Title: 17 Minutes
Genres: Angst, M/M, character study
Notes: Set in the beginning of season five. Written for a prompt by Spankspike.
Summary: Angel falls from his pedestal.
Published: 5-14-08. Edited: 3/08/2010 because the formatting looked horrible.
Angel walked past Harmony's desk in the lobby. Only two of the overhead lamps were lit. The floors, usually so shiny during the daytime, were matte and dull. Even the reflections of the light looked like gray splotches. The buzz of humanity, demons, and magic was quieter; he could finally think. Angel used to roam the streets when he needed the loud white noise of the city to drown out his demon, but it wasn't the demon troubling him now. The myriad alleys and tunnels in Los Angeles had always provided him with something to work his frustration out on, but there wasn't much point to patrolling nowadays. He had almost been killed once when the firm's helicopter distracted him from a Clovese demon and its gooey tentacles. Besides, working at Wolfram & Hart meant that no matter how many people he saved at night, he was hurting many more in the routine hustle from nine to five. Even as Angelus, he couldn't cause such wide spread damage with the flick of a pen. He couldn't stare at the walls of his penthouse all night either because Spike wouldn't leave him alone so Angel wandered the Wolfram & Hart building.
A paranoid thought unfurled in his mind -- how could he be sure that he used to do that? Wolfram & Hart was able to wipe months worth of memories out of his friend's heads and Angel had his own memory upgrade as well. Who knows what they could have put in there? They were the ones who had dreamed up this affair.
Angel liked the Wolfram & Hart building better at night. He didn't mind the gloom; it felt better on his eyes. Funny how that was. He had spent decades dreaming of peeking past a curtain to catch a glimpse of a royal gold and purple sunset or to see the sea break against the beach in all the glory of a high summer afternoon. Now that it was possible for him to look down from his tower in the day, all he saw was the brown haze of smog or dingy glass and concrete. The glare was hell on vampiric eyes; everything was a little too clear. He saw more people scurrying and driving below than he had ever seen at night. People his firm were screwing over. Angel didn't like the view of a cracked city that he was only making worse, but he could never look away.
It was early Monday morning, but there were still lamps glowing through the blinds of a few office windows. The only person Angel saw was a solitary janitor at the end of the hall. The fruits of evil could be great, Angel thought, but the hours were murder. He couldn't understand how they could ignore their family and friends to rack up points with the big man below. That was why one of the hardest parts of his job was dealing with his employees because he despised most of them.
He checked his watch. It was 4:23AM and he had seven more minutes to wait for Gunn. Their relationship had been made by Wolfram & Hart only a couple weeks ago, but in the new memories, they had been dating for months. Angel's original memories didn't match the new ones; they overlapped in his mind. When Los Angeles was experiencing its first ever rain of fire in the real time line, Wesley and Cordelia had told Angel and Gunn to come clean about their relationship in the fake one. It was still strange to have artificial memories floating around in his head. Wolfram & Hart showed their usual brand of dark courtesy in giving him the memories they used to cover up Connor with while leaving him the last witness. Angel knew this thing with Gunn wasn't real and he knew that he should break it off, but he didn't. He let it linger. Worse still, Angel knew he couldn't be the Angel in the fake memories. He knew that his friends thought that this place was changing him for the worse. Angel didn't know if he could disagree.
The elevator bell chimed and a wide swath of yellow light cut across the lobby. The shadow of a tall figure stretched to the middle of the wood floor. An arm moved up as if to push a button.
Angel looked at his watch as he walked towards the light. 4:30AM. He saw Gunn's arm, covered in an expensive dark fabric, before he saw his face. The sun hadn't even reached the Rockies, but Gunn still radiated an energy. He looked like a man with a purpose. That was what Angel wanted.
Angel knelt in front of Gunn. He held up his hands and let one palm run down the softness of Gunn's suit pants before he unbuttoned the other man's fly. The vampire didn't look up. He didn't want to see the questions, so many with so few answers, in his lover's brown eyes. Gunn might have been a fighter, but he fucked like a poet. The darkness didn't tempt him; he wanted something pure. It was one of the crueler cuts made by Wolfram & Hart. Angel had never been pure. He pulled open Gunn's pants before he rubbed his palm down the bulge at the front of the other man's boxers.
"You can take your time." Gunn murmured. Gunn's fingers, on Angel's shoulder, were tense almost pushing him away. His cock was hardening, but his voice was worried. He sounded far away. "We could start with 'good morning' or even just 'hi'."
There was life, passion, and purpose buzzing under Gunn's skin. It was like static electricity when his tongue licked one of Gunn's jutting hip bones. Angel wanted to feel that fire. He might as well be Tantalus from the myths because it was never enough. Gunn had figured out how to use the firm for good.
Even when Angel was a fledgling, he had never been this confused. He could feel himself being drawn into the business of evil and he just wanted to taste something besides ashes and regret. Just like with his every other move, he didn't know if this was Wolfram & Hart's plan or not. Though, when wasn't it?
He nibbled on Gunn's exposed skin. It was in moments like this that he truly felt like a vampire; he knew that Gunn had never forgotten. Angel had only once kissed him on the neck because Gunn's muscles had grown tight and Angel had tasted the involuntary desire to fight or flight rise in him. Angel jerked down Gunn's waistband, his own cock twitched as he anticipated the broad head of Gunn's cock on his tongue. If he sucked hard enough, maybe some of that sparkle would rub off.
"I'm serious." Gunn grabbed Angel's hand on his boxers. "I gotta ask, Angel, because I know it's your style when things get rough, but am I punishment? Suck a cock in public to really feel like shit?" Gunn stared at his hand wrapped around Angel's wrist, before he tugged it pulling him up. Angel felt so much colder when Gunn dropped his hand. Gunn straightened up his pants and did the zipper. His jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed when he looked at Angel. "I'm not into that scene."
Angel opened his mouth and then closed it before shaking his head. "No, its not that." Gunn wasn't burnished with purpose anymore. His shoulders were tense and he looked at Angel in sad confusion. This was Angel's doing; it was like his touch was corrosive. He just wanted some of spirit for himself and instead he tarnished another person. "I think that I should leave."
"Maybe I should. I'm not going to be a stick to beat yourself with." Gunn pressed the button to open the elevator door. He brushed by Angel as he walked out. He stopped, but he didn't turn around as he said, "All summer it's been like I've been fucking a completely different dude." He shook his head. "Figure out your shit, Angel. This isn't you." His footsteps seemed to echo throughout the dark lobby.
The vampire jabbed the button to his level and closed his eyes as the elevator door shut. He grimaced as he rubbed his fingers through his hair. Gunn had cut so close to the truth without even knowing the whole story. None of his friends knew the depths of his monstrosity. They had never dealt with Angelus. They had never dealt with him at his souled worst. They were like blind children now. So much had happened before that had drained the innocence out of them. There was a lot of pain; they'd lost their baby fat. In the new memories, they hadn't been as tested as they were before. Angel didn't feel prepared for this and he had lived lifetimes. He always tried to protect them, but it never quite worked the way he wanted. People like Doyle and Cordy were the ones who felt the effects of his failure. His crew had glued the pieces back together so many times that they had known how to help the helpless without him. They had known his weaknesses. In the new memories, they had never learned not to trust him. Wolfram & Hart had, for a few fake months in the minds of his friends, made him the champion he had always wanted to be -- but Angel couldn't stay on that pedestal.
Gunn was wrong, Angel thought as the elevator door opened with a chime. This was exactly like him.