by The Brat Queen (tbq at countylimerick.prohosting.com)
Summary: Wesley debates having Angel in his life
Spoilers: This takes place after Epiphany
Dedicated to: Maximum Woman, who wondered why my last fic didn't have any sex in it. Although not in those words.
"Now. Alphabetize these files." From out of the corner of his eye, Wesley could see Cordelia hand Angel a stack of papers.
Angel flipped through the small bundle. "Sure," he said. He gave Cordy an earnest look. "This doesn't seem too -"
Cordy cut him off by lifting a large and heavy box and dumping it unceremoniously in Angel's lap. "All of them," she said. Wesley saw her stare Angel down. Not really challenging him, simply waiting to see what he would say.
Angel shifted under the weight of the box and Cordy's gaze, but his expression did not falter. "'kay. I can do that. You know I've always felt that good organization was the key to a… um… good organization." he finished lamely when Cordy - and everyone else present - did not take him up on the gag.
"When you're done with that I've got five more just like it," Cordy said. She looked over her shoulder at Gunn and Wesley. "I'll be in the back." With that, she turned on her heel and vanished into the back room.
Wesley watched her. In a strange way, he felt envious. He admired her ability to do that - dismiss it all with a quick phrase and walk off into the other room. He longed to do it himself, but knew that he couldn't. Practically it was out of the question. His continuing need for the wheelchair made it impossible for him to walk off anywhere dramatically, unless one's sense of drama was piqued by the sight of a thin Englishman losing all color and falling to the floor.
Which, Wesley supposed, did have a certain flair to it but it was not the one he personally hoped for. Rather he wanted something final. Perhaps even a little cutting. Something to show that he was detached and unaffected by it all.
But he hadn't the words. Or the mobility. And the back room felt stifling to him. He preferred being out front with the windows and a clear view of the door.
Even if that did give him a clear view of Angel as well.
"Ok, here's the last book you wanted," Gunn said. He pulled a leather- bound volume off of the top shelf of the bookcase and handed it to Wesley. "Anything else I can get for you?"
Wesley turned the book over in his hands, confirming that it was, indeed, the one he sought. "No, thank you," he replied. He looked up at Gunn and smiled in gratitude.
Gunn did not smile back, but he did mirror the expression in his eyes. "Anytime, man," he said. He reached out and slapped Wesley's hand, nodding in approval as Wesley immediately responded with the rest of the moves of their personal and rather elaborate handshake. He glanced over at Angel once they were done. "Want me to stay?" he asked, pitching his voice lower. He looked back at Wesley. "I can if you want me to."
Wesley took a measure of comfort in the offer, but rejected it all the same. He refused to hide behind Gunn or anyone else. "I'll be fine. But thank you."
Gunn looked dubious, but didn't push it. "If you say so. I'm just a phone call away if you need me." He gave Wesley a significant look as he said this, then tossed another stern glance in Angel's direction. Angel, for his part, kept his eyes on the papers in front of him in an obvious posture of how much he was not listening to their conversation.
"I'll call you later if I can," Wesley said. On impulse, he squeezed Gunn's hand. "Be careful."
Gunn smiled. "Always, man. Bye, Cordy!" he called out as he left.
"Bye, Gunn!" Cordelia called back. Angel looked up and attempted a wave, but abandoned the effort when Gunn didn't bother looking in his direction.
"Is he going out on patrol?" Angel asked.
"He's going out," Wesley replied. He opened his book to the table of contents and began to search for the passage he needed.
"Oh," Angel said. "That's - that's good." When Wesley did not respond he returned to his filing.
Several long moments of silence passed before he spoke again. "Hey, Wes - that 'i before e' thing. Is that just spelling or are we doing that with the alphabet now too?"
Wesley tried to keep his hand still as he turned the whisper-thin pages of the book to the right section.
Angel gave a half-hearted smile. "'Cause, you know, it's been a while. Since I learned. The alphabet. Figured maybe they've changed it since then."
Wesley reminded himself not to grit his teeth. It made his stomach hurt.
"You know. Like new math?"
"I can recite the song for you if you need," Wesley said, not taking his eyes off of his book and speaking to Angel as though he were a child one wasn't entirely sure wasn't brain-damaged in some fashion.
"Um, no," Angel said, deflating a bit. He ran his hands over the papers. "That's - that's ok."
"Good," Wesley said. He turned a page of the book with a snap, gratified when it didn't tear in the process.
"These are really interesting," Angel continued, holding up one of the files and making Wesley wonder if he truly was oblivious to all mortal hints to be quiet or if he simply did not understand that reading a book was a completely solitary activity best conducted when others did not feel a God-given need to speak every few moments. "Like this one. Jhkari demon. Boy, I ran into a few of those in my time, let me tell you."
Wesley read the passage. Then read it again. He hated that he was unable to do anything more than look at the words within it. The letters had become shapes. Meaningless.
"Thing about a Jhkari demon," Angel said, "is that they sneak up on you. They're totally vicious as adults but as babies they're pretty small. Kind of fluffy too, if you don't mind the slime. So you take one in as a loveable pet and don't realize the danger you're in until one day…." Angel stopped, perhaps realizing for the first time what he was talking about, and what a bad topic of conversation it was right now. "Um."
