Let The Punishment Fit the Crime

The hotel lobby was dark. The light from the single chandelier wasn't enough to cast the shadows back more than a tiny bit, and if he turned his head slowly enough, he could see them creeping closer towards him. He suspected he might be a little punch-drunk. Tired, maybe. He hadn't been sleeping much. Make up for all those hours of sleep, before....

Angel shook his head. That wasn't what he was trying not to think about, now. Although, certainly had he stopped things then, they would never have progressed to this level. Never find himself alone, cold, and afraid. Afraid he'd lost his friends. Secondary to losing his chance at redemption. Redemption was a prize, the glass elephant they told you about but you never quite saw. His friends had been real. They'd been here, flesh and blood, sniping and biting at his solitude until he'd never really noticed how alive they made him feel. He'd brushed them all aside in one fell swoop, and tried not to look back.

All he could do, now, was look back. The future was far too bleak. Without them, what was there but more fighting, more clawing and growling, trying to take down the evil by becoming it again? They had reminded him, while they were with him, of humanity.

Not necessarily his own, but theirs. Cordelia's hypocritical cracks about his hair, as if she didn't use as much extra-hold as he did. Gunn's streetwise sarcasm, bringing him down to earth when the mysticism and the memories started to make things so much more dramatic than they really were. Reminding him that life and unlife were overall a comedy, even if a dark one.

And Wesley-- what did Wesley remind him of? Wesley reminded him why he wanted his humanity. Reminded him of the goodness that could be inside someone, of the loyalty and intelligence and humility that he'd seen so little of in his own mortal lifetime. None at all, in his immortal one.

He'd been rid of them so easily, there at the end. Sitting here, in his darkness, he had to admit it had not been so swift. He'd pushed at them by inches, over days and weeks and the entire time he'd known them. Pushed and not relented until finally, when he'd said 'go'...they did.

So he had what he wanted, right? What he needed, in order to fight the ones who didn't fight fair. He had solitude, he had silence, he had an empty hotel, and no friends who could be hurt by what he did or didn't do.

It was for them. It made things easier on them. They didn't have to argue with him, or try to save him, or take a stand on a side that he knew damn well shifted every time the Santa Anas changed direction. They were better off, he was better off.

He was also lonely, and he didn't have anyone to make eggs for in the mornings.

He told himself it was trivial. Pointless and unnecessary things he found himself missing. What was having someone sitting nearby, working or talking or trying to get his attention, compared to the safety of those he'd come to care about? Wasn't their redemption more important than his own?

So why did he have to try so hard not to want those things? Why was the long distance phone bill and the mess in the office and the stench of days' old coffee what he found himself wishing for, when he should have been hunting for his errant women?

Why was he sitting here in the dark, the one place they could find him, if they wished, when he ought to be...anywhere?

Possibly because it was that one place. Maybe because they were still here, the sense-memory ghosts of Cordelia chattering over the phone, Gunn shining that hubcap axe of his, Wesley blowing the dust off a stack of papers and complaining about Cordelia's creative filing habits. Maybe it was because if he closed his eyes, he couldn't tell whether it was his friends in his memory, or his friends walking back through the door.

If they did-- would they believe him if he said he was sorry? Would he believe himself? Not that he wasn't, but if one of them offered forgiveness, would he be wrong or right in taking it? And which would he choose?

He wasn't even sure it was important, anymore. The fight had to come first -- bringing down Wolfram and Hart, finding and stopping Darla and Drusilla. Forgiveness, if it was to come, would have to wait until then.

Angel dropped his head. The hotel seemed suddenly completely dead.


One would think it would have calmed him, riding the bike. Through the traffic, past it as if it didn't even exist, because Wesley could maneuver where others could not. It usually gave him a forgivable feeling of smug superiority, something to hold onto when he stepped off and became just another man on two legs.

Now, though, the thrum of the engine served only to accentuate the headache building along the back of his neck, the one that had undoubtedly started from the fact that he hadn't unclenched his teeth for the last five miles.

