Lostgirl (lostgirlslair) wrote in aftermath_fic,

Aftermath - Chapter 5

Continued from here.

Spike came back to find Angel snoring. Sighing, he put the drawing stuff away and sat down next to his Sire's bed. He managed to be almost still for a while, but eventually he couldn't stand it any more.

He paced. Dresser, bed, bathroom door, bed, dresser, bed, bathroom door. His hand went automatically for a pack of cigarettes that wasn't there anymore. Shaking his head, realizing he had to do something, Spike made his circuit twice more before heading out the door and over to Sarah's room.

The girl was awake, sketching something, when he strutted in. That was a little odd, seeing as how she was used to being up late, sleeping in. Then again, she'd been up earlier, when he'd come in to tell her Angel was all right. She'd seemed disturbed, but after hearing all the shouting while the rest of them ran around trying to save first Wes and then Angel . . . Well, if he hadn't know what was going on, he'd have been disturbed too.

"Hey, Sparky. Hope you're better company than the Amazing Snoring Ponce, over in the other room."

Snorting, the girl put aside her picture quickly, quick enough to make Spike wonder what she was drawing that she didn't want him to see. Usually, she like to show him her work, mostly sketches of the people she knew, these days mostly the nurses, him, Rupert, one of Wes, and a couple other Slayers.

"Well, if he's snoring and still better company than me, I'll . . . pout." Smiling at him, she pulled the remote off her nightstand and turned down the TV. "So? You wanna play cards? Or we could watch TV, but . . . Passions isn't on for a while yet."

Spike hid a grin at that, ignoring her smirk. "Nah, maybe the cards. I could teach you more ways to cheat at poker."

"Great, grab the deck! I am so going to clean out Angela and Rebecca when I go back to school!"

"Not nice to fleece your friends, Little Bit," Spike gave her his best impression of Old Rupes' stern look. It made her crack up every time and it was nice to hear the laughter.

"No, uh, not really friends. Kinda bitter enemies, if I get to have those before I've even hit eighteen."

Spike paused, deck of cards in his hands splayed out for shuffling. "You know, if there's one thing I learned, it's not to make enemies out of your allies. So, uh . . . don't go makin' deal with demon-human hybrid things, ya know?"

Sarah blinked at him and Spike shook his head.

"I mean, you can not like 'em all you want, but if you make 'em your enemies you'll lose out later when they don't trust you. Uh, just trust me that they mean the same thing, okay?"

Snorting again, Sarah nodded. "Right. Making deals with demon-human hybrid things means losing trust down the line." She gave him a look that told him she thought he'd lost it again.

"Just trust me. Not so good with the advice and all." Shuffling the cards, Spike changed the topic before she could ask how the two related. "Besides, I'd rather see the looks on Rupes' and Wes' faces when you fleece them."

Sarah giggled, shaking her head. "I don't think I'd get much past them, but I'll try! How..how is Wes? I heard some yelling from over there and . . ."

"Uh, I'm sure he's fine. He's probably sleeping, if Rupert had his way with him, er," Spike smirked and looked at his cards to hide the expression.

"They're so cute, dancing around each other. Reminds me of this movie I saw once."

Looking up at that, Spike almost missed Sarah's tell of tabbing her chin when she had a good hand. "What ya mean?" He kept his voice neutral and was surprised when Sarah laughed at him.

"Oh, as if you don't see it! Just cause I'm young doesn't mean I'm blind, ya know. Well, not anymore," she added ruefully, throwing another two pretzels on the ante pile. "At least, I hope it's two sided, but I saw how Giles looked at him. Haven't seen enough of Wes to know, but . . ."

She winked at Spike, who only laughed and laid down his full house.

"Bugger. So, are you going to tell me how you did that?" she asked, making him laugh all over again. God, that felt good.

"How ya feelin'?" He asked after the next hand was dealt, glancing at the dark half-circles under her eyes. They were bad, as if she had too black eyes.

"Tired," she replied with a shrug. "Had a nightmare, a real bad one."

"And no one was here," Spike finished for her, reaching out to pat her hand awkwardly. "Uh, well with-with Wes and then Angel," he began, only to have her wave his words away.

"Hey, dying outweighs bad dreams. Always. So? You gonna raise or call? Get it over with. The suspense is killing me!"


Giles hadn't been home all morning and was tired as hell, but that didn't absolve him of his responsibilities. He had expected many things when he got to the office. Deathly silence was not one of them.

Andrew nearly pounced on him the moment he walked through the doors, the boy nearly panicked.

"Thank god! You're here! I tried your house and your cell, and I even tried at the halfway house, but nobody was answering there and then all the Watchers were panicking and there were calls coming in everywhere and god, you can never leave here again!"

"What's wrong? What's happened?" Giles felt his own panic beginning to rise and firmly squashed it. Whatever had happened, now was certainly not the time to let himself be overwhelmed. He kept walking, Andrew falling into step beside him, handing over a sheaf of papers Giles didn't bother to look through.

"The Slayers. Last night . . . and some are on the night shift, but it didn't matter. I've never seen anything like it. They were all talking about burning and how there was hardly any time left and how 'The Heroes blood had to burn' and--"

At those words, Giles held up a hand to silence the young man, who complied immediately. He stopped in front of his office door, turning to Andrew.

"First, I need you to calm down. The crisis may be over now, but I can't know if you don't tell me exactly what happened.

"Okay, okay. Uh, it hit Margie first. Or, she was the first one who was awake. We don't know about the ones that were sleeping. She just collapsed and started seizing. Then the others started dropping like flies and . . . well, George came and woke me up. They were everywhere, Giles, just jerking and . . . it . . . we think it hit the ones who were awake the hardest. Anyone who was sleeping is just tired this morning, but the others . . . they're unconscious."


"No! Just, deep, deep sleep. The doctor said they'd be all right, that they just really needed to rest. The others are dead tired and there were similar reports from all the nearest communities. It was the vision, only . . . it hit the ones that were awake too! They all kept saying that 'The Heroes blood had to burn', and there wasn't much time!"

"Angel," Giles sighed, removing his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose. "Uh, last-last night, Wesley was, er, accidentally infected with the, uh, the-the dragon's toxin--"

"--oh, god! I'm so sorry!" Andrew laid a hand on his arm and it took Giles a moment to realize that the young man thought Wes was dead.

"Uh, no. No. He's, uh, he's all right. Still-still weak, but . . . it seems that whatever, ah, whatever changes there were to his blood it someone fought off the toxin and, uh, well Angel began to-to dust and Wesley . . . Wesley's blood was the answer." Giles was fighting with the remembered fear, telling himself that Wes was fine and . . . Angel was fine and there was no need to be still worrying.

"Oh . . . I don't get it. How does that have anything to do with . . . with the visions?" Andrew shook his head, shrugging.

"Wesley . . . Wesley had a similar fever dream, I think, though I haven't had the chance to really talk to him about it. He, uh, he's been having the same dreams, with 'The Heroes blood must burn' and his blood . . . well, it seems that Angel is hero referred to."

"So. . . the girls should be fine now? No more dreams? Crisis averted, game over?"

"Well, uh, I don't-don't think it's as simple as all that," Giles replied, nodding that they should continue this discussion in his office. He somehow felt more . . . in control once safely ensconced behind his desk.

"So? Why are you still worrying? If it's all over . . ."

"Well, I don't believe it is." Giles sighed, reaching for his pencil to fiddle with as he spoke and then remembering his last talk with Andrew and deciding against it. "The Slayers had visions about healing him. About Angel. Many of them had the same vision, over and over." Giles shook his head at the enormity of it. To send so much, so many warnings . . . it had to be important.

"The PTB obviously don't won't their 'Champion' dead yet. Moreover, the dreams . . . the mixing of the blood in them . . . I now believe much of it was about Wesley, his resurrection, which . . . likely means that the Powers haven't yet finished with him either. Or," Giles gave a bitter snort, "Perhaps he was just their means to reviving Angel, a pawn to keep their 'Champion' going. I don't know. Either way . . . if-if the Powers aren't done with him . . ."

"Something big's gonna go down."


Wes looked up when he heard Spike enter the room. The vampire stopped to stare and shake his head and Wes just shrugged, looking down at the books laid out around him.

"I wasn't tired," he said with a sigh, marking his place in the book he'd been reading and laying it aside. "How's Angel?"

"Sleeping," Spike said with a shrug, pulling the chair a bit away from the bed and slouching into it. "He's . . . weak, but getting' better."

Somehow, Wes was quite sure Spike didn't like referring to the man as 'weak'. "Well, as long as he's getting better. He's going to be fine, Spike. Now."

"Thanks," Spike met his eyes and Wes knew he wasn't just thanking him for the reassurance. Why the vampire felt he needed to be thanked for helping a friend, Wesley had no idea, but he nodded anyway, too weary to ask.

The truth was that he found that he couldn't sleep. His mind was full of racing thoughts and refused to quiet. Even research hadn't helped for once. His condition was similar to others, but there was obviously nothing exactly like it. Beyond that, the answers to his other questions weren't the kind one could find in books.

He'd been sorting out what he needed to say to Angel, what he needed to discuss with the man. Their was so much to fix between them it was hard to know where to start, but he knew he had to, knew he couldn't let it sit or be brushed aside. He'd lost so many people, both of them had and he didn't want to lose the friendship he and Angel had shared. That was, in fact, the last thing he wanted.

There was Giles too. It seemed the man didn't actually leave his mind these days and Wes found that disturbing as much as . . . nice. His little, er, fantasy in the shower had been intense, the imagines so real and vivid, complete with smells and . . . his heightened senses might well have pushed his imagination up a notch or two as well.

