“Wesley? Good Lord! Come in –”
Giles stepped back and let Wesley walk past him, taking advantage of Wesley’s turned back to compose himself. Wesley looked dreadful; the bruises on his face mottling it in a pattern of fading purples, shading to green, his right arm hanging down stiffly at his side.
Wesley turned to face Giles who tried to keep his expression blank. “Don’t try to be polite,” Wesley said. “I look a mess. I know that. Not being a vampire, I can see myself in a mirror, though it’s not exactly a pleasure at the moment.” His left hand came up and rubbed at the stubble on his chin. “Unless you think it makes me look cool?”
The last word was as sour as a twist of bitter lemon and stirred pity and anger in Giles. “They’re bruises. They’ll fade,” he said, refusing to give Wesley any more than that. “I take it something went amiss on one of your...your cases?”
Wesley shook his head slowly. “Not mine, Giles. This one’s all Angel’s, believe me. Would you mind if I sat down? I’m feeling a little tired.”
Giles nodded, recalled to his duties as host. “Of course; please, make yourself comfortable. Would you like a cup –”
“Whiskey,” Wesley said. He smiled without humor. “Perhaps it’s not strictly the done thing to drink someone’s single malt, just before you tell them your unvarnished opinion of them, but really, I’m past caring.”
Giles poured Wesley a generous measure, turned and walked to the couch where Wesley was sprawled, his face pale, and his eyes tired and dark. He held onto the glass and looked at Wesley. “Let me guess. You’re angry with me because - ? What? Because you’re hurt? I can’t imagine how I can have contributed to that, unless – oh God. Faith?”
Wesley smiled, cold and fierce. “You’re so clever, Rupert. May I call you that? Mr. Giles seems a little formal and it’s not as if you ever called me Mr. Wyndam–Pryce... I’d say ‘Giles’ but I always thought that seemed so disrespectful when your Slayer and her little friends used it. I’m sorry. Babbling. It’s the pain. No; not of the bruises. The betrayal.”
Giles sighed. “If you want this drink you can stop being melodramatic and tell me what’s happened. Buffy came back and told me about Faith’s arrest and she mentioned that she’d seen you –”
“Your Slayer was too busy fucking with Angel’s head to notice me,” Wesley said flatly, daring Giles to take offense.
Giles took a long, deliberate sip at the drink he held. “You’re having tea,” he decided, placing it on the table and turning away.
He’d taken two steps towards the kitchen when Wesley’s hand spun him around and a fist came at his face. Dodging it took no effort at all; forcing down the impulse to return it, slightly more. Giles settled for gripping Wesley’s upper arms firmly and glaring at him.
Wesley tried to shrug off Giles’ hands, pushing his face forward until Giles’ vision was filled with accusing blue eyes, blinking furiously. “Don’t you dare treat me like a child after all this! Don’t pull that senior Watcher crap on me when neither of us is anymore. And don’t offer me a cup of bloody tea when I’ve – when – ”
Giles felt Wesley begin to sag, as if the strength that had brought him this far had evaporated, leaving nothing behind. He changed his hold, pulled Wesley to him in what turned into a clumsy, not unsympathetic, hug, and began to move with him back to the couch. Somehow, when he lowered Wesley to the couch, his arm stayed around his shoulders for a moment longer than needed, until Wesley pulled away, taking a deep breath and rubbing his eyes with impatient fingers.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to make a scene.”
Giles shook his head dismissing the halfhearted apology. “Wesley, I’m in charge of a teenage girl, and her friends seem to come with the package. Scenes have become part of my life. At least you’ve got some justification for being –”
“Melodramatic?” Wesley offered, with an attempt at a smile that turned into a wince of pain as he settled back against the cushions.
“Upset,” Giles replied. “I’d appreciate it if you’d tell me exactly what happened. I know Faith was your Slayer, but she was under my control too and I’m naturally concerned –”
Wesley sat up straight, “Oh, join the bloody club! Everyone’s concerned about Faith. I could just wish some thought was spared for her victims!”
Giles put a hand in the center of Wesley’s chest and forced him back. “Report, Wesley. You know the drill.”
Wesley’s eyes closed for a moment and Giles looked at the shadows that limned them and the lines fatigue had feathered across his face. Wesley had aged in months, crossing a line, indefinable and wavering, and making describing him one word shorter - Giles doubted many would add ‘young’ to ‘man’ unless they were teetering on the edge of a grave themselves. It didn’t mean he was inclined to accept him as a peer precisely, but he recognized that layers of padding had been stripped and ripped from Wesley. Under it all had been someone both stronger and more vulnerable than Giles had ever bothered to guess at.
Wesley’s mouth opened and he looked at the glass on the table without speaking. “It won’t help you, you know,” Giles said wryly.
