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Chapter Twelve

Fan Fiction: Lesser Men

Chapter Twelve: Finding Courage

In the past thirty-six hours, Wesley had awakened four times. The first time had been in the hospital, at a baby's cry; next in a low-end hotel room, to the sound of a phone; then on the cold concrete, outside a bar; and now, in the Hyperion, in Angel's bedroom.

The first three times, there had been pain, and disorientation, and depression. This time, however, something was different. Oh, the pain was still there. Nothing but time would solve that problem. But for the emotions... he still didn't really know how to define what he was feeling.

Wesley sighed, and opened his eyes to study the ceiling. His relationship with Angel had always been complex, and deeper than it should have been. Watchers kill vampires, but this watcher had sacrificed his career to help that vampire, not long after they had first met.

Many Watchers, perhaps even most, would not have done as he had, no matter how extenuating the circumstances. He still remembered Weatherby's words, much later, when the retrieval team had come after Faith: "Do the sacred oaths you swore as a Watcher mean nothing to you now?"

That had been within months of Wesley's arrival in Los Angeles. Even earlier that that, he'd been willing to commit grievous bodily harm on Angel's behalf. What was it he'd said to the man he'd pinned with the crossbow dart? "You should understand, the man I work for means a great deal to me. And I will not give you a single red cent. What I will do, Sir, is beat it out of you if I have to."

So much had happened in the next two years. During the time when Angel had fired them all and they'd continued the agency's work without him, Wesley had told Angel that Cordy was the hardest hit by his betrayal, and perhaps even believed it. And yet, after the incident with the new clothes, who had been the one still feeling cheated and upset? Wesley.

There was the day he'd sent Angel to battle Groo, uncertain if Angel would be able to come back intact from another encounter with his internal Beast. The day he'd forced Angel to wear the pink motorcycle helmet; that one still brought up a smile every time he thought about it. The day Angel rescued him from the ruins of their first office. The day Gunn's old crew invited Caritas, and tried to get Gunn to stake Angel; Wesley had bonded strongly with Gunn during Angel's dark period, but that day, Wesley had realised that if forced to choose, he would have to choose Angel.

It was fascinating, thumbing through all these old memories from a new perspective. Interesting to imagine that he might always have known, somewhere deep down, that their destinies were connected. Strange to think about how different life might have been, had he grown up here, with Angel, in Los Angeles.

He tried to imagine a world where Wesley Wyndam-Pryce never existed. Would Mr. & Mrs. Richard Wyndam-Pryce have remained childless? Probably so. He'd always had the impression that his mother wanted daughters, but none had ever been forthcoming.

Would some other child have reported Ethan Rayne's activities in the Council library? Would some other Watcher have failed the two-Slayer assignment as thoroughly as he had? Would some other linguistically gifted researcher have come along to add his variable strengths to Angel's team? The answers to those questions were probably all "no", or at least, "not until later". What differences might that have caused?

The mind boggled. Furthermore, it was probably a waste of time to speculate; after all, he had been sent back three decades and left on English soil. Which reminded him of something else; it still made no sense that he'd seen Holtz at the Travers' gate, while the Wyndam-Pryces lived nowhere nearby. That was a link that still needed further investigation.

A muffled ringing sound interrupted Wesley's thought processes, and he abruptly remembered Rupert's words yesterday about leaving his mobile on. He'd done so, and tucked it into the pocket of his leather coat, which he had been wearing last night. Since he'd fallen asleep in the lobby, that meant the others had carried him in here as-is, so his coat must still be somewhere in the room.

Wesley sat up quickly, and almost immediately regretted it. Not from the neck wound; it was not as bad as it had been the day before. Leather pants tended to chafe one's... legs, and he had been wearing them for too many hours.

Gingerly, Wesley slid off the bed, and located the chair the coat was suspended from. After a few moments, he managed to find the cellular phone, and put it to his ear. "Rupert?"

There was a lot of background noise, but the caller's voice came through loud and clear. "Yes. I've arrived in Los Angeles. Where shall I direct the taxi?"

Wesley winced. "Ah... actually, Rupert, a great deal has happened since we spoke yesterday afternoon. I'm back at the Hyperion."

"The Hyperion?" Giles sounded rather puzzled. "Is this a positive development?"

Wesley sighed. "It's difficult to tell, as yet. Ethan's been involved, and Travers, and someone you may remember from Sunnydale, a young man named Jonathan."

"What? Wesley..."

"I doubt I can explain things more than once, Rupert, and I've put everyone off until your arrival. Get here as soon as you can."

"Right. I'll be there directly."

The conversation ended, and Wesley turned the mobile off again with a frown. He was in need a trip to the loo, at the least, if not a shower, before facing anyone.

Luckily, it appeared that someone had remembered his suitcases; they were in a corner by the door. It might be time to face the music, but at least he could do so wearing more comfortable clothing.

Wesley stopped on the balcony above the lobby and leaned out over the railing, delaying his entrance just a little longer. He'd told Rupert he preferred to explain things only once, and he'd meant it. He would wait up here until the older man arrived, then join the others and get it over with.

It looked like Jonathan and Lorne had just come downstairs, too; he heard Fred greet them cheerily, and a conversation started up. Pretty soon everyone had joined in, asking Jonathan questions about why he left Sunnydale and what he was doing there.

It really seemed like the boy was going to be okay; he'd had a pretty rough start, but then, sometimes the best champions of Light had a rocky beginning. Take Angel for example, or Rupert, or even Cordelia, to a lesser and less literal extent.

Where did that leave Wesley? He wasn't sure yet whether he'd been blessed, or cursed, by the way things had turned out. Would the others forgive him? Accept him? Believe him? He hoped so, knew intellectually that they probably would, and yet he was up here on the balcony, separated from them by his own fear.

He was afraid of what he'd see when he looked into Angel's eyes and told the vampire what had become of his child. He was afraid he'd see the look his human father used to wear whenever Wesley had done something displeasing. That expression that said, you're not what I want in a son. If Wesley saw that look in Angel's eyes today...

Better to die now, to spontaneously combust and leave the others wondering always, than to experience that kind of rejection from Angel.

And yet, as much as he feared Angel's rejection, he also feared what might happen if he were wrong. What if this were all some cosmic joke? He'd been wrong about the Shansu on first translation. What if the note on the pebble-box had been a joke, or a Wolfram & Hart trap?

What if the only reason he was so certain of his suspicions was because he desperately wanted them to be true? It would tie up the problem of Connor, remove the problem of his British father, and balance out his failures in the annals of Watcher history. Those were three of the nagging issues that weighed heavily on his spirit. Could he possibly be indulging in wishful thinking?

"Trust us," a very soft voice whispered in his ear.

Wesley blinked and looked around. There was no one near him to speak... and why did he have a sudden image of stars in his mind? Wesley shook his head, dismissing it, and tried to quiet the turmoil in his heart. What had happened to the calm, focused feeling he'd experienced the night before? Everything had seemed so clear when he'd seen the pebble lying there on his palm, sparkling with answers and promise.

He could do this. He could face the others, ask his questions and give them answers, without dissolving into a nervous wretch. He could talk to Angel without revealing the fear that burned in his veins. He had survived so much already. Why was the thought of surviving this day so hard to imagine? He was stronger than this.

The door opened down below, and Giles stepped through, squinting a little as his eyes adjusted from the sunshine outside to the lobby lighting.

"All right," Wesley sighed. "No more delays." He took a deep breath and then started slowly down the stairs.


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