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Take This Longing

Chapter Text

Many men have loved the bells you fastened to the rein...

 

The hotel was unnaturally still.

That was Angel's first thought as he slowly regained himself. He was sitting upright against a wall, the hard surface pressed to his back like a second spine. His eyes refocused on the floor, and he blinked, trying to clear his vision of something that made it blur. His head felt funny.

Gradually, he realized that something was really wrong. He was sitting in the lobby, and there was enough light filtering in through the windows to tell him that it was probably late afternoon. But where was everyone? And what the hell was going on?

Angel's eyes rose to where his left hand rested on his knee, and there was dried blood on his fingers. His hand was already halfway to his mouth, instinctively, before he could even start to recognize what it might mean.

Stopping himself from tasting the blood -- whose was it? -- he pushed himself to his feet and called, "Wes?" There was no answer. "Cordelia?" Still nothing.

Think. What had happened? He remembered Lilah coming into the office to toast the success of their joint campaign to destroy the Beast. Remembered drinking champagne, but hell, with his metabolism he could drink *bottles* of the stuff without getting drunk enough to lose his memory. He suddenly had a flash of Fred, rage and defiance clouding her features even while his own hands closed around her throat.

Oh God. "Fred? Fred!" He was able to move then, through the lobby and into Wes' office. It was still Wes' office in his mind, even though he'd taken it back, tried to make it his own again. It wasn't okay to still have feelings for Wes, after everything he'd done. But then, he'd always had trouble letting go.

Angel's eyes scanned the room and he caught sight of one female foot, clad in a shoe that was somewhere between practical and stylish, sticking out from behind the desk. As his own feet went through the papers and books that were scattered over the floor, he was dimly aware of a faint chant in the back of his mind, one that said 'This can't be happening, this isn't real, you're dreaming, please, let this be a dream.'

He fell to his knees beside the body, already knowing that it wasn't Fred's because the hair was too short and there were too many curves, and as he turned her over, he could tell that she was dead. Cordy.

Angel gathered her up and held her to his chest, rocking slightly like he was trying to comfort her, a little moan escaping him. He didn't want to look at the way that her throat was torn out or how pale she was. He didn't want to see the dark smudge marks that his bloodied fingerprints had left on her face. She was cold.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there, holding Cordelia's body. Eventually, he remembered that he'd been looking for Fred. Who might be... hurt, too. He lay Cordy down tenderly, still trying not to look at her too closely, and got up. There was more blood on his hands now, and he wiped it onto his pants before leaving the office and crossing the lobby into his own. "Fred?"

There were two bodies in his office. One of them was Lilah's, and despite their recent, reluctant truce, he couldn't summon up a hell of a lot of sorrow over her death. She was draped over a chair like a broken doll, at least two stab wounds visible on her chest. Her blouse was ripped open and a chunk had been bitten out of the side of her breast with human teeth -- he could tell by the way the skin was torn. There was severe bruising and a vamp bite wound on her throat, and absolutely no need to check for a pulse.

On the other side of the room was Lorne. He looked like he'd put up a fight, but it was obvious that, in the end, it hadn't made a difference. Angel went over closer to look; Lorne's clothes were torn and bloodied, and in one place, he could see raw flesh through the fabric. It looked like someone -- a human someone -- had taken a bite out of him. Angel reached down and tilted Lorne's head so that he could get a look at his throat, which was unmarked, but when he did, his fingers sunk into a deep depression in the demon's skull. No wondering about what had killed him then.

He didn't remember killing Lorne. For that matter, he didn't remember killing Lilah. *Or* drinking from her, although he obviously had, unless some other vampire had come into the hotel and done all of this. But he flashed back again on the sight of Fred's neck being squeezed by his own hands, and he knew he'd done this. Another flash, and this one wasn't a memory, but his sense of smell kicking in -- blood, more blood.

Feeling sick, he went back out into the lobby and called for Fred again, but there was still no answer. He ran up the staircase, and before he'd even turned the corner, he almost tripped over Gunn, who was lying crumpled up on the ground with a discarded crossbow next to him. Angel went to turn him over, even though the other man was clearly dead, only to discover that he was pinned, a short sword driven through his body and directly into the floor.

He turned away and immediately saw another body on the other side of the hallway -- Connor, lying in a dark pool soaked into the carpet. The scent of mixed blood was thick in the air. Angel sank down onto the floor beside him and tentatively touched him, praying that he would detect warmth or a heartbeat, but there was nothing. He rolled the boy toward him and winced at what he saw -- a crossbow bolt embedded deep in Connor's eye.

