Faye grinned insanely into the dirt on the floor of the cavern. She was going to die. She was going to die, here, in the dust, by Spike's very own gun. She laughed. She couldn't help it. But the ripple in her muscles caused her to stop again almost instantly. The pain. The god damned pain.

Her hands became blurry to her sight, and she coughed blood onto them as her vision began to swim.

She could hear a voice, somewhere in the room. Some one was protesting this. Someone cared if she lived or died. The thought made her profoundly happy, as she rested her forehead on the floor, and closed her eye.

"Stop this, she's got nothing to do with this. Please, let her go." The voice was saying. And Faye wanted to remember who it belonged to. Struggled to match it to a face.

"You made her a part of this. . . she's made herself a part of this," came a reply, and Faye felt her stomach clench painfully in hatred.

"I mean it, Eve, if you kill her, I'll make you regret it." Dark, cold, tones. Why was he speaking so? Why was Corbin so angry?

Corbin?

Corbin! That was it. That was what she needed.

In a moment of clarity, Faye looked up to see Eve looking away from her. With the last ounce of strength Faye had left, she kicked upward, her foot colliding with the Jericho, and sending it end over end, arching to the ceiling, and falling down at Corbin's feet.

There was a tense moment as the world stood still, then just as Faye was losing consciousness again, she saw Corbin dive for the Jericho, and Eve dive for Corbin.

It was too bad she wouldn't get to see how this whole thing turned out.

*

*

*

He hit the floor, sliding under Eve's dive, and grabbing the gun as he passed. He saw Faye collapse, but he didn't have time to check on her just then.

He rolled to his feet, and pointed the gun at Eve who was readying to spring on him again.

He fired once, then once again. The first bullet entered her shoulder, tearing an enraged scream from her throat, the second caught her in the leg, but neither kept her from her leap, as she threw herself into him, and once again, the gun was knocked into the air.

Now they circled each other, both unarmed, each glaring death into the others eyes.

Corbin had a moment to wonder what had happened to father, before Eve was attacking again. He dodged a kick aimed for his head, twisting into an impossible backbend, then kicking his legs up to catch her in the chin. While she shook the fuzz from her head, he made another lunge at the gun, but she recovered too quickly, and sent him forward into the dirt with a well timed kick in the back.

"Shit."

She'd caused him to overshoot the gun, and when he rolled over onto his back to face her, he found himself looking down its barrel.

He saw her finger twitch, but a sharp cry of "don't!" stopped her a moment before she pulled the trigger.

"But Father…"

"No, we need him, I don't have the time or the resources to start over."

The shot came from a corner of the room that was still shrouded in dark, the bullet tearing through Eve's other shoulder, and she dropped her gun with an inhuman screech, whipping her head around to stare into the darkness. And Corbin watched as Jet stepped into the light. Great, the whole gang was here. Comforting to know he wouldn't be dying alone.

From the corner of his eye, Corbin saw Dr. VanHausen reach into his robes, and opened his mouth to warn Jet, but the burly man was already on it.

A single bullet to the head sent the doctor off to that big genetics lab in the sky, and the pistol he'd been reaching for into the dirt.

"Father!" It was only a breath. Not even loud enough to truly be a whisper, but it echoed through the cavern with more resonance than the gunshot which had proceeded it. It was the cry of someone who'd just lost everything.

"No!" And an instant later, Eve had thrown herself forward, charging Jet in a dead run. But before she'd taken more than three steps, she stumbled, and Corbin saw the gore shoot from the exit wound in her forehead. He was shocked to find himself holding the gun.

"Christ."

It had seemed like the only appropriate thing to say.

"Let's get going, kid, we've got to get out of here. Pronto."

Corbin shook his head, and stood up. It was over. It was FUCKING OVER.

"Faye. . . Hey, Faye?" He could hear Jet over his shoulder, where he'd gone to check on their fallen friend, and Corbin felt whatever color was left in his face drain away.

Faye. Oh god. He'd forgotten, for just a moment, that she was bleeding to death, and not waiting back on the ship for the victory celebration.

Oh god. Faye was going to die, and it was all his fault. Oh god. Why had she followed him? oh god. Oh god. Oh god.

He didn't want to turn around.

"… Corbin," Corbin gradually became aware that Jet was calling for him. "Hey, come on, get the fuck over here and help me."

Reluctantly, he obeyed. And almost turned right back around at what he saw.

Faye was white as a sheet, and shivering.

"She's in shock," he whispered, then got to his feet and approached them. He leaned over, and traced a hand across her face. "She's lost a lot of blood."

