Beauty Effulgent

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All That Ends Well

All That Ends Well

 Summary:                    “Angel,” Post- “Shells”. Wes gets scruffy,

Spike misses Buffy.

Characters:                 Wes/Fred, Wes/Illyria, Spike

Rating:                        R. Language/sex/violence.

Disclaimers:                Don’t Own ‘Em, just love ‘em.


He treasures only the smallest moment of each day: the gap between waking and remembering. Then comes the knowledge. It is too late to crawl back into the dream, and so Wesley Wyndam-Pryce must wake into the nightmare.


Even awake, Wesley can close his eyes and almost feel her. Fred. Winifred. He can believe that the mist softening the edges of the image is not merely the hazing of memory, but an actual magick called up by the depths of his mind, the part of him that knew this would end almost before it started. That he called up the mist and draped it over the entire scene to preserve it, to preserve her, for his future need.


Only a selfish git, Wesley knows, would believe such a thing. Only a completely worthless bastard would turn the loss of such a woman into a playground for his own cock-eyed fantasies. And still there are moments he can believe it.


At the desk in his office, he closes his eyes and she is with him, their first night. Her body was soft, then, and tender and painfully real, and even then Wesley’s mind threatened to overpower his body. It was such work, pushing back so many of the things he had imagined he could do with her body. But that was the deal he made with himself, the bargain that he believed -- really believed! -- would allow him to keep her. He knew that Winifred Burkle saw him as a certain type of man, and he could be that man for her. He would be tender, and tentative, brainy and shy, and there was joy in that. He gave her that man, cautious and gentle, and she rewarded him with a sigh that blended, borderless, into the bubbling echo of her laugh.


When it was over -- though it would never be over, the foresight of his magick made that certain. When they were resting, the first time, he stared into the depths of her dark eyes, and said, “I’d as soon you didn’t have to laugh about it. I’m stuffy, you know, and English, at least you could grade on a curve.”


She laughed again, and he knew she knew he didn’t mind at all, that the music of her laugh was as much to him as the magic of her body. “I’m a physicist,” she said. “I don’t believe in curves. And you certainly don’t need one.”


Fingers in the hair of his chest, lips on his shaven cheek. “You were wonderful. You are. Wonderful.”


“And you’re so certain about these laws of physics, are you?” he said, gathering the ends of her hair and rubbing them across his neck. “It’s just possible that I might be losing touch with gravity.”


He told her things, that first night. The time at Cambridge he went after another bowler in a cricket match. Something the boy said about his mother, and Wesley threw him on the ground, started flailing with his fists. “We Brits aren’t especially big on psychotherapy and getting in touch with our feelings,” he said. “But my father had weight, and they wouldn’t expel me, so they sent me to what you’d probably call counseling. Anger management.”


“You??? Not some other Wyndam-Pryce?” Fred made a joke of over enunciating his name, and laughed again. She would make the joyful noise that night, at the slightest provocation, and he loved her for it. Loved her even more for her disbelief of his very true story. That she could know him so well, and know certain parts of him so little. He was hiding the things he needed to hide, from the one person he needed to hide them from. Americans were all too eager to bare their souls, but there were parts of a soul that had to be hidden. That was the only way, if you wanted to know love. Or feel it.


So he told her. “I was a right wanker of a nineteen-year-old, you’d be surprised. It was probably good for me. But for all the strings Sir Roger could pull, he didn’t get to handpick the counselor. So it was someone from what the Council called The Outside. I couldn’t exactly go in there and tell the truth. ‘You see, doc, my father wants me to follow in his footsteps and join a highly secret organization dedicated to the eradication of the vampire threat, through the education and care of a contingent of teenage girls with superpowers. Me, I was sort of hoping to be a goalkeeper for Arsenal. Or maybe a cellist.’”


“You play the cello?”


“Not for years. I had to come up with something to tell the counselor, and there had been this girl. An experimental mathematician, actually.



“Gwendolyn,” Fred repeated, wrinkling her nose. “Math geek.”


