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Chapter 1

Billy lay in the warm spot the latest girl in his bed had left on her abrupt departure and wondered where he'd gone wrong with his life.

He had a high-paid, glamorous job: a literary agent for a large, L.A-based branch of a respected English publishing house. Which was ironic really, when he considered what his day actually consisted of: sitting at a computer all day, answering emails. Sometimes - on really exciting days - the telephone rang, and he would answer it, his accent giving a pseudo-credibility to his otherwise desultory conversation. On bad days - when the phone didn't ring - he broke the monotony by making strategically timed cups of tea - again, this English preference over coffee lending an air of superiority to his lifestyle choices. He thought about his trips to the water boiler, planning them long before he made them, using them like treats to motivate him to do more emails: five more and he'd get a bag out of his drawer; another two and he'd go; one more before he added milk; and so on, until the drinking, which he could make last a very long time, watching as his in-box refilled, inexorably regaining the number of life-wasters it had in it before he'd begun.

Glamorous and well paid. Ironic, really.

He had little faith in his personal attractiveness either: mundane brown hair, short, thin. He might have overcome all this with witty conversation or an alluring lifestyle, but making emails interesting wasn't easy, and he had no conversational skills, once finding himself saying to a mildly interested girl "come back to my apartment and see my collection". He had a lot of them: collections. He had strange obsessions: punk rock, nineteenth-century poetry…. None of this endeared him to girls, and he needed women- not for the sex; he got no more pleasure from their bodies than he did from his own fist. He needed them later, after he'd come, when he would inevitably wake from some heart-stopping, terrifying nightmare. He needed their comfort then.

He didn't blame them, though, when they inevitably fled from his bed. Scared, finding themselves in every single girl's modern-day nightmare, they would flee from his fear and pain, leave him as he shook and cried and relived the screams of victims he'd tortured in his dreams.

It was hard to have faith in personal attractiveness, when you were a monster in your dreams.

Loneliness drove him during the day and mocked him at night, but he didn't think about it too much- it was symptomatic of living in L.A. in the twenty-first century: everyone was lonely.

Sometimes, he would confirm this by climbing out onto the roof of his apartment block and sitting on the very edge. He could watch people from this vantage point- like a God, an angel: all seeing, all knowing. He could see all the pain and loneliness from up there; it wafted up from the street like a bad smell drawn forth by the bright, L.A. sunshine.

Every time he sat there, the temptation to just fall out into the infinite space grew just a little- small seed, first shoot, sapling….

One day, he knew a great oak of desire would see him free-falling off into space- testing out his place in the great scheme of things, finding some comfort elsewhere, perhaps.

A little further forward every day... another small lean… more off balance….


Billy jumped as if someone had pushed rather than prevented him. He jerked his head around, furious at the interference, even more outraged at his own cowardice. He'd never jump; he knew that; the game was knowing he could.

A man stood in the shadows of the stairwell. He looked furious too, which, Billy considered, was pretty rich, seeing as no one had asked him to speak in the first place.

Billy frowned, thoughts rapidly tumbling in his head. No one would come up here. Why was he here? Why was he mad?

Suddenly, like tumblers clicking into place in his head, Billy's thoughts lined up and gave him the unassailable belief that, firstly, this man had been watching him deliberately and, secondly, that he had not intended this observation to be discovered- that he was now very angry that his cover had been blown.

Billy swung his legs off the parapet and stood up. 'Why did you follow me up here?'

The man looked even more annoyed by Billy's rapid assessment of the situation, almost pained, as if this quickness was something he'd been fearing and expecting in equal measure.

'I didn't. I'm meeting a… client.'

It was slick and plausible, but Billy heard the lie nevertheless.

He walked toward the door, and the man backed up slightly to let him pass, but Billy leant on the doorframe, regarding him for a moment. 'I've seen you before.'

The man's expression went blank, totally closed down and unreadable. 'No, you haven't.'

