Disclaimer: Not mine, this is just for fun
Feedback: Yes please, to email@example.com
Description: Buttoned up Wesley, a bottle of whiskey and a sympathetic vampire
Rating: NC17 ish
Hide and Seek
It was quiet. Gunn had left to check up on his old crew, needing to escape the charged atmosphere of the hotel. Cordelia had settled Fred into a room, and then taken Willow back to her apartment in Silverlake. Wesley had decided to stay over at the Hyperion in case either Fred or Angel needed him.
Angel. Wesley had never thought to see him in such a state of shocked grief. The news of Buffy’s death had literally caused him to sink to his knees in the lobby of the hotel. Somehow, they had persuaded Angel to stagger to his feet, and Wesley had taken him up the stairs to his suite, leading him as though the big vampire had been a blind man. Wesley had tried to make Angel as comfortable as possible, and then had left him to grieve alone.
Now Wesley was alone downstairs, catching up with mail and messages that had arrived during their absence in Pylea. He kept glancing up the stairs, disquieted, feeling that there was something more he should be doing for Angel, but having no idea what that would be. Eventually, he gave up on the paperwork; he couldn’t concentrate on it in any case, and went back up to check on Angel.
As he reached the door to Angel’s suite, Wesley paused, listening. He couldn’t hear anything from inside. He gently opened the door, and went in.
Angel was lying on the bed, curled up and shivering like a wet puppy. His eyes were squeezed tight shut, and his whole frame screamed misery. Wesley’s throat constricted at the sight of his friend, so completely undone.
“Oh, Angel. If only there was something I could do for you” he whispered helplessly. Instinctively he went over to the bed and sat down on it, reaching out to touch Angel’s shoulder, half-expecting the vampire to reject the contact. Instead, Angel leaned into Wesley’s hand, and gave a shaky sigh. After a while, Wesley took his hand away, thinking that Angel had finally fallen asleep.
“D-don’t go…..please, Wes….” Angel’s eyes were open, wide and pleading. “Can you stay….?”
Wesley gulped a little, but nodded.
Somehow, Wesley had got Angel undressed and into his bed. Now he was sitting on the side of the bed, leaning awkwardly against the headboard, still resting his hand on Angel’s shoulder. The vampire shifted slightly, moving towards the warmth that radiated from the human. Wesley was conducting a major internal battle with himself. It was clear to him what Angel needed – warmth, touch, physical comfort – but Wesley was frightened and embarrassed to be the only person available to offer those things. Even if Angel had not been what he was, a powerful, dangerous creature, Wesley was more than reluctant to embrace another male. But a little voice inside his head kept reminding him that if the situation had been reversed and he had needed comforting, that Angel would have had no such similar hesitation. He made his decision.
“Angel…do you need me to be closer?” He asked quietly. Angel said nothing, but nodded his head slightly. Wesley stood up and began to undress.
As Wesley slipped under the covers, Angel reached out for him and drew him close. Wesley shut his eyes, not wishing to see the disturbing reality of him being naked except for his underpants, in bed with a completely naked vampire. But after a little while, his embarrassment lessened. Angel snuggled into Wesley’s warmth, and Wesley wrapped his arms around the still trembling vampire.
Angel tried so hard to act in a human way most of the time that it was disconcerting to say the very least for Wesley to be so close to him when he had dropped all such pretence. The vampire clung to him, snuffing and nuzzling at his scent, his mouth frighteningly close to Wesley’s throat. But he soon realised that Angel just wanted to burrow into this warm body, seeking solace from physical contact and a reassuringly familiar smell. Wesley slowly started to relax. He felt Angel move so that his head was resting on his chest, and knew the vampire was listening to his heartbeat. Somehow, this entire experience was less weird and uncomfortable than Wesley had originally thought it would be, and he tentatively began to stroke Angel’s soft thick hair. Angel sighed again, and curled even closer. Despite himself, Wesley felt the first stirrings of arousal. Angel’s skin was like nothing he had ever touched before, cool and smooth as silk – or the petals of a luxurious flower, like a rose. As he stroked Angel, he became aware that the vampire had stopped breathing. Angel had finally fallen asleep.
The next day, Angel left Los Angeles for Sri Lanka.
Wesley was studying. He was always studying, so none of his colleagues even thought to ask him what he was researching so intensely, but he seemed to have buried himself in his books even more than usual while Angel was away.
Wesley was reading up on vampires.
He’d thought he’d known everything there was to know about vampires. After all ex-watcher, and all? But now he realised that he really knew very little other than how to track and kill them. However, there was nothing in his books that was giving him any help. He shut them with a sigh.
“Annnnngel! You’re back!” Cordelia’s screech of delight echoed throughout the hotel. Wesley’s heart thumped uncomfortably in his chest as he went out to greet Angel.
Angel had been back in LA for over a week now, and after the initial pleasure at seeing his friends once more, Wesley could see that the vampire was still very subdued. At first it was difficult to tell; after all, Angel was quiet and reserved at the best of times, but he seemed to want his own company even more than usual. Under normal circumstances Wesley would have sought Angel out, but the memory of the last night before Angel left, somehow prevented him.