“Winifred. Lab nerd.” She put on a pout and he cut off the story for a moment to kiss her. “She wasn’t worthy to light your Bunsen burner, darling, I assure you. But I was a lad who didn’t know one end of a test tube from another. Quite smitten, and she liked me back for a while. I thought we’d be married and,” he shrugged, “then she didn’t like me back anymore. Maybe there was a bit of her tied up with my anger." He stopped and swallowed.” But mostly I just had to talk about something, give the counselor my father’s money’s worth. So I talked about Gwendolyn, what I had thought it would be like with her. Perfect. The not-so-perfect way it ended up, and he

said -- he was a very Cambridge kind of therapist. Ended up advising me to read Shakespeare’s sonnets and a lot of Keats. Some Petrarch. He said what I mostly needed was to realize I wasn’t the first lad on Earth to go through this sort of thing, wouldn’t be the last.”


Fred laughed. “That’s some country you come from. In Texas, they’d either tell you to find Jesus, or have a six-pack and get over it.”


“Then he said --” Wesley cleared his throat and put on the rickety accent of a Cambridge don, “Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, it’s clear you have a great capacity to love. And that can make you very happy.”


“Awww,” Fred burrowed closer. Wesley felt a shiver through his body, but he wasn’t quite ready to give in. He knew they had time.


“But he also warned me. ‘Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, you need to watch yourself, because you’re also the type of man who could spend his whole life trying to make love to a goddess.”


“Oh,” Fred’s skin warmed and she rolled away slightly. “Here I am, just a farm girl who knows a little math.”


“No.” Wesley took her cheek in his hand, and turned her lips toward his. “That’s what you are, Fred. You’re her. You’re the one I’ve been looking for and I’ve felt -- since I met you, I never actually believed this could happen. ‘It’s as though I should love a bright particular star, and think to wed it.’”


Her lips met his lightly. “Some of that Shakespeare therapy?”


“Helena says it about Bertram,” he told her. “All’s Well that Ends Well.”


“Do you think it will?”


“I think it has.” They came together again. Later, watching, remembering, Wesley curses himself for those words. He spoke them the last night with her. Or was it the first night? Every night they spent now floats together in a continuous scene, temporarily numbing the realization of how few nights there were. All’s well that ends well. Famous last words, as if he hadn’t seen what happened, the ashes that came of every woman he touched. Lilah. Cordelia -- he couldn’t claim much success on that front, but she’d always been in his heart. Faith -- not that he’d loved her, not in the conventional way, but he’d been responsible for her. She’d been his first charge, his first and last shot at the thing he was trained from birth to be, the thing he had fought, then accepted, then irredeemably fucked up. Even Gwendolyn, from the old days, had dropped off the map, and his father had dropped some dark hints about black magicks, and containment by the Watcher’s Council.


Virginia, as far as he knew, had landed on her feet. She was the type who always did. He had saved her once, and he believed for a while that she needed his protection. But as he knew more of her, he realized she had ways of looking out for herself, that if he hadn’t been there to save her, she would have managed. If he had done anything to protect her, it was in holding himself back. She was saved because she didn’t mean enough to him. He had never loved her the way he wanted to, the way Keats or Petrarch -- or Angel or even Spike -- would have done. Not that their cases had turned out any better, but star-crossed love in a poet or a vampire seemed almost necessary to fill up some capacity for tragedy. Wesley was just a man. He’d tried the full-speed, no-brakes approach to love himself, and crashed, and burned. How he had burned.


Wesley opens his eyes and rubs them, finds himself in the office.  He feels his face, the week’s growth of beard. Every morning, he thinks of shaving. Wants to project a professional image, not send the wrong message. And then he thinks, I work for a fucking vampire at an office controlled by some-deity-knows-what unnamable power, and I’m worried about facial hair?


This time when he closes his eyes, he sees images from later. Last night. Fred was there again, but only her body. He knew that, but the voice. Standing over the sink in an empty apartment -- empty of her, which was all that mattered -- scraping the remains of a solitary meal into the drain. The voice sounded behind him, deep and echoing but distinctly, falsely, hers. “I want you to teach me.”


Wesley’s back stiffened, his mind said not to turn. His body turned, and she was there, Fred and not-Fred. “I believe it’s Kitty Pryde who walks through the walls,” he told her. “Not the Dark Phoenix. Rip off those beastly comic books, if you must, but at least make an effort to get it right.”


