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Wesley was not my guide. Cain was my enemy. Willow was my friend. These were constants in my universe as I had come to know it, and yet it seemed as though it was tested daily as my new humanity blossomed.

The 'visit' from Lilah having made him more than a little unsettled, Wesley found himself making up some excuse to leave the school early. He wasn't entirely sure, at first, what he intended to do with his time, but finally decided to check up on the subjects who were the reason he'd been so incensed with the dimension-lost harpy. He drove quickly to the magic shop, and took a deep breath to calm himself before opening the door. "Willow? Illyria?"

Illyria was sitting upstairs, watching the end of Moulin Rouge yet again after Willow had introduced her to it. She should have been downstairs watching the shop, yet she could not pry her eyes from the screen that beheld the death of the woman that was so beloved to the hero. His cries of pain, anguish, torture... it tugged at her, pulled at her emotions that were still so new. She sat with the control and watched it again, watched the fraile, thin human girl die over and over. It was her own brand of torture. "Willow? Illyria?" came a voice from below and she was pulled from her strange reverie. Turning the television off, she ventured downstairs to find Wesley waiting. They had not spoken since that one night, when she had tried so desperately to make her feelings known, and now she was uncertain what to do or say. "Yes?" Illyria stepped closer to him. "What do you wish, Wesley?"

Wesley stepped closer, looking over Illyria, as if he might actually be able to ascertain her state of well-being from a visual examination. "Illyria, good. I wanted to make sure I spoke to you." He was a bit surprised to see Illyria walking so freely in her own form, and he wondered a bit at what it meant-- perhaps, he hoped, Willow was indeed aiding her progress in a way he could not. "I've been meaning to check in on you and Willow and see how you're both adjusting to each other. I, ah, know our last conversation didn't go well." He shrugged, knowing how much an understatement that was. "How are you?"

"Willow and I are friends," she replied easily, casually. It had been something that had taken time for her to truly understand and Illyria was certain that she still did not grasp all of the concepts inherent within a 'friendship', but it was true nonetheless. "As for you," she continued in her monotone-voice, "our last conversation was not a conversation at all. I informed you of the progress I had made regarding the well-beings of both Lilah and your... wife." The last word was said with as much disgust as she could manage. Perhaps he had forgotten this? "Why do you wish to see me, Wesley? Please speak. My time here is precious and you would waste it on trivial 'small-talk' and meaningless words when I have more important things I could be doing at the moment." She did not elaborate to him exactly what 'things' she had planned, however.

"Friends?" Wesley asked, eyes widening. The idea managed to bring a smile to his face. "Friends. Excellent. Really, Illyria, that's wonderful for you. For you both, I should think." There was something wistful in the last few notes of his words, and Wesley wondered why. Perhaps he was missing the role of guide and teacher? Did he resent Willow's ability to reach Illyria in ways he'd failed? Unsure, Wesley lowered his head, chastised by Illyria's next words. "You're right, of course. Well, I won't have a wife for long, and that will be that. Unfortunately, there's no such closure on Lilah, who is as unrepentant as ever." Wesley's head tilted to the side just a touch, a curious gesture he'd picked up from numerous acquaintances over the years. "I see. Then I should be brief. The battle with Cain is coming soon. Very shortly, Giles and the rest of us will be traveling to America to stop his next move. I know you wanted to be there."

Illyria mimicked Wesley's head motion perfectly until they were mirror images. "No... wife?" This was curious, especially considering the long discussion they had regarding love, sexual relations, and the concept of marriage. "I do not understand." Lilah, however, was another matter entirely. "Unrepentant, you say? Perhaps I should pay her a visit... she has the most wondrous things to say about what a vile creature you are, Wesley." His next words, however, caught her, held her tightly until she was beginning to feel trapped within the confines of the shop. "Cain?" The word was like venom, something filthy that should never be spoken of... yet finally her chance at justice was being presented to her. The mortal who killed her brothers could finally perish. And then she... Illyria was unsure what she would do next. She shook her head slightly as if to erase that thought. "Giles had mentioned once to me that I might be of assistance in trapping our foe, but he was mistaken. It is the other way around," she pointed out to Wesley, certain he would understand that much. "Very well. When do I get to kill him?"