Wesley's stitches hurt. His mouth tasted faintly of metal.
Angel put the file down and picked up another. "Wow. Um. Zniphler demons. I, um -"
"Cordy, I'm going out," Wesley announced. He slapped his book shut, left it on the desk, and undid the brakes on his wheelchair.
"Wes, are you sure?" Cordy asked, appearing from the back room. Her face was creased with worry.
"I can walk if I have to," he replied. He met her gaze briefly, just enough for her to see how much he needed to go, then wheeled himself out the door. A blur of black told him that Angel had gotten up out of his chair and made motions to help him, but Wesley steadfastly ignored it.
He had to go. Where, he wasn't quite sure yet.
"If you want my body, and you think I'm sexy, come on sugar let me know…"
"You know," the Host of Caritas said as he slid into the chair beside Wesley. He motioned to the Urdish demon on stage "If you think that's bad you should have seen the rendition of 'My Heart Will Go On' that came on earlier." The Host shuddered. The sequins of his jacket shimmered with the motion, reflecting a surprisingly flattering light onto his green face. "I don't know what it is that makes Beetho demons think they can sing Celine Dion. Well," he amended, "besides the physical resemblance. So, what can I do for you, sweetpea? Food? Drink? Recommendation on a suction cup dildo?"
Wesley jerked, nearly spilling the drink he was holding. "I beg your pardon?"
"I know it sounds strange now," the Host said, waving an agreeing hand in his direction, "but trust me. Hook one up in the shower and your life will never be the same." Off Wesley's look he feigned shock. "What? I'm not supposed to know?"
Wesley opened his mouth to say "Know what?" but then clamped it shut in resignation. Apparently the matter was old news to everyone but him. He should have guessed. "How did you know?" he asked instead. "I haven't -"
"Sung?" the Host finished. "Doesn't matter, Wesleykins, your heart's in this enough. Besides, you've had 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' going through the back of your head for a while now. I've been meaning to ask you to cut it out."
"Sorry," Wesley said. "It's rather like trying not to think of pink crocodiles."
There was a beat before the Host replied. "Huh. Whatever works for you, sweetie. And you haven't answered my question."
Wesley stared down at the drink in his hand. Scotch. He hadn't touched a drop of it, unable to thanks to his pain medication, but holding it brought him a measure of comfort. "I'm not hungry," he said, when no other answer could come to his lips.
"Conversation it is, then," the Host said. He glanced toward the stage, lost for a moment as the Urdish demon launched into 'Sexual Healing'. "Oh good," he said, rolling his eyes, "he's doing a medley." He turned back to Wesley. "Plenty of time for us to talk, then. Especially since I'll take anything over having to hear him drop more notes than an epileptic secretary. Where shall we begin?"
Wesley wrapped his hand around his glass, feeling the smooth shape underneath his fingertips. "How did you know?" he asked again. His voice was humiliatingly soft.
"Everyone who comes in here has a secret to tell," the Host said. "And usually they're the ones they need to tell it to." He looked at Wesley sympathetically. "Or did you think you stumbled onto this place by accident?"
Immediately Wesley began to count. It didn't take him long to figure out how many months it had been. How long the Host must have known.
"Don't beat yourself up about it," the Host said. He reached over and patted Wesley on the arm. "Think you're the first person ever to have a hard time finding themselves? Take me, for instance. Prior to this gig I was an insurance salesman."
Wesley wasn't sure if the Host was lying, but he appreciated the attempt to make him smile nevertheless.
"So it took you a decade or two to get the big picture," the Host shrugged. "Big deal. For some guys it takes centuries. Like your pal Angel, to pick an example."
"If you don't mind, I'd rather not -"
"Oh you want me to play Yenta but I'm not allowed to say his name?" the Host asked. He sat back in his chair, dismissing this and ordering himself a drink in the process. "No way. You and I both know he's the real reason why you came here. Might as well spill it."
"I don't know what to 'spill'," Wesley said. He rolled his drink back and forth between his hands. Questions came to his mind but he did not yet have the ability to ask them. "I'm not entirely sure I want any part of this."
"Well it's a part of you, babydoll, you can't change that," the Host received his drink, tasted it, and nodded to the waiter when he found it acceptable. "Believe me. If it was that easy to change the way we were I'd be sans horns, paler and singing at Carnegie Hall. But I’m still here and so are you. Looks like we've got to work with what we have."
"Work to do what?" Wesley asked. He folded his arms on the table in frustration. "That's the problem. I've no idea what I want, where I want to go. I'm completely ambivalent about the whole thing." He paused, gathered his courage, then said the one pressing thing on his mind "Was it my destiny -"
"Nope," the Host replied immediately.
Wesley looked up, his mouth hanging open in shock. "No it wasn't?"
"No, I'm not going to answer that question," the Host said. He leaned forward. "I mean why even ask? What were you going to say - was it your destiny to meet up with Angel? Of course it was, otherwise you wouldn't have. Is it your destiny to fall in love with him? Again, obviously, because you did. Destiny's a pretty easy thing to pick up in 20/20 hindsight." The Host lifted his drink and gave Wesley a small salute with it before taking a sip. "Tricky thing is figuring out what'll happen before it gets here."
