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Domestic Piranha 08.5: Lost In Translation

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"Do you mind?" Wesley asked sharply, as he discovered the mug of hot chocolate sitting on top of his _Pralita ubis Corithelion_. A book which, while not rare, was still exceedingly difficult to find a copy of on this side of the pond. Irritated, he looked up to scold whichever of the SpikeXander duo had left it there -- and found no one.

Frowning, he checked the hot chocolate and found it had gone completely cold. He smiled. Whoever had left the mug there in hopes to irritate him, had obviously lost patience and left. Wesley set the mug aside, and reached for the _Roden's Compendium to _Ubis Minor_ to check what he'd just attempted to translate.

He found it, or rather, it found him, because when he laid his hand on it, the cover stuck to his palm. Upon peeling it away, he discovered the reason-- a large grape lollipop, firmly stuck to the lower left side of the cover, right over the Watchers' Council seal. Sucking in air through his teeth, he carefully pulled off the offending item and dropped it into the cocoa mug. With a look to the left and right to make certain no one was watching him, he gave the seal a bit of spit and polish, then opened the book.

To find that someone had drawn vampiric happy faces in each of the 'O's of the title page. And the index pages. And the 'O' in Chapter One. He thought briefly of slaying someone, but honestly he couldn't *prove* it had been Spike. It might have easily been Xander. Or Cordelia. Or Charles, who would be getting him back for Wes' having made him wear that apron the other day, when they'd been in the kitchen getting lunch ready. It might also have been Angel, thinking he'd be saved from accusation because who would ever think of Angel pulling pranks when there was Spike around to blame things on?

Wesley sighed, then waved a hand and chanted softly. It was really no wonder he'd become a much better wizard, with so much practice in the last few years. Doubly no wonder that he'd got so good at magics which required no fancy set up or ingredients like witchcraft did -- who had time to rummage about for roots and dried scales, when Spike and Xander were right *there*, laughing?

There-- good as new. Or at least he'd turned the ink invisible, without doing the same to the printed word. One would think they would leave him alone-- he was doing this for *them*, after all. Whichever of *them* it was who was playing about in his research area. Sighing, he turned to the appropriate page.

He considered taking a moment to wallow in his being unappreciated. All his hard work, and for what? For having his books treated like child's toys. If he hadn't just had a cup of the most glorious, fresh, English black tea, and fresh Scottish shortbread, he might have taken a moment to feel put-upon. But he was feeling rather mellow, and didn't want to waste his well-fed mood on self-pity. Perhaps later. After the tea bags were all gone and the shortbread had been found and eaten despite his hiding it with four spells, he would indulge.

Then he found a slip of paper which someone had stuck into the book, at the page he'd been working on translating for the past week. Pulling it out of the book, he discovered someone had written...a translation of the passage. Along with a short side note: "Of course, he was a drunkard, so who knows if he got any of these prophecies right?"

Wesley resisted the urge to slam the book shut. Then he didn't. THWAP! The leather cover shut with a sound that echoed in the library and sent dust motes scurrying away as if they were as fearful of Wesley's temper as *someone* was going to be, in about five minutes.

Calm Wesley. Good Wesley. Well-behaved Wesley, who was doing this, after all, for a higher purpose. He shouldn't *care* who translated it, or why. It was done. was *his* research project. It was the one thing that Wesley could do, could contribute, and *someone* had taken it away from him. Someone who wouldn't even give him that last shred of dignity, to let him solve the puzzle himself. *Someone* whose handwriting he recognized.

He slammed the book down on the desk, frightening even more dust mites and a few loose sheets of paper as well. Stood up, knocking his chair back and to the floor. He walked away, ignoring it, not caring if it looked as though he'd gone storming out of his library -- because he was. Storming out and to the stairs because he was too angry to wait for the lift and the insidious Muzak Spike had rigged it with.

As he ran up the stairs, he muttered to himself. Things only slightly coherent, about having a contribution and being damn good at it and finding out he wasn't needed for that *anyway* and how perhaps they did only keep him around for his skills in bed and why the hell they let him think he had any reason to get dressed and leave the suites if so when everything else could apparently be handled quite well by the about-to-be-reamed vampire who was still asleep upstairs.

Wesley thought about going in and dumping him from his nice, warm bed. By teleportation, directly into the pool. Decided, on very little reflection, that it was too much effort to expend on something that wouldn't allow him to see the expression on Angel's face when he hit the water.

When he reached the door, he put up his hand, as if he were about to knock. After all this time, the reflex remained. Still this feeling that he had to ask permission to enter what was, now, his own place as well as theirs. Shaking his head, angrier still at himself for the idiocy, he slammed the door open.

He took a step inside, and stopped. Frozen at the sight before him, the sight he'd seen dozens of times and always enjoyed....because he'd been there when it started. Blinked at Angel, leaning over Charles, both naked, both groaning, both -- well, perhaps only Charles was sweating, but they'd been at it long enough for him to build up a decent sheen.

Wesley saw them look over at him, Angel's eyebrow raised in query, Charles simply trying to catch his breath, before bending his neck again, lowering his head to the bedpost he was holding tightly to. Wesley's anger slipped away for a second, whispered away by the words 'not even this'.

"Pardon me," he said evenly, proud of himself that he hadn't stammered. "I shan't disturb you." He stepped backwards, shut the door, and turned. Walked away, thinking that it was difficult to be angry with his lovers for having sex with each other, when they'd been together long before he.

Wesley wasn't sure where he was walking, only that it was down. The corridors had become as familiar to him as the halls of his childhood home, and he was really only looking at the carpet, which never really changed. Walk and turn and walk, following the foot-traffic patterns in the colourless semi-shag, like wind runnels in a field of grain.

Something amber and smooth, that was what he wanted, what he was heading for, he realized, as he blinked to find himself standing outside the empty hotel bar. Well, it would do. He'd a whole new stock of Batham's in, fresh from England this morning, and he'd spelled it so that a certain sneaky little blond vampire couldn't get his larcenous hands on it without...

Clink-- clink-- clink-- clink-- was coming from within the room; Wesley pushed open the door. There on the bar, running back and forth between the lager tap and a single unopened bottle of Batham's, was a small brown newt. He couldn't even dredge up any anger. He wasn't surprised that Spike would attempt to steal his beer, even as a small amphibian who couldn't possibly have the tolerance for alcohol that a vampire had. Wesley walked over to the bar, picked up the beer and the bottle opener, and sat down on the stool.

