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

Ris'n With Healing (In His Wings)
By Lar
For Copper

He is still the outsider.

Angel cooks breakfast for the three of then, food hot and waiting when they get done cleaning their clothes and skin of the remains of whatever creature has risen and been defeated. He remembers to make Wesley's eggs over easy, and to cut Wesley's toast into fours instead of twos. He remembers to buy the tea he saw in Wesley's cabinets, and how long to leave the bag in the hot water -- strong enough to stain the cup with rings to mark the height of the liquid like rings inside the trunk of a tree. All this is done without question, and yet still Wesley is the one who does not fit in.

Cordelia, by her very nature, believes the world exists to turn around her and bring her a never-ending selection of shoes, designer bags and the latest issue of Paris Vogue. Wesley cannot imagine talking to her about anything deeper than why she shouldn't use glass cleaner on the laptop screen. This bothers him less than it probably should, but he finds her self-absorption endearing now. A quirk, rather like his cousin Rose's tendency to nibble on the ends of her hair whenever she found herself the center of attention.

He wonders how Rose is now. He wonders if anyone in the family has asked about him. Perhaps to his mother, though he wouldn't ask. He doesn't really want to hear that no one has missed him.

It's not so terrible, being the one who stands just to the left of center. He can feel the fringes of the warmth, the tentative bits of becoming one of them. But more than that, at least for now, he can feel the shadow of the one they lost. Those shoes will never be filled, and Wesley is quite able to accept that fact. He has been accepting it most of his life, and from people more likely to tell him so.

His apartment is dreary and small, and the effort to make it more like something he might consider home is a forced one. Wesley may be a methodical man, but he is also cautious. Settling in is a commitment, and not one that is sealed with a coat of cream colored paint and a good scrubbing down of the kitchen counters. Commitments require thought, and though his eager acceptance of Angel's offer to stay and work with them was genuinely given, he worries that things will change.

The date on the calendar startles Wesley when he thinks to look at it and see how much time he has left before he needs to pay the rent. He has lost days somehow, time rushing by in a fuzzy blur of research and battles. The steady march of hazy smog-colored Los Angeles days has stolen the seasonal keys that he had come to count on all his life and now he stares at the reminder that the holidays are here. Not coming, not around the corner, but already arrived and settled on the doorstep, rattling the handle and whispering through the locks. He checks the time and swears without heat as he realizes he cannot call his mother now to wish her Happy Christmas, not without waking her and frightening her before he can explain.

He turns to the pile of mail that he's been sorting into piles of avoidance for so long, tugging out bill-shaped envelopes and dealing with those, letting the rest sit. His tea grows cold beside him as he sits at the table now and culls the ads, the offers of credit cards, the catalogs that still come here addressed to R. Stein, the former tenant. Ms. Stein -- Wesley assumes the Ms. rather than the Mr. based entirely on the pink paint that covered the bedroom walls when he moved in -- has a love of all things discount and tacky if these slick little booklets are anything to judge by. They slither into the bin as he tosses them one by one, and in the end he has three cards sitting in front of him, the envelopes small and smudged with ink from being sorted and shuffled amongst the multitudes of adverts.

He opens them slowly, already knowing that the first is from his mother. Her handwriting is so neat and precise, so familiar that he finds himself recalling scraps of paper that would lie about the kitchen at home, notes to herself and to the cook, reminders of upcoming engagements, shopping lists. The card itself is quite elegant of course, something that his father would approve of having his name engraved on. Something that his colleagues would set on their mantles without giving more than a cursory glance. Inside of Wesley's card is a short note from his mother. It tells him nothing at all about how things really are, but she signs it 'with love' and that much he can admit to being glad for. There is no mention of his father, and he is glad for that, too.

