Title: The Visitors
Author: Katta ( head_overheels@hotmail.com )
Sequel/Series: 8th in my Birthdayverse series. The other seven can be read at http://www.geocities.com/katta_hj/fanfic/Angel
Feedback: Always, all kinds.
Archiving: If you don't have the other parts of the series already, ask first.
Disclaimer: The main characters in this story are owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Any minor character you don't recognize is probably my invention. The title is taken from an ABBA song.
Rating: R for sexuality and some description of torture
Spoilers for: Birthday, Five by Five.
Summary: Faith turns up just as things are looking brighter.

"Angel," Wesley said after he had tripped on a discarded pair of shoes. "Far be it from me to comment on how others chose to live, but this is a sty."

"It doesn't matter."

"It does, rather." Wesley pushed aside the shoes with his foot to make a clear path. "Even my place looks better than this. In fact, even *Gunn's* place looks better than this. And I know you don't have to worry about such things as hygiene, but there's the question of comfort as well..."

He moved to sit down, but quickly changed his mind about that when he found a greasy hairbrush on the chair. Well, at least it seemed Angel still took the time to do his hair. Although the grease on the brush looked hardened and old, so one couldn't tell for sure.

"I'm concerned about you."

"He hasn't talked to me in days," Angel complained, pacing the room. "It's always Darla. Tormenting me. She hates me, and yet she keeps telling me to come back... offers me meals..."

Something clicked in Wesley's brain. "Angel, how long has it been since you ate?"

"I don't eat."

"How long since you last fed?"

Angel shook his head slowly. "I mustn't. It's wrong."

"It's only wrong if they're human, Angel. You know that, right?" Waiting for a reply didn't seem worth the effort, and so Wesley went into Angel's kitchen to see if the vampire still had some blood left. He found a single bag in the refrigerator and made a mental note to buy more he doubted Angel would think to do so.

"Here," he said, handing the bag to Angel, who had followed him into the kitchen. "Eat this. It's no different from blood sausages or black soup, so I don't want to hear any complaints."

"Wesley," Angel said with sudden clarity and a touch of humour, "blood sausages are *gross*."

Wesley glared at him and wished he could still cross his arms. "Eat."

Angel obediently opened the bag and took a sip. He grimaced a little. "It's cold."

"If you want it warm, you'll have to heat it yourself," Wesley said, hoping against hope that Angel would take the challenge. When Angel just shrugged and kept drinking, he stifled a sigh.

"I saw Faith yesterday," Angel said, licking a few drops of blood from his lips. "I think it was yesterday."

Wesley's stomach twisted itself into a knot. Even after everything that had happened, he still felt guilty about Faith. She'd been all the proof he would ever need of what a failure he was. *Was* he tried to tell himself. *That'll change.* But he didn't believe it.

"Really?" he said, trying to sound carefree. "What did she do?"

"She shot me with a crossbow." Angel frowned. "Tried to shoot me. I caught the bolt. Still have it somewhere."

Wesley stared at him. This was disturbing on so very many levels. "You mean you actually saw her? For real?"

"I think so." There was a hint of uncertainty in Angel's eyes. "I'll see if I can find it."

He headed off, and Wesley could hardly breathe, half wishing this to be just another crazy spell, as troublesome as that would be. Then Angel returned with a crossbow bolt in hand, holding it up to ask for a second opinion. Wesley exhaled, the harshness of his breath making his lungs hurt.

"You really saw her. Good Lord."

"And she really tried to kill me." Angel sounded hurt, as if this had been the first time.

"But she's supposed to be in a coma!" Wesley heard how ridiculously indignant his voice sounded, as if an error had been made higher up in the organisation and all he had to do was file a complaint.

"Slayers heal."

That was true, and blast them for it. For the first time, Wesley wondered if breaking all ties to his previous life had been such a good thing. If he'd kept in touch with the council... but no, the council wouldn't have cared. Rupert Giles, possibly, would have taken a minute to warn him, even if they had never precisely liked each other.

