Actions

Work Header

Belonging

Work Text:

Part One

Buffy saw him first. He stood in the doorway, blinking nervously in the light, an attaché case in one hand and what looked like a cabin trunk behind him that he had evidently dragged all the way to the library. She had never seen anyone quite that impeccably dressed or with their hair that plastered into place who wasn’t…really, really old, but he didn’t look more than few years older than Xander, so was either working for a political candidate or a Mormon. He cleared his throat and when that still didn’t get him a response, essayed: “Is Mr Rupert Giles here?”

Ah, British. Probably not a Mormon then, or did they have Mormons in Britain, and if so, would they sound like this guy? Or would that be ‘chap’? Buffy suspected this person would definitely qualify as a ‘chap’.

Giles looked up from his conversation with Willow and saw the young man standing there. He took off his glasses. “Oh – you must be Wesley?” He caught Buffy’s eye: “The Council have sent Wesley for some…field experience and to be my assistant.”

A Watchery guy then, not a Mormony guy. That actually made more sense with the whole him asking for Giles and being British and wearing a stuffy suit thing.

A smile of sheer relief flickered across the young man’s face and he hurried forward to proffer a hand. “Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Mr Giles. Yes, the Council thought I might be useful. Did they tell you I was coming?”

“They didn’t give any details about when exactly you would be arriving. I’ve been on the phone half a day trying to get some facts out of them so I could meet you at the station. Unmet strangers can too often end up as….”

“Demon kibble,” Buffy helpfully supplied.

“Oh, perhaps I should have phoned from the bus station?” Wesley’s face fell. “I didn’t want to be a nuisance. The Council was very clear that I had to help you, not hinder you. Well, actually that was my father’s phrasing, I think theirs was slightly.…” Becoming aware of everyone looking at him, he blushed, cleared his throat and said, “So, anyway, I’m here now. Demon kibble…? Oh yes, the Hellmouth…I see.”

Buffy couldn’t decide if she most wanted to kick him or give him a cookie. She found herself poised midway between the two. The accent was…grating. She felt half-inclined to go throw a box of tea in the harbour just as a reaction. Of course, it wasn’t actually that different from Giles’s accent, but it wasn’t annoying when Giles did it, well, not most of the time anyway, and even if he was a tad on the stuffy side he was her stuffy Watcher. Come to think of it, this guy was actually Giles’ problem and on another day it might have been quite amusing to watch Giles having to deal with this Watcher Wannabe but not when he’d just lost Jenny and not when they were all in the middle of the psycho funfair that was Angelus’s killing spree.

“Let me get you a cup of tea, Wesley.” Giles pulled out a chair for him. “This is Buffy, Wesley – the Slayer. She can make the introductions.”

Buffy became aware that she was just gawping and quickly sprang forward to hold out a hand. “Yes, I’m Buffy Summers – the Slayer like Giles said.”

He looked at her in surprise. “You’re awfully young. I mean – we know that the Slayer is a teenage girl but somehow the reality is....”

“So are you,” she said pointedly.

He looked a bit affronted, began to draw himself up in the manner of a toad inflating itself to scare off a predator and then deflated, shoulders slumping. “I’ve graduated from the Watcher’s Academy – with honours, actually. But it was felt I needed some experience in the field.” He murmured the last as if he thought this was in some way a failing on his part.

Giles came back out with a cup of tea. “Glad to hear the Council are finally recognizing the need for field experience. The last thing I heard they seemed to think that a few trials in controlled conditions and a lot of written work was enough.”

Giles’ tone was a little brusque and although Wesley flinched from it automatically, Buffy’s sympathy was with Giles. After all he had been through with losing Jenny, the last thing he needed right now was some wet behind the ears eager beaver Junior Watcher sent over by the Council to ask him lots of questions and generally get on his already frayed nerves. It was, incidentally, the last thing she needed as well. She had caused the person she loved to turn from noble hero in search of redemption to the very thing he most loathed and despised, and who was capable of picking off all her friends one by one before killing her; the last thing she needed was an extra person around to have to bring up to speed on current events.

“I’m Willow.” Willow quickly thrust out a hand.

Wesley looked relieved at the sight of a friendly face. He hurriedly put down his tea, slopping it into the saucer as he did so, then smiled at her gratefully, took her hand and shook it. “Wesley – Wyndam-Pryce.”

“Can I just call you Wesley?”

“Of course.” He was so pathetically pleased to have someone be kind to him that it looked as if Willow was never going to get her hand back again. “Please do. I’d be honoured.”

He positively bloomed in the face of any kind attention. Buffy thought that was just plain weird. Didn’t they have normal people where he came from? (And yes, she could almost hear Cordelia squawking ‘Normal? You think any of you losers are normal?’ in disbelief.)

Xander cleared his throat and Wesley seemed to realize he was still touching Willow and snatched his hand away from her as if she were burning. Giles rolled his eyes and looked even more weary than a minute before. He was already wearing a ‘please don’t show me up in public’ expression but Buffy thought he was going to be out of luck there. Wesley was so obviously what Watchers looked like when just out of their boxes. He was practically still wearing his price tag.

“Xander Harris.” Xander held out a hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Oh, you too.” Wesley had to juggle his attaché case, which he had evidently been in the process of opening, to grab Xander’s hand, and managed to scatter papers all over the floor in the process.

Buffy saw Angel’s face looking up at her and gasped, taking a step back. Willow followed her gaze and also gasped then hurried to help pick up the papers, narrowly missing hitting her head against Wesley’s as he flopped to his knees and hurried to try to scramble the documents back together.

Giles rolled his eyes again and then in a reaching-for-the-last-of-his-patience voice, said, “Let me help you with that, Wesley.” The folder clearly had the words ‘Angelus’ written on it and Giles regarded the younger man narrowly. “Is this why the council sent you? To report back on the Angel situation?”

Wesley looked up at him in confusion in between stuffing pages back into his briefcase. “I wrote a paper on Darla and Angelus for my finals. When they received your last reports they said you might be in need of some assistance at dealing with the current…situation and as I had the most theoretical knowledge about Angelus I was the best person for the job.”

Giles closed his eyes. “The situation is very…delicate, Wesley. It’s not just a case of knowing what Angel – Angelus did when and to whom, it’s a case of anticipating what he’s going to do next and his motives for doing so.”

Wesley sat back on his heels. “That’s why they thought I might be useful – because I’ve studied his patterns of behaviour in the past and have analysed his motives for each of his various killing sprees. For instance, the Valentine’s Day mutilations seem to me to be....”

“We know him,” Buffy said tautly. “Know Angel. Knew him, I mean. He’s not just an old file and lot of dates to us.”

“He was our friend,” Willow added.

Wesley looked shocked by that, mouth opening then closing for a moment in a goldfish-like fashion. “Oh, I see.... There was a reference in Mr Giles’ previous reports to him now having a soul and working for his redemption but we assumed back at the council that this was some kind of elaborate mind game he was playing. In the past he has taken a lot of pleasure in....”

“No,” Buffy said flatly. “He was good. He had a soul. Then he lost his soul because of me, because of....”

“Because of the nature of the curse that returned his soul to him in the first place,” Giles intervened quickly. “It was supposed to make him suffer, when it became a means for him to find happiness, a clause in the curse kicked in and took the soul from him again.”

Wesley looked as if he were having trouble processing that; Buffy thought idly that he should try processing it when the person who had lost his soul was someone that he loved.

“This is a guy we liked,” Xander spelled it out for him. “Well, actually I never did, but Buffy liked him a lot and Willow and Giles – kind of liked him too.”

“I liked him more than Giles did,” Willow supplied helpfully. “But not as much as Buffy.” She darted Buffy a look full of sympathy and Wesley seemed to get it at last.

“Ahhh...” he said with a mixture of comprehension and regret. He looked across at Buffy and winced. “I probably don’t need to tell you that the Council are unlikely to have ever sanctioned a friendship between a Slayer and a Vampire.”

“He had a soul,” Buffy said tautly. “He was good. Until I....”

Wesley grimaced sympathetically. “Yes, very distressing, I can imagine.”

“I really don’t think you can,” Giles had a definite edge to his voice. “The point is that no one hates Angel – who Angel was when he had a soul – more than his soulless alter ego, Angelus, and he has targeted Buffy and the people around her for…retribution.”

Wesley blinked. “So, you’re saying that Angelus’ main object of vengeance is…his soulled self?”

Buffy also blinked. She hadn’t thought of it like that before. It had felt as if it was all about her. “I suppose...”

Wesley looked the way Willow did when she had just worked out something really complicated in a research problem. “Doesn’t that suggest that either the soulled version of Angel still has a consciousness trapped within the soulless one or that Angelus fears or at least believes that his soulled self might one day return? I mean – why carry out vengeance upon someone who effectively no longer exists?”

“Angel isn’t home any more,” Buffy said quietly. “There’s nothing of him left in the person he is now.”

Wesley picked up the folder he’d dropped and put it down on the table at which they had been researching, automatically taking the chair that had belonged to Giles. “Well then, it sounds as if there is a way to reverse it. We know there must be, in fact. Angelus was once a soulless killer entirely devoid of compassion or any glimmering of conscience and yet you say he became a warrior for good?”

Buffy sat down next to him. “He was cursed by gypsies. He had his soul returned to him.”

Wesley frowned. “You know there’s no record of this in the Council file on Angelus. It just says that the trail of bodies dried up. We assumed he was dead. Well, deader than he already was. Dust really.”

It was horrible after what he’d done that the thought of Angel as dust still made her flinch.

Wesley didn’t notice, too wrapped up in his shiny new theory. “Why would the gypsies give him back his soul? If they wanted to punish him, why didn’t they kill him?”

“They wanted him to suffer,” Giles said it so that Buffy wouldn’t have to and she was grateful for that. “Wanted him to remember everything he’d done while cursed with a conscience.”

“So, when he has a soul Angel remembers everything he did without one?”

Buffy nodded. “Everything.”

Wesley tapped Giles’ pencil pensively on the folder. “Then we know that if the situation was repeated, if the soul was returned to him, that the soulled Angel would remember everything the unsoulled Angelus had done, making every action committed by Angelus since he was essentially reborn as a soulless being for the second time something done so that Angel will remember it when he returns.”

“Returns…?” Buffy looked up at him in disbelief.

“There may be a record of the curse somewhere. I wonder if it could be filed under ‘folklore and superstitious rites’ in the Council library?”

Willow said, “You’re saying we could restore Angel?”

Wesley looked up at her in some surprise. “Well, wouldn’t that be the most effective cure for the current problem? It sounds as if the best gaoler of Angelus is Angel. He went from raping, murdering, maiming and torturing every poor creature that he met to ceasing to be a blip on the Council radar. Unless there is now a very effective twelve step program for sadistic vampires that I’m unaware of then he clearly must have been terminated or had a serious change of heart.”

Giles said tersely, “Wesley, you’ve been in this building for ten minutes. I don’t think you’re exactly in a position to see the big picture.”

Wesley flinched from the criticism and then darted a look up at Giles. “I’m sorry, I was just trying to be.... I didn’t mean to....”

“It’s okay,” Willow said hastily, patting his arm. She looked at Buffy. “Isn’t it?”

Buffy wanted to say ‘No, it isn’t and someone tell this bozo to shut up now’ but she didn’t have the heart in the face of Willow’s pleading expression. But it still felt like being stabbed by red hot needles every time she thought about Angel. About what he’d had been. His lips against hers, that look in his eyes.... She turned her head away so no one could see how much everything hurt.

“You’re saying, hey presto, someone waves a magic wand and Good Angel is back and we all kiss and make up and everything’s forgotten?” Xander demanded tersely. “He killed someone we care about.”

Wesley looked very deer in headlights. “I – um – I didn’t mean to offend. It’s just that...” He snatched a breath. “The killing stopped, you see.” He gave Xander a pleading look. “And if you were arguing that Angelus would in someway be getting off lightly if we gave him back his soul, if the soulled version of himself is the person Angelus most dislikes, wouldn’t that be the worst punishment for him, to be trapped inside him once again, and it’s already clear that these gypsies – who were clearly very powerful people – felt that the worst punishment for Angel was to give him back his soul.”

“So, you’re saying we should do it because it’s the nastiest thing to do to a vampire?” Buffy demanded.

Wesley flinched from her tone but she wasn’t in the mood to care. “No, I’m saying that it seems to be the best way to stop people being killed while preserving someone who appears to be a potential warrior for good. I imagine a spell of that kind could also be performed at some distance from the subject and so the risk would be a little less than attempting to…stake Angelus, even supposing people who knew him as a…friend were emotionally and physically capable of doing that.”

Buffy looked at Wesley through narrowed eyes. “You know, you’re really starting to annoy me.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, backing away rapidly.

“Buffy,” Giles reproved.

“Didn’t what he say make sense?” Willow pleaded, looking around for support and clearly missing the quiet stability of Oz. “I thought what he said made sense.”

“It made perfect sense,” Buffy retorted. “But it isn’t possible. It’s just a nice theory that would solve all our problems in one stroke and give us back.... Give me back... But it can’t be done. No one knows the curse.”

“Re-research…?” Wesley quavered tentatively. “Couldn’t we…research it…?”

“Research is good,” Willow said quickly. “I’m big with the research love.”

Giles looked at his watch. “It’s getting late. Wesley, why don’t I give you a lift home. We can talk about…research tomorrow.” His grim gaze suggested they would do no such thing but rather that he would give Wesley a sharp lecture in the drive home about butting out of things he only imperfectly understood. Wesley seemed to sense that himself, immediately looking all deer in front of a sixteen-wheeler. Willow gave Buffy a pleading look and then directed one at Giles who did look slightly less grim under the influence of Willow’s irresistible ‘please don’t be mean’ eyes. Buffy almost glowered at the redhead for her typically knee-jerk protective instinct towards the annoying geeky poor widdle Watcher boy whom Buffy could just tell was going to be irritating her beyond all bearing.

Wesley seemed aware of Buffy’s thoughts, gaze darting between Buffy and Giles anxiously. “I’ll go and wait outside then,” he said awkwardly, “so you can bring the car round.

Giles said, “Yes, do that, Wesley,” crisply, without looking up.

Wesley trailed out of the library, starting to drag his big heavy trunk.

“Leave your luggage!” Giles said sharply. “Xander and I will manage it.”

Wesley came back, picked up his attaché case, fumbled the lock closed, winced apologetically at everyone, and then hurried out.

As Buffy rolled her eyes, Willow said hastily, “He’s really not so bad.”

Xander looked accusingly at Giles: “Why do we have to carry his luggage?”

“Can you imagine how long it was going to take someone apparently fashioned entirely from pipe cleaners to haul that suitcase out of here?” Giles countered.

Xander conceded it with a shrug and then looked Giles up and down. “Who knew you were the butch version of Watcher?”

“I think he’s sweet,” Willow insisted doggedly as Giles glared at Xander. “And I think you’re all being very…judgementally and…just plain mean.”

“He is just plain annoying, Will,” Buffy pleaded. She did feel a slight pang of conscience but it really was very slight indeed. “He waltzes in here and starts telling us how to get Angel back before he’s even unpacked his bags. How annoying is that?”

“He was just trying to help.” Willow could be very stubborn in her protection of the underdog sometimes, perhaps through having been an underdog herself for so much of her life.

“I can’t believe there are others like Giles out there.” Xander shook his head. “That’s a truly scary thought.”

“Wesley isn’t like me,” Giles countered shortly.

Buffy looked up. “Giles, he’s like your own personal Mini-me.”

“I’ll have you know that just because some people of similar background may conform to a similar dress code and understand correct diction it does not make them all brothers under the skin.”

“What about under the stuffy suit?” Xander countered. “And the glasses? And the faint odour of Eau de Used Teabag?”

Buffy let the bickering wash over her. Perhaps it wasn’t his fault but Wesley had made her feel as if ants were walking over her skin. It had taken her this long to accept that Angel was gone and the only thing left now was a soulless monster who took pleasure in tormenting her and her friends, and then Wesley waltzed in and started suggesting re-ensouling Angelus as if it was only a case of digging around in a few books, tossing a few herbs about and hey presto! He was just so young, even Willow felt more grown up than he did, and she wasn’t in the mood for babysitting children from some library back in merrie olde Englande when they were here on the front line, on the Hellmouth, having to deal with death every day, their own and the prospect of losing people that they loved. She had died. She had drowned and her heart had stopped beating, and she had known what it was to love someone completely and know that they loved her completely, and she had lost him, and it was her fault; her fault Angel was Angelus and her fault Jenny was dead and Giles had that look in his eyes, and she felt so old and tired and sick of it all and she was only seventeen and it just wasn’t fair.

Willow cleared her throat. “Um…guys…?”

“And another thing, Xander, I’ll thank you to keep in mind when discussing my home country is....”

“Giles!”

For Willow that was actually quite sharp and Giles broke off mid-sentence in sheer surprise. “What is it, Willow?”

She nodded her head pointedly at the cabin trunk. “How long are you going to leave Wesley out there waiting for you to take him to his hotel?”

“He doesn’t have a hotel,” Giles said wearily. “The Council expect me to have him as a house guest as they don’t see the need to pay for his accommodation when I have a house I should of course be delighted to share with a colleague whose company I neither want nor need. I’ve had to give up my study and cram a bed in there.”

“Poor Wesley,” Willow said.

Giles looked hurt. “Because I’m such an ogre?”

“Because he’s a long way from home and he doesn’t know anyone and at least if he was in a hotel room he could just read a book or watch television or something but instead he’s going to have to tippy-toe around you while you grunt at him and make him nervous.”

“I do not ‘grunt’ and I resent – oh, never mind. Let’s just get him home and installed in my study with all my best books and my second best duvet.”

“You know I’d offer to suggest to Mom that we put him up for you,” Buffy observed, “except I don’t want him in my house either. Especially being all…British and eating marmalade and talking about the weather and…stuff.”

“And I’d suggest he came and slept at my place but I didn’t actually dislike the guy enough in our five minutes of interpersonal bonding to inflict my family on him.” Xander’s bright smile had a brittle quality that made Buffy wince inside.

“I’m not allowed boys in my room,” Willow explained. “Or I suppose men either. Even British ones, which would probably be safer on the whole because of....” She turned that into a cough.

Giles gave her a Look that suggested he was going to be waspish and snarky the whole time Wesley was staying with him. Buffy didn’t blame him. They were all feeling as if they had made mistakes at the moment. Giles had permitted a friendship between the Slayer under his care and a notoriously evil vampire and it had culminated in the death of the woman he loved. No doubt he had never been less in the mood for human memos from the Watchers’ Council saying ‘we told you so’.

Nevertheless, she thought she could at least make the effort to say ‘Good night’ to Wesley and remind him about carrying a stake in this town if he planned on going outside after dark; something that at least gave the impression she gave a damn. Xander and Giles carried Wesley’s suitcase between them while Willow murmured reassuring things to Giles about how he might actually like to have some company, especially some British company, and to just think of all the interesting conversations they could have about…cricket or whatever it was British people talked about when they weren’t talking about the weather or the Queen or drinking tea.

They opened the double doors and looked for a moment at the place outside them where they expected Wesley to be standing, and then over at Giles’s car in case Wesley had worked out that it had to belong to Giles – as no self-respecting American would be caught even dead driving anything that lame – but there was no sign of him. Or his briefcase. They stood in silence for a moment, looking around and then looking at each other, and then their expressions of surprise or irritation turned very quickly to anxiety and then Willow’s eyes widened and she said, “Oh no!”

In the same instant Giles said, “Good God, what was I thinking? I can’t believe I....”

