Stuff of Life to Knit Me

~ Written for the Secret Slasha 2002.
Thanks to A.E. Housman (who is dead, but whatever).

When there came a knock at the door, he almost didn't answer it. There was no one it could be except Lilah. The knock came again and he realised that the hand was too polite -- almost timid -- to be hers, so he pushed himself out of the chair and went to answer it.

Right before he swung the door open, he felt his heart skip. What if it was--

"What's wrong?" slipped out as soon as he recognised his visitor. In the next second he saw in the other man's expression that there was no world-threatening, dire urgency that had brought him here. Wesley narrowed his eyes. "What do you want?" he demanded, his harsh tone made all the more so by the roughness in his still-healing throat.

"I just came by to... see how you were. To...." Rupert looked away from him, and Wesley could see just how uncertain he was.

He wasn't sure if that made him angry, or just tired.

"To see how I am? Well, take a look." Wesley swung the door open a few inches wider, displaying himself. He was dressed only because he couldn't bring himself to the level of self-hatred that led to lounging about in nothing but a bathrobe and underwear. The only thing unkempt about him was that he hadn't shaved, and he supposed the reason for that would be obvious to anyone who knew what had happened.

The wound was no longer bandaged, but the beard growth hid the scar, disguising the reason he found himself abandoned and ostrasized, courted only by evil.

He wasn't, however, awake or quite sober enough not to get melodramatic in the privacy of his thoughts.

But he suddenly realised that Rupert was looking at him. Looking -- not staring at his throat, not glancing his way long enough to register the present of a body that had to be walked around. Looking at him. Taking in his appearance, from the fact he was wearing only socks all the way to the number of days he'd let his beard grow to achieve this amount of growth.

Wesley didn't bother telling him he shaved, once a week, because he *hated* beards.

"Well?" he demanded, when Rupert had time enough to look his fill.

"I'm sorry."

The words sounded sincere, but there were sufficiently unexpected that Wesley couldn't even throw them back in Rupert's face. "What?"

Rupert took a deep breath, meeting Wesley's gaze dead-on, and said, "I'm sorry." He sounded as though he meant it.

"What in god's name are you sorry for?"

It occurred to him he could have begun a list. Crimes against the world, committed by one Rupert Giles.

There was a slightly shorter list of crimes against one Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.

Rupert was looking away, again, and Wesley wondered how long before his nerve broke and he started making excuses that he was only in town long enough to fetch some rare whatever, and had to get back to saving the world.

"I'm just sorry." Rupert held out one hand, not towards him, but just out, as though he'd dragged along the list of crimes and had it on display. "For what's happened. For what I did, once upon a time, that..."

"Led to this?" Wesley laughed, feeling only bitterness despite the memory that he knew the other man referred to. "You assume you had some hand in what has happened?"

"Not the way you mean. But I do know there are things I might have done, that would have changed--"

"Nothing you could have done would have changed a thing. I would still--"

He stopped, horrified. There was no way he was going to discuss this with Rupert. God knew, Wesley had worked long enough to put it behind him until he barely thought anymore. Redirected everything he wanted onto someone else -- someone whom Rupert hated, and feared, just to widen the gap between his thoughts and his memories.

The only one who looked at him anymore was a woman he hated, whom he'd destroy given the chance. He had to clench his fist to keep from reaching out.

There was no forgiveness, here. There couldn't be.

"I'm sorry," Rupert said again, and the sympathy and pain on his face made Wesley want to forgive him anyway, just so he could rush forward into his arms.

"Fine. You've offered an apology. Was there anything else?" Wesley glared at him, telling himself he was appalled at the audacity of the man, to come here and act as though words would make it all right.

For a moment he thought Rupert would dare to say more, try to talk his way inside where he might... god knew what. Say more than Wesley wanted to hear. Then Rupert shook his head, his expression sad.

The disappointment he felt wasn't surprising.

"Then why don't you--" He stopped as Rupert stepped forward, quickly.

One smooth movement and he was standing there, toe to toe with him, and one hand was coming up to rest on his cheek, or shoulder, or the scar on his throat. Wesley tensed, torn between shoving him back and stepping away, when Rupert simply moved his head forward and kissed him.

Wesley had one hand on Rupert's chest to push him away, already planning how hard he would slam the door closed in his face.

He had no idea why his hand curled around Rupert's sweater or why he opened his mouth to accept another kiss.

He knew why he kept kissing him, then, why he pulled on Rupert's sweater just enough to bring them both inside where he could close the door. Rupert moved easily, never breaking free of Wesley until the door was closed and he moved back for just a moment, long enough to rest his hand on Wesley's cheek and look at his eyes.

He didn't try to say anything, and Wesley was grateful. If he stopped to listen, he would start thinking and he was sure that this could only be a good idea if he simply didn't think. Wesley only told himself it was because he needed *someone* to act as though they loved him, and he opened his mouth again as Rupert kissed him, hard.

They ended up undressing along the way to the bedroom: sweaters and shoes in the entryway, trousers in the living room, shirts in the doorway and undershirts and underwear as they crawled onto the bed. Wesley never let go of him as they'd moved, Rupert never trying to go too far until they were lying on Wesley's bed, Wesley on his back with Rupert crouching over him, kissing his mouth and his neck and his chest as they tried to position themselves far enough away from the edge of the mattress.

