Willow and Giles were seated at a table in Percy Mason's dusty library, a circle of books around them. Willow was hooked on the 'net via a laptop while Giles was scribbling furiously on a notebook. Occasionally he stopped and referred to one of the heavy leather tomes before returning to more scribbling. Fred assisted them by leafing through some of the books, but was visibly overwhelmed by what they were reading. After a while, she just got up and made coffee.
"It's like ancient Mesopotamian or something," Fred said to Angel as she handed a cup of coffee to Giles.
"It's an extinct demonic language, actually. Written by one of their great sorcerers," Giles replied distractedly.
Willow sat up straighter, delight on her face. "Found something," she said happily to Giles.
Angel and Fred left their corners to see what she had on the screen.
"It says here that the Elements that are opposed to each other will fight for domination until both are destroyed," Willow frowned at that. "Doesn't sound like a happy ending."
"Fire with Water, Wind with Earth. Hmm ...," Giles squinted. "Meaning, if two were to meet-"
"Bad things will happen?" Fred volunteered.
"Quite right," he agreed.
"So sorcerers throughout the ages have theorised that Elementals could be stopped by opposing Elementals, but since only one seems to appear every age, that plan is bunk," Willow said wryly.
"They're not good guys. Or from The Powers That Be," Fred sounded as if she was trying to convince herself. "I mean why try stop them if they're on the side of good?" Fred asked.
"I think that's a simplistic theorisation," Giles said at that.
Willow looked at the chastened Fred uncomfortably and tried to lighten the mood by saying chirpily. "Yes, people have tried to stop them -- only no one ever succeeded," Willow said with a wince. "Read some more stuff -- the only recorded attempt to stop an Elemental by a group of wizards ended in disaster."
"What happened?" Fred wondered out loud. Willow just showed her the image on her computer.
"Oh. They got buried alive. How ... nice," Fred winced.
"By the Elemental of Earth. But these wizards were up to no good in the first place. They wanted to destroy the Elemental of Earth because well, the Elemental was trying to stop them from unearthing an ancient Nordic temple."
"So, what are you saying? That Wesley has a good reason for burning up people?" Angel's voice came suddenly.
Willow met Angel's eyes reluctantly while Giles sighed, took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"We're saying that no one has stopped an Elemental yet. And we're not sure if we can," he said quietly. "We're not even sure what exactly an Elemental is, whether Wesley is a helpless host to this force or a user of this force! So we can't just simply-" his voice rose.
"I can't believe you're on his side, especially after what you saw," Gunn said accusingly as he walked into the room.
Giles frowned. "Appearances are always deceiving," he said gruffly.
"And I say we're wastin' time talking about it," Gunn snapped. "What if he already has this Mother thing?"
"And you've not explained what The Mother is," Angel added, crossing his arms and leaning against a wall of books.
Giles sighed and nodded tiredly. "Legend has it that a powerful demon poured her essence into a jewel in order to grant her son great power. The son used the jewel to rid his enemies and rule the world. Over the centuries, after the demons left, it was used to grant its user whatever their hearts desire -- and over the years, it has traded many hands, but the desire of humanity has remained the same. Power."
"So this is like a magic lamp? Except, no genie?"
"Well, Mr. Gunn, to put it quite succinctly, yes."
"How come if this thing's so powerful no one has tried to steal it yet?" Gunn demanded.
"Oh they have. Some succeeded. Like the First Emperor of China before he lost it to a peasant. That peasant rose to form an empire -- but unfortunately, his efforts at world domination were stopped when another peasant stole the jewel from him," Giles smiled a small, bitter smile. "Always the same purpose. Power. Over time, The Mother became lost. The Watcher's Council back then began to track it down and discovered it in the hands of Luloth demons."
Angel groaned, rubbing his forehead.
"What?" Fred wondered. "They're fierce and scary?"
"Try territorial and selfish," Angel volunteered. "They're also amazingly annoying."
"Yes, rather. Their sole purpose in life is to hoard as much rare treasures as they can. Fortunately, they are also incredibly ruthless when anyone tries to steal their treasure, so no one in their right mind has tried. Yet. The Council, and the entire demon population, has been keeping an eye on them as they shifted their lair around the world. But recently, they've relocated. The Professor is looking it up now."
"So, we got to stop Wesley from gettin' it and beat him to it!" Gunn said out loud. "What other reason does he have than to get powerful?"
Giles sighed heavily and slammed his fist on the table. That startled Willow so much that she nearly dropped the mug she was holding. "Something isn't right here!" Giles barked. "We need more time! We need to find out more!"
