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Dum spiro spero

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This story is No. 22 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: As long as I have breath, I have hope. Whatever happened to Faith Lehane? Part of the Waifs and Strays universe. Contains allusions to torture, death and rape and general nastiness.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > MASH
Highlander > Faith-Centered
(Current Donor)vidiconFR21327,9444384,32221 Nov 124 Jun 14No

NOTE: This story is rated FR21 which is above your chosen filter level. You can set your preferred maximum rating using the drop-down list in the top right corner of every page.

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Lo for I shall walk

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

This story is not rated FR 21 for nothing! It contains death, allusions to torture and rape, foul language and physical and psychological abuse.

Dum spiro spero

Chapter 1 Lo for I shall walk

New Orleans, LoyolaUniversity, December 8th 1995

Diana Dormer was walking through the hallway to her office at the University, to get ready for her office hours when she heard the voice. It was instantly recognizable to anyone who had ever heard it. It was rich and rolling and full and always seemed to carry a tone of irony and just a touch of the blasé, as if the speaker had seen everything and heard everything before.

The door to the office the voice was emerging from stood open a crack and Diana stood and listened as she read the small sign by the door. It was a piece of paper slipped into a holder, not a more permanent one. It read: Adam Pierson, MA. So he wasn’t here for any real length of time, but that was no great surprise. He’d always been a magnificently talented dilettante, never serious enough to get that PhD he’d been working on for years. Diana had taught him, worked with him, and met him at conferences. She smiled as he spoke, clearly enunciating every word and making his displeasure with his students very clear.

“I do not care if you think that the languages you’re supposed to be learning can not be the ancestors of Hebrew since that is the language in which is written the word of God. I do not care if the bible states that the Jews are Chosen or not. I do not care if you think that you are the inheritors of that Grace,” The voice stopped and Diana smiled as she could almost see the glare the speaker was directing at the probably cowering and hapless students.

“What I care about is that you learn them and realize that there are languages older and richer than Hebrew, modern or old, part of this family of languages. And I care that you understand enough of the family tree of these languages that you understand that Akkadian and Eblaite are older by thousands of years than the obscure dialect spoken by a minor people thrust into the crucible of history by their own intransigence and mankind’s inability to accept those who declare themselves to be superior to others. Sticking your head in the sand of your beliefs will not make reality go away. Neither I, nor the other teachers at this college will accept ‘because it says so in the bible’ as a valid answer, no not even in a theological discussion. Because without the knowledge you are refusing to learn, you cannot truly say you know with the bible says. I want those essays on my desk tomorrow at noon, or you can retake this course next year.”

Diana watched as two young men and one young woman fled from the office, almost in tears. Then she knocked. “Laying down the law again, Adam?” she asked in a severe voice. “You may do irreparable harm to their faith and vocation you know.”

The man who was lounging behind the desk looked up. “Diana Dormer. What brings you to this overly warm and humid neck of the woods?”

“I think that you owe me that explanation first, hmmm?” Diana sat down.

Adam shrugged, then reached under his desk into a cooler he head stashed there and pulled out a beer which he offered to Diana who refused with an eye-roll followed by a pointed look. “Stephanopoulos over at the Sorbonne very strongly suggested a change of scenery might do my academic credentials some good, and prevent him from strangling me, or beating me to death with a tuppu,” he sipped his beer.

“That would be bad. Even with the numbers we have of them,” Diana sighed. “Really Adam, how many universities have you been kicked out of now?” She looked at the door. “And what you just did won’t help your reputation here, you know.”

Adam snorted. “Those morons? They need to be gone yesterday. They’ve got no business being here. Faith is about overcoming adversity, about doubt and recovery and hope and strength after weakness. Not refusing to see that things might not be as clear cut as they think.”

Diana looked dubious. Adam pointed at a small shield on the wall. “Loyola University. Jesuits, trained to discuss, discourse, argue. They enjoy it almost as much as Thomas of Aquino. They don’t mind if I tell them to think as well as believe.”

“Do they know your opinion on religion?” Diana asked, amused by his certainty he knew how a man seven hundred years dead had thought. Adam was always certain.

Adam’s mouth quirked. “Oh, yes. I think they enjoy the challenge.”

Diana sighed. “Remind me to avoid the Staff Lounge whenever you’re there.”

Adam grinned and sipped his beer. “So, what’re you doing here?”

Diana looked at the man sitting so negligently at the desk, drinking a microbrew early in the afternoon, his feet up on the battered old Formica desktop. She’d long wondered if he didn’t know more than he let on. If he wasn’t fully informed, fully in the know, on the supernatural. But he’d never dropped a hint, or taken one of hers. So the answer she gave was the carefully constructed one she had agreed on with Faith. 

“I recently took in a foster child. She had some very bad experiences in Boston and I wanted a change from Georgetown and we decided that it might be good for both of us to try a different place with a wholly different atmosphere. And I saw that Loyola wanted a temporary professor of Latin and Greek and I decided that the hours were good enough and my savings sufficient to allow me to look after Faith and work on my book on Cato the Elder and his writings.”

Adam gave her a long, measured look. “Foster daughter. I see. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Faith you said her name was?”

“Yes. Her original foster parents were killed in a house fire,” Diana explained.

“I see. The poor girl,” Adam’s voice was carefully neutral.

Diana nodded. “Yes, she was already very attached to them. It was a great shame. Actually…” Her face brightened. “You know, you might help her. You could tutor her in Greek and Latin. She gets a bit uncomfortable when I do it.”

Adam gave her a horrified look. “Me? Teach a teenager?”

“Yes. It should work perfectly. She’s almost as cynical as you are,” Diana smiled.

“How old is she?” Adam asked.

“Much too young to be this cynical, or to have had the life she lived,” Diana asserted. “So. Will you do it?”

Adam opened his mouth and Diana played her trump card. “Father Mulcahey, who we are living with, brews his own beer…”

Adam closed his mouth and glared at Diana. “Oh, very well,” he grumped.

“Good. And maybe you can take her running as well. She’s got more energy than I know how to deal with, I don’t want her to run alone and you are developing a paunch what with all this beer and soft living,” Diana teased.

Adam looked at his flat middle. “I think not.”

Diana grinned. “I wouldn’t be too sure. Faith can be very convincing,” she looked at the clock. “I have to go. Work to do, students to guide.”

Adam shrugged. “Go right ahead. I’ve got books and beer, my day is good.”

“Writing a little might finally get you that PhD, you know,” Diana stated firmly.

“A shingle isn’t everything, Diana. Now shoo, go and teach your students and let me contemplate my fate in peace,” Adam made a shooing motion and Diana left.

“As long as you don’t give Faith beer. Otherwise we will have words,” was her parting remark.

Adam just smirked. 

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New Orleans, Mulcahey House near Loyola University, December 9th 1995

Faith was scowling. “I don’t need a tutor.”

“Yes, you do,” Diana declared. “You wince every time I correct you and you need to speak with other people than me and Father Mulcahey.”

“Don’t wanna,” Faith grouched. “And I talk to plenty of people, anyways.”

“Flirting on the basketball court doesn’t count,” Diana said severely. Then she pinned Faith to the chair with her gaze. “And it had better not have gotten beyond flirting, young lady!”

Faith, to her mortification, flushed slightly. “It hasn’t. But I don’t wanna be taught by some old guy.”

The doorbell rang and Diana smiled as she heard Mulcahey’s elderly voice greet his new guest. Adam was complimentary about the home, the scent of baking cookies, the decorating. Just as Mulcahey led him into the big study he asked the question that Diana had been expecting ever since the doorbell rang.

“So I understand you brew your own beer?” 

Mulcahey laughed. “And I’ve got a still, too. A habit I brought with me from Korea…” His voice trailed off, as if he was thinking. “You know, you look remarkably like a man I met then. Doctor Abel.” 

Adam’s eyebrows went up. “Really? I don’t have any relatives named Abel that I know of, or any who were medical doctors. It must be one of those coincidences.”

Mulcahey snorted. “Is that a polite way of saying that you think I’m nuts?”

Adam grinned. “Not, it’s a way of saying that if he’s related to me my mother must have done something naughty.”

