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Themes and Leitmotifs

by Jennifer-Oksana

Date: Sunday, December 01, 2002 2:52 AM

     Themes and Leitmotifs
     Author: Jennifer-Oksana (jenniferoksana@yahoo.com)
     Fandom: Angel
     Rating: R
     Website: http://jennyo.imjustsayin.net
     Spoilers: Apocalypse Nowish
     Distribution: List archives, standing orders, others by
     permission.
     Disclaimer: Joss, not me.
     Summary: If Wesley has not always loved wisely, at least he
     has loved well.

Wesley imagines what it would be like to admit what they both knew at the time: that he was, quite simply, in love with Angel. To admit that Angel wasn't exactly encouraging of his affections, but then again, neither did he exactly mind Wesley's blind devotion. Angel, and this is the thing that can never be mentioned, probably got off on it.

Those were the days, Wesley thinks feverishly, when he dares to think of them at all. Fewer complications back then. Less heartache all around. The handsome dark-haired boys longed after Angel, and Angel chased after blondes with attitude instead. Lindsey, Wesley happens to know, was as much in love with Angel as he himself was, but Lindsey had what Angel wanted, and thus earned the attention Wesley never apparently deserved.

Darkness. Ugliness. Angel has ever loved the fascination of what's difficult. And Lindsey, back then, was beautifully difficult, and he wouldn't just let Angel fuck him the way Wesley would have. Lindsey would have demanded to be on top. He would have demanded mutuality, respect, a little grace. Even with a plastic hand and endless humiliation, abjection wasn't in the Southern man's vocabulary. And Wesley, in those days, was so desperate for a little love, a little acceptance, that he would have given it up for a friendly smile.

Angel knew. Of course Angel knew, and he was kind enough not to take advantage. Though sometimes Wesley thinks it was less kindness and more a way of asserting power. A vampire does not control passion well, even with an inferior. The closest they came, then--and oh, God, they had been close--had been during a late night in the hotel, at the beginning of the drawn-out Darla troubles. Cordelia had announced loudly that she was going to go crawl Sunset with her old flunkies, and that they were boring her to death.

Wesley had stayed to do research. At least, he had planned to do research. Somehow, he'd found himself knocking about the hotel--so new to them then, and even emptier, too--finally ending up exploring the courtyard all by himself.

"Great view, huh?" Angel had asked unexpectedly, brushing against him. "Look. Isn't that Orion?"

His heart wouldn't stop pounding. Angel was behind him, touching him, saying obvious things to him, and it was all Wesley could do not to tremble and flee.

"Yes, I believe it is," Wesley replied, thanking God for the cover of night, praying that Angel didn't smell the arousal on him. "It's a pity that this place has fallen into such disrepair. Quite an amazing place, really--"

Angel's hand was on his shoulder. Not in a friendly way. Angel was touching him the way he'd dreamt of, and Wesley was paralyzed, rooted to the spot, forcing himself not to shiver.

"You're a good friend, Wesley," Angel was saying, the hum of his voice rough and almost velvet. "I always know that you'll be there when I need you."

He was going to scream if Angel kept teasing him. Even for utter flunkies, there were limits, and Angel was pushing his far, far beyond the pale.

"Of course, Angel," Wesley managed to say. "Whenever you need me."

"I need someone very badly," Angel murmured, his lips almost touching Wesley's earlobe. "And it wouldn't be too much of an inconvenience, would it?"

Still holding back his shiver, Wesley swallowed. He wondered when his mouth had gone so completely dry, as his heart started pounding in his ears, the blood rushing and a tiny headache building behind his eyes from keeping so much control.

"Of course n-not," Wesley gasped. "Never an inconvenience. Angel, I--"

He forced himself to turn around, and confront the look on Angel's face. Oh, God. Wesley will never forget the look on Angel's face. There was no doubt how Angel had driven the Slayer--two Slayers, come to that--nearly mad. Angel, when his eyes were full of desire, was the sort of man who turned bones to water, who spread thighs with an amused half-smile.

"I know, Wesley," Angel had said, putting his hand on Wesley's mouth. "I could have you so easily, couldn't I?"