As he opened the bottle, the newt watched him closely. Stuck its tongue out, eagerly. Wesley just waved his hand and chanted what was becoming a very well-memorized spell, and Spike was sitting on the counter beside him. Spike looked surprised to find himself fully dressed.

"Er... Was just tryin' to--" He started to go off into a typical piece of Spike fantasia, undoubtedly meant to be a masterpiece of its kind, and Wesley waved him silent.

"Don't bother. Have a drink. Get me a glass." Never one to turn down free beer, was Spike, and there was a mug in front of Wesley in the time it took him to wonder why Spike didn't just order Batham's online, instead of just trying to steal Wesley's. Probably because it was fun to annoy him. Perhaps Wesley should talk about how greatly it would annoy him if Spike ordered beer online with Xander's credit card. Not that he thought it would fool anyone for a moment...but it was worth a shot.

Wesley picked up his mug and took a long drink. Inhaled, exhaled, and took another. Brought the mug away from his mouth to look at Spike. "Aren't you going to drink yours? Or do you truly prefer goggling at me?"

Spike shrugged. "Didn't expect this to turn into a drunk so fast - at this hour of the day. Shouldn't you be reading musty books, or something? Saving the world from next month's evil?" Spike was looking at him in that annoying, infuriating, knows-all, sees-all, understands a bloody hell lot more than he ought, manner. In short, he was suddenly having a beer with Spike, the 133 year old vampire - not the five-year-old brain in a dead sexy body. Wesley took another long drink, and didn't feel any better.

He still didn't know where the extra six years came from. "Why bother?" Wesley sloshed his drink about a bit, staring into its depths as if it were a golden crystal ball. "Why on earth should I bother?" Nothing answered him from within his fermented scrying pool, so he looked up at Spike.

Who had his face twisted up in concentration, as if he were trying to figure Wesley out. Bloody good luck to him. "You suddenly given up the fighting evil biz? Going into the leeching off your lover and just generally looking cute line? 'Cos there's only room for one of us in this town, mate." Spike was still sitting on the counter, swinging his legs, and drinking from the bottle. Perhaps Wesley shouldn't have looked up-- Spike's eyes were awfully clear, and he could see more in them than he could see in the beer.

It caught him, those blue-tinted depths which saw too much. He thought he ought to pull himself away, swallowed into the safety of drunken forgetfulness. But he couldn't break that gaze. Couldn't stop himself from whispering, "Why do I do it?"

Spike blinked. "Do what?"

Wesley gestured with his beer, as if perhaps that would reveal his questions without his having to voice them. Without having to say out loud the words that hadn't quite been buzzing around in his brain since he'd shut the door upstairs. "Why do I keep going back up there?" He glanced up in time to see Spike blinking at him, confusedly. Could see the gears turning, trying to decide if he were supposed to know what Wesley was on about.

"I assume you don't mean 'Why don't I convince 'em to move to a ground-floor suite, I'm sick of Spike's bloody lift music'?" Spike said at last.

"I don't give a damn if they move to a rooftop suite. At noon. And Gunn falls off." He was aware of the petulance in his own voice, but couldn't bring himself to curb it, or to care, particularly. It wasn't as if Spike wasn't familiar with people acting younger than their years.

One of Spike's eyebrows rose, in an 'oh-ho, trouble among the toys, this ought to be good'. Wesley tried to glare at him, but couldn't work up the energy. What he really wanted...was to have more beer. Enough more beer that he didn't care what was going on upstairs. Downstairs in the library. Anywhere in the entire fucking hotel. He brought his glass to his lips to swallow, and found only a taste left. He gave the bottle a dirty look and reached for another.

"So, what'd they do?" Spike asked. His tone was half-concerned, half-gleeful. Idiot boy Spike was peeking out, wondering if he could play with Wesley's mind, and love life. Wesley noted the proximity of a handful of toothpicks. Except it wasn't Spike he wanted to hurt. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to hurt Angel and Charles, either, despite his last comment. What he wanted was to curl up somewhere and figure out why he kept giving himself to people who didn't want him.

"None of your bloody business," he answered, then changed his mind. Why should he? Why should he care if Spike stuck a pointy stick into the dying flames of whatever the three of them had, and then poked at him with it? Not as if he wouldn't figure it out anyway. "They don't need me," Wesley said slowly. "Not for research, not for anything. Not really."

Spike frowned at him, in that eerily almost-serious way he had. Wesley found it a spookier sight than Spike's completely serious look. Perhaps it was because Spike reminded him of Angel when he looked that way. "Don't need you for what?"

"For *anything*," Wesley repeated with a sigh. "At all. I'm beginning to think this was all a joke of yours...except you never manage to wait more than two hours for your victim to trip the wire; you certainly would not wait two years.

A swig of beer, and Spike was just staring at him, undoubtedly still trying to puzzle him out. "Didn't think you knew about that one, actually. Look, I know raspberry ice cream stains, and all, but you should've seen the look on Poofhead's face when that bucket fell on him." He couldn't honestly have expected an answer to that, although Wesley was half tempted to tell him just how long it had taken him to get those ice cream stains *out* of Angel's shirt. And trousers. And underwear. Spike took his silence for whatever Spike took anything for, and looked even harder at him. "You think what was all a joke of mine?"

Wesley shrugged. It wasn't like he wouldn't end up spilling it all, anyhow. He always did. He wished he could believe it was only that the beer was so good. "Getting me with them. Believing that they--needed me." A thought occurred, and he voiced it. "Perhaps they thought they did, as well."

It would be easier to think they hadn't done this deliberately. Taken him in and deceived him so thoroughly. He couldn't ascribe malice to them. Not to Charles, who would be willing to brave fire, ice, or a classical piano recital to save an innocent. Not to Angel, who was...well, Angel. Pride, foolhardiness, stubborn silence; he had seen those things. Never cruelty. In Angelus, yes. But Angelus hadn't been seen for years.

Spike blew air out through his lips in a disgusted huff. "Oh, God, what the hell 'ave they done now? Pounded some bloke for lookin' at you wrong? Forgot to mention they liked the new shower curtain? Didn't bring flowers and candy home for St. Vigeous Day?"

