Autumn of Strange Suffering
BoD Challenge Fic. Wes/Angel. NC17
Well, this is it...my first real foray into slash.
Author's Notes: My challenge was written for James, had to include Wes, no hetfic unless it was with Faith and no death fic.
This story would have been a much paler and less coherent version of what it is now had it not been for the tremendous support of the immensely talented Starlet. She knows how I worship and adore her, but let me just say publicly; if a C/A writer can help a B/A writer write slash, there’s hope for this wacky fandom after all. Also, thanks and hugs to Dark Rhiannon for her fine insights and for squicking over the word mucusy! How do I get to keep such fine company, you ask? g
"And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair,
By the autumn of strange suffering,
Sung dirges in the wind."
From Shelley’s Alastor
He knows it’s over even before it’s begun. Knows the silent longing and the solemn tick of his heart almost as well as he recognizes Angel’s shuttered eyes. He’s seen that look before; has watched Angel fold in on himself after Buffy, Darla, Cordelia. Does he dare add his own name to the list? But he also knows that there had been no promises, no vows and he can’t say that the end result was all that unexpected. Still, he feels sucker punched. Even that feeling isn’t new.
"I just can’t imagine how I’m going to oversee an entire science department," Fred said, shifting her slight frame from one hip to the other. "I mean, I have peons and everything."
"Peons?" Wes asked quizzically.
Fred smiled indulgently, and pulled the pencil from the careless knot of her hair. Wes watched it tumble down over her shoulders, a glossy chestnut waterfall. "You know, Wes. Lackeys. Underlings. Minions. A whole department filled with people and equipment and resources."
"Ah, yes, of course," Wes said. "Well, I’m sure you’ll have it…"
"Knox," Fred said, shifting her smile from Wes to the young scientist crossing the Wolfram and Hart lobby carrying an armload of binders. "Excuse me, Wes."
In a flash of coltish legs, Fred was gone, leaving Wesley in the middle of the lobby alone. There was a time, not so long ago, when Wes would have felt slighted by Fred’s casual dismissal, but not today.
He shifted his gaze, feeling very much like a worker ant who carried sustenance to the queen except of course, in this instance, the queen was a king. He sighed and headed back toward his office. Swarms of people carrying folders or slim, elegant briefcases or Styrofoam cups of deli coffee and mumbling into sleek cell phones, passed him as he stood there. Some nodded towards him; a few said, "Morning Mr. Wyndam-Pryce," but Wes had no idea who they were; as a matter a fact, Wes had no idea who he was at this particular moment.
Wesley stopped and turned back around. "Charles."
"How’re your digs man?"
"Adequate? You need to talk to the boss. I’ve got a room with a view," Gunn said, swiping his hand over the top of his head. "Any sign of Angel?"
"No." Wes paused. "Are you busy? Do you want to have coffee... or a Danish?" Wes’s invitation sounded feeble, even to his own ears.
"No, I’m gonna…" Gunn nodded his head in the direction of the room that had been assigned him. "Meeting with Eve." He leaned towards Wes, his looming height crowding against Wes’s smaller, less bulky frame. "What is up with that girl?" Before waiting for an answer, he headed off, leaving Wes standing once more in the middle of the busy lobby. He longed for the Hyperion, for the small, safe space that had wrapped him up, kept him safe for the months before it had all turned to shit: Darla. Jasmine. Cordelia.
Wes shook his head and turned towards his office. There were folders and files and memos stacked in neat piles on his huge mahogany desk. He might as well get to them.
The voice came from a great distance and Wesley pushed it away. He was having such a nice dream.
"Wes." More insistent.
Wes bolted upright, feeling the kink in his neck almost immediately. He reached absently for glasses that weren’t there and remembered blearily that he’d fallen asleep with his contacts in. Angel was standing in front of him, arms crossed protectively in front of a chest that looked enormous from this angle. Wes emptied his mind of this thought.
