|SALVAGING THE WEEKEND
Author: evan como PM
Season Two, post Rahmon: With everything around him crumbling, Angel begins taking repairative measures.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 14,046 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 4 - Published: 02-17-01 - id: 211191
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
|Disclaimer: the author does
not claim ownership to the characters or plot development mentioned from
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Angel". These properties expressly belong
to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Greenwolf Corporation, 20th Century Fox Television,
WB Network, etc. Any other characters contained in the original story are
Season Two Historical Note: The action in this story takes place shortly after "The Shroud of Rahmon".
Author's Note: I was devastated when The Forces of Darkness (a.k.a. The Creative Team) destroyed Angel's Season One basement apartment. I took the loss as personally as the demise of The Enterprise D. I have fond memories of that apartment where Angel cooked for his newly-formed family and struggled during the final throes of Necromongracy, safe within Cordelia's (not *Cordy's*) arms... Sigh.
Wiseblood, in one of our
many discussions regarding The Hyperion Hotel, issued this challenge to
me and it was one of the most difficult jobs of storytelling I've ever
tried to pull off.
Hyperion is -- *was* -- the mythic Greek god of light.
That's an interesting bit of trivia and rather ironic considering the fact that the sole inhabitant of The Hyperion Hotel in Hollywood, California is a vampire. So, does that mean if vampires really do exist, maybe the original Hyperion was real, too?
"He who goes before the sun." That's what the name Hyperion means. The vampire in residence goes by the name of Angel. Depending on your spiritual orientation, that name could connote a whole bunch of different things, the simplest definition being "guardian".
Angel -- who is not a simple guy -- defies definition, but "guardian" doesn't seem so far off.
Nearly fifty years ago, when this structure was still a relative youngster but already woefully Art Deco-outdated as the city's architecture began veering more towards the simplistic or the absurd -- case in point: that idiotic Capitol Records building a few streets over, Angel lived here. He's managed to improve with a little more time under his belt, whereas The Hyperion Hotel...
Completed in 1927 of the finest construction materials available, this Hotel was one of the landmarks of still-in-development Hollywood. Oh, what a glamorous place Hollywood was back then! Grauman's Chinese Theatre had just opened. The rival Roosevelt Hotel was brand new. The Egyptian wasn't alone anymore with three new neighbors to help ritzy-Ritz the locale.
Stars of stage and screen used to frequent this lobby; studio heads and big-time producers used to reside in the suites. Thalberg used to come here to get some peace far away from his Mother. It always seemed odd that never made the reservation for her instead or brought Norma when he came.
Who knows why people do the things they do -- or don't, for that matter.
Up through the end of World War II, if anyone mentioned The Hyperion Hotel they were talking class and style. Nowadays, Hollywood isn't such a great place to be.
Three months ago, neither was this Hotel.
Deterioration is an ugly thing; just ask The Ambassador, The Sheraton Town House, or The Pan Pacific Auditorium. Well, maybe you can ask one of the trees shading the park where the Pan Pacific used to be. At least Bullocks Wilshire got rescued in time and what a comeback she's made! The Biltmore has been doing pretty all right, too.
And now it's time for The Hyperion Hotel to shimmer again, courtesy of a certain dedicated someone who may not have the best monetary resources to turn the place around, but who certainly has enough chutzpah and taste to give it a try.
For instance, just this past
Angel looked ready to storm out of the basement. The noise down there was deafening. Even though he mostly doesn't show it, Angel's sensitive about certain things.
He's tough like that, too.
The plumber had the leak stopped by the third wind-around. Still, he wrapped the blister another three times for good measure.
"This is just a temporary fix," he yelled over the droning industrial vacuum. "This might hold a couple days depending on the usage but I'd suggest you just let me turn off the Main. Go without water until you're ready to take care of this."
"That's not an option." Angel's face was emotionless, but understandable nonetheless.
The plumber, who was on his knees and juggling his tools away, looked up. He flipped the repair tape into the air, "alright. Two days. Maybe..." caught it in mid-toss, and deflected it into his case. He underhanded his wrench on top. Upon rising, he tugged on his earlobe and redetermined, "nope, two. MAX."
Cordelia had been surveying the scene with more than casual interest. Her new shorter haircut shimmied against her neck and shoulders. "What do you want to do, Angel?" she asked, as if she didn't already know what his answer would be.
He stared at the pipe without a change of expression. "I want it fixed."
I-hate-problems Angel was in four-word mode.
With her eyes closed in a counting-to-ten manner, Cordy took a couple of deep breaths. "How..." she inhaled deeper, held it, and opened her eyes. With those bright hazel peepers, she resembles an owl. "...much?" she asked, wisely.
The plumber pretended to examine the vintage copper tubing. "Depends on what you want done."
"I want it fixed."
Wesley got that placate-Angel look on his face, the one he gets whenever Angel's mood is about to go into the dumpster. "Perhaps, Angel, what Mr. Montgomery is asking is *how* you want the situation rectified."
Stopping right here for a moment... Wesley is English. He uses words that no one else uses and he likes divvying 'em out at times like these, especially when someone's on the verge of upsetting Angel. The problem is that by the time he dispenses one, Angel's usually past the point of being soothed. Every once in a while, though, Angel'll get distracted by a screwy look Wesley'll receive for the professor-speak.
A set of evil eyes made the plumber visibly nervous. Coupled with sudden silence, the room seemed twice as small but served up some great dramatic backup for Angel's no-nonsense, "want it fixed right."
"Look, Carl. We need an estimate for every option. Do you think you can provide that?" Shrewd when she needs to be, Cordy can sock a man right off his feet when she gets tactical.
"I'll get back to the office and fax it to you?" Carl Montgomery, Hollywood Plumbing technician, took the business card Wesley offered. Without looking, it took him a couple of tries but eventually he got it stuffed his shirt pocket.
"And don't forget that you won't be the only contractor who'll be giving us bids when you fax us those numbers," Cordy followed-up with as she and Carl climbed the stairs.
Wesley considered the pipe for a couple of moments without saying a word. His fingers wiped each side of his nose before pushing his glasses back into place.
Angel pressed back against the wall and watched Wesley walk away.
As the last piece of water damage emergency equipment was brought up from the basement, Cordelia handed the supervisor his check. The crew had done an excellent job in a reasonable amount of time, even verified that only the one splitting pipe had been the culprit for the flood. Their professionalism didn't make her any happier to fork over the funds; Cordelia just despises unforeseen expenditures.
She huffed loud enough to be heard from the mezzanine if someone were standing up there. "It wouldn't be so bad if these emergency calls didn't come with an emergency surcharge on top of the already exorbitant prices! And do you have any idea how much it cost to have PipeGuy show up to just to slap on a BandAid? Man! We're in the totally *wrong* business."
"This is an old hotel, Cordelia." Wesley trailed her into one of the rooms behind the front desk. With pictures on the wall and a couple of potted plants, Cordelia's office exudes a homey professionalism.
"It's been in disrepair for so long, it actually surprises me that the ceiling hasn't crashed down about our heads yet," he concluded inside Angel's office.
Both sets of her manicured nails rapped on Angel's rosewood desk. "Don't you dare summon an earthquake, Wesley; *that* insurance hasn't come through yet!" The flood repair bill was dropped onto the stack of papers already at the head of the desk.
Then a grin -- a *huge* grin -- appropriated Cordelia's face. "Wait, just a second... You didn't see this month's electric bill." After snatching it from just under the top of the pile, she hovered it in front of Wesley.
It's pretty safe to assume that Wesley stopped breathing.
"Dear God! This *can't* be correct. Surely there's some explanation for... God!"
Usually at odds with her associate, Cordelia was pleased enough to have Wesley on her side; she fanned him briefly with the bill before resubmitting it. Inspired by a sudden thought, she hurried through the office's open side door and into the lobby.
Where she promptly doused the lights.
"It's dark in here," was the first thing Angel noticed when he returned upstairs.
"Yeah well, Mr. Ultra-Vision, a vampire doesn't need light to see, right? As of this instant, you're back to demonic sensing. The lights will stay off during the day and whenever the night-vision- impaired of us aren't around."
"But..." Angel started for the light switch but the daring Cordelia, with her fists on her hips, cut off his access. "The ambience is nicer with them on," he pouted.
"Aesthetics aside, Angel, Cordelia does have a point," Wesley countered. "This hotel is costing more than what the business is bringing in. If you can conserve *and* lower overhead, I think that would be the more prudent direction to take."
"And..." one of Cordelia's fingers on Angel's chin swiveled his face to hers, "lights off in those hallways. And... Are you listening to me? *No more* outside lights."
