TITLE: Remuneration
AUTHOR: Roseveare
FEEDBACK: to t.l.green@talk21.com
RATING: PG-13, for language.
SPOILERS: Season 3 through Tomorrow.
SUMMARY: Post-S3 snippet, 550 words. Faith pushes Wesley back from the edge on her way down.
NOTES #1: Haven't seen the end of season 3 yet, only read some transcripts. Just in case that explains away any weird errors.
NOTES #2: Thanks must go to Ellen for a short-notice beta.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, just borrowing, no profit, yadda, yadda, yadda.


Remuneration

After she'd gone, he missed the girl on his couch who'd sit with the TV up loud, making the neighbours swear at him through the walls, fragmenting the concentration he needed to work, speaking in monosyllables if at all and radiating discontent like an aroma.

Upon her early release from jail she'd come looking for Angel, having nowhere else to go. She found Wesley first. He'd staggered out of bed to the sound of a giant wielding a jackhammer against his door, and opened up to find her standing in the corridor dressed in clothes two years old with a shabby green sports bag in her hand. Her eyes crawled nervously over everything but him as she asked where Angel was.

Apparently Angel, with a head full of Connor, hadn't been keeping up with other responsibilities. Wesley slammed the door back with force enough to leave an imprint of the handle in the wall and wondered at his anger as he wordlessly gestured her inside.

He scribbled down Angel's address and she crumpled it into her pocket, but somehow two hours, days, weeks later she was still hunched up on his couch, bent legs gracing the coffee table with black boots, munching donuts as the TV flickered, trekking diligently to the parole office every Wednesday.

Lilah came on the first Friday night. Wesley experienced mixed feelings when Faith told her to fuck off and then looked away from him without accusation when she'd gone.

He didn't think he'd be seeing Lilah again. He hadn't yet.

As the weeks stretched on and they still spoke barely a word to one another, he stopped wondering so much why she was there, and why he let her be. There had been a time when he'd thought he could never stand her near him again, but now she was only the first of many to carve their initials into his flesh, and one of the few not undeserved. He knew now there were worse betrayals.

On the second week she came back from the parole interview with a scrap torn from one of the demon presses. Translations charged by the word, some small-time entrepreneur offering their service. He frowned at it when she shoved it into his hand. Crumpled it up, threw it in the trash, and spent the rest of the evening drinking himself unconscious.

The next week, his own advertisement went to press. He seemed to have a reputation that wasn't all bad, judging by the response.

He busied himself anew, while Faith squatted on the couch and hugged the phone and made him listen to the same one-sided conversation five hundred times over as employers for pitiful, dead-end but legal jobs ran screaming from her record. On the fourth week she got a job in a cafe, then lost it on the fifth for badmouthing a customer.

There was no role he could offer in a translation service for an ex-con who'd never attended school regularly for more than a six month stretch. He quietly paid the bills and saved and scrounged for two.

On the sixth week, he'd come home to find she'd taken her bag and her clothes and the thirty dollars from the petty cash.

Leaving no trace in his apartment but the IOU pinned to the fridge.

END