Chapter 25: Walking the Path
Wesley started as someone knocked on the door. He sat up, squinting into
the sun-yellowed recesses of the room. How long had he been asleep? He
looked at the clock on the wall, but he couldn't read it. Damn. It felt
like noon though, and by the angle of the sun on the wall, it was nearing
"Wesley?" Fred's voice was muffled by the door. "Are you awake?"
"Did they find her?" He sat up, throwing the blanket off of his legs and
padding to the door. He swung it open and looked down at the brown-haired
Texan, her mouth turned into a frown. "Tell me they found her."
"They found her!"
"Oh thank God. Where is she?" Wesley asked, a weight lifting off his
shoulders and his heart soaring.
"Where?" He pressed, his eyes boring holes in her face.
"They didn't say. It's okay, they'll be here in
a few minutes. She'll be fine." Fred attempted a smile and he had to give
her credit, nothing brought her down. Of course, she didn't have worry and
fear squeezing her heart and making all other thoughts and feelings drip
down her spine. And, he rationalized, she didn't even know Faith, she
probably didn't really care what happened. That thought almost made him
angry and down that guilty path he'd been traveling for too long, it
"They'd better hurry..." He choked back the anger and pushed past her, but
she grabbed his arm.
"I found your glasses. The ones you leave at the office." Fred smiled,
handing him the glasses. He nodded, putting them on. Having gone so long
without them, everything seemed too sharp, too harsh to his eyes. He
blinked and mumbled a thank you.
Wesley turned around once more to walk away, but her voice stopped him
dead in his tracks.
"You love her." It was a statement, but he could see the question in her
eyes when he turned around. His shoulders stiffened and he looked at the
woman he'd once convinced himself he loved. He still felt a tug on his
heartstrings as he studied her honest face. But she was lacking something
behind those brown eyes, a fire that he'd scorched himself in. Her
features were too soft, the smile not sharp enough, the lips meant for
someone else. He missed the sensual pout his mouth had molded to, melted
against. A faint echoing hollow in his stomach reached out, not to Fred,
but to another woman who'd hurt him, just by being near him.
Something had changed and he was almost afraid of what that something was.
"I..." He whispered, unsure of what to say.
"You do. You love her." Fred smiled and nodded, her face lighting up.
Wesley couldn't but smile. She was so sure, even when he wasn't.
"We should go." Wesley said softly, changing the subject, his mind flooded
with thoughts he'd leave for later. He sighed and then turned around once
more and strolled down the stairs to the lobby.
Fred watched him go, a smile wreathing her features. He loved her.
Wesley reached the bottom of the stairs just as Gunn and Lorne burst
through the door. Cordelia looked up from her
perch on the edge of the couch, her fingers stopping in mid-motion as she
rebandaged Angel's ribs. He winced as he
looked up, a full glass of blood clutched in his hands.
"Let's go." Wesley said as soon as he stepped off the landing. He strolled
straight to the weapon's cabinet and opened it, taking out a big
broadsword and a repeating crossbow. His brow furrowed as Gunn disappeared
into the office, but he shook his shoulders.
"Whoa, Wes. We need a plan before we get all
rescue-y. We can't just bust in there with weapons and..."
Cordelia started to say, but he cut her off
with a blazing glare.
"She's going to die if we don't hurry. We've already wasted enough
time...we...we should have started searching for her as soon as she..."
Wesley stopped, a tremoring breath shaking his
shoulders. "I can't let her die. She's counting on me."
"I know she is, but you have to calm down, or you're going to get yourself
killed." Fred said, coming up behind him and placing a slender hand on his
"So? As long as she's safe, I don't care." His voice was hard as steel,
his sharp gaze flicking from each of them in turn. With a shrug, he
dislodged Fred's hand from his shoulder and strolled to the door.
"You coming or not?"
"Yeah. We're coming, bro." Lorne said,
his red eyes shadowed as he picked up his own weapon from the cabinet.
"Hold up. I gotta plan." Gunn said,
stepping out of the office, something big and metal slung over his back.
The others recognized it immediately and nodded.
"Is it full?" Fred asked, peering curiously at it.
