by Wolfling

(Rated NC-17


Part 8


Wesley ran.

Heart racing, breath burning in his lungs, mouth dry with terror, Wesley ran. Through dense woods he ran, small branches stinging as he hit them, trying to go even faster.

Behind him he could hear them coming, as branches snapped and crackled loudly in their wake. He didn't dare look, didn't want to know how close they were. He knew if he looked they would catch him. So he did the only thing he could; he put his head down and kept running.

He ran beyond the forest and down a city street, still not looking behind him. He knew what he would see if he did: the trees in flames. He can feel the heat of it at his back as his feet pounded the pavement as he ran.

And still they came. Wesley could hear them calling him now, the horrid sound of his name coming from ruined throats merging with the crackle of flames. Trying to block them out, Wesley put his hands over his ears and kept running.

There, finally, up ahead was his redemption. The library beckoned him with the promise of safety. If he could just get inside, he'd be beyond their reach because they couldn't follow him there. Finding the reserves to put on one last extra burst of speed, Wesley dashed for the entrance. His hand closed around the door handle and he felt the greatest surge of relief and triumph as he pulled it open...

Except it didn't. Horror and terror quickly turned the triumph to ashes as Wesley pulled with all his strength and the door still refused to budge. He was locked out. Barred from the one place that gave any promise of safety.

He was still tugging frantically on the door handle, when a hand closed on his shoulder and spun him around. The smell of burning flesh filled his nostrils as the sight of flames filled his vision.

"Wesley..." his father rasped through lips being consumed by fire.

Wesley screamed.

"Wes! Hey! Whoa! It's okay! You're okay. Really! You might want to- Can you even hear me?"

That certainly wasn't his father, Burnt or not, and the incoherent concern shook off the hold that the nightmare had on him. His own scream still echoing in his ears and his throat, Wesley took a deep breath and opened his eyes.

They were still in the car. Wesley found himself wedged against the passenger door, curled as much into a protective ball as he could manage. And he had a vampire watching him with very worried eyes.

"Wes?" Angel asked hesitantly, one hand reaching out to touch Wesley's shoulder, but stopping before making contact. "You awake now?"

Not trusting his voice completely just yet, Wesley nodded and uncurled his limbs and stretched as much as he could manage in the front seat of a convertible.

"Good," Angel murmured more to himself than to Wesley. He nodded and continued to regard Wesley worriedly. "You okay?" he asked after a minute.

Wesley nodded again and this time attempted words. "'m fine. It was just a nightmare." His voice, he noted was harsher and more raspy than usual; Wesley suspected that that last scream had been a bit more real than a dream.

"Yeah, I know," Angel told him. "I mean, I figured as much even before the dramatic waking up. You were whimpering in your sleep."

Oh great. Like it wasn't enough that his subconscious seemed to consider it its duty to try and scare him out of his sanity if not his life on a regular basis, now it was making sure that he embarrassed himself as much as possible while doing so. He groaned and covered his face with his hands.

"You sure you're okay?" Angel asked, now sounding worried and suspicious. "It sounded like it was a pretty bad one."

"It was," Wesley replied, voice muffled by his hands still over his face. "But it wasn't anything I haven't dreamt of before." Which wasn't quite entirely the truth -- the part about the library had been new. "I'm all right. Really." He raised his head again and did his best to give Angel a reassuring smile.

It wasn't a complete success as Angel continued to cast worried looks his way. "Don't suppose you want to talk about it or anything?"

Wesley shook his head quickly. The last thing he wanted to do was give those particular ghosts any more weight or substance by talking about them.

Angel still looked dubious. "All right," he said. "But if you change your mind...."

"You'll be the first to know," Wesley promised. It was an easy promise to make as he couldn't think of the circumstances that would ever make him want to talk about his nightmares. He'd already said far too much about what caused them, which was quite probably what had brought this particular nightmare on in the first place.

Casting about for something to change the subject and push the lingering images out of his mind, it dawned on Wesley something that he should hve noticed much, much sooner: that they were no longer moving.

"We've stopped," he stated. Looking out the windshield, he could see they were in another parking garage much like the one where Angel had parked the car in Los Angeles.Wesley could see all this because Angel had for the moment, left the car lights on.

Angel nodded. "Yeah. That's because we're in Las Vegas. The rest of the drive is pretty long and there's no verifiable safe stopping places for a good deal of it so I don't like tackling it without having a full's night's time to do it in. We'll continue on at sunset."

It was Wesley's turn to nod in agreement; he didn't know where Unity was so he had to rely on Angel's navigational skills to get him there. Even if it meant losing almost an entire day -- or night as the case may be.

"Come on," Angel said, reaching over and clasping Wesley's shoulder briefly before opening his door. "The building above us used to be one of the best hotels in Las Vegas. Unity's managed to claim it and run it as a safe house. They've managed to get one or two suites mostly functional -- one of Unity's mages has a way with heat and water spells and he's even managed to get a working hot shower."

Wesley shivered in longing. It had been.... god, he couldn't even remember when he last was able to have a hot shower. "That sounds.... heavenly."

Angel grinned. "Yeah. Combine it with some of the most comfortable beds I think are still left in the world and..."

"I'm sure," Wesley said quickly. "But I don't think I'll be needing a bed." Images of his father Burning were still so fresh in his mind that he could almost smell it. "I don't think I'll be sleeping much the rest of the night."


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