Click Here For Parts One, Two and Three
London had changed since Wesley's days as a citizen. He had visited the country now and then, since the long ago day when he had left his old life behind and moved to California; not that he remembered any of that now. Remembered or not, the city that he had come back to was a very different one to the place that he had left - a place where one old fear had turned into another; where new paranoias had grown out of the old. When a young hotel maid ran to her manager, with tales of a man in one of the rooms with a gun; a man who had been speaking a language that she didn't recognise; it didn't take long for the wheels to set themselves in motion. Word spread, oiled cogs spun. Telephones rang in a dozen offices, and with a practised, steady speed, the city's new machinery came to life. Soon enough a veritable army was converging upon the small hotel, with the Press following close in its wake. A man with a gun was threat enough at any time. In the new London, it was very much more than that.
The Perilys Codex contained the details of several spells concerning memory loss. Wesley tried a few, but if anything happened, he didn't notice it. No new clarity came to wash away the questions in his mind. He was left, if anything, with more questions than before. Sitting alone in his hotel room, he told himself off for bothering to try the spells in the first place. He didn't need his memory. He had decided that at the outset. This was just confusion, he reasoned, caused by the things that they had told him in that pale grey house. The friends of Angel, trying to convince him that he was wrong in his suppositions. Perhaps he had wanted his memory back in order to find out if what they were saying was true - except that he was not prepared to accept that it might be. The things that he knew - or thought that he knew - were the only truths that he had. He had to believe them. He had to believe that he was David, and not this unknown Wesley. If he lost that, he had nothing at all.
"...And steep my senses in forgetfulness," he quoted hoarsely, without bothering to wonder at the piecemeal nature of his amnesia. He was a fool, shutting himself away in here with this book, when there were other things to be done. When there was Angel to think about, and Angel's friends to worry over. Pushing himself to his feet, he hid the book beneath the bed, clothed by the concealment spell that still hid his weapons there; then crossed to the window. He needed to look out into the world; to see something that was not about parchment and crooked lettering. Buildings old and new greeted him beyond the glass, none of them seeming quite real. Phantoms threaded their way through the walls, and wandered along roads that had ceased to exist. So much of London still belonged to the dead. He felt as though he belonged to them too.
"I seemed to move among a world of ghosts,/ And feel myself the shadow of a dream." He didn't want to be here. He wasn't sure where he wanted to be, but this wasn't right for him. His head hurt with thoughts of who he was supposed to be, and who he wasn't. With words written in ancient script in a book he shouldn't have. With sights of ghosts wreathing a city he was supposed to know, but that didn't look anything like he felt it should. There were people in the street, but none of them seemed to see the ghosts. Maybe he alone could see them; maybe because he was one of them. That strange, disjointed thought felt more right than any other. He rubbed his eyes, and stared out once again at the world, whispering a word to make the realities shift. The phantoms faded away then, though he could feel that they were still there. In their place he saw only the people. People in uniforms, people with guns, people scurrying about, and evacuating others from the hotel. A peculiar understanding told him why they were here. He remembered a door slamming and waking him up; somebody had seen his gun. Guns were not popular in London then. Odd, that so many people would live in a city of such magic, such potential danger, and not possess weapons to defend themselves. Who had seen his gun? Surely whoever it was could have seen that it was no ordinary weapon. No brutal tool of destruction? It had magic forged into its very being. Cursing softly, he stowed the weapon away on his person, all the while thinking fast. He couldn't use the door. The window was out of the question. Checking that he had what he needed with him - stake, dagger, crucifix - he took his sword and headed for the bathroom, using the weapon to lever up the floorboards. The space beneath was cramped, but it was enough. He crawled inside, letting the boards replace themselves. They were no longer nailed down, but it was cover enough to be going on with. At a steady, careful speed, he crawled onwards, in a pitch blackness that felt oddly comforting, until he reached the solidity of stone. A spell and the sword broke his way through that, into the insulating space that lay between the two layers of the wall, a passageway that waited to lead him down to the ground. From there all that he needed was to break his way out into daylight, with magic and the blade once again to ease his passing. The musty air of a narrow gap between buildings greeted him, and with a moment's quick thought he repeated the process, breaking his way into the building next door. The bricks followed him, sealing the way up as he went, if haphazardly.
He found himself in a drab, tired room. Peeling paint, and wallpaper that looked three decades old, clinging to a damp wall. The air was musty and smelt of dust and harsh disinfectant. Wesley looked around, almost without seeing. It was a building adjacent to the hotel. The police would be here soon, if they weren't already. They would check this room like all of the others, and he couldn't stay here long. He had to escape from this place too.
"Who are you?" A female voice, quiet and quavering. He turned, eyes flat. Once upon a time he might have wondered at the image he presented, with a sword in one hand and a gun in the other. Now he didn't care.
"Keep quiet," he told the voice, its owner barely registering. One look told him that she was not with the police. She was pale and cowed - and, his subconscious noted without interest, heavily pregnant. About nineteen, probably, and homeless.
"There are policemen all over the place outside." Possibly she thought that she could dissuade him from doing anything to her by saying that. He put the gun away, hoping that he could stave off a panic, and therefore keep her quiet.
"I know." He pushed past her, running one hand up the opposite wall. He could probably repeat the same trick, and escape from the building the same way in which he had escaped from the hotel, but eventually, if he kept doing that, he was going to meet somebody on the other side who was not quite as easily hushed as this pale and pregnant girl. Somebody would raise an alarm. He didn't especially want to go harming civilians.
"Who are you?" She was pressing back against the wall. He turned to look at her properly then, frowning at her. Did she think that she could vanish into the bricks? But no, there was nothing magical about her. He could see that with one look. She was just an ordinary person. Just one of the many millions in London, who didn't see what went on around them.
"My name is David." There was a surname that went with that, but he couldn't remember it. Had Angel's friends cast a further spell upon him? Was his memory failing him still further? He told himself that the name would come back, and for now left it just at David.
"Heather." She had green eyes, he noticed. Rather dark and beautiful green eyes, that accentuated the paleness of her face. She needed decent food, and probably a medical check-up; that much was obvious. You had to be careful with babies. Babies were small and helpless, and born in the rain, and they needed special care. He remembered the weight of a baby in his arms, though he had no idea why. Did he have a baby? Hardly likely.
"Are you going to kill me?" She was cupping an arm protectively around herself, around her child. She thought that he was a danger to her, that he was going to hurt her and the baby; but couldn't she see that he was not that kind of man? Or maybe he was that kind of man, and just didn't remember it. Maybe she saw more than he did.
"Of course not. Just keep quiet." There were stairs that led upwards, and he sat down on one of the steps. It creaked loudly. The girl followed his every movement with wide and watchful eyes.
"The police are after you, aren't they. You're a terrorist or something."
"A terrorist?" He couldn't understand where she had got that idea from. "Why would I be a terrorist? What would a terrorist want with a place like this?"
"I don't know. A hideout. You used explosives to get in here, though, and that means--"
"Explosives?" So she had seen the hole appearing in the wall. Great. "Did it look like an explosion?"
"How should I know?" She shrugged thin shoulders, and her eyes trailed back towards the place of his entry. The bricks were back in their places now of course, and explosions didn't tend to clean up after themselves. She frowned. "Not explosives then. But something."
"Magic, that's all." He stood up, gazing intently up the stairs. They led to a wooden door. "Where does that lead?"
"Upstairs." It was a child's answer, guileless and meant with all honesty. "Magic? There's no such thing as magic. Why do the police want you?"
"What makes you think that the police want me?" She was growing in confidence, and he could almost have wished that she was terrified of him again. She laughed at his answer, though fear flared in her eyes again, as though she was worried that she had gone too far.
"Of course they want you. You're obviously hiding. And besides, you're armed."
"I'm not a terrorist." The words came out unprompted. He didn't want her to think badly of him, though in all honesty her thoughts were irrelevant. There was no reason to wish for her goodwill. She was still looking at the sword with suspicious eyes, and he scowled. "I haven't done anything. The police are after me because I have weapons, not because I've done anything bad with them."
"Why do you have them?" She seemed to go a shade paler upon asking the question, clearly nervous. He frowned. It was such an obvious question, with such an obvious answer.
"To use them. To fight. Now tell me where that door leads."
"Upstairs, that's all. This building is empty. People have been squatting in it for years. It was supposed to be converted into flats, but the money fell through, or the planning permission never happened, or something. At this time of the day most people are out. There are a lot of buskers living here, and they like to make an early start. Catch the morning crowd, you know. The commuters."
"Anything else?" He wasn't really interested in the personal lives of local people, but he was determined not to lose his temper with her. She was so young and so pale, and he couldn't stop thinking about her baby. Babies meant something to him, he was sure. Tiny, yowling babies, born in the rain. But it wasn't raining, and the baby wasn't being born. He would have muttered to himself in his anger, but didn't. The baby might not have been born yet, but that was still no reason to swear in front of it. That thought angered him too. Confound it, why was he suddenly so concerned about babies?
"There might still be a few people upstairs." Not answering his question, she tried to back away from him again, evidently forgetting that she was already up against a brick wall. Again he tried not to let himself get angry.
"I told you, I'm not here to hurt you. There's no magic in you. My fight is with others, and it's important that I get past the police out there. I have my own battles to fight, that don't concern them."
"Yeah." She was beginning to look placating now. "Of course you do. I... I can help."
"Don't patronise me." He started up the stairs, not caring now where they led. He had to go somewhere. "When I'm gone, I need for you not to call the police."
"I... I won't." Again she sounded placating. He scowled. She might be telling the truth. She was homeless, and she might be running from something. She might not trust the police, especially if she wanted to be sure of keeping her baby. On the other hand, here he was with a gun and a sword, and what looked like half of the police force outside, with guns of their own. His eyes trailed up to the tiny window above his head. A grubby lace curtain hung over it, so nobody should be able to see in, but she had clearly seen out at some point. She would be able to signal from it, if she was of a mind to try. He thought about tying her up, but dismissed the thought straight away. She was pregnant, she was just a kid, she-- Though other girls were just kids, and they faced danger regularly. Other girls? What other girls? He turned to face her.
"I need for you not to call the police." It was a quiet, firm repetition of his earlier request. She didn't answer this time, but the fear in her eyes spoke clearly. He sighed, then closing his eyes briefly, he muttered a word and made a brief gesture in the air with one hand. As before, reality shifted - though this time, he knew that it had shifted for her as well. They could both see the phantoms now.