“Really? Thank you for those words of wisdom. Very well. I’ll make this quick. She tortured me. That bitch attacked Cordelia and me and I woke up lashed to a chair in the apartment of another man she’d killed, gagged and helpless while she used whatever the kitchen afforded in the way of torture implements. Hours of it. Not because she hated me, though I’m fairly sure she did. No; I was bait. Bait to get Angel to come and kill her. I would have gladly undertaken that little task but – she ... never asked ...never wanted – oh Christ, she hurt me, Giles.”
Giles cursed as Wesley’s eyes glazed over with remembered agony and reached for the glass, shoving it into Wesley’s right hand, and noticing the tremor as the long fingers curled around the crystal. Wesley got the glass to his mouth, spilled some and lowered the glass carefully to his lap. His tongue ran around his lips and he caught a few drops with his fingers, slipping them inside his mouth with an unthinking gesture as child like as it was out of place. Giles watched him, feeling curiosity rise within him. Wesley, for possibly the first time in their acquaintance, was interesting him. That he had to be broken, bruised and belligerent to achieve that status made Giles feel vaguely ashamed. That arousal, however fleeting, was marching beside interest, and each quiver of Wesley’s hands, each breath caught in a throat hoarse with tears, shed and waiting, was letting arousal forge ahead...well, Giles wasn’t sure if that was unforgivable or natural, given his own history.
He reached out and cupped Wesley’s face in his hand, tilting it to examine the bruises. Wesley’s skin was warm and smooth under a prickle of facial hair, making touching him an intriguing sensation. “She used her hands on you.”
Wesley shuddered. “That was the worst part. Hands all over me until...” His gaze lingered on Giles’ face, refusing to drop or shift. “She got me hard. Made me...feel that I wanted - held that bloody – I’m being so very accurate here – that bloody shard of glass to me, little jabs with it, not even breaking the skin, just to hear me beg for the balls she swore she didn’t think I had.”
“Did you? Beg?” Giles asked quietly, letting his hand fall away, knowing if Wesley lied he’d know, knowing if Wesley lied, he’d not let a flicker of that knowledge reach his own eyes.
Wesley’s lips peeled back. It wasn’t a smile. “No. Didn’t come, didn’t beg, didn’t scream. Decided I wouldn’t. Held onto that.”
Giles felt a savage, atavistic surge of fellowship and saw Wesley’s eyes widen. “Giles? You look...did you ever -?”
“Did they tell you anything before they sent you out here?” Giles exclaimed, irritation at his former employers making his tone sharper than he intended. “Angel – Angelus, captured me, tortured me to discover how to awaken Acathla. You must have heard about that.”
“Of course I knew about Acathla, but I wasn’t aware – I’m so sorry. I never quite understood the details. No wonder you and he, well, there was always a tension. I put it down to Miss Calendar but it was more than that, wasn’t it?”
Giles shrugged. “I understand that he’s not responsible for his actions in that state.”
Giles redirected the anger of remembering at Wesley. “You’re working for him. Loyal to him. You knew about Jenny; does this really change anything? He’s killed thousands; a few hours of playing with me scarcely seems significant. So why do I sense that you’re not pleased with him?”
Wesley looked down at the glass in his hands. “I’m...I was disappointed that Angel tried to save her, that’s all. Faith That he chose her over –”
“Over you? Wesley, are you insane?”
Wesley’s head jerked up. “Don’t presume, Giles,” he said. “My feelings are mine to have. Don’t forget why I’m here.”
“How can I forget something I’ve not been told?” Giles pointed out, shifting position so that he was able to look at Wesley without craning his neck. “I gather that in some way you feel I’m responsible for what happened. How?”
Wesley leaned forward, stretching out, and Giles took the glass from his hand and set it down. “Thank you,” Wesley said automatically. He rolled his eyes at the absurdity of it and Giles smiled at him, welcoming the glimmer of humor. That was as new as the clothes Wes wore.
Wesley frowned, lacing his fingers together as he thought for a moment. “I think it was that you took a week to tell us she’d awoken, escaped and left town, that angered me. You must have known we – and others- were in danger, must have guessed she’d come to us –”
“I can assure you I didn’t,” Giles interrupted.
Wesley ignored him. “ – to Angel. Yes. He was the one who came so close to saving her before.” His eyes slid to Giles’ face. “You know. You know how I ruined it, bungled it all...”
“Yes,” Giles said sadly. “I do. Now that I blame myself for. I was here, I was -” He looked at Wesley and shrugged. “I was in charge. You weren’t capable of being anything but a figurehead. You weren’t up to the job.”
“You condescending –”
“No.” Giles cut off his words, leaning forward and placing his fingers, the ones Angelus had snapped like sticks of seaside rock, pink and white, over Wesley’s mouth. “No, Wesley. It’s the truth. And it wasn’t your fault. The Council sent you here, untried, untrained, hopelessly out of your depth. Sent you as a kick in the bloody teeth to me, to teach me a lesson.”
“They fired you,” Wesley said, raising a hand to push away Giles’ fingers.
Giles smiled, not nicely. “Words, Wesley. I’m third generation; that counts for something. They left Buffy in my care for quite a while, don’t you think? Do you see them even trying to replace either of us? I’m her Watcher. They know that. Though it’d be helpful if the tight fisted bastards acknowledged that by paying me my salary again.”
