Running For Our Lives




Chapter 23: No Other Way

"Hello, my name is Lian." A child's voice, wrapped in ice, came from the shadows a moment before the fifth sister stepped out. Faith's eyes slitted, her teeth clenched, as she watched the tiny demon move.

The body of a child, the voice of a child, but something inside it that wasn't quite right. There was a cruel twist to the lips, dimples pocking her cheeks as she smiled a deceptively sharp smile, and her eyes held a cold fire that drew Faith and repelled her at the same time. The skin, so pale she looked blue was only marked by the black crescent moon tattoo over her eye. Wesley's hand tightened in hers and she held on to him for a moment before stepping forward.

"So? Come to finish the job your big sisters didn't, eh?" She asked, her hands spreading wide in invitation. "I'm not afraid of you."

"You have brown eyes." Lian said, her head tilting as she looked the Slayer over. "I'm going to eat them."

Faith started, horror blossoming in her at the jubilant violence in her voice. A swallow and she stepped backward, her back connecting with Wesley's chest. His warmth steadied her, thawed out the coldness looking at Lian induced.

"Uh...I don't mean to break up this stand off....but where's Fred and Gunn?" Cordelia spoke up, her head swiveling around as if she were trying to find her coworkers in the shadows.

"The mean one wouldn't shut up." Lian said, a pout on her lips. "So I made him cold and he was quiet."

"Where are they?" Angel growled, stepping up beside Faith and glaring at the little demon with his hard yellow eyes, forehead ridged as his vamp face melted over his features.

"No, no. I won't tell." She answered, finger to her lips.

"If you've hurt them...." Wesley warned, his hands on Faith's shoulders. Lian turned her eyes on him and he felt the cold creeping up his legs.

"You! I came here because of you. This is your family. Saris showed me." The cold eyes lit up as she eyed Wesley, that smile wrapped around her features once more. "Showed me what was inside your heart before she got hers ripped out."

"Where are they?" Faith asked, stepping away from Wesley once more, the demon's words ripping her right to the core. These people Wesley had talked about, cared about, had been attacked because of her. People were hurt because of her. She swallowed hard and tried to ignore the pain.

"Shhh Slayer. Come with me and I'll give them back. All but that green one. He tried to read me and I ripped off his head. Didn't like him in my brain where no one's supposed to touch me."

Cordelia exchanged a glance with Angel, filled with worry and relief. They were all still alive.

"Come with you? She will not." Wesley said in a growl, his blue eyes flashing as he stepped between Faith and Lian.

"Then I'll make you all cold and then kill you. And I'll get her anyway. You have a choice here, Watcher. I suggest you take it." Ice melted into her voice, no longer so child-like as that frightening intelligence shone through.

"No." Wesley said, watching Faith out of the corner of his eyes. She was staring at the floor, thick brown blood creeping across the linoleum from Orin's dead body. She could see herself reflected in the blood and she gazed at herself.

"Wesley..." She said slowly, tearing her gaze from the blood and looking back up at him. Her heart jolted as she watched the hurt and anger in his eyes. For her? Or the demon who dared try and hurt everything he loved? She didn't know.

"Faith. No. We'll think of another way." He clipped, reaching for her, but she pulled away, her thoughts racing in circles.

"There is no other way. My way or they all die." Again Lian's voice lost the childish tone and was full of cold fury. A gesture of her hand and something slid out of the shadows, chains rattling as they scraped against the floor.

"Fred! Gunn!" Cordelia said, moving toward them, her sword raised. She got no closer than two steps before she was hit with a blast of freezing, brain melting power and dropped to the floor in a shivering heap. Angel slid across the bloody floor and scooped her up into his arms, a growl escaping his lips as he looked down into the fallen Seer's face. Her features were frozen into a scream, lips blue.

"You fucking bitch!" Angel said, reaching for Cordelia's sword. Wesley stepped on the point of it and shook his head.

"No. She'll only hit you with the same thing and we need you." He said, the mantle of leadership he'd gotten so used to the past year slipping easily back into place. This wasn't the time for violence. This sister was different; she wouldn't let them attack her physically and he knew it.

"Need him for what? He's useless, just like you were as a Watcher." Lian smiled again, child-face slipping back into place once more. He whirled on her and clenched his hands into fists at his sides. "You can't protect her. Just like you couldn't protect her from yourself."

As she spoke, Fred was lifted off her feet and fell into the tiny demon's arms, her hair falling across her pale face in dark slashes. Her head lolled limply on her long neck and Wesley felt his heart lurch.

"No! Leave her alone!" He said, his voice thick and his mind reeling in circles. Not Fred. She was too innocent, too helpless and she'd been hurt enough. Hurt by himself and countless others and he couldn't bear to see his friend like that. "Please..."

Faith watched him, her eyes shifting back and forth between Fred and Wesley. She saw the worry in his eyes and the pain at the thought that the girl was going to be hurt. A memory replayed itself in her ears and she felt tears welling in her eyes.