Mulcahey laughed. “Well, I’ll introduce you to Faith and I’ll get you a beer later. No drinking around minors in this house.”

Adam nodded. “I can accept that… If the beer is good.”

Mulcahey shook his head and led the other man up the stairs, grasping the banister and almost dragging himself up them. Adam studied him thoughtfully behind his back, then smoothed his face into an amiable mask as he saw Diana and Faith.

“Well, this beautiful young lady must be Faith. I’m Adam. Diana said you need a bit of help with Latin and Greek?”

Faith nodded tersely. There was something about the man she found familiar, yet different. He moved in a way that was similar to that of Frank, Gladys and Duncan and, in a strange manner reminiscent of Father Mulcahey and his friends. Like they knew exactly what their body could do and was up to. Except… this man seemed to change. One second he’d been moving like a predator and now he was just a slacker, a highly intelligent, amiable cynic.

“Pleased ta meetcha,” she muttered.

Adam nodded. “Good. Well, shall we get on with it then? I suggest something nice and bloodthirsty and cynical. Caesar should do.”

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Mulcahey House December 11th

Diana didn’t think that Adam would actually take her up on the challenge and take Faith running, but he did. And on the two occasions she joined them she noticed that Adam was in far better shape than a man of his habits had a right to be. Or at least, what she thought she knew of his habits. One day after starting as her tutor, Adam had caught Faith throwing a knife in her room, at a target she’d hung up and instead of being shocked, after a moment’s contemplation, had corrected her form.

Faith had been ecstatic that he could teach her that as well. It made Diana shrivel up inside when she realized that Faith didn’t trust her. And that she had reason to. She might care for Faith, but ultimately Diana’s training kept her from forming too close a bond with the girl. And Faith knew it. She knew that the only difference between herself and Wyndham-Pryce was one of degree. And it horrified her. She had saved Faith because what Wyndham-Pryce was doing was wrong, not because Faith was a human, living, breathing person, but because it was dangerous. Had Faith been called after being ‘trained’ by Wyndham-Pryce the slaughter enacted by Frank Howard would have been like a boy swatting flies. She had seen the danger and acted. She had taken the broken girl and offered her a home, but it was a home tied to her being a potential, to her possibly becoming the Slayer. It had nothing to do with the happy home Faith had only just learned to enjoy with Frank and Gladys Howard. Diana couldn’t love her that way, because Faith might be the Slayer one day and Watchers could not love their Slayers. Diana had been taught that lesson well.

And very quietly, in the depths of her mind, Diana mourned that she could not.

She smiled as Adam sighed and promised to teach Faith a few ‘self-defense’ moves. Then her mind clicked. The way Adam behaved, his immense knowledge of ancient languages and his speaking about long-dead people as if he knew exactly how they had thought and acted. His reaction to Father Mulcahey. Her eyes widened. *Bugger, bugger, bugger, BUGGER! He’s an Immortal! What is he doing here? Is he a friend of Frank Howard? Does he know where Frank is? Does he know what Howard did? Will he tell Faith?*  

She noticed Adam’s eyes on her, over Faith’s labouring shoulders. Icy, measuring. Frightening. He knew that she knew.

And Diana Dormer wondered how long she had left to live.

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Mulcahey House, 11th of December

Adam sat looking as Faith finished her translation. He didn’t know what the Watchers had done to the girl, but somewhere deep within her psyche Faith feared all of them, hated them even, for what they had done. But she was a master at dissembling. And Diana had been taught, trained exhaustively, not to bond with her Slayer.

Faith sat up. “There. Done,” She looked over her shoulder and leaned aside, calculating the move to show the curve of her breast and just the slightest hint of cleavage. Adam smiled inwardly. Women, it seemed, never changed. The poses were different over the centuries and millennia but still the same was the purpose. He ignored her challenge and took the paper, checking the translation.

He made a few ticks with a green pen. “You seem to favour the more bloodthirsty translation every time. Interesting. Otherwise quite a good effort. A little rough, but you get the general meaning. Some more training and studying will allow you to achieve a very good translation.”

Faith pouted prettily. “More study?”

“Yes, a lot more. But for now… I have a present for you.”

“A present?” Faith perked up.

Adam nodded. “Yes. I won’t be here for Christmas, so the present is early,” he reached under the bed where he had stowed his bag and opened it, then took out a long, thin package wrapped in brown paper. He handed it to Faith who tore at the wrappings eagerly.

Her eyes widened as she saw what it contained. “Whoa…”

Adam smiled. “Like it?”

Faith looked up, her eyes troubled. “Well, yeah. But, it’s a sword.”

“Yes, it is. Quite a good one, too,” Adam smiled.

“Why do you want me to use a sword?” Faith asked warily.

“It’s called a Pompeii Gladius by scholars, this is a Semi-spatha, a cross between a cavalry sword and a foot soldier’s sword, quite useful on many occasions and an excellent conversation piece when needed,” Adam coaxed.

“Breaks the ice at every party?” Faith asked, as she withdrew the blade partially from its scabbard, studying the blade closely. The whole sword was a bit over two feet long, the blade itself was about one and two thirds of a foot long and almost two inches wide. A patterning of different colours was visible.

Adam smiled. “For a man, a Spatha might be more appropriate. For a woman, a Gladius is better, it was the weapon of the light infantry.”

“So what am I s’posed to do with it? Gut people on the ballcourt?” Faith’s voice was skeptical.

Adam smiled. “Learn to defend yourself with it. Its size and weight are the same as many items that you can pick up on the streets. We’ll get to those later. For now, put that away. I really don’t want Diana knowing I gave that to you.”

“Why not?” Faith asked.

“Because knife throwing she might allow but I doubt she wants you trained in anything but fencing.  Which is also why I got this, to show her,” Adam explained, as he pulled smaller package wrapped in brown paper from his bag. He handed it to Faith with a seated bow. When she opened this one, it contained a sheath, sized for the throwing knife, but different from her regular one.  This one was flatter, and had a second harness, so it could be attached either to her side, or her arm.

Adam ignored her fiddling with it, and moved back to the original point of his being there.  “Now, you translated this bit wrong. This is an Absolute Ablative and it translates as..?”

Faith sighed, put the sword away in the drawer under her bed and the knife sheath on top of it, before she turned back to her studies.

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Albert Corcoran’s dorm room, HarvardUniversity

The body was pale and drained of blood. Marcus nodded to himself as he looked at the thick blood sluggishly flowing from the wound on his wrist. The wound was closing. The older a vampire got, the faster he recovered from injury. Marcus took an hour to heal from a sucking chest wound. The boy would rise as a vampire, Marcus could feel it. He lifted the still warm but rapidly cooling corpse, placed one arm around his shoulder and left, carrying Albert as if he was drunk and needed support. No one questioned him. It wasn’t as if drunken students were rare on Campus after all. 

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Mulcahey House, 11th of December 1995

Father Mulcahey picked up the phone in the Master bedroom he used at his nephew’s insistence. He dialed the number and waited for it to be picked up.

“Summers House, Dawn speaking,” a cheerful young voice answered.

“Miss Dawn Summers? This is Father Francis Mulcahey. I was wondering if I could speak to Charles Winchester?”

“I’ll go ask, just a sec,” the girl replied. “GRANDPA CHARLES!! A FATHER MULCAHEY ON THE PHONE!”

Mulcahey grinned. A few minutes later the phone was picked up again. The voice that did so was gruff, if melodious.

“Winchester speaking.”

“Charles? Good afternoon, it’s Francis,” Mulcahey smiled at hearing his old friend’s voice.

“Francis, good to hear your voice,” Charles replied warmly. There was a moment of hesitation. “I-is it time?”

Mulcahey chuckled. “No, no. I’m as fine as I can be. No. I was wondering… Do you remember Doctor Abel?”

There was a snort. “Of course I do. I’ve never seen a man with skills like his, before or since. He operated as if he’d been doing nothing else his entire life. Why?”

“You remember we wondered why we never heard from him again, professionally?” Mulcahey continued slowly.

“Yes. I tried to find him to hire him, so did Colonel Potter,” Charles answered. “Did you find him?”

