It didn't take long to get my stuff from the Motel, there wasn't that much. The whole time I was packing their words kept echoing in my head. Who was I? What was I? Why was I even there? There was only one answer, one thing I could say; I don't know.
Not for the first time did I wish Xyne had been able to say more. Wished I'd been able to hear her completely.
The Od VaiLumin. I'd looked them up or tried to at least but there was no mention of them anywhere not even on the internet. I found nothing in Wesley's books and I peeked in Rupert's tomes as well. It was frustrating to say the least, more so because it felt as if I knew. The knowledge of what they were and why was in my head, somewhere just out of reach.
There were strongly worded protests as I left the Summer's house. Mayahuel didn't want to stay. She knew no one there besides Sabine and the things she'd seen so far frightened her. She'd lost all of her family except Temoc and he was living with my family. Mayahuel knew this, wasn't about to let the only link to her brother out of her sight and so she left with me. They couldn't keep her anyway. No one had a legal right to the girl.
The ride to LA was quiet except for the purring of the engine which served to soothe me. Glancing over to the dark girl riding beside me, dozing I couldn't help a feeling of déjà vu. It had been almost three years since I'd been driving around like now looking for a place to crash. Like then, the Hyperion loomed in the distance. A white beacon offering a place to rest and my life hadn't been the same since. For better or worse, I was different.
"Ya llegamos." I whispered nudging her shoulder gently. "Mayahuel." She yawned cracking her jaw and wiping at her eyes.
"Temoc?" she looked through the windshield at the unfamiliar Hyperion's garage.
"No," I got out with a tired sigh and reached to the back seat for my duffel. Mayahuel did the same rolling her suitcase towards the entrance. "I live here." I spoke slowly giving her time to hear the words and translate them in her head before I repeated myself in Spanish.
"When I see Temoc?" she asked haltingly. Her face darkened with embarrassment but I smiled encouragement.
"No lo se, soon I hope." She followed me down the hall to the lobby where there was some sort of commotion. I could hear them even this far off and as we finally came to the lobby Angel rushed out the front doors.
"Hey! Whatsa matter can't say hi to a returning-."
"Un demonio!" behind me Mayahuel exclaimed in fright. I glanced at her before looking where her wide eyes were riveted. I was assuming she'd caught sight of Lorne but-.
"What the hell is that?" everyone stood around with different expressions though the most common was surprise. Maybe they thought I wouldn't make it out of the HellMouth…
"Hi." I waved. That seemed to break them out of the silence spell.
"Sweetie! Fancy you coming home just now." Lorne beamed.
"Not much of a homecoming. What's this?" I asked pointing at the gray half moon horned demon standing inside a circle of red sand.
"You mean big and stupid?" Lorne quipped ignoring the glare the gray thing sent his way. He smiled at the girl still hiding behind me. Somehow I always ended up coming home to weirder and weirder stuff so why did this have to surprise me?
"Name's Skip." It grouched. I didn't bother answering it.
"I was gonna go with gross and- yeah pretty much what you said." I looked at Lorne again with a shrug. "Why's Angel in such a hurry?" the silence was overwhelming. Everyone looked at someone else but no one answered my question. Leaving my duffel on the front steps I closed the distance until we stood in a small circle. I realized something bad was happening or maybe it had or was about to.
"He's going to kill the woman he loves-." The gray thing answered just as I was about to repeat myself. I hated its gloating tone and the fact it interrupted me. Demons never told you anything useful, all they wanted was to sow discord and get you all confused which is why I tended not to believe them.
"You wanna shut your trap right now, dim-wit." If he opened his mouth again there wouldn't be another warning. I raised an eyebrow in question but no one denied it then Wes explained how Cordelia had been possessed by something evil, something that was about to give birth to itself. I threw Gunn a glare, hadn't he said the same about me and when I'd replied in kind he hadn't believed I wasn't possessed.
