Wesley's Little Defender
by FerretGirl (the.gang at chello.nl)
Rated: ? [PG-13, at the mgmt's best guess :) ]
Spoilers: [Set post Season 1; no real spoilers]
Notes: Thanks to Zortified and Lilac for their beta work.
Note from the management: [Since James was a beta-reader for part of this story, she has withdrawn from the judging on it.]
The light around the door was like a halo. It was the only light he had; it wasn't much. Other then that it was completely dark. There was no sound, other then the noises the rats made and the occasional thumping as someone went up or down the stairs.
Wesley was scared of the rats. They had come near him on various occasions and even bitten him a few times. He was scared to death of them, had near panic attacks complete with the trouble to breathe and nightmares. His father had told him that it was utter nonsense. Wesley was much bigger then those little buggers, the boy was to grow up and be a man.
The eyes of the ten year old boy frantically darted back and forth, trying to figure out where the next attack might come from. Not that he had anything to thwart the attacks. He was too scared to use his hands. That was a lesson he had learned in the past; it had ended with a nasty bite in a finger and an inflammation of said finger to boot. Now used his feet.
Wesley could hear them coming; the rats were nearby. He swallowed down the tears of fear that threatened to break through. Father didn't like it when he cried. He was supposed to brave, a future watcher, a man. Crying was not allowed, not ever.
He hated being in the closet under the stairs. The suffocating darkness. The threatening rats. The sometimes unidentifiable noises. The footsteps of people going up and down the stairs as if there wasn't a little ten year old boy locked under them. But he was going to be brave, he was not going to cry. He was going to make father proud.
He had tried so hard to learn chapter one of 'The codex of lugash demons'. But the language was difficult and he had forgotten a word or two. The test he was given on the Codex had ended with an enraged father, a sore back and another 'thinking about your failures session' in the closed under the stairs
Wesley's head shot up when he heard the strange hissing sound. He carefully tried to peer into the darkness. From the corner of his eye he could see two rats approaching. His heart was throbbing in his throat and cold sweat broke out. As quietly and carefully as he could, he tried to scurry away from the frightening furry little creatures.
He heard the hissing noise once again and Wesley watched with enchanted amazement as the rats quickly made their retreat. As though they were afraid of the hissing sound. He wondered if he, too, should be afraid of the sound. One rat looked at him with its beady eyes as if it were warning the little boy. But the renewed hissing sound sent it quickly running away.
Wesley craned his neck to see where the hissing sound had come from. In the scarce light that fell from the door-frame he could see a furry creature. It was bigger, but much thinner and longer then the rats. Wesley held his breath as the furry creature came closer and gave him a curious look.
Wesley tilted his head to the left and stared back at the little creature. The wheels in his analytical brain were working on overdrive as he studied the animal. He could actually see the pages of the nature and animal books his uncle had given him. His father had scoffed at those books. According to him they held nothing but useless information.
"Mustela Putoris Furo," he whispered softly as if anyone could hear him through the thick walls of the closet. "Domesticated by the ancient Romans to keep their homes free of rats and mice, now used to hunt rabbits or kept as pets." He carefully stretched out a hand and kept staring at the little brown creature as if it were magical. "Commonly known as ferret." He ended his private lecture.
The ferret suddenly jumped at Wesley and then back again, making funny noises that sounded like it was saying dook-dook-dook very fast. It arched its back all the way up and jumped up and down a few times, shaking its little head from left to right. Wesley quickly snatched his hand back, afraid the ferret would bite.
The ferret made a fake attack once again, then laid down flat on the floor and looked at the little boy. The mischievous eyes sparkled and Wesley could almost swear the furry creature was laughing at him when it wriggled its little nose.
Once again Wesley could hear the rats approaching, the scratching of their paws on the wooden floor giving them away. The ferret turned around fast and jumped toward the sound with an almost deafening screech. The rats quickly ran away again, leaving the ferret to smugly watch them scamper off.
Wesley froze and stared as tough hypnotized at the door. He was expecting his father to yank it open and demand what in the bloody hell was going on here. He waited, not moving, frozen to the spot. He could hear the ferret hissing to the rats. He could hear the rats once again running away. But he kept staring at the door.
