Faith had been through a lot in her life. Faith couldn't remember a time when she hadn't had to deal with the day to day reality that people were always going to try to hurt her and it had only been very recently that she's given up the certainty that no one was ever going to intercede on her behalf. Angel had changed everything. Angel had changed her. He had shown her what was at the end of the path she was taking and he had shown her an alternate one. The only thing that mattered was saving him. She claimed this was because he was the only one who could stop the old ones, but that was just an excuse. Angel had given her a chance to be redeemed when so many had decided she was past redemption. She had attacked his friends and tried to kill him, but he had kept fighting for her. To Angel no soul should be given up on. So she would be damned if she was going to give up on his. But right now, fighting Angelus, all of those noble thoughts were far away. This was about survival. Her old kill or be killed mentality was what she needed to survive. It was a line of thinking she had given up, but it was always there, waiting for her to need it. She had changed, that was undeniable, but she was still the woman who had killed innocent people. She was still the woman who had helped the mayor. She was still the woman who had tortured Wesley. Spike was still doing the compressions part of CPR on Gunn while Gwen looked on, guilt-ridden. This didn't faze Faith. Angelus threw a punch at her face and she was thrown back. Before she could regain her footing he had her neck in his hand and was squeezing. She gripped his arm and threw him off her. She stumbled and gasped for breath.
"Are you all right Faithy?" Angelus teased
She ran at him and he punched her in the face again. She fell. She couldn't get a hit in and the longer this went on the larger his advantage became. She tried to get to her feet but Angelus yanked her up by her hair. "Is that any way to treat a lady?" A teenager's voice said
"Conner," Faith gasped "Get out of here."
"Sorry, there's something I have to do for my dad." Conner walked past the blond vampire, dead man, and superpowered woman to approach the slayer and his father.
"The dad you hate?" Angelus asked
"No, the one who saved me. The one I love,"
"You've changed boy."
"For the better, he saw to that."
Gunn held tight to his sister's hand. "Come on." She said "Mom and Dad are waiting."
Tears flowed from his eyes. "Alonna I love you."
She wiped away his tears with her thumb. "No more tears brother."
"I'm so sorry I let them take you."
"Oh brother, that wasn't your fault. Anyway, I'm happy now."
"I'm glad." Gunn was trembling with emotion. Her smiling face filled him with a powerful joy the likes of which he hadn't known in a long time. He wanted to stare at that face for the rest of eternity. He wanted to follow her to the lovely place she promised him.
"Come on, what are you waiting for?"
Gunn looked down at her familiar hand in his. "I think about you all the time."
"Brother it doesn't matter. None of that matters anymore."
"I can't go with you."
She shook her head. Now her eyes were flooding. "Don't say that."
"I love you so much, but they're my family too. They need me."
"You don't owe them anything." She insisted
"It's not about owing, it's about loving. I would do anything for you Alonna, but you don't need me anymore. They still do. There's a woman, I think she might be the one, but she's hurting so bad. I need to take her pain away. Even if we aren't meant to be, I love her dearly and I have to help her. She's fighting one of my dearest friends right now. I have to help him too."
She touched his face. "What about your hurt?"
"We make sacrifices for the ones we love."
"Stay with me. They'll be all right." She pleaded
"Maybe, maybe not."
"You've been fighting for so long. You have given so much of yourself. How much of yourself are you going to let them have before you find you've gone dry brother?"
"All of me if that's what it takes. I know there were bad times. We did awful things to each other. But we all have flaws, we all make mistakes, that doesn't mean we don't deserve to be loved or to have a purpose in life. I think I know my purpose now little sister."
"Your place is here, with me."
"One day, one great glorious day, but not today." He kissed her brow.
"They'll hurt you."
"And you're okay with that?"
She leaned her head against his chest. "You're a good man, you're a great man."
He kissed the top of her head. "I promise I'll be back."
