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Song From the Wrong Side of Town

by Minim Calibre

She's not sure how long she's been here. Hell, she's not sure where here is, just that it's dark, smells bad, and the only time the door ever opens she gets the crap beat out of her.

She hears noises, footsteps, and cringes as much as the chains will let her. Hard creak of the iron door, blinding light, then a soft voice, "Faith, it's going to be all right," followed by "Angel, we need to get these chains off her. Now." Same voice, not soft.

When she wakes up, she's in a bed, and everything smells kinda like flowers. Opens her eyes, and realizes that's cause there's a shitload of them next to the bed. Well, she thinks they're flowers--blurry reds and pinks on top of green. It's hard to focus with everything so bright. She makes out a shape, then another.

One shape's kinda tall, kinda skinny, kinda Wesley. The other one has his back to her, but she figures it's Angel.

"Faith?" That soft voice must have been Wes.

She makes a sound, but she seems to have left words back in the cell or something, because what comes out sure as shit ain't English. Tries again. "Wes."

"How do you feel?"

"Like shit." Except she's having trouble forming the words still, so it sound all slurred and sloppy. Her tongue feels like sandpaper and her mouth feels like cotton. "Thr'sy."

He pours a glass of water, puts it up to her mouth instead of handing it to her, and waits for her to drink. "How much do you remember?" But she's already drifting back to sleep, and the question can't quite make it through the fog around her brain.

Things go like this for a while, maybe a week, maybe two. Wes and Angel have her on so many painkillers, she can't answer the questions they keep asking. They don't seem to care, though. She gets to know their hands: Angel's, large and firm, lifting her from the bed and carrying her to the bathroom where he lets her do her business in as close to private as they can manage, and Wesley's, slim and calloused, changing dressings and gently washing her with a soft cotton cloth.

One day, she wakes up, and the pain's mostly gone. She still feels like someone kicked her ass, but now it just feels like it was Buffy giving the beating, and not a Mack truck. A bunch of images come flooding back--cemetery in New Orleans, ambush, Buffy screaming at her to look out.

Faith sits up. "B?" But she knows the answer before she catches the anguished look on Angel's face.

Knows it before Wesley's eyes fill with pity, and his voice goes all soft again. "I'm very sorry, Faith."

"What happened?" Angel leaves the room when she says it, and Wesley's gaze follows him out the door before coming back and stopping somewhere short of meeting her eyes.

"A handful of former Watchers thought it would be a good idea to reform the Council in light of the sudden influx of new Slayers." This time, he looks right at her, and he looks almost as bad as Angel did. "You were in the way."

"And Buffy?"

"Unfortunately for her, she was able to escape capture during the initial ambush. They killed her shortly after she had contacted Angel." He looks back to the open doorway. "He's taking it very poorly, I'm afraid. Worse than the last time, perhaps because the last time, she came back."

Faith shrugs, then winces. "Third time's the charm." Then she's crying, and she can't seem to stop, and fuck if she knows why that is. World full of Slayers, and she's never felt more alone. The bed dips a little under Wesley's weight. He pats her back awkwardly, fumbles for a tissue. "Thought you'd be more the hanky type, Wes," she gets out between sobs.

"Not for a very long time." He stops patting, starts stroking; she crawls into his lap and cries until she falls asleep.

The smell of coffee wakes her. Angel's standing there with a big-ass cup in his hand. He looks lost. "I, umm..."

"Made me coffee?" Faith cracks a smile, first one she's tried since they rescued her, and takes the cup from him. "Thanks, Angel. Wanna talk?"

He gives her a little smile, kinda sheepish. "No."

Her smile turns into a laugh. "Didn't think so. Me neither."

"I brought you something else." Angel reaches into his pocket and brings out a lumpy envelope.

Faith sets the coffee down, and takes the envelope from him. She opens it cautiously; wedged in the corner of the white paper is what looks at first to be rope. Pulls the sides of the envelope apart, and realizes it's hair, dull gold and woven into a cord that holds a silver cross. "What the--?"

"A memento mori." She raises her eyebrows at him, and he starts talking about old traditions and mourning jewelry and back in his day and all that shit, then mutters something she doesn't quite catch about Dru teaching him something or other. She gets it.

"Think maybe I saw something like this in a museum one time," she tells him as she fastens it around her neck. Buffy's hair is soft against her skin. It sorta tickles. So do her eyes, but she doesn't cry this time. Instead she talks with Angel, putting a brave face on and letting him do the same. Wesley pokes his head through the doorway at some point, but he doesn't come in until after Angel's gone. He explains to her later that he didn't want to break the mood. She gets that, too.

"Thanks." She says thanks an awful lot these days. Means it, too.

She can make it to the bathroom or the shower on her own now. Part of her kind of misses having them take care of her. She misses their hands. Angel brings her coffee in the mornings, Wesley brings her tea at night.

One night, she lets her hand brush over Wesley's when he hands her the tea. She swallows nervously, the necklace rolling against her throat.

He stays.

The next morning, Angel comes in with the coffee, sees Wesley, sets the cup down next to the cold tea, and turns to go.

"Angel." He pauses, and she reaches for his hand, sliding over a little to make room. He hesitates for a sec, but he stays.

Nestled in between the two of them, Faith slips her hands into theirs and feels like she's home.


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