The Sinews of War


Summary: And lines were re-drawn, as Wesley and Buffy found themselves fighting against a man who'd once been their... everything. Spoilers through Chosen/Home.
Rating: R
Story Notes: Written for s.a. for the Darkficathon. Hope you enjoy, sweetie!
Disclaimer: The characters used within are the property of Mutant Enemy, Twentieth Century Fox, and of course Joss Whedon. It's their sandbox, I'm just playing in it.

He wanted to tell her of the great men who had once walked the streets below them. Of Constantine and Caesar, Cicero and Seneca, Ovid and Virgil. But even if Wesley could get Buffy to sit still long enough to read a passage about Aeneas's tour of the underworld, he knew they had both seen enough of hell on Earth to be impressed by anything pressed between the pages of a book. And the Field of Mourning, prison for those ruined by love...well, that hit a bit too close to home, didn't it?

Besides, there was only one man walking the streets of Rome who held their interest currently.

Buffy stood, forehead pressed to the window with eyes fixed on the Tiber River, its glittering aquamarine crests bouncing thin rays of moonlight into the room.

"He's out there. I can feel him." Buffy turned away from the window and looked at Wesley. "Always could," she said, softly.

She was clad head to toe in black, standing out like a smudge against the pristine white walls that pressed in on them like a coffin.

"My source sighted him in Borgo yesterday evening," Wesley said. He gave the crossbow trigger a few light squeezes, then loaded in a new arrow into the stock.

"He used to talk about Rome sometimes." Her fingertips danced across the windowpane. "Rome, Paris, London, Madrid. Not a lot, because god forbid he say anything to remind me of that little 200-year age difference. He was so stupid sometimes," she said, smiling a little.

"He's not on our side anymore," Wesley said, setting the crossbow aside.

"You don't think I know that?" Buffy snapped. "God, Wes, who here's actually killed Angel once already? At least this time you're not drugging up a Slayer and feeding her to him."

Wesley stood up, crossing the tiny studio apartment to rest a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "It's just been...."

Buffy shrugged, turning into him. Resting her cheek against his chest, she said, "Yeah. It's been."

Almost instinctively, Wesley wrapped his arms around Buffy, stroking the small of her back and making soft shooshing sounds. Strange, how that had become instinctive for him. But things had shifted since the battle to close the Hellmouth. Those who hadn't been outright slain in the combat totaled up to three from each side: Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Wesley, Angel, and Gunn. And lines were re-drawn, as Wesley and Buffy found themselves fighting against a man who'd once been their...everything. Not that they hadn't been in this position before, of course, but this time? They had no family, no co-workers, no resources at their disposal. Just three friends who wanted them dead and a sister who'd gone missing two weeks prior.

"We'll find her," Wesley said, hands pushing blonde tendrils of hair off Buffy's neck.

"I know." She sighed. "But do you think we'll find her before he does?"

He gave her a non-committal squeeze and tried to move his lips up from the frown that had taken up permanent residence far too long ago. Wesley imagined it was as comforting as those ghastly clown dolls parents gave children, no doubt contributing more to clown phobia than countless screenings of IT. But it seemed to do the trick, because Buffy flashed him a tight smile and broke their embrace, turning back towards the window.

"If he hadn't gotten to Willow before we did, she could have done a spell and...fixed him. But I hardly think she could be convinced to perform that sort of magic now," Wesley said.

Buffy responded with a short, bitter snort. "Because she did so well last time?"

Burnt flesh, shrieks of falling friends, and Turok Hans flooding the halls of Sunnydale High as one by one little girls were ripped apart...Wesley could unspool the images in his mi He grabbed a stake from the floor and pressed it into Buffy's hand. "Are you ready?"

She nodded, turning to face him. "Yeah. It helps that you're here." A faint smile ghosted across her lips. "Man, if you'd told me four years ago I'd be saying that, I would have—"

"Laughed in my face? You did that on a daily basis anyway, if you'll recall," he gently teased.

Buffy smiled. "True." Pressing her slim body against his, Buffy hummed low, closing her eyes and resting her head against his chest. "Honey, I'm home," she sing-songed.

Behind him, Wesley heard a creak. He turned and saw Angel slouched against the doorway, arms crossed over his chest.

"You knew it would end this way, didn't you?" Angel asked. He didn't even reach for a weapon of any sort, the arrogant bastard.

Buffy's lips peeled back as she raised the stake, and Wesley snatched the crossbow from the ground and leveled it at his former friend's chest.

He felt Buffy go tense beside him, coiled like a snake ready to spring, when the shadows behind Angel shifted slightly, and from behind his bulky frame stepped....It was raining and chilly the night she cornered Wesley in a Los Angeles alley. A specter, a darkling, a living dead girl with bared teeth and amber eyes. He didn't resist at all when she offered her slit wrist to him.

That wrist now brushed against his own, a silent signal. It's the end of the world as we know it.

"I feel fine," Wesley whispered, lips curling into a smile.

Buffy tossed her hair, raised the stake and steeled herself. "You've come a long way to find us, lover." The word dripped from her pretty lips like tart honey. "Gonna make the wait worthwhile?"

Neither Angel nor Dawn responded. One was too broken and one would never give the satisfaction.

Buffy turned to Wesley, kissed him full on the lips, the points of her fangs drawing the tiniest amount of blood from his lips. Then, together they turned towards Angel, weapons raised. Together, they launched themselves into battle.

There was a time when Wesley would have followed Angel into Hell. Now, he'd simply be content to send him there.