Disclaimer: Please see Part 1 Chapter 1...

SHADOWED SOULS Part 6

Epilogue

The silence stretched out interminably as each man evinced profound interest in the carpet and the large potted palm thingy next to the elevator doors. Wesley felt his heart rate increase as the tension cranked up a notch, the clothes he had yanked on frantically in the middle of last night beginning to itch as they absorbed his nervous perspiration.

Standing here in the outer lobby of Angel's office in the middle of Wolfram & Hart's own building, he still couldn't believe he'd pulled it off.

The instant Nikki Wood had faded from view, chaos had reigned supreme as the Scooby Gang and Team Angel kicked it into high gear, with Robin Wood carrying his beloved to Fred's lab – far better equipped than even the most state-of-the-art hospital, accompanied by Buffy, Dawn and half their company.

At that point, Roger Wyndham-Pryce had taken charge of his Watchers and ordered the sheepish 'wetworks' team to escort Wilson back to England. The ascetic-looking Watcher had quailed under Roger's glare and it made Wesley feel a little better to know that his father really had been unaware of the Cruciamentum's true purpose, rather than simply not caring.

And then Dad actually asked him, Giles and Andrew Wells for help in dealing with whatever nastiness doubtless lurked in the late, definitely unlamented Rutherford Sirk's base of operations, since the 'old' Watchers had managed to locate his apartment after leaving the Hyperion once they'd finished monitoring Wesley and Angel's Ghost Roads jaunt.

Not a bunch of people that were slow on the uptake, Angel, Spike and the others still standing around catching their second wind had, just like Wesley and Giles, realised that Roger Wyndham-Pryce wasn't merely extending the olive branch, he was holding out the entire tree complete with leaves and fruit.

Still, Wesley had never dreamed in a million years...

Now he and his father carefully avoided each other's eyes and his skin prickled with nerves. He was just grateful neither Angel nor Spike had accompanied them to Sirk's abode - both would have known the instant Wesley's heart started banging like a kettle drum and his pulse skyrocketed - he would have blown it big time.

There are no coincidences - Xander Harris's recitation of one of the Scoobies' many mottoes echoed in Wesley's head. If he hadn't believed that before, he did now.

Cyrus Vail might still be the most evil dark sorcerer on the West Coast, but it was clear from Sirk's condo that he had been giving Vail serious competition. It wasn't long before the small, subdued group had a pile of things on the hearthrug to be destroyed, including most of Sirk's scrolls and books.

Normally a Watcher wouldn't destroy any text unless forced to do so; most of the works they used were "neutral" in that they contained information that, while dangerous, could be used for either good or evil. These texts on the other hand had been written specifically to help evil creatures commit terrible atrocities, and served no other purpose. Conversely, when Wesley started sorting through the pile of tomes that Sirk had put to one side to destroy or discard, he found himself with a treasure trove of texts that, when he indicated for Giles to come and look at them, had the older Watcher practically drooling before Giles began to carefully negotiate with Roger and the other Watchers over who should have custody of them.

Thus unnoticed as he sorted through the pile, Wesley picked up the small scroll and opened it automatically as he had done the others, only to freeze as he instantly recognised it. Unlike his own copy of the Scroll of Niamh, this one was whole, complete, undamaged and indeed unmarked, as if the prophetess had sat down yesterday and dashed the whole thing of during lunch hour. It had seemed warm to the touch and Wesley had known with absolute certainty that he was holding the original Scroll of Niamh.

He hadn't even been aware of slipping the scroll into his jacket's inside pocket until he had done so, and had waited with disbelief for several minutes until it dawned on him that nobody else had seen him do it...

Roger Wyndham-Pryce drew in a breath as the lights showed the rising of the elevator to the outer lobby of Angel's office. "My facsimile was that good a copy?" he asked somewhat tentatively.

"I'm afraid so." Wesley answered politely. "It wasn't until you hit me over the head and disappeared that I realised something was seriously wrong." Not wanting this statement to sound like a criticism, Wesley hurried on, "From an objectively scientific viewpoint the replica was a technological masterpiece. Its designers gave the cyborg a heartbeat, a pulse and mimicked lungs taking in air. They even remembered to add sweat glands to the organic components."

Roger frowned but then his face cleared, "Ah, body odour…of course…Angel was…?"