"I knew there was something wrong about it." Wes frowned confused and I realized I'd spoken out loud. Straightening I looked at them not sure how to explain the feeling she'd been giving off. "I felt it- like it was- it's not supposed to be."
"Hey," Skip pointed looking belligerent. "You're not supposed to be here."
"Didn't I tell you to shut up?" I threw Skip an ominous glare which he ignored.
"You're not part of the plan!" he yelled. "They aint playing fair!"
'Ooh, he wasn't supposed to say that.'
The demon knew what I was?
'He's going to have to pay.'
He had information I wanted. That's all I needed to focus on, he probably didn't realize how tenacious I am.
"Why aren't I supposed to be here?" I asked moving closer. "Who's not playing fair?
"Od VaiLumin!" he roared up into the ceiling. "Lod rak surtvem VaiLumen!"
My heart beat fast pounding in my chest. I grabbed at Skip wanting to pull the truth out of his gray head, needing to know why I was not meant to be here. Lorne read me; he said I was meant to help, that this is where I was going to do it. The answer to all my questions was here, it was within my grasp.
"No." Wes tugged me back before I could make contact.
"Tell me!" I yelled shaking him off easily but he grabbed on again and then the building shook. Wes lost his balance and pulled me down as well. I went to one knee steadying myself with a hand. I didn't pay attention to anyone else all my focus was on the demon and the information he was keeping from me. Getting up I stumbled forward when the first piece of ceiling plaster fell in front of me. More rained down scattering all over the lobby.
"Shit." I muttered but Skip smiled extremely pleased now that he was able to step out of his confinement.
'That's why you never use sand.'
Well, it was too late to do anything about it now. I wanted what he knew.
"Hey stupid." Skip's big one horned head swiveled around until he saw me. I wasn't exactly sure I knew how to work the whole pyro chic thing but I was gonna try it now. Moving fast I used my fists, alive with flames, delivering a rapid set of blows. With one swipe of his arm he threw me across the lobby, the only comfort I had was seeing the scorch marks I'd left him with.
"Asshole!" I growled getting up and wincing at the pain in my side. Ignoring it I rushed to the demon heedless of the falling debris.
"Cuidado!" Mayahuel's warning barely registered and in my haste assumed it was for someone else. A large chunk of plaster smacked into my shoulder, hard enough I heard something snap. A wave of burning agony shot down my left side then another piece fell hitting the sensitive spot between my shoulder blades. As I fell face first to the ground the foggy blanket blackened my vision removing all the pain.
Mayahuel clung to the pillar watching in horror as Phade fell beneath the crumbling ceiling. Large chunks of plaster crashed around her splintering apart but nothing woke her. Not the noise, the sharp reports of the gun or the flying missiles gouging her skin. One last chunk fell on Phade's thigh before rolling off and the earthquake stopped. The loud cracks echoed in the lobby mixing with other noises. Mayahuel realized she was screaming. That was the echo in her head. She panted, watching as the gray demon toppled over and when she was sure it wouldn't rise again she got unsteadily to her feet. Her black eyes took in everything, the damage, the eerie silence, the mess all around them and the people. Phade had brought her here, said she lived here, in this big old house but she hadn't mentioned the people. When her husband had stopped here before she'd only seen the skinny white lady and the bald black man. Now there were two others, one very obviously a green devil, the one that smiled at her.
Assuming this was 'Lorne' then she felt bad not believing Bastían when he had told them those stories. He had called him a friend but…
'No, no puede ser!' she wailed. They couldn't be anything other than evil. All of them, they had to be bad people didn't they?
She needed Phade, needed the woman to wake up and explain this to her. She needed the security of the woman's steady presence, her confident straightforward gaze-.
"Phade!" Mayahuel rushed to her side shouting her name in hopes of waking her. She slid; fell to her knees crying out in pain. Ignoring it she clutched at the fallen woman's shoulder and carefully pushed her fingers to the carotid artery feeling for a pulse like the Hell's Angel's had taught her. Frightened, fearing there would be none Mayahuel sobbed in relief finding one. It flooded through her as the steady beat under her fingers. She slumped over Phade unsure what else to do. No one had told her, no one-. Some one gripped her shoulder and after four days of constant training with Sabine under Phade's watchful eyes Mayahuel reacted instinctively not holding back.
