AUTHOR: Kevin A. Poston (Fojiao2)
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters used in this story belong to me, not even Mr. Sterling or the Master of London. Baby, René, Claudia, and Jean Claude are the property of Ebony Silvers, as is The Pride and The Scourge. All other regular Buffy characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and anyone Joss okays. I profit from none of this.
SUMMARY: Wes & Dru start a family. Their first childe: Faith!
DEDICATION: For Ebony Silvers, the amazingly talented writer who first paired Wesley and Drusilla and opened a universe of creativity for the Babyverse Krewe.

October 1, 2018

Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling's blue shadows, Drusilla was momentarily cut off from her lovely Wesley, who was drawing his tongue across the tight buds of her nipples. The energy he'd gained as a lover since he was turned had been simply astounding, and Dru would often tsk-tsk herself for not doing it a decade ago. Considering this, she thought of something else she'd put off for far too long—and this was what had led her concentration away from the pleasure Wes was administering, her mind meandering around bends and consequences and divergent realities.

She pushed Wes' head away and said, "It is time, my Wesley."

Wes growled softly. "That's what I've been trying to convince you of, my love," he said, moving a hand to her crotch, "but you're not responding as I'd wish."

She took his head in her hands, turning it so that he was looking directly into her eyes. Dru smiled at him with great warmth and said, "Not that, silly man. Something much more important."

He gave a comical look up and down the slim white body lying naked before him. "I can't think of a single thing more important than you, dear heart."

Dru finally had to sit up to convince him that she was serious, and though his eyes kept flying from her gorgeous breasts to her eyes, Wes looked decidedly more sober. "All right, what are we discussing?" he asked, eyes still lit with excitement from being in the same bed with her. Sixteen years together and his interest had not flagged in the least.

She dropped her eyes to the cool linen bunched at her legs. "When you were gone, Wesley-my-Wesley—when your soul left and you became a stranger—I was thoroughly alone. Cordelia was a closed book, and Spike was a tight rope."

Wes leaned forward and took her hands in his own. "Oh, precious. I'm so sorry you had to suffer through that. But I shall never go again, I swear it. Nothing will ever pull me from your side."

Dru looked up, her provocative smile showing that she wasn't distressed. "I know it, my loving warrior. But those nine months taught me. They had been too loud to listen to, but when they were over their echo was clear. They said that you will be with me forever, when the moon falls and the seas dry."

"I—" Sudden emotion choked him and tears stung Wes's eyes. Usually he was the one to speak of "forever," finding comfort in hyperbole. His descriptions for her were poetic, and hers for him symbolic, as much of her language was. She was by far the most brilliant woman he had ever known, the labyrinths of her speech constantly keeping him on his toes. And with the way she spoke at the moment, he now knew that this had gone from being a bit of fun on a Saturday afternoon to being one of the most important conversations they'd ever had. Women! If she'd just given him a tiny warning, allowed him a few minutes' preparation . . . but then, if she had she wouldn't be the dark mysterious beauty who so captured his every thought. He would be earnest with her, as always, and hope that he didn't make too many mistakes. "Of course, princess. I will be with you in this world and the next. You're my reason for being."

Drusilla only nodded at this. "And since you've joined me in the dark garden we must consider what path we're to take. I think it is time, my dear man."

"Time for what?"

"For us to have a childe."

Wes stopped cold. Which would have meant one thing only two years before, but since he gave up breathing had taken on entirely new dimensions. He ceased all movement and his brain became a whirlwind of activity. There was no fear in him, just a healthy apprehension and a genuine curiosity to know what lay around the next corner in this conversation. He knew his beautiful wife had amazing abilities, and he was much more eager to see them than Spike had ever been. Thus he knew more of what she was capable of than anyone else, but he was also very aware that he had still not grasped her upper limit. Could she? Was it possible? "You— You mean like Angel and Darla, with Connor?" he said aloud.

Dru giggled at him, poking at his nose. "Of course not! That was prophesied! I mean that we take a childe, like a normal vampire couple would! Except—" She cast her eyes around the room, as if to keep her voice away from prying ears—"Our childe will be special. She will be like no other, just like we were like no others."

Wes didn't doubt that. Though Dru had created many minions in her 179 years, she had had only two childer: Spike, whose difference from other vampires made him Redeemed while still soulless, and Darla, her own grandsire turned human—and, of course, the only vampire to ever birth a child. He ventured forth with, "She? You have someone in mind?" Drusilla nodded, smiling. "And will she be ours or yours?"

The vampiress reached out and pulled him to her, wrapping her arms around him and speaking into his ear. "Oh, she will be OURS, sweet Wesley, body and mind. If Baby can have two sires then so can our own pretty girl."

"Hmm. Baby," he said, nestling into the curve of her neck, giving her small kisses along the length of it. "I'll have to ask my sire's permission. Officially, I'm still just a fledgling."

"She'll grant it," Dru whispered to him, her voice becoming dreamy.

"You'd know, wouldn't you?"

"Mm-hmm." She rubbed her hands along his back, driving him to distraction.

"Who are you considering, pet? A young girl, someone you can dress up?"

She giggled at that, and rolled him over so that she was on top. "Oh, Wesley," she said, "I'm far beyond that. I don't play at tea parties anymore." Dru sobered and reached out to caress Wesley's whiskered cheek. "Your strength has gotten me here, love. That's why I would never do this without you. Our daughter will be made from the best of us: she will hunt, and fight, and drive men insane with her beauty. And she already has visions; when she's turned I will teach her to open her mind even further."

Wes looked up at her with wide eyes. "She sounds perfect. Who is she?"

Dru wore a huge smile as she leaned forward and whispered, "The Slayer."

"WHAT?!" Wes yelped, then quieted himself. "B-Buffy?"

Dru shook her head. "No, no, dear Wesley. YOUR Slayer. The one who worries about getting old. The one who so embodies the best of us both. The one never afraid to taste a little blood. The one who will change the world."

Wes looked at her with hard seriousness. "Faith."

Drusilla nodded. "If we approach her in the right way she'll beg us for it."

"I— I don't know, my love. Turning a Slayer. It's never been done successfully. Either the demon or the human is too strong, and they fall apart."

"No Slayer has ever had sires like us," Dru returned. She continued to caress Wes's face, looking deeply into his eyes. "We won't be attacking her in an alleyway, my darling. It will be like a wedding. She'll be joining the family."