'Yeah. In the Spangled Nights a few nights ago. You were there, sitting at a table on your own.'

The man's expression flicked rapidly from relief at something to anger once more at this reply.

'You're mistaken.'

'No, I'm not, and for some reason you're pissed that I remember. You are following me. Bloody hell! Are you cop or something? You are!'

'No. Okay, I'm a private detective. But I'm not following you.'

'Yeah. Sure. We'll agree to differ on that then, Mate. But I've got your card marked now; so, if I see you around again, I'll call the cops or something.'

'I just saved your life.'

'Huh?' Billy let his eyes drift back to the edge of the roof. 'You seriously thought I was gonna jump?'

'Well, yeah.'

'Wanker. Let me pass, please.'

Billy slid around the substantial form and jogged down the stairs.

The odd encounter troubled him, for no other reason he could fathom than a natural worry about why a detective should be following him. He let his mind wander over possibilities: he was a sleeper- an international spy in deep cover, about to be activated… and it was thinking like that that ensured he was lonely and couldn't keep a girlfriend. Girlfriend… it couldn't be that; he was always careful: religiously pulling on a thick, tear-free condom, pulling out before ejaculating- just to be sure. So, not a paternity suit…. He'd never broken the law to his knowledge….

The vague, extremely disturbing, almost Kafkaesque thought, which came to him as he lay in bed that night, that somehow the pale man knew his dreams - that he was condemned by his dreams - prevented sleep for many hours.

He stared at the ceiling, picturing the man's face, going over the small encounter again. He tried to remember how he'd seen him at the bar- alone, he was sure of that. The man's air of loneliness had been palpable, noticeable- unusual to see someone looking as he did sitting alone.

He'd not stayed long; that, Billy did remember. He'd noticed him, turned to buy a drink, and then the man had been gone.

Suddenly, Billy turned his head and stared at the window. Slowly, reluctantly, he got up. On the fourth floor, his apartment looked out over the street, and he scanned it now, not sure exactly what he was looking for.

Nothing. He was about to return to bed, when he lifted his eyes to the block opposite. Something moved on the roof- a dark shadow, gone before he could actually see it.

With a shiver, Billy pulled the drapes, and returned to bed, sleep now totally eluding him.

The next day, he called in sick and stayed in, watching the street. He saw no more of the pale, handsome stranger, and after a few days, his routine of emails, tea, unsatisfactory shagging, and flesh-tearing nightmares plastered over the cracks the man's appearance had made in his otherwise flawlessly boring existence.

The next time they met, the man did save Billy's life, but he seemed equally angered by this as he had at the earlier abortive rescue. Running out late one evening for some beer, careless, trusting the lights, trusting the L.A. drivers, Billy stepped out against the red. He didn't see the car, didn't know he was seconds from death, for he was slammed hard across the lane and onto the pavement, falling hard and heavy - crushed, hurt and bleeding - under something that felt as hard as if metal had indeed struck him.

He was sat up and propped like a rag doll against the wall.

'You okay?'

Billy squinted up, dazed, at his rescuer. 'You! Again….'


'Still following me?'

'No. Yes.'

Billy's eyes widened. 'You're a stalker!'

The man smiled thinly- his first smile. 'No.'

Billy felt his head and, absurdly, wanted to cry. His eyes widened though, and he said in a low, scared voice, 'I'm already dead! You're my guardian angel!'

The man didn't seem to find this so amusing.

'Can you stand?'

Billy tried, winced, but managed it.

'You need to be more careful.'

Billy gave him a withering look. 'I didn't intend to get flattened by two-tonne Tess!'

'Not of me- of the city driving. And I'm not that heavy….'

'And how do you know that L.A. isn't my city?'

'Being English was kinda the first clue.'

'Oh. Yeah. Look, thanks and all that. What's your name?'

'My name?'

They both waited expectantly.


Billy stared at him. The stranger had the grace to look away, a slight quirk noticeable on his lips.

'Angel. You taking the piss?'

'It's just a name.'

