by the Spike and Te
October 2000

Disclaimers: Not ours.
Ratings Note: R
Summary: Promises and responsibility.
Feedback: Yes, please.


The room, the bed pays for Angel's greed. Always fed much, much more than most other
vampires. Taking the weakness of softened flesh and the ability to feel cold just so he could
fill himself with blood. Gorge on it. Bathe in it. The best wine, the best meat no comparison.
Angel surrendered everything for blood and, for the most part, never looked back.

Animal blood is nothing compared to human blood, yet it's still *blood*. Red and vital even
when dead. Choked with what had been life before it made it into his mouth. He drinks far,
far more than he needs, and so he is rarely pale, and he can sweat, and he can bleed, and he
can come.

And the bed has seen and taken all of it lately, absolutely all.

The room stinks of him.

Gluttony, yes, most assuredly.

The clock on the wall -- late afternoon. Sloth, too. Darla's wide, knowing eyes as she lowered
herself onto his cock. The sounds she made, the rake of her fingernails, and yes, her claws,
too. Taste of her blood, ghost of the taste from so many years ago.

-Before I killed her.-

Yes. And he doesn't need it, but he wants it badly enough to... do absolutely nothing. Because
that's what it boils down to, doesn't it? The sweetest, most forgiving succubus was still a
succubus. Darla  was... had been neither sweet nor forgiving, save when she chose to be and so
these were only dreams. Blessed, soft dreams like balm... perhaps the Powers?

A gift for him, sing him to his rest for everything he's done. The *good*. But he doesn't really
believe that. The Powers would never be so kind.

A niggle there. An itch of guilt, the urge to fall to his knees before whatever invisible force
there was and beg to be punished, over and over... thankfully fleeting. The dreams are only
dreams, the Powers give no gifts without sting. Like Darla herself, really, and he wants to
laugh but, more than anything else, what he really wants to do is kill.

Not slowly, but not kindly, either. He wants to bring tearing, crushing death to the man
behind the door, knocking so loudly and steadily and heart knocking with apprehension and
worry -- perhaps even some for Angel himself.

Would not be expressed.

Angel's thoughts are disordered. Lizard slow and simple and *fervent*. Darla had been doing
nothing but holding him, as she had when he was first turned, and confused. As *Angelus*
had been, but Angel had lived with those memories for over a hundred years, and it had felt
good to him. To be held.

Cherished child, beloved child, brilliant child.

There is no need for analysis of this, and Angel is much too tired to try. What is there, is there.
Wesley has come between Angel and his sire again, believing in his pure little mortal heart that
he was doing the right thing when, in truth, it was all just going to be about another soul in
distress. Another victim, drowning on dry land, dragging everything around it down and down
and down.

And, of course, it was Angel's job to save it. Him. Her. Whatever it would be.

He just needs more rest, more Darla to make sense of things, lay it all out for him the way only
she knew how. Darla could make it all so simple, and never chide him for needing it that way.
As though it was all one, and all well, and no cares need ever pass over his brow.

And *that* wakes him up, at last and truly because hadn't Darla known? Hadn't she known just
the thing that needed to be done, once and for all, to give Angel peace?

Another niggle, itch of something at the base of his neck, lost and forgotten in a jaw-cracking
yawn as Angel stands, and moves towards the door.  Feeling the dream, the content of the dream
sliding off of him like water or satin sheets until, hand on the doorknob he can hold on only to
Darla herself.  And a mean kind of anger, just under the surface like hot embers under dead dead

Which makes him wince.  Wrench the door open hard enough to catch Wesley fist in the air.

Sudden apologetic blink and Wesley is stammering:

"Oh, ah, Angel..."  Well who the *fuck* else, Wesley?  And that blank, smooth controlled look
Wesley always has for him.  All the fear, all the earnest worry, all the quiet *love*.  Standing and
blinking, faint scent of old paper and book leather and clean sweat.  Not even a wince at the funk
pouring out around them.  Oh that's right *Wesley* mine doesn't stink.

"Angel?" Fingers on the brass knob ache with the strength of his grasp and Angel... lets go.
Drops his gaze.  Feels the last droplets of dream evaporate and knows that everything that's left is
the remnant of something else.  Can't they just let him have a little *time*?  But no, Wesley is
right there and it's Angel's own promise he's delivering on.


"Are you quite..."

