Rating: NC 17
Pairings: Wesley/Lilah, Buffy/Angel, (minor) Fred/Gunn
Timeline: Set before/during/after the finales of BtVS S6 and AtS S3.
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 Six: Into my Grave
After a surprisingly short bus ride (or maybe it was that she spent so much time thinking that time has passed her by without her even realizing it), Buffy stood in front of the doors of the Hyperion Hotel.
The hotel had gotten dusty, but that didn't seem to faze Angel. He was standing in front of the counter, aimlessly sorting through papers. Biting her bottom lip, she hesitated at the doors.
*If I just turn around, he won't even notice that I came. I could just turn around.*
She pushed open the doors.
He was still thinner that he was supposed to be, than he had been when she had first seen him after she returned from the dead. His dark clothes hung loosely on him and he moved with a nervous energy she hadn't seen on Angel since - well, ever.
He moved quickly, body coiled in surprise. "Buffy. Hi."
"So..." she trailed off, dropping her quickly packed bag on the counter, watching the dust fly up and fall down again with a detached look on her face, "Something's up. You want to really fill me in now?"
Shuffle of his papers and a clipped tone. "Wesley's working for them."
"Wolfram and Hart. Big Bad. I got that."
"This isn't a joke, Buffy," he snapped, letting go of the papers he was holding, falling carelessly to the ground, "Do you have any idea of what he did? Of the powers he invoked in bringing me back? You said it was a lot of magic."
"It would have to be," she choked out, memories of the spell forcing to the forefront of her mind (death despair I belong here ), unbidden, "I mean, Angel, we had to - I had to - I wasn't going to..."
He placed a hand on her shoulder and for a moment she wanted to push it away, to tell him to take his fucking hands off of her, but she didn't say anything.
And if she closed her eyes, maybe she could pretend that he was about to take her into an embrace and tell her it was going to be okay. That everything was going to be alright.
Her eyes stayed open.
"What I meant," he explained, "was that this whole time, he's been working for them. I didn't realize it until tonight. He was able to get Connor to trust him, in the same kind of voice...full of promises, really just lies, like one of them. Those lawyers."
He made an angry face, lips pressing together into a firm line. Yet when she looked into his eyes, well, she didn't like what was there. He continued, eyes blazing with some other reason, some kind of madness, while his voice was too calm, too precise, "Sure of his words, even though they were lies. He lied to us."
"Us?" She shouted, stepping away, "You, you Angel! Wesley, he listened to me, he helped me even when he didn't have to-"
"And what did he do?"
"He saved Willow." Off his blank look, she snapped, "Willow nearly destroyed the world. Wesley gave me a binding spell, it managed to keep her from destroying herself completely."
"And he did it out of the goodness of his heart."
"He wasn't going to," she mused, voice soft and not really speaking to Angel, "He refused to help me at first. But he did. Without anything to gain from it."
"But your trust."
She faced him. "No. He wouldn't."
"Betray you? Just like he wouldn't take my son."
"There was a prophecy," she muttered feebly, already feeling so tired, so strained, "He thought he was doing the right thing."
"It doesn't matter now," and Angel moved away from her, eyes flashing, "I have to stop him, to keep him from taking my son."
"You think he's going to do that?"
"I think that Wesley will do anything now. I don't trust him."
"Even though he rescued you. Even though I worked with him."
"Especially because of that. Why, Buffy, why?"
And she tried to pretend a tear wasn't trailing down her face as she shouted, "Maybe because we didn't want you to be stuck at the bottom of the ocean! Maybe...maybe because that's what we do, we save you. I run to L.A. when you ask me to, I leave L.A. when you don't want me there because you can't stand me, maybe it's because I still fucking love you, but it's a classic, pathetic joke that keeps on being told because it's one that never gets tired, even though I can't stand loving you! And I don't care, I don't care if Wesley's the Big Bad because I had to seal Willow's windows so she wouldn't jump out and I have to lock her doors and keep away any metal objects since she realized Tara's dead and wants to die because it hurts too much! I don't fucking care anymore. I'm tired, Angel, I'm just tired and I'm going to go back home because I can't do anything to help you with your new obsession, go take your son, go move somewhere else, but don't you fucking call me again, telling me what to do because I can't help you anymore. I don't-" And here, she broke down, sobbing, yet still standing up, "I can't love you anymore. It's over. It's fucking over. I give up."
Grabbing her bag, she turned around, leaving too fast for Angel to react, to stop her.
He stood there, in his abandoned, empty lobby, and felt the very last thing he had keep secretly buried in his heart die, like all his other hopes he wasn't supposed to want.
And then he selected several weapons from his extensive collection and went on his way.
A loud knock on the door and Wesley walked over, opening it. A set of hazel eyes, distracted, stared back at him.
"Buffy..." he trailed off, unable to suppress the worry he suddenly felt, "I'm surprised, you're back."
"Yeah, I am." Her voice was clipped and urgent. Not quite like her. "And I have some questions and you have to answer them. Now. I'm leaving soon."
Forcing a smile even though he felt his stomach anxiously lurch, "Please, do come in."
She walked in, a forced air of pleasantry as she said, "Hello, Connor."
The boy was sitting by the window, reading one of Wesley's texts written in Latin. Holtz had taught him well. Staring at Buffy, he said, unsure of himself, "Hello. And you're...?"
"Buffy Summers. But I really don't have the time. So," she said, casting her eyes at Wesley, "Your girlfriend Lilah works for Wolfram and Hart?"
She stared at Wesley's face, eyes challenging him to dare her.
To lie to her.