"The marriage is being annulled-- dissolved. It was an arrangement of convenience, and no is no longer necessary. As you've pointed out yourself, I don't love Faith, neither does she love me." Wesley's mouth opened once, then closed, unable to form a word. Had Illyria just... made a joke? Amazing. "There's no excuse for her to be spying on you and Willow, and frankly... if you catch her around here again, she's been more than forewarned." He shrugged. If Lilah were foolish enough to risk Illyria's wrath again, it wasn't his problem. He watched as Illyria's rage and resentment of Cain rose in her, and nodded. "Soon enough. He's going to try to open another Gate, and he is vulnerable in that moment. A spell will be cast to drain his power, and he will be ready for us to destroy." In this, at least, he and Illyria were in perfect agreement-- Cain could not be allowed to be spared.

Illyria could scarcely believe the words Wesley had spoken about Faith. No love on either side, that was something she had noticed quite readily. Yet, the sexual gratification was still there... Curious, she thought to herself, as Wesley continued to speak about Lilah. "There's no excuse for her to be spying on you and Willow..." he informed her, to which she nodded. "If I see her again, then, as you say... she has already been warned. Her life will be forfeit." Illyria spoke the words aloud so that there would be no misunderstanding between them. Lilah had invaded Illyria's space and had apparently caused emotional harm to her only friend - Willow. It would not go ignored. As he continued to speak about their foe, though, Wesley mentioned spells and magics. Illyria rose a hand to stop his words. "Wait... there will not be blood upon my fingers? This is unacceptable. Please tell me there will be more to his death than simple magic that any lesser witch may perform."

Wesley nodded again, confirming and accepting Illyria's intentions. As far as he was concerned, Lilah was a loose cannon, and could potentially be far more a liability than an asset to their side. She'd angered and been deemed a threat by none other than Willow, and in their circles, that was more than enough condemnation. The idea, though, of Cain's defeat was not yet setting well with Illyria. "As I understand the tactic, the spell will serve to remove most or all of Cain's mystic powers and protection. He will still need to be physically killed. I have no problem whatsoever with that being your pleasure."

Something resembling an ghost of a grin widened on Illyria's face at his last words and she nodded. "Then so shall it be." And I shall be avenged, she mused. The smile was soon gone, though, as she recalled the scene from Moulin Rouge that was replaying in her mind as she looked at the emptiness within Wesley's eyes. Her mind then wandered to the text she found in the journal, where Wesley had written something about her... but only according to another's words. Another's words, just as she used another's to speak to him before. Her eyes looked away from him as the words from her memory came not from Fred, but from a play she had read, written by the same mortal Wesley had quoted previously. "He is dead and gone, lady/ He is dead and gone;/At his head a grass-green turf,/ At his heels a stone," she finished quietly, before looking up to Wesley for confirmation - not that she spoke of Cain any longer, but of another man who was dead. Mad, perhaps, as Wesley had written about love. Do you understand? her eyes implored.

Wesley almost smiled. He would very much not like to be in Cain's shoes when Illyria at last came face-to-face with the murderer of her fellows. Something, though, changed in Illyria. Suddenly, her manner was... almost wistful. Sad. But, he ventured to guess, not for herself. She turned to Wesley and recited a quote, that he needed almost no time to recognize-- Hamlet, Act IV, scene v. Ophelia. And her words were as pointed at him as if it were a sword. Shaking his head, Wesley took a step back. "It was... good... talking, Illyria. Please let Willow know that I stopped by, and that I'll ring her as soon as I can. Thank you." Without another word, he turned and left-- fled?-- from the shop.

I returned to the television, held the remote in my hands, and watched the death. Again. And again. And again.

Wesley was not the only one who had died that day. Perhaps I had, as well...

September 2006

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