The expression on Wesley's face when he first saw Angel was... well, priceless. And that was so fitting that the nervous smile that Angel had been trying to hide slipped out.
There was a very long pause. "You... you aren't welcome here," Wesley stammered.
"Technically that's not true," Angel said, reaching out and running a hand over the back of one pew, taking his time. Letting the unfinished wood, polished to a faint sheen only because somebody had spent a lot of time sanding it, rub against his palm.
Wesley didn't say anything -- just kept staring at him.
"If God didn't want me in here, don't you think there'd be something to keep me out?" Angel took a step closer, his eyes never leaving Wesley's. "Like, I dunno, some kind of... invisible barrier?"
"God's not responsible for what you are," Wesley said hoarsely.
The priest's cassock, Angel thought, suited Wes. Well, other than the dark color. Something with more medium tones -- maybe a nice blue -- would have set off his eyes better. Still, not like he'd expected to find Wes having been called to the priesthood. "Maybe not," he agreed.
Wesley took a step back, then his heel hit the bottom of the stairs that led up to the pulpit and he stumbled.
It took less than a second for Angel to move forward and catch him.
Just one hand under Wes' elbow, but Wes froze. "Don't touch me."
"That's not what you were saying right before you left," Angel pointed out, even as he obeyed and let go.
"That was... a long time ago." Wesley said. "A lifetime ago."
Angel looked at him steadily. Closer now, he could see the fine lines around Wes' eyes, faint ones that hadn't been there the last time he'd seen Wes. "You thought I wouldn't find you."
There was a scuffling noise behind him, and he turned. A boy, who looked to be about the age of fourteen or so -- thin and gangly, not unlike the way Wesley had been when he'd come to Sunnydale, even though Wes had been so much older -- and he looked from Angel to Wesley uncertainly.
"Father John? Is... is everything all right?"
"It's fine, Tomas," Wesley said gently, with a glance at Angel that might let slip more than he wanted to. It told Angel that Wes' time away -- Jesus, more than five years now -- had convinced Wes that Angel was someone he wasn't. Someone Wes needed to fear.
So Angel just stood there and waited patiently. Damned if he was gonna give Wes anything to prove that.
The boy nodded, hesitated, and then scuttled off. Watching him go, Angel was aware of the thick, acrid smell of the tallow candles sputtering in various places throughout the room.
"We don't have the resources for beeswax," Wesley said, in explanation to the comment Angel hadn't made.
"Guess it's expensive," Angel said. Then, because he couldn't help himself, "John?"
Wesley turned away dismissively. "I haven't time to discuss... whatever it is you came here for. I'd appreciate it if you'd leave."
Angel was almost surprised at the sound of frustration that came from his own chest. "Yeah, well I'd appreciate it if you'd talk to me. You know, considering how much trouble I had to go to to get here."
"I didn't ask you to come." Wesley's voice was brusque. "In fact -- and I can't imagine you failed to notice this -- I came a very long way to get away from you."
"That's what I want to talk about. C'mon, Wes. I -- "
It was the first time he'd said Wes' name out loud, and it obviously didn't go over well, because Wes whirled to face him, eyes blazing with a fury that made Angel flinch. "Get out!" Wesley growled. "That's -- I'm not that person anymore. You don't know me."
Angel held his ground. "You're the one who ran away, We -- " He managed to cut himself off in time. "You're the one who had to run, what, a thousand miles, not to mention more than three hundred years, just to get away from me. Don't you think that says something?"
"I do." Wesley looked calmer now. "It means that when I say I want you out, I mean it."
"You're wrong," Angel told him quietly.
"About what?" It was like the question came out whether Wes wanted it to or not.
"About me not knowing you." He tried to make his voice sound like Wes' -- low, a little bit detached. Maybe it would be easier that way. "Because I do. And I'm not going back without you."
Wesley stepped behind the altar and picked up a book, opening it, then giving Angel one final glance. "Then say hello to the seventeenth century," Wes said. "Again. Because I'm staying here."
And with that, he turned his back on Angel completely.
* * *
Wesley -- and lord, he hadn't thought of himself by that name in at least three years -- waited until he heard Angel close the door quietly on his way out. Then he waited another few minutes, counting the seconds off silently in his head, before he allowed himself the reaction that he'd been fighting since the moment he'd looked up and seen Angel standing there.
He sat down and let himself tremble.