"What's going to happen, then?" Wesley asked. Desperation for an answer - any answer - brought more words to his lips than he thought he could speak. "Tell me. I'll even sing if I must."
"No need," the Host said. He put his drink down. "That's not the kind of question you want to ask me."
"Yes it is!" Wesley said. Part of him wanted to slam his hand on the table, or throw his drink to the floor. "What am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to choose?"
"Do you really want me to tell you?" the Host asked. He held up a hand to stop Wesley's response. "No, think about it. Say I tell you your destiny. What are you going to do then? Are you going to pick Broody McDarkpants if I tell you he's it? Would you start hating Gunn if I told you he wasn't? What's the point then? Is that fair? And I mean to you and them, sweetheart. Can't ask destiny to tell you how to feel. That one's entirely up to you. Anyway," he added, "you should never trust destiny to give you advice on your love life. It's never good. Just ask Romeo and Juliet."
Wesley sighed. "So then what?"
"Not to get all George Lucas-y on you, but what's your heart telling you, kiddo?" the Host asked. He took another sip of his drink. "That's the real deal on this issue. Not what some destiny's got in mind. You know, it's a rare time in life when you actually get a chance to make your own choices. Grab on to this one for all it's worth."
"I suppose so," Wesley said. He swirled his drink around. "But I don't know where to begin."
The Host shrugged. "Begin with the evidence you've got. If that's not enough, get some more. I know Angelcakes would be happy to supply you with some. Problem is," he added, arching his eyebrows at Wesley, "do you want him to?"
Wesley looked up.
"It's easy to make a decision when you put a blinder on one of the options," the Host said. "But doing that's just as stupid as letting destiny live your life. At some point you're gonna have to sit still and do this yourself. Otherwise then what?" the Host made a motion of finality. "Boom! Life's over, you're dead, and somehow in the grand corporation that was your existence you were merely a vice president, and a useless one at that."
Wesley considered this strange mental image. "I… guess so."
"Gotta take charge," the Host said. He patted Wesley's arm again and stood up, readying himself to go up on stage. "Be your own leader. If not you, then who?" He looked down at Wesley, then winked. "Stop looking so constipated. You'll be fine. Unless you try tonight's special in which case don't say I didn't warn you. Now pardon me, I've got a chaos demon who's pretty sure someone doesn't close their eyes anymore when they kiss their lips and that's never good. But you have a good one."
"You too," Wesley replied as the Host bounded up onto the stage. He mulled over the entire conversation for a little while, then paid his tab and went home.
The sound of knocking interrupted his dreamless sleep. It took Wesley a while to wake up, find his glasses, then his cane, then make his way slowly to the door.
When he opened it he wasn't sure if he'd truly completed the "waking up" part of the whole equation.
"Um, hi," Angel said. He stood in the doorway, tried leaning one arm against the frame casually, failed, and went back to standing while shifting his weight back and forth.
"What are you doing here -"
"I'm, um, showing more interest," Angel said.
"Please let me finish," Wesley said. "I was going to say what are you doing here at 3 a.m.?"
"Oh," Angel said. He grimaced, looking at his watch. "It is 3 in the morning, huh? I-I probably should have checked that. Before I came." Though he did not blush, he managed to look embarrassed. "Sorry. Vampire thing I guess. 3 a.m. - not such a big deal. Things are, um, very interesting. At 3 a.m."
Wesley rested his weight against the door, not trusting the cane alone to hold him. "Which is why you're here."
"Showing an interest."
"Yes!" Angel appeared very glad to have gotten this across. "I'm showing more interest. Exactly. Yes."
"I really don't have time to be conversing with a drunk right now."
"What? Oh. No," Angel said. He shook his head. "No. Sober as a judge. Really. Haven't even had a cup of coffee. It's just me. Just Angel."
"Funny you should mention that," Wesley said. He shifted his weight back to his cane again.
"Being Angel?" Angel asked. "You're right, because -"
"No," Wesley said, speaking over him. He walked towards the kitchen. "Coffee. Because I think I shall need some."
"Oh," Angel said. He hung back in the doorway. "Can I - uh - can I come in?"
"You have your invitation," Wesley replied, barely looking back at him.
"I know," Angel said, still staying where he was. "It's just - you know - do you -"
"Angel, I do not possess the energy with which to argue with you," Wesley said. He stopped, leaning against a wall as he looked back towards Angel. "Come in if you must. I'm making coffee."
"Ok," Angel said at once. He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "Hey, should you, you know, be doing that? I can help."
"You can help by telling me why you're here," Wesley said. Not wanting anything more complex than it had to be, he measured out instant and filled the kettle with water. He thought about it, then reluctantly took out a second cup and put grinds in that as well.
Angel stayed in the living room, but stood where Wesley could see him. "I told you, I'm showing -"
"More interest," Wesley said. He watched as a few wisps of steam escaped the kettle. "Yes. You've said that. Several times now. However I have yet to find out what that means."
"Oh," Angel said. He put his hands in his pockets, then took them out again. "The other night. When I came. And we fought the demons. You said I hadn't showed more interest in coming here. So… here I am. Showing more interest."
