Wesley Dreams


Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is dreaming. He is in the library, embracing a girl 14 years his junior. The only relationship he should have with this child is that of teacher and student, or possibly guardian and guarded. But she's beautiful, and wealthy, and finds him attractive, so he kisses her. Only physical distaste prevents him from taking it further.

Friday evening, Fred invited the Angel Investigations team for pizza and beer down in Science.

"It's not that I don't appreciate the invitation," Lorne said, when he heard. "But couldn't we go someplace comfortable? Like say, a dentist's office? All those test tubes and nuclear reactors you have down there make a fella twitchy."

Fred laughed. "No, silly. There's this great rumpus room down in Science. Couches, and a fridge full of Cokes, and a model train that hangs from the ceiling, and an Atari 2600, and a DNA sequencer. For when the researchers are working all night and need a place to blow off steam and brainstorm."

Lorne had evening plans, of course, as did Gunn. Wesley simply wasn't interested. But Fred harangued Angel until he believed that she would be acutely miserable if he spent yet another weekend brooding in the dark. And once Angel had been shanghaied, he made clear to the rest of the crew that if he were forced to have a social evening, group attendance was not optional. So they all trooped down to Fred's domain for pepperoni pizza (hold the garlic).

In another dream, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce has a student whose actions are his responsibility. She has suffered and been exploited, and her violence stems from her pain. A man whose respect Wesley will never gain has a secret plan to help the girl, which does not involve Wesley. Dreaming, Wesley has his student locked up by burly men.

Fingers smeared with butter-flavored oil, Gunn waved the microwave popcorn bag as he gestured. "I don't buy it," he insisted. "Dance Dance Revolution isn't a real video game."

Fred shook her Jolt can in Gunn's face. "Just because it doesn't have some phallic male controller, doesn't make it not a video game."

"It's not the joystick," Gunn insisted. "And when did you start using words like 'phallic'? But there's no puzzle! And no guns! How can it be video game with no puzzle and no guns?"

Lorne looked up from where he lounged on the sofa. "Muffin, as the acknowledged DDR champion of this little family, I think this green-skinned demon sees a green-eyed monster stuffing its face with popcorn."

Gunn sputtered, while Lorne just looked insufferably smug (though not as smug as he'd looked when he realized that Barbra Streisand was on Wolfram & Hart's client list). Wesley smiled. "A competition, perhaps? I suspect Angel will join me on the sidelines --" Angel nodded frantically. Wesley continued, "but Gunn, I do believe your masculinity has been impugned."

"No way has my masculinity been whatevered," said Gunn. "If he'd called me on my ability to play real video games, sure. But not that pansy dance club toy."

"I've got an idea," interrupted Fred, quickly, as Lorne started singing something that sounded suspiciously like "Brave, brave, Sir Gunn. / Sir Gunn ran away," under his breath. Or what passed for "under his breath" in a nightclub singer. She raised her voice over Lorne's. "Let's... let's talk about dreams. We can analyze each other's dreams. Like a slumber party! That'll be fun." Angel looked almost as disturbed as when he feared a round of DDR, but he didn't say anything to stop them.

"You first, Fred," said Lorne. "I'll let someone who actually grew up in the dimension with slumber parties start this one off. I think some of my dreams aren't suitable for innocent ears."

Gunn laughed. "Ain't any of those here."

Wesley said nothing.

Wesley has more than one dream set in a dark alley. In this one, he stands outside the shattered remains of a karaoke bar and a friendship, and reasserts his authority. Bag and baggage, he says, ignoring the look of pain and guilty human frailty he provokes.

"Okay, everyone, gather round," Fred said. She hugged her knees to her chest, and a conspiratorial smile lit her face. "I'll tell you about this dream I had once, a few years back. Before I ever, you know, went to... or knew about ..." she trailed off. "Hey, anyone want some cocoa?"

Lorne bailed her out. "Fred, honey, on behalf of my dimension, I apologize. And I think I speak from experience when I say that if you had weirder dreams before you got sucked into Pylea than afterward, sweetcakes, you are one strange gal."

Fred's face cleared, and she laughed. "Well, you can judge. See, I was really tired, because I'd been up all night studying for this exam."

"Physics?" Angel asked.

"No, American Women Writers. It was a distribution requirement. But anyway, I was really tired," Fred continued. She leaned forward like a child telling ghost stories around the campfire. "I didn't realize that I'd fallen asleep. I was lying in bed, trying to remember who wrote A Raisin in the Sun, and then I thought I was getting out of bed to make the pasta."

"Pasta?"

"See, I was dreaming, but I didn't know it. Anyway, I walked down to the kitchen to get at the ziti, but instead of the kitchen, it was a giant seven wheeled bicycle. Or would that be a heptacycle? And the pasta is nowhere near ready, so the accountants are getting very angry. They jumped on the bicycle, and pedaled away. I ran after them, waving the Parmesan, shouting 'Come back! Lorraine Hansberry! Come back!' When the duck spilled the pasta on my clean socks, I woke up." Fred leaned back in her chair, and crossed her arms on her chest. "Okay, Angel, your turn."

