"Mending Fences"

by Kath
PG


"So Charles, you ready to go?" Cordy's voice lilted across the room, breezy and carefree in a way it hadn't been for some time.

Wesley lifted his eyes up from the fascinating book on Egyptian demon lore he'd picked up on his last visit to Rick's Majick n' Stuff, long, slender finger marking his spot. He turned first to Cordelia, who was waiting by the front door to their small office, her stylishly sandaled foot tapping out impatient messages on the wooden floor, then to Gunn, who was still slouching stubbornly in the worn, leather chair on the other side of the room.

"Where are you going?" Wes was happy to hear his voice sounded just the right amount of casual, and only a little bit nosy.

"Cordy's been all in my face about takin' her to some movie tonight, starring Huey Lewis or Huey Long...somethin' like that. And I *still* don't see why I gotta be the one to go!"

"It's *Hugh Jackman* for the fourth time, and I *already* told you, I am not gonna be seen going to a movie on a Friday night by myself."

"Why can't Wes take you?"

Wesley's head ping-ponged back towards Cordy again, his look expectant. Yes, why *couldn't* he take her?

"Don't give me that mopey 'Why not me?' look, Mr. My Social Calendar is Booked A Month In Advance Because My Girlfriend Is Rich And Famous." The seer waggled her finger sternly in the researcher's direction, while simultaneously shooting a warning look at Gunn of the 'get your ass moving or else' variety. Wesley's back stiffened, carefully constructed indignation covering for the fact that he was appalled she had: 1) been able to read him so easily and 2) had brought up Virginia. Before he could formulate his reply, the girl was already continuing.

"I read all about that swanky little shindig your better half is throwing at her palatial estate tonight - which I'm sure you have a very good reason for not getting me an invite to - and, by the way, I certainly hope you're not planning to wear *that* outfit tonight, because the guys parking the cars are gonna be dressed better than you."

Wesley looked down at the olive green v-neck sweater and khaki trousers he was wearing, his blood beginning to boil at the familiar taunts. "I don't see why you must always criticize the way I dress," he replied, heatedly.

"Somebody's got to keep you informed about your complete lack of style, and if it's not going to be Virginia -"

"Well, at least I have the decency to wear clothing that covers more than 25% of my body," he snapped back, his hand waving towards Cordy's halter top and short skirt. "There are some days when I wonder if you aren't hoping to be discovered by Hugh Hefner!"

Angel, who had been sitting unobtrusively in the far corner, reading the latest novel by Raymond Feist, raised his eyes and regarded his former associate thoughtfully. He was trying to stick to the 'I'm no longer the boss, I work for you now' deal, and therefore was not about to interrupt, but something was clearly bothering the former watcher, and Angel suspected it had little to do with how often Cordelia chose to bare her midriff.

"That never seemed to bother you back in Sunnydale when you used to ogle me during cheerleading practice!" the seer grunted, moving forward to give the thin Englishman a good poke in the chest and another piece of her mind.

"Guys, guys, could we *please* not do this tonight?" Gunn swung his tall, muscular body in between those of his two feuding partners. "You are giving me a monster headache." Wesley hesitated, then backed off, ducking his head slightly to hide the heat he felt rising in his cheeks. He retreated back to the desk, and picked up his book with what he hoped was an air of casual indifference. Glancing at his watch, he smugly remarked:

"Aren't you going to be late for your movie?" He answered Charles' scowl with a slightly questioning tilt of his head and an innocent expression that the renegade didn't buy for one second. Before Gunn could answer though, Cordy was pulling on his arm, dragging him out the door.

Once they'd gone, Wesley noticed Angel, still quietly watching him over the top of his book. "What?"

"Nothing." The vampire shrugged. They stared at each other uncomfortably for a few moments.

Both men seemed to realize simultaneously that this was the first time they had been alone in the office together since Angel had rejoined the team, and neither could think of a suitable topic of conversation. Searching for a distraction, Wesley's eyes fell to the latest office acquisition.

