"Now see, that's where we have a problem," Angel said.
Cindy, or rather Amopholas, frowned at the unexpected words. "What did you say?"
"We're not going to sit around and wait for you to do that," he crossed his arms, trying not to grin too smugly. No point aggravating the enemy too much.
The demon spawn grinned, her sweet expression soured by malice. "And you're going to stop me from behind bars?"
"Not really," said Willow.
Cindy's head jerked to where Willow's unconscious form still lay sprawled in the cell. Her forehead creased with confusion but just before she could voice her bewilderment, something shoved her violently one side. As she slid down the wall, she saw the Angel Investigations team ... outside the cell.
The witch answered her silent question, her face bright with mirth. "That's what you get when you have powerful witch and a glamour spell."
The other demon spawns lay unconscious -- some obviously dead -- around them. Cindy looked around in anger and rose shakily to her feet. "You know. You think you've done something important ... but how do you think to beat a thousand of us?" she sneered.
Shadows moved around them, materialising one by one to reveal deceptively ordinary people. They looked at the team expressionlessly, but it was obvious what they intended.
"I don't care if we die! I'll be glad just taking as many as I can with me!" Fred yelled, her eyes sparkling with rage. If not for Gunn who held her back with a firm grip on her shoulders, she would have lunged at Cindy.
The little girl shrugged nonchalantly. "Go ahead. I could use a little fun before I become corporeal again."
To Fred -- it became a mission to destroy as many of them as possible. It became a mission to erase what she did to Wesley; she could not live knowing that Wesley's killers lived -- and that included her. And so if she died doing this, better -- she was the one who dealt the final blow after all.
She drove her sword into a woman that could easily be her mom - all pastel flower-print dress, motherly face and all -- except this 'mom' tried to ram her fist through her gut.
She wiped her blood off her hands, but that moment of reprieve proved too costly. Someone punched her in the face with such force that she flew into the air to land stunned a few feet away.
"How does that feel, darling?" an elderly woman asked, her grandmotherly face distorted with a sneer.
Fred spat out blood and smiled. "Bracing," she muttered as she slowly rose to her feet.
"You were the one, weren't you? The one who fell for the trick?" said Grandma, her voice dripping with saccharine sweetness. "How did that feel? Plunging that sword into the back of your friend?"
Fred paled, but refused to let Grandma distract her. In a move that surprised the woman, Fred tackled her, knocking her to the ground. And without mercy, Fred plunged her dagger into the spawn's chest.
They were dripping with gore, and the Aman-yar kept coming. Given The Mother's magic, they had superhuman strength. Angel and the rest were tiring, and Amopholas gloated over that, taunting them from the throats of its vessels.
"How long are you going to keep this up, Angel?" asked Cindy. The girl sat above a barrel, her little lace-stockinged legs swinging cheerily, an innocuous presence amidst the chaos. "You're going to die, you know. Just like your Wesley," she sang, clapping her hands.
Angel vamped and growled. "Don't say his name."
"Weeeesley. Wesley, Wesley, Wesley!" Cindy taunted, her blue eyes sparkling. "I will say his name. And more." In her hand she lifted something shimmery. "It's time for me to return."
"No," Angel breathed, watching the jewel warily. It had to be the Mother.
"Before you want to charge and save the day, think -- I can give you power when I return to this world."
"Shut up," he took a step.
Cindy clutched The Mother in a threatening manner. "Ah-ah -- I see you drive a hard bargain. How about -- Las Vegas?"
Angel eyed The Mother. Snatching it out of Cindy's hands would be an easy matter -- but how fast would the Mother work. Could he beat the speed of thought?
"I suppose you'd want LA. Las Vegas is too gaudy, after all."
He did not answer. Growling, he made a gamble -- he leapt.
And Cindy laughed at his bravado and said: "Mother, grant me my wish. Bring me home!"
And he was slammed to the ground. He groaned as he felt -- no, heard -- his bones crackle under the enormous pressure.
*We're too late. We're too late!* Angel thought frantically as the bone-crushing power tried its best to ground him into the floor. He couldn't see beyond the bright light around them. All he could hear was the laughter of hundreds of Amopholas' spawn.
**IT IS TIME.**
The voice was so powerful that Angel cried out in pain, covering his ears with his hands. The laughter immediately died out. Then cries of anger. He risked his sight by opening his eyes -- the light around him was not as bright as before and he could make out the frantic figures around him. Of the others, he could not see --
Cindy suddenly came into his line of sight, her angelic face hideous with her rage. She stamped her little feet and twirled around. "Where are you?" she screamed. "You can't stop me!"
Wesley was suddenly there, engulfed in green flames. Angel vaguely noted that Amophalos' spawn were disintegrating left and right, not bothering to even utter so much as a whimper as they were turned to ashes. The gladness that rose in his chest was abruptly crushed when Wesley's dead eyes met his.
Only the Elemental was there, Angel realised. Wesley was gone, only his body was there.
"Damn you," he snarled at the Elemental as despair settled into his heart. "You have no right-"
The Elemental ignored him and turned towards Cindy. She made a valiant effort to stand up, but she disintegrated before she could do anything. The power of her destruction flung the Mother from her hands. It arched into the air and landed at Angel's feet with a loud clang.
Surprisingly, the Elemental did not react when Angel bent down to pick The Mother up. It merely watched him with milky eyes as he stared into the transparent jewel.
It looked deceptively ordinary. More like a plastic imitation of a crystal than a true gem.
"Liam, my darling."
