Chapter 20. Wisdom lingers
A little knowledge that acts
is worth infinitely more than much
knowledge that is idle.
Kahlil Gibran, In A Second Treasury of Kahlil Gibran
Our most bitter enemies are our own kith and kin
Kings have no brothers, no sons, no mother!
Honoré De Balzac, Catherine de Medici expliquée, Souverain
Darla had been a potential.
It explained so much about her, who she was, why she was so formidable, and why, years after she’d dusted, Darla’s actions and memory still haunted Buffy. It also explained why the Master had turned her, why Angelus and the rest of them were so strong, why they rose to master vampire status so quickly. Even poor Drusilla – poor Drusilla? Where the hell did that come from, Buffy? Buffy shook her head in askance at her own thoughts. Even Drusilla must have benefitted from the infusion of potential slayer blood.
Glancing up at Spike, she wondered just how much her blood affected him. She knew it was powerful. He’d said so more than once, but she wondered what the long term effects might be on him. Would he be stronger? Would he be quicker to heal with regular infusions of her blood? Almost guessing the train of her thoughts by the expression on her face, Spike knelt down by her side, pulling her into his embrace. His voice was a low hum in her ear, his words whispered so that only she could hear him.
“Explains a lot now, what Rupert’s sayin’. Never would’ve imagined it. Darla always was a right bitch, and more powerful than she looked. Downright scary sometimes.”
Wesley was staring down at the baby, who was wriggling around on the blanket, Buffy’s hand covering his belly. “So the boy has slayer and vampire strength in him.”
Giles cleared his throat, preparing to speak, when Dawn’s voice broke through the heavy atmosphere. “Buffy? What does that mean?”
Oh god. Dawn. Buffy looked at Spike, both of them realizing at that instant that not only was Connor the child of a Slayer and a vampire, but so was Dawn. The panic in her voice was clear, at least to both of them, although no one else in the room caught the emotion.
“Niblet?” Spike’s gaze shifted to where she stood in the doorway, phone in hand and a concerned look on her face. He could hear the buzzing of the disconnection from where he was and he got to his feet, walking toward her. “C’mon, sweet bit, hang up the phone.”
He took the phone from her, hanging it up on the receiver, leading her to the couch. “Why don’t we let Giles tell us what it might mean before we all go off the deep end.”
“I’m not sure what it means. Most of the children were out of the Council’s – their fathers,” The former watcher faltered for a moment, then continued. “It appears that the children were spirited away for their own safety. One of the girls – Sorcha of Clan MacDonald – one of her children, a boy by the name of Seamus was taken into custody by the Council. He died while in the Council’s custody and both of his parents disappeared with their other children shortly after.”
“There’s no records of what happened to the others. They just simply disappeared and there were no details surrounding the rest of their lives.” His comments were greeted with silence, Buffy and Spike lost in their own thoughts concerning both the children.
Buffy lifted Connor off the floor, holding him against her breast. Spike pivoted to face Giles, tension radiating off him in waves as he partially blocked Giles’ view of the two Summers girls.
Giles, sensing the impending fight, raised his hands in an effort to calm Spike’s temper. “Relax. The Council has no knowledge of Connor’s existence – or his lineage. And,” he added, “I felt no compelling need to enlighten them. The baby should be safe for the time being.”
“As safe as he can be with his insane father sniffing around.” Dawn’s voice was laced with sarcasm and it was Wesley’s quietly spoken words that shocked them all.
“Until we can eliminate the threat Angelus poses, hiding Connor might not be a bad idea.”
“Eliminate?” Tara questioned him while Buffy and Spike shared a long look.
“One way or another we are going to have to deal with Angel.” Giles responded to Tara’s question – his attention caught by the sight of his Slayer holding onto the baby while Spike looked down into her eyes.
“Your decision, Pet.” They both knew Spike’s carefully worded statement pertained to Dawn as well as Connor and that admitting it out loud was just going to just add to the confusion and turmoil of the moment.
Buffy shook her head, refusing to think about letting either of them go. “No. Not now. He’s still safe here with us.”
The unspoken second half of that was Dawn would still be safer with them was clear, at least to Spike and his eyes only wavered from hers to glance briefly down at Dawn, who was watching their exchange very carefully. He smiled at the teenager, then shifted his gaze back to the other Englishman. “Right then, Rupes, what else have you got?”
Giles motioned Spike to sit, himself moving to take the chair Spike had vacated earlier. This next part was going to be tricky, Giles didn’t for once fool himself about that and he braced himself for the outcry and the outright refusal he was certain to encounter.
“I did some additional research while I was in the Council’s library, following what happened with Dawn and the knights.” Buffy sat down on the coffee table, angled toward Giles, while Wesley settled against the fireplace and the others found seats in various spots around the room, realizing this was going to be an involved discussion.
