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Chapter Three:

Setting---Outside Angelus and Cordelia's mansion,
8:01 p.m.-the next night

Eric's voice crackled over the cell phone in Tor's hand. Justine waited impatiently for the news, crouching on her knees next to her second-in-command in the wooded park across from Angelus and Cordelia's sprawling mansion. Finally, Tor snapped the cell phone shut and turned to her.

"The beast and his bitch are getting into the car..." Tor relayed, his dark brown features shadowed by the leaves of the manzanita bush he was crouched under.

"Good. We can attack his minions if he's not there." Justine explained as her recruits gathered around her. She noticed Faith hovering in the back, her face shadowed by a mass of dark brown hair, her eyes burning holes in Justine.

"What? We're not going after Angelus and Cordelia?" Marie exclaimed excitedly, tossing her spiky pink head, piercings jangling as she moved. Justine smiled in her direction and spoke up.

"That's not the plan. Faith---" She gestured Faith forward with one callused hand and then continued, watching the Slayer pick her way through the crowd, a scowl on her face. "She'll take care of the beast and his demon."

Marie didn't look convinced as she stared at Faith, a nasty smile crossing her sharp, ferret-like features. "Right, and who'll be picking up the bitch's corpse?"

Quick as lightening, Faith spun around and brought her foot up, the steel toe hovering an inch from Marie's throat. Marie's eyes widened and she slammed her mouth shut. Her eyes got even wider as Faith flexed her toes and a stake slid out from the heel of her boot, pressing into the flesh on Marie's throat. "Watch your mouth, or I'll break your fucking neck. Got it?" Faith spat at the taller girl.

"Got it." Marie answered breathlessly, her eyes nearly popping out their sockets. With that, Faith lowered her leg, the small stake sliding back into her boot heel as she went.

Justine chuckled and smirked, then turned and motioned for the other's to follow her. Faith watched them go and then hopped in one of the gang's vans parked alongside the street. As she revved the engine to life, Justine tapped on the window.

Faith rolled it down and stared icily at the older woman, her eyebrow quirking slightly. "They change you, I'll kill you where you stand." And before Faith could answer, the redhead spun on her heel and stalked back into the shadows.

Faith spat out the window and then rolled down the street, her eyes glued to the taillights of Angelus's car. She wouldn't give them the chance to even touch her.


Ravina Boulevard, 9:30 p.m.

Pain like fire licked up the side of
Elda's face, her eyes slamming shut and her nubby teeth grinding hard beneath the elegantly manicured nails of the woman before her. Blood seeped from the long slice that ran from her chin to her eye, dripping down onto the woman's white blouse like oily drops of black paint. Elda shook visibly and saw the demoness's companion lick his lips, his eyes flitting back and forth between hard gold and chocolate brown.

"I swear...I don't know..."
Elda said again, her voice shaking despite her attempts at schooling it. The woman clucked her tongue and lifted her fingers to shred the other cheek. Elda jerked her head back, and felt a rough male hand sink into her clumpy black hair, the strong digits digging into her scalp.

"What did I say about lying to us?" The vampire said, his voice hot in her ear.
Elda heaved a heavy sigh and stood very still.

"Now tell us what we want to hear. Please." The please was laced with a wide smile as the woman placed her fingernail on
Elda's other cheek. An audible gulp and Elda opened her mouth.

"Okay, I'll tell you." The finger never wavered from her cheek as the woman's hazel eyes locked onto her black ones, the strong fingers in her hair gripping tighter in anticipation. "An associate of mine might be able to help you."

"And your friend's name?"
Elda felt the cold, moist touch of lips on one pointed ear, a tongue sliding along the curve of her lobe. She shivered against the feel of the vampire's tongue on her skin, fear creeping into her chest. Demon or no, she was fair game and she knew it.

"Ordal. He's...he's an Oshet Mar."
Elda explained, the spines across the top of her breasts flattening in fear. From the deep frown on the woman's face, Elda had a feeling she knew what an Oshet Mar was, and it didn't make her happy.

"And where does Ordal live?" The vampire asked once more, his hands digging deeper into her scaly scalp.

"Last I knew, a tank under the Beverly Center. But he may have moved, I don't know...we're kind of on the outs."
Elda supplied, her oil-black eyes blinking rapidly under the dank lights.

