Desperate Passages Series
Part 3 ~ "Rituals & Dreams"
by Just Human

Teeny-tiny additioal spoiler in this part from "The 'I' in Team" Notes, disclaimers and dedications in Part 1 ~ "Unclean"

"Rituals & Dreams"

Dejectedly going through the inbox, Wesley read negative response after negative response to his inquiries about Cordelia's demon powers. At the top of the second page was a hefty sized note from George White, whom he had roomed with for a time during his Watcher training.

"Wesley,

I believe that I may have unearthed your demon. The power that you described, designed to detect and drive out evil, is fairly unique. Certainly there are many species that can detect the inherent evil..."

Inhaling deeply over his freshly made cup of tea, Wesley analyzed the complex aroma of his Earl Gray. As he identified the faint citrus of the bergamot, he smiled at the long-winded response. George never sought to be a field Watcher. Instead, he was content to document, archive and cross-reference in the Council's library.

"Monsignor Marcus Alexandricus' text, 'History of the Choirs of Angels and the Fall of Lucifer', circa 1550 held the key to your inquiry."

Wesley clawed his way through George's account of the monk's occult experiments and found his suspicions from the previous day confirmed. George had discovered the demon listed among the lesser heavenly hosts. Angels were really only demons aligned to the good. He paused for a moment to analyze the irony of that thought, but quickly shook himself out of it.

Unfortunately, mindless superstition and species-centric arrogance fostered the belief that only the physically beautiful demons were servants of good. This left a number of species barely documented.

"At any rate, one of the more irate demons that Marcus summoned was a Shar!ka. The demon was in some level of pain because the species apparently exists exclusively on the higher planes. It admonished Alexandricus for disturbing its work for 'the Power that Exists in the Heavens and the Earth'. It went on further to give an exhaustive list of the powers and principalities under its domain, among them was the ability to 'Purge the evil of the darkest of dark realms from where it lays in the hearts of the innocent.'"

His tea forgotten, Wesley reread the passage. The powers referred to were obviously the Powers that Be and purging the evil was just what Angel had described. George continued to go on and on about the commentaries over the centuries, but Wesley had what he needed. He was about to type a quick thank you and do more research on the Shar!ka when the end of the e-mail made him pause.

"Amanda and Jacob were ecstatic over the last package you sent containing the video games. Allow me to pass along their thanks. As a parent, I'm not certain that I should be as thrilled with the amount of time they spend glued to the infernal machine, but I'm indulgent, as Margaret often reminds me. Since it makes them so happy, you have my thanks as well. Margaret and the children are putting together quite a care package that should make even an ex-patriot like you feel that he has returned to the land of his birth. You will be receiving it in the post in the next couple of weeks. As always Wesley, you have an open invitation to our home."

There was nothing different or earth shattering in Georges closing comments. Wesley had been sending small gifts to his friend's children for years. In return, brown parcels containing jars of lime jam and other everyday delicacies from home, which were hard or impossible to find in LA, would occasionally brighten his doorstep.

What struck him today was how different his life and George's lives had become. George lived in a modest cottage, went to work each day and came home every evening to a loving family. Wesley had wanted more than that pedestrian existence and look what it had earned him. Fired, tortured, frequently covered in demon slime, isolated from the people he loved most and sleeping with the enemy.

Lilah. He had been avoiding thinking about her. It had been a week since he had been at her apartment. Expecting to come from the previous encounter with the same level of disgust that had characterized their first one, he was disturbed by the fact that his first instinct was to call her. Now he was feeling truly disgusted with himself. It wasn't as if he was falling in love; God, no! In truth, the problem was that he found her interesting. While there was no depth to their conversations, there was always a challenge, the constant game to see who could come out ahead. Lilah was good in bed, even if she did talk too much, but, damn-it if all her moans and pleas for 'harder' or 'faster' weren't arousing. Wesley was getting a hard-on just thinking about her handcuffed to the stairwell.