"Yeah." Gunn answered, and without another
word, he got his axe out and the others did the same, following the
Watcher out the door. Cordelia exchanged a
glance with Angel, but the vampire remained quiet. She wondered what he
was thinking and why he wasn't beating some sense into Wesley.
"Pull the car around to the sewer." Was all he said, his dark brown orbs
giving her no clue to his feelings. She nodded and followed behind Fred,
her heart in her throat. For Wesley's sake, she hoped they'd get the
Slayer back. And that he didn't kill himself trying.
Fred propped the door open for her, waiting for the Seer to come through.
Just as Cordelia's feet hit the pavement
outside, something descended on her.
Cordelia hit the ground, pain grinding up
through her spine as a booted heel was planted firmly between her shoulder
blades. She tried to twist out from under whatever was on her, but she
couldn't move. "Angel!"
Her voice was lost in the uproar around her. She squinted up through the
short curtain of her blonde hair and caught sight of the others. About ten
men, glad in black Kevlar and armed with weapons of all kinds, were
surrounding them. Fred and Lorne were backed up into the corner, three
mercenaries eyeing the loaded crossbows in their hands. Gunn and Wesley
were fighting off four others, swords flashing in the sunlight. They all
fell under the swords and two more moved in to take their places.
"Your vampire isn't going to help you!" A British voice said, a gloved
hand buried in her hair, yanking her head back and exposing her throat.
She grunted, pain lacing through her muscles as
the man on her back applied more pressure to her.
"Get the fuck off of me!" Cordelia said, her
eyes welling with tears from the pull of his hand at the roots of her
hair. Her scalp felt like it was about to be ripped off, but she forgot
that as she felt something cold and metal slide up along her throat.
Suddenly, something rushed at her and the weight was lifted from her
shoulders and back, the knife clattering to the ground beneath her. She
rolled over, struggling to get to her feet and squinted in the bright
sunlight. Angel, smoking and blistering in the warm sunshine, was
pummeling the intruder that had landed on her. The figure sagged in his
smoking hands, blood fountaining from his nose
and his ears.
Cordelia ran to Angel, dragging him off the
man and screaming at him to get back inside. He blinked,
then dived inside, rolling down the steps and
back into the lobby. Cordelia followed behind
him, shouting back at the others to follow.
Shots rang as Lorne and Fred dived back toward the door, Gunn right behind
them. The shots clipped the door, sending glass flying and the wood to
Wesley started at Gunn's rough voice and ran back through the doorway, the
commandos flooding in after him. He stopped, his sides heaving, the stitch
in his lip bleeding slightly and his eyes blazing. He knew who they were.
"Hello Mr. Wyndham-Pryce." Quentin Travers said, removing his dark mask
and smiling smugly at the six companions.
"Hello Quentin." Wesley answered, fingering his loaded crossbow.
"I wouldn't." Armand Patil said, coming up
behind Travers and pointing his semi-automatic at Wesley. "Fire that thing
and they'll all die."
"You're going to kill us anyway." Angel said, standing up from where he'd
fallen, the skin on his face blackened, still smoking from his contact
with the sun. Cordelia placed a hand on his
shoulder, her heart pounding in her chest.
"That's true." Travers said, smiling widely. "You and that murdering bitch
will die and the world will be safe."
"She's not a threat." Wesley growled, moving a step closer. Anger flowed
through him, making his skin crawl, shoving all thought from his mind and
all feeling from his heart.
"Oh no? Who gave you that broken nose? She's
not a threat? Fuck, she taints everything she touches."
Patil spat, his dark eyes blazing.
"You don't know her." Wesley insisted, his gaze flicking from one
Watcher's face to the next. Disgust welled up in him and he wondered why
the hell he ever joined up with the self-righteous bastards in the first
place. One glance at Travers told him all he needed to know. The man was a
fanatic, not a Watcher.
"And you do? Just because you fucked her?"
spoke up, a smirk on his wide lips. Wesley started to speak, but
Fred limped in front of him.
"How dare you? Listen, I don't know much about who you are, but Faith
saved my life! She saved all our lives and you're going to kill her
because of that? You're....just....stupid!"
