"It's been over six months Angel. Maybe it's time to put that thing away."
Angel looked up from the piece of paper in his hand. Lorne was standing in the doorway glaring at Angel in his best impression of sternness. "I'm just thinking." Angel said
"How many times have you read that thing?" Lorne asked "When you say you're taking a break I like to imagine you're up in your room sleeping, not dwelling on that letter."
"Sometimes I just need to get away from the lab. Six months with almost no progress, even with Harmony's visions, it hasn't been great. But sleep is not an option."
"So as always we return to the tried and true brooding method. That's never backfired."
Angel put the letter down on his desk. "Do you know what it says?"
"I'd need a song to get that much detail." Lorne said
Angel gestured to the arm chair in front of his desk and Lorne took it. "Dear Angel, I apologize for leaving without giving you a proper goodbye, but I thought it was best for my family, myself, and even you. I know a lot of damage has been caused by us doing what we thought was best, but I'm not writing this to lecture you. I'm not writing this to assign blame to either of us for a situation that went beyond either of our controls. Because we could trade blame until we got back to Sunnydale and it wouldn't do any good. And I have no interest in blaming you for anything that has happened. Neither does Fred. You're our friend Angel, we named our daughter after you if you're too dense to have picked up on that. Willow is opening a third campus for the slayer/watcher academy. She thinks the new council is remiss in having its only two campuses both in Europe. The new school will be in Tokyo and Willow was kind enough to offer both Fred and I jobs teaching there. We'll be able to put our experience to good use without having to worry about the dangers or the unpredictable hours of field work. So the three of us will be fine. We don't want you to think we're leaving because we're angry or that we no longer wish to be your friends. In fact we hope you will continue correspondence with us. This is a bad situation for everybody and I wish I could help you. That's all I was ever trying to do from the beginning Angel. I really was just trying to help. I'm sorry things didn't work out. But I believe it is never too late for a fresh start. That is what Fred and I hope to find in Japan and what I hope you can find as well either at Wolfram & Hart or elsewhere. Please write back if you wish."
Lorne was silent for a few seconds that felt like eternity. "That's a nice letter."
"I didn't get to the best part. It's signed as your friend Wesley. No snotty upper-class sincerely yours with the whole long hyphenated name. Just a your friend Wesley."
"What's wrong with that?"
"He still considers me a friend. I tried to kill him. I altered his memory. I attacked his fiancée in the most brutal way imaginable. He still thinks we're friends. Can you believe it?"
Lorne sighed. "Did you write back?" He knew the answer, but he had to ask in order to progress the conversation. Of course captain broody-pants hadn't written back.
"What would I say?"
"Hi, how are you? What's Tokyo like? How's Evi? How's teaching? How's life?"
Angel was startled by the obvious aggravation Lorne was feeling when he forced out that last strained word. "I tried Lorne." Angel opened a desk drawer and pulled out stacks of crumpled pieces of paper. "I started over a hundred letters and each one sounded like a taunt."
Angel thought back over Lorne's suggestions. "How are you? Well you know, recovering from the brutal rape at your hands, you? What's Tokyo like? Better than working with you at Wolfram & Hart where the wrong question gets my memory erased. How's Evi? She's great, no one has threatened to kill her since we got here. How's teaching? Better than working for a psychotic temperamental vampire that might fire me or kill me depending on what kind of break down he plans on having today. How's life? How the hell do you think it is you insensitive jackass? I'm coping with the trauma you put me through. It sucks."
"I don't think you're giving them enough credit." Lorne said
"What?" Angel was confused by that statement.
"They're strong. They'll overcome what happened."
"It should never have happened at all." Angel said "Besides, what if they found out about Faith and came running back here? That would be a disaster. They're finally free."
"Don't mention Faith and they won't find out." Lorne said simply
"Then I'm just hiding more stuff from them."
"You're right, ignoring them completely is the far better choice." Lorne said
Angel tried to think of a good comeback but before he could his phone rang and he snatched it up in annoyance. "What?" He growled
Spike's voice came through the phone. "You need to get down to the lab."
