All and Nothing
Many thanks to Glossing for beta reading this fic for me.
It was unthinkable to ask the others if they felt as he did about the Hyperion. It would imply that he, Wesley, was frightened by empty rooms and that was ridiculous. He couldn’t help noticing that Angel was the only one who seemed at home here though, moving confidently down long corridors, flinging open doors, poking into dark corners. The others hovered in the reception area, within sight of the exit to the outside world, reassured by an escape route. Cordelia’s dusting got so far and no further and most of the hotel continued to slumber under a grey blanket.
Wesley was used to being afraid but that didn’t make the sensation any easier to endure. He dealt with it the way he always had; by assigning it a place in the list. Was it scarier than the monster under the bed had been? Yes. Well, then, how about spiders? Definitely. Fine. Let’s stop shilly shallying. Was it scarier than the look on his father’s face when he found him sobbing pitifully because he’d wet the bed, the night before he was due to leave for boarding school? No. Nothing ever was. He’d dealt with that, he could deal with this. Problem solved.
So Wesley was exploring the hotel, mapping it out in his head, even making notes in his angular, precise writing if he came across something that looked interesting in the detritus of decades. Cordelia had left on a lunch hour that he suspected would stretch to triple that, as she’d just got paid. Gunn was with his friends, helping to train some new recruits, and Angel was presumably asleep. Walk–in clients were scarcer than Cordelia’s auditions so he didn’t feel guilty at leaving the front desk empty.
He’d gone deeper into the basement area than he ever had before – this wasn’t his first exploration by any means – when the faint noises he’d been hearing registered in his mind as worthy of investigation rather than a reason to flee. Biting his lip hard, he retraced his footsteps, forcing himself to track the sounds to their source, not listening to the voice telling him to go and get a weapon or wake Angel. Not listening to the coward within him.
He came eventually to a closed door and paused. The noises were a mixture of savage, primal cries and hoarse, ragged moans. He felt a blush steal up his face as he listened. Passion or pain or both? Was he was eavesdropping on some liaison? Some squatters or street people who’d found a way into what they might have assumed was an abandoned building? He made himself listen. Only one voice and it sounded tormented. Cautiously turning the handle, he pushed open the door and stood framed in the doorway, peering into the dim, windowless room, lit inadequately by a single light bulb.
He wondered why the sight of Angel didn’t surprise him and then realised that he’d recognised that voice from the beginning. Every moan had struck a chord within him, echoing the noises he had made as Faith worked on him for long hours and his only lifeline had been his determination never to scream for mercy. He knew how it felt to have those sounds crawling inside you, scrabbling to get out, forced back by nothing more than a promise made to oneself. He’d kept them inside until he was alone and then cried himself empty. Angel wasn’t going to have that luxury if he knew he had been seen...
Wesley stepped back but it was too late to retreat even before the small scrape of his shoe on the hard floor. Angel’s voice came to him from the shadows a flat and emotionless whisper. “I know you’re there, Wesley. I heard you coming.”
Wesley bit back the obvious, trite words – ‘Are you all right?’ or ‘Can I help?’ - and instead said carefully, “Do you want me to go?”
The silence seemed answer enough and he turned, feeling his shoulders sag slightly under the weight of another rejection, another mishandled situation, another friend he’d let down in some mysterious, unintended way.
Angel’s voice reached him like a wavering beam of light. “Wes? No, I didn’t mean – stay. Please.”
Wesley turned, a smile curving his lips as he was granted a second chance. It vanished as he hurried over to where Angel lay propped up against a filthy wall. Angel was hurt, his lips tight with pain, blood staining his white shirt. Wesley knelt down beside him, his hand hovering as he tried to decide if he should treat Angel here or get him to somewhere cleaner. There was a sofa a few yards away but the cushions were torn, the stuffing poking out of the holes. Angel shifted position slightly and his mouth opened in a soundless gasp of pain.
“Let me see,” Wesley ordered, reaching out to unbutton the shirt.
Angel’s large hand clamped around his wrist and he winced. The pressure eased but Angel didn’t let go. “Leave it, Wes. That’s not why I wanted you.”
“You need that looking at, Angel. I know you’ll heal but still –”
Angel slowly unbuttoned his shirt, pulling it aside. Wesley steeled himself to see the pale skin torn and bleeding but there was no wound, not even a faint redness as vampire flesh regenerated. “I don’t understand. Is it not your blood then?” Wesley looked around the room. There were no other exits visible but he supposed Angel could have been fighting a demon whose body decomposed on death to nothingness.
