By L.A. Ward and Sanguine
Chapter Six: Ouroborus and Macchiavelli
=Bugger!=† Had he just thought that?
Spike stopped pacing and raked his hand through his newly cropped and bleached hair.
Yes, he had thought that.
Spike rolled his eyes.† =Bloody hell.=
Thatís what a conscience did for you--made you ignore your survival instincts, talked you into walking into a lionís den because it was the 'right thing to do.'† It was bloody stupid.† A vampire trusting the Council was stupid. Traditionally, what the Council wanted was a vampireís dusty death.† And if the Council wanted something *other* than his death, Spike suspected it would resemble Captain Cardboardís Dr. Mengele medical experiments.†† Heíd have to be insane to walk into something like that.
Then again, there was nothing the Council could do to him that he didnít deserve. A killer with a survival instinct was an obscenity.† After all the lives he had taken, what right did he have to preserve his own life at anotherís expense? And Rupert had been quite clear about the threats the Council had made in regards to Red.
=Oh bugger it all to hell.=† Spike had been many things in his existence, but heíd never been a coward.† He turned the corner.
"I wonít allow you to harm him."
Quentin Travers looked to find Rupert Giles standing in his office doorway.† Surreptitiously, Travers moved a stack of papers over the parchment lying unfurled in the center of his desk. He clasped his hands together and gazed at Giles in a suitably attentive manner.† "Is there something I can do for you, Rupert?† Some fear you wish me to assuage?"
"Donít be coy.† Itís annoying."
Travers indicated the chair in front of his desk.† "Do come in.† Sit down."
Giles entered the room but did not sit.† Travers respected the tactics of such a move. His own seat behind the desk was a power position.† By refusing to sit, Giles was refusing a subservient posture.
"Quentin, I am uncertain of your ulterior motives in this matter, but you clearly have them," Giles stated.† "I do not know why you were so quick to agree to Lydiaís suggestion, but I will tell you that I will not allow you to harm Spike."
"Are you protecting the vampires now?† Have you changed allegiances?"
Gilesís gaze narrowed behind his glasses. "Donít be ridiculous.† I simply have good manners.† You do not harm creatures who are trying to help you.† It is unpardonably rude."
"Help?† Rupert, you do remember we are discussing a vampire."
"Nevertheless, whatever Spikeís-ó" Giles paused "--deficiencies, he is coming here at our request.† He chose to do so of his own free will.† And as long as he poses no threat, I will not see him abused."
"He has the blood of countless men on his hands. Does that mean nothing to you?"
"I am neither naive nor a fool.†† Stop behaving as though I am.† Whatever Spikeís moral status, we do *not* harm creatures who cannot defend themselves and who are not a menace to society. We are not bullies, nor are we God.†† If Spike needs to be killed because he is a danger those around him, we will kill him.† But we do not ask for his help, request his trust, then harm him.† It is not a matter of his moral status but ours."
Travers scratched his chin.† "And if I agree to this request?"
"This is no request, and there is nothing to agree to.† This is the way things are.† Accept it."
Knowing it would do no good to lose his temper, Travers slowly counted to ten as Giles left the room.† First and foremost, Travers needed to stay in control.† The head of the Council always needed to be in control.†† Rupert Giles didnít fully comprehend that fact.
Travers pushed aside ordinary business papers to uncover the aged, yellowed parchment he had stretched across his desk. It wasnít the original document.† It was a twelfth-century translation of an ancient Philistine scroll that was locked in the Councilís secret vault.† Travers had seen the original manuscript, but as far as he knew, he was the only living soul who had.† It contained the Councilís most guarded secret.† A secret that the head of the Council was sworn to protect at all costs.
Travers pushed his chair away from his desk, stood and crossed the room to stare at the garden below.† A copy of Macchiavelliís 'Il† Principe' sat on the table next to the window.† He had been re-reading it recently and had decided the Italian thinker had been unfairly demonized.† Macchiavelli had not been a villain but a pragmatist.† A rulerís task was to survive in the face of harsh realities.† In order to succeed, rule must be absolute and ruthless.† Any means were justified to maintain authority.† This had been the credo of Travers's career.† How could a field Watcher such as Rupert Giles ever understand?