~You love her?~

~Thought I did...~

Faith came back to herself and blinked back a tear. She licked her lips once, her heart breaking. Then she swung her elbow back. It connected solidly with Wesley's nose and he stumbled backward, his eyes rolling up in his head before he fell to the ground, motionless.

She stood for a moment, staring at her fallen Watcher and tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. Angel stared wide-eyed at her, his fanged mouth opening as if he didn't know what to say to her.

Lian giggled.

Faith wheeled on her and snapped. "Put her down and let's go. We don't need these people anymore." She tried to push the emotion out of her heart, but it snuck in, making her voice thick. "Tell...tell him I lo...I'm sorry." She whispered, knowing Angel would hear it.

"Faith, no..."

"Let's go! Now!" She barked at the little sister, ignoring Angel's pleading voice as the vampire struggled to his feet and pushed Cordelia's body off his lap as gently as his speed would allow.

Lian dropped Fred onto the floor immediately and reached for the Slayer, her tiny pale hand outstretched; Faith felt the cold long before her skin touched the demon's hand. As their flesh met, Faith jerked, and her breath spiraled out of her chest, coming out of her mouth in a frozen puff of breath that swirled away in the air. She felt the world spinning away from her as the demon's power filled her.

"Faith!" Angel screamed, reaching for her.

Too late. She disappeared in a blast of ice that sent Angel sprawling, tiny icicles puncturing his skin as he warded off the blast. A moment later he looked up and she was gone.


Patil flipped his phone shut and nodded at Travers. The older man smiled and sat back against the plush cushions of the sofa. He looked out of the huge window of the hotel room, the lights of Los Angeles dimmed by the darkly tinted glass. Several of the gathered Watcher's followed his gaze and waited for him to speak.

"This is a new day." He noted, taking a sip of champagne and running a hand over his bearded chin. A beat and then he said, "Call all the Watchers with Slayers-in-Waiting. We'll have a new Slayer within twenty-four hours and I want her profiled. Make sure the warlock's keep their connection to the power sources open in case an untrained girl gets Chosen. I don't want another mistake."

"The plan?" Lydia asked, looking up from her scrawled notes, a pen between her teeth.

"Off, but ring the Operatives and tell them to stay where they are. I still want them around for something else and in case something goes wrong." Travers replied, his mouth drawing up into a sarcastic smile.

"You think it will?" Patil asked, his face dark with worry.

"No, but with Faith, nothing is a sure thing."

"And Wyndham-Pryce?" Patil asked, his bushy eyebrow arching at Travers. "That detective agency of his won't take this lightly, sir."

"We'll kill them of course." Travers answered, taking another sip and swishing the golden liquid over his tongue.

"But...sir...they work for the Powers." Lydia protested from her seat next to the window, the rim of her glasses glinting in the lamplight. "With Angelus...Angel, the vampire with the soul. We can't just..."

"Just what?"

Just...we shouldn't...." She protested, fidgeting in her seat as she looked her superior over. The older man set his champagne down and smiled.

"The Council does what it has to in order to protect the world from fiends like Faith. Angel should have been staked many years ago, but we have taken a stand of non-intervention in his case. No longer."

I know sir, but they're good people and Wesley was a Watcher. Angel is not like Faith..." Lydia protested, the pen clutched in her hand so hard her knuckles were white.

"Wesley was a poor Watcher and a miserable choice to send to this wretched country. He's long shown his disloyalty to us by harboring Faith. He gets in my way, he dies along with Angel's people. And there's no Buffy Summer's here to save him now. We are the Watcher's Council, the highest Council and the only one that gives a fat damn about this miserable planet. We do what we think is right and this is right. There is no other way." Travers said, a power-mad glint in his eyes. Lydia was disturbed by that glint and she swallowed hard.

"What you think is right..." She echoed, Andras Connelly's face flashing through her brain. "Of course sir."

I knew you'd see it my way.." Travers said, standing up and walking to the huge window, his breath steaming the glass before him. "Tell the Operatives we attack at noon tomorrow." Travers said, his eyes fixed on the neon vista before him.

"Of course. I'll put the plan into action immediately." Patil said, jumping up and rushing into the adjacent room, his cell phone flipped open and pressed to his ear.

"That will be all, everyone." Quentin said, dismissing him with a wave of his hand, his eyes still glued to the cityscape. The assembled Watchers stood as one and shuffled out the door. "And

She stopped and looked fearfully back over her shoulder. "Yes sir?"

"Do not defy me again. I have no qualms about making another example for the others to follow. You warn them and I'll kill you myself." Quentin said, looking back over his plump, rounded shoulder at her, that mad glint still in his eyes.

Lydia trembled and shook her head, backing out of the room as fast as she could go. Connelly's blue eyes flashed before her and she remembered the body that had been brought back to the Council's mansion and burned, a bullet hole in its head.

He was going mad and taking them all with him.

Chapter 24