The reaction was a number of things. Shock -- the sheer surprise of seeing Angel again, when Wesley had thought he never would. Oh, there'd been a time after he'd first arrived when a part of him had been cautious, almost expecting Angel to turn up, but as the months and then years had passed, he'd gradually relaxed. The impulse to glance up quickly when someone lurked in a doorway had faded.
Wesley had been well-versed enough in religion that his initial, spontaneous agreement that he'd been the priest the villagers were expecting hadn't aroused any suspicion. At the time he'd thought only to give himself a few days to get his bearings, while hoping that the priest he was impersonating didn't arrive and give him away.
But the priest in question had never shown up, and Wesley had taken on his name as well as his vestments and station. He'd been grateful to be given a place -- so grateful that giving the credit to God hadn't seemed an inappropriate thing to do. The villagers -- an uneducated lot, living on the outskirts of a bigger town and barely scraping a meagre existence from the land -- hadn't been anything but welcoming and deferential from the start. They'd seemed to expect him to be somewhat aloof, and hadn't protested when he'd needed days on his own, trying to immerse himself in the role he'd taken on and forget the past -- a future that no longer existed now -- at the same time.
But again, as the months and years had gone by, Wesley had become comfortable with his new title and name. Comfortable with his new life. He taught several of the young boys to read and write -- not the girls, although he would have liked to -- and in return their families provided what assistance he needed with the tiny church. Broken boards were replaced, cheap candles provided. He both slept and cooked in a small room at the back of the church, and ate his Saturday evening meal on a rotating basis at the homes of different members of his flock.
If they hadn't all been such genuinely good and honest people -- trying so hard to better themselves in the face of adversity, so desperate for their children to have better lives than they had themselves -- Wesley might not have stayed.
Well, to be perfectly honest with himself, they weren't the only reason he'd stayed. He'd had nowhere else to go, had wanted nothing more than to create a new life for himself. A life completely separate and different from the one that he'd shared with Angel.
From the one that he'd fled.
Wesley realized that he was gripping his bible with such strength that he'd left a faint indentation in the tooled leather with his thumb, and sighed. He relaxed his grip and closed his eyes, trying to regain some of the inner calm that had come so easily only that morning.
If Angel had shown up three years ago -- maybe even two, he told himself -- he wouldn't have been so surprised. Might have been able to explain to Angel in simple terms, very calmly, why he was going to stay.
There was a faint sound from the narthex, then Tomas appeared again, pale and anxious. "I'm sorry to disturb you, Father..."
Wesley stood up. "No, come in. Are you all right?"
"I was... wondering. About that man. Who was he, Father?"
"He was... someone I knew when I was younger," Wesley said cautiously. "Did he... say anything to you?"
Tomas shook his head. "No, Father. But..."
"Did he come from far away?" Tomas asked finally, as if it were the proper question to ask, and the answer would encompass everything he wanted to know.
When, of course, the answer would only bring up more questions than Wesley could possibly respond to in a lifetime. "Yes." Wesley hoped that this might be the end of the discussion, but Tomas stood there silently. Eventually, Wesley said, "You might see him again. He... believes that he and I have unfinished business."
"But you don't think so, Father?"
"No. I think... I think that whatever business he and I had was concluded long ago."
* * *
Angel didn't show up again until the following evening, and this time, Wesley wasn't surprised at all. It was extremely rare for anyone to enter the church after dinner time, and despite the fact that Angel could be very quiet when he wished to -- on this occasion, it didn't seem to Wesley that Angel was trying to sneak up on him.
"I thought I told you to leave," Wesley said, without turning to look over his shoulder.
"I thought I told you I wasn't going without you."
Wesley was tempted to sigh, but he held it in. He could stay calm, he could be rational about this. He would be. No matter how difficult it was. "I'm not sure what I can say to convince you that I'm serious."
Angel couldn't come into the room that was Wesley's home within the building that also housed the church, but he looked as if he was aware of the shaky ground he was on. "So was this whole... religion thing part of the plan? Because you didn't mention that in that long note you left."
Going over to poke at the fire in the grate, Wesley congratulated himself on remaining detached so far. "It might have been short, but it was to the point."
"Look, I understand that... what happened -- between you and me, I mean -- freaked you out. It freaked me out too. But that's not a reason to -- "
Wesley shook his head, just once, but Angel stopped talking anyway. "This is who I am now. I've... I've made a place for myself here."
"Impersonating a priest?" Angel asked incredulously.
"I may not have been formally ordained, but this isn't an impersonation," Wesley said. "In my eyes -- and in God's -- I am a priest."