Wesley looked up into her calm and loving expression and knew that she had seen it already, that she had already investigated the consequences of this and understood better than any other Scourge member just what would happen. And the last of his objections fell away. He reached up and pulled her into a deep, hungry kiss, demonstrating his acceptance with more than words. He pulled away only briefly and said, "You will make the best, the most caring and perfect mother. I always thought so."

Dru ran a hand through the hair on his chest. "And you will be as her daddy what you couldn't be as her Watcher. Her friend, her confidant, her lover. It will be perfect, my Wesley. We will make it perfect." Her eyes flashed with fire and she was suddenly impatient, needing him inside her, closer than close, merged. She moved her hips over his already straining erection and plunged herself down on him, both of them crying out as they were joined. They screamed and wept and laughed and coupled and talked and sang and moaned for each other, over and over as the light of the afternoon gave way to the night.


October 3, 2018

Faith was a slave to the beat. The bass rumbled through the club like the drunken steps of a giant, and her whole body was swept away by it, arms waving helplessly, head rocked back and loose. This was the one advantage she had over the other Slayers: she'd learned the value of surrender, and reveled in it. Buffy and Dawn, her Chosen Sisters, could never let themselves go to this degree, so they missed the party.

When the music slackened enough that Faith could once again open her eyes, she spied Claudia just a few feet away from her, similarly jumping and swaying to the music. The beautiful vampiress had brought her, knowing everything about New Orleans' nightlife. Claudia was Faith's favorite among the Pride—the Slayer didn't have much use for most of the "family" here in New Orleans, but she could put up with all that and more for a friend and lover like Claudia.

She turned toward Claudia, intending to ask her their plans for the evening, when she felt him nearing her from the rear. Large, and heading directly for her; if not for the music, she'd surely have noticed him from across the room when he fixed his gaze on her. Faith spun around and looked up. Big dude, like a professional basketball player. He grinned down at her and said, "Wanna dance?"

She smiled back up at him, using her natural charm that eventually seduced everybody. "Thanks," she said, "but I got a friend over here, and we were just about to—" She'd already started to turn, but one of his big hands wrapped around her forearm and pulled her to him.

"C'mon," he rumbled. "Just one dance."

The guy was obviously so intent only on himself that he didn't see the dangerous glint in her eye. It was a look that had made new-risen vampires jump back into their graves, but the Slayer only allowed it to flicker across her face. In years past, when she was just a girl, she'd have given this jerk quite the night. She'd have shaken her body up and down his on the dance floor until he was weak in the knees, had him buying her drinks all night, and then wait until they got back to his place to crack his skull and laugh at him. It was needlessly cruel, and it used to be her specialty. But more than a decade with Angel Investigations had taught her an important lesson: how to be cruel to be kind.

She slid her small hand along his large one and brought her thumb to the underside of his wrist. Her Slayer strength helped her dig the pointy end into the sensitive tendons there so that she immediately got his attention. His hand released her spasmodically, and he stared in wonder at this tiny woman who had just hijacked his right arm.

Faith smiled up at him once more. "A little more pressure and I'll break the skin," she said, "and your hand'll never be the same again. So I'll be going now, okay?" She let go of her painful hold on his wrist and turned around, not giving him a second thought, certainly not looking back to see him staring after her.

Unfortunately, the bastard's whole attitude had shifted her demeanor for the night. She'd been having a wonderful time living in the moment—she didn't need any reminders of how life used to be, and the woman she used to be. Faith went in a straight line toward Claudia, and just before her hand came down on the beautiful vampire's shoulder she hesitated. Claudia was still lost in the music, moving as if in a daze, happy and filled with the spirit of the beat. And Faith was about to interrupt that, was about to infect her close friend with her own sour attitude. She knew Claudia well, knew that the vampiress was sensitive and empathetic, and would immediately focus upon making Faith feel better. And before the night was done they'd enter the fabled realm of the pity-fuck. A place Faith knew all too well.

Faith withdrew her hand and moved backward, hoping Claudia hadn't noticed her. She was successful in getting out of the swaying crowd, and stood on the outside of it, watching Claudia; amazingly, she felt a little better knowing that at least one of them would be happy tonight. If Claudia wondered where she'd gone, she'd just assume that Faith had hooked up with someone and left for another anonymous screw. Faith knew all the assumptions made about her, and most of the time they were right. And the times they weren't there wasn't a soul who'd give her the benefit of the doubt . . . besides maybe Claudia, or Cordy. They were two of the best, the kindest people she'd ever known, and sometimes being around them would only remind her of how unworthy she was, how she'd never live up to their wealth of spirit.

Faith took the back exit, going through the pitch-black alley without fear and then finding herself on the crowded sidewalk of a New Orleans evening. She walked toward the river looking for a less-crowded space where she could wrap herself in her self-imposed loneliness and really give vent to her self-pity. She could hear the words of one of those expensive psychologists Angel had paid for echoing through her head: "You make yourself miserable, Faith—it's not something the others are doing. This extended family you're talking about, it looks like they're opening their arms to you, but you're keeping yourself apart from them."

"And they're only too happy to let me stay away," she'd responded then.

"What do you mean?" he'd asked.

"Ah, I already told ya, Doc! Dad was never there, and those boyfriends Mom brought home were useless; she'd make noises about love, but she never showed it. And now I got the same thing with Angel and his crew—they're all 'Ooh, we love you, Faith, we only want what's best for you, we don't want to push you into anything, we'll just be here when you feel ready to tell us how to help you.'" Faith snorted. "Ready?! Ha! If one of 'em would just step up . . ."

"'Step up?' I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that phrase," the bespectacled doctor had stuttered. He reminded Faith very much of Wesley . . . at least, the Wesley she'd known before prison, not the violent vamp-consort she knew now.

Faith had rolled her eyes. "It means, step up to the challenge, Doc. Shit, I know I'm no picnic—I don't make it easy for anybody to know me. That's how I like it, living on the edge, never doing what's expected. And I need— I need somebody who'll come out on the edge with me. Somebody who'll take the risk. Hell, who knows: I just might be worth it."

The guy had let the silence stretch out between them, her last words echoing in them both. "I think that's the first time I've heard you say something positive about yourself," he'd finally said. "At least, something that wasn't a boast about how powerful or sexy you are. That sounded like you actually meant it. Has there ever been anyone who . . . stepped up?"

"Anita," she'd been able to choke out from her swiftly-closing throat.

"Your first Watcher," the psychologist had said. "Yes. You've told me that she was the first real friend you ever had. Was she able to give you a sense of self-worth?"

