by Wolfling

(Rated NC-17


Part 19


Angel led the way inside, keeping a weather eye on his companion the entire time. Wes was so keyed up that he seemed to be radiating nervousness like an aura around him. But despite his fears, he didn't complain or protest, just followed Angel inside, lips pressed tightly together in an ever-so-faint frown.

It made Angel want to reassure Wes again that everything was going to be all right, but he didn't think it would do any more good this time than the times before. Still, as they waited in the lobby, he felt like he had to do something to provide comfort, so he reached out to squeeze Wes' shoulder.

Which turned out not to be as comforting a gesture as he had hoped; Wes jumped at the first touch and practically levitated away from Angel's hand. Definitely not the reaction Angel had been going for.

"Sorry," he said at the same time Wes said the same thing.

That at least pulled a ghost of a smile out of Wes. "I seem to be a bit...jittery," he added all unnecessarily.

"Yeah, got that impression. It's okay." The words Angel had repeated in so many different ways with little obvious effect slipped out again.

"I know," Wes answered, looking like he knew nothing of the sort. He looked more like he was waiting for his own execution.

He looked so bad that Angel found himself thinking that maybe they could put this off for a bit longer, give Wes some more time to adjust. There were other buildings in Eureka where they could hole up for the day and then they could try again tomorrow night. In fact the more he thought about it, the better an idea it seemed, especially when he imagined Wes' reaction to the reprieve.

He got as far as asking, "Do you-" when he was interrupted by the green cyclone dressed in chartreuse entering the room.

"Angelcakes!" Lorne didn't so much embrace him as clap both his hands to both of Angel's upper arms. "Here you are at last. We were expecting you two, three days ago."

"Yeah, well, ran into some trouble, Feral mage and his gang had breached the wards on the Las Vegas place. They've been taken care of, but it all took time." Remembering just how they were taken care of, Angel sent a fond look in Wes' direction, noticing only then that Wes'... jitteriness had gotten worse and that he was staring at Lorne like a deer caught in headlights.

He wasn't the only one who noticed; Lorne also seemed to take note of both Wes' attention and his unease, as his manner if anything became even more ingratiating and likeable. "And I see you brought back a souvenir," he said with a bright smile. "Have to say, Angelcakes, in much better taste than those flourescent glow-in-the-dark rubber ducks the last team through brought back." Lorne stepped forward towards Wes, holding out his hand with an encouraging smile. "Welcome to Caritas. It may not be what it was in the old times, but what is nowadays? I'm Lorne, the proprietor and your host for the night. Or day, in this case. Travelling with a vampire will throw your bodyclock right off I bet."

Wes still looked like he would like to be anywhere but where he was, but he squared his shoulders, held his head up and shook Lorne's hand. His courage seemed to falter a little when he spoke because all he managed was a quiet, "I'm Wes."

Angel took that as his cue to jump in. "Wes was living in the library in LA -- protecting it."

"Was he now?" Lorne visibly looked Wes over more closely, nodding at the shotgun that was sticking out of Wes' pack. "I guess being a librarian these days requires a whole different set of job skills."

"Just being alive requires a whole different set of job skills," Wes replied, coming off very cold and formal; Wes' anxiety seemed to have leeched all the personality from Wes' face and voice. It hadn't, however seemed to affect his courage because the next words out of Wes' mouth were, "I understand that there's some sort of reading that's required I undergo?"

"It doesn't have to done right away," Angel put in, wanting to give Wes more time. Maybe if he got to know Lorne a bit better it would be easier on him.

"But it has to be done, does it not?" Wes asked, turning that cold and formal expression on Angel. "I'd much rather just get it over with." A flicker of warmth showed in his eyes and his voice softened just a little as he added, "But thank you for the option."

"We can get over with the getting right now, if you want," Lorne put in, his manner more compassionate now that he had an inkling about how nervous about this Wes was. "All I need you to do is sing something, doesn't matter what. I'll let you know when you can stop."

Wes nodded, though he was looking like he was going to be sick. But with one last glance Angel's way, he took a deep breath and began singing in a slightly shaky tenor.

"Dance to your Daddy, my little laddy
Dance to your Daddy, my little man
Thou shalt have a fish and thou shalt have a fin
Thou shalt have a codlin when the boat comes in
Thou shalt have

Lorne held up a hand to stop him and Wes trailed off uncertainly looking like he was bracing himself for the worse.

"Relax, my little book worm," Lorne told him giving him a warm smile. "Nothing bad's going to happen -- least not because of this little tete a tete. Angel told you I read destinies, right?"

Wes nodded, expression caught between wary and confused. It was, Angel thought, at least an improvement on the trying to hide stark terror thing he'd had going on before.

"Most of the time," Lorne continued, "I have to nudge people into the right place, some I even have to wallop with a giant clue by four, they're so far off of their path. But not you, lovemuffins. You're exactly where you're supposed to be."

Wes frowned. "That's it?" he asked, disbelievingly.

"'Fraid you missed the floor show," Lorne replied with a smile, nodding towards the entrance to the small bar area he had set up. "You can catch it tomorrow night before you leave if you can talk your vampire par amour into spending the extra time." He turned more serious. "You've got good instincts, kid. As long as you listen to them and don't get in your own way and you'll do just fine."

Wes still looked confused, but it seemed to be dawning on him that whatever it was he thought was going to happen wasn't. He turned to look at Angel and there was something like relief in his eyes along with a different kind of emotional glow altogether. "It does seem to be working rather well so far," he said thoughtfully with a tiny smile which Angel found himself returning goofily.

"It doesn't take a destiny reader to see that what you two lovebirds need right now is a room!" Wes blushed as Lorne tossed a key to Angel. "Room 226. Don't say I never did anything for you."

Angel nodded his thanks, pleased to be looking forward to a door that closed and locked, a big bed to sleep in and Wes to sleep with. At least eventually sleep. He gathered up Wes with his eyes and started to head for the stairs. Halfway there his brain caught up with his libido and he paused, looking back over his shoulder at Lorne. "Shouldn't I sing for you? For the report?"

Lorne shook his head. "Time enough for that after we've all gotten some rest and girded our loins for that little ordeal. In the meantime, just take care of him."

There was something about the way Lorne emphasised the last, combined with the hard look he gave Angel, that made it clear it was more than just idle conversation. Whatever he saw when reading Wes seemed to have brought out all of Lorne's protective instincts.

"I'll do my very best," Angel replied, the words a solemn vow.


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