Shaken even more than he already had been, Angel leaned forward and just rested his head against his son's shoulder, feeling a wave of sorrow threatening to crest over him. Unshed tears burned behind his eyelids, and one ran in a rapidly cooling line down his cheek before he brushed it away with an impatient knuckle. Darla had given her life to save their son, and Angel had failed to protect him.

But he couldn't indulge; there had to be someone left alive. There had to be. "Fred!" he called again, more loudly, hearing the desperation in his own voice. "Wesley!" There was no answer, but he thought he'd heard a faint... something. Thought he could smell a faint tinge of freshly flowing blood -- new, not old.

Angel got up and kept moving.

On the floor just outside his suite, Fred's body lay sprawled. Her clothing was even more torn than Lorne's had been, rendering her half-naked. She was on her back, her legs spread, and her short skirt was hiked up. Her head was wrenched to one side in an unnatural position that spoke of her death more clearly than her utter stillness did. Neck broken. Throat torn. Her lips had dried blood on them, and her eyes were open, staring.

Angel closed his own eyes. He'd always known that this might happen; that they weren't safe with him. But seeing it was... worse than he'd ever imagined.

He heard the faint sound again, coming from inside the suite. He leapt to his feet and pushed the door open. There was a faint trail of blood across the carpet, like someone had dragged himself along the floor.

"Wesley?"

Angel found him on the bathroom floor, surrounded by a pool of blood, a formerly-white towel pressed to his side where a gaping wound continued to bleed sluggishly. It looked like he'd been trying to staunch the flow of blood, but now his hand rested limply on the tile. There was more blood, drying, around his mouth, staining the skin there.

Desperately, Angel gathered him up in much the same way he had Cordelia earlier, cradling the man against his chest, pressing the towel more firmly against the wound. "Wesley? Wes, can you hear me?"

The only response was the slightest fluttering of eyelids. Wes' heartbeat was slow, and slowing further even as he listened to it.

There was a pain where Angel's unbeating heart was. They were dead. They were all dead, and it looked like he'd been responsible for most of the carnage. He was reeling, unable to work out exactly how this had happened. All he knew was that they were all dead.

He unconsciously tightened his grip on Wesley, and Wes moaned slightly, the sound barely audible even to his vampire senses.

They weren't *all* dead. Wesley was near death; Angel listened to his agonized breathing as he tried desperately to draw air into his failing body. There was no question of being able to get him to a hospital in time; he had minutes to live at the most. He'd lost too much blood. But he wasn't dead, not yet.

If Wesley died, Angel would be all alone, alone in a way he hadn't been since Whistler found him. The soul had lost him his family, but it had gained him a replacement one, eventually, starting with Doyle and ending with Connor, and... they were dead. Wesley was all he had left, and if he sat here and watched him die and did nothing, that's what he'd be left with. Nothing. Angel's mind circled wildly. He could do it. He could. There were spells; it didn't necessarily have to be a bad thing.

He wouldn't think about what Wes would say.

Pulling Wesley closer and letting the bloodied towel fall onto the floor, Angel morphed into game face and sank his teeth into Wes' throat, drinking and trying to pretend that he didn't enjoy it on some level. He hadn't forgotten how Wesley's blood tasted; he'd never forget the hunger-sharpened image of Wes standing over him on that boat, cutting open his own forearm and feeding Angel. He'd never forget the sense of wonder and gratitude.

There wasn't a lot of blood to take; Wesley's supply was already so low. In very little time, it was done, and Angel pulled back and bit into his own wrist, holding it to Wes' mouth. "Drink, Wes. Come on." Wesley was unresponsive, and Angel felt a surge of anger that had its roots in terror. He let Wes' head loll on his thigh and grabbed onto his hair, yanking hard, forcing his bleeding wrist between Wes' lips. "*Drink,*" he said again, forcefully. "Wesley, drink!"

A long couple of seconds passed, and then he felt Wesley's mouth work, just once, and there was the faintest swallow. "Again," he ordered, and Wesley obeyed and swallowed again, and then a few more times.

It was enough. He cradled Wes more gently now, smoothing his hair back from his face with a hand that left a blood trail, listening as Wesley's heartbeat slowed to almost nothing. Angel refused to admit to himself the magnitude of what he'd just done; he just waited. Waited to Wesley to die.

When the last breath came, it was almost a relief.

