Pricking The Scars
by glossolalia

Every morning he arrives in the same kitchen, wakes to pain and her laughter, finds himself tied to the chair. Every morning, all day long -- though day is a misnomer, it is always-already dark outside the window, just about to threaten rain -- she tortures him. All day, every day, because there is no rest for the wicked. Or the condemned.

When it starts to rain, as the clouds loosen and open but before the water hits the ground, his day is over. They will resume in twelve hours. He has healed, almost, by the next morning when she is laughing again and he is waking.

Sharp, loud, hot, blunt, and cold.

Like the rain, they never get to the cold. Like the cold, he has never healed fully. Rain, cold, ease: These things are denied to him.


"She could be useful," Lilah says, hand resting in Wesley's hair, watching as Faith shoves a grocery cart down yet another endless aisle.


"She's proven...unpredictable in the past, of course."

There is no happiness in Hell, but one can be amused. Wesley often is, and he laughs now. "An understatement. Unpredictability is, really, the only predictable quality Faith possesses."

Lilah's fingers close in the back of his hair and tug his head back until he is staring up at her. From this angle, the scar on her neck is especially bright. He assumes his own, matching scar is as well. Lilah's scar, however, is thin and precise, a good clean cut. He did not have to swing the axe twice.

Lilah's Hell is a W&H subsidiary office in Waukegan, where she is an assistant to the junior assistant accountant. Wesley's hell is that chair, Faith straddling his lap with the shard of glass in her hand. Lilah says he got the better deal. "All kinds of torture, lover. At least yours looks like that, not a dot-matrix'd stack of quarterly statements and a fat boss who spits when he comes on to you."

They meet in one of the interstitial zones. Everything is equidistant from everything else; there is no space in Hell, just transparency and repetition. They meet between his kitchen torture chamber and her cubicle when their days are finished; Hell is well-run, down to the time off. Lilah loosens her maroon dress-for-success bolo tie and hands him a roll of gauze; Wesley pours her a tumblerful of Scotch and clicks on the monitor.

Hell is feudal, to some extent; certainly, it is pre-modern. There is no currency here except in the things themselves: The barter system is everything. Wesley finds this odd, a throwback to earlier conceptions of the afterlife, but he may simply be tired of translating Thai child-porn in exchange for a half-decent bottle of whiskey.

"All I mean to say is that, surely, post-monopoly capitalism, the space of flows and multinational corporations, that is Hell. Not this archaic and topheavy hierarchy of obeisance and barter."

Lilah refills his glass. "Hell on Earth, you mean."

"Maybe." He scowls into the whiskey. "I'm not feeling it tonight."

"You never do," she reminds him and slides onto his lap. The back of her neck is very white when he lifts her hair, and it's all the more difficult to see the scar. "Relax. Changes are coming, and soon enough you'll be the George Soros of a whole new order."

He bites the curve of her neck, lightly, and Lilah drops her head forward.

"Is that what we're playing?" she asks, and Wesley bites her again, seeking the scar with his tongue. Miniscule, no wider than a thread, just skin. Lilah twists in his arms. "Are you the big souled hero? Should I be this week's damsel in distress?"

She lifts her hand and her hair goes blonde, brighter than Darla's ever was. Bright and golden as Buffy's, the first day he met her, slumping next to Giles and eyeing him scornfully. Wesley grabs Lilah's wrist and pulls her hand down to his chest. Her hair shimmers back to amber and mahogany as he turns her around to face the wall. Faith is wrestling an economy pack of toilet paper into her cart.

"She's on."

"Our heroine," Lilah says, low and bitter, and Wesley pinches her nipple until she laughs.


The scar on Faith's belly is ragged and thick. She's not sure how Buffy knew to do that samurai flick of the wrist, but it left Faith's stomach knotted and ugly. She has taken, recently, to stroking it when she needs to think, needs to concentrate. When she's alone.

Robin's talking about kids. Beautiful, strong kids with her laugh and his brains.

"Think we've got enough of 'em," she usually says and he'll drop it.


"So, Wes -" Faith says today, drawing the shard's point lightly down his throat. "What's it gonna be? You going to spank me, tell me I'm a bad girl, send me off to bed without dessert?"

Gagged, he can only listen. She is mad and beautiful like this. Black-eyed, bottomless holes in her sweaty face, and he can feel the heat in her crotch as she rocks and grinds against him.

