Chapter 1: Well Wishes
When he next woke, he found a most unexpected visitor at his bedside-- his Slayer. Rather, his former Slayer; she'd been most emphatic about breaking with the Council. Not that that had dissuaded her previous Watcher from continuing to assist-- but then, Wesley had no illusions about Buffy's fondness for him as a person.
She blinked at him, then looked down as she became aware of his return gaze, fiddling with a stake clasped in her hands. "Hey, Wes," she said.
"Miss Summers," he offered. "To what do I owe the honor?"
"I just-- you know. Wanted to say sorry, and thanks," she replied.
"Why?" he asked, baffled.
She glanced up again, giving him an embarrassed little smile. "You stayed and helped," she said. "I know I was giving you kind of a hard time, but you tried anyway."
He was at a loss how to respond. "I--"
Some of his confusion must have shown on his face; she shook her head, cheeks still tinged with a faint blush, and got up. "Get well soon, okay?"
He murmured his thanks, then watched, bemused, as she left. It really was a pity they hadn't met on better terms.
Chapter 2: Something New
Buffy opened the door to Giles' apartment, still nibbling at Willow's latest baked offering, then nearly choked on the crumbs when she realized who'd been knocking.
"Wes?" she asked, incredulously, taking in the scruffiness, the black leather, and the motorcycle she could see just behind him. A more unlikely transformation from the stiff-spined, suit-wearing Watcher who'd left back in May, she couldn't have imagined. "What are you doing here?"
"Miss Summers," he said, blinking at her in startlement. "I, ah, was passing through Sunnydale on the trail of a particularly nasty demon..."
Buffy blinked as she made the mental adjustment from wow-when-did-he-get-so-hot? to business mode. "Not that I mind extra Slayage, but you know I don't work for the Council anymore."
Wesley's chin came up; Buffy thought she saw a flash of pain in his eyes, but it was gone too quickly for her to tell. "In point of fact, I no longer work for the Council, either-- and your assistance will not be required. I am here primarily in search of information."
"Huh," Buffy said, a little taken aback. "Well, you have good timing, anyway," she continued, offering him a tentative smile. "Research always goes better with fresh cookies."
Chapter 3: Passing By
"They'll expect to find you gone," Wesley told Angel, holding up the syringe he'd been given, "and her drugged." He glanced after the dark Slayer as he spoke, watching to see that she was retrieving her coat as ordered-- and found his gaze caught by the bright Slayer instead. Of course she would have come, after all that had happened; nonetheless, her presence was an unexpected jolt to his system.
"How many?" Angel prompted.
"Three." Wesley pocketed the syringe again, turning away from Angel as he spoke to stride hurriedly across the room after Faith-- then paused in front of Buffy, unable to pass her without a proper greeting.
"Hello, Buffy," he said, gently. He took in the curly fall of her long, blonde hair, the distress written clearly across her face, and the blood on her lip, and wondered what she saw when she looked at him. "I'm afraid you've come at a bad time."
For a brief moment she met his gaze; something deep and wordless hung in the air between them. But there was no time to wonder; events pressed urgently onward.
"I'm feeling that," she replied, glancing back to Angel, and the moment passed them by.
Chapter 4: Difficult Questions
"So, now that she's alive again," Fred asked, innocently, "are they gonna get back together? Angel and that girl with the goofy name?"
"Well, Fred," Wesley answered, slowly seating himself on the floor of the weapons cabinet. "That's a difficult question."
From someone not particularly well acquainted with the pair, it was a logical assumption; after all, Angel had spent the summer traveling, grieving for the fallen Slayer. Buffy had been-- was still-- the love of his life. Wesley knew, however, that both Buffy and Angel had moved too far onward, were too aware of the risks, to ever tempt fate in that manner again.
