She must've saved 10,000 souls
She was the Keeper of the young
The ones whose lives have just begun
The ones to die their song unsung.
Oochigeas (Indian Song), Lyrics & Music: Roch Viosine, James Campbell

We grope for truth, and make our Progress slow.
Charles Davenant

Opening your eyes is a strain. Your body feels like a leaden weight, a very sore, very bruised leaden weight. You're also naked. Interesting way to wake up. Clay/Jason lies beside you. A mental touch shows his mind is closed off completely, nearly shut down on the psychic level. Yours does that as well when it has been pushed to its limits. Where are you? It's dark. Beyond that, you have no idea.

Looking around, you see that you are in the back seat of your car. The metal guys stands at a pay phone, just hanging up. Then you smell the burgers, coming from some nearby grill. The smell floods your mouth, making your stomach knot in hunger. You'd almost walk in there as is if it would get you one.

Willow tries to turn her head to look in the trunk (the car's a hatchback) to see if their apparent rescuer managed to bring her duffel bag. She lets out a moan as abused muscles complain, her entire body stiff and unwilling to move.

No duffel bag. You do see that Jason is bleeding from a few cuts.

Willow tries to turn to get a better look at Clay and stifled another moan of pain. I definitely have a couple of broken ribs. She looked in the back seat to see if the box of tissues she had was still there.

"Clothing," Willow whispers, almost too tired to speak. "And food. If I don't eat, I'm going to be sick. I have problems if I don't eat."

"Gotcha. Hope you ain't picky on the food, cause there ain't much around here to choose from. You gonna be alright?" the metal armed man asks before he walks off. Jason cuts look pretty superficial. He is just as worn as you though. Tired. Rest and food are what you both need.

"Yeah, I'll be okay eventually. I had money in the duffel bag, but it looks like it's been left behind. Did you manage to bring any of my stuff? My purse, maybe?"

He nods. "Seems like you left it in the front of 'o the car, you should be careful, this city's dangerous." He grins slightly at the attempt at humour.

"Those burgers I smell will do just fine. I'm going to have to eat at least two hamburgers, and we're going to need something for Clay, for when he wakes up."

"Sure." he turns and walks across the street.

I left my purse in the front of the car? I don't remember doing that. I could have sworn I took it with me into the loft. Willow sighed and leaned her head back. Finding that position uncomfortable, she pulled her head upright and looked around the back seat for the blanket she knew should be there.

If someone had told her she'd be sitting naked in the back of her car a day ago, she would have laughed in their face. Wincing she wrapped the blanket around herself, settling in beside Jason. His eyes were slipping around under their lids… what was he dreaming? Looking around, she didn't really place the neighborhood.

It looked like the Southside, but not too rundown. Suddenly, she remembered the report of a serial rapist stalking the area. Funny the things that pop into your head… Then several gunshots snapped her back to reality!

Willow turns her head as quickly as she can towards the restaurant the metal-armed man had gone into, hoping the gunfire wasn't coming from there. There seemed to be a commotion in the drug store near the restaurant, a scuffle of some sort she could just make out through the plate glass front window, but the counter and displays blocked alot of her view.

Great, Willow thought. A robbery? Is there anything I should do? Anything I can do? I can barely think, let alone act. She looked around, trying to see if there was a getaway car of some sort.

There was no sign of a getaway vehicle. Great, they would probably try to take her car. It would figure, with the rest of the day. It was just at that moment Clay… Jason… wakes up screaming!

"Clay, it's alright," Willow turned back to him as quickly as she could, trying to comfort him. "You're safe. Everything's alright. Shhh," she murmured, stroking his forehead and his face gently, trying to calm him down.

Jason starts at something he sees and tries to get into the front seat, barely managing to pull it off. Turning back around, you see a man running from the drugstore and down the street screaming.

"Jason, what is it? What's wrong? Where are you going?" Shit, what's happening now? I do not need this. Why do things always happen to me in exponential of three?

Willow was startled to see a young girl pop up in the driver's side window, She looked about 10 possibly, fine boned and smudged with dirt on a soft brown cafe au lait skin. Her eyes were wide brown and inquisitive. "Hey what happened to yo window?"

Willow's eye's widened for a moment. What window? What is she talking about? She glanced quickly at all the windows of the car.

"It got broken earlier. I'm going to have it fixed tomorrow." I hope. Willow pulled the blanket closer around her, feeling chilled.

"Um. Vandalism," Clay smiles at her, trying to be believable, "and I just finished paying off the car too. I don't even have change for the phone." He looked around. Then slowly got out of the vehicle, still smiling at the young girl, "Is your home nearby? Are your parents home. I would like to call a tow truck and maybe the police. Maybe they can help me. My girlfriend isn't feeling well. I was on my way to the hospital."

"I'm feeling fine now, dear," Willow interrupted, trying to keep the frustration and anger out of her voice. "I told you I don't need to the hospital, but would you listen? No. Besides, Bill's in the restaurant," she pointed at the burger joint. "And I want to wait for him." Willow finished, giving Jason a pointed look.

The girl nodded. "Um, my parents are… well, out and stuff." the girl looks around… then blinks. "Why ain't you got no shirt on, mister?"

Let's just hope she doesn't ask me why I don't have anything on. What will I say? Strip poker? Willow glanced over towards the restaurant. Hurry up, mister. I want to get out of here.

Jason sighed and rubbed his head. He glanced up and down the street. "I left it at home. I was in a hurry. Would it be okay if we used your phone?"

"Ain't s'pposed ta let strangers in the house…" she says, turning to peer into the car and at Willow. "Are you really sick?" Before she can answer the girl looks back at Jason, brow furrowing… "Hey… I seen you… when I was playin with Shanisha…" Across the street, you see the cyborg coming out of the pharmacy carrying some bags. He is followed by a black woman in what looks like a business suit but the skirt is torn up the sides.

"I'm fine, dear. You'd better get on home. It's really late, and I don't feel comfortable knowing you're out on the streets alone at this time of night." Willow's voice was full of concern. We're in enough trouble, little one. We don't want to drag you into it, just because you talked to us. "Hon, I think I may have some change at the bottom of my purse. We'll be fine." Willow took a deep breath and braced herself for any dizziness she might feel, and she sent a thought tendril out to Jason. Stop it. Don't you realize that just by talking to this girl we may be putting her in danger? Can you imagine what may happen to her if we go to her house? What's wrong with you? A wave of nausea hit her with use of her power but she swallowed it back.

The little girl's face quirks into questioning look. She turns to you. "You say something?"

