Clean Break

Written for Kara for the Angel Book of Days Spring Challenge. and kindly beta read by Penwiper26. All quotations from the first chapter of 'The Wind in the Willows' by Kenneth Grahame.


’The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home...Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.’


“Remind me again why we’re doing this, Wes?” Keeping the frustration out of his voice wasn’t easy, but he managed it at the cost of the cleaning cloth he held, feeling it shred and tear as he absentmindedly twisted it between his fingers. “Oh, will you look at that? I’ll just go and –”

“Angel.” Wesley sounded tolerant and even vaguely amused but there was nothing about his folded arms and level stare to make Angel think he was going to be able to escape. “May I remind you that this was your idea?”

“It was a bad idea,” Angel said, leaning back against the wall and sighing. “Aren’t you supposed to, I don’t know, argue me out of those or something?”

Wesley walked over to him and tugged gently at the cloth. “Give that to me. You can do something else for a while if you like. And if you tell me of even one time where I persuaded you to change a course of action which you’d set your heart on doing, well, I’ll be the first to admit that I should have tried. As I doubt you could, perhaps you’ll agree that it wasn’t worth my time bothering?”

“I might have listened this time,” Angel said. He brightened. “I’ll listen now! Tell me now, Wes. Convince me. I’ll be a pushover, promise.”

Wesley rolled his eyes. “Angel, just get to work.”

“My work is helping the helpless, Wesley.” Angel thought that struck the right note. Lofty yet humble.

“If a more helpless person than you exists in the city, I’ll eat this bloody duster,” Wesley said, as dryly as if he already had. He pulled over two chairs. “Sit. I could use a rest. Then tell me what the problem is?”

Angel hooked his chair a little closer to Wesley’s with one foot and sat down in it, staring at his hands. They were grimy with, well, grime, and sticky with something that clung more than Grethik slime but without the interesting hallucinogenic effects. “I said I wanted to spring clean a few rooms, Wes. Spruce them up in case we ever have visitors – clients who need a place to stay, maybe. We’ve had three days of it now and it’s just occurred to me that unless a baseball team turns up on our doorstep, we’ve done enough. But you – you just keep going on to the next room, and Wes, this was a hotel. We’ve got to stop somewhere and I say room –” He got off his chair and went to peer at the numbers on the door, “ – 215 is it. And that’s an order.”

Wesley’s eyebrow lifted. “And did you resume your position as leader of the team, then? Was there a memo? Did I miss a memo? Or a mutiny?”

“No,” Angel said. “You’re still it. Man in charge. ‘Course, Gunn hasn’t been around since Tuesday and Cordy took some sick days I didn’t even know she was entitled to...but you’re still in charge. Of me.”

“I’m still in charge of all of them.” There was a certainty to that, implacability the more impressive for the mildness of Wesley’s tone. Angel stared at him and Wesley smiled gently. “If I thought we needed them, Cordelia would on her hands and knees scrubbing at that stain on the carpet in 211 and Gunn would be washing the windows until even you can see your reflection in them –”

“Well, I don’t think that’s possible, no matter how much elbow grease he uses actually –”

“-but we don’t need them for this, they needed a break, and so they’re not here,” Wesley finished.

He stood up, picked up a bucket of water turned grey and opaque and vanished into the bathroom. Angel heard the bucket empty and the toilet flush, then Wesley came back, placed the bucket neatly next to the other supplies and smiled brightly. “Sun sets in fifteen minutes. Why don’t you get cleaned up, and unless you’ve got other plans –”

“What did you have in mind?” Angel asked a little eagerly. Spending time with Wesley was something he’d come to look forward to, but the last few days hadn’t been what he’d call quality time. In fact, anything was better than this, though if it was killing something, he hoped it wasn’t a vampire. The last thing he wanted to do was deal with more dust.

Wesley looked a little hesitant and Angel smiled in what he hoped was an encouraging way. “I’m up for anything, Wes,” he assured him.

“Really?” Wesley said, a sparkle of curiosity in his eyes. “Because to be absolutely honest with you, this is partly Cordelia’s idea and though her intentions are good, I’m not sure she always appreciates your ...limitations.”

“My what? Wesley, I don’t have any – well, the sun thing, sure, I can’t do sun-type stuff, but apart from that –” Angel threw his arms wide and tried to look convincing. “I’m a vampire who’s been places and done things, Wesley. Horrible, nasty things, yes, but even so...”

“Would you go out with me?” Wesley said, letting his eyes drop as he spoke, then lifting them at the end and meeting Angel’s look with a puzzling intensity.

“I just said I would,” Angel answered.