He remembered when he'd seen her last, the blood on her lip, the anguish in her eyes when she'd looked to Angel. It had tugged at Wesley's heart-- and did still. Perhaps because of his failures as her Watcher, perhaps because of what had happened with Faith, he'd very much wished that he could somehow erase Buffy's difficulties, make her happier. And now that she was back--
"I think it's fair to say-- no," he continued lightly, putting that train of thought aside. When he saw her again-- if-- would be soon enough for that.
Chapter 5: Comparing Notes
"So, you never got around to explaining that magic mind-walk thing," Buffy said, leaning against the kitchen counter. They'd finally managed to catch another moment together while the rest of the household was busy elsewhere.
"It was a thing," Faith shrugged in reply. "Knocked back some Orpheus, got bit by Angelus, we both went down for the count until Willow re-souled him. Do you really need all the details?"
"Orpheus?" Buffy stiffened. She'd heard of it; hard not to, with all the demon contacts she had now. "Do you know how dangerous that is?"
Faith snorted. "Not like I much cared. Quickest means to an end, you know? Besides, Wes is the one that got it for me." She paused. "Never thought I'd say this, but he's pretty scary these days."
"Who, Wes?" That was almost more of a surprise than the Orpheus. Buffy remembered meeting him that time she'd found Angel sheltering Faith. That look he'd given her, blue eyes deep and brimming with something unspoken-- he'd definitely changed, but she wouldn't have called him scary.
Faith chuckled a little, darkly. "I already knew he wasn't a pansy anymore, kinda proved that before I went to jail. Now, though..." She shook her head. "He got mad at me for saving him instead of stopping Angelus, stabbed a girl for information, said a bunch of really vicious things to get me back on my game. And that's not even the half of it."
Involuntarily, Buffy's thoughts flew back to the meeting she'd held after Chloe's suicide, all the harsh things she'd said to the Potentials. She'd nearly drowned in her own darkness after her resurrection, and though she'd recovered, sometimes it seemed like all the softness had been burned out of her. Had something like that happened to Wesley? Like her, had he been broken and put back together sharper and harder than before?
"Whatever gets it done," she said softly, summarizing her thoughts.
Faith raised her eyebrows. "Yeah, that's pretty much what he said-- that he was doing what he had to."
"Been there, done that," Buffy said, lips curving in an ironic smile.
"Starting to get that vibe here," Faith agreed, looking a little disturbed.
When all this was over, Buffy really was going to have to give him a call, compare notes. It would be nice to have someone to talk to-- someone human-- who truly understood.
Chapter 6: In Transition
Whether by fate or some mischance, Wesley was the only one present at the Hyperion Hotel when the survivors of the Sunnydale collapse arrived on its doorstep. Angel and the others had already moved most of their possessions into the housing provided by Wolfram and Hart, eager to immerse themselves in their new careers. Wesley had remained behind primarily to salvage the few texts and mystically enhanced objects not already owned by the firm from Angel Investigation's library and weapons collection. It was a thankless job, but it had to be done, and Wesley was the most qualified to do it.
He was considering the merits of the sixteenth-century Murshan Dynasty dagger Angel had acquired for him during his retreat two years prior, when the Slayer whose death had triggered that retreat walked through the hotel doors. Several other people he recognized and others he did not-- mostly Potential Slayers, judging from their general age and gender-- crowded closely in behind her, milling about with weary, lost expressions.
They didn't see him immediately, and Wesley took a moment to examine the signs of battle clinging to them, evident in visible wounds, torn clothing, and a liberal coating of dirt. Buffy herself bore a dark stain on both the front and back of the tan jacket she wore, evidence of a through-and-through injury concealed beneath it. Despite the wound and the grime, however, she seemed more beautiful than ever, a new maturity and serenity evident in her movements.
She was the first to notice his presence; her eyes widened as she spied him partially hidden beside the weapons cabinet, and she smiled. "Hey, Wes," she said. "What's a girl gotta do to get some service around here?"