"The outs?" The woman asked her, head tilted so that a long strand of dark brown hair fell across her flawless face.

"Ex-boyfriend." The woman wrinkled her nose and lowered her finger as if
Elda's skin was poisonous.


Tell me about it."
Elda said, a nervous laugh escaping her throat as the woman shuddered, her tongue lolling out in what was obviously disgust at the visual. " that all?'re not going to kill me...are you?"

"No. Let's go Angelus." Another wide smile and the woman turned on her stylish heels and clacked her way toward the exit. The grip in
Elda's hair loosened and she felt the cold wall of marble that had been the vampire leave her back. She sighed heavily and lifted her nubby fingers to her sliced cheek as she watched the demoness walk away.

"Cordelia?" A slight whine was in Angelus's voice as he walked past
Elda, his dark features scowling after his partner. Cordelia turned on her heel and rolled her eyes, then leaned against the slimy brick wall of Elda's lair.

"Fine, you big baby." Cordelia sighed, "Kill her."

Elda started, backing away from the vampire as he turned on her, wide smile pasted to his lips and a bounce in his step. His forehead grew rigid as he walked and she gulped back a scream.

" said you wouldn't...I told you what I knew..."
Elda protested, her back slamming into the wall behind her, black eyes wide as the vampire lunged at her. He grabbed Elda's short neck in his arms and twisted until something popped and fire laced through her spine. Then he grabbed for other spine and twisted it hard enough to make it creak loudly in protest, but not break it. Elda screamed and looked up through pain-filled eyes at the woman before her.

"So I lied." Cordelia said as she came closer to watch, smiling that wide smile once more as she eyed
Elda over the vampire's shoulder. "Besides...doesn't he look adorable when he's all bumpy?"

And then, before
Elda could even think of a retort, Angelus twisted her second spine once more, snapping it in three different places. The world spun away from her and she collapsed at the vampire's feet.

"Well. That was fun." Angelus said, looking up at Cordelia as she sighed heavily and grabbed for his arm.

"You and your mayhem. What am I going to do with you?"

"Something naked, I hope." His jagged features were so hopeful, she couldn't help but laugh as she led him out of the dead demon's lair.

Her laughter stopped as something slammed into her side and knocked her face down on the hard brick.

"Hello Cordelia." A familiar voice said.


Setting---The Hyperion Hotel,
9:00 p.m.-earlier

Gunn looked up as a scream pierced the hotel's quiet existence. For one second he stood there, his eyes squeezed shut, gripping the handle of the ancient ax he had been sharpening before he dropped it and joined Wesley on the stairs. The boss of Connor Investigations puffed along beside him as they ran up the stairs, one hand pressed to his wounded gut, the other on the rail for support.

As soon as they reached the upstairs hallway, they heard Anne call from down below.

"I'll get the needle!" Gunn waved a hand in his wife's direction and followed Wesley into the shadowed room at the end of the hallway.

They entered the cave-like room and adjusted to the dim light as quickly as they could, feeling their way through the room to the figure in the middle of the floor. Lorne was already there, his hands full of the screaming, wailing girl.

"Fred, Fred...please look at me baby. Please baby....please!" Lorne begged, his one good eye filling with tears, hair mussed and unshaven face lined with shadows so thick he looked emaciated. His hand smoothed over Fred's bare shoulders as he pleaded with her.

Gunn dropped to one knee and took the girl's other hand in his own, trying to force some of his strength into her body. "Fred...honey...calm down..."

"They...they're everywhere...little things...and they scream like pennies in the sky, dropping on the babies and the babies....oh God...the babies, I hurt and I tried...." Fred babbled, her eyes glazing over, her breath heaving in her chest. Suddenly, thick, red blood dripped from her nose in a steady stream, trailing over her lips and staining her teeth as she spoke.

Gunn hung his head as Lorne let out a low moan, his face buried against Fred's hair, his hands sweeping back across her shoulders to cradle her against him.

"Wesley..." Gunn said, voice low and thick, his tear-filled eyes turning on the man standing in the middle of the room, completely frozen in place. "Wes...? We have to do something..."

