Parole

Wesley was sitting in the low chair in the middle of the lobby. They called it the lobby, anyhow -- the largest room of their office where they'd placed the third-hand sofa and two unmatched chairs. The chair he was in now would be comfortable for slouching in to watch television. If they'd had one.

Instead he was reading a journal, trying to pretend he was truly interested in modern standards of academic archaeology. He wasn't, but one never knew when something of occult interest would show up, disguised as a normal discovery. Note, Acathla.

He was alone in the office, the hour was late and Cordelia and Gunn had both had other things to do than sit around a rather drafty old building. Cordelia had said something about an audition, and Gunn had said only 'see ya 'round'. He didn't mind the solitude. It reminded him of things he most assuredly enjoyed remembering.

Sometimes he imagined it was his own arse that burned. Still, after all these weeks. It made him smile to think that he wasn't the only one who had something to remember.

He'd begun to doubt, when several days passed and there were no calls, no visits, no anything from Angel. Silence, as before, unbroken with the air of neglect and disinterest. Wesley had asked himself if it had meant so little -- if Angel had seen it as some little crumb he could give the poor unwanted ex-Watcher, so he would go away satisfied. Or just simply go away.

Wesley had gone to Caritas and ensconced himself at a corner table, and wondered if he needed soul-searching to find his way, or only a strong drink. The Host had ended up stopping by several times, but the first time he'd had a smile on his face, and a "nicely done" before entertaining himself with stories unrelated to anything.

When a second week had gone by, Wesley had gone to Caritas again and discovered from the bartender that Angel had sung there the night before. No one but the Host and Angel knew why, of course. But Wesley took it as encouraging.

This week, he'd decided that what he'd done was all about not waiting. He wasn't putting his life on hold, waiting for Angel to come around and say whatever it was he had to say. What he should have said before any of it started; what he should have said instead of "you're fired". Wesley wasn't going to sit around and wonder if Angel had forgotten all about that night, or if he still hadn't decided what to do about it, or if he was so far into his brooding over it that he hadn't realized that nineteen days had gone by.

If anything came of it, fine. Wesley had done what he'd wanted to do, and was pleased with himself for it. Now he was sitting here reading because he had a stack of journals purchased from the newsagent's down the block, and he hadn't felt like carting them all home. He didn't even feel like he was making excuses.

For all he knew, Angel didn't even know where their office was.

It was now beginning to get late enough that he would have to decide soon if he wanted to go back to his flat in time to make supper, or wait here until he could justify buying a couple of burritos and a beer, in lieu of the more cash-conscious choice of eating at home. He could have called Virginia and asked her to dinner -- invited himself to dinner, rather. But the fiction of their dating had ceased to extend to his friends. He'd explained to Cordelia and Gunn how Virginia wanted a friend, and the appearance of a boyfriend in public to save her from unwanted advances. The kisses and sleeping together were merely a bonus -- the enjoyment of which was beginning to pall.

Fortunately, Wesley knew that they both knew. It would be an amicable parting, once they parted. There was nothing quite like a bitter ex, to make one's life truly difficult. When this ended, and it would, there would be no recriminations. No regrets.

Which left him with what, exactly? Friends, which would even include Virginia. This office, this vocation, which had not changed, despite his chameleon shifts of skin, from tweed to leather to the faded jeans and cotton shirt he was wearing now. This need to do what was right, no matter his surroundings, no matter his companions.

It should be enough. It was enough.

So why was he staring about the office, instead of reading? Why was his mind distracted and confused? Why was he singing Simon and Garfunkel songs to himself? Why did it seem totally inappropriate for 'There but for the grace of you go I,' to be echoing in his skull?

Because it wasn't enough. He knew it wasn't enough, but somehow...he didn't mind, so much. There wasn't the feeling of desperation, of scrambling after something he wasn't entirely sure he could have, or deserve. No standing out in the cold, looking in at the people who cared not a wit for him. He had friends, and a place, and he had the leisure to sit back and decide what he wanted -- before he went after it. Most importantly, he felt confident that he could get it. That, perhaps, he even deserved it.