"And Spike and Harmony," Wesley answered the unspoken question, "all three were in close proximity without realising it wasn't human."

Roger nodded; in retrospect it was obvious: vampires hunted primarily via scent, their admittedly excellent night vision and supernaturally enhanced hearing being secondary to their olfactory abilities. For the scheme to have had any chance of working, the cyborg would have had to have smelled human to a vampire, in this case, Angel, and since he had not met Roger Wyndham-Pryce until now, any scent approximating a human's would do.

"Ah, would you mind…mother…" Wesley stumbled.

"Won't know a thing." Roger assured him. "Besides she's still floating in the post-wedding glow…"

"How are the happy couple?" Wesley must have managed to pull off a convincing verisimilitude of sincerity, since Roger didn't notice anything.

"Likewise basking in the praise of their respective mothers, though I don't doubt it shall begin to wear thin with great rapidity, as now the wedding's over I'm afraid both your mother and Ffion's are focussing on their desire for the patter of yet more tiny feet..."

Wesley couldn't help his guilty start at the subject of offspring –

"The Slayer-Queen departs."

Both Roger and Wesley jumped as Illyria announced this somewhat stridently, having appeared directly behind them like some sapphire genie from an old lamp. Wesley eyed her askance, acutely aware of the banked fire in Illyria's eyes and the tension woven into her stance.

"Ah…well…" The elevators opened and Roger moved inside briskly. "Goodbye my boy."

"Goodbye, father." Wesley unconsciously imbued the farewell with more pathos than he realised and his last view of Roger Wyndham-Pryce was his startled expression and the way his brows drew together in puzzled concern, but even as the elder man opened his mouth, the doors shut and the elevator began it's descent to ground level and the front lobby.

Wesley hurried to catch up Illyria, who instead of waiting for him to follow as usual, had turned and stalked off. As he did so, he couldn't help but imagine Roger walking out of Wolfram & Hart, across the Plaza, back to the airport, back to England…Wesley knew that he hadn't been fooled. Roger Wyndham-Pryce knew, or at least strongly suspected, that Wesley had shot the cyborg in the genuine belief he was killing his father.

His thoughts were forced back to the here and now as he found Buffy Summers and her crew down in Angel's parking garage by dint of the bright daytime sunlight, taking their leave of Team Angel once more.

Wesley shook hands and nodded and smiled, keeping a weather eye on Illyria who uncharacteristically hadn't let Fred emerge, but let it all wash over him as he relived yesterday's events.

In between everyone dashing about like disturbed ants tidying up the Oligarchy mess, Wesley hadn't got back to his apartment till the small hours, the scroll burning against his shirt the whole time. Illyria, not Fred, had returned shortly after, but Wesley hadn't even tried to engage with the demon as it ignored him completely and went up to bed.

He had been shaking like a leaf as he unrolled the scroll and, finally, read the whole thing from start to finish, coming out of his absorption with red-rimmed sore eyes as Illyria had stirred. It had been early this morning by then; stripping off his old clothing and donning new, Wesley still now craved neither food nor sleep, indeed feared trying to ingest anything would make him vomit from the mixture of euphoria and terror surging through his veins till he wanted to scream aloud.

What was it Abraham Lincoln had said? Ah yes, "'Just because someone is evil, it doesn't mean they aren't telling the truth.'" Strange, the ways in which understanding was illuminated. The female Child of Light had again been an integral part of highlighting the path ahead for the Mahju.

It was so simple once you knew. And now he did know. Now he understood – everything.

Wesley's automatic grimace became a genuine smile as he remembered what he had seen when he travelled the Ghost Roads with Angel, when the First had made its fatal error of choosing to taunt the Slayer on the eve of the climatic battle that she was alone, whereas it had an army of prehistoric uber-vamps.

I understand now too; Wesley wanted to tell her, tell them all, wanted to speak and wipe away the fine lines of tension around their eyes and the weary droop of their bodies and the haunted qualities of their smiles.

I had that epiphany, thanks to Rutherford Sirk, like you did, thanks to the First. It's all right because now I know, like you did, that we're going to win

The End

The next story in 'The Blood Will Tell' series will be Sugar & Spice, which is the penultimate story.

To be continued in Sugar & Spice, coming soon…

© 2007 & 2010, The Cat's Whiskers