"And what? Wait until something happens to confirm what we've known all along? That Wesley's destroying more people as we speak? Who knows what the hell Wesley's been up to? Maybe he's destroying half of LA right now," Angel snapped.
"I'm back," Connor announced suddenly.
Startled, Angel looked at his son and saw that he was carrying a stack of leather bound books. Unlike the books on the table, they looked new.
"I sent Connor to get Wesley's journals. Hopefully we'll find a clue to what he's trying to do," Giles said.
"You sent my son?" Angel's voice was dark. Then he shook off his melancholy and demanded, "We don't need these journals to know what's Wesley up to. We don't need to know his reasons -- we need to stop him. Find a way to stop him instead. That's better research!" Angel's voice rose.
Giles looked at Angel sharply. "Perhaps your time would be better spent tracking down Wesley than berating me about what I should do. If you want a solution, you'll let me do what I do best."
Angel stared daggers into Giles eyes then backed away angrily. Without a word, he left the room. Gunn sighed and followed him soon after. Connor, in a fit of annoyance, got out as well -- but most probably back on the streets away from his father.
"I'm sorry," Fred said quietly when they were finally gone. She gave Willow a sad smile. "After what happened with Connor, Angel's just ... a little mad at Wesley," she sighed.
"A little? I thought he wantwd to eat him. Figuratively of course," Willow said. Then she paused before saying, "I seem to think that you guys are mad at him too."
Fred shrugged, as if that gesture could play down the animosity they felt for the former Watcher. "I ... I was at first. Everything was perfect before ..." she gave Willow a self-conscious look. "Now I just want the killing to stop. So does Angel."
"Kill first, ask questions later. A terrible plan no matter the time," Giles sighed at that. "I know the urgency ... but my gut feeling tells me that there's more to this than meets the eye."
"Do you really think Wesley can be saved?" Fred asked suddenly.
Giles looked at her mutely.
Fred sat heavily on the dusty sofa beside Giles. "I want to save him ... but after seeing what he did to the family -- I don't think the Wesley I knew is in there anymore. He's dangerous."
Giles kept quiet.
"What if it was your family? Your lover that was killed?"
Willow looked up sharply. That one hit too close to the heart. Giles' lips thinned. Willow could imagine Giles remembering Jenny Calendar.
"We can't give him more chances to do that. You two research more. I'll look for ways to stop him. Just in case. Hopefully we don't have to use it." Fred said softly and moved away.
Giles and Willow could only look at each other. Mutely, Willow took one of Wesley's journals.
"I'll look through his journals. You can look up other things ... like weapons against Elementals," she said softly.
Giles nodded and walked to a nearby shelf. He stopped midway and looked reluctantly at the stack of journals on the table.
"So what brings you to Sunnydale?"
Wesley looked at Xander Harris tiredly and forced a smile. They were walking down a quiet tree-lined street towards the Summers house. Wesley did not really want to talk about the real reason why he was here. He was experiencing a rare moment of lucidity, and he wanted to enjoy it as long as he could.
"I'm looking for something," he finally said, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.
"Really? Maybe I can help," Xander offered. "Unless it's something slimy and ugly. Then, no. I've had my share of slimy and ugly for the past few years. And can I say that the past few years have done you good?" Xander eyed the ex-Watcher. "I mean, wow, looking ... er ..." Xander wasn't sure what to say that won't be misinterpreted.
Wesley merely smiled. "LA matures you quickly," he said quietly. His eyes wandered at the sight of two children playing in the playground then shook his head. "They shouldn't be out so late," he murmured.
"So you're gonna drop by at Casa Summers?"
Wesley lifted an eyebrow at Xander's sudden question.
"You know, for old time's sakes," Xander smiled hugely.
Wesley couldn't help but laugh sardonically. "My, I'm suddenly welcomed in Sunnydale.?
"Oh, that," Xander said almost immediately, looking chagrined. "I mean, we're way past that now, right? You and Angel have this gig in LA; it's in the past, water under the bridge and all that," he said nervously.
"In the past," Wesley murmured, feeling his mind begin to wander again. Stiffening, he reined his skittering thoughts hard and forced himself to concentrate on Xander's chatter.
"What?" he found himself asking. "What did you say?"
Xander gave Wesley a puzzled look. "I was just askin' how come Angel's not here too?" he asked hopefully.
Wesley stopped abruptly, which puzzled Xander.
He shook his head and continued walking. "He didn't have to come here. I can do this myself," he murmured.
"Oh ... yeah, well, with Buffy and everything, things could get complicated."
Wesley nodded distractedly. "Yes, of course." He realised that they had stopped again. Turning, he was shocked to see the Summers home. He stared at it, unsure what to do.
"Well, do you want to come in?" Xander was already at the doorstep.
