Who Can I Turn To? - 3
Angel went immediately to Wesley's apartment and knocked hard on the door. Wesley, clearly ready for bed and in pyjama bottoms, opened the door warily. When he saw Angel, he stepped back, surprised. 'Angel! Everything all right? Cordelia?'
'No, everything's fine, Wesley.'
They paused and looked at each other. Eventually, Angel was forced to say, 'Are you going to invite me in?'
Wesley reared back a little, surprised. 'You've been here hundreds of time, Angel; you can come in.'
Angel wished that, just for once, someone would treat him like a human and invite him in out of common courtesy, but he stepped in and watched Wesley retreat to find a robe.
He hovered around the apartment, picking things up and putting them back down. Wesley watched him from the bedroom door for a while, and then said quietly, 'I'm not letting you see them, Angel.'
Angel whirled around. 'Yes. Yes, you are.'
'I can't imagine what prurient reason you could possibly have for wanting to read of such things, Angel. For his sake, and yours, I won't give them to you.'
'I could make you.'
'Don't threaten me, Angel.'
'I didn't mean it that way.'
'Yes, you did.'
'Sorry.' Angel sat down heavily in a chair and ran his fingers through his hair. 'Sorry, Wes.'
Wesley sat down near to him and waited patiently. Angel suddenly said, 'I'm paying him not to feed while he's here, Wesley. Can you believe that?'
Wesley looked oddly at Angel. 'How much, may I ask?'
Angel looked furtive. 'A hundred a day, but that includes other things, too.'
'Ah. Better not mention this to...'
'Oh, God, no!'
'Don't put it through the books then - just my advice.'
'Yes. Good point.'
'Because you do realise that's more than you pay either of us?'
'It's more than I pay myself, Wesley.'
'So much for the soul then?'
'It's there, Wesley; I know it is. But he's not responding….'
'As you'd hoped he would?'
'No. He's not.'
'He didn't when you turned him either.'
'Well, he wasn't the most demonic of your family, was he?'
'No, I guess not.'
'So hardly surprising he'd not do the norm - not do what was expected of him.'
'Do you mean he's acting? That what I'm seeing isn't genuine?'
'I think what we saw last night was the genuine reaction, Angel. What you see when he is awake is the desperation of a very troubled soul, trying to find someone to turn to. What I don't understand, is why he is here and not in Sunnydale.'
Angel had found a small thread in the arm of the chair and was engrossed in pulling it free, so could not look at Wesley as he spoke. 'No, that's a mystery. You were right about Drusilla though. He asked me where she was.'
Wesley was watching Angel's battle with the thread with acute interest. 'I suspect he'll be off in a few days then. Nothing else for him to stay for, is there?'
'So... is there anything else...?'
'Show them to me, Wes.'
Angel stormed out, slamming the door behind him. Wesley watched him go with a thoughtful expression. He had seen Angel disturbed before; he'd seen him angry. He'd never seen a childish display like that, and it intrigued him.
The next day, he noticed fairly quickly that Spike was under some kind of voluntary house arrest; for he spent all morning either hanging around the office annoying everyone or pacing between the door and the windows, smoking in angry confinement. Eventually, when Angel went out to meet a client, he took the opportunity to corner Spike in the kitchen.
Spike had his feet up on the table, a large mug of blood cooling to one side, and was reading "Hannibal".
Wesley made himself some tea - totally ignored by Spike - and then sat down, facing him. Spike continued to ignore him, but just before Wesley opened his mouth to speak, he said, without putting down his book, 'Did you give....'
'No. And I have no intention of doing so either.'
'But... you read them?'
Wesley blinked. 'Yes.'
'Uh huh.' Spike turned his page and made no further comment.
In an attempt to lighten the atmosphere, Wesley said in an amused voice. 'That's not one of Angel's books. It's on his banned list.'
Spike looked up. 'He bans himself books, too?'
Wesley smiled. 'No, Cordelia's list of things Angel's not allowed to read.'