Mulcahey mulled over his answer, then shrugged. “Do you remember Commander McReady?”

There was a moment of silence. “Yes. I do. Quite well, actually. You think Abel and McReady were… similar?”

“There’s a man here who looks just like Abel. He walks and acts differently. But… I think he let me know, know who he was,” Mulcahey fumbled for words.

Charles laughed. “Francis, stop sounding so amazed. Everybody confides in you eventually. And you were the only man to get really close to him.”

“Man? Not person?” Mulcahey braced himself for the answer.

“Three different nurses in the week he was with us, sorry Francis,” Charles told him, apologetically, knowing full well how much Mulcahey had disliked the casual promiscuity of the Camp.

“I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What do you think I should do, Charles?” Mulcahey asked.

“Why is he there? Why is he with you?” Charles asked in return.

Mulcahey hesitated again. “There’s a girl here, staying with me with her… guardian.”     

Charles groaned. “Francis, are you telling me you’ve got a Potential Slayer living in your house?”

“Yes,” Mulcahey admitted.

“You really are a magnet for the supernatural,” Charles muttered. “Well, McReady was an ally of Jun Ko, so it’s possible that this man is as well.”

“Possible, yes,” Mulcahey admitted. “I get the feeling he’s much older than McReady though.”

“How’s that?” Charles sounded interested.

“Just a feeling. A hunch,” Mulcahey admitted.

“They’re usually right… Hmmm… Tell you what, why don’t I come by sometime soon, have a look at this Potential Slayer and at this man,” Charles suggested.

Mulcahey smiled. “That would be excellent. Don’t tell Simon there’s a Potential Slayer here for now. He’d have her out of here in minutes and I think she’s having a good influence on her new Watcher.”

Charles chuckled. “Very well. But not too long. I don’t trust the Watchers that much myself.”

Mulcahey sighed. “Yes, you’re right. But I have hopes that Diana might realize that she’s better than she thinks.”

“Very well, I’ll see you soon. Take care, Francis,” Charles rang off.

“You too, Charles. And I want to hear everything about your new grandchildren when you’re here,” Mulcahey replied warmly.

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Mulcahey House, December 13th 1995

Adam had encouraged Faith to go into the one area in the house she’d shown no interest in: the basement. Basements held too many terrifying memories for her, but Adam, intent upon studying the large copper kettle Mulcahey used to brew his beer, had discovered the music room. It was soundproofed, had a small recording studio and a large number of different instruments, including a piano, several guitars and best of all, a large and elaborate drum kit.

It was the description of these instruments, the drum kit especially, that lured Faith down. 

Mulcahey played the piano and was teaching her, Diana still remembered some of her lessons on the flute, but Faith still seemed hesitant to be in an underground room with her. Adam played the guitar and the drums and had offered to teach Faith a little.

Of all the instruments in the basement, the drums were by far Faith’s favourite. If she wasn’t playing basketball or studying, she could be found there.

Quite often, without Faith knowing it, Diana would stand in the dark studio, behind the blind-covered glass and listen to the girl drum and sing, or play the guitar.

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Mulcahey house, December 14th 1995

They were in the basement and Adam was sighing. “Your posture is abominable.”

“Well thank you! Maybe it’d help if you’d show me how?” Faith retorted sarcastically.

Adam sighed again and rose as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. “Very well, one more time.”

He assumed a battle position. “The Pompeii Gladius was designed primarily to stab with in an infantry line, but the Spatha was used by heavier infantry and by cavalry from horseback. The sword you’re holding is a mix of the two, longer reach, without sacrificing the ability to stab. The point is beveled, as you can see, as are both the edges. Now, in some circumstances it will be better to stab, in others to slash. Your training will eventually tell you which to use when.”

Faith nodded. She glanced at him from the corners of her eyes, hoping he would stand behind her and correct her position, but all he did was pick up a drumstick and tap her wrists and poke her sides until she was standing like he wanted and holding the sword properly.

“Now, lunge, and return. Lunge, and return…” Adam continued the lesson.

It never occurred to Faith to ask where Adam had learned to use a sword. She assumed, like brewing beer, it was just something he’d picked up while studying.

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Mulcahey House, December 23rd 1995

Faith was humming as she drummed. The basement in the Uptown house she and Diana were allowed to share with Father Mulcahey was insulated so that the good father’s nephew could play music to his heart’s content. His children used it to practice the piano, guitar and drums and now so did Faith.

The padded door, one of a set, opened and Diana entered. She watched as Faith hit the drums with vigour, if not skill. “You need lessons,” she remarked in a momentary lull in the din.

Faith grinned. “Naah, that would take all the fun out of it, Dr. D!”

Diana shook her head in amusement. “Well, if you say so. Dinner is in twenty minutes!”

Faith nodded, checked the time on the clock and started her drumming again. Diana smiled and left to see if Father Mulcahey had managed to ruin the potatoes while she was gone.

********

Faith was running. Diana had set her pupil a distance of seven miles, handed her three bottles of water and two of Gatorade, a stick of gum and told her to keep hydrated.

Diana sat back on the couch and sighed. “Heaven help me if she gets called. I can’t imagine what her energy levels would be like if she becomes the Slayer.”

Mulcahey chuckled. “High. But I think part of the reason is that she’s trying to distract herself from the things that happened to her, in her life. She’s trying to be tired every night.”

Diana nodded sadly. “You’re right of course. I’m amazed she’ll even let me get as close as she does. After what those so-called Watchers did to her… That she allows me to teach her.”

“Faith desperately needs to be loved, wants to be loved. Even a semblance of love will encourage her greatly,” Mulcahey stated quietly.

Diana winced. “Semblance?”

Mulcahey gave the Watcher a sad look. “Can you honestly tell me that you love her unreservedly and without the least hesitation? That her fate, her possible destiny, does not scare you? Your training, your very life until now has been to learn how to help and train and best manage a Slayer.”

Diana was silent. Mulcahey nodded. “I thought so. Just make sure that you do everything in your power to be as kind and loving as possible. Give her at least that happiness.”

“I would die for her. Suffer for her,” Diana stated softly.

“That is your duty,” Mulcahey shrugged. “I would do no less, yet I would do the same if it would save her from becoming the Slayer,” he smiled. “Not that it would be a great loss. I’ve lived a long and good life and it is coming to an end.”

Diana looked up and into his eyes. “Ah. This would have to do with the medication you take?”

Mulcahey nodded quite cheerfully. “It appears that my past is catching up with me. The oncologist told me that only a miracle would allow me to remain mobile and not confined to bed by now. So it’s a good thing I believe in miracles.”

Diana laughed despite the conversation. Then she sobered. “Have you told anybody?”

“My nephews and nieces, my sisters. The guys,” Mulcahey smiled sadly. “They were… unhappy. But eventually accepting. I think Charles took it the worst.”

“No one insisting that you undergo the most intensive treatment possible?” Diana asked.

“No. They’re all quite understanding of the fact that I’m old and tired and will not mind facing my Lord and accepting His judgment,” Mulcahey smiled. “I look forward to it. There is much that I’ve long felt the need to explain to Him in person about things I’ve done in the past.”

“I think He’ll be very understanding,” Diana smiled. “You’re too good a man for Him to be anything but.”

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Mulcahey House, after dinner

Faith was humming as she waited for her running partner to show up. Diana had actually matched them up. The Watcher sat looking on in amusement as her ward primped in front of the mirror. She went into the kitchen where Mulcahey was loading the dishwasher and placing the items that had to be washed by hand in the sink to soak a bit.

“Are you sure the man is trustworthy?” Mulcahey asked softly. “Faith is… Interested.”

Diana nodded. “Adam is completely safe, wouldn’t hurt a fly. Unless it fell into his beer.”

“He seems a bit cynical for one so young?” Mulcahey noted.

“That might be incumbent upon him as he’s the world’s quintessential eternal student,” Diana pointed out.

Mulcahey smiled. “He does seem quite knowledgeable about ancient languages. Not many people can read cuneiform that easily.”

“He says it helps to be part drunk and that they wrote down a lot of recipes for beer,” Diana grinned. “In the end, it all comes down to beer for Adam.”

