Ascending Tartaurus

"Well," Wesley said as he stumbled through the door of the condo, "that was certainly different."

"Yeah." Faith scoffed. "Never thought I'd see the day where Angel entered a church willingly...and what was it with that thing Buffy was wearing?

"It's called a wedding dress, Faith."

"I know it's a wedding dress, Wes. That doesn't make it any less ridiculous. I'm amazed she didn't trip over that ridiculous train on her way down the aisle."

Wesley reached into the liquor cabinet and drew out a bottle of his favorite brand of scotch.

"So, I imagine they're riding out into the sunset right about now," he said wistfully. "Angel's dream of being human has finally come true."

"And Buffy can settle down as a housewife and raise Angel's brats."

"Actually, I do believe they plan on returning to demon hunting once the honeymoon's over, though I imagine children will be a factor in the future."

"Know what, Wes? Screw 'em.

"Yes Faith, screw them both."

Despite his heavily intoxicated state, Wesley managed to shuffle his way across the room and take a seat next to the dark-haired slayer. "Care for a drink, Faith?"

"Watch it Wes, didn't you drink enough for three people at the wedding?"

"Ah Faith, but we only have this condo for two more days. We might as well make the most of what we have while it's here."

"I think I'll pass. It's time to take a shower and get out of this ridiculous dress. Whose idea was it to let Willow design the bridesmaids' dresses in the first place? Pink is so not my color."

….

That night he dreams of them again. Cordelia, his friend and comrade, her life senselessly

destroyed by an uncaring god. Lilah, the woman who had slipped into his bed and, unexpectedly, his heart. And of course, he dreams of Fred, the great love of his life, needlessly taken from him days after they had finally become a couple.

He woke up to the sound of his cellphone beeping. The words "They're Here" flashed off the screen. Wesley gathered his weapons and quietly slipped out of the apartment, but not before taking another swig of scotch.

...

Ten vamps stood in front of him and several more crept out of their hiding place in the distance. Wesley punched the leader in the face, knocking him to the ground. Two more vampires approached, one on each the left and one on the right. Wooden stakes slid out from Wesley's shirt sleeves, turning both his attackers to dust. He bent down, preparing to decapitate the leader with his favorite battle ax.

….Only to be pulled back from behind and thrown into the air, crashing against the wall of a nearby abandoned building. Wesley lay on the ground, gasping for air. He had several broken ribs by the feel of it and possibly a sprained ankle to go with them.

Footsteps approached. He looked up to see his assailant, female, dark-haired, and...from the strength of the blow, probably very old.

"That's five of my husbands you've killed tonight. I was going to sire you and have you join my family, pretty boy, but now I think we'll just have you for a snack."

Several more of the woman's husbands converged around him. The presumed leader bows before her. "For you the first taste, Larissa, my exalted, my love."

Larissa shifted into vamp face, and lunged for Wesley's neck. He closed his eyes and waited for the end.

"Oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light. By the rocket's red glare- Darn it Faith, I can't remember the rest of this song, let me switch to some Frank Sinatra."

"There's a somebody I'm longing to see. I hope that he turns out to be...someone wholl watch over me."

Wesley opened his eyes to see the vampires, Larissa included, running away with their ears covered, Faith in hot pursuit.

"Wesley, what the bejeezus are you doing? There must be 25 vamps running around here. Even Faith couldn't do it all without a few showtunes."

Wesley looked up to see a familiar green-skinned demon looking down on him.

"It's good to see you too, Lorne," he says. Then the world faded to black.

…..

He woke up back in the apartment. Someone, probably Lorne, had tucked him under the covers and left a cup of warm milk by his bedside.

Wesley tried to get up only to lose his balance and crash onto the floor. He struggled to wrestle himself free of the blankets.

"Easy, big guy." Faith came sliding through the door. "You got the crap kicked out of you last night, give it a little before you go charging back into the swing of things."

"Wh-What happened? How did I get back here? What is Lorne-?"

"Ah, so you're awake, sugarplums. Man, those healing spells The Furies taught me work like you wouldn't believe but boy do they knock you out for a couple of weeks. Hey Faith, you need a hand getting old Wes here back into bed?"

"Nope, I got it handled." Faith picked Wesley up and tucked him back into bed, despite his angry protests. She scooched down next to him, while Lorne sat on the other side of the bed.