Happiness. Wherever he wanted to look for it.

That was a question he hadn't asked himself, yet. With the prospect of leaving Virginia, came the opportunity to seek out someone else. Someone who, perhaps, might be a friend as well as companion, with whom he could dally and cavort and all those other polite English verbs. Howl his soul to the moon, and come up laughing.

He was a scholar; laziness should be forbidden him by his own training, but he was more than that training now, and laziness of a certain sort suited him. No particular desire to sit in Caritas every night, looking for someone to come along who could actually carry a tune, and getting a nod from the Host-- this one's good to go.

He was half tempted-- no. He was more than half tempted, and there had never been any signs, one way or the other. Never heard anything of him driving off to pick up a woman in that pickup truck, or a man. Never a brush, but never a shying away, in the daily duties of slaying and running and cleaning off slime.

There were, of course, simple enough ways to test things. A comment here, a subtle, very subtle and very English flirtation there. Just to see how he responded. To see whether he flipped out and jumped back, or smiled and leaned into it.

Or, possibly more likely, blinked at him and asked him what the hell was he doing?

Wesley smiled. It would, at least, be diverting. Fun, whether a challenge or as simple as asking. For a moment, he pictured the expression on Cordelia's face if he did it while they were all in the office together. His smile threatened to turn into a chuckle. She was becoming a better actress; she might even manage not to look surprised.

It was a thought, it really was. Something to consider. Something to mull over. Something to act upon, Wesley, you idiot. What do you ever do, but consider and mull?

There was the added benefit of the feeling he had which told him that despite the reception his overtures got, he would not damage the friendship they had. He'd learned to value such things over and beyond gaining a lover. If he'd to choose with Virginia, for example, he'd choose her friendship. And her contacts, he teased himself. But mainly her friendship.

It would be fun, and that was something that he needed more of in his life. Surrounded by darkness for too long, he needed things that made him smile more. Friends he could laugh with and depend on, and a lover whom he could offer anything with, and have few enough demands on in return. No worries about the balance of good and evil, for the sake of a good fuck.

It had, though. Been a good fuck.

Not that it had surprised him. He'd never doubted that. It was merely... Did he want that? Did he want darkness and gloom and despair, and worse than those, which he had known and grown past, and could even laugh at, did he want betrayal? Did he want that, even after the betrayal had been shown for what it was, and that it was perhaps regretted? Did he want someone who could betray again?

If Angel asked again for forgiveness, could Wesley grant it, this time, and did he even want to? What did he want? He stared unseeingly at the journal page before him and thought about it, seriously. Would he grant forgiveness? It was, he thought, a moot question. It would depend on how he felt when -- if -- Angel asked for it. Whether he tried to show he deserved any.

Possibly depend entirely on Wesley's whim, in fact. Whether he'd already asked Charles if he fancied a quick shag, and if he was feeling happy and content with his life, or if he'd gone back to craving that...that...whatever that was, he got from simply being near him.

Did craving that matter, when he had every reason to think he'd never see him again.? Was that really what he wanted? Wesley had to admit, he didn't know. Honestly didn't know what he would do, if Angel rang and told him he was sorry. If he wrote a letter, explaining his behavior. If he showed up on Wesley's doorstep and told him he could fuck him again.

If Angel got down on his knees in the middle of the office in front of everyone and begged Wesley to smack him until he couldn't sit down for at least a century. A smile threatened his lips with its appearance, at the thought. That might be as amusing as propositioning Gunn, and he could guarantee that Cordelia wouldn't be able to act her way out of that scene with a straight face.

But it meant waiting. Playing the game he had played for the past how many months, instead of getting on with his life, the life he had been left to, and was determined to enjoy. He nodded to himself, as if the decision had been made. Not entirely sure what it was, he needed to sit here a bit longer and work out the details in his mind. Except that felt an awful lot like brooding, suddenly.

