Talk To Me
written by Byrne

Rating: FRC
Spoilers: Post Season 3 of Angel.
Summary: Wesley meets a person from his past while in London.
Feedback Author: Byrne
Author's Website: The Crypt

It was raining as Wesley walked down the narrow London street, neatly dodging the spray from a passing vehicle. He was more comfortable with this dirty, grey rain than he had been with the brilliant sun of California, but it was still a relief to step into the bookstore and out of the cold.

The shopkeeper was expecting him and had his purchase already wrapped against the weather, but Wesley undid the paper and examined the book thoroughly before paying for it. It was exceptionally rare and he had to be sure that it was an original and not a clever forgery; the spells would not work if they were not written on the correct paper. Wesley was not so much interested in the spells as he was in keeping the manuscript out of certain hands. He paid for it with cash, handing over an extraordinary amount of pound notes to the shopkeeper, who looked at the stack of money with a feral glitter in his eye. Wesley was unconcerned with the manís greed; he didnít care if the shopkeeper reported the book stolen and failed to hand even some of the cash over to the broker who had located it. That wasnít his concern.

The book safely rewrapped, Wesley turned to leave the shop, pausing as the door opened to allow entry to another customer. In the shelter of the bookstore the newcomer and Wesley stood and stared at one another, immediate recognition crashing over them both. Wesley greeted the man with a slight incline of his head, one part of his mind noting that he looked just as he always had, with perhaps a few more crinkles around the eyes. Wesley walked past him, escaping into London and the grey of the rain.

* * * * *

He sat in the silence of his flat and stared at the bottle of whiskey on his coffee table, waiting. Finally, a day later than he'd expected, there was a soft knock at his door and he rose, crossing the room to glance through the spyhole in the door. He knew who his visitor was, but the habits ingrained into him in the States were still necessary. One did not open the door before looking. After confirming his guestís identity, he pulled the heavy door open and stood aside, allowing Giles to cross the threshold without spoken invitation.

Giles held a bottle, a twin to the one on the table.

"I expected you last night," Wesley said as Giles removed his coat and hung it on the antique coat tree.

"Yes, well, I had a business engagement I couldnít break. Sorry you had to wait." Gilesí voice was as even and calm as Wesley remembered, although his manner was more assured as he moved through Wesleyís flat.

"No matter. I knew you would come," Wesley said, gesturing to a chair.

The two men sat down, both bottles on the table alongside a pair of glasses. Wesley broke the seal on the first bottle and poured them each a drink as Giles looked around the room.

"You have some wonderful books," Giles remarked, studying the closest shelf.

"I collect them."

"How long have you been in London?" Giles asked curiously.

"About three years now," Wesley replied, sipping his drink.

"Itís a wonder we havenít run into one another somewhere. What sort of work are you doing, if you donít mind me asking?" Giles reached for his own glass and settled back into the chair.

"The same as I was, actually. There's always someone needing a translation of an obscure text. I'm also working on indexing the religious books of a demon clan called the Rotiaul. Are you still with the Council?" Wesleyís voice was hoarse, as if he didnít speak very often, although that wasn't perfectly true. He tracked Giles' gaze, noted when the man saw the scar on his neck, and debated simply telling him what specific damages had been inflicted. The trouble with that, however, was the chance he wouldn't stop at the mere physical, and there was hardly any point at all in talking about the past.

"Ah, no," Giles said, looking away. "Our association came to an end some time ago. I'm doing some private consultation now." He finished his drink in a quick swallow and poured again. "As you say, there is always someone in need, although I tend to work more with humans. I think demons are a little uncomfortable with my association with Buffy."

"You're probably right. That may also explain why we havenít trod on each otherís toes before. We always did approach things from opposite directions."

The two man sat and drank in silence for a few moments, engrossed in memories of their lost families in America.

"Are they well?" Wesley finally asked; it seemed like the thing to do.

"Yes, I believe so. They are grown now, and are living their lives." Giles smiled slightly.

"They donít need you anymore," he observed.

Giles smiled again. "No, they donít. But they do try to keep me informed, when they think of it."

Wesley merely nodded. He did not get phone calls from the States.

Giles leaned forward and asked, "Do you want to discuss them?"

"Who? Your charges?" He saw the look in Giles' eyes and corrected himself. "Oh, them. No, I think not. It is not a pleasant topic, and most days it's all I can do to forget. I would rather not."

Giles accepted the answer and nodded his head.

Wesley tried to see himself through Giles' eyes and wondered if he was being morose. He knew very well what Giles would see--his perceptions were more acute than most people's. He saw the pain, of course, and the loneliness. Wesley gave credit and decided that Giles would see the steel in him, the results of what he'd seen and learned. Gone were the gawkiness of inexperience and the nervous reactions of a man unsure of his own mind. Giles would see that Wesley was quiet in his skin, at ease with his abilities, if not his past.

Never his past. Not with what he'd done, no matter how very necessary. There had been a huge price to pay for what he'd done, and the scar on his neck was the least of it.

Giles would know that, too, and suddenly the pleasantries of the conversation were too much acting, too much useless sound.

"Why did you come here, Rupert? Why not just pass off our chance meeting as just that? Surely you donít have any interest in me. Or are you to report back to Sunnydale about my current state? No, donít answer, I know how unlikely that is. I should be surprised if they ever think of me. And those in L.A. know how to find me if they wish." Wesley stood and picked up his glass, moving to the large window. He stood there looking at his own reflection and the room behind him, the darkness outside making it a mirror rather than a portal. He watched as Giles rose also and walked towards him, stopping when they were abreast.

"I came to see for myself," Giles said quietly.

Wesley turned to face him. "To see if I am insane? If I am actually cruel enough to do what I did?"

Giles turned to him. They stood there, framed by the window pane, and stared at each other.

"To see if you are really that strong."

"And am I?"

"Stronger than I had suspected."

And still they stood.

"What do you want, Wesley?" Giles asked.

"Whatever I can get."

And Rupert Giles moved, just a little, and the two images on the window glass merged.