18.The Perfumes of Arabia
Oz transformed fully into wolf form as he sprung towards Giles. Only the shredded remains of his jeans slowed him down enough for me to catch him. I had to. In wolf form, a bite, or a bloody scratch, and we get a were-watcher, even if he survives the attack. Furry is not an option - not if I've got anything to do with it. In wolf form I can stop him. I don't want to hurt him. God knows, I don't think I ever want to hurt anyone ever again. But this time I've got to, to save a friend - even if I know I don't deserve him.
Buffy ran towards us. I just had time to shout. "Giles, Wes, keep them all away, they'll get infected."
Talons ripped my skin, with hot breath at my throat. I had to vamp. I'm stronger that way. So's the demon. It's the demon that's needed right now - even if I hate it. Another smashed coffee table. There was rolling, biting, slashing, claws tearing at each other, but I got the bite in. Strong powerful blood that tasted like nectar, it was so full of power. Blood I didn't want to drink. Blood of Buffy's friend. Blood that burned like battery acid as it flowed down my throat. Blood I had to drink to weaken him enough to subdue him, without killing. Because I know perfectly well that would destroy what's left of me.
I was drunk with the blood, but I still heard the dark haired English boy say, "Stop."
I felt the magic.
Oz froze. I stopped drinking and withdrew.
My blood's all over Oz. My nails tore through his fur, and his blood's all over me. I wiped my mouth with my hands.
Who would have thought the kid would have so much blood in him. Yeah, I know it's a mis-quote - so, sue me. But there's so much blood, and so much of it on my hands. Not just his, and not just a damned spot of it either. Oceans of blood: covering my hands. Overflowing: swamping everyone and everything. God, I once said I'd do the backstroke in Buffy's blood. With all the blood I've shed, I could have done.
All the perfumes of Arabia can't sweeten my hands.
It's the first blood on my hands since I got my soul back. I'm stained again. Unclean again. But, who am I kidding? There's so much blood soaked into my hands that I'll never get them clean. Doesn't mean to say I'm gonna stop trying. Nothing else I can do; is there?
Right now the idea of a nice dark cave, away from everyone, and everything, would be just be so nice. I can't do this. I can't just dive back into life. I just want some peace. I want some sleep. I want the screams in my head to just stop. Just for a minute. That's all I want. Some silence. Just so I can get my bearings. Then they can start right up again. I deserve them after all. But now the screams in my head have joined with the ones in this room. Screams, and everyone yelling at each other. But, there's so much noise in my head I can't make anyone out clearly. You try screams with vamp hearing. It hurts. It's so weird that we make so many screams, when it hurts so much.
With a soul it's so much worse. I can feel the screams. I couldn't before. They hurt my ears, but gladdened my heart - even if it couldn't beat. But I deserve this torment. A nice dark cave might be so tempting right now. But that's brooding. It's self- indulgent crap, and doesn't help anyone. I need to start making some amends, and being useful to those that helped me when they didn't have to. So, snap to it Spike.
"Thank you. Mike, is it?" said Giles.
"Yeah. But I didn't do it for you. I did it for Oz, so he didn't kill again. I promised him I'd stop him if it happened again. Each time it's harder to come back to human. He's my mate. So, I did it for him. Not you - not if you've done anything to his girl. Right now, I'm drained, and I'm going to look after my friend."
"Actually, you're not. Spike's right. You could get infected, with all that blood around. All of you could, except for Spike and me. I don't want to chain any of you up every month. I had enough of that with Xander. Spike and I will clean Oz's wounds, and then chain him up." said Anya, bearing kitchen towels to mop up the blood. "Spike, get the chains, I'll start on cleaning him up."
"Gotta love a practical demon." Everyone in the room glared at me. Bugger. "In a friends only sort of way of course."
"You're not getting blood all over my weapons chest. I'll get the restraints, and put them on the floor, but then I want to know what's the story about the ashes. I can't believe there'd be a mix up with her ashes. That's just too horrible. But we need to stop Oz from hurting himself, or Giles, first." said Buffy, looking bewildered, stompy footed, and deeply bothered.
"Me too", said Dawn. She went into the kitchen, and returned with plastic bags to put the towels in. Then brought the medical kit.
"Well, I want answers now. Where is Willow? What have you done with my best friend's body? Destroyed the evidence? Now it's time to kill Oz, coz he knows better. That it? Think we're stupid enough to accept a fake? Coz, - not that dumb." I'd frequently beg to differ on that last point, but right now, I only wish I could.
"Xander, please. That's enough. We're all upset, but I'm sure there's a rational explanation for all this. There has to be. And you're upsetting Dawn." Said Buffy.
"I'm sorry to upset Dawn. But I want an explanation, and I want it now. I'm not allowing my friend to be chained up by a filthy demon, and I wish..."
Anya reapplied the gag. "I've had enough of being insulted. And you despise vengeance demons, so you don't get a wish."
We finished tending Oz's wounds, cleaned him up, and chained him up. We cleaned up the area, and ourselves in the kitchen. Then Anya and I carried him over to Mike, who was looking worried.
Time for some answers. Bugger.