All those would haves and could haves didn't matter now. Faith was awake, and judging from her run-in with Angel her time in a coma hadn't improved her disposition. No reason why it should, of course. He'd fail her horribly before, but perhaps it wasn't too late yet. Perhaps he could talk to her somehow preferably before she attacked Angel again. Faith might lack many Slayer traits, but she still had the determination.

None of this seemed to bother Angel anymore. On the contrary, his face was taking on a relieved smile. "Oh, there you are!"

As long as one of them was happy, that was all very spiffy, but Wesley still wished imaginary Doyle hadn't taken this moment to appear. It rather spoiled any chance of having an actual conversation with Angel.

If the man hadn't talked to Angel for *days*, Wesley thought wryly, aware of just how bizarre his line of reasoning was, would it hurt to wait ten more *minutes*?

**********

Considering everything he'd learned, it was hardly surprising that Wesley felt his heart race when he came home and found the door to his flat wide open. It soon went back to it's normal rhythm as he saw Gunn sitting on the floor, legs akimbo, reading some advertising brochures.

"How on earth did you get in?" Wesley asked, rather sharply. He didn't appreciate the thought of people turning up in his home without warning, even if said "people" was Gunn.

"Magic." Gunn put down the brochure and stood up. "And before you say anything, I wasn't the one to wield it. There was this delivery guy from Sleipner Store coming over with a bunch of stuff, and apparently he couldn't wait. Impatient guy. So once he was in, I figured what the heck, I might as well wait inside. Had to keep the door open for the smell anyway."

Wesley hadn't even noticed a smell, but now he felt the weak tinge of sweet gale. The plant was only used for good purposes and so the smell of it didn't bother him, but if one wasn't used to the strong scents of a magical laboratory, it might be rather overwhelming.

"I see."

Gunn had stepped quite a bit closer now, and Wesley was all too aware of his presence, a lot more dizzying than any herbal scent. He leaned in for a kiss and was both surprised and hurt when Gunn turned his head away.

"So, what's in those boxes?"

"Setups for a spell." Wesley automatically moved up to the boxes, and Gunn followed almost move by move. So whatever that had been a moment ago, it didn't seem like Gunn was actually *angry* with him. Not that there was any reason why he should be well, any *particular* reason that hadn't been there last time they met, anyway.

"It's a false address spell," he continued. "Aimed specifically at lawyers, policemen and the like. At least that's what I ordered, and the clerk seemed fairly confident they would be able to help me out in that respect."

"False address, huh?" Gunn looked at the boxes with somewhat more interest than before. "How'll that work?"

"I'm not quite sure. I think it'll just give them the runaround if they try to find their way here."

"I like the sound of that."

Gunn's voice was in his ear now, and he turned around to catch that mouth, try to feel the warmth of that voice. This time, Gunn didn't move away, but he flinched ever so slightly. Why *now*, Wesley could help but wonder, when it hadn't happened during the first kiss, or the third, or the fifth?

"What's wrong?" he asked when he had let go.

"There's nothing wrong," Gunn said, his eyes drifting away. "Or not really. It's just... I want something."

Wesley felt his eyebrows shoot up. "Could you be more specific?"

"No." Gunn was fidgeting, which meant whatever was going on had to be serious. But Wesley was still stumped when Gunn suddenly burst out, "This would've been so much easier if you were a girl!"

"But I'm not."

"I know. And it's not that I want you to be, it's just... I don't know what to do next."

The cogwheels made a few more turns and finally set into place. "You want to take this further."

"I don't know!" Gunn stuck his hands in his pockets and took a step back. "I don't even know what 'further' is."

Wesley had to smile at that. "Whatever you want it to be."

"Don't fuck with me, Wes."

The smile turned into a grin. "Oh, really?"

Gunn's sudden irritation waned as fast as it had appeared, and he looked so unsure Wesley very nearly felt sorry for him. But just very nearly, because this was much too delightful for that.

"Is that what you want?"

"Gunn," Wesley said, moving in again, sneaking his arm around Gunn's waist. He felt a moment of tension in that strong back, and squeezed gently to ease it. "I want anything and everything with you. But I have no intention of being impatient about it."

Gunn's back muscles relaxed noticeably. "I think it's time for something, though. I mean, I started thinking I got a... boyfriend... now, so why do I *still* lock myself into my room to jerk off... when it's him I'm thinking about?"