Faith felt the bones of her fingers snap as Angelus blocked her blow, grabbed her hand, and then squeezed. He tried to force her to her knees, but Faith could handle pain. Conner swung at his father, or the demon who had stolen his body. Angelus let go of Faith to take care of the out of practice miracle child. Faith took the vampire by surprise with a one-two shot, smashing her crushed hand into his face. Angelus was stunned both by the blow and by Faith's willingness to do such severe damage to her own body. Conner slammed into the vampire and they both hit the ground, becoming tangled in one another. Angelus grabbed Conner by the neck and slammed his face into the ground. Conner's nose busted, blood flowed forth. "Conner!" Faith screamed
Conner tried to get away but the vampire kept his vice-like grip on Conner's neck and bared his fangs. Faith kicked Angelus in the face, allowing Conner time to scramble away while Angelus grabbed Faith's foot and yanked her to the ground. He encircled his hands around her throat and whispered in her ear. "You always wanted to be one of us. Deep down you knew the only way to deal with the darkness in you was to immerse yourself in it. I'll take away the guilt and I'll get rid of everything that isn't wrong. You and I will rule this world as the king and queen of darkness. Think of all that we can accomplish together my dear."
"You're insane." Faith choked out
"No, that's the scary part."
With a ferocious battle cry Conner attacked Angelus. At the same time Gunn gasped as his eyes opened and he sat up straight. "Are you good?" Spike asked
Gunn looked over at the battle. "Go," He panted
Spike needed no other encouragement. Faith got to her feet while Angelus punched his son in the gut. Spike attacked Angelus. Angelus knew when the tables had turned and he knew he had no chance against the slayer, Spike, and Conner. Angelus fled. Spike started to pursue but stopped when he realized such action was pointless. He couldn't take him on his own. He took in Faith's appearance. He then laid eyes for the first time on the miracle child. "Conner,"
"Who are you?" Conner asked
They were both distracted by Faith's shout. "Gunn!"
"I'm so sorry." Gwen said as Faith knelt by Gunn, ignoring her
"I'm okay." Gunn said
Faith put her hand against his burnt chest. "No you're not."
He took her hand and brought her fingers to his lips. "I am now."
Spike handed Conner a handkerchief. He wiped the blood from his face. "He's gone."
"Yes," Spike replied
"He did what he came here to do." Faith said in a low voice "He got one of us."
"I'm fine." Gunn said "Who did he get?"
Fred heard Lorne's phone ring and the demon excuse himself, but neither of these things really registered with her. Her fiancé looked so peaceful as he slept. She took his hand in hers and whispered a simple quiet assurance. "I'm going to save you. I promise." She squeezed his hand and then got up to go. There was nothing more she could do here. She couldn't stop the tears from coming as she left the hospital room. Her daughter began to fuss in her arms and Fred tried to soothe her, but Evi could detect the distress in her mother's voice and wasn't soothed.
Lorne was in the hall talking with Lilah and Harmony. "Fred," He said
She scowled at his concerned tone. "I'm all right, what's happening?"
"Maybe you should go take care of the kid." Lilah said
Fred ignored Lilah. "What did they say?"
"Faith convinced Conner to get out of town with his family. Apparently the memory spell that affected us made him believe he's a part of a normal middle-class family. Angel put the spell on all of us after the Illyria incident. I don't…" He shook his head. "Faith's on her way back with Gunn, Spike and Electro. Angelus got away. So did Lindsey." He sighed.
"Harmony can you watch Evi for a while?" Fred asked
"Sure," Harmony took the baby.
"You can hang out in my office." Lorne said "There's a bunch of baby stuff in there."
As Harmony left Fred spoke. "We know the last place where Lindsey was, can't we use security cameras from ATMs and businesses to track where he went?" She asked
Lilah shook her head. "He's been using a cloaking spell."
Fred thought for a moment. "Where's Hamilton?"
"Why?" Lilah asked
"I want to talk to him."
"No you don't." Lilah said
"No, I really do." Fred used a voice that made it clear she wasn't playing around.
Spike entered the catacombs. Pavayne was down here with Sirk and Knox. Spike wasn't interested in any of them. He only cared for one thing. He pressed a few buttons and then opened the door to see Drusilla, bound in her cell. She smiled at him. "Why do you keep me in here my dear William? What have I done to deserve your ire? Aren't I a good girl?"
