Becoming A Man In Five Easy Steps (The Contemplative Remix)
Step One: Uphold family traditions, and make a name for yourself.
"Three. Hello Buffy. I'm afraid you've come at a bad time."
"I'm feeling that."
When she had first noticed Wesley was in the room, Buffy had experienced a moment of disgust. She remembered his time in Sunnydale all too well, and in spite of his efforts to make amends in the hours of crisis in dealing with the Mayor, the taint of his cowardly moments and the bungling that had cost them all so dearly lay heavy over those memories. His quiet, focused manner in addressing her took her aback, though, and it lay in the back of her mind as they dealt with the matter of the Watchers' hunter team. She noted the increased fluidity of his motions, and the confidence on his face as he finished off Weatherby with a right cross. While they were heading to the police station in Angel's car to extricate him from Kate Lockley's wrath, she turned to him and commented quietly, “You've changed—what happened?”
Wesley blinked, somewhat surprised at the question, and took a moment to answer: “I got tired of being a disappointment to my family name, of being a tool for people looking for a stumblebum or a scapegoat. I realized that the only way I would get out of that rut was to set my own expectations and live up to them. . .or die trying.”
Buffy snorted. “You sure picked a great place to try that.”
Wesley smiled slightly to acknowledge the point, and they were silent for the rest of the drive.
It was two weeks later, and Angel had settled into an extended brood in spite of Cordelia's best efforts to snark him out of it, and Wesley was giving her extra time to make the effort by sorting the mail. He spotted an envelope with a familiar return address on it and addressed to him. Curious, he opened the envelope and extracted a small note, which he read without hesitation:
If you and my broody ex ever stop working together, look me up in Sunnydale—I'm thinking that we could always use help from a rogue demon hunter.
Step Two: Study the greats, and follow in their footsteps.
“How did you do it, anyway?”
Wesley turned and saw Cordelia there, watching him with an appraising expression. He frowned and replied, “Do what, Cordelia?”
“I did notice what you were like in Sunnydale, you know,” the former May Queen responded, walking over to a nearby couch and sitting down. Wesley followed her and settled into a nearby armchair as Cordelia continued, “and unlike the others, I made a point of paying attention to the details. You were trying so hard, and meant well, but you were so nervous and lacking confidence. . .it kept messing you up--”
“No need to dwell on the details. . .I was there too, you know.” Wesley shook his head ruefully and saw the mildly annoyed look on his friend's face. “Sorry, please go on.”
“The point is that you've changed a lot—you're still Mr. Research, still all English politeness. . .but you act confident and you even learned how to kiss somewhere: what happened?” Cordelia stared at him and added, “What caused all this?”
“Lying in a hospital bed and staring at the notice that you've been sacked from the job you'd been expecting to keep forever can change someone, you know.” Wesley's tone was blunt, and Cordelia nodded to acknowledge the point as the former Watcher added, “I'd had all the training, and Sunnydale had certainly brought home some basic truths to me. I had some limited funds available to me, and plenty of time on my hands. I withdrew to a place of contemplation and considered the wisdom at my disposal.”
“So, you went to some monastery or something and thought about the sound of one hand clapping or something like that?” Cordelia asked, fascinated in spite of herself.
Wesley brightened at the comment, then sighed and admitted, “No. I rented a room at a long term residence hotel with a cot and a television set.”
Cordelia blinked and stared at Wesley suspiciously, examining him minutely. *Leather jacket. . .Duncan MacLeod?* *No, no long pointy objects, no trenchcoat—that would have been way too Angel for comfort anyway.* *Leather jacket. . .motorcycle. . .suddenly not inept with girls.* Her eyes widened and she stared at Wesley. “Your big, bad rogue demon hunter persona is from watching. . .Fonzie?”
Wesley suddenly went very quiet and changed the subject—Cordelia was never able to get him to admit or deny her accusation, but she knew, damn it.
Step Three: Do the right thing when no-one else can.
Fred was halfway down the hallway when she heard the door open behind her. She turned to see Wesley standing there, his eyes red and his cheeks shining. She forced herself to stay where she was and called out gently, “Wesley? Did you want to say something else?”
