Part 5. I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
It's ironic really.
I left Los Angeles to escape a soulled vampire of the line of Aurelius. Now I'm sleeping with one. Of course that wasn't the only reason to leave. Being left to die alone by your "friends" will do that. Having the souled vampire you've forgiven time after time try to smother you is quite another. Having the woman you love tell you never to darken the doorstep of the place you're still the boss of is another to add to the growing list. Having her spurn you for the best friend you took a bullet for just puts the icing on the cake. Don't get me started on Cordelia. I never would have believed she'd abandon me.
Then there's Lilah.
Just thinking of her makes me feel sick. Yes I gave her a killer line as she left the apartment. What I wanted to do was to jump straight into the shower and clean every square inch of my skin and hair of her. I wanted to burn the sheets. Open the windows and spiritually cleanse the flat and me with incense. I didn't. I lay there, in sheets that stank of her stifling perfume, and sex.
Getting up would have required more energy than I could manage right then. I did manage it the next morning. I left my flat; it was contaminated. So am I. I shave each morning. It's hard to muster the energy but I do. I was well trained. But when I shave I have to look at myself in the mirror - I hate that. I see someone slipping away more and more each day. I can see I've aged. I feel 100.
It's not like I'm not used to feeling a failure. I've been a failure since I wasn't fast enough to talk. I was probably marked down as a failure the moment I was born. If it had been noticeable any earlier Father would have made sure I never became a problem. I know that. It's not like I'm not used to feeling unwanted or unloved either. The birthday card I got when I was 8 let me know that one. It was a nice card. Some writing in it would have been nicer. Even just a love Mum and Father. Never asked for hearts and flowers, never got it either. But a blank card was a bit much for a child in prep school. Eight-year-olds can be cruel.
It's strange. It seems Spike and I both went to the same school, and I don't think 120 odd years makes that much difference to the pleasures and horrors of an English public school education. It's quite funny actually. Maybe we should go to the Old Boys Dinner together. Both get some payback.
He was certainly the last person/being/thing - you'll have to excuse me but my worldview keeps swinging a bit at the moment - that I expected to see when I threw myself on the mercy of Rupert Giles. Willow was probably the second least likely. The last I heard from Cordelia was that she was doing well at University and was happy. So you'll understand that seeing her as she is, and more so hearing what she did, was a shock.
Then again Rupert Giles house was also the last place I ever expected to be. I tried other alternatives. I took a road trip. When I came back from ghastly fast food places to squalid motels she was in the bed. I locked myself in the flat. She phoned me every hour on the hour. I changed the number. It took her 20 minutes to be back. I pulled out the phone. She filled my mobile phone with calls and texts; I switched it off. Books arrived every hour. UPS must love Lilah; I don't. She's not imaginative though. Honestly, The Manchurian Candidate, Justine by De Sade on top of the Inferno, it's hardly subtle.
Eventually I thought I'd leave the US, get some air of home. Not that I ever really had a home. I was trained to know that from a very early age by Father. "Wesley a watcher may have to move anywhere at a moments notice. We have no home".
The first thing I noticed was all the flags of St George - they were everywhere, on car and van aerials, hanging outside pubs, from flats and homes. Yeah, you see them everywhere in the States - especially in sububia like Sunnydale. Even Wille's had one. I suspect some of the demons had flags outside their lairs. Even in LA after last September there were more flags. But you hardly ever see them at home. Once a year at the Last Night of the Proms and Royal Weddings and Funerals, but not otherwise. So it was a shock to see them everywhere.
I'd forgotten it was the World Cup. Doesn't that make me a traitor? Well I'm used to that particular little feeling. But it's not really surprising. I wasn't allowed to watch sport when I was growing up. That took valuable time away from Latin, Greek and demon languages. At my parents' house I wasn't allowed any television at all. At school only Blue Peter, nothing as evil or fun as Magpie, Match of the Day let alone Tiswas, which the children with the fun parents were allowed to watch. I got the usual watcher approved curriculum at one of the older colleges at Oxford - official course plus all the extras in the evening. So of course I got no time to follow a team or get into the international matches.
