Odd Men Out
Wesley jumped and brought his head up sharply, comprehensively startled by Angel's suddenly intrusive voice. He cursed as the stack of files he had been reviewing toppled unceremoniously off the desk, disappearing from view.
"For God's sake Angel, a little warning next time ..." His voice became muffled as he stooped to retrieve the fallen files before coming back up again. "... would be nice. You must admit that in our line of work, being startled out of your senses at 11 o'clock at night will tend to lead to accidents, perhaps of the fatal variety."
He stared pointedly at Angel, who had now entered Wesley's office and was staring unashamedly down at him.
"Sorry Wes." He looked around at the wall clock. "I just put Connor down for the night and ... isn't it a little late for you to still be in the office?"
"Well ..." The Englishman cocked his head, astutely avoiding Angel's penetrating gaze. "... we have had a rather ... hectic few days. I just wanted to make sure we were going to be in a position to be on top of things later on."
Angel remained unfazed by Wesley's avoidance. "It's late. You should go home."
Wesley opened his mouth to retort but couldn't summon the energy tonight - couldn't summon the energy to pretend everything was fine. Not when he had already used up his vast reserves in keeping up appearances that day, trying rather ineffectively from his perspective to remain neutral about Gunn and Fred's new found feelings for each other. That they hadn't even noticed anything wrong with his behaviour had made the emotional heartache all the more deeper, and now, after one of the longest days of his life, he just didn't have any more in him.
"Yes." His defeated voice sounded pathetic even to his own ears. "I'm just going to finish up this pile and ... I'll be off." He smiled tightly. "Back to my apartment, where it's nice and ... quiet."
"Okay," Angel nodded absent-mindedly before retreating out of the office, "well, good night Wesley."
"Yes." The tight smile on his face remained stonily mobile as he looked at Angel's retreating form. "Good night Angel."
Wesley glanced once more around his immaculately kept office, reluctant to go home. It wasn't that his apartment wasn't inviting and homey and welcoming - in fact, it was everything he could ever have wanted in a home - but tonight it just seemed so empty. He could picture himself with perfect clarity, staring blankly into space, revisiting old wounds and wallowing in new ones. Not that he did wallowing all that well - other men go out and get drunk, perhaps even get some lap dances from improbably proportioned women - but Wesley just liked to sit and stare into space. Really, all he needed was a nice whisky, preferably old and foul tasting, and a good, solid blank wall. Maybe even someone to talk to.
Someone to talk to.
Sliding the metal doors to his office shut, he glanced briefly towards the Hyperion lobby doors before making his way up the stairs to Angel's suite.
He tapped softly on the door, and almost immediately Angel stood before him, weariness etched on his eternally pale face.
"Wesley." A tinge of surprise coloured his otherwise emotionless voice. "What's wrong?"
"Oh nothing ..." His heart felt leaden inside him. "I just ... I was wondering if you had some time. To ... talk."
Angel's deep intense eyes registered fleeting surprise before skilfully covering it up. He swept a hand over his unkempt hair and stepped aside to let the younger man enter. "Connor's been asleep for a while now. Shouldn't need to be fed anytime soon."
Wesley stepped quietly into the room. "I'll be careful to keep quiet." He glanced curiously around the room, noting the odd yellow rubber duck on Angel's nightstand. His eyes settled on a peculiarly lumpy recliner, old in appearance, which Wesley affectionately remembered Cordelia labelling as 'the brooding chair'. Connor's bib and a bottle of formula milk had been tossed into its crevices.
"What's wrong?" Angel's gentle yet insistent voice edged Wesley out of his procrastinating observations. Never one to really open up about his emotions, he would normally have felt that opening up to the only other person in the office that was even more reticent than he was a huge disaster waiting to happen, but right now he felt that Angel was the only one he could really talk to. Perhaps it was because Angel was the only one in the vicinity who could appreciate Wesley's jilted fortune.
Fred had not been the only observant person in the room when the Groosalugg had burst so unceremoniously back into their lives yesterday. Naturally astute by nature, his eyes had registered Angel's shocked face and immediate withdrawal from the lobby. Even more telling had been his behaviour that day - while smiling his face had been too bright, his expressions too controlled and tight. It had been clear, to Wesley at least, that the last place Angel had wanted to be was around Cordy and Groo ... or anyone else for that matter.
Which was exactly the way that Wesley felt.
Wesley looked at Angel silently as they seated themselves. "I ..." He took a deep breath. "... I couldn't help but notice your reaction yesterday. To ... to Groo's reappearance."
"Yes." Angel said tightly, his eyes darting around the room.
"And I just ... Well, I just wanted to say that I know exactly how you felt." Angel's head snapped up in surprise and Wesley moved quickly to dispel the misinterpretation. "I mean, not with Cordy. With ... with Fred."
Angel leaned back into the recliner, understanding dawning on his face. "Fred and Gunn."
Wesley winced. "Yes." Even hearing the two names joined together hurt like hell.
"Huh." Angel paused awkwardly. "How long ...?"
"Quite some time actually." Wesley dejectedly said. "Maybe even since the start of summer, when you were ... away."
"What about you?"
Angel shook his head, misery now flooding his face. "I don't know. One day I was ... trying to get through Buffy's death. The next day I was doing okay and then ... suddenly it was Cordy." He shrugged imperceptibly. "It suddenly was all about Cordy. The way she irritated me and the crazy things she'd do ... And then Fred and Lorne were ramming 'kyerumption' down my throat and suddenly I noticed ..." His eyes grew distant, "I noticed that she was the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Ah." Wesley winced sympathetically at the palpable despair in Angel's voice. "I understand how that feels. Except for the part about Cordy. And the part about ... kyerumption."
Both men sighed despairingly.
Wesley stood up. "What say a couple of brooding, pathetic losers like us go to the pub and drown our sorrows in cold, foaming, foul tasting American beer?"
Angel glanced dubiously towards the nursery. "Lorne'll have to babysit."
"I'm sure that can be arranged."
Angel jerked his black duster off the coat rack and moving with vampiric speed, yanked open the door. "Wesley?"
"Yes?" Wesley answered, as he closed the door quietly behind him.
"I don't think I want to drink American beer."
"You can get drunk a lot faster with Guinness."
"You're right." Wesley nodded sagely. "Guinness it is."