It was a wonder that she didn't see right through him. Everything that night had been an improvisation. Wesley had suspected correctly that the stakes were going to have to be raised to keep Lilah's attention, that's why he brought the restraints . He'd pushed Lilah hard into the metal bars of the staircase handrail, cuffing her hands up high so that she was forced to stand on the balls of her feet and grip the rails for balance. It amused Wesley to think that Lilah probably believed he'd planned it that way all along, when in truth, he'd merely wished to save himself the embarrassment of tripping or running out of breath while attempting to carry her up the stairs to the loft.
Lilah liked it rough, with an element of danger. Never was that more apparent than when, while using a kitchen knife to cut away Lilahs clothing, its flat edge had grazed the hot, moist skin between her legs. Shed come instantly, harder than ever before. What was really troublesome to Wesley, however, was the fact that the entire danger factor of being with Lilah was becoming intoxicating to *him*. Her pleasure had definitely aroused him considerably. That was the moment when Wesley realized that he was not in her league. He had only played naughty little games in the past, not heavy-duty bondage or S&M. Hell, he was the one used to wearing the handcuffs.
Shaking himself out of the memory, Wesley turned back to the laptop, thinking that handcuffs and knives were probably topics that did not arise in George and Margaret's sex life. He noticed that George had attached a file to the message. Clicking it open, he watched a picture of a Shar!ka demon slowly reveal itself on the screen. Halfway through, his heart nearly stopped.

***
Yawning loudly, Fred stretched and opened her eyes to momentary confusion. Where was she? The feeling passed almost immediately as she remembered that she had spent the last week living in Cordelia's apartment. She and Gunn managed to move what seemed like most of the contents of the hotel in a single afternoon. Unfortunately, they weren't having as much luck sorting through everything.

Glancing around the bedroom, she could make out paths to the door and to the bathroom among the stacks of books and files. Strange how organized it all seemed when they were still in bookcases and file cabinets back at the office. Not, she reminded herself that Cordelia's filing system had ever met anyone else's standards for organization. Fred made her way to the living room, slamming her big toe into an oversized, moldy book, and she let out a yelp of pain.

Gunn was half-sprawled between the couch and the coffee table. Fred had tried to argue with him about switching places or to joining her in Cordelia's bed because the couch was way to small for someone his size. All he talked about was making things special and took the couch. Smiling at her sleeping knight for his chivalry, she made her way to the kitchen to see if she could find some food and make some coffee.

He was muttering in his sleep ten minutes later when she came back with a stack of toast and two glasses of orange juice. Blushing at the voyeur she was becoming, Fred settled on the floor on the far side of the coffee table to watch the rise and fall of his bare chest, which was partially covered by a rumpled green sheet. At the other end of the sheet his feet poked out, begging to be tickled.

"Mmm, there tha's it..." Suddenly the wordless muttering was interspersed with occasional phrases. The husky, breathy tones, not to mention the small tent forming above the middle of his body, gave Fred the impression that it was a *good* dream. It was then that she wondered what fantasy realm that vampire hunters wandered to when they dreamed. More importantly, she wondered if they brought movie stars or their girlfriends.

That happy speculation was shattered when the next thing she heard was, "Ohhh, Wesley." Fred realized her mouth was hanging open and firmly closed it. "Uhm, no. There, oh yeah, Wes." Not able to take it any longer, she grabbed his arm and started to shake him.

"Charles, time to wake up." He jumped a little, his eyes flew open in momentary confusion. Looking around, he remembered where he was and smiled up at Fred, who was not smiling back.

"'Mornin', baby. Did you sleep okay?" Gunn rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he rearranged himself to a sitting position on the couch, bunching the sheet around his midsection. Stretching the kinks out of his neck, he pointed to the second glass of orange juice. "Is that for me?"

As she handed him the juice Fred asked, "What were you dreamin'?"

