Beauty Effulgent

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The Borogoves

The Borogoves
Summary: They say that you can't go home again, but Wesley was never very good about taking advice.  In this post-"Lineage" AtS S5 story, he visits the only home place and tries to get some closure with his father.  Backstory and Lewis Carroll references abound.  Fits in canon.

Characters: Wesley & Roger Wyndam-Pryce

Disclaimers: These characters belong to Mutant Enemy, with a shout-out to Alexis Denisof and Roy Dotrice for rocking so hard.

Thanks: To Sue for hosting, feeding back, and holding my hand (via computer and telephone) when it was making me crazy.  To Stoney & InLovewithNight, likewise, for early reading and giving great comments.

Rating: R for language/themes/sticking it to the patriarchy

I. Mimsy Borogoves 
Wesley had hardly spent any of the money that he made from Wolfram & Hart. He had paid off a few, not close to all, of his credit cards, kept the seedy walkup flat in the rat-infested building, fixed the scary rattle in his third-hand Pathfinder and hoped the vehicle would last out the year.

"There's no point in letting money confuse the issue," he said once. This was early on, when he and Fred and Gunn, steeped in the habits of less crowded days, still bothered to make a point of sitting down together and touching base. "We're here to do a job. May as well keep things as pure as we can."

Gunn jerked to his feet. Wes had seen the man angry but he had never seen anything like the calm, focused fury of that moment. "Happy slumming, Richie Rich," Gunn said, before he banged out of the conference room. "But some of us figure if we gonna sell our souls, we might as well get a taste of the spoils."

Wes stared after him, stunned. He hadn't meant anything in particular by it. He was just thinking out loud, as he often did, and he had no idea that Gunn had already put a down payment on a townhouse, and another on a new SUV. He had grown so used to seeing Gunn as an equal, it didn't occur to him how different the situation looked from his friend's point of view.

He got a further shock when Fred spoke up. "That was cold, Wesley," she said. "There's no call for you to preach at him."

Caught off guard, Wes snapped, "Maybe you hadn't noticed, but for the past three years, we've all been poor together."

"Charles has been poor," Fred shot back. "You and me have been broke. You and me can always give up and go home."


And now, seven months into their tenure at Wolfram & Hart, Wesley was testing out that theory. Not that he was going home for money, of course. That he had always refused to do. Besides, he didn't need it now. And he wasn't at all certain that it would be forthcoming if he did.

But Wesley had his own reasons for needing to go home, and Angel had accepted without question the statement that his mother was ailing. Actually, the word Wes had used was "bedridden," and he had neglected to mention a few facts. First, that Caroline Wesley Wyndam-Pryce had not voluntarily left her bedchambers since her only son was thirteen. Second, that every doctor in the Home Counties seemed to agree that there was nothing physically wrong with her.

Not that he should have had to make up a story to tell Angel. After all, why couldn't he be honest with his most intimate associate about the real reasons for the trip? Especially after last month's events, when even Angel -- as willfully dense as he could be when it came to personal matters -- must at least have gotten a hint of the gaping psychic wound that Wesley needed to cauterize. Fred certainly wasn't fooled, and maybe that was the force that was really driving him out of L.A. After all this time fearing Fred's indifference, maybe he had to flee in the face of her understanding. Because he still loved her, still imagined he might have a prayer that she could love him too. But if she ever really understood him, she might be able to see through all of his masks. And he couldn't imagine how any kind of love could survive that.

And so when it came down to facing his father or facing Fred, all it took was a red-eye flight to Heathrow, into a London that was darkening just as he entered it. Only then did he place a call, not giving them enough time to make an excuse. "Mother, I'm sorry about the hour. I'm getting on the train, and then I'll take a taxi out to the Borogoves. It may be late but --"

"Of course," she said. "If we're sleeping, just come in. Ring the bell and the boy will open the door."

The boy, Wesley reflected, during the last leg of the cab ride. My family has a boy, and never mind that he's actually a former Council operative with four black belts and seven grandchildren. He tried to imagine what Charles Gunn would think of that.

Wesley had never thought of himself as a rich boy. Out of the families with access to the Watchers' Academy -- St. Wilberforce's Latin Preparatory to the outside world -- the Wyndam-Pryces were likely in the bottom economic quartile. And there was an added discount to their status forced by the ugly and semi-open secret that the money was almost all on the Wesley side, that it had been earned in the past two generations through business and -- the ultimate indignity to end all indignities -- business in America. In fact, Caroline's withdrawal into her own society had coincided with the emergence of a rumor that her Middle Atlantic accent was in fact Mid-Atlantic. Specifically, wagging tongues had it, the Wesleys and their money were minted in Baltimore, Maryland. And before that, God only knew.

So by Council standards, Wesley was anything but Richie Rich. Still, he could understand why it might seem that way from the outside. He was, after all, riding in a taxicab on a private route to see a family with its own boy in a house with its own name.

The Borogoves. Wesley had once let that fact slip in front of the others, and he wasn't half as unsettled by Gunn's superior amusement as he was by Fred's delight. "All mimsy were the borogoves!" she giggled. "Like in the Jabberwocky. I love that poem."

"My father was fond of Lewis Carroll," Wesley said, and quickly changed the subject before he had to admit how utterly he loathed and detested Carroll's work. This was probably unusual, especially for an Englishman and a scholar. But then, it was also unusual for a ten year old to spend summer holidays locked in the study under the stairs until he could produce a translation of Jabberwocky into ancient Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Merouitic, and several demon tongues. "It's impossible, Father!" Wesley would call. "It's nonsense!" And his father would bark, "There is no nonsense! Only sense you haven't found yet!"

Wesley thought he had his revenge a decade later, when his undergraduate thesis used Carroll's poem as the framework of an elaborate allegory demonstrating the common threads of verb tense conventions in seven ancient languages. The paper received the highest possible grade, which was a given. The grade was followed by very credible rumors that one master had referred to its author as "Possibly the finest and most creative linguistic mind in the history of Kings' College."

The finest, most creative linguistic mind presented the paper to his father, shyly but hopeful of success. "I think you'll find some of the reasoning familiar, Father. I think you might enjoy it."

Roger Wyndam-Pryce flipped through the first several pages as his son watched, then snapped the binding shut. "Theorists always overcomplicate things. You may blind your dons with fancy metaphors, son, but it's all Humpty-Dumptyism. The truth is that Merouitic rarely uses the subjunctive for a very simple reason. Ancient Sudanese holy men were incapable of abstract thought. Trust me on this. I've talked to a few."

That spring, the offers came in from doctoral programs in Zurich, Cairo, Berlin, America. Wesley tossed all the envelopes, and presented his father with an accomplished fact. "I've decided to accept a job offer from the Watcher's Council."

Roger gazed at him over a volume that he was reading in the original Fyarl. "Really? I'd think they have enough bloody linguists."

"You don't understand, Father. They've invited me to be a proper Watcher."

"Bloody hell, that's appalling." He slammed down the book. "It's nothing personal son. But in my day, the Council used to have certain standards."


Wesley looked up as the cab stopped at the house's massive gates. Mimsy bloody borogoves indeed. He hoped they all went to hell.