Spike laughed. 'Nah, I bought it last night with me...' he chuckled again. '...with me pay cheque. First one, like, thought I'd celebrate.'
Wesley didn't point out that Spike had been paid many times, and for many different things on his long trip back from Africa.
'Interesting choice for someone who is wrestling with a newly gained soul, I'd have thought.'
'I'm not wrestling, mate.'
'How well did you know Angel... or rather, Angelus, in the past?'
Spike slowly laid down his book, took some blood, lit a cigarette, and watched Wesley's face for a while. 'Why don't you ask Angel this? Hasn't he told you?'
'He hasn't. He hedges around the subject when I ask. I must say, I get the impression that you met each other a number of times... possibly even travelled together in Europe: am I right?'
'Met each other a few times?'
'Well, I know he sired you. I know you stayed with him and Darla for a while in England after that. Occasionally, your name crops up in accounts of him in France and Italy. You certainly met around the time he was ensouled, and then again in China when he renounced feeding altogether. That much Giles and I have put together from Watchers' diaries, local accounts and general demonology... but I just feel I'm missing something.'
'Uh huh, and why would that be?'
'Well, Angel dispatched me to find you and follow you as soon as Cordelia had her vision. He's invested ... God knows how much already in this. You are here, and he's ... well… suffice to say, the last three members of your illustrious family who visited him here, he either staked, burnt, or generally tried to dispatch to hell.'
Spike smiled. 'But I have a soul, Wesley. Don't forget that.'
'Well, yes. Exactly. Angel does, and now you do, and I'm wondering if that is the only connection between you, or is there more?'
'I knew Angelus very well.'
Wesley leant forward, intrigued. 'Ah. I thought so. And when was this?'
'From the day he sired me, until the day he left in Romania nearly nineteen years later, we were never really apart.'
Wesley choked on his tea. 'You must be mistaken, Spike.'
Spike picked up his book with a slight shrug. 'Yeah, maybe I am. Feels like I must be, sometimes.'
Angel suddenly came into the kitchen, and neither of the two occupants could tell by his expression how much of the preceding conversation he had overheard. He batted at Spike's feet as he passed, sending them to the ground, and the naturalness of the gesture, combined with Spike's grudging acceptance of the chastisement, made Wesley wonder if there could be some truth to Spike's assertion. They did occasionally act naturally around each other as if they had a long history behind them.
He coughed nervously, stood up, and excused himself.
Angel sat down. 'What were you talking about?'
Spike sighed and laid his book down again. 'I thought the deal was - I stay in, but you don't hound me all day.'
Angel looked a little put out. 'I'm not hounding you; I'm just making conversation.'
Spike looked up with a conciliatory expression on his face. 'Sorry. I'm a bit twitchy: being in all day like this does me head in. He wanted to know how well we knew each other in the past.'
Spike caught his gaze and held it firmly. 'I told him I had known you very well for a long time. That's all. Why didn't you tell him?'
'I don't want Wesley ... or Cordelia - anyone in fact - to know about my past life. I've told you; I'm different now. Relationships I have now - which I don't have - have been with .... '
'No, that's impossible: that would be too good for me - they have to be demons. I was going to say, females.'
Spike slowly turned a page and seemed interested in what he was reading. 'Rules me out then.'
'So, you understand what I am saying about giving information to Wesley. Don't.'
''K. It was all meaningless shit anyway, wasn't it? I hardly remember most of it - a blur of feeding and fucking. I was drunk the whole time, too.'
As if subliminally prompted, Angel thought about needing a drink and got up to pour one, saw Spike's look, and poured him one, too. He handed it over and was about to leave when Spike said, 'So why off men, then?'
He sat down again and watched Spike carefully. 'You know I was never into men. I was just into....'
Without looking up, Spike replied, 'You either like it, or you don't, Angel. Don't use sophistry with me, mate; I taught you what the word meant.'
'You taught me a lot of things I didn't want to learn, Spike.'