“I do not understand,” said not-Fred, her eyes unblinking and impossibly wide.


“No, you bloody well don’t understand anything, but if you’re going to insist on haunting me --” Wesley had pleaded for her preservation, of course. If there was even a way to destroy her, they hadn’t found it, and Wesley, for one, had stopped looking. She seemed harmless, at least on a global scale, and it hadn’t taken a lot to convince Angel. That was an advantage to working for a reformed vampire, the benefit of the doubt.


Wesley had received some of that benefit himself, in the past. He had been hovering on an abyss. It was how Lilah had come into his life, how he had ended up with his throat cut and a crazy woman captive in his closet. But that wasn’t the frightening part. What terrified him, what he could not bear to admit to the others, least of all Angel, was that he could not remember what had started it all. There had been something dark and terrible between him and Angel, but the more he probed his memory, the more he ran into a wall of the dark nothing. Only the sensation that he was, in some way, a traitor, lowest of the low, remained. But whatever had led him to it, this was too terrible to delve. The harder he tried to dig for those memories of Fred, the more often he hit that wall. “Memory spell” again flitted across his mind, but he let it go. If there was a wall, the thing behind it was too terrible to approach, and the more obvious answer continued to insinuate himself. Whenever he allowed himself to think about it, Wesley was quite sure that he was losing his mind.


“Teach me,” said the body of his dead lover. Illyria. “Twelfth Night” started with a shipwreck on the coast of Illyria. Marooned Viola, and love-mad Orsino. If music be the food of love, play on. Some therapy. Fuck Shakespeare. “Teach me,” said Illyria. “What it means when they touch.”


There were things he could never take from that body, when it belonged to Fred. He took them now. Got beneath the suit in three short movements -- zip, grab, pull, and what looked like leather dissolved in his hand. He took her waist, bent her over, and turned her back to him. Circled her neck with an arm, pushed her to the floor. Illyria was stronger than him, a thousand times. Could crush him with a finger if she wanted, but she had to choose that strength, had to want it before she could use it. Otherwise, it was just a woman’s body. But not a woman, not her, a thing. He could make it hurt, make it bleed. She gave in to him, and she groaned, and she never laughed. If she had laughed Fred’s laugh, Wesley would have snapped her neck, damn what came after. But she only gasped and moaned and moved with each second’s pain. When he was finished, he stood over her in his bachelor’s kitchen, above the best linoleum the devil’s money could buy. “I suppose,” he said, fastening his belt, staring at her unblinking eyes, “that I might have just impregnated you with the anti-Christ, but I can’t say that I care all that much.”


She kept her eyes on him, and held up a hand. He took it and pulled her to her feet. Still naked, shaking, she said,


“Thank you, Wesley. Now I believe that I begin to understand love.” Not a woman. Not her. Wesley knew this, and so he felt nothing but ringing satisfaction as he drew back his hand and slapped her face. Satisfaction, and the desire for her to hurt him back. Very very badly.


“Don’t you say that word,” he said. “I loved Fred. Love. Have loved. Love. Her,” he repeated. “Not you. You’re just the parasite that killed her.”


Illyria tilted her head and locked her eyes with his. With one finger she could do it, Wesley was sure. He braced himself for whatever death she could deal. She could destroy his body, but that was easy, that he could do himself with any of a hundred weapons in this room alone. Illyria could destroy his soul, shred it into fragments to dissolve in the air and spin away, like shattered glass, then spread into the universe where, just maybe -- wasn’t it possible? -- they could blend and settle together with the pieces of whatever it was that was Fred.


Then Illyria backed away. Still naked, still staring, she repeated. “Thank you, Wesley. I begin to understand.” She dissolved into the wall, and Wesley remained, more than ever alone, with his expensive and empty kitchen. He wondered if he would see her again. He wondered if he wanted it.


Now, he hears the quietest step in the office and says, between bared teeth, “You, on the other hand, no longer walk through walls, so I assume you’ve just forgotten your manners.”