"Shut up, girl." Travers barked, lifting his own rifle at Fred. Gunn
grabbed her arm and placed her behind him, his eyes burning, daring the
Watcher to fire.
Lorne, standing slightly behind Gunn and to his left, extended his senses
and touched each Watcher in turn. Travers's mind was a bed of sick, rotten
power that tainted everyone around him. His eyes turned to the Indian man,
whose smile was as bloodthirsty as anyone could have imagined. Lorne
shivered and moved onto the next and the next. He felt each of them and
saw that some gathered didn't like this plan. They thought it was cruel
and wrong, but fear and loyalty tightened their mouths and the hold on
Finally, Lorne's senses lighted on a blonde woman tucked in the back, her
gun to her side, her eyes shifting back and forth between the two parties
as they talked and traded insults. Her breath was rasping in her chest and
she looked scared to death. No wonder, Lorne thought as he delved into her
aura and read her like an open book. This woman was divided straight down
the middle and teetering on the edge of making a very big decision.
Across the room, her gaze met his and Lorne's eyes widened, gesturing
toward Travers with a flick of his pupils. The woman's eyes widened too
and she paled, hand clutched on her gun so hard her knuckles were bleach
white. He saw her fear and pleaded with her eyes, his gaze flicking over
to Wesley and back again. The woman gulped, teeth biting down on her lip.
She shook her head and Lorne closed his eyes.
He couldn't make her do the right thing. He could only show her the path;
walking it was the hardest part.
"You don't want to do this." Wesley said, interrupting Lorne's thoughts
and lifting his crossbow at Travers. His eyes burned and he felt sweat
forming on his upper lip.
"Oh?" Quentin said, his eyebrows arched. "I
think you should listen to the men with the big guns, Pryce. Put down the
weapons and we'll make it swift."
"I..." Wesley said, glancing at the others. Their mouths were hard, grim,
and waiting on him to make a move. Wes's eyes lighted on Angel, but the
vampire was a blank wall; nothing showed past his dark eyes and he knew
Angel was giving him the role of leader once more. This was his fight.
Instead of shaking under the mantle of leadership as he had so often done
before, he lifted his head high, eyes bright with resistance. "No."
"Fine." Travers said in a low growl and raised
his hand. Suddenly, something metal and cold was placed along his temple,
a delicate hand wrapping in his hair.
"Put your weapons down!" Lydia's command was pushed out through a closed
throat. Fear laced up her spine and came out in a tremble of her lips. But
she kept the gun steady against Quentin's head. "Drop it." Quentin did as
he was told, his mouth tight and small.
"Lydia! What in bloody hell are you doing?" Patil
shouted, his gun shifting from Wesley to Lydia. That was all the
distraction the group needed. Angel rushed forward, snapping guns and
knocking their owners to the ground. Cordelia
followed up behind him and leveled her twin crossbows at the fallen
Gunn and Fred did the same, holding the others off. A few shots rang out,
but went wide of their targets as Gunn slammed bodies to the ground.
"Stay down! Or I'll kill him!" Lydia said, turning her steely gaze on her
fellow Watchers. The only one still standing was
Patil. His gun was pointed at Lydia and his eyes burned.
"Lydia...put the gun down. You don't know what you're doing." Travers said
in a calm voice. Lydia flinched and pressed the gun harder on his temple.
"No, Quentin, you don't know what you're doing. You're taking this too
far! These people are innocent and you're just going to kill them? I used
to think you knew all the answers, but now...you're sick." Lydia cried,
her shoulders shaking.
Wesley, his boots kicking a stray gun out of the way of a reaching hand,
stepped up beside Lydia.
"Absolute power corrupts, Quentin, and you've had that for far too long.
You sent the Five to kill Faith because you could. You failed."
"We didn't fail, Pryce. Lian is going to kill
the bitch and there's nothing you can do about it."
Patil spat at Wesley, his sights lined up on him. "You're useless
and so is she."
