Your Enemies Closer

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Chapter Five:

Ravina Boulevard 9:40 pm

The small doorway in the wall of the motel led down into a brick-lined sewer tunnel that was dark and musty smelling. Wesley stepped carefully, boots crunching over broken bones. The smell of decay was strong and he paused, bending and nudging a soft lump.

"Dead rat." He commented to Gunn, who had stooped behind, him peering into the darkness at the object on the ground.

"Yuck." Gunn commented, prodding Wesley in the back with his thumb. The Englishman stood and shifted his weapons in his hand before starting off again. They had walked a few steps when suddenly the sounds of voices were heard, distant, but echoing clearly off the rounded sewer walls.

"Come on!" Wesley said, bursting into a run, Charles on his heels. About halfway there, he heard a familiar voice and nearly stopped in his tracks. She was here. Dammit. He slowed down and motioned for Gunn to do the same. Together they crept along the sewer tunnel to the brighter end before them.

"What do you know about me?" Shivers ran up Wes's spine as he heard the deep challenge in Faith's voice and he spat in fury. No backup, in a blind tunnel against Cordelia and Angelus? What was she thinking? When he got a-hold of her he'd....what? He wasn't her Watcher anymore and hadn't been in a long, long time.

"More than you'd guess, Faith. I know about that darkness in you; the one you're trying to fight."

"Fuck. Cordelia." Gunn muttered in a rough whisper, eyes wide. Wesley shushed him with violent eyes and turned back to listening. His blood ran cold when he heard Cordelia continue.

"I could help you with it....purge it out....or make it scream and you along with it."

Light suddenly flooded the tunnel and the two men hiding in its previously impregnable darkness hid their eyes from the brightness. Wesley knew what and whom was causing it and he cursed again, realizing the danger Faith was in.

Blinded, he ran the short length of the tunnel and jumped into the lighted room at the end. He hit the first thing he found and realized it was Faith. Breath whooshed out of her lungs as they collided and he saw blood smeared across her neck. For one fleeting moment their eyes met and a small smile quirked the corners of her full lips.

And then the light dimmed in her brown eyes and she passed out, slumped against the damp brick beneath him.

"Jesus Wesley. I know you're desperate, but dry-humping an unconscious Faith? Now that is just sick." Wesley bristled at the sound of the voice and quickly rolled off Faith's fallen form. Her blood was thick on his hands and he grimaced as he looked down at her and the vicious wound on her neck. Pain laced across his heart and he balled his bloodied fists, his eyes turned right toward Angelus.

"How long has it been, Angelus?"

Angelus looked pensive for a moment, glittering yellow eyes flitting from side to side as he searched his memory. "A year. Gunn's wedding, I believe. That was a blast, let me tell you."

"You would think that, wouldn't you?" Wesley spat, eyebrow arching and knuckles cracking under the force of his anger.

"Hey, you should've invited us in the first place. By the way, how's Lorne's eye?" Angelus smiled toothily and sidled up next to Cordelia, who was scowling at Wesley, her arms crossed over her chest. Wesley knew that look and felt the hair on the back of his neck bristle.

"Enough with the chit-chat." Wesley clipped, quite tired of the two of them. On cue, Gunn burst into the room, sword flashing and his eyes intense.

Angelus whirled and caught the tall black man in the neck with the heel of his boot. Then he flipped around and caught Wesley on the backswing with his fist. Another kick sent Gunn toppling and a follow-up punch slammed Wes into the brick tiles. As Wesley reeled from the blow; he had to give the vampire credit. He was damned good. But Wesley had other things up his sleeve.

"Flamis!" Wesley shouted through a mouthful of blood.

Cordelia, who had taken a step toward Faith's unconscious form, was suddenly caught in a whirlwind of blue fire that licked at her face and left wet looking scorch marks on her skin. Her scream of rage was high-pitched and pain-filled.

And then, the next second, her skin glowed, shining like a star and dissipating the mystical flames that surrounded her. The effort obviously cost her though, and her hazel eyes rolled up in her head.

She collapsed next to Faith, dark hair scorched and blackened as it lay across her bright red skin.

"You're going to pay for that, Pryce." Angelus growled low in his throat, leaping at the taller man, hands curled into claws. Wesley was slammed against the wall with a bone jarring force.

"As I recall, Angel was always slinging that particular threat around too. He was as ineffectual as you are." Wesley said, voice full of gravel and glass. He was pushing it and he knew it. His eyes flicked to Gunn, who was climbing to his knees, neck already bruised a purple so dark it looked black.

"Don't say that name." Angel growled again, spittle flecking his lips.

"Hey, Angelus? Lose something?" Gunn called, picking Cordelia up by her hair and slapping her face with his palm. Angelus turned and saw what he had in his hands.

