Disclaimer: Please see Chapter 1

SHADOWED SOULS Part 1

Chapter 6

"Wesley, ah swear, if you don't get out from under mah feet right now, I'll get Illyria to kick your ass down the corridor an' back!" Fred placed her hands on her hips and glared furiously at her beloved, at this moment firmly believing that testosterone was a lot more trouble than it was worth.

For an instant Wesley felt amusement sweep him at the sight of Fred standing in the middle of her own science lab, looking for all the world like an irate kindergarten teacher, her Texan accent leaking through in her irritation, but he suppressed it in an instant. Nobody wanted to do anything that would encourage Illyria emerge, least of all Wesley; he knew that everyone, in the back of their minds, experienced the same fear he himself did: that one day, Illyria would emerge but never go back, though he had reached a sort of acceptance within himself at being both Fred's lover and Illyria's mate.

Maybe he should hit up Xander Harris, probably the world's leading expert when it came to the old 'demon lover' gig, for some tips? "Fred, I don't really need – "

"Yes, you do need to go to Ye Olde Britannia." Fred cut him, having no intention of revealing the chat that Angel and then Spike had individually had with her after helping Wesley get over his migraine, each vampire's featured theme being that Wesley needed a safety valve. "Part of the success of any relationship is personal space. I love you like crazy, but we're together almost constantly and it's starting to make my skin itch. Besides, you boys are much happier when you get to spend some quality time watching the game on TV or guzzling beer in some strip joint – not that you will be frequenting such places."

Ignoring the implicit warning in her final words, Wesley tried again, "But Fred, Harmony is a vampire –"

"Wesley, this was my idea." Fred cut him off again, "And I know Harmony is a vampire. She's also a very over-worked, grossly under-appreciated and lonely creature of the night. I need some just 'me and my gal-pal' time, and now that Cordy's…gone…Harmony's pretty much it. Nina's still too shy around us to come except when it's a full moon, Gwen's still having too much fun bamboozling Gunn at the minute. Besides, you know Illyria can handle Harmony if she gets all 'grrr.' Go to your cute little Brits' bar and have a couple of beers on me. That's the point of Fun Friday!"

Wesley sighed with histrionic intensity aware he was never going to win this argument; truthfully he'd known the futility of trying since he started – which had been about fourteen hours and some minutes ago!

Team Angel held a 9:00am 'staff' meeting daily (mostly) in Angel's office. Yesterday, Thursday, the gang had all been there by ten-to the hour, the non-vampires grasping their caffeine-loaded drink of choice (Gunn, mocha; Fred, long black; Lorne, cappuccino; Wesley, latte) and bickering over the breakfast pastries. As Angel crooked an eyebrow at where Harmony sat in full secretary mode on a chair to one side and the team began to settle down, the red 'bat-phone' on Angel's desk had shrilled, making them all look at each other nervously.

Picking up the receiver as gingerly as if he feared it would turn into a Crucifix in his grasp, Angel had answered the call, speaking briefly to Willow Rosenberg before replacing the receiver and informing them of the situation – a Slayer had been killed, and the signs were that some Big Bad was trying to work some mojo to drain the Slayers of their power, so would Team Angel see what they could find out on the subject at their end?

As Gunn had then stated, the only surprise was that someone in the Evil camp had waited so long to try such a thing; even from being a toddler in LA, Gunn had heard the other-dimensional beings talk in hushed whispers of fear and awe about the Slayer, an all-purpose bogeyman amongst non-humans, any Big Bad with sense would not be impressed at discovering the Slayer was now an entire global Army of Slayers.

Fred, however, had firmly announced that while she was happy to spend Thursday researching the possibilities amongst those who wanted – or rather and who also had the ability - to turn the Slayers back into ordinary girls who just had bizarre dreams, she wouldn't be doing it Friday because she and Harmony were finishing work at lunchtime to spend the rest of the day indulging in 'retail therapy' and 'severe credit card abuse' followed by immense pampering at a little health and beauty salon Fred knew. This had caused consternation, mainly due to her choice of companion. However, the truth was that nobody had had any real 'downtime' since they took over Wolfram & Hart, with the possible exception of Spike if you counted his days trapped in limbo as a non-corporeal entity in that way.