Wesley spared a moment and the least amount of energy required to send a sharp glare to the vampire. It bounced off, as he'd expected. He still couldn't glare as well as Angel, or Xander, or Cordelia. "The Feast of St. Vigeous is quite some time away, as you and I both well know." The bit of anger slipped away, and he took another drink of his beer.

He felt petty and foolish cataloguing his lovers' sins...but he'd never get Spike to leave him alone if he didn't. "I have been working on a translation of _Pralita ubis Corithelion_ for a week, now. Been working hard on it; Cruglagc isn't one of my better languages." Another swallow of beer. "Turns out Angel knows the language, and the man who wrote it in the first place." There was silence, as Wesley tried to decide how to say what else had happened.

Spike blinked. "That's it? He does a bit of reading for you, and you lose your knob?"

"My knob is right where it always was, thank you. I *might* have gotten a bit miffed." Wesley blew gently over the top of his beer bottle, listening to the delicate echo. He and Spike had once drunk enough beer in a single sitting to fill the empty bottles with varying amounts of water and play 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by blowing over the open necks. This one had just enough beer in it for E above middle C.

"You're not miffed," Spike said. "Miffed is when you act like nothing's wrong, wait three weeks, then put a live toad in their cherry yoghurt." At Wesley's minutely raised brow, Spike shrugged. "Right, maybe that's just *my* relationship. Anyhow, you're not miffed, you're headwanked enough that you actually gave me beer without me wheedling it out of you."

Wesley stared at Spike for a moment, trying to decide which of the various tangents to pursue. There was just something about live toads that he found himself curious about. Then he realized said toad may have been fed to the piranhas, and he realized he didn't need to know. "I am not 'headwanked'," he said, wondering just where the hell Spike managed to pick up this slang.

"*You* are headwanked. You are so upset about this translation, and whatever else is going on upstairs, that you're seriously thinking about walking out of here. Admit it, aren't you?"

"Not without another beer, I'm not." Wesley drained the last of his bottle, and reached for another. Spike put out a hand to stop him. "I beg your pardon, this *is* my beer. And you've never before expressed an interest in preventing anyone from getting seriously snockered." Perhaps if they argued about beer, or pretzels, or anything else, Wesley could avoid answering the question. Avoid considering what his answer might be.

Spike shook his head. "Oh, go ahead. Get plastered. You make a funnier drunk than the sire. I just wanna hear the answer *before* you're so pixilated y' can't say words like pixilated."

"I can say 'pixilated'. I could say pixilated even when drunk," Wesley asserted. He was willing to prove it, too. All they needed was another six-pack.

"Tell," Spike said, and Wesley knew the only thing that would distract Spike now was Xander, or the chance of beating up something evil.

A moment of depressed revelation when he thought about how hard *he* had to work, sometimes, just to get Angel to *look* at him. Or to get Charles to listen, when he wanted to explain something new he'd learned and it just happened to be during "The Rodeos" or reruns of Moesha. All Xander had to do was be within range. "They don't need me. At all."

"Yeah, you said that, and I say it's bullshit, unless you tell me what makes you think that," Spike said very seriously.

Wesley slammed his empty bottle down on the counter. Listened to the ringing, and looked at Spike's hand, still poised in the air between him and more beer. "I found them together, all right? I went upstairs to go tell Angel off about the stupid translation, and I found them. Together. Without me."

Spike looked at him as if Wesley had just touched the wrong bottle of beer and turned *himself* into a newt. "Is that all? Hell, Wes, I don't go off on a tear if I come home and catch Xan havin' a wank."

"It's *not* the same thing," Wesley said, feeling insulted and also trying not to picture the scene that had Spike's eyes doing that lightly-glazed thing.

"How isn't it? I don't think he doesn't love me anymore just 'cos he had an itch to scratch and I wasn't about. Nor him, when it's the other way round. So they shagged without you; how's that mean they don't need you? "

"Because it isn't the first time it's happened, and it's not that they're having sex with each other!" His voice was rising, and he had to control himself before he shouted it loud enough for everyone in the supposed-to-be-deserted hotel to hear. "It's the fact that I have to fucking-well seduce either of them into bed, or force them into saying what they can say to each other without any prompting whatsoever. It's *easy* for them to love each other, and I have to make them say it to me."

Frowning, Spike took a swig of his beer, then gestured with it to help make his point. "You're insane. You know that, right?" Wesley didn't answer. Spike fixed him with the almost serious eyes again. Another little reminder of Angel, another odd mental blip wherein he wondered how much of it was Spike having learned from his adopted sire, and how much of it was them being alike beforehand. "I've known Angel for a hundred and thirty-three years, give or take the odd karaoke night when I wasn't admitting to it. The man doesn't *get* subtlety, Wesley. Who'd he have to learn from--me and Dru? You ever see either of us not telling people exactly what we want? Don't mean headgames for the fun of it, but what we really want. You *have* to tell him; if you don't shove something in his ears, he's too busy countin' the rocks in his head to notice anything else."

Wesley didn't doubt Spike's words. Hell, he'd lived with the vampire for long enough to know -- he'd known Angel wasn't into 'subtle' about a week after meeting him. The first time. But he shook his head. "That isn't what I mean. I'm not subtle, Charles isn't subtle. But...Charles doesn't *have* to ask. Subtly or otherwise. You've seen them, playing around in the lobby, wrestling and throwing junk mail at each other like shuriken. They don't say 'I'd like you to have some fun with me, now'. They But I always have to ask -- and half the time they say 'no'."

The times back when he'd first been accepted into their relationship, he'd tried to join in one of those wrestling matches. He'd been set aside like an fragile book. He had persisted, for a while. Finally he'd asked why, and been told it was because they were afraid of damaging him. As if he were a child, or one of Drusilla's menagerie of porcelain dolls.

He wasn't a child, and it wasn't his fault he gave off an air of fragility. *Spike* could give off an air of fragility when he chose to, and no one refrained from beating merry hell out of *him* whenever he deserved it, or playing rough-and-tumble games with him, either. Certainly, they all knew he was a vampire and could take it, but they knew Wesley was a grown man, and could take it as well as Charles could. That left only them not *wanting* to play those games with him.

