Angel's jaw dropped. "How?" The demon in front of him gave Angel a wide grin.
"There is so much here. There are so many. Can't you feel them Angelus?"
On a reflex he spoke. "My name is Angel."
"Mine is Es. But you already know that. You know much about me."
"I know that you're dangerous, and that you stole my friend."
"She is not your friend."
Angel bristled at that. "Yes she is."
"She fights by your side. Her love for you is stronger than anything that word could ever hope to mean. She believes in you the way that priests believe in God. She loves you."
Angel felt ill to hear Faith's mind being ripped open and shown for anyone to see by a creature who had no right to look. "Please give her back. We'll do anything you want."
"Why would I agree to that? I don't want to know what you'll do."
"Because you love entropy." Angel recalled
"I do. I love it so. That feeling of not knowing. It is intoxicating. I see every possibility and each one exists for as long as none of them are realized. Oh so many lives one can live."
A part of him understood what she was saying and would be intrigued if not for the very real danger she presented. "Are you going to try to kill me?"
"I cannot try to kill you. I either kill you or I don't. For that reason I won't. We must level the playing field somehow if we are to play. I must hit you with a weapon far weaker than my own power. I must do something that creates more possibilities instead of limiting them."
"How did you get out?" Angel asked
"Oh that is a lovely story."
Fred put her hand over her mouth and tried to stop laughing. Being overcome with giggles while having a mouth full of mashed potatoes was not a good combination, but Willow was relentless in the humor of her joke. "So I said, why not add a little eye of newt?"
Fred laughed harder and even Wesley chuckled. "I doubt the warlock was pleased."
"Well no, he wasn't. But he did appreciate the humor of the situation later."
"When he was sitting in a council jail?" Wesley asked
"When I had to explain to the jury what happened to the cat."
Fred was now red with laughter. With great effort she swallowed her potatoes and then gasped for air while her fiancé and her friend looked on in amusement. "At least he didn't have any Murdock root in the potion. The color wouldn't have faded for weeks." Fred said
Willow nodded sagely. "It did wear off in a couple of hours, so there's that."
"Willow why would you leave behind such an exciting life chasing demons and warlocks around South America to come run a school in Japan? Surely this isn't as exciting." Wesley said
"I missed academia." Willow said "Didn't you?"
Fred sighed. "So much. The rigid borders of tests and papers. They make life simpler."
"I must say translating an ancient demonic text is somewhat more relaxing when one's life doesn't hang in the balance and you have time to really dig into the grammar." Wesley said
"But we are saving lives by training the next generation of evil fighters." Willow said
"To us," Fred lifted a wine glass. One wouldn't think that a tiny dining room in a tiny apartment would be anyone's paradise, but Fred couldn't think of anywhere else in the world she wanted to be more as she shared a meal with two of her favorite people. "To our good work."
Wesley clinked his glass against hers. "To the good fight."
Willow raised her own glass. "And all who fight it."
Fred had to swiftly move her glass away from her mouth and cover her lips with her hand to keep wine from spilling out as an unbidden giggle rose in her. "What is it?" Wesley asked
"I'm just really happy." She said
His face transformed into an expression of pure bliss. "I'm so glad."
Willow sighed. "I wish you two would stop flaunting how perfect you are for each other in front of your single friend." But then she smiled to show that she was teasing.
Before either could respond they heard a knock on the door. Wesley looked at the antique clock on the wall and frowned. "Who could that be at this hour?" He wondered
Fred was already on her feet. "I'll get it." Wesley watched Fred open the door and Willow saw all color drain from his face. "Hi," Fred said with a smile "How can I help you?"
Wesley was on his feet and behind her. "Hello father,"
Fred turned around to face him with wide eyes. "This is your father?"
Standing in the doorway of their apartment was the personification of the very ideal of a prim and proper Englishman. "Hello Wesley," The man said in a voice devoid of any emotion
"Wh-what are you doing here?" Wesley asked, still pale
"Are you going to invite me in?" Wesley's father demanded in a scornful tone
"Of-of c-course. Please c-come in."
