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Title: Change of Heart (Part 2)
Author: WesleysGirl
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Angel/Wesley
Summary: An AU version of the Wishverse, set primarily in London.
Written in hyppogryff-solidarity with The Brat Queen and Wolfling.

The first day and night Angel doesn't worry.


By midnight he figures Wesley probably isn't coming home that night, and he tries to sleep. Eventually he falls into a light doze that he hopes will be interrupted by the sound of a key in the lock, or at the very least the phone ringing. The next thing Angel knows he's waking up; it's late morning and the apartment is still empty.

He tells himself that Wesley is fine and reads all the newspapers he can find -- newspapers that make it clear to him, in a puzzling, twisted way, what the state of world actually is. It hurts his head to think about it. All the ads for protective equipment -- are people actually buying stuff to protect their throats? Shouldn't they get by now that vampires can feed from any part of you? -- and the articles about how to avoid vamp attacks. It's sure news to him that vampires are attracted to bright colors, and he spends a couple of long minutes trying to remember if that was something that had changed when he'd been cursed with the soul, but he eventually concludes that it's not.

In the middle of the afternoon, the phone rings, but no matter how much he curses himself, Angel can't pick it up. The answering machine does though, and after the mechanical message comes Wesley's voice, crackling with a bad connection.

"Angel, it's Wesley. There's been -- and I don't know if I'll -- again if I can." Despite the fact that half his sentences are being cut off, Wesley still manages to sound gentle and comforting. "...something happens, if you need to -- call this number. Tell him I told you -- " And then a phone number, which Angel repeats over and over in his head as he scans the room looking for a pen. More crackling noises over the line, followed by Wesley saying, "Take care," before the line goes dead.

He finds a pen, and opens the desk drawer, grabbing the first slip of paper his fingers close around and scribbling the number down on it.

When he turns it over, he sees that it's a strip of photographs in black and white. Wesley, looking younger and at the same time tougher, wearing a casual shirt instead of the button down ones Angel's used to seeing him in. A Wesley who isn't wearing glasses and who has a blonde girl with thick black makeup around her eyes sitting on his lap, both of them grinning.

She looks different from how he remembers, but Angel realizes right away that it's Buffy Summers.

In the first picture they're looking at the camera, but in the second they're looking at each other seriously, noses almost touching. There's no way for Angel to know for sure, but he imagines that's how they usually look -- serious. That this photo session is some kind of joke, maybe something to cheer them up, or pretend like things are normal.

The third picture on the strip shows Wesley and Buffy kissing, like they've forgotten that they're having their picture taken at all.

He sits there for a long time, looking at the photos. Wondering what happened between them -- if they were still a couple when Buffy died, if Wesley was there at the time. He wonders if Wesley ever talks about it, or if it's just Angel he didn't want to tell the story to.

He puts the pictures back where he found them, remembering where they are in case he needs the phone number on the back.

He goes methodically through the apartment, looking in every drawer, reading everything worth looking at, seeing what he can learn about Wesley. He feels like Wesley's curiosity, the part of Wesley that needs to know, to find out, is infecting him just by being in his space. Of course, as he searches he comes across all kinds of things at least part of him would have been happy to remain in ignorance of, like copies of Wesley's work reports detailing experiments on vampires.

Angel wouldn't have minded not reading the details of what happens when you lock two starving vampires into one cell together, even if he could have guessed it. And he'd rather not have seen photos of vampires who'd had their limbs deliberately cut off just to see how they'd heal afterwards. He goes through files that talk about injecting vampires with all kinds of chemicals, and others that document how many seconds it takes under direct sunlight for a vampire to burst into flames.

It's hard to reconcile the person who does these things with Wesley, who makes such an effort to be gentle with Angel.

That night, he spends three hours tossing and turning on the couch before he creeps up the stairs to Wesley's bedroom. It feels like something he shouldn't do, but he can't help himself. He doesn't actually get into the bed, but he curls up on top of it, letting Wesley's scent surround him.

He sleeps.

* * * * *

On the third morning, Angel has the last of the blood that Wesley left for him. He's still hungry when it's gone, and he starts to consider the fact that he's going to have to leave the apartment, with or without Wesley, pretty soon.

Deep down he's more worried about Wesley than he is about himself. He may not have known him for long, but he already knows Wesley well enough to know that he'd call if he could. Which means he can't. Which means something must be seriously wrong.

He spends the first half of that day trying to convince himself that Wesley will come back, that everything will be fine. It takes him five minutes looking at the answering machine to figure out which buttons do what, and then he wastes another ten listening to Wesley's message repeatedly, trying to see if he can identify any of the background noises (he can't) or understand any more of the words in between the clicks and hisses of the bad connection (maybe two, but not more than that.)

Angel spends the second half of the day trying to convince himself that once night falls he's going to have to go looking for Wesley. The thought scares the shit out of him -- makes his hands shake and the edges of the room go kind of fuzzy -- but it's not like he has any choice.

It's ironic, he thinks, that he's spent the last three years caged and now he's afraid to go out.

It takes Angel more than two hours after the sun sets to work up the courage to take one of the stakes he's found in a closet.

It takes another hour of standing in front of the door, shaking and hating himself, before he can reach his hand out to turn the handle.

But finally he does, and opens the door... to see Wesley standing there, looking... like hell, and holding the key in his hand.

"I was... um," Angel says. "I was just coming to look for you." As soon as he says it he hears how completely and utterly stupid it sounds.

Wesley comes toward him and Angel steps back out of the way to let him in. "I doubt you'd have found me," Wesley says, and his voice is hoarse. "I didn't get back in to London until about an hour ago."

Angel hesitates for only a second before reaching and taking the duffle bag from Wesley's hand. "You should... do you want to sit down? Or something?"

"There's blood in there," Wesley says, like he didn't hear Angel's question. He nods at the bag. "I would have been home sooner but I had to stop by the lab and pick it up."

He wants to ask what happened, where Wesley's been, but Wesley looks so exhausted that he hates to do it. "Maybe... I mean, you should get some rest. Go to bed?"

"I think I will," Wesley says, taking off his glasses and rubbing a hand over his face. Then, more quietly, "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry," Angel tells him, setting the bag down on the table and opening it up to find the blood, only realizing then that he's trembling again. Is it with relief? He's not sure.

"I should have thought more carefully about what I was doing, having you here," Wesley says, maybe regretfully, and that makes Angel shiver with what feels more like fear than anything else.

"I don't have to," he says. It's hard to force the words out. "Stay. If you don't-- "

But Wesley looks at him, put his glasses back on quickly and steps over closer to Angel slowly in a weird combination of opposite speeds that makes his head spin. "No," he says gently. "That's not what I meant."

Angel stands his ground, shaking.

"I meant that I should have made provisions, a plan for what to do if I had to go away suddenly." Wesley reaches out and touches Angel's upper arm, gives it a careful reassuring squeeze, and Angel almost -- almost -- is able to feel it as comfort. "I'm very sorry to have left like that."

Feeling bad for making Wesley feel bad when it's clear that the guy is just about dead on his feet, Angel makes himself nod. "It's okay. We can -- we can talk about it later." By later he might mean tomorrow. Or possibly never.

Wordlessly, Wesley goes upstairs.

Angel puts some of the blood into the refrigerator after feeding on enough to make him feel a little less crazy. Then he goes very quietly up the staircase himself, wanting to see that Wesley is sleeping peacefully, there, okay.

Wesley's bedroom is dark, but that's not a problem for a vampire. Angel can tell right away that Wesley's not asleep though -- his breathing isn't regular enough, and something about the line of his shoulder is too tense. He thinks Wesley must know that he's standing there, and after a minute when Wesley doesn't say anything, Angel figures Wesley must want him to think he is asleep, so he turns silently to go back downstairs.

Wesley sighs very softly behind him. "Angel?"

Angel turns back around. "Yeah?" He can smell the damp of Wesley's hair, water and the faint lingering scent of shampoo that are the proof of the shower Wesley took.

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah." Angel fidgets in the doorway. "Thanks for the blood."

"You're welcome."

The apartment is very quiet. After another minute, Angel asks, "Are you all right?"

"Yes," Wesley says, but follows it almost immediately with, "I don't know."

He should help. Angel wants to help. He just doesn't know how. "Do you -- I mean, we could talk about it? If you wanted to."

Another pause. "I don't know," Wesley says. He pushes himself to a sitting position with his back against the headboard. "I don't know what to say."

"Well that's two of us then," Angel mutters, knowing that it's loud enough for Wesley to hear, and he smiles when Wesley laughs a little bit. "Can I come in?"

"Of course," Wesley says, right away.

It's okay that the room is dark. Makes it seem safe, somehow, comforting, like everything's all wrapped up in a blanket, protected. Angel sits down on the side of the bed, in basically the same spot he did the other night, and waits to see if Wesley is going to say anything else.

Their heads are at about the same height, and Wesley's breathing is steadier than it was when Angel was standing out in the hallway. After a minute, Wesley reaches out a hand and touches Angel's chest. Just rests his palm there, over the place where Angel's heart doesn't beat.

It makes Angel feel like a monster. He has to fight not to move away from Wesley's touch, even though part of him craves it at the same time.

"It's all right," Wesley says. "Unless you'd rather I didn't?"

The last thing Angel wants is for Wesley to get the wrong idea, so he gently takes Wesley's hand in his, turns it, presses it to Wesley's bare chest with his own over it. "Rather do this," he says. The warmth and steady heartbeat are soothing. Angel lets his thumb slide to the side and rub over Wesley's nipple. It's not a calculated move, but he still feels pleased when Wesley responds with a small sigh.

Angel wants to taste his skin, wants to tease those nipples into little peaks and hear Wesley gasping underneath him, eager for more. He wants to feel Wesley's breath warm against his own lips.

He wants to not be afraid of what might happen if he did those things.

"Angel?" Wesley says.

"Mmm?" He knows that it's just like last time, so he thinks he knows what Wesley is going to say.

He's wrong.

"Would you -- that is, I'd very much like it if you'd touch me." There's something different in Wesley's voice now, something new. Something Angel thinks he's not quite getting, but that's okay. Because he wants to touch Wesley, and Wesley wants him to, and that might be all that matters for now.

Angel notices that his hands are hardly shaking at all as he slides both palms up over Wesley's chest.

* * * * *

For his part, Wesley notes that Angel seems less tentative than the first time -- not a great deal, but a bit. He's clinging to the normality of this mindset, of looking upon the interaction as a sort of sociological study, or perhaps a psychological one, but absolutely not, under any circumstances, what it actually is.

He wishes Angel would be rougher. A part of him even wishes that the vampire would lose control, push him down, push his way inside where no one's ever been before, hurt him. At least then the decision would be easier to make.

Wesley is, however, very good at deciding what he will and will not think about, so he sets his worries aside and concentrates on how it feels to have Angel touch him.

Strong hands -- bigger than his own, more scarred. They seem perfect though, like just what he's been waiting for. He can't help but wonder how many other men Angel has been with, has touched in similar ways, how many men have begged for him to take them.

How many have begged for their lives.

It seems rather ironic that, at the current time, Wesley thinks the potential of Angel doing something to hurt him is the least of his worries.

Somehow he's lying down, and Angel's mouth is on his chest, cool and wet, feeling more wonderful than anything he could have imagined. He wonders if Angel has avoided his throat for obvious reasons, and isn't certain he cares which one of them it's for. One of his own hands is on Angel's upper arm, holding on, and then Angel's lips and tongue find his nipple and Wesley forgets whatever it was he was trying to keep hold of.