Wesley puzzled this over as the steam caused the kettle to whistle. He took it off the heat and poured it into the cups. "Yes. Well forgive me, Angel, if during a life and death battle with some Skilosh demons I don't pause to memorize every word that I say." Wesley lifted up his cup, rested on his cane again, then stopped, unsure how to bring out the second mug. He tried to not show his gratitude when Angel picked up on the dilemma and came to get his coffee himself.
"Thanks," Angel said. He motioned as though toasting Wesley with the mug, then took a sip. "It's very good."
"So you're showing more interest," Wesley said. He walked back to the living room. "In what? The apartment? Well here it is, Angel. What do you think of it?"
Angel walked around the perimeter of the living room, taking it all in. "It's - uh - it's very nice. Um. Clean. You did a, ah, nice job. Cleaning up. After the Skilosh."
"Gunn helped me with that," Wesley said. He sat down on his armchair slowly. "Thank him."
"Oh," Angel said. He licked his lips, then took another sip of coffee. "That was - that was nice of him. I'll be sure to - to thank him. For that." Angel quickly looked away, scanning the walls. "Love the decorations. Very you." Angel's eyes flickered over Wesley's books, wall hangings, and weaponry. He paused when he came to the blank spot where Wesley's ax used to be. "I still need to bring that back, don't I?"
"I'm sure you'll get around to it sometime," Wesley said. He put his coffee down on the table in front of him, no longer feeling up to drinking it. Then, deciding that he just didn't care anymore, he added "Perhaps one day you'll have an epiphany about it and that will make you remember."
Angel winced. "Right. Um. Sorry. I'll… I'll give it back to you. Next time I - next time I see you at the office. And… find where I left it."
"Fine," Wesley said. He folded his hands in his lap. "Well, that's the apartment and the ax situation handled. Was there something else I could help you with?"
Angel appeared to take a moment to consider this. Finally he set his coffee down and took a seat opposite Wesley's. "Wes, we need to talk."
"This," Angel said. He motioned between the both of them. "This thing between us."
"There is no," Wesley mimicked Angel's motion, "'thing' between us."
"I-I think there is," Angel said. He stood up again, running a hand through his hair. He paced a little, then turned back. "Wes, tell me how I can make it up to you. Cordy, Gunn - I know. It'll take some time but I think they'll trust me again if I really work at it. And that's good. I know I need to do a lot to win back that trust. But you?" Angel looked helpless. "Wes, I feel like I did something but I don't know what."
"Oh," Wesley said, keeping his voice cool, "you want to know if you did 'something'. I suppose you mean something beyond firing me? Beyond turning your back on everything we'd worked for? Beyond putting myself and my friends through Hell for your own personal agenda? Is that the sort of 'something' you're looking for?"
There was a beat, then Angel nodded. "Yeah."
Wesley simply stared at him.
"Look I know I screwed up, Wes!" Angel said. He moved forward and sat on the couch, putting him far closer than the chair had done. "I'm not pretending that I didn't. I hurt you -"
"Yes, you did," Wesley said, surprising himself with the fact that he'd spoken the words aloud.
Angel seemed not to notice. "But that was the Wolfram and Hart stuff. I hurt Cordy and Gunn with that too." There was genuine remorse in his eyes. "And I am sorry, Wes. Really I am. I never meant to hurt any of you. I was trying to -"
"Protect us," Wesley said. He looked away and fiddled with his coffee for lack of anything else to do with his hands. "Yes. You've said this before."
"Yeah," Angel said. He nodded, then sat back, looking down at the floor. "Yeah." He looked up again. "But are you gonna tell me there's not something more, Wes? I can feel how mad you are at me."
"What does it matter, Angel?" Wesley asked. "You screwed up. You're sorry. Fine. The end."
"It's not the end!" Angel said. He stood up in a graceful and angry motion that Wesley wished his current state allowed him to duplicate. "Tell me what I did, Wes! Tell me so you can stop being mad at me!"
"Oh," Wesley said, and this time he knew that the temperature of his voice had dropped several degrees. "So I am to tell you this for your benefit then? You want me to tell you so that you might feel better?"
"No!" Angel said, shaking his head vigorously. "Wesley, no. So I can make it up to you! Fix it somehow!" Then, in a motion too fast for Wesley to track, Angel dropped to his knees in front of him and rested his hands on Wesley's legs. "Wes, please," he said, his eyes looking as sincere as they ever had, "I'm begging you."
Wesley took in a few breaths before his mind allowed him to fully comprehend the scene in front of him. "Angel…" he started, but could not continue.
Angel waited. Then, when Wesley didn't say anything more, said "Wes, please. As a friend?"
That did it. "Get out," Wesley said. He made a passing motion over Angel's hands with his own, not trusting himself to actually touch them and push them away. "Get out, Angel. Right now."
Angel sat still, as though not sure he'd heard correctly, then nodded when he saw the look in Wesley's eyes. "Um. Ok. Ok. I'm sorry." Angel stood, the motion less fluid now. He looked tired, and the strange bruises that had been on his face since the fight with the Skilosh seemed darker. "I'm sorry." he said again. "I'll just - I'll just go then."
Wesley closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands. He felt himself tremble. He listened to the sound of Angel's footfalls. Then, just as Angel would have reached the door, he abandoned everything and spoke. "I thought you did it on purpose."
