Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support. Special thanks on this chapter to the real Lori for her help and input on all the theological stuff. I'm sure she must be tired of waiting for it all to bear fruit since it's about four months since we started discussing it all, but then Spike's kidnapping overran and the bible study got bumped back a few days, which given how long it takes me to cover a week in this universe... Let's just say that without her I wouldn't have been confident enough about not offending anyone to have the minister make a re-appearance except for the wedding.
SECTION 1 - CHINA IN YOUR HAND
It was a flight on the wings
Of a young girls dreams
That flew too far away
And we could make the monster live again
Oh hands move and heart beat on
Now life will return in this electric storm
A prophecy for a fantasy
The curse of a vivid mind
Don't push too far
Your Dreams are china in your hand
Don't wish to hard
Because they may come true
And you can't help them
You don't know what you might
Have set upon yourself
China in your hand
(T'Pau, Album - Bridge of Spies)
Thursday, May 16th, 2002
Marie's greeting pulled Wes out of his daydream.
"Somebody looked to be thinking big thoughts."
"Oh, just trying to get my head around the idea of moving back here."
"And the idea makes you look that serious?" the tiny woman teased him. "I thought you wanted to move back here."
"I do... or rather." Wes gave a sigh. "I thought I was settled in LA. Worthwhile job, good friends, someone I cared about. Leaving all that behind is a big step, even if the fact of the matter is that none of it's there any more."
"Ok-ay. I was going to suggest we grab a hot dog from the stand at the entrance to the park, but I think this calls for some spiritual chicken soup, instead. Come on. My car's parked out back."
Wes heaved a mental sigh of relief. Hot dog stands sounded far more like a couple of friends meeting up and getting some food than a date. At least that cleared that up.
Before she started up the car, she tossed her cell phone to the watcher in the passenger seat. "If you hold down the six key, it'll put you straight through to Domino's. Get a family special, you pick the topping as long as there's no anchovies and have them send it to Lily's. You remember the address?" Marie asked as she pulled up to the entrance of the parking lot.
"Sure." Wesley made the call and then turned to watch Marie as she drove. "Em, we're going to see your mother-in-law?"
"Yep. Real food, she's not so hot. Spiritual sustenance, she's a five star restaurant."
She pulled the car up in front of the block of flats and waited for Wes before heading in. "If anyone can help you figure out whether this is just a case of cold feet or whether you really should be staying in LA, it's Lily."
"I don't really see that a quick chat is going to do the trick."
"Then, I guess that no one's really explained to you about Lily. From what I've heard she's sort of like the guy who was kidnapped with Spike, only no need to sing."
She pushed open the door of the ground floor flat and called out as she walked along the corridor to the main room. "Lily, I've brought someone home for lunch. I think maybe the two of you should have a little talk." Wesley followed on, unsure what to think of this latest development.
Lily came bustling through from the kitchen to greet Wes like the proverbial prodigal son.
"Wesley. Is good for you to be here."
"Food's on its way. I'm going to go have my own personal PTA meeting, while you help our friend here work out what he wants to do. He's feeling kind of homesick for LA." With that the young woman headed toward the exit.
Lily's gaze pinned the watcher as she took a seat in one of the armchairs at the far end of the room, gesturing him toward the sofa.
"Sit! Sit! Marie she say you homesick for LA, but LA no home to no one, so I think you missing the people."
"I suppose so," Wes admitted as he settled into the soft cushions. "That and being part of the whole Champion thing."
"Pffft! Champion for the Powers is no so big a deal." The demon dismissed Angel's claim to fame in an instant.
"I beg to differ," her guest argued. "What can be more important?"
"You choose what more important when you choose to walk away. You choose to follow your heart. You humans, you talk about the Powers as if you talk about God. Powers are just that. They not good or bad. Mostly, they selfish. If power corrupt then they more power than most. They arrange things to suit them. Where is big deal for being their peon?"
"But aren't they a force for good?"
"Some, if they seek adoration, love. Some seek fear, some no care at all. It is a better man who sets his own course according to his creed, than who follows blindly on the orders of one he neither knows nor comprehends."
"You really believe that?"
