“How’s Wil doing?” Cordelia asked Angel.
The vampire grimaced. “Healing, but slowly. It was serious enough that it’ll take a while, even for him.”
“Must be bad then,” Oz said. Vampires healed very quickly, so for him to still be incapacitated meant the injuries had been very severe.
Angel nodded. “It may take several weeks.”
Xander grimaced. “Are you going to be around?” With his vampire out of action, they really needed Angel. He would be back to normal in a couple more days, and Lorne and Wesley had shaken off their injuries and were back in top form. Without another strong fighter, though, they’d be in real trouble. Visions didn’t wait for them to be at full strength.
“Some,” Angel replied. “I have to take care of him, though.”
“We can help,” Cordelia said, but Angel shook his head.
“You?” Wesley finished. “He’s needed you for a long time, Angel. What’s different now?”
Angel winced. “Wesley, it’s different.”
“Lay off, Wes. Wil needs Angel, and that’s that,” Gunn said shortly. He wasn’t any happier with Angel than the rest of them, but if Wil needed Angel to take care of him, then so be it. He for one wanted the blonde back as quickly as inhumanly possible.
“How are the rest of you?” Angel asked cautiously.
Wesley shrugged. “Fine, I supposed. Xander’s a Raphe.”
Angel looked at Xander in surprise. “Wow. That’s good for you; Raphe are very…”
“Fast?” Xander inserted. “Empathic? Known for liking bugs?” He spoke the last one at Oz, who just smirked. Xander was still a bit pissed at his new boyfriend for not mentioning that fact. He was appalled to find himself eyeing grasshoppers in the park. It brought back memories of being Dracula’s toadie. At least this time around he could fend off the cravings by eating a hamburger or something else high-fat, high-protein. The leafy greens, though, he was still struggling with. He just didn’t like salad.
“Long lived and lucky,” Angel finished. He’d known a few Raphe in his time. Actually, he’d tried to kill one or two. For all their fragility compared to vampires, they were hard to kill, since almost no demon could catch them. He hoped that Xander got some training soon.
“So are you back on the team?” Gunn asked. He still wasn’t sure Angel wasn’t going to disappear on them again. “Because this hiding away every time something bad happens shit is getting old.”
Angel stared at the floor. They were right, of course. He’d been treating his problems, serious as they were, as more important than his job. They, being a part of that job, were suffering the consequences. “Yeah, I’m back. Next time I do that, though, could one of you just hit me with something?”
“Me? Please?” Xander asked, raising his hand like a schoolboy.
“No,” Oz replied.
“Why not?” Xander whined.
“You’d have too much fun,” The werewolf answered. Xander grinned.
“If anyone’s hitting Angel, it’s going to be me,” Cordelia declared. Angel looked relieved.
“What?” She asked.
“At least you won’t break anything,” Angel replied.
“Wanna bet?” Cordelia spat, grabbing Angel’s arm and twisting it. He’d forgotten, briefly, that she was now a werewolf.
Angel yelped and she released him. “Ok, ok, you can break things.”
“Damn straight,” She replied.
They all relaxed a little after that. When Fred came back from paying bills, she found her coworkers lounging around the office, laughing at Xander’s antics. “I guess everything’s ok, huh?” She asked Gunn.
He quirked an eyebrow. “Not really, but it may be getting there.” She nodded her agreement.
“Do we have any clients right now?” Angel asked eventually. He liked reconnecting with his coworkers, but he also wanted to check on Wil.
Cordelia sat down in front of the computer. “Let’s see. Gunn, did you and Fred take care of that Wairak infestation?”
“Yup. Fred’s got the check,” Gunn said.
“Fred?” Cordelia said, holding out her hand.
Fred slapped a deposit slip into it. “Same day deposit, m’am.”
Angel watched in awe. Since when did they get paid with no hassles?
Cordelia smirked. “We got serious while you were away, mister.” He guessed so; the place had gotten pretty out of shape during all the turmoil, but she’d straightened it out. She turned back to the computer, studying the screen. “That leaves us with two outstanding cases: a nest of vampires near Hollywood and hell hounds on Vine.”
“Hell hounds?” Angel murmured. He hated the blasted things.
“We’ll take the hell hounds if you go after the vampires,” Wesley said.
“Sure. Gunn?” Angel asked.
Gunn shrugged. “Vampires, pit bulls from hell, it’s all the same to me,” He replied.
Cordelia rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Angel, you and Gunn take the hell hounds. Wesley, Oz and Fred go for the vampires.”
“But—“ Angel began.
“But nothing, buddy. The hell hounds will cause more trouble for werewolves and fauns than for humans and vampires,” Cordelia said, her tone uncompromising. “You get the bad doggies.”