Fred and Wesley backed away from the door to let Wesley's father in. "I see you have relapsed into that deplorable habit." Wesley's father said "Hardly your most notable failure at the moment however," He scanned the room. "This place is rather small isn't it?"
"Well you know big cities." Willow said from where she was still at the table, feeling horribly awkward "Everything is smaller and more expensive. Especially in Asia, space efficiency is a big thing here." She walked over to the Englishman. "I'm Willow Rosenberg."
Wesley's father stared at her extended hand for a moment with a look of displeasure before taking it with a pained expression. "Roger Wyndam-Pryce, charmed of course."
"I'm Winifred Burkle, I'm sure you've heard of me." Fred offered her own hand and Roger took it with less irritation, but he still didn't seem pleased.
"I must say I haven't."
Fred and Willow both stared at Wesley, a little stunned. Wesley coughed. "Father Ms. Burkle and I are en-engaged. I have been meaning to tell you, but I- um- hadn't yet…"
"Wesley if you can't talk like an adult you needn't speak at all." Roger snapped
Fred and Willow both reflexively backed away from the man. For a few moments there was complete silence in the apartment. Wesley's face was turning red with embarrassment while Roger continued to survey everything with a cold disapproving eye. "Would you like something to eat?" Fred asked, finally breaking the awkward standstill "We were just having dinner."
"A cup of tea would be nice." Roger gave Fred a look she couldn't quite read, but made her uncomfortable none the less. It was equal parts expecting and disapproving.
"I-I'll make tea." Wesley said as he scurried for the kitchen
Left alone with Roger, Fred and Willow felt even more awkward. A casual late-night dinner party between friends and colleagues had turned into a situation Willow in no way wanted to be a part of but she could find no obvious route of escape from either. "Were you a watcher?"
Willow's attempt at small talk was met with a cool expression. "I was."
"I run a school where we train watchers." Willow said "And slayers,"
"I am quite aware of who you are and what you do witch." Roger spoke the word witch as though it were the curse it rhymed with. "I am aware of what your blasphemous spell did and what your slayer friend has made of the legacy of my forefathers. I am also aware that my treacherous son has fallen to a new low in working for a woman such as yourself."
The air thickened with tension. Willow's jaw dropped. Such blatant rudeness from a total stranger stunned her. Willow had been afforded more respect by bitter enemies than Roger Wyndam-Pryce had just shown her. Fred was also stunned, but a bit less surprised. She supposed a man capable of breaking his son's arm for misbehaving was capable of many things. But she still did not intend to simply allow this situation to continue. "Willow is one of the most powerful witches in the world, if not the most powerful." Fred said "The slayer/watcher academy is a great institution and it's an honor to teach there. Wesley and I love living and working here."
Roger stared at Fred as though she were an alien. "I fail to see how your foolish ranting is at all relevant little girl. I also believe that I did not ask you to explain yourself or the witch."
Wesley reentered the room with a cup of tea. "H-here you go father."
Roger sipped the tea and grimaced. "I long for the day when I thought working for a vampire was the worst you could ever come to." Roger said in a tone used for discussing weather
"There must be things you wish to ask me vampire." Es said
"What are you going to do next?"
"I decide to do things only as I do them." Es explained
"You love chaos, but you said I was foretold." Angel said
"It was foretold that there would be a vampire who possessed a soul and that around him the reemergence of my kin would be centered. Only he and those who dwelled in his heart could affect the outcome of the coming times. The earth would shake and things that never could be would come about. The nature of things would be questioned. Children would speak hidden truths and creatures without souls will learn to love selflessly. Reality would bend at the will of those who seek power for their grand and minor purposes. What has always been would no longer be and the order of things would reform with him at the center of it. But even though we knew these things we did not have a face nor a name. We did not know how unique a soul the vampire would possess nor did we know what fascinating properties his people would have."
