I was a taller girl too, once. (regala_electra) wrote,
I was a taller girl too, once.
regala_electra

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More DVD-style Commentary for Betrayer, Chapter Three

Previous Parts:
Betrayer Chapter Two

Betrayer Chapter One

Betrayer Prologue

Part Three: Were it not that I have bad dreams

Again, taken directly from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, although this chapter title is a bit more obvious. This is a nice chapter in that it has stuff going on, not just a lot of character work, I get my plot a-bubbling and a-brewing.

*

There was a warm body next to him.

I do this a lot in my fics, in order to show the disconnection, or lack of humanity, in a character. It’s interesting to portray people in pieces so for Wesley to not even consider Lilah a person, but a body is a lot more striking then saying he was lying next to Lilah in bed, and not all that happy with it. It’s the show, don’t tell approach.

Wesley was only in the stage just before being awake and immediately following being truly asleep. He had being staying in that phase for longer periods recently.

He could hear the steady breathing. He didn’t listen to a muffled heartbeat. There was no heartbeat, of course. Her icy heart wouldn’t make a noise, even if he could hear it.

In, out, in, out.

She slumbered easily; Wesley was not envious of that fact.

I’m still not quite happy with that “stage of sleep” business. I feel it could have been worded better. And look, another ‘of course’ remark! The icy heart thing is a little too heavy-handed, however I liked the portrayal of Lilah being content in sleep and Wesley’s almost clinical study of her sleeping.

It was this time that he used to recognize what he was doing.

To accept.

He was making a terrible mess of it all.

He had tried to save Connor and Connor had been taken. The young child had grown up and was now apparently a cold-blooded killer with a taste for torture. How wise was it for him to torture a vampire with the promise of an eternity of solitude and afflict a man, proud of himself as a warrior, with the agony of seeing the death of his lover in a fight?

I’m really, really cruel sometimes. And since Wesley’s congratulating Connor on murder and torture? Yeah, I can see why people were like, ‘whoa, this is dark.’ Because it really, really is. This isn’t just someone trying to do the right thing, this is Wesley very clearly losing his morality and almost reveling in it.

It was brilliant.

He murdered Fred.

Wesley realized that he would’ve been sickened by the actions of young Connor another time, long ago.

Now, it was only a begrudging admittance of the boy’s skills and a realization that he may become another obstacle in the way to his goal.

His path. His mission. That was all he cared about.

And he’d use them all.

Oooh, now I have to start fleshing out the growing plot beyond ‘Wes says “fuck you” and joins Wolfram and Hart and sex with evil lawyers ensues.’ I mean, that’s fun to write, but it’s not something that can really be sustained for a long time.

It would be easy to blame the influence of Wolfram and Hart. That place with its not-so-hidden promises of Wesley’s most desired wishes. An attractive secretary that was smart and sweet, that was going to be his final test. He knew that they’d give him the choice. Her life or his dedication to their dark purposes.

Yeah, now that was sort of backwards foreshadowing. I was going to have Miss Westminster’s role last a bit longer, but as I keep on saying, I’ll discuss that when we get to it. But that is major foreshadowing. You can decide if Wesley really passes the test or not.

And Wesley knew that he would choose the latter.

It wasn’t dedication, nor love, that was driving him, God no. That had been two other lives he led…when he allowed himself to be swayed by his emotions. Nor was it for vengeance or just to spite the people that betrayed him.

It was for him.

It was so terribly simple and that was the monstrous part of the matter. He was going to do horrendous things and he didn’t care.

He was going to murder innocent people if they got in his way.

Getting Wesley to this point was really important for me. I wanted him to hit the very brink, the very worst potential that is in all of us. He isn’t just being petty or petulant: he’s making a very clear and obvious choice, without emotion and regrets. Whether he manages to come back from the brink is something that I leave to the readers to come to terms with, although honestly, when I was writing this, I did feel that Wesley wasn’t EVIL with a capital E, that he did have his reasons, even though they weren’t the ‘right’ ones.

And now, at this very hour when nothing was clear and everything was no longer murky, Wesley wondered if he was betraying himself. Was this all that his life had been leading to? Years of Watcher training used to help the very people enabling the demonic world to thrive?

And for him to bring the Slayer into his own twisted game…to use a person granted with powers intended to protect the world from darkness…only to have her work for darkness in the end.

Now we’re getting to the heart of the themes.

A game, a game, it was all a game. A lie. Nothing but things that were tangible. Oracles that told the truth, which was a lie. Nasty lawyers that outright loathed him, riding him hard and telling him to just fucking stop because it was too good and it was just *too* much.

I had just recently been introduced to the wonderful world of Neil Gaiman, and I was obsessed with American Gods. One of the chapter quotes, something that Wednesday says to Shadow, quoting another person, is ‘I know it’s crooked, but it’s the only game in town.’ As my story went from being a little old story into a big honkin’ epic, I was thinking a lot about the ability to circumvent fate. It’s been done before, yes, but it’s always fascinating. And a line from the prologue, about Wesley’s life not being a Greek tragedy really got me thinking. So that’s kinda how I do plots, not big with the careful planning, I’m more ‘throw things together and see if they stick.’ And if it’s interesting and true to the characters, then it’s perfect.

