Running For Our Lives

                           

 

 

Chapter I: Lost and Found


It left a scar. Wesley frowned at the reflection in the mirror, tilting his head to look at the puckered, pale flesh that ran from his Adamís apple to the hollow below his ear. The skin stretched slightly as he took the slack off of it, his blue eyes mourning the loss of the previously perfect skin.

With a sigh, he righted his head and let his fingers walk their way down his chest to the flat, shiny scar on his stomach, just to the right of his navel. Nestled in the coarse, dark hair of his belly, he felt the bullet wound, realizing it had been more than a year since he'd acquired it. A phantom pain, left over from the days when all he had to do was sit up and feel the wound searing, shot through his gut, reminding him it hadn't been long enough. He swallowed and his fingers left the hole, winding their spidery way to his wrists.

Anyone who didn't know him would have guessed he had burned himself on a hot plate cooking, or something benign like that. Not so, Wesley thought as he fingered the rope burns, remembering all too well the face and eyes that had given them to him. He closed his eyes, the scent of vanilla and cinnamon wafting through his senses. He teetered on his feet, a moan escaping his lips as he wondered, wished, waited for her image to leave him.

A pregnant pause and his eyes flickered open, meeting his own through the flat glass of the mirror. He knew he looked like shit, neck wound aside. It had been days since he'd felt the need to shower, and even longer since he felt the need to shave. The very idea of a sharp object near his throat made him cringe and retreat out of the bathroom.

He did just that, walking so quickly from the little room that he had to walk backward a step to turn off the light properly. As he walked into the cluttered, cave-like living room, he heard the beep of the answering machine and a breathy voice he knew only too well. Guilt and longing shot through his gut as Fred begged him to come into work that day. He squeezed his eyes shut against her drawling, haunting voice, daring her to tell him it was all right, that no one blamed him. She did neither. No, she told him he was needed, he was a part of the family, that they missed him.

But Wesley knew better. He dimly recalled the days he had lain in a hospital bed, eyes swimming with faces he knew and loved. Faces that accused him and pitied him at the same time.

First had come Fred and Gunn, holding hands like they had a lifeline between them. They held each other up as Fred had fretted over his tubes, the oxygen and the IV's in his wrist. Gunn, eyes steady and jaw set, loomed over his girlfriend like a silent sentinel. Gunn, Wesley's best friend and rival, had tears in his eyes as he looked down at him. They had gone quickly, too quickly for Wesley's liking; he knew they didn't hate him.

Neither did Lorne, who had snuck in under a large hat and dark glasses. The bruise on his temple was fading to a dull olive green and it did little to mar the smile on the demon's face. A muttered, half-drugged apology had seemed to suite him and he shrugged the attack off with wave of his hand. Then he left him and Wesley felt pain surge in his heart. He knew who would come next and he waited.

They had both come, clinging to each other, anger seething in the back of their eyes, but worry sketched into the drawn features of their faces. Cordelia, whom he had rarely seen cry, had broken down and wept, her head his lap. From his haze, he could only make out a few words.

"We thought you were dead and Connor's gone and I should have been there! You're such a fucking idiot! How could you! God, I was so worried! Dumbass!"

Angel had scooped her up, gathering her against his chest and stilling her wracking sobs with a gentle hand on her face. Something seemed to pour out between as they stood there, breast to breast. Wesley frowned, eyes focusing and unfocusing as he tried to remember something he had heard Fred say. Kye-rumption? But the thought was gone, like water between his fingers, before he could call it back.

It was then that Angel's eyes met Wesley's. The utter betrayal Angel felt resonated throughout him as he looked down at the fallen Watcher. Wesley knew that Angel felt he had paid his blood price for his Judas kiss. But that didn't change things. Angel still walked out without saying one word to his companion. Wes was left alone with his guilt and the only question he could wrap his head around.

"Why didn't I die?" Wesley said out loud as he came back to himself, the memories that had flooded his mind with such clarity retreating back into the shadowed recesses of his memory.

No answer but the sound of the machine beeping and clicking, erasing Fred's message. Wesley sat down on his couch, mind crushed under the weight of the silence around him. "Why?"

