Earning Heaven

Nemo the Everbeing

Summary: Two unlikely people find each other and hash out their feelings on sex, life, death, and each other. Wesley/Buffy, but not in the way you'd expect.
Rating: PG-13
Story Notes: Through "Grave" (BtVS) and "Tomorrow" (AtS)
Author's Notes: Boys and girls, let me introduce you to anti-shipping. Basically, it's to take two characters who really don't work so well as a couple, and to put them into a potentially intimate situation, anyway. Then, you just sit back and see what happens. In this case, darkness and revelation ensues. Some implications of sexual abuse of a child. If you don't think you can handle that, I suggest you back away now. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy or Wesley, and this is probably a good thing. Joss is a genius, and I bow, I grovel and I genuflect before the mighty Mutant Enemy. I also can claim no responsibility for the lyrics I have used as an intro piece. (Chapter 1) These belong to the divine group K's Choice. Chapter 2 lyrics belong to Evanessence, yet another incredible band.

Chapter 1: Dirty

"As I'm walking through these streets again
I'm crawling.
And as I try to live my life again
I'm falling down.
Can you pick me up?
Can you let it stop?
Can you make it go away?
Won't SOMEBODY help me? Is it hard
To let me find my way?
Won't somebody love me (for a start)?
I'm laughing as I pray.
Where is the road?
I must look at the road.
I must pray a little longer
Or laugh a little more."

I feel dirty.

Thought simultaneously in L. A. and Sunnydale. Two people who hadn't even thought about one another in what seemed like a lifetime for one, and actually was, technically, a lifetime for the other.


It was there to remind them that they were still alive. It was there to quicken the flesh and, for one blessed, glowing instant, erase all the pain and confusion that was the entirety of their lives. It wasn't a release. Nothing that desperate and violent could release a person, and they both knew it.

No. Sex was Purgatory. They couldn't ascend. Could never ascend.

"Funny thing about black and white: you mix them together and you get gray. And it doesn't matter how much white you put in-you're never going to get anything but gray."

"You see, you try to be with them . . . but you always end up in the dark . . . with me."

Recollections of a time of goodness, whiteness, purity. Straight down the middle righteousness. They had been so sure of themselves, of what they were doing, and there were people there for them, to catch them when they fell. They remembered a time in each of their lives in which, they realized too late and too jaded, they were truly happy. If not innocent, they had been joyously naive.

It was done though. They had touched the darkness, each in their own, desperate fashion, and each for their own, perfectly understandable reasons, and they were stained. No amount of bleach could take away the ink-blot on their souls. Their hats and hearts could never be snowy again, but would be doomed to be filled to bursting with myriad shades of gray.

It was that horror and loneliness, coupled with the realization that they had absolutely nothing to lose anymore, that drove them off. They both headed south. Both in their separate ways, but having the exact same thoughts. Thoughts of sex and guilt and a forgiveness that they both believed they didn't deserve.

They went south.

The blonde woman stepped off the bus in a tiny town with, as far as she could tell, no name. It had a cheap hotel and an even cheaper diner, and that's all she cared about. The diner meant food and work, the hotel meant isolation.

She thought she needed both in about equal proportions.

In the tiny room she had rented, the woman sat her duffel bag down on a drab beige bed and sat down next to it with a weary weight that one wouldn't associate with the petite twenty-four year old.

So many things had happened to her, though. Things that no normal woman would ever have to think about in their entire life, let alone in less than a decade.

Less than a decade . . . she had only been the Slayer for seven years. After those seven years, she had prevented at least eight apocalypses, sent her boyfriend to hell, seen friends and family slaughtered, died twice, and . . . oh, God, Spike.

That was what had sent her packing, if she was honest with herself. No one had ever . . . she had never . . .

She felt dirty. She had slept with someone she hated just to feel alive, and after all was said and done, she felt just as dead.

Right after their battle with Willow, she had felt more energized than she had that whole year of living death, but every time she had closed her eyes, she had seen Spike pinning her down, she had seen Willow, her eyes black and cold, blasting her with energy, she had seen the roof of her coffin and felt, again the horror of being buried alive.

I always was afraid of being buried alive, she mused dourly, remembering the Scoobies' difficulties with their nightmares the first year she had been in Sunnydale.

She couldn't think of that, either, though. It hurt, and she hated that it hurt, hated it even more than the numbness.

So, she had left. She had left a note for Xander to take care of Dawn for a while. She hadn't been specific, just said that she needed some time to deal.

And now . . . now she was in a town without a name, with no plan and no clue what to do to make herself snap out of whatever black trance she was in.

She stared out the window numbly and watched the sun set. It was surprisingly pretty, away from the lights of population. There was something stark and yet grand about that endless stretch of pink and purple clouds.

Slowly, the pinks faded, and then the purple deepened until it, too, disappeared, and all that was left was overcast darkness. Without thinking, the Slayer unzipped her duffel and withdrew a stake.

She rose, a thin and fragile-looking phantom, and, as instinct told her, went out to face down the night.

A hand turned a doorknob to a room identical to the Slayer's, and the man with the dark hair and big, sad blue eyes stepped in. He dropped his suitcase to the bed, marveling at the fact that the contents of this piece of leatherware were all that his life was reduced to. A few articles of clothing, one nice suit, a few stakes, and, of course . . .