"But..." Angel's objection was trounced by a staunch poke to the center of his chest.
"NO, Angel! And if I'm ever -- God forbid -- in this neighborhood at night and I see them on, I'm coming inside and yanking all the switches out of the breaker box."
Angel was going try another argument, but Cordy fled to answer the phone. Turning to Wesley instead, Angel probably figured the tall thin guy would share his opinion for old time's sake. "It's so pretty outside when the hotel's lit up."
But old times had faded from Wesley's memory. "Angel, your extravagant tastes are getting the better of you. I've never questioned your monetary resources in the past because you've always seemed to more than make do. What, with your apparel and your car --"
"Nothing's wrong with my car!"
For whatever reason, recently Angel's been real touchy whenever anyone brings up the Plymouth.
"Nothing's wrong with the car," Wesley parroted. "It's not like The Blue Book value alone --"
Angel cut in with, "I got a good deal."
"No doubt a toothsome one?"
Straightening to full height, Wesley crossed his arms and cocked his head slightly and those beady gray eyes of his drilled into Angel, making Angel squirm. Wesley let loose one dimple of verbal conquest.
"I don't think Cordelia's out of line to demand that you start dialing down your expenditures concerning the hotel."
"You don't understand, Wes. It used to be such a nice place." Angel offered his best little-boy smile.
But, Big Wes wasn't buying into the routine.
"I *do* understand that it was a nice hotel before and, knowing your impeccable taste, it will be a nice hotel again. But, Angel, the same recklessness that immediately replaced the upper story windows after Bethany Chalk blew them all out is the very same that will drain every dollar from the operating budget."
"The windows had to be replaced."
"Not right away. They could have been tarped with heavy plastic."
"Plastic is tacky."
Seething, Wesley metered every syllable he spoke, "we're speaking of the *top* floors, Angel. No one in this stupid city even notices architecture and it doesn't rain here -- EVER! -- at the rate we've been going this Fall, so those windows didn't need to be replaced right away."
"If it's a problem using the business funds for the hotel," Angel, starting to counter-enunciate, caught his tone of voice, "then I'll make other arrangements."
Wesley marched to the front desk; Angel, behind, couldn't see the pursing lips or pinching eyes. By the time Wesley was visible again, he looked normal.
He didn't sound that way, though. "Yes, *please* do; because it's not like Cordelia and I can indiscriminately go out back and pick up our dinners in the alley. This is a viable business that employs three people. Four, if you want to include Gunn since he seems to be spending an excessive amount of time running your own personal cases."
Angel practically squeaked, he stopped that short. Smirking, he responded curtly, "I don't know what *you're* worried about, Wesley. It's not like you don't have a side business."
Why Angel had to go there remains a mystery.
With his head shifting incrementally from side to side, Wesley sneered, "you would begrudge me extra income during *my* personal time, Angel?"
"No?" Fingers above one eye to aide with recollection, Angel defended himself with, "that's not what I was saying. You're turning my words around."
Breezing past her on her way out the front door, Cordelia said something that resembled 'have a good weekend' before skipping out. Angel followed halfway and turned the lobby lights back on.
Now, one would think that Angel could just get used to the way things are and leave well enough alone. It wouldn't have dusted him to wait until dusk to turn the lights back on. No siree, Bob! He had to do it right away in order to insure Cordelia's immediate return.
She didn't say a word while running back to her office to grab a package from the desk's bottom drawer. She didn't look around before she hurried back outside.
Angel returned the lights to 'off'.
"I might as well leave, also," sighed Wesley, overacting the perusal of his brand new watch. Beautiful timepiece. Very classic. Very Cartier.
"I'm meeting Virginia and friends at Rex's for appetizers before we head off to the Chandler. And you have the weekend to decide whether or not to listen to reason."
Wesley didn't bother with 'goodnight'; or 'late afternoon', which would have been more apropos.
In the evening, Angel would have locked the door behind Wesley. Despite the frost of their glass, torrents of sunlight still dangerously showered through the Bauhaus-inspired front doors.
Wesley wasn't kidding that it doesn't rain in Los Angeles. It'll probably be eighty degrees on Christmas Day.
Dusk came and went. The lights stayed off.
Angel sat behind his desk, staring at nothing.
He's been doing that a lot lately. Every chair he sits in it's the same position: feet flat on the floor, back straight, arms following the L of the armrests. He doesn't move; rarely blinks. Angel has honed the definition of being on edge.
The phone must have rung six times before he finally answered it.
"Angel Investigations. We help..." He paused to infer that "we help" was good enough.
After listening for a while, he inquired, "have you tried any other avenues?" He listened some more and his eyes glazed over. "Yes. I'm here... In Hollywood. Do you know The Hyperion Hotel?"
The caller must have, because Angel finished up with "come to the kitchen entrance" before hanging up.
She introduced herself as Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson. Her driver wasn't introduced at all but he sat at the built-in table as if he was important to the conversation. They were deferential towards one another and to Angel.
Angel made tea for them both, apologized for using microwaved boiled water and bags for the brew. After one of the pipes yawned for an excessively long time, he apologized for that, too. By the time he took the opposite seat, he was ready to conclude the meeting.
Mrs. Thompson, her fingers adorned with sapphires and diamonds, patted Angel on the hand. Even in the lowered light -- because Angel had only turned on those above the table, the matron's jewels sparkled while she toyed with her tea bag string.
"Hiring me because your granddaughter practices Wicca seems pointless," Angel said.
He's excellent at talking himself out of work, which is why Cordelia usually handles the front end of the job and just allows Angel to smile -- if he's so inclined -- or shake a hand to seal the deal. It's not that he can't handle the business end of the business, it's just not his forte. He enjoys the problem-solving part, especially if intimidation is required.
"Angel," Mrs. Thompson sipped her tea and replaced the heavy mug on the table, "I don't care if my granddaughter wants to be a witch, dye her hair turquoise--" pronounced tuh-quass, making it sound expensive, "-- or extract all of her teeth; as long as she does so with her own mind. But, I will not allow her to do any of these things as long as she's running with a cult."
"And you're sure this Rooney Cooper guy is a cultist?"
Mrs. Thompson rolled her eyes Cordelia-style.
The driver nodded 'yes'.
When he's at a loss for conversation, he'll use strange body language. Or Angel'll look around, as if the words are playing hide-and-seek and he can use them once he finds them. He can be such a little kid.
"My mother used to host her War Bonds socials at this hotel," Mrs. Thompson spoke some moments later, warmed as much by the memory as her beverage.
The SubZero cycled on. Angel flinched; meaning, more than likely, the industrial refrigerator would be turned off in favor of the smaller Frigidaire in his room.
"In the restaurant?" he managed to ask.
Good for him.
"The Helios Room," Mrs. Thompson recalled over her cup. "Although, I'm sure that after almost sixty years, it's probably not referred to as The Helios Room anymore."
"That was a nice room," the chauffeur added wistfully. He had very kind eyes.
Angel looked back and forth between the two guests, intrigued.
Mrs. Thompson took two more steps inside, looked up at one of the lighting fixtures then down at the carpet. "This is the room!" she exclaimed. The wrinkles deepened on both sides of her mouth. "And what a retched renovation! And such horrid carpeting hiding what was once such a beautiful floor!"
Angel looked beyond his feet. "What floor?"
Smiling wryly, Mrs. Thompson sauntered over to the Wrightesque patterned door to rejoin the two males. "Take my case, Angel, and I'll tell you."
"I can just rip up the carpet."
The chauffeur was impressed. He and Mrs. Thompson exchanged a knowing glance.
Amusement dawned rosy above her prominent cheeks. She conceded, "yes, I suppose that you can. But where's the drama in that, young man?"
Angel scowled. "Drama I got. I seriously don't need any more drama in my life."
The old lady's baby blues outshone her gems. Her laughter was genuine. "There's *never* enough drama in Hollywood."
Angel cast his attention into the room and reeled in a deep breath. Once caught, he released it slowly while fishing at a thought.
"It's probably time we talked about my fee."
He had been gone for less than four hours before returning to his office. Angel tossed his keys on the desk; they slid clean off the edge. He didn't pick them up, didn't bother flicking on his desk lamp or to even take a seat. Instead, he picked up the desk phone's receiver and tapped out eleven numbers.
"I dropped Adrienne off at Cedars about thirty minutes ago..." He licked his lips; they remained parched.
"She's going to need rehab. If you don't know of..." Nodding, he softly spoke into his chest, "it's probably best if she tells you what she wants you to know." With the phone cradled between his shoulder and chin, Angel absently ruffled one eyebrow while continuing to nod.