Cutting off those thoughts, because he certainly didn't want to find himself hardening with Spike not feet away and he knew that was where they were leading, Wes motioned to the books.

"I was looking into my new . . . ah, my new state of being, I suppose. Seeing if I could find any hints as to . . . well, I'm not wholly human any longer."

"It's not like you're suddenly some ancient evil now either," Spike countered with a shrug.

"Of course I'm not. Why would you--" he stopped when he realized that Spike was referring to Illyria, in a way, and to . . . Fred. "Right. Well, ah, I don't enjoy not knowing."

"'Course ya don't. Who would? Still, you're not going to fade into nothing if you don't find out right now. No need not to get your rest while you can. Unless something's keepin' you awake?" The vampire sat back in his chair, crossing his arms and raising his eyebrow in inquiry.

"Uh, just-just thoughts. There's . . . a lot to think about now. The world ended, or was supposed to have. There's so many people gone and I . . . I died. That's not something one every gets to say . . . usually."
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"Welcome to the 'Resurrection Club', membership currently four." Spike said with an ironic flourish. "Exclusive to those who perished during, or in preventing, the End of the World. Sent back to this plane for Who Knows What? "Cept for Buffy. Red brought her back."

Wesley snorted, then tilted his head to the side. "You, me, Buffy..."

"Angel World save-age a'la shiskabob."

"Oh lord, I forgot." Wesley's eyebrows rose and he shook his head in disbelief. "After Buffy had to kill him...."


"That's another question that's bothering me. Why on earth that I'm still here."

"And yet you also seem oddly happy."

"Wouldn't you be? I mean, weren't you?"

"You're forgettin' at the time I came back I was ever so slightly non-corporeal and kept getting sucked into some ponce's ghostly torture chamber. Didn't have time to be happy for a while."

"That must have been...distressing."

Spike waved a negating hand. "'M a big boy. S'over now."

"Are you telling me you're not wondering why you're back, and you're not happy that you're back?"

"No!" Spike got up and paced back and forth at the foot of Wes' bed. "You've got it all mixed up. Of course I'm wondering why I'm back - hoping it's not just some scheme that nit Lindsey cooked up. If so, then he died too easy. Jerkin' us about and sending me and Angel on that idiot quest. And of course I'm happy to be back. Took a bit of getting used to, is all. Went out saving the world. Second act is kind of hard to get started."

"I'm surprised you haven't rejoined the...Scoobies? Though you sort of have, helping the Council."

"Isn't that a pip? Never would have believed it. Tried to eat the Council back in the day. But it keeps me in blood, smokes and video games. Not to mention the side benefit of irritating Rupes no end."

"Wasn't his idea?"

"God no!" Spike stopped his pacing, and leveled a humorous, disbelieving look at Wesley" "Well, eventually, yeah, but Andrew, of all people, started wearing him down and then when Buffy decided she still wanted to go back to Rome, she pointed out that I was the most qualified trainer available. Ah, he nearly choked on his tongue. Then he very nicely asked." He grinned and bounced on his toes.

"So you and Buffy.."

Spike resumed his pacing. "Obviously that's over. Still. Gave me this ridicuous speech about cookies. Then she started freaking about watching Angel waste away - when it looked like there was nothing to stop it - and it bringing back memories of me torching last year. Then she got pissed that I didn't come prancing back and tell her I was among the undusted undead, yelled at me for being overly dramatic and knocked me from one end of the Embankment to the other. Said, why didn't I love her enough to find her. Realized I didn't."

"Right. Sorry."

Spike made a "pffing" noise. "Used to burn in my gut, she did. Fill my senses...I hate to say it - that burning up mighta burnt that right out of me. Loved her. Hell, burnt literally up 'cause I loved her and wanted to fight at her side. Don't have the energy for her on again-off again thing. Not anymore."

"You think you'll stay with the council then, keep training and such?"

"Dunno. Hey!" Spike stopped his room-sized ramble once more. "We was talking about why you were suddenly all happy-like.

"Hmm, I must be slipping."
"Or, I could just be getting better at readin' what your avoidin'." Spike snorted, waving a hand at Wesley. "Just spit it out. What's got you so happy to be alive, Wes? Instead of wishin' you were six feet under and not thinking about all this."

Wesley opened his mouth to answer and then shut it, shaking his head. His forehead furrowed as he considered the question. When he'd first woken up . . . well, things had just moved so quickly and he'd never given a thought to how he felt or why. Of course he'd been glad to be alive, he'd had a chance to save Angel . . . now . . . why did he have? Giles sprang to mind, as well as the chance to fix between Angel and himself, oddly, Sarah was there too and . . .

"I . . . everything's rather confused in my head at the moment," he said softly before shaking away the thoughts. "I don't know, but . . . life seemed to grab a hold on me rather quickly."

"So? What are your plans? You gonna stay here? With . . . the Council? Work with Slayers, be a Watcher again?" Spike snorted at the last, but he was smiling and Wesley couldn't help but smile as well.

Good lord, he'd come right back where he'd started. Everything had led him right back where he'd began. Granted, things were different this time. Gil--Rupert, for one. Not only in a personal sense either. With Rupert running the Council . . . well, things would be much different and Wesley was no longer that irritating sycophant he'd been so long ago.

"That's what I intend to try. Uh, Giles asked me to return. The shortage of Watchers is quite desperate and I know he could use the help and . . . Gil--Rupert will be fighting the good fight . . ."

Spike gave him a bemused look, but Wesley refused to think what the vampire might mean by it. He knew Spike, and Angel as well though he tended to ignore such things, had a sense of smell at least comparable to what he now possessed. Spike wasn't one not to notice such clues.

"Good," Spike nodded, a small smile on his face. "I, uh, I should get back to Angel. Don't like leavin' him so long. Might be awake now."
May I join you? I'd very much like to see him.

"Suit yourself, may still be asleep." Spike said amiably, before holding up a warning hand, "But let me fetch your wheels."

"Fine," Wesley sighed. As Spike departed, he glanced at his alarm clock. Giles was rather later than usual. He hoped things were all right. He was rather looking forward to their next visit. He smiled a secret, wicked little smile to himself.
And then he thought Where am I going to go? Giles had asked him to work for the Council, and that seemed a good idea at the time and now possibly a bit sketchy if he was going to be...seeing the boss. Perhaps that worry was a little premature.

A flash of Giles eyes' earlier today, as he stood beside Wesley's bed popped into his head, and he shivered a little, remembering the scent of the man's arousal. Maybe not that premature.

But what if Angel wanted to restart a form of Angel Investigations? Wes tried to wrap his mind around that one as he realized that he'd become used to the combination of nearly infinite recourses and down and dirty demon eradication that had become habit at Wolfram & Hart before Fred had died. Then all the resources in the world couldn't save her. So what was the point?

He scratched at his beard. He was going to have to shave tomorrow - it was beginning to itch. Perhaps if he did it before his shower.....

It would be nice to be able to continue the fight with adequate resources, seers, scryers, people with the same goals and same experiences...he could perhaps help rebuild the library. He'd learned quite a bit about alternate sources of research materials, and if he could somehow get his journals and books sent over from L.A. He never bothered to ask if his apartment was in an area that had been hit by the battle.

He blinked a few times, realizing that he'd barely even thought of home at all. Oh, god, the rent. He could do most of his bill paying on line if necessary, which meant he had to find access to that Time to get started standing on my own two feet again.

If they restarted the agency, they would have next to nothing to begin with, other than his meger personal library and the brains in their head - and no seer to guide them. That would be a problem. He also did not have a burning desire to go back to California, and not just because Rupert was here. Would Angel want to do that? Though he hadn't stepped a foot outside, it was nice to be home, hear familiar voices. He was really looking forward to walking around London, get a feel for her again.

And there was the matter of it being Angel Investigations. He wasn't so sure that he and Angel should enter an employer/employee situation again. That didn't appeal to him at all. And of course it was all contingent of them working things though - they really had to talk about Connor, and the mind wipe, and the whole Black Thorn thing. Bringing the team back together at the end didn't make up for a year of half-truths or worse.

He could always branch out on his own, do something completely different away from demons and Slayers, death and bloodshed. Start fresh. With his linguistics skills alone, he could command top dollar as a translator…or even teach, perhaps on the university level.

But could he turn his back on everything? How could he avoid it now that he knew what the world held? The nearly yearly battles to save it…the countless minor skirmishes that saved people – could he honestly turn his back on that life? To stand idly by while people he cared for continued to put themselves…?

The question was really answered even before he could finish rounding out his final thought. No. A thousand times no. Sorting through his re-acquired memories, he remembered that even at his bleakest, he continued to place himself in opposition to the darkness that crawled the earth. And it was not because of his, at the time, admittedly destructive bent. It was because he could not walk through the world, seeing it as he did, and do anything different. The fight was part of him.

Well, at least he knew that much. No matter what else Vail's blood had done to him, that part of him was unchanged.

A problem more easily tackled was a place to stay while he considered his next steps. Perhaps someone in the Council had a guest house to rent...or he could stay in a hotel, but that didn't immediately appeal to him. Yes. Tomorrow he'd get started on finding a place to live once he was discharged.

Where the devil is Spike he wondered. Looking up, he found the vampire lounging in his wheelchair, with the weary air of having been there a long time..

"Got that all worked out, did you?"


Spike shrugged, "Ah well, I've always thought that thinking all that much was overrated, though watching you think's kind of like really minimalist TV." He got up and motioned grandly for Wes to get in the chair.

"Someone as perceptive as you not think? Hardly likely."

"I'm serious, I've always been more of a go with your instincts kind of bloke."