He'd gone in search of a drink. That was all, just someplace where he could avoid being thrown passes or insults, where the other customers would ignore him as much as he pretended to ignore them. Caritas, then, and he had honestly never thought he would have been going there. But the Host had told him otherwise. Sat Wesley down with rather a weak drink, and a long series of flirtatious ramblings which had lead here. Him, riding his bike down these streets.

Heading where he'd sworn he would not go -- not unless begged. Begged, groveled to, and possibly heavily bribed. He had his pride. Wesley often had no use for it, other priorities got in the way of indulging it. But he had it, and it had kept him from coming around, or ringing, or doing more than being painfully transparent that he hoped things would change.

Change back.

Instead, his old friend had chatted with him -- chatted him up, too, for old times' sake, and let drop that Angel had said things. Done things. Things, both said and done, that implied he might have second thoughts. Assuming of course that the fool had had first thoughts, before dismissing them all.

Dismissing them, as in letting them go, terminating their employment, making them redundant. Dismissing them, as in brushing aside their contributions, their friendship, their loyalty in the face of fire, flood, famine and unreasonable vampiric grumpiness.

Letting them-- no, letting him, Wesley Wyndham-At-Your-Service-Pryce go-- believe that they were no longer wanted, though they knew perfectly well they were needed. Sod the great solo avenger. And now he was having second thoughts? He thought he might have been wrong?

And he could only mention it in passing to a green prescient demon who probably already knew, and didn't really need to know?

Wesley didn't wonder at the way his head throbbed more, as he cut the bike into a much-too-sharp turn. He shouldn't be here, he knew. He should be back at his flat, or at Virginia's flat listening to her talk about something he had only half an interest in, or at their new office, looking for work. Anywhere except driving down this street, heading towards that building.

How dare he.

How dare he cut them out, how dare he suddenly change his mind and think he might, just, possibly, be capable of being wrong, and how dare he, how bloody fucking dare he, not have the decency to pick up the phone and tell them so?

It mystified him completely, and he should have gone with that feeling. Turned the whole thing into an intellectual puzzle, one that any well-trained researcher could solve with a few weeks of dedicated study. Problem was, even that enraged him, because he had no answers for it. Couldn't unwrap the man's mind and figure out what, if anything, was going on in there.

All he had left was the road there, and what waited at the end of it, because there was only one place he was going to get any answers, and it wasn't inside his own mind. He felt rather like driving the bike into the lobby and over any vampires who happened to be standing in the way. Just to prove his point. Whatever point it was, whyever he was doing this, other than wanting to hear from Angel if it were true. Find out if there was a chance they could be asked for forgiveness, and somehow move beyond the betrayal.

Yell at the bastard for doing this to them, in the first place.

Then he was parking his bike on the sidewalk, next to the hotel's front doors. Slammed his helmet down and headed inside. Silence. Well, silence there already, neatly primed for the slamming of the front doors to echo into like shots from a gun or a backfiring engine, or his fist slamming as well, down on the countertop.

"Angel!"

Nothing and no one, and where was he? It was no use yelling at the empty lobby; if he'd wanted to get righteously indignant at furniture, he could've stayed at home and kicked merry hell out of his sofa. Not that he hadn't done that already, but in the mood he was in now, it would be splinters and stuffing on the floor.

He was considering storming back out and driving his bike horribly, dangerously fast, or storming further into the hotel and finding Angel. Got as far as another step into the lobby when he saw him. Sitting there in the dark, of course; when would the vampire ever figure out the value of natural-spectrum lightbulbs on one's emotional mood? Never, when said vampire was determined to be...dark.

Then Angel was standing up from where he'd been sitting, turning towards him, and Wesley didn't think about what he'd come here to do or say, because he still didn't know. He let his anger carry him, though, until he was right before Angel. He glared, and Angel had the gall to simply stare back. Faint perplexity on his face, as if he had no clue what could have brought Wesley here.

Wesley slapped him, hard as he could. When Angel turned to face him again, his expression was still bland. Emotionless.

