Spoilers: Angel season 2
Summary: A visit to see Faith leaves Angel depressed and with a strong desire to get drunk. The Host tries to help him out. But they never sleep together. Almost never.
Disclaimer: Characters and world - not mine. No profit made. And the lyrics aren't mine, either.
Elian finally got to the morose figure sitting at the bar, who was picking a coaster apart shred by shred and paying absolutely no attention to anything outside of his own head. Not even the magnificent - and very loud - Brakken up on stage. "Hey. Hey!"
The figure finally looked up. "What?"
"You just going to sit there, or do you want something to drink?"
The man stared at him, his eyes drifting from the barman's face down to his neck, then quickly back to the remains of the coaster as soon as he realised what he was doing.
"Plasma?" The barman offered. "The O pos is good today."
Angel threw down the coaster and looked back up at him. "You know, I'm really a little tired of the stereotyping. I am completely capable of drinking all sorts of liquids that don't come from veins. But no, you assume that just because I'm a vampire, all I could possibly want is blood. Why is that?"
Elian looked at him evenly. He wasn't being paid to counsel the clientele. That was his employer's job.
"I apologise. What would you like, then?"
There was a moment of silence.
"The kind with tomato juice?"
"No," Angel said, daring him to comment. Not a word was said by either until the drink was placed in front of him. He stared at it. He drank it.
"I didn't know that. The blood, and the alcohol... I mean, I knew they went well together, but in the same glass? That's a new concept."
"Are you any good at your job, bartender?" Angel asked idly, looking at the few drops left in his glass.
Elian shook his head and rested his elbows on the bar. "Not according to my boss, no."
That made Angel smile. "You ignore him. I'll bet that you can make all sorts of cocktails by putting blood in things."
"Some, yeah," Elian said cautiously.
"I want you to make them for me."
"All of them. One after another. Then, at the end of it, I can go and tell your boss whether he's right or not. Can you do that for me?"
"It's your dime. Sure."
"But only the ones with blood. Not the ones with bile, or lizard bits, okay? That's just..." he shook his head, "...too disgusting for words. Although I can't talk, right?"
"Listen, are you sure you haven't had enough?"
"I'm *fine*," Angel enunciated clearly. "I'm just... dandy. And thirsty. Do *not* make me call the big green guy over here, because I really don't want to talk to him."
"Yeah, well, you probably should," Elian said, standing up and reaching for a clean glass. "That's what he's there for and you sound like you need to."
"No, no, no," Angel shook one finger at him. "You are not the counsellor. You are the bartender. You don't tell me what to do, you bring me drinks. You bring many, many people and things whatever they want. And I want another drink."
"And I'm going to bring you one, because sooner or later he's going to notice a black cloud or a smudgy aura or something, and he'll be over here anyway."
Angel accepted the glass he was offered, holding it up to the light. "It's all bad," he said.
"Taste it, then tell me you don't like it, that's fair. Telling me you don't like the way it looks... that's not giving it a fair trial, you know?"
Angel stared at him blankly for a long minute, then stared at the drink again. He tasted it. "No," he said dismissively. "Drink is good. Life is bad. All bad."
"What, all of it?"
"All," Angel told him. "All bad. Even the other bits, which weren't bad? Now bad."
"Buddy, I'm just qualified to give you drinks. This is out of my league. Please let me get the boss?"
"No!" Angel said, louder than he intended. He ignored the stares from other patrons and after a moment, they returned to their own business.
Elian shrugged, then looked over at the side of the stage where the Host was now watching them, hands on hips, eyebrows raised in an unspoken question. The bartender nodded.
"No," Angel said again. "You see, your boss will just send me off on some stupid, make-everything-better-as-long-as-you-don't-die quest. He's done that before. I don't want to go off a-questing. It's deadly and it's utterly without meaning. I want to stay here, a-drinking. That's why you're not going to call him over."
He downed the drink and another was set before him. He held it up to the light, making sure there were no lizard pieces in it, and took a hearty swallow.
"Hey, this one's better. Remember this one for me. Can I tell you something, drink-maker-man?"