Her hand shot up, fingers clawed then clamped on the offending wrist. Using all her strength Mayahuel twisted yanking at the same time. Her free hand shot forth, fist connecting with soft pliant tissue. Shaking stray hair out of her eyes Mayahuel rose to her full height and stepped over Phade taking a fighting stance.
"Oooh!" the green demon clutched at his face where he sat on the floor. "Ooh…" his eyes were squeezed shut and it looked as if he was really in pain but Mayahuel didn't believe it. Her black eyes locked on the other men; a tall scruffy gringo and a bald black man. They held their hands out glancing warily at her and speaking too fast. Mayahuel shook her head not understanding what they said. The gringo pointed, he jabbed insistently at the floor and she realized he meant Phade.
"No!" with a furious scowl she planted herself firmly in their way.
"She doesn't understand." Fred whispered hoarsely from their left.
"Wha-but-?" Gunn looked back to the girl confused. Something about the girl felt familiar, not like he knew her but maybe he'd seen her somewhere?
"I think she's the girl Ryan took to Sunnydale." Fred rasped and Gunn immediately put the faces together.
"The Potential?" Wes frowned confused as to why the girl wasn't with the others. He wracked his brain for some word to communicate they only meant to help Phade when Gunn rushed forward.
"No-." his warning came too late and Wes watched as she easily knocked him down then bent to deliver a quick punch to his chest. Gunn roared in pain but yanked the girl down as she moved to rise. He managed to pin her with difficulty.
"She'll never believe we meant no harm." Wes snapped as he bent to examine Phade. Turning her gently onto her back Wes checked for a pulse finding it strong. The he checked her limbs for any broken bones. Her left shoulder was dislocated. He would need help to set it back in place. With wary reluctance Gunn let Mayahuel loose scurrying away from her before she could hit him again.
"Maya?" Fred's raspy voice hesitated on the name. Seeing the girl jerk towards her she smiled nervously. "It's ok." She murmured.
"No se despierta. Esta mal!" Maya cried afraid she'd be left alone again. How would she find Temoc? How would she get to him? Even with the phone she had no idea how to let them know where she was. She didn't speak their language, didn't know their ways. Why? Why did those priests kill her family? Why didn't they leave her alone? Why had God punished her? She had always been obedient, always did as she was told, deferred with proper respect to her parents, to her elders…
'No fue suficiente. Nada fue suficiente.' She thought hopelessly.
Phade never flinched, didn't even wake as Wes and Gunn set her shoulder in place.
"What did he mean?" Gunn asked as Wes ran his hands over her legs checking for broken bones. "Skip. He said they weren't playing fair. The she wasn't supposed to be here."
"I'm not sure but she recognized the name. Od VaiLumin." He looked up at Lorne who wiggled his nose flinching. "You said she's not a champion for the Powers That Be. Can we assume-."
"These Od VaiLumin are the ones pulling her strings?" Lorne shrugged. "Cant say yay or nay." He sniffed again wincing at the pain.
"Nothing is broken." Wes declared gently dabbing at the cut on her forehead. "She never gets a simple 'Welcome Home'."
Lorne shook his head sadly agreeing with Wesley's observation.
"She's just lucky that way." Gunn murmured.
Sound tuned in then out cutting conversations in half, making the soundless moments interminable. I knew what happened, knew where I was and even remembered Wes telling me how Cordelia was about to pop out an evil baby and that Angel had gone to make sure it didn't happen.
'He'll fail…' this time I didn't feel like arguing so I just let the comment slide. Besides, I wasn't sure Angel would succeed either.