"You sleep like the dead," Angel said, smiling.
"What time is it?" Wes asked.
"Late. Almost morning. Why aren’t you upstairs?"
Wes looked around at the office and wondered the same thing himself. "I must have fallen asleep. I was…." He indicated the papers on his desk. "I was researching."
Angel dropped into a chair across from Wes.
"Everything go okay?"
Angel shrugged. "I did what I went to do," Angel said, closing his eyes as if suddenly exhausted.
"And what was that?"
"Give Buffy the amulet. See if I could help."
"And did you? Give her the amulet? Help her?"
Angel opened his eyes and directed his gaze at Wes. "Yes is the short answer."
"What’s the long answer?"
Wes nodded. He didn’t need to know the long answer to know that Angel and Sunnydale were a dangerous combination. Still, Wes felt the slimy fingers of jealousy curl around his innards. He resisted the urge to be snarky.
"How are things here?" Angel asked suddenly.
Wes rubbed his tired eyes. His contacts burned and he was thirsty. "It’s an adjustment."
"Is it?" Angel asked. Wes watched him as he walked to the window and looked out over the lightening sky. He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to Angel’s new ability to be able to stand next to exposed glass. It made him sad, somehow.
"It’ll be fine," Wes said, no longer sure what Angel was talking about. This was a growing problem between them.
"You should get some sleep, Wes, you look like hell."
Wes nodded. He felt like hell, too. In fact, he was living in hell, not to put too fine a point on it. "Yes, well, I’ll see you later then," he murmured.
It was both exhilarating and soul-destroying to run an evil law firm. Law firms were, by their very nature, evil and so Wolfram and Hart obviously packed a double whammy. What was that joke? What’s the difference between a lawyer and a flounder? One’s a bottom dwelling scum sucker and the other’s a fish. Truer words, Wes thought, rinsing his razor under cold water before taking a final swipe at his face.
"Shit," Wes said, the sudden voice and lack of reflection in the bathroom mirror startling him. He touched his finger to the bead of blood that welled along his jaw.
"Sorry." Angel moved out of the mirror’s blind eye and leaned against the doorframe. Too casual.
Wes grabbed a damp facecloth and wiped away the traces of shaving cream, held the cloth for a lingering moment against the cut. "What’s wrong?" he asked, turning to face Angel.
"Nothing. I just thought we should catch up, before we met with the others," Angel said, his eyes glinting gold.
Wes kept his face purposefully blank. "Catch up?" He thought: Why is Angelus in my bathroom?
Angel shrugged. "I just thought you could tell me what I missed."
"Angel. You’ve been gone less than 24 hours," Wes said, reaching for his shirt, which he’d laid neatly over the closed toilet seat.
"I know. Seems longer."
Wesley sighed. Angel stepped into the room, closer to Wes then he should be standing. Wes watched the vampire’s long elegant fingers reach out and touch the abrasion on his jaw, smearing the blood just a little before bringing his fingers to his mouth. Angel’s eyes met Wesley’s and he reached for the blood on his index finger with his tongue.
Wes was transfixed by Angel’s face, unlined skin that was almost translucent in the harsh bathroom light. He thought about the silly Dracula movies he’d watched as a kid; he remembered the power of the thrall and wondered if this is what it felt like, to be so mesmerized by another you couldn’t move. He let go of his shirt and swayed unsteadily.
The sharp bleep of his alarm clock woke him. He was disoriented and brought his hand up to his jaw, felt the stubble and groaned. His cock weighed heavily against his stomach, so obvious he was afraid to touch it. He couldn’t be sure what had so aroused him in the dream; Angel tasting his blood, or the look in his eyes.
"Jesus," Wes muttered, before wrapping a sweaty palm around himself and squeezing tight, desperate not to associate the dream with the man, the man with pleasure.
