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Three Lions
By Lesley

Part 9. Mine Eyes Dazzle

It was going to be the cure-all, you know. The complete panacea to all that's wrong with me. The evil, soulless, thing bit. Missed out the 'dead' part of the mantra - nothing can fix that, as far as I know.

I knew having it would hurt. Was bloody right on that score. Knew that getting it would be bleeding hard. Wasn't exactly a walk in the park on a moonlit night - vampires and fists of flame don't exactly mix well. The less said about the beetles the better. Still think the only good ones were John, Paul, George and Ringo. Well John actually, still haven't forgiven Paul for 'Mull of Kintyre'. But John was alright.

Knew that I'd get hit with the guilt, for everything I've done wrong for 120 years. I was. It hurts. It doesn't stop hurting either. Oh, I've felt guilt before. I've always felt more than I'm supposed to, alive or dead. I lived with guilt for 147 days. I knew what it was going to feel like. Hell, I was already in a state of excruciating guilt, when that Dr Who reject stuck his claws in me. 120 years of screams just added to the one already echoing round my head. I just got a symphony of screams to live with, rather than an aria. They were deafening me until I got here. 'Til I got taken in, and shown kindness, help, and acceptance. Then I could hear again - for a while.

Right now? I can't hear anything. Which is odd, because what did that was the silence of a room, where there should have been a heartbeat.

The thought that's deafening me right now is, "Why?"

What was the bloody point? Why go through all that? All that pain. Contrary to what some people think, I don't love pain. I hate it. I want to be happy. I want to be loved. Why am I still suffering from the pain the soul's giving me? If people with souls can do this, why the bloody hell did I bother? Why was it necessary? Wasn't there another way? There had to be, surely.

We've had the discussion. Covered the lot. World in danger, help not only spurned, but actively plotted against. Personal pain sometimes being necessary, in the doing of the right thing.

Intellectually, I know Giles and Wesley did the right thing. But my soul's still screaming. Theirs are too, I can see that.

Ethics - personal and universal, and the consequences thereof. Giles got the scotch out. We went through two bottles. I chain-smoked. I haven't smoked in the house since I got here. Bloody soul made me feel bad about the passive smoking thing. Felt a right pillock standing in the doorway smoking a fag, like some pathetic wage slave, outside the office. Did it anyway. Giles kept cadging my fags. He hasn't done that since we buried Buffy. We talked all night - all three of us.

It was like being back at Oxford, doing Plato, the Stoics, and Socrates, when I was human. Like discussing Proudhon and Rousseau with students, over absinthe in Montmartre, as a fledgling, then eating them afterwards. Showing Left Bank existentialists the real meaning of life, as their life drained into me. The whole soul thing may be new, but I've been around a very long time. I've seen horrors. I've perpetrated horrors. I've enjoyed the odd intelligent conversation with a good meal in that time. A bloke did need some breaks from dolls tea parties in 120 years after all.

I've also saved the World 3 times. That's something a demon isn't supposed to do. But I've always thought outside the box. Got me killed, that did. Led me to throw myself on the mercy of my enemies. Made me fall in love with the only - yes I know there's two - woman in the World that's meant to kill me. Meant that when I did something a demon shouldn't have a problem with I felt what shouldn't be possible. Led me to ol' Lurky, and doing something impossible. I know what difficult choices are.

So, bearing all this in mind, I do understand. I hate it. With every fibre of my being I hate it. I keep seeing her face covered like that. I keep having Webster go through my head. 'Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle; she died young'.

They both hate it too. It's obvious.

I knew Giles was capable of this. I've known that since the magic box. I didn't need to smell his scent on Ben, when we disposed of him, after Buffy died, to know that one. I'd just not wanted to think about it. Too many thoughts winging their way round my head for my brain to work at its usual speed, I suppose. That, or right then, I just couldn't face thinking things through to the logical conclusion, of what I'd seen and heard.

Didn't know much about Wesley before this. The stories I'd heard in Sunnydale about him didn't match up with what I'd heard out of LA. But he told us about Connor - still trying to process that whole thing - and what he did in taking the child for the best. So I really should have known. On some level I did. I know that. I just couldn't face it - not on top of everything else. There's a limit you know - to what I can take. There has to be. Doesn't stop it piling on though.

Over the second bottle Wes told all three of us about this Lilah bird, and the whole Wolfram and Hart saga. Gotta love any institution that has it in for the poof. Even if they are evil. Evil with souls, at least in theory. The lawyer all you can eat buffet was a shock. So much for soul = good; again. I think I should have checked to see if there was a 'Dummies Guide to Souls' available, before I got out the old Lonely Planet East Africa guidebook.

