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Fan Fiction: From the Shadows
Chapter Four: A Question of Fate
"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't."
It took a few minutes for Wesley to ready the tea, a small precious stretch of time in which to knit up his ravelled emotions and decide how to deal with the situation he found himself in. He was perilously close to overload already, and it wouldn't take much for Faith to knock him over the edge.
Fortunately, she seemed to sense that something was wrong. She stayed on the couch in the other room, almost unnaturally calm, running fingertips gently over the piles of note paper on his coffee-table and picking out words in his hasty scribblings. Occasionally, she cast a glance over her shoulder at the kitchen.
There was something different about her, something under the surface, hard to quantify. He didn't know how to describe it, except that she seemed luminous, yet wrapped in darkness. That impression worried him. What effect would she have on the current situation?
((Or is it just like fate? You know, there is no choice. You were gonna be here no matter what.))
His fingers spasmed on the handle of the teapot as he recalled her words that day. Fate had a new meaning for him now. It was an odd feeling, to realize that his own life was captured on parchment somewhere in scrawls of fading ink, written in a long-dead language centuries before his birth. As hard as he'd fought for Connor, for his infant self, it was different now that he knew it was all about him. It was more than a challenge, more than a sacrifice for a friend. He was beginning to take it personally.
"Wes, are you alive in there?"
He sighed. "The tea is nearly done, Faith. Would you like a cup?"
The old Faith would have snorted and made a bitter, mocking remark; this Faith still snorted, but paused afterward, as if she really had to think about it. Then, "Yeah. Yeah, sure, I'll take a cup."
He smiled slightly and took a second teacup down. "Your tastes have changed," he remarked, pouring carefully, then lifted both cups and carried them out to the couch.
She shifted to one end of the cushions, turning towards him, and carefully took one from his hands. "Oh, not really," she said casually. "But, hey. Two years on prison food. Maybe it tastes better now."
He took the space she'd left at the other end of the couch, and wrapped both hands around his own teacup, absorbing the warmth through the thin china. "I will tell you a secret," he said, as deliberately casual as she was. "Tea isn't about the taste, it's about the ritual. It's meant to comfort."
She took a sip of the tea anyway, still smiling slightly, then grimaced. "It must be a British thing." She copied his grip on her cup, holding it close, and looked down into it, a little frown line appearing between her brows. "Comfort, huh?"
"Yes," he replied, allowing some of the disturbance he was feeling to seep back into his voice. "Although I'm not sure which of us needs it just now. What are you here for, Faith?"
She still didn't look up, watching the swirling patterns made in the clear brownish liquid as she tilted her cup this way and that. "Mostly to ask questions," she answered, shrugging carefully.
Her voice sounded a little tight, and Wesley sighed. She wasn't making this any easier. "What sort of questions?" he asked, watching her downturned face for clues to what she might be thinking.
She answered him with another question. "You remember a year ago, when I called the hotel to talk to you?"
Did he remember? How could he not? Under ordinary circumstances, only Angel ever spoke or visited with her, but the circumstances had not been ordinary. It was the day after their return from Pylea, and in light of Willow's news, Wesley had almost expected it.
"You had a Slayer dream, if I recall correctly."
"About Buffy." She took a ragged breath, and Wesley realized that what he had taken for calmness in her was a high nervous tension. Her knuckles had whitened around the teacup, and he was beginning to fear for the integrity of the china.
"You've had another Slayer dream," he guessed. It made sense. For anything else, she would probably have gone to the hotel to talk to Angel, and rightly so. Wesley was her ex-Watcher. He wasn't her friend.
"Two of them this week," she said, and looked up at last, staring at him. More specifically, she seemed to have focused on the bandage around his throat.
Wesley nearly flinched at the conflict in those dark eyes. Anger? Worry? More emotions, violent, and all of them directed at him. "Oh," he said, suddenly realizing what was the matter.
This was a Slayer who'd already been present at the deaths of two Watchers, though only one had been Council-sanctioned. This was a Slayer with a possessive streak, who reacted to changes and losses in her life with violence and emotion. This was a Slayer with a considerable investment in him, no matter that it was balanced heavily toward the negative end of the scale. If Faith had Dreamed of what happened...