Angel concentrates his attention on that nipple for what feels like a very long time, sucking and licking and oh so gently scraping across it with his teeth, and it's all incredible. The vampire's fingers are teasing the other nipple, rubbing and tweaking it into hardness.

Wesley is gasping, his hips rocking even though there's nothing for his erection to come in contact with but the cotton shorts he's wearing, and he can tell that those are damp with the evidence of his excitement. "Angel..."

Lifting his head, Angel asks, "Okay? Tell me. If it's not."

Surprisingly, he can't seem to say anything, but Angel must be able to see it in his eyes that he's fine, that he wants more.

When Angel's hand brushes over the front of his shorts, Wesley responds with another gasp that makes Angel smile slightly. Angel's mouth moves down along his body, over his ribcage, and then the sensitive skin of his stomach until it settles on his erection, over the fabric but still enough to make Wesley close his eyes.

It doesn't feel, he thinks, as if he's taking his own life into his hands. Or giving it into Angel's. Whichever is the more apt phrasing, not that it matters, since neither is the case.

He feels safe.

Also extremely aroused, because Angel is easing his shorts off, freeing his erection and letting his palm slide along its length slowly, and Wesley's back arches in response, wanting more contact. "More," he says, and looks into Angel's eyes when the vampire glances up at him. "Please," he adds.

And Angel slides down again and mouths at Wesley's cock, still looking up at him as if for approval.

"Yes, good," Wesley manages. "That's very -- very good."

Angel licks a bit around the head, then pulls back. "I don't want to do anything you don't want. I don't... I don't know if I can do this." He's shaking again.

"You don't have to," Wesley says. The last thing he wants, after building this level of trust, is to shatter it by moving too quickly. "Are you worried that you'll hurt me?"

"Maybe," Angel says. A pause. "Okay, yeah. I don't want to get -- I mean, humans are delicate."

"I'm not particularly delicate," Wesley says. "I daresay that a reasonable amount of care on your part would be more than sufficient." He considers their options -- while he doesn't want to push Angel too far, he does want to encourage him to do as much as he can handle. Fears and reactions like this don't just go away on their own -- the brain and body need to be re-educated. "What if you were on the bottom, so to speak?"

The look Angel gives him is one of almost sheer panic.

"Shh," Wesley says. He doesn't reach out to touch Angel, as that seems unlikely to provide comfort at the moment. "I'm not going to force you. I wouldn't do that."

"I know," Angel says miserably.

"Do you trust me?" Wesley asks him, and Angel nods, still looking miserable. "Then come here -- lie down with me. I won't hurt you."

After a moment, Angel does, and Wesley begins to slowly unbutton Angel's shirt one-handed.

"There," Wesley says encouragingly, getting the top four buttons undone so that he can slide his hand over Angel's chest. "You're doing remarkably well, you know that, don't you? Recovering from the sort of thing that happened to you isn't something that's done overnight. You have to give it time..." He rubs across one nipple firmly and smiles at Angel's small gasp.

It's not long before Angel's shirt has been discarded and the front of his slacks unzipped, Wesley's hand down inside stroking his cock as he worries at Angel's nipple with his teeth and tongue, the vampire moaning softly in response.

Wesley removes his hand and kneels up, one hand at either side of Angel's waist. "Here, let's take these off. I'd like to be able to look at you properly." Angel doesn't argue, just moves his body slightly to assist Wesley in the removal of his slacks, which Wesley drops onto the floor.

He's studied male bodies when they were aroused before -- well, male vampires' bodies. He knows what they're capable of -- how quickly they can be brought to a state of arousal again after orgasm, how many times they're capable of orgasm in a given number of hours, how much damage can be inflicted during penetration while still allowing for pleasure.

This is no different, he tells himself as he runs his fingers down over Angel's stomach, skirting his erection and following the length of his thigh. There's still a fair amount of scar tissue in most places, but it's clear that there's been improvement, and Wesley thinks that he can see what Angel will look like when it's gone.

Reaching over Angel, Wesley retrieves the small bottle of lubricant that's been in his chest of drawers for a long time and only on his bedside table for a few days. Then he lies back down next to the vampire, as that will make him seem less threatening -- it's such a complicated series of steps, when one is meant to be neither dominant nor too submissive -- and gives the bottle to Angel.

"Open it," Wesley says gently, and waits until Angel has before holding out his hand, palm cupped.

Angel's eyes are dark with uncertainty as he glances at Wesley's face, but he tilts the bottle and pours a small amount of its contents into Wesley's hand.

And watches as Wesley moves his hand down to grasp his cock.

Angel shudders and moans again, still a small noise as if he's not confident that it's all right to be louder, and Wesley strokes from base to tip just once, noting how different it feels when the skin is so slick. Although he's done this that one previous time, with his hand, it still seems odd to have the familiar sensations in his palm and fingers but no corresponding feeling in his own erection. Which actually, now that he thinks about it, is pressing up against Angel's hard thigh rather pleasantly.

He strokes a few more times, watching Angel carefully to be sure he doesn't take him too far, then slows down the movements of his hand and says, "Put some on your fingers."

Angel does, his trembling hands causing him to spill a few drops, then looks at Wesley for more direction.

Wesley reaches out and takes Angel's hand -- his own fingers tangling with a few of Angel's -- and shifts up on the bed a bit, at the same time guiding Angel's hand down between his legs. Brushes Angel's wet fingertips over his balls lightly, then lower until Angel gets the idea and Wesley can let go and allow him to proceed on his own.

They're big fingers, but Angel is gentle to the point of absurdity, barely touching the sensitive entrance to Wesley's body with one fingertip. Virgin territory, as it were, and yet Wesley is surprised at how just being touched there, even so fleetingly, makes his erection that much more difficult to ignore. Now he's the one trembling, and there might even be a gasp or two as Angel's finger slides inside, breaching him smoothly and with a collection of sensations that makes Wesley groan.

He doesn't allow it to go on for too long, as this isn't about his own pleasure -- and thinking about it as pleasure concerns him, fills him with doubt and confusion.

It's not as easy as he might like to suggest, "That's enough," to stop Angel and get back up onto his knees.

Wesley looks down at Angel, encircles the large erection with his fingers again and pumps it slowly. Then, moving carefully, he brings his leg up and over so that he can straddle Angel's body in a position that isn't exactly dominant or submissive.

"I'm on top," he explains, as Angel looks at him. "If you do anything I don't like, it's a simple matter for me to move away. You don't need to be afraid of hurting me, but it's not as if I can hurt you from here either." Wesley reaches behind him and takes hold of Angel's cock again, raising himself onto his knees and lining things up as best he can considering he can't see and he's never done this before.

"Careful," Angel says, the first thing he's been able to say in quite a while. His hands, resting on Wesley's thighs now, are shaking. "Don't..."

He pushes down, feeling the head of Angel's cock stretch him open and then press against the muscles that don't want to allow entrance, and waits, knowing that it won't be long before the muscles tire and relax.

And when they do, Wesley moves downward slowly, and Angel slides into him, impossibly huge, and everything that Wesley has been trying to do becomes meaningless in the face of this moment.

Angel is the one doing the soothing now. "Okay," he says. "Easy, just take it easy." Wesley can tell from the way Angel's looking at him that there's something in his own eyes that betrays his shock, and that Angel is reading the emotion as pain or maybe even fear.

Easy is simple, because there's certainly no way that Wesley is moving any time soon. "I can -- Angel. I didn't realize..." He sounds like a stunned teenager, but he can't quite bring himself to care. He had no idea it was going to be like this.

One hand rubs up and down along his thigh. "It's okay," Angel says. "Take your time. Or, you know, if it's too much, that's okay too."

Wesley shudders, the force of the tremor moving through him like the orgasm that he's nowhere near at the current time. "It's not too much," he manages to say.

Angel waits patiently, his hand still rubbing Wesley's thigh, and finally Wesley moves up, just a little bit, and the feel of Angel's cock pulling out of him makes them both gasp in unison, but then Wesley is frozen again, unable to move.

"Here," Angel says, putting his hands on Wesley's hips and moving him slightly. Wesley's hands come forward, needing something to brace against, and he finds himself leaning on Angel's broad chest. "Let me..." And the vampire thrusts upward, pushing his cock deeper again, and Wesley moans.

He doesn't care what it is that he's forgotten, or that the world is falling apart outside the walls of this flat, or that in the morning he needs to make a decision that he's ill prepared to make. None of it matters.

Angel holds him like that, gently and with an ease that makes it very clear how strong he is, Wesley's hips suspended there while Angel is the one who moves, pushes, withdraws, thrusts again. It seems to go on for a long time -- until Wesley is making sounds that he knows will embarrass him later if he thinks about them, and his arms are trembling with the effort of holding him upright, and his own erection, occasionally bumping against Angel's stomach on the deeper thrusts, is eager and wet-tipped.

The vampire watches him the whole time, looking at his face as if learning every detail as his hips slide his cock in and out of Wesley, faster now. There's a tightness to his lips, pressed thin, hands tightening on Wesley's hips.

"God, Wesley," Angel groans. "Jesus you feel good. Can't -- gonna -- "

And Wesley's glad, because he wants Angel to come -- wants to feel it -- so when the vampire's rhythm falters, shortly followed by a whimper and a deep throbbing inside of Wesley, he just closes his eyes.

Angel's hips don't stop moving entirely, although they're just rocking gently now, and after a moment Wesley opens his eyes again to see Angel looking at him with doubt written all over his face. Angel lets go of his hips. "I didn't hurt you?"

"No," Wesley reassures him, regaining some of the control that he'd lost and thinking that he should move, that they should stop this now, but it feels too good and he just doesn't want to. And Angel's so aptly named -- he really does have the face of an Angel, so incredibly beautiful... "Don't stop," he says, and it's an order that he makes without thought of how shameful it is. "Don't."

A shallower thrust that glides powerfully over Wesley's prostate, but Wesley doesn't think he can come. Not like this.

Angel proves him wrong when, completely unexpectedly, the vampire pulls him down and kisses him.

* * * * *

So little of this is what Wesley had expected, and yet when Angel's lips touch his a flush of surprise floods through him.

He hasn't kissed anyone since Buffy, and the last time he did that she was dead -- although technically so is Angel, so perhaps that's appropriate. In any case, Angel's mouth catches his, hand sliding up along Wesley's spine as their bodies continue to move together, Angel still thrusting into him and his own erection now trapped between them, rubbing.

"This okay?" Angel murmurs.

Wesley wants to say no, wants to put a stop to this now before it goes too far, but he thinks it's probably already too late for that. So instead he pours himself into the kiss, letting it cloud his mind and quite possibly his judgment as Angel's tongue meets his own.

It's all so good, and Wesley can feel his cock leaving a damp spot along the skin of Angel's abdomen, can feel his body tightening millimeter by millimeter, coiling in preparation for the release that he wasn't anticipating but now seems inevitable. The inside of Angel's mouth is cool and perhaps a bit acidic, and his strong fingers move to Wesley's chest to rub over one nipple again.

That's all Wesley needs -- as if 'all' is simple, as if fingers and cock and mouth are nothing more than a breath of air -- and he comes, clenching his teeth around the cry that wants to escape. He can feel the shudders ripple through him, the wash of hot fluid over Angel's stomach and his own, the way his lower body stops moving even though the kiss they're sharing doesn't pause in the slightest until it's over and he collapses across Angel's broad chest.