"So I was out in Tibet, getting trained in the healing arts, (horrible place by the way, no singing, no color), when he I heard Angelcakes had finally made his Sanshui and was getting hitched. So, I said to hell with it and decided to come to Vegas and give my final goodbyes. Of course, with the whole timezone difference I got here a day later and ran into Faith here. That's when we realized you had disappeared. Good thing you left your phone behind or you would be vampire toast by now."

"I'll have you know that I was handling things just fine on my own."

Faith rolled her eyes. "Wesley, we both know that's a bunch of bullshit. You would be dead if I hadn't gone and saved your ass back there and you know it. Actually, I think you kind of wanted to get killed. Why else would you get drunk and go off against a vampire nest by yourself?"

"She's got a point, Wes. Seriously, what's happened to you? What are you doing all alone? Angel may be out of the picture, but where are Gunn and Illyria?

"Gunn went back to his old gang. As for Illyria, she and Spike have become quite enamored of each other. I believe they're somewhere in outer Mongolia at the moment."

"So you've been by yourself all this time, drinking yourself to death."

"I do not have a drinking problem!"

"Five cents says differently Wes." Faith got up from the bed and began to pace the room. "Seriously, do you think I don't recognize a drunk when I see one?"

Wesley vaguely remembered reading Faith's file back when he was still a member of the Watcher's Council. Her mother had been an alcoholic who came to some sort of unfortunate end.

"Besides Wes, we need someone to help us with this missing persons case the Watcher's Council just e-mailed me about. People are vanishing all over the city."

"People disappear everyday, Faith, have you tried looking into organized crime?"

"Wes, buttercup, just listen to yourself. The Wesley I knew would have been on this case yesterday. What happened to the good fight, eh? Helping people, saving lives."

Wesley sighed and laid his head back against the pillow. "That was a different time, Lorne. I was a different person. I'll make a deal with you two. I'll consult my books and see if there is a supernatural element behind these disappearances, but on one condition. Once this is over, I want both of you gone. I'm a grown man capable of making my own decisions. I don't need a slayer and a demon around to babysit me."

Faith and Lorne stared at him in silence, before Faith nodded in agreement.

"Fine," Faith said, "but only if you promise to lay off the booze until we're finished."

Ever since he woke up in the hospital after fighting with Cyrus Vail, Wesley has felt like a dead man walking. Slowly, he feels himself coming to life again.

….

"Larissa, born in Athens in the year 360 BC, made vampire at the age of 17. Legend has it that she knew Alexander the Great himself. The Watcher's Council has sighted her in Germany, Scotland, and even Yugoslavia, but never in America. She sires young men and makes them her husbands."

Wesley was sitting at his makeshift desk, pouring over what he had salvaged from his collection in LA. Faith was perched on the edge, leaning over him. He was doing his best trying not to look up into the Slayer's very voluminous cleavage.

"Sounds like a good way to go, too bad I dusted all her boytoys."

"I find it very strange that I haven't heard of such an ancient vampire before. She's kept a very low profile over the centuries. In fact, the few accounts we have of her involve conflicts with rival vampire clans.

"That's nice Wes, but it's been three weeks. When are we going to get back to the missing persons case."

Wesley sighed. "If you haven't noticed, Faith, I've been a bit busy."

Lorne's newly mastered healing abilities might be able to fix broken bones, but not the sleepness nights that followed his newly forced sobriety. Now his lost loved ones came to haunt him during his waking hours.

Faith had kept him company through the sleepless nights, despite his best attempts to drive her away. Her sarcasm, her "never may care" attitude slowly began to grow on him. Wesley had even found himself laughing with her over late night cartoons.

"World to Wes. Are you there, boss?"

Wesley snaps back to reality, inadvertently making the mistake of looking up and getting a full-on closeup of Faith, cleavage, hair, eyes, and a mouth that looked strangely kissable.

Wesley jumped up from the desk, nearly knocking his chair over in the process. He hadn't been with a woman, or wanted to, since before Fred's death, but he was still male and Faith was...oddly alluring.

He continued the conversation with his back to the slayer. "I've looked at all the reports, none of the missing have anything remotely in common. They're people from all walks of life who've disappeared from a variety of different places, hospitals, bars, restaurants, stores, gas stations. There's no connection. I have nothing to work with."