II. My Beamish Boy

Wesley had hardly spent any of the money that he made from Wolfram & Hart. Same old car, same apartment, same frozen dinners. He had even given up the stupid-impulse purchases from late-night TV or E-bay or Zharkon's Mystical Weapons emporium -- the result of the philosophy that, if you were going to be in debt up to your eyeballs until you died, you may as well own a collapsible sword, or DVDs of every season of Highlander, or a knife that could cut through tin cans.

Still, his self-enforced Spartanism allowed for one small indulgence and, on the day that the mind-boggling sum materialized in his bank account -- "Sorcery?" he asked; Harmony rolled her eyes and said "Direct deposit." -- Wesley went to the liquor store down the block from his flat and shelled out three hundred dollars to special-order a case of twelve-year Lagavulin direct from the distillery in remote Scotland. Over the years, Wesley had been in the same store to buy beer, wine, the occasional mid-label vodka or gin-in-a-plastic-bottle but never whiskey because once you had a taste for the real stuff, you didn't insult your tastebuds with knockoffs or blends. The clerk, who had sold him most of that cheap garbage, smiled. "Moving up in the world?" Wes tried to smile back as he said, "Nothing but the best."

He would have given that reason to anyone who asked. (No one did. No one cared.) He drank single malt because it was the best, a taste acquired in his undergraduate club at Cambridge. An essential link to the old country for an Englishman making his way in the world, a memento to keep in the desk drawer and pull out and share, man to man, as an occasionally luxury, with a particularly valued client. To himself, he would have added that Lagavulin reminded him of summer days rambling through the ruins of Dunyveg Castle with Annie MacDonald, while she whispered in his ear about a thousand brave Islaymen marching to Bannockburn to fight for Robert the Bruce, and he answered "Yes, the English are tyrannical bloody bastards, you know my mother's American, right? Actually we're all Russian and Scottish on that side --" and anything else he thought she wanted to hear until she kissed him just to shut him up.

Now, stepping through the oak double doors of this almost-forgotten room, Wesley realized what a load of bollocks that explanation would have been. He knew that the Scotch had nothing to do with Cambridge or dirty weekends in the Highlands. What he had craved was the smell of the stuff, the whiff of mystery and power the essence of adulthood that seeped over a small frightened boy as he approached a darkly silhouetted and austere form. As he made his cautious way forward to ask without asking for the mercy of the only court whose judgments he had learned to care for. Fine Scotch and old leather, parchment and aging tapestry, ink and decades of dust, made up the smell of his father's library.

Tonight, Roger Wyndam-Pryce, sat in his accustomed place, at the far end of the oak table, a pile of books before him, face hidden in his hands. Ashoka, Roger's longtime retainer stepped in behind Wesley, and the ever-present belt of wooden stakes rattled underneath the man's loose white shirt. Combination valet, driver, and body guard, Ashoka had been part of the household since Wesley could remember. Roger Wyndam-Pryce had spent a few of his early years in India, before independence, and he spoke vaguely enough to give the impression that Ashoka had come with the family from Bombay. Wesley knew for a fact that the man was from Swindon, played snooker for extra money, and got his many vaunted words of Eastern wisdom from the back of tea boxes. Wesley had also seen him take out two Ylppa demons with his bare hands in ten seconds flat, and so he knew enough to keep his amusement at Roger and Ashoka's shared pretensions to himself.

"Sahib," said Ashoka, "The young master has arrived." Wesley stepped through the threshold, conscious of his shoes, wet from the evening mist, on the Persian carpet.

Roger slowly raised his eyes, and Wesley had to struggle to stand still under that penetrating gaze. "Well, well, young man. You look a good deal like someone I used to know. Named for my wife's father, John Malcolm Wesley, I believe. And once he carried my name as well. But I must be mistaken. My son does not come to this place. Not, at least, of his own free will."

"What can I say? I suppose it's been a long time since I've slain a Jabberwock." Here, Father. I believe I've slain another. The words he used to say when he would walk into this room, a completed translation rolled in his nervous hands.

Now, Roger raised his eyebrows and rose from the chair, pushing slowly to his feet. "And how am I meant to answer? Come to my arms, my beamish boy?." He came toward his son, but Wesley did not move toward the embrace. It was all he could do simply to hold his ground. Then halfway around the table, a few feet away, Roger stopped, leaned back and thrust hands into the pockets of his tweed coat. "Are we not grown old for such games?"

"It's just as well. I'm not feeling especially beamish tonight." Wesley murmured, stuffing his hands into his own suede jacket, realizing too late how automatically he had mirrored his father's gesture. Wesley let his eyes travel up the walls with their ceiling high shelves of leather bindings. And even though he knew that Diogenes would have better luck in finding an honest man in Athens than any woman in this masculine holy of holies, he tried to sound surprised . "Mother's not here?"

"She's asleep," Roger answered. "Like civilized people. She'll see you in the morning." He took one hand from his pocket and gestured at the table. "We have little in the way of fatted calf, I'm afraid. Due to the meat scares -- that's a joke, son, you are permitted to smile." He reached down to a drawer in the table. "But I do have a well-aged single malt. Living in that blasted country, I don't even know if you even --"

"The Puritan influence in Los Angeles may not be quite what you have been led to believe. Even in California, we occasionally indulge."

"I was going to say, I don't know if you even appreciate the difference."

"I've probably been ruined by the insidious influence of smog and cable television and food that you can actually taste. But I'll chance it."

"I find I lose patience with sarcasm in my old age, Wesley. If you could manage to put aside that trademark -- and I must say, after more than thirty years, increasingly tiresome -- defensiveness, perhaps you might be ready to sit down and talk with your father, man to man."

"Yes," Wesley said, turning to glare at Ashoka. "Man to man to body guard. I assure you, Ashoka, we'll be quite --"

Ashoka lunged forward and grabbed Wesley's shoulder.

"Look out!" Wesley called. Moving on instinct, Wesley threw an elbow, pulled out of the bodyguard's grip, and threw the man to the ground. "Father, are you --?" He tried to turn but couldn't. His father had taken hold of his wrist. Wesley shook him off, whirled and tensed, ready to defend himself. He wished for faster fists. He wished for a Browning automatic. But his father had not attacked him; he had only gripped Wesley by the hand and pressed a cold metal object into his palm. Now, Roger leaped away, stood behind the table as though it were barricade, and stared intently at Wesley's hand.

Wesley looked from his father, wide-eyed and almost cowering, to Ashoka, struggling from the floor. shoulders squared and braced for attack. I'm not going to fight a couple of old men. But what the hell is going on here? He took in the intensity of both mens' gaze, and then looked down and saw the object in his hand. It was a small silver cross.

Notes: Reference: A link to text and illustration of Jabberwocky might be helpful; I realize not everybody is a geek who memorized it at age 8 and recited it the 3rd grade talent show. (I so would have been an actor if learning lines was all there was to it!)


III. "We're all mad here"

Wesley stared down at the silver cross that pressed into his palm. He looked up at his father, braced defensively behind his desk, and Ashoka, getting to his feet as if to attack again. Wesley saw fear in the old men's eyes - and understanding slowly dawned. "Am I meant to be a vampire, then?"

He opened his hand to show the flesh, intact and cool. Then he raised the cross and pressed it against his wrist, met the gaze of both men to make sure they were satisfied that his skin wasn't on fire. Then he tossed the cross toward the table, where it skidded off the lamp and crashed into a pile of parchment scrolls.