“I've made so many mistakes, Fred. . .hurt so many people.” Wesley gave ground, drifting back into his apartment as Fred followed him and gently closed the apartment door behind her, quietly slipping next to him on his sofa and listening as he whispered, “But the malice that animated me this time. . .even if it was nothing I would ever do under other circumstances—it makes me want to crawl into a hole and never face the world again, never let anyone glimpse that side of me.”
“It wasn't you, Wesley,” Fred insisted, squeezing his hand with vigor and shaking her head.
“It doesn't matter,” Wesley replied, looking down at his hands and sighing. Fred gathered herself to continue to argue with him, and was surprised when Wesley looked back up at her and added, “It doesn't matter because regardless of whether it was me or something alien to me, only I can make amends for it—and whatever other sins are on my conscience. It's why Angel didn't just walk into the sunlight when he was confronted with the sins of Angelus over all those years. To simply walk away, rather than to clean up the mess. . .it's a worse sin than the deeds themselves.” He took a ragged breath and concluded, “I'll come in tomorrow morning, Fred—let the others know.”
Fred felt a surge of relief, and she carefully released his hand and reached out to give him a gentle, one-armed hug. She felt him go tense for a moment before relaxing, and she smiled at him before releasing him and exiting the apartment without saying anything else. Everything would be fine now.
Step Four: Find solutions for every situation.
“I really hate dating.”
“Are you all right, Cordelia?” Wesley asked the question mainly to give himself something to do while his pulse rate gradually dropped—he could see that Cordelia was, at least physically, not in immediate trouble.
Cordelia blinked and seemed about to respond with something to the effect of “Duh—just had to deal with a demon pregnancy here!” when she blinked again and stared at Wesley, “Did you just kill that demon with a big can of liquid nitrogen?”
Wesley—and Angel, standing nearby—squirmed visibly before the former Watcher decided there was no way around an answer: “Well, yes.”
Cordelia scowled, and continued in a raspy whisper, “So your big plan to come in and save me was a ripoff from a Terminator movie? A plan that didn't even work in the movie you stole it from?”
What sounded like the beginning of an indignant retort from Angel was cut off in mid-word, as if the vampire was remembering that Cordelia was, after all, under a lot of stress. Wesley, on the other hand, managed a smirk and replied, “Miss Chase, I assure you if we ever have to rescue you from a demon made out of living metal, we will adjust our tactics accordingly. The right tool for the right job!”
Angel made another noise, one that sounded suspiciously like a stifled laugh, but managed to assume a deadpan expression as Cordelia whirled and glared at him. She turned back and saw Wesley with his familiar “English reserved” expression, as if he had not just ably smacked her down. After a moment she sighed and whispered, “OK—take me home, please.”
Step Five: Help the hopeless, and guide those without direction.
“Hey, Wes.” Faith's voice came from behind Wesley, and he turned to face the Slayer as she added, “Just wanted you to know I was leaving soon. . .Red says something big is going down in Sunny D, and if they want me there I know they're not kidding.”
Wesley nodded thoughtfully and replied, “With the immediate crisis dealt with here, anything going on at the Hellmouth certainly takes precedence. . .and it is what you were born to do, Faith.”
Faith looked away momentarily, then back at Wesley as she whispered, “There are things I feel I should say. . .you know? But after everything that has gone down, I'm not sure I can say them. But I know that my life means a hell of a lot more than it did before you came to visit me the other day, and even if I get my reckless self killed by whatever is going on in B's town, I just wanted to say. . .thanks.”
Wesley walked next to Faith and offered her his arm. They gripped forearms in a warriors' salute, and Wesley replied, “Remember Buffy's first rule: don't die. And if you need help--”
“I know who to call.” Faith responded. She squeezed his forearm before releasing him and leaving the room. Wesley stared after her for a long moment before sighing and following her from the room.
Remix Author's Closing Note: The original was, of course, a look at Wesley from a number of different angles—I chose to flesh it out a bit and use viewpoints from people closer to Wesley. I also added a bit of silly, particularly with Cordelia trying to figure out where that “rogue demon hunter” look came from.
As always, comments are welcomed and desired.