Angel can be a good listener.
"Mrs. Thompson, I --"
Angel can be a good listener when he has the *attention span* for it, is probably the better description.
"Anytime tomorrow is fine. I won't be going anywhere for the rest of the weekend...
"You're welcome. And, thank *you*."
He never locks the door to the room he occupies. Sixty-eight rooms, a quarter of them facing North, but he didn't choose any of those. You see, Angel's room is one of a dozen refurbished by the previous owners when the place was being turned into apartments, making it one of the few with a tiny but complete kitchen. It's also one of the few with a pretty decent view of Los Angeles when the air's clear enough to see through. And, it has a balcony.
Actually, the room Angel occupies is the *only* one with all three of those features. That it just so happens to have a Southern exposure doesn't matter at all.
As usual, the living area's heavy drapes had been left open and, with only the sheers drawn, the thin curtains filtered the city lights. The inside temperature was still comfortable, warmed by the almost-entire day's sun.
The hall-side knob turned, the door cracked open a bit then swung inward violently, slamming against the doorstop before bouncing back half-closed. Angel straddled the jamb, mostly out in the hall with only an arm and foot inside. His hand crawled up the inside wall towards the light switch -- the plate's just inside the door -- but never rose the distance.
With his forehead against the framework, the crescent of Angel's face shone pale. Otherwise, he was a pillar of black, immobile until he began to crumble. His descent was so gradual it was difficult to tell exactly what he was doing -- maybe just practicing that strange slow-motion calisthenics of his; until, snail-paced and leaving a trail, he slid onto the floor.
With his black coat pooled around him, Angel appeared to have melted.
A ragged breath, a stifled moan, a whimper. He sucked air through his teeth in an effort to breathe as much as not to.
He was hurt, very obviously, and his huddled posture couldn't have been making his injury any less painful. Come Monday morning, he would have been found in that very same position if Cordelia or Wesley had bothered coming to look for him.
A smidgen of movement took an eternity but eventually his long legs were uncrumpled from underneath. By pivoting his head against the sill, Angel got himself turned around. One weary arm managed to rise, prompting the other, and he offered his wrists to the gloom.
He surrendered a groan.
"I'm not going to arrest you for self-defense," she stated flatly.
Detective Lockley stepped out of the pitch dark corridor. An indifferent snort on her behalf acknowledged Angel's gesture before she flicked back the hem of her camel-colored leather blazer to kneel. She reached into his outstretched arms.
Angel recoiled defensively, clasping his arms around his middle.
Her attitude had softened considerably since the last time she'd been in the hotel. Then, Kate'd threatened to stake Angel in his lair. This time, the only crucifix she carried was borne around her neck, the same one she casually dropped into her collar.
"You're hurt." Kate reached again. Angel shied away again. She wasn't going to take his 'no' for an answer. "It's not like your blood is going to contaminate me."
If he wanted to use a last name, it could be 'Stubborn'.
She was adamant. "Goddamit, Angel! Let. Me. Look."
Instead of raising his chin, Angel's head dropped to one side so he could see her from of the corner of one eye. "I'm not wearing only *my* blood," he rasped.
Kate tensed and leaned back. The heavy shadows masked her late-twenties good looks, yet her hair shone faintly golden as she reached into her pocket.
"The gloves go on," Angel deadpanned.
What a flair for the obvious!
After snapping the milk-colored rubber into place, Kate flexed her fingers for a better fit. "Detective's best friend," she remarked.
Angel wasn't convinced. Either that, or he really didn't want to change his position. And, besides, it wasn't like Kate could see much without light.
Which is probably why she stood up and clicked them on.
The room responded brilliantly. Every light -- the reading and torchiere lamps, each wall sconce, the recessed uplighting grazing both walls that bracket Angel's bedroom -- dazzled on. It was as if the Great Titan, himself, had decided to appear.
Kate blinked in succession to clear her momentary blindness before she could take in the scene. The doorsill's white enamel was smeared with a deep ruddy stain that had already begun corroding brown. Angel's coat was mottled, shiniest at the tear near his stomach. His hands and the side of his face that had steadied his descent were caked with the same earth-colored filth.
It took concerted effort on Kate's part to slide Angel up to his feet since he wasn't much good for helping himself. He's been hurt before -- taken beatings and stabbings -- but nothing as severe as what this was. He kept his eyes closed most of the distance to his bedroom, as if shutting off his vision also turned off the pain.
Every light in his bedroom revived with the flip of another switch.
"You --" Angel gasped, then blubbered "fuuuuuuck". A thread of spit dangled from his mouth.
"Excuse me?" Kate let go, moved back, and bowed to meet his face.
Holding his tongue between his teeth, Angel dropped a shoulder and gingerly rolled it around; both shoulder blades met, and his head fell back. Simply pulling down on his cuffs proved as wasted an effort and he finally gave up.
His face did most of the begging when he whispered "help?"
She stepped behind him. Pinching his collar, Kate eased the duster up and off. Being held up for inspection displayed the more-than-a-few places where the coat had been scored. "That huge one must be from where that big guy came at you with the Bowie," Kate commented. She made a neat bundle and tied it up by the sleeves before pitching it in the corner.
Angel leaned, caught the edge of his bed with one palm, and guided himself onto the mattress. "What?" he asked the empty room.
She came back from the bathroom with a box of tissues and a bottle of antiseptic, elaborating, "the really big guy. The one that slashed you from behind. That's when you went --"
She signaled at her face with the bottle.
Angel shrugged. He went from half-lidded to full, shutting out Kate's portrayal.
Seated on a chair pulled from under the dining room table, Kate took on the role of Medic. Angel's shirt hadn't fared any better than the coat and she worked hard at it, her task made more difficult since the buttons were stuck.
"You were talking to that Cooper guy when you got ambushed. You don't remember?" She glanced up, taking Angel's unresponsiveness as an invitation to resume, "Cooper was laughing at whatever you'd said to him and the next minute there was six perps coming at you with knives."
"How --" trembled off Angel's bottom lip.
"-- did I see?" Kate's smile was mischievous. Coupled with the bedside lighting, her blue eyes began to dance. "Out on another case that I shouldn't have been on," she admitted a little too proudly.
She perked up straight, forgetting all about Angel's wound in favor of its inception. "For months, I'd been hearing rumors about that Cooper guy, about the witchcraft orgies and his harem of heiresses and I wanted to check him out. There wasn't just the Thompson girl you found, the other girls? One was on an abduction list from upstate Oregon; four sisters from Texas -- their Daddy helped sue Oprah? and a couple others I think I've seen in People or one of those celebrity rags."
"I didn't help *them*." Angel's arms, straightened on either side and providing support, gave way at the elbows. "And seven men are dead."
"Seven *assholes*, Angel --" Kate inhaled, unladylike. "They didn't know who -- *what* you are. You should have just been an ordinary P.I. coming to pick up your client's daughter but, out of the blue, Cooper pulled a gun and six other guys came in to start wailing on you. I think that's -- lopsided? You were cool with the first two, even missed a round of bullets. But they ganged up on you, Angel. It was totally unfair and they all got what they deserved."
"Disabled?" Angel listed to one side. "Dead," he corrected, visibly spent.
"OH! You think *you* killed them?" Kate jerked, finally comprehending. Her face skewed unsympathetically. "Puh! *You* didn't kill them; they killed each other. Idiots, Angel. Complete and *total* idiots. Every single one of them a poster boy for 'this is your brain on drugs'."
Abruptly remembering her task, she got back to it. "You kicked some lame ass, but all you did was kick it. And, it was pretty cool to watch. Six guys." Her head bobbed agreeably.
"You fought *six* freakin' guys," she repeated with admiration.
Angel's middle fingers clawed the bedspread. He grunted, "you've seen me fight before."
Peering up for a sec, Kate replied, "I was a little freaked at the time to pay much attention and, I mean, you were one on one with an equal. I guess I could relate to being attacked by six regular guys unless..."
Her cat-shaped eyes rounded. "They weren't --"
"Regular?" Angel shrugged to the affirmative tilt of her forehead.
"I thought you could tell that stuff." She sniffed.
"I guess I was a little busy at the time to pay much attention." His sarcasm failed to conceal his misery.
With the last button pried loose from its slot, Kate peeled away Angel's shirt. It resembled a layer of papier maché where it clung to his torso. The curl of her lips flattened when Angel's wound was exposed in all its gory glory.