"Yes," and in that moment he found himself slammed against the wall, Buffy gripping his collar tightly, cutting off his air.
Squeezing her grip tighter, she said in her most controlled, most I'm-a-fucking-bad-ass-Slayer-don't-fuck-w
"No." A bout of dizziness as she slammed his head against the wall, seeing shapes and colors impossible to see save for the man with a concussion. Talking through the haze of pain, "I swear, Buffy, I'm not."
"Angel thinks so. You're dating someone who works for them...hmm, that's all a little suspicious, isn't it?"
"I had told you it was a long story, what I did, I was trying to find a way, a way to find Angel. I found it."
"Please, Wesley," she asked, a slight break in her voice, letting go of him, "Please, just tell me the truth."
"The truth is," he began, a sudden feeling, want, in him to reveal everything, "it's that I am not working for them. And I never would."
"Angel said that you disposed of a woman, that he killed..." Swallowing, she didn't finish that statement.
"She-" he began, with a resigned air, casting his eyes downward for a moment, attempting not to recall just how much Evelynn Westminster had reminded him of Fred, "she was a spy, working for Wolfram and Hart. I didn't realize it, until afterwards, after she had helped me gather the texts on rescuing Angel. When I finally did, I told her to go to my apartment, she was working for the same company that I was doing that extra work for, I was going to try to pry out anything she had found, perhaps information on Connor, but she arrived too early. Wolfram and Hart take care of their own. I confess I was involved in helping her into the hearse...I cannot talk about this. I haven't joined them at all. When I realized what had happened, I called Lilah."
A shred of truth in a sea of lies.
Lies spilled from his mouth too easy, nowadays.
Taking a seat, noticing that Connor had been absorbing every one of his words (such a curious child), he finished with, "Lilah had been seeing me after, well, after I got out of the hospital. She has a fondness for humiliation and she found my pathetic tale to be the most amusing one she's heard in a long time. So, it turned into something else."
Buffy's demeanor changed for a moment, face looking almost sympathetic, but it soon returned to her neutral cold stance.
"Then tell me this, what are you doing, Wesley?"
She didn't even have to look at Connor to make Wesley understand what she was talking about.
"Connor has been granted a gift, Buffy. He's as powerful as you are. I was raised a Watcher, you know that, and I'm not going to let him waste his life. I'm not going to let him murder innocent people. That's not his place. Nor our place, is it?" Pausing, he said more clearly, "I'm not going to do anything. And I would never work for Wolfram and Hart."
"But," she began, at a loss for words, "why can't you explain this Angel?"
"Because I betrayed his trust once and I can never be his friend or ally again. And that is why he called you, he called you, didn't he?" She nodded and he continued, "I should have never brought you into this."
"I was the one who asked. You couldn't stop me."
No, he thought with an inner smile, he could have. He could have stopped them all.
But he wasn't going to do that now.
It was too late.
"You have to go," she said, voice betraying not a single emotion, "Angel's coming."
"I know a place where it's safe," he replied, motioning to Connor to follow him, "for the time being at least. We haven't a moment to spare."
The oracle is neither a child, nor an adult, neither an elder, nor a prophet. She (or he, depending the form taken) is merely a being that sees order and arranges events to fall into those arrangements.
Sometimes, there are obstacles, but mostly, there is chaos.
The oracle does not like chaos. She has been in the white room since the firm existed, in a place where time or space cannot touch her. She moves within her own universe, in the center, on the outskirts, seeing and working, making sure that their order is in place.
The oracle is neither a singular or plural being, yet she is both as well.
She follows the trail of events happening the exact moment it happens, seeing how it bends and warps the future, where the events fuzz into that gray chaos she loathes so, where she could manipulate it into becoming correct, into order.
And she giggles when humans and demons alike, shed blood in violence and anger.
That is like a cherry on top of perfect ordered existence, for her.
But the vampire and the Slayer, they annoy her. Usually, she could see past them, to their ends: her own, quiet and futile, giving up after too many battles drained her spirit and finally, she closes her eyes and never opens them again; his, impassioned and wild, mind gone, broken words on his lips, remembering the people he had lost, the lives he had destroyed, the world he had damned just by trying to save.
How she loves that vampire's pain.
Now, she sees nothing.
Turning over to the path of Wesley, her new favorite human, she's surprised to be blocked there as well. There is order there, but she could not breach it, could not luxuriate in its bleak perfection as she always does.
Frowning once, causing her face to take its true form (but that form had never been seen by any living or unliving being for it to be remembered, for it be described), she calls the Senior Partners to inform them that something has gone wrong.
Pouting much like a little girl would, she patiently sits on a stool, clutching the teddy with the razor teeth in its mouth, waiting for them to arrive so she could tell them the bad news.
Someone has done a very, very naughty thing. And it's time for a punishment.
Connor wasn't really what Buffy expected. At all. He was thinner, more compact, built for a life spent on the run or out on the streets. His light brown hair was raggedly cut and his eyes were a shocking blue.
He caught her looking in the mirror and he frowned a bit, reminding her of Angel. It was strange, but Connor didn't seem much like Angel at all, physically.
Darla's, she realized, they were Darla's eyes.
Blinking, she realized the features, built soft and gentle, yet still having a sharp angle to them, were almost exactly like Darla's.
It was easier to pretend that Connor was the son of one of her enemies, instead of Angel's son. But it was also impossible.
She couldn't stop herself from thinking Angel's son every time she thought of him.
And perhaps Connor truly was the enemy.
He hadn't said much since Wesley convinced them that he knew a place where they could really talk, where "prying ears won't listen," as he intoned in a regretful voice.
