Title: Let that Lonesome Whistle

Author: Harper

Email: Xfjnky2@yahoo.com

Pairing: Faith/Cordelia

Rating: NC-17, because I am physically incapable of writing anything without sex and bad language. My fingers cramp up and refuse to type if I resist the dictates.

Disclaimers: I don't own any of these characters, and I hope that the people who do won't get pissed because I borrowed them for a little bit. If one of them is reading though, I'll go ahead and say that I'm not worth a lawsuit. I don't even have a job, much less money to pay off damages. I suppose that I should also say that if you're offended by girl-on-girl action, or you are under 18, or if this is illegal in the state in which you live, that you shouldn't read this. I think I live in one of those states myself though, so I'm going to leave everything up to your judgment. We can run from the law together. Besides, didn't Reno v. ACLU protect my right to post this?

A/N: This'll probably read as derivative, your prototypical girls behind bars kind of fic and all. At the very least, I had a fun time writing it. I never really did watch Buffy, especially after Faith left, and I've only seen a handful of episodes of Angel, so there are a lot of things that I've completely ignored (like characters I know nothing about and the canonical storyline arc) and other things I've repeated in a way that was gleaned from other fics, so if something strikes you as out of whack, then that's probably because I read it in another fic and thought that it really happened and didn't know that it didn't really happen, so I inserted it here believing that it did and that everyone else would know what I was talking about. Nobody beta'd this for me. If you'd like to provide feedback, I'd more than like to receive it. You can reach me at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com. Thanks for reading…

As soon as she got out of here, she was going to kill Angel. She was going to chain him to the floor of that skanky hotel that he had commandeered and slowly raise all of the blinds and watch him sizzle to death right there in front of her desk. Hopefully he'd scream and beg and plead as he crackled, and she could simply stand there, looking beautiful and refreshed as usual in a new outfit purchased especially for the occasion, resting back against her desktop with her legs crossed at the ankles, calmly drinking her latte, and watch him suffer.

I'll take care of it, he had said. Don't worry, I've got connections. Yeah right. If he had such big connections then what the hell was she doing standing here wearing this God-awful outfit and staring down a narrow hallway that ran in front of a row of cells, hmmm? One of which she was soon to inhabit.

Attempted robbery. As if she, Cordelia Chase, would rob a bank. It was the damn visions. She'd seen it so clearly, a demon and a young homeless girl, and she wasn't sure what the connection was but Angel had paled when she described the creature if ever a vampire could pale. So, they'd gone off hunting, finally finding the scene of her vision behind some random bank that she hadn't even known was there. The scuffle was quick and the demon ran, forcing Angel to give chase and leave her there alone. So, she'd pulled out a nail file and prepared to practice one of her many skills… patience.

Unfortunately an undercover officer had been working nearby, trying to bust hapless johns looking for a little fun with a randomly picked and paid for boytoy, and had been drawn by the sounds of the scuffle. He hadn't gotten there in time for the fight, but he had gotten there just in time to see Cordelia emerge from the shadows of the bank's back entrance. During the melee, the demon had raked some rather large gashes in the thick metal door, and even though she had possessed no breaking and entering tools of any kind other than the nail file, they'd hauled her away. Security cameras don't catch battles between vampires and demons, but they do catch the actions of a furtive human looking for cover in a doorway. And honestly, a nail file? As if she was going to turn into some type of superspy and be able to pop open the elaborate locking mechanism on the door with a 97 cent nail file? And really, was it even possible to cut through a steel door with a nail file? Science and engineering might not be her forte, but Cordelia was going to go with a great big no on that one.

They had actually put her in a holding cell with three prostitutes and a drunk. She'd had to deal with the smell of alcohol and cheap perfume and old sex until Angel had gotten together enough money to bail her out. He'd told her then not to worry about it, that they'd be able to make the charges go away, but an overzealous ADA had kicked the case into Federal court, and there'd been nothing that Angel could do. So now she was a convicted felon, looking at a sentence of three years, out in one or less with good behavior. Despite the conviction in federal court, they had sent her to the state penitentiary because of rampant overcrowding, which had just made things completely perfect. Maybe she could share a cell with Faith.

It was hard to ignore the leering gazes, the rude taunts, and the suggestive gestures thrown her way, but she tried her best. Squared shoulders, an upraised chin, and the no-nonsense glare in her eyes were the only weapons that she had here. Her few talents weren't going to be of much use in this foreign environment, but hopefully she could at the very least out-bluff anyone who thought she'd be an easy mark. But, beneath that rather shallow veneer, she was frightened. Who in their right mind wouldn't be? This was prison, after all, and you just didn't hear people coming out with lots of fun tales to share around the campfire.

"This one's yours." Keys clanked and the heavy slide of steel bars echoed through the hallway as the guard she had been following stopped abruptly, tilting her head to the left to indicate that this was Cordelia's new home. "Breakfast's at 6:30, lunch at 12:00 sharp and dinner's at 6:00. Someone will assign you to your work placement tomorrow. Yard time's in the afternoon. Anything else you need to know, Miss Mary Sunshine here can tell you."

Taking the last few steps that would lead her to the front door of her new home for the next several months, Cordelia had to stifle a groan. Of course. Why should she have expected anything else.

"Faith." It was a statement, and the tone of her voice told the other occupant of the cell that it wasn't a very nice one. Apparently the dislike and censure didn't bother the dark girl lounging on the thin mattress however, because she just grinned lazily, drawing one knee up so that she could wrap her arms around it.

"Queen C… what was it this time? Allegations of prostitution, hmm?" Faith taunted, thoroughly enjoying the other girl's obvious discomfort.

"Fuck you."

"Don't worry… we'll have plenty of time for that later," Faith leered, drawing perverse pleasure in the dark red flush that swept up the other girl's cheeks. It was a combination of embarrassment and frustration, and it made Cordelia so furious that she couldn't even find words to speak.