Buffy suspected it was a shock to all of them to realize how off their game they were. Just how wrapped up in misery they had become; as if they were so busy wondering which of them Angelus was going to pick off next, trying to protect their houses, their loved ones, their lacerated hearts, that they had somehow forgotten they lived on a Hellmouth, and the High School was a place where vampires came after dark in search of easy pickings. She felt as if she might be about to throw up. “We practically gift-wrapped him for them.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions.” Xander looked around wildly. “Maybe he.... Who am I kidding? What do we do?”

“We find him.” Buffy looked across at Giles. “We find him and we…deal with it.”

“Yes.” Giles looked rocked back on his heels and she could only try to imagine how he was feeling right now, someone entrusted to his care whom he had snapped at and then practically served up to the vampires. And she was the Slayer, she was supposed to protect people like Wesley from vamps, not send him off to play with them because she couldn’t deal with him being a jerk right now.

“Giles.” She put a hand on his arm. “Let’s go and…find him.” Their eyes met and she read in his gaze her own fear that what they found was most probably going to be a corpse. He nodded wordlessly and they headed in what they hoped was the right direction, Wesley’s abandoned cabin trunk the only proof that he had ever even been here.

***

Part Two

Spike was getting that now familiar sinking feeling. They had been forced to move out of the factory because Angelus’s idea of fun included playing Bait the Psycho Watcher with roses and corpses, and although Spike was a lot more mobile than he wanted to let on to Angelus he certainly wasn’t in tip top physical condition. So, of course this was the time that Angelus decided to start playing with his food. There had been a time when he would have been all for it. A game the four of them could play; all on the hunt together; allies, friends even, as much as Angelus was capable of being friends with anyone. But now Angelus was the enemy. Spike had thought it was the soul that divided them but that had been just self-deception. Angelus being back with them had reminded him what a nasty shit he was and always had been. Right now, the Slayer, the humans, every damned happy meal on legs in Sunnydale, none of them were bothering him as much as his bastard grandsire who took so much pleasure in pointing out that now Spike was in a wheelchair Dru was going to be getting all her jollies from him.

“Daddy’s coming....” Drusilla clapped her hands together and Spike groaned inwardly.

“Hang on while I blow up some balloons. Oh wait – no breath, sorry, no can do.”

“He’s got a present.” She beamed at him cheerfully.

Spike shrugged and reached for his lighter. “What is it this time? Nun? Virgin? Or another of those greasy little kids that taste of ketchup?”

“Virgin.” Drusilla waved a reproving finger. “But not for long. Bad Daddy.”

Spike rolled his eyes at the tedious predictability of the old wanker, and was in the act of lighting a cigarette when Angelus made his usual dramatic entrance, kicking the door open and hauling in his evening’s swag, who appeared to be an insurance salesman, going by the look of him, someone in a tailored suit, still clinging to a briefcase.

“What you got us?” Spike enquired. Tonight’s dinner looked young and fresh enough but a little on the bony side to make a good meal for three.

Angelus gave his hapless victim a shove that sent him into the middle of the room and onto his knees. He gazed up at Angelus with wide-eyed wonder, and Spike rolled his eyes again. Oh great, this was all Angelus needed to prop up his already hugely bloated ego, some guy looking up at him as if he was the scariest baddest vamp in the whole wide world. Angelus gave Spike a smug smile. “Watcher.”

Spike felt an uncomfortable jolt as he tried and failed not to be a little impressed. “Bit young, isn’t he?”

“They decided Rupert the Librarian needed an assistant. Sent him out special delivery nice and fresh, straight from the old country. Your old country, that is.”

Angelus danced up and down the staircase, making a meal of it even though Fred Astaire he so wasn’t, before jumping down to where the Watcher was still on his knees. Drusilla clapped her hands. Sometimes she was way too easily impressed. The Watcher gazed up at Angelus.

“You’re really him.”

Spike frowned. Not just a vampire then, that wasn’t the impressive thing, but being…Angelus? He looked at the face of his grandsire and saw that he wasn’t the only one intrigued. Angelus caught the kneeling Watcher and yanked his head back, the perfect alpha male demonstration of careless strength, the not so subtle threat that a twist of his fingers was all it would take to snap the Junior Watcher’s long slender neck. “Does it speak?”

“You’re him,” the Watcher gasped. “You’re really…Angelus.”

And yes, there was fear there, but wonder too. Angel smiled at him nastily. “Immortal, remember? Or don’t they teach you that at Watcher School?”

“But…I wrote my dissertation about you....”

Spike rolled his eyes again. Oh great, a fan. Angelus was going to be impossible if someone didn’t snap that little waste of space’s neck soon. Angelus followed the Watcher’s gaze to his briefcase and then abruptly released him, holding out a hand for the briefcase. The Watcher handed it over gingerly, like someone feeding a tiger through the bars. Angelus yanked it open and plucked out the folder on the top, raising an eyebrow as he looked across at Spike. “He’s got a file on me.”

“Just give him a damned autograph and then kill him, will you?” Spike complained. “I’m hungry.”

Drusilla was looking at the new arrival fixedly, and now began to glide around him. He was too busy gazing at Angelus to notice, while Angelus was flicking through his file with every sign of interest.

“He’s not for eating,” Drusilla crooned. “Daddy wants to play with him.”

Spike took refuge in his cigarette. “Great, first he doesn’t feed us then he spoils our appetite with his usual sick fuckery.” That had been different when he’d been a part of it. They’d been a maelstrom, a firestorm; they spun into a town or a city or a quiet little village cowering under a mountain somewhere and turned everything to blood and ashes, and it was wonderful; a party only the four of them could play. He’d revelled in the twisted limitless depths of his grandsire’s imagination in those days. But that had been the past and this was the present and nothing Angelus did now was for Spike’s amusement, only his own.

Drusilla crouched down in front of the Watcher and stroked a finger along his jaw. It was only with the greatest effort that he could drag his gaze from Angelus, who was still avidly reading the contents of the folder that bore his name, but when the boy finally noticed Drusilla, his eyes widened in recognition.

Spike wished afterwards he hadn’t been looking at the Watcher when he did that, when he recognized Drusilla, because if not he wouldn’t have seen the way his gaze showed not what would have been an entirely appropriate gibbering terror, but rather that terrible spasm of sympathy. “Drusilla....”

“You know me?” She brightened at that.

“You’re the poor girl whose family Angelus killed – the girl with second sight. The one he drove mad with his fiendish cruelty.”

Angelus held up a hand in mock humility. “Please, no flattery.”

Drusilla stretched out a finger and stroked it across the Watcher’s mouth. As always when she touched another male, even a pathetic specimen like this one, Spike felt a spasm of jealousy. She whispered: “I’m his masterwork.”

Angelus leant across to gather up a handful of her hair and press it to his lips, glancing across at Spike with sly mockery as he did so. “Yes, you are.”

Drusilla gazed earnestly at the Watcherboy. “You want your Daddy to be proud of you, too, the way my Daddy’s proud of me, but he never will be.”

The Watcher darted a fearful glance up at Angelus, clearly still having to come to terms with the fact that the vampire was real. Angelus was basking in it, Spike could see, the old poof just loving how impressed the dozy little git was. In the past there had been witchhunters and vampire killers in number and their gazes had always been steely with resolve as they encountered them or else full of fear as they were recognized; but it was a while since Angelus had been reminded what a legend he was by someone who really knew his rep. He wished this little runt would stop looking at Angelus like he was Elvis, but the fact he was actually in the same room as the bona fide Scourge of Europe himself was clearly something Watcherboy wasn’t going to get over any time soon.

Drusilla was still stroking a finger across the captive’s lips. “I bet you’d taste sweet. Sweet as honey. Virgins always do.”

“I-I really don’t think that’s any of your....”

As the boy blushed, Spike rolled his eyes again. Oh great, an untouched, untried, stammery little Watcher with a hard-on for reading about the exploits of the nastiest vampires in the world; no way was Angelus going to kill this one for a week at least, and he’d probably want to keep his skull as an ashtray even then.

Angelus turned the page of what seemed to be the Watcherboy’s essay while the boy himself divided his nervous attention between Angelus and Drusilla, who was now stroking her fingers through his hair with one hand while undoing his tie with the other.

“Wrong date,” Angelus observed.

The boy looked bewildered. “What?”

“We were in Budapest in 1797, not 1796.”

“The church records said that the massacre at the abbey took place in December 1796.”

“Well, they’re wrong. It was January 1797. We spent Christmas in Prague. They just wanted to call it the Christmas Massacre because it sounds catchier. We definitely didn’t get to them until the first week in January.”

The boy actually reached for a pen. Spike shook his head in disbelief. How dumb was this stupid little bleeder? Very dumb evidently, as he was gazing up at Angelus with that same awe and murmuring politely, “Could I…?” Christ, he wanted to annotate his dissertation now?

Angelus was amused by that; really amused. The kind of amused that made Spike uneasy. He could see Angelus deciding this boy just had to become his next project, and whenever Angelus was working on a project everything else went by the board, including basic common sense half the time. Three hours ago he’d been all about trying to end the world using some kind of statue thing, and now he could see the statue was going to be all yesterday’s news and it was going to be Watcherboy all the way. Spike’s eardrums were going to be perforated from the screaming.

Angelus plucked the pen from the boy’s fingers. “I’m going to mark this for you.”

“Thank you,” the boy said lamely.

“Any inaccuracies will have to be punished,” Angelus told him, before slapping the essay down on the desk and sitting down to correct it as if he were the headmaster of some minor public school.

Drusilla’s eyes widened with excitement and she pulled off the boy’s tie. “Ooh, Daddy loves punishing naughty boys and girls. Have you been naughty, Wesley? Is Daddy going to have to give you a spanking?”

“You know my name…?” he said in disbelief.

Spike almost pointed out to him that his name was on his sodding briefcase but Dru was on a roll. She stroked her fingers through his hair again, trying to disorder it, which Spike could understand as that brylcreem was definitely in need of removal. “Course I do. I know lots about you. All that working, working, dark places, not even star shine, crying and crying and crying because Daddy didn’t love you. Such pretty scars inside. Just want someone to love you, don’t you, precious?”

“You understand the concept of love?” He gazed at her intently; still the Watcher, still the curious student. Spike felt an acute spasm of embarrassed identification; thinking of the bespectacled little mummy’s boy he’d once been, writing his poetry and sighing over his Cecily. “Even now? As you are now…?”

“We are love,” Drusilla told him. “And hate. And death. And life. We’re all fallen angels; falling, falling, closer to hell and fires burning bright in the forest of the.... Especially Daddy. Can’t you see his wings? The soul clipped them but now he’s soaring again.”

“Do you remember what he did to your family?”

“Yes.” She put her hands up to her head. “Remember my mummy singing to us, and the little ones eating cake, all so happy we were before he came.”

Watcherboy flinched and Spike flinched along with him, remembering Dru crying over it sometimes, wanting her Mummy to sing her to sleep again, wanting to tell him their names, all the little children who had tasted so sweet to Angelus. When she ate kids these days it was as if she was trying to find that sweetness again; the sweetness of being human somewhere in their marrow.

“But you love him even though he killed them?”

She slapped her hands together. “Daddy takes and Daddy gives. Takes one family, gives another. He let me have my Spikey, my own child, even better than brothers and sisters. All mine he is.”

The Watcher glanced over at Spike and the vampire felt himself catalogued, being slotted into a mental ‘William the Bloody’ folder. Apparently, next to Angelus and Dru, Spike wasn’t so exciting though as he didn’t get the big blue impressed eyes. “What about Darla?” The Watcher looked around in half fearful anticipation and Spike wondered how dumb a human had to be to actually want to meet Darla.

Dru wrinkled her pretty nose. “Turned to dust. Poor grandmummy. He did it, the Angel-beast. The one who locks Daddy away.”

“The souled version of Angelus?” Watcherboy looked across at Angelus and once again did that double take because it was so incredible that he was here in a room with Angelus. Spike felt like throwing something at him. If he hadn’t been tied to the role of sitting in a wheelchair he would have ripped his scrawny little spine out just for the whole fanboy thing. Watcherboy turned back to Drusilla. “Do you remember what it was like to be human?”

She stroked her fingers through his hair tenderly. “Kind to my Spike, you are. And oh how you love Daddy. See you looking at him, wanting him to tell you you’re a good boy. I see it all. So misty, but I see it....”

There was that look on his face again, and what right did that useless little snack-in-waiting have to be pitying his Dru? Spike’s midnight Queen, his princess of the underworld, who could twist off that stuffy little Watcher’s head on a whim. But he did feel oh so sorry for her, it was there in those expressive eyes. Dru put her head on one side and stroked her finger down his chest. “Eyes like little Anne, you have, all big and blue. Bet they taste sweet.” She bent her head and licked his face. He closed his eyes then, so scared that his skin would be salt with it, extra lickable. Dru ran her tongue over her lips. “Daddy’s going to love the taste of you. So frightened. So warm.”

Watcherboy touched her hair, very gently and Spike almost got up and walked across the room just to smack his hand, but the way he was looking up at her, so full of compassion.... Something caught in Spike’s throat and the contradictory urge to kill him and save him hit him again.

“Do they have pictures of me in your books?” Drusilla asked him.

“Yes.”

“Do I look pretty?”

He was still gazing at her. “Not as pretty as you really are.”

She smiled at that. “You think I’m pretty?”

He kept looking at her, that expression of compassion on his face. Spike knew he was terrified, could hear the hammer of his heart, smell the fear on his skin, but the Watcher only nodded. “Very pretty. Would you like me to show you the picture?”

She nodded and he inched towards his briefcase, glancing between Angelus, who was busy marking the Watcher’s essay with lots of self-important scribblings in the margin, and Spike, who shrugged at him as if to say he didn’t give a damn what he did as, unlike Angelus and Dru, he didn’t believe in talking to one’s food.

The Watcher plucked a book out of his briefcase, turned the pages and held it out to her. “There’s a daguerrotype of you.”

She pounced on the picture eagerly, laughing and clapping her hands. “I’m famous!” She snatched up the book and ran across the room to show it to Spike. “Look, Spike, I’m famous! Got my picture in a book....”

Spike saw a few lines of print: …tragic victim of the notoriously imaginative and sadistic vampire, Angelus… “That isn’t what she is,” he told the Watcher shortly. “We made our own lives since then. Good lives.” Unlives technically, of course, but who was quibbling?

“What about Miss Edith?” Drusilla waved the doll under the Watcher’s nose. “Have you got a picture of her?”

He shook his head. “No. Is she…significant?”

“She likes watching when they die. They all do. All my pretties.”

The Watcher touched the doll’s hair and then dress and there was that look in his eyes again, the one that made Spike want to snap his neck, rip out his throat, save him from Angelus, he wasn’t even sure which; stupid Watcherboy looking from the calm bisque face of that Victorian doll to the mad beauty of his Drusilla, eyes full of pain because he saw the doll as proof that Drusilla had been little more than a child when Angelus had driven her crazy and stolen her soul. He gave her immortality, you twonk. But it was a change all the same, from someone just seeing her as evil, seeing her as scary; the Watcher didn’t know what he was looking at, but at least he was trying to see the Dru that Spike loved. Trouble was he was coming at it from completely the wrong direction; trying to find the person she wasn’t any more in the free soulless immortal she was now. But Spike knew it all the same, although he would have denied it with his last…well, he didn’t have breath any more, last or otherwise, but he would have denied it all the same, that there was a part of him that remembered how it felt to be human, a part of him that hungered for their warmth, that pulse of their delicious blood beneath their thin skin, maybe part of what made them taste so sweet was their humanity, and maybe he remembered sometimes, maybe Dru did too; maybe they were both as contaminated as the Judge had told them. But you had to understand your prey to catch it, didn’t you? To know them was to eat them.

Dru ran her fingers across the Watcherboy’s chest, brushing the light fuzz of hair there, feeling the warmth of his skin. Spike wanted to lick him, taste him, drink from him and feel that warmth for a moment, that delicious pulse of hot blood from the artery hitting the back of his throat.

“We could get a camera,” Spike offered. “Take some up to date pictures. Maybe take Miss Edith’s too.”

Angelus looked up from his ‘marking’. “Yes, because helping the Watcher’s Council to kill us all is what we’re about now.”

“You’re the one who brought Wesley the Wonder Watcher here, gitface,” Spike snapped.

Angelus rose to his feet, all poised on the balls of his feet, showing off just because he wasn’t in a wheelchair, skipping across the room like the great poof he was to wave that essay under the Watcher’s nose. “Lots of mistakes. I couldn’t give you more than a ‘C’.” He shoved the boy onto his knees. “And show proper respect when you talk to your betters.”

The Watcher looked shocked; he was using some of his brain for fear, certainly, and that overpowering ‘it’s Angelus’ awe, but there was another part that looked confused and…miffed. “Mistakes…?”

“Lots.” Angelus brushed the essay across his mouth, pulling down his lower lip with the stiffness of the paper. “Can’t have that kind of sloppy work going unpunished. I think I’d better punish you.”

Drusilla clapped her hands together in glee. “Spanking!”

“I triple checked every date and place from at least three eyewitness accounts whenever possible,” the Watcher protested and Spike realized that Angelus had stung him by criticizing his essay’s factual content. He shook his head in disbelief. The stupid little git was about to get dragged off by Angelus, probably to have his fingers bitten off one by one before his entrails got pulled out through his eyesockets, and he was whining about Angelus marking down his dissertation.

“Do humans get stupider every generation?” Spike demanded of no one in particular.

Angelus beamed down at the Watcher who still didn’t seem to have realized that his mouth was on a level with the vampire’s crotch even as Angelus stroked a thumb across his mouth salaciously. “Oh, I hope so.” His fingers closed in the Watcher’s hair with casual cruelty and he yanked him to his feet in one smooth motion that made the human yelp with fear and pain.

And then Angelus was smacking him around, just for the fun of it, and Dru was clapping her hands. And the human did all the wrong things, which were all the right things to keep Angelus wanting to extend his about-to-become-very-unpleasant existence for as long as possible, flinching, cringing, bleeding, and then whimpering.

Spike gritted his teeth at the little snatched breaths, and those big shocked eyes because apparently no one had told Watcherboy in all his years of intensive training that vampires could be really mean sometimes, and would not only drink the blood of an infant from its crib, but hit you hard and often for using the English name for a German town when writing your essays about them.

“There. Is. No. ‘i’. In. Hameln. Dumpkopf!”

Watcherboy still didn’t get it, that Angelus was just getting himself turned on by the pleasant warm up of the sound of fist on flesh, too busy making those little whimpering noises that were absolutely the worst thing to do, because now he sounded like a frightened child or a frightened puppy, and if he’d read his reports on Angelus he would know exactly what Angelus liked to do to those things.

Spike looked at Angelus’s groin; not a difficult thing to spot with him wearing those leather pants; fuckin’ exhibitionist; and wheeled himself across the room to where the Watcher was currently cringing, putting up a hand to a cut across his cheek while Angelus doubled his belt and slapped it against the air, enjoying the sounds it made, and Drusilla danced around both of them, clapping her hands because the chaos was like fire to her, and the rising panic in the captive intoxicating as brandy. Brandy.

Spike rolled himself between the stupid little bleeder cringing on the floor and Angelus and said impatiently, “So, can I eat him now? Because you’re just wasting all that perfectly good blood.”

Drusilla giggled. “I told you, he’s not for eating. He’s for playing with. Isn’t he, Daddy?”

Angelus gave her a slow-burning smile and began to run a hand up her thigh; never more than a victim’s flinch away from a hard-on at the best of times and so currently horny as hell. “Sure he is.”

