Probably part of the worst of the headache was getting our new cable box. See, Craig caved while his dad was here and bought his new TV. His bigger, high-def TV. So he upgraded our cable service so that we'd get the high-def channels. I supported that part of the plan because it meant getting channels we didn't already have, like the Sci-fi channel and BBC America. The guy brought the box yesterday, hooked it up, and then said we had to reset the Tivo to recognize the box instead of the way it used to be set up. No problem, except Craig had to do it. I completely couldn't figure out how to do it on my own.
Craig's home at 7, and nothing worked. We spent two hours trying to chase down answers. We could see the regular channels, but nothing high-def, though we could hear them. At 9:30, he finally got through to talking to a live rep and discovered that his work order did not go through as a high-def order and we had the wrong box. *sigh* So he's going over there first thing this morning and picking up the right one. Oy.
Adding to that, Alicia lost her second tooth yesterday. No big, right? I talked her out of carrying it around in her pocket all day, with the argument that she'd lose it if she did, and she came down at 8:30 with her brother in tow wanting to search the sofa. Why? Because she'd lost her tooth earlier that day on it, didn't want to tell me because she knew she wasn't supposed to be carrying it around, and she didn't think the note she had already written the tooth fairy explaining that she'd lost her tooth but promising to find it soon was going to be enough to get any money. *snicker* I sent her back to bed. Then we couldn't find her damn pillow to put the money in it, but she hasn't said word one about it this morning so I don't know what's going through her head. I'll have to ask about it later.
With all that, I didn't get nearly as much writing done yesterday as I wanted. I dabbled in Wes/Faith all day, scrapping idea after idea for being trite and overdone, until finally settling on one that didn't completely suck to me. I have 2200+ words done on it so far, but I'll post it in sections as I work on it (I think it's going to be about 12-14,000 words when I'm done, which means it's taking my non-Beg writing time right now). And I'm starting with the first 1800 words since that's where a natural break fell.
TITLE: Ask Not for Mercy
RATING: I'm hoping, and fairly confident, I can get this to NC17 eventually, but it's only an R right now
SETTING: Takes place a few weeks after the end of the S3 AtS finale
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Dark(er) Wes, fresh on the rejection from the AtS gang and newly scarred. Needless to say, this won't be light. This is mostly unbeta'd, except for a read-through by pepperlandgirl4 to assure me it wasn't completely of the suck.
The letter arrived out of the blue. No return address. An LA postmark. The childish scrawl across its front was unfamiliar, but his name was spelled correctly which always boded well for at least a passing acquaintance with its sender. Wesley slit its seal without thinking twice about what it could possibly contain.
The single page note made it even harder to breathe than his residual problems with his scar.
Long time no see, though knowing this is coming from me, maybe you think that’s probably a good thing. Guess an apology now would be kind of lame, huh? Right. That’s what I thought.
I won’t beat around the bush then. Angel’s missed his last three visits to come and see me. He’s missed before but never without letting me know. This time, nothing. Is everything OK? I used up my phone privileges to try and call him, but all I got was some kid saying he was gone. What does that mean, gone? Is he dust? And if he is, why
the fuckdidn’t anybody tell me?
Sorry. It’s just…all I have in here is time to think, and ever since the brat hung up on me, all I’ve been thinking about is something happening to Angel. I know I don’t have any rights to ask a favor from you, but if you could let me know that everything’s OK with him, that would make me feel a hell of a lot better. Thanks.
He read it through three times before setting it down. The world had constricted around him with the weight of three single words.
Sitting heavily in the corner of his couch, Wes stared at the wall, unseeing of its accoutrements as his mind began dredging up dark memories that had been both recently and long interred. The sticky scent of his own blood mingled with that of antiseptic, two sets of dark eyes gazing at him in anger, each condemning him for actions he’d believed in with all his heart at the time he’d committed them. Failure was not a finger post on the road to achievement. Failure was a hospital room and the backs of those he considered allies. It was a lesson he should have learned long before coming to the States.
He didn’t know how long he sat there, but the night was cool on the other side of his window by the time he rose again. It was pointless to go to the hotel; even if the others chose not to slam the door in his face, Wesley had no doubt they would be as close-mouthed with him as they had been with Faith. He and Faith were the outsiders once again. As he picked up the phone, he wondered why it was he didn’t find more comfort at that realization than he did.
The warmth of Fred’s greeting distinctly cooled when she heard his voice, but Wesley took it as a good sign when she didn’t hang up right away. “How are things?” he asked, keeping his tone casual.
She hesitated. “Fine.”
He disregarded the clenching of his gut at her slight stumble. “And…Angel?”
Another pause, this time longer. “Why are you really calling, Wes?”
In spite of his hurt feelings, he couldn’t subdue a rueful smile. Leave it to Fred to cut to the heart of the matter. “I’d heard some… news,” he said. “About Angel. Apparently, he…hasn’t been seen recently?”
Wes rationalized that phrasing it as a question gave Fred the opportunity to either confirm or dismiss the claim without having to give details that made her uncomfortable. He wasn’t even entirely sure what he would do with the information once he had it. That part of his life was over. He had already turned his back to it. Until a certain letter arrived.