Wesley found himself unable to answer. Even without Angel's hand on his lips, there were no words. So his eyes spoke for him, and Wesley's eyes have always been eloquent beggars. Perhaps they pleaded with Angel to take pity on a fool in love, a child crying for the moon, because Angel smiled again, taking his hand away.

"Keep us safe, Wes," Angel murmured, leaning in close and giving Wesley a chaste kiss. A kiss that killed all of Wesley's hopes. A kiss that left little doubt in Wesley's fevered mind that he would never win, show, or place in Angel's affections. A kiss that drove him to bleached blonds and Virginia, to an entirely different path than he'd been on before. One chaste kiss. "Will you do that for me?"

Wesley, his heart torn into pieces, nodded.

"Thank you, Wes," Angel said, touching Wesley's arm briefly before disappearing back into the hotel and into his dreams of Darla--and, Wesley imagines, of Lindsey.

And Wesley, even brokenhearted, kept his promise. He had done his damnedest, sacrificing everything, especially his own happiness, to keep them safe. Kidnapping Connor, ultimately, had been just another desperate attempt to do what Angel had asked. Even Lilah, in some ways, was just Wesley keeping a promise to the man he had loved with his entire heart.

Every time Wesley looks up at night and sees Orion, he thinks of that kiss, of the way Angel had looked at him with all that frustrated desire. He wonders, occasionally, if Angel ever did fuck Lindsey. He considered asking Lilah, but Lilah had her own lingering Lindsey issues ("I fucked him once or twice. Nothing serious. Late night on the desk kind of thing. Before you guys. Is it sad that sometimes I miss that Okie motherfucker?") and it's not wise to bring up the past, especially a past as dead as Lindsey. Not to Lilah, not to Angel, not to himself. Dead things deserve to rest.

Keep us safe, Wes.

Wesley still tries.


Gunn, he's quite certain, loved him back.

He had been fond of Virginia, and she'd been fond of him, but falling in love with Charles Gunn had been the real revelation of Wesley's year. It had been nearly painless, really. Waking up one morning in March, feeling the ache of the bullet wound, and thinking, my word, I'm in love with Gunn. Love had been that simple and that easy, and it hadn't been long before Wes discovered Gunn felt the same way.

Summer has always been Wesley's best season when it comes to love. Angel had gone off to Sri Lanka to find himself, Cordelia had sulked her way through his absence with great lan, and Fred had hidden herself in her room, nothing more than a thought that didn't ask to be pondered deeply. The air had been warm and the cases had been frequent but easy. There had been plenty of time for Wesley and for Gunn.

"I've gotta fuck you right now," Gunn had said on a June-July-August afternoon, both of them filthy with battle grit. "Come on, Wes. Upstairs."

"We're covered in slime," Wesley protested feebly, still trailing Gunn up the stairs without the least bit of actual resistance.

"So what's a little more?" asked Gunn, smiling that smile that always made Wesley's heart sing arias. "C'mere."

Mouth to mouth on the second-storey landing, the two of them fumbling against each other. Gunn was as hard as he was through the jeans, pulling him closer, Gunn's hands fumbling through his hair with need. It had been better than a million small Angel smiles. This was mutual, this was good, this was better than anything--

"This is really--" Gunn's hands tugging at his shirt as Wesley moaned--"Quite--" Wesley rocking his hips into Gunn's, earning a growl-- "Indiscreet--"

"Then get your ass upstairs, English," Gunn said roughly. "Or we're gonna be indiscreet right here."

Wesley can't remember if they made it upstairs or not.

It seemed as though the summer would never end, as if they had found eternity in three months, like some sort of ridiculous beach blanket romance movie. They'd gone to the movies a lot, taking Cordelia with them and bringing Fred tacos, burritos, enchiladas, horchata, nachos after they came back, leaving them at the door as offerings. Sometimes they would just drive, ride through the sprawl in Gunn's truck. Once, on Mulholland Drive at three in the morning, Gunn had pulled them over and they'd gone at it right there, leaving Wesley breathless at their audacity.

"You and me, man," Gunn said. "Nothing like it."

"No," Wes agreed, leaning in for another kiss. "Absolutely nothing."