Angel's big hand is on the back of his neck, rubbing gently as he gasps for breath and trembles.

"You okay?" Angel asks, the rumble a sound that Wesley can feel.

He pushes himself upright carefully, not entirely sure how this part works. "Yes. Are you?"

The grin he receives in reply would be answer enough on its own, but Angel says, "Yeah. I'm good."

After a moment of awkwardness, Wesley manages to get the two of them separated and himself lying down on the bed beside Angel. He feels a vague need -- honesty combined with proper manners, he supposes -- to say something to the vampire about how incredible that was, but he can't quite bring himself to do it.

He's on his side, facing Angel, and after a moment Angel turns onto his side as well so that they can look at each other. Wesley can't help but note that they aren't touching, and that Angel makes no attempt to change that fact.

The room is quiet again.

"You... you want me to go?" Angel asks, gesturing over his hip. "You should probably get some sleep."

Wesley looks at him -- dark brown eyes with thoughtfully shaped brows, strong nose, small dimple in the chin, thin upper lip. Small worry lines on the forehead now etched deeper because Wesley still hasn't answered. "No," Wesley says, concentrating on the physical because it's concrete and, in the long run, doesn't require anything of him. "No, stay."

* * * * *

Wesley pretends to be asleep for a long time before he actually drifts off, but Angel doesn't let on that he knows, just lies there quietly and waits. He could sleep, but he's too comfortable to. He wants to enjoy it -- the silence. The way his body feels, sated and warm.

The fact that Wesley told him he could stay.

It seems weird to trust someone again. Good, but weird.

He's not sure what the hell is going on -- why Wesley is doing any of this -- and that bothers him a little bit.

Angel waits until Wesley has fallen asleep for real, until his breathing is deep and steady, before moving a tiny bit closer. Not enough so that they're touching, but enough so that if Wesley were to move in his sleep they would be. Angel can feel the warmth radiating from Wesley.

He closes his eyes for a minute, and when he opens them again, it's morning. The room is suffused with pale sunlight, more yellow than white, and Wesley is sitting up on the edge of the bed. His back is to Angel and he's leaning forward with his face in his hands.

Angel pushes up onto one elbow, reaching out a hesitant hand toward Wesley and then pulling it back again without having touched him. "Wesley?" he says quietly.

There's no answer for a minute. Then Wesley says, "Get dressed." His voice sounds cold and far away.

Angel's body responds like it was an order, sitting up the rest of the way. As he looks around for his clothes, he asks, "Why?"

Wesley is already halfway across the room, putting on jeans and a shirt. "Because we're leaving."


"Don't argue with me, just do as I say." Wesley finishes buttoning his shirt with his back still toward Angel.

"I'm not arguing," Angel says, finally finding his slacks. "I just want to know what's going on."

"We're leaving, and we won't be coming back," Wesley says. "So if there's anything you'd like to keep, feel free to bring it with you."

Standing up, Angel struggles into his pants, trying to understand what Wesley is telling him. "But this is where you live."

"It has been until now," Wesley agrees, going to the closet and taking out a duffle bag. "Things change."

"Overnight?" Angel watches as Wesley puts a pair of boots into the bag.

"Sometimes," Wesley says. He comes over and sets the bag down on the bed, then goes to the bureau and opens the second drawer down. He empties it quickly, using both hands and letting the socks and shirts fall to the floor with a carelessness that Angel already knows isn't like him.

There's a false bottom in the drawer -- it comes right out and gets tossed onto the floor too. Wesley comes back over to the bed with both hands full -- one with a small plastic case that he puts into the duffle bag, the other with a thick wad of cash.

"Here," Wesley says, peeling off a third of the money and handing it to Angel. "Put that in your pocket."

Angel does. He's still waiting for the explanation, but he's starting to wonder if he's going to get it.

Wesley puts another third of the money into the bag, and the last into his own pocket. Then he kneels down on the floor next to the bed and reaches underneath it, pulling out a flat storage box and flipping the lid off. "You're not getting dressed," he points out, pausing just long enough to glance up at Angel before returning his attention to the collection of guns in the box.

"I'm still hoping you're going to tell me what's going on."

"Angel, there might not be time for this. He said he'd give me until this morning to make a decision, but for all I know he already has people watching this building."

Something in Wesley's voice -- fear, maybe, although it's hidden pretty well -- makes Angel move to pick up his shirt and put it on. "He who? What decision?"

Wesley loads a handgun and tucks it down the back of his jeans, then puts some others into the bag. "He knows you're here, you see," he says quietly, getting up and really looking at Angel. "I'm not sure how, but he knows. And I've been given an ultimatum -- return you to the laboratory first thing this morning, with no questions asked and no further damage to my career, or..."

Angel wants to back away, but he makes himself stand there. "Or what?" he asks, his voice hoarse and shaky.

"Or he'll take you by force."

He's trembling again, and there's nothing he can do about it. "Who?"

Wesley zips the duffle bag shut and then straightens up again. "My father."

* * * * *

Angel's chest feels tight, like his body is too small to contain everything he's feeling. "Your father?" he repeats. "But how... I mean, what..." He doesn't know what he means.

"I'll explain everything," Wesley says, reaching out to touch him, and Angel's either stressed out enough about the other stuff not to care or the instinct to flinch from the touch is fading, because he doesn't even have to try to stand still. Wesley runs a hand up and down his arm soothingly. "I promise. But for now, I'd really feel better if we left."

"Okay," Angel says. He doesn't want to leave -- this apartment is the first place he's felt even a little bit safe in a long time -- but they can't stay. And as much as he doesn't want to, there's something he needs to say before they do. "You don't -- Wesley, you don't have to do this. I mean, this is your... your life we're talking about."

Wesley looks at him, steady, blue eyes cold behind the lenses of his glasses. "This isn't a discussion," he says. "We're leaving." And he picks up the duffle bag, turns, and walks out of the room, like he expects Angel to follow.

And of course, Angel does.

* * * * *

Grabbing a few more things from downstairs, Wesley then puts on his shoes and shrugs into his jacket. He feels stretched thin, strung out, exhausted and jittery, and he hopes nothing significant is going to happen in the next twelve hours or so before he can get some sleep.

He rarely makes the right decisions when he's sleep-deprived, but he tries not to doubt the one he's making now. It's nowhere near as simple as his father had made it out to be, and strangely that is what gives him the most hope. His father, he tells himself, doesn't have all the facts.

Wesley is deluding himself that it would make a difference, and he's aware of that, but he clings to the idea stubbornly, as if doing so might make it true.

He goes to the kitchen, unzips his bag again, and puts the remaining blood that he brought back the night before into it as well.

Angel is following him like a shadow, not saying a word.

"It's daylight," Wesley tells him unnecessarily. "I'll have to bring the car around to the door. Take one of the blankets from the hall closet and meet me there."

He doesn't wait for a reply -- he feels certain that Angel understands the gravity of the situation, or at least as much of the situation as Wesley has chosen to share with him. He takes his bag to the car, looking around warily as he walks across the parking lot but seeing no one suspicious. Unlocks the door, gets in, setting the bag next to him and feeling the reassuring press of the gun against the small of his back as he leans into the seat.

Wesley drives the car to the door, parking it so that the passenger side rear door is closest to the building, and gets out to open it for Angel.

He's well aware of how much sunlight a vampire can tolerate.

When Angel is safely in the back seat, covered with the wool blanket, Wesley gets back behind the wheel and takes a deep breath. "I'm going to start out as if I'm headed for the office. Oh, and there's a loaded gun taped beneath the seat behind you if you need it." Not that a vampire isn't likely to do just as well without a weapon, but still, preparation is key.

Wesley drives with both hands tense on the wheel and an eye on the rearview mirror. Despite this part of London's reputation as a comparatively safe area in which to live, things are different now, and the traffic he would have encountered as little as four or five years ago is virtually nonexistent as they make their way toward Council headquarters. This is a benefit in more ways than one -- fewer cars on the road to concern himself with, and hopefully an easier time identifying ones that are following him, if any do.

"Where are we gonna go?" Angel asks, his voice holding a tinge of fear again.

"I don't know," Wesley says. That's one place where his preparation falls short, even though he spent half the night thinking about what to do. "For now, as far as away as possible. After that..."

"You don't have to do this," Angel says again.

Wesley clears his throat and glances in the mirror again, checking the road behind them. "Yes I do," he says quietly.

"Why?" Angel asks, sounding frustrated. "Don't get me wrong -- I'm really not trying to talk you out of this. I just... I want to understand."

"I can't imagine how you possibly could," Wesley says, aware that his tone is cold but unable to do anything to modulate it. "In any case, I -- " He glances into the mirror again and sees a car behind them.

"What?" Angel asks.

"It's probably nothing," Wesley says. He's reassuring himself as much as Angel.

"What's probably nothing?"

Wesley doesn't reply right away -- just keeps watch, noting that the car doesn't come any closer, maintaining an even distance. "A car," he says finally. "It's probably not following us."

The silence just makes him more apprehensive, but there's no point in talking for the sake of hearing his own voice, so he remains quiet, watching the car. When the opportunity presents itself, Wesley makes a turn down a side street that will take them on a slightly different route but still toward Council headquarters.

The car turns as well, staying behind them.

"It's still there," Angel says flatly, although Wesley knows he can't see and must be basing his assumption solely on Wesley's reaction.

"Yes," he admits.

"Who do you think it is?"

Wesley makes another turn. "If you're asking if it's my father himself, I don't know. It could just as easily be some of his lackeys." He tells himself to think -- it's broad daylight, Angel can only be of so much assistance if they are stopped, not to mention the fact that the vampire will be supremely vulnerable. Wesley isn't certain how Angel would react in a situation where they were in danger -- would he defend himself, or just curl up and wait to be hurt?

"Wesley?" Angel says, and it's clear that he needs something.

"It will be fine," Wesley says, working out what they're going to do even as he speaks. "I need you to listen to me very carefully. Can you do that?"

"Yeah." Angel's voice is shaky but determined.

"There's a section of parking at the facility that's covered -- beneath a sort of roof. I'm going to pull in there and make sure that these people are actually following us, and assuming they are, I'm going to take care of them there. It seems unlikely we'd be able to outrun them, and it's possible that if we try to they'll stop us by force. This way, I may be able to take them off guard. Do you understand?"

He can imagine Angel trembling behind him. "Yeah. I understand. What -- what do I do?"

"With any luck you won't need to do anything," Wesley says. Council headquarters is just ahead, and he turns slowly into the parking lot, taking the car down to a mere crawl. It's likely the first time he's ever been below the posted speed limit, he thinks, and smiles grimly as the car behind them follows.

There aren't any cars beneath the overhang, which is good but not completely unexpected this early in the morning. He pulls into a center spot and shuts the car off, leaving the keys in the ignition and palming a hand into his jacket pocket as he gets out to make it seem as though he's put them there.

He doesn't look at the other car for a moment as it takes the space one away from his, then deliberately glances up and feigns surprise as two of his father's underlings get out. The driver, Philip Adams, is a Watcher, but the other is one of the nameless assistants that cycles in and out from one department to the next, with no one ever quite aware of what his function is.

Apparently in this case it's to back up Philip, who's a going-by-the-book sort that would never dare think on his own unless he had permission from a higher-up.