***

Wesley's eyes flashed open. He focused on a dingy ceiling. Hmm, Hyperion dirty-white -- he was on a bed in the Hotel. He began to sit up, to investigate his surroundings, but his arms caught tight with a clink of metal; he was chained. His legs too. What the hell was going on? And what on earth was that intoxicating smell?

Turning his head, he quickly ascertained that he was in Angel's room, and Angel wasn't. Wesley's throat was extremely dry, and he felt particularly thirsty. This situation was really quite intolerable. He strained his muscles experimentally against the chains, but nothing gave.

Awkwardly raising his head, he looked himself over and was alarmed to find his clothing shredded and dried blood everywhere. But he felt fine -- well, so very thirsty, which could certainly be explained by major blood loss, but there was no pain, just frustration and growing anger at his captivity.

"Angel?" he called out tentatively. There was no response. Rather desperately, Wes searched his mind for the last thing he remembered. Lilah, looking glorious in her best Gucci, smiling softly at him as they drank to their success. Then... oh dear God. Dark, fractured images, nightmarish and impossible... that couldn't have happened, could it? Hell. The rage, the pain, dying...

And then Angel's voice, soothing hands, and a fierce liquid in his parched throat as he lay immobile, no longer even gasping. Angel's cool flesh against his lips... no, oh no. That bastard! That bloody bastard had turned him!

"ANGEL!" he howled, thrashing about in the chains. "You total fucking wanker! Where are you? Show yourself, you prat! How could you do this?" The obscenities spat easily from his mouth; there was no need to repress them now. God, even Lilah, with her beauty and seductive affection, hadn't been enough to turn him to the other side. But Angel, with one simple act of twisted mercy -- or was it revenge? -- had removed his ability to choose.

Wesley's pointless struggles calmed when his betrayer, his *sire*, persistently failed to materialise. He began to worry that he would be chained here forever, becoming increasingly insane with hunger; much how he imagined Angel had been while sunk under the ocean. Dear lord, let this not be about vengeance. Let Angel just be busy somewhere and coming soon to release him, perhaps with something he could drink...

Hell, he was so thirsty, or hungry really, he now realised. It was blood he craved, and the alluring smell that was taunting him like a siren song was coming from the blackened gore that painted his body. He ran his tongue over cracked lips and found that they weren't actually cracked at all, just coated in dried blood. Angel's. Wesley reached out with his tongue, straining to retrieve every dusty fragment of it.

His teeth felt exceptionally sharp as his tongue ran over them. With a little shudder of naughty delight, he realised he must be in game face, and despite everything, he grinned. So the animal features of his darkest fantasies were now his own. It felt like donning some illicit garb, like the first time he pulled on the leather trousers. He felt himself becoming aroused just from the feel of his own fangs.

Angel's blood had entered him, changing him forever; it was really rather erotic when he thought about it that way. Wesley writhed almost sensually in his chains, his cock half-hard and demanding. But tethered on his back as he was, he could gain no friction. And all the while, his brain was analysing and cataloguing the changes he perceived within himself.

There were a lot, and not just the obvious physical alterations, although they were dramatic. Wesley noticed that he was still breathing most of the time; maybe it took a while to lose the habit. His senses were significantly improved. One of his contacts was missing, and that naked eye was seeing far more clearly than the other. Also, he now understood that this room was actually dark. It was night, curtains and door closed, and no electric lighting, but Wes could see everything in the room.

His presumably enhanced hearing was merely confusing, as he found it difficult to work out just how far away the source was of the various bangs and thuds that he heard. And his new sense of smell was not something to concentrate on currently, teasing him as it did with the blood he was denied. He willed himself to stop breathing, not wanting any more irresolvable temptation.

"ANGEL!" he cried out again, using up the rest of the air in his lungs. Weren't vampire sires meant to attend to their offspring? Well no, Wesley guessed that most were like reptiles and other primitive animals, laying their infected corpses in the ground like eggs and then just forgetting about them. But family had always been important to Angel.

Yes, Angel *would* come for him, and Wesley found he was suddenly feeling rather pleased with himself. To have been made by Angel made him feel singled out and special. Valued... aroused... It felt strange to admit his lust for his friend now, as previously he wouldn't acknowledge it to himself at all. Apart from during those long, lonely nights, his mind drunk, his hand on his cock, and his thoughts becoming ever more tangled, dark and heated.