Suddenly he could feel a tickling sensation on his legs. Wesley looked down startled and saw that the ferret had come closer and was now boldly sniffling his leg. Wesley blinked at the ferret and carefully lowered his hand to stroke the furry body. He was surprised to find it was soft and almost silky feeling.
The little ferret crawled in his lap and laid down, curling up like a little furry ball. Wesley was surprised at the tiny animal's courage. He smiled at the ferret and kept on petting it. The ferret sighed happily and curled up even further into a little ball, pushing its tiny nose Wesley's other hand.
Time passed slowly in the closet under the stairs. Wesley was cold, so cold. He wrapped his school blazer around him closer. The ferret was now comfortably sleeping in one of his pockets. Wesley marveled at the sight. The ferret seemed so at ease, so peaceful and calm. It had the same soothing side effect on Wesley.
Suddenly the door was thrown open. Wesley could actually feel the wind suction in his ears. His hand flew protectively toward his pocket. Father stood towering at the door, gesturing with his head that Wesley was to come out.
As fast as his cramped muscles would allow, Wesley crawled out of the small closet and stood in front of his father, his eyes cast down at the floor. His hand hovered over the pocket. His throat felt tight and he was hot and cold at the same time, nervous butterflies attacked his stomach. He didn't want his father to know about his new little friend.
"Look at me boy." The demanding tones in his fathers voice were unmistakable. He wasn't forgiven yet...if ever.
Wesley's forced his head up to look at his father. He was trembling slightly, and could only hope his father wouldn't notice. He swallowed down the bile that tightened his throat.
"I'm going to test you again tomorrow and you better have all of it memorized by then." His father crossed his arms infront of his chest and the ice cold blue eyes bored into the little boy infront of him. "Do not disappoint me again boy, do I make myself clear." It wasn't really a question, it never was.
Wesley nodded fast, shuffling with his foot over the carpet. So far the little ferret had made no sound, it was still sleeping in the pocket of his blazer. Wesley's thoughts were so engrossed with ferret that he never saw the blow coming. The ringing and the heat that came from his ear were the only indications that he needed to tell that his father was once again not happy with him.
The finger pointing at the stairs loomed over Wesley and spoke volumes. "Yes S-sir" Wesley whispered. His shoes felt like lead, he had to squash down the urge to drag them over the floor. That would only lead too more anger, disappointment and lecturing from father. He was not about to ask for another encounter with the cane. It took every effort to lift his feet and walk up the stairs. His shoulders hunched, his head bent. His hand still hovered protectively over the pocket that held the tiny ferret.
Once the door of his room was closed Wesley led out a sigh of relief. The room was his safe haven, his sanctuary. Father never came to his room. If Wesley's presence was demanded by either of his parents, they would send up a servant to summon the boy.
Wesley carefully lifted the little ferret out of the pocket of his blazer. The ferret was limp in his cupped hands, like a rag doll that had been carried around too much. Wesley's eyes widened as he all but dropped the ferret on his bed. His hand flew to his mouth and tears formed in his eyes as he looked at the tiny creature in shock. Had it suffocated in the confinements of the pocket?
He reached out with a trembling and carefully shook the ferret. Once, then twice, softly. A third time with more force. Wesley dropped to his knees and looked closer at the ferret, trying if he could see the little animal's breath. His small finger poked the ferret once again
Wesley hadn't even noticed that he himself had stopped breathing until he let out a sigh of relief as he watched the ferret uncurl itself. The tiny creature yawned, showing a row of sharp teeth and four very dangerous looking fangs.
The ferret stretched its long body lazily, yawned again and then looked up at the little boy. It scrunched up its nose as if trying to smell something. Then it looked around and hopped off the bed, running around the room exploring the new environment had woken up in.
Wesley sat on the bed and watched the ferret run around. Sometimes the ferret would stop and run backward really fast, as if that were a normal thing to do. It made funny little hops, with a highly arched back as it found something that it didn't trust. Wesley was mesmerized by the ferret.
