The light dims finally and we're still standing here, and I'm not grabbing hold of his arm at all. Honest.
I look around, trying to see that kid I spotted before the whole supernatural special effects kick in, but there's no one. At all. The good ol' boys are long gone and the whole diner looks like no one's been ordering the breakfast special for half a century.
I turn back to Lindsey, "Think we can file that under 'weird shit' then?"
I don't get him. I mean, folks think I'm a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a whatever-the-hell-it-is, but compared to him? I'm a freaking open book.
Maybe I shouldn't have screwed with his head like that back in the truck, he definitely didn't react how I thought he would. In fact, he's nothing at all like I thought he'd be. Maybe it's the old jeans and button-down 'stead of the fancy suit, or maybe it's just 'cause he's not one of them anymore. Not in my head anyway.
And right now, he's majorly freaked.
Okay, so time travel's new. If that's what this is – and since the good ol' boys at the counter all seem damn sure it's 1947 I'm gonna have to go with a yes on that one. But I've seen weirder shit than this, and hell, I'd be more than shocked if he hasn't.
I put my hand on his arm to steady him, just in case he decides to bolt or something, and out of the corner of my eye I see a kid watching from behind the counter. He doesn't look right, he doesn't look like he belongs.
Breakfast is awkward. We find a diner easily enough and the place seems to be the epitome of a sleepy middle-of-nowhere town. A few appraising looks and some ‘we don’t get many strangers round here’ comments are thrown at us and I find myself biting back the comment that maybe if they gave the place a lick of paint more than once a century they might get more passing trade. Instead I nod and smile and wish that waitress would get here with the coffee before this day gets any odder.
Faith seems not to notice, guess she’s always been a drifter in a way, she slides into the booth and studies the wipe-clean menu as if it’s got the answer to life, the universe and everything printed on it.
She notices me watching her and puts the menu down. Leaning back she cocks her head to one side and grins, “Enjoyin’ the view?”
I don’t smile, I keep my expression neutral and deliberately keep my gaze locked with hers. “I’ve seen better.”
The sun shining on my face wakes me slowly. This is how every day should start, no alarms, no real need to be anywhere, do anything, a warm body beside me…
My eyes fly open as I register that last part.
There’s no sign of a hangover, and I seem to be more or less fully clothed, so what the hell? I shift a little, trying to see who it is without waking them up, but the space we’re in is too tight to move properly. It’s… a car seat. As I realize that the rest falls into place. I’d driven on through the night until I was too tired to see properly and somehow I didn’t think Lindsey would appreciate me crashing his truck from having fallen asleep at the wheel. There was still no sign of anyone following us – cops or otherwise – so when we got to a clear stretch of nothingness I pulled over, parked up and stretched out in the back. Lindsey was already asleep on the passenger side by that point so I didn’t argue the case. Until the rain started that is.
No way I was going to sleep under a tarp when there was a perfectly good seat in the warm and –above all - dry cab. So I climbed in and managed to get comfortable enough to drift off. Not really sure how the pair of us ended up manoeuvring round so we’re both lying across the bench seat like this, he’s pretty much spooning me from behind and… yup, that’s his arm around my waist holding me in place. If I move any more than I have I’ll wake him, and after that forced run from the law yesterday, I figure he needs to sleep.
Looks like I’m stuck here for a while. Guess there’s worse places I could be. I play idly with the silver bracelet he’s got on, interesting design – not really something I’dda thought lawyer-boy would go for but hey, all kinds of preconceptions are getting shattered on this particular road trip.
His breathing changes a little and he moves his head closer to mine, he’s about to wake up. Time to mess with his head a little I think.
I put on my sultriest voice, dripping with honey, and say softly, “Morning lover.”
The motel sign said 'hot and cold running water'. If I was still in lawyer-mode I'd be in the middle of drafting a claim against false advertising. A much better way of saying it would be 'tepid', 'lukewarm', 'anything but hot'. It'll do though, so long as I don't pay too close attention to the stains that I can only hope are rust around the drain. I check one last time to make sure Faith's gone and finally step into the shower.
