Declaration of Intent: Illyria goes looking for her Guide... And she finds him. Sort of.
“So, you have…what? Come to this time to take me back to yours?”
She did not know whether his pallor was borne of horror or intrigue…and sensed that he was uncertain of this, as well. This Wesley was not the one she would seek, through time and space immeasurable if she must. Where there would be steady hands and an inscrutable gaze, now there was the trembling of too-human insecurity; a softness in eyes Illyria had once seen burn in fury and hatred and passion.
And would again.
This Wesley did not move her as his future self had done.
No. She would leave him here, in his time. To grow from this pale shade of the man he would become, into the Guide that had lit her path before death had stolen him into darkness.
Once her newly recaptured powers had stabilized, Illyria would continue her search. This time her aim would be true. She would shift into a dimension that would contain her Wesley. None other.
“No. I will only rest here for a time.”
She said nothing else.
She settled onto the pale Wesley’s couch, arranging her awkward limbs as comfortably as possible. It amused her when the Wesley’s eyes traced her movements. To him, this inept form appeared graceful and desirable. She could feel his body warm. Arousal wafted from him, more fragrant than that which had come from her Wesley - whose sorrow and pain had overwhelmed everything else about him, including his scent.
Illyria was tempted to think again. This Wesley had its merits. He was rightfully meek and fearful in the face of her power. When she had appeared in his world, he had shied away. He had not attacked with ax and word and wild eyes as her Wesley had done when she had been reborn. This Wesley would not look upon her as if she were less than she was - at times, as if she were less than himself. Here was a human who would know his place, if she deemed to be so forgiving as to provide one for him.
But. No. Illyria had not come here in need of a new pet. She had the half-br… She had Spike, at home in their own time. To look after and to amuse herself with.
She needed her Guide.
She would not find him here.
Pale Wesley hovered in the distance.
“Yes…well. Good to know. Just…make yourself at home. I suppose.”
In Illyria’s mind, new thoughts began to form. Illyria would find her Wesley… There was no question of that. Now that her powers were hers once more, the cosmos could not hide him from her indefinitely. So there was no hurry to race through the dimensions in search of him. And it was intriguing to her… How different this Wesley was from hers, even though she had the shell’s memories to tell her when and why the change had occurred. Remembering the world as it was before the half-breed’s child, Connor, and seeing that world for herself…
It was not disinteresting.
Illyria wished to explore it further.
She hesitated only a moment…and then smiled. The sight was so terrible as to cause Pale Wesley to tremble.
“I will do so,” Illyria said, her words a declaration.
Wesley dropped the book in his hands on his foot, and hopped around on one foot.
Illyria nodded, and pondered how to extract more such noises from him without causing his extremeties pain.
Chapter 2: Perpetuity
Angel had known that signing away the Shanshu would have consequences...
He’d known that signing away the Shanshu would have consequences, beyond the loss of his possible return to humanity. So when death came, and Hell greeted him on the other side, Angel wasn’t entirely surprised.
Displeased, perhaps. A little pissed, certainly. But, all in all, dying - again - had put things into perspective. As it often did.
Angel had been to Hell once. He could hack it again. And so long as the others had gone on to their rightful place after death, Angel told himself it didn’t really matter.
As no one had come to tell him otherwise, that’s where Angel assumed the others had gone…
Not that there’d been anyone around to tell him otherwise. Angel found that Hell, during this stay, was really kind of…boring. Nothing happened. Nothing seemed likely to. He didn’t even hurt. He just…
For the Senior Partners to decide upon a fate grisly enough to fit his crimes against them, Angel imagined.
He had no idea what that fate might entail…
Until he heard the first chords of a guitar being strummed, and followed the sound to the Texan lounging in one of the rooms that contained him in this version of Hell.
“Oh, God…no,” Angel said as he realized what torment the Senior Partners had fiendishly concocted for him.
“Not really the man to talk to around here, big guy,” Lindsey said. “So… You’re a Manilow fan, huh?”
Original publish date: December 31, 2004
Chapter 3: Missions of Redemption
What if Lindsey's scheme to get back at Angel and the Senior Partners in "You're Welcome" had gotten...sidetracked?
The final preparations were complete not a moment too soon. By the time the last tat was in place, his girl had gotten nervous - even though everything was coming along just as it should. They had everything covered…
Newly re-corporealized, soulled vampire? Check.
Crappy apartment for newly re-corporealized vampire…
Check. (That would go nicely with his “heroes go Spartan” spiel.)
Mystical, soul-sucking leeches?
(Those had been Eve’s idea.) Check.
Lindsey headed for his truck on top of the world…and fell to his knees on the pavement, half-way across.
Bright, white pain had seared through his temples. And burned in his brain. Lindsey’s eyes watered; his stomach turned. His sight dimmed, then filled with images of an alleyway he’d never been in. The girl who lay dying there evoked an empathy, and protectiveness, in Lindsey he would have thought impossible.
When the vision ended, it left with enough force to knock Lindsey flat on his back.
He lay there for long moments, panting and watching the world spin. When it settled, and he could speak, Lindsey cursed a blue streak.
Those crappy Powers and their missions of redemption…
This was going to screw Lindsey’s plans for world domination royally.
Original publish date: December 19, 2004
Chapter 4: I Walk With Heroes
They win. The cavemen always win.
“The cavemen win. Of course they win…”
They’d been waiting to since Pylea, Wesley imagined. Why hadn’t he felt it then? That his finding her had been too good to be true; too good to last. Soon she would be lost - ever more than she had been before. If there was Fate, it had damned them both from the beginning.
“I walk with heroes…,” she’d said.
Wesley tread in their footsteps. And - more often than not - wielded the daggers that stabbed them in the back. It was ironic - he’d been so very harmless once.
He’d always heard that the world would end with not a scream, but a whisper.
His world ended on one, also.
“Why can’t I stay…”
Original publish date: January 30, 2005
Chapter 5: We Are Weak
The strong hold out for what they want; the weak settle for what they need. Wesley needs not to heal, lest he forget. (Set during episode 05 x 19: "Time Bomb")
“Your intent is not murder?”
“It never was.”
Such is the irony of his existence. No one he’s loved has escaped betrayal - through his faults, through his failures, one by one he’s betrayed them all.
“I‘m with him!”
She’d said it as if it had meant something.
Only those who can not trust do not find their trust misplaced in Wesley.
“You’re gonna stay with her, aren‘t you?”
Where else can he go?
Grief is not all there is to life. It is all Wesley can trust not to have taken from him. If he must cling to some constant… This will do.
Chapter 6: Unsurprising
“The first lesson a watcher learns is to separate truth from illusion. Because in the world of magics, it's the hardest thing to do… And since I don't actually intend to die tonight, I won't accept a lie.”
- Wesley, “Not Fade Away”
Death is not as he’d expected.
It is better.
Every morning Wesley wakes to clean sheets and Fred’s smile. He and Fred watch the outside world through their kitchen windows over breakfast and conversation. There is only ever peace to be seen through the spotless glass, and Wesley never leaves bed before noon to see it.
He spends his day cuddling with Fred on the couch, or making love, instead. He supposes he should go and see their friends - who must all be around here, somewhere - but Fred only smiles when he suggests it.
Fred is always smiling.
Wesley spends his evenings seething. The perfection has begun to nettle. Something is wrong. Wesley is half expecting the screams that do not rend the silence, and the blood that doesn’t stain his clothes and hands.
And then they come for him, and it still isn’t right…
But at least he is unsurprised as the demons cut out his heart. Again.
Chapter 7: Vision of Pain
It was a real tragedy... Or was it?
Dialogue for the episode Loyalty:
“You risk your life, human, calling on the Loa. Perhaps what you really seek is death. The pain in your heart begs for it.”
“Then do it and be done. Nothing else will stop me.”
His life did not flash before his eyes.
Under other circumstances that might have intrigued him. As the knife slid into his flesh, his mind went blank - there were no happy memories, nor sad recollections, to sour or sweeten the experience further.
There was only the blade, and the blood… And his life rushing out of him as the thoughts finally rushed in.
‘I can not die like this.’
Wesley’s hands had fallen to his sides as his body began to spasm in pain and shock. Wesley forced them back up; forced all the magic within him to pool in the palms of his hands, swirling in masses of flame larger than any he had conjured before. He dredged up whatever power he could - too much power. He could feel that line he’d felt every time he’d cast a spell or raised a ward, and leapt past it. He raised his arms and the blast that shot forth from his fingertips propelled Vail across the room. The sorcerer hit the far wall scorched and unconscious, then slumped to the floor with a dusting of crumbling plaster and brick.
Wesley fell to his feet, then his knees, and then to the floor, one hand clenched over the gaping wound in his side. As Illyria wept over him, his blood rushed through his fingers, and his heart beat its last steady rhythm…
But the world did not go dark.
As if he were there, watching it happen, Wesley saw Illyria rise and defeat Vail.
He saw her join the others in the alley and meet the Senior Partner’s army of demons in battle. He saw the dragon swooping down from the sky; heard the snarls of beasts so big they would have been a challenge to kill if there hadn’t been dozens of them tumbling out of the portal Wolfram and Hart had opened up.
Wesley felt the doom that had been hanging over them all since the fight had begun - perhaps longer - descend upon him, and reeled with the pain of all he had suffered… For nothing. It had all been for nothing…
And then the world faded away, and when it returned Wesley was on his knees in the grass. Staring up at the Loa without comprehending.
