"I thought we were going to the bar." That was as good an introduction as any, Will thought. Wesley and Gunn had no hope of keeping up with him as far as drinking was concerned, which made Angel his unofficial drinking buddy.
There was no response from the man still sitting on the damp grass. Dragging a hand through his hair, Will lowered himself to the ground and sat cross legged next to the older man. Of all the odd relationships he had ever had, his relationship with Angel was the oddest. Will would have never thought he would have been remotely close to be being friends with Angel.
"Listen, you wanker, you can't ruin my night. It's Friday and I work all week, for you, I might add. My pride is so damaged I have no choice but to go out and get sloshed on the weekends. No fair you starting without me."
Seeing that tact was getting him nowhere, Will cringed. The look on Angel's face was close to that he had seen on Buffy's when Glory had kidnapped Dawn and the Slayer had decided to be catatonic for a while. Seeing Angel in that state was more than a little unnerving.
The next few moments were silent, the still night air only broken by the occasional bark of a dog or the cry of a bird. Will could almost convince himself he wasn't in Las Angeles, the night was so peaceful. Scratching his head, he scowled. The thick dark curls were still foreign to him after so many years of bleaching and pomading it straight.
Biting back a scathing remark about how Angel's living room looked better after the impromptu makeover it had been given, Will decided to take a different tact. Being nice to people was not completely foreign to him, but being nice to Angel certainly felt as though it was.
"You could talk about it, you know." Chancing a sidelong glance at Angel, Will saw that there was still no reaction he was there.
Try again, he thought. "Really, you could talk to me, you know. Or anyone. I'll call Wes, if you want. Because, seriously, sitting out here until Dawn is not a good idea. And the sunrise won't kill you anyway. You should find a better plan."
Angel visibly swallowed and Will saw emotions flash across his face. He was either going to cry or hit something, Will thought. After a few moments, though, neither happened, and Will started mentally preparing himself to leave. Angel's voice stopped his movements.
"I…" Angel swallowed hard. "I thought I could do better."
At that cryptic statement, Will opened his mouth to speak but though better of it and closed his mouth again. His silence was rewarded a few moments later when Angel spoke again.
"It doesn't matter. Nothing I do will ever matter."
Not bothering to hide his confusion, Will didn't miss a beat before replying. "It mattered to the woman whose life you saved yesterday. It matters to Fred and Wes and Gunn everyday. It matters to me every once and a while."
Shaking his head, Angel closed his eyes tight. "I'll never be good enough."
As realization dawned on him, Will looked away for a moment. It was still hard to come to terms with the fact that Buffy had never loved him. At times, he thought he had never loved her either. Angel's completely unhealthy devotion towards the woman was something Will could understand, but being confronted with it still hurt. Nearly two years later, he had still avoided dealing with his feelings about Buffy.
"You mean it will never be good enough for her, right? We're talking about her?"
At Angel's silence, Will nodded his head before continuing. "You…you helped me. When I hit bottom a while ago, you gave me a job and a purpose and an apartment. You didn't have to and I didn't ask you to. Well, I asked for some stuff," he conceded. "The point is…you could hate me. I could hate you. But we don't hate each other. We strive to drive the other crazy and insult him every chance we get, but we don't hate each other. And we have every reason to."
Dragging his hand through his hair, Will sighed before continuing. "What I'm saying is, if we don't hate each other, if we can be around each other and almost be friends sometimes, then there's hope for you and Buffy. She'll never hate you, she's just…she's just confused. She'll come around."
"I don't want her to." His voice was just above a whisper, but Will heard it.
Hiding his surprise, Will shook his head. "What do you mean? Why do you send those letters all the bloody time? Why beat yourself up constantly about her not calling you if you don't want her back?"
A shaky breath escaped him before he could respond. "If she comes back to me…that means she's willing to lower herself to my level. I…I don't deserve her. She shouldn't be with me."
"Let me get this straight. You want her, desperately. You're killing yourself to get her back with the fourteen hour days and the ridding the whole universe of evil. And…you don't want her because if she comes back to you she'll be debasing herself. Do I have this right?"
Again, it was Angel's silence that confirmed what Will had said was true. Clearing his throat, he stared again. "Well, that makes great bloody sense, doesn't it? Angel…you have to, I don't know…" Taking a deep breath, he leaned back on his elbows. "You have to get over this complete self loathing thing you have going for you. You'll be a much more pleasant person to be around if you aren't constantly whipping yourself."
"I deserve it. I deserve everyone's loathing."
Angel's eyes were burning again, and he pressed the heels of his hands into them to start the annoying sensation. He didn't deserve the comfort of tears, he told himself. Weeping was an outlet other beings could use, he didn't deserve the solace and release such an action would bring.
Will's hand on his shoulder was enough to send Angel's entire body into spasms. Realizing he was shaking and not being able to do a thing about it, he focused on refusing to sob in front of Will. He would never live that down, he thought.
"Angel, man, get over it. That's the best advice I've got for you. Your demon killed a lot of people. So did mine. You have a prominent forehead and bad hair and you're not funny. Those aren't reasons to hate yourself."