“After drinking the horrible hooch distilled in The Swamp, beer sounds quite good. He just seems… tired. You know, like Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings. Butter spread over too much bread,” Mulcahey gave Diana a look. “And don’t think I don’t know what sort of book you’re using to get Faith to read.”

Diana sniffed. “I have no regrets. There is nothing in there she doesn’t know about. And at least the women in these books get respect, and courtesy and romance. She may learn something from them.”

“In those books they get most of that from other women,” Mulcahey remarked dryly.

Diana grinned. “As I said, I have no regrets.”

Mulcahey shook his head, but his eyes twinkled.

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New Orleans, 23rd of December, evening. Corcoran home

Marcus Simplicius Secundus rang the bell and waited patiently until the door was opened. The girl doing so was fourteen or fifteen, dark-haired and pretty, though a spoiled and bored expression detracted from it. “Yes?”

“I’m Mark Kundus. I’d like to talk to your mother about a donation to the St. Francis’s Church charity fund,” Mark answered the curt inquiry.

The girl barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes. “Come in then. MOM! GUEST FOR YOU!” She trudged away from the door, not paying attention to the man behind her.

Marcus smiled as Mrs. Corcoran, immaculately coifed and made up, came forward to greet him. “Mr. Kundus. This is a surprise.”

Marcus shrugged and smiled more broadly. “A pleasant one, I hope?”

“Oh, most certainly,” the woman hastened to reassure him. “What can I do for you?”

“I wish to make a donation to the St. Francis’ church charity fund. But I’d like to speak with Monsignor Mulcahey to discuss the ways it might be spent. I know there is a youth program and if possible I’d prefer it be spent on that.” Marcus explained.

Mrs. Corcoran smiled. “Oh, I can quite understand that. So, did you want me to make an appointment for you?”

Kundus looked slightly abashed. “Well, if possible I’d like to speak with him tonight. I-I promised my Mother that I’d donate to the Church every Christmas…”

Mrs. Corcoran nodded, oozing sympathy. “Oh, how wonderfully filial. Come, we’ll go visit him now. He’ll have finished his nightly prayers by now.”

“Ah, thank you. That would be wonderful,” Marcus smiled. “Perhaps your daughter might join us? She can provide youthful insights into the matter?”

Mrs. Corcoran hesitated and then nodded. “It will give her something to do,” she decided. “Caroline! We’re going to visit Monsignor Mulcahey. Come on!”

“What? Why?” Came the shrieked reply.

“Because I say so! Now get down here, young lady,” Dr. Corcoran ordered. She looked at Kundus. “Teenagers.”

Marcus nodded understandingly.

Caroline stomped down the stairs, glared at Marcus and her mother and then continued out the door. Dr. Corcoran followed and so did Marcus. The vampire eyed the mother and daughter and licked his lips in anticipation before he smiled at Dr. Corcoran. *Phase two completed.* 

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Mulcahey House, 23rd of December 1995

Dr. Corcoran rang the doorbell and waited impatiently for it to be opened. She hoped the annoying houseguests would not be present. Faith would be a terrible influence on Caroline, she was sure. The door opened and the friendly face of Monsignor Mulcahey appeared. “Dr. Corcoran?”

“Mon- Father Mulcahey, this is Mister Kundus, he’d like to make a donation to the St. Francis fund, but he’d like to discuss what program it is to be spent on,” Corcoran introduced her guest.

Mulcahey nodded and stepped aside. Caroline slouched past him, the very image of a put-upon teenager. Mrs. Corcoran followed, then turned back to Mark, who was carefully wiping his shoes. “Do come in, Mr. Kundus.”

*And so a received and known guest invites me into the house. I didn’t even need young Albert. But I’m sure that his presence later will mean a great deal to his mother and sister,* the vampire thought to himself as he gravely nodded and entered. 

******

Diana came home from her office at the college, briefcase in hand and wondering if Faith was still sulking about Adam being away over the holidays. Diana was quietly relieved that he was, the man unnerved her. She wasn’t sure why she was still alive. It was clear to her that Adam did not approve of her handling of Faith. She also wasn’t sure how old he was, or why he was here, or why he had essentially revealed himself as an Immortal. But that was only the least of Diana’s problems with the man.

Faith had rather rapidly developed a crush on Adam, and Adam had very carefully and gently discouraged her, making her realize that a relationship would never work and that he wasn’t going to sleep with her, no matter how ready she thought she was.

He was very protective of Faith and that Diana could appreciate. Because if he did touch her she would cut his balls of with his own sword.

She opened the door with her key and suddenly felt strong arms around her, grabbing her, a hand on her mouth, stifling her scream. A cold, dead hand.

“Hello Dr. Dormer,” a young, slightly familiar voice spoke. “Fancy meeting you here. I’ve been looking forward to speaking with you again.”

*Albert Corcoran. Francis would not have invited him in. What happened?* Out loud she grunted and then brought her heel down hard on his instep.

There was a hiss, but Albert kept hold of her. “That isn’t very nice of you, Doctor. But don’t worry, you’ll be very nice to me later. I guarantee it.”

Diana closed her eyes. *Adam, it would be really, really nice if you’d decided to interrupt your vacation and came by right now.* 

The door slammed shut behind them and the hallway was filled with the laughter of the thing that had killed Albert Corcoran.

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LoyolaUniversity Campus, 23rd of December 1995

Faith was jogging and pouting. She’d thought she was getting through to Adam, make her see her as a woman. She’d thought him giving her a sword meant something. Okay, she wasn’t sure what it meant, since she doubted he knew she was a Potential. But it was a sword! In all the novels she’d read giving a lady a sword meant fealty, loyalty. Faith scowled. *And in some it means that the loyal knight will serve virgin princess faithfully, protect her honor and kill anyone who comes near her, remember that, Lehane? Which do you think is more likely?*

Faith grunted as her throwing knife's sheath bit into her back. Diana insisted she wear it at all times. It held a small dagger, and the harness also had six tiny throwing darts, almost needles.  *Did the slayer have something like this?* Like every time she thought about the Slayer, she wondered what it was like to be one. What it was like to be that special. Frank and Gladys had thought she was special. Diana thought she’d make a great Slayer one day, or if she wasn’t Chosen, a fine Watcher with a better understanding than most of what Potentials and Slayers went through.

Faith bit her lip. *I’d rather be less Chosen and more loved, thank you very much,* she gulped and accelerated, trying once more to forget the fact that the foster parents she’d learned to love in such a short period of time would never hold her again, or teach her martial arts, not to prepare for a possible fate, but just because it was fun, and a good way to get rid of excess energy.

She ran as fast as she could, trying to forget. She would never be able to run fast enough, but she could try.

********

When Faith arrived back at the house it was quite dark. Diana hated it when she was out alone, quoting the dangers of the world to a girl alone. Faith had asked if those dangers included Watchers who killed her foster parents, tied her up, made her watch as they raped the innocent girl they’d made into her double, kidnapped her and had beaten her on a daily basis, or locked her in cold, dank cellars, or pawed and fondled her, or watched her whenever she took a leak or a shower. Cause if it did, hey, kill me now. Diana had shut up quite swiftly after that.

Faith wasn’t afraid of ordinary thugs, she had mace, pepper spray and a telescoping baton, as well as her knife. She was quite safe, she was sure, from most supernatural threats as well due to the high density of priests and nuns. She wouldn’t be surprised if Father Mulcahey’s gentle, elderly face sent a vamp packing all by itself.

Following her usual routine she jumped at the back porch, hauled herself up on it and moved towards her window, opening it with her knife blade. Not all her tricks were learned from Watchers. Though Diana had not at all been shocked by her ward’s skill at casual burglary.

Faith climbed inside and then froze and wrinkled her nose. The room smelled stale and there was a smell in the house she did not like. She could also see that someone had rummaged in her things, through her assignments and her clothes.