Seers that walked in the work with a blind eye turned to all the pain.

Possible Cordelia reference? No, not really.

Powers that did not ensure peace, or aide their warriors, instead allowed darkness to corrupt all the hope and joy of humanity.

A twang of an accent and vicious insults blaming him alone, when in reality, it was all of their faults.

Fred’s bitch-out to Wesley in the hospital pissed me off, yo. It may have been why I was so eager to kill off Fred, while I knew it would be something that would give a lot of character angst for Wesley, it was also just something I wanted to do. I feel you have to be willing to kill off characters, in fact, maybe that’s the reason why so many people were sure I was going to kill off Wesley.

Guarded comments and sobering talks with a petite Slayer that briefly made him guilty for what he was doing and was going to do…later.

The sting of alcohol burning his throat even though he shouldn’t drink. Against the doctor’s orders and all that.

And to think that he’d once been unable to hold down a decent size of alcohol. He was sure he’d be able to drink anyone he met in a seedy bar under the table. He was sure that he would do that, if someone actually dared to come near him. But he was always alone at the bars. No one came near.

Alcohol forever! The irony, man, I hate the taste of alcohol, I seriously, seriously do. So it’s hysterical for me to see all these alcohol musings. It’s a motif.

Cheap whores out on the streets, desperate for someone to *see* them, but they don’t really understand that, no, they don’t, he chided himself. Because why would they be prostitutes if they realized that they just wanted someone to *notice* them?

People rarely look anymore.

Look at all the pain in the world. It’s gone beyond bleeding and the wound’s rotting, the Earth is damned but no one wants to accept that.

Hmm, the cheap whores thing seems a bit off, but the rest of it is okay. The wound’s rotting is sort of the ‘something’s rotten in the state of Denmark’ riff about the world. I hoped that these musings would be natural to this sort of awake/sleep state that Wesley’s in, it’s more internal thoughts projecting out into the world, Wes looking for answers to questions he’s just realized have no answers.

There’s nothing left.

Wesley had spent too much time in books, in reading symbols and lines and making sense out of it all. When in reality, he should’ve shoved the book off and said to hell with the rest, he had to go out and look.

And see.

And now there was only a gray room with blank walls and rumpled sheets. A covered window that hid yet another rainy day, and it had been raining for a long, long time.

The rain theme. A nice little theme, and yeah, it’s clear that rain = pain.

He didn’t even have to look anymore. He had seen too much.

In some cultures, to see All would only drive one mad.

Meh to that line. Way too anthropological for Wesley.

He did not think he was going insane. Why would there be such bleak clarity if this indeed were his growing insanity? No, he only wished he was going insane.

Yeah, he’s going insane. No, no, I kid. I don’t consider Wes’s problem to really be his sanity: his problem is his emotions. I think Wesley is an emotional person when he wants to be.

The problem is that sometimes when he gets too involved emotionally, his first reaction is to immediately cut these bonds he has because he doesn’t quite know how to deal with them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural reaction, but the problem of Betrayer is how far can you lose what makes you human, what makes you ‘fighting the good fight’ and still be considered NOT a villain?

I almost feel like I should be defending Wesley although he does do tons of bastardly things in this fic, but then, I think connected with him too much.


That would make things easier and things can never be easy.

That would spoil the game.

Tonight was the night that Angel would be freed. Nearly two weeks after his meeting with Buffy (he delayed the time frame, saying he hadn’t the proper supplies for the spell) and he was going to pull up the box which held a creature that swore he would kill Wesley the very next time he saw Wesley.

Dreaded timeline vs. the writer who sucks at timing things again. But yeah, that’s Wesley being a bit cruel. Heh.

Revenge, so easy for the world they did not live in.

Where trying to save a child would be given a hero’s reward. Where stealing a child from his loving father would end in the villain’s gruesome death.

Where those two things were not one and the same.

Angel had sworn to kill him and now Wesley would save him.

Angel, who would probably still kill him, even after Wesley had freed him.

That was the kind of loyalty Wesley knew. The kind of loyalty that Angel provided. The kind of loyalty that Wesley would never again accept. That Wesley had left.

It was all so horrendously ironic.

That line was so horrendously lame.

Angel could not offer forgiveness because Wesley had done the disservice of betraying him. And forgiveness was not in Angel’s, or any of his other so-called friends, self-possession.

To forgive was a divine act, was it not? And none of them, none of them, could be counted among the ranks.

Again, a big theme that builds up in the later chapters, if you’re not going to be forgiven, if you can’t forgive yourself, what are you willing to do? This also applies to Buffy.

I didn’t get any feedback saying that they felt Buffy’s last decision was out of character, which is good, as she and Wesley do feel that they don’t desire to be forgiven for their actions, that they have to keep on going, no matter the costs.


He had read information that would’ve shocked him ages ago, when he was freshly out of the Watcher tests, gloating that he knew better than the elder Watcher, and proud because he had completed something which his father was sure he would fail.

He read of the former accomplishments of Wolfram and Hart, of the atrocities committed and he didn’t even blink an eye.

