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Chapter Eight

Fan Fiction: From the Shadows

Chapter Eight: Mustering a Response

"A good battle plan that you act on today can be better than a perfect one tomorrow."
~General George S. Patton


The journey from Wesley's apartment to the Hyperion had been accomplished without major incident. That was, perhaps, luckier than they deserved; it occured to Wesley about halfway through the trip that if his reflection disappeared during an attack, then a sun allergy might follow. A distinctly unpleasant thought.

He had to admit, however, that it would be a fairly spectacular way to die. Going up in flames at 40mph with a desirable woman in his arms; if he had seen that on a questionnaire of likely deaths in his youth, he would have laughed and skipped over it to mark "job-related injury." He was, after all, a Watcher born and bred. No, strike that. A Watcher raised. Who knew what he had been born to be?

Of course, it followed that an uneventful journey should have an unpleasant end. How did that saying go? "For every up there is a down, For every square there is a round"... No, that was from a Disney cartoon one of his young cousins had been obsessed with.

Wesley had never gotten past the absurd butchering of history to enjoy the film, but it didn't make that lyric fragment any less true. All the same, someone needed to inform the Fates that their sense of timing could use a little work. A little space between ups and downs would have been very helpful at this point.

Cordy had a vision around 3:00am about Wolfram and Hart. They have, or will have, Dawn; it looks like they're planning some kind of sacrifice. She also saw Faith talking to Lilah. It doesn't look good. I'm calling Gunn and Fred; Cordy and Groo are meeting me there. I'll leave my cell phone on.

Undoubtedly, Angel had left a note instead of calling because Wesley had asked for time alone. That would not be inherently worrisome, except for the fact that Dawn was involved, as well as Wolfram and Hart, and that it was now seven hours and sunup since the vision had taken place. Where had they gone? And how did Jonathan's news affect the situation?

"Wolfram and Hart?" Jonathan asked, in response to his earlier comment. "Are they lawyers?"

Wesley stared at him with a sinking feeling in his stomach. "Yes. They're a law firm that specializes in serving demons and the dark side of humanity. Does that make a difference to your story?"

"Actually, it does," Jonathan said, and worried lines crept into place around his eyes. "I got wish-napped last night; Anya's gone vengeance again, and Warren thought it would be fun to ask her to summon me. I ended up at Buffy's house, and while I was there Mr. Summers called."

"Her dad?" Faith interrupted, sitting up straight from her relaxed position on the couch. "That loser? What did he want?"

Jonathan flinched at the sudden movement, then looked down at the floor. "Uh, Dawn, actually," he answered. "Spike said-- um, I was out on the porch with him at that point-- that he could hear them talking, and that her dad wanted them down here to meet some lawyers today. It makes sense that the lawyers would be these Wolfram and Hart guys."

"That's not good news," Wesley said, absently rubbing the sheet of note-paper between his fingers. "Are you certain? I can't imagine any father setting his own daughter up in that manner."

Faith snorted. "With Wolfram and Hart involved, anything is possible. They could be playing him; he might really think he just wants her back."

"But why would evil lawyers want Dawn?" Jonathan sounded a little bewildered. "Aren't there easier ways of getting teenage girls for whatever they're doing?"

"Dawn is a great deal more than a teenaged girl," Wesley said, shortly. Now was not a good time to try explaining about the Key. He pulled his mobile phone from his jacket pocket, and began to dial Angel's number.

The phone rang several times, but there was no answer. Next, Wesley tried reaching Cordelia, then Gunn, and finally Fred; the Groosalugg was not on their office mobile plan, or he would have called the Pylean champion, too. He left brief messages at every number.

Then, for good measure, Wesley tried the hotel extensions in Lorne's and Angel's rooms. Like electricity, plumbing, and furniture, telephone service was iffy in the aging hotel's upper floors, but Angel had made an effort to refurbish a few areas. It had given the team something to do during the agency's dry periods.

Somewhere in the midst of all the dialing, Faith jumped to her feet and began pacing the lobby. "Nobody home?" she asked, trailing a finger down the glass front of the weapons cabinet. "Maybe they turned their cell phones off. They could be doing a stakeout, or something, since Dawn isn't in L.A. yet."

"Actually, I don't know when they were coming," Jonathan said. "If it was early, she could be. Spike didn't tell me, if he knew. Does Lorne have a cell phone? Spike was talking to him."

Wesley shook his head in frustration. "No, Lorne usually stayed here. He didn't feel the expense was worth the hassle."

Faith opened the cabinet, and began sorting through the weapons. Her voice was a little muffled, but it still carried easily to Wesley's ears. "So, we have no info, and no backup. Guess that means we're going to find out the hard way. How about you call Sunny-hell while I pick out some toys?"

"Quite." Wesley watched her test the heft of various swords and axes as he dialed the only two Sunnydale numbers he knew, the Summers residence and the Magic Box. There were no answers.