"Adams," Wesley says mildly. "You're in early."

"Glad to see you made the right decision, Pryce," Philip says.

"Ah, is that what all that was about?" Wesley asks, gesturing back the way they'd come. "I wondered if I'd suddenly developed a fan club."

The second man glances at Philip uncertainly, as if he's not sure what he should be doing, and his hand twitches slightly toward the front edge of his suit jacket, telling Wesley very clearly that the man's carrying a gun.

"We just wanted to make sure you were planning to do the right thing," Philip says. "Is it drugged?"

"The vampire?" Wesley says. "No, of course not."

Another uncertain glance from the lackey.

"Restraints?" Philip says, moving around the rear of his vehicle to come closer. "Is that really wise? I'd think it would have been easier to wrestle it into the car if it were drugged." He peers in through Wesley's window cautiously.

Now or never, Wesley thinks, whipping the gun from his waistband and slamming Philip over the head with it with astonishing force. Philip wears an expression of utter shock for less than a second before collapsing to the pavement with a muffled thump at the same time Wesley turns to point his gun at the second man.

The man is already holding out his own gun, hands shaking so badly that he can barely aim.

"Put it down," Wesley says in a low voice.

"No," the man says stubbornly. "Y-you put yours down."

"I won't hesitate to shoot you," Wesley warns. "Do you really want to risk dying for this? Is it worth it to you?"

Hands shaking more violently, the man is clearly in need of someone to tell him what to do. "I... I don't -- "

"Drop it," Wesley says, and the man begins to lower the gun at the same time there's a click behind Wesley and the car door starts to open.

He's aware of the look of horror on the face of the man in front of him, of the gun raising back up and the finger tightening on the trigger. Without hesitation, Wesley fires his own gun, putting a bullet directly into the man's heart.

There's a second shot and a piercing hot slice like a bee sting across the outside of his upper arm, and Wesley doesn't realize that he's swayed until Angel's arms are holding him up.

"Wesley?" Angel's voice sounds gratifyingly concerned.

"I'm fine," Wesley says, forcing himself to stand on his own feet without assistance. "It's not serious. But we need to get out of here now. Get back into the car."

He doesn't wait for Angel to reply or respond, and by the time he's behind the wheel, the back door has been closed and Angel is huddled beneath the blanket again.

Without wrapping his bleeding arm or allowing himself to think about what's going to come of this, Wesley pulls the car back out of the parking lot and onto the street, heading toward the north of London and hoping beyond all reasonable hope that they'll get out of the city without further incident.

* * * * *

Twenty minutes north of London, Wesley stops the car long enough to get out and rummage through the back for something to bandage his arm with. What he told Angel earlier is true -- it's not a serious wound, just a shallow furrow in the flesh that's been steadily seeping blood. He wraps it tightly with a strip of cloth torn from a spare shirt, then he gets back in and continues driving.

"Does it hurt?" Angel asks.

"No," Wesley lies. It's a small lie -- it only hurts in an annoying sort of way, a constant dull burn. Another thought occurs to him. "Can you smell it? The blood, I mean. Does it bother you?"

"No," Angel says, and Wesley wonders if that's a lie as well. "No, it doesn't bother me."

They aren't being followed now, and Wesley hopes that they'll be able to get far away quickly enough that it becomes difficult to track them.

"What are we going to do?" Angel asks. "You know, for the long term?"

Wesley manages not to chuckle at the assumption that there'll be a long term. "I haven't thought quite that far ahead," he admits. "At the moment my primary concern is short-term survival."

"I can drive," Angel offers. "Um, once the sun goes down. If you want me to."

"You can drive?" He doesn't bother to try to hide his surprise.

"I used to be able to," Angel says. "I figure it's not something you forget."

"I'd imagine that's probably true," Wesley says, adjusting his position in the seat as best he can. "Thank you. I may take you up on that offer at some point."

They fall silent again, Wesley driving one-handed with the other resting in his lap, his arm a nagging ache that doesn't seem to subside with time. Hours and miles pass slowly, the field of his vision narrowing a bit to what's directly in front of him, the steady rumble of the car's engine soothing...

He starts when Angel's hand touches his shoulder. "Wesley?"

"Yes? What? Sorry." Had he been falling asleep?

"You've been quiet for a long time. I just, you know, wanted to make sure you were okay."

The sun is still two or three hours from setting, and Wesley realizes that the past few hours have passed in a weary haze, that he has no memory of them. This isn't good. "I need to stop," he says. "I need to get some sleep."

"Okay." Angel sounds happy to go along with this plan.

They get off the highway at the next opportunity, following old road signs that indicate that there are hotels along this stretch. The first two they pass are closed, windows broken, parking lots scattered with debris -- not uncommon, as so many businesses have failed to ride out the rise of the vampires -- but the third is still open.

"Stay here," Wesley says, not that Angel has much choice in the matter. He checks for his gun before getting out of the car, aware that he's fired only one bullet from it, and heads into the office with its flickering sign to get a room.

The man behind the desk looks tired and jaded. "No, we don't take vampires," he says, before Wesley can even open his mouth. "No demons, no druggies. This is a safe, family run establishment, so you needn't worry about staying here." It sounds like a memorized statement, something that has been drilled into him.

"And I can't begin to tell you what a relief that is," Wesley says. "How much for the night?"

"Fifty pounds for the room, extra ten if you want breakfast in the morning." The clerk's hands are stained with dirt that looks as if it's been ground into his pores, and Wesley shudders at the thought of eating anything he might have touched.

"Thank you, the room is all I need," he says, reaching into his pocket and peeling off a note without removing the folded pile -- the last thing he wants to do is arise any sort of suspicion as to what he's doing with so much cash.

The man takes the note, scribbles a receipt, and slides it across the counter along with a key. "Room twelve," he says. "Check out is at eleven."

"Thank you," Wesley says again, and goes back outside into the sunshine, blinking at the brightness of the facade. He gets into the car again. "All right?" he asks.

"Yeah," Angel says.

He drives over so that they're right beside the room -- luckily it's at the end of the block, as far from the office as possible -- and goes and unlocks the door before returning to the car and opening that door as well. Angel looks cramped and uncomfortable on the floor of the vehicle, crouching with the blanket over him, and Wesley feels a brief and utterly inappropriate stab of pity.

It seems as though Angel is waiting for an invitation, which he certainly doesn't need, and Wesley snaps, "Go on."

Angel obeys quickly, and Wesley sighs and retrieves his bag from the front seat before following, closing and locking the hotel room door behind him.

Angel stands awkwardly over near the wall, watching him, until Wesley sighs again. "I'm sorry," he offers. "I'm tired and sore, but that's no excuse for being short with you."

"It's okay," Angel says, with a little shrug, setting the blanket on the one chair and looking at the bed. "You didn't sleep last night?" he asks, after a moment.

"Not a great deal, no." Wesley sits on the edge of the bed and rubs a hand over his face as if this will somehow relieve the tension. "I was thinking."

"About whether to take me back." Angel says the words flatly but without accusation.

"No," Wesley says. It's mostly the truth. "I was thinking about how to get us both out of the city safely." He begins to take off his jacket -- he'd put it back on after bandaging his arm with the thought that it would help put pressure on the wound -- and winces a bit. "Not that all the time spent thinking about it did much good," he adds ruefully, stopping to reconsider.

Angel comes over closer. "I -- I could help."

Considering where they are and what he's done, Wesley thinks that shying away from Angel now would be absurd, and he's so bloody tired that he barely has the energy to sit up, let alone deal with his injury. "Thank you," he says simply, turning a bit so that Angel can help him ease off the jacket.

It still hurts, but he knows how fortunate he is not to have had something worse happen. He's not prepared to think about the rest of it.

"You want to take this off too?" Angel asks, his fingers gently touching the fabric of Wesley's shirt sleeve.

Wesley looks at the ruined shirt. "I suppose so." The bandage is tied on over the shirt -- he didn't care to attract the sort of attention that removing all of his clothing from the waist up might. "Can you untie this, or do you need something sharp?"

Angel examines the knot carefully. "I think cutting it off would work better. Well, it'd hurt less."

"All right." Wesley turns and opens the bag, taking out a small folding knife and handing it to Angel.

Once the bandage is removed, Angel slowly unbuttons the front of Wesley's shirt, then smoothes it back off of his shoulders and down. They both look at the wound, which is fairly shallow and oozing a small amount of blood. "We should clean this out," Angel says. "Don't want it getting infected."

Wesley agrees, but he's so exhausted that all he wants to do is lie down and sleep. "Later," he says, barely able to keep his eyes open as he moves toward the head of the bed and rests his head on a pillow. The room darkens and his limbs grow heavy, everything lost in the haze of near-sleep. He feels only a moment's guilt that he's leaving Angel alone, and then he's asleep.

* * * * *

Angel waits a little while, until he's sure Wesley is really asleep, then goes back and double checks that the door to the room is locked.

In the bathroom, he finds a worn but clean washcloth and wets it with tepid water from the tap. Wesley is sleeping soundly, his steady breath a warm exhale across Angel's face when he crouches down to look at him.

He uses the damp cloth, very gently, to clean the shallow furrow in Wesley's arm, dabbing lightly -- both because he doesn't want to hurt Wesley and because he doesn't want to wake him up -- that it takes half an hour before he's satisfied with the job. He leaves the wound uncovered -- not that it matters if the sheets get bloody, not that he thinks they will -- and then puts the washcloth back in the bathroom where he doesn't have to smell the blood.

Angel doesn't want to sleep, but there's nothing else to do. He manages to get Wesley's glasses and shoes off without waking him, then he eases the covers out from underneath Wesley and settles them back around the sleeping man's waist.

Taking off his own shirt and shoes, Angel gets in on the other side of the bed, carefully, making sure not to move the mattress too much. It's not dark enough outside that he feels the need to turn a light on, even for Wesley's benefit. He spends a long time watching the curve of Wesley's shoulder rise and fall as he breathes.

Tentatively, Angel reaches out and rests a hand on Wesley's hip, just for a minute. He just wants the contact -- to reassure himself that Wesley's really there, that they're both okay.

He doesn't get why Wesley is doing this for him. Sure, maybe when you've been studying vampires -- which is a nicer way of thinking about it than the reality, which is probably more like 'cutting them up into little pieces' -- and suddenly one with a soul falls into your lap, you're curious. You want to get what makes him tick. Want to see how he's different.

Thing is, Angel's not sure he's really all that different, not right when it comes down to it, and he doesn't like the idea that Wesley has thrown everything away for him.

Just as the sun finishes setting, Angel falls asleep.

There are monsters in his dreams, and he's one of them. There's one part that he dreams over and over again -- that tiny little girl, and her wide brown eyes filled with terror, and the little whimpering sounds that she made when she heard him start begging for her life --

Suddenly he's awake, but he can still hear it.

After a few seconds, Angel realizes that it's Wesley making those sounds, small and scared. He reaches for the lamp on the table next to the bed and manages to get it turned on after only a little bit of fumbling. The bulb isn't strong, but it's plenty to see that Wesley is facing him now, which means leaning on the bad arm. Guess maybe the sheets weren't safe after all.

"Wesley," he says, trying to think of which part of Wesley he can touch that won't scare him more and finally settling on his hand. "Wesley. Wake up."

Wesley's eyes open, confused and pained. "Angel."

"Yeah. You were dreaming."