Wesley stopped moving, even, because Angel noticed things like that, stopped breathing for a long, long time for a human. Then he slumped, head going down, used air sighing out. “I didn’t mean – never mind.” He smiled, a painful, artificial twist of his lips. “I’m pretty tired actually. Bath and bed, I think. See you tomorrow.”

He’d made it half way to the door when Angel tripped over the bucket trying to get to him before he went through it. Gravity means pennies always drop eventually.

***

“What’s inside it?” asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity.

“There’s cold chicken inside it,” replied the Rat briefly;”coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater-“”

“O stop, stop,” cried the Mole in ecstasies: “This is too much!”


Wesley leaned over the side of the boat and stared down into the dark water. “I can’t believe you dropped it.”

“I’m sorry, Wes.” Angel tried to sound properly penitent but he knew it wouldn’t compensate for the loss of the corkscrew.

“I knew I should have got the champagne,” Wesley muttered. “Too clichéd, I thought. Too soon for that kind of gesture, and it wouldn’t have tasted good out of plastic glasses, but at least we could’ve opened it.” He picked up the bottle of Shiraz and studied the label, but it was too dark to read it in the uncertain light of a moon and a small battery-operated lantern precariously balanced on the wooden seat between them. “’Full of the heady, ripe aroma of hedgehogs’? No...hedgerows. What? Exhaust fumes and rabbit droppings? Are they mad?”

“Er, Wes...”

“No resemblance at all...I’m sorry, did you say something?”

Angel took the bottle from Wesley and peeled the foil away, exposing the cork. “Close your eyes, Wesley.”

“Why?” said Wesley, watching as Angel poised his thumb over the cork. “Do you think you might shatter the bottle?”

The cork gave way to an irresistible force and bobbed around inside the bottle. “No. Just thought it might make you pull that face. Like the one you get when Cordy puts a book back in the wrong place.”

“Am I really so – do you think I’m...stuffy?” Wesley asked, holding out two glasses. He sounded curious rather than hurt.

Angel shook his head. “No.” He was absurdly pleased to have Wesley ask him something like that. It had to mean Wesley was closer to forgiving him. Cordy and he were best buddies after his shopping spree; Gunn had never really trusted him fully, so he hadn’t been too shocked, but Wes...Wes had taken his rejection to heart more than any of them, and there hadn’t seemed to be any way of regaining that lost ground. Which was why he’d had been so slow on the uptake earlier... Reminding himself not to read too much into Wesley’s plans, without a little more encouragement than he’d had so far, Angel finished, “You just like things in the right places. I can respect that.”

The wine, dark as the night without sunlight to tease the clear, rich colours of garnet and ruby from it, poured from the bottle in a series of hiccups as the captive cork blocked the neck, but Wesley seemed approving and Angel was willing to pretend to enjoy it if it made Wesley happy.

They sat in silence for a while, drifting down the river under a sky prickled with unseen stars. Wesley took one last sip from his glass and glanced at Angel. “You’re being very patient,” he said. “I – expected questions?”

“I’m good at waiting,” Angel said, wondering if Wesley would pick up on the implications of that, but not able to spell it out in case it wasn’t what Wesley wanted to hear.

He must have done, because when he’d set the empty glass down carefully in the hamper, he took a deep, steadying breath before replying.

“Might I ask if you’ve been waiting for anything in particular? Involving me, that is?”

“Yes.”

Angel waited, without feeling any need to rush to the end of the conversation, but waiting patiently obviously wasn’t catching, because Wesley was gritting his teeth at that response, which made Angel, who could hear the faint noise quite well, smile to himself.

“Then I’m asking, Angel – and if you don’t want us to be still out here at sunrise, could you stop being so literal, enigmatic, and generally annoying?” Wesley smiled tightly. “Please?”

“Cordelia said...”

The pause that followed, as Angel tried to choose his words, was long enough that Wesley seemed compelled to fill it. “She’s involved in this, yes. She told me that – ” Angel knew exactly what she’d said. Cordelia’s exact words, hissed out in an infuriated whisper meant to be quiet enough that even a vampire couldn’t have heard it: “Tell him, or I will, and you know I won’t make it fancy. I can’t take this any more! You English shouldn’t fall in love. It makes you all weird and stuff. Were you actually cuddling that knife he gave you the other day? Because that’s so very wrong, you know,” were actually perfectly audible to Angel, Gunn and anyone within twenty feet.

“That perhaps I should be more direct about achieving my goals,” Wesley finished.

“Really? She told me you were lusting after my undead ass and it was about time I stopped wiggling it at you and did something about it. Guess you got the polite version being her boss.”

“She – you – I am not!” Was Wesley blushing? And if he was, was that good or bad?