"What...? I - I... Who-?" She was backing away from ghostly shapes, though the ghosts themselves did not seem interested in her. Wesley's eyes scanned the translucent, shabby figures. Two children, huddled against a far wall, their clothing hinting at the eighteenth century. A pair of ankles dangled near his head - a woman, hanging from the banister, what looked like a sheet twisted around her neck. A man sprawled at the foot of the stairs, a needle still sticking in one arm. Heather's eyes widened, and she stared up at Wesley in terror. "What's going on? What did you do to me?"
"Opened your eyes." He turned away from her again. "Like I said, I have battles to fight that don't concern the police."
"I won't tell them anything." She covered her eyes with her fists, but the ghosts still remained. When Wesley went up the stairs she chased after him, stumbling awkwardly on the steps, trying to jump the slumped figure at their foot.
"Don't leave me." She caught at his arm, her fingers pulling at his sleeve. "Please. With - with them. I can't--"
"They won't hurt you. They're just echoes, not real ghosts. The whole of London is full of them. The whole of everywhere is full of them, if you know where to look. They're easier to find in London, that's all." Strange that he knew that, when he knew nothing else about the city. "Some lives end with more emotion than others. They stand out. Buildings especially remember them."
"I don't want to see them anymore. Please. Take them away." She cowered away from the hanged woman, and her accusing dead eyes. Wesley did as the girl asked, but she still cowered away from the place where she knew the dead woman swung. "I don't want to stay here." Her eyes were imploring, her face paler than ever. Wesley might have been exasperated, save that he sympathised with her. So many shadows, so many whispers, so many confusions and questions without answers. He wouldn't want to be alone either, if he was her. He cursed himself for letting her see his world, but at the time it had seemed like the right thing to do. At the time it had seemed the best way to let her see who he was. Helpless, he gave a prolonged sigh.
"Follow me. Keep quiet. Do what I say and speak to no one."
"There's no one to speak to." She still clung to him, but he pushed her hand away.
"There might be any number of people. Or things that look like people but aren't. If you're to stay with me, even for just a little while, you have to remember that. You can't trust anybody. Even someone that you think you know can turn out to be a traitor, or a demon in disguise. Understand?"
"No." She looked back down the stairs, to the room that had been her home, but that was now forever tainted by images of the dead. "But I'll do as you say. I just... I don't want to be--"
"Just come with me." He took her hand in his left, his sword in his right. "How fast can you move?"
"You might be surprised." Her free hand moved to stroke the curve where her baby waited inside her. Wesley felt a burst of guilt once again. A shard of memory, that might not really be a memory at all, plagued the recesses of his mind. An alley. A rainstorm. A mother, desperate to save her child. It meant nothing to him, but it left him with a dull sort of pain deep inside. Just one more thing that he didn't understand. By now he had quite a collection.
"Where are we going?" asked Heather, as they reached the top of the stairs. He didn't look at her.
"We aren't going anywhere. You can go where you like." There was a door, painted red long ago, and now looking drab and tired. A light switch was beside it, a relic straight out of the nineteen fifties. Heather touched it, her expression suddenly cunning.
"They evacuated the other buildings, you know. They think that this one is empty, but if I turn on the light..."
"The bulb has gone," Wesley told her, uninterested in her threats. She frowned.
"How do you-?"
"Simple." He made a clenching gesture in the air with one hand, and above them there was a sharp, glassy crunch. Fragments rained down from the ceiling. "Because I just broke it." He pulled open the door. "Now come on."
"I'm coming." The last thing that she wanted was to be left behind in that cellar. Not that the rest of the building was any less depressing; any less worn and tired. Heather's own imagination told her that there were phantoms here too; the echoes that she had been shown in her own room. She had hoped that the memory would begin to fade in this brighter place; that perhaps she might convince herself that it had all been a trick, and that there still was no such thing as ghosts. Instead she found that she still believed in everything. "Where are you going, then? What is this battle you were talking about?"
"I'm not intending to talk to strangers about it." He glanced at her sideways as they moved off along the corridor. "There's a creature that I have to defeat. A vampire."
"A... vampire." So she didn't believe in everything after all. The realisation came as something of a relief to her. "A... a thing that sucks blood."
"Precisely. An undead creature. It has no soul, no humanity, no pity, though it might look as human as you or I. This particular vampire is one of the worst, and it's my job to stop him. We've fought before, and this time I intend to finish it." He frowned suddenly, and she saw his eyes brighten for an instant. "Holbrook."
"Holbrook - David Holbrook. It's my name. I couldn't remember all of it before."
"You forgot your name?" The look that she tried to hide told him that she was still very much afraid of him, and he couldn't decide how that made him feel. Unsettled, certainly, which was about par for the course. He decided to focus just on the question.
"My memory comes and goes. It's because of a fight that I had, with the vampire that I came here to kill. It won't concern you."
"You won't suddenly forget that I'm on your side?"
"I don't know that you are on my side. But no, I'm unlikely to forget you. I don't think that's how the spell works."
"Spell?" She looked confused. "Are you sure you didn't just bang your head?"
"Quite sure. Magic leaves echoes just like the traces of death that you saw down in that room. My memory was taken by magic."
"And is that why you want to kill him? This vampire? Because he stole your memory?"
"No. For the hundreds of years of rape and murder, perhaps. For the innocents slaughtered. Because he has something new planned. Some new piece of evil. And I have to stop it."
"Oh." She followed him along the corridor, clearly still full of questions. "Did somebody appoint you to fight him? Or did you just... I mean, how come I don't know about vampires?"
"It's what I do. It's what I've always done." He couldn't answer her question any better than that, and didn't try. There was probably something; some part of his memory that had been stolen. Something that explained why he felt it natural to roam the streets with a sword - and others apparently didn't. "How many exits does this building have?"
"Exits? Two doors, and... I think there are sixteen windows on the first two floors. Quite a few of them are too small to use, though, like the one in my room. Can't you just do that thing with the bricks again?"
"Yes, but only if I'm sure that I won't walk straight into the path of a policeman. They'll have officers all over the place. There might even be some on the upper floors of this building, looking for a clear view across to the hotel."
"A clear shot, you mean. I've seen this sort of thing on television. They'll be trying to kill you."
"Perhaps." He had no idea if that was true or not. He fought demons, not the law, and certainly demons generally wanted to kill. Wesley wasn't in the habit of expecting mercy. "But they won't kill what they don't see. Tell me about the surrounding buildings."
"There's the hotel... if you can call it that. A block of flats... and another old house like this one. It's been converted into individual units, but I think it's for offices rather than housing. Some grimy little private detective uses one of the rooms. I don't know about the others."
"And beyond that?"
"Housing. Flats, mostly, and mostly pretty grim. Housing association stuff, that the people in charge like to forget about. There's a lot of noise from there during the night. A lot of fighting, and a couple of times I've thought that I've heard gunshots. I'm glad I don't live there."
"You'd rather live in a half-converted cellar with no running water?"
"Yes. I do pretty well, you know." She looked affronted, which at least meant that her fear was fading. He was glad about that. Had his mind not been elsewhere, he might have smiled. "I keep the place clean. Except for the damp, but a lot of proper houses have that, especially round here. I'd rather my baby was born here, where I can try to keep it safe, than in some housing estate full of drug dealers and who knows what else. Now you tell me that I have to worry about vampires, as well."
"There aren't that many in London. You've got more chance of being mugged. Just be careful who you invite into the house after dark." They had made their way along the corridor to a blank wall, and Wesley ran one hand over it, feeling the rough dampness of its structure. "Where does this lead?"
"I guess..." She frowned, making sure of her bearings. "There's a nasty little alley, like something out of the early nineteenth century. Then the block of flats. I doubt there's any policemen in the alley. It's hardly big enough to walk down, and you wouldn't get a very good view of anything. I don't think there are any windows looking onto it."
"Perfect." He took a step back, and touched the point of the sword to the wall, at the space between two bricks. "Stand back."
"So long as you promise not to run off and leave me here." She moved back anyway, watching him closely. He was muttering something, but she couldn't catch the words, no matter how hard she strained to hear. She certainly couldn't make any sense out of what she did hear. Was he even speaking English? Possibly not. Maybe there was some special magical language, for use when chanting spells. She wondered if he would mind her asking some time. For now, though, there was no time for talk. In a tumble, the bricks were falling away.
"Quickly." He was waving her through the gap, and with a breathless smile she did as she was told. She had thought that he would try to leave her, and was amazed at her relief that he did not. Climbing awkwardly over the pile of bricks, she stepped out into the damp cold of the alley. No sun ever reached here, no fresh air ever bothered to stir the old. She could imagine that the very molecules of oxygen that floated here were the same ones that had waited ever since the buildings had been built. After a second Wesley joined her, not seeming to notice their surroundings in the slightest. A second later the bricks replaced themselves, and the light was immediately halved.
"This place is creepy." She was sure that she would have thought so even before her experience in the cellar, but certainly she thought so now. The light that came down from the narrow crack of sky was not enough. Shadows were everywhere. Wesley had to hold his sword at an awkward angle, in order to press its point against the bricks.
"You're safe here," he told her, though she couldn't see how he could possibly know that. There was nothing here that felt safe.
"I'll take your word for it." She tried to give him enough room in which to work, and again tried to listen as he spoke his words to move the bricks. This time, closer to him by necessity, she thought that she heard a couple of words, but they meant nothing to her. Perhaps she had been right about there being another language for magic.
This time, when the bricks fell away, it was whiteness that greeted them. The white of paint daubed over damp patches, to hide the need for renovations; the white of a place painted more for practical reasons than for aesthetics. Wesley seemed more on the alert now, sword held as though ready for action. Heather followed him carefully, wary without knowing why.
"I don't think you have to worry about anybody sounding the alarm," she said quietly. "The police aren't exactly popular. Most people here wouldn't call them no matter what happened."
"It's not just the police." He led her on down the corridor, past doors and narrow windows. His words made her shiver.
"Do you always see ghosts?" She had no idea how many of them there might be here. It scared her to think how many years she might have lived alongside them, without ever realising that they were there. He blinked.
"No. Not always. Just if I think about it."
"And are there many of them here?"
"No." He looked around, apparently interested by her question. "There are echoes, like the ones that I showed you in your room. There's a murdered woman over there. And a Roman soldier. There's a ghost over by that window, though. A real one. You don't have to worry about him."