"More than that," Faith said, her voice deepened by the tears she wasn't allowing herself to shed. "She was always real, always honest. She opened herself to me, when I didn't even know what that was. I thought paranoid and hostile was the human condition, y'know, 'cause I'd never seen anyone act better. Kindness was just something you see in the movies. Then this . . . Englishwoman, she got down in the dirt with me. And she pulled me up." She cleared her throat and wiped her running nose, and looked up at the psychologist with eyes burning with fierce hatred, all of it directed toward herself. "And when Kakistos came on the scene, I wasn't there for her. I let her down. She got killed because she had this crazy idea that I was the Chosen One, the savior."

"Wrong," the psychologist had responded harshly. "You've told me that the only way Kakistos was defeated was from a coordinated attack of two Slayers. There was no way either you or Buffy could have defeated him alone. Besides, your Watcher didn't put the fate of the whole world on your shoulders—you always knew that you weren't the only Slayer."

"Yeah. Knew from the get-go that I was the second-class model. That the real Slayer was Sister Goldenhair, who never made mistakes and even came back from the dead. Some fuckin' legacy, huh? Anita deserved a lot better girl than the one she'd been given. She deserved Buffy, and all she got was me."

Faith finally shut off the long-ago conversation in her head—it just devolved into psychobabble about "inferiority complexes" and "misplaced aggression" and other things that she didn't like to think about. She'd finally reached the river, and now leaned against a railing and looked out on the dark water. Its flowing surface was roiling and mysterious, with a wholly different world to be discovered underneath.

Her thoughts returned to the club she'd just left. I could have had any man in that place, and most of the women, she thought. Yeah: want—take—have, just like the bad old days. But I couldn't have kept them. No one stays with me for too long. No one commits all the way. 'Cause they're smart; they don't wanna get dragged down.

The cool hand that slid onto her shoulder caused Faith to spin to her left with one fist already up and moving to take off the head of whomever was behind her. And that fist smacked into the palm of a hand just as strong and just as feminine; and Faith's eyes, surprised and hostile, met gunmetal blue eyes filled only with calm and caring.

"Drusilla!" Faith gasped, not expecting her visitor at all. She wondered for a moment how the vampire could have snuck up on her, and then remembered how Dru had the ability to cloud Slayer senses to that degree. In the shade of the warehouse behind her she could clearly sense another vampire, probably Wesley since those two were almost never apart, but he stayed where he was. And it was still strange to think of Wesley being a vampire. "What are you doing here?"

Dru cocked her head to the side, in a move she probably taught Spike in their century together, and looked at the Slayer as if reading her aura. "I heard you," she said at last. "I still hear you. So I came."

"Heard what?"

"'The bad old days.' They're your shadow, never very far away." She continued to level her heavy, powerful gaze at the young woman before her.

Faith frowned and stepped back, her ass against the railing. "I thought the rules of the house were that you didn't read anybody's mind without asking. I know I've heard Baby tell you that more than once."

"And I never learn," Dru said. "I never was very good with rules. Something you and I have in common."

Faith turned back to the river, not able to meet Dru's eyes and uncomfortable even being under them. "We don't have anything in common," she muttered, hoping the vampiress would just go away.

Dru swept Faith's hair aside and put her hand on the Slayer's shoulder again. "Wrong," Drusilla said.

The Slayer spun around even quicker than before, to the right this time, and swung a powerful fist through empty air. Dru had stepped aside, and now stood calmly, arms slightly crossed with hands on elbows, thin and steady as a post in her crimson-and-black dress that left her arms exposed, its skirt sweeping the wooden planks of the riverwalk. Vampires never sweated, it was true, but Dru's total calm infuriated Faith.

"I'm warning you," the Slayer said, "I'm in no mood for this. You wanna talk, we can do it tomorrow."

"I can't wait," Dru responded. "The stars tell me that there is no time like this to approach you. Tomorrow you would listen even less."

Faith snorted. "Hmph. That's probably right. But what do you want me to hear?"

"We want to offer you a home, my lovely Wesley and I," said Drusilla.

Faith's eyebrows raised. She smirked and said, "Aren't you a decade too late? All those nights at the Hyperion, you never cared about anyone but Wesley."

Drusilla now raised an eyebrow herself. "Are you saying I never loved Connor?"

Faith's mouth dropped open. "No," she said, "I know better than that. But . . . you and Wes—" The woman found it difficult to describe what everybody in the family knew: that as dedicated as the couple were to the Scourge and the Pride, they had no loyalty higher than what they felt toward each other. No loving couple any of them had ever seen could so easily lose themselves in each other. And no other couple makes me choke on my jealousy, Faith thought. "You never showed much room for anyone else."

"Except in our bed," the vampiress said through a wicked grin, then sobered suddenly and nodded. "But I know what you mean. I—" Her cool stability swayed as she showed the first signs of distress to Faith. "I lived so long without true love. So I took what happiness I could. But when Wesley returned to me last year I knew that we could no longer be selfish. I've considered what we could do to make everyone happy.

"I know you, I know how empty your days are. You echo like the tin man, sweetie. I know the regrets that keep you from sleeping. I know the pain that makes you push a lover away rather than take a chance at real love. I know you worry about getting older and losing your ability to fight. My Wesley worried about the same thing. And he found a solution." As she spoke she couldn't help but reach out to the woman before her, but Faith stepped away from Drusilla's hand.

"You're crazy," Faith said. "I'd never take that option. No Slayer ever would."

Drusilla looked thoughtful, but kept her concerned eyes on the suspicious, angry Slayer. "You know the childer here: Jean, Claudia, René, Rex, Shelley, Beau. They all made this decision. But you don't have to be at the point of death to decide it, luv. You can recognize . . . a dead end. You can see when a change is needed. And really, how much older do you want to be when you make this choice?"

Faith took another quick step back. "I told you to stay out of my head," she hissed. "Stop reading my mind!"

Dru shook her head once, firmly. "I'm not. You're hearing in me what has been echoing in your heart. This cannot be the first time you've considered this, dear."

Faith stared at her, eyes gone wide, tongue now not so ready to lash out. Drusilla found herself unable to quietly watch the pain the woman was turning over in her heart. She glided forward and slid a gentle hand against Faith's cheek. Faith closed her eyes at the cool feeling, the comfort of it, the caring that was expressed in the touch. It was a comfort that she usually didn't feel worthy of receiving.

Faith's eyes snapped open and she drew away from the vampire, fists up and ready for combat. "What are you playing at?" she asked suspiciously. "Why are you interested in me all of a sudden?"