Then Lorne had said that maybe he should visit Caritas for longer than ten minutes for once, catch up on the gossip, and also drop in on Gru and Phantom Dennis at Cordy's apartment, see how the Pylean Hero was getting on? When Wesley had commented that he hadn't been to the Britannia for a while, Angel hadn't even needed to glance across at his grandson, he could feel the look Spike was giving him at this opportunity, so the dark vampire had decided that an evening of kicking back was just what they needed.

Now, allowing Fred to shoo him out of her lab while she prepared to wrap things up for the day, Wesley had no problems with Angel's edict as such. The bat-phone had gone again a few minutes after Willow's call, and this time Angel had put Rupert Giles on speaker-phone for a multiple-conversation call. After giving a précis of the events surrounding the unfortunate death of Fallon Mady, Giles had pointed out that Caleb's destruction of the Watcher's Council by a well-placed bomb at the First Evil's behest had destroyed not just people but, to be blunt, far more valuable and in many cases irreplaceable mystical texts – information on Slayers, other dimensions, prophecies and so on – that the Council had gathered over thousands of years.

Only the late Quentin Travers' unusual foresight – or paranoia depending on how you looked at it – in having the Council's archives split up into secret repositories around the world had prevented Caleb's bomb changing a major but surmountable inconvenience into a devastating catastrophe on a par with the burning of the Library of Alexandria. Trusting that too much had happened in the interim for Giles to ever remember sending him one tatty old scroll, Wesley had tentatively mentioned that when they were trying to destroy the Beast, Lilah Morgan had managed to get an unexpurgated copy of a certain vital book on the pan-dimensional black market. Beside him, Fred had stiffened at the mention of the murdered lawyer, but fortunately Giles had seized on Wesley's point.

Wesley entered his office, glancing at his watch – it was nearly noon. Fred and Harmony were going to be the first to peel out, and Lorne wouldn't be long behind; the empathic demon was already togged up like the Ultimate MC, in a natty daffodil yellow suit that complemented his emerald skin. Replacing what had been lost to Caleb's bomb would be yet another long-haul project for the Scooby Gang, for tracking down such literature in other dimensions was never easy, particularly when you used the Ghost Roads, the fastest, most efficient – and most dangerous – route to move between dimensions as opposed to the more traditional opening of a portal between realities. That wasn't why Wesley was going to Ye Olde Britannia, however. Giles had specifically mentioned "'references in a now lost Scroll of Niall or Neil'" and after the call had ended and Team Angel started their own little research party, five times in the first hour Wesley had come across references, some obscure but some direct, to what he knew to actually be the Scroll of Niamh.

Having memorised the damn thing word perfect in the first week he'd read it as an acne-suffering teenager in the Watcher's Academy sub-basement, Wesley knew that the Scroll referred to two concurrent but unrelated Big Bads, and while the attack on the Slayers was the major incidence, it was also the short term one. Unfortunately, the Scroll was again damaged beyond legibility for a section beyond that point, and it had taken great effort of will not to yield to the childish impulse to throw it down on the floor and jump up and down on it in seething frustration. However, he'd gleaned a sufficiency from it, though at the cost of his migraine. Yet again, the Scroll mentioned the children of light, whom Wesley had pretty much settled on as Buffy's sister Dawn Summers and Angel's son, Connor "Riley". The Scroll commanded protection for the female Child of Light, she who was 'in peril from the Cobra Watcher'.