Wesley frowned as he got into the chair. "Spike, you were a poet. A person who distills thoughts into forms that convey the most emotional impact. Of course you think. Those notes you wrote for me on demonic toxins was incredibly clear and concise – really very well done. I've neglected to thank you for them."

"Told you not to mention it, and I meant it. It was a one shot deal. Don't think when I can help it - gets me into trouble. How I ended up a vampire, innit? Wrote a poem, got a big emotional kaboom and the next thing I knew...diggin' out o' me own grave And thinkin' got me into trouble in L.A., listen' to Lindsey and his rot about me being a champion and helping the hopeless. Went off on my own and got my hands chopped off "

"Spike. Though I'm terribly sorry that happened, I thought that incident was more because you didn't stay to hear all the relevant facts before going off and engaging an insane Slayer."

"All right, bad example. But, not a poet anymore, that's for sure. I'm done my bit and said my piece and am not looking at the world that way anymore. Just point me at the baddies I can hit, and I'm happy. Smash, bang, crunch."

"I think once you open your mind and see things in a certain way, you're never able to shut it off. It's part of you."

"Sure you can."

"Then what's that notebook weighing down the left-hand pocket of your duster?"


13 years ago

Wesley cleared his throat. "Well, this is unexpectedly awkward. I really am very glad to see you, Angel."

Angel stirred, clearly haven made the decision to see an unpleasant task through. "Yeah, me too, Wes…I mean…thank you for, saving me…again."

"I was glad to do it."

There was another long, awkward pause. Spike erupted.

"And you two gits worked together for how long and this is the best you can do?"

He held up one hand, and using it as a puppet, said, "Oh, Wesley, while I'm grateful that your magically enhanced blood brought me back from the bloody brink of dusting, I'm having a bit of an existential brood." The hand puppet cocked its head as if puzzled. "Why am I still here? I thought I was going to go out in a blaze of glory. And I obviously didn't Shansu, and something's bothering me about that as well. We should also probably talk about the things that we don't talk about, since it's quite obvious that it's going to be A Thing. I'm going to go over here and brood until my forehead falls off."

Without pausing, the other hand popped up, and spoke with a surprisingly posh accent. "Angel, I understand exactly what you mean. I'm not sure what to do with myself either, or why I'm here, though it might have something to do with the fact that two-dozen slayers and I had dreams about you and how to save you. I would be happy to talk about the things we don't talk about, because despite whatever may have happened in the past, I thought enough of our friendship that I nearly knackered myself trying to find the cure. And, just so you know, Spike is bloody brilliant."

He glared at the two dumbfounded faces before him. "Now, hug. Go on. Warm fuzzies for all, so we can bloody well move on!"

Spike and Angel looked sheepish and shy, and darted little glances out of the corners of their eyes at one another.

"Oh great God!" Spike yelled, throwing up his hands. "Stay there then, not looking at one another until your eyes bleed." He stormed out.

"Well, that was unexpected," Wesley was the first to recover himself enough to speak.

"Wes, was that true about what he said? You're okay, right? You didn't give me anything you…needed?"

"Right as rain, Angel."

"It really means a lot to me. I can't believe you did that…after. Well, what I did to you. I wonder if it means you've got the visions now?"

Wesley looked at him, aghast. "You couldn't possibly believe that I wouldn't have tried to save you just because I had a vision? You…git."

Angel's face was lit slightly by a smile. "You never called me that before."

"I'm quite sure I have."

"No, you've always been very…polite."

"Times have changed, it seems."

Angel's face fell. "About that – the changing time thing….um, I sorta had to move quickly."

"I understand that you wanted a better life for Connor, but why on earth did you do this? Surely you could have…"

"He was about to kill Cordy and himself and blow up a bunch of people."

Angel had to look away from the compassion and horror in Wesley's face. "Oh. Oh, I see. That would be a hard thing to come back from."

"He didn't have any hope left, and was in so much pain. I had to do something."

"Why didn't you tell us? We could have kept a secret. You know I could have." What must have been regret and sorrow, was rolling off Angel in waves…it smelled salty like tears with a faint tang of dragon venom. If this had been a human, Wes thought he might not have been able to stand it.

Angel's hands moved uncomfortably across the covers. "Like I said," he whispered, "there wasn't much time."

A chill ran down Wesley's back. "Why? Why wasn't there enough time to let us choose whether we wanted out memories to be altered?"

Angel's hands grew more restless, and Wesley reached through the bars of the bed to put his hand on his arm. "Angel."

"L-Lilah showed me what was happening – Connor had taken over a sporting goods store and it was on the news…so that I could…there is a price for that kind of spell…and I wanted to be able to stop him, to help him, and the spell was going to be a back up in case…and then he didn't back down." Angel's voice broke and he fell silent, fingers plucking the covers. "All those people, and Cordy," he whispered.

"So you had to kill your son in order to give him a new life. And there was four minutes before oxygen deprivation would cause his brain to be irreparably damaged."

"Vail stopped time around him for a little bit longer to finish up the spell, but yeah."

"And it didn't matter that you couldn't speak with us because we'd just forget about the whole thing."

Angel looked directly at Wesley. "You were in so much pain. Jasmine. Lilah – "

"Kidnapping your son and being alienated from my family for months, only to rejoin them and get sucked into a cult led by an insane power, helping to end world peace and being nearly killed not once, but twice."

"You were the guy who made the hard decisions, Wes. And they were killing you. I understand you were trying to help me – help Connor."

"But, I should have told you."

"You should have told me."

"So, this is how you pay me back."

"No! It's not that!" Angel lolled his head on his pillows, looking longingly at his nice, blank ceiling. "Man, this was so much easier to deal with when I thought we were going to get wiped out by Wolfram & Hart."

"Did you think I'd actually survive an encounter with Vail?"

Angel looked at him in horror, "Yes! Of course I did! When I heard you'd died, it – Wes - it hurt so much. Even with everything that went down between us. It hurt so much." Tears stood in his eyes.

Wesley looked at him for a long time. "I believe you."

"Good, 'cause I don't know what I could do to make you believe otherwise."

"No more secrets between us, all right? No more unilateral decisions that are going to affect the other one's life with out asking."

Angel wiped his eyes and smiled. "Deal."


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago

They looked at one another a moment, sad smiles wreathing their lips.

"But, keeping the world turning by averting evil is what we were called to do, I suppose," Giles said tiredly. "I just wish sometimes Evil would give us a year off or some such thing."

He looked at Wesley's hand, now moving comfortingly across his, picked it up, implulsively pressed it against his cheek, and leaned his face into it. "I'm so tired."

Wesley, his eyebrows raised at the small jump in intimacy, rubbed his thumb across Giles' cheekbone, savoring the feel of his skin, and enjoying the tender gesture.

He wasn't going to be able to do this for very long - as aroused as he already was - without leaning down and kissing Giles. "We needn't talk about this now, Rupert," he said softly. "You should go home and rest."

"Don't want to go home," Giles said petulantly, then, turning his head and kissing Wesley's palm, shook himself, and sat up in his chair. Catching hold of Wesley's retreating hand, he smiled ruefully. "Terribly sorry. Actually, no I'm not, but I'm tired and my nerves are frayed, and my control is not quite what it should be."

"Did I complain?" Wesley squeezed Giles' hand gently. "In fact, I'm not complaining, very loudly."

Giles blushed and swallowed heavily, "I'm glad. I-I don't...I mean..."

"Rupert, it's all right."

"Now, I really don't want to go home." Giles folded Wesley's hand against his chest. "Do you mind if I keep this?"

"Certainly, since it's going to be come numb in a moment from holding it in this position. I shan't miss it."

Giles gave him a look. "Blast."

Wesley smiled and removing his hand, turned and poured Giles a glass of water. "Or, would you rather have a cup of tea? "

"Would you?"

"I think I would."

Giles stirred and started to get up. "I'll go make us some."

Wesley held up his hand, stopping Giles. "No, you wait there." He swung his legs off the bed. You're exhausted, and I've had a long day of rest, rest, and more rest."

"Wes, really. I can do it."

"We're never going to get to that dart game if I don't start taking some exercise." He gave Giles a firm look.

"All right. I'll just stay here and nap."

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather go home?"

"I'd rather stay and talk to you, if I might. We should compare some notes."

"Again, I am not complaining. Though I'm worried about you. I just wanted to make that clear."

"I promise to go home and get some rest. But for now, it would help a great deal if I could talk to you - at best to get more information...and the other best would be to enjoy your company and unwind."

"Excellent." Wesley blushed and ducked his head, smiling.

With that, Wesley made his careful way into the hall.
Putting the tray down on a small table in the corner of the room, Wesley sank gratefully into the chair next to it. The trip to the kitchenette had not been that bad. He discovered it just past Sarah and Angel's rooms by following the smell of coffee he picked up as he passed the nurse's station.

He was absurdly proud that he had not asked for directions.

Rupert was dozing comfortably in the chair beside his bed, looking both exhausted and peaceful. It seemed the tenderness he felt earlier for the man was increasing. This is more than just attraction - and phermones.

He did not want to call it love - it was far too soon for that - but there was the distinct possibility that he could love this man. It was seeming slightly less terrifying, but only just.

He prepared his cup of Darjeeling, light sugar and a slice of lemon, and started to put some sugar in Giles' and hesitated. He'd noticed the Earl Gray as part of the fragrance Giles carried around him, but he couldn't quite tell if there was sugar as part of it. He shrugged, and carried Rupert's cup, with a few Smarties biscuits gracing the saucer, to his bedside table.

The slight clatter of the cup against the saucer woke Giles, and twisting, he smiled up at Wesley, who was leaning around the back of the chair. "Thank you."

Wes nodded graciously and walked to fetch his own cup. "I didn't put sugar in it, will you need some?"

