|Spoilers:||Hmm. I guess up to the last time we saw Faith. Late season four on Buffy, the start of season two on Angel. Am I right?|
|Disclaimer:||Not, in any way shape or form, mine.|
|Author's Note:|| Well, this is a weird one. I knew where I was going when I started, but I'm not quite sure if I ended up there.
But, given our two messed up antiheroes, maybe that's only fitting.
She sits in her cell, and looks at the ceiling.
She doesn't count the days that are gone, because the past is a direction she doesn't like to look in. She doesn't count the days that are to come, because the future's too complicated to figure out. She only lives in the present tense.
Maybe there was a time when it wasn't like this. But that time isn't now, so it doesn't exist.
A day is a day is a day. Cell days are easy. They're all the same. It's easy not to believe in time when the days are all the same.
Except this day is different. The three young men in uniforms - they're different. They're not part of the routine.
Not a lot of young men in here, for obvious reasons. She scans them over, with the eye of experience that can't be switched off. Kind of chunky, muscle-boys. One of them's quite good-looking. The other two - well, they're not ugly.
Once, that would have been enough. Now... well, now it doesn't really matter, because it's not an option.
See, she's slipping up again. Once? 'Once' is for people who had a past. 'Once' is for people who have a future.
But maybe she has a future. Because these guys are taking her out of her cell, and she doesn't know where they're going but it's not the exercise block.
This is an event. This is a thing that's happening. An interruption to the timelessness.
She isn't sure she likes that. There's a certain security in nothingness.
"Hey, boys. Where are we going?"
They don't answer her. Now that's just rude. Even she knows that. She wonders if they know the handcuffs snapped around her wrist could shatter in an instant. It would be easy to pull them apart. On pull for the handcuffs. Three quick blows for her escort. One, two, three.
But she doesn't do that anymore.
"Don't I get a phonecall?"
Even she gets a phonecall. It says in the rules. She knows who to call, too. It's not hard to make decisions when you've only got one option. Would he come, if she called?
Maybe she doesn't want to know. So maybe it's better that they just ignore her.
They march her straight out to the big black van. Nobody stops them, so maybe they're supposed to be doing this. Or maybe nobody cares.
She knows all about big black vans with no markings. They belong to the good guys who aren't.
But then again, most of the good guys aren't.
"Are you boys with the Watchers, by any chance?"
She's talking to herself. But then, she always has been.
The back of the van is a cage, to keep an animal in, or a demon. She's neither of those things, or both of them, and the cage wouldn't hold her if she didn't want it to.
There's another guy in the driver's seat, but he doesn't matter any more than the cage does.
One pull for the handcuffs. One blow for the cage.
One, two, three, four.
But she just sits.
The two in the back with her sit and watch her. They think she's dangerous. They're probably right.
It's a long, long, long, long drive. How long, she doesn't know. She sleeps easily enough, even curled up in her cage. Discomfort is comfortable to her now. She wouldn't know what to do without it.
They let her make restroom stops. They march straight into the stall with her, and they're not fool enough to turn away.
She doesn't let it bother her. Her modesty's the least of the things she's lost.
They come to the middle of the desert. Maybe they're gonna kill her and bury the body. It seems like a waste of a drive.
There's a base in the middle of the desert. Army or something, though these guys don't seem like the regular army. Maybe they're not with the Watchers. Or maybe the Watchers are everywhere.
The Watchers are supposed to be the good guys. But so is she, so she's not one to talk.
They take her to a cell. Cells are okay. This one's white and empty and the front is glass. It's spotless. They'll just have to deal with her making the place look untidy.
They put her in the cell, and then they go away. She's cool with that. It happens quite a lot. No need to shout or pound on the walls. She's cool with cells. Maybe she can go right back to living in timelessness.
Except she has a neighbour. And apparently said neighbour doesn't appreciate the stillness and the timelessness.
"Hey! Hey, new girl."
He's a man. Not that it matters, one way or the other, but she's still surprised. And he's English.
Englishmen. They have associations. Some bad. Some good. Some she can't decide about anymore. But English voices make her remember that once upon a time she had a past.
And that's not something to be grateful for.
"What do you want, English?"
