By Minim Calibre

Notes: Spoilers through AtS 5×07, Lineage. PG, gen.

“Hello, Angel.” Wesley’s voice is soft; his eyes are anything but. Steady, level, they burn with the hard cerulean heat of a summer sun, the sort that neither of them will ever see again.

The sharpened pieces of wood inside his coat sleeves weigh his arms down like lead or guilt. “Hey, Wes.” Like it was two weeks earlier, and the thing across from him was still a man, frozen shattered and reeking of sulpher and vomit, heart a dull throb.

Used to be, he could read Wesley like a book written in scent and sound: fresh peroxide and stale saliva still sharp beneath a layer of cologne, the fluttering trapped sparrow sound of his heart whenever Fred entered the room, whisky and Lilah and the steady defiant beat of someone trying hard not to care. Wesley smells now of parchment and blood, his body silent and unreadable beyond the obvious.

Wesley smiles at him, gravely, almost sweetly. “This isn’t easy for you, is it?” The earnest note of understanding hasn’t changed, even if everything else has. “Coming here to kill me.”

“Gee, Wes, you think? What did you expect me to do when I found out?” The hairs on the back of Angel’s neck stand up as Wesley’s smile goes from grave to wicked in the space it would have taken a heart to beat. Something’s off.

“Exactly what you’ve done. Don’t forget, I made something of a habit of studying you long before we ever worked together. Every seemingly casual murder or rescue, every effort made for ill or for good, all coming together and forming certain unmistakable patterns.” He uncoils from the chair, straightening with a loose-limbed grace that’s jarringly unfamiliar, right and wrong.

It’s just a thing, with Wesley’s face and memories. Angel’s told dozens, maybe hundreds, of grieving family members that over the years. Except the truth is, it’s not that simple. “I’m sorry.” Angel goes to raise his arm and drive the stake home, but his arm doesn’t follow orders. Seconds later, he’s on the floor, unable to move or speak.

“I’m afraid I’m not.” Wesley beckons towards something or someone Angel can’t see.

There’s the smell of burning herbs and flesh, the low sound of chanting from somewhere to his rear. He feels the pain start deep inside, ripping and clawing its way to the surface, to freedom, just like the last two times. When the figure emerges from the shadows, what’s left of Angel stares in disbelief.

“It was simple, really, masking her smell.” Wesley’s slender fingers brush a stray curl from Drusilla’s shoulders in a casual show of affection. “My department had a whole wing devoted to the various methods. Simpler still to free you.”

Angelus laughs as the feeling begins to return to his limbs, and Drusilla’s smile is wide and gleeful in response. She spins away from Wesley, humming an off-key tune, then pulls him up from the floor and into her dance with a coo.

“Welcome home, Daddy.”

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