So it was by accident that he found himself alone with Angel one late Sunday evening. Cordelia and Gunn had finally persuaded Fred to go out with them. Wesley had declined the invitation, making the excuse of research, and now he was sitting surrounded by his books, his attention far from the materials before him. Soft, satiny skin, the feel of preternaturally strong arms around him, the quiver of powerful muscles – Wesley closed his eyes. Why couldn’t he make these images go away?
“Wes? Are you OK?”
Wesley jumped, his eyes snapping open to meet the dark, concerned gaze of the very creature he had been thinking about. “Uh..er…Ah…Fine, I’m fine. You startled me.”
“Sorry.” Angel perched himself easily on the corner of the desk, and picked up one of the books.
“ ‘Lorget’s Compendium of Vampires and their behaviour’. Wouldn’t have thought you needed to read up on this particular subject, Wes.”
“No. Yes. It’s always good to keep on top of things….” Wesley trailed off, unable to banish the image of his unwitting double entendre. Angel didn’t seem to notice.
“Anything I can help with? After all, I do have a little experience in that area.” He gave one of his rare half-smiles.
Wesley groaned inwardly. How could he admit that he’d been looking for details of vampire sexuality with regard to congress with humans? He’d not found anything other than the received knowledge that vampires were attracted by the blood of both sexes, and often had sex with their victims prior to draining them or turning them. There was the archaic practice of claiming Blood Rights, where a vampire would enslave a human by causing the victim to be addicted to the vampire’s bite, but there was nothing else he could find that would even begin to tell him whether or not vampires had sex with humans in a way that was anything other than related to predator and victim. Angel was different in any case. His soul set him apart in so many ways, not least his desire for human companionship. And of course, Angel had experienced human love with Buffy. Not that that had ended well.
Wesley shook his head mutely.
Angel put the book back down. “Wes? I’m glad I found you here. I wanted to thank you for what you did for me…the night we heard about Buffy. It helped a lot. And I know it couldn’t have been…well…comfortable for you.” Angel spoke softly, his finger tracing the spine of the book, eyes downcast.
Wesley was jolted to have Angel raise the very subject that he had not been able to stop thinking about since it happened. He opened his mouth to offer the usual disclaimers and platitudes along the lines of ‘it was nothing’, ‘pleased I could help’, instead he found himself saying “You are very beautiful, you know.” He raised his eyes to meet Angel’s. The vampire was gazing at him intently, and for a second Wesley saw his nostrils flare slightly, and knew, with a sinking feeling, that Angel was scenting him.
“Don’t do that.” Wesley said quietly.
“Don’t do what?”
“Scent me. It’s a very unfair advantage that vampires have over humans, to be able to tell their state of mind from how they smell.”
“Sorry. It’s completely instinctive, I’m afraid.” Angel looked contrite. Wesley sighed.
“What did you smell?”
“It was confused. A little fear….and desire, all mixed together.”
Wesley straightened up in his chair, suddenly defiant. “Well. Now you know. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to my research.”
Angel didn’t move from his position on the corner of the desk. Wesley glared up at him, willing him to get out of the office. Angel simply returned his gaze, dark, dark eyes searching into the depths of Wesley’s very being.
“What are you frightened of, Wes?”
“Nothing. You. Me. Please, just go, will you?” Wesley felt his heart beating faster, and cursed himself, knowing that Angel would be able to hear the change in his heart rate.
Angel stood up, but instead of leaving, he came around to Wesley’s side of the desk. Pushing Wesley’s chair back, he drew Wesley up until he was also standing. Wesley could feel his knees shaking, and hated himself for his own weakness.
“I won’t ever reject you, Wes.” In one short sentence, Angel had zeroed in to the heart of Wesley’s fear. His ever present terror of rejection. It had been an awful constant in his life. His father, girlfriends, Buffy and her friends, the Watcher’s council, Virginia….his history of rejection had made him the person he was today.
Angel continued. “And given that I won’t ever reject you, you can tell me anything.”
The vampire was very close now, and Wesley was dimly conscious that he was becoming seduced by the intensity of Angel’s incredible eyes, and by the softness of his voice. He staggered backwards a few paces.
“Please, Angel. Stop. I know what you’re doing, and I won’t be caught by it, even if you don’t realise that you’re trying to enthral me.”
Angel actually laughed. “Wes. You’ve been reading too many books. A vampire can only enthral someone who wants to be enthralled in the first place. If there’s no desire, then enthralment is impossible. You don’t have to be afraid. I won’t do anything you don’t want me to.”
“But I am afraid” Wesley muttered, ashamed. “You’re my colleague. My friend. A different species….I shouldn’t feel….anything other than….well how friends and colleagues feel”.
“OK. Now I know what you should and shouldn’t feel. Tell me what you do feel.”
“I don’t know what I feel, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that night since it happened….satisfied now? You can have a good laugh at my expense. Go ahead.” Wesley said furiously, scared at the feeling of his throat constricting, and tears prickling at the back of his eyes. This was all he needed, blubbing in front of Angel.
Angel spread his hands. “I’m not laughing. Wes….it’s really OK to feel this way. There actually isn’t a rule book that says how you have to feel about someone else, despite what you seem to think. I mean, look at me, a vampire in love with a vampire slayer….you’d have thought someone, somewhere would have suggested that it wasn’t the world’s greatest idea.” Angel allowed himself a wry smile.
“But at least the Slayer is always female.” Wesley said.