From the bookshelf he had pulled the book his uncle had given him. He was soon enraptured in the chapter about ferrets. He learned that ferrets did not live in the wild but were only domesticated animals, ferrets ate cat-food, ferrets went to the toilet, ferrets could be used for hunting. He learned that the ferret currently exploring his bedroom was called a sable ferret, due to its color. Picking it up and turning it around Wesley also learned that the ferret was female.
Wesley pondered this for a moment. He really wanted the ferret to have a name, so it would have a personality. Father always said that names were important, they were meant to impress people. Although the name Wyndam-Pryce was impressive, why his parents had thought that the name 'Wesley' would impress anyone he could not comprehend.
Wesley thought of a name. Several goddesses passed by, famous queens, legendary woman, historical woman, until he finally settled on the name 'Alexia'. Wesley found this a suitable name, since it meant 'defender' or 'helper', which was exactly what the little ferret had done. She had defended and helped Wesley against the rats in the closet under the stairs.
In the day's that followed Wesley managed to sneak a small cage up to his room, cat-food, a small box that would serve as a toilet and several toy's. When ever Wesley was in his room, which was a most of the time, Alexia would be free. When Wesley was at school or doing chores for his father, the little ferret slept in her cage. He cuddled with Alexia, played with her and told her everything.
About his fear of the dark, about his father, about how afraid he was of becoming a failure. He told her what he had learned in school, about what he had learned from the demon books his father insisted he studied. He even told her what he had eaten for dinner, or about a new game he had learned watching the other children in school or normal day activities. Alexia usually lay in his lap and looked at him, with those wise brown eyes. As if she understood everything he confided in her and sympathized.
Wesley was very careful not to give away any signs that he was keeping a secret friend in a cage under his bed. He had found out that the vague scent of the ferret on his clothing alone scared away the rats. They rarely came to bother him, and when they did, they never came close. It seemed that Alexia was helping and defending Wesley when she wasn't even there. Wesley spend his time in the closet under the stairs trying to come up with ideas for new games he and Alexia could play. For two weeks Wesley was almost happy and carefree, ever since he had found Alexia in the closet. Or rather when she had found him.
But Wesley's father was a smart and intelligent man. He had noticed the odd behavior of the boy. The secret little glances, the sneaking up the stairs, the hand held over his pocket every time he went to the garden. And then there was this strange smell he could not quite place. It wasn't a strong smell, it was just a smell that shouldn't be there. Wesley's father was sure Wesley was hiding something. He was going to find out what it was and when he did the boy was in for a very severe punishment. Little boys were not allowed to keep secrets from their fathers, most certainly not in this household. He would show the boy just who was the man of the house.
When he released Wesley from the closet this time he kept a close eye on him after he had sternly lectured him about his irresponsible and once again disappointing behavior. Wesley had nodded and stammered his agreement as usual. The boy was such a disappointment, Wesley was nothing like the son he had imagined raising one day. The only satisfaction he had was the fear he saw in Wesley's blue eyes every time they looked up at him. He watched the boy slowly make his way toward the stairs and then, when he thought his father was not watching, nearly skip up the stairs to his bedroom.
Wesley's father waited half an hour before walking up the stairs toward his son's bedroom. He wanted the boy to feel safe first, that way he was sure the secret would be out in the open when he would go to the boy's room. Without knocking, he threw the door to the boy's bedroom open and his eyes glanced across the room, before finally resting on the boy sitting on the bed.
Wesley froze as his father entered his room. This was not supposed to happen. The room was his safe haven, his sanctuary. Alexia had jumped up at the sound and was standing infront of him on the bed, hissing at his father as if the ferret knew the danger the man meant to the little boy. He snatched out his hand to pick up the ferret and protect her from his father.
His father, however, was faster. Wesley could only watch helplessly as Alexia was yanked off the bed and held by the scruff of her neck by his father.
"What is this? An animal! A filthy rodent! You know what I think about animals in the house!" His father shook the ferret with bruising force. Alexia dangled in his hand, her body going in odd curves trying to get herself freed from the hand that was hurting her.
His father was actually yelling this time. Fear surged through Wesley's body as he stood up, trembling, and searched his brains for the right words, words that would save Alexia, that would allow him to keep the ferret. "But Alexia is not b-b-bothering anyone." Wesley tried softly, "I'm taking good c-c-care of her, she's very clean and she can stay in my r-room father, I promise you will n-not even notice her." Wesley flew backward against the wall when his father hit him. He could feel blood trickle down his lip. Fearfully he looked up at his father, who was still shaking Alexia.