Wesley was staring at the bartop, letting himself be mesmerized by the wood grain and the beer stains and what he would just hope was a blood stain. It took a moment for it to register that Spike hadn't responded. He looked up to find Spike scowling. Thoughtfully. "What?" he asked. He told himself he was already somewhat drunk, if he was soliciting comment from Spike.

"M'thinking," came the distracted reply. Which meant they were both already drunk. Wesley nodded, satisfied. If he were drunk, he wouldn't have to say anything more, and wouldn't have to think it, either.

Except he still could. "May I have my beer now?" he asked, hoping Spike would say something to stop the thoughts from tumbling about in his head. Spike just silently popped the top off a bottle and handed it to him. When Wesley stared confusedly at him for a moment, Spike took the top back, and handed him the bottle. Wesley took a swig, and thought rather pitifully that if they really cared about him, they'd be down here by now. Telling Spike to sod off, and taking him back up to the suite to be fussed over. But no, he would have to crack his head on the floor, or go back up and make some sort of an obvious scene, before either of them would see that anything was amiss.

" 'Cuse me," Spike said, and he jumped down off the bartop. Wesley watched him, surprised when Spike set his beer down and began walking towards the door. Either he was going for more beer, or Spike had better things to do than listen to him whine. Knowing Spike, knowing himself; it could be either. "Was wrong," Spike called over his shoulder. "They're the insane ones. Wait here."

Wait here? Where the hell else was he going to go? He wasn't about to get on his bike after two beers. He could always wander off down the sewer access tunnels, Wesley supposed, but he wasn't really that drunk. Sober enough to know he wasn't sober enough to be wandering about alone. Of course, he didn't have to *remain* semi-intoxicated. He could drink a few more bottles and become fully intoxicated, or he could sober himself up in an instant. He was fairly certain he could remember the words to that spell, and all it took were a few drops of the hair of the dog that had bitten one.

He was about to spill a few drops, in fact, when he stopped. Did he want to be sober? Wouldn't he be better able to think about what had driven him down here, to confess himself to Spike? Would he be able to realize that taking off on his bike was childish, running away because he didn't want to deal with it anymore? He wasn't sure. He didn't know, and he didn't want to think about it any longer.

Which meant: more beer. Or possibly Goldschlager. He walked round behind the bar to pull another beer from the refrigerator below it, only to discover that it was empty. Spike had apparently gotten to at least three of Wesley's bottles before he happened to choose the newt-spelled one. Was he sober enough to teleport more beer? Best not try it. What else did they have? Wesley crouched down behind the bar, looking at the stock of various liquors. Certainly not Xander's undrinkable American brew.

No schnapps of any sort in evidence. A large bottle of Bols, but Wesley really wasn't mentally equipped to deal with the horrible puns Spike would make if he came back down to find Wesley drinking it. Perhaps he'd best try teleporting something from the local package store, then. A bottle of schnapps or cheap single malt, something he wouldn't really mind ruining. Just in case. He sat down on the floor, cross-legged, and tried to make sure he remembered which part of the spell went first.

There was the sound of someone coming into the room, then Angel and Charles were leaning over the bar, looking down at him. They looked horribly confused, and worried.

"Wes? Damn, he said he wasn't that drunk yet," Charles muttered, as he came around and leant down to take Wesley by the arm.

"I'm not drunk," Wesley explained. "That is what I was endeavoring to correct. But I can't remember if 'esitae' comes before 'rasitae' or after. I don't want to end up with a six-pack of wine coolers." He shuddered.

"It comes after," Angel answered. "But you don't need it."

Wesley stood up, slowly, with much dignity. "I don't particularly see how you are in a position to ascertain what it is that I need, Angel. Or to provide it, unless you happen to know where the cinnamon schnapps went." He paused for a moment, looking at the bartop, then raised his eyes to meet Angel's. "Or in Spike's terms, please sod off."

"Can't do that," Angel said, reminding Wesley that Angel had far more experience dealing with Spike's terms, than anyone. "If we let you get drunk, you won't remember any of this tomorrow, and we'll just have to say it again. Not that that's bad," he said hastily, earning an eyeroll from Charles and a snarl from Spike. Wesley turned, and saw that, indeed, Spike was standing guard in the doorway.

"What's going on?" Wes asked.

"What's going on is us being chewed out by Deadboy, junior," Charles said. He ignored the glare he got from Angel. Wesley noticed the by-play as he always did. They were so easy together....

"Stop it," Angel said sharply, and Wesley blinked at him. "I don't know what we're doing to make your eyes look like we're killing you slowly, but we don't mean to be and just *stop* until we can make it go away."

Wesley leaned his arms on the bar, and looked down, once again. "I can't. And I don't know if you can, either."

Charles came forward, resting his hands on the bartop across from him. "We damn well can't if you don't tell us what it is."

Inches away. Those fingers were inches away, and if Wesley reached out to touch them, it might make things all right, for a while. They were always making things all right, for a while. Making it go away, for a while. With sex, or stories, or footrubs-- when he manipulated them into it. Ordered them about like a pair of overgrown lapdogs. So he said nothing. Wanted to find out what they would do on their own, with no instructions from him.

They stared at him for a moment, obviously at a loss. Wesley held his tongue. Behind them, Spike made a disgusted noise, and Wesley looked over to see him rolling his eyes and mouthing something that he was sure Angel would object to...if he hadn't got used to hearing it decades ago. "Spike, get out," Angel said without even looking back at him.

"Hell, no! Wanna see how you two village idiots manage to deal with this one." Spike said it with great bravado, though he had a look on his face that almost implied that he'd be taking notes. Saving it up for future use in his own relationship if he ever managed to piss off Xander as much as these two had managed to piss off Wesley tonight. Wesley was torn between helping his lovers throw Spike out, and leaving him where he was, to distract Wesley from doing something he'd regret. Like tell Angel and Charles it was all right, he'd only been over-reacting again.

"Somebody wanna tell me what the *hell* is wrong?" Gunn demanded. Wesley found himself opening his mouth to answer. To explain, to tell him it was really nothing. He was beginning to feel slightly less drunk, and slightly less angry. Just tired, now, and all he wanted...well, what he still didn't have. "Stop it," Gunn scolded. "Don't be doin' the sad eyes thing unless you're gonna *explain* what we've done wrong this time."