"Why don't you tell me instead, honey. Elian here has a job to do," a voice commented from beside him, and he looked over to see the Host leaning back against the bar, only a few inches away. He frowned. "Where did you come from?"
"Found under a lettuce in the vegetable patch. Hence the hue."
"I'm not talking to you," Angel told him, deciding not to even try and decipher what the demon was saying. Probably nothing relevant.
"Well, I'd be offended at that, if it wasn't for the fact that you are talking to me now, as you tell me that you're not talking to me." He dismissed Elian with a nod and turned all his attention to the vampire.
Angel thought about that. "Am not," he said.
"You're wrong," Angel insisted, unconvincingly. "I have no idea what we're talking about, but you are as wrong as it is possible to be."
"Angelcakes, are you *drunk*?"
The Host gently took the glass from his hand. "Not at all. Talk to me."
Angel shook his head. "No. You'll just tell me that to solve all my problems, I have to paint myself yellow and tap dance my way to China, or something equally insane. I mean, yellow?"
"Not your colour," the Host agreed. "No painting, and heaven forbid I ask you to dance. Just talking, maybe a tune or two if you're up to it."
"Promise. You know why? Because you want to talk to me."
Angel stared and gave a derisive laugh. "I do not!"
"Remind me again which one of us is psychic and would therefore know these things?"
"Uh... you? I'm pretty sure it's you."
The Host nodded. "Yes, it's me. This is my bar. This is where people come to talk to me. It's not where people come to ignore me."
Angel shrugged that off. "It's where they serve real bloody marys. Can I get another one of those?"
"No, Angel. No playing around, no pretending you have some perfectly innocent reason to be here. You have blood in the fridge at home and you are perfectly capable of mixing your own drinks. What I see when I look at you is a big, ugly tangle of depression, anger, fear... all the nasties. Does you no good at all, and until you get yourself sorted out you're just going to get lower and lower. That's why you're here. You want me to fix you."
Angel sighed. "You're not going to make this easy for me, are you? Why is this never easy?"
"Do you really want me to answer that?"
"No. In fact, what I want is for you to have a drink, because when two people are drunk, things can be said and then forgotten."
The Host pulled up a barstool. "Ooh, does that mean you have something interesting to tell me?" He waved Elian over again, putting in an order for his usual cocktail.
"No, again. I just hate these heart-to-hearts and it's hard to forget them the next morning if one of the hearts insists on remembering it all." Angel dropped his head to the bar, closing his eyes. "I think I'm drunk."
"I *know* you are, sweetie. Don't you fall asleep there." He pulled Angel's head up via a hand on the back of his collar. "Want me to throw water on you?"
Angel blinked at him. "No. Not even a little."
"So talk, or I will. Stop messing me around," he added gently. "This is like pulling teeth. If you don't want to talk, go home and sleep it off."
"Slayer," Angel said. "There. That enough for you?"
"That's the source your woes, my pet? The Slayer?"
Angel shook his head. "No. Yes. I really don't want to talk about it."
The Host began to think he'd need more than one drink to get through this. "Do you want to go home? Because those are your options. Home or talk. Pick one."
"I don't have a home. I have a hotel, that's in about a billion pieces. Several of the dozens of rooms are liveable and as unhomelike as it's possible for a room to be. It's empty. It's lonely. It's not a nice place to be. I'll just stay here, thanks."
The demon stood up. "Angel, I'm sorry, but I don't have time for this. I can't help unless you let me. You can stay here until closing, if you want. It'll probably do you good, unless you get drunk off your ass. Don't do that. Let me know when you're ready and I'll be here."
Angel looked down at the bar, apparently studying it closely. Eventually, he nodded.
"I mean it, Angel. I do not want you vomiting and passing out on the floor."
"So if I play nice, I can stay?"
The Host flashed him a smile. "You got it."
Angel smiled slightly in return.
Elian looked over the bar at the Host, shaking his head. "Hasn't moved all night. Nursed a couple of drinks. He was already a little wasted when he got here, though. Want me to get rid of him?"
The Host rolled his eyes. He took off his jacket and folded it over one arm. "No, I'll deal with it. Go on, get out of here."