The little ferret craned her flexible neck and managed to latch on to a finger that came too close to her yaws. Wesley would always swear, afterwards, that the little ferret had grinned when his father yelped out in pain.
"We do not keep animals in this house, boy! And most certainly not filthy, dangerous ones like these!" The hand that had struck Wesley came up fast and the next thing that Wesley heard was the sickening crack of bones. Alexia went limp in his fathers hands, her head lolling on her neck oddly. His father tossed the ferret on the bed as if she were nothing but filthy rag.
Tears sprang in Wesley's eyes as he realised that Alexia was no more. His father had killed his only friend, his defender, his helper, his only joy in this miserable live. Rage boiled in little Wesley as he jumped to his feet. His small fists slamming into his fathers body. "Murderer! You killed her! You killed Alexia!"
The blood that came out of his nose was flowing sluggishly down his chin, dirty tears smugged his cheeks and small fists kept raining on his fathers body. His throat started to hurt from screaming. Through his anger he didn't even feel his father hitting him over and over again, until Wesley fell on the ground unable to get up again. His body and spirit just as broken as the glasses that were laying next to him on the floor.
His father towered over him and hit him once again. "You will get rid of that filthy beast right now. Go downstairs and throw it in the rubbish bin outside. Do not defy me again, boy!" With that his father turned on the balls of his feet and stalked out of the room.
Wesley crawled over to the bed and looked at the broken body of Alexia. He wiped his nose and carefully reached out to pet her. She was still warm. If her head weren't bent completely backward he could have pretended that she was sleeping. He pulled himself on the bed and took Alexia in his lap, positioning her as if she were sleeping. He rocked back and forth sobbing silently, cradling the limp and broken body of the tiny ferret that had been his only friend to his chest
about twenty years later
Startled Wesley looked up to see Angel approaching him. He quickly stood up from where he was hunched and straightened himself.
"What's so interesting?" Angel looked over Wesley's shoulder into the shop window which captivated his lover's interest. "Are those ferrets?"
"Yes," Wesley looked back at the little critters playing and bouncing behind the glass. He smiled wistfully at the memory of the little ferret he once had. Pain flashed through him when he remembered what had happened to the tiny creature, changing the smiling features into sorrowful ceased ones.
"Cute little rodents," Angel tapped against the window to try and get the little animal's attention. He almost smiled.
"Ferrets are carnivores Angel, not rodents. They are used to hunt rabbits and kept as pets. This particular breed is called the blaze ferret." Wesley caught himself before he would go into lecture mode. He really had to stop that urge every time a subject came up he knew everything about
"Huh," Angel sat on his hunches and looked up at Wesley. "You seem to know a lot about them." He tapped the window once again and this time he had to smile when one of ferrets made a funny bounce toward the window, scratching its tiny paws against it.
Wesley frowned. He didn't like to be reminded about his childhood and somehow the memory of Alexia, the little ferret, hurt more then anything else. She had not been in his thoughts for years now. Every now and then he'd remember her fondly, but today he could feel the pain, the helplessness, the anger, he had felt some odd twenty years ago.
"Yes, yes it seems I do." Wesley turned around and started walking toward the direction of the bookstore they were headed. "Coming Angel? We've wasted enough time," he stalked off into the dark bookstore.
When Angel reached the bookstore Wesley was already on his way out. "They didn't have it," he informed. "We'll try again next week," with that he walked off in the direction of the parking lot. His body language clearly showing he was upset. Not that anyone but Angel would notice, Wesley was good at hiding his feelings.
Confused, Angel followed. Something had really thrown Wes right of the scale. He sped up his pace to catch up with ex-watcher. He opened his mouth to ask what was the matter when he caught the look on Wesley's face. Now was obviously not the time for serious discussions, or perhaps any kind of discussions.
Wesley had a far away look on his face. Angel had seen that look before. He didn't like that particular look, it meant his lover was hurled back into his childhood. Angel didn't like that. Wes never really spoke about what had happened when he was a child, but the vampire could tell from the hints Wesley dropped every now and then, it had not been a happy childhood.