"Was I?" Wesley's voice is softer than Angel's heard it before. "I don't remember."

Angel wonders if he's lying, then wonders why he'd bother. "Didn't sound like a happy dream."

Wesley rubs a hand over his face. "No, I'd imagine that if it had you wouldn't have woken me." He looks at Angel. "Are you all right?"

Every time Wesley asks him that it makes Angel want to smile. It sounds so genuine, even though there are times when he's not sure it is. "Is there some reason why you're asking me that when you're the one that's bleeding onto the bed?" He can smell it, the sharp tang of fresh blood faint but noticeable.

"Am I?" Wesley still sounds dazed, like he's not totally awake, but he pushes himself up enough so that they can both see the smears of red on the thin sheets. He blinks in confusion. "I remember this looking much worse when I went to sleep."

"Yeah, well... you were also wearing shoes and your glasses," Angel says. "Which are over on that table, by the way."

Wesley relaxes back onto the pillow, with his weight off his arm this time. "Thank you," he says.

Angel looks down. "No. Don't thank me. I'm the reason you got hurt in the first place. I'm the reason you're doing all this."

"It's not that simple," Wesley says. "Not to take away from your self-flagellation, but trust me when I say that there are multiple reasons why I made the decision to do this."

His eyes keep getting drawn back to the wound on Wesley's arm, to the tiny, slow ooze of fresh blood. "Is it about your dad?"

If it's possible for someone to get really still when they were already not moving, Wesley does it. "Partially," he says after a little while.

Angel knows he's not the sharpest bulb in the chandelier, but he gets that Wesley doesn't want to talk about it. "You want me to wrap that up?" he asks, gesturing with his chin toward Wesley's arm.

Wesley does this little thing with his mouth -- not a frown, just a quick twist of his lips. "Is it bothering you?"

"No," Angel says, truthfully enough. "You asked me that before."

"Am I using the wrong words?"

Damn it, Wesley is so smart it almost scares Angel. Good thing they're on the same side. "If you mean do I notice it, of course I do. If you mean does it make me want to... I don't know, starting sucking on your arm, then no." At least, not enough that he's worried about his ability to control it.

"Then no," Wesley echoes, and it takes Angel a few seconds to realize that he's answering the question from before. "It's not bleeding enough to be of any concern." He closes his eyes for a lot longer than a blink, then finally opens them just when Angel thought maybe he'd gone to sleep again. "I'm sorry," he says.

"What for?"

"For not saying something to you last night," Wesley says, looking troubled behind the tired. "I shouldn't have waited to tell you."

Angel shrugs a little bit. He's not sure any of it matters, since it's not like he'd have done anything different either way. He doesn't even know what he'd have done if Wesley had tried to turn him back over to the lab. Fought? Or just curled up and waited for it to be over?

"Tell me what you're thinking," Wesley says. It doesn't sound like an order, like it sometimes does when Wesley tells him to do something.

"I'm still wondering why you're doing this."

Wesley sighs and closes his eyes. "Have you always been this stubborn?" He opens his eyes again, turning his head and looking at Angel. "Yes, I suppose we've been through this before. You'd have to have been."

He doesn't know how to respond to that, so he waits. Wesley closes his eyes again, and settles back into the pillow some more, not like he's trying to relax but more like he's past the point of being able to do anything else.

Just when Angel is starting to think that Wesley is asleep again, Wesley says, "You want to know about my father."

Partially, Angel feels like saying. But he just says, "Well... yeah."

"We aren't..." Wesley keeps his eyes closed. "We don't see eye to eye about most things. It's not just you."

"But couldn't you... talk to him?" Angel doesn't know why he wants to think that knowing he's different, that he has a soul, would make Wesley's father give him a chance.

"It wouldn't make any difference," Wesley says. His breathing is starting to even out again, and his voice is getting fainter. "He doesn't care what I think."

That definitely sounds like it's more about Wesley and his dad than about the situation they're dealing with. The room is quiet again. "Wesley?" Angel whispers after a minute.

"Mmm?" Wesley is so close to asleep that Angel doesn't think he even knows he responded at all.

Angel doesn't know where they're going next, or what's going to happen, but somehow, just looking at Wesley gives him hope. "Thanks," he whispers.

* * * * *

When Wesley wakes up again, it's considerably before dawn, and he feels more rested than he has in recent days. The lamp is still on, and that allows him to see Angel's face as soon as he opens his eyes. The vampire appears to be sleeping.

Vaguely, Wesley recalls a discussion that they might have had. He's not sure if it's real or if he dreamed it. He's not sure what he said. He'll have to remember to ask Angel about it later...

Angel's eyes, too lucid and aware to indicate that he's been doing anything other than lying there quietly, open and meet his. "You okay?" Angel asks.

He shifts slightly on the bed. His arm is sore, but not exactly painful. "Yes. Are you?"


"Is there a clock?" Wesley asks.

"I don't know." Angel blinks, seems to consider the question for a moment. "It's about four, I think. Two hours until sunrise?"

Wesley smiles a bit. He can see Angel clearly, despite the fact that he isn't wearing his glasses. "I didn't know you could do that."

"What? Tell what time it is?" Angel shrugs, the mattress dipping under his weight. "It's just a guess."

The sheet is drawn casually up over Angel to just above his waist. His chest is bare, and in the faint light from the lamp his scars are considerably less noticeable. There's something about the way his chest and stomach look, pale and vulnerable when Wesley knows just how strong Angel is, that makes Wesley shiver.

"Are you cold?" Angel asks, concerned, his dark eyes going darker with the emotion. He bends toward Wesley, the movement making Wesley's chest tighten with anticipation, but Angel just grabs hold of the blankets at the foot of the bed and pulls them up higher.

"I'm fine," Wesley says, as Angel settles back into his previous position which is, he has to admit to himself, entirely too far away.

Angel is watching his expression, so Wesley tries to school it into something more appropriate, whatever that might be. "You sure you're okay?" Angel asks, just before reaching out a slightly trembling hand to touch Wesley's face.

Wesley closes his eyes instinctively. It might be because he doesn't want Angel to see how eager he is to be touched. "I'm fine," Wesley repeats shakily, then opens his eyes again just as Angel's thumb traces the curve of his lower lip.

"Can I..." Angel moves a bit closer. "I want to kiss you. Can I kiss you?"

Yes, Wesley wants to say, but he can't bring himself to give permission that's quite that explicit. Instead he slides forward, tilting his chin upward invitingly until Angel leans in too and his lips meet Wesley's.

He can feel Angel trembling, but he thinks that he might be as well, so it doesn't matter if it's with desire or the attempt to rein in that desire -- each thought is equally appealing. Angel's lips are strong and cool and barely moist, his hand on Wesley's upper arm comforting as he moves in closer still, the kiss careful and controlled.

"Shh," Angel whispers, licking Wesley's lips, and it takes Wesley a long moment to realize that Angel is the one soothing him. "I've been lying here watching you." Another kiss. "Listening to you breathe..."

Wesley nods slightly into the next kiss, although he's not certain what he's agreeing to other than the fact that he wants this. His arm is aching where it rubs against the sheet, but he doesn't care.

His hands are on Angel's body, eager, anxious. When his palm rubs over the front of Angel's trousers, the vampire groans softly and reaches for the zipper, pulling it down and undoing the button as well, urging Wesley's hand inside to touch his cock. Angel's touch is gentle, careful, leaving plenty of room for Wesley to stop this if he wants to, and that gentleness just makes Wesley need everything that much more.

Angel's erection is very hard, foreskin drawn back along the shaft. It feels good in Wesley's hand. Large. He wants it inside him again, stretching him, filling him, not leaving room for anything but sensation.

In a haze of long, hungry kisses, they both somehow manage to shed their trousers, hands touching freshly bared skin with continued eagerness. Angel remains the slightest bit cautious, not doing anything until Wesley indicates that it's all right with touches of his own.

Wesley doesn't realize until Angel's hand moves slowly down between his legs that they don't have any lubricant, but Angel just kisses him again and says, "Wait here," before getting up and disappearing into the bathroom for a brief moment. He's back before Wesley can even think about complaining, two fingers wet with a cool liquid that smells of flowers pushing into Wesley, making him gasp and writhe.

Angel is over him now, covering his body, kissing his mouth and throat, and Wesley isn't afraid of being bitten. He shifts himself to the side a bit, letting Angel settle between his thighs. He gasps again as Angel's fingers rub over what he knows clinically is his prostate, his body responding in a way that's anything but clinical. "Please," Wesley whispers, ashamed and aching.

"Can I fuck you?" Angel asks, his voice almost a whisper too.

"Yes," Wesley says. "Yes."

Angel's fingers withdraw, and then the blunt hardness of his slick-tipped cock is pushing inside, his mouth on Wesley's accepting the whimpers that escape with every breath. It hurts, the pain tight like a muscle spasm, and Wesley kisses Angel back with every bit of desperation in him, distraction sought from the vampire's lips.

"Shh," Angel says, running a hand down along Wesley's side and then lower, using his strong grip to change Wesley's position slightly, fitting them together so that Angel's erection is embedded deep.

The pain is an intrusion that he welcomes despite the aching wrongness of it. "Angel... I -- "

Angel pulls back, and Wesley's body adjusts and responds, wanting more, begging for it wordlessly with a rocking of hips even as Angel's hand tightens on the back of Wesley's thigh. He surges forward, cock driving even deeper into Wesley.

There's no part of Wesley that wants this to be gentle, but Angel seems to have a different idea. He props his weight on one elbow and kisses Wesley softly, murmurs small words of encouragement that are most likely as much for himself as for Wesley as they find a rhythm.

It's different than the first time -- then, Wesley felt in control, as if he were the one in charge of how he allowed himself to be fucked. This time he doesn't have the comfort of that illusion, but it's all right, because he doesn't want comfort. He wants hard, painful clarity, focus so sharp that it's like having the keenest eyesight imaginable.

There's a certain amount of irony in that, he thinks.

Angel is thrusting into him, long thrusts, slow, strong hand caressing the back of Wesley's thigh even as it lifts him slightly to meet each stroke. Wesley runs his own hands over Angel's chest, marveling at how cool the vampire's skin is, remembering Angel's previous reactions and using that knowledge to his advantage, rubbing over taut nipples with his fingertips.

Angel loses his rhythm -- for a fraction of a second only, but Wesley doesn't fail to notice it. "God," he says, kissing Wesley again.

Wesley slides his mouth down over Angel's jaw, and Angel helpfully tilts his head so that Wesley can kiss his throat, even though it makes the vampire shudder and, as Wesley had hoped it might, move more forcefully.

Wesley gasps at Angel's next thrust. "Please," he says. "Angel..."

That's all it takes for Angel to change their position. Shifting back onto his knees, he holds Wesley's waist with both hands and fucks him, hard and deep. There's nothing for Wesley to hold on to other than the pillow underneath his head, so he grips onto that with both fists and moans as every thrust glances over his prostate, making his own cock harder than it's ever been in his life.

"God," Angel says again. "Wes."

It's gathering in him, his entire body trembling with it, so very close... and then Angel shoves a little bit deeper and Wesley comes, without a single touch on his cock. His cry of release is strained, hoarse, and he feels the fluid land on his stomach as it shoots out of him.