"I fucking know that," Jet replied irritably, "how the fuck did you think I found this Goddamned place? I followed her trail of blood, that's how." His voice rose steadily, until he was yelled the last words, and they reverberated off the shadowed walls. He dropped his head, "now that you've given you expert opinion Dr. Fucking Corbin, help me carry her out of here. I can't hold her and look at the map at the same time.

"and we do have to leave. Right now."

Without another word, Corbin slipped his shirt off over his head, and tied it around Faye's mid-section. He wasn't sure if it was helping, but it wasn't like it could hurt much at this point.

With the bleeding at least somewhat contained, he lifted her into his arms, and followed Jet out, taking care not to jostle her too much at their near-running pace.

It felt like it was taking forever, and Jet was mumbling something about a countdown that couldn't be halted, and how he knew he should have given it an extra fifteen minutes. Corbin followed wordlessly for a few minutes, until they reached an intersection, and Jet started down the left path.

"Jet. This ways faster." Corbin informed him, with a head jerk to the right.

"Jet gave him a suspicious look, but shrugged, and motioned for Corbin to lead the way.

He wasn't sure how he did it exactly, but in less than five minutes they were at the door.

"Almost there," Jet said, looking relieved, and he stepped forward. The door didn't open. He kicked it. It wouldn't budge. He shot it. Nothing.

As Corbin stepped forward, the doors slid open.

"Come on, and stay close. The security system is back up, but it's keyed into my DNA. If you're with me, it won't activate."

"Is this a fact or a theory?"

"Let's hope it's a fact."

But they made it to the edge of the enclosure without incident, and when Jet moved as if to take Faye from Corbin, he just held her more tightly to his chest and shook his head.

"Jet, I know you've been with her longer, and you two are very close, but my ships three times as fast as yours, and if she's to have a chance of reaching medical attention, I should be the one to take her there. Just tell me what frequency Ed's on, and I'll contact her for coordinates of the nearest hospital once I'm in the air."

Jet nodded, it was sound logic, he couldn't deny that. "It's Ed, Corbin, it doesn't really matter, once she realizes you're out, she'll contact you."

Corbin nodded, and handed Faye over to Jet while he got into his cockpit, and buckled in. jet laid Faye in his lap, and jumped down just as the hatch closed.

Corbin saw Jet mouth "Godspeed" to him. like he needed the encouragement.

A moment later he was in the air.

He was already skimming the canyons, heading toward New Vegas, where Ed had informed him was the only hospital within 500 miles. He didn't see the explosion that stared in the tower, and worked its way down until the whole thing was rubble.

*

*

*

"I have to say, it's strange to be on this end of it." Corbin's voice was light and airy as he addressed what appeared like a mummified human on the couch.

"Oh, shut the fuck up, Lunkhead."

He scowled at that, "If you start calling me that, I'll be forced to call you Shrew Woman." His voice was light, but his eyes betrayed a hurt that had little to do with the actual insult.

Faye coughed, luckily, the only part of her body that wasn't bandaged was her face. He would have hated to miss that blush.

"Um, Corbin. . . there was something I meant to give to you, when I caught up with you."

"The Jericho."

"Yes, the Jericho. . . but that was all wrong. I mean it was a mistake," Corbin turned away. He didn't need to hear her say out loud how he was nothing compared to Spike. How he'd never measure up.

"Corbin. . . hey, look at me." His eyes slid back to hers. There was something about the tone in her voice. "I'd meant to give it to you, yes, but I see now, that that was all wrong. That gun. . . it represents something that you aren't."

That was it, he stood up, "Listen, I'm tired, I'm going to turn in. . ." he made as if to go, but was stopped by her voice.

"No, don't go," she said, and to Corbin, it sounded like her voice held a waiver. "hear me out.

"What I meant was just that. . . you aren't him. I can't make you be him, and I can't keep comparing you two. So instead, I wanted to give you something else." She nodded to a box on the coffee table that he previously hadn't noticed.

He aproached it with caution, and only picked it up after a prompting of "it doesn't bite."

He slid the lid off, and pulled out a Glock 30. "This. . . didn't this…"

"Used to be mine? Yes. I think you could use a good gun, you know, something smaller than the ones you have, it's better for concealment purposes, and they work well in tandem. This one has served me well."

"Thank you." A whisper.

Thank you, not just for the gift, but for finally giving me a place. Me. Just me.

*

*

*

Alright, thanks for bearing with me guys… this isn't over. Well this is over, but I've always intended for this to be a three part job (hence all the loose ends.) I will work on the final installment, but at the moment, I need a short break from this series. Between this and To Heal All Wounds, I've been writing this series for nearly two and a half years.

I need a breather.

Like I said, though, I do intend to continue. . . eventually. . . in a few months… so anyone who wants an email when the new story's ready to roll should let me know. Otherwise, I'll see you guys when I see you.