“Does it matter?”
“But I’m not gay. I’ve never been attracted to men.”
Angel shook his head. “I don’t get this. Sex is sex. Love is love.”
“Yes.” Wesley interrupted. “And blood is blood. You’re a vampire, Angel. It’s different for you. Everyone knows that vampires don’t give a shit about who – or what - they shag.” Wesley’s deliberate coarseness was designed to break the atmosphere. It worked. Angel stepped away, looking hurt.
“That’s not altogether true. However, I’ll leave you to your books. I’m sorry if I upset you.” Angel was gone.
Wesley slumped back down in his chair. “Shit, shit, shit.” He leant his head onto his hands, shoving his spectacles onto his forehead as he did so. He replayed the conversation in his head, and felt even worse. Angel hadn’t done or said anything wrong. After all, it was hardly his fault that he could sense things about people that humans couldn’t, it would be like accidentally overhearing a conversation. Wesley’s terror of rejection had led him to reject Angel instead, and Wesley’s throat tightened again at the thought.
The months went by at Angel Investigations. Fred found her place in the team, and for a while Wesley thought he was falling in love with the slender scientist. He allowed his feelings a free rein, not allowing himself to wonder whether he was simply relieved to have his heterosexuality reaffirmed. He had convinced himself that Fred was the woman for him, and so the blow was doubly hard when it became clear that it was Gunn who Fred was attracted to.
His relationship with Angel was not strained as such, but the shared research sessions, and occasional late night talks were things of the past. Now they rarely saw each other except in the company of other members of the team. This seemed to be as much Angel’s choice as Wesley’s. Angel and Cordelia, always close, seemed to become even more so, and there was much idle speculation as to whether they might become a couple. The sudden appearance of the Groosalug, a willing refugee from Lorne’s home dimension of Pylea, stopped that speculation dead in its tracks. Cordelia seemed entirely besotted with the handsome warrior.
It was this combination of circumstances that finally saw Angel and Wesley alone together on a case. Gunn and Fred were taking a well-earned weekend away at Fred’s parents’ home in Texas, and Cordelia and Groo had gone on holiday at Angel’s instigation. Wesley had raised his eyebrows at the thought of the majority of the team being out of town, but had decided to say nothing. It was a relief to him to not have to see Fred and Gunn together, perhaps Angel felt the same way about Cordelia and the Groosalug.
So now Wesley and Angel were tracking three Durbahy demons that had been pillaging one of the downtown neighbourhoods, terrorising the human population. Or at least, Angel was tracking the demons. Wesley was struggling to keep up.
“Angel… please slow down a bit. We’re not all in possession of preternatural strength and stamina, you know”.
“Sorry” Angel said distractedly. He knew they were gaining on the demons, but he slowed down a little. They rounded a corner, and Angel suddenly stopped, causing Wesley to cannon into his back.
“Brake lights would be good” he muttered, but Angel ignored him. Instead, he pointed at the tatty looking all night liquor store that was on the opposite side of the street.
“They’re in there.”
Wesley squinted, trying to see through the iron lattice shutters that covered all the windows in the little shop.
“Are you sure?”
Angel nodded and jogged silently over to the store. He paused for one second and then kicked the door down. The Durbahy demons were taken completely unawares and the first of the three of them died almost immediately as Angel grabbed it and with a vicious jerk snapped its spine. Wesley barely had time to notice the store owner and an assistant cowering behind the counter before the second demon was upon him. Angel made short work of the third demon and was about to help Wesley when he saw the store owner pointing a hunting rifle at both the demon and Wesley.
Perhaps it was the shock of Angel’s yell, but the storekeeper’s finger tightened on the trigger. With a burst of preternatural speed, Angel flung himself between the rifle and Wesley just as the gun went off. The bullet – at almost point blank range – hit Angel squarely in the back, causing a fountain of bright red blood to spray up and outwards. The final Durbahy demon saw his opportunity and scrambled out of the shop, leaving Wesley gasping and choking from where it had been trying to strangle him. He heard the clatter of the rifle as it dropped to the floor.
“Oh Jesus, Jesus….He just threw himself in front of it…I was trying to hit that monster thing…Oh fuck, I’m sorry.” The store owner gabbled, eyes wide with horror. His eyes widened still further, and his mouth dropped open, as the bloody figure slowly pulled itself up onto its feet, and head averted, stood, swaying slightly. Wesley, facing Angel, could see he was vamped out, the pain of the bullet wound causing him to reveal his true features. He acted quickly. The store owner had seen enough monsters for one night.
“It’s OK, flesh wound. Looks worse than it is. I can get him to a hospital quicker than we can bring an ambulance to him.”
Angel was already limping towards the broken down door and back into the darkness outside.
“But….you saved me…those things….how can I thank you?”
Wesley waved the thanks away. “We’ll get back to you. Meanwhile, you’d better secure your premises, otherwise robbers will be your next worry.” He left the store owner momentarily distracted by the thought of all his supplies being stolen, and reaching for the telephone to organise some emergency security.
By the time Wesley had driven himself and Angel back to the Hyperion, Angel was nearly fainting from loss of blood. The high velocity hunting bullet had been designed to take down a moose or bear from a safe range. It had ripped a gaping hole in Angel’s back, but horrifyingly there was no exit wound. The first thing that Wesley did as soon as he had helped Angel back into the hotel lobby was to dash to the downstairs fridge and pull out several containers of pig’s blood for Angel to drink, in order to speed his healing.