A field Watcher had the luxury of affection.† He had only one chargeó-his Slayer-óand one goaló-to save the world.† The head of the Council had a far more difficult task.† He had to preserve the future and the unity of the organization.† He had to be careful.
Unwillingly Travers's gaze drifted to the illuminated parchment. Depicted on the upper left hand corner was a dragon biting its own tail, devouring itself. It was an ouroborus, a symbol common to many cultures.† Sometimes it was a dragon.† Sometimes it was a snake.† In Hindu texts the dragon circled a tortoise which supported four elephants which formed the foundation of the world.† Many meanings were attributed to the symbol.† Some believed it to represent the gateway between this universe and the absolute.† Some interpreted it as the relentless onslaught of entropy, and others saw it as an island in the river of time.† In this manuscript it meant destruction and death.† It meant the end of the world. . .which was the crux of Travers's problem.
His job was to protect the Council and its secrets at all costs, but there would be no Council to protect if this truly was the end of the world.† And what if he revealed what was in the scroll?† What if he broke his oath to keep the secret and the world survived but the Council did not?
There had to be another way.† There had to be a way to bring pertinent information to light without resorting to the scroll and its secrets.
A knock on the door caused Travers to cover the parchment again.† "Come in."
Alex Kingsley opened the door.† "The vampire is here," the young Watcher announced with a curious mixture of interest and distaste.† "Heís downstairs."
"I will be along in a moment."
Once alone, Travers carefully returned the parchment to his personal safe.† It had been uncannily fortuitous that Lydia Grant had requested permission to interview this particular vampire.† She had stumbled upon a possible solution to Traversís problem.
"Ew!"† The disgust in Dawnís voice only partially reflected the disgust on her face, which was vividly expressed with a scrunched nose and curled lip. She stared at the dark crimson slime lining the walls of the sewer.
Buffy aimed her flashlight at her sister and said impatiently,† "Dawnie, if you want to come on patrol you canít complain about every littleó"† Her foot slid in red muck as the broadsword she carried clattered to the ground. "óew!"
"See!" Dawn caught up to Buffy and Xander who had been several yards ahead of her.†† "Iím am *so* not a wuss.† Itís just icky down here." She waved her hand under her nose.††† "And rank."
Xander nodded. "Iím gonna side with the Dawnster on this one.† Icky and rank† plus Ďew,í Ďgross,í and remind me again why weíre doing this?"
Buffy picked up her sword and gazed at her friend with disbelief. "Uh, hello! Blood red water usually rates on the Ďgee, whatís that aboutí scale."
"Oh, Iím all up on the Biblical ickiness," Xander assured her.† "But shouldnít we be looking where the water comes from not where it goes to?"
Dawn nodded eagerly.† "Right, we should be at a water treatment plant or reservoir or something.† Iím voting for a reservoir. Then we could have swimsuits and sunblock, and work on those summer tan lines."
Buffy asked, "And when has evil ever come from a reservoir? Gotta look in the stinky, yucky places for theó"† Something scurried across the beam of light cast by her flashlight.† "Whatís that?"
"Whatís what?"† The light from Xanderís flashlight bounced wildly across the walls.
"There, that."† She grabbed Xander's hand and aimed his flashlight. Whatever it was jumped back into the darkness.† "Ugh!† Where did it go?"
There was a wet, smacking sound as it ran across the muck, and Buffy decided she'd willingly to sacrifice her DMP paycheck to see what it was.† She felt a hand twisting the back of her shirt.
"Buffy?"† Dawn said anxiously.
"Wait! There!" Buffy aimed her light down the pitch-black passageway to illuminate a moist-skinned, foot-and-a-half-high creature.
Xander said, "Looks like a gremlin."
Buffy frowned.† "Gremlin like the Spielberg movie or Gremlin like something Giles would look up in a book?"
"Like Spielberg." His gaze never left the monster.
Buffy tilted her head slightly to one side.† "Really?† ĎCause Iím thinking it looks more like the little dinosaur that spit on Newman, the Seinfeld guy, in Jurassic Parkó-only without the multi-colored fan thing, the spit. . .or the Seinfeld guy."