When he was younger, that kind of knowledge would have made him ill in his stomach.

Oh yes, he could read a bit, even do superbly on the tests, proudly declaring his superiority that he had mastered all this tough knowledge in a short amount of time.

Such a joke.

“Ah…son…you did a…sufficient job there.”

That was the best compliment his father had ever paid him. Possibly the only one his father had ever given him. And he had done it in front a crowd. God forbid the man tried to ever say anything without the benefit of an audience.

Yes, it’s fun to write about Wes’ past, because you just know it was incredibly fucked up. I tried to stay close to what little we knew, but still, I figured that Watcher training had to have some merit, we really don’t know what the Watchers do besides piss off Buffy.

Because it was all a lie.

Lilah finally raised her head, the long night spend in bed causing her hair to be terribly rumpled and messy. Without a word, she began hunting for her clothes. After a couple of times of attempted conversation out of “Get the fuck over here and fuck me now” she had stopped talking to him outside of making snide comments, what passed for sex talk, and business-related information. This phase they had become accustomed to: walk into either one of their apartments or a horrendously seedy motel, wake up and leave.

Ah, young romance between villains.

She slowly woke up, turning her eyes to him as though expecting something different. The just awake Lilah disturbed him; for a few seconds he could see the woman before Wolfram and Hart. And he didn’t like to think that there was anything besides her as she was now.

I liked writing about Wes realizing that Lilah isn’t just this bitch-lawyer, that there’s more to her. Whether or not she becomes *more* isn’t the point, it’s that Wesley has to understand this in order to really contend with her and Wolfram and Hart.

As she put on her shoes, she said darkly, “You know you can’t make a mistake. If the Slayer finds out…or Angel…”

Cutting her off, he said in a tone that led for no further commentary, “They have no idea. And they never shall.”

No further commentary? I’ll shut up then.

She made a face as though she wanted to add something, but she instead left.

It had been two weeks of the same thing. Empty nights in bed, not alone, but empty nonetheless. After Wesley had informed Lilah that the Slayer was going to help save Angel, Lilah gloated, claiming that this would just be more poetic justice.

“You’ve seen the file. I know you still have that bookish desire to go read everything we have recorded about Angel. And the Slayer’s on file. Tragic romance, blah, blah, whatever, but this will be perfect. The Slayer unknowingly working for Wolfram and Hart? That’ll be just another thing to drive Angel over the edge. Or maybe he’ll be so happy that his precious Slayer saved him, that the pesky soul will be ripped away.”

Ooh, a bit of fun foreshadowing there in handy flashback mode! God, somebody stop me before I do more B/A angst; any more clichés and I’ll slit my wrists.

Wesley hadn’t informed Lilah that Angel had stopped thinking of the Slayer as a part of his life. It was partly out of some begrudging allegiance to Buffy. She had agreed to help him, when she didn’t have to. Because it was Angel.

The poor girl.

She’s still in love with him, Wesley thought as he got up and showered. Unfortunate, but it can’t be helped.

Kills self.

Love, he assumed, cannot be stopped when it’s worked its way into a person’s heart. He was lucky that it had never happened to him.

Yet still, her love for Angel could be a great barrier. If she was willing enough to save Angel, would she be wise enough to see what was truly going on?

He just hoped she wasn’t going to be an obstacle in his plan. She could ruin it all.

Or she could help it flourish.

Okay, well I can apparently type as a ghost. Go GhostMe. Well, that there is me playing up Buffy’s role in the fic, is she gonna be good, or is she going to do some evil? Is she ever going to know she’s doing evil? It’s a nice way to end off this section, when I was writing this, I really needed a bit of a sense of closure to parts that would suck the reader into the next part.

*

He shouldn’t have come. But he had an hour to kill for lunch and being that he rarely ate now, only when he needed to have something counter-act all his drinking, he had found himself driving to the hospital that now had a patient by the name of Gunn. So, he was here.

Let the pain commence.

The hospital staff had told him that visiting hours weren’t until a bit later, but he flashed his best attempt at a worried smile and very kindly told them in a shocked voice that his friend had been attacked when he was on a business trip, and he simply must know what happened, and could he see him, and…

It was quite easy to break his voice at the proper moment, for that extra bit of sincerity needed. Especially since he was lying through his teeth.

The nurse on duty took pity on him and led him to the room, telling him he could only stay for a short while.

Heh, I love manipulator!Wes. This is really the first time we get to see him really pushing a false agenda, it’ll come up more in the later chapters.

Wouldn’t be that long anyway.

Gunn had only recently awakened. One leg broken, bruises all over his body, and half of his side bandaged (he’d come in with severe internal bleeding, Wesley read as he looked at the chart). He was a wreck.

Squinting, as his eyelids seemed to be too heavy for his normal gaze, Gunn dryly choked out, “Wes…Wesley?

So, is there a really valid reason for visiting Gunn? I think there is, he’s the last link to the Angel Team and it is important to see Wesley here, it’s another point in his journey where he can make a choice which will alter what comes next.