Still grumbling, Angel filed out with the others. “Payment beforehand, if possible!” Cordelia shouted after them.
Xander grinned at Cordelia. “You’re a great taskmaster.”
She smirked. “Of course. Pradas are expensive.” She leaned back in the chair. “Did Angel take his cell phone?”
Xander shook his head. “No, but Gunn did, and so did Wesley. We’ll be fine if visions come-a-knocking.”
Cordelia nodded her approval. “So, how’s it going with you and Oz?”
Xander blushed. “Fine, I guess. It’s just getting started.”
“Uh huh, like it hasn’t been waiting to happen for months now.”
“Um…hello? He wasn’t here!” Xander replied.
“I meant before that, dimwit,” Cordelia shot back. “You two were doing the googly-eye thing when you thought nobody was looking.”
“So?” Xander squeaked. “What’s it to you?”
Cordelia looked down. “I want you to be happy, that’s all. He’s alpha, you know. I can’t help but…”
Xander studied the seer. “Want him to be as happy as you are with Gunn?” He finished for her. “Classic case of girl in love wants everybody to be as happy as she is?”
She threw a pencil at him. “You know, you can take the romance out of anything.”
“It’s a gift,” Xander replied, catching the pencil nimbly. “Don’t worry about us, we’re fine.”
“But you aren’t doing it yet,” Cordelia said.
“Cordy!” Xander groaned. “Can you not use that turbocharged nose around me and Oz? Please? That’s just…”
“Get over it. You know how everybody feels before they do. How do you think we feel? We can’t hide a damned thing with you around,” Cordelia complained.
Xander grinned. “I know, but you have no idea how frustrating it is to be me when you and Gunn are making it upstairs.”
“You can feel that?” She squeaked.
“Yup. You two, Wesley and Fred. Angel and Wil more than evened it out, though. They’d make you suicidal. All that guilt and stuff is a real drag. It’s a good thing you’re young and hormonal. Balances things out nicely,” Xander said.
“I can see that, but I am not having sex just to make you feel better! That’s what Oz is for,” Cordelia shot back.
Xander squirmed. “Actually, that’s what Oz is worried about. He thinks I need more practice controlling the empathy before we do anything, because sex is so intense. The empathy’s slowly getting stronger, too, the more I learn to use it.”
“Sounds like a plan, although I hope you get the practice in soon, because otherwise the two of you are going to drive me nuts with all those pheromones,” Cordelia answered.
Angel stopped by the kitchen to feed before going up to check on Wil. He wouldn’t have bothered heating the blood, but if he’d had it cold, his own blood would have been colder for Wil to drink. If what he had was hot, Wil would have warm blood to feast on.
The fact that it made the animal blood go down easier didn’t hurt. Angel was surprised to find several pints of human blood in the fridge when we went to pull out the cow’s blood. “We thought it would do Wil some good,” Oz said from behind Angel.
“Yeah?” Angel said. “He’s on a very…strict diet right now.”
“Sire’s blood?” Oz guessed. At Angel’s look, he explained. “We could smell that you’d been cut. It’s logical.”
Angel put the human blood back in the fridge. It was fresh and would last a long time. Maybe Wil could handle it in a few days. “Thanks.”
Oz left Angel to go find Xander. The vampire heated up several pints, knowing that he’d need more after he fed Wil. After finishing off a couple, he carried the rest upstairs to Wil’s room.
The blonde looked the same as when he’d left him earlier that evening, still as the corpse he was and frail beyond belief. Angel needed to get him to feed more; between the reduction in feeding and his injuries, Wil was getting too thin.
When he went to feed his childe, he wound that Wil was awake. “Hi,” He said softly.
“Hi,” Wil replied, whispering. “Everything ok?”
Angel nodded. “Fine. Hell hounds.”
Wil wrinkled his nose. “I can smell them.”
Angel stepped back, sniffing. “Ugh, you’re right.” He stripped off his shirt and headed for the bathroom.
“Sire…” Wil watched him go away. “It doesn’t bother me,” He finished sadly.
Angel returned a few minutes later, wet but smelling much better. He found Wil asleep, with tears drying on his pale cheeks. “Wil?” He murmured, wiping away the tears.
The vampire didn’t wake, so Angel began the ritual he’d been performing ever since Wil’s injury. The blonde finally woke up when the first drops of blood hit his lips. Angel cried out softly as Wil began to feed, reveling in the feel of his childe’s tongue pushing against his skin as he pulled life out of his veins. The suction was maddening, and it took all his self-control to keep from simply throwing himself over the injured vampire.
After a couple more minutes, Wil began to pull away. Angel followed him, commanding him to continue feeding. “You will take more, Wil.” Angel’s voice brooked no argument. Wil complied, suckling with renewed vigor at his Sire’s permission. He was afraid of overstepping some invisible boundary, but Angel had insisted.