Taken a little off guard, Gunn hesitated and gave a non-committal, "Huh?" as he took a large swig from his glass.

"It's just that you were talking in your sleep a couple of minutes ago, and I was wondering what you were dreaming. Do you always dream about Wesley?"

He managed to clamp a hand over his mouth before he spit the juice across the room. "What do ya mean by that?"

"You were saying Wesley's name." Lowering her voice to imitate his, 'Ohhh, Wesley,' and 'Ah, right there, Wes.' What were you dreaming?"

His face screwed up in concentration as he tried to remember his dream. "I think. I think I was dreaming about us fighting or training. I'm pretty sure we were wrestling...something?" Looking decidedly uncomfortable, he got up carefully bundling the sheets around his waist and started threading his way through the books and papers. "Uh, 'scuse me a sec. Nature calls." She watched his back as he grabbed his clothes on the way to the bathroom.

***
Plowing through his notebooks, Wesley came up with the one labeled 'Angel'. Flipping back a couple of months, he found the page where he had neatly taped a charcoal sketch on parchment of the demon that was now making an appearance on the computer screen. Pulling out a similar notebook labeled 'Cordelia Chase', Wesley found the spot where she described her demon spirit guide, Skip. "Big, gray, more a charcoal than cinder block, chin jewelry, with sword things, well no, more like what Death carries, but in miniature, kinda randomly scattered around the head, back and chest. Armor made of the bones of, well... things - stylin' but definitely needs color, could be seriously awe inspiring with some basic black to go with the red eyes."

Wesley looked toward the heavens, wondering what demon was assigned to torment ex-Watchers. Yes, he could see how Cordelia's description could fit the creature on the screen and on Angel's sketch. He could also see that no researcher in their right mind would have been able to put together two and 'kind of one and three-quarters, maybe a little more' and come up with four. Bloody hell! Why hadn't he gotten a better description from her?

Reading through Angel's account of his battle with Billy's captor, he saw a reference to a name. Skip. Bloody hell, again! Why didn't he notice this when he wrote down Cordelia's account? Probably because she wouldn't sit down and be interviewed until much later. It was beginning to appear that Skip went through a career change from prison guard to demon guide, unless all Shar!ka demons were named Skip. Tossing aside the notebooks, he grabbed a few reference books and went back to the laptop to start a search for information on Cordelia's demon guide.

***

Neither Fred nor Gunn mentioned the dream when Gunn came out of the bathroom and plopped back onto the couch. Fred had poured a couple of cups of coffee and handed him a plate of toast before sitting down beside him. "So, no Cordy, no Angel, no office, one messy apartment. Where do we go from here?"

"You forgot that we have exhausted our leads, and our prime suspect in Angel's disappearance stole our headquarters." Gunn frowned and looked around the living room. "I wonder where Groo is."

Slowly, the photographs on the counter began to sort themselves as Gunn and Fred watched. A single picture floated across the room to them. Fred recovered first. " G'morning Dennis. Do you know where Groo went?"

The picture moved back and forth from left to right. "I take it that means, 'no'," said Gunn. The picture moved up in down in ascent and then moved closer to them. It was Cordy and Groo, smiling in the sun. Groo was wearing a Mexican blanket and Cordy was straightening a sombrero on his head. Slowly, the picture ripped in half with each of them on half the picture.

"Right, they broke up," guessed Gunn. The Groo half of the picture moved up in down and floated across the room to the front door. "They broke up and Groo left." The picture moved in ascent. "OK, that makes sense that's why Cordy and Angel were getting together that night."

"Dennis, you're good at phantom charades. Okay, so Groo left and then Cordy called Angel?" The photo stayed in one place and rocked from side to side in a noncommittal way. "So, something happened after Groo left and before she called Angel." Watching the picture move up and down, Fred continued, "Uh, uh, ...she took a shower?"

Gunn frowned at her as Dennis indicated no. Cordelia's picture floated to the table and was covered by a cut glass coaster that distorted the image.

