, Faith, watch a pro in action."
"You know, I can get whatever I need whenever I need it, you're not telling me nothing I don't' already know," Faith said in renewed defiance as they entered the store, but Legs ignored her, simply beginning to narrate as if she hadn't heard her at all.
"First thing, Faith, always check for free samples. Those are legal and who's gonna stop you from getting some, especially if you're a hot skinny girl?" She looked her over critically for a second and grinned. "You meet that criteria all right. Cookies and donuts and candy are a good bet too, they're right there in the open with no one watching them. You can eat them fast and bingo, breakfast."
Faith had taken samples before but it had never occurred to her to simply take the cookies or donuts and blatantly eat them in the store. Feeling stupid that this Legs girl actually had given her a tip, she rolled her eyes anyway and pretended she was totally bored as Legs continued to lead her down aisles at a rapid clip.
"Second off, nothing crinkly like chips or anything. But something that is a good plan? Get a shopping cart and take your time going up and down aisles, looking like you're actually planning to buy stuff. Put a bunch of shit in your cart, and while you're going, open some of the packages and eat the stuff inside. Then just leave the cart in the back of the store somewhere. Now there are stuff you can fit in your pockets or pants, but that's mostly the smaller stuff, little cans, candy bars, shit like that, the stuff you've already been stealing I bet. But look, if you act cool enough, you can have whatever you want just about. Just eat it along the way. I come here for meals all the time. Damn, if you really want you can even sneak a tv dinner over to the microwave in the food area, who ever actually watches that stuff?"
Getting a buggy, Legs began to demonstrate, casually walking down the aisles and putting things in the cart while carrying on a conversation totally unrelated to stealing. She didn't expect Faith to take up her part of it and Faith didn't, simply following her, eyeing her with some continued apprehension. As Faith watched, Legs almost imperceptibly opened several packages, sneaking cookies, chips, grapes, dried fruit, cereal, and snack bars into her mouth and eating quickly as she continued to walk, never breaking stride. Faith could hardly believe that no one was watching her, but they weren't. And then Legs was handing her things too, so quickly and casually that Faith fumbled, looking around unable to help herself, before putting them in her mouth too.
By the time they reached the end of the grocery store and abandoned the cart and opened packages, Faith felt reasonably full for the first time that she could remember in some time and also had food in her jacket and pants, and she was still slightly awed that she had actually managed to take as much food as she had- without getting caught. As they walked outside the door she felt somewhat light, almost high, maybe from a sugar rush, maybe from exhilaration at getting away without anyone so much as blinking at an eye. Whatever it was, she found herself grinning at Legs, letting Legs smile back pleased with herself, and she didn't immediately make moves to leave her.
" I told you I had a better way," Legs said in obvious satisfaction, and she bumped her shoulder playfully against Faith's as they walked down the sidewalk before the store. "No reason to be hungry no matter where you are, Faith. So what do you think?"
"Pretty wicked," Faith admitted, still smiling a little, fingering the items inside her pocket before glancing over at her, not wary anymore so much as confused as to the other girl's motive for her kindness.
"So what's with this anyway?" she asked a few moments later, gathering her courage to do so in a casual tone, as if the answer didn't matter much. But she couldn't resist adding in a softer tone a beat later, "Why would you bother helping me out? What did you care if I got caught or not?"
Legs stopped walking and looked at her, one hand on her shoulder, and spoke with an intensity that made Faith stop and listen, her brow furrowing at the seriousness of Legs's expression.
"Because we're women, Faith, and women should stick together. That's what we're here for, to help each other out, have each other's backs, because the men sure as hell won't. Any man, first thing he's gonna do is try to tear you down, rip you out, and screw you over. I'm sure you know that by now. Men are just bastards, Faith…best if you just stay away, stick with your own kind."
Faith did know this…damn, did she know this. She found herself nodding slightly as thoughts of Steve, of Ronnie, of Kenny, of the guys she had slept with in the past few weeks whose names she didn't even know, of the guy who had tried to fuck her until she cut him, came to mind…of her father. She thought about them, even as she spoke up in a continued defensive manner.
"I can handle any man that comes around, Legs. Besides, what if I want him? Nothing you say's gonna convince me to sign up for nun school."
"Hell, I wasn't saying THAT," Legs snorted, giving her another playful nudge, and weird as it was to experience it, Faith kind of thought she was already getting to where she kind of liked when she did that. "Of course everyone's gotta screw…just make the bastard use a condom at least. Anyway it's cool as long as it's you and what you want. That's the way to go- use 'em and lose 'em before they even know what hit them. You're the one in control, and don't ever let any man forget it."
Faith smiled slowly as she nodded again. Her sentiments exactly…maybe this Legs chick had potential.