He never made amends to her. He didn't even break her out of prison; whatever Faith does, she does with her own power.

"C'mon, you're no fun." She loosens the gag and cups his cheek. He has blood congealing in his mouth, over one eyelid. "Not even gonna scream?"

This close, he can see himself reflected in her eyes: twin wisps of white, streaked with red.

"God, you are a loser. Even that lawyer bitch screamed for me." Faith licks her lips and rocks against him, hand on his shoulder, a flush building dark in her cheeks. "'course I had four fingers buried inside her and my teeth on her clit -"

He helped her out of jail, but this girl doesn't know that, this girl will never be locked up, this girl will torture him forever.

Time does exist in Hell; it is no longer linear, but a snarl, like Faith's lips, past-present-future simultaneous and overlapping. Tangling around them, trapping them here and now, forever.

He addresses his reflection, her eyes, white and wet and nearly broken. "You're a piece of shit."


Faith is in the checkout line at Kroger's when she gets the news.

The real news, that is. She knew already that LA is gone, flattened and burnt, cordoned off. That toxic rain has reached Vegas, Denver, Tacoma. That everyone she knew there, from Bessie the Butcher in Cellblock R to that strapping hotass black guy on Angel's crew, was probably dead.

"Just tell me already, Giles," she says. Fucking Englishmen and their hemming and hawing. She's got the cell tucked between shoulder and ear as she unloads her cart. Schlepping healthy carbs and protein sources home to a houseful of fucked-up girls is not what a Slayer is built for. Eight items or fewer, the lane says, but that's eight different items, she figures. So three loaves of bread count as one. So do twelve cartons of yogurt. The chick behind her, complete with squalling brat, disagrees. Faith twists around and lifts the hem of her shirt just enough to show off the stake -- teak, Robin says, and it's got a great fucking point -- tucked into her jeans. "Try me, cunt. Not you, Giles. But if you keep up with this fucking song and dance, regretfully and with great sadness you say -- what?"

"Wesley," Giles says. "He's dead."

"Well, yeah. He was in LA, of course he's probably dead."

Giles coughs, and he can't like the London air any more than Faith did when they flew over for Christmas. "It's been confirmed, that is. Some children found his corpse washed up farther south."

"Swimming with the fishes, huh?" Faith pushes the three pounds of ground chuck toward the cashier and her hand comes away bloody. She squeezed the meat so hard her fingers tore through the plastic. "Sounds like Wes."

"He'd been gutted," Giles says. "The - the water came later. He had -"

He stops again, she's got sticky-ass meat all over her free hand, and Wesley's fucking dead. That's got to be some kind of record: Three Watchers dead, their Slayer still breathing.

Faith swallows against the hot grit in her mouth and says as calmly as she can, "Little words, Giles. One at a time, you can do it."

"Demon. He had the mark of a demon on his chest, a very old one."

"Can I kill it?"

Giles is quiet, the register's beeping, and Faith has A/C fluid running in her veins, replacing her marrow. Wesley's dead.

"Giles? What demon?"

"It goes by the name of Illyria, though that's, that's -" Giles coughs again and when he comes back on the line, his voice is wheezy and high. "A transliteration from the pictogram. It's not supposed to be here. It's supposed to be gone."

She hands her card over to the cashier and closes her eyes. Blizzards inside her skin, bullshit panic confusion that she tamps down and struggles to breathe through. "They always come back. Kind of what demons do."

"This one is different," Giles says. "This one is. Was allied with Angel."


"She's unhappy," Wesley says.

"Wouldn't you be? Permanent scout leader and den mother?"

"Yes," he says. Wasn't that what he was? He couldn't manage his Slayers, and he only had two. "Yes, I suppose I would."

"So do something about it."

Amusement again, and he laughs while Lilah regards him soberly, brow arched and arms folded.


The truth of it was that no one would kill her. She dared Buffy, begged Angel, but she was secondary. Bit players don't get the big death scenes; they just exit stage right and don't come back.

Or, actually, they do come back, but they're wearing different clothes and they're supposed to be someone else. Townsperson #3, mourner #5. Slayer #2.

They come back like scraps of dreams halfway through an ordinary day, like toilet paper stuck to your shoe, like cheap Indian food up the back of your throat. They're there. Scenery and crowd, and without them, the big stuff wouldn't look half as grand or glorious. It would all look pretty pathetic, actually, just as small and selfish as it really is.

