Illyria gets introduced to beer!

Disclaimer: None of them belong to me, and blah blah…

I had to sing Barry Manilow.

You're kidding.

In front of people.

And here I am, talking about my petty little problems.

Just wanted to give you a little perspective.

Copa Cabana?

Mandy. I don't wanna dwell on it.

The road to redemption is a rocky path.

That it is.

Think we might make it?

We might.

She was in a forest. Where, exactly, she didn't know. All she knew that it was dark, and it was unnaturally silent, as if the animals that dwelled in it are all muted by an invisible hand. Cautiously, she made her way in barefooted, barely making out the outlines of the trees. She was looking for something. Suddenly, she stopped and called out. "Where are you, Beast?"

The forest roared in response. Startled, she stepped in further. He was close, very close…she could feel him.

He leapt out of the darkness in front of her, amber eyes glowing brilliantly in the darkness. She watched, hypnotized, as he advanced towards her, where she could see it better. A throaty growl rumbled menacingly in his throat as he glared at her. He had a crimson mane, the color of the blood on his jaws and blade sharp claws.

She took a step forward, spreading open her arms in a sign of total surrender. "Come to me," she whispered, unafraid. He was hers, and only she could tame it.

He glared at her wildly, the growl blossoming into a furious snarl. She didn't move. "Come to me."

Then something in his face changed. He bounded towards her, but she did not move. Then slowly, the beast knelt down before her as if in reverence. She knelt with him, and felt his arms wind around her shoulders, pushing her gently back onto the carpeted grass. All she could see were his glorious amber eyes as she lay back, but in that moment, she watched as the amber faded to peaceful amethyst, and he began to change…

"Good morning, Miss Faith!"

"Good morning, Ma'am."

"Good to see you, Miss Faith."

"Good morning, Ma'am!"

And it went on and on as she walked.

Slightly taken aback by the show of deference by the extremely well-dressed lawyers milling about the lobby, Faith quickly nodded to them, unused to being treated this way. But it felt good.

Place sure looks different in the morning. Full of life. She thought as she headed towards the lifts. She'd decided to take on this job right after that encounter with that strange…person and the freaky dream she had directly afterward. He didn't seem to be a vampire or anything, and she needed the resources of Wolfram and Hart to find out, exactly, what that…person was and why he had invaded her dream after that.

The more I know, the better I can kick his ass, she was so deep in her thoughts that she barely noticed a expensively-suited young woman in front of her until the woman said, "Good morning, Miss Faith."

The dark-haired Slayer jumped slightly at being addressed at such close range. "Oh. Hey."

She had a cute, perky face framed by coffee brown hair. Her bright eyes twinkled as she grinned. "Hi, I'm Suzume. I'm your new P.A."

"My new P.A.?"

She nodded. "Yes. Clarisse Thompson has been permanently incapacitated. Apparently, Mr. Saito has found out that her extracurricular activities outside the company are less than savory." She lowered her voice. "She's been ritually sacrificing month-old babies to keep her looks."

"Oh." She paused for a moment and frowned. "Who's Mr. Saito?"

"Mr. Hajime Saito is the head of your special ops teams. He sends out teams nightly to patrol Los Angeles and slay demons." She paused for a moment. "For the record, under his leadership, the special ops teams have grown almost threefold, and they're much more effective than before." She glanced down at the state-of-the-art PDA she held in her hand. "You will be meeting him at three, after your meetings with the various heads of department, starting with the Financial Auditing Department."

Hmm, I like him already. Anyone who actively kicked demon ass was all right in her book.

The lift door opened, and Suzume held it open for her to enter. "You mean you've got my schedule down pat?" Faith asked curiously. Even the Mayor did not even have something like that. He had to schedule his meetings himself, which had caused him plenty of annoyance, and here she was, with a personal assistant tagging along behind her. She was going to have to get used to this. Fast.

Suzume nodded as if it was the most natural thing in the world. "Of course, Miss Faith. That's what personal assistants do! Whenever you need anything, just buzz me on the intercom, and I'll be right over." She beamed as she pressed the fiftieth floor button. "I'm the best in the business, and they know it, which is why I became your assistant."

