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Surviving Sunnydale Series

8. Coming Around Again

For a quiet do-gooder, Angel had an uncanny knack of making someone feel unwelcome. Maybe guilt was contagious or something but after a couple of days Faith found herself itching to escape from the room she was holed up in. Being cooped up all day, avoiding both Wes and Cordelia, was making her ever more antsy. It wasn't like there was anything to do except read Angel's books or stare at the walls and the latter only gave her time to brood, to replay her latest fuck-ups in glorious detail. And, well, she wasn't too keen on reading, being that big words were obstacles she preferred not to scale. Way to go to fuel those self-esteem issues. Yeah, she discovered all about them and other shit she hadn't really thought about when she'd done her time in prison. The mandatory group therapy only left her with more questions than answers and a deep frustration that she took out in the prison gym more often than not.

Guess it was all part of the less than peachy struggle that was being good. And what was 'good' anyway? Being kind to animals? Helping old ladies across the street? Being blonde and popular and chaste? Turning the other cheek? She remembered the kick she used to get when people were grateful for being saved from the freaks that roamed the streets after dark. It made her feel like she was worth something, like, for that one moment, there was no one else on earth who could do what she could do. Didn't matter if it wasn't true - she *believed* it. And, hell, she couldn't describe how good that felt because, when she slayed, she actually liked who she was. She could let go and become this force that was beyond the past and future consequences, that was just... it.

But she couldn't and didn’t want to control who she was when she became that Faith. The power of just losing it in a fight was like a drug and pretty soon she lost the plot completely. That whole period, working for the Mayor, scheming against and hating and wanting Buffy, it was as if she’d been outside herself, like watching a stranger living large with her life. The hard thing was being sorry about it. She was, mostly, but even with hindsight she didn't know if she would've played it differently. Because a pretty deep, dark part of her dug all that violence and mayhem. Not enough to want to recapture it, 'cause that's when the big ol' conscience and remorse kicked in, but still...

After two days of sweating it out in her room, Faith decided to exercise some of this responsibility she was supposed to be developing. Plus, she was almost certain that Angel was gonna bust her to the others soon, judging by the pointed looks he kept giving her. So, she dressed up real nice... actually, she didn't have any nice clothes and opted instead for clothes she knew that Cordelia liked. The ones her now ex-girlfriend had dumped in shabby cardboard boxes in Angel's lobby, much to the vampire's stony-faced dismay. Anyway, Faith chose an outfit that consisted almost entirely of leather because she knew it always turned... used to (gotta remember to think in past tense) turn C on.

On the way to Cordelia's apartment, she gave into the slushy impulse to buy flowers because, well, it seemed right. That’s what she was all about now, doing the right thing. Finally, she stood outside the door, heart in her mouth and knocked. She waited for a good couple of minutes, her nerve failing and was about to motor when she heard the latch unlocked. And then C was staring at her and the concentrated anger in her face just made Faith forget everything she wanted to say.

"Uh, hi," she said at last and thrust the flowers towards Cordelia. Damn, they looked so wilted and crappy now. Why hadn't she noticed that before? Probably 'cause she didn't spend a whole lot of time in florist's shops. "These are for you," she added awkwardly, glancing around the hallway.

Cordelia didn't accept the cheap bouquet, just continued to stare in that wicked uncomfortable way. "Is this some sick idea of a joke?" The actress said, the slight break in her voice completely at odds with the harsh glint in her eyes. She looked liked she'd been crying recently, judging by the puffy, darkish circles under her eyes.

"I'm sorry."

"You know, you keep saying that and I want to believe it. The thing is, I just don't anymore. I mean, what's the point?" Cordelia's eyes were leaking now and she furiously tried to keep the tears back, fixating on a spot on the ceiling and glaring at it. "Every time things get a little bit tough, you just walk out." Her stare switched back to the slayer. "Three days, Faith, and you never even called. Are you even gonna bother coming back next time?"

Faith shook her head. "There isn't gonna be a next time, I swear to God. I'm back for good..." she looked at C uncertainly with wide, childish eyes. "If you'll have me."

The actress didn't budge. "I want an explanation. Then, I'll think about it."

Pushing the door open, she let Faith into the apartment. The place was a mess. Well… for Cordelia. Four days ago it'd been spick, if not entirely span and at least the carpet was largely visible. Now, dirty plates were clustered on the floor, empty take-out boxes lay in the corner, and unwashed laundry was draped over the furniture. Faith moved a few pieces of days-old underwear off the couch to sit down. Looked like Dennis had been shirking his housemaid duties this week. She thought about saying that out loud, to lighten the mood some but C looked so tightly wound that a little injection of Faith humour probably wouldn't go down so well.