Regardless of the crude phrasing, that had to be the finest compliment Wesley had ever received. He leaned down and kissed the pit between Gunn's collarbones to avoid showing how deeply it had touched him. Very slowly, he also moved his hand from Gunn's back to his crotch. From what he found, it seemed Gunn's revelation had come at an acute moment.

Gunn breathed in sharply. "What are you doing?"

"I'm rubbing your willie, Gunn. What did you think I was doing?"

He was met with a low laughter. "My *what*?"

Wesley wondered the same thing. What on earth had possessed him to use *that* word? He wasn't in school anymore. "Your cock," he said firmly.

"You're gonna jerk me off?"

"If you want," Wesley said, kissing Gunn's neck. He wished he could have moved his kisses further down the chest, but his hand was busy with the zipper of Gunn's jeans, so he couldn't unbutton the shirt.

There was a brief silence, and then Gunn blurted out, "How about a blow job? I mean... uh... if you'd..."

The only thing unusual with that request was the embarrassment with which it was uttered, but Wesley still had to think it over. He thought he had a condom in his wallet, but wasn't a hundred about it. "Hang on," he said, forced to let go of Gunn to feel for his wallet in his jacket pocket. He found it and started looking it over, finally having to take it between his teeth to get to the tiniest compartments. Ah, yes. There it was.

He dropped the wallet on the floor, seeing no reason to bother with it, and started ripping open the condom package.

"Are you really supposed to use a condom?" Gunn asked.

"Yes, I am," Wes said, choosing not to point out what kind of women were in Gunn's and his circle of friends. "That's why it's flavoured. Now, if you'd like to make yourself useful, you could take of your shirt."

Gunn obliged, and Wesley moved in closer again, having gotten the condom out of the package and keeping it in his mouth. He ran his fingers down Gunn's chest, trailing the little drops of sweat he found there. Gunn answered by caressing his back, and he shivered in delight and anticipation before dropping to his knees. Like Gregory had once taught him so many years ago, he took hold of Gunn's cock and slowly unrolled the condom with his lips and tongue.

"Holy shit," Gunn said and grabbed hold on the hair at the back of Wesley's head. It hurt, a bit, but soon the hard grip turned into a caress. "Where did you learn *that*?"

Wesley was entirely grateful that his mouth was busy, because he doubted this was the time to talk about his early sexual experiences. One might even call it a turn-off. He forced those thoughts to the back of his mind and glanced up as he continued working. Gunn looked wonderful without a shirt. Since the condom was now secured by his mouth, he let his hand move up to Gunn's arse and then past it up his sweaty back.

"Do you always blow people on a moment's notice?" Gunn asked. His breath was becoming a bit laboured.

"Mhm," Wesley mumbled, wondering if Gunn would continue to ask potentially embarrassing questions during all their future intimate moments. If so, they might have to have an actual talk about certain things, or he'd be condemned to avoid the answers by forever performing fellatio.

But Gunn stopped talking soon enough, and there was even a moment when Wesley could have sworn that he also stopped breathing. And then he felt the shift in sensation followed by Gunn's cock softening, and he withdrew, gripping the condom to keep it from slipping off. By now he was rather aroused himself, although he knew Gunn was in no way ready to return the favour.

"So," he said as he stood up, "that was fun, wasn't it?"

"Yeah. It was." Gunn put a sweaty hand on Wesley's shoulder and pulled him a bit closer. "Thanks."

"My pleasure," Wesley replied, truly meaning it. All of a sudden he felt shy, uncertain of what to do next. This wasn't the quick shag of a school dorm or a public bathroom, but it wasn't the all-nighter of a new but fully formed relationship either. He'd never blown a 'virgin' before, and he kept telling himself to take it slow... but that wasn't what he wanted at all. And at the very least Gunn was still there, his hand leaning heavily on Wesley's back in a way that didn't indicate that he was about to leave.

And then his cell phone rang. Obviously, because such was the way of the world.

"Aren't you taking it?" Gunn asked without letting go.

"Blast it."