'Okay. Weird night just got weirder. I'm going home. Stop following me. I don't need an angel- guardian or not.'

He limped away but suddenly stopped and bent over, holding his side. He felt a hand on his back and heard a cab being hailed. 'Don't… I came out without much….'

The cab was pre-paid for him, and his address - apartment number and all - was given.

Billy shook off the hand and climbed in. He pursed his lips then looked up and said very distinctly, 'Stop following me.'

The next day, Billy stared up at the vast façade of the Hyperion Hotel. He was impressed. Trying out different expressions, trying to look a bit taller, he jogged up the steps and entered the lobby. A dark-haired man looked up from the reception counter. 'Spike!' Billy hesitated and was about to make the obvious reply to this, when a gorgeous, dark-haired girl struck her head around from another office and said, equally surprised, 'Spike?'

Billy frowned. 'Sorry, you've got the wrong bloke.'

Neither of them spoke. They looked at each other and drew a little closer together. The man was clearly fumbling for something under the counter, and when his hand connected with whatever the something was, he appeared to relax fractionally. 'I gather you've lost your soul again, and that this is some kind of pathetic Big Bad trick?'

'Huh? Look, I came to find Angel.'

'Ah! Not even attempting to hide it!'


Suddenly, a dark figure appeared in the lobby, rubbing his hair with a towel, dressed in sweats and a T-shirt. He skidded to a halt. 'Spi- Billy.'

Billy nodded. 'Yeah. Hi.' He seemed to feel something else was needed and held out a limp, twenty-dollar bill. 'I came to pay you back- for last night. The taxi?'

Looking anywhere but at his two colleagues, Angel nodded toward his office and walked resolutely into it. Billy turned to follow, and was about to ease past Cordelia, when he stopped and said, 'Has anyone ever told you that you are amazingly beautiful? Hell, course they have. I don't suppose you'd like to… one night…?' He mistook her look of total confusion for one of utter disdain and finished lamely, 'Yeah. Shut up, Billy.'

He wandered into Angel's office and sat on the couch. Angel sat in his chair and tented his hands under his chin.

'How did you find me?'

Billy grinned. 'I followed you for a change.'

'No, you didn't.'

He shrugged. 'Angel? Detective? Wasn't too hard, ya know? Huge bloody entry in the phone book, and a website…?'

Angel frowned. 'Oh.'

'So… anyway.' Billy rose and laid the note on the desk between them, then shoved his hands in his pockets. 'I was kinda rude last night. Thanks for saving my life. Jeez, I never thought I'd get to say that….'

Angel nodded briefly. 'Consider it a redress of the balance.'


Angel stared at Billy until the man shifted uncomfortably and turned to the door. Just before he took hold of the handle, he paused and, without turning, said, 'Who's this Spike bloke you all mistook me for?'


'When I got here, the two outside, and you- you thought I was someone called Spike.'

'He was someone we all used to know.'

Billy turned back. 'Oh. And he's…?'


'Oh. I'm sorry. Kinda hard to be reminded of the dead like that- shock. Am I very like him?'

'In some ways. In others? I'm not sure yet.'


'I mean….' For the first time, Angel lost his composure slightly. He took his hands away from his face and rubbed them over his thighs. 'I'm not sure. He was very complex.'

'How did he die?'

'Saving the world.'


Angel looked away. 'A fire. It was very… unexpected.'

'Best way to go. Old age ain't much to look forward to, is it?'

'I wouldn't know. Look, there's no need to pay this back.' Angel pushed the note toward Billy.

Billy ignored it but held out his hand.

Angel frowned for a moment before realising he was supposed to shake it. He pushed out of his seat and came around the desk, taking the warm hand lightly in his.

'Cheers then, Mate.'

Angel nodded and walked the man out to the lobby. He watched him jog up the steps into the sunshine, then squared his shoulders and tried to make it to his office unobserved.


Angel shrunk into himself slightly. 'Wes.'