There was the soft sound of Rupert sipping his tea, "No, it's perfect. Oh my word, are these Smarties? I may have to kiss you."

"I rather hope so," Wesley muttered to himself as he sat in his chair. Unfortunately, he needed a slight rest.

When he looked up, he found Giles looking at him, his eyes smoldering slightly. "I shouldn't worry, if I were you."

Giles was pleased to see Wesley inhale sharply and blush. "Well, you started it," he teased.

"You are spending far too much time with teenage girls."

"A matter I plan on rectifying in the future."

"Glad to hear it."

They shared a long moment of comfortable, slightly charged silence.

Having fortified himself with a few biscuits, Giles suddenly said. "What are you doing all the way over there? I feel as if I should have a megaphone."

"Or two cans strung on a string? I just wanted a little change," he said, not wanting to say that his burst of energy was dwindling. "Besides, I'm closer to the tea and biscuits here."

Giles was up in an instant, dragging his chair across the floor. "There, that's better," he smiled as he settled himself.

"Much," Wes agreed. "Now, as much as I enjoy watching you work your way through a half a box of Smarties, I think we should exchange information before you fall asleep mid-chew."

"I'm perfectly fine, if a bit silly."

"I'd say so."

Giles looked at him sharply, his hand frozen in mid air as he picked up another biscuit. "Too silly?"

Wes plucked the biscuit from Giles fingers, "Not at all." He took an enormous bite and raising his eyebrows challengingly, enjoyed the look of slight outrage on Giles' face.

"You took my biscuit!"

"I did." Wes ate the other half.

Growling slightly, Giles took another and retreated back into his chair.

Wesley rolled his eyes and said, "Very well, I shall start. You're familiar with the Shanshu prophesy?

"Not really."

"It comes from the scroll of Aberjian, and states that once the vampire with a soul fulfills his destiny, he will be come human."

Giles stopped his chewing and raised his eyebrows.

"Wait, there's more. We were told that the apocalypse that our group just fought through was Apocalypse. Wolfram & Hart had been trying for years to divert Angel from his path because their information was that he'd be a key player in The Apohcalypse, but it was resting on a knife point whether for good or evil. They very nearly succeeded - we are sure that the Senior Partners gave us the L.A. branch in a last-ditch effort to corrupt us. Luckily, Cordelia game Angel one last vision before she died."


Wesley scrubbed his face with this hands. "Perhaps Spike and his puppet show would be good about now."

"Again I say, what?"

"Never mind, he just has a way of cutting through the story to get to the point."

"Yes, I've often been on the uncomfortable end of that."

"Right - forging ahead. Cordelia was given the gift to come and say goodbye, and deliver one last vision to Angel from the Powers - you knew she was seer?" Giles nodded, "And it was a warning about the Brotherhood of the Black Thorn."

"I thought that was a myth."

"You'd heard of it? I'm surprised."

Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I had a friend who was interested in chaos...and well, in those sorts of circles there are rumors."

"I see," Wes said, not seeing really, but understanding clearly that Giles didn't want to talk about it. "The Brotherhood of the Black Thorn sound like every consipracy theorist's nightmares coming horribly true." Giles nodded his understanding.

" Powerful humans and demons manipulating - world wide - everything from crime to politics. Well, actually that's sometimes the same thing. Angel decided to pursue infiltrating the Brotherhood without telling any of us...which led to a great deal of distrust and confusion...regardless, infiltrate them he did, and while doing so, in order to demonstrate his commitment to evil, was asked to sign away the Shanshu."

"But, you can't really do that, can you? Elect not to be the subject of a prophesy...good lord, I would have written Buffy out of several."

"Exactly, but, in the stress of the moment, Angel believed it, and did it."

"Oh dear."

"Well, I've explained it to him, and we discussed possibly why he nor Spike Shanshu'd. We think it has something to do with the visions the Slayers and I had. Pointing to one conclusion."
"Angel's destiny is not over. And that he's part of the next battle."

"If the next battle is the one with the capital letters."

"And Spike....though the dreams are not about him, has a soul, too."

"I know, and you woudn't believe how they squabble about it."

"It does not surprise me, knowing Spike. Well, my story is not as - colorful - as your. Based on the visions, it's quite clear that Angel is important. And I'm wondering, since you were brought back, whether you are mixed in with it as well."

"Perhaps I was just the vehicle for curing Angel."

"Somehow I doubt that."

Wesley shrugged. "I'm wondering myself why I'm still here."

"That's understandable, though I must say I'm rather glad."

"I am, too."

Giles smiled at Wesley until an enormous yawn took him.


13 years ago


13 years ago

A dim light outlined two figures, one sitting, one standing, in the genteel lounge of the Council guest quarters. The current guests, in leather and attitude, clashed horribly with the decor.

"You are disturbed by this information."

"Well, yeah, Blue, it's a bit...much to take in, even if I already did overhear half of it." Spike leaned forward and put his head in his hands. "It's like a bloody soap opera. Fact, I think it might outstrip Passions.

"I do not know this passion. I have no reference."

"Too bloody right, 'llyrie."

"You mock me."

"Um, no." Spike looked up, still a little dazed. "Uh, not really - sort of a bunch of mixed up puns playing on the word passions and know....wait a mo', what do you care?"

Illyria stared him down. "These memories I received when Wesley broke the spell...seemed to tip a balance within me. Or perhaps this shell's residue became stronger as I grew weaker - I do not know. I experience more emotion now."

"How long's this been goin' on? Why didn't you say anything?"

"You were not privy to the information that brought me these memories. I am saying it now."

"Wanna talk about it?"

"Not at the moment. I am satisfied you do not mock me."

"Well, I was, maybe a little. Uh, sorta implying you do not know passion.."

"That would not be true."


"You would not understand."

"Try me."

"I have the passion of a ruler - ruthless, determined, willing to sacrifice my own comfort for my ambition. This is what Angel did."

Spike scratched his neck, thinking that one through. "You mean offering up everyone's memories so the kid could have a good life."

"And again, sacrificing the trust of the group to thwart the Black Thorn." Softly she added, "Drogyn told me that he chose to allow Winnifred Burkle to die so many would live."

"Yeah, he did. Nearly killed him to do it. Me, too. And you saw what it did to Wes...and Gunn."

"My boys," she said softly, so like Fred's voice that his head snapped up, not sure if he'd imagined it. She was looking at him, impassive. If she said it, she wasn't going to admit it.

"This conversation disturbs me. Another topic."

"What's your ambition, 'llyrie? Gonna go for the world domination kick again?"

"I must rule this shell. Much of my power is gone. The world is not what I once knew. I will not get it back - and if I did - this shell could not contain it. I have become ...attached to it. I must rule it before I conquer anything else. It is shameful, but true."

"No harm in it. Know what you mean, sorta went through something similar when I got my soul back."

"Angel goes through this."


"Angel is a ruler without a kingdom. He sacrificed comfort of friends and power and family to serve his ambition. He did not lose the gamble, but his kingdom is no more."

"I suppose you could look at it that, way, but never tell him I said i thought he was king or anything."

"He must rise from the wreckage of his loss or perish."

"We all do, I guess. Didn't expect you'd care so much, 'llyrie."

"It was unexpected. Pain was a flash of heat across the skin when I first walked this earth. Insignificant as the slime beneath our feet and as transient. The pain I see now can gut and conquer."

"That might be guilt, Blue. And compassion. You'll make a real girl yet."

"Insolent! Take that back."


Angel sat in his room, his body keeping dusk to dawn hours. He sat, looking blankly at the sketch pad Spike had bought him, but no pictures would come easily. Closing his eyes,he forced himself to remember.

Combing through the familiar faces, he picked one, set his jaw in determination, and began to draw. If a tear fell, he dipped his finger in it and used it to soften the lines of his pencil.

He couldn't soften the feeling that these people, once his friends, were now just more of his victims.
Angel didn't want to leave his room. It was nice, quiet, plenty of time to himself, to think. The nurses didn't bother him except to change his IV. Of course, once he'd begun to be able to move around more and had requested to be able to eat as he normally did, they'd simply brought a mini-fridge and a microwave into his room.

Sometimes they came to take blood samples, skin samples. Whatever Wesley's blood had done to get rid of the toxin, they were very interested in it. He wondered if they were poking Wesley as much as him, but never asked. When Wes would come to visit there were always other things to talk about.

So very many other things to talk about and Angel didn't even know how to start most of the conversations between them. Some got started regardless, some waited. Mostly they talked about the past, about the memories Wes recovered. They stayed away from the more explosive topics, maybe both just needing some time there.

They talked a lot about not knowing what they hell they were doing. Angel envied that it seems easier for Wesley, but he certainly didn't wish it any differently. Wesley deserved some easiness in his life. The ex-Watcher or well Watcher again, now, kept him informed about the Slayers, tried to tell him not to feel guilty that two dozen or so Slayers had been struck down by visions about him.

They discussed that as well. Cordy's visions and where they'd gone. Wes hadn't shown any further symptoms. No dreams, no visions, no headaches. The Slayers all reported normal dreams.

He healed quickly, was back to himself, physically at least, after just a few days. Still, he didn't want to leave and no one seemed intent on making him. He had so much to do, but didn't feel ready to get it all sorted. He needed to find a place, but thought that he'd better find a place for himself in the world before he did anything.

Spike, who spent most days with him, seemed to think he was brooding and wouldn't be told otherwise. Angel just shrugged and didn't try to explain. How the hell could he when he could barely remember what he was allowed to say and wasn't anymore? The other vampire seemed quiet himself.

Well, not actually quiet, because Angel was pretty sure Spike would hurt himself if he tried to stay still and not talk so much. Still, the topics, the things he chose to prattle on about and the things he didn't say.