Snakes were often associated with evil because Eve, the Mother of Man, had been deceived into eating the forbidden fruit by the 'Morning Star' who had used a literal snake in a ventriloquist's trick to catch the startled woman's attention; a cobra was, of course, one of the most poisonous of the serpentine species. Wesley was also deeply disturbed by the term 'Cobra Watcher', as the image of Rutherford Sirk kept popping up.

A mystical scholar and demon-language linguist with few equals and fewer superiors, Sirk had been a major player in the Watcher's Council for decades; When Wesley was a child, the acerbic, dour man had often spent many nights cloistered in Roger Wyndham-Pryce's study with Wesley's father after the children had been put to bed. By squeezing down the gap between his bed and the wall, and pressing his ear to the old Victorian radiators in their rambling London townhouse, Wesley had been able to hear every word spoken in the study directly below his bedroom, like a telephone call where one party is standing in a large, echoing room. Indeed, Wesley had learned far more about the nuances of alternate-dimension languages by listening to Sirk and his father's uncensored conversations than most of his schooling.

A year after Wesley's graduation from the Academy, six months before the vampire Kakistos had murdered Adele Lindstrom, Faith Lehane's original Watcher, and Wesley had been chosen as her replacement, Rutherford Sirk had betrayed the Council's entire ethos, stealing a priceless codex amongst other books and scrolls as he absconded to Wolfram & Hart, selling out to evil in return for a corner office and tons of cash. Beyond the physical loss of the codex, the psychological impact of his betrayal had metaphorically rent the Council asunder. One or two other bugs had also crawled out from under rocks, such as Gwendolyn Post, who had tried to murder Buffy and Faith in a bid for personal power, all the more shocking since Post had come from an old, respected Watcher family and had passed with flying colours and not a hint of aberration the battery of physical, mental, emotional and psychological testing that candidates for the Watcher Academy underwent.

Shutting down his computer now, Wesley started on a few last bits of paperwork; he had never been under any illusions about the initially innocuous sequence of events that had set him upon this path, this path that had led him, finally, to this office where he worked towards helping two vampires with souls achieve redemption. Sometimes he wondered: what would have happened if the Council had chosen another Watcher to be Faith's third in as many months after murdered Adele and evil Gwendolyn? An older Watcher, someone more experienced? Would that Watcher now be sat in this chair, mate of a demoness, servant of a vampire with a soul, branded traitor and Judas?

Wesley doubted it. The choice, the decision that had led to him being in his current corporate office had not been that of Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, but that of his father and the rest of the Watcher Council: he would be Faith's new Watcher, but Wesley knew he had been chosen specifically because of his youth, inexperience, naïveté, desire to please, and because he could be both easily intimidated and manipulated – look at how the Council had played him when they tried to snatch Faith the first time. As Angel had said, he was reaching the angry, grieving, distraught Slayer until some idiotic British guy had interfered – Wesley, acting on direct orders of the council, had effectively tossed a lit match in a powder keg without the sense to even duck.

Catching sight of his sober reflection in the glass door of one of his office bookcases, Wesley smiled, wryly. He was the mahju, it was his job to get the Vampires With Souls to their Apocalypse on time…

End of Part 1; continued in Part 2…

Author's Note:

As far as I am aware, neither Liam's, William's nor Faith's surname has ever been mentioned on Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel. I wanted to pick a surname that reflected Eliza Dushku's ethnic heritage, but did not wish to cause offence by using "Dushku" itself, so I originally picked 'Szczeçin', which is a small town in Eastern Europe near the Carpathian Mountain Range; however, shortly after I originally completed Part 1 of this story in 2005, a comic book BtVS story came out in which Joss Whedon picked 'Lehane' for Faith's surname. Personally I prefer my surname, but I yield to Mr Whedon's choice.

NB – I got a review for Shadowed Souls Part 1 via from a reader named "Suki", who asked several insightful questions. Unfortunately she did not have any email address. I cannot reply to Suki unless she emails me again with a return email address. I don't wish her to think I am rude and ignoring her.

© 2005 & 2010, The Cat's Whiskers