Dawnís jaw dropped.† "Youíre kidding, right?† Youíve got to be kidding."† She swiveled her own flashlight in the direction of the green-tinged demon standing in a puddle of dark crimson slime.† "Heís an evil Kermit the frog!"
"How do you know itís evió-"
Dawnís screamed as the creature launched itself into the air.†† "Kill it!" she cried as it landed near her feet. "Kill it now!"
Buffy pushed her sister out of the way as the demon again hurtled itself, spread eagled, toward Dawn.
"Evil," Xander said breathlessly.†† "Definitely evil."
Dawn hit the ground and skidded across the slime.† Even Buffy lost her balance, slipping, then regaining her footing.† "But itís so little," she said.† "I could kill it like--" Buffy sliced off the creatureís head with a single stroke of her broadsword.† "óthat."† Buffy looked at Dawn and Xander.† "That was sort of easy."
Dawn examined her hands and shirt.† She was completely covered in the blood-colored ooze. "This is never coming out." She looked at the headless green corpse then at her sister.† "Easy is good, right?
"Of course it is."
Xander frowned.† "Um. . .maybe not."
Buffy turned to see the decapitated demon growing a new head. . .a meaner-looking one.
Xander backed away.† "Thatís not good."
"Why didnít cutting off its head kill it?" Buffy asked.
"Maybe we should worry about that later."
"Buffy. . ." Dawn said anxiously.
"Think about it when, Xander?† We need to kill it now."
"Buffy. . . "
Xander looked at Buffy.† "Okay, we need to kill it.† Any idea how?"
"We could set if on fire. Got a match or lighter?"
"Yeah, sure. 'Cause I carry those around for all the cigarettes I don't smoke."
"Buffy!" Dawn cried.
"It brought friends."
Buffy became aware of the thousand iridescent points of light glittering in the darkness, little green-gold eyes blinking at them.
"Crap!"† Xander swore.† "Theyíre everywhere."
In a way, it was pretty, like twinkling Christmas lights.† It even had a nice glittery effect on the slime.† But the pretty factor was mostly nixed by the spooky 'I think they want to kill us' vibe.
"Now what?" Dawn asked as the Evil Kermit with the brand new head started chattering. It was a high-pitched staccato sound.† Dawn clapped her hands over her ears as Buffy longed for ear plugs.† Unfortunately -- damn, Slayer duty!--† she was stuck holding a dumb sword. When the Evil Kermit moved, Buffy lunged, stabbing it through the center of its little chest.† It gave an unearthly scream of pain, but when Buffy pulled her sword free the thing stood there unharmed.† It even looked kind of amused.
"Crap," Xander said again as the blinking creatures in the darkness also started making the deafening sound.
Dawn swallowed.† "What are we gonna do?"
The chattering grew louder and closer as Buffy touched her sisterís shoulder in a vain effort to comfort her.† "I donít know."
"I know," Xander said as the noise reached an eardrum bursting decibel.† "Thereís only one thing to do."
Chattering and hissing, the creatures attacked as Buffy, Xander, and Dawn careened down the passageway. The little monsters were everywhere, and the ear-splitting sound was enough to make heads pound, eyesight go blurry, and inner ears feel like they were being stabbed with ice picks.
"This is *so* not good. Not good at all," Xander chanted as they rounded a corner.
"Where are we going?" Buffy asked.
Dawn warned, "Theyíre gaining on us."
Xander glanced back.† "Look at that.† Itís CGI madness.† Looks like the beetle swarm in The Mummy."
"Uh. . .yeah. . .only† itís evil Kermits. We've got to get out of here."
Buffy stopped running and took several swipes at the demons with her sword. She decapitated at least a half a dozen of them.† Blood splattered against the wall, mingling indistinguishably with the sewer slime.
"That only slows them down, Buff," Xander protested.
"You prefer they eat you faster?"
Dawn interrupted, "Hereís a thought. Youíre the Slayer. *Kill* them!"
"I donít know how!"
"Quick! In here!"† Xander ducked into six-foot-high pipe shooting off the main passageway.† Buffy and Dawn followed, and he closed the grate behind them.