Angel knew him more than well enough to know that there was something Spike was hiding.


Spike kept his mouth shut, for the first time he could remember. He wasn't sure what to say, but every time he was around Angel, he felt as if these secrets, things he'd never had memories of one way or the other, were burning inside him, ready to explode off his tongue.

Angel had a son. Angel and Darla had had a son, together. Angel had signed away, or thought he'd signed away, the Shanshu and said not one word to any of them. Spike didn't know how to feel about that.

Besides, he had other things to think about. Angel was isolating himself and Spike had made it his personal mission to get the man out of that damn room. Once Angel was out of bed, he'd suggested going out, doing something, celebrating the fact that weren't dead and drinking to those who weren't so lucky.

Angel had not liked that idea at all, especially the 'drinking to fallen comrades' bit. Still, Spike kept trying. He sat through Angel's nightly Tai Chi sessions, suggested the man do it out in the garden, and got a glare. He brought drawing materials, poetry books, anything he could think of to try and get his Sire to become interested in more than just these walls.

It was beginning to frustrate him.


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago

"Is that the problem? Tired of being on the bloody leash? That why you hidin' in the dog house? Or is it that you're scared to come out to play?"

"Shut up, Spike, you don't know a thing about it." Angel stopped, retrieved his shoes and headed for the door. Spike intercepted him on the other side of the fountain, getting right in Angel's face.

"That's the real problem, idn't it? Afraid to come out to play. You made your choice and played your hand, and a lot of good people - people you cared about - were lost. We're fighting a war against evil, mate. It's bound to happen. Don't make it hurt any less. But we all knew what we signed up for."

Angel scoffed and started to go around Spike, only to find himself shoved back.

"So you're gonna give up, that it? Lose your friends so you take your fangs and go home? Well guess what? While you're sulking in here, a whole building full of people - hell, a bunch of blokes all over the world - are trying to suss out the next big thing, which you my foreheaded friend, are destined to fight."

Spike couldn't take it any longer and started to pace, the gravel on the path harsh against the soles of his feet.

"But no! You sit here on your arse pissing and moaning about the the last fight because you got a few boo-boos, and your mates got dusted, died or filled with a fancy new, blue filling. Ya try to sign over the Shansu like it's some bauble you don't want anymore, 'Property of the Powers That Be, Please Return To Sender. Recipient Unreachable Due to Having His Head Up His Flabby Arse."

"My ass isn't flabby - is it?" Angel got up and actually tried to check.

"OH MY GOD!" Spike implored the heavens. "Are you so self-involved that you haven't twigged to the notion that even if you try to sit this one out, it's going to happen anyway? Either you get up and fight, or it's going to grind you to bits."

Angel just looked at Spike, hands limp at his sides, a heavy sadness etched across his features.

"Or is that what you want?" Spike said softly, "just to let is grind you down? Just melt away into dust."

"No." The word seemed drug out of him.

"Then snap out of it!" Spike yelled again, then visibly schooled his features to something calmer. "Wake up and smell the bloody roses, mate. Wake up and see that you didn't lose everything. Wake up and see that's there's stuff still left worth fightin' for."

Angel stood in the moonlight a long moment, eyes cast on the ground. Spike waited, relieving his stress by doing a little unnecessary deep breathing. Come on, come on, you great git.

"It-it's just that I don't have that much left," Angel finally whispered, his voice just on the edge of Spike's hearing. He glanced up, and Spike was shocked to see tears in his sire's eyes. He hadn't seen him quite this broken since Fred. "I lost so much."

"You got more than you think, mate," Spike said as lightly as he could.

"Like what?" Angel scoffed, a bitter laugh huffing through his lips.

"Like, you could be a real boy again, Peaches, And like this," Unable to hold back a moment longer, Spike took a step forward, cupped Angel's face in his hands, and captured his mouth in a kiss. He could feel Angel's confusion as his body tensed, so he licked delicately across his sire's lower lip, broke the kiss, and backed slowly away. Yeah, Peaches, one hundred years later, I finally realize what all the fightin' was really about.

Angel stood there with a look of astonishment, lifting a hand to touch his lips. Smiling gently, Spike gave him one last look, turned, grabbed his things, sauntered into the house and out the front door, into the thick of the sleeping city.
Wes was in the lab when Spike walked in. He hated seen the man in a few days, though he knew Spike had come to visit Sarah once or twice. Angel wouldn't talk about why Spike was no longer hanging around and Wesley had assumed they'd fought.

He had to admit, he was glad to see the man back. Angel's brooding had seemed deeper lately and Wes, of course, guessed it had something to do with whatever argument he'd had with Spike. It had to be something significant. The two of them argued as a matter of course and for Spike to stay away like that . . .

Still, the vampire seemed perfectly fine as he sauntered in.

"Hello, Spike. It's been a few days," Wes said, looking up from the microscope with a small smile. He really couldn't help it. He'd been in a wonderful mood all day.

"Yeah, well. Thought I should give the Big Brood some time." Spike snorted, poking at some of the chemicals Wes had laying out. Taking the most dangerous of the man's reached and receiving a snort and a raised eyebrow for the action, Wesley shrugged, gesturing to a stool.

"Yes, well. Angel has been . . . quiet, lately. I assumed you two had had an argument? Really, Spike, I understand your desire to get him back into things, but . . . I don't know. Perhaps time is what he needs?"

"You think that's . . . well, okay, that's kinda what it was about, but . . ." Spike shrugged, and enigmatic smile on his face. "Hey, isn't tonight your date with Rupes?"

"Uh, well, I . . . don't know that I'd call it a date." Wesley hid his grin by returning to the microscope. That wasn't exactly true. He did call it a date. In his head. Where it sounded just as wistful and faintly silly, but no one else could hear it. "But, yes. He and I are going to a pub he knows of. To play darts. And don't think you're going to change the subject so easily as that, Spike. What happened?"

Looking back to the vampire, Wesley replaced his glasses, giving Spike a look that said he wouldn't be put off. There was silence between them for long moments, Spike's face set in an amused smirk. Wesley merely stared back at the man, waiting.

"Oh, all right, for the love of Pete. I kissed him."

"What? I'm sorry, did you . . . you kissed Angel?" Wesley let the surprise wash through him and it was gone more quickly than he'd have thought. His mind skimmed over Spike's behavior as of late and it all seemed to click inside his brain. So much so that he wondered how he'd not seen in before. "I see. And Angel's brooding over it?"

"Git can't see what's right in front of his face." Spike looked down then, but flicked his eyes back up to Wesley after a moment. "Was hopin' you might talk to him. He listens to you and . . . well, at least snap him out of the broodin' part."


13 years ago

"Hi! You must be Angel. I'm Sarah." She giggled a little. "The Slayer. Geez, that always sounds so silly. Sarah the Slayer. Good thing I don't have a lisp! I'm only a slayer now, but you know what I mean. And I'm babbling, which I do when I barge into strange vampire's rooms. Not that you're strange."

"Um, hi?" Angel tried to put on a welcoming expression. Not being able to see in the mirror, he wasn't sure if it was anywhere near welcoming, but, she wasn't running away in terror. So, probably okay, then.

Sarah was making her first few forays out of her room on her own two feet. Curiosity and Spike's encouragement brought her to Angel's door.

When Angel didn't shoo her away, she eased through the door and into the room, babble still flowing freely.

Angel watched and listened in sort of a haze of shock. She wandered from object to object - sometimes holding on for balance, gleefully proclaiming her part in Angel's cure - prouder of her screaming diversion than her Slayer dreams - and modeling dangling earrings Spike had brought her, which swung, incongrously above the collar of her terry-cloth robe.

She made a halting patrol around the perimeter of his room, noting his charcoals, neatly kept in their box, and his collection of drawing pencils and gum erasers. She picked up on of the many sketchbooks he'd filled and flipped it open.

Angel was out of his chair and a few steps toward her before he even realized what he was doing. "Um, ah...that's private."

"Oh," Sarah said brightly, "I'm not prying. I just have heard so much about your work...um, even the stalking-by-drawing portions of the program." She giggled a little nervously and he realized that she was nervous. It couldn't be because of him? Could it - she'd been hanging out with Spike....maybe it was the "Scourge of Europe" thing.

Sarah, evidently, was still talking, " I've always had a little trouble with portraiture, and thought that maybe you could help me out. Giles says he thinks that I should go to art school."

"Aren't you...didn't you just say you were a Slayer?' He decided that talking about the "stalking" portions of the program was somewhere he didn't want to go.

"Yeah, it's a new thing Mr. Giles wants to do - having the Slayers pursue their other gifts - he says there are all sorts of areas, not just fighting, and languages and research, that could be helpful to us in fighting evil. Not that I think I'm going to be coming up against evil art teachers. Gallery owners, maybe."

Angel made a sound that Sarah took as amusement. He did have kind of a little smile curling over the left corner of his mouth. She grinned at him and flipped through the pages of sketches. "Wes, that's a good one. Captures his sense of humor and the sadness. You have to be quick to see that, sometimes. Though the happy outweighs he sad these days. And I love his beard."

"Um, thanks." Angel inched forward, itching to snatch the book out of her hands. He knew this girl was a friend of Wes and Spike. She was the force of nature that was part of every Slayer he'd ever met, and it made him tired.

"Oh," she said, her voice laced with sympathy, "this must be Gunn. Cool axe. Wes gets the saddest look on his face....see," she said, turning to him in excitement, "How in the heck did you make his head look not just shiny, but softly shiny like real skin does..and with dark skin....god, I'm SO much better at abstracts and landscapes."

