Out of Dreams
by Eloise (eloise_bright at yahoo.com)
Spoilers: Through all of [Angel] Season 5.
Notes: Lines of dialogue from AtS eps. 5.17 -- "Underneath" and 5.18 -- "Origin". Title and quotes from "Before Day" and "The Dug-Out", both by Siegfried Sassoon. Huge thanks to Jane Davitt for the wonderful beta, and to my Live Journal friends who encouraged me.
'When the first lark goes up to look for day And morning glimmers out of dreams, come then Out of the songless valleys, over grey Wide misty lands to bring me on my way: For I am lone, a dweller among men Hungered for what my heart shall never say.' ("Before Day" -- Siegfried Sassoon)
They are sprawled in opposing armchairs, and it's late. He's not sure how long they've been sitting there drinking, but it's long enough for the bottle of The Famous Grouse to become an altogether more familiar bird. Only Wesley remains; the others have floated off to wherever it is they all go now. He doesn't particularly care where.
"So, Nina? As Gunn put it so succinctly, do you think you've got a shot?"
He isn't exactly sure what Wes is asking. "Well, there was the look..."
"Ah, yes. The Look." He gives Angel the raised eyebrow, that subtle far too cocky for his own good grin that infuriates him. It makes him want to seize the man by his shirt, haul him bodily from the chair and slap that impudent smirk from his face.
Wesley stretches out long legs, loose-limbed and body confident, his shirt untucked over casual pants. His fingers are splayed around a heavy cut tumbler, sloshing the amber liquid lightly, sending little sparks of reflected lamplight skittering across the polished floor. He looks up at Angel, suddenly inquisitive.
"What about my pen?"
Angel sets his drink down, carefully, using a coaster. Wes does that thing with his tongue, that peculiarly English tutting sound, and puts his own glass down onto the table, hard. The whiskey splashes, making a warm, wet circle on bare wood.
Steel in his eyes and in his voice now, and Angel stares at the invisible line on Wesley's forearm and swirls his tongue over his teeth.
"Sorry, Wes. It got damaged when I ...' he mimes stabbing the werewolf, then grins. 'You know what they say... the pen is..."
"Don't." Wes cuts him off, and he's actually angry. "Just..." He narrows his eyes. "It's just typical. The one thing I get from this bloody firm and it's ruined."
He likes that he's got Wes riled, likes the flash of fire and ice. The demon in him wants that, wants to push him further; wants a fight; fists and feet and teeth. He remembers how shamefully good it felt when he held a pillow over that face; felt those pale fingers claw ineffectually at his wrists. How good it felt to punish; to spit out his justified rage and hatred. But that can't happen now. Can't. Won't.
"Hey, come on, Wes. It's only a pen." He shrugs a little smile.
"You think it's funny?" Wesley's lips are so thin they barely part for the words.
He shakes his head and stands; and Wesley takes it as a challenge. He gets up, and it's obvious he's not as drunk as Angel had thought. He's steady on his feet as he takes a step towards him. It's not exactly threatening, but there's determination as he reaches over and slides his hand into Angel's pants pocket.
"I believe you have something in here that belongs to me."
It's a smooth move. He extracts the thin silver barrel from his pocket and holds it out triumphantly, the sneering smile making an unwelcome reappearance. Angel grabs his other hand and pulls him close, determined to wipe the smirk from his lips. Is reasonably successful.
He wakes up cold.
"Wes, you awake?"
No answer. Angel rolls over into the Wesley-shaped space in his bed.
The ensuite door opens, and steam curls around the edges of the frame into the cool air. He emerges from the mist, the pale light of early dawn lending his skin an ethereal glow. He is dressed already, but his hair is damp from the shower.
Angel rolls onto his side, props his head on his hand, watching as Wesley sits on the edge of the bed. It barely dips with his weight.
"Hey, why didn't you wake me?"
Wes bends down to retrieve a shoe, the ridge of his spine pushing against the soft fabric of his shirt. Angel resists the urge to run his fingers down his back, counting bones.
"I have an early meeting. And you looked so peaceful." Wes stands, reluctantly, and leans over to ghost a kiss across Angel's brow.
"And when you sleep you remind me of the dead." The quotation slips out unexpectedly; he's not sure why.
Wesley's lips are cool as they brush too briefly across his forehead. "That's rather apt."
