Chapter 18: The Way Home
Charles Gunn wasn't much for waiting around for something to happen. He
was a man of action and dammit, he wasn't
getting any. Well he was, but not the fighty
kind. The kind that grounded him, narrowed his world to black and white,
fight kill destroy. He was the good guy and the bad guys went down and
that was that.
Now he felt lost, staring at the sleeping form of his girlfriend where she
was sprawled on her bed, chestnut curls splayed across the pillow.
Lost and useless. Wesley was gone, who knows
where, Angel and Cordelia were acting all
blood vengeancy and Lorne was walking around
like he had a bug up his ass. A very smug bug because for once he'd been
right about something.
But Gunn wasn't so sure he was right. There were too many variables
involved, like why the hell Wesley had gone all tight-lipped again and why
was Faith here. The reasons for the flight were simple enough, from what
Angel had told them about the demon assassins, but still, Gunn was uneasy.
He felt slightly hurt because, once again, his best friend had felt the
need to push him out of his life when it mattered most.
He stood, bare chest shining as his skin caught the light and melted over
smooth planes of ebony muscle. His back was a knot of tension and he was
restless, his limbs aching for a good fight. But no, it was his turn to
play Bounty Hunter and give Lorne a break. He slipped a shirt on and
padded downstairs to the lobby, where the green demon was hunched over the
screen, his red eyes glazed and a cigarette in his fist.
"Anything yet, and put that out." Gunn said, coughing slightly as he sat
down beside him. The Host started and stubbed it out, his bleary eyes
still glued to the screen.
"They used the MasterCard again; they must be heading back home because
they stopped in Bullhead City for gas. At least I think they did; I only
watched Hackers once and I don't remember much." Lorne answered, squinting
at the screen.
"Yeah, I know what you mean. Fred's the real whiz at this." Gunn
half-smiled in the semi darkness and sighed heavily.
"That she is. Little thing asleep?"
"Yeah. She was worn out."
"I bet she was." Lorne's eyes twinkled in the darkness and Gunn had the
decency to look down at his feet for a moment. "So,
enough with the innuendo! Cordy and
Hero Sandwich are on their way behind the rogues. They seemed....less
"Really? Good. I was kind of worrying about
that. Especially Cordelia; she's not usually
"I know, but she's had a lot on her plate lately and when she thought Wes
was...well that was too much for her." Lorne answered, rubbing his chin
with a long, lime finger. "For all of us."
"Yeah." Gunn answered in a grunt and cracked his knuckles.
"Even me." Lorne added, smile turning up the
corners of his mouth, skin wrinkling into darker shades of green. "I'm
pretty damn neutral by nature, but these people just get under my skin.
Makes me want to take a side."
"They're the only side I believe in anymore. They make you care about
them, ya know?" Gunn said, his eyes moving up
the stairs to Fred's door, where she was sleeping peacefully, her tired
mind finally having given out on her---at Gunn's insistence.
"Yes they do. You're all a big family." Lorne told him, leaning back in
his chair and gazing at the screen.
"Dunno if I feel that way. Just here for the
"And the chicks. The chicks aren't bad."
"No they're not." Gunn half smiled and let his eyes wander back upstairs.
"But that's not the only thing you're here for. Am I right, amigo?" Lorne
prompted him as Charles tore his eyes away from the stairs. "You love
these people as much as I do, as much as you hate to admit it.
Even Angel, when he's not being a complete idiot."
"Yeah, well maybe that's none of your business?"
"Maybe, but you can't lie to me."
"Why? You lied to me! Wesley lied to me! Excuse me if I have trust
issues." Gunn bit back, glaring at the demon before him.
"I didn't lie to you. I just kept my mouth shut about something
that wasn't your business. It was Wesley's decision whether or not you
should know. And that's the problem isn't it?" Lorne said, head tilting to
look at the young black man. "Wesley."
"He's....the man is the coolest dude I've ever met and yet I want to kick
his ass so hard. He's a bastard. And a smartass
bastard at that. First Fred, and then that
whole Holtz thing and now...this. What is with him?"
"Whoa! Bring it down a notch, you're blinding me!" Lorne said, eyes
widening. "This isn't about being betrayed, is it?
This just about Fred and Wesley. You don't trust him not to come on
"It ain't like that..."
"Yes it is, hot chocolate. I can tell you, if
Wesley is with Faith, then you've got nothing to worry about. Fred's going
to seem like a high school crush compared to that." Lorne smiled widely,
revealing white teeth. "Those two are on a path and nothing short of death
is going to tear them apart."
"She's what I like to call destiny, bro. I don't know her from a hole in
the wall, but I know Wesley enough tell you that Fred is the last person
in his thoughts. They're Watcher and Slayer and that's a strong bond, but
not as strong as kye-rumption."
