Brave New World
From: "Pandora Pandarus" <email@example.com> Subject: [glass_onion] FIC: Brave New World (1/1) BtVS/AtS Date: Sunday, June 09, 2002 3:30 PM
TITLE: "Brave New World"
FEEDBACK: Pope. Shit. Woods.
ARCHIVE/DISTRIBUTION: Wherever, just ask. SUMMARY: Wesley's thoughts on going to Sunnydale.
SPOILERS: Bad Girls. (includes a couple of lines from the episode, which I most emphatically do not own.)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine in the slightest. This is a take on the events of 'Bad Girls' which attempts to reconcile the characterisation of Wesley in BtVS S3 with the Wesley we know & love on Angel.
(Again, it's a piece I wrote some months ago, but I wanted it to live here. Rereading it in the light of AtS Season 3 it just makes me want to hug poor Wes. Apologies if you've read it before.)
"Rupert Giles has been a grave disappointment. He allowed emotions to cloud his judgment regarding his young charge and so he failed us and he failed her. I am confident that you will not let us down, Mr Wyndham Price."
His chest swelled with pride at having been chosen from so many men and women for this honour. Older men and women, more experienced men and women, men and women closer to Sunnydale - all set aside in favour of him. His exam results, his impeccable knowledge of The Slayers' Handbook, his mastery of weapons and grasp of tactics, his courage in the face of actual vampires (albeit in controlled circumstances), his fluency at languages, his expertise in demonology and his excellent memory for arcana - it all added up to this moment.
He was the best. He would not let them down.
California. Pure azure skies and sweet white sandy beaches. An air of unreality pervaded everything - the landscape was familiar from film, from television, from picture postcards. It was like stepping through the looking glass: air warm against one's skin and the soft breeze stroking the nape of the neck, gentling like a lover's touch. Everything was a little like and yet so very unlike England.
He felt it more in the little things, the petty things: differences in architecture, in traffic lights, in the width of the roads. It was all subtly wrong. Faintly artificial. Everything here was shinier, newer, brighter than home. Tea arrived without milk. ("Oh, you wanted milk? You should've said, honey. I'll getcha some now. Say, where you from?") Biscuits and gravy for breakfast, which clearly couldn't mean what it sounded like. (Could it? Order it and find out. Oh! A sort of savoury scone, or dumpling...) His linguist's brain delighted in these little differences, automatically squirreling away information. Every new sight and smell was marvellous to him, his perception of it all coloured by the exhilarating sense of purpose and pride - by the marvellous awareness that he was going to make a difference.
They had chosen him.
It was not his first visit to the United States, but the tang of foreignness was still fresh. Looking around him, Wesley was struck by the confidence the people here radiated - by their dumb, arrogant affluence. Their obliviousness. Their innocence, like lambs to the slaughter. Demons walking in the shadows of their lives and they never guessed. Oh brave New World.
He would not let them down.
Sunnydale. The nomenclature here never ceased to amaze him. Sunnydale. Like a name plucked from a story book - connotations of puppydogs and apple pie and laughing children. White picket fences. Happy ever after. The American Dream.
The school was just what they had described, but it was still a shock to the system. Children chewed gum whilst listening to personal stereos in the corridors, shouting and running like little hooligans. Youths talked brashly back to the teachers, cheeking them. Girls with perfect toothpaste-advert smiles and expensive-looking hair styles dressed more scantily than half of the streetwalkers around Kings Cross. (Not that he had ever been to Kings Cross station for those purposes himself, of course.)
The library, when he found it, was a blessed relief. Quiet. Reassuring. Familiar. Although, like everything in this extraordinary country, it looked new and barely-used. He reminded himself that this was the eye of the storm, the hub itself. The Mouth of Hell. Wesley scanned the floor for evidence but saw only floor.
Rupert Giles was not pleased to see him, which was only to be expected. Wesley found it difficult to contain his own burgeoning delight and sense of bone-deep satisfaction at being placed in charge of two Slayers, but he endeavoured - with variable success - to keep from rubbing it in too much. Rupert Giles, Wesley reminded himself, had failed. He had shamed his family and embarrassed his peers by being simply inadequate when it came to the crunch. He had let sentimentality mar his ability to function as a Watcher, and had lost sight of the big picture. He had worried too much about being liked. Wesley Wyndham Price was not going to make his mistakes. He would not be found wanting.
Buffy Summers baffled him. She was nothing like the Slayers-in-Waiting he had met. She had never set eyes on the Slayers' Handbook. She did not keep her vocation secret from her friends. She did not defer to him. She did not even seem to take him seriously.
And, appallingly, she was the better behaved of the two Slayers in his charge. The undisguised contempt Faith directed at him made Wesley cringe inside. She made him feel ten years old. He pretended not to see and tried not to mind.
He had, of course, known that The Slayer was always a teenage girl. But he had not understood the implications of that until he found himself face to face with Buffy and then moments later with Faith. He stood more chance of fathoming the motivations and interactions of the demons they fought than of these extraordinary American teenagers.
Wesley felt his confidence leaking slowly away and grew more pompous as he realised that these people did not respect The Council; that they paid the barest lipservice to his authority. He squared his shoulders and pulled a mask of cheerful confidence on tightly, and heard himself sound patronising as the frustration grew inside him. Listen to me, he thought desperately. I know what I'm talking about. I'm good at this.
They will learn to respect my judgement, he told himself. They do not have to like me.
