Well, yes I did. And then Faith arrived after being silent for several months and I did write.
Title: 150 Cigarettes Later
Author: Regala Electra
Pairing: Faith/Wesley (Mentions of: Faith/Wood, Willow/Fred, Willow/Kennedy)
Summary: You came back.
Spoilers: AtS "Home" and BtVS "Chosen"
Warnings: Sexual content, violence, language
Author's Notes: A billion years ago, I wrote the opening sentence of this story to MollyTM over AIM and said, "ooh, I want to write a Faith/Wes story!" And because MollyTM is my crack dealer, she was all "do it!" And I tried. And I didn't like it. And it stalled. For many months. And I tripped and danced over the fact that I never finished it and then something happened and I realized, "hey, I rather like this, I want to finish it." So, here it is: the story of Faith, cigarettes, post-saving the world from The First, and looking for answers she doesn't want to understand.
It's exactly one hundred and fifty cigarettes later when you see him again.
You didn't intend for that to be the way you kept time, but it happened and you still do. You had cut down to ten a week, not for any particular reason.
And ten seemed like a fitting number, something you didn't notice until you stopped yourself from lighting up and put away a cigarette on Thursday to save for Friday, the start of the next week, so that it wouldn't become eleven. Thursday's the last day of your week.
You like to think of being born on a Thursday.
It's not for the sentimental purposes, but because it would make sense. You left prison on a Thursday.
And in prison, left with only your thoughts (and you honestly didn't trap yourself in your mind, you once teetered and fell over the edge and insanity's scars never heal no matter how many times you try to ignore them), you had stumbled onto a battered book in the library. You remember the hard rush of pain, and you, an expert of pain, almost relished in it, but the steady hard thrum was ignored as you bent down to pick up that object, that cause of your clumsy pain.
"Mythology: A Collection," the battered, stained book cover so said, and you laughed, knowing that stories that had never really happened, gods that didn't exist and heroes who had never died, had nothing on your life. It didn't interest you, you've never been a reader and mythology's never been your strong point. You always had a thing for short stories and mysteries, though you'd never admit that to anyone else.
And there, stuck in a prison you sent yourself to for as long as needed (and you knew the answer was "forever"), you learned the days of the week. Sun and Moon days. But the other days, those were the days named after gods. And Thursday was Thor's day, the day of thunder.
You don't know why you decided that Thursday was the last day of the week for you, only that it had to be that.
And you're back in Los Angeles at exactly one hundred and fifty cigarettes later and it's a Thursday. And Wood left you two Thursdays ago and while you hate that he proved your counting system does work, you feel relieved too.
You were able to escape your obligations without a single scratch. And given your history, that's saying something.
He doesn't see you that Thursday though.
You intended to bump into him at the Hyperion on a Monday, because it's safer that way and then, there wouldn't be anything to expect other that a brief conversation that'll go nowhere.
You know you're a pessimist at heart, but you had left the good old Sunnydale gang (though they're no longer based in Sunnydale, as it's now California's most impressive crater) because they stopped asking for your help once you stopped being Faith-and-Wood and went back to plain old Faith.
On Wednesday, you try to contact anyone using every number you have. You even try Fred's cell phone number, even though you have suspicions she may be on her way for a 'friendly' visit to Arizona.
You had gotten the cell phone number from Willow, who knew the number right off the top of her head and while you know the witch is smart and much more powerful (and therefore dangerous, there, you admit it: you don't trust them, and you never will), the dark blush across Willow's face proved it wasn't just innocent knowledge.
And you had noticed that Kennedy's possessions were no longer in Willow's room and that you'd only seen Kennedy when Buffy called for a group meeting, as far away from Willow as possible.
But you're not a matchmaker and you're certainly not stable enough in the romance department to start shilling out advice.