Wes sat at his desk, a postcard from Rupert Giles propped against his cooling mug of coffee. Wes didn’t think about England; he never indulged in memories of his parents, or the things that made him essentially British. He brushed his fingers across the bird’s eye view of London represented on the card, but didn’t bother to turn it over to read Giles’s message. The picture was enough to send him hurtling back. It was enough to make him feel disconnected, from England and Los Angeles.
At boarding school, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce wasn’t the least popular boy, but he wasn’t captain of the cricket team or house proctor either. No one had ever short-sheeted his bed or filled his newly polished shoes with shaving cream, but neither did they invite him on midnight raids to the kitchen or for drinks of stolen lager behind the gymnasium. Mostly, Wes passed through rooms and lives without causing much of a stir. Not a ghost, more substantial than a shadow, but just.
Sometimes Wes couldn’t help thinking about the myriad of ways he’d fucked up his own life. He tried, sometimes, to list the places where he’d fit in, belonged; it was a very short list.
He was clever at the Watcher’s Academy and he excelled at his studies; he could name the Tidmond Compendium of Hellbeasts alphabetically in less than three minutes, but he was never included. He hadn’t gathered with the other Watchers-in-training in the library for brandies and evening chats.
When he got his first posting, he’d hoped to make a new start. He remembered buying his brand new satchel (a lovely, leather case with a complicated brass clasp). He went to the best shop in London for a wardrobe of suits, (navy pin stripe and charcoal gray with smartly cuffed pants), but the old adage ‘you can dress him up, but you can’t take him out,’ seemed to apply to him. He just didn’t have any people skills. He was awkward and stuffy and, truth be told, pompous. He knew it.
Wes pulled open the middle drawer of his desk and slipped the postcard inside. The last thing he needed right now was to be reminded of his shortcomings.
His first Slayers were a dismal failure. Technically he was Watcher to both Faith and Buffy, but Wes knew Buffy never took one word he said seriously. Wes doubted that anyone could have watched Faith. Still, even he had to admit that he had cocked things up horribly. They’d both been unmanageable, true, but Wes had been arrogant and naive, a deadly combination. He hadn’t listened to any of Mr Giles’s advice, dismissing him summarily as though he was incompetent and irresponsible. (Hadn’t that been the gossip at Council Headquarters?) It had all gone badly and Wes had no one to blame but himself.
A short rap on the door (inner-office memos dumped on his desk, delivered by a grunting Snarloth demon) jolted Wes momentarily from his musings. He pushed the brown envelopes to one side and leaned forward on his desk, cupping his clean-shaven chin in the upturned heel of his hand.
It had taken ages to make inroads with the gang in Sunnydale. Wes had balked miserably, failing to see how Rupert Giles had allowed the Slayer so much freedom, so many friends in the loop. So many friends, period. Wesley had none.
While it was true that Cordelia Chase had taken an early shine to him, her motives were transparent, clearly. Their first kiss had been a dismal failure, all clashing teeth and spit. It was painful to think of Cordy now, to know that she was comatose, cared for by benevolent demons in a pristine room on a lower floor of the Wolfram and Hart empire.
They’d averted the Apocalypse in Sunnydale and certainly no thanks to him, but Wes still tried to justify his mediocre performance that day. He hadn’t been battle ready; he hadn’t had any real practice in the line of duty; he hadn’t been prepared for the Mayor, no book could have prepared anyone for that.
What he mostly remembered about that day, before he’d been felled by one swift punch, was Angel, standing on the pavement flanked by rather stupid humans, ready to fight. Wesley could barely admit to himself even now, all these years later, that he was one of those stupid humans. He sighed inwardly.
Even worse than his dismal contribution to the fight was that feeling he’d had, even then, about Angel; that same little tickle of recognition he used to get when David Morse, captain of the football team, had sat at the same table as him at supper.