Another place, another time. Blood and sweat and tears. All things that shouldn't belong in a nice clean white empty cell.
But he's not like the other Englishmen she's known. There's a smirk in his voice that he can't seem to hide, even though he's here in these cells. She knows all about having a smirk in your voice. If you keep it there all the time, they can never hear anything else in it. Cockiness hides everything.
He should ask for her name. That's the way these things go. Tell me your name, cellmate, and then we can be friends. What's your name, buddy, what are you in for? I'm your friend. I'm your buddy. Here, let me screw you over.
But he doesn't ask her that. Instead, he says "What are you?" And he says it like he wants to know, but it's funny at the same time.
What are you? Now there's a loaded question. Too many ways to answer it, or maybe not enough. So she shoots it right back. "What are you, stranger?"
There's a silence, like he's mulling it over. And then he laughs, and he says "I'm a liar."
And she laughs too. Because doesn't that answer everything?
After a moment, he tells her "You're supposed to ask me questions. Who are these people? What do they want with us? Why did they bring me here?" He rolls them off his tongue like they're all pretty amusing. And they are. Questions like that, they're not the real thing. People who understand how the world works don't need to ask questions like that.
"I don't like to work from a script."
That sounds like something one of the Englishmen she knew would say. Except neither of them would say it like that. One might be dryly sarcastic. One might be gleefully smug. Neither would have a handle on sounding like the whole damn world's pretty amusing.
She wonders if he's really even English. Maybe he's faking. And maybe she doesn't care. How does she know England even exists? She's never seen it.
He doesn't seem bothered by her lack of response. "This is a... diverting little place, I think you'll find. The activities are interesting, but the facilities are a little sparse. I'm afraid I can only give it two stars... Did they take your socks?" he asks suddenly.
It comes from nowhere, but doesn't everything? "I don't wear socks," she tells him.
"They took mine," he informs her. "When they brought me here." He starts to laugh. "I don't know what they thought I was going to do with them."
She joins him in his amusement. Socks. Yeah, that sounds like them. Concentrating so hard on all the little things that the big things fly right by.
It's all pretty damn funny, when you get right down to it.
Their food comes through a slot in the ceiling. 'Halt cuisine', English calls it. Guaranteed to make you constipated.
English doesn't take anything seriously. She can get behind that.
She hears him screaming, later, when the men are in his cell. She doesn't know what they're doing, but she doesn't suppose it really matters. It's all the same, really. Pain is pain, no matter where it comes from.
She's quite an authority on that.
When he talks to her again, later, his voice is weak and a little cracked, but he doesn't mention it, and neither does she.
He tells her he can do magic, later. She asks him if he's Harry Potter. He thinks that's pretty funny. He tells her this is the setting for book thirty-four; "Harry Potter and the Sock Stealers of Nevada." He asks if she wants to be the spunky sidekick.
She points out that there's not much chance of her getting spunky in here.
He thinks that's pretty funny, too.
He tells her he's forty-four and he comes from London - but later, he's thirty-eight and he comes from Middlesex. Then he's forty-one and he's never been to England, but his parents came from there. She wonders if even he knows which story's true anymore, or if any of them are.
She doesn't tell him anything about herself, and he doesn't ask.
Later, they come to her cell. They want to test her; see her do things, see how fast she can move, see how much pain she can take. They want to see what things in hypodermic needles do to her.
Maybe she does a bit of screaming herself.
When they're gone, English doesn't ask her how she's doing. She appreciates that.
She never tells him her story, but he likes to tell her his. He's got lots of them.
He's a sorceror and a practical joker, a mischief-maker and a gun for hire. He tells her all that and she believes it, although the mix of the four changes all the time.
As for the rest of it... He's the root of all evil, and he's misunderstood. He's the master of destruction, and an innocent man. He's a brutal killer, and he's never taken a life. He's here because he did something awful, he's here because he turned himself in, he's here because he was wrongly accused.
He told her he was a liar, and he was right. But he's good at it, and she likes to listen to him.
One time, when his voice is foggy and cracked with pain and drugs, he talks about friends. He talks about love and arrogance, jealousy, and making mistakes that you're not allowed to be forgiven for. He talks about coming back to that person to let them hurt you just a little bit more, because you need it and maybe they need it too, and somewhere underneath it you know that you deserve it.