Dru pulled Angelus against her, eyes bright. “Dance with me. Spikey can’t now. Dance with me, Daddy....” And then she was pulling Angelus away, the glance she gave Spike as she did so, scarily sane, and Spike knew he had one shot at this. He pulled the handful of pills out of his pocket, the uppers and downers and the ones that had blurred the pain in his crushed back to dreams of poetry taking flight across rooftops whose chimneys spewed blood-coloured smoke. The ones Dru had stolen for him from the hospital that you should absolutely never combine with each other or alcohol especially not in these kinds of quantities. And then he had a hand across the Watcher’s mouth and was hissing, “Swallow, you stupid little tit” before he yanked out the whisky bottle from its place in his chair and said, “Open wide”, making it sound as dirty as possible.

Angelus looked around and, seeing Spike forcing the neck of the bottle into his prey’s mouth, said, “That better be all you’re planning on shoving down there. This one’s mine.”

“You always were greedy,” Spike retorted, rubbing the Watcher’s throat to make him swallow it, swallow it and keep it down, pills and whiskey, more whiskey, another gulp and another, and Spike’s eyes telling him to keep fuckin’ swallowing unless he wanted to end up another horror story they told little Watchers around the campfire on field trips. Watcherboy kept looking at him in wide-eyed confusion, even as he gulped, swallowed, choked, fought to keep it down and somehow managed it, gaze fixed on William the Bloody Idiot, who had just done something ridiculous for a reason he couldn’t have explained. Why this one? Why, out of all of them, try to make this one’s nightmare easier? What did he care what became of a stupid human with a stupid soul just because he was bookish and earnest and skinny and had taken one look at Drusilla and seen what Spike saw? And was he kind of asking and answering his own questions here?

“What are you doing anyway?” Angelus demanded.

Spike shrugged. “Thought you might want a liqueur after dinner, Your Wankership. You’re the one who taught me about spiking their blood with a nice shot of old scotch to get that burn when you bite ’em.”

“Marinate your own food,” Angelus retorted. And then he was touching Drusilla in places that made Spike want to drive a stake right into his dead heart and she was closing her eyes and whimpering with pleasure, and then Angelus shoved Dru away so she had to hold herself up with Spike’s shoulders, then he was snatching up the coughing Watcher by the hair and dragging him off to his bedroom.

“Miss Edith wanted to watch!” Drusilla protested.

Spike slid a hand up her thigh, still feeling the place where Angelus had touched her, still smelling him on her, that musty arousal that was now all the Watcher’s and good luck to him with that; and he slipped his fingers where Angelus’s had been and she whimpered with pleasure and he closed his eyes and licked her skin and tried not to hear the sounds from Angelus’s bedroom.

***

Wesley woke up drunk. Not just a little drunk; drunker than he had ever been in his life. He tried to focus on his fingers and they blurred at him, shimmering a little like a heat haze and when he tried to take in his surroundings he found that the walls were sliding around in a most unaccountable fashion. He blinked several times, but it didn’t help; there were pillows dissolving in front of him, metal struts merging and separating like ink blot art. Not just drunk then. He appeared to have consumed more alcohol than he had ever encountered in his life and a number of hallucinogenic drugs at the same time. Definitely not a Council party then. Was this how they behaved in Sunnydale?

A hand closed around his throat and pulled him a foot across the bed. Even through the candy-coloured cottonwool and disco mirrorballs in his mind he felt sure that staying a dead weight was definitely the best thing to do, and not struggling, definitely no struggling of any kind. Given how separated he felt from his body, and how slurred everything was, physically and mentally, it was much easier than he might have expected to just let it happen. He wasn’t entirely sure it was happening to him anyway, just to someone in his vicinity who might or might not be borrowing his body for the occasion.

“Morning, sweetheart.”

Wesley gazed into the brown eyes of the Scourge of Europe and thought – given their dependence on something as evanescent as mercury vapour – that the photographic processes from those days, were really extraordinarily accurate. “Angelus....” It came out as a sort of muffled squawk, not just to do with the very strong, very bruising fingers currently around his neck, but due to the soreness of his throat. He seemed to have done a lot of talking recently or – given his present company – screaming. He definitely remembered writing that people who met Angelus in the silence of dark alleyways tended to depart from him with the echoes of their own screams in their ears. Being frightened seemed like an appropriate response then. He needed to remember how to do that. Parts of his body, particularly his spine, made an ineffectual attempt to climb out from under his skin and run away, but it only led to a weird starfish-like lurch that did absolutely nothing to stop the vampire hauling him up against his cool hard chest.

Angelus smiled at him in a way that made Wesley think that he should probably scream again if he’d done any screaming before, but his throat was sore so he just opened his mouth and then closed it a few times.

Angelus was practically purring as he ran a hand through Wesley’s hair. “See, I bet you Watchers tell everyone I’m just a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am kind of guy, but I know how to snuggle.”

Wesley made another sound that came out not unlike ‘Urp!’

“They train you for that too?”

“Iggle?”

“Lying back and thinking of England?”

“Snurg, snigdurkle.”

“Are there any braincells I didn’t fry?” Angelus was unmistakably in a good mood. A hand that was probably not Wesley’s moved down a body that either was or wasn’t Wesley’s and touched him in a place that it probably shouldn’t be touching whoever it belonged to but which he couldn’t summon any strong feelings about one way or another at the moment. The wallpaper was sliding off the walls like blue jam from a spoon. If there was any blue jam, which he was no longer sure about. Wesley tried to look down but he couldn’t remember the movements. Like normal speech, coordination seemed to have deserted him.

“I didn’t even know Watchers could get their voices that high. Did you used to be a choirboy, Wes?”

“Can’t sing.” He was almost certain that was English. Or possibly Flemish. He had not liked Flemish as a class. It had taken place in a cold room on the northern side of the building and the radiators had definitely not been turned on as often as the fees charged by the academy would lead one to expect. He didn’t much care for Flemish art either. He preferred Renaissance. “Is this England?”

“No.” Angelus stroked a finger across his mouth and then slipped his thumb in between Wesley’s lips. “Suck it.”

Wesley had been going to say something else but finding that thumb in his mouth concentrated on gingerly sucking it. It seemed an odd thing to ask someone to do and he wondered if it was something Angelus found comforting. Angelus’s thumb was smooth, uncalloused, and tasted salty. He remembered no record of this behaviour in any of the Council records. They had seemed to suggest he preferred raping, torturing, maiming and murdering to having his digits sucked for comfort. He sucked Angelus’ thumb for some time while the wallpaper continued its surreptitious dissolution and the pillows rocked gently as a pendulum, and then sucked possibly a finger or possibly something else which tasted decidedly…odd. He listened to the sound of distant things ticking and banging, unsure if it was water in the pipes or possibly some machinery of some kind, while Angelus touched someone who might perhaps be him but could just as well be a third party to whom he had no recollection of being introduced. Angelus seemed extremely curious and thorough in his exploration and when Angelus touched them particularly hard or particularly deeply with things that were sharp or hot or long or thick, the person whose body it was definitely made sounds in a language that Wesley did not recognize. There were even flashes of…sensation. But they were so muffled he could not tell if they were meant to be good sensations or bad ones; they were just…feelings. Something buzzed like a trapped wasp for a while and something really tickled and he giggled a lot and tried to wriggle and Angelus laughed as if he was surprised about something. Then he had several bouts of feeling that he wanted to escape from something pressing at him, but on the whole his limbs were so heavy and so remote from him that he had no opinion one way or the other about the ways in which this body, which might or might not be his, was moved around and opened and closed and tied up and untied.

He sobered up enough at one point to find Angelus gazing at him with something that looked oddly like affection and saying, “I think I’ll keep you as a mascot. Send pictures back to the Council. What do you think, Wes?”

Pictures. He remembered a bisque doll with sad eyes and what would almost certainly be real hair. “Miss Edith?”

Angelus smiled and Wesley wondered if he was going to show him his fang face again. He had a feeling that the first time he’d seen it, he might have passed out, and it would be interesting to see it again. “Scrambled Watcher. Perfect. I love it when they break like glass. This is going to hurt. Describe it to me.”

Then there was that strange sensation again that was possibly happening to someone else or to him.

“Odd.”

Angelus beamed. “No one’s ever called it that before. Do you like pain, Wes?”

Wesley tried to remember. “I don’t think... Is this pain? What colours does it...? Too noisy to be....” He tried to remember how to form a sentence but it was too difficult.

Angelus bared his teeth in a smile of absolute satisfaction. “You may turn out to be even better than Dru. Do you remember what we did?”

“Did?”

“You and me. We did lots of things together last night. Things with ice cubes and body parts and things that take batteries. Remember?”

Wesley looked at the wallpaper which was now surreptitiously changing from blue to green. Or had it always been green? “Am I dead?” It occurred to him that he might be a vampire now, which would be terribly useful for writing those essays where you had to imagine what it might be like to be a soulless demon in a particular strategy situation in order to thwart yourself.

“Nope, still warm and sticky, Wes. The way I want you.” The fingers that were or were not Wesley’s touched the body parts that were or were not Wesley’s again, pinching and pulling in a way that made that third party shift uncomfortably or possibly pleasurably. If the wallpaper hadn’t been quite so fascinating, Wesley would have been able to give it more of his attention.

“I’m going to make you stickier now.”

It sounded like a threat but then he lost its echo and it could possibly have been a nice treat he was being offered. Wesley tried to think of sticky things but couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t honey. He knew there were pink sticky things that stuck things to other things and that he absolutely wasn’t allowed to have, ever. “What do they call it?”

“This is going to hurt.”

Wesley wondered if Angelus was talking to him or someone else and then something happened that made one of the strange sensations turn up its volume until it was all over the room like white noise and he didn’t know if there was a radio playing much too loud or if there was possibly something hurting him. But then he remembered and said, “Chewing gum!” triumphantly.

Angelus said, “What?” as if Wesley had just told him that two and two absolutely never added up to four.

“Sticky....” Wesley offered.

The wallpaper had changed colour at least three more times before the thought occurred to him that something large and unpleasant being repeatedly thrust in and out of his body might also feel like that radio sounded, but as there seemed no reason for that to happen he concentrated on watching the edge of the pillow change almost imperceptibly from violet to lilac and back again. When it did it three times, he giggled again, and Angelus said something very bad in a language that probably wasn’t Flemish.

***

Part Three

Spike told himself he was doing this because it was a way of thwarting Angelus. He had to tell himself that because he had no freakin’ clue why else he was doing it except perhaps because he’d started it and now it was a game and if he kept the Watcher alive and more or less intact, he won, but if Angelus made him scream and scream before ripping his throat out, Angelus won. Watcherboy was fucked either way, but Spike didn’t think that was important. He was a soulless serial killer not a soddin’ social worker.

Dru kept whispering nonsense in his ear. “We have to help him. Help him against Daddy so he can help Daddy later. And he can help us. Helps you. Miss Edith says so and although she’s very naughty she sometimes knows....”

So far, he had to say, he was definitely ahead on points. Angelus had done his whole cape flourishing mwahahahah crap and, as far as he could tell, Watcherboy had pretty much giggled his way through it. Spike knew how embarrassing it could be to do something spectacularly evil and not get a fitting reaction. Perhaps he’d overdone it a little on the painkillers, whisky, and happy tablets, but the effect had been pretty bloody funny. On the other side of the bedroom door Watcherboy had certainly made noises, some of them high and some of them loud and most of them quite surprised, but very emphatically not the kind of screaming that people made when they were dying an agonizing death. There had been some whimpering sort of sounds as well as the alto schoolboy line Watcherboy had briefly sung in response to something that made his voice climb higher than K2, and there had been that low rumble of sound from Angelus and some laughter and some very unexpected childish giggling from the Watcher. And this morning, Watcherboy was still alive and – this was the real surprise – intact. Not ‘intact’ as in virgo intacto, of course. If Spike’s ear for a creaking bedspring was still as finely tuned as before his accident, Watcherboy was about three fucks, a vibrator, and some serious fingering, away from being one of those now, but he still had both eyes, both ears, all his fingers, all his toes, two testicles, and each limb in its usual position.

One look at Angelus’s face as the vampire strode out of the bedroom told Spike that maybe those happy tablets had been working even better than he’d thought because Angelus looked in a reasonably good mood and already inclining back to his natural emotional state of smug wankerdom.

And it seemed that Watcherboy’s best defence, next to Spike and his whisky and pills diet, was Watcherboy himself. There was a kind of weird innocence about the scraggly little twerp that was so far carrying him through it. Angelus strode out, all leather trousers and recent orgasm and unbuttoned shirt, alpha male machismo up his bleedin’ wotsit, and Watcherboy toddled out after him, cut, bruised, black eye, fat lip, stinking of come, absently rubbing his bondage-bruised skinny little wrists, wearing a shirt, sort of, and some pants, sort of, barefoot and bed-haired, and…giggling.

Spike openly gawked at that because when warm-blooded breakable humans spent the night with Angelus they tended to come out of his bedroom the next morning one of two ways: dead or wishing they were. If Watcherboy had just been happy and giggly, Angelus would have taken him apart very slowly and with great thoroughness, of course, but he was unpredictably interesting with it. Staggering out unsteadily and looking up at the high ceilings of their ‘borrowed’ house with his mouth open in a groin-aching ‘O’. He turned around, saw Drusilla, and immediately lit up and staggered over to give her a hug as if she were his favourite sister, while she made little crooning noises as she tidied his hair as if he were an errant doll.

“Did you have fun with Daddy?” she asked him.

“Daddy?” He looked at her blankly. “They’re never fun, are they?” When he turned around and saw Angelus, smirking and poncing about, hair-gelled up the wazoo, he did a huge double-take and literally staggered back three paces before saying: “Angelus…!” with just the kind of breathless disbelief and awe that Angelus probably dreamed about while whacking off.

Angelus did his soft shoe shuffle towards him, all Scourge of Europe and pleather pants and Wesley kept on gazing open-mouthed before saying earnestly: “You killed lots of people.”

Angelus gave a supposedly modest shrug that probably didn’t even fool the cockroaches. Wesley began to cast about for something and when Angelus asked him what he was looking for, said over his shoulder: “A crucifix, because – you’re a vampire.”

Angelus glided in front of him. “Do you think I'm going to eat you?”

Wesley looked at him wide-eyed. “Yes, if you’re hungry, I’m sure you will. Would you happen to have a crucifix around here anywhere?”

Angelus was practically beaming at the befuddled boy and Spike just knew he was mentally congratulating himself on his most shining creation. “Not really a decorating choice I’ve ever embraced, Wes.”

“Oh.” Watcherboy cast about in confusion. “Holy water?” Angelus shook his head, still grinning. “What about a stake?”

Angelus produced something from inside his shirt that was stake-length but was made of pink plastic and had a very definitely rounded tip. As Spike rolled his eyes in disgust and Dru giggled behind her hand before waggling her finger at Angelus in mock reproach, Angelus held it out with a flourish. “Will this do?”

Wesley examined the object carefully and then solemnly shook his head. “It has to be made of wood and it needs to have a point on the end so you can….” He mimicked making a staking motion and was visibly distracted, moving his hand backwards and forwards before looking up at Angelus with a smile on his face. “It leaves trails. They’re so pretty....”

Spike figured that anyone with an ego even a notch less gargantuan than Angelus would have worked out that Wesley was pumped full of mind altering drugs at that point, but, no, the vampire was so convinced that he had successfully frightened the Watcher out of his wits that he just smiled indulgently. A smile which only got wider when Watcherboy said: “You were in all our books at school.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Christ, he’ll be telling you he had your picture inside his locker next.”

Wesley turned around awkwardly as he tried to locate Spike, turning almost a hundred and eighty degrees to his right without success before spinning to his left and then stopping with a lurch. “No, because Angelus is bad,” he explained helpfully.

“You don’t say,” Spike returned, thinking how unbelievably annoying this would be if the scene was just happening as opposed to him having engineered it. As things were though, he was actually having fun for the first time in a long time. The stakes were as low as they could possibly be. He didn’t give a damn if the Watcherboy lived or died, but it was like picking white or black on the chessboard; it didn’t matter which you chose, just that whatever you chose won. This was the same. He looked across at Angelus. “Are you going to kill the Watchersprog or do I have to do it?”

Wesley blinked at Spike with great concentration for a moment and then pointed at him triumphantly. “William the Bloody!”

Spike looked across at Angelus. “For the love of onion rings and chicken wings will you just off the little bugger already?”

“You tried to kill my father.” Wesley giggled suddenly. “Pity you didn’t try a bit harder.” He clamped a hand across his mouth. “I didn’t say that.” He looked across at Drusilla. “Did I?”

She waggled a finger at him. “Bad Wesley, said naughty things about his Daddy. My Daddy may have to spank you some more.”

“Are we going to eat him or what?” Spike demanded, hoping he had now made it abundantly clear that by keeping Watcherboy alive Angelus would be deeply irritating him.

“No eating the guests, William. Where are your manners?” Angelus purred, still watching Wesley in a manner that was halfway to doting. Didn’t mean he wouldn’t just snap his neck on a whim, of course, but so far, so kind of going to plan.

Drusilla nodded. “Tsk, tsk, William. Very bad. Mustn’t eat the guests or else they can’t come back again or bring us any presents.” She took Wesley’s hand and pulled him into the open space in the middle of the room. “Dance with me, Wesley. Dance a waltz with me. Can you hear the music?”

He listened intently and then shook his head at her solemnly. “No.”

“Then I must sing it for you.” She began to hum the ‘Blue Danube’, a tune Wesley evidently knew as he hummed it along with her, slightly less tunefully than Drusilla, and was waltzing with her soon as well as an inebriated and drug-addled ex-public schoolboy could waltz, which was pretty badly on the whole.

Angelus watched them, still practically purring to himself, and Spike rolled himself over to look up at him. “Are you going to eat him or turn him?”

“Neither.” Angelus kept watching Dru teaching Watcherboy how to waltz, a self-satisfied smile on his face because he had made them what they were, and what they were was crazy as hell and soon to be obedient to his every insane whim.

“Look, mate, family’s family, humans are food. Humans can’t be family.” Spike deliberately didn’t look at Angelus as he said it. Playing the old poof was always a dangerous game but the mood Angelus was in at the moment it might be enough for Spike to state that something was impossible for Angelus to embrace it.

“You can’t believe how warm he is,” Angelus said dreamily. “You can smell it on him – life; feel the blood pumping under his skin.... And I owe the Watcher more than a corpse or someone else he has to stake.”

Spike darted another glance at Drusilla. She looked happy, being twirled around the place by Watcherboy while she hummed Strauss and he tripped over his feet and looked up at the cavernous ceiling of their ‘borrowed’ home as if it were the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen. If Angelus was planning to send another message to Giles, the previously tweedy and currently psycho Watcher, then Watcher Junior was going to need a lot more pills. Spike figured he had about four days supply and then reality was going to kick in and Angelus was going to lose his temper in a big way. “What are you planning?”

Angelus shrugged. “To have some fun....” And then he was slinking across the room to where Dru was trying to hold Watcherboy up while he made himself dizzy looking at the ceiling lights. He tapped Watcherboy on the shoulder. “Can I cut in?” The boy lurched around the wrong way, trying to see who was there, and Angelus casually grabbed him by the hair, said, “Go play with Uncle Spike” and threw Wesley at him.

Spike swore as the clumsy idiot fell across his knees before slithering to the ground. He shoved him off shortly, “Look where you’re falling, Watcherburger.”

“Can I have him as my own?” Dru pleaded with Angelus as he spun her out of a waltz and into a tango.

“This one’s mine, Dru,” Angelus purred at her as they tangoed across the room. “We can get you another one to play with seeing as Spike’s all broken and useless and can’t get it up for blood nor money.”

“I like this one. He’s pretty.”