Wesley couldn't remember the last time he had been in such a place. He wasn't quite sure whether one should describe it as a club or a bar or something else again. He noticed cockroaches skittering underfoot. Squalid. Noisy. Smoky. Hot. Young people thrashing around on the dance floor. Bare limbs. Couples entwined in corners. Ripe and heedless youth on every side.
He stuck out like a sore thumb.
He was proud of himself for tracking the Slayers here, though; and wished they would use beepers or walky talkies or mobile phones, some way of keeping track of them. He must arrange some system.
And there was Buffy (ridiculous name!), being chatted up by some boy in a corner when she should certainly have been patrolling the streets. No sense of responsibility, although that wasn't entirely her fault. She had learnt bad habits from Mr Giles.
He approached her gently, trying not to sound too fuddy-duddy, trying to strike the right balance between authority and friendliness. He failed utterly.
It was excruciating, the way that she looked at him so wearily. So contemptuously. The jolt of surprise when Wesley realised that this boy knew about her Sacred Duty - even knew about the talisman and Baltazar - was most unpleasant. Not a boy, really; a young man, several years older than The Slayer from the looks of things, and as impossibly beautiful as all these people seemed to be. Did every blessed person in this town know about The Slayer and her work? Did she think it was some sort of game?
Equally excruciating was the ease with which she spotted and extracted the amulet that Wesley had placed in his jacket for safekeeping; but then she was The Slayer and she was supposed to be observant. He tried to be proud of her but felt himself flushing and feeling foolish.
Wesley felt another pang go through him as she casually handed the amulet to her friend and asked him to put it somewhere safe. He took in the complete trust and ease between these two young people and felt like a small boy pressed up against a window. Wesley felt something inside shrivelling up, an impending sense of failure and inadequacy. But I'm good at this! And I'm on your side, he wanted to protest. Please listen to me.
"If I may - Baltazar is dead. Am I the only one that remembers that?"
She ignored him.
He reminded himself that it was not her fault, and tried not to mind. They don't have to like me. Mr Giles has accustomed her to a different style of Watcher and she thinks that is what she needs. I don't have to be her father or her friend. In time they will respect my judgement.
But he still felt like Caliban, despised and dispossessed, helplessly watching Miranda and her Ferdinand. He tried very hard to ignore the familiar inner voice telling him that he was going to let everyone down. That he wasn't up to the job.
Nothing had prepared him for the fear. Shame welled up at the unexpected surge of terror he felt at being surrounded by demons, at being restrained by cold, dead flesh. These were not controlled circumstances.
The crimson-eyed horror stifling in its rolls of fat was appallingly alive in spite of all the confident assertions made by respected demonologists in their scholarly tomes. Its teeth gleamed wetly, razor sharp. You cannot always trust the books, Wesley realised, with painful surprise.
He felt nothing but sheer astonishment at how Rupert Giles carried himself - at the suicidal bravado of the man in the face of these monsters. Wesley's stomach clenched in terror as his companion cheerfully provoked Baltazar still further. Nonononono, he wanted to shout - No, why are you doing this? Don't provoke the monster - we must play for time, must bargain, talk, lie, find some leverage, do anything to keep those teeth from closing over tender flesh. I need time to think! I have only just arrived - there must be some mistake. I can't die now.
He felt all control slipping away and knew that he had no way of communicating with the Slayers; knew that they would not be coming to save him.
This was not how it was supposed to be.
Wesley heard his heart pounding in his ears and his voice gabbling desperately; willing to say anything, do anything, frantically playing for time and trying to think of a way out. He was disgusted by his own terror and by his horrified vulnerability; by his inability to think clearly now, when it mattered most of all.
(You see, you just aren't good enough, said the voice in his head. You were never good enough. Worthless. You will always let them down.)
Humiliation came on top of humiliation. The boy from the bar, it transpired, was a vampire. His Slayer trusted a vampire more than she trusted him.
And she was right to.
They moved like an oiled machine, working together with the unthinking ease of utter trust. Exhilarated. Fearless. Joyous. Terrible.
Mr Giles ("Let Captain Courageous here go and I'll tell you what you need to know.") had flung himself into the fray and now fought beside the Slayer, as Wesley should have done himself.
Wesley was a perfectly good fighter. He had spent hours training in different types of combat; but his limbs felt like lead and he felt physically sick with terror at the visceral reality of it all and in spite of all his best intentions he felt himself failing, falling, weak, awash with shame and misery and a sense of his own inadequacy. They did not respect him. They did not want him. They did not need him.
(Never good enough)
And if this was the thing to which his whole life had been geared, the sacred responsibility he had spent years preparing for, the honour he had yearned for more than any other, the palpable proof that he was capable, that he was intelligent, that he was valuable - if this was it and he had failed at the first hurdle, then where did that leave him?
(Never good enough)
Afterwards, Wesley gathered the shreds of dignity and settled the patched mantle of authority back around newly-squared shoulders. He rallied his forces and stuck out his chin. And, yes, the shame of that first encounter with the forces of Darkness burnt like acid; but Wesley knew that dwelling on it would get him nowhere. Let go, he told himself. You are not a child. You let the side down - all the more reason to try harder. Do better. Take charge.
(Never good enough)
He would not let them down again.
Nestra: I mean, Angel and Lindsey were gay, sure. But Smallville is like 52 straight minutes of gay, with gay sprinkles on top. And a side order of gay.
FayJay: Bloody right it is. Served in a sparkly pink cup by a sequin-clad rent boy singing 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' whilst being given a blowjob by a biker. I mean, we are talking The Heterosexuality Has Left The Building, boys and girls.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to FayJay
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