But the guilt, it seemed, was gone now. All of it, Wes abruptly realised. He could think about Connor and giggle at the ludicrousness of the whole Greek tragedy. And Wesley's father? That inner, constantly nagging voice was blissfully silent. In fact, Wes would like to have the old bastard here with him now; he'd teach that tyrant a thing or two about pain and humiliation. Free at last. It was a very satisfying feeling indeed.

He'd had no idea that evil tasted so much like liberty.

Only, of course, he wasn't at liberty. "Oh come *on*, Angel," he begged the ceiling. "Please. I'm not angry, I promise. I just want to get up, see this brave new world for myself... please?"

"Soon," said a familiar voice from the doorway. Wesley looked over at Angel, at his *sire*. Hmm, that word felt good. It made Wes feel proud and excited. He smiled.

"I thought you had forgotten about me," he said, pouting just a little.

"Not gonna happen, Wes," the big vampire replied, and he entered the room. His expression was as guarded as ever, but there seemed, perhaps, a deeper crease in his brow, and maybe a more pronounced stoop to his shoulders as if the world was heavier today. His clothes, Wes noticed, were only in a slightly better condition than his own.

Angel asked, "How are you feeling?" as if Wes had been sick.

"Good. Hungry. Good and hungry." Wesley's eyes had found the large carton in Angel's hand, and he didn't need his new sense of smell to tell him what it contained. "May I have it, please?"

"You're still so... British. You know, polite. Wasn't expecting that." Angel sat down on the edge of the bed and gazed at Wesley's face, studying, perhaps, how it appeared while ridged and fanged.

"You thought my late, unlamented soul was the only thing keeping me from vulgarity?" Wesley laughed. "Well, that's probably true, but the lack of it doesn't compel me to use bad manners. Would you like me to be rude?" He offered Angel a flirtatious look, and his sire seemed taken back momentarily.

"No," he answered with apparent honesty.

Wes made a mental note that both politeness and its opposite were tools he could use to manipulate his sire if necessary. Angel was nothing if not conservative, disliking change and seeking stability. So Wesley suspected Angel would prefer him to be as much as possible like the human he no longer was, and preferably, the human Wes had been a year or so ago, before babies, knives and pillows had changed his personality irrevocably. Wesley thought he could play that role if it would get him what he wanted, which was primarily the blood, and then freedom, and then Angel himself.

Angel removed the lid from the carton, and Wesley's head spun with a powerful need as the rich tannic smell of fresh-ish blood filled his nostrils.

"Oh Angel, please..." he begged.

A large hand was placed securely at the back of his neck and his head lifted. Angel placed the lip of the container against Wesley's mouth and tipped it slightly. The taste was indescribable and nothing like the way blood had tasted to him as a human. It was warm from the microwave, and it burned going down... no, 'burned' was the wrong word. It was more like a raw, sensual caress inside him. He felt it enter his veins, filling him with an illusion of renewed life. When the source was briefly removed, he whimpered softly and strained to reach the carton again.

"Slowly," warned Angel.

"Why?" Wes demanded, frustrated. "I don't see a need for caution here. Let me have it!" Angel looked momentarily displeased, and Wesley rolled his eyes. "Please," he added pointedly.

He was rewarded with another opportunity to drink from the polystyrene container. He tried to swallow as fast as he could before it was, inevitably, taken away again. Clearly Angel was trying to educate him about something. "What now?" Wes asked crossly, when his supposition was proved correct.

Angel put the half-empty carton down on the bedside table and lay Wesley's head back down on the pillow. "No!" Wes protested, dismayed by the actions. "Please, I'm sorry. Please... I need... Angel, *please*!"

His begging didn't result in the correct action, and anger overtook Wesley. He writhed in the chains, snarling and cursing. "You sadistic bastard! Is this why you made me? To torture me? Go rot in hell, Angel. Get fucking dusted! I hate you! I despise your weakness. You're a weak man, Angel. Champion, my arse. You're everyone's puppet, and I'm damned if I'll be yours!"

Wes stopped his rant abruptly, as he was punched with stunning force to the left temple. When he opened his eyes again, Angel was in game face directly above him. Alarmed, Wesley tried to move his own head away, but a large hand was holding either side of his face, and he was forced to remain still. Angel's significant weight was upon his body, pinning him to the bed.

Angel growled, "You'll talk to me with respect at all times."

"Fuck off," Wesley spat. He could see no need to reward the bastard with politeness if this was the way he was going to be treated.

The beating was sudden, silent, brutal, and quickly over. Fists connected, breaking bones and splitting apart flesh. Its wake left Wesley shaken with considerable pain and substantially more resentment. He was unable to stop the humiliating whimpers emerging from his throat.

