Part 7. Please Don't Let Me be Misunderstood
She was you know. Mine. No, not in that way, but I l did love her. It was in a different way to Buffy. She was in some ways easier to love. I always understood her, whereas Buffy sometimes seems like a being from another dimension. I could talk to her about subjects that caused Buffy to roll her eyes or fall asleep. I've been her. I've done some monumentally stupid things in my life. Most of them in magic, and most of them through my own rank arrogance. I've got blood on my hands; it never comes off.
Bloody marvellous! Now I'm going to be having 'out dammed spot' going through my head.
I can't afford that. I shouldn't have blown up at Wes that way in the kitchen. He only took a few more minutes of the life she otherwise would have had -maybe an hour or two at most. The anti-depressant/sleeping pill combination was already in the herbal tea I was preparing for her.
Rupert hates that he took those extra minutes, hours. Ripper's angry. She was mine, my responsibility. I failed her. I failed her by not making her leave Sunnydale for Oxford, Harvard, anywhere not there. Anywhere that she wouldn't build up that resentment of being second fiddle. I failed her by not stopping her forays into magic, even if it saved all of us so often. I failed her by not giving her the guidance to stop her following my own mistakes, and going so much further. I failed.
I wasn't going to fail her in my ultimate responsibility. My responsibility as a watcher, yes, but most of all my responsibility as a man, who loved her. It was going to be easy and as painless to her as possible. No matter what it does to Rupert.
Right now I can't afford to be Rupert. I can't unleash Ripper on Wesley. I have to be Giles. Giles knows what must be done, sees things clearly, and gets it done.
She had to die. I knew that. Wes knew that. No choice there, for either of us. It's bred into our bones. If that fails it's drummed into our heads by parents and teachers practically as soon as we can talk. Responsibility. Sacrifice. The Safety of the World Must Come Before Anything Else. A Clear and Present Danger to the World Must be Destroyed. Even if it's someone you love. You put it down, like you would a beloved pet that had savaged the child next door. You love it but its tasted blood. You hold it lovingly, while the vet injects it with an easy painless death. It's still dead, and you still killed it. But it's what you do. No matter what the personal cost.
I'd already skated dangerously close to the edge of acceptable by bringing her here and trying to help her. But I did honestly think she'd try. I was wrong. I wish I wasn't. But that doesn't help. There'll be time for chest beating, diving deeply into a whisky bottle and all that misery later on. Right now I have a body upstairs, a semi-catatonic vampire whose dealing with some major issues anyway, and a fellow watcher in the kitchen who's just killed someone.
This day just gets better and better.
He is a fellow watcher you know. Just like I was still a watcher when that bastard Travers fired me. It's in you. I don't follow all that Human Genome thing. Demon lore keeps me more than busy enough. But I know we're all interbred for magic, brains, and ruthlessness. It's in the blood. I'm a watcher whether I'm in Sunnydale, studying with the Coven in Devon or right here. He's a watcher. He was a watcher fighting the good fight in LA. He was a watcher up in that bedroom.
So it's a good job I'd already made the calls this morning to the Council, and to my cousin. Oh yes, he may be a doctor and covered by a Hippocratic oath, but he's a watcher too. He's ready to come and certify that Ms Rosenberg was deeply depressed, following the tragic death of her lover and dreadful shooting of her best friend. It's all part of the official story; death by overdose of prescription medication.
Wesley of course buggered that one up nicely. But it won't matter. The calls have already been made to contacts in the police, the undertakers the Council always uses, the US embassy, everyone concerned in fact. The verdict will be overdose, no matter that it was suffocation. The police will just come as a matter of form. The body will be collected. The forms will be filled in. The correct rituals observed. I said once to Buffy the Council's a bit ham fisted at the rough stuff, though they get it done. I also told her they're the best in the World at the bureaucratic, stroke of the pen, string-pulling. I was right; they are. So, now all I have to do is make the trigger call. Alert them to the slight change in circumstances. Wait 10 minutes and then call the ambulance. The call will be routed to an all ready prepared crew.
That's the easy part. I'm going to have to call Sunnydale. I don't know how I'm going to be able to do that. I really don't. But I will have to. Right now I have to put that call and those feelings to one side. It's not easy. Xander, Buffy and the others made fun of that cliché "the British stiff upper lip" over the years. But it's not funny. It hurts to have to do this. I may never be able to tell anyone how much it hurts. But right now it's a cliché I have to live up to. It's the only way to function. To do what has to be done.