Roger scowled and lifted the cross, inspecting it for damage. "You handle sacred things very lightly, son. It frightens me. It always has."

"Really? Because I would have sworn what frightened was when you when thought I was a vampire." Wesley had to lower his eyes as the muscles in his face twitched. He didn't think it was a good idea to let Roger know how amused he was, but he felt actual pain from repressing a smile.

"You may leave us, Ashoka." Roger finished polishing the cross and placed it carefully in his breast pocket. The bodyguard backed toward the door, scowling at Wesley. Stakes banged against each other beneath his coat.

The door closed, and Wesley helped himself to a chair, relaxing into it while Roger still stood. "Father --" Wesley began. He looked intently into the older man's eyes. Saw the heavy lines on his face, sketched there by the worries of more than five years since Wesley had seen him. And of course, back in L.A. he should have spotted the cyborg's ruse for that reason alone. The man he had seen in Los Angeles had not aged a day in the time Wesley was gone. That man was the father he remembered. And feared. This is just an old man, he thought. A scared old man.

"It was a perfectly reasonable inference. Your arriving here in the middle of the night, after all this time. When your mother realized that she had invited you, her nerves could hardly stand the shock. She had to take several Valium tonight before she could even get to bed."

Wes felt the laughter building in his chest and tried to fight it down. "I know you think I grew up blind and deaf, but it hardly requires the prospect of being devoured by her own offspring to send Mother reaching for a happy pill."

"Wesley!" Roger barked. "Show some respect for your family!"

"Yes, I suppose I should show more respect for the family that finds it easier to believe I want to drink their blood . . ." Despite his efforts at deadpan, a laugh broke through. "Than that I would choose to come home for Christmas."

"It is well-documented that a newly-born vampire frequently turns to his parents for his first victims. Especially, I need not add, when the relationship was less than harmonious in life. Combined with extreme changes in dress and grooming -- " He reached over to touch Wesley's jacket. "I've certainly never seen you wear leather before. And when is the last time you shaved? Wesley I'm certain that there's a perfectly good reason for you to be laughing like the Mad Hatter, but I can't begin to see why."

"Can't you?" Wesley caught his breath and managed to wipe his eyes. "I'll tell you what I can see. I see two men with one very important thing in common."

"And what exactly do you suppose that to be?"

That we're both afraid, Wesley thought. "Both of us," he said, "Very much need a drink of your Scotch."


IV: Queen of Hearts

People talked. Wesley knew that. That was what people did. And in 1999, when he was sent to Sunnydale, people went wild. Wesley's appointment as an active Watcher before the age of thirty didn't merely beat the odds; it shred the betting sheet. People around the Council whispered that Roger must have pulled strings to move his only child to the front of the line. But Wesley never saw it that way. Watcherdom was a sacred duty. The selection process was mysterious, handed down by unfathomable powers and, if there was a family connection, it was nothing less than right.

Because Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was not an only child.

Aside from substance abuse, a simmering intercontinental family feud, and truly epic levels of passive aggression, he was the sole tangible product of his parents' marriage. But Wesley knew that he had a sister. She stared out at him from one small yellowing photograph on the wall of the drawing room at the Borogoves: darkskinned and slim, eternally sixteen years old, in a plain white dress, pigtails, and a Mona Lisa smile. Among the matrix of family portraits -- young Edmund Pryce, cherub-faced and primed for an untimely death on the Western Front; Harold Wyndam receiving honors at the Court of St. James for outstanding service to the home secretary; John Malcolm Wesley with the Thoroughbred that almost showed in the 1934 Preakness -- this picture stood out by its small size and plain wooden frame. One peeling bit of masking tape bore the legend, in Roger's precise handwriting: "New Zealand, 1960. Mina." She wasn't Roger's actual daughter, of course. But she was, until his thirtieth year, the closest Wesley ever came to seeing a vampire slayer.

He wasn't alone. None of his classmates at the Academy had ever met a slayer, and the odds seemed astronomically low that any one of them ever would. The duties of slayer and watcher were inextricably woven together, by ages of historic and prehistoric precedent. But the vast majority of Academy graduates would serve in support duties, such as transcription, mystical forecasting, or public relations (dedicated to ensuring that the public remained utterly unaware of the Council's existence), or go on to careers in unrelated, if equally dangerous or arcane fields. In the case of particularly distinguished or notorious graduates -- T. E. Lawrence, say, or J.R.R. Tolkien -- considerable effort was taken on both sides to obscure the association.

It was partly in respect of the calling's mystery that so little of the Academy training actually had to do with Slayers. For the notoriously back-breaking "Heroes & Heritage" course, pupils had to memorize the names of every active Watcher of the last two centuries. But the Slayers themselves were rarely named, and absolutely never pictured. The actual identity of a Slayer was on a need-to-know basis. In theory, unless he had seen the dossier, the best-educated Watcher could pass the current slayer on the street and not recognize her.

As a boy, Wesley knew that the scarcity of information about Slayers created a mystery around even the smallest nugget. And Wesley sat on a goldmine. Whenever he received visits from his classmates -- friends was a strong word for what they were to him -- he would present the girl's picture as though he were a docent at the British Museum. He supplemented the display with small scraps of information he had gleaned from his parents' occasional cryptic comments: "Mina Nagati, born approximately 1945. Called herself after a character in Bram Stoker's Dracula, because her Maori name was considered unpronounceable. In a two year tenure as Slayer, Mina honed her skills under the tutelage of famed Watcher Roger Wyndam-Pryce. The team had over 200 confirmed kills throughout the Oceanic region, and averted at least three known apocalypses." Inevitably, one of the boys would make a crude comment about the girl's obvious skills -- "I count at least two of them" -- and Wesley would threaten to fight anyone who suggested anything so crude about the family Slayer. Thinking back on these scenes, much later, Wesley wondered how such an obvious prat as himself had not gotten his ass kicked even more often.

But Wesley's interest in Mina was not merely for show. Left to his own devices, as he often was during school holidays, and bored with books, Wesley could stare at this picture for hours. Not for the girl's beauty. He supposed the other boys were right about that, and Wesley even took a certain pride in it, as if in some vague way his family had helped to make her. But after all, she was a sister. What kept him coming back to the portrait, what continued as she stopped being the older sister and became younger and younger, was the magic that her name could evoke. The sudden quietness, the visible tears of pain in his father's eyes on the rare occasions that someone spoke of Mina. Wesley continually searched the picture for clues to what she had been. He thought he saw it in her eyes, her smile -- that mixture of intelligence and courage, confidence and cheek. With nothing else to go on, he took it as a Slayer trademark.

Wesley remembered Mina's picture when he received the dossiers on the Sunnydale girls. He could see the same indomitable spirit in their eyes. Especially the dark haired one, the one who called herself Faith. It was only right that Roger Wyndam-Pryce's only son should be the one to shepherd them through the coming storms.

Good God, Wesley thought, much later. Could I possibly have been such a berk?

VI. A Forced Death-March Down Memory Lane

"And when will we be meeting the young woman in your life?”

Wesley frowned at the glass, unaccountably empty. He shook out a drop and handed it to his father. "A little more, what do you think?" Roger poured, and handed back the full glass. Wes took a large mouthful, and let it burn down his throat before he finally looked up and said, “Who do you mean?”