'So, we discover what's been keeping you so pre-occupied over the last few weeks. Would you care to share?'

Angel pursed his lips, raised his eyebrows and toed the floor, considering. 'No.' He walked toward his office.

Cordelia intercepted him, poking him hard in the belly. 'Tough, Buddy. Fess up…. That was Spike, right? Brown hair, human, MUCH more polite, but… Spike.'

'No. Yes. In a way.' Angel sighed.

Suddenly, Wesley slammed his hand on the counter. 'Shanshu! It was him, not you!'

Angel plunged his hands into his pockets, giving them an escape from scrutiny denied him. 'Yeah.'

'Oh, my God!'

Cordelia looked anxiously at Wesley and then back at Angel. 'No reward?'

Angel gave her a seems-so look.

Seeing Wesley's expression, he added succinctly, 'Spike saved the world with the amulet I gave Buffy. He was made human as his reward- no memories, no past. A new man.'

'How did you find out? Does Buffy know?'

'No, and an address was mailed to me- anonymously. I went and found… him.'

'This could be the most incredible coincidence, no? They say that somewhere there is a twin for everyone of us….'

Cordelia took up the small trail of hope. 'Yeah, sure, he walks like Spike and talks like him and looks like him…. Damn. It's him, isn't it?'

Angel just nodded.

'But he has no memory of being Spike?'

'Seems not.'

'Or of you?'

Angel licked his lips. 'Again. Seems not.'

'My God! What are you going to do?'

Angel went toward his office. 'Do? Nothing. I didn't intend to make contact. That was an accident.'

'Yes. Very unwise.'

Angel paused, his head down. 'Why?'

'Why? Well, we don't want him to remember, do we? I mean, he's human now- happy.'

Angel toed the ground. 'He doesn't seem all that happy to me.' With that, he went into his office and shut the door a little harder than he'd intended, but a great deal softer than he would have liked.

Billy was back the next day.

He poked his head around the door of Angel's office and knocked lightly. 'Hi.'

Angel's heart gave a small, disturbing jolt, as if it could feel emotion, but he tented his hands under his chin once more and replied, 'Hello.'

Billy grinned and sat on the chair opposite him.

Angel waited- he was good at that.

'Okay. Here's the thing. See, I have to go to this party- work thing, ya know? Nothing worse than turning up alone…. So… shit, this is so much harder than I thought. I was kinda wondering if….'

'I don't do parties.'

'I'm sorry?'

'Parties. I don't go.'

Billy looked dumbfounded but then murmured, 'The girl outside…. I was going to ask you if you thought I had any chance asking her out….'

Angel flushed as deeply as his preternatural body allowed him.

Billy got up, frowning. 'I'll just maybe ask her then. Jeez. Sorry. I didn't realise you were…. Okay, nothing I say is gonna make this less embarrassing, is it? I'll just shut up and go then.'

Angel bit his lip then said quickly, 'You get that I thought you needed a detective- bodyguard kind of thing….' The lameness of his words seemed to floor Angel into silence.

Billy appeared to take this at face value, however, and gave a relieved laugh. 'That makes more sense then! Cus, for a minute there, I thought you were….'


'Bloody hell. No. So, the girl… a name would be useful….'


'Any tips?'

'What's the party?'

'Book launch- some celebrity….'

'She'll go.'

'Oh. Hey…. Great. Thanks.'

He sauntered out to the lobby and leant on the counter. 'Hi.'

Wesley and Cordelia pretended they hadn't been straining to listen to the conversation in the office and both nodded at him.

Billy smiled at Cordelia but frowned when she paled. 'What?'

She shook herself. 'The smile… cheekbones and… sorry.'

He pursed his lips. 'The bloody Spike thing?'

She raised her eyebrows.

'Look, I have to attend this book thing tomorrow night- another bloody Hornby-tries-to-explain-humour-to-yanks do, and I wondered if you'd like….'

'The writer?'

'Well, yeah, Nick….'