"It's not sudden, dear," Drusilla crooned. "I've been thinking on you for years now. You've been spinning and tumbling in my head like a baby in orbit, since Baby was turned and before. My poor lonely girl, your heart cries to me."

Faith hated this kind of talk more than any other. Curses were more welcome than this surface empathy, these easy statements designed to open her up and leave her vulnerable to attack.
"Shut the fuck up," the human woman warned.

"You don't have to be alone." Dru's chill hand touched her face once more and Faith roughly knocked it away.

"Shut up!" Faith barked.

"You need a mother."

Wide-eyed, Faith lunged forward. "Fuckin' SHUT UP!" she roared, leaping to take Drusilla's head off, not thinking that she was attacking the sire of the city's master or any consequences beyond her immediate goal.

Dru rolled with the kick, tumbling and turning back with a speed to match the Slayer. Her quiet demeanor had fallen away and she was grinning fiercely. She blocked another kick and took a hard shot to the ribs with a laugh. "Ha!" she coughed out. "None of us expect salvation when it comes." Despite the long skirt, Dru was gliding forward and backward expertly, dodging half the blows Faith tried to land, moving faster than the human eye could track. "None of us think we're worthy," the vampire continued. "But we all deserve happiness."

It had been a long while since Faith had fought a master vampire of Drusilla's age. This is why she stumbled after a missed roundhouse kick and fell against the railing, almost going into the river. But a strong, cold hand stopped her fall and pulled her up onto the riverwalk once more. Drusilla ran a comforting hand through Faith's hair and looked into her eyes to make sure she was okay—and was rewarded for it with a one-two punch to the face that sent her reeling. Yet grace and balance was so much a part of her nature that she twirled, skirt flying about her, and ended up standing as straight and secure as ever. She crossed her arms and looked at the Slayer with one eyebrow raised, offering an end to the fighting.

Faith launched herself forward, hands up and ready to wrap around Dru's throat, but Dru caught them with her own. The two women were then locked together, powerful arms straining, one pushing and one holding them in place, fingers digging into the back of each others' hands and looking for any advantage as they shook and strained. They circled there, staring furiously at each other, Faith's face a mask of fury, Drusilla's one of excited gladness.

Faith's grip relented just a fraction when she saw the pure empathy in Drusilla's eyes. "Why would you give a fuck about my happiness?"

"I told you—we have worlds in common. We see a day filled with love and want to swim in it. A day without it—uh!—is full of ashes and black cloth."

"I don't need love," Faith said through gritted teeth.

Drusilla barked laughter at that. "Oh, sweetheart, nothing could be further from the truth. But then, we do that too, don't we? Hide our truths in speaking?"

Faith shook her head. "I don't know what you're talking about." She shifted her grip, but Drusilla still held onto her hands, and they maintained their stalemate.

"You know more than anyone else thinks," Dru said. "I'd like to nurture that. I want to give you a family, dear heart."

"I have that with Angel," Faith said.

The vampiress laughed once more. "Really? And you've seen Cordelia recently? You need stability if you're going to heal."

The Slayer was growling again, mostly because Drusilla had a point about Angel's dissolved marriage. "But there's nothing wrong with me."

"There's everything wrong with you. You need fixing." The pressure on Drusilla's right arm increased, causing the bones in her forearm to twinge. They both felt it, but the vampiress only responded with a wider grin. "Go ahead, break it," Dru said. "I have another. And my sweet Wesley will have this one healed within the hour. If that is what it will take to make you listen to me, then do it."

"I'll never listen to you!" Faith shouted, trying to pull out of Dru's grip and, unable to do so, finally falling backward in order to slam both heels into the vampiress' face. Dru squawked and fell back onto the riverwalk, splayed on the ground and looking up at Faith in surprise. The Slayer had landed on her feet and now closed in for a killing blow, fists prepared to pound the vampire to dust.

But she was frozen even as she stepped forward. Wesley had come out of the shadows and was striding purposefully toward the two women, his lips moving in the casting of a spell and his right hand glowing green. Faith would have spat in disgust if she could move her lips—she'd always felt that magic use equaled cheating when it came to combat. She watched helplessly as Wesley rushed to his fallen wife and crouched at her side, pulling her into his embrace.

Wesley brushed the hair out of Drusilla's face and kissed her. "Are you all right, my love?"

Dru gave him a smirk, licking at the blood welling from her split lip. The print from the bottom of Faith's boot covered half her face like a patterned burn. "I'm wonderful, dear," she answered. "And wasn't our girl magnificent? Won't she make us proud?"

He kissed her again and caressed her face. "Oh yes, she was very strong. In fact—" He looked up as he felt the Slayer's strength working against his spell.

Faith had been straining to move her fists, her feet, anything, and finally found that through straining she could move her mouth. Her first comment was directed toward Wesley alone. "Well, aren't you doing a great job at protecting wifey."

Wesley stood and looked the aggrieved Slayer in the eye. His only response was to cross his arms and raise an eyebrow.

"I've watched you, y'know. Anybody says a word about what a froot loop Drusilla is and you're all over 'em. The knife comes out and you start growling." She smirked at him. "But that's just with the humans you push around and the vampires you pal around with. It's a whole different ballgame when you try to pull that shit with a Slayer, ain't it? 'Cause you know I'd shove that knife up your ass." Faith attempted to shrug, but it was still impossible. "Guess you can't hack it without the magic," she said. "At least Dru had the balls to fight me one-on-one, but not you. Isn't your demon gonna get pissed, at least? Oh yeah, I forgot: you even got a boring DEMON inside o' you. The kind that only drinks blood from the finest china. The kind who'll stand there while I nearly stake his woman. I've seen fledges with more balls!"

Wesley still did nothing but look at her. Faith strained against her magical bonds and could move nothing more than her mouth. She continued to shout, her cinnamon brown eyes flashing with all the fury her fists usually expressed. "Let me out of this and fight like a man! You musta SEEN how they act, right? You fuckin' loser! You pussy! LET ME GO!"

Wesley put his hand to his chin in a thoughtful gesture. He allowed a silence to build between them, then finally said, "You used to be better at this."


"The angry young woman I remember could eviscerate an opponent with a single sentence. Sometimes just a look. She could size up anyone in a moment and attack them where they were most vulnerable. You, however, have merely flailed about, looking for what you think will distract me from my spell." He shook his head. "Maybe age has ruined your aim."

"Let my hands free and I'll show you how my aim is," Faith snarled at him.