"I'm fine, Wes.  What is it?" Long pause and Angel finally looks up again expecting more of the
same, only to find himself the object of  'the worried Look'.  And no, that just... he doesn't have
the energy for that.  For being pried open, his fears and sorrows pulled out and placed reverently
upon the table for Wesley and Cordelia to shake their heads and marvel at how much weight his
poor heart bears.

His poor heart bears *nothing*.  Did they imagine he actually grieved for each and every soul?
Well, yes, they did.  And sometimes he knows, he thinks he does too.  And only Darla knows how
there is no such thing as remembering the dead.  And so he shrugs it off, lets it all fall away at last
so he can give Wesley the ironic smirk of someone who knows he's not fine but wants the illusion.

Which Wesley, he notes, is wonderfully quick to buy.  Gives Angel his best 'okay, I believe you,
boss' smile and then swallows it quickly because he's here about a case, a soul, and it's bad and
yeah, he knows you're not supposed to smile and flash a wave of love, untempered lust and need
when someone in the world is suffering.

Ain't that the biggest kick, though Wes? Angel thinks, only half listening as Wesley lays it out.
Because there's *always* someone suffering and any happiness you get is tainted with the pain of
someone, somewhere.

And if you take your pleasure anyway, does it really matter whether you or someone else was the
cause?  And he knows that Wes would answer 'Yes'.  And he knows that somehow he's forgotten
why that is the right answer.  And Wes is *looking* at him again.

Not just concern this time but all the rest of it too.  A look he's used to. Looking for Angelus.
Looking for Mr. Badvamp.  Just a quick reminder, Wes -- he's still in there.  And the tension under
the skin of his forehead and under his gums, the need to show, to be seen, is the last straw.

He doesn't need this *shit*.  He's trying to make his payments.  There *isn't* anything else.  Not
here.  Only Darla...  Only dreamland.  Why should he resist?  He turns away from the door, gives
Wesley his back.

"Go bring the car around back," he says.  And waits out the stammers and the silence.  And doesn't
turn around when he hears the door finally close.


Two steps forward, one step back. Isn't that how it went? In Wesley's life for certain. He wanted
Angel -- and he rushes to get the rest of the sentence out before he can really think, before his
mind can shuffle out the heap of stolen images and pathetic fantasies that seem to breed quite on
their own -- to trust him. To know Wesley trusted *him*.

He's been working quite assiduously on the matter, and most of the time Wesley thinks he's doing
well, but... there is no question that Angel saw Wesley studying him just a few moments ago, and
came to precisely the wrong conclusion.

Or, perhaps more accurately, the most *inconvenient* conclusion, because if Wesley were to be
honest, he would admit that yes, just a few moments ago, he was studying Angel for signs of...
well, he's not exactly sure, but it could probably be filed under "evil, 2000."

Wesley gets the car started without much effort, but it's probably time for a tune-up just the same.
Angel had wonderful taste in vehicles, but not much know-how about them, really, and it wasn't
necessarily *Angel's* evil he was looking for. It was just that people seemed to have this predilection
for trying to steer Angel away from his Powers given mission.

It was really only prudent to... check on things every now and again.

Especially since Angel clearly hadn't heard a word Wesley had said about the young man about to
distribute a rather vicious demon poison through his usual drug networks. Wesley explained again
carefully, haltingly on the way over to pick up Cordelia and Gunn, desperately hoping Angel will
ask him why he's repeating himself. He doesn't, though. Simply nods, grimly, and scans the streets
from behind the heavily tinted glass. It's worrisome, but since Angel was very obviously coming
back to himself as Wesley spoke, he allowed it to fade from his mind.

Focus on the disgracefully muddled moral questions of saving a young man who was, at best, a
dealer of perfectly human poisons. The shipment had to be stopped, of course, but Wesley was
hoping the dealer would give them a reason...

He frowned at himself, shook it off. In the end, it wouldn't be his decision anyway.

He hoped not.

And a short three hours later he was in his nice, bland, vaguely green hotel bathroom scrubbing
and scrubbing scrubbing because in the end in the end in the end a knife can make a bloody mess
of things. The dealer -- his name was, had been John Wilson Berry, street name "Straw" -- had
been positively doused in the demon drug, and Angel and Cordelia were busy with the Toien
supplier and the dealer had leaped down on him from a bloody catwalk and.