"Well Wes, I don't know what to tell you. Angel said you're kind of an expert at cracking these things. Bummer, I might have to contact the Watcher's Council to bring me a different guy."

"Nothing would make me happier, Faith."

Wes turned around to see Faith had hopped off the desk and was now standing face to face with him. She lay a hand on his cheek.

"Wes, I know you've been through a lot but we have to try..."

The door burst open, releasing a burst of sunlight and Lorne into the makeshift study room.

"Hey kiddos, sorry I'm late. The lines at the supermarket were packed. Hey, got Wes here some more soda pop and they had this great deal on watermelon. Wait until I get the grill fired up and we can...Whoa, am I interrupting something!"

Wesley quickly backed away from Faith and moved to another corner of the room, away from the painful sunlight.

"Nothing Lorne, nothing at all. Faith and I were just discussing our ongoing case."

"Ah yes, I ran into a lady at the supermarket whose daughter vanished last week. Poor kid, her mom tells me she had broken up with her boyfriend, been rejected from Stanford, and now this."

Wesley's eyes swiveled over in Faith's direction, then back at Lorne, then again at Faith.

"That's it Lorne, that's the missing piece of the puzzle. Faith, it's faith, they didn't have faith!"

"Whoa, chill Wes. What are you...Lorne did you remember to check his room this morning. Maybe he snuck in a little happy while I was napping."

"No, I'm not drunk Faith or...anything else. Look at these files. Anthony Gilleski, a wealthy real estate agent who just lost his wife to cancer. Here we have Diana Bloom, a recovering drug addict residing in a homeless shelter. And there's Anna Mason, multiple suicide attempts. She had only recently released from a mental institution when she disappeared. Whatever this is, is preying on the depressed, the needy, the hopeless. Why didn't I see it before?"

Lorne shuffled over to the desk, to look at the rest of Wesley's files. "This is great Wes, what do we do next?"

"I've got an idea," Faith said, "but I'm know at least one of you is gonna hate it."

….

"Hello, my name is Wesley and I'm an alcoholic. It's been 27 days since my last drink. I...uh...started two years ago after my girlfriend died of cancer."

A murmur of sympathy went up from the audience.

"The woman I dated before her had died from an...animal attack. It was all too much for me to handle and...it felt like the bottle was the only friend I had left."

"The good news is that I'm doing better and I thought I'd celebrate my sharing a song with you today."

Wesley took a deep breath and began to sing:

I've paid my dues

Time after time

I've done my sentence

But committed no crime

And bad mistakes

I've made a few

I've had my share of sand

Kicked in my face

But I've come through

And we mean to go on and on and on

"Come on everyone," Wesley shouted with exaggerated enthusiasm, "sing with me, share in my joy".

We are the champions,

We are the champions

No time for losers

Cause we are the champions

Wesley didn't stop until he had the entire group singing with him, except for Faith who was subtly surveying the audience.

The group's leader stood up and patted Wesley on the back. "Thank you Wesley, that was downright inspirational. Everyone, let's have a round of applause for Mr. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce."

Wesley glanced over in the corner to where Lorne was hiding. The demon shook his head. Nothing. Wesley plopped back into his head, across the room from Faith. She was engaged in conversation with the man on her left, a rather attractive man from the looks of it. A slight twinge of jealousy surged in the pit of Wesley's stomach, only to be squashed by reason. 'I'm not even interested in her, why do I care?'

Others stood up to make their own testimonials and within 30 minutes the AA meeting was over. Wesley walked over to where Faith and her new friend were sipping coffee.

"Wesley!" The stranger extended his hand and Wesley reluctantly shook it. "It's so awesome to meet you, Faith has been telling me all about you. I'm just touched by what she did for you, not everyone would bring a stranger home after finding them passed out on the sidewalk. You're lucky to have her in your life."

"Yes, well, that's Faith, quite a remarkable girl." They were going to have a talk later.

"I'm Sam by the way. Gotta say, I love your accent. What part of England are you from?"

"Manchester. Faith, will you look at the time! We need to get home before it's past your curfew."

Faith shot Wesley a dirty look. "Yes, well, nice hanging with you, Sam. Catch you at the next meeting."