"You were also better at hiding your feelings," Wesley continued. "Of course, I was never a stranger to throwing up walls between myself and the truth. It took finding the love of my life to change me." As he spoke, Drusilla approached him from behind and draped her arms around his torso, resting her head on his shoulder. He closed his eyes momentarily at the feel of her, then met the Slayer's hard expression once more. "The years grow long, and it becomes harder to keep your mask in place. I know just what that's like, Faith. And so I ask: is your anger truly about us? Or is it because my princess asked you some questions you didn't want asked, and told you truths you didn't want to hear?"

Faith attempted to spit, and was gratified to see a little arc of saliva travel forward and fall far short of Wesley. "My anger's about you, motherfucker. Believe it!" she ground out through gritted teeth. "I'll tear your throat out with my bare teeth, show you how it's done!"

"You protest too much. I think that somewhere in your head my position as your failed Watcher has joined with your failed father figures." Wesley shook his head. "I can't rewrite the past. But I could become a better father than you've ever known."

"I told you, my love," Drusilla whispered to him. "She knows in her heart that you're her daddy. We just have to make it so."

"Quite," Wesley said.

"C'mon, you pigfuckin' little son of a whore, give me a shot, I'll twist your balls until you—" Faith's mouth snapped shut, and her eyes showed her surprise.

"Enough of that," Wesley said, disengaging from Drusilla and stepping closer to Faith. His fingers made tiny motions, and the Slayer was lifted from the ground, floating a foot off the wooden boards, completely immobilized. The mage continued forward until his eyes were mere inches from Faith's own.

Wesley spoke quietly, knowing that Faith was listening intently to his every word—because she could do nothing else. "Did you truly think your strength could overpower my spell?" he asked. "You were talking because I wanted you to talk. Because I wanted to see how you felt, and if there was a chance of you calming down. My lovely girl thought that some truth would open you up, as indeed it did, and was ready for the consequences. No one needs to 'protect' my wife, you see, least of all me. She has no problem killing Slayers and could have torn you apart if she wished."

Wesley leaned even closer, giving Faith a look into his eyes that he didn't allow most people, a look at the depth of his internal pain, hatred, and will for destruction. It was a darkness that Drusilla understood, that Baby appreciated, but one which Faith's own spirit couldn't touch. At her worst, she was merely confused, hurting, aggravated, and needing to hurt those around her—she could never kill with the slow pleasure that Wesley took in the act. Looking into his eyes, she knew that he could unemotionally kill thousands if he thought it necessary, and would not have a quiver of guilt. And this was Wesley WITH his soul!

"But let me make this clear," he said, his voice still deep and fairly quiet. He could already see that the storm had left her eyes, replaced with the first hints of fear. "I do not take threats to Drusilla lightly. You say I do not attack mindlessly when you attack her? You're very correct—because I can hurt you in so many other ways. If you have a choice between making me or Spike your enemy, choose Spike. He might show you mercy. And he will come at you in a straightforward manner every time, like a knight on the field of honor, so that you might have a chance." Wesley smiled, in a manner that made Faith shudder internally. His fist closed, and the Slayer felt her entire skeleton creak in protest for a moment before he opened his hand once more. "But you would never have a chance against me. I could let an opponent live for years and then kill them at their moment of greatest happiness . . . just because it suited me. I'm not one of Spike's nice boys—I come from Baby's line, and as my lovely prophetess has informed me, that is going to be quite significant in years to come. As our childe, I would defend you as surely and steadfastly as I do my wife.

"I wanted you to know this before you make any decision. Now, are you calm?" She only blinked at him. "You can talk now, Faith. And I repeat: are you calm?"

The Slayer frowned deeply, but said, "Yeah. I'm chill." Though Wesley stepped back, she kept her eyes trained on him as she was lowered to the ground once more and the spell released her completely. As she stretched her arms and legs, making sure that her muscles weren't affected by the paralysis, a heavy silence hung between the three powerful figures.

Drusilla broke it by stepping toward Faith and gripping her shoulders. "Come with us," she urged. "There's a place we can talk—a club. Claudia is there! Come, sweetheart, come and talk."

Faith drew away, wrapping her arms around herself. "Jesus! I just came from there!"

"We know," Wesley said.

"We watched you leave," Drusilla continued. "Alone in the crowd, my poor lost girl. But it needn't be so. You never have to be alone. The place that drove you away can welcome you again." But it was clear that Faith was still strongly hesitant to go anywhere with them.

Wesley sighed. "Faith," he said, capturing her attention with his most no-nonsense look. "There are worse things than being alone. We could leave you now, and you could spend the rest of your short life with the wrong people. Don't you think you're worth more? Because we do. Can you step up to the challenge?"

His choice of words hit Faith with surprise, but she looked from his hardened countenance to Drusilla's sympathetic face and saw no hint that they were manipulating her, only that they were trying to break through her natural stubbornness. If what she was looking for came along, would she know it? Did she even know what she was looking for?

Faith also sighed heavily. "I am so goddamn tired of thinking," she said. "Let's go get a drink."


"Jesus, look at her go."

Wesley turned his head to see what Faith had commented on, though he already knew: he just liked watching her. Across the dance floor, Drusilla and Claudia were entwined like two snakes making love. The smoky soul music had everyone in the room swaying, but no one was moving quite like the two vampiresses, Dru pale as soap in the club's lights, Claudia the fresh color of café au lait. They caught the attention of everyone in the club—just as they intended. It was one of their games when the two women got together: flirt with an entire club, or a full railway car, and once the packed Bolivar Ferry. It was one of the more adult games they played, seeing as they usually giggled and chased each other and invented jumping games, keeping the spirit of girlish joy alive in themselves.

"She's really a stranger to me," Faith said before gulping some bourbon.

Wesley nodded, looking down into his own vodka with lemon. "I know. But we hope to change that."

As if she hadn't heard, Faith went on: "But you're not a stranger, Wes. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of men I've gone to bed with and woke up next to the next day. You're special to me."

Wes smiled at the memory. "Yes, that was a magical night."

"And you want me to call you 'Daddy' now?"

He grinned across the table at her, all vampire, with little of the Watcher she remembered. "It's how the undead work, darling."

"Hmph. One more mark against the vamp unlifestyle."

"You seem to have fit into that style fairly well over the years. It's not like any of this is new to you."

"The sex parts, yeah," she responded. "That's been a lot of fun. It's the sire/childe thing that I've never been too much a fan of. I mean, shit—I gotta bend my knee to SPIKE?! I've fought next to him, but I never had to call him boss."

