Part 19. Isn't it Ironic
"Giles is my family. Like Dawn's my family. Like you are."
"Thank you, Buffy." Giles said.
"Don't go there, Xander. Don't try and make me choose; you might not like the answer. Right now I want everyone to stop shouting, and I want to talk to Giles."I glared at my Watcher, and continued, "And I want the truth - all of it."
Giles rubbed the bridge of his nose. "The truth. I hope you can handle it, it's not pretty. It's not what you want to hear. It's why I tried to spare you all this. But, if you insist," he sighed.
Xander shouted, "We know the truth. Spike killed my Willow. You're all just covering up for him, like you always do!"
Giles snorted. "Xander, stop this. If you want the truth; here it is - Willow's death's is more your fault than it is Spike's."
Giles lost his temper. "Yes way, as you'd put it. Spike only tried to help her get better. He was the innocent in this. Not me, not Wesley, not even Willow - he was. You aided and abetted her in obtaining D'Hoffryn's talisman. I know you loved her. We all did."
"You knew better, especially after the singing spell deaths, but you did it anyway. You worked with Willow to cover up what she was up to. You could have contacted me first. You could have asked Anya's advice over what you were sending. You didn't. It was only by sheer luck that we managed to prevent you helping Willow from turning herself into a vengeance demon, and so freeing herself from the bindings on her powers. You did that. Those facts signed her death warrant."
"No, that's not fair, Giles." Dawn interrupted. Xander had fallen silent.
Giles simmered down. "I only wish that was the case, Dawn. Willow couldn't be put in prison for her actions, because she couldn't be controlled there, and her powers couldn't be removed, just bound. She'd killed for pleasure. She'd tried to destroy the world. It was only a great deal of hard lobbying, and major reassurances on my part, that stopped the Council from ordering her death immediately after she arrived. I got permission to help her, the best possible help to do it, and when Spike and Wesley arrived they tried their very best to help each other and her."
I had to interrupt. "But it didn't help Willow?"
"No. Some people don't want help and don't respond. She didn't. I'm sorry. I didn't want that to be your last picture of her. I wanted you to be able to remember her as she was, before Tara's death broke her. But she tried her very best to return to her apocalyptic ways, and what I had to do in those circumstances was very clear. If I hadn't done it, the Council would have sent a wetworks team in, and I couldn't face her last moments being taken by strangers. It had to be someone who loved her."
I couldn't believe it. I should have, after what he did to me on my eighteenth birthday, but I still gasped, "You killed Willow!"
Dawn's eyes bugged. Anya shook her head. Lilah smirked. Spike's eyes filled with tears he tried hard to blink away, and Wesley just looked frozen. Xander tried to free himself from the chair screaming, "I knew it, I knew it!"
Giles resumed. "No, Buffy, I didn't."
Dawn exhaled in relief, Spike put his hand on Giles shoulder, and Xander subsided. Wesley went to speak. Giles shook his head at him, put his hand on his arm, and said, "A good man took that burden on himself to save me from having to do it. It wasn't something either of us ever wanted to do, and I know you can't forgive us for it, but it was inevitable from the moment she asked for the talisman. It was quick, and she didn't suffer. That wasn't a lie."
All hell broke out from Xander, screaming about liars.
"But we don't kill humans, it's not right! Especially not Willow. There must have been another way."
Wesley tried to talk. "I'm sorry, Buffy, I had to do it. There wasn't another way. We all tried so hard, and we did try everything. I couldn't let Giles live with that on his conscience. I owed him that. I owed you that, after my failure. You need him. You'll never need me. I'm expendable. He isn't. It's why I did it, before he had to. There wasn't a good choice to make, just the lessor of many evils. I know this doesn't help."
"It so doesn't. So you were all in on it. Spike?"
He turned to me, and shook his head very slightly. "I'm so sorry, I should have known. I should have done more. I tried. I really did. Didn't know, pet."
Xander went postal at the word 'pet'.
Dawn shouted over him to Spike, asking why he'd lied to us too. Spike wiped his eyes, and I heard him say, "Trying to do the right thing, Dawn. Trying to give you what you both needed to sleep at night. Trying to repay the kindness I got, that I never deserved... with a little support, not that it's worth much."
Wesley apologised to Giles over and over for, "Screwing everything up so badly." Giles tried to get him to stop. Lilah laughed. Anya looked strange, like she had when Spike came in, before she dropped the soul bombshell.
This all hurt so much. I shouted over the din to get heard. "Stop it. Stop shouting everyone. I can't take it. I can't do it. I wish you'd all just stop, and let me think, just for a few minutes."
Anya turned veiny. Oh God, I forgot. I am so mentally challenged. How could I forget? Ok, I know how, but... "Wish granted."
Everyone but Anya and I froze.