Angel doesn't stop thrusting until the last shudder has left Wesley limp and heavy-limbed -- doesn't allow himself his own orgasm until Wesley's is over. Then Angel closes his eyes, groans, and comes too -- Wesley can feel it, all of it -- his hips jerking forward, his erection throbbing inside of Wesley.

The next few moments are filled with the sound of Wesley's breathing gradually returning to normal, and with the gentle-again touch of Angel's hands on Wesley's body as he carefully withdraws and settles Wesley back onto the mattress. Tentatively -- as though he's sore and unsure -- Angel moves, lies down next to Wesley.

"You okay?" Angel asks.

Wesley starts to laugh, but he knows it doesn't sound entirely natural. "'Okay' is an entirely insufficient word under the circumstances."

Angel looks concerned. "Did -- did I hurt you?"

"No," Wesley hastens to reassure him. "No, not at all." He's gloriously sore, but won't breathe a word of that in case it means Angel will refuse to do it again. "What about you? Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Angel says, pushing himself up onto one elbow and looking at Wesley with what might very well be an unhealthy sort of devotion.

Wesley isn't sure that he can bring himself to dislike that.

* * * * *

They shower together, quickly because Wesley wants them to get on the road again before the sun rises. He winces when the water hits his arm, turning his face away like he doesn't want Angel to see his expression, like he's hiding.

Angel lets him. He knows about needing to hide.

He helps Wesley put a bandage on the wound -- mostly because blood isn't a good thing to smell like if you don't want to attract attention, but also because Angel doesn't like the thought of it hurting Wesley every time the sleeve of his shirt moves across it. Then they slip out, leaving the room unlocked and the key on the bed, and go out to the car.

"I could drive," Angel offers, tossing Wesley's blanket into the back as Wesley puts the bag into the front seat. "For the first hour, anyway."

"That's all right," Wesley says. "I'm fine with -- " He pauses, frozen, and it isn't until then that Angel hears it too, a faint click.

Later he'll curse himself for not having paid more attention -- for failing to have noticed, for letting himself relax to the point where it put them both -- but much more importantly, Wesley -- in danger. But at that moment, all Angel can think to do is turn around and put his own body in front of Wesley's, trying to protect him from the group of men that are wearing suits, some of them holding guns and crossbows.

"Hello, Father," Wesley says, more calmly than Angel would have guessed he'd be able to manage.

The guy that must be Wesley's dad steps forward. He's wearing a gray suit and a tie, and Angel can smell the condescension all over him. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I'd think that would be obvious," Wesley says, very slowly, like he knows he's saying something his dad isn't going to like. "Father, this is Angel. Angel, my father, Roger Wyndam-Pryce."

Doing a pretty good job of ignoring Angel considering he's standing right there, Roger says, "I can't say I'm surprised. After the fiasco with Miss Summers, I've been waiting for you to do something like this."

"Really?" Wesley says, feigning surprise. "I'd no idea that you had so little faith in me." He's still half behind Angel, at least, not that Angel has any idea what to do. He can feel himself trembling again, but maybe this time there's going to be a use for this restless energy.

"Turn it over to me, and we can talk about what sort of reprimand will be the result of your poor judgment," Roger says, glancing at one of the men beside him and then gesturing with his head in Angel and Wesley's direction.

Wesley still sounds calm. "No."

The man hesitates, two steps closer to Wesley than he'd been before, but waiting to see what Wesley's father decides.

"You're not doing this, Wesley. Show some sense for once in your life."

"I've always had sense," Wesley says. He shifts almost imperceptibly behind Angel, who can hear the faint sound of a zipper being undone very slowly. "I've done everything you've ever asked of me. If I've been a disappointment, it's only because there have been times when I've lived down to your expectations."

Roger looks furious, his face reddened. "This isn't a discussion. We're taking the vampire."

"No," Wesley says again. "You're not."

Fast -- faster than Angel would have given him credit for -- Wesley pulls a gun out from behind him, stepping to one side so that he can aim it at his father.

"You do realize," Roger says, "that you're protecting a vampire?"

"Yes, the thought did occur to me," Wesley says.

"And have you told it why?" Roger asks.

There's hesitation on Wesley's part then. Angel can see that it takes a lot for Wesley not to glance in his direction.

"Has he told you?" Rogers asks, looking at Angel now.

Angel shakes his head a little bit. "No."

"Don't you think you ought to?" Roger's attention is back on Wesley. "Don't you think it might like to know why you've gone to all this trouble?"

Worried now, Angel waits for reassurance.

"Don't you think it should be informed as to why you--"

Wesley cuts his father off then. "There's a prophecy," he says, his voice a little bit louder and clearer than it has been, authoritative. "Prophecies, if one wants to be specific. About a vampire with a soul."

Roger nods in a self satisfied kind of way. "There. You see?"

"You knew," Wesley continues, still looking at Roger. "You knew that he had a soul, and you still expected me to turn him back over to you so that you could experiment on him like... like an animal?"

"Vampires are animals," Roger says. "Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because this creature has a soul, it's no different from a human. It is. It's still nothing but a demon, soul or no soul."

Wesley's hand shakes a little bit, but otherwise he doesn't waver. "He's not a pawn in some bloody game," he spits out.

"Oh for God's sake, Wesley," Roger says impatiently. "Put that thing down before you get hurt."

Angel can't see Wesley's face, but he can imagine the tight, strained smile he's wearing when he says, "Have you forgotten what a good shot I am? Because I can assure you I haven't." And almost without looking he casually turns the gun to the side and pulls the trigger.

Roger's henchman, the one that had been standing closest to them, drops his gun, crying out and clutching his hand to his chest. There's blood -- Angel can see it as well as smell it -- but not really any way to tell how badly the man is hurt, even if his guess is not too badly. He knows from past experience that if they can still swear under their breath, they're not seriously wounded.

There are two more guns and two crossbows aimed at them now -- at Angel and Wesley. And Wesley's gun is pointed back at his father, which Angel is pretty sure is the only thing keeping the others from shooting them.

"Do you need another example?" Wesley asks, his voice deceptively smooth. "I'd be happy to provide one."

"You're not going to get away with this," Roger says. There's no fear there -- even though Wesley just shot one of his men, he's completely confident that he's in control of the situation.

"And yet I seem to be," Wesley says. "Angel, get in the car."

Angel starts to obey automatically, his body responding, but then he hears the click of something being cocked -- probably one of the guns, the sound has that little metal on metal click to it -- and, underneath it, another sound. A faint growl, familiar and fear inducing, and Angel stops, glances back, just before too much happens at once.

Three vampires move out of the shadows behind Wesley's father and the other men, two of them grabbing on to the men and the third sinking his fangs into one of the two unarmed humans. There's scuffling, and a heck of a lot less attention suddenly being paid to Angel and Wesley, and the sound of the first body hitting the pavement. As the second human starts to lower his weapon arm, the fangs of another vampire sunk into his throat from behind. Roger reaches out and plucks the gun from his hand neatly, turning and aiming it at Wesley and Angel like he expects his men to take care of the vampires that actually, from what Angel can see, have the upper hand.

It's Roger's look of disgust that clues Angel in, that tells him to step to one side fast as Roger pulls the trigger three or four times, the bullets that had been aimed at Wesley slamming into Angel's body instead.

Jesus, he thinks, as pain blossoms bright white and startling. Big bullets.

If he doesn't stay upright, he won't be able to protect Wesley, but there's nothing he can do. He collapses, feeling the blood running out of him.

He looks up in time to see Wesley pulling the trigger on his own gun, one round after another. Six, seven, eight. Nine.

A muffled thump as another body hits the pavement, and then everything goes dark.

* * * * *

Wesley does what he has to -- it's what he's always done, after all.

It's not necessary for him to kill the other Watchers and men that his father brought along with him -- the vampires take care of that. All Wesley has to do is wrestle Angel's limp and bleeding body into the back seat of his car -- admittedly a more difficult task than it sounds, what with the small but predictably-ending battle going on in the parking lot -- shut the doors, and get behind the wheel. Start to drive. And, most importantly, not let himself think. Not until later.

He doesn't get particularly far before he remembers that the sun will rise soon. He has to wait until he's driven several miles more to find a place that seems safe to stop, and he climbs between the front seats rather than chancing stepping outside. Standing awkwardly in a small space just to one side of Angel, he reaches for the blanket and begins to settle it over the vampire, who chooses that moment to groan and stir.

"It's all right," Wesley says.

Angel groans again. "Easy for you to say. You aren't the one who got shot." He sounds strangely confident, more secure than Wesley can recall hearing him.

"Easy for me to say, I'm the one who designed the bullets." Wesley bends lower and lays a hand on Angel's blood soaked shirt. "We need to get them out," he says, "but I'd really like to put some distance between us and here if we can. Even if they're all dead."

"You think there'll be more coming?" Angel asks, then he coughs and rolls to the side.

Wesley considers the question. His father, arrogant as he was, isn't likely to have created a back-up team. "I don't think so. But I'd still like to be somewhere at least moderately safe before we take the bullets out." He knows from previous experience how painful it's going to be for Angel, and he can't take the risk of being distracted while they're vulnerable.

"Okay." Angel pulls at the edge of the blanket himself, adjusting it, and Wesley gets back behind the wheel and begins to drive again.

The silence bothers him, in a way he can't remember it ever doing before. In general he's comfortable with silence, with his relatively solitary lifestyle -- which, he reminds himself, is no longer solitary -- but now, it feels oppressive. He can't help but wonder what Angel is thinking.

He drives another two hours north, changing direction a few times in case anyone might be anticipating their route. When the sun is high enough, he finds another cheap hotel, this one in somewhat better shape than the last. "We're stopping here," Wesley says, but there's no answer from Angel. He's not sure if the vampire is unconscious or just asleep.

He requests a quiet room, hoping that that means they'll be put far enough away from anyone else that Angel won't be overheard when the bullets are removed, and drives the car over, not bothering to lament the fact that they're likely to be seen as he struggles to get Angel inside. It won't change anything, after all. There's no point in worrying about things one can do nothing about.

Still, he takes his unzipped bag inside and leaves the door to the room open when he goes back to the car. One has to be practical.

"Angel?" Wesley shakes the vampire's shoulder gently, and Angel stirs and groans. "Come on. We need to get you inside."

"Okay," Angel says.

Between them, they manage to get him into the room and onto the bed, the second in their series of bloodstained covers the least of their worries. There's a small lock-blade in the interior pocket of Wesley's jacket, which will do as a surgical instrument. They're fortunate that there's no need to worry about infection.

"Can you take that off?" Wesley asks, gesturing at Angel's shirt as he heads into the bathroom, where there's a few individually wrapped disposable cups. He fills two of them with water and returns to the side of the bed, setting the cups and a hand towel down on the small table next to it and taking out the knife before shrugging out of his jacket.

Angel has managed to get the shirt unbuttoned, an effort that has gone to waste since, as an item of clothing, it's probably seen its last day. Wesley helps him slip it over his shoulders and off his arms.

"Leave it," Wesley says, when Angel would have lifted himself up to get the shirt out from under him. He rests his hand on Angel's quivering abdomen just below the lowest of the three bullet holes. "This is going to hurt," he warns, feeling responsible in more ways than one.

"I kind of figured that," Angel says. "It's okay -- just do it."

Wesley probes the lowest wound first, thinking that it's likely to be the most painful area. The bullet hasn't gone deep, and it's a matter of one quick slice of the knife before he reaches in amidst the flow of bright red blood and pulls it out, the metal twisted into a completely new shape between his fingers. Then he reaches for one of the cups of water and douses some into the wound.