"You call Angel boss."

"I call him a lot more than that," she said, "and I have a contract with him."

"HAD," Wesley said. "You think I forgot about the Angelus Clause? I helped draft those contracts. You're a free agent now, which is exactly why Charles Gunn hasn't called you back to Los Angeles yet."

Faith was silent for a minute. "I think of myself as family," she said.

"And you are, in my eyes," Wes answered. "So don't you think it's time to make that literal instead of just figurative?"

Faith gave him a sardonic look. "So what kind of package are you offering? I know you cover dental and you got a great pension plan, but what else?"

Wesley took a thoughtful drink of his vodka, obviously cataloguing items in his mind. "You still have Slayer dreams, correct?"


"Drusilla can help you with that. She has more experience with psychic powers than any ten experts you might find. She'll be able to find the root of your psychic dreaming ability and . . . possibly expand it. Does that interest you?"

"What, seeing into the future?" Faith rolled her eyes. "No, Wesley, that doesn't interest me at all. Jeez, why would I care about that?" She stared at him across the table. "Of course I'm interested! Jesus Christ, you make it sound like I'd be the uber-Slayer. But do I have to die to get to that point? Why couldn't she do that mojo on my brain right now?"

Wesley took a sip of his vodka. "Drusilla is capable of more than you can dream, Faith. More than we allow Angel or Spike or even Baby to know." He paused, looking over to Dru on the dance floor, then back to Faith. "It's not that we don't trust them. But you have to realize, Drusilla was turned against her will, specifically because she had abilities and could be used as a tool for Angelus' purposes. Revealing that she is a more powerful tool than anyone knows would not do us any good. In the end, Dru and I are most loyal of all to each other—it's just the two of us. We have no higher priority than that." He allowed himself to smile at her. "Unless, of course, we have a childe. Then it's the three of us against the world. And those are the only circumstances under which my wife would increase your psychic potential. Until you join us . . . well, frankly, we'd prefer that there not be an uber-Slayer out there."

Faith held his strong, hard-blue gaze, then nodded. "I get that. It's what I'd do in your place."

Wesley nodded to her, glad that she was starting to see from their viewpoint. In terms of tactics it meant everything, meant that she was empathizing with them and was being influenced by his argument. He continued with more confidence. "You objected to showing deference to Spike? As Drusilla's childe you could truthfully say that you are his sister and of equal status in House Aurelius."

"But I'd be Angel's grandchilde."

"And Baby's."

Faith blinked. "Huh?

"Um . . . when we offered to make you OUR childe, we meant it. Dru and I wish to commit to you equally. I would be your father as much as she would be your mother. You deserve no less."

The Slayer seemed to try the taste of this thought. "Two sires," she said. "Baby would be my grandchilde and my grandmother at the same time. Sounds like the usual dealings of your fucked-up relations." She sneered. "Or do I call her 'grandmere' like the Cajuns?"

Wesley frowned. "Do I look like a Francophilic Southerner to you?" he asked. "I call her Mother or Sire. No other title is necessary. The only important fact is that she's family."

"Family." Faith let the impact of it sink in. "Big word."

"Not one you're used to, I know, despite what you said before," he responded. "As much as you might think of yourself as family back at the Hyperion . . . well, we've both lived there for some time. We are certainly a team, and we share friendship and history and trust, to be sure. But if you think of that atmosphere as one redolent of familial caring, then you've never experienced the real thing. Here, in New Orleans, they have forged a real family. The Pride is the best, the highest aspiration to which a vampire may aspire in this world."

Faith waved her hand as if warding off these words. "Fine, fine, you get an A in propaganda," she said. "What I wish I knew is: why now? God, if you'd asked this of me even three years ago . . . it would've been easy to tell you 'no.' Now . . . I'm tempted. A lot more tempted than even I like." She emptied her glass and motioned to the waitress. "I think I need to get drunker, 'cause you're making too much sense."

Wesley reached across the table and cupped her face with one hand, gaining her complete attention. "If you decide to join us," he said, "it won't be because of any rational argument I might give you. It won't even be because we convinced you it was best. It will be entirely an emotional decision. Your heart already knows its answer, and you're working very hard to rationalize what it's telling you."

He took his seat again, and a silence grew between them, but their eyes were locked on each other. When the waitress approached the table Wesley ordered for himself and Faith, gave her some money, and sent her back to the bar, all without taking his gaze from Faith's dark chocolate eyes.

"What, are you a mind reader now, too? That was spooky." Faith asked.

"I've become much more adept at reading people's body language, thanks to my dark princess," he answered. "I was good at it before. As a vampire my skill has become, as you say, 'spooky.'" The waitress brought their drinks and set them before the pair. They both took a single sip, waiting to see who would speak first.

"So tell me what it's like, Wes," Faith said. "First it was Baby, then you—first members o' the family who were human and then got turned. All those years as a human living with vampires, then you become one yourself. Lots of talk from Charles and Fred, lots of rude questions from Connor and pissed-off answers from Cordy. But we're all curious, Wes. So . . ." She leaned forward, elbows on the small table, propping her chin on her hands. "Tell me what it's like."

His eyes swiveled up as he considered how to describe the experience. "Hmmm. First, you notice the silence. This is silence unlike any you've known in your life, Faith, because all the internal noises of your body are shut off. No heartbeat, no breathing, no twitching muscles, not even blinking if you'd rather not. You're more quiet and still than wood . . . and yet you're aware. Until the moment you choose to move, it's as if you were a thinking rock sitting in a corner. Then you move, and . . . oh, it's as if you were filled with quicksilver, as if the air itself held you up and gave you balance and grace you'd never known in life. You flow through the world like that liquid metal. And yet simultaneously you're heavy—all your organs, your muscles, everything, become one solid unit. You're like a statue that may chip and crumble but who will grow back anything you've lost. You're a statue that flies—you're a miracle.

"And yet you're also made aware that you're not alone. Just as your body feels differently than you've ever known, so does your mind. Never again will you be silent in your head and cut off from others. Primary is the voice of your demon, which knows you better than anyone else on Earth, even better than you know yourself. It holds the entirety of your memory, after all, and thus knows every sin you've ever committed, every slight you've done against your fellow beings since you learned to walk, every curse you've ever muttered and every unkind thought you've ever considered. And it plays up to these weaknesses we've all known and tells you that they're nothing, that you have nothing to feel guilty for. It laughs at the concept of guilt and tells you that you can in fact do anything to achieve your goals. It is the id, unrestrained by the ego or superego. It is not animalistic, because few animals know the cruelty and joy in destruction that your demon can bring to bear.