“Simple, mortal,” the Loa sneered, as the vision he‘d visited upon Wesley completely faded. “Your pain is just beginning.”
Does anyone remember the series finale of "Roseanne"? :p It twisted everything around so that the last season or so of the show never really happened. It was all in the main character's imagination (say what you want about that show - it could be pretty funny. And I thought the finale was clever and very sad. Not to mention that Glenn Quinn was a regular :) Anywho, that's what I've tried to do here. Made everything after Wesley's visit to the Loa in Season 3 a vision. What do you think of that?
Original publish date: January 17, 2005
Chapter 8: Human Rituals
"Is this valentine not bloody enough?"
At some point in their discussions of human custom, Wesley must have decided not to waste time addressing the lesser human holidays.
The flaw in this decision became apparent the day after Saint Valentine’s celebration.
…when Illyria dropped a demon heart (Wesley hoped that it was a demon heart) on top of his desk.
“You do not like it?” Illyria asked, while Wesley was at a loss for words.
Admittedly, Wesley had had little time to tutor the god-king in human rituals, as of late. Leaving Illyria to run to Spike - the only other creature she actually “talked” to - with her questions of why human males “shower their female companions, on this occasion, with gifts of chocolate and decaying flora”…and why human females “seek the attention of their male counterparts by distributing missives festooned with inaccurate illustrations of the bodily organ they are meant to represent.”
But at least half of the blame had to lie with Spike himself. Who Wesley had overheard responding to Illyria’s laments of Wesley’s neglect of her, and to her ponderings of the application of the Valentine card, with: “For crying out loud, Blue. Just give the boy a bloody Valentine already, and be done with it.”
Wesley stared at the still warm organ lying on the stack of proprietary documents sitting in front of him, staining his ink blotter black-red, and planned vengeance for the soulled vampire.
“Is this Valentine not bloody enough?” Illyria asked, disappointment creeping into her quiet monotone. “Or does the Valentine token only hold meaning on the day of the celebration?”
Wesley assured her that, yes, her Valentine was indeed bloody enough. He deliberated. And then he proceeded to lecture her on the proper methods of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, Fat Tuesday, and April 1st…
Just in case.
Original publish date: February 14, 2005
Chapter 9: Spanglish
A clueless Wes, a frustrated suitor... Oh. And popcorn.
He'd had some notion of heading home when he'd left his department.
He made it just down the hall, into the seating area outside Angel's office, before he decided that here was as good a place as any to catch a few winks.
He woke to find Gunn sitting in the chair beside him. He was, of all things, eating popcorn, and staring through one of Angel's office windows into the office itself.
Gunn didn't turn. "Wes," he said. "You come to watch the show, too?"
Wesley blinked. It was entirely possible he hadn't woken to find Gunn sitting in the chair beside him... Wesley dreams had been a bit odd as of late.
Then Wesley realized that the "show" Gunn was referring to - was Angel and Spike. Who were arguing over who-knew-what inside Angel's office.
And when Gunn looked at him he did so with a pointed glare.
"Or did you work your skinny ass to exhaustion again? Instead of going home at a decent hour like I told you to."
Wesley de-slouched in his seat.
In fact, Gunn had suggested he have an early night tonight - or even take the next day off altogether. Their respective departments had been recently swamped... Which was exactly why Wesley had had to work through a graveyard shift instead.
Gunn had left at six. For a date with Marcy - Macy? - in Accounting.
"I might have lost track of the time," Wes admitted, sheepishly, to which Gunn snorted. Wesley had been working graveyard shifts more and more often lately. He knew Gunn was getting fed up with them - as evidenced by his previous comment. Gunn only ever talked like that now - like he used to, his pronunciations gone soft around the edges and "street" - when he was fed up with Wesley's sleeping habits. Or his tendency to skip meals. Gunn had taken Wesley out to lunch on three different occasions that week - vowing to make certain that Wesley didn't starve himself, somehow, by talking him into meals that were probably less healthy than fasting would have been.
"And you? Did you enjoy the show, I mean?"
The theatre, not the performance Angel and Spike were giving them. Circling one another on the other side of the glass of Angel's office windows. And carrying on their verbal spar as they did.
Again there came a snort. Wesley vaguely remembered the name of the play Gunn had planned on taking Marcy/Macy to that evening.
"You mean the show I didn't go to? Because Mary had a last-minute meeting with what's-his-face in Finance, and couldn't get away til half-past eight?"
Ah, that was it. Mary. Wesley winced. The tickets to that play had not been cheap, or easy to procure. Although Gunn seemed to be taking their uselessness in stride. He was sitting with Wesley, munching on popcorn, after all - not working off any frustrations down in the gym.
Wesley dipped his hand into Gunn's paper bag, and pulled out a handful of popcorn to munch on himself. He hadn't listened to Gunn's suggestion of an early dinner, either.
"One of the many, many priveleges of working for an evil lawfirm," Wesley mused. "Whenever you aren't working ungodly hours, anyone who might wish to date you undoubtedly is."
Wes returned his gaze to Angel and Spike. Angel was sitting at his desk now - head thrown back in that 'Why me?' way of his - as Spike paced in front.
"Yeah. Well. We made it to dinner - which didn't suck. But I don't think Mary was too impressed with the late night show we caught afterward."
Wesley looked back at him. "Jackie Chan?"
It was a Thursday. If there was a Jackie Chan movie showing, and it was a Thursday, then Gunn - on his own - would have gone to see Jackie Chan. Of course, seeing as he'd had a companion along with him-
Gunn raised his hands. "What's wrong with Jackie Chan?"
Wesley grinned. The implant had only broadened Gunn's appreciation of music, theatre, fine cuisine - not inversed it.
"That's what I said."
Angel initiated one quick, angry spin in his desk chair - never a good sign. Wesley finished off his popcorn then, unthinking, licked the butter and salt from his fingertips.
He caught Gunn watching him from the corner of his eye. Before he could become self-conscious about it, Gunn tilted his paper bag.
Wesley smiled softly, then took another handful of popcorn with his other hand.
"So the evening was a bust, then?" he asked.
"Wouldn't say that." Gunn's eyes were on Angel's office door. "Popcorn's not half-bad. Movie wasn't bad, either. Though I gotta say the post-show is getting a little predictable."
Gunn said this as Angel came storming out of his office. He didn't notice Gunn or Wes - or, if he did, he obviously didn't want to risk stopping to talk to them. Spike was right on his heels. Storming out in the opposite direction.
Angel took an elevator up to his floor. Spike disappeared around a turn in the hall.
Wesley and Gunn looked at one another.
"I give it ten minutes," Gunn said.
Wesley blinked. "Fifteen."
They rose and moved to stand where they could see Angel's elevator.
At ten minutes, the floor indicator above began to descend in number, rather than go up.
But the elevator did not return. The numbers began to rise again.
After fifteen minutes, Spike reappeared around that turn in the hall. He stomped past Wesley and Gunn on his way to the elevators, muttering to himself. Then stabbed the "up" button and got on.
"If that had been a bet, I do believe I would have won."
"And that's why we don't bet on things anymore," Gunn confirmed.
Wesley grinned at him. "I wonder what they were arguing about, though."
Gunn shrugged. "Beats me. I don't speak Spanglish."
Wesley looked at him. "Spike-Angel-ish," Gunn clarified. "It's a language all it's own."
Wesley chuckled, following Gunn back down the hall. When he was at Gunn's side he said, "And one that's difficult to translate."
They were back at the seating area, where Gunn had left his suit jacket and the popcorn. He turned.
"Unless you assume anything one of them says that doesn't cause the other to draw blood means 'I love you'," Gunn told him. Wesley stilled. It wasn't that he was uncomfortable with the relationship that had been initiated (or, more likely, resurrected) by their two soulled vampires. It was just talking about the specifics of the relationship with Gunn that felt awkward.
"Not that I'm all that interested in assuming. Me, I'm still trying to translate Gunn into Wes well enough for you to understand me."
Wesley replied, startled, "What?"
Gunn took a step closer. And then, deliberately, another.
"Wes. I tell you to leave the office with me, you think I'm fussing at you to get more sleep. Which you should, but..."
Wesley raised a brow. What?
"I ask you out to eat, you think I'm force-feeding you," Gunn continued.
Wesley frowned. "Well, I-"
Gunn wasn't finished. Talking or moving. He stepped one step closer to Wesley. So that they were standing entirely too close for two friends having a casual conversation.
Gunn was staring straight at him and Wesley stared back, uncertain, wondering.
"I ask you what kind of show you'd like to see, you tell me where to get tickets. In front of Mary Brewen in Accounting. Who's been giving me signals all week, and thought my asking you about the tickets was a signal for her."
Gunn leaned forward, slightly. There was an intense, unreadable expression on his face.
"I've done everything to let you know where I'm coming from but tell you straight out. And that's not working. So I'm just gonna ask you this now, and take it from there."
Wesley was listening. "Yes?" he asked.
"How is it that you, with all that Watcher training of yours, know all my favorite foods, my favorite movies; what I like to do for fun, where I go when I'm angry or I'm upset... How come you notice all that...and you can't name a single person I've gone out with this month. Or not gone out with, actually, in the last three. Selective hearing, Wes? Selective sight? What am I working against here?"