They had laughed a great deal at how good it was, romping in Angel's own bed (it was the best one in the hotel and he wasn't there to know about it), and overall, enjoyed themselves thoroughly. Almost heaven, really, the whole affair.

"I swear to God, Wes," Gunn said. "Sometime you're gonna look at me the wrong way with that mouth of yours, and I'ma have to jump you in front of God, Cordelia, and everyone else."

"It'd be the ruination of us," Wes had teased. "By day, manly demon hunters--but by night--"

Gunn had flinched. There had been a thousand signals in hindsight, little nervous tics that suggested Gunn wasn't as comfortable about being in love with another man as Wesley was--not that Wesley was out and proud himself--but at the time, Wes had been besotted and blind to any flaws. Angel could rot in Sri Lanka for all they needed him. Wesley had Gunn, and Gunn had Wesley, and they both had Cordelia and Fred to take care of, and that was plenty.

But somehow, even as the summer started becoming the subtle and almost non-existent California autumn, it had gone sour. Not that it had ever been an avowed relationship. Even Cordelia had never guessed, and there had been so many days where Wesley and Gunn were all but making out in her eternally royal presence. Perhaps she'd simply accepted that all of the men in her life wanted each other the most, like a good little fag hag handling the endless denial.

(Cordelia had confessed during the beige Angel days that she was quite sure she'd never dated a completely straight man, suggesting that Cordy knew about Wesley and Angel at the very least, though Wesley was always curious about Xander Harris after that.)

Finally, there had been the day in mid-September, just before Angel's return, when Gunn had looked at him, and his eyes were stranger's eyes. Wesley didn't say a word about it--what words are there when your not-quite-lover has decided he's not going to fuck men anymore?--and things had begun to disintegrate for Wesley from then on out.

Fred chose to come out of her room at just the wrong moment, really. What if she had waited another month, another day, any day when Gunn realized that he was being stupid about Wesley? Would it have been better or worse?

The world had nearly ended for Wesley the night he'd had to really break it off, when he let Gunn know that love affair or not, friendship or not, there were certain things Wesley couldn't put up with.

"It's never easy, the pull of divided loyalties. Whatever choice we do end up making, we feel as though we've betrayed someone--" and the cruelty of telling Gunn that he'd fire him, trying to put Gunn in his place. The words, the choice, had of course come back to bite Wesley in the arse, later. Worse yet was the bitterness that came after that night, the way that Gunn turned away from him, if only to turn to the female Wesley.

Neither of them wore jealousy well. Worse yet, Gunn had clearly never mentioned to Fred that there had ever been a Wesley and Gunn, even after he won Fred's affections. Wesley understood in a way--there was enough grim backstory at Angel Investigations--but it had ached, nonetheless.

Worst of all had been the way Gunn had manipulated Wesley with Fred, the last time he'd spoken to them before Mistress Morgan had finally insinuated herself into Wesley's bed. The simplicity had been there, the bond that they both had imagined was gone forever. Gunn knew that Wesley could help, and Wesley did, claiming it was for Fred. And when Gunn slammed the door behind him--it had nearly shattered Wesley's tenuous grip.

They had loved each other, something that had been true and would have been healthy if they'd been able to admit it publicly. And Fred, for all of her strengths--and she is strong, far stronger and braver than either Wesley or Gunn, who do not deserve her--Fred is not good for Gunn, and would be far worse for Wesley.

Indeed, if the day ever comes when Fred discovers that there was a Wesley and a Gunn, that they had hidden something far worse than Seidel and primal misogyny from her, she will spit in both of their faces, and good for her. She deserves better, and hopefully the day will come when all three of them will simply be able to admit that. Because that will be the day Wesley and Gunn will finally have to be honest.

They had loved each other, and that love had been strong enough to turn to poison when they let it die the way they did, smothered and suffocated and never completely uprooted. Gunn still hates Wesley more than anyone for his "betrayal" of Angel Investigations, because once upon a time, he had loved him the most, trusted him the most, and wishes he still could. Wesley feels more or less the same way.