Angel felt ill at those words. "Faith? Is she-"
"Just get down here." Spike hadn't even insulted him yet but Angel heard the buzz of a disconnected line. Angel stood up and ran for the lab. Lorne felt his heart stutter in his ass as he followed his boss. Ever since Faith had been infected they had devoted all of their recourses to finding a way to save her. They had gone from being the most profitable branch of Wolfram & Hart to the least. They were barely out of the red as all of the money Lilah and Gunn were scheming the local evil doers out of went into delaying the physiological changes Faith was going through to make way for the old one. Lorne hoped it all wasn't about to be proven useless.
Fred was roused from her dreamless sleep by the sound of her wailing infant. She pulled herself from her slumber and started to get to her feet. "I'll get her." Wesley protested "My turn,"
"You can take the next two turns." Fred promised "I'm already up." Wesley wanted to protest but the exhausted father had already returned to a state of unconsciousness. Fred couldn't keep the grin off her face as she headed for the nursery in their tiny two-bedroom apartment to collect her crying baby. The child continued to wail when Fred picked her up and as the young mother made soothing sounds and motions. "What's wrong sweetie? Why are you so upset?"
Fred determined that the child did not need to be changed and Evi soon made it apparent that she wasn't hungry either. The sound of footsteps made her turn around and Fred smiled at her yawning Fiancé. "What's wrong?" He asked, filled with adorable paternal concern
"Nothing, I guess she's just upset. Sometimes babies get upset for no reason."
This didn't seem to placate Wesley. "Maybe she's sick."
Fred went up to Wesley and kissed him on the cheek. "You worry too much."
"I happen to think I worry just the right amount." Wesley protested
Fred handed Wesley the baby. "Try rocking her. I'm going back to bed. I have a big lecture to give tomorrow and I don't want to be yawning through the whole thing."
"Ok," Wesley watched her go and then looked down at Evi. He cradled the child and made fruitless shushing sounds. "Do you want another bedtime story?" He asked "You seemed to enjoy Little Red Riding Hood's ill-fated journey. Let's read another." Wesley went over to a bookshelf filled with stories written for children and a few written for adults but still appropriate for the young. "I wasn't allowed to read this when I was younger." Wesley pulled out a glossy book titled The Magician's Nephew. "It was too childish. I bet you'll like it though."
Wesley had no idea that as he read to his child Fred was standing just outside the door listening as well. She knew she needed sleep, but she couldn't help but find the sound of his voice incredibly soothing. Evi apparently found it soothing as well.
Gunn stood outside the wall of the containment room. He touched the hot glass. He wondered what kind of pain Faith was in as her body burned up from the inside. He could call and ask Wes he supposed, but he hadn't spoken to either of his absent friends since they had left for fear that he would break down and tell them what had been going on in their absence. Even if he could restrain himself they would certainly find his odd question suspicious. Only Lorne had kept in contact with the couple while Angel and Gunn continued to be cowards. Gunn saw Faith wince and wondered if it was in response to physical pain or if this old one was playing the same mind games with Faith that Illyria had with Wesley. According to Hamilton this old one was named Es. She was to chaos what Illyria was destruction. It would be odd to call her the god of chaos, but in a way she was. She was in love with entropy and endeavored to make the world less ordered in every way. She was the most unpredictable old one for obvious reasons. So in many ways she was the most dangerous. They were able to manipulate Illyria once. But this creature was unpredictable and had no desire but to be unpredictable. How could they manipulate that? All they could do was stop her from coming into this world. Gunn remembered how Illyria had made Wesley relive all of his most painful memories over and over. He knew he was not allowed to enter the containment room under any circumstances, but he saw her pain and could only imagine what she was going through. On an impulse he typed his code on the keypad on the door and as an alarm went off he entered the room hot enough to scorch his skin. He felt as though he were boiling alive as every bit of moisture within him came to the surface and leaked off of his skin. "Faith?" He asked
Harmony and Spike were engaged in some mid-day naughtiness when Harmony shouted and drew back. "What's your problem?" Spike asked "I didn't bite you that hard."
