Stasis

The entire warehouse was full of noise. Clangs of metal, thuds of flesh on flesh. Screams of rage and cries of adrenaline -- if one stepped back and watched, all one would see would be bodies, moving, indiscriminate in colour and form and allegiance. It would be dangerous to wade in there, now, and take up a side of the fight.

If you were already in the thick of it, the enemy was identified by the strike it was throwing towards you. If you were standing on the edge, watching, ears filled with the noise of war raining down upon the room, you wouldn't even be able to tell who was who. Who was winning.

Who was dying.

Wesley closed his eyes, briefly. The sounds didn't change, and he could no more tell which side was going to lose than he had been able to tell when he looked. Opening his eyes once more, he felt the cold, hard press of the wall at his shoulder blade. Not quite leaning against the wall, the touch of stone on his shoulder was enough to provide a steady balance.

He ought to wade in there. He knew that. They had known, coming in, that there would be too many of the demons. With all their friends and allies it was still close, still going to be a question of whether they could win. Bound to fight, regardless, but it was always nice to believe you might win.

Wesley caught a flash of movement, clear and strong. Buffy, then, the only one almost guaranteed to survive. He didn't know why he thought that, but as he turned his gaze towards the other bodies, seeing this one fall, that one being tossed aside, he could not shake the belief. If anyone walked away from this, is would be she.

Perhaps it was haughty Watcher's Training, infused the belief that a Slayer would survive. Perhaps it was merely fervant wish. Perhaps it didn't matter. He tore his gaze away and searched, again, through the mass of fighting. Too little light to see by, he wondered if he ought waste a spell to illuminate the room.

It might distract the wrong people, though, so he didn't do it. Hadn't seriously thought he would, but what else was there for him to do? Besides watch. Watching, after all, what he'd been trained for. Since he couldn't be sure what else they even expected of him.

With the arrival of the Sunnydale crew, he had lost his position as researcher. Rupert had more experience than he, and he had trained Buffy's friends to nearly as skilled researchers as the Council ever could. With Rupert, Xander, Willow, and Tara sifting through books, Wesley had been needed for nothing more than 'where is your copy of...?'

As for spellcasting, what little magic they'd decided to use was handled by the two witches. Overseen by Giles and Anya, surprisingly enough, they'd made all preparations without him. He'd offered to go acquire one of the supplies they'd needed, and when he'd returned it had all been done.

There was no point in thinking they'd needed him to fight. Everyone out there now, he could pick out flashes of human skin and voice, teasing him to identify the warrior they belonged to. Couldn't help but remember the look on Gunn's face every time Angel said Wesley was coming, and had he imagined it, or had there been something else on Gunn's face this time when Cordelia had stepped up beside him with an ax of her own? Her job was only to protect Tara and Willow, standing back out of the way during battle, casting their spells to hinder the demons. But no one doubted she would do it well.

Wesley watched the battle rage, trying to turn his thoughts back away from wondering why he was here. Whether anyone had noticed he was merely standing here at the edge of the fight. Out of the way. He wanted to step away from the wall, wanted nothing more than to wade in there, slip a sharpened sword through the ribs of a roaring demon, cast a spell of fire into the face of another. Wanted to be brave and strong and needed. Wanted. Craved. Recognised the futility.

He watched, from the side. Wondered if even the demons would notice that there was something here, to kill. He suddenly felt the rush of power that signalled another of the witches' spells being cast. There was a flash of something, off on the opposite side of the warehouse, something blue and glowing, then instantly shiny and all too brief. The demons had prepared for this, and so far the witches' spellcasting had had little effect.

Closing his eyes once more, Wesley remembered another spell. Hadn't thought of it before, hadn't mentioned such a thing at any of the pre-battle meetings. Whispered the short chant regardless, without the totem-focus which would have enabled him to make the spell permanent, and reach more than just those few demons nearest him. But he felt it taking effect, the slight drift of energy seeping from him as he opened his eyes, and into the demons he could reach, slowing down their arms and legs. Pulling them completely still for just a few seconds, but in that moment three were slain and another rendered helpless, falling to the floor oozing what passed for blood.

Those fighting in that spot moved quickly to others, and a wave of fighting spread out from that spot. The numbers shifted just enough, and Wesley could see the battle changing hands.

They were going to win. By now, even his friends and their allies could see that. Demons were falling faster, now, and off in the corner one or two even shuffled away, bidding now only to escape. Wesley watched them go, and as more fell, more saw the way the war had gone. Two more shuffled away and the humans let them go.

Wesley sighed in relief as the fight edged away and vanished. Bodies littered the floor, but all of them were demonic. Here and there someone held an arm, pressed a hand against a forehead. He could see the uninjured moving to check on their bleeding companions, but there were no exclamations of concern, no serious wounds. He saw Charles catch sight of him, then, and watched as the man walked over.

"What's up?" Gunn asked, face and voice showing his confusion. No dead bodies littered the floor near Wesley. Leaning there against the wall, in his safe little haven, Gunn approached him and demanded, "What are you doing over here?"

A few of the others drifted closer, overhearing and wondering the same, by the expressions and questions he could hear being muttered. "Playing it safe?" someone remarked, and he could hear the words he had thought, himself, these last few days. 'Why am I even here?'

He might have felt shame, might have even stammered an excuse. Instead his knees finally buckled and he slid bonelesly to the floor. Gunn leapt for him, catching up his arm and trying to halt his fall -- and in so doing pulled his coat open. Gunn stared, then, they all did. Wesley could hear the gasp, then his ears were full of a rushing sound. The pain was spreading again, tendrils of fire reaching out from his stomach into his chest, down his legs.

The fall had knocked wall against the sword's tip, pushing it back out of him an inch or so. He could see it, the crosspiece just a few inches away from his body. He see the blood which had been seeping past his hastily stammered staunching spell, not strong enough to do more than prevent his being dead just yet. Not strong enough because he'd had to stop and cast another, turning the second demon into scorched air and nothingness before it rammed another sword through his neck.

"I'm sorry, I--" he began, not entirely sure which part he needed to apologise for. But the room grew darker, and no one was saying anything.

Perhaps they don't expect an apology, he told himself. Then he closed his eyes and the pain went away.