Authur: Sara Brit
Author's Website: Sara's ff.net Page
His lips puttered together idly, playing with the murky brown liquid in the half emptied mug set before him with his right middle and index fingers.
He swirled and swished tiny crashing waves against the glass, watching the patterns forming which faded almost as quickly as they appeared.
It was his sixth beer, or so he thought, he hadn't really kept count and common sense was telling him to go ahead and quit while he was still lucid enough to remember that much, but if he did then he'd be faced with the depressing reality of what the rest of his evening would consist of: loneliness.
He still had yet to work up the courage to make his presence known and wondered if he should ever.
Did it even matter, probably not, when had it ever? Who wanted him now, who cared?
"Here's to you, you bollocks coward.." He toasted himself while lifting the mug.
Hearing his name caught him by surprise and he inhaled the rest of his mouthful of beer instead of swallowing, coking and coughing as if he really needed to.
"Hey-sorry, are you ok?"
"Yeah..yeah fine," he wiped off his mouth with one hemmed cuff of his jacket and turned on the bar stool to look behind him.
Not much could take Spike by surprise, but this did-she did.
"What..I-shouldn't you be in jail?"
The petite female shrugged her bony shoulders, "Probably."
She hopped up on the stool beside him, "Care to buy a lady a drink?"
"Since when were you ever a 'lady'?" He signaled the barkeep while wearing an amused smirk.
"Not nice fang boy," she grinned.
"So are you hunting me?"
"Don't flatter yourself-this is the bar I come to sometimes."
"Hey Fay," the bartender got close enough to recognize the young woman who now accompanied his best customer of the night so far, and smiled, "The usual?"
"Yeah Johnnie, thanks," she nodded and then looked up at the vampire, "See?"
"Politely interacting with the locals? Will wonders never cease. So, Fay-"
"Faith to you," she corrected him.
"I've known you longer," Spike pointed out.
"Yeah I know," she changed the subject, "Why are you here in town?"
"No real reason," he said a bit casually.
"They kick you out of Sunnydale?" Faith leaned against the worn wood of the bar, picking at fraying splinters along its edge.
"Who?" Spike frowned, "I am not a part of that pauncy bunch, you know that."
"Yeah, right, how could I forget with you kissing Buffy's ass every chance you got."
"I did not," he was quick to contradict.
"Whatever you say," Faith reached out for her drink when it arrived, chuckling.
Spike openly glared at the woman; he wasn't sure if he was pissed off she'd brought the sore subject up or that his reasons for having left could be so easily uncovered by someone like her.
"Seen Angel yet?" Faith cut into his thoughts.
"No I-I don't think I will," Spike gave a half honest answer.
"Does it matter?"
"Maybe," Faith drank down half of the cocktail in her hand.
"When did you start drinking those?"
Spike noticed the dainty drink with great interest all of a sudden.
"I don't know, a while ago-they taste better," Faith flatly explained.
"Right..and when did you start caring about that?"
"When did you start caring about what I care about?"
Faith crunched one of the two ice cubes that had kept her drink properly chilled and dropped off her seat to stand.
"Where are you going?"
"I want some fresh air," she looked back at Spike, "You coming?"
He was suspicious and doubtful of her offer; Faith wasn't the nice type, she wasn't compassionate, generous, kind or friendly either, not unless she had some kind of ulterior motive.
"Is this a trap?" Spike eyed her for any sign of devious intent.
"What, you don't trust me?"
"No," Spike left payment for the drinks and a tip for the bartender under his empty beer mug and got up to follow after her.
Against the chill of night Faith shoved her hands into her jeans' pockets.
"You're on the run, aren't you?"
His question made her smile, "Why can't I just be walking the straight and narrow?"
"And go without snapping a neck or two willingly? Not bloody likely."
"I like the food better."
"Are they still looking for you?"
Faith didn't answer with words and just shook her head.
"Figured they were better off without trying to cage you up again?"
Spike watched Faith balance herself on the far edge of the sidewalk, both arms held out from her body.
"I'm a free woman..I was a good girl," she shot him a look with the tip of her tongue between her top and bottom teeth.
"Scary," Spike sighed, "At least being good got you something."
"Are you trying to be now?"
He looked despondent for a moment, "What's the point."
"It can happen," Faith didn't miss the expression on the vampire's face, "I mean-it isn't easy but anything's possible."