The second card is from Giles. His signature is a scrawl that Wesley can recall seeing in his journals, and he sets the card aside, propped open beside the one from his mother. Cordelia's card is bright and slick, her note inside it brief. The paper smells of her perfume, enough that he wonders if she sprayed the cards before she mailed them. He can picture her doing that, and it makes him smile. Her card stands between the other two, a gaudy bauble between their neat and well-tailored lines. He looks at those cards for a long while as the evening turns to night outside his windows.

The knock at the door startles him, rousing him from the contemplation of what those bits of paper really say about his life and where he finds himself now. He's searching for some connection but there's nothing clicking, no synapses suddenly firing to bring him enlightenment. What he has is instead is the somewhat worrying knowledge that he is unanchored and apart from everything and everyone.

He is not so lost in contemplation that he forgets to slide his hand down into the stand by the door that so neatly conceals the throwing axe he keeps there. It sits easily in his palm as he looks out the peephole and blinks in surprise at the figure waiting for him to answer. The distortion of the glass makes Angel's forehead seem even more prominent, his eyes shadowed as he stares back in a most disconcertingly direct manner.

Wesley undoes the bolt and the chain, pulls the door open. "Angel, come in. Is something wrong? Has something happened? Has Cordelia had a vision?"

Angel steps inside, shaking his head, his hands in the pockets of his coat. He seems surprised when he looks at the apartment and Wesley is instantly ready to apologize for whatever it is that he must be lacking in. Again. As usual. "I wasn't expecting anyone," he says, and clears his throat as he drops the axe back into the stand and shuts the door. "So you're outŠ visiting?"

Angel smiles, a sight that Wesley still finds both odd and admittedly attractive. He decided long ago that pretending about such things, at least to himself, was a waste of time. Still, when it catches hold of him again, he finds it disconcerting. Enough that he has to shake his head, missing Angel's words entirely.

"I'm sorry, what was that?" Wesley asks him, adjusting his glasses with a push of his finger to the sidepiece, making them more crooked rather than less so.

"Christmas?" Angel says, his eyebrows lifted. "You know, that holiday that's been around a while, I think you might have heard of it." He clears his throat, shrugs. "Sorry, Cordelia says I need to lighten up. But that joking thing, it's just not me."

"I understand," Wesley tells him with an equally awkward smile. "What about Christmas?"

"Oh, right." Angel smiles again, and again there's a rush in Wesley's head that he stubbornly pushes away before it can distract him. "So it's the holidays and Cordelia's gone to see her aunt and I thought you might want some companyŠ are you buying *any* of this?" He rubs his hand over the back of his neck.

"I believe it is actually Christmas, and that Cordelia has gone to see her aunt and uncle. She mentioned that. At the office. Something about it being catered and what the etiquette was for asking the kitchen staff to pack up the leftovers for her." He smiles at Angel encouragingly.

"Great. Good." Angel puts his hands in his pockets again and rocks on his feet a little. "Did you want some company?" he asks, head tilting to the side. "Or was that part just Cordelia being pushy again?"

"I don't want to keep you from anything."

"You're not keeping me from anything," Angel assures him quickly and does the rocking motion again, heel-toe-heel, before he settles and stands still. "Am I interrupting?"

"As you can see, there's a shortage of seasonal cheer to be interrupted." Wesley clears his throat and nods, looking around the room that suddenly seems twice as bleak as it did before, the lack of anything remotely personal making it as appealing as a cheap motel. The cards on the table look bizarrely out of place and he can feel a blush on his skin when Angel looks at them. "I lost track of time," Wesley says. "Lost track of most of the autumn it seems."

"Time's like that," Angel says quietly. "I lost about a decade once. But since I was in Guatemala at the time, I count it on the plus side." There's another one of those half-smiles and Wesley's belly does a slow forward roll.

"Guatemala, how interesting," Wesley murmurs. "Drink?"

"Rats mostly."

"No, I meant would you like a drink."

Angel blinks. "I knew that." He clears his throat. "Sure, a drink would be great. Anything's fine. Water, tea, juiceŠ"


"Yes." The relief in Angel's voice is evident.