I let the water course over me, trying to work out the kinks in my neck, the aches from driving for too long, trying not to think about how I ended up here, in this shithole with a convicted killer as the only person I can even think about trusting. I laugh bitterly, who am I kidding? I don't trust her to be in the next room when I'm naked, vulnerable, of course I don't trust her. If it wasn't for Angel's say so she'd have either walked away the first chance she got or I'd be some other John Doe on a morgue slab in some back woods town.
Still might turn out that way.
Something's different about her, she's not the desperate kid I first saw in Lilah's office … what? About fifteen months ago? There's this odd calm coming from her, she's still dangerous, I can see that in the glint in her eyes when she's watching me. I don't think she thinks I know how often she does that, or maybe she doesn't care if I know. The way she looks at me, it was as if she was expecting me to grow horns or something, hell maybe that's what she did expect. Girl like her, a Slayer, she's gotta be used to seeing things in that whole black and white way. Demons bad, humans good. World doesn't work like that though, she saw that, hell it's how she ended up in the mess she was in. Maybe she's just hoping that the world can be the way she wanted it to be.
Nothing's clear cut though.
She clearly doesn't trust me either. I wonder for a second if this was all a mistake. Bringing her along. Nothing's happened so far, maybe I'm just jumping at shadows, maybe the Senior Partners won't send anyone after me, maybe I'm not important enough to make it onto their radar. Maybe…
A noise from the other room brings me out of my thoughts abruptly. I stop and listen. There's no other sound but there's definitely someone, or something, out there. I keep the water running but grab a towel and quickly wrap it around my waist. I step out of the still-running shower as quietly as I can and scan the tiny bathroom for any kind of weapon. Nothing. Everything I have is in the holdall in the other room.
Cursing under my breath at my own stupidity, I take in my options. Not much beyond a bar of soap which… I gag a little, is very obviously used. Looks like I'm limited to what I've got on me. A grin works its way onto my face, been a while since I've been in a throw-down brawl. Just hope there's a chance I'm evenly matched.
There's another hint of movement out there, someone's making the kind of noise amateurs make when they're trying to be silent. Good, means it's not a professional, and given the fact that it's still daylight outside, chances are pretty good it's not a vampire. Could still be a demon I guess, but I figure I'll deal with that bridge when I cross it. I pick up my jeans from where I dropped them and quickly drag them on and put my ear to the door, might be my imagination but I could swear I can hear breathing on the other side.
I swallow the last of the fear that could paralyse me, and steel myself for whatever's out there. I throw open the door.
Sitting with my feet on the dashboard seems to piss him off so I do it at every possible opportunity. Right now he’s scowling at me as he pulls into the motel parking lot. Anyone’d think it was a flash sports car instead of a piece of crap old Ford truck. Seems to mean a lot to him though, he actually patted the steering wheel back there like it was a dog or something. I’m still tryin’ to figure him out – he’s not said much since getting me out of prison, not even telling me where we’re headed – just that it’s ‘away’.
If it wasn’t for Angel’s say-so I wouldn’t be here.
Or would I? I frown a little to myself, yeah I seriously don’t trust this guy, but there’s something more than meets the eye going on with him. So clearly not on the level, but he’s not trying to be. Kinda appeals to me, like I know where he’s coming from.
Hell, maybe I do.
He gets out and doesn’t quite slam the door, something’s eating at him but hell if I know what it is. I watch him walk over to the kiosk at the front of the shithole and talk to the desk clerk. After a minute or so he starts getting real agitated and I sit up straight, trip’s been pretty dull so far, little bit of excitement’s just what I need right now.
Eventually he grabs something and storms back to the truck with a face like thunder. He grabs his holdall from the back and stalks off without a word.
I raise an eyebrow, okay…. Kinda thought from the ‘discussion’ that we’d be clearing outta here now, apparently not though. I watch as he unlocks one of the doors – room 9 – and turns to look at me from the doorway. Waiting for me.
I take my time walking over to him, letting him know that I might be along for the ride but I’m definitely not planning on being his beck-and-call-girl. As I walk through the open door I look around, not the worst place I’ve ever spent the night, but it’s definitely in the top five. I take the key from his hand and even though I figure that’s what he got so upset about I ask, “So where’s your room then?”
