Part 8. Standin' at the Crossroads
You'd have nightmares too.
I haven't slept yet since I killed her. I know I will sleep. Just like I know her face will join the others. They wait until I'm getting comfortable. Then they just stare at me. They don't have to say anything. There's nothing they could say, that I don't already say to myself. And nothing I didn't already say to myself at the time I killed them.
Tonight though, there will be a new face to add to the throng. The men I sent to their deaths, as a diversion, in Pylea. Oh yes, it was as part of a battle plan to free the human slaves, and rescue Cordelia. But I still sent them to their deaths. We won. It was the right, and the only possible, decision. I know that. I told Gunn that at the time. They're still dead. They're still my responsibility, and my deaths. Their faces still haunt me.
Connor's face haunts me. Angel's face, before he pushed that pillow over my face still haunts me. Cordelia's face would haunt me, if she'd actually bothered to deign to come and see me. Fred and Gunn's faces always haunt me. Images of them, and what could have been, that's really fun to live with. Lorne's bloody face when I clocked him over the head, that's a fun one too.
Today, I have another set of images to add to the collection.
Spike, in tears and bewilderment. Giles, in fury and understanding. The girl I killed. The girl I wanted not to trade for the Box of Gavrok. If I hadn't given way to Buffy and Giles, and done that trade, the Major might not have ascended. She'd still be dead. Same result. But the children who died at Graduation needn't have. Giles and I looked through the year book - strange custom that - before the memorial service. Young faces, at the start of their lives. Faces in the throng. Faces that might have lived, if I'd been stronger then.
How strong I am now? I just don't know. The biggest part of me - The Watcher - did what he had to. He knew what had to be done, and didn't hesitate. Father would be so proud. OK, that last bit would be a herald of yet another apocalypse, and since we aren't in Sunnydale, it's accordingly unlikely. I did what had to be done, and as I told Giles, I'm ready to pay the price. Whatever it is.
Part of me. The part that wants it all over with, the part that really can't take much more. That part was happy, when Giles blew up at me in the kitchen. I've seen Giles file. I had to, before I came to Sunnydale. No matter how badly I was prepared for the rest of it. I know what he's done. I know exactly what he's capable of. That part of me that wants this all finished was happy then. It wouldn't have taken him long. I wouldn't have struggled.
I'm still here. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I should be glad, right? Alive, intact, justified, righteous. Fighting the good fight. I should be grieving for a life lost, illusions shattered, shouldn't I? I should be overwhelmed with guilt; for all that there was no choice. Is that it? It's all my fault, for giving her the opportunity, after all. Even if she'd have always found some other way of trying to escape. I should ignore all the work Giles, and the Council, have done, and are doing right now, and go confess. And it's more work too than it should be, because I screwed everything up, like I always do. Isn't confessing what some people would say I should do? Buffy would, I know. She'd be wrong. I do know that. Logic says I should feel no more guilty, right now, than I would for killing a dangerous demon. Logic doesn't have to dream. I do. I know I should feel all these things. I don't. I just feel numb.
I'm smart. I read. I study. I'm trained. I know we're all in some degree of shock. All of us have our own personal demons filtering this experience for us - some of us literally. I know I'm depressed. I have the horrid little pills, and the mood charts, to prove it. I even have enough insight to know I have a few suicidal tendencies right now. But I can't do that to Giles. It just wouldn't be fair. Most of me killed Willow to save him, from having to do it. OK, a small part of me wouldn't have been unhappy if he'd killed me right afterwards. Better him than Lilah. But that would have been selfish, and I'm not allowed to be selfish. I never have.
He's all business now, anyway. The moment I might have got free is past. I have my tasks. I can hear him talking to Spike, and giving him his little jobs. I know neither of us really need to do this. It's all just an exercise in appearances, and giving us something to do, so we don't have to think.