Spike looked up. 'You were a fast study though, Angel. Remember how you loved those lessons?'
'I - I can't do this, Spike.'
Spike laughed gleefully. 'Yep. Exactly what you used to say then, 'til I showed you different.'
Angel slammed his glass down and left. Spike went back to his book.
By lunchtime, Spike was feeling tired, and he drifted up to his allocated room for a sleep. He wondered why everyone watched him leave. He felt stares, hidden glances and heard whispered voices. He ignored it all and assumed it was nervousness about having him there at all. He was less than impressed when, shirtless and peeling off his jeans to take a shower, Angel opened the adjoining door between their rooms.
'Hey, fuck off, Angel. I'm undressing here, and I'm fairly sure you don't wanna watch that now. Used to - don't now.'
Angel turned away but said over his shoulder, 'I'm sleeping as well. That's all. I just wanted you to know.'
'Hmm.' Spike threw him an annoyed look, pointedly wrapped the towel around his waist firmly, and went in for his shower.
When he returned, Angel was lying on his own bed, reading. Spike could see him through the open door between their rooms. He slid between the sheets and picked up his novel again, silence reigning between them; even the turning of the pages seemed incredibly loud.
Angel smiled: he knew he'd hold out longer.
He was right.
'What ya reading?'
'Hah, hah. You used to be funnier, mate. I distinctly remember you being funnier.'
'You were more easily pleased then, Spike.'
'Yeah, in lots of ways.'
Silence once more. When Spike looked out of the corner of his eye, he could see Angel without letting Angel know he was being observed. Angel, Spike noted with amusement, slept in pyjama bottoms - silk, albeit, but still wussy pyjamas.
'What book you reading then?'
'The one I'm holding.'
'Derry Brabbs: English Country Churches.'
'Fuck. Wish I hadn't asked now.'
'That's why I didn't want to tell you.'
Angel waited for the next question, anticipating it, wondering the best way to answer.
'Is … ya know … that one in there?'
'Yeah, it is.' Sometimes the quiet truth was the only option.
Angel was impressed Spike managed to hold out as long as he did. Two minutes. Two minutes of almost being able to hear the dilemma crashing through his childe's brain.
Sheet wrapped securely around his slim waist, book still in hand, Spike appeared casually in the doorway and watched Angel sitting cross-legged in the bed. Angel decided to help him out of his misery. 'Here.' He tipped the large book forward, tempting Spike with a picture. He climbed onto the bed and pulled the book into his lap. One by one, he turned the pictures until he found it. He tipped his head to one side, studying it.
Angel, watching his childe's eyes, asked carefully, 'Does it look the same?'
'Sort of. It was September when I was there. This was taken in the Spring; look, there are primroses covering the ground. But it's the same, yeah. Nice place to be buried, ain't it?'
'Yes, Spike, it is.'
Angel watched Spike's lowered head and did not push for more. He needed Spike to come to his own epiphany, in his own time.
He picked up Spike's discarded book, slid down onto his back and began to read. Spike glanced at him. 'She'll skin you, catch you reading that.'
'Appropriate then, so I've heard.'
Spike laughed. 'Yeah, guaranteed you'll enjoy it, and way better than this poofy crap, mate.'
Spike surreptitiously made himself comfortable next to Angel and continued to look at the poofy crap.
It grew very quiet in the post-lunchtime slump of the hotel. Spike could hear the old pipes rumbling, the occasional ring of a distant telephone, and once or twice human voices, but a peaceful sense of normality crept over him at being in bed with his sire in the afternoon.
