And They Dance

~ Warnings: deathfic, eventually. Of a sort. Not what you're thinking, but in case someone bruhahas about it later, fine, saying it now: here be dragons. And death.

Angel stood on the cold hillside, and stared at the gravestone. He wished it were too dark to see, too dark to read the inscription clearly. But it wasn't. Despite the new moon, and the lack of clouds to reflect streetlights from town, there was yet enough light for him to see. Another reason to curse his vampiric nature. He could see.

Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. 1969-2029. Beloved Son.

He'd heard of Wesley's death only a week before. Traveled to this island which he had not visited in centuries, to come here. View the stone, tell himself it must be real.

Perhaps, his heart whispered, he'd come hoping to find an empty grave, or undead body digging free. A misspelling of the name to assure it was not *him*.

He'd come here three nights in a row, and stood guard. Waiting. Telling himself he was a fool for hoping - for wishing, now, that the truth could be undone. Each morning he walked back to the small motel and told himself that tomorrow night he would leave.

When the sun fell, he asked himself what was living forever for, if not to spend a few more days at a friend's graveside.

Friend. Angel bowed his head as the word went through his mind again. Friend. Lost, to years and separate ways, lost to the fear of a curse and the needs of war. Lost to time and distance, until all he had was the memory of a friend. Futile wishes that he could have risked asking for more.

He found himself beginning to kneel, and did not know what he needed to pray for. Felt the dirt beneath his knees, and-

"Angel? Is that you?"

Angel turned. Not entirely surprised to see him, but why did his imagination deliver up a Wesley who had grown so old? Why not a ghost as the man he remembered, young again?

"What are-oh, dear." Wesley walked forward, glancing from Angel to the headstone. "Perhaps I should point out there are at least five 'Wesley Wyndham-Pryces' in Great Britain? Only two of whom were near my age, actually."

Angel blinked. Wesley sounded far too much like himself to be anything but a dream. As he'd been wishing for. Except he could hear Wesley's heartbeat.... "Huh?"

"Angel?" Wesley looked concerned. Angel could see the wrinkles on his face, as clearly as he'd read the inscription. Could see the grey-white hair, glasses which seemed a bit thicker than before. Could see him walking closer....

Angel yelped, and jumped to his feet. Wesley stopped.

"Er, have I come at a bad time?"

He was laughing. Not out loud, not yet, but Angel realised Wesley was laughing. "You're not dead?"

"No, not dead. I do appreciate your coming to visit me, though. Even if a bit late."

There was no criticism in his tone. Confused, Angel just kept looking at him. Telling himself he was facing what appeared to be completely human. A live, living, Wesley. Not dead. Who wasn't mad at him for having never tried to visit him until after he'd died. "You're welcome?"

Wesley gave him a smile. It reminded him, oddly, of Cordelia. Kind, understanding, with a little hint of pity. Reassuring in its familiarity. "Shall we go down to the local? Or would you rather talk...here?" Wesley looked about, and Angel could hear the fastidiousness so unbecoming a man who had once fought evil under all types of unclean circumstances.

Maybe retirement had been good for him. If he was retired. Angel didn't even know what Wesley had been doing all these years.

"Um, sure," he said, when he realised Wesley was waiting for an answer. As Wesley took a step away, Angel followed.

As Angel moved to walk along side the apparently-not-dead man, Wesley said, "I was born in 1971, by the way. In case any of the others die."

Embarrassed, Angel merely said, "Thanks. I'll remember that."

Only he wasn't so sure he'd need to know.


He'd asked Wes to go back with him. That same night, when they'd walked to the bar and sat down for a drink, and slowly and haltingly began talking of how have you been and what have you been doing. Skirting around the questions like why has it been so long. He'd waited, fighting the courage that told him now or never, until finally he'd blurted out the question and Wesley had stared at him, confused.

Angel had managed not to ruin the asking by dragging it back, excusing it or waving it off with the strong English beer. Managed to sit there and be sincere and patient until Wesley had answered him.