Willow looks at her in surprise. "No," she stammered. "I didn't." Willow looked at her more closely. "What's your name?" I wish I wasn't so tired and feeling so sick. I could maybe figure out what's going on.

"Gina." She cocks her head at you. "You sure you ain't sick?"

Willow looked over at Jason. "Here comes Bill with the things I asked him to buy." She then looked back at Gina. "Are you going to be okay? You'll get home alright?"

The girl nods, still staring at you.

"Why are you staring at me? Do I have something on my face? Am I growing a wart on my nose?" Willow put a hand to her face, wishing she had a mirror. Damn. Knowing my luck, I've got blood or something all over my face. Why does everything always go wrong at the same time? And why did she have to be able to hear me. And why the hell do I feel this stupid urge to take her home, clean her up and feed her until she can't move?

"Hey, Bill," Clay shouts at the cyborg, "Let's get going, okay? She's not feeling at all well."

Gina looks at Jason. "You said she was feelin' better. Why did you kill Ice?"

"I am feeling better. And what are you talking about? Who's Ice?" Was that the man who came flying out the window? Wait a sec, are we near the pawnshop? Willow tried to look around, hoping to recognize some sort of landmark.

Gina giggled softly as the pair spoke almost in unison. "You pushed him outta Shanisha's momma's window… sokay… he was a big asshole anyway." The profanity was somewhat jolting coming from such a young girl, particularly the casual way it was spoken. Glancing around, Willow could read the tone of the place, run down housing, failing businesses, an air of quiet desperation in the graffiti-stained store fronts and trash laden streets. Same neighbourhood, maybe close to where it happened. What was this little girl doing out at this hour?

Clay leaned on the car. "He attacked me, I reacted on instinct. How are Shanisha and her mother?"

The little girl's eyes go wide. "Shit… you must be a real badass…" She looks thoughtful. "Some cops came and talked to Shanisha's momma… made me go home… now she won't answer the door no more."

"What are you doing out on the streets at this time of night, Gina? Can you not go home?" Willow felt her heart sink. "Or do you live on the street?" Willow asked, leaning a little closer to the window.

Gina looked over at her, eyes casting downward. "I got a house and stuff… just… just has some bad dreams and wus out walkin'." Willow felt the evasion, half-truths told by someone very used to telling them. Gina was dirty, skinny and dressed in cast off clothes. Now that she was closer, Willow could see the girl was more like 11 maybe even 12… just small and waifish.

"Bad dreams, eh. I have them too. All the time. So does he," Willow said, indicating Jason. "A screaming voice, full of anger and hate?"

Her eyes widen. "Yeah that wus it… how did ya know?" she smiles slightly. "You must be smart." She looks curious at the apparent guilt, but doesn't press.

"I want you to tell me the truth, Gina, and I'll be able to tell if you're lying to me. Are your parents alive?"

"Yeah… sure…" she says, perhaps a little to quickly. Again she can't seem to meet your gaze. A pained look crosses her face.

"Do you have anyone other than Shanisha's mother to look after you? Do you have a safe place to go?"

"I gots places ta go… " she mumbles looking down.

"I said safe, Gina," Willow said softly and gently, unaccusing. She has no place to go. She's alone, has no one. I can't just leave her here. My God, if she is sensitive, what might happen to her if the people after us get ahold of her? "Listen, Gina. Do you want to come with us? I promise, we won't hurt you, and we won't let anyone else hurt you either. Just for tonight, so you have some place warm and clean to sleep, and something to eat. Tomorrow, you can go wherever you want."

Gina blinks, struck silent by the offer. "You shittin' me?" Her eyes narrow a little. "You ain't freak are ya? Sittin' in a car nekkid and stuff…"

Clay sighed crawled back in the car, settling in beside Willow. He drew her closer, wrapping the blanket around both of them. His fingers trailed up her side and cupped a breast, his thumb making slow circles around her nipple, letting the motion soothe him. Willow, exhausted as she was, had to still mentally clamp down as the motions sent an electric jolt through her.

"Willow," he whispered, his mouth right next to her ear, "We don't have a safe, warm, clean place to sleep. Let alone anything to eat."

In response she gave him The Look. The one that brooked no argument or bullshit. It was her car, her money and most importantly her life. She wanted to remind him about another stray she had recently picked up…

Willow smiles weakly. "No, I'm not shitting you. I was sick earlier, right after I got out of the shower. My friend was so concerned that he didn't take the time to get either of us fully dressed before rushing me off for help. My parents didn't give a damn about me as a child and wouldn't have cared if I were alive or dead, so I know what it's like to be alone and not have anyone to talk to about the nightmares, and other things." She gave Gina a knowing and accepting look. They still don't give a damn. I'm just a talking guinea pig to them.

"So, what do you say, Gina? Will you come with us? No funny business, I promise. Remember what happened to Ice? He'll do the same thing to anyone who tries to hurt either of us, like Ice tried to do to him and probably did to Shanisha's mom in the past."

Clay smiled, touched that she would say this. He gave her breast a light squeeze and kissed her neck, playing his tongue lightly over her earlobe.

Willow turned her head slightly and gave Clay a freezing look, and mouthed the words "Stop it." She moved her hand under the blanket and took his hand off her breast. Lacing her fingers through his, she rested their hands on her leg, digging in her fingernails into the sensitive skin between his knuckles if he tried to take his hand from her grip.

Gina looked like she was thinking it over, quickly and was about to speak when the cyborg guy stepped up. Regrettably no burgers but with several packages in hand. He looked from the kids in the car to the little girl, a puzzled look on his face.

The arm is barely covered by the remnants of his coat. The black woman is gone.

"Meet Gina," Willow said to the cyborg. "She may be coming with us. Her choice." She sent him the same look she had given Clay, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he would regret even thinking about arguing with her.

"Gina is coming with us," Clay grinned roguishly at Willow. "Climb into the front seat Gina. Don't worry about Bill."

The girl looked up at the large man, her eyes getting wide again. "Hi." she waved, climbing into the front seat.

He grinned at 'Bill'. "Did you happen to pick up some aspirin? Food?"

"You going to the burger joint next? Add a burger, fries and a drink on for Gina." Willow looked at the drug store then at the cyborg. "Have any problems in the pharmacy?"

The cyborg shook his head, glancing up and down the street. "No. Need to get to outta here, there was a touch of trouble in there." He was not happy about the girl. Not happy at all, but seemed to have decide that it wasn't worth the energy.

Gina looked up at him. "Why were ya talkin' to Miss Marks?"

Bill reached into the bag and pitched the bottle of aspirin at Clay. Then he handed everyone a candy bar that he had picked up, along with the some T-shirts he had picked up in the drug store. "Here." He gets into the car, turns and looks at Gina, "Miss Marks? We just met. What ya know about her?" He starts the car up and pulls out.