Dawn leaned against the wall and tried to catch her breath. "How can you not know how to kill them?"
"Decapitating, skewering, poking with a stick, this I know.† Anything more complicatedó"
"Was Gilesís job." Xander doubled over panting.
Buffy admitted, "I was never big with the knowledge and research."
Dawn blinked.† "So youíre saying weíre screwed."
Buffy hated to confess the awful truth. "We donít know how to kill them."
"Weíre screwed."† Dawn closed her eyes and sighed.† "What we need are smart people."
"I am not Louis," Spike protested as he looked at the array of faces surrounding him.† The bird interviewing him was nice enough, and Rupes and Will were familiar faces-óalthough Spike was a bit surprised the Council allowed Willow to be out and about--but the half-dozen strangers in the Councilís library stared at him with cold eyes and treated him like a snake in the reptile house at the zoo.†† "Louis was a whining, moaning, brooding wanker.† If I have to be compared to a character in that loony bintís books then at least make it Lestat."† He crossed his arms and gave a good impression of a pout.† "The poofter can be Louis.
Lydia adjusted her glasses.† "So, you have read the books."
Spike eyed her suspiciously.† "Yeah. What of it?† Lot of time to kill during the day.† I have sunlight issues, you know."
"It has been widely speculated that you are illiterate."
"What?!"† Spike felt outraged.† He had attended Charterhouse and Cambridge. . .or at least, William had.† But he was William. . .wasn't he?† Bloody hell, he wasn't sure who he was any more.
"Oh, yes." Lydia nodded.† "I am afraid so.† In some of our texts it is theorized that as a human you were a Dickensian Artful Dodger-type-óunschooled except by the streets and very possibly a killer even before your transfiguration."
"Unschooled?† Illiterate?"† Spike fixated on this point.† Either his underlying persona or the translucent overlay of Williamís soul was deeply offended.† Spike stood and paced the length of the library.† Watchers scattered out of his way like pigeons on a sidewalk.† "If I am so bloody ignorant, how did I translate the texts to resurrect the Judge?"
Lydia looked flustered.† "I. . .uh. . .believe you had a minion by the name of-ó"
"Dalton?! Debase-the-beef-canoe Dalton?† His Latin wasnít worth sh-óum... it was lousy."† Spike collapsed into the chair on the opposite side of the library table from Lydia.† "Although it wasnít truly Latin.† It was a demonic derivative."
Giles, who sat at the head of the table, coughed.† "I believe I can verify that Spike is not illiterate, though he frequently exhibits abysmal taste in reading material."† Giles addressed Lydia and the other observers.† "I can testify that Spike has an impressive knowledge of Shakespeare and Donne and can read Latin." Giles looked at Spike.† "When you sought the general reversal spell for Willowís ĎWill Be Doneí mishap, you referenced my Latin texts."† Giles focused on Lydia.† "I have also found Spike to be conversant in Fyarl, French, Italian, and Spanishó-though sadly that last discovery was due to Spikeís penchant for watching soap operas on Spanish Univision."
Spike nodded.† "Right.† Not illiterate."† He didnít add that he could also read Greek and speak conversational German, Nyar, Farquart, and Trombli.
Lydia looked almost smug as she peeked up at Alex Kingsley.† "I theorized as much in chapter five of my thesis."† Kingsley huffed and walked to the back of the room to stare out the window as Lydia folded her hands and returned her attention to Spike.† "Is there anything else you can tell us about your human existence?"
"No, there bloody well is not.† What does it matter?† I thought Council dogma said I never was human.† Iím what killed this body."
Spike had always thought the Council were wankers for believing such rubbish.† How could he have killed William when he was William?† The only life he remembered was Williamís. The memories hadnít come with the soul. They were *his,* his thoughts and knowledge, his weaknesses and desires. What William had felt, he felt. And what was he if not the sum of his thoughts and emotions?
The only difference that Spike felt was that prior to the return of his soul, he had lacked Williamís conscience. The only difference William had felt after Dru had turned him had been surcease of embarrassment and shame.† But surely there was more.† There had to be something more. Spike couldn't name what it was, but it had to exist. . .didn't it?† There had to be more to a man than his regrets and remorse.† There had to be more to William and to Spike than a guilty conscience.