Wesley slapped him a second time. Yelled something, he wasn't quite sure what, but he suddenly felt a little better. A little, but not enough. No change of expression, no surprise, no hurt, no guilt, not even anger. Nothing. What would it take to get the bastard to react? Slapping with a shovel? A nuclear missile?

"Do you have any idea? Do you?" No, probably not. Not when Wesley didn't even have any idea what he was asking, but at least Wesley had an excuse. He wasn't the one who had started this. His hand went back, to hit Angel again, and there wasn't even a flicker in the eyes.

Instead of slapping him again, he simply shoved Angel in the chest. Didn't expect to actually knock him back, so was startled when Angel lost his balance momentarily. The surprise broke the mindless wave of his anger, and he raised his hand again. Placed it on Angel's chest, and, without any pressure at all, simply asked, "Why? How could you...."

But he still did not know what he wanted to ask. What did he want Angel to say? Angel seemed not to know -- or, perhaps, not to care -- for he wasn't saying a word. Wasn't asking, wasn't yelling at him, wasn't telling him in that bored tone to go away now, and leave him be.

Did Angel truly not care? He must, though, for the Host had said...things. Things which could not be lies. Only Angel was too stubborn or too stupid to say them when they mattered. He grabbed Angel by the collar, and dragged him over to the front desk.

The fact that he accomplished it, was amazing. The man outweighed him by God knew how much, and Wesley realized there had to be something there. Something, because Angel had to have moved with him willingly. He didn't spare it more than a second's thought, however. It wasn't reaction, or decision; it was inertia. Going where he was pulled. Stubborn bloody vampire, and being stubborn still, in silently complying as if to get Wesley out of here all the quicker.

Something within him reached its boiling point. Snapped and broke and bubbled and frothed, while he held Angel by the collar and debated whether to stake him or turn around and walk out. It would be neither. Eyes to eyes, and he couldn't read Angel's, but he could damn well communicate his own intent, and back them up with voice, which came out cold and hard and steely. Better than he'd ever gotten when he'd tried for that effect. "Bend over."

Angel didn't, of course. Wesley hadn't expected him to -- the first time told. He yanked on Angel's collar again, towards the top of the counter. There was a flash of something in Angel's eyes, before he complied. Something confused, perhaps. Not enough for Wesley to read -- but he didn't care. Angel could think or feel or finally show whatever he liked.

It wouldn't change things.

Angel leaned against the counter, hands on the edge of it, legs just far enough away to almost make a decent angle. Wesley eyed him, and opted to dispense with making it perfect. Bloody well get it out of his system, and teach Angel a thing or two about how far a man could be pushed before he pushed back. Drew his hand back, and let fly.

The sound was muffled. Thick trousers and the bottom edge of Angel's sweater cushioning the smack of Wesley's hand. Frowning, Wesley tried it again, and determined that this would not do. "Take them down," he said.

"What?"

The question, finally eliciting something from Angel, only angered him more. That now he chose to speak, to question, to doubt his right to do this. "Pull them down."

Perhaps there was something in Wesley's voice that meant something. Perhaps the faded light in Angel's eyes meant it all. But Angel fumbled at the waist of his trousers, undid the buttons and pulled them down. Turned away again, and stood there.

Waiting.

Wesley suddenly understood that Angel...understood. Knew what he'd come here for, and accepted it. His anger stuttered quietly, and Wesley...let his hand fly. Knowing wouldn't get him out of it. The smack this time was loud, skin on muscled skin, resounding in the drafty eaves of the hotel lobby.

That was the sound he was after. He created it again, bringing his hand down as hard as he could. He could see the muscles tighten, slightly, jumping in that second before his hand landed.

He watched for it the next time, and the next, until the twitching beat in time with the palpitation of Wesley's heart. Could he throw it off rhythm? Was that what he was trying to do, after all? He waited a second. A beat too long, felt his own pulse in his ears thump one too many times. Then smacked down hard. Harder than he'd hit anyone, or anything that he wasn't trying to kill, and he was insanely pleased to garner his reward: a jump, tiny but noticeable. An infinitesimal intake of surprised, reflexive breath.