Right, then. Still slightly less drunk, but the anger was making an unexpected comeback. That was the bloody problem, wasn't it? Him always having to explain. Wheedle. Beg. Order. Wesley stared right at his lovers, and almost felt something flash in his eyes. He certainly saw the surprised, confused reactions on Angel's and Gunn's faces. More confused when he continued to say nothing. They exchanged another glance, asking each other if either had a clue. Neither did. The next silent question was 'do we toss him in the pool, or just apologize in general?'

Wesley could see they were having some trouble deciding and felt a little offended and depressed all over again at how easily they did that sort of thing. When was the last time he'd been able to communicate with them, without saying a word? It obviously wasn't working *now*.

He resented, too, always feeling as if he were the drama queen of their little group. Just because he had feelings, just because he actually accepted that fact and occasionally expressed them, just because he cared, if no one else did, about remembering to put the fabric softener in before the rinse cycle was over, or not leaving the mayonnaise out so the humans in the family didn't get botulism. The little things. The fact was they treated all those things as one and the same. What did we do to set him off now? What can we do to make everything right for the next four hours? Until he gets upset about something else.

All of a sudden, it didn't seem worth it. He shook his head. "Don't trouble yourselves over it. It'll pass." He wanted to walk away, but they were blocking his way out from behind the bar. Unless he wanted to look foolish, jumping *over* it. He took a step forward, to see if they would let him pass. Charles and Angel just looked at him, as if he were the insane one in their menagerie.

"Oh for bloody's sake," Spike muttered, then stomped over. "You," He pointed at his sire, "Need to be kicked in the head, and you," --to Gunn, who gave him a look that said he didn't usually kill family but he'd make an exception in this case-- "in the arse, because that's where you're obviously keeping your brains." Well, at least Spike was now sharing Wesley's 'you're the crazy one' status, as the other two men stared at him, still mystified.

Angel reached for Spike, as if to give him that special secret sire-to-childe hand signal, where the sire picks the childe up with his hand and throws him across the room-- but he stopped. Visibly torn between getting Spike to butt out of a private moment, and getting him to tell them what was wrong, if Wesley wouldn't. Wesley wasn't sure which he wanted either. Because Wesley was, in his heart of hearts, waiting for Spike to tell *him* what was wrong, as well.

Spike sighed again, as if being the mature, wise one was giving him a stomach-ache. "Look, I'm only going to say this four or five times, depending on the entertainment value. *He*," and he pointed to Wesley, "thinks that *you two*," pointed to Angel and Charles, "have a much easier time of being in love with each other, than you do with him. He thinks he has to force you to do and say the things that make him feel like you love him. Whereas--"

"What?" Charles interrupted, spinning back to look at Wesley. "What is he talking about?" Wesley didn't answer. He was afraid of what he might say...and not say. Spike was giving him 'go ahead' motions, which he ignored. Spike muttered something which got him glared at by Angel.

Charles was looking at him curiously, though. "You like orderin' us around."

No, I don't, he started to say, then stopped. Did he? Well, yes, when it was something silly. Something like using a pout refined by hours of tutelage from Spike, to get Angel and Gunn to dance to YMCA at his birthday party this year. That was fun. But mostly... "No, I don't. In fact, I hate it," he said, only sure of that fact as the words passed his lips.

The expressions of shock that appeared on his lover's faces were almost enough, in themselves, to prove that they'd had no clue -- and had never meant to hurt him. "But you do it all the time," Angel began. Spike began backing away, slowly, and Wesley let him go, un-remarked upon.

"Because how else would I ever get you to ever say anything? Do anything that made me think you cared for me?" Wesley asked, and now suddenly the words were easier to say. Just needed Spike to get it started...and even if he did owe the vampire a six-pack of unspelled beer, he wasn't getting it. Just a matter of principle. Angel and Charles were doing even more gaping at him.

"What the hell makes you think..." Gunn began.

But Angel's voice, though softer, carried over it. "I thought we fixed this, Wes. I thought we showed you."

Wesley shook his head. "That you're not ashamed to be seen in public with me? Yes. I believe that now. But what did it take for you to even do that? Me breaking down and acting like a neglected housewife in the back room of a sex shop. Do you think I *like* always having to play the emotional equivalent of a teenage girl, just to get you two to show me some affection?"

They were still gaping, though Charles' jaw was slowing starting to move. Wesley was interested to see if he managed to actually say anything.

"You...but you...." Angel was saying, though it was clear he had no idea what he was saying. Or ought to be saying.

"But I what?" Wesley prompted.

"You never said."

"I'm saying it now," he replied, quietly.

There was silence, while Angel reacted, and Gunn continued to try to get his mandible to actually move up and down. "What.,." Charles said at last, "do you want us to do? Or not do?"

Very calmly, Wesley said, "Whatever it is you *would* do. Without me demanding, and asking, and forcing you into it. I don't *care* how you do it, but I would like to think you loved me enough to not have to be reminded to show it."

There was a bit more gaping, but at least now they were processing what he'd said. They still looked worried that they'd do or say the wrong thing -- do something to set him off again, like the most important thing was to prevent him from getting hysterical. Which was funny as well as sad, since he had never, since he was eight, been hysterical. At all. Nervous, paranoid, possibly a bit overwrought, but never hysterical. Hysteria was neither expected nor allowed of a Wyndham-Pryce.

He turned away. Let them think about it, while he decided whether he should give in, again, let them talk him into pretending everything was fine, or whether he should open the bottle of Bols after all, and sod Spike and his juvenile attempts at humor, in favor of getting extremely drunk. He wasn't sulking. Nor was he pouting, or doing any of those other emotional things that were guaranteed to spur some action from his lovers out of guilt. That was exactly what he didn't want. He was simply waiting. Wondering, himself, if there were a way to fix this. Wondering if they would need time to consider this -- time that he should leave for, so they wouldn't mis-read what he wasn't saying. He felt a touch on his arm, and looked up into Charles' eyes.

"This is gonna cost you at *least* five backrubs and cleaning out the hot-tub."

Wesley blinked. It wasn't exactly the response he'd been expecting, but.... "Pardon me?"