Something broke in Wesley. He shot the crossbow in his hands before he
knew he was doing it, all-consuming anger flowing through his body. The
arrow imbedded itself in Patil's chest, a rose
of crimson blood blossoming around the shaft buried in his lungs. The
Watcher cried out and dropped the ground.
"Jesus Christ." Gunn muttered, eyeing the fallen Watcher and then turning
his attention back to the others before him. Their eyes widened as they
watched their fellow twitch and then lay still.
"Wesley..." Cordelia's voice was soft and it
carried across the room to him as he stared at the blood flowing from the
wound in Patil's chest. "Wes?" He looked up
and blinked, his gaze stony.
"Leave." He forced out from between his teeth. "Go. If any of you ever try
to come after Faith again, I'll kill you. She's my Slayer and she doesn't
work for the Council. You have a Slayer. Faith belongs to me."
"She belongs to the world and we have a..." Quentin started to say, but
Wesley pushed his crossbow to his forehead.
"You have sacred duty to protect the world. I know that. And she'll do her
job and die doing it. But not now and not by some goddamned assassins sent
because you're too cowardly to do it yourselves."
"She's a murderer."
"So am I." Wesley arched his eyebrow in the direction of
Patil's body. "And I'm not afraid of doing it
again. I promise you that."
Quentin's gaze wavered from the hard blue of Wesley's eyes. He shuddered,
feeling the wooden crossbow and the cold metal pressed to his head. He
glanced around at the Watcher's on the floor of the hotel, weaponless
and.....looking with fear at the civilians around them. These people that
should have been dead by now were warriors and noble. They were innocent
and they knew it.
Travers was alone.
"Fine, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce. We'll leave and you can keep your murderer. Go."
His gaze flickered to the Watcher's around him. They stood
up, heads cast the ground like they were
ashamed of themselves. They filed out the door, weapons still trained to
"Quentin?" A Watcher turned, his dark eyes searching the group before him
"Go ahead Mr. Addams." Quentin said, his gaze not leaving Wesley's, the
crossbow and the gun still pressed to his forehead and temple. Addams
frowned and then followed his companions out the door. "Lydia?"
"Leave Quentin." Lydia's voice was steady as
she lowered the gun.
"I'd listen to the nice lady if I were you." Gunn spoke up, his crossbow
still aimed at the door.
"You're making a mistake, Wesley."
"You're the one that made the mistake Quentin. Never try to kill my
family." Wesley shot back, lowering the crossbow.
"We tend to take it personally." Cordelia
said, her mouth twisting up into a grin.
Quentin sighed heavily and looked at each of them, his gaze finally
resting on Lydia. A disgusted snort and the older man turned on his heel
and walked away. Lydia watched him go, gulping back the lump in her
And suddenly, as if everything was in slow motion, Quentin turned on them,
a pistol that he'd kept hidden in his hands. He leveled it at Wesley and
moved to fire. Lydia saw the move and took a deep breath, hands lifting
faster than thought.
One shot. Wesley's eyes widened as Travers fell the ground beside
Patil, blood pooling around him immediately.
Lydia trembled and blinked, as if she couldn't believe what she had just
done. The gun clattered to the ground, her numb fingers dropping it with a
twist of her guts.
"Oh dear lord..." She wavered on her feet and nearly dropped to her knees,
but Lorne supported her. He'd been moving up alongside her and now he
grabbed her in his soft hands and steered her to the couch in the middle
of the floor. "Is he...?"
"He's dead." Angel said as he exchanged another wordless glance with
Wesley. The Watcher picked up his crossbow again and looked toward his old
"I...I've never killed anyone before." Lydia squeaked, her face ashen.
Lorne patted her shoulder and she looked up at him. If she was at all
disturbed by his appearance, she didn't say anything. Instead, she looked
ready to throw up any second.
"You saved our lives." Wesley said, looking at his old schoolmate. "Thank
"I had to...do the right thing."
"Of course." Lorne said,
his eyes soft. "Walking the path is the hardest thing to do."
honey. You should go." Lorne turned to the others and motioned to
the door. "I'll stay with her. I think we need to talk."