And later, when he's lucid, she never tells him what he said, or that she knows that this time, he inadvertently told her the truth.
It's a different kind of timelessness here, one that's painful but more interesting.
She and English trade lies and wisecracks. They never ask each other's names, and they never talk about why they're here or what's happening to them. They take a lot of pain, but they're used to it, and maybe they need it as much as they hate it. They're two of a kind, her and English. They're disfunctional in all the same ways.
And then one day, something changes.
Maybe it's the guard who've changed. Become complacent, used to her. Maybe it's her who's changed. But all of a sudden, she sees a gap. She sees a line that she can walk along, and a move that she can make.
And she remembers that once upon a time, she used to know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. And maybe, just maybe, she can trust herself to make that distinction once again.
These aren't the good guys.
There are three of them in her cell with her. That's okay. Three's just three.
One pull for the restraints.
One, two, three.
The sirens blare, and lights flash. It's chaos.
Nothing wrong with chaos.
She picks up the card key of the nearest guard, and saunters out of her cell with it. She glances through into the next cell, and she gets her first glimpse of him.
He's as old as he said he was, with just enough uncertainty that she can't pick and choose which number was true. There's a hint of grey at his temples, but it suits him. He's gaunt, but his eyes are dark and very clear.
He's smirking just the way she always pictured him.
She saunters up to the glass wall of the cell, ignoring the alarms, and smirks right back.
"Morning, new girl."
It might not be morning, and she's really been here far too long to be the new girl. And maybe he's not really even English.
And maybe none of that matters, not even slightly.
She waggles the card key at him. "Fancy going for a walk?"
He shrugs languidly, and smiles wider. "I think a little stroll might do me good."
As the glass slides aside and he comes out of the cell, she looks down, and sees that he's not wearing any socks. She starts to laugh, and when he follows her gaze, he laughs too.
It's the little things, always the little things. They make you forget how to see the big picture.
They saunter out of there together. The other cells are all full; some with demons, some with people who look human. She swipes the card key in the nearest door, and tosses it in for the surprised occupant to catch. Let him make the next big decision.
The doors all lock down. Maybe she could kick them in if she really wants, but English does a little trick with his fingers and suddenly they're open. So maybe he really is a wizard.
A squad of four soldiers comes rushing towards them. They have weapons, but she has hands and feet.
One, two, three, four.
Good guys and bad guys. It's beginning to come back to her.
English hides behind her during the fighting. He's twice her age and half again her height, but he's smirkingly unapologetic for his cowardice.
He might be a liar, but he's a lot more honest than most of the people she's ever met.
They find a car outside, and English hops in and does something with the wiring. "An old friend taught me," he says, as the engine throbs to life. He smirks. "Which way?"
She throws her arm out randomly. "That way."
They go that way. He crashes right through the security fence without slowing, and then they're out.
In the middle of nowhere, going nowhere. But they're both used to that.
She used to worry that if she ever got out, she'd go right back to where she came from. Good guys and bad guys... it's a difficult line to draw.
Which side of the line does she stand on? She still doesn't know. Which side does English fall on? She doesn't know that, either, and she bets he wouldn't know any more than she does. But she knows he'd only laugh if she asked him.
They're two of a kind, her and English. They've both done some bad things in the past. Maybe hers are worse than his. Maybe they're not. And maybe it doesn't matter. They've both been pretty lost, and they're not found yet, but they've found each other, and that's probably something.
Maybe they'll do some more bad things. But maybe they won't. Maybe they'll do some good instead.
Good and bad. She still doesn't know where to draw the line... but she's remembered there used to be one.
It's time to go looking for that line. She couldn't find it when she was with all the people who knew where it was - maybe she'll have better luck with someone just as lost as she is.
She looks across at English. He turns to look at her and smirks, even though he's supposed to be watching the road.
Roads are roads. Even if you're not looking where you're going, you'll end up somewhere, good or bad. But if you stay where you are, you'll never get anywhere.
She smiles at him, and says "I'm Faith."
He smiles back. "I'm Ethan."
And they keep driving.
After all, they're bound to end up somewhere.