Harmony clutched her head. "Don't do that!" Her eyes were squeezed shut tight.
Harmony dropped her hands and opened her eyes. "Thanks Cordy," She said grumpily
"What did you see?" Spike was far from patient.
"Hey, try to be nice. My head really hurts."
"What did you see?" Spike growled
Harmony rolled her eyes. "Gunn went into the containment unit."
Spike leapt for the phone.
Gunn saw Faith's pale limp hand hanging over the bedside. A tear dripped from his eye and evaporated before it hit the floor. He touched her hand, drawn by some hypnotic power.
"What the fuck are you doing?!" A high-pitched squeal hurt Gunn's ears.
A teenage girl was laying on her bed engaged in an act that many a teenage girl tried out in the privacy of their rooms. A red-faced woman stood in the doorway of that room shouting abuse at the teenager. The girl fell off her bed in surprise and a Victoria's Secret catalogue fell off the bed with her. "Mom! What are you- I thought you were- When did you-"
"Shut up! You disgusting vile girl! I wish you had never been born!"
"Mom please-" The teenager was crying.
"How did you get so fucked up?!"
"That's what I want to know." A voice whispered in Gunn's ear
Gunn turned his head and looked at a woman he had seen pictures of but never actually met in person. "Buffy?" How the hell could the slayer be here in this distant memory?
"I don't understand."
"She has power here." Not-Buffy explained "As she does everywhere."
"Illyria taunted your friend with his father because Wesley loved his dad but was never loved by him in return. Faith loved Buffy and well… We all know how that turned out."
The woman's screamings rose in pitch and volume. "Get out of my house!"
"You call this dump a house?! It's two rooms that you're behind on the rent!"
"Get out!" The woman picked up a glass knick-knack from the teenager's desk and threw it at the young woman's face. Young Faith ducked and the glass hit the wall and shattered.
"You bitch!" Faith was now turning as red as her mother.
"Get out!" The woman repeated
Faith grabbed a jacket and started for the door. As she passed by her mother Faith was given a slap upside the head. Faith just kept walking, face red with anger and shame.
"Does it hurt?" Not-Buffy asked
"What?" Gunn asked
Gunn looked down at his hand and saw cooked flesh. He felt a tearing sensation and he was back in the hot room. Angel had pulled him away from Faith. The alarm was still going off as Angel dragged him out of the containment room. "What the hell were you thinking?"
Gunn felt searing pain in his hand. It was so intense that it blocked everything else out and left only waves of agony breaking against his brain. "Why'd you do that sugar?"
Gunn stared at the green speaker. "What?"
"Why did you touch slaying beauty?" Lorne asked
Spike rolled his eyes at Lorne and then turned to Gunn. "Are you suicidal?"
"I talked to her." Gunn whispered
"Who?" Angel asked
"What did she say?" Lorne asked
"She asked me if my hand hurts."
"Does it?" Harmony asked
Lilah grinned as she listened to Spike explain the situation. "What a dumbass,"
"Angel is worried that Es has some kind of hypnotic power."
"Well we can ask Hamilton the next time he shows up, but I doubt it."
"Lorne is doing a reading right now, but Angel wanted you updated as soon as possible."
Spike rolled his eyes. "He wants you to keep an eye on Charlie boy."
Lilah's grin grew. "So you're keeping an eye on Angel. I'm keeping an eye on Gunn. Is it just me or has the world gone a little topsy turvey? The bad guys are watching the good guys."
Spike chuckled. "We're not so bad."
"No?" Lilah raised an eyebrow.
Spike made sure Lilah's door was closed. "Except when we're alone."
Lilah chuckled as Spike pressed himself against her. "We're so bad, so wicked."
Spike couldn't help but laugh along.
Willow squealed in delight when Fred handed over Evi. Willow was the headmistress/principle of the school and so even though she oversaw everything she didn't have any actual classes to teach. She watched Evi while her parents were teaching because Fred and Wesley didn't really trust anyone else with their baby. Willow didn't mind, she loved doting upon the adorable baby. "Hey Evangeline, we are going to have so much fun today.