Angel just stared at him. "You're not serious."
"I assure you I am."
The vampire -- Wesley reminded himself that Angel was a vampire, and a cursed one at that -- continued to stand there. His mouth opened and closed a few times, as though he were going to say something and then couldn't decide what to say. "That doesn't mean you can't come home," Angel said finally.
Wesley shook his head. "That's what you're failing to understand. I am home."
"No, you're not. Home is the twenty first century, Wes. It's... cars, and computers, and you doing research in big books that talk about the 1600s like they're the past instead of living in it just because you're too damned scared to face up to what happened."
Wesley was angry, an emotion so unfamiliar these days that it did make him feel like the old Wesley, and that only made him that much angrier. "I didn't ask you to come here, and regardless of what you may believe, I don't want you. I may have once, but those days are long past. All I want now is to be left to live my life in peace."
Angel's eyes had softened, and Wesley could tell that the vampire was sorry for having upset him. "You need more time. I get that."
Wesley sighed in exasperation. "No, what I need is for you to get it through your thick skull that I'm completely serious when I say I'm not going back with you."
"Yeah, well... I can keep repeating the same thing over and over again too -- I'm not going back without you. So looks like we've reached some kind of, you know... impasse."
Continuing to argue with Angel seemed futile, so Wesley said, "It looks as if we have," and waited.
Angel shifted his weight and looked around the room from his spot on the other side of the doorway. "Nice place," he said.
"I'm not inviting you in," Wesley told him.
"I know," Angel said.
It was a pity, Wesley thought, that the door opened outward, and therefore he couldn't close it without asking Angel to step back. Instead, he forced himself to continue with his plans for the evening as if Angel weren't there, going over and sitting down at his small desk and opening his bible.
As he read from the passages that would make up his next sermon, he did his best to concentrate on what he was actually doing and ignore Angel, but it was extremely difficult. He knew, much as he hated to admit to knowing, exactly how patient Angel was. That Angel might very well stand there all night waiting for further conversation, no matter how remote the chances that it might occur.
Nor did Wesley want to think about how it made him feel that Angel had gone to so much effort to find him. He'd never thought, not for one moment, that he'd see the vampire again. He thought he'd covered his tracks too completely. Now, knowing that Angel must have spent a great deal of time and energy to find him, he was confused and distracted and, damn it, completely unable to concentrate.
Chastising himself for having cursed, even silently, Wesley stood up, carefully marking his place in his bible before turning toward Angel. He walked over to the vampire, who watched him with dark eyes, and stopped just inside the doorway.
"Back up," Wesley said.
"What?" Angel looked confused. Good. It gave Wesley some small measure of satisfaction to think that he wasn't the only one.
"Back up," Wesley repeated. When Angel did, he reached out and grabbed onto the door handle, daring Angel with his eyes to attempt to stop him.
But Angel let Wesley close the door, essentially in his face, without a word.
Wesley went to bed early on the pretext that he was fighting off a cold. He lay there half the night, staring at the ceiling, aware that Angel was just outside in the church.
* * *
Angel spent the night sitting on a pew, his jacket pulled tightly around his body. Apparently they didn't see any need to heat the church itself overnight, although he knew that Wesley had a fire going in his little room. Every once in a while, he could hear the crackle as the piled up logs settled.
He'd spent so long looking for Wesley that the thought that Wesley would refuse to come back with him hadn't really crossed his mind. Oh, he'd known from the three-line-long note that Wesley had left that he didn't want Angel to go after him, but enough time had passed that Angel had just figured Wesley would be glad to see him. That maybe they'd have a few tense conversations and then Wes would smile and nod and follow Angel home like a good boy.
He hadn't counted on the whole priest thing, or on the fact that Wesley would be so pissed off about him showing up. In all, pretty much none of this was shaping up the way Angel had planned, and he didn't like it one bit.
About an hour before sunrise, he heard Wesley moving around, poking the fire, adding more logs. When Wesley opened the door and blinked at him wearily, Angel couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt.
"You're still here," Wesley said. He didn't sound surprised.
"Yeah," Angel said.
Wesley glanced through the windows on the east wall. "You should go."
Angel decided to take that as an immediate statement and not a general one. "Yeah. I'll see you tonight."
"I wish you wouldn't," Wesley said.
But Angel hadn't come all this way to accept the brush-off so easily. "I'll see you tonight," he said again, and got up, choosing to back away so that he could look at Wesley for as long as possible.
Shutting the door behind him on his way out was harder than he thought it would be.