Gunn tried, "She got fuzzy?"

"Oh! She got fuzzy, hazy. She had a vision?" shouted Fred. Cordelia's picture slid from beneath the coaster and gave energetic approval. "Cordy and Groo broke up and Groo left. Cordy had a vision and called Angel so that they could fight a demon." Cordelia's picture had been indicating yes until that last part. "No demon, okay then what did Cordy want to talk to Angel about?"

"Angel was really happy after she called. A framed photo of Angel, Cordelia and Wesley floated to the table and a piece of tissue covered Wesley's face.

"Cordelia and Angel love each other, silly." Fred blushed a little and gave Gunn a playful smack in the arm. The tissue floated up and down in almost bittersweet agreement.

"But Cordy never made it to Point Dume and something happened to Angel while he was there," concluded a frowning Gunn. "This is good information, but it's not helping us find them. The tissue moved back to the picture and covered Cordelia and Angel.

"Wesley?" Dennis, I know you don't get out much. Wesley did something wrong and besides, he doesn't want us coming around. The picture flew off the pillow straight at Gunn's nose, so that Gunn was forced to stare at Wesley's smiling face. "Okay, back off man; I get your point. The picture move back to the table and a few seconds later, some papers began to flutter on the counter. A cell phone drifted across the room to Fred's hands. There was a phone number and instructions for retrieving messages taped to it.

"It's not Wesley's phone number," Fred told Gunn and looking at the cell phone, "This isn't Cordy's cell phone; hers was in the car." He looked at her, then at the phone, and shrugged. Fred dialed the number while Gunn slid closer to her so that they both could listen. After punching in the code, they heard the message that Wesley had left in the diner and a newer one left over the previous weekend.

"Angel, I think I'm ready to move to the inside. Lilah and I had dinner tonight and I expect that she will contact me again. Very shortly, I expect to be in the employ of Wolfram & Hart." There was a pause in Wesley's matter-of-fact speech. When he resumed, he sounded less certain, "Angel, I know the pay phones and the answering machines are a convoluted way to communicate, but I would appreciate it if we could try to check in more frequently. It's very lonely where I am now."

The message ended and all Fred and Gunn could do was stare at each other. "Charles, it sounds to me that Angel and Wesley are working together. Thank God, Wesley didn't really betray us." Smiling at Gunn, Fred continued, "It was all part of a plan."

"It sound to me that despite all the talk about working as a team and keepin' each other's backs, we've been left out in the cold, pickin' up alot of broken pieces." In his anger, Gunn tossed his pillow across the room.

"Charles look at everything that's happened in the last few months. We've been surrounded by enemies on every side. How long do you think we could have held out at the hotel before someone ended up getting hurt or worse? Angel and Wesley must have thought they needed to strike back. The more people who knew, the more dangerous it was. I'd say they're a little paranoid and have a right to be."

"And they couldn't have been paranoid with us?" Gunn sucked in a deep breath and tried to push down his anger at being left out. He could see Angel and Wesley planning all this, being the martyrs again. Not letting anyone in to prevent people from getting hurt. Dismissively, Gunn considered that they didn't have much to be paranoid about, but he quickly realized that was wrong. Kidnappers, cultists and evil lawyers with surveillance cameras were now the norm. Yeah, he could see how Wesley and Angel might have been worried about someone watching them. "You know, Fred. The lawyers bugged the place once, they could have cameras anywhere."

"Anywhere except here. Dennis would know if someone came to install bugs or cameras." The pillow Gunn had tossed bobbed up and down before heading to the bedroom. "It also explains why the cell phone is here. Angel must have let Cordy in on it so they could use this place as a safehaven. It also explains why she didn't want to talk to Wesley. Her excuses about Angel not being ready were pretty thin. She was trying to keep all of us away from Wes."