Once Angel had downed the pig’s blood, Wesley sat behind him and started to rip the blood-sodden shirt from his back so that he could clean out the wound. Angel flinched. “I’ll heal, Wes. You don’t need to do anything.”
“Crap, Angel. For a start, I can’t believe you’d think that I’d leave you like this, and anyway, have you forgotten you’ve a bullet lodged in you somewhere? It’ll have to come out.” Wesley cursed the fact that Cordelia was several hundred miles away. First aid and bullet-digging were her specialities. He started to clean the wound, still awe-struck at the speed it was already healing. Yet another unfair advantage that vampires had over humans. Wesley grimly recalled the time he had been shot in the stomach, and the many months of slow and painful recovery. He picked up the surgical forceps and began to probe gingerly into the wound, seeking the bullet. Although Angel couldn’t help hissing with the pain, he held still while Wesley dug deep with the forceps. Not for the first time, Wesley wondered if Angel felt pain the same way that humans did, and concluded that he didn’t. Surely no human could bear what Angel was having done to him so stoically.
At last Wesley felt the forceps grate against something. A bit more manoeuvring and he had the bullet in the forceps’ jaws. Carefully he pulled the bullet out and dropped it, covered in blood, into a small dish. Angel gave a groan of relief.
“Sorry. It was very deep.” Wesley started to bandage the oozing wound. As he did so, he was uncomfortably aware of touching Angel’s skin once more. Angel too, had gone very still.
“I’m sorry, Angel.” This time Wesley was not apologising for the extraction of the bullet.
“It doesn’t matter, Wes.”
“But it does.” Wesley rested his palm against the bandage, glad that Angel was facing away from him. “I was frightened of how I felt, what I was thinking.”
“And now?” Angel’s voice was very soft.
Angel stood up and turned to face Wesley. “Your body is telling you how it feels, it’s your head that won’t listen to it. I get that. My body screams at me to feed it what it needs, all night, every night. My head insists that it’s wrong, that feeding from humans is never gonna happen again. That pig’s blood is the body’s only sustenance from now on in.”
Wesley frowned. “It’s not the same…..”
“You’re damned right it’s not the same, Wes.” Angel said sharply. “Killing people is wrong. But what you’re feeling, Wes – how is that wrong? Why does your head tell you not to feel this way?” Angel suddenly reached out and caught Wesley’s face between his hands, staring intently into the ex-watcher’s grey eyes, as if seeking a solution that Wesley was unable to articulate. Then as quickly as he had done it, Angel released Wesley and stepped back from him. Wesley felt a searing moment of loss.
“I’m going to rest.” Angel started up the stairs to his suite. Half way up, he paused and looked back down to where Wesley was standing in the lobby.
“My body is right, though. It can exist on animal blood. But it only truly comes alive when it gets what it really needs. Perhaps you should remember that.”
Things were changing at Angel Investigations.
Gunn and Fred had moved in together, at the Hyperion. Neither had thought to ask Angel if it was OK, but he didn’t seem to mind. Lorne, having given up hope of being able to re-open Caritas after its last destruction, had also taken up residence in the hotel, and now the lobby or the gardens were used for Lorne to listen to clients’ singing. Cordelia and Groo seemed blissfully in love, and the Pylean warrior’s exceptional strength had proved a useful addition to the team’s resources. Cordelia still had her apartment in Silverlake, but they’d also commandeered a suite at the Hyperion for those frequent occasions where it was easier to stay over than travel back home. The hotel buzzed with activity during the day. Word had finally got around that Angel Investigations could help where conventional aid failed, and the telephone rang almost constantly.
Wesley found himself more and more tied to his desk. He was either trying to juggle the diary commitments, research background on cases, or handle client enquiries. In the quieter times, he was slowly putting together a business plan for the organisation, as it was becoming ever clearer that Angel Investigations was going to need even more resources if it was to cope with its present rate of expansion. So much was going on. There was an almost tangible atmosphere of excitement in the company. The sweet smell of success urged them on.
Wesley peered over his spectacles as a great burst of laughter interrupted his train of thought. He stood up and went to see what was happening. Groo was recounting his latest exploit to the team; unusually everyone was around. The Groosalug had discovered a talent for storytelling, and had his colleagues in fits of giggles as he explained how he had come to be dangling off the pier by one hand, while a Folkar demon clutched at his legs, and some afternoon fishermen had watched the whole proceedings with great interest while discussing the fact that their last catch had probably been the same size as the demon.
Wesley leant against the doorframe and laughed along with his friends. Then he noticed that not all members of the team were in fact present. Angel was nowhere to be seen. He glanced at his watch, it was nearly five pm, and the vampire usually rose around one o’clock in the afternoon. He realised that, actually, he had seen very little of Angel over the past few weeks, except for when he had been assigned to a case. In fact, the more Wesley thought about it, the more he was aware that Angel rarely, if ever, seemed to take part in the team’s gatherings.
“Does anyone know where Angel is?” he asked during a pause in the general chatter.
