Running For Our Lives

                           

 

 

Chapter 24: Cold


"How's the nose?" Cordelia's voice was strong, even as her hands shook, her skin still cold from the demon's touch.

Wesley looked up, tears dried on his bruised face, great rivulets of blood spilling out his broken nose and down his chin. It hurt to breathe, but he dragged a sigh into his lungs and said, "She's gone."

"I know." Cordelia sat down next to him, her hands not quite knowing what to do so she twisted them around the wet washrag in her hands.

"She's dead." His voice was broken, that last bit of strength flowing out of him as he imagined her dead body, frozen or mangled or...a million things. His heart cracked in two and spilled out over his shoes as he broke down, not caring who saw him.

Across the room, Angel hacked through the chains binding Gunn, letting the tall black man free. He stood, teeth chattering and his eyes on Wesley. Fred, already free and wrapped up in the warmest blanket she could find, sidled up to him and wrapped the blanket around him. He clasped his arms around her as she burrowed against his chest, her eyes leaking tears as she watched Wesley breaking down.

Angel ignored the Watcher and went searching for Lorne's body, his head giving him directions as he went. Even the flashy demon was subdued, despite his relief the demon hadn't known what would kill him. He caught the edges of Wesley's aura, the sobs singing through the veins that weren't attached to his mind, the colors nearly black and spiked with red.

As the vampire placed his head on his shoulders, the jagged wound sealing immediately into smooth green flesh, Lorne reached out and plucked at the aura, delving into the depths of it, his red eyes intent on the man before him. He found the connection to the Slayer, throbbing and strong and not severed like it would have been had she been dead already.

"She's not dead, bro." Lorne said, kneeling down before the broken man and shaking his head to clear the last remnants of the demon's power. Obviously the power worked much better on humans than demons, because he was recovering far quicker than the other three.

"What?" Wesley looked up, sobs faltering for a moment, tears mingling with the blood on his chin to drip onto the floor.

"You'd know if she was dead. Trust me. We'd all know." He decided now was not the time to get into the details; that would come later. Right now they needed to get Faith back and kill the little bitch who'd gotten the jump on all of them.

"So, where is she? Where is she? I can...I can get her back and everything will be okay...and..." Wesley's eyes blazed; he swiped at his bloodied face and moving to stand, but Cordy pushed him back down.

"You're not going anywhere, Wes. You're about to collapse on your feet." Cordelia said, her hand on his arm. He looked over at her and felt himself weave in the chair.

"I...

"Rest for now. I know how to find her." Lorne said gently, his senses throbbing in time to the hurt in Wesley's soul. He needed to get away from the man for at least an hour, so he could clear his head of the last of the demon's affects and think straight.

"But, I should come..."

"But nothing, English." Gunn said, speaking up and moving out of the shadows, Fred walking with him. "I need some action to thaw out. Let's go." Lorne looked back over at him and nodded, his hand absently running through his short red hair as he walked to the door.

Wesley watched them go, that panicked look still in his eyes as he stood wearily. "I need...to..."

"Shower. And eat. And sleep. You're no good us if you're dead on your feet. No good to her." Cordelia said, steering him by the arm toward the stairs. The tall Englishman wavered once before Fred stepped in, supporting his other side. Together, the three of them moved up the stairs; Angel watched them go, a sword twisting in his hands as worry burned through him.

He prayed Faith was alright. For her sake and Wesley's.

*****

Showered, his wounds bandaged and hot soup courtesy of Fred's microwaving skills in his empty belly, Wesley curled up on the bed in the guest bedroom. Sleep threatened his exhausted body, but he fought it off, Faith's eyes swimming before him. It felt odd not to be inches from her sleeping form, his back screaming because he crammed into the seat of the car.

Now, in the luxury of a bed for the first time in a week, it felt wrong and he longed for her skin against his. He shuddered once and felt that oppressive shadow fall over him like it had the moment he'd woken up in the lobby with his face on fire with pain and Cordelia's shivering face before his.

Sleep claimed him long before he wanted it to, his thoughts spiraling out of his body and into vapor, frozen in the air and ready to shatter. And he dreamed of her.

*****

It was cold.

She felt it all around her, numbing the edges, numbing the pain and sending jolts through her body as something else inside her froze. She felt like she was dying and she knew, from the giggles and the blasts of arctic breeze caressing her face like a knife edge, that Lian was near. She wondered why she couldn't open her eyes to see her.

A lethargic twitch of her muscles and the eyelids crackled under the weight of a fine sheen of ice, tears having frozen in their tracks, binding her dark lashes to her skin. Struggling, she lifted one fluttering lid and gazed at the world around her. It was dark and the only light came from a flickering blue flame in the center of a vast room.

Where was she? She didn't know and her tongue would not work, would not form consonants and vowels.

Suddenly, Lian's big empty eyes appeared in front of her, blocking out the light of the blue flames and bringing with her a bitter chill, even more bitter than the one she was cloaked in.

"Hello Faith."

Faith grunted in her throat in response. She attempted to shift, stiff limbs screaming as she moved against the cold metal chains around her form.

"You look unhappy? Is it that Watcher? You miss him?" Her held tilted, wispy blonde hair falling across the black tattoo on her face. "I miss my sisters."