Angelus glanced across at Watcherboy who was slowly moving into a sitting position, hindered by his fascination with Spike’s wheelchair. “Isn’t he though?” He raised his voice imperiously: “Feed him, Spike.”

“Are you taking the piss?” Spike demanded. “I don’t feed humans. I feed from them.”

“Just do it.” And there was that look from Angelus that still had the power to give him a bit of jolt; even though those days were long since gone when he was newly reborn and Angelus was this big bad scary showing him the ropes.

Muttering under his breath, Spike grabbed Watcherboy’s shirt and hauled him along behind his wheelchair to the place where he kept his stash of possessions. The boy sat where he was shoved, quite obediently, cross-legged and looking up at Spike in fascination.

“What?” Spike demanded.

“You changed your hair.” Watcherboy made vague hair-related motions with his finger; his own hair sticking up like a little kid’s as he did so.

“Some of us move with the times,” Spike returned.

Watcherboy frowned as he peered at him intently. “Isn’t that punk rock thing a bit…eighties?”

“This look is eternally cool and when I need advice on getting a make over from some tweedy brylcreemed little tosser like you I’ll let you know.” Spike shoved a bar of chocolate at him. “Eat this.” He felt the moment when Angelus’s attention was diverted by Dru and her wandering fingers; Angelus slipped his hands under her dress in response and Spike tried not to let it show how much it sickened him that anyone but him could touch her and she’d welcome it. There was a relationship between sire and child that no one else could understand, he knew that; it was part of why he loved her so completely; it was also unfortunately why she still loved Angelus.

Watcherboy was solemnly unwrapping his chocolate bar. “It’s not Cadbury’s,” he observed.

“It’s Hershey’s. You’re in America now, get used to it.”

Watcherboy sucked on his phallic chocolate bar in a way that was completely unselfconscious. Spike was momentarily distracted by the sight of his mouth working on the chocolate, that little lip lick as he tasted the chocolate curiously, and felt his groin twitch. Watcherboy continued to gaze up at him as if Spike was the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen. “Did you really kill two Slayers?”

It made a nice change to be looking down at someone after all those sitting at the bottom of a bloody well moments with Angelus he’d had to endure of late. Watcherboy was gazing up at him with absolutely no awareness of his ripped clothes, bruised skin, the smell of recent sex all over him, sucking away on that chocolate bar while inviting Spike to tell him about His Greatest Hits.

“Yeah.” Spike shifted a little uncomfortably. “One in the Boxer rebellion and one in the 70s.”

“Do you have a pen?”

Spike reached around on the debris of his table and then handed one over. “Here you go.”

“And some paper?”

Spike supplied it.

“Thank you.” Watcherboy looked up at him expectantly. “Can you tell me about killing the Slayers, please? It would be very useful for us to know about it.”

“Are you kidding me?”

Watcherboy frowned, looking between pen and paper and then back at Spike. “No, because we’re supposed to stop that happening, you see, and if we knew how you’d done it we might be able to in the future. Professor Graden always used to say that you could learn as much about military strategy from studying defeats as victories.”

“Go on, Spikey,” Angelus called across. “It is your only claim to fame. You may as well tell the one person on the planet who’d actually be impressed.” Then he was biting Drusilla’s neck and she was moaning and arching into the steady rhythm of his sucking and Spike was gripping the arm of his wheelchair so hard it almost splintered.

Under cover of telling Watcherboy about offing the Chinese bint in the Boxer rebellion, Spike sorted through his pills, trying to work out how few he could get away with. The painkillers were important as this boy was definitely too mind scrambled to reason right now; he only wasn’t going to struggle when Angelus was playing with him because it didn’t hurt so there was no reason for him not to stay relaxed, and given Angelus’s bedroom technique that meant a lot of painkillers. It was probably a huge novelty for Angelus to get to fuck a human who wasn’t screaming and bleeding all over the place while he was doing it. It had to be a very long time since he’d had sex with anyone who giggled because it ‘tickled’. He thought there was something deeply perverted about what Angelus was doing with the Watcher, all this snuggly-wuggly crap was just…sick. Raping and killing were honest in their way, but Angelus had always been twisted; Spike was just trying to anticipate his twists, for once, and so far it seemed to be working.

“Drink this.” He handed him the whisky bottle. Watcherboy made a face after the first sip and Spike glared at him, gripping his shoulder tightly. “Do as you’re told.”

Watcherboy gulped down the whisky, pulling a lot of faces as he did so, and then gasped, hissing: “We’re not allowed!”

Spike held him by the jaw and clamped the palm that contained the tablets across his mouth. “Swallow,” he ordered, turning into game face for emphasize. Watcherboy gazed into his yellow eyes, shocked, and obediently swallowed. Spike pushed the bottle back between his lips. “Now, drink.”

More grimacing, more swallowing, then reproachful blue eyes looking at him. “I’ll get a detention.”

“Not if you hand in this essay.” Spike changed back out of game face and tapped the piece of paper upon which Wesley had been scribbling. “You’ll get an ‘A’ for that.”

Watcherboy brightened and Spike kept telling him what had happened to those two Slayers while he diligently wrote it all down, although not in English, Spike noticed after a moment. “What language is that?”

“Code,” the Watcher explained. “Because what you’re telling me is top secret because it’s about Slayers and it can’t fall into the wrong hands.”

“Sweetheart....”

They both looked up to find Angelus smiling down at Watcherboy like a predator with a particularly tasty prey. “We are the wrong hands.”

Angelus casually yanked Spike’s wheelchair around and gave it a shove and then as Spike scrambled to spin his wheelchair back round to see what was going on, Angelus sank into a crouch in front of the big-eyed Watcher who looked up at him in the usual awe but with a hint of reproach. “William the Bloody was telling me about killing Slayers. He said I’d get an ‘A’.”

Angelus took the paper from the Watcher and looked at it. “Well, I doubt anything Spike tells you is going to be much use to anyone.” He crumpled the paper up and tossed it at Spike who could only grit his teeth as it bounced off his cheekbone. “You’ve got an essay to rewrite, remember?”

Watcherboy looked helplessly after his notes and then back at Angelus. “You gave me a ‘C’.”

Angelus grinned delightedly. “Well, I am a blood-sucking fiend.”

“But I’ve never got a ‘C’ before. A ‘B’ minus once but I had flu and there were special circumstances. I got an ‘A’ in the exam.” Watcherboy’s lower lip was practically quivering.

“Stop whining,” Angelus told him. “Rewrite it and maybe I’ll give you an ‘A’.”

Watcherboy brightened at that prospect, gazing up at Angelus with a lot more hope.

“Supposing I don’t decide to pull out your spine or skin you alive first,” Angelus shrugged.

Watcherboy looked up at him wide-eyed and Spike thought the chances of Angelus offing the human had probably just shrunk even more; no way was he going to give up the prospect of someone giving him the ‘but you’re really Angelus’ eyes fifteen times a day.

“I could rewrite it now,” Watcherboy offered meekly. “I can write very fast.”

It was Spike’s turn for his jaw to drop as Angelus reached out and ruffled the Watcher’s hair. “Good boy. Off you go.”

As Wesley scrambled off to the table where his folder on Angelus was still sitting, the vampire watched him go benevolently. “I’m thinking of adopting,” he announced.

“Still think you should eat him or turn him,” Spike muttered.

Angelus watched Watcherboy hunting around in his briefcase for pens and paper, then abruptly spun Spike’s wheelchair around, trying to make him dizzy, while Spike hung on grimly. When Angelus finally let it come to a stop, he grinned at Spike smugly. “You’re just jealous because you don’t have a pet human of your own to play with.”

“When I play with them they stay dead,” Spike retorted.

“But then how can they tell anyone what you did to them?” Angelus countered. As Dru slinked over to them, he wrapped his arms around her. “You like my pet, don’t you?”

“I love him.” She flexed her blood red fingernails. “So sweet and new. I bet he tastes like honey.”

Angelus stroked a finger across her mouth. “No tasting, Dru. He’s too breakable. We’re keeping this one whole. You look after him for me while I go and fetch us some supper. Don’t let mean old Spike eat his eyeballs. And I mean it about the no tasting.” He slipped a hand down her bodice and she giggled with pleasure. Spike closed his eyes and thought about Angelus burning alive, slowly if possible, before turning into a big pile of dust, the bastard.

 

Spike wasn’t sure what was the weirdest part about the rest of that day; the way Watcherboy could concentrate so diligently on his essay while in a vampire hideout or the way Angelus let him just get on with it. Even knowing the human was stuffed full of mind-altering drugs it still seemed pretty fucked up to him. Angelus went hunting and brought them a girl who was still warm; Spike and Dru drained her between them while Watcherboy cross-referenced like a…Watcher. He didn’t even notice her corpse arriving or leaving.

Angelus went hunting again and came back smelling of blood and satisfaction, the spattered death throes of a paramedic all over his shirt, and carrying a crate of refrigerated blood. Spike drank deeply and thought about how much he hated blood out of a bag, so different from a warm delicious meal that came directly from the vein, perfectly spiced with fear. But Dru clapped her hands and told Angelus how clever he was and insisted they had a picnic on the floor and that all her dolls should be invited.

Angelus wiped the blood from a pizza box with his sleeve, ordered Wesley to sit in the circle with them and tossed him the pizza. Watcherboy bemusedly examined the food and pronounced it cold and not the topping he liked best. Spike waited breathlessly for Angelus to snap the boy’s neck for insolence but Angelus only smiled indulgently and told him to eat up. Watcherboy managed one slice before his mind wandered but Spike guessed that was enough to keep him alive.

Then Angelus insisted they needed to do the laundry, reminding Spike of what a pernickety old poof he really was, always having to wash blood out of his shirts when everyone knew you just stole some more. “This is silk,” Angelus insisted when Spike pointed that out. He turned to the Watcherboy. “You know how to use a washing machine, don’t you?”

Watcherboy nodded and was sent off with an armful of clothes to do the washing. All the doors and windows were locked, so it wasn’t as if he could just leave, but Spike still thought Angelus was taking a risk. When he hadn’t come back after half an hour, Angelus strolled off to look for him and came back after about five minutes, leading him by the hand. “He was watching the clothes,” he explained, still indulgently.

“They went round and round,” Wesley explained.

Drusilla touched his nose with her fingertip. “I like that, too.”

“I like the red clothes best,” he added.

She beamed at him. “They’re mine.”

Angelus turned on him slowly while Spike waited for the inevitable mangling and screaming. “You put all the different colours in together?”

Watcherboy nodded. “Yes.”

Angelus hit him with casual brutality, smacking him into the nearest wall, and, as he crumpled and slid down it, turned to look at Spike and Drusilla. “You just can’t get the help these days.”

“He’s a fuckin’ loony tune,” Spike pointed out. “What do you expect?”

“He’s trainable.” Angelus reached out and grabbed the dazed Watcher by the collar and yanked him back to his feet, intoning clearly: “Wash. Dark. Colours. Separately.”

Spike said: “Does this mean you’ve got pink underwear now because if so I’m buying the little tit a drink.”

Wesley was feeling his aching face tentatively, looking at the blood from his bleeding mouth which was now on his sleeve in some confusion. He looked up at Angelus in shock. “You hit me.”

Angelus pointed at himself. “Scourge of Europe, remember?”

Watcherboy continued to give Angelus reproachful looks from under his girly eyelashes, a hint of a pout around his pretty mouth, but for some reason instead of ripping his throat out, Angelus just spun him around, patted him on the ass indulgently, gave him a shove, and told him to go and give Miss Edith some pizza.

While Angelus danced with Drusilla to some more of her mental mood music, Spike managed to shove a few more pills and a couple more gulps of whisky down the boy’s throat before Angelus hauled him off to show him some more of the games vampires could play in the bedroom. In a few minutes the Watcher was singing that alto line again and he shook his head in disbelief. Fifteen decades of raping and torturing and Angelus decided now was the time to introduce a guy to his prostate gland.

“Daddy likes new things.” Drusilla wrapped her arms around Spike’s neck and sat on his lap.

“Never thought he’d get bored with listening to people screaming.” Spike kissed her and marvelled at it all over again, how much he loved her, how she was everything to him; how he only existed because of her.

Drusilla put her head on one side to listen. “It’s almost like screaming.”

“I didn’t know a bloke’s voice could go that high.”

“He doesn’t understand.” Drusilla began to sway backwards and forwards on Spike’s lap. “Doesn’t know why things are feeling all warm and tingly in his tummy.”

“Don’t think it’s his tummy Angelus is exploring right now, pet.”

“He thinks it’s to do with the wallpaper. He thinks it’s funny.”

A giggle from the room confirmed the still scary accuracy of her fragmentary powers.

“Angelus doesn’t know why he thinks it’s funny. He doesn’t know whether to spank him for being a naughty boy for not screaming or make him laugh some more.”

Hysterical giggling from behind the door seemed to settle that one. Spike shook his head in disbelief. “Angelus is in there…tickling his little human pet?”

Drusilla beamed at him and confided in a whisper: “I can control him with my super mind powers.”

“If you say so, love.”

Drusilla kissed Spike tenderly and whispered in his ear. “I know he saves you. If he isn’t there to save you, they’ll stake you. We have to keep him alive, Spikey. Have to save him from Daddy.”

“Daddy’s going to eat him, pet,” Spike pointed out. “Sooner or later, it’s going to happen.”

“He loves Daddy. I see it.”

“Then Angelus must turn him.”

She shook her head. “Wants him warm, always. Wants to keep him breakable. Daddy loves him. But only if Daddy doesn’t eat him first.”

Spike tried to make sense of what she was telling him. He could understand the snugglefest she was seeing taking place if Angelus turned the Watcher into his youngest child, and if it stopped Angelus putting his hands all over his Dru because he was playing with the new boy instead Spike had no problem with that. But, however addled the Watcher’s mind was from a combination of shock, drugs, and booze, he couldn’t see him falling in love with the Scourge of Europe while still in possession of a soul.

Dru’s eyes widened. “Daddy’s going to kill him very soon. But then he won’t be there to save you, just a stain on the floor and all quiet and you taken from me.” She gripped his shoulders. “Can’t lose you, Spike. You’re mine. They said I could have something of my own.”

“You’ve got me and I’m not going anywhere,” Spike insisted.

“Going straight to hell if we can’t save the boy from Daddy.”

He gazed into her eyes and saw that disconcerting sanity that occasionally peeked out from behind the madness. She was probably right. She never saw the whole picture and she couldn’t always explain what she saw but she certainly had the Sight. Not for the first time he had a terrible pang for the way things had been, when they were a family, Darla and Angelus the psychotic parents, and he and Dru the crazy happy children. They had ripped their way through Europe, dancing from massacre to slaughter, the air thick with blood and screaming; and life had been one long beautiful party. Everything ruined by Angelus and his abandonment of them.

“Wish the old wanker would just fuck off again,” Spike muttered.

Drusilla gave him a look of reproach, resting her forehead against his. “You’re a bad grandchild.”

“Love you, pet, not him. Always love you.” He closed his eyes as he felt the chill perfection of his skin against his.

“We have to save the little Watcher,” she whispered tenderly in his ear.

“Kept him alive this long, haven’t we?”

“Need to give him back before Daddy breaks him.”

“Give him back?” He imagined trying to send a Watcher via parcel post to England. “Where?”

“Give him back to the other one like him. The handsome one with all the books.”

Spike looked at her in disbelief. “You think the Slayer’s poncy Watcher is handsome?”

“Eyes like emeralds, he has. Ever so handsome.”

“Remind me to kill him next time I see him,” Spike protested, aggrieved.

“The boy’s handsome too. He has brown eyes like Daddy. Did a naughty spell to make me want him. Still do....” She licked her lips, swaying again, and Spike could feel how aroused she was; he hoped it was sitting on his lap making her horny and not thoughts of Xander Harris, Rupert the Librarian, or freaking Angelus.

I’m handsome,” Spike reminded her.

She kissed him hard and then bit him harder, sucking the blood from his neck and then he didn’t care who Angelus killed or when or how as long as he didn’t interrupt them.

***

Part Four

Wesley knew that Angelus was very, very dangerous. He had done lots of very bad things. There had been pictures of some of them, and lots of eye-witness accounts. Well, not exactly eye-witness accounts of the things that had been done, more of the aftermath when people broke into the house and found everyone in it dead, or people started to wonder why they hadn’t heard from the next village in a while and went over there to find the two vampire plague that was Angelus and Darla had been paying house calls. But as well as being very, very dangerous, he was very famous and very important because he was of the Order of Aurelius and, according to Mr Giles from Sunnydale’s reports, the Master – who was Angelus’s grandsire – had already almost risen once from beyond the grave. So, he did think he would be failing in his duties as a Watcher – or assistant Watcher as he was technically at the moment – if he didn’t use this opportunity to ask Angelus lots of questions about his life.

Angelus didn’t seem to mind Wesley asking him questions. He actually seemed to like it, leaning back in his chair and spreading his legs so that it was quite difficult for Wesley not to look at that very large bulge which showed all the way through the black leather trousers he was wearing.

Writing was a little difficult because of the trails – which were still pretty but also a little bit difficult to work with – as he was never sure exactly where his hand was or his pen or if what he was writing was in the right place on the paper. But Angelus had been quite cooperative about finding a tape recorder for him and demonstrating that those reports about vampires not being recordable on any video or audio devices was quite untrue.

Every now and then he would become aware of being in some kind of cloud bank that might be about to clear. His hands would lose their vapour trail, and his ribs and jaw and cheekbone and arms and legs and wrists and ankles and back and…base of his back would all start to ache, and then Drusilla would pull him into a dance and he would find himself stumbling around the room trying to hear some music she promised him was playing and gazing into her eyes, unable to look anywhere else while she told him that he wanted to do whatever Angelus told him, anything at all, he wanted to make him happy, make him love him, because Angelus was the only Daddy he had now and he could make him proud, he really could, but he had to do what he was told. And it was strange because he knew perfectly well that Angelus was not a good role model at all or someone whose opinion he cared about except that he would rather on the whole that the vampire did not horribly torture and mutilate him before ripping his throat out and draining his blood, but after looking into Drusilla’s eyes he always wanted to do what Angelus told him. It felt very peaceful and quiet and right to do what he said. He would feel quite calm, and somehow, after dancing with Drusilla, he would always end up being alone with Spike while Angelus danced with Drusilla. He didn’t like Spike very much. He was always making him eat things and drink things that tasted nasty, but vampires were, when all was said and done, quite scary, and when Spike went into his vampire face he was very scary and very ugly and Wesley found it was safest to just do what he said.

But after that everything would get very fuzzy indeed and he would find it impossible to hold a pen or concentrate on what he was writing, and everything was funny too, and quite ticklish, and his body felt a long way away from him, which was sometimes probably a very good thing because some of the things that Angelus did to his body while he watched from what felt like quite a long way away were very rude. There was one thing that Angelus did with his buzzing thing with the batteries that made him gasp and his voice get very…high and Angelus seemed to like it when he did that and Wesley’s body seemed to like it too as it would get all warm and tingly and excitable. Angelus did the same thing quite often, sometimes with the buzzing thing with the batteries, and sometimes with his fingers or his…private parts or a thing like the buzzing thing but that didn’t buzz, and sometimes it felt good and sometimes Wesley felt as if he probably didn’t like it at all, as far as he could tell, but nothing really hurt or didn’t hurt; it was just all sensation and not even necessarily happening to him.