Good. Wonderful. Brilliant, in the children's slang sense of the word, like the six-foot-something, centuries-old child before him now. Stubborn (smack), willful (smack), used to (smack) getting his own way just because (smack bloody smacking hell, smack) he could---

Wesley faltered, blinking at the sight of the reddened skin of Angel's arse. Startled by the thought that vampires shouldn't react that way -- should their skin turn red, when abraded? Abused like this? Well, it was certainly nothing covered in his training. He let his hand fall one more time, before Angel had a chance to decide it was over.

Angel, whose head was bowed, and despite the flinch of his buttocks and the hitch of the occasional breath, did not move. Spoke not a word.

Wesley was no longer certain what reaction he had been going after. But he had to make sure Angel remembered. The next time he contemplated doing something so asinine. His 'ass' would remind him -- think twice, or risk pissing off Wesley.

He started to smile, not from amusement. Smile at the thought that Angel might consider him before taking an action. He smacked that silent vampire two more times, as Wesley indulged in the brief fantasy that Angel just might think of him first.

When he stopped, when his hand stilled, it was down. Touching, out of a literally morbid curiosity. No circulation, but the skin was red. No blood to heat it, but under his hand, the skin was almost as hot as the tailpipe on his bike, that he'd burned his fingers on more than once. He had put this here, heat in the flesh of a dead man who sometimes, only sometimes, let a similar heat show in his eyes.

Was there anything inside him like this? Now? One wouldn't think so, from the blankness of the last expression he'd seen on Angel's face. Every bit of heat, of life, of theatrically impressive breath, had been provoked so far by one Wesley Wyndham-bloody-well-listen-to-me-Pryce.

So perhaps it was appropriate to tell him everything. Make him listen, even if he'd object to it later. As if he couldn't object now, if he'd wanted to. But Angel was just standing there. No protest.

Wesley smacked him one last time, then his other hand went to his own jeans. He moved to stand behind Angel and thought of a dozen different things he could say. Said none of them, as he yanked his own trousers down and pressed himself against the artificially heated arse. Only then realized just how hard he'd gotten.

He felt the muscles clench, and saw Angel's head dip lower. But still there was silence, and still there was no attempt to move away.

A moment, there, a moment of lucidity, where he knew there were certain things one could not take back. "Say no. Say it now, if you're going to." He was actually daring Angel, and he didn't know what he would do if the word came out, but it didn't. Nothing. Silence. "You will remember this," Wesley told him.

He reached down and spread those arse-cheeks apart. Aligned himself at the limbus of more than Angel's body. One slight push and there would be nothing here he could forgive, later, if one should so choose. But Angel's head was still bowed, and Wesley could see nothing in the lines of his shoulders. Tension that said nothing of be it waiting, or regretting. Or something else completely.

"Yes, then," Wesley said, and he pressed himself slowly inside. The tip of his cock at first, only that, just enough that he could feel Angel begin to give way.

And he shoved himself farther inside.

Hands on Angel's hips, then, and he had to move slowly, for even a creature that could heal rapidly did not cease to tear when forced. But as he rested there, a single inch inside, he felt the sphincter clench, then begin to relax. More, then. Slow as he had not been when letting fly with his hand at face or arse, but just as continuous. Unremitting. Pushing in. Pausing. Somewhere in there he had the answer to one of his questions, at least. A minor one, on the list of why, damn you, why, but it was nonetheless an answer: there was heat, of a sort. Magic or hormones or stolen blood in the veins, but there was heat.

Finally, after forever or reasonable facsimile, there was one last tiny push, and he was there. Balls against the heat that he himself had created, hips, too, pressed forward against hand-warmed skin.

