Disclaimer: I don't own Wesley, Angel, Doyle, Cordelia, or any other characters in the fic that belong to someone else. The ones that belong to me are, obviously, my own, and therefore I can do whatever I want with them. For example, if I wanted to pay one of the extras a million dollars to be noticed crossing the street, I could do that. But I won't. Because they're mine, I don't have to pay them. Take a moment to love the synergy.

Also, I love Wes. He's easily my favorite AtS character. But I felt like making him insane. Because it's fun that way.

One Step Closer
by Robin the Crossover Junkie (emmy_taffy at yahoo.com)

Summary: Wes is in love with a dead man.

Spoilers/Timeline: This is pretty much around….um…I'm gonna say after "Parting Gifts" but before "To Shanshu in LA". JUST before Shanshu, because they're in the old office.

Rated: NC-17

Dedication: To Amy et al, for coercing me into the world of slash. To Sophie for complimenting me endlessly and being a BAD MONKEY. To Craig for offering to share Scruffy-Wes. To Matt, because you're the best boyfriend I could have. To Leon, for translating the Latin for me. And finally, to Carrie, my lifeline, for helping me with my constant writer's block, and for doing everything else for me in the world. Including allowing herself to be groped for my endless amusement. *Le grope* Also, if you enjoy Scruffy Wes of the third Season of AtS, do I have something for you; http://www.angelfire.com/mo3/fanfic/Bots/ScruffyWesBot.jpg


Chapter One: "Dead Man"

 

I'm in love with a dead man. I know this, and I know it's perhaps not the most emotionally healthy situation, but I find that I can't help it. I find myself wondering, at the most inopportune moments, what he would think about a certain situation, how something would make him feel. When I sit alone at a local pub, or with my fellow employees, I think about what he would have ordered to eat, or to drink. Would he drink a light or dark lager? Something with a bit more kick, perhaps, such as whiskey or scotch? Would he order a meat-and-potatoes meal, or French fries?

I never met him. I feel like I know everything there is to know about him, and I've seen countless pictures, even a videotape…but I never met him. He died shortly, inconveniently, just before I came to work for Angel Investigations. Cordelia and Angel were both still broken up over his tragic, heroic demise.

At first, I felt as if I were an outsider in the group. As if I were, per say, his replacement. But I soon learned, after hearing them talk about him, remember him…that he was not the kind of man that could be replaced. I made my own niche, and simply was forced to wish I had met the man who came before me.

I sit in the office, watching Cordelia's home video of him. Again. I can't decide what it is about him that has me so captivated. Is it Irish lilt that just makes a tiny shiver run down the length of my spine, settling deep in the small of my back? Or possibly those bright green eyes, looking like they hold all the secrets of the universe? I'll never learn those secrets, at least not from him.

Our rats are low.

"Wes?" A voice from the doorway. I quickly turn the video off, but I know he's already seen what I was watching.

"Yes, Angel?"

"What are you doing?"

"I was curious," I say, knowing that the excuse is just as hollow to his ears as it is to mine.

"You've seen that video before, Wesley. There's not a lot to be curious about."

His tone is much too controlled, neutral. I know that Angel doesn't like to be reminded of him. The pain, the guilt of the loss, is still so much for him to bear, even after all this time. I think Angel loved him too. I don't know if his feelings linger, genuinely at least, but I know they were there once upon a time. It's in the way he avoids the subject altogether.

"Indeed," I say simply, not even attempting to explain myself. I've done nothing wrong. I haven't been told not to view the video. I glory in the days that Cordelia becomes nostalgic and puts the video on herself, and watches it continuously. I have an excuse to watch, then. I know she loved him too.

A sorry sight, we three are. All in love with a dead man. Cordelia, as always, has recovered, and begun searching for love in new places. She's happy, and healthy, and going on with her mission. She has a piece of him in her head, a piece none of us can hope to ever have. She's nearly died for them, but the visions are a portion of him and they're worth it.