"Now you know." Angel whispered
"I could play with you for such a long time vampire. You never give up, even when it is by far the most logical choice. You are a stranger to reason and logic. You will be my favorite of all the playthings I have ever had, excepting the creature who I wear. She is magnificent."
"Please give her back." Angel begged "Illyria wanted to be out of Wesley, don't you want out of Faith? Please give her back to us. She can entertain you more when autonomous."
"You do not understand vampire, but you will." Then she was gone, probably due to the same time-distortion effect Illyria had used. Angel picked up his phone and prepared to tell his people that the world was ending again and they needed to get to work.
Es stood in the catacombs. She ran Faith's hand over the doors to the cells the vampire had filled with people he needed out of the way. She opened the most recently filled. A man fell to his knees when Es turned off the machine keeping him immobile. Lindsey clutched his neck and then looked up with wide eyes. "You-" He coughed. "An old one- I live to serve y-"
Es grabbed him by the shoulders and yanked him to his feet. "No Lindsey, you will not serve me, I will not have it. I do not have servants. You will attack the vampire. It will be done because there are many possibilities to such action. It increases the disorder of the system."
Lindsey's wide eyes narrowed into a scowl. "Angel?"
Es nodded. "You hate him."
"Then kill him."
"That would be good."
Lindsey hesitated and then departed. Es turned to the next door. The beautiful vampire on the other side smiled when released. "The cage door is open. The beginning has ended."
"The beginning of what Dear Heart?" Es asked
"The beginning of the end, the end of the middle, the middle of the end, the end of all things that ever were or ever will be, all things lie in the beginning, the beginning of fate."
Es's smile grew. "I like you."
Wesley flinched as his father sipped his tea and then turned to walk over to the cough and sit down. Roger gave his tea his full attention, ignoring the other people in the room. "Maybe I should go." Willow said "I'll- uh- see you at work tomorrow." Willow touched Fred's hand and gave her a meaningful look that clearly stated Willow was to be contacted at any hour if her help was at all necessary. Fred smiled in acquiescence. "It was nice to meet you." Willow said in a poor imitation of sincerity to Wesley's father "Bye Wes, bye Fred." Willow left the apartment.
"Fred?" Roger questioned
"It's a nickname." Fred explained
"It sounds rather ridiculous on a woman." Roger said nonchalantly
Fred blushed and Wesley looked away. "Why did you say you came Father?"
"I didn't say. I came to confirm the terrible rumor. An old colleague who betrayed the council by falling in with these… people that you work with, who I none the less remain in contact with despite my better judgment, told me you were working for the 'new council' and I had to see for myself that it was true. This is beyond my wildest nightmare however."
Fred stared. How could one man be so full of hate? Fred's wondering was interrupted by a sharp cry from the nursery. Fred headed for the room while Wesley and Roger locked eyes, one wearing an expression of shock, one wearing an expression of guilt. "Is that a baby?"
"Yes," Wesley whispered
"Speak up boy."
"Yes, that's my daughter, Evangeline."
"Yes," This whisper was even softer, but Roger was too furious to call attention to it.
"A daughter that neither I nor your mother was informed existed?!"
Fred reentered the room holding her baby. "What?" She asked
"How old is that child?" Roger demanded
"Eight months," Wesley said, sounding defeated
Angel threw Gunn against the wall. "What did you do?!" Angel held Gunn in place by clutching Gunn's shirt, murder in his eyes. "What the fuck did you do?!"
Gunn tried to push Angel off of him and Angel dropped the man in revulsion when Gunn's hand, burnt so severely that bone was visible, touched him. "I saved her."
"You damned her!"
"Es was putting her through a hell we can't even imagine. Every terror she ever experienced, every awful thing she did or that was done to her, she was reliving it. Es made a deal with me. Es lets Faith stop reliving the pain and terror when I turn off the machines."
"What makes you think you can trust her?!"
Angel felt a hand on his shoulder. "Angel cake-"
"Not now Lorne."