Wesley fought the urge to look away. Gunn's eyes had softened, and his words - in another tone - might have sounded harsh. They were quiet and coaxing.
"How come you notice all that, and you haven't noticed yet that I'm crazy about you?"
Even with that build up, when the actual words were said they hit Wesley like an electrical charge. He felt them. Warm, exciting, like nothing had been for him in some time. Charged with promise. Of something better than lonely meals and an empty bed to go home to at night.
"Did you hear that?" Gunn asked, and behind his challenging words Wes could sense his anxiety. Wes did know a lot about Gunn. He knew what Gunn looked like when he was nervous. When he was determined. When he felt scared.
And when he felt hope.
"No," Wesley replied, softly.
He saw the emotions on Gunn's face shift into brief and terrible disappointment.
But by then Wes was closing the tiny distance between them, slipping one hand around the back of Gunn's neck, leaning in ever closer towards Gunn's lips - clarifying his answer and stopping the disappointment cold.
"I believe what I heard was 'Kiss me.' But you can correct me if I'm wrong."
Gunn slowly grinned, and his eyes lit with Wes's smile.
"Now you're talking," he said into their kiss, as his hands went to Wesley's waist.
Original publish date: February 25, 2005
Chapter 10: Belated
Wesley's appreciation of Valentine's Day is a bit belated.
Sometimes he nearly forgot why he hated this holiday.
Whenever someone in the office got it right, and the decorations put up were whimsical and pretty - not gaudy or crass. Or when the shop where he bought his tea brought out the Valentine biscuits he was ashamed to admit had become his favorite…
But eventually Wesley was reminded - St. Valentine’s Day was a lovers’ holiday…
And then he hated it all over again.
Never more so than when one of the others could not take a hint, and tried to draw him into their planning something “special” for the occasion.
All weekend Wesley had endured Fred’s worrying over whether or not she should send Knox flowers.
“’Cos, I mean, he’s a guy,” she’d finally said. “And, you know, guys might not like to get things like flowers on Valentine’s Day. Would you? Like to get flowers, I mean.” Wesley had just opened his mouth to respond when Fred’s eyes had widened, and she’d continued, quickly, “Not that anyone would want to get you any!”
Before Wesley could decide whether he was offended by that or not, Fred had stuttered: “Not that there’s any reason why somebody wouldn’t! Want to get you flowers. Just, if they did, and you were embarrassed, or something…”
Wesley had told her that, no, he would not be embarassed if someone gave him flowers on Valentine’s Day. As it turned out, he was embarassed by their discussion of the issue. But he’d ignored that, and had gone on to encourage Fred - with fake smile in place - to send Knox whatever Valentine’s offering, floral or no, struck her fancy. He was certain Knox wouldn’t be embarassed by such a gesture, either, and had wanted to put Fred out of her misery.
Then Wesley had somehow gotten sucked into a conversation about wine - by Gunn, of all people. Who Wesley would never have imagined being interested in Wes’s wine preferences, no matter how much Gunn’s interests had changed since the implant.
When Lorne asked Wesley which restaurants he favored these days - claiming he had a client in need of schmoozing who might share Wesley’s culinary tastes - Wesley was certain they’d all formed some sort of conspiracy against him.
They each knew how Wesley hated Valentine’s Day. How he hated helping other people prepare for a day he, himself, would spend at home, alone - again. They knew how Wesley hated discussing the whole Valentine’s season…
Yet they’d done little else, in his presence, since the cursed day had begun its approach.
Even Angel seemed to be in on the joke.
Asking questions similar to Fred’s, and Gunn’s, and Lorne’s - in that round-about, Angel-way that Wesley usually found endearing, but couldn’t quite handle in light of what would happen Monday. Angel had become unusually broody just before his break-up with Nina, and had remained that way long after. Nothing any of the others had done or said seemed to have gotten through to him. Nothing Wesley had done or said seemed to have gotten through - in fact, Wesley had begun to suspect that Angel was avoiding his company. Angel became strangely quiet whenever Wesley drew near, and fidgeted far more than normal. As if he was discomfited by sitting next to Wesley or - at times - even being in the same room as him.
Then, suddenly, it was February. And Angel became unusually cheerful. He chatted Wesley up on a regular basis; made any excuse to seek Wesley’s attention. He behaved the way he had just after his Darla epiphany, or during Connor’s infancy - as if he’d discovered a new identity for himself, and was extremely excited about his prospects. And worried, at the same time, about what would happen next.
Wesley figured Angel had realized what Wesley had been waiting for him to realize all along.
That his reluctance to commit to Nina really was ridiculous, and that he was ready to try again. Wesley supposed there was no better day than Valentine’s Day to enact a reconciliation.
Monday morning Wesley called in sick, amidst Harmony’s unheard protests, then disconnected his phones and pagers and went back to bed.
He didn’t go back to work until Tuesday afternoon.
Tuesday, Wesley found his desk covered with the paperwork that had piled up in the mere day and a half he’d been unavailable.
Unfortunately, while the humans at the firm had celebrated Valentine’s Day, the evil Wolfram & Hart now fought had gone on about its business. Making for a very messy post-holiday clean-up. Fortunately, few of Wesley’s fellow Department Heads had actually gone out on Valentine’s. So the clean-up wasn’t as messy as it could have been.
A fact which mystified Wesley, seeing as the others had made such a fuss about that evening, before-hand.
He asked Gunn about this, but Gunn resorted to lawyer-speak as a method of not explaining himself - saying he hadn’t actually said he was making plans for Valentine’s Day. Fred told Wesley she and Knox had stayed in the building late, and had had their celebration after work. Lorne, strangely, was not taking Wesley’s calls.
Angel came to Wesley’s office around sundown, when Wesley had finally finished running from one department to the next - either working on some of the cases that had popped up in his absence, or investigating his friends’ peculiar behavior once he was back.
Wesley tried to lend Angel a patient ear - although really, he didn’t feel at all like listening to how Angel’s evening with Nina had gone. He told himself he was only doing so, in fact, out of friendship, and not any morbid curiosity about where the evening had led.
Of course, Wesley was used to telling himself things that weren’t quite true, where his feelings for Angel were concerned, and it wasn’t like he was getting anywhere with any of his projects. He could spare the time it would take to give Angel a supportive front, as his thoughts had been too distracted throughout the day for him to work constructively. His eyes kept going to the vase of roses that had somehow found its way to his desktop, and the bottle of wine that was sitting right beside it.
He’d asked Harmony if there’d been a card when the items had arrived. She’d muttered something about the blind, and him not being able to read it anyway, and a number of things in a voice too low for Wesley to hear, and Wesley had decided that he didn’t want to know what Harmony had done with the card, or why she’d done it.
Wesley looked up from another spell of paper-shuffling, to realize that Angel had stopped talking and was simply staring at him.
“Oh… I’m sorry. You were saying? About not giving up?”
As he said them, Wesley thought about his own words and what Angel had been telling him. Something about his Valentine’s evening not going as he’d planned… Wesley frowned.
Angel sighed. He looked to the heavens.
“Yes. Because I know I can make this work.”
There was such determination in Angel’s tone, Wesley realized how badly Angel wanted it to work.
He felt his stomach sink.
He didn’t look Angel in the eyes.
“Well. Yes. I’m sure you can. We just have to figure out what went wrong. You bought the flowers we talked about?”
Angel’s gaze wandered across Wesley’s desk and back. He blinked.
“You got reservations at the restaurant I suggested?”
Wesley knew he was being silly, but he couldn’t bear to listen to any details Angel might want to give him. This was difficult enough as it was.
“Wasn’t the food any good?”
Wesley had stood up, and moved around his desk - supposedly to retrieve one of the templates he would need when Angel left him to go back to his research.
Angel stepped in his path, nearly causing Wesley to walk right into him. Wesley stopped himself short, just barely containing the small gasp that rose to his lips.
An alarm went off in his head, as he knew Angel would be able to hear how unusually fast his heart had begun to beat at the near collision. Much too fast to have been spurred on by surprise, or anything other than-
“Well, that’s the thing. I wouldn’t know whether the food was any good.”
Angel’s voice was strained. It had become progressively so throughout their conversation. Wesley chanced a glance at the vampire’s face, knowing his awkwardness during their talk must have displeased Angel, and not knowing what to say about it. Surely he ought to apologize. Angel was not responsible for Wesley’s feelings, or for his inability to put them aside and be happy for his friend as he should have been able to do. But the stress of having survived another round of this Valentine’s Day nonsense, on top of the myriad of emotions that came with his “happiness” about Angel’s having come out of his funk and gotten back into a relationship, had drained Wesley. And standing this close to Angel, almost close enough that they could be touching…
The expression on Angel’s face was unreadable, but intense, and the look in his eyes made Wesley’s mind go blank.
“I… I don’t under-”
“See, I never actually went to the restaurant. Since the person I was going to ask to go with me disappeared before I could ask him.”
Wesley’s mind was no longer blank. It was spinning. And suddenly full of a number of thoughts, all tumbling over one anther.
Angel was still standing too close to him. In fact…
He’d taken a step closer.
And Wesley was unable to move away; to look away, as Angel said:
“Of course, as a certain angry, anagogic demon told me, that probably wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d just got off my ‘keister and asked the boy out before he had the chance to bail’ on me.”
