Tall, dark, handsome, and always after sundown. Faith knew his style by now. Her eyes shot from the clock, with its promise of sweet relief from retail hell, to the glass door he was in the process of grabbing. He flung it open and strode in, seemingly unaware of how dramatic he looked. Faith chuckled softly to herself.
He strolled over to the meat counter. His eyes studied with no particular interest the various animal remains on the other side of the glass. Faith knew he wasn't seriously thinking about any of them. He was only here for one thing.
She drummed her fingers against the counter rhythmically, observing him. "The usual?" she asked him.
He turned his head up with a closed-mouthed smile. "Unsurprisingly."
'The usual', of course, meant pig's blood.
She walked over to the fridge and pulled at the handle. It was old, and needed a little force to open every once in a while. She located a shelf full of plastic boxes and retrieved one from within, containing a sickly red substance. She headed back to the counter and slid the box to her customer.
"You know me too well," he said.
He was still smiling, but the statement hadn't sounded like a joke. Did she?
Faith shrugged. "Well, you're lucky I do. You're basically the only one who buys this stuff."
They ordered much of it specifically for him, she knew. He had been a returning customer since before she had even started working there, and she had come to expect his regular visits.
He studied the box, satisfied. "Well, to each to each their own," he said.
She rested her head in her palms, planting her shoulders on the counter. "What do you use it for, anyway? It's blood."
His eyes shifted to look at the clock, and she followed suit. The sweet call of closing time was nearing.
"You can use it for more than you think," he said.
Not much of an answer, Faith thought.
"Well I'm glad you want it so bad," she decided to say. "Means I get to see more of you."
His eyes shifted, trying to avoid her. "Well-" he began, but stopped just as soon as he had started. "Thank you," he said instead.
"You're welcome." Seeing him all flustered was nice. He always seemed so serious, and she had broken the veneer for a moment.
He turned around and began walking towards the door. An enjoyable sight, but-
"Wait," she said.
He looked back at her.
"Will today be the day I get to hear that lovely name of yours?"
He considered it for a moment. "Angel," he finally said, then walked out.
"I'm Faith!" she called after him. She didn't know if he heard.
Faith rubbed the soap roughly against her skin with her knuckles. It was the strongest scent she had been able to find at the supermarket. The meat smell clung to her like a bad ex-boyfriend, and only the best would do when removing it. By force, if necessary, and boy was it ever.
She opened the water again, biting her lip as it hit her skin. It was a habit for her to turn it up to unbearable heat bit by bit, like she was a frog, boiling herself. She turned her face up towards the showerhead and felt the cleansing rain run down her body. With a crank of her wrist, the water died down and she stood for a few moments, listening to the drops from her hair hitting the tiled floor beneath her.
Faith emerged from the bathroom with her hair wrapped in a towel and another covering her torso and thighs, feeling distinctly bougie and more than a bit refreshed.
"Sure took you long enough."
Buffy was sitting by the small table in the entranceway, staring down at her phone.
"I work at a butcher shop, let me have this," Faith replied. She sat down next to Buffy with a sigh, then leaned backwards and stared blankly into the middle distance.
"Whatcha thinking about?" Buffy asked.
Faith looked at her. "B, you know me. I don't do the whole 'thinking' thing much."
"Can't fool me," Buffy said. "Something's going on up there." She poked the side of Faith's head.
She swatted Buffy's hand away. They stared at each other in silence for a few moments before Faith acquiesced. "Well there's this guy-"
"Oooh, a guy. Is he handsome?"
"Oh, mad handsome. He shops where I work," Faith said.
"Hmm," Buffy said. "Whenever I've worked retail it's been customers flirting with me, not the other way around."
"I don't think he does that. He's very quiet," Faith said. "I learned his name today, though."
Buffy nodded her head enthusiastically. "Names are good. What is it?"
She snorted. "And you're sure you're not being punked?"
Faith rose and walked to the small kitchen. "Pretty sure, yeah. Some people have weird names." She shrugged. "Besides, "Faith"? Like I'd be one to judge."
She rummaged through the cupboard to find a half-used pack of coffee filters, then put it in the machine standing on the counter. She had found it in the electronic waste room, thrown out, and for good reason. It was old and rusty, and made a noise like a steam locomotive racing by when she turned it on. But it worked, and that was enough. She put in the coffee grinds, poured water inside, and turned it on.