"Why?" She wanted to press closer to her companion, but was scared to. Her fear for him was fading, but she still didn't want to get too close. He shrugged.
"He's beckoning. He wants us to follow him. Ghosts can have substance, and they can have powers, but this one has nothing. He's caught in a loop. There's a rope around his neck, and he's wearing a shroud, so he was probably hanged. I think he's a murderer, looking for new victims."
"Murdering ghosts. Great." This time she did move a little closer, though Wesley didn't seem to notice. "Do the living ever get killed by ghosts?"
"Yes. There are stories of such things going back centuries. Britain has always been a land of ghosts and hauntings, and there are always some spirits that are malevolent. It's not the sort of thing to worry about, though. Most ghosts will never bother you at all."
"That's what you think. I don't think I shall ever sleep again."
"That's your prerogative." He sounded completely unconcerned, and she swallowed a burst of irritation. He smashed through a wall into her home, he performed magic, he showed her things that terrified her, and then he acted as though it was all her problem. Perhaps life was like that, when you knew things that others didn't; when you lived outside the norm. She couldn't forgive him for it, though.
"How many of them are there?" she asked in the end, as she followed him onwards through the building. He didn't look back at her.
"Ghosts. Phantoms. Echoes. Whatever you want to call them."
"Ghosts? I don't know. Thousands of them probably, just in this country. The echoes, as I said, are something different. They're uncountable. Almost every death that's less than peaceful can leave its imprint on the world."
"And you see them all?" She pitied him then. What must the world look like, if everywhere you looked there were phantom figures. He shook his head, still not looking at her, still just walking ahead.
"No. Sometimes. I can stop myself. If I couldn't I think I'd go mad."
"Could you always see them?" Maybe that was how one came to be this kind of man, living this kind of life, if there were always such sights lurking. He hesitated in his stride then, and she remembered that he had told her about his memory being stolen. "Oh. Sorry. You don't remember?"
"No, I don't. But it doesn't feel natural." He hefted the sword. "This feels natural. Fighting vampires, fighting demons, using magic. It all feels right. Seeing figures everywhere; spirits, wrapped around buildings; that doesn't feel natural. Something has changed, somewhere. It's like... like being pulled from one world to the next." He shrugged, and glanced back at her then, the slightest smile touching his face. It warmed his pale blue eyes for a moment, and made him look ten years younger. "It's alright. I don't think I'm completely insane."
"It must be so strange, not knowing who you are, or where you're from."
"As it happens I find it somewhat liberating. I don't think that I can have enjoyed my old life very much, on the whole. It's almost as though a part of me is taking refuge in amnesia." He frowned, no longer looking back at her, once again concentrating merely on where they were going. "And anyway, I do know who I am. I'm David Holbrook, and I fight vampires."
"You don't look like a David." She wasn't sure why she said it, but it seemed like the right thing to say. David was an ordinary name. This man wasn't ordinary. Even if you ignored the sword and the gun, and the magic and the amnesia, he still wasn't ordinary. She saw his stride falter, and couldn't help but be interested. He wasn't sure himself, then. Just how did he come to know his name if he knew nothing else? Just now, though, she didn't dare to ask.
"When we reach the outer wall of this building, I shouldn't need to worry so much about the police." His change of subject was anything but smooth and subtle, but she didn't intend to object. "I won't be needing a hostage anymore then."
This was news to her. She blinked. "I'm a hostage?" She didn't feel like one - and hadn't it been her idea to come with him? He shrugged, seeming almost embarrassed.
"I didn't want you to raise the alarm, and... well I didn't know, did I. About you, or the police. You weren't necessarily a hostage. I hadn't exactly decided."
"Oh, great. I'm helping an armed nutcase escape from the police, and I don't even know if he's decided whether he's going to shoot me or not."
"I'm not a nutcase." As soon as the words had tumbled out of her, she had felt afraid. He might be angry, and here he was talking of hostages, here he was with his weapons still so evident, and she was being fool enough to let her mouth run away without restraint. He still didn't seem angry, though. Instead he merely led her onwards, to what she knew was the outside wall. "I'm not going to shoot you. I--" He was remembering - thought that he was remembering - a young woman, chained in a small room, and the thought shocked the words from his mouth. Had he - could he? Who was she, and what had happened to her? Had he rescued her from somebody? He assumed that that must be the answer, but it didn't feel like it. It didn't feel like a glad memory. More like one of guilt and great sadness. Unable to stop himself, he wobbled uncertainly, and had to put one hand out to the nearby wall.
"Are you alright?" Heather was immediately concerned. He wasn't sure why. He was a nutcase, just as she had said - a nutcase who had possibly kidnapped her, and certainly had upset her greatly. A nutcase who clearly had no real idea of how to deal with human beings, and probably never had. He levered open a nearby window with his sword, and began to clamber out.
"You'd better go." He fought back the image of the chained woman, and tried not to think about who she was, and whether it really had been him who had imprisoned her. "Just... go."
"But I don't want to." She looked afraid, her eyes wide and round. She had seen things, because of him. Now she wanted to stay with him because she thought that he could protect her. He shook his head, wearily and with sadness.
"Yes you do. You don't want to stay with me. It isn't safe, and it never will be. Besides, I might be walking for a long time. You need to rest."
"I'm pregnant, not desperately ill." She took his hand, resting on the sill, though he saw from her eyes that she was still scared of him. "I don't want to stay behind. Please."
"I can't be sure of looking after you! I have other responsibilities. There'll be people trying to kill me. Friends of Angel's, they've already tried to..." To what? To help him? To give him a book to read? His head hurt, and he shook it, partly to clear it, and partly to emphasise his refusal. "There's too much going on, Heather. You have a baby to think about, and I have... so much else. Leave now while you can."
"Angel?" If she had heard anything else after that word, she gave no sign of it. "This person that you're fighting. This monster. It's an angel?"
"Not an angel. It's his name."
"Why would an evil creature go by a name like that? It doesn't make any sense."
"It's..." It was a corruption of Angelus, he knew that. But why had it become corrupted in such a way? Angelus would never willingly be called Angel. It was not the kind of name that he would ever want to use. Then why...? He shook his head. "Never mind. I have to go now."
"I'm coming with you." She sounded so determined. He could have stopped her of course, with force or with magic, but he knew that he wouldn't. The image of a chained woman was still too clear in his mind, and the last thing that he wanted was to hurt another woman. He looked away.
" Fine. Follow me. It won't do you any good. And with me or not, you're still on your own."
"Sure. Whatever." She was tempted to ask if he had always been so warm and friendly, but in view of his amnesia it seemed a little unfair. She nearly asked him anyway. He was walking away, though, down yet another alley, all strange and dark and aloof, and she didn't want to think about questions then. Just on catching him up, and trying to stay with him. Trying to be sure that he couldn't leave her behind.
He tried, though, or gave a good impression of it. Down one alley, up another. Past stinking wheelie bins; broken, dejected buildings; homeless people wrapped in newspapers and blankets. Heather had seen homeless people every day of her life in London, but with her stolen room to scurry back to, she had never counted herself amongst them. She wasn't sure what she was now, with a home that she didn't want to go back to, and little chance of finding anywhere else. She wondered where her companion was planning to spend the night, and then wondered if he was intending to bother. A thought occurred to her then, as she clambered over the fourth half-drunk man in as many minutes, trying not to look at him all wrapped up against the elements in an overcoat that had to be forty years old. His balaclava didn't look much younger.
"It's them, isn't it. These people. I mean, if you're right about their being vampires, it's these people that they feed on."
"Primarily." He spoke dispassionately, without slowing or looking back at her, but then she was used to that by now. "Homeless people are an easy target, and nobody notices when they disappear. They have nowhere to run to, nowhere safe to hide, and there's always a good supply of them after dark. A lot of them aren't in any shape to fight back, either."
"You could try to sound a little more concerned." He was pulling ahead again, and she hurried to catch up. He glanced back at her, very briefly.
"It's my job to fight vampires. Of course I care. But there are too many vampires for me to kill, and too many homeless people to protect them all. I'd need an army to even begin to get the job done." His stride faltered slightly, and she saw him frown, before he looked away again. Something had occurred to him, she could see. Something to do with his messed up memory.
"Where are we going?" she asked in the end, steering the conversation onto, she hoped, a rather safer topic. He didn't answer her immediately, stopping to clamber over a wall that blocked the way ahead. She was surprised when he turned to help her over, and even more surprised by how gentle he was.
"I need to find somewhere peaceful. There's something that I had to leave in the hotel, and I'd like to get it back. If I'm going after Angel, I can't do a lot before nightfall. I might be able to get something useful accomplished in the meantime."
"You're going to use magic to get this thing back?" She felt excited by the prospect. He nodded, turning smartly to begin the ever onward march.
"Hopefully it won't be too difficult. They shouldn't have found it. I need peace and quiet, though. Somewhere where I can concentrate."
"If we carry on this way, you're not going to get peace and quiet. You're just going to get mugged." The nasty little alleys were starting to get oppressive. He hefted the sword in his hand, and looked back, one eyebrow raised. She almost blushed.
"Oh. Right. I... forgot."
"You should try carrying it for a while." He stopped, looking left and right as they reached the end of another alley. "Here, I think."
"Here?" She could still hear the sound of cars, and a group of children arguing in a nearby building. "I thought you wanted peace and quiet?"
"I do." He pulled aside a pair of wheelie bins that didn't look as if they had been moved since their issue, in nineteen-whenever-it-was, revealing a big, chunky manhole cover. "Thought so."
"We're going down in a sewer?" Heather couldn't help thinking that there were far better ways of getting peace and quiet. Her companion merely shook his head, and used the sword to lever up the lid.
"Not exactly. I mean yes, but these things haven't been used in years. And besides, we're not going into the sewer itself."
"So that would be a yes, but no, but yes." She rolled her eyes. "Fine." She peered downwards. "I don't suppose you've got a torch?"
"No." He clicked his fingers, and a ball of bright blue light suddenly rested there in his palm. A half smile lightened his usually serious face. "I didn't think I'd need one."
"That..." She couldn't help grinning. "That actually is pretty cool. So is there really a Hogwarts, or do you just... pick that up in bars?"
"Hogwarts?" He frowned, clearly running the reference through his mind. Recognition sparked eventually. "Oh. No, not that I'm aware of. Actually, magic is largely forbidden. I--" He broke off, and she could see that he had surprised himself with a memory. "Never mind. Come on."