Spike turned to Angel to see if he felt this, too, and huffed in pleased surprise to find that Angel had fallen asleep. Clearly, he felt the effects of the intimacy, too. Spike propped himself up on one elbow, carefully took the fallen book out of Angel's hand and studied his sleeping face. Angel never looked so much like one of his namesakes as when he was asleep. The internal pain that hardened and aged his face when he was awake dissipated in sleep and smoother, younger, softer lines diffused the torment of the soul. This particularly fascinated Spike, for this softened version was the man he had known intimately for nearly twenty years. When Angelus slept, his face had also lost the harsh lines that evil gave it. It sort of depressed Spike that - souled or soulless - Angel seemed to find his peace only in sleep. He took a deep sigh, picked up his own book and made to get out of the bed, but found that Angel was lying on his sheet. He didn't let the dilemma worry him for too long: he lay back down, turned on his side away from Angel and fell into the kind of coma-like sleep, which only those who sleep during the day can know.
Angel woke long before the screaming began, for this time, pressed against Spike's writhing body, the jerky, unnatural movements woke him. Spike was on his hands and knees, his forehead pressed into the mattress and was clawing at the bed, ripping the sheets and moaning in deep distress.
Angel took hold of his wrists to still them, but Spike dashed his arms away and began to thrash, as if imprisoned and trying desperately to escape. Angel pulled him into a tight embrace and, however hard Spike struggled, held him firm. The first scream actually hurt Angel's ears. He bent to Spike and whispered quiet, meaningless words.
Once more Wesley and Cordelia ran into Spike's room, saw the vampires in Angel's bed and came through warily. If they noticed that Spike was naked in Angel's arms, they didn't mention it, but as Wesley sat down on the edge of the bed, he casually covered him with one of Angel's sheets.
Seemingly relieved, Cordelia sat on the arm of a chair and looked questioningly at Angel. Angel, rumpled and edgy from sleep, shook his head at her and made a shushing motion with one finger to his lips. She nodded and just looked at him with concern.
Checking that Spike was still asleep, Angel risked whispering to Wesley, 'I think I know what he is doing.'
Wesley raised one eyebrow with interest.
'He's digging out of his coffin. I'm sure of it.'
Wesley reared back with a human's instinctive horror at this idea, however many times he had heard of it. He looked grimly at Spike. 'Maybe you should let him get out?'
Angel shook his head and only hugged him tighter. 'I'm okay, Wes, Cordy. I can handle this alone. I'll shout if I need you.'
Reluctantly, they left him, but Spike did seem quieter than the previous day and Angel more prepared for the distress.
When they had gone, Angel slid slowly down once more, pulling Spike into a tight spoon against his chest. Spike continued to mumble, speak incoherently and occasionally flail around, but Angel only held him and continued with the soft words.
Angel could not believe that he had awakened - when had sleep overtaken him? It was morning - early, almost pre-light morning, but they had slept for ... over twelve hours. He supposed Spike had slept at last. He did not remember the moment when the struggling and crying had stopped, but it must have happened, for Spike was deeply asleep now, his head on his sire's belly, one arm thrown over his waist in a protective hold.
Angel stifled a groan of pleasure and did not move. He stared at the ceiling, watching shadows give way to streaks of soft, early morning light. Why had he lied to Spike and told him he did not want his body?
Angel closed his eyes to the painful truth that it had been a lie only by omission.
Angel blinked slowly and felt a tear run down from the corner of one eye to the top of his ear. He tracked its slow progress as it tickled across his skin.
The dichotomy of his nature warred within him even more forcibly than usual. His demon gave him simple answers; his soul told him only that he had unanswerable questions.
As usual, he forced his soul to win, extricated himself gently from Spike's tight hold and dressed then went to find answers for the unanswerable.
Wesley answered the door in a sleepy, rumpled, early-morning fug. Dark stubble shadowed his face; he rubbed his eyes and said with some surprise, 'Angel!'
'Can I talk with you?'
This time, Wesley gravely asked him in. He looked at Angel's face. 'Shall I make tea?' Angel did not reply but began distracted pacing.
Wesley answered himself and went to put the kettle on, leaving his friend some space to gather his thoughts.
When he returned, he sat and watched his tea cooling in the cup and only looked up when Angel suddenly said, 'What would you do, Wesley, if you had been given back your soul but you couldn't cope with it?'
