Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

To Forget, Divine
By annabel
For Olwen

CANCELLED

The word flashed in yellow on the screen, with a tone of mockery. The last train. Cancelled. Well wasn't that just the perfect end to the perfect day. Why was he getting the train anyway? It was hardly his style. Motorbikes, dark cars with blacked out windows, even sewers, now those were the fashions in which he could picture himself leaving Sunnydale.

Leaving Sunnydale. It didn't seem real somehow. He'd hovered above his body and watched it turn through the smoke. Past the fire engines, he watched himself walk. Back to his home, where he saw himself put a few things in a bag and walk out of the door in a daze. He looked down on himself as his feet found their way to Sunnydale station. He observed as he checked the departure times and made his way to the only platform with a train yet to arrive. He saw the top of his head's reaction as the word ‘cancelled' appeared on the screen. Sooner or later, he really was going to have to do something about his hair.

The train had seemed like a good idea. In a day when you had been at death's door via a poisoned arrow, drunk the blood of your ex girlfriend, and gone on to fight a giant snake-demon that had eaten a man before being blown up with strategically placed dynamite around a high school... well sometimes you craved a little normality. And the train was about as ordinary as you could get. Especially, it seemed, this one. People weren't wrong about the state of the country's rail service. Although under the circumstances, train drivers could be forgiven for choosing to avoid the town.

Slowly merging floating Angel and actual Angel, he decided that he really, really didn't want to go back home; at least not just yet. Using all of his effort, he forced himself not to go in the direction of Revello Drive (what am I doing? I could stay another night. I'm breaking us up and it's all my fault and it doesn't have to be like this...). Quickly he sought somewhere to go and distract himself. He looked around... the hospital? Well he wasn't hungry, and he had less than no desire to see Faith right now. Also, too many painful memories of the day's proceedings. Not the hospital, then. What time was it? He checked the station clock -- nearly 11. Damn these out of body experiences were time consuming. He wondered how much time he'd actually devoted to packing. He could do with a late night bar... which there was. Right in front of him. How had he missed that?

A couple of drunken people stumbled out, turning in different directions to throw up and pass out respectively. How handy that this place should be situated so close to a hospital, Angel mused. The place was dark, seedy, and smelled strongly of the sort of alcohol that could pass for disinfectant. Or possibly, the sort of disinfectant that could pass for alcohol. This was definitely the place to be doing some serious forgetting.

Most of the patrons of this establishment looked like escaped convicts, and not very appetising ones at that. It was unsurprising that this wasn't the epicentre of vampiric activity. Only one man did not appear to fit in. He had his slender back to Angel, clothed in a tailored suit that looked a little as though it had been through the wars today. A head of perfectly groomed hair bent over the bar, presumably hovering over a drink, though Angel could not tell from this viewpoint. The stool next to the man he knew well was not taken, and he decided that if ever there was a time to put differences aside, it was now. Angel ordered two large whiskeys.

As the dark figure slid onto the stool next to him, Wesley turned his head out of a mild sense of curiosity; apprehension had been killed along with sobriety. So far, everyone had very much ignored him, for which he was grateful as he wasn't really in the mood for sharing his problems with the world. Especially a world that looked liable to beat him up before he had the chance. On seeing that the stranger was not, in fact, a stranger, Wesley attempted to straighten his back and lift his chin. Personal standards were very important to him and it would not do to appear to be a cowardly, defeated, drunken layman. Although he couldn't think of a time in his life when he had felt more like any of these things than he did right now. Still, pride was pride.

Angel noted the change in Wesley's body language as he sat next to him. Wesley was clearly uncomfortable with his presence. Angel felt a surge of compassion as Wesley turned his face towards him and he saw his injuries. Wesley, mistaking the compassion for pity, turned away again, attempting to keep his manner as proper as possible (impeded by the pain in his back and the effect of the alcohol).

"How're you doing?" As opening lines go it wasn't groundbreaking, but he had to start somewhere, and he wasn't in the mood for fancy prose and poetically significant quips.

"I'm in pain" Wesley replied. Angel wasn't sure if Wesley was referring more to physical or emotional pain; by the look of him, he could have meant either. Still the watcher did not turn to face him. "Thank you for the drink. It was most generous of you".

Angel felt the tension and awkwardness between them thicken into a tangible mass. Angel tried desperately to think of something safe they had in common that they could discuss. "Man I hate these places. They're so depressing. After a hard day's demon slaying you just want somewhere a little more upbeat you know?" It had come out a little more Angelus than he'd intended, but he supposed that was because he was nervous. Why was he nervous? Still, if it kept his mind off the tortuous pain, that was a good thing. He downed his drink and motioned to the bartender to pour another.

There was an awkward silence for a minute or so. During this time Wesley's posture slackened a little, though he still did not turn back to face Angel.

"I'm leaving. Going back to England."

The words hung in the air between them for a few more seconds.

"That's understandable."

It appeared Wesley was not going to elaborate on his departure. Angel ordered them each another whiskey.