"You have only two allies in opposition to this overriding voice. First, your own memories of your life before—if they led you toward love, strength, and a wish to improve the world, then you might be able to redirect its influence. Second, and most important, is the influence of your sire. This is crucial, because as strong as you are, your sire can set your attitude from the beginning. You wake up cold, silent, confused and needy—this is the nature of your demon, your self. And the first lifeline thrown to you is the sire's voice, her smell, her touch, her acceptance or condemnation. If you are told—as all sires traditionally did—that you are worthless and stupid and must work for decades to earn the least bit of affection, then that is the cue your demon will take. That will be the mood of your childehood.

"But something new happened a relatively few years ago. When William the Bloody made his first childe, he was convinced by his consort to try something new: love. For the first time the familial terms these vampires used—sire, childe, sibling—weren't used ironically. Spike welcomed his childer into a true family, with Baby as their caring, watchful mother. It worked the first time. And the second. The third—" He shrugged. "Well, few experiments are 100% effective. But the exceeding majority of these childer are happy, healthy, and far more in control of their demons than any vampire community in history. The power of acceptance. The power of family." Wes could see that the Slayer was becoming overfull of his words, so he leaned forward to emphasize his message. "Do not underestimate this. To you this is all history, a fait accompli. But you have no idea what risks were being taken here in New Orleans, what new boundaries of vampire life were being created. Until you have felt the demon inside you, tasted its naked greed, you have no idea what it's like to wrestle with true evil. The human id has been pushed into a deep hole in human consciousness since Neanderthals still walked the earth, but the selfishness and need of one's demon is stripped clean of any restraint." He drained his glass. "That's why it's a miracle that some in the family were lucky enough to become the Redeemed. No one planned on that, dear. And now it seems like the goal we've all been leading toward."

Faith shook her head. "Are you trying to get to a point here?"

"My point is that I don't have all the answers. I can't give you ironclad guarantees. We're forging something new here and none of us knows exactly how it will turn out. I think only Drusilla really knows for sure."

As he spoke, two white arms thin and graceful as twin boa constrictors appeared out of the smoky darkness behind him, coming around his torso. When they met and hugged him close, Drusilla's face appeared over his shoulder. She pulled the same trick with him that she did with everyone else—approaching so silently that no one heard her—but Wesley was never surprised by her touch, only grateful. The vampiress kissed his right ear, then looked across the table at Faith. "He's right," she said. "I know. But I'll only tell you when you're asleep."

Faith snorted. "So basically you'll never tell me."

"She means your Slayer dreams," Wesley said. "She'll be able to speak to you through them."

"Hey hey hey!" Claudia squeaked, bouncing over to join the three serious faces at the table. "Hey Faithy! Did you leave, sugar?"

The Slayer slowly turned from the ex-Watcher's eyes to Claudia's beaming countenance, and seemed to lose a few pounds of worry on the trip. Her face softened, her eyes lit up, and her smile was brilliant. She opened her arms and Claudia happily leaned into her embrace. Wrapped in Claudia's scent and her strong, slim, cold goodness, Faith felt her worries melting away. "I just stepped out for some air, sweetie," she said. "You and Dru have fun?"

"Don't we always?" Claudia answered. In the clearer light of the tables they could see that she was in a tight blue plastic dress with streaks of sky-blue and navy in her hair. Her violet lips were like the bow atop a perfectly wrapped treat. Still bouncy from the music, she moved over to stroke Drusilla's arm and get her attention from Wesley. "We cuddled up good, didn't we, dear?"

Drusilla had been seriously concentrating on nibbling at Wesley's neck while he did his best not to moan aloud, but at Claudia's brief touch she looked up and heard the question. The look she chose was 'mischievous gladness.' Dru giggled and said, "Oooh, dearie, we got them all hot and rubbing, yes. Takes two dead sticks to start a fire, eh luv?"

Claudia giggled back at her, looking around to see almost every eye in the club turned in their direction, hungry to see what the two wildwomen would do next.

Drusilla cocked her head in a way that meant she was picking up a stray thought. She reached out a hand to Faith, caressing the Slayer's cheek. "Still not decided, my dearest one. I'm sorry."

Claudia's arms tightened around Faith, attention focused back on the table. "Uh, yea. Dru kinda told me what you were dealing with over here."

Faith looked deeply into her dark chocolate eyes. "And what do you think about it, C?"

Claudia ran her hands up and down Faith's back. "I think— I think that you're not getting any younger, Faithy," she said. "I think having a sire would be a good thing for you, and you couldn't ask for a better mom than Dru. And I know that I wasn't really complete until I was turned. It could be the same for you."

"'Could be,'" Faith echoed. She put her forehead on the table, removing the vampires from her sight. "There're so many goddamn variables here. And I don't know who to trust. And Wes is the only other guy to volunteer for this without being already on his way to dead."

Claudia sighed heavily. "I hate to say this, but . . . what about Maman?"

Faith raised her head. "Huh?"

"She volunteered to be turned a long time before Wesley." Across the table, Wesley was looking contemplative while Dru's eyes glittered in speculation.

"But I thought—" Faith stopped herself. "I mean, Angel told me that he and Spike had turned Baby when she was dying, that she had The Choice just like any of the other childer."

"But she'd arranged it long before," Claudia said. "She went through all these questions and moral choices with Daddy years ago. Ooh, plus, she knows more about vampires than anybody, honey, even Wesley! She could fill you in."

Faith looked to Wesley for confirmation (another hopeful sign, he had to note), and he nodded. "It's true. Wherever my sire comes from, she learned more about the origin and abilities of vampires than I could find in the most ancient of texts. She would be an excellent source for you."

"But it's still too early to go home," Claudia said, hugging Faith close in a suggestive way, which brought big smiles to both ladies.

"Actually," Wesley said, "Baby's in Mobile. I think that, if we leave soon, we could get there before dawn."

Claudia looked as if she'd suddenly been hit by an arrow in the chest. She leaned across the table and said, "She's WHERE?"

"She's in Mobile, I swear," Wesley said. "I always keep some idea of where my sire is, and she's clearly in Mobile. In fact . . . I had to practice a great deal of self-control earlier this evening, as her . . . feelings . . . were a bit overwhelming."