Angel looks at me for a moment, and we both hold the gaze. He's reading me, and I'm challenging him to ask another question. He doesn't say another word, but after a short time, he turns around and leaves again. I wonder if he's figured me out, and suddenly I don't care. I know how stupid it is to have fallen for a man I'll never have. Could never have. I'm so tired of hiding it that I don't care whether he knows and looks down upon me for my feelings. I don't need his pity, nor do I need his distain. Neither is coveted. I can question my sanity without his help, thank you very much. I'm perfectly capable.

Finally, I leave the office. I head to my own apartment, to sleep, and dream of a lean, warm lover. His fingers ghost over my skin, caressing me until I'm mindless, as we bring each other pleasure until that final, culpable moment. Everything swims through my head, until finally we both reach the precipice of the experience, launching me into full wakefulness. I rub at my tired eyes, wishing I could go back to sleep, back into that dream world where everything is the way I want it to be, rather than into the real world, where everything is cold and lonely. And the man I love is dead.

The next morning, I walk back to work, to spend the day wondering what he'd think about different developments, what time he'd come into work, what he'd wear. I wonder about all the different facial expressions he might make, and if his eyes would express his deepest thoughts or hold them in mystery. I'm afraid to ask Cordelia if his eyes were expressive, because I don't think she would have noticed. I'm afraid to ask Angel because I know he'll just give me that look, that pitying look. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with him knowing anymore. Yesterday it didn't matter…because I was tired…and lonely. Today, I'm still lonely, and still a little tired, but I'm thinking more clearly. He knows so much, and I wonder if he's going to try to talk to me about it. I don't actually want to talk about it. I don't suppose it would be so bad if I were to talk about it with somebody else, but I just can't with Angel.

The reasons for this are varied and complex. Angel was so close to Doyle. Angel is much older, and seemingly wiser than I. Angel loved him too. All of these things just make it wrong to talk about him. Granted, it would be an exercise in bonding, but…I don't think I could open myself up that way. I don't want to admit that I'm in love with a dead man.

So I continue to go through my day alone, wishing for a dead man to live again so that I might meet him. Cordelia has a vision just before nightfall, and after my token research, Angel and I leave the office to fight the G'aryk. Not a particularly vicious demon in most cases, but this one apparently had been infected with some human disease, not native to its own species, and is experiencing a violent dementia.

The G'aryk, a 4.5-foot demon with slimy gray skin and poisonous venom, is preparing to attack a fast-food establishment when we catch it in an alley. The demon, normally docile, is fast and ferocious in its madness. It attacks Angel with relish, and Angel revels in the voraciousness with which his opponent challenges him. However, Angel's footing slips once, on some rotting garbage in the alley, and he goes down with a heavy thud. The G'aryk, in its mindless rage, heads straight for me, claws swinging, mouth frothing. Low growls interrupted by harsh squeals of pain and displeasure erupt from its maw, and I back up quickly, readying my axe for the impending fight. Finally, it comes closer, too close, and I swing, just as it spews its frothy venom at me, burning my skin painfully. It won't cause any permanent damage, I know, but it burns like acid and causes me to scream in pain. Angel jumps up, and jumps on the demon's back, probably cutting himself on the razor sharp spines of the G'aryk's backbone. Angel lets out a pained grunt as he snaps the demon's neck, and lets its oozing body slither to the asphalt. I am holding my arm in a handkerchief I'd had in my pocket, trying to soothe the fire on my skin, but not having much success.

"Let's get back and see what we can do about that burn," Angel says quietly, and I look up at him. His stomach is bleeding, undoubtedly from the G'aryk's spines.

"And perhaps your own wounds," I grit out between clenched teeth. He lifts the left side of his mouth in a half-smirk, and nods curtly.

"That, too." We make our way to his car, and he drives us back to the office to see if Cordelia is there to tend to our wounds. She is not, so we head down to Angel's flat to do it ourselves.

As I am soaking my left arm in a basin of cool water, relishing the soothing chill of the liquid while sitting at Angel's kitchen table, Angel goes into his bedroom change his shirt and see how deeply the G'aryk's spines scored his flesh. When he leaves the room, my minds turn back to the man I love.