“Not her boss? Oh – not lusting? My mistake.”

Angel tried to sound no more than mildly regretful, which wasn’t easy. Wesley didn’t mean that, did he? Cordelia had been very definite about Wesley’s feelings. Blunt, even. Of course, she wasn’t always right...

“Why did you agree to this, Angel? Tonight, I mean.”

“Why did you ask me?” Angel countered.

“I told you – Cordelia –”

Angel shifted in his seat, rocking the boat slightly. “Not Cordy. I’m asking you. What goals? You asked me out on a date, Wes. You’ve never done that before, unless you were being very subtle about it, which, yeah, might have happened.” He paused and felt a little worried. There’d been that week Wes had worn black leather to work every day with temperatures in the high eighties... “Did it?”

“No, I haven’t done it before, or attempted to” Wesley said. “And I’m not entirely sure why I did it today. Call it spring fever. Or cabin fever after all that cleaning.”

He smiled at his mild joke, but Angel wasn’t smiling back. “That still isn’t telling me why.”

He stood up and Wesley blinked at him. “Angel, that’s not entirely safe, you know. Small boat and – be careful...”

Angel stood very still, aware of the fact that he looked a complete idiot trying to tower over Wesley in a boat, but suddenly determined to see this through, and the boat stopped lurching. “I’ve been in more boats than you’ve killed demons, Wesley. I know it’s not safe, but if you don’t answer me, I’ll – I’ll do my own version of a Riverdance, and if we get wet, it won’t kill us, but it’ll ruin your picnic.”

Wesley braced himself with one hand and stretched the other out to tug at Angel’s trouser leg. “Angel, I rowed for Oxford, thank you very much, I’ve seen you dance, and I’d much rather you sat down!”

 “Not until you tell me if this is a proper date.” He could hear how plaintive he sounded and he thought he saw a flicker of astonishment – and was that hope? - pass over Wesley’s face before his foot slipped, the boat tilted sharply and suddenly Wesley’s world had to be a wet, cold world and Angel guessed there was an awful lot of water going down his throat to join the wine.

Oh, he’d done well there, hadn’t he?

***

’Over went the boat, and he found himself struggling in the river.

O my, how cold the water was, and O, how 
very wet it felt! How it sang in his ears as he went down, down, down! [...] Then a firm paw gripped him by the back of his neck. It was the Rat, and he was evidently laughing – the Mole could feel him laughing, right down his arm and through his paw, and so into his – the Mole’s – neck.’

“You’re dry – mostly - you’ve finished throwing up, and I still want an answer.”

Wesley looked up at Angel, blinking bleary eyes. His glasses had miraculously still been on his face when Angel had hauled him back inside the boat, but they were smeared and he didn’t have the energy to clean them. They’d come back to the hotel and he was wrapped in one of Angel’s robes, showered and warm again and feeling desperately unhappy, humiliated and depressed. Familiar feelings, all of them, but they’d never been so acutely painful. What had he been thinking? Asking Angel out, taking him on the river in an attempt to get them far away from interruptions ... thinking for one moment that Angel had wanted to come with him because of any other reason than his ongoing attempts to make amends... Probably walk off the roof if I asked him, Wesley thought bitterly. Guilt’s a great motivator.

“I’m sorry? What was the question?”

The journey back had been a silent one. Angel wasn’t one for small talk at the best of times and he’d barely turned his head as he drove, letting Wesley huddle and shiver in peaceful misery in the seat beside him.

Angel sat down beside Wesley on the couch and reached forward, taking Wesley’s glasses off him with a surprisingly delicate touch. “Want me to clean these?”

“That’s the question?” Wesley said. “No, I can do it.”

He held out his hand for his glasses but Angel huffed on them, looking endearingly earnest about it, and polished them carefully on his shirt.

“Think that’s better.”

“Thank you,” Wesley said, more than a little touched. His glasses were part of him; the first thing he reached for in the morning; the last thing he took off at night, when whatever book he was reading in bed began to get heavy in his hands. Seeing Angel touch them, care for them, study them closely was surprisingly moving. “May I?”

He reached for them but Angel held them out of reach and looked at him. “Can you read without them, Wes?”

“Not terribly well, no –”

“Good. So telling you I won’t give them back, until you tell me why you asked me out, might work?”

“- but I can manage, and no, bullying me won’t work. It never has.”

Angel sighed. “I don’t do anything right, do I?” He dropped the glasses into Wesley’s lap and stood up. “You can stay in one of the rooms we got ready, if you don’t want to drive home. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He walked towards his bedroom door and didn’t look back when he added, “And it wasn’t meant like that, you know. Never want to hurt you, Wes. Not again.”