Taking a delicate, careful sip of the hot liquid, Wesley said calmly, 'I'd go to someone who could help me.' That had been too easy; he'd feared a much more taxing Spike-question.
Angel sat down opposite and stared at him and then said very distinctly, 'Or bring him to you.'
Wesley's cup paused on the way to his lips. He mentally rewound the original question then looked frankly back at Angel. 'Perhaps you'd better tell me everything, Angel.'
Angel nodded, looked down and said far more hesitantly, 'I thought I could watch him and see how he coped - I thought it might ... help me. Spike's never let anything defeat him - he ... crashes through life and I ... I ... wanted him to help me.'
'I see.' Wesley didn't know how to address Angel's strange confession, so decided to concentrate on the simpler issue. 'Spike does seem to be coping well - on the surface, anyway. Why are you… disappointed?'
'I'm not. I'm ... confused. He's confusing me. I'm ….'
'I asked Spike about your relationship, Angel. I know you were very good friends - can demons be friendly? I suppose they can. So, I understand; it's only natural you should....'
'We were lovers for nearly twenty years.'
Wesley sat back. He looked at Angel's lowered head. He watched the vampire and the man he knew so well shatter before his eyes like a character from a child's cartoon. He saw the pieces reform and reassemble into someone new: same body, outwardly the same Angel he had always known - but now one with infinitely more intriguing and beguiling depths.
He could see that some response was required.
He felt it was a pivotal moment between continued friendship with this vampire and deep abiding estrangement, all dependent on his response.
He took a deep breath, put his cup down, leant forward slightly and said, 'That rather explains the hair gel then.'
Angel jerked back in disbelief; he leant forward opening his mouth to speak; he did a small double take, smiled, tipped his head back and laughed. He looked at Wesley, squarely, continuing to chuckle. Wesley smiled shyly back.
Angel visibly relaxed in his seat. Wesley picked up his tea and, if his hand shook slightly, he covered by running it through his rumpled hair to straighten it. Unconsciously, Angel mirrored the action; the applicability of this, following from Wesley's words, made them both chuckle again.
'I wish I'd told you a long time ago now, Wes.'
'I'm glad you felt you could tell me now, Angel. But ... to be honest, I'm not clear how this plays out with Spike now. It seems to have shifted from a soul issue to.... OH! God! Angel, I'm so sorry; I see now why you wanted to read ... oh. I am sorry.'
They sat in silence, both lost in their own thoughts.'
Finally, Wesley said tentatively, 'Can I ... err ... ask you…. Would you answer some questions for me?'
Angel gave a small, almost cheeky grin. 'Depends on what they are, Wes!'
Wesley jerked back, shocked. 'Be assured, Angel, I would never ask…. Well, I might, if one night I'd had considerably too much to drink, then I might.' He smiled shyly at Angel once more.
Angel laughed quietly. 'Given the same circumstances, Wes, one night when I've had too much to drink, I might tell you.'
Wesley blinked and looked pleased, but then resumed. 'No, what I wanted to ask - and I think I know the answer to this already really - is when did your relationship end?' He impressed himself by how calmly he said that word, given all the implications that were crashing around in his head at Angel's declaration. Lovers. Good grief… or rather… fuck! It deserved a 'fuck', so he said it in his head again and liked the effect.
Angel nodded. 'China, of course. It was the first time Spike found out... ' The feel of silk, the smell of burning and the screaming came back into his mind. Every time he thought about that last confrontation with his lover, there was silk, wood smoke, and fear.
'Your soul? He discovered you had a soul.'
'Yes. Darla told him.'
Wesley looked fondly at Angel's lowered head. The contrast was incredible. His quiet words - the agony they clearly represented. A new respect for the vampire washed over him. Wesley had assumed Angel's pain and guilt were relatively simple to explain; he'd had no idea of these other issues that Angel had carried in his heart for so many years. He was humbled that Angel should speak of them now and with him.
'He couldn't accept it?'