“My blood. Yes, it’s mine. Every drop.”
Wesley wanted to touch the smooth skin, feel for himself that it was whole, but he hesitated. If it had been anyone else but Angel, he would have laid his hand against it, fingers spread, palm flat, done it without thinking, without caring for anything but using it as a guide to the well being of his patient. He knew that Angel was unlikely to be running a fever but that wasn’t what kept his hand away.
“Angel. Please explain to me why you are covered in blood yet show no signs of a wound.” Pedantic, prissy words while he screamed, ‘Tell me!’ inside his head.
Angel looked past Wesley, his gaze oddly intent. Wesley turned and saw what he should have seen from the moment he entered, saw the reason for the subliminal screeching of nails down the blackboard of his mind. A pentacle. Drawn in blood, glowing faintly, fading fast. As he watched, the glimmer of crimson fire winked out and the darkness of the room seemed to lift rather than diminish as it passed.
“What did you do?” he whispered.
“Called a demon to play with, Wes. Doesn’t everyone do that now and then?”
Wesley rounded on him, feeling the bitterness shape his words. “Only those who don’t care for anything or any one. Is that you? Is it really?”
“Beats brooding. I’m so good at that; it’s just no challenge any more.”
Wesley was lost but he carried on, one step at a time, clinging to the belief that the right questions could lead the way out of the maze in which he found himself. “What did you conjure?”
Angel smiled. “Not a ‘what’, a ‘who’. Me. I conjured me.”
Wesley felt his head ache slightly as he met Angel’s dark eyes, trying not to let the horror he felt show in his own. “Tell me you didn’t bring a Tzingari here. Tell me!”
“You want me to lie, Wes? Not very friendly to do that but I will if you like.”
Wesley wanted to edge away from the madman in front of him and in equal, confusing measure, wanted to hug the desolate figure until Angel let go of the strained, brittle calm that was hiding a measure of pain he could only guess at. He settled for remaining still and allowing himself the lightest of touches on Angel’s hand. “Don’t ever lie. Angel, you know I –we – all want to help you. If you shut us out like this we’re in the dark –”
“And if I let you in, Wes? Where do you think you’d be then? It’s not some happy party in my head you know.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that,” Wesley began.
“You know nothing.” Angel pushed himself up, staggering slightly. Wesley looked up at him and was astonished when Angel stretched down his hand to help him up. He took it, letting Angel tug him to his feet, wanting to prolong the contact and covering that by pulling his hand away abruptly.
“I know that demon is considered dangerous, if that isn’t redundant. I still don’t know why you risked yourself like that, what your intention was. Do you want to tell me?”
Angel swayed forward, his face very close to Wesley’s. “No. Want to make me?”
Wesley sighed. “Stage three.”
Wesley adopted the tone of voice his least favourite lecturer had used; a dry, sarcastic, delivery that grated on the ear. “One. You summon a demon who takes the shape of whoever you ask it to. In this case, in a sublime display of narcissism, yourself. Two. You fight this demon – or fuck it, I’m not entirely sure how to interpret the sounds I heard –”
“Oh, that’s funny, Wes. Do you think the curse still counts if it’s me? Have to try that next time.”
Wesley lifted an eyebrow. “’Next time’? I can see we do have a lot to discuss. As I was saying. Step three; the demon is dismissed and as its final gift to the donor of the blood that I presume you baited the pentacle with, it leaves behind a temporary feeling of euphoria, not unlike being drunk. The physical effects all vanish as well, which explains your lack of injury. Did I miss anything?”
Angel’s smile slipped for a moment and then returned. He shook his head. “Text book perfect, Wes. Not that I’m surprised by that. Always said you had ink in your veins, not blood.”
Wesley felt the hurt eat away at every barrier he’d put up, every wall he’d hidden behind. “You stupid, selfish bastard!”
The punch was aimed directly at the face that he’d dreamed about for so long it was as familiar as his own. Angel let it land and shuddered slightly, his eyes clearing as the lingering effects of the summoning dissipated. “Wes, I’m sorry –”
Wesley wasn’t ready to hear that. His next punch was aimed at the stone wall and he didn’t hold back. Still clenched, he thrust his hand at Angel. “Well? Is that blood or ink? Do you want to drink it or write with it?” Straightening his fingers, he brushed them against Angel’s lips, a challenging gleam in his eyes. Angel brought his hands up to capture Wesley’s, resting his lips against the wounded flesh for a moment, refusing to taste the blood, and then firmly pushed it away without releasing it.