He smoothed her hair. "God I love you."
"Let me out William."
"I need you to do something for me darling."
"What do you want lover?"
"Tell me where he's going."
"Do something for me?"
"I'm lonely William."
Spike cupped her face. "We can't let you out. I'm sorry."
"I want to talk to her." Drusilla said "Then I'll tell you where he is."
"Talk to who?" But of course Spike knew.
"I can't let that happen after what you did to her. I love you Dru, always will. But you're a monster and you always will be. The things we did back in the day… You're still doing them and you hurt someone I care about. I won't let you do any more damage than you already have."
"I won't tell you where daddy is, but I'll tell little sister."
"Dru please, for me? For old time's sake?"
"I'll tell her everything. I'll tell her who's next. If I don't they die."
"No more my William." She couldn't move, but she explored his face with her eyes.
"I wish I could save you."
"You're a funny one William."
Fred stood in front of the liaison and betrayed no fear. "You're holding back."
"Am I?" Hamilton seemed uninterested in her.
"Lindsey worked for this company. He had a contract-"
"He got out of that contract."
"But there's more." Fred said "You wouldn't let him go just like that."
"You think I'm concealing something that would help us find Mr. McDonald? Why on earth would I do that you silly girl? The senior partners need Angel back just as much as you."
Fred smiled. "But not yet right? You wouldn't mind if he killed a few of us first."
Hamilton grinned. "Say that's true, what of it?"
"You're going to tell me how to find Lindsey."
"Why am I going to do that?"
"Because we're going to do horrible things to him."
As Lilah had quietly observed this confrontation she had become more and more impressed with Fred. Now she was downright stunned. Where was the trembling whimpering woman Angelus had left them? Who was this strong ferocious creature who stood in front of a man that had once threatened to choke the life out of her, and dared to order him around? Lilah watched Hamilton's inscrutable face. She thought she saw a flicker of a smile in his eyes but considered that she might be imagining it. He let his eyes roam over the young woman confronting him. She did not flinch. "Horrible things like what Angelus did to you?"
"You can't scare me." She said "Nothing can scare me anymore."
"Is that right?"
"I killed a thing that ruled this earth for longer than either of us can even comprehend with the kind of brutality your masters are experts in. Someone with the body of one of my best friends ripped me apart and if you think you're scary I promise you aren't. You're nothing."
"Nothing?" Hamilton sounded amused and slightly annoyed.
"You're an errand boy. You're like Lilah here."
"Excuse m-" Lilah started
"I'm talking Lilah." Fred said flippantly, not even looking at her "I don't know if you're a spirit on a reprieve from hell, or some kind of monster they created. But one thing I know you are not is a person. You're one of their possessions. You're a tool, like a shovel. You exist to serve others and for no purpose of your own. Now tell me where Lindsey is. Unlike you I have power of my own, not just what my boss lent me. Answer me, or I'll use it on you."
Hamilton's face broke into a grin. "All you had to do was ask."
Faith entered her office just as her phone made a noise signifying that someone had sent her a text. Faith sighed. She looked at her phone and then her eyes widened. This text was from Fred. "I don't believe it." She said to no one "Fred knows where Lindsey is." She rushed off to head to the location. She didn't care about her crushed hand or her other various injuries. She told no one where she was going. She just rushed off to inflict bloody vengeance on Lindsey.
Gunn reached for his phone. "Hold still." A nurse demanded "You did some serious damage to your organs. You might need surgery. This is no time to be texting."
"I need to stay up to date on the case."
"You need to hold still and let us do our jobs."
Gunn gave up and lay still on the hospital bed. He did feel pretty crappy.
Spike entered the lab feeling hollow. For a moment he wondered if he was a ghost again so he placed his hand against the wall to check. "Spike," He looked up and saw Fred. "You ok?"
"Fred," He sounded disconnected. "You're in the lab."
"Well I work here."
"What are you working on?"
"I'm trying to design a device that will detect human bodies with no heat signature, ones not in the ground anyway. Then we'll use process of elimination to find Angelus."