***

”Ratty, my generous friend! I am very sorry indeed for my foolish and ungrateful conduct. [...]Indeed, I have been a complete ass, and I know it. Will you overlook it this once and forgive me, and let things go on as before?”

Wesley glared at the closed, locked bedroom door. “Will you bloody well open this door, Angel?”

“Stop swearing. It doesn’t suit you.”

“I’ll do worse than that if you don’t open it! And it’ll very likely involve an axe.”

“We’re still talking about the door, right?”

“Yes!”

The door opened and Angel stood leaning against the frame, stripped down to black cotton boxers, clinging to his pale skin. “I’m about to go to bed, Wes. If you don’t mind, can we save this for another time?” His voice was cool and flat.

“That’s what you wear in bed?” Wesley said, a little faintly. He’d seen Angel wearing less, but he’d been fully dressed at the time.

“No. I don’t wear anything, as you should know after that time you woke me up and I –”

“- landed on top of me, stark naked. I do vaguely recall that, yes.” If ‘vaguely recall’ could be translated as ‘replayed hourly for three days’ until he’d been breathless with the memory, as if Angel had still lain pressed against him.

“Vague. You like that don’t you, Wes? Me, I’m not so fond of it. Playing games, hints – not something I’m good at. So why won’t you tell me? You tell me when we’re out of coffee filters, you tell me when there’s a sale at your favourite bookshop, you tell me when you burned your toast in the morning and you won’t tell me this one, simple thing? And while we’re on the subject, what in God’s name have we been doing the last few days? Is it another stage in the humiliate me good and proper, so I learn my place here, plan? Is that it?” Angel jerked away from the door frame as if it were hot, chin shoved forward, hands clenching into fists.

“No!” Wesley reflected, with a small, closed-off part of his mind, that Angel definitely sounded Irish when he was worked up – and immediately wondered what he’d sound like when he was coming. “I just wanted us to – spend some time together.”

“And I’m all in favour of that, Wesley, believe me, I am...but could we not have gone for a pint? Or killed something? Hell, I’d have sooner spent the time in the sewers; they’re cleaner than that one room where the birds had been nesting for the last few decades.” The fists loosened and Angel swept one hand back through his hair, ruffling it until it stuck up in blunt, thick spikes, looking frustrated.

Anger, bright and cleansing swept through Wesley. “Oh, I’m sorry, Angel. Sorry I was stupid enough to give up hope of ever getting you to see that I’ve been throwing myself at you for months now and resorted to different tactics. Sorry that I gave you a second chance after you bloody well left me –us- to go off and have a fine time killing people followed by a fucking epiphany. Sorry that I was the only one of us with the guts to do something instead of standing there asking stupid questions with answers that aren’t exactly hard to work out. Shall I spoon-feed it to you, Angel? Shall I cut it up into tiny, bite-sized bits? I love you. Have done for months. I want you. Can’t stop thinking about you. I need you and when you went away it felt – I missed you. There.”

The air vibrated with the dying echoes of Wesley’s words until Angel broke the plangent silence by saying, in a voice so quiet it was barely audible, because he was staring down at the carpet now, “I missed you, too, Wesley.” He glanced up, like a child about to be scolded. “I just didn’t think that was what you wanted to hear anymore. You and Gunn seemed so close – not, not like that, just – you know; friends, with the handshakes and the nicknames – and I would have called you something if I’d thought you wanted it. I could have come up with something.”

“’Wesley’ is fine,” Wesley assured him. “And Charles and I did become close, yes.” Without knowing he was doing it, his hand came up to touch his stomach, still healing from the gunshot wound he’d taken defending Gunn. “Friends. No more.” He hesitated, but he needed to be truthful. “I never stopped loving you, Angel, but we weren’t friends for a while. I was – angry with you, I admit it.”

“Are we friends again, Wes?”

Angel had stepped closer now, his dark eyes fixed on Wesley’s face. He could only nod, swallowing dryly, his heart thudding faster.

 “I’m glad about that, though I don’t feel I deserve it.” There was a pause as they each came to terms with what they’d both revealed and then Angel asked, “Wesley – are we still on a date here?”

Wesley shrugged cautiously, willing to go along with the slight change of subject. “It’s still well before midnight, so I suppose technically it isn’t over.”

“If we hadn’t gotten wet, what were you planning to do?” Angel tilted his head, looking enquiringly at Wesley.

It took a deep breath or two before Wesley could answer that. “Traditionally, on the first date we’d get to know each other –”

“Done that.”

“-chat and discover mutual interests –”

“Got them.”