'Played by Hugh Grant?'


'Will he be there?'


'What time? Pick me up here.'

Wesley added Cordelia to his list of people he was very cross with: Angel top, then Cordelia. It was a short list, considering his profession.

He tackled Angel later that night when they were alone. Angel seemed particularly down, even for him, so Wesley knocked hesitantly before entering.

Angel didn't bother to look up, just kept tapping his letter opener in an irritating fashion on his desk.

Wesley invited himself in and sat opposite. 'Don't you think this is very odd, Angel? Spike's made human, no memory at all of his former existence, and then, of all the six billion people in the world, he gravitates straight back to you!'

'Not really. Coincidence? Anyway, I found him- anonymous letter?'




'Why what?'

'Exactly! Why are you doing this, and what are you doing?'

'I'm… seeing if it's working out?'


'Because… it's important that it does?'


'I don't know.'

'Exactly! You don't know. You don't know your own motives in this.'

'But you think you do?'

'I think I have a jolly good idea, yes. I think you still resent him bitterly- but not because he was a better demon than you. And it's not because he wasn't tortured by his soul as badly as you were- those were the old reasons you resented him. Oh, then there's the middle period, when you resented him because he was getting Buffy and you weren't, and he became the great champion, saving the world instead of you. But now…. Now you resent him because he's stolen Shanshu from you. He's living the life you were promised, and I think you burn with resentment for him.'

Angel got up and walked out, and Wesley saw no more of him that evening.

Angel took his friend's words to bed with him that night. They gave him something new to brood upon, another excuse not to sleep.

He had no defence against the accusation, for it could well be true. He had absolutely no idea why he had begun to follow and watch Spike, so Wesley's suspicions were as good as any others.

He'd opened the smooth, cream velum envelope one day and found an address written in an elegant hand. Distracted by a strange depression that he'd been struggling with for some weeks, he'd not done anything more but read it and toss it, uninterested, in his tray. A few weeks later, sorting for filing, he'd found it once more. Still depressed - but not so much that he couldn't actually dress and act - he'd stood outside one night, staring up at a lighted window. He'd watched the next night and the next, and then he'd seen him: Spike. Natural brown hair, ordinary clothes, human, but Spike, nevertheless.

This Spike, however, appeared to have no knowledge of who or what he was- had been.

It was not how Angel had anticipated his own reward: not knowing himself; not benefiting from his great wisdom; not knowing his friends.

As he'd followed this man called Billy, Angel had not envied him his life- not at all. The man was small, insignificant, a shadow of what Spike had been, and in some way, this angered Angel. He still felt Shanshu was his and, therefore, that he had been cheated, that he had been made insignificant somehow.

Angel turned with a sigh and lay face down on the bed. The small suspicion that he was feeling sorry for Spike was too ludicrous to explore; nevertheless, it was there in his mind, disturbing righteous anger for himself.

He preferred Wesley's explanation that bitterness and resentment was driving him.

Some way across the city, Billy lay in bed, trying to put off the moment when he fell asleep. He didn't like sleeping alone; he feared it above all things- except for the soul-scarring nightmares, of course. They were so terrifying he doubted sometimes that his sanity would return on waking. Now, he had something to delay sleep, however: Cordelia. She was something that needed careful thinking about and study, and he smiled softly to himself as he thought about meeting her the following evening. He pictured her standing in the lobby waiting for him. Angel would be standing at her side, smiling at him. Billy rewound this and had her there by herself, waiting eagerly for him, something slinky and low-cut on her tanned, slim body. Angel now jogged down the stairs and stood by his side, watching him with a cool, unfathomable expression. Billy turned over in bed and stretched to the four corners. He tried to think about Cordelia in isolation, but every time he pictured her enticing flesh, Angel appeared and distracted him. After a while, Billy gave in to the thought and pondered the pale man instead. He pictured him as he'd first seen him, lurking in the shadows of the stairwell, then worked slowly through their short acquaintance. Angel wasn't like anyone else he knew. He seemed almost inhuman, unruffled by the events unfolding around him… not touched by them somehow. As hard as Billy tried, he couldn't picture a smile on Angel's face, or a frown, or any other sign of emotion, just those deep, impenetrable eyes, regarding him.

