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by Sophia Prester

Notes: Set sometime after "Home," sometime before the beginning of S5

Disclaimers: "Angel" and all associated characters belong to Mutant Enemy.

"I always thought I'd be there beside her, you know?"

Wesley said nothing. He stared into his drink as if expecting some mystical wisdom to waft up from the glass of Oban.

"I mean, I was there from the beginning, helping her out--when I wasn't being her archenemy --loving her, being loved by her... And then there was that damned prophecy."

Having decided that the Scotch was better at killing a few unneeded brain cells than imparting wisdom, Wesley drained another glassful.

"Okay, so the vampire with a soul is supposed to play a big role in the Apocalypse and help out the Slayer. I kinda thought that would mean that I'd be there with the fighting and the struggling, and holding back the forces of evil, but nooo..."

If asked, Wesley would have to admit that he was only half-listening to Angel's rant, but even so, he knew exactly what Angel was going to say next.

"A delivery boy. All these prophecies, all these tests, all these trials, and what does this big important role end up being? A delivery boy. Hi, Buffy. How's the fight going? Ultimate evil causing a ruckus? Well it just so happens that I have this nifty little amulet... Well, you're welcome Buffy. Good luck, and maybe I'll see you again in another year or five."

"Prophecies rarely do work out the way one expects," Wesley said gently. He was tired. Just so fucking tired. He wanted to tell Angel to shut the hell up, but for some reason, he felt that he had no right to do so.

"But Spike?" Angel laughed and took another drink of his blood. The Wolfram & Hart commissary had been given strict instructions to give Angel only pig's blood, but Wesley had his suspicions. "That's what really gets me. All this business about the 'vampire with a soul' being the one to work with the Slayer to avert the Apocalypse. I can't stop thinking about it. What if Spike was the one the Powers intended to be there all this time? What if the only reason I went through everything I did was to draw attention away from the real vampire with a soul?"

Angel's fist left a splintered dent in the inlaid bar. Wolfram and Hart's decorators hadn't skimped on anything. Wesley suspected that the woodwork in the executive bar had knocked more than one species of exotic tree onto the endangered list.

Angel took a deep breath--reflex, thought Wesley--and forced himself to calm down. "I bet Spike doesn't lose his soul if he experiences perfect happiness," Angel muttered.

"Given that he's dead, I hardly think that matters anymore," Wesley pointed out.

"As far as we know, he's dead," said Angel. "Who knows what happened after Buffy left the Hellmouth. I mean, I came back from Hell. I don't think anyone was expecting that."

There was another of their long silences--most of their conversations seemed to be little more than heavy silence punctuated by the occasional rant--and Wesley poured himself another drink. Perhaps a nice 20 year old Port Ellen would have more of a Delphic quality and point him towards some kind of answer.

Meanwhile, Angel went back behind the bar and put another unit of blood into the microwave. The bartender knew that the Big Boss and the head of Prophecies and Research preferred to serve themselves and preferred to drink in solitude.

As far as Wesley knew, Gunn, Fred, and Lorne never visited the bar. Lorne and Fred were still in the throes of kid-in-a-candy-shop euphoria over their new jobs. Gunn, for whatever reason, had become increasingly distant since they'd accepted the offer to run Wolfram and Hart.

After fifteen minutes of silence, Angel spoke again. This time, he looked directly at Wesley.

"Wes, is it possible that all this time I was just some kind of stalking horse? Is there anything in all those prophecies you've studied? Is there anything that says that I might not ever become human like they promised?"

Wesley put down his glass. It sounded much louder than he'd expected. "I don't know," he said. "As I have pointed out time and time again, prophecies rarely turn out the way one expects. You're better off not thinking about it if you can help it."

With no further word, Wesley left the bar and headed back to the library.

Loopholes. Hidden meanings. Allusions. Subtleties in translation. Contradictory sources. Corrupted texts. If being a prophet was difficult, then being an interpreter of prophecy was bloody well impossible.

Every time Wesley went to read one of the volumes of prophecy in the Wolfram and Hart library, he could hardly keep his hands from shaking. Every word he translated--even if it was from something simple like Latin, Sumerian, or Cretan Linear B--he second-guessed. What if he was wrong? What if he'd missed a nuance of declension or conjugation? What if he'd interpreted an idiom as something literal?

The reports he submitted to Angel or Fred were laden with footnotes pointing out this or that alternate interpretation, or noting places where he didn't feel comfortable with the way something was phrased. The cross-references alone took up over a third of each document.

He spent hours reading and re-reading each prophecy, trying to find out where he might have gone wrong. He would stay up well into the night, and then when he finally tried to go to sleep, sudden jolts of panic would jerk him awake.

If he drank, he could sleep, but the way he felt in the morning made it hardly worth the effort.

He wished he could remember what had happened, what had gone so terribly wrong that he no longer trusted his own intellect or training.

Sometimes, if he stared into his drink long enough, he could almost remember.

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