Angel stepped closer, eyes still sharp and focused, unwavering, on Wesley’s face - as if daring him to back off if it was all too much.
Wesley’s brilliant, moronic, brain finally righted itself and began to put two and two and two together. Hope, strange but irresistible, blossomed…and he closed that last inch until he and Angel were standing close enough to touch. Close enough to kiss, if that was what possibly might happen.
Wesley could not help the smile that curled his lips.
“Keister?” he repeated.
A pause, and then Angel smiled back.
He slipped one arm around Wesley’s waist, as easily as if they’d always embraced so intimately.
Angel shrugged, his smile becoming something feral as Wesley relaxed into his touch. “His words, not mine.”
Wesley licked his lips, eyes falling to Angel’s mouth as the vampire saw him do this, then mimicked the motion himself.
“And what would your words be, then?” Wesley asked, not certain how he’d retained the ability to speak. Anticipation made him feel so breathless that he should have been mute.
“Actually, I don’t seem to be good with the talking, so…”
And then Angel kissed him.
The next day Wesley called in sick to work again. Then he turned off his cell phone and his pagers, and went back to Angel’s bed.
And decided he would hate Valentine’s Day a lot less next year, so long as it turned out to be half as satisfying as the day after of this one had done.
Original publish date: February 15, 2005
Chapter 11: Lost
The times and ways in which Angel is lost without Wesley.
"Its like the pain is building up, it's swelling up, …it's like a shard of glass, it's like a broken piece…”
The battle is a long one, which is surprising.
Nothing else is. The sting of each blade, the slash of each claw… The rain, the fire…
He survived the first hour on not thinking, alone. Now that Gunn’s fallen, the not thinking is harder.
Thoughts, memories - unbidden - flow. He fights less to stay alive, than to make the thinking stop. New loss, old loss
“Any word on Wes?”
cut him the way claws, daggers, don’t.
“Wesley’s dead.” Spike hung his head. Gunn sobbed. Angel hurt.
Angel fights; survives.
The thoughts stop.
Angel’s lost consciousness.
“Push it out. It’s everything you never were, Push it out. I want to see it shatter.”
…doesn’t feel right. Coming back with only Illyria and Spike …
This is where Angel’s family lived, when Angel had a family - before it fell apart.
And this is how it should have gone:
Fred is smiling by the door. Gunn is smirking, by the counter. Cordelia is filing her nails, saying something Cordy-like. Wesley -
But this is how it goes:
Angel gives Spike and Illyria each their own space. He walks down an empty hallway, alone…
Fred is gone. Gunn is dead. Cordelia is dead. Wes -
Angel finds his old room.
But he’s lost his home.
“…I reach out to grasp and get a broken hand…it’s like I’m made to fail with everything I gain…”
When they can plan, they plan on going back for the others. It’s been too long; Illyria thinks there’s little point…
But that isn’t the point. So Illyria leads them to Vail’s.
Angel can’t help but hope.
He took Illyria’s word, but if she were wrong… Vail is - was - a master of illusion. He might-
They find Wesley - his skin colorless and cold to touch. He’s lying in a dried puddle of blood; the room smells of it, of death - not of him - and the lack of his heartbeat echoes.
He’s just lost.
“My two hands give birth to nothing right. A black past is an effective foresight.”
Wesley gets a grave-side ceremony, in a private graveyard. They couldn’t find Gunn’s body… Angel will deal with that - after.
He and Spike watch Wes’s funeral from outside a wrought-iron fence. The graveyard is consecrated ground. This isn’t a problem for Illyria, who watches Wesley’s casket descend, as Angel watches her watching.
It’s familiar - her standing at Wes’s side, solitary. Angel doesn’t like that.
After the others have gone, he sits in his remaining customized car. He watches the sun come up through necrotempered glass…
It’s difficult, restraining emotion.
Sunlight spills across Wes’s fresh grave…
Angel loses control.
“…and everyday I see my life rewind, tearing through dreams, I find I’m wide awake. And everything is building up, a pale heart is an empty cup…”
Sunlight spills across Wesley’s fresh grave…
And the memories are back. The first time Angel ran into Wesley in LA…
(Angel beats his fists against the console).
The way Wes’s eyes shined, the first time Angel asked him to stay for breakfast…
The way Wes’s eyes always shined, in pleasure or triumph… The way they darkened in anger; the way they crinkled as he laughed…
Wes’s laugh. His smile. His scent. His taste…
Angel’s done such damage to his steering column, he has to wait for the sun to go down again, and walk back to the hotel.
“…A burnt heart stains black the blood it flows. A dead soul will overshadow. Push it out. I'ts everything you never were…”
Those are the things that stay with him.
That linger - the way Wes’s taste lingered, after the one time Angel fed from him.
In sense memory. In dreams.
The taste of a kiss that never happened… The feel of each friendly embrace that should have been more.
The laughter that should have come more easily. The smiles Angel should have encouraged.
The way Wesley moved - when he was angry, when he was fighting.
The pleasure that showed on Wesley’s face, whenever Angel got things right.
All the things Angel could have gotten right…
Angel’s lost count.
“Every single time I feel the burn I try to throw it away. A fast fix for the brokenness of everyday.”
Angel doesn’t expect the presence of Wes’s absence to go away.
He knew what he was doing when he sent Wes to Vail. He just didn’t, couldn’t, know.
He knows pain. It doesn’t fade - doesn’t change. Buffy, Doyle, Darla, Connor, Cordy, Fred, Gunn… Angel’s tolerance for pain heightens. But the pain remains the same. And so does the way he copes with it.
Angel collects Wesley’s things; surrounds himself with Wes’s fading scent. He dreams of Wesley’s face.
He litters his bedroom floor - wall-to-wall with sketches of Wes.
He finds minor comfort in the process.
And loses himself.
Original publish date: February 18, 2005. Song lyrics are from Demon Hunter, “Screams of the Undead”:
“…it's like a shard of glass, it's like a broken piece. Of everything i hate, it's everything in me…
Tear it down, bleed it out, all the hate, see it straight. No one ever told me that it would all stay the same. Everyday I fall on shards of my hatred and shame.”
Chapter 12: Without Possession
Spike knows Angel. And he knows what Angel would do if he were still Angelus. (Actually, there's something to be said for channeling your inner demon now and again.)
Angelus had never been jealous.
Territorial. Possessive. Not jealous.
Why Angel felt such bloodlust, then, whenever he saw Wes with someone else...
The only sure thing was that Angel was jealous. When he saw Wes talking to the researchers in his department...laughing with Gunn, or smiling at Fred... Even Knox had been getting Angel's back up, lately, and it was obvious to everyone that Wes barely tolerated him.
Then there was Spike.
Angel couldn't think about Spike, and Wes, in the same moment. Somehow Spike had cottoned on to Angel's reaction, whenever he stood that close to Wesley, or spoke to him in that tone of voice... So he made a point of doing both whenever possible.
Angel wondered how Spike had seen through his act. He'd been putting on a pretty good show, where his feelings for Wesley were concerned, for some time.
Unfortunately, Spike knew Angel. Had known Angelus at his most bloodthirsty. If anyone could identify the gleam that came into Angel's eyes, the day an evil client "accidentally" brushed Wes's fingers with his own as they exchanged files, it was Spike.
If anyone knew what Angelus would have done, in a similar situation...
“Hmm,” Spike said. Once Wes and the client were gone from the room. “Don’t like the little people getting touchy-feely with your Watcher. Interesting.”
Angel knew he should probably brush off the remark, or deny it. The day had been draining - as a lot of days had been draining, recently.
He could only sigh and say, "Spike. Leave it."
Spike wouldn't be Spike if he did.
He shrugged. "'m just saying. Back in the day, bloke did somethin’ to get you glowering like that... Blood've been shed. And a fair bit of skin, too."
"We're not back in the day," Angel replied, "and he isn't my Watcher."
Though Spike seemed to think he could be.
Angel thought about that throughout the day.
Angelus might never have become jealous over anyone. But it was the things he'd done for those he'd possessed that had earned him his reputation. Perhaps the depth of Angel's jealousy, over Wesley, wasn't all that surprising. Jealousy was, after all, possessiveness without possession. And Angelus had never wanted anything he hadn't gotten eventually.
‘You’re lucky I’ve got a soul now,’ Angel caught himself thinking, the next time he and Wesley were alone in his office, after-hours.
Wesley looked up and Angel realized, sickeningly, that he hadn’t been thinking after all.
“I’m not disagreeing with you,” Wesley said, slowly. “But why do you mention it?”
It was the worst time Wesley could have asked. Because Angel had so startled himself that he began, “Before the soul, I wouldn’t have bothered-”
‘-wondering if you wanted me too.’
Angel would have expected Wesley to frown when he stopped speaking. Wes’s expression was carefully blank.
He wore that expression a lot, recently.
"Bothered..." Wesley prompted.
'waiting this long to at least kiss you.'
Angel channeled his inner demon...and stopped waiting.
Original publish date: March 26, 2005
Chapter 13: Something Extra
After a battle.
The first hours after the battle were more surreal than watching a dragon swoop across the LA skyline had been.
There were these things to be done. And Angel didn't know where to begin.
He started by running a towel under the faucet of the bathroom sink. Then held the towel over Wesley's shoulders and wrung it, washing away more of the blood and grime that had stuck Wes's shirt to his skin.