What would the slight Irishman have done in the battle? How would he yield his weapon? Would he have used an axe, like me, or a broadsword like Angel? Or would he use a blunt object of some kind? Would his demon side have given him extra strength, or would he have to have transformed into his Brachen form to have the demon's strength?

I sigh deeply. The man is always lingering near the top of my thoughts. I don't know why it is that I fell in love with him. Perhaps the real reason is that I can never be rejected if I never have the chance to ask if he feels the same. He's dead, so he can't not love me back. Angel comes back into the kitchen and pulls a bag of pig's blood from the freezer. I watch him as he pours it into a mug and heats it in the microwave. Angel, too, has dark hair and an Irish background. He's a demon within the body of a man. So many similarities, and I wonder if perhaps I'm projecting my feelings onto a dead man so that I don't have to face the fact that I'm attracted to a vampire. The thought flits away as fast as it came, and I know it's untrue. Angel has so many qualities that I admire, but I'm not really attracted to him, beyond the physical. And I admitted that to myself long ago.

"You're staring," Angel says quietly, not turning around to face me.

"I'm sorry. I was just thinking. You know how my mind likes to wander," I say a little sheepishly, embarrassed.

I'm not sorry. I wonder why not. I was caught, and I wish I hadn't been, but I was just staring at my employer, and I'm not sorry. Perhaps because…he's the only link I have to the dead man I love? Would that be enough? Would it be enough for him?

Angel rinses his now-empty mug and places it in the sink, finally turning to face me.

"Do you want a beer?" he asks. I smile graciously and accept, and watch as he pulls two bottles from the refrigerator. He uncaps them and hands me one. We sit in uncomfortable silence, making small talk here and there, but mostly just sitting and drinking our beer. Once we've finished the first, Angel stands to get two more, and we drink those. After the fourth, I start to wish I'd eaten something before we'd headed out to fight the G'aryk, as I am beginning to feel light-headed.

"Is everything all right, Wesley?" Angel asks me suddenly, his eyes boring into my soul, trying to read me again.

"Everything's fine, Angel. Why would you think it wasn't?" My voice is surprisingly steady, and I'm proud of that. I didn't waver at all. It sounded convincing, even to me.

"You've been…distant, this last month. Like you've got something heavy on your mind." His words are vague, but I think we both know what he's talking about.

"Really, Angel, I…" I trail off as he interrupts me.

"I know what's happening, Wes. I know about…him."

"You don't know anything, Angel." This is said a little more coldly. I don't want to have this discussion. Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to leave, to get out of here before the words come into the open.

"Don't I?" Angel sighs. "Wes, you never even met him."

I glare stonily at him, wanting him to be quiet. I'm not going to answer him.

"Wesley…he was a wonderful man. But he's dead. You never met him, and you never will. Your feelings…whatever they are, you can't…he's dead, Wes."

"I'm well aware of your former employee's state of being, and I assure you that it is not a problem, as there are no feelings to speak of." The lie leaves an acrid sting in my mouth, and I feel more guilt than I ever have the second the words pass my lips. IF I could take them back… But I can't. Pity.

"Wesley, don't shut me out here. I'm your friend. I want to help you. I can't…there's a piece of him in me, and there's…somehow, there's a part of him in you. And you're my friend. I can't…I know how much it hurts you, every day, and I want to make that stop." This is perhaps the longest speech I've heard Angel utter.

"Well, I thank you for your concern, Angel, but I assure you, I'm fine. Now, if you don't mind, it's getting a bit late, and I think I shall head home, put some salve on this arm, and get some rest. I suggest you do the same." I stand to leave, and suddenly he's in front of me, his mouth on mine, his hands clutching at my upper arms hard, yet carefully avoiding the burn from the G'aryk. Our tongues slide together swiftly, lips and teeth clashing in sudden passion.

He pulls away just as suddenly, leaving us both breathless.

"Angel?" I ask, confused, aroused, and a little guilty. Why do I feel guilty? I can't cheat on a dead man I've never met.