No answer. Wesley closed his eyes and wondered if anyone else in the whole wide world was a lost as he was. He didn't think it was possible.


*****

Faith felt claustrophobia closing in on her as she looked around at her new "home."

The small apartment (no hovel, she corrected) was as tight and confining as any cell she had ever been in. One month out of prison and she still felt caged. She sat down in the dilapidated chair in what served as both her living room and her bedroom, legs itching to kick at something solid. The wall had already taken the brunt of her frustrations and now a hole the size of her booted foot stared back at her like a black hole. She wondered if it was possible to get sucked into something smaller than she was.

A slow smile spread across her features, replacing the frown she had been wearing since waking up that morning. She felt a jangle against her flat tummy and fished into the black apron with one weary hand. A fistful of crumpled, grease stained dollars came out, along with a few errant quarters. The frowned returned and stayed, marveling at its handiwork as she counted out her tip money. No one tipped an unfriendly waitress, or so it seemed.

Only one customer that day had tipped her anything more than a dollar and he had left her a number as well as a twenty. The phone number, written on his receipt, was folded in among the bills in her fist. She pulled it out saw he had written something on it as well as his number.

"Hey sexy, call me some time and we'll get to know one another. Love, Gary." Faith read aloud, her eyes running over the number over and over again. She wondered if she should call it.

The thought of a quick fuck was tempting and it gave her goosebumps and a sense of freedom she hadn't felt in two years. She was actually free to date, to see someone. But would they want to see her? She was sure if the guy knew she was a parolee, he wouldn't have been as keen to have her straddling his lap. Or maybe he would? Who was Faith to say what got some guys off?

Maybe fucking a murdering bitch got the guys rocks off. Bile rose in her throat and she squeezed her eyes shut against the memories of years long gone by.

She choked off a scream and threw a quarter against the wall, watching with eagle eyes as it rolled beneath the small, battered coffee table that lorded over the equally battered carpet. She sat there for a moment, scowling at the coffee table and daring the quarter to make its appearance again. It didn't and she sighed, slipping off the chair to retrieve it.

"Nice ass." Came the drawling, lazy voice she knew very well. She sat up, teeth grinding together as she glanced over at her parole officer.

"Hi Rob." She forced the words past her lips, but didn't bother to hide her annoyance at his uninvited appearance in her apartment. Rob took a deep drag off the chewed cigarette clenched in his fist, his blood-shot eyes roving their way down her body. Faith left her disgust plainly written across her pale face.

"So, what are you doing tonight?" Rob asked her, stepping into the apartment and kicking the door closed with his dirty, scuffed boot. For a moment, Faith wondered how this sleaze bag had ever gotten a job as a parole officer. He looked one step short of robbing a liquor store himself.

"No one you'd know." Faith responded, one eyebrow arched eloquently as he took the insult to home. Nearly a month of coming on to her and the guy still didn't get it.

"Aren't we mouthy for a bitchy little murderer on parole? You be careful with yourself or I'll just have to make out a report. A nasty little report that'll be sure to send someone back to their nice little cell. You got me?" Rob said, the liquidy glint in his eyes shining as he smiled a broken, rotten smile at her, one finger flicking ashes onto her carpet.

A retort was ready to escape her lips, but she bit it back. No good to fight with the one person whose say-so kept her free. "Got ya, wicked plenty." She answered, standing up and moving toward him. His eyes slitted and she saw his nasty little tongue dart over his thick, rubbery lips.

"So ahh..what ARE you doing tonight...?" He asked again, his eyes gluing themselves to her breasts. Faith raised one hand, placing it on his shoulder.

"Myself." And with that, she leapt for the door handle, swinging it open at the same time she shoved Rob backward. He stumbled into the dimly lit hallway, a smile on his lips.

"Can I watch?" Was all Faith heard as she slammed the door in his face, dropping the bolt into place with a groan.

As she sank back down onto the chair, she felt loneliness close over her with a familiar hand. The apron around her waist felt confining all of a sudden, so she threw it off, watching as the money and her tablet fell to the floor. She felt disgusted at the job, her life and everything she ever was. She felt lost, but she knew, perversely. That she didn't deserve to be found.

