In the Waiting

by R. Ellen Hanna


DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Fox Studios. They are used without permission, expectation of profit or intent of infringement. And I don't own T S Eliot either.


NOTES: This is my attempt to write a *short* story, as opposed to my usual lengthy ramblings. Even exercising strict self control, this ended up at about 14,500 words--oh well.


For a while, I've wanted to try something a little different to the 'third person, in-character POV' I usually stick to. I wanted to write something in the first person but oddly, as much as I like the characters, I didn't really want to write in first person for any of them. At the same time, I thought it would be nice to get an outsider's perspective on the main characters. Hence I've used that horror of fanfic, the original character first person narrator. (Please don't run screaming!) I've kept my narrator deliberately uninteresting--he exists to do his job in the story, and also to provide a different kind of filter than we normally get through which to view Angel, Cordy and Wes, and other than that we find out very little about him. I hope it works as a device.


Massive thanks to Tammy for suggestions, feedback and "go there!". Thanks to ebird, who analysed Kiely's analysis, and Yahtzee, who said that the doctor should be played by Richard Schiff (Toby in The West Wing). I have tried to make the interview scenes as realistic as possible; however, I have no direct experience of psychiatry or psychiatrists. Apologies in advance for any slip ups on my part.


In The Waiting is set some time around the end of season one, before To Shanshu in LA.




In the Waiting

"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting."


Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot





The young woman standing next to my car in the parking lot wore an anxious expression as she searched through her purse. She looked up hopefully as I approached. "Hi. Is this your car?"


"Yes." I smiled politely at her, and she positively beamed back at me. Now I was closer, I saw she was really no more than a girl, probably younger than my twenty five year old daughter.


She set down her open purse on the hood of my car and pushed her long, dark hair back behind her ears. "This is really embarrassing, but I dropped my apartment keys and they skidded right under there. I can't reach them. Would you mind...?" She made a rolling motion with her hand.


"Yes, of course. I was going anyway." It was after seven and I'd just finished with my last patient of the day. I was tired, and looking forward to going home to a glass of wine and a good book.


The girl rolled her eyes in exaggerated relief. "You just saved my life. Hey, have we met?"


"I don't think so."


"I never forget a face," said the girl, with certainty. She frowned for a moment, then her expression cleared. "Dr Kiely, right? Ben Kiely?"


"Yes," I said slowly, still trying to place her.


"I'm studying psychology at UCLA. I was at one of your guest lectures. I'm a big fan," she added, and for one surreal second I thought she might ask for my autograph. Being recognised in the street-or parking lot-isn't one of the usual hazards of psychiatry.


I thanked her, and fished my car keys out of my jacket pocket. "I'll just move the car and then you can..."


The girl stepped sideways, so she was between me and my car. Interrupting, she said quickly: "Your lecture was about multiple personality disorders. You deal with that a lot, right?"


There was an intensity in her tone which suggested she was making more than a casual enquiry. For the first time, I began to feel something was not right.


"I've dealt with a couple of cases. A lot, I suppose, since it's such a rare condition." I made to move past her.


She stepped to the side again, still blocking me. "But you're an expert?"


Making eye contact with her, I said, "Why don't I just move my car?"


She hesitated, then looked away a second too soon. Her gaze shifted to a spot over my left shoulder, and I knew she had been lying about the keys.


Unfortunately, I was so pleased with my powers of perception, I didn't stop to think what she might be looking at. Which is why I didn't see the man who clamped a chloroform soaked pad over my nose and mouth until it was too late to do anything but wonder briefly why anyone would want to kidnap a psychiatrist.


* * *


"I told you not to use so much, Wesley. He's been out, like, forever."


I recognised the voice of the girl from the parking lot immediately. I kept my eyes shut, and tried not to move. Remaining still didn't require much effort: my entire head throbbed painfully, and I was half-convinced I could feel significant portions of grey matter oozing out of my ears.


"I'll have you know it's very difficult to judge the quantity. And please try to remember-no names." The man she was talking to-Wesley-had a strong English accent. So I had been kidnapped by at least two people.


Kidnapped. It was a bizarre notion. I should have been terrified, but more than anything I was simply bemused. I got junk mail, and sometimes I got parking tickets; I didn't get kidnapped. I felt like a movie extra who has suddenly and unaccountably become part of the main plot.


The girl's voice moved closer to me. "Maybe we should take him to a hospital."


"And say what? Do you mind helping us with this man we abducted?"


"Well, duh. Obviously we leave out that part. This whole thing is a stupid idea."


"I didn't hear you suggesting anything better."


They started to argue heatedly, and their voices moved away again. I took the opportunity to open my eyes, cautiously. The dark-haired girl and Wesley-a slim bespectacled man in his late twenties or early thirties-were bickering by the doorway, and neither had noticed I was conscious. I looked around.


I was in a dingy, damp-stained room. A rusting filing cabinet stood against one wall and rectangular shadows on the peeling paint-work indicated where pictures or notices had once hung. There were no windows, and the only light came from a portable lamp set on a chair in the middle of the floor.


"Cordelia..." said Wesley, sounding annoyed and forgetting his own instructions concerning the use of names.


The air in the room was damp, and I wanted to cough. Automatically, I put my hand to my mouth to stifle the noise, and only felt surprised that I was able to after I had done so. I wasn't even tied up.


I began to sense my kidnappers lacked a certain skill at their chosen line of work.


"Excuse me," I said.


Cordelia broke off from angrily voicing a withering appraisal of her companion's intelligence and looked at me. "Oh, good. You're awake." She glared at Wesley: "And only five hours later than you should have been."


I sat up, still feeling slightly woozy. "I think you have the wrong person."


Wesley looked concerned. "You're not Benedict Kiely, the psychiatrist?"


There seemed little point in denying that: I'd been carrying my driver's licence in my wallet. "I am. But I'm not heir to any fortune, and the only person I can think of for you to send the ransom note to even if I were is my ex-wife." I shrugged. "And I very much doubt she'd pay up."


"That's okay," said Cordelia cheerfully. "We don't want money."


"Ah." I couldn't decide if it was the lingering effects of the chloroform or if this conversation really didn't make any sense. "Then the reason you kidnapped me would be what, exactly?"


Wesley said, "We want your help. Your professional help."


No, it wasn't the chloroform. "The generally accepted way of obtaining the services of a psychiatrist is to make an appointment."


Cordelia rolled her eyes at me. "Do we look stupid or something?" When I forbore to reply, she crossed the room and hunkered down on the floor in front of me. "Look, here's the score. We have a friend we want you to help."


"If you agree," continued Wesley from the doorway, "you get what I guarantee will be the most interesting case of your career. But you won't be able to tell anyone about it."


For a moment I was interested, in spite of myself. "Why not?"


"Uh-uh," said Cordelia, wagging her index finger at me. "No details until you say yes."


"And if I say no?"


She seemed genuinely perplexed. "Well, you go home, of course. We're not keeping you here."


"And what's to stop me going straight to the police with your names and a complete physical description?"


Wesley smiled hopefully. "Your magnanimous character and essential good-heartedness?"


Basing a life of crime on a touching if misplaced belief in the victims' willingness to forgive and forget seemed to me a suspect strategy, to say the least. But the more I talked to Wesley and Cordelia, the more convinced I became that they were no more kidnappers than I was.


They might even be telling the truth.


"Why me?" I asked, although I already suspected I knew the answer. "There are a lot of psychiatrists in L.A."


"But not many with your experience of multiple personality disorder," Wesley told me.


I nodded. "Then I take it that's what you believe your... friend...has."


Cordelia nodded vehemently. "Ohhhh yeah. Big time."


Slowly, I said, "True multiple personality disorder is extremely rare. I very much doubt that truly is the case here."


"But you won't know unless you meet him." Cordelia was looking at me with the air of one who is certain her argument is unassailable. I began to sense that saying no to this woman was not an operation to be undertaken without extensive mental preparation.


"I'll meet him," I conceded. "And I may be able to recommend what kind of specialist he needs. I can't promise more than that."


Cordelia looked over her shoulder at Wesley, and I could see them silently debating if that was a sufficient offer. Wesley's expression in particular was clouded and for a moment I saw something there which I had been too preoccupied with my own situation to notice before: desperation.


"Thank you," he said.


I nodded, and stood up, leaning on the edge of the room's filthy desk and wincing at the protests of my arthritic joints. "So why the need for mystery?"


"Our friend's name is Angel," said Wesley. "He's a vampire."


I understood. "You're saying he's developed a psychosis and believes himself to be a vampire."


"No, no," said Cordelia: "He really is a vampire."


Wesley was nodding in a agreement. I looked at them, and they looked back at me. I was thinking that I should have recognised the symptoms of full-blown delusion much earlier. I was also thinking that my night was getting stranger by the minute.