“’Fraid so,” he said wryly, placing the chart back into its spot. Taking a seat next to him, looking at the wall Gunn must have been staring at since he’d woken up, he commented, “Hospital walls are far too depressing for my tastes. Of course, when one’s in a hospital, it’s not for a good time, now is it?”

Gunn remained silent.

Trying to offer some solace, he said in a softer voice, “I…heard about Fred…I’m…”

“English, don’t even bother,” he wheezed, “I don’t want to hear it.”

But Wes’s journey is carved on a path to hell.

Wesley snapped out of the façade. He couldn’t pretend anymore. “You’ll listen now,” he said coldly, “Gunn, I’ve been here too. I nearly died. But that doesn’t matter. You didn’t bother to see me when I was released, nor did you contact me afterwards, except to beg for my help that one time. Just for Fred’s sake. And Fred…I heard what happened, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Connor…I don’t know him, you must know him better, but I’ve recently been able to procure some data…this child…you have no idea what’s in store. What he’s capable of. Angel’s…Connor has seen to him. He’s still alive. But sometimes being alive isn’t exactly as wonderful as it sounds. Connor’s imprisoned Angel somewhere no one can reach him. Supposedly. I’m going to rescue him tonight.” Gunn made a noise, either of surprise or disbelief, but Wesley ignored it as he continued, “Cordelia’s disappeared. So…that’s all I wanted to tell you.”

Holy Exposition, Batman! I’m none too proud of that giant speech there, but I wanted Wes to inform Gunn, I felt it was necessary. Because the irony, Gunn can’t do a thing, it’s like Wesley is almost happily showing that he’s in command now. And he’s very angry that he was abandoned.

“Why?” Gunn had closed his eyes while Wesley spoke; hiding whatever emotions he was going through. A blank face to hide the pain. The possible rage. It wouldn’t help. He opened them up now, slightly glassy, but in complete focus.

Mmm, I’m not sure that I did justice to Gunn here. Oh, let’s just say that he’s pumped full of pain medication.

“Why what?”

“Wesley…Fred…he killed her. I could hear…I still…the screaming.” Gunn closed his eyes again and kept them closed as he forced out, “I’m sorry that I didn’t try to talk to you.”

“What happened, Gunn?” He did not add, “What happened to our friendship?” He had let it slip away as well.

Paaaaaaain. That’s the other big theme in this fic. Making things *hurt* and then hurt more. I did want to deal a bit with the broken friendship of Wes and Gunn, which is also why I wanted him in, besides the fact that he’s the last person to see Connor. By this part, I was still waffling on bringing Connor into the fic, but this is the section that really set my decision.

“We tried to find Connor,” he wheezed the pain overtaking him as he spoke. “Cordelia and Angel…we couldn’t find them or figure out what happened…but when we went to Connor’s room, Fred found something…a scrap of paper with an address…she’s smart, y’know? So we realized that Connor had run away and…I can’t even remember anymore. We found Connor.” Voice turning grave, he said, “Connor wasn’t happy to see us. And that chick Justine was with him. Before we could figure it out, he attacked. Us.”

God, I got Gunn’s speech patterns all wrong. And there’s another Cordelia mention! Rejoice!

“And he killed Fred.” Wesley continued staring at the blank wall, voice neutral, unable to allow any feeling to cross his tone or his composure.

“Yeah. He killed her. Justine…I was busy with her, she’s dead too.” Dry cough and Wesley handed Gunn a glass of water. “He just…split. And I ain’t going after him. I…I’ve lost too many people trying to do the right thing. So…good luck with saving Angel. I…I think I…good luck, English.”

Wesley tried not to scoff at the last comment. Like he could save anyone.

Patting his arm, Wesley said in an ironic tone of comfort, “I’ll leave you now. Wouldn’t want to be a bother.”

And he left without another word.

I had quite a hard time figuring out how to end this scene. Once Wesley gets the information from Gunn, it’s pretty much done. I wanted Gunn’s weariness to come across, he has lost too much in the fight, and I do feel that this could have been a natural reaction, although I’m not positive I really pulled it off.

I do feel that Wes’ reactions are honest in this part; he’s just gathering info, bidding his time. And I meanwhile was bidding my time, taking quite a bit of time writing out this scene, trying to figure out just what I was going to do AFTER Angel comes back. So if there’s a feeling of vagueness, it’s mostly my own damn fault.


*

Now for the reason why this chapter has its title.

The noise struck him first.

There were too many screams buzzing around his head for him to realize how many were screaming.

It was a dark, blank room, empty and fathomless.


So, you’re wondering why Wesley is dreaming. Is just because he’s guilty, or is he having a dream of prophecy, or is something else? Is me just wanting to write a dream sequence? It’s a little bit of all of it. I felt that this was just really needed, AtS had shown Wes’ fucked up dreams in “Loyalty,” this was just natural. This chapter did start off with Wesley troubled by his sleep.

Fred’s lithe body lay on the black ground, legs and arms bent unnaturally. Her dark hair was splayed out in an obscenely beautiful manner and cold eyes stared upwards, eyes that saw nothing.

Wesley is imagining Fred’s body after Connor killed her. I hoped it was chilling and/or morbid.

Blood was now pooling around Wesley’s feet. He stood there, immobile, only able to turn around to view more and more of the room.