It all went like clockwork. Ambulance, police, undertakers all came and went. "Sign this" and, "Sign that" to Giles. Spike - or William as I had to call him - and I signing where we were told to. In between visitations Giles spoke on his mobile phone to various Council people. It was funny really seeing him with it. I know he hates modern technology, but he's a natural with a mobile, strangely enough. Does it make me really shallow that I'm glad I have a fancier mobile than he has? Or is it a guy thing?
The doctor arrived. He'd spoken with the police, and signed his pre-arranged statement. He made both William and I fill in our little questionnaires. We must have both hit the top of the charts, because he gave us some new pills for tonight, and the next couple of nights, if we need them. No dreams, maybe. I could have kissed him. But I didn't. One doesn't do that sort of thing.
Spike looked a bit wary at the doctor and the pills, but Giles cousin was good. He understood the quite natural concerns, and trust issues, of the vampire, and me. He showed us both, in the medical directory, what we were taking, and the doses that were safe. As I've said before, I think, he's a good doctor. A watcher too, certainly. But also a good doctor. Spike certainly looked a bit more relieved afterwards. Me too, if I'm honest.
That of course was all down to the call I got, over Giles mobile, just after she was removed from the house. My own dear Father. Just ringing up to tear me to shreds, over messing up, "The carefully laid plans of proper watchers." He was just winding up to a really good rant when I got really lucky. The phone battery ran out.
Giles didn't get the landline re-instated when he inherited the place - not really worth it when he didn't live here. With Willow under house arrest/therapy, it wasn't safe to give her access to a phone - as I proved all too badly. So we're on mobiles.
That, of course, meant I had to switch mine on, so Giles could use it if necessary.
At least Father doesn't have this number. Mum does, but he wouldn't think to ask her. I'm not competent enough to own a mobile, in his view. Which is quite true of course, in the circumstances. I'm sure the Council has the number somewhere in my files. But there is no way, in any hell dimension, that my Father would risk losing face enough to ask for it. Not for me, anyway. Even to chew me out, again.
While I deleted, unread, all the text messages from my own dear Lilah Spike rummaged through the CDs. Anything to kill the silence.
From the pained tones of Joe Cocker we moved on to Eric Clapton. Even I can recognise him, and I was never allowed time to listen to music much as a child. Besides I know he's one of Giles favourites, from the hours spent with him in Sunnydale. Even if it was just as background music to researching demons. Oz always insisted on music. Giles always had to keep the boy away from borrowing his records. God! Another one to tell.
We haven't called Sunnydale yet. We can't until she's been scattered. Giles trusts Anya, for some reason. But she's a vengeance demon again, apparently. Wishes could be made. He doesn't trust Xander over this. I can see that alone is tearing him up. Not making the call, even if he can't bear to right now, is even worse. I don't think he can even bear to think how Buffy's going to react, let alone actually talk to her. He's focused on practicalities right now.
One thing Spike hasn't talked about, since I've been here, is Buffy. If her name comes up he goes in on himself. I'd say he goes beyond brooding to the almost catatonic. His eyes show so much pain, they frighten me. Giles doesn't talk about her with him either. Maybe they talked about her before I got here. I don't know, and it would be rude to ask. I am a gentleman after all.
Clapton plays 'Crossroads'. It's appropriate.
"I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knee,
Down to the crossroad, fell down on my knee,
Asked the Lord for mercy, take me if you please."
It's so appropriate it's a wonder Lilah hasn't sent it to me as a token of her what? Affection? Hatred? Lust? Special Project?
"I went down to the crossroad, tried to flag a ride,
Down to the crossroad, tried to flag a ride,
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by."
The mobile rang. Guess who? No, not Father dearest. I should be so lucky. Even worse. My very own ladylove, Lilah. "You've been a very naughty boy. I like it."
From the stereo came the last line of the song.
"And I'm standin' at the crossroads. Believe I'm sinkin' down.
The version of Crossroads is from the Eric Clapton Backtrakin' Album, and is sung by Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Wes isn't too knowledgeable about music, as he knows quite well.
Continued in Part 9. Mine Eyes Dazzle