I was right on the second count.


* * *


I followed them through a series of dim, claustrophobic hallways, stepping carefully over pools of brown water and rusting pieces of office furniture. There were no windows to be seen. "We're underground," I realised.


Wesley nodded, and pointed upwards. "We're beneath the Security Trust and Saving Bank building on Spring Street. Do you know it?"


I did. The old bank building, impressive but outmoded, had been converted sometime in the mid-eighties to become the Los Angeles Theatre Centre. But when the theatre-goers stayed away and the subsidies ran out, it had fallen into disuse again. As far as I knew, the building had been empty for nearly a decade.


"When the original renovations were made, they didn't bother doing any work on the bank vaults. None of the rooms down here are big enough to put on a performance, and the walls are all six feet thick and load bearing. So the builders simply sealed off the basement and worked above ground."


We were passing an empty doorway, through which I could see the bare concrete interior of what must once have been a small vault. Four rust-red hinges still set into the frame showed where the original vault door had been attached. I guessed it had been removed a long time ago, probably when the bank closed down, but the much less specialised inner door had been left attached. It consisted of narrowly spaced metal bars, and when closed and locked from the outside the vault was effectively converted into a cell. Or more accurately, given the lack of light and the stale air, into a dungeon.


"How did you know about this?" I asked.


"Angel found it," said Cordelia. "I swear he could start a guided tour and call it Depressing L.A. if he wanted. But it's kinda useful for holding things once we've trapped them."


She didn't elaborate, and I wasn't sure I wanted to know what she meant. I was debating whether or not to ask when Wesley stopped and held up the flashlight he was carrying. With a start, I realised that the vault we had arrived at was occupied. "Angel?" said Wesley.


The man in the cell was asleep, sitting on the floor, his head tipped back against the wall and his eyes shut. He was, I guessed, the same age as Wesley or a little older, although more solidly built. His mouth was slightly open, and I found myself checking to see if his canine teeth were pointed. They weren't.


He opened his eyes and looked at me, then at Wesley and Cordelia. "Who's this?"


"Ben Kiely," I said. "Pleased to meet you."


Angel didn't reply: he was still looking at my companions. "Is he a mage?"


"Not exactly," said Wesley.


"I'm a psychiatrist," I clarified.


Angel switched his gaze to me, and from his expression I might equally have said I made my living from killing small children. Perversely, I began to relax. Kidnappings and dungeons were outside my realm of experience-suspicious, hostile patients weren't.


"So," I said conversationally, "you're a vampire."


Angel ignored me, and addressed himself to Wesley and Cordelia. "This is a waste of time."


"No," said Wesley. "It's not. We've looked for answers in magic. It's time to widen the field."


Angel stood up and came to the front of the vault, so that he was standing just behind the thick wire mesh covering the doorway. Looking at me, he said: "He doesn't believe you. He thinks we're all crazy."


"That's why we brought him down here-so you could show him." Cordelia raised her hands and made claw shapes with them: "You know. Game face. Grrr, argh."


Angel hesitated, then shook his head. He stepped backwards from the bars and out of the flashlight's glare. Hidden entirely in shadow and speaking so quietly I had to strain to hear him, he said, "No... I'm not in control right now. I don't want to risk..."


I didn't follow that exchange at all, so I concentrated instead on the elements of the situation I did understand. Angel was obviously intelligent, articulate and capable of rational thought. He also believed something which he knew was incredible to the world at large. I wasn't going to win his trust by pretending to share a delusion he had already perceived I didn't.


"Angel," I said carefully; "I won't lie to you. I find the idea of a real-life vampire difficult to accept. But there are other things I do believe. I believe your friends went to a lot of trouble to get me here because they're concerned for you and they think you need help. I believe you know you need it too."


"Nice speech," said Angel quietly, from the darkness. "Now believe this."


Without warning, he launched himself out of the shadows and towards the metal bars blocking the door. I took an involuntary step backwards, watching the barrier shudder and in places almost buckle.


Then I saw his face.


I've seen uglier sights, but never anything that filled me so totally and effectively with terror. In the space of second, Angel had ceased to be a man and had degenerated into something demonic and wholly evil. He leered at me, and bared the fangs that hadn't been there a moment earlier.


"There's no such thing as vampires, right? We don't exist. The dark's a safe a place; there's nothing waiting there, nothing watching you. You just keep telling yourself that."


His features shifted and altered, becoming human again, but the expression in his eyes remained. Psychiatrists dislike words like 'evil': such terms make it too easy to apply convenient labels, to condemn without attempting to explain or understand. But I knew then, and I still know now, that what dwelt behind those eyes was wholly and irredeemably a thing of evil.


"Doctor Kiely," said Wesley beside me. His voice was calm, but I could tell he was making an effort to keep it that way. "Allow me to introduce you to our problem-Angelus."


Angel-or perhaps more accurately, Angelus-turned on Wesley, and I felt guilty relief. The few seconds I had spent under the focus of that gaze had had been enough to leave me shaking. I didn't know how much more I could have taken. "Hey, Wesley. Can't say I'm surprised you had to bring in outside help. It's not like you can deal with me by yourself." He looked at Cordelia and smiled, showing all his teeth. "Frightened yet, Cordy?"


She didn't flinch. "Of you? Give me a break. I've seen scarier things come free with breakfast cereal."


Angelus shook his head pityingly. "No, still can't act. But never mind-there are always career openings in prostitution. And you've already got the wardrobe for it."


Quietly, Cordelia said, "Angel. Come on. Fight back. I know you're in there."


Angelus shook his head disparagingly. "Of course I'm in here. Where else would I be?" He looked at me, and lowered his voice to whisper with false confidentiality: "They just don't get it. But you're a shrink: maybe you will. They think I'm two different people."


I didn't look away. "And are you?"


"No." He grinned at me. "I just don't get to say what I think nearly often enough."


* * *


"Angel is a vampire."


I was sitting at a plastic-topped table in an all-night caf? opposite the old bank building on Spring Street. The cup of coffee I was holding between my palms was so hot it was burning my skin, although I wouldn't realise it until I saw the blisters the next day. My watch showed sometime after three o'clock in the morning. "Angel is a vampire," I repeated.


Cordelia looked at Wesley. "Is he ever gonna stop saying that?"


Wesley sipped his own drink. "Dr Kiely's understanding of the world has just undergone a profound shift. It's going to take him a little time to adapt, Cordelia."


"Well, could he get on with it, do you think?"


Wesley frowned at her. "Not everybody grows up on a Hellmouth. You could try being a little more sympathetic."


I stared at the steam rising off my coffee. "Angel... is... a vampire."


Cordelia leaned forward across the table and laid her hand on my arm. "There, there. You know, I felt exactly this way when I saw The Crying Game for the first time." She nipped me, hard: "Now snap out of it."


I swore, and rubbed my arm. By the time the pain had faded, I was alert and focused- although admittedly most of that focus consisted of deep annoyance at Cordelia, who was smiling sweetly at me. "Okay, now listen up, 'cause there'll be a quiz later. This is Angel, the Cliff Notes version."


"Wait one moment." I dug around in my jacket pocket until I found my notebook and pen. I had been intending to type up some notes from a session at home; now it seemed I would be using it to record the start of a whole new case. I flipped the pad open on the table top at a fresh sheet. "Go on."


"It's 1900, give or take a decade. Angelus is a bad-ass, mean-as-you-please blood-sucker." Cordelia took a drink from her cup, and went on: "Until one night he makes the mistake of chowing down on a gypsy girl. Her folks get riled, and Angelus gets cursed. They give him back his soul to punish him, and evil Angelus becomes good Angel."


I wrote 'c. 1900-soul' on the notepad, and frowned. "Making someone good is a punishment?"


"It is if you're a vampire," said Wesley. "Imagine waking up one day with over a century's worth of murdering on your conscience."


I nodded, slowly. Underneath 'soul', I wrote '= realisation of guilt'. I was beginning to understand what-or who-I had met in the vault. "Your friend, Angel, is the morally aware version of Angelus."


Cordelia nodded and continued, "So Angel swears off killing people for kicks-and food-and comes to America. He puts in some serious brooding time, then decides to go after the redemption thing a little more actively." She looked up at the strip lighting, expression thoughtful. "Jeez, this would make a great movie. I should really try pitching it to someone."


"And that would be that," I finished, "except Angelus is back."


"Sporadically." Wesley's expression was sober. "You've seen what it's like: they cut in and out without warning. And Angelus isn't just insulting. In his day, he earned a reputation for sadism and cruelty such that he was feared even by other vampires."


My encounter with the Mr Hyde side of Angel's personality had left me in no doubt what Angelus would be capable of, if he had the opportunity. I began to understand that the situation Wesley and Cordelia had outlined to me was more than simply distressing: it was dangerous.


