image of women sitting in armchair writing

Bar Room Blitz

It’s a pilgrimage of sorts. Old haunts her mother used to hang around. Seedy bars with low lighting, tucked away in alleyways, where time dwindles away into nothing until you emerge, blinking, surprised to be greeted by rude daylight. The type of bars where the bum sitting in the doorway gets adopted as a mascot of sorts by the regulars.

Not the kind of bar where women are welcome, unless they’re strippers or hookers. Her mother tried her hand at both during her illustrious career. Guess fallen women run in the family. Either way, Faith is back in Boston, here to reclaim her history.

She takes a long, final drag on her cigarette before grinding the filter into the dull blue ashtray bolted to the bar top. She glances towards the doorway as two wrecked old men stagger down the steps. They greet the bartender loudly and order two shots of whiskey, shoving wrinkled, greasy notes towards him. Faith averts her gaze before the drunks notice her looking at them. They could make trouble and she really doesn't want to get her hands dirty - those two look like they haven't had a bath in weeks.

Instead she focuses on the flickering Budweiser sign, weakly proclaiming to be the King of Beers, while she waits for her not-quite friend to return from the bathroom. The walls are black and she isn’t sure whether they were painted that way, or whether it’s layers and years of filthy grime.

The staccato click of high heels on the linoleum floor brings Faith back to herself, and she looks up to see Cordelia with a frown of distaste on her angular features. “That restroom makes that last place we went to look like a palace. My hands feel dirtier now after I’ve washed them,” the girl complains, wiping her palms quickly on her skirt. Four months after waking from her mystical-mojo coma and Cordelia's still goddamn stick thin and pale.

Faith just gives a half-smile and pushes a bottle of something lurid and orange -- some alcoholic beverage of unknown origin -- towards Cordelia. "Just be glad this place has a ladies. I’ve been in worse dives."

"The state penitentiary for one."

"You aren’t ever gonna let me forget that, are you?"

"What I’m here for."

With a small laugh, Faith shakes her head and reaches for the bottle of Bud in front of her. The label’s half peeled off and Faith’s restless fingers return to the task of scraping at the dried adhesive.

"You know that’s a sure sign of sexual frustration?"

Faith’s fingers still and she stares at Cordelia steadily. Turns a little on her stool, leaning towards the other girl, and places her warm hand on Cordelia’s considerably warmer thigh, just above the bony knee. "And, of course, coma-girl, you’d know all the symptoms."

She feels a tiny electrical jolt as Cordelia smiles back, shark-like, her own hand coming to rest over Faith’s, those long, slim fingers smooth against Faith’s rougher skin. And it’s all too brief because Cordelia shoves Faith’s hand off her with more force than Faith would’ve credited her with. Angel had been training her alright and all those months unconscious haven't taken the shine off.

"I know that just about anything looks good when you’re desperate," Cordelia says with a hard edge to her voice.

Faith withdraws, takes a slug of beer and eyes Cordelia. "But you’d never stoop to the likes of me, right? I read you loud and clear, Queen C."

"Please. Spare me the misplaced hurt. I was comatose, not an amnesiac so I haven't forgotten you ramming your elbow into my face."

Faith grimaces and tries not to think about Cordelia unconscious and Wesley whimpering like a little girl. Makes her sick sometimes because she can still smell his fear, and the metallic odour of his blood on her hands. She doesn’t like to think about what would’ve happened if Angel hadn’t shown up. It was a miracle Wes didn’t press charges but she knows that’s more to do with acquiescing to Angel’s wishes than saving her ass. Not that that made much difference, considering a double homicide put her away on a nice long stretch. She'd probably still be there now if it wasn't for Wesley putting aside their differences and helping her break out. Seems he grew a pair while she was inside. Since then she's been keeping a low profile, being an escaped convict at large and all. So far she's doing more good outside than behind bars. Like averting the Apocalypse, that had to be a worth something.

Under Cordelia’s even hazel stare, Faith is guilt-tripped into silence. Cordelia’s so damn good at that. So Faith finishes her beer and signals the bartender for another.

Cordelia sighs and lifts her shoulderbag. "Look, if you’re gonna drink yourself into oblivion, be my guest, but I’m not sticking around to watch. I’ll be at the hotel. I have a few leads I want to check out."