Fred smiled at her friend. "Well you know where we'll be."
Willow returned the smile. "Yes I do. I'll take good care of Evi, don't worry."
"You always take good care, and I always worry." Fred said
Willow nodded. "Because you're a wonderful mom."
"Or a paranoid mom."
"One can never be too paranoid in our line of work." Willow said "I'm thinking of setting up a monthly shape shifter screening procedure. You never know when you might be dealing with an imposter. Of course that won't help with possessions and maybe the shape shifters have a lot of information on who they're imitating. So maybe we should just hope for the best."
Fred laughed. "I know it's you."
Willow looked surprised. "How?"
"I'll always know, no one can capture the perfect essence of Willow but, well Willow."
Willow blushed. "Thanks,"
Fred waved goodbye to her friend and daughter as she headed for class.
Gunn stared at the green hand wrapping the bandage around his black one. Fred used to do stuff like this and before her Cordy did. Now both were gone. One was dead and one was living a peaceful happy life in Japan. He was supposed to be happy for both, but he just missed them as selfish as that may be. Gunn winced when Lorne patted the gauze to make sure it was secure and wouldn't come apart. "That should do it. Pretty nasty burn though."
"You humans take a long time to heal too." Harmony said
Gunn scowled. "I'm fine."
"Tell me what happened." Angel demanded
"I already did."
"Tell me again."
"I felt like I had to go into the room. I touched Faith and then I was in her head watching one of her memories. Es was there and looked like Buffy. She asked me if my hand hurt."
"And you're sure it wasn't the first?" Angel asked
"I'm sure." Gunn said
"How?" Angel demanded
"I just am." Gunn shifted in discomfort. "I know okay?"
"What was the memory?" Angel asked
"Does it matter?"
"Maybe," Angel said
"Would you want me to be describing one of your worst memories for everyone?"
Angel thought about his worst memory and felt ill. "No," He whispered
"I doubt she does either." Gunn said
Angel nodded in understanding. "Fine. You can't come down here anymore."
"What?!" Gunn was on his feet before Angel had even finished. "You can't do that!"
"Well I'm the boss, so I kind of can." Angel pointed out
Gunn glowered, but before he could protest more aggressively Lorne cut in. "Maybe you could just make it so that no one is allowed down here alone. If this is some kind of hypnotic trance we could all be susceptible. So we only come down here in pairs."
"You said you didn't pick up any hypnotic vibes." Angel said
"There are no guarantees with an old one." Lorne said "And either way Gunn should be fine if he's supervised. If one person starts for the room the other can set off the alarm."
"Don't need a babysitter." Gunn mumbled
Lorne gave Gunn a dirty look and then Gunn sighed. "I'm okay with the buddy system."
Angel hesitated, then nodded. "Okay, no one comes here alone. Harmony post a sign."
"Why me?" Harmony whined
"Because I told you to." Angel said "Go,"
Harmony grumbled as she headed for the stairs. Alone with what remained of Angel Investigations Angel turned to look at the glass wall. "Gunn, was it hypnosis?"
Gunn rubbed his forehead with his good hand. "I honestly don't know."
Angel nodded, understanding. "We're doing everything we can. We won't stop."
"I know." Gunn said casually "Because if you ever tried to give up on Faith after everything she did for you I would drive a pointy wooden thing through your heart."
Angel grinned. "I'm glad we have that understanding."
Lorne waited until he was alone in his office to shed his lighthearted veneer. He was trembling as he sat down at his desk. He hadn't told them that when he read Gunn he got to see everything Gunn had in Faith's head. He saw that poor woman forced to relive the emotional abuse that had molded her into the dysfunctional youth that had shown up in Sunnydale to wreak mayhem. He saw the monster that was orchestrating it all not for any practical or even any malicious reason. Es was pouring through Faith's head because she was curious, and that was what was so dangerous about her. She was just playing around. This was all a game to her and winning wasn't important as long as she got to keep playing. Es could be trapped in Faith for years, but she would get out unless they managed to kill the thing first. Lorne didn't think that was going to happen. Just like Wesley and Illyria, Es and Faith were tied together now.