You left all of them a week after Wood left you because you were phased out quickly, you've never been a part of *them.* A part of you, no, all of you, burned out on trying to laugh when they accused you of being too unstable and on trying to be appear distant so that they wouldn't notice that you really did want to be a part of the Scooby gang, even though the name's never appealed to you.
You call them, to ask if something's up, casual, light. One of the many Slayers, you know you'll have to learn the names someday, but today isn't that day, answers. They don't know the history, or if they do, it's the abridged version and all your bridge-burnings have left you outcast.
So you learn from a nervous voice, from a girl's body who you don't really remember, through a shitty connection, that they're set to leave for Europe and not a goddamn one of them bothered to call you to inform that latest fun fact.
You think of the last time you saw them and you hate them all a little, somewhere safe under the skin, buried deeper than any knife you've ever plunged into flesh. You hope it doesn't escape, but it's there, itching sharper than a craving for a cigarette.
Willow was the last one to talk to you and you didn't say a thing to Buffy before you left. It's easier to let her suspicions be freed, to have final conformation that you're the fuck up and she's the perfect one. You're not bitter about Buffy, it's not that, it's that you're tired of Buffy.
The last cigarette you smoked in front of her was stomped under your boot when she asked you not to do that in front of her because it brought up memories and god forbid she have to deal with memories. You'd have joked about her magical powers of repression and denial, but it wasn't the time for it and it turns out, it'll never be the time for it.
You're never going back.
And it looks like you're not staying here for too long either. You saw *him*, but you haven't been able to contact him. So you know that he's alive and you know that Angel has to be, and as for Angel's - something, you don't know, what were you thinking about?
You could have sworn that there was a boy, a face you don't remember, a memory of dislike and distrust.
A sword and smoke, not of cigarettes, but of burning nights, and you can't remember anymore.
You don't really care. It probably doesn't matter.
The next Thursday becomes an important day.
It's not Thursday when you speak to him. That's the day you quit cold turkey.
And on Friday, when you don't buy the cigarettes that you're jonesing for, you don't turn around fast enough to get the upper hand.
He says your name and you return the favor. He asks why you're in Los Angeles and you say it's for the weather. He looks up at the gray storm clouds, signaling the threat of rain, and looking weary, but somehow changed - lighter? different, new, everything changes: you can write the book on "You Can Never Go Home Again" but your story's never been about finding homes, it's been about escaping into prisons - says, "of course."
You've always been a sucker for sarcasm, but with him, it's not going to be that easy. You came back for answers and not for messy complications. And he's always going to be your messy complication.
You tell him nothing important, just that the Scooby gang's jetting off to play their herioc games and you don't ask about Angel, because you know that he's alright, but still, an image of a sword cuts in between your words and you forget what you were asking.
So he picks up the severed trail and asks, "You were saying, Faith?"
You have a thousand answers and not a single one to use, so you go for broke, you smile, viper-hard, casual and mocking, and ask him if he has anytime to talk to a friend.
He knows you're baiting, that you're stalling and he answers harshly, "I don't believe we're friends." And you're relieved, because whatever's clouding a memory you don't remember, it isn't blocking that he hates you and you never wanted to be loved, you wanted to be powerful. Only he isn't afraid of you and that's why you're here: for once, not out for destruction, but answers.
You know that he's got answers, tucked away safely, and you're jealous, more than anyone would ever understand, because you're empty, always left in the dark, a place you've learned to accept.
"I wanted to talk to you," and there, you said it, the big announcement and you've never been good at that sort of thing.
He doesn't frown, which you expected, and he doesn't instantly agree. He only says how he's busy, but he falters, stops, thinks. He is Wesley and you like this newer version, knowing that he's curious and you morbidly think of dead, curious cats and you had a kitten when you were six, but Mom didn't like animals and where did Kitty go?
And in that house, you weren't given a happy answer.
"My apartment, tonight," he decides, a wry twist to his mouth, "After work. And Faith? Do try not to destroy anything this time. I'm still paying off the bathroom damage."
You would have smiled at that, but he is gone before you can answer. You walk down the streets alone.