"What happened?" She asked "You look sick."
"Vampires don't get sick." He reminded her
"So what happened?"
"You look so much better." He approached her and reached out to touch her hair.
She stepped back, fear in her eyes. She wasn't completely recovered. "What's wrong?"
He saw her grip a cross in her pocket. "I'm sorry." He whispered "It's Dru."
Fred shivered. "What about her?"
"We caught her."
"You mean you killed her?"
Spike slowly shook his head.
Fred looked away, biting her lip. He couldn't tell which emotion was causing all color to drain from her face, but he guessed anger. "What did you do with her?"
"Stuck her in the catacombs,"
"Do you know what she did to me?"
"I can guess. We did some awful things together back in the day."
"Why didn't you kill her?" Her voice cracked and Spike saw a single tear escape her eye.
He hated himself. If someone had handed him a stake in that moment he might have used it on himself. He had hurt her. The last thing in the world she needed was more pain on top of the already unfair hand she was being forced to play. Yet here he was hurting her. "I was trying to get her to tell me where Angelus is. She knows, but she's keeping the information to herself."
"Maybe you could torture her." Fred's voice was venomous.
"Dru's sort of into that." Spike said sheepishly
Fred turned around and wrapped her arms around herself. "I know."
"You love her. Even after everything you love her."
Spike stared at the ground. He wanted to lie. Oh God how he wanted to lie and tell her he never could love someone that would hurt her. But she deserved the truth. "I know it's wrong."
"You know so many things Spike, tell me what you know that will do us any good."
Spike was taken aback by her harshness. "She wouldn't tell me-"
"What did she tell you?"
Spike shifted from foot to foot. Fred turned back around and stared at him. He swallowed the nonexistent moisture in his mouth. "She told me she would tell you, but not me, where he is."
Fred stared at him. "And you waited this long to tell me that."
"I didn't want you…"
"What?" Her voice was still harsh.
"I didn't want you to be hurt."
"It's a little late for that." Fred started to walk by him.
"Fred," He pleaded "I'm so sorry."
"Everybody's so sorry." She stopped and turned to face him. "And so am I."
"What are you sorry for?" Spike didn't understand.
"We're all suffering. This must be hard for you as well."
"I don't have any right to complain."
"Maybe not," She mused "Maybe none of us do. Maybe we brought this on ourselves."
"You didn't do anything wrong." Spike protested
"How could you possibly know that?" Fred asked "I've done things, terrible things."
Lindsey was startled by the sound of the battered slayer bursting into the apartment he was hiding out in. "Faith," He hid his fear under condescension. "How nice to see you."
"Lindsey, how nice to kill you."
"You wouldn't. You're on the side of the angels now."
"But I have a demon in me. Every slayer does. We use their power to fight them."
"I'm not a demon." Lindsey scanned the room, looking for some escape.
"Close enough," As she closed in on him his heart accelerated.
"What would Angel think?" He asked
"Angel's not here."
"What are you doing in here?"
Lilah put on a suitable guilty expression as she turned around to face Lorne. The Pylean was holding a beautiful vase filled with colorful flowers. He set the vase on the table by his friend's hospital bed and glared at Lilah while the monitors produced regular beeps that signified Wesley was still alive, if his current condition could be called living. Lilah touched one of the lovely blossoms. "I could ask you the same question Pylean." She grinned at him.
"How do you figure?" He smacked her hand away from the flowers.
"You remember now. Why do you care for the traitor?" Lilah asked
"He was trying to do the right thing."
"I see, and knocking you out was just necessary."
"I thought you were done sowing seeds of discord."
Lilah shrugged. "Habits,"
"I don't get it." Lorne said
"What did he see in you?"
Lilah chuckled and spread her arms, displaying her breasts. "Take a gander green genes."
Lorne rolled his eyes. "And what was in it for you?"
"I don't think I have to explain how boy parts and girl parts work to you."
Lorne sighed. "Do you think I'm dumb enough to buy that? Or are you so delusional that you've managed to convince yourself you don't care about him? You defied the senior partners-"
"To get on Angel's good side." She said quickly "Playing the best hand,"
Lorne shrugged. "I have better things to worry about than you. Either way, I notified security that if you come in here again you are to be forcibly expelled. So get lost."
