Summary: Wesley receives an unexpected visitor during his self-imposed exile. Follow-up to "Residual Duties" and "Disbelief."

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: A few days after "All The Way" and "Billy," with changes in the timeline to reflect the events of "Residual Duties" and "Disbelief." (spoiler warning)

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Dedication: To Krissy, because I probably wouldn't have been writing Buffy/Wesley themed stories without her encouragement, and they've turned out better than I thought they would. Thanks, Krissy. ; - )


Wesley leaned back in the recliner, willing himself to sleep. It had been two days since Fred had come by, insistently asking him to come back to work, and he had started to make preparations to go more than once, only to stop and lapse back into silent brooding. The phone had rung several times during the past forty-eight hours, but he had ignored it, and he had turned down the volume on the answering machine: he had no certainty as to who was calling him, but had a rather good idea.

Wesley's eyes had closed when he heard someone knocking at the door insistently. He turned and gave the door a rather irritated look: couldn't they just leave him alone in his misery? He closed his eyes again, but the knock returned, slightly louder and a bit more persistent than the last time. He sighed and got up, hoping that the visitor was just a stubborn solicitor for a local charity, rather than one of his associates.

Wesley stepped up to the door, quickly unlocked it, and pulled it open, revealing the visitor. Wesley blinked and stood there in stunned silence for five seconds, then swallowed hard and whispered, "Hello, Buffy."

The Slayer looked up, seeing the dark circles under Wesley's eyes and the shock on his face, then commented, "You know, someone who didn't know either of us would assume that you were the one who had just come back from the dead, Wesley." Wesley blinked again, and Buffy sighed and asked, "So, does an old friend coming by for a visit get a hug, or what?"

The question broke the spell, and Wesley stepped forward and embraced Buffy tightly for a moment before withdrawing with an apologetic expression on his face. Buffy reached out and squeezed his arm, then stepped into the apartment without invitation. She looked around, then turned back to Wesley and commented, "Nice place. . .a bit more light might help the look a bit."

Wesley closed the front door and stepped forward, flipping on the overhead light and replying, "I'm sorry, Buffy. . .I'm not exactly in the best condition to receive guests right now."

Buffy nodded and responded, "I know. . .I got a call from Fred yesterday."

Wesley shook his head in disbelief and blurted out, "Fred called you?"

Buffy nodded, then elaborated, "She had Cordelia call, then took over the call and told me what happened. She's not the easiest person to have a phone conversation with, but she managed to cover most of it, and Cordelia filled in the blanks." She walked over to Wesley and led him to his armchair, then sat on the couch across from him quietly for a moment before adding, "She's wicked smart, Wesley. . .you're damned lucky that she didn't want you dead, or you probably would be."

Wesley nodded slowly and replied quietly, "I know. . .nothing I wouldn't have had coming to me, under the circumstances."

Buffy frowned, then shook her head in disgust and snapped, "Oh, cut the melodrama, Wesley. OK, so this Billy creep laid the whammy on you and had you ready to kill Fred. Gunn was in the same boat: the only reason that he didn't go all Shining on Fred was that he knew what was coming. . .you were in the dark."

"Yes. . .dark indeed." Wesley looked down, unable to meet Buffy's eyes. He shivered, then looked up at the Slayer and whispered, "I don't know how I'm going to be able to face her again. . .to face any of them."

Buffy's eyes flashed angrily, and she paced for a moment before stopping in her tracks and turning on Wesley, asking bluntly, "Do you think you're better than the rest of us, Wesley?"

Wesley was startled by the question, and he was silent for a moment before looking up and whispering, "Of course not, Buffy. . .you should know that better than anyone."

The intensity of Buffy's glare diminished somewhat, but her voice was still angry as she retorted, "Really? Then what makes you think that you don't have a dark side like the rest of us?" She sat down again, but her eyes were still locked with Wesley's as she continued, "Wesley. . .look at the little group of people you're working with. Angel: he's got darkness in places where most people don't even have places. Gunn: dead sister issues, not to mention that whole blow-up that Angel mentioned to me when I saw him a few weeks back. Cordelia. . .do I really need to talk to you about Cordelia's dark side? The woman once made a vampire run like a scared rabbit from sheer intimidation, for God's sake."

Wesley smiled at the image, and Buffy echoed it ever so slightly before continuing, "And the gang back in Sunnydale. Xander's marrying a thousand year old ex-vengeance demon. Giles has been dealing with darkness issues since you were in short pants. Dawn. . .oh, she just has to deal with the fact that she didn't exist eighteen months ago, and that her new sister just came back from the dead. Willow. . .oh God, I'm worried about her with all of the magic she's been screwing around with: she could go too far at any moment and * poof * my best friend is the new Big Bad in Sunnydale." She paused, and continued more quietly, "Oh, and there's me. Wesley, if you ever hear that I've been turned or otherwise lost my soul, run as fast as you can and have someone call in the nukes. . .it won't be pretty."

Wesley looked up at Buffy and asked quietly, "Buffy, this recitation has been enlightening. . .and occasionally terrifying, but what's your point?"