* * *
It was a pattern they played out for the next three nights, differing from the first two only by the fact that, when Angel got there on the third night, Wesley had already shut his door by the time he arrived. It was disappointing not to get to see Wes at all, so on the fifth night, Angel made sure to show up as early as he possibly could, leaving the small abandoned house he'd been staying in during the day as soon as the sun set.
When he opened the door into the church, Wesley was sitting in the front pew, but he wasn't alone. There was a young couple sitting next to him, the woman's head bowed. It was pretty obvious that she was crying.
Wesley turned his head and looked at him, and Angel went back outside without a word, closing the door behind him.
About twenty minutes later the couple came out, barely glancing at him before they walked away, the man's arm around the woman's shoulders. Angel watched them go, then went inside again.
Wesley was still sitting there where he'd been before. Slowly, Angel walked to the front of the church, stopping on the other side of the aisle, a good five or six feet from Wesley.
"Thank you," Wesley said softly.
Angel nodded. "No problem." He looked back at the door. "Were they okay?"
"I suppose that depends upon your definition," Wesley said, sighing.
Angel looked at Wesley thoughtfully, noting the lines around his eyes. "You want to talk about it?"
"No," Wesley said. "And even if I wanted to, I couldn't. The things one tells a priest..."
"This isn't the confessional," Angel pointed out, frowning.
Wesley stood up, both hands on his bible like he needed something to hold onto, which Angel couldn't help but take as a sign that his defenses were slipping. "That's not the point. It's not as simple as drawing a line in the sand and then stepping over it."
Angel liked how that sounded, too. "No, it never is." He realized he was between Wesley and the room Wes had been using to hide from him, and that the only way for Wesley to get there was to go through him. He chose not to move.
"Where do you go during the day?" Wesley asked, managing to look like he'd be comfortable standing there all night.
"There's a house," Angel said. "Looks like it's been abandoned for a long time."
Wesley nodded. "Yes, I suppose there are quite a few of them. There was an illness last year. We lost a number of people." He sounded sad.
"You didn't get sick?" Angel asked.
"No." Wesley didn't offer anything else.
"Good. Good." It was harder than Angel would have thought to just stand there.
"I have to be up early," Wesley said.
Angel looked at him, studying his face. "You don't sleep much."
"No, I suppose I don't." Wesley blinked slowly, taking a measured, deep breath. He walked toward Angel, probably expecting him to step out of the way.
Angel didn't move, not even when there was less than a foot between them. "Stay and talk to me."
"I don't have anything to say to you," Wesley said, one hand smoothing the front of his cassock, the other still holding onto the bible. His eyes were the same blue Angel remembered, and this close up Angel could see the place where his glasses had been broken and, it looked like, soldered back together by someone who didn't really have the right tools. "Let me by."
"No," Angel said. "Not until you agree to talk to me."
"Whatever it is you want to hear, I'm highly unlikely to say it." Wesley took another one of those slow, careful breaths, letting it out just as slowly. "This isn't about what you want, Angel. This is my home now. I'm staying here. Nothing you say will change that."
Angel shook his head. "I don't believe that. I know you, Wes."
"You know who I was. Things are different now."
"I still know who you are," Angel said.
The door opened, and the boy that had been there the first day came in, carrying an armful of wood. His eyes widened when he saw Angel, and he stopped, looking from Angel to Wesley uncertainly.
"It's all right, Tomas," Wesley said, in the same tone of voice he'd always used to soothe people who were scared, the one that reassured Angel that he did know Wes.
"I didn't know anyone was here," the boy said, starting to move forward again. "I brought wood for your fire, Father."
"Thank you," Wesley said. "And he was just leaving."
"No, I wasn't," Angel said easily, taking a step forward, which left room for Tomas to pass behind him into Wesley's quarters and put him closer to Wes, which was just fine with him. Wesley glared at him. "Priests aren't supposed to lie, you know," Angel told him.
Wesley was obviously seething, but he waited. not saying anything, until Tomas had reappeared with empty arms before saying, "Thank you, Tomas. I'll see you in the morning."
"All right, Father." The boy hesitated before leaving the church.
As soon as the door had closed, Wesley growled, "If you think I'm going to tolerate this sort of behavior, you're wrong."
"If you think it's going to be as easy as you telling me to go, you're wrong," Angel countered. "All I'm asking is for you to sit down and talk to me. It doesn't even have to be here, if you don't want it to be. But I'm not just going to walk out of here and pretend you never existed, Wes. I can't."
