Running For Our Lives




Chapter VII: Explosion

"Okay. Between you and Wesley, the brooding is getting too damned much." Cordelia said, plunking herself down in front of Angel. He looked up from the book in his hands, eyes bloodshot and sunken in.


"Don't Cordelia me. I'm tired of it. This has gone on long enough and you're going to go tell Wesley you're sorry for treating him like a leper."

"I haven't been---"

"YES. You have! You need him and the way you're treating him is just driving him into insane-o land. You're both sorry, so stop acting like a couple of bickering old women and suck it up. We're not going to get Connor back if we fight amongst ourselves." Cordelia told him, standing up and bringing him up with her.

"I know...I just... It hurts Cordy." Angel said in a haunted voice, frowning down at her. She hugged him and muttered into the dark cotton of his shirt.

"Of course it does, but itís going to hurt a lot more if you lose Wes too. I need you both, as friends and family again." She said, exasperation and sorrow in her voice.

"Alright. I'll try." He murmured into her hair, smiling slightly.

"Goodie! We'll go over to his place right now!" She said, bounding out of his arms and making him feel slightly naked without her draped across his chest. Her smile stretched wide and she tossed his duster at him.

"Right now? I was thinking we'd work our way up to..." His voice trailed off at the resolve on her face. "Or we could go now." He said, following her out of the hotel.


Wesley dropped the phone and dived for Faith, slamming into her and the couch and making it topple backward. The two hit the ground and rolled behind its meager shelter as the intruder sliced at the coffee table.

The sound of splintering wood filled the air and Wesley's eyes widened, face inches from Faith's, a bewildered expression gracing her features. "What the hell is going on?"

"No time. Come on!" He grunted, ducking his head as the black-clad figure leapt over the couch. Faith instinctively kicked out her leg, connecting solidly with the intruder's knee. The knee buckled and the intruder went down, giving Wesley time to crawl to his weapon's trunk. He grabbed the nearest weapon and tossed it to Faith.

On her knees, Faith caught the proffered sword and blocked a swing from one of the assassin's blades just in time. Wes flinched as the sound of metal on metal reverberated off the walls. Faith climbed to her feet, pushing back the assassin with her blade as she rose.

They circled each other, sizing up the competition, eyes narrowed. Faith watched the woman, ice-blue eyes and skin-tight ninja gear giving nothing away. Her movements were fluid and cat-like, her body small and compact. The blades in her hands seemed to work as extensions of her body. Faith knew immediately this woman was a skilled opponent and nearly her equal.

And, as the ninja spun at her, wicked blades flashing and sliding against the edge of Faith's blade, she noticed she was strong too. Too strong for a human and Faith smiled. She could kill this one.

The assassin nodded at her and the battle began in earnest, each spinning, ducking, blocking and kicking. Faith reeled under several punches to her face and middle, anger seething in her soul. The assassin was good, but Faith was better; she turned the tables and Faith felt her booted heel connect solidly with the ninja's sidearm, knocking the blade from her hands; it skittered across the floor and out of sight. The ninja's ice-blue eyes narrowed once more and she felt anger flashing just below that carefully schooled surface.

Then, as if the loss of one blade was enough to give her more strength, the ninja kicked out, hitting Faith in the chest and knocking her over the toppled couch. Faith rolled with the blow and came up on her knees, one hand clutching a piece of smashed coffee table. She threw the makeshift stake and watched as it was buried in her shoulder. The ninja staggered back two steps and dropped her blade, all feeling lost in the sword hand.

"Not a vamp, but that'll do." Faith said, jumping back over the couch. She grabbed the bleeding assassin and hauled her back against the wall. "So, wanna tell me who you are?" Faith asked, ripping off the ninja's face mask. Her eyes widened as she saw the ninja had no mouth. "Ewww." Was all she got out as the ninja freed a hand and punched her.

A tuck and roll brought her back to her lost blade and she scooped it up, swinging it an arch that would have taken Faith's hand off at the wrist if she hadn't have twisted out of the way at the last minute. Stumbling backward, Faith tried to foot sweep her, but she countered, going low and catching Faith on the arm.