Lights flashed bright when I cracked my eyes open. They were blinding piercing up into my brain like lasers. I groaned turning over but it didn't help, not by much. The movement sent fiery waves down my left side. It was so bad my breath caught in my throat until I forced myself to sit up.
'Bad idea.' The taunting wasn't as bad as the gut wrenching nausea that threatened to empty out my tummy. I don't think I have much by way of food stored in there but I refused to let what there was out. Slowly, feeling like an old crone I managed to get my feet on the floor. A rolling wave of pain rose up my leg. It felt like someone was jabbing my thigh with a hot poker. I hunched over curling into myself as I gasped, the pain took my voice, holding it prisoner in my chest and I almost fell over. My shoulders burned, I was in serious pain. Worse than the Beast had managed to cause or maybe it was the same, I couldn't tell the difference. Pain is pain.
The only thought I could manage, the one thing I focused on was getting into my tub. I needed to get in there and heal.
My body hurt but I forced myself to ignore it and moved past the engraved bed post around the foot of the bed and towards my bathroom. The pain worsened and another wave of nausea rose up my throat. Forcibly shoving it down I kept going, kept moving. The door loomed further away than before. My vision stretched out like a tunnel narrowing to one spot. My goal.
Wes knocked perfunctorily on the door, waited a few seconds and then went in. The door closed behind him softly and as he entered the living room he found Maya standing uneasily by the bedroom door. He smiled gently moving slowly so as not to frighten her.
"Phade?" he pointed to the door then; "Ok? Errm- Bien?"
Maya frowned understanding what he meant. She shook her head. "No se." she shrugged.
"Well." Wes sighed and stepping past her opened the bedroom. Inside it was dark; the curtains were drawn though the faint glow of the late morning sun shone on the copper and cream drapes.
"Phade?" he called flicking on the lights. Seeing the empty bed Wes hurried inside looking around but he didn't find her. She hadn't fallen, there was no body anywhere on the mahogany wood floor nor was she in her bedroom.
A strange cough floated out of the bathroom.
"Phade?" Wes called louder moving to the closed door. The only answer was another strangled sound that made him wince. She couldn't possibly be…? But the next strangled heave confirmed what he thought.
"Go Away." Her muffled voice sounded weak and tired.
"Are you un-well?" he rolled his eyes at the stupid question and as answer heard another heave.
"Does it sound like I'm anything but?" she retorted with some heat. He could practically see her scowling through the door.
"Err-no." Wes waited a few minutes moving to open the curtains. The retching subsided and then another minute passed before the door opened. Phade stepped out obviously unsteady on her feet. He noticed the cut on her forehead was gone, she'd healed herself.
"What?" Phade growled. Wes raised questioning eyebrows at her tone. She was clearly in a bad mood. His face brightened knowing exactly how to make her feel better. After all, if his guilt and the unworthiness, the feelings of betrayal and hurt had been lifted from him- well, it's why he'd come to get her in the first place.
"Come with me." he smiled.
"Are you nuts?" Phade scowled walking past him. "I'm not dressed." She motioned to the white tank and black boy shorts she'd thrown on after her 'bath'.
Phade didn't understand why she still felt awful. Her body still ached though the burning pain was gone. She felt nauseous and the dimmest of light hurt her eyes not to mention provoked a headache.
"Sierra la cortina." She ordered Mayahuel as her own hand flicked the light switch effectively cutting off the lights. The girl jumped to obey casting worried glances at her.
"What time is it?" Phade asked frowning. She turned searching for her clock. "Where is everyone?" Realizing she didn't have a clock in her bedroom anymore she turned to Wes. "Angel?"
"They're with her." He saw her frown and smiled again. He knew he couldn't explain it. Couldn't describe who she was or even what but he knew how she made them feel, made him feel. "Come. She wants to meet you. She's…" he sighed trailing off looking like some besotted fool in love for the first time.
"Wesley?" Phade felt that overwhelming nausea rise again. Something was wrong. She hadn't felt like this before. Her body didn't feel right, didn't feel normal. It was as if she'd been poured into someone else but the fit was all wrong. Not too tight but not loose, it was yet it wasn't and the confusion was worse. Phade couldn't order her thoughts, nothing felt right.