"Look, I hate to break up this charming little reunion, but I've got better things to do," the guard droned, her mouth scrunching up in an impatient snarl. "We're still on lock-down for at least another 2 hours thanks to yesterday's little playtime fiasco, so you two girls have plenty of time to catch up, do each other's nails, whatever. Now, in."

With a scathing glare, Cordelia pranced lightly past the scowling guard, turning to watch as the door slid shut with a resounding clang, the sound reverberating through her skull like a death toll. She didn't want to turn, didn't want to see the gloating countenance of her cellmate and wondered briefly if nails could be filed to such sharpness as to be able to slice through arteries. It might just be better to go ahead and end it all right now if recent events were any indication of exactly how her life was going to progress.

"We need to talk." The low voice broke into her musings, strangely serious now, and for a moment she entertained not turning around. Perhaps if she tried hard enough to imagine that she wasn't here, she could be magically transported away from the Hell that her life was rapidly becoming. That's it… a nice beach somewhere in the Caribbean, with soft white sand and the sound of waves lapping lazily against the shore while a cute little cabana boy named Manuel brought her fruity cocktails and flirted shamelessly.

"Fine then. If you want to pretend like I'm not here, go ahead. I'm gonna talk anyway. Took a lot of doing to get you moved in here with me," Faith drawled, her eyes tracing down the rigid back in front of her. She felt sorry for Cordelia, honestly she did, and when Angel had told her C was coming, she had made it her responsibility to help the other girl even if that help wasn't wanted. So maybe she hadn't opened the conversation on the right 'I'm here to help you' foot, but that was habit more than anything else.

"You mean you arranged it so that I'd be forced to share a cell with you?" Cordelia turned finally, one chestnut brow arching in question. "Why in the hell would you do that? Running out of sadistic amusements to occupy your time?"

Ignoring the last question, Faith went straight to the heart of the matter. "Why? Because you won't make it three seconds in here without me, Princess. This ain't like the movies, where the women's pen is some hokey commune where everybody sits and braids fucking everybody else's hair. Some of these girls would just as soon gut you as look at you, though when they get a look at your pretty face and hot little body, its more likely that you'll wind up as a communal playtoy. Of course, you may be into that pain and abuse stuff. Never can tell just by looking what gets a person off," the dark slayer added with a smirk.

"I don't need your help," Cordelia said stiffly, hazel eyes narrowing at the prospect. The last thing she wanted was to be in any way indebted to Faith. The implications of the rest of what she had said were consciously blocked. Besides, the dark slayer was probably just trying to scare her. Get her jollies by terrifying the new girl, added bonus points tacked on because the new girl just happened to be her, Cordelia, someone with whom she shared a definitely antagonistic history.

"Whatever you say, sugar. Just remember later that I offered and you turned me down," Faith replied noncommittally. There wasn't anything she could say right now that would convince the other girl that the time would come when she'd need her help. It was best to wait and have it shown to C the hard way.

The next few hours passed in terse silence. Faith had long since claimed the bottom bunk of the bed, forcing Cordelia to have to climb up and over her. There was nowhere else to sit in the small enclosure, unless she chose to rest on the toilet, and she certainly wasn't going to do that. Besides, even though she had to suffer through knowing that Faith's eyes were watching her every movement as she stretched her long frame up and onto the top bed, once she got there she could imagine that the other girl didn't even exist. If it weren't for the faint rasp of the dark slayer's breath she wouldn't have known she was there at all.

Faith, for her part, took the quiet time to do something that she had done a lot of since coming to the pen… think. It had taken her a long time to realize just how fucked up her life had been, but the events leading up to her surrender to the police had spelled out, in terms even she couldn't misunderstand, just how out of control she had gotten. While out of control could be a good feeling sometimes, you could only run for so long before you got too tired to keep it up, and she had reached that wall. So, taking the self-imposed restrictions on her life as a time for introspection, she'd come to several conclusions.

The first thing she had come to realize was that she was tired. Tired of pretending, tired of running, tired of pulling on her badass attitude like the armor it was. Life had never been too kind, and she'd developed an array of self-protective mechanisms that had suddenly become far too draining to maintain. She didn't want to fight all the time, didn't want to define herself by out of control behavior and bad judgment, a sneer and a sarcastic comment. All that time she'd only been looking for attention, for someone to stand up and let her know that they saw her, saw her for who she really was, and liked her in spite of it. For a while, she'd thought that her Slayer powers would bring that to her. No longer a victim, she became one of the powerful. For the first time in her life, she was special, in a position to control not only her life but also the lives of those around her.

It hadn't worked out that way though. Her watcher died, and she ran, just like she always had, straight to Sunnydale this time. Where she found her redemption once again, or so she thought, in the form of a petite little blonde who knew exactly what she was going through. Or, at the very least, she was supposed to know. She'd fancied herself in love with Buffy, slowly trying to carve out a place for herself in the other slayer's life, to make herself somehow indispensable. What she'd made was a royal mess of things. Buffy didn't love her and never would, and after a time she came to realize that she didn't really want that anyway. It had all been an illusion, and she wanted what Buffy had much more than she could have ever have wanted the other girl. It was all taken away from her even before she could truly experience it, though, and all because of one stupid mistake, someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She felt bad about that, really she did. It was the censure that really did her in though. All that time trying to find her place, to fit in, to do what was right in her own unique way, and they'd turned on her quicker than a newborn vamp.

What followed was a mixture of anger and retaliation, tempered with a good deal of confusion. By turning from all that she had striven for before, she found the one thing that had always proven elusive… love. The mayor might not have been perfect, but he never asked her for anything that she couldn't give and didn't demand that she become someone she wasn't. And what did she do? Screwed him over, that's what. Yeah, so it was for the greater good, but that didn't make her feel any better about it.