"Well, you have to decide where the light source is soming from, in a drawing like this,,,,"

She smiled up at him as he shyly explained his technique. When he couldn't think of the right words, he took the pad from her hand and started drawing, and she peered over his forearm as his hand flew over the page. "See...the thing is to keep a light touch - especially when you're working with light bouncing off a dark surface, like this.....

"Yeah, my attempts like this on my own - look like bowling balls with faces."

"Hey, you're tired," he said abruptly, sounding terribly guilty. He'd finally noticed that she was shaking slightly, and her breath was coming in short, painful gasps. "I'm sorry, please have a seat. Or do you want me to walk you to your room?"

"My room, I think, but only if you keep talking to me about art."

Looking down into her hopeful face, Angel smiled. He'd never had someone to talk to about this stuff. "Sure," he said softly. He offered her his arm.

Listening to her talk as they slowly made their way down the hall, he thought of the last happy, bubbly teen he'd talked to. He shoved the thought from his mind.

"Hey, I do calligraphy, too, kinda, if you're interested. I have really good penmanship."

"Cool. Like illuminations? I love that. 'Heere Bee Dragons.'" She gasped, "Oh, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to remind you of -"

He covered her hand on his arm with his. "Hey, don't worry about it. I beat it, didn't I? With a little help from Wes? And you?"

Her smile was brilliant, and her face - her face was like she'd just finally figured something out. "Yeah. It got you, but you beat it."

"Yup," Angel knew he'd unwittingly hit on Sarah's feelings about whatever had attacked her. "Everyday I get stronger, I beat it a little more."

"Cool," Sarah whispered, ducking her head, but not before he saw her eyes shining. "Thanks."

Yes, the schoolbody idiocy is in full effect. Giles had raced home from the office, showered, shaved and stood in front of the closet fretting over what to wear. It wasn't as if Wes hadn't seen him nearly every day, and never really commented on his appearence - except for that one time when he told Giles he was handsome.

He was definately hoping for another kiss like they shared a few weeks ago, and with Wes's sensitive fingers, that meant wearing something pleasant to the touch. Giles flushed a little in anticipation, remembering that marvellous kiss.

Even a light wool sweater might be too scratchy against Wes' skin, and he wanted it to be perfect in every way. Cotton? Too mundane. Suede? Too hot, really, nearly summer. Silk? Too formal, and too Angel. He shuddered delicately.

He finally remembered a sweater Willow had given him for his birthday. He'd had so little opportunity to wear casual clothes since he began working with the Council again, and it was too lightweight really, for the colder months. There it is. Perfect.

Giles slipped the dark green cashmere sweater over his head, and tucked it into the waistband of his trousers. He took a moment to add his favorite silver earring, let out a yelp when he realized how late he was, and hurried out of his flat, giving it one, last panicked glance as he shut the door. Hopefully it was in a fit state for company if Wesley wanted to stop by, after.

Once inside the safehouse, he stopped to catch is breath and let his racing heart calm down. Smiling at himself, he shook his head at his own, utterly smitten behavior.

"Don't think you should be playin darts with hands that shake, Rupes." Spike strolled out from the shadows near the stairs.

"Spike, where did you come from?"

'Just lookin' out at the garden at bit. It's nice out there."

"Did you talk to Angel today? Actually I can tell from the cloud of doom over your head that you didn't."

Spike rolled his eyes. "No" He held up a hand, "And don't tell me I'm bein' a stupid git again, and takin' a page from your old book and running off. This is different."

"Oh, yes, I see how it is entirely, utterly different than me hiding myself and my feelings from the object of my affection. Though if it's this difficult for you to face Angel, maybe - "

"Didn't hide them, weren't you listening? My feelings popped out and landed squarely on Angel's mouth. And shut up about the 'stay away from Angel, he's bad news' crap. Know you're not bosom friends, but he's our bloody champion and my Sire."

Giles sighed explosively. "As you are fond telling me at every opportunity. So, if he's so wonderful and easy to get along with, you're skulking about the garden, why?"

"Besides, he's spendin' some time with Sarah. Saw him walkin' her to her room. Sarah chattering away about drawing and art."

"Oh, so you did see him?"

"Not exactly. Standing a bit down the hall."

Giles just stared at him steadily, part of him worried about Sarah spending time with Angel, and the other part reluctantly admitting that it would give both patients a creative, healing outlet.

"Okay, then, maybe a little skulking." Spike admitted ruefully, then sniffing and taking on a magesterial air, he clapped Giles on the back, "Well, your hands 'ave stopped shaking, so off you go, you're no longer a danger to the pub goers of the city. No need to thank me."

Giles smiled. "You really are an insufferable git, you know that, right?"

"The once and future thorn in your side, and don't you ever forget it."

"With your daily reminders? Hardly."

"Off you go then, collect your Wesley."

"Goodnight, Spike."

"'Night, Rupes."

Wesley's smile was shy, but pleased when Rupert walked through the door of his room. He was sitting, his legs stretched in front of him, on the edge of his bed. He'd shaved and was wearing a deep blue shirt. Giles felt his own smile broadening as he crossed the room, and Wes stood, meeting him halfway.

"You look wonderful," Giles said awkardly, suddenly unsure of where to put his hands.

"As do you." There was a long pause as they stared into one another's eyes.

"Are you as nervous as I am?" Giles asked with a tiny chuckle.

"Absolutely. I don't know why, really." His eyes wandered to Gile's lips.

"Then let's get one thing out of the way," Giles murmured and cupping the back of Wes' head, pulled his mouth firmly to his.

Wesley gasped into the kiss, reveling in the taste of Rupert's mouth. This was different than their morning and evening kisses - this was challenge and want and need. He could smell Giles' arousal calling his own, and felt his senses reeling. He clutched at Giles' waist for balance, and discovered the joys of Giles' sweater, and a lovely plan formed in his head.

Giles felt Wesley smile against his mouth briefly, then dive back into the kiss, redoubling his efforts. The tables were very quickly turned, and Giles was the one gasping as Wes swept his tounge through Giles' mouth, soft but with an underlying wildness that pulled a moan from deep within Giles' chest.

Wesley broke this kiss, his eyes snapping with mischief, "You wouldn't be trying to gain a tactical advantage by distracting me, would you? His hands roamed over Giles' torso, savoring the feel of the sweater. Giles made a little strangled sound, trying to force his brain back into speech.

Wes' smile deepened and looking directly in Giles' eyes, moved his hands down to cup Giles' arse, pulling him slightly forward, pressing their trouser-clad erections together. He was rewarded with Giles' sharp intake of breath.

"Are you?" Wes asked again softly. "Because it's not going to work."

The challenge was enough to part some of the haze in Giles brain. "Are you sure?" he asked innocently, undulating subtly against his lover. He loved this new, surprising, side of Wes.

Wes' hands pressed him closer, and his eyes flickered back down to Giles' lips. He hovered there, millimeters away from another kiss and whispered. "You'll find it quite difficult to distract me, when I'm intent on what I want."

"Oh, really?" Giles didn't bother to keep the lust out of his voice.

"Yes," Wes drawled, and releasing Giles, stepped around him to the door. "Especially if there's baked goods involved," he said cheerfully. "The only remaining feature of the lover of seconds ago was the smoldering mischief in his eyes. "Shall we go?"

"Certainly," Giles said, adopting the same breezy manner. "Oh, and Wes?" He said lightly, stopping just in front of the man, "I can be quite singleminded myself." He reached up and ran a casual thumb over Wes' lower lip. "Just so we're clear."

Wesley was fighting not to grin. "Absolutely."

The walk to the pub was nice. Wesley and he both kept the conversation from work related topics, well in as much as it was possible, discussing, instead, the resurgence of the Nialthian cult and the practical jokes that resulted when one gathered so many Slayers into one place.

The pub was small, never much of a crowd. That was part of the reason Giles had chosen it, beyond the cozy atmosphere. He wanted if Wesley would notice that. Since they'd made the...date before things had become more set between them. Of course, he knew as soon as he saw Wesley's expression that the man had indeed put two and two together.

Wesley chuckled, giving Giles a sidelong glance. The place was small, with a comfortable feel. Rather the place one might take a date. Following the other man to a booth near the dartboards, Wesley slid onto the seat and glanced around.

"I like your taste in pubs," he said with a nod, surprised to see Giles duck his head a bit shyly.

"Uh, I suppose its-its, er fairly obvious that--"

"Oh, yes," Wesley cut the man off, laying his hand over Giles'. "It's obvious and, uh, rather flattering actually. How...may I ask for how long you were, uh, th-thinking about this?" Wesley shook his head at himself. Even after that kiss and the ease between them on they way, he felt a bit nervous.

"Uh, about since just before I challenged you to darts," Giles chuckled, shaking his head at himself. He thought he might look a bit foolish for that, but when he met Wesley gaze he found the other man smiling.

"No, Rupert, I challenged you to darts."

"No. I distinctly remember you saying that you were good at darts, and myself suggesting we could come here to play."

"Hmmm, you may be right there, I think my memory is a bit hazy. I was too busy imagining the taste of your . . ." Wes suddenly remembered what he had been thinking of at the time. "chocolate cake." Wesley looked away at the slight pause in his own words, hoping it hadn't been obvious.

"Uh, but that assumes you're going to win and you haven't beaten me yet." Giles snorted, looking up as the waitress came to take their orders. After she'd gone, Giles turned back to Wesley. "As I was saying. You've not beaten me yet, and I wouldn't go putting the cart before the horse."

"You've practiced!" Wesley laughed, pointing an accusing finger at Giles, who only grinned.

"It's hardly my fault if you didn't think to ask someone to get you a dartboard to while away those hours in bed."

