"She's really very convincing isn't she?"
Giles turned, unwisely, to look at the man standing in the training room door and received a blow to his padded chest that sent him staggering backwards.
"Hello, Rupert," Wesley answered, stepping inside. He was looking pale and he was studying the robot version of Buffy with a slightly queasy expression on his face.
Giles rubbed at what he was sure would be an impressive bruise and glanced at the 'bot. "Let's end the session, Buffy. It's getting late anyway; you should be patrolling."
With a smile at Wesley that was considerably friendlier than any the real Buffy had ever bestowed upon him, it left the room.
"God, how do you stand it?" Wesley asked. "Being around it, having to call it that..."
"It's necessary," Giles replied. "I've found I can endure a lot when that's the case." He frowned. "Not wishing to be rude, but what the hell are you doing here?"
Wesley smiled faintly. "Not rude, just frank?" he asked. "What did you expect when you sent Willow to us with news like that?"
"Not for her visit to bring you back here, I have to say," Giles told him. "Angel, perhaps, although I can't say I was looking forward to that..."
"He's left the country," Wesley said. "He's ... upset. Understandably so."
"I can imagine, and, for all their differences, I'm sure Cordelia was saddened too, but you, Wesley?"
Giles removed the padded tabard and walked over to hang it up, picking up a towel and rubbing at his sweat-dampened face and neck.
"My Slayer dies and I'm not expected to care?" Wesley asked in a carefully-controlled voice. "I won't pretend we were ever close, but she was still –"
"She was not your bloody Slayer."
Giles' voice was dangerously quiet.
"Well, yes, actually –" Wesley began.
Three steps brought Giles close enough to slam his hand into Wesley's chest, pushing him back against the wall. "No. She was my Slayer, and she died my Slayer, and that's an end to it. Now get out."
He stepped back, not repeating his mistake of taking his eyes off his opponent, and stared at Wesley in silence, absently noting the way Wesley had shed his nervous mannerisms along with his suits, but not caring enough to comment.
"I meant –"
"I told you to get out."
"Not being deaf, I heard you," Wesley snapped. "What I don't understand is your hostility, or your refusal to accept the truth."
"You don't have to understand it. Just leave. And, Wesley? Don't make me tell you again."
Wesley met his gaze deliberately and then walked farther into the room, going to lean against the vaulting horse.
"Very well. I'll agree that at the time you let her die, she was your Slayer." Wesley smiled thinly. "Both times she died, in fact. Ever think perhaps you did her no favours when you refused to accept that you'd been replaced?"
Hitting him would have been satisfying but there were always better weapons to use against Wesley...
"And had my replacement been my equal, perhaps I might have." Giles strode over to Wesley. "But you weren't, were you? Spineless, useless - less."
"Oh, all of that," Wesley said. "But it changes nothing. For a time, she and Faith were my Slayers. I've come to –"
"Pay your respects? Offer her grave your sincere apologies for being –"
"I think you more than adequately covered what I am," Wesley said, "and yes, I would like to see where she's buried. Pointless, perhaps, but a comforting pointlessness..." He shook his head. "But that's not why I'm here."
Giles sighed, the brief warmth of anger fading, leaving him once more shivering in the dark. "Oh, say your piece, Wesley. In as few words as possible. I'm really not in the mood for your long-winded blatherings."
Wesley folded his arms across his chest, his eyes narrowing. "I'm not the one who's going to be talking," he said. "You are. I want a full accounting of the events that led to Buffy's death."
"Willow will have told you all that you need to know," Giles answered. "And I'm really not going to discuss it."
Wesley nodded and pushed himself away from the vaulting horse. He was one step past Giles when he turned and slammed his elbow into Giles' stomach.
"When you've got your breath back, I'd like you to change your mind about that."
Giles let himself drop to the floor, clutching his stomach. The blow had hurt, had left him winded, but not that much... He took Wesley's feet from under him with a scything kick and rolled out of the way so that Wesley landed heavily on the floor.
The fight lasted for no longer than a few minutes, but from the first taste of his blood, seeping from a lip split open as it was crushed against his teeth by Wesley's fist, Giles was lost to reason.
He allowed himself to forget whom he was fighting and lashed out with a brutality spiced with a dark exhilaration. So satisfying to hurt, to be hurt, to hear the panting gasps of a man in pain and know they came from someone else's lips...