There was a lot more to it - poisoned arrows, knife fights that left scars that even Slayer healing couldn't erase, comas - but those were the salient facts. Everyone had said she was insane, psycho, and maybe she was, but what did you expect? You can't take a baby lion that's known nothing but pain all its life, let it suddenly realize the extent of its own powers and not expect to get bitten. And that was what she had been, wild, untamed, feral. No one had ever taught her to be anything else, or cared enough to tell her that the path she was on would cause nothing but hurt. Not that she felt sorry for herself or anything. This wasn't fairy princess land, and bad things happen. Suck it up and deal, was her motto. No sense in crying over things that you can't change. You've just gotta accept it and move forward.

She'd gone over the top though. Torturing Wesley wasn't a memory that she recalled with any fondness, and was probably the largest indicator in a string of indicators that she needed to stop, needed to re-evaluate herself and her life. So for once, she'd done the right thing. She'd turned herself in, finding it somewhat ironic that her one good act couldn't even be completely good because she wasn't even held accountable for all that she should have been. But, then again, spending the rest of her life in jail wasn't going to make things better either. She had a mission in life, a higher calling that she was just now beginning to understand, and once she'd done her penance, she was going to see to it that her life was more right than wrong.

After all of that had come into focus, she'd realized just how much of a blessing her exile was. Coming to grips with who she was and what she'd done had given her an inner peace, one that she had decided to extend. Thus she'd started exploring, finding what things made her happy, what things had a value that, while only intrinsic in nature, would help her retain her newfound balance.

Angel had started visiting her. He was, surprisingly, very good at helping her work through things. For once, she felt like she had someone on her side. After a while, she'd enlisted him in her plan for self-enlightenment, asking him to bring little odds and ends on his visits. Of course, she'd sworn him to secrecy. No need for anyone to find out about her newfound interests. He'd laughed at her that last time, a definite smile on his face as he'd watched her glee, watched her run long fingers over the smooth cover on the thin volume of poetry she'd requested like a small child with a coveted new toy. Sending a glare and a growl his way, she'd ignored him, refusing to let the fact that he took humor in her seemingly uncharacteristic behavior keep her from enjoying herself. She was nowhere near talented enough to express her feelings, either verbally or on paper, but she'd found that other people must have gone through some of the same things she had because they'd already hashed them out. Reading about it, knowing that she wasn't alone, was soothing. Besides, she was a closet bookworm, had always been. Fantasy was always more alluring than real life, and she'd learned early on how to use it to escape. Of course, as she'd grown older she'd used that avenue less and less, choosing instead to fight her way into something that she thought was better. Life had looped back over itself though, and the rediscovery of the potential solace to be found in words was a welcome diversion.

Which brought her full circle and back to the problem at hand. Cordelia was not made for a place like this. She'd heard the ridiculous tale of her capture and conviction from Angel when he'd come to ask her to watch out for the other girl. Even then she'd known that this was going to present a problem. On the one hand, she had to make a choice. Revert back to the old Faith, throw those barriers firmly back into place and present the person that C was expecting to see, or let someone in on her little changes. Not that she was a completely different person or anything. Faith would always be Faith, prone to speaking before she could think and acting before she spoke. Violence was a part of her, one that she couldn't shake no matter how hard she tried, and one that she didn't especially want to get rid of anyway. There was a certain primal satisfaction in knowing that she could protect herself. But still, those changes were there and it wouldn't be long before they became noticeable.

That decision hadn't really been that hard to make. She didn't want to go back to who she had been before. There was a sense of calm, of happiness, surrounding her now that she enjoyed, and she wasn't going to give that up simply because her old self might be embarrassed by some of her new features. C could deal with it, or not.

Of course, that lead to the other problem inherent in Cordelia's imminent arrival. The girl was going to need protection. There was no way that she would be able to survive in here and maintain any semblance of a life, and no matter what might have gone down between them before, Faith certainly wasn't going to make her fend for herself. The only plan of action that she could conceive of wasn't one that C would like, but it wasn't as if this was a problem that they could simply walk away from. Concrete walls and barbed wire fences made that option pretty impossible. That said, alternate methods were going to have to be taken. It was simply a matter of letting Cordelia realize that.

The clang of the door sliding open with an automatic hiss pulled her from her reverie, and Faith rolled out of her bunk with a grunt, stretching muscles that had tightened up while she rested. She could feel Cordelia's eyes on the back of her head as she raised her arms upward, feeling twin pops in her shoulders, and turned around slowly to face the other girl, well aware that the malice she saw there wasn't all her fault. A lot of things were not right about this situation, and she was merely a convenient vessel into which C could pour her hate and frustration and anger. She was okay with that, really. The other girl needed it and it wasn't going to hurt her any.

"I would recommend that you sit by me during dinner, but that, of course, is up to you," she drawled, mentally berating herself for being unable to keep out the little hint of taunt that crept into her voice.

"How kind," Cordelia gushed, her voice full of faux sincerity. "Unfortunately, I don't make a habit of dining with psychotic murderers, so I'm afraid I'll have to decline."

"Have it your way," Faith replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "You just remember, when it comes time for you to make a choice, that I'm the best thing you've got going for you in this place."

And with those cryptic words, she left. Falling easily into the line of prisoners headed toward the dining hall, she made sure that all of her Slayer senses were tuned to alert, ready to respond should she hear that C was in trouble. It was hard, over the babble of rough voices, to keep track of what was going on, but she wasn't about to lose her reluctant charge on the first day.