"Could be a client."

"Blast it anyway."

But Gunn dug into Wesley's jacket with his free hand and caught the cell phone, turning it on. "Charles Gunn. Yeah, that's us. Uh-huh? Hang on."

He *did* let go at that moment, to cover the phone while he asked, "Can you handle a poltergeist?"

Wesley nodded and held out a hand.

"This seems like a case for my partner, Mr. Pryce," Gunn said into the phone, sounding very businesslike. "I'll put you through."

'Mr *Pryce*' Wesley mouthed in slightly indignant bemusement, but Gunn was reaching out the phone for him and he had to take it. "Hello?"

As soon as he heard the bellowing voice from the other end he knew that Gunn had been right in his judgment. This was very much not a man who'd be put at ease by long, hyphenated surnames.

"My name is Carl Hamilton and I have a poltergeist in my house," the man boomed. "Can you get rid of it for me?"

"Yes, yes I can," Wesley said, careful not to add 'I think'. He'd never actually exorcised a poltergeist before, but done enough reading on the subject to think he knew the ritual by heart. "When would you like the exorcism to take place?"

"Right away, of course! It's breaking everything in the house!"

"Very well," Wesley sighed. He wondered what Mr. Hamilton would have done if he had said that they were a terribly busy firm and that he couldn't possibly get to the poltergeist until next Friday at the earliest. But since he had no other clients at all, that was a completely hypothetical situation and he didn't have to listen to the man getting a heart attack from pure rage. "I will pick up the supplies and be right over. What's the address?"

He got the address and turned off the phone, looking morosely at Gunn, who'd put his shirt back on. A pity, that. "I'll have to leave."

"No need to look so sad," Gunn said with a shrug. "First client is cause of celebration, right?"

"Sure, if we find any time for it."

**********

"I really think you could have called and told us you would be late."

"I'm very sorry," Wesley said, taking a break in his Latin chanting. The poltergeist rattled the kitchen door, making him have to talk a lot louder. He'd get a sore throat if it continued like this for much longer. "I did say I'd have to pick up supplies."

"But did you say you had to do it in three different stores?" the old man asked, poking him in the stomach with his walking stick. "No you did not! I heard your conversation!"

Wesley didn't say anything, because he felt it was pointless to try and explain that if he had known that the first two stores wouldn't have all the supplies he needed, he'd obviously have gone to the third right away. At least Carl Hamilton currently let Bruce handle all the berating on his own, instead of helping out with his booming voice.

"My son hasn't been able to work all day!" Bruce barked.

Wesley glanced at Carl's work, a seven foot half-finished black stone sculpture in the shape of a wrinkly ball. He had a hard time getting used to the idea that a man who looked like a blend of Captain Haddock and an evil Santa Claus was a sculptor in stone, admittedly, but still.

"I'm sorry about that. I'll have your problem fixed soon."

At this, the wrinkly ball started to rock back and forth in the most worrying manner. Carl Hamilton uttered a row of phrases that made him resemble Captain Haddock more than every and ran up to it, attempting to steady it.

"Get that damned thing out!" he bellowed.

Wesley finished the spell and gave Carl a cold look. "Tell it to leave, then."

Carl was much too angry to ask question, and so he roared, "Get out of my house, ghost!"

The noise crescendoed to an unbearable level and then suddenly disappeared so fast that Wesley briefly wondered if it had deafened him, until he heard Bruce Hamilton whisper, "Holy fuck."

Carl Hamilton sat down heavily on a wooden chair. "I'll be damned. That's all it took?"

"The spell weakened the poltergeist's defences," Wesley said, starting to pack up his things. "After it had kicked in, it was mostly a match of willpower. Yours was stronger."

"I'd say it was." Carl's face got a jovial grin, which made him look a lot more sympathetic. "I'd never let myself be beaten by some ghost at anything. Now, how much do I owe you?"

What on earth was the market value of such a service? He should have asked around as he was handing out posters and flyers. As it was, he had to give a rough estimate and hope it was in the neighbourhood of the expected price. "Seventy-five?"

To his relief, Carl only nodded. "Check okay?"

"Check's fine."