He could hear Angel pause. "What?"
"I thought you did it on purpose," Wesley repeated. Sentences formed in his mind, each now dying to burst out of the opening he had just created, but he did his best to keep some semblance of order to them all.
Angel walked back, once again entering his field of vision. He looked at Wesley uncertainly. "Did what, Wes?" he asked. His voice was impossibly gentle. Wesley hated him for it.
"I thought you knew," Wesley said. He forced himself to look at Angel. Forced himself to meet those brown eyes and put an end to all of this. "I didn't know at the time. But after - I thought you knew."
Angel nodded, clearly not actually understanding what Wesley was saying but trying to look as though he did all the same. He sat down on the arm of the couch. "Um. Ok. You didn't know at the time. Ok."
"It made sense, after the fact," Wesley continued. The words came out with ease now. Wesley supposed anything was easy when you didn't give a damn about it. "Everything you did. It made so much sense to me."
Angel frowned, but still attempted to follow. "Everything…?"
"It was the perfect Angelus trick," Wesley said. He saw Angel flinch as the name was spoken. "I mean that was always his modus operandi, wasn't it, Angel? Find some weakness, some true weakness, and exploit it for all it's worth." Wesley laughed, feeling a tinge of both bitterness and hysteria in it. "Angelus to the core, I thought. Exploiting me."
"But I -" Angel started, but Wesley did not let him finish.
"It made sense," Wesley said again. He gripped the armrests of his chair, letting them absorb the sheen of sweat that had suddenly graced his palms. "Everything, Angel, made sense. The comments. The gestures. The intimacy. The nudity." Wesley paused, waited, then finally saw a light dawn in Angel's eyes as he remembered the incidents in question. "How to explain all of this at the time? I wondered. Why is Angel doing this? Why would Angel do this to me? Then after you fired us I realized," Wesley said, keeping his eyes locked on Angel, "it's not Angel at all. But Angelus. You were becoming Angelus again."
Angel had stopped trying to speak, and simply listened. A grim look was on his face.
"In a way that made the entire thing very odd," Wesley said. He watched every movement that Angel made. Every flicker of emotion that touched him. He wanted to take it in. Analyze it later. Use it to remember why he would never speak to Angel again. "Because, you see, it placed me in the position of needing to be grateful to Angelus. Grateful, for finally pulling the wool away from my eyes. Grateful for finally showing me what I was, why I felt the way I did! I didn't want to know, but how very, very like Angelus to force me to! And I dared allow myself to fancy that it was better!" Wesley heard the note of hysteria creep into his voice again and shoved it down. "Because at least it was honest. I told myself, it's never good to lie to yourself."
"No," Angel said softly. Not truly agreeing with what Wesley was saying, simply speaking a word that sounded appropriate.
"So I accepted it," Wesley said. "I accepted this truth that Angelus made me see, tormented me into seeing. And now I cannot give it back. I have it now. Now and always."
A hint of confusion came into Angel's eyes once more.
"I broke up with a perfectly lovely girl because of this," Wesley explained. "Virginia. A beautiful girl, Angel. A wonderful young lady who cared for me, and whom I cared for as well. She trusted me. Trusted me when so many others had betrayed her, including her own father. And I left her. Broke it off with her, because I could not stand lying to her. Could not stand the thought that she could not trust my own words to her. I broke it off so that she could find some man that did love her. Love her as I could not. As I can't."
Angel nodded, seeming to understand.
"I am in a rather strange relationship with my co-worker now," Wesley said, "because of this. I find it impossible to understand what anything means anymore. What the tiniest gesture might indicate. Things which appeared so simple and straightforward are confusing. Things occur which I have no way of comprehending."
"Wes," Angel said, his voice still soft, "if you and Gunn are -"
"We aren't," Wesley said. A part of him felt satisfaction in knowing that he had at least managed to drive the point home at last. That Angel finally understood what he was talking about.
"Because if you are, I'll…" Angel trailed off, frowning as though he hadn't heard. "What?"
"Not that it is any of your concern," Wesley said. He decided that he did not want to repeat himself. About anything.
"Ok," Angel said. He did not meet Wesley's eyes. "Ok. I - I didn't know."
"Yes," Wesley said. He straightened up in his chair. "Yes, there is that. The final, crushing irony of it all. Would you care to hear it?"
"Yeah," Angel said, looking as though he knew the answer already.
"The final irony," Wesley said, "is that you. Didn't. Know." Wesley laughed, shaking his head. "Something which I suspected but only now confirmed. You didn't know. Because, of course, you weren't Angelus. Weren't some Hell-sent vampire trying to torment me. No. You, Angel, were just you. Angel. The vampire with a soul. And a mission. And not a single, solitary clue."
Angel continued to look down. "I didn't know, Wes," he whispered. "I didn't. I'm so sorry. I had no idea. I had no idea I was doing that to you."
"I'm aware of that now," Wesley said. He took a sip of his coffee, which had long since become ice cold. "Yes. Very aware of it."
"I wouldn't have," Angel said, looking up. "If I'd known. I wouldn't have… Wes, I thought you knew."
