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Title: Controlled Circumstances
Author: Anonymous
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Angel/Wesley
Setting: Post-To Shanshu in LA.

Wesley: I have, in fact, faced two vampires myself. Under controlled circumstances, of course.
Giles: Well, no danger of finding those here.
Wesley: Vampires?
Giles: Controlled circumstances.

-"Bad Girls"

Sometimes, for no apparent good reason that anyone can think of, your life just comes down to moments like this one. The utter stupidity and futility and uselessness of it all. The inability to do anything right. Sometimes, the end result of three decades of life, overpriced education, exclusive training, everything that ever could have been boils down to this: a darkened stoop, a shaking hand, the inability to get the key into the lock.

I've locked and unlocked this door a hundred times or more since my arrival in Los Angeles last winter.

Rattle of metal against metal. Scrape of key to doorknob; once again I am just short of the mark. I take a deep breath into lungs still charred from smoke, the slight rise of my chest straining the bandages that enfold me beneath my clothes. Is it my blurred vision or my trembling hands that are making the exercise impossible? Am I being thwarted by a Doorknob Demon? Is it him, perhaps- the unease I still feel in his presence? Or is this just further proof, if proof were needed, that I can't manage to do anything right?

As if in response, my fingers weaken and betray me and the key clatters to the doorstep.

It is in his hand before I know it, glittering dimly in the glow of streetlights. He always moves like that: a ghost, a wild animal, full of grace and silence. Watching him move has always made me catch my breath.

He says nothing, knowing that anything he says can only make me feel more worthless and incompetent than I already do, and reaches past me to unlock the door, pushing it open with one hand. I stumble through, breathless, a mass of aches, while he lingers on the doorstep.

This is stupid. Utterly stupid. I don't know why he's here. He should go. I'll be fine. It's just a broken arm, some burns, a few bruised ribs, a slight concussion. I don't know why he insisted on walking me home.

Perhaps because he realizes that I am a broken, shaking nervous wreck who hasn't slept since the world exploded around me three days ago.

"Wes," he says, a subtle reminder.

I forgot... I'm so stupid to have forgotten.

"Of course," I whisper. "Of course, come in."

I am hesitant to invite him into my apartment, ashamed of the Spartan surroundings. The air is not so much one of poverty as of desolation. Other people have life in their apartments. Other people have sporting equipment and photographs of family and friends and matching bathtowels for when guests come to call. What do I have? A ragged one-up-and-one-down flat, bed, chair, shelf full of dusty books.

I'm not sure I want him here.

This isn't right. This isn't professional. I'm an associate, not a friend. I'm not *him.* They think I don't know about him... that all he left behind was a bottle of single-malt whiskey and a propensity for headsplitting migraines. What they don't understand is that he is still here, lurking in the corners, sipping on Guinness Stout or badly brewed coffee, as much a part of our office as the furniture or the tightly curtained windows. Always here, insidiously whispering, "You're not me. You don't mean half to them what I did."

He steps inside, bending slightly under the low doorframe. He fills the foyer, too big for this apartment, something that overwhelms and disturbs. He doesn't fit here.

That doesn't make any sense; his apartment isn't any bigger than mine and much cozier, yet it doesn't feel half so cramped. One of the many things I dislike about this place; I abhor enclosed spaces.

((all those hours locked up under the stairs))

I shake off the memory, take a deep breath, and turn toward the stairs. My hand gropes for the bannister in the darkness and I stumble slightly. I feel his hands around my waist for the briefest of moments, the merest breath of contact, steadying me before disappearing again.

"Let's get you upstairs."

The stairs are steeper than I remember them being. He's taller than he's ever been before. His face here in the darkness of the stairwell seems lovelier tonight than it ever has as far back as I can remember.

He leads me into the darkened bedroom; I sit down on the small bed and steadfastly ignore his presence. He paces around the room, running his fingers over objects, dark eyes missing nothing. Ever the investigator, garnering clues. I wonder what he'll discover here.

Can he feel it, I wonder? The way it aches here? The silence, the stillness, the utter dearth? Can he feel the days and nights of sleeplessness and of Scotch and of jerking off in the bathtub? Can he feel it in the way I linger at the office, in his apartment, his car? And would it make a damn bit of difference if he did?

I suppose it wouldn't.

Turning the lights on is not even an option. My battered face, his sympathetic glance, the brutal honesty of eyes meeting. I'll have none of it, thank you very much. I'll just peel off my coat and-

-and hell, bloody fucking hell, I don't even think my arms work properly anymore.