Well, first Wesley had asked him why. Why at all, why now, what for. Ever since that night, Angel had been trying to find the answers to those questions, even though Wesley told him it was no longer necessary. They were together, again, and asking why and why now and why not then, was immaterial. They were together. Had been, now, for nearly three years.

Angel knew that Wesley still loved him. Not in the same way the young man had -- no burning passion of devotion, no wide-eyed, stumbling, anything at all to please you. Angel had seen that as soon as he'd asked, had seen that what Wesley felt was a slow, gentle, I once knew you and loved you kind of thing.

Wesley had said 'yes' because he knew Angel's love hadn't changed. He'd said yes because he might as well. An old man, near the end of his life, he'd had friends and enemies and lovers and passions. He had memories, and regrets, and answers -- and Angel knew that Wesley had said yes because there was no reason to say no.

He'd thought at first he'd grow to resent that. But three years and all he felt was love. Love, need, want, hunger, desire. A host of other emotions that he didn't try to catalogue because it distracted him from their source. That, and because he'd been afraid. He wasn't afraid anymore. Not sitting here, with the last three years of love behind them, with his lover in his arms, waiting. Waiting for sunrise.

"Wesley?"

"Yes, Angel?" Wesley's soft voice came up to him, and Angel almost regretted having spoken, having disturbed him.

"Are you...." It was a stupid question, but he had to know. Had to offer something, had to know what he could offer. "Is there anything I can do?" he finished.

He could feel Wesley smile. "You've asked me that four times, now, love."

"I know." Angel leaned down and kissed Wesley's forehead. "But I keep thinking...anything, anything at all. That I can do. Maybe...to make it more comfortable?"

"I assure you, Angel, I am as comfortable as a man can expect to be." Wesley's amused voice softened around Angel's ears. He wanted to hang onto that sound, bury himself in it. Along with every other sound of Wesley's voice. Hard with anger, soft with emotion, ringing with laughter or burning with passion they'd both thought was not to be rekindled.

"I could talk to you," he offered. A story, perhaps, or just rambling on whatever came into his head.

"You already are."

"I--" He smiled. "That's not what I meant."

"I'm not about to ask you to sing to me," Wesley said dryly.

"Don't worry, I wasn't going to offer." Angel leaned down, again, and left his face pressed to Wesley's head. He could feel the man breathing, rapid and shallow. He could feel the heartbeat, dim through layers of clothing. "Are you cold?"

There was a pause. "Does it matter?"

Angel closed his eyes. "No, I guess not." It wasn't like he could offer his own warmth. All he could do was what he was already doing. Holding Wesley off the ground, as much as he could, to prevent the leeching of Wesley's body heat. Hold him, speak with him, and wait.

Wish he could have had any recourse but this. The first stone had been easily removed -- vampiric strength hoisting it into the air and throwing it in fear and anger as far as he could throw. It had revealed exactly what he hadn't been prepared to see.

Wesley had been trapped by the falling rocks, and when Angel had removed the first, he'd seen Wes underneath another. Body turned and bent in ways Angelus had done once upon a time in glee, Angel had stood frozen until the soft rush of air had pulled him down to Wesley's side. He'd tried for what had felt like forever and barely seconds, to free Wes, but everything was balanced in place. The removal of one more stone would bring everything crashing down.

After Wesley had woken, and judged his situation, he'd quietly told Angel to head back to town for rescue. Angel had refused, and they'd both known why. It wasn't that there was no time for a desperately running vampire to reach the town and find the emergency personnel who could come back out here. Angel could have made it, with plenty of time to spare.

But it would have done no good. With no place to brace equipment, and no way to bring a helicopter close enough among the trees and outcroppings and mountain-side, all he would accomplish would be to bring witnesses to his lover's death.

They'd argued about that one. Angel said no, and had began to find a place to sit. Wesley had grown sharp, telling him to go. He'd pointed out that in any event, the sun would be up in an hour and he *have* to go, then.

Angel had just made himself more comfortable on the ground, positioned what small part of Wesley he could, on his lap.

