Things Manifold
by Lar

"This is a gig I could get used to." Faith pushes her hair back from her face and looks up at the sky. The sky is a less than brilliant blue, and the sunlight is filtered through smog, but it's still as perfect as it gets.

"Yes, such a pity there aren't more demons preying on surfers." Wesley is less optimistic about the mission. He refuses to look up at the sky, although he swears he can feel his skin turning red everywhere it's not covered by blue oxford cloth. Everything's covered with sweat though, which is about the only part of this entire day that's been remotely familiar. If he ends up covered in some neon-hued slime as well, then he'll call it even.

Faith slows her pace when Wes drops down on a bench and pulls out a handkerchief to soak up some of the moisture that's running off his forehead and into his eyes. He arches his shoulders and the material of his shirt clings to his back. She walks backwards for about five paces, sees he's not getting up to follow, and reluctantly retraces her steps to slouch down beside him.

"You spend too much time with Angel," she says shortly. He waits for her to make a joke about sunlight or pale skin but she's not teasing here. She's serious, and Wesley's not in a mood for lectures. Not from her or from anyone else. What he wants to do right now is find this nest of demons, get rid of the menace so the surf is safe for brainless blonde men to frolic about in and get skin cancer, ensuring they can die slowly and in great discomfort like the rest of the world. Not too much to ask, really.

Wesley watches Faith as she attempts to look as if she's not tuned into his every gesture. She's waiting for something, an exchange of words that they've decided through some unspoken agreement not to have at all. There will be no discussion; there will be no rehashing of old events. That's a lifetime ago for them both, and Wesley is quite happy to leave it that way.

"Ya know Wes, I'm sorry for that shit I pulled."

He stands up abruptly. "Can we not do this?"

Faith lets her head drop back against the bench, eyes closed tight as the sun bakes into her lids and turns everything brilliant red, flashes of yellow and green when she sighs and stands up to come after him. The heat feels strange, the sun stranger still, and maybe that's what's brought about her need to make this into the afternoon confessional. Out of her element and floundering for some way to get back that tight control she feels in the night, in the darkness.

She pushes sweaty hair back from her face again, and catches up to Wes with long strides, keeping pace for another ten minutes or so before she says anything at all. She turns over the words 'I'm sorry' about twenty times and can't come up with anything better, and she's never been much good at it anyway. Never been much for that game to begin with.

Finally she speaks without looking at him. "So if you don't wanna do this, you wanna keep on pretending that we're five by five?"

Wesley keeps walking, and he fights off the urge to rub the scar on his neck when he says, "I wasn't pretending."

"Liar." She walks faster, striding ahead of him, black boots making sharp little sounds on the hot sidewalk. He watches her but doesn't change his pace.

Faith finds the nest and kills four of the demons before he can catch up. He decapitates the other one neatly, managing to end up with the requisite amount of slime on his clothes. She refuses his offer of a ride to his apartment so she can shower, and the anger comes off her in shimmery waves, like the heat rising from the sidewalk as she stalks off. She leaves Wesley with the bodies to dispose of.


There's still a guard at the entrance to Wolfram and Hart. He nods when Wesley arrives, never fails to have an elevator waiting for him, always calls him "Sir." His office is dark, cool, decorated much like the former offices of the higher ups in the Watcher's Council. He supposes it's someone's idea of a joke, but he never changes a thing. Gunn's been in a few times, wearing a suit and tie that make him look every bit the part of a young, upwardly mobile lawyer. He looks cool, bleeding-edge-sharp, but his solemn game face always softens when he closes the door behind him.

"Wes, this place makes me feel like Masterpiece Theater exploded. You know they can get you furniture from this century. Maybe even the one before this." He touches the velvet on the high-backed couch with one finger, like he's expecting it to be dusty, that it will crumble from human contact. "You could call CORT Furniture Rentals if you don't want the evilistas to redecorate."

Wesley shrugs at him. "I don't live here, it's just a workspace. It only needs to be functional."

