City of Doyle: Chapter 4
See chapter 1 for disclaimers. by Tammy
It took most of the rest of the night to get Wesley Wyndham-Pryce the medical attention he desperately needed and get him back to the office.
Turned out the guy wasn't in the country precisely legal, and hospitals meant documentation and questions, so in the end we had to pay a visit to Farrell, a demon doctor I visited from time to time when the opposition got in a lucky hit or several. Demon genes tend to bring with them the necessity to avoid hospitals and, God forbid, blood tests.
Whether Farrell's qualifications were legit or not I didn't know - just as I wasn't entirely sure if he was demon or human himself - and I didn't ask. But his expertise had saved my skin more than once and, that considered, I could dispense with the need for paper proof.
He answered the door in his dressing gown, irritably, and was no less irritable when we hauled one blood-soaked watcher through his front door and onto his carpets. "I don't treat humans," he said, after a glance and a disparaging sniff in Wesley's direction.
His mood improved only upon delivery into his palm of a wad of creased bank notes.
"Bring him into the office," he said, and led the way into the back room where he practised his trade.
I thought Wesley was beginning to stir as the doc was gathering his things together to set to work. His eyelids fluttered and some hazy awareness of the surely agonising pain twisted his face. But he certainly wasn't conscious enough for speech and I didn't try. He lapsed into deep unconsciousness about half a minute after Farrell stuck a hypodermic in his arm. Probably for the best.
The protests I'd expected from Faith didn't arise. In fact, she remained unnaturally quiet throughout the proceedings, standing against the wall looking bored and cleaning out her fingernails with a knife while Farrell first dealt with Wesley's leg and then the deep cut on my own neck.
At any rate, it was getting dangerously close to sunrise and wake-up hour for the daytime world when we finally carried Wesley's sedated form out to the doc's car and manoeuvred him into the back. I climbed into the back seat too, to stop him rolling off every time we rounded a corner. Wasn't sure I trusted that particular job to Faith.
Farrell drove us across to the office where he ousted us from his car and presented a bill for outstanding medical expenses and transport costs.
"You didn't think a lousy hundred would cover this? I'm not a charity," the doc said in parting, grouchily. "Oh, and I do want the tab paid off by the end of the month, this time. Try to remember I treat professional collection boys, too."
"Yeah, 'course, man." I waved him off, then turned my attention back to Faith and our snoring human burden. "Get his legs. And be careful."
"Yeah, right. Like he'd notice. I do know what was in that syringe." We got him up the steps to the front door between us, awkwardly. Normally it wouldn't have been a problem, but we were drained both physically and emotionally after one hell of a long night. "You're seeing him at his best right now, you do realise that?"
"I'll make my own judgements when he wakes up, if you don't mind."
She shrugged with the assured air of someone who knows their chances of being proven wrong are extremely low. I sighed and struggled with the front door, tiredness blurring my vision and coordination, the key shivering in my hand and doing its damnedest to go anywhere but the lock.
"And even if he was the most worthless piece of shit imaginable, he'd still be human, and I still wouldn't abandon him to the fang brigade." I got the lock open finally, and kicked the door back.
"I didn't mean it, you know." She didn't look at me, her face obscured behind her hair, bent over her unconscious watcher and taking most of his weight as we pulled him through the door and across the hallway to the elevator. "I don't want him dead. I just... wanted to be free. We aren't going to be able to get rid of him now, Doyle. He'll ruin it all. I mean, I knew he'd catch up sooner or later, but I thought it'd be more later. That we'd have time to get ourselves established, get the proof to shove down the council's throats when they did catch up. Then I'd show them we could do good here, and maybe their way isn't the only way, or the best way."
I considered the point while I punched the button for the basement apartment. "Well, he's certainly not going anywhere without help for a while, not with that leg. Far as he's concerned, we'll be looking after him. He'll owe us. And... I won't tell the council where he is if you don't."
Her grin, absent for hours now, returned in an instant, bringing back with it that dark, amused glitter to her eyes. "You mean that? Wow. Cool. I knew you'd be a great guy to work with. A demon after my own heart, right?"
A pause, and then a few seconds later. "Hey, are we, like, going to keep him chained to the bed or something? Did you see that film?"
I groaned and shot her an exasperated look. "Get your mind outta that sewer - if that's possible - and help me get him to the couch. No chains necessary. He won't walk off."
Once that was done I flopped down in a spare chair and waited for my head to stop spinning, Faith paced restlessly around the room and we existed for a minute in relative quiet, the only sounds her footsteps and Wesley's snores.
"So," she said finally, looking out of the big broad window at the sunrise. "You want to go to bed?"
