Interlude One- Heart On A Sleeve
Heart On A Sleeve (Interlude 1)
Disclaimer- I own nothing of either Angel the Series or Dark Angel. They and all recognizable characters and settings belong to their respective owners, Whedon and Cameron/Eglee. The only character that is mine is Eva O’Connor. The song, "Looking For It" belongs to Jann Arden.
Timeline: Takes place during Book 2 of the Warrior Souls, "Essence of the Heart".
Summary- Wesley finds himself on a journey of introspection, with an unexpected traveler to help lead him to peace.
To Bear My Soul
"No, no it’s no problem," Wes muttered into the telephone. He rubbed one hand over his weary brow as he continued to listen to the apologies coming from his employer. The day had been full of calls such as these. Wes, can you do this? Wes, can you do that? Not that he minded. It was a nice thing, to be appreciated, to be useful. But sometimes, one just needed a break. But it seemed that today was not to be that day. First Cordelia had called, telling Wes that she was going to be late. He never asked why and didn’t bother. Ever since Max and Angel had gone on their honeymoon, she’d been acting strangely, for her. The fun loving Cordy they knew that was tempered by the seriousness of her calling in life seemed to be slipping away again.
And then Fred had had some sort of emergency and needed Wes to handle some file details of a case they’d almost finished wrapping up. That was easy enough to handle, had Angel not called. Their flight from Heathrow was going to be delayed due to bad weather. Wes understood that, but was slightly irked by the number of times he had to explain that to the friends that kept calling. Each wanting to know if the happy couple had made it home yet.
Things seemed to be piling up on his plate. He would have turned to Giles for a little help, but the man had shrugged off the responsibility. He claimed New Council business, giving the younger man a slightly embarrassed, guilty look. Wes couldn’t tell if it were because the man was lying to him, or just trying to spare his feelings.
"Yes Angel," he sighed. "I’ll try to arrange something." He paused to listen to the gratitude. So easily given, so hollowly meant. He said his own farewells and set the phone down again. Wes stiffened some, feeling very much like some lackey that was constantly ordered about. It seemed as if everyone thought that running around for others was his only strength. And maybe in the past it had. But he’d grown much stronger, more devious and certainly much braver since his first early days as a Rogue Demon Hunter.
Just thinking about that self-appointed title made him smile. He certainly had a lot to learn. And he’d managed by the side of one of history’s most infamous Vampire’s, a self-absorbed half-demon Seer and a host of others that all had their strengths. But it had taken Wes so much time to find his strength. And in all honesty, he was still looking.
Courage was one. If only marginally. It was more the firm belief that something needed to be done; there was no one else to do it, so they were required to step up. It had taken time to push away his fears and paranoia and be able to stand on his own, with no back up. And if he was still so scared that he nearly wet himself on some occasions, at least he had the tiny comfort that he wasn't the only one who felt that way. Every act of bravery was stored away in his mind, to be perused and used to bolster him when he felt himself faltering. So perhaps it wasn’t courage. Just a need to prove himself and doing so in a manner which provided accolades of an amazed sort. For very many times, the response was in the nature of ‘what the hell are you people!’
Research. His true strength. Something that was his alone. Well, until Giles and Willow had shown up. The others all preferred action to sitting and working things out logically. Granted there wasn’t much need when Cordelia gave them the order. For the most part, her visions were if not clear, detailed enough to get the action started. But when they needed answers, why, what, how come, there was Wes. But really, research was just something he’d learned at school. Any student properly taught could learn as much. It was just the manner of retaining knowledge, training the mind to remember. So no, his excellence at research was not his biggest asset.
He was British, hadn’t been brought up to be all touchy-feely, as the girls put it. He was more likely to fix a bracing cuppa and mull over the problem before deciding on a course of action. Which of course, usually turned into a few more cuppas until the need to visit the bathroom overwhelmed whatever problem had driven one to drink the blasted tea in the first place.
Wes sighed again, pulling a pad of paper over to write a few notes for what needed to be done this day. It would help him focus. And get these things done. And when accomplished, could be promptly forgotten by those he had done them for. He frowned at the paper, seeing his note to himself from yesterday. ‘Call father’
he had written in careful, neat strokes in the upper corner, small letters. Perhaps he was hoping he wouldn’t notice it there, tucked away. But he had and he did.
And he should have known better. Telephone calls were the easiest communications between the Wyndham-Pryce men. And as they were fraught with politely worded accusations, recriminations and disappointment on both sides, that was saying a lot. But some of the things his father had said stuck with him, fueling this moment of introspection. He knew he shouldn’t fall prey to it. But when the man that helped give life to him, brought up his imagined failures, it led Wes to think about his true failures. And he had a lot of them.
He could console himself that he wasn’t the only one in their motley group of evil fighters. And certainly not the worst of them. But it was his heart that carried the burden multiplying it beyond belief. Logically, he knew the others were the same way. Someone else’s grief was manageable, understandable, but when it came to their own, no one else understood. But even if he knew this, it still didn’t change how he felt.
When evening fell, Wes felt as if he’d run a marathon. Or had gone a round with a demon or two. He was worn out when he arrived back at his apartment. Normally he enjoyed the stillness, the quiet of his sanctuary. It was a step removed from the world he lived in, his place alone. But lately, it felt as if life had been intruding here as well. Case in point, the blinking red light on the answering machine that was a priority for living in LA. Or pretty much anywhere in the world. Couldn’t ever be unavailable, especially in their precarious line of work.