Angelus seemed very interested in Wesley, which was odd, because on the whole no one was very interested in Wesley. He wanted to know everything Wesley knew about him and he also wanted to know lots of things about Wesley, about his parents and whether or not they had been nice to him, and his school, and the older boys at his school, and strange men in parks, and especially to do with whether or not people had touched him in certain places before Angelus had. Wesley was strictly truthful because Drusilla had told him it would be very silly to lie to Angelus and would probably earn him a spanking and he was much too old to be spanked but he didn’t think that would stop Angelus as he was a vampire and they had different rules, so he told Angelus the truth about no one having touched him in any of the places that Angelus liked to touch him ever before, and that made Angelus very happy.

When Angelus was happy he made a purring sort of noise and liked to play with Wesley for hours and hours, although the games all seemed to involve them being in the bedroom together and Wesley probably being tied up and the buzzing thing and the fingers and the private parts all doing very rude but oddly non-painful and occasionally even oddly pleasurable things. There was also tickling. Wesley was very ticklish which was something else that made Angelus happy. He liked the way Wesley curled up, he said, and the noise he made when he couldn’t snatch another breath. Angelus liked stopping him breathing. He did that quite often too; holding him by the throat and squeezing tighter and tighter while his private parts did their oddly non-painful and occasionally even oddly pleasurable things to Wesley’s body. Wesley passed out quite often; which was an even odder sensation where a swooshing noise in his ears got louder and louder while tingling sensations went up his spine and occasionally erupted between his legs until everything went black. Then he would wake up to find Angelus purring and nibbling or licking him and telling him that Wesley was a natural. He wasn’t sure what he was a natural at, but it seemed to be something that was depraved and sluttish and that he should be proud of.

Angelus did hurt him sometimes and it was always a surprise because he could be very tender and full of praise but then Wesley would find himself smacked into a wall or hit very hard with a fist or a belt and would have no idea what he’d done wrong. A couple of times Angelus hit him over and over, but there was always a fluttering of Drusilla and a wheeling forward of Spike after that and then a debate and then he would be picked up and dusted off and Dru would tell him not to cry and Angelus would ruffle his hair or lick off the blood from Wesley’s latest injury and everything would be okay again. Well, as okay as anything could be when everything was always smearing and fuzzy around the edges and left vapour trails and everyone talked as if they were underwater and there were dead bodies around sometimes that weren’t even vampires and so didn’t walk or talk, and Angelus made him lick blood from his fingers, which he didn’t like because it tasted salty, or Angelus told him his essay still wasn’t right and made him write it again.

Today he had taken tea with Drusilla’s dolls and been told all about them and the things they had seen, and had thought it might be a good idea to interview them, which would have worked very well, he thought, as they had travelled with Drusilla and Spike for decades, but unfortunately they didn’t talk so Drusilla had to tell him what they’d seen and she wasn’t always very easy to understand. But she was certainly always interesting and he liked her best. She told him a lot of very dreadful things, but with everything so far away and misty and muffled and not really happening to him they didn’t feel as dreadful as they sounded so he just wrote it all down and thought that he would pass it onto someone who wasn’t quite so confused and remote from their body as he was, and they would probably know what to do about finding the bodies and notifying the parents and so on.

Then Spike had tried to get him to swallow the horrible pills again and he had tried, he really had, but he had brought some of them back up, and some of the whisky back up too, which had burned both ways, and then Angelus had come and grabbed him and said they were going to bed now and not to wait up for them.

Angelus liked to talk and talk sometimes, especially when they were in bed together. Wesley supposed it was ‘pillow talk’, which he had heard of but never experienced before. He didn’t know if it was normal for people to talk about whom they had killed and how long they had taken to die when they were in bed with you but he suspected it probably wasn’t. Normal or not, Angelus did it all the time. He told Wesley all about killing someone called Jenny Calendar because she had found the incantation for putting his soul back and he couldn’t have that, and leaving her body for Giles, and Wesley remembered that he had met Giles, or at least he had dreamt that he had met him. He concentrated quite hard and remembered seeing the sign for ‘Sunnydale High’ which was where Giles worked as a librarian, or pretended to be a librarian while really being a Watcher, and he had dragged his very heavy trunk along a very long corridor and entered a library that seemed very small compared with the one at the Council Headquarters. There had been several people there whose names he couldn’t remember now. A pretty red-headed girl had shaken his hand and there had been the Slayer who had been…tetchy because.... For some important reason. Something to do with....

“Angelus!”

The vampire purred again. “Didn’t you like me doing that?”

“I think that girl knew you.”

“What girl?” Angelus licked his chest and Wesley giggled because it really tickled.

Wesley was still giggling because he could feel the saliva all cool and still tickly on his skin. A hand closed over his groin and he gulped.

“Wesley....” That was Angelus’s warning voice. “Answer the question or I’ll rip out your testicles and make you swallow them.”

Usually when Angelus said things like that, he thought it was funny, but now he felt a sinking feeling that was very like fear, which he didn’t enjoy at all, and answered quickly: “The girl in the library who wasn’t the one with red hair.”

“Buffy.” Angelus smiled a very nasty smile.

Wesley gazed at his teeth and thought about all those descriptions he had read of Angelus doing very bad things. “When were you in Paris again? Was it September or November?” He looked around for a pen and was surprised to find that the wallpaper wasn’t moving now and the ceiling seemed relatively stable.

Angelus looked at him quite benevolently. “Tell me about meeting Buffy and I’ll tell you what I did to those people in Paris.”

“She said it was her fault you were Angelus and I should shut up. Was it really just you and Darla because Professor Aitken said he didn’t think it was very likely that you were travelling by yourselves at that point?”

“It was just me and Darla.” Angelus stroked a finger across Wesley’s mouth. “Bad Buffy telling you to shut up. I like all the noises you make, Wesley. Do you want to make some more for me?”

Wesley gazed up into suddenly yellow eyes. “Does it hurt when you do that?”

Angelus smiled through a mouth that seemed to have twice as many teeth in it. “It doesn’t hurt me. Sometimes hurts other people though.”

Wesley touched the brow ridge curiously. His fingers had stopped leaving vapour trails and for the first time when he touched Angelus he could tell it was the vampire’s face being touched by his finger. That was a first. His body was actually feeling attached to him now. It ached quite a lot in many different places. “Is it for protection? Do the bones actually move? Do you think it evolved over a long period of time or was it a demonic characteristic from the start? Can you feel it change?” It suddenly occurred to him that the fangs looked very big and very sharp and they were very close to his neck and he gulped.

Suddenly his body felt odd, wrong; he was abruptly breathless, weight on what was possibly his chest or his back, or weight on his chest pressing his back down onto the bed.

“How does this feel, Wesley?” Angelus enquired.

The white noise happened again; very loud this time and he gasped and whimpered and his legs felt odd, and breathing was difficult, and he felt as if he were sinking and spinning at the same time. He thought there was a hand on his thigh, and when he concentrated he realized that he could tell the difference between his skin and the hard cool grip that was Angelus’s fingers bruising him. It hurt and he didn’t like it. He was touching Angelus’s chest which was smooth and cool and hard to the touch. And then there was a very strong stretching sensation which was definitely unpleasant and made him feel as if he was being turned inside out, and he gasped and tried to move but nothing cooperated and he found he was still in the same place. And then he was being hurt and he whimpered and Angelus smiled, and he felt stretched and bruised and breathless, and whimpered louder, and Angelus laughed, and then the painful thing happened over and over and he felt as if he was being crushed and there was no breath in his body and he wanted to struggle but he couldn’t remember how, and there was the sound of something making a slap-slap-slapping noise and he remembered how to twist and tried it and Angelus threw back his head and howled with pleasure. Then the slap-slap-slapping got louder and he could feel his body now, feel the different parts and how they were being bruised over and over and over and he wanted it to stop and started to struggle and cry out and a hand closed around his throat and he couldn’t breath and there were white lights going off in front of him and everything went black and when he came around again the weight wasn’t on him and someone was hammering on the door and Angelus was snarling: “What now?”

Angelus got off the bed and strode to the door, naked, and Wesley saw his private parts and how big they were and wondered how he could have seen them so many times before and not been afraid of them when he was so afraid of them now; afraid of Angelus’s thick, ugly, blood-filled erection, and his big meaty preternaturally strong hands, and his curving teeth and his hunger for blood, and his heart started to hammer, just the way Angelus had told him he liked hearts to hammer before he ripped them out, and he realized he was going to die as soon as Angelus came back to the bed and started raping him again, because that was what Angelus had been doing, he realized that now. They hadn’t been talking and playing a game that involved giggling while Wesley thought the wallpaper was funny and the way the ceiling moved was fascinating; he had been lying here like a particularly stupid starfish letting Angelus probe and prod and bloody well fuck him.

Angelus yanked open the door and said: “What?” And then something hit him very hard and he fell out of Wesley’s sight and Wesley craned upwards in confusion and realized that his wrists were tied to the bed, and then Drusilla and Spike stepped over Angelus and came into the room and Drusilla put a finger across her lips and said: “Hush.”

Wesley hushed, but mostly because although his mouth was opening and closing he couldn’t manage to get any words out. These two were evil serial killers, he did remember that, although in the case of Drusilla she was also a tragic victim of a terrible crime by an entity a hundred times more evil than her. But as he remembered that was what they were, Spike was yanking at the ropes around his wrist and Drusilla was shaking a finger at Angelus’s supine form and saying: “Bad Daddy!”

And then Spike said to Drusilla, “This would be a damned sight easier if Watcherboy was unconscious too....”

Wesley had just opened his mouth to protest when something hit him on the jaw and white light exploded in his head.

***

Buffy knew that Giles hadn’t slept. The signs were easy enough to recognize because she hadn’t slept either. Giles was, if the truth were told, pretty much a basketcase. After Jenny’s death he had gone brittle and angry and his eyes had looked old, almost overnight, and she’d realized how young he had looked before, but this had crushed him, as if he had no fight left to deal with this, just this frantic searching which was the only thing stopping him from collapsing. She was almost afraid to find Wesley’s body, even though at least then the horror of thinking of him being tortured all the time would be over and they would know the worst. But she was afraid the only thing keeping Giles going at the moment was the search and when that ended there would be…nothing. Because it was their fault. There was nothing she could say to console him when Giles murmured the words she was also always thinking. They had sent Wesley out to wait for them because he was too shiny and new and enthusiastic and untouched and they had lost people they loved and they weren’t in the mood for innocence. And he had paid the price they had wished on him. They had wanted him to know what it was like to live on a Hellmouth and to look into the place where the soulless kept their hunger and thanks to them he had found out.

They were both sure it was Angelus, even though he hadn’t sent them a note yet, or a finger, or an artfully arranged corpse, it was just so much the kind of thing he would do.

Several times a day they told each other that of course the world didn’t revolve around Angelus. There were plenty of other vampires in Sunnydale. When they weren’t doing that Willow or Xander were doing it for them. Oz hadn’t wasted breath on pointless statements like that, he was just with Willow all the time, every minute when she wasn’t actually in her house to which Angel’s invitation had been revoked and she was therefore technically safe. He was watchful and quiet, as always, but also edgy, all of them edgy as they waited for what felt like an agonisingly slow countdown to reach zero. Zero was when they found Wesley and knew there was no more hope because he was now a corpse or a vampire or technically both.

Every time Buffy closed her eyes she saw the new assistant Watcher standing in the doorway trying to get up the courage to speak to them, all new and shiny and hoping they’d like him. Then she would flinch and open her eyes and see that look on Giles’s face and know he was thinking exactly the same thing.

They had been all over the factory, searching for hidden cellars, secret passageways, anywhere in that burning ruin where vampires might be hiding out. Then they had started searching other warehouses and factories, night and day, realizing as they did so just how big Sunnydale was and how small one person became, even a person six feet tall, when you were trying to find him and the person who had taken him didn’t want him to be found.

They had been searching all day again today. Cordelia had joined them. She had said something a few days before about letting Buffy clear up her own messes for a change and then yesterday she had walked into the library and found Buffy crying and Willow trying to comfort her and she had looked as shocked as if someone had slapped her, and when they had geared up for another search she had been waiting for them in the corridor saying she didn’t have anything better to do anyway and she would be on Xander’s team.

Then when it got dark they had gone to Giles’ place so they could do the usual phone around of lying to everyone’s parents about where they were spending the evening. Cordelia had just suggested that maybe if Oz sniffed some of Wesley’s clothes from his suitcase he could track him that way and Xander had looked aghast and Buffy had murmured that sometimes Cordelia amazed even her and Oz had said simply that his super werewolf tracking powers actually only worked for Willow, and then he and Willow had kissed pretty sappily and Buffy had thought about Angel and it had been all she could do not to start crying again.

Giles had just said very tautly: “Shall we get on?” when there was the thumping on the door they had all subconsciously been waiting for.

Buffy dug her fingernails into her palms and looked across at Giles. It felt like the end of hope and the only question was if there was going to be a whole body out there or…parts. She wondered dully if there was going to be videotape; Angelus embracing the technology of the modern era as he let her and Giles know just how very long it had taken the new arrival to die.

Giles picked up a stake and no one said anything as he went to the door. Willow opened her mouth to say something which Buffy was sure would have been about being careful but then closed it again as Giles yanked open the door. Buffy looked at him, just at him, at his hair, and the ear piece of his glasses, and his reflection in the mirror that was right by the door, so she could learn the truth filtered through his reaction to it. So she saw him look and flinch and knew Wesley was outside the door and then saw Giles frown and step forward and Oz say: “It could be a trap.”

Xander said breathlessly, “In the war they rigged up boobytraps in people.”

But Giles had already stepped outside and Buffy was running after him, which was when she saw Wesley, who was slumped in a wheelchair, wrapped in a blanket, with his briefcase and a carrier bag hung from the top of it. The carrier bag said ‘Sunnydale Pizzas. We deliver to your door.’ She remembered a pizza delivery boy had gone missing again. They often went missing. It was one of the many high risk jobs in Sunnydale that didn’t pay danger money. She was afraid to look at Wesley in case he was dead.

Giles said: “He’s breathing.”

“Not dead,” Willow gasped. “He’s not dead.”

“Or undead,” Xander held the door open wider.

Buffy just watched as Giles grabbed the wheelchair and wheeled Wesley into the house and then Buffy was closing the door and putting across every lock and every bolt even though it wasn’t necessary because no vampire could cross the threshold without an invitation anyway, but perhaps it was as much about keeping Wesley in so he couldn’t just wander off and get himself caught again. She realized she was very angry with him about that now that he was back and alive and please God whole and she would tell him never ever ever to do that again if he was still capable of comprehending human speech; right after she had hugged him and gone down on her knees and given thanks that she didn’t have someone else’s blood on her hands.

Cordelia tactlessly said to Oz: “So, is he bleeding?”

And Buffy didn’t even protest, just looked at Oz too and he said, “Not really.” And she gasped with relief.

She stumbled after them to find Giles crouched down by the man in the wheelchair, gently turning his head to the light and she saw the bruise on his jaw that explained why he was unconscious. Xander switched on all the lights in the living room so they could see him better and Buffy saw there were a lot of bruises on his forehead and cheekbones and that livid one on his jaw, and a few cuts, and, when Xander breathlessly checked, he had bruises all round his wrists but he had all of his fingers, every single one.

Giles seemed to be thinking the same way, tilting his head back and lifting his eyelids very carefully and then feeling his neck before darting a quick look at her. “He appears to be…unconscious, presumably from a blow.” He touched his jaw gently. “This looks the most recent and would certainly be enough to lay anyone out.”

“So we take him to the hospital, right?” Xander was already picking up the phone. “Get him checked out?”

“It’s a public building,” Buffy said at once. “Vampires can enter hospitals. Angelus can....”

Giles grimaced. “Let’s check if he really needs medical attention....”

Xander said, “Giles, I think we all know he didn’t just take off for a few days because he had a hot date. If he’s been partying with vampires then the chances are that he needs to be in a hospital. We can always keep guard outside his room.”

Giles pulled back the blanket wrapped around Wesley and then hastily folded it back again.

“What is it?” Buffy sprang forward. “They cut out his heart, didn’t they? Or....” She had a sudden horrible thought about what they might have cut off. She could imagine Angelus doing that and then keeping the victim alive afterwards so he had to go through life maimed and no longer entirely a man. “Oh god, Angelus didn’t cut off....”

“No, he’s quite…intact. He’s just not…wearing anything,” Giles said awkwardly.

“Oh.” She took a step back. “That’s.... So, what do we…?”

Giles turned to Xander. “I think perhaps you and I had better see if we can get him into bed and take a look at him. I can call a doctor to attend to him here if it appears to be necessary.”

“I still think we should take him to the hospital but if you, as an uptight British guy, would rather manhandle a naked colleague than risk him being snatched by Angelus again, I bow to your superior paranoia.”

“I’ll help.” Oz stepped forward, too, and then Buffy had to watch as Wesley was wheeled into the little study room next to the sitting room that Giles had made into a guest room for Wesley with such an ill grace all those lifetimes ago. She imagined the three of them awkwardly lifting Wesley onto the bed and covering him up with Giles’s second-best duvet, and then realized they wouldn’t just do that. They would be checking for injuries while Wesley was unconscious and couldn’t get embarrassed and there were no girls looking on, because when it came to naked Watchers she was apparently not the Slayer any more, but just someone of the gender that didn’t get to look at them. And she was grateful to them for that; for letting her be the girl here for a moment because if Angelus had carved or burned his initials on Wesley somewhere she didn’t want to see it.

“We should make tea,” Willow said. “Giles will need tea and Wesley, if – when – he wakes up, he’ll need tea too.”

“They must have done something to him,” Cordelia said thoughtfully. “Probably something…fiendish that doesn’t leave marks. Because otherwise there wouldn’t be any point in taking him and then giving him back, so....” She noticed Buffy and Willow’s expressions and said: “What? You must have been thinking it too.”

“Maybe they gave him back because they…had a change of heart....” Willow swallowed. “Maybe they…were going somewhere else and they didn’t have room for him in their Demonmobile.”

There was an awkward silence as Cordelia looked between them and then said: “Yeah, sure, that works.” What made it worse was that she wasn’t being sarcastic but just trying to make them feel better.

They made tea and then sat there and watched it cool and Cordelia ate some cookies and when Buffy looked at her, said “What?” and then Willow sipped her tea nervously and finally the door opened and Giles, Xander and Oz came out looking grim but not so grim that Wesley was going to die in five minutes or anything and Buffy rose to her feet and said, “Well?”

Xander, Giles and Oz all failed to make any kind of eye contact with one another and then Giles took off his glasses to say: “Well, he seems to be unconscious from a blow to the jaw as we surmised, but he doesn’t appear to have any life-threatening injuries, just some cuts and bruises. He seems to have been tied up – he has bruising on his wrists – and he’s certainly a little dehydrated but there are no bites and I think he’s going to be okay – physically, that is.”

“What about mentally?” Buffy demanded.

“Too early to say,” Giles admitted. “He may been subjected to some kind of spell or curse. I think it’s a case of waiting until he wakes up and then…seeing how he is.”

“So he could be completely whacko then?” Cordelia enquired. As everyone looked at her, she said: “What? Just because none of you have the guts to say it doesn’t mean you’re not all thinking it. Why would the vampires give him back unless they were done with him and why would they be done with him unless they’d drunk all his blood – which they haven’t, or killed him – which they haven’t, or done something to him so horrible that they want us to work out what it is?”

“Or another reason that we can’t think of at the moment,” Willow retorted fiercely, looking at Buffy with anxious eyes.

“Why don’t you all go home and get some sleep?” Giles suggested. “I can take care of Wesley tonight and you can come around tomorrow and see how he is.”