He paused there, for no reason other than he could. Could do whatever he liked, he realized, in this moment. Could stand here with his cock buried in Angel or step back to sing God Save the Queen and storm out -- flounce out, even. He'd bet anything he had, that Angel would merely stand here until Wesley was gone, then draw up his trousers and return to the dark place he'd been sitting in.

Wesley gripped Angel's hips harder, and pulled himself slowly out. Not completely out, just enough that he could savor pushing in again. Slowly as at first, not stopping until he came to rest with his body pressed up against Angel's. He stood there, and realized his anger had almost completely disappeared. Faded to leave room for this. Whatever this was, punishment for Angel, and what for himself? Reward? A method of maddening reason?

A good fuck?

He pulled back and thrust in again, quicker this time, the way almost loosened for him. Half-closed his eyes as he let himself revel in the sensation of it. Had he ever wanted to be here before? Had there been instants, in the old office or in the new one, or running scared-as-all-shit down some alley with demons behind him and Angel ahead, staring at this very arse, when he'd thought?

Possibly. That was then, this was now. He was here. It meant what, in the end, anything he might have idly wanted? Nothing had ever happened but Angel tossing out the little he even had, let alone anything else.

Then again he was pulling out, away. As he had been separated from everything that had given his life meaning for the last year. Again the pushing in, all the way in, because he would not be kept out. Not from a place that was rightfully his, a place he'd earned. Not in Angel's body, of course, but in Angel's life.

Then he bowed his head and began thrusting faster, no longer thinking about what it meant that he was, that Angel was letting him, that anything more than what was done, had been done.

Leaned closer to Angel as he fucked him, because he wanted this. Wanted to be here, holding him, allowed whatever entry he could create. He briefly paused and let his forehead come to rest on Angel's back, wondering what this might have been like if he'd been asked. If Angel might have truly....

He stood back up and slammed inside, and it didn't matter because he was, now. Here. Inside, and it didn't matter if this was punishment or reward or something in between. He felt himself ready to come, and let his thoughts die down and he went back to the sensations.

Heard his breath panting, and the single sound made him think absurdly for a moment that he was alone, jerking himself off in the flesh of his own hand. Then Angel moved, just a bit, and Wesley was there inside him again. A tiny pushing back against him, something that acknowledged that he was there, and he was gone. Tightness in himself, in Angel. His own heat, and whatever was inside Angel, then joined by what was inside Wesley.

He fell forward against Angel's back again, as it happened, as he came. A quick jerking fall then he froze there, letting out whatever it was that he had come to throw at Angel today. Whatever was left.

He felt the tightening of Angel's muscles, felt the tightly controlled spasms. Not sure the purpose, if Angel could not let it out without denying it, or if he didn't want to dislodge Wesley, or if there were some arcane reason he should hold himself so still during orgasm.

But he was, and Wesley reached a hand around to Angel's front, and found the erection there, and touched it as Angel came, ejaculating in as much silence and stillness as he had taken it all. For a second, Wesley wasn't sure if he shouldn't feel sorry for him. The feeling passed, as with the release of his tension, Wesley remembered the wrath which had driven him to this place.

He pulled away, and wiped his hand on his trousers. Pulled utterly away, out of Angel, out of the whole encounter. Re-arranged his clothing and became Wesley the gentleman again. Wesley the unflinching gentleman who knew exactly what he had just done. Gotten to Angel.

Angel would do what he would do, but he would remember this. For the moment, at least, Wesley had been in control of him, even if the reins had been handed to him out of guilt or apathy or something his puny mortal mind couldn't begin to encompass. It didn't matter Angel's reasons. He hadn't done this for Angel's reasons. Wesley stepped back farther, regarded the still-bowed head and hands still gripping the counter. Gripping tightly enough to have dented the wood. Wesley allowed himself a smile.

He walked away then, and got halfway across the lobby when he heard Angel's softly called voice.

"Does this mean you'll forgive me?"

Wesley didn't even hesitate. He spared a glance over his shoulder, and said in a toneless voice of his own, "I'll have to think it over." He continued out into the sunshine, and heard nothing more from Angel, behind him.