He pulled the sleek, pistol-grip combat shotgun out from under a rumpled shirt and carefully tucked it into the holster strapped across his back and under his loose leather jacket. Next came a handgun, and that went into an underarm holster, equally concealed by his jacket. Finally, his collapsible, spring-loaded stake was strapped to his arm under the sleeve, and then the collapsible sword went on the other arm. He stared at it for a second. It was a marvel of modern technology, blended effortlessly with dependable, ancient weaponry. It was truly perfect for a surprise attack, always at the ready, a birthday present given to him just a few moths prior by . . .

No. Couldn't think about him. When he did, there was a tightening in his chest and a stinging at the back of his eyes. One just couldn't think too hard on their hero at a time like this. Couldn't think about the person they had given a Judas Kiss . . .

He yanked his sleeve down with more force than necessary, and looked up, accidentally looking into a mirror for the first time in a week.

Eyes the color and temperature of ice stared back at him. They were the eyes of a stranger. The eyes he remembered had been big, bright and surprisingly innocent for a man so close to thirty. They weren't the wild, cold and haunted eyes that stared at him. These weren't his eyes, but then again, this couldn't be his face. Thin and gaunt, with a week's worth of stubble and dark hair in disarray, and that horrible, puckered scar on his throat, this was the face of a stranger, and one that should, for all effects and purposes, terrify him. It would have, too, if hadn't felt so numb.

The man wrenched his gaze from the mirror, and slipped a slim, silver knife into a sheath sewn into the lining of his coat. Then, for good measure, he slipped another stake into the inner pocket of said coat.

He was ready, more or less. He needed this. Needed the violence to show the world and, more importantly, himself that he would never let himself be a victim again. It had happened one too many times. In fact, it seemed that he had lived his life through someone else's sick pleasure. He had been the brunt of too many jokes and on the nasty end of too many attacks.

A father's eyes, cold and unreadable as his hand went for his belt. Eight years old, and already a victim, unable to fight back against an opponent he really couldn't understand. He got his first scars at that point. Thin, straight scars, a handful of them smattered across his upper back.

Another set of eyes, dark and sharp, in a beautiful face. Everything about that girl had been sharp and hard, from the protrusion of her hip bones above her low-slung pants to that piece of glass she used to slice into his torso. Once more a victim, and this time he was tied to a chair, but still helpless. That gave him a new set of scars, nasty, jagged things that marred skin from the waistband of his pants up to his clavicles.

A dead set of eyes, devoid of any sort of feeling or humanity, accompanied in his mind with a deafening crack and the feeling of being punched in the gut, all of the air leaving his body as all of his muscles shivered in shock. He staggered and fell, still a victim, but this time it was because of a stupid decision and a dead police-man with a gun. A large scar puckered his stomach after that incident.

Then, the final set of eyes that ripped into him and used him at their will. Crazy eyes in a pretty face. It had, once again, been a surprise attack. The flash of metal, and the pain that ripped across his throat, like the world's worst paper-cut. He felt the warmth running between his fingers as he clutched at the most recent wound and fell to the ground, world reduced to nothing but that moment, and his fingers trying to hold his throat together. The newest scar was by far the worst, and the largest.

He couldn't do this to himself, this reliving of past pains. It made him feel small and pathetic and helpless all over again. And he couldn't do that to himself. Not unless he had a death-wish, which he didn't. Most of the time.

Gritting his teeth, trying to clear his mind, and desperately avoiding the mirror, he stepped out to face the terrible dark. Here, at least, he felt that absolution drew closer.

The town after dark seemed so peaceful, she mused. It was so still and quiet. Yet, shivering through the air was something disturbing. A tremor of wrongness to this idyllic twilight. Something other than her, and other than human, was hunting that night. She held tight to her stake, and kept her eyes open, worried about her navigational abilities in such an unfamiliar town. It wasn't nearly as large as Sunnydale, though, so it shouldn't be a problem.

She dimly wondered if there was a place on earth that the evil hadn't touched. Was there some sort of paradise that the forces of darkness couldn't reach? If so, she wanted to find it. She wanted to go there, curl up and never be seen again. She wanted to be wrapped in that cocoon of anonymity.

Something moved in the clump of trees she was passing and the woman stopped, head turning, face deathly blank. Emotion and, yes, even thought vanished. This was what she was. She was death. Lord knew that she was intimately acquainted with it. And if it came to call that night, well, it would be long-overdue.

The trees erupted, and four slug-slick, black demons were ringing her in an instant.

"Good," she murmured. "I was worried I wasn't going to see any action."

A kick to the left, and her foot slipped across the slimy skin of one of her assailants, managing to knock it back a few steps.

In response, the other three lunged at her, and she leaped into the air, spinning and kicking out, knocking them back. However, their hide was making any lasting damage difficult to inflict.

One of them grabbed her from the back, and she threw it onto its back. The others were already there, though, and they didn't seem to be letting up. She managed to slam her stake through the red eye of one of the monsters before she was sent sprawling, bleeding from several deep scratches to the face.

The monsters ringed her, even the one that was now lacking an eye.

"Guess I should have brought a bigger stake, huh?" she tried to quip, but her voice came out dull and lifeless. It seemed appropriate.

Deciding that a strategic retreat might make them cocky enough to give her an advantage, the woman jumped to her feet with a swift scissoring of her legs. The, she turned and ran, delighting in the predatory feel and the wind running through her hair.

That was right before they hit her from behind.

"Okay, you're fast," she snarled, looking at the rip they had given her skirt, "but I can do fast, too."