Wesley frowned and thanked Lorne with his eyes, then led the way out of
the hotel. He prayed to whatever deity was listening that the interruption
hadn't cost them too much time. He had a feeling they were running out of
it, and fast.
Faith was closer to the blue fire when she woke than she had been when
she'd succumbed to the cold. She shifted, muscles screaming, numbed by the
frozen surfaces around her. Lian hovered over
her, sprinkling something warm on her lips.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Faith pushed out, the warmth unfreezing her
tongue and sparking the anger in her chest again.
A sharp piece of steel flashed and Faith felt it burn coldly against her
skin as the demon cut her over and over again. "That's what!"
Her voice was gleeful and hard at the same time, blood splashed across her
pale blue skin. Faith saw with widened, pain-filled eyes that the
child-demon had disrobed and her skin was covered in jagged scales that
reminded her of icicles. They sparkled and shimmered from the hard angles
of her body, some dipped in her blood as the demon stood.
"Why did you do that?" Faith knew she was going to die and she also felt
amusement. This was what was going to kill her? Some
demon with icicles hanging off her elbows? She fought the urge to
laugh and looked on the demon with a smile.
"Because, I need your blood for the spell. And
it was fun." Lian said, shrugging her
shoulders and turning back to the blue flames. The demon stuck her
blood-dipped hand in the fire and it hissed, licked the blood away and
grew higher. Lian turned back on Faith and
frowned. "Why are you smiling?"
"Cuz it's funny."
"Oh God, where do I start? First off, I'm about to die at the hands of an
ice demon that looks like a Power Rangers reject. I'm in love with my
Watcher, whom I tortured once upon a time, thank you very much. I tried to
be good and yet I still have people out to kill me and I really have to
pee right now. Plus, you have a weird icicle thingy hanging off your ass."
Lian just stared at her, her eyes wide.
"So, are you like, gonna kill me anytime soon?
Cuz I'm wicked cold just laying here and
you're boring the shit out of me."
"Shut up." Lian scowled at her and turned back
to the fire, throwing powders into it and watching it roar higher.
"Uh, if I'm going to die, wanna tell me what
you're planning to do? It's not like I can get up!" Faith said, motioning
to the thick bands of ice around her wrists and ankles. Tried as she
might, she just couldn't break the ice. So she lay back and waited.
"I'm going to peel your skin and eat it. And then I'm going to throw your
bones on the fire and make a potion out of it." Lian
said over her little shoulder, her voice matter-of-fact.
"What does the potion do?"
"You ask a lot of questions."
"Well it is my skin you'll be munching on and my bones you'll be
barbequing, so yeah." Faith shot back, trying to ignore the pain in her
stomach from the cuts the demon had made.
"Fine. The potion will make me invisible."
Lian answered, her voice distracted. Faith sat
silent for a moment and then she burst out with a short laugh. "Why are
"Invisible? That's it? No...'I plan to take
over the world with a potion that'll enslave the masses?'
Just invisible?" She said,
her eyes wide as she smirked.
"It's a great power!" Lian protested, stamping
her little foot petulantly.
"It's a lame power! What are you going to do, sneak into a locker room or
something? My blood and bones for that? Jesus
Christ, now I really do feel worthless!" Faith rolled her eyes, seeing
that her ridicule was getting to the demon. Maybe she'd just kill her and
that would be it.
"You are worthless." Lian
snapped, that childlike mask slipping and the evilness shining
through. "Worthless to everyone."
"But not you and your sisters. You all wanted me pretty damned bad.
What would they have done to me, eh? Made themselves into bunny rabbits?"
Faith countered, nudging at the demon's temper.
"Mateo would have cut off your head and mounted it. She just loved the
kill. Uriah would have made a pelt from your
skin. Saris, she would have killed you and then used
your body to kill others in turn. Orin would have just eaten you,
thinking that she'd be a better fighter for it."
"Wow. Scary. I can see why I killed your
sisters; they were dumb as fuck. And you're not much better!"
That did it. Lian turned on Faith and lifted
the cold knife once more. The blade flashed in the blue flames and Faith
squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the blow that would kill her.
She had time to spare for a thought of Wesley before the knife was driven