As Carl headed into another room, presumably to write a check, Bruce went up to Wesley and started on something that might have been an apology, only it was so long-winded, aggressive and full of inconsequential anecdotes that it was truly hard to tell.

"And the thing about evil," said Bruce, although it seemed utterly unlikely that he'd ever had to fight any worse evil than himself, "is that you have to be firm with it. It's always like that, isn't it? Take that story in the Bible with Jesus out in the desert."

"Mm," Wesley said, biting his tongue so as to not forget himself and point out that there were types of evil where firmness would get you nothing except your brains eaten, and that in cases like those a large flame thrower might prove more helpful. The customer was always right, after all. But he was still very grateful when his phone rang, and he flipped it open hoping it wouldn't be a client he could use more of those, sure, but not right now.

"Pryce."

A warm laughter was heard from the other end. "You've taken to that name, huh?"

"Of course." He made a half-hearted attempt to stop himself from smiling into the phone. He'd really prefer it if he looked like a no-nonsense, first-class exorcist rather than a lovesick teenager. "Where are you?"

"Cresslaw road, clearing out a vampire nest. We could use you here."

The address sounded vaguely familiar, and Wesley frowned. "Didn't you clear out a vampire nest there last week?"

"Yeah, that's just the thing. They seem to have worked some mojo here there are weird scrawlings all over the place. You think you could help us figure out what it is?"

"Absolutely." Carl Hamilton was entering again with a check, and Wesley nodded for him to wait. "I'll go fetch the books I need and be right over."

"Okay. I'm checking the other nest we did that day, just in case, but if I'm not back when you come over I'm sure Alonna will be."

That was slightly disappointing, but he could see Gunn's point. And since the place would be crowded with people from the gang anyway, it hardly mattered. He said his goodbyes and put the phone back in his jacket pocket.

"Thank you," he said as he accepted the check from Carl Hamilton. "It has been a pleasure doing business with you."

That was a complete and utter lie, of course, but now that it was over it rather *did* feel like a pleasure to have done something like that and gotten seventy-five dollars out of it. Leaving was even more of a pleasure, and he actually whistled a tune on the bus home.

Once again, he returned to find the door open.

**********

He'd never know how Faith got in. Certainly not by force, since the door was whole. Maybe she broke it open, or used a spell, though the thought of anyone selling spells to that girl was deeply disturbing. Even more disturbing, in fact, than having one's kidneys used as a punch bag.

"Hey, Wes, old boy!" She leaned down between punches, tilting her head so her hair wouldn't fall into her face. "You're not fading on me, are you? It's no fun if you're unconscious."

Wesley was a lot further from unconscious than he wanted to be, but he was keeping his mind busy. Whenever he thought of what Faith was currently doing, his mind leaped to what she would be doing next, and that made the pain so much worse. Without the anticipation, he could stand it it was still a lot more pleasant than sitting around for days feeling his flesh rot.

And that thought set his imagination off again. Damn it. He forced himself to think of the door. She could probably have opened it with a skeleton key quite easily. The lock was uncomplicated after all, it wouldn't take more than a minute, and the neighbours wouldn't question.

Damn it again.

Her fist landed on his jaw, and since his reflection about the neighbours had brought him back to his surroundings they wouldn't check up on him either he anticipated the next blow and balked at it. Foolish of him. Gunn had told him time and time again that you were to move your head *forward* if someone was about to hit it, since that caused less damage to the neck. Even worse, his move made the rope tied around his body tighten further, and it was already half strangling him.

He gave a low, muffled moan through the gag, and Faith's face lit up at the sound, as eager as a little girl who had been given a present. "Life in you after all, huh? Kinda pleased to see it."

Such encouragement had evidently given her new energy, and he had plenty of time to regret it as Faith rained punches down on his face, his chest, his lower regions... every time the pain from one place started to blur, she started on another.

But after a while, her enthusiasm seemed to fade. She was getting bored, and he would have found that a lot more comforting if he thought she had any particular reason to want him alive after she finished with him.