You don't look at anything with wonder. You see the dirt and the filth that bleeds out of alleyways and you never throw out stakes stained black-red until they splinter in your hand. Knives, those you take care of, making the glint of steel as bright as the first time you unsheathed your weapon. And you have the best-manicured hands next to B, which would surprise people if they cared to notice you beyond "oh her, she's the loose cannon."
Though you have to keep yourself from biting your nails, it's good to have all the blood and grime never physically there, even if it's always on your mind.
You hate a well-worn cliché but your lips are always shaded in various colors of purpled bruises, blackened glazes, and the drop-dead perfect hint of first drawn blood.
Something in you loves to play a role. That something in you is furious that Wood saw through your shit. That something won't let you pretend that he left because his Slayer issues were his fault and you were the victim.
Because you've never been the victim. The thought of it makes you laugh and you want to tell Wesley that he'll never understand you because he's always been the victim, no matter what game he's playing.
A part of you could almost believe that.
You'd kill for a cigarette and you know the consequences for it, so you're pretty fucking serious. You only reserve your jokes for the most ill opportune times. It's worse than black humor, it's death humor.
Your fingers itch and it aches, a gnawing under your skin and smoking was never your addiction, it was a friendly band-aid, a polite excuse.
Sex, cigarettes, and alcohol, you're becoming a bad rock cliché only you've never managed to actually be a part of band. Not like you can sing or play an instrument.
No, that's a lie, you can play an instrument and that's the problem. Knives and stakes, and anything else you can use in the middle of the fight is yours to play with and that's precisely why your hands are twitching for a cigarette and lighter.
Without sex or cigarettes, and with your interest in alcohol burning off with every bitter drop sliding down your throat, you hate knowing what's coming next and you know that you can't stop it.
You aren't sleeping and you wish it was killing you. You can hunt until the day breaks and you hate that it's still inside you, screaming for you to fight even when you know that you're not one of the few, but one of the many. The body and instincts haven't been informed that it's a new world now and you don't need to kill anymore.
You've never told anyone, but that's what breathes in you: the thrill of the hunt. You don't want to wait until another nightfall but you aren't about to stand Wesley up when you need answers and you have questions.
No, you only have one question.
You only wish you remember what the fuck it is.
So you knock on his door "after work" although eleven at night is later than he probably meant, but you had bars to visit and urges of patrolling to ignore.
He opens the door without checking (you didn't even hear him unlock, you wonder why that changed), and gestures you inside, his frown now real and disapproving.
"What, you brought nothing for your host?" and you're comforted by that flat sarcasm, there's a dead anger there that you don't understand. It shouldn't be there, but is.
You think of offering to pick up a pack of cigarettes or maybe some Tarot cards for the added drama, but you know he won't get the joke. And if he would get it, you don't think he'd be laughing.
You offer your empty palms, curious why you think that's important, but that's your instinct: empty hands, no weapons, a truce. You don't know if he thinks you're still dangerous. You hope that he doesn't. You actually hope.
And you know why: because in a few short days, everyone who almost made you believe they gave a shit about you is leaving and you hoped that it would all turn out to be better and it didn't.
Congratulations for saving the world, they should have said to you, now fuck off.
So you tell him that, in different words, because you remember slamming your hands into his bathroom stall and the pain warm and messy and natural. You tell him how you thought you fell in love (you have to stop there for longer than you meant originally, he doesn't believe you, and you don't really believe it either, but the dry words come out of your throat, you almost-loved) and that you're still the "evil" Slayer, the one that never turned out right, and you don't ask for pity or for him to say anything.
You ask him instead if he understands.
He should lie. He might be lying, lying when he sits back on his sofa and shuts his eyes, and again, a sword falls, but this time it is just a shadow, Wesley's lamp bulb is at the end of its life.
