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~*~*~*~*~*~
I’m running, always running. I don’t want to, I know I am stronger than this, but what I’m running from scares me so much. I just don’t have the strength to stand and face my pursuer. I talked a good game before, but really, I’m just a scared little girl. I can see the open grave up ahead. I know what’s going to happen next. It’s always the same. Even though I can see the gaping hole in the ground I can’t avoid it. I’m going to fall and my pursuer will get that much closer to me. Here it comes…

Wait, oh thank you, I can hear his voice. His voice makes everything better. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it. He’d gone away, but he was back now. I know the voice even though I can’t remember whom it belongs to. This voice was dark and smooth, like chocolate. It washes over me, surrounds me, pushing my pursuer back. When this voice first came to me, it was hesitant as though the person it belonged to wasn’t used to talking or didn’t really know what to say. He would come twice a week, back to back. It made me think that maybe he was coming on the weekends. I know this voice doesn’t live in Sunnydale anymore. This voice moved to L.A. after I was sent to this place. I had been in this hell for two weeks before he came. His voice and the other are all the keep me from giving up.

The other voice is softer, but makes me feel just as safe. There is always laughter in it, but I can tell it’s forced sometimes. It’s soothing, almost like a purr. The other voice had started coming round a few months after the first voice. He had been away, traveling, he’d told me. He sat for hours at first, telling me about his trip and the lies he’d told his friends about it. Only he and I know what he’d really done. It makes me feel special, that he shared his secrets with only me.

Those are the only two voices that make me feel safe. The voices have a lot in common, but from what I can remember, they don’t like each other, even though once in a while they talk to me at the same time. Now if I could only remember their names. Whoever they are, they’re both fighting the good fight, but both also fight the darkness inside them. I can tell, after all I have that darkness, too. The softer voice hides it better. His darkness is young; it hasn’t always been there. Maybe someday he’ll me what it is.

I’m not sure why they come to talk to me. I hurt them both, I know that much, but the voices don’t berate me or try to tell me that I’m bad. Instead, they just talk to me, tell me what’s going on in their lives. They ask me to come back to them. I want to, God how I want to, but I can’t get my body and mind to cooperate.

I concentrate on the voice. I should know better than to let my thoughts run away like that. I need my voices. I’m so afraid that they’ll find out that I sometimes don’t pay attention to what they tell me; that I just concentrate on hearing them, that they’ll leave.

He’s sad. He lost a good friend. I have to let him know that I care. Come on body, just one tiny thing to let him know I’m here for him. There! Score, maybe I’ll get to wake up soon.

Now the other voice is here. She’s coming. My nightmare made real is coming. No, this is bad.

I can feel something brushing my hair off my forehead. His hand. Oh, I like the feel of his hand. It’s dry and cool and calloused in all the right places. He works with his hands. Why can’t I remember who this is? It will come to me. It has to. What’s this? He kissed me on the forehead. He’s never done that before. Don’t go, please don’t go, I don’t want to start running again. As long as you’re here I’m safe. I’m safe.

~*~

Angel sat next to Faith’s hospital bed, lightly holding her limp hand. He’d left Buffy, like he’d planned, but he’d been drawn back to Sunnydale to see Faith. He couldn’t give up on her. They were so much alike and he didn’t want her to be alone. So on the weekends the dark vampire would drive up and visit the comatose Slayer. The nursing staff had made an exception for him, so he could visit her at night. The head nurse hadn’t questioned too closely as to why he could only visit at night. She had told him that he was Faith’s only visitor and if the only time he could visit was after hours then so be it. Well, he had been her only visitor until Harris had started coming during the day.

Angel had been rather surprised that the boy would want to visit the young woman who had tried to kill him. With the grudge Xander still carried towards him, Angel really didn’t think the boy had all that much compassion or capacity for forgiveness. His opinion had been changed when he’d arrived just after dusk a few weeks ago and had overheard Xander talking to her.

Angel had waited by the door. It seemed that Xander had indeed taken his road trip and it had been an eye opening experience for him. Xander Harris had grown up. He still played his assigned role as the joker and doughnut boy for Buffy, but he was very different from the irritant he’d been in high school. Angel had been able to tell that much just from watching him. There was a confidence and grace about him as he lounged in the chair next to Faith’s bed, holding her hand, that hadn’t been there before. He thought back to the story he’d heard about Xander being possessed by a hyena and Angel figured Xander had gotten in touch with whatever part of it still resided him. Xander’s words were soft and low, rather like a soothing purr. He had been so caught up in listening to the cadence of Xander’s voice that he hadn’t realized at first that it was now directed at him.