The word sounded vaguely familiar and the way it sounded had Fred's
lilting drawl on it, as if he'd heard her whisper it on the edge of his
"Ask Fred about it. She's more of a romantic than me; I'm strictly a
wham-bam thank you ma'am kind of guy. Oh, and when you ask her, be
prepared for a long, long talk." Lorne stood up, stretching and easing the
ache in his neck. "Going to bed. Have a nice
"See ya." Gunn called to his back, taking his
place in front of the screen. Gunn sat back, thoughts turned inward and
his muscles doing that restless twitching he usually worked out to get rid
of. Instead, he shifted in the chair and refreshed the page, his mind on
other things and his lips pressed to a thin line. He let his mind wander
in little circles, from Fred to Wesley to Faith to the words of Lorne and
Angel and Cordelia. A vague worry for Connor
was nestled in there somewhere, but he glossed over it with a terrified
heart. Best not to think about things like that.
The last thing his restless, action lacking mind wondered before he was
hit in the back of the head with something large and blunt was that
kye-rumption sounded like some sort of
disease. And he didn't think he wanted it.
"Pick up! Where are you? This is a bloody emergency and you're probably
out shagging and why won't you pick up?" Wesley screamed into the phone as
the number he'd dialed rang for the umpteenth time in a row. The sound was
driving him crazy, but he let it ring, tapping his thumb in time with the
ring against the receiver as he listened.
Finally, he hung it up with a disgusted growl and stepped out of the phone
booth. A glance back at the car though, and all his anger faded into mist.
Faith's head was cradled against the top of the door, her eyes closed and
her face peaceful in the sunlight. She had that morning glow about her and
he smiled as he felt a thrill move through him, tightening in his groin a
moment before he shook the feeling away and climbed back into the car.
She didn't stir as his weight rocked the car, wind whispering across the
flesh of her long, pale legs. Something small and tight had been shorts
and a tank top, and he was glad he'd learned a thing or two from
Cordelia about what women wore. But his
thoughts were digressing to a state of mind that left no other thought but
her, and he needed to concentrate on other things right now.
If they're not answering the phone....then they're on a case.
Cordelia had a vision or something.
Hmm...and they're not even looking for me!
Well...maybe they are and that's while they aren't there. Oh bloody hell
my head hurts. His thoughts were a little too much for a man who had
been hunted, beaten, controlled and shagged, all within the last
Sometimes he wondered what a quiet life would have been like. Another
glance at Faith and he didn't want to wonder. Let 'em
keep the quiet life; he'd have the world.
Faith stirred on the seat, sunken into a well-deserved slumber. He felt a
pang of guilt, something he'd been more than used to in the last couple of
weeks, at the thought that he'd let her down. Took her away from safety
and help and brought her to the....Grand Canyon? What the hell was wrong
with him? They were, what, sightseeing? A true
testament to the fact that he wasn't thinking any more, mainly because he
didn't trust his mind any farther than he could throw it. All he knew what
his heart was telling him and it was screaming at him to go back to L.A.
So here he was, parked outside of a rest stop along Interstate 40 and too
damned exhausted to go on any further. He considered rousing Faith, but
the look of contentment on her face, like she was a big cat laying lazily
in a sunbeam, clenched the deal. Time to sleep for a
He settled onto the seat, pulling her head into his lap with one hand. She
stirred again and one eye slowly opened. "Stop movin'
Wes...." She sank into his arms and he lay back, just enjoying the feel of
her skin on his and concentrating on the steady rise and fall of her
chest. His mind went back to the night before and all he could do was
smile, thumbs rubbing her shoulder in a smooth, circular motion. She
sighed and sank further into his embrace.
Slowly, he fell asleep. Very slowly.
Faith slowly got out from under Wesley's arm and inched toward the door.
He sighed in his sleep, naked arms reaching for her body, but she squirmed
out of his way and popped the door open, flinching as it made a creaking
As quietly as a Slayer could move, she got out of the car and walked to
the telephone booth, grabbing the receiver off the hook, and punching in a
number she knew by heart, but had never used. She waited for the operator
to patch them through, her fingers twisting around the metal cord.
"Yes we'll accept the charges!" Cordelia
Chase's voice was eager and maddeningly bright.
"Uh...no. Angel there?" She said, voice
trembling just a little bit under the weight of her emotions.
"No. Put Angel on Cordelia."
"Who is this?"
"Sweet fuck, bitch! Just get me the damned vampire!" She exploded,
glancing back at the car parked in front of her, breath hitching in her
throat as she saw Wesley move his head from side to side.
"Oh. It's you."
"Yeah, me. Angel, please?