Kate's "oh, G--" was cut off by his quivering index finger while he inspected himself. Her assessment was uneasy. "So, do I poke those back in or cut them off or --"
Someone less brave would have passed out.
While cupping his hands over his left side, Angel simultaneously sucked in and pressed on his abdomen. He collapsed in on himself. "Just go," he coughed.
Too many emotions to count flickered across Angel's face. His eyes threatened to roll into the top of his head, but he managed to stay alert. "I get hurt all the time. This is just one more incident. I'll sleep it off and I'll be OK."
"Poof?" She wriggled her fingers over his hands. "That'll just *poof*, be OK?"
"Not, super-poof, but poof enough. The whole supernatural --" Ordinary creases across Angel's forehead finished the explanation for him.
Kate didn't shirk from the inference. "But you still clean and wrap, right?"
He wiped one hand on his thigh before whisking the hair from her shoulder. "What I did to you, Kate, doesn't mean that you have to stay here and take care of me. A vampire's bite doesn't make you his slave so you don't have to cover for my crimes, or lie for me or -- "
He fumbled opened her collar, holding it away from her throat with his fingertips. He was more appalled by the partially-healed scar on her throat than by the more appalling slice in his stomach.
Kate pressed back into the chair, nonplussed. "You're acting like it's the first time you've ever seen your handiwork. Actually teethwork, I guess you'd call it."
He traced the relief, its highs and lows, while shaking his head. "It's-- I-- I --" Angel's hand fell into his lap and he watched it settle there. "I guess I'm out of practice," he told his chest.
"I just tell everyone I got bitten by a dog --" Kate's face was impassive for a moment, before her mouth pitched to one side. One sandy-blond brow arched cynically, " -- and they believe me."
"If -- "
She nudged Angel back at the shoulders to refocus on the wound. Even with his innards tucked back in place, the slash was a sight for sore eyes. Bruised and bluer nearer the actual opening, either the knife had been dull, or his clothing taking the brunt of the attack just made it appear that way. A reddish fluid too watery for blood seeped from one edge.
"You saved my life and now I'm tending to your disgusting wound." Kate stopped daubing as a thought occurred to her. She sped for the bathroom.
Angel stayed motionless, other than an occasional blink or gasp.
"Too bad that isn't going to leave a disfiguring scar or I'd consider us even," Kate called out over the running faucet.
The dampened cloth was folded and unfolded several times while she crossed the room. "Sorry it took so long, but I was trying to get this warm."
"There's no hot water," proved shocking to Angel, nonetheless, when Kate slapped the cloth against his cheek.
With his face and hands cleaned, Kate returned to Angel's midsection. Wiping with short strokes, she took care not to rumple his flesh. "How can you live without hot water?" she asked.
"Because I don't..." his breather hailed her attention "... live."
She withdrew, uncertain. "Look, Angel --"
"No," the cloth put up resistance, but eventually Angel tugged it away, "*you* look, Kate. If I could take back --"
"Biting me?" Twisting the terry cloth square free of his fingers, Kate went back to her chore. "Well you can't! So, I walk around wearing button-ups, turtlenecks, scarves -- I lie about what happened because -- Seriously Angel? Would it have been so hard to drill a couple of simple fang-holes? You freakin' *chomped* me."
He was too confused to notice that her aid had become far less than gentle. "If I apologized --"
"No. I'm not willing to forgive you."
He ceased her activity with one hand over hers; he lifted her chin with his other. "That's not what I had in mind."
She regarded him coolly. "I know it wasn't the first time, but you *did* save my life, Angel. And when I need an apology for how you did that, I'll know where to get one."
Her wrist relocated a chunk of hair closer to her ear. "Good enough?"
Solemn, Angel nodded once. Kate returned to the bathroom.
One splash later, she popped her head around the corner. "Uh, Angel?" she confided, "the wall in here is doing something *really* bad."
Angel swayed back and forth during the elevator's entire descent.
Gripping the car's inside rail that tightly, Kate's hands resembled the gloves she'd removed. "Are you sure this thing is safe?" she asked.
A bell clanked them past the lobby floor.
"I guess. I don't know. It seems OK," Angel offered, providing a variety of answers for her to choose from, including, "I never use it."
The car shuddered to a stop and creaked side-to-side before dropping into place. Another bell clanked for the basement arrival while the heavy aluminum doors snapped back into their casings. It was all very loud.
Angel hobbled after Kate.
She appraised the pipe carefully. Water sputtered above and below its tourniquet. "The Main has to be shut off or you're going to need 40 cubits of wood and couple of thousand animals," she explained.
Angel shrugged. "I don't know," he despaired. "It was around here earlier."
She disappeared and returned minutes later with the tool and a smile. "Most of the Mains are in the same location for public buildings so I'll be back before you float away."
She aimed the wrench at the pipe. "This would have been a great repair if your plumber had used the correct tape. He probably went PVC on the copper and it just didn't hold."
"Whatever *that* means," Angel snapped. He reset his jaw. "Sorry. It's not your fault. It's just that he said, 'two days.' Lying bastard."
"Look, Angel, it's a simple repair you can do yourself after you heal. Just cut out that section and solder in a new one. You're probably gonna need a professional to come in to make sure you don't stress out another section that's *not* visible but it'll be alright."
Her most reassuring face provided back-up. "And, it's not a mess down here. With the weather so warm, this'll probably dry on its own by tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, just stop payment on the guy's check. With the 24-hour phone teller, you can do that when you go back upstairs."
Kate studied him closely for a sign that he had the remotest idea of what she was talking about. "Of course, stopping payment on labor, you're probably going to have a small claim's suit on your hands. You'll need to go to court."
"The one place I'm just dying to go to," he said. His temper got sidetracked by muted chuckling.
She unsuccessfully shored up her grin. "It doesn't have to come to court, of course. You could talk to the guy, explain how the repair didn't stick, how you saved *him* the cost of having to pay for siphoning out your basement. Of course, you'd have to present a persuasive argument."
"I can be... Persuasive. I'm really good at persuasive," Angel boasted. His malevolence was barely restrained. "Or maybe... I'll just do a spell."
She stopped climbing the stairs. "Spell?"
Angel made the slowest turn in history to face her suspicion. "Something effective. You know, but safe."
"What kind of spell?" she inquired, dropping back one step.
"I was thinking: boils."
She considered his answer for an inordinate amount of time. Angel waited, unrepentant.
"Boils aren't something you hear about much anymore. Kinda medieval, aren't they?"
"Actually, boils are --" he reduced his expansion to a simpler, "boils have been around for a really long time."
Kate justly weighed the information and finished her ascent. "Just don't let me catch you at it, OK?" she advised from the top.
Angel horizontally eased onto one of the red lobby sofas. The light misting of perspiration along his hairline was proof of his distress. Kate was already halfway up the staircase before she noticed he wasn't following, but she carried on and was back a minute later with her arms full of blankets.
His puzzlement prompted her explanation of "when I searched the place I remembered where these were." She tossed one a little harder than she probably thought she did, figuring that a grimace would veer the blanket away from pelleting Angel in the bloodbasket.
"It's so much warmer down here than upstairs," she commented in an offhanded way to avoid apologizing, no doubt. After taking a seat on the center divan, she spread the blanket over her knees.
"Sometimes it's warmer upstairs, sometimes it's not," Angel responded. He was laid out across the cushions with the sofa's arm as a bolster. Pulling the blanket up under his chin, he secured it with two fists.
Kate sighed. She browsed the lobby, taking in whatever she could see by the light coming in from outside. "My dad brought me here a couple of times when I was a little girl," she told the chandelier. She spoke very softly, like she was talking to herself.
Maybe she was. Angel's eyes were closed tightly and, other than an occasional round of panting, he was still.
"Hmmmm." Her head fell sideways against the divan's center pillar with her eyes fixed somewhere in the distant past. "The last time we were here, he had just taken me to see Star Wars over at the Chinese for a matinee. It was great. I remember that big ship coming out of the corner of the screen and I think I held my breath the entire two hours. And then we walked over here."
Kate's brows jousted at one another across the bridge of her nose during her extended silence. "He held my hand all the way," she mused, "Dad seemed so tall to me then. I remember looking up when we got to the Hotel's front door and he was looking down at me. 'Katey's got a sunburn already,' he said."
She scratched the very tip of her nose. Sometimes, it's just as easy to remember a sunburn.
"We walked through the lobby and over to the bar to visit my Dad's friend, Chuck. All I really remember is how stinky the place was -- moldy draft beer mixed with cigarette butts. But Chuck was a really nice guy. He'd always fix me a Shirley Temple 'on the rocks' with both a green and red cherry. And then he'd hang a little plastic monkey on the side of the glass."