Wesley gestures for him to sit on the shabby couch as he walks to the sideboard where he stores his good glasses and his good alcohol. His hands are not the least bit unsteady as he pours out two generous portions and he does not once come close to dropping the glass when he hands it over to Angel.

He does notice, though, that Angel's hands are cool when they brush his and that his helpfully detail oriented mind is making note of it. Cool like the leather of his jacket, like sheets when you just lie down on them. His hand trembles just a little at that comparison and he drinks before Angel can make note of it. Or he hopes at least that this is the case.

After a few sips, the silence feels less awkward to him and he watches Angel do the same, his hands around the glass as if they might warm the liquid inside of it somehow. Old habit, Wesley assumes, or perhaps just one adopted to fit in. Since he has never learned the trick of it himself, he can't be sure.

"Do you miss your family?" Angel's voice is so quiet that Wesley imagines for a moment that he did not actually hear the words at all. But when he looks from Angel's hands to his face, there's interest in the gaze that meets his.

"No. And yes. If that makes any sense at all." Wesley considers a moment. "My mother sent a card. I don't know how long it's been sitting there in the pile of mail. I should have called her." He sighs, gaze unfocussed as he wonders if she worried about him not being in contact. If she went to bed tonight feeling as though he'd forgotten her. If -- and this is the worst thought of all -- she decided that his father might have been right somehow all along.

Angel shifts on the couch, his coat noisily rubbing as he leans forward, arms on his thighs, glass held lightly between them with the tips of his fingers. Wesley watches him, fascinated at the gracefulness in even that small movement. When Angel speaks, he stares at the glass and not at Wesley.

"I know it's been difficult, adjusting to things here. With me. With Cordelia." He looks up then, meeting Wesley's somewhat startled gaze. "Things are hard when you don't feel like you fit in."

Wesley drinks rather than stammer out some token protest and when the heat has settled in his chest and trickled to his belly, he clears his throat. "You've made me part of the team, and I appreciate it. I know that losing Doyle was a devastating blow and that I cannot hope to step into his place, but I assure you that-"

"Wes." Angel sets his glass on the table and reaches into his jacket, pulling out a small, plain box. He pushes it across the table, directly in front of Wesley and smiles at him before he stands. "I don't know how much of a comfort it is to hear this considering what we're talking about. Most people wouldn't want to be associated with a vampire and a woman with crazy psychic visions. But you're not part of a team."

Wesley swallows, stands up and nods. "Of course. I shouldn't have presumed-"

Angel's arm wraps round his shoulder and pulls him closer, and again Wes is aware of the coolness of Angel's hand where it presses against his shirt, the sensation sinking through the cotton and into Wesley's skin below. 

"You're part of a family." Angel's voice at his ear makes Wes tense again and the roll in his belly is more pronounced this time. The embrace is awkward but it's more touch than Wes has had since he left home, or at least the first welcome touch in more months than he can count. His own hand comes up, touches the middle of Angel's back, slides over the soft leather until he's reached the place between his shoulder blades. Wesley pats there, a stutter of movement that makes him flush. He's at a loss for words when Angel squeezes his shoulder, and there is no explanation for the heat that shimmers through him other than the one that Wes is already well aware of.

When Angel leaves some hours later, they are both full of scotch. Wesley stares at the little box until he can focus properly, picking it up and weighing it in his hands. It's heavy for a small package, and he shakes it, listening to the rustle of the contents. When he lifts the lid, with some difficulty as it wants to cling to the box and keep its secrets safe, he stares at what lies inside. His fingers, clumsy with the alcohol, cannot manage to pick anything more delicate up and he turns the box over, spilling out the small white cards. He picks one up with laborious care and stares at the letters there, his name printed in crisp black ink: Wesley Windham-Pryce, Associate, Angel Investigations.

After some time, he realizes that he's smiling. He's not outside any longer.