Wes regarded his growing infatuation with Angel with the same clinical eye with which he tackled a particularly puzzling problem. He found himself lingering at the office long after the cases they’d been working on were put aside for the night. He wouldn’t go straight home to shower off various demon fluids, choosing instead to sit at Angel’s kitchen table drinking tepid tea. He found himself hanging on Angel’s every word, entranced by the dichotomy that was Angel: vicious demon, repentant man.
Wes got up from his desk, uncomfortable with the direction his thoughts were taking him. He wouldn’t travel this road, not now. He walked to the window and pressed his warm, moist forehead to the Necrotempered glass.
Another day, another twisted human. Wes remembered when the worst was always a demon; that wasn’t true anymore. Now the dregs of society were human and the end of the day always made Wes feel like showering or drinking. Tonight he chose the latter.
He perused the liquor cabinet thoughtfully. A gin and tonic might be nice. No, too fussy; he’d have to go for ice. And lime. Wes scratched his hand across his chin and lifted out the bottle of single malt scotch. No need for anything other than a glass, which he retrieved from the shelf above the bar.
Angel’s voice at the door.
"Just going to have a nightcap," Wes said. "Care to join me?" He said the words carefully.
Angel nodded and stepped into the room. Wes removed another glass from the shelf and moved back to his desk, grateful to be able to put furniture between them.
"People are sick, aren’t they?" Wes said, pouring a healthy measure of scotch into each glass and pushing Angel’s drink towards him.
Angel shrugged. "They are what they are, I guess."
"Is that what you believe?"
Angel took a sip of his drink. "You’d be surprised at what I believe, Wes."
The scotch was wonderfully robust and Wes wondered for a second if it might not be charmed. He thought, briefly, about the day’s cases. There’d been a mother who’d sold her youngest child to a demon in exchange for sexual allure, a business owner who wanted his demon work force to take a pay cut (he could no longer keep up with the endless supply of babies), and some hookers to the stars.
Wes thought, and not for the first time, that they might be in over their heads. He didn’t like to second guess Angel, but Wes sometimes worried that they would pay too high a price for their allegiance with Wolfram and Hart.
"You’re distracted," Angel said. "What’s up?"
Wes shook his head, drained his glass and poured another. "No. I’m just thinking about this place, what it means for us, for the future."
Angel held out his own empty glass and Wes poured him another drink. "I don’t know."
"It’s just," Wes paused, but before he had a chance to continue Angel said, "You don’t need to say it, Wes."
For a long moment, Wes was content to watch Angel’s fingers trace a path around the rim of his glass and then, when he looked up, he was discomfited to discover that Angel was staring at him. Wes tried a small smile, but it didn’t make a dent in Angel’s calm, certain exterior.
"I need to tell you something," Angel said suddenly.
Wes waited for Angel’s confession.
Angel said: "I have a son."
This revelation almost surprised the drink right out of Wes. Was it possible that he had misheard? He reached back into his neatly ordered mind and tried to determine how he might have missed this rather important detail. He had no memory of a baby. Who was the mother? Wes sucked his tongue between his teeth and resisted the urge to "tsk."
"I don’t want to talk about him," Angel said. "I don’t think I can. Not yet. I just wanted-- needed someone to know."
Wes nodded and took a long sip. He considered, for a moment, the possibility that Angel was lying, but dismissed the thought. Angel rarely, if ever, lied. He considered the potential mothers: Buffy, Cordy, Darla. Even buzzing from the scotch, Wes couldn’t stop his researcher’s mind from sifting through the stores of knowledge he had about Angel. Was it even possible for a vampire to father a child?
And, worse, the fact that Angel hadn’t disclosed this information before pointed to a wedge between them that he didn’t want to acknowledge. Part of him resented the revelation. It seemed selfish of Angel to part to divulge this information now, after everything that had transpired. Angel would expect discretion and Wes wanted…well there was no point even thinking about what he wanted.
Wes’s mouth turned into the Sahara. He doubted even another swallow of the scotch would help. Still, he forced his lips around the words. "Is it Buffy?"