"Relax Wes, you don't have a thing to worry about," Faith said as they left the meeting hall. "He's totally gay."

Lorne crept out from the corner of the building before Wesley could mount a word of protest.

"That group is in agony, all right but there's not a demon among them. I don't know how much I can take of this Wesleycakes, I'm used to reading one person at a time. Listening to an entire group give me a migraine."

"Sorry Lorne, but we have to continue. I have a list of more groups, hospitals, homeless shelters for us to visit. We're not going to rest until we've found our demon."

"Well, what do you know, quite a change in tune for a man who said he didn't care about anything a couple weeks back."

"I know and I've been absolutely horrible...to both of you." Wesley glanced at Faith sitting in the backseat. "There's something about singing We are the Champions that brought everything back to me. For the first time in months, I feel like living.

….

"You really should ask Faith out, Wes. It's obvious that you're carrying a torch for her. Even the lady at the hospice told me what a nice couple you two make."

Wesley looked up from his research and stared at Lorne in exasperation. "Faith kidnapped and tortured me seven years ago. Three years later I pumped her full of mystical drugs and fed her to Angelus. That's hardly a strong basis for a relationship. And from what I remember, even if Faith does harbor feelings for me, she's even less a fan of romance than I am."

"That's not what I heard when we went to the bar last night. She kept going on about her ex, some schoolteacher she met back in Sunnydale. And trust me, sweetcakes, she does have feelings for you. I felt it when she got up and sang."

"Sang?"

"Who would have thought. That girl does one hell of a Joan Jett impression. Come on Wes, there's this great film I saw that the other day that would be perfect for you two. All the chicks are raving about it. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life as a monk? Cause I've been living with monks for the past year and they're some of the most dour creatures I've ever had the pleasure of meeting."

…..

"God, that film was horrible," Faith exclaimed as they walked out of the movie theater.

"Terrible! Vampires that sparkle in the sunlight, how could anyone come up with such bloody nonsense?"

"It's based on some sort of book series that's all the rage."

"That entire film stinks of vampire propaganda. I think we need to track down the author to see if they're a demon worshiper. Imagine what could happen if people actually believed in this kind of bullshit."

Faith laughed and led Wesley to the car.

….

"Where's the jolly green demon?" Faith looked around the apartment in puzzlement.

Wesley silently cursed Lorne. The empath had probably snuck off for the night in hopes of giving Faith and him a romantic night alone.

"He probably went to hang out at karaoke bar. You know how he is, Faith."

"Or he's hoping we'll use his absence to have sex on the kitchen floor. That would explain why the cable's out too."

Wesley nearly choked on his root beer. "Subtlety is not one of Lorne's specialties."

Faith reached into her backpack and pulled out a pack of cards. "Good for us that he didn't take everything."

….

"Mom was starting to get better. She got a job, went to AA meetings, even started walking me to the bus stop in the morning. Then she met Brandon and it was even worse than before. I could hear her crying at night when he beat her. If only I had had the strength I have now, I would have grabbed that son of a bitch and kicked his face in."

"Faith, you were just a child, it wasn't your fault. You can't hold yourself responsible for what happened to her." Wesley reached to stroke a lock of dark hair away from Faith's eyes.

Faith shrugged Wesley's hand away and laughed. "Oh, I'm fine now, Wes. Five by five, the past is past. So, what was your childhood like? Spike told me something about you being head boy."

Wesley groaned. "Yes, well my father wouldn't have let me be anything less. He used to lock me under the stairs when I was a child if I got anything less than an A+ on my exams."

"God Wesley, that sounds just like those books Dawn lent me. They were about this kid who lived in a room under the stairs until he found out he was a wizard. Then he went off to some sort of magic school."

Wesley stared at Faith in shock.

"You read?"

"I'm just full of surprises, aren't I? My ex got me into books, he used to be a teacher. He even talked me into getting my GED. We were even looking at colleges until he got weird and started going on all the time about his dead mother. Then he dumped me."

"The man's a fool. If you were my girlfriend, I would never...I mean.."

They slowly moved closer together until their lips met. Wesley could taste her lipstick, smell the scent of her shampoo. Faith was an intoxicating nirvana of taste and sense and feel.

Then he came to his senses and pulled away.

