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The Hyperion
Two Weeks Later : Noon

Anne could not help being curious about 'the room noone wants to go into unless very necessary': a.k.a. Wesley's ex-office. Anne noticed how Fred and Gunn studiously avoided looking at the office each time they passed it.

Like the rest of the Hyperion, it was in disarray. Books were left opened on the table, and judging from the layer of dust on them -- they had not been touched for weeks.

Looking around to make sure that neither Fred or Gunn was around, Anne snuck in. She wasn't usually this much of a busy body. But two days sitting around doing nothing was driving her crazy. Worse, two days sitting around doing nothing with Gunn and Fred avoiding the issue of 'what happened this year' was driving her over the edge. Her curiosity just demanded to be satisfied, even if it meant doing underhanded things like sneaking around and going where she shouldn't.

It was a very traditional looking study. Row upon row of leather bound books lined the bookshelves -- and from the look of some of them, they were probably older than her. She spotted a potted plant near the table, but it looked half dead.

Anne frowned. She still remembered the guy. He was a nice guy -- even if he was a little on the bookish side. She still remembered how horrified she was at seeing him wounded during the Night of the Living Dead Cops. Since then, he had come to the shelter off an on to drop off some stuff, but his visits petered off this year. She had not seen him for the past ten months, actually.

Her eye caught a photo frame lying face down on one of the old books. She picked it up and saw that it was a photograph of Wesley, Angel, Gunn, Fred and Cordelia. They looked as if they were goofing around when they took this picture -- all of them had a sparkle of mischief in their eyes. She frowned -- they looked so happy together. What happened to tear Angel Investigations apart? What did Wesley do to have him ostracized like this? And why I am hunted by demons? Isn't life crazy enough?

"Looking around?"

Anne gasped and dropped the frame. She winced when it landed on the hard, uncarpeted floor with a loud thwack. She gave Fred a guilty look.

Fred picked the frame up and frowned at the picture. Thankfully, the frame was plastic -- it didn't look damaged.

Fred brushed the frame, as if getting rid of the dust on it. She gave Anne a sad smile.

"We took this just before Darla came back to us with news of Angel's baby. Wesley wanted to try out the new digital camera he bought and Gunn kept making faces till we all cracked up," Fred laughed at the memory. "We were so ... relaxed that day."

"You mean happy?" Anne crossed her arms.

Fred looked puzzled. "Huh?"

"Why don't you say it? You were happy together. Why are you and Gunn pretending that you don't care for Wesley?"

"Because we don't!" Fred found herself saying. She flushed at her curt remark, and walked quickly to Wes's table to return the frame to its former position -- face down, on the book.

"He took away Connor. Because of that, Connor grew up in a hell dimension. He took Angel's happiness away from him. He hurt all of us," Fred said. But tears were in her eyes. She blinked them furiously away.

"Yes, Gunn told me about it," Anne said tiredly.

"You don't know how it's like -- to trust someone only to have them do this to you."

"No I don't. But ... have you guys asked him why he did it?"

"It was all because of a prophecy. It was false. It was all for nothing," Fred winced at the sound of the words. They were the exact words she said to Wesley. She had told him never to come back again.

"So he didn't do it for a bad reason," Anne summarized.

Fred pursed her lips. "Angel thinks he gave Connor to Holtz. Gunn has no idea what to think. I think he was misled. But it doesn't make it all better, Anne," she said defensively.

Anne gave a big sigh. "Yes, yes, that's what Gunn told me too. Frankly all this 'don't tell Anne what happened' business is making me crazy. I have a healthy curiosity too, you know."

At least Fred looked guilty at what she said. "Gunn and I thought you wouldn't be able to digest what we would tell you."

Anne crossed her arms. "I don't know. A few years ago I didn't know vampires exist. Now I'm living in a hotel owned by one. You tell me."

Fred smiled. It would be good to have someone to confide in. Someone who didn't have the emotional baggage caused by Wesley's actions to deal with.

"Maybe we can get lunch while we're at it?" she suggested.

"Yo G, haven't seen you in awhile. What's up bro?"

Gunn walked up to a young black man lounging on the stairs leading to an apartment complex. He sat beside him.

"Hey J-Bob. I need your help," he said after a moment's pause.

The man paused while lighting his cigarette. "You? Mr. Detective wants my help?"

Gunn sighed with annoyance. "When are y'all gonna stop beating me up over this Angel Investigations thing?"

"Like never," said a voice behind them.

A young Hispanic woman stood there with hands on her hips, giving him an amused look. "Yeah, we know you doin' good with Angel Investigations. S'okay. But we like to see you riled up," she gave J-Bob a high-five and settled beside Gunn, chuckling.

"Hey Lisle. You okay?"

"Doin' good," said Lisle with a smile. "So what's the help that you need?" she asked.

"I need some men. With demon fightin' experience."

J-Bob and Lisle exchanged an amused look.

"Hmm. I guess we're it," J-Bob said with a snort.

"Just the two of you?" Gunn said with more than a tinge of shock.

"Well, there's this thing with Gio-" J-Bob began.

"Being dead and all," Lisle volunteered. Gunn pursed his lips and nodded.

"Then Rondell's gone to Alaska with this chick-"

"They're getting married," Lisle added.

"Huh? Alaska? Marriage?" Gunn wondered out loud.

"Then Janet got signed on by Virgin Records-" J-Bob smiled big.