She got quiet again, and her fingers moved to her lips. Her eyes are the brightest blue, even in the dark, even flooded.
"My Mom was so sick," caught in her throat. "Dad spent the afternoon talking to Chuck while I watched Kimba, Speed Racer... The time we could have been spending with her and he was out doing bar chat with me watching cartoons."
Angel startled her when he crept up with a tissue box in hand. Wearing his blanket wampum- style, he set his palms on the seat and lowered himself with the utmost care to remain as straight as possible. He didn't sit too closely to Kate, of course, just near enough before the seat would have rounded him out of her sight.
She snuck a peek at him, embarrassed as hell. Five minutes ticked by before either of them spoke.
Angel went first: "so, what does the monkey mean?" His bewilderment wasn't eased any by Kate's unexpected outburst.
She blew her nose, wiped above her mirth. Glancing over at Angel who was waiting for an answer, she thought hard for a moment before shaking her head.
"Say goodnight, Angel." With one hand over the other, Kate fiddled with her necklace. Slowly, but surely, her lids began to droop. Her smile was a melancholy stain upon her lips.
Angel kept watch over Kate while she slept.
"My once-a-man! Angel, Bruh! Do I hook you up, or what?"
Charles Gunn is a tall, deep-brown man with a nature more exuberant than his wardrobe. He is unusually good-humored and takes nothing too seriously while taking nothing for granted.
Angel, with the blanket still caped around his shoulders, labored forward from the rear.
Gunn was busy lavishing his attention on two men, one younger, one older than himself. Between the duo, a length of copper tubing bowed. They set it down near the elevators, turned and walked past another two youths -- one female, this time -- doing the exact same thing.
Two by two, the workers came in with their tools and supplies, piping and plaster. All of them were casually uniformed in immaculate white t-shirts emblazoned with the royal blue letters 'R.O.P.', shiny brown workboots with bright yellow laces, and black pants with every depth of crotch.
Angel watched the proceedings. "I thought I locked that door."
"It *was* locked," Gunn double-checked that everyone walking in knew exactly where to go before he addressed Angel directly, "but if you jiggle it a little, it gives way. You really ought to look into getting that --"
Gunn's comment and his jaw dropped. If it was possible for his huge brown eyes to get any bigger, they did just that when Kate appeared. Dazed, he handed Angel the Thermos he'd been carrying.
Holding two mugs, Kate managed to avoid tripping over the blanket shawled around one shoulder, dragging on the floor between her feet. Lamour she wasn't, but she didn't spill a drop.
"You already have coffee," she observed.
"That's not coffee," Gunn said. His voice was uncharacteristically monotone.
Angel screwed the cup off the top and began to work on the stopper.
"What is it then?" Kate asked, shoving the extra cup at Gunn.
Since he's never been known to indulge in the brew, Gunn must have accepted the cup just to have something to do with his hand. "One of my boys got tight with a packer in Cudahy. That shit's not only fresh, it's corn-fed."
Angel froze mid-twist.
Gunn's eyes shot towards the ceiling. "Angel, man. It's *blood*, OK?"
Relieved, Angel resumed his activity. He opened the container and raised it to his nose before bringing it to his lips. "Still hot," he marveled. "Tastes like..." a couple of smacks helped him analyze, "coffee."
Kate craned her neck, trying to investigate the contents of the bottle. Angel shielded it under one arm. "Like a cocktail," she deduced.
Gunn ignored Kate in favor of Angel. "Sorry, but, Luis didn't have time to rinse the container out. It was a last-minute thing and probably one-time-only, so enjoy."
Angel hailed his gratitude and loped off toward the back, favoring one leg. The pony-tailed blonde and the bald guy were left facing one another.
"What'd you do to him?" Gunn accused. His hostility flared.
Kate blasély admitted, "I forgot your name," while blowing over the cup of Joe.
"Gunn, two N's." His mouth remained open as if he was actually saying the something else he was thinking.
"Gunn. Right." Kate lowered the cup, cradling it between her palms. "Well, two N's Gunn, your pal, Angel, got hurt last night on a rescue mission and I played nurse. One N."
"Hurt? How hurt?" His concern skyrocketed.
Kate nodded at the entering flooring technician before answering, "if he wants you to know, *he'll* have to tell you."
After several tries at starting what he was about to say and stopping, Gunn finally inquired, "how's your neck?"
"The neck is good," Kate said, distracted. A flooring tech wheeling a handcart strode in along side a buffer guy. "How's that rap sheet of yours coming along?"
He was shocked, but pleasantly so. Gunn enjoys a good fight and loves one even more with a worthy opponent. He dangled his brown paper sack in front of Kate's face. "Hey, I got a breakfast burrito here. It's big enough to break you off a piece if you eat like a girl."
Eyeing Gunn deviously, Kate snatched the bag and said, "then this must be a pretty small burrito if that's all that *half* can feed."
By eleven A.M, the lobby was a den of commotion. Workers were trudging back and forth, up and down, in and out. There were sounds coming from everywhere. This building reverberated, hummed and whined. This building had come alive.
David Nabbit is nice, but a very strange guy -- strange-looking with a very strange personality. Considering how often 'no' can be Angel's favorite response, it's a wonder that Nabbit likes coming back.
The purple satin cape makes him Strange with a capital 'S'.
Kate professionally eyed him from head to toe. "*Who* are you?" she interrogated.
Nabbit was at his wit's end. He tried darting right before conceding to Kate's unspoken "access denied".
"Whassup, NABBIT!" Gunn shouted. He glided towards the front entrance with Angel straggling up the rear.
A two-finger salute gave a hand to Nabbit's nervous smile. "I'm here with the eats. But, she won't let me in." He pitched a thumb at Kate.
Mind you, even though it was only late morning, the sun pouring through the doors behind Nabbit had him lathering; although, Kate's intimidating demeanor was possibly a factor, too.
"Eats?" Gunn asked.
Nabbit tippy-toed to talk over Kate's attitude. "Yeah. I called this morning. My Shareholder's Meeting got cancelled when all the old guys were blizzarded. They couldn't get flights out of Illinois so the backyard cookout I was catering either had to be cancelled or relocated. When I called earlier, Cordelia suggested bringing it over here for all the workers."
"Cordelia hasn't been here," Angel defined.
Nabbit fiddled with the cape's tie around his neck. "Then, who --"
"That would be me," Kate admitted, stepping aside to grant Nabbit entrance. "You called this morning and --"
"*You* answered the phone?" Angel sounded a little annoyed or skeptical; it was hard to tell which.
In the absence of Kate's explanation, Nabbit pointed out, "you sounded nicer on the phone."
Towing Nabbit by the cape, Gunn headed them towards the back exit. "Parking lot'll probably be the best place for the set-up," he suggested past the elevators.
Kate rounded away to address the flooring Supervisor, leaving the vampire by himself. A wayward ray of sunlight polished the toe of Angel's boot.
Being led by the plate in her hand, Kate cautiously made her way through the narrow corridor to the kitchen. She flat-handed the swinging door and it opened without a hitch. Shortly after moving in, Angel went through and oiled the hinges to the doors he'd be using most often. In fact, the door swung so easily, Kate instinctively raised the toe of her boot.
Her beverage was inside the newspaper she'd been carrying under her arm and she put both of those down before settling her plate, plastic utensils, and a short-stack of napkins. Only after she'd checked that she had everything she needed did she climb into the booth. The high, straight back didn't seem to bother her any; she cozied right into place.
Two elbows propped her clasped hands beneath her chin and she bowed her head for an instant, nodding a finish to her silent grace. Not many people have indulged in that custom under this roof. She didn't start eating right away, stayed with whatever thoughts she had, however far-off they were.
Before she sighed them away.
Once the paper was sectioned -- The Metro Section her choice of first reading material, she flipped the top of her pop. With fork and knife in hand, exchanging dexterity every other bite or so, Kate dug into both papers -- her plate and The Los Angeles Times.
Her temper joined in at quarter-column. "Stupid --" was the beginning of a comment she didn't finish.
Startled, Kate took a very short breath that she exhaled, somewhat, anxiously.
She studied Angel leaning against the far wall, camouflaged by shadows. The kitchen has high, horizontal windows along the back alley side and they admit daylight while maintaining security. Even if one of the mesh-reinforced panes could be forced, a robber would almost have to be pancake-width to sneak inside. Whatever light entering shines brightly under the ceiling line.
Angel wasn't in any danger. But discomfort?