"Down into the sewers of London. Joy." She watched him swing lightly down the ladder, and glanced down at herself. Clearly she was insane. Still the manhole was big, far bigger than modern ones. And she was not the largest pregnant woman ever. As carefully as she could, she clambered down after him.
She found herself in a tunnel, bigger than she had expected, and cleaner. Brick-lined, lit with the blue light in her guide's glowing hand, and not remotely tainted with the expected smells of a sewer still in use. Wesley gestured ahead.
"You really know where you're going?"
"I hope so. I read a book once... well, several books actually. I've never been down here, but there's no reason to suppose that the book was wrong."
"I've read books about tunnels under London. I've never thought to go looking for them, though. And I wouldn't have a clue where to start." A rat ran past, and a thought occurred to her. "Those tales about crocodiles..."
"Mostly untrue." He led her on down a side-tunnel, then into a bigger, wider place where the distant sound of water just reached them. "There are several sections of the Thames that run underground, and there are crocodiles in them. They can't get out into the main river, and it's probably just as well. They're not the kind you'd find in Africa. Not anymore."
"I just had to ask, didn't I."
"Don't worry. You won't be meeting them."
"I'll hold you to that." She stopped suddenly, though, and cocked her head on one side. "I can hear water. Running water." She had visions of rounding a corner, and finding some vast underground river filled with massive mutated reptiles desperate for blood. Wesley just nodded. "Is it the river?"
"Hardly. It's moving too fast. That's just piped water that you can hear. Somebody somewhere is running their taps."
Somebody ordinary, in an ordinary house. No dead people haunting the rooms, and no magicians appearing through the walls. It seemed a million miles away, and she shouldn't be able to hear it all rushing by. He frowned at her.
"Are you alright?"
"Not really." There was no point explaining anything though. She didn't really think that he would understand. "Are we staying here?"
"For a while. Sit down, the place is perfectly clean. But be quiet. Water is one thing - voices are another."
"Of course." She sat down on the floor nearby, on the very edges of the blue light's reach. Her companion sat as well, crossing his legs, and settling the glowing ball of blue beside his feet. She saw his eyes close, and watched him draw in a deep breath. His lips were moving, but she couldn't see what words were being formed. He was too far away for her to see clearly, and she didn't really believe that the words would be in English. She was sure that they hadn't been before. Whatever words they were, though, something somewhere understood them. The elements, perhaps? Something in the air that made magic happen? Or something inside him, that made the blue light turn to purple, made a breeze come from nowhere and rustle his hair, made lines stand out on his forehead, and wisps of blue smoke rise from the ground. Wesley... whispered the air in Heather's ears, and she frowned to herself. Was it one of the words of the spell? Did it mean something? It was nothing to her though; and at the sight of something forming itself out of thin air on the lap of the chanting magician, the whispered word passed from her mind entirely. A book, she decided. It was thin air no longer - it was a book, opened, and with its pages riffling in a breeze that she couldn't feel. A second later Wesley opened his eyes.
"That would seem to have worked." He flashed her a tired smile that quite warmed her heart. "I'm still getting the hang of that kind of spell, though. I think it must be a bit of a step up from what I usually do."
"The only magic I've ever done is trying to make a coin disappear." She approached him slowly, staring at the book. "That just... that was amazing."
"Thankyou." He lifted the book and handed it to her. "It's sort of about memories."
"You're hoping it will help you." She thought that she understood the faint look of distance in his eyes, but when she tried to smile at him, he was already looking away. She glanced down at the book instead, and tilted it towards the blue globe. The weight of the thing surprised her, but then she had never expected it to be very light. It was big and thick, bound in leather and with pages that looked more like parchment than ordinary paper. Certainly they were thicker and tougher, yellowed faintly and slightly stiff to the touch. She couldn't read the words, and wondered if they were written in the language of magic that she had theorised might exist.
"What language is this?" she asked. She wasn't really expecting an answer. Magicians were supposed to be tight-lipped about the details, weren't they? He didn't look secretive, though, and instead clambered to his feet and looked down at the waiting pages.
"It's French," he told her. "Archaic French. If you think about it, you should be able to understand some of it. You learnt French at school?"
"Yes. Ou est l'hôtel, that kind of thing. I don't remember any magic."
"Same thing. In a sense." He shrugged. "It's all words. I--" He broke off as a dull, metallic sound reverberated suddenly about them, echoing against the curved brick walls. For some reason it made the hairs on the back of Heather's neck stand suddenly up straight.
"What is that?" She knew instinctively that it was bad news, even though she couldn't place the source of the noise. Wesley was staring back the way they had come, his whole body suddenly tense.
"That was the manhole cover closing."
"That... doesn't have to be bad." She couldn't help the sense of unease building inside her. A second later, though, the blue globe of light blinked out. She gasped, and reached out one hand in the darkness. The huge book wobbled, left unbalanced, and as her fingers closed on the cloth of Wesley's jacket, the book fell with a heavy thump to the ground. Almost as though the sound had somehow been a trigger, in that instant a pale red light lit the chamber. Heather knew that it was no light summoned by Wesley. Her instinct told her that his light was always blue, though she didn't know if that carried any special meaning. This red light, though; it was sinister, without her knowing why.
"Who's there?" She was asking the question of the spaces around her, certain that there were people now present, but it was Wesley who answered.
"Not who. What." He clicked his fingers, and the blue light was back, blazing out from the shadow of his hand. She could see properly then. Five men, standing in a ragged line, the one in the centre holding an old wrought iron lamp that glowed red. No, she realised suddenly. Not men. These were not human beings. Their eyes glowed yellow, and their canine teeth jutted out. Fangs, she thought. Fangs, not teeth. She let go of Wesley straight away, sensing that he needed to move freely. They both did.
"They're vampires, aren't they." A day ago - mere hours ago - she would have laughed even at the idea that such creatures existed. Now she was suggesting it herself. Wesley nodded.
"And I'm an idiot. Vampires like sewers and tunnels. Tunnels keep them safe, even during daylight. Let them run around the city and get from A to B without exploding. Quite useful, if you're a vampire."
"We think so." The vampire with the lamp was smiling, yellowing fangs glinting orange in the dim red light. "And you know about us. Interesting."
"Not really." One of his compatriots stepped forward, practically drooling in anticipation. "Tasty. Not interesting."
"Now now, Arnold. It's rude to bite without making proper introductions." The one with the lamp was still smiling, smug and self-satisfied, and clearly happy to play with his food. He saw no reason to end this the quick and easy way, when his prey had no means of escape.
"I don't think we need worry about the formalities." Wesley made a gesture with one hand, and suddenly the sword was in his grasp. "Keep back out of the way, Heather."
"Heather." The lead vampire was completely unfazed by the apparent fearlessness of the male half of his breakfast. His eyes lingered on the girl, drinking in the sight of her pale form. "Beautiful name. Sounds like Scotland. I was born in Scotland, you know. As a human, and as a vampire."
"We're delighted for you." Wesley pushed the girl behind him. "Leave her alone."
"She's pregnant. Pregnant ones taste interesting." Another of the vampires was licking his lips as he spoke. Wesley felt Heather shudder.
"Hard luck," he growled, sounding rather more confident than he felt. The leader laughed.
"Tough little fellow, isn't he boys. Knows about us, carries a sword..." He sniffed the air, and his yellow eyes glittered. "Smell that? They smell different, even now. The Council is gone, but the Watchers remain. Some of them."
"Watcher!" The big vampire who had spoken earlier, Arnold, took a sudden step back. "Then she--"
"Use your senses, you fool." Another of the vampires was frowning at what little he could still see of Heather. "She's no Slayer. Doesn't smell right. Just because he's a Watcher doesn't mean that she's something special too."
"Watcher?" The word seemed to catch in Wesley's memory. Like all the other odd ideas and flashes, it meant nothing to him, but it had a familiarity that stung. Was he a Watcher? But a Watcher of what? And that other word again... Slayer. It had come to him before, since the amnesia had taken him, and still it seemed unkind. A word that spoke of failure and disappointment, and an unpleasant word in itself. Slayer of what? A Slayer could not be a good thing.
"Oh, we know. The Council is gone. There's only a few of you left. I've heard, though. I've seen." The lead vampire sauntered closer, swinging his red lantern. "You're putting yourselves back together. The exiled, the forgotten, the discredited. Stumbling back to London from all around the world, meeting up and trying to build something again. And now I have one of you here. One less of you to cause trouble out there, building your confounded army."
"You have an army?" Heather's voice was close to Wesley's ear. She clearly liked the idea. If there was an army it could come to their rescue. If there was an army it could dispatch these five vampires with ease, and she and her baby would never need to be put at risk. As far as Wesley knew, though, there was no army. Certainly none that would answer to him. There was just him, his stake and his sword, and a gun that would be useless here. He would be more likely to hurt himself or Heather with a ricochet than he was to do any real damage to a vampire. He adjusted his grip on the sword, and stepped away from the girl, hoping that she had the sense to stay out of the way.
"Don't let them catch you," he told her, somewhat unnecessarily. "Behead them or stake them, it's the only way to stop them."
"Behead them with what?!" She had just her hands. He had almost forgotten that. There was so often somebody else close by, armed to the teeth and ready to watch his back. Or was there? The notion startled him. Surely he was always alone?
"Just... stay out of the way." He hefted the sword. The lead vampire smiled, his tongue rubbing itself along the tips of his teeth. His expression said it all - he liked food that fought back. Wesley drew in a slow, deep breath, cast aside his blue light, and readied himself for the attack.
They came at him all at once, the two endmost creatures reaching him first. He swung the sword in a grand arc, almost in slow motion, or so it seemed to his muddled senses. The sword caught the right-hand vampire full on the neck, beheading him smoothly before spinning on around to neatly lop off the left hand of his partner. One body tumbled to the ground, exploding into ash as it hit; the second fell backwards, roaring in pain. Something growled.
"Oh God." Crossing herself desperately, Heather stumbled backwards, trying to keep the crumbled ash from touching her shoes. One hand brushed ineffectually at her clothing, at specks that weren't there. Wesley didn't notice. The other three vampires were still coming, and he had to deal with all three of them at once.