“Nope. Is he out on a case?” Gunn said. Fred gave him a playful slap. “It’s still daylight, silly. Unless he’s underground somewhere?” The others all shook their heads and shrugged. “Do you need him to do anything? Can any of us help?” Groo was his usual eager self. Wesley shook his head. “No thanks, Groo. I was just wondering what he was up to. Nothing specific.” The others returned to their conversation.
Wesley left them to it, and headed up the sweeping staircase. He felt vaguely uneasy, and didn’t know why that should be, but he thought he’d feel happier if he knew where Angel was and what he was doing.
He tapped gently on the door to Angel’s rooms. To his slight surprise, the door swung open. “Angel?” Wesley went in. There was no sign of the vampire in the living area, and although the bed had obviously been slept in, Angel was nowhere to be seen. Wesley scratched his head. It was very unlike Angel to go out without letting anyone know, so perhaps he was somewhere else in the hotel. Wesley was just about to go back downstairs when he recalled that Angel occasionally went up to the roof. He glanced at his watch; the sun had just set.
Wesley opened the door that led onto the Hyperion’s roof. Although the sun had dropped past the horizon, it was still light enough to see the solitary, hunched figure that was staring into the darkening night.
“Wes.” Angel didn’t turn around, but acknowledged the others’ presence on the roof.
“Angel. I – we – were wondering where you were.”
Angel turned to face Wesley, his expression unreadable. “Did you want something?”
“No. It’s just….well, we don’t seem to have seen much of you the last few weeks. Is everything OK?” Wesley had come to stand next to Angel. The vampire leant back on the retaining wall and sighed.
“Everything’s fine.” But Wesley had picked up on a curious flatness in Angel’s voice.
“You don’t sound as though everything’s fine.”
“But it is. The business is taking off, there are more clients than we can handle, the rest of the team are working well together, I know that you’re even putting together some kind of long term strategic plan for the company. As I said, everything’s fine.”
Angel shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and turned back to stare once again into the darkness. And then Wesley thought he began to understand. Watching the tall, solitary vampire gazing into the night, the ex-watcher suddenly saw how this ancient, immortal creature couldn’t possibly be contained by the framework of a modern business – even if the nature of the business was all about fighting evil. Wesley groaned inwardly as he remembered how he had described Angel as a “key member of staff” in his business plan. Looking at Angel, that phrase now seemed ridiculous beyond belief.
“I don’t suppose this is what you envisaged when you came to LA, is it?” Wesley said quietly.
“But we’re doing so much good….you’re doing so much good.”
Angel turned to look at him. “It’s very difficult for me to live this way, Wes. There’s just too much….” He shifted uncomfortably. Wesley waited for him to continue. Angel hung his head and looked down at his feet. “You can’t understand what it’s like. Noise…the pounding of heartbeats, the sound of blood racing around bodies, smells….bodies reeking of sex, and love, and excitement…..clients stinking of fear, and hope…..” Angel gave an almost imperceptible shudder. “My mission is to help the helpless….to try to save them from evil….and sometimes I wonder how much longer I can go on….before…before….”
Angel suddenly turned his face towards Wesley, and the Englishman was shocked to see the terrible hunger in the vampire’s beautiful face. He took an involuntary step backwards.
“I’m usually the master of denial. But when you are surrounded by temptation, all day, and these days, all night too…I need some distance, Wes.”
Wesley nodded. “You’re wrong, Angel. I do understand. Oh, not the temptation that you are talking about…and its consequences, but I understand needing distance to ensure continued denial…and control. It’s what I do too. You already know that.”
Angel smiled wanly. “I do. And despite what I said before, it’s probably the safest thing for you to keep doing, Wes. Perhaps you’d better go back to the others now.” The words were said without inflexion, but Wesley was all too aware of what Angel meant. For an icy, delicious moment, he considered ignoring Angel’s warning – going towards the vampire instead of away from him – and then Angel turned away from him again, and went back to staring out into the darkness, wrapped in an impenetrable shield of isolation.
Wesley sighed and returned downstairs to his colleagues.
It had quietened down when Wesley arrived back in the office, but the phones still rang, and there was a constant buzz of conversation. He made a decision.
“Can I have everyone’s attention for a minute, please?”
Heads turned enquiringly.
“Without going into details, I think we should all get an early night tonight. Cordelia, it’d be good if you and Groo could go back to your own apartment. Lorne, you are more than welcome to come and stay with me overnight. And you two” Wesley glanced at Gunn and Fred “well, I think the petty cash can stand you indulging yourselves in a hotel room.”
Gunn frowned “OK, but why?”
“I think Angel needs to be on his own tonight.”
Cordelia snorted. “ What do you mean, on his own? It’s not like we’re falling over each other here – 68 rooms – four floors….no-one needs all that room to themselves.”
Wesley shook his head. “It might seem that way to us, Cordy. But to a vampire, this all seems pretty crowded. I just think we should give him a break.”
There was a general shrugging of shoulders, and a few puzzled looks, but Wesley’s quiet determination brooked no further argument. Grumbling, the team took themselves off for the night. Wesley and Lorne were last to leave. Lorne was his usual perceptive self. “Removing temptation, eh Wes?” Wesley looked at the green demon sharply, but then nodded. “Something like that.” He closed and locked the door behind them.