"What?" Wesley asked, "That I like men?" A part of him still managed to be surprised that he'd spoken the words aloud and the world continued to turn as it always had. "No, Angel. I didn't know. I was in blissful ignorance of the fact. I was attempting to date women, if you'll recall. Perhaps that might have been some sort of hint for you."
Angel groaned. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "Wes, geez. I thought you knew. I'm so sorry. I honestly thought that you knew. I mean, the girls - " Angel shrugged. "I've dated girls. Loved them, in fact," he added ruefully.
"Yes," Wesley said. He forced another sip of coffee down then set the drink aside. "Maybe if I had over two hundred years to come to terms with this I might be as casual about the entire thing as you. But since I've had…" he looked at his watch, which showed the day's date "less than 8 weeks to come to grips, you might understand my own confusion in the matter."
"I didn't think" Angel said. He shook his head again. "Wes, I didn't think. I wouldn't have done - I didn't even know. I'm so sorry, Wes."
"So you say. Now tell me, is that the 'something' you wanted?" Wesley asked. He wanted to end it now. Put a stop to Angel's apologies, close the door behind him, and go on with whatever his life was going to be. "Is that what you were hoping to get?"
Angel looked stricken. "Wesley, I was an idiot. I never even thought…."
"Angel, please," Wesley said. His stomach was hurting again. "I accept your apology. Now let's just -"
"No," Angel said. His voice was surprisingly forceful. "No. Wesley, listen to me. I - I don't know things, sometimes. I don't understand them. I lived for-for years without any companions, human or otherwise. The working arrangement we had at the hotel - I didn't have a handle on it. Wasn't sure what to do with it. I didn't think the things I did…" Angel made a gesture of frustration. "I didn't know the polite thing to do. The proper thing. And then Darla -"
"Yes, could we possibly not mention Darla for a change?" Wesley asked, rubbing his temples.
"I was distracted, Wes," Angel said. "I admit, that wasn't good. But you have to understand what that did to me. I wasn't seeing clearly. Darla's visions on one side, the Wolfram and Hart thing on the other -"
"Angel, I know all of this," Wesley interrupted him.
Angel refused to let him. "Wesley, I'm trying to say I wouldn't have done it like that! If I was myself. Not like that."
Wesley felt confused. "Do what?"
"Approach you," Angel said. He looked at Wesley uncertainly. "Like that."
Wesley sighed. "Yes, Angel. I am cognizant of the fact that you wouldn't have."
"No, you aren't, Wes!" Angel said. He stood up again, looking as though he wanted to hit something. "Wes, you're not listening! I'm trying to -" Angel gave up, throwing his hands in the air. "No, forget it. This isn't working."
"Something we agree on," Wesley replied. He stood, steadying himself on his cane. "Angel, let's just call this a night. All right?"
"No," Angel said. He folded his arms and stood in front of Wesley. "Not 'all right'. I wouldn't hurt you like that for anything, Wes."
"I love you."
Wesley started to reply, then stopped. "Beg pardon?"
A hint of a smile touched Angel's lips. "Now are you listening? I said I love you. I mean I-I care about you, Wes. A lot."
A flare of anger went through him. "Angel," Wesley said, speaking slowly and carefully. "If this is a joke of some kind…"
"Why do you think I came here, Wes?"
Wesley had heard it so often he responded automatically. "To show more - oh." Wesley blinked. "Oh."
Angel nodded. "Yeah. I mean, the apartment's nice, Wes, but…" Angel shook his head, still looking at him. "That's not why I wanted to stop by."
The picture that Wesley had constructed in his mind since Angel's return crumbled. He found himself staring at the pieces aimlessly, not sure what to do with them. "I don't understand."
"I love you," Angel repeated. He reached out and touched Wesley's cheek. "I just never showed it before. Didn't think you were interested."
"I wasn't," Wesley replied. He was extremely aware of his skin. Particularly the part of it that Angel's fingers were connecting with. "I mean, I didn't know."
Angel nodded regretfully. He kept caressing Wesley's cheek. "I saw that. Thought you just wanted to be friends. Figured I could live with that." Angel smiled with false cheer. "Hey. Not everybody wants to take the Angelus challenge. I - I can understand that."
"It's not about Angelus," Wesley said. He felt dizzy. Whether from standing or from Angel's touch he could not say. "I - do you mean to tell me you were doing these things purposefully?"
"Yes," Angel said, then looked sheepish. "I mean no. I mean not the stuff you think I did, Wes. The comments you're thinking of, the stuff I did, the naked thing - and I am still really, really sorry about that by the way - that wasn't - I was just out of it, Wes. Oblivious. Had my head somewhere that wasn't my neck." He grinned a little, and Wesley found himself returning the expression. "I didn't do all of that just to hurt you, or - or get something from you."
"Then what?" Wesley asked. He needed to sit down but couldn't bring himself to move. "Angel, I'm afraid I don't follow you."
"Before, Wes," Angel said. "I did things before all that. Nothing - nothing major. Just, you know, seeing what was going on, how you felt. When you didn't respond to it I figured you were telling me this was just a working thing. Or - or maybe a friendship. But no more."
"And I didn't respond," Wesley said, speaking slowly as he began to understand, "because I didn't know."
