By Minim Calibre
Notes: Second of the Port in a Storm series. Spoilers up to “Normal Again” and “Double or Nothing.”
Home is the last place he wants to be. Everything still tidy and neat except for the box in his hands, the one that reminds him (as if he needs a reminder) that he did have one more thing to lose after all. He sets it down carefully; decides to play the messages he knows are waiting on his machine.
It’s no wonder he wouldn’t scream for Faith. He’s far better than she could ever be at the art of torture, even if the only person he ever practices it on is himself.
He walks to his bedroom in a daze of painkillers and bitterness and starts to pack. A few changes of clothing, a notebook and pen, his toothbrush, some bottles of holy water and a stake. His car is gone, as is most of his readily available money, but he hasn’t been given leave to drive yet, and besides, there are one or two people in this town who still owe him a favour.
That’s all he really needs.
He thinks about having someone contact his family, let them know that he’s been released, but then someone would have to explain to them that he was in hospital in the first place. Assuming, of course, that no one has informed them. Their voices weren’t on the machine, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t know. Just that they didn’t care enough one way or the other if he lived or died.
He isn’t sure if he can blame them.
It doesn’t take him as long as he’d expected to call in someone’s marker. Transport up the coast and enough cash to get back to Los Angeles if he so chooses.
The town is small and different enough from the city he’s left behind that he has a hard time believing they’re even on the same plane of existence. There’s a beach, his driver mentions, out of the way enough that he shouldn’t have any problem with unwelcome company. Wesley wonders if that includes himself, but merely offers the demon a tight smile of thanks.
It seems as good a destination as any. He spends several hours just watching the waves and forcing himself to keep breathing. The last rays of the sun are setting the water on fire before he sees another human. He turns his eyes to the thin blonde girl heading towards him, hoping she’ll turn back before she notices there’s anyone else out there.
She doesn’t notice him, but she doesn’t turn back, either. Point of fact she trips over his legs and winds up falling in a graceless tumble right in front of him. It’s not until she picks herself up and glares at him that he realizes he knows her.
Her eyes are huge in her gaunt face, and he closes his and tries to will her away.
“What are you doing here?”
He bites the inside of his cheek and grabs his notepad, writes Does it matter? and shoves it at her.
“You look like hell.” Yes, tell him something he doesn’t already know quite well, thank you.
It’s not as if she looks any better. A hint of spite to it, he decides to inform her of that fact.
As do you, Ms. Summers.
“I feel like it, too.”
She says it almost too quietly for him to hear, and he raises his brows.
“It hasn’t been the easiest of resurrections. Lots of stuff has…happened, and I just wanted to leave it behind me for a couple of days.”
She sits down uninvited, bewildered and fragile, and he feels an unwilling twinge of sympathy.
“It’s just…I can’t handle it. Any of it. I’ve tried again and again, but it’s never enough, not for any of them.”
“Besides,” she adds, voice as small as she is, “I think after…well, I think that maybe it’s a good idea for me to give them some space. Do you have any idea what it feels like to know you’ve betrayed almost everyone you care about for an illusion?”
He’s unprepared for that and loses his composure for a second, everything flooding back at once.
She stares at him, concerned, looking a little more like the girl he remembers.
“Do you even care that any vamps who happen to be out tonight will smell the blood on you from a mile away?”
He thinks about it, gives her an incomplete answer.
She looks troubled, and starts to talk. She tells him about coming here with her family, about mothers and fathers and sandcastles. When she talks about her friends, she talks about isolation, disintegration, and the many roads to hell, although not in those words.
He remembers how important those friends were, remembers how she was willing to go to any lengths to save them. She’d been willing to die for them, eventually had died for them.
He’d wondered why she was telling him any of this, but it’s all become quite clear. She hasn’t anyone else to tell.
“The only person I could talk to was Spike, which is wrong, and I ended up fucking him so I wouldn’t have to listen to what he had to say, which is even worse.”
He supposes he should be shocked, but he isn’t. Not really. She’s looking at him, expecting condemnation. He can’t, won’t give it. It’s something he wouldn’t do to his worst enemy, if his worst enemy weren’t himself.
Any port in a storm? he writes, and hands her the pad.
Her lips move in something that might be a smile, and he feels a tug of attraction that’s more startling and even less willing than the sympathy. “I guess so.”
She’s staring again, head tilted a little to one side, looking at him as though she’d never seen him before. He wonders if she realizes how much her face gives away and hopes for her sake that she doesn’t play poker.