Finally, though, Wil grew tired despite the heady nature of the blood and he released Angel. The dark vampire sat back and wiped the blood from his neck, finding very little. Wil had cleaned up all he could. It was a sign he was improving; at first such an act was beyond his abilities, as weak as he was.
“Better?” Angel asked. Wil nodded tentatively. “Good. You need your medicine now.” Wil swallowed that dutifully as well, not even wincing at the taste. All too soon his eyes drooped and he fell asleep again.
Angel drank the blood he’d brought up with him and watched Wil sleep. The feeding had brought a little color to his pale cheeks and he seemed healthier. Angel was resolved to get more blood into him as soon as he could. That meant he needed more blood for him to drink, preferably of a higher quality. He could afford to buy human, even if he avoided it. If that would get Wil better quicker, so be it.
After a few more minutes watching Wil, Angel shrugged on a clean shirt he’d kept stored in the room and left. If he hurried, he could get a week’s worth of blood in the hotel before sunrise.
“Hey, Wes,” Xander called to the faun. “Wanna play?”
Wesley looked over at the deck of cards Xander was waving around. The other investigators, save the vampires, were gathered around a table in the office. Why not? “I’d love to.”
Xander smiled as he sat down. “What’s the game?”
“Poker,” Gunn said.
“Go fish,” Fred asked.
“Gin,” Said Oz.
“Rummy,” demanded Cordelia.
“Rummy as well,” Wesley decided. Since Xander had taken himself out of the dealings, Rummy was the game. They started their first hand, tapping their feet to the sound of Caritas in full swing. They spent a lot of time down there, but sometimes the office was a more conducive environment for bonding.
“Three jacks,” Cordelia said, laying down her first meld. “You know, Caritas is doing pretty well here.”
Wesley drew and discarded. “The clientele, at least some of them, feel safer with Angel Investigations above the club.”
Gunn picked up several cards from the discard pile and laid down a run of four diamonds, 2-5. “Unless they know Wolfram & Hart are after us.”
“Then they stay away,” Fred added, drawing and discarding.
Oz drew and laid down three eights.
Xander played next, laying down a run of hearts, 4-7, and playing a 6 on Gunn. “But it’s nice having a club in the same building you’re living in.”
“Other than the ‘constant influx of people you don’t know and don’t trust’ factor,” Cordelia muttered, drawing and discarding.
“It’s not that bad,” Xander said as Wesley played.
“Not now,” Gunn replied as he played a 2 and a 3 on Xander. “But it could be later on.”
“I hope not, since it’s nice having Lorne around,” Fred added, laying down the jack, queen, king and ace of spades.
Oz drew and laid down a run of clubs, 6-10. “I’m floating.”
Xander grimaced and drew, then discarded. “Did anyone talk to Angel after he got back from playing animal control?”
“I did. He was getting dinner,” Oz said as Cordelia drew and discarded.
“I saw him leaving a little while ago,” Wesley said as he played a five on Oz.
Gunn drew and discarded.
“Must have had an errand,” Xander commented while Fred drew and discarded.
“Probably. Rummy,” Oz said as he discarded.
“Damn,” Xander snarled, looking at his hand. He always kept too many face cards. “Can we play poker next?”
“Sure,” Came the call from around the table.
Angel crept up the stairs as quietly as possible, not wanting to wake his friends. He’d just made it home as the sun rose, stashing the blood in the fridge. He’d heated up a few pints to take upstairs, knowing that Wil would need to feed.
He knew that the human blood would be sufficient for Wil’s healing, but couldn’t quite let go of the pleasure of feeding his childe himself. It was such an intimate, connecting act, one that Angel craved.
When he got to Wil’s room, he found the vampire dozing lightly. He woke up as soon as Angel closed the door, smiling weakly. “You know, you don’t have to keep doing this,” Wil said.
“Yes I do,” Angel replied. He sat down next to Wil’s bed and drank the blood, watching Wil watch him.
“Human?” Wil inquired, knowing what he smelt.
Angel shrugged. “It’s better for you.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll live,” Angel quipped. Before Wil could respond, Angel pulled off his shirt and leaned over the vampire, moving to cut his skin. Wil stopped him, however.
“I can do that,” he whispered as he sank his fangs into Angel’s flesh.
Once again Angel was drawn into the act, feeling himself pouring into Wil’s body. He trembled under the force of what he felt, knowing that he could never give this up, not for anything. How could he have lived without his childe, even for a month?
Despite his bravado, Wil faded off to sleep as soon as he was done and had downed the required medicine. Angel undressed and settled into the bed next to Wil, staring at his childe until he finally fell asleep.