"I did what I had to in order to save the woman I love." Gunn said
Angel scoffed. "Just like you did what you had to when you wanted to keep your fancy law knowledge and sold Wes down the river. If it hadn't been for Lilah- of all people Lilah!- Wes would be dead. You do what you want without regard for the consequences!"
"Gee, I wonder who I picked that up from."
"What's that supposed to-"
"Shut up!" Lorne shouted
A shocked Angel and Gunn turned to look at the panting Pylean. Lorne's fists were clenched and he looked exhausted as well as angry. "Lorne," Angel said hesitantly
"Some champions you two are, the powers really messed up when they picked you for the big fight. You're more worried about whose fault something that was set to happen before either of you were conceived is than how to fix it. We have to stop Es, not stand here bickering about the unchangeable past. Get it together! Now! Or I'll- I'll- You'll regret it okay?!"
Angel and Gunn stared for a few more seconds. "Okay," Angel whispered
"Sure," Gunn said
"Are there any other indiscretions you want to share while we're here?" Roger asked
Wesley stared at the floor. "Father please, I love Fred and we've been meaning to get married for a while now. Evi isn't an indiscretion, she's my daughter. She's a beautiful girl."
Fred stared at Wesley. His voice was devoid of feeling, he sounded empty. "Wes,"
"What kind of future does the poor girl have? Born out of wedlock,"
"That's not as uncommon as it used to be." Fred said
"I'm not talking to you girl." Roger said "Please be quiet."
Fred just stared at the father of the man she loved. "What?"
"For God's sake Wesley, can you get her to shut up?"
Fred stared at Wesley, waiting for him to protest his father's unbelievable rudeness, but he just continued to stare at the floor. She would have to handle this herself. "How dare you talk to me like that in my own home?" She demanded "How dare you come here and mock the man I love in front of me and our child?" She was shaking with rage. "What gives you the right?"
Roger sighed. "Where did I go wrong with you boy?"
"Maybe it was when you broke his arm." Fred said through gritted teeth
"I suppose my son has told you plenty of altered accounts of his childhood in order to incur your pity. I assure you that incident did not happen the way he said it did. His arm was broken by accident, whereas his foolish decision to steal from his father and attempt a dangerous resurrection spell was entirely on purpose. Wesley has always had very little regard for the proper way of things. I tried to teach him the importance of rules, but of course the second he went to your godforsaken homeland he forgot everything I devoted years of my life to teaching him and defied the council, resulting in his being fired. Then he went to work for an unholy creature of the night, the very type of creature he was raised to despise and destroy. Is there anything in your life boy you didn't do just to cause me as much embarrassment as possible?"
Silence filled the room like an oppressive weight. Wesley sighed. "Did you fly all the way here from England to lecture me Father? I assure you a phone call would have sufficed."
"Don't get cheek with me boy. I'm still your father and that entitles me to your respect."
"Sorry," Wesley said, abashed "I only wondered what it is you want me to say father."
"A little acknowledgment of what a mess you've made of your life would be a nice start."
Wesley rubbed his forehead. "Where do you want me to begin?"
"Wesley," Fred said "What are you doing?"
"Why do I have to come into work this late?" Harmony asked "Am I making overtime?"
Lorne sat Harmony down in a chair in front of his desk. "Angel wants you here in case you get a vision and where he can keep an eye on you. Well, where I can keep an eye on you, in case Es tries to sever our connection to the PTB. We're going to stay in my office while the muscle searches the building. Not that their muscle will do any good against an old one."
"So what's the point?" Harmony asked
"Doing what you can," Lorne responded
"Humph," Harmony looked around the office. "I'm bored." The lights flickered for a moment and then went off. "What was that?" Harmony got to her feet, vampire vision adjusting with ease to the dim conditions. "Did the power go out?" The temperature dropped.
Lorne shivered. "I don't think so."
Lilah flipped through documents, looking for something that would protect this building against Es, but the old one was bound by neither agreements nor laws. "Hello Lilah,"
Lilah's head snapped up. "Sirk! You were in the catacombs."