Faith isn't given to this kind of meditation on life, death, and the scheme of things. Not usually. Wesley knows this, and if he still had his heart, he would be touched, watching her.

She would laugh at him for that. "Never were big on the heart," she would say. "Not your strong suit. Then again, what was your strong suit, anyway?"

This, he would say. He has no voice, not in the world, not for the living -- and god knows, Faith is living, is life -- but he would show her. This is my strong suit, always-already, just this. Watching, planning, and understanding.


When she arrives at the end of the day, Lilah's hair is in a tight bun, and pink tortoiseshell glasses slide down her nose.

He doesn't know what she's up to, but it can't be good. That is, after all, the point of this place.


"Admit it. Always had the hots for me. Fucked-up little girl, just needs a strong hand, and that's what you Watchers are for, isn't it? Tough-love daddy, sword in one hand, virgin pussy in the other."

She isn't wrong, and they both know it. His cock is hard, his pulse beating there just as strongly as it is in the cut over his eye, and he ought to be ashamed of himself.


She wakes from another nightmare sweaty, groggy, and horny. Sticky all over. Robin sleeps on his stomach, arm flung over her waist, his fingers opening and closing like they're grabbing at rain.

The nightmares started just before LA burned and they've kept up. It doesn't seem to matter that Wes is dead, that that apartment's probably rubble, that she went to jail. It's all just as real, as sharp and jittery, as it was when it happened the first time. Maybe more so.

Faith shifts onto her back, lacing her fingers through Robin's, moving his palm lower. Her hips are already moving, her eyes squeezed tightly shut, her mouth open to the ceiling.

Kakistos used to star in her nightmares. She misses him.


"You don't believe me?"

Lilah smiles at him and pulls Wesley along a narrow corridor. All the corridors are narrow here, the walls sticky, streaked with pink and amber, somewhat organic, damp to the touch and occasionally quivering.

The walls are the color of Lilah's spectacles.

She stops and, still laughing, kisses him, her tongue dancing against his teeth. Her hair is loose, her face scrubbed clean of cosmetics, and for a moment she could be eighteen years old again and carefree. Lilah tips their foreheads together, her hand cold on his neck, and smiles. "Just watch, Wesley."

She pulls away from him, but keeps one arm wrapped around his waist, then pushes her free hand through the wall. Up to the elbow, a long sucking sound building with the motion, and then she leans farther, her face, then her head, disappearing. The wall does not tear, but slurps aside to admit her, a kind of disgusting reverse-birth, enough to turn his stomach.

He hears Lilah's voice as if over an old radio, low on the AM frequency: "Oooga booga! You're going to hell for that!"

Lilah pulls back toward him, laughing, always laughing, strands of gelatin and strips of the wall clinging to her face and neck. "That kid's never going to jerk off again."

Wesley peers through the rapidly-closing hole in the wall, sees a boy's messy bedroom, a copy of _Hustler_ tossed away from the bed. He can hear heavy, whimpering breaths before the wall knits together.

"What did you just do?"

Lilah peels debris from her hair and glances at him, feline and smug. "I told you. Hell on earth, lover."


She shoves herself back onto the kitchen counter, one hand between her legs, the other under her shirt, on her breast. She makes him watch.

"Still watching, huh, Wes?" Faith asks. "God. It's got to suck to be you."


Hell is a honeycomb, transparent and invisible, overlaying and interpenetrating the world. Their cells are of the world, in it, but time is stoppered up and halted. Forced back on itself.

"You're new here," Lilah says. "How were you supposed to know? Still, I'm surprised. All that study, all those books."

She unrolls the blueprints, iron-gall ink on discarded vellum, so he can see for himself.

"The idea," she hisses in his ear, hand on his cock, on his throat, "is to make things a little more - porous."


"That what you want?" Faith whispers, breath on his face, fingers on his windpipe, crotch atop his. "Want Mummy to kiss it all better?"

Soon, Angel will arrive. Father-God-King, and his words are the final cut and realest torture. This is about Wesley, about Wesley and Faith, and all Wesley has to do is make that true. Anything can be true here, but all the rest of the poor bastards love their pain too much to change anything.


He can do it differently this time. He wants to do it differently.

She'll throw herself out the window and he will follow.


Faith lands on her hands and knees, gasping, bits of glass spangling her hair. Wesley stumbles to his feet behind her.

"Welcome," Lilah says. "It's good to have some Faith here."


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