Gunn raises an eyebrow. "Whatever, man. Come see my workspace. I'll kick your ass on the X-Box, I got a screen the size of your last apartment. You can put it on the books as billable hours, call it a meeting if you think Angel's gonna get nitpicky on your time."

"I'll come over one day this week." Wes picks up one of the leather-bound books and finds the marker he left in there the day before. He holds his finger there and waits for Gunn to get the none-too-subtle hint.

It doesn't take him long. He presses his lips together in a tight line before he nods. "Yeah, you do that."


"Excuse me, miss." The guard is big but he's soft, and Faith's not in the mood to play polite.

"You're excused. I'm here to see Wesley." She strides past him, and when he puts his hand on her arm, she's already on the downswing to break his wrist when her own is caught in a surprisingly strong grip.

Faith and the guard both look up with the same expression on their faces. Wesley supposes it would look funny to anyone walking by. He's not amused. He's rarely amused anymore.

"You can let her go, David. She's my guest." Wesley nods to the guard as Faith pulls her wrist from his grasp and steps back. The guard is flustered, but he still manages to nod in return, open the waiting elevator door and call Wesley 'sir.' Faith smiles widely at him and waves as the elevator doors close.

"That's some pretty impressive muscle you got workin' the front," she says as she watches him press the button for his floor. "Got his ass-kissing all polished up shiny, too. Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, sir." She flips him a mock salute and then shoves her hands in the back pockets of her jeans.

"You should have let me know you were coming. I would have left your name with him and there wouldn't have been any problems." Wesley looks at her reflection in the smudgy doors of the elevator.

Faith shrugs. Her eyes look like deep black holes in the tilted oval of her mirrored face. "I didn't have a problem. Dan would have had the problem, kinda hard to play rent-a-cop with your arm in a sling."

"David." Wesley watches the numbers change as the car whooshes up silently. It doesn't stop at any other floor but his.

"What?" Faith sounds annoyed, and her weight keeps shifting from one foot to the other.

"The guard's name is David," he says, carefully enunciating each word, trying to keep a rein on his temper. He's as irritated with himself as he is with Faith's unexpected arrival and that ridiculous stunt she nearly pulled.

"Like I care. He on your Christmas card list?" She huffs out a sigh when he refuses to rise to the bait of her bad mood. "What are you, in the fuckin' penthouse, Wes?"


The doors open as if on cue and the wide, well-lighted hallway is in front of them. They both hesitate long enough for the doors to start to close again and Faith shoves her hand out fast, pushing so hard that the door rebounds and doesn't close again. The soft bonging sound repeats itself in an endless loop as she flicks a glance at him over her shoulder. "You gonna show me the cushy digs here? I mean, you take over the place, you got your pick, you must have one of the prime views."

Wesley steps out of the elevator and walks past her. "Are you planning to break anything else?" he asks mildly as he catches the eye of his assistant. Technically, he's asked for her to be reassigned to someone else. He doesn't use her, he doesn't share his work with anyone other than Angel or Gunn, and on occasion he'll speak with Fred if he needs to jog his memory about some of the more obscure translations. But despite his flat out refusal to hand her so much as a paperclip, the woman is still there, and pathetically happy to have him ask her to call maintenance about the elevator.

Faith's already in his office, walking around and touching everything, polar opposite of Gunn's refusal. "I don't know, I thought you'd be more the leather couch type," she says finally. "Something sleek, black, modern. Didn't take you for the repressed tweedy type. Well, not anymore anyway."

Wes walks to his desk and sits down, keeping his back to her as he closes the files that are open from last night's work. The hazy July light streams into the room through the open blinds, and dust motes rise from the shuffled papers, disturbed and dancing as Faith flops down on the red velvet settee and frowns at the lack of padding.

"Don't you wanna ask me why I came to visit you?" she asks him finally when she realizes he's not interested in playing by the usual rules.

Wesley stacks the files neatly and turns around, the chair silent on its rollers. The thick oriental carpet is marked with little dents from its usual position. He looks back at her evenly for a long, quiet minute and then turns back around again. "No, I really don't. I think we've said all we need to say."