"Crikey, what in the blooming heck happened to you? Brainwashing? Cult, devil worship?"
Spike was trying his best to wrap his mind around a more pleasant, upbeat and, dare he say it even, hopeful Faith.
"I've started reading some self-help books to pass the time," she bragged with a faintly haughty smile.
"God.." Spike just chuckled.
They walked on in silence for a ways, words replaced by soft breathing from one and quiet sighs from the other.
Spike was startled by Faith's seemingly urgent curse and looked down at her, "What?"
"I..I have to go," she shook her head, face a touch more pale than normal.
"It's-I'll see you around."
Before he could get his mouth open again the lissome vampire slayer had bounded off of the curb and flew up over the street to a land on a low hanging awning, which she used to sling herself up on top of the building's roof. In the half blink of an eye Faith vanished from sight at a full sprint.
Dashing from rooftop to rooftop Faith wished she could have taken the time to say a proper goodbye to Spike-he had been nice enough to her to have deserved that curtsey at least.
A little out of breath in her hurry, Faith landed like a cat on all fours in a back alleyway, out of sight. She dusted off her hands still thinking; she'd just have to catch back up with Spike later to offer him an explanation, though she wasn't sure when that could be.
# # #
There was no denial forthcoming from Faith and she nodded in total agreement, "I know..I'm sorry."
"Get in here," he stepped off to one side, holding the apartment door for her.
Slowly walking past him she tried to prepare herself for the smack delivered across the center of her bottom but she had yet to find a way to truly prepare herself for the abrupt explosion of pain that came right after.
With a yelping cry she whirled around with both hands plastered against her smarting cheeks both to protect and rub them, "Angel.."
"What did I tell you about keeping track of what time your curfew ends Faith?"
"I know but-it was an accident, honest-I got..distracted."
Angel stared down at her, "You're on a short enough leash as is. I need to know that I can trust you-"
Faith felt a twinge of fear at the probable direction this line of conversation seemed to be heading in.
She had been trying so hard, working so hard, fighting so very hard to be good, but it would be with her brand of luck that one, stupid, mistake would wipe away all she'd manage to do so far.
No stranger to the emotional turmoil presently flashing in the young girl's eyes, Angel proceeded with caution.
"I know it's hard, being held accountable for your actions, especially when you're used to doing whatever the hell you want without consequences."
He spoke with calm gentility and waved at Faith to come closer.
She took a few baby steps and then found herself grabbed and seated on Angel's left thigh.
It was a test and she knew that, so when her first reaction bubbled up within to elbow him in the face as hard as she could, she took a deep breath and remained calm instead.
Angel wasn't her enemy and he wasn't taking advantage of her-he was..a friend.
A real friend and the first one that she'd ever had.
Proud that he wasn't warding off the tiny warrior princess' fists and feet as he might have a few weeks earlier, Angel was shocked speechless when Faith pulled her small body in against his chilled, wide chest and even went so far as to rest her head against the man's shoulder.
"I really did forget.." her voice was small and somewhat muffled against the soft cotton of his shirt.
"I know," he nodded, "And I believe you; I know you aren't lying to me Faith. But the rules are still the rules."
"They're sucky rules.." Faith muttered and she felt and heard him chuckle.
"Are you saying I suck too then since I came up with them?"
Faith wisely kept her mouth shut, she was way too close to his swatting hand for her liking, and caused Angel to start laughing.
"Well too bad, because you're stuck with me and my sucky rules, for now," he placed Faith back on her feet, "And you know what that means."
A whine buzzed in the back of her throat for a good second, or five, but the girl eventually nodded her head, "Yeah.."
"I'll be in once you're ready," Angel promised.
"You'll come in anyway," Faith expertly dodged the vampire's hand right after her comment and she genuinely smiled at him sweetly.
"Go," he lackadaisically ordered her.
Shrugging out of her coat on the way to her room Faith was kind of surprised at how little panic there was inside of her even though she knew what was soon to come her way; Angel had a very strange, even weird, calming effect on her that she'd never felt before.
It was nice, unnerving as hell, but nice.
Angel got up from his chair, listening to Faith's bedroom door swing on its hinges so she could get cleaned up and changed in private.
He wasn't looking forward to what he would have to do to her, though he knew it was for her own good, but he was even more anxious over questioning Faith as to how, and why, she now carried the scent of his youngest grandchilde after her night out.
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