NOW." There was a muffled shifting sound and what she could only
guess would be Queen C huffing out a great, miffed breath.
"Faith? Where's Wesley?" Angel's voice was as
battered and weary as she felt.
"That's it? No, 'hey Faith, glad you're out of jail and by the way,
are you evil again?' I'm shocked."
"Faith..." Angel's voice was a warning and she swallowed her instincts to
act like a bitch, which was rather hard to do.
"Wes is fine. We're going back to L.A.
We were attacked." She said haltingly, wondering how much she should tell
"The Five. I know. We've been following you
since you left. We thought Wesley was dead. Why didn't you call us?" Angel
asked impatiently, and she had no trouble picturing his brooding brow
furrowed, dark eyes scowling at the world.
"There wasn't time. But don't be mad at Wes! It was my fault too and I
know that we should have gone to you...but..."
"But you thought you could handle it alone. I get that, but I'm still
"Not to mention I haven't had a decent night's rest since and I thought
Wesley was dead and I was seriously going to KILL you and you better not
have hurt him because if you did...."
"Cordy!" Angel could be heard saying as he
wrenched the phone away from his Seer.
"You were saying?" Faith said dryly, corners quirking as she watched Wes
move around on the seat, his head thrown back and that ugly scar shining
in the dim lights of the rest stop.
"Actually, what she said." He said into the phone, voice switching in and
out as static came on the line. "Where are you at?"
"Rest stop on 40 right outside of Newberry Springs.
"Gotcha. How soon can you be here?"
"Dunno. A couple of
hours. Not long if I speed. Which reminds
"Uh...gotta go. See you in a few." She quickly
hung up and sagged against the side of the booth, eyes heavy. With a sigh,
she slunk back to the car and slid in as slowly as she'd left. He didn't
stir as she curled up in his lap once more and buried her face against his
chest, fingers finding his and squeezing hard. If heaven was anything like
this, she would gladly go. But not yet; right now she just wanted to be
here, with him. The morning after, and she was still around. It was so new
to her; she didn't know what to do. So she did nothing.
She nodded off with a smile on her lips and a prayer that he wouldn't hate
her too much when he woke up. She didn't know if she could stand that.
Big, dumb and ugly. That's what the others called her, when they addressed
her at all. Personally, she liked Orin. Orin the
Strong. Orin the Flyer! Orin the Killer.
Orin the Slayer Slayer.
Yeah, that one had a nice ring to it.
The Slayer Slayer looked down through the
darkness, veined wings on her back pumping as her fists clenched, icy wind
whipping around her smooth, hairless body. Sharp beak
gnashing, tasting the wind for some sign that she was on the right path.
She'd have to stop soon and rest, then eat something large. Perhaps a
person, if she could find one.
Orin smiled hawkishly at that thought, icy
wind rushing past her nares and making her
three stomachs rumble loudly. That was the worst thing about flying; you
had to eat to fuel yourself and if you didn't, well she'd learned that
mistake once while flying over Italy.
She still had the scars from the fall to earth she'd taken. It was this
need for fuel that had her so behind. Fast she might be on her wings, but
she couldn't fly during the day where it was populated (they'd only shoot
at her...again). She liked this desert and its open stretches of pale
sand, stretching for miles. Her other problem was that she didn't know
where to go. Sure, she knew Los Angeles,
but that was the only thing she'd started off knowing.
She'd solved that problem the first night after her sisters had left her
in front of the Watcher's Council HQ. Instead of trying to track a person
whose scent she didn't know, she tracked her sisters. Followed Mateo on
the plane to Los Angeles and then felt her die. Then
Uriah, running on her feet like she always did because she liked to
pretend she was a rabbit. At least that was what she'd told Orin once; of
course, she was probably making fun of her again. Orin keened and gnashed
her beak together again; she wouldn't really miss
Uriah. And then had come
Saris, taking her sweet time because she thought she was so great and
"Well she's not." Orin clacked, bird-like tongue sneaking past her beak to
taste the air, searching for Saris's scent on
the wind and opening the channel between her sisters wide. She caught a
stray thought from Lian, but didn't understand
the words. "Captured who?"
She shrugged her massive, hunched shoulders and ignored the slowest
sister; she wasn't even on the trail of the prize anymore---not a threat
as of right now and that's all that Orin cared about. That and ---suddenly
she was slammed with the force of death-energy as
Saris's life was taken. Orin keened high again, throat throbbing as
she tried and failed to draw air.
Her wings beat the air in great, swooping strokes, but the energy took her
and she lost control, spiraling out of the sky to land in a painful heap
in the hard, sun-baked desert sand.
Several hours later, she came back herself, aware that the tattoo on her
face was burning.