Buffy made to protest but Giles gave her a gentle look. “This may not be over but either way he’s here, he’s safe, he’s alive, and there’s really nothing more you can do for him tonight. With Angelus out there, we all need to be as alert as possible and you, as the Slayer, need to be more alert than any of us, so, Buffy, as your Watcher, I am asking you to please get a good night’s sleep.” Giles’s eyes looked tired but kind and she could see relief in them as well as sadness that wasn’t all about Jenny. She wondered how he could do that, warm and chill her in the same moment.

She nodded. “Okay. Call if you need anything. Guys, let me walk you to your car, just in case....”

No one needed to hear the ‘A’ word to know what that ‘just in case’ referred to. As they walked outside, she took Xander’s sleeve and said, “Tell me. Please, Xander, please. I need to know.”

Xander looked at her sideways and said: “Buff, he looks okay. He’s got a lot of bruises and a few cuts and welts. He’s been smacked around a little. Apart from that he seems…intact, just like Giles said.”

“There’s something you’re not telling me.” She could see it in his face and it was in Oz too. The way Xander and Oz weren’t looking at each other, hadn’t looked at each other, she now realized, as they came out of that little room; Giles hadn’t either, they’d all been very careful not to make any kind of eye contact.

“If there was,” Xander also said that very quietly and very carefully, “there would probably be a good reason for it that had nothing to do with you and everything to do with Wesley being entitled to some privacy.” He met her eye then and added: “Don’t you think that when a guy gets delivered to the doorstep of people he barely even knows wearing nothing but a blanket and some bruises that he has an extra need for privacy?”

She stepped back because there was something very…grown up about Xander right now, and he had his fist clenched in that way he did when he was shocked and angry and trying not to show it anywhere else. She nodded. “Yes, I do.”

He nodded back. “Okay then. See you back here tomorrow at ten a.m. and fingers crossed Wesley is awake by then and can tell us what…we’re up against.”

They said their goodbyes and Buffy went home feeling mostly relieved. Almost entirely relieved, in fact, and thinking about how she might actually be able to sleep tonight because, whatever else he was, Wesley was alive, and had all his limbs and fingers and toes and internal organs and skin and both eyes and ears and his tongue, at least she assumed Giles had checked that he still had his tongue. She explained to her mother that they’d decided against studying at Willow’s in the end because they were just so tired and she was just going to turn in. But as soon as she was in her room she snatched up the phone and called Giles who said wearily: “Buffy, he’s still unconscious” before she’d even opened her mouth.

For once she didn’t care about being predictable. “Did you check to see if he still has a tongue?”

Giles paused only for a moment before saying: “Yes, actually, and he does.”

“I just thought… Angelus likes to....”

“Try to get some sleep, Buffy. Wesley’s alive and in – ”

“One piece. I know. I’ve been telling myself that and I just wish I could stop wondering why he’s in one piece. It’s like I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“I know. But you still need your sleep.”

“What about you?” she asked gently. “Don’t you need your sleep?”

“I – um – I think I need to sit up with Wesley for a while....”

He sounded so close to tears that she felt them spring into her own eyes, thinking of Jenny and Angel, Angel, Angel, who was gone now, and she wasn’t allowed to mourn when it was his face and his hands and his body and oh god, his body, that was why Giles and Xander and Oz had looked like that, so sad and so angry and so shocked, and why Xander had just grown up in front of her, because Wesley was older than them and it could have been them, so easily, but it had been Wesley and he was going to have to live with it when he woke up. Giles, of course, was living with it right now.

“Giles, it wasn’t your fault,” Buffy gasped out. “Anything that was…done to Wesley by – by Angelus, it wasn’t your fault.”

“I think it was my fault, Buffy, a little.” Giles sounded sad and regretful; a sigh in his voice. “And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to undo what I did to contribute towards Wesley being captured but I can take care of him now that he’s free again and I intend to do that.”

“Try to get some sleep,” she whispered.

“Soon,” he promised, but she knew he meant not that night, because that night he was going to watch over Wesley and probably tell him how sorry he was.

“I’m sorry too,” she breathed.

“He wasn’t your responsibility. He was mine,” Giles told her gently. “I’m just grateful he’s still alive. Now do try to sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She put down the phone after saying her muted ‘Goodnight’ and then laid her head on the pillow, looking at the open window and thinking about Angel appearing right there and her being unkind to him and telling him he’d disturbed a really good dream, even though it was a nightmare. “I’m sorry....” she whispered and she couldn’t have said herself if she was apologising to Angel for her part in turning him into Angelus or apologising to Wesley for what Angelus had done to him. She just knew she was more sorry than she could ever say.

***

Part Five

Giles woke with a jolt, blinking from the low lamplight he had left on so that Wesley wouldn’t awaken in the dark, and wincing from the painful crick in his neck. He fumbled for his glasses and then peered down at the man on the bed who also blinked in first-waking confusion and then focused on him.

“Wesley…?” Giles collected himself. “You’re safe, Wesley. Do you remember me?”

Wesley squinted at him. “Mr – Giles…?”

“That’s right. You’re in my house.”

Wesley put a hand up to his jaw and then his neck. “Am I…human…?”

“Yes. You have a heartbeat and a reflection.” Giles reached for the hand mirror he’d put ready for exactly this eventuality and held it in front of Wesley.

The younger man tentatively touched the bruises on his face, squinting at his reflection, and then gave Giles a look of relief. “Thank you.”

Giles opened his mouth to ask him how he was and then faltered. “Would you – like a cup of tea?”

He half expected the younger man to either start talking in tongues or to tell him not to be such a fucking idiot but Wesley brightened. “Yes, please, that would be lovely.”

Giles paused in the doorway. “Was it…? It was vampires that took you…?”

“Angelus,” Wesley supplied, bizarrely enough, without a shudder. “He’s quite the character, isn’t he?”

Thinking that was probably the understatement of the century, Giles went into the kitchen and began to make tea. As he did so, he could see the contents of the carrier bag that had been on the back of Wesley’s wheelchair which he had spread out on the coffee table. Some very ripped and stained clothing. A dissertation on Angelus which had been annotated by someone Giles very much feared was its subject, several rewrites of that dissertation in a scrawling incoherent hand, a tape recorder, several tapes labelled in the same weird straggling handwriting that had rewritten the dissertation, and a paper bag, containing several pills, on which had been written in a third person’s handwriting: ‘If he freaks give him these’.

He helped Wesley to sit up, and then handed him his tea, sipping his own awkwardly as Wesley gulped down one cupful in seconds. He made him another and then another and then Wesley sat back and looked at him apologetically. “Sorry. Thirsty. Alcohol, I suppose. You wouldn’t happen to have any aspirin, would you? I think I’ve been hungover for the best part of a week.”

“Of course.” Bewildered but eager to do anything to make the younger man feel better, Giles fetched him yet more tea and some extra strength Tylenol.

“Would it be all right if I…?” Wesley had swallowed the pills and finished his tea and now pulled the sheet up a little higher. “I’d really like a bath.”

“Of course….” Giles repeated automatically. “Are you able to…manage…?”

“I think so.” Wesley tentatively climbed out of bed, pulling the sheet around himself modestly, and swaying a little. He put a hand up to his head. “Yes, a bit dizzy, but not serious, I don’t think. Perhaps if I leave the door open…?”

“Yes, yes, do that.” Giles hovered around him anxiously as he showed Wesley where the bathroom was, told him that he would find him some of his own clothes from his suitcase and put them out for him. The younger man gave him a reassuring smile that looked odd against his bruised cheekbone and jaw.

“You’re sure you’re…?” Giles didn’t know quite how to phrase it.

Wesley paused in the act of disappearing into the bathroom and looked over his shoulder. “I’ll let you know,” he said.

And then Giles heard the sound of the water running and sat down rather heavily on the couch wondering if Wesley could possibly be as sane and undamaged as he appeared given Angelus’s reputation, not to mention those…bruises that he was quite sure Xander and Oz had seen as clearly as him. And not just bruises, those creamy flakes of dried…substance on his buttocks and the backs of his thighs which certainly seemed to suggest that something extremely unpleasant had been done to Wesley while he was a prisoner of the most notoriously sadistic vampire in the annals of Council history.

 

The day took on a strange dreamlike quality from then on. All those days and nights of anxiety, remembering Angelus’s previous crimes, pictures and descriptions of the most appalling atrocities, remembering Jenny lying dead in his bed with her neck broken, and no sleep for so many nights that Giles wasn’t sure if he was awake or sleep half the time. And there was Wesley, hair slightly damp from the bath, tousled and uncombed and making him look so much younger than when he had first arrived with it brylcreemed into submission, still barefoot but dressed in a pair of jeans and a pale blue heavy cotton shirt that Giles had helped him unearth from his suitcase, drinking cup after cup of weak tea, while sitting on Giles’s couch. Each time Wesley picked up or put down his cup those bruises around his wrists that proved he’d been bound for hour after hour were revealed, and Giles would stare at them and then look back at Wesley’s bruised face and cut lip and think how something here definitely did not compute. No one was captured by a sadistic vampire for so many days, and then just had a cup of tea, gave himself a little shake and said that the weather in California really was very mild compared with England, wasn’t it?

In between making tea and soup and persuading Wesley to please drop the ‘Mister’ and just call him ‘Giles’, Giles wondered if he had simply cracked up. The strain of losing Jenny and then so irresponsibly mislaying his new assistant causing his mind to jump a couple of tracks and, as in Gilliam’s Brazil, simply construct a happy place for himself in the comfort of his own insanity. Perhaps he had opened the door to a pile of mangled body parts and the shock of it had sent him scurrying to this parallel world in his mind where Wesley was a little cut and bruised but otherwise unhurt.

It was a relief when Buffy arrived, all imperfectly applied make-up and anxious eyes, saying, “Is he…?”

Wesley rose to his feet politely when Buffy came into the room and she stopped and gaped at him then said, “Are you…?”

Seeming to think that she either didn’t know who he was or had forgotten his name, Wesley held out a hand. “Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Ms Summers, we met briefly before....”

And then Buffy threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly, whispering: “We thought you were dead.”

Wesley looked shocked, then pleased, then extraordinarily touched. Giles gently put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder, realizing that Wesley was not the sort of young man to simply take having a girl throw her arms around him in his stride, recent vampire kidnapping or no recent vampire kidnapping, and she reluctantly released him.

Wesley half-smiled at her shyly. “That’s very.... I mean.... I’m sorry to be a nuisance. I’m afraid I just didn’t see him until he was right in front of me and then I was too…shocked to do anything except stand there rather foolishly until he turned into…vampire face whereupon I’m very ashamed to say that I think I may have fainted.” He gave Giles an embarrassed look. “I’m afraid you were right about the field work. It’s very different meeting vampires under controlled circumstances, isn’t it? And although they tell us about the shock of meeting one’s first bona fide demon, they don’t really convey the paralysing fear very well. I suppose they think it would be bad for morale.”

“Do sit down, Wesley.” Giles took his shoulders and gently steered him back to the sofa. Having seen the man naked he knew how extraordinarily fragile he was. He had thought he was skinny and insubstantial-looking on their first meeting but that had been under the relatively concealing bulk of a good bespoke suit. Naked, Wesley was really just skin, bones, and bruises.

Buffy sat down opposite Wesley and gazed at him fixedly. “Are you…? I mean... Did he…?”

“I’m still me,” Wesley said gently. He looked between them. “That’s what you really want to know, isn’t it? Not just – am I a human still but am I still the human I was before he captured me?”

“Yes,” Buffy admitted. “Are you?”

Wesley looked down at his bruised wrists and flexed his fingers. “I appear to be, yes. I think I am. A little…shaken up, and certainly with a great deal to think about, but on the whole, yes, still who I was before.”

“ ‘Shaken up’?” Buffy gazed at him in disbelief. “You know I’ve heard of stiff upper lips but this is just…insane.”

“Oh, it’s not…backbone or breeding or conditioning or anything,” Wesley assured her. “It just didn’t exactly happen to me.”

“What didn’t, Wesley?” Giles pressed.

“Any of it. Well....” Wesley collected himself. “I should say that the kidnapping did, and my first meeting with the others and – oh yes – the dolls, and, let me think…yes, the – I think quite unwarranted – criticism of my dissertation and so on, but from then on, it wasn’t really me until just before I was knocked unconscious.”

Buffy looked at him warily. “Are we talking scary Sybil time here? Are we going to start having a conversation with the Wesley it did happen to in a few minutes time?”

He blinked at her in confusion. “Um…sorry…what…?”

“Do you have a split personality?” she demanded. “How many of you are there in your head?”

“Just me, I think.” He looked at her a little anxiously. “Does it say something on my personal record…? Because that business when I was fourteen definitely wasn’t a breakdown. I just had flu and it affected my marks and I was a little concerned because my father....” Seeing their expressions, he moistened his lips. “Not a split personality. No.”

“What did Angelus do to you?” Buffy pressed and then paled and said quickly: “Or don’t answer that if you don’t want to because when you come right down to it it’s really none of my business.”

Wesley’s eyes widened as he evidently remembered something and he turned to Giles. “Apologising in advance for making references to…events that must be very upsetting for you, but Angelus mentioned murdering a Jenny Calendar who I understand was someone…close to you?”

Giles felt himself close down. “Yes.”

Wesley nodded. “I don’t know if you know this, but the reason Angelus murdered her was because she was in the process of researching the spell to re-ensoul him. So apparently it does exist and she had found it.”

Buffy looked up at Giles wide-eyed. “That’s why he destroyed her computer.”

Wesley’s face fell. “He destroyed it? Oh, I was hoping.... Oh, well, even so perhaps there might be…?”

“I’ll call Willow.” Giles went off to do so, still torn between his grief over Jenny and confusion at Wesley’s disturbing normality. It helped that Jenny had been trying to help but hurt that it was what had killed her. She had betrayed her people for his sake and Buffy's and it had cost her her life.... And although he would have loved to believe that Wesley was the one person that Angelus decided to just keep around for some mild bondage and groping games as he took a break between torture and maiming, it made no sense. Angelus wasn’t a vampire who did ‘mild’ anything. He lived for extremes, and yet there was Wesley with all his fingers and toes and limbs and eyes and ears and tongue.

Mechanically, Giles passed on what Wesley had told him to Willow who promised that she and Oz would take another look through everything they had managed to find in Jenny’s office, and check through her desk one last time just in case something had been wedged in a drawer at the back.

Cordelia and Xander arrived before Willow and Oz, Wesley once again politely rising to his feet at the sight of a young woman and proffering a hand which was spurned in place of a hug from Xander, who then fell back in some embarrassment. Wesley stuttered a bit and then they shook hands in a manly fashion and Wesley politely offered Cordelia his place on the couch, whereupon she turned to Xander and said: “Shouldn’t he be…gibbering or something?”

“Apparently he doesn’t do gibbering,” Buffy explained.

Cordelia looked at him wide-eyed as she took his place on the sofa and then glanced across at Giles. “Who knew English guys could be cool?”

Xander introduced himself and Cordelia, and Wesley looked at Xander in some surprise and said, “Oh, of course. Drusilla mentioned you on a couple of occasions. Apparently she’s very eager to um…reacquaint herself with you.”

Xander paled. “Oh happy day.”

“It’s a matter of some conflict between Drusilla and William the Bloody.”

“Spike and Dru were there?” Buffy demanded sharply, a moment before Giles could do so. “And yet you’re all…not dead…?”

Wesley gazed into his teacup. “Drusilla is really the vampire who contradicts many of the teachings that are at the heart of the Council’s belief in what a vampire really is.”

“Because the Council thinks vampires are sane…?” Buffy enquired.

“I was always haunted by her story.” Wesley looked for the first time as tragic as circumstances suggested that he should be. “That poor girl, cursed with second sight, made the object of Angelus’s twisted obsession, stalked by him for so long, her family killed all around her, and then when she fled from him to a convent, all the nuns murdered also, and then her soul taken from her so she couldn’t even find peace with the family she loved in the arms of the god in which she believed so fervently.”

“That was who she was when human, Wesley,” Giles reminded him quietly. “And what was done to that poor girl was indeed tragic and appalling, but you need to remember that was she is now is a soulless killer.”

Wesley looked up at him. “But it isn’t that simple, Giles. We’re taught that a body is vacated and then taken over by a demon and that the demon has access to the memories of who the human must be but isn’t that human. But, if that’s the case, why is the vampire Drusilla as insane as the human one was after Angelus had mangled her poor mind? Why does she still remember her brothers and sisters with affection? Why does she still mourn her mother? Why does she still have the gift of second sight? On some level she still is who she was, but without a soul. But there is some…humanity there. I think there must be, in all of them, I think that may be what keeps them here, where we are, not just because of the blood in our veins but because we remind them of what they used to be, of what a part of them still is.”

Cordelia said tentatively, “Did she do horrible things to you, Wesley?”

“She taught me to waltz and she invited me to tea with her dolls.”

“She kills people,” Buffy reminded him tautly. “Kills children. Eats babies.”

“I know.” He closed his eyes. “She told me.”

The frantic hammering on the door interrupted any further discussion or Giles would certainly have taken Wesley to one side and given him a top up lecture on the danger of forgetting that vampires weren’t the humans they had once been any more; even if they had their memories, they weren’t what they appeared, especially not as someone as dangerous as Drusilla.

As he opened the door, Willow almost fell across the threshold, holding up a yellow floppy disk as she did so. “I found it!” she gasped.

Giles looked past to her to Oz who said quietly: “The spell.”

Buffy rose to her feet as if pulled by strings. “For re-ensouling Angel?”

Willow gulped and nodded. “I loaded the disk onto my laptop and it’s all there. We just need an orb of Thesula and some herbs and things. I can do it. I know I can. I want to try. Please, Buffy.”

Xander held up his hands. “Hey, slow down. The guy out there right now is the one who killed Miss Calendar, the one who.... The one Buffy can kill. Turn him back and we have someone who....”

“Is Angel again.” Buffy swallowed.

Xander nodded. “And then what? We’re supposed to say ‘welcome back’?”

“I don’t think that really relevant,” Wesley put in. As they all turned to look at him in surprise, he shrugged. “I’m sorry, but I think, all personal feelings aside, Angelus is too dangerous to leave at large, and as you have presumably tried and failed to…contain or terminate him on more than one occasion without success, if a method presents itself to render him harmless, I think you have no choice but to at least attempt it.”

Xander looked at him in disbelief. “Wesley, you, of all people, know what Angelus is.”

Wesley returned his gaze levelly. “Exactly why I think he’s too dangerous to leave at large without a soul.”

“But he....” Xander broke off, looking at the audience, and took a step back, inclining his head. “And I guess you know that without me telling you.”

Wesley nodded. “He killed at least seven people in the short time I was…with him. The important thing is for the killing to stop. We can deal with the…emotional fallout afterwards.”

“Wesley’s right,” Giles heard himself say hoarsely. “We need to at least attempt it. Buffy, can you go with Willow and Oz to the magic shop? Xander, perhaps you would be kind enough to drive them?”

Willow said, “I don’t know if we have enough money for an orb of Thesula. In fact unless one can buy them for thirty three dollars and seventy two cents I know we don’t.”

“I have one.” Giles picked up the orb. “Was using it as a paper weight.”

Wesley looked at him in surprise. “Aren’t they rare and valuable?”

Giles shrugged. “They also make good paperweights.”

And then there was a general flurry of teenagers heading for Xander’s car and he was left alone with Wesley and Cordelia and his orb of thesula and the yellow disk which contained Jenny’s last actions before Angelus had snapped her neck and left her corpse on his bed.

 

Giles knew he should absolutely not be permitting Willow to attempt a spell of this magnitude, but he also knew that the girl was probably their best shot at it. Wesley had murmured something about being willing to help and Giles had very firmly sent him to sit back on the couch out of the way. It was enough of a miracle that the man was still walking and talking after what had been done to him, but he certainly couldn’t be in the right physical or mental condition to be dealing with such powerful magic.