The notes I had made so far seemed suddenly scanty and inadequate. "I'm reluctant to comment on an area I only discovered existed ten minutes ago, but could it be that the, umm, curse is wearing off?"


Cordelia shook her head decisively. "Curses don't come on sale or return, you know. If you're cursed, those purchases are on your store account for eternity."


"More than that," said Wesley, "the terms of this curse are rather specific. He is either Angel or Angelus, not both at once. Which makes me think that perhaps what's wrong with him has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with psychology."


"So we did a little research and called you," said Cordelia.


I looked at her. "You kidnapped me."


"Details." She waved a hand dismissively and stood up. "I'm gonna bring Angel some coffee. Assuming he is Angel again. I've got my phone if you need me." She turned to go, then looked back at me, smiling that brilliant smile again: "Thanks for helping."


We watched her order a beaker to take out at the counter and leave, carrying it carefully across the quiet street.


"She's going to be disappointed," said Wesley when we were alone. I looked at him, and he gave me a polite, sad smile. "It's all right. I know that expression you're wearing. It's the one that generally prefaces sentences that start with the words, 'I'd love to help, but...'."


I set down my pen and closed the notepad. "For what it's worth, I believe you. But..." I shook my head. "Vampires, curses, magic... I wouldn't even know where to start."


"I can answer any questions you have," he said quickly. "And if I don't know the answer, I know where to look it up."


"I'm sorry," I repeated, "but I'm afraid Angel was right. You need a magician, not a psychiatrist."


"We need someone who can help," said Wesley, with unexpected vehemence. He took off his glasses and polished them with short, hard motions. "My friend is right now locked in a very small room because he can't trust himself not to turn into a psychopath. For the past ten days I have watched him fight this and lose over and over again. Angel is running out of strength and we're running out of time."


"You think Angelus is becoming the dominant personality."


"Yes. And I can't stop it."


I sighed. "Wesley, even if I could help, Angel has to want the kind of help I can give."


"Then we'll persuade him," he said determinedly. "Doctor Kiely, I've been attacking this from every angle there is since it started, without success. You're our last chance. Angel knows that."


I hesitated. Somehow I knew that if I got up now and walked away, Wesley wouldn't try to stop me, and neither of them would attempt to contact me again.


But I'd never see another case like this.


"I'll free up my schedule," I said.





I found a rickety chair in one of the basement offices and set it down in front of the vault currently serving as Angel's cell. He watched in silence while I attempted to balance the chair legs on the uneven concrete floor. When at last I managed to position the chair in such a way that it was at least marginally less likely to give way under me, I sat down.


I held up my Dictaphone. "Would you mind if I recorded our sessions?"


He shrugged indifferently. "Fine. Better not used silver-based tapes, though."


"I'll bear that in mind." He was sitting as far away from me as his confinement allowed, and his body language was closed off, hostile. It was clear that Wesley had been entirely accurate in his assessment of Angel's antipathy to the idea of being psychoanalysed. Well, he wasn't my first reluctant patient. Conversationally, I said, "I've been taking a crash-course in vampire lore from Wesley and Cordelia."


"What have you learned?"


"That Bram Stoker has a lot to answer for. Where did he get that nonsense from?"


Angel almost smiled. "The man knew his opiates."


"Have you read the book?"


"Once. A long time ago."


"Did you like it?"


"I thought it was funny."


"Cordelia tells me you read a lot."


"It passes the time." He looked at me. "Is this part of it?"


"I don't understand."


Angel lifted a hand and gestured vaguely. "This getting to know me deal. Is this part of it? Because if it isn't, I'd like to cut straight to the main business."


"Getting to know you is the main business," I told him. "Does talking about yourself make you uncomfortable?"


"Talking makes me uncomfortable," said Angel.


"I'm going to ask you to do a lot of it," I told him. "How does that make you feel?"


"I don't see how it's going to help."


He was being honest with me; that was a good start. "But you've agreed to try. Why?"


I thought I knew the answer to that: I had waited in the offices upstairs for the better part of an hour while Wesley and Cordelia undertook the difficult task of persuading Angel to talk to me. The only reason I was now here was that he had given them the benefit of the doubt.


After a moment, Angel said, "I'm running short on alternatives. Where do you want to begin?"


He moved forward slightly, and unfolded his arms; hardly a sea-change in his attitude, but definitely an improvement. I had no intention of pushing into even mildly contentious areas in our first session-if I could get him talking to me about himself with reasonable comfort, that was more than enough-and so I had decided to keep the conversation to safe topics.


Besides, it's not every day one gets to have a conversation with a vampire, and I was curious.


"How old are you?"


"Two hundred and forty seven."


I did the math. "So you were born in... 1753."


"I died in 1753."


"That was the year you were turned," I said, remembering the new terminology from my lesson that morning. "Where are you from? Originally, I mean."


"Galway. In Ireland."


From his accent, I would have bet good money that Philadelphia was his home town. For a moment I was nonplussed, until it struck me that the minimum requirement for surviving more than two centuries is adaptability. Angel didn't look like a two hundred year old Irishman: his plain dark clothes and vaguely fashionable spiked hair made him indistinguishable from the thousands of hustlers, writers, actors and wannabes who comprised the seedier elements of L.A. society. Until you looked in his eyes.


"Galway?" I said, "Really? You know, a few years ago I did some research on my family history. The Kielys came from Ireland originally. They were from Cork: apparently there was a family business..."


"Yes," said Angel. "I remember. They were shoemakers. My father used to import Spanish leather for them."


And then it hit me. Angel had told me he was two and half centuries old and it had been just a number. The man I was now talking to, who looked young enough to be one of my daughter's boyfriends, could remember clearly the world into which my great-great-great-great-great grandfather had been born.


"Doctor Kiely?" said Angel.


I wasn't sure how long my stunned silence had lasted. "Yes. I... Excuse me. Call me Ben, please. And what about you?"




"I'm guessing the name you use now isn't the one you were born with."




I waited, and when it became clear that no answer was going to be forthcoming, I prompted, "So what were you called?"


There was a long hesitation. Finally he said, "Liam."


"A fine Irish name," I said.




"And does anyone still call you..."




My simple enquiry had hit something raw, and so far I didn't have enough information to guess why. But Angel's monosyllabic answers were enough to encourage me to abandon this line of questioning for now.


"How old were you when you were turned?" I asked.


Angel stepped closer to the metal grille and made a motion with his hand which took in his face and then the rest of his body. "This old."


"You were young."


"Young as it's judged now. Then, men my age were farmers, businessmen, fathers."


"What were you?"


"I was..." Angel trailed off. Turning away from me, he paced the length of the vault several times before continuing. "Cordelia would have a phrase for what I was."


"And what would that be?"


Angel stopped pacing and looked straight at me. "A waste of space."


* * *


"This is home," said Cordelia: "C'mon in."


She turned the key in the door to her apartment, which was located in an attractive Spanish-style building in Silverlake, and stepped inside. After a lengthy session in the dark vaults underneath the Security and Trust Building, I had been more than grateful to accept Cordelia's offer of lunch. Wesley had chosen to remain at Spring Street, partly so that Angel was not left alone and partly because he felt he was close to making a breakthrough in his search for a magical solution.


The apartment's main room was large and airy, and furnished tastefully, although the effect was somewhat undone by the general level of messiness. A half-eaten box of take-out Chinese sat on a low table, oozing its contents on to a heavy, leather-bound tome which was called Mason's Demonic Grimoire.


Cordelia dropped her keys into a small bowl on the table beside the door, then deposited her bag on the sofa on the way to the kitchen. "You want tea? Coffee? Something cold?"


"Tea, thank you."


I followed her into the kitchen and took a seat at the table. Cordelia opened the door of the refrigerator; as she hunted around the shelves, I noted the bottles of viscous red liquid sitting well apart from the other contents. "Does Angel visit a lot?"


"Huh?" She looked round at me, and saw where my gaze rested. "Oh, yeah. If he's on this side of town come dawn, he'll crash out here for the day. More often lately."


She retrieved an open milk carton amd straightened up. Addressing herself to the room in general, she said, "Hey Dennis, put the kettle on, would you?"


For a moment, I thought she had got my name wrong. Then, the kettle sitting on the workbench beside the sink rose smoothly into the air and floated into position underneath the faucet. I watched, fascinated, as unseen hands filled it with water then returned it to its moulded plastic base.


Cordelia said, "This is Dennis. He lives with me. Well, he doesn't live live with me, 'cause of being a ghost, but you know what I mean."


"There are ghosts?"


She shrugged. "Well, yeah, there are ghosts. Just like there are vampires. There are also vampire slayers, werewolves, witches, invisible girls, lifeforce-sucking Inca mummies, zombies, incubi, succubi, ghouls, fiends, banshees, wraiths and slime demons."