"No kidding?" Gunn was amazed.

"She sang 'What's up, vamp face'," Lisle said.

"Oh yeah ... heard that one. Thought it had a mighty familiar story-" Gunn reminisced.

"Billy Bob went off to college-" J-Bob ticked two fingers off his left hand.

"Doing Health sciences. Scholarship. Mom's really proud," said Lisle.

"Then Tony and Mary Sue are in Hawaii for a holiday. They won tickets," J-Bob finally said.

Gunn could only stare at them, floored, but then smiled big. "Well, looks like y'all havin' a good time while I'm..." he trailed off, thinking about the hellish few months they've had.

"...slaying demons?" J-Bob helped add.

"Well. Yeah," Gunn sighed. "But uh, we're kinda tapped now. On manpower, that is. So we need some hands at the hotel-"

He explained Anne's situation, and Angel, Cordelia, Connor being missing. He studiously avoided mentioning Wesley. Not that it stopped his friends.

"What about that British guy?" Lisle asked.

"He's out," he said shortly.

Lisle and J-Bob exchanged another look.

"You guys fought," Lisle concluded. "Pity, I like him. He's cute and he has that fancy accent."

Gunn gave Lisle a look.

"I know," J-Bob said, catching Gunn's look. "I tell her that true-blue Americans are the way to go too, but the chick never listens."

Lisle elbowed him.

"So, you still want us, or are we not it?" J-Bob asked.

"You guys helpin' would be great. It's just that we're fightin' demons that don't get hurt if we chop 'em up."

"Oh, that kind," Lisle chuckled nervously.

"Damn. How did Anne get in this mess?" J-Bob asked.

"She's blonde. The demons have a fetish."

"Man, suddenly I'm glad for my Mayan roots," Lisle smiled, running her hand through her dark locks.

"Somehow, we managed to ditch them for the past two weeks. But I have this bad feeling that they're just buying time, that they know where we live and don't want to go chasin' us around till the right time. Want Annie where they can get her. As it is I'm scared of leavin' Fred and Annie alone at the hotel. But Earl said they don't come out in sunlight. Every night we wait for them to attack. Barely slept in weeks," Gunn sighed in frustration, running a hand over his head.

Lisle and J-Bob each gave him a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

"Tell ya what. Maybe we know someone who could really help you," J-Bob said suddenly.

Gunn's interest was piqued.

Lisle seem to realize what J-Bob was getting at. "Oh, *him*! Gosh, he's hot."

J-Bob rolled his eyes at Lisle and returned his gaze to Gunn. "There's this guy -- he's new in town. And word has it that the vamps are afraid of him."

"He hunts them like you won't believe. We were staking out this group of vamps and we heard them talking. Seems that he wiped out an entire nest all by himself in one day. And this is not your average nest. This was like a nest of army proportions," Lisle said excitedly.

"Lisle had a close encounter with Mr. Mysterious," J-Bob added sheepishly.

"Yeah," Lisle's eyes began to take on a dreamy cast. "I was attacked by two vamps and he swooped out of the darkness and took them out. Bam! Bam!" she mimicked staking vamps. "And they're dust. They didn't even have time to look surprised. Then there's this amazing thing. Another one jumped out from an alley and he just grabbed him by the throat, lifted him up like a teddy bear and tossed him waaaay across the street. The vamp got the message and ran for his undead life."

"The guy has freaky strength," J-Bob agreed.

"What he look like?" Gunn asked.

"He was in the shadows, so I didn't have a good look at him. But he looked cute."

"And you could see that?" J-Bob said sarcastically.

"He feels cute, okay, Mr. Oh-so-jealous? Well, he was carrying a crossbow too. And he had a neat accent. British."

Gunn became suspicious. Could it be? Nah ... Holtz was too old for this kinda stuff now, wasn't he? And last time he checked, he had normal strength like everyone else. Anyway, didn't hear about him after everyone went missing. He hoped that Holtz didn't have anything to do with Connor, Cordelia and Angel missing. Please, no.

"He said, 'Are you suicidal, young lady? The streets of Avarice are not Disneyland'," Lisle giggled.

"You're disgusting," J-Bob complained.

"So, naturally I got curious about the Vampire Hunter ...because that's what he is. I asked around a little more, and I found out some stuff about him."

"He's like a mercenary. Heard that some big industrialist guy hired him to clean out some warehouses in Avarice. Did a good job, and the guy was paid a lot of money for it," J-Bob said.

"Great, the last thing we need now is a mercenary. We're not just tapped out of people, we're clean out of money."

"I'm sure he'll help you guys once he knows about Anne," Lisle said hopefully. "I didn't pay him to rescue me."

Gunn nodded. "Maybe you're right. Even if you're right -- how do we find him?"

Lisle thought for a while then smiled, "Easy. We go back to Avarice. There's where he rescued me."

"Oh, brilliant plan, Lisle," J-Bob said in a very bad English accent. "Avarice is the vamp nest of LA. Maybe some nutcase like Mr. British Vampire Hunter with Super Strength can patrol the streets at midnight alone, but I'm not gonna be stupid enough to do it," J-Bob said with finality.

They fell silent.

Then Gunn said, "Still, a guy with freaky strength and tons of vampire hunting experience could be a valuable addition to the team."

Lisle and J-Bob exchanged another look.

"Oh great," J-Bob muttered.


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