Buffy blinked, and her eyes went sad as she replied, "My point is that we're all human, more or less, and we have dark sides. Welcome to the real world. You got exposed to some supernatural crap that brought out the darkness that every one of us has inside them, and which would NEVER have come to the surface otherwise." She walked forward and sat next to him on the armchair, reaching out and squeezing his arm. Wesley flinched, and Buffy sighed and added, "Look, Wesley. . .even now, you have any number of personality traits that can annoy the crap out of someone, but you've never been cruel or homicidal, even when you were working for the idiots on the Council. What happened wasn't your fault." She leaned forward and looked into Wesley's eyes again before concluding, "Wesley, Fred is the one who was hurt by what happened, which means she gets the call as to whether to forgive you or not. She has. Let her."

Wesley blinked, and his eyes were moist as he looked at Buffy with more determination than she had seen since she entered his apartment. He coughed self-consciously, then responded, "You're right, of course. . .I'm sorry you had to come all of the way out here to tell me what I should have already known." He managed a weak smile, then added, "Though I am dreadfully glad to see you here, alive and well. . .how are you?"

Buffy relaxed a bit, visibly relieved, and she chuckled and replied, "Coping. . .problems tend to pile up when you're dead, and some of them can't be Slain, unfortunately." Wesley frowned in concern, and Buffy smiled wanly to reassure him, adding, "Everyone's been great, trying to keep my spirits up. . .especially Spike." Wesley raised an eyebrow, and Buffy nodded and commented, "Yeah, I know. . .when you said back in March that Spike might have changed. . .you should have played the lottery that day, because you called THAT one right."

Wesley swallowed hard, then looked over at Buffy and asked quietly, "How do you feel about that, Buffy?"

"About Spike actually being a big help as opposed to a big pain in my ass? Positively gleeful, thank you very much." Buffy smiled gently as she made the darkly humorous comment, then sighed and continued, "If you're asking about other issues. . .I don't know, Wesley." She looked into Wesley's concerned eyes, then added, "Given my past history, it might not be such a bad idea if I moved into the nearest convent and left it only for nightly Slayage."

Wesley smiled involuntarily, then replied, "That seems like a rather drastic solution to the problem, Buffy."

Buffy nodded gravely, then elaborated, "Besides, I look kind of goofy in a wimple." Wesley blinked, then saw that Buffy was giggling. The two of them burst out into laughter, and when they subsided, Buffy was leaning over, using Wesley's shoulder for support. She straightened slightly, looking at Wesley, then leaned over and kissed him hard on the lips.

Wesley automatically reached out and pulled Buffy closer to him, and the two of them stayed that way for almost a minute, then Buffy pulled back and looked at Wesley with some amusement. Wesley blinked, looking vaguely guilty, and Buffy observed, "That was a decent kiss, Wesley, but I had the feeling you weren't that enthusiastic about it. . .is there something you want to tell me?"

Wesley flushed, then looked down, muttering, "Ah, Buffy. . .yes, there is. I'm sorry, but-"

"You've got the hots for Fred." Buffy spoke matter-of-factly, and Wesley blinked and gave the Slayer a look that demanded explanation. Buffy chuckled, then explained, "Cordy told me. . .she thought that I should know all of the relevant facts before I came in here to give you a swift kick in the ass." She raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly at Wesley as she added, "Apparently, someone felt the need to blab about certain events in my room last March."

"Uh, well yes, Buffy. . .I didn't mean to betray any confidences." Buffy snorted, then smiled at him, and Wesley relaxed at seeing that Buffy wasn't upset about the revelation. He coughed nervously, then continued, "I'm probably being silly about the situation with Fred: she's still getting over her crush on Angel, and after what just happened. . ." He paused, then continued, "Buffy. . .you know that I hold you in high regard, and that you remain as you have always been: a stunningly attractive young woman. I would be privileged indeed if-"

Buffy chuckled, then replied, "Yes, you sure as hell would be, but I'm not letting you make with the naughty touching because you think I'm in desperate need of a honey, or as a human roadblock to Spike, for that matter." The Slayer sighed, then stood up and looked over at Wesley, adding, "Besides, we've both got our own situations to deal with right now, and trying to make a long distance thing work is just a deeply bad idea for both of us." She looked pointedly at Wesley and whispered, "If you care about her, don't let fear get in the way, Wesley. . .she's great, but she'd be lucky to have you." Buffy leaned down and kissed him on the lips again, this time more gently, then straightened and smiled, concluding, "I'm going to go now. . .I need to get back to Sunnydale before it gets dark. If you're not at work tomorrow, I'm going to drive back down and drag your ass over to the hotel. . .and that sight will be a lot funnier than you and Cordelia mocking the melodrama of my past love life, believe me." Wesley flushed, but Buffy grinned at him to let him know he was off the hook, then whispered, "Take care, Wesley," before walking to the door and closing it quietly as she exited the apartment.

Wesley stared at the closed door for long minutes, then frowned and got up, heading for the bathroom. . .with a shower and a shave, he would be fit to head over the hotel in less than an hour. It was not going to be easy for him by any stretch of the imagination, but he knew it was time. Buffy was coping, and so would he, given a little time. With a sigh, he stripped off his clothes and started to shower, thinking only momentarily about Buffy before his mind returned to more normal patterns, planning how to adjust to starting work at the agency anew.

As before, comments are welcome and desired.