Gunn was still alive, facedown. A knife in his back protruded upwards, its polished black handle shining from some light source he could not find. Yet the blood from multiple wounds eventually mingled with Fred’s as Wesley watched his former friend, dying, but he would live.

He would be living and still dying.


That last line is me totally fucking around with the reader. When I talked to friends reading the fic (most of all jennem), a lot of them were sure Wesley was destined to die. This is certainly a line where you’d get that idea. The image of Gunn is obvious, he’s been backstabbed, but it’s never noted whether Wes or Connor is responsible for that. I had hoped it would seem that Connor’s acting as Wes’ unintentional foil, adding a nice fucked up layer to their relationship (and they haven’t even met yet).

A pale faded arm touched his elbow, he tried to turn, but it stopped him. It was too strong. Keeping his eyes on Gunn, he watched as Connor walked out of the darkness and pulled out the blade. He wiped it on the palm of his hand, showing Wesley the dark stain.

I loved writing that particular part, especially calling it a dark stain. It’s really purposeful, we all know what it means, but I could really see that image when I was thinking about the progression of The Dream.

Cold blue eyes staring back, as the son of his former ally Angel said, “You killed them.”

Attempting to deny that he was a part of this horror, he stammered out, “N-No…”

Connor was instantly upon him, pressing the stained blade against his throat and again simply repeated in his cold, emotionless voice, “We killed them.”

“Yesss…” Wesley found himself hiss.


So like I said, the Gunn scene is really the turning point to my decision about Connor. The Dream cinches it. I felt it was cheating to have this part and then not have Connor; yes he could just be acting as a manifestation of guilt and a being to act out Wes’ dark impulses, but honestly? When I was working on this I knew that somehow, Connor would HAVE to come in or I’d totally wasted this whole section on more Wesley characterization without any plot advancement.

“What are you doing?”

He gasped as Buffy appeared on his side, her grip on his arm still strong. There was such a powerful aura around her, as though the darkness itself feared to make her a part of this room. Deadly cool eyes, a detached sense of liveliness in her voice, “You can’t do this anymore.”

Connor looked distastefully at her and then, adding pressure to his grip, “You have to finish it.”


Wesley’s very clearly thinking that Buffy’s going to act as his Jiminy Cricket. But her introduction, I wanted it to be very creepy. Yes, she’s not a part of the darkness, but that’s because darkness fears to make her a part of the room. It’s one of those times when choosing the right word is pivotal to giving dream!Buffy several layers, and most of them not good.

And as Buffy, still holding his arm, reached out for the knife with the other, Wesley breathed a shallow breath of relief.

Yet she only pressed harder. “You’re going to kill everyone. Does that bother you?”

Connor, challenging him, asked, “Does it matter?”

He pressed his bloodied hand against Wesley cheek, marking him.

He was forever a part of this.

Forever.


Self-fulfilling prophecy, there. It’s the devil and the devil on both shoulders. I hoped that it was clear that they’re both on opposite sides of him, that’s some of that old fashioned dream symbolism the kids are so fond of.

And then, something large loomed over them all, a shadow.

A horrible, ghastly whisper, “You betrayed us all…”

But…but he couldn’t. He wouldn’t…

The screaming grew louder and louder.


So who’s the voice? I intended it to be Angel, but I feel that it’s vague enough, that it doesn’t have to be specific person. So it’s up to the reader to decide, the author’s intentions here don’t actually matter for once.

Simultaneously, Connor and Buffy said, “Ignore it. They always have to make noise. You shouldn’t listen. It’ll only make it worse. Stop listening.”

But Wesley couldn’t help it. He had to pay attention…

And more and more bodies were on the floor…

Two sets of dead, unmoving eyes stared implacably back at him.

“Ignore it,” their bleak voices rang together.

Ignore it ignore it ignore it ignore it ignore it ignore it ignore it ignore it ignore it

There were no bodies on the floor.

No the blade was not digging into his throat, the bloody taste rising in his throat.

And no, he couldn’t feel the wet blood on his cheek drying into his skin, forever a stain of this cold pain…

But he couldn’t do it anymore. He had to pay attention to it all…


Wesley making this dream reflecting back to the moment where he himself was betrayed, where he was at fault, letting Connor getting kidnapped, was something that I just really wanted to do. It’s a dream yeah, but it’s setting up Wes’ devotion to making sure he completes his task, he’s had his bad dream and he mustn’t dream any longer.

“You’re sleeping on the job? No wonder why you got fired before.”

Raising his head from his desk, he dryly said, “Lilah, how nice to see you.”

“Liar,” she replied with a dark grin. Sauntering over to his desk, she said, “Aren’t you and Buffy the Slayer supposed to go retrieve Angel now?”

Looking at his wristwatch, he commented in an uncaring tone, “Yes, perhaps so. Well, I’m leaving then. The report on my visit with Gunn is here.” Handing over the neat copy, he said, “Now I’m off to save Angel.”

A fierce grin and she said without any warning, “Don’t fuck up.”

Daring to peck a meaningless kiss on her cheek, thereby ruining her makeup, he sarcastically promised, “Ah, of course not.”