Faith stared at her oddly. She looked entirely too eager, and something about her was decidedly non-human. She couldn't sense it in the lobby, but in the lift up close…she scowled, stiffening. "You're not human, are you?"

"Like a third of the employees in Wolfram and Hart," she nodded brightly. "But don't worry, I'm harmless. Raoul holds checks every two days to make sure that I'm clean."

"Raoul?"

"Yeah. He and his team checks on the demons working here to ensure that they've not consumed human blood or anything that is expressly forbidden in the rule book. Pissed a lot of demons off at first, but after the vocal ones were slain by either Mr. Angel, Mr. Spike, or Mr. Saito, they learned to live with it." She paused, then added as an afterthought. "Most of us are pretty much harmless. Really."

"That's good to know." Faith replied as the doors opened. Well, Angel had really cleaned this place up good.

An entire round of 'Good morning's sounded once more as she made her way into her office. Her very own office. I must be the first Slayer in the history of the world to be in charge of a big-ass law firm. The morning was definitely getting better and better, but she couldn't help but feel slightly out of place. Everyone was perfectly dressed, right down to the shiny shoes, and she was clad in a tight top and a leather jacket and pants.

"And…Miss Faith?" Suzume carried on as she shut the door quietly behind her. "You would be meeting a couple of clients later. If you would like a change of clothes to suit the occasion--"

"No. No, thanks. This is fine." Faith cut her off quickly. There was no way she was going to look like those guys in the Men In Black movie, and besides, she liked her clothes just fine, thank you very much.

Suzume looked like she was about to say something, but thought the better of it. Faith sat down behind the huge table, and hesitated for a moment.

Right, what was she supposed to do now?

Suzume, however, was not the best in the business for nothing. She already had a couple of files in her hand and had laid them on the table. "There are a few contract renewals that need your signature, Miss Faith."

Faith had already picked up a file and was riffling through it. Frowning, she spoke up after a moment. "Renewal of Contract, Angorthain demons?"

"They're part of the Research and Development team down at the labs. They were hired because they're stronger and smarter. And they only eat worms."

She made a face. "What, they're oversized birds?"

"No. More like apes, actually, but compared to the humans, they've never broken a test tube or blown anything up. That's how good they are. And they double up as frontline defenders if Wolfram and Hart ever get attacked because of their impenetrable hides. We threw a couple of bombs at them, and they weren't even affected in the least."

Definitely weird. Faith confirmed, slightly confused. She hadn't known that Wolfram and Hart were a demon-friendly law firm. So they may be harmless, but they definitely ranked high on the oddity scale. First Slayer to ever employ demons. Seems like I'm breaking the record for a lot of things.

Sensing her confusion, Suzume quickly explained the inner workings of Wolfram and Hart to her. When she was done, Faith seemed to remember something. "Almost forgot. Where's Spike?"

"Oh! Mr. Spike has gone to the training floor to test Illyria's skills."

Faith stiffened immediately. "You mean she's in this building?"

Suzume was puzzled. "Of course, Miss Faith. She's been in here for a while now. After the last boss and the heads of department disappeared, she was seen wandering along the hallways until Mr. Spike assigned her a place to stay. Her dwelling's currently in a holding room on the sixteenth floor. None of us are allowed to go anywhere near there." Her PDA beeped, and Suzume looked down at it. "It's time for your meeting with the various heads of department, Miss Faith. Please follow me."

So soon? Faith thought in surprise as she stood up, feeling an unfamiliar twinge of nervousness curl in her stomach. Weird, she'd never once been nervous before, but then again, this was a whole new ballgame, and she was batting in an entirely different field from what she was used to before. It would make anyone nervous.

Taking a deep breath, she said. "Here goes nothing."