Giles began. "Buffy, you aren't going to like this. I don't. Nobody would. I could lie to you, and say there was a mix up at the funeral parlour. I won't. I can't. There wasn't. It's not Willow. Her funeral was in England. The Council insisted."
"You knew?" Buffy said to me.
I looked at Giles. I can't lie to her. I never could. He nodded almost imperceptibly, but enough. "Yes, I did. We were all there at the funeral. She was among friends. We all tried to help, to be there for her. We failed. Buffy I'm so sorry, but everyone tried so hard. And, at the last, she wasn't alone."
"But why? I don't understand. Why not bring her home?"
"Witch slaves? Am I right Giles?" Anya said.
"Uh?" Said Dawn. Muffled shouts from Xander.
"Such a powerful witch can be resurrected, as a mindless slave. She can be brought back from her coffin, or from ash. She'd be lethal, and a threat to the World. The Council insisted. There was no choice. She was scattered, with due ceremony. She's at peace."
"But why this farce with this fake? Why not just tell us. Why didn't you trust us? That hurts, Giles." Pleaded Buffy.
"I trusted you, Buffy. I'd always trust you. But after you were resurrected we couldn't take the chance of the same thing happening with Willow. There's no more urns - it wouldn't work like it did on you. What would come back wouldn't be Willow. We couldn't trust that no-one would try to resurrect her. Or, since Anya is a vengeance demon, make a wish - which always backfire. I'm sorry, Buffy, there was no other way. But we wanted you all to have some peace, some closure, and a grave to mourn at. That was why there's all this. I'm sorry, it wasn't meant to hurt you."
"It did. I just don't know what to believe anymore. I trust you, Giles, you know that. So I'm gonna have to try and deal. But...but it's so hard. I just don't get all of this. Hey, simple slayer here. Resurrection spells, witch slaves, it's all complicated stuff way beyond me. But, I trust you and that's the important thing." Buffy nodded firmly.
Whew. That went better than I expected. Giles, Wes and I looked at each other, and we all breathed out - even if I didn't need to.
Then there was the sound of a powerful car stopping outside. There was the click of high heels, and a knock on the door.
Dawn opened the door, and a tall brunette stepped into the room.
"Lilah." Sighed Wes.
"Lover." She purred.
"Wesley had sex? Wesley has an orgasm buddy?" From Anya - who else?
"Hardly what I'd call her. But it's not exactly unknown for me to enjoy some female company, Anya. Though enjoy is hardly the term I'd use in reference to this particular tart." Wes said.
"Not really surprising, from what you told us." Giles said, cleaning his glasses. This cannot be a promising sign - if the glasses are being rubbed. Let's face it; we're all royally buggered, and it's only gonna get worse, now the learned bitch representing Hell's here.
"You kissed and told. Wesley, I'm shocked. I thought a gentleman never tells."
"You're no lady. You don't qualify." 1-1 so far. Good to see Wes holding his own.
So this was the infamous Lilah. Statuesque, nice figure, well groomed hair, and clearly expensive designer business slut-wear. Pretty obvious why Wes didn't kick her out of bed. Pretty obvious why he wouldn't want a second go. No sensible male goes back to a black widow spider once he's escaped with his head intact. Either head in fact. I've never claimed to be sensible - alive or dead.
"Nice shoes. K-Mart having a reject sale?" She said, looking with some distaste at Dawn's shoes. Dawn's jaw dropped, and her face flushed red.
I'd say something snarky, but Lilah's shoes struck me dumb. They're good ones, Ferragamo, or Patrick Cox. How does a male vampire know so much about women's shoes? Not a natural thing you'd think. Not when he spent over a century with Dru. Not when Dru had to keep playing the Cinderella game. Choose a victim by her shoes. See if it fits Princess's foot. If the shoe fits: rip out the heart to save Cinderella from the bad daddy, make love drenched in the blood, 'til Prince and Princess are stuck together forever and ever. So much blood. So much pain. So many shoes - all sodden with the blood. I'm going to be seeing this forever. I see it today. There's no escape. There won't be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. God, how do I do this? How am I supposed to live with this? With what I've done, what I've seen?
"Hey!" From Buffy, in defending her sister/cub mode. Wouldn't want to be Lilah.
"Mm...The famous Miss Summers. I'd expected a woman, not a pre-pubescent boy. No wonder Angel prefers Miss Chase. A man needs a real woman."
"Really. Wesley, you slept with this?" Giles said.
"Hey!" From Buffy, who continued, "And in what bizarro world would Angel ever prefer Cordelia to me?"
Guess I've got to take it one step at a time. Only thing I can do. Small steps. And nobody hurts my girls - even if I've forfeited the right to call them that. "Hey! That's not nice." Well it was totally out of order. What she said about Angel though; that's interesting. There's a scar on her neck. I took a sniff. It was old, stale, and masked by other scents, including Wes's but there was a faint hint of Peaches. That stupid, idiotic, bastard. I can't believe he'd do that to us, all over again.
