Title: Rough Magic
Description: Angel season 5, post-"Origin." Angel-POV; they have a little talk. Fits in canon
Characters: Angel & Wesley
Disclaimers: Not mine.
Thanks to: inlovewithnight for yelling at me to post this.
After Connor left, Angel went back to his office, where he stood at the window for a long time, watching the streets of Los Angeles darken. Hell is empty, he thought, and all the devils are here. That bit of verse ran through his mind from time to time, ever since Holland Manners had let him in on the cosmic joke. And now Lindsey McDonald was back, telling him the same thing. The Apocalypse is happening right now. We're standing on top of it.
All the devils are here. Angel never remembered to find out where the line came from. Spike would know., he thought. Though he probably wouldn't admit it. Wes would definitely know.
Wes. After this afternoon at Vail’s nothing could be the same with Wes. The memory spell was broken, and Angel was no longer alone with his knowledge of Connor. Of what Wesley had done to Connor, of what they had all done to each other. Now Angel had no idea whether he could trust Wesley anymore. And why should I? I’ve proven to him that he can’t trust me.
Just thinking about it made the hairs on Angel’s arms stand on end. But no, it was more than the thought. Wesley's scent hung in the air, the exhaustion and the agitation and, more to the point, the whiskey. Angel recognized this smell, and then he heard a tentative step into his office.
"I don't want to do this now, Wes." Angel didn't look around. I need to show him I'm in charge, Angel thought and then, immediately, I'm scared to look him in the eye.
"That's all right then," Wes answered softly. Angel turned, surprised at the unnatural calm in the voice. With one hand at his side, Wes stepped through the doorway. "I'll just have my girl call your girl and we can set up a mutually advantageous time --" Wesley slammed the heavy oak door so that the frame shook. "--to talk about how you gutted my mind."
Wesley's right hand was still half hidden. On instinct, Angel lunged toward the security alarm on his desk. The human couldn't match his speed, but Angel had farther to go. Wes grabbed Angel's wrist with his free hand and pinned it to the desk, just long enough to pant. "Is this what we do now? Call Wolfram & Hart's goons on each other?"
At such close range, the Scotch on Wesley's breath was overpowering. Angel knew he could knock the man down with one finger. But the move gave him time to think, and be ashamed. The prospect of fighting with his own best lieutenant was bad enough. But if Angel was losing the impulse to fight his own battles, that would be infinitely worse.
"Just show me your hands," Angel said quietly.
Wes met his eyes, then gave a hollow laugh and placed a tall bottle on Angel's desk. "It's twelve year Lagavulin. Spreading his hands, Wes backed away and lowered himself into a chair. “And I’m just asking you to talk to me. Tell me why. Why you felt the need to. . .”
“I did it for my son.”
“Yes, of course, for your son. This is what fathers do for sons, isn’t it? Fathers do whatever it takes to protect sons and then we – we happy few, we band of bastards – we turn around and kill them.” He looked up at Angel. “If the fathers don’t kill the sons first.”
Angel swallowed. It was hard to talk about, after all this time. They had never talked about it before, not really, and now such much had changed. “That’s what you thought, Wes. You thought I was going to kill Connor.”
“False prophecies. I was careless.”
“It crossed my mind too.”
Wesley stared. “Killing him?”
“Sometimes I was holding that baby and I wondered, ‘How far could this be from perfect happiness?’”
“Well I managed to bugger any chance at happiness up good and well, didn’t I?”
“You did what you thought you had to do. I’ve had time to make peace with that.”
“Oh, really?” Wes leveled his gaze. “That’s reassuring. See, I’ve only had oh maybe. . .” He looked at the ceiling, as though reading something written there. “Maybe an hour and a half? To get used to being Wolfram & Hart’s own resident Judas.”
“You made peace with it too. You’d moved on. We’d moved on together. Before. . .”
“Before you decided to screw whatever moving on any of the rest of us had done, because you were the only one who deserved to know the truth?”
“It was the safest thing for Connor. If no one knew.”
Wes gave him a hard look. “Especially not me.”
“No.” Angel shook his head. “That never crossed my mind.”
“Right. Just as I’m sure it never crossed your mind that it would be easier to have me around if you didn’t have to deal with me knowing what I’d done. Didn’t have to deal with Fred and Gunn and everyone else knowing what I’d done. Cutting down on intra-office tension, no doubt. And as a bonus, you got to look at me, and every time I did something you didn’t agree with, every time I pulled my righteous warrior of truth act on you, you could sit there and smirk and think, If he only knew. . .”
“It was the deal they offered me, Wes.”