Diana was many things, but she wasn’t a snoop. That meant someone else. Very quietly Faith moved to the built-in cupboard and opened it, then pushed up its ceiling. She reached up and grasped the hilt of the sword she’d hidden there. Adam’s gift. Hefting the blade in her hand she wished she’d had more time to practice with it, then moved towards the door. If there was nothing wrong except a burglary, she would get yelled at for hiding the sword, at most. If there was more going on…

Faith took a deep breath and opened the door to the hallway. The vampire lurched at her and she lunged, falling clumsily into the position that Adam had taught her. The heavy point of the sword slammed into the thing and through and severed the spinal cord. The vampire screamed. Faith pulled at her sword, but the vamp had its hands on it, resisting, even as it fell to its knees, unable to stand. It spoke and black blood, other people’s blood, poured from its mouth. “I’m gonna fucking kill you, you little cunt!” he growled at her.

Faith pulled again, hard. The blade of her sword was razor sharp. It came out easily and the vampire’s fingers made soft plopping noises as they hit the floor. Faith closed her eyes and swung, listening to the whisper of dust.

*How the fuckin’ hell did vamp get in here? What happened to Father Mulcahey? What happened to Dr. Double D?* Faith thought as she moved further down the corridor.   

She could smell the blood before she saw it. There was a lot of blood. A lot. It was smeared all over the floor and it led in a trail down to the kitchen.

There was a chuckle. A young man stepped forward. “How did you get in here, hot stuff? And where’d you get the sword? Doesn’t matter, the Tribune will deal with you,” he smiled and his face twisted into a vampire’s demonic mask and he leered at Faith. “Or I will.”

Faith held her sword at the ready, trying to suppress the shivering in her arms and hands. *I know this guy. Oh, yeah. Albert Corcoran. Goes to Harvard, comes home to mommy to whine when things don’t go well. Annoying. Keeps looking at my boobs when I’m playing hoops. His mom thinks he’s her gift to the world. Looks at every woman he sees as if she’s a dog and he’s a bone she should nibble and lick.*

“Sorry to disappoint you, little Al, but you weren’t good enough for me when you were human and I’m sure as hell not gonna take you seriously now your IQ has dropped forty points. Are you sure your cranial bumps aren’t on the inside?” Faith sneered.

Albert the vampire roared. As a human she’d been able to get him to skulk off to his mother’s house, as a vamp he was even easier to goad.

Regrettably Faith had forgotten that as a vampire he was also several times stronger and faster than he’d been. She tried to avoid his charge, but he slammed into her, hard, and she was pushed against the wall of the entrance hall, the sword swept from her hand and skittering on the hardwood floor. Albert leered. “Hello Honey, I’m home!” He had one hand on Faith’s throat and his other was roaming over her body, roughly feeling her up.

Which left both of Faith’s hands free. She reached to the narrow of her back, and pulled out the dagger from it's sheath, hefted it and plunged it into the side of Albert’s neck with all her strength. Albert screamed, once. Then the skin around the wound bubbled and he let go off Faith, who let herself drop and roll, before he started clawing at the dagger, pulling it out, the hilt burning his hands even as the flesh of his neck charred. He dropped the knife and whimpered.

Faith grinned as she picked up her gladius. “Hey, Al?”

The vampire looked up and Faith swung, as hard as she could. Albert’s head was severed from his neck and bounced, once, before it disintegrated. Then his body fell into dust. Faith carefully stepped over the messy pile and picked up her dagger, looking at it musingly. “Well, wadda ya know? Looks like Father M put a blessing on this. Didn’t know that worked.”

Rather shakily she felt her throat and ribs, then made her way to the kitchen door. 

Dr. Double D’s bag was on the floor in the corner and her coat, and her neat jacket… and her torn shirt. Faith swallowed and stepped into the warm, welcoming room. There were spatters of blood on almost every surface. Faith swallowed, heavily. Dr. Double D might not be Gladys, but she tried. She might be a Watcher, always thinking about Faith’s training, but she was kind about it. If Dr. Double D had rang the bell and explained things to Gladys and Frank, things would have been different. She might actually have trusted her then. But she knew that Dr. DD only cared about the mission, about training a perfect Slayer. And Wyndham-Pryce had been doing the unforgivable: destroying the weapon instead of sharpening it, honing it to perfection. For all that she might talk about taking care of Faith, Faith knew that all her training was only making her fit to be a Slayer or a Watcher. And the last thing she wanted to be was a Watcher. 

Faith glanced around the room, her gaze resting on the blood-filled pan that sat on the stove, the missing knives and roasting forks and other kitchen implements. She saw the trail of blood that led to the basement door.

She took a deep breath and opened the door. One of Dr. DD’s shoes was on the steps down to the basement, as was a stocking. Faith went down the steps, fearing what she would find.

The door to the Live room was closed, the door to the control room was open There was a bra tied around the doorknob of the Live room and a pair of panties hung from the handle of the control room. The smell of burned flesh hung heavy in the air, mixed with the coppery scent of blood. Even through the heavy sound insulation she could hear the screams. Faith swallowed and pushed the door handle down, then levered the door open with her knee and ran inside, into a scene that might have been taken from Dante’s Inferno.

Father Mulcahey hung, stripped to the waist, from a hook that normally bore a Les Paul guitar. Weals marred his skin and it looked like his nose was broken and marks around his eyes showed that his glasses had been shattered while he’d been wearing them, the rims and the glass having caused wounds or being embedded in his face.

Diana hung on another hook, naked and bruised, bite marks scattered over her pale-skinned body, blood running from them and the countless of burns and cuts. There was bowl beside her and Faith realised it held her Watcher’s nails.

A large, yellow skinned demon with protruding eyes and long, lanky blue hair stood between them, a whip in his hands, a rough toga it’s only clothing, and its clawed feet biting into the smooth wooden floor of the studio. Its eyes were dull and lifeless, dark twin pools of evil. A flickering blue tongue shot out of its mouth, almost a foot long, still dark with blood.

Two more bodies lay on the floor, and Faith thought they were female, but only by the clothes that lay scattered about. She knew them, the dark grey pantsuit that Dr. Corcoran favoured and the jeans and spangled top that Caroline Corcoran often wore. The cut-off fingers on the chopping board belonged to them as well, and the strips of skin that hung over various instruments.

A man was sitting on a stool, playing on the Les Paul, quite well, as he read papers that were laid out on the drumkit. He looked like a typical Italian-American father of four from Boston’s South side. But Faith doubted any man could be so calm while so much blood and torment went on around them.

The man looked up. “Well, hello there. You’re late, Miss Lehane. I’ve had to find other ways to occupy my time during your absence,” he struck a jarring chord on the guitar and rose, then sketched a bow. “Marcus Simplicius Secundus,  Tribunus militum laticlavius of the XIX Legion of the Emperor Augustus. Please, call me Mark.”

Faith swallowed. “The Bloodhound.”

Mark chuckled. “Ah, my reputation precedes me! Excellent. Well, my dear, then you know what happens next.”

Faith moved slightly, putting herself between the vampire and the people hanging from the wall, taking the hilt of the sword in both hands.

Then he was there, moving even faster than Albert had, ripping the sword from her hands, hoisting Faith up in the air by the throat, her feet kicking as her air was cut off.

“Do you really think that a mere Potential can harm me?” Kundus sneered, his face not even changed. “Do you think you can protect your Watcher? Or this foolish priest of a stupid god? The gods of Rome had more power than the bastard lovechild of the Jews!”

Faith gurgled, kicking feebly at his thighs, her fingers clawing at the hand grasping her neck. Kundus laughed. “You’re just a little failure, aren’t you, Faith? You failed your mother, never made her any money, drove her to drink,” he shook Faith like a dog, then dropped her into a heap on the floor.

“You failed in school, except at blowjobs in the toilets. Did you blow the Principal to get out of being expelled? Or the entire school board?” Kundus sniggered. “Your experience will stand you in good stead later,” the vampire leaned over Faith, who was breathing heavily, her throat aching with every gasp of air.

“You failed your foster parents, they’re dead because of you. Dead or insane. Isn’t that a lovely thought?” Kundus ran a finger down Faith’s face to her neck. “And did you know that the police are investigating dear Mr. Ross? They’re not sure if you had a torrid romance with him and fled, or if dear daddy Frank had his wicked way with you and killed you and Gladys to cover it all up,” his laugh rasped out and he tugged on Faith’s running top. “All your fault.”

Faith sobbed, turning her head away, squeezing her eyes shut.