She gritted her teeth as blood sprang from the wound, adrenaline surging as her anger came. She leapt to her feet and danced around the assassin, blades crashing, clicking, fists flying when she saw weakness.

Meanwhile, Wesley hadn't been idle; he was busy loading his repeating crossbow with arrows, cursing as he dropped one and then had to roll out of the way of the fighting women. Finally the last arrow was in the groove and he raised it, looking for a shot. It was then, as he watched them, eyes squinted through the glare reflected on his glasses, that he saw it. His blood ran cold as he saw the crescent moon tattoo on the side of the ninja's face.

"Mateo!" He called, making the mouthless demonic woman lift her head and stare sharply at him. Her chest was clear to him and he fired, shot after shot, transfixing the demon with arrows like a straw dummy. "Faith! Now!"

Faith took his cue and ran the demon through with her sword, the blade sliding in to the hilt. As she did so, a high, shrill scream was heard throughout the room and they both had to clutch their hands to their ears, even though they knew that the sound was echoing in their skulls. Faith grunted and pulled the sword out of Mateo's middle and kicked the body to the floor. The scream petered out and the body was still.

Faith looked up at Wesley, chest heaving, blood flowing steadily from the slice on her arm. "What the hell was that about?" She asked him, flicking hair out of her eyes.

"Mateo. She's a sister of the Five." Wesley answered, putting down his empty crossbow and grimacing down at the seeping green blood stain on the floor.

"Five? Five what?"

"Five immortal demons who claim to be sisters.
They're highly experienced killers, quite deadly from what I remember. This is Mateo, the psychic assassin, that's why she needs no mouth." Wesley said, grabbing her arm and wiping away blood with his palm. He examined the wound and pressed his hand against it, blood flowing sluggishly through his fingers.

"Wow, you can take the man off the Council, but you can't take the Watcher outta the man." Faith said, smiling crookedly at him.

"That's....that's an odd choice of words." Wesley began, wondering how much he should tell her, when suddenly he felt, rather than saw, the "dead body" moving.

Time slowed as he turned to face Mateo's fallen body, eyes widening as she sat up, nerveless fingers holding up her last weapon. Faith saw it too and grabbed Wesley around the waist, hauling him backward. She crashed through the already broken window, Wes in her arms.

They hit the ground just as the grenade in Mateo's hands exploded and the building went up in a glass shattering, earth moving ball of fire. Faith rolled out of the way as glass rained down on them, dragging an unconscious Wesley with her. She moaned as she saw one side of his face was thick with blood, a wound on the side of his face bleeding like the proverbial butchered pig. Wincing, she dragged him away just as large, fiery wooden beam descended upon them, the side of it catching Faith on the leg.

She screamed, fire licking at her leg and running up the cloth of her pants.


Angel threw the car into park and dived over Cordelia, blocking her from the fiery debris raining down on them. She cowered under him, eyes wide as her heart tapped a staccato beat in her chest. Finally after what seemed like years, Angel let her up and she stared in shock at the wreckage of Wesley's apartment building.

"Come on!" Angel said, pulling her along after him, not bothering to slam the door of the convertible. He ran to the wreckage and entered the burning building, heat scorching his face. Cordelia followed closely behind him, hand over her mouth as she tried not to breathe in the smoke. When he got to what he assumed was once Wesley's front door, he kicked the ruined wood away from the frame and barged in.

His heart sunk as the first thing he saw was a dark lump burning on the floor and several charred limbs strewn across the blazing floor. Behind him, he heard Cordelia scream. He turned, gathering her up and hiding the sight from her view.

Suddenly, the floor beneath them began to buckle and Angel scooped her up, running down the stairs as fast as he could. Out in the clear air, Cordelia coughed, tears streaming down her ash-smudged cheeks. "Oh God...Wesley! Angel...Wesley's dead!"

But Angel ignored her, eyes blazing red as he saw Faith pull out in the convertible, her face pale, eyes wild. Their gazes met across the distance and the Slayer started, mouth open in shock. Then her face went hard and she squealed away from the curb and sped off down the street.

Chapter 8