Gina replied, "Oh, she's ju-" She was cut off by Clay.

"Not now, Gina," Clay frowns. "Maybe we should get going. We can go through a drive through somewhere."

"Hey, I wuz talkin'." Gina glares back at Clay.

Clay pulls Willow into his lap, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close. He kept his eyes on 'Bill'.

Willow smiled fondly at the little girl. "Go ahead and finish what you were going to say, Gina. You're just full of questions, aren't you." Her features turned melancholy as she remembered glimpses of her childhood, and the treatment she had received whenever she asked questions her parents didn't consider relevant or appropriate.

"Will you pass me my purse please? It should be on the seat next to you, Gina. And the bottle of water if it's still there too, please." Willow looked at Clay. "I've got heavy duty aspirin with me all the time. There should be about half a bottle." She could feel herself go even paler than she was before.

"I have to have something to eat and soon, or it's not going to be a pretty sight." Willow's grip tightened on Clay's hand as she fought against the dizziness she was feeling because of her injuries, overexertion, and lack of food and the pull on her mind to shut down. She slumped weakly back against the seat, the little burst of energy she had upon waking almost spent.

Absurdly, the brief memory she had about not needing birth control popped into Willow's mind. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, trying to remember at least this little thing.

Clay placed his mouth next to Willow's ear. "Why are we bringing her? We are in danger. Now so is she."

Willow turned her head weakly. "She's in danger simply because she talked to us," she whispered. "She heard me when I tried to mindspeak you. Gina's a sensitive. If those people are after us because of our powers, can you imagine what they'd to do her if they got a hold of her? Besides, she has no one and nowhere to go. Remind you of someone?" Willow asked with a pointed look. "I couldn't just leave her out on the streets."

"What were those guys after at your place? And don't bullshit me. I ain't in the mood," Bill says dryly.

"Me, I think," Willow answered. "And possibly Clay. You heard what that man said." She gave a snort of derision. "He probably works for or with my parents. They'd do that sort of thing." She frowned as another memory surfaced. "They've done it before." Willow remembered back to when she was a teenager, and the time they had sent an armed man to "escort" her home from a friend's house when she had wanted to sleep over but her parents had decided she wasn't allowed to.

"Let's all get something to eat, find some place relatively safe. Then we can start sorting things out. Here, eat some of this," Clay frowned. Willow didn't look good. He was hungry but she looked weak.

"There's a Monster Burger a little up the street… they throw out a lotta stuff…" Gina volunteered, watching as Clay popped the cap off the aspirin bottle and slammed back 6.

She reached a hand out from under the blanket and grabbed one of the chocolate bars. Tearing off the end of the wrapper, she quickly devoured it, her stomach clenching at the arrival of the much needed food. She knew, however, this was just a stop-gap measure and she'd have to eat something more substantial, and soon.

Willow then took one of the t-shirts, checked the sizes, and put the smaller of the two on, handing the other to Clay. "We're going to have to get some pants or a skirt, or something like that for me."

Gina looks from "Bill" to you and back again. "What's a sensitive? You can't go back to your place can ya? Who's after you? Is it the cops? What did you do? Why are his legs smoking? I knows where ya can get a dress or somethin'."

Willow looked uncomfortable, as she always did when talking about her powers in the real sense. "Something to wear other than this shirt would be nice, thank you Gina."

Gina tugged at the cyborg's shirt. "O'er there, go down there… it's a Salvation Army drop box… the back's loose." She pointed to a parking lot down a side street lined with tenements. The drop box she mentioned sat on the curb, battered and rusted, the Salvation Army logo barely readable. She turned back to Willow as she started speaking again.

"Clay, would you mind getting a dress or something out of the box?" Willow asked. She felt guilty about taking the item, but she was in need of it. He nodded, getting out of the car and kneeling at the rear of the box. As the girl had said, it was partially busted open. A couple of hard tugs pulled it completely free. Old clothes and rags toppled out carrying the smell of mildew and dirt. Plucking a couple of serviceable looking jeans and skirts from the pile Clay got back in the car.

"Now, what is a sensitive?" She paused for a second, trying to think of the best way to explain it. "A sensitive is someone who can sometimes… 'hear' things that other people can't. Gina, have you ever been talking to someone, or listening to other people talk, and you knew what they were going to say just before they said it? Like when you asked me earlier if I had said something?"

Gina nodded, intrigued by the sound of Willow's voice and her manner.

"That's part of being what some experts call being a sensitive. Sometimes, the ability is low level, in that you hear a mutter, or think that someone may have said something, when they actually didn't." Willow hated not telling the complete truth to Gina, but considering the circumstances, she didn't think Gina would react well to it. Clay listened, intrigued as well.

"And no, we can't go back to my apartment. From what I remember, I don't think anyone will be able to live there any time soon." Willow shook her head. "It's not the cops after us. It's some rather nasty people who want to hurt me."

"Why? You're real nice…" Gina smiled.

"Because I can do things that other people can't," Willow admitted with a sigh.

Willow shifted her gaze to Bill. "Your leg is like your arm? Did it get damaged when that man came in, or after? Is there someplace you need to go to look after the problem?"

"Bill" shook his head. "Don't sweat it… you are pretty good at asking questions, so here are few more… Who are your parents? What do they do? And why would they want to 'kidnap' you?"

"Not so much kidnap as get me back where they can control me. My parents are Ann and William Anderson, developers of nastier and deadlier chemical weapons and God knows what other drugs for the government and their own pleasures," Willow said with a lingering trace of hatred. "I'm some sort of pet project to them, and they don't like the idea I've broken through the brainwashing and am starting to remember what they've done to me all these years."

"Okay, here's some more," Clay responded, tightening his grip on Willow. Don't say another word. "Who the hell are you? What the hell were you doing sneaking around her apartment? Who do you work for?"

Bill lets out a short grunt with a slight smirk washing across his face, "I'm somebody that was sent to investigate her parents. I was following the trail back to their daughter. I entered the apartment in case someone else had already been there, but fortunately for the both of you I showed up before they did. Who do I work for… an undisclosed, interested party which shall remain nameless, I'm afraid. Back to you, besides you, what else would they have been sent there for? Records, files, computer files, anything that your parents may have left for you to have or keep for them?"

"Willow and her parents were not close, she's an artist. What could she possible have?" Clay put in.

