Truth is, it feels wicked nice just to be able to stretch and listen to the sound of traffic outside. Gotta love LA, nothing like the sound of police sirens to say, "Good morning, America!"
Domestic bliss aside, I'm feeling all kinds of good this morning. The shoulder's only pinching when I try making full rotations, but I'm good for shrugging so I ain't complaining. Everything else is back to being five by five. Can't say I'm hating life right now. And, as crazy it sounds, I'm actually feeling like I stand a real chance in this whole turning over a new leaf business. It's easy to play by the rules when you're in an environment where people are free to beat you and throw you in solitary if you step out of line. Living on the outside is the real test. There's nobody ready to lay on the smackdown if I start coloring outside the lines again. Not sure if the world's ready for me but, but shit, now that I'm here, I know I'm ready to prove that I can change.
Fuck it, I am a changed woman. If the folks here can't see that? That's their problem. I don't need their approval. Yea, it'd be great to get those pats on the back and the "Faith, I'm so proud of you"s, but I ain't gonna cry about it if I don't. I'm doing this for me, not for Wes, or Queen C, or Hell, even Angel.
My shrink told me that the first step to mental health is bein' cool with myself, so I'm trying to do that. Hippy bullshit is strangely appealing sometimes. I loved that dude, even if he did spout a lot of stuff that made me wonder just how much weed can get through the system unnoticed. Guy was a serious trip. And that was on the good days. He was damn near incoherent on the bad ones. But he helped me, so I respect about as well as I respect anybody. I won't bag on his brains too much. He obviously knew what he was doing if he could get me to spill. People always told me I was one hard nut to crack -- I got walls longer and taller than that big one in China. So gettin' me to talk about my feelings is an Olympian task. The boy seriously deserves a medal for getting a handle on my twisted mind.
I can hear C puttering around in the kitchen while I chill out for a while. She's definitely the one making the coffee. Every now and then I hear her make a comment to her ghost. Man, I still can't get over this whole Casper thing she's got going on. Girl sure has changed. Back in the 'dale, she'd probably shit her pants before she got friendly with anything supernatural. Now here she is, living with Casper and totally head over heels about Angel the ensouled vampire wonder. Apparently she's got demon blood in her too now. I can't believe I'm gonna say this, but I'm actually looking forward to getting to know the half-demon-less-of-a-snob-in-love-with-a-v
Speaking of, a few seconds later I hear the sound of footsteps thumping down the hall towards me. C pops her head inside, a half annoyed, half still freaked out by me look on her face. "Oh thank God, you're finally awake. I was beginning to think you died in there."
"Only in your dreams, C," I bite back playfully from my spot under the covers. I yawn sleepily and pull myself up into a seated position with my back resting against the headboard. "Don't suppose the patient can get breakfast in bed, can she?"
I know it's pushing it, but I just can't help it. I have too much fun ribbin' this chick. The way she's been treating me like a fucking princess, I wouldn't be surprised if she very grudgingly brought me some bacon and eggs on a tray. Cor just rolls her eyes at me, a look of disdain replacing any fear she's still got for me. Maybe if she weren't so damn sensitive about everything, she'd realize I'm just playing with her.
"I don't think so, Faith," she shoots back at me. "Do I look like a maid?"
"Well maybe with the right..." I'm cut off by the wicked glare she gives me when I try to explain that with the right outfit, she could make a pretty hot little nursemaid. "Whatever. So is that coffee brewing for me or you?"
"Both," she replies nonchalantly, no longer pissed at me but not so happy sounding either. "It's the only thing that hasn't gone bad after spending the whole summer away from this place."
She looks kinda sad about that. I'm just dying to know what exactly she did last summer. Maybe we should write those essays they make you do in elementary school. She could explain what the Hell "higher being" means and I could give her a rundown on life in the hole. Way I see it, it's a win-win situation. Anytime she mentions it though, she's got this sad vibe humming under her words. Probably best just to let it be what it's gonna be. I don't want a former prom queen pulling out the waterworks on my already shot shoulder.
I crawl out of the bed, yawning and stretching. Everything cracks and C looks sort of mortified by it. What? The bod did a lot of healing while under those covers, of course it's gonna crack some once I get moving again. I just gotta get the blood flowing and my muscles warmed up.
Small talk's never been my thing so I think fast on what's something normal people do in the mornings that doesn't involve two people. "Got an extra toothbrush?"
"What?" she asks somewhat bewildered by my random question.
"Extra toothbrush," I repeat, slower this time as if I'm talking to somebody mentally challenged. "You know, one of those little colored sticks with bristles on one end that you use to clean the pearly whites with."