Perhaps he'd read his journal, instead, and simply enjoy himself, rather than sit here and think about how to do so. He returned to the magazine, then as he stared at an advertisement for a new piece of decrypting software, he remembered why he'd gone off on this little mental joyride in the first place -- the British Archaeology journal was boring as all hell.

Still, he could return himself to the proper frame of mind to read it. He'd studied far more stultifying tomes, at far greater depth. It merely took that special twist of the mind, the sinking into the words. Absorbing them, letting the brain make connections. Suspension of the disbelief that said what he was reading had no earthly import whatsoever, and just falling into the language.

Or merely staring at the words until he had no choice but to recognize them, read them, and move on to the next.

He managed to flip a couple more pages, then, skimming as closely as he could force himself to do. Wondered if he'd care enough to go back later and read more carefully -- and at that thought, sighed, and went back to do such, now. He leant his head on his hand, elbow propped up on the arm of the chair.

One leg over the other, journal set up against his thigh, he forced himself to read carefully. Wondered if he could qualify for another degree, once he finished. Certainly he'd be able to write a thesis on...whatever this was he was reading about. Urns, five hundred years old. Who bloody cared?

The door's opening startled him, and he glanced up, half-expecting Cordelia or Charles, wondering if the universe had heard him thinking and deigned to give him a sign that he could do as he wished. Instead-- well, this too was a sign. Of something, though he'd as much idea what as he had inkling of what he'd been reading for the last-- he had no idea how long either.

He knew, though, that he couldn't continue to look, after that one brief pause to confirm that it was him, standing in the doorway. Knowing, perhaps, just as little of what he was doing here as Wesley did. Five hundred year old urns were safer, and they were Wesley's purpose in being here, at the moment, sitting in this chair. Angel's purpose, if any, was shrouded in a mystery Wesley didn't feel like making the effort to examine.

Suddenly five hundred year old urns were terribly interesting.

He stared at the page before him, actually reading the words and comprehending them as he very resolutely did not listen for signs that Angel was doing anything other than stand inside the doorway. He didn't glance up when he heard...something...that told him Angel had come closer. Much closer, right there, until even with his head down he could see Angel. Standing right beside him, still not saying a word.

The hand which was not holding up Wesley's head was dangling over the edge of the chair's arm, just inches away. If he moved it that much, he could grab onto Angel's coat.

There was no reason to do so, of course. But he could have.

What might he say, Angel, of the silences and the dark corners, and the one moment when he had given himself, still silent, to Wesley, to do with as he pleased? What might come out of the mouth whose last words had been 'Go,' 'You're right,' 'you're fired.'

There was an idle curiosity, no more. What did Angel think he could say, if he was going to say anything at all, and not just stand there like some hulking lump of undead furniture, to change anything? To fix anything? It was at least half as interesting as what they'd found beneath the first coat of glazing on that black figure vase at the bottom of the page.

Only half as interesting? He studied the vase. There was movement, then, and Wesley had to control his reflex to look up. Staring harder at the vase, he discovered he could recognize the drawings along one side. Nothing supernatural, but something he'd seen before--

Angel had sat down, or knelt, or something. He was down on the floor, beside Wesley's chair. Next to Wesley's hand. Another slight movement, and his face was pressed against Wesley's hand.

And still, nothing was said.

Wesley knew he could speak, now. Offer some absolution, some word of redemption. But he couldn't. He needed more than just the request for forgiveness, however eloquently stated. He remained silent and waited.

"Please," came the whisper, a few moments into the silence. Wesley didn't reply, but the face remained, even so. Against his hand, not moving away even when Wesley shifted his hand the slightest bit.

Not moving away, but moving after. Pressing his face back against Wesley's hand to keep contact. Faithful, then.

At last.