Dinner consisted of something that she'd rather not think about, as usual, and Faith accepted it with a sigh before heading over to her usual solitary corner. Her first few weeks in prison had been less than relaxing, with each resident bad-ass trying to up her status by teaching the new girl a lesson. Not that any of them had actually succeeded, and after a short time spent roughing up the major players in the general population, Faith had finally been left pretty much alone. The reputation she garnered then had continued to serve her well, protecting her from unwelcome advances and minor power plays, especially when everyone learned that she didn't attack unless provoked. As long as they left her alone, everything was fine. And, since making new friends wasn't particularly high on her list of things to do, she had found herself, for the most part, alone. Those who ventured over to her little corner of the world with kindly intentions were soon turned away by her decidedly surly disposition, which was as she liked it. Of course, there was Cordelia now, who would eventually realize that all Faith had said was true, and when that happened she'd have to expand her solitude to contain two.

Cordelia chose not to think about what was on her tray. Head held high, she made her way through the maze of tables, choosing one that was empty. Settling onto the cold metal seat, she picked up her spoon, poking at the casserole of undetermined origins, wondering if she really was expected to survive off of this swill. Completely caught up in her investigation, she failed to notice the ring of women surrounding her, all scowling in her direction.

"You're in my seat." The words broke through her haze, and she squinted up, catching sight of a rather large, rather unattractive woman. Frizzy red hair and deep set, small eyes combined with a thin, cruel mouth and slightly bulbous nose to give the woman the appearance of a gene pool experiment gone horribly awry, and Cordelia barely managed to repress a shudder.

"I wasn't aware that there was assigned seating," she shot back before thinking, only realizing that it might not have been the best thing to say when the other woman slammed her tray down on the table, bringing her scowling countenance even with the brunette's.

"You've got a smart mouth," she hissed, sending a speck of spittle sailing through the air.

"How very perceptive you are," Cordelia replied before she could stop herself, mentally smacking herself on the forehead as she heard the words. Antagonizing the local wildlife was probably a very bad idea.

"Why you little…" the red-head started, her body lunging forward, only to be held back. With a curse, she turned around to see one of her posse with an arm wrapped around her waist.

"Guards looking," the other woman said, her voice low. "After the trouble yesterday, you don't want to do anything public or it'll be solitary."

Cordelia, seeing her chance for escape, took it gladly, smiling at the assembled crew brightly as she picked up her tray. "Look, I'm really very sorry that I sat at your table, and won't make the same mistake again, okay. In fact, I'll let you have it now."

She didn't look back as she walked away, though she was still aware of the dark gazes following her every move. Dumping the contents of her tray in the garbage can, she made her way out of the dining hall and back down the corridor to her cell, feeling the sudden and intense urge to bathe away the stench of the other woman.

One of the few things that she'd been allowed to bring with her, and that currently rested on her bunk, was her bath kit. Jail was horrible in and of itself, but the thought of being forced to use communal soap was horrifying. So it was that, armed with shower gel, loofah, and designer shampoo and conditioner, she made her way to the showering area. The locker room was empty, no doubt because everyone else was eating, and she quickly disrobed, grabbing a towel as she headed toward the open shower area.

As she turned on one of the line of showerheads, she realized that she was going to have to shower with other people. She was going to have to be naked with a cadre of other females, all of whom were delinquents of some kind. Shuddering, rushing through her ablutions in order to minimize her exposure time, she suddenly realized that she was no longer alone. Turning slowly, instinctively knowing that she was most definitely not going to like what she was going to see, Cordelia came face to face with the red-head from the dining hall. She was backed by the same four women that had been with her earlier, all of them standing with arms folded over their chests and menacing smiles on their faces.

Smiling weakly, Cordelia looked around furiously for an exit. Realizing quickly that the only way out was through the wall of human flesh in front of her, she gulped. "I'm all finished here," she said, her voice bright. "Shower's all yours. I'll just be leaving now."

The human wall snickered, and as a whole moved forward. Backpedaling furiously, the brunette soon realized that there was nowhere to go. Her back hit the cold tile surface of the shower wall with a loud smack, and she watched in horror as the women fanned out to surround her, effectively hemming her in. Unable to do anything more than cover herself with her hands, the protection provided by those appendages less than substantial, Cordelia felt herself start to panic.

"We didn't come to use the shower," the red-head replied, baring crooked teeth in the silhouette of a smile. "We thought you needed a lesson, needed to learn your place around here real quick, and we're just the girls to teach it to you. Aren't we, ladies?"

The cohorts all nodded, moving closer until their shoulders were touching and Cordelia couldn't see anything but them. She felt herself start to tremble, vividly aware that she wasn't going to be able to talk herself out of this particular predicament, and wished, not for the first time, that she had never moved to LA in the first place.

"I really am sorry for that little misunderstanding in the dining hall. No need to resort to violence though," she babbled, looking around furiously at the wolfish faces surrounding her. "I mean, honestly, I've apologized. No need to hold a grudge, right? We can move past this."

"Althea, why don't you shut her up," the red-head drawled, shooting a significant look at one of her compatriots. The dirty blonde stepped forward, her hand shooting out to catch Cordelia on the cheek hard, snapping the girl's head to the side.

"Now, this is what's gonna happen," the red head said as the babbling stopped, obviously glorying in her role as ring leader. "We're each gonna get a turn at your sweet little pussy, but I get to go first, get to make sure that you're plenty stretched out and ready for all the other girls. And when we're finished, we'll let you use that little tongue of yours for something other than making me angry, you understand?"

Cordelia whimpered. The red-head was approaching her, moving in closer and closer until she felt like she couldn't breathe anymore. Hands were on her shoulders, holding her back against the wall, and she wanted to scream, wanted to make it all stop, but she couldn't find her voice. She could feel her world start to go a little black at the edges, and wondered briefly if she was going to faint.

And then, suddenly, the woman was gone. Looking around furiously, struggling against the hands that still held her, she saw why. Faith had the red-head on her knees, her fingers laced through one of the other woman's hands, pushing her wrist back until it was on the verge of snapping.

"I know that you weren't about to touch my property, now were you?" the dark-haired slayer snarled, and it took a moment for Cordelia to realize that she was talking about her. Biting back the urge to protest, she went still, eyes fixed on the scene in front of her.