"Yeah, it's starting to mesh. The night I went to him to get the cure for you. He was pretty nasty to me. Kept telling me to get out and made no bones about the fact none of us were supposed to go to him. They're probably afraid that his place is bugged too."

"But we can talk to him, right? We call back the number and leave him a message. Let him know that Dennis tipped us off. At the very least we have to tell him that Angel and Cordy are missing. Do you think that was part of the plan?"

Gunn shook his head, "No. Think about Connor. He must be the big monkey wrench in all this. I can't imagine that part of the plan was to get Wes' throat slit and lose the baby. That's what we have to do you know, figure out what Connor did with Angel.

Nodding, Fred considered the phone carefully. "Charles, do you really think that Angel is a part of this? He's not very good with the phone."

"Huh," Gunn started laughing, "Well, that's what makes the plan brilliant. Who the hell is ever gonna believe that Angel could work voice mail?"

***
Wesley opened a silk bag and poured some smokey crystals onto the soft cloth resting on the table. Two of the crystals were from a collection left over from his Watcher days. The larger two he had picked up a couple of weeks ago when he had learned about the spell. When they had discovered that the hotel was bugged, he consulted with several people about possible magical counter measures. Giles had came through with an ionizing spell, but it's effects were short term, limited location, and required an expensive crystal that was unusable for months after the spell. There was still a blackish haze around the smallest crystal that he had experimented with. Selecting a medium sized one, he retuned the others to the bag.

Wesley was about to double-check the contents of a nearby cardboard box of ritual gear when the phone rang, reminding him that he should unplug the damn thing. Moving to the phone, he had intended to disconnect whatever telemarketer was there, but then he saw the caller-ID, 'Wolfram & Hart'.

Lifting the receiver he said, "Hello Lilah, I wasn't expecting you to call," Wesley allowed the sarcasm to roll freely from his mouth.

"I hope you weren't expecting another envelope. I warned you to ask for cash up front, but if it's any consolation, you would have earned the 200." To Wesley, Lilah's voice had the sound of the cat that ate the canary.

"How flattering. Now, what can I do for you? Wasting my life away takes considerable energy."

"Why don't you meet me here at the office tomorrow, say lunchtime. We'll go out someplace nice - my treat. After say, you sign some papers for human resources."

"Selling my soul seems like it should be worth more than lunch."

"Oh come on, Wes. I know you never made that much money working for Angel. Those hospital bills must be stacking up."

"Well..." he hesitated purposefully. Normally that was a bad move in a conversation with Lilah, but being vulnerable was what this conversation was all about.

"Amazing what hospitals will charge nowadays for an aspirin isn't it?" Lilah continued in her obvious way.

"Yes, it certainly is a lot, not that it's any of your business." Wesley allowed a little anger and defensiveness to creep into his voice.

Lilah's voice took on a false sincerity, "Yes, and they must look so much more daunting in the face of overdue credit card statements, threatening letters from the utilities and the landlord. Oh, and you should know the bank won't hesitate to call the repo man about the SUV."

"Did you renew my subscription to 'TV Guide' while you were going through the rest of my mail?" Wesley's tone was full-blown anger and not all of it was an act for her benefit.

All business now, Lilah continued, "I didn't think you could afford it, just like you can't afford not to take my up on this offer."

A long stretch of silence entered the conversation as Wesley waited, trying to give Lilah the impression that he was thinking about the bills and her offer. "Well, I suppose there's no use denying my financial situation." He sighed, as if unable to continue.

"Then do yourself a favor. Come to the office tomorrow and just look at the offer on the table." Lilah was good; Wesley couldn't detect any insincerity in her tone.

"Oh, and is it just me who's getting a favor?" Switching to a more humble tone, Wesley continued, "I, I suppose I could consider perhaps a small translation job as a consultant or an independent contractor?" He let the last part be a question to give her full reins in this situation.