Wesley looked -- well, still mad. But also torn, like part of him wanted to agree. His thumb rubbed the worn spine of the bible he was holding. "Tomorrow night," he said finally. "Not here. I'll come to you."
* * *
Half an hour or so before sunrise, Wesley heard the door to the church open very quietly. He'd been up for a short while, warming his hands over the fire; his bones ached terribly in the cold, no doubt an early onset of arthritis. One of the things he missed most was central heating. He dreamt of being able to turn a thermostat on the wall and have the ambient temperature rise to a comfortable level.
At first, he assumed the intruder was Angel, but given the timing it seemed unlikely. He went to his door and opened it, finding Tomas in the church, his face pale and pinched. "What's wrong?" Wesley asked.
"Father..." Tomas sounded more upset than Wesley had ever heard him.
"Come here," Wesley said, holding out his hand, and the boy came closer. "It's all right. You know that you can tell me anything?"
Tomas nodded, but didn't look particularly reassured. "Father... that man."
"The one that came to see me?" Wesley asked, and Tomas nodded again. "What about him?"
"People have been... talking," Tomas said. Upset, he looked younger than his fifteen years.
"Which people?" Wesley knew that people in a village like this one could be paranoid about newcomers, and it didn't surprise him to hear that there'd been a certain amount of discussion about Angel -- a stranger, arrived without warning, hanging about but not making much of an effort to speak with anyone.
Tomas glanced down at the stone floor. "Lots of people, Father. I've heard..." He lowered his voice to a whisper, as if he were afraid that someone might be listening. "I've heard people say that he's evil."
Concerned, Wesley patted Tomas' shoulder and tried to sound reassuring. "Would an evil man enter so willingly into a sacred place such as a church?"
"No, Father," Tomas said. He lifted his face, looking at Wesley. "I told them that he was your friend, and that you wouldn't be friends with any man who wasn't honorable."
Wesley could tell by the way the boy said it that he had his doubts, but he appreciated the support all the same. Still, whether Angel was good or evil wasn't a discussion he cared to have. "It's early. Have you had your breakfast?"
Tomas shook his head. "I slipped out before my mother knew that I was awake."
"She'll be worried if she finds you gone," Wesley said. "Go on; back home with you." He watched as the young man scampered off, not frowning until the door had closed, leaving him alone in the church.
If people were talking, that meant he needed to make it very clear to Angel that the vampire had to leave, and soon.
* * *
It was difficult to go to Angel that night. Wesley had said he would, and he didn't like to break his word. He liked the thought of Angel sitting alone, waiting for him, even less, but the possibility that he might be seen worried him a great deal. He might have mixed feelings about Angel, but that didn't mean he wanted to reveal where Angel was hiding, not when people were suspicious.
He waited until it was very late, a good two hours after most people were asleep in their beds, before starting out. His cloak was beginning to get more than a bit threadbare, and the night had turned cold, the wind feeling as though it were cutting right though him as he made his way across town to the abandoned -- previously abandoned -- house, scarcely bigger than a shack, where Angel's been spending his days.
Angel opened the door as Wesley raised his hand to knock on it.
"Hi," Angel said. "You came."
"Did you think I wouldn't?" Wesley asked. He pulled his cloak more tightly around his throat with one hand.
"Come in," Angel said, quickly pulling the door the rest of the way open and stepping back to make room. "You're cold."
Wesley didn't feel that required a response, but he did step inside out of the wind, even though the inside of the house wasn't really any warmer. "I told you that I'd come."
"Yeah, I know." Angel shut the door and gestured at some chairs. "You want to sit down?"
Wesley did -- not because he wanted to, but because it seemed easier to go along with what Angel wanted. He wouldn't be doing it for long, after all. "You still haven't answered me," he said.
"Answered what?" Angel looked confused.
"Did you really think I wouldn't come?" Wesley repeated.
"Oh." Angel looked from Wesley to the clearly unused fireplace. "Do you want me to start a fire?"
"No," Wesley said, frustrated. "Unless you want to attract the attention of everyone within three miles."
Angel frowned, tucking his hands into his pockets. Strangely, Wesley hadn't noticed until just then that Angel was wearing period clothing. "No," Angel said. "And yeah, I thought you might not come."
"Then it's clear that you don't know me," Wesley said. He hated Angel for encouraging the lie.
"I wouldn't have been mad," Angel said. "Disappointed, sure. But I would have understood."