"Wesley," his voice is low, filled with a pain I know too well, and a lust I know better.

"I think you've had one too many beers," I say quietly, dropping my eyes for a moment.

"It's not the beer," he says, his voice low and predatory.

"Angel, we can't," I say after a moment of holding his gaze. "The curse." As much as I want Angel right now, to use, to forget, to be used by, I know that the risk isn't worth it, Angelus must never resurface, and I fear that if Angel were to experience true happiness again, Cordelia's and my own life would be in grave danger.

"It won't happen." I give him a pointed look. "Wesley…I want this, but…it won't be perfect happiness."

I stare at him for a few moments, strangely unhurt by his admission. "Why not?" I finally ask, more curious than anything.

"Because you're not him." The words are spoken so softly, that I almost don't hear them. However, I do, and I continue to hold Angel's gaze for long moments, sorting through things in my mind.

I may be in love with a dead man, but I have here the chance to make love to the man who loved him before me. Angel touched him, spoke to him, confided in him and was confided in by him. Angel knew him, watched him, loved him and wanted him. Do I want that part of him? Is it worth any regrets there may be in the morning?

"Wes…" he says again, hissing almost imperceptibly on the last consonant of my name. It's worth it.

I step forward and press my lips to his again, my arms wrapping around his torso. He lets out a growl and clutches at me, pulling me toward the vicinity of his bedroom.

My mind is floating. Angel's lips mesh with mine in a frenzy, our tongues dueling for dominance. Hands roam, and clothing disappears almost magically, until we are a writhing mass of flesh and limbs, panting and glistening with perspiration. Low moans form both of us as nipples and pulse points are licked, sucked, nibbled, teased. Deep in the pit of my stomach, I'm burning, tingling for this.

My hands caress what seems like miles of hard, pale skin. Angel jerks under my touch when I hit a particularly sensitive spot, and I shiver when he reciprocates. Finally his hands find my engorged length, and I gasp as he wraps it in his grip. I let out a groan when he begins to move his hand, unable to stop myself from pressing my hips up against him.

Finally, he stops, and kisses me again. Before I know what's happening, he has a small tube of some lubricant, and is pouring it into his hand. I turn over onto my stomach, bringing my knees under me so that my hips are raised slightly. It seems too intimate to do this face-to-face, and I can't pretend I'm fucking a dead man instead of an undead man. His fingers probe at my entrance, slick with the gel, and he pushes two fingers in, thrusting them gently, stretching me, preparing me.

He presses a light kiss to the small of my back, and places the head of his penis against the tiny opening. But he doesn't slide in, despite my obvious pleading.

"Such a lovely ass, lad. Can't wait to get meself into ye,"Angel whispers in my ear, using the thick Irish brogue of his heritage. My cock twitches, my balls tingle, my eyes roll back in my head, and I'm on the verge of coming, just from that accent. That Irish lilt that pushes me over the edge into insanity. He pushes in quickly, and I scream now, my release bursting forth and staining Angel's silk sheets in the most intense orgasm I've ever experienced in my life. He grunts as my channel grasps at him, rhythmically tightening and releasing in my orgasm, and after only a few thrusts, I feel him spill himself into me.

We lay there a moment, him draped over me, panting. Finally, Angel pulls himself out of my body with a quiet groan, and lies down beside me. He pulls me over to lay on his chest, petting my hair as I struggle to catch my breath. But this is the intimate tenderness of a friend, not the caress of true love, which comforts me somehow. I don't want Angel's love.

After a few moments of resting, Angel finally speaks.

"I loved him too, you know," he says.

"I know."

"I made love with him once."

I look up at Angel in shock. Is it true? "You did?" I gasp. "When?"

"About a week before he died." Angel's voice is soft, with little emotion. How can he not have emotion, talking about making love to that man?

I say nothing, still a little shocked. But happy. Angel slept with him. And I slept with Angel. I'm that much nearer to him now. That one measure…I'm one step closer.