“I dunno,” says Spike, “if forgot is really the word for it.” He flips a heavy metal talisman around in his palm. “Are you really using the Key of Omeros as a paperweight?”


Wesley holds out his hand. “Please put the priceless and volatile mystical artifact down. I was studying it.”


“With your eyes closed. Yeah, that’s how I used to study, too. But then, I never made Head Boy.”


Wes glares, and Spike hands over the talisman. “Right, the thing is, Pryce. I was hoping I could hit you up for a bit of a favor.”


“Oh, this is just what my day needs.” Wes rolls his head back and covers his eyes. A flash of Illyria, a flash of Fred, and he quickly opens them again.


“A vamp nest,” Spike is saying. “Gone a bit out of control near Mount Vesuvius. Feeding on tourists, archaeologists. Pompeii, Naples, all that mess. This new world-roving consultant gig Angel’s been going on about for me, I figured that might be the place to start.”


“Yes, our man in Undead Affairs mentioned the Pompeii problem and -- as shocked as I am to be saying this, it actually sounds like you have a good idea.” Wes narrows his eyes. “I assume there’s some reason you’ve come to me with this, and not Angel. You two aren’t having one of your spacemen vs. cowpokes debates again?”


“Cavemen,” says Spike with exaggerated care, “And astronauts. Which I’d hardly call a debate, more like a delusion of the Pointy-Haired one, and -- look, the thing is, Pryce. The gig is legit. A good deed that needs doing, and as you know, I’m your man.”


“For a reasonable fee, I’m sure,” Wes sniffs.


“An unreasonable one, if I’m lucky. But the main point of it is that Pompeii isn’t too far from Rome, and if I’m going to be, in the neighborhood, so to speak, I may need to --” Spike squeezes his eyes shut as if the words hurt him, but he says, “I need to see about a girl. See if she’ll have me. See where we stand at least, I owe her that much.”


“Oh oh, yes! Absolutely!” Wesley spreads his hands. “Why didn’t I think of this? My life is an absolute steaming pile of shit, and the one thing I need is to get in the middle of this ridiculous soap opera with you and Angel and your slayer --”


“Buffy!” Spike slams his hands onto Wesley’s desk, and suddenly there’s not a bit of the joking smartass about him. “Respect her enough to say her name, and I’ll say one too. Winifred Burkle.”


“No.” Wesley turns away.


“Look at me, Pryce. I don’t think a lot of a hell of a lot of people, dead or alive. But Fred Burkle was good to me. She didn’t have to be, she didn’t get a damn thing out of it, but she was. Just because that was the kind of person she was.”


“I know what kind of person she was. Spike. I don’t need any damn vampire to tell me.”


“The only other person who was ever like that to me. Who treated me like a man, who gave me more chances than I deserved.” He turns his head, bites his lip, and draws a hand over his eyes, moving over a lump in his throat as he says, “Buffy Summers.”


“It didn’t hurt, of course, that she was shagging you silly.”


“Incidental.” Spike turns to gauge Wesley’s face. “How’d you know about that?”


“Lucky guess.”


“I suppose you and Dr. Burkle spent your evenings at home playing, whatzit, cribbage. Right, Pryce, I’ll quit with the whining and the bullshit, but whatever you or Angel or anyone can say about me, you know damn well that I loved her. Love her. And I deserve a chance -- Buffy deserves a chance to have all the facts before her, decide what she wants. I’ve been dicking around the issue, because, I guess, coming back this way and all, I’m starting to believe that maybe I really will live forever. And the bird’s young, she has time but -- after what’s become of Fred, I’m starting to realize how short our time on earth really is. Well, not my time but, you know how it is.” He points at Wes. “You lot. So -”


Wes looks straight at him. “Damn you, Spike.”


“A bit late.” Spike points a thumb at his chest. “Vampire and all.”


“Fuck you, then.”


He backs up and spreads his hands. “Flattered, truly. But like I said, I’m gonna see about a *girl*.”


“Damn you,” says Wes, “For using Fred to get to me.” He presses the button on his speaker phone. “And fuck you, for knowing it would work.” Into the microphone he says, “Veruca, it’s Wyndam-Pryce. How soon can we get a plane for Spike?”

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