“You shouldn’t – Wes, why did you do that?”
“I’ll tell you if you tell me why you brought that thing here.” Wesley’s voice was inflexible, unyielding.
Angel sighed, still not letting go of a hand which was beginning to throb painfully. Wesley could feel his fingers swelling and the sting of blood seeping out in a sticky ooze. Angel’s hands were cool against his damaged skin and he concentrated on that, ignoring the discomfort. Angel walked over to the sofa, taking Wes with him, and they sat on the musty cushions, side by side. Wes tentatively pulled at his hand but Angel’s grip tightened and he let it relax, realising that the contact was helping Angel in some way.
“Cordelia’s always on at me to stop brooding, as if it’s a habit I could break, like biting my nails. She knows that I’m still affected by what I did in the past but she’s no idea of what that was, not even after Sunnydale. You know, though, don’t you?”
His eyes demanded the truth and Wesley nodded reluctantly. “I’ve read all the Watcher’s Diaries that deal with you. I know. But that’s not –”
“Yes, it is, Wes! You’re going to say it was Angelus, that I shouldn’t blame myself, right? Well, I do. That’s why I made the demon take my form. I wanted to hurt myself, wanted to punish him – me – for what I did. It’s so satisfying to see me in pain, see me begging for mercy as my victims did. That can’t be wrong.”
Wesley stared, open mouthed. “Angel, that’s – that’s the last thing you should be doing! Don’t you see? You’re still hurting someone who doesn’t deserve it. And begging? You’d never do that! The person begging is the Tzingari demon, not you. Angel, you have to promise me this will end here. The risks are too great and it’s hurting you in so many ways.”
Angel shook his head stubbornly. “I have to do something. I can’t bear it sometimes. You’d think it would get better but it doesn’t.”
Wesley said softly, “It’s coming back here, isn’t it? Facing what you did to the residents? It stopped being something done half a century ago when you met the woman again and it’s so fresh in your mind that the guilt is burning you up.”
Angel looked at Wes, with a mixture of relief and gratitude. “You can see that? Then you should understand why –”
“No!” Wes interrupted. “Beating up a demon with your face stuck on it, risking an injury that could kill you before the summoning fades – that does nothing to help those people. Nothing ever can. They’re dead, Angel. You just have to accept that. Besides, from what you told us, you weren’t even to blame. The paranoia demon was working on them and the rest followed on from that.” He paused, searching for the words to bring Angel back.
“You wanted to know why I reverted to adolescence and hit that wall then tried to get you to taste my blood?”
Angel looked down at Wesley’s hand, stroking his thumb over the fretted skin. It hurt but Wesley wouldn’t have told him so for anything in the world. “Yes.”
“Because - God, this is difficult to say – because knowing that even a drop of my blood was inside you would have been so...” Wesley realised that his gaze was fixed on a button of Angel’s shirt. He sighed out an impatient breath, vexed at his own timidity, and looked Angel full in the eyes. “Just thinking about it, your lips, your tongue, on me got me hard. I can’t imagine how I would have felt if you’d actually done it. I’m at the point where I can’t look at you without wanting you. Not love, no. I’m not sure I’m any more capable of that than you are. I just want you. It’s both incredibly simple and amazingly complicated. It’s giving my life colour, meaning, and ruining it at the same time. It’s -”
“Wes. Shut up.”
Wesley paused, steeling himself for scorn, pity or fumbling embarrassment. Angel’s face was sombre, his eyes speculative. As Wesley waited, the words he’d wanted to say stuck in his throat, choking him until he could barely breathe, Angel slid off the sofa, knelt beside Wesley and lowered his head. Wesley felt the rasp of his tongue across his knuckles, felt it in a dozen places on his body as an arousal so intense it robbed him of thought held him in place. Wordless, he watched the dark head move slowly from side to side, longing to touch it, not daring to risk ending this sudden intimacy. Angel finished cleaning the blood away and raised his head. Wesley saw that he was still in human face and wondered vaguely if that took an effort of will to maintain.
