Title: Burn the Candle Down
Author: Kay
Email: kaygrr@hotmail.com
Website: ssfdu.tripod.com/kay/journal.htm (thank you Sandy <g>)
Archive: Angelslash <g> Anyone else, just ask. Iím easy
Feedback: Oh, please. I have a specific happy dance just for feedback.
Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, and Angel the Series Pairing:
Wesley/Angel
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Angel the
Series and the characters of the show don't belong to me in anyway
whatsoever. I'm not that lucky. This story is written for enjoyment, not
for profit. Again, I'm not that lucky. Litigation would be a waste of
time, people. I'm a member of the Starving Student Sect.

A few notes before the story...I wrote this fic for Sandy in honor of her
birthday.  She is the woman responsible for dragging me onto Buffy and
Angel lists...bless her.  She is also the amazing person who maintains the
website I have.  Go there, and look at the pretty pictures.  Those, the
formatting, all of it are her work.  Take a moment and send good vibes her
way - no one deserves it more. Sandy, you are a wonderful person, and I am
so thankful you are a part of my life. <hugs>

********

Burn the Candle Down...Sandyís Birthday Story

Wesley locked the door to his apartment with a certain sense of relief. He
just wanted to leave the entire day heíd just had behind him, leave it out
in the hall where it could be stolen or vandalized or whatever, so long as
it was away from him.

Of course, the day wasnít over yet.

It already felt like it had been a year long. Work had been horrendous:
nothing he had tried to do had gone right, no reference heíd suggested had
led to the answer they needed, he hadnít reacted fast enough when theyíd
faced down the evil. To top it all off, heíd been even more clumsy than
usual.  Heíd felt Angelís gaze on him for most of the day, and just
knowing that the vampireís attention was focused on him had made his
fingers thick and nerveless, his tongue dull and stuttering.

Shoulders slumped, he made his way into the minuscule kitchen, dropping
his coat and keys on the scarred surface of his table. Loosening his
collar, he opened the refrigerator and pulled out the final part of his
day. No use putting it off; the sooner he got it over with, the sooner
this day would be over.

One way or the other.

He carried the two items he had retrieved over to the single chair in the
living room area. He sat down, and placed one on each arm of the armchair.
Settling down, he considered each of them for a moment.

The first was a bottle; untouched, unopened. The thick black liquid within
seemed to absorb the light, giving off no sparkle, no glint of reflection.
It looked heavy, inert. Dead. Appropriate, considering what it was: bile
of a Nroti demon. Contained within a heavy crystal decanter, it was
corrosive, noxious, and incredibly deadly.

On the other arm, a small single-serving chocolate cake, topped with a
single thin candle. A lighter sat on the plate, beside the spoon that
rested companionably against the dessert.

"Happy Birthday to me..." he muttered under his breath. Time for the
ritual to begin.

As he had for every birthday since his seventeenth, he lit the candle with
a single practiced move. As the flame danced merrily atop the candle, he
nodded a little to himself. Heíd best get started; he only had until the
candle burned all the way down.

Time to justify his continued existence. If he failed, the cake would be
left untouched, and he would finally open that bottle. The bottle that he
had continuously carried with him, over seas and across countries, making
it the one constant in his life. He had lost his place, his sense of self,
his goal and purpose, and slowly found new ones to replace them, but he
had held onto the bottle through it all. There was something comforting
about the bottle; a promise of escape, of a final accomplishment that he
couldnít possibly fail to perform.

So. Was his life worth living? Had the past year made him a useful person?
 Or had he finally lost all shred of purpose?

Pros first. That was also a part of the ritual.

He was working to aid the Powers That Be, working on the side of Good to
stop Evil in the city and help protect and preserve its innocents. He had
a place in Angelís group; he was helping them. He had his own apartment,
and was living on his own, no longer dependent on anyone. He had saved
lives in this past year, and had furthered his learning and understanding
in several areas of demonic lore and culture.

He nodded minutely. "Not bad, Wes. But youíre only half-done."

Cons second. One must be methodical, after all, especially when justifying
oneís existence.