Angel’s eyes registered pain and surprise in equal measure. "Wes. I’ve seen Buffy once in months and that was weeks ago."
"I just thought--"
"It was a weird summer, wasn’t it?" Angel said suddenly.
"Yes. It was rather."
Angel placed his empty glass on the desk. Wes wondered if Angel would go now, up to the rooms no one had ever been invited to visit. Angel might be used to the solitary life, but Wes still struggled with it. Perhaps it stemmed from hours spent locked in the cupboard under the stairs, paying for an infraction he’d never been sure he’d committed.
"Sometimes, just for a minute, I want to feel normal," Angel said. Wes watched Angel’s eyes shift from his lap to his empty glass until he was staring at him, and Wes felt the weight of that stare as clearly as if Angel had placed a hand on his shoulder.
Without thinking of the consequences, Wes said: "I could help."
Angel smiled enigmatically. "You have." He stood and for a moment the silence stretched between them, fragile and potent. Angel ran a hand through his hair. "Good night, Wes."
"Bastard," Wes muttered to himself, reaching once more the bottle.
An hour later, more drunk than sober, Wes thought about the last time he and Angel had shared a drink. Had there been an occasion? Wes couldn’t recall. They’d been alone. Perhaps there had been some other revelation, some soul-searching. Wes rubbed his temples and tried to remember, but it was all sense memory now.
The film of that night began to unspool in his head: He watched as Angel unbuttoned his shirt, sliding it off his beautiful shoulders. He watched Angel’s long arm reach out for him across the desk (this very desk where he now sat) and he felt himself lean back, away from the imminent touch.
"I can’t, I don’t…" he’d stuttered. Of course, it wasn’t entirely true. There had been the one incident at school. David Morse, one and the same, had cornered Wesley in the boy’s changing room and kissed him, hard, on the mouth back when they were both in 6th form. For weeks afterwards, Wesley could feel his lips tingle; David Morse, for his part, had never sat at the same dining table again.
Angel’s fingers hovered near Wesley’s cheek. "It’s not what I meant," he’d whispered, but it hadn’t been true. His feelings for Angel were no longer complicated by work or semantics; they existed deep in his gut and Wes would have howled out loud, swallowed Angel whole, offered his blood, if it had meant releasing the frustration and loneliness he’d felt over the past several weeks.
"Stand up," Angel commanded.
Wesley stood and felt, as if from a great distance, Angel’s fingers at his belt, at the fly on his pants, on his bare thighs, at the stiffness in his shorts. Then, Angel was in front of him, so close his face was blurred, or was that the alcohol?
"Wes," Angel said.
Wesley wondered if his eyes mirrored horror, shame, lust, anything at all. Despite everything, he could feel desire rocketing through him. Or was it fear? Did he even believe he was deserving of Angel’s touch? And, oh God, he’d read the Watcher’s Diaries, had read about Angelus’s more violent appetites, his penchant for pain, his expertise in the ways of the flesh. Wesley could feel the tingle of anticipation from his scalp to his nail beds to the arch of his foot.
Wes wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening. Alternatively, he wanted to remember every single second of this encounter because he knew in his heart of hearts that what was happening now was a mere blip on the radar, meaningless in the grander scheme of things.
Still, he waited for the kiss, reached for it. Maybe they were more alike than either of them could admit.
Angel’s lips were smooth and cool and pressed against his, Wesley was robbed of all coherent thought. Angel’s lips didn’t linger and it wouldn’t have mattered even if they had; now he could feel Angel’s cool fingers trailing against the tented length of him and he couldn’t prevent the strained moan that escaped his mouth.
Surely he hadn’t said that out loud; surely it was only the most private of thoughts.
Wes felt his trousers puddle around his ankles and he had to step out them, awkwardly, because Angel was leading him by the hand to the leather sofa near the window. He didn’t speak and neither did Wes. He was turned away from Angel, hands braced on the back of the couch, palms so sweaty they slid against the expensive material.