He walked up behind Angel and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hey darlin', time to go home. I'm closing up."
Angel looked up. "I don't suppose you're in the mood to talk?"
"Now? You've been here all night and *now* you want to talk?"
Angel nodded. The demon sighed.
"I really don't know why I put up with you. Fine, but you'll have to come upstairs, because I'm locking this place down for the night."
Angel stood up, stretching stiff muscles. "Upstairs?"
"Yes, upstairs. Or did you think I slept under the bar?" He started walking towards a small, unremarkable door in the far wall. Angel followed, a little unevenly.
"I didn't think about it at all. Maybe on stage... so you're near the microphone."
The Host shot him a look. "Very funny." He opened the door, gesturing for Angel to go through first. Angel walked along the narrow corridor and up a flight of steps, finally emerging in a small room. He looked around.
"This is... uh, it's nice," he said.
The Host snorted his opinion of that. "It's cramped and annoying and the person who decorated it should be shot. I know. I've spent so much time doing up the bar that I haven't gotten around to fixing this part up yet. I'll get there one day."
"You live here?"
"To my sorrow, yes." The Host hung his jacket on a hanger and hooked it over a door that was ajar. Angel couldn't see where it lead. The room he was in was sparsely furnished and the chief decoration was the numerous jackets and shirts that hung off every available hook and ledge.
The demon was sitting on the small couch and watching him. "Are you done?"
"I was just looking," Angel said. "Not being nosy. There's a difference."
The Host smiled and patted the couch seat next to him. "You wanted to talk to me. Talk."
Angel sat down. It was the only seat in the room. "No, you said I wanted to talk to you. I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to, sweetie. You were here. That was enough."
"I don't remember what I told you."
"The Slayer," the Host reminded him. "The Slayer got you all worked up."
"Not *the* Slayer," Angel said, looking down at his hands. "*A* Slayer."
"Okay, correct me if I'm wrong... but isn't there just the one?"
"Well, yes. Just the one. Except now... there's the Slayer, and there's the *other* Slayer. See... she was dead, and then she wasn't. The first one. Which is why there's a second one."
"Well, yay for the forces of good. Two against... how many vampires and demons would you say there are in the world?"
Angel started to count and got lost somewhere after five. "Many," he decided. "Many. Not that it makes any difference. The second one is unfortunately in jail, where she encounters very few vampires."
"I can see that."
"No, you *don't* see," Angel said loudly. "Sorry," he added at more normal volume.
"You know, I have dealt with many drunks in my time, but you are by far the most irritating. Tell me what the hell is wrong."
"Hey, what kind of counsellor gets shouty at the people he's trying to help?"
The Host sighed. "One who's doing it off his own bat and is not getting paid. I'm entitled to help any way I please, including shouting."
Angel took a moment to think about that. "That's fair," he said uncertainly.
"Yes it is. Now, *please*, tell me about whatever it that has got you in such a tizzy."
"Okay. Okay, I will. Are you drunk?" he asked curiously.
"Yes," the Host lied immediately. "Very. There's no way whatsoever that I will be able to remember any of this later."
"Good. Good. Okay. Well, the Slayer. The other one. The one who's in prison."
"Good. Well, she was bad, and then she was good, but by the time she got good, she was already being charged with what she did when she was bad. And she has to stay in jail for a long, long time. I go and see her sometimes."
"That's nice you of you."
Angel began picking at a loose thread on a cushion. "If I didn't go... nobody would. And then for a while, I didn't. During the... bad times," he said obliquely.
"Yeah," he interrupted. "Got a little down and self-centred. I know. And I was all, why bother? Why bother to do anything?"
"But I should have. Should have bothered. Because nobody ever went to see her except me. Today, I went back and saw her. First time in... months, probably."
The Host began to see where this was going. "Didn't go to well, huh?"
"No. She cried. She actually cried. In fact, I think I did, too. I didn't know I still could." The thread came away in his hand and he dropped it on the floor, watching it as it fell. "As it turns out, she thought that when I stopped visiting her... it meant I'd lost faith in her. That I wasn't there for her anymore."