My head was beginning to hurt, and I wondered what kind of world I'd thought I was living in all these years. "On the whole, I would have preferred to remain in happy ignorance regarding the slime demons."


Cordelia was talking to her poltergeist again, and wasn't listening. "Dennis, Dr Kiely is the shrink I was telling you about. He's gonna help Angel." She looked around the kitchen, and then meaningfully at me. I raised my eyebrows in an unspoken question. Lowering her voice, she instructed, "Talk to him. Dennis gets offended when people act like he's not here."


I refrained from pointing out that, to all intents and purposes, he wasn't. "Hello, Dennis. Pleased to, uh, meet you."


A cup hanging on a peg unhooked itself and sailed across the room, landing gently on the table next to my hand. "Thank you," I said.


Cordelia smiled widely. "See, he likes you."


"How can you tell?"


"If he didn't, he'd be throwing things at you."


There was a wooden block of large, sharp chopping knives on the workbench beside the stove. I cast a nervous glance towards it, and took a moment to appreciate my continuing state of non-impalement. "I'm flattered."


Cordelia filled my cup with freshly-made tea, poured her own drink, then sat down at the table's opposite end. She cradled her cup in both hands, and her posture was hunched. It was unexpected behaviour from a young woman whose normal mien seemed to be one of total and easy self-assurance, and her attitude was all the odder to observe here in her own home, where she should have felt safest.


She seemed to sense it too. "I know I'm kinda off today. This whole thing's got me a little wigged." She paused, then amended: "A lot wigged."


"That's understandable," I said neutrally.


"Also I'm pretty tired. We haven't had a lot of time for sleep since this started."


I nodded. But it occurred to me that she hadn't seemed this uncomfortable on the drive over, or even in the lounge. Which meant...


"Cordelia, what happened in here?" I asked. "Here in the kitchen, I mean?"


"Nothing happened-" she began, then cut herself off. Quietly, she said, "Angel... Angel turned. The first time it happened, it happened here."


"Tell me."


"We were having breakfast. Angel was cooking," began Cordelia; then, at my expression of surprise, she nodded. "Yeah, a vampire cooking. Who woulda thought, right? Actually, he does okay if he keeps to simple things, but he puts way too much seasoning in everything. No sense of taste."


To paraphrase Doctor Johnson, I found myself thinking that a vampire cooking was like a dog walking on its hind legs: what was impressive was not that it was done well, but that it was done at all. "Can he eat?"


"I guess he can chew and swallow," said Cordelia. Her expression became thoughtful. "But I've never seen him eat food. And I don't even wanna think about what would happen to it afterwards."


"So this was a special occasion."


She shook her head. "We've been having breakfast together after all-nighters a lot recently. Angel seems to get a kick out of doing it." She thought about that for a second, then went on: "Anyhow. I was sitting here and Wesley was sitting right where you are, and Angel was grinding more pepper into the eggs, and I was telling him not to and Wesley was complaining I don't have any marmite and I was thinking I don't even know what marmite is and-and Angel changed. He looked away, and when he looked back he was gone and it was Angelus."


She lifted her cup to her lips, then put it down again without drinking. Her gaze was focused not on me, but on the small section of tiling next to the stove, as if she was watching the scene play out again in front of her. "He didn't even say anything. He didn't have to. It's all in the eyes with Angel, y'know? Angelus looked at me and I just knew he was thinking terrible things..."


"And then Angel came back," I said.


She nodded. "He made us take him to the vaults on Spring Street right then. He said he wasn't safe. He hardly even spoke on the way there. I've never seen him like that before."


I wasn't sure what she meant. "Like what?"


Cordelia got up and poured her cooling, untouched tea into the sink.


"He was scared," she said.


* * *


"I've been continuing my vampire studies," I said. "I'd like to ask a question."


Angel was sitting against the vault's wall, just beyond the door's metal bars. One of his legs was extended; the other was half-bent, and he rested an arm on the knee. He looked and sounded more relaxed than during our first session, and I felt cautiously optimistic. "Go on."


"Wesley's been explaining a few things to me, but I want to make sure I understand. So stop me if I get this wrong. Suppose I am a vampire and I want to turn one of my victims into a vampire. I drink their blood, then make them drink mine. Right so far?"





"And at that point the victim dies. Physically dies."


"Yes. For a few hours. A night at most."


"And then the vampire-that is to say, the demon-takes over the body."


Angel nodded.


"Does the demon exist before that?"


"Yes. Vampire demons aren't born and we can't be killed. We can only be summoned from or sent back to the hell dimensions."


"So, you existed before you inhabited this body?" Angel nodded again. "Do you remember that?"


He tipped his head back against the wall and shut his eyes for a moment, as if he was trying to do just that. Then he said, "No. I guess it's like... a child in the womb. It's there, but there's no intelligence. Just potential."


"Then when the demon enters the body, it takes over the victim's memories and character. It becomes that person."


"Not exactly. The original person is gone. They're dead."


This had been the point at which Wesley's explanation had begun to confuse me as well. "But if the body is moving about, with memories intact, then surely..."


Interrupting, Angel said, "The soul is gone. That's all that matters."


"So the victim is dead, and what remains is a body animated by a blood-feeding demon with access to his or her memories and character traits." Angel nodded, and I concluded, "So, we've just defined what a vampire is."


He didn't dispute it, and I pressed on: "Just now, you spoke of vampire demons and said 'we'."


"That's what I am."


"But yesterday you talked about your memories of Ireland in the first person. You said 'my father'. Given what you've just told me, shouldn't that have been 'Liam's father'?"


"I guess..." said Angel slowly. He hesitated, then said, "But what I remember of living... it's me. I can't explain it, but it's me."




Angel stood up and started pacing the cell again. I already knew from various comments made by Wesley and Cordelia that he used physical activity-and in particular the violence that was a regular feature of his unique lifestyle-as a form of release. Whatever the root cause of Angel's current problem was, I doubted that this ongoing confinement, although necessary, was going to help matters.


"He is me," he said at last, "because all that he was made me-makes me-what I am. I can't draw the line to mark where he stops and I start. There isn't a line."


"And what was Liam like?"


The answer was instant. "Weak. Selfish. Lazy."


"That's a pretty damning indictment," I said. "How about some specifics?"


He thought for a moment before replying. "My father was a merchant. There was a business to run; I was the eldest son ... But I had no talent for it. I wasn't interested. Not when there were taverns and women."


"What were your talents?"


Angel smiled without humour. "I was good at getting drunk and falling over."


"I'm serious," I said. "What did you want to be?"


There was a long silence. He seemed stumped for an answer. "I don't think I've ever been asked that before."


I smiled and shrugged. "So, I'm asking."


"I liked... I could draw. Pencil sketches, mostly. Watercolours when I could get the materials. I think maybe..." He stopped, looked away, then back at me: "An artist. That's what I wanted to be. On good days, I used to go to the cliffs overlooking the bay and draw the sea. It was different every time. I remember..."


He stopped suddenly, and staggered backwards for several paces, as if someone had struck him. I stood up automatically, and took a step towards the bars. "Angel?"




He straightened up slowly, and smiled at me. It was no less chilling than before, but at least this time I had a better idea what I was facing.


"Angelus. I was wondering when I'd get to talk to you again."


"Really. I was wondering when I'd get a chance to rip your heart out and show it to you."


Evenly, I said, "I'm not your enemy."


The cold smile widened. "I'm yours."


* * *


I sat with Wesley in the diner across the street from the Security Trust and Saving Bank building, examining the documents he had just given to me and trying to ignore the curious looks being directed towards us by the waitress. She was doubtless wondering what kind of business we were discussing at two o'clock in the morning. I couldn't help but wonder what her reaction would have been if she had known.


I held up the two pieces of paper in turn. The first was a yellowing sheet of parchment whose edges were curled and cracked around densely packed lines of Romanian script. The second was a neatly word-processed English translation. The translation was barely more comprehensible than the original.


"I must admit," said Wesley with a hint of admiration, "it's an elegant piece of magic."


I looked at him. "That's an odd way to describe a curse."


He gave a short smile. "It's the academic in me." He pointed at a section of indecipherable Romanian and its English equivalent. "This part is what we're interested in. It specifies that if the restored soul ever knows a moment of true peace, then it becomes forfeit."


I thought about that. "And this spell was cast by the clan of the gypsy girl Angelus murdered?"




"Then surely the curse is illogical. They wanted to stop Angelus, not provide a way for him to return later on."


Wesley shook his head. "That's how I thought of it at first. Then I realised the Romany didn't want to stop Angelus: they wanted to make sure he suffered. This clause made sure he would-for ever."


I frowned. "Explain that to me."