“I got an ‘A’ in Mystical Studies....” Wesley offered from the couch until a look from Giles made him fold his hands in his lap and say meekly: “I’ll just sit over here then.”

“Do you think Angelus can sense what we’re planning?” Buffy asked Giles in an undertone as Xander, Oz and Cordelia helped Willow to set out her ingredients in the appropriate pattern.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “But he can’t get in without an invitation. I revoked it after....” And there was Jenny lying dead on his bed and he flinched and closed his eyes.

Buffy touched his arm. “I’m so sorry.”

“Not your fault,” he said automatically.

She glanced back across at Wesley. “I keep waiting for him to…break.”

“I’m rather afraid of that myself,” Giles admitted. “He’s tried to talk to me a few times about what happened and I’ve tended to head him off as I can’t believe he’s really ready to address the…reality of what was done to him. At the moment I presume he’s still in a state of denial.”

Buffy grimaced. “You don’t think maybe Angelus just…played tiddleywinks with him for a few days then?”

Giles sighed. “Much as I would like to believe that all Wesley did was take tea with Drusilla’s dolls and learn the art of ballroom dancing, I’m afraid there is clear evidence he was subjected to considerably more unpleasant....” He just looked at her and she nodded.

“I know.” She snatched a breath. “I’ve read Angel’s file. I know his idea of a fun night in.”

“I must admit to being completely bewildered by Wesley’s current state of apparent…calm, but I suppose he’s just finding a way to get through each hour. I would be less worried if he was ‘gibbering’ as Cordelia put it. I can’t help feeling that his subconscious is saving up some kind of horrible…reality check.”

They both looked at Wesley again, who was now politely answering questions Cordelia was asking him about England while he looked rather wistfully across at Willow’s spell preparations. Giles thought it rather brave of him to admit to fainting at his first sight of an uncontrolled vampire in game face, although it also had to be said that it didn’t bode particularly well for his time on the Hellmouth or say a lot for the Council’s training methods. He was still bewildered by the lack of physical damage Wesley had suffered. Under normal circumstances one would not, of course, think it a matter for celebration that a colleague had been kidnapped, beaten and – Giles very much feared – sexually assaulted; but given Angelus’ sickeningly sadistic imagination that really did add up to getting off so lightly as to require an explanation.

Thinking of Angelus, Giles nodded to Willow to begin the spell and then took up a position by the window. It seemed likely that Jenny’s attempt to re-ensoul him had brought about her death, suggesting that Angelus could in some way sense that the spell was being carried out, and he had no intention of letting any harm come to Willow. Buffy followed his lead, while Willow began the spell, both of them waiting for what felt like the inevitable appearance of Angelus.

Except it was Spike that Giles saw out of the window. He blinked and then looked again, but there was no doubt that was who was out there, the vampire inching his way towards the house in a manner that was presumably supposed to be covert. Giles pointed him out to Buffy and then nodded at the back door. They had collected stakes and headed out in a moment.

Giles nodded to Buffy to indicate that he would take the left set of bushes while she took the right. It was clear that Spike wanted to get a look inside the house, all his attention focused on the window, darting towards it a little unsteadily. As Giles kept a look out for Angelus, Buffy slipped from bush to bush until she was within easy striking distance of Spike and then stepped forward, stake raised.

The mournful wail came at the same moment that someone threw themselves at Buffy and knocked her away from Spike. Giles spun around to find Drusilla running towards Buffy, and stepped in front of her with his stake at the ready, fearing that it must then be Angelus who was grappling with Buffy, until she threw the person off so easily and dragged him to his feet to reveal –

“Wesley!” Buffy said in disbelief.

“I’m terribly sorry but please don’t kill them,” he said breathlessly.

Spike had spun around and was standing by the window, clearly undecided as to the best thing to do when Buffy was so close and still had a stake and Giles had hold of Drusilla.

Buffy let Wesley go as if he burned her fingers. “What were you thinking?”

“They saved me,” Wesley panted. “Please, Buffy. I don’t know why they did it, but they did it. If it wasn’t for Spike I’d be…someone else by now, supposing I wasn’t nailed to Angelus’s walls.”

“Watcherboy’s telling the truth,” Spike said rapidly. “We saved him from the big poof. Who do you think wheeled him here – in my bloody wheelchair, too?”

“Why are you here?” Giles demanded.

“Wanted to know if he was safe,” Drusilla admitted. “He saves my Spikey. Can’t do that if he’s dead.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Didn’t it occur to either of you that he wouldn’t have needed to save your ‘Spikey’ if you hadn’t been stupid enough to come here in the first place?”

Drusilla and Spike exchanged a glance that made it clear that, no, they hadn’t thought of that until Buffy pointed it out.

Giles was still looking between them and Wesley in confusion. “How did they save you from Angelus? I mean – you were his captive, weren’t you?”

“Yes and no,” Wesley brushed some of the mud from his shirt. He looked into Buffy’s eyes. “Please let them go. Tell them to leave Sunnydale. Tell them you’ll kill them the next time you see them but she’s suffered so much and I owe Spike more than my life.”

Spike looked across at Drusilla who was gazing at Wesley lovingly. Giles stepped back cautiously and lowered his stake and Drusilla stroked a finger along Giles’s jaw. “So handsome.” Then she was gliding across to Wesley who gazed at her with eyes full of compassion. She stroked his hair back from his face and murmured, “You shouldn’t be sad for me, pretty one. I like the pictures in my head now. Never used to. Used to frighten me. I can talk to the stars now. Live forever. Blood in your mouth doesn’t taste the same when you’re human. Shall I come back for you one day? Make you one of us?”

“Get out of Sunnydale,” Buffy said tautly. “Both of you.”

“Can I have my chair back?” Spike demanded plaintively.

“No,” Buffy told him.

Wesley was still gazing at Drusilla. “I can’t be what you are, Drusilla. It isn’t my destiny.”

She stroked his hair again and kissed him on the mouth. “Love Daddy. That’s what you’re meant to do. Save him from the monsters. All the monsters in his head. Like my Spike saved you from the ones Angelus wanted to put there.” And then she was gliding past Buffy giving her a contemptuous toss of the head as she said, “Slayer. Her. Don’t like her. Bad for Daddy. Makes him soul sick. Bad Slayer.” Then she had grabbed Spike’s hand and they were running into the darkness.

Wesley took a rapid step backwards looking between Buffy and Giles anxiously and holding up his hands. “I know you must be very angry, but, please, before you – ”

“I’m not angry, Wesley,” Giles said quietly. “Now let’s go inside.”

Buffy took Wesley by the arm leading him into the house and closing the front door before saying, “I’m not angry either, no, really, but if you ever do that again I will be forced to do some very bad things to you with – ” she held up her stake: “…anything that comes to hand.”

Wesley gave her a nervous smile, shoulders dropping submissively. “Understood.”

Ever again.”

“Absolutely understood. Thank you. Sorry.” He gave her another placatory smile, the picture of meek obedience, and, after another narrow-eyed look, Buffy pointed to Giles’ couch. Wesley went to it wordlessly and immediately sat down, elbows in and knees together so that he would take up as little room as possible.

Buffy turned to look at Giles in confusion. “Do you think he was just really…well behaved for Angelus?”

“I’m wondering,” Giles admitted, eyeing his colleague uneasily. “Some of the tutors at the Academy can be a little…taxing. I suppose one would evolve strategies for dealing with them, but…I’ve never heard of anyone surviving a vampire attack through consistent punctuality and always bringing a pen to class.”

And then Giles turned around to see Willow’s eyes turn black and Latin bubbling from her mouth and the air was charged with the fizz of unmistakably powerful magic and then no one was thinking of anything except that it was here, the power to re-ensoul the damned, and Willow had summoned it and Jenny had died for it and then the room was quiet and still and everyone snatched a much-needed breath.

There was a long silence and then Cordelia said, “So, did it work?”

Giles and Buffy exchanged a glance and he saw how much she wanted Angel back; her first love, the one she looked to in times of crisis; the one who still wore the face of the demon who had killed the woman he loved, and he snatched another breath and said wearily: “I’m sure we’ll find out before too long.” And then sat down on the couch next to a still very quiet Wesley and needed to think about nothing at all for quite some time.

***

Part Six

Giles had been waiting for this moment with a terrible sense of inevitability. He had dreamt of vengeance, of driving a stake into the heart of Angelus, or setting him on fire; but he had known that somehow it wasn’t going to be permitted. Something to do with lessons learned and the price one paid for being a teacher. So, he had waited for the inevitable while the others had sat around talking quietly, Oz with one arm protectively around Willow, Wesley patiently answering Cordelia’s occasionally vapid questions about life in England – where on Earth had Americans got the impression that they were still living an existence of 50s austerity anyway? Did they still think they had ration books? And, of course, they had bloody Jehovah’s Witnesses. There would be people peddling The Watchtower on the farthest reaches of the most distant Polynesian islands, it wasn’t really such a miracle that they also found their way to Hampshire.

But Wesley didn’t seem to mind Cordelia’s questions. In fact he didn’t seem to mind Cordelia full stop, and it was a shock to glance across at the girl and see what Wesley was seeing: a remarkably pretty dark-haired girl in a blue dress and a white cardigan who spoke softly to him and seemed to care about his pain.

Of course they were all waiting for him to shatter; for the moment to come when Wesley remembered something or processed something that would send him to the bathroom to matter-of-factly slit his wrists or abruptly have him skittering for the darkest corner of the room and that long-expected gibbering. Cordelia was probably giving him her ‘talking to crazy people’ manner or perhaps she was just feeling genuinely sorry for him because he had a black eye and a cut lip and bruises circling his wrists and wasn’t complaining about it or apparently expecting anyone to show him any sympathy.

Xander, immature jealous Xander, kept making Wesley cups of tea. Giles wondered if they were bribes of a kind, a tacit plea to the man not to talk about what Angelus had done to him, ever, or else a show of sympathy or perhaps even gratitude because the stranger to Sunnydale was the one upon whom Angelus had inflicted his most recent games rather than anyone Xander loved.

Giles thought of his earlier awkward phonecall to Wesley’s father to appraise him of the situation and the man’s gruff: “Well, I’m sure he’ll turn up. One way or another. I trust as you’ve been careless enough to lose him that you’ll do what’s necessary when the time comes?”

Giles had put the phone down in a state of shock, the anger a slow burn after it, thinking of all the ramifications of that ‘do what’s necessary’ – presumably, staking the man’s son if he had been turned into a vampire or sending his corpse home if he had only been horribly murdered. Son of a bitch. But, of course, he should have called the man back at once, last night, when he was sitting next to Wesley’s bed. He had called Travers to notify him that they were not, after all, a Watcher down and to make it very clear that yes he absolutely did want to keep Wesley as his assistant if Wesley should want to stay in Sunnydale so no further action was necessary by the Council, and they would deal with Angelus, have no doubt of that.

Grimacing, Giles turned to Wesley. “Would you like to call your father, Wesley? Let him know you’re…as well as can be expected?”

Wesley paled. He’d been pale before. Naturally the pasty kind and that not improved by several days of being kept in the basement of an abandoned building somewhere where he had been as deprived of regular meals as he was of sunlight. But this was even paler. Nevertheless he only nodded meekly and accepted the phone Giles handed to him.

Giles was on the point of suggesting that he had some privacy but Wesley didn’t seem to think that was an option and was already dully dialling the number. Giles pointedly glared at everyone who was openly eavesdropping and they hurriedly resumed their conversations again. Under cover of making yet more tea, he watched as Wesley smiled nervously as someone who seemed to be his mother answered the phone. She, at least, seemed to be relieved to hear from him and he smiled with more confidence as he assured her of his perfect health and lack of injuries. That won him a quick look from Oz and Xander who then looked at one another and then hastily looked away; Oz tightening his grip on Willow as he did so, while she rested her head against his shoulder, still exhausted from the soul summoning spell she had cast earlier.

“Oh…hello Father....” Wesley turned an even sicklier shade of pale as he changed the phone from his left ear to his right. “How are you? Oh…yes, quite well, thank you. Well…yes.... I’m sure he didn’t mean to disturb you – I think he was just trying to keep you informed.... No, definitely still human, I assure you. Yes, I see, well, I know but.... I didn’t mean to get captured. It just happened so fast. A Good Watcher is a Prepared Watcher…yes, I remember. It was just.... I wasn’t ready. Yes, I know I should have been but I’d only just arrived....” He flinched and Giles heard the muted version of that whiplash Stop making excuses, boy! “I don’t mean to....” Wesley sounded whiny and defeated, his body a squirm of embarrassment and misery. “No, I don’t think I have to come home again.” He looked up at Giles, blue eyes pleading. “I don’t think Mr Giles is going to send me away.” He flinched again. “Yes, I’m sure he probably would prefer an assistant who doesn’t get himself captured by vampires five minutes after he gets off the bus but he hasn’t said....”

Giles’s determination to stay out of this conversation come what may was promptly superseded by his fingers wrenching the phone out of Wesley’s hand.

“Good morning, Mr Wyndam-Pryce. I’m sure you’re as thrilled as we are that Wesley managed to survive his kidnap by Angelus. That he did so is a great credit to his ingenuity and strength of character – ”

Wyndam-Pryce snorted in his ear: “Don’t talk rubbish, man. The boy doesn’t have any strength of character. If Angelus didn’t kill him it was because he didn’t think he was worth bothering with.”

Giles bulldozed him relentlessly: “Naturally, we want to keep Wesley here with us in Sunnydale. Not many people can keep a cool head in a crisis, and thanks to him keeping his wits about him we have been given access to important information that may make it possible to neutralize Angelus within a few hours.”

“Well, of course, if you hadn’t mismanaged that business with your Slayer so badly in the first place there wouldn’t be an Angelus running around to neutralize, would there?”

Giles dropped the phone onto the floor and kicked it hard into the couch. Buffy wordlessly retrieved it and held it up. As the children and Wesley all watched him wide-eyed, Giles took it from her, said flatly: “My apologies, Mr Wyndam-Pryce, we seem to have a bad line. I’ll be sure to pass on your good wishes for his speedy recovery to your son.” Then he slammed the phone down into the handset and looked across at Wesley who was already leaning as far away from him as he could without actually getting up and moving. “I’m not angry,” Giles reassured him in his most even tone. “I am, in fact, perfectly calm. But as a matter of public record, your father is the biggest asshole on the planet.”

Wesley grimaced apologetically. “Sorry.”

“That’s all right. We’re not responsible for our parents.”

“Thank God,” Xander observed.

Wesley gave everyone another apologetic half-smile. “He just – doesn’t like me very much. Bit of a disappointment, you see. Line of Watchers, old family, high expectations.”

“Wesley, the man’s a wanker of the first order,” Giles pointed out. “You graduated with honours, you were sodding Head Boy at seventeen for Christ’s sake, and you’ve managed to survive capture by the most notoriously evil vampire in the annals of history. What more does he want from you?”

Wesley had his shoulders hunched against the force of Giles’s anger. “I don’t know,” he murmured apologetically, as if Giles’s rhetoric question was something he should actually be able to answer.

Xander gave Giles a pointed look. “Just a suggestion, but, speaking as someone who also has an asshole for a father, can I just point out that it’s tough enough to have to live with without third parties beating you up about it?”

“I wasn’t....” Giles looked around at a series of shocked little faces including Wesley’s own big blue eyes and trembling lower lip, not to mention the wide-eyed disbelief on Willow’s elfin face and realized that he could perhaps have controlled his temper a little better. “Well, anyway. Perhaps a cup of tea would be in order…?”

“I’ll get it!”

And that was Buffy, Willow, Cordelia and Xander all leaping to their feet at the same time as they grabbed an excuse to escape to the kitchen and not be in the room with the scary Librarian.

Giles took a deep breath and turned to Wesley with what he hoped was a reassuring expression on his face. “Some more soup, Wesley…?” Which was when he saw him through the open window, a tall dark shadow in the gathering dusk, staggering across the street as if he was drunk – or else newly burdened with the crushing weight of a soul.

Wesley saw his expression and spun around to look out of the window. Giles hastily planted his hands on the young man’s shoulder and said firmly. “Stay here. Everyone stay indoors. Wesley, it may be necessary to invite him in but I promise you I won’t let him harm you. Buffy…?”

But she was already there, grim faced and as pale as Wesley but resolutely handing out stakes while loading a crossbow for herself. “We’re ready,” she said quietly, and Giles wondered how true that was; how likely it was that if the person outside that door should turn out to be a soulless killer yet who still had the face of an Angel if she was now capable of taking his life.

Then Giles snatched another breath, saw a brief flash in his mind’s eye of Jenny lying there with her eyes open and her neck broken, and then opened the door.

 

He found Angel crouched under his window, one hand up to his face and when he looked up at Giles there were tears in his eyes. Giles gritted his teeth. “Hello, Angel.”

“I’m sorry,” Angel said desperately. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know I could lose.... I would never have.... The last thing I wanted to do was hurt any of you. Is Buffy…?” And either Angelus was the best actor in the world or else this was Angel again and that tremble of sheer agony was all his. “Is Buffy…okay…?”

“She’s surviving.” Giles regarded him coolly.

Angel looked up at him again and his eyes filled with tears once more. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated. “I know I can never.... I’m so sorry for what I did to Miss Calendar.”

“So am I,” Giles said tautly. “Why are you here?” Perhaps it was an unfair question. They had been waiting for him, after all. Sitting here all day since the spell had hit, waiting for night to fall and Angel to arrive exactly on cue.

Angel clutched at the sill of the window, dizzy with his soul or lack of blood or the sheer weight of his crimes. “The English boy – Wesley. I – I – ”

“Kidnapped him.” Giles kept his tone crisp. “Yes, we know.”

Angel closed his eyes. “I did – terrible things to him. I made him crazy. Too crazy even to be scared. Dru took a fancy to him – same shattered mind. I think she and Spike took him. I think Dru wants to turn him but she might wait for the new moon. There might be time to find them, get him back, what’s left of him back.”

Giles frowned in confusion. “What…?”

Angel ran a hand through his hair. “Oh God, what I did to him....”

“You tortured him.” Giles thought of Wesley’s body and all those bruises, but that was all there had been; bruises, a few cuts and welts; it still made no sense to him that Wesley should have escaped so lightly.

“I – frightened him and he shattered and then I played with the pieces. I liked the pieces. Dru did too. I don’t think Spike liked him much but he’d let Dru keep him for a while if she wanted a pet. You need to hurry though. She’s unpredictable.” As Giles made no move, Angel gazed at him in disbelief. “Giles, he’s just a boy. He can’t be much older than Xander.”

Giles was peripherally aware of a flutter of indignation from Wesley somewhere in the house because he was actually twenty-five and therefore eight whole years older than Xander.

“Is that what you would have done to Xander if you’d captured him?” Giles asked grimly. “Broken him into pieces and then played with what was left?”

Angel shuddered. “I don’t want to think about what I would have done to him, or to any of you. Stake me if you want to, we both know I deserve it, but, please, try to find him. If Spike doesn’t kill him Dru will damn him. He’ll end up like....”

“Like you?” Giles demanded.

Angel put his hands up to his face. “Please. I can’t undo any of it but there might still be time to stop someone else from dying....”

And despite his absolute determination not to feel even a twinge of pity for the creature with the face of Jenny’s killer, there it was, a spasm of compassion. Giles snatched a breath. “Angel, if I invite you in it will be on the understanding that if you take one step sideways that I don’t give you permission for, you will be staked. Do you understand me?”