Angel gives a strangled sort of cry, pressing his lips together immediately afterward as though this will keep any others from escaping. He's glassy eyed and shaking, and for the first time in several years, Wesley feels ill at the thought of someone else's pain.

He clamps down on the feeling -- it won't serve him here, will only make things worse -- and presses the towel to the freshly bleeding wound, soaking up the water and blood both.

"What the fuck was that?" Angel asks after a moment, his voice rough.

"A bullet?" Wesley says.

"I've been shot before," Angel says. "Dug the bullets out myself. This is different."

Wesley wonders if Angel has forgotten their earlier conversation. "I designed them," he says. It's more difficult the second time around. "There's a small reservoir containing holy water inside. They're the vampire equivalent of the baton rounds used in crowd control in Northern Ireland up until a few years ago -- completely different in form, of course, but similar in function. They aren't designed to kill a vampire, just to incapacitate it until it can either be taken captive or otherwise disposed of."

Angel blinks. "Oh. Yeah, I guess that explains it."

"We'll need to get you into the shower after this, in case there's any lingering," Wesley says. "All right, two more. Ready?"

"Yeah." Angel clenches his teeth as Wesley makes the cut, arches upward as Wesley's fingers scrabble inside him for the misshapen bullet, the slippery piece of metal difficult to get hold of. It requires a good ten seconds longer than it should have, but finally it's out, and Wesley douses the wound with the rest of the water in the first cup, then presses the towel down hard to absorb it.

Angel is panting, pained sounds, his face lined with tension.

"Only one left," Wesley says, having no idea if that sounds reassuring because he has all of his own emotions about this locked down tight where they can't interfere. "Tell me if you need a minute."

But Angel just shakes his head. "Do it."

This third bullet is the deepest, deceptively so because of the angle at which it entered. Wesley thinks it might have cracked a rib on its way in, but he has to concentrate now as blood wells thick in the cut he makes. Angel's fists clench in the blanket beneath him, Wesley staring at them blankly as the bullet slips away from his probing fingers again and again. There's a cold sweat on his skin, and his stomach flips then settles as he gets a grip on the chunk of metal at last and draws it out.

His hand is shaking as he reaches for the second cup of water with which to irrigate the wound.

"That's all," he says, his voice a bit unsteady as he applies pressure to the bleeding wound. "It's done."

Those little noises are still escaping Angel, but he opens his eyes and looks at Wesley, and then his hand comes up and covers Wesley's. "Thanks."

Suddenly feeling as if he's going to be ill, Wesley can only say, "Hold this here," before lurching to his feet and walking very carefully into the bathroom. With the sink in front of him, he manages not to retch by taking very long deep breaths through his nose until the feeling has passed, trying not to look when he washes his hands and the pink tinged water goes down the drain.

Wesley goes back out into the room and notices how bone-white Angel is, the red blood startlingly vivid against his pale skin.

He goes to get his bag, opening it up to retrieve the blood that's inside only to discover that it's no longer a viable option. Not only has one of the containers split open, oozing the stuff all over the interior of the bag and its contents, but it's gone off. He's not a vampire, but even he can tell.

This, Wesley thinks, is a problem, but not an insurmountable one, not yet.

Without a word to Angel, he takes the knife he's used on the vampire into the bathroom and washes it carefully. There's no point in attempting to sterilize it, considering where they are, but he doesn't care to take unnecessary risks either. He doesn't bother to dry the blade -- any cloth he might wipe it on is likely to contain more germs than the water does.

Sitting on the side of the bed, holding the knife carefully in his hand, Wesley says, "The blood we had with us isn't any good."

Angel's eyes are on his. "It's okay. I can wait."

"No. I don't think so." Wesley's voice is matter of fact. It's not an effort to make it that way. "You need to replace what you've lost, if you're going to heal."

"I can wait," Angel repeats.

It's not difficult to add a bit of harshness to his tone either. "I can't take the risk," he says. "I need you functional, not weak and injured." Wesley finds it easy to couch the issue in terms of what he himself needs, especially when he knows that Angel will bow more quickly to his wishes if the vampire thinks it's in Wesley's best interest. "We can use this, if you prefer." He holds up the knife so that Angel can see it.

"No," Angel says.

Wesley deliberately misunderstands. "Oh, good. Your teeth will do the job more efficiently."

"That's not what I meant," Angel says, "and you know it. I mean no, I'm not. Not going to do that." He's determined despite his condition.

"This isn't a discussion," Wesley says, using the words that worked before. "I'm not offering you a choice."

Something changes in Angel's eyes, the stubbornness fading a bit. "I don't..."

"I know you don't want it to be necessary," Wesley says. "But I also suspect that, yes, a part of you does want this, very much. I'm giving it to you willingly, Angel. I'm not a victim." That last word is carefully chosen as well.

A long silence, then Angel asks, "Are you sure?"

Wesley nods. "Yes. Where would be best? My arm? My throat?" He thinks that his arm would be the better choice strategically, as he'd have an easier time breaking Angel's grip if he needed to do so, but that a wound on his arm would also limit his movements. Each choice seems to have relatively equal benefits and drawbacks.

Angel lets go of the towel he's been holding to his torso all the time, letting it fall to the floor, and wipes his bloody hand on his torn shirt. "Come here," he says, gesturing for Wesley to lean in.

He only has to shift his position slightly in order to be able to do so comfortably, and to his surprise, the part of his body that Angel draws down to meet his mouth are his own lips. Angel kisses him. There's nothing erotic about it. It feels, in fact, like a thank you.

Then Angel tilts his head, and Wesley feels the dynamic change and the sharp prick of teeth against the tender skin of his throat.

He closes his eyes.

* * * * *

Angel groans against Wesley's throat as his teeth break through and the taste of blood fills his mouth. He hasn't forgotten how it tastes to drink from a living person, but this is so much more than all those other times. He wouldn't be able to put it into words, even if he was any good with them. This isn't just life -- it's consent.

He drinks very slowly, not encouraging the flow of blood, just letting it come naturally. He wants it to last as long as possible. There are so many sensations -- the pulsing of the blood, the feel of Wesley's breath making the skin flutter against Angel's lips, the clutch of Wesley's hand on his upper arm. He can feel his flesh knitting, the wounds a deep aching itch.

There's a small gasp when he pulls Wesley closer, not caring that it hurts, just needing to feel that human warmth against him. When he slides his hand up into Wesley's hair, Wesley moans softly, relaxes.

Angel takes another couple of long, slow swallows, then he pulls back, licking the wound gently as Wesley trembles in his arms. "You okay?"

"Yes," Wesley says. He shifts his weight and lies down next to Angel. They're both still for a while, then Wesley says, "I killed him." His breath is warm against Angel's shoulder.

Stretching his mind, trying to remember what happened, Angel rolls onto his side despite the pain, so he can see Wesley's face. "Killed who?"

Wesley makes a little sound. "My father."

Wesley's cheek is stubbled under Angel's palm. "He was going to shoot you," he points out.

"He tried to shoot me," Wesley corrects him. "And while there's a certain irony to the thought of being shot with the bullets I created... especially when the regular sort would do just fine, for a human..." He shakes his head, hiding whatever he's feeling a lot less successfully than he usually seems to.

"Hey," Angel says, moving his hand to take off Wesley's glasses, then reaching behind himself awkwardly to set them on the table. He wants to say something helpful. Too bad he has no idea what that might be. "Seems to me like he deserved what he got."

"Oh, he deserved it," Wesley says.

Angel waits until Wesley's eyes meet his before he says, "I'm sorry you had to be the one to do it."

There's a long pause, and then Wesley says, "I'm not."

Again, Angel waits. He can see that there's more Wesley needs to say, and he's afraid that if he does so much as try to encourage him, it won't happen.

Wesley's head is cushioned on his arm, his gaze far away, unfocused. "I've dreamt about killing him for years. I suppose it was always a bit more satisfying, in the dreams -- he had a tendency to gasp out apologies with his dying breath, for example."

"You didn't have a choice," Angel says. He has no idea if it's true, but it sounds good. He hopes.

"Of course I did," Wesley says, looking directly at Angel again. "People like to say that -- that they didn't have a choice -- but it's only because they're afraid of taking responsibility for their actions. I had a choice; I could have let him kill me and take you back to the laboratory. I could have agreed to turn you over to him. I could have wounded him to the point of unconsciousness and left him there." He swallows audibly. "I didn't do any of those things. I killed him."

It sounds like he's trying to talk himself into accepting it. Angel doesn't think that's a bad thing, so he nods. "I'm glad he didn't hurt you," Angel says.

"I'm sorry he hurt you," Wesley says.

Just looking at Wesley makes something inside of Angel untwist and relax. It's like he's a drug designed just for Angel, to make him feel safe and protected. "It was worth it," Angel says, leaning in with the intention of brushing his lips over Wesley's warm ones.

But Wesley pulls back, looking troubled. "No," he says. "Don't." He must be able to see that Angel is hurt by the rejection, because he lays a hand flat on Angel's chest, warming him. "I need to explain."

"Explain what?"

"Why I didn't tell you about the Prophecies of Aberjian." Wesley's voice is strained. "I just... I didn't know how to tell you without making it sound as if it was only about the role you're going to play."

He'd almost forgotten about the whole prophecy thing. "What kind of role?"

"The sort that gets written of in ancient sacred texts," Wesley says, seeming to have caught on now that Angel isn't upset. "A vampire with a soul, destined to survive the coming darkness and save the world." He glances over Angel's shoulder toward the wall with the window on it. "Although, time of day notwithstanding, I'd have to say I think the coming darkness is already here."

"Destined, huh?" Angel thinks that doesn't sound so bad, if it means maybe he's going to get through this.

Though on the other hand, there's probably no mention of whether or not Wesley makes it through too.

"Save the world? I guess it doesn't say anything helpful like how I'm supposed to do that."

"Not as such," Wesley agrees, his fingers brushing lower over the closing wounds on Angel's abdomen. He shivers at the touch -- it doesn't hurt exactly, but the skin is extra sensitive, like the nerves are still all out of whack. "Prophecies aren't meant to be an instruction manual. They don't tell one how to accomplish something -- just that one will. The how is part of the pattern, I suppose."

"The pattern?" Angel asks, a little bit distracted by the way Wesley's fingertips are trailing down the outside of his thigh.

Wesley nods. "Fate. If you believe in that sort of thing."

Watching his own hand curving over Wesley's shoulder, rubbing, Angel thinks about it. "So it's like... a guarantee? It doesn't matter what I do, because of this destiny thing?"

"If you believe in it," Wesley says cautiously.

"And you don't."

"I didn't say that," Wesley says.

"You didn't have to." Angel grins. "Let me guess -- it's not that simple, right?"

"Not nearly," Wesley says. His hand is still being distracting, making little circles over the small of Angel's back. "It doesn't mean you don't need to be careful. Prophecies aren't a science -- they're more like astrology. Guidelines. They aren't a guarantee -- they're one possible future in an infinite number of possible futures."

"Sounds like they're less 'prophecies' and more 'stuff someone pulled out of his ass'," Angel grumbles.

Wesley smiles, like he's trying not to but can't help it. "That's... an interesting theory," he says.

"Well, what good are prophecies if any little thing can screw them up?" He's not really upset about it -- he just likes seeing that smile on Wesley's face. "Maybe I should write some. Do you think prophecy writers get paid by the word?"