They were still driving around the city; it was nearly 3 am, without asking him to tell them where they were going.
But she had left with him. He (who Angel claimed was working directly with Wolfram and Hart) could possibly be taking them to be set up, but she didn't care at all about that.
She could take care of herself.
It was everyone else that she failed.
She idly wondered why she had agreed to come. After all, she had gone into the apartment with the full intention of beating the shit out of Wesley. He had lied to her and she was fucking tired of lies.
But not enough that she wouldn't stop lying to herself.
So, she was in a car with a teenager that had killed an innocent woman and had devised a horrific torture for Angel, and a man that had dumped off the body of a woman (who, as he claimed, was supposedly a spy) and was sleeping with an evil lawyer (and yeah, she got the irony), yet she felt completely safe. They weren't going to hurt her; they weren't going to break her.
They were harmless.
They weren't her friends. And it was sick to think like that, to realize that she had more faith in strangers than her own friends and family. It was true and she didn't deny it.
Yet she kept a wary eye on Wesley. He was hiding something.
They finally reached the destination, the docks. Hurriedly getting out of the car, Wesley gestured for them to do the same. Unbuckling, Buffy cast her look at Connor in the rearview mirror.
Such cold eyes.
Ignoring the momentary shudder, she got out, hearing the heavy door shut against the car.
"We can talk freely here," Wesley said, his voice low. "They don't trust me, not one bit, of course, I haven't really given them anything, but it'll be safe, at least."
Frowning, Buffy asked, angrier than she intended or actually felt, "What the hell is going on?"
"I knew this would happen," Wesley said in a stronger, more confident tone, as though he couldn't care to put on his weak and troubled disposition, "You see, I had a rather brilliant plan, but it won't work now. But then, it was for myself, I didn't realize that I would ah, form attachments."
Biting her lip, Buffy shook her head. "Bullshit, Wesley. You don't have to keep things from me. Tell me the truth, whatever it is. I won't judge you," she added softly.
And how could she? She woke up every night in the middle of the same dream, remembering fingernails tearing open dank earth and breathing in the decay that was her own stench. She watched Willow, wasting away, refusing to eat. In her more lucid moments, Willow would threaten to kill herself. Xander, he was barely able to speak to Buffy without his red-rimmed eyes challenging her, asking why she hadn't stopped it. And Giles, Giles hadn't berated her at all and it made her feel just so much worse.
He didn't care enough to tell her that he was going to stay. He didn't even tell her that he was going to leave. But she knew it anyway.
Everything falls apart. Nothing lasts.
That was her life.
Everything had shattered; she lost the meaning of living a very long time ago, but she promised her sister that it would be okay.
She was too fond of lying.
Wesley had ripped open something inside of her when they rescued Angel and she wouldn't forgive him. She had seen it all, the pain and chaos, the madness, and not just when Angel was stranded in that box.
The time last year, before her mother's funeral, when he was broken and went insane, trying to fight a war he couldn't win.
And she saw him tearing off Darla's clothes, screaming that he didn't want to feel the cold anymore.
She remembered things she had never known, things that didn't belong to her.
The price of a spell.
But she would never tell anyone.
It was hers to keep. To remember.
She would never forgive him.
And she didn't know if she meant Angel or Wesley.
For Angel, it wasn't that he had slept with Darla; it was something else, a despair, a sadness, that he wasn't able to reach out to her, to speak with her. Selfish, really, yet that was the real moment when it had ended.
He couldn't reach out to her because he never wanted her to know how he felt and that, that was what hurt most of all.
He didn't trust her.
And Wesley had willingly performed the spell and let her see the truth, let her see what she had blinded herself to and she was just. so. angry.
He had betrayed her.
And yes, she wouldn't judge him, wouldn't tell him. That wasn't her job. It wasn't important.
What was supposed to be important to her wasn't.
And what was, well, she didn't know if anything really was important.
And yet she stayed, listening.
Running a hand through his hair, he sighed and said, "I had a plan to make sure that Wolfram and Hart would be destroyed. But I'm afraid that things have gone awry."
"You work for those people," Connor said, voice hardened. "I've seen them, talking to demons, I do not like them. They are worse than any demon I have killed."
"That they are," he agreed, momentarily lost in a memory, "And they wanted me to work with them. I - I'm not. But I am."
"You," she said, voice working, but her mind obviously not wanting to catch up with it, not wanting to see the lie, even though she had it staring in front of her all along, "you are."
The silence stretched on until Wesley spoke again.
"Perhaps I should explain this part out - without interruption. I don't think it'll make much sense. It's almost over, and I think I've made a bit of an error." Closing the gap he had made by standing in front of Connor and Buffy, voice dropping lower, into a slightly broken whisper, "I was so sure that it was everyone else's fault. That I had done the right thing. But eventually, eventually, I realized it wasn't quite true. So I had to accept. I have done you a disservice, Connor. But I have also done you right. You didn't have to grow up with a father that couldn't go out in light. And, I ruined your life by inadvertently sending you to a hell dimension. But that was never my intent. I never wanted it. I never wanted to believe that Angel would kill his own child, but I couldn't stop myself from being afraid of it. By being weak, I didn't tell anyone - there wasn't anyone who would listen. And then, Justine slit my throat and I should have died, but I didn't. Angel nearly killed me. I was all alone."
Eyes closing, making the dark circles of sleepless nights more apparent, "I was offered to join Wolfram and Hart. I called them. Because I didn't care anymore. So what if I was exiled - who had the right to tell me what I had left? But I am not a part of them. Nor could I ever be."