I looked at her. "They're going to be all right? All unstucky?"
"You get exactly what you wished for. You get them all to stop for a while. But they will be back to normal soon, without knowing they were stuck. Make the most of it. And no hurting Giles. Oh, or Spike. They're my friends. I'm not stuck, and I'll be on the sofa watching you."
I looked at each of them in turn.
I loved him, and he left me. I trusted him, and he betrayed me. I needed him, and he abandoned me. I forgave him, and he does this. I don't understand. I'll never understand, not really. But I should; it's been the story of my life. Why should Giles be any different? I just really thought he was - shows how much I know.
I have all these feelings for Spike. All these feelings I should have. All these feelings I shouldn't have. It was finally getting clearer in my head, then he goes and gets a soul. Why does he do this to me? Why can't he stay in one box? I could deal then. It's not fair. Unsoulled vampire evil - got that; boy I got that one clear. Soulled vampire good - but supporting my best friend's murderer. How am I supposed to deal with that? He never stays in the right box. Why won't he just stay in the box?
I really don't want to lose them. The idea makes me feel sick. I just don't see I've got a choice. Not after Willow. Not after the lies - even if they were for my own peace of mind. Some peace of mind! I love Giles. I do. I haven't got a clue what I feel about Spike right now, it moves around all the time, but I do know that I don't want to lose him either. But I don't see a way to keep them, not after this. They've made their position quite clear. It's all Englishmen together. Not me. Not doing the right thing. They've made their choice. I'm just the one that'll have to live with it.
Wesley's easy. He killed my best friend. Nobody hurts my friends. He wouldn't save Angel. He killed Willow. He was a lousy Watcher. It was his fault Faith betrayed me, and went bad. He is so out of here.
I can't kill him myself, even if part of me wants to. I don't kill humans. I don't! Faith was a fair fight, and I didn't kill her. I'm not even sure exactly what happened with those knights, my brain's all fuzzy there - but if I did hurt them it was all self-defencey and stuff. But I don't kill humans, even killers. I don't. It's wrong. That's the law's job, not the Slayer's. It's what I told Willow, and I was right.
If the Council is going to protect him, and from what Giles said they can and will, Wesley's going to get away with murder. He's already got the closest thing I've got to a Dad supporting him, and whatever it is that Spike is to me - I still can't work that one out - but he's got that too. So I can't kill Wesley. We.Don't.Kill.Humans. If I killed him, I betray everything I still believe in. I'd be lost in the darkness. I can't do that, not again. I'd never find my way out this time.
The darkest part of me, the part that loves the dance, wants his blood. It wants to bash, and tear, and smash bones until there's nothing left. But I rejected the dark. I rejected that part of me. I rejected it in Faith. I rejected it in Spike. I can't go into the dark no matter what the slayer in me wants. I can't sleep on a bed of bones. I tried that. It didn't work out too good for anyone, let alone me.
But If I don't kill him I'll lose Xander. He'll never forgive me for letting Wes walk. But I can't kill him, and that's the only thing that could stop him from walking right out of here. I can't do it. So I'm gonna lose Xander too, I know that. Wesley killed the best friend I ever had, even if she did try to kill me when she lost everything. He's taken everything and everyone I have, except Dawn. I hate him. I wish I could kill him, but I can't. So I guess it's gonna be the Summers girls against the world.
Spike told me once it was my friends and family that kept me connected to life, and kept me alive. I guess I'm gonna find out if Dawn's enough.
Oz will never forgive me either - not for Willow's sake, and he shouldn't. I don't. I don't think he'll be doing the expression of joy either at my whatever-he-is draining a substantial portion of his life-blood. I'll be lucky if I don't end up having to kill him when he comes round. God, I so don't wanna have to do that. The only glimmer of light I can see there is what Mike said about Oz not wanting to kill anyone, and so bringing him with. I don't want to lose Oz again, now he's back in our lives, but I know I'm going to - one way or another.
If I throw Giles and Spike out of my life, and Xander turns on me for not killing Wesley, or them, I'll lose Anya too. I've not been a good enough friend to her for her to want to stick around just for me. Not that her sleeping with Spike helped much. But she's a demon, and the two of us as best buds would never have worked. Sooner or later she'd have turned on me, like Spike did, and duty would have called. At least if we're not friends I won't have to go through killing someone I loved yet again. Been there, done that: far too many times, got the T-shirt: it sucked.
I wish Mom was here, I really do. She'd know what to do, I know she would. I'd like nothing better right now than to curl up in her lap and just cry for months. I don't want to deal with all this, I really don't. I can't.
You know, there were exactly two other people who could have almost taken that place. One helped cover up the murder of the other. One of them told me I could always ask for help, that it was the adult thing to do. Who am I supposed to ask now? Isn't it ironic, my life - the Alanis Morissette track.