"Why were you investigating my parents?" Willow's voice was hard. I hope to Hell they fucked up and got caught. That'll make what I have to do all that much easier. "And why come to me? All of their papers and files are at the house." He really doesn't know what they've done let alone anything about me, or he'd know that I'd never have any papers. I'm on public record as being violently opposed to my parents' work. His bosses sure sent him in prepared.

"And who were you talking to on the phone before you went to the pharmacy?"

Oh God, what have I done? Clay's right. We don't even know this man's real name. What if he is working for them? If not… Shit, who else might want to get a hold of me or Clay? Prosthetics like his don't come cheap. Hell, they're probably prototypes. Who then. A private corp? The government? Willow suddenly remembered the vision she had in front of the pawn shop.

She slipped out of Clay's lap and started rummaging around in the bag of art supplies she had left in the car a couple of days before. With as nod of satisfaction, she pulled out a small sketch pad and a pencil. Willow quickly wrote a note, tore it off the pad, and handed it to Clay.

Vision when I picked you up.
Blood all over walls in place I was familiar with.
Not loft. Parents' house?!

She then closed her eyes briefly, trying to recall the vision in her mind, hoping to remember something concrete — a picture or a piece of furniture. She thought back. The images filling her mind. Yes… familiar. It… felt so familiar. Her parents' house… It was her parents' house!

"Oh God," Willow whispered and she looked at Clay, her expression one of confusion and concern. "Something happened at the house. I saw blood all over the walls. What happened there?" She turned her face to the cyborg.

"Do you know what happened? You said you followed the trail to me. Did you start at my parents' house?"

"Shit. How do you know about that? Yeah, I was there. Too late though. When I entered the house through an upstairs window, I heard gunfire from downstairs. I exited and when straight to you. I knew that you would be their next target. Tell me, how did you know?"

Gina looks up him like he is a slow child, wiping her nose on the back of her sleeve. "'Cause she's a sensitive…"

The light changed and Bill turned into restaurant. "Let me guess–drive- through?" He grinned humorlessly.

"We're in no shape to go in," Clay answered sharply. He pulled Willow close. "Sensitive has little to do with Gina. Just a matter of putting two and two together. If he was sent to check her parents out, that is where he would have gone first."

Willow winced at Clay's touch and the movement of being pulled sideways. "Here, Gina. Have a kleenex." Willow handed the little girl a tissue. "You're right. I am a sensitive." She smiled at Gina. "You're a fast learner." She looks back at the cyborg. "And yes, drive through."

"Putting two and two together wouldn't give you the answer that she saw blood all over the walls. You can 'see' different places any time you want to?"

"I can't control what I see. Or when," Willow answered. Let him figure out what I mean with that. God, I'm tired, sore and hungry.

Clay hugged her close, kissed her hair and whispered in her ear, "Are you alright?"

Willow then turned her attention to Clay. "I can't deny what I saw, Clay. Lighten up. I'm manners." She flashed Clay a brilliant but tired smile and popped the fries in her mouth.

"Speaking of manners," she continued, tapping the cyborg on the shoulder. "What is your name?" Willow gave a sheepish smile.

"The name 'Bill" will work just fine for me."

"Bill" pulled the car into the street. It was getting low on gas and traffic was starting to pick up. Not to mention he was dog damn tired. Being shot, kicked in the nuts and jumping two stories will do that do you. But where. He considered the card that "Ms. Marks" had given him. Another spooky chick in his life. Great…

"You're looking beat," Willow said. "See if you can find a gas station with a bank machine. We can fill up the car and then head to a motel where we can lick our wounds and plan our next move."

"What do you all know about Ms. Marks?" Bill asked Gina.

Gina looked over at "Bill". "She's a pretty cool lady… kinda of a nerd I guess… but nice… takes care a T-boy and gives us money and stuff want ta make me go to the cops or somethin'…" She trails off for a second. "I saw her get mugged… she broked the dudes arms jus' like Steven Segal… think she was gonna pop him but the cops showed up. It was cool!"

Willow dug into her second burger savoring the taste and smell. Clay was hungry too, she could feel it but he only picked at his food. A confused look crossed his face. Clay's head continued to pound. He rubbed his head, "We're going to have to dump the car. They will know it… good at that… satellites…" His voice trailed off as he rubbed his temples in slow circles. He cursed and pounded his thigh, glaring darkly at Gina when she threatened to pipe up. A stream of blood trickled over his lips, oozing out of his nose. Clay closed his eyes and groaned, "Akemi…"

"Who's that?" Gina asked quietly.

"Gina, shut up," Clay barks, both hands going to his head, squeezing. The girl gagged, jolted back, milkshake spewing from her mouth and nose.

"What the hell's wrong with him?!" Bill asks, watching Clay in the rear view mirror.

Clay screamed,throwing his head back in a tortured wail. Willow could sense the mental energy lashing out from him in rolling waves. Gina gargled and spasmed then started to cough. Clay dug his fingers into his temple, teeth gritting as he fought to control something. Blood poured in a rush from his nose. "No… no… must… " he panted. The car leapt forward as the accelerator hit the floor. "Bill" felt the wheel turn and jerk of its own accord.

"Clay, stop it. What's wrong?" Willow reaches out and puts a hand on his arm. Knowing she's probably going to regret it, she reaches out with her mind to figure out what's wrong, what's happening to him. Placing her hand to his arm, she felt how hard the muscle were, held taunt and shivering as if a current had been sent through his body. Gritting in pain as she was tossed to the side by the swerving car, she reached out to him. His mind was seething, burning changing under her mental touch even as she tried to reach him and sooth the damage. Leaning against him, Willow let the physical contact act as a conduit to her mental power, sending it into the mealstrom of his mind. Pain… her physical pain had been nothing compared to anguish sent directly into the mind itself. But she had prepare for it, conjuring the mental image of cool soothing waters,easing the burning. She plucked images from his mind. A girl… Japanese… smiling, seductive, submissive… Akemi.

"Are you okay, Gina?" Willow asked before turning back to Clay.

Gina coughed, sitting up as "Bill" fought with the wheel. "I… I… oh geez… we're *cough*… gonna die!" She screams as the car swerves into the path of an oncoming truck! With a grunt, Bill shifted the wheel, sending the car up onto the sidewalk, smashing though a news kiosk, missing the owner by scant inches. It was still fighting him twisting like a living thing. What the fuck was going on!? The car lurched back onto the street.

"Shh.. It's alright, Clay. Who's Akemi? Do you remember?" Willow fought back the pain of being jarred about. She had to calm him before he got them all killed. Telekinesis? He was just full of surprises.

"Akemi… girl… have to… control… God… it hurts…" he whimpers, head clutched in his hands. "Help me… Willow…"

"Clay! Listen to me!" Willow moved painfully so she was sitting in Clay's lap facing him and lifted his head.