He merely stayed beneath the shade of the tree at the lawn, staring at the house where the Slayer lived. This was where it all started. Sunnydale. He looked at the house like an old friend, allowing himself a small smile.
"Hey Xander, did you get the ice-cream?" Dawn's voice.
Xander blocked the girl, so he couldn't see Dawn. He was a little relieved at that. Dawn was annoyed with him most of the time during his tenure here. She only communicated whenever she had something cutting to say about him.
"Well, I kinda got distracted," Xander was saying as Dawn appeared at the door.
Dawn crossed her arms. "Let me guess, does the thing start with a G?"
"You mean like Golf?"
Dawn rolled her eyes.
"No, no, not a girl. I mean, I wouldn't forget ice-cream for the world! I mean, look who's here-" Xander turned, about to invite Wesley up the porch when he realised that he was no longer there.
Dawn peered at the spot curiously. "Is the 'who' invisible?"
"You're going through his journals."
Giles shifted his glasses then took them off, restraining his hands from cleaning them. Instead, he rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. "I feel like a voyeur."
Willow shrugged and scooted her chair next to his. "You are," she said with a lopsided grin. "Did you find anything?"
He gave her a pained smile. "His entries are meticulous, and up to April, his entries were normal -- if you can call records on various demon manifestations normal. Then came the slide. He wrote about a prophecy concerning Angel and his son, and how Angel was supposed to have killed Connor after a few signs. Then he met the Loa ... and after that, he did not write anything for a period of a few weeks -- presumably, that was when his throat was slit."
"And then he started writing again, but his writings were ..." Giles cleared his throat and put on his glasses again. "...despairing to say the least. He went over the prophecy concerning Angel and his son over and over again. Writing down every twist and turn, trying to decipher what went wrong. Then ... this entry: 'We are mere pawns of prophecy. And I let it use me.'"
"He blamed himself," Willow said softly. "He wanted to correct what he did wrong."
"But ... he couldn't. And it drove him over the edge, made him do something desperate. He wrote about meeting Professor Mason, then later a wizard -- Gavin, the bastard."
At Willow's surprised look, Giles muttered, "Never mind."
"His entries after that were not detailed," he continued. "In fact, they worsened to the point where they became nothing but ramblings. Mad ramblings that I could hardly figure out. Sometimes he wrote in demonic languages, sometimes just indecipherable scribbles. The only entries I could make out concerned 'destiny' and 'giving fate what it wanted'."
"He went crazy?"
Giles shrugged. "I don't know, honestly. But it is possible that the presence of the Element in his system slowly drove him mad, yes."
"Mad enough to kill innocent people?" Willow wondered.
Giles sighed. "I have to say ... yes, again."
"Giles, we have to stop him. The last Green Fire Elemental destroyed a civilisation. They -- the people in the civilization - can't all be bad."
"But Ayas came with a purpose. She destroyed the Builders of the Gate-"
"I'll have a raincheck on the 'builders of the gate' thingy, but, bookmark: she destroyed thousands, maybe millions of people in the process. Women, children, cats, dogs ..." Willow's face blanched at the thought. "We need a weapon."
"I don't know where to begin looking for this said weapon, Willow!? Giles said in frustration.
"Well, we have a clue in the opposing Elements thingy. And Connor said that Wesley was hurt when he fell into the pool of water in the warehouse -- I bet it was charged with the Element of Water. Maybe we can do the same: charge a weapon with the Element of Water."
Giles stood up suddenly. "I can't believe that we're discussing how to kill Wesley."
"Not kill," Willow stood up as well. "Injure him bad enough to trap him. I could devise a shield-"
"Which he can break through like paper-"
"But not when he's weakened. We have to take the chance. It's the only chance we have. I'll figure out a tougher prison for him. Then when he's inside, we can figure out how to get the Element out of him."
Giles nodded. "Gavin," his voice dripping with menace.
"Riiight," Willow agreed, watching Giles curiously. There was serious vibes between Giles and this Gavin guy. "Look Giles... you didn't give up on me when I wanted to destroy the world."
He looked at her furtively, as if embarrassed by what she said.
"So what gives me the right to give up on Wesley, right?" she smiled brightly, though the cheerfulness was forced at best.
When she received no response, Willow glanced back at the ex-Watcher. He was looking at Wesley's journal with a very concerned expression on his face.
"What is it?" she came towards him. Giles gave her the book, took off his glasses and indicated an entry of the journal absently. Her eyes widened when she realised what it meant.
"Oh," she said faintly.
Hello Giles. Did you have a nice time reading my thoughts?
<< Back | Story Index | Next Chapter >>
Back to Top | Stories by Author | Stories by Title | Main Page