He ducked under the arms of one, stabbing upwards with the sword into its ribcage. It was a token wound only - he couldn't hope to stop it that way, but it might be slowed down temporarily. Slashing back with his weapon, he caught the lead vampire a heavy blow on the shoulder with the flat of his blade, but the creature barely flinched. Spinning around, he swung one fist in a mighty blow that caught Wesley on the side of the head, and slammed him backwards into the wall. Dazed, he clung to his sword as though to a lifeline, and struggled back upright with an effort. Heather screamed.
"Hold on," he told her, though he had no idea if he had spoken the words or merely thought them. A low guttural growl seemed to make the walls around him vibrate, and he switched his thoughts from the girl back to the three vampires in front of him. There was no use worrying about her if he was about to die. Some use he would be to her then.
"Come to me, little Watcher." One of the vampires was beckoning, trying to goad Wesley, clearly wanting to lure him into some kind of trap. Wesley wasn't about to fall for it. Feinting left, he dodged suddenly right, lashing out with the hilt of his sword as he scraped past the creature's grasping fingers. The weapon slipped in his hand from the force of the blow, but he recovered it, spun it, whirled it around, and dropped the creature's head from its shoulders. Dust made him cough, and stung his eyes, but it wasn't bad enough to incapacitate. He stumbled back away from the creature's disintegrating remains, and faced off against the two vampires left standing.
One vampire. He blinked. Where was-- but the thought ended there, as the other vampire, with all the speed and the agility of its species, crashed suddenly into his back, knocking him to the ground and driving all the breath from his body. The sword rang loudly on the brick floor, struck from Wesley's hand by the force of the landing. He tried to scrabble for it; tried to reach for it with his magic, but a hand caught him by the scruff of his neck, and bashed his head on the ground. His vision blurred.
"Bad manners." The voice was a growl, but still it managed to sound reproving. "Shouldn't kill your hosts." The creature's grip changed, locking around Wesley's arms instead, and he found himself hauled to his feet. The lead vampire stood opposite him, a feral grin etching triumph into every line of his face. Just behind him, Wesley could see the one-handed vampire holding Heather in its arms. It appeared to be licking her neck. She was frozen, her eyes closed, but he knew her terror. It was like something tangible, reaching out to him across the chamber. He was surprised at how hard it was to tear his own eyes away.
"We won't kill her," the leader told him, one hand reaching out to stroke at Wesley's jugular vein. "We'll turn her. The child can be her first meal."
"Always with the grandiose threats." It was hard to speak with his captor half-crushing him, with his head hurting and the blood pumping harshly in his veins. Hard to hear himself, too, with his thundering pulse threatening to quell all other sound. He tried to test the vampire's hold upon him, but could find no leeway. No chance of escape. He couldn't think of any way to save himself through magic, either.
Sometimes, he seemed to hear somebody say, somewhere far away in the recesses of his brain, you have to use brute force. Whoever it was had clearly never been pinioned by a super-strong beast. Nonetheless, if it was the only chance he had, logically, it was all that he could do. And therefore, it was by definition what he had to try. Apologising in advance to his already battered skull, he closed his eyes and slammed his head backwards. A sharp pain met the top of his skull, and he knew that he had struck the creature's mouth. Warm, wet blood trickled through his hair - his own, the vampire's, possibly both. There was a grunt of pain and surprise, and with all the force that he could muster, Wesley followed the attack with a second, driving his heels into the vampire's legs. The grip on his arms weakened, although even then it didn't fail, and knowing that this was his only chance, he hauled one arm free. The leader lashed out, still mere inches away, seizing Wesley's throat in one hand. Wesley had expected as much. By now the gun was in his hand again, and with all the care that he could afford, he pressed it against the lead vampire's head. He had not dared use the weapon during the fight, but at close quarters, he could take the risk. He hoped. The vampire smiled, well aware that the gun could not kill him, but Wesley didn't care. He just needed time. Distance. With a tired hand, he pulled the trigger.
He nearly lost the gun from the force of the recoil. The leader stumbled back, blood pouring from his head, growling in pain and rage, and Wesley threw the gun to the floor. He shouted at the sword, and it scraped the ground, but his exhaustion was clearly affecting his magic. The weapon didn't come to him. Behind him the vampire was holding him tighter again, fighting to reclaim its lost grip on that one free hand. Wesley fought back, struggling for that one last bit of freedom as the lead vampire regained his balance and came back in to the attack. Closing his eyes even though he could ill afford such a move, Wesley drew in a deep, deep breath, and concentrated on the darkness beyond their splash of light. This time the word was not a shout, but a hoarse and desperate gasp; a last-ditch bid for salvation. And this time, the sword answered it.
With a sound of rushing air it leapt up from the ground and into his hand. With a wild swing that had no skill or precision behind it, he hacked at his captor's legs. The vampire let go of him, staggering backwards, and Wesley went after it with a merciless battery of blows. Many of them were with the flat of the blade alone, his aim still too off to allow him accuracy. Finally, when his arms were almost too tired, the vampire stumbled to one knee, and the sword blade at last found its neck. There was no time for triumph. A powerful blow caught Wesley between the shoulders, and he followed his victim to his knees. Ash blinded him.
"Now you've really pissed me off." A hand caught his sword arm, twisting hard, at the same time hauling Wesley upwards until his feet were barely touching the ground. He struggled, though it was very little use. He felt himself being dragged towards the creature's gaping mouth.
"David!" Heather's voice was panic-stricken. He wished that she had kept her eyes closed. There was a second's disorientating twisting, and then his neck was in position. The teeth were biting down. He felt pain, felt rushing blood, felt the coldness of a mouth against his skin, and knew, weirdly, that he had felt it before. A vampire had bitten him before? Did he make a habit of being in hopeless situations? But it wasn't his neck that he was remembering being bitten. Half-memories battled against each other, and he knew that his consciousness was not going to last. He was already too tired. His free hand scratched against his clothing, beneath the jacket, looking for the stake that he always carried. The stake that... he could have left it in the hotel room, could he? He couldn't have...
But it was there, beneath his jacket, caught in a fold of material. He had little strength left, his awareness was ebbing, his mind was a tangled mess of thoughts that were of no use to anybody; but instinct still remained. He couldn't see where to aim for, wasn't sure that he had enough strength to deliver the blow anyway, couldn't seem to pull the wretched stake free of his jacket; but his arm still battled on regardless. With all the force he could muster, he wrenched the piece of wood out, pulling pieces of material with it, then drove it upwards. He shouldn't need to think about where the heart was, some small part of his mind told him. He should be able to find it anyway. A terrible jarring rocked at his wrist as wood met skin met flesh met muscle - and then there was nothing but ash. He fell to his hands and knees, and for a moment couldn't move at all.
"David--" Heather. He had to help Heather. He struggled to find his feet, forcing himself upright. Somebody was helping him, and he assumed that it was the one-handed vampire, dragging him upright. He fought back, struggled against the grip. But the one-handed vampire squeaked in surprise. It sounded oddly feminine. It squeaked with Heather's voice.
"Heather...?" He managed to regain control of himself, staring up at her in amazement. "The vampire...?"
"It ran away when that - that last one..." She stared down at the ash around their feet. "He'll be back, won't he."
"Yes. Probably... probably with others. We have to leave." He could barely stand upright, and he knew that he looked terrible. He had no idea how much blood he had lost, and his head hurt so much that he could barely see. "Come on. Quickly."
"This way." She was taking control, aware of his exhaustion, picking up the red lantern in obvious understanding that he was beyond summoning much light just now. He followed her lead without comment, but they had not gone far before she stumbled, falling against him and nearly sending them both to the ground.
"Oh no." She was gripping her stomach, the lantern illuminating it in a blood red glow. "No... not now..."
"What's wrong?" He saw her stance, the way that she was holding herself, and shook his head. "No. No, you can't."
"Don't tell me that!" Her voice rang out with unexpected volume. "Tell the baby! All of this... it's been too much. I wasn't expecting... another fortnight maybe." She stumbled again, and for all his weakened state, he had to support her, and keep her from falling.
"Come on." He tried to pull her back toward the manhole, their only route of escape, but she resisted. "You can't give birth here, Heather. You think every creature in London won't smell the blood in these tunnels? There will be blood. They will know about it. We'll be dead in ten minutes, all three of us. Now come on!"
"I'm bloody coming!" She stumbled, and he had to support her to stop her from falling. It was clear that he was not up to the task. The half-run that was the best she could manage was more than a strain for Wesley, but he stumbled along beside her, one hand on her elbow, catching her every time the labour pains made her jerk to an unexpected halt. It seemed to take them far longer to get back to the manhole than it had to go the other way, even though they were moving faster this time.
"One of us has got to get up that ladder and get the cover off," observed Heather. It wasn't an offer. She wasn't sure how she was going to get up the ladder anyway, without having to move a heavy metal disk at the top of it. Wesley nodded, pulling himself up with none of the ease and agility that he had shown earlier. He rallied as he climbed, though, and she couldn't help but respect him for the effort. For all his determination it took him several attempts before he was able to move the cover, and by the time he came back down the ladder again, he was clearly all but spent.
"We really have to get moving now. If that last surviving vampire went for reinforcements--"
"I know." She looked up at the circle of light above them. "You don't suppose - whoever closed it...?"
"It was nobody up there. And there's nobody here. Yet." He climbed up the first couple of rungs, and leant down to her. "Now come on."
"I'm coming." Another spasm of pain racked through her, and she almost fell. Wesley caught hold of her arm, keeping her upright, stopping her from slumping to the ground.
"Ow. Damn it." She slumped against the ladder, glad of the cold hard metal, grounding her through the burst of pain. "On television they always say it can take hours. I feel like this blasted baby is going to be born any second. Ow!"
"Don't think about it. Don't let yourself dwell on the pain. Think through it." He pulled her arm, and she obeyed the summons, struggling upwards a short way.
"Think through the pain?! What kind of daft advice is that?"
"It works." For some reason he was remembering lying on the ground, cold and afraid, with his throat apparently on fire. A fight at some point, presumably. He wanted to rub at his throat, but couldn't. He needed both his hands. "Just get up the ladder. We'll worry about pain and whose advice is stupidest when we're up there."
"Easier said than done." She followed him up a few more rungs. A few more. A few more. They were nearly at the top when she doubled over again, and one foot slipped. Wesley almost pulled her arm from its socket in his efforts to keep her from slipping. "Ow! Bloody hell, I've got a baby trying to kick its way out of my stomach, and you trying to pull my limbs off. How is this supposed to get me up a ladder faster?"
"If you'd rather fall back down and let the vampires have you..."