Of course, of course, it’s always of course. Even when I was writing this, I was like, ‘Oh god, I’m writing that again?’ I honestly looked forward to writing the Wesley/Lilah scenes because they were often the fastest to write and considering I’d be up until 3:00 A.M. sometimes writing, that make writing much more satisfying. Although most of this fic was written very late at night, mostly because I just wouldn’t have an idea of where to go until I was writing on fumes. It’s the old college spirit in me; write your papers in the dead of night sort of deal. Although after I wrote something half-delirious, the next day was spent trying to make sure it sounded well, sane.

There was no room for mistakes.

Or time to dwell on nightmarish dreams. Which he hoped was not a portent of the future.

He’d had enough of dealing with signs.

Heh, we get our real big taste of what’s cooking in Wesley’s mind. And why am I saying we? Sorry about that.

*

Buffy shivered as she tightened the jacket she was wearing, hoping it would warm her. The night was incredibly cold and windy, which was kind of odd since it was summer.

Timeline vs. the writer, writer wins! Huzzah!

She was standing in the back of the boat, staring at the water over the starboard side. Wesley was busily drawing intricate runes on the floor of the commercial boat, which he had declined to inform her how he had gotten it. She doubted that it was a rental; she could see a company having a huge problem with stained symbols on their boat.

Ooh, a taste of Wesley lying to Buffy and Buffy allowing it.

Glancing at the ones Wesley was busily sketching, she noticed that she only recognized a few from spells that Willow had cast.

She immediately shut down that train of thought before the pain overcame her.

“I’m ready to begin.” His voice was soft, but Buffy could hear the slight hint of trepidation.

“Okay…”

“Please stand in the middle.”

As she stood, Wesley directed her to look downwards.

Okay, writing mystical things with only an understand of magic from BtVS and AtS? Not really that fun. A lot of rewriting occurred during this scene.

He began the ritual in a language she had never heard before. Not in Willow’s spell casting or any of the demon lore Giles had spoken in to explain a point. It was harsh and yielding at the same time and as his feeble voice grew stronger with each word (she assumed they were words), she felt a coldness shoot into her heart.

So what did I do? I resorted to ‘write your story purely through the character.’ After having so many Wes-heavy POVs, it was refreshing to do this in Buffy POV, especially since she wouldn’t be obsessing on the finer points of the spell, she’d take it internally, which she doesn’t realize is exactly how the spell is supposed to act.

And the thought screamed in her before she was able to bring it to a halt.

She had to get out.

Leave the space. Leave now and it would be okay. She could feel the coldness growing and she stopped breathing.

It felt like damp earth and death was around her and she lifted her head to see Wesley chanting, but instead saw the rotten wood surrounding her.

She was alone again. And rotting away.

She was dead.

And life was forcing its way back into her.

I was so happy that this genuinely came across as I hoped it would. Really goddamn creepy. Because Buffy’s ‘resurrection’ was a fucking traumatizing thing, and this spell, which is a dark spell, making that all come back? Needed to be sparse in what’s really happen and just dive right into the memory and feelings.

Before she screamed, it changed, cool, gray metal now her walls. It was all she knew and all she would ever see again and her memories suddenly collided together and disappeared in a blinding haze. She knew nothing, she had only been here, and was alone and would always be alone.

And she was so hungry. Darkness swallowed her vision and she could smell…cool death.

And the taste of copper in the back of her mouth.

The taste of stolen life.

She shut her mouth, trying to keep the screaming from coming, from having the taste leave her again.

Sometimes it is really is easier to show what’s happening through internal imagery. The coffin turning into the metal box of Angel’s prison, Buffy actually feeling what Angel feels was really necessary for the story.

It had to stay. Stay, with her.

She didn’t want to be alone anymore.

She was desperate for it to stay.

And the noise stopped.

All was silent.

There was only one thing that she could feel now. Pain…burning, horrible pain shooting through her body. She had never felt anything quite like it. It was as though every cell of her body was being ripped apart and crushed together at the same time.

And that’s the spell working its wicked ways.

“THERE!!!!” She found herself shrieking.

Darkness enclosed rapidly over her and she didn’t fight it.

She saw nothing.

There was only peace.

Death.

Yeah, I purposely equated peace with death, leaving that question up of who’s going to die next.

*

“Buffy? Buffy? Are you awake?”

Fluttering vision and she focused on the grim appearance of Wesley. “Did…did it work?”

As he helped her stand up, she was momentarily dizzy, he said, “See for yourself.”

An enormous metal casket stood on deck. There was grime on the outside and the glass window on one of the sides was covered over.

“That’s…” She was unable to find words. Looking at the boat, the iron chains used in the water for retrieving stuff from the bottom of the ocean still dry, she asked, “How did you get it on the boat?”

Since we’ve lost time, Buffy acts as a handy character to get some healthy exposition.

“The spell,” he said simply. “It was taxing, but it seems your connection was strong enough to not only raise this box from the bottom of the ocean, but to also bring it onboard.”

He didn’t mention the invocation of demonic gods used to ensure that would happen. It would only worry her. He was sure she had had enough of magic.