You know what's almost the worst thing? In a smorgasbord of worst things. There can't even be a real funeral for her, amongst her friends, with that bizarre American custom of an open coffin, buried in her native soil. She was a witch, a very powerful one. I told her once she wouldn't want to meet the sort of people who could raise the dead like she did Buffy. That method wouldn't work on her. She died from human means, and there are no more Urns. There are other methods though. But she wouldn't be her. She'd be a slave with no will of her own, and with her power intact she'd be a terrible danger.
There was a reason they used to burn witches and scatter the ashes in running water. Ok most of it was the patriarchal oppression of women, religious excess, and sheer banal human evil. But like so many folk practices there was originally a purpose. It was to prevent revenant witch slaves. She will be in the crematorium by tomorrow. We'll scatter her ashes on the Thames; it'll be too dangerous to wait. There are sorcerers in London that would kill to get hold of her body.
I hate that we have to do this. I hate that I won't be able to tell those in Sunnydale that loved her what's going to happen. That the ashes we'll bring back won' t even be hers. But after what happened with Buffy I just can't take that risk. I want to. I can't.
But what is the worst thing? She has to be cremated. She's Jewish and I'm not only putting her in an oven, I'm doing something that's against her family's faith. Sacrilege essentially. That's how her father will view it. It's how the part of me that respects a persons religion, even if I have none myself, views it. The me that loathes and despises the nazis and everything they stood for and did is even more horrified.
Oh I have a get out clause. I'm the executor of her will, all of their wills actually. I have letters signed by Willow, Xander and Anya all expressing the instruction they be cremated. We sorted this out last summer. In case of death by neck rupture they wanted to be cremated. It's always been my instruction whatever the cause. But it's the usual thing here at home. Not there. I don't know why. It would dramatically reduce the number of fledglings Buffy would have to stake. But none of them wanted to have to stake each other. Xander's never really got over staking that friend of his, even if it was by accident. They never managed to bring themselves to stake Harmony, and they hated her. Spike of course is in a category all his own. So cremation and no need for their friends to suffer more than necessary.
But there is no choice. I have to do it. Even if it kills yet more of me.
So time to do. Time for the practicalities. Time to stop Rupert's self-indulgence. Time to bury the anger of Ripper once again. Time to be Giles. And people wonder how I can understand the conflicting natures of soulled vampires, or even Spike before he got his.
Mr William Grey, my friend and occasional business associate in California, for the police record. Over here to enjoy the World Cup in a country where he can watch it live, and that understands, and appreciates, it. Also over as friend and companion to the much loved Ms Rosenberg. Being treated for HADD and depression by my cousin. Depression being due to the loss of the greatly missed Ms McClay, a dear friend and support to all of us. Mr Grey? Seemed appropriate. I even got him the false id to prove it.
Why'd I do that? Why did I let him in? Why didn't I stake him? It's not as if he hasn't hurt me and mine. Sometimes I don't know why to be honest. Yes he's now a potentially powerful tool for the war on the side of good. It's why the Council will now cover up the fact that he's a vampire in a house of death. Severe sun allergy - witness can't go outside during the day. Well it's even true, just a tad more excessive than most photosensitivity, and a lot more terminal.
Ripper loves his company, did so even before the soul. But then Ripper never let ethical issues stop him from doing anything. Rupert loved having a countryman to ease the loneliness of being a stranger in a strange land, but hated that he was going against all the basis of his beliefs to have that, and took it out on Spike. Giles recognised a potential ally, tried to get him on-side, got rebuffed and never quite forgot that.
He's changed. I'm still shocked really that he went to get a soul willingly. He knew what it'd do to him. He's seen it. I've seen it. It makes me forgive him a lot. He's not forgiven himself. I'd like to sit down with him right now and have a long discussion on ethics, why this had to happen and why it's not evil. Why it was worth him getting a soul if that's what people with souls do. After all in this soul business he is a child in so many ways. It's been so long since he had to deal with one. But right now I've got to get into business mode.
So I do.