Alone in the Hyperion, for the first time since he could recall, Angel felt an internal pressure lighten, and then finally dissipate completely. He took a deep, unneeded breath, and soaked up the glorious silence.
After that, Wesley made sure that the team understood a little more about the nature of the creature that they already thought they knew so well. Now, instead of hanging around en masse in the Hyperion, they would go off together to a bar or club. Fred and Gunn had tried looking for an apartment, but were becoming disheartened. Everywhere was either too far away or too expensive. Finally, Wesley suggested that they move in to his apartment, and he would take up residence in their suite at the Hyperion, at least for a while. Lorne’s demon presence didn’t bother Angel – after all, as Lorne said himself – it wasn’t as though Angel was going to find him appetising, and Wesley knew that his own solitary existence would hardly be a burden to the vampire.
He tore up the business plan. Instead, he deftly steered Angel Investigations so that the commercial work was handled almost exclusively by the human contingent of the team, while Angel was left to concentrate solely on those cases brought to him by Cordelia’s visions. How he dealt with them was entirely up to Angel, giving back the vampire the freedom of action and decision-making that had been gradually eroded over time. It seemed to be working. Angel appeared more often among them, and looked more relaxed. Wesley ensured that at least one day per week was kept free of ringing phones, and he and Lorne would get out of the Hyperion for that day, so that Angel could be completely alone to rest, sleep, or do whatever he chose to do. Angel said little, but Wesley could tell he appreciated this new consideration none the less, and gradually he and Angel slipped back into their occasional habit of late night researching, sometimes sharing a bottle of good Irish whiskey while they worked.
This particular evening had stretched out until the small hours. Over time, Wesley had got used to working until three or four in the morning, and then sleeping in until nearly midday. One of the penalties of working with a vampire he often thought wryly. Although Angel did his best to function during daylight hours, the vampire was definitely at his best at night, sharp and very alert. Now he was ploughing through turgid volumes with a speed and efficiency that Wesley couldn’t match, but they still hadn’t found the information they needed. Wesley leant back in his chair and stretched, yawning. “I’m going to have to stop soon, I’m starting to re-read passages two and three times – and none of it’s going in any more.”
Angel looked at Wesley’s tired face and smiled gently. “You can leave me to it, I’m good for a few hours yet.”
Wesley nodded, but made no attempt to get up. Instead he reached over and refilled his glass with whiskey. “I won’t sleep if I go up now, I just need to clear my head first. It’s completely cluttered with bloody prophecies and omens at the moment.”
Angel took the bottle from him and poured himself another drink. The two of them sat in companionable silence for a while, sipping the whiskey.
“I do appreciate the changes you’ve made round here, Wes. I don’t think I’ve actually thanked you for everything you’ve done.”
Wesley waved Angel’s thanks away, embarrassed. “You don’t need to…”
Angel cocked his head, and gazed at Wesley steadily until the other man subsided. “It’s a good thing you never got around to doing job descriptions, Wes. Responsibility for the ongoing care and maintenance of a vampire would look pretty strange on yours.” He leant forward and rested his chin on his hands, elbows planted on the desk. “It’s unexpectedly nice. Having someone to look after me….take care of me….”
Wesley laughed self-consciously. “Well, I don’t really see it as taking care of you, as such…I mean, if anything, you’ve always taken care of all of us. I was pretty much on my uppers when you gave me a job here, you know.”
“I know that. But that was a while ago. Angel Investigations would fall apart without you now. You keep everything together, run the business, and keep a tricky, somewhat unstable vampire on the right tracks too….quite an achievement.” Angel’s eyes turned serious. “But it’s cost you, Wes. The others – they’ve got each other, and a life outside this” he gestured at the books in front of them both “I’m worried that you’re giving up too much of your own life. It’s different for me….this is just a moment in time as far as I am concerned. But the most rewarding and satisfying moment of my existence to date, I may add.”
Wesley sighed. “You really don’t get it, do you Angel?”
“That I have a choice in all of this. It’s not like you, or Buffy – I didn’t have to train as a Watcher. I didn’t have to stay in the States after I was fired from the council. And I didn’t have to take you up on your offer. This is all my choice, Angel”. Wesley’s voice rose slightly as his emotions started to get the better of him, fuelled by the half-bottle of whiskey that he had already drunk. “I can’t believe you think I am giving up my life somehow….that you think that a cosy relationship with some girl, perhaps a couple of kids and a mortgage is a more fulfilling option than what I have now. I know that I’m making a difference to people’s lives here…..what could be more fulfilling than that?”
Angel frowned. “Yes, I understand that, Wes. But Gunn and Fred, Cordelia and Groo, they’re making a difference too….and yet they have a life outside of this…and they have each other….don’t you, well, get lonely?”
“Don’t you?” Wesley fired back.
“Yes. But I’ve been lonely for over a century. You kind of get used to it…besides, it’s not the same. Being close to my blood or humans has proved problematic in the past”.
Wesley was silent. He knew that Angel meant his vampire kin when he talked about his blood, and recalled the short time that Spike had been in residence at the Hyperion, and the trouble that had caused Angel and his colleagues. He also remembered Angel being happier than at any other time he had known him….
“Angel…” Wesley stopped, not daring to form the question that had troubled him for so long.