Wesley hated Angel for understanding. He didn't want Angel to understand. Standing up again, he said, "I came to tell you that I won't agree to see you again after tonight."
"No, you came so that we could talk," Angel said. "Really talk. That was the deal." He both looked and sounded stubborn.
"I don't want you coming back to my church," Wesley said. "People have been talking about you."
"So now you're worried about gossip?" Angel asked.
"I'm worried about you," Wesley said. He turned away, not wanting Angel to see his face as what he'd just said sunk in. "I'm worried," he said, more slowly, "about the trouble your presence is going to cause."
He could hear Angel move closer. "You're worried about me?" Angel asked, his voice low, possibly amused.
"No," Wesley said untruthfully.
"Liar," Angel said, right in Wesley's ear. Wesley refused to move away. "What's that, number eight? 'Thou shalt not bear false witness?'"
Wesley closed his eyes, but stayed where he was. "I'm not worried about you," he lied again.
"Now, see, that just makes me feel better," Angel said, putting a hand on Wesley's hip.
"Don't touch me," Wesley said hoarsely. He did his best not to tremble.
"Not because I know you're worried about me," Angel continued, as if Wesley hadn't spoken at all. "But because it shows me that you really haven't changed that much. Not if you can just lie like that, like it's not important."
Angel's other hand settled on Wesley's opposite hip, and that was too much. Wesley moved away, crossing to the other side of the room and turning to face Angel, raising his chin. "I don't want you to come to my church again, do you hear me?"
"I hear you," Angel said. Something about his expression made Wesley uncomfortable, reminded him of Angelus. He was grateful for the stake tucked, hidden, under the belt beneath his cloak. "I hear you lying." Angel moved closer again, nearly stalking him. "But don't worry -- it's not like I'm not breaking at least one commandment myself."
"'Thou shalt not kill?'" Wesley asked, meeting Angel's predatory gaze and wondering what he'd got himself into.
Angel stepped closer, and Wesley stepped back, his heel hitting the wall behind him. "No," Angel said. "Well, unless you count demons, and somehow I don't think God does. No, I was talking about number nine." His voice was pure eroticism. "Because you might not be my neighbor's wife, but I'm definitely having a problem with coveting you." Leaning forward so that Wesley had no option but to press himself against the wall, Angel licked his lips, his gaze moving from Wesley's eyes to his mouth and back again. "Think you can help me with that, Father?"
Wesley drew a trembling breath. "No," he whispered.
Leaning in another few inches, Angel's body came in full contact with Wesley's, effectively pinning him to the wall. "Why, Father," Angel murmured. "Is that a stake you've got there? Or are you just happy to see me?"
"Please," Wesley whispered, closing his eyes. "Let me go."
"You don't want me to," Angel said, and kissed him.
It was just as devastating as the first time they'd kissed -- slow, as if Angel had all the time in the world and intended to take advantage of it. Unhesitating, because they'd been waiting so long already, caught in a complicated dance of wanting that neither of them had been quite willing to admit to until that fated night when they'd ended up in bed together. Caught against the wall, Wesley could do nothing but moan into the kiss and clench his hands into fists to keep them from reaching for Angel.
Memory flooded back as though it had been moments ago rather than years. Every touch, denied all this time, was magnified. Angel's hands tangled in Wesley's robes, not finding bare skin but no less distracting for that fact. The vampire's mouth parted Wesley's lips and Wesley gasped, needing more air than he was getting. He felt Angel's hand sliding up the front of his thigh and made a sound that was suspiciously like a whimper.
Angel pulled back, ending the kiss. It took Wesley longer than he would have liked to open his eyes. "This has to stop," Wesley said.
"Yeah, it does," Angel agreed. "The lying -- to me, to yourself -- has to stop. You're still in love with me. I can see it every time I look at you."
"No," Wesley said.
"Yes," Angel told him. "And I'm in love with you, too. I never stopped."
"You wanted me," Wesley said, giving voice to something he'd tried not to think about for five years. "It's not the same thing."
"I did want you," Angel said, leaning in and kissing him again. "And I loved you, and I still do. Why else do you think I went to so much trouble to find you?"
Wesley blinked, shivering, and not just because of the cold. "I don't -- " he started, but just then there was a loud pounding at the door that made them both flinch, and, before they could do anything, the heavy wooden door flew open, slamming into the wall with a force that made the tiny house shake.
Caught where he was, with Angel's hands on him and, he was certain, lips swollen from kissing, Wesley looked into the familiar faces of men that he knew, men whose thoughts he knew more intimately than their wives did.