"Yeah," Angel said. "I mean, I guess so."
"I’m a bloody idiot," Wesley said.
"I wouldn't say that," Angel replied. Again a slight grin touched his lips. "I mean, you know - me. Two hundred and forty some years. I, um, could probably be, you know, more observant. About things."
"Hey, no," Angel shook his head. "No. I was a jerk. I know that. And you had every right to be mad."
"But not for something you didn't do," Wesley replied. "It wouldn't be fair -"
"You were hurt," Angel said. "That's all that matters. Really."
Wesley considered this. "I still feel a thousand times a fool."
Angel looked at him for a long while. "Let me make it up to you."
Wesley laughed. "How?"
There was a pause. Then Angel leaned forward and covered Wesley's lips with a long, slow kiss. "By showing more interest," Angel said. He stood still, watching Wesley, letting him speak without pressure.
Even still it was a moment before Wesley found the words. "Yes. I - yes." He wanted to say more but found it impossible. He moved to kiss Angel instead.
"Wes, wait," Angel said, pulling back before Wesley could make contact. "Are you sure? This - I didn't mean to do it like this. Dump it on you. We can wait if you want. I can wait."
"I'm quite sure," Wesley replied. He moved his hands up to hold Angel still as he finally kissed him. He shook a little, and wasn't entirely certain he felt like an expert on touching another man's mouth, but even so it felt right. "I invite you," Wesley said, not daring to break the kiss by more than a hair. "Truly."
A hint of humor appeared in Angel's eyes at Wesley's choice of words. "You know," Angel said, teasing Wesley's lips with his own. "It's for the whole place. I could have gone into the bedroom whenever I wanted."
"Yes, but you're taking so damned long I figured the invitation had been rescinded."
Wesley expected a laugh of some sort. What he got was a blur of motion as Angel picked him up and carried him back to the bedroom. He lay Wesley on the bed, then stretched himself out on top of him. "Prefer something like that?" Angel asked.
Wesley felt himself respond at once. "Yes," he said. He ran his hands down Angel's sides, enjoying the feel of the muscles beneath. "That'd be the trick, yes."
Angel held still, letting Wesley touch him for as long as he liked. He watched Wesley, stopping to kiss him occasionally, silently encouraging him to explore.
Wesley found himself melting. Or at least it felt as though his brain was. The tableau in front of him was impossible, beyond anything he'd even allowed himself to think of, yet the feeling of Angel's solid form against him told him it was quite real.
"Didn't think this would happen either," Angel said. He looked down, seemingly embarrassed at having spoken. "Sorry. Your face. Really expressive. I always liked that about you."
Wesley felt a hot flush creep over his cheeks. "Oh," he said. He removed his glasses and put them on the bedside table, hoping it would hide the blush from Angel's eyes. "I wasn't aware of that."
"Yeah," Angel said. He cupped Wesley's cheek in his hand and turned him back so he could see. When Wesley moved to look away once more, Angel stilled him with another kiss, this one warmer than the first. "And you're honest," he said, continuing to kiss him. He shifted his weight to free one hand, which he ran down Wesley's chest slowly. "And strong. And - and smart. And really sexy."
Wesley closed his eyes, feeling his pulse quicken. If Angel kept this up it stood to be a rather quick deflowering. "Angel," he whispered, but could not continue. Angel had changed position again, sliding his lips away from Wesley's and using them to kiss a trail over every part his hand touched.
"I always liked you, Wes," Angel said. He moved his mouth over Wesley's nipple and sucked on it. Even through the fabric of his pyjamas Wesley could feel the tug, and he couldn't help but think it was a natural advantage to having a vampire lover. Then his mind seized upon the word lover and stopped thinking once again. "Always," Angel repeated. With one hand he undid the buttons of Wesley's shirt. He slid it aside, then resumed his ministrations.
Wesley groaned. He was certain he was going to lose himself at any moment. But somehow he did not. As much as his body ached for it he did not go over the edge. Angel's touch served only to tease him near it. "Angel," he said again, sighing. He found it to be an exceedingly perfect name for just such occasions. "Angel…"
"Wesley," Angel replied. He pulled back, quickly shucking his leather coat and shirt, before bending down again to lick and kiss Wesley's other nipple. "Wes," and this he followed with a nip of his teeth, causing Wesley to buck from the bed, only to find himself wrapped tightly in Angel's embrace. Angel kissed him, teasing his mouth open with his tongue and drawing him out until he was breathless.
Breathless. Dimly, Wesley remembered that vampires didn't breathe. He began to wonder what sort of implications this might have until Angel's hand slipped lower and skirted around the base of his thigh.
"Ah, God, Angel," Wesley gasped. He dug his fingers into Angel's shoulders. "I can't - it's too - "
"I'll just be more careful then," Angel replied. He brushed Wesley's thigh once more, then moved his hand higher. Wesley felt his yearning increase as the distance grew. That alone might have made him lose control, had Angel not accidentally brushed his stitches.
"It's all right!" Wesley said at once, moving to comfort Angel as the vampire jumped back at Wesley's hiss of pain. "Truly. It's not that bad."
Angel looked dubious. "Are you sure? What did the doctors say?"