"When you called out of the blue, after all this time, your mother and I imagined there might be a young lady in the picture. We thought you might even bring her to meet us."

“Was this before or after you decided I was coming to suck your blood?" He saw the glare in his father's eyes, and decided to give that one a rest. "No, father, I'm not seeing any woman. Any women."

"Well. That was another thing we thought you might want to talk to us about."

"That's not what I meant, either.” Wesley sighed. “I'm simply not seeing a particular girl, at the moment. I have in the past.” He let himself think about Fred, the last look they had shared which might not have been entirely in his imagination.. “Maybe I will again soon."

"You mother showed me a picture of you with the last one."

Wesley choked on his drink. "I doubt it." Certain events of the previous year were not exactly clear in his mind. But he did think he would have remembered sending his mother lovey-dovey snapshots of himself and Lilah Morgan.

"Redhead. Looked expensive.”

"Oh," Wesley recovered. "Virginia Bryce. Yes, she was very posh.” He breathed deeply and made an effort to drain the sarcasm from his voice – not for his father’s sake but because he had cared for Ginny and she deserved better. “Wonderful in fact.” He swirled the glass and stared at the play of the dim light in the amber liquid.

“What happened to her?” Roger prompted.

“I have no idea,” he said, and realized as he spoke that it was true, and it was probably a good thing. News of the chocolate-and-puppies variety didn’t tend to trickle his way these days. But he could be fairly certain she hadn’t been devoured by a demon or caught in the crossfire of a family Wizards’ Feud. If she had he would have heard. “Understand -- I met Ginny in the process of keeping her father from using her as a human sacrifice. It turned out she’d had enough of that. She kept setting me up for interviews as a private security consultant. It seems she wanted to make me into a respectable husband – which, apparently, I was not cut out to be."

"That's nonsense," Roger answered. "It's simply a matter of the right woman. I certainly thought of myself as a confirmed bachelor until I was forty years old. And then I met your mother." And look how well that turned out, Wesley thought, although he didn't have enough Scotch it him to actually say it. "It always seems impossible until it happens. But you'll meet the right woman, and you'll want to marry her, and it will be the most natural thing in the world."

Wesley tried to smile indulgently, but it turned into a real smile as he found himself slipping into a vision of Fred Burkle in a white dress with flowers in her hair. The sun was out and Angel was the best man. . .and OK, maybe a moonlight ceremony and. . . Good God, Pryce. For a Watcher turned rogue demon hunter turned private detective turned second-in-command of a major office of a demonically influenced law firm, you make an awfully convincing twelve-year-old girl.

He looked up at Roger, the warmth of the liquor hitting him. He remembered something he had said to the creature that posed as his father back in Los AngelesA thing that he never spoke of to anyone, and yet it had slipped out then. He thought it had just slipped out. Yet he now had another chance not to say it to his father, and the urge was there again. "There was a woman,” he began. “Not that long ago. You and mother wouldn't have approved of her, though. Hell," he laughed, "I didn't approve of her."

"Oh, but son --" Roger leaned close, knowledgeable, man to man. "Those can be the hardest to get over. What was she -- sorceress? Siren? Vampire, perhaps?"


"Oh dear. One of your new associates?" He gave the last word an icy inflection, but Wesley let it go. That wasn't the argument he was ready to have.

"In a manner of speaking. Only, she died."

"And if I had to guess, I would rule out 'peacefully in her sleep'"?

"Good guess.” Wesley gave a hollow laugh. “And if your next guess involves gaping neck wounds, and me with a bonesaw." He met his father's eyes and a long moment passed between them. He had told much the same story to the impostor in Los Angeles . The last girl I was with I had to chop into little tiny pieces because a higher power saw fit to stab her in the neck. . The creature had taken it for sarcasm, or had pretended to. Another clue, Wesley now thought, that he should have seen. Roger Wyndam-Pryce would have to know that his son could not make that joke. .

Roger finally averted his eyes and said, "I always thought the unit on dismemberment at the Academy should have been more practical. But the trustees got squeamish at the idea of cadavers."

"I'd say that I managed the practical part reasonably well," and in his mind he was back in that basement, his hands on Lilah's bloodless flesh. But not bloodless enough, he realized. Remembering the crimson on his hands. I should have known Angelus didn't try to turn her. If he had, there would never have been so much blood. His mind must have been clouded by emotion. It often was, where Lilah was concerned. He just had no idea which emotion it was. Quite possibly, he had invented an entirely new one, previously unknown in the history of humanity, just to fit the occasion.

"Yes," his father said, "As tragic as it may be, a Watcher often finds himself in such a position regarding his slayer. I myself, in New Zealand --" He looked far off, let the sentence die, until Wesley said:

"I remember." He remembered the photograph of Roger and Mina now, realizing with a flash of guilt that he had no idea what had become of it. "Of course, this was not actually my slayer but in fact my lover --"

Roger looked up, absently and said, "So you make a clear distinction. Interesting." He leaned closer, studying Wesley's face, for a clue to God-knew-what. "I never did put much stock in the things people said about you and that girl."

Notes: The chapter title is a Wes-quote from “Birthday”; one line is quoted from “Lineage.”


VII. Sentence First, Verdict Afterwards

"I never did put much stock in the things people said about you and that girl."

Wesley stared at his father, almost as if the man had begun to speak in a foreign language. Switching tongues mid-conversation was, in fact, an old trick of Roger’s to keep Wesley on his toes. But there was hardly a dialect Wesley’s father could have thrown at him where he would have absolutely no grasp on the meaning. This was different; here, he knew the words. He just couldn’t make them apply to anything. "People -- " he stammered. "Me and -- what girl? Which people?"

"Come, son. The Council was very quiet about the circumstances of your dismissal. And gossip abhors a vacuum. Naturally, some of the rumors touched on your relationship with that slayer."

This wasn't much better but it gave him some place to stand in relation to the words. He choked out, "Buffy?"

"That bag of twigs?" Roger let out a dry laugh. "I don’t think anyone ever impugned your taste to that degree. The one with the attitude. And the leather and the chains." Putting on a voice like a Gielgud soliloquy, he said, “Like heaven’s zone glittering, but a far fairer world incompassing.”

“Yes, a troubled teenager in leather pants.” Wesley rolled his eyes. “That’s just what John Donne was on about." To his father’s disbelieving gaze, he said, “I’m not suggesting Faith is unattractive, but it doesn’t mean there was anything untoward in our relationship.”

“She did go a bit wild for a time.”

“Did she?” Wesley tried to give a suitable impression of shock. “That must have happened when I was busy – what was I doing? Oh, I know. Trying to keep Faith from killing anyone.”

“I am merely speaking to the sort of supposition that tends to be made by an uninformed mass. People see a girl that age go so terribly wrong, and rebellion against a male authority figure is a common conclusion. Then you were dismissed and later, when the slayer seemed to take a particular interest in you -- ."

“So the evidence that I harmed Faith is that she nearly killed me, and. . .” He couldn’t speak the rest. Hours tied to a chair in that empty apartment. The year that went by before he could even hear the word “sharp” without wanting to vomit. “It would not surprise me to learn that any number of men did a good many horrible things to Faith. Long before I knew her. But I was never one of them.”