It would have been enough. Wesley’s imagination had stopped short at picturing Angel returning his feelings; he wasn’t even sure what he would have done if he had. He was about to find out. Angel stood and brought Wesley’s hand to lie against his erection, the evidence of his desire. His fingers curled possessively around the hard curve, feeling it fit against his palm, feeling it stir as he squeezed it experimentally.
He glanced up. “You don’t have to –”
Angel smiled and unzipped his trousers, letting them slide to the floor, kicking them away, watching Wesley’s face the whole time. His hand wrapped around his cock and began to work it, sliding it casually through the loose ring of his fingers. “Do you know many tens of thousands of times I’ve done this, Wes? Still feels good though. And do you know how many months it’s been since the only person I’ve been thinking of as I came was you? No, I don’t have to do anything with you, to you. It’ll fuck up our friendship; it’ll wreck our working relationship. You know what? I don’t care.”
Wesley leaned forward just enough and captured the rounded head between his lips and then pushed Angel’s hand away, replacing it with his own as he slipped from the sofa to his knees. It didn’t seem right to do this sitting; he wanted to kneel, wanted the symbolism of the position for his own reasons and for Angel’s sake. He took in as much of the hard flesh as he could, just because he could, because he’d wanted it and it was there, in him, stretching his lips and filling his mouth. Then he pulled back and began to lick at it, concentrating on the areas that gave him pleasure, rewarded by a sigh that warmed him. Angel could have moaned, could have whimpered and Wesley would have been pleased, but those soft, whispered sighs of unneeded air, unnecessary breaths taken in and exhaled by someone caught up in the sensations he was evoking...those sighs were the most erotic sound he’d ever heard.
Wesley grew bolder as his lips locked tightly around Angel’s cock and he began to suck harder, let his free hand cup the soft heaviness of Angel’s balls, damp now and growing tighter, let his fingers slide around to caress Angel’s backside, muscled and smooth, let them delve between Angel’s legs, feeling him move his feet apart to allow it, probing and pushing until his finger slid in just enough and he felt himself coming, his trapped, tortured cock spilling out tribute in warm, wet spurts, even as his mouth swallowed Angel’s own libation.
He swallowed gratefully and then pulled away, wrapping his arms around Angel’s thighs, resting his head against the flat stomach for a moment, just a moment. Angel pulled him to his feet, held him close and kissed him, a long, leisurely kiss, lazily demanding, and full of affection. It ended and Wesley smiled at him with genuine happiness.
“Come to my room, Wes,” Angel said. “Please?”
Wesley woke from a drowsy sleep, curled up against Angel’s broad back. The shadows were gathering but it was still daylight and Angel’s sleep was so deep that he did not stir when Wesley kissed the triangle of his shoulder blade, admiring the subtle curves anatomy added to rigid geometrical shapes. The intricate design tattooed on the flesh fascinated him, night-dark ink on moon-pale skin. He’d never had the chance to look at it closely before but even as he leaned forward his brain began to receive an influx of messages from his own body. Sore. Stretched. Sticky. He reluctantly decided that a shower might be in order and rolled away, trying to slide out of bed without waking Angel.
He was back in the room he used on the nights that it was too late to bother going home, when he began to shake. An inevitable certainty clawed at his mind, shredding the fragile happiness into confetti, leaving his lies bare and exposed.
He loved Angel. He’d hoped the love was returned. Angel hadn’t mentioned the curse, hadn’t seen it as a barrier. There was only one conclusion and Wesley reached it without difficulty. He sat on the edge of the bed, unmoving, the castle in the air he’d constructed from a dozen glances, a score of sentences, reduced to rubble, and discovered that he’d always known this was inevitable. Was Angel to be lost to darkness so that he, Wesley, could know himself loved for one shining moment of brightness? Hardly. Selfish, stupid, sentimental...he chanted the epithets under his breath, losing himself in the rhythm of the words until he heard them echo loudly in the room as his voice rose, and stopped, shocked by his loss of control.
A measure of calm returned and he moved stiffly towards the bathroom to prepare himself. There really wasn’t any choice to be made after all. No sense in wasting time in here.
He showered, his face lifted to the stream of hot water, his face relaxed as the tears spilled out of his eyes. Even he couldn’t tell when they stopped. He cleaned himself meticulously and when he was ready he crawled back into bed beside Angel.
When he woke, he might want more of what Wesley could give him. Safe sex. It wasn’t enough, but was it better than nothing? No. Was it better than loneliness? No. Was Wesley going to ever tell him that? No.
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