"We haven't said shit, Wes."


Faith stands up fast, blur of motion in the corner of Wesley's vision. By the time he's turned around again, she's looming over him, both hands on the arms of his chair, trapping him there. There's a jarring moment of deja-vu for them both - Faith over Wesley, her hair tickling his face as she asks him if he's ready to try a whole new method of pain infliction - and then it's gone as Wes puts his hands on her shoulders and shoves. She's not expecting it, and he manages to move her back. Just a few steps, but it's enough, and she looks thrown. Looks like she's got less anger and more desperation working in her system now, and Wesley feel a thrill of pleasure at knowing he's got the upper hand here. He's got something she needs, his forgiveness, and she doesn't know how to break through that shell to get at her reward.

"You know," she says, turning round in a slow circle with her arms out. "Must be real nice. You walk that thin line and you get yourself welcomed back to that old gang of yours with a smile and a pat on the back. Shiny new office and everybody kissing your ass... what's it take to get that kinda package? Cause I don't see nobody offering me nothing. Not a damn thing, and I'm really fuckin' tired of it."

Wesley turns his back again deliberately. "I don't know, Faith. Of course, I haven't tied anyone to a chair and sliced them open with broken glass this week. I could get back to you." He trails off and picks up a file, opening it and not seeing a single word on the sheets of paper there. Waits for her to hit him, his whole body tense with anticipation.

She leaves quietly; he barely hears the door opening. She doesn't close it behind her. Wesley considers calling David to be sure she's added to the list of personnel to be granted immediate access in order to prevent any more incidents like this morning. The phone is already in his hand before he changes his mind and hangs up. He walks over to the door, pushes it shut, then walks to the blinds and pulls the cord to close them, blocking out the light and the view of the city through the smog.


Whiskey and pizza. Hardly gourmet cuisine, but the place down the block delivers before the grease has a chance to congeal, and Wes has eaten enough Mu Shu Chicken to last him several lifetimes. The box on the coffee table reminds him far too much of evenings spent on this same couch with good red wine instead of single malt scotch, with endlessly long legs wrapped around his back instead of the emptiness that's here with him now.

He misses Lilah with an ache he has no words for. A week or so ago, her name had come up in a staff meeting, and he'd left in a foul mood. No one had bothered him for the rest of the day. He was getting used to the solitude again. Of course if he really got nostalgic, he could go pick up a girl on the boulevard and stick her in the cage in the closet. Wouldn't have quite the same thrill as it had when he was fucking Lilah and Justine was listening, but then again very little does manage to thrill him anymore. Very little manages to touch him at all. Or rather he refuses to let it. A very conscious choice and one he's sure his father would approve of.

That thought puts a bitter smile on his face, and he washes it down with the rest of his expensive whiskey. The knocking on the door takes a few moments to penetrate the fog of alcohol and brooding. When it does, Wesley puts down the glass, picks up the short handled throwing ax from beside the couch and walks to the door. When he peers through the peep hole and sees Faith staring back, he is genuinely surprised.

And annoyed.

He opens the door anyway. If she insists on dragging this thing out, he might as well allow her to throw her tantrum in the privacy of his apartment, rather than letting the rest of the tenants enjoy the free show. Although he's sure that Mrs. Gallagher is already putting her ear to the wall.

"Faith." He waves her in with the hand still holding the ax. "Excuse the clutter, I wasn't expecting you to be so persistent." He watches as she sits on the couch, sniffs at is glass and then pours herself a healthy dose of his whiskey. She downs it in one harsh gesture - arm up, head back, throat moving as she swallows it, and her eyes water when she sets the glass down.

"Would you like a drink?" he says dryly as he takes the glass from the table and pours himself another. He sits across from her in what he's sure was a very expensive chair. Lilah would have liked it. Wes swallows his whiskey slowly, and waits.