"Yeah, 'Oh'," she echoed, and shot to her feet, dropping the teacup on the table. Tea splashed everywhere, but Wesley didn't have the energy to spare to concern himself about the fate of his papers.
"Were you even gonna tell me?" she continued, clenching her fists. "Any of you? I thought you were dead! Twice! Then Lilah and her fucking goon squad broke me out and told me you were at the office! I don't care if you think I'm a piece of shit, you're still my Watcher. I should have heard it from you."
He had no idea how to respond to that. It hadn't even occurred to him that she might know. They'd never had the kind of Slayer-Watcher bond that promoted such things, to put it mildly. "Faith, I..."
She seemed to sense his hesitation, and her face closed up abruptly. "No, you know what, forget it," she said, vehemently. "Just, never mind. I should never have come here." Without any further comment, she turned and started marching towards the door.
"Faith!" Hastily, he set his own cup on the table and hurried after her, hands outstretched. He had a brief mental flash of a similar chase, four days prior, and felt a stab of guilt. If she fought him, if she did not wish to stay, did he have any right to insist otherwise? There was so much left unsaid.
His fears were moot. She paused at the door, yielding the chase; she let him wrap her left wrist up in long fingers and turn her towards him.
"I thought..." Faith said, then stopped and shook her head, looking away from his face. She focused on a spot somewhere over his right shoulder, and began again.
"All that time I was in that cell, it was hard for me, you know?" Faith spoke softly, her voice thick with emotion. "I could have broken out whenever I wanted, but I didn't. Because I was supposed to learn how to be good. I wanted to. And I started to, I think, this last year. Especially when B died. It was all on me then, no more Chosen Two."
Wesley had heard much of this from Angel, especially in the months before Darla's second return. Angel had been pleased with Faith's progress, but Wesley had dismissed it as a likely deception. Of course she would be making nice. The Watchers' Council may have failed to apprehend her, but they could still have easily had her killed.
Now, facing her, Wesley could see why Angel had believed the Slayer. She was transparent as glass, and as fragile as the china she had flung aside. "Faith..."
"No." She closed her eyes, and braced her free hand against his chest. "Let me finish. I can only do this once."
He subsided, and she opened her eyes again, still staring into nowhere. "I kept in shape, so I could go right back to Slaying when I got out... I started reading stuff Angel brought me. I even took my GED. I'll never be a good little Slayer like Buffy, but hey, she sucks at a lot of things, too. And, well, I thought a lot about what I did. I wasn't sure you guys would ever let me make it up to you, but I wanted to try. I wanted to join you guys, be part of Angel's crew, and maybe, one day, get my Watcher back." She paused there, her face tight with hurt.
When she continued, her voice was quieter, and more strained. "What the Hell happened, Wes? With the baby, and with Angel? You were supposed to be my ticket to redemption."
There was still a little voice yelling in the back of his mind, reminding him that she was a murderer, that she had tortured him, but the rest of him was too fresh from his own hurts and confusions. In many ways, he was just as lost as she was, and no more deserving of compassion. How could he ever justify failing her again?
"It's a very long story, Faith, and I don't understand it all myself." Gentleness in his voice this time, and honesty. "But if you'll stay, I'll try to explain."
She raised her eyes to his face, startled by the change, and stared at him. Disbelief? Relief? "You don't, you're not upset with me?" she asked warily.
"No." So many questions yet, but one had found an answer; he wasn't, didn't hate her. "You were never the only one to blame."
Wesley curled his left hand over her right, where she'd placed it above his heart, and released his grip on her other arm.
The anger drained from her stance, and Faith melted into tears.
Boundaries, that pesky Watcher-voice whispered. But what use were boundaries? They might be Slayer and Watcher, but neither was in the Council's employ just now, and Faith needed reassurance the way Wesley had needed Angel's acceptance earlier that day. He took another step forward, closing the gap.
Faith sagged against his chest, clutching at his shirt, and began sobbing in earnest. How many years had this been coming? Too long, for her, he thought. Wesley rested his cheek against her hair and remembered the sound of pain in Angel's voice. No, they couldn't afford to lose any more time. Any of them.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.