The demon wisely said nothing, and the story continued to spill out like a dam bursting.
"Do you have any idea what kind of damage a pissed-off Slayer can cause? She spent half her time in solitary and the other half in the hospital. They almost didn't let me see her when I did finally go. I eventually persuaded them that I might be able to calm her down by speaking to her..." he trailed off and shook his head. "I'm scum. I am complete and total scum. I screwed up and as usual, everyone else pays the price."
The Host put a comforting hand on his arm. "It's tragic, I agree, but you can't take all the blame for yourself. You didn't force this girl to use her strength against the other prisoners. That was a choice she made. Sure, if you'd not fallen into a pit of self-pitying despair she'd never have had to make it in the first place, but the choice was there and she made it on her own."
Angel looked at him for a moment then shook his head again. "No. It doesn't work like that."
"Yes it does," the Host said gently. "Everyone is presented with choices, every day. They're not always good ones, but which one you pick is up to you. Or her, in this case. A Slayer, if I understand this right, is given super-human strength to defeat the bad guys. Kill vampires. Nowhere is it programmed into her to use it on people, right? The other slayers, including the other present one, they haven't started beating up on humans just because they felt down, have they?"
"No," Angel said reluctantly.
"No. That's all her doing."
"But it's not," Angel insisted. "I knew I was her only tie. *I* was the one that made the wrong choice."
The Host rolled his eyes. "Face it, honey, you both did. Are you honestly telling me that you're not paying for your mistakes, same as she is?"
Angel shrugged. "Maybe..." he dropped his head to his hands. "I don't know. Can I get another drink, perhaps?"
"Oh, I really think you've had enough."
"Oh, I really haven't," Angel said, with feeling.
The Host laughed. "Well, I don't keep alcohol up here, and I'm not opening up the bar just for you. Tell you what, I'll get you something else, though. Okay?"
"Okay," Angel muttered to himself, feeling the couch dip and then settle as the demon stood up. A minute later he felt a tap on his arm and looked up. He was being offered a mug.
"Coffee?" he said hopefully. He took the mug and inhaled. His face fell. "Not coffee?"
"Not coffee," the Host agreed. "Hot chocolate. I heard once that chocolate produces some chemical reaction, endorphins or something, that acts as a mood-elevator. Similar to the chemicals released during sex, allegedly. Although I know which of the two *I'd* choose, any day."
Angel took a sip. It was hot, and thicker than coffee. Kinda nice.
"Thanks," he muttered into his mug.
"Oh, it's no problem. Better you're talking to me than drinking yourself stupid and falling asleep in some alley where you'll burst into flames, come dawn."
"Right. Yeah. Don't want that." He looked around. "You know, I really don't want to go back to the hotel. Can I sleep on your couch?" he said, a little sheepishly. He was being silly, he knew. Must be the drink.
"Oh, come on."
"Well, you could try, but you must have noticed that it's a two-seater, and you're as tall as I am. Even if you did manage to sleep on it, you'd be overhanging at both ends and that is *not* fun. Believe me, I've spent a night on that thing. Never again."
Angel shrugged and studied his cooling hot chocolate. The Host sighed. Damn his tender heart. "There's only the one bed but it's big enough for two, if you *really* don't want to go home."
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Oh, I've shared with worse." At Angel's expression, he pulled a face. "You don't want to know, let's just leave it at that."
"Thanks. Again," Angel said.
"Just finish your chocolate, okay? Dump the mug in the sink when you're done. Bedroom's in there," he indicated one of the doorways with a tilt of his head, "and I'm going to go get undressed." He disappeared through the door in question, shutting it behind him as much as he could without dislodging the hangers.
Angel did as he was told, waiting a few minutes before unsteadily getting himself to his feet. Maybe he had had one too many. He pushed the door open cautiously. The demon had changed into a pair of comfortable-looking silk pyjamas and was hanging his clothes up.
"There you are. Chocolate do the trick?"
Angel shrugged. "A little. I'm not sure I'd actually compare it to... the other thing, though."
"Me either. Huh. Well, I guess this calls for desperate measures." He opened a drawer and pulled out a small bag, which he tossed at Angel. The vampire missed the catch and bent to pick it up. He looked at the Host questioningly.