Because, of course, when the rain of fire came, and the sky fell, Wesley took Gunn into his arms, dragging him out of the way of danger. Hatred or not. Resentment or not, Wesley saved him. Because he loved Gunn--loves Gunn, perhaps will never love anyone as much as he loves Gunn--and Gunn had loved him back.


To borrow a phrase:

If Wes had a tumor, he would name it Lilah. Lilah, the little scratch on the roof of his mouth that would heal if he could only stop tonguing it, but he couldn't.

Not until she was dead, anyway.

Lilah, his Lilah, his Lilith, Delilah, Lily, Lola, Lolita, Morgan le Fay, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, his lovely lovely Lie--

Within three weeks of their first sexual encounter, he was fucking her every night, discovering all the different ways he could make her come screaming his name. Love never even entered into his mind. She was his newest and best drug, the way she completely took the pain away in her complete surrender.

Sex and drugs and rock and roll, and Wes had been a good boy for far too long. Lilah didn't care if he was bad or good, as long as it was with her. Handcuffs, alcohol, the Rolling Stones, ecstasy, blindfolds, David Bowie, amyl nitrate, leather gloves, high and low and low and high, they were going insane together and it was an incredible ride.

"My dear, you bruise so nicely," he told her as she begged him to fuck her harder, driving them both to near-frenzy with her all-consuming desire. "Would you like that? I think I would--"

Later, he collapsed against her for the third or fourth time, the bruise pooling under his skin, as she laughed and laughed.

"Don't you dare underestimate me, Wes," she warned him, her body nearly wrecked beneath his. "Shh. Let me kiss it better."

After a month of sheer madness, he'd had a moment of perfect clarity--during orgasm, of course. He owed her his life. He didn't love her, of course--there was nothing to love about Lilah--but all of the pain and rage and suicidal self-loathing he had built up, she took from him, into the abyss that was her desire for him. And he was grateful to her for that.

What she needed from him, why she accepted his disdain and laughed, he couldn't think about it. The idea that he was saving her soul the way she saved his life wouldn't occur to him until much, much later, when it was far too late.

And it was good, good in a way that Wes had never imagined a relationship as tense and dangerous as theirs was could be. They had carefully insulated it from everything else. Rescuing Angel hadn't destroyed them; Justine was little more than a come-on; even the trick she'd pulled with Lorne had only made them a little shaky. The rest of the world was too fucked up to handle, so they tacitly agreed to let the bedroom be their own personal Pax Romana.

Until Wesley, ever the paranoid bastard (and stinging because after all the months of passionate surrender, he still didn't control her the way he should), ruined it with idiot comments like, "Leave them on."

He hadn't understood that she loved him. Loved him with an intensity that she'd previously reserved for DKNY, Armani, Prada, and her best friends, Manolo and Jimmy. He thought she was simply predisposed to being a vicious bitch, that dressing up like Fred had been a way to make him hurt. Now Wes realizes that she'd been terrified, that the idea of losing him to Fred had broken Lilah's protective shell in a way that no one could imagine.

Still, they had managed. And had he loved her, despite himself? It was entirely possible, he thinks, remembering them limping out of the ruins of Wolfram and Hart together as she alone survived another wholesale slaughter. Ever the survivor, Lilah.

The message from his mother had been waiting on the machine when they arrived, exhausted and pale, at his apartment. His father--the entire Council--all gone. She had stayed with them, the two of them huddled together as they slowly killed two bottles of Glenlivet and night faded into daylight, their bruises briefly numbed away with alcohol, caresses, and weariness.

She whispered to him that she had as good as killed her father when she was thirteen, after Wesley confessed that he was glad his father was dead.

"He said I was his beautiful girl," she murmured, dry-eyed throughout the whole accounting. "Why would he say something like that?"

They'd fallen asleep on his couch eventually, drained beyond movement, and during the next three days, every time he'd touched her or she'd touched him, there would be something new about it, a new direction in the ongoing fiasco that was Wes (never Wesley with her, not really) and Lilah.

Of all the people Wesley has loved, the only one he truly failed was Lilah. Then again, wasn't it always their fate, especially once Angelus came into the picture? Betrayal had never been too far away, and Angelus was all the dark things in Angel, who'd had a prior claim on both of them. This is what Wesley tells himself when he must sleep, but he knows it's a lie.