"I know that. I think you can do good work here. I think already you help William's little sunrise." It took Wes a second or two to realise that she meant Dawn. "I think if you stay you can help many people, many demons who no have no one to turn to. If you follow your heart. You good man, Wesley. Here is place where we need good men."
"And what if my heart is in LA?"
"The baby horse?" Lily asked. "She choose, my friend. Is done." The demon held Wes's gaze as she continued her sympathy evident in her gaze. "She is little girl. Is right for now that she should be with little boy. You no little boy. You need woman, to be your wife, to have your children, to make life with, no little girl for you to be knight. Is time to put away childish things.
Is not to be easy, but you stay, we help. My Marie help with work. We help you find office, new home. Is new start, new beginning but many people to help, us, William, Buffy, Dawn. Is better not see pony. Is better to forget. Clean slate.
I think in time have better life here than you think. I make tea. You think about what I say. Is true, but men they need time to think through what woman knows." With that she bustled back to the kitchen, leaving a somewhat shell-shocked Wesley in her wake.
"Hello!" Clem's voice sounded from the doorway. "Rosa said there was a pizza delivery on its way."
"Is coming," Lily shouted back from the kitchen.
Clem came in and claimed the other armchair but Wesley hardly noticed, as Marie came through the door after him. She carried Rosa on one hip, her love for the child evident in every glance her way. As she looked up to see Wes watching them her smile seemed to include him in their family unit.
"I don't think you two have been formally introduced. Rosa, this is Wes. Or do you prefer Wesley?"
"Wes is just fine."
"Okay. Wes, this is my daughter Rosa."
Wes heard the introduction, but his brain was too busy providing another soundtrack for the admittedly beautiful mother and child portrait in front of him, Lily's words of a few moments earlier. 'You need woman, to be your wife, to have your children, to make life with.'
He began to have a feeling that, true or not, Lily's advice wasn't entirely impartial. His gaze flicked briefly to the older demon, catching the merriment on her features before he held out his hand to the little girl, who was obviously amused to be asked to shake hands.
"Pleasure to meet you."
A smile broke across the little girl's face. "You talk like Unker Will reads," she told him, unwittingly giving away one of Spike's fluffiest secrets.
"Do I indeed?" Wes asked.
It was some time later before all the pizza was eaten and Rosa was due to be returned to the care of her tutor.
Lily diplomatically offered to escort the child back upstairs, to allow Marie to chat to Wes about the business of setting up and some of the legal necessities involved. She had one last trick up her sleeve before she took the little girl away, though.
"Wesley, is good that you stay. Is so good, I think maybe we have party here for dinner Saturday night. We ask William and the girls, too. You come."
The sight of the little girl dancing on the spot in excitement made it impossible for Wes to refuse, as he was sure the old demon had known it would. "Of course," he answered. "What time?"
"Hi, come on in. Can I take your coat? Maybe you'd like a drink? Some coffee? Or maybe a soda? We've got some ice tea in the fridge."
"Yes, you can take my coat. As to drinks, whatever you're having will be fine. How's your sister, by the way?" the young cleric passed over his jacket to Buffy, who hung it up on one of the pegs in the hall.
"Oh... you know. Physically, a couple of weeks and you'd never know anything happened. Mentally, we could be catching the fallout years from now."
"I'm sure you'll give her all the support you can."
The minister waited in the hall for Buffy to return from the kitchen with a selection of sodas, before heading up to the teenager's room.
"Is your sister going to be up to this?"
"Oh, she might have been told to stay home from school and rest up, but I assure you a bit of reading won't be beyond her." Buffy pushed open the room door to reveal Dawn sitting in bed, headphones on, tray full of magazines on her lap, painting her fingernails silver. A vase of white spray carnations with red edging on the petals stood by the side of her bed. Thanks to Spike's intervention she was dressed in her most concealing pair of pyjamas underneath the bedclothes, and he'd even made her put on a bra, which in her mind sort of spoiled the whole idea of lazing round in pyjamas, but the vampire had been adamant.
She looked up, startled, as the door pushed open, tipping the bottle of polish over the topmost magazine. Buffy snatched at it, picking it up before it could pool onto the tray itself. The teenager pulled the headphones from her ears, and Buffy grimaced at the music that came from them.