Chapter Two: "Visions of Him"

 

I leave Angel's flat before daybreak, wanting to get out before he awakens. I do hope that he doesn't read too much into the night before. Angel is my friend, and nothing more. I don't have room in my heart for another. There is only Doyle. This is perhaps the first time I've allowed myself to speak his name, even in my head. Before now, it all seemed so wrong. But now, now that I'm that one step closer to him, it seems all too right.

I go home and shower. I don't want to have Angel's scent on me. It seems…sullying, almost. As if I'm sullying the memory of Doyle by smelling like Angel. Now that I've had time to process the night, I'm more than envious of Angel. Before, I'd been envious because Angel knew him. Now, I've a raging jealousy because Angel slept with him. I feel slightly betrayed.

There is one message on my answering machine. Cordelia, calling to ask if I can pick her up for work. I look at my watch. I have time to swing by her apartment before heading back to the office. Hopefully Angel won't feel uncomfortable around me today. I'd like very much to simply put this event in the past. With any luck, Angel will be amenable to the idea.

I stop at Cordelia's apartment to pick her up. The drive from there to the offices of Angel Investigations is about fifteen minutes, so we make small conversation.

"So did you guys kill that Gary demon last night?" Cordelia asks.

"The G'aryk demon. And yes, we were able to destroy it with little injury."

"You guys got hurt? Why didn't you call?"

"Really, Cordelia, it was nothing serious. We were quite able to deal with the problem ourselves. There was no need to call and wake you."

"Good."

"Cordelia, I wanted to ask you something."

"Sure, Wes. Shoot."

"I was hoping perhaps you could tell me more about your visions."

"The PTB sends them, they hurt, what more do you need?"

"I was hoping for a more detailed synopsis than that, Cordelia," I say with a wry smile. She grins.

"What's up, Wes? It's not like we need to research it. I'm the link to the higher powers. Not that I asked for the job." She glares up to the heavens, then turns back to me.

"I'm just fairly curious, is all. Perhaps you could explain them to me more specifically."

"Oh. Okay. Um…well, okay, first, it's like my sinuses get kind of stuffed up. Like I've got a bad head cold, only really fast." I'm drinking in the details. Doyle felt this. "Then, my entire head just, like, explodes with this pain. It's in the front of my head, mostly, but it kinda shoots down my neck, too." Cordelia scrunches her eyebrows in thought. "Then, I get the actual vision. It's like…like I see flashes, of people and monsters and whatever, and then I see enough of the area so that I can kind of recognize it."

"I see," I say noncommittally, even though I'm hanging on the end of each word. "And before you had the visions, Doyle had them."

Her eyes get a little bit sad, and inside me something rages. He loved her, not me.

"Yeah. I guess they were bad for him, too. He always used to keep a bottle of aspirin on him so that when one hit, he could take them right away." A small smile grazes her face, and her eyes take on a far away look. "He used to take a drink of bourbon too, if he had any on him. Or if there were a liquor store near by."

"And the visions…he passed them to you?"

"Yeah. Wes, you know all this. Why are you suddenly curious again?"

"I don't know, Cordelia. I just am, I suppose. So, how did he pass the visions to you again?"

"He kissed me. Just before he died. I'm not really sure how it worked, since I kissed pretty much everyone I could find in order to try and get rid of it. Angel, you, that gross auction demon. Nada."

"So you don't think it was the kiss itself?"

"I don't know. Maybe it only works the once. Or maybe the Powers stepped in 'cuz they knew what he was going to do, and they needed to keep the line to Angel up. I don't know. All I know is that he kissed me, and then he jumped onto the big shiny death-thing, and then he was dead." Her voice flattens with sadness toward the end, and I feel a horrid loss again. It seems that when I hear her tell the story, he's really dead, and I'm reminded that I'll never see him. It hurts my heart to know that I'll never know the man I love so wholly.

"Perhaps the reason that the visions didn't transfer again is the lack of response and feeling from the people you had been kissing," I mused aloud.

