The turnout for Cordelia's funeral was surprisingly low. Seemed almost everyone who'd known her was too busy living their own lives to give more than a passing damn that Sunnydale's former May Queen and mistress of the bitchy one-liner was dead and gone. Everyone had sent their apologies and condolences of course but they were all conspicuous in their absence. As for relatives, Cordelia's parents never made it out of Sunnydale alive according to Wolfram & Hart's finest.
The crowd surrounding the coffin that night was sparse - Angel, Wes, Spike, Gunn, Fred, Lorne, and Harmony - looking like a missing scene from Reservoir Dogs in tailored black suits. So when Faith showed up unannounced, clad head to toe in black leather, they were pretty taken aback.
Faith wasn't entirely surprised by the total no-show of the Sunnydale contingent. After all, Cordy hadn't exactly inspired at lot of affection over there. For her part, Faith had a certain grudging respect for someone who'd inadvertently fucked up on a much grander scale than she had personally. Screwing Angel's son and giving birth to an evil deity responsible for mass murder? Didn't really look good on paper. Plus, she never did get an opportunity to apologise to Cordy for that black eye. So on this redemption kick, coming here seemed like the right thing to do, one more black mark that could be rubbed out.
The funeral was a sombre affair, although that Harmony chick sobbing behind a veil seemed somehow ironic. It was weird, thinking that Cordelia was dead, considering people around here had a habit of not staying that way. It seemed like some big cosmic joke. After all, back in high school Cordelia Chase had been the girl least likely to be canonised yet somehow she turned out to be the biggest martyr of all.
After the funeral, they'd convened in Angel's office, sharing a bottle of bourbon between them as they sat in silence. Nobody knew what to say, as if one word might shatter the fragile calm they'd maintained 'til this point.
Eventually Angel rose from the leather chair behind his desk and skulked towards the door. "Take tomorrow off," he said without looking back, his broad shoulders hunched.
When he left, there was a collective release of breath.
The others each awkwardly took their leave until there was only Fred and Faith in the office. They looked at each other and Faith raised her eyebrow. "You wanna get out of here? Go for a drink someplace?"
Fred looked like she was going to refuse then thought the better of it. She drained her glass. "Sure. I could do with getting hammered," she said, ignoring Faith's raised eyebrow.
They ended up in a nearby bar favoured by the suits at Wolfram & Hart. It was too Ally McBeal-ish for Faith's tastes but mercifully there was no sign of Vonda Shepherd. Taking an empty booth, they ordered tequila shots and a couple of beer chasers.
"I'm surprised you came," Fred said immediately after knocking back the tequila. She made a face as the alcohol burned down her throat and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "She was never exactly complimentary about you."
Faith downed her shot. "She was direct, y'know? I appreciate that now, even if I didn't at the time." She reached for her beer and took a swill. "Plus, although I hate to admit it, she was right."
At that, Fred smiled and her eyes clouded for a moment. "I got so used to her not being around. I mean, I knew she was there, but not and now - I feel terrible about not visiting more. At first I went to the hospital every day, brought flowers, played her favourite music, and then I sort of got preoccupied with work and I -- "
Fred stopped, rubbing at her brow, fingers trembling slightly with emotion. "I should've been there more."
"At least she knew people cared," Faith said with a twinge of bitterness. It was more than anyone had done for her. Aside from the Mayor nobody gave a shit whether she lived or died. On Fred's quizzical look, Faith just shook her head. "Never mind. Long story. Besides, no matter how much Queen C wanted to be adored, I'll bet she never wanted you guys to put the good fight on hold."
"Queen C?" Fred echoed, and Faith noticed that the Texan really was pretty damn hot for a brainiac. The black suit clung snugly to her rake-thin body and with her hair up she looked less like a librarian. Seemed Faith wasn't the only one to think so, judging by the looks Wes kept sending Fred's way. The sensible part of Faith, the part that was only interested in seeking a quiet life, told her to take a wide berth but the other part couldn't resist the challenge. It was difficult to say which side was winning.
"Old nickname," Faith supplied and drank more beer. "She was one wicked stuck-up rich bitch cheerleader back in the day."
"Right. The kind of girl who bullied me in high school," Fred said with a tense smile. She reached for her bottle and began picking at the adhesive label. "I always felt like such a freak beside girls like that. Still do, I guess."
The hell? "No way." Faith realised her incredulity gave away a lot more than she'’d intended so she back-tracked. "I mean, don't be hard on yourself."
Fred looked at her, a dark blush creeping up her neck, then dropped her gaze, staring at the bottle in her hands. Willow said Fred had this repressed lebso thing going on, and Faith didn't think Willow was wrong from what she'd seen.
Faith guessed girls like Cordelia, with her impenetrable glamour and glossy indifference, must've seemed pretty untouchable to girls like Fred. That was half the attraction for Faith. Because, yeah, even at her most psycho when she'd considered abducting Cordelia instead of Wes, Faith had appreciated the sheer hotness of the girl. The bruise she'd given Cordy was the only way Faith could ever have made her mark on her.
Faith watched Fred closely, the tiny creases and flexes of movement on her face. "You were into her," she said after a minute.
Fred glanced up sharply, eyes wide and startled. "What?" The look on her face - like she'd been slapped.
"Cordy." Faith cleared her throat. "Trust me, I know the unrequited thing."
Then that expression fell, replaced with something bleak, Fred's dark eyes draining of warmth until the pupils seemed to become just black discs shimmering on the surface. "There was Angel, the romantic hero, and Wesley and Gunn were her protective big brothers and I was just... strange and incomprehensible. I wanted her to look at me, just once, and really see me."