You don't get an answer, so you sit down next to him and stare at a wall and see nothing. It is dark outside, and for once, in these weeks, you don't crave anything, relishing the emptiness you've been running away from since before the attachment of "chosen one/slayer/destroyer" fitted nicely into the pain.
You chose Thursday as your day, as the last day of your week, because thunder doesn't last long, it burns and then it's gone, and it destroys, and only that. You were born with fatalism and you're still alive, that's the stubbornness, the thing that makes you scoff at irony - at being dumped by the son of a Slayer (he was supposed to the "safe" beginning, he should have understood what's underneath your skin) - and also of the other, dark pain. Of never being an accepted Slayer, the backup, Buffy's mistake created out of a drowning (you bring death by fire) that didn't take, and now, just Another One, the Bad One. The "Oooh, be a good girl, or you'll turn out JUST LIKE HER" example.
You wanted to be more than that once. And there, that's the question. You want to know why that's changed. You wanted to love someone, you wanted that ridiculous ending you never believed in, you wanted lies when you know they'll break - splintered stakes and unbreakable knives - stabbing into your too thin skin at the worst (and best) moment.
And he's the last one you tried to destroy by your hands, the one that survived, and you know that he's the only one would give you an honest answer. And for once, you deserve that.
Your tongue snakes out before your lips realize what you're planning, you've always spoken better by body than by voice or thoughts, things you get, concepts and ideas no so much.
And Wesley, his eyes open and stare at you, he was once opposite, he was the big brain, you hated him at first sight just for that, and he's changed too and his mouth is on your before you get to attack his and a part of you screams in fury. You wanted to draw first blood.
But that part gets to play too, because sex and violence are your turn ons, and Wesley's grabbing the back of your hair, and you give back harder than he attacks, you've never been one to fight defensively.
Too many nights you ignored the blood-scream, and you press your body against his and there's no shame, you must have been born without it, and you snap his head up a little too hard, just under his jaw and you expected pain? Why?
No matter, his eyes are open, fierce and blue, and you came back for this. You know that.
Somehow you're underneath him and you break away long enough to tell him what you'd like to do, what you want him to do to you, and you know your breath's stained heavy with alcohol, but his voice ragged, and coarse, you think he almost says "don't stop" but you can't be sure as you tighten legs around his waist and you *want.* Basic, hard, unrelenting, you want and you will not stop.
He tears away your shirt, your pants, every piece, but you've always just been a collection of Things, things that mean nothing and you only mean what you fuck and fuck what you mean and he slams into you and you take control, but you're not in control, because there's something you wanted more than anything else and you can't remember because you're screaming and your voice for once is saying something that matters and you wanted an answer, you know your question now and you -
Burst, broken, craving more another again fuck yes fuck me now, and then, you sink back into your body. You fall back and the couch catches you, and his body falls into yours and you let it, you wonder if death-by-crushing is your future. But you're strong, you're the one that keeps on going.
The goddamn Energizer bunny.
You don't wait for him and he doesn't wait for you. Instead he gets up and offers a hand and you say, "now it's time for all that polite bullshit?" and he asks you if you have a place to stay and you get caught up in the polite bullshit and don't laugh in his face.
He tells you that you can sleep there for tonight, but he doesn't say there's a limit and you know you're going to be gone by next Thursday. Because, as he climbs into his bed and you follow him, trying not to look surprised as he pulls a sheet over your body (it has to be a meaningless gesture, nothing more), you found your answer.
A craving doesn't hit you for another cigarette. It's better than quitting cold turkey, it's forgetting altogether that the nicotine itch that barely covered the darkness you still need to ignore. But you know more than you pretend to know.
As his arm snakes underneath your body, you relax into his grasp, but do not sleep. You remember how much money you have left and you stare at the ceiling and watch shadows shaped like knives and swords fall over your head. You're not craving a smoke, no post-sex urgings hit you as you listen to his breathing, and feel oddly calm, a rest you don't think you deserve.
And you know you won't see him again, until another one hundred and fifty cigarettes later.