Charles nodded. "I will. If you promise us that you *never* *ever* fucking *ever* do something you hate because you think we need you to. Dammit, Wes, we've been doing this for how long, now? And you just now tell us this is *wrong*? No, you let *Spike* here tell us? You couldn't say it the first time it happened?"

Wait, when did this become *his* fault? "No, I couldn't. Of course I couldn't. It wouldn't have been..." It wouldn't have been polite. Correct. Proper. And *saying* it, moreover, would have made him feel just as foolish as he felt now. Saying that he needed them to love him without him asking-- was asking, wasn't it? He drummed his fingers on the bartop, then lifted up his hands. "I couldn't say it, because that would have been saying it. Don't you understand?"

"Yeah, I understand," Charles said, surprising him a little. "But what *you* gotta understand is that not saying it is worse than saying it. Man, you can't hide stuff like this. Unless you got a spell that lets us read each others' minds, you gotta--" He stopped. "Do you?"

"They're never fool-proof," he said, feeling rather numb. Was this really all his fault? "You might end up only being able to read Spike's mind, or even one of the piranhas."

"Wes," Angel said, finally moving in close enough to hold him, if he chose. "Just tell us this kind of stuff, OK?"

He nodded, then shook his head, then nodded again. "Yes. I think. But... how do I *tell* you, without it being the same thing? Don't you see, I *hate* feeling as if I have to make you feel guilty, in order to get you to see that I need something from you. And that's just what I'm doing, now." He wasn't being obstinate. He was perfectly capable of that; he had once sat in the dining room naked for seven hours, until Angel had finally agreed to turn the air conditioning up to a level that *humans* could appreciate. That wasn't what was happening here. He truly didn't know, and rather hoped Angel had the answer. Or Gunn. Or even Spike, if necessary.

Angel was shaking his head. "I don't mean tell us when you need to be told we love you, or shown, or read to, or stripped naked in the lobby, or -- no, Spike, if you put up any cameras I will remove your liver. Repeatedly." Angel sighed. "What I mean is tell us that you need to not tell us. If you'd ever said that you didn't like telling us what you wanted...we might not have done exactly what you wanted. But we would have done *something*. Because we *do* love you. Otherwise we would never have bothered, even when Spike locked us all in the roof access stairwell."

Wesley was beginning to feel a right bloody heel. He looked away, thinking that perhaps it was a wonder either of them had *any* patience for him. "I rather thought at the time that you just did it out of politeness. Since he'd teleported you straight out of bed, and me out of the shower, and it would hardly have been fair for you not to invite me to participate..."

It had served him right, really, for giving Spike the spell in the first place. A one-time only cantrip that was *supposed* to be used to transport Xander's car back from the mechanic's, without anyone having to drive him over to pick it up. Instead, there were suddenly three naked bodies in a locked space the size of a large broom cupboard. One of them soaked with water, two with sweat, and-- things had happened. Things that had eventually resulted in Wesley collaring Spike and demanding an explanation for pushing him into the middle of someone else's relationship. Things that had eventually led to them all standing in this room, looking at each other as if they didn't know where to proceed from here.

"Politeness? *Politeness*?! What the hell kinda manners do they *teach* over in England, anyway?" Charles looked at him. "Man, if we'd wanted to be polite to you we'd have just *stopped*. Or let you keep pretending you couldn't see or hear a damn thing."

"Or broken the door down," Angel said, then stopped and looked guilty.

Looked guiltier when Wesley and Charles turned to him. "You could have broken the door down?" Wesley asked. Angel shrugged.

"You said it had been barred shut or something," Charles reminded him.

"I lied?" Angel was trying to look cute. On him, it just looked scary.

Charles looked as if he were about to do something terrible to Angel's hair-- then let his face break into a small grin. Angel returned it, and once again, Wesley saw that connection that the two of them had. Felt frustrated that he didn't know how to tell them that it bothered him. Not the connection; that was wonderful. Just the fact that he didn't seem to share it.

Gunn saw it, saw something, on his face, and the smile disappeared. "See, there it is again. You're not telling us what's going on in there."

"It sounds so stupid," he replied. But he continued, even as both Charles and Angel opened their mouths to assert otherwise. "You two have something you's so *easy* for you. And I'm always left out here, watching. Wondering what it must be like to be part of it...."

"You're not *supposed* to be wondering," Charles countered, sounding frustrated. "You're supposed to know. Because you *are*."

There wasn't anything more he could say to that, though. Wesley didn't bother trying. They knew what was wrong, and now if they chose, they could do something about it. Other than stand here and tell him he was the moron who'd let it happen.

"Wesley, come here," Angel said softly. Wesley opened his mouth to refuse, and realized that it had not been a request. He hadn't been asked, he'd been told. He wasn't required to do what Angel told him to do, of course, but it was something. It was Angel doing something, Wesley wasn't sure what. He stepped out from behind the bar, moving to stand between them. Looking back and forth from one face to another.

"What..." he began to ask, and Angel put a finger over his lips. The finger remained in place for a moment, then rubbed very slightly over his mouth. Angel was looking at him with a dark, but very warm, expression. Then Angel was gathering him in his arms and pulling him close in an embrace.

He let himself be wrapped around Angel's body, as Angel pressed his face against Wesley's neck. He tensed for a moment, wondering what he would do -- then relaxed as lips kissed him softly. "I love you," he heard. Then he caught an outcry in his throat, as he felt two sharp points slip into his skin.

The pain was nothing, compared to the shock. Never. Never in all the time the three of them had been together, had Angel done this. A nibble of human teeth at his throat, ear, anywhere on his body that could be nibbled. Fangs gently grazing his shoulder, never breaking the skin. Never this, though. Never what he had seen Angel do with Gunn, any number of times.

He had never been quite aware enough to resent not sharing in it, at those times. He could become lost in sex, and sometimes Wesley wondered if his lovers took advantage of that. Used it to placate him, distract him, send him off to that lovely warm place he was in right now, where there was only him and sharp teeth in his skin, dark eyes in Gunn's face across from him, almost as hypnotized as Wesley felt right now. Except those teeth were in *him* now. Not in Charles' neck. Not worrying over Wesley's body in safer places. Buried in his neck, and he was only aware that Angel had even drunk when he finally pulled away, licking at the slight wounds. Wesley couldn't speak, which was fortunate for he had no idea what he would have said.