I glance at the card he handed me and feel my heart skip a beat.
Angel Investigations - complete with weird logo and phone number.
I look back up and see him watching me, waiting for me to react. He’s back leaning against that ugly truck again, he looks… smug I think is the word. I puzzle over that for a while, he has to know I’ll call, check in with Angel, find out what’s going on, and yet he’s leaning there like he hasn’t got a care in the world. I don’t get it. There has to be a trap here somewhere.
Eventually I decide what to do and I walk away, out of earshot, and dial the number from memory. I keep an eye on him as I wait for the connection to be made.
“Angel Investigations, we help the hel…”
“Cordelia, I need to speak to him. Now.” I say brusquely. Her tone turns chilly in the instant she hears my voice.
“Oh, it’s you. Angel’s not here, I’ll tell him you called…” It’s not me that interrupts her this time and I smirk as I hear Angel in the background asking who it is.
I listen to the jumped-up secretary prattle on about it being nobody for a while before finally I roll my eyes. “Angel. It’s Faith.” I speak normally, knowing he’ll pick up on it without me raising my voice.
Sure enough, there’s an abrupt “Give me the phone, Cordelia.” And then there he is. “Faith?”
“What’s wrong?” His voice stays the same – not quite monotonous but it’s hard to tell sometimes when he’s rattled.
“I’m standing here with an old… friend.” I lay the sarcasm on with a trowel as I say that. “Gave me a ‘get out of jail free’ card and says he wants my help. Says you’ll vouch for him.”
I wait for an explosion from the other side of the call at the news I'm in the big wide world again, but none comes. Instead he just asks me who I’m with.
“Lindsey MacDonald.” This time I really do expect a reaction, but damn him he’s cool as ice.
“Really?” Damn him – does nothing ever faze him?
“Yeah, really. So what about it – is he a white hat now?”
“Wouldn’t go that far. I know he’s not working for Wolfram and Hart any longer; they’ve got death squads all over the city looking for him so it’s safe to say he’s not on their side now. You say he’s with you?”
“In the flesh.” I say, mulling over what Angel’s told me. So Lawyer Boy’s telling the truth. I kinda thought he was, but to hear it confirmed… “Listen, I gotta go. I’ll call you.” And with that I hang up. We don’t say goodbye; it’s too final.
I look down at the phone in my hand and think about what I’m about to do; a smile comes to my face as I realize this could be my chance. To make a difference. So he’s not exactly one of the good guys, right now neither am I. It’ll make for an interesting trip anyway.
He’s still watching me as I saunter back over to him, he doesn’t seem surprised when I toss him the phone and yank open the passenger door.
“Well, Linds. Where to?”
This is insane. I shouldn't be here. Should've shaken the dust of this state from my heels days ago. There's no telling when they'll catch up to me - and they will catch up to me - guess it just depends on how long they want to keep me turnin' on this spit they got me on.
I laugh at that, they've got me on? More like I've got me on. No one to blame for this but me.
Had a chance to walk away once, almost took it too. But then something made me stay. I knew what I was getting into - hell, what I was already waist-deep in - but still I stuck around.
Now though, now I can't stomach it any longer.
I glance down and see I've been flexing my hand without even realizing it - my right hand.
Strange that I'd get an attack of the scruples now, I saw innocent kids slowly bled to death at the whim of a client and never batted an eye. Seeing Brad in that glass cage, being used the way he was, I knew that could've been me. Guess I'm selfish after all.
We were interns together, we were buddies, then I must've done something that got me fast tracked. Youngest Junior Partner in the history of the largest and most powerful firm in this or any other dimension. And Brad wound up as spare parts.
The rattle of a cage door rolling open drags my attention back to the here and now. They won't take kindly to me leaving, definitely won't like me siding with their sworn enemy to bring down part of the firm. They will hunt me down. They will find me.
Luckily, I got some insurance.
A voice crackles over the intercom and she steps out blinking in the sunlight.
"430019, coming out."