Wesley hissed as the water made contact with his right side. But didn't protest as Angel peeled off the shirt preventing him from tending to Wes's wounds, and reached for the antiseptic.
Angel paused when he saw the markings on Wesley's skin. Wesley seemed to notice his attention had been divided, and explained, "I thought they might bring a little something extra to the battle."
There were runes tattooed on Wes's shoulder blades and at the small of his back... Over his heart and around his sides.
"I couldn't use Lindsey's exact combination of symbols and spells. Vail might have sensed the runes at their full power. So I only used the ones that imbue their wearer with protective magic..." Wes began.
Angel ran a finger down the thick, center line of one symbol, then traced another the same way. Wes grew quiet, but didn't stiffen at the touch.
There were these things to be done.
They had to check on Connor. They had to find Gunn. They had to regroup with Spike and Illyria, and make certain that they hadn't missed anything they might have missed.
Angel wrapped one arm around Wesley from behind and lowered his face into the curve of Wesley's neck. He thought of the end of the battle - of stumbling off the battlefield that had been a neighborhood, in the rain and hazy moonlight. Of looking up and seeing Wesley looking back at him... Of stumbling back to the Hyperion, numb, to see to Wesley's injuries before anything else...
The numbness was receding.
Angel clung to it as he clung to Wesley. Let the sound of Wesley's heart beating so near drown out the silence of his own; let the scent of Wes eclipse the scent of dust and of blood - Wesley's blood. And of fear - his own. At the thought of what the runes had brought to the battle that might not have been there otherwise.
Wesley slowed raised a hand and laid it on Angel's arm. "Angel?"
Angel didn't move for long moments. When he raised his head, Wesley turned his and looked at him.
"Are you alright?" he asked softly.
Angel knealt by Wesley's chair, unable to take his eyes off of Wesley's.
Whatever Wesley saw in his gaze brought emotion to the man's face that had not been there before. He drew Angel into another embrace.
"It's alright," he said this time, and brushed a kiss across Angel's lips, then rested his forehead against Angel's own.
Angel realized that, perhaps, it was.
Original publish date: March 11, 2005
Chapter 14: Betrayal
Set during episode 5 x 18 Origin.
"You have to trust me."
Memories came to him.
Standing in an alley, numb fingers losing grip of their weapon as he watched Angel comfort his torturer... Walking up the basement stairway, waiting for an entreaty - an apology, an objection - that never came...
"Morning, Wes. You been here all night?" That oblivious smile. As Wesley did not eat, nor sleep; breathed to find answers to-
He could not remember.
He remembered so many minor betrayals. Suffered; forgiven, in the name of-
What - most ultimate betrayal - had Angel's blood-red signature hidden from him?
"I can't. Not anymore."
Original publish date: March 13, 2005
Chapter 15: Artistry
Of all the things that Angel and Angelus shared, a love of artistry was one.
Of the things Angel and Angelus shared, a love of artistry was one.
They favored different mediums. Angel preferred black pencil on clean, white paper; Angelus would rather paint in blood-red stains on clean, white sheets.
Wesley was a compromise.
When he woke up after a night in Angel's bed...
Finger-shaped bruises of purple and blue; lovebites - both human and vampire - in pink and red and, over time, silver...
The art of marking Wesley was aesthetic in a way Angel and Angelus could appreciate - Angel, without fearing that it was evil; Angelus, even knowing that it was not.
Original publish date: March 18, 2005
Chapter 16: Sacrifice
Set during the episode Sacrifice in Season 4.
"Hearts get in the way, right?"
It was more than that. Everything in Angel screamed its defiance, as Angel accepted the orb Wes tossed him. Wes's gaze burned. Angel thought back to the last time he'd shared a long look goodbye with a friend...
Afterwards, he dreamed about the look for weeks.
He dreamed that the portal opened up on a huge chessboard; that the Oracles hovered in the distance. They spoke about sacrifice and carrying on, but Angel was the only pawn left. And his path to the King was blocked by the broken pieces of his fallen knights.
Original publish date: March 30, 2005
Chapter 17: Role Reversal
A case of mistaken identity.
The building was all but empty at that late hour, but in Angel's office - where they had all gathered to research - spirits were high.
On Gunn's side of the room, anyhow.
Wesley glared at him over the top of his template. Gunn raised his hands.
"What? I didn't say anything."
"You were smirking," Wes accused. "Again."
Fred giggled. Gunn's wounded expression would have been convincing, had the corners of his mouth not been twitching.
Wesley sighed. "Good Lord," he grumbled.
The giggling had evolved into soft laughter. Then spread. Only Wesley, himself, and Spike were immune - the latter because he was busy sulking in the corner. Spike had been even more insulted than Wesley by the faux paus a client had made that morning. Perhaps because he'd escaped that client's notice, and hated being left out of anything.
Most likely because he regretted never having used the client's unintentional jibe at Wes and Angel, intentionally.
"I'm calling it a night," Wes announced, stopping just short of slamming his template shut as he stood.
Gunn, Fred, and Lorne made half-hearted objections and apologies. Wes knew that their teasing was all in good fun, and that they had all worked exceptionally long hours lately. A little humor to break the tension was probably a good thing. Wes just didn't care to be the brunt of the joke that had caused it.
Only Angel sounded sincerely contrite, as he called to Wes. Wesley gave him a dark look, not slowing his stride as he headed out the door.
He knew he was being silly. It wasn't as if that client had meant to imply- And it was an honest misunderstanding, considering-
Any other day, Wes might have been amused by the client's assumptions - even flattered. But with the hellish week they'd had... Wes and Angel had only just gotten over their spat regarding the Lucian Drake debacle. And Angel had looked so damned smug as his idiot client had said-
Wesley had not heard Angel behind him in the hall, but when he went to slam the door to his office shut, Angel was there to stop him.
Wesley said nothing. Just gave Angel another look, then a sigh. He crossed the room and busied himself with straightening his desk up for the night.
"Did you come to make certain I'd made it here on my own? God forbid I trip on a patch of carpet and break my hip or something."
Angel laughed, as Wesley had meant for him to.
"Come on, Wes."
The beginnings of a smile touch Wesley's lips as he abandoned the desk-straightening.
"I'm being ridiculous." It wasn't a question.
But Angel shrugged as he went to Wes's side. His hands were in his pockets, but he relocated them to Wes's waist as he came closer. His fingers played with the hem of Wesley's shirt, making Wesley swallow at the thought of how easily he could slip beneath the fabric and touch Wesley's skin.
"I don't know. If anyone should be insulted, it should be me. I mean - Scourge of Europe. Guy had no idea who I was."
Wesley chuckled, leaning into Angel's embrace.
"Hmm. Not exactly ego-stroking, I can imagine..."
Wes's breath caught before he could say anything more. Angel was gently nuzzling his neck.
"Know what was?"
Wesley recovered himself enough to snake his arms around Angel and return the nuzzling with a kiss to Angel's temple. He ran his hands down Angel's back, then up again. He would never cease to be amazed at how responsive Angel was to the simple things. Not-quite-casual touches. Barely-there kisses. Though Wes imagined this should not be a surprise. There had been very little tenderness and intimacy in Angel's previous relationships - perhaps none at all before Buffy.
Then Wesley deliberately skimmed his hand over a spot on Angel's side the vampire would insist, under threat of pain if necessary, was not ticklish. Wes's irritation might be silly, but that didn't mean he was letting go of it that easily.
"The reminder that, after two centuries, you still look just old enough to purchase liquor. While some of us must grow into a more mature countenance."
Angel bit back his laughter at the tickling - literally. He pressed his teeth into Wes's nape just hard enough to leave marks on his skin, then ran over the marks with his tongue.
"Smart ass," he grumbled.
Wesley couldn't help but grin. Then yelp, as Angel attacked a spot under Wesley's ribs that he would admit was ticklish. Angel's firm grip kept him from pulling away.
Angel's kiss made him forget what he'd been being a "smart ass" about.
When Angel let him up for air, Wesley saw that Angel's eyes were not so teasing as they'd been before.
Angel brought up a hand and lightly traced the contours of Wes's face. If the kiss hadn't erased the rest of Wes's indignation and frustration, the caress definitely would have. Wes blinked, overcome by the open affection of the gesture.
"Mature is good," Angel said simply. "And that wasn't what I was talking about."
"What was?" Wes nearly mumbled.
"After two centuries, Wes," Angel began, "how often do you think I get accused of being someone's playmate?"
Angel smiled, and if he was still smugly amused, this time Wes could find no fault in that expression. He could not see it. Even if their client hadn't known what Wolfram & Hart's new CEO looked like...even if he had, somehow, had a reason to mistake Wes for being him.. Even if he hadn't picked up on Angel's being a vampire, from the start, how could he have not noticed the command in Angel's posture? In his voice. In every bloody thing about him. Wes couldn't look at Angel and not see it. That anyone, no matter how daft, could confuse Angel with being Wes's- Well. It was laughable.
Only Angel wasn't laughing.
Come to think of it, it had to have been more than just amusement that Wes had seen in Angel's expression as they'd dealt with that client. Otherwise Angel surely would have taken offense to having some stranger make assumptions about his sex-life. Angel was usually particularly sensitive about that subject. The last client who had used the slightest bit of sexual innuendo in Wesley's presence had not been heard from again.