"Why?" Lilah asked "What's the big deal?"
Lorne gave her a look of such pure hate that it was almost frightening coming from the normally temperate and good-natured demon. "I seem to recall a certain incident at a party."
Lilah chuckled. "That was just a prank."
Lorne shook his head. "Sometimes I admire you. Sometimes I hate you. Mostly I just feel sorry for you. How did you ever function in human society with such warped values?"
Lilah shrugged and then looked down at Sleeping Beauty. "Morals are overrated."
"Get out Lilah."
She obeyed. She left Lorne alone with his thoughts and his sleeping friend. The new (old) memories were swirling around in his head, clashing with the fake ones. He thought about the time they had spent here. He thought about their friendships. Everything had been falling apart and Angel had given them a second chance. It had seemed like his deal was paying off in a big way until Lindsey had used that amulet. Lorne touched his friend's hand. He thought of all the things this body had been forced to endure. How could one human being take all that? Maybe Wes would have been better off dead. Then Lorne thought about how happy Wes had been with Fred and how happy she had been with him. Lorne thought about their beautiful baby. Lorne sat down by the bedside. "You're the smart one." Lorne said "Tell me what to do. Tell me what the answer is." Lorne sighed. "You don't deserve this. None of us deserved this." Lorne squeezed Wesley's hand. "We've still got a few champions hanging around though. They'll save us."
Fred entered the catacombs with a slow gait. Spike stayed right on her heels. She stopped in front of Drusilla's cell. Spike shifted nervously. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Open the door." Her tone brokered no argument.
"Open the door."
Spike sighed and then opened the door. Dru grinned at them. "Little sister,"
Fred bristled. "I am not your sister. I told you that."
"Doesn't make it so." Drusilla said
"I have the power now. You're going to tell me what you know."
"Why little sister?"
"You know. You saw it in a vision right? You told Spike I was the only one you would tell where Angelus is. That wasn't an ultimatum was it? You saw the future. I'm the only one who will threaten you with the one thing that really can scare you. Do I have to say it?"
"Yes sister," Drusilla grinned wide.
"Tell me where Angelus is or I will put your soul back."
"What?!" Spike protested "Fred you-!"
"Shut up Spike." Fred said in a cold final voice "You can go."
"I won't let you-"
She turned on him. "You have no say over what I do!"
"If you do that to Dru you'll be punishing the innocent person she once was. That isn't any kind of justice. It's the same thing those gypsies did to Angel. Fred please," Spike pleaded
"You just don't want your old squeeze to suffer. What is it with men and the evil girls?"
Fred held up her hand, stopping him. She turned back to Dru. "Where is he?"
"He journeys to a holy place."
"Which holy place?" Fred asked through gritted teeth
"The king sits on his throne. He rules the lion's share of the world."
"The pope," Spike said in a listless voice "I think she means the pope."
"Rome," Fred said "He's going to Rome."
"Buffy," Spike whispered
Lindsey was sitting in a pool of blood. Most of it was his, but some of it had belonged to the slayer. He hadn't hurt her of course, but she had already been injured when she'd come to find him and she had spilt a little blood during the beating she gave him. She stood a few meters away with her hands on her knees panting. Lindsey's face was covered in a collection of purple bruises and long deep scratches. He couldn't move, he was in so much pain. He had long since given up on insisting that he surrendered and pleading for mercy. He devoted all of his energy to trying to pass out. She fell to her knees and started sobbing. Some persistent part of him overrode his survival instinct and insisted on being a smartass. "What do you have to cry about?"
She responded to his words, spoken in a gurgle while blood ran from his mouth and down his cheeks, by looking at him with insane eyes. She then looked at her bloody crushed hands and began to cry some more. "Oh my God, oh my God," She put her face in her hands.
"He's not here sweetie," Lindsey said
"What have I done?"
"Beat a man near to death."
"Why?" She begged "We were happy. Why couldn't you leave us alone?"
