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Chapter Ten:

Setting---The Hyperion Hotel, three days later

For three days Faith had been haunting the hotel, showing her face at odd intervals and spending her time in the room adjacent to Fred's. Three days of fleeting glimpses of a white face, dark eyes and long brown hair. Three days of Wesley going slowly mad.

Whatever she was keeping from him, she seemed determined not to let it spill. Lorne, having already tested her boundaries and finding her mind locked up tight--Wesley was alive with curiosity about how she learned THAT particular trick--was at a loss on how to reach her. Not only was she not inclined to leave the hotel, but she was avoiding him at all costs. The only ones of the five Connor Investigations team Faith even glanced at was Anne and Fred. Anne she clung to, almost leech-like and the other she kept at a wary, but intrigued, distance.

All the while, Wesley had other problems. Since his magical draining, he'd been feeling decidedly off and the fact that he was working day and night on the scrolls wasn't helping him any. The feeling grew every time he stood, his chest thumping hollowly and his muscles straining like it was too large a feat. A headache line had taken up residence between his thick eyebrows, and his mouth was drawn into a thin white line. Gunn had been giving him odd sidelong glances whenever he was in the same room with him.

Finally, it was getting to be too much and Wesley slammed his pen down on the tablet of paper before him, glaring up at Charles. "WHAT?"

"Nothing!" Gunn said immediately, looking as if he were biting back a different retort.

"Then leave me alone!" Wesley blinked the spots away from his vision.

"Are you okay, dude?" Gunn said after a moment, seeing the color draining out of Wesley's face.

"Peachy." Wesley murmured, the ancient text before him swimming slightly. He blinked once more and heard the world roaring in his ears. He pitched sideways as gravity dumped him out of his chair. His vision completely grayed and for a moment he wondered who the hell had turned the lights out.

When the world came back, he was staring at Gunn's worried face. "Oopsy..."

"Fuck, Wes....what's going on?"

"Julio said it was too much...dammit." Wesley mumbled, shaking his head. He immediately wished he hadn't as the world moved in slow motion again. "Mmm....that's sickening...."

"What's sickening is watching you killing yourself."

"I'm NOT going over this with you again. Old argument, Charles...let it die."

"Let me go next time. Shaman dude can do his voodoo on me."

Wesley sighed and looked gratefully up at Gunn. "That's kind of you to offer, but my energy is the only thing that will work." Off Gunn's blank look, he went on. "The spell I'm using requires a great deal of personal energy, and that means once you start building it all up, you have to use the same vessel every time. The vessel being me. Your energy is useless, I'm afraid."

"And once the energy is all stored up?" Charles's eyes narrowed.

"Then I use it."

"And can only YOU use it?"

"No, actually. Anyone can do the spell to open the Quor-toth, as long as they have the obsidian." Wesley wiped at his brow and realized he was sweating, despite the drifting waves of a/c in the air. His breath felt oddly shortened too.

"And that's that stone thingy, right?"

"Why are you asking so many questions?" Wesley asked him curiously.

Charles's face went dark and he looked away.


"I just want to make sure that it's not all going to go to waste, you know....if...if..."

"If this kills me." Wesley supplied, voice quiet. He gulped back a bitter taste in his mouth.

"Yeah." Charles let out a big breath and then continued, "If you die before you can do the spell, I wanna make sure I can do it for you." Gunn raised his chin and stared at him stonily. Wesley smiled weakly.

"Thank you, Charles. I'll make sure to leave the stone and the spell in the safe for you when the time comes."

When. He'd used when and not if. He knew this was killing him for sure. Neither one spoke for a moment and then Wesley sighed.

"If the time comes. I still have to translate this prophecy. World might end before we have to find out, you know." His voice was weary as he looked back down at the brown scrolls spread out across his desk.

"I'll leave you alone then. Do you need anything, man?" Gunn's eyes were deeply shadowed with worry. Wesley smiled grimly.

"No. Just shut the door behind you, please." Gunn nodded and went to shut the door behind him, but Wesley stopped him. "Do me a favor and don't tell the others. Lorne knows....but I don't want Anne or Fred to worry anymore than they have to."