"With his soul restored, Angel would feel guilt for the evil he had done. And, as a moral being, he would feel responsible for not allowing that evil to be repeated. The effect of the curse would therefore be to make him fear happiness, to continue to be punished by his guilt not only because he knew he deserved it, but also because he understood the consequences if he ever allowed himself to forget his sins. As I said, elegant." Wesley shook his head and his expression saddened. "An elegant way of gifting Angel with a conscience, then using it to torture him for eternity."


I looked down at the curse again, and saw it in a new light. Angel, in a sense, owed his existence to the words on the pages in front of me; at the same time they promised him only an immortality of self-reproach.


Wesley sighed. "There was, of course, just one small flaw in what the Romany did."


"What was that?"


"They didn't wait around long enough to tell Angel about the escape clause. So when he got a chance at happiness, he took it. And released Angelus."


"This happened recently?" I asked.


"Yes. Just a couple of years ago."


I flipped over to a fresh page in my notebook. "Tell me everything."


Wesley held up a hand. "I can tell you the facts, but I wasn't there. You might learn more by asking Cordelia-she was."


I lifted the notepad and stood up. As soon as Wesley had begun to explain the minutiae of gypsy magic to me, Cordelia had declared herself in danger of expiring from terminal boredom, and had gone to keep Angel company. "I'll do it now."


"Do you think..." Wesley stopped, then decided to plunge on with his question. "Do you think you're making any progress?"


For a moment I said nothing. The truth was that Angel's condition was deteriorating. The periods during which Angelus was the dominant persona were becoming more frequent and protracted. He had nothing to bring to our sessions except verbal abuse or sullen silence, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to make any kind of real progress with my patient.


"I haven't given up yet," I said at last.


Wesley replaced his glasses and lifted a heavy leather-bound tome on to the table. "Good. Neither have I."






I wasn't the only person to have noticed how my analysis techniques seemed to trigger Angelus' appearances; Angel had seen the pattern as well, and he was becoming less co-operative and more wary. I began to fear we were slipping into a vicious circle, wherein the more serious his condition became, the less able he would be to accept help. In short, I was worried.


In the end, I asked him about Wesley and Cordelia just to keep him talking to me.


Sceptically, he said, "Don't tell me you're starting sessions with them now as well."


"Actually, I'm just curious as to how you know each other. You're all very... different."


"Keen insight into character you've got there." He shrugged. "I knew them before L.A. We kind of ran into each other here. That's all there is to it."


"How would you describe your relationship with them?"


Another shrug. "They work for me."


"So they're just employees." I looked straight at Angel, challenging him. "In my experience, employees don't arrange abductions to help their boss. Not even the conscientious ones. Are you certain there's nothing more to it than that?"


"Well, maybe there is."


This was more like it. "Go on."


"Cordelia's a seer. She has visions."


"Visions of what?"


"There are evil things," said Angel. "More different kinds than you can imagine. Sometimes it surprises me, and I thought I'd seen a lot." I didn't want to think about what kind of evil a vampire with a hundred years or more experience of inflicting terror and pain might find surprising. I just knew I didn't want to have to meet it, ever. "Cordelia sees them, Wesley researches them and I kill them. I guess somebody wants us working together."


"That somebody being...?"


"Whoever sends the visions. The Powers That Be."


If, one week earlier, a patient had calmly told me that mysterious higher powers directed his actions through supernatural visions, I would have prescribed him something strong and recommended a spell in full-time care. Now, I simply said, "So you have a greater purpose. A mission."


"Yes," said Angel. Then, with less certainty: "Maybe. I hope so. I feel... like I'm waiting."


"For what?"


"To be told..." He was staring up at the shadowy ceiling, expression clouded, unreadable. "To find out what I'm supposed to be doing. Apart from just existing."


I thought I understood. We all need to find meaning in life, a reason to get up in the morning. How much more vital must this need for meaning be when all the usual ways of fulfilling it-family, children, a role in human society-are denied. And when the days and nights stretch ahead not for a mortal lifetime, but for eternity.


"I should be dead," said Angel, and I got the impression he was now talking mostly to himself. "I was dead. But they brought me back and I don't know why..."


"Everyone's waiting for something," I said. "The trick is to invest the waiting with meaning. I think you're making a pretty good job of that."


Angel was shaking his head. "But it doesn't matter."


I wasn't following. "What doesn't matter?"


He spread his hands wide in a gesture of hopelessness and frustration. "However many visions Cordelia has, however many demons I kill, people I help-it doesn't make any difference. I can't ever do enough to make up."


"To make up for what Angelus did?"


He shook his head. "To make up for what I've done."


"You don't draw any distinction between him and you?"


He looked at me, genuinely puzzled. "Why would I? There is no distinction."


"You don't behave in the same way; you don't have the same goals or motivations. I'd say there are clear differences."


Quietly, Angel said, "But the desires are the same. If you call me by one name when I act on them and another when I don't, you're fooling yourself. Because what's underneath is exactly the same."


"You're telling me a soul is nothing more than a supernatural restraining order."


Angel frowned, and I could tell he was taking pains to express himself clearly. "No. No... it's much more than that. It's like living in black and white, then waking up one day and seeing in colour for the first time. Your eyes hurt, but you'd never choose to go back."


"Tell me about the benefits of living in colour."


He thought for a moment. "People stop being shadows. You start seeing them, really seeing them for the first time. You realise that the world you thought only existed for your convenience belongs to a billion other people too. Then you want to be part of it again, and you can't."


I thought about Angel preparing food he couldn't taste, watching others eat it. How it must be one more small torture, but one to which he subjected himself over and over again. Because he wanted to belong.


"What kind of relationships do vampires have?" I asked.


"Destructive ones." He gave a tight smile, which vanished as soon as it appeared. "I'm no exception."


"In what way?" I asked.


Softly, he said, "I thought I could have forgiveness. Acceptance. And the second I believed that, I destroyed it all."


"I don't perceive your relationship with Wesley and Cordelia to be destructive," I said.


"Give me time," said Angel.


* * *


I was making my way down the stairs leading to the lowest level of the vaults when I heard the sound of someone crying.


I followed the muffled sobs around a corner and nearly tripped over Cordelia. She was sitting on the bare concrete floor, backed up into a corner and weeping into her hands. She jumped when I sat down beside her, but she didn't tell me to leave, and she accepted the handkerchief I offered her. We sat side by side in the dimness as gradually her sobs became softer and eventually stopped.


The first thing she said when she could speak clearly was, "Is my mascara running?"


I made a show of examining her face. "Not a smudge."


"Good. I paid an extra ten bucks for the waterproof version." She sniffed. "Don't start thinking I'm one of those burst-into-tears-'cause-I-broke-a-nail types. I'm not weak and helpless. I've staked vampires and I've dissected demons with hacksaws. I'm tough."


Quietly, I said, "Words can be pretty deadly weapons as well, though."


"You got that right." She blew her nose, noisily. "Angelus came out to play. He likes getting under your skin. That's how he gets his kicks." She frowned. "Well, that and brutally murdering innocent people. But... he said things tonight and..." She stopped.


"You don't have to tell me," I said.


She hesitated. Then: "He said none of them ever liked me. That I was the spoiled little rich girl, the big joke. And the thing is-it's the truth. I wasn't a nice person in high school. I know that's really tough to believe, but it's true. And then some... bad things happened and I thought, not often but sometimes, that maybe it was my fault. Like karma, you know, except in this life?" She looked at me, and shook her head. "With Angelus, you try to build a fortress around yourself, but if there's one little crack, just one, then he knows how to make it bigger."


"Angelus says what he knows will hurt you," I told her. "That's not the same thing as the truth."


"Angelus says what Angel thinks," Cordelia corrected me. "And Angel should know. They didn't really want him there either. Especially not after what he did when he went bad. When he came back, they just put up with him 'cause Buffy wanted him around and Buffy's the Slayer so she always gets her way."


I guessed she was referring to the incident Wesley had told me about, but now was hardly the time to press her for details. I waited, and after a moment she continued: "And they didn't want Wesley there either, because he was sent to be Giles' replacement. But that wasn't his fault. He was just trying to do his job, y'know?" She shook her head. "I guess the Scooby Gang was great if you were in the club. If you were on the outside-not so terrific."


I wasn't sure exactly what she was talking about, but I had followed enough to feel I now had a better understanding of what bound these three very different people together. Angel's protestations notwithstanding, the dynamics of this group ran far deeper than the links between employer and employees. Neither was it only about harnessing an array of different talents-the warrior, the scholar and the seer-to fight in some grand supernatural battle none of them really understood. It was simpler than that, and more profound: three lonely outsiders had stumbled by accident into each others' lives and found what they had all been searching for, probably without even being able to articulate the need. Acceptance.