Angel’s hands snaked up the front of Wes’s chest, underneath the cotton shirt, and when Wes felt the hands wrapped around the material, when he heard the sharp tear of cotton and the buttons splashed against the couch and floor, he was almost sick. His heart thumped wildly in a chest that seemed, suddenly, ribless.
He registered the sound of the scrape of Angel’s zipper. Careful fingers at his virgin entrance. So careful, too careful and Wes wanted to scream, "Just do it, for God’s sake, I’ve been waiting since the first time I ever saw you," but he didn’t. He looked up into the glass of the window and saw his pale face and didn’t think it at all strange when he felt the head of Angel’s cock in his spit-lubed hole, but couldn’t see a face behind him. He felt the pressure as Angel pressed forward, not tentatively but solicitous just the same.
His knees were shaking. Angel was so quiet. Then there was only the slick inoutinout of Angel’s cock, his own stuttered breath. He tried not to cry out. He was afraid that the sound wouldn’t be the one Angel wanted to hear, but the pressure was building and if he hadn’t been so fearful that, without his fierce hold on the sofa in front of him, he would fall, Wes would have grabbed his own aching shaft. But then it didn’t matter because Angel had it. Jesus.
Angel’s fingers rode up and down the length of him with the confidence of a man who had done this before, and Wes felt his hips twitch to meet the curved palm, then he pushed back, impaling himself on Angel’s withdrawn cock. The pace was agonizing; too fast and then too slow. Wes couldn’t remember when he’d last felt this urgency, certainly not in his own private moments, maybe not the last time he’d made love to a woman, and even now, poised precariously on the edge of coming, Wes berated himself for overanalyzing the moment. If Angel hadn’t been buried so deep in him, he was sure his knees would buckle. He could feel the trickle of sweat travel the length of his spine and gather in the cleft of his ass. The liquor had been fucked out of him and Wes held on tightly to his self-control, and then, ohgod, Wes watched his milky sperm spill over Angel’s clenched fist and down the back of the authentic leather sofa.
Wes could feel, deep within him, Angel’s cock swell as he pulsed his own release. He hissed as he came and Wes dropped his head back, baring his throat with an instinct he didn’t know he had.
Will he bite me?
Angel grew still behind him. Wes felt the tickle of lips down the ridge of his spine, the little slurp as Angel withdrew, a cool tongue where a cooler cock used to be, licking delicately at the moistness collecting along the crevice. Wes felt himself clench against the intrusion, his spent balls tightened in anticipation despite his discomfort.
"No, Wes," Angel murmured behind him.
A trail of sticky kisses down his thigh and then only the whisper of air.
Wesley stood for a moment on shaking legs. He could hear Angel zipping up the fly on his pants, then pulling on his shirt. When Wes turned around, Angel’s dark eyes were steady and held Wes’s own without apology.
Wes walked back to the desk to retrieve his own pants. He couldn’t look up to meet those eyes again. He pulled on his pants and felt for a remaining button, something to close his shirt.
Inexplicably, Wes felt tears in his eyes, sharp as glass. He thought he might puke. It wasn’t because of what they’d done; it was because Wes knew that he had been used.
Wes didn’t blame Angel. Not really. Still he felt like the last boy to be picked for football. Like the boy who sat in front of the teacher and raised his hand because he knew the answer, but had to endure the snickers of the classmates behind him.
Angel stepped nearer and whispered, "Wes."
Wes clenched his jaw and felt the burn of unshed tears in his throat.
He knew the truth of the matter, but the only thing he could think of to say was, "Piss off, Angel."