"Has Spike been making tapes for you again?" Buffy asked, holding her hand out to take the bottle cap from her sister.
"Brandon, actually." Buffy rolled her eyes. Sometimes she wondered if Dawn realised that she was basically dating a young human Spike. "Didn't realise it was that time. Sorry." Dawn ripped the cover off the soiled magazine using a delicate precision to avoid smudging those nails she'd finished painting. She scrunched it into a ball, sending it sailing to bounce off the rim of her waste paper basket and onto the floor. As Buffy hastened to rescue it before the polish stained the carpet, Dawn treated the minister to an apologetic smile.
"So, are you ready to start now?" the preacher asked as Buffy passed around the sodas and he passed a gospel in booklet form to each of the girls.
"Well, I've kinda got a couple of questions before we start the lesson proper." Buffy bit at her lip.
The young man gave her an understanding smile as if this were par for the course. "Fire away."
"Not that I'm not grateful, but I just wondered why you're prepared to do this. I mean the wedding, not the bible study. When Spike said he would only get married in church if the minister was prepared to do it, knowing what he was, I was sort of ready to head for the Vegas wedding chapel. I didn't really expect that the first guy, em, reverend that I asked would say yes."
"Buffy, I could tell you it's because it's patently obvious to anyone who sees the two of you together that you love each other. I could tell you that it's obvious that Spike understands fully the commitment he is making before God and I believe he takes it very seriously, which is more than can be said for some couples who come to me. I could also tell you that I believe his motives are just. I could tell you that since he basically intimated to me that you were sleeping together and that the situation wasn't going to change that I felt it was my duty to sanctify the union-."
Buffy looked shocked. "But, but I heard every word he said. He didn't mention anything about that."
"Not unless you knew the context of the passage which he quoted, and he knew that I would. Buffy, I could give you all these reasons and any one of them would be almost enough to justify my decision, but the fact of the matter is that in the end it came down to one thing.
There are several constants throughout The Bible. One is the tenet of 'Judge not, lest you shall be judged.' It's not my place to decide whether Spike or even you are worthy or unworthy in the eyes of God. He is the only one who can do that. This is illustrated time and again throughout the bible, and more often than not those who think they are guaranteed a place at God's right hand are condemned for their greed, their vanity or some other sin and those who deem themselves unfit for whatever reason are generally wrong, too. No one can know whether they will see heaven, all anyone can do is try to be worthy."
"But, isn't it all a soul thing? And Spike doesn't have one of those."
"How do you know? Do you know exactly what a soul is? Because I don't. The same word that's often translated from Greek to mean 'soul' in The Bible could just as easily have been translated to say 'life'. The Hebrew word for 'spirit' can also be translated as 'breath'. When you start to look at things in that light, you realise that some things which are commonly misconceived to have their origins in The Bible are nothing more than dogma."
"So you say that Spike isn't by his nature inherently damned?"
"Jesus says, 'Whosoever believes in me shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.' Not those who believe and have a soul, whatever you take that to mean, and I defy you to prove who has one and who doesn't by the way, or who happen to be the same species as the guys who wrote the book. Just whosoever."
"Em, well, this kind of leads me to the next question. I'm guessing from that, that you wouldn't have any objections if a couple of the attendants and a guest or two weren't entirely human as such?"
"No, Buffy, I don't have a problem with that. I was more or less expecting it, though you will need two witnesses whose identity is... legally established, I guess is the best way to put it, to sign the register."
Dawn gave her sister a questioning look. "A couple of the attendants?"
"Oops. Guess I didn't mention asking Marie about having Rosa as a flower girl, huh?"
"Guess not," the teenager mock huffed, but then couldn't contain a grin. "She is going to be so cute."
The minister cleared his throat. "Well, if that concludes the question and answer for just now, maybe you'd like to open the gospels I gave you at the beginning?"
A calm settled over the group as the minister read from the tracts that he had given the girls, pausing every so often to discuss the passages with them. Everything seemed to be going rather better than Buffy had expected. That was before the sound of two male voices bickering and then shouting carried through the house to Dawn's room.
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