"Who? Her?" the red-head squeaked, trying desperately to maneuver so that the pressure on her wrist abated.

"Yes, her. I thought you knew better than to mess with something of mine," Faith taunted, squeezing her fingers a little, rewarded by a piteous moan.

"I didn't know she was yours, honest. You know I wouldn't touch anything of yours. I swear it, swear I didn't know," the other woman babbled. She'd been among one of the first to test Faith when the other girl had arrived and had ended up with a broken rib and a bruised kidney to show for it. She hadn't even gotten in a good blow on the other girl either. Just felt the rush of air right before the knee to her ribs, heard the sickeningly loud crack of bone and the other girl's casual laugh as she fell to the floor.

"Then why do your goons have their hands on something that belongs to me?" Faith asked calmly, silently willing Cordelia to just go along with her for the moment.

"Let her go!" the red-head shouted, tears flowing freely down her face now. "I swear, we didn't know."

The hands disappeared, and Cordelia jumped away from the wall. With a growl, Faith let the red-head go, pushing her down to the ground. Grabbing Cordelia's waist as the other girl approached, she pulled her up against her body hard. After planting a short, searing kiss of possession on the other girl's lips, she turned to face the now cowering five-some.

"Now that you do know, I expect you to pass the word around for me. If somebody else lays a hand on my girl, I'll come looking for you after I take care of them. You got that?" Faith's body radiated danger, every taut muscle in her slim body on edge, wanting nothing more than a little provocation.

"Yeah, yeah," the red-head stuttered, and for a minute Cordelia thought about gloating, extremely gratified to see the woman groveling on her knees. "We'll take care of it for you."

"I really do appreciate that," Faith murmured. Then, taking Cordelia's hand in her own, she gave it a quick tug, "Come on baby, let's go. You know how I get after a fight."

The other girl followed dumbly along behind the slayer, slipping into her regulation prison outfit distractedly. The whole thing was just beginning to sink in, and Cordelia was in a bit of a state of shock. She'd never forget the feeling of being trapped, of being helpless. Not that she hadn't felt that way before due to her job, but this time was different. This time, she had felt completely vulnerable, naked and alone in the midst of strangers who were quite obviously stronger than her and who wanted to… she didn't even want to think of what they wanted to do to her. And then Faith had shown up, like an avenging archangel from Hell, terrifying everybody involved and easily laying a claim to her that she couldn't, at that moment, deny. The words had irked her. Cordelia Chase belonged to no one, much less slut psycho murdering slayer Faith, but what could she do? When choosing the lesser of the two evils, it seemed infinitely preferable to go with the known enemy. After all, there was a certain comfort in already being acquainted with the psychotic murderer claiming to own you.

But then Faith had kissed her. Just a short little kiss, no doubt for the benefit of the cowering bullies, but it had seared its way into her brain. She could remember every moment of it, from the rough drag of the dark slayer's clothes across her bare skin to the surprisingly soft lips moving commandingly over hers. Kissing a woman was completely different, in many ways, from kissing a man, and even that act of overt possession had been tempered with a seductive softness. And then it had been over, and Faith had taken her hand and made some suggestive comment, and for the first time Cordelia really thought about the implications of it all. While not completely up on prison lingo, she was fairly certain that Faith had just claimed her as her 'bitch', and the implications of what went along with that pulled her to a dead stop.

Faith, whose fingers were once again entwined with Cordelia's, was brought to a stop as well. She'd been giving the other girl time, letting her process it all and work through the exact ramifications of that little scene in the shower. Watching covertly out of the corner of her eye, she'd been amused to see the expressions flit across the other girl's face. Shock, confusion, something that looked vaguely like lust, and then, finally, comprehension. Comprehension heralded the return of shock, and that was when their little trek had been brought to a screeching halt.

"I will not be your bitch," Cordelia ennunciated, fixing flashing hazel eyes on her companion, apparently fully recovered from her harrowing encounter in the showers.

"Oh yes you will," Faith countered, wishing that C's thought processes could have at least taken long enough to ensure that they were back in their cell before this little confrontation occurred.

"No way," the other girl replied, shaking her head vigorously. That upset Faith just a little. Honestly, what was so horribly wrong with her that the thought of being her bitch was apparently so distressing. Well, so okay… it wouldn't be something that she would have wanted ever either. Not that she would have minded all the implied nocturnal activities that came along with the title had their positions been reversed, but she supposed that she could see where the other girl was having trouble. After all, she had left her sporting a rather nasty bruise and attempted to torture to death a good friend before heading off to the pen. Not to mention that whole Sunnydale 'I'm-going-to-help-the-Mayor-kill-everyone-you-know' fiasco. Still though, when compared to the gang that she had left whimpering in the shower, clearly she was the better choice.

With a sigh, she pushed Cordelia against the wall, a forearm pressed loosely against her chest, doing nothing more than holding her in place. "I don't think that you understand. Get this through your apparently impossibly thick skull, C… If I don't protect you, then next time there won't be anyone to stop whoever decides to corner you in the showers from doing exactly what they want. You didn't seem to be enjoying the attention before, though I suppose my imagination could have been playing tricks on me. If everybody knows that you belong to me, then no one will touch you. Look, its not like I'm going to force you to fuck me or anything. Just sit by me when we eat, stay close by in the yard, appear at your solicitous best, alright. Think about it C… this is only your first day here. How much longer you got? At least a year, right. You want to spend that whole time looking over your shoulder, praying that you don't get caught alone in some corner? You want to run the risk that your smartass attitude will get you gutted? Or is all of that worth it so that you don't have to fucking sit by me at lunch?"

"I don't have to… to touch you?" Cordelia asked hesitantly, brows drawn together in a scowl.

"Exactly when did I transform from psycho murdering bitch to rapist in your mind?" Faith growled, exasperated.