Being so busy in possibly the only country in the World - I'm unsure about Canada - not to follow football, or the World Cup, it's not surprising I didn't realise what the flags were up for. The first chap I asked nearly had a heart attack when I asked him what they were up for. Then of course I got a blow by blow account of the Argentina match.
It's not that my parents are dead. I often wish my father were. I've promised myself a small dance on his grave when the time comes. A small pleasure but one has to have something to look forward to. Mum would let me in, but he wouldn't. He'd be horrified I was running from a woman. But what's new. He's been horrified at everything I've ever done. I don't know why he pushed so hard in the Council for me to replace Rupert. Did he want me to fail? Show him he'd always been right about me, as he is about oh so much else.
I was chased out of 3 hotels by calls, notes, and flowers. Doesn’t the woman know I have hay fever? You'd think they'd have my LA medical files, they're big enough, and I know it includes the allergies. They have everything else. My last hope, other than Rupert was my only friend from school. His wife insisted I left after Lilah rang all night every night on the hour. I don’t blame him. They had a small child. Looking at the baby was bloody hard anyway.
So I ended up at Rupert Giles doorstep and watching a football match with a witch, a watcher and a vampire. And I thought my life was odd enough.
Once the match was over Giles took me into the kitchen, where he could keep an eye on Willow and Spike, and we talked. It's such a relief to have someone to listen.
He dragged me along to his cousin the next morning. So now I'm taking my morning pills along with the vampire and the witch. I'm sitting on the sofa doing my homework and discussing my ABCs with a HADD vampire with post re-souling depression. Apparently I have depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I hate the pills - they make me feel hot all the time, even though the weather is so dull Spike can go to the pub for football matches, and does.
They all go, or watch the matches at home with a few beers. It's just so domestic, after all the high drama of life with Angel. It's taking me a while, but it's much more enjoyable. It's fun actually. Watching Spike and Giles watch the Spain match and hearing the, "Does the Spanish manager know they've invented anti-perspirant?" In the Italy vs Korea match, "I thought it was usually us that had the ref against us?" And, "I thought this was footy not boxing." followed by, "Enough blood there for elevensies." The day after we got, "The Italians sacked that Korean geezer? Not right mate."
We all got a laugh when the football pundits reported the American match report of the Mexico vs USA match - bore not one whit of resemblance to the international language of football at all. Incredible result though. It feels good laughing with Spike and Giles. I thought I had Gunn to laugh with; I was wrong. But I've got just so much more in common with Giles, now we've cleared the air, and got some distance from Sunnydale.
Once I got over the shock of Spike asking for, and getting a soul, I found I had a lot I could talk to Spike about. He can even make me laugh about Angel. That makes me feel a bit better. Not much, but every bit helps. He was more than shocked to find he's an uncle/nephew/great nephew. Not surprising really. It took a few pieces of paper to sort out the family trees.
It was good to talk over the prophecy with Giles, to have someone to talk with that understands, and doesn't judge and condemn.
Willow doesn't laugh. She doesn't understand what she's done. She snarks occasionally. I've only been here a couple of days, but I've noticed her glare hatred towards Spike and Giles, when she thinks they aren't watching. I've felt it on my back too. I know that feeling too well to miss it; I wish I didn't.
Tonight we have what Giles and Spike claim is a great treat. In honour of our imminent defeat by Brazil the BBC is showing the 1970 Brazil vs England quarter final. According to them, and the football pundits, this is one of the great matches in history, and a great English failure. And we love those as a nation, don't we.
Giles watched it in Oxford just before his escape from the Council: in the years he became his own man, found his own interests, did what he wanted with his life - the complete antithesis to my own watcher life of conformity.