“Where are you staying?” she finally asks.
His note reads I hadn’t given it any thought, which is true.
“Why don’t you come back to my motel?”
She winces, and looks a little guilty, starts to babble an explanation he doesn’t really need.
He writes something quickly to quiet her.
Yes, I’ll stay. And yes, I’m well aware that it’s not a come-on.
It’s obvious that she means to head back immediately, even before she stands up.
He’s still weak. The walk up the trail leaves him winded, or maybe it’s something about her that’s doing it. He’s more aware of her than he wants to be, all things considered.
She opens the door and offers him the bed in a tone he’d be a fool to argue with. He suspects he may be a fool, but he isn’t going to argue. He sets his bag down, goes to clean himself up as best he can before his eyes close while he’s still standing. Now that he’s inside again, he’s noticing how tired he is.
She’s waiting when he comes out, hovering, nervous, and just this side of brittle. “Make yourself comfortable, well, as comfortable as you can. I think the mattress has seen better days. Possibly the crusades. I’m going to go brush my teeth and let you get ready for bed now.”
The room’s too bright, but it’s not hospital fluorescents. He closes his eyes and sleeps.
He can hear them, walking by, can hear his phone ringing where it fell. He tries to call out, but he can’t move, can’t speak, can only listen as the voices get dimmer. He can smell the blood, and everything’s fuzzy but he’s got to hold on. Bright lights, and Angel’s there, talking to him, calm, too calm and the pillow covers his mouth and nose and he can’t breathe, can’t explain. Fred’s standing there as well, watching as she and Gunn hold hands looking like the van Eyck painting that terrified him when he was a boy. She’s talking, sweet voiced. ‘Sorry, Wesley, but it’s all your fault, you know. You really should have trusted us.’ Gunn looks at her, just smiles and says ‘My girl’s got a point’ before they turn and leave.
“Shhh…Wesley, it was just a dream.”
He wishes it were. Wishes he didn’t re-live this every night. Arms fold around him, warm, strong, cradling him and he clings to her for dear life.
“Shhh…it’s okay. It’ll all be okay.”
It won’t be. It’s all he can do to breathe and he’s pathetically grateful for the touch of her hand on his hair and the softness of her mouth on his cheeks. He’s horrified when he hears the first sob escape. She just holds him closer and rocks him, still stroking his head, still feathering kisses over his face until he gains one sort of control and starts to worry about losing another. Her mouth is so close…if he just moves his head and suddenly he doesn’t have to. She’s kissing him and it’s been so very long he isn’t certain what to do next and oh, yes, that. Mouths. Touching. Touching is so very right and feels so damned good and oh Lord, her skin….
And then she’s backing away from the bed and he’s waking up all over again to a babble of apologies.
“I’m sorry. Do you need anything? A glass of water? Another pillow?”
He shakes his head, too hard, too fast, and is rewarded with a fresh burst of pain for his troubles.
“Are you okay? Will you be able to sleep?”
He nods, rolls over, unable to look at her.
This time he wakes up and there are no voices screaming in his head, just the hollow pressure of implosion. No sounds outside of his head either. He’s alone and it terrifies him. He starts translating the lyrics of pop songs into various languages until he’s chased away thought and can sleep again.
He hears the sound of the door in his sleep, thinks he hears footsteps, but he can’t force himself to wake up and see if they’re real until they’ve stopped. Opens his eyes and she’s back, standing next to the bed, eyes fixed on his exposed stomach. It takes her a while to notice that he’s awake. When she does, she blushes deeply enough that he can see it even in the dim light of the room.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up,” she says quickly and turns and he has to stop her before she leaves again so he grabs her arm without thinking.
He lets go of her. He needs light. Finds it, makes a decision. He puts on his glasses and writes the only thing that comes to mind.
“I beg your pardon?”
He hunts for the words.
Stay. I don’t especially relish the notion of being alone at the moment.
“Wesley, are you coming on to me?” She sounds almost…hopeful.
Perhaps he is. He doesn’t know for certain what he wants. He’s so damned sick of making decisions and having them turn out the wrong way that he refuses to answer, but she gets into the bed with him anyway. Fully clothed and distant, but still there. It will do. He settles back in and pulls up the sheets, careful not to touch her lest he end up unable to stop.
