Anyways, next part of Crimson Regret with a huge nod towards liz_marcs who planted the germs of the stairs problem in my head with a chapter of Living History (words cannot describe how much I love that story!).
There was a banging on the door that shocked him out of his reverie. He'd lost track of time again – something he'd done a lot of over the past week or so. Sometimes he'd find himself staring off into space, not allowing himself to think about anything and the next thing he knew, it was pitch black and he hadn't moved for hours.
At least this time it hadn't been for so long a period but the
disconnected feeling he was left with refused to lift. Another knock on the door was accompanied by Faith calling out, telling him time was up and she was about to come in and get him if he didn't open up.
Sighing heavily and trying to force the weariness from both body and soul, he hauled himself to his feet and opened the door. He didn't look at her; instead he kept his gaze on the pastel patterns on the carpet that caused his vision to swim. With hands thrust deep into his shapeless jacket pockets and without saying a word to her he walked out and headed down the hall, leaving her to close the door and follow.
He was halfway down the winding stairs when she passed him in silence. She was almost bouncing down the stairwell whilst he knew he must look like an invalid, gripping onto the banister and placing each foot as carefully as possible on each step.
He'd discovered very quickly, and very painfully, that humble stairways were not a friend to the ocularly challenged. Faith was at the foot of the stairs looking back up at him in puzzlement. He paused for a second as a wave of dizziness washed over him – when was the last time he'd actually eaten anything? – and saw her puzzlement suddenly turn into understanding.
Silently fuming, he mentally dared her to rush back and offer to help, just so he could see the look on her face when he told her exactly what she could do with that help. She didn't move though, instead she continued to watch him as he won the battle with vertigo and started again.
The motel they were in had clearly seen better days, once it had even called itself a five star hotel and had been the favourite haunt of starlets wanting to leave behind the hustle and bustle of Hollywood but not willing to abandon the luxuries. Times had changed, but the hotel had not. Lack of interest and investment had let the place gradually slip into anonymous nostalgia until finally a nation-wide chain of motels had bought it, put their name over the door and turned
it into the kind of shabbily generic rest-stop that could be found in every large town across the country. With one exception, the stairway remained.
It was the height of elegance and an observer wouldn't be remiss in expecting to see Audrey Hepburn come sweeping down in a fabulous gown. That was, until the observer's eye took in the rest of the surroundings. The stairwell widened out at the base to almost double the width of the rest of it, and the wooden banisters curved back on themselves at that point to give an unobstructed view of the person descending.
Xander had time to think about the stupidity of that particular design feature as he found himself with nothing to hold onto and four shallow steps of which he had no real way of judging the depth.
It was only four steps and yet it might as well have been four
hundred. Gingerly, he stretched one foot out and breathed a sigh of relief when he made contact with the solid surface beneath him. He stepped down. One down, three to go. Finally, painfully, he made. On level ground once more, he realised he was breathing as heavily as if he'd just finished a ten kilometre run.
To her credit, Faith didn't mention it; instead she stood waiting for him to collect himself before finally asking "So, we good to go?"
"Where?" He winced a little as he realised he was once again slipping into almost Oz-like monosyllabilsm. The object of this outing as far as he was concerned was to convince Faith that he was a fully functioning member of society and didn't need someone with him 24/7. He had to act normal – or at least as normal as he got – and then she'd get off his back and leave him be.
Not perhaps the best plan in the world but he knew from personal experience that the best laid plans were usually those that went spectacularly wrong. By the law of averages, a half-assed plan like this was bound to succeed. Be happy, normal Xander and once she bought it and fucked off he could go back to just being.
She was looking at him oddly again and he realised she'd just said something in answer to his question. It really was a weird and decidedly un-Faith like expression on her face – was that worry? No. Faith is Faith, don't think of her as being anything other than the manipulative, rudderless double-crosser that she'd shown herself to be time and time again. Above all, do not trust her.
His worldview was fucked up enough right now; he really didn't need her screwing it up even more. It was time to put the plan into action. He pasted a wide grin onto his face, wondering why something that had been second nature now felt so out of place, and followed her out onto the street.