"Then why are you working for them? Why? Why everything, Wesley? None of this makes any sense."
Her disappointment in her voice spoke more than the weak words she used.
Wesley finally decided it was time. And he needed to tell them. It was time.
"I sold them my soul. I'm damned, you see. But it doesn't matter. In a few hours, it won't matter at all. All I need is the sun to rise. And for the squad to arrive. We've been followed for a bit, but then, you must know that."
Not even bothering to turn her head, she replied, "I was hoping not."
"Hope is a foolish thing."
Shrug. "I'm not exactly a genius."
"Nonsense, Buffy. How long have you expected?"
"Not long," she answered, completely realizing the change in topic back towards what Wesley was doing, "And, for a long time. It was more, I didn't want to believe."
"Ah, that's the hardest way to be forced into believing. It's often the way life goes, apparently. I don't really care. When they come, how many can you handle?"
Connor, who had remained silent, unstrapped a lean knife under his clothes and said coldly, "I will fight as well."
A dry look and Wesley commented, "No killing."
"Why?" Connor's sulky look was quite stunningly similar to Angel's that it momentarily unnerved Wesley.
"It'll ruin everything."
Turning back to Buffy, "Are you prepared as well?"
"I didn't realize I had a choice."
Already she was in position, ready to attack any that dared to go after her.
She already made her decision.
She had made it a long time ago.
"We always have choices," he said, watching the armored vans stop in place, the personal soldiers of Wolfram and Hart coming out, "Yet we tend to make them before it's asked of us."
They were hopelessly out-matched, even for a Slayer, as the soldiers had tasers, but decided to hold them off for a bit.
Unable to see what Connor and Buffy were up to, but hearing plenty of sounds, solid kicks and punches met, thuds of bodies, he was sure they were doing fine.
Unfortunately, he simply wasn't. Arm grabbed when he made a weak punch, he felt the dry crack but didn't scream. Just a sprain at the most, not real pain, but it - oh god, it fucking hurt.
Forcing his body into one of the black-clothed thugs, he found himself sitting on top of an unconscious soldier. Well. That was a bit better.
And then the light shot through his body and there was a pang of momentary darkness.
But not enough.
Wanting to scream or to protest, he didn't, instead he listened.
It was quiet.
Connor and Buffy had stopped fighting.
Opening an eye, he saw the two of them, battle weary, but in good condition. Several soldiers were scattered around Connor, most likely dead despite Wesley's request. He had his arms shackled together in front of him and didn't look too happy.
Buffy, on the other hand was patiently waiting, eyes seemingly giving away nothing, but Wesley understood it all in a moment's time.
Understood the plan.
Sore, bruised and bloody, Wesley entered the van without another sound, watching Connor and Buffy slowly make it to the van as well.
And Buffy politely accepted the handcuffs, magically enforced, by the broken-nosed soldier, keeping herself from smiling at the angry man.
It really was amusing to think that these soldiers thought they had actually won.
Lilah's hard clacking of her heels on the tiled floor annoyed Wesley, but he didn't comment on it.
"And what the fuck do you think you're trying to do? Outsmarting us? You actually think we didn't have your apartment tapped?"
"Of course, I knew that Lilah," he managed to work around a bloody mouth, having had a nasty fall when he was thrown into the glass-walled prison. At least he hadn't lost any teeth. "Next question. Would it be a tad rude to ask for lawyer?"
She glared at him, icy venom without that resigned cold lust he had become accustomed to seeing in her eyes.
"We have Connor," she hissed in a barely controlled voice, trying to go for pride, but failing in showing her anger, "We have *the* Slayer. The other one, Faith, is in prison and she's going to stay that way. You've actually given us a lot of ammunition on our side. Too bad you tried to double-cross us."
"Such clichés" he softly tutted, dead copper tang of blood still on his tongue, "ammunition? Double-cross? Let's try to be original here, Lilah dear-"
"Don't," she snapped, stopping her pacing, low warning in her voice, "ever call me that again."
"Wouldn't dream of it." He had successfully mastered a grin without smiling on his face, so he continued on, in a casual, conversational tone, "I'm sure that killing Connor would piss off Angel a great deal. Adding Buffy as well? It'll do wonders, I'm sure."
"Our oracle saw you trying this even before you did, you know. Did you think you'd be able to trick her?" Lilah began, moving closer to Wesley, voice dropping. "You, pathetic, down on his luck, former bumbling Watcher, rejected bumbling employee of Angel - you tried to actually take us on. You, the one person that can fuck up everything except for a decent fuck, thought you'd be able to do that. It's a real riot. Well, you lose."
He looked at her dispassionately, wondering if that was it.
Swallowing back blood so he could give his answer, "I wasn't playing to win. I don't really care for games, but that's all you were. A distraction. A cheap fuck. An easy lie. Who do you think I was thinking about when I was fucking you? The next question is: does it matter?"
"You were there," she hissed, "There trying to forget your precious non-girlfriend. Trying to forget all the friends you didn't have. I wasn't there. Face it, Wes, you're good in bed, but that's it."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
She didn't grin or react at all. Instead, she turned away from him. "You really thought you could destroy Wolfram and Hart. We've been around longer, far longer than the Watcher's Council. And we're going to win. You just helped us catch a nasty little Slayer that would have been a problem in the future and someone that'll be fun to chop and dissect. As for Angel..."
Wesley knew exactly what the plans were for Angel.
"He's after me."