"Very funny. Thanks for that. I appreciate your concern." Irritation gave her another burst of energy, and she struggled her way up the last few rungs. Wesley was already climbing out, into a cold, grey daylight that managed to be welcoming and depressing in one. It took most of her strength and his to get her out through the hole. She collapsed on the ground then, not caring that the tarmac was cold, damp and dirty. Wesley heaved the manhole cover back into place, and dragged as much junk back over it as he could.
"Don't want anybody else going down there." He collapsed next to her, sprawled on his back on the hard ground. "I hurt all over."
"So do I." She was trying to get up, thinking of hospitals, and knowing that she wasn't going to make it that far. "Damn it. Get me a taxi or something."
"I can't leave you. And there's hardly likely to be a taxi. The road is..." He looked around, having somewhat lost his bearings. "You'd never get a car up here."
"I want a taxi! I want to be in a hospital, in a nice bed, with a midwife to tell me what to do." She flopped back down again. "It hurts, David."
"I'm sure it does." He sat up, looking around for inspiration, seeing broken windows, derelict buildings, and little that was of any use to either of them. "We'd better get you under cover. Did you have a plan? Before, when you were in your old place?"
"Somebody upstairs said she would help. An artist, I think. She said she'd had three children herself." Heather shivered. "She made it sound easy, doing it by ourselves. Boiling water on her gas stove, and cleaning everything up with some Dettol. I believed her too. Looking back, I think she was half-mad."
"I think we're all half-mad." His words clearly took in the entire population of the world. "Every one of us. Do you think you can make it to that building over there?" He was pointing to a place that looked as though it might once have been a baker's, a place of small red bricks, with a faded sign painting directly onto the wall. She nodded.
"Maybe. I hope." Another burst of pain stole her voice momentarily, but she managed to gasp out the rest of the thought in the end. "I don't want my baby to be born in the street."
"Worse things have happened." Babies came in the street, sometimes. In rain and danger, with noise all around. Except that it wasn't raining, which made him wonder what on earth his subconscious kept confusing itself with. He struggled to his feet, pulling her up as well. "These buildings haven't been abandoned for long. They should still be in good condition."
"Which is more than can be said for you." She smiled at him, her eyes showing real compassion. "You're a mess, David. Those creatures damn near killed you."
"Yes..." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I am a mite stiff."
"You're mad." She was half laughing, despite the pain and the worry. "A mite stiff? You were born with a whole set of silver spoons in your mouth, weren't you."
"I don't remember." He raised an eyebrow, apparently giving her comment his full consideration. She laughed again.
"Idiot." She stumbled, doubled up with pain. "Oh, damn it. I don't-- David... is it supposed to happen like this? This quickly? I - I mean... it should take hours. And--"
"I think it happens how it wants to happen." He held tightly onto her arm, half-dragging her over to the door of the bakery. It was locked, but he raised his hand and the door flew open. Blue sparks flew from the lock.
"You're a handy guy to have around." Heather sagged against him, and it took all of his remaining strength to get in her into the building. He kicked the door shut behind them, and settled the girl on the floor.
"I have to make us safe. Barricade the door. Maybe the windows." He was looking around, making plans, but Heather merely flopped back against the wall.
"It's hours before night. Vampires can't come until then, right?"
"Right. I suppose." He was thinking about demons as well, and the humans who were helping Angel - any of a number of possible dangers. Heather didn't need to hear of such things, though; he knew that. Or part of him did. Abandoning his thoughts of reinforcing his fortress, he turned his attention to his companion instead. "Have you ever..." He gestured rather vaguely in the air with one hand. "Is this the first?"
"Yes. And the last." She bent over double, fighting to get her breath back. "Don't you know any spells that could help?"
"I don't think so." He frowned, and she could imagine him searching through the recesses of what must be a phenomenal mind, like a librarian searching index cards, looking for one book in a vast collection. Eventually he shook his head. "I'm sorry. It's not an area I've studied. I might be able to lessen the pain...?"
"If you've got any cannabis, I'll kiss you." He shook his head though, and she nodded.
"Figures. But I'm not eating any toes of newt."
"I'm not sure it would help you if you did." He frowned, sitting down cross-legged on the floor just in front of her. "I could put you into a sleep, but that wouldn't do the baby any good. You wouldn't be able to deliver it. So we'll have to be a little more selective. I want you to pick a point on the wall and stare at it."
She looked nervous. "Are you going to hypnotise me?"
"No. Just try to ease the pain. I'd tell you to empty your mind, but I suppose that wouldn't be very easy right now."
"Not really, no." She screwed up her eyes for a moment, then forced them open. "Sorry. Focus on a point on the wall. I know. Now what?"
"Be somewhere else." He took one of her hands, drew in a deep breath, and closed his eyes. For a moment she saw strange things - felt the fear of the chase, and thought for one strange moment that it was night, and was raining - then she was in a green meadow, with two blazing suns overhead. She gasped.
"I-- There are two suns. That's not entirely natural."
"Sorry. You're seeing a place that I've put into your mind. Blame my subconscious."
"I'm not complaining. It's beautiful." There was a river nearby, and small green children with red horns were playing in the water. She expected to feel repelled at the sight, but wasn't. It seemed perfectly normal that they were there, and their horns and green skin were exactly right. "Have you been there?"
"I... yes." It had a name. Pylea. Things had happened there, and-- Somehow his mind slammed shut on the memory, leaving him with only half a thought. He concentrated instead on his patient. "Watch the children. Watch the birds."
"I am." The pain seemed more distant now; less intense. "Do all of them have four wings?"
"Probably not." He smiled faintly, remembering the occasional oddities of Pylea. It had been a good place to send her. So Earth-like in some ways, and so strange and distracting in others. Things had happened there, hadn't they? Good things and bad things, and... somebody... But again he could get no further with the thought.
"It's odd..." Heather was frowning, clearly staring at the sights that he had given to her. Again he chose to focus on her, rather than fighting with his broken memory. "You'd think they'd get tangled up with themselves. But then I suppose four-legged animals don't trip up, so why should four-winged birds?"
"Nature usually knows what she's doing." And hopefully Nature knew how to deliver a baby, because he certainly didn't have a clue. "Okay, I'm bringing you back now. Keep focused on that point on the wall."
"But I like it here." She was still staring at the birds, and the little horned children. He nodded.
"I know. I liked it too." Or presumably he had, since he had somehow plucked it from his enchanted mind, by-passing the holes and the emptiness. Pylea must have meant something to him. Gently he let go of Heather's hand, pulling her back into the moment. "How do you feel?"
"Better." Her colour looked a little better, certainly. It was clear that the pain still bothered her, but equally clear that the situation had improved. "You made it hurt less. Thankyou."
"I didn't make it hurt less. You did. You thought about something else instead, that's all."
"That's not all." She managed a faint smile. "You should rent yourself out. Drug-free births. A lot of women would pay for that."
"I doubt it." He was racking his brains, searching for information that might be of use now, and he was not giving the girl his full attention. She reached out for his hand, and gave it a brief squeeze.
"I don't. I'm glad you're here."
"If I wasn't here, neither would you be. You'd still be happy at home, with all of this several weeks off."
"Yes, sure. I'd be waiting for some half-mad artist to help me give birth, with a bottle of Dettol and a gas stove."
"That's more than we've got here." He looked around, at the bare walls and floor. "I could light a fire."
"And boil water we don't have? Actually, that's not a bad idea. I could do with a cup of tea."
"Now?!" Her hand tightened suddenly around his, and he jumped. "Contractions?"
"Yes. Hell yes. They've been going on for some time, haven't you noticed?!"
"Yes, of course. I just..." He gestured helplessly in the air with one hand, totally out of his depth. "Demons, vampires, magic, monsters... it's all up here." He tapped his head. "Languages. More languages than I can name. I don't know how I learnt them, or when and where, but they're all up there. Fables, myths, legends. I seem to have an inordinate amount of information inside my head, but there's nothing at all about helping you to give birth. I'm stuck."
"It's alright. I rather think it's going to happen regardless of what the two of us do. My waters have broken."
"Yes. I, er... I noticed." In theory he knew what to do now. In practice it was all so much more complicated. And why was he still thinking of rainy nights, and-- and who the hell was Darla?
"You look terrible." Heather let go of his hand, briefly touching the side of his head, where a trickle of blood was drying. "You need rest."
"You need to get out of this water." He flashed her a brief smile. "I'll rest. Later. Can you stand?"
"Yes, I think so." She leant on him as he led her across the room, to a drier patch of floor. "Ow. I... this is a seriously weird feeling, but I'm definitely going to recommend magic to all expectant mothers."
"I'm not sure there are enough magicians to go around."
"Then we'll start up a new magical division of medical school. I--" She gasped suddenly. "Why, the little-- This child has a violent streak."
She laughed at that. "No. No, the contractions and the water breaking are just things I do for entertainment every so often. Of course it's coming!"
"Sorry. I just don't think I've ever delivered a baby before."
"I know I haven't. Do you suppose it helps that the baby hasn't been delivered before, either?"
"Well hopefully it'll mean it won't have any great expectations. Do you want to sit down again?"
"No. It hurts less standing up." She leaned against the wall and against him, closing her eyes. "Was that really another world that you showed me, or were you just trying to keep me occupied?"
"No, it's real. I don't know for certain what kind of place it is, but I know that I've been there."
"And the children are really green?"
"Yes." And they sang all day. Or... no they didn't. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand, still fighting the weirdnesses of his memory. There had been bad things in Pylea, but something good had come out of it. Or was it the other way around? Heather touched his face, and he flinched back slightly.
"I'm sorry. You need the hospital more than I do." She looked concerned, and he frowned. What did he need a hospital for? He had been hurt worse than this in the past, and he hadn't been to the hospital. Had he? Cotton wool and antiseptic, and jokes to make the pain go away. Except that there was a searing pain in his head right now, and it wasn't going away at all.
"Just worry about the baby," he told Heather. She looked worried, but she gave a brief nod, just before the contractions caught up with her again. He knew that he was supposed to be timing them, but couldn't seem to concentrate hard enough. Besides - the baby was coming. He didn't see how timing the contractions was going to help.
"I think I can feel it coming." Heather was sliding slowly down the wall onto the floor, and he followed her down. The pain in his head had subsided to a dull ache, now that he was no longer fighting his amnesia - but it was still hard to focus on anything much. The back of his neck felt like it was on fire, and all the muscles of his body were tired and heavy. The puncture wounds in his neck throbbed, as though threatening to bleed anew.