Kundus grabbed her chin and forced her head towards the wall. “And dear Father Mulcahey… He’s been whipped and his wounds washed with salt and all he’s had to drink is vinegar. Regrettably I have no crown of thorns to make him really feel the example of his so-called god,” his hand grasped Faith’s breast and he pinched, hard. Faith gritted her teeth but neither screamed nor opened her eyes though tears now streamed down her cheeks.

“There’s some nice bits of wood in the garden though, I’ll have Gl’ruk here get it later and we can nail him to his very own cross…” Kundus licked Faith’s face, tasting her tears. Faith sobbed.

“And then there’s dear, dear Dr. Dormer. Can you imagine what fun we’ve had with her, Faith? She’s your Watcher, you’re supposed to protect her, keep her safe. She saved your life and all you can do is watch… Watch while my boys and I have our fun,” Kundus laughed. “Isn’t that the story of your life, Faith? Being useless? A failure? A disgrace upon the face of the earth?”

Faith tried to curl up into a ball, but the vampire stopped her. “And when all that is finished, we’ll tie you up and take you back to Boston and then I’ll give you to my Sire, for him to play with. But no doubt you will disappoint in that as well,” The vampire rose, grabbing Faith by her hair and dragging the cowering girl towards the woman hanging on the wall. He reached out with his left hand, claws extending and seized her face, sinking his nails into Diana’s flesh and leering. “You told her she was worth something before, bitch. Now tell her the truth. Tell her exactly how useless she is.”

Diana gasped, seeming to wake from her stupor. She shook her head, trying to dislodge the claws and hissed in pain as they just went deeper, then looked at Faith, her eyes misty with agony. “Run, Faith! RUN! I LOVE YOU, RUN!” she screamed.

Faith sobbed and reached to her side, stabbing her little, blessed dagger into Kundus’ calf, embedding it deeply.

The vampire screamed and let go off Faith’s hair. Faith scrambled away, sobbing, on all fours, until she reached the door, then ran sobbing through the door, leaving her dagger behind. Kundus growled. “You can run, girl! But you cannot hide! I will find you and tell you in intimate and gruesome detail how this bitch will suffer for this! And I will enjoy the hunt!”

He ran his claws along Diana’s face and neck, to her chest, leaving deep, bleeding gashes. Then he turned to the priest. “I’m feeling a bit peckish old man. I think I’ll have a snack.”

Mulcahey looked up, his old eyes filled with pain and resolve. He spoke, calmly.

“The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing.  He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:  He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake.  For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me. Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebriateth me, how goodly is it!”

Kundus snapped his fingers. “Oil, good idea. We’ll pour some olive oil over you and see how well you burn. But first, a light repast,” he leaned in, his face transforming and bit Mulcahey’s neck, sinking in his fangs and drinking deeply. Then his eyes widened and he screamed, his fangs dissolving and his hands on his throat. He whimpered as his throat fell apart, soon followed by the rest of his body, leaving a deformed and hideous skeleton. Mulcahey, blood running down his neck, blinked, then smiled, closed his eyes, and died.

The demon called Gr’luk looked at the heap of ash in confusion, unsure of what to do. He hadn’t been hired for his brains. One huge, clawed toe prodded the ash. Some bones fell, making a clacking sound.

Diana laughed. There was more than a hint of hysteria to it.    

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Faith scrambled up the steps to the kitchen and out of the utility room door, sobbing, but remembered to grab the 'go-bag' from the shelf by the door, before throwing herself down the steps of the side porch, down the garden path, onto the road. She ran, again. She ran to forget what she had seen and heard, she ran until she could run no more, until her legs were too weak to carry her. Panting she stood, sweat running down her face, into her eyes. There was a railroad car in front of her, and it was creaking with the sounds of movement. She looked around, seeing no one. With a desperate last expenditure of strength she hoisted herself into the car, just as it speeded up. It was mostly empty, a few crates marked with symbols and barcodes. Faith stumbled towards them, the shaking of the train and the tremors in her legs combining to throw her off balance. She fell next to the crates, crawled between them, sobbing, and hid, crying, until finally she was overtaken by exhausted sleep, using the duffel bag as a pillow. It held a small dagger, and six more of the tiny throwing darts, almost needles, twelve ampoules of holy water blessed by Father Mulcahey, several hundred dollars in cash, a passport and Massachusetts driving license, both in the name of Desdemona Clidesfield. She was sure that Diana had smirked when she’d handed Faith the ID’s. She’d also been told that if the worst came to worst to make for Sunnydale California and hang about a cemetery. Faith had not needed to be told that Sunnydale must be the place where the current Slayer was stationed. 

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Francis opened his eyes again, not sure what to expect. He wasn't expecting a Parisian terrace with two bistro chairs, a table and two cups of coffee. A tall man with long, curly brown hair and wearing a decidedly hippie-like outfit off bell-bottom jeans, flower embroidered shirt and a leather vest was eating a croissant, dipping it in the large, wide cup that held Café-au-lait. He munched, gesturing at the empty chair. Francis rather warily sat. He noted that his wounds were gone and his aged hands were looking rather younger.

The man swallowed. “Surprised?”

Francis mulled this deceptively simple question for a while. Then he shrugged. “I didn’t actually know what to expect, so I'd like to say no, but this is rather like meeting George Burns at a time like this.”

The man laughed. “I'm not him. And he's not God. Neither am I, for that matter. I'm Allen. I'm here to make you an offer.  And it took some doing to be able to make this offer.”

Francis' eyes narrowed. “Is this an offer I can’t refuse? Or the final temptation?”

Allen shook his head. “Temptation is for the living, as is true regret. You're dead. Exceptionally so. You are an ex-Jesuit.”

Francis raised an eyebrow. “Don't tell me Monty Python is favorite among angels?”

“I'm not technically an Angel. Actually, I might be. Never really got into that whole Thrones and Dominations thing...” Allen bit into his croissant. “You must really like Paris. This is really excellent. Have some, please. It's your limbo.”

“My Limbo? I thought Limbo was a place of waiting, of formlessness?” Francis asked, hesitantly reaching for the croissant that appeared, accompanied by a saucer with seven kinds of jam. A cup of hot cocoa appeared as well, and a jug with more.

“Limbo is a place between. In this case, yours. Mine was a rather lurid oriental boudoir I once visited in life, though the Limbo one was regrettable lacking in my wife, who was most definitely there in the original version” Allen smiled reminiscently. “Ordinarily you spend some time there, alone, to think about your life.”

“Ah. I see,” Francis tried the raspberry jam. It was excellent. “And what are you doing in my Limbo?”

“Ah, now there's the question. I'm a Whitelighter. I, and others like me, have been tasked to help serve the balance in the world by protecting innocents from black magic by encouraging, guiding and aiding witches,” Allen grinned. “And don't start that 'Suffer not a witch to live’, I know for a fact you've allowed plenty of them to live.”

Francis coughed. “I, errr, prepared a defence for that, if need be.”

Allen laughed. “Most Jesuits do,” he sobered, then gritted his teeth for a moment. “The actual translation is different, of course. Everyone who read a horoscope, or wrote one, would be burning at the stake.”

“I know,” Francis said. “But why are you here?”

Allen sipped his crumby coffee. “Recruitment drive. A lot of the Whitelighters have become rather too interested in advancing the whole of the goal of eradication of evil and have lost sight of the 'cogs in the machine' if you will. They've forgotten that every sparrow, every person, not just heroes, have value. We need people like you, who see people as individuals, not just tools.”

Francis sipped his cocoa and took some black cherry preserve, spreading it on a croissant. He chewed slowly. “What's the catch?”

Allen folded his hands, shoulders tightening up for a moment. “In your case? Rather extensive. In the first place you won’t Pass on yet. In the second, you will still be accumulating sins while being a Whitelighter. We can screw up. That makes me think we're not angels, since apparently they don't have Free Will and we do.”

“Depends how you interpret Lucifer,” Francis countered. “Anything else?”

Allen grinned at the answer, then sobered. “You'll spend as long in Limbo as you do as a Whitelighter.”