"Check the top drawer in the bathroom, I might have an extra one from the last visit I made to the dentist."
"Cool," I grin appreciatively at her. I march my way past her and then stop, deciding to take a quick jab while I still can. "And C? I take my coffee with lots and lots of sugar. I got a serious sweet tooth when it comes to hot drinks."
I could never get down with the coffee thing. I remember when I was a kid and my mom drank the stuff to try to get over her hangovers. I always thought it was wicked foul, unless I loaded with the cream and sugar, and then I could handle it. A few times I even tried adding some chocolate syrup along with the usual suspects. Ended up working like a charm. But if she hasn't been around all summer, I'm seriously doubting that she's got any milk or Hershey's syrup. Truth is, I'll just be happy to get something in my stomach. I'm still jittery about this whole break out thing. I could use something to settle my insides with.
I find an extra toothbrush right where C said they'd be. There's a blue one and a pink one. One guess which one I claimed as mine. As I brush, I can't help checking me out some in the mirror. Been a while since I really looked at myself objectively. I'm looking surprisingly good despite all the shit I've been through lately. The hair's a little bedhead-y, but other than that, I'm pretty damned pleased aboput the old mug looking as good as it does. Now if I could just get my hands on some eyeliner and lipstick, I'd really feel like my old self. I look all of fifteen without the usual mask in place. Vulnerable too, and I just don't dig that look on my face. Just doesn't fit right, you know?
Once I scrub and spit and give the hair a good finger-combing, I head back into the kitchen to find Cor sitting pretty with an outdated People magazine in her hand. She's not really reading it, but I guess the pictures keep her eyes busy enough so she doesn't have to stare at my smirking face all morning.
"So Ben and Jennifer are a bust, huh?" I say as I read the front cover. I don't get what the big interest is in celebrity romance. Everybody knows it ends in divorce anyway. My mom used to pick up the National Enquirer every now and then with her liquor. I used to like the stories about three headed dogs and alien babies.
She looks up at me and snorts. "As if everyone didn't see that one coming from a mile away." She puts down the mag and points at the cup of steaming hot coffee in front of me. "Dennis was nice enough to pour you a mug. You'll have to put in your own sugar. Neither of us were sure how much `lots and lots` consists of."
"Just like it sounds," I grin cheekily as I start spooning sugar into the cup. After about 4, I stop, stir, and do a little taste test. Not the best stuff, but Hell, anything beats the already cold junk they serve in prison.
"Geez, Faith, take coffee with your sugar much?"
I just shrug in reply. "Like I said, I've got a sweet tooth."
"Now there's the understatement of the year," she snorts again. I can tell she's amused by me, as much as she tries to hide it with snappy remarks and sarcasm. I mean, even I can admit that it's gotta be a hoot to hear the rogue slayer can't handle a little black coffee. "Anyway, I was thinking that we could go out today."
Now it's my turn to be skeptical. "Is that really such a good idea, Cor? I mean, I'm all for sightseeing, but let's be real here, I just escaped from prison. Don't you think the cops'll be on the lookout for me?"
"Fred took care of that," she replies matter-of-factly. "She hacked into the prison and changed a few files around. They won't be looking for you for a long, long time.... if ever. When we do a break out, we do it right."
"Damn," I mutter and I still can't believe this is actually happening. I'm free. Really free. No parole officer to report to. No cops to run from. I wasn't gonna end up as the most famous kid under 21 to grace the screen of America's Most Wanted. "You guys really went all out, huh?"
"You say that as if I'd want to house a wanted felon," she says with some major eye rollage going on. "Angel has enough problems without having to worry about the cops nosing around in our business."
Okay, girlfriend's got a point there. Still, they didn't have to go through all this trouble. I'm wicked touched by all of this. They went through a shitload of trouble for me and all I've done so far is bitch and moan about how I don't trust their motives in bustin' me out. Fuck me, I'm an idiot. I'm just no good at this nice stuff. Nobody's ever been nice to me before... except for Mayor Wilkins. His brand of a nice was a little different. Sure, he bought me a five star pad and shiny weapons, but I was also his hired assassin. I only got those milk and cookies after I'd done my job right. These people are doing this because it's what they think is right and all I gotta do is accept it.
I look up at C, she's engrossed in the magazine again. It's tilted just enough for me to see that she's got the pages open to the fashion "do"s and "don't"s. I lick my lips and try to bind my time until she wigs on me and tells me to quit with the staring. I've been told I got some pretty intense vibes going for me when I choose to focus my attention on something.
She finally looks up at me with a narrowed brow and a worried expression. "What? Do I have something on my face?"
