Title: With a Desperate Strength
Fandom: Angel/Astonishing X-Men
Spoilers/Warnings: Through Astonishing X-Men #15. Also? Crossover. Also? Slashy.
Pairing/Characters: Scott/Wesley, Logan
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: 1,034
Summary: When the going gets tough, the tough run away and work on a shrimpboat. Or at The Gap.

Author's Notes: Don't think about the canon of it, too very much; it's pretty loose. Latest Astonishing and mid-run Angel, I suppose.

Wesley meets Bryan in a coffee shop.

And it's all terribly cliché, Wesley knows. Boy meets boy over tea and lattes; boy listens to boy rant about the homogenization of American life and how corporations are helping to destroy individuality by giving coffee drinks cutesy names like frappuccino; boy takes boy home.

Wesley takes Bryan home and Bryan doesn't leave.

When Wesley finds out that Bryan is a sales associate at The Gap, Wesley laughs until he cries. Bryan just shrugs and says that sometimes you have to let corporate America pay the bills. Wesley tells Bryan that he is a Private Investigator. Bryan says that it sounds like strange work, taking pictures of husbands with bimbos and finding long lost relatives. Wesley doesn't correct him.

Bryan likes Sudoku, but hates crossword puzzles. When Wesley works the crossword in the Times, Bryan makes a face and tries to distract him. With, Wesley has to admit, a high rate of success. Bryan wears old pullovers that are so soft with age that they feel more like satin than cotton. Bryan rides a motorcycle and ignores helmet laws. Bryan's hands are calloused and his knuckles are scarred; he's never said why and Wesley hasn't asked. Bryan has a strong jaw and eyes that are like a Hershey Bar, warm and gooey from someone's pocket. Sometimes, when Bryan kisses Wesley, he thinks about those eyes and how Bryan's mouth tastes like that chocolate bar, too.

Cordelia likes Bryan. So does Dennis. Angel is wary, but Angel always is.

Bryan hasn't said anything about love, yet. Nor has Wesley, but he knows that's what this is. Wesley knows that he sleeps more easily when he is sleeping next to Bryan. He knows that when he comes home crusty with foul-smelling Gaap blood, Bryan just jokes about how Wesley needed to stop privately investigating the contents of the dumpsters outside Del Taco. Bryan is the person Wesley thinks of when he's making dinner plans and, also, when he's certain he's going to die.

This is happiness, Wesley realizes. This is happiness, and, before Bryan, he didn't know what that was. Not really. But this is happiness and nothing is going to change it or take it away or make it wrong. Wesley is sure of this.

Until, one night, Wesley wakes up and there is a man crouching at the end of the bed.

To his credit, Wesley doesn't scream. He just scrambles back a bit, thinking inappropriately about how glad he is that he's wearing Mr. Potato Head pajama bottoms, rather than nothing at all.

"You hid good," the man says. "I been looking for you a long time."

Wesley opens his mouth to protest, to ask why, to ask who the man is, who he works for. Wesley closes his mouth without saying anything when he realizes that the man is talking to Bryan. Though Bryan is awake, he is just lying there on his back. He doesn't seem surprised or scared.

Wesley is both.

"Never thought I'd find you in L.A.," the man speaks. Crouching in the dark, he seems small. He doesn't sound small. "I hate this town. Jubes always said that I shouldn't knock it 'til I'd given it a fair chance but," the man shrugs, "it just ain't my bag, I s'pose."

Bryan says nothing in response.

The man continues in a voice that somehow sounds like howling and prison fights and Mack Trucks, all at once. "Come back. I ain't gonna make you, or anything. It's up to you. I just wanted to let you know that they need you. It ain't the same without you. It never is."

The man is quiet after that.

It is as though Wesley is frozen there, in bed next to Bryan. His mouth is sticky, his tongue thick. He should have already been up with an axe or a mace or, at the very least, a lamp in hand, ready to fight this lurking, chatty intruder. But he stays as he is, still half lying down, looking back-and-forth between Bryan to the man. The silence in the room is terrible, oppressive, dangerous. Even the city outside seems to have gone quiet. Wesley is relieved when finally Bryan quietly, slowly speaks.

"I drove for days without stopping. I don't remember much about it. I just drove. And then, when I was too exhausted to drive anymore, I stopped. It was close to midnight and so dark. I could only see the motel, under fluorescent, electric lights. Everything else, everything beyond, was dark. Like there was nothing left in the world. Not even me, really. I was used up. There wasn't any more. That was the end for me. The only thing I could see was that motel with those harsh lights. There was nothing else.

"But the next day, when I woke up, everything was different. The land was flat and I could see for miles. The sun was warm. It was green and brown and the sky was the bluest blue I'd seen since I could see blue again. There were grazing cattle, right there behind the motel. There were trees. There were fences. There were roads, with people going wherever they needed to, wherever they wanted to. I didn't even know where I was, but I could go anywhere.

"It was Texas, I found out. I was in Bryan, Texas. In Bryan, I was new. So, I got back in the car and I drove. I drove until I hit the coast. If I'd been who I was before, I would've driven right into the Pacific without stopping. But I wasn't who I was before. I was new. So, I stopped. I stopped and I stayed."

Bryan is perfectly still; he hasn't moved at all. When he stops speaking, his breathing is constant and calm, warm and smooth. Like his eyes. Like his mouth.

"Come home, Scott," the man says. "It's time."

In the dark, Wesley cannot see Bryan's warm eyes or his rough, used hands. He can only see the outline of Bryan's profile. He can only see the strong jaw as it clenches. He can only see the shift, even before it happens.