He was helping the Powers That Be, but anyone could do his job, with some
training in demonology and languages. A few months of concerted study, and
any reasonably educated person could replace him. He had a place in
Angelís group, but it seemed as though his was the place of the bumbler,
the inept; he was there for comic relief and to demonstrate how *not* to
do things. He may have saved lives, but heíd needed his own saved time and
again. For every time he was able to feel helpful, there was also a time
when he felt he was utterly in the way. As for living independently...he
repressed a sardonic laugh. His apartment barely qualified as livable, and
he was scraping by from meager paycheck to meager paycheck, building up no
savings at all. And he may have learned more, but what good did that
knowledge do him? It only served to isolate him further from mainstream
life, to force him deeper into the shadows, to render him more useless in
all other areas of life.

Wes knew he was avoiding a final issue, one that would likely be the
deciding factor in his decision. Jaw set resolutely, he forced his mind to
consider one last fact: he was in love with Angel.

He had always found the vampire attractive; how could he not? The classic
features, the tortured eyes, the quiet demeanor, the hesitant compassion
of the other man all served to make him more than a mere object of
physical lust.

As he worked beside him, Wesley had fallen until he was irredeemably in
love.

He had managed to hide it so far, but he knew his deception couldnít
continue.
 
Angel would soon discover it, whether it was by Wesley giving himself away
through too many stolen, wistful glances, or more prosaically by scenting
his desire every time he came near.

Wesley cringed a little in his chair, imagining it. Angel would look
startled, and then displeased. Then his face would go utterly blank, and
he would probably disappears into one of the hotelís numerous rooms to
brood about it for a while. Then, after a few days, he would wait until he
and Wesley were alone. Only then would he walk over, handsome features set
in an expressionless mask, and say, "Wesley, Iím sorry..." Sorry I donít
love you. Sorry I *canít* love you. And every time after that when their
eyes met, Wesley would see pity and discomfort lurking in those beautiful
eyes, shaming him to his very soul.

There was no way Angel could miss it for much longer. He was just going to
end up embarrassing himself, and worse yet, embarrassing Angel. He was
sure to lose what little respect the vampire did have for him. He should
just drink, drink and save them both the pain before he caused it.

Wesley traced an edge of the squared-off bottle. A few swallows, and he
would be gone. No more worries, no more shame, no more hurt.

No more chances to save Angel.

He sighed, even as his gaze wandered over to rest on a book on his table.
A book that contained a spell that could potentially bind Angelís soul to
him permanently, at least until he was rewarded with his humanity. There
was only one catch; if Wesley cast the spell, it would be anchored in his
own body, and in order for it to continue functioning, he would have to
stay close to the vampire, see him every day.

Could he do that? Cast the spell, knowing that he would have to see Angel
every day, then? Knowing that he would inevitably have to face Angelís
pity and sad disdain every day?

Even as he watched the candle burn down to the bottom, he knew the answer
was yes. If he could allow Angel to feel happiness, if he could banish
some of the shadows from his too-dark eyes, then it was more than worth
it.

With one hand, he pinched out the guttering flame; with the other, he
placed the bottle on the floor.

"Perhaps next year," he murmured.

He picked up the cake and held the spoon in one hand. Time for the final
part of the ritual, at least the final part so far, as he had chosen to
live: eating around the puddle of wax that was hardening on top of the
cake. As he cut into the dessert, a phrase floated threw his mind...Ďcanít
have youíre cake and eat it, tooí. He snorted. "Stupid cliché." He took a
bite, relishing the sweet darkness of the chocolate.

Before he could enjoy a second taste, a knock sounded at the door.
Repressing a sigh, he stood up. He could get rid whoever it was, and then
get back to celebrating his continued existence in peace. He placed the
cake on the arm of the chair, then walked over to the door and opened it.

"Angel?!"

Wide, earnest eyes stared down at him. "Hi, Wesley. Can I come in?"

"Of-of course," Wesley stepped back, cursing the return of his stammer.
Inconvenient little curse. "Is something wrong?"