Mmm, that’s really bad, why did I let Wes thoughts show up in a Buffy POV scene? Wow, I really can’t believe I let that slip by. But what he says to her is so clearly a lie and she so doesn’t notice it.

As she walked around it, looking for the places it was attached, she tried to rip it open. It didn’t even loosen under the strong grip of her hands. “How…what are we going to use to open it?”

“A flame-thrower is always a popular choice.”

Grimly checking where it had been sealed, she said, “Give me the flame thrower. I’ll have to melt these bars and try to pry it apart.”

I actually had no idea HOW I was going to get the damned thing open. Luckily we’ve seen the flame-thrower on the show before and I finally just accepted it. Originally, she was going to rip it open with her hands, and maybe have an offhand, ‘must have been the spell’ kind of line, but I felt that was really lame.

As the sparks flew, Buffy watched as though it was some slow motion movie, the links around the bars melting. Quickly shutting off power, she watched as Wesley took a crowbar and loosened the bars.

A slight creak and they were close.

Working on the top, Buffy saw everything coming faster and faster, as though a movie reel was being sped up.

Until finally…

THUD.

The lid hit the deck. Hard.

I wanted this part to be completely and utterly like a movie, which is why I have Buffy looking at Angel’s rescue like it. I’m terrible at writing action sequences, so by having the sentences and paragraphs grow shorter until the ‘THUD’ I hoped it would act in lieu of an action scene I just cannot write well.

And he was inside, constraints binding him.

Angel.

He had thinned considerably since the last time she had seen him, but he wasn’t looking too bad. Her fears of seeing a living skeleton were completely forgotten. It was such a silly fear too. His cheeks were sunken and skin paler than ordinary.

And then, in S4 when Angel just seems to have gotten a bit gray-skinned, I felt like an idiot. He’s been in there for what, three weeks? And he’s thinned considerably? I totally overdid that.

Barely whispering, she said haltingly, “A…Angel?”

Eyes suddenly snapped open and it frightened her nearly as much as seeing Willow with her blacked-over eyes.

They were wild. Insane. Completely amber.

This was not Angel.

It couldn’t be.

Bringing in this Angel, who I affectionately called Fucking Crazy Angel was selfish on one level, important to the story on another level. Selfish because I wanted to a ‘la la la not listening’ sort of approach to S3, so by having him be all crazy, I could keep him deconstructed on such a basic level that I wouldn’t have to contend with a lot of S3 characterization issues I had with him. Of course, that didn’t work; he was still incredibly difficult to write.

The second is that we learn Fucking Crazy Angel is important to the outcome of the story. The question of sanity IS in the overall themes, Wesley questions if he’s not insane and by having a character who’s actually out of his goddamn mind, the reader can sort of use the two as comparisons. Plus, Fucking Crazy Angel serves a very important plot action, central to Wesley’s plans, which at this point, the reader is still (hopefully) uncertain about.


He made a fierce growling noise and went to move, but he was firmly bound in his restraints.

Wesley, who had disappeared into the cabin for a moment, returned carrying a pint of blood and warned, “I wouldn’t get too close. Over several weeks without nourishment will make an ordinary vampire insane in his hunger.”

Sigh. Damn you, Mutant Enemy. But I was sort of amused that Wes gave his blood to Angel, that’s so many kinds of complex that I just went ‘oooh’ when watching “Deep Down.”

“Yeah,” she hollowly agreed, backing off.

Snarling, Angel tried to get out of his restraints and grunted in a barely human voice, “Let me out!”

Wesley, no fear apparent in his face from Buffy’s view, walked easily up to him and held out the offer to Angel’s face.

Greedily, he slurped it up, quite messily. But it didn’t offend Buffy. She had seen much worse. And done even worse.

“C’mon Slayer, you know you want to.”

What would Buffy be without memories of Spike? Well, she’d probably be a whole of lot healthier and saner, but sanity ain’t the rage in this fic.

Shaking it off, she said softly, “Angel? Do you remember us? It’s me…Buffy. And…Wesley.”

Wesley was staring straight into Angel’s face. He gave no indication of what he thought.

“Don’t bother Buffy. He’s halfway mad right now. Give him time.”

Halfway? Oh Wes, you damned liar.

She retreated back to her position overlooking the black waters. She did not turn her back to Angel though. She had learned the dangers of turning one’s back to a vampire. Instead, she kept herself angled slightly, yet did not look at him.

Buffy’s lack of trust in vampires, yeah, it is totally bringing up “Seeing Red” without being too obvious about it. That she returns to her position was my way of showing that Buffy keeps on retreating backwards, she’ll do a lot of this in the fic.

That was Angel now.

Wesley took a step towards her and a gesture of understanding, but he backed off before he touched her shoulder.

And they steered the boat back to the docks.

Aww…see, he isn’t evil! He’s just…um, well, at the very least, he isn’t a total bastard. Buffy is, whether or not he likes it, becoming his last link to humanity. Not just being human, but humanity itself, the nature of good.

*

When Wesley finally told her that he needed to use drugs to sedate Angel, Wesley could see that she didn’t want to be there anymore. Whatever she had seen when undergoing the spell to raise Angel from the ocean, it had been quite disturbing. She was still very pale and her eyes were distant.