“And what of Diana? And Faith? And the Corcorans? And if we're supposed to protect the innocent from demons and evil witchcraft, why didn't you interfere?” Francis asked, nibbling on his croissant on which he had now put some with apricot jam, then watched as it seemed to fade out, then back in.

Allen leaned back, his face sad. “We're tasked with aiding humans in doing that. And if there is sufficient force, if you will, on the side of Good, there is a limit to how far we may interfere.”

“I see. So an old, cancer-ridden priest, a damaged young girl, a woman who'd hardened her heart against love for decades and spoiled teenager and a rigid-minded social climber were supposed to deal with three vampires and a demon?” Francis asked mildly.

“Faith got the two vampires upstairs. You got Marcus Simplicius,” Allen pointed out, leaning forward again, as he seemed to struggle with something.

“But the Corcorans are dead and Diana will die soon, and poor Faith...” Tears ran down Francis's face. “Do you know how long Diana kept people out? Hid her heart, even from herself? That girl was thawing her out! And now she's alone and on the run and believes it’s all her fault.” 

“Yes. I know. My wife hunts demons. My daughter was killed by one. My granddaughters have accepted their fate as warriors on the forefront of the battle of good and evil. And there's nothing I can do to help them,” Allen admitted. “It sucks.”

Francis' eyes narrowed. “We can't?”

Allen shook his head. “You might be able to help my wife, I should be able to help Faith, a little. But we're not allowed to meddle but once in the lives of our loved ones. A final gift, before we have to do the bidding of the Balancer of All.”

Francis bit down on the croissant. “So I can help them... could you?”

Allen sighed. “Well, yes and no. I could make sure that Diana survived, and Faith. But it would be rather Monkey’s Paw...”

“Monkey's Paw?” Francis glared at the other man.

Allen nodded. “I'm working under considerable restriction, due to the circumstances. All of you count as warriors of light, but none of you are witches, so you don't have a Whitelighter.” Allen shrugged, “She'd be scarred and both of them would continue to suffer severe psychological trauma.

Francis gritted his teeth. “What good are you then? What good would I be?”

Allen smiled. “Lots. An enormous amount. There's a girl, she lives in Sunnydale, California. Her parents are dead and she's going to realize she's a witch soon. She'll need help and guidance. A young witch is going to show up soon, she’ll need you too. The world is full of young witches and wizards who need help. And you are uniquely suited to give it.” 

“And why only me?” Francis demanded. “Can't you do it? Or are you afraid of the Boca del Infierno?”

Allen shook his head, shoulders again showing tension. “It's true that eventually the evil of the Hellmouth would wear me down and I'd become a Darklighter. But I'm not afraid. I could visit on occasion and escape most of the taint.”

“So you would let me become a Darklighter?” Francis asked. “How generous.”

“That's how we get to the final cost,” Allen admitted.

“I will be corrupted and lose all chance of Heaven?” Francis clenched his fists. His focus on the other man prevented him from seeing the scene around them fade out and in a couple times.

“You will not become a Saint,” Allen stated quietly. “Your activity after death will preclude it. But nothing can corrupt you, either, unless you willingly give in to temptation.”

Francis blinked. “What?”

“A saint. In about fifty years you'd be Saint Francis Mulcahey,” Allen explained.

 “You must be joking?!”  Francis gaped.  The scenery filled back in again. The Eiffel Tower sparkled to light as the soft autumn night fell.

“No, not really,” Allen sighed. “You could do a lot of good like that too, interceding on behalf of believers. I realize-”

Francis sipped his cocoa. “As a Whitelighter, how many people could I help, directly? Compared with as a Saint?”

Allen blinked. “Errr… I don’t know? Saints intercede, and the All works Its mysterious ways. Not often on any large scale, though.”

Francis leaned back. “Could I intercede to help Diana and Faith? Or Charles and Hawkeye?”

Allen shrugged his shoulders. “I'm not sure, but I don't think so. This doesn’t happen very often.” 

“As a Whitelighter, could I still help people in soup kitchens? Donate? Encourage?” Francis had put his cup down, where it vanished.

Allen blinked. “You’re gonna do it, aren’t you? Give up sainthood? Just like that?”

Francis shrugged. “God will still love me in fifty or sixty years. I don’t care if I’m a Saint. I care about His love and His people. At the current time a few words, even if spoken by the Pope, are not really going to sway me.”

Allen nodded, relaxing his grip on the Limbo. “Well. Okay. Shall we -”

Francis disappeared from in front of him.  

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Wesley Wyndham-Pryce was quite unsure of what welcome he would receive. Well, actually he was fairly sure that he would be yelled at, possibly kicked and beaten, spat at and reviled. Then again, considering what his father had done to the girl, it wouldn't be more than what he expected. Dr. Dormer might actually shoot him.

Wesley had done everything he could to track Diana down. He’d used every means at his disposal, from merely looking up her address in Georgetown to divination. She had wiped her address and the University bureaucracy was not inclined to be helpful in supplying an unknown young man with the forwarding address of a single, attractive professor. Since Wesley was not really very good at burglary or hacking, that left out mundane means. And he lacked the funds for bribery.

Regrettably, divination had failed as well. Which was odd, since Wesley could always find Diana. She was the only Watcher who had been willing to teach him magic, not just warn him about it. She was his mentor, and the connection between them was quite strong, despite her cold demeanor and the distance she kept between them. And so Wesley had made his way across the United States, fighting demons as best he could, giving what instruction and aid he could to the forces of good he met. And every so often he cast a spell, to find Diana or the young Potential whose forgiveness he needed to beg.

The spells had shown nothing, until quite recently. Then it had led him here, to a Jesuit College. And to this house, with the kitchen door standing open and the blood spattered all over. Wesley swallowed and walked to his ancient Edsel Villager. *Still don’t see what’s so great about that car. The salesman was very enthusiastic, but I think it must be an acquired taste.* Wesley involuntarily thought as he got an axe from the rear of the station wagon. He took a deep breath and walked into the house.  

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“Impatient, aren’t you?” Allen asked Mulcahey as he appeared in the basement .

Mulcahey frowned. “No. Well, yes, but that is a failing I’m aware of. In this case I just felt the urgent need to be here,” his eyes flickered through the blood-spattered room, ignoring his own battered corpse and the pile of dust below it.

Allen nodded. “Part an parcel of the whole Whitelighter gig,” he gently lifted Diana off the hook, but shot Francis a thoughtful look.

Francis snorted. “Then why weren’t you here before me?”

Allen shrugged. “I’m not you. Now let’s get rid of these ropes,” he cut them off swiftly, using one of the knives and then picked up the large cover of the drum kit and draped it over the naked woman’s legs. Her coat went over her torso.

Francis gestured helplessly at Diana. “Can you show me how to heal? Or tell me? How does this work?”

Allen nodded. “You put your hands on her body, preferably both of them, preferably as close to the injury as possible. In this case that means that most anywhere will do.”

Francis winced at Allen’s words. Francis tried to touch Diana, but it seemed as if an invisible aura prevented him from doing so. His fingers burned and he withdrew them swiftly. He looked questioningly at Allen.

Allen frowned and once more the thoughtful look crossed his face. “Well, it appears that you’re not allowed to heal Diana. Apparently it’s gotta be the Monkey’s Paw,” he sent a questioning glance at Francis. “Or… should we?”

Francis nodded decidedly. “Yes, we should,” he said, with a strange reverberation in his voice.

Allen shot him a startled glance, nodded and knelt closing his eyes as he gently touched Diana’s wounds.

Francis was rather relieved the more experienced Whitelighter was doing the healing. He had taken care of enough wounded and ill women not to mind her nudity, but he knew she would be embarrassed if she ever found out. He was rather glad that Allen had done the lifting and had covered her. *Another thing to ask. Are Whitelighters supposed to be celibate? Not that I’d mind. I’ve got plenty of experience with that at any rate. Oh dear. I do hope I don’t have the hormones of a twenty year old again.*

He looked on in amazement as the horrific wounds and bruises closed and faded, leaving only pristine, unmarked skin. He looked at the yellow skinned demon and spoke to Allen.

“We can’t leave her like this, eventually that demon will grow hungry enough to ignore his master’s commands and attack her, and I don’t know how long it will take her to wake up. I’m sure he won’t let her escape.”