"Get away from him!" someone shouted, a number of men rushing forward into the house, clearing believing that their priest was being threatened by the stranger.
Wesley wrestled his way free of Angel and stepped in front of the vampire. "Stop," he said sternly, holding out his hands. "This isn't what it seems. I know this man."
"He's not a man." Wesley couldn't be sure who it was who'd spoken, but the voice was familiar. "Father, he's a devil!" More voices took up the chorus. "He comes out only at night!" "One of my sheep was found dead!"
"You ate a sheep?" Wesley muttered, turning his head to look at Angel in disbelief.
"I didn't say I didn't kill animals," Angel told him quietly. "I would have planned this better if I'd known it was going to take so long to convince you to come back with me."
When Wesley turned again, it was Tomas' father that stepped forward. "He's a vampire, Father," he said, gesturing with a crudely carved piece of wood.
"Don't be ridiculous," Wesley said. He stepped closer to the man, keeping one hand behind him, hoping that Angel would stay where he was. "He's a man just like you or I." There was a clattering sound, and he glanced down to see that his own stake had slipped from his belt and fallen to the floor.
Tomas' father's eyes widened, meeting Wesley's. "You knew?"
"I didn't -- " Wesley said, before Angel yanked him backward against the vampire's sturdy chest.
"You're not going to talk your way out of this one," Angel said in his ear, wrapping an arm around his waist as the men's voices raised into a clamor. "Hang on. If the ride here's any indication, this won't be fun."
Before Wesley could say anything at all, the world turned white around him, everything blanked out in the blink of an eye.
* * *
The spell that Angel had paid dearly for -- Wesley wouldn't know how dearly until months later -- translocated them directly back to the Hyperion. It had been set to take them back to exactly one minute after Angel had left, so, for Angel, nothing had changed.
For Wesley, everything had.
Angel had set up a room for him, a room which Wesley retreated to immediately. There were clothes there for him, so he changed out of his cloak and cassock and put them on. Now that he was back, there was no point in pretending any longer, after all.
Some things came as a terrible shock: electric lighting, for example, was so bright that he wondered if he were going blind. The sound of the toilet flushing was unnaturally loud to the point of being startling.
A hot shower, on the other hand, was pure bliss.
The first two days, Angel brought him food and left it outside the door, knocking to let Wesley know that it was there. On the third day, Wesley opened the door to find Angel still standing there, holding the tray with his lunch on it.
"Hi," Angel said. "You want to talk?"
"No," Wesley said. He didn't reach for the tray.
Angel didn't offer it. "You thinking about staying in there forever?"
"I'm considering it," Wesley said, contemplating whether he should just close the door again.
"There's a whole world out there," Angel said. "Stuff you used to like. Me, for instance."
Without shutting the door, Wesley turned and walked away. "I liked the life I had. I chose it."
"You were running away," Angel said.
Wesley sat down on the end of his bed. The comfort of a modern mattress was not lost on him. "Come in, if you aren't going away."
Angel did. He set the tray down on the desk and looked at Wesley. "What were you so afraid of?"
"I wasn't afraid of anything," Wesley said.
"There you go with the lying again," Angel said, crossing his arms. "I mean, maybe technically you can get away with it now..."
"I'm no less a priest now than I was a week ago." Wesley's chest felt tight.
"No less and no more," Angel said, as if he were agreeing. "Why did you leave?"
"Because what happened between us was wrong," Wesley said. Perhaps if they had this conversation now, Angel would stop forcing the issue. "Because there was no possible way in which it could have worked."
"And you didn't want to try?" Angel asked. "We do the impossible all the time."
Wesley had no interest in discussing the impossible. "I thought it was best. For both of us. You didn't need the distraction."
Angel let his arms drop to his sides and came over, sitting down next to Wesley. The mattress dipped under his weight. They were not touching. "What was it that you didn't need?"
Wesley shook his head, looking down at his hands.
Slowly, giving Wesley time to stop it if that was what he wanted, Angel reached over and took one of Wesley's hands, holding it gently. "Why was leaving best for you?"
Because I couldn't bear to fall any more in love with you than I already had, Wesley thought, lifting his head and looking at Angel. The vampire's eyes were dark and kind, but Wesley couldn't say those words. Wouldn't.
"It's okay," Angel said softly.
"No," Wesley said. "No, it's really not."