But she still hoped she would be, as she fell asleep in the chair, curled in on herself. She hoped someone would find her and chase away the nightmares.

When she woke up, she was still alone.

*****


London, England

"She's been out of prison for a month." Quentin Travers argued, tapping his fountain pen against the polished wooden table for emphasis. His light green eyes met the eyes of his fellow Watchers in turn, making them each shift uncomfortably under his gaze. What he was suggesting was no longer necessary, at least to the eyes of one of his companions.

"But sir, surely Faith is no longer a threat to the Council. All our sources say she's reformed; hell she hasn't even patrolled in all the time she's been free to do so. She's working as waitress and she lives in a barely serviceable flat!" Andras Connelly argued, a lock of silver blonde hair falling across his eyes as he nodded his head emphatically.

"But that is exactly the reason why we need to eliminate her. A Rogue Slayer is bad enough, but an inactive active Slayer is unacceptable. We stood idle while she was imprisoned for her crimes, but we do not have that luxury anymore." Travers said vehemently, his jaw working as he tried to get point across.

"But we have a Slayer. Buffy Summers is cooperating with the Council once more, even with the departure of Mr. Giles as her full-time Watcher." Andras said logically, looking around at the small gathering of Watcher's around him. A few of them nodded their heads in agreement.

"Yes, but Miss Summers is not in line anymore. If she dies once more, then we will essentially have no Slayer. Can't you see that Faith's life creates more problems than her death? With her death we will have a new Slayer and we will no longer have to worry about going Slayerless as we did this summer." Quentin argued, his chin warbling in anger.

"But what if we tried to get Faith reinstated as a Slayer? She might be willing." Andras asked, leaning back in his chair, hands on his knees.

"I think you're missing the big picture Mr. Connelly. We don't want Faith as a Slayer anymore; she has served what little purpose she had and now it is time for her to step down and let the mantle fall to someone more worthy." Armand Patil spoke up from his perch in the corner of the room, his features impassive.

"You're talking murder!" Andras said through gritted teeth, his eyes wide.

"I know you're new to the Council Mr. Connelly, but do not act so surprised. The Council has tried this before, but Faith, with the help of Buffy Summers, alluded us. Twice. This is merely completing a mission we had already set into motion long ago." Patil said, bushy eyebrow arched as Andras's face paled.

"I'm aware that the Council has killed its Slayers before, senior, but that was long ago. Its...barbaric now." Andras sputtered, not believing his ears.

"Not so long ago as you might think." A blonde woman Andras knew only as Lydia spoke up, her cool grey eyes flicking from side to side as she spoke.

"What do you mean?"

"In 1981, the Slayer, one Uma Choostavenski, became pregnant with a demon's child. When she refused to have the spawn aborted, the Council found it prudent to dispose of the mother and whatever demon spawn she planned to let lose on the world."
Lydia told him, her mouth twisted into an unreadable expression.

"And if the child had been harmless?" Andras asked, leaning toward her, daring her to answer.

"We will never know and I hardly think its up for debate now."
Lydia answered him immediately.

"I suppose not." Andras said, teeth clenched as tightly as his fists.

"So you see, Andras, sometimes the Council must act when the Slayer will not. We are not heroes; we leave that up to our Slayers. And if they won't be a hero, we dispose of them. Heartless yes, but that is how we save lives." Quentin Travers said, standing up. "And that brings me to my next point...if there aren't any objections to moving on?"

He stared pointedly over at Andras, who kept his eyes downcast, clouded with anger and words he'd like to tell his seniors. But he kept his mouth shut and met Quentin's eyes with a cool disinterest.

"I want to bring in some specialists to help with this little task." Travers continued, idly playing with the belt loops on his trousers.

"Who?" Patil asked curiously, leaning forward into the light. There was a pregnant pause and then Travers spoke up, his mouth twitching.

"The Five." He said, waiting for their reactions.

Andras, unfortunately, had none but shock. He swallowed and bit his lip. Faith hadn't a chance now.

Chapter 2

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