"Coffee?" He picked up his cup, only to frown frustratedly at the complex knobs and buttons decorating Cordelia's pride and joy - their brand new cappuccino maker. Of course, the seer was the only one who understood how the blasted thing worked. Angel came over to join him, head cocked to one side as he looked at the machine and then questioningly at Wesley. "I'll just make us some tea then, shall I?" Wesley began to head for the back room, where the microwave was.

"Tea sounds good," Angel called after him, a slanted smile on his lips. Good ole Wes and his tea. While he waited, Angel moved over to sit at the desk, idly pulling open a few drawers, glancing at some of the files he found.

"Is there something in particular you're looking for, Angel?" Wesley's cool voice startled him, and he looked up quickly to find his friend - boss? - standing in the doorway, two teacups in hand, and a rather stern expression marring his features.

"Uh, no. No, I was just...hey, I don't want to keep you. I can hold down the fort if you need to get going."

"Sorry?"

"You know, to get ready for your big party."

Wesley shifted uncomfortably. "Ah, that. Well, I don't actually -" He was interrupted when the phone began to ring. Angel snatched it up, trying to remember the Agency's latest catchphrase.

"Uh, A-Angel Investigations...we help, uh, we solve...Cordy?"

"Y'know, if you're gonna insist on answering the phone, the least you can do is remember the slogans, Bat Boy."

Wesley quickly set down the teacups and came over, reaching out for the receiver, as Angel turned slightly away, not ready to relinquish it.

"Cordy, I thought you and Gunn were going to that movie."

"Try telling that to the PTBs. We got as far as the popcorn line, before I got my own personal movie preview in my head. There's a girl in a dark alley - and let me pause here to say that if more girls would stay out of dark alleys, my life would be a whole lot more pain free."

"Angel, has Cordelia had a vision? Let me talk to her." Wesley reached for the phone again.

"Wes, I think I can manage to write down the details myself..." Wesley raised one eyebrow skeptically.

"Are you two fighting over the phone while I'm standing here, with the mother of all migraines, missing my movie?" Cordy interrupted.

"...if you'll give me something to write on, that is." Angel finished. The other eyebrow rose to join its mate, and for a second Angel thought Wesley was going to refuse, but he finally opened a drawer and removed one of Cordelia's message pads, handing it to Angel.

"By all means, Angel, go right ahead." He stood back, his hands folded across his chest, and waited, as the vampire wrote down the details of the seer's vision.

Angel could hear Gunn loudly in the background. "Tell Angel I can be there to pick him up in ten."

"Cordy, tell Gunn -" Out of the corner of his eye, Angel caught sight of the brief flash of annoyance that crossed Wesley's face, and rethought his answer. "I can handle this one. No need to disrupt your night off - if that's alright with you," he quickly amended.

"Sure, whatever. My job here is done, so I'm gonna take some painkillers and try to enjoy myself for once." She'd already hung up, before Angel could say goodbye.

"Planning on handling this one all on your own, are you, Angel?" Angel turned back to Wesley, with an innocent expression carefully in place.

"No, I just figured between the two of us, we'd be able to handle things." Momentarily stunned, Wesley blinked at him a few times, before regaining his composure.

"Well, if you think I'm just going to sit here and identify the demon for you..." he began, gruffly.

"Actually, from Cordy's description, this guy sounds like something I've come up against before. I thought we could go out together, that is, if you're up to it."

Wesley drew himself up to his full height. "I assure you, I have been given a clean bill of health."

"Okay, great." Angel opened the broom closet that doubled as a weapons cabinet, withdrawing several swords, an ax and a crossbow.

"Right, well then, we'd best hurry if we're going to get there before it's too late. That address is clear across town." Wesley took the crossbow and one of the swords from Angel and hurried out the door. Angel smiled fondly at his colleague's retreating back, hefted the ax over one shoulder and followed.

******

"So, ah, what's she like?" Angel asked, as he sped the car towards the address Cordelia had supplied.

Wesley, still unaccustomed to Angel's new habit of attempting small talk, turned and stared at the vampire blankly. "What is *who* like?"

"Your girlfriend - Virginia. I'll bet she's nice."