"And your Slayer?"

"She's not mine and if she decides to talk to you, which I doubt, don't mention it. There's still things I need to work out with her, okay?"

"Right." The door clicked silently behind him and Wesley was faced with a silent office and those damned scrolls he hated so much. He picked up his pen and started in, trying to ignore the clouded feeling that had been slowly building in his chest and head.

He was running out of time, and unfortunately, so was the world.


Setting---Under the
Beverly Center, same day

"I need to shower. For a year." Cordelia's voice was a moan as she caught another whiff of the putridness. "You smell like shit."

Angelus snorted and turned a grin on her. "Try being a vampire. You don't smell any better, believe

"Ugh!" Cordelia grimaced and looked down at the brown-flecked heels and the brown-ish colored blood on her hands and chest. "I'm going to get sick."

"Don't. We don't have time." Angelus hurried his step and gestured her forward in the tunnel.

"We just beat up a shit demon for information! We're the bad guys! We have to now take time to reflect on our bad deeds. I'm going to use that time to throw up." Cordelia insisted, doubling over in the tunnel.

Angelus grunted and turned on her. "I know the routine, but according to that Oshet Mar, we don't have time, Cor."

"I know...but..." She looked faintly green around the edges for a moment, her long dark hair swinging around her face.

"But if we don't find out where the psychic shit demon says the breach in the fabric of time happens, we're not going to be in time to stop the Powers That Be from stopping it!" Angelus threw up his hands. "Was I the only one listening in there?"

"Hey, don't get crabby with me, Mr. Tall, Dark and Deadly! I'm not the one who decided we needed to take a three day break and turn Justine's humans into an undead army of vampires!" Cordelia protested, lurching upward, hands on her hips.

"We need backup when we find out who and what is going to try and stop the end of the world! Am I the only one who looks ahead to the future? You know, the one we hope to end?" Angelus growled at her.

"Don't start! And what about Justine, hmm? Where did her corpse run off to? You said Faith killed her!"

"I can't think of everything! That's why we're partners!"

"God! You were never this pigheaded when you had a soul!"

Angelus grabbed her in an instant and slammed her against the wall of the tunnel, eyes going gold. "I thought we weren't supposed to mention that, sweetie."

"Sorry. Honey." Cordelia glared at him, her fingertips shining slightly.

"You're glowing."

"You're vamping." She shot back, eyebrow quirking.

"Have I ever told you how hot you are when you're pissing me off?"


He captured her lips and pressed his cold, hard body against hers. She let herself be carried away, returning the kiss until his hands ventured lower, seeking the hem of her short skirt. With a grunt she pushed him away.

"Ew! We're covered in dead shit demon!" She stalked off past him and he shook his head.

Some things never changed.


Setting---Sahjan's Lair, same day

The cave was dark, the torches that had once burned on the walls now blackened stumps. Cobwebs were everywhere; dust was so thick that it threatened to make her sneeze. She gritted her teeth and prayed she wouldn't. A sneeze would mean moving her head and moving her head would mean that her back would scream at her.

Justine gasped as she sat down. She hurt everywhere she could feel.

The table was the same as it had been so long ago and she felt her lip tremble.

"I'm sorry Daniel. I wanted to do your work for you, but I failed. Angelus got them all." She whispered to the emptiness, her breath stirring the dust on the table. Beneath she saw the dim stain of old blood and a deep gouge mark in the table. Gently she placed her palm down on top of it, phantom pain lacing through her hand. Through the dirt on her skin, she could see the pale scar atop her hand. She knew without looking that there was an identical one on her palm.

Justine smiled, but it melted into a grimace of pain.

The vampire and the demon wanted to end the world, huh? This is what they had killed for. Justine felt disgusted.

The instinct to panic rose and she forced it back down. According to her experience, the world was always ending. Someone would take care of it and she had a feeling that Slayer-bitch was going to be in on it. Fuck her, maybe Justine had other things on her mind.

Revenge, perhaps?

A slow smile spread over her lips. An idea sparked in her brain and caught fire quickly.

She was going to get them all and finally end Daniel's work.

Chapter 11