“Spike’s injuries while protecting Dawn from the knights could have been avoided.” Giles knew he was drawing this out, prolonging the moment – though he couldn’t for the life of him just open this up for discussion, without some sort of introduction.
“Not bloody likely. Got this hardware that prevents certain actions.” Spike’s tone of voice, and his words, cut through the room, and Giles had his opening.
Throwing a somewhat grateful gaze in his direction, one he hoped Spike didn’t incorrectly interpret, Giles said, “Well, yes, that is true. So now I believe it’s time to discuss the chip and its removal.”
Instead of the upheaval and outrage he fully expected and had doubly prepared himself for, his statement was greeted with complete and utter silence. So much so that the only noise was Connor’s quick inhalations and the ticking of the clock on the wall. No one moved and no one spoke.
Time crept forward slowly as Giles waited for the hue and cry of denials that never came. His gaze moved from Spike’s still figure standing in the middle of the room to Buffy’s seated form. Dawn had shifted forward, as did Wesley, but like Tara and Oz, neither spoke. There was a quiet giggle, and Giles looked about for the source, when it was joined by another low chuckle and all eyes were riveted on the blond couple. Buffy looked up at Spike, who turned to face her, amusement playing about his lips and her stifled giggle broke into a full laugh.
Misinterpreting the reason behind Buffy’s laughter, Giles attempted to interrupt her, but it proved impossible as she sank further into mirth.
Finally, after long minutes of relieved glee, Spike’s voice finally broke through enough to calm everyone else’s growing concern. “Thought we were goin’ to have a hell of a time tryin’ to convince you.”
He chuckled again, looking toward the love of his entire existence and smiled at her wide grin. She opened her mouth to speak and another series of giggles erupted. “Spike thought you would be the one to object.”
Giles trained his eyes on both of them, his senses suddenly alert. “You’ve talked about this?”
“Just Spike and I. Kinda wanted to wait until you were back. Except I sort of made up my mind while Spike was still out of it.” Buffy’s voice was steady, no hesitation or doubt present.
Spike braced himself for the arguments from the others in the room, and although he hoped there’d be none, he expected more than a token resistance to their decision.
“Have . . . have you decided how?” Tara’s voice broke the silence – and, it seemed, everyone’s reluctance to speak, because Wesley then asked, “Is removal even possible?”
Dawn’s comment was, “About time the stupid thing came out. Stupid thing to do to a vampire anyway. What were they trying to do? Create some controllable demon army?”
“Bit? That’s exactly what they were plannin’.” Spike addressed her comments first, while Buffy fielded the others.
“Not sure if it can be removed, but we need to find out. Tara? Do you think you and Giles could check out magical means? We have a couple of options – either the Initiative or demon-friendly surgeons.”
“There’s always Dr. Thomas. He might be able to help.” Oz’ quiet voice drew Spike’s attention.
“He’s the dude that fixed you up. Works at Sunnydale Memorial.” Oz leaned forward a little bit, his gaze intent on the vampire.
Giles surged to his feet, heading for his carry-on bag. “I brought a list of surgeons. I’m not certain he’s on it.”
“Might not be listed in Sunnydale. He’s from Pennsylvania originally. Somewhere near Hershey Park, I think.”
Wesley said, “There’s a fair number of demon-friendly medical personnel in Los Angeles also, if you want to travel.”
“No.” Spike’s one word answer was softened when he continued, “Don’t want Angelus catchin’ wind of this – so it has to happen here – can maybe hide one or two people comin’ into Sunnyhell, but me leavin’? He’d know it quick enough. ‘M not leavin’ town for this.”
“Angelus? What’s he got to do with this?” Obviously there was something else he was missing, because Giles was suddenly confused.
“He knows about the chip, and he would be just twisted enough to send humans after Spike. Plus he knows Spike was injured. What he doesn’t know is how or why – and he can’t know or find out the real truth about Dawn.” There was a steely quality in Buffy’s last statement, almost as if she were warning the others.
“So we are going to find a way to remove the chip before Angel realizes it’s happening. And we’re going to confuse the hell out of him or at least try.” Buffy looked toward Giles, realizing he’d been too quiet in his lack of objections. “Giles?”
“Hhmmm?” Recognizing his distracted air had the feeling of disapproval, Giles shook himself. “Perhaps then a ruse to keep him occupied would be in order.”
“Huh?” Buffy looked to Spike for a translation while Wesley capitalized on the thought, his own internal cogs shifting into motion.
“‘Splain.” Was Buffy’s clipped command.
“Angel knows about the chip. Knows Spike is injured. Do we know how closely he’s watching us?”
“He tried being all stalkery guy again, but Tara saved the day.” Buffy beamed over at her friend, a big smile on her face, to which Tara blushed in response. “Oh! Giles – we need an eternal source of power – got one handy?”