"There could be a something along those lines. I'll see what open projects we have lying around." The smugness was returning to her voice. It was impossible to know for sure what Lilah's face looked like, but Wesley could picture a feral catlike grin slowly spreading across her features.

"Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to look at a proposal. But, I'm not signing anything in blood!"

Her laughter filled his ears, "Don't worry, Wes, you have to move up the ranks before they want anything in actual blood." Lilah blew a kiss into the phone and hung up. Wesley allowed a satisfied smile to cross his face while he placed the receiver in its cradle and unplugged the phone.

Returning to the table, he rested his palms on the smooth surface and took a moment to recenter himself. Cradling the crystal in his left hand, Wesley utilized an obscure skill from his Watcher training, and began the invocation under his breath with little lip movement. At the time he had learned it, Wesley thought that quiet spell casting would have few practical applications, but the skill was coming in handy at the moment by prevent prying electronics from knowing what he was doing. "...wind, earth and water churned amidst the fire. Let the air be burned." A glow emitted from the crystal and spread across the room. He could make out the edges of the spell shaping themselves to the wards on walls and windows, while several light bulbs blew out. Well, Giles had said there could be some unfortunate side effects.

Assured of his privacy, Wesley began pushing the furniture against the walls and preparing the living room for the intended work. A little while later, he stepped back and cast a critical eye on the preparations. Surveying the transformation, Wesley carefully inspected the substantial pentagram that was laid out in salt in the middle of the wooden floor. Three additional rings of salt surrounded the pentagram. Tall white candles sat at the points. It was a modification to the Alexandricus' original summoning spell. Wesley hoped that the extra layers of protection would keep the demon closer to it's own plane so that it wouldn't be in pain. Large print copies of the spell were laid out on one side of the circle. Everything was ready except for an offering.

Smacking his forehead, Wesley realized that he had forgotten to stop at the grocery store. He glanced at his watch and realized that he didn't have time for a trip to the store before the ionizing spell wore off. Actually, he had precious little time left when he considered that the circle would have to be cleaned up by the time the ionizing spell wore off. Grabbing what was available in the kitchen, Wesley placed the offering, the very humble offering, in the center circle, being careful not to disturb the lines. Hopping into the shower, he performed an abbreviated ritual cleansing and was drying himself next to the circle in next to no time.

Wesley turned off the lights and began chanting as he reached across the rings of salt and lit the candles at the points of the pentagram. The five-pointed star began to shimmer in the dimly lit room. Circling three more times, he gestured with his right hand at each of the three rings in turn, thus activating the outer protection rings from the inside out. The salt took on a luminous white glow. Satisfied that the appropriate protections were in place, Wesley sat on his towel and began the summoning chant.

As the Latin rolled from his tongue, the air shimmered before his eyes and changed texture. After a few minutes, he felt uncomfortably warm, as the thickening air molded itself to his form, when by all rights, the cold from the floor should be stealing the heat from his unclothed body. Light began to race around the pentagram and a howl punctuated the chanting. Abruptly Wesley stopped when he found himself looking up at over six-feet of power and destruction. 'Funny,' thought Wesley. 'Neither of them described exactly how big Shar!ka demons really were.' Suddenly being naked for the ritual seemed like an unwise plan.

The hard bodied creature took in its surroundings and glowered down at the puny mortal. It looked to Wesley like it was preparing to snarl at him when it stopped, inspected its arms, looked around again and said, "Hey, nice improvement on the summoning, I'm not getting that grimy feel of the physical plane. Good technique - could be your gain. But, hey, I'm betting not."

"I'm sorry for calling you like this. Unfortunately I'm in desperate need of information..." Wesley trailed off, hoping the demon would supply its name.

"Wow, is that a Guinness?" The demon pointed at Wesley's meager offering left in the circle. "And looky here! Thin Mints! Girl Scout cookies and *good* beer. Man, I really hope you're not some evil magician, because so far, the hospitality, not so bad." The demon sat cross-legged in the center of the circle and popped open the beer while shoveling a few cookies into its mouth. " How many boxes did they get you for? You know they're born sharks and hustlers in those cute little uniforms."