“-over a meal –”

“Glass of wine; close enough. Wesley, I can’t help feeling when you’ve already seen me naked, we can skip ahead a bit.”

Wesley folded his arms. “Past the goodnight kiss? The one where we find out if there’s an attraction, a shared desire for more? You can’t miss that part!”

“Not done this before,” Angel apologised. “Not dated, not exactly...”

He stepped closer and this time Wesley stayed where he was. Angel’s hands came up and tugged gently on Wesley’s folded arms so that he could pull him in closer. “Thank you for a lovely evening,” Angel said solemnly. “Can we do it again? Tomorrow?”

“I think we have to kiss first, before I answer that,” Wesley murmured, feeling the night turn bright with promise again. “Just to make sure, you see.”

Angel shifted slightly, rubbing his erection up against Wesley and making him gasp, as shivers not in the least related to cold water chased over his body. “This doesn’t count?”

“Kiss,” Wesley said, clinging onto that. “There has to be a kiss...”

“Does it specify where?” Angel asked, sounding interested. He had one arm wrapped around Wesley’s shoulders which left a hand free. “Here, maybe?” One finger brushed lightly across Wesley’s parted lips. “No. Too obvious. Bet we get bonus points for being inventive, right?”

“I’m...not...sure,” Wesley managed to say. “It seems a good a place as any.”

Angel shook his head firmly. “Later. How about here...” Cool fingers trailed across Wesley’s earlobe and down, following the straight line of his neck as it curved into his shoulder. “Too tempting maybe. You scared I’d bite, Wes? Because I wouldn’t. Just...nibble a bit, maybe.”

The shudder that sent though Wesley seemed to be answer enough, because Angel kept on going. “I suppose normally you’d be dressed at this point, if this was a normal date, but this isn’t normal and neither are we – Watcher and a vampire, that’s just kinky as hell, Wes. Ever think about that?”

“Ex-watcher and yes, it’s crossed my mind a time or two." And made me come twice as hard when it did.

“So, no clothes, no fancy suit, just this robe and it comes off so easily –”

The soft fabric fell to the floor and Wesley closed his eyes. “Look at me, Wesley. Got another question; anything say we have to be standing up when we have this kiss? Because we’re about six foot away from a bed and if we did this kiss and it was so good we wanted to keep right on going, I’m thinking it’ll be –”

“Bed’s fine,” Wesley said on a gasp, because Angel’s hands were wandering across his chest now, pausing to circle each nipple and it was so very easy to imagine his mouth on them, tongue teasing them gently...

“Good. Hate to mess this up, Wesley. You’ll tell me if I’m doing it wrong, won’t you?”

The pillow was soft under his head but Angel’s lips on his body were softer. “That’s – what’re you doing?”

Angel ran a gentle finger over the scar on Wesley’s stomach. “Going to kiss that better when you give us the go-ahead.” He looked up briefly. “What am I doing? Licking. Tasting. That’s not kissing, so I figured it was allowed. Kissing’s like this, remember –” He pursed his lips and blew a kiss at Wes before smiling at him, looking mischievous.

“You – Angel, you bastard, stop it right now!” Wesley struggled to sit up. “This has gone quite far enough.”

“We haven’t even held hands, Wes. I’m thinking we haven’t gone anywhere at all.”

“Apart from being naked in bed.”

“I’m still wearing shorts.”

“Not for much longer.”

A brief tussle and Angel’s shorts landed on the floor and Wesley landed on Angel, pinning his wrists to the bed without any difficulty because, as he’d be the first to admit, Angel let him.

I asked you out,” Wesley said. “I was the brave one; I get to decide where the kiss goes.”

Angel frowned. “Asking me out was scary?”

“Terrifying. Now be quiet while I think about this.”

Straddling Angel when they were both naked wasn’t conducive to thought, but it had happened so quickly that Wesley was still slightly in shock, which made it easy to lean over, quite calmly, and brush a kiss over Angel’s nose, even though that meant his cock rubbed gently against Angel’s for a fleeting, delicious moment.

“My nose? You kissed my nose?”

“And did you feel inclined to want more? To continue to explore what I assure you is a mutual attraction?”

“Do I need to answer that – I do? Yes it did, Wesley. Satisfied? Now tell me why my nose?”

“Oh, I could have kissed you here – or here – or here – and got that answer,” Wesley said, dropping a kiss on Angel’s mouth and moving down his body, finishing with a kiss on the tip of Angel’s cock, making it jump and twitch eagerly. “But where’s the fun in that?”

‘...very shortly afterwards a terribly sleepy Mole had to be escorted upstairs by his considerate host, to the best bedroom, where he soon laid his head on the pillow in great peace and contentment...’


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