It was disturbing, but he felt that Angel had the key to keeping his nightmares at bay, that perhaps he could teach him how to make them less fearful on waking. There was something about Angel that put scary monsters in their place, and Billy fell asleep to the image of Angel sitting alongside him, waiting for the bad time, and calming him when it came.

The next evening, Billy bounced into the lobby to find the Englishman alone. He looked up then straightened and gave Billy an unwelcoming look. Billy frowned then shrugged and came over. 'Hi.'


'Cordelia here?'

'She's upstairs, I believe.'

'Cool. Can I wait?'

'I don't know, can you?'

'Huh. Okay. May I wait?'

Before Wesley could reply, a dark figure appeared in the doorway between the offices. Billy blushed slightly then frowned at his reaction and nodded. 'Hi.'

Angel nodded, too.

Billy made a slight face and shifted to his other foot. He laughed nervously. 'I feel like a kid on a first date- facing the parents, ya know?'

Angel turned and went back into his office, and Billy followed.

Angel turned sharply and gave him a look; Billy hesitated by the door. 'Sorry. Maybe I'll wait in the lobby then.' Before he actually left however, he looked at the floor and murmured, 'So, how come you've stopped following me?'

Angel sat down in his chair and tented his hands under his chin. 'Because you keep coming to me?'

Billy looked up and suddenly grinned. He saw Angel's reaction to this, and it quickly turned into a frown. 'Why do you all do that when I smile?'

Angel got up once more and rearranged some things on his desk. 'It reminds us all of him. He grinned a lot.'

'Oh. Sorry.' He turned and idly picked some things up on a shelf. Suddenly, he chuckled and held up a CD. 'Wow, Iggy.' He turned to Angel, smiling broadly. 'I love this! Someone nicked mine. Can't find it anywhere.'

Angel glanced down for a moment then came closer and took it from it him, returning it to the shelf. 'It's not mine.' He hesitated, gave the man a swift, piercing look and added, 'It was his- a mutual friend sent it to me after his… after he'd gone. It was the only thing he left behind.'

Billy chewed the inside of his cheek nervously. He glanced down at the box, then frowned deeply and picked it up, ignoring Angel's annoyed look. He stared at the back cover for a moment, the frown distorting his face. Angel glanced down, too, and felt a small jolt at the dark, intense handwriting filling the small insert.

He took it back once more and said pointedly, 'Cordelia's waiting.' Billy looked toward the door, clearly distracted, then walked out without looking back at Angel.

He smiled faintly at Cordelia. 'You look great.'

Before she could respond, Wesley pushed a piece of paper toward him. 'Jot down the address and number where you'll be tonight, please- in case we have to contact Cordelia.'

Billy nodded and scribbled it down, and then plunged his hands in his pockets, hunched his shoulders, and said, without his earlier enthusiasm, 'Let's go then.'

Wesley watched them leave and then felt a presence at his side. Angel plucked the small piece of paper from the man's hand and laid it on the counter next to the CD case he was carrying. They stared at the two sets of handwriting together, until Wesley said evenly, 'Identical.'

'He recognised it.'

Wesley turned to him. 'You do know that you have to end this? Whatever this is. We have absolutely no idea how this thing was done to him, or how his memory was altered. He's been human, what? Eight weeks or so? Yet they have a fully-grown man, presumably with memories stretching back throughout his childhood. And he's been placed in a working environment that seems to have allowed him just to… slot in with no history. We are dealing with some extremely powerful forces here, Angel. You HAVE to let this go. Let him go.'

Angel pouted and said petulantly, 'I'm not the one he's here for tonight.'

'Really?' Wesley gave him an odd look and added wearily, 'Tea?'

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