"Put her down, motherfucker." Wesley was surprised to see fear in the golden eyes so close to his own. Angelus was afraid....for someone else? That was new.

"" Gunn smiled and turned the limp Cordelia in his arms and then slapped her full in the face hard enough to split her lip. "That's for ruining my wedding." He hit her again. "And that's for fucking up my family in the first place."

"Put her down or I'll..."

"Do what? Kill me?" Wesley interjected, his spider-like fingers gripping Angelus's strong forearms. Angelus turned back to him, growl rumbling in his throat, sharp teeth stained with blood. Wesley's eyes flashed as he realized whose blood it was.

"How about you put Wesley down and then we can fight this out like men? Huh?" Gunn offered, gently slapping at Cordelia's face with an upbeat rhythm.

"Fine." Angelus said, spinning Wesley in his grip and throwing him at Gunn. Wesley stumbled and bit down on his tongue as he hit the demon and his friend. Sprawled in a heap, he reached for Gunn's forgotten sword and brought it up in time to catch Angelus on the arm, feeling the point go to the bone. The vampire grunted and rolled, scooping up Cordelia's burned form and then leaping to his feet again.

He opened his mouth to speak and suddenly a booted foot was brought up into his back, throwing him into the tunnel along with Cordelia. Wesley saw a small stake buried between the folds of Angelus's leather duster, too small to reach the heart, but large enough to cause him pain.

"Get the fuck out of here Angelus." Faith snarled, her eyes clouded with pain, but on her feet. Wesley was impressed. Angelus looked from Gunn and Wesley to Faith and back again.

"See you all real soon. We'll do lunch." And with a sneer, he was gone, disappearing into the darkness with Cordelia slung over his shoulder. Faith sighed in relief and sank down onto the bricks again.

Gunn struggled to get up, but Wesley stopped him with a hand on his wrist. "No. Let them go."

"Why?" Gunn snapped, pushing Wesley off his legs and standing, wincing as his throat throbbed in time to his heartbeat.

"Because....I....just let them." Wesley said defeatedly, biting down on his lower lip. Gunn looked him full in the face and sighed.

"You still think they can be saved, don't you?"

"I don't know what I think, but for now I think we should just---"

"Let them go so that they can kill innocent people, all because you think that everything can be put back together if you got Connor back? Fuck,'s a pipe dream and you know it. Give it up bro."


"Don't Charles me. I'm tired of it. We should have done it long ago, back when we knew he'd lost his soul. Maybe then Cordelia wouldn't have done what she did!"

"It's not Cordelia's fault. What happened, it was--"

"Her fault. She's the one who---"

"Jesus, keep it down, some of us are trying to bleed to death over here." A husky female voice cut through their argument. Wesley started, suddenly remembered their damsel in distress who was anything but. He turned toward her and bent, holding out a hand to her. After a second of staring at it, she took it, her pale digits wrapping around his wrist and using him to help herself to her feet.

"Faith...I....are you alright?" Wesley was unsure of what to say, and he felt a chill wrap around his spine as he looked at the deep bite marks on her neck. His fingertips gingerly touched the warm, abused tissue around the ripped wounds. Faith's gaze flickered to his as she felt his touch, eyes haunted and far away.

"Five by five." But she didn't look it as she swayed, leaning against him with all her weight.

"Charles?" Gunn stepped forward and looped one arm around her waist, supporting her weight on one side as Wesley did the same on the other side.

Together, they walked out of the sewer.


Setting---The Hyperion Hotel, the next day

It was quiet, which was a miracle, at least in Lorne's opinion. In his world, there was always noise and pain, blood and hypodermics, and a pair of brown eyes that were slowing driving him insane as she slipped into uncontrollable madness.

His heart was heavy, his arms the same as he curled up around Fred's shivering form like he could protect her from the Powers with just his presence. He'd been by her side long enough to know that wasn't true, but he still liked to fool himself into thinking that he was strong enough for her.

His one good eye roved around the room, reading little passages she scratched onto the walls.

Can't listen, can't listen, can't listen and formulas were written in thick black marker and others were scratched into the paint by a pair of desperate hands. She thought sometimes that if she could just write it down, it wouldn't all be in her head.

Lorne knew better.

In times like this, he let his mind drift into the past, when sense, however nonlinear it was, had flooded her eyes. Back before the visions, before hell had rained down on them.


Setting---Fall 2002, the past

"Cordelia! Stop! Please!" Lorne pleaded, reaching for the demoness's arm. Cordelia turned her head in his direction, skin aglow, short blonde hair falling in pale slashes against her cheek.

"I have to try Lorne." Her voice was mechanical, her aura black. Lorne knew this was bad, very bad.

"And if the Gatekeeper kills you, or worse?" He'd insisted as Fred and Gunn looked on, hugging each other tight in a way that made him almost jealous. They didn't know what to say to stop this, but they were counting on Lorne to know. Why him? He was just an aura-reader, not even part of the group, and yet the duty had fallen on his shoulders to stop the heart-broken Seer.