"Close your eyes. Let me help you. Let me in. Feel my touch." She sent out a wave of cooling thoughts, soothing and stronger than before. Let me help you. Feel my touch. Feel my coolness. Your pain is a stream. Pour it into the cool pool before you. She projected the image of a grotto, with her standing in a pool of gleaming cool water. Come to me, Clay. Let the water soothe your pain.

Almost unconsciously, Willow brushed her lips gently against his, to firm the link between them. The kiss was electric and searing. Clay stiffened against her. The pain was a hammer blow to her mind. She took it, absorbing it and the flood of memories that came with it.

Knowing the pain she would feel, she braced herself for it, imaging a watershed effect, his pain wold be rolling off of her and into the pool to be neutralized and cooled. Her imagery worked, easing the pain soothing Clay into a mewling fetal curl.

"You had better do something with him, Willow." Bill shouts back, still struggling with controlling the car. "Gina, put your seatbelt on." She was snapping it as she spoke. The wheel went slack suddenly. The car jerks sideways and Bill's metal arms wrenched the wheel, nearly snapping it loose entirely. It jumped a median and cut across two lanes. Fortunatly the early morning traffic was still light.

Willow panted. Anymore like this and she was going to become a masochist. Gina looked from face to face in the car… then grinned. "You guys are soooo cool!"

"If you call nearly getting killed cool, then I guess we are, Gina," Willow replied. She awkwardly got up off her knees and back onto the seat, then gently pulled Clay towards her. Mumuring soothing words, she gently stroked his forehead, and then managed to get him uncurl slightly. Willow hugged him like she would a beloved child who had been hurt and rocked him, whispering to him, saying everything would be alright.

Willow kissed his temple and pulled him closer, trying to use her body and her skills to ease whatever pain he still felt. To comfort him. I wish I knew what was wrong. What just happened. Such pain. If only I knew a better way to help him.

"Are you okay now, Gina?" Willow asked softly, still rocking and soothing Clay.

"Yeah… I'm al' right.. guess I got choked… " she retrived her Martian Mint Shake from the floor. It was a testement to modern plastic that it was still sealed and looked at it warily. "Must a got choked.. what's with him?"

"He has problems sometimes. Really bad headaches," Willow replied. At least, I hope that's all it is. "Bill, find us a bank machine and fast. I have to get some cash so we can get a hotel room and dump the car. Clay was right. They know what my car looks like."

Willow leaned her head back against the seat, trying to recompose herself. She replayed the memories that came from her contact with Clay, trying to sort them out, if they were hers or his.

Clay lay still staring at the ceiling. Then he slowly reached over and grabbed a handful of napkins and wiped his face. That done he looked at Willow. "Thank you."

Gently putting his arms around her, he gave her a slow kiss, before settling back down. With a groan, he bunched the blanket up and using it as a pillow lay down. It was cramped, no leg room, but it seemed to ease the tension in his neck and temples. Being as careful as he could he pulled Willow on top of him.

"You better find that hotel fast Bill," it came out as a more or less intelligible mutter.

Bill crossed back over the median and pulled the car off onto a sidestreet before stopping. He took his jacket and patted his forehead to wipe the perspiration off, showing Gina a slight grin. "What's going on with you two?!" he demanded, reaching for the aspirin and the first aid supplies. There was palatable air of tension in the car,the stink of pain and fear hanging in the air. One by the one,they all looked from face to face, coming to the realization that they looked upon strangers. How many times had they come close to dying with these people and mostly they didn't even no each others names.

Willow sighed heavily. "We all need to talk."

"I hardly know where to start, and I can't speak for Clay. No conceit intended, but the whole thing seems to be centred around me, or at least, what my parents were doing. As you already know, my parents were scientist, and they performed rather illegal and unethical experiments. The only ones I know of were the ones they conducted on me, and I can't even remember them all yet." Clay gently held Willow as she spoke, letting her rest against his chest, sighing quietly. The contact was soothing for the both of them and made speaking that much easier for her.

"It all boils down to what I am, rather than who I am. I was an experiment of my parents'. I can't remember exactly what it was they were trying to achieve," Willow said, blocking out the images of lab, and of her actions there with Clay. "But all I can say is that they now know they achieved at least part of their goal."

Willow looked at Clay, then back at Bill. "I believe those people at the apartment were trying to get me back, to finish whatever experiments my parents were conducting." She sighed again. "As you already know, I have visions. I can see, smell and hear scenes from the past, present or future. I also have no control over it at all. The visions come, and they take me over completely — I have no awareness of the world around me, or the passage of time."

Willow gives a slight smile. "I am also a bit more than a sensitive, Gina. I can read minds, whether the person is willing or not. Remember the whack I gave you with the bat back at the apartment, Bill? I can also 'see' the weaknesses in a person's physical structure. You know, like a stress in a diamond, so if I hit it just there, I can do the most damage."

"Way cool… you're like an X-Man… " she grinned. "Can you fly?"

"No, Gina. I can't fly." Willow couldn't help but smile slightly. "My parents had no idea I knew about my powers, let alone how to use them, until tonight. You could say I broadcast it all over the place. I'm sorry, Gina, if it scared you."

"We're going to have to go into hiding, at least until we've healed and can figure out what we are going to do. Can you suggest any place, Bill? And please, don't take us to your employers. I don't want to have to hurt you again," Willow finished, true regret on her voice.

"Excuse me?!" Bill retorted, "Do you not feel what happened to you the last time you tried to hurt me? That was just a combat reflex, and the threat is both uncalled for and unwarranted. Besides, I wasn't planning on taking you in, you were not my objective. I do know this shaddy little hotel that we can hole up in for a day or two maybe."

"There are more ways to hurt a person than to hit them with a baseball bat," Willow said harshly. "I could strip your mind clean of all it's secrets, find your weakness — like how to disable your mechanical limbs, or what the thing you're most afraid of is, and use it against you. You're a fool if you think that all you need is a strong arm."

"Maybe I didn't make myself clear just then: don't make threats to me unless you're lookin' for a fight. I personally don't make it a habit of threatening those that are going out of there way to help me, so don't you either."

Willow held her tongue, knowing if she'd probably say something more and get herself deeper into trouble.

"Cool… " Gina's eyes were wide. "Can you teach me how to do that?"

"No everyone can do it, Gina. I'm surprised you haven't said I'm like Professor X," Willow said, glad for the diversion the little girl provided.

Clay groaned. "I need sleep, I have been running on reserves all day. I have a fucking mother of a headache. I feel as if someone put me through a meatgrinder. A few hours and then we can talk more." Unconsciouly he rubbed his hardon against Willow.