Angel looked at him enquiringly. Wesley took another gulp of whiskey, its fiery heat giving him the nerve to go on. “Uh…during Watcher training, there was never any mention of …well…vampire sexuality as far as…..uh…I mean, obviously we learned about vampire blood relationships….and…uh…the sexual predation aspect of vampires and their victims…but…uh….” He coughed and stumbled to an embarrassed halt.
“I’ve never heard of any vampires falling in love with a human the way I did with Buffy – if that’s what you mean?” Angel tried to be helpful.
“No….I mean, Oh…sort of…”
“Are you trying to ask me if vampires ever have sex with humans that doesn’t lead to the human being killed or turned, or enslaved?”
“Ah, well…yes…precisely”. Wesley was now wishing the ground would open and swallow him whole. What on earth had possessed him to start this dangerous conversation?
“Oh…” Wesley was taken aback at Angel’s blunt, one word answer.
“But you’re not asking the right question, Wes.” Was he mistaken, or was there a glint in Angel’s dark eyes…surely not.
“And….the right question would be….?”
“Have I ever had sex with a human other than Buffy, since I became ensouled?”
Wesley blushed deep into the roots of his hair. Now all he wanted to do was escape, but he had started this, and it would seem that Angel was determined not to let him off the hook. He nodded miserably.
“I’m a vampire, Wes. Not a monk. My libido is probably fifty times stronger than yours. Yes, of course I’ve had sex with other people. That’s why it was such a complete shock when….well, you know…with Buffy. That’s why I know the curse is not a sex curse, but something else entirely.” Angel hesitated.
Wesley caught Angel’s reluctance. “What?”
“Sometimes….it’s just good to be near someone”.
Wesley’s nerve failed him. He looked at his watch, and pretended to be shocked at the time. “Goodness, I’ll never get up in the morning if I don’t try to get some sleep now.” He stood up. Angel watched him leave, and go up the stairs to his room. If Wesley had turned back he would have been shaken to see the longing that filled the vampire’s dark eyes.
A week later Wesley got a telephone call from England to tell him that his mother had died.
It had been three weeks to the day since Roger Wyndham-Pryce had informed Wesley that his mother had had a massive heart attack whilst out shopping, and was dead on arrival at the hospital.
Wesley had caught the first available flight from LA to England, planning to stay for at least a month. But he had left a week early, and would have gone even sooner if he had been able to. His father’s words still rang in his ears. “Running away again, Wesley? Always running away from the truth, aren’t you.”
Wesley had been deeply upset by his mother’s unexpected death. There was so much left unsaid between them. His mother had been a shadowy figure in the Wyndham-Pryce household, Wesley’s father dominating every aspect of the family. She had been kind, but distant to the lonely, frightened child who was bullied remorselessly by his father. Now it was too late for Wesley to ask her whether she had realised the damage that had been done to him, had wanted to stop her husband when he ‘disciplined’ Wesley so harshly. Or whether she too, had felt that Wesley deserved his punishments, shared his father’s disappointment in the pale, bespectacled boy.
Roger Wyndham-Pryce had let only the barest time pass after Wesley had arrived back at the family home, before he had made it abundantly clear that he, and the rest of the Watcher’s Council, regarded Wesley as the worst kind of pariah. Not only did his father have to bear the shame of Wesley being asked to resign his position as Watcher, but the fact that he now worked alongside one of the most notorious vampires ever recorded….Wesley winced as he recalled the depths of his father’s contempt.
Wesley had stood it for as long as he could, but after one final verbal battle between him and his father, he had packed his bags and fled back to LA and Angel. On the plane, Wesley had downed almost a full bottle of scotch before he could stop himself trembling. He had arrived back, hungover and nauseous, to be greeted by Cordelia and Groo. Never had he been so glad to see their familiar faces. He had kept up to date with the goings on at Angel Investigations with regular phone calls during his time in England. Privately, he had thought that it was those calls, particularly when Angel spoke to him, that had helped him cling onto his sanity while his father had made every attempt to turn him back into the shivering wreck of a creature that he had been before hooking up with Angel and the rest of his colleagues.
“Wes. It’s great to see you. You look like shit”. Cordelia hugged him. Groo grinned and shook Wesley’s hand. “We’ve missed you. Glad you’re back.” Wesley smiled back at them, feeling his throat tightening. God…he was such a crybaby.
His friends regaled him with their adventures all the way back to the Hyperion, and if they noticed how quiet Wesley was, they probably put it down to the aftermath of his mother’s funeral and the long flight back.
As soon as Angel saw Wesley, he knew there was something seriously wrong. Wesley not only looked exhausted, he smelled….defeated. As soon as he could, Wesley made an excuse of travel tiredness and went up to his room.
Angel waited until the others had gone for the night before going up to Wesley’s suite. He listened outside the door for a moment, the pace of Wesley’s heartbeat telling him that his friend was still awake. Angel tapped on the door.
“Wes? Can I come in?”
“The door’s open”.
Angel went in, noticing that Wesley hadn’t even unpacked. He was sitting on the edge of the battered sofa, clutching a glass of whiskey, with a half empty bottle on the low table in front of him. To Angel’s ultra sensitive nose Wesley reeked of alcohol. Wesley looked up at him with unhappy, bloodshot eyes.
“If your family were anything like mine, I can well understand why you killed them.”