"Never,” his father repeated, a soothing note in his voice. Roger spoke deliberately, stating the next sentence as a fact. “And so you never pumped her full of a powerful narcotic and fed her to your pet vampire.”

Silence dropped over them, and Wesley suddenly felt the cavelike isolation of the library. Remembering Faith, tattered and bloody in another cavernous room. When he gathered himself to reply, he started to count points off on his fingers. "Faith made that choice.” Then the second finger. “Angel is not my pet. And that was a desperate situation.” His words gained speed as he mounted the defense. “Not Angel, much less Angelus -- and that was Faith the twenty-year old escaped convict stone killer. Not Faith the troubled teenage slayer. And I had long stopped being her watcher –and Faith made that choice –“

And you already said that one. . .” Roger began counting out on his own hands, imitating his son’s cadence. “And hysterical recitation of loosely related excuses is not the surest indicator of a clear conscience."

"My conscience. . .” Wesley answered. Is not a place you want to visit, he started to say. But he stopped short of that, coming late to the most obvious response, the argument from results. “Faith is not on my conscience. Faith is alive and well and, if she’s doing any damage at the moment, it’s with Rupert Giles’ credit card at the Leather Emporium.”

“So it’s about ends and means now.”

“It’s about my being in the field long enough for you not question my judgment.” He shook his head, determined not to let his father determine the direction of the conversation. “But that’s not what you were talking about. You were talking about Sunnydale.”

“As I said. Idle gossip that I, personally, never put any stock in.”

“Of course,” Wesley said. “Idiotic gossip from stupid people. Just tell me what they said when you denied it.” Silence hung in the air far too long. “Father?” Wesley prompted, although he had expected nothing less. “You heard all these people talking about how I raped a teenage girl and turned her into a homicidal maniac. At some point, I assume you made it clear that the rumors were unfounded. Said that your son would never do such a thing. And then. . .I don’t know.” Wesley slammed his glass on the table. “Threatened to take legal action for slander?"

Roger took a long sip from his Scotch. He finally spoke in an even, uninflected tone. “I don’t believe anyone was throwing around words like ‘rape’. With regard to Faith, I would hardly believe you capable of such a thing."

Wesley stood slowly, turned his back to the table. His heart raced, and he struggled to catch his breath before he could speak. "I don't know how you do it, Father.” His voice still came out ragged. “You actually just managed to turn 'not a rapist' into an insult."

"Calm yourself, son,” Roger said, as if he could hear the rapid heartbeat beneath Wesley’s measured display of serenity. “It’s only that I know you, and I've seen that girl. A creature like that is never innocent a day in her life. If anything, I would believe that she took advantage of you.”

"There was no advantage! Taken or otherwise!” All the conversations they had been through in this library began to swirl in his head, with the sleep and the Scotch. “I didn’t even think of Faith that way, remember? They may look like girls, but one day you'll have to chop her into pieces and throw her on the fire so keep a stiff upper lip and don't get attached.”

“I told you what you were ready to hear. This new Puritanism, the obsession with anything that even hints of sexuality. You don’t think Travers and the Council would have sent a young man to deal with those girls, do you? Unless he was a notorious prig.”

“So I’m a prig or I’m a rapist.” Wesley slumped down into the chair and leaned his head to stare at the ceiling. The flicker of candles in crystal chandeliers threatened to hypnotize him. He thought for the first time of how long he had been traveling, and resolved to stop snapping at whatever bait his father happened scatter on the waves. “There’s no winning this, is there?”

“If you had been less of a proper Head Boy, you might have seen it for yourself. The Slayer is a primal force, Wesley. Do you believe it’s a coincidence that it chooses to manifest in the host as she reaches a state of maturity? Of heightened sexual energy? The Slayer feeds on that force; throughout the Middle Ages, the dominant view was that the Watcher had a duty to understand and control it.”

“Throughout the Middle Ages, the dominant view was that if somebody was sick you should stick a knife in their arteries to let out the evil spirits. It is rather astonishing how many people bled to death before it occurred to anyone to question that approach.”

“Yes, it’s much easier to mock than to make an effort to understand. It’s much easier to deny the aspects of our heritage that strike us as unpleasant, or politically incorrect.”

Wesley heard the words but kept his gaze on the candles. “I’m quite aware of the Council’s history. But you’re talking about is a view that has been thoroughly discredited by any reputable scholar as anything but a justification for abuse of power.” He was speaking automatically, sleepwalking through a dated argument that no one he knew had seriously bothered to take the other side of. “It’s exactly the sort of thing that the reforms of the 1970s were designed to eradicate. And anyone who’s still spouting that rubbish in the twenty-first century . . .”

It was a trick of the light, maybe, or the alcohol settling into his brain, but for a minute, the old picture danced before Wesley’s eyes. A man and a girl on a seashore, and the label: “New Zealand, 1960.” His young proud father, and the girl with the braids who had followed Wesley over the years as an imaginary sister. He suddenly knew that he hadn’t actually heard a word his father said all night. “Bloody hell.” He sat up slowly, and craned forward for a look at Roger's deep, forbidding eyes. “Forgive me, Father,” he said. “For I really am a completely crap detective.” Sitting back, he steepled his fingers, consciously mimicking Roger’s favorite gesture. “Now. Do you have something to tell me about New Zealand?”


VIII. Antipodes

"Do you have something to tell me," Wesley asked, "about New Zealand?"

Roger fixed his gaze on his son and took another long slow drink of the old Scotch. “New Zealand,” he began slowly, “is a remote land, one which lies far from the nerve center of the Watcher’s council. Historically, it was one of the last sizable territories, suitable for habitation and population, to be settled by humans. . .”

"And the capital is Wellington, there are more sheep than people, and the major exports are sheep parts and overpraised film adaptations of derivative, dubiously idolized fantasy epics. I was rather hoping you would tell me something that I didn't know."

"And I was rather hoping," said Roger, without a change in his monotone inflection, "that you would shut up for two minutes and overrule your narcissistic impulses long enough to actually listen to what I have to say. Remember, I didn’t even know your mother then.”

Wesley’s grip tightened around his glass. “I didn’t ask if you cheated on Mother.” His voice rose along with his heart rate as he spoke. “I asked if you fucked a sixteen year old girl, sent her off to die, chopped her into little pieces, and then came home and told anyone who would listen about how she wasn’t completely human.”



“I didn’t ask whether you cheated, et cetera. . .that would be the preferable construction in this instance. Instead of ‘if.’ And don’t take that morally superior tone with me; you can ill afford it.”

“Morally superior?” Wes repeated, disbelieving. “No, Father. I think I get to be morally superior about this.”

"Once again, your sarcasm serves no purpose but to block up your own ears." He shook his head, and sighed before going on. "You’ve come a long way to hear my story, son, so do yourself the favor of listening. In 1958, the Watcher's Council faced its greatest nightmare. The previous slayer had succumbed, but although we believed we had located every potential, not one of them showed signs of becoming active. We went on a mad scramble worldwide, searching for signs that we might have missed. Despite all the modern methods of communication, despite the magicks at our disposal, it was the longest period of interfectum – the time between the slayers -- since the seventeenth century. We had to resort to the ancient methods, traveling the world, drawing on underground sources and folk legends. A girl in the jungles of Brazil who slew a leopard with her bare hands. A street urchin in Khartoum who broke the necks of a gang of rapists. The stories amounted to nothing – exaggerations, misapprehensions, or out and out lies.