Lilah smiled at Buffy, like a cat munching on a fat canary. "Oh, the same one where he and Darla had such a lovely baby boy. Lovely couple, when they weren't killing my colleagues that is. Such a shame about what happened to the kid. What, he didn't tell you? I'm shocked. I thought you were soulmates." Buffy collapsed on the sofa looking stricken. I can't go to her. I'm unclean. She wouldn't want me to anyway.
"You utter cow." Spat Wes.
"You boys didn't tell her? That's not very open and honest. I thought you're the heroes. I am so disappointed." She all but wagged her fingers at us.
"You knew", from Buffy to Giles, who'd moved towards her.
"Only what Wes told us. I'm sorry. I really thought Angel would have told you."
"I trusted you. How many more things haven't you told me? What else have you done? How many more things have you forgotten to tell me? How much more am I supposed to take. Coz...running on empty here. There's nothing left. I'm so tired. Just...just leave me alone." Buffy cried, then slumped on the sofa.
"Darling. Your hands look so lovely with blood on them." Lilah said to Wes.
"There's no blood on him. It's on Spike and Anya. But mostly Spike." From Dawn - who'd stopped looking at her shoes.
"Really?" She picked up Wes's right hand and licked his palm, moaning like someone eating the finest foie gras. She did an upper body shimmer of pleasure, and said, "tastes like blood to me." She licked her lips and continued, "Mm...Redhead, faint hint of computer, with an underlying theme of magic. Chateau Sunnydale 1999 Graduation Class?"
"What?" In stereo from the Summers girls.
"Oh. Well that explains things." Anya said.
There were muffled growls, and threats coming from Xander. The Warlock bloke kept quiet, while keeping an eye out on the unconscious werewolf.
Giles and I echoed the stereo effect with, "Bloody hell."
"You bitch." Said Wes, quite coldly.
"It's why you love me, you know that." Lilah said, with a sultry look at Wes.
"You've no choice not any more. Think they'll accept you now? After they know? After they know you put a pillow over her head, and smothered the breath out of their beloved little Willow? Oh, no. You've made your bed. I know you liked that bed. It's time to lie down in it. It'll be fun. And you really don't have a choice - not any more. You're mine, and we both belong to Wolfram and Hart. They're the only ones who can protect you. Think the Council will: now they all know? Or would you have a tragic accident? That would be such a shame. You're all alone. Time to come with me Wesley - again."
The silence in the room was tangible - weight, mass, the lot. All noise seemed to have been pulled into the black hole that was Lilah.
Giles and I looked each other in the eyes. We both know what this is likely to cost. I don't see Buffy forgiving either of us for this. She'll see it as a betrayal, and on so many levels it is. But if I turn my back now, after everything they both did for me, I'll be beneath contempt. Ok, I am anyway. But, if I'm gonna make a new start; it's got to be the right start. It's got to be doing the right thing. The right thing isn't turning your back on a friend in need of saving, even if it costs you the World.
The hope of forgiveness from Buffy, and acceptance from Dawn, is my World. I know I just blew that straight out of the water. But I know that if Giles, and me - I know to a much lesser extent, turn our backs on him now, he would fall into darkness. I spent over a century in darkness. It sucks - and that ain't a pun. It just is. If I have to give up my World to save a friend from that, I will. I just did in fact. So did Giles. I can see it in his eyes.
"He's not alone." Giles put his hand on Wes's shoulder.
"Too bleeding right he ain't." I put mine on his other shoulder.
The amazed gratitude in Wes's eyes made it almost worth it.
"You killed Willow?" Buffy said in disbelief to Wes. He closed his eyes.
Xander worked the gag loose. "I told you she was murdered. Did anyone listen to the Xandman? No! It's all; Spike's got a soul now, everything's fine, everything forgiven and forgotten. It's all; Giles would never let anything happen to Willow, you're a mad jealous bigot, Xander. I'm not, and she's dead because of it."
"I should have seen and acted earlier. I remember when you wouldn't trade the box for my Will, you bastard. Why did you have to kill her? She was getting better. She would have come back to me. I know she would. And now she never ever will. And it's all your fault. All three of you English bastards. You're all gonna pay. I'm staking that thing, the moment I get out of this. And you two - I'm going to the authorities. You don't get away with killing Americans, and definitely not my Willow."
"How naive? Sweet child. Of course they will. It's called friends in high places, you poor deluded boy. Doesn't matter which side you're on; we both do the same things to cover ourselves. They're perfectly safe from whatever little delusions about the law you still hold. Though, maybe not the stake thing, even if it would be a waste of...a soulled vampire? Another one? Interesting. William the Bloody, I think you just made the preservation list, at least temporarily." Lilah looked me in the eyes. It was like looking into the eyes of a cobra. I hate snakes.
She turned back to Xander. "They'll walk out of here: courtesy of the Council or Wolfram and Hart. There's no big difference - just a few minor points of philosophical disagreement - except we're better dressed, and considerably better paid. You're playing with the big boys now. There's no way to win. You've got no choices. Time to recognise that."
Xander glared at her, smiled grimly, then he turned to Buffy.
"Your choice Buffy. Raping murdering bastards, or your family."
Continued in Part 19. Isn't it Ironic