"I'm not getting an answer at Buffy's house or at the shop," he announced. "Jonathan, I need a phone book and a list of anyone else who was there last night." Then, for good measure, he dialed the number of a friend he still had in the Watcher's Council. If there was no time to search the prophecies again before they went out, perhaps he could pick up some highlights from another informed source. Unlikely, but possible.

Jonathan sighed and went into the office. There was a Sunnydale phone book in there somewhere, Wesley knew; Angel Investigations didn't often use it, but it only seemed prudent to keep one in case of Hellmouth-y emergencies. This event certainly qualified.

His friend was actually home, but he was otherwise just as useless as all the other numbers Wesley had called. Only one thing he said caught any of Wesley's attention: "... passing mention of a new Master with two sires. That's not supposed to be possible; the research arm is demanding funding for new experiments..."

Two sires? A new Master? The implications made Wesley feel ill.

"Yes, yes, thank you, Cyril. That was very helpful." He cut off the call with a concentrated frown, and looked up to find Jonathan standing in front of him, shifting uncertainly from foot to foot, with a phone book grasped in each hand. The spine of one contained the name Los Angeles, the other, Sunnydale.

Wesley reached for the Sunnydale phone book without a second thought, but Jonathan shifted it away. "Um," the boy said, "I thought you might want to see this one first."

Curious now, Wesley took the Los Angeles phone book, and widened his eyes in surprise at what he found written on the cover.

"Hellmouth moved to LA? Key. W&H basement."

Someone had been taking notes while talking to an informant; it could only have been Spike. Was someone really trying to move the Hellmouth? The energy-shift alone would cause untold havoc, and with a much larger city under its influence, there was no way to predict the lasting effects. If it were fixed in the Wolfram and Hart basement, there would be no stopping the law firm anymore.

"So that's what they need Dawn for," he commented, tracing the elegant ink scrawl with his finger-tips. "Well, at least we know where they are now. Here." He handed the mobile phone to Jonathan. "Call the others, I'll be with Faith."

Jonathan eyed the phone warily, as if it were a stick of dynamite. "Oh, yeah. Like that's going to work. They're never going to listen to me. Besides, I don't want to get left here by myself!"

Wesley ignored him, joining Faith at the weapons case. He had just selected his favorite sword and begun to buckle it on when the third attack of the day took him without warning.

The first had been an unsettling blip, the second a faded blur. This attack was something altogether different. As before, Wesley felt his heartbeat stutter to a stop, but then the script changed. A fire began to burn in his veins. Distantly, he felt the sword slip from his hands and heard it clatter to the floor; then the burn settled into muscle and bone, and he bent over in agony. He clenched his fists and froze, clinging desperately to consciousness, and fought the urge to scream as every nerve in his body writhed in pain.

Nearly a minute passed before the napalm in his veins faded back into mere blood, and his body came back to life. The reaction left him gasping and shaking like a leaf; his fingernails had left half-moon cuts on his palms, bleeding sluggishly, and he could feel a bruise where Faith had grabbed at his shoulder to steady him. Even as he noticed those small pains, they began to fade; how much humanity had he already lost?

"Wes? Wes, is it over?"

He focused his eyes, and looked up. Faith was crouched in front of him, searching his face with a wild, worried look in her eyes. "Wes?"

"I'm f- fine," he stuttered, fighting for balance.

"You've got to be kidding me," Jonathan said, and took a few steps backward, towards the stairs. "What was that? Your eyes went all yellow, and don't tell me that doesn't mean what I think it means. Is this because of your messed up prophecies?"

Faith made an exasperated noise and grabbed the boy by the shirtfront, dragging him back to the weapons case. "Shut up, J. Make yourself useful and grab something sharp. We'll be taking the sewers as soon as Wes feels up to it."

"Just go in and fight? What kind of plan is that?" Jonathan objected.

"What, you got a better one?"

Wesley struggled to his feet, trying to form a protest of his own, but the words would not come at his summons. Instead, a multitude of distractions sent him stumbling dizzily into the wall; sounds, smells, sights-- No need for glasses, now. He could have picked out every imperfection in Faith's skin, if there had been any to find.

Faith shushed him with a finger to his lips, then scooped up the sword he'd dropped and thrust it back into his hands. "Don't argue," she told him, firmly. "We can't wait for Giles. What if that happens again, and you don't snap out of it? I can't hold you by myself. We need to find Angel, or maybe Spike or B; one of 'em has to be in the Wolfram and Hart building. So we go in, we kick ass, we find out what's going on, and then we fix you, OK?"

If she couldn't hold him? Surely he wouldn't... but yes, it was possible. Wesley took a steadying breath, then responded. "Faith, given what seems to be happening, if I don't snap out of it you'd be better off staking me. From all accounts, the prophecies are not in our favor."

"So when are they ever?" she responded flippantly, then handed Jonathan a cross-bow.



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