Buffy swung herself inside from the doorway like a ballerina, then leaned against the counter. "So, work guy," she said.
"Work guy," Faith replied. The noise from the coffee machine was overtaking every other one in the kitchen.
"What's he like?" Buffy said, almost yelling to avoid being drowned out.
Faith considered it for a moment. "Well, like I said, he's quiet. Wears a lot of black."
"He buys blood," Faith said. It was that moment the coffee machine stopped, leaving the statement to linger between them.
Buffy sideyed her. "O… kay. Is he a vampire?"
Faith rolled her eyes, pouring a cup of coffee for herself. "Somehow, I doubt it."
"Well, sounds like the beginning of something beautiful," Buffy snarked.
Faith handed her a mug, then filled it with enough of the liquid that it nearly spilled over.
Buffy took a careful and noisy sip.
"Got any weekend plans?" Faith asked.
"Gonna be at my mom's place, she wanted me to come visit," Buffy replied.
Faith frowned. "Aww, I was hoping we could hang."
"Well, there's always Angel."
Faith scoffed slightly. "Even if, I don't have his number or anything."
"Fate has ways," Buffy said, taking another sip of coffee.
"I really doubt that I'm just gonna show up somewhere and see-"
He turned around to look at her, from his spot just ahead in the queue. "Oh," he said. "Faith, right?"
"Right." She smiled. "Fancy seeing you here."
The shop didn't seem much like a place she expected him to frequent. Around the walls were odd, colored shapes and designs, and around the tight space the room occupied, the tables were a bland steel. The place was cheap, greasy-smelling, and located in a hole in the wall, none of which fit his demeanor at all.
"It's the best place I've found in the city," Angel said.
She put on a thoughtful frown. "Took you more for a proper restaurant kind of guy."
The queue moved forward, and suddenly, they were in front. "Well," he said, "you don't know me very well. Yet."
Yet. She liked yet.
"What are you getting?" he asked.
Caught off guard, she looked up at him. God, he was tall. "Uh, I was just thinking a wrap."
Nodding, he turned away. "Two wraps," he told the man behind the counter.
"Wait," Faith protested, "you don't have to pay for me, I'm fine."
"Don't worry about it," Angel said. "Can't imagine they pay clerks very well."
That much was true. "Alright," she said with a shrug.
The man at the counter cleared his throat, and they turned to him. "Chili and garlic?" he asked.
"Both," Faith said, enthusiastically.
"No garlic for me," Angel said.
The man nodded and went to work.
She cocked her head. "You don't like garlic? It's like the best thing they put in these."
"Not really my thing," Angel said in a terse tone.
They got their food and he led her to one of the steel tables, then sat down on the grey, folded-out chairs that stood next to it. She followed suit.
Faith bit into her wrap, extremely aware of how impossible it was to eat in an attractive way. She emerged from her bite with dressing on her cheek and her eyes began a desperate search for a napkin.
"Here," Angel said, offering her one, seemingly from nowhere.
She accepted it and ran it along her cheek. "Do you just... have these?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Pays to be prepared."
With one hand, she crumbled up the napkin and put it on the table. "Well, since you know my work, it only seems fair that I know yours," she said.
"I'm a private investigator," he said. "I like to dig up the truth. I don't know if you've noticed, but there are lots of secrets in this city." He gave her an odd look, then turned his eyes away.
"Sounds a lot more exciting than retail," she said.
He frowned slightly. "Don't sell yourself short."
"Thanks," she muttered. "Don't wanna be selling you blood forever though."
Angel let out a chuckle. "Guess that's fair enough. Do you have any hobbies then?"
"I suppose," he said. "Not a big party guy myself."
She nodded. "Now that, I believe."
"I do karaoke every once in a while," he said, getting quieter with every word.
Faith's mouth opened wide. "I would kill to see you do karaoke."
"You'd have to," he said. "Not exactly eager for folks to know."
She gave him a devilish smile. "Well I know now," she said.
"Frightening concept, but I trust you." He looked at his watch. "I'm sorry, but I've gotta be somewhere," he said."
Faith turned her eyes down. "Aww, we were having fun."
"Well, let's not make it the last time, then," he said with a grin.
"Let's not," she replied.
He headed out of the store, leaving Faith where she was. With nothing but her free wrap and a thought, digging into the side of her skull. Lots of secrets in this city.