Rupert stopped, then, and leaned back on his heels as he straddled Wesley's hips. Wesley felt a surge of panic, that Rupert would say something that would make it necessary for Wesley to explain, or excuse, or even beg that he not change his mind.

But Rupert smiled, and reached up and removed his glasses, leaned to one side to place them on the nightstand before reaching over to remove Wesley's glasses as well, and lay them aside his own. Then Rupert was leaning down again and kissing him, and it was going to be all right.

Wesley lay there, beneath him. He could feel the warmth of Rupert's legs against his own, the heat of his groin pressed against his. The cool touch of Rupert's hands, and the dry warmth of his lips touching his mouth. He could feel the shuddering of his own stomach, or perhaps it was in his chest, as he fought the urge to grab Rupert's arms so hard he'd leave bruises.

He had no idea what it was, until Rupert lay down half on top of him and half beside, leg draped over his, and began kissing, very gently, Wesley's throat.

"No--!" He gasped, trying to sit up, or move away, the fear that this was all too good to be trusted now blazoning into panic.

Rupert's hand held his head still, but otherwise he did not use any force to keep Wesley still as he continued to place soft, whispering kisses along the scar on his throat.

"Please," he begged, wanting to move away. He'd been ready to lose himself, for just a while, in quick, passionate sex with someone who would be kind enough not to leave verbal barbs.

But Rupert kept kissing him, his hand against the side of Wesley's head to hold him still, though Wesley knew he was not trapped, knew that if he pushed he could get away.

Shaking, he tried, and tried not to, and couldn't move because he couldn't understand.

"Please," he said again. He didn't want to remember. He didn't want to think about *him*, or what he'd done. What Wesley had done. Memories were trying to crash in, and he dug his fingers into Rupert's arm. "Please, don't."

Rupert stopped, then, and he moved just enough to say, "I'm only grateful you survived."

Wesley couldn't hold his voice steady. "I'm not," he whispered, ashamed and knowing that whatever had brought Rupert inside, whatever had brought him to Wesley's door, had been ruined.

He felt Rupert shift, then a kiss was placed on his temple and he realised that he had closed his eyes. "Shh," he heard, then Rupert was kissing him again, but this time it was on his cheek, then his chest, and Rupert was pressing against him and there was no mention made of it, and no further attempts to touch his neck.

It took him a few minutes to let go, again, and Rupert had crawled down and sucked him into his mouth before Wesley began to relax and allow himself to be lost. He was shouting in another moment, and he opened his eyes to watch, forgetting everything but the man between his legs and the way his body screamed for more.

By the time Rupert moved up to nudge him over, Wesley was no longer thinking of anything. He fumbled instinctively for the drawer, grabbing a handful of whatever might be needed and dropping it on the bed behind him. He felt Rupert kissing his back, stroking his thigh and whispering something, as he got them both prepared.

Rupert moved behind him, wrapping his arms around Wesley, and Wesley had to bite back the words that he would give anything if only Rupert would never let go.

He turned his words into meaningless shouts, encouraging Rupert to fuck him all the harder, moving his hips back to meet each thrust so he could concentrate on that, and not the words he had to keep shoving away.

Soon, though, he no longer had to try, and his pants and shouts were punctuating each thrust, echoed by soft groans in his ear. He could feel Rupert's grip tighten around his chest, and Wesley moved his hips faster, trying to match Rupert's own. He didn't want it to end, couldn't stop himself from pushing them both on, faster. When he felt Rupert tense, and give a cry muted against Wesley's shoulder, he wanted to scream and hang on.

Perversely, all he could do was pant silently, and let go. Everything left him but the arm around him and the body pressed against and inside him, and the heat of Rupert's breath on his neck.

He shook as it ended, and he scrambled for excuses to keep Rupert here. It was late, and there was no reason to go back to whatever hotel he'd got for the night. There was no apocalypse, no reason to return from whence he'd come.

Wesley tried to gasp, and it came out as a strangled-cry, and he had to snap his jaw closed over more. There was a kiss, gentle as a breeze, on his shoulder, then a hand running through his hair. He opened his mouth to say something, anything, even if it were wrong, and Rupert shifted ever so slightly, and whispered again.

"Shh."

He wanted to argue, but he had to think of how. Had to figure out what would only send Rupert away faster, when they'd not spoken since the night Wesley had left Sunnydale. Since the night he'd left the man who said he could not allow himself the freedom to love him, because their duties kept them distant and their loyalties would always keep them apart. One night's passion, allowed only because they spoke of sex and nothing else, attraction of the body and none of the heart, and Wesley had left Rupert that night and known he would never go back.

He'd argued, long and hard, beforehand. But now, the arguments wouldn't come, and Wesley couldn't even think of why Rupert was here, much less what could be said to make him stay.

Then he was opening his eyes, and sunlight was streaming in the window, and he realised he'd fallen fast asleep.

And behind, around, and even inside him, Rupert was lying with him.