“Deadboy?” He’d asked incredulously.

Angel responded automatically. “Don’t call me that.”

Xander smirked, “If the shoe fits…”then he turned serious, “What are you doing here?”

Angel stepped into the room and walked over to the opposite side of Faith’s bed. He brushed her hair away from her forehead and said softly, “I came to visit Faith.”

Xander cocked one eyebrow. “So you’re the one who comes at night on the weekends?” When Angel just nodded he said, “Huh. I racked my brain trying to figure out who it was, but I never thought of you. Buffy’s never mentioned when you’ve been in town.”

Angel had been watching Faith and saw her flinch at hearing Buffy’s name. He looked at Xander. “Don’t say that name. It upsets Faith. She’s never mentioned it, because she doesn’t know that I come here.” He held Xander’s gaze and continued, “And I don’t want her to know that I’m here either. She wouldn’t understand and I don’t want to deal with one of her temper tantrums.”

Xander was silent for a moment before he said, “Fair enough. Your secret's safe with me.” He stood up and stretched. “Well, I’ll be going then and let you two catch up.” When he got to the door he turned. “I’m glad you’ve been visiting her, Angel. I’m glad she hasn’t been completely alone.”

Angel had nodded in acknowledgement and the boy had left. They’d crossed paths a few times since then, but were still wary around one another.

Tonight was the first night Angel had visited Faith in almost a month. Even though he’d been here around Thanksgiving, he hadn’t been able to stay. Then Doyle…well he’d gone long enough without paying a visit to his friend. And Angel did consider Faith to be a friend even if she couldn’t talk to him. So here he was, holding her hand and telling her everything that had happened since he was here last. He told her about Thanksgiving and about Spike not being able to hurt humans anymore. He had seriously mixed feelings about Spike’s situation and was hoping that talking to Faith would help clear things up somewhat. Angel choked up when he started to tell her about Doyle. He was still trying to come to grips with the half-demon’s death.

Angel wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn Faith squeezed his hand when he told her about Doyle’s sacrifice. A small smile played about his lips. Perhaps she really was listening to him after all. He finished his visit with telling her about Wesley showing up. Oh, he wished she were actually awake. He’d love to see her reaction to that news.

“Angel?”

Angel turned his head to see Xander standing in the doorway. “Hey, Xander. What brings you here at this hour?”

Xander made his way into the room and stood on the other side of Faith. “I wanted to let you know that she’s coming. She got it in her head that she should make sure Faith was still here. She’s coming by after patrol.”

They both noticed Faith tense and Angel rushed to soothe her. Brushing his hand over her forehead, he leaned in close and said, “It’ll be alright, Faith. She won’t hurt you. You’re safe. We’d better go now. I’ll be back tomorrow night. You can tell me how it went.” Then Angel brushed a chaste kiss on Faith’s forehead. Xander squeezed her hand in reassurance and the pair left.

~*~

Spike followed Buffy. He wasn’t sure why, maybe he was just bored. Sunnydale General? What the devil could the chit want at the hospital? All of her lackeys were safe as houses right now. He watched her from a distance as the blond went into a private room to visit some dark haired bird. Spike frowned and inhaled. His sire had been here recently.

The bleached blond vampire waited ‘til after the Slayer had left before slipping into the room. His sire’s scent was stronger here. The whelp had been by quite a bit as well. Spike studied the young girl lying in the bed. Slayer. This girl was a Slayer also. Well wasn’t this just interesting? He picked up the chart at the foot of the bed. Faith.

Noises in the corridor alerted Spike that he wasn’t alone. He beat a hasty retreat, determined to visit tomorrow night.

~*~

Spike slipped from his place in the shadows after Angel had left. He walked silently into Faith’s room and took the seat the poof had so recently vacated.

“So, you’re the bird the Scoob’s and me poof of Sire come to confess their sins to, eh? Name’s Spike, luv. You and me are gonna get to be real good friends.”

~*~

Angel. Xander. Those are the names of the voices. I remember them now. I also remember what I did to them both. I can’t believe it. They’ve forgiven me and want me to come back. Buffy’s visit scared me, but Angel had told me the truth. I’m okay, well as okay as I can be stuck in this place. Buffy didn’t hurt me. She didn’t do much of anything; really, hardly even spoke to me.

There’s a new voice now. This one is sinful and wicked. Spike, Angel’s wayward childe, can’t hurt humans anymore. Why’s he come to visit me? He doesn’t know me.

I’m getting stronger now. The voices are helping. Pretty soon I’ll be able to stop running and face my fears. Pretty soon I’ll be able to wake up and start returning the favor my friends have done for me.

-30-