I got Wes to check the fridge for Spike's meals. I'm pretty sure we're out, but if even nobbled policemen are coming round the house it's never good to have blood in the fridge. It also means I don't have to look at Wes right now. Which is a big advantage. Rational Giles knows and feels some gratitude even, the rest of me is contemplating the attractions of Grievous Bodily Harm. I'd get away with it too.
I went upstairs. First of all attend to the living, well he always seems that way. Even at his most miserable I don't think I ever saw anyone whose emotions are so close to the surface, and who throws himself into life and it's pleasures and pains so much. Besides, I want a minute alone with Willow before the drama starts, and not with a vampire sitting outside the door. I'm not kidding myself that he won't hear it anyway if he wants. But I'd like the illusion of privacy right now at least.
I crouched down next to him. His eyes were puzzled, head tilted slightly, hands buried in his curly hair and tears were rolling slowly down his sharp cheeks. I put a hand on his shoulder. He looked at me and said, "Why?"
I nearly lost it right there. But right now I can't afford to. None of us can.
I looked straight at him. "A short question, that demands a very long answer. Spike, I promise we'll talk, but for now? There was no choice. I wish there was. We tried everything. It didn't work. Now I need you to do some things. For me."
He looked right into my eyes, soul to soul. Must have seen what he needed as he nodded and said, "Later?"
I nodded, helped him stand and we went downstairs. I explained. "Soon I'm going to make a call. It's all arranged." Quizzical Spike expression.
"The ambulance will come for Willow, the police will arrive." Alarmed Spike expression.
"But it's all sorted. The statements are all ready, all you need to do it sign yours." Shocked Spike expression.
"Just so you know the story is…" So I told him the official version. He slumped back down on the sofa.
"The doctor will be coming and he'll give you something." Quite frankly alarmed Spike expression. Bugger! Didn't even think of that. So reassurance time.
"I'd take them myself but I've too much to do. I wish she'd have been as responsive as you to help. You've made me proud Spike." Great now he's crying again. We don't have the time for this right now. I wish we did.
"We all loved her. Nobody wanted to do this, and we'll all shout and cry later. Now there's too much to do. It's the only solution, and I need your help."
With all the usual strength he shows when it comes to the crunch he visibly brought himself together and said, "What do I have to do?" I wasn't lying. I am proud of him.
"Four people came home from the depressing match. One went upstairs with some herbal tea. Her friend William didn't want to re-watch the low lights of how we went out of the World Cup. He got his homework books out and put on some music. He put away the guilt list."
Don't want a copper reading "120 Years of Mayhem" - the ultimate contrast to the sleep inducing '100 Years of Solitude' I'd tried reading for relaxation. Don't want another death on my conscience. I've read Spike's book. I know what went on. Bits shocked even me, let alone even an allied civilian.
I continued. "He put away the thoughts work for all of you." Too orientated to dealing with non-copper friendly issues. "He and Wesley listened to music and read until I went upstairs and screamed. You both came rushing upstairs and saw she was gone. I called an ambulance anyway. I need you to lay yours and Wesley's books and charts out in here. Wesley is sorting out the kitchen. I'm going upstairs now. Everything clear?"
Eyes scrunched up, chewing on his lip, fortunately not in game face, he nodded. Actually, and somewhat strangely, he hasn't morphed once yet. It's the man and the soul that's dealing with all this. I'm not sure that's easier or worse for me.
I gripped his shoulder, squeezed it once and went upstairs.
I opened the door and went in. I could hear the plaintive sounds of Joe Cocker in the background. Joe was singing 'Oh Lord, Please Don't Let Me be Misunderstood'. Trust Spike to find the perfect background music from the admittedly limited choice available in the house.
I forced my attention away from the music to what I'd been dreading.
Spike hadn't touched anything. The pillow was still over her face. I took it away. Blinked away the tears I can't let fall yet and took it into my room. I took one of mine and placed it under her head. I wiped her face. I took the pill bottles out of my pocket. Wiped them, put her fingers round them, and using the ever-trusty handkerchief placed them on the bedside table. I went downstairs picked up the teacup with a little of the pills and herbal tea mixture and repeated the action I'd done with the pills. I know it's not really necessary, but we're trained to cover all angles. I focused in fact on all the little details. Anything rather than look at her. Finally there weren't any more little jobs to do.
So I took a deep breath. I kissed her forehead, stroked her limp red hair for the last time, and made the call.
Continued in Part 8. Standin' at the Crossroads