"My secret stash," the demon explained. "You're right, chocolate doesn't always cut it and being single, nor does the other. Hence the candy, which I like to think of as my one vice. The other vices just being interesting personality quirks."
"Liquorice?" Angel said, sceptically.
"Allsorts, yes. One of the greatest gifts this world has given me. Try them."
Angel opened the bag and tasted the candy. "Actually, that's good," he said in surprise. He ate another one.
"Finish the bag, go on. There's plenty more where that one came from."
"Get depressed a lot?"
"No, only occasionally, but when I do, I *really* do."
Angel nodded. Candy as feel-good food. It was starting to make sense.
The demon grinned. "Well, go on then, strip."
"You know, if I was sober, I'd think that was a come-on," Angel said with a smile, putting the bag down and pulling off his shirt.
"If you were sober, it would be," the Host muttered under his breath. "And the pants, too. You can't sleep in jeans."
Angel shrugged awkwardly. "I don't have... uh...." he gestured vaguely at himself.
The Host raised an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" He chuckled at Angel's embarrassment and opened another drawer, rooting through it and eventually coming up with whatever he was looking for. He threw the item at Angel, who, being better prepared, caught it this time.
The Host turned his back. Angel began unbuttoning his jeans, then took a closer look at the shorts.
"*Snoopy*?" he asked in disbelief. "*You* have Snoopy on your underwear?"
The Host looked at the ceiling. "Do you have any friends who, when it comes to buying you a gift, think carefully about what you'd like and use, and then buy the exact opposite?"
Angel folded his jeans on the end of the bed and pulled the shorts on. "No, not really."
"Well, I do, and you're wearing the result. Are you done yet?"
The Host turned and looked at him critically. "Well, they look better on you than they would on me, that's for sure."
Angel looked down at himself. "I'm not sure they're exactly my style, but... thanks."
The demon grinned again and pulled back the covers, settling himself. Angel just stood there. The Host patted the bed.
"Well, come on then. Now is not the time to get shy, sweetie, not when I've already seen you dressed like that."
Angel sheepishly crawled into the bed, and the Host switched off the light, leaving the room in darkness.
After a few minutes of silence, the Host handed him the half-eaten bag of candy.
"If you're not going to sleep, finish those off. You'll feel better."
Angel took the bag. "Sorry to keep you awake. Guess I'm not as tired... or as drunk... as I thought."
"Sheesh. What do you want, a lullaby?"
"Well, if you're offering..." Angel started to say, then oofed as a spare pillow hit him in the side of the head.
"Too bad, I don't know any," the Host said with a smile. "I can give you something by Diana Ross, if that'd help."
The Host snorted, seriously considering 'Bewitched'. Instead, he started softly singing the opening lines of 'Music in the Mirror'. In between eating the allsorts, Angel sang the refrain, the only lines he could remember.
"I feel better now," he offered, after the demon had finished.
"Good. Now go to sleep," he was told. He closed his eyes and was almost immediately asleep.
He was awakened by a shrill ringing and he clawed one-handed at the covers, which seemed to have wrapped themselves around his head in the night. He hastily removed the other arm from around the waist of the Host, where it had been quite happily resting.
"You get it," the demon mumbled, still mostly asleep. "If it's Rico, tell him that this time, I'm really going to kill him, then hang up."
Angel sat up and picked up the phone on the bedside table, then put it down again when the ringing continued. He pulled his cellphone out of his jeans pocket and answered it with a mumble.
//Angel!// Cordelia yelled at him, //Where the hell are you? Are you okay? Are you even alive?//
"Mmm," he answered vaguely. "Alive. Okay. Host's."
//You're still at the bar? Didn't it close about six hours ago?//
//We were worried sick. How dare you stay out all night and scare us half to death?//
"Sorry, Cordy," he said sleepily.
//Did I wake you up? Shit, did you fall into a drunken stupor in some alleyway?//
"No. Bed," he explained.
//What? Whose? Where? Oh, crap, what did you do? Are you evil?//
Beside him, the Host sat up and took the phone from his hand.