Well, he could have been mistaken as a statue if it hadn't been for a temple-to-temple uncontrolled jitter. Every so often, one of his fingers flicked. His upper back did the most of the work propping him against the wall, with the rubber soles of his boots keeping his feet from skidding out.
"You don't want to go lay down?" Kate finally asked, softly enough not to disturb him if he was asleep, calmly enough that she took to readjusting her paper.
"Not really an option," Angel replied. "There're too many peo-" his eyes opened, steady on hers, "*bodies* in the building."
Kate literally chewed on that thought. She swallowed. "Yeah. I can't sleep around strangers, either," she commiserated. Her voice was sincere. She waved her fork over her plate before shoveling in another bite. "This is *really* good. How was yours?"
Angel leisurely back-fingered his mouth. His eyes gilded -- just slightly, but gild they did; his browline swelled and rutted -- for a fraction of a second. All the while, his piercing gaze remained sharp.
"Mine was probably pretty unappetizing in comparison to yours." *His* voice was pretty damn meanacing.
Stray wavy blonde hair nonchalantly tucked behind her ear was Kate's response to Angel's challenge. "Oh, I doubt that." Lifting the can to her mouth, the straw jockeyed her lip, "compared to that burrito Gunn brought for breakfast -- with chorizo in it -- your portion of the pig -- "
"Pig?" she waited for Angel to nod verification, "anyway, your piggy portion was probably the healthier choice."
The haystacked lines between Angel's eyes had nothing to do with an impending transformation. He was mystified. "I think --" he shoved off and teetered for a moment until owning his balance, "-- think I'll..."
A baby-step signaled his intent to vacate.
"No problem." And it wasn't, because Kate instantly went back to her lunch. "You *should* go get some rest," she agreed, waving him off.
It wasn't clear whether Kate she was ignoring Angel out of respect for his privacy -- his locomotion wasn't very motional -- or because she was so engrossed with the article. Angel was probably more concerned about finding a place of peace amidst the ruckus.
Saying nothing, he just kept moving.
"Go right ahead and relax. I'll have Gunn spread the word that five-oh's on the premises." Kate hadn't looked up to notice that Angel was already half-way gone when she added quite ominously, "no one will *dare* try to jack up your stuff."
This Hotel was first built to be an exclusive get-away -- or hide-away, depending on who was trying to get away from whom. Elegance was the mode du jour; the hoity-toity lounged in the lobby and draped themselves along the stairs. Eventually, the clientele became less exclusive, more ordinary -- in fact, downright seedy. One day the front doors were padlocked, a chain link fence was placed the perimeter, and the spirits remaining were effectively cordoned off from the world.
The grandeur? Well, that's easy enough to regain. With tender maintenance, the panache of yesteryear has been slowing gleaming back. Brass shines when it's burnished; glass sparkles when the film of a half-century's been squeegied off. There's nothing here that wasn't there before, nothing that wasn't hidden under layers of grime and neglect. If a building can have a soul, that's always been alive, only now it's beginning to shine again.
Beauty is a lot like stardom; as impressive as wealth, it attracts and it inspires. Twenty plumbing hopefuls, five floor refinishers, a Warrior-apprentice, a policewoman, a gazillionaire -- all makes and models, so to speak, and every single one of them charmed by this Hotel.
From the outside, jeepers, there's nothing to get hyped-up about. The façade is your average courtyard-centered, Californian-Spanish with a collection of all shaped and sized windows accented with a smattering of balconies and awnings. Ah, but looks are so deceiving. Never was the adage, "it's what's on the inside that counts" more true.
It's difficult to imagine what the first-time visitor notices first when they enter. Is it the floor? teal with a curlicue intarsia deeply colored in red. The walls? clad in polished marble, the umber-hued- grained warm beige awe-inspiring, yet inviting. The arches? held aloft by fluted columns, gracing half the lobby. The lighting? suspended octagonal wheels, gallery-height above the floor, their frosted glass panels rimmed with perfect black leading. Curve upon curve, from front desk to furniture? The matte-chrome embossed moldings and elevator doors?
Or the grand staircases beckoning the imagination onward? So much to see, so much to take in, and none of it lost upon those Saturday visitors who walked through the lobby with their faces upturned and their mouths agape in wonder.
With the afternoon sun, the chandeliers and the sconces beaming, this Hotel was incandescent. The warmth, though, was being supplied by the camaraderie of accomplishment and the hum of activity -- well, maybe more like an out-and-out blaring of activity -- voicing renewal from cupola to basement.
Gunn leaned over the mezzanine banister, taking it all in while his hips focused on the syncopation of Latin tune drifting from somewhere below.
"They're getting a lot done," Kate said on approach. She stepped up to the guardrail and mirrored Gunn's position, keeping her hips under restraint. "I can't believe how far this place has come."
"Pretty cool, huh?" He turned his head and regarded Kate with a smile as full as his lips. "It was pretty to'e up the first time I was here."
Noticing the front door ajar, Kate shouted, "HEY! SOMEONE CLOSE THE -- " But her command came two birds too late.
The sparrows flitted up to the ceiling.
"*That's* great," she grumbled. "They'll be pretty annoying until they drop dead from starvation." She pulled back to consider the sounds coming from her left, adding defensively, "well, they *will* be. We get an occasional bird inside the precinct and they're gross. They crap all over the place."
Gunn laughed. "First off, Detective Kate, you think Angel's gonna let a couple of birds hang until they check out from natural causes? And second off, if you wanna imagine someone goin' psycho, picture Angel after his first sighting of bird dukey."
The miniature avians chased one another through an arch before swooping down. They circled merrily at play, oblivious of their confinement.
"Dead birds flying," Gunn joked under his breath.
Kate grinned into her hand. "So, what do you think he'll do?" she cried, giving the birds a woeful glance. She wiped the tears from under her eyes but was unable to put the damper on her giggling fit.
The door opened again and the well-fed R.O.P. students bunched through, chatting amongst themselves in English or their native languages -- Korean, Spanish, Tagalog. A gust of wind edged around them, sweeping in a litter of leaves.
Angel was leaning inside the wall of his office where he'd been supervising, undetectable behind his office window's drape. He wore his forearm as an additional bandage across his waist and, on his sleeping face, an expression not unlike the one he had on after disagreeing with Wesley that the derelict Hyperion was a place of evil.
Even before then, Angel had seen beyond this Hotel's ruin, already envisioning the possibilities. "Not anymore," he'd replied with hearty conviction, brandishing optimism, affection, and unwavering dedication.
"Qué ondas, Nimmy?"
Gordon Nimberg, Regional Occupational Program instructor, glowered at his student. "What have I said about caring for your tools?"
Felix could barely see through a thicket of black bangs. "Uh... Treat 'em like children?"
Nimberg's reprimand went from strict to reasonable. He leaned in towards one of Felix's unseen ears and hushed, "I'm tired of stepping on your babies. Got it?"
Gunn bounded down the stairs. He slung an arm around Angel's shoulders. "Nimberg! You sure my man's pipes are sound?"
Wiping his hands on the tail of his oxford-striped shirt, Nimberg faked insult. "Charles, Charles. Now, who in this city knows more about 80 year old plumbing than me?"
"Who?" Angel asked.
"Rhetorical tip, Bruh," Gunn asided. "I'm jus' sayin', Nim, I'on't wanna be hearin' my man call me in the middle of the night to tell me he's rowing the furniture out tha door. Ya dig?"
"Don't worry, Angel," Nimberg assured, momentarily distracted by a length of copper pipe that swerved by and barely missed the trio. He shot off a warning glance at the carrier.
David Nabbit immediately dropped his load and scurried away.
"All in all, the plumbing is in pretty good shape. We got this segment," Nimberg motioned towards the freshly-soldered pipe, "checked out some other rooms and your bathroom. We caught a few other segments that looked a bit iffy, but otherwise I think you're set."
He pointed a condemning chin Gunn's way. "If any of my students' repairs go to pot, you'll have to blame Charles for supplying the shoddy materials."
Gunn got defensive. "Nuh, uh, Angel! Don't be listenin' to this guy. Those pipes are solid; good to go."
Angel was suddenly anxious. "Just where *did* you come up with all this pipe?" he asked, finally asking the question that should have been asked several hours before.
"From a dice-and-giest," Gunn stepped away and checked out Kate's descent, "we did a couple months ago. The owner of the building let us gut the place in exchange for getting rid of his squatters."
"Dice-and-giest?" Kate inquired, giving the repair a twice-over.
Gunn indulged his tendency to scruff the back of his hand against his nose. "A coupla of slimey chubs and a Casper."