Cordelia said, "The weird thing is, it's been so much better in L.A. Even with being poor, and watching my social life wither up and die, and getting headaches like someone's set up a nuclear test zone inside my skull-it's better here. I don't want it to stop."


"Let's go upstairs," I said, taking her arm. "We'll get you a cup of coffee."


"Is Wesley up there?"


"He was when I left."


She rubbed the damp handkerchief over her face. "I want to stay here for a while. I don't want him to see me... you know."


I knew. "Here's a suggestion. I'd like to see where Angel lives. Are you up to giving me a guided tour?"


She nodded. "There're some things I need to get from his apartment anyway. Hey, when they make a movie out of this, who should play me?"


"Cameron Diaz," I said, helping her up.


Cordelia nodded approvingly. "Good choice. Blonde, but a good choice."


* * *


You can tell a lot about a person from where they live.


Any room, or apartment or house, that is someone's personal space becomes very quickly an extension of themselves. Our surroundings reflect who we are, who we would like to be. The more difficult it became for me to reach Angel directly, the more I was going to have to rely on indirect communication.


Cordelia unlocked the basement apartment and started to fix coffee. She had begun to recover her spirits almost as soon as we had left Spring Street, and now they seemed almost completely restored. Within a few minutes, she came back into the main living area and handed me a cup. Gesturing around the room with her free hand, she said, "Well, this is chez Angel. Kitchen's through there; that's the bathroom, bedroom and den, sewer access is through that hatch and over there is the weapons cabinet. Nothing special."


"Mind if I look around?"


She shook her head. "Go ahead. But I wouldn't open the weapons cabinet, if I were you-those babies tend to get temperamental if you lift them the wrong way."


I assured her that was the last thing I intended doing. Cordelia busied herself filling a small bag with clean clothes, humming as she moved from room to room, and I opened my notebook and began-there's no politer word for it-to snoop.


Straight away I noticed the books. It was unavoidable-Angel's library filled shelves along two entire walls. On closer inspection, I found that the first wall was devoted entirely to reference works. I understood that: the shelves of my study at home creaked under the weight of my college copies of Freud and Jung. These books, however, were rather more ancient and, I fancied, a lot more difficult to order from Barnes and Noble.


For my purposes, the second wall was more interesting. I browsed through the titles, noticing the strong bias towards literature and philosophy. The spine of every book was cracked and worn, suggesting that their owner had become more than familiar with their contents through repeated readings. I sensed that for Angel reading was something much more than merely a way to pass the time.


I noticed, too, that the books had been carefully arranged-the novels were grouped together, the volumes of poetry below them, the biographies next to those, and so on. This attention to detail and sense of order was repeated throughout the room. The space was sparely furnished, but each piece was placed to maximum advantage. And while every item was of a different style-a leather upholstered chair here, a Japanese lamp stand over there-somehow they complemented each other perfectly.


A framed pencil sketch hung on the wall next to the bedroom door. It was a seascape at night, a full moon rising over a deserted bay. I searched for the artist's signature, and couldn't find it.


"Okay, fashion decision required." Cordelia walked past me out of the bedroom and held up two almost identical dark sweaters. "Should I bring him the black one or the black one?"


I gave the matter careful consideration. "For me, the black has it."


"Black it is, then." Cordelia went back into the bedroom and I followed her, watching as she returned one sweater to the closet before folding the other and carefully packing it in the bag sitting on the bed. "What is it about having a soul that makes a vampire lose his dress sense?"


"You don't approve?"


"I just don't get it, that's all. Angelus might be evil but he knows how to dress. Silk, leather... the guy makes an impact, y'know? Angel could look so much better if he just put in the effort."


Cordelia shrugged in a way that said she personally could not comprehend anyone not wanting to look their best at any time for any reason. I thought about the eclectic perfection of the living room, the way each item represented just a hint of luxury. As if the owner loved beautiful things, but was afraid to indulge himself. I looked at the plain black sweater nestling at the top of the bag, and thought that not dressing like Angelus was probably the point.


There was a book sitting on the bedside table. I turned it over, curious, and found it was a copy of the collected poetry of T. S. Eliot. A first edition, beautifully set and bound. I lifted it, and the book fell open in my hands. I scanned the page, and saw that one section of verse had been lightly marked in pencil.


I made to set the book down again, and something fell out from between the leaves. It was a photograph of a pretty blonde girl, laughing at the camera, her mouth slightly open as if about to say something to the photographer.


"That's Buffy."


Cordelia was standing at my shoulder; I hadn't noticed she'd finished packing and had come to join me. "The Slayer?"


"Yeah. And when a vampire starts dating a vampire slayer, you don't have to be a genius to see the words Trouble Brewing hovering in great big neon letters over their heads."


Suddenly I understood what Wesley's earlier comment had meant. Even the cursed want to love, and be loved.


"Being with her made him happy," I realised. "Perfectly happy."


Cordelia was looking at me oddly. "He hasn't mentioned her at all, has he?"




She frowned, and I sensed disappointment, but little surprise. "He doesn't talk about her a lot. Some things just cut too deep, I guess. But we hoped he'd get around to telling you before we had to."


"I need to know," I said.


Cordelia lifted the hold-all off the bed and nodded. "Then let's go in the kitchen. This is going to take a while."





"I've brought you something," I said, holding up the Collected Poems of T S Eliot.


"You've been to my apartment," said Angel.


"With Cordelia," I told him. "I thought since you've been reading this recently, you might like to have it. You haven't asked for any books while you've been here."


Angel said, "I haven't felt like reading."


"There isn't much else to do."


"There's thinking."


"I couldn't help noticing the lines you marked in one of the poems," I remarked, opening the book. I began to read: "I said to my soul, be still..."


Before I could go any further, Angel was saying the words with me. I stopped reading, and let him complete the lines by himself.


"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing."


He closed his eyes as he spoke, and when he finished, I let the silence stretch as long as I dared.


At last I said, "You identify with those lines very strongly."


His eyes opened again, although he didn't look at me. "Let's just say they touch a nerve."


"Tell me about Buffy Summers," I said.


I had debated with myself for some time as to how best to approach this subject, which I was sure was a wound on Angel's psyche as raw and painful as the day it had been opened. In the end, I had decided he was smart enough to anticipate any indirect avenue I might try, and would respect frankness more than misplaced attempts to spare his feelings.


But Angel didn't reply. He continued to stare at the far wall of his cell, silent and still. I, and all the world around him, might have vanished in that moment, and I doubt he would have paid the slightest heed. Finally, just when I was beginning to think I had lost him entirely, he repeated softly, "Love of the wrong thing."


"Why was it wrong?"


"Because I was happy."


"Angel," I said: "Faith, love, hope... every empathetic, intelligent being-every being with a soul, if you like-needs those things to exist."


"It's because I have a soul that I can't have them." He gave a short laugh, faint and hollow. "Not a lot of people appreciate just what a finely developed sense of irony gypsies have."


"Telling yourself you don't have those needs isn't going to make them go away."


He shook his head. "You don't understand."


"Then explain to me. Make me understand."


Angel stood up and faced me with sudden anger. "How can I? Have you ever lost your soul?"


I blinked. "Well, of course not, but..."


"Of course not," echoed Angel, with scorn. "You people. You humans. Half of you don't even believe your souls exist. If you knew what you would be like without them-if you could see what you would be capable of, the horror of it, the emptiness-you would do everything in your power to hold on to what gives you your humanity. Do you know what losing your soul feels like?"


I didn't answer; I couldn't. After a moment his anger ebbed away, and he stepped back from the bars of the vault. He seemed tired. More than that: weary.


"You can feel the warmth draining out of you, washing away with the rain. And you try to hold on to it, you cling on to the memories of what it was like to feel, but all the colour's gone out of them, all the meaning. You realise you're going to lose everything that means anything to you, and the worst of it is, you know you won't care when it's gone. You won't even remember what love felt like."


I waited.


"I won't be what I was," said Angel. His voice shook. "I won't."


"Coffee time!" announced Cordelia. I looked around as she appeared at the bottom of the stairs, carrying a tray carefully, closely followed by Wesley. I doubted they had even the slightest notion just how bad their timing was. I fought down the desire to tell them to go away, and made a mental note to try to explain when I got a chance why psychiatrists don't like being interrupted during sessions with their patients.


She set the tray down on the floor of the hallway, and started to pour drinks. "You've been working way too long without a break. Tea, Dr Kiely?"




She offered me a plate, stacked high with indeterminately shaped dark lumps. "Have a brownie. They're home made."


"I'm sure Dr Kiely wants to live to see tomorrow," said Wesley, sotto voce.


I felt obliged to be polite, so I lifted a brownie. "They look..." I couldn't think how to end that sentence, so I resorted to biting into one. "Mmmmph," I said. It was the only sound I was capable of making.