Wesley was reading to Evi like he did every night, had twice last night, while Fred graded essays. She timed herself using his reading instead of staring at the clock. When she heard him close the book and put the baby in her crib Fred knew she could put a cap on her pen and leave the essays for a while. She yawned and stretched her stiff limbs. She felt a hand settle onto her shoulder. She turned her head and kissed Wesley. "Hey," She said with a grin
She put her hands on his shoulders as they shared an intimate kiss. She felt hot all of a sudden and then she paled. She gently pushed against his shoulders and got to her feet, blushing when she saw his confused expression. She ran into their room and then she sat down on their bed, trembling. She hid her warm face in her hands. She felt him sit down next to her and she stiffened, but he didn't touch her in any way. "I'm sorry," He whispered
She looked at him and shook her head. "Why?"
"I didn't mean to upset you."
"It wasn't you. I…" She was mortified to feel tears forming.
He tentatively reached for her hand, not actually touching it, but hovering his own hand above hers where she could take it if she wished. Fred gripped his hand as though it were a lifeline and leaned against him. "I shouldn't have done that." He said "It was thoughtless."
Fred gave a bitter laugh. "You just kissed me."
"But it made you uncomfortable." Wesley said
"How long can we go on like this?" Fred asked
Wes smoothed her hair. "As long as you need."
"Do you really mean that?" She demanded "Can you really mean that? All this time, and you're telling me you're not… frustrated." She hated the way the word sounded. She blushed again, hiding her face against his shoulder to conceal the red. "I thought I'd be better by now."
"There's nothing wrong with you."
She sighed. "What if I'm like this forever? Will you still want to be with me?"
She felt him gently take hold of her chin and raise it so that they were looking into each other's eyes. "If you don't want to… anymore, that's fine. If that's what you need, what you want, that's your right. But I'll always love you and there's no one in the world I'd rather be with than you. No matter what happens I would never leave you." He gently kissed her brow.
She let out a shaky breath. "You haven't met everyone in the world."
"I've met you. Who else do I need to meet?"
She giggled. "You're such a romantic." She stared at his eyes. "Why do you love me?"
"I can't tell you."
"It would take years."
Fred snuggled further into him. "Let's go to sleep."
"Sounds like a plan, don't forget your medicine."
Fred smiled at him and then reached for the potion she had to take every night in order to stave off dreams. Willow gave her refills every week. There were no side effects and every night she slept peacefully unless she was awoken by the sound of her daughter's cries.
Gunn didn't know why he was here again, in the lab, after midnight when everyone was home and in bed. He didn't know if he was hypnotized or just longing for even a little bit of contact with a woman he thought he might love after over six months away from her. Maybe he was just thinking about the fact that he had refused entrance to heaven and that this didn't seem like enough of a reason. With Faith in a mystic coma, Wes and Fred gone, he had to wonder why he was even here. Maybe Faith had the answers. So he unwrapped bandaging from his raw burnt flesh and opened the door, setting off alarms again. He reached for her sweltering hand.
Faith was in a bar. "Give me a beer."
The bartender glared at her. "I.D.?"
"Come on man, I'm twenty-one." Faith sounded as though she'd already had a little bit.
"Then where's your I.D.?"
"I left it at home."
The bartender scoffed. "Yeah, right."
"I just need something to dull the pain." That wasn't the Faith at the bar speaking, but one standing next to him. He gaped at her. "Stepdad gave me a good wallop and I just…"
Faith, the one standing next to him, looked exhausted. "Is it really you?"
Faith locked eyes with him. "Can you get me out of here?"
"Tell me what to do." Gunn said
Tears dripped from her hollow eyes. "I don't know, just help me, please."
Gunn saw a man approach the other Faith, the one from the past. "I'll get you a beer."
"For a favor, sure."