Sitting across the table from Giles, Quentin Travers looked impatient with the growing silence.† "Miss Grant, perhaps you should return to the approved list of questions."
"Oh yes.† Quite." She shuffled through her papers, then adjusted her glasses and looked at Spike.† "Your bloodline."
"What about it?"
She fiddled nervously with one of the papers.† "There seems to be some controversy."
Spike smiled; it was a deliberate, charmerís smile devoid of any real happiness because he had none.† But he did know how to fake it.† "What do you have there, pet?"
She handed him the document that looked like a diagrammed family tree.† "There is some confusion about your sire."
"No confusion.† It was Drusilla."
"But in some accounts itís listed as Angelus."
Spike sniffed.† "Angelus liked to consider himself my mentor in the ways of the evil dead. Called him my Yoda once."† Mmm...you will kill this person, you will.† Feel the evil.† Feel it flow through you.
~A real kill, a good killóit takes artistry.~
Spike had hated the bastard even then. Angelus had counseled targeting innocents and those without protection.† Spike hadn't seen the purpose of it all. If it wasn't about food, the challenge facing down death, or fun...why bother?† Looking back, both Angelus's and his own tactics sickened the person Spike was now.
"Angelus was never my sire," Spike dismissed. "Donít know how that rumor got started."† He examined the diagrammed family tree.† "Itís very simple.† You have the Master.† Met him once.† He was an annoying pillock. The Master sired Darla.† Darla sired Peaches.† Peaches tortured and killed Dru, drove her mad and turned her into a travesty.† And Dru chose yours truly.† Thereís your bloodline."
"What about the Anointed One?" Lydia asked.
"What about him? He toasted quite nicely when I hoisted him into the sun."
"And the Master sired him?"
"None other.† Theyíre both dust."
"And no one else?"
Spike frowned.† "Excuse me?"† Damn, the prat he used to be kept coming out to play.† He lifted his chin defiantly.† "What are you wantin' to know?"
Lydiaís gaze fell to the table.† She looked intimidated by Spikeís glare.† He felt bad about that.† He softened his voice.† "What do you want to know, luv?"
"Have *you* sired anyone?"
That surprised him.† "Me? No."
Giles looked irritated.† "If you are not going to tell the truth, Spike, this is pointless."
Spikeís ill-fitting conscience balked at being called a liar.† He had always been a bad liar, but now he was actually *bothered* by the thought of lying or being thought a liar.† "And what, pray tell, am I lying about?"† Bloody hell, he even *sounded* like William.
Giles sighed.† "Buffyís friend, Ford."
"Oh. Him. No, that was Dru.† Pet wanted him for a treat.† Never could deny her anything.† Donít know what the boy was thinking. Demanding to be turned like that was idiotic. After double-crossing Buffy, did he actually believe she would allow him to walk away?† He was dust even before his heart stopped beating."
"And your various and sundry minions?" Giles asked.
That was a distant memory.† He hadn't had a minion in years.† "Told you.† Druís treat.† Look, I realize itís a technicality.† I usually brought the unfortunates to her.† Not saying I wasnít responsible, just that *technically* I never sired anyone.† Only one person I ever offered to turn."† He looked at Willow.† "That would be you, Red." =Iím sorry. Truly sorry.= "But youíre sitting here among the living.† Iím no oneís sire."
Spike leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on the highly polished walnut table as a couple of Watchers stared at him with dismay and Quentin Travers watched him with disgust.† Spike smirked.† "Anything else you want to know?"
Lilah caught him looking in her date book. Wesley had been spying, curious, invading her privacy. . .all of the above.
Wesley knew he should feel ashamed.† Ten minutes ago they had been sweaty, naked, and intimate.† His fingertips had traced the line of her spine, feeling the warm velvet of her skin.† Her thighs had pressed against his hips, holding him tightly.† They had shuddered and gazed into each other's eyes--then looked away.† He had rolled off her and silent minutes had passed.† They hadn't touched.