"You're not responding!" Spike gritted furiously as he threw another punch at the ancient demon goddess, who simply stood there, unmoving and doing her best impersonation of a statue. His patience was wearing thin, he'd been in here day after day for the last two months, throwing punches and kicks, and yet, there was no response at all from the wench. She could've been a wax figure for all he knew, and it was enough to drive a man out of his sodding mind!

There had been a time when she would gleefully whomp his ass and wipe the floor with him, and he would gladly return the favor, but now…

She simply looked ahead, unblinking.

He growled again and threw another punch, this time right smack in that pretty face of hers.

The face that belonged to someone he had failed to save.

This shell... you had affection for it, for Fred.

Tons. Loved the bird.

Yet you strike at her form without sentiment.

You ain't her. I can see it. Lord knows I can smell it. And I got no problem hitting it.

No reaction.

"What the hell are you thinking of?" he exploded. "Wesley's dead and gone, pet, and he's never gonna come back. No use sobbing over spilt milk and all. Wake up and fight me!!"

Finally, Illyria blinked, and began to speak.

"You grieve still... for a single life.

Why are you here?

I... I'm uncertain. This place... was part of the shell.

Don't call her- The woman you killed had a name.

This is important to you. Things have names. The shell... Winifred Burkle... She can't return to you.

I know.

Yet there are fragments. When her brain collapsed, electrical spasms channeled into my function system... memories. Please...Wesley, why can't I stay?"

When she was finished, the vampire just stared at her, stunned. It had seemed like she had been engaging in a sodding monologue at first, of all things, and when he heard Wesley's name…Was this the conversation they'd had?

Slowly, the ancient demon turned to him. She didn't look like a bleeding pillar any longer. Her eyes were wide…and lost. "I have memories. They refuse to go away. And they hurt. The feelings I don't have…I hurt."

Despite himself, Spike softened ever so slightly. He had wanted to hurt this broad himself, to inflict make her…it hurt the way Fred's death hurt all of them, but now... "It's called grief, pet. The bitch that is hurting you is grief. No matter how powerful you are, or how hard you try, it's never gonna go away."

"I want to get rid of it." She stated flatly. "It is offensive to me. I was once worshipped by millions, I feel nothing. I cannot be feeling something as vile as this!"

"Well, news flash, love. You're not a god anymore. You're human. And you've got all the feelings that come with it."

Her dark eyes glinted furiously. "Make it stop! I don't want these filthy feelings! It's bleeding all over me, staining my mind…make it stop!"

Spike shrugged. "If there was any way to do it, teach me. I'd like to get rid of it, myself. Been feelin' helluva lot of it lately."

Illyria stared at him wordlessly, the emotion fading from her eyes. Then, after a moment, she lowered her head. Spike shook himself. This was too emotion-loaded for his taste. Him, he'd rather push it aside and wash it down with a few kegs of beer, and get good and drunk before he allowed those feelings to overtake him.

It was time for a beer. He straightened. "Come along, now."

"You deign to command me?" she snapped.

"Just shut up and come along, grandma. Got something that will knock the bitch out."

"What is this?" Illyria stared down at the golden-yellow liquid sloshing inside a huge mug. It was topped with a thin layer of foam. It smelt…curious. Like the poison Wesley always drank right after he lay down and closed his eyes…he had said that he was…napping, whatever it was.

"It's called beer, pet." At her strange look, he continued. "You drink it."

"What does it do?"

"Well, you drink enough of it, you get bloody sloshed, and you don't feel a thing after that. Simple as that."

She stared down at it dubiously. "Will it cease permanently?"

"No."

She scowled. "I want to make it go away. And it must never come back."

Spike shrugged and lifted his mug of beer in a toast. "When you feel the hurt's coming back, knock back another. Works that way." They were currently in a bar on the tenth floor of the Wolfram and Hart building. During the refurbishment of the building, he'd exercised the good judgement to set up a classy bar here, for any employee who just wanted to relax and unwind. It was a bloody good idea, if he was any judge.

Illyria stared at him. "And this continues?"

"For as long as you want, pet," he said agreeably as he gulped down half the mug in one go.