I'm not sure if Dawn will never forgive me for throwing Giles and Spike out of our lives, or whether she'll want to hunt them down. I don't see her bouncing with joy at Xander walking away from us in disgust at me. She'll be pissed at me if Mike never shows his face here again, and I don't see Oz ever wanting anything to do with me ever again - even if we do both get out of this alive.
It's hardest thing of all. But, for Dawn's sake I've got to do this. I can't have her think it's ever right to kill people. I must set her the right example, even if it kills me, and this probably will. But I have responsibilities now, and I have to be an adult, and do the right thing - as ever. Hello to the pain, yet again.
There's no Dad for us; he's still missing.
Giles gone. My remaining best friend gone. Spike gone. Anya gone. Oz gone. Angel long gone - and now I hear he had a child, with Darla of all creatures, that he never even told me about, let alone some thing with Cordelia - so much for 'Forever'. Guess I finally learned the truth about the reliability of soulled vampires at last - hell of a time to do it though. Dawn and I'll just have to be enough for each other, and hope that I can do this parenting thing by myself.
I don't think I can. But I don't have a choice. I have to.
Before I have to close that door though, the bitch that enjoyed trashing my life is so going down.
The statues came back to life. Time to live out the inevitable.
"He killed Willow," Xander shouted.
"As was so tactfully told us by Miss SuperSkank here. Which reminds me. I owe her something"
I turned to the bitch that had walked into my home like she owned it, stomped over my family, destroyed my life, and stood there smirking. I punched her in the face. I don't kill humans, but the plastic surgery bills she'd need to fix her broken nose made up for the tears in Dawn's eyes, and my own pain - a very, very small part of it at least.
I went over to the window and saw her car gleaming under the streetlamp. Buffy and cars are unmixy things, but even I could recognise a car whose cost would cover my mortgage. I had an idea: an evil idea, but a goody. I turned to Spike, and god that hurt, but he was the only one who could do it, if I was right.
"Spike, is the chip still active?" I am still the Slayer.
Even if he's got a soul now, I've got a long way to go before I'd trust him with a human life, even an evil one, without the chip, after what he did. And he's never been able to actually lie to me. After what I heard, I couldn't trust Giles and Wesley at all. I couldn't release Xander to do it. I couldn't let him kill them. He can hate me all he likes for that, but I won't let him have that on his conscience.
Spike breathed out hard, closed his eyes, and nodded. "Yes Buffy, all present, correct, and still bloody painful."
I might have smiled. It might have come out as a grimace. "Take that thing back to her car." I went to the weapons chest, and took out the axe. I threw it to Spike. "After you rearrange her bodywork - the auto type that is. We're talking big bills here, major damage, but still drivey. I want that bitch out of my town." Spike, looked back at Giles and Wesley who both nodded to him. He gave me a small smile; not the big grin it would have been before, but we've all changed. He took the axe, and I soon heard the satisfying sound of metal biting into metal and glass smashing.
I turned to the bitch in question; who looked a bit shocked. "Hear that. Plain enough message for ya?"
"I'll sue! You'll be foreclosed on so fast you'll be on the streets before you can breathe," she blustered.
"I think not, Miss Morgan. Stalemate. You can't take Wesley. You can't retaliate on the car. The Council would step in to protect the Slayer, just as it will protect Wesley and me regarding Willow. You know that. You failed. I'm sure your Senior Partners will be most interested in your explanations for that failure to obtain Wesley's services, and in your expenses claim. Good luck," Giles said, while cleaning his glasses. At least some things don't change. In times of crisis, Giles cleans his glasses. Even if just about everything in my crazy life has changed, that fact remains a constant.
Spike came back in, after shaking the axe free of paint fragments and broken glass shards. I must remember to sweep there; I'd hate for anyone to get cut.
He put the axe back. He gave a small smile to Dawn, and said, "Time to leave, Lilah, while you're all nice and intact." He took her arm and almost dragged her out the door.
Three to go.
Spike returned. I heard the pained sounds of Lilah's car as it left. I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, closed my eyes, exhaled, and turned to Giles. Time to lose them. Time for goodbye, forever.
"Giles, Spike, Wesley, I'm going to have to ask you to go. You know I can't have you around Dawn, not after all this. I'm sorry. I know you think you're right, and that's what you believe. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I'm going to have to ask you all to leave, and not to come back."
"Buffy, no. There must be something. Anything! We can do this, we can work this out. I know we can." Dawn pleaded, her eyes filled with tears.
"You're letting them go! You can't. He killed Willlow, him and his 'mates'. You can't do that - not after what they did to Willow. I won't let you. It's not right!" Xander shouted.
I was right. He'll never accept this - or me: not after this.
Spike's face dropped. He sighed hard, nodded his head, took a deep breath, and then locked eyes with Giles, who'd done exactly the same. They looked at each other for what seemed like an age, when they both turned to me.