"A few," Wesley admitted. What he didn't admit was that it was really five.

"So, not to rush you but I've got responsibilities to tend to on the higher planes. Name's Lefty."

"I'm Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and no, I'm not evil, by the way. Well, no more so than the average human. In fact I'm trying to get some information about a seer that works for the Powers that Be."

"Don't know if I can help you but go ahead, shoot."

"Cordelia Chase-"

Lefty cut him off before he even got started, "Whoa there big guy! That Cordelia chick is associated with some bad mojo on my people this year. Some vampire with a soul broke into one of the high end prisons and freed something totally evil."

"Angel."

"Yeah, that's the vamp's name - kinda ironic don't ya think? We were going to go after him but when we straightened out all the facts, it turns out he's a freakin' champion who was saving the life of his seer. So we had to let it go; can't go after the people on your own side. The perp, Billy, finally got taken care of a few months later."

"Yes, I can see why that's upsetting, but no real permanent damage done." Wesley agreed and finished the thought in his head, 'Well, unless you count my continued nightmares.'

Lefty snorted, "Unless you count Skip."

Carefully hiding his excitement at the mention of Skip, Wesley asked, "Skip was the demon that was guarding Billy Blim?" Wesley knew already that this was the case, but he wanted confirmation. He also wanted Lefty to continue talking about Skip.

"Day after Blim was busted loose, Skip got stripped of his rank and exiled out of the community for the next 500 years. Do you know how hard that is on his mate and kids?"

"I'm, I'm sorry to hear that. So you're saying that Skip doesn't work for the Powers that Be?"

"Well, we are a servitor race of demons. It's not like we could actually work for someone else. The Powers don't split hairs over stuff like this, but community is important to us. We punish our own, and help them see how their failings hurt the rep of the whole. The idea with the exile is that Skip's supposed to look for a cause and through repeated acts of good, or a single act of heroism, earn his forgiveness and get reinstated back into the community."

"You're shunning him, like the Amish do?" Lefty nodded at Wesley's assessment Wesley continued, "What would restore his honor? I mean...would say, rescuing a seer from certain death?"

Lefty made a face that said, 'what are you nuts?' "Nah, the PTB expect that seers will come and go. They live, they die; they risk their necks. It's what happens."

"Right." Wesley decided his rapport with Lefty was too good to push it by pursuing Skip's motives for granting Cordelia demon blood. "So, part of my original question was to find out information about Shar!ka-human hybrids."

"Aren't any." Lefty finished the last of the cookies and began to lick the chocolate from his fingers.

"None?"

"We don't breed with any other species. First off, our equipment tends not to sync, if you know what I mean?" Wesley nodded that he got it. "Second, being a servitor race, there's just certain things the blood tells us not to do. Part of the concern is that a half-breed may not be completely loyal to the Powers."

"Cultural prejudice?"

"Nope. Deep level genetic programming - the only way we could even attempt it would be if we knew the outcome was a servant of the higher powers." Lefty took another swig of beer.

"Okay, what about injecting your DNA in someone who was already a servant of the Powers?"

Lefty started to shake his head and then frowned. "You know, that might work. It's a loophole. Pity a human that happens to."

"Why?" Wesley was beginning to feel a little panicky.

"Well, one of our natural powers is to drive the evil out. Humans aren't good or evil. Theoretically you inject a human with our blood, first thing that happens is that they start with a mild high on the injection of good. Next, their capacity for evil gets shot down and burnt out. So, what you have left is this creature that isn't balanced anymore, losing everything human about it fast. Pretty soon it can't exist on the physical plane anymore.

"Yes, I read about the agony your species suffers on the physical plane."

Lefty waved his hand in a dismissive gesture as he sipped his beer. "Alexandricus? Overblown. Remember the part I said about not syncing? We were meant to exist on a higher plane. The physical feels like bugs on your skin. Not something you want to live with, but something you can deal with for a while."