"Indeed I was." Sirk agreed "The old one let us out of our cages."
"Knox? Pavayne? Lindsey? Drusilla?"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes," Sirk was smug. "Es sensed the potential energy in this building and converted it to kinetic. People with no ability to effect the world can now do what they want."
"What do you want Sirk?" Lilah asked
Sirk shrugged. "I figured we would talk. We're both better at that than anything else."
Lilah gestured to the seat in front of her. "Have a seat. What do you want to talk about?"
Sirk sat down. "I remember when you brought me here. You asked me so many questions about Roger Wyndam-Pryce. I have to admit that when I worked with the man, me a young wet behind the ears watcher, and him an experienced field operative, I never imagined a man like that could contribute anything good to the world. You said I would be surprised Lilah."
"I did everything I could to prepare you for your destiny, why did you defy me so?"
Wesley kept his gaze on the floor. "I didn't choose to be fired, I was incompetent."
"Truer words were never spoken."
"Yes, had I been wiser I would not have been fired. I would have quit."
Roger scowled. "What does that mean?"
"I followed every instruction the council gave me." Wesley looked up, but then away when his father's stern gaze was too intimidating. "Rupert Giles was ten times the watcher I could ever have been. He had actual experience. He had a report with the slayers. You sent me there to be an instrument of the council and I was. I did what they wanted done and I helped Faith down the path of self-destruction and further alienated Buffy from the council that she already despised. You wouldn't think that I could do anything more aggravating than when we tried to kill her, but you'd be wrong. That she was willing to eventually look past, but insulting the man she loved like a father and refusing to help the man she loved as a lover was too much for her too handle. The council always treated its slayers as instruments, much the way it treated its children. But Buffy is a person, a flawed one, but great for all her flaws. She refused to let us treat her the way I let you treat me for my entire childhood, like a means to an end."
"That's quite enough of that." Roger said "I don't have to be insulted like this."
"Do you deny what I said?" Wesley asked "Do you deny you never loved me?"
"What does love have to do with anything boy?"
Wesley laughed bitterly. "You're right father, love has nothing to do with you."
Roger shook his head. "I came here for an explanation and now I have it. Instead of honoring your sacred calling you betrayed your heritage to jump into bed with some harpy-"
Fred's gasp was covered by Wesley's cold statement. "You can leave now."
"Excuse me," Roger said "What was that boy?"
"I told you to leave."
Gunn kept his grip on his sword tight, even though he had no idea what he would do if he came across Es. The old one would be able to pop his head off with ease, but even as Gunn considered this he did not regret his actions. He did not regret promising Es that he would let her out of her cage. He did not regret keeping his promise to the creature who chose to look like Buffy because she was the one person who Faith was unable to win the love of. No matter what was happening to Faith it was not as bad as what she had been suffering through. Whatever came next they could handle. A sound and the smell of electricity caused Gunn to pause and with his senses on high alert Gunn dove to the floor before a bolt of light went through where he had been standing and hit the wall. Gunn rolled over and looked at a smirking man holding a device that looked like a prop from Star Trek. He aimed the large gun at Gunn. "Hello councilor,"
"I've missed you."
Spike turned around and was face to face with her. "I know."
"But it's over between us my boy. We made some memories."
Spike thought of the glazed look in a person's eyes when the life slipped out of them and the sound of screams when the pain was too much. He thought of the smell of smoke and the feeling of holding a body with an erratic heartbeat. He thought of the taste of warm blood and the taste of fear sweat. They had made a lot of memories. "You mean so much to me. You were the entirety of my world. But there was so much else there, you blind me to it. You were the worst thing that ever happened to me and I couldn't see it. I'll love you forever. You made me want nothing but you. There are other kinds of love. There are loves that make you admire a person instead of obsessing over them. There are loves that make you want to be a hero instead of a slave to blind passion. I choose that. But no matter how strong I get or how much better a man I become I'll never be able to kill you. I'll always smell the flowers that seem to grow inside you and release their perfume through your pours. Did you see this, when you turned me?"