Her long, soft exhalation filled his ear. “He’s missing,” she confessed. “But we’re on it, me and Charles and Connor. We’re sure he’s not dead or anything like that. It’s just a matter of finding him, so whatever you heard, you just unheard it, OK? There’s nothing to worry about. Not that you would anyway.”
The last stung, far more than her distant tone, far more than the twinges that came when he forgot and cleared his throat. Bowing his head, Wes rubbed at his brow, trying to ward off the beginning of the headache that was starting to form behind his eyes. “Of course. I understand.”
He disconnected without waiting for the feeble explanations she didn’t really mean anyway.
The knock that came just after midnight could only have been Lilah, but Wes ignored her insistent raps in favor of the half-empty whiskey bottle that sat in front of him. He wasn’t in the mood for her lectures or her gleeful reminders that he had nobody but her any more. Even when his phone started ringing, Wes simply picked up a book and started reading. Escape. That’s what he needed. And he had all the best tools for them already at his disposal.
By the time the sun rose, the bottle was empty, the book done, and Wesley’s choice made. In the end, it had been startlingly clear what he had to do, and the fact that he had to deliberate for nearly twenty-four hours seemed almost ludicrous in the pale light of day. Perhaps that was his greatest problem, he mused as he strapped his helmet on. There was too much thinking in his life. There wasn’t nearly enough doing.
The room they left him in made Wes feel like a monkey in a cage, the safety glass dividing the prisoners from their visitors so thick that there was the faintest of distortions when one peered through it. He took the seat indicated, folding his hands in his lap while he waited, and watched the clock on the wall tick by the seconds, one gone, then another, and another, until seconds piled into minutes and his back began to hurt. The notion of rising and stretching flitted across his mind, but Wesley dismissed it. Patience. She would come. Neither of them had anywhere else to go.
It was exactly seven minutes and thirty-three seconds before the door on the opposite side of the glass opened. Faith came walking in, all piss and vinegar, but when her gaze met his, some of the swagger in her stride disappeared. There was a moment where two and a half years hadn’t transpired since they’d last seen each other, where he was watching the broken young girl sobbing in Angel’s arms and feeling the rain glue his bloody shirt to his back, and Wes had to brace against the urge to flee. He could still taste the bile that had risen in the back of his throat when he realized Angel had forgiven her without pause for her actions. He could still feel the hurt that accompanied him to sleep long after she’d been locked behind bars. He should not have come. Nothing would ever change.
But then she was walking forward, sitting in the chair opposite him, picking up the phone as she waited for him to do the same. Without taking his steady gaze from hers, he reached for the receiver, shocked that his hand wasn’t trembling.
Amusement was absent from the smile that curved her full mouth. “You look like shit, Wes. Are we slacking on the beauty sleep?”
He fought the urge to reach up and rub at his stubble. It hadn’t even occurred to him to shave. “Some of us still have jobs to do,” he said, his voice low and even. “How are you?”
“Oh, you know.” She shrugged, leaning back in her chair as far as the twisted cord would allow. It forced the drab prison uniform to pull across her breasts, and Wes wondered if she did it deliberately to divert his attention. “Can’t complain or they toss your ass into the hole. I’d ask how you’re doing, but from the look of that wicked scar on your neck, I think I already know the answer to that.”
“Like I said. Some of us have jobs to do.”
He waited for her flip response, but nothing came. She simply regarded him with eyes that were still older than her years. Her time in jail had only confirmed certain life truths for her, obviously. If there had ever been any hope for Faith Lehane to regain a measure of her innocence, it was long gone.
When the silence stretched, Wes leaned forward. “Aren’t you curious why I’m here?” he asked.
“I figure you’ll get around to telling me soon enough,” she replied. “You never could keep your mouth shut.”
His gaze bored into her, unrelenting, unforgiving. “Neither could you.”
It was Faith’s turn to lean forward. “Is this why you’re here then? Because you got my letter and decided it was time to give me the smackdown you think I deserve?” She began to rise. “I don’t have time for this shit. If you want---.”
She froze with her ass barely off her seat, then sat back down again, her eyes locked to his face. “What?”
For the first time since his arrival, he saw a glimpse of the same young woman who had turned herself into the police. No masks, no pretense. It might have been enough to give a less cynical man hope.
“He’s gone missing,” Wes repeated. “As far as anyone knows, he’s not dead, but nobody has been able to locate him in…quite some time.”
“Well, why the hell not? Jesus, what’s the point of having so-called friends if they don’t fucking move heaven and earth to help when something goes wrong?”
It was a question he had debated more than once over the past few weeks, but now was not the time to enter a philosophical discussion with a Slayer of questionable moral fiber. “I only became aware of it myself when I received your letter,” he explained. At her questioning look, he added, “Suffice it to say, Angel and I have been…out of contact since my recent hospitalization. The others are searching for him, but thus far, they’ve had no success. That’s why I’m here.”
Her dark eyes were searching his, pinning him to his seat more effectively than any of her words. “I can’t tell you anything. I wouldn’t have written you otherwise.”
“I didn’t come for information. I came for your help.”
Silence. Neither of them moved.
“Did you hear me, Faith?”
“I heard you. You forget I don’t play well with others?”
The only indication that her simple query hit a nerve was a single blink. “For this, there are no others,” he said softly. “There’s only me.”
There was no silence this time, no hesitation.