Wesley fought down the urge to laugh. The look on Angel's face was so positively solemn. "Funnily enough," he replied, "I hadn't thought to ask them about just this sort of thing."
"Oh," Angel said. He nodded, still looking somber but smiling all the same. "Yeah. I suppose not. Um." He looked down at Wesley, then glanced in the direction of his own arousal. "Um."
"I'm sure it will be fine if we're careful."
Angel did him the courtesy of attempting to hide the wave of relief that crossed his face. "Good," he said. He laid back down beside Wesley, kissing him again. "I promise to be gentle."
Wesley smiled. "You watch my body. I'll watch your soul."
"It'll be ok," Angel said. He met Wesley's eyes and nodded. "Seriously. There's so much else right now -"
"I know," Wesley said. He touched Angel's cheek. "I know."
Angel nodded again, then shook his head, dismissing this. "Not important. Not now. But - I wouldn't put you in danger like that."
"After all that's happened, I know you wouldn't," Wesley said. He pushed Angel off of him, rolling him onto his back then straddling his waist. For a moment he regretted the action. The sensation of Angel's erection pressing up against him almost made him lose himself entirely. "But you," he said, tracing Angel's chest with a light finger. "What the Hell happened?"
Angel's eyes glazed over at the touch, but he raised his head enough to look at what Wesley was indicating. A maze of cuts and bruises decorated his skin. Angel looked confused. "The Skilosh, Wes. You remember?"
"I do," Wesley said. He placed his hands on Angel's shoulders and pushed him back down against the mattress. "I remember they were strong, but not carrying any weapons. And a vampire of your age should be healed by now."
"Stupid Watchers," Angel muttered.
"What happened?" Wesley asked. Uncertain of what it might do, or what he intended it to, Wesley leaned forward and kissed him again.
Angel returned the kiss, reaching up to run his fingers through Wesley's hair. "I really love you," he said. "You've no idea, Wes."
"I love you," Wesley replied, secretly thrilled he'd been able to say it. "But that doesn't change the subject."
Angel grimaced. "Wes - "
"I don't -"
"But - "
Wesley blinked, sitting back. "What?"
"Sledgehammer," Angel repeated. He mimed the arc of the instrument hitting his chest and face seven times. "And - and a truck." This he mimed four times.
Wesley stared at Angel in shock. "When did this happen?"
Angel looked sorrowful. "Wes, it doesn't matter."
"It does to me!" Wesley said. He felt a sudden protective streak rising up within him. Not that he imagined a half-crippled mortal could do a great deal, but even still.
"The same night," Angel admitted. "When you dropped me off with the Skilosh…. Lindsey stopped by."
A rush of emotion overcame him. Anger was at the top of the list. Wesley longed to lash out, chide Angel for the stupidity of the fight, the foolishness of hiding the extent of his injuries and the damned, dim- witted stubbornness of it all.
But he couldn't. Not when he saw the look of quiet begging in Angel's eyes. A look which pleaded with him to drop it, because Angel had dropped it too.
"Wanker," was all he said, finally. He moved to hug Angel as tightly as he dared. "Stupid wanker."
"Yeah. I know."
"Will this hurt?" Wesley asked, indicating all they were in the middle of.
Angel smiled, relief once again shining in his eyes, though it was quickly replaced by mischief. "Not with what I have in mind."
Any response Wesley would have made was cut off by Angel's lips over his mouth. The heat that had been forestalled by worry returned at once, and felt a thousand times stronger for the wait. With a quick but gentle hand, Angel removed the rest of Wesley's clothing. Angel's own soon followed. Wesley had just time enough to take in the sight that had tormented him for weeks - the sight of Angel's naked, wonderfully erect body - before the erection itself was pressing against him and Angel's mouth and hands touched him insistently.
"Wes," Angel asked, speaking quickly now in his own need. "What - what do you prefer? What do you want?"
Wesley rocked his hips up to meet Angel's. "In," he replied, feeling intoxicated by the sensations. "I invite you."
Now Angel laughed, kissing him in earnest. He guided Wesley into a position that would not hurt either one of them. In a moment of clarity Wesley pointed out the bedside drawer, reminding Angel of mortal needs. Silently Wesley thanked whatever Power had inspired him to keep such supplies on hand when he dated Virginia. The sensation of lubrication against his skin made him gasp. His hands made fists in the sheets as his body responded, telling him yes, this was precisely what he wanted, and what he'd been wanting all along.
"Love you, Wes," Angel said. He kissed Wesley's shoulder before sliding himself in. That, for both of them, proved the end of it. Their bodies responded at once, moving together as instincts Wesley didn't even know he had combined with Angel's firm but tender control to make sure that each thrust was true, hit just the right spot, and slowly but surely drove him out of his mind. When he thought he could take it no longer, Angel entered him just so and Wesley came, crying out, spilling his seed and shuddering as Angel responded in turn.
They lay together on the bed, Angel curled up against him, his arm wrapped carefully around Wesley's chest. "Glad I came?" Angel asked.
Wesley smiled, wondering if Angel had intended, or was even aware of the pun. "Yes," he replied, meaning it for both ideas. "And I hope you will again."
He felt Angel smile as the vampire bent down to kiss his neck, then settled against him as they drifted off to sleep.