"Yeah. I love it." She turned, grinning terribly, "Do you think we would be the ones that'll kill you? No, that would be too easy. Too much a noble death for you. We're going to let Angel finish you off. And…you can tell him about his precious son and his little Juliet, the Slayer, but I think he'll just make the pain last longer. Mmm…maybe you should tell him. You don't get to be the martyr. You don't get anything you want. You lost, Wes."
She planted a kiss against the glass, giving him a triumphant smile.
It was terrible. But it didn't faze him.
Dignified, or at least as much as he could be after being beaten up, bloodied and bruised, he replied, "That's where you're wrong."
Cocking an eyebrow, "Is this the time to tell me how you have a brilliant plan and what is it? 'You'll never get away with it?' Face it, you fucked up. That shouldn't be a big shock to you. When have you done something right?"
He met her look with a solemn glare, not telling at all.
"Perhaps I should speak to that lawyer now."
Infuriated, eyes cold, the anger she never was able to hide very well shattering her cruel mask-like perfect face, she stomped off, unable to say anything.
Unable to enjoy her small victory.
Which she had no idea was merely fleeting.
"Oh dear Lilah," he sighed, softly, unable to hide a small, secret grin, "what a dim-witted dragon you can be."
He was hunting.
After finding Wesley's apartment vacant (and he was not surprised by that at all), he tore through the rooms, searching, looking for any hints.
Wesley's car was missing as well.
And he no idea where he went.
He took Connor.
And the other scent in the apartment.
Did he take her as well? Back to Wolfram and Hart? He didn't know.
Couldn't risk going there yet - they had to have prepared a trap, ready to capture him.
Wesley wouldn't go there.
So, he had driven around the city, not aimless, but still without a clear plan. He could find an informant. Find someone. Anyone.
He had to.
And the sun was soon rising, the smell warning him and he didn't care. He could still walk in the sewers, could still continue on his hunt.
And eventually catch his prey.
They had been locked up in the cold gray room for quite some time. It was already daybreak.
No one had come to see them yet since they were tossed in without a single word or threat.
"This is such a joke," the blonde woman muttered under her breath. Buffy. She didn't seem too old physically, yet the detached tone in her voice, the cold steadiness as she had fought against those men, those were the make of a warrior. A highly skilled, very old warrior.
And she was something to Angel. An ally.
She hadn't talked to him since they'd been thrown together into the room. She had looked for ways of escape, and finding none, she decided to quietly sit directly across from the doorway. The door was solid and heavy, they had forced their weight against it to no avail. And it was locked from the outside, no knob that the house doors in this dimensions usually possessed. Just a dark door.
"What have they done with Wesley?"
A question he was sure was answered already.
Wesley was dead.
Not answering him, she replied casually, "Why'd you try to kill your father?"
"I didn't-" but that wasn't what she was asking. Why did he try to kill him. Angel. "He killed my father."
"Obviously somebody told you the wrong story. It happens."
"My father," he repeated, "was murdered."
And although the past day he had been told differently, he still wanted to believe in it, even if it was a lie; his conviction in it wasn't able to dissipate. Because then…he'd have to face something else.
Something he couldn't fight and destroy.
"I lost my mom," she said, not really listening to his protests, "She was supposed to be better. And I found her. The body. I couldn't save her. Couldn't do anything. When she passed away, Angel went to my funeral. Told me that life went on. I think I bought it for a moment. And then I killed myself, for my sister's sake, for the world. But partly because it was easier."
Wryly turning her eyes over to Connor, she commented, "Believe what you want. But whatever you're going to do, that's what's real. You killed someone. A human. Wesley led a woman to her death. He may have just handed us over in an act to get his bosses' approval. The people you trust can sometimes stab you in the back. The person you love can forget you and leave you to fucking die. That's what happens. If you're going to be the president of the "We Hate Angel" club, then don't make up an excuse to feel better. Whatever he's done to you, he's done worse to others. And whatever happened to Wesley, it doesn't. Fucking. Matter. Right now, we have to get out of here before we're cut and dissected, got it?"
Blinking and he wondered just who this person really was as he asked of his cellmate, "Is all of that true?"
A small, ghost-like grin as she quipped, "Of course not. But I think it's time for us to leave. Don't what them to think that we're becoming permanent tenants, right?"
Not really understanding, he agreed somewhat slowly, "Right."
"Goody. Now we can finally open the door." And, although they had been searched for weapons, she proceeded to pull out a very fine needle and walk steadily over to the door.
"You know how to use that to open the door?"
Flashing him a bright smile, she said softly, "No idea. But they don't know that yet."
And the door opened, three stern guards, all demons, standing outside, holding stun guns, a useful device Connor had found but had also become wary of.
"We shall take that. Slayer, your tricks cannot-"
But before he finished that threat, Buffy had managed to fake him out by pretending to hand over the key just as a sharp snap kick sent him flying backwards into the other two.
Not wasting a moment, Connor jumped into the fray. No time to waste, as soon as the guards were down, he felt himself being grabbed, tugged into a direction, and running down a long white corridor, aimlessly until they found a flight of stairs.
"Do you have any idea where you're going?"
"None," she gasped, winded from the adrenaline-laden fight and the run, "I'm hoping on beginner's luck, Murphy's law, or any theory about us suddenly finding a way out without any trouble."
Just at that moment, they found a clearly marked "Lobby floor" handing over one of the doors in the stairway and opened it without a moment to spare for that thought of relief came the trouble.
A female lawyer, icy calm in demeanor, smirked at the two as she stood directly in front of them, too far away to be attacked.
Standing behind her was a well-equipped, small army of nearly two-dozen armed soldiers.
Guns pointing to the both of them.