I looked at her. The glint in her eyes made her meaning quite clear. Hell, the girl had some fierce appetites, not to mention a whole lot more energy than I did.
"Don't take this the wrong way," I said. "And not that I'm usually one to turn down an offer like that. But... I want to go to sleep." I pulled a wry face. "Right now, anything else would just about kill me."
My sleep was disturbed and plagued with strange dreams. In them, I saw the earlier fight played out again, only this time the four vamps had some other victim, and neither Faith or Wesley were there...
But the ending, for me, went the same way things had been going prior to Faith’s intervention.
I experienced what would have happened if she hadn't come back. Woke up sweating and shaky after what seemed like hours trapped in the nightmare, almost able to smell the lingering odour of my own blood, feeling phantom pains where the knife had gone in, and wondering if it hadn't been more than just a dream.
Wondering if I'd been meant to die that night, if she hadn't come. Four vamps... might have been too much in the best of circumstances. I had to face the possibility that, whether she'd initially run off or not, her presence had saved my life.
It hadn't felt like one of the visions. But then, who knew? I still didn’t really understand them, after all this time. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something.
I touched the gauze taped over the cut on my neck, and found it was sticky with fresh blood.
I sighed and glanced at Faith. She was curled up in a well-padded bundle at the other side of the bed with her back to me, having won the battle for the lion's share of the bedclothes hands-down.
My alarm clock said it was nearly 1pm, and my first thought was that it was a bloody liar, but when I groaned my way through into the kitchen to fix a coffee, the clock in there said just the same.
Didn't feel like I'd had nearly six hours sleep. I could've done with about another week's worth. My muscles ached from the night's punishment. I abruptly remembered the severely injured guy on my couch and hurriedly poured the sludgy coffee into a mug, which I sipped at as I went to check on the invalid.
Wesley hadn't moved, which was a relief, although not really a surprise.
Maybe I'd been working on my own too long, I reflected. Whatever Faith's opinion of the man, someone should've stayed up to keep watch over him. But then neither of us had been feeling a hundred percent that morning when we'd staggered off to bed.
I went upstairs and dug out the current case files from the office, then set up the paperwork on the table, near enough the couch to notice if he started coming around. The office would just have to stay shut for the day. It happened often enough.
Faith and Wesley slept on through most of the afternoon, until Wesley surprised me by being the first to wake at about 4pm.
His muffled groan drew my attention from the office accounts. "What in Heaven's name did that doctor give me?" asked a very English voice, ragged and creaky but still carrying a far too generous and distinct whiff of 'Public School Education'. I winced.
I hadn't thought he'd been so aware of what was going on, at Farrell's, but evidently I'd been wrong. "You don't want to know", I answered. "Suffice to say he left a few more doses of it for if things get really bad. And some more regular painkillers, too. You need either right now?"
He blinked at me blearily, shaking his head carefully. Considering what he'd just woken up from, there was a surprising amount of sense in his eyes. "You. You were with Faith. You... saved me?"
"Yeah. We both did." No need to go into all the details. "Damn fool thing to do, going into that neighbourhood, at that hour, alone and human and all."
His eyes narrowed, and he propped himself up a few inches taller on his elbows on the couch, and managed a pompous, "I'll have you know I am a trained member of the watcher's council, with a significant knowledge of all varieties of demons and fiends of the night..."
That ridiculous pride would have been funny, if it hadn't nearly got him killed.
He subsided suddenly with a grunt of pain. "I... I think I'd quite like some of those drugs now," he said weakly, his tone a hair short of a whimper.
I fetched, and once he was busy absorbing them and evidently hurting a bit less, resumed the conversation. I said, testing for a reaction to confirm or deny the rest of Faith's assertions about him, "Didn't seem to be doing you any good last night, all that training."
He sighed. "Books," he admitted morosely. "It's mainly books. But I have faced vampires before, under controlled circumstances..."
"Nothin' controlled about these circumstances," I summed up for him. "Welcome to LA, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce."
"Oh, I'm afraid I don't know your name...?"
He waited as though expecting more, then let it go with a shrug. "I must say, you don't look like Faith's usual type." I winced at the resignation in his tone. Sounded as though he'd seen a lot of her usual type. His hands fluttered as he searched for words. "A lot less... leather. And tattoos."
"Yeah, well, I'm dressed for the office right now."
"Indeed. Office?" He stared around until his eyes found the clock on the wall. "But it's nearly evening."
"We're closed right now, actually, not to say that I don't work unusual hours anyway - pretty much as and when needed, in fact. Faith just accepted a partnership yesterday, by the way."
"Good grief. That can't be right. She's got... other commitments."