"I don't know. Maybe. But now…I kinda like 'em. They're like, a piece of him, you know?"

"Yes." I really do know. I covet that piece of him, myself.

The rest of the ride is made in silence, which is fine. I need to think. I begin to think about Doyle and his visions; how they were transferred to Cordelia, how she might transfer them.

I feel especially good this morning. After my tryst with Angel, I feel so much closer to Doyle, and I wonder how I can get even closer. I begin to formulate a plan.

We spend the day at the office. Angel doesn't arrive until just after noon, and avoids looking me in the eyes. I believe he's embarrassed about his behavior last night. Either he's upset about using me to remember Doyle, or letting me use him to get closer to Doyle. I don't particularly care which one; I did what had to be done. Perhaps, if Doyle hadn't existed, Angel and I could have had something, but that is not the case, and thinking about the possibility makes me feel as though I'm betraying Doyle. Which I would never do.

"Cordelia," I say gently, at the end of the day. When she looks up, I smile disarmingly at her. "Would you care to have dinner with me this evening?"

She smirks. "Are you asking me on a date, Wes?"

"Oh, heavens, no." I chuckle a little ruefully. "I just feel like cooking something decent this evening, and it would be a pity to waste an elaborate meal on just myself. Would you join me?"

She thinks for a minute. "Sure. I mean, free food, right?" She grins. "Ready to go?"

"All right. Let me just grab a few files to browse through later, and we'll be on our way." We make our goodbyes to Angel, who stays mostly silent, except for a short "See you tomorrow", and we drive back to my flat.

Dinner is Chicken Parmesan, and Cordelia eats it whole-heartedly. It is a good meal. Afterwards, we sit on my sofa, each with a glass of wine, and chat.

"I must admit something, Cordy," I say, looking a little shy. "I know that before, in Sunnydale, we kissed. Unfortunately, it wasn't particularly…"

"Good?" she giggles, heady from the wine.

"Exactly. I can't help but wonder what went wrong."

"Well, there was the whole thing with the Mayor, and the fear, and the packing, and stuff. Plus, I just don't think either of us knew what we were doing with each other. You were the dashing Brit, I was the sexy temptress of a teenager." She laughs again.

"That you were."

"So, I don't know what really happened. One minute, we were staring into each other's eyes." I look into her eyes, fire in my gaze. "Then, we were moving closer." I move slightly closer, as does she. Our breaths mingle between us.

What will she taste like? Will there still be some of Doyle's taste in her?

"Then, we were…" the words are broken off by the contact of our lips. We kiss slowly, and my tongue sweeps inside her mouth. I imagine I can taste cheap bourbon, leather, love, and courage. We slowly part, and she's staring at me. Her mouth is slightly open.

"And still, nothing. Here, I thought it may have changed. I must have been mistaken."

"Wha…?" she says, slightly dazed.

"It's getting late, Cordelia. Perhaps you should go down. I'll call a cab for you. I'll see you in the morning?" I hurry her out the door, anxious to be alone with my thoughts.

Once the door is closed and locked behind her, I sigh. Doyle. I know that, really, his taste has gone from her mouth, had gone the moment she brushed her teeth after he'd died. But in my mind, I can taste him. The way his mouth would have been hot under mine, the way his breathing would have slightly increased in tempo as our kiss deepened. The way he'd moan, low and rumbling in his chest, when my fingers carded through his short, black hair. The way he would sigh my name as I nibbled down his jaw, his Irish heritage lilting the word into a melody.

I let out a trembling breath, painfully aware of the effect my train of thought is having on the bulge in my grey chinos.

I stumble to my bedroom, and undress. I lay down on the bed, over the covers, on my back, and feather my fingers along the white expanse of my belly, imagining that the hands touching me have blunter fingers, and belong to an Irish Brachen demon.

My own elegant hands roughly course through the dark hair at the base of my proudly jutting erection, and my breathing becomes labored as they continue their trek down, between my parted thighs, to the puckered opening behind my balls, tracing circles there as I imagine Doyle would. I grab my cock, and where I would usually use languid, soft strokes, I harshly thrust my hips into the tight channel of my palm, jerking roughly as I imagine Doyle would.