She took a step backwards, watching the painting on the wall next to her. It was a badly done framed reproduction of a Van Gogh put up by the tenant before Wesley, but it was the only decoration in the room, and Wesley had kept it hanging because it was better than the wall, if just barely. It wasn't like Faith to show an interest in such things, and Wesley came to a conclusion concerning what she wanted with it just as her elbow hit the glass.

She was humming to herself as she picked up the largest of the glass shards from the floor and stepped over the rest to get back to Wesley's chair. "You've been doing better than I thought, so far." She drew the shard down his face. "But there are five basic torture groups, and I'm game for all of them if you are."

The cut stung a little, but was noticeably less painful than the beating had been. The thought of three more torture groups past this frightened him more. As long as she wasn't cutting out large chunks of flesh...

He was really causing more damage to himself than she was, and that was saying a lot.

As she trailed the shard over his chest, he forced himself to stop thinking altogether. All his thoughts came back to fearful anticipation anyway. He wished they could have taught him meditation techniques at the Council but watchers weren't supposed to end up in situations like these. Danger was for Slayers, and Slayers were to handle it.

Faith suddenly jumped onto his lap. "You look bored. Hell, I'm bored. What's the problem? Aren't I bad enough for you?" She put the shard under his pinned-up sleeve and lifted it. "Too much pain already? Let's see what I'm up against."

He closed his eyes as she started cutting through the cloth. There was no way for him to stop her, but he certainly wasn't going to watch.

"I'll be damned..." she said, and he was entirely grateful he couldn't see her expression, because the quiver in her voice was bad enough. But it didn't take too long for her to get back to flippant. "That's some piece of work."

He didn't need to be told. The first night home from the hospital, he'd learned the sight of his shoulder by heart, and during the long months after that, he had learned what it meant. He recalled the number of times he had thought the surprises were over, only to find himself wrong. Those times had become few and far between, but he certainly hadn't expected the pain and humiliation as she cut that God-damned glass shard into scarred flesh.

The cut caused his phantom arm to shoot out. It immediately started trying to twist itself around like laundry wrung dry, and he had to bite the gag hard not to scream. He could always throttle her with the phantom, but what good was pretend murder when the situation was real?

"It's no good," she said, her voice pouty. "I could never hope to improve on something like that."

The weight on his lap shifted, and then he felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder. His eyes flew up automatically, and fear filled his heart.

"I guess I'll have to settle for making a copy."

Please, God, he thought, don't let her do it. Please don't let her. He couldn't turn his mind off any longer, couldn't ignore the images that came with the pain. All he could do was pray, and praying had never been a strong suit. Church had always just been an enlarged version of his family's dining room, with God presiding in the top chair, and as soon as he could away with not going, he had. But now he needed all the help he could get, even from such an unlikely source.

"Can you imagine what that would be like?" she asked, full of obvious fascination, and he could, far too well. He didn't need her whispered details in his ear to start sweating, but she seemed at last to have understood what would get to him and kept adding new things to his frantic imagination. It didn't matter that the shard was only trailing a circle around his shoulder, barely scraping the skin enough to scar.

"You want me to stop?"

He did, but he wasn't going to beg, not if his life depended on it. Instead he nodded over his shoulder, and when she looked down to see what he meant he extended his middle finger at her. He couldn't move much, but that he could do, and he felt a moment of triumph at having not given in to her, a moment was very quickly killed when she grabbed his hand and bent the finger back until it broke. Jesus Christ! He'd lost a limb how could a small broken bone make him want to throw up?

"Still not bad enough for you? How about I break them all before I rip it off?"

Please God, please God... but if his prayers had been pointless before, how much more so would they be now that he had proven to be so utterly foolish. Begging wouldn't have helped, no, but prolonging the pain by ticking her off still was a very bad idea.

Someone started knocking hard on the door, and his heart started pounding with hope. His first thoughts went to Gunn who was bound to have missed him by now, and at least Gunn would stand a bit of a chance against a Slayer. It had to be Gunn, couldn't be the neighbours. They'd never be so persistent in their knocking.

"Wes?" yelled a female voice from outside. "Are you in there?"

Not Gunn. Alonna. Good Lord, if Faith killed her it would devastate Gunn. He mustn't let that happen, but how could he do anything about it? All he could offer was a muffled cry as Faith went to the door, unlocked it, slammed it open and grabbed Alonna by the hair.