Forcing Will's hand from his shoulder, he stood violently. "It isn't a joke! None of this is a joke!" He didn't realize he was yelling until after he had done it. Still shaking, he fought to stay upright. Everything in his body called for complete collapse.
Before Will could speak, Angel continued. "I murdered hundreds, thousands, of people! I've killed people and allowed people to die, even with a soul! I don't deserve redemption and I don't deserve her!"
Will's voice matched Angel's in volume as he stood as well. "Well then stop sending her those stupid letters! If you don't deserve her, stop fighting so fucking hard for her!"
Will felt Angel's fist smash into his cheek before he had registered that Angel was about to throw a punch. Landing hard on the ground, he watched in awe as Angel almost immediately sunk to his knees, holding his mid section and shaking. Touching his pained cheek tenderly, he watched as Angel shook and great gasps escaped his body.
Swallowing, Will suddenly found it hard not to feel for the man in front of him. Unlike Angel, he had accepted the fact that it was a demon in his body that had murdered people. His demon would always be part of him, but Will knew that he would never be that monster again. Perhaps, he thought, thinking very briefly on his life and Angel's before they were turned, he had developed more as a person. Maybe that was why he had moved on from his past and Angel hadn't. Will had been a developed person when Drusilla had sired him. Angel already had baggage when he had been sired.
"You have to stop doing this, man. You have to let it go. Let her go. You'll kill yourself if you keep this up."
"Maybe that's what I want." His voice was cracked and the words escaped between gasping breaths, but Will heard them none the less.
Grabbing Angel by his shoulders, Will shoved him hard into the ground. "You don't get to do that! You don't get to be that weak!"
Shoving his grandsire from him, Angel bolted to his hands and knees. "I can't do this! It…it hurts…so much." With that admittance, he felt moisture start to accumulate under his eyelids.
Shaking his head, Will fell to a sitting position on the ground. "You can't die, do you hear me? Because…because if there's no hope for you, then there's no hope for me either. If you can't be redeemed, neither can I. You care. You work so hard. I…I need you to make it, Angel. Get it? I need you to make it possible. Because then there's hope for me too."
"There's no hope for me." Pushing himself from the ground, he started towards the house. Stumbling a little, he closed his eyes to ward off the blurry vision and tried to walk straight. Will tackling him from behind didn't help Angel's attempts to stay on his feet.
"Get off me!" Throwing a punch at Will's face, the breath left his body as Will blocked his arm and drove a fist into his gut.
"Wake up, Angel! Wake up and live! You are surrounded by people who love you, who would give their lives for you! Most people never get that! You deserve it, or you wouldn't have it! You are insulting all of them! You're saying they should be ashamed of caring for you!"
Rolling off the older man, Will covered his eyes with his arm and lay on his back next to Angel. He could feel that Angel was breathing heavily and wasn't moving anywhere. After a moment of neither moving, Will felt the man next to him start to shake uncontrollably. Their shoulders were touching, and Will swore his entire body vibrated along with Angel's.
Great sobs escaped his body and Angel covered his face with his hands and tears escaped his eyes. Tears from unanswered letters and deep seated self loathing soaked his shirt and shook his body. Gasping for breath, he realized he had never cried as a human. It was harder to do when he needed to breathe, a distant part of his mind thought.
Lying there next to a man, who by all rights was his best friend, Will swallowed hard. It was difficult to listen to such pain without reacting. Part of him wanted to reach over and put his hand on Angel's shoulder. Part of him wanted to run very far away from the emotional outburst. Forcing his discomfort out of his mind, he sat up and laid his hand on Angel's shoulder.
"It'll be alright." It sounded lame even to his ears, but Will figured it was something and that was better than nothing.
Turning onto his side, Angel tried to put some distance in between himself and Will. He didn't think he could force himself to get up and walk away and he couldn't stay there and be comforted by someone who he had no right to be comforted by. Sobbing in the damp grass, his shirt and pants wet and grass stained, he let himself feel the pain course through him.
For a long time, all Will did was sit next to Angel and offer silent support. It was a long time before Angel stopped sobbing. As they both sat in the grass and felt the damp penetrate to their skin, the silence was all that was needed. Somehow, two enemies had become friends. Somehow, Angel thought, Will was the person who understood him the best.
As they picked themselves up and went inside, Will vowed never to bring up Angel's meltdown. He felt he owed it to Angel to at least respect his grief. Picking up the pieces of broken furniture and shattered glass, Will hoped that someday Angel wouldn't have to grieve.
Chancing glances at the man helping to sweep the shattered patio door into a waste bin, Angel fought back a sigh. Even if they spent the night in silence, Angel knew he was in the company of a kindred spirit. He would still grieve, he knew, but he would not have to grieve alone. That in itself gave him more comfort than anything had in nearly a year. Even if he didn't deserve the friendship or the comfort, he knew he would have it when he needed it.
With a little peace of mind and a very tired body, Angel was able to sleep for a few hours early in the morning. Maybe, in a few months, he thought, he would try to contact her again. Even if she didn't respond, he knew a part of him would always hope. With friends to keep that hope alive, Angel figured he could keep himself alive at least a little longer.