Two men and two demons looked at Fred, blinking.

"Angel?" she said.

Lorne broke the silence. "You win, my little southern bundle of freakiness. That's weirder than anything from Plrtz Grlb. Hell, that beats my mother's bedtime stories, and I thought they were the pinnacle of senselessness."

"Told ya." She bounced up and down in her seat. "Come on, Angel. You go." Fred snickered at the expression on Angel's face. "Anyone would think I just asked you to put mayonnaise on a burrito. Just give us a dream, Angel. How hard can it be?"

Angel shifted in his seat. "I-I don't think that would be such a good idea, Fred. How about Gunn?"

"No way," Gunn said. "The girl tagged you next, fair and square."

"I don't think I should." Angel's face firmed in comfortable "I'm the worst person in the world" lines. "My dreams... well, my dreams are Angelus'. I don't think you want to hear any of them."

In his sleep, it makes sense to Wesley Wyndam-Pryce that he is kidnapping Angel's precious child -- child? -- and tossing the babe willy-nilly into a hell dimension. Waking, Wesley will wonder what neuroses his dream self is analyzing. Does Angel's child represent Angel Investigations? Buffy? Cordelia?

"I don't get it," said Gunn. "You're not Angelus. Why are you sharing Bitchy Guy's dreams?"

"I am Angelus, Gunn, you know that. He's not me with extra evil -- I'm him with a soul. Everything that he did, I did, too. And that means I dream about it. And trust me, you don't want to hear those dreams."

Gunn shifted a little further from Angel, and Lorne made made a surreptitious finger-cross behind his back. Fred furrowed her brow. "But then why is Angelus so much smarter than you? I thought it was because you were separate people. Can the soul make you stupid?" As she realized what she said, Fred made a courageous effort to wrest her foot from her mouth. "I mean -- not that I mean you're stupid. I mean less smart. Not that good and not as smart isn't so much better than evil and smarter. Right?"

"And can the soul give you poor dress sense?" muttered Lorne, again with the not-so-quietly.

Ignoring Lorne, Angel gave Fred a pained smile. "Don't worry, Fred, I understand." Possessively, he straightened his boring black sweater. "It's not that Angelus is exactly smarter than I am -- it's just that he has nothing distracting him from his intelligence."

"You're calling your soul a distraction?" Wesley asked .

Angel nodded. "You wouldn't understand, because you all have souls, and you always have. But your conscience is constantly checking up on you. It watches your actions, keeps you from true ruthlessness. Because it has to monitor everything you think, it slows you down. Your mind just doesn't work as fast when you're paying attention to the possible negative consequences of your actions on the people around you. The truly horrible possibilities don't even occur to you, because your soul, your conscience, filters them out before they ever rise to your conscious mind."

"You haven't been eating Freudians, have you?" Fred asked, suspiciously.

Angel looked sheepish. "Not Freudians, exactly. I -- er -- had a little nibble of Jung once. Does that count?".

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is dreaming again. His lover is role-playing the object of his affections, and she drawls her moans and cries. When she approaches climax, she loses control of the game, and reverts to herself. Wesley's dreaming self knows that the bound and gagged prisoner in the closet can hear every gasp, every shriek. He knows that the prisoner, kneeling by a bucket of her own waste, itches to hold a knife against his throat once more.

"Right, edifying as this discussion of removing a few psychoanalysts from the world may be, I'm feeling a little uncomfortable," said Lorne. "Another round of DDR, anyone?"

Gunn leaned forward. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but hell, yeah. Talking about Angelus makes me jumpy."

But Wesley, either not seeing or not caring about his friends' concerns, continued pressing Angel. "So you're saying that humans aren't capable of true ruthlessness? Because we have souls?"

"Of course there humans who have trained themselves to ignore their souls," Angel said. "They can be ruthless, true. But good people, people with consciences, people who pay attention to their souls -- those people are always self-filtering. People with souls are even prevented from doing some necessary things. If the greater good will be best served by an action which will be painful to the people around you, or which contradicts your basic notion of right and wrong, lots of you won't be able to serve the greater good. That's where all those strange hypothetical puzzles come from: ' Would you kill one person to save fifty?'"

Wes looked oddly uncomfortable. "Are you sure you aren't giving people too much credit, just because we have souls and no demons? Kohlberg said there are multiple stages of human moral development, and for many of us, the only thing keeps us from acting completely selfishly is the fear of getting caught." He ignored the chorus of "hey!" his words provoked from the other humans in the room, and continued. "Maybe what keeps most humans from ruthlessness isn't the presence of the soul, but lack of competence. If we were skilled enough to act selfishly without ever getting caught and punished, maybe we'd all do it."

Angel smiled, and laid his hand on Wesley's arm. "Don't talk like that, Wes. I know people are basically good. I know you." He stood up, and walked toward the arcade-style DDR set up. "Well, you guys? Gonna play? Because I'll stand over here and loom, if you do."

Lorne dragged a protesting Gunn over to the game, followed by a laughing Fred and Angel. None of them noticed Wesley sitting on the sofa, left behind.

An ax swings down and beheads the corpse of his beloved. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is dreaming.