"I suppose you should push," he offered, well aware that it was likely to be the least useful piece of advice he could come up with.
She nodded. "Yes. Probably. Might help to lose an item of clothing first though." She smiled suddenly. "Are you blushing?!"
"I'm not sure I've got enough blood left to blush with." He sat down beside her, somewhat awkwardly. "This isn't the best way to get to know somebody."
"You don't say." She gripped his hand suddenly, so hard that he felt the bones scrape. "Next time we do this, you're having the baby."
"Well I'm not." She gasped, trying hard to regulate her breathing. "Are you sure you don't know any spells to do this an easier way?"
"Sorry. I could improvise, but that might be dangerous for both of you. I wouldn't want..." He trailed away, the shock in her eyes leaving him flustered. "I wouldn't... I - I mean, not on purpose. It's not like I have a store of spells for hurting babies." At least, he didn't think that he had. She forced a smile.
"Sorry. I shouldn't... shouldn't ask for things that scare me."
"I scare you." It wasn't the best way to feel about somebody who was about to deliver your baby, but he could see it in her eyes all the time. She nodded.
"Yes. But I need you."
"People deliver their babies alone all the time."
"I don't care. I want somebody here." She closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her strength. "I'm going to start pushing. I don't think I can do anything else. Are you ready?"
"No." He tried out a shaky smile. "Just do what comes naturally. We'll work out the rest."
The baby came at noon, slipping and sliding into Wesley's hands in a sudden, oozing rush, as though frantic for birth. He barely caught it, and tried out a quick spell of cleaning to get rid of its coating of blood. Heather laughed faintly.
"You look like you think it's going to explode. It's a baby, not a monster."
"Yeah." He didn't sound convinced, and stripping off his jacket, he wrapped the baby up in it and handed it to its mother. "It's a boy. I... well. Congratulations."
"Thankyou." The child looked tiny inside its makeshift blanket, her own arms dwarfing it. "He's beautiful. I owe you so much."
"You don't owe me anything. If it wasn't for me..." He trailed off. They had already had this conversation, and it wasn't as though having it again would change anything. "You should go home. Or to the hospital or something. You need to get checked out."
"I'm not going to the hospital. I don't have an address, David. I'm homeless, remember? I won't risk them taking my baby into care. Whatever I said earlier, I was always going to stay clear of the hospital."
"You might not have a proper address, but you do have a place that gives you much better shelter than some old bakery. The place where I found you. It was warm and dry there are least."
"And full of dead people!" She leaned back against the wall. "I'm tired. I'd like to try to get a bit of rest before the afterbirth comes. I suppose it would be a silly question, asking you if you know how long it's likely to take?"
He managed a small smile. "I can tell you all about the birth of a Drondax demon if you'd like."
"It wouldn't be very helpful, would it."
"Not in this instance, no."
"Then I think I'll probably give it a miss. Thanks, though. It's a pretty unique offer."
"No problem." He pulled out a small dagger, and with a scattering of magic, cut the umbilical cord. "I'm going to dig a hole to bury the bits and pieces in. I'd burn them, but it still might leave traces. Give me a call if you need any help with the next step."
"Thanks." She leaned back against the wall, with eyes only for her child. Wesley barely noticed. Moving off through a nearby door, he used the sword to cut out a hole in the floor. He didn't use the magic that had helped him to break through walls, though it would have simplified the task no end. He wanted to make things harder than that. Wanted hard physical work, and wanted to be away from the mother and child for a while. His head was hurting, and despite his lingering exhaustion, he wanted to keep active. There was a lot going on that he didn't seem able to understand.
By the time that he returned she had delivered the afterbirth, and seemed to be asleep. He checked up on the baby, held in her arms, only to discover that both of them were awake. Two pairs of eyes stared up at him, though the second looked distinctly out of focus. He frowned uncertainly into them.
"It doesn't have the power to hypnotise you, you know." Heather was smiling, but he didn't find himself able to smile back. She laughed suddenly. "Listen to me - he's been born, I can't call him an 'it' anymore. I shall have to give him a name."
"You could leave it until he's old enough to choose one for himself." She laughed at that, and he almost frowned, not entirely sure that he had been joking. "Don't fall asleep and drop him. I'm going to clear up."
"I'm not as tired as I thought I would be. I'll help if you like?"
"No. Rest. We still have a walk ahead of us, so you should save your strength."
"Oh, right. Says Mr Dead-On-His-Feet." She watched him as he went off to bury the afterbirth and umbilical cord, returning after a few minutes to scatter earth over the blood on the floor. "You said we have a walk ahead of us. Where are we going?"
"I don't know. Somewhere where you feel safe. I can't have you staying here once it gets dark. We know that there are vampires in this part of town, and even with the precautions I've taken, they could still smell the blood. The baby isn't clean enough." Her arms closed protectively around the infant, and he had an odd flash memory of another baby, another time, another pair of arms wrapped around the child to protect it from anything and everything. He almost flinched.
"You okay?" Heather had seen the odd expression that had passed across his face. He nodded, suddenly irritable.
"Of course. We should be going."
"It won't be dark for ages yet. Why worry?"
"Because I have to worry. I have you and your baby to worry about, not to mention a vampire somewhere out there who is planning something I haven't even begun to discover. There's a colony of vampires that seems to be living pretty much under our feet, and for all I know they could come up through the drains at any moment." He saw the terror in her face, and immediately regretted his words. "Not that... they probably won't. I mean... if they were going to they probably would have done it already."
"They wanted to make me into a vampire as well. They said that they would make me kill my baby." She pushed herself up to her feet with a tremendous effort, wobbling rather when she made it. He almost went to help, but something held him back. She forced another smile.
"Look at you. I could almost believe that you're scared of him. Every time you look at him... and before he came, sometimes, when we spoke about him. There's this strange look in your eyes."
"Never mind about that." He knew what she meant, even though he couldn't see this 'strange look' for himself. He knew that there was something odd about the way that he looked at the baby, and about the feelings that it stirred inside him. It all came back to something buried with him, he knew, but it made his head hurt to think about it, and all that he could truly remember was that lingering thought of a dark night, with rain falling and bouncing back up off the road. The thought of pursuit, the sound of an explosion, the cry of a baby... He screwed up his eyes for a moment, and took a step away from his two charges, heading for the door.
"David?" There was concern in Heather's voice. He shook his head, wordless. It was fear. He realised it now; that strange feeling, deep inside him, in some instinctive part that was not affected by the loss of memory - it was fear. Fear of the baby? He shook his head, outwardly answering his own inward question. No, not fear of the baby. Fear of himself. Fear of what he might do to it. His head ached more furiously than ever.
"David?" Heather was coming closer, looking so worried for him. Worried for so many reasons, and all of them, as far as he could tell, his fault. He backed away, but she persevered. "David, it's alright. We'll all be alright. Here, look at the baby. He's helping me see things in perspective again. He's so little, and so perfect. Hold him."
"No." He was surprised at the volume and ferocity of his response. "No. Keep him away."
"David!" She looked shocked. He couldn't help that. He backed away a little more. What the hell was wrong with him? He couldn't understand it himself. Why was he so afraid? Did he honestly believe that he was capable of hurting a baby? But the fear came from so far inside, as though in the very core of his being, that it seemed impossible to refute it. Something inside him, something that he no longer remembered, made him truly afraid that the baby was in danger if he took it. He had hurt a baby before, he must have done. The baby in the dark? The baby in the rain? He pressed his hands against his eyes for a moment, trying to sort out the muddled thoughts and images, and trying to fight the pain that the effort caused to flare up anew inside his head.
"You're scared of him, aren't you." She pulled back slightly, shock showing clearly on her face. "David for goodness sakes. You didn't look afraid when we were attacked by a whole bloody battalion of vampires! This is just a baby." She held the child out again, more tentatively this time. "And you're scaring me. Look at him. Hold him."
"No!" With a sudden vicious scrunching of the ground beneath his feet, he whirled sharply and all but ran from the building, out into the daylight beyond. The baby in Heather's arms gave a start at the noise, and wailed briefly, before lapsing back into the slightly shell-shocked silence of the very new. She rocked it gently, absently, her mind still on the man she had thought that she was coming to understand. When she followed him out into the daylight, she expected to see an empty road. Instead she saw him, standing in the middle of the narrow, dirty street, staring away into space.
"David?" She put the baby down, very carefully, in an old crate, and approached her companion with caution. He didn't look at her. "David?"
"My name isn't David." He looked shattered. She had seen his exhaustion before, but this was something new. He seemed almost on the verge of collapse.
"Not David? But I thought..."
"It's not." For a second he sounded angry, then he sighed, and turned towards her. She wasn't sure that he could see her, for his eyes were clearly far out of focus - or perhaps were looking at other things entirely. "I'm not who they said I am. None of it adds up, does it. They said I was a warrior, who had no use for books. But I can read so many languages. The feel of a book in my hands is more... more right, than anything else I can imagine. I can fight, yes, but it's not the same. And the memories..."
"You said that you had amnesia." She frowned at him, but he didn't look like a man overjoyed by the gradual rediscovery of his past. He just looked lost. "Your memory is returning?"
"No, not exactly. Magic took it - it'll likely need magic to restore it. No, this is more... more like images. Pictures, sounds, flashes of ideas, all jumbled up inside my head. It hurts... but ever since I met you, it won't stop. All of it, crowding around inside my head, and never making any sense." He rubbed his eyes, so hard that she was worried he might cause some serious damage. "Where's the baby?"
"Over there. He's safe." She was somewhat surprised by his question. "I didn't think you cared."
"Cared? I delivered it, of course I care."
"You looked terrified." She smiled faintly, encouragingly. "You looked like you thought he was a demon or something. One of the monsters you fight."
"You think I'm crazy." He frowned, staring off into nothingness again. "Maybe I am. I might be. It's not like I'd know. But I'm not afraid of the baby; just of what I might do to it."
"You think you'd hurt him?" She took a step back, before forcing herself to stop. "But you were worried about him!"
"I know... I don't understand it either. I just know that there was a baby, and that I hurt him. It was a boy, I'm sure of that. He was born in a street a bit like this one. Out of the way, no cars, no people. But it was night, and it was raining."
"You've remembered this?"
