Rating: NC 17
Pairings: Wesley/Lilah, Buffy/Angel, (minor) Fred/Gunn
Timeline: Set before/during/after the finales of BtVS S6 and AtS 3.
Summary: If you're going to hell, might as well enjoy the ride.
Warnings: Language, sexual situations, violence
[she says: the epic to beat all my stories, a Wesley fic of immense proportions. Dark, no happy endings, and a rollercoaster. Because sometimes, you can beat destiny.]
Part Three: Were it not that I have bad dreams
There was a warm body next to him.
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.
It was this time that he used to recognize what he was doing.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Seers that walked in the work with a blind eye turned to all the pain.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
He didn't even have to look anymore. He had seen too much.
In some cultures, to see All would only drive one mad.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
"'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."
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."
"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.
"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.
"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."
"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'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 a ironic tone of comfort, "I'll leave you now. Wouldn't want to be a bother."
And he left without another word.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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.
And then, something large loomed over them all, a shadow.
A horrible, ghastly whisper, "You betrayed us all."
But he couldn't. He wouldn't.
The screaming grew louder and louder.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
"Please stand in the middle."
As she stood, Wesley directed her to look downwards.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"THERE!!!!" She found herself shrieking.
Darkness enclosed rapidly over her and she didn't fight it.
She saw nothing.
There was only peace.
"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?"
"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.
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."
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.
The lid hit the deck. Hard.
And he was inside, constraints binding him.
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.
Barely whispering, she said haltingly, "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.
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."
"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 you."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
She had taken out her stake hidden up her sleeve, knuckles white from gripping it.
"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.
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."
A half-hearted offer at best.
"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 had to."
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.
They didn't mean anything.
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."
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.