"I thought so." He reaches up with his free hand, tries to latch onto Wes' belt, but he is already out of reach.
"Do you really have to go so early?" Angel glances at the nightstand, but his clock is missing.
There is regret in Wes' eyes as he nods. "You know I do."
When he is gone, Angel falls back against the pillows, suddenly, achingly tired.
He closes his eyes.
He is sitting at his desk, his back ramrod straight and it is obvious who is at the other end of the 'phone line. In this, at least, Wesley is transparent. The Wesley he thinks he knows. He watches for a moment, from the shadow of the doorway, and then the receiver is replaced and Wesley slumps visibly. A puppet cut loose.
And this is the Wesley he remembers from his Faithful Servant days, insecure and desperate to please, all blue-eyed hero worship and obedience. The Wesley he won't admit he wished for with the slash of a silver blade.
Not like this, he tells himself, he never wanted him broken like this. He steps into the room and Wesley's spine stiffens again; his hands fold themselves together on his desk. He thinks of this morning, a lifetime ago, before Wesley took the lead role in his own private Greek tragedy.
He had needed to be hard with him; Wes had been careless, thoughtless, guileless, ruthless, and he doesn't want to remember how good it had felt to really lay into him. To know that he'd hurt him; debased him; to see that in the stiff set of his shoulders and the tightening of his mouth into that firm line.
Wes looks up, and for a moment there is such raw unconcealed pain on his face that it hurts to look at him. But it is gone quickly; shuttered down and closed over and filed away under repression. His features are swiftly schooled into some semblance of composure.
"Angel, I -- I didn't see you there." He gestures to the couch, and Angel sits down there, watching.
Then Wes moves, and sits next to him, their knees bumping slightly as he settles himself on the couch. He folds his hands again, fingers lacing together so tightly that Angel can see the blood coursing through the veins in his wrists.
"You called your Dad." He doesn't make it a question; but Wes answers anyway.
"I forgot the time difference."
And the fingers of one hand untwist, spread onto his thigh; brushing the soft canvas distractedly.
Angel reaches over and places his hand on top of the fluttering fingers, stilling them. He runs his thumb over the joints and knuckles and fingertips, and feels every bump and callus and scar left by pen and crossbow and ruler. He grasps his hand gently, turns it palm up, and Wesley's breath hitches in his throat.
Angel bends his head, and places his lips upon the trembling palm, kissing it lightly. It tastes of soap, and very faintly of cordite, and he wants to weep for Wesley.
He wakes up alone.
Then hears the sound of the shower. He sits at the edge of the bed and the wooden floorboards are cold beneath his feet. He moves around the bed and it takes him longer than it should to walk the few steps to the shower room. He pushes the ensuite door, and meets the cloud of steam. It paints the mirrors; tiles; shower stall, so that Wes is only a shadow behind the glass.
He reaches out and rubs his palm across the fogged door, and the shadow solidifies; he sees Wesley's back to him, head bent forward under the spray, so that the water sluices down the sharp curves of his spine. His eyes move with the water, over the angled tilt of his hips, the tight muscles of his buttocks, running down long, lean legs to a pool of rose water in the white tray.
He senses it now. Even diluted, it is rich and heady and he can almost smell sea weed and salt tang in the air.
"Wes! What happened?"
Wesley freezes, his body rigid with shock, and stays facing the wall. Then reaches up and twists the controls, until the spray dwindles to nothing, the last of the pink-tinged water swirling into the drain.
"I cut myself. Shaving." And when he finally turns, there is a thin line of blood welling along the scar line he doesn't have. "It's nothing, honestly."
"Let me see."
But Wes is pushing past him, pressing a dark towel to the wound, disappearing into the mist of steam. Angel follows him out of the shower room, sees him sitting on the bed, sliding his arm into the green shirt. There's a darkening bruise around the scar at the edge of his belly, a neat hole that sucks at the skin around it.
"Your scar --" He takes a step towards him, but Wes has pulled the shirt over the bullet hole; is buttoning it up carefully.
"It's fine. It doesn't hurt any more.' He stands now, fully dressed, and Angel sees that the nick on his throat is almost healed over.
"Early meeting?" He looks over to where the clock should be on his nightstand, but it's still missing.
"Something like that." Wes pulls back the sheet. "You should go back to sleep. You look so tired."