Suddenly she was consious of the fact that only his pants separted him from her warm opening. He could feel her wetness soaking into his pants causing him further excitement. The shirt Willow wore rode up some, exposing her thighs and rear, the shadowy cleft between her legs. Gina giggled.

He opened his eyes and looked at Bill. Clay growled and fixed Bill with a malevolent stare.

"Cool it, loverboy. You want to take care of your own needs, do it somewhere else… on someone else's time, not mine." He returned the stare, showing that he is not the type to back down from a challenge.

"Clay," Willow said sharply. "Stop it. Why are you acting this way?" She moved off of Clay, pulled the t-shirt down, and reached for one of the skirts. "There's no reason to act like a Neanderthal." It was an effort to dress, but maybe it would make things just a little more… normal.

Clay looked at her, blinked. A little boy look of hurt flashed across his face.

Gina was giggling behind her hand at the whole thing. "Geez.. what a horndog…"

Willow lifted Clay's legs and moved to sit under them, placing them in her lap so he could continue to lie down. As an afterthought, she pulled the blanket over his waist to cover his erection.

Clay's head thumped painfully against the car door and he blinked back tears, "Real good way to get rid of a headache, Willow," he growled and then stared at both Bill and Gina, "What are you two looking at? Shouldn't we be moving?"

Willow resisted sticking her tongue out petulantly at Clay, feeling too drained and confused.

Bill shrugged, turning back to the wheel. He pulled off from the curb, silently amazed that the cops hadn't shown yet. Gina met his eyes and rolled hers back at Clay, her look saying, "Oh brother…" The place he knew wasn't too far, shabby and rundown, but servicable and discreet. He grinned. Probably would think they were there for a threesome. "Does scratching with metal arms hurt?"

Actually letting a small smile slip out for the first time in a long while, "Not if you're careful. Just have to be careful where you scratch."

"Like your balls?" she replied with simple curiosity, looking Bill right in the eyes.

"Yeah… or little girls!" With that last word he reached over as if to tickle Gina. She squealed and recoiled but Bill paused, staring at the three steel fingers, the cables running through his hands. For a moment, a pained look crossed his face, then he lowered his arms, giving the girl a small smile.

Clay reached over and took one of Willow's hands in his. He squeezed it and let his eyes drift closed. But he couldn't sleep. He took her hand easing it under the blanket. With his other hand he brought himself out of his pants. He then placed her hand on his cock, showing her by touch that he wanted her to hold him. He sighed, a small smile crossing his face. Willow let out an audible gasp. Gina looked back and giggled. A few moments later, Bill pulled the car into the parking lot of the Arlington Lodge, a strip motel, set back from the street by a small parking lot. A beer bottle came crashing through one of the windows, smashing against a parked van. "Here we are.. home again." Bill chuckled.

Clay levered himself up and survayed the place, "Yeah, this is good. This type of place would be last on their list." His head twinged and he raised a hand, tensing, but no repeat of before seemed evident.

Willow let go of Clay's cock and tried not to snatch her hand back. Why is he always doing that? I wish he wouldn't, at least until I know what is going on with me. She closed her eyes and took a calming breath, then concentrated, trying to bring back the memories of the two of them together, trying to find out why she was reacting the way she was to Clay.

Taking deep even breaths, Willow eased herself into a state of enhanced perception. But instead she focussed her power inward, into her own mind. The sights and sounds of the dim lab filtered up from her memory. Even the smell and cold feel of metal agsint her bare skin swam into sharp focus. She remembered, but it was hazy still. Her parents in lab coats moving about her body, probing and taking samples, her legs often up in stirrups and hard metal probes invading her body. Why couldn't she move or even think? Her mother would inject her. She was very skilled in psychoactive drugs and their effects. The shots made her feel fuzzy and slow. It made sense. The lighting, even the soft rhythmic electronic pulse in the backgroud. She was in an increased state of suggestivity. It was how everything was kept from her. Even now she felt more like an observer standing and watching and feeling for that poor girl on the table.

Her parents left her still laying there. Jason entered, handsome, tall. God, even here, she thought to herself, in my own memories? He was in a lab coat but wore dark mirrorshades. Walking over to her, he ran his hand down her cheek over her throat and chest. "Willow… so beautiful… so sweet… you're going to be quite the boon, Little Sleeper… but its time for you to wake up now, awaken with a kiss." Leaning down he kissed her gently on the lips. But a far more intimate touch occurred simoultaneously… in her mind. She felt his power reaching into her psyche, probing and weaving. He read her every erotic thought, every fantasy of her pubescent body and weaved himself into it. Her body's sexual response was chained to him by her thoughts. Smiling he stood and admired his handiwork. Willow felt like her body was burning, every inch of her skin craving his touch, her sex wet and twitching with excitment. Still with that arrogant little smile, Jason's hands went to his pants, unsnapping them…

She was jarred back by Gina's gently shaking hand.

Willow opened her eyes, startled. She gave Gina a weak smile, then turned her head. When her eyes met Clay's, her gaze went cold and full of hate. "You," she said, her voice cold and deadly. "You are never to touch me again unless I tell you that you can. Do you understand? If you do, you'll hurt so bad that that last headache of yours will feel like a mild irritation." She roughly shoved Clay's legs out of her lap and climbed out of the car.

Clay stared at Willow in shock, the triple blow taking his breath clear away.

"Get us one room, Bill. Gina and I can sleep on one of the doubles, if she doesn't mind. You can have the other. I don't give a damn where he sleeps, as long as it's not next to me."

"Whatever." Bill walks off towards the office.

Gina looked from Willow to the stunned Clay. "Man… you pissed her off good… ya need ta be more subtle…" Gina climbed out of the car, walking around to Willow. "Why ya so pissed?"

"I don't want to talk about it. I can't. Not yet," Willow replied, hugging herself against both the physical and emotional pain she was feeling.

After a few minutes, Bill returned with the keys. The room was shabby, small and smelled of old stale beer and mildew. There were two beds, both made up with cheap, but depsite Gina's asserations, clean looking sheets. The TV was coin operated, scarred with ciggerette burns and carved initials.

"I gotta pee," Gina said as she walked into the toilet.

Clay walked in like a zombie, staring at Willow, pain and confusion plain in his eyes. God, he looks like a kicked puppy, Willow got herself thinking. Was that another conditioned response? she added bitterly. She needed to lay down. Walking made pain shoot through her body, her ribs felt like they were grinding together with every step.