Angel climbed to his feet clumsily, confusion on his face. “Will you look for Wesley?”

“We’ve already found Wesley.” Giles backed into the house and beckoned to the vampire grimly. “I invite you in, Angel.”

He heard Buffy gasp and that frozen instant when they gazed at one another with so much yearning and misery and then there was a shuffling of feet and Angel turned his head and saw:

Wesley…?

Giles was watching to see if there was a flicker of irritable or satisfied Angelus showing through but this was pure disbelief, rapidly turning to pure relief. Angel took a step towards the young man and then stopped abruptly. “Are you…? Did you…? How did you…?”

Wesley took a pace towards him of his own. “Are you…? Is your soul…?”

Angel put a hand over his heart. “Yes. It came back. I don’t know how....” He looked around the room and saw the others, Willow, Oz, Cordelia and Xander all pressed up against the wall, pointing crossbows at him. His gaze travelled to the candles and herbs. “You did it?” He looked at Willow as if he had never seen her before, lowering his voice to not much more than a whisper: “You saved me?”

“Is that how you think of it?” Wesley asked curiously, taking another pace forward as Willow nodded mutely. “Salvation?”

“It feels like the opposite. But that’s the point about being damned. Then you don’t feel anything. You just…enjoy the moment.” Angel gazed fixedly at Wesley. “I’m so sorry for what I did to you, Wesley.”

“If you’re truly the soulled version of Angelus then it wasn’t really ‘you’ that did anything to me, was it?” Wesley returned, still gently. “That was done by someone else.”

Angel frowned at him in confusion. “But they were done to you so how come you’re…?” He took another pace and Xander cranked back his crossbow in warning. Angel stopped dead and held up his hands. “I’m sorry. I just.... You sound…normal.”

“I am.” Wesley grimaced. “Well, I suppose that’s relative really. Certainly there were comments passed when I was at school but on the whole I do think that I’m as well adjusted as the next…slightly neurotic public schoolboy.”

“But you were....” Angel shook his head. “You were...I mean.... You were definitely…in no way sane.”

“I wasn’t there,” Wesley explained.

Angel stumbled forward another step and Buffy pointed her crossbow at his chest. Wesley darted her an anxious look and held up his hand. “It’s all right.”

“I could still be Angelus,” Angel pointed out. “There isn’t a test for a soul. Crucifixes still burn me. So does holy water. I’m still damned.”

“Yes, and that’s certainly one for the Theologians to chew over, isn’t it, if the soul is really supposed to be the fragment of the deity embedded in us all and yet you’re still a demon…?” Wesley gazed into Angel’s eyes. “But I spent a week with Angelus. You’re not him.”

Angel gazed back at him intently. “And you’re not.... You’re not the person I....” He gave his head a shake and turned to Giles for an explanation. “I can’t talk about this in front of....” He nodded his head at Xander and the others.

“We’re not leaving Wesley and Giles alone with you,” Xander said flatly.

“Not happening,” Buffy confirmed.

Giles indicated the other end of the room. “You’d still be in crossbow firing range if you were a few feet further back. Just – try not to listen.”

Angelus was still gazing at Wesley. “I’m so sorry for what I did to you, but I don’t understand how you can be....” He darted a glance over at the teenagers and then lowered his voice to hiss: “I did things to you. I mean....” He glanced back at Buffy and then grimaced. “What I did to you was pretty…extreme and you…giggled. You’d lost it. You were....”

“Drugged.” Wesley handed over the paper bag, moving slowly so that no one got trigger happy, as he deposited it into Angel’s hand.

Angel looked at Wesley in confusion and then went through the contents of the bag. “Spike’s painkillers. But why…? I mean how did you…?”

“I didn’t, Spike did.” Wesley kept gazing at him, his expression gentle, as if Angel was someone who was also a victim of what had happened in that room. “Whisky and pills. Very…Valley of the Dolls. I giggled because it didn’t hurt me. You didn’t hurt me.”

Angel held his gaze. “I know what I did. No way did that not hurt you.”

“And if I hadn’t been watching the wallpaper change colours and the pillow covers dissolve into lots of sparkly pixie dust I would certainly have been screaming until my throat bled, but I didn’t fight Angelus because what he was doing to me wasn’t hurting me.” Wesley added gently: “You didn’t…break me, Angel. I wasn’t in pieces I was just…having a really good trip. Most of the time I didn’t even notice what you were doing.”

And finally Giles understood why Wesley had come back to them more or less intact. While he had floated above reality, Angelus had played with a body that didn’t resist him, abused a victim who had no idea that was what he was. Wesley, the real compos mentis Wesley, hadn’t even been present by the sound of things. He turned to Angel in surprise. “It didn’t make you – make Angelus – angry that Wesley wasn’t begging and screaming in the prescribed fashion?”

Angel shook his head. “Angelus thought he’d broken him. He thought the lack of screaming was a triumph. Proof of his victory. Spike played me.” He looked down at the drugs again. “He kept saying I should ‘off’ you, that you were just a nuisance. He knew Angelus would believe that he had mangled Wesley just the way he – I – mangled Drusilla. He probably gambled I’d get fond of you then. Angelus likes the crazy ones. And it worked. I liked my little human pet with his scrambled little mind.” Angel gritted his teeth. “I was proud of my latest creation.”

Wesley gave Giles a beseeching look. “You see? Spike and Drusilla saved me.”

“But why?” Buffy took a step forward. “Not wanting to rain on your parade, Wes, but those two wouldn’t exactly be on the short list for any Humanitarian of the Year awards. Spike isn’t big on the helping little old ladies across the street.”

“More like tripping them and stealing their purses,” Xander confirmed. “Not to mention the whole – drinking their blood thing.”

Angel half-smiled. “Because it was a way of getting one over on me. A little win for Spike in the middle of all those defeats.”

“And because Dru saw Wesley saving Spike,” Buffy remembered.

“You’re going to save Spike?” Angel looked at him in disbelief.

“He already did,” Giles sighed.

“Spike and Drusilla helped me,” Wesley offered apologetically.

Angel looked down at the bag of pills. “What they saved you from – doesn’t even bear thinking about. But I still.... Whether you were home or not I still did…those things to you.”

Wesley murmured quietly: “‘Things with ice cubes and body parts and things that take batteries.’ Yes, I remember. Intellectually, I remember you telling me that you did those things to me. I even remember some of them being done, but they don’t have the…normal associations. It’s the fear, isn’t it? Or the pain or the humiliation or the defeat. Not the action but the way the action makes you feel. That’s what makes you a victim. And what Angelus did made me feel…ticklish. No amount of retroactively telling myself that what Angelus did to me was indescribably invasive is going to make me feel it, because I can’t. I wasn’t even that afraid of him. He was this strange capricious person who I knew, intellectually, was terribly evil, but in my confused version of reality was actually rather good fun except for his occasional bouts of smacking me around for reasons I never fully understood.”

“There were no reasons, Wesley. He did it because he liked doing it. That’s always the reason why bullies hurt people who can’t fight back. It’s never you. It’s always them.”

Angel gazed at him tragically and Giles thought wearily that they were never going to be free of this; Angel and his terrible crimes and his mythic destiny and his and Buffy’s star-crossed love; and he really was going to have to see this person again; this person who had killed the woman he loved.

Buffy said faintly: “‘Things that take batteries…?’ Okay, so not wanting to know right now.”

“Let’s not go to that place,” Xander added. “Ever.”

“But Angelus did go to that place.” Angel gazed tragically at Wesley. “He went to every place.”

Wesley sighed. “And it tickled, Angel. Remember?”

“No one ever giggled when I did that to them before.” Angel looked at Wesley curiously, the small part of his mind not overwhelmed with guilt clearly wondering if the Watcher was even wired up right. “And why did you like it when I…?” He broke off as he remembered their audience and shuffled his feet uncomfortably.

Wesley shrugged in embarrassment, giving Angel an apologetic grimace. “Well, it was all very…new to me.”

Giles looked between the embarrassed Englishman and the guilt-ridden vampire and wondered if Angel had ever had to socialize with one of his victims before. Perhaps it was the pressure of the past few days, the misery of Jenny’s death, the constant waiting for the next horror to happen, the kidnapping of Wesley and the searching that had led nowhere, but he found himself wondering if there was something in the Council notes about the correct procedure for socializing with one’s evil vampire attacker after they had been re-ensouled and were now taking tea with you.

Reality clicked back in and he looked at Angel sharply. “You must be hungry.”

Angel looked at him sadly. “We’re always hungry, Giles.”

“Don’t do that,” Buffy said quickly. “Don’t start just lumping yourself in with every other vampire on the....”

“I think recent events have proven that’s what I am,” Angel retorted. “I kill people – for food, for fun. That’s what I do. That’s what I am.”

“It’s what Angelus is,” she insisted.

“Buffy’s right,” Wesley put in, nodding. “You’re not him.”

“But he is me.” Angel leant back against the wall and gazed up Giles’s stairs, evidently seeing what Giles saw every time he looked that way, the candles burning and the rose petals and Jenny upstairs. “He’s in me. And while I’m…here, there’s always a chance he can get out again.”

“And if you’re not here how can you ever make amends for what he did?” Wesley countered, surprising Giles, who hadn’t though the boy had the self-confidence to say ‘boo’ to a goose, never mind a vampire, but he supposed in some ways the person Wesley knew best of all of them in the room right now was…Angelus. He had only spent a few hours with the rest of them but had lived on terms of what could certainly be considered ‘intimacy’ with Angelus.

Angel looked at him sadly. “There can never be amends for what I did. I’ve done so much…harm, hurt so many people, ruined so many lives....”

“Perhaps that’s why you have to be what you are,” Wesley said gently. “Perhaps it takes an eternity to make up for what you did. Perhaps you never will. But don’t you think you must have been given that soul for a reason?”

Angel kept gazing at him. “I know Angelus is still in me because I remember how it feels to enjoy doing the things he did, Wesley. That includes the things I did to you.”

Wesley shrugged. “As I recall I rather enjoyed some of them too. I don’t think that defines me as someone who enjoys autoerotic asphyxia games with soulless killers, but someone who…wasn’t himself at the time.”

“Or you could just be a really weird pervert and not have known it until then,” Cordelia pointed out helpfully.

Wesley and Angel exchanged a glance of mingled embarrassment and then some amusement – Giles presumed there was a point when you could not get any more embarrassed and so could only start to find the situation funny – and Wesley inclined his head. “That, of course, is also a possibility.”

Angel looked across at Buffy with all that love and yearning in his eyes. “I can’t.... I don’t deserve.... It can’t be what it was. I don’t expect…trust from anyone here. I don’t even trust myself.”

“No,” Buffy admitted quietly. “It can’t ever be what it was.” She looked across at Giles. “You hurt the people I care about too much for that. I can’t…forget that happened.”

There was another awkward pause while everyone looked at Buffy and then looked away because there were just some things that were too painful to look at and a seventeen year old girl having her heart broken all over again right in front of him was certainly something Giles didn’t think he could watch twice.

“What do you propose?” Giles turned to Angel. “Are you going to stay in Sunnydale?”

Angel nodded. “For the moment, yes. I need to – I’ll move into the empty mansion on the edge of town. Work out what I’m going to do next.” With an effort he wrenched his gaze from Buffy to Willow. “Thank you.”

Willow gave him a bright anxious smile while still holding onto Oz’s hand. “You’re welcome.”

Angel headed for the door, pausing to look at Giles. “I know there are no words – ”

“There aren’t,” Giles told him grimly.

Angel nodded and then looked back at Wesley, saying again: “I’m sorry.”

Wesley nodded. “Well, I suppose if one is to meet one’s first vampire it might as well be a really famous one. And the Council did tell me I needed some field experience.” He gave a wan smile. “I suppose I’ve definitely had some of that now.”

Angel looked as if he would have liked to say a lot more, but the enormity of his crimes seemed to still the words in his throat. He gave Buffy a last look of agonizing longing, a last look of apology at Wesley, and then walked back out into the night.

Everyone snatched a breath and Giles turned to see Willow breathing fast, holding Oz tightly. “Was it wrong to be so scared?” she breathed. “Because – I know he’s Angel again and everything, but I was just so…scared.”

“Me too,” Xander admitted. “As in – paralysed with terror level scared. I mean – I don’t even know who that guy is. He’s not the Angel we first knew – because we knew that guy and he wasn’t…scary. And he’s not Angelus because – we’re not all dead. So, who is he?”

Wesley looked out of the window. “I think that’s what he’s trying to work out.”

Buffy was gazing after Angel but at the sound of Wesley’s voice, turned to him, anxiously. She had her mouth open when Wesley said compassionately to her: “Are you all right?”

She swallowed. “I was just going to ask you the same thing.”

“That depends.”

“On what?”

He looked into her eyes and for the first time Giles realized that he wasn’t a ‘boy’ at all, but an adult, after all, because his gaze was gentle and sympathetic and entirely grown up. “If I made things better or worse by coming here.”

Buffy snatched a breath and then said, “Better.”

“You don’t have to lie.”

“He was gone and now he’s back and maybe we won’t be…together, but I don’t have to kill him.” Buffy wrapped her arms around herself and Giles realized belatedly that she was shaking violently. “Oh God, I don’t have to – kill him....” Wesley looked anxiously at Giles who hurried over to wrap his jacket around her shoulders and then steer her to the couch.

“Do you have any brandy?” Wesley whispered and as Giles pointed him to the drinks cabinet, hurried over to fetch it.

Willow and Xander clustered around her, Willow putting out her hand so Buffy could hold onto it. She looked up at Willow, tears in her eyes. “He was really here, wasn’t he? And he was…he was…Angel…?”

“Yes, he was.” Willow sank down next to her, still gripping her hand. “He was Angel again.”

“Thank you.” Buffy burst into tears and Willow hastily put her arms around her, rubbing her back gently.

Wesley turned around with the brandy and looked stricken at the scene on the sofa. He looked at Giles who took the brandy from him gently. “It’s all right, Wesley. She really is happy. It’s just been something of a…strain.” Giles picked up two brandy glasses, put a splash in both and handed the second glass to Wesley. “Cheers.”

Wesley looked over at Buffy in surprise. “Should I…?”

“They prefer ice cream,” Giles explained. He could see that Buffy was getting what she needed most, which was Willow holding her and Xander gently rubbing her back, while she finally let go of her fear and allowed herself the luxury of realizing that Angel really was back again. Thinking of Jenny, he downed his own brandy in a few gulps and was not surprised when Wesley did the same.

The young man looked towards the window through which they had last seen Angel. “Do you think he’ll be…all right…?”

Giles glanced at him in surprise. “Do you care?” He frowned. “You’re not a natural Stockholm Syndrome candidate, are you?”

Wesley looked affronted. “No, of course not, well…possibly, but it was.... I can’t really explain what it was like.”

“A complete nightmare from beginning to end, I imagine.”

“Actually it was....” Aware of the other people in the room, Wesley dropped his gaze and looked awkward.

Giles took him by the elbow and led him into the kitchen. “Tell me.”

Wesley darted a look into the living room. “It was…a little like belonging. Being part of a family. I don’t know if it was the drugs or not but I was…touched that Angelus got me some human food when he was getting Drusilla and Spike their…dead people. In fact, I don’t think it can have been the drugs because I’m not on them now and there is a part of me that’s…still touched by that.”

Giles looked at him for a moment, opening his mouth to ask what the hell kind of background did Wesley come from if he thought being the victim of a vampire kidnap was a family-bonding experience, and then he remembered the dismissive indifference of Wesley’s father, and snatched a breath before he said something he regretted.

He had read the reports too, of course, and knew they had been a family of sorts: Darla, the evil matriarch who slept with her evil ‘son’ who in his turn slept with and abused his insane ‘daughter’ and evil ‘grandson’. A twisted incestuous family based on murder, cruelty, madness, and lust, but a family of sorts, and one in which there was probably plenty of anger, lust, and betrayal, but absolutely never the crushing coldness of indifference.

He turned away. “I promise you, Wesley, there really are better approximations of family life than anything you may have experienced while a prisoner of Angelus.”

Wesley looked back to where Buffy was sobbing into Willow’s neck, what seemed to be the stress of several months of suffering finally let out. Willow was crying, too, in sympathy for Buffy’s tears, and Oz and Xander both looked as if they were pretty close to joining them. As they watched, Cordelia took the brandy bottle from Giles and his glass, giving him a glare as he did so, and carried it over to where Buffy was crying, pouring her a generous measure, and stroking her hair to get her attention before putting the glass in her hand.

Willow and Xander were saying comforting things, even Oz chiming in with the occasional pithy word of comfort, Xander still rubbing Buffy’s back.

“I’m beginning to see that,” Wesley said wistfully.

Giles half-smiled. “I really need to introduce you to them all properly at some point. Buffy, of course, you know is the Slayer. She’s also a seventeen year old girl who likes make up and shopping and those other entirely pointless things that teenage girls like to waste their time with. Willow, as I’m sure you’ve realized, is a promising witch. Cordelia is um…well, generally considered a vapid airhead, but she has in her time displayed a certain steely resolve and strength of character that will certainly make any future husband of hers a very…obedient man. Xander is…well, you really do have to get to know him to know what Xander is but I assure you that underneath the drivelling idiocy and inappropriate joking there is someone um…else. And Oz is…well, he’s actually a werewolf but only for three nights a month and we’re working on ways to deal with that.” Giles looked up at him. “I know that you’re not exactly one of us yet, Wesley, but....”

“I promise not to get kidnapped again,” Wesley said quickly. “I really will be much more careful in future. Honestly. If you’d just give me a second chance I promise you I really could make myself useful....”

Giles looked into his anxious blue eyes and half-smiled. “Wesley, in the short time you’ve been here you’ve managed to drive a wedge between Spike, Drusilla, and Angelus, discover the means to re-ensoul Angel, and show yourself to be a person of considerable…compassion and integrity. If you want to stay in Sunnydale you’d be very welcome.”

Wesley looked as if he was about to faint with relief. He swallowed hard and then said, “I’d like that very much. I know you didn’t ask for an assistant, but I promise I’ll work very hard at learning the ropes and, despite what Angelus said about my dissertation, I am actually very good at research.”

Giles could no longer hide a smile. He patted the younger man on the arm. “I’m sure you are, Wesley. Would you – like a cup of tea?”

“I’d love one.” Wesley smiled back at him.

When Giles handed them both their tea and looked back at the scene in the sitting room, Buffy was wiping her eyes and smiling and Willow was straightening her hair and Cordelia offering her a compact so she could ‘do something about the mascara because really you know it’s high time you switched to something waterproof....’

He thought of Jenny and it still hurt. It would always hurt. And then he thought of Angel and his weight of grief and guilt, and thought about what Wesley had said about him having a purpose, and although he had to admit that he hoped his mythic destiny took him away from Sunnydale and Buffy, he could recognize that Angel probably did have it in him to do as much good in the end as he had done harm. And then he looked at the nervous young man next to him who had looked so entirely useless when he stood in the door of the library and had achieved and withstood so much in the short time he had been with them and for the first time let himself think that perhaps, after all, it might be nice to have some company; someone from the same background as himself with whom he could utter the occasional complaint about America and Americans and the Council and the lack of cricket.

“Wesley....” he said gently.

Wesley turned to look at him, still automatically anxious, that ‘what have I done wrong and how angry are you going to be with me because of it?’ expression in his eyes that Giles was definitely going to have to work to eliminate so that this young man could achieve his full potential. Giles smiled at him and touched their cups together again.

“Just…welcome to Sunnydale.”

And then Wesley was smiling back at him and Buffy laughed at something Xander had said and Giles felt that fist that had been clenched around his heart relax its grip a little and something fill him that felt very like…peace.

The End