Lilah had been the first to choose to leave. Wesley, who once would have expected Lilah† to be bold, had watched her don her discarded blouse before she rose from the bed to walk into the bathroom. It could have been an action born of modesty, but Wesley suspected it was a symbolic barrier between them.† Their intimacy was only physical.
Lilah had closed the bathroom door behind her, and when Wesley had heard the sound of water running, he had grabbed her briefcase.† He had rummaged through her things searching for. . .
Wesley didn't know what he had hoped to find.† Something.† Anything.† Perhaps it didnít matter.† Perhaps all he had wanted to do was violate her privacy, betray her non-existent trust.† He had found her datebook and begun turning the pages only to look to find Lilah standing in the bathroom doorway, her slender body clad in an expensive white lace bra and French knickers.
Refusing to be flustered, Wesley adopted an insolent expression. He showed her the ouroborus symbol.† "Whatís this?"
She smiled. It was a cool and challenging expression.† "Donít you know?"
"Ouroborus.† Symbol of light and dark, creation and destruction."
"The end of the world."† Lilah walked into the room, her languorous movements distracting and seductive.† "Wesley, after all these years of looking at dusty scrolls, surely youíve seen the prophecy of the End of Days."
"A partial one," he conceded.† "I believe we stole it from your law firm.† You remember that, don't you?"
Lilah's expression became remote. "I remember."
"Something of a defeat, wasn't it?"† His hand lightly skimmed up her arm.
"Lost the battle, not the war."† She shrugged.† "Doesn't change anything."
"Mmm. . .after all there are so many prophecies and apocalypses."
"But only one End of Days," she reminded him. "Only one day when the calendar runs out."
Wesley looked at the depiction of a snake swallowing its tail.† "A rather morbid symbol to keep around."
"Keeps me sharp.† Keeps me on my toes."† Lilah threaded her fingers through his hair.† "Reminds me of whatís important."
"What is important?í
"What I want when I want it."† She knelt on the bed, her right calf pressing against the outside of his left thigh.† "Instant gratification."† Her left calf glided against his right thigh.† "Money.† Power.† Prestige."† She straddled him.† "Sex."
"Eat, drink, and merry?"
"Something like that."† Lilah pressed him back against the pillows.
"And what then?"† Wesley rested his hands on her hips.† "What of true value have you gained?"
She laughed.† "Youíre thinking like the good guys.† Iím not a good guy."† She nuzzled his neck.† "What will I gain?† I told you.† Money, power."† Her teeth nipped lightly at his earlobe. "Sex," she whispered.
Wesley glanced at the datebook lying open on the bed.† "You canít take it with you."
"And what can you take with you?"† She tossed the datebook into her open briefcase then settled on his lap, her damp silk knickers rubbing against him.† "Did I ever tell you about Wolfram and Hart's retirement plan?† Itís quite. . ."† She smiled into Wesley's eyes. "Impressive."
He moved his hands from her hips, to her waist, to her rib cage.
She shifted her weight. "There is something to be said about making pacts with the eternal forces of darkness."
Wesley found the clasp of her bra.
The garment fell away as Lilah told him, "Wolfram and Hart employees have nice golden parachute plans with the darker powers."
"Better to rule in hell, I suppose."
His lips brushed her collar bone. "Mmm-hmmÖ"
Lilah sat back.† "Donít be judgmental."
"You donít honestly believe evil things keep bargains, do you?"† Wesley gripped her waist firmly.† "They donít honor agreements."† He tossed her over and moved quickly so that he was on top of her.† "Surely someone like you understands that."
"What I understand is that you canít trust anyone.† Evil things donít make good friends or keep promises?"† She laughed.† "And the warriors of† light do?†† Look at yourself, Wesley.† Where are your do-good friends?† What did trying to save the world and Angel's son do for you?† Did it bring you happiness?† Respect?† Friendship? . . .Love?† Did they keep their promises to you?"
He grabbed her hands and dragged them over her head. "It brought me one thing."
Only what was between them wasn't even sex.† It was something else, a guttural four letter word.† A word he had been taught a gentlemen did not use to describe his activities with a ladyÖ only Lilah was no lady, and Wesley no longer considered himself a gentleman.
Continued in Chapter Seven: In Need and In Deed