Wes didn’t like to think about how many times he had replayed this scene in his head. Some moments were vivid. The specific feeling of Angel’s cock, Wes’s first and, he suspected, his last. Angel’s fingers curled against his ribs, the imprint of which reminded Wes for days that he hadn’t drunkenly dreamt the whole tryst. The fact that Angel hadn’t spoken until it was over, or kissed him during or after. The look in Angel’s eyes that dared Wes to say anything.
This was the weight Wes carried with him through the long empty days afterwards, a yoke around his neck.
Angel at his door the next morning.
"No, actually, I didn’t," Wes said, taking another sip of his coffee. One thing had changed since they’d moved to Wolfram and Hart; the coffee was infinitely better.
Angel shook his head, a small commiserating gesture. "Me neither."
Wes put down his mug and waited. If there was one thing that he wasn’t going to do, it was make this any easier for Angel. He wouldn’t do that.
"Look," Angel started.
Wes crossed his arms and met Angel’s gaze as best he could.
Angel closed the door to Wes’s office and moved across the room, then back, long urgent strides. Angel’s black shirt hugged his shoulders and, for a second, Wes was distracted by the symmetrical ridge of the other man’s clavicle. He desperately wanted to lick the hollow at the base of Angel’s throat.
"Wes," Angel said his name as though it was weightier than just one syllable; as if the name equaled the man and the man was important.
"I can’t help you here, Angel," Wes whispered, knowing perfectly well that Angel could hear him, even from across the room.
Angel ducked his head and knotted his fingers together. The room was still.
Wes doodled on his blotter, waited for Angel to say the words.
"I can’t say I’m sorry," Angel said suddenly.
Wes stopped drawing and waited. "Can’t or won’t?"
"I’m not, actually," Angel continued. "Sorry, I mean."
Wes lifted his eyes, met Angel’s and then looked over the other man’s shoulder.
Wes shifted his gaze back to Angel. "Please don’t," Wes said quietly, "offer me the benefit of your centuries of wisdom. I’m quite sure you have far more experience when it comes to these matters."
Angel smiled, a lopsided quirk that was both endearing and infuriating.
"I’m quite certain that Angelus wouldn’t have had this crisis of conscience," Wes said.
"Perhaps, but had you met Angelus we wouldn’t be having this conversation," Angel replied.
"Well, the fact that you’re not Angelus says something about--"
"Wes," Angel stopped him mid-sentence.
"I’m sorry. I--that was petty."
Angel stood and took a step towards the desk. "I crossed the line. I know that. It won’t happen again."
Please don’t say that.
Angel traced a finger across the grooves of Wesley’s knuckles. "You understand, right?"
It was impossible not to hear the pain in Angel’s voice, but Wes was so angry he wanted to scream. He gripped the pen in his hand, felt the hard edge of it bite into his finger.
"I have work," Wes said, bending once more to the open file in front of him.
For weeks afterwards Wes considered the possibility that Angel might be going to tell him that he missed him; that what had happened wasn’t an isolated incident. But there was always some new catastrophe that needed Angel’s attention, people’s lives in the balance and whatever Wes imagined to be between them evaporated; he could no longer taste Angel on his mouth.
Wes had a flash of memory.
His father and mother had deposited him on the steps of Collingwood Preparatory. He stood there in his newly purchased navy school blazer. All around him, other parents and other students laughed and talked; the parting would be substantial, until the first school break in October.
Wesley’s father, a stern looking man with a neat moustache, stood with military precision and didn’t say a word. His mother looked as though she could use a stiff drink.
"You’ll settle in," his mother had said.
"Sure, mum," he’d said.
Wes scanned the crowd, looking for a likely mate. In his mind’s eye, looking back, he remembered the feeling he’d had: steelblue sky, the air smelling of waning summer, a bank of foxglove tipping against the midday heat.
I won’t be happy here. But I have no place else to go.
Now, today, in his office at Wolfram and Hart, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is thankful that winter is coming; perhaps he won’t mind the chill so much when it arrives. He knew Angel wouldn’t feel the change in the air at all.
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