Using all of her speed, she thrust the stake through one of her assailant's throats. It screamed, a piercing, soul-freezing wail that set the hairs on her arms raising. The stake in her hand melted, and she only just managed to pull her hand away from the corrosive blood spewing from the dead thing.

"That's new," she muttered.

At that moment, another of the demons slashed her across the forehead. The woman stumbled to her feet, a fountain of red obscuring her vision.

"Not good."

Maybe death had listened to her, for once.

The man was running through town on his motorcycle when he heard the sound of a scuffle. Down the road, he saw three dark shapes converging on a small, unidentifiable blonde woman. Whoever she was, her hair was horribly mussed, her clothing ripped, and her face covered in blood.

He gunned the engine with one hand and reached behind him with the other and unslung his baby.

Holding the long gun in one hand, he let go of the handles for the merest instant it took to cock the shotgun. Then, one hand went back to steady the rumbling machine he rode, and the other trained on the head of one of the three monstrosities around the girl. It was the one closest to him, and if he played this right . . .

The gun roared and kicked. It was designed to be held both single and double-handed, but single had some rather awful kickback, and it tended to hurt.

Still, it was worth it. It was completely worth it to see one dog-like head explode.

The victimized woman let out a yelp as the thing was blown away from her. He slammed the breaks the closest he could get, and swung off the seat, kicking one monster with both feet as he did so. It barely staggered. It did, however, knock him flat and send his helmet clattering away.

"God damn it," he growled. Then he rolled to dodge the descending claws.

He glanced at the girl, who was going for the nearest demon to her with nothing but her hands. The way she moved seemed strangely familiar, but there were more pressing issues to consider, such as the nasty cut the demon had just given his temple. Blood sprayed as the thing nicked the vein. The man fought the surge of panic. This wasn't like the last time. He was not about to be that helpless again. The quarters were too close for his shotgun, however, so he dropped that piece and flicked his wrists, bringing forth both the stake and the sword. On his way back to standing, he slashed out with the sword. That was it. Get up, spin and slash, then thrust with the stake.

"Hey!" he heard the girl shout at him. The voice, too, seemed familiar, even muffled from where she was being pinned and choked under her own fiend. "Go for the throat, and keep away from their blood. It's corrosive, or something."

He barely spared her a glance, but retrieved the stake from his inner pocket and tossed it at her. "Thank you," he shot back tersely.

Then, they were both a bit too busy for talk.

The man feinted left, then dove right, rolling under the creature and springing to his feet behind it. Not allowing it to turn, he slammed the stake through the creature's neck, shattering vertebrae and severing the spinal cord. It dropped, and he gasped as the blood splashed his hand, burning him before he had a chance to wipe it off on his jacket.

Still clutching, he turned to see the girl on top of the demon, driving the stake he had thrown to her through its throat, then jerking her hands away.

She stood, tossing her hair and looking square at him. "I told you not to get any of that blood on you," she chided in a sweet, and oh-so-superior voice; a voice that ripped through the fabric of time for him. The voice belonging to his greatest failure.

"Good Lord," he heard himself gasp, "Buffy?"

She squinted at him, confused. "How the hell do you know—" Then, her eyes went wide. "Wesley?!"

Chapter 2: Just add alcohol

"I hold my breath as this life starts to take its toll.
I hide behind a smile as this perfect plan unfolds.
But, O, God, I feel like I've been lied to,
Lost all faith in the things I have achieved.
And I,
I've woken now to find myself
In the shadows of all I have created.
I'm longing to be lost in you
(Away from this place I have made.)
Won't you take me away from me?
Crawling through this world as disease flows through my veins,
I look into myself, but my own heart has been changed.
I can't go on like this.
I loathe all I have become.
Lost in a dying world, I reach for something more.
I have grown so weary of this lie I live."

"Good Lord. Buffy?"

"How the hell do you know—Wesley?!"

The two bloody combatants stared at each other in shock. Neither was what the other was expecting. Buffy found herself staring at the lanky man. She wouldn't have even recognized him. Not with the leather and the scruff and the lack of glasses. All of that, combined with the weaponry made him a shockingly hot sight.

As soon as she thought that, she was repressing any and all thoughts along those lines. That way lay badness. She had just come off a particularly nasty relationship, and here she was, lusting after her former Watcher. No. Not lusting. It was an . . . aesthetic appreciation, nothing more.

She shook her head. What she needed was food and sleep. That would purge any traces of insanity that were lurking in the corners of her mind.

"Buffy?" Wesley asked again. "What on earth are you doing here? My God, was there an apocalypse?"

Buffy looked at him. He didn't look panicked. The old Wesley would have looked panicked. But this Wes had a grim determination about him.

She smiled sadly. "Only of the personal variety," Buffy responded. "The literal one got stopped before any big badness went down."

"I see."

"I just . . . needed a vacation," she tossed off, hoping that he'd drop the subject.

He didn't. "So, you ran away?"

"No," she snapped, angry. "Well, maybe, but what are you doing? Did L. A. get destroyed, or are you running away, too?" the Slayer challenged.

"I am, indeed, running away," Wesley replied evenly.


"It seemed like the best thing to do," he said, shrugging.

"So, everyone's okay, though. Angel is . . ."

"I really don't know," the ex-Watcher admitted.

"You don't know? I thought you were, like, bosom-buddies, or something. Which, by the way, is sort of disturbing."

He broke in, "We were. I . . . made a terribly mistake."

"Not exactly a first," Buffy quipped.