"It's my nature. I'm just more honest about it than you."
"This isn't me." Faith insisted "I'm not this. I'm more than this."
"You're the same woman you were when you tortured the watcher." Lindsey insisted
"No, no," Her sobs became more pronounced. "This is different."
"How is it different?" Lindsey demanded "Because I deserve it? It's all the same."
"No," Her wailing became more and more out of control.
They both heard the footsteps and they both looked at the woman who entered. Lilah laid her hand on Faith's shoulder. Faith stared at the woman, uncomprehending. "What are you-"
Lilah put her finger over her lips. "I'll take care of this." She said softly
"Go home. It'll be all right."
Faith shook her head. "No, no, it never will be again."
Lilah got to her knees as well. "We'll get him back."
"How do you know?" Faith pleaded
"That son of a bitch is like a bad penny. He always turns up. It's foretold."
"Am I a monster?" Faith asked, snot and tears dripping down her face
"I'm not the person to ask that question."
"I think you are." Faith said
"You're not a monster, slayer. I don't know what you are. I don't know if you're bad or if you're good. But I've seen heroes do awful things and I've seen monsters be all right. So in my mind it hardly matters what you are. All that matters is what you do. Go home slayer."
Faith nodded, numb. "Thank you,"
Lilah waved a paramedic in and after a feeble protest Faith allowed him to take her away while a team of heavily armed men entered. Lilah approached Lindsey and knelt down in front of him, grinning. He coughed up a bit of blood. "How much are you loving this?" He asked
"A whole damn lot,"
"You lied to her."
Lilah brushed a strand of hair behind Lindsey's ear in an almost maternal fashion. "I was being efficient. I needed to move this along. But yes, she is a monster, as am I, as are you."
Lindsey managed a smile. "How about cutting me a break, one monster to another?"
Lilah shook her head. "It doesn't work like that." She patted him on the shoulder. "You will suffer well, and for a long time. In that respect the good guys are worse than the villains."
"The senior partners would just kill me." Lindsey said
Lilah nodded. She started to leave while one of the armed men hauled Lindsey to his feet but then she turned around and her smile widened. "I think I win Lindsey. What do you say?"
"If I ever get out your death will be worse than anything they can do to me."
"I can't wait."
Harmony cradled the tiny person in her arms. She heard the door open and turned quickly, ready to eviscerate any threat to the infant. She smiled when she saw Fred enter Lorne's office and approach her. "Hey," Harmony said brightly "I promise I've been taking really good care of her." She held the baby out as proof. "What's wrong Fred?" Harmony realized that Fred looked washed out. It wasn't just exhaustion, but a sort of negative energy that she projected.
"I just need to hold her." Harmony handed Fred the baby.
"You don't look so good."
Fred stared at her child. "I did something awful Harmony."
"What did you do?"
"I threatened to cause an innocent soul unbearable suffering unless someone gave me what I wanted. It wasn't just a threat either, I would have done it. I crossed a line Harmony."
Harmony shrugged. "Eh, I've eaten people."
Fred only paled further. "I swore I wouldn't let this place change me."
"Change is a part of life." Harmony said "You change no matter where you are."
Fred was startled. "That's very deep Harmony."
"I heard that on Oprah." Harm explained "Or one of those talk shows things."
"Oh," Fred said "Well anyway…" She stared into the blue eyes her daughter had inherited from her father. "I want to be the kind of person she can be proud of."
"Anyone would be proud to have you for a mom." Harmony said
Fred gave Harmony an odd look. "You're a nice person Harmony."
"Unperson," Harmony corrected
"No, just person."
Faith sat on a bed staring at her bandaged hands. She heard Spike enter and purposefully avoided looking up at him. "So you heard what I did?" She asked "I maimed him, horribly."
Spike shrugged. "I'm not crying over the lawyer."
"He was right about me." She said bitterly "I haven't changed."
"Because of Lindsey? Slayer-"
"Screw Lindsey," Faith looked up and met Spike's eyes. "He deserved it."
Spike was confused. "So what is this about?"
"Do you know what the last thing I said to him before the spell broke was?"