Cordelia just looked at her expectantly. Damn, here goes... "Okay, I guess it has to do with my shitty childhood. My parents were assholes." Faith paused to glance at the other girl, all pursed lips and folded arms on the other side of the room. "My dad used to beat my mom all shades off black and blue. I mean, he wasn't all that strong or anything - he was this skinny-ass guy with girl's hips and if I'd known about bein' a slayer back then, I coulda broken him in two." Faith allowed herself a little smirk at that mental image and the imagined look of enraged shock on his gaunt, bony face.

She stared at an empty point in space, watching the dust motes, the smirk fading. "She just took it, every day for as far back as I can remember. And in her own sick-fuck way she still loved him." The slayer shrugged. "When he left, she went crazy. She stayed in all day, with the curtains drawn, drinkin' until she passed out. ‘Bout the time I started junior high, she started taking tranquillisers. Pretty soon she moved onto crack, heroine; real heavy shit. When her dealer moved into our place, I bailed."

Faith was so caught up in the past she didn’t even notice Cordelia move to sit beside her on the couch. "My watcher was more of a mother than the loser bitch real one. Sometime after I met her, my mom OD'd and her dealer got jail time."

"Oh, god, I'm so sorry," Cordelia said softly.

Faith looked at her seriously. "Don't be, I wasn't for the longest time. I can hardly even remember the good times now. My watcher was like the real deal for me, she didn't treat me like I was trash. Never could figure out why... But I was fucking useless when she needed me, I stood by and watched Kakistos rip her guts out right in front of me. I just... froze. Until the instincts kicked in and I ended up in Sunnydale."

She watched, trying to gauge C's reaction. Without a word, the actress put her arms around her, holding her close. Faith closed her eyes and let out a shaking breath. "Gotta tell ya. That phone call - it was my dad. He’s in LA."

Cordelia drew back slightly to look into the other girl’s eyes. "He wants to see you?"

"Yeah, family reunion. Can you believe that?" Faith said with irony but her eyes spoke volumes.

"Maybe he’s changed? I mean, maybe he wants to make amends," Cordelia offered hopefully before a frown settled on her features. "God, I’m really starting to sound like Angel."

Faith shook her head. "Nah, somethin’s going on. And the big evil lawyers are in on it."

Cordelia looked puzzled for a moment. "Oh, *the* evil lawyers, not lawyers in general. I get it," she said triumphantly before giving an inquisitive head tilt. "How do you know?"

"Uh, recon," Faith lied, nodding. "Had a run in, only minimal gore factor."

"Are you okay?" The slayer could see that Cordy’s questions weren’t going to be eluded that easily.

"I’ve seen better days, but, hey, no wicked painful ruptured organs this time." She reached out to move a few stray hairs away from Cordelia’s face. "I’m sorry for puttin’ you through all this. I just… I wasn’t ready to talk before." And it was Cordelia’s turn to look apologetic because somehow Faith had managed to shift the blame here. ‘Poor Faith, with her horrible family, if only I’d more understanding and less self-centred, if only I’d noticed the signs’ – that’s probably what C was thinking right now. Just for a moment, Faith felt like the guilt was lifted even though she had no right to feel that way. Cordelia had done nothing wrong, nothing at all, and here she was punishing herself for it and it was so tempting just to let her. "But, I don’t wanna it to be that way, y’know?"

The actress gave a faint smile, a brief upturn of her lips. On impulse, Faith leaned forward to kiss them but Cordelia dropped her chin. "No," she said quietly. After a tense silence, she looked up, meeting the other girl’s eyes once more. "Oh, who am I kidding?" Reaching out, she pulled Faith against her, kissing her firmly and for a while Faith could stop retracing the mistakes of the past few days in her head and just allow her senses to take over. Emboldened, she pulled C onto her lap, loving the weight of her, the satin softness of her bare arms, and the dark wavy hair that brushed against her knuckles. Jesus fucking God in Hell, she loved Cordelia Chase.

Ending the kiss slowly, Cordelia sat back and silently reached for the hem of her strappy top, pulling it up and over her head. Static clung to errant strands of hair. Faith just looked at her with her mouth gone dry and pupils dark and wide. Cordelia kissed her all too fleetingly, bringing her back to herself. Maybe the reason she fucked up so often was because she enjoyed the making up so much. Whatever it was that made her make a mess of things, she knew that the thing with Darla was absolutely, positively the last time. She’d pushed it too far already; there wouldn’t be any more second or third or fourth chances. No more getting drunk and sleeping around, no more Buffy fixation, no more taking C for granted. There was so much to atone for and unlike Angel she didn’t have eternity to balance it out. But right now, she was gonna start by showing Cordelia just how good a slayer could be. Oh yeah.

Continued in 'Unravel'