Cordelia shot Wesley a triumphant look. "You see? Someone appreciates my baking." She lifted a vacuum flask and unscrewed the lid; then she held the mouth of the flask over a tall glass and started to tip it. "Angel, how much?"


Angel was standing well back from the bars of the vault. He had hardly moved since Wesley and Cordelia had arrived. "Nothing. I'm not hungry."


Wesley said, "You haven't eaten since yesterday."


"I said no."


There was an edge of unnecessary harshness in his voice such that for a moment I thought Angelus was back. Judging by the faces of Wesley and Cordelia, they thought so too. Then Angel approached the door of the vault, expression conciliatory. "Not right now, okay? Maybe later."


Cordelia nodded, satisfied. "Okay. We'll leave this here. It'll stay hot for at least a couple of hours." She screwed the lid back on to the vacuum flask and gave it to Wesley to give to Angel.


What happened next was a blur.


One second Wesley was reaching out to hand the flask to Angel through the bars of the vault door. The next he was pinned against the metal bars from behind, making choking noises and scrabbling desperately at his throat as he tried to release the crushing pressure of Angelus' arm on his neck.


Cordelia dropped the cup of coffee she was pouring.


Angelus was pushing against the bars from the inside. Leaning forward he said in a low, dangerous voice: "It's always a mistake to get too close. People only wind up being hurt." He moved his arm a fraction, and Wesley made a sound which would have been a scream, if it had been able to escape his chest. "Like this."


"Please don't do this," said Cordelia. "Please."


Angelus virtually purred with pleasure. "Mmmm, Cordy. You have no idea what a turn-on begging is."


While his attention was focused on her, I had been inching forwards, towards the vault door and Wesley. I didn't think Angelus had noticed until, without even looking at me, he said, "One step closer and Wes here gets a broken neck."


I stopped. "You're not going to kill him," I said, trying to project a confidence I didn't feel.


Now he did look at me, witheringly. "I was thinking quadriplegia would be a really good look on him. Those nerves at the top of the spine are so fragile and so very, very important..."


"What do you want?"


"You've been analysing me for five days straight and you still haven't worked it out? You still don't know? Where'd you get that psychiatric degree of yours anyway-the Arkansas Institute of Pet Psychology? I want you people to leave me alone," snarled Angelus.


And then he was gone.


Wesley slumped to the floor as the grip on his neck was released. He lay still for a moment, taking huge, wheezing breaths. Cordelia was beside him in an instant, helping him to his feet as Angel retreated to the back of the vault, as far away from the door as it was possible for him to get.


"I'm-quite all right," croaked Wesley. "No permanent damage done-" He broke off as his voice gave out completely.


Cordelia said, "Angel-"


"Leave," said Angel from the darkness inside the vault.


"It's okay," said Cordelia. "We know it wasn't you."


"It was me," said Angel. "It is me. And if you haven't realised that by now, you're even more stupid than I thought."


Cordelia blinked uncertainly. "Angel?"


"Go now. All of you. Just go." He turned away. "And tell him that was our last session."


It was clear I wasn't going to get anything more from Angel tonight. Or at any point in the near future.


I offered Wesley my support, and when he could walk Cordelia and I helped him up the stairs, leaving Angel alone in the shadows below.


* * *


It was three o'clock in the morning by the time I got home. Too tired even to undress, I lay down on top of my bed and waited for exhaustion to claim me.


It didn't. At half past three, sick of staring at the glowing digits of my alarm clock, I got up again.


I poured myself a whiskey and went to the study. The room was a mess: I hadn't tidied it since I had started treating Angel, and every textbook, reference work and article I had consulted in the past week was open or piled on the desk or, when space there had run out, on the carpet beneath it. In the middle of the desktop, occupying its own special place amongst the clutter, was the legal pad which had been fresh at the start of the week.


I sat down at the desk and sipped the whiskey. I finished it and poured myself another one. By the time I was half way through the third, I was starting to experience a vague and not unpleasant sensation of dislocation. With nothing else to do and not yet feeling ready for sleep, I lifted the first Dictaphone cassette I saw and put it into the player I kept on the corner of the desk. Then I began to flick through the notepad, glancing at pages at random, scanning my scribbled notes and hypotheses. They were all, I knew now, useless.


If one thing was clear to me, it was that Angel did not have multiple personality disorder, or anything like it. Even disregarding the curse, he displayed none of the classic symptoms. He was aware of the different facets of his personality: Liam, the long-dead Irishman who formed the template for his existence, Angelus, the creature who had developed and relished Liam's flaws, and Angel, who regretted the mistakes of all three of them. But Angel didn't think of himself as three people; he spoke of each in the first person, and took responsibility for their actions. I didn't think that assumption of accountability came purely from his well-developed sense of guilt. As far as Angel was concerned, it was a simple fact he could not escape. Liam and Angelus and Angel were not different people: they were just convenient labels for different aspects of one individual's character.


Convenient for whom?


Not Angel; he knew exactly what he was. But for the people around him, how much easier to segment his personality into different elements and pretend they bore no relation to each other. I recalled how, that first night in the diner, Cordelia had talked about 'bad Angelus' and 'good Angel'. How, just a few hours earlier, she had said, 'It wasn't you.' How Angel had savaged her for it.


It was as if he wanted her to blame him. Wanted both her and Wesley to know what he was capable of, and to hate him for it.


As if he wanted to drive them away.


On the tape, Angel said, "I thought I could have forgiveness. Acceptance. And the second I believed that, I destroyed it all."


At the same time, my eye fell on a section of the notes I had taken during one of my conversations with Wesley. The one where he had explained to me the exact nature of Angel's curse.


'To make him fear happiness.'


Finally I understood. But I didn't think Angel did.


My hands shook as I lifted the phone, and it wasn't entirely due to the amount of alcohol in my system.




"Wesley," I said: "I know what's happening. I know what's causing it."


There was a short silence. At last he said, "And you can stop it?"


"No. Angel has to do that himself. But we can help." I hesitated for a moment, then went on: "I have something in mind, but for it to work, you and Cordelia will have to participate, and it'll be risky. Maybe dangerous." He listened as I outlined my idea.


When I had finished he asked, "This will help Angel?"




"Give me an hour to set it up," he said, and hung up.


* * *


Wesley was as good as his word. By the time I had driven back to Spring Street, one of the larger vaults on the upper floor had been transformed into a centre of supernatural activity. A circle of candles lit the room with an eerie, flickering light, and the thick smell of herbs hung in the air. Cordelia was on her hands and knees, putting the finishing touches to a chalk pentagram on the bare floor. She looked up as I came in.


"All done," she said. "So what's the deal here?"


As I had just outlined to Wesley, I told her what I now knew was the matter with Angel, and why. And when I had covered that, I explained how we were going to make him see it too.


"Jeez," said Cordelia when I had finished. "Group therapy with a kick."


"Something like that," I said, almost smiling. Then I remembered what we were about to do. "Cordelia, I this isn't the kind of treatment I'm used to administering. If I'm wrong-"


She interrupted me before I could finish. "I know the deal, Doc. Let's do it."


I heard a noise from the hallway outside and turned around just as Wesley and Angel came in. Angel's hands were bound, making him look like a convict, with Wesley as his gaoler.


"Angel?" said Cordelia.


"For the moment," he said, not looking at her. I saw him take in the room and the elaborate mystical paraphernalia. "Magic?"


"Yes," said Wesley. His voice was still little more than a croak and I could tell speaking was causing him no small discomfort. "I believe I've found a spell that could help. It's an obscure incantation-dates from the middle ages, designed to strengthen curses. I thought it was worth a shot. It needs four people, though, so I asked Dr Kiely if he wouldn't mind sitting in."


"What do I need to do?" asked Angel. His voice was flat, and he still hadn't made eye contact with any of us. I hoped we weren't already too late.


"You three stand inside the pentagram," instructed Wesley. "I want to take a few minutes to review the incantation."


We assumed our positions, forming a triangle inside the chalk shape on the floor. Before taking up her place, Cordelia began to untie the ropes around Angel's wrists.


He pulled away from her. "Don't do that."


She shook her head and pointed at Wesley. "Hey, I'm just following magic-man's orders."


Wesley looked up from the book he was consulting. "The spell is quite specific, Angel: the subject can't be restrained, or it won't work."


"It's not safe," said Angel. "I'm not safe."


Ignoring him, Cordelia pulled the ropes free and threw them on to the floor outside the chalk marks. "It's only for ten minutes. Come on, Angel, you can hold out that long. I know you can."


She looked up at him and gave him a smile which was equal measures of optimism and conviction. Angel hesitated, then nodded. I decided that when they came to make the movie, Cordelia was a good enough actress to play herself.