I shake my head in the negative. I lick my lips again and clear my throat. Everything feels dry and tight all of the sudden. "I just wanted to say thanks. You know, for everything... the breakout, the place to stay, and," looking down at myself, I smile at the not so bad outfit she's got me in, "the clothes. It's wicked classy of you to be doing all this for a person that once tried to kill your graduating class."
She just stares at me for a moment, as if she can't believe that I can do the nice thing too. "Well, we do put up with Angel, and he's tried to destroy the world on more than one occasion."
"Yea," I chuckle in response. That argument never did work on B. For some reason when it came to me, I'd always be bad. Vampires could be redeemed but not naughty slayer Faith. I'm always gonna be bad news in her book. When I can't stand the serious atmosphere anymore, I go for a conversational diversion. "So you mentioned something about shopping?"
"We totally need food for a start," she states as she looks around her kitchen somewhat mournfully. I notice the trash bag's full and I get an idea of how she spent her morning. Yuck. Can't say I'm sorry I missed that. Maybe I could offer to take out the trash.
"And I need some new threads," I speak up while we're on the subject of needing stuff. Cor probably doesn't want me raiding her closet on a daily basis. Now that I'm out for the long haul, there's a whole list of things I need besides leather pants. I doubt princess here wants to be sharing hairbrushes and shampoo forever. Probably thinks I got slayer cooties or something. "You think we could hit up a mall or something?"
"The mall?" she arches a brow up at me. Now she's really amused. "I could use a manicure and a massage. There's the cutest little salon in the mall that has people to give massages while they do your nails. God, I haven't been there in ages. I'm sure Angel won't mind if we do a little pampering and charge it to his card."
My mouth drops open in horror at the word "we". Oh no, no fuckin' way am I sitting around in some girly boutique getting sparkles put on my nails.
"We?" I squeak out, unable to cover up my level of freaked.
"Uh huh," she replies in a sing-song voice. "Like it or not Faith, I'm not letting you out of my sight. If I have to be subjected to your skanky motif, you're coming with me while I get some long overdue pampering in. Besides, how do you know you'll hate it when you've never even given it a chance?"
"I just, it's not my thing," I mumble out lamely. "I don't like the fluffy stuff, okay?"
"Okay, party pooper. If you don't want to participate, you can sit on the hard plastic chairs with fashion magazines and wait until I'm finished."
"Maybe I will," I huff... but that option screams boredom, so I think I'll accept C's offer to get pampered and charge it all to the big guy up top. They just better have black polish... and if not black, dark red. I'm not gonna prance around in leather pants and pink nails. That'd be the clash of the century right there.
A few hours later has us both at the mall, C decked out in her usual designer gear and me just trying to keep a low profile in some more of C's outfits. I opted for a pair of faded jeans and a black tank. Nothing special, but it's better than going naked. I'm still a little shaky on the being out in public after my breakout. Doc McKenny always said I had paranoid tendencies. You know, just the usual the world is out to get me things. Can't say he's wrong about me. Spend your life being a cosmic joke and see how positive your world views are. I'm just a regular poster girl for jaded teen in the US of A.
"You know Faith, acting like an escaped prisoner is only going to bring unneeded suspicion," C speaks up as we march up the escalator. We'd stopped by the food court first to stuff our faces. Her with a chicken salad and me with a burger and fries. "If you keep looking over your shoulder, mall security is going to think you stole something."
She's right. I'm jittery as fuck and just making people think I'm some kinda lunatic with the way I keep looking around and waiting for someone to tell me to put my hands in the air. I gotta start taking my own advice and chill the fuck out already, so I force a smile and take a deep breath. Come to think of it, a massage couldn't be half bad...
"Okay, okay, I'm chillin'," I say as I relax the bod and lean up against the rail. "I'll quit the spazz act once I get zipped up into a pair of leathers."
"Typical," she shakes her head, but she's smiling. "Leather pants to calm the wild beast. Who would've thought?"
I'd say I thought so, but that's kinda stating the obvious so I keep my trap shut. The escalator reaches the top and I hop off and onto solid ground. Those things are seriously freaky. I've heard all sorts of horror stories of kids getting their shoe laces stuck and ending up without a foot. You see what I mean about paranoid? I've got all sorts of ticks that nobody would ever guess I've got. I'm just good at keeping 'em to myself.
The leather shop isn't too far from the escalator and I practically run in there like a kid that's just been presented with the candy store. Once inside, I forget all about being an escaped convict 'cause I'm in fucking heaven. Leather pants of every cut, style, and color. I go straight for the black ones. It's almost good in a way that we're doing this shopping spree thing. My old threads were looking something weary. With all the blood and vampire dust on 'em, they'd seen better days.