Huh, Wes is kinda acting like he didn’t know what the spell would do. Which isn’t the case. Oh wait, this is the UC scene. Sorry, he’s being sympathetic and unknowingly causing me to go ‘holy shit, I think he could fall for Buffy.’

But he had to do it. Angel had reverted to the basest of vampric states and he didn’t doubt that Angel would try to rip out his throat when he released him.

They managed to carry him into Wesley’s car, being careful to add a pair of magically enhanced handcuffs (just in case), and they silently drove to the hotel.

So good I remembered the handcuffs. Really, that’s me just watching my ass, I can’t just have Angel be sleeping, he has to be contained somehow.

She had taken out her stake hidden up her sleeve, knuckles white from gripping it.

Oh man, I hope that readers got that she had that on the boat. That if Angel was too far-gone, she was going to use it. If it wasn’t obvious without reading this line, it certainly puts the previous scene into a new light: not only was she positioning herself NOT to have her back to Angel, she was making damn sure she’d be able to take him out if need be.

“There won’t be anyone there to watch over him.”

It had been the first time Buffy had said something since they docked.

“No. There won’t.”

And he didn’t let himself think about it. He too had been left, for dead, for worse. He had been lying alone in a hospital bed and was forced to realize that no one would come. That he was alone.

Angel could deal with the pain. He could even regain his sanity.

He could heal.

Wesley wouldn’t.

Irony, man. Wesley is so sure that Angel is a survivor; meanwhile it’s really Wesley who’s the survivor and Angel who isn’t. His world falls apart and Wesley rebuilds the world. Angel’s world falls apart and he either completely freaks out or shuts down. It’s nice juxtaposition. Especially when looking back to the finished story, to the final chapter, how much this just isn’t true, but the scary thing is that Wesley completely believes that it has to be true.

He cast a sideways glance at Buffy and promised, “I shall look after him.”

He couldn’t let Angel…no he wouldn’t let him get the better of him. He had made a deal. And he would keep it.

“I should…” she struggled for the words, “Help.”

Help.

A half-hearted offer at best.

We’re almost there.

“You’ve done a lot tonight.” After another long pause, he added hesitantly, but with sincerity, “Thank you.”

And she surprised him, by laying a hand over his on the steering wheel, saying, “I had to. Thank you…for letting me. But I would have…I…I had to.”

Total Moment here.Yes, it was when I typed out Buffy touching Wesley’s hand that I realized that if it wasn’t for the fact that the majority of the people reading this were B/Aers, I would have thrown in a hell of a lot of B/W goodness.

It wasn’t the show that inspired the unconventional ‘ship of Buffy/Wesley, it was this quiet little moment. I nearly gave jennem a heart attack when I confessed that I was tempted to write B/W. Which is really why I wrote and then rewrote Absence of Solace (my sorta, kinda, not really vignette/sequel to this fic), I truly believe there is something that could exist between them. Here though, it was better to remain as friends. Yet…I was really tempted.


But of course. They all had agendas. He simply couldn’t let anyone know.

Couldn’t make a single mistake.

He briefly gripped her hand in a half-hearted, unintentional handshake as he removed it from the steering wheel.

Carefully stretching the tense muscles on his neck, he tried not to think of the dream he had today. The dream of the knife…he felt the coldness on his neck. Ignoring it, he parked in front of the hotel.

Silly dreams.

They didn’t mean anything.

Silly dreams is a bit ridiculous to say so that’s sort of lame.

Turning to Buffy, he asked, “If you could pick up some clothing of Angel’s? Or perhaps I should…”

“He’s not saying here?”

It was a risky move. If Angel realized what Wesley was doing…but no…Angel wouldn’t be in a position to understand anything. He’d seen to that. Trying for a hopeful smile, he said to her, “I think I should look after him at my residence. It’s smaller, you see, and…it would be for the best.”

More Wesley manipulating things his way. But Buffy is almost an easy mark: she honestly does trust him because of his help with Willow. Which is really twisted, considering Buffy knows that Willow is now just a shell of her former self and it would have been kinder just to let her die.

Yes. For his best. Buffy nodded weakly as she unbuckled and got out of the car.

Watching her retreating back, he looked at the mirror to the reflection of Angel in the back of the car that was not there and said, “Always…the best.”

Yes…this was going to be perfect.

As he made sure she was inside the hotel, he dialed a number on his cell phone.

His dream was not a nightmare or an omen. It was merely the truth.

Spooky ending, Wesley believing that he’s damned and there’s nothing he can do about it. So all the pieces on the chessboard are set. We have a Wes convinced he’s damned. A loyal Buffy, but her loyalties seem a bit off. A Lilah who’s in it for herself, of course. A secretary that’s rather useless. A son of vampires, a murderer, a villain, a monster, someone who’s a wildcard at best. And Fucking Crazy Angel.

Betrayer now kicks into gear. Coming up next, Chapter Four, where everything gets complex, twisted, confusing, and there is sex, death, death masked as sex, tons of pain, and a terrible, terrible plan developing in a crooked game.
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