Face running like tallow, greasy and slick, sharp bones peeking out from the lively skin of his
fingers. Sharp bone claws and the strength of the poisoned mad and.

And they didn't blame him.

His fists had been useless, his ankle twisted to uselessness after the one kick
he'd managed to get off and then Wesley had been flat on his back, clutching at his own leg and
he'd gotten the knife out. Aunt Missy's odd gift number twenty-three, and the curved dagger had
ended it quickly.

It was silly, wasn't it? He'd had human blood on his hands before. Not often, but it had happed.
A lip split under his fist, that abominable bookie, and the dealer -- John Wilson "Straw" Berry --
hadn't really been very human anymore had he and the truth was, in loud, screaming letters:

-I asked for this.-

Shocked a small laugh out of him, and oh, God, what if someone heard? What if they thought
he was laughing about this? What if they heard the hysteria behind the laugh instead? Rogue
demon hunter rides again. God, oh God help him, though it's not
God he needs right now.

Door open, invitation long given. The memory: "Angel, I... I just want you to know that you're
welcome... ah. Everywhere I am." Stammered while he'd still been in hospital, but it counted. Had
to count, because he could *feel* his father's apoplexy, the ghost of it, since he'd never truly have
it and the blood was off his hands.

Yes. He tore off his shirt, wadded it up and jammed it far, far down into the wastebasket. Groped
for his belt and nearly vomited at the half-tacky feel of it under his palm but he swallowed it back.
*Gritted* it back and kicked off his shoes and yanked his pants down, and his boxers, too, and they
followed the shirt into the waste basket and Wesley finally looked at himself and shuddered.

Streaks, smears of blood and... other matter. Only consolation that at least some of it was his

Blood on his *face*.

Oh, Jesus, please and Wesley could not do it anymore. Could not, and would not, and please for
just a little time. A moment to drop to the floor and curl in on himself: this, too, shall pass.



Looooong night.  Mess at the warehouse, literal and figurative and they'd had to clean it up,
redress the site to look a little less obviously Hellmouthy.  Gunn and Cordelia's quiet bickering
over who needed who's help more and where that used to make Angel want to smile indulgently
and wait for them to realize, it had suddenly found him wanting to growl:

Just fucking *do* it.  The world won't end and it's not like you have eternity to waste.  And yeah,
that was the feeling grinding around under his skin: impatience.

Come on, come *on*.  With the slow pace of mortal footsteps.  With Wesley's endless apologia.
Come *on*.  I don't have all night.  And that was exactly.  Darla would be waiting and she didn't
like to wait and there wasn't ever enough time to really...  and come *on*.

No it wasn't your fault Wes and no, he wasn't even really human by that point and Angel had
herded them out -- Gunn giving them that faintly eye-rolling goodbye.  White folk being
*dangerous*.  Yeah, buddy, yeah.  And then Cordelia had taken the keys and driven them almost
fast enough to Wesley's... place.  Herding Wesley out of the back seat and more reassurances
and more and...

Took Angel a minute to realize that they were still sitting there, the car idling.  Cordelia just
glaring at him.



"I don't think he wants company."  Cordelia, implacable face and utter certainty.  That long slow
blink that said: you do *not* need me to explain this.  And then quieter, softer:

"Go."  Because she thought, maybe that he... wanted to?  And all right, short of grabbing the
keys from Cordelia's hand and tossing her onto the street -- a not entirely unappealing thought,
except for the consequences, the endless aftermath.

Apologizing, explaining, coming to terms.  And that was how the humans got you in the end.
You're the one with eternity but they just have it *all* over terms of the endless bureaucracy of
forgiveness.  Forgive or forget or don't but then move *on*.  All of which boiled down to:

"He won't want me there."  Even as he was getting out of the car.

And all the way up the stairs of Wesley's apartment/hotel -- demonless but just as decrepit as
his own -- all he could think of was how much he *didn't* want to be here.  How much he wanted,
not to set the burden down, but simply carry it 9 to 5 for a while.

Just a job, this payback.  And at the end of the day come home to his bed and his pretty dark
Queen.  5 can casserole and nights by the pool and taking her on the Formica table, on the shag
carpet under the new, color TV.  And what difference would it make if, instead of dreaming cozy
domesticity he dreamt occasionally of blood.  Took his pleasure remembering blood.  Smelled

He did.  Third floor.  Wesley's trail of blood and fear and sickness like a cartoon tendril plucking
him by the nose.  Already half roused by his thoughts.  Pre-Darla-dream tingle and... oh wouldn't
that be a *swell* way to show Wesley he cared?