Hell, it was clear to almost everyone at AI that most of their boss' insecurities lead right back to his childhood or to be more precise, his father. Angel had to squash down the urge to run over to merry old England after every phone call Wes made to his father. His British lover was down for weeks after that. Wesley's parents never called Wesley, he always had to call them. Angel would give anything for some alone time with Mr. Wyndam-Pryce Sr., he had some ideas that would have made Angelus cringe.
But he didn't. Wesley wouldn't hear of it. The Brit had asked Angel to let it go, what was in the passed should remain in the passed, but still, Angel didn't like it when his Wes was upset or insecure or felt useless just because of a fucking phone call. If Wyndam-Pryce Sr. could do that to Wesley with just a phone call, Angel shuddered to think what the man had done during Wesley's childhood.
Maybe he could sneak over to the British Isles, take the Concord. He would be back in a day. But Wesley would find out and then what. Angel sighed, if Wes could handle it, so could he. The problem was, Angel wasn't so sure Wesley was handling it or maybe he was just repressing it. He knew Wes was very very good at hiding his feelings.
They were quiet in the car on their way back to the hotel. Wesley just stared out the window. His head propped up on one hand, a lost look on his face. Angel just wanted to reach over and kiss it away. He would have, if he wasn't driving. Wesley had traffic safety issues a mile wide, so the vampire didn't want to risk a lecture. But then again, maybe Wes could use the distraction.
"I used to have one you know...a ferret," the soft voice filled the silence. "When I was about ten, her name was Alexia," Wesley still didn't look up, kept staring out the window.
'Aha there it was,' Angel thought. He had to keep the conversation going, previous talks like these had taught him that. "Alexia huh?" He turned to look at Wesley and frowned when he saw that his lover still had the pained expression on his face. "So what happened to her?"
Wesley swallowed down the bitter bile that had formed in his throat. "My father didn't like animals in the house he-" his voice faltered and became even more softer, the English accent more pronounced, "-took care of her." After all these years he had only be able to say the words 'killed' once. Right after he had seen his father snap the tiny ferret's neck.
Angel however had no such qualms, "He killed her didn't he." It wasn't a question, somehow the look on Wesley's face spoke volumes, telling him everything he needed to know. One of his hands left the steering-wheel and landed on Wesley's knee squeezing it softly. "Tell me about her."
And Wesley did, about the tiny little ferret that had saved him from the rats. That had given him two weeks of joy. About how she had jumped funny, the sparkling mischievous eyes, the understanding when he confided in her. His voice became filled with unshed tears as he told Angel how his father had discovered the ferret and in a rage of anger had broken her neck. Wesley had disobeyed his father and had buried the tiny ferret under a tree near the river. A special stone with her name painted on it over her grave.
"I was ten, it's silly," Wesley took a shaky breath and gave Angel a weak smile. He took comfort in the strong hand that was rubbing his knee. He felt pathetic, almost bawling over something that had happened more then twenty years ago. Wouldn't his father be proud.
Angel frowned, "It's not silly, she meant a lot to you. She gave you happiness." He gripped the steering-wheel hard with his other hand turning his knuckles impossibly white. "Wes, I swear one day I'm going over to England and -" his angry rant was cut short when he felt Wesley's hand on his arm.
"I know Angel." Wesley turned around and looked at him now, "And I appreciate that, but it wouldn't change what has happened. It would only make me feel guilty about it." He took another shaky breath, "About my father's death that is and I won't let you risk your redemption for me. I just wish I could get his approval, but that is never going to happen it seems."
"You don't need his approval Wes," Angel growled. He hated it when Wesley was like this. "You're a great man, you're smart, you kind and you're sexy as hell." He turned to look at his lover, "You're a survivor, you are a crack shot with a crossbow and absolutely great in the sack."
Wesley blushed at the last words. "Well yes, but I think you're bias," he leaned over and kissed Angel on the cheek softly. "Thank you," he whispered.
"You're welcome." Angel wasn't exactly sure what he was being thanked for, but Wesley seemed better and it was all that mattered. Angel also had gotten an idea, an epiphany if you will.