"No, not exactly." Wesley cringed as he watched Angelís gaze wander around
his ratty little apartment. "I just wanted to...is that smoke I smell?" He
stepped further into the apartment, stopping only when he sighted the
barely-nibbled at cake. "Whatís that?"

"Nothing," Wesley said. No one knew it was his birthday; he didnít want
them to know, didnít want to have anyone interrupt his ritual.

"Wes, itís obviously not nothing." Angel moved further into the living
room. "Wax...a birthday cake?"

Wes? Cursing the fluttering in his stomach, Wesley shook his head. "Angel,
itís nothing."

"It is, isnít it? A birthday cake. Itís your birthday, and I had no idea."
Angel sound upset to a degree out of proportion to the situation. Shaking
his head disgustedly, Angel punched the wall lightly. He pulled back his
arm to do it again.

Wesley couldnít just watch. He reached out and grabbed Angelís elbow.
"Angel, stop. Please. Donít trouble yourself over this. No one knew. It
doesnít matter."

"Of course it matters!" Angel turned quickly to face him, then looked
away. "I should have known."

What was this? "I didnít tell anyone." Wesley knew he should step away,
back off, but he couldnít. It wasnít just the desire to stay close to
Angel; he was honestly worried about the other man.

"Iím not anyone," Angel said, gaze clinging to Wesleyís with
near-desperation before he stared down at his feet. "I should have known.
Iím not anyone, Iím the one..." His voice lowered until Wesley could no
longer hear him.

"What?" Wesley asked softly.

"Iím...Iím the one...who loves you," Angel murmured, pointedly not looking
up.

What? Wesley shook his head, sure he had misheard. It had been a long day,
after all. "What?"

Angel looked up, tension and sorrow clearly written on his features. "Iím
sorry, Wes, I never meant for you to know. Iím in love with you."

"But...when...*how*..." Wesley struggled to form words. He wanted to sit
down, to give his wobbling legs a rest, but he couldnít. Angel looked like
he was ready to bolt, and Wesley couldnít let him leave. Not until he
figured out what was going on, at least.

"I donít know when it happened. I tried to stop it when I realized what
was happening, but I couldnít. You were there, and I couldnít resist."
Angel reached out a hesitant hand, which hovered beside Wesleyís face, not
quite making contact, as if he didnít dare to touch him. "You are just
so...you. You are always there, no matter what is going on or what is
needed, no matter what the cost to you might be. I always know youíre
going to be there when I need you; I donít have to look, have to check to
be sure. But I do look, because I want to make sure that youíre all right,
I have to know that youíre safe."

Wesley felt his stomach clench. He wanted so badly to believe Angel, to
believe that his fantasies had somehow come true. He knew better, though.
That wasnít how his life worked.

He smiled as gently as he was able. "Angel, youíre over-reacting. You feel
the same way whenever Cordelia and Gunn are in danger. You care about us,
all of us."

"No, I care about them. I *love* you." Angel shook his head. "I never
intended to tell you. I didnít want to burden you with this. I love you,
Wes. I care about Cordelia, but I donít sit in her chair after she has
left, just so I can feel the last vestiges of her heart there. I worry
about Gunn, but I donít follow him home at night. I donít wish that I
could watch them sleep, that I could hold them throughout the night. Just
you, Wes. I love the way you frown when youíre translating, the way you
adjust your glasses, the way you smile at the corners of your lips and
eyes. I love your laugh, your courage, your determination." He shrugged
helplessly. "I love you."

Wesley stared at him. What could he say? He had never imagined this, never
allowed himself to do so, in order to save himself pain.

Angel misread his silence, and sighed. "I shouldnít have come." He pulled
his hand away from Wesleyís face. "Iím sorry to have bothered you. I wonít
bring this up again, I promise." With a ghastly travesty of a smile, he
started to walk past Wesley.

No! Wesley wasnít going to let this happen, wasnít going to lose this
chance. He reached out and grabbed Angelís arm. "Donít go."

"Wes..." Before Angel could say any more, Wesley cut him off with a kiss.
Angel struggled for a moment, and Wesley just pushed himself closer, held
on tighter.  After a moment, Angel relaxed and gave in.