Little snort of laughter, not so much at the thought but at thinking it. And then he feels a small
cold thrill, thinking for the first time almost clear but distant:  my soul's okay, but what happens
if I lose my mind?  And he is standing at Wes's apartment door. and Wes's apartment door is not
entirely closed.

He can hear and he can smell.  Wesley's dry, quiet almost-sobs.  Tiled echoes.  He's in the
bathroom.  The apartment reeks of the bitter after-kill.  Congealing blood, fear sweat, poison.

Two centuries of Pavlovian conditioning and the feel of Darla's fingernails fresh in his sense
memory.   And there is nothing.  No barrier.  at all.  The *idiot*.  Blanket invitations -- just
asking for the worst.  Believing in the best.  Do you have to make it this *easy* Wes.  Do you
have to make it this bloody hard?

Could you not just once, just look at my face and see what's really there?

And he is inside, shadow-walking down the long, narrow hall to the tiny room where Wesley
lies, curled and naked and daubed.  Hands over his eyes.

Wesley, sweater and slacks-less, is surprisingly all bones and baby soft skin. Painted like a Geisha.
The old fashioned kind:  Cream and crimson.  A blossom of purple in the obvious shape of a boot
sole on his ribs.  What body hair there is, is long, silky and dark.  Shaking a little with the effort
of not crying, not... shivering, Angel supposes.  It's cold in here.

Utterly infuriating.  Little soul on a spit, begging to be saved.

"I'm not here to save you, Wesley."  And yeah, he's shocked to have said it aloud but not as shocked
as Wesley who springs open with a shriek, clearly hurts himself scuttling away to curl in the small
space between the aluminum legs of the sink and the squat enamel side of the tub.

Looking up at Angel, flushed and fish-mouthed.  Wesley's glasses smudged and reflecting nothing
but light at him for a second until Wesley yanks them off, brushes at his naked eyes.

Trying to choke out words.  "Wh-what are you doing here?"  All backwards and Angel feels his
impatience growing again.  Looks behind him at the darkened hall.  Back at Wes.  His Wes.
Humiliated to be caught out, so naked.  But then again.  Who left the door open.  Who *always* left
the door open.

"You wanted me to come."

"I..." Holding himself together like a maiden in distress.  Soft, unfocused eyes blinking, blinking.
Angel shrugs.

"Here I am."

"I..." And then, pulling himself up with sudden dignity, fumbling the hopeless glasses back onto his
face.  "Angel... "  And then a sudden scowl and a look that's not *the look* but something infinitely
worse.  "Angel, what's wrong?"

Oh, but wasn't that perfectly in character? Naked, covered in blood, sending waves of hastily
repressed hysteria out with every shudder, and asking about how *Angel* is feeling and the worst is
that he really does care.

That bone-deep acid weakness of care that is even now making Wesley's shaded eyes go so soft
beyond the lenses. What does he see?

What does he *see*?

Fist shooting out to shatter the mirror before he can think and Wesley gasps but remains still, waiting.
Not moving, whole body *reaching*. Yearning.

"What do you see?" Husked out, couldn't stop himself and then Wesley *does* reach but Angel grabs
his wrist.

Watches Wesley swallow.

Leans in close enough to touch, noses brushing with a sort of electric absurdity and Wesley's eyes are
even wider and his scent is higher now. Wilder. Heart trip-hammering. Cock hard, brushing against
Angel's coat and he has to know. How. "What do you *see*, Wes? Tell me." Holding his wrist tighter,
perhaps a little too tight now and Wesley is barely blinking.

"A-Angel... please..."

Rips a growl out of him and Angel lunges, brushes something more akin to a punch than a kiss across
Wesley's lips and dips for his throat.

"Wes..." Can't repeat the question, can barely speak because... because Darla had whispered this,
hadn't she? Silence Wes, close his moody blue eyes but first... oh, first he had to *show* Wesley but
he couldn't because... oh God. So close to this. Abject terror and lust all at once. Blood and foulness
and keen, sharp need.

And he doesn't know what he'll do. What he should do with this delicious strong pulse and suddenly
Wesley... slumps. Goes lax, pliant against the bathroom wall. Tilts his head further to the side.