Angel finally looked up, took a very human breath and said, 'I had changed beyond all recognition - in his eyes.' He pursed his lips. 'Physically, for one thing: I'd been feeding off rats, living in sewers... I was... ' He ran his hands through his hair once more and glanced down at his cashmere sweater with a rueful laugh. 'I was different. I cleaned up easily enough though; I tried. I hunted with him; I fed with him - but only on the evil I saw all around me.'
Wesley nodded. 'And he couldn't accept that change.'
'He was ... is a demon, Wesley; we're unchanging - or should be. No, he couldn't, wouldn't accept it.'
'Did you ... err ... continue your relationship during this time.'
Angel stood up and began to pace again. 'That's exactly it, Wes. That's why I came here, I guess, to tell you... get your advice.' He sat down again, but quickly stood up once more, his body's agitation making him unable to speak unless moving. 'I tried. I really tried, but I wanted …. Fuck, this isn't easy.'
Wisely, Wesley sat quietly, pretending to enjoy his now stone-cold tea.
'I wanted more, Wesley. He was still fucking around as usual, doing whatever he wanted, crashing through his unlife as he always did, and I trailed after him like a love-sick, fucking puppy dog, wanting his approval, wanting his ... love! I wanted him - a demon - to love me like a human. And he couldn't.'
'He loved Drusilla well enough. Better than most humans love.'
'Yeah. Wouldn't. He was punishing me, I think, for leaving him.'
'So all this money you've invested in bringing him here - including the hundred dollars a day, which, by the way, I think Cordelia is on the scent of and you may want to cover better - was all to see if his soul had made him...'
'Want me, yeah.' Angel finally flung himself back into the chair as if he would never move from it again.
'And he's shown no inclination that he does?'
'On the contrary, Wesley, he'd fuck me sooner than stake me - but that's all. He's not changed at all. The soul's made no difference at all, and I'm still ... left with nothing.'
'Hmm? Is that all? I could have gone "hmm" back in my own bed. I need more than "hmm".'
'Angel, I am flattered and pleased by your confidence, but - I must say - a little puzzled, too. I'm hardly the expert at successful relationships, am I? Maybe C….'
'NO! NO! Jees, Wes, even Angelus wasn't that much of a masochist.'
'You underestimate her, Angel. Where you are concerned she's....'
Wesley nodded, understanding Angel's reluctance, even if he didn't share his doubts, but even more gratitude for the confidence Angel was placing in him flared up in his heart. He got up to refresh his tea and, as he passed, gave Angel's shoulder a small squeeze. Casually, as if it were of no great import, he said, 'I don't think things are too complicated, Angel.'
Angel followed him into the kitchen. 'How do you work that out? They seem so to me.'
'Well, you're too deep in it, I suppose.'
Angel leant on a counter and folded his arms, watching Wesley carefully. Aware of the scrutiny, Wesley continued, 'You brought him here to see if he was changed - we all assumed that it was just a soul/no soul issue; I see now that it wasn't. But nothing else has really changed. I believe the soul has made a profound difference to him - but he's repressing the changes.' He turned and looked at Angel, sipping his tea. 'If we can unlock the repression, set free his ... demons, so to speak, I think you will see the changed vampire you wanted.'
Angel opened his mouth to speak; Wesley interrupted. 'Then you'll have to face the same uncertainty as the rest of us, Angel. You'll have a more level playing field - both with souls, meeting as equals, new century, new rules - but he still may not want more from you, and you may just have to accept that.'
Angel stared at him. Wesley felt a distinct chill run down his spine. Once more he was reminded of the power of this vampire's emotions and the continual repression Angel practiced. He was surprised and pleased when Angel dropped his head slightly and nodded. 'I hadn't thought of that.'
Wesley let a small chuckle creep into his voice. 'If I were you, Angel, I wouldn't worry too much about that just yet. Spike's got eyes.'
Angel's head snapped up, and he gave a short, pleased laugh. 'Remind me not to go drinking with you any time soon, Wes,' and with that, he left.