"I knew I wouldn't have you forever, but I would have something I couldn't get anywhere else and that is beautiful. William, you will never know another woman like me."
Spike stared at her as she drew closer and put her lips on his. "I know."
Lorne and Harmony ran down the hall holding hands. They ran from the flickering lights and the sounds of shattering glass. "What is this?!" Harmony demanded "What's happening?!"
"I think it's Pavayne!" Lorne explained
"I thought we put him in a cell he couldn't escape!" Harmony protested
"I think the word couldn't just lost all meaning on account of old one intervention."
They stopped. Standing in front of them was a figure cloaked in shadow. "Hello," It said
"Pavayne," Lorne wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement, but he knew whatever he had just said conveyed his utter terror. "How did you get out?" Lorne questioned
"Someone opened the door." Before Lorne could respond with a terrified yet still sarcastic 'of course' Pavayne raised his hand toward the ceiling. A crack appeared and Lorne grabbed Harmony's arm. They started back the way they had come, but the ceiling fell and buried them under wood and plaster. Pavayne stared at the pile and grinned an evil grin.
"How dare you speak to me like that?"
"I've accepted a lot of abuse at your hands, but I will not allow you to insult the woman I love, the mother of my child. You've mocked me enough times that a few more won't make any difference, but I will not stand by and let your venom touch those I care for. You are a loveless cruel man. I didn't not tell you about Evi because I was ashamed or worried about what you would think of me. I didn't tell you because I don't want you to ever come near my daughter or influence the woman she will become in any way. I didn't want the void where your heart should be to affect her even a fraction of the amount it affected me. Now get out of my home."
"What's gotten into you?" Roger demanded of his son
"I'm not afraid of you anymore. I guess it has something to do with the fact that I've faced things much scarier than you. I've seen what people are capable of and you're not as big or bad as I remember. It doesn't take a demon to abuse a child, just a small petty man desperate to use whatever little scraps of power he can collect. I was so afraid that I would be like you, but I could never be as pathetic as you are. So thanks for coming dad and putting my mind at ease."
Roger stared at his son with an expression of pure hate while Wesley just looked at him in disgust. "You are no son of mine. You are no longer welcome in my home."
"Good, that simplifies things." Wesley said
"Think of what you're doing to your mother boy."
"I'm sure the woman who let you beat me up and lock me under the stairs can live out the rest of her life without talking to me or looking at my face, in fact she might prefer it that way."
"Don't pity yourself boy. Your life wasn't so bad." Roger insisted
"I don't pity myself. I'm grateful to you for raising a child so weak-willed that the council had to cast him out. I'm grateful to you for making sure I would be a failure so that I could meet people that would teach me the truths you always concealed from me and so I could fall in love with the most wonderful woman I've ever met and have a child who is the best thing that ever happened to me. I am as far from sorry for myself as I could ever be. So thanks Roger."
Now Roger was the one red in the face, not from shame but anger. However Wesley was calm now, having come to a crucial realization. "You are a terrible disappointment to me."
"I know, I always was. I should have accepted that long ago." Roger abruptly turned around and without another word walked out and slammed the door closed. The sound echoed through the apartment and started Evi crying again. Fred bounced the baby and whispered soothing words to her. Wesley walked over and held out his arms. Fred handed the baby over without hesitation. "It's all right Evi; that was just a mean old man, don't worry about him."
Fred put a hand on Wesley's shoulder. "Are you all right?"
"I'm so sorry." His voice was now thick with repressed emotion. "I can't believe I let him talk to you like that. I was just stunned. When he showed up I felt like I was ten years old again."
Fred kissed Wesley on the cheek. "I'm really proud of you. That must have been hard."