"You shouldn't stay," Wesley whispered.

Angel didn't answer.

"Angel, please," Wesley began again. Angel closed his eyes, as though that would help him not hear. "Please," Wesley's voice dropped again. "Promise me something." He stopped, and Angel knew he was waiting.

"If I can," he finally said.

"Promise me, that if I die in time, that you shall seek cover from the sunrise. Promise me that?"

Surprised, Angel looked down. Wesley was looking up at him, eyes not quite focused, though that might have been from the loss of his glasses. Angel brushed his hand through Wesley's hair as gently as he could when he hand was trembling with the urge to grab him, haul him out of there regardless of the damage it would do. Regardless that that would only kill him sooner. "I promise," he whispered, not quite sure he meant it.

Wesley narrowed his eyes slightly, and Angel knew it didn't matter if *he* meant it. He was now going to be held to it. Wesley had lost a lot of things in his life, but his stubbornness wasn't one of them. Tenacious as the mad dogs with whom he shared the noon-day sun, Angel found himself thinking, thoughts trying to wander off to something other than watching Wesley watch him with eyes dimming ever so slightly.

"I promise," he said again, leaning down even further. Pressing his lips to Wesley's cheek, as low as he could reach, as close to the mouth he'd spent so much of the last three years kissing. Licking, nibbling, watching as Wesley spoke to him, lecturing on and on over things Angel hadn't known he'd care about.

Wesley nodded, and they fell silent again. Angel looked up, into the trees overhead. Thick enough to prevent anything but filtered sunlight to pass through -- which didn't matter, anyway, because right in front of him, right along the break between the mountains, was a clear line of sight.

Directly east.

Angel sat, and waited, listening to Wesley's heartbeat and breath, rise and fall. And fall.

"Wesley?" he whispered, once, and received a flash of brown in reply. Wesley closed his eyes again without speaking, though he rolled his head slightly to press his face against Angel's arm. Angel wanted to whisper his name again, wake him more fully. Ask him... something. Anything. Something long and complicated which would take hours to explain, so he'd have to stay here and do so.

He glanced up towards the valley's break, and saw how far the dawn had begun to spread.

"Wesley?"

"Yes, Angel?" His voice was barely there, and Angel had to resist the urge to place his ear closer. Moving that much had caused Wesley pain, they'd found earlier. He wasn't sure Wesley would feel it, now -- but he didn't want to know that.

"I love you."

There was a faint tone of amusement in Wesley's voice. "I know. I love you, too, Angel."

"Wesley?"

"Hmm?"

Angel closed his eyes again, hating himself for begging what he had no right to ask. "Don't leave."

There was no reply.

Angel looked up again, and saw the first peek of sunrise, climbing into the mountains.


Angel found himself walking along the sidewalk outside Caritas. Los Angeles, middle of the night, with no crowd at all to be found outside. It didn't make much sense for someone who expected to be in Hell. He'd died without acheiving his humanity, his redemption, and had expected even when he'd watched the sun come up that he would be trapped in the demons' Hell forever.

Without Wesley. Which meant anywhere was Hell.

Instead he was walking along a cold, slightly damp sidewalk towards a club he hadn't been to in decades. He reached the door and pulled it towards him, wondering if someone simply had a sick sense of humour and he would find burning fires on the other side.

He found a crowd gathered around tables, drinking, laughing. Someone on stage was singing. Angel stepped inside.

"Welcome, travelor, welcome." The Host came sliding up out of the crowd, greeting Angel with a smile. "Come in, have a seat. Can I get you a drink?"

Angel stared at the green, horned demon. "You're dead," Angel pointed out, not quite sure what the rules here were, but fairly certain no one would mind if he mentioned the obvious.

"So are you, hon, but you don't see me standing around looking all dark and broody about it." The Host took his arm, and lead him further into the club.

Angel shook his head. "No. Wait -- is this Hell? Do I have to sing?"