Faith managed to raise her eyebrow in response. Lian laughed and answered the obvious questioning glare, her voice full of mirth.

"No, I don't miss them. They were...not worthy of the power they possessed. I don't know why I ever soul bonded with them. But I was young back then and I didn't understand I might have to spend an eternity with them. Good thing you took care of that for me." The demon shrugged and touched Faith's forehead, sending a frosty shiver rippling across her skin.

A mystery solved, Faith thought as she heard the demon talk. That explained why they were all different species of demon; they weren't sisters at all. "You understand what I'm talking about, don't you? You have a sister!"

Faith narrowed her eyes at the demon and shook her head as best she could. She didn't understand what she was talking about.

"They want to make more sisters like you and they want me to kill you. How do you feel about that?" Off Faith's seething look, she went on, "You don't like me very much. I never get to have any friends."

"Sss...sssorry, bbbitcch." Her words were slow, her tongue swollen, pushing past lips that didn't seem connected to her face.

"You've got friends. He loves you. What's that like?"

Faith's lip trembled and she felt a flash of real heat moving through her, but it quickly got swallowed up like a rock in a bully's snowball and battered at her heart. "Fffeeelss...gggood."

"
It won't when I'm through with you."

Lian again giggled and bent, pressing her frost-bitten lips to Faith's a moment before righting herself and stalking off into the blue-tinged darkness. Her little fingers picked up various items strewn around the marble floor and prepared them, blowing her breath on them and forming mounds of jagged ice where she stood.

Faith watched until the need to close her eyes became too great. She felt the cold seeping up her spinal cord to her brain and she let it, her mind numbing under the demon's influence. The last thing she saw before she slipped into darkness was Wesley warming her hands in his own, his hot breath breathing life into her, fighting back that cold and winning. He kissed her once, long and hard and the world melted away until there was just him.

If only.

*****

Stan Evans squinted up at Lorne, his milky eyes flickering from his face to Gunn's and back again. A sigh escaped the short, withered mage's lips and then he gestured them in, his feet padding along the floor.

"The Slayer?" He asked as soon as the two men had sat down before him. He settled back into the high-backed chair, his fingers steepled in front of him.

"Yes. If you could..." Lorne said, his mouth pressed into a grim red line.

"And the Watcher?"

"No, we know where he is. Just the Slayer." Gunn said, leaning forward to see what the old man was going to do.

"Watch the crystal." Stan shook his head several times, his eyes fading into a white pool, his voice echoing slightly as if he were shouting from another room. The crystal floated up, wavered on its invisible strings of majick and then it went dark. "I...I can't see her..."

"What? You...what do you mean? Is she dead?" Lorne asked, gripping the table with his hands, his eyes widening at the implications of his words.

"No...I feel her...but I cannot see her. She's very cold." The black crystal wavered once more, threatening to crash back to the table.

"Where is she?" Gunn asked the mage, his eyebrows drawn up in concern.

"In a church. St. James downtown. She's afraid." Stan choked out, and then collapsed, the energy spiraling back into him faster than sight could comprehend. A shuddering sigh and he looked back up at the two companions. "Payment."

"
You're a very persistent man." Lorne said, smiling as he pulled out a wad of cash much like the last one.

"I do not pay the bills with kindness." Stan answered, stuffing the wad into his robe and beckoning to the door. As they stepped back into the early morning air, bright streaks of dawn tingeing the sky pink, he said, "I hope you find her. She is...very special."

"I know someone who would be quite glad to agree with that." Lorne said as he walked away, Gunn on his heels. "And we'd better get to him before he decides to get himself killed."

"I agree." Gunn said, hoping into the cab of his truck and peeling out of there, heading back toward the hotel and a new day.

*****

Lydia adjusted the strap of her gun, her mouth pressed into a thin, disapproving line. This wasn't right and she knew it, yet she couldn't bring herself to speak. Always one with the answers first and the facts written down before they were needed, she was at a loss now. This wasn't a classroom or a translation; this was death and killing and just wrong.

Faith she knew had to die, because she knew the importance of having a Slayer in the world who could pass the birthright onto others should she die. Faith wasn't that Slayer because Travers had said so. But...he'd also told her to kill someone who worked for the Powers. A million answerless questions tumbled through her mind as she sat in the back of the van, Council Operatives grouped around her.

Was it wrong to kill Angel and his Seer? Yes, she knew it was. They were innocents in this game. So, was Faith innocent too? No, she was a murderer. But hadn't she paid her dues in prison for the past two years? Hadn't Andras's notes told her that Faith had been slaying again? Yes, they had.

Those were the facts and she knew they were because she only dealt in facts. Lydia shook her head, confusion muddling her mind. Blind faith had always led her down whatever path Quentin Travers was on; he was her mentor and she aspired to be like him in all ways. Except now, she was thinking on her own and she didn't like those thoughts.

She remembered Wesley from training and she liked him; they were both ambitious, as were all Watchers starting out. You didn't a position like Wesley had landed if you weren't. Now here she was, going on a mission to murder him in cold blood. Her stomach churned.

Perhaps Andras Connelly was onto something. Just maybe.

She looked over at Patil and Travers, cold eyes staring at her, as if they were looking for a sign of rebellion from her. She shifted on the seat and turned her gaze out the tinted window.

Not yet.

Chapter 25

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