"What's this favor?" Past Faith glared at the man.
"Just a little hand job."
Faith sighed. "Sure, why not? But give me the beer first."
"I'll meet you out back." The man said
The past Faith went out back and pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pocket. She lit one and sucked down the smoke. She heard the door open and the man came out with no alcohol and a big grin on his face. Faith sighed. "What is this?" She asked "What do you want?"
The man grabbed her by the throat and shoved her against the wall. "Hey!" Gunn ran toward the confrontation, but he couldn't do anything. He wasn't really here.
The past version of Faith wasn't a slayer. She was a potential with no powers and no knowledge of the supernatural. She was a scared teenager who had come to a seedy bar for the possibility that someone would sell her a little liquid pain relief and was just getting more pain instead along with a large helping of degradation. "Get off me!" Her struggles against the man who held her against the wall were fruitless. He laughed at her, amused by her spirit.
When the man hit her in the gut Gunn clenched his fists tight. He wanted to beat the man to death who dropped Faith to the ground and watched her squirm and gasp with pain. "Be still girlie and it will all be over soon." The man said "We both know this is what you wanted."
Gunn turned away from the sight, desperate for some way to put a stop to what had happened long ago and could not be altered. He looked at the other Faith and reached for her hand, thinking to comfort her somehow. She stepped back. "Please stop this." She begged
"They're keeping me alive."
Gunn recoiled. "You want me to kill you?"
"Please," She whimpered "I did bad things, but I never made anyone suffer this bad for this long. Please let me die. This is so much worse than anything I could have imagined."
The scene changed. Past Faith was knocking on a door. The door opened and the man from the alley was there. Gunn gasped. "Why would you go looking for him?"
Faith snorted. "Why do you think?"
"What do you want?" The drunk man asked
"Do you remember me?"
He squinted at her. "You a hooker?"
Faith put on a wide shark's grin. "Yes, I am." She looked the part, but the man's question and her response filled Gunn with rage. "Are you alone in there? I'm not one much for crowds."
"I didn't order a girl."
"I'm a gift." Faith's voice was soft and gentle, a tone Gunn had never heard from her.
She shrugged. "I don't know. Do you want me to double-check the address? Maybe I came to the wrong apartment." She smiled at him, soft, sweet. Something terrible was coming.
"No, this is the right place, come in."
Faith followed the man into the apartment, closing and locking the door. He was already getting undressed. "Why don't you let me do that?" The man looked at her with his pants around his ankles and shrugged. Grinning still Faith punched him in the face. He fell to his knees, coughing and spitting up blood. A few teeth came out with the blood. Faith kicked the man in the eyes and he howled in pain. "We both know this is what you wanted." Faith said softly
"What's that?" Faith's soft voice remained even as she continued to beat the man.
"You were called." Gunn said
"I didn't know that." The present Faith said "I just knew that all of a sudden I had the power to hurt people like they had hurt me. He was going to be first. Then I was going to go after a few specific stepdads. But he's the only one I got to get." Faith sighed.
A few hours later the man was dead. She had beaten him to death. Gunn realized that what he saw in here didn't translate to real time in the real world. There was no way he had been in here for hours. How much must Faith have endured in six months? Gunn shivered as he watched the past Faith sit down on the couch and stare at her bloody hands. How many times had Faith stared at those bloody hands? Now he realized why she wanted to die. The door opened even though Gunn knew Faith had locked it. Faith jumped to her feet and a fighting stance that made her lack of training obvious. A woman with lock-picking utensils in her hands surveyed the scene. Her expression was one of casual interest. "My, my, this is a mess."
"Who are you?" Faith demanded
"My name is Diana. I would offer you my hand, but you seem a bit messy."
"Why are you here?" Faith asked "Why'd you pick the lock?"
"My locator spell said you were here."
"What?" Faith asked "What are you talking about?" Faith was obviously still in shock.
"Do you know about magic?"
Faith chuckled. "Magic?"
"Yesterday you were engaged in an everyday task when you realized you now have strength that few are blessed with. You decided to use your strength to do… this."
