by Mona

FAITH: He would have killed you.
WESLEY: And how many will he have the chance to murder now because you let that make a difference? Angelus is an animal. The only way to defeat him is to be just as vicious as he is.
-- AtS 4x14 "Release"

They stare at each other. Neither moves an inch.

She'd love to call it a battle of wills, but that'd be a lie: it'd imply a sort of even-handed mental combat when she has this sinking feeling she's ill-equipped to enter this fight.

It's not the fact he's the smart one, the one with all the book- learning, the one who can use reason and logic and words she can't spell-- old Wes has always been a good Watcher, except when he was a bad Watcher, of course, floppy and flailing, back in those Sunnydale days he must be carrying around like an old scar waiting to itch just for her--, because that Wesley had bled so beautifully under her hands. All the years of higher education and meticulous training draining away and leaving nothing she hadn't seen in a dozen, a hundred, other men: the sobbing eagerness to cling to this scrap of life, no matter what.

It's something else. Oh, sure, this Wesley she might manage to tie to a chair, but no matter how sharp the instrument, her cuts wouldn't make much of a difference, or at least, not go deep enough. He's already drained, and the remains are much less pretty than your average vampire in human guise. New Wes isn't about innocent theories and the rocky road to redemption, not really, not at all-- if he has good intentions, they may just turn out to be suitable pavement material.

Faith isn't going to back down. Because she just isn't. Like this.

It bubbles inside her, just under the surface of her skin. Not that viciousness they've claimed to see in her as clearly as if it was a rabid dog wrenching and gnawing at the inside of its ramshackle hut, but something much hotter and cleaner. Frustration and fury, this fierce bitterness to be put into a new prison where they show her shiny, sharp tools and tell her to go ahead and use them to twist and turn.

But Faith doesn't want to play.

Thing is, she knows he knows this-- and vice versa, she's pretty sure.

So why pretend? She can't play Angelus, she can't be Angelus for this Wesley who tells her about the need for viciousness.

He's right. But maybe, just maybe, it's not her who needs to be. Maybe there is no need to back down. Maybe she can come forward and meet him halfway.

These days, he's vicious enough for the both of them-- whether she and him, or Angelus and him, it doesn't matter. Not any more.

So easy once she's figured it out. He's not a monster like Angelus, no matter what he thinks; he's still a man clinging to life-- but not his own. The life of all those nameless, faceless, and so goddamn clueless people out there: it matters.

He was willing to offer himself, and now he's willing to offer her.

And with that, Faith can deal.

"So lead on, Macduff."

She loves the way his eyes open wide at that, and she loves how, for this fleeting moment, he looks like the Wesley she once knew and despised.


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