"What the f..."

Before Alonna could finish speaking she was tossed into a wall. She lifted her head up and gave Wes a startled and somewhat puzzled glance, but when she tried to get up Faith kicked her in the stomach, rolling her over again.

"Aren't you a pretty one?" Faith said, coming closer with the glass shard in her hand. "Wonder how you'll look with your face cut up."

Alonna was cowering, which was so utterly unlike her that Wesley started to worry that perhaps she was seriously wounded. Slayer strength was only meant to deal with demons, and for a human to be thrown across the room like that... He could only hope that she wasn't, and that she'd be able to get out somehow. It was a bit too high to jump out the window, but he thought one could survive such a leap, and it was certainly better than aiming for the door but please, girl, get *up*!

Faith leaned down over her victim, and as Alonna quickly moved forward there was a glimmer of something in her hand. And somehow Wesley couldn't believe it, but miracles were not to be questioned Faith fell to her knees and then slid to a graceless heap on the floor. He heard a whispered "you bitch" from her, which was quite a textbook examinationple of the pot and the kettle, but he couldn't contemplate that for long, because now Alonna was dragging herself up from the floor and then cutting his ropes with the bloodied knife. "Are you okay? Jesus, Wesley, you look like hell..."

"Where did you get that?" he breathed as soon as she'd gotten the gag off.

"Never go anywhere without it." Her hands were shaking and he could feel the knife nick his skin from time to time, but it was a lot better than the ropes. "I'm surprised you do. Never know when a demon's going to show up at your home, right?"

"She's not a demon."

Alonna's hands stilled on the ropes, and she stared up at him with her eyes round and wide. "What do you mean, not a demon?"

He slowly moved his aching feet away from the stumps of rope and watched Faith's fallen body carefully. Her chest still rose and fell, if slightly, and part of his mind wanted those breaths to stop, but he still had Alonna to think of. She was the one who would have killed a human, and it was very clear from her expression that she wasn't ready for that. Even if he tried lying to her she'd probably guess the truth, and he was much too tired for lies anyway.

"You'd better call an ambulance."

Without a word, she went to fetch his jacket, searching the pockets for his phone. Not until she started dialling the number did she speak again, asking, "For you or for her?"

He could manage without an ambulance, he was sure. Still, if she was calling one anyway... "Both."

"I stabbed a human?" she asked, but he didn't have to answer, thank God, because she flinched in the middle of speaking and then started talking into the phone. "Hi. There's a woman with a stab wound to the chest and... I had to do it. She was torturing him."

She wasn't completely coherent, but managed to get the address out along with a description of his wounds that was much too graphic for his liking. Certainly it couldn't be *that* bad after all, he managed to get back on his feet without further aggravating his injured arm.

Torture, Alonna had said. It wasn't a word he wanted to cling to. If he'd heard correctly she had also confessed attempted murder. Did 911 tape their calls? Even if they didn't, a testimony would be bad enough. Keeping Faith alive suddenly became an urgent matter. Alonna could claim self defence. It'd be a rotten mess, but he'd drawn her into it, he had to get her out.

He didn't dare get down on his knees to see to Faith, afraid he'd never be able to get back up, so he just stood there watching, hoping the slayer wouldn't die, but wouldn't regain full consciousness either. Alonna finished the phone call and walked back to him.

"Are you okay?" she asked, putting her hand on his least bruised cheek. He meant to tell her to check on Faith, but something in the gesture gave him pause. Alonna wasn't big on touch, not with anyone, but he'd seen her do exactly this once before, when that prostitute had gotten impregnated with demon spawn. But that girl had been her *friend*. She didn't even like Wesley.

He fought an impulse to turn away. Whatever had caused her reaction, he was fairly sure it wasn't pity. And whatever it was, it was a moment's comfort, so he let it be.

**********

The hospital was too fucking huge, with too many things for Alonna to watch. On one end was the corridor where they'd wheeled off with the chick she had stabbed, on the other was the room where they'd taken Wesley, and somewhere in between there were three uniformed policemen and a nurse, talking to each other. What they were saying, she didn't know, but they hadn't arrested her yet, and that was a lot better than she would have expected.