"I'm afraid you've caught us at a bad time," he said, then smiled ruefully at his inadvertent repetition of the words he'd said to her the last time they'd met. "Angel is closing the hotel; he has already moved into our new offices, and most of the rooms have been stripped. If you would like to clean up, however, I believe the water has not yet been shut off."
"Moving up in the world, huh?" she said rhetorically.
He nodded, deciding it would be best not to elaborate at present. "I take it the latest apocalypse has been averted, then?"
"And how," she said, smiling sadly. "Stick around? We'll tell you all about it after we get cleaned up."
"Of course," he answered, gesturing with the dagger in his hands. "I have more to do here; it will take me some hours to finish. In the meantime, if everyone is hungry, I could place an order for several large pizzas on the firm's tab...?"
There was a general murmur of agreement from the group behind her; Buffy glanced back at her friends, then focused on him again. "That would be great," she said, her smile widening. "Thank you, Wes."
"My pleasure," he said, and found that he meant it. His new office could wait.
Chapter 7: In Remembrance
Wesley finished sorting the books and weapons by the time the pizzas arrived, and he watched in amusement as the army of formerly potential Slayers descended upon the food like locusts. Whoever would be in charge of feeding the girls for the next months would clearly need to dedicate a significant budget to the purpose.
The older group, Buffy and the 'Scoobies', held back until the girls were done and then dispersed them to find suitable housing and to visit Faith, Robin, and the injured Slayers at the hospital. There was still enough pizza left for several people, and Wesley was invited to help finish it off as they regaled him with the tale of the closing of the Hellmouth. As he listened, seated in a circle with Buffy, Giles, Willow, Xander and young Dawn, he felt a very strong sense of déjà vu; for the first time in years, he found himself wondering what his life would have been like had he not left Sunnydale.
The tale wound to a close soon enough, and conversation inevitably drifted to other matters. Wesley had been expecting some sort of commentary from Willow, and was not entirely surprised when she accosted him bluntly: "So, Wes, you're looking, um, kinda more sane than the last time I saw you."
"Yes, well," he replied briefly, "I had been having a difficult year." Between his alienation from Angel Investigations, the appearance of the Beast, their difficulties dealing with Angelus, and the death of Lilah, there had not been much to smile about. He had not loved Lilah, not in the sense of the word that implied gifts of flowers and shopping for wedding rings, but there had been passion between them, and recognition, and the sense that they would each be the stronger for having known one another. His inability to save her still pained him.
"And...?" Buffy prompted, picking idly at the toppings of her fifth slice of pizza. "Come on, Wes. We were all with the 'splainy, now it's your turn to spill."
Her smile was faint, and a little sad, and Wesley remembered abruptly that she'd just lost her own partially redeemed ex-lover, and that none of the others gathered with them were without their own losses. They might actually understand, and he knew that he would likely feel better for having told the tale.
He had not got very far, however, when Willow wrinkled her brow and interrupted. "Uh, Wes, you know, I did tell Buffy about Connor. You don't need to keep leaving him out of the story for her sake, or anything."
"Connor?" he blinked at her, puzzled. "Who is Connor?"
Willow blinked back, clearly surprised, then unexpectedly reached to lay her palms against his temples. Color leached from her hair and irises as she narrowed her eyes, staring into his. Then she swore. "Memory wipe," she said shortly. "But I think I can..."
He didn't have time to object as the floor abruptly fell out from under him.
Chapter 8: Anywhere But Here
Buffy watched in concern as Wes spoke brusquely into his cell phone. He'd gone scary-pale after Willow let go of his face, and the look in his eyes had reminded her of the way she'd felt when she'd thought she'd killed Katrina. Then he'd scrambled shakily to his feet and paced away from the group, ignoring them as he pulled the phone from his pocket.
"It's a good thing I cast that spell last year," Willow said quietly, drawing Buffy's attention away from Wes. "You know, the one to stop anybody from messing with our memories again, like the monks did for Dawn. Otherwise, we'd probably have forgotten Connor, too. Whoever did the spell on Wes was good; he replaced all the Connor-bits with other stuff, plausible stuff, so he wouldn't realize anything was wrong. And I'm betting it happened to everyone who knew about Angel's son."