"I... I can't Angel. I can't deny you...this. I'm so sorry."

Too much too fucking much and Angel can't help but growl into the taut skin: "You are *not* my
soul's keeper."

And bites.

Wesley's short scream lost in the rush of it, the shudder of the body against his. Trapped wrist
twisting and jumping, Wesley's other hand pressed hard against Angel's chest. Scrabbling, caressing
and the *blood*. Oh, yes, yes please you nameless fuckers. You so-called *powers* watch this

-I never needed the demon to fall.-

Bites again, better grip, hard now, cock filling with stolen blood, thrusting against Wes. Pound of
his heart rabbit-fast, restless hand finding one of Angel's nipples and twisting viciously and his
orgasm shocks him.

Breaks him out and away, blood dripping from his mouth, to Wesley's skin, the floor and Wesley's
knees are wobbling and Angel can't do anything but hold him, lift him into his arms.

Lap away the evidence, lap at the drooling wound and Wesley's eyes are slipping shut but he still
manages to get an arm around Angel's neck and hold on tight. Nestle closer. Oh, God.

Endless expanse of smooth, pale skin, carelessly marred with scars and corruption... but only on
the surface, because inside... oh Wes would give him everything. Anything. No questions, no
doubts. Vast stabbing thorn of responsibility and trust and all of it for... him.

Not the dark hero. Him.

Oh, but Wesley tastes good. Take him here, end it, and go back to... and show Darla what he'd
done. Present Wesley's beautiful body...


Soft, weak, but there. Angel arranges Wes carefully in his arms, raises his head just a little, 
enough for more blood to trickle away and here is the bend. Right here. "Tell me, Wesley."

"Everything... everything I am. I... oh. Angel..."

Hand over the wound and he doesn't bother stopping, just hefts and runs.  Down three flights.
Shouldering open the heavy glass door.  Into the car, the back seat.  Wesley in his lap, eyelids

"Hospital.  Go!"

Cordelia's stunned face in the mirror, hand already turning the key in the ignition.

"Angel, what happened?  How did they...?"  The sudden shift and press of the car's acceleration
doesn't quicken Angel's stunned, slow realization that she didn't know.  Didn't see.  Didn't even
have him on her list.

And that was... wrong.  There *was* something wrong.  They had to know.  Wesley sliding in his
grasp, shifting weight, dead weight.  Blood sweet and thick as caramel unstoppable under his
hand.  Head pressed to Wesley's forehead.  And holy mother of god, Wesley had just...

And his mind will not fasten on to anything, just caroms and careens through the streets focusing
on nothing but the weight in his arms  The face against his face.  Breathing in the short, still warm
puffs of breath.  Feeling the gently slowing pulse.  Remembering the long lost, aching need for
prayer.  Those words that still will not endure his flesh.  Tears, that still will not rise.

And he is sorry.  And he is triumphant.  And he is lost.

At the hospital, they take Wesley away from him.  He almost forgets not to fight, not to growl.
Long tense eternity in waiting silence and then Cordelia's hand on his arm is warm even through
the leather.  They were in time, Wesley's going to live. And suddenly the need for sleep is heavy as
the bottom of a lake.  He can't *do* this.  Either 'this'.  Can't tell.  Can't not tell.  Can't fall.  Can't
rise.  Can't be this person who is nothing but payback and payback and payback...

"Angel, sit down.  I can't hold you."

And it occurs to him, looking down at Cordelia who seems a very long way away and very scared,
that maybe it's supposed to be this hard.   That maybe this, not forgiveness, not happiness, not
satisfaction, but simply *this* -- a life, is what the payback really earns.  And these people who
share his life.  He owes them, not just his strength, but his weakness too.  His need.

His pride is no longer on the table.  Which was the only thing left for Darla to feed.  But who gets
to be proud who's been offered *everything*.  Wesley's blood still sticky on his hand.  His face.

"There's something wrong with me," he says, letting Cordelia pull him to a low bench and push
him down.  "*Not*--" at her brittle, startled jump.  "Not that."

"Oo-kay." Still cautious, but she doesn't pull away.  And it's still hard to let go, to climb down off
the high horse he's tried to build.  And he still very much needs to know the feeling of solid
ground beneath his feet.   Down there where Wesley braves it all, naked and alone.  And so he
swallows and lets his gaze stray to the floor and stay there and says at last:

"It started with a dream..."