Wesley rolled his eyes in exasperation. "You have met her, you know." Noting Angel's furrowed brow, he prompted, "We rescued her when her father tried to sacrifice her to the Goddess Yeska..."

"Oh," recognition dawned. "The redhead."

"Yes," Wesley sighed. "The redhead. And, yes, she *is* nice. Very nice."

"She's the one who thought you were me, right? When you...."

Wesley turned beet red but still managed to shoot back with: "So, how did that whole epiphany thing come about again?" Deciding there were some subjects better left alone, the two men lapsed into a rather embarrassed silence for the remainder of their journey.

******

Angel raised his ax and swung, satisfied to hear the crunch of neck bones, as the demon's head flew away from its body and began to spin lazily in a pool of its own orange blood. A noise behind him drew his attention to Wesley, who had been valiantly battling the second - rather unexpected - Ryxi Demon. Three of the creature's six arms had already been lopped off and it was toppling backward, hitting the rough alley pavement with a loud thud. Angel watched curiously, as Wes continued to slash at the demon with his sword long after it was apparent the flesh eater was dead.

"Uh, Wes? Wesley?" The vampire moved to put a staying hand on the other man's swinging arm. "I think it's dead. You can stop now." When Wesley made to continue, Angel increased the pressure of his hold. "Wesley!"

Wesley stumbled back a few steps, shaking his head to clear it, as if just waking from a trance. He was covered in orange goo, and sweat dotted his brow. His breath came in short gasps, as he bent over, one hand resting on his thigh, the other holding his aching side.

Alarmed, Angel tried to offer his help. "Are you sure you're okay?" Wesley shrugged off Angel's hand.

"I'm fine, really." He looked down at the demon's remains, ruefully. "Perhaps I was a little over zealous, in my eagerness to get back into action." Wesley swiped the back of his hand across his forehead, leaving behind a sticky streak of orange.

"Feel better?" Angel understood the powerful release of a nice, gruesome kill, but wasn't sure if the same applied to humans.

Wesley leaned heavily against the dirty, red brick wall, the heaving of his chest subsiding somewhat. He was still having to force out his words between breaths, but an odd little smile was forming on his face.

"I do, actually," he sounded surprised. "I hadn't realized how much I needed -" He broke off suddenly, his head drooping down as he lapsed into deep thought. When Wesley didn't speak again for a few minutes, Angel began to grow concerned, and was just about to ask him again if he was okay, when the quiet ex-Watcher began again.

"Nothing's changed, you know." The voice was so quiet, that Angel felt compelled to lean in closer.

"Uh, okaaay." Angel watched as Wesley pushed himself away from the wall and began to make his way back towards the convertible. The vampire caught up to him at the curb, where Wes was standing, staring up into the streetlight, his hands deep inside his jacket pockets.

"I thought it would be different this time. I mean, my tenure in Sunnydale was understandably difficult, considering the circumstances, but I've had quite a bit more experience since then." It was only just dawning on Angel that maybe Wesley was talking about something besides his relationship with his former employer. Wesley turned to face him then. "Being in charge is so..." A hand came up and gestured vaguely as he searched for the word he wanted.

"Demanding? Stressful?" Angel tried to help.

"Isolating." The vampire's eyebrows shot up. That wasn't the answer he'd been expecting. "Perhaps I'm just not cut out to be a leader - making decisions that affect people's lives."

"Hey, Wes, c'mon. You've been doing a great job of being in charge," Angel protested gamely. Wes let out what sounded suspiciously like a 'pffft' and scowled at him.

"Oh, come off it Angel," he snapped. "In the short time since I took over the leadership role at Angel Investigations I've succeeded in infuriating an entire species of demon, getting myself shot in the gut by a police officer, and allowed Cordelia to be captured and implanted with demon spawn *again*. If you hadn't broken through that wall to rescue us, we might all have been... Well, I would hardly classify that as successful."

"And you've also saved peoples' lives. You went on with the fight, even though you knew how hard it would be." Angel began to warm up to his subject. "Besides, you're not isolated like you were in Sunnydale. You've created a real team - Cordy and Gunn trust you completely, and...and you've got Virginia to come home to."