In my mind, green eyes are twinkling, and that small mouth is licking at my heaving chest as I gasp and clutch desperately at pale skin, dark hair, and sanity.

I pant and keen as my orgasm crashes over me, and I lose sight of the dark haired man in my mind as stars flash behind my eyes, and when I catch my breath, the image of Doyle is gone. But I can still taste bourbon on my tongue.

Chapter Three: "Camel's Back"

 

I'm watching the video again. Holed up in my office, I rewind the tape again and again, watching my Doyle get adorably flustered as he attempts to read Cordelia's hastily written cue cards. I reach out to the screen and reverently brush my fingers over the screen, on the image of Doyle's perfect face. A noise behind me makes me start, whirling around to view the intruder.

"Wes?" Cordelia asks, her brow furrowed in confusion. "What were you doing?"

My breath speeds in apprehension. She wouldn't understand. "I was just, just wiping a smudge off the television screen."

Cordelia holds my eyes for a few moments, her eyes narrowing, while I do my best not to flinch under her piercing gaze, the effort desperate.

"You know, Wes, you've been acting seriously creepy lately. What's the deal?"

"I…Cordelia, I have no idea what you're talking about. I haven't been acting any differently than normal."

"Yes you have. Last night, you were being creepy, and today, you're being creepy again. What's going on with you?"

"I may be under some stress. Not work-related, you understand."

"Stress?"

"I assure you, it's nothing. Nothing I can't deal with, in any case. Now, please, I have work to do." I sit at my desk and open a file folder, attempting to look extremely busy.

"Okay, Wes," she says softly, before finally averting her eyes and walking out the open door, her stylish black heels clicking on the tile of the floor. I breathe a great sigh of relief.

I work on case files for a few hours, glancing often at the small photograph I liberated from Cordelia's desk. When I finish, I leave my office, and head into the foyer. As I pass by Angel's office, where he and Cordelia are chatting quietly, Angel looks up at me.

"Wes? Got a minute?" I step into the office, and give them both a tired smile.

"How can I help you, Angel?"

"Wes…We've kinda…you're sort of…" Angel is obviously uncomfortable.

"What Mr. Elaborate Vamp over there is trying to say is that we're worried about you," Cordelia jumps in, aggravated.

I chuckle lightly. "Really, neither of you has any cause to worry about me. I'm perfectly fine."

"No, you're not," Angel replies with a little more force. He's suddenly found his courage, it seems. Meanwhile, mine is swiftly fading.

"Really, I…"

"No, Wes. Angel and I talked. The things you've done this week…"

"It was earlier than that. You've just become more extreme lately."

"I was simply…"

"You weren't doing anything simply. You shouldn't be…" the fire in Cordelia's snappish voice suddenly dissipates. "Wes, we want to help you."

"Well, I'm terribly sorry to disappoint you, but I am not in need of your help, or that of anybody else." I stand up, silently urging my hands to stop shaking, and turn for the door. I can't stay here and listen to them accuse me of things that aren't true. I won't.

"Wes, sit down," Angel growls, and I turn to glare at him.

"I am fine, Angel. I am tired, however, and would like to go home to bed. By myself." The dig is small, and unnecessary, but I can't help myself. Angel hardly flinches, however.

"Wesley, he's dead!!" Cordelia finally cries, her voice cracking with emotion.

Before I know it, I've taken a step toward her, faster than thinking of it, and raised a hand, which is suddenly caught in Angel's iron grip.

"Don't," he says, his voice quiet but grating like steel. Cordelia had flinched back, and is now staring at me with shock.

"You need help, Wes," she says miserably.

"I don't! I need you two to keep out of my affairs and leave me alone," I say harshly. My hands are still shaking.

"Wes, you do need help." Before I can interrupt him, he's plowed ahead, still staring at me with fire in his eyes. "This isn't right. Doyle's dead, and you never even met him. Why are you so obsessed with him?"

