It's supposed to be a little cooler today (*snorts*) so I'm going to actually venture into trying to get some laundry done. There's a Safeway run in my horizon today, too, but I'm going to save it for when I'm feeling hot and want the air conditioning of the store, lol. Beyond that, I have the next Beg chapter to finish (almost done!), more Mercy to stop eating my brain, and hopefully pepperlandgirl4 and I will be able to finish writing the bondage fantasy in our new book. Oh, and I just remembered I have to update LLGA. I've been bad and let nominations stack up again.
I'm going to respond to the comments from yesterday's Beg chapter after I take my shower this morning, but right now, I have 2000 more words of Mercy to put up. I don't see these as individual chapters, but I'm too impatient to wait until the whole thing is done, lol.
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 NOTE: Again, unbeta'd except for a readthrough by pepperlandgirl4. So...indulgent of me. :)
Continues from here.
From behind her desk, Lilah stared at him as if he’d grown a second head. Or a third one. Wes wasn’t sure what kind of creatures she might be accustomed to seeing in her work. “Are you kidding me?” she asked. “She’s in for murder two, twenty-five to life, and she’s only served two years of that. I can’t get her out now, even if I wanted to.”
“You can. I know you can.” He maintained his composure, though it was eating at his gut to be sitting in her office in the first place. Ever since that first day she’d come to him, in spite of her repeated offers and innuendos, Wesley had kept Lilah and Wolfram & Hart separate in his mind. It made fucking her simple and infinitely more pleasurable. The second reality began to intrude, he lost all interest in continuing.
“She’s been a model prisoner ever since she was incarcerated,” he went on. “Her reviews have all been exemplary, and her previous work history for Wolfram & Hart should add weight to her reintegration into society. I’m certain you can find some way to spin that in a positive light, Lilah. That is, after all, what you excel at. Or have all your claims to me merely been lipservice?”
Her eyes glittered as she regarded him, so calculated and cunning that Wes wondered how she honestly expected him to ever trust her. Even in the luxury of her office, she seemed ready to coil and strike, waiting for the single blow that would take him down, paralyze him for the kill. “Getting Faith out of prison so soon into her term would require a major manipulation of the system,” she said. “She couldn’t get out through normal parole procedures.”
“So find a loophole.”
“Loopholes have a price.”
His mouth curved into a mirthless smile. “And you think I can’t fulfill whatever pound of flesh it is you require?”
Lilah’s answering smile was just as cold. “Oh, I know you can. I just doubt you will”
There was a time when he would have agreed with her without reservation. Then again, there was a time when the world had an order in which he had a place.
Gently, Wes pushed Faith’s file back across the desk toward Lilah. “I wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t prepared to negotiate for her release. I’m sure we can find some arrangement that is…mutually beneficial.”
When she picked up the file, the glimpse of her deep red-tipped nails reminded him of their last encounter, when those same nails had been digging into her palms as he pinned her wrists over her head and pounded into her. He often did that, focused on extraneous details when they were together. Her long, elegant hands. The hard-edged lace of her bra where it scraped across his chest. It was not his usual style when it came to lovemaking, but then again, the time he and Lilah shared could hardly be labeled as such.
“I’m sure we can,” she said. The forced nonchalance in her voice could barely hide her excitement; Wesley was almost disappointed at how transparent she’d become. “But I’d be careful offering a pound of flesh. Wolfram and Hart tends to take those offers quite literally.”
“I never believed it was my flesh they were interested in.”
Something dark passed behind her eyes, dampening the momentary thrill he felt at finding a solution for Faith. “No,” Lilah agreed. “It never was.”
It was another pale morning that found him outside the prison walls, watching yet another door for Faith’s exodus. The wheels of justice could be greased by remarkable things, he had discovered, and though he was a man with little left to lose, the negotiations had continued much longer than either he or Lilah had expected. There were moments where he questioned exactly why he was bothering. This was about Faith, who had tried to kill him, and Angel, who might as well have. Both had made their opinions about his position in their lives clear, so why was he going to such lengths to save them?
The answer that always came back was simple.
Because he owed it to them. For failing to believe in them when they most needed it.
When she walked out, the sun was creeping higher, forcing Faith to cup her hand over her eyes to block it out as she scanned the street. A worn backpack was slung over her shoulder, its sag testimony to how little it contained, and she was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that hung off her slim frame. She had lost weight while in prison, he realized. Hardly unexpected, but it panged him to think he hadn’t noticed the day before.
She didn’t falter when she spotted him, instead dropping her hand from her eyes to approach where he straddled his bike. “They said I’m free to go.”
“Because you are.”
“I wanna know what strings you pulled to make that happen?”
Faith nodded. “Thought so.”
She took the pink helmet he handed to her with only a quirked eyebrow. Strapping his back on, Wesley waited for her weight to settle behind him on the motorcycle, her hands deceptively light where she rested them on his hips. The fact that he didn’t even flinch at her touch left him feeling more than a little smug, and he pulled away from the towering walls of the prison with a countering squeal from his tires. Neither of them ever looked back.