"Hmmm. I see," Wes studied the other man's smirk as the waitress brought them their drinks. "You wouldn't be so smug if you hadn't done fairly well. Still, I shall have that cake," he said seriously, the thought of it making his mouth water.

"Been dreaming of it, have you? Are you sure it's safe to eat it? I warn you, it's rich and if your reaction to our breakfasts is any indication, it might well knock you on your arse." Snorting, Giles took a pull of his pint, watching Wesley over the rim. He was thrilled to see the man looking so healthy and vital. After all they'd gone through to get him that way, he felt oddly proud that Wesley was up and out of the safe house.

"Well, uh, I think I maybe getting used to it, actually," Wes said with a shrug. "Or, uh, perhaps it's wearing off? I can't actually tell. Certain things," your taste and smell "still seem to smack me upside the head, but...some things no longer do. Coffee, for instance. It's still more...intense than it was...before, but not so much so as it was."

"Hmm, could it be conditioning? I know you've been drinking that lighter fluid they call coffee at the safe house."

"Well, it might be. I'm working with the physical therapist on my sense of touch. You know the trouble I had with denim," Wesley said with a snort, still rather embarrassed about the first time he'd tried to wear jeans. He'd barely been able to move for fear of the material rubbing him the wrong way, or, perhaps, the right way.

Giles, on the other hand, was struggling on to smile at the memory. Clearing his throat, he motioned for Wes to continue.

"Yes, well...I think it's more a matter of getting used to certain stimuli. Uh, after all, how often do you think about how your socks feel against your toes?"


13 years ago


13 years ago

A comfortable silence fell as both men sipped their drinks, Giles continuing to trail his fingers, lightly, over Wesley's palm.

Wes curled his fingers, mirroring Giles' motions, and was pleased to see the man inhale slightly, and try to surpress a shiver. "It seems to cut both ways," he murmured.

Green eyes locked on his and a smile, very slowly, spread over Giles' face as he increased his pressure of his fingers, sweeping them up under the cuff of Wesley's shirt and scratching the soft skin of his inner wrist. He tensed, then relaxed into the caress and discovered that trying not to tremble was harder than he thought. As were other things.

"Though delightful," Giles said in a low voice, his fingers never ceasing their explorations, "perhaps I have you at a bit of a disadvantage...knowing that just a small touch can have such an effect on you. If I were a different sort of man, I could use to my advantage.

"Not at all," he drawled. "I do admit that I am more sensitive, but, it is I who have the advantage." Wesley tightened his hand over Rupert's and leaned over the table with a confiding air.

"You see," he said, circling his index finger over Giles' pulse. "I don't need to do this to know how I affect you. I don't need to hear your voice, which I quite like, or see your face, which has, I must admit, become one of my favorite sights.

"You see, my dear Rupert," Wesley raised his eyes from their joined hands to look deeply into the other man's eyes.

He lowered his voice to a near whisper, "I don't need those things at all, because my nose tells me quite lovely things about you. It told me, before I could understand its message, that you wanted me. It told me before we'd even kissed, just how marvelous you'd taste. And do you know what it's telling me now, Rupert? Over the sharpness of the beer and fried chips? Do you know what my nose is telling me right now?"

Giles didn't trust himself to answer or move or even blink for a moment. When he did speak, his voice came out in a husky rumble, "Probably something like I want to drag you across this table and..."

Wes released Rupert's hand, causing Giles to stutter to a halt as he watched the younger man reach for his beer. Wesley smiled wickedly, "Not exactly, though that is an idea with possibilties. What it's telling me," he said, inhaling deeply and tilting his head, considering, "is that I have the tactical advantage." He toasted Giles, and took a sip of Guiness as Giles gaped. "Shall we play?"

Giles recovered his dignity and lifted his glass in reply, raising an eyebrow. "Hadn't you noticed, Wes? We already are." He looks entirely too smug, Rupert decided.

"I should like to point out," he said, after he swallowed his beer, "that should you use your tactical advantage against me, I shall be forced to retaliate. And, either way, I think I shall have a very lovely evening."

"As will I, but for one exception."

"Oh, and that is?"

"I shall be having chocolate cake, very soon."
It was, perhaps, one of the wilder dart games on record.

To judge by Rupert's actions, Wesley had sprouted pounds of lint, which needed to be plucked, brushed or swept off his arms, back and chest right before - or perhaps while - he was taking aim. Giles apologized politely if he broke Wesley's concentration, using their shared preference for neatness as an excuse.

Much to his chagrin, if it affected Wesley's game, it was not by much. Whereas Wesley's tactics were proving quite effective – simply murmuring small revelations about how delicious Giles' mouth was, and the way he had secretly enjoyed Giles' gentle touch on his forehead while he was ill. Giles was both aroused and touched, and frankly, wasn't thinking very straight.

He decided to focus his efforts on the end of the game, when Wes would have to go out on a zero by hitting a double. Giles stood well away from his opponent, and tried a new tack – giving Wesley a bit of his own, back.

"Wesley," he murmured, nearly whispering. Wesley was selecting his dart, but Giles saw the tiny shift of the man's head. He could hear him fine over the pub patrons. "Can you tell how much I'm enjoying my evening? Do you know how much I enjoy touching you, even simply feeling the warmth of your skin beneath your shirt. I really do hope you know - ." Wesley gritted his teeth, took aim, and threw the first two darts in quick succession.

"How very much I want you," Giles continued as Wes drew back his hand to toss the dart. It landed just outside twenty he was shooting for, meaning he'd have to throw one last turn. Giles grinned into his lager, and looked up to find Wesley glaring at him.

"You, sir, are a dirty dog."

"Ah yes, but I shall have a lovely garden to lie in," Giles chuckled.

Wesley silently handed Giles the darts, and stood back, a little smile playing over his lips.

Giles was fully expecting retaliation, but not quite in the form that it took.

"Oh, good lord, no, Giles, you'll never get the shot that way," Wesley scoffed, striding over to stand just behind him. "Here," he said, placing one hand on his shoulder and as the other brushed down his arm to grasp his forearm. "Your grip is far too tight, and your arm too tense." Wes moved Giles' arm back and forth. You see? Now your stance is a little off...shift your weight to the other leg, yes..that's it..."

Giles' mind was beginning to fog again, for as Wes made minute adjustments and chattered away, he could occasionally feel Wes' cock, half-hard, brushing against him.

"There," Wes said cheerfully, "Now, remember this," his voice dropped low and for Giles' alone to hear. "I do know, Rupert, and at this moment, I'm so happy I'm nearly afraid to say it aloud. But, it's true. That's how I feel around you." And with that, he strolled away.

Giles waited until Wes turned around and so that he could smile at him, trying to put all he felt into his eyes. The dawn of joy and understanding on Wes' face in return was worth what he was about to do.

Turning quickly, he aimed and sent his darts flying, one after another, into the wall, in a row, six inches from the edge of the dartboard.


"You did that on purpose," Wesley said, his eyes crinkling with laughter and disbelief.

"I really, really did. I want to go home." He went to collect the darts.

Wesley folded his arms and leaned against the edge of a table. "So soon?"

"Yes. I'd like to show you where you're to stay, if you like."

"You're conceding?"


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago


13 years ago

Angel sat in the near darkness, watching a young Slayer sleep. Not the first time he'd done this, and the thought tugged at him.

He didn't want to get tangled up with another Slayer. Not now. Not again.

Not that he was attracted to Sarah...not the instant flare of heat and light that was Buffy. Not the recognition of kindred darkness that was Faith. This was...different. He hadn't quite put his finger on it yet. If it was going to be like this - this pull - with every Slayer - he didn't want to meet the rest. One at a time was more than enough.

She'd swept into his room, chattering constantly, barely well enough to venture out of her bed. What was it that hit her so hard that she'd still be so weak? She poked at the one thing that he'd been interested in lately, besides being alone and quiet. His art. She'd swept him up with the constant barrage of words - kinda like Cordy actually.

He found himself talking, teaching, responding and forgot, for a moment, to be tired. Though right now, the thought of being tangled up with another Slayer and by extension another fight nearly drove him out of his chair to his knees. Because with a Slayer, there'd always be a fight in there somewhere. Sooner or later. Usually sooner.

Not again. I don't want this.

As her breaths slowed into sleep, Angel had started to get out his chair, and the light caught her hair and the curve of her cheek just so. This, too, made him tired, as he drug out his pencil to set her face down, knowing he couldn't rest until he'd drawn her. Was Sarah going to be another victim? Would she become a friend he'd shelter up until the moment he led her to her doom?

Not if I can help it.

Trouble was, he was getting that funny little feeling that there wasn't going to be much he was going to be in control of, very soon.

Damn Whistler for pulling him out of the gutter and putting him on this path. Damn Doyle for leading him back into caring about humans. Damn the Powers for ever choosing him as a champion. Give it to somebody else. Spike was much better suited, he loved all things human - their speech, their food, their emotions, their passions.

And that was another thing. Spike.

There had been a night, a very long time ago, when two vampires, drunk with power and fun, abandoned for the night by their women folk, had come home flush from the kill. The laughter and playful cuffs had turned to something else and the next thing he knew he was drowning in a pair of astonished blue eyes, mapping naked white flesh with his hands, learning the landscape of William's sighs. Sooner than he'd planned, but still near perfect.

Angelus had known it was coming - had known it the moment he'd laid eyes on William, Drucilla's new childe. He had not been joking when he told the young vampire he wanted to share the hunt with another man. Also other, more curious things - reactions he'd had to draining young men...he'd used a few before killing them, but watching young William on the hunt made him think there might be more to it than the erotic thrill of taking a life. The Liam left in Angelus had recoiled in purely prissy, lustful horror at the idea, and that was all his demon needed to make a project of seducing one Spike, formerly William the Bloody.