Angel turned from Wesley and walked out of the room, saying nothing. He shut the door quietly behind him. His exit was as passionless and methodical as the attack had been. The open carton of blood sat, unobtainable, on the side, filling the air with its reek. Wesley tipped his head back and wailed...

An hour or so later, Wesley was still lying in the darkened room. His eyes were closed and his body was trembling. He hurt. He had broken ribs, a bruised and puffy face, his wrists and ankles were rubbed raw by the manacles, and his head ached with some kind of vampiric concussion. But the pain of all those things was negligible compared to the acid burn of hunger inside him.

He had stopped screaming obscenities and demands some time ago. It had been a pointless activity; Angel had not come, and the noise had hurt his throat and head. Wes had then wept unselfconsciously for a while, but ultimately he'd decided that soulless didn't have to mean prideless and so quieted. Now Wesley was silent because he'd accepted that, for the time being, he couldn't fight his sire directly. Angel held all the aces, court cards, and wild cards, and the best Wes could hope to do was manipulate which one was thrown at him and when.

Possibly in reward for fifteen minutes continuous silence from the new vampire, Angel chose to return. Wesley stared at him sullenly as he entered the room, but said nothing. Angel sat back down on the side of the bed, lifted Wesley's head, and started feeding him again as if there had been no break. The blood was cold now and didn't taste as exquisite this time around. Fury at his situation boiled inside Wes, but he made no objection, for fear the blood would be taken away again. And as he fed, he began to find calm.

When Angel did remove the carton from his lips, Wesley was still, and waited with forced patience until it was placed back to his mouth. There was certain symmetry about this scene to Wesley's perceptions. Previously, their positions had been reversed. Angel lying flat on the long table in the boat's hold, Wesley holding up his head, feeding him cold blood. Wes had been a far more generous supplier, of course.

Not a word was spoken by either of them until the last drop was drained from the polystyrene beaker. It hadn't been nearly enough. Disposing of the carton, Angel said, "Good, Wes. You're doing great. How do you feel?"

Wesley gave his sire a frankly incredulous look in response to such a fatuous question. But as Angel's eyes darkened, his offspring winced and tried to give the answer most likely to produce a favourable response. "Thank you for coming back. I am still rather hungry, and I would like to get up."

Angel nodded slowly. "Once I'm sure you know how to behave." He took Wesley's chin between thumb and forefinger and turned his face from side to side, apparently inspecting the damage. "You'll be hungry all the time to start with; just the way it is. You can have some more later." He pressed gentle fingers around the socket of Wesley's swollen eye.

Wes didn't resist the inspection. The touch felt soft, and he guessed he had lost his game face at some point. He didn't yet know how to control the change. Schooling his voice into meekness, he asked, "Angel, please. I'm not intending rudeness, or to be demanding, or any of the things you clearly don't want me to be, but why can't I have more blood? Surely the more I drink now, the better? Won't it make me a strong and healthy young vampire?"

"This'll teach you a different kind of strength. A kind more important than muscle."

Wesley thought about that. It was a very brutal method that Angel was employing, involving simplistic behaviourist techniques. The dog is bad; the dog gets beaten. The dog is good; he gets a bone. The dog is tested to see if he's learnt his lessons. So what was the lesson here? What variety of strength was Angel trying to imbue into him?

"Willpower? Self-control?" Wes inquired. "But I've always had plenty of those."

"Had," Angel agreed. "Now? -- not so much. You have to relearn that kinda stuff."

Wes was curious. "In the same way as, after brain damage, a person has to relearn how to walk?" Angel nodded, seeming pleased at Wesley's quick grasp of the situation. "And self-control is important because..." Wes paused, thinking it through. "Without it, a fledging doesn't last long?"

"There we go; knew you'd figure it out. Makes me happy you're still using your brain."

"Happy enough to let me sit up?" Wes asked hopefully.

"Soon," Angel said. His inspection of Wesley's face had turned into a distracted stroking of his cheek with the side of a finger. Wesley swallowed down his frustration and closed his eyes, enjoying the touch of his sire.

"Why did you do this, Angel?" he asked quietly. "I never thought you would while souled." There was no reply, and the hand on his face was removed. Worried that he'd somehow incurred further punishment, Wes opened his eyes. Angel was still there, gazing at him, and he didn't seem to be about to start another beating.

Finally, his sire said, "Couldn't let you go too."