"Wesley, you moron,"
Spike swallowed his aggravation and nodded. "Damn near the whole building knows."
Faith spoke as though she hadn't heard him. "I told him to get off his ass and do his damn job while he was trying to comfort the woman he loved. I didn't care about his feelings or hers."
"You were trying to catch Angelus."
"I'm trying to save Angel." She corrected "I want to save him because of how much he means to me, not because he has to save the world. I was willing to hurt anybody I had to in order to do that. You would think that after what I did to Wesley a little contrition would be in order, but I just tore into him all over again. I used words instead of glass this time, but the moral is that I haven't changed. Angel was wrong, I can't beat the darkness in me. I never will."
"Slayer," Spike said softly "I want to tell you something, but I need you to promise not to stake me for it." Faith fixed him with a tired gaze. "Promise me," Spike said "I need your word."
Faith rolled her eyes but then nodded. "Fine,"
Spike slapped her in the face. "Get over it."
Faith stared at him with wide eyes. She jumped off the bed. "You son of a-"
"Angelus is going after Buffy." Spike said "We have a chance to stop him, but it will all come to nothing again if our most capable operative is wallowing in self-pity. Can you do this?"
Faith glared at him. "You didn't have to hit me."
"I had to slap some sense into you." He insisted "Don't pretend it hurt."
"I'm a slayer, not a robot. I feel pain. Besides I'm already injured."
"Boo bloody hoo."
Faith sighed. "So we're going to Rome."
The infirmary had become the sight of a tense confrontation as both Fred and Gunn were insisting they should be on the expedition to Rome and Faith was refusing their requests with Spike's full support. "I can handle myself." Gunn said "You don't have to baby me because of one little injury." He glared at his girlfriend. "You need all the muscle you can get to fight him."
"We have plenty of muscle." Spike said "We're going to meet the slayer."
"But you don't have plenty of brains." Fred said "The device I-"
"Just give us the device." Faith said "Tell us how to use it."
"It's still a prototype." Fred said "It hasn't been tested. I need to calibrate-"
"Then we'll just have to go without." Faith said with a shrug
"I can help." Fred said "I'm not a broken china doll."
"No one thinks you are." Spike said "But do you even want to take the slightest risk that your daughter will lose another parent?" He flinched after he had spoken, realizing what he said.
Fred looked away. "Wesley's not dead, we'll find a cure."
"Yes," Faith said with uncharacteristic softness "That's something you can research while we're in Rome. We all have jobs to do, and this is just as important as catching Angelus."
Fred started to respond but at that moment Lilah came in. "Are you ready?"
"Lilah's going?!" Fred and Gunn shouted at the same time
"Did you practice that?" Lilah asked with a huge grin on her face
"She's just coming to facilitate relations between us and the Rome branch." Faith said
"They've offered their full cooperation." Lilah said
"I don't believe this." Gunn moaned "I can do that, I'm super lawyer, and her boss."
"What are you a comic book character now?" Spike asked
"If we let you come you'd end up in the field and you're not cleared for combat yet."
Gunn scowled at Faith in response to her statement. "This isn't the army."
"No," She agreed "It's a company with a policy we all have to abide."
"Lilah got to Faith." Gunn said "Oh gee, who's next?"
"If you weren't sick I'd slap you upside the head boy." Faith said
"Faith," Fred whispered "You can't call him boy."
"We can all hear you." Spike said in a confused tone
"It's fine." Faith waved off Fred's concerns. "We're screwing so I can say that."
"No you can't." Gunn said "I'm starting to get the impression that you don't respect me as a human being. You're just using me for my body aren't you?" Now he was teasing.
"Yes," Faith said "And it's a very nice one. I don't want to replace it, so you're staying here where it's safe. Spike and I will go kick Angelus's ass. You stay here and… make me a sandwich or something." Faith grinned at Gunn and he couldn't help but smile back.
"Fred what's the female version of misogyny?" Gunn asked
"Misandry," Fred said
"You're a misandrist Faith. You should be ashamed." Gunn said
Lilah rolled her eyes. "Oh brother, I'm waiting in the jet." She left.