"Not really, no. It's just pictures in my head. Disconnected pictures." He shrugged. "But I know it's true. It's too much a part of me to be false. There was a baby boy, and I hurt him." He rubbed his head, his shoulders sagging, and Heather thought that she was going to have to catch him before he fell. He stayed on his feet, though, wobbling slightly, obviously in pain.
"You need to stop thinking about it so much."
"No, I can't do that. I need to try to get it all sorted out. I need to work out who I am. I know I'm not David. I'm sure I can't be. It never felt right, but with all of this as well... I'm sure that they were lying to me back at the office."
"That's a shame." She tried out another smile, desperate to lighten the situation, and perhaps help him in some way. "I was thinking of calling the baby David. It's a nice name, and after all that you've done..."
"Don't." He looked away, back towards the place where the manhole cover lay buried beneath junk. "Don't even think about naming him after me. It'd only jinx him. Whatever I am, Heather... whoever I am... I know that it's not good. How can it be?"
"You fight vampires," she reminded him. "You came here to stop a vampire from doing something terrible. That doesn't sound bad to me."
"So I do good things. So what? It doesn't make me good." He shook his head. "No, I'm no hero. That's not my job."
"Not David." He glanced at her, in an odd, sideways fashion, forcing a small smile that made him look even more lost than before. "It's not my name."
"You don't know that. A sudden flash of what you think is a memory that you think is of you hurting a baby... and that's suddenly convincing you that you're not who you think you are? That's crazy."
"Yes. Except that everything is crazy, no matter how I look at it. It's not just a - a 'sudden flash of memory', though. It's more than that. Ever since I met you I've been seeing babies. Babies in the rain. This is real, I know it is. It's something that I did, and it doesn't fit at all with what they told me before I came here. They said that I was some great hero. That I fight for good. Heroes don't hurt babies."
"You don't know the whole story yet."
"I know enough! And I know that they were lying about my name. People have been calling me by some other name all along, and I just ignored it at first, but I can't keep on doing that. They can't all be working for Angel."
"Another name?" She blinked at him. "Wesley?"
"How...?" He shook his head. "Never mind. I don't think it matters anymore."
"Of course it matters." She reached out with one hand, trying to turn his face so that he had to look at her. "I heard it. In the air, when you were doing that spell to make the book come to you. It just seemed to--" She broke off. "The book. It's down there still. We didn't bring it up when we--"
"Never mind the book. I can get it whenever I want." He was looking at her now, just as she had wanted him to, but she was rather taken aback by the intensity of his gaze. "You heard it in the air? How?"
"How should I know? You were doing your whispering, and there was weird stuff. I'm the magic virgin, remember? Suddenly I just heard this word, above all the other noises. At first it didn't register, but it is a name, isn't it. I used to know a Wesley, years ago, at primary school." She frowned at him, in mock appraisal. "Not you, though."
"No, not me." She was too young, and he couldn't imagine her at his school. She belonged in an altogether freer place. "What was he like?"
"Very tall. But then I was seven, so he probably wasn't all that big really. He was from Ipswich."
"I have no idea. It's probably nice if you're another person from Ipswich." She shrugged. "It's very normal, I guess. Very... ordinary."
"Ah." He nodded slowly. Normal, as far as he was concerned, seemed to be ancient books, foreign languages, and vampires. He was guessing that that wasn't what she meant by the word. "Normal. Right."
"That wasn't supposed to sound like an insult. To you or to him."
"I don't... I didn't..." He shook his head and looked away again. "Everybody keeps calling me Wesley. I didn't want to believe them."
"Well, it's not the coolest name in the world, granted." He didn't react, and she flushed slightly. "Sorry. Bad time for bad jokes. That wasn't why you didn't want the name."
"No, it wasn't." He glanced at her for the briefest moment, and she saw a faint, faint smile. "They told me that I was a hero, at Wolfram & Hart. They made me sound important. David Holbrook, saviour of mankind from the vampires. I wanted to believe it, I suppose. Everybody wants to be a hero."
"I don't think I do."
"You would. If you'd done what I've done, being a hero instead would seem like a great exchange. I just wanted to believe it."
"Oh, right. We're back to you hurting babies again. David..." He shot her a sharp look, and she sighed. "Wesley. Which is stupid, incidentally, because you've got no way of knowing if that's your name either. I think I hear something in a tunnel, and you suddenly decide it's your name? That's an odd way to live your life."
"Any more odd than waking up in an office, and believing a group of strangers who tell you that you're a hero? When all along you know that you're not?"
"You've got amnesia. For all you know you could be the heir to the throne, and the gallant defender of helpless maidens everywhere."
"On a white charger, with a suit of shining armour and a sword in my hand?" He sounded heavily sarcastic. She smiled.
"Why not? You've got the sword."
"And that's all I have. I'm not a hero." He drew in a sudden breath, as though composing himself, although outwardly he had not looked anything but composed. "Fetch your son. We have to get out of here."
"There's ages yet before dark. We could both use the rest."
"No." He looked towards the baby, secure in its crate, and seemed about to move towards it. He changed his mind almost immediately, and instead began to walk away down the road. "I'm leaving. I'd rather that you didn't stay here alone."
"Wait!" He was walking away so fast that by the time she picked up the child, he was already quite some way away. She hurried after him, finding his quick pace almost too much to manage. "Davi--" He glanced back, sharply, and she lowered her eyes. "Wesley then, if you're sure. Please, slow down. I'm tired."
"Yes, I know." For a second he softened, then suddenly he was looking away again, and marching back towards the main road. "Keep an eye out for the police. I don't know what kind of description they've got of me."
"If you're going to stride out into the road with a sword in your hand, you're going to raise eyebrows no matter what kind of description they've got."
"What?" He glanced self-consciously at his hand, and at the sword still held in it. "Oh. Right."
"You're hopeless. And we've both got blood on us. You're filthy from fighting in that tunnel... Wes, we can't go walking through the middle of London looking like this."
"You're probably right." He frowned for a second, then muttered something and snapped his fingers. The sword disappeared from his hand. Abruptly he was wearing a neat grey suit, open at the neck, with a pristine shirt of a paler grey. The blood had gone from his face and neck, and with it the grime from the old sewer. Her own clothes were different too, and she could see that she was no longer sporting gruesome bloodstains. The baby was also clean, the traces of blood gone from his head. She blinked.
"Now that's what I call a clean up."
"It's just an illusion. I could do it for real, but I'm too tired right now. We can find somewhere to hole up, and get cleaned up properly."
"We can find somewhere?" She had been afraid that he was going to walk out on her. He nodded.
"I have to make sure that you're safe. I owe you at least that much. A boarding house somewhere, perhaps."
"A boarding house?" A small smile crept onto her face. "I thought it was just your accent that came from the nineteen fifties, but does the rest of you come from there as well?!"
"I hope not, or the people who run the boarding house are never going to accept my credit card." He smiled rather faintly. "I may sound old-fashioned, but so does London if you look in the right places. Places where I can be sure that you'll be safe."
"Before you go off and fight your vampire?"
"That's right." He started walking again, a respectable-looking man now, in his illusory grey suit. Once again she found herself hurrying to catch up with him.
"So even though you think that they lied to you about who you are, and what your name is, and what kind of a man you are, you're still going through with the mission they gave you? It was them, wasn't it, who told you about this Angel guy? And for the record, I still think that that's a very weird name for somebody evil."
"If he's a vampire then he's evil. There are no good vampires."
"And you're not wondering at all why some organisation that lied to you wants him dead?"
"No. He's a vampire."
"So you keep saying. And killing vampires is what you do."
"That's right." He frowned. "Well, maybe not. But I'm going to kill this one."
"I don't understand you, Wesley." She shook her head. "And I can't call you that. You don't know that it's your name. You don't have the slightest bit of proof."
"I have me." He stopped then, looking back at her, staring at the baby in her arms. "That's all that any of us has, you know, in the end. You don't have a clue what's real; not really. I could cast a spell and have you believing that the sun is blue. For all you know I've already made you believe that it's yellow, and the whole of the rest of the world might be seeing that really it's green. You don't know. All we have is what we see, and what we feel. Who we are. And I know that I'm no hero. I know that at some point, whether or not it was intentional, I hurt a baby boy. And I know that I have to confront Angel."
"You know it, huh." She shook her head, clearly not won over by his line of reasoning. He merely nodded, and turned around to begin walking once again.
"That's right. I'm a magician, Heather. A magician and a linguist, and apparently some kind of scholar. I'm not the great white hope of the human race. Wolfram & Hart lied to me about that much. The rest I have to find out for myself. I have to find Angel, and I have to fight him."
"But if you being a great hero was a lie, this Angel will kill you. That's a hell of a way to get the answers to your questions. Why not just--"
"No. There are no 'why nots'. There's just this." It might just have been her imagination, but abruptly his shoulders seemed to stiffen, and his back seemed suddenly to become much more straight. "It's because of you that I can see all of this so much more clearly. You and the baby. Especially him. He triggered something inside me; made me remember things... or think that I remember things... I don't know exactly. But I suppose I was meant to find you."
"Oh, thanks. Blame me for you suddenly turning weird."
"Hardly." He stopped, and smiled at her, and she saw the veils of confusion in his eyes. "You're making things make sense. You and him."
"Him." She looked down at her child. "A baby you delivered, and won't even touch. And now things are making so much sense to you that you're going to go off somewhere and throw your life away fighting some monster, just because... because what? Because it might make something else make sense?"
"I can't explain it."
"You shouldn't have to." She shook her head. "I'm sorry. I don't have any claim on you. I don't even know you. If you hadn't... well, another day and we'd probably never even have met. It's just that I want to understand."
"And so do I." He took her hand for a brief moment, then frowned and let go of it again. "Which is why I'm going to go and fight my vampire, whatever the motives of the people who sent me to do it. It feels like the next step. It is the next step."
"When." Her voice sounded flat, failing to turn the word into a question. "When is all of this going to happen? I'd like to know."
"You won't be able to stop me." He was walking quickly again now, obviously increasingly intent on some goal. A man possessed, by the ghosts of himself. She nodded.
"I know. It's not really up to me to try. I just... want to know."
"Fine." He nodded briskly, without looking back at her, leading the way out onto the busy streets of London. "Tomorrow then. I'm going to kill Angel tomorrow."
... And steep my senses in forgetfulness - Henry IV: Part 2 by William Shakespeare
I seemed to move among a world of ghosts,/ And feel myself the shadow of a dream - The Princess by Alfred, Lord Tennyson