Goddamnit, I'm going to take my coat off. I can do this, I will do this, it's the only attempt at autonomy I have left, I can't keep myself from getting taken hostage or defeated by the mind games of possessed children, I can't keep from getting blown up and I sure as hell can't unlock my own front door, but Jesus bloody fucking Christ, I'm going to take my coat off, and I'm going to go to bed, and Angel's going to go home and this will all make a good deal more sense in the morning.

But the brutal pain of my injuries soon leaves me breathless and teary-eyed as I attempt to untangle my arms from the constricting cloth. I can't do it. I can't. I'm sorry. It's too hard, it hurts too much.

((if i need someone to scream like a woman i'll give you a call))

Same old story, I suppose. How Wesley Fucked Up.

"Here, let me help you."

The problem with him is that he has a way of saying perfectly logical things and making them sound perfectly logical. And I, in my current mental and emotional state, cannot compete with that.

He comes to sit beside me on the bed, which creaks its objections in the quiet room. It isn't used to holding more than the weight of my slight frame. I can feel his fingers on my shoulders as he gently releases me from the hold of my sports jacket. His thigh is pressed against mine. I can't look at him. I feel like a lovesick schoolboy. I don't know what the hell it is that I fear or expect. It's not as if Angel and I have never been alone in the same room together before.

((under controlled circumstances of course))

((well no danger of finding those here))

Why is he still here? He's got other things to tend to. Finding a new building for our office. Fighting evil. Vanquishing the fiends of darkness. Fulfilling his destiny. Earning his just reward. Regaining his humanity. Returning to whoever he loves best. Growing old and dying happily ever after. He deserves all that. He certainly doesn't need to waste his time sitting here in the dark with me.

((well good news wes old boy you don't really have an inferiority complex you're just simply inferior))

"Lie down," he tells me. "I need to check your injuries."

Of course. Whatever you say. ((i am your faithful servant angel))

I lie on my back, hands clutched tightly on my chest. I feel like a bride about to be ravished. I wish I were a bride about to be ravished. He unbuttons my shirt dexterously, those quick hands beautiful in the darkness. I can feel his cool fingers against my chest, barely brushing the surface of my skin. It's almost the most wonderful thing I've ever felt.

((under different circumstances perhaps))

((under controlled circumstances))

((no danger of finding those here))

He pulls the bandages away with skilled hands and his fingers trace the bruises on my ribs. I hiss sharply, either from pain or pleasure. No difference. Angel's touching me. Who gives a fuck about the why or wherefore: I can feel his hands on me.

"Roll over," he says.

((your faithful servant angel))

It hurts like hell to move. I bite down on my lower lip, stifling a moan.

((if i am very silent he won't know i'm here))

I wind my arms around my chest and lie on my side, not moving.

((if i am very still there will be no cause for complaint))

"You're healing nicely."

Oh, goody. Good for me.

I close my eyes tightly and try to still the tremors in my chest.

((if i am invisible he cannot find fault))

And I can feel his hands working at the bandages and I can feel his cool fingertips brush the bruised surface of my skin and I know it's going to be more than I can bear. I hold my breath and ball my hands into fists and God, I could barely remember what it felt like to have someone touch me, I'd forgotten until now. His hands are so gentle and his touch is so light and

((and you've dreamed of this every night for months, don't forget about that, wesley))

and there are tears running silently down my battered and bandaged cheeks.

He mistakes it for pain, pain of another sort, the pain of pressure against cuts and abrasions. Fine. Let him think that. Let him think that all he wants to. When he speaks I can feel the whisper of his breath against the back of my neck. He makes me feel hot and cold by turns.

"Hey, I'm sorry," he says, laying what is supposed to be a comforting hand on my shoulder. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

No, you didn't. You never do.

And I didn't want it to come to this, never wanted it to come to this, never wanted him here, it's invasion, it's violation, it's something alien inside my sanctuary. My little hole in the wall on the not-so-nice side of Los Angeles. Wesley's womb. The place I go to keep from feeling the way that he makes me feel. The way I'm feeling right now.

But it's too late because I'm shaking all over and my sobs are becoming audible.

I'm not sure what he takes it for- pain, exhaustion, fear? I'm not sure I care. It's enough to know that he can hear the sound of my weeping and he hasn't run out the door yet. It's enough to scare the shit out of me.

I can feel the bed shift as he lies down next to me, his chest pressed against my back. No. I don't want this. No. I don't want him to touch me. I don't want him to make me start expecting all sorts of wonderful things that won't happen. I just want to be alone in my apartment again, the way things are supposed to be. I want him to go. I don't need him here to protect me, I'm not the pathetic Watcher-in-Training anymore. Things have gotten better. It *has* gotten better, hasn't it? I can't claim to be in possession of perfect contentment, any more than he can, but most days are pretty damn good. I'm doing good work here in Los Angeles; I enjoy the time I get to spend with him, more than I would ever admit. I'm certainly not the miserable, simpering little prick I was in Sunnydale a year ago. I'm stronger and I'm braver and I'm a better man now than I was then. And he, goddamn him, he taught me all that. I never asked him for that. I never asked him to come into my life and invade my peace and shatter my security. Goddamn him, I don't want this. I want him to go. I want him and his face and his body and his voice and his good intentions and his perfect soul to leave me the fuck alone.