"Not often, I gather," Wesley said, but his thoughts were beginning to turn. What had really made the client's misunderstanding embarrassing, was that it hit a little close to home. In reverse. Neither Wesley nor Angel took the game seriously, but they had taken advantage - from time to time - of the fact that Angel was Wesley's boss. If Angel had been somewhat less scrupulous...
For the first time, Wesley considered what it would be like if he and Angel switched positions for one of their games.
"Never," Angel was saying. Yes, that was definitely curiosity in Angel's tone. And mischief.
Wesley responded, “We could do something about that.”
Angel's fingers on the button of Wes's trousers told him it would be at least until then before they were capable of something so organizaed as roleplay.
Original publish date: March 30, 2005
Chapter 18: On the Agenda
An alternate take on how Wesley develops starting with the Season 5 episode Shells.
Perhaps it hadn't been on Angel's agenda, but vengeance had been on
Wesley's mind - in his heart - since Fred had died. Since he'd spilt Gunn's blood, Wes had known that he'd have to spill more. The stabbing had felt-
Like nothing. He felt nothing.
It was liberating in a way he couldn't have imagined.
"Everything you're feeling right now, everyone you want to hurt - I need you to bury it."
It was too late for that. Wesley left the office and went looking for Sparrow. He left the doctor with a blood-splattered shirt...
And an address book.
Original publish date: April 11, 2005
Chapter 19: Guilty Pleasures
Without the others along, Wesley could indulge his guilty pleasure without censure.
After Darla, it was decided that Angel have his aura read routinely.
"Yeah. But why should we suffer?"
"He's doing this for us, Cordelia. He needs our support to show him it's for his own good. Not just because we don't trust him."
"It ain't because we don't trust him?" Gunn asked. "If you're so supportive, why don't you just go?"
Wesley was secretly thrilled at the idea. Without the others along, he could indulge his guilty pleasure shamelessly.
At Caritas that night, Angel sang. And, for once, Wesley didn't have to pretend not to enjoy Angel's lovely singing voice.
Original publish date: April 24, 2005
Chapter 20: Luck of the English
"Who would have thought that a game of Monopoly could get so loud? I mean, it's Monopoly!"
"Damn. I thought you said you were good at this game?"
Gunn asked this, but he was smiling. And arranging his property titles near his side of the board.
"I never said I was good at it," Wes insisted, shifting in his seat. He tugged at his collar for the third time in as many minutes. "And-"
"Popcorn!" Cordelia exclaimed, returning from the kitchen with a full bowl. She raised a brow when she saw Wes, Gunn and Angel, and Wesley's dwindling piles of Monopoly money.
"Oh, Wesley. You landed on Pacific Avenue again?"
"He's just distracted tonight, that's all," Angel defended him. He looked inordinately pleased.
Wesley frowned some more.
"I'll say. You usually kill at this game, Wes." Cordelia turned to Gunn. "You should hear him when he and Angel play by themselves. Who knew Monopoly could get so loud. I mean, it's Monopoly."
Wes nearly choked on his popcorn.
"You okay, Wes?" Gunn pounded Wes on the back, then went to get him a glass of water. Angel encouraged Cordelia to play her turn.
She landed on one of Wes's properties, thankfully. He was able to recover some of what he had lost to Gunn.
But then Angel rolled the dice and landed on Park Place.
Angel grinned. "I'll buy it," he announced.
"Buggery," Wesley muttered to himself. Gunn and Cordelia looked at him.
"Wow. You better be careful, Wes," Cordy told him. "You land on that and Angel will wipe you out."
Gunn snorted. "Wipe him out? Wes'll have to go into debt."
Wes swallowed. Angel was practically rubbing his hands together and whistling.
"Don't give me the luck of the English," Gunn pleaded to the dice he shook over the Monopoly board. He rolled a seven. "Yes!" And landed on Free Parking.
"Just think happy thoughts, Wes," Angel teased as Wesley accepted the dice from Gunn and threw them. Wesley glared.
Cordelia leaned over and whispered into Angel's ear. "What's gotten into you?"
A collective groan rose from Wes and Gunn's sides of the table. As Cordelia looked to see Wes lower his head into his hands, her jaw dropped open.
"I can't believe it! Wesley!"
Wesley had landed on Park Avenue. Angel chuckled.
Wesley tried to quit there, but Angel graciously offered to let him continue playing. On credit. By the time Cordelia and Gunn left, he had lost all of that, as well.
"You really enjoyed that, didn't you," Wesley accused Angel, once the others had gone.
Angel paused in putting up his Monopoly set, his expression triumphant.
"You've won the last five times we've played alone. It was time to up the ante."
He was standing behind Wesley before Wesley had seen him move. He ran his knuckles over the bulge Wesley had been hiding in his trousers all evening. Wesley shivered.
"Now, let's see..." Angel purred in his ear. "Exactly how much do you need to work off for me?"
Wesley mentally calculated the figure.
Original publish date: April 23, 2005
Chapter 21: The Games We Play
Boardgames... as a tool of seduction?
He tried to stay away - he really did. He told himself he'd gotten far too attached to the both of them already.
The loneliness was unbearable now that an alternative was available to him.
Angel and Cordelia just made it so easy... They'd welcomed him in so readily. And hadn't turned him away since, no matter how flimsy his excuse for seeking them out.
Wesley had never needed an excuse to find companionship before, of course, but this was different. This was Angel and Cordelia. This was companionship. The kind that didn't just take place between the sheets, and wasn't likely to get one caned by one's father (or perhaps not, considering that Angel was one of Wesley's "companions".) Wesley wasn't so good with this. He would have to try extra hard not to mess it up.
He made himself rules.
Simple rules, that even he couldn't bungle up. Like: no spouting Watcher doctrine. As he had done in Sunnydale. It wasn't like it was his doctrine to spout, now, in any case. And no sex.
Wesley could not emphasize this rule to himself enough.
No matter how he was tempted... By Cordelia’s smile. Or by Angel's. By the occassional, “accidental” brush of Angel’s hand against his own - the way Angel walked across a room. The-
Which somewhat limited Wesley’s options, when choosing an activity to engage the others in on a free night.
Wesley stood in front of his open closet, and considered.
For a while, going out had seemed like an answer to Wesley's problem, but that was difficult to arrange. Cordelia had developed an aversion to seeing Wesley dance, so clubbing was out of the question. Wesley couldn't afford the types of restaurants Cordelia preferred being taken to. And while an occassional trip to the movies was safe enough, exposing Angel to modern cinema on a routine basis had proven itself to be extremely unwise.
That left stay-at-home entertainment. Movie rentals. For which Wesley had no particular desire at the moment. Board games (which he had effectively ruined for himself during his first few weeks in Los Angeles). While he'd barely had enough money to buy food, Wesley hadn't been able to afford taking a man or a woman out on a proper date. So he'd settled for chatting someone up in a pub, then asking them back to wherever he was staying at the moment for a game of Monopoly or Scrabble or - of all things - Yahtzee. This approach had charmed more than a few of Wesley's acquaintance, but made game-playing nigh impossible with anyone Wesley didn't intend to sleep with sometime soon. Wesley followed a very particular set of rules when he played board games. And couldn't help thinking of them whenever he tried to play the games the way they were meant to be.
Wesley sighed, leaving his apartment with a collection of word puzzles tucked in the crook of one elbow, and headed for the office.
Original publish date: April 22, 2005
Chapter 22: Less Surmountable
Hamilton has succeeded in a mission against less surmountable odds before...
Hamilton prided himself in being up to any task. He had a healthy appreciation of his own capability, and of that of the Senior Partners.
He knew They would not hand him a project he could not feasibly complete. And that he had not become an executive liaison by backing down from challenges that could make or break his career.
Granted...as challenges went...the assignment to seduce Wesley Wyndam-Pryce promised to be an invigorating one.
The office gossips would have said differently, but Hamilton had access to Intel the workers who huddled over Wolfram & Hart's water coolers couldn't dream of. Whatever front he put on for his colleagues, Pryce was quite the ladies man. The firm had been keeping tab of his exploits for some time.
In the past, Hamilton had overcome less surmountable obstacles than a target's flagrant heterosexuality, certainly, but-
He had almost experienced a moment's uncertainty, when he saw - really saw - Wyndam-Pryce speaking with Angel at the end of the hall.
He began watching them more closely, whenever they spoke to one another. Whenever they stood near one another.
He was much relieved by what he observed.
Who said the gossip-mongers never got it right?
Original publish date: April 21, 2005
Chapter 23: Fold
What if Angel hadn't been the first to get one of those nifty tattooes from the Circle of the Black Thorn?
"So who didn't make the cut?"
His emotions were mixed as he awaited an answer. After the events of the past year, he supposed it would be miraculous if any of them had escaped with their old world views still intact. But it was surprising, all the same, when he was given his name.
The sound of it stung, like the brand they'd burned into his skin.
But the sting passed. Leaving only curiousity. And perhaps a feeling of comradeship. How did the saying go? "Heaven for the weather, Hell for the-"
"He has surpassed even our expectations," Sebassis was saying, sipping from the fluids of his manservant.
"We haven't had a potential member make such an impressive play for a position on the Circle," the good Senator was saying, "since...well...you."
Wesley nodded at the off-handed compliment, sitting back as the others plotted a method of bringing Angel further into the evil fold.