Grateful as well that two sets of arms were wrapped around him, keeping him from falling. Angel was just watching him, no sign of worry, just watching. Calmly, assuredly, as though Angel didn't care if Wesley had minded. He shivered. Then he smiled, just a little. "Ow," he said softly. Angel's eyelids flickered, Gunn simply stared at him, but there was a snort of laughter from the hallway outside the door.

It was rather ragged laughter, though, and after a moment, Spike shouted out, "Oi! If you lot're gonna shag in the bar, can I watch?" A trio of 'No's echoed back at him. "Aw, please?"

"Spike, leave." Angel didn't even look over at him. Still staring at Wesley, in a rather oddly calm and intense way.

Surprisingly, Spike didn't argue. He muttered, then kicked at the doorjamb, acting all round like a five year old who'd been told he had to go to bed. But he did go, and even shut the door behind him. Wesley checked the bar for Skippy, or any other of his levitating cohorts. There didn't appear to be any cameras.

"Are we clear?" Charles asked.

"Unless Spike has managed to rig up an invisibility spell for his cameras." He found it unlikely, since every invisibility spell for nonliving objects he had ever come across required the caster to have a pure and noble intent. Or a power source the size of Birmingham. Neither of which Spike possessed. He knew how hard it was to prove to the spell one had pure and noble motives -- he himself had only managed to cast the spell a dozen times in his life and he certainly had better motives than Spike... though that wasn't a difficult thing to do.

"Good." Charles moved in closer to him, and he felt the press of the man's body behind him. Warmth, and the hard lines of bone and muscle laid against his own body, contrasted with the sharp, burning cold of the vampire's gaze before him. It occurred to Wesley that he might have been safer before his lovers were unleashed to devour him whole. He shivered again. "I like that. Do that again," Charles said. Again, not a request, and Wesley didn't need to think about whether he wanted to follow the command-- the mere sound elicited another involuntary series of movements from his body.

"You..." he started to say, but Angel's finger was on his lips again.

"Not this time, Wesley. This time you don't have to tell us what to do."

He shut his mouth, and checked his nod -- standing still, instead, and tried to *remain* standing long enough. He shivered again, and Charles' arms tightened around him, and Wesley felt the man start nuzzling his neck. Right where Angel had bitten him. He couldn't stop the whimper, or the way his head lolled to the opposite side. Lips, warm- --hot, really-- where Angel's had not been, pressed against the tender flesh, mixing pain with a pleasure so strange and intense that Wesley couldn't be sure, for a moment, who had him by the throat, and whose eyes he was staring into. Especially when Gunn's broad, flat teeth grazed the skin once, then bit.

It was a claiming. He knew enough about vampire lore to recognize the meaning of biting and sealing, of drinking only enough to have the loved one's blood within, not enough to harm. To feel Gunn repeating the process, the vampire hunter, all living warm male flesh, repeating an action, a ceremony, that belonged to the race he had made his enemy for years-- it was disconcerting. Or would have been, if Wesley had any coherent thoughts from which to be disconcerted. As it was, the feeling just intensified the half-hallucination that both of his lovers were one and the same, or had switched places when he wasn't looking.

In this instance, he knew, it didn't matter which was whom, and who was holding him, who was watching, who was claiming. Because they both were, and his own body was rapidly descending into a formless pool of boneless goo. He wasn't even certain he was up to being ravished, which normally was the highlight of his days. This time, he was worried that he might not survive the experience. Already his nerve endings were misfiring, because it *seemed* as though fingers were ghosting along his face, and his arms, and his chest, yet he couldn't see that Angel was moving and Charles was still holding onto him.

He, or someone else in proximity to his brain, whimpered again. His own fingers were clutching at air, then there were hands taking his, and he was being pulled forward into Angel's embrace.

"You belong to *us*, Wesley." The words were whispered against his skull, echoing around inside his head. "But I think you know that. Think you're *afraid* of that part."

Charles was behind him, pressing against him, hard beneath the jeans he must have thrown on in a hurry, because they were all he was wearing. "'Cause you can't get it through your thick English skull that we belong to you, too," his other lover finished. The two of them could even finish each other's sentences... "Stop it," Gunn ordered. "Damn it, I can hear the little wheels turnin' in your head. Yeah, Angel and I are alike in a lot of ways. It's nice."

"But sometimes it's like making love to yourself," Angel finished. Lips cool against Wesley's forehead, now. "You bring us out of ourselves. Make us real."

He shook his head, not at all certain he was following this. Not understanding, or perhaps not really hearing it. Not hearing anything over the buzz in his ears and the tingle along his skin where Charles and Angel touched him. "," he tried to say something, despite the attempted refusal of his mind to give him any words that didn't begin with 'yes' and 'more'.

There was a pause in what they were doing, and he found his lovers looking at him, waiting. Still touching, but their fingers had slowed so that he could predict where they were going, and try to ignore the sensations.

"I'm not afraid of you owning me," he said, surprising himself with the clarity of his tone.

"No?" Who had asked? Did it matter?

"I want that. Knew it coming in. Angel's a vampire, Charles is about the most alpha alpha-male I've ever met; you're just lucky you fell in love, or you'd have killed each other, sooner or later." He was amazed to hear anything approaching complete sentences being spoken in his own voice, and half suspected that Spike had perfected that invisibility spell after all. Or learned to throw Wes' voice from the eighth floor, which was also possible. Since he could already throw it from the next room, which was something Wesley had to remember not to let on he knew about. Especially to Angel.

"For someone who's saying he *wanted* to be owned," Charles said -- he knew because Angel was kissing Wes, at the moment, "You're an awful bossy piece of work."

When Wesley had his mouth back, and his lips, and then his tongue again, he said quietly, "I was afraid I was...just the toy you'd bring out and use, and forget about between times."

Gunn rubbed large hands over Wesley's shoulders, and squeezed. "I *told* you that we belong to you, too. So, okay, you don't like having to tell us what you want. Need. We'll work on that. But why do you think we *do* it, when you do tell us? For the sex? Man, sex with you is *great*," and he illustrated this with a little grind of his hips against Wesley's backside, "But I wouldn't read 'The Pokey Little Puppy' out loud for sex with *anybody*. "

Angel looked up at him, amused. "Not even me?"