Good; that allowed Wesley to concentrate on feeling the kiss, rather than
on keeping Angel near.  He moaned softly, involuntarily, as the kiss
deepened, and Angelís tongue caressed his own.  He could taste the other
man; something ancient, and mysterious, and as smooth as fine scotch.  It
was utterly irresistible, utterly addictive.

Just like the feel of Angelís body:  the unyielding hardness of his chest,
the incredible strength of the arms that encircled Wesley tightly, the
softness of his lips.  All completely unforgettable.  Wesley held Angel
more strongly, burrowing closer to him, never able to be close enough.  He
gave himself over utterly to the experience, fearing that it might never
come again.

It was with a sense of resigned sorrow that he felt Angel pull away.  He
knew the moment had to end, knew that it couldnít last, but the knowledge
didnít help.  He wanted to live in the taste and the feel of Angel.
Forever. Standing alone, bereft of that perfect place, Wesley opened eyes
and looked at Angel.  He had to say it, to taste it once aloud on his
lips.  "I love you, Angel."

The dark-eyed man rocked back on his heels, an expression of open wonder
on his face.  "Wes..."  He reached out for the younger man.  The move was
suddenly aborted, and he then firmed his jaw and shook his head.  "Itís no
good.  Wes, I want this too much.  I want *you* too much.  Now that I know
you feel the same..."  He swallowed hard.  "Iíd lose my soul again.  Iíd
lose you - Iíd lose *everything*."  His gaze met Wesleyís, and they shone
in the dim light of the apartment.  His mouth opened as if to say
something more, then he turned abruptly and moved toward the door.

This couldnít be happening.  Not when they were so close!  Wesley turned
his head away, feeling despair well up within him, when his gaze fell upon
the book on his table.

The book with the spell.

"Angel!"  Even as he shouted, he lunged toward the vampire, catching him
by the sleeves of his enveloping coat.

Angel turned around with violent speed, features twisted in a mask of
pain. "No, Wes!  There is no way this can happen."  He drew in a slow,
unneeded breath.  "I wonít risk hurting you, Wes.  Not for anything."

"You donít have to risk it," Wesley said quietly.

"What?"

"You donít have to risk your soul, you donít have to risk any of it."
Wesley picked up the book and showed the spell to Angel.  He watched the
other man read the spell.  "I canít cast it right now; you can see that
some of the ingredients are a little hard to come by.  First thing in the
morning, Iím sure I can..."  His voice trailed away as Angel looked up and
met his gaze. There was terrible hope those dark eyes, hope and
understanding.

"Wes, youíd be willing to do this?  Act as anchor?  Tie yourself to me for
who knows how long?"

"Angel...Iím already tied to you.  I have been; you just didnít know it."
Anything else might have said was lost as Angel dropped the book and
surged forward, trapping Wesley between the wall and his body.  Angelís
mouth descended over his with frantic eagerness, the hunger of their kiss
made a pale shadow by the new onslaught.

Wesley slid his arms inside Angelís coat, wrapping them around the other
man and pulling him closer.  For endless minutes, nothing existed for them
except the feel of the other, the wet glide of lips and tongue, the
stroking caresses of desperate hands.

Finally, Wesley pulled his mouth away from Angelís.  He succeeded in
freeing his lips, but Angel just moved on to licking the line of his jaw.
Wesley groaned, then managed to gasp out, "We canít..."

"No, we canít," Angel agreed, as he tongued his way over to Wesleyís ear.
"But tonight, I can watch you sleep.  Tonight, I can hold you close and
listen to you breath and feel your heart beat."  One last lick, and he
leaned back to stare into Wesleyís eyes.

"As it happens, I was feeling somewhat fatigued," Wesley ventured.  He
watched as a delighted smile crossed Angelís face.  As he led the other
man to his bedroom, his gaze passed over the abandoned crystal bottle.  He
had to remember to get rid of it; he didnít think heíd be needing it
anymore.  He also spied the cake, and a smile crossed his face.

Forget the cake.  He was going to have his Angel, and make love to him,
too.
 

Who needed cake?
 
 
 
 
 


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