"You don't know what he did." Faith said in a hard voice
"I can imagine it was quite awful."
"He… did things to me."
Diana paused and surveyed Faith. "This was vengeance then?"
"I'm not an expert on American law, but I think there are restrictions against vigilante justice. Of course your movies seem to combat that assumption, so maybe this is normal."
"What?" Faith just stared at Diana.
"What did he do to you?"
"Are you going to turn me in?"
"To the police you mean?"
Diana shook her head without hesitation. "No, the police would have a hard time believing a young woman such as yourself beat a grown man such as this poor specimen-"
"He's not poor! Don't feel sorry for him!"
Diana flinched. "I meant poor as in pathetic, not very good. I meant that this drunken lout who did something terrible to deserve your ire is not a very good example of the human race."
"He's not." Faith said viciously
"What did he do?"
Faith stared down at her bloody hands. "He… I was at a bar. He said… I told him I would give him a- but he wanted more and I… couldn't fight back. Now I can."
Diana nodded. "You aren't weak. You can hurt those who want to use you."
Faith nodded. "Yes, I can."
"If you'll allow me to help you get cleaned up I think I have a proposition that you will not be entirely adverse to. You can wash most of the blood off here and then we can go to my hotel room for a proper washing. I doubt you want to spend any more time here than is required."
"What?" Faith asked
Angel watched Lorne wave some smelling salts under Gunn's nose and the lawyer started to come around. As he returned to consciousness he moaned in pain. "Owwwww,"
"You idiot," Angel hissed "Why did you come down here?"
"Faith, trapped. We have to help her."
"What?" Angel tried and failed to keep the panic out of his voice as he pushed the aggravated Lorne who had been required to get out of bed and come to work well past midnight out of the way. He leaned over Gunn. "What did you say about Faith? Did you see her, the real her I mean." If Angel's heart beat it would have at a hundred miles an hour.
"Man did horrible things to her." Gunn mumbled through the pain. "Why's it hurt?"
"You have a third degree burn on your hand and a pretty bad sunburn." Lorne said
Gunn blinked and then stared in horror at his hand. It was grotesque. "I have the mystics from the infirmary coming in. If they can't help we might have to get another evil hand like the one Lindsey had." Lorne said "Only we'll get it from someone already dead."
Gunn groaned again. "I had to. She needs help."
"We're already doing everything we can." Angel said "What else is there?"
Gunn shook his head. "No,"
"I think he's pretty out of it due to the pain." Lorne said "I'll get him some painkillers while you deactivate his security code. Angel I can't see this as anything other than hypnosis."
"I wanted to deactivate his code earlier and you said no." Angel pointed out
"Don't be a sore winner." Lorne said
"This isn't winning. This is my friend in pain. And it's not hypnosis." Angel said
This surprised Lorne. "What is it?"
Gunn opened his eyes in the dim infirmary. He struggled to his feet and then closed his eyes, trying to ward off the pain. He stumbled down the hall. He thought about the intense pain Faith was suffering right now. He made his way down to the lab, but halfway down he realized that his code wouldn't be good anymore. With that realization came the realization of what he was about to do. He hadn't thought about his plan until he considered what he would have to do to carry out that plan. He was going to let out Es. He was going to do the same thing Fred had done for Illyria. Everyone had a price he supposed. Fred had wanted to save the world, but Gunn just wanted to save Faith. That was enough for him. Gunn wondered what time it was and if anyone was still at work. He was relieved when he neared Lorne's office and heard the Pylean's chipper voice on the phone. After a quick detour Gunn was back at the office and soon he was in the office pointing a gun at Lorne. "Let me call you back." Lorne's cellphone dropped out of his trembling hands. "Gunn, I think you need to take a moment to examine your actions."
"I have to save Faith."
"We're all doing everything we can to save Faith." Lorne said
"It's not enough."
"What do you want me to do?" Gunn felt a great sense of guilt and self-loathing at the sound of panic in his friend's voice, but he was steely in his resolve. "Just tell me what to do."