"Just focus on the positive," she said brightly, then added, as if the idea had just occurred to her: "Hey, you know what you need? Something to look forward to. When this is over, let's do something fun. All of us."


Wesley nodded in agreement, playing his role to perfection. "That's an excellent notion, Cordelia. We could do what we did for your birthday."


Cordelia's smile widened. "Yeah! That was the best." She glanced towards me and explained, "On my birthday, I had a vision of this truly icky fungus demon in a cave out west. We drove all the way up into the Santa Monica mountains, and by the time Angel killed it, it was too late to get back to L.A. before dawn. So we stayed. Wesley had matches and he lit a fire-"


"Always be prepared, that was our motto in the Boy Scouts."


"-and it was so pretty and peaceful up there. Have you been to the mountains?"


"Not recently," I said.


"There's no smog; you can see the whole sky and all the stars. Angel named all the constellations and showed me where they were. Remember, Angel?"


He was remembering, of course. That was the point. But Angel's expression was one of near pain. In a strained voice, he said, "Cordelia, not now."


Cordelia shot a quick, concerned glance at me, and I nodded silently, indicating that she should continue. Pretending not to have heard, she went on, "And we could see all the lights of L.A. down in the valley, and I started thinking about how we'd done a good thing that night getting rid of the demon, and how it totally sucked that no one down there even knew about it, and you said that was how it should be. And you were right, because then it was like a special secret just for the three of us. It was the best birthday present I ever had."


"Don't," said Angel. He was looking down at his feet instead of at Cordelia, and his voice was barely a whisper. "Please. Don't."


"You know, you were definitely less mopey than usual for, like, days after that. Maybe all you really need is a vacation."


Without warning, Angel's head snapped up. At the same time, his right hand shot out and grabbed Cordelia by the neck. "What I really need," he said in a low, dangerous voice, "is for you to shut up."


Cordelia gasped, struggling for breath. I looked down and saw that her feet hovered more than inch above the floor.


"Angelus," said Wesley.


He grinned. "Good call, Wes. What gave it away? The friendly, relaxed manner? Or was it maybe-" He let Cordelia fall to the floor, where she collapsed, wheezing and holding her hands to her bruised neck: "-my abundance of natural charm?"


Angelus sauntered across the room until he faced Wesley. He lifted the book of magic away from him and began to rip out the pages, one by one. "We won't be needing this, for a start."


He was looming over Wesley, body language dominant, threatening. Wesley didn't move, didn't retreat. "We're not frightened," he said clearly.


Casually, Angelus knocked him sideways. There was a sharp, unpleasant crack as Wesley hit the solid concrete wall; he remained immobile for a moment before sliding to the floor. He sank into a lopsided sitting position and remained there, eyes open and unseeing, body limp.


If he was dead-


If he was dead, I had made the worst mistake of my career, and probably the last mistake too. I had been wrong-wrong in my diagnosis, wrong to attempt this foolhardy and dangerous experiment. If Angelus had killed Wesley then it was my fault, although I wouldn't have to feel guilty for too long, because Cordelia and I were certainly next. And my last conscious thought would be that I had helped release a monster back into the world.


Angelus leaned down to address Wesley's body. Wagging one finger in reprimand, he said, "And don't think all you've gotta do is cower and wait, because this time is different. This is permanent. I can feel it."


I couldn't be wrong. I couldn't be. Taking a deep breath and trying to keep my voice steady, I asked, "What makes you so sure?"


Angelus turned, and in an instant I found myself the sole focus of his attention. I felt uncomfortably like an animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, exposed. Vulnerable. When I had dealt with him before, there had been bars between us. Now I was face to face with a psychopath, several storeys underground and far away from any potential help.


"Mind games, Ben? You should know better. And let me tell you, after all that therapy you've subjected me to, I'm going to really enjoy killing you."


"Then why don't you just get on and do it?" At the other side of the room, Cordelia was pulling herself to her feet. Her voice was hoarse and shook with ill-disguised terror, but her defiance was real. "'Cause last I heard, you can't talk people to death."


"I'm getting to it," said Angelus. He grinned at her. "Maybe I'll start with you."


He covered the distance between them in a matter of paces, picking her up and throwing her against the closed door with perfunctory violence. He closed on her, his face shifting to show the demon's features.


In the periphery of my vision, something moved. I glanced around and saw Wesley blinking and trying to push himself upright. He was alive.


Angelus bared his teeth against the soft, exposed skin on Cordelia's neck.


Seconds passed. And passed.


From the floor Wesley said, "Go on, then. We're waiting."


Angelus spun and snarled at him. The noise was guttural, less than human.


Wesley didn't balk. Didn't look away. "Go ahead. Kill her. Then you can kill me, and then Doctor Kiely here. Isn't that what you want? What's stopping you?"


An element of uncertainty crept into Angelus' expression.


Wesley answered his own question. "What's stopping you is that you don't really want to harm Cordelia. Or any of us. You just want to make us go away."


Quietly, I said, "I'm talking to Angel now. I know he-you-can hear me. I want you to think about what's been triggering the change each time it's happened. Just now, Cordelia made you think of a recent good memory. Each time I've talked to you, the change has happened when we've touched on your better experiences."


"Angel," said Cordelia. He was standing perfectly still, leaning over her in such a manner that she could whisper into his ear. "Angel, you didn't harm Wesley earlier tonight. Angelus would have killed him; you could have but you didn't. I know you're not going to hurt me. You're not going to hurt any of us."


"Cordelia told me about the first time this happened," I said. "You were having breakfast together. A meal shared with friends; there's no simpler or purer pleasure. But for someone who is experiencing friendship for the first time, the realisation of being accepted must be overwhelming. And for someone who has learned to fear the possibility of happiness, it must be terrifying."


Cordelia said, "Angel, you don't have to be frightened. You don't have to scare us away because you're afraid of being happy."


Wesley rose to his feet and stepped forward. Very gently, he put his hand on Angel's arm. "The curse hasn't been broken. I believe you know that. And I also believe that it can't be broken in the way you're afraid it can. Support, companionship-you can have those things. You do have them."


"It comes down to this," said Cordelia: "Get used to having us in your unlife. 'Cause we're not going anywhere."


Angel said nothing. Then he let go of Cordelia, straightened up, and stepped away from her, into the middle of the room. His face changed, becoming human again. And the expression on it was very human indeed.


Wesley and Cordelia moved towards Angel, and I opened the door and slipped out. As I reached the top of the dim corridor, I began to hear their voices from the room behind me, too low to make out what was being said. That, I decided, was as it should be.



I had done my part; they could take it from here.


* * *


I saw him once more after that, then not again.


I was leaving work, collecting my car from the parking lot underneath the building. I set down the case files I was carrying on the hood while I located my keys, and when I looked up he was there.


"Angel," I said. "How are you?"


"I'm okay."


"It's been-three months?"


"Nearly four."


"And no relapses?"




"I'm pleased to hear that," I said, and smiled. "What can I do for you? I'm very ready to take referrals from the netherworld. I could get myself a whole new speciality."


"Nothing like that," said Angel, "although I'll be sure to mention your name if I run across any conflicted fiends. I came to talk about-payment. I understand there's generally an hourly rate?"


I did charge by the hour, but I doubted Angel knew just how much a realistic estimate of the bill for my services that week would have been. "It was a learning experience for me. I'll waive my fee."


But Angel was shaking his head. Firmly, he said, "There's a debt that needs to be cleared."


I understood. "There is something," I said. "I've been reading Eliot again lately. That first edition of yours..."


"It's yours now," said Angel. "I'll have it delivered. If there's anything else..."


"That's more than enough."


He turned to leave. "Goodbye, doctor."


He was three or four paces away when I said, "The next line of the poem-the one that comes after 'love would be love of the wrong thing.' Do you remember what it is?"


Angel stopped. He turned around. After a second he recited:


"Wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting."


I nodded. "Yes. I was surprised when I read that. The poem isn't as bleak as I took it to be at first. It seems to me the poet is saying there is virtue in waiting. That it doesn't have to be an empty experience."


"Yeah," said Angel. "Cordelia said that to me too."


Somehow, literary allusion didn't strike me as being Cordelia's style. "She did?"


"Well, she phrased it, 'for God's sake try to lighten up already', but that's what it comes down to, isn't it?" He was smiling. It seemed real. "I have to go."


"Evil to fight?"


"Dinner to cook." He hesitated. "Thank you."


I nodded, and watched as he began to walk away from me. He had almost disappeared into the shadows when I thought of one final thing I wanted to say. "Angel."


He stopped, and looked back at me.


"We all have our demons. It's nothing to be ashamed of."


His expression changed for a moment, filling with something that was old and rueful and intensely, profoundly sad.


"I am my demon," he said, and was gone.







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