Allen shook his head. “Don’t worry, that will be dealt with by another little plan that I set in motion,” he held up a finger at a noise from upstairs. “And there it is.”

“A plan? This was all a plan?” Francis asked, his voice very careful.

Allen shook his head. “A young man in need of guidance, has been looking for Diana for a while. I just removed her wards. We should go.”

Francis nodded. “Yes… I think I know where I should be,” and orbed out.

Allen glared at the spot where Mulcahey had been. “Okay. I don’t know how he does that, but that’s gonna get old real fast,” he sighed and looked around the room. “Adam is gonna be really annoyed,” and orbed out as well.

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Gl'ruk would be the first to admit that he was not the brightest person in the world. That is, if he knew the meaning of 'brightest', 'person', 'world', 'admit', or 'first'. He would be lucky if he could manage 'the' and 'in'. But his master had made it quite clear that he wasn't allowed to feed on the hanging prey without permission, and he hadn't been given permission, so he couldn't eat her. But he could feed on the dead breeder-humans in the middle of the room. He crouched by them and started to eat. He ignored the men who orbed into the room in bright white lights. He ignored it when they took the living breeder-human down from the hook, the master had done that too. He ignored when they left again, picking something up from the ground.

He started when there was a noise and a young man stumbled inside, his face a mask of terrified determination and swung an axe at his neck. Gl’ruk died, his mouth full of young breeder-human.

Wesley studied the room carefully, swallowing his bile at the blood and the smell. There was a corpse of an elderly man, badly beaten, hanging from a hook in the wall, and beneath another hook, lying beside a pile of ropes, lay Diana, covered by a coat and what looked like drum cover. He looked around again. There were two more corpses in the room, both he thought, female, one young. Young enough to be Faith Lehane. He swallowed and moved towards Diana. Her face was calm and unmarred, as was the arm he could see. But he was sure she was naked beneath the coat and that the blood on her face and arm was hers.

He knew of a few magics that would heal, but they were far beyond his level and took considerable sacrifice. Wesley put his axe down and gently lifted Diana, carrying her to the car, putting her on the back seat. Normally he would have dropped her, or bumped her head. But someone seemed to be watching over him, and Diana. He got in the car and drove to the hospital. After a while he spoke to thin air. “If you can help Miss Lehane, please do. Don’t waste time on me.”

It seemed as if a soft hand rested on his head for a moment, in benediction, and then he felt that the presence was gone.

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Faith was sleeping, the exhausted sleep of those completely drained in body and spirit. She dreamt she was running, running from the dark haired vampire who had stolen what little joy she had left in life. Then, suddenly, she was sitting on a little white folding chair by a little table, looking at the Eiffel Tower. “What the FUCK?”

“Language, Faith,” Father Mulcahey told her firmly.

Faith whirled in her seat. “Father M?”

Mulcahey smiled. He was just as she remembered him, little round gold glasses, kind, and gentle face. “Hello Faith. I just came by to say, well goodbye.”

Faith’s face crumpled but before the first sob left her body, he was holding her. “Shhh, I’ve got you. Now I can’t stay long. But I want you to know that you did very well. I’m proud of you, and so is Diana, I’m sure.”

Faith clung to him. “But you’re dead! I want you to be alive!”

“I’m afraid almost everybody dies one day, Faith. And my death was not far off anyway. But you’re a very brave girl, doing what you did. And I want you to remember that. And I want you to remember never to give up hope,” Mulcahey soothed her.

Faith gulped. “You’re just a dream. I know. Real dead people don’t come to talk to you, except in your dreams.”

Mulcahey touched her forehead gently. “You’d be surprised. But I have to go now. We’ll see each other again, Faith. Take care, and don’t give up hope,” there was a flash of light and he was gone, but her dreams were no longer nightmares after that.

Faith would have dismissed it as a dream, if the dagger she’d left in the Hound’s calf hadn’t been in its sheath when she woke up.

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Derinkuyu, Cappadocia, Turkey, fourteenth floor of the subterranean city

The man who currently went by the name of Adam Pierson glared at the huge stone door that barred his way into the room he needed. He’d had to sneak into the ancient, well to others, city, at night, burdened with speleological equipment and with only the vaguest recollections of the layout of the place. He was sure that this was the one where the secondary Armoury was located. He wasn’t sure if there was anything left in there, but he needed to know. He could feel the slight vibration around Faith that meant that she would be called, that she was in the direct Line.

Adam gritted his teeth. No matter how long he lived, what horrors he saw, the notion of that spell and what it did to countless generations of young women, girls, still angered him.

There was a sudden sound, a slight buzzing noise and then he was standing with his drawn sword hard against a man’s throat. The man looked at him with wide eyes.

“A-Adam?”

Adam’s eyes narrowed. “Father Mulcahey? What are you doing here? How did you get here?” He felt a tingle. “What are you?”

Mulcahey snorted. “I was about to ask that, Adam. Or should I say, Dr. Abel?”

Adam smirked. “You first. I’m not the one with a sword at my throat.”

“I’m not entirely sure you could kill me,” Mulcahey noted absently.

“Trust me, I could kill you before you can escape. And I can kill anything. It’s a gift,” Adam’s expression hardened. “Talk.”

“I’m dead, Diana is in hospital, Faith is on the run and I think it might be wise if you got back to the States as soon as possible,” Mulcahey explained. “From what I understand the poor girl is in considerable danger.”

“Dead? Hmmm. And how did you come to be here?” Adam’s sword was still at Mulcahey’s neck.

Mulcahey shrugged. “I thought you needed to know. I think it’s called… Orbing?”

Adam withdrew his sword with a swift movement and put it back in its scabbard. “Okay, message delivered. It will take time for me to get out of here. I can’t really let the archaeologists know about the extra nine levels to this place. Not to mention the flight.”

Mulcahey shook his head. “She’s safe for now. I just wanted you to know. And possibly get a bit of an explanation. Who and what you are, for instance.”

“I think you know what I am. As for who? That is information you do not need,” Adam told him repressively.

Mulcahey pursed his lips. “But you will try to locate Faith? Help her?”

Adam rolled his eyes. “Yes. Now do you think you could help me move this rock? There’s things behind here I’ll need if I want to help Faith. Can you Orb it out of the way?”

Mulcahey looked at the rock, then at Adam. “Are you serious?”

Adam sighed. “Yes. Drat. I was afraid it would be Slayer-sealed. Can you go and get a big pole or something?”

“Why didn’t you bring one?” Mulcahey asked with a frown.

“Because you can’t get a pole big enough down here. I de- the tunnels are designed that way. I brought a folding metal pole. It’s being held up in customs,” Adam explained absently.

“Ah. I see. I’ll go get a big stick or something.”

Adam nodded and started to clear debris out from the edges of the stone, muttering to himself.

Mulcahey gave him a look. “You were around when this was built, weren’t you?”

“Hmmm?” Adam made a non-committal noise as he inspected the round stone with the hole pierced through it again, dusting his hands.

Mulcahey sighed and Orbed out and landed on the mountainside, next to the information board. He checked the date of the creation of the city and shook his head. “At least the 8th century B.C.” He looked around, found a pile of wooden posts that were to become part of a bench, picked one up and prepared to Orb back with it. “Well, I think she will have someone with experience at her side.”

End note:

The title translates as: While I breathe, there is hope

A tuppu is a clay tablet used for inscriptions in any of the languages of the Fertile Crescent.

This version of the psalm is nr 22 of the Douay-Rheims translation, revised by Challoner. I felt that to be in keeping with Mulcahey’s age and education. (Not 23, like Protestant bibles) http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=21&ch=22&l=5 - x

The Edsel was one of the worst sales disasters of the Ford Motor Company. It bombed and is considered to be a very bad car by many people.

The Derinkuyu underground City in Turkey was constructed in the 9th-7th century BCE in the Median Empire. It has five levels and extends sixty meters underground. Modern calculations show that up to 20.000 people might have found shelter there in time of need. Fewer would have used it in everyday life. The level Adam is on does not, in reality exist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derinkuyu_Underground_City

 

 

 
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