Wes grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the bed room. He hurried her along, out of her apartment uncaring of her bare feet or lack of clothes, through the Hyperion going down one floor. Phade saw it, watched out of herself as she stumbled along with Wes. She frowned seeing her body jerk, she was un-coordinated, her movements jerky and stiff. It couldn't be her, this- this ungraceful thing…
Mayahuel followed behind asking questions neither answered, they just kept going with the gringo, going on and on about some woman but she couldn't figure out exactly what he said. If he would just slow down…
They went left then right, down a flight of stairs then another right through eerie empty halls until they made another left and came to a stop in front of a door. She heard people, the voices where happy, excited.
Mayahuel felt suddenly shy, out of place. How long had it been since she'd heard such joy? It seemed like years had passed, ages since she'd shared a laugh, even a hug with anyone. Sadness overwhelmed her; she had no one now only Temoc but he was far away, far from her…
Wesley led us into the suite and that- awful, nasty, gut wrenching- yugh! No word existed to describe how terribly wrong I felt just then. My insides were churning like a some blender –.
"Jesus make this stop."
"Que bella." Mayahuel gasped. I felt her brush past me, a look of pure happiness on her features. She went forward quickly dropping to her knees and bent her head reverently. Wondering what had her behaving like this I followed her gaze. The first thing I noticed were the bugs- no, these are like wormy looking maggots-.
The image wavered, first it was there then it wasn't and I couldn't help think maybe I might be hallucinating. As I kept trying to focus on the woman I noticed her skirts, they were some maroon color but the weird part was they looked new or I thought so but on second glance they were moldy and full of holes. I shook my head wiping at my eyes then tried to focus but the images kept wavering. It was like trying to line up three shots of the same thing so they made one but the more I tried the worse my head pounded.
"Worms…" no one heard or maybe they didn't care but then I was sure or- God! Why couldn't the maggots stay still! Then again were they even real? I couldn't be sure because the image kept flickering and I had black spots dancing happily about like freaking fairies!
'Faeries? You've watched Legend too many times.'
So what if I had? That didn't get rid of the sickly sweet stench or the wave of nausea that rolled up from my stomach. I closed my eyes and concentrated on not heaving. How embarrassing would that be? Not to mention, eew gross! With a deep breath I looked up at- at-
Before the blanket of fog blessedly claimed me again I had a clear picture of…it.
The thing, woman, Cordelia had 'birthed' was neither dead or alive. Yes, it walked, talked, breathed- I guess- and did other humanly things so in a way it was alive but it was dead too. It was being eaten by maggots; I know it was, I could see them, the maggots and the worms pouring out of her eye sockets her mouth- decaying. I looked at her-it. She smiled, two smiles actually, one was hideous the maggots and worms spilled out of the hole where a mouth should be. Overlaying that image was the beautiful human exterior, a soft beautiful loving sort of smile but the eyes… there was something not right.
Everyone stood in shocked silence, frozen in place. After a silent moment her lips turned up in a beatific smile, one dark hand motioning to the woman passed out on the plush carpet.
"We should make her more comfortable."
"Of course." Wesley jumped to obey.
"The shock-." Angel moved to help as Wesley knelt by Phade. "She's just-." He smiled awkwardly as he helped get Phade on the couch.
"I almost fainted dead away myself." Fred laughed nervously. Seeing Angel, Wes and Her staring made Fred more uncomfortable. "I- I mean be- because she's so beautiful. I just felt so… so…"
"She'll be fine." Beneath Her gentle hand She felt the young girl relax. Mayahuel nodded understanding her perfectly.
"Wow." Fred breathed awed. Her mind quickly grasped the fact that this beautiful being was able to communicate with anyone in any language. The knowledge only re-enforced how wonderful She truly was.
She smiled surrounding them in her loving warmth.