"I'm leaving myself."

Now Wesley turned to face him. "I heard you might be."

The two men downed their drinks. Unasked questions were suspended in the air between them, such as ‘where are you going?' ‘Why are you going?' ‘What will you do?'

Neither man felt like asking or answering these questions, and so they continued their stoic silence. Eventually the less sober of the two men surrendered to the demand of the atmosphere.

"Oh God..." Wesley's stiff upper lip lost its turgidity as the alcohol dissolved it. He slumped down again, using the bar for support. An uncharacteristically shabby elbow nestled delicately in a pool of whiskey as he brought his hand to his forehead. The Wesley who only a few months earlier had been a young and eager career-motivated gentleman was rapidly bypassing Giles in terms of ageing and fatigue. The false bravado and arrogance had been replaced with defeatist dejection and disquiet. Angel suppressed an unexpected and worrying urge to put an arm around his drinking partner.

"I'm a failure. A complete failure. I've lost the respect of everyone here..."

Angel opened his mouth to reassure Wesley, but shut it again when he realised the most encouraging thing he had to say was ‘don't worry you haven't lost it. You never had it.' Wesley continued.

"...I made a mess of my job, blindsided by an attractive woman far too many years my junior, whom it turns out was simply a spurious distraction in my romantic pursuits."

Angel restrained himself from smiling. Even drunk and miserable, Wesley spoke as though he had swallowed a thesaurus. Wesley continued.

"I let down my superiors, who trusted me to perform a job that should have been well within my capabilities. And as to my protégé... I was a hindrance rather than a help. I couldn't instil any sense of respect or tradition in her, it's probably my fault that-"

"Buffy has her own way of working. Nobody can change her. She's very individual"

Angel interrupted.

"If we could just deal with one of my failures at a time, I was coming to Buffy" replied Wesley in a manner that would have been haughty had he not felt so defeated.

"Oh..." Angel looked down. "You meant..."

Wesley leaned closer to him, alcohol fumes emanating from him like an aura. "She'll be okay, you know."

Angel looked back, puzzled. "Faith?"

He couldn't imagine why Wesley would think that was his primary concern right now.

"Buffy."

"Oh. Yes, well of course she will. Better, even. I mean -"

Angel finished his drink; he had lost count of how many he'd had now and was rather feeling the effects --

" -- that's the point of me leaving. Because she's better off without me. It's like everyone said, what kind of life could I give her anyway? I couldn't take her into the light, couldn't ever bring her relief from a life of demons and fighting, we couldn't have a proper future together. I put her in even more danger than she'd be exposed to without me. I mean, look at today for example. And all that business with the council... it's going to make her life hell if she's made an enemy of them because of me. They're not the sort of people to mess with, they're powerful, and mean and unreasonable along with it. If Buffy -"

Angel suddenly remembered to whom he was speaking and stopped abruptly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that you... it's just..."

Wesley's face twisted in contrition, and he locked eyes with Angel to lend weight to what he was about to say. Even obstructed by the lenses of his glasses, the contact was captivating.

"No Angel, I'm sorry. It was my ignorance that caused the problems between Buffy and the council. I was blind to your plight and intentions, too concerned with formalities and traditions. I didn't take the time to appreciate your help and evaluate the circumstances subjectively as well as objectively, and for that I am deeply, deeply regretful. I only hope that you can one day forgive me for my pig-headedness."

Any negative feelings the vampire may have had towards Wesley disappeared with that speech. Was it not for the slight slurring of the words, he could have won awards with that speech, thought Angel, and he didn't doubt that Wesley meant every word. Angel's response was spoken equally as sincerely, and still the two men did not break eye contact.

"I've already forgiven you, Wesley. It took a lot for you to defy the council's orders, especially given what I said about them earlier."

Angel stopped briefly, and there was a pause while both men tried to recall exactly what he had said about the council earlier. Not that it was important, they knew the gist. Angel continued.

"You were there for us when it counted, and that took more bravery and virtue that I have seen in you or most other people in all my years. And I've had a lot of years."

The vampire and watcher smiled at one another.

"Thank you" they said in unison.

Intensity built in the ensuing seconds, giving way to slight embarrassment. Wesley was the one to break the mood, allowing a nervous laugh to escape his lips. Snapping back to reality with this, Angel looked down uncomfortably to where a new drink sat in front of him. Funny, he hadn't remembered ordering that.

"I envied you, you know" offered Wesley, evidently feeling he should further explain the behaviour he had deemed so atrocious. "The way you effortlessly commanded respect, the way you were trusted and adhered to despite being, well, you know" -- Wesley raised his hands in claw-like gestures and bared his teeth -- "Grr."

Angel stared at him incredulously, his face the picture of perplexity. "Jealous of me?" Other than Xander (and during his more realistic moments, he admitted, Faith), this was the first time he had encountered someone who was envious of him since his re-souling. And without exception, the first time it had been for a reason other than Buffy's feelings for him. He blinked, and laid his empty glass rather unsteadily back on the bar. At the back of his mind were thoughts of stoic silence and emotional caginess. At the front of his mind, was an excess of alcohol.