Finally, Wesley fell to one knee in front of the little Texan and he lifted her pointed chin with one hand, unmindful of the blood dripping down his fingers. "Fred....what did you see?"

"What? Is that all you care about?" Lorne asked in a harsh whisper, his eyes boring into Wesley's as he pulled away from Fred. Wesley turned a blank stare in his direction.

"It isn't and you know it. But the Powers sent her a vision for a reason and I'm not going to turn my back on an innocent." He answered icily, then turned his attention back to Fred, who was whimpering in Lorne's arms, half of her face bright red with her blood. "What did you see, Fred?"

"Two! Two there's always two and they're looking for something...something I don't know. 6+7 is 13. 13-6 is 7. Somewhere between...and...and I don't know the formula for pie anymore. I used to know it and now it's all gone....all gone and I...I...." Her voice trailed off in a whimper and she looked up at Wesley, her body shaking.

"What did you see?" Wes insisted, his blue eyes boring into hers. Lorne closed his eyes at the callous tone in his voice. When she didn't answer, he tried again, his voice even harsher, his hand finding her wrist and squeezing hard. "Answer me, Winifred!"

"Ow!" She squealed, trying to twist away from him. "Lorne...." She turned her big brown eyes on the demon and reached for him with her free hand. Lorne captured it in his own and held it to his lips, kissing it as if it were made of glass.

"Tell him baby. Tell him and the voices'll stop....tell him..." Lorne whispered, his eyes harsh on Wesley's face as the Englishman squeezed a little tighter on Fred's wrist.

"Angel and Cordelia. They like the blood and this time it's black. Black and there's...... something's broken. Something hard and it's not nice and I see her! She's got brown eyes and she's hard and she's screaming and she's a killer but not a killer....always killing but she hates to...she hates to....oh God she's gonna die..."

At the mention of the two names, the three men hitched in their breaths, glancing around at each other as Fred babbled on, her head lolling around on her long neck, curling brown hair slowly matting with blood and sticking to her face in dark slashes.

"Where at, Fred?" Gunn asked gently, wiping at her cheeks with his thumb. Fred turned toward Gunn and smiled at him wearily.

"Why did you leave me?" She asked wistfully, her trembling fingers lifting to swipe along his own cheek. Gunn stiffened and leaned away from her touch.

"Where at, Fred?" Lorne insisted, his face clouded at the exchange between the two of them. Fred turned her calf eyes back on Lorne and looked down at his hand her shoulders.

Ravina Boulevard...8...under the 8....." She whispered, her body giving out on her as the last bit of information fell from her red-stained mouth. Lorne supported her, the sleeve of his shirt pressed against her nose to soak up the blood that seemed to be endlessly streaming from her nose.

"I've got the morphine...." Anne said, waddling into the room, her voice soft and lilting. She stooped before Fred, her back protesting and tears streaming down her pale cheeks as she looked over her friend's face. "Oh God...."

Wesley took the syringe from Anne's trembling fingers and tapped it with one finger, then he jabbed it unceremoniously into the crook of Fred's arm. She whimpered and leaned against Lorne further, but didn't jerk away from the needle. When the dosage had been injected, Wesley pulled it out and handed it to Anne.

Almost immediately, Fred relaxed, her mouth moving against Lorne's chest, nonsensical words spilling out into the air. But the thrashing ended as the medicine took effect and the blood slowly stopped its never-ending trickle.

"We should go. Take care of her Lorne." Wesley said stonily, standing and wincing as the stitches pulled once more. Gunn stood too and helped Anne up, his eyes roving down over the sprawled forms on the floor. A sudden pain went through his chest at the sight of Fred in Lorne's arms and he remembered a time long ago.

His gaze guiltily swept back to Anne's face as she touched his arm, tears blurring her big blue eyes. A small smile and he wrapped her up in his arms, his heart touching hers for one moment before Wesley's business-like voice jabbed through his world.

"Charles. We have to go."

"Take care of them both, baby." Gunn said, kissing her forehead with a tender brush of his lips.

"Be careful. I heard her out in the careful." Anne said, her eyes full of Gunn's face for a moment before she let him go and hung her head.

"I will baby. I will." Gunn said, walking away from his whole world and heading for the old one that still haunted him.

Chapter 4