The laughter that came from Wesley was as unexpected as his punch had been. Giles sat back and watched him, not joining in, but smiling in encouragement. He also began a silent countdown and when the sounds Wesley was making no longer qualified as indicative of amusement, he sighed and moved closer. An arm around Wesley’s shoulders; his own shoulder for Wesley to hide against...no more than the act of a friend.
The fingers brushing the surprisingly few tears from Wesley’s thin cheeks were, under the circumstances, allowable. Bringing them to his lips to taste, as Wesley had done earlier with the whiskey...well, Giles admitted that was a come on. He was distracting Wesley though; it was working. The hitching, irregular breaths were steadying as Wesley watched him; calming as Giles stroked the back of Wesley’s head; quickening as Giles moved his hand forward and brought Wesley inevitably closer, close enough to kiss, until the stubble that had teased Giles’ palm was scraping his face, until Wesley’s mouth was open under his, Wesley’s hands hard on Giles’ body... and Giles surrendered control once he’d initiated the healing no one had ever offered to him.
When you nearly die, when you’re brought to a place where all you can see is a thousand reflections of yourself, screaming and small, helpless and hurting...you need this to bring the world back. You need to fuck or be fucked. You need to feel alive again, to prove that you are to a mind still cowering in a corner, curled into the smallest shape possible...Giles knew that without needing to think it but it wasn’t until Wesley’s fingers pushed inside him, followed, an eternity of wanting later, by Wesley’s cock, that Giles realized how long he’d waited for this himself. He’d been strong, just like Wesley, but he’d failed in the end, given his torturer what he’d wanted where Wesley had not. To the victor the spoils...
So when Wesley came, shouting out a name Giles refused to allow inside his head, he didn’t let himself follow. As Wesley, panting and exultant, reached for Giles’ cock, with a generosity that made Giles guilty because he knew he wouldn’t have cared, not really, were he to have been in Wesley’s place, Giles pushed his hand away gently. And as Wesley smiled, puzzled and so eager to share his pleasure, though Giles knew it wouldn’t be that simple a healing, never was...Giles reached over to where his trousers lay discarded and slipped his belt from the loops that held it.
Wesley flinched, just slightly, the happiness already fading, and Giles touched his face again. “No.” He pushed the belt at Wesley. “You need to use it on me.”
“Why?” Wesley said, in a whisper that already held more acceptance than bewilderment.
Giles shut his eyes, not wanting to see Wesley’s face change, either with disgust or excitement. “Because you still think I put you in that chair and let you be hurt. Because until you let me pay that debt, neither of us will feel – ”
The soft, almost clumsy kiss made him open his eyes. Wesley was staring down at him, his lips a thin line of determination. “If it’s what you want – ”
“Need.” Giles swallowed, his mouth dry. “You do too. You’re going to need to be able to hurt people without hesitating, without picturing their suffering and making it your own. Start with me.”
Wesley slid off the couch and stood beside Giles. “Stand up.”
Giles got to his feet and let Wesley bend him over the back of the couch. Wesley hesitated for one endlessly long moment, and then Giles heard his breath sigh out and realized, a second too late, that it had been the sound of the belt moving towards him. A line of stinging, tingling, nettle sting pain imprinted itself on Giles arse and he arched in an unthinking protest. As the strokes fell, in a measured, steady rhythm, he panted; sharp, tiny sounds, that grew until they were moans, but never went past that. He could feel nothing but the wood and fabric under his palms; the burn, uncomplicated and intense, of punished skin, could see nothing because his eyes were squeezed tight shut, could hear nothing but the sounds he was making.
“ – won’t stop until you scream, Giles.”
Wesley’s voice was calm, controlled and his strokes as hard as before. Somehow it became very important to work out what arm he was using. Giles pushed aside Wesley’s words. Scream? Why would he - ? When he realized Wesley was whipping him with his injured arm, hurting himself because he wanted Giles to have as much of a benison as he’d received, Giles screamed for his sake; one word, cut off as it met the silence.
A hand reached over his shoulder, forcing his hand to slacken its grip. Giles obediently spread his fingers and felt the belt being pushed into them. He turned his head and looked at Wesley.
“Take it back,” said Wesley. “I don’t need it any more.”
Giles felt himself being pulled upright and he stood, the thin, worn leather warm in his fist. “Thank you,” he said finally.
Wesley sighed. “At the risk of this being a perpetual exchange of favors...”
Giles frowned and then gasped as Wesley ran a finger along an erection that the whipping had neither encouraged nor quelled. “You don’t need to –”
“But I want to,” Wesley said firmly. He hesitated and then took the belt from Giles and slipped it around his own neck. Giles stared at him, understanding slow to arrive, and then gripped both ends, pulled Wesley to him for a grateful, passionless kiss and then tugged gently but firmly down with both hands.
Wesley sank to his knees and Giles let him finish what Angel had started for both of them.