"Let me in the containment room."
"Gunn you'll only-"
"This isn't a debate."
Diana looked up from her book and smiled at Faith. Faith had grown used to the Englishwoman's presence and mannerisms. Coming home every day to Diana sitting on the couch with a book and a cup of tea lent her life a stability it had never known. "Where on earth have you been Faith?" Diana asked in a tone equal parts stern and concerned
"Playing with some boys."
Diana sighed. "You do that a lot."
"It's nice to have the power for a change."
"This power is a sacred privilege." Diana said "Not a toy,"
"No one can touch me now. I do all the touching. Every move I make is me making it and no one will ever be able to hit me and send me flying across the room again. I don't care if it's a sacred privilege or a toy. I just like it. Killing vampires, I also like that."
Diana sighed. "That's the important thing I suppose."
Faith went into the kitchen and was delighted to find dinner laid out for her. "You spoil me D." She called out toward the living room "This is quite the spread." Faith set upon the food.
Diana came into the kitchen and she looked so happy just to see her charge content, she looked like a loving mother. Faith had needed one of those. "You're very welcome my dear."
"Why do the English call everyone my dear?" Faith asked with a mouth full of food
"We don't. When I say that it means the person I am speaking to is dear to my heart."
Faith paused. "You call me my dear all the time."
Diana ran her hand through Faith's hair. "Yes I do."
"I don't understand." Gunn said as he stood a metre away watching the happy scene.
"You think this is a happy memory?" Buffy's voice asked
"Not when while reliving this," The scene changed. "All she can see is this."
Gunn saw Faith on her hands and knees vomiting. Kakistos was laughing at her while he yanked the watcher Diana about by her hair. The woman was torn to pieces. It was only by Kakistos's careful sadism that she was alive. Gunn thought he might have figured out who Faith's instructor on the various types of torture was. Faith struggled to her feet and was knocked down by four lackey vampires. "You'll get your turn." Kakistos said "Be patient." Faith curled into a ball and wept. One of the vampire lackeys giggled and kicked her. "Hey! I want her in good condition when I get started. She has nice skin. I like nice skin." Faith bawled.
"Faith," Faith looked up at Diana, stunned that she was still able to speak.
Kakistos roared with laughter. "The watcher wants to talk! Go ahead watcher!"
Bruised, burnt, sliced to pieces, frostbit, and traumatized, Diana tried to tell Faith what she so desperately needed her slayer to know. "Faith, please, Faith,"
Kakistos kicked Diana and she cried out in pain. "What's that watcher?!"
Faith never figured out how she did it. One moment she was curled up on the ground wishing that she could be dead, wishing that she didn't exist anymore, wishing that she had never been given this gift. The next minute she was standing among four piles of dust and staring at Kakistos. He roared, not with laughter this time but with rage, as he ran at her to beat her into submission. She had a piece of wood in her hand somehow. She tried to stake him, but he batted her aside. As he loomed over her she swiped the wood across his face. A vial that had fallen from Diana's pocket was near their scuffle and Faith reached for it. She poured the vial over her stake and slashed at Kakistos again. He roared in pain this time. Faith shoved him away from her and ran to Diana. She tried to help the watcher to her feet but the woman shrieked in pain at the lightest of pressures against her marred skin. "I'm so sorry." Faith wept
"Faith," Diana whispered
"What is it? Tell me what to do. Please tell me." Faith was sobbing uncontrollably.
"What?" Faith was stunned.
"Run," Faith felt a strong hand on her shoulder. She tore away from his grip and ran.
Angel sat at his desk. Dear Wes,Dear Wesley and Fred,My dear Friends W"I'll do that part last." Angel mumbled to himself I apologize for taking so long to write to you but I had a lot of trouble figuring out Angel angrily crossed the words out. "Why is this so hard?"
"You live hard lives." Angel looked up and his eyes widened as he beheld a creature that looked very much like Faith excepting the purple tint and the ancient power that leaked from her every pore. "You were foretold. In our time it was known that you would be."