“Of course, Buffy, I packed one in my bags.”
It took a moment for Giles’ snarky comment to register, though when Dawn and Tara both giggled, it was all over and the room’s occupants all laughed.
Willow was seething. Her anger and resentment were almost palpable, another presence pacing along side her. She did not like this feeling. Angelus had, despite all her efforts to the contrary, managed to get under her skin earlier in Restfield.
He’d made her feel like stupid, powerless Willow and she really didn’t like that. She was supposed to be the one in control; the cool-under-fire one who didn’t panic when the boogeyman came calling.
All those words from him still stung, even though he hadn’t been that bad. It had still shaken her. The fact that he’d been able to creep up on her and get close caused a major case of the wiggins every time she really thought about it.
The more she thought about it, the more she just got aggravated. And how come no one had called – well no one but Xander.
Oh no, I am not going to let that nasty vampire get the better of me. Nah huh. With renewed determination Willow focused her energy on making the spontaneous flame spell work.
He was really happy his other self had been so concerned about his humans that he’d insisted they all get cell phones. Angel thought about calling Cordelia but decided against it. He’d call her later, give her time to think about where he was, how close he might be. Gunn? No. Not unless dear Freddie was with him. . . But no. Angel realized he just really wanted to talk to his most trusted right-hand man. Not since the Scourge had ranged about had there been anyone he trusted . . .
Flipping open his phone, Angel hit the address book and dialed Wesley.
The laughter was slowly dying down when Wesley felt the vibration of his cell against his hip. He reached for it, standing away from the wall, his attention divided between the room and the phone. Glancing down at the display screen, he began motioning everyone to silence.
Waiting just long enough for everyone to still, Wesley opened the phone. “Angel.”
“Aw. That’s no fun peeking at the incoming number. Had to know you’d be the smart one.” There was amused disappointment in the vampire’s voice, almost as if he couldn’t complain about Wesley knowing who was on the other end, but wanting too in any case.
“What is it you want?” Spike had drifted closer, standing just to Wesley’s right, so that he could hear the entire exchange and the taller man shifted so that Spike wouldn’t have to strain so much.
“Want? Gee, that’s such an open question. I want lots of things.” There was a slight pause, as if Angel were really contemplating what he wanted. “I could say world peace, but really, that’s such a cliche, and so very far from the truth.”
“Yes, well, your point is?” Spike’s eyebrows rose in amusement, but he made no sound, waiting to hear what else Angel had to say.
“Not really the tone you want to take with me. If I want to talk, we’ll talk.” There was now a harder edge to the vampire’s tone, one that Wesley wasn’t at all comfortable with. “My point, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, is that I wanted to check in, catch up on all the news. Find out how everyone is.”
Wesley and Spike shared a look, both of them trying to hold onto their mirth. Amazing how having someone else to listen to this relieved some of the fear. Buffy got up from the table, leaning into Spike’s side while she tried to listen also.
“Everyone’s fine.” Spike shook his head in agreement, a smirk playing on his features.
“Really? That’s so nice to hear. So tell me, has the infant sported fangs yet?”
“No.” Wesley was determined to not give Angelus any more information than absolutely necessary, giving him as little to go on as possible.
“No? Would’ve thought the boy would do that right away. Oh well, he’ll have them soon enough.” Buffy flinched and Spike pulled her and the baby closer, placing a silent kiss on the top of her head.
“Really, Wes, the object of a cell phone is communication. So, please, communicate. I’m all ears.”
There was an edge of irritation creeping into Angel’s voice and Spike’s smirk started to bloom into a grin, when Wesley just stated simply, “I’m not really all that chatty, you know. Prefer to keep to myself.”
It took nearly all his will power not to laugh into the phone, though the looks that everyone around him were sporting was enough to send him over the edge. Really, what did Angel think he was dealing with? A bunch of easily scared teenaged girls? Intimidating phone calls might work if one of them was alone; but in this house, surrounded by a group of people, all of whom were either of supernatural origin or in their own way capable of battling one or two demons without any assistance. . . this tactic, of using a phone call, did not work. It was actually more of an annoyance. Wesley shook his head, not really sure he was really believing this. “Angel? Are we done here? I have things to do.”
“For now, Wesley.”
And the phone disconnected.
Angel stared at the walls of the mansion, feeling distinctly dissatisfied and very perturbed. It shouldn’t have gone that way. Wesley should have been more on guard, more worried; shouldn’t have been flippant. I suppose he feels all safe and sound inside the Slayer’s house. But everyone has to move out of that safety sooner or later. And that’s when I’ll have you. All of you.
Fooling himself into believing that the Slayer’s people would be easy targets, Angel discounted their combined strengths, knowing as he did, that divided they would all fall. Like dominos. . .