Once they returned home the vampire went to work. He wanted to make it was good, no great, for Wes. It was the best idea he ever had, he was sure. He browsed though photo albums Wesley had pointed out to him once. He browsed through books he ordered from the internet with Cordelia's help. Having a hard time explaining to her why on earth he wanted to have books on ferrets. But somehow he managed to keep everything a secret from Wesley.
Angel bought the supplies he would need, went to the pet-store to look and ask questions. Finding out the salespeople in the pet-store knew next to nothing about ferrets. The books told him more, but the tiny bouncy creatures in the store were cute. He worked on his little idea when he was sure Wesley wasn't around.
When he was almost done after a week he became nervous. What if Wes didn't like it? What if it brought back bad memories? He had been so sure when he had his 'epiphany' in the car, but now the time was near to give Wesley his gift, he began to have doubts. Still, he had worked hard on this and a tiny voice in his head whispered that Wesley would be pleased, he just had to.
Wringing his hands nervously he deposited his gift on the table in the lobby of the hotel, making some final adjustments to the bow tied around it. He wondered briefly why his hands were clammy, vampires didn't sweat. He cleared his throat and walked over to the counter. Gunn and Cordelia were looking at something on the computer monitor, probably the internet. "Wesley?" Why was he so nervous?
Wesley poked his head out of the office. "Yes Angel?" he walked out of the office, putting the book he was currently studying on the counter carefully. He studied Angel, his face held a curious expression.
"I..uh..I have something for you," Angel shuffled from one foot to the other and gestured with his hand toward the wrapped gift on the table. "Its a little...uh...something."
Wesley looked toward the gift. "For me?" he asked unsure. At Angel's affirmative nod he walked over to the table and looked at it.
Cordelia began to stand up to have a closer look at the gift, but Gunn's hand on her shoulder stopped her. She looked up at him annoyed, but sat back down when he shook his head. Gunn had a feeling this was one of those 'private moments'.
"What is it?" Wesley carefully let his fingers slide over the ribbon. He had no idea what the beautifully wrapped package could be.
"Open it and find out," Angel smiled at his lover, still wringing his hands nervously. He hoped he had done the right thing.
Wesley carefully tore away the wrapping paper and looked at the now revealed gift. He blinked and stared in shock. "Oh Angel," he whispered.
Angel wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not. "Do you like it?" he asked, wringing his hands harder. Wesley stayed quiet, only staring at the gift. That couldn't be a good thing. "You don't like it." He was sure of it, he had made a mistake.
Wesley blinked up at Angel. "No," he whispered, "I love it Angel, this...this is wonderful." He looked back at the gift his hands carefully caressing as if it were a precious artifact.
Cordelia couldn't hold back her curiosity much longer, walking over she looked at the gift. Her eyebrows shot up and she threw a quizzical look at the former watcher and then at the vampire. "That's -" Her voice trailed off looking for the right words.
Wesley looked up, "I know exactly where I want to put it." He picked up the gift carefully and made his way up the stairs.
Angel followed him confused, but smiled broadly when Wesley entered his bedroom. Their bedroom.
A small sheen of sweat covered Wesley's naked body as he lay with his head on Angel's chest. A happy smile on his face. His fingers tracing meaningless patterns on the body of the vampire.
"So you really like it?" Angel had to ask again. The kiss he received told him everything he needed to know. Wesley really liked the gift. The vampire wrapped his arms around the ex-watcher and pulled him close.
"It's the most beautiful and precious gift I've ever have been given," Wesley murmured sleepy when they broke the kiss. He adjusted himself in the arms of his lover and looked toward the wall across the bed. "What did you call it?"
"I thought I'd give you that honor," Angel said also staring at the wall.
Wesley tiled his head and looked closer and smiled. "Little Defender," he decided quickly. He turned his head upward and kissed Angel again. "Thank you," he said softly.
"You're welcome." This time Angel did know what he was thanked for, his eyes turning back toward the wall across the bed.
A ten year old boy, resembling Wesley drawn with charcoal looked back. In his arms he cuddled a tiny ferret, who looked down at the two entwined lovers with sparkling mischievous eyes. Like a guardian angel.