Cautiously, she picked up her own mug of the curiously smelling liquid and took a tentative sip--

--and spat it out immediately.

"This is poison!" she spat out furiously, throwing the mug on the floor, where it shattered loudly. The smell of beer immediately invaded the place, and Steven, the bartender, looked up from cleaning the table at the other side, startled.

Spike sighed impatiently. "No one's trying to poison you! You've got to get used to the taste, you little git." He held up his mug before she could move to strangle him. "See? I'm drinking the same thing as you, and I'm not popping the big one yet, eh?"

She stared at him suspiciously, but she was calmer now. "Order me another."

"You can get one yourself. I'm not your bloody babysitter."

She glared at him. "You dare defy me?"

He glared back. "Yeah. Deal with it."

Well, the meetings went pretty much smoothly, Faith thought as Suzume gave her a full tour of the place. Spike had just shown her a couple of places, but now…she was getting more and more impressed with the entire place. And I own it. That's already weird in itself.

She'd met with the various heads of department, but the most striking meeting she remembered was when she finally met the guy called Hajime Saito. Suzume had been full of admiration for the man, and she could see why. For all intents and purposes, the head of the Special Ops teams looked very much like a wolf, with golden eyes, a few strands of dark hair hanging over his handsomely-lined face, his sleek, stealthy movements that told her that he would be a very formidable opponent. His attitude, however, was less than sterling. The guy had a major attitude problem. He seemed almost amused when she'd met him, as if he couldn't believe that a woman could be CEO of Wolfram and Hart, and he seemed to think that he was better than everyone else.

Faith had a feeling that that sentiment was most likely true, but what the hell. It was obvious that he didn't think she could pull this off, but the Slayer was down with that; she would prove herself to everyone. Angel trusted her to do good by the company, and she sure as hell was going to do it, no matter what anyone thought.

She was pulled out of her thoughts when the huge lift doors slid open and she looked out at a huge parking lot, where more than a dozen shiny, beautiful cars were parked.

"This is your personal parking lot, Miss Faith. All these cars are yours. All thirty-five of them."

Faith just stared, stunned. Personal parking lot? Thirty-five cars? It was very obvious that the cars parked here were not any old run-of-the-mill ones. They were all Vipers, Ferraris, Porches, Jaguars…slowly, she made her way out, admiring the sleekness of the cars as Suzume followed behind. And all these cars are mine…she almost wanted to pinch herself, to make sure that it was not a dream. Never had she expected something like this! Maybe one car, yeah, but twenty-nine? Oh my God. "What am I supposed to do with thirty-five cars?"

Suzume smiled. "Drive them? L.A.'s a funny place. They don't take you seriously unless you have a to-die-for car. Also, it's intimidating."

Intimidating is good, Faith thought as she ran a hand down a shining black Porsche. This was amazing. "Sweet."

"Oh yes, Chef Williams is asking if you would like filet mignon or mousse duck foie gras for lunch."

"What?" She had never heard of the names before. And there are chefs here??

"Well, simply put, steak or duck liver."

"Steak will do fine," she replied quickly, wondering who the heck ate livers of birds.

"Are you sure? Chef Williams makes the best foie gras in the whole of L.A."

"I'll stick with the steak." She thought for a moment. "Does this Chef Williams cook for everyone here? Like a school cafeteria guy or something?"

Suzume laughed lightly. "No, he only cooks for you."

"That means he's my own personal chef?"

"Yes."

Own parking lot, thirty-five cars, huge office, personal assistant, and now I have a personal chef? I could get used to this, she thought, pleased. Fighting the good fight sure got better.

She stepped out onto the pavement as the yellow cab sped away, and glanced up at the imposing building of Wolfram and Hart. Her enemy was somewhere inside. At that thought, her fists clenched. Here dwelled the murderer that killed her older brother in cold blood.

Casually sidestepping the afternoon lunch crowd, she surveyed the building. She had planned it all very well, down to the most minute detail. It had taken her a couple of months to do so, after receiving the news of that killer getting off scot-free, and all it left now was to implement that plan. Even the gods had helped her, giving her the powers of the Slayer, and all the memories of the previous Slayers that came with it. She knew what she was, and she fully intended on making use of it. It was her one chance at revenge, and she was not about to let it go.