"Did you really think it would be that easy," she easily chided, glee evident in her tone. "Buffy? Did you think we'd just let you two walk out of here without a fight?"
"Oh, I don't know, Lilah," drawled Buffy, trying to make it like she always ended up in these situations (but, Connor reflected, perhaps someone with the title 'Slayer' truly did have this happen to them regularly), "The hapless guards? Good touch. Made me think you guys were really that incompetent. Oh well. Guess I should just let you guys slice me, dice me, make me into julienne fries."
If she always talked like this, perhaps her silence towards him was a benefit.
"And just how are you going to fight? Have a new death wish? Or is the old one still working for you?"
Buffy merely smiled sweetly at Lilah, but for a moment, Connor realized how powerful the little blonde was. It was like an intense blaze that he had seen in battle. With some of the greater demons he had fought, there came a moment where the power simply overtook them.
And showed Connor what they really were.
It was rare, but it happened.
And it just did.
He would never be able to defeat Buffy.
And that realization was both a blow to him, once always assured that he would always be victor, and a pleasant surprise.
He wasn't alone. He wasn't the only human that could fight demons.
"Now Lilah," Buffy began, "Are you sure that you even want us? I mean, what's to gain? If you've been watching, and I'm sure you have, I'm currently on the outs with Angel. Connor's tried to kill him and failed. I don't think we'd make good bargaining chips and from what I've heard, you've got it bad for Angel. Or, at least the firm does - have you all set up some ass-kicking system for him on a daily basis?"
Lilah worked her mouth around the words as though she was spitting them out, making it very clear to Connor her intense hatred of the vampire, "We don't want Angel."
"Oh right. Angelus, huh? Crazy bastard, kinda ruined my life for a few months. Oh, and killed some of my friends. But that's not important. I'm sure Angelus will make a great team player-"
"That doesn't matter," Lilah hissed, growing impatient. " And you're stalling."
"Stalling? For what?" she scoffed. "I'm merely making observations. Seems like I've only been doing that lately. Going through the motions, blah blah evil singing demon-casting spellcakes. Now, I'll go quietly, I really don't have anything better to do."
Connor, who had remained silent during the exchange, finally spoke.
The vampire tossed off the thick, dark cloak. He had dared to walk in sunlight so he could enter the doors.
He looked strange. Like the monster that Holtz had told him about. Insane eyes. Merciless.
Carrying a long broadsword he replied in a terrible, empty voice, "And where's Wesley?"
Lilah, whose face had turned deadly pale, nevertheless smiled as warmly as possible as she turned to him. "He's busy. If you're trying to save your son and the Slayer-"
"I'm not," he roughly interrupted, an idleness in his voice. Bored, he asked again, "Where is Wesley?"
Lilah said nothing, cool and collected, but Connor could sense her fear.
She did not want to die by the hands of the vampire. And that was all that Angel was offering.
"Paris. Morocco. Fiji. Papua New Guinea. Take your pick."
He didn't even look at Buffy as she spoke, didn't look at Connor.
The vampire was on the hunt.
Because that's what made him different, as Holtz had told him. Angelus was one that exacted pain as though it was an art. Painstakingly careful, reckless only in brutality.
A beast worse than others because of that devout passion.
"I just want him."
The vampire (his father) had gone insane.
Lilah snorted, a nasty sound, "Sure. You have the precious Slayer Buffy and the little brat and you only want Wesley. Please, I'm not an idiot-"
The sharp sound of one of the weapons readied to fire stopped Buffy's hard laugh from continuing.
Hand on her hip, toss of her hair, and Lilah was assuming total control with an airy breeze to her words. "We got rid of Wesley."
"She's lying," Buffy commented indifferently, looking at her fingernails for some strange reason. Addressing Connor, "Think I need a manicure?"
He merely stared; puzzled by the odd way she was acting.
"Of course she is," Angel answered, still acting as though Buffy wasn't there. As though Connor wasn't there. He hadn't even looked in their direction. "Give me Wesley and I'll leave."
"Mmm, I think not." Wave of her hand and a new group of warriors entered, these armed with stakes as well as stun guns. "I think that I'm about to bring in the most desired players that Wolfram and Hart have been after. And I think I'm about to be promoted."
"No!" Connor impulsively shouted, a seize of hatred for the woman, of something else for Angel; he couldn't stop himself, but then Buffy placed a hand on his arm. She merely shook her head, eyes asking him not to continue. And he felt compelled to abide by her request.
For the moment.
Angel stood there, face not reflecting a single thought. Grim, cold stare and he finally moved, turning back, "Then I'll just have to go."
"No," Lilah said, her commanding poise faltering just enough, "you see, you don't get to leave. Not this time. We've let you escape too many times."
"Give me Wesley and I won't fight you."
"You really are insane," Lilah gloated, a horribly bright look in her eyes. "Fine. Bring him here," she demanded of one of her lackeys.
"Oooh," Buffy gasped, looking at Connor as she spoke, but speaking loudly for everyone to hear, "Angel's about to have his big revenge. Can't wait. Too bad there isn't any popcorn."
Turning to Buffy, Lilah snapped, "Aren't you supposed to be depressed and suicidal?"
Mock eyes feigning shock, Buffy replied in an overly emotional tone, "Oh, I am?!! Why didn't Angel tell me? Instead of rehashing the Buffy and Angel show, he should have reminded me that I'm supposed to be depressed. Dammit Angel, you're supposed to tell me these things. And then tell me it's for my own good that I'm by myself after fucking Spike, who, by the way, tried to rape me last time I saw him, but that's okay because if I don't think about it, if I push it deep enough inside me, I don't have the urge to scream. C'mon, let me hear those words again. 'It's for your own good.' Apparently Lilah-knows-all has reminded me I'm supposed to be sad and moaning 'oh woe is me.' Nah, I'm better off keeping it inside, there's nothing there that can hurt me anymore. I'm the one that's fucked up - not you or Wesley, or even Lilah. Especially Lilah," she added with a completely fake grin.