Wes called Angelus forth to save the world. And when Angelus got away from them, Wesley fell into his oldest, cruelest pattern. Fred was the Madonna, Lilah was the Whore, and he was so certain that Angelus preferred the madonna that he couldn't see the obvious.

Angelus didn't care about madonnas or whores. Angelus cared about making it hurt.

It plays like a nightmare still, locked into present moments, refusing to heal and retreat into the soothing past. Wesley is always walking into his apartment, clutching a crossbow, ready to kill.

"Lilah? Lilah, where are you?"

"Wes? Is that you?" she asks softly, always eternally perfect in the moment, half in shadow, half in moonlight, the curve of her face, her breasts, her body outlined and practically glowing. "What's wrong?"

"Angelus," he says breathlessly, taking her hands in his. "Thank God you're all right."

Her head falls on his shoulder. "I'm okay," she says sleepily, a feline at heart. "I'm fine. I love you. Come to bed with me?"

His body relaxes. "Yes," he agrees, cupping her face with his hand. She's so beautiful, the way she looks at him, leaning in for a slow kiss as her body melts into his.

Her heart never beats. And he knows, and knows that she knows he knows. She always pulls away then, and holds herself perfect still, completely fearless in her silence.

"Oh, Lilah," he whispers. "Oh, God. I'm sorry. I should have--did he--" and of course he had. Angelus wouldn't be satisfied with the kill, not after all the promises Angel had made to Lilah and to him. Angelus would gladly make it hurt, make her beg, and then make it hurt worse.

"He said I was such a beautiful girl," she says, and now Wesley can see the leftover tear stains on her face, the blatant ravishment. "Please, Wes. I'll go after this, but don't--I can't--not like this, Wes."

Wesley knows exactly what Lilah wants, and he doesn't want to give it to her. She's already a cold, dead thing, and what's worse, a dangerous thing. But he can't leave her like this, not with Angelus' gleeful punishment eating at both of them. And he loved her, he knows that now. He loved her, though not enough.

"Please, Wes," she wails, putting herself in his arms.

"I love you," he tells her, easing her down against the bed for the last time, kissing her everywhere he can kiss. "Shh."

Another surrender, another frenzied moment, and in the end, it's all he can do to pull the stake from his discarded jeans. She's pinned beneath him, and she's barely born to darkness, hasn't fed yet, and thus isn't strong enough to fight him. He can barely summon words, but he has to do this. For her.

"Close your eyes," he instructs quietly, counting three in his head.

She keeps them open. He buries the stake in her heart.

And he knows that she'll never forgive him. As well she shouldn't.


It seems, in the end, that he deserves Faith. That they deserve each other.

This is neither entirely a blessing, nor is it precisely a curse. If Faith is still the same half-wild girl that he betrayed so thoroughly as a Watcher, she is also the woman who survived a path as rocky and difficult as his own, and lived to forgive him.

Forgiveness seems to be their theme. He forgives her, she forgives him, and on the days when Wesley can't forgive himself, Faith forgives him again, and vice versa. If these days come often, it is only to be expected. Even without their history, it has been a terrible year, one that seems to be healing very slowly for both of them.

She has stories as painful as his own when it comes to love and survival. He never would have imagined half of them, even though in retrospect, all the pieces fit nicely. He simply didn't have the same sort of understanding in Sunnydale as he does now, nor did he have the maturity to listen.

He listens, now, and Faith is more than willing to share. Her voice fills all the silences that reign over Wesley's world, sometimes sharp in tone, sometimes purring and kind. She wants to know more about his past, about the promises he made to Angel, the purity of his love for Gunn, about his endless guilt concerning Lilah. When he has words, he tells her, wherever they happen to be.

They have taken to traveling the entire basin, from San Clemente to Thousand Oaks to San Bernardino, and through the tangle of freeway and strip mall and quiet bedroom communities that turn the valleys into twinkling lights and exhaust fumes, the words slowly come, the words that he thought might be lost forever.

Wesley tells Faith the entire story of Lilah's death while they fight a malicious gang of werewolves in Hermosa Beach, all of them taunting and hissing at them before the knives come out. Faith, enthralled, makes him retell it as they sit in traffic on the 5 North through Buena Park and Norwalk, whistling at the nightmarish climax.