It wasn't a one-sided fight, as he'd rather arrogantly expected; Wesley had learned the basics since he'd left and Giles, in a small, analytical part of his mind, recognised Angel's fighting style superimposed over Wesley's own.
Wesley, though, wasn't trying to kill Giles, whereas Giles, as he discovered, looking down at Wesley's congested face as he tightened his smothering, clutching hand over mouth and nose, certainly seemed to be trying to end Wesley.
With a final, desperate scrabble of fingernails that scored a bloody furrow down Giles' cheek, Wesley went limp, his eyes rolling up, and it was that surrender, that victory, which broke the illusion that this wasn't real because Wesley never did that -
Giles released his hold on Wesley and stared down at him.
The cough and convulsive jerk as Wesley began to breathe again were welcome, of course they were, but as Giles hauled Wesley to his feet with a hand still throbbing from where Wesley had bitten it, still damp from his saliva, he couldn't help wishing that it didn't mean he was going to have to explain and –
"Apologise? You nearly bloody kill me and you want to apologise?" Wesley shook his head in disbelief. "And am I supposed to be reassured that you followed me here?"
Giles leaned wearily against the door jamb of Wesley's hotel room. "I didn't follow you to finish the job, if that's what you mean."
Wesley had lurched to his feet, given Giles a look that mingled contempt with hurt and left without a word. Giles had made it to the door of the shop just in time to see that Wesley wasn't heading out of town on his bike and, in an assumption that had proven correct, had found him checked into the same hotel he'd used as a base when he was last in Sunnydale.
In the time it'd taken Giles to walk to the hotel – he wasn't inclined to risk driving given the way his hands were still shaking - Wesley had showered and changed into a soft, blue T shirt and jeans. The informality of his clothing wasn't matched by his manner. He was very much on his dignity and Giles couldn't blame him for that.
"Look, may I come in?"
"As it's dark and you seem to think you have to ask, no."
"Now you're just being ridiculous," Giles snapped, penitence and patience both vanishing. He reached out, his hand going past the threshold and grabbed Wesley's hand, bringing it up to his neck. "Feel? Pulse. Now please step aside. I really don't want to –"
His voice dragged to a halt as Wesley's fingers stroked delicately, gently across the pulse that was beating so strongly and then clamped around Giles' throat.
"Fine," Wesley said, releasing him after a long moment when Giles held perfectly still, refusing to struggle. "You're alive."
"Was that really necessary?" Giles asked, pushing the door closed behind him and walking into the room.
"I don't know, Rupert," Wesley said picking up a damp cloth and going over to a mirror on the wall. He scrubbed at a stubborn streak of blood on his forehead the shower had apparently failed to remove and then sighed and tossed the cloth down on a table. "What made it so very fucking necessary when you did it?"
"I'm sorry," Giles repeated.
Wesley opened a bottle of vodka with a few inches already missing and splashed some into a glass. He didn't offer Giles any, which did a good job of both making Giles feel unwelcome and underscoring Wesley's new-found self-confidence. Giles really couldn't imagine Wesley having the guts to be quite that deliberately rude to him before.
Then Wesley frowned, glanced down at his drink and over to Giles. "Well? Are you going to join me? Or is it beneath your dignity to drink with someone so useless you feel it your duty to wipe them off the face of the earth?"
Taken aback, Giles nodded, accepting a glass of tepid, neat vodka and sipping at it with a shudder.
"Sorry. I did get some ice when I checked in, but it's melted," Wesley said. He tapped his finger against the bottle. "I had a drink of this before I came to see you; probably not a good idea; I daresay it slowed me down."
"I didn't notice," Giles said, fingering his lip, swollen and, now he came to think about it, throbbing painfully. "You've improved." He smiled, despite the inevitable increase in pain as his barely-skinned-over lip split open again. "Considerably."
Wesley sat on the edge of the bed, leaving Giles to drag over what the hotel probably called an easy chair, although as torture devices went, it ranked with the best of them.
"You still didn't answer me," Wesley said. "Granted I pissed you off, but I seem to recall doing that a lot in the past without ending up flat on my back with you on top of me."