”Oh, bollocks! Wolfram and Hart didn’t care if I remembered Connor. I’d wager they didn’t care if I was here at all. They wanted you, and you know damn well they offered you the deal they knew you wanted. So you made the decision for everybody, and you fucked with our heads enough – no, you let the firm pay somebody a lot of money to fuck with our heads enough – that we weren’t likely to question you.” He shook his head. “Not that I should be surprised. You haven’t changed at all.”
“Well. . .” He tried to smile. “A little. Not so big on eating people and. . .”
“More with the personal grooming, yes. But you haven’t changed since I’ve known you. Not really. You’re the same Angel who left me and Cordelia and Gunn out in the cold so you could chase a dream of Darla.”
“Who locked those lawyers in the basement for your old girlfriends to snack on. . .”
“. . .and then fired us all to run around on some half-cocked revenge scheme. . .”
“. . .leaving us to fulfill your sacred duty to the powers that be, for which, incidentally, Cordelia suffered all the pain. . .”
“All right. . .”
“During which time I got shot, and then you came back with your goddamned epiphany and tried to act like nothing had happened.”
“Not all right!” Wesley rose and slammed his hand on the desk. “You’re missing the point, you thick bastard. How do I know that?”
Angel blinked. “Know what?”
“Everything I just told you. How do I know it happened?”
“Well, mostly, I guess because you were there.”
“Good start.” Wes nodded slowly. “Now tell me. . .how did I know it yesterday?”
“Yesterday? That wasn’t. . .It wasn’t part of the memory spell.”
“See there, you have a point.”
Angel shook his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you don’t.” Wes laughed. “I’m drunk, and I’m at least starting to entertain the possibility that I’m insane. When I was sitting in my office this evening, having a friendly little chat with the ancient demon who inhabits the body of my dead lover, processing all of these memories, sorting out the new from the old and. . . well, hating the man who got me in this mess.” Wes pointed. “Just to be clear, that would be you.”
“I sort of figured.”
“And I was running through it all, that glorious litany of Angel’s crimes against humanity and, specifically, me. Then I started thinking – because that, apparently, is my curse. I thought, Angel had all that power. To make people forget. To mold a new reality any way he wanted it. So if that was true –“ Finally, he turned to look at Angel. “Why did I never stop remembering all those rotten, reckless, bloody-minded things that you did? Why do I still remember that you were Angelus? Why does Buffy still remember that you were Angelus?”
“Now that you mention it. . .” Angel laughed uneasily. “I guess I could have wiped out a couple centuries worth of bad deeds there.”
“You could have,” Wes agreed. “And instead, you chose to create the reality Connor would have wanted. The reality that I would have wanted.”
“Wes, I. . .I see what you’re saying, but, honestly? More than anything, I just didn’t think of it.”
“You didn’t think of it,” Wes murmured. He looked down for, laughing softly. “Just that. You didn’t think of it. And that, my champion. . .my leader.” He looked up and met Angel with a steady, almost unearthly blue-eyed gaze. “That, my friend is why. . .” He spoke slowly, enunciating every word. “At the end of the day, I find that I do not have it in me to hate you.”
Their eyes stayed locked for a long moment. Then Wes reached over to lift the bottle of whiskey. Instead of taking it, though, he moved it closer to Angel. “Besides,” he said. “Rats on a sinking ship need to stick together. The whiskey is a gift, I’ve had enough.” He moved to leave, and Angel didn’t stop him, but then Wesley turned. “I won’t tell anyone what I learned, in case you are wondering. Not that I can imagine there’s much of anyone left to tell. Illyria knows, but. . .she doesn’t comprehend. Other than that, well. . .if I tell on you, I have to tell on myself as well, and I wouldn’t want to undermine my own authority. At least. . .no more than the whole ‘drunk and half-crazy,’ which, by the way, still makes me the best guy you have.”
“Oh I don’t know, you might be running second to Spike.”
“Now that,” said Wes, “I will fight you over.”
“Get some sleep, Wes,” Angel said.
“And thank you. For what it’s worth. Thank you for trying to understand.” Wesley just smiled, and had his hand on the door, when Angel called, "Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."
Wes turned back. “Sorry?”
"It's a quotation,” Angel said. “I was just trying to remember.”
"The Tempest,” Wesley answered. “Prince Ferdinand of Naples -- in the act, I believe, of jumping from a sinking ship."
"Oh," said Angel. "Not such a great precedent."
"I shouldn't think so.”
Something clicked in Angel's mind. “I remember that story. The ship wasn't really sinking. It was a spell. Some kind of fancy glamour."
"Rough magic," Wesley answered. "Then Prospero broke his staff and burned his book, and all was restored." He gave a final Scotch-addled smile before slipping out of the door. "Lucky Ferdinand."