"Would there be a way to stop it or reverse it?" Wesley stared at the demon. Lefty finished his beer and took a serious look at the man who summoned him.

"Why do you want to know all this?"

Wesley considered coming up with a plausible excuse and realized that there really wasn't one. 'Here's putting my faith in the light,' he thought. He told Lefty about Cordelia's birthday, the vision coma, Skip, and the demon DNA. "We love Cordelia and need her."

"Man, what in the name that of all that is good, was Skip thinking? Look, Wesley, I don't know what's going on for sure, but if what you're saying is true, there's big time trouble here. I mean, Skip doing this to her long term kills her just as dead as the visions. He shouldn't be capable of doing that kind of thing."

"Can you help me to stop it?"

"We can probably stop our blood from taking over, but I don't think we can restore her to human."

"That's good. If she's human the visions will kill her. She asked to be part demon because she wants to be a seer. She wants to serve the good."

Nodding appreciatively, Lefty stood in the circle, "Who couldn't love a woman like that? You and her..." Wesley made a mental note to include in his next article on translating demon languages about how sexual gestures not only crossed cultural lines but species as well.

Wesley shook his head, "No. Once... a while ago - she's like a sister, now. Besides, there's someone waiting for her."

Lefty nodded sagely. "Give me a couple of days to consult some of the elders and see what needs to be done. Can you give me any idea how far along this might be?"

"I didn't see it, but I was told she lit up a city block destroying a plague of parasitic creatures from the Quortoth."

Lefty gave a long whistle. "Damn that's alotta of power. And it didn't corrupt her? She's one hell of a fighter for the good. Oh, Wes, I can call ya Wes, right?"

"Of course."

"Wes, it's been a long time since I had buffalo wings."

Wesley frowned, wonder what buffalo wings had to do with Cordelia. Lefty gestured at the empty beer can and the plate. Finally catching on, Wesley nodded, "Ah, got it, wings. Hot?"

"Extra and I think a lager or an ale would go a little better, don'tcha think?" Lefty gave him a hopeful look. Wesley nodded and wondered if he should get out an order pad, "I assume that if I perform the same ritual again, I might not summon you specifically. If I need to contact you..."

"Oh, just work my name into the ritual."

Frowning, Wesley tried to come up with the right words so as not to be insulting, "Well, yes, but is "Lefty" your entire name. It doesn't sound particularly, uhm, demonic."

Lefty planted a hand on his bone-clad hip, "I'm getting hassled about my name from a guy called Wesley?"

"Well I didn't mean to offend you-what's wrong with Wesley? I was named after my grandfather."

The demon laughed, "Chill, Wesley. I'm just pulling your leg. As ya guessed, we don't give out our true names. Every century or so, there's a big naming festival, cotton candy, peanuts, the works. We all pick something unique and popular to tack onto the true name. It makes it easier to meet and greet the local populace." He shrugged, "Last time we got together was the 50's and everyone was into the "Honeymooners." Since Lefty is part of my official name and there is no other, you'll get me."

Wesley had seen a few episodes watching late night TV with Gunn. Briefly he wondered what the chances where of running into demons named Stretch and Norton. Suddenly the magical implications dawned on him, "Ah, I think I understand. It's enough of the true name to attract your attention, but not enough to allow someone to use a spell and control you." Lefty probably intended the smile and the thumbs up to be reassuring. Somehow, Wesley considered that a demon smiling at you doesn't inspire feelings of comfort.

"Take care, Lefty"

"You to, Wes." Lefty's look turned more serious and thoughtful. "We'll figure out how to help her."

Letting out a sigh of relief, Wesley started chanting the dismissal. A breeze from nowhere extinguished the candles in the room, leaving him alone in the darkness.

~end Part 3~

Onto Part 4 ~ "Secret Windows"

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