The phrasing and a glint of amusement in Wesley's eyes that showed he'd chosen his words deliberately brought a flush of warmth to Giles' face. "I believe I've mentioned that I'm sorry –"
"I don't give a toss whether you're sorry or not," Wesley retorted. "I just want to know – and I'm going to ask that you leave if you don't answer – why you did it. It crossed a line, wouldn't you say?"
Giles stared at him. "I can't – Wesley, I don't know. Truly. I've been under a lot of stress lately – you'll appreciate that, I'm sure – and your insistence on a description of what happened was just –"
"Too much?" Wesley suggested. Giles began to nod gratefully, but Wesley continued, the sarcasm making each word biting. "The final straw? The one thing needed to make you snap? I have that much power, I matter that much? Rupert, I'm flattered."
Wesley's tone made it plain he was anything but and Giles took a deep breath, edged forward in his chair to avoid a viciously-sharp spring digging into his backside and attempted to make his position clearer.
He got as far as, "Actually, Wesley –" when he was interrupted.
"When I was struggling to breathe, you called me Ben." There was a still, cold anger in Wesley's voice now. "I do hope we're talking about the same one. The boy you killed."
Giles tensed, the stale air of the room, reeking of some chemical freshener, catching in his throat.
Wesley nodded. "I thought so. Well, that's something, I suppose."
"Willow –" Giles said, groping for an explanation. "She knows? She told you?"
Anger stirred. She had no right – Wesley was –
"Hardly." Wesley finished his drink, pulling back his lips in distaste. "It really is foul when it's warm, isn't it? I do apologise." He placed the glass down on the night table and gave Giles a bright, false smile. "She mentioned him of course but as far as she knows – and I don't think she was being discreet, or protecting you, or anything like that – Ben was killed because of the injuries he sustained in Glory's body. In other words, he was slain by the Slayer."
"He might well have died from that," Giles acknowledged. "But I couldn't take the chance that he might have recovered."
"So you... anticipated a little?" Wesley said. He nodded. "I really don't have a word of blame for you, Rupert. If my opinion counted for anything with you, I'm sure that would be comforting. Wouldn't it? A little at least? No?"
"Oh, shut up!" Giles said tiredly.
"Oh, we've finished apologising now, have we?" Wesley mocked. "Back to insults and orders. Now I really do know I'm back in Sunnydale. Back with you."
"You shouldn't have come back," Giles said. He stared at Wesley. "Why did you?"
"I told you –" Wesley began.
Giles shook his head. "No. Load of bollocks," he said, with the crude brevity of his youth. "You didn't care about Buffy, not really, and you're too well-trained to want to bother with a post-mortem into how she died. She was a Slayer. It's what happens to them."
"To all of us," Wesley said.
A silence hung between them, thickening with every second. It was with an effort of will that Giles broke through it. "I need to know, Wesley."
"Why?" Wesley's voice was toneless, stripped of its belligerence. "What possible difference can it make? I came, you tried to kill me – or possibly used me to recreate your last murder – can't say that I'm flattered by that –"
"Really, Wesley!" Giles protested. "You make it sound as if I'm some sort of psychopath."
Wesley gave him a humourless smile. "Put you in front of a jury, and that's what they'd label you. Let me see, how would your defence go? 'I killed him because I was afraid an exiled hell-goddess would use his body to regain a foothold in this world'." He chuckled. "That's never going to go down well, now is it?"
"A jury of my peers – the Council – would acquit me," Giles argued. "But it scarcely matters. Yes, as you discovered, I've not – not been able to put it behind me. Not yet. But I don't regret what I did; only the necessity."
"And his death," Wesley said, making it a vague question.
Giles shook his head. "No. He had a chance to save Dawn – the world – he didn't take it. I felt – feel – pity for him, but not that much. Not really."
"Dawn..." Wesley said in a contemplative tone. "You know, that's the oddest part of all of this for me. I can –I'm sorry – accept you as a murderer quite easily, but her part in this, the inconceivable notion that she didn't exist when I was here last – it's quite staggering."
"I know," Giles agreed. "It took me some time to come to grips with it."
There's a shared moment of intellectual curiosity because, as Giles knew, scratch them and you'd find two Watchers, no matter how many other strings they had to their bow, but it faded with Wesley's sigh.
"Well, I think we're done here, don't you?" he said.
"I could force you to tell me."