Faith puts her boots up on the table. Wesley is sure he's never heard her be quiet for quite so long. Even when she's fighting she's a creature of sound - grunts as she gives and takes blows, small shouts of aggression as she moves to counter and kill. Now she's staring at the scuffed black toes of her shoes where they rest beside the pizza box, and she's so silent that he checks to see if she's breathing. Silly, really, he never uttered an invitation, but the stillness rivals Angel's stance when he's lost in his own thoughts.

"Are you planning to enlighten me or just fill the evening with your sparkling wit?" he asks. The ax is still in his hand. He rests his palm on the end of the handle; the head digs into the plush pile carpet by his feet.

She looks up then, and her gaze is full of that desperation again. "I need to finish this between us."

He raises his glass. "Fine, it's finished. Cheers."

He sips, and when she moves, it's to knock the glass from his hand. He hears it thump to the floor without breaking and the smell of the whiskey soaking into the carpet is very sharp. The ax is raised without thought, and Faith holds steady, barely blinking as Wes stops himself from cutting through more than just skin. Her shoulder is bleeding when he tosses the weapon away with a sound of disgust. She grabs hold of him, her hands impossibly small for all the strength that's in them and drags him back towards her. Her face is within kissing distance, if either of them were so inclined.

At one time, he would have been most definitely inclined.

But now it just fuels that slow simmering rage that he's been so successful at repressing for days, for weeks. It takes every bit of his control to stand stock still as she breathes out hard and shakes him, like a child shaking a doll. "God damn it, Wesley, I need this," she growls.

"I don't give a good god damn what you need. You chose your path; we've made our truce. That's all you're getting from me." The words are so clipped that he barely recognizes his own voice. Closer to that much younger man, the one with the bow tie and the ridiculous idea of right, wrong and his place in the mix of them. Now, of course, it's much less clear where right and wrong fall, although he is still sure of his place, if not how to keep it.

Her hand hits his cheek, open palmed and not trying to hurt. She wants to shock him, she wants to push him to feel what she feels and get them on even footing. He shakes his head and she slaps him again, and when he laughs at her, she swings hard. Closed fist, shock of pain knifing through his cheek and his jaw, and when he tastes blood in his mouth, the reins of control are snapped like threads.

Faith never raises her hand again, not once. She doesn't attempt to turn away, to block her fall when her knees hit the table and she lands hard on it, the sharp end digging into the skin of her back. Wesley's blows are sloppy at first but as the anger gets its claws into him, he finds that it's much easier to aim every single strike - cheek, ribs, temple, belly. When she hits the floor on her side and makes no move to protect herself, Wesley stops. Just stands still, looking down at her, breathing hard and listening to the sound of her draw in her own panting gasps of air.


Wesley's bed is surprisingly lush. The sheets are softer than any Faith's known, the pillows so thick that her neck aches from the angle they raise her head to. His arm is flung over her waist, thumb brushing her belly, fingers tented on the mattress. She knows he's not asleep despite his eyes being closed.

Wesley opens his eyes as he drags his hand up her body slowly, taking stock. He tips her chin until she's facing him and looks at the cut on her lip, the bruise blooming above her eye. He flexes his fingers, not surprised to see that the skin on his knuckles is split and bleeding when he reaches up to touch her cheek where the skin is swollen. She doesn't flinch away, the tip of her tongue touching the corner of her lip briefly.

This isn't a cure. This isn't even the beginning of one. But it is a place for them both to lose themselves. Wesley won't let himself think too long on how easy it was to let the rage rush through him, or how in the end it wasn't even about Faith. No more than she's going to let herself believe that she'll roll out of his bed, use his shower, and walk off like nothing happened.

"So you gonna offer me a drink now?" she asks finally, licking at the sore place on her lip. "Shower, cold pizza? Where's your manners, I thought English people were all fallin' over themselves to do that weird, polite thing."

Wesley sits up with a sigh, reaching for his glasses from the bedside table where he'd tossed them. "You know..."

She stretches under the sheets, not bothering to cover whatever they leave bare from this movement. The ache and pull of healing muscles feels good, familiar, right. She gives him a grin. "Yeah I know. But it's a good fuckin' start, Wes."


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