Wesley's shoulders sagged, and he looked at the ground, the tip of his shoe kicking a small rock into the gutter.

"Yes, of course. Virginia," he whispered. The veil of confusion was lifted and Wesley's odd behavior began to make sense to Angel.

"You do, don't you?" he asked quietly.

The bleak look in Wesley's eyes, when he finally lifted them to Angel's, answered for him.

"You won't say anything to the others, will you?"

"No, uh, not if you don't want me to." Angel was surprised Wes hadn't already confided in his other friends.

"It's just that, with everything else that's been going on..." Wesley trailed off. Angel felt helpless. If he were Cordy he could give Wes a hug. Even Gunn would probably sling an arm around his shoulder companionably. But, he was only Angel, capable of looking around awkwardly, searching for something comforting to say that wouldn't make him sound like a complete jackass.

"So, uh, what happened?" Angel winced as soon as the words left his mouth. Why would Wesley want to tell *him* anything?

Wes let out a sigh, and actually appeared to be grateful for the question. "It was my getting shot that was the final straw. Vampires and demons she could handle - she's known about them all her life - but bullets, and hospital waiting rooms...Virginia hasn't had an easy life, Angel, and she's only just beginning to find her own way. I couldn't ask her to burden herself with my problems. She's young and innocent and deserves better."

"And you don't?" Angel was incredulous. "Why didn't you just walk away from all this? Tell her you'd give it all up and stay with her?"

"Because, *all this*" Wesley began heatedly, mimicking Angel. "...is what I've devoted my entire life to. The work we do is more important than what *I* want - what any one person wants. Giving up simply wasn't an option." This time, Angel did take a chance, reaching up to grasp Wesley's shoulder firmly, squeezing gently.

"And that's what makes you a good leader, Wes." Wesley blinked at him, realizing the vampire was being sincere.

"Thank you, Angel," was his hushed, heartfelt reply. Overwhelmed by the moment, Angel had the sudden urge to change the subject.

"Now, if the boss wouldn't mind a little suggestion...." Wesley cocked his head questioningly. "...I think we should get going and change out of these clothes, cause I think this gunk is beginning to harden." Angel motioned to the demon blood still layering both their clothes. Wesley grinned in relief.

"I believe I could go along with that," he agreed, as they both hopped into the car. Soon, they were on their way.

******

"Well, it's about time. Where the hell have you been?"

Angel and Wesley exchanged glances, then turned innocently towards the angry seer, who stood blocking their path, her hands planted firmly on her hips.

"You were the one with the vision, Cordelia, " Wesley reminded her, brushing past on his way to retrieve his satchel, which they'd come back for.

"Yeah, and last I heard *Angel* was gonna take care of it," Gunn added, from where he sat on the edge of the desk, sharpening his hubcap axe.

"Yeah, what gives?" Cordy's eyebrows came together. "I thought you had big plans for tonight, Wes." Before the uncomfortable man could say anything, Angel jumped to the rescue.

"You know Wes. He wasn't going to go off to any party when there were demons to fight. Work always comes first, right Wes?"

Wesley shot him a grateful smile. "Oh, uh, yes. You know, Cordelia, I really didn't think Angel should be going out there on his own so soon." Angel lifted one eyebrow, but didn't try to protest. Cordy chewed her lip and exchanged a look with Gunn, who shrugged.

"Well, you were probably right there. Good thinking, Wes. *Now* I'm thinking showers would be good." She waved a hand in front of her nose dramatically. "What *is* that stuff anyway?" Wesley grinned at her.

"You really don't want to know...and we were just heading off to change."

"You need a ride home, English?" Gunn looked up from his task. Wesley looked at him, then at Angel.

"No, you stay here and finish that. I'm sure Angel wouldn't mind giving me a lift, would you, Angel?"

Angel felt his face break into a goofy grin, but couldn't help himself. "No, I don't mind at all." He made a sweeping gesture towards the door. "Shall we?"

 



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