"Blasphemer," Wesley says, still smiling.

Angel leans in and kisses those curved lips, and this time Wesley doesn't pull away.

His gut aches, but Angel doesn't care about that. He just wants to kiss Wesley for as long as he can -- even if that's all day and through the night and the next day. As long as Wesley will let him. He knows there's something imperfect about this; not about Wesley, but about the fact that Angel thinks that Wesley is perfect. He knows it's got something to do with how fucked up he is, himself.

He doesn't care.

"You taste good," he murmurs, and he means Wesley's blood too, not just his mouth. Remembering the hot blood flowing makes him hard instantly.

Wesley kisses him back, hungry right from the beginning this time, which of course makes Angel want him all the more.

"Can I touch you? Tell me I can," Angel says, kissing the corner of Wesley's mouth.

"Yes," Wesley says, his own hand already running up along Angel's thigh to the front of his pants, rubbing at his cock, and Angel groans against Wesley's lips as his arousal soars.

He can't do what he wants -- not unless he wants to break his healing wounds open and bleed all over Wesley, which he kind of thinks might kill the mood -- so he has to settle for staying right where he is and dragging Wesley closer instead. He undoes the buttons on the front of Wesley's shirt slowly and carefully, which is stupid since the sleeve is already torn and stained with Wesley's own blood from the day before, and now the front of it has Angel's blood on it too. But hey, it's still the only one Wesley has. Might as well try to keep it mostly intact until they can replace it.

Angel's kisses are fiercer now, but he can tell by the way that Wesley is touching him and moving against him that it's fine. Better than fine. They both want this -- want each other -- and that might be all that matters.

At least Wesley's shirt is unbuttoned now, and it doesn't take long for Angel to get the front of his pants undone either, sliding his hand inside and closing his grip around that hot hard erection. He can feel the pulse flutter against his thumb, feel Wesley's stuttered gasp against his lips when he strokes gently.

Wesley fumbles with the front of Angel's pants, then he pauses, and there's a sound like the crinkle of heavy paper as he takes something from Angel's pocket. He stiffens and pulls back. Confused, Angel pulls back too, looking at Wesley's face and then down along his own body to what Wesley is staring at.

The row of photographs of Buffy and Wesley together-- taken from the desk drawer before he left the apartment, carefully folded in between frames and tucked into Angel's pocket for safekeeping -- is in Wesley's hand.

"I didn't... I..." Angel doesn't know what to say. He thinks from the look on Wesley's face that maybe he made a mistake in taking them. It wasn't that he wanted to hide them. Actually, he's not even sure if he could explain why he took them, but he thinks it was only partially for him. "I'm sorry," Angel says, pulling back even further, as far as he can without falling off the edge of the bed, not that that's far enough. "I just... I'm sorry."

Wesley manages to drag his eyes away from the photos. "No," he says gently. "No, I'm not upset."

Angel's pretty sure that's a lie, even though he's grateful for the reassurance. "Were you... did you love her?"

Smiling sadly, Wesley says, "Yes, I did. I wasn't meant to -- I was her Watcher; the last thing I was meant to do was fall madly in love with her -- but..."

Angel gets that Wesley isn't the kind of person who can admit to not being able to help himself. "I'm sorry," he says again. He means for every bad thing that's ever happened to Wesley in his life, even if at the same time he wouldn't ask for any of it to be taken back, because this is the version of Wesley he wants, not any other.

"Why did you take them?" Wesley asks.

"I don't know." Angel shrugs. He's not sure he can explain why he felt the need to. "Because I liked looking at them, I guess. You look... happy. I mean, serious, but happy."

Wesley nods, looking down at the photos again. "We were. Not all the time, of course, and she carried a heavy burden, being the Slayer... but we were happy."

Gently, Angel says, "Seems to me like the burden was yours too."

"It shouldn't have been," Wesley says. He runs his thumb over the photo. "I wasn't meant to get so attached, you see. An ideal Watcher would maintain an emotional distance so that his or her feelings wouldn't get in the way of making the hard decisions." He sounds like he's repeating something he's heard a lot of times.

"Is that what you had to do?" Angel asks, watching Wesley's face now for any hint of a clue. "Make a hard decision?"

Wesley seems to understand what he's asking. "No," he says, shaking his head. "No, her death was an accident. An ambush. A dozen vampires, and we were distracted, ill prepared... we killed most of them, and then while I was staking one she was grabbed from behind, her neck snapped. It happened so quickly... I don't think she felt much..." His eyes are wet with unshed tears, and Angel gets that he's supposed to pretend he doesn't notice. "Or maybe that's just what I want to think," Wesley says shakily.

Angel is still putting together all the pieces. "And your father blamed you."

"For her death?" Wesley shakes his head again. "No. But for having been involved with her... yes, absolutely."

"Because you loved her."

"Yes," Wesley says. "If it had merely been a physical relationship, it might have been overlooked -- similar arrangements certainly had been in the past."

Angel doesn't like what he sees, even with only this much of the picture complete. He takes the photos from Wesley's hand slowly, giving him time to protest, then he sets them behind him on the table next to Wesley's glasses.

"I'm sorry," Wesley says, obviously trying to apologize for showing a little bit of emotion. "I shouldn't -- "

"Yeah," Angel says, cutting him off. "Yeah, you should." And kisses him to forestall any other protests.

This time, nothing stops them -- no interruptions, no pauses. No talking, unless you want to count the occasional moan or whisper. They just take off the rest of their clothes and touch each other, and kiss, and Angel can smell the eagerness on Wesley just like he can hear it in the way his breath catches.

They don't have anything slick to make the way easier, and Angel doesn't want to chance hurting Wesley.

"Please," Wesley begs, squirming.

Angel has to remind himself that it's the good kind of begging, that Wesley wants this, isn't asking to be spared. "We can't," he says.

"It's fine," Wesley says. It's more a gasp than actual talking, and he brings two of Angel's fingers to his warm mouth, sucking on them. He lets them slide free from between his swollen lips and guides Angel's hand down between his legs, gasping even more sharply when Angel brushes his wet fingertips over Wesley's sensitive skin.

"I don't want to hurt you," he explains, but he eases one finger inside slightly.

Wesley squirms again. "I don't care," he says.

Angel moves and kisses him. "I do."

Wesley's eyes open slowly, like someone waking up. Or maybe -- and okay, it's possible that this is more what Angel wants to see than what's actually there -- like he's just falling asleep into a dream he's been looking forward to. "I... Angel. I -- "

His mouth is so fucking warm, Angel thinks, as they start kissing again. One of Wesley's hands is tangled in his hair, keeping him close, and for one instant Angel wants to not care -- wants to just roll Wesley over and push his way inside that heat, fuck him hard and fast.

But the realization of that instant makes Angel tremble. He'd pull away, but Wesley doesn't let him go. "No," Wesley says. "Shh... it's all right."

Somehow, it is. Maybe because Angel tells himself that it was just a thought -- that he'd never really do it, not to Wesley. Maybe just because Wesley tells him it is.

Angel slides his finger a little bit deeper, and Wesley moans.

"Yes. Angel..." Then Wesley pulls away, sliding down along Angel's body carefully to wrap his lips around the head of Angel's cock.

Part of him wants to tell Wesley not to do that -- he's not stupid, he knows that this has got to be the first time Wesley has -- but he quickly tells that part to shut up, because it's amazing. It doesn't matter that Wesley doesn't know what he's doing, that he's clumsy and awkward, not when his warm hand is sliding up the back of Angel's thigh to caress his ass. Not when his tongue is...

Wesley pulls away, and Angel groans in frustration at the loss. Gentle fingers touch his abdomen as Wesley looks up at him. "I want you to fuck me," he says, in his soft British voice. "Can you? Or will it disturb your healing?"

At that moment, Angel couldn't care less, but he knows Wesley does, so he runs his own hand down over his stomach. The new skin is fragile, the flesh tender, but he thinks it'll be okay. He hitches himself up onto one elbow. "Turn around," he says gently, guiding Wesley onto his hands and knees, a position that will be good for both of them, he hopes.

Angel gets onto his own knees behind Wesley and kisses along his spine before nudging the head of his cock, still slick with Wesley's saliva, into the right spot. Wesley pushes back to meet him with a little eager sound, and he slides in more easily than he would have thought, into that tight clenching heat.

He pauses for a few seconds before he really starts to move, just letting how incredible the moment is wash over him. The world might be even more fucked up than he'd realized, but... at least neither of them are alone. That has to count for something, right?

Then Wesley rocks his body back toward Angel again, forcing his cock just a little bit deeper, and Angel grabs onto Wesley's hips and starts to fuck him in long, steady strokes that make him forget about pretty much everything.

"God, Wesley," he says, not letting his grip tighten too much.

Wesley's head is down, his breath and heart rate rapid, rhythmic. Angel can smell his arousal, his sweat, and he pulls Wesley up onto his knees with one hand on the other man's chest so that he can lick the back of Wesley's shoulder, taste the salt there. His next thrust is harder, forcing a small grunt from Wesley. Angel's fingers find a taut nipple and pinch it, feel it tighten further at his touch.

He moves his other hand around to grasp Wesley's cock, and Wesley shudders in his arms. "Angel..."

Angel moves quicker, deeper, the angle perfect as Wesley shivers and groans and turns his head for a kiss that Angel is more than happy to give him. "Feel so good," he murmurs, letting the head of Wesley's cock slip wetly in his grip.

Wesley cries out when he pinches his nipple again, and his cock in Angel's hand throbs.

"That's it," Angel says encouragingly, thrusting again, then he remembers what Wesley said to him, the first time. "Just let it come."

And Wesley does, his entire body tightening as the orgasm ripples through him, the clench of hot muscles around Angel's own cock incredible and startling in their power.

Angel comes too, with his teeth not quite breaking through the skin of Wesley's shoulder, feeling the pulse of his release echoing Wesley's, his fingers slick with it. He groans as a last, unexpected wave rolls over him, holding Wesley tight to his chest and breathing in the scent of him, feeling the pounding of Wesley's heart throughout his own body.

After a minute or so, he reluctantly lets Wesley go, eases out of him and collapses down onto the mattress, pulling Wesley with him and into a loose embrace.

"Are you all right?" Wesley asks, stroking his chest.

"Yeah," Angel says, grinning. "Yeah, I'm good. What about you?" Suddenly concerned, he slides a hand down Wesley's back to cup his ass gently. "Was that... too rough?" God, if he hurt Wesley, he'll never forgive himself.

Wesley shakes his head. "No, I'm fine," he says, and leans in to kiss Angel again, then settles himself close, so that Angel can feel every exhalation against his skin.

"So what do we do now?" Angel asks.

"Do you mean immediately, or are you speaking in more general terms?" Wesley asks, his hand splayed flat on Angel's chest. "I was thinking a shower wouldn't be out of order."

"No, I meant generally," Angel says, nuzzling Wesley's hair. "You know, the whole prophecy thing."

"We keep moving. We do what needs to be done."

Angel pulls back so that he can see Wesley's face. "You don't have any idea, do you?"

Wesley's eyes widen in outrage for about two seconds, then his face softens and he smiles that totally transforming smile again, the one that Angel knows is going to make him fall in love. "No."

"That's okay," Angel says, reaching out to trace the little lines that curl up around Wesley's mouth. "We'll figure it out together."