Rating: PG
Character: Wesley
Spoilers: Billy
Disclaimer: I donít own anyone involved here. Twisted as I can be, I donít even come close to Joss.
Summary: Itís three days later, and Wesley contemplates what heís learned about Billyóand what it tells him about himself.

The Nature of the Beast
By Matt
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Sheís gone.

Sheís gone, but sheís right. Time to stop crying likeó

Oh, God.

Go ahead, you pillock. Finish the sentence. Time to stop crying like a woman and get back to being yourself. But tell me: after all thatís happened, including just now, are you sure that you ever want to go back to being yourself?

Enough. Leave the endless rounds of guilt and self-doubt to Angel. Thanks be to God, I didnít get a chance to do anything irreparable. Bless you for sending Gunn and Fredís own ingenuity.

Whoever I do want to be, I can become him. I donít have a demon gnawing at my soul like Angel does.

No, my soul itself is bad enough.

I said enough. Whoever I want to become, I donít want to be some bloody fool standing useless in a doorway.

Fred is rightÖabout some things. About other things, sheís wrong. But then, so is everyone else.

You see, I havenít just been sitting here in the dark for the last three days. Thatís what Angel would do, but I am Wesley Wyndham-Price. I donít have eternity to spend brooding in the dark. Instead, Iíve been learning. Iíve been making phone calls, asking questions, analyzing. Learning all I can about Billy.

Fred says it wasnít me. It was something that was done to me. Sheís right, and sheís wrong.

I asked Cordelia what Lilah had to say, and she told me that Billy brought out the "Primal Misogyny" in men. Bollocks. Lilah works for a firm that works toward the greater purpose of spreading and sustaining evil in the world. To bring herself to do so, sheíd have to believe that Evil is not only the winning side, but the natural state of things.

Primal misogyny, indeed. When God said to Eve that "your love shall be unto him," He didnít go on to say to Adam that "your hate shall be unto her."

Hear that father?

Besides, if it were truly "primal", then it wouldnít have affected each man differently. A man is a man if youíre dealing with something truly primal.

So was it just something that Billy did to all of us? Yes and no. He did, indeed infect us all with his own hatred of women. But thereís something that most folks donít realize about magic. Like everything else in nature, it takes the path of least resistance. It works most effectively if the conditions for it to work are already present.

Look at what happened to each of us: Gavin Park tried to kill Lilahóhis rival. Not one of the female interns whose death would be covered up, but a woman whose power consistently interferes with his own.

The police officer was, I understand, Hispanic. His attack on his partner was flavored with the language of machismo. The dark side of his cultural heritage.

The cab driver beat up a female fare. Under ordinary circumstances, sheóas the paying customerówould be in charge, and he would have to take whatever she chose to dish out.

Gunn? Gunn is an interesting case. His rage was soÖgeneric. And, if I donít miss my guess, exaggerated to force Fred into beating him senseless. He must have only had a tiny, stunted bud of hate for Billyís magic to work with.

You see, thatís how I think it works. Billyís power couldnít create anything that wasnít there before. What it did was rip the lid off our inhibitions and supercharge our hate with his own. So where did the hate come from?

Life. That which we experience, and that which we are taught.

Every man suffers wrongs in his life, and some of them are going to be suffered at the hands of women. The girl who wonít go with you to the dance. The high-school social bully. The tyrannical female boss, or the useless employee. The girlfriend who dumps you or cheats on you or suffers from a chronic headache.

Itís happening again. Did I suppress these thoughts before? Or did I honestly think they were okay?

The human mind works by classifying things into groups, like with like. Only the wisest among us can take a wrong from one member of a group, and not apply at least some of the resentment to all of it.

But how does that explain me? When my inhibitions were ripped away, a whole complex of archaic beliefs and inverted cause-and-effect were revealed. A pattern of madness. Iíve suffered no more at the hands of women than any other shy, socially awkward young fellow. Perhaps lessóIím told that my appearance is somewhat appealing, if a bit bookish.

Of course the defiance from Buffy and Faith is added to the standard. And Faithís toró

No.

So where did it all come from? The insane talk of Eden and bleeding and leading men astray while I tried to rape and murder a girl whoís never done anyone harm, much less me?

Damn you, father, I think you know the answer to that.

And what of Angel?

Of course, it may simply be the fact that heís a vampire, and Billyís magic works on him no more than catnip works on a human. Maybe. That might support Lilahís theory of Primal Misogyny. After all, if heís not actually a man, heís not connected to that Primal Misogyny.

Once again, I say bollocks. His psyche is still mostly human, with the aggression and predatory instincts of the demon tearing at it. It should be all the easier to turn him into a monster.

I think itís something else.

Angel hates Lilah Morgan. He will kill her if she ever threatens any one of us to get to him again, and he will suffer no bad dreams that day, Iím sure. But he hates her as a person, an individual. When he saw her victimized and degraded as a woman, his first instinct was to help.

When he was Liam, Angel slept with every willing woman he could reach. Of course, in that era, that revealed a certain lack of concern about their well-being. But was that true callousness or malice? Or was it simply drunken thoughtlessness? I suspect the latter.

Then he became Angelus, and he spent 150 years in a society that has no gender biasóor racial bias, for that matter. Only age determines power in vampire society, and until the vampire ages beyond human features, there is no way to tell simply by looking how old they are. Woe to the vampire who tries to enforce his mortal prejudices on his vampiric betters. That tiny woman of color that youíre trying to bully may be hundreds of years older than you are and perfectly capable of snapping you in half.

Furthermore, it seems that Angelusís crimes were motivated not by hatred of his victims, but sadism and pleasure in their suffering. It makes no difference to his victims, of course, but the former is encouraged by Billyís touch, and the latter is not. Even Angelusís attempt to destroy the world was motivated by dark ambition and joy in destruction. Again, nothing for Billy to work with.

Angel, I think, is the one man in ten thousand whoóas questionable as his wisdom of mind can beóhas the wisdom of heart to judge everyone he meets as an individual. Everyone he encounters is accorded the respect due to a human being, and his regard or hatred is apportioned as their actions merit.

And I? I who thought of myself as a civilized man, an educated and rational man; I find that I contain a reservoir of hate whose depth I never imagined. Neither my denial nor Fredís mercy can change the fact that it is there, and it is real. So what do I do? What can I do? I canít spend my life hiding in the darkness. I must go out; return to work; and pray that the part of me that always suppressed the hate, the part that had to be torn away by Billy before the hate could run free, is no less real. That it is not just a veneer of gentility like a scum over the bottomless well of burning poison that Iíve been forced to see within myself.

For if it is, then God have mercy on me, and God help anyone I ever come to love, for Iíll be something worse than anything we fight in the night streets of Los Angeles.

Iíll be my fatherís son.

end

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