Now, for the first step, entering Wolfram and Hart.

Faith idly flipped through the files that were needed for the meeting later. According to Suzume, it was about a proposed alliance. The terms had not been clear, but Suzume had passed the files to her, giving the lowdown on the major client in question. For starters, his name was Hiko Seijuro. For starters, the guy had a strange name.

And for another thing, he was a vampire, master of the elite clan of vampires in Los Angeles.

And she killed vampires.

She scowled at the papers, annoyed. This particular clan was strange; they had helped Angel in the fight against the Senior Partners, and from what Suzume said, they were not regular vampires.

"There are a few kinds of vampires in the world. In that particular clan, the vampires are not the typical soulless beasts you're used to. Even the way they are changed is different. Normal vampires almost kill you, then you have to drink their blood in exchange. For them, you just have to drink their blood, and you'll become like them."

"What's the diff?" Faith had scoffed. "A vamp by any other name is still a vamp."

Suzume had laughed then. "No, not really. You see, normal vampires have no soul. As for these particular breed of vampires, aside from their craving for blood, immortality and special powers, and the fact that they cannot resist the sleep that comes upon them when daylight arrives, they are more or less human. They breathe, they've got souls, they've got pulses, and they're warm, especially after they'd fed."

"I've never heard of them before."

"Because they stayed in the deepest of shadows; no one could lay eyes on them and leave that place alive. No one they did not intend to show their face to."

It was then that Faith had remembered the strange person from last night. Every sense had screamed at her, telling her that he was very much a vampire, but his words…

"My apologies. I leave no witnesses."

And that dagger he held. He was about to kill her, not suck her blood…it all seemed to add up. She had looked to Suzume then. "When you said 'special powers', what do you mean?"

She shrugged. "The ability to turn into a bat and to disappear at will, or hypnotize someone, or erase a person's memory…stuff like that."

Disappear at will. She leaned back in her chair and frowned. The guy from yesterday quite literally disappeared under her nose, which was annoying and disarming in the extreme.

"But you said they crave blood. Don't they kill people, too?"

"They suck blood from people who are willing, but they don't kill them. Those vampires have a strict honor code not to kill anyone they could bear to leave alive. Besides, too much human blood will erode their souls, and sooner or later, they would become a normal vampire."

"Last I heard, not many people are willing to let vamps suck on their necks."

"Then you're not looking in the right places, ma'am. There are hundreds out there who charge these kind of vampires for sucking their blood. It's a kind of drug for them, because there is a non-harmful toxin in their fangs which induce a kind of drug-like effect that makes them high, so it's a win-win situation. Almost like getting paid for taking drugs and having sex."

"Sex?"

"Yeah. Sex and blood giving always go together. Those people who willingly give blood are normally referred to as sources. "

"How do you know so much about them?"

Suzume smiled. "Because I'm one of them."

Faith stared at her. Well, at least she looked harmless enough. And there were those daily blood checks…"Oh."

"Don't worry, we're more or less harmless. Most of us are, anyway."

And for some reason, the Slayer believed her. "That particular vamp community is pretty small, huh?"

"I'm not so sure. There are not many of us out there, unlike those disgusting soulless ones, but it's big enough that there are various clans like this in every state and country. It's sort of like a gang thing, where vampires of the same kind come together. So…yeah. It's pretty big. And trust me, Miss Faith, Mr. Seijuro's clan is not to be trifled with. They were very valuable allies to Mr. Angel and his team once upon a time, and they honored that alliance by helping to keep the peace in L.A. and hunting down their soulless brothers. That should count for something."

Faith thought about it for a long moment. It was a huge handful for her brain to get around, but it made sense.

shahid --Hey, thanks for the lovely review! I promise it'll get bigger and better. :D

A/N: Stay tuned for the next part! I promise it'd get more interesting.

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