He told her the story over bacon double cheeseburgers and chili fries – her choice – from a local burger place he had never frequented before. It was both simpler and harder than Wes had predicted. Simple, because the facts were clear, concise, so freshly etched in his memory that it was like plucking ripe apples from low-hanging branches. Perhaps the fact that he had yet to tell the story out loud made it simple as well. He doubted he would ever be certain.
What made it hard was the fact that she never said a word. Never stopped watching him as he paced around his small living room. Never told him to sit down and eat his food before the fat congealed on the bacon and the fries went limp and soggy. She listened without interruption, as he had asked her to do prior to starting. Even when he finished, telling her of his call to Fred, Faith didn’t do anything more than crumple her greasy napkin into a ball and toss it onto the table.
“You don’t seem surprised,” Wes commented.
“By which part? That Angel has a kid? Or that Wolfram and fucking Hart brought back a vampire from the dead who gave birth to it?” Faith shrugged. “You’re looking at the girl who switched bodies with the bottle-blonde who put her in a coma to stop a man’s ascension to pure demon. It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than an unholy conception to shock me.”
She leaned back into the couch, propping her feet up on the coffee table and the books he’d left resting there. When Wesley pointedly looked at them, she grinned and lifted her legs, waiting until he’d moved the books out of her way.
“About my get out of jail free card…” Her tone had grown somber, eyes dark. “They say I’ve got to tote you around like some kind of Watcher ankle bracelet?”
He frowned. “I don’t believe so. Why?”
“I’m just wondering if I’m stuck here or if you’re going to kick me out to fend for myself. Get rid of me while the getting is good.”
In all honesty, he hadn’t thought that far ahead. He had been so wrapped up in securing her release that the reality of what he would do with Faith once he had her had escaped his attention. All he had thought was Faith will fight for Angel. Faith won’t give up. To find a vampire, all I need is a Vampire Slayer.
The knowing look in her eye told him what she believed his choice to be. He stifled the small surge of satisfaction at proving her wrong.
“You’re a free woman, Faith,” he said quietly. “You could choose to tell me to go to hell, and I couldn’t stop you. Of course, I would prefer that…we’re able to put aside our differences for this common goal. Help me find Angel, and you’re welcome to stay here, free of charge, for as long as that takes.”
Her gaze flickered to the two doors off the living room. Before she could comment, Wesley intervened to answer her unspoken question.
“The bed is yours. I’m more than accustomed to the couch anyway. I don’t sleep very much these days.”
“Then I guess that makes two of us.” She grinned. “All the more time for us to find Angel then, right?”
It was impossible not to return her smile; his decision might not have been such a foolhardy one after all. “Right.”
They moved around each other in the small space of his flat with the awkwardness of strangers, coming up short when it appeared they would collide, skirting wider than necessary to avoid conflicting paths. Wes solved the problem temporarily by staying on the couch, drawing up a list of all Angel’s known enemies and how Faith could find them. It took longer than he anticipated to do. Noises from the kitchen behind him – cupboards opening and closing, water running, the occasional snicker – kept distracting him. This had always been his sanctuary when the hotel grew too loud for concentrating. Not even the advent of Lilah had changed his soothing rhythms. He had not allowed that to happen.
But now there was Faith. Making noise. Getting in his way. Moving at the periphery of his vision so that he was constantly turning his head to see what had caught his eye. Perhaps it had been a mistake to allow her to stay, he reasoned. He would be far more productive without her disruptive presence. Especially when she suddenly appeared at his shoulder, leaning over the back of the couch to look at the notepad on his lap.
“This our ten most wanted?” she said.
Her warm breath fanned down his neck. “This is where we start, yes,” he confirmed.
“Who’s this?” Her finger jabbed at the pad, at a name two-thirds of the way down.
Wes swallowed against his suddenly dry throat. “Nathan Blim. A Congressman. Angel was…involved in his nephew’s death.”
“Angel’s pissing off politicians now? He’s moving up in the world.”
“It was an unfortunate side effect to resolving a difficult situation.”
“And this one?”
He stood up before her finger could point to another one, his shoulder knocking into Faith before he could step out of her reach. “We don’t have time to diagram of Angel’s enemies, Faith,” he said. “We’ll address each as the case arises. The sooner we get out on the streets and start looking, the more likely we’ll get satisfactory results.”
She had straightened, her hands stuck into her back pockets as she regarded him with hooded eyes. Shades of the angry young woman he had known simmered beneath her skin, but she remained still, unmoving, even as she spoke.
“You don’t want to let me in, that’s your business. But you’re the one who asked me to play for your team. All I did was ask a few questions, because, hey, kind of been out of the loop the past couple of years. So if you don’t like the way I work, let me know now and I’ll get out of your hair. I’ve got no problems flying solo.”
He had to stifle the urge to allow her to go. She had a point. Several, actually. As much as he would have liked to take the high ground and let her go her way, he had gained her freedom for a reason, not to mention a hefty price.
He needed her. He was only beginning to realize how much.
Without a word, he held out the notepad. Faith looked at him, head cocked, like a curious bird fearful of an offering, before closing the distance to take it from his hand. Wesley took a deep breath as she shifted her attention to his careful notes.
“Just tell me which names are unfamiliar to you.” His voice was soft. “We’ll start there.”