"Buffy," Angel began, but she dismissed him.
"Nope. That's not allowed. You came here to kill Wesley and let them cut up your son and well, it doesn't really matter what happens to me. You hold onto that. Reason's never been your strongpoint."
Rolling her eyes, Lilah asked, bored, "Is this little spat over?"
"It's always been over," Buffy replied, eyes staring distantly at Angel. Facing Lilah, "I'm really going to enjoy kicking your ass."
"I'd like to see you try, little girl," she hissed back.
"Oh Lilah, you can't ever be polite to my friends? How are we supposed to have a healthy relationship if you cannot even respect my friends?" came the disapproving, feigned displeasure of Wesley's voice.
Connor tried not to wince when he saw him. He had seen plenty of battle scars, had treated Holtz's wounds when he was older and his father had become weaker, but Wesley...
Held between two soldiers, looking as though he could barely stand up straight, it looked as though he was ready to pass out.
His shirt was torn and bloodstains, some very fresh, were all over it. Bloodied knuckles oozing, unable to heal properly. Bruises all over. And his mouth - his mouth -
It reminded him of a vampire's.
Blood dried round the corners.
Grinning, but it was a truly awful thing, with that red mouth, Wesley said, "What? Is all this pomp and circumstance for me? I'm honored."
"Of course it isn't," Lilah answered, yet Connor detected something off in her voice. Llike she was hurt and wasn't trying to show it. She was terrible at hiding it.
"Give him to me now," commanded Angel, aware of the guards ready to strike him if he attempted to move.
"Ah, Angel," Wesley said, focusing his eyes to the vampire, "Good to see you found me. Knew you'd be able to."
"He's here to kill you," Buffy said as though she was discussing a mundane detail.
"Not surprised a bit. I did, after all, prepare to set him up. I doubt he's very happy about that."
"This isn't a fucking joke," Angel growled, his face reverting to its true form, "What you did - my son, you were going to - you have-"
"Done nothing. Yet."
"May I cut in?" Lilah asked with the glee of someone with juicy information that she alone held that she simply had to share.
"I would be truly shocked, Lilah, if you didn't. For you to keep your mouth shut - well, keeping your mouth open is one of your talents."
Lilah turned an interesting pink flush from his comment, anger making her awful smile even more repulsive, but continued on, "Let's not pretend you didn't come to us because you wanted to play evil for a while. You were the one that wanted to do this. You were involved in our project to rescue Angel. And you were the one that decided mind fucking him would be beneficial for Wolfram and Hart's plans. You were the one that decided to find Connor, to bring him to us. And you, you have done all of that, but you tried to double-cross us. And now, you get to leave. With Angel."
"That's very kind of you, Lilah," Wesley said agreeably, as he was let go by the soldiers, nearly tumbling down, as he had to stand by himself now.
"It isn't," Angel promised, monstrous with his vampric face.
"Oh but it is." Wesley spat, dark red, he was still bleeding from a cut on his lip. He didn't even bother to wipe it away. "You're not going to kill me."
"My, aren't we deluded," Lilah smirked.
"Yeah, you know, you kinda are," Buffy said, thoughtfully.
"You know I could just have them shoot you down," Lilah threatened, twisting her face nastily, "A weary old Slayer isn't that important, plus, there is another one of you."
"Ooh, thanks for the warning. And old? Have you looked in the mirror lately? You'll have to start; I think one of your makeup layers is staring to peel. Unless you just have really loose skin."
"I've had enough of your fucking-"
"Gosh Lilah, I'm sooo scared. Why don't you come over here so I can kick your ass? C'mon, I'll promise I won't pull hair-"
"Please," Wesley implored, taking small, feeble steps over to Lilah and Buffy, "No fighting for the moment. I believe this is Angel's shining moment."
A snarl, the temper Angel must have been keeping inside, a rage that Connor had never truly seen but had been told of constantly, and Angel had made his way to the middle of the lobby, knocking Wesley down, blade resting against Wesley's neck.
And then Buffy tackled Angel, causing confusion and chaos.
Ducking, worried about the soldiers, he avoided them, his smaller frame better as he watched Angel and Buffy, fighting each other and any that tried to get into their way.
It was amazing.
They were fast and well matched, Angel used moves and techniques he had never even shown Connor, and Buffy -
Buffy was truly extraordinary.
Lithe and small, she moved with a determined yet recklessness to her skills.
But he couldn't keep his eye on them forever.
Wesley, recaptured by a few soldiers, with Lilah running off into the back, demanding more soldiers, 'seal the doors, windows, EVERYTHING,' and Connor wasn't too busy, they didn't seem to come after him after that dull crack he gave to a soldier's neck.
He made his way quickly, not thinking, not allowing himself to ask why he was doing this, why he wasn't leaving when he had the chance.
And there was a violent jolt and he watched the red soak into his dull gray shirt, raising his head upwards to the shocked, wide eyes of Lilah.
He didn't hear Angel's demonic roar, the sounds of battle rising to a fevered pitch.
Only saw Buffy, taking out the knife slowly, staring at the wound, mouth opened, a distant look in her face.
And he remembered being picked up, remembered coldness, until he saw black.
Until he saw nothing.
When she had shoved the blade into human flesh, a part of her had died.
