Sheep's Clothing
by M Phoenix

The first time Nina noticed, really noticed Wesley, he was half sitting on Angel's desk sharing some unintelligible, esoteric joke with Fred. He was holding a book; long, slim fingers wrapped around the spine, pale as moths against the worn leather. And Nina realised she wanted to sculpt his hands, mould them for herself in rich, brown clay; feel it shape and warm to life under her touch. Then Angel strode in -- coat billowing, even in the relative stillness of the air conditioning -- and she forgot all about the strange, British, book guy.

Next morning though, when she woke up naked, bruised, and with a fur ball tickling the back of her throat, the first image that came to her human mind was Wesley's hands.


Months passed -- Nina coming and going with the moon -- until the second time she really noticed Wesley. The offices of Wolfram & Hart were never exactly normalcy central but she'd gotten used to the weird, ‘we're newly not evil, ask us how,' vibe. There was a kind of comfort in her routine incarceration; in the clank and rattle as Angel locked her in the cage and gave her that reassuring, sympathetic little smile that made her heart do the fluttery thing. But that day she knew something was wrong as soon as she passed the guards and potted palms in the foyer. Wesley was pacing, no, prowling in his office, the floor littered wall to wall with books like broken birds. The man had five day stubble that Clint Eastwood would have killed for, and Nina could smell the reek of Scotch and despair even from the open doorway.

"Hey Wes," she said; casual as she could, "I-I was looking for Angel -- time of the month again y'know."

"Ah. Angel. Yes, yes, Angel, of course you would..." Wesley trailed off, stopped pacing; stared at her, through her. For a long moment their eyes met, and that crazyemptyburing look that Wesley somehow couldn't hide, made the wolf in Nina's clothing uncoil and howl in recognition.

That night in the deep, basement, cage, the wolf dreamed of a man dreaming of a wolf dreaming of a man -- restless and forever lost.


The last time Nina saw Wesley he didn't see her.

Nina had never done what she was told by her dad, her babysitter, her school guidance councillor or anyone else. So when Angel ordered her to leave LA, for her own good, (with the smell of her still fresh on him) it was only a matter of time before her inner surly teen rebelled and gave him the finger. She made it all the way to LAX, and shepherded her big sis and niece safe onto a plane for far, far away, before she turned back and walked open eyed into the apocalypse...lite.

The long night after the night of blood and fire, she finally tracked Angel to what was left of a once grand hotel. She walked the echoing corridors and wondered why the hell she wasn't in Florida.

He had chosen one of the smaller bedrooms, high up, close to the coming dawn, to lay Wesley out. The body semi-naked, broken and battered on its single bed, yet still managing to seem formal in spite of it all. Nina stood in the frame of the doorway and watched, knowing she was about to cross a line, knowing once she did she could never go back to the ‘real world.' Flash frames in her mind. Spike slumped in the corner, vanishing inside his duster. Fred -- Illyria she reminded herself -- cold blue, emanating silent fury and pain, at her station on one side of the bed. No Lorne. No Gunn. The frames slowed and whirred to a stop. Angel hunched over Wesley; his broad shoulders shaking. He dipped the cloth he was holding into a basin of water resting on the nightstand, wrung it out, and continued gently washing the grime and blood from Wesley's body. The light, the poses, it's like a Caravaggio she thought stupidly.

She felt like an intruder in this tableaux of grief, unable to cross the threshold. "Hey," she said at last.

"You came back," Angel murmured, not looking up from his task, voice expressionless.

"Yeah, I guess I did. This time I'm staying." She moved forward then, pushing through the invisible barrier to stand beside the bed. Closer, but not too close. Wesley's body was pale, almost unreal, his cheeks and eyes already taking on a waxy, sunken look. But Nina thought she saw a little smile at the corners of his mouth, the illusion of something that could have been peace, and she had to fight the urge to cry. Inside her the wolf dipped its head and whined low in its throat.

"I wish I'd gotten to know him better," she said quietly.


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