"Not on your unlife. Velveteen Rabbit, maybe."

Wesley could feel them smiling at each other, through his fading haze. It was beginning to sound as though his fears had been groundless. Silly. A finger ran up his neck, seizing his attention once more. He found Angel looking at him. "I think you're thinking too much, again," Angel said, and leant in to prevent Wesley from saying anything else.

Charles leant down to stop him from thinking too much, as well. So he let them. Let them move against him, cool and warm. Surrendered himself to the touch of skin on skin. Pulse points. He'd never known how many pulse points he had until Angel had discovered and sucked on every one. *Every* one. Never known, either, the contrast between human skin against his own, and vampire skin. If human skin was sometimes compared to silk, it was a half-hearted comparison at best. Angel's flesh against his own was indistinguishable from the shirt he was wearing, except that Angel *moved* against him.

The heat of Charles' skin, the cool of Angel's. Lips, teeth, fingers. He got lost in it, as he'd so often done. Drowning in sensation. Being distracted and soothed from whatever silly worry he'd got into a snit about. He tried to regain the thread of what they'd been saying. Wanted to find out if he believed them, or if dealing with his moods had simply made them very, very good at handling them.

He was thumped on the back of the head. "Do we have to say it *again?" The words were sharp, but the tone was just soft.

"I...I'm not sure," he admitted quietly. Honestly, the answer was yes. But he was not supposed to be saying anything, wasn't he?

A sigh, or a growl, of frustration, though not necessarily with him, he realized. Just with the whole silly situation. If he told them what he needed, he'd be telling them. If he didn't, if he got lost, he might be giving up at what seemed to be a Moment between the three of them. Allowing them to comfort him. Silence or sound, and neither one seemed exactly right. He could understand Angel's frustration. Confusion. It mirrored his own.

Gunn said it again. "We belong to you." Then he said it with his hands, wrapped around Wesley's chest. Gently stroking through his shirt.

"You belong to us," Angel said, slipping his own hands below Charles' and stroking as well. Arousing, but not distracting. Not making his brain shut down. Rubbing, as though one would soothe a tired, injured lover who had spent far too many hours slaying evil. Which he had done so many times, and always shrugged off offers in return, because said lovers were always half-asleep and unable to move in their own right. For some reason, sitting over his desk for hours never seem to warrant asking for same.

Perhaps they were right, and he *should* have asked. They must have felt him relax, or read the decision and understanding he'd come to -- perhaps they could read minds, after all -- because the caresses changed. And his trousers were being dropped to his knees.

Really? In the bar? How semi-public, how like a certain couple we know, how will we get the stains off the bartop... He started to say something, one of those things, then stopped. Let the silence carry him. Let his lovers tell him, for a change. Two sets of hands were running down his hips, his thighs, gripping tightly, taking turns moving back up and down again.

"What d'you think?" Charles asked, but he wasn't asking Wesley.

"I think...on his back. On the table. Legs up and held down." Wesley wasn't certain that enacting it would be necessary -- he was two seconds short of coming already.

"Really? Not over the bar?"

Wesley jerked a bit between them. Random firing of neurons, racing down his spine to the nerves in his leg muscles.

"Nice, but then he could only see one of us."

"Oh, yeah, like the way you're thinking." Charles sounded impressed; Wesley was simply glad one of them was able to think at all. Someone was bending down, now, and removing his shoes and trousers. A finger slid down his buttock and he was afraid their lovely plan would be for naught. Then he was being picked up and put on the table on his back and his legs were lifted. Angel was standing between his legs, Charles was right at Angel's side. They were both looking at him as if he were their first meal in years.

Another finger, whose, he didn't know, touched the length of his cock. He gasped. "I'm going to come before you start, if you do that," and who was controlling his voice, then? He shouldn't have been able to speak at all.

Angel leant forward, a bit. "Doesn't matter. This is about what *we* want."

Wesley retained just enough control over his own nervous system to nod, before he felt a hand softly stroking his inner thigh, and his head fell backwards.

It was a bloody good thing, because he heard Charles growl, "*I* wanna fuck him," and Wesley lost all control.



Wesley walked slowly up the stairs. This time he wasn't wandering blindly, in a fit of rage and confusion, but enjoying the chance to think. Breathe. Separate from his lovers for a moment, while they-- and he had to laugh-- cleaned up downstairs. Without having been asked. Walking slowly because it was all he could do to put one foot in front of the other, and not collapse into a heap of just-fucked-to-insensibility jelly.

Walking slowly because he *had*, in fact, just been fucked to insensibility, and there *were* after-effects. Walking at all because he had no particular desire to listen to Spike's evil Muzak in the lift. Where he'd found a station that played all horror-movie themes, all the time, Wesley didn't want to know.

What he did know was that somewhere above him, was a hot shower to be had. The promise of standing under the spray of hot water, then crawling into bed, was all that was dragging him onward. Perhaps he'd even take a quick shower to get clean, then grab his underwater breathing spelled cord, and take his nap in the hot tub. His brain cells threatened to go on strike as that thought occurred, and Wesley was hard pressed to remember why he couldn't just teleport himself to his room.

He stopped on the stairstep to consider it, and saw Spike carefully making his way down the stairs. Extremely carefully. The vampire was stepping down a few steps, wincing, then smiling, then repeating the whole procedure. When Wesley breathed in, Spike looked up, and the expression on his face changed-- to a familiar smug, superior smirk.

"Well now. Don't *we* look well-shagged." Spike's eyes took in Wesley's disheveled hair, rumpled clothes, and general air of post-debauchery. Sniffed, and grinned even wider. "Love's in the air, is it?"

Wesley opened his mouth to reply, something suitably dour and unamused. He stopped when he realized there was nothing he could say about it that wouldn't just make Spike look more smug.

As he was doing now. "Don't hesitate to call me, whenever you need my services. 'Spike, Love Doctor' -- though I'd have suggested they use the library. Acoustics really are better--" Then Spike wasn't saying anything. Rather, if he was, Wesley couldn't hear him. He doubted Spike was saying anything, other than "glub, glub", after being teleported into the pool. Smiling a bit smugly himself, Wesley continued up the stairs.


the end