Original publish date: April 27, 2005
Chapter 24: Bear Hugs
Wesley almost wishes that Angel would leave again...
It was just another of Angel's bear hugs. Rare. But not entirely unheard of.
"Thanks, Wes. For looking after Connor while I was out."
What was new was the way Angel's hands lingered on Wes's shoulders as they drew apart. The shiver that ran down Wes's spine as Angel spoke so close to his ear. The urge to reach out and stop the vampire from drawing away altogether.
Angel took Connor up to his room.
Wesley almost wished Angel would leave again. So that Wesley could once more greet him at the door when he returned.
Original publish date: March 4, 2005
Chapter 25: Cater
Three characters. Different points along one timeline. What they found when they lost themselves.
...my self-affliction fades...
"You saved me..."
In ways he couldn't believe. It was like he'd been living underwater for the last few months. Every sound muted; the light dimmed and distorted. Everything seemed so clear to him now. He could separate the night air into a dozen different scents. He felt each raindrop that fell upon his face.
For the first time in a long time he felt free. He felt like...himself. He almost thought he could feel the soul, settling calmly back into its place inside.
He felt like he'd found his mission anew.
Like he couldn't possibly let it loose again.
But once I hold on...
For this I gave up trying
One good turn deserves my dying...
The bitterness hadn’t faded, really.
It was only tempered. By many things he would not admit to - longing only one of them.
But there was something in Angel’s eyes that hadn’t been there before. Something that gutted Wesley every time he saw it. A look...
Of trust. In what they shared, if nothing else. A common bond. A common loss.
Wesley saw it and felt hope.
He and Angel shared something stronger than forgiveness... The knowledge of what had gone wrong. The responsibility of setting things right.
Even after everything, that hadn't changed.
If it were Wesley's decision...it never would.
But once I hold on...
I wish I’d died instead of lived...
He couldn't stand the sight of his own hands. He wasn’t crazy. He didn’t see blood whenever he looked.
He saw other things. How slender Fred’s fingers had seemed, intertwined with his. The pen that rested in his grip, as he'd signed her soul away.
He'd felt his fists clench as Wes slid the scalpel in. His thoughts had scattered then; settled on a memory he didn't-
'What happened to you, man?'
'...all my friends abandoned me.'
He'd only wanted to find his place. Something to hold onto, so he wouldn't lose his way.
And he'd lost it all instead.
But once I hold on...
But once I hold on...
Angel dragged himself into Lindsey's truck, and somehow set it in motion. He was almost dizzy with pain, but ignored it.
All that mattered was getting to the others.
Angel had learned something.
He'd tried fighting this war alone. But - alone - Angel had accomplished nothing. Alone, the others had almost gotten themselves killed. Alone, Angel had almost suffered a fate worse than death.
Angel wasn't meant to fight alone. He was ready to accept that.
He'd only needed to be reminded...
The battle wasn't just his, to win or to lose.
He was ready to prove he wouldn't forget again.
You don't have to bother
I don't have to be
I keep slipping farther
But once I hold on...
I'll never live down my deceit
Original publish date: May 7, 2005; based on Stonesour's Bother:
"Wish I was too dead to cry
my self-affliction fades
Stones to throw at my creator,
Masochists to which I cater...
You don‘t need to bother
I don‘t need to be
I‘ll keep slipping farther
but once I hold on
I won‘t let go til it bleeds."
Chapter 26: Sugarcoating
Hamilton doesn't sugarcoat things. Wesley finds this more comforting than he probably should.
It wasn't always angry sex and cold snark. Somehow there were other things, too.
Which, honestly, was what should worry him the most. A successful seduction relied less upon passion than upon making a connection. Wesley had learned that from experience. He'd learned that it didn't matter what the connection stemmed from. A common enemy. Or a common loss. A shared loneliness.
A simple understanding.
Wesley understood what Hamilton was after. The man had gone to great efforts to make his intent perfectly clear. Hamilton understood that Wesley had no intention of giving him what he really wanted. But that he would accept what Hamilton's scheming had to offer, in the meanwhile, nonetheless.
Which was fortunate, as Wesley was hard pressed to understand it himself.
"Back again, Mr. Hamilton? I'm beginning to think you don't sleep."
This should worry him more than the sex. More than the little verbal battles they fought whenever they were alone. The battles of wit Wesley had almost come to anticipate - for the challenge; for the question of who would win the next one. For the honesty of their interactions. Hamilton was as manipulative and clever as they came - too manipulative and clever to be trusted. But at least he was above tawdry lies - the sugar-coating Wesley could accuse of some others. If Hamilton wished you ill will, he would gladly tell you about it. Or simply say nothing at all. He wore an appreciation of brutal honesty like a finally tailored suit.
"I could say the same about you." Hamilton smirked, setting down the bags he'd brought into the office, on top of the templates lying open on Wesley's desktop. He took a seat on the edge of the desk. "But I've seen you sleep."
Wesley ignored that remark, and frowned at the packages interrupting his research. "And this is-" Wesley began, even as the aroma wafting up from the bags answered his question.
Hamilton grinned, as Wesley failed to hide his surprise at the discovery. He replied, "Vietnamese."
"You've brung me Vietnamese at..." Wesley glanced at his wristwatch, and tried to recapture a blank face - 'Good Lord' - "...three in the morning?"
"I assume you forgot to eat at a decent hour. Again. The Senior Partners wouldn't want their Head of Research to go hungry."
Wesley gave him a pointed look, but did not object as Hamilton began emptying the plastic bags. Wesley simply gathered up his templates, and returned them to their place on the other side of the room.
"No, I'd imagine not," Wesley was saying. "Dead they have no problem with. But hungry? The corporate infrastructure would crumble."
Hamilton chuckled at Wesley's dry tone. "Hmm. Death can lend a certain clarity to one's work ethic, that is otherwise difficult to obtain. While neglect of one's physical needs can lead to costly distractions."
Wesley slid the last of the templates into its rack, and turned. Hamilton had opened and arranged the boxes and bowls of their late night (early morning?) dinner into two makeshift place settings.
Wesley watched him, even as his stomach rumbled and he admired the stretch of Hamilton's suit coat across his shoulders, with something akin to dread.
There'd been a time when Wesley hadn't known whether Hamilton ever ate, much as he wasn't actually certain that Hamilton ever slept. In the past two weeks, Wesley had eaten with Hamilton three times. And when he hadn't shown up for lunch, or talked Wesley into dinner - or, once, stayed for breakfast - he'd called Wesley, at least twice, to ensure that Wesley hadn't gone without.
"Well. The Senior Partners have instructed you to see to my...physical needs...being met," Wesley reminded himself aloud.
Hamilton looked at him curiously. He slowly crossed the room to stand in front of him, keeping his eyes on Wesley's throughout.
"This isn't quite what they had in mind, I'm sure," Hamilton said. Wesley didn't want the quickening of his pulse that directly preceded Hamilton's hands settling on his waist - or the tug in his belly that followed. But there they were. Hamilton didn't pull Wesley against him, but he might as well have. The much larger man was standing close enough for Wesley to feel the heat of his skin. The warmth threw Wesley off, just a bit, every time. Somehow, he kept expecting Hamilton's embrace to be cold.
Hamilton's lips curled into a smile the moment before they landed on Wesley's own. "But you know what they say. All roads..."
The kiss was quick, by their standards. Then Hamilton was stepping back and rubbing his hands together.
"So. I assumed you-"
Hamilton was taking one of the chairs in front of Wesley's desk. Wesley took his usual seat behind it. And interrupted Hamilton as he searched the desktop for a set of chopsticks.
"Is that what you think?" he asked, about Hamilton's earlier comment.
Hamilton produced the chopsticks Wesley was looking for and raised a brow.
"It's what you think," he replied simply. "That's what matters, isn't it?"
Wesley stared at him for a short while. Then accepted the chopsticks without a word.
"This is from Madame Nhan's?" he asked after a moment, changing the subject. He had eaten there before. Before he'd realized Madame Nhan was a favorite amongst Wolfram & Hart employees for her use of demon flesh as a substitute for chicken or beef.
"Demon-free," Hamilton assured.
Wesley didn't disagree, but decided he should avoid the Bo Nhung Dam, just in case.
Original publish date: May 9, 2005
Chapter 27: During Rainstorms
A rainy day in bed.
He almost missed lying in bed, watching raindrops slide down the windowpanes in his old apartment. On a night like this, one good flash of lightning could light up the whole room. He could still go upstairs. Watch the stormy weather through the office windows...
But decided to stay put. The bedsheets were cool beneath his cheek; Wes's hand warm on the small of his back. Doyle lay on his stomach, watching Angel pretend to sleep. Their vampire, apparently, didn't want to let on how he liked being read to during rainstorms, by their pretty, British boy.
Doyle happily let the sound of Wes's voice, mingled with the roar of distant thunder, chase away the lingering pain of that morning's vision.
"Feeling any better?" Wes asked, as if sensing Doyle's thoughts. Doyle heard him lower the book he held in one hand - and felt the other one still, where Wes had been tracing gentle circles across Doyle's skin.
"Mmm." Doyle rubbed one leg against Wesley's, where they touched beneath the sheets, and the other against Angel's. He stifled a chuckle at the way Angel's lips involuntarily twitched. "Much."
Wesley smiled, at them both, and went back to his book.