"Too?" Wesley asked, and twitched as images he'd been trying to repress lightning-flashed through his mind. His hands around her neck, twisting, rupturing the flesh beneath, so intense was his grip. Her eyes bulging, blood vessels bursting in the skin of her perfect cheeks... "No!" he said urgently, and turned his head away. He used all the willpower Angel didn't think he had anymore to force his thoughts elsewhere.

"Not going to shelter you from what we did, Wes. We're going to clear it up together."

"Oh God..." Wes turned and looked at Angel in horror. "Is... is everyone...?"

"All gone. All of them."

Wesley considered that Angel didn't seem entirely... sane as he said that; there was something unbalanced in his voice and about his eyes. But then, Wes didn't exactly feel stable either. Shouldn't this sort of thing cease to matter to him now? He struggled to sit up, pulling the chains tight, craving contact with Angel. His sire put a gentle hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down, but the hand stayed there and it was enough. Wesley relaxed his body, but inside, his mind struggled with what he'd been told.

Everyone was dead. His mind couldn't really process that without allowing himself to analyse the memories he was denying. And he needed his intellect as the emotions alone were uncomfortable to say the least.

"I killed Lilah?" he asked plaintively. Her clothing shredded and his mouth at the side of her breast. Teeth parting flesh from her body, chewing a tough mouthful, swallowing... So much blood.

Hell, he was hungry.

Angel's voice was heavy with grief and guilt. "I think I killed most of them."

"What happened to us?" Having confronted at least the possibility that his colleagues and dear ones were all dead, the memories held a little less trauma. The horror really wasn't, well, horrible. In fact, it was rather exciting. Wesley assumed he had the demon now residing within him to thank for that. The blood-related thrills did not ease the pain of loss however.

"I don't know," Angel admitted. "We lost control of ourselves, became like animals..."

"Like after Billy's touch," Wes commented. Interesting how he could now say that name and feel nothing but intellectual curiosity about the effect the strange demonic boy had had upon him.

"Billy never controlled me," Angel pointed out.

Wes nodded, his brain trying to do what it did best and analyse the problem. "You know," he commented wryly, "I could think a lot more clearly about this if I wasn't so hungry."

The hand on his shoulder tightened menacingly, and Wesley sighed. "Angel, just tell me the rules? I've lost my soul, not my brain. I know I can't win in any struggle with you, and I have no wish to incur a further beating. Just tell me what you want from me, and I'll oblige. There's really no need for violence."

Angel snorted. "Then you're different from the last fledgling I trained."

Wesley winced inside at the word 'trained'; this was really quite humiliating. But he'd never been able to see the point in fighting the inevitable, believing in working with it instead. For now, as Angel seemed determined to play a fierce game of Master and Slave, Wes decided to act the role of the good slave, as life --unlife?-- would be more pleasant that way.

He was more than a little concerned about the older vampire's mental state. Because, Wesley now realised, both Connor and Cordelia must be dead too. Poor Angel. Noting with interest that he could still feel sympathy as well as the pain of loss, Wes said gently, "This must be so very difficult for you."

Angel gave him a very surprised look, and when he spoke, it was not an answer. "You, y'know, love her?"

"Lilah?" Her death, the loss of all of them, hadn't truly sunk in; Wesley realised this. "I care... cared for her. I will miss her."

"Never got why the two of you... what you were doing together," Angel admitted. "But it seemed like you were good for her. Wolfram and Hart tipped the balance against the Beast."

"You couldn't see why I wanted to fuck her?" Wesley asked with a little laugh. Angel cringed at Wesley's words, and Wes rolled his eyes at his sire's hypocrisy and changed his phrasing. "You didn't find her desirable?"

"She was... desirable. But you..." He shrugged and stood up.

"Are not?" Wes asked, his eyebrow raised as he tried not to feel hurt. "*She* thought I was." Lilah had allowed him to feel valued; it had been good when his conscience had let it be.

"No," Angel said, looking perplexed. "I meant you were so... Good. Y'know, with a capital 'G'?"

Ah, that was what he'd meant. "Once upon a time," Wes agreed gently.

Angel closed his eyes briefly, and for a moment, Wesley truly believed the big vampire was about to weep. But instead, he turned and walked towards the door of the bedroom. "Something I have to do," he explained. "I'll be back for you when it's done."

As the door shut behind his sire, Wesley slumped back onto the covers and pondered the future. All their friends were gone, and Wes now faced a very different world from the one he'd walked in yesterday.