"Miss Gunn?"

Boy, was it weird to be called that. She looked up into the troubled face of a middle-aged Hispanic policeman.

"Is she dead?"

"No, she's still in surgery. We have a positive identification, though. Her name's Faith Wilkins although we have reasons to believe that's an alias and she's wanted for several cases of assault."

The name meant nothing to her, but the rest did. "She's done this shit before?" That sure as hell helped her case stabbing a dangerous fugitive was a whole different thing than stabbing a random white woman, whatever the circumstances. Not that either thought was very comforting.

"Not exactly this..." The policeman glanced at the examinationination room down the hall. "I hope."

She thought of what she'd seen in Wesley's apartment, and of the man with the camera who'd gone into the examinationination room before. Photographic evidence wasn't generally something they bothered with for simple assault cases.

Wesley hadn't seemed to be hurt all that bad, considering how strong that girl had been, but Alonna thought of what Faith had threatened, and she thought of listening to those threats over and over... She rubbed her arms that had broken into goose bumps and looked around, hoping to distract herself.

"Gunn!" she said, relieved to see the familiar face among the strangers in the corridor. Her brother steered through the crowd and soon she found herself in a tight embrace.

"Are you okay?" he asked, touching her cheek gently.

"I'm fine. Just bruised."

"And Wes?"

She couldn't meet his worried eyes. What the hell was she supposed to say? "He'll be fine too. They're stitching him up now."

If Gunn noticed the change to future tense, he didn't have time to say so, because the policeman chose to chime in:

"Are you Charles Gunn?"

Alonna stiffened, wondering how he could know that. She sure hadn't told him, and seeing how Wes had clammed up the moment they stepped inside the hospital doors, she very much doubted he had.

Gunn sensed the change and let go of her slowly, watching the policeman. "That's right."

"And is this your address?"

Address? What the *hell*? Alonna stepped up to see the paper the policeman was holding up just as Gunn closed his fists and asked, "Where did you get that?"

"The perpetrator carried it in her pocket. Any idea why?"

Alonna stared at the list of four addresses. First Wesley's, then their own, then the center's, and at the bottom one she didn't recognise, under the one word "Angel". She wondered if Angel was a person or a business. The address wasn't very fancy.

"In her pocket?" Gunn turned to Alonna, his eyes wide. "Do we know her?"

"I never saw her before in my life." She stared at the addresses as if they could provide the answers. "I think Wes does, though. And he's on top of her... list."

She didn't say "hit list", but that was where her mind went. It troubled her, because even though she could think of many people who might put Gunn on a hit list, very few of them were human, and even fewer might want to have Wesley tortured.

"Do you recognise the other addresses?"

"Yeah, they're... people I know, I guess you could say."

"People you know." The policeman's voice revealed that he had formed himself an opinion, but what sort of opinion she had no idea. Couldn't very well be the truth. "Is it possible she was sent by a rival gang? Something like that?"

Alonna's exasperated laughter bordered on hysteria. Gangs. Jesus Christ. She had nearly forgotten the normal situation where people fought each other instead of teaming up so they wouldn't be snacks for demons and vampires.

"We're not in a gang," Gunn said. His voice clearly said he didn't mean to expand on that half-truth. It was a classic line of defence that he had taught her early on: if you can't tell the truth, don't get involved in any elaborate lies. Just say as little as possible.

But what if that wasn't enough?

"Am I going to be arrested?" she asked, forcing herself to stay calm.

The policeman sighed deeply. "Probably not, if the girl lives. But I still want to know what happened back there and why, so if you want a lawyer, go ahead."

"I don't have a lawyer." The disdain she felt died away as another thought struck. "Gunn? Do you think we could call Anne's lawyers?"

Gunn's head snapped around with a force that shocked her, and he caught her hand. "Don't call them. Get a lawyer if you want, but not one of them. Okay?"

"Okay." There was no mistaking the urgency of the request, but she still had no idea as to *why*. He'd have a lot of explaining to do once they got out.

**********

 

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