Original Publish Date: May 20, 2005
Chapter 28: Penny Lane
They settled into a house on Penny Lane. Oz thought it would be funny, but the neighbors don't get the joke.
They settled into a house on Penny Lane. Oz thought it would be funny, but the neighbors don't get the joke.
The neighbors stare like she's speaking in tongues when Faith sings along with The Killers blaring from her headphones. They might as well speak in tongues themselves, for all Faith cares for making small-town chat.
It shouldn't work. But it does.
Oz is there when the bullshit becomes too much. Faith rolls her bright eyes at the LA Environmental Disaster Relief Fund bucket sitting on the grocery store check-out counter. And Oz empties out all his change.
Original Publish Date: June 27, 2005
Chapter 29: Imperfect
Wesley flushed. Doyle laughed with Angel as he pressed his lips to theirs - in a brief, imperfect three-way kiss...
The first thing Doyle heard, as he stepped out of the elevator and into the basement apartment, was Cordelia's raised voice.
"You do realize that there are other ways to spend a Saturday night?" she demanded, in disgust. She stood over Angel and Wesley, who lay tangled up on Angel's couch. "You do this every night of the week! Saturday is supposed to be a day to break away from the monotony. This is unnatural!"
Doyle set his grocery bags down on the kitchen table, smirking. "Didja start without me then, boys?"
Cordelia, Angel, and Wesley looked over at him - Cordelia with an exasperated expression; her hands on her hips. Angel smiled, closing the book he'd been reading. Wesley held up the newspaper in his hands. Doyle saw that the word puzzle the paper was opened to was only half-finished.
"I saved you all the odd numbers," Wesley assured. "And, actually, Cordelia," he continued, turning to their friend. "We don't do this every night of the week. When the mood strikes we-"
"Ack!" Cordelia interrupted him, throwing up her hands. "I do not want to know about your moods!"
Angel, Wesley, and Doyle shared a look.
"I think he was going to say 'take in a show'," Angel clarified. He raised his arm from around Wesley's shoulders, and ruffled Wesley's hair, making Doyle snicker. Wes hated that. Doyle finished putting up the last of the groceries, leaving out a few items which he brought with him to the couch.
Wes frowned, patting down his hair.
"Yes, well, why don't we all plan on going out next Saturday?" Wes negotiated. Cordelia was rolling her eyes by the time Wes got to the word 'plan'. "It's been a busy week, Cordelia. Frankly, we're exhausted. A nice, quiet night at home is all we need to - as you say - break away."
"Yeah, Princess," Doyle continued, opening his pint of ice cream. "I'd think you'd be glad to be rid of us, anyway. You've been cooped up in the office with us all week."
"You've been cooped up in the office together all week," Cordelia countered, pacing now. "I've at least made the effort to step out once in a while. You're the humans in this relationship!" Cordelia pointed at Wesley and Doyle, faltering a bit in her self-righteous expression as she pointed at Doyle. "Sorta."
"Hey!" Doyle was indignant.
Cordelia glared at him, then at Wesley and Doyle by turns. "You're supposed to give him something to do besides sit at home every night and brood!"
Angel smiled, bemused, and Wesley's gaze was warm. Doyle pouted around his spoon of ice cream, but he was actually biting back a smile, himself. Though Cordelia had objected to their unorthodox relationship in the beginning, once she'd come around, she seemed to have adopted Wesley, Angel, and Doyle as a special cause. No one would defend - or question - the trio's choices more vocally.
"Cordelia," Angel asked, "do I look like I'm brooding?"
Cordelia stopped and looked at him.
Actually... Angel had never looked less broody. Wes was snuggled up to his side. Doyle sat on the other side of Wes. Cordelia had to know, from having walked in and out and in on the three of them on way too many occasions, that this arrangement would likely change several times in her absence. She'd once compared them, in fact, to a handful of puppies, tumbling over one another in a pet shop window.
Angel had been so insulted he'd sulked for days. Wesley and Doyle had had to work extra hard to cheer him back up.
Doyle kept meaning to thank Cordelia for that.
"Alright. Fine," Cordelia relented. "But don't blame me if you two end up looking just like Mr. Pale and Pasty over there. And next Saturday, you will go clubbing with me. I don't care how exhausted you are by Friday." She left the basement with a flip of her hair and a huff of impatience.
It was silent for a moment.
"I am not pale and pasty." Angel frowned.
Doyle grinned. He nudged Wes in the hip, saying, "Guess Cor still don't know about our little sunbathing experiment. We start to lookin too vampire-like, we can always invite her along for the next trip."
Wesley raised a brow, but had obviously decided not to play along in getting their actual vampire all riled up. He only shook his head as Angel scowled, and turned to Doyle with a sharp look. He'd set down his book, and now wrapped one hand around the back of Doyle's neck, leaning across Wesley and pulling him in for a hard, quick kiss.
"No way," Angel said as he drew back. "If I don't get to see you two sunbathing, nobody does."
Wesley watched, his eyes going from Doyle's still-parted lips, to Angel's intense expression.
Wes couldn't seem to help himself. "We'd be certain to make it up to you afterward," he suggested. His eyes sparkled, as Angel shifted his gaze onto him.
"Hmm." Angel looked from Wes, to Doyle, then back to Wes. His left hand lay on Doyle's shoulder. He cupped Wes's cheek in the palm of his right. "Yeah. Or I could show you right now why you'd rather be inside while you're naked. With me."
Angel lay back on the couch, suddenly, taking Wesley and Doyle with him so that both men partially lay atop him. He kissed Wesley this time, as Doyle went to work on the buttons of his shirt with one hand. Doyle kept from falling off of Angel, and the couch, by holding onto Wesley's waist with the other.
None of them heard Cordelia return to the basement, in search of the purse she'd left behind. Or, if Angel had heard her (as he almost certainly had), he didn't react.
It was impossible not to hear the elevator gate slam, however, as Cordelia left the basement. Again. As she did, she said, "I knew it. 'Take in a show my ass."
Wesley flushed. Doyle laughed with Angel as he pressed his lips to theirs - in a brief, imperfect three-way kiss.
Original Publish Date: June 2, 2005
Chapter 30: Vacation
An AU set after the Season 5 episode Just Rewards.
The weather was perfect, the cuisine extraordinary... ‘Course, the weather always was perfect in the Bahamas, this time of year. And he always stayed at the same place. They knew to keep the freshest human blood available to him.
“Will there be anything else, Mr. Angel?”
“No. You can go on then.”
He’d told himself his last trip would be his last trip in this body. But he was having such fun… And it wasn’t like Hainsley was going anywhere. Spike could move out of Angel’s corpse, and back into his own, anytime he pleased.
Until then…he’d enjoy his vacation.
Original Publish Date: July 10, 2005
Chapter 31: Sting
The little bit of soul the Senior Partners had left in Angelus, after Angel had inadvertantly signed the rest of it away, wasn't such a high price to pay for what Angelus received in return...
Doing the Senior Partners’ bidding benefited him in several ways.
He got some nice digs out of the deal; lots of neat toys... Like the necrotempered glass in all of his windows.
The little bit of soul they’d left in him, after Angel had inadvertently signed the rest away to the Circle, wasn’t so bad. Sure it kept Angelus under the Senior Partners’ thumb. If he didn’t do as they said - kept Angel’s fellow white hats out of their most important interests - they’d re-ensoul Angelus fully. And if he behaved, they promised to make what was left of his conscience go quietly away.
But Angelus wasn’t really worried about that. After all the time he’d had to think about it…being all-out evil had been a kick. But it hadn’t gotten him anywhere. Angel had gotten to be CEO of Wolfram & Hart. Because of his soul. Angel had earned himself a gaggle of groupies, so loyal to the loser they’d followed him into the belly of this particular beast. Angelus couldn’t have asked for better minions if he’d offered to make them himself.
And misbehaving was just so much fun. Even if it meant helping humans instead of eating them. It wasn’t a hardship to kill evil things instead of good ones. And it was all worth it, at the end of the day, to see the look on Hamilton’s face after Angelus had gone out and saved the world. Again. He bet it would eat Angel up inside, too, if the Senior Partners ever did shove that soul all the way back into him.
More than anything, though, the thing that kept Angelus generally in line… And stopped him from shirking off his quasi-conscience at the first chance he got…
Was that pleasant little sting his diminished soul gave him anytime Angelus did something Angel wouldn’t have done.
Angelus loved to feel that sting that said he’d been bad. He couldn’t be too bad, of course, because now that feeling just sucked by comparison...
But, fortunately, tormenting Wesley seemed to fall right on the line between the two. Because tormenting Wesley was just about Angelus’s favorite thing to do.
Every hiss of pain Angelus swallowed as he kissed the man burned like hot coal beneath his tongue. The taste of Wesley’s blood was sweeter for the memory of it on Angel’s lips, and the anguish Angel had felt having drank of it.
Every time Wesley gasped with pleasure, Angelus thrilled. In a way he hadn’t considered possible with a human lover.
He never released Wesley right away, afterward. Partly because he enjoyed the feel of the man in his arms more than the sting that pushing him away could give.
Partly because the sting was not as pronounced as it should have been.
Angelus enjoyed tormenting Angel even more than tormenting Wesley.
Not only with the things Angel would never have done…but with the things he had wanted to do.
And, as long as Angelus existed, never would.
Original Publish Date: July 8, 2005