"Not unless you want to. Then it *might* be, for any Barry fans out there." The Host smiled again. "Let me guess -- you don't know where you are."

"Caritas?"

"Looks that way, doesn't it?" The Host pulled him farther into the crowd, and suddenly Angel saw a corner of the club. It was decked out with couches and chairs, and the raised tables he'd seen a long time ago.

"The Bronze?" Confused, now, Angel looked around and saw that the club was much, much larger than the original had been. Rooms leading off from the dancefloor, and many more people gathered around than Caritas should have been able to hold.

"Angel!"

He started, and turned. Blinked in shock, and decided that perhaps, yes, he was dead.

Buffy smiled and handed him a cup. "You look good -- a little stupified, maybe, but good. How'd you die -- or you feeling a little embarrassed? Come on, I want you to see some people. It's so good to see you again," she finished, and hugged him tightly.

"Buffy?"

She looked at him -- she looked exactly the way she had when she'd died. Barely 25, and her eyes twinkled with a happiness he'd forgotten he'd ever seen. "What's the matter? Oh -- did you just get here?" Her smiled faded a bit as concern and understanding grew. "You did, didn't you? Maybe you should sit down and -- oh!"

"Oh, what?"

"Wesley!"

Angel blinked. "Wesley?"

"Angel? There you are. I thought you might--"

Angel spun around, and found Wesley standing beside him. Standing there, acting as though he were alive and able and not crushed under several ton of rock. Looking a little younger than before, but not as young as when they'd first met. Perhaps fifty, now, and it was bizarre enough to make Angel want to demand that someone tell him what was going on.

Because it was Wesley. Holding a drink in one hand, and pushing his glasses up with the other. "Angel? Really, you used to be much quicker on the uptake--"

He couldn't say anything more, then, because Angel was cutting off his air supply. Hugging him so tightly that later Angel realised he'd known. Already known what this all meant because he hadn't been worried about choking him, because the dead don't breathe. Held him tightly for all that it had been only moments since he'd last seen him.

Angel didn't know how long they stood there, but when he let go, he found Wesley smiling at him. "What?" and it sounded dumb, even to Angel's ears. "What are you lookin' at?" he continued, just to see if Wesley still laughed at his jokes. Or at him.

He did. "Angel, one would think you'd expected not to find me here." He slipped his hand down into Angel's, and grasped it tightly.

"I didn't."

Wesley looked surprised. "You didn't? Where did you think I'd be? Oh." His face changed, and he leant in and kissed Angel very gently. Slowly, then the kiss deepened and Angel felt like his entire body had been filled by magnesium, and lit. When he broke the kiss, Wesley asked, "Didn't you think you'd be coming after me?"

Angel shook his head, numbly. A familiar numb, part of it, his senses still reeling from the kiss. Part of it still shock from having died, and gone to... heaven?

"Do you want to meet the others?" Wesley was asking, still looking at him in concern.

"Others?"

"Yes. They're all here, except Tara -- she'll be along shortly, I understand. Look there," he nodded, and Angel looked through the crowd. He saw Willow and Joyce, talking, apparently enjoying themselves. Buffy was going back to them, and he spotted someone that might have been Cordelia.

"Where-- is that Xander?" He could see the man dancing with someone, on the other side of the dance floor.

"Yes. Finally made it here five years ago, Buffy said. I'm told their reunion was quite spectacular." Wesley leaned closer, whispered in his ear, "They've been slow dancing ever since."

Angel could see, now, that it was Giles with whom Xander was dancing. Together for twenty years, separated for nearly ten more -- Angel had heard from mutual friends that Xander had finally died some time back. And here he was, dancing.

Angel turned to Wesley. "They've been doing that for five years?"

"Time moves differently in the afterlife. That and you needn't stop and use the restroom, despite how much you have to drink."

He blinked. Started to ask how Wesley had learned all this in the time he'd been here -- he'd only died a few minutes before Angel had. Then he opened his mouth, and said, "Dance with me?"

"I would love to." Wesley set his cup aside, and they moved onto the floor.

And they danced.