"I don't care! I have to take the chance, Lorne. Death would be better than living without Angel. I can't do this anymore..." Cordelia's voice wavered as she gulped back unshed tears. The glow continued, filling the room with light.

"There are other ways...we can get back his soul!" Lorne, red eyes intense as he tried and failed to reach out for her aura, to read it fully and see what she'd been keeping from him. Only now could he sense it. How had he missed something so jarringly obvious?

"But Willow's dead....she's the one who knew how! Oh God...Buffy...they're all dead..."

"But we're not. We can stop this...we just need to think of a plan. We don't need the Gatekeeper for this. It's practically suicide, pixie cat." Lorne plucked at the strings of her soul and found that horrified part of her that she'd locked away from all prying eyes, including his. And especially hers.

"I deserve it. It's all my fault!"

"Your fault?" Gunn spoke up, disengaging himself from Fred's grip and stepping forward. His eyes burned into Cordelia's, unblinking despite the brightness she threw at him.

"I...we...oh god...I didn't want to remember...." Cordelia turned to Lorne and he nodded. She knew he knew and she let the tears roll down her cheeks. "I tried so hard to forget..."

"You slept with him and he lost his soul. That's how it happened, didn't it?" Fred's voice was soft and full of acceptance, as if she was finally letting herself believe it. She'd guessed it long ago. Gunn let a mad hiss of air.

"It's all my fault. I killed Angel." Her lip trembled and a solitary tear trailed its way down her cheeks.

"He's not dead sweetie. Not yet. But you will be if you do this. There's another way." Lorne said softly, once again reaching for Cordelia. She stepped away from his touch like his green skin was acidic.

"Not for me there isn't." And with that she turned and raised her hands, shouting to the vast ceiling of the hotel the words to call the Gatekeeper.

And then, time stood still. For how long, no one but Cordelia knew.

When it resumed, Lorne blinked to see the Gatekeeper's terrible visage hovering before them all. Cordelia had her eyes closed and tears were streaming down her cheeks. She looked exhausted and the edges of her white shirt were blackened. What had she just done?

"Mine." The Gatekeeper rumbled before any of them could move, one large, gnarled and diaphanous hand reaching out and burying itself in Cordelia's chest. The Seer screamed out, her head going back and her body spasming, lifting off the ground a foot before it was slammed back down. The Gatekeeper withdrew its hand and Lorne saw something bright and glowing in his palm.

His heart stopped in his chest as he realized what it was.

"The price has been paid." The Gatekeeper's water-filled voice sounded and then he disappeared in a cloud of angry smoke.

The remnants of Angel Investigations stood there for a moment, staring at Cordelia. Fred was the first to break the silence, running over to Cordy and falling to her knees. She cradled the Seer's blonde head in her lap and looked beseechingly up at Gunn and Lorne when her eyes refused to open.

"What happened?"

And then, it did happen, something horrible and haunting.

Light filled the room, but it wasn't coming from Cordelia. No, this light defied a source; it was all-encompassing and absolute. And out of the depths of that white hell there came a tall, strong, armored figure with kind red eyes and a grim smile.

"Who...?" Someone said; Lorne wasn't sure who.

"She's unworthy of her gift." The demon said, holding out his hand over Cordelia. Fred's eyes widened as she looked into the demon's eyes. "Damn. And I really liked her too."

And suddenly, the world tilted and Fred was screaming, her mouth wide, Cordelia's eyes fluttering open and her mouth also opening. A blue orb passed her lips, stealing her breath and flying into Fred's mouth.

The Texan kept screaming and screaming and screaming as Cordelia stared in horror....and then....nothing. Nothing but cool rage.

"Fuck you Skip! I've done everything They asked of me! Fuck everything!" Cordelia growled, floating to her feet as if she were hooked to wires. And with that, she ran out of the hotel and didn't look back.

Lorne's heart sunk. They'd taken it from her and she was empty inside. Nothing but that rage against the world for taking the only things she'd ever loved.

Her visions, her mission, her soul and her Angel


Setting---2005, the present

Lorne tore himself out of the past and swiped at his eyes, realizing he was crying. Beside him, Fred stirred and he kissed her cheek gingerly. He often wondered, if things hadn't gone so wrong, where they'd all be. But Lorne wasn't a demon who dwelled and he sat up, tucking the blankets around Fred's thin shoulders.

Walking downstairs, he spotted Anne in the lobby, her hand spread over her belly and a cell phone in her hands. She hung up just as he reached the bottom step.

"What's the haps? Are they okay?" Anne looked visibly relieved as she answered, but there was a worried glint in her eyes.

"They're fine. And they're bringing someone with them."

Chapter 6