"You did what you had to do, Wes," Faith finally says as they climb out of his SUV, patting him awkwardly on the shoulder. "I'm sorry you had to do it, though."

She is the only person who has managed to say something even remotely kind about Lilah's death. Perhaps because she's the only one who understands. And her understanding, despite Wesley's tendency toward stubborn wallowing in guilt, is pulling him out of the endless self-blame, reminding him why he keeps trying for happiness in a world like this.

One rather dull Sunday afternoon in April, they become lovers. Faith quietly crawls into his bad and shakes her head when he tries to protest, putting her hand on his chest.

"It's something we both need," she murmurs, shedding her clothes easily and gracefully as he watches. "If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. No hard feelings yet, okay?"

He understands what she means, though he wouldn't have in the past. But he's learned a few lessons from the past few years, and one is that yes, it can simply be comfort sex without ruining everything. And at first, that's all it is, little more than wordless therapy, blind fumbling of body against body, exorcizing the ghosts lingering around the corners of their minds.

It's an uphill battle. Faith calls him Angel more than once. Wesley asks her to put on one of Lilah's suits and for a moment, she looks more Lilah than Lilah herself. Wesley eventually apologizes to her--to both of them--and after a few weeks of intense discomfort, the ghosts finally seem appeased. Soon, it's as though they never existed.

If Wesley does not love Faith with the same innocent devotion that he loved Angel, or the same simple mutuality that he loved Gunn, or even with the fevered passion that he loved Lilah, she doesn't grudge him for it. Their relationship is calmer, more considered, occasionally quite wry in its tenor. Quite simply, they are a good fit, are Faith and Wesley. They fight well together, they fuck well together, and they interact well together.

"I'm ordering Thai," she tells him on a normal night as they limp into his apartment, bruised and almost bleeding. "I'm fucked, and everything in the fridge is shit."

"All right," Wesley agrees. "I'm opening a bottle of chardonnay. Is that all right?"

"Kickass," Faith says, picking up his phone and dialing. Wesley goes to the wine rack and picks out a bottle, feeling remarkably unburdened. No ghosts, no lingering guilt, perhaps even a touch of happiness trying to pull its way out of the grave he keeps trying to bury it in.

He pours two glasses of wine, wondering how he keeps managing to do this. Every time he's done with caring for this world and all of its magnificent wretchedness, all of the idiots who make it such a lovely and amazing place to be (he impresses himself with the sarcasm), someone manages to stop him. Perhaps he's not such a misanthrope as all that, as lovely as it would be.

"Wes?" and Faith is there, small and fierce and completely real in the midst of all his pompous wondering. Her eyes are full of all sorts of emotions, flashing and expressive, and he reaches out to touch her, half-surprised that she's there and solid. "You okay?"

"Just thinking," he says, handing her a glass.

"You know what I say about that," she teases, hopping onto the counter and sipping her drink. "It's bad for you. Makes you all Mr. Broodycakes and that's no fun."

"Right, then," Wes says, taking his own drink and smiling. "I shall endeavor to think less in your presence."

"Damn skippy," Faith says, finishing her wine. "It's okay, you know? If we're happy. If you're happy."

Happy is their leitmotif.

"I know," he says, setting down his glass and lifting her off the counter. It seems incongruous that someone as powerful as Faith could be so light. She weighs nothing in his arms, nothing at all, as if she were spun glass. "And we are happy."

"Yes, we are," she says, looking up at him with a real smile on her face. "Of course, never would have guessed. Would you?"

He shakes his head. He deserves Faith, he remembers, as they kiss, for better and for worse. And they are happy, despite all that they have been through. It's more than anyone could ask for: forgiveness, love, perhaps even redemption.

Wesley is glad for it, for all of it. At this moment, he wouldn't change a thing.

"Some things," he tells Faith as they tumble onto the couch, "Some things should stay surprising."

End


Jennifer
http://www.imjustsayin.net

     "Beauty brings copies of itself into being. It makes us draw
     it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people."
     --Elaine Scarry

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