It wasn't okay that five years had gone by and he'd still seen Angel's face in his dreams, much as he'd prayed for it to stop. It wasn't okay that he'd brought himself to a guilty, flushed climax the night before, in the shower with the bathroom door locked. And it wasn't okay that what he wanted right then, more than anything else, was to kiss Angel.
Abruptly, Wesley pulled away, walking to the other side of the room with his arms wrapped around himself. "This is why I left," he said desperately.
"Why? Because you don't want to admit that you have feelings for me?" Angel asked.
"No, because I don't want to have feelings for you," Wesley said, turning to face Angel. "Because there's no way this can end but badly."
"Uh-uh," Angel said, walking toward him. It felt as if Wesley had done nothing but watch Angel walk toward him since he'd looked up and seen him in the church. "You don't know that. Unless you turned psychic all of a sudden."
"Of course I know it," Wesley said. "I don't need to precognitive abilities to be able to see exactly where this is headed."
"Tell me, then," Angel said. "Since you know." He'd got closer, somehow. There was less than a foot of space between them.
Wesley swallowed. "I'll allow myself to fall in love with you," he whispered. "And it will all be fine for a little while. And then..."
"And then we live happily ever after," Angel said, taking Wesley's chin in his hand.
"We can't," Wesley said. It was, he recognized dimly, one last attempt to deny what might very well be inevitable. Trembling, he leaned in and pressed his mouth to Angel's.
Angel groaned with what sounded like relief and grabbed onto Wesley, pulling him in close as the kiss became even more intense. Wesley was no half-willing participant this time around; he gave as good as he got, clutching onto Angel and doing everything he could to encourage more. They stumbled towards the bed, Wesley unbuttoning Angel's shirt, needing to feel bare skin against his palms. He tore his mouth away from Angel's and kissed the vampire's chest feverishly, scraping sensitive flesh with his teeth, biting at one nipple and then the other as Angel's hand tangled in his hair.
"Wes..." Angel's voice sounded shaky, and Wesley looked up.
"Talk to me," Wesley said, as his hands found the front of Angel's trousers and began to unfasten them. "Convince me that this isn't a mistake." He wasn't sure it mattered any longer, but he thought Angel owed him that much at least.
"What do you want me to -- " Angel gasped as Wesley's hand found his erection, cool and hard.
"Say anything at all," Wesley said, dropping to his knees. "Just keep talking." And he closed his mouth around Angel's cock, sliding his lips down the shaft and sucking, tasting the bitter salt of the skin and feeling saliva flood his mouth.
"God," Angel said.
Immediately, Wesley pulled away. "Anything but that."
Angel shivered and ran a hand down along the curve of his own pelvic bone. "Right. Sorry."
Wesley went back to his self-appointed task. It had been a long time, but apparently sucking cock was, like riding a bicycle, something one didn't forget how to do. He concentrated on the head, finding Angel's most sensitive spots and running his tongue over them.
"Yeah. Wes," Angel murmured. "Love that. Love you." When Wesley faltered slightly, he repeated it. "I love you. I'm crazy about you. Why else would I have gone through so much to find you?"
Strangely, that was enough. Wesley got to his feet again, letting Angel kiss him, letting Angel undress him and push him down onto the bed. Letting Angel slide his cock, slick with more than saliva, into him.
Wesley moaned and breathed and arched his back. "Tell me," he gasped.
"I love you," Angel said, understanding what he'd meant. He pulled back and thrust in again, driving every thought from Wesley's mind. "Love you."
They moved together, Wesley's hips lifting to meet each thrust as Angel fucked him more quickly, both of them gasping as they neared completion. When Wesley came, his body convulsing with the pleasure of it, he felt surprisingly little guilt. He felt... at peace.
It was such an odd sensation not to have that tiny niggling sense that something wasn't quite right that he couldn't even identify what was different at first. Angel shivered above him, jerking forward one last time at the end of his release, then lowered his weight slowly down onto Wesley. It felt comforting.
"You okay?" Angel asked, kissing the side of Wesley's mouth.
"Mm," Wesley said, still trying to sort out what it was that was different.
Angel eased out of him carefully and lay down next to him. He touched the side of Wesley's face, getting his attention. "You sure?"
And Wesley realized that it wasn't that the guilt -- the guilt of having left Angel --
was missing. The difference was that the little piece of him that had been empty wasn't
any longer. It was Angel, he realized as he looked into the vampire's eyes, that he'd
been missing. And wasn't any longer. "I'm sure," Wesley said, thinking that the words that
Angel really wanted to hear wouldn't be long in coming.