With crisp movements, he put away the few groceries he’d managed to pick up, removed his shoes and lined them up precisely by the door and stalked to the machine, one finger depressing the replay button with an annoyed jab. He stood, waiting. No point in sitting down, to relax when he had the sense that whatever message waiting for him would just agitate him in his current state of mind.
It was Cordy, babbling about another vision. Wes listened, he always did, but his mind was cataloging the details in some part where he could draw the information when needed. The other part of his mind was asking why. When would it be enough? When would they let him rest? And then the message ended. He tried to take a deep calming breath, but the next message began. From Gunn this time. The other man spoke in teasing tones about coming to pick Wes up so that the other man could hold their coats while they dealt with Cordelia’s vision demon. Friendly banter such as had grown between them from friendship and shared fights against similar baddies. But Wes was too tired to recognize it for what it was.
At the moment, he wasn’t up to dealing with more fighting, more of anything. He’d already felt like he’d done too much. So the easiest solution was to be gone when they arrived. If he wasn’t, they’d just guilt him into going. When evil never rested, neither did the superheroes. And that was how he ended up at Caritas.
He cursed to himself when he saw Spike at the bar. He’d momentarily forgotten that the Slayer was working there now. And the blonde had seen him as well, so there was no avoiding it. He’d chosen Caritas simply for the reason that no one would ask anything of him there. Oh, Lorne might enjoy having him sing, if he were a better singer perhaps. But the green faced demon wouldn’t object to him simply sitting with a pint and watching the various patrons come and go.
And since Cordy had a good handle on where the latest demon was, it was a safe bet they wouldn’t come here looking for guidance. So Wes approached the bar, trying to lean casually against it as Spike stepped up.
"What’ll you have mate?" the blonde asked genially.
"Whatever you have on tap is fine," Wes shrugged. Spike nodded and filled a glass. He pushed it across the bar as Wes pulled his wallet from his pants.
"Never figured you for the karaoke type," Spike grinned as he took the money and rang it through the till. He turned back with the change and Wes grimaced.
"I’m not really," he shrugged, then decided to attend the details as he always did. "Cordelia called earlier about a demon." He proceeded to fill Spike in on said details. He finished up and caught the thoughtful look on the Slayer’s face. Misunderstanding, he backpedaled a little. After all, Spike and Buffy were content to let the AI team handle the demons. "Don’t worry," he offered. "If you haven’t the time, I’m sure Angel can deal with it tomorrow. After he’s home."
"It’s no problem," Spike offered in a strained voice. He caught the eye of another patron and moved off to continue working.
Wes sighed and lifted his glass. "Cheers," he offered to the mirror behind the bar. He took a deep pull of the beer and set it down neatly, precisely, on the coaster that had been provided. He watched as the condensation rolled down the warm glass, puddling at the bottom, to leave a ring on the thin paper. Was he like this condensation? Slowly melting away from the main focus, the beer, just to leave a weak mark that would be thrown away when it was no longer useful. Wes grinned suddenly and took another gulp.
He’d almost gone too far. Certainly, he wasn’t one to air his most private feelings in public. But he certainly recognized them in himself and others. And he was quite on the verge of dropping off a deep end with no hope of a life preserver in sight. He needed help. He stared at himself, realizing that and in his inane sudden twist, heard applause swelling. ‘Now that’s gone too far old boy,’
he chastised himself. ‘Imagining applause for realizing you’ve lost the plot.’
It took a moment to recall where exactly he was, flushing at his stupidity. Of course he wasn’t being applauded. He’d never been applauded in this place. Unless it was the grudgingly polite kind. He decided finally to find a table and try to snag Lorne when he could. He didn’t necessarily need to sing tonight. But conversation with an unbiased, for the most part, bystander couldn’t hurt. And a few more beers wouldn’t either.
He played with the edge of the glass as the next singer’s voice slowly filtered in to his consciousness. The woman, with a low, husky voice, was singing in French. Wes grimaced as he mentally translated the words.
*Je mordrai la main qui alimente la douleur
J'étendrai ma vie vers le bas pour l'amour
J'ai perdu la vérité
Je me suis égaré
Je le recherche
Ah, je le recherche maintenant
Je le recherche
Oh je me recherche
It was lovely, the slow way she sang it. He’d heard it before, once long ago, in it’s native English. Some Canadian singer, if he’d recalled correctly. He’d liked the song, how the singer spoke of trying to find truth. Trying to find what she’d lost. It felt a little like himself at the moment. He grinned again. How amazingly cliched that was. Just as he decided he needed help, needed to stop feeling as if he were all alone in the world, he’d found a kindred soul. The woman continued to sing and Wes listened. When she was done, he added his applause to the others, watching as the slim blonde glanced over at the green skinned demon, a look of utter, naked longing crossed her face.
Wes followed her glance and saw Lorne standing near the edge of the stage. The Anagogic demon sighed heavily and shook his head. Wes glanced back to see the blonde give a quick jerk of her chin before descending from the stage. She wove her way gracefully through the crowd, people easily moving out of her way. Wes glanced once more at Lorne to find the demon watching him with a thoughtful eye. He nodded forcibly at the woman that was now ascending the staircase that would take her out of the unconcerned Brit’s life.
I’ll bite the hand that feeds the pain
I’ll lay my life down for love
I lost the truth
I lost my way
I am looking for it
Oh I am looking for it now
I am looking for it
Oh I am looking for myself