"I'm well aware of that fact." Wesley met her gaze with a fierceness that startled her.

"Hey," she said, holding up her hands as if to ward him off. "Sorry."

He looked at her suspiciously and said nothing.

Buffy shrugged. "I'm really not the best of company right now. Sort of joined the bitchy side of the force."

That earned her a soft bark of laughter. "It's all right. I've seen worse, believe me." He paused, then added softly and sadly, "It doesn't bother me anymore, anyway."

"My company?"

"No, reminding me of my failings. Lord knows I do it every day."

"Wes, honestly, I'm sorry."

He didn't look at her, but his hand went to his neck, scratching idly at . . .

"Oh, my God," Buffy gasped in shock.

He jerked his hand away, even as the Slayer stepped forward, peering at the pink, smooth flesh in the dim light from a distant street lamp. After a second, Wesley turned his head to give her a better view. She reached up, mesmerized by the shiny patch of pain.

And in a flash, her wrist was caught. Blue, dead eyes met hers. Buffy froze. Something in those eyes . . . a pain, deep gnawing loneliness and isolation . . . she saw herself in those eyes.

He released her wrist, pulling his hands to his chest, and for an instant, she saw something else, something she wasn't supposed to see: a broken man. "I had best get back to my hotel," he muttered.

"How long will you be in town?" Buffy asked, suddenly desperate for the connection. Odd, she thought. She had come to the town for isolation, and now it was the one thing she didn't want. Even odder, she wanted to spend time with Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, of all people.

"Most likely until I can no longer pay for my room. Which, judging from my nearly empty wallet, will be rather soon."

"Do you want to stay in my room?" she blurted out. Wesley gave her a look of cagey shock. Buffy felt her cheeks color. "Very much on the roll-out. I mean, it's late. We both look like hell, and I'm sort of, well, broke, too. We could to split the bill. Save some cash."

Wesley's face cleared in relief and then blanked again. "Of course," he said.

They were both well aware that this arrangement wasn't for sleeping.

It was for talk. Somewhere in his mind, Wesley had thought that Buffy was trying to seduce him, and he really hadn't known how to deal with that. When she made no advances, though, he was relieved, and invited the company. After a half-hour, a shower and several bandages, they were seated in two chairs that had seen better days, Wesley's small arsenal on the table between them.

Buffy was pawing through the weapons with interest.

She looked at the spring-loaded stake with particular interest. "I need one of these."

"I got it from—" he cut himself off. Still couldn't go there, and he hated him for it.

An uncomfortable silence descended as they both reverted to their own private hells.

Desperate for the distraction, Wesley took a good look the deceptively frail girl. She had changed so much since he had seen her last. She was extremely pale, hardly ever seeing the light of day. There were dark circles under her eyes, and those eyes themselves were so haunted. The part of him that was railing against his decision to be in this room (at this time with this particular, emotionally disturbed woman) was drowned out by his need to connect. Here was another person cut adrift be circumstance and fate. It was comforting, in a way.

"So, do you think they have room service in a place like this?" Buffy joked nervously, breaking the hush.

Wesley smiled mirthlessly. "Somehow, I doubt it." He got up and dug in his duffel. Finally, he came up with what he was looking for. Then, he went and retrieved two plastic cups.

The Slayer watched in interest as he sat down and uncorked the silver flask. "Do you like whiskey?" he asked courteously.

"Um, yeah."

That tiny smile was back, tugging at his lips even as he poured himself a glass. "You've never had it?"

"No," she admitted.

"It has kick."

"I don't mind kick."

He poured her a glass.

She took a sip and coughed. "Um . . . wow," she spluttered. "Smooth."

This brought a grin to his face as he knocked a drink back, wincing slightly.

She glanced at him in concern. "Should you be doing that with the whole throat thing?"

"Sod it," he replied and took another drink, enjoying the warmth working down his esophagus and pooling in his stomach.

"Okay," she said. "Sod it."

She knocked her own drink back, mimicking him. She coughed again, but less. "When you said that this stuff had kick?" she ventured.

"Yes?" he asked calmly, eyes glinting in amusement.

"You weren't wrong."

That dry laugh came again, as he topped off his glass and refilled it.

She glared at him, and he was fascinated by the sudden competitive glint in those hazel eyes. Suddenly, she threw back the rest of the cup, forcing herself to not choke or cough.

"Can I have another?"

He smiled and obliged.

They drank in silence for several minutes. Buffy sipped and watched him with keen interest. At last, after two more glasses, the girl broke the silence.

"So," she said, sounding a little loose, "you said you made some sort of mistake. What was that all about?"

He looked at her sharply. He had no desire to talk about that with someone he didn't even like.

"I just thought that maybe you'd, you know, want to talk," Buffy told him, fiddling with her glass and swirling the contents.

He remained silent. There was a feeling of cotton in his throat, preventing any noise. He shouldn't even want to tell her, but he suddenly did. He wanted to get it all out. Put everything on the table and let this girl judge him. He needed that judgment, from a person who would not be kind to him for the sake of their friendship. They weren't friends, so that took care of that.

In a voice thick with pain and difficulty, Wesley whispered, "I lost Angel's son."

She did choke on her drink at this. "His what?!"

"His son, Connor."

"Angel has a son?" Buffy asked in shock. "How?"

"Darla. Beyond that we really didn't know."

Her eyes were large with shock as she tried to process the information. "And you lost him?"