Angel took a clean glass from the cabinet and came to sit down beside Wesley. He poured himself a drink, but didn’t refill the others’ glass.
“Your father?” Angel asked softly.
“My father. Me. My mother. All fucked up.” Wesley said bitterly. He turned to look at Angel. “He said that if I was any kind of man, that I would have staked you on sight. Yet another disgrace to add to the list of disgraces and disappointments I’ve managed to heap on the family name. Jesus, I’d begun to forget just what a hopeless failure he thinks I am. And now I’m a pariah as well.”
“You’re not a failure.”
“If you’d spent the last three weeks listening to my father, you might not be saying that. He was very convincing.” Wesley tried to sound offhand, but his voice cracked on the last word. He put the whiskey on the table and leant his head into his hands. “He made me feel so alone…..”
“Oh, Wes…” Angel reached over and slid an arm around Wesley’s shoulder, feeling how Wesley was rigid with tension.
“You’re not alone. Not any more.”
And suddenly it was all too much for Wesley. He began to sob. He hadn’t shed a tear over his mother’s death or from the wounds that had been so callously re-opened by his father. But Angel’s genuine concern for him – his obvious affection – opened the floodgates.
Angel wrapped his arms around Wesley and rocked him, while Wesley buried his face in Angel’s shirt and finally let all the pain and grief out.
After a while, and feeling like he had been caught in an avalanche, Wesley stopped crying. He made as though to pull away from Angel, but the vampire tightened his embrace just enough to let Wesley know that he wasn’t going anywhere until Angel was ready to let him go. Strangely, instead of being threatened, Wesley felt enormously comforted and allowed himself to relax. He closed his eyes, and very soon he was asleep, the combination of the outpouring of grief and the whisky having taken its toll.
Wesley woke up several hours later, and found himself resting on Angel’s broad chest. He looked up and met Angel’s chocolate brown gaze.
“Hi. I bet you’ve felt better”. Angel’s soft voice held a hint of humour. Wesley groaned. To say he was hungover was putting it extremely mildly.
“Oh God…Angel, I’m sorry. I made such a fool of myself….”
“Shut up. Don’t even start down that track. I suggest you go get in the shower, and I’ll get you some tea and painkillers. It’s still only four in the morning, we might get you at least looking human by breakfast time.” Angel got up, pulling Wesley with him. Wesley’s head felt like a huge, pain filled balloon and he wondered whether he was going to be sick. Angel steered him into the bathroom and shut the door on him. Wesley groaned and turned on the shower.
He felt a little, but not much, better after he had showered and brushed his teeth. He had considered shaving, but his hands were shaking so much he thought better of it. He emerged from the bathroom to find that Angel had made him a mug of strong tea. The vampire handed him two painkillers and pointed him to the bedroom.
“Do you think your stomach could stand a couple of pieces of toast? It would help if it could.” Angel leant on the doorframe and watched as Wesley shakily got into bed.
Wesley shook his head. “Thanks, but no. My body clock is shot to hell as it is, and the idea of toast….uh….Remind me that I’m never going to drink alcohol again.”
Angel chuckled. “Yeah. Even I remember how that felt.”
Wesley lay back on the pillows. “Don’t vampires get hangovers then?”
“No. But I had a few as a very young man. Even after a quarter of a millennium you don’t forget what they’re like.”
Angel snapped off the bedroom light, leaving only the faint glow from the living room to provide a tiny bit of illumination. He came over to the bed and, quite casually, leant down to Wesley and dropped a light kiss on his forehead.
“You’re home now. Nothing to worry about…apart from scaly monsters and fire breathing demons, of course.” Angel turned as if to go.
“Angel….?” Wesley’s voice was very small.
“Would you….I mean….could you….you don’t have to…..uh….go….I mean…will you …..stay?”
“By you, or with you?” Angel asked.
Wesley drew in a shuddering breath. “With…..?” His eyes were pressed tight shut, and he couldn’t quite believe he had actually said what he had just said. He heard Angel taking off his boots, and the quiet swish of clothes. Then he felt the bed give under the weight of the big vampire as Angel climbed in next to him. Wesley’s heart started racing as Angel wrapped his arms around him once more, only now he could feel that Angel was completely naked next to him.
“Sleep now, Wes.”
Wesley almost laughed out loud. Sleep? He was in bed – with Angel, beautiful, naked Angel – and Angel was telling him to sleep? As if reading his mind, Angel stroked Wesley’s cheek.
“You’re upset. Just let me take care of you tonight – what’s left of it. Afterwards… when you feel better….you’ll be more sure of what you want…”
Wesley slid his arms around Angel, marvelling once more at the cool, silky texture of the vampire’s skin. He felt his groin tightening. He tensed, and tried to move away, but Angel once more refused to let him go.
“It’s OK, Wes.”
And Wesley knew, suddenly and irrevocably, that it was indeed OK. It was as though an invisible barrier had somehow come crashing down. All his doubts and fears melted away, replaced by a delicious acceptance of who he was, and what would make him happy. That happiness was curled protectively around him right now, and wasn’t going to disappear any time soon. One thought bloomed in his mind. Angel, I love you.
Wesley felt another soft kiss on his forehead. “ Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up” Angel’s voice was gentle.
Wesley drifted into sleep, knowing that he had finally been able to stop running.
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