“Finally, it was the vampires themselves who led us to Mina. They spoke of a thing on a distant corner of the South Island, a thing too terrible to name. A gang had set upon a village of peaceful people, outside at night for their harvest festival. It should have been a massacre. But it was the vampires who were destroyed. Dusted, to a man, all by the same small girl. All except for one. She cut off his ears and gouged out his eyes, leaving him to find his way home by the sense of smell. And she carved a symbol into the flesh of his back; fear, it meant, in her language. This girl became the thing that they feared, and she sent him back, as a warning to his people.”

“I have read the Chronicles, Father,” Wesley sighed. “I remember the story.” I’ve told that story, he thought, cringing at the memory of his pompous young self giving penny tours to his school fellows. Then he went on to tell it one last time. “Watcher follows the rumors to the girl’s village. Chief captures Watcher and threatens his life. Chief’s daughter risks her father’s wrath by putting her life on the line to save the Great White Watcher, becomes the Pocahontas of the Tasman Sea. After which the Father consents to turn his daughter over to the Watcher, to be her guardian. Everyone knows that story.”

“I’m not telling you the story,” Roger snapped, “I’m telling you the truth. Bloody hell, schoolboys really will soak up any rot they print in a textbook.” Leaning across the table, he spoke more quietly. “Mina wasn’t the chief’s daughter. She wasn’t anybody’s daughter. She was an orphan with no status in the village until she fought off those vampires. She was fourteen then.” He shook his head. “I met many of the Maori in my time in the country. I fought beside some. They are fine people, noble people, and their traditions give them a conduit to powerful magicks. But the chief of Mina’s village was not noble. He was a corrupt, petty, power-hungry man, such as you find in any hierarchy.”

“Including the Council,” Wesley said dryly.

“Including the Council,” Roger said without missing a beat in his story. “This man saw Mina for what she was, a great warrior and natural leader. All the things that he could never be himself. And her power frightened him. He quarreled with his own holy men. They wanted to elevate the girl to her natural status and honor her as a warrior and a hero. The chief drove them away. It was one of them, a great wizard by our reckoning, who led me to back there. At last. But it was two years from her first battle to the time that I came to the village. And what do you think the chief did with her, in that time?”

Drawn into his Father’s telling against his own will, Wesley said, “I don’t know.”

“Oh, don’t you? I think you can guess. He made her his concubine. He hoped to raise strong warrior sons out of that stock.” Roger leveled his gaze at Wesley. “She was fourteen,” he repeated. “And she couldn’t give him children. Perhaps she was too young. Perhaps her body knew she needed her strength, and simply resisted conceiving. But she was nubile enough for him to keep her, until he got bored with her. And then he passed her down to the village elders. And then they got bored with her. And so on. She had no vampires to fight. Her warning had served for that; they have stayed clear of that region to this day. The village had no need for her in combat. And so when I found her, our Chosen One had spent two years doing nothing much. Nothing much but being raped by every man in that village.”

Wesley thought of the lovely, vibrant teenager he had seen in that picture, the girl he had imagined into a sister. He remembered the fights he had started in defense of Mina’s honor. But it wasn’t an adolescent’s idea of a girl’s virtue that disturbed him now. He actually wanted to be able to spare the girl from such unthinkable pain, even pain that had been over for more than forty years. And he could only do that by denying it. “Surely,” he said, “I can see they might have wanted to do that to her. But she could have fought them. She was stronger than any of them.”

“Stronger than all of them,” Roger answered. “And she knew her own strength, or at least she had an idea of it. She had dreams, the dreams of the Slayers. She hated everything those men did to her. And she knew, the whole time, that she could break any one of them with little more than a finger. But she didn’t. Because she believed those were the men that her god had placed in charge of her. And she felt that she hadn’t the right.”

“Dear God,” Wesley said quietly.

“Oh, it’s an old story. Not a pretty one. But perhaps now you understand why the Chronicles prefer to take the focus off of the Slayer’s personal history, and on to the Watchers. The manifestation of power in the girl has rarely been well-received.”

“But then the chief gave her up to you?” Wesley asked.

“Oh yes, I became her guardian. That part is true. And do you know what miraculous instrumentality brought that to pass? Cigarettes. The chief had no interest in my money, not in a place that remote. And so I bought my Slayer for twenty cases of Lucky Strikes. And I truly believe the man considered that he was cheating me blind.”

“And then?” Wesley prompted, still trying to fit everything together. His father’s words, the history he was learning, the girl in the picture. “Happily ever after?”

“And then I took her to Auckland, set up a household, and began a course of education. Social graces, ancient and modern languages, mathematics, and combat. Over three years, I taught her to channel her innate power until she became one of the most powerful slayers this century has known.”

“And just incidentally, you fucked her.”

“You keep coming back to that. Rather obsessively, I might remark. It’s the Puritan streak surfacing again; the Scottish and American blood on your mother’s side, no doubt.”

“It’s hardly Puritanical to believe that a man shouldn’t take sexual advantage of a girl who is under his care. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yet you’re ready to excuse it, because she’d been used worse by other men before you? That’s rather like justifying the European slave trade because some Africans were slaves already. But that’s garbage. Don’t insult both of our intelligence. Mina’s people treated her like a whore, and then you paid them off – cheap – and she became your whore. Only this time with clean sheets and trigonometry.”

Roger leveled a warning look at his son. “Don’t use your facile analogies to cheapen things that you can’t understand. Mina was brilliant. The quickest study I ever saw. A scholar’s mind and a warrior’s intuition. And pretty, of course, but they’re always pretty. The primal power that chooses these girls doesn’t waste its time on ordinary ones. Mina was beautiful. Luminous. Divine. And fierce. And hard. The child in her was long gone by the time we met. Part of her what those men had made her, but at the bottom, she was more than that. She was a force older than time. She was Slayer. She was hard like a diamond is hard, and the only thing that can cut into it is another diamond. There was no working halfway with Mina. You had to be together with her in every possible way. And we were. Together. And that was our strength.”

“Stop,” Wesley said, looking down at the table and shaking his head. “Please stop, before you feel compelled to tell me you loved her.”

“Is that so difficult to believe?”

“Yes,” Wesley snapped, then looked up and studied his father’s face. “No. Maybe it’s not so difficult. Because a man has to love something in his life. Even you, I suppose, only I could never make out what it was. Certainly never Mother or me.”

Roger’s eyes narrowed. “And what is it that you think you’ve loved? You’ve never been with a woman the way I was with Mina. I can look at you, and I can tell that. So what do you think you have loved? Vampires? Demon lawyers? Finding ways to humiliate me in the eyes of the Council?”

Wesley slammed a fist on the table. “Do you really flatter yourself that I have kept you in mind at all? You, who never deigned to express approval of a single choice I’ve made in my life?”

“Approval?” Roger repeated, as if mulling it over. “Is that what you’re after? In that case, son, I am sincerely sorry. Sorry that I never expressed my approval for your making a joke out of the Watcher’s Council, getting fired by your own Slayer, teaming up with a notorious vampire, and, at long last, winning promotion to the head of special projects at Evil, Incorporated.”