"For God's sake, Cordy, he's fine, now please just shut up and let us both go back to sleep."
He stabbed at the buttons on the phone, breaking the connection, then threw the phone across the room and flopped back down, pulling the covers over his head.
Angel lay down again. "That was my phone," he said, not really caring.
"Sorry," the demon muttered, not opening his eyes. "Hate wake-ups."
"You know what she's going to think, now."
"Nuuh," the Host said into his pillow. He reached blindly behind him and hauled Angel's arm back to it's original resting place.
"Uh..." Angel started to protest weakly.
"Can it," the Host said shortly. "You got plenty comfortable there last night, you can just do it again."
Deciding it wasn't worth arguing over, Angel closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
He was awoken the second time by a loud shriek of 'Holy *crap!*'. He opened one eye and saw something a few inches from his face. He swatted at it with his free hand, then yelped and quickly drew his hand back.
He opened the other eye and focused on the cross, then traced the hand holding it back to it's owner. Cordelia. She didn't look happy.
As evidenced by the cross, still inches away.
"Go away," he tried sleepily. In his arms, the Host muttered something impolite.
"Angel!" Cordelia yelled. "You son of a bitch, you went evil again!"
"Did not," he muttered.
"Did not," the Host agreed. Cordelia turned on him.
"And you, you're meant to help people! What were you thinking?"
"I don't think I thought anything," he said crossly. "Go away."
"Cordy," Angel started to say, and stopped when the cross was stuck in his face yet again.
"Don't say anything!"
"But we *didn't*," he said plaintively. "I... we... we just *didn't."
"Didn't," the Host agreed.
Cordelia glared at him. "Then exactly why are you naked, in the same bed, all cuddly like that?"
"Not naked," the Host insisted. "'Jamas."
"'Jamas," Angel agreed. "And..." he looked down at the demon. "Hey, why are you all cuddly?"
"Just a cuddler by nature," he muttered.
Angel looked up at Cordelia. "See?"
"What *I* see is way more than I ever wanted to," a new and very familiar voice said. Angel squinted a little into the doorway.
"Oh, just great," the Host mumbled. Angel was inclined to agree.
"You came in case I was evil, too?"
"Cordelia needed someone to pick the lock," Gunn said, leaning against the frame. "So what's the story?"
"Drunk, depressed, didn't wanna go home," the Host said shortly. "Stayed here instead. Just to sleep, though that keeps getting interrupted."
"I take it the chains and holy water in the truck ain't gonna be needed?"
"Just checking." He glanced around. "Man, think you got enough clothes?"
The Host sat up. "Okay, I've had enough. Everybody get the hell out of my bedroom, *right* now!" He pointed emphatically at the doorway. Gunn shrugged and walked out. Cordelia backed out cautiously.
"I've had just about enough of you keep scaring me like that," she told Angel with a scowl.
"Yeah, well, I've kinda had enough of being accused of being evil, you know?"
She glared at him.
"Out!" the Host insisted again, and she fled.
He lay down again, getting comfortable against Angel's side. "I love that girl, but I swear, if she wakes me up again I'm going to rip her head off without waiting for an explanation."
Angel looked at him. "I think I'd be okay with that. Are you quite happy there?"
"Very." A thought occurred to him and he opened his eyes. "Are you not? Want me to move?"
Angel shook his head. "I'm fine."
"Good. I think we can get another few hours worth of z's, barring rampaging secretaries."
"Sorry. She's just... concerned."
"Yeah, I get it, I just wish she didn't have to do it here, at this ridiculous hour. In case it wasn't clear, I get cranky if I don't get enough sleep."
Angel closed his eyes. "I think you got that across."
Cordelia threw her bag into the truck.
"I hate it when he does this," she told Gunn.
"No! Well, yes, but I meant the is-he-isn't-he evil deal." She climbed into the cab and slammed the door. "Oh, god, do you think they did?"
Gunn climbed into the driving seat. "Don't know, don't wanna know."
"Good point. You know, this existential uncertainty was never in my contract. I should get a pay rise for putting up with this."
Read second in series ~ Male Bonding in Theory
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