Giles looked ten years older. Spike spoke quietly, "Whatever you want, Buffy. For what it's worth, I'm sorry, for everything."
I felt the tears come, but I had to blink them away. I always do.
Xander started shouting again. We all needed quiet for this. So I said, "Let's take this outside."
My two Watchers, and my Spike, left my home for what will be the last time. I followed them to the car. Dawn ran along after me screaming, "No!" and, "You can't do this, Buffy! It's my life and my choice too." It wasn't. It had to be mine. I was the one that had to make it, and it hurt, but it was the only decision I could make and keep them all alive, or in one piece anyway.
Giles turned to me with tears in his eyes. "Buffy, I'm sorry. I won't say goodbye, just au revoir; because you can always call me if you need me, or anything at all. Please, you know that, don't you?"
I nodded. But I had to be strong. "I know. Thank you, but I won't. I can't. I'm sorry, Giles. I have to do this. You know that."
Wesley spoke. He looked like death, but he said, "I know you don't want anything to do with me, and I understand that. I wouldn't want anything to with me either in your shoes, but I am sorry for your loss. I never wanted you to suffer for my failures, and I'm so sorry you had to. Do what you want with me, I deserve it, but I hope one day you'll be able to forgive Giles and Spike for my sins."
"Please, Buffy!" Dawn pulled on my arm. I tried to smile at her; I failed miserably.
"I can't. I wish I could. I have to do this. You know that." Somebody had to be strong, and that person's usually me.
Wesley nodded. "I know. I understand. We have Willow's things. Would you give them to her family, or take them yourself?"
I nodded. Wesley went to the car and took out a big flowery bag I recognised as Willow's. He put it on the ground next to me. I started blinking away my tears again.
Giles had followed him, and brought back a plastic bag. He said, "I bought these for Willow, to try and make her feel included. She didn't want to. There's an England and a USA World Cup shirt here. She never wore either shirt. If you, or Dawn, want them, they're yours. Or give them to Goodwill. If you don't want something I bought for Willow, I'll understand, and take them back with me. Whatever you want."
"Buffy, please, can I have them? Everyone on the girls' soccer team at High School would be so impressed if I did. You want me to be popular and happy don't you?"
Why didn't I do this as well she does? She's so much better at the manipulate-Mom thing than I ever was. It's so not fair. I sighed hard and nodded, "Yes Dawn, if you want the shirts, you can have them. But they're leaving now, so say thank you and your goodbyes."
She swallowed, sniffed, and took the bag. Then she threw her arms around Giles and sobbed her goodbyes. I glared at Wesley, who stood stiffly by the car.
I chewed my lip, and looked at Spike. He looked at me. He bit his lip too, and his eyes filled. He managed to choke out, "Please be happy, Buffy. I'm sorry. I love you. I always will, and if you ever want anything from me I'll come running, but I'll respect your decisions. It's why I got the soul in the first place, so I'd always do that."
My eyes stung with tears. I hate him sometimes.
I bit back the tears I didn't want, and said, "Goodbye, Spike. Be good, I know you will. What will you do now?"
Dawn untangled herself from Giles, and threw herself around Spike before he could answer me.
Giles answered instead. "He'll come home with me, as Wesley will. There's not just evil to be fought on the Hellmouth, you know. They'll be helping me, if that's what they want."
Wesley said, "Thank you, Giles. I'd be honoured."
Spike managed, "Too bloody right. Thanks. Know I don't deserve it." From the depths of Dawn's hair, he continued, "Bye, Dawn. I'll keep an eye on Giles for you. You take care of yourself. Love you, Nibblet."
That left Giles in front of me. I couldn't stop the tears by now. They poured down my cheeks, and soaked into Giles' suit as he drew me into a long hug. I know I shouldn't have let that happen, but I'm weak. Ask Jenny how weak I am. Sorry, you can't anymore, which is why I was doing this. I can't afford make any more mistakes - people die and it's my fault.
Giles pulled back. "Buffy, there should be words. There aren't. Just know I'll always love you, and be proud of you, and I'll be there for you if you ever need me."
I sobbed. "I know. I love you too, Giles. Thank you, for everything. I'm sorry. I really am. But, goodbye Giles."
He kissed my forehead, and said, "'Bye Buffy."
We hugged for a little longer, but not long enough. It never would have been long enough. Then we pulled apart, both sniffed and looked at each other. Then Giles put his hand on Spike and Wesley's shoulders. They all took a deep breath, and got in the car together.
I watched the car leave with Dawn. We stayed until we couldn't see it anymore.
Then we went inside.
Dawn rushed upstairs to her room. Mike still sat quietly tending the unconscious Oz. Xander seethed in his chair.
Anya had already left.