"No offense, Wes, but, how do you loose a baby?" She thought about that for a second. "It was a baby, right? I mean, it wasn't some sort of Hell God, right, 'cause that would suck, like, a lot."

He looked at her. That was not what he had expected. He had expected disgust, but not this. Then, it hit him. "You're very drunk."

"Don't distract me. Just answer my question."

"He was taken from me."

"And that's the mistake?"


"I don't get it, then," she admitted.

He sighed. "I found a prophecy that Angel was going to kill Connor. I kidnapped him."

"You kidnapped Angel?"


"You kidnapped the baby?" the Slayer gasped. There was shock in her tone, at least. The disgust would come. It had to.

"Yes," he whispered, staring into his glass. "I just . . . I just wanted to protect the child. Save him. The prophecy, though . . . it was a fake."

Buffy didn't say anything.

"Justine . . . a woman I knew was there and she took the child and then she . . ." his hand went to his throat, momentarily reliving that feeling of utter terror as his hands had been soaked in his own blood.

"How . . . how did you survive?" Buffy asked, hesitant.

"Barely," he said, with a bark of pained laughter. "I lay there on the ground and just tried to hold my throat together, but I couldn't . . . couldn't seem to get enough breath, and there was blood everywhere. And I . . . was extremely stupid."

Buffy sat in her chair. "Yeah, you really were," she admitted. "But you couldn't know that that chick was going to get all slasher on you. Hindsight's a bitch, you know?"

"Yes, I definitely do."

"I . . ." she looked like she was thinking very hard. "I don't think this was your fault. I mean, Angel didn't kill his son."

"He wouldn't have."

"But you said—"

"The prophecy was a fake. I was the idiot who thought it was genuine."

"You didn't know it wasn't—"

"That's not the point—"

"I think it is," Buffy snapped. "It's not your fault."

He looked away. This was not how things were supposed to go. She was supposed to confirm his own self-condemnation, not acquit him of his sins.

"You don't understand," he whispered, blinking hard against sudden tears. Funny, how he hadn't cried when Angel had attacked him, or when all of his friends had summarily left him without any sort of support. Yet, he found himself choking back sobs at a simple act of forgiveness, no matter how misguided.

A hand slammed on the table, making him jerk. She was staring at him furiously. "I don't understand?" she asked, her voice low and dangerous. "You think I don't understand hating yourself? You haven't changed, Wes. You still don't know the first thing about me."

He stared at her, seeing his pain reflected back on him in those eyes.

"I died, Wesley. You had your throat slit? So what? I fell about five stories through a magical portal that drained my life. And it hurt."

His mouth opened, then he realized that he had nothing to say.

Buffy looked away, not as good at concealing her tears as he had been. "It hurt. I can't believe I just told you that. I've never told anyone that. It was the worst pain I've ever . . . and then I was in a different place. And it was warm, and good, and I could sleep. Everything was all right, for the first time in seven years of hell."

"Heaven," Wesley breathed.

She nodded. "And they took me out of it. They tore me from happiness and put me here, but I was still dead, you know. It didn't matter that I had to eat and breathe and wash my face. I was dead."

"And nothing mattered anymore. No one mattered, but mostly you didn't matter."

She met his eyes. "Yeah, that's pretty much it. I just . . . just wanted to feel alive. And I did stupid things."

"What?" he asked, but he knew. It was in her eyes. He should know, shouldn't he?

"I slept with Spike. I thought it would do the trick, you know. It was rough and harsh and real. I though it would fix things, but all I felt was—"


A bitter smile was on her face. "Why do I think you're way familiar with this song?"

"I slept with an evil lawyer."


"Not very."

"Didn't help?"

"Did Spike?"

"Question answered."

They sat in silence, and Wesley refilled their glasses, emptying the flask.

"You know," Buffy said after another drink. "This whole relating in our self-loathing thing?"


"It didn't help. I still kind of hate myself."

Feeling odd, Wesley reached out and took his former Slayer's hand.

She pulled away and stood, finishing her glass and setting it down. She looked down at him with an odd, penetrating look. Every instinct he had suddenly went on alert. There was something fundamentally dangerous about that look. She could knock through all of his barriers in an instant with that look, see all the pain and insecurity and disgust he was drowning in. She could find his own hell and find it wanting, and then what would he have left?

On the other hand, that look might mean that she had decided she shouldn't have told him anything. A Slayer could be unpredictable, as he knew from experience. If she decided that he was a liability, she could attack him here and no one would stop her. Wesley experienced a moment of panic. He would be in no position to fight back. He would, almost certainly, die. Then again, was that such a bad option?

Of course, she might have other ideas, but those didn't settle well with him, either. In his mind's eye, he still saw her as a Slayer, a former charge. She was Cordelia's age, and unlike the fetching Miss Chase, Wesley had never been at all attracted to Buffy Summers. It just felt . . . wrong to be interested in her.

To his surprise, that look passed from her face. Whatever she had been looking for, she had found, and she suddenly seemed to collapse under that new knowledge. She was suddenly sitting in his lap and wrapping her arms under his, and around his back, burrowing her face against his chest and sobbing.

"I hate myself," she repeated. "I've never hated myself before. I feel so lost, Wesley."

He found himself returning the embrace, holding the small body tightly. As he did, he felt what tenuous control he had waver and dissolve. Tears slid, unbidden, down his cheeks. His breathing remained steady, but the tears continued.

"I know," he replied, mostly into her hair. "Shh . . . it's going to be all right."