"Jealous of me?" he repeated, slightly higher pitched, hoping to lend a little more conceivability to the concept. "Wesley, every day of my life is pure torture. I'm trying to amend for sins that I could never hope to redeem myself for committing, I have to live with the guilt, the torment, the stomach churning horror of my being... and still know that it's in me, know that I'm still capable of such things and that on some level I want to... I want to just let go and act without thought to consequence. But worst of all, I know that for the rest of my existence I will never truly be happy. And to be around what I want, what I can't have, every day, knowing that just by being there I'm still causing pain to others... it just makes me feel even more guilty, and I can't... I can't..."

Angel trailed off, aware that coherence was rapidly ceasing to be a part of his monologue, and also aware that he was dangerously close to breaking down. He suppressed a choke as Wesley laid a hand on his shoulder, and looked back into the Englishman's eyes, full of kindness that was so rarely granted to him.

"I did envy you." The Englishman didn't blink. "But now... now I have nothing but respect for you. No matter what your past, or how you or others see you, to me you are a righteous and courageous man and I am proud to be at your side."

Angel knew that the alcohol was causing Wesley to exaggerate this opinion, but he appreciated it all the same. Wesley was about the only person he had at the moment, a situation for which he could only blame himself, and he could think of a lot worse people to act as one's solitary comrade. He didn't know if it was the alcohol or the new level of understanding the two men had reached, but he suddenly felt very strongly that he didn't want the watcher to leave him, at least not for tonight. For reasons that most certainly were attributable to the alcohol, he expressed this to Wesley.

 

The two men stumbled into Angel's apartment almost arm in arm, each trying to steady himself with the mass of the other. Angel turned to shut the door after them, and when he turned back, Wesley was facing him. He took a moment to evaluate the vision before him. Wesley's glasses were crooked, his tie skewed and loosened, his jacket in a state beyond repair, his hair tousled, and bruises littered his face. He was flushed from the brisk walk home, and most likely the effect of the alcohol. Seeing Wesley like this gave Angel his first genuine smile of the evening, even the day. Hell, maybe even the year. The whiskey swimming around his brain compelled him to comment.

"Looks like Mr. Prim and Proper has taken a step down in the world," he teased. Wesley returned the smile. "Prim and proper appear to have given way to reckless abandon for the evening" he replied, throwing off his jacket in a manoeuvre that almost cost him his balance. He draped himself carelessly, and in a very uncharacteristic manner, over the couch. "You should try it some time."

Taken aback a little by the ease with which Wesley appeared to have replaced his usual demeanour with a new and far more appealing one, Angel wavered in favour of adopting the same attitude. "I miss it" he admitted, stepping towards the couch. "being able to throw caution to the wind, seize the day, not worry about the consequences..." With each point, he took a step closer, until he was leaning over Wesley's (slightly blurred) spread form.

"Would it make you happy?" queried the Brit.

"Absolutely not." He leaned in, and could feel Wesley's breath against his face, warm and whiskey scented.

"What have we got to lose then?" The watcher's hand automatically rose to remove his glasses.

"We?" Angel's heavy brow appeared to be pulled upwards by an anti gravitational force.

"-are leaving tomorrow" Wesley contended.

It would be wrong. It would be foolish, it would be inappropriate, and there were a million reasons not to. They both knew it. Which was why they did it.

As Angel pressed his lips against the ones offered by the attractive young man beneath him, all he could think was how this would be his final act in Sunnydale. It seemed ironic, he thought as he pressed against the firm body beneath him, that the reason he came to the town in the first place was the very reason he was leaving. Maybe one day he would return, he considered, as clothes hit the floor. Maybe even one day he wouldn't want to, he speculated as he felt a familiar sensation that many years ago had made his pulse race. And then, just for a few seconds, he forgot about the subsequent centuries, he forgot about the most recent of his many years, and he almost even forgot about a certain blonde slayer.

 

Morning brought a greyish illumination to the vampire's mansion. If the tension and awkwardness at the beginning of the previous evening had been tangibly heavy between the two men, it was nothing compared to the uncomfortable climate of ‘the morning after.' They avoided eye contact as Wesley assembled his clothes and smoothed his hair back. There were times, Angel mused as he feigned engrossment in the pattern of the wall, when not being able to see your own reflection and look yourself in the eye was a blessing. He heard the room's other occupant's feet cross the floor, and there was a click as he opened the door. Angel mentally kicked himself as his head snapped up to see Wesley one more time before he left. He caught the younger man looking right back at him. They regarded each other for a second before Wesley cleared his throat and spoke the first words since their tryst.

"It goes without saying that we never speak of this again."

Angel looked at him blankly. "We'll be in different continents. With people each other haven't met" he reasoned.

"Still," replied Wesley, instinctively cleaning his glasses, "Just in case. In the future. You never know."

This, Angel had to concede.

You never knew.