Sleep proves elusive. He’s too aware of how easy it would be to take advantage of both her generosity and her vulnerability, and he’s gone from second thoughts to fifth and sixth. She curls against him in her sleep, cheek pressing tightly against his ribs. If he were even half the man he wishes he were, he’d push her away, but she’s close enough that he can smell her, and she smells like Ivory soap, dryer sheets, and saltwater and he’s drunk on the combination of primal and the mundane. He’s very close to cracking, knows it, and can’t for the life of him remember why that would be bad.
And then her hands are moving, pushing his shirt up and she’s caressing him, fingers and mouth follow the thin white lines that were Faith’s gift to him, soothe the still-angry mark where the bullet entered, and it’s too much.
He grabs her, pulls her up until he can bury his face in her neck and trace the mark he knows he’ll find there.
She explores his body with feathered strokes that never settle in one place for very long. His hands slide lightly over her, touch the curve of her breast and he’s not sure if she’s losing control or taking it when she pulls off her shirt. Doesn’t really care anymore.
He closes his mouth around the tip of her breast, feels the nipple tighten through the rough lace of her bra as he undoes the hooks, hears her demanding whimper when he unfastens her jeans. He slides a hand under the bit of lace and cotton that passes as an undergarment to caress her. Slips in when she begs and feels her clench around his fingers.
He stops, trying to make sense of what she’s just said.
She tries again. “Condoms. In the bag. On the table.”
Well, that makes things quite clear. If he’d had any doubts at all about where this was leading, they’re gone now. He pulls himself up slowly, trying to prolong the contact with her body. The lights from the parking lot illuminate a spot on the side of her drawn-up knee, and he kisses it before getting off the bed and walking to the table. He fumbles in the bag, finds the box beneath a pack of doughnuts.
He sets the box on the nightstand, strips, and gets back in the bed, lowers his mouth to the dip of her navel, feeling oddly detached as if he’s still asleep and dreaming this whole thing. And then she’s touching him and he’s very much aware that this isn’t a dream, because his dreams haven’t involved anything but nightmares for longer than he’d like to admit.
He runs his hands up her inner thighs, parts them and picks up where he left off. He wants to taste her, and slides his mouth down her body until he can. Kisses and caresses until her hands grip his shoulders, nails digging in almost to the point of pain.
“Now.” It’s a order rather than a plea.
He’s happy to comply.
Their eyes meet when he enters her, and he’s glad for the barrier. Because when she looks into his eyes, she’s seeing him, really seeing him, and it almost sends him over the edge. She’s scorching and soaking even through latex, and he’s shaking, moving slowly, trying not to lose control and embarrass himself. Manages until strong legs wrap around his hips, muscles tighten around his cock, and a hissed voice urges “Faster.” Then it’s all a blur. Frantic movements, creaking bedsprings, the slide of bodies slick with sweat.
Afterwards, he doesn’t sleep. It would be a good idea to do so, but he doesn’t want to hasten the arrival of morning. He’s well aware that there are some who would perceive what he’s just done as another betrayal. It’s funny. He had expected he’d be amongst them, but this feels more like redress than perfidy.
She’s curled against him again, only this time it was a conscious decision. He watches her sleep, pushes away the damp strands of hair that cling to her cheeks, and absorbs the warmth of her body.
The feeling is bittersweet, and he’s thinks there’s a good chance he’ll lose himself in the former and forget the latter. He may have to, just so he can move on with the remainder of his life. Sacrifice has culminated in excommunication and isolation, and he has to do something, even if it means turning into everything he swore he’d never become. But for the moment, he can still allow himself to acknowledge the sweetness. He buries his face in her hair, inhales the fragrance of shampoo and sweat. Smiles at it, kisses the top of her head. Has a moment of clarity.
He can’t save them, can’t save himself, and can’t be bothered to try anymore.
He’s not her, nor would he want to be her. There’s only so much he has to give, only so many times he can risk everything for friendship and loyalty. He’s sick of winding up in hospital, sick of being taken for granted, sick of being the one who has to consider the repercussions. He’s sick of the bloody lot of them. Sick of the fight.
So when the morning comes, he’ll leave the part of him that still cares behind. Go home, pick up the pieces as best he can. He’s not certain what he’ll do next. Teach fencing, perhaps. His positions haven’t exactly left him with a large number of marketable skills.
Whatever he does, he wants to start living for himself for once. Start dating again, have a sex life that isn’t dependant on a fortuitous encounter with an old acquaintance. He wants someone to see him, not just note his presence.
If it’s not too much to ask, he wants someone to forgive him no matter how unforgivable the trespass seems.
Maybe then he can begin to forgive himself.