"Okay, okay… look, I'll play along with this little charade, but I don't have to like it," the other girl grumbled, pushing away from the wall, surprised when she easily broke Faith's light hold.

Stifling a sigh, Faith once again started walking toward their cell. Apparently she'd been wrong. Prison was her penance and Cordelia her incredibly heavy cross to bear.


"The library? You work in the library?" Cordelia asked, shock and disbelief coloring her tone.

"Yeah, the library. And now you work in the library too." Not that she was going to tell C exactly how she'd managed to wrangle that one.

"I knew something was different about you," C mused, and Faith wanted to scream. Already the deconstruction of her nice little life was going to begin.

"Yeah, and what's that?" she challenged, hoping that the other girl would back down. As if. Should have known better than that. Cordelia never backed down. Well, almost never, and she'd decided not to let this apparently kinder, gentler Faith scare her.

"The way you talk. Before your speech was gutter rough, harsh… but now, I don't know. Not as much slang now, a little less of the impossibly horrific grammar. Its almost like conversing with a normal human being. And honestly, working in a library? Really, how completely full circle can you come. Back in high school you used the classics for footrests. Now, you apparently shelve them. Just wait until I can tell everybody…" she started, trailing off when the slayer moved quickly, invading her personal space, their faces scant inches apart.

"You'll tell no one," Faith bit out. "There will be no show and tell time, you got me. I've finally got something good going for me and you are not, I repeat NOT, going to fuck it up. It took me almost four years to get here, and I am not going to let some little pampered self-styled queen bitch mess with that. Understand?"

"Whoa, down Sparky," Cordelia drawled, unable to take her eyes away from the blazing dark chocolate orbs burning into her. "No harm, no foul. I'll keep the shocking secret of your apparent literacy close to my heart, zealously guarding it from all who might actually be interested to learn that yes, Faith can read."

"You're amazing," Faith scoffed. "You possess absolutely no self-preservation instincts whatsoever, do you? Ever considered that it might not be a good idea to taunt the ex-homicidal maniacs, C? That maybe, just maybe, you should actually screen what you're going to say before the words cross your lips? Or maybe you've forgotten just how easy it would be for me to kill you. Superhuman strength and all that, added to an admittedly short temper makes me someone that you want to get along with."

"Oh please, like I'm really supposed to walk on eggshells around you for the whole of the next year simply because your fragile little ego can't take a little teasing," Cordelia shot back, shooting Faith a look of disgust.

With a look of disbelief and an exasperated groan, Faith turned on her heel and stomped off, putting as much space between herself and the other girl as the limited confines of the library would allow. Cordelia was seriously messing with her newly discovered more pacifistic side, and she was not going to allow herself to be goaded into a constant stream of little petty arguments. Taking deep breaths, running through all of the calming meditative chants that she had ever come across, Faith willed herself to calm down.

"I never thought I'd see the day when you would run away from me," Cordelia taunted from the other side of the library, and Faith gathered together all of her peaceful thoughts and calming chants and chucked them well out of a mental window. Eyes narrowing and nostrils flaring, she stalked back across the empty room, not stopping when she got to her cellmate. Instead, she continued to press forward until Cordelia was forced to retreat, and soon the taller brunette found herself with her back pressed firmly against the wall, one highly irate slayer pinning her there by the press of a lithe body, hands on either side of her head.

Jesus, Cordelia mused, people sure did seem big on pinning her to walls here.

"You just don't know when to quit, do you?" Faith asked, her dark eyes twinkling malevolently. Cordelia might have pushed all of her buttons, but she knew exactly how to strike back in this little war. Tilting her head forward, she let her lips nuzzle the other girl's flesh, gratified by the sharp gasp the move elicited. Tracing her way up the slim column of Cordelia's neck, she pulled one tender earlobe between her teeth, flicking it with her tongue.

"I say leave it alone, but you keep on… I warn you, but you don't listen to me," she murmured, insinuating her thigh between the taller girl's legs, drawing it up so that she pressed firmly against the warm juncture between Cordelia's thighs. Rocking her hips slowly, teasing the other girl with each thrust, she was rewarded with a whimper. Apparently, Cordelia wasn't as immune to her as the other girl would like her to believe.

"Faith," Cordelia whispered, not sure exactly what it was she wanted to say. She hated the girl, truly she did, and certainly didn't want to be subjected to this kind of treatment from her. But, a tiny little part of her mind whispered, it felt good in a way that she hadn't ever felt before. Faith was a slim bundle of animalistic sex appeal, and all of that intensity was currently directed at her. It was one thing that had always been oddly appealing about the other girl, her unabashed delight in the pleasures of the flesh. Cordelia hadn't been free to do that, to act with the near impunity that Faith enjoyed. Of course, that impunity resulted not because the slayer's actions didn't hurt people, but because she simply didn't care. Just as she didn't care about Cordelia now, was simply trying to scare her, to intimidate her into silence. And, she decided, suppressing a shudder as she felt soft breasts slide over her own, she wasn't going to allow it.

"What?" Faith asked, her tongue tracing a path over the sensitive skin behind the other girl's ear.

"I'll win this battle too," was the reply, and, consciously willing herself not to think, Cordelia moved quickly, capturing the surprised slayer's lips with her own. But, to her own surprise, the kiss wasn't harsh, as she had intended it to be. Instead, it melted into a long, slow, lazy, wet caress. Velvet tongues slid against one another and hot breath panted against tender, sensitized lips, and for a moment Cordelia completely forgot that she was supposed to be making a point.

When she pulled away, she looked down into heavily lidded dark brown eyes, ignoring the warm, moist pant of breath against her throat. Pushing away from the wall and stepping forward until Faith had to decide whether to let her pass or keep her pinned there by force, she smiled the contented, lazy smile of someone who is convinced that they had just triumphed over a worthy foe.