Peering inside the mouth of the beer bottle in front of her, Faith deliberately avoided Fred's stare. "You felt invisible. I get that."
There were a few minutes during which nothing was said. They both drank more and tried to pretend that the silence wasn't painful. Faith watched the other people in the bar, knowing they were observing her, out of place as she was in leather amongst the suits. Fred was big news in W&H and the mere fact she was out socialising with a Slayer (and the one with the truly badass reputation at that), well, it would pretty much fuel the office gossip for weeks.
So engrossed was she in pretending to be blasé, Faith almost jumped out of her skin when she felt the tentative brush of fingers on her hand.
"I got over it eventually," Fred said with a slight smile curving her lips. "I pushed those feelings so far down until they felt platonic, rationalised them into a series of hormonal and electrical impulses and threw myself at the nearest studly man."
Faith smirked. "I'd have thrown myself at Lilah Morgan." She paused and, tilting her head, pretended to ponder that. "Wait – been there, done that."
"Ew," Fred said, making a face. "Has everyone in LA been with that woman?"
"Close, but no cigar, actually," Faith said solemnly, then cracked a grin.
Fred relaxed a little and moved her fingers gently over the back of Faith's hand. That slight touch was making Faith's stomach coil into a knot and she briefly wondered who was seducing who here. It was beginning to make her antsy, the number of faces turned their way. On some occasions she liked an audience, but this wasn't one of them. Plus, their drinks were nearly finished.
"How about we leave? I'm getting sick of the corporate minions watching our every move," Faith suggested, taking a chance that Fred wouldn't suddenly get cold feet.
The scientist gave a coy smile. "We could go back to my place."
They left and hailed a cab and within twenty minutes they were inside Fred's swish apartment. Faith had expected it to be as sterile as a research lab but there were lots of little feminine flourishes - throw cushions, flowers, framed photographs of family and friends in pretty frames. There were also whole stacks of National Geographic and New Scientist lying around and - Faith struggled to hide her amusement - Sci-Fi magazines. Not to mention a killer DVD collection. As for the Dixie Chicks CDs - Faith put that down to spending five years as a slave in a demon dimension.
Fred pointed her guest towards the kitchen. "There's some beer in the fridge. I'm gonna change."
Returning with the beers, Faith plopped herself down on the couch. Minutes later Fred joined her, letting out a weary sigh. It'd been an extremely long day and the tiredness was evident by the dark circles under Fred's eyes. Still, she looked cute in navy sweat pants and turquoise baby T.
Faith handed Fred a bottle. "Nice place."
"Thanks. Law firms apparently pay disgustingly well."
"You think Angel would offer me a job?"
"In a heartbeat. Or technically not." Fred waved her hand. "You know what I mean." She gave Faith a curious stare. "Are you serious?"
Faith shrugged, leather jacket creaking as she did so. "Maybe it's time I put down some roots. There's hundreds of girls out there now to pick up the slack, y'know?"
"Maybe you could stick around out for a while. See how it works out," Fred said, brown eyes intent on the Slayer on her couch. She smiled. "I could get used to having another girl around the place. One who isn't in the ranks of the undead and/or evil."
"Hmm. Could still be touch and go for me," Faith said, her voice velvety and low. She wanted to get past flirtation, much as she was getting a kick out of it. "What do you think?"
Leaning forward, Faith put her bottle on the glass coffee table then sat back, one arm slung along the back of the couch, her fingers reaching to stroke the wisps of hair at the top of Fred's spine. She felt the shiver that went through the other woman and smiled.
"I think I'd like to find out," Fred said in a breathy Texan whisper, with cheeks and eyes and lips that exuded warmth.
Faith took the bottle from Fred's loose grip and then they were kissing - heated, open-mouthed kisses that ate up long minutes. Pulling Fred onto her lap, Faith sank fingers into the scientist's hair, tugging out the pins that held it neatly in place, allowing sections to fall around delicate shoulders as Fred sucked on her tongue.
Restless, Faith's hands moved to Fred's almost non-existent breasts, pushing up the fabric of the t-shirt. She covered the flesh with her hands, feeling an answering pull in her groin at the stiff nipples poking into her palms. Fred had an iron grip on Faith's shoulders, squeezing encouragingly as Faith rubbed and stroked the sensitive skin.
This was what Fred had really wanted from Cordelia - what Cordelia could never have given her. Faith knew that she was a substitute. If that knowledge made her that little bit rougher, Fred gave no complaint. When Faith pinched the other woman's nipples hard, Fred just groaned against her mouth, sharp hips pressing meaningfully against Faith's thighs.
They continued kissing. Faith's hand snaked between their tightly pressed bodies, skimming down the front of Fred's sweatpants, delving under the waistband, and stroking the cotton underwear beneath.
Fred drew back, cupping Faith's cheeks in her hands - a gesture that was a hell of a lot more intimate than Faith was used to. Brown eyes searched her own for a moment.
"Is this a mercy fuck?" Fred asked softly. That word sounded all the more obscene coming from her lips. Sweet girls from Texas weren't supposed to talk like that. It only served to further fuel Faith's desire. She wondered if Fred was the type to talk dirty, to tell you what she wanted.
"So what if it is? We could both do with getting laid." Faith tried to make her voice as casual as possible but there was something more riding on this, something that her nonchalance belied. She was bored, lonely and aimless and the woman in her lap negated at least two of those, which was a better average than most people.
"Then I guess that'll have to be enough," Fred said in an equally veiled tone.
There was an invitation in Fred's eyes and if that seemed a little desperate, Faith didn'’t care. Because she felt the damp heat between Fred's legs and knew it was for herself not Cordelia. So when they kissed again, there was an underlying message of: yes, this'll do.
It would definitely do.