Wesley curled a hand around his glass, tightening his grip as his Roger went on. At the end of this last speech, the tumbler slipped of his grasp. Wesley reached to set it right, when his hand caught the bottle of Scotch. It tilted, spun, and shattered on the floor.

They both looked down for a moment without speaking. The liquid leaked out, but neither made a move to pick up the mess. “Good bottle,” Roger finally said. “Priceless carpet.”

“Fortunately, I can afford it.” Wesley reached for his wallet, hand still shaking. “Wages of sin.” He slapped a business card down on the table in front of Roger, and enunciated, carefully, every word of the next sentence. “Why don’t you send the bill to my office?” He stood, trying to calm his trembling muscles as he watched his father read the words: WOLFRAM & HART; Los Angeles Branch Office; Director, Occult Division; Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.

Roger looked quietly over the card for a moment, then raised his eyes to Wesley’s and intoned one word: “Death.”

“I’m sorry.” Wesley ran a hand through his hair, “You’ve lost me now.”

“The wages of sin is death. According to Saint Paul, who was supposed to know about such things.” He shook his head. “In your case, I begin to believe it. No father relishes the idea of outliving his children. I hate to think of you as the last of the Wyndam-Pryces. But surely, son, if you stay on your current path, I can hardly believe that you are long for this world. I had always hoped you might take the opportunity to pass the family name before you found your way to a reckless grave. But. . .” He stood, bent Wesley’s card in half and flicked it, without looking, toward the garbage can. “If you’re going to put my name on filth like this, perhaps it’s just as well.”

“Oh, don’t worry Father.” Wesley stepped toward Roger and spoke through clenched teeth. “With luck you’ll outlive mother. And now there are any number of lovely teenage slayers available. Maybe one of them can give you another son. I’m sure you could raise a fine warrior out of that breeding stock.”

What happened next should not have surprised Wesley. It was not the first time he had seen his father’s hand raised in anger. It wasn’t the second or the third, or even the fiftieth. But Wesley was a grown man, and Roger was old. And so Wesley didn’t expect the back of Roger’s hand to fly at him so suddenly and with such force. Or that he should find himself gripping his jaw in pain, and tasting the blood that leaked from his lip.

“Don’t speak to me of things,” Roger repeated, “That you can never understand.”  

IX. The Last of the Wyndam-Pryces

Wesley put a hand to his bleeding lip, cringed instinctively, and murmured, “I’m sorry.” Instantly, he hated his body for that reaction, pulled himself tall, and lunged to grab Roger by the shoulder. “No! I’m not sorry and you – you don’t get to do that to me anymore.”

His Father did not flinch, only cast his eyes curiously to where Wesley’s hand rested on his coat sleeve. After a long moment, Roger spoke, calmly and evenly. “Why?”

“Why?” Wesley repeated. He forced his body to relax and released the old man's arm. He hated the petulance in his own voice as he spoke. “Because I’m not a child.”

“Come son,” said Roger. He backed away and sank again into his chair. “You can do better than that.”

Wesley stared at him, shocked by the sudden calmness, unable even to formulate a question.

“Give me a better reason why I don’t get to do such a thing to you.”

Wesley shook his head and sank into his own chair. “I’m so tired of these games.”

“I’ll help you.” Roger put on a voice that was an eerie imitation of his son’s and said, “I’m not a child, Father, I’m a man. I’m a powerful man. I have forces at my beck and call that you couldn’t begin to imagine. When I was a Watcher, Father, I had to work in the darkness, keep secrets, pose as an assistant school librarian, or some disgraceful bloody thing. But this time, Father, when I returned to England in my triumph, I wasn’t even required to go through customs. I flashed my pretty little business card, and someone’s eyes got big, and she said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, it won’t happen again.’ Because I work with real power now, Father. I could snap my fingers and anyone I please could have a knife through his gut before the echo died. And what do you have, Father, you and your Council? Nothing but a bunch of little girls who won’t even listen to you anymore.”

“Is that what you think of me, then?” Wesley asked. “That I’ve turned into a petty little tyrant? That I would sustain my position on a foundation of violence and threats?”

“I don’t know how much it matters that you would. Right now, you probably think you wouldn’t, because you don’t particularly feel the need. It matters that you could, and anything a man can do is a thing he will do, for the right price. For the right person.” He shook his head. “Power corrupts, Wesley. The axiom exists for a reason.”

“Yes,” Wesley answered slowly, “For a reason. Because it’s a thing that people who have power can say to people who don’t, to keep them in their place. I’m through with axioms. Corruption corrupts, Father, and anything else people say about power, they say to rationalize any damn thing they always wanted to do, but couldn't, until they had the power to do it.”

Roger banged the table until the bottles jumped. “Then Wolfram and Hart’s power is corrupt at the core. It comes from a place of evil. You cannot make a deal with those forces and expect to walk away.”

“And who says that I plan to walk away?” Wesley answered, his voice rising with his emotions. “Why would I? There are two kinds of power. Power that we use, and power that is used against us. Power that is used righteously and power that is used to subdue, to intimidate, to conceal the truth. This I know. And yes, now I’ve been given some power, for once, some real power. I don’t pretend to understand the reason, and I don’t pretend to know the purpose. The very fact that I have it is the best evidence I’ve encountered so far that the forces governing the universe are fundamentally insane.”

Wesley paced and turned, looked at the ceiling for a moment, then turned to face his father with greater force. “But I hold it,” he continued. “It is mine to use. And if I don’t use it, someone else will. And if we – if Angel and I, all of us – had turned down this opportunity because of some copybook garbage about power and corruption, then there would be blood on our hands. I cannot see it any other way, and believe me, I have tried. We took what we are offered and we are using it, Father. We are trying to do a good thing. And we may very well fail. We may die in the attempt, but if we do, it will be because we lack the strength. It will not be because we lack the will.” Wesley let out a ragged breath, felt the heat of blood that had risen to his face, and listened to the silence that hung for a long moment between them.

Roger blinked and said, “I’m sorry. Were you finished?”

“Yes, I. . .” He wiped some sweat that was beading on his forehead. “I believe that I’ve made my point.

The last reaction Wesley expected was a laugh of genuine amusement. But he should have learned by now to stop expecting things. “Splendid,” Roger laughed. “That was absolutely splendid. And I suppose I was wrong about you. It is the blonde one you’re in love with after all.”


“The Summers girl. Betty or whatever her silly name is.”

“I’m sure I don’t know how that follows. I haven’t seen Buffy in years.”

“Perhaps you should give her a call then, amuse each other with your speeches. Because you sound exactly like her. She was through here a few months ago, asking for an audience with all the old Watchers. She and Faith and Rupert Giles, plus that redheaded witch – you know, the little Jew-dyke.” He looked at Wesley, obviously hoping for a response, but Wesley just shook his head; the cheap shot wasn’t even worthy of Roger and they both knew it. “She went on all morning about shifts of power, and seizing the day and – I hardly even remember, it was all I could do not to stab myself in the arm with a fountain pen to make sure I was awake. She was asking something from the Council, talking about the start of a new order, the power moving from the Watchers to the Slayers. Because, just like you, she had forgotten a single essential fact.” He let the silence hang there, until Wesley had to fill it.