I think talking about it helped him a bit. He was carrying a huge weight on his shoulders before he got here - like all of us. Talking it over with Giles, and Giles making some calls to the Council, helped ease that, I think. She's just rattling his chains. The Council can, and will, counter anything she tries. Nothing personal on their part - just business.

None of this helps.

I lived and fought with the good guys. I didn't have a conscience, the men with the books say. I've got a brain, though, a good one too. And I've got love, far too much of it for my own good, or anyone else for that matter. I know that.

So I tried. Nobody helped me. Asked a few times. Usually ended up with broken bones and bruises for me trouble. But I still tried, you know? Odd really. The way I did it? Could almost have been one of those stupid badges you see on some yanks - 'what would Jesus do?' Well since he'd be likely to incinerate me on sight, that one wouldn't work. So I tried 'What would Buffy do?' OK, yes, there were some notable screw-ups whilst on that track. But I did make a reasonable stab at it, most of the time. Might have done better with some help and guidance. But a man shouldn't need that, should he? Should be able to do it by himself.

I failed. When I couldn't think clearly, I couldn't do it. Screwed up massively. The booze didn't help at all either. Know that. Not an excuse though. If I'm honest with myself I might have a problem there.

That's the whole point isn't it? Getting a soul. Being honest with myself. Having a functional conscience. Recognised by all. Knowing right from wrong. OK, intellectually I know what they are. Might have a demon suffusing every fibre of my being, but Mama still raised her boy to know what right and wrong is. Demon just makes doing the opposite fun. Sheer joy in fact. Revel in destruction, sex, and blood. It's a dammed sight easier way to live than hearing your victims pleas for mercy. Over, and over, and over again, until you're deafened by the noise.

I'm not a saint. Never claimed to be. I'm selfish. I did it for her. Most everything good I've ever done has been for her, for the one's she loved, or in her memory. Pre-soul me even thought that maybe she'd forgive me if I got a soul. With a soul I don't know if I can ever face her, not when I can't forgive myself. I'm not sure I can even bear hearing her voice over the phone. That one's pretty inevitable, and imminent too. Giles is going to call straight after we've scattered her ashes. That's soon. It's been a very long night. A very long day too.

I had to get my soul back. I couldn't bear the thought that I might go back to that bathroom. I couldn't do that to her. Even the unchecked demon in me knew that. It's not me. Not when I can think. Well thinking is obviously not something I can guarantee to do. So - getting a soul. Something to step in when I can't think for the pain.

I succeeded.

I'm the only vampire in history to willingly seek out, and get, their soul back. No world's stupidest clause to mine; no shoddy gypsy craftsmanship on this one; 100% mine. I'm 100% stuck with it too, for the rest of my immortal life, which could even be a very long time.

Assuming I get out of here un-dusted.

They've both tried to make it clear I'm not next. That the reasons Willow died don't apply to me. I think they have anyway. I want to trust that. I want to trust them. I want to be trusted. The part of me that survived the 20th Century screams not to trust. But I can't live that way: not anymore.

I've signed on the dotted lines. I've done what's been required of me. I don't think I could move right at the moment, even if both of them came at me with stakes. My heads too full, to move. It's souls, fragrant red hair facing me down when I was drunk and dangerous, someone caring that I didn't kill myself. Good guys, bad guys, the differences thereof. Buffy counting on me to protect Dawn, from Giles, or anyone else out to do the logical right thing.

I've failed Buffy again. I failed her on that Tower, when I wasn't fast enough, or clever enough, to stop that bastard from cutting Dawn. I failed her when the man couldn't keep the demon under control. I failed to see, to let myself see what was going on. She wouldn't have wanted this. I wasn't sure I'd be able to ever face her again before this. How can I face her now?

Willow's dead because I failed. She showed me kindness when I wanted to die, didn't hold a grudge when I tried to eat her. I didn't deserve that kindness - I know that. That's the girl that I'm gonna remember. Not the girl she was at the end. She deserves that, at least.

I know her face will be the main feature of tonight's nightmares. I've been having them every time I close my eyes, since I got the soul back. I call them nightmares; memories would be the more accurate term. But nightmares are what they are, and what I did, and what I have to live with having done. I will. I've got many faults, never pretended not to. Cowardice isn't one of them. I haven't asked for pills to knock me out since I've been here. I'm not taking them now. And not because I'm too scared to sleep, for fear I won't wake up. I'll endure what I have to. I'll pay the piper. I'm not eating rats. I'm not going to crawl into an alley going, "Woe is me," for a century. I'm going to think my way through this. I'm going to understand. Most of all I'm going to make something good come out of this - somehow.

Right now, it's that last part that has me stumped.

Continued in Part 10. Picture This

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