Angel isn't sure why he obeys; but finds himself stretched out on soft smooth cotton, inexplicably exhausted. He thinks he feels cool fingers brush against the inside of his wrist.
"I'll see you later?" No answer. "Right, Wes?"
He turns at the door and nods. Then Wesley smiles at him, and it's so full of sorrow and compassion that it puts an ache in his empty chest.
He closes his eyes.
Wesley is sitting at his desk, staring straight ahead at nothing. She is speaking, her voice clear and cool and without compassion.
"Does this now make you Wesley?"
"At least I know what happened."
And Wesley always has to go poking where he shouldn't and picking at things that are best left alone. Like finding a loose thread and not being able to resist working at it, until the whole thing unravels and falls apart. Anger flashes through him, but he remains outside the door, silently listening. Illyria is talking of the implanted memories.
"Try to push reality out of your mind. Focus on the other memories. They were created for a reason." Wesley shakes his head, trying to clear it. Still searching for the answer. Angel doesn't know if there is an answer.
"To hide from the truth?"
"To endure it."
And then all the justified rage at Wesley's actions dissolves as he hears him broken by this. She strides past him, a brief tilt of her chin the only acknowledgment of his presence. He steps into the room.
"Wes. We should talk."
"I dreamed of this." Wes stands and turns to the window, as if Angel has not spoken at all. Whispering something to himself.
"He remembers something he'd forgotten, and it doubles him over with pain. He falls to the floor shaking.... and then through the floor and into the Earth. He looks back up at the other man, but he doesn't call out to him. They're not that close."
It hurts, like a knife twisting in his gut, and Angel puts a hand onto the desk to steady himself.
"I understand why you did it. The boy..." Wesley pauses, his voice cracking a little. "The father will kill the son. You did kill him, didn't you?" He drops his head forward and exposes bare skin at the nape of his neck.
"Yes." Bright silver slicing across pale skin, searing heat and blinding light; and he knows he would do it all again, to give Connor the life he now lives.
"Bloody prophecies." Wes looks up, turns his head, and sends him that tiny quirk of a smile.
And for a moment, just a moment, he is the old Wesley. And then he bends his head again, and his shoulders shake silently.
Angel goes to him then, wraps his arms around his body tightly, desperate to give him comfort, but when he looks at the reflection in the window, he sees only Wesley staring back.
He wakes up hungry.
The sheet is rucked up at his back and as he reaches a hand out to pull it over him, his fingers touch something cold and wet and sticky. He twists over onto his other side and Wesley is there beside him, a huge messy wound in his side.
"Wes, what happened?" He grabs a fistful of sheet and presses it to the blossoming stain, which is bleeding sluggishly.
Wesley shifts his position with some difficulty and looks over at him, his eyes full of gentle concern.
"You know what happened."
He runs his fingers over the ribs above the wound to check for further damage, and he's not sure if it's just his imagination, but Wesley's skin is as cold as his own. He peels back the bloodied sheet and the bleeding has all but stopped; the edges of the wound are already dark and dry.
"It doesn't hurt any more, you know," he says conversationally, reaching over to flutter cool fingertips over Angel's cheek.
There is a weight on his chest, a stone where his heart should be. Tears gather behind his eyes, and Wesley is leaning over him, pressing his chilled lips to each eyelid.
"Things didn't happen this way." He's not angry, sounds instead full of regret. "You know that, don't you?"
The tears that he's kissed away fall anyway. "I know. I just wanted..." And he's not sure what he wanted. It's too late now for things they should have said and done.
"It's okay." The touch of Wesley's lips is so light that he can barely feel them on his own. "But I have to go. I can't keep doing this." He gestures regretfully to the wound at his side.
Then his voice drops to a gentle whisper. "Angel, let me go."
And it hurts, as much as it did when Illyria brought the news, maybe more now. Because he knows that this isn't real; this isn't how it finished between them. He reaches up and runs his thumb over Wesley's lips.
Then releases him.
Wesley sits on the edge of the bed; dresses carefully. When he has finished, he stands up, and moves towards the door.
"I won't see you again, will I?" Angel tries to keep the desperation out of his voice, but it cracks, just a little.
Wesley turns at the door and looks at him with what he thinks might be love.
He closes his eyes, and when he finally wakes up in the morning, Wesley is gone.