"Faith, I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me."

"No, no, it's alright, Wes. We've both had a long night, time to call it in."

Faith got up from the couch and made her way towards her bedroom. Wesley breathed a sigh of relief. He gathered up the playing cards and stacked them in a neat pile.

"Hey Wes?"

He jumped.

"Yes Faith?"

"To hell with what I said. Let's get it on." She lept on to Wesley's lap and pushed him down on the sofa.

As Wesley had predicted, Lorne came sauntering through the door the next morning after a long night of karaoke.

"Well, aren't we all smiles this morning."

Wesley looked up from the stove.

"Good morning, Lorne. Faith and I had a late night, so I decided to make her some breakfast. I don't suppose I could interest you in some eggs and toast."

"Thanks, but I've already eaten...and you're not fooling anyone, cupcake. I don't always have to hear you sing to tell what's on your mind. So, how was it?"

"If you're referring to your obvious attempt to play Cupid- Oh, good morning Faith."

Faith had emerged from her bedroom, fully clothed and carrying a suitcase.

"Sorry to do this to you guys, but I've been reassigned. There's a slayer emergency in Italy and they need all hands on deck. Don't panic, Andrew's got more help headed this way."

"But Faith, sweetheart, Wes just made you breakfast. Won't you sit down and have a meal with us before you jet off into the sunset?"

Faith shook her head. "Sorry guys, it's been great, but I've got to run. Peace out."

She gave Lorne a peck on the cheek and was out the door.

Wesley and Lorne stared at each other for a minute in stunned silence.

"Wes, go after her. You can't let her slip away like this."

Luckily for Wesley, Faith was still loading the car when he walked outside.

"Faith, you're a terrible liar. We both know that nothing is happening in Italy. You're running away from this, running away from us."

Faith sighed. "Look Wes, last night was fun but this is getting too much for me. I came here to attend a wedding, not babysit an alcoholic. There's an entire army of slayers and watchers out there who can help you get to the bottom of this missing person crap. I...I just need to be anywhere but here right now."

Faith jumped in her car and drove away before Wesley could get another word in.

….

Getting away from Lorne proved to be a good deal easier than escaping Faith's clutches. Wesley found the nearest bar and drowned his sorrows away in cheap liquor. Now, he wandered the streets of Las Vegas, not caring where he was going.

Faith, he had been a fool to think she could see anything in someone like him. He should have run the minute Lorne had suggested the "date."

Once again, they appeared to him. Fred, Lilah, Cordelia, he imagined he saw them standing on the side of the road, beckoning him to join him, to join them in heaven...or in hell.

"Wesley, jeepers! I almost ran over you? What are you doing out here? Don't you know it's dangerous?"

Wesley looked up at the driver in a drunken haze. His face was barely discernible.

"It's me, Sam. We met at the AA meeting. Come on, let's get you home."

Wesley didn't protest as Sam got out of the car and helped him into the passenger's seat. He was already near the point of losing consciousness.

"Where's Faith, why isn't she looking after you Wes?"

Wesley barely managed to get the words out.

"She's gone."

"About time, I was wondering what a woman like that was doing hanging around a loser like you."

Wes looked up in confusion. Sam's skin had gone opaque and thick ridges had appeared where his hair had been. The demon laughed.

"Don't worry little Wesley, it will all be over soon."

….

He awoke to darkness. Someone, probably Sam, had removed his clothes and bound him to something hard. A dripping sound could be heard from overhead.

"It's about time. I was wondering when you wake up. You didn't even need a tranquilizer like the others. You've been asleep for almost 16 hours, all by your own some."

Wesley's eyes accustomed themselves to the dim light. The creature from last night, the one who had tricked him and escaped Lorne's radar, the thing that called itself Sam was standing in front of him.

"Who...what...are you?" Wesley gasped.

"You know, I wanted you from the moment you entered the city. I could sense your pain, your delicious despair. The plans to capture were all in place and then you little Slayer friend came along and ruined everything."

Wesley's eyes had fully adjusted. He was chained to a stone wall, in what appeared to be an circular underground enclosure. There were others, some human, some demon, lying immobilized against other parts of the wall.