"I was so afraid of him when I was a kid. I was so terrified when you told me you were pregnant because I couldn't help but think about what growing up had been like for me. I thought he knew everything. Every word he spoke had so much certainty. When he punished me I knew I deserved it and when he told me something I knew it was true. I didn't know any better."
The whole talk Wesley had been looking down at his daughter, now he turned to face Fred and saw that her eyes were shining with tears. "Did your dad ever read to you?" She asked
That seemed like an odd question. "No,"
"Did he feed you applesauce and rock you when you cried and kiss you on the forehead and watch you while you were sleeping? Did he ever look at you and wear an expression like he was witnessing a miracle? Because I know how much you love Evi and I've seen you do all of those things to express an overwhelming love. You are nothing like your father. You are so many wonderful things your father could never be because his heart is empty. You're a good man."
"I didn't believe you the first time you told me that."
Fred tried to remember the first time she had told him that. It had been after the incident with Billy. "Do you believe me now?" She asked, her heart thumping fast with anxiety
He kissed her. "Yeah, I do."
Angel faced Lindsey. Both were holding swords. "You can't really think you'll beat me can you Lindsey?" Angel smirked at the mortal man. "That's ridiculous."
Lindsey gave Angel a smirk of his own. "I don't want to beat you. I want to destroy you."
"And how are you going to do that?"
"By letting all of this take its course."
Gunn got to his feet in time to avoid another shot from Knox's large weapon. "How the hell did you get out of the catacombs?" Gunn demanded of the scientist as he leaped out of the way of the weapon once more. The walls were scorched in several places now.
"Is that really relevant at this point?" Knox asked
Gunn tried to charge the young man, but evading the laser that was coming from his device was proving to be a full-time challenge. Gunn threw his sword at Knox, hoping to cut him and screw up his ability to fire the weapon. Knox fired the gun at the sword and then where Gunn's sword had been molten metal was dripping onto the carpet. Gunn stared at the scorched carpet for a second. "Well shit, that's not good." Knox aimed the gun at Gunn once more.
Sirk stared at Lilah. "I'm still waiting to be surprised."
Lilah got to her feet. Sirk kept his eye on her as she walked over to a crystal tumbler of scotch and began to fill two glasses. "Happy well-adjusted people rarely save the world."
"That's true." Sirk said as Lilah walked over and put both glasses on the desk
Lilah smacked his hand as he reached for one. "Ice,"
"I'm good without."
Lilah shrugged, put ice in her own glass, and then sat down. "People with something to prove, people with nothing to lose, people who have seen terrible things, they become heroes."
"Or villains," Sirk pointed out
Lilah nodded her head in agreement and then took a sip of scotch. "We know which ones you are. You've seen terrible things, and you have nothing to lose. Everyone you have ever loved is dead. Me, I have something to prove, but the problem is I proved it. So now what?"
Sirk laughed. "You expect me to believe you really are one of the good guys now?"
Lilah got up to get some water to thin her drink. Sirk watched her every move carefully, making sure she didn't draw a gun or a knife. "I came here to prove I could go toe to toe with the best and the brightest and come out on top. I did, so why am I still here? Take a guess."
"I don't need to guess. Your soul belongs to Angel."
Lilah laughed. "Do you really think he'd enforce that ownership?"
"So why are you here Lilah? I'm honestly curious."
Lilah stepped behind Sirk and put her hands on his shoulders. "Where else would I be?"
"So you have no purpose then? I thought the quest for power was all you needed."
"I had hoped to rise in the ranks of this organization, but a moment of weakness ruined my chances. Sentimentality of all cursed things got to me. I have tried to rid myself of it, I did awful things to the person who inspired my weak sentiment, but it's not enough. However after spending so much time amongst the 'heroes' I have learned something. They say it's about the good fight, but the adjective may as well be removed. They are in it for the fight, for the excitement and the glory. None of them are as good as they would like to believe. I might not be bad enough to be evil, but I think I'm just bad enough to be good. I think I have just enough disregard for my fellow man to fight the good fight, if not quite enough for the bad fight."