I can feel a sudden rage course through my blood, causing it to sing wildly. I know he can hear it, feel it in the grip he still has on my wrist. "This is not an obsession. Obsession is something that affects people who are mentally unbalanced. Soulless, you were obsessed with Drusilla, and with Buffy. This isn't obsession. This is…" I cut myself off before I can say too much, but Angel's figured it out. His eyes widen slightly, and his grip loosens a little bit. Enough for me to wrench my wrist from it, and rub at it with my other hand, massaging some feeling into the limb.

"Neither of you could hope to understand," I finally say bitterly, and turn to leave.

And they don't understand. They can't fathom the love that I have for Doyle, the love that I could have with Doyle. They don't know what real love is. I look down at the piece of paper in my hand. Harry Doyle 555-2018. It's a simple spell. She won't feel any pain throughout it, and when it's over… When I have him back, they'll see what we have together, and they'll understand.

I can imagine our reunion. He'll take one look at me, see the love I have for him, and rush into my arms. We can share a passionate kiss, filled with longing, and I can finally taste him for real. It will be perfect.

I will make it perfect.

*~*~*

She's lying on the table, unconscious. She has to be unconscious but alive for her life essence to form itself into my lover. I will have him.

"Natura Praeteriti Tempi [Essence of the past]
Priscus producis [Bring forth the old]
Osiris operae esse [Osiris I serve]
Orato meo reo facis [Make real my plea]
Mortem ultimam finio [End the final death]
Osiris oratis meo audis [Osiris, hear my plea]"

I'm almost finished the spell when I hear it. Whooshing of wind, thundering of power, surrounding myself and the empty table where Doyle will appear for me.

Suddenly, with the last words, a great flash blinds me. When I open my eyes, Doyle is lying on the table, looking around in panic.

"Doyle," I sigh reverently, moving to touch him, kiss him, hug him.

"Who the hell are you?!" He cries, jumping up and backing away suddenly. "Where am I?"

"Doyle, don't you…?" My voice is hushed. He doesn't…he should be in my arms, grateful to me for bringing him back, loving me back. This isn't how this was supposed to happen. He was supposed to know me, love me back. Feel the same way.

This…he's confused, and he doesn't know me. How can he not know me? After everything I've done for him, to be nearer to him, how can he not know me, love me?

How can this be?

Suddenly, the locked door bursts open, and Angel and Cordelia rush in. "Wes, no!" Angel cries before he gets a good look at the occupants of the room. He sees Doyle, and his mouth drops open, tears forming in his eyes.

"Doyle?!" Cordelia cries, her eyes widening even as her voice becomes more shrill.

"Angel! Cordy! What the hell is going on?!" Doyle cries, rushing into Cordelia's open arms, and they're hugging, and he's kissing her, and that's the last straw.

He's kissing her.

He was supposed to be kissing me. Supposed to be with me.

Rage blinds me as purely as the flash of light that signaled Doyle's arrival, and suddenly I hate him more than anything. I rush forward, to hurt them, hit them, kill them, make them stop kissing, hugging, being. But strong arms grab me angrily, and the enraged haze clears enough for me to see that I'm faced with Angel's vampire visage, his eyes flashing coldly, angrily.

"Don't." he growls, and I know I've lost my friends this night as well as my lover. Suddenly, I want to scream, and I try, but there isn't any sound. I want to cry out my rage, make them all feel it, but I can't.

I want to stop it all.

"You killed her. You killed an innocent woman, Wesley."

I try to block out Angel's words, but my mouth moves of its own accord.

"I did it for him. It was all for him. Let me tell him, he'll understand."

"No, Wes. You don't get to speak to him, not until we figure out what's wrong with you."

"There's nothing wrong with me!" I scream, and Doyle and Cordelia stare at me in shock. "It wasn't supposed to be this way! It wasn't…" And I'm on the floor, sobbing, hitching, crying, and I can't breathe through the pain and the rage and the anger. My hands cover my face, and I'm crying out everything, and it wasn't supposed to end like this.


The End


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