Part 15. The Boys are Back in Town
It's still less enjoyable than many hell dimensions. And I know all about condemning people to hell dimensions, and the torments thereof. I wish I didn't. I wish so many things; none of which ever come true. Now we're going back to one of my own personal hell dimensions. I have several.
In this one I get to return to the place where I lived down to every expectation of failure drummed into me from childhood. The place I managed to lose not one but two slayers: one to rebellion, one to evil. Well, I paid for that, in blood - mine and others. The place that knows the complete failure: oh so well; and despises it. The place where I have to face those who loved the woman I killed. One of the last places on Earth I ever wanted to return to; and the one place I have to. Oh joy.
We've all got books in front of us. None of us is actually reading them, but they're there. Books as armour; so we don't actually have to talk. Then again that's an ingrained national trait isn't it? Why else would anyone read 'The Times' on a train? Why have a book glued to your face by the mass of sweaty humanity on the Tube, if it's not a defence against having to talk to the person next to you. It works; along with the supplementary allowing you to talk to your neighbour after the train gets stuck in a tunnel for ten minutes. We've been stuck in this plane for hours, but the books are still there, even if none of the pages have been turned, and nobody's talking.
I know what Spike and I are reading. We swapped books before the final match. Before her. We're both reading about thought processes, and changing them to deal with depression. Couldn't, mustn't, have to, should, all the absolutes - all the things I was brought up to be, all that I am, and all wrong according to the books. I'm supposed to be - no that's bad it's another absolute that leads to the black dog of depression; and bad is a label, and labels are bad - no unhealthy not 'bad' - that's a label - according to the books.
He reads like one denying he needs reading glasses. He holds the book at arms length. I hadn't noticed it in the house, but it's obvious on a plane, and looks deeply uncomfortable. Not using glasses is an understandable weakness for one known for 'fists and fangs' I suppose. But it's a weakness I hadn't noticed before. Too much on my mind I expect.
I've spent my life relying on glasses and books - there's never been anything or anyone else I could rely on. Though in the end the books failed me, and I failed. No, I've got that wrong, I failed. I read the books wrong. It's my fault. I always fail.
I know if I could think like these books tell me I would - no - might feel better; without the disgusting pills making me feel like I'm boiling to death at 30,000 ft. But my life is one of absolutes. I don't have that choice. I don't live in the world of the 7.50 from Esher to Waterloo, and my biggest problem in life isn't having a manipulative tosser of a boss, and an unfaithful wife. I live in a world where if I screw up, and don't hold to the absolutes, the entire planet and all it's inhabitants could be destroyed, and/or spend an eternity in torment. I was bred to the absolutes, to do my duty, to know what it is, and to pay the personal consequences without whining about it. I know I would be happier if I could think in terms of the relative, but I don't think in my world that's possible.
If I'm finding it hard I hate to think what it's like for Spike. I haven't had a soul full of absolutes forced into me, to live with a demon full of absolute wants, and a memory full of absolute horrors. If finding the way out of the pit is through the relative, but the only way he can live with what he's done is to follow his conscience, and do what he feels he must, how can he ever be happy. How can any of us? Are we all doomed to feel this bloody miserable for the rest of our lives? And if we are, doesn't somebody have to - so the innocent can be happy, or at least have the chance to heal themselves, like we can't.
I'd talk to Giles about it, but he's put the headphones on, to ensure he doesn't have to talk to either of us. I used my remaining quota of talking to Giles down at the pub, going through why he shouldn't - more absolutes - stake Spike. I'm good at those arguments. I have, after all, had years of practice with myself over how I could justify working with a soulled vampire, and why he wasn't responsible for his actions, but could make amends for them. I've refined them wonderfully - I'd get a First at Oxford with them. I used all of them. Giles, of course, knows them all anyway, and had used them himself to justify his own helping Angel, especially after what Angelus did to him. It didn't help - especially after all Angel put Buffy through, even after returning from hell with his soul intact. He was still spitting blood furious with Spike, and pretty close to returning home with a stake at the ready.
I think it was the disappointment he felt with Spike that made it worse. I know he never really liked Angel, and I could see he'd really started to enjoy Spike's company, as we watched the matches together. The way he giggled when I helped Spike re-do his hair will certainly live with me. I never saw Giles laugh like that before. I don't know if I ever will again. I'd like to. I'd like to smile myself, but I've never had much practice, and I don't know if I can anymore.
I know it was Spike being honest, but most of all giving Buffy the choice what to do with him, that stayed Giles hand. I didn't listen in on the call he made. I feel more than uncomfortable enough about the whole thing as it is, without making it a conference call. From what Giles said, I know she must have said something about what she'd done to Spike that upset Giles, and made Giles sink his pint in one go. When I came back with more beer he just kept muttering that he never should have left them all; that it was all his fault, but no - it wasn't, and he couldn't live their lives for them. When he sank his last pint of the session he did say, "Two wrongs don't make a wrong a right, but if she needs to talk to him, it's her choice. Since I left her to grow up by sinking, rather than swimming, better hope she's finally learnt something, and knows what she's doing. But it's her decision, and the bastard did do the right thing in telling me, even if I hate it, and the right thing in making it up to her on whether or not he comes back. So, let's hope you're right, and that is a good omen. I'm not living through that again. Let's go."
So, we're here, on the world's quietest plane trip.
That's hardly surprising. None of us really wants to go back to Sunnydale. I'm going to give some closure to the loved ones of the girl I killed, and mainly because I can't let Giles go through it alone. I owe him more than that; this is all I can do. I hope it helps. Giles is going because he has too. It's always been down to him, and so he's doing what he always does, even if it's hell. Spike...I don't know. I think that he thinks he needs to face this. I know he wants to repay Giles for all he's done for him, by being there for him in return. I've lost my confidence in my ability to read soulled vampires. Being smothered will do that, strange as it may seem.
I can see this journey's hell on him. When the stewardess came round with the drinks he eyed the bottles like a drowning man looks at a rope. He didn't take one though. Since he didn't I couldn't. Giles gave a rueful smile, and took a fizzy water. We all did, well one needs something to take the pills with. Giles has custody of the little monsters; which remains a good idea. I'm not sure I'd trust myself with a bottle of oblivion. He certainly doesn't.
Giles and Spike are so alike it's scary - well except for the blood drinking, sun allergy thing. Spike put his headphones on as the little plane on the screen moved onto the American continent. Both of them: trying to escape into the music. Both of them failing miserably; but trying the same crutch. They've both got the headphones tuned to the same classic rock channel. With the usual lousy quality of aeroplane headphones that means yours truly gets a distorted stereophonic experience of 'The Boys are Back in Town'.
It's worse when the headphones get collected, along with the blankets and pillows, ahead of landing. Back in LA, with a hire car waiting, courtesy of the Council. I feel sick. Spike looks like he's going to be sick. He's gripped the armrest so hard it's broken. Giles looks ashen, but resolute.
We let the slavering hoards rush to block the exits. Part of it was blatant common sense, in avoiding any sun exposure to our vampire: the rest, I think, was just not wanting to move. But we did. We had to. We all did what we had to, even if it's an absolute and, therefore, likely to hurt. When we got into the aisle, though, Giles put a hand on each of our shoulders for just a moment. It helped. It helped a little, but it did help.
Continued in Part 16. Buffalo Soldier