The green glow from the Elemental faded. He heard the chirping of birds, and could smell the scent of roses. His mother -- she loved roses. She grew them around the house and spent hours tending them.
"And what has my Liam been up to?" asked his mother.
It would be natural, of course, for the Mother to assume this form. A long time ago, it had been a mother so devoted to its spawn that it had poured its essence into a gem so that it could be used for power.
"My boy means well. Don't listen to your da, Liam. He doesn't know what I know -- what a sweet boy you are."
And suddenly she was next to him, caressing his cheek with her too-real hands. "I want what's best for you Liam. Tell your ma what you want and I'll do it for you."
"Don't do it, Angel."
The voice startled him. He broke away from his 'mother' and saw Wesley standing there, watching him sadly. It wasn't a corpse - it was Wesley, as he was before he died, his hair a careless tangle around his neck, his blue eyes a pool of sadness.
The Watcher looked away as if the sound of his voice hurt him. When he returned his gaze to Angel once more, he managed a small smile.
"Not for long," he said. His face turned grim. "Don't listen to her. Bringing me back would not change anything. You know what you need to do. Angel."
"Liam," his mother whispered at his side. He felt her dry hand slide into his. "Listen to me, my darling. I can give you, everything you desire."
"Wesley," he whispered. The Watcher's expression was blank.
"You need to do what is right," Wesley hesitantly said. "It does not-"
**IT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU.**
Abruptly he was back at the warehouse, and the only thing he saw was flames and Wesley's flame-ringed reanimated corpse. The abrubt shift of realities made him stumble and nearly drop The Mother.
The Elemental raised Wesley's dead arms and bent his fingers repeatedly. It took a while for Angel to realize what it meant - that it wanted what Angel had in his hands.
**It does not belong to you,** The ELemental said once more.
He gripped it in his hands, looking down at the sparkling temptation.
[You could do so many things with me,] whispered the Mother. [You could even bring your best friend back.]
And he stared at the Elemental.
[He will be alive again, and he will be your friend once more and you won't have to be in pain anymore. Wish that, Angel ...] the Mother whispered. Was it his imagination, or did she sound desperate?
**It does not belong to you,** came the Elemental's voice once more.
[You can say sorry to him, Angel, and correct what you have done wrong.] the Mother sang.
The jewel seemed to sparkle then and he almost wished. But he shut his eyes and turned away - he knew the consequences of resurrecting someone - Buffy was a stark reminder of what could happen to someone if they were brought back against their will. And bringing back Wesley ... could be the final straw that would break Wesley's already fragile mind. Blinking back tears, he unclenched his fingers.
The jewel floated out of his palm gently, sparkling and twisting as it headed towards the Elemental. Wesley's dead eyes met his, and he willed himself to stare into its eyes. It felt as if the Elemental was acknowledging the sacrifice he was making - he felt as if it approved ... then again, it could just be wishful thinking as the Elemental reached out and grabbed the Mother in its palm without even glancing his way.
**Finally, it is done,** whispered the voice.
The burst of energy surprised him. It hurtled him in through the air, and if he hadn't been dead already, he would've been when he crashed through the brick wall of the warehouse to land rolling a few feet away from the warehouse on the dirty street outside.
He didn't have time to recover. There was a burst of light so bright that it nearly singed his vampire eyes - he had to turn away; he yelled for everyone to close their eyes because he was sure that the light would blind them all. A roaring sound filled his ears and he had to cup his hands to protect his ears from the howl.
Then suddenly, there was silence.
He heard Gunn swear, and Fred sob. Cordelia was shouting something - it was then that he realized that it was safe to open his eyes.
The warehouse had crumpled into itself. Somehow, the blast had spread to the nearby water tower and toppled it over, spilling the contents of the water tank on to the warehouse. However, even all that water couldn't quench the supernatural green fire that consumed the place.
Then he saw him.
"No," Angel gasped.
Wesley lay half-buried in the debris. His body peeked through a pile of bricks and metal sheeting. An arm stretched out towards Angel and Wesley's glazed eyes stared into his; water lapped at his white lips as the water rose higher, threatening to drown his body in a watery grave. The Elemental had seemingly abandoned its vessel - right now it took its natural form, a pillar of green fire as itcleansed the polluted earth where the demon once dwelt.
He made a move to go towards him, but even from here the heat was intense. The water was boiling and steaming, and it made him recoil to think what the hot water was doing to Wesley's body.
"Angel. We have to go."
Gunn. His voice quiet and flat. Angel could imagine him staring at the same thing he's looking at ... thing ... Angel shook his head. Wesley ... is a thing ... isn't that what he is now? Reduced to a thing that a magical force could manipulate, and now that it has had its fill using the thing, it discards it like yesterday's newspaper.
More insistent now. This time he felt a hand on his shoulder. Angel could only stare at Wesley's half-opened dead eyes and the water that was quickly rising to cover them. Then he couldn't stand it anymore. He broke free from Gunn's grip and reached out, determined to pull Wesley from his watery grave, not caring if he burnt into ashes in the process.
He should not be left like this - like some useless thing!
"Angel, don't!" Someone screamed. Willow? Fred? He wasn't sure, but his quick vampire reflexes took over before he could process another coherent thought. He leapt aside before he was turned into ashes by a sudden flare of green fire. Soon, the fire was the only thing he could see. Wesley was gone. Really gone.
It was over then. Gone. The world was safe, but Wesley was dead. But it didn't matter because a mission was fulfilled. It didn't matter to the Powers That Be that they'd allowed this to happen ... for Wesley's friends to abandon and later murder him because in the end ... the world was safe again.
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