Bill sat out the first aid supplies on the bed and turned to Willow. "Let's go you patched up." Willow sat on the bed, slowly, one arm wrapped about her bruised chest. At this point modesty seemed ridiculous. She pulled off the t-shirt and lay back.

Clay sat down on the chesterfield slowly. Laying down he turned his back to the room, curling up.

Tossing the car keys to Clay, "Bill" said, "Why don't you ditch the car somewhere while I get her patched up. Gina, you know of any good spots to hide the car at?" The keys landed ignored before Clay.

Clay curled up more and placed his hands over his ears trying to block out the voices within. "I love you, Willow…"

Tears suddenly sprang to Willows eyes. "If you do, then why the hell did you do that to me?" She closer her eyes and sent the images from her memory blasting towards him, every detail full of her feelings of pain and betrayal, but the hate was gone.

She opened her eyes again. "Dammit Clay, you were working for my parents. Hell, you were probably working for them too." The tears slid down Willow's face unchecked. "I don't know what to believe anymore. Are my reactions really mine, or am I like Pavlov's dog–one touch from you and I'm a bitch in heat?"

Not wanting to get involved, Bill acted like nobody was even talking. "Gina, can you fill the ice bucket up with some cold water?" he said loud enough for her to hear him through the bathroom door. He starts a visual examination to see just exactly what he needs to work on, then starts dabbing some antiseptic on some of the areas. He helps her lay back onto the bed, placing her other arm over her chest to conceal her breasts, and starts gently pressing on her abdomen. She winced and shuddered a bit but made very little noise. There didn't seem to be in internal bleeding, maybe some cracked ribs and definitely major bruising.

Clay turned and stared at her in shock.

Gina stepped out of the bathroom, lugging the bucket over to the bed. "Are you a doc-" She stopped noticing Willow's tears, Clay's position and the general tension in the room.

He reached out gently to touch her mind ready to pull back.

Willow felt Clay's gentle mental touch and was going to shove it away rudely, but changed her mind. She opened the link hesitantly, ready to slam it shut at any time. Why, Clay? Why did you do it? I feel so betrayed. I was beginning to care for you. You were my only friend until… I don't know what to do. I can't even trust myself anymore. If you care for me at all, if you really do love me, then try and remember why you did what you did. I don't want to believe what Astra told me about you. I don't know if I can handle losing the one person who seemed to truly understand me… Willow's face was wet with tears, her eyes closed. She broke the connection and turned her face away.

His eyes went to the other two. They needed some explanation, "I am sorry. The two of you seem to have fallen into some nasty shit. You see… Willow is probably right. I most likely did work for those that are after us, but I don't remember it. I don't remember anything. Bits and pieces. I don't even know my name. Willow named me. There now you know everything I do."

He glanced at the car keys and picked them up. He looked at Gina, "You don't have come along, just tell me where to go." His voice had a wooden, detached quality to it, even to his ears.

"Sure I'll come with ya… " Gina said quietly, looking over at Willow. "She gonna be ok?"

Bill nodded, taping her up. "Should be.. needs some rest." It looked like she had lost 4 pounds since he first saw her, Jesus.

"Please," Willow said softly. "Bring me my stuff from the car. My art supplies." She opened her eyes and looked at Bill, taking in the expression on his face. She smiled weakly. "You're right. All I need is rest. Using my abilities is very taxing on my body, and I really overdid it earlier. It's nothing that rest and lots of food won't cure."

Willow then looked at Gina. "It's alright, Gina. I'll be okay. You be careful." Willow avoided meeting Clay's eyes, letting exhaustion draw her eyes closed again.

After a few minutes, Bill stops what he is doing and shakes his head in solemn thought. "I forgot to mention, Ms. Marks said something about Clay being suspected for a murder. By the way, who is she?" He starts taking his jacket and shirt off, revealing his large metallic arms and his massive chest. There appears to be some sort of tattoo on his right upper arm, but the light is reflecting off of it. Not really caring about modesty, especially in light of the near naked girl in the room with him, he removes his pants and starts examining the damage taken from the assault rifle to his legs. Standing in his boxers, he looks up at Willow near passed out on the bed… hoping that Clay and Gina don't walk in on this scene. After surveying the damage, and realizing there isn't much that he can do about it, he puts his pants and shoes back on.

Willow watched Bill examine his legs, marveling at the mechanical limbs he has. She can almost feel the pain he must have undergone when he lost the limbs to begin with, and what he must have felt when he had those installed, if the scarring is any indication. He was definitely a big man, even before the prosthetics.

"Is the damage bad?" Willow asked, her voice faint.

"Not really, they'll be okay."

"I want to thank you for what you've done for Clay and I today, and apologize for the rather rude way I've been speaking to you. I get… rather testy when I've used my abilities for any length of time and not had a chance to eat or rest. How are your ribs doing? I got a reasonably good hit in on you back at the apartment."

"Don't mention it. I was saving myself too. I'm sorry too, it's just that this was supposed to be one of those simple jobs, and of course…" He turned his back to her and continued, "Just bruised. The swelling will go down in a day or two. Nice shot."

Willow struggles to sit up, wanting to put her shirt back on because she was feeling a bit chilled. "You might want to double check it, though. I'm pretty sure something broke when I hit you, and it definitely wasn't the bat." Willow gives a wry smile. "As much as I dislike fighting, I find I'm rather good at it, if I have time to prepare."

He walks into the bathroom and shuts the door behind him.

Willow sighed, then reached for the shirt she had been wearing earlier. The movement caused a twinge of pain. I hate pain, Willow thought inanely. She pulled the shirt on over her head, fighting back a groan of pain, then slid off the bed onto unsteady feet. Willow walked over to the table where the aspirin were, opened the bottle, and poured three into her hand.

"When you're done in there," she called out to Bill. "Could you bring me a glass of water?" Willow picked up the pencil and a scrap of paper and made her way back to the bed. She eased herself down onto it and began to make a list of things she knew she'd need, and what she figured the others would need as well. She could barely keep her eyes open, and she kept feeling like something was out there, searching for her mind.

Part of her kept telling her it was paranoia but there was certainly proof to the former. All her life she had searched for others like herself and now in the space of one day, she had found them and it had turned her life upside down. She felt herself drifting sleep. Putting aside the list for now Willow allowed herself to lie down. Perversely enough, images of Clay popped into her mind, the endearing smile… his seeming "innocence". Was that him or the man she saw leering down at her in her memories. God…

Just as she was about to nod off she felt something. A slight twinge on the edge her mental awareness. It was unlike anything she had ever sensed before and was gone in that instant. Strange… maybe she was having mental hallucinations. The thought made her smile a bit. Reaching out she grabbed a few couple of bags of chips that "Bill" had brought. What was his real name… did she want to know anyway…

Bill stepped out of the bathroom and dropped off her water. The glass looked not terribly clean, but beggars can't be choosers. She downed it and the pills and waited for her mind to clear some. He laid out on the other bed, still in his boxers. He was… a handsome man in a gruff military sort of way. The scarring where his metal limbs met flesh was disconcerting as were the various marks and scars on his body. He sighed deeply, yawning and seemed to be about to drop off himself. "If ya want… order a pizza… use my card."