She looked up at him with wide, glassy, and still drunk eyes. "How do you know that?" She sounded too young, and desperate to be this woman in his arms. She was a child still, in so many ways.

"Because it has to," he told her, filled with the urge to help her in a way he had never been able to four years prior.

The inadequacy of his assurance glimmered in those hazel eyes of hers. "That's not really a good answer," she whispered.

"I know," Wesley admitted. "It's the only one I have, though. I . . . really have no speeches for you. I have nothing to offer you but that."

She nodded and held him all the tighter. "You sort of suck that way."

He laughed through his tears. "Yes, I suppose I do."

She laughed too, and continued to sob. "You know, you were really far down the list of people I ever thought I'd be hugging like this. I mean, you beat the Mayor, but not by a lot. And it's pretty much only because you're not evil."

"Aren't I?"

She stared at him, studying him in the way only an inebriated person could. To his eternal surprise, she suddenly took his head in her hands and proceeded to inspect him closely. After several minutes, she said, "No. You're not evil. Believe me. I've seen a lot of evil. A lot of evil, and you're not evil. Just sort of . . . scratchy. Did you forget about the invention of the razor, Wes? 'Cause, they're good things. They're . . . sharp."

Fondly, he stroked her hair. "I don't envy you the hangover you'll have tomorrow."

"It's your fault," she pointed out. "You were the one pouring the nasty whiskey, buddy."

"I'll have you know that it was expensive "nasty whiskey", young lady."

"Young lady?" she laughed. "I haven't been called that for a long time. Not since High School, I think. I'm not sure I was, though."

"A lady? I could have told you that."

"I think you did," she said, scrunching up her face. "But, no. Not a lady. I mean, I am a lady, but that wasn't what I was talking about. I don't think I was young."

"You were eighteen. That's young."

"I didn't feel young, though. I felt . . ." she looked him in the eye. "I felt old. Like, really old."

Slowly, Wesley nodded. "I think I was . . . I think I was rather the opposite. I always felt like a child trying to pass as an adult. I was terrified that you would find me out."

"Was that why you were such an asshole?" she asked, interested.



They sat there, neither particularly inclined to move.

"You beat out Faith, too," Buffy said after a pause.

Wesley couldn't follow her train of thought. "What?"

"In the list of people I thought I would hug. You beat Faith."

"Oh. Um, thank you."

"Just thought you should know."

"I'm glad I beat two people."

"You beat more," Buffy insisted. "I'd rather hug you than . . . Ted. Cause he was an evil robot."

"Yes, I remember reading about him in Giles' diaries."

"Yeah. He'd be bad to hug. And Balthazar. He was nasty."

"I will agree with you there."

"And those Gentlemen guys. They would be all . . . with the heart removal."

"I must have missed them."

"After your time."

"That would explain it."

"And Ampata, cause she was all life sucky, and Drusilla, cause, yeah, crazy, and werewolf Oz, and Amy's mom, and that snake-monster guy, and a chaos demon . . ." as she spoke, Buffy's eyes drooped closed and she leaned forward, curling up in his lap and pillowing her head on Wesley's shoulder.

"No, couldn't have that," he whispered. "What with the antlers and the slime."

"Ew . . ." she muttered, and then ceased speaking altogether.

Wesley made no attempt to remove the exhausted bundle of Slayer, but sat and stroked her hair until he eventually fell asleep as well.

Chapter 3: Not an Addict

"Is there anything you want from me?
My arms, my life my energy?
I don't know how far I can go.
Everything says no.
But you know how it goes when
You're used to your side of the bed.
I know you don't belong in this room,
But you're here now,
So what can I do?
All that I am is
All I was taught to be.
All that you are is
A wall between myself and me.
Have you ever really looked at me,
Or thought about me secretly?
Do I make you wonder at all
About the speed of light?
Outside our little world we might not
Feel so alone.
I know you don't belong in this room,
But you're here now,
So what can I do?
All that I am is
All I was taught to be.
All that you are is
A wall between myself and me."

Buffy awoke the next morning with a headache, just as Wesley had predicted she would. However, what Wesley had not predicted was her confusion. The Slayer awoke and felt the sensation of arms around her. She looked at the arms, knowing that she would never go through the sleeping part of sleeping with Spike. Plus, of course, they tended to be a little more horizontal after their activities.

Now, though, she was in the lap of someone wearing a pale blue button-down shirt. She was sure that Spike didn't own any . . . wait. Spike was gone. After trying to rape her.

Buffy felt a groan as she wondered if she had done something colossally stupid, like having sex with some random guy.

She pulled back, looked at her companion, and suddenly remembered everything. For the most part.

As soon as she moved, Wesley's head had fallen to the side, suddenly lacking its pillow. Wesley awoke with a start and blinked at her in shock. Embarrassed, Buffy stood up and backed away several steps. Unfortunately, this caused her to step fully into the sun's light. She winced. Good old-fashioned sunbeams, like putting knives through the skull.

"Buffy?" he asked, and them blink again. "My God, I must have fallen asleep."

"Wes, do you have aspirin?" Buffy asked.

He glanced at her, then stood, quickly grabbing a bottle from his bag. Buffy dry-swallowed three pills and stood, feeling surprisingly awkward in her former Watcher's presence. Things seemed a bit stranger now that she was sober. Also, Wesley was still as attractive as she had thought him the previous night, which bothered her considerably. Sleep was supposed to have dispersed any of those sorts of strange thoughts. All the night seemed to have done, however, was make her more aware of her growing interest in her one-time Watcher.