His initial surprise was rather comical. Then he hesitated, and thought it over, his face scrunched up in confusion. His gaze was suspicious when he turned it back upon me. "What precisely is it that you do, Mr Doyle?"
"That's just Doyle. And I'm a licensed PI. Defender of the innocent, helper of the helpless, that sort of thing. Specializing in the sort of stuff the police can't handle. Not too much different to slaying, fact. Faith came here to seek me out, we kind of hit it off."
"A private investigator, Faith?" he spluttered. Had to admit, I could see where he was coming from, there. "And you and she...?"
"That's right. And she's staying. She wants to stay. I ain't gonna argue with her. Are you?"
"You do know she's only seventeen?"
His self-righteous tone made me ignore my automatic stab of guilt and set me on the defensive. I was beginning to see what Faith had been talking about; it wouldn't take too long for this guy to start grating on my nerves. Still, he seemed reasonably well-intentioned, for all that. I just shrugged and said, "If she's old enough to risk her life fighting demons..."
"You got that right." Her voice cut through the air. I turned to see her in the bedroom doorway, back in her leather gear again, all cleavage and attitude. "You want me to wait off having a little fun when I want just 'cause it's not proper by your stuffy standards? You'd prefer I waited till I was too dead? The last two slayers died before they were even eighteen. You remember? 'Cause I can't forget."
There was a silence. Wesley shook his head, looking bewildered and unhappy. "Faith," he began softly.
There was affection there, I was surprised to note. It was kind of strict and pompous and proprietorial, but it was there nonetheless.
She knew it too. She looked repentant, a little. Her aggressive posture abruptly drooped. "Hi, Wes," she said, grudgingly, guiltily.
There were several seconds when none of us seemed able to think of anything to say. Then Faith headed for the door, her movements decisive. She paused before she went out, picking up my jacket and pulling my wallet from it. She helped herself to a few scruffy notes and put them down her cleavage for safekeeping. She said, "I'm hungry. I'm off for food. Anyone feel like Chinese?"
"Bring back a selection," I said, pretty sure nothing would go to waste with her around.
I heard her footsteps on the floor above us and the front door slam as she left. I turned my attention back to Wesley, who was sighing and tutting and shaking his head.
"She's certainly her own person," I observed.
"Yeah, well." I smirked; couldn't help myself. "Ten impossible things before breakfast, and all that."
He glowered. I got the impression he didn't appreciate frivolity of any kind, and disapproved of me deeply. Must be a real fun guy for a gal like Faith to work with, I thought. But on the other hand, it worked the opposite way around too. He must have a real hard time trying to get her to do anything. I couldn't see any way the pair might possibly connect to each other.
Whatever bright spark had decided to put the two of them together had to have been seriously tripping.
"She can't stay here. You must realise that." He leaned forward, insofar as he was able, to address me. "She can't avoid her destiny. She's the Chosen One, the only one with the strength and skill to take on the Master. She's the only one that can put a stop to all this horror."
"Or she can die. But then you'll have another shot at him, right?"
He nodded, completely serious, totally missing the edge in my voice.
"I don't buy that," I snarled. "She's not just a game piece, a dart, a bullet, whatever. You and your precious council, you're lining these girls up like they're interchangeable - one dies, the next is picked, yeah? Well, get this; she's a person. She has a right to live."
He blinked at me, but stood up to the onslaught better than I'd expected, wrapping a big blanket of Duty around himself and calmly staring me down. He said, in that soft voice of his, "She has a job to do. A higher purpose. How many of us can say that? Yet she's turning her back upon it."
Remembering his hint of affection for Faith earlier, I knew the only way to get past the duty and appeal to the man was to fight dirty and use the fact he cared to twist him around.
But then maybe, I thought with a spark of hope, it wouldn’t be necessary to even consider employing the kind of methods of coercion or imprisonment which Faith had suggested earlier.
"Look, I get where the girl's coming from, man. I fight these creatures, it's my purpose too. But I'm not about to go commit suicide trying to fight a battle I can't win. Better to stay here and fight the fights I can make a difference in. Maybe someday I'll get the urge to take on greater things - and maybe so will she. Give her time. At least grant her a couple of years of life. An experienced slayer is a better slayer, right? If you send 'em out soon as they're picked and barely trained, it's no wonder they're gonna fail."
I was getting to him. He was nodding slowly, his expression slightly sickened. I wondered idly if he'd worked with either of the other two who'd gone to their deaths, before.
"And maybe someday, if she survives, she'll be strong enough to take down the Master and set the world to rights," I finished quietly. "But you know that just now, she isn't." I let that sink in for a moment, before driving in the final nail. "Do you really want to give up on her and move on to the next option in line already?"
Wesley, speechless, shook his head.