"Be careful," Gunn said in a low voice, suddenly serious
"We'll be fine." Faith said "I'm immortal, remember?"
Gunn grinned again at the reminder of one of the first things she said to him after she returned to L.A. when they were hunting the rogue slayer. "I remember."
"Watch out for Spike." Fred said
"Hey," Spike said "I can handle myself."
"I'll look after him." Faith said "Odd as it may be for a slayer to protect a vampire."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Did you forget who we're going to see?"
Faith sighed. "Unfortunately no, this is going to be awkward."
As they wheeled Lindsey into the catacombs he wondered what it would feel like. What if he never woke up? If he did would it feel like only a moment had gone by? Or would his internal clock keep ticking even while he was suspended. He saw through a window the beautiful psychic vampire. She was different. Most of the people down here were being locked up this way because killing them wouldn't actually get rid of them. Pavayne could use dark arts to prevent himself from crossing over and when employees of Wolfram & Hart died the company could use their souls for whatever purpose they desired. Drusilla was different. Spike had declined to kill her for sentimental reasons and they had indulged him. As they hooked Lindsey up he tried to think of something to dispel the terror in his heart. It was a kind of oblivion he was about to be submerged in. Was that worse than hell? He couldn't decide. Then he was gone, sleeping.
Fred sat by Wesley's bed reading from one of the templates while a sleeping Evi was cradled in her free arm. The door opened and Lorne came in. "I hope you don't mind if I sit here for a while." He said "I just feel like I'll go crazy if I sit alone in that office a moment longer."
"Of course not," She looked up and smiled. "You're family."
"I want to do something." Lorne said "I hate feeling so…"
She looked down at her book and then closed it. "When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy that's in you dies. Don't you want somebody to love? Don't you need somebody to love? Wouldn't you love somebody to love? You better find somebody to love."
"Jefferson Airplane," Lorne said "Seems more your parent's era."
"What did you see?"
He rubbed his head. "It's all very unclear. I can make out one thing though."
"You're leaving us."
She frowned. "When?"
"Leaving like… dying?"
He shook his head. "Leaving like going away."
She looked at Wesley. "I wouldn't do that, not with him sick."
"Then he must get better."
For a moment she smiled, and it was a beautiful smile. It reminded him of better times and he wanted to bask in its glow. But then the smile was gone. "Why would I leave all of you?"
Lorne hesitated. "Maybe we save Angel."
"That's great." Fred insisted "We all want to save Angel."
"Of course," Lorne said "But can you work with him again?"
She frowned. She stared at her sleeping child. "He would have killed her if it wasn't for Faith's alarm system. He would have killed her and then abducted me. I'd be gone. I wouldn't have been able to come back if Evi were dead. I'd be as lost as my poor Wesley is now."
Lorne reached out and touched her shoulder. "She's right here. She's safe."
Fred gave him a loving but sad smile. "None of us are safe, not while we're here."
"I think that's your answer."
Fred turned her gaze to her fiancé. "Dru said he had a ticking time bomb in his head."
"She was right."
Fred shook her head. "No, we all did. We all do."
They both looked at the man whose chest rose and fell but who for all intents and purposes was dead to the world. Fred closed her eyes and thought of the first time she ever laid eyes on him. It was just for a moment. She had other things on her mind and she had barely noticed him at all. But then they'd all gone back to earth and after that the Hyperion and he'd become her friend. He had accepted her lunacy with undying patience. She hadn't known he was in love with her. How could she? She had started a relationship with Charles and that had been great for a while. All that time he was in love with her and he never said a word. That was a part of who he was she supposed. He was so reserved, so afraid to reveal any part of himself. Even after everything they had shared there were still things she didn't know about him, things he was afraid to show her. She wanted to learn about all of those things. She wanted to peer into every corner of his mind and piece of his heart. Fred had killed Illyria once, and so she felt she should be able to save the one she loved from the old one's icy grip. Fred stood up and handed her daughter to Lorne. He accepted the child happily. Fred took Wesley's hand in both of hers and then she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. "Wake up, okay?" But he slept on.