Sirk started to turn his head, but a flash of light hit his eyes and a sharp piece of metal rested against his neck. "Where did you get that?" He demanded as his heart sped up
"When there's an emergency I always keep a dagger up my sleeve. Our security sucks ever since the slayer got sick. Are you ready to be surprised Sirk? It's a good tale."
"Go ahead," Sirk tried to summon every obscure fact he knew to think himself out of this situation, but it seemed he was stuck. "I worked with that man, he was as vicious as they came."
"Yes, that's what he did for the world. That's the only thing he ever contributed to this lovely world of ours. He gave us some DNA. I know you like to fancy yourself as corrupted, but the truth is that you were always a villain. Your council was corrupted before you were born."
"Is that so?"
"I don't know." She slit his throat. "I just like to fill people with despair. I enjoy the way someone's voice sounds when they're questioning everything they ever thought they knew."
Lilah let the warm blood flow over her hands. She put the bloody dagger on her desk and then went to find a bathroom and wash the life bearing fluid from her hands. Partway down the hall she found herself facing a creature who looked like Faith. She was purple and she was smiling in such pure ecstasy Lilah couldn't help but smile back. "It's gone now." Es said
"What is?" Lilah asked, knowing she should be afraid, but unable to be
"Everything he could have been or done. I made the potential energy kinetic, but now it has dissipated. The system is less disordered. I could punish you for removing entropy from my system and imposing order, but if I killed you there would be even less disorder."
"I'm sorry." Lilah said "I didn't think about how killing him would…" Lilah wasn't sure how to finish the sentence.
"Less people, less possibilities, less combinations. There are less total actions that can be committed, there are fewer possible futures. Does this happen every time somebody dies?"
Lilah stared at Es. "I think so, yes. But I'm not sure."
Es took a step forward and punched Lilah in the face. Lilah fell to her knees and touched her throbbing cheek. "If I had hit you harder and killed you there would be more structure to the world, fewer possible outcomes. But physical pain makes no discernable difference if nonlethal."
Tears were leaking from Lilah's eyes due to the severity of the pain. Es walked away without another word while Lilah tried to stifle any moan or whimper.
Fred got off the phone with Willow after a promise was given that yes the story would be more detailed when she retold it to Willow at work tomorrow and then went into her daughter's room where Wesley was in a rocking chair holding the sleeping infant. Fred looked at them for a moment and then came to a decision. "Put her in the crib." She whispered "I need to talk to you."
Wes gave her a concerned look, but was put as ease by her reassuring smile. Wesley put their daughter in her crib and then followed Fred into their bedroom. "What is it?" Wes asked
"We think about things the way we remember them being. You know?"
"I think so." Fred put her arms around his shoulders and looked into his eyes.
"You were afraid to have a child because you thought of childhood as a negative thing, but now that you see what a great one our child is going to have you aren't as afraid of the thought that she might suffer the way you did." Fred took a deep breath and then let it out in an unsteady exhale. "I liked… sex. But I have this terrible memory and now I just think of it the way that it was in that memory. So I need a better memory, one that reminds me why I liked it."
Wesley stared at her and his eyes were full of deep concern. "Are you sure?"
She kissed him. "I just need something gentle, something warm."
He kissed her back. "I can do that."
Spike's hands were all over Drusilla. His lips were all over her too. He was lost in her presence and in her body. "Tell me love." He commanded "Tell me what happens next."
"The cage doors are all open. The son crawled out of the cupboard and is standing in a sunny valley with a flower and a doe. The power is there with them. She is on fire with it and was never put out. We are here with the spiders and cobwebs, relearning everything as the reality has been updated. We think we are so old, but we're not William. We are very young."
Drusilla was on the ground and Spike was on top of her, holding the woman he really wanted to be with. All of that time wasted and urges carried out with the lawyer and the secretary were a distant memory. When he was in Dru he was connected to her, he loved her. "Be mine."
"Nothing is yours William. Hold me, come inside. But I'm never yours."