Spike watched it in Mexico. He told us some of Spike and Dru's tour of North America 1968-71. The mention of Woodstock led to a long discussion with Giles on the relative merits of Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker. This of course gave them an excuse to get the albums out. They both loved the Hendrix version of the US anthem. If you've never seen a watcher and a vampire air guitar to Jimi Hendrix you've missed one of the most truly bizarre sights of the new century.
I preferred Joe Cocker, and Willow didn't threaten to smash his albums. So in the run up to the match we listened to Joe Cocker singing 'I get by with a little help from my friends'. You know I think I just might?
The pain and striving in his voice moved Giles and Spike too. The tears that had threatened to pour from Spike's eyes when he was talking about what he'd done at Woodstock made a reappearance. They made another reappearance when the curry arrived. It seems Spike and Giles are having an ongoing 'who can eat the hottest curry' contest. I fail to see why Giles would do that when his opponent's taste buds will just regenerate. But I've missed curry, and they've certainly found a good curry house that delivers.
It was while we three blokes were unpacking the curry, and checking the beer for optimum coldness, that we made a mistake. Well, my mistake for having left my triband mobile phone in my room. I'd got it charged for emergencies, but it was switched off to avoid evil lawyer bitches working for hell.
Willow had excused herself to go to the loo. Can't exactly go with her, any of us.
Unpacking an especially vicious looking vindaloo I spilt some sauce on my shirt. So I went upstairs to change. Getting out a new shirt, I noticed the phone was missing. Going past the loo to talk to Giles about it, I heard Willow talking.
I could hear, "Xander please. I just need something of hers. Please go to my jewellery box. There's a gold circle in there with pretty patterns, it's the only one in the box. It was the first thing Tara ever gave me. I can't sleep. It's awful…Spike's here…Yeah me too. Giles is all over him and won't let me have anything…I need you Xand…Please, you'll get it for me? Please Xand I need you here, and I need it…Please don't tell Giles, he'll only talk it over with Spike and I can't bear to hear her name on his lips…I hate hearing him talk about Anya… Yeah, is too…So you're not going to talk to her? Good she's not good enough for my best friend…You'll do it? I knew I could rely on my Xander shaped friend. Love you." Then silence. This cannot be good.
I went downstairs, but was followed almost straight away by Willow. Need some quality watcher time to discuss this. So it'll have to wait for beer, curry and classic 'footy'. Giles and Spike assure me this is the correct term.
So 'sorted' as Spike put it we sat round to watch. Spike and Giles are in full flight. The national football myths I have to look for are, "Bloody great save by Banks" followed by, "He'd got a better haircut than Seaman as well" from Giles. Also I have to look for, "Tackle by Moore," "The exchange of shirt and handshake between Pele and Moore" and, "A bleeding superb goal by Jairzinho".
It started and the save was good. Of course it was the original commentators. Every time they mispronounced the Brazilian names there were anguished howls, and corrections, from both Spike and Giles. I speak Portuguese as well, but I'm not as vocal a person. I knew Giles spoke it. The fact Spike does was a surprise. That surprise must have showed as he said, "Spent a lot of time down Brasil way mate. Couldn't do that just being able to say, "uma cerveja." He pronounced it right too, lots of sneering, even pronounced "Brasil" properly too, swallowing the end. I shouldn't be surprised, Angel always enjoyed showing off speaking different languages. But Spike always portrayed himself as a bit of a thug, so it was a shock.
There was also, "Knew I should have eaten Revie before he ruined the England team," from Spike. "I'd forgotten how little the teams ran in those days," from Giles. "Martin Peters, Fanny Lee…Giles we have to watch The Italian Job," from Spike. "They kicked each other then too?" from Willow. "Bobby Charlton with hair!" from Giles. "Yeah, had a bit more meself then." from Spike. Not sure I want to imagine either Hippy! Spike! Or Hells Angel! Spike! Which would seem to be the options offered by the era in question.
I slipped upstairs at the short break to write a short note. I passed it to Giles while getting us both more beer.
It was a nice goal; but we still lost, and when she's asleep I've got to talk to Giles. It never ends, does it?
Continued in Part 6. Thirty Years of Hurt