"I really just spent the night curled up in your lap, didn't I?" she asked in a small voice.

"So it would seem."

A horrible thought occurred to her. True, she could remember a great deal of the preceding night, but some places were a little hazy. What if . . . "Wes," she said, unsure of how to say what she was about to say, "did we . . . I mean, I can't really remember some of the parts of last night, and I need to know if we did anything, you know . . ."

"Nothing happened," he said curtly. "We hugged, that was all."

"I think we bonded, too," Buffy said, still at a loss.

"Perhaps," he conceded.

"Does that freak you out?"

There was a pause in which Buffy watched Wesley go from stoic to a tall, awkward boy and back in a matter of seconds. "Yes," he said.

"You don't bond well, do you?" she asked.

"When everyone I have ever known or cared about has eventually walked out on me or hurt me with everything they could muster, no. I don't bond well." He gave her a chilly look that told Buffy not to dig any deeper.

She had to, though. She needed the connection. Needed it to feel alive. "I know," she said. "Everyone I've ever loved has left me. My Dad, Angel, Mom, Giles, Riley . . . everyone. Even Willow went evil because she was around me."

"Giles told me what happened," Wesley broke in. "Willow's change had nothing to do with you."

"Didn't it? She became a witch to help me. I'm the root of the problem, when you think about it."

"Your logic is skewed."

"Yet, it has served me well," she quipped.

He stood, looking awkward. He couldn't reprimand her. He had made the exact same mistakes, and had the same skewed logic. She knew that.

Try as she might, she couldn't block out her life. That mention of Evil Willow had brought it all back. Everything she had to deal with and fight. Everything she had caused. Everything . . .

"I have to stop thinking," she gasped, shaking her head.

"I know what you mean," Wesley commented morosely.

Buffy stared at him. That attraction was still there, and amplified suddenly. Something crept into her brain in the midst of all of her pain. Call it a reflex, call it instinct, call it whatever, but it came to her again. It would be so easy, she thought. Wesley wouldn't resist much. He knew the drill, same as she did. It would block out everything. It would kill the pain, or at least knock it unconscious. It didn't matter that she didn't really like Wesley. He was available and attractive. It was sex. It wasn't a cure. No drug was a cure, and sex was a drug. It was a fix, though, and didn't that count for something?

She needed it. She needed the forgetfulness. She thought that Spike should have cured her of it, but there it was again, strong as ever. The craving. Didn't matter that it really wouldn't work. Didn't matter that she'd tried it already and failed.

Wesley looked her in the eye and seemed to grasp her intentions. "Buffy," he warned.

She couldn't let him continue. Couldn't let him get any reason out, or it would stop, and she would be left with nothing but her pain. The Slayer stepped forward, brought her hand up to hold the back of Wesley's head, and pulled him down to her, kissing him desperately.

It was an odd feeling, kissing Wesley. For one, she had never kissed anyone with stubble. It was scratchy. If they ever did this again, she would have to be sure that he shaved prior.

He was stubbornly keeping his mouth shut, and was pushing on her arms, trying to get her to let him go.

Buffy growled, low in her throat, and tried to pin his arms to his sides with only the one arm. The other, of course, was occupied with keeping Wesley from pulling back. She used her tongue to force her way into his mouth and kissed him with a harsh desperation.

A hand connected with her sternum, hard, and Buffy staggered back. Wesley stood, panting and glaring. "I'm not doing this," he snarled at her, turning to leave.

Without thinking, Buffy stepped forward and grasped the back of that button-down and whirled him around, and then tossed him to the bed, where he landed flat on his back, long limbs splayed to catch him.

The man stared at her in shock. "Buffy—"

"Did I say you could leave?" she asked, panting.

"I didn't think it was your choice to make."

"My room, my rules." Buffy saw him move to get up and she pounced, straddling his narrow fame and pinning his hands to the mattress above his head with one hand. "Now, relax and behave, Wesley."

Something unexpected happened at that moment. Those narrowed blue eyes went suddenly wide, and the color completely drained from the ex-Watcher's face. Something in Buffy was aware that the mood had changed. Wesley wasn't angry any more. He was terrified. She knew that she should care. She should feel awful about it, but she needed this. Everything in her needed this.

"What did you say?" Wesley gasped.

Buffy smoothed a hand along the side of his face. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you, Wes," she said. Then, smiled and added teasingly, "Well, unless you scream for help or something. Then I might have to kick your ass."

His color didn't return. What did appear, though, was a fine shaking that wracked his whole frame. "P—please," he gasped. "Please don't. I d—don't want this. This can't happen again."

Can't listen, she told herself, just get him going. He'll come around.

She kissed him again, just as brutally. Wesley shook and struggled under her and she tasted blood as their mouths accidentally collided hard. Her other hand moved to deftly unbutton his shirt. As she trailed a hand along his chest, tracing the various scars, Wesley struggled even harder.

She pulled back, looking at him sprawled on the bed, pale and gasping. "See, if you just relax it's a lot of fun. So just stop struggling and go along—"

With a strength born of an almost primal terror, Wesley wrenched a hand from her grasp and punched her across the face, knocking her onto the floor. Buffy stood up, sexual haze suddenly shattering with the unexpected pain. My God, she thought, this is what I stoop to, pinning Wesley to a hotel bed.