“And just what have Buffy and I forgotten?”

“Each of you is so busy railing against the Council, shaking your fists at the gods about the way we have been doing everything wrong. And in your railing, you have forgotten a small but fundamental detail.” Still lost, Wesley shook his head. “About the Council,” Roger prompted. “A very good reason that you are wasting your time being angry at the Council.”

“I think I have spent a good part of my adult life learning to understand the failings of the Council. I think getting fired by the Council was the best thing that ever happened to me, and that Buffy’s standing up to the Council was the best thing that ever happened to the calling of the Slayer. And tonight I have learned a few things that help me to understand more thoroughly than I ever could before, exactly what a corrupt body the Council is and has always been. So what am I missing?”

“Wesley,” he shook his head. “Wesley, Wesley, Wesley, there always has been something a bit charming in your bullheadedness. So we shall stop the guessing game, and I shall remind you of the thing that you are determined to forget.” Leaning close over the table, he whispered, “There is no Council. A mad preacher with some plastic explosives saw to that. Summers and Rosenberg’s little coup d’etat took care of the rest.”

“But my sources tell me the Council is reassembling.”

“Your sources,” Roger repeated. “And what would those be? Some crude cyborg with my face?” He shook his head. “Your sources could not be more wrong. Neither what remains of the Council nor I had anything to do with that attack. You should have grasped that we would never try to use the vampire to our own ends. That would make us as bad as your friends at Wolfram. But I have my sources as well. And honestly -- six shots straight to the heart? Without a moment's hesitation? I stood no chance, did I?”

“You knew,” Wesley stammered, and the old sickness rose in his throat. “You’ve let me sit here all this time and you knew.”

“That you were willing to shoot your own father to protect a damsel in distress? Oh, wipe that look off your face. And please don't get sick in here, you have already done enough damage to my carpet. I have never been prouder of you in my life than when I heard you got those shots off. What I am still not entirely certain of, is whether you came here to apologize, or to finish the job.”

“And does that frighten you?”

“No,” Roger shook his head. “In this place, at this moment, it does not. Because you have nothing to gain by killing me. And you could not make it fit into the view you cling to of yourself as a righteous man. But you do frighten me.” He glanced at Wesley. “Does that please you? It is better to be feared than to be loved, I believe, is where your friend Machiavelli finally came down on that question.”

“I suppose," Wesley answered weakly, "that it is better than nothing. But please, Father, do tell. How do I manage to frighten you?”

“When you were a boy,” he answered. “You got into the books, do you remember? You thought you could impress your friends – such as they were – or make your mother a present or some nonsense.”

“I was nine,” said Wesley. “And it was supposed to be a gift for you, as I’m sure that you well know.”

“You conjured up a Questing Beast," Roger continued. "The beast knocked over the toolshed, ate a half dozen sheep, and required some creative explanation to the constabulary enquiry." He leveled a stern, half-mocking finger at his son. "You very nearly caused half of my library to be confiscated. I see from that pained expression on your face that you remember quite well.”

“I mostly remember the thrashing and the not being able to sit down for three days. Actually. But thank you for bringing it up.” He raised an eyebrow. “And that’s what frightens you? That I’ll remember old grievances and take some kind of petty revenge?”

“It frightens me that someone took the boy who did something so foolish, and gave him the keys to the bloody kingdom.”

“That. . .” Wesley stammered. “That doesn’t even make any sense. You’re talking about something that happened when I was nine years old. It has nothing to do with the man I am.”

“Please, son. ‘The child is father to the man.’ Wordsworth spewed a lot of sentimental rubbish, but he had that one on the nose. And I don’t mean only you, son. I mean all of us. We inhabit dangerous times. And in such times, all of us hide from the people who know us best. . . Lest we should see where we are, Lost in a haunted wood. Children afraid of the night, Who have never been happy or good.”

“Oh, it’s Auden we’re abusing now? The more brilliant men you choose to quote, Father, the more nonsense I can tell that you’re talking.”

“Dangerous tims," he repeated. "And all of us are children. Every son feels it, every son tries to keep the secret to himself. Every son hates his father, for how well that one man knows the truth. And every father fears his son, because only the father can know what a reckless and desperate child he has unleashed on the world.”

“I refuse to accept that," said Wesley. "There are sons and fathers who value each other, who support each other. . .”

“Do you know any?” Roger countered. “No need to answer, because if you think you do, all you know is a gang of liars. Every father fears the things his son can do. Shakespeare knew it before Freud, and Sophocles knew it before any of them. Of course I fear a world that gives my son power, just as the Watchers fear a world run by the Slayers. Although that, I think, is an experiment that will run its course in time. Much like Communism. I only hope I do not live to see the end of it. I am not certain, in fact, that any human will. Live, I mean.”

“I have to have more hope than that.”

“Please do,” Roger answered. “Hope, by all means. Why should you not? This is the world you wanted. Power in the hands of the warriors on the front, and no one to hold the line if they fail. Traditions of millennia stripped, stampeded, thrown by the wayside. And me, an old man, locked here in my library. No longer a threat to you. No longer telling you what to do. You are a man, Wesley, as you keep insisting that I acknowledge. You have the power and I do not. I only ask that you give me the illusion of this last bit of power, over my own home. Finish your drink, stay the night. Get up tomorrow; make your peace with your mother. Then leave this place, and never darken my door again. From this night on, you have no father, and I have no son.”

“I. . .” Wesley stammered.

“Is this not what you wanted? What the Americans amusingly choose to call closure? I believe things are as closed as they have ever been between us.” He rose from his chair, and stepped over the shattered bottle of Scotch. “Don’t bother with that, I’ll have Ashoka clean up your mess. I am going to bed, and in the morning I have business in London. I trust that you will be gone when I get back.” He stopped and tilted his head at Wesley. “Tell me this is not what you want.”

“No,” Wesley said quietly. “I mean, yes. I think you’re right. I think it is best. I came here believing that we might be able to find some common ground, but . . .”

“No you didn’t,” Roger answered. “You came here to throw everything you are, and everything you have become, into my face. To convince yourself you were right to shoot me when you had the chance. And now you see an old man who poses not the smallest threat to anyone. You see that you are young and strong, and you have the world on a string. You have beaten me. . You are, as I believe you Americans like to say, the man. And I have told you, Wesley, why that frightens me. And so you must now ask one last thing of yourself. Why, exactly, does it frighten you?”

And Wesley had no answer. And then the man was gone.

So his son knelt on the floor, amid the shards of the shattered liquor bottle. And they cut into his knees, but he pressed down harder. He lifted the pieces of glass, pressed his hands tight around them, and brought the damaged flesh to his face. The pungence of aged Scotch mingled with the sharp metal scent of blood, and he knew that his father was right, about one final matter, if no other. Because Wesley at this moment knew the truth, a truth that he would spend the next weeks and months struggling to forget. That he would indeed be the last of the Wyndam-Pryces. And that he would not live long.

~*~THE END~*~

Notes: Like Roger Wyndam-Pryce, I tend to abuse a lot of brilliant men when I'm desperate. The first Auden quote ("children afraid of the night") is from "September 1, 1939"; the last sentence shamelessly rips off the ending of "The Shield of Achilles."


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