"I’m not so sure this whole thing is such a good idea," Faith mutters quietly as Cordelia slides off the ripped vinyl-covered stool. It’s partly her voicing her doubts, partly not wanting the other girl to leave. "I mean, the guy hasn't seen me since I was born."

"Faith, I did not troop across the country just for you to get cold feet."

"No, you're here because you're in total fucking denial about Angel and whatever the fuck it was that went down with you two. It doesn't take the combined brains of Wolfram & Hart to see that."

If looks could flail someone alive then Cordelia would be doing a damn good job of it. But all Faith’s mind can register is that Cordelia has never looked hotter. Pouting lips, crossed arms accentuating cleavage, and the slight flush of anger creeping across once bronze skin.

Faith runs a hand through her messy hair. Almost as soon as it rose, the anger recedes, leaving her feeling suddenly foolish and exposed. "I’m sorry. I’m just, I dunno... Friends, okay?"

Cordelia’s stony expression doesn’t change. "A friend doesn’t stare at my chest when I’m talking. A friend doesn’t make half-assed passes at me at every opportunity."

"Like you don’t enjoy the attention. Tell me you don’t get a kick out of it."

Faith isn’t really sure why she’s saying this, except maybe to push buttons. Seems to work too, as Cordelia drops her bag onto the bartop but doesn’t retake her stool.

"There's such a thing as respecting personal boundaries."

"Uh-huh. And the reason you spent most of last night ogling my rack was because you were respecting my personal boundaries."

Pleased with herself, Faith swigs from her bottle while Cordelia places a hand imperiously on her hip.

"I was not ogling. Your breasts were kind of impossible to miss, given that they were only covered by two obscenely tiny triangles of cotton-polyester blend. And, for the record, I’m never going to a club with you again. I can’t believe we got thrown out. What if they'd called the cops?"

Faith shrugs. "That guy was a creep. He got what was coming to him."

"Oh, so it’s okay for you to objectify me but not someone else? Somehow I don’t think that’s what feminism is about."

"Don’t sweat it. You’re entirely 100% uninterested and, besides, you mack on the broody undead. I get it. Actually, I don't but then I guess that's one thing you and Buffy have in common."

There’s a long moment of silence as Faith pretends not to notice Cordelia looking at her. She trains her gaze on the Budweiser sign again, listening to the buzz of the faulty light.

An audible sigh. "Look, for what it’s worth... okay, I think you’re cute and certainly doable and if there wasn’t all this bad history then, who knows?"

With forced nonchalance, Faith turns to the other girl. "So what you’re saying is: I’d be a pity fuck." She pauses, a sneer curling her lips. "And cute? What the fuck?"

"Oh please," Cordelia says, folding her arms. "Can we change the poor-me routine? It's getting old fast." She picks up her bag, slinging it over her shoulder in annoyance. "If I was ever - emphasis on the 'ever' - going to have sex with you it wouldn't be because I feel sorry for you. God, sometimes I wonder who you think I am."

Something - that last whisper-thin tendril of self-respect or perhaps sobriety - in Faith snaps. "I know what you think of me." She doesn't wait to be prompted and the beer bottle label is shredded to nothing. "Trash."

"Fine, yes," Cordelia replies flatly. "Faith equals trash. Happy now?"

"Fuck you," Faith bites off, dark eyes glimmering with viciousness.

"This can't really just be about sex. So you have issues. Big whoop. Get over it. I really don't wanna deal with your social inadequecies and feelings of worthlessness Been there, done that, got the Angel limited edition T-shirt. I'm sorry you've had a hard life, I am. Maybe your dad won't see you but so what? You've got this far without him. And I know you're sorry for all your screw-ups even though you suck at apologising but now you just have to deal with it. Because you're so much sexier when you're sober and courageous and strong." Cordelia pauses for breath. "Whoo, that was way more than I meant to say."

Neither of them speaks for a full minute. There's just the sound of the buzzing light and the drunks arguing with each other about the latest ball game. The flush of alcohol is rapidly wearing off for Faith and she feels slightly out of her depth. She clears her throat hoarsely and fights the urge to grab Cordelia. Instead she pushes the bottle of Bud away and slides off the stool.

"Let's go check out those leads then."

Once outside in the street, Faith glances covertly at the other girl. "So..." She pauses to clear her throat. "You think I'm sexy?"

Cordelia rolls her eyes and begins to walk away. "Me and my big mouth."

The End