She turned quickly, eyes narrowed. But it was Angel who fretfully asked, "since when did you start doing spirits?"
"Hey, y'all!" Gunn backed away, hands half-raised in surrender before he stuffed them into the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. "Me and the crew ain't doing The Ghostbusters, Bruh. We *torched* the place."
"Insurance scam," Kate accused.
Defiant, Gunn stared her down. "Look, Officer, we don't ask. We rectify."
Nimberg looked from Angel to Gunn to Kate.
"And your targets?" Kate prompted.
"Targeted," Gunn reported, making an example of her.
Her lips scooted side to side before Kate dismissed the subject with, "so... Gordon," she read from his chest pocket, "this looks good. Did you have a chance to check out the boilers, too?"
A pipe interrupted by clattering onto the stack, causing the ones beneath it to rock precariously. Nabbit inched away from the near disaster as three students pounced to steady it.
"I guess I'm not as manually dexterous as I thought I was," the computer mogul confessed, clapping his hands clean while moseying over to the group.
Angel smiled pardon. Kate suggested, "maybe you were more coordinated with the cape."
Nimberg consoled Nabbit's shoulder. "Angel, the boilers are in good shape. Just have The Gas Company come down and open the lines to them. Gotta warn you, though, it'll cost a fortune to keep 'em both running. And pointless to start 'em up if you're not going to keep this place occupied."
"So, what can Angel do in the meantime?"
Angel stood smack dab in the center of uncomfortable scrutiny.
Nimburg scratched his thinning hairline. "She's right; you need hot water. If you just need to heat the one apartment, Angel, I can install an intermediary heater upstairs. If you want hot water in the downstairs kitchen, though, you might do better to replace one of those big boys with a smaller cousin."
"He's not using the main kitchen," Kate said; to which Gunn added, "tell me what he needs."
Cutting off Angel's preparing protest, Nabbit rallied with an enthusiastic, "cool!" A bright smile linked his pudgy cheeks. "This place is like a renovator's dream!"
Laughing, Nimberg nodded. "Or a nightmare, Mr. Nabbit. But, I've got to tell you, for me? It's been a fantasy. Most of the buildings in L.A. this age have already been retrofitted -- usually pretty poorly. The insides of this sweetheart are the real deal. If you have any problems, Angel, just call me personally. And whenever I can ever use the Hotel for hands-on education for my students..."
Sighing, he suspended his infatuation for the pipelined ceiling. "The only thing I couldn't figure out for-the-life-of-me is why that wall in your bathroom was weeping. The pipe up there is sound, not a hint of stress or corrosion. We had to cut out the plaster to make sure, but it's been reset and spackled back into place. One of my gals, Pauletta -- Ms. Neatness I call her -- cleaned up real good for you. She even managed to get that crud off your doorway."
Angel signed the Karizif Floor Refinishing Work Completion Order assigned to: The Hyperion Hotel while making sure it was charged to: Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson.
"Floor was in surprisingly good shape," Yousef Karizif, proprietor, said. With his handsome Arabic features, in his fewer-white-haired days he could have easily been the model for Aladdin. An affable grin broadened his face.
Two thinner Karizifs cased their brother, sharing, "usually when we get these calls to rip-up carpet, we're afraid of what to find. Such a few cracks. And we mended -- And polished good -- So everything is good."
Yousef nodded his agreement and looked around, impressed. "This is some pretty palace," he complimented.
Crouching, Angel's fingertips skimmed along the resurfacing. He smiled. Leaning against the entry, Kate smiled, too. Her reflection was intersected by smaller-scaled red ribbons identical to the ones in the lobby.
Taken aback by the Kazarif hand shoved in front of face, Angel nearly keeled over, but he caught his balance just in time. A gracious gesture waved away the courtesy as he inched up the wall.
The brothers headed out. "Well, you and the Misses enjoy your new floor," Yousef said in passing, nodding farewell at Kate.
"It looks -- Great." Angel twisted his head and took in the floor from as many angles as he could humanly manage. "It looks great, huh?"
Sliding her hands along her thighs and onto her knees, Kate took a waist-level gander. "It's hard to believe it's the same place," she said, straightening up, "you even got rid of that disgusting odor."
She turned to Angel, amazed. And then...
Abhorred, she asked him, "*what* are you doing?"
Angel leaned into the wall. "The odor," the tip of his nose kissed the plaster and he sniffed again, "it's in the walls."
Trembling, Kate held her forehead in the palm of her hand. Her eyes filled and threatened to overflow. "Why couldn't --" she choked.
Angel intently mimicked every movement of her face as if doing so could help him form her opinion. Finally, shaking his head in defeat, he asked, "what's wrong?"
"That," she pointed. "You *had* to smell the wall! Why'd you have to smell the wall?"
When Angel took a step towards her, Kate backed up. She closed her eyes and inhaled roughly. By the time her confidence recovered, Angel had changed.
"You. Get. Out. Now." He bared his ragged teeth.
Kate bit her lip. "Look, Angel. I --"
"Don't want any excuses," Angel fumed. Contempt made him more hideous. "You're scared of me."
"We were c-- cool, Angel," she tried explaining, tripping over her words. "I-- I was starting to get OK with all of this -- "
"But *I* blew it?" He unleashed a terrible laugh. "You were testing yourself."
"Us." Kate bowed her head, ashamed. "I was testing *us*. You saved my life and, I mean --
She looked up; her gasp was shrill. Angel had blocked the door in that instant.
"Did you think because I'm hurt, I'm safe? I'm wounded, Kate, not dead." The demonic face sprouted a smirk. "Oh, wait, *that's* not right."
Taking a breath, Kate held onto it for resolve. "You don't have to rub this in the ground --"
"Because I should be in it?" Angel taunted, "you're still only 'scared'. You wanna up that to terrified?"
He faked a lunge. Kate jumped.
"ALRIGHT, ALREADY! *Christ*, Angel!" She scarcely smoothed the waver of her voice. "I get the hint. Or are you *really* getting ready to bite me again?"
With that, Angel backed down. After stowing his ferocity, he limped away from the door. "Watching me get nearly hacked in half, the physiognomy follies, the breakfast special delivery and all the other *normal* occurrences of my damned life didn't disturb you. But whiffing the wall?"
She winced. She shrugged.
"I can't fly through hoops -- " Wringing and tightening, Angel's hands gestured wildly. "Yes, I can; but I'm not going to. And *I* didn't save your life, Kate, *you* saved it by keeping your ass on that museum floor, so STOP thinking that you owe me something. You DON'T. And I don't owe you.
"GOT IT?" he barked.
Shaken, she didn't look up; just begrudgingly established that she understood the message. Kate looked sad, really sad. She had probably had the best of intentions when she showed up the night before; but maybe not enough time had passed between them or maybe -- just maybe -- she had tried too hard to take in too much in too short of time.
Not that any of those possibilities mattered to Angel. He glowered at her mercilessly. The last thing he needs at the moment is another non-working relationship.
Kate dragged in a breath. "I guess I should... Go. Your --" She slid a hand at the base of her ribs and wrapped her other arm into it.
Angel held onto his pullover above the same area. His severity diminished. "What I --" made her pause in the doorway. Kate lined her nose up with the jamb and shed a half-glance at the room.
"I --" Angel conked against the wall. "I miss... Your laughter? Because it's so unpredictable, I-- I can't figure out how to orchestrate it. The good thing?" He sighed. "I can't manipulate you. The bad thing, though, is that I'll *never* be able to figure out how to keep you happy. We just --
"We just really need -- " his fingers climbing the wall, stopped. "Kate, *we* just aren't right."
In the relentless silence between them, Kate silently agreed. After securing all her thoughts, she made a movement to leave. "In case you didn't know, there's another room upstairs that's got a bunch of junk in it. You might be able to find some nicer lighting fixtures in there."
"I'll..." Angel unclenched his teeth, "be sure to look."
Kate disappeared gradually, one finger at a time. Even after several moments, her somber "I remember laughing" clung to the air of the room.
It's not that the evening was balmy; Hollywood is no resort town. It was cool, just borderline chilly. The building's stucco was still radiating the day. Shaped like an H, there's a courtyard in front and a courtyard behind, the rear one more secluded. That's where Angel was.
"How! Big Chief!" Amused, Gunn pinched the blanket that had found its way back onto Angel's shoulders and waited for Angel's anticipated, "how, what?" But Angel didn't respond. He just stared straight ahead.
"So how's your gunshot wound?" Gunn ventured.
Angel slid more horizontal. It takes lots more than gruff silence to discourage Charles Gunn.