I grab two pairs of black, your typical brown ones, and some in the shade of dark blood red. These should do by me all right. I also grab a pair of clunky boots. They're the kind with a slight uprise of a heel, good tread action on the bottom, and zip up a little past the ankles. Cute enough to wear for a night out and durable enough to slay in. I dug 'em.
"Hey C," I call out once I've gathered up my purchases. She's off looking at purses. "I'm all done here, you mind handing me the plastic?"
She kinda snubs her nose up at my idea of fashion but she knows better than to try to talk me out of leather and into Gucci. "I see you're taste in skankwear hasn't changed much."
"Nope," I answer proudly, running my hand against the smooth surface of the red pair. "I look hot in leather, Cor."
"Hot in that skanky way," she says with continued disgust at my leather fetish.
"Damn, C, you're starting to sound like a broken record with all the skank talk. It's not all bad. Have you ever worn leather before?"
"Yes," she admits, frowning slighty. "I had a few stylish leather jackets in high school. Why?"
I grin widely and point a thumb over at a maroon leather jacket, slim cut and just screaming Cordelia Chase. "So what's your beef with the cowskin, princess? I bet you'd like what you saw if you gave that one a chance. I know it ain't Pucci or whatever it is you rich types you wear, but it's got style."
"It's Gucci," she corrects me hautily. Yea, whatever, close enough. "And I'm not stuck up if that's what you're trying to imply."
"Then prove it," I bite back, the challenge in my voice wicked clear and present.
"Prove you're not stuck up and buy the jacket. You're armed with the plastic. Say it was a matter of life or death. The big guy will understand."
She looks back and forth between me and the jacket before snubbing her nose up at me and marching over to the rack. That's my girl. See, I know how to deal with chicks like her. All you gotta do is call them chicken and they'll do whatever it takes to prove you wrong.
"Happy now?" she asks when she comes back wearing the jacket. Gotta say, she wears the cowskin well.
"Ecstatic," I reply smugly. "Now hand over the Visa. I'm just itching to get changed into my new duds."
Once Cor signs on the dotted line, we make a few more stops in stores of my taste. Footlocker for training gear... I needed a pair of sneaks and a fair share of tight tops to keep my tits in while I'm pumping metal. We stop by some run of the mill cheap stores for some low slung jeans, wifebeaters, tight tanks and T's with fun sayings on 'em. I've got a thing for shirts that offend. Even got myself a new denim jacket that's gonna look all kinds of smokin' when paired with my new pants. I'm almost sad about how much money I've spent here today. C ain't saying anything though, so I go with it. Why stop a good thing, you know?
"God, for someone who bitches about hating the mall, you sure can shop," she says while we're standing on that escalator again.
This time we're going down towards the nail place. I got a feeling she's been dying for this all day. Gotta hand it to the girl, she's been a trooper throughout all of this. Every now and then we've stopped in a store of her choice, but for the most part, I'm the one doing the shopping while she does the babysitting act. The only store we both seem to agree on is Victoria's Secret. Every chick needs her fair share of sexy underwear. I caught sight of the prom queen buying herself a teddy. Man, I don't think I want to know who she plans on wearing that in front of. I don't need the mental pictures of her and Soul Boy gettin' it on in my head. The boy's like a brother to me now.
"I'm just trying to get this all done in one trip," I explain. It's true too, I do hate the mall with a fucking passion. The less time I gotta spend here, the better. "I'm efficient like that."
We reach the Nail Emporium (man, what a lame name!) and C turns all professional on me and makes an appointment for two. The Asian chick behind the counters says something about the wait being long but my girl Cordy talks her way in front of some other people on the list. We're suddenly down to a ten minute wait. Can I just take a second here and say whoa? Never pegged C as a smooth talkin' negotiator, but damn, am I ever liking it. A girl that can get what she wants is damn sexy.
"Damn, C," I comment when she takes a seat beside me. "Where did you learn how to sweet talk like that?"
"I can be efficient too," she replies with all the dignity in the world. She's doing her typical I'm the queen of the world act now. "It's just a little skill I picked up from dealing with hundreds of incompetent hairdressers, waiters, caterers, and manicurists in my life. They like to pretend they're all important with their appointments but the truth is, they need people like me to keep them in business and they really can't turn down a good offer."
"So you flashed dollar bills in their faces and threatened to call in the super?"
"Less of the former, more of the latter."
"God, you're such a rich bitch, C," I laugh from my spot. My feet are up on the table and I'm getting some fierce glares thrown in my direction. Stare away bitch, it's not gonna stop me. This is my way of dealing with self important assholes. I just smirk and flip 'em the bird. This nail thing might be fun after all.