Claudia let forth a growl that every vampire in the club understood, an emotion of anger/despair/vendetta/worry that was better expressed through growls and snarls than human language. She did, however, manage a few English words, the only understandable ones sounding like "selfish" and "cow."

"I— I— I have to go," she finally stuttered out, obviously on the edge of tears. "Daddy's going to need me." The fact that she couldn't feel heartbreak or anger from Spike worried her even more than if she could feel it—it meant that he was blocking his childer out because his pain was so great. And of course he'd be blocking the pleasure he could feel radiating from René and Baby. That was the only way she could interpret what had happened, but she had to get back to La Maison du Rouge s'Elevé to see exactly what was going on. Claudia turned hurt, despairing eyes to Faith. "Are you gonna be okay?"

Faith hugged her close and gave her a quick kiss. "I'll be fine. You go take care of Spike." Claudia nodded once and then disappeared into the night using her full vampire speed, the Mistress of Mississippi burning through the crowd and tossing unwary mortals aside.

And the three were alone once more. "Umm," Wesley said. "Well. We can certainly wait until tomorrow, if you'd rather be with Claudia at this time."

The Slayer gave him a grim look, the kind Buffy was known to wear when facing an apocalypse. Its decisiveness was almost alien on Faith's face. "I'm thinking about all this NOW. I want to deal with it NOW. Let's go to Mobile and see if we can drag Baby out from under René for two minutes."
Drusilla laughed and clapped her hands. "Oh-ho, this will be such fun. Back to the pink house for dark-red deeds."

"Our car's outside," Wesley said, dropping a few dollars on the table and then escorting the two beautiful women out of the club.

Parked against the curb was a cream-and-black Bentley, the kind of quality English vehicle one would expect of Wesley. A man was leaning against it reading a paperback book. He wore a solid black suit that was immaculate, as if he were surgically implanted into it directly at the dry cleaners'. He was Asian, with close-cut black hair and a serious demeanor, his tanned skin almost orange under the streetlights of this New Orleans street. He noticed the trio walking toward the car sooner than he should have, considering the noise and confusion on the sidewalk outside of the club; Faith was immediately suspicious.

As they neared the car, the man tucked his book into his jacket and stood up to greet them. "Mr. Wyndham-Pryce, hello. There have been no attempts to harm or abscond with the vehicle."

"Very good, Sterling," Wesley said distractedly, his mind already on the road ahead of them.

"Sir. Are you aware that you are in the presence of a Slayer?"

Wesley looked sharply at the man, then relaxed. "Ah. I forgot that I told you to warn us about Slayers being near. That will no longer be necessary." He turned to Faith. "Faith, dear, this is our manservant, Mr. Sterling. Sterling, this is Faith. She is treasured by us both. You will give her Alpha-Zed-One priority in all our dealings."

Sterling bowed to show his acceptance. "Yes sir," he said, reaching for the rear door and opening it for Drusilla. "Your ride awaits, milady." The elegant vampiress ran a hand along his cheek in thanks, saying, "Dear Tik-Tok," and got in.

Wesley hesitated, making it clear that he wanted Faith to be between them, but she remained standing, looking over the entire car. "This must've set you back," she said, arms crossed and eyebrows raised in appraisal. "This's the best model you can buy."

Wes shrugged. "We're comfortable. And we prefer things of quality."

Faith now looked him up and down. "Y'know, now that I think about it, I can't recall you ever receiving a paycheck from Angel like Charlie and Fred do. And I'm pretty sure you don't take money from Spike, either. But you and Dru never seem to be hurtin' for cash. But if you can afford a car like this and a—" She used air-quotes, "'manservant,' then you probably got a helluva stash hidden away."

"Yes, well," Wesley said. "My lovely bride does know things that most people cannot. She hears whispers and reads signs, and not just from the living world. Suffice it to say that we have more than enough resources to last us into the next century."

"Wow," she replied. "Okay, before we take this trip, I got just one demand. Two words." She held up a finger as she said each one: "Full. Disclosure."

Wesley smiled disarmingly. "Of course," he said. "This trip will take hours yet. We'll both be happy to fill you in as we go." Though he knew that getting a straight answer out of Drusilla only happened when Drusilla wished it.

"All right," Faith muttered, getting into the car. Wesley followed her and closed the door, and Sterling got behind the wheel. Within minutes they were on more deserted streets and heading north.

Faith thought to test the "full disclosure" policy immediately. "So. What's up with Kato here in the front seat? I'm getting a weird vibe." She was very aware that the back of the man's head was right in front of her, but he didn't move a muscle. It was no fun being provocative if your target didn't get provoked.

"He's our Tik-Tok Man," Drusilla crooned.

"A simple literary reference," Wesley said, "but it suffices. He is . . . well, he's a robot."

Faith blinked. She looked to a pleased Drusilla and then to a serious Wesley, then said aloud, "A ROBOT?!"

"Basically," Wesley said. "Baby connected me with a disturbed young man in Sunnydale named Warren Means, who apparently creates realistic-looking robots for all sorts of purposes. We gave him a list of our needs and specifications, suggested a few different body types, and finally fixed on this one. Mr. Sterling drives for us and retrieves blood when necessary, as well as other mundane tasks. But he's also a skilled fighter with a large bank of combat models that make him a worthy ally in battle. In terms of speed and strength he could even match a Slayer, but obviously he could never match the instinct for fighting that you possess."

Faith stared ahead of her. In the front seat the robot man pulled the car to a careful stop at a red light, turned on his blinker for making a right turn, and then turned the car, quickly accelerating up onto the highway. He worked flawlessly, it seemed, and she knew Wesley well enough to be sure that he'd never put his trust in a faulty machine. That didn't make it any less weird.

Then Faith had a thought. And rather than frightening her, as it would most people, she felt secure in the knowledge of it. "This is the rabbit," she said.

"The what?"

"Alice in Wonderland. The rabbit that hops around talking about how late it is. It was weird, but it was just the tip of the iceberg. If Alice had been smart she'd have never followed the damn thing. But then she never would've seen what came after." She turned her head and looked deeply into Wesley's ocean-dark, forbidding eyes. "I'm going down the rabbit hole, aren't I?"

"Only if you wish to," Wesley said. "But yes—to join our family means that you'll see a side of reality hidden from most, even hidden from many members of the Pride."

"The rabbit," Dru said, and giggled. Both Wesley and Faith looked at her skeptically as she made fat, bendy rabbit ears on top of her head with her hands. Then, impulsively, she reached out for Faith and hugged her. "You're already starting to talk like my daughter!" the vampiress said in glee.