Distracted, Gunn went for a lengthy tour of the plant life. Upon his return, he took a seat on Angel's concrete bench and a large creamy flower went under his nose. He took a dramatic breath and went, "ah!"
Angel blinked. Gunn took in another enormous breath. Angel scratched his wrist.
"It just bloomed a little while ago."
"Bloomed? You mean *exploded*! There must be 20 flowers on that bush, Angel." Gunn powderpuffed the tip of his nose. "I didn't know you like gardenias. You know, it's the official flower of Black America," he stated matter-of-factly while rearranging the blossom's petals.
Unsure, Angel squinted at his companion.
Gunn leaned back against the retaining wall, set the flower above his heart, and crossed his arms underneath. "I remember this smell. Like a bunch of church Grammies all sittin' in Bible study doing Jungle warfare."
He glanced around; one leg bent behind the other. "I gotta tell you, man; after you said you wanted this place I thought you were trippin'. But... It's weird. Like it had been dead or sumpthin' and then you moved in and it started living again."
"No one was taking care of it, that's all. It didn't take much." Angel gasped and let the breath go of its own accord. "Sometimes just a little bit of care goes a long way."
Gunn mulled over the statement. He switched the position of his legs a number of times while he was at it, finally deciding to let them both stretch out front.
He started with, "Angel," while his eyes rolled sideways. Once there, they met Angel's already waiting for the worst.
"Not that bad, Angel," he reassured. "This care thing, though? You including Lockley in that now?" He waited for effect, knowing from experience he wouldn't get a response. "'Cause all I'm sayin' is, I think you should try getting one blond out your life before you start messin' with another. Unless..."
"Keep looking for Darla."
"Aw'ight." With his assignement clarified, Gunn took to his feet. "I didn't get much from the Detective other than you were messed up bad. You gonna be OK or you need me to hang around?"
Angel stood, wobbly. Gunn moved to steady him but Angel did that on his own. Still, he was closely guarded as they climbed the entry stairs. With Angel's right arm doing much of the work, by the time he made it to the landing he was damp.
"See? No problem." Angel offered a feeble smile.
Gunn half-returned one of his own. "I can let myself out," he said in such a manner he could have easily been dissuaded. As slowly as he'd shadowed Angel into the lobby, Gunn made his exit. He flicked the lights out along the way; jiggled the door locked behind him.
Angel struggled to the kitchen where he cut the SubZero's power and took out its last container of plasma. The meal was finished by the time he got to the sofa outside of his office. The container went onto the coffee table before Angel sank into the cushions. Almost before he'd finished spreading the blanket over his weary frame, he'd fallen asleep.
On that bright, but not-so-early Sunday morning, Angel made it up to his room and found the fully-equipped Gordon Nimberg coming out of the kitchen.
Gunn had been supervising. "It's a good thing you slept in the lobby last night, Angel. It was *arctic* in here when we walked in"
Nimberg shook Angel's hand. "Brrrrr! Feels like we installed this for you just in time. You're all set for the bathroom and kitchen with your brand new tankless water heater."
"How does it work?" Angel asked, fearful.
Gunn ushered Nimberg to the hall. "Hot water, Angel. Just turn the tap," he gently mocked.
Nimberg popped back in. "No restrictions on the usage, but you might want to take care until you make sure your electric bill doesn't shoot up."
Angel practically slammed the door on the pair. He scooted to the bathroom since there was no time like that moment to see if whatever-it-was worked.
Angel soaped, he scrubbed, he soaked, he sang. Maybe he even danced. The miracle of instant hot water was his, all his, and he enjoyed it for over an hour.
At some point in time, his scab washed down the drain.
His towel-dry hair was rolling haywire; his gargantuan violet KSU sweatshirt could have used a good press. The untied laces of his boots dragged on the floor, coordinating the look of his baggy pants a rip under one knee. With brunch in hand, Angel strolled through the corridors. Every so often, he'd peek in a room. It took a couple of floors, but he finally located the Hotel storage area.
Next to Judy Kovac's old room.
Judy had lived in this Hotel until recently; that is, until the end of her life. Some would say she'd been imprisoned, some would call it protected. Most would agree she was unhappy. It was never clear just what Judy felt about the situation. She had merely accepted the accommodations.
The Hyperion Hotel in Hollywood: The Home of The Resigned. Perhaps, one day soon, that will change.
Throughout the years, no one ever bothered to look into the room at the end of the 2nd floor corridor. But the room next to it? Oh, how they stuffed and they crammed! When Angel opened its door, there was barely any clearance for him to squeeze in.
He set his empty beverage container on the dusty shelf of a rickety bookcase and proceeded to explore.
Deep in the bowels of this Hotel, a ventilation chamber clicked shut and redirected a draft. One by one, the shafts between every floor switched to rechannel the circulation. A thankfully temperate day sunnied the Los Angeles sky while it took all imagination to route heat into that room.
With ingenuity of his own, Angel made the afternoon of it -- discovering bits and pieces of this Hotel's well-packed past. Finally, in the last accessible box he found a single ceiling fixture. There weren't any others; instead there were signature plates and crystal, a baseball, ashtrays and knickknacks, maid uniforms. There was no rhyme or reason to why any of the items had been stored together.
Angel was just about finished when he removed a dingy set of threadbare towels. Reaching over the rim, he shifted aside whatever the remaining contents to extract a small vellum package. Its yellowed cellophane-taped corner crumbled at his touch. Angel shook twice above his waiting palm...
And admired the gripping prize.
Before discarding them both in the trash, Cordelia compared the feather from the front desk to the ones in the duster she had been using. Wesley paced across the landing with his arms barred across his chest.
"Are you doing this just to spite us?" he asked immediately after Angel appeared at the top of the stairs.
Angel took each step in measured stride. "Spite you?"
Cordelia wheeled around. "The plumbing was going to get fixed, it just wasn't going to get fixed overnight, Angel. Weekend rates! Ohmigod! Are you *mental*?"
As Angel walked past and into her office, Cordy's rhinestone barrette -- or the way it clipped her hair -- disturbed him. "The pipe -- "
Wesley interrupted, "and was it necessary to refinish the floor of a room we have no use for? Only heaven knows what you had done upstairs! If you're so inclined to make repairs, why don't you get the front door latch fixed so I don't have to spend an eternity trying to get in!"
Angel poured the last of the coffee pot into a mug. "Lemme explain -- "
Cordy wasn't about to let him. "There are *no* explanations, Angel! You had all this stuff done behind our backs. Wesley said he talked to you about it." She fell back in her chair and threw up her hands. "I give up!" she declared to Wesley.
Swiping a file folder from her Inbox, Wesley turned on his heel and into Angel who was right behind him.
Angel smiled. "Look what I found!" On display between his thumb and forefinger was an orange chimpanzee.
Wesley scrutinized the thing. His distaste was evident by the way he returned to his study of the documents in hand. "It's a plastic monkey, Angel," he sniped.
When Cordelia reached for a closer inspection, Angel placed the treasure in the center of her palm. "Yep. That's what it is. A plastic monkey." She pitched it into her paper clip bin in preference for the ringing phone.
"Investigations," was all she seemed to announce.
Angel retired to his office. Before sitting, he reached into his pocket. A blue gorilla was reverently hooked onto a bookened binding at the head of his desk.
Cordelia dropped the checkbook in front of him. The monkey fell off its ledge.
"Here. I think we can afford these this week." She huffed and puffed a stray hair off her cheek. She huffed again, "could it be any hotter in this place? I didn't even think about the heater."
She stomped out, yelling, "Wesley! Have you seen the temperature control anywhere?"
Angel finished signing the checks, swiveled his desk chair, and stared out of his office window, into the gloom.
And that's how he remained
for the rest of the day...
This hotel used to be a mess, in shambles. Darkened and desolate, Evil had established a permanent residence.
Three months ago, Evil was evicted.
For over seventy years, this hotel had been exposed to only Evil and its outcome. What's that saying: "If you don't know any better, then you make do with what you know"? And you learn, you do; you learn from everything you get exposed to.
Three months ago, Goodness by the name of Angel wandered up through the basement. He doesn't have all the answers. Hyperion knows, his life is in a state of disrepair itself. Maybe this Hotel has been the cause, or an unfortunate distraction; but whatever's going on or why, that's stuff Angel's got to work out on his own.
There's got to be another reason why he's returned to this Hotel other than to repair a roof to have over his head. Until that's all figured out, this Hotel will continue to reciprocate the attention; and maybe -- just maybe -- spirit a way to reciprocate the save.