Wesley is not like Angel, and that's not really saying a lot because really…who is like Angel? Vampires with souls are priceless…well, not priceless, because who would want to be a vampire in the first place? But they are extremely rare, or so Cordelia has told me. As a matter of fact, she's told me that Angel is the only vampire with a soul, which must be hard for Angel, knowing he's the first and last of his kind. He's practically extinct, like the dodo bird. Not that he's crazy, or anything. I'm not implying that at all. Just that he's unique. And almost extinct.He's very handsome, too – the kind of man I used to read about back when I read fairy tales, which was when I was a little girl. My favorite was the Beast, from the French folk tale, because he was so dark and mysterious and, obviously, only needed someone to love him in order to become human again. Of course, when someone loves Angel and he loves them back he goes all evil, so perhaps that's not the best analogy either. I suppose I could compare him to Tarkvar, a famous Pylean warrior I heard about once, but I don't think Angel would appreciate the comparison, and besides which, I'm not here to talk about Angel, I'm here to talk about Wesley, who is different from Angel.
Back when I thought I was a cow, I used to imagine that I was a girl. It wasn't something I could really remember all that well, because it seemed to me I'd been something else for far too long, and all my memories…well, if I had thought they were real, I would have gone crazy - crazier. I told myself that the things I remembered about this world where just…dreams. Hazy, beautiful dreams, because a world where I was a girl, and a physicist, and a daughter, and a friend, and perhaps even someone's sweetheart…that was a world that couldn't really exist, not for me. I was a cow, and there would be no Prince Charming to come sweep me off of my feet, and no Bull Charming either.
It was only natural that, when I was rescued – and by Angel, no less – that my head would be turned, and I would fall, hoof over heel, for him. It was like I was the one who had lived under the enchantment, and in all the stories I dreamed/remembered, the hero always got the girl. And that was me – the girl. Fred.
Of course, things went awry when Angel left for three months, and went even awry-er when he finally came back. I had had three months to remember, you see. He had had three months to forget. So…
I would like to pretend that he was the one I noticed right away, but I've already spent five years living in a different dimension, and don't want to start creating an alternate one in my own head now. It would not be an understatement to say that I did not notice him at all, unless he was delivering me tacos. Or…should I say, I noticed him, in the vague way that I noticed the light bulb in the lamp on the left side of my bed was burnt out, or the way I noticed the picture of sunset hanging above the bed in the room Angel gave me. What's with that, anyway? Why are hotel pictures always so nondescript and boring? Not that Wesley is either of those things, because he's not. He's actually very handsome, and he's quite intelligent, and I would have noticed that right away if I hadn't been so besotted with the idea of fairy tales coming true.
Stupid fairy tales.
The first time I noticed Wesley – really noticed him – was when he swept me up in his arms at Lorne's club and carried me to a safe place behind the table, where Cordelia was crouching. And later that night, when he grabbed me away from the men with the guns and held me tight to his side…I noticed him again. He smelt good, and he was so warm. I felt like he would never let anything hurt me. It was different from the way Angel made me feel, because with Angel it was all about the fairy tale, and with Wesley it was all about the man.
The thing with Wesley is this – he's real. Really real. He's smart and sometimes shy; he doesn't always know the right words to say, but he tries. He tries so hard to be a good man. He listens and advises and comforts and smiles that shy smile of his, and his eyes are so very blue, like the color of the sky I never saw all that much when I was hiding in my cave in Pylea. And I know him, because at his very heart, he's just like me – scared that it's all going to be taken away, or that it's all just a dream. I think Wesley is the loneliest man I've ever met. I only spent five years as a cow, but I sometimes think that Wesley has spent his whole life wondering if he's really here; if he matters at all…
It makes me wonder what could have happened to him, to make him the way he is – so grateful for his friends, but always wondering when the rug will be pulled out from under him. There are pieces of Wesley that are broken, deliberately smashed, and even though I would never ask and I don't think he would ever tell, I think it was his parents who did it to him.
When I come to him tonight, he is so hurt and shattered. I can see the pain rolling off him in waves, and his eyes are ragged blue – made even more so by the bruise on his face and the cuts on his cheek, where I scratched him. He doesn't even stand straight; instead, he hunches his shoulders forward, curving inward, trying to protect whatever is left of his heart.
I lean towards him, my hand fluttering up to touch the side of his face, but he pulls away before I can touch him. My hand hangs, useless in the displaced air where his face used to be, before it drops back to my side.
"Sorry. - I left a bunch of messages."
"Yes. I meant to call you back. I'm sorry." His voice isn't the rich accented tones I've become used to, but a whispered rasp. He looks at me again, and I want to cry at the emptiness in his eyes. "I'm so sorry."
I don't know what to say, how to help him. I'm still getting used to being a girl again, and even before Pylea I'd never had to face anything like this. "Wesley, you gotta come back to work."
"How can I?"
"What do you mean? How can you not? You're the boss. We need you. You took a few days off. That's good. We all did. But now it's time to come back." I keep my voice soothing and gentle, hoping that it will ease him somehow, but I can tell by the way he flinches away again that it isn't working.
"Fred, I tried to kill you." The words are whispered from his heart, torn from his soul. He is shaking under the weight of them, trying not to drown.
"That wasn't you."
"How can you know that? Something inside me was forced to the surface. Something primal, something..."
My throat is burning against the emotions swelling within me. I am scared again, but this time not for myself. I am scared for him and I am scared for me, because I remember the way he'd held me against his side that night at Caritas. I don't want to never feel that way again. "Do you wanna kill me?"
His eyes fly to my face, horrified. "Oh, God, no."
I step closer. Close enough to feel the warmth radiating from him; close enough to see the way his pulse beats at the base of his throat. I swear I can hear the rapid tattoo of his heart. I think it is beating in rhythm with mine. "It wasn't something in you, Wesley. It was something that was done to you."
I can tell he doesn't believe me. "I don't know what kind of man I am anymore."
"Well, I do. You're a good man."
The words hang between us, brilliant and glowing. I can feel their power, and know that Wesley does as well because suddenly he is against me, burying his face against my neck, softly sobbing. His tears are hot, branding my skin through my shirt. His hands clutch at me desperately. I murmur against his hair, soothing nonsense words, and wrap my arms around him, sliding with him until we sit, half-slumped, on the floor just inside his doorway.
I kiss his brow, trail my hands up to his face, rasp my fingers across days-old stubble. My heart strains against his chest. Finally, after his shaking has subsided and his hands are no longer anchors holding me against him, he lifts his head from my neck and looks at me. One of his hands lifts to cup my face, and I feel his thumb swipe gently against my cheek, wiping away a tear. "You are so strong," he whispers. "I don't…how can you forgive me?"
"Because I know you," I whisper back. "I know you, Wesley. And I think…I think you know me too."
I smile at the huskiness of his voice, at the way the accent has slid back into it, at the way his lips wrap around my name as if it's the most beautiful sound in the world. His eyes are blue and brilliant, the color of the sky, the color of freedom. I tilt my head until our foreheads are almost touching and I can feel his warm breath against my lips. "This might not be the way most fairy tales end, but it doesn't matter to me. It doesn't make the story any less true."
"I'm nobody's prince," he states, but I can see in his eyes that he wants to believe otherwise.
"Wrong," I reply, touching my lips briefly against his own and smiling at him. "You're mine."