He'd deliberately kept Spike off balance - showing him that Dru wasn't his "destiny" (how that had made his blood boil) keeping him frustrated, teasing, taunting, alternately praising and treating, then cuffing and torturing the young vampire. Half the time it was to curb him, mold him into something that wanted Angelus' approval above all, and half because the trick was working, and he hated Spike for giving in.

Darla had succumbed to a most unusual operatic jealousy the moment she found them entwined the next morning – evidently Darla could sleep around all she liked, but she couldn't bear to share her boy. She separated the family and drug Angelus off to Romania for a "special treat," and Angelus had only just saved Spike from dusting. He'd been able to quench Darla's wrath the only way available to him – turning the whole night – the whole previous six months of planning and preparation – into a joke.

The reproach and hurt on Spike's face as he blustered, insulted and left the lad was one of the first things he saw when the soul struck the following week. He'd given joy and taken it away in one night. Spike would hate him for it - another masterpiece of pain.

Funny how that turned out.

Over one hundred years later, Spike had made if very clear, from his wheelchair, that he was absolutely not interested in anything Angelus had to offer. So Angelus had tortured him with whatever lay to hand, namely Dru, and once again missed the danger and intelligence coiled in the younger vampire. When he'd had the time to think of it, he was a little bit proud of the betrayal. No lap dog, Spike. That had been much later, after Hell.

Spike was right when he said Angel couldn't stand to look at what he'd done. It was too hard to remember. One of his masterpieces up and walking about, making the same mistakes he'd made – or making worse ones. Spike was always fighting him with one hand, while the other was held out to clasp. In what? Friendship? Final combat? He couldn't tell and never especially wanted to find out.

And now Spike wanted to bring it all up again. This time there was no woman between them – not Darla or Dru or Buffy – this time it was just the two of them. Mentor and student. Brothers. Lovers. Betrayers. Champions. Was it Spike's turn at torture? Was that what this was? Spike's revenge at last to kill him with kindness? The one torture Angel might break under.

Maybe if he just ignored that kiss.


"Hey." Sarah's voice was sleepy and calm.

"Um, I'm sorry. I was, ah, thinking. I should go."

"No, stay." she stirred and hugged her teddy bear, and Angel remembered again, with a pang that she was just a kid - younger that any of his other Slayers. He cringed internally when he caught the possessive word. "Keeps the spooks away."

"'Cause I'm a spook?"

"Naw, silly." Her eyes were drifting closed. "You're...anti-spook...good guy. Stay a min, will ya. 'Til I'm out?"

Angel sighed and sank back into his chair. "Go to sleep, Sarah." He fought to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Not so good, didn't you know, kid?

Her heavy lids opened again, and he could see a shrewd mind peeking from underneath sleep-puffed eyelids. "Brooding."

Angel gave his best approximation of an amused snort. "It's what I do."

"Mm, books said."

"There are books about me brooding?"

Sarah's eyebrows raised comically, though her eyes remained shut. "Yours. Pictures said."


" N' Spike said."

Angel snorted, and Sarah smiled fondly, eyes still closed, "He talks about you all the time."

"Don't believe everything you hear. Spike hates me."

Sarah looked at him, and Angel felt a familiar warning clench in his gut. Slayer. Be Careful. Didn't matter if she was just a kid and sick – she was still a force.

"Oh my god," she said slowly, no longer sleepy at all. "You believe that. You have no idea, do you?"

"What?" Between a baby Slayer pinning him with her eyes and his weariness, Angel was starting to feel a little dizzy.

Sarah lay where she was, her voice weaving the story of the last few weeks around him – not sparing him any detail. Spike at Angel's side, day and night, the smell of poison making him sick - until the combined efforts of Illyria (of all people) and Giles forced him to get blood and rest. Spike pacing up and down the hall, trying very hard not to break furniture or people or buildings when the latest antidote didn't work. Spike panicking and vamping out with rage at a nurse who was late in changing Angel's tainted blood. Spike being patient and quiet, and never raising his voice again to a soul, so that he wouldn't be barred from the safe house.

Spike standing next to Buffy, smoothing over her blunt, tear-filled plea-that-sounded-like-an-order for donations of Slayer blood, and making it a point to learn every donor's name, so he could thank each Slayer properly. Spike holding Buffy as she cried, when she realized she wasn't strong enough to watch Angel die, and then picking a fight with her, letting her thrash him and hate him because Spike was strong enough to stay.

Spike never giving up. Spike, in the lonely, scared times, telling Sarah stories...full of a lot more fond, wholesome memories than Angel could imagine actually occuring. Spike confessing that he'd do just about anything to be able to annoy Angel just one more time, and the finer points of exactly how to go about that.

Spike screaming when he discovered Angel disintegrating before his eyes.

"If that's hate, I so have been given the wrong definition. He loves you, you big goof. When Tommy McKinney had a crush on me in third grade, he pulled my hair and told me I was stupid. Just 'cause he yells and talks trash doesn't mean he hates you. Jeez. You're how old?"

Sarah watched as her words hit home, stuck out her tongue affectionately, and snuggled back into sleep.

Angel watched her for a while, afraid to even consider what she said. A Slayer had hit him in his blind spot, once again, and by the end of the night, he found himself with more burdens he didn't want – a Slayer worming past his defenses and a potential lover he was sure to unintentionally destroy. Why should this time be any different? More victims.

He made his way to his room - no longer any sort of refuge - where he didn't sleep. Picking up a new pad, he began another sketch.


Several miles away, Spike was helping several Slayers clean out a nasty nest of vamps squatting in a painter's flat. The painter himself had disappeared for parts, well as parts not so much unknown as unidentifiable, and so, Spike helped himself to a few art supplies. Could be useful. To…someone.

Daybreak was coming soon, so he yelled for the girls to hurry up, and grinning like a loon, squirted his latest opponent with cadmium lake, blinding it long enough so that it crashed through the flat's long paint-covered window - having a bit of fun and ruining the flat for future squatters in one delicious move.

Spike dove after the vamp and after it was dusted, he cocked his head, listening to what could only be a full-on Slayer paint fight. He wisely decided it was time to shove off. Paint thinner up there. Volatile stuff. He could hear the strident voice of the Watcher that had come on patrol with them - one of the new blokes from the Academy - bleating at them to desist. Pollack him right up, ladies he grinned to himself. Bit o' fun never hurt anybody.
Giles was dozing himself when the phone rang. He woke immediately, seizing the receiver quickly to keep it from waking Wesley. The man was adorable when he slept, curled up against Giles' side, nose buried in the green cashmere sweater.

Pushing those thoughts from his mind, Giles answer softly.

"Hello? Rogers?" Giles tensed upon realizing it was a Watcher on the phone, albeit one fresh from the academy. The man sound quite upset and Giles' mind immediately jumped to the three girls in the man's care.

Then the man's word registered and Giles almost growled.

"You're calling me, at nearly one in the morning, to let me know that your Slayers--all of whom are teenagers--are 'disrespectful heathens'?" Sighing, Giles shook his head, slumping back onto the sofa. Absentmindedly, he rubbed his fingers through Wesley's hair, rolling his eyes and Rogers when into great detail about how the girls had, apparently, covered him in paint.

"Look, man. You're dealing with three teenaged girls and--I really can't talk about this now. Please, make an appointment with Andrew, bring the girls in and we'll discuss it tomorrow. No, I . . . look, my date is asleep on my lap and I don't want to wake him, so--right, goodnight."

Snickering at Roger's sputtered goodnight, Giles hung up and glanced down at Wesley, unsure what to do. He should probably wake him, send him back to the safe house, or at least to the guest room. Besides, Giles had no doubt that, were he to spend the night just like this--as he wanted to--he'd pay for it in the morning. Which meant he had to move.

Sighing, he leaned down, nudging Wesley's shoulder.

"Hmm?" The man mumbled, but didn't even move.

"I'm going to make up the bed in the gu--your room. You can spend the night here, if that's all right?"

"Mmmm-hmmm," Wesley shifted a bit, curling in on himself.

Deciding he'd wake Wesley once he'd made up the bed, Giles carefully extracted himself from the other man's grasp. For a moment, he thought he might have to leave his sweater behind. Snorting as he finally got Wes to let loose of it, Giles went to get linens and actually found himself humming as he went about his tasks.

With that done, he went back to the living room to find Wesley has spread himself out on the sofa, face pressed against the cushions.

"Wesley?" His only answer was a discontented snort. Laughing softly, Giles fetched a pillow and blanket. He got Wes to lift his head long enough to get the pillow under it and then spread the blanket out over the man.

"Goodnight, Wes," he said softly, going to his own bed with a smile.


Angel stared at what he'd drawn, blinking. His mind really hadn't been on it. It was just something to do while he thought. He should have known that wasn't a good idea. He'd drawn several faces, all of them well known, well loved.

And Spike, not William, but Spike was right there in the center, staring at him with expressive eyes and a half-shy, half-mocking smirk. His breath caught and he swallowed hard, closing the pad and tossing it onto the dresser with a sigh.

He couldn't do this. Couldn't let himself want this. At all. He wanted, needed, to be left alone . . . like he had been these last few weeks.

Only, he hadn't been alone, had he? Spike had been there, taking every opportunity to insert himself into Angel's life. Why? What did the man think he was doing? How could he . . . shaking his head, Angel tried to clear his mind, standing up and moving to the foot of the bed, taking deep, unneeded, breaths because it was what one did.

He closed his eyes and began to move, the forms coming easily after so long and yet not at all soothing. Growling his frustration, Angel stopped and slumped down onto the bed.

What the hell was he going to do?

--End Book One--


13 years ago