But groveling is an art form and I wouldn't know how to tell him to leave even if I had the balls to do it.

He is right flush against me, flesh separated only by the barely existent barriers of bandages and silken shirt. There isn't room enough for us on this bed. It's a twin-sized. I should have bought a double instead. But it never occurred to me to buy a double. There simply wasn't any reason.

((if i close my eyes very tightly one arm circles my chest to pull me closer to him, while the other hand slides slowly down the length of my body, stopping at the sharp angle of my hip, coming up again to unbutton my trousers))

And sometimes your life just comes down to moments like this one, the utter futility of it all knocking you on your ass once again. Because everything I ever wanted is here in this bed and I can't have it, can't have any of it, wouldn't know how to ask for it if I thought there was half a chance in hell of it happening. And I adore him and fear him and worship him and envy him and resent him and I. want. him. so. badly.

And I can't stop crying even if I feel that familiar stirring in my groin, feel myself grow stiff. That, apparently, is the only part of my body that is still functioning properly. For whatever it's worth.

I want him to fuck me blind. I want him to make me come until I *scream.* I want him to take me and use me and never let me go. But I'll settle for his silent presence here in my bed, the comforting sensation of his chest against my back. Even if I'm tired and alone and as hard as a rock, begging silently for the touch of his hands. I'll settle for this.

And when he moves again, with that familiar stealth and silence, I almost do not notice. I'm too caught up with my own tears and shaking and maudlin thoughts, my own erection and misplaced fantasies. I do not notice his movement until I suddenly find myself tightly enclosed in strong arms and drawn closer to his chest.

((and i close my eyes and somewhere deep in the darkest recesses of my mind he rips my remaining clothing off with powerful hands. in my mind he wraps those strong arms around me and tangles his legs in mine and drives into me hard and fast. in my mind he screams my name in a hoarse breathless voice))

"Wesley," he whispers, the soft caress of breath against my ear startling me from my reverie. "Wesley, it's all right."

And he doesn't know what I'm thinking or why I'm crying, doesn't know how badly I want him or how I dream nightly of him fucking me into oblivion, doesn't realize how nervous I am or how much it hurts to have him so close. Angel will never need the way I do; he knows better than I how to be alone. He's had centuries to practice. He is stoic and he is solitary and he doesn't need us, doesn't need anyone. And I envy that. I've tried to live like that, I've tried. But I'll be damned if I'm ever stupid enough to tell him how I feel.

But it suddenly doesn't matter, because he understands. He understands that sometimes it is all simply too much. Too many demons and explosions and fatal prophecies and nights of crouching behind the steering wheel of his car, staring in awe at the sight of him fighting. Too many nights of going home, alone, to masturbate to the remembered image. Too many controlled circumstances.

I feel him shift uneasily behind me, nervous and confused, floundering for words. I cannot think of two men less equipped to deal with this situation. Angel wears his humanity uneasily, like a garment that doesn't quite fit, and he is unable to cope with grief and distress other than his own. I still remember the stricken look on his face in the weeks following *his* death, the horror in his eyes when he realized he had just called me by his name.

It's been a bad week. Cordelia almost died, and I almost died, and for awhile we thought he would die as well. And as we lay here and my sobs slowly begin to taper off into exhausted whimpers, I can feel his characteristic control of the situation quickly slipping from his grasp.

"Wesley," he says desperately, "*please* stop crying."

"I'm t-t-trying," I mutter petulantly.

He tightens the grip of his arms around me. So strong. So close. I want to belong to him. Is that too much to ask?

Of course it is.

He reaches up to stroke my lacerated cheekbone with one hand and the tenderness of the gesture is enough to make my whole body shudder with a choking sob.

"Tell me what to do," he says. "How to make it better... Wes, please. Tell me what you need."

What I need.

((and somewhere inside fantasy we climax together and lie here, in the darkness, and he whispers words that no one will ever say))

A shattering goes through me and, for the moment at least, I am sick of lying.

Sick of pretense.

So goddamned sick of being alone.

"I want you," I whisper, my voice scarcely audible.

There is a coldness and a stillness and a shock that passes through us both, and I am so humiliated, so horrified, so utterly devastated by the stupidity of what I have just said, and-

"Okay," he replies softly. "It's okay, Wes."