"Cordelia," Faith called out, running her tongue over her lips to recapture the other girl's elusive taste, "if you ever do anything like that again, be prepared to finish it. Next time, I won't let you walk away."

The words carried with them a dark promise, and Cordelia had to suppress a shiver of anticipation. Despite herself, she never had been able to back down from a challenge, and this certainly was one.


During the three weeks that had passed since their initial confrontation in the library, Cordelia and Faith had slipped into a semi-comfortable rhythm. Meals were now shared, as were occasional touches that reinforced to all looking that there was definitely a physical connection that shouldn't be infringed upon, and Cordelia spent much of their afternoon time in the yard trailing after Faith. Since it was the only real time that the slayer had to work off some of the spare energy that she had, no longer able to use slaying or sex as an outlet, she took full advantage of it. Cordelia had been amused the first day, watching the smaller brunette move through the selection of free weights available to them with frightening speed and ease. Unwilling to merely stand there, she'd picked up one of the tinier barbells, pumping it up and down until she thought she was either going to die from boredom or her arm was going to fall off.

Faith had noticed her listless stare, and suddenly, before she knew what was happening, the one time slayer had started channeling a personal trainer. She had Cordelia doing all kinds of exercises, biting out instructions and assessing her form critically. Confused by the other girl's actions but willing to go along to escape the mind-numbing repetition, she soon found herself with what Faith called a 'circuit', moving through the list of exercises that the other girl had given her. Sometimes they would jog too, and though Cordelia hated that more than she thought she could ever hate anything in her life, there was no way that she was going to let Faith get the better of her. So, she'd run in stupid little circles, trying hard to regulate her breathing and glaring at the other girl, who didn't even seem to break a sweat.

She'd received another surprise the other morning as well. Waking earlier than usual, she had slowly become aware of the sound of limbs moving through the air. Rolling up on her side, she had caught Faith standing in the middle of the cell, one leg raised and both arms curved at awkward angles out to her side, making her look like a deformed human pretzel.

"What're you doing?" she had asked, surprised when Faith nearly jumped out of her skin at the words.

"Shit," the other girl had cursed, glaring up at Cordelia, who was supposed to be sleeping. She'd been so far into her routine, her body lost in the soothing rhythms, that she didn't even know the other girl was awake.

"No, I'm pretty sure that's not what you were doing," Cordelia had remarked, looking at Faith appraisingly. "Mind tell me why you felt the need to experiment with interpretive dance before dawn?"

"Its Tai Chi," Faith had replied through clinched teeth.

"As in funky Eastern-Oriental semi-religious let me balance my mind, soul and body Tai Chi?" Cordelia had scoffed.

"Would it be asking the impossible for you to shut up and go back to sleep?" Faith had asked, resigned to the fact that yet another aspect of her life was now being invaded.

"No, please, continue on. I'm fascinated, really, just dying to watch a bona fide Tai Chi master at work, right here in my very own jail cell," the other girl had replied with a yawn. Her only reply had been a frustrated growl and the sound of Faith's body connecting heavily with the thin mattress on the bottom bunk. Cordelia's entreaties and weak attempts at apology had been rebuffed as the other girl continued to lay there and pout, even though she did feel kind of bad about teasing Faith in the first place. Well, maybe she didn't feel bad about teasing her, but she did feel bad that it had been taken so hard.

The library had been another revelation. She'd been surprised, at first, to see the way the dark slayer had handled the women coming through looking for reading material. If they were new, she'd ask them a few questions, find out what kind of books they liked, and automatically have a few that she could suggest off-hand. Others were apparently regulars, and Faith would usually be ready with a new book for them to check out, throwing it across the counter with a grunt. Most of the time the inmates would read the dust jacket and nod affirmatively, indicating that it seemed to meet their approval.

The whole process fascinated Cordelia. For one thing, Faith apparently knew what she was talking about. It didn't take her long to find exactly what she was looking for once a tome popped to mind, and for the most part, the women were happy with her recommendations. That meant that Faith must have actually have read those books, or at the very least took enough time in the past to get those women who did read them to offer critiques. Since long, drawn-out conversations of that nature seemed slightly impossible considering the potential participants, she was left with no other conclusion than that Faith actually had read them.

Not that she should be surprised. Every day Faith would pull a book out of somewhere, burying her nose in it for long periods of time, completely ignoring her. It alternately amused and frustrated Cordelia. If Faith didn't pay her any attention, she was left with nothing to do but peruse the library shelves, occasionally picking out a book but quickly discarding it because honestly, most of them were just as insufferably boring as the ancient texts that had seemed to so fascinate Wesley. And, for some reason they just didn't keep the latest fashion magazines on hand here, completely knocking out her normal reading fare.

The book that Faith was reading today, though, was different. It was a slim volume, one that she had noticed before in the tiny corner of their cell that Faith had appropriated for herself and her things. From what Cordelia could tell, it was well worn, the hardbound edges bent and ragged, the once shiny cover now dull and scratched from the repeated grip of fingers. She'd tried to get a glimpse of it before, but somehow Faith had always managed to catch her before she could, growling for her to keep away from her stuff. That, of course, pricked C's curiosity even further, and made her more determined than ever to see what was so special about that otherwise unassuming little book.

She'd noticed earlier that Faith would tuck it into the waistband of her pants at the small of her back whenever someone would come by. So, she waited patiently, idly wondering if it usually took this long for someone to decide that they desperately needed something to read, when finally an inmate appeared. Cordelia didn't know who she was, but Faith apparently did, because she stood up, fluidly tucking the book away behind her, and moved over to one of the shelves. Approaching slowly, as if she was only interested in observing the proceedings, Cordelia maneuvered herself into position carefully, standing to Faith's side, her body turned toward the other girl. And, as the inmate took her book and departed, she pounced, her hand snagging the thin volume even as she was running to the other side of the room. For a moment, the slayer stood, dumbfounded. Then, with a yell of outrage, she took off after Cordelia, catching her easily. But, not before the other girl managed to catch a glimpse of the title.