But Buffy had had her reasons.
When she had seen her mother's body, lying there, she lost the will to go on.
And she ended up jumping without fear.
Yet now, this boy, who was around her sister's age, he was dying and she felt something.
She actually wanted to help him.
His eyes were closed, skin clammy to the touch, breath shallow. There was so little time.
Buffy was not sure that they were going to make it.
How had they made it past the guards, past Lilah's wrath? It was like a strange dream, broken snippets, nothing of real substance but that one moment when everything stopped.
When they heard the strangled scream.
She nearly killed Angel. She would have. So much hate, so much bitterness.
She hated being guided by her emotions. When she was younger, she thought doing what was right was equal to how she felt. You don't kill humans, because it's wrong. You save your friends because of love, of duty, and of your own will.
And then, she learned she was wrong. She sent Angel to hell on a kiss that she didn't tell him was a goodbye. She watched Willow's grief take her friend away, corrupted, disrupted, she would have killed her friend because...
That was the right thing to do.
And now, she was just so tired of it. Tired of being told who she was, who she was responsible for.
And yet, as they rushed to a private doctor (who Angel insisted on taking Connor to, she wouldn't ask questions), Angel carrying his son, Wesley leaning hard onto her shoulder, she cared.
Only bad things could come of that.
The plain brick building wasn't impressive, yet the interior was clean and very much like a hospital. A dark woman was waiting for them; her eyes cool and face emotionless.
"Connor...he's been stabbed. He's...he's lost a lot of blood."
"This way," she said coolly, bringing them down a corridor.
It was exactly like an operating room. She was preparing, washing her hands, putting on gloves, and attaching a mask.
"You'll have to leave. I'll check over the rest of you," she said, eyeing Wesley in particular, "in a moment. Don't worry, he'll be fine," she added as though those words made a difference.
Buffy was forced to drag Angel with her as well as help Wesley leave the room.
Angel didn't waste a minute, going after Wesley, grabbing him, snarling, "You fucking did this! You!"
Anger seizing in her before she could sway it, she landed a hard punch against his jaw. "NO! Not here, not now. Not when your son could die! Fuck, Angel, why can't you just stop this. It isn't Wesley's fault. You know who did this? Lilah. Wolfram and Hart. Not Wesley. If he's to blame," she said bravely, raising her chin defiantly, "then I'm to blame as well. You gonna kill me to?"
Too late for that. Besides, he already did.
She ignored that thought.
"Don't finish that, Angel," Wesley said quietly, from his position leaning against the wall in the corridor.
"You don't get to say anything to me right now."
"Really, is that so, Angel? Very well, I'll just bleed all over this wall. I'm sure that red will match nicely with this beige."
"Your son may be dying. And this is how you're going to act."
"You sided with Wesley."
Keeping herself from decking Angel again, Buffy replied, "I sided with myself. Don't do this. You'll regret it."
"No. I won't."
"I don't even recognize you. Angel, Wesley made a mistake."
"My son is in there. You were almost killed by them. Does that matter to you? Don't you get it?!!"
"I do. You don't. C'mon Wesley, I'll help you sit down."
"Appreciated," he said, something of a flicker of a smile (while really, to Buffy it was a grimace of pain). Turning to Angel, voice somber, "I did hate you for a long time. Blamed you. Blamed myself. But I never wanted to hurt your son. I only wanted to protect him. But I was wrong. And I don't want you to forgive me. Or to forget. I did betray you. But I was once your friend. Remember that at least."
"I remember," Angel said gravely, turning to stand vigil at the operating room.
"There's no point in that," she told Wesley, as she settled him into a chair, using the bandages found by the table to momentarily take care of his wounds, "he doesn't...do you really want to know what happened to him?"
"While he was trapped?"
Shaking her head, trying not to worsen Wesley's damaged flesh by pressing too hard on the black and purpled bruises, "No. I - that spell worked really well."
*Can't you feel the cold?*
Biting her lip slightly, "I think you should leave now. Go to a hospital. Under an assumed name or something. I won't tell him. That you left."
"He'll ask," Wesley said softly, taking her hands off of him, rebuttoning his tattered shirt.
"Yeah. But I won't tell him. I can take care of myself."
"Are you sure?"
She wanted to pretend that he meant about his leaving. But she knew he meant about her taking care of herself.
"I'll be fine."
"Goodbye, then," he said, staggering up, face pale.
He had lost a lot of blood.
She hoped that Angel would be distracted long enough not to notice.
"And Buffy," Wesley whispered, voice cautious yet strong, "you shouldn't let any of this concern you. It's just life. It can be dealt with accordingly."
She merely nodded, arms crossed, feeling all the wounds she hadn't allowed herself to feel suddenly seize with pain.
He'd run, but that was not possible.
The destroyer, the betrayer, the vampire with a soul, the slayer, the prophecies, the false pretense of free will -
The loss of blood.
Hailing a car ("Shit, are you okay? Do you need to go to the hospital? Fuck man, are you? Christ, get in, I'll take you."), Wesley tried not to let himself think too far.
To think of the future.
No, he couldn't, because he had nearly screwed everything up by doing that. Recruiting Connor, it had almost been a terrible mistake, he hadn't thought of Angel, even though it was always about Angel.
His mind was unraveling.
But one thing stayed with him, even as he felt himself strapped to the gurney, rushed into the bright whiteness, voices asking the driver what happened, checking over his wounds, demanding a clear path.
He'd done it.
Finally, he'd completed the one thing he'd set out to do.
He'd defied them all.
And it was over.
About to begin.
He'd be fine.