I suddenly realize what is about to happen, what he means. I realize what he's willing to do for me.

And I begin to weep again.

"It's okay," he murmurs. "It's gonna be all right."

His arms remain around me for several moments, rocking me back and forth, calming me. Preparing me. But it is not enough; I am still in shock, still utterly unable to believe that this is actually taking place, as he undresses quietly behind me. When he lays back down, the firm smoothness of his bare chest, pressed intimately against my skin, makes me gasp aloud. And suddenly it is not enough to wait for it to happen, it is not enough to lie here on the verge of hyperventilation, I want this, I want this *now.* And so, in an uncharacteristic moment of autonomy, I grab one of his hands and press it desperately against my crotch.

((please angel please please hurry hurry now))

He chuckles softly, pulls his hand back, and unfastens my trousers. He reaches inside to stroke me gently; immediately I am rock-hard against the pressure of his hand. I make some small noise in the back of my throat that sounds vaguely akin to a whimper. With the other hand he gently, methodically, strips me naked, his fingertips lingering briefly over my hips and thighs.

I know that we'll never mention this incident again. And that's all right. Angel doesn't love me, not the way I want him to. But he cares enough to give me what I need.

He strokes me to fullness and I begin to breathe faster and faster, becoming drunk on the feeling of pleasure after so many nights alone, to have someone's hands on me besides my own, and yet: there's something *wrong* here, something false, these touches, the caress of affection. I don't want Angel touching me as if I were his lover; I'm not his lover. To behave any differently would be to belie us both. This is very simple: Angel is going to fuck me, and then he is going to go home.

I'd ask for a kiss but I can't bear to look him in the eyes.

I feel him pull away briefly, allowing a cool rush of air between our naked bodies, as he fumbles in the drawer for lubricant. I lie there, waiting, trembling. Angel makes me feel like a virgin.

I feel his hands against my hipbones as he draws me closer to him, easing into me slowly and carefully. He begins to move with a smooth, languid rythm, one arm wrapped tightly around my waist, pulling me towards him again and again, the other reaching up to grasp me in his hand and stroke me with a firm grip. I close my eyes tightly and elicit a small moan. I'm not used to this, this gentleness. I'm used to being taken quickly and roughly in the thousand bathrooms in a thousand boys' preparatory schools, but I'm not used to the care with which Angel treats me. I lean my head back against his shoulder, swimming in the sensation and the smell and the silent sound of him, relishing the feeling, after so long, of... of what is this exactly? I've been fucked before and this is nothing like being fucked. But it certainly isn't making love. This is something else, something that goes beyond the carnal act itself. This is comfort.

He begins to thrust into me more quickly, increasing the pressure and the speed of his grip around me, and I can hear myself panting in the darkness. He is silent, unbreathing, a corporeal phantom. I could almost believe that this was just a terribly vivid version of another one of my fantasies. I want to hear him say my name, something real to convince me that this is really me here in this bed with him, but that would be inappropriate under the circumstances. That would imply that this was more than it actually is.

I'm not stupid. I know where we stand. This means nothing to him. And, in the grand scheme of things, if I'm honest with myself, it really shouldn't mean that much to me. But it's enough. Enough to let me pretend that I know what it feels like to be loved by this man.

And he is moving inside me, faster and faster, Jesus Christ, I had no idea that preternatural speed and strength were so... oh, God... and the world explodes around me again, for the second time in two days, only now in a bright pageant of lights and stars, and the roaring in my ears is so loud that I can't hear my own hoarse screams, and every fiber of my body is trembling in ecstasy.

Moments later, I feel him shudder inside me, hear a quiet gasp, a moan. Then all is stillness. I turn my head and bury it into his shoulder.

"Thank you," I whisper gratefully. "Thank you, Angel."

After it is over, I expect him to dress and exit immediately. Leave the scene of the crime. Wesley's Pity Fuck. But... he stays. He stays and wraps one strong arm around me, the other reaching up to run his fingers soothingly through my hair. He stays to place a series of gentle kisses along my neck and shoulders. I place my hands over his and clutch tightly, I shiver, I moan, and I can almost imagine that this is what perfect happiness feels like. And that, to me, is worth more than all the pity fucks in the world.

But, to save him further embarrassment, and because I want every moment here in his arms to remain in my conscious memory, I pretend to fall asleep.

I feel him pull away and for a moment the empty rush of air between us is almost more than I can bear. *No, goddamnit, no, it's not enough, it's too soon, I want more.* But I have no right to expect more. I have been lucky enough to experience what we have shared tonight. And so he dresses silently and disappears from my bedroom.

The door shuts behind him and I fall into an exhausted sleep.