"Poetry? This is what you wouldn't let me see? Poetry?" she repeated, staring dumbly at Faith as the other girl snatched the volume away from her.

"Just give it back," Faith growled, her much quicker reflexes allowing her to swipe the book from Cordelia's hands.

"I don't get it," Cordelia continued, muttering. "Here I thought it was some great secret. What kind of secret it could be, I didn't know. But you mean to tell me that all this time you've been acting like this book contains the recipe for the annihilation of all mankind and its just freaking poetry? Of course, knowing you, it probably does contain the recipe for the annihilation of all mankind."

"You know, it wouldn't bother me too much if I accidentally broke your jaw and they had to wire it shut," Faith growled menacingly, scowling when Cor only laughed.

"Uh huh, big words coming from the girl who reads poetry. Now, gimme," Cordelia demanded. "I want to see what's so special about this book that you keep tighter security on it than they did the Manhattan project."

"Is it completely necessary for you to invade every single aspect of my life? Ever heard of the concept of privacy? I realize that it might be a stretch for you, being such a big word and all, but it generally means that you leave other people the hell alone," the slayer shot back, her eyes narrowing in a glare.

"You know I'm just going to keep on bugging you until you can't take it any more and have to give in. If you surrender quietly now, it'll save us both a lot of trouble," Cordelia said rationally, enjoying the stubborn pout on her companion's face.

"Fine, take the fucking book and leave me alone," Faith replied with a huff, shoving the small volume into the taller brunette's hands before turning and stalking back over to her usual resting place, shooting a baleful glare over at the object of her anger.

Cordelia couldn't help but notice the worn, smooth cover, the ragged pages. Edna St. Vincent Millay it said, and she racked her brain for a spark of recognition, finding none. Oh well, literature never had been a burning passion of hers. Flipping open the cover, she started turning pages, her eyes flitting past the words. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Faith watching her, back tense and eyes narrowed as if waiting for the next round of taunting. The jagged edge of a page caught her attention, and she looked at the corner, noting the small triangular fold used to mark the place, the crease so deep that the bit of paper was about to fall off. It was obviously a favorite, and she couldn't help but read it.

//Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by.
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Or that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Or that a man's desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
This have I always known: Love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales.
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.//

"Never figured you for a romantic," she said softly.

"Yeah, well, even semi-illiterate Southies can appreciate beauty," Faith grunted, heaving herself up out of her chair to move back across the room, reclaiming her book.

"Is that how you really feel? Is love that elusive, that cruel?" Cordelia asked, intrigued now. Sure, she'd teased Faith before, loving the way the other girl squirmed under her amused hazel gaze, but something seemed so oddly vulnerable about her now, standing there with her shoulders hunched and her fingers hugging the book in a death grip. For just a moment, she forgot that she didn't hate her.

"Transient, not elusive. But anyway, ain't no such thing as love," the other girl proclaimed, her chin lifting, her eyes hardening.

"I see," Cordelia said, a hint of laughter winding through her voice. "Even though there's no such thing as love, you keep as your prized possession a book of poems, and let me stress here the poem aspect of this, about love. Seems like if you really thought that was true, then reading about it would be a monumental waste of time."

"Then I suppose it's a good thing that its my time to waste then, isn't it?" Faith snarled, retreating back behind the counter. Cordelia could get under her skin quicker than anybody she'd ever met before. She didn't quit burrowing once she got there either, just trying to crawl her way further until she'd managed to shred Faith into little more than a ball of agitated nerves.

"Whatever tough girl," C said with a smirk. "People who've never had their heart broken don't read about it."

"Oh really. And just who do you think has broken my heart?" Faith smirked, drawing herself up on her elbows as if impatiently awaiting a revelation.

"Only everybody you've ever loved," Cordelia shot back, the smirk goading her into saying things that even her normally tactless self wouldn't. "How about we start with your mother? Didn't think I knew about her, did you? Of course I do. Between Angel's brooding over your trip down the path of redemption and Wesley's trying to explain away all that you did to him, I know your whole sordid little life story. Your mother drank too much, did drugs. So what, you run from her and latch on to your watcher, but your love couldn't save her, could it? You had to watch her die, helpless to do anything about it. And what do you do then? Here's where my own version of events picks up. You run again, to Sunnydale, to Buffy. But Buffy doesn't love you back so you try to hurt her as badly as she hurt you but you lose that one too. If trying to kill all her friends and her undead boyfriend doesn't scream 'I Love You' like a big cheesy FTD bouquet, then I don't know what does. And uh-oh, that brings up the Mayor, now doesn't it. You loved him too, I'll bet, and a lot of good it did him."

Faith was in front of Cordelia in a flash, a strong arm lodged squarely against her neck, pressing back firmly until she was trapped against the wall, struggling for breath.

"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about," Faith spat, her chest heaving with emotion. "You don't know shit about me, and from now on I'd advise you to keep your psychobabble bullshit to yourself, cause if you don't, then I'll personally fucking feed you to all the bitches out there waiting to get a piece of you. You understand that?" Cordelia nodded furiously, gasping for breath. With one more final tiny shove, Faith let her go.

Immediately bringing her hands up to rub away the pain of her bruised flesh, C regarded the other girl warily. For all of her bravado, there was a lost, haunted look in the other girl's eyes. Maybe, just maybe, her little diatribe hadn't been too far off the mark. And maybe she was a colossal ass for saying it in the first place.

"Faith, I'm sorry," she croaked, hazel eyes truly repentant.

"I don't want to hear it," the dark slayer muttered, moving back to her corner of the room, her thin body seeming to curl up around itself like a protective shield.

Section 2 Harper Buffy Main Index