"Poor Wesley, got himself kicked out the Watcher's council. Couldn't save Lilah, couldn't save Cordelia, couldn't save poor old Fred. No wonder Faith left you. Death and failure follow wherever you go. You couldn't even kill a stupid old vampire queen."

Wesley looked over to see Larissa tied down next to him. "My husbands," she hissed. "You and your friends murdered every last one of them. There's nothing left for me, but at least I'll have the satisfaction of seeing you go with me."

Wesley struggled to get free, but the chains were too strong.

Sam continued. "I know what it is you want, Wesley. I know what is it you crave. Don't worry, you'll be united with you them soon, but not before I drain every last drop of hope left in you."

"Not if I have anything to say about it!"

Faith charged into the room. Lorne followed behind her brandishing a torch.

"Why Sam, you're even uglier than I remember you. Looks like you could use lose a trim, right below the neck!"

Faith charged at Sam, only to be pushed back by some unseen force. She fell to the ground, gasping in pain.

Sam laughed manically. "Foolish child, I am Vorchet. My kind have existed since before mankind came out of the trees. I feed on the depressed and the hopeless...and I am surrounded by the most delicious of meals.

"Faith, Lorne" Wesley rasped. "I'm glad you came back for me. It's good to see you one last time."

Faith was back on her feet. "No, Wesley listen to me. He's feeding on you, giving up is what makes him stronger."

"She's right Wesley, do you think Fred would have wanted this? To die alone in a cave as demon chow?"

"Ah, but I'm going to join her Lorne. Soon we'll be together, as we were meant to."

Wesley closed his eyes, he could feel himself fading.

"Fuck you Wesley, and fuck Fred. I'm the one who wants to be with you right now. Look, I'm sorry I ran out on you. I was afraid and the sex kind of sucked. After Robin left me, I promised myself I wouldn't let myself get hurt again. But you, Wesley..you and I... I think we could have something great together. We just need to get out of this place and and take you home."

Wesley let out a hoarse little laugh. "I know you Faith, you don't like feelings and you don't like commitment. You'll move on to another man before the week is up."

"Faith," Lorne said, "it's not working. We need to find another way. He's not going to budge."

"Wesley," Faith said. "Open your eyes, you coward. I lied, I lied about everything. I never intended to let you go, I never wanted you to leave. Angel didn't even assign us to the same apartment. I saw you at the wedding, looking like the apocalypse was raining down on us. I saw you and I wanted you, Wesley. The missing people, this ugly demon guy, they were just excuses to stay. I like you Wesley, I like you a lot. I haven't felt for anyone or anything this strongly since the day Angel saved my life. Please, Wes, please don't do this."

Wesley opened his eyes to see Faith's face was streaked with tears.

"She's lying, Wesley," Sam bellowed. "She doesn't care about you and she never has. She just wants to give you false hope so she can kill me and crush you again."

"Unfortunately for you, Faith is a horrible liar."

Faith threw her battle ax through the forcefield and neatly cut Sam in half.

….

"It's a wrap, Wesley boy, we've rounded up the survivors and returned them to their families. The human ones, that is. Oh, and it looks like your friend Larissa escaped again."

Wesley smiled. "Let her go, Lorne. She's been through enough already."

"Looks like I'll be on my way. Thanks for the good times, kids. I would tell you to stay out of trouble, but we all know that's not going to happen."

Lorne blew them a kiss and headed out the door.

"Sucks to see him go, I actually kind of liked having him around. Who's going to clean this place for us now?"

Wesley grinned. "I think I might be up for it, if don't mind me sticking around, Faith."

"Actually, I wasn't planning on staying in Vegas either, Wes. Something about this place just gives me the creeps. Why don't you come with me? I was thinking somewhere in Switzerland, I heard they've got a major vamp infestation going on."

Wesley put his arm around Faith and pulled her close to him. "Nothing sounds more appealing to me. Listen, about what happened back in Sam's lair, when you saved me."

"You mean, when I had to channel every soap opera I have ever watched to stop you from drowning in your own self pity? For the record, Wesley, I happen to be an excellent liar."

"Well, that's a shame Faith," Wesley replied playfully. "I was hoping we could have another round or two of bad sex, or maybe something even more meaningless."

"Hey bud, anything's possible." Faith leaned in and gave Wesley a quick smooch.. "Why don't we go find out."

The taste of her lips was full of promise.