"Not everyone," Wesley answered her, hoarsely.
Buffy looked up to see him looming over her; the conversation must have been a quick one. "What do you mean?" she asked, frowning.
"It was clear from his reaction to my call that Angel still remembers Connor-- and was surprised that I did, too. And as the memory wipe and our simultaneous decision to join Wolfram and Hart seem to have occurred at the same time..."
"Wolfram and Hart?" Giles sputtered. "But that's, they're..."
"Precisely," Wesley replied, then focused his weary blue gaze on Buffy again. "I think it might be best if I were to leave Los Angeles for now. Do you think you might find use for a slightly worn ex-Watcher in Cleveland?" he asked, with an attempt at a wry smile.
"Of course," Buffy answered. Whatever was up with Angel-- which she would definitely be investigating-- they could sure use Wes' expertise in the meantime. With most of the Council gone in the Headquarters explosion, he and Giles were two of a tiny handful with field experience left under the age of sixty-five.
And if she could help wipe that look off his face while he was with them, so much the better.
Chapter 9: Peace of Mind
When the call came about Dana, Buffy, Wesley, Faith, and a significant majority of the others who had survived Sunnydale were deeply embroiled in the first serious demonic plot to open the Cleveland Hellmouth, and Giles chose not to bother them. He'd been privy to Angel's initial long-distance attempt to wipe Wesley's memories of Connor a second time, to Wesley's futile attempts to find out what had happened to Angel's son, and to the fragile understanding growing between his colleague and his former charge. So when the moment came for a decision, he sent Andrew with several younger Slayers as backup and washed his hands of the fallout.
When the call came about Fred, circumstances were somewhat different. Buffy and Wesley were in Rome, overseeing negotiations with the Immortal regarding two young Slayers in the man's employ, but there were others who could have taken up their duties, and Willow's visit to the werewolf community in Tibet could easily have been interrupted. Still, having diverted the demands of former lovers of questionable intent upon his Slayer's peace of mind once already, Giles found it easy to do so again.
He informed Angel that Wolfram and Hart were on their own.
Chapter 10: Wake Up Call
In those muzzy moments immediately after the Slayer dream ends, Buffy blinks up at the ceiling, mind a-whirl. Angel in the rain, in an alley, facing down a vast demon army: it's like the Turok-Han battle again, only this time in Los Angeles. At his side: a blue-haired girl, a dark-skinned guy with a stomach wound, a guy with brown hair she doesn't recognize, and-- of all people-- Spike.
Someone's going to pay for keeping that little tid-bit from her.
She takes a deep breath, and the warm arm stretched across her stomach tightens in sleepy possessiveness. Buffy smiles to herself and scoots backward a little, rubbing enticingly against the arm's owner; he murmurs something indecipherable in her ear and stirs, tangling a leg through hers and nuzzling against her neck.
She consciously dismisses all thought of Spike. They have a few hours before worrying about transport to California, judging by the light levels in her dream. Right now, she has other things she'd rather think about: a little morning nookie with her current love for starters. Andrew can keep his Breakfast of Champions; this is the best way to prep for an apocalypse, hands down.
Buffy turns in Wesley's arms and presses a welcome kiss to his drowsy mouth. He blinks at her, all heavy-lidded gaze and five o'clock shadow, and his hands roam from the middle of her back down to her hips.
"Good morning, Buffy," he says huskily, and smiles, that wonder-filled smile that always makes her feel like the Queen of everything.
"Morning, Wes," she whispers back. "Apocalypse tonight, it looks like."
"Mmm. We were about due for one," he says. "Called Giles yet?"
"Nope," she replies, licking her lower lip. "We've got time."
He kisses her again, then begins putting that time to excellent use.