"What?" Wesley's head jerked up suddenly as he abandoned his study of the murky pattern on the carpet. Giles watched his face settle into a familiar, confused expression of apprehensive anticipation and smiled as his suspicions – his hopes, yes – were confirmed. "Giles, there's nothing to tell –"
"And I think I will," Giles said, standing up and taking the two steps needed to bring him in front of Wesley. "No: don't get up, Wesley. You know there's no point."
He cupped Wesley's chin and brought his thumb up to stroke against firmly, defiantly closed lips. "Do you remember the first time we did this and you bit me?" he asked pleasantly, working his thumb hard until Wesley's mouth opened and his teeth unclenched. "Do you remember how surprised you were when I wasn't angry?"
Wesley's reluctant nod made him smile. "Why wasn't I angry, Wesley?" he said evenly, his free hand going to his zipper and then dropping away. Let Wesley do it.
Deft hands that had once been clumsy, unzipped his trousers, eased out his cock, half-hard but needing only that well-remembered touch to stiffen.
"I'm waiting." Wesley's head ducked down and Giles sighed, stepping back a few inches. "Not for that, and you know it." He paused and then said with a cool deliberateness, "One."
He got to five when Wesley answered, halting his count. "You weren't angry because it gave you a reason to –"
"Six. Seven, eight, nine –"
"To punish me."
"Thank you, Wesley. Yes. And I knew quite well that it was inexperience, not malice involved." Giles stroked Wesley's hair, noticing the difference now it was no longer slicked back with whatever god-awful stuff he used to use. "I don't think that leniency's deserved now, though, do you?"
Wesley's mouth was warm, if not welcoming; his choked gasps less numerous than before; his technique markedly improved. Giles wondered how many times Wesley had done this for money before finding a haven with Angel – he refused to countenance the idea that his proficiency might have been learned after that - and found himself unreasonably annoyed both at the idea of him prostituting himself and the improvement. There had been something rather endearing about Wesley's splutters and eager fumblings.
Then Wesley – relaxed. There was no other way to describe it. His hands came up, one stroking Giles' hip, the other cupping his balls, caresses, not clumsy attempts to regulate Giles' often brutal thrusts. Giles shook his head but the words to command Wesley to stop were lost in the hoarse, anguished moan that accompanied his climax, coaxed out of him by a flickering tongue and an insistent, relentless suction that left Giles' cock spurting, his hips jerking in a mindless spasm.
Wesley pulled back, licked his lips clean and dried them using his T shirt, exposing a flat stomach as he lifted it up.
"Well, that's certainly part of what I came back for," he remarked, giving Giles an easy smile. "But we're not done yet, I hope?"
Giles pushed him back onto the bed and straddled him, his hand resting over Wesley's mouth for a moment. "No. We're not done yet."
His belt slid free of the loops that held it and Wesley rolled onto his stomach in a parody of obedience Giles longed to make real. Perhaps he would – but if he did –
"Why did you come back, Wesley?"
"Ask me afterwards," Wesley said, his voice tight now.
Giles shrugged and peeled Wesley's jeans down enough to expose his arse, unmarked unless you looked very closely. "Nine, was it?"
"You doubled it because I made you come too soon," Wesley said. "Didn't you."
Giles let the strip of leather flick at the bared skin. "So I did. Legs wider, please. Oh, you can do better than that, Wesley! Twenty."
They left his skin reddened, and the last five strokes left beads of blood, holly-bright, but when Giles raised Wesley's hips enough to reach under him, he found Wesley ready, his cock hard and slick. Giles took hold of it, stripping it in a punishing grip until Wesley came with much the same sound he'd made and then brought his dripping hand up to Wesley's mouth to be cleaned.
After pulling Wesley's jeans up with as much care as Wesley wanted – not much – he asked him again.
Wesley rolled onto his back, craning his head to look at Giles. "So you could do that of course. All of it. I thought it would help."
"Very kind of you to come to my rescue," Giles said dryly.
Wesley sighed. "You know it wasn't just for you. Not entirely."
Giles stood up. "I do, yes."
"I'm not leaving until tomorrow," Wesley said as Giles moved towards the door. "You could stay?"
"So could you," Giles said. "But I'd still rather you didn't."
And the slight, hurt intake of breath was all it took to make him turn back, just like always, just like before.
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