He stared at her, eyes wide and haunted. "I won't let you do that," he spat. He seemed very near an edge of something old and bad. "I'm not a child anymore, and no one can do that to me now . . ." he trailed off, eyes going suddenly wider as he realized what he had just said. His mouth snapped shut.

Buffy froze. The impulse that had gripped her was completely gone. In its place was disgust with herself and a deep shock at what had just come out of Wesley's mouth.

"Oh, my God," she breathed.

"I . . . I . . ." he gasped, looking away.

"God, Wesley, I am so, so sorry." She reached for his shoulder and he jerked away, eyes wary and wild. Buffy immediately pulled back. "I . . . I can't believe that I just . . . I almost . . ." she sat down on the bed, hands in her lap as she stared at them. "I'm no better than Spike or Faith. Want . . . take . . . have. Oh, God, Wesley."

She looked at him and saw that he had drawn his knees up to his chest and was hugging them protectively.

"Who . . . who did this to you?" she asked.

Wesley stared at her. He had the look of a mouse cornered by a cat. He knew that he couldn't escape, but it didn't stop him from wanting to.

"You said you weren't a child . . ."

"You honestly think I feel like confiding anything in you after that?" he demanded, seeming to regain some control.

"No." She looked back at her hands. "All I can tell you is that I'm sorry. That I think I went crazy, or something. I just suddenly needed sex so bad, and I thought that if I just got you going . . . I didn't mean . . . I almost did something terrible. I almost did exactly what Spike did to me."

"You were . . ." There was a cautious concern in that voice.

"The word you're looking for is raped. And no. Almost, but no."

"Consider yourself lucky," Wesley snapped.

"I do. I also consider myself stupid. I let him in, I thought that I could handle him, but . . ."

"But in the end, it's still his fault."

"Whose fault was it with you?"

He looked away. "I have no idea what you're—"

"Bullshit," she snapped, the raw obscenity making him flinch slightly. "I saw you, I heard what you said. You said you weren't a child anymore. When you were a child—"

"When I was a child, I had a father who seemed to only be content when I was in pain."

Buffy's mouth fell softly open. "Wesley—"

"If you pity me, I swear to God I will kill you," he gritted out.

She shook her head gently, her hair falling forward into her face. She didn't even bother brushing it away. "I can't pity you. People who . . . go through similar stuff can't pity one another. We just understand."

He sat silently, then nodded.

"I'm a monster," Buffy said. "Tara was right, I did come back wrong."

"If you mean you came back different, then, yes, you did. And I can't say whether or not you're a monster. All I can say is that you are definitely fallible."

"Fallible? I can't just call Spike fallible, and I don't expect you to do that for me."

"Buffy," Wesley said, his voice stern, "I've been through worse."

"Was that supposed to make it better?"

"Actually, it was."

"It doesn't."

"The damned cannot damn each other," he said simply. "It's hypocritical."

She stared at him. Part of her wanted to know how he could let what had almost happened go so easily. She wanted him to hate her and blame her. And, at the same time, she wanted so badly for him to listen to her. Whether or not it was right, and whether or not she deserved it, Buffy found herself pouring out a confession she had barely known she needed to make. "Before, it was easy. I did what I was born to do. I was secure in the knowledge that I was doing what I had to do, and I was good. Heaven was guaranteed. That I might go anywhere else wasn't even a consideration. Now . . ."

"Now we both have to earn heaven."

"Earning heaven, huh?"




"I think I should go home now. There are people there who . . . need me. I need them. I need them to save me. You . . ."

"I can't save you, Buffy. I'm a bit too busy with my own salvation."

"I hear you," she said, smiling sadly.

"I don't think that this actually fixed anything for me," Wesley said after a moment. "When I go back, my friends will still hate me, I will still hate me, and, I'd imagine, I'll turn to Lilah again."

"Evil lawyer?"


"Wes, can I give you some advice? I mean, I know that I'm in no position to, but—"

"Go ahead."

"Get what you need and leave. Don't stay in that kind of thing. It only gets worse."

Wesley nodded.

Buffy stared into space. "Earning heaven . . ." she repeated.

"A lofty goal," Wesley stated.

"Yeah. It scares me."

"Me, too."

Buffy stood. "I need it though. And I'm not going to find it here. I have to . . . I have to go back." She looked at Wesley, who also stood, and slowly came around the bed to stand next to her. She suddenly admired the courage of this man, who she had previously thought to be completely spineless. "You need to go back too, Wes. Nothing will ever get done until we get it done. We have to . . . we have to get things done if we ever want to be good again."

He nodded slightly.

"I'm done running away," she whispered. "I should have remembered that it doesn't do anything."

"Doesn't it?" Wesley asked suddenly. "You realized what you had to do. What we had to do. That's something."

"Not enough."

"Not yet, maybe."

"I'm going home."

"I could give you a ride," he offered.

"Why?" she gasped. "After everything I . . ."

"Because we're traveling the same road. Might as well travel the first leg together."


He gathered his weapons and walked over to his bag.

"Wes?" she ventured.


"All the way back to Sunnydale on a motorcycle?"

"No one said that the path was easy," he tossed off, shoving his weapons into the bag.

"Or good for the detanglement of hair."

A nasty smile crossed his face. "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. After all, you'll be wearing a hot pink helmet, so there shouldn't be any—"

"Hot pink helmet?"

Wesley merely smiled, zipped up his bag and walked out the door. After a second, Buffy followed, shaking her head. If her first step back towards heaven had to be in a hot pink helmet, then so be it.