"I should be okay until the morning. Clay and Gina might want something when they get back." She sighed and sat up against the headboard. Willow opened the bag of chips, she started to munch on them as quietly as she could so as to not disturb Bill. She looked over at him. I wonder what happened to him that he needed those prosthetics. I doubt it's something he would have done voluntarily.

She closed her eyes again, her head aching from trying to think even that little bit. She closed the bag, put it on the nightstand, then slipped under the covers of the bed. She moved around a bit, trying to find a comfortable position, but settled for lying on her back. It hurt less. She slowed her breathing and did the mental relaxation exercise she had learned at that one class on stress management she had attended, and drifted off to sleep. Her last thought was she had to be alert, ready to sense any danger.

Sleep claimed her rapidly, then wakefulness returned with even more speed. But she was not in the hotel room. She lay in a jungle, humid and thick with black flies. Gunfire and screams echoed all around her. Suddenly someone came crashing through the brush. A man in fatigues, desperately firing an assault rifle behind. It was Bill! but with flesh limbs. Shadows danced and capered about in the high plants, shattering and reforming as he fired…

Safety! Have to get to safety! But how? The shadows! Willow thought instinctively, and tried to capture the shadows, to force them to a solid form and keep them from reforming as they were shot. What is going on? What am I seeing? The past? I have to finish this. I have to see what happens next. Find out who, why…?

Reaching out to the shadowy figures she tried to seize them in her mental grip. They "felt" cold and empty to her. Images flickered through her mind. Of a series of battles… a life lived in one form of bloody conflict or another, a life lived alone… Trying to hold them seemed almost useless, they were like mercury. "Bill" fought on, his face hardened and did not seem to notice her presence. Looking at him, she saw that his hands had taken on a metal sheen. It was slowly crawling up his flesh, devouring his humanity as she watched. Feeling for him she reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. He turned to her, weapon raised as if to strike her, to drive her away as if she were one of the shadows. He stopped, recognition coming.

"You?" His voice was soft then he looked around, realizing the shadows were closing in. Panic. Willow pulled him close, held him, strangely powerful in this… place. She held him close and let her warmth enter him. He did not have to be alone. She would be with him. The shadows closed about them. And were driven back by a powerful light that seemed to surge from the core of Willow's being, shattering them. "Bill"… no, Jim… his real name… looked about in wonder, tears misting in his eyes and murmured his thanks, pressing his face to her neck and weeping silently as the world faded about her and she slipped back her to own dreams or perhaps this one simply ended.

Is this what I am destined to do, Willow thought as she wandered the corridors of her dreams. To help and to heal people like Jim? Or Clay? Help them with their second chances on life? Maybe I can help them return to what they were before, or to become what they always should have been. The image of Clay, smiling so gently at her, holding her like a precious treasure appeared before her. Maybe this is the true Jason. Maybe something happened to him to may him so cruel. Maybe something was done to him? I need to remember more. Not just what happened in the lab, but other things. If we were together at other times. Do I know why he needed to warn me? Why he felt he had to protect me? Do I know what those templates are?

Willow guided her thoughts inwards, trying to find the path to the things she had been forced to forget. I cannot let what I see and remember hurt me. It's in the past. Distant. The knowledge is there to be used, not reacted upon emotionally. Just like the sculptures and paintings.

She strode the corridors of her mind, a place both familiar and strange. Odd… this isn't so taxing, she thought latching onto a wisp of memory and following the strand back… back. She was with Jason again… in that lab. She was dressed only in a white smock sitting up and he stood behind her, hands to her temples.

Both their eyes were closed and he had a look of pure rapture on his face. "So… beautiful… the things you see… unfettered and free as your mind is… it's how it should be… We'll make it that way… you and I…" He released her and stepped around before her. "With the others it was so instinctive… I couldn't control it… I needed them… but you… you'll never forgive me… will you… never, and that's why I shackle your mind to me… the only thing I can do is make a promise to make it better for you and at least pleasure your body." With that he eased her back, slipping the smock from her and made love to her… slowly. Utterly devoted to her pleasure with such skill and assurance that the pleasure threatened to overwhelm the emotional barriers she had in place…

Oh, Clay. As much as you knew my mind and body, you knew nothing of me. So needy. So filled with pain, yet untrusting, not willing to believe I would understand. It's no wonder now why you reacted so strongly, the need for comfort and ease. And what have I done but hurt you… Willow felt pain, the type she felt when she abused her abilities and hurt an innocent person. But not again. Not if I can help it. You said you loved me. If this memory is true, and the way you act now is the true you, then maybe I might…

She let the barrier down slightly, just enough to allow herself a taste of the passion that had been theirs, then struggled to put the barriers back in place. Willow felt herself shudder, and want more, but she resolutely set the feelings aside. Now, the templates. Do I know what the templates are, and why they are important? And what was the danger?

It was an effort but she closed herself off from the feelings and searched deeper. Another wisp. Again that place, the lab. How much of her life was in that place and thus a blank to her waking mind? She heard rather than saw this time. Her vision seemed impaired or blocked somehow. "Yes.. I understand that… but viral manipulation is a cutting edge science at best… mere theory… we can help you but I won't promise you miracles." Your father's voice, he continued, "Jesus… they've gone that far… of course. We'll need samples of the actual Templates themselves… all right… yes." The sound of a phone being hung up and slight chuckle. A hand came to rest on her naked breast, squeezing and fondling. Again her father chuckled, his hand slipping lower. Willow released the memory. No…

She wrapped her defenses around her like armour to fend off the memories. No. I will deal with them later. I… I'm not ready for that. Not ready to accept. Now, one more thing before I stop. When they were probing me, what were they looking for? What were they studying? And why did I feel like I wouldn't need my birth control pills. They were to regulate my period, not contraception?

The images and thoughts she could gather were fleeting, slipping through her mental fingers. Words like harvesting and suspension… genotypes… filtered through her mind. None of it made sense. Nothing at all. She felt herself slipping deeper into a less lucid state. Her control was thin and mind tired. She needed to rest…

Willow allowed her mind to drift into the sleep state she needed.