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One Mid-Summer's Night

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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 
(Hamlet I.v. 174-175)
 

 

Wondering if his eyes were open or closed, Angel blinked. Open. Dark. He’d been in Munchen. The beer was good, the biergarten girls better… why had he come? Something had called to him. Flickering light. Just the latest symptom of his decay. Soon, not even the whales would wake him.
 
He closed his eyes and reached for his deep spot again. Color exploded across his vision. He jerked his head back and crunched his eyes tight, terror rising like bile as he braced against his restraints. Bright light. Killer Cordy light. The light moved off to the right. He blinked. Diver.
 
Angel sagged, all the little bit of adrenaline his body could muster burned out of him. Hunger whispered to him, just a whisper. The craving had burned out, too,  a long time ago, along with hope and rage, and everything else that had defined him. Everything but fear.
 
***
 
Wesley shifted and tried to wipe the wet from his face. As he slid a hand over his hair, water sluiced down the back of his neck, running past the collar of his oilskin and down the middle of his back. The storm had blown up out of a clear sky at sundown. The rain was sheeting; obscuring his view of the cable reel, but he figured Angel must be within 100 feet of the surface now. He shivered.
 
Lilah leaned into him, shouting into his ear to be heard above the storm. “Dalton says less than ten minutes. I say we wait to open that box.”
 
Wesley shook his head, feeling fierce and territorial. “Not the deal. He will not disappear into Wolfram and Hart. You want me, Fred and Gunn get him.”
 
She shrugged and tried to pull the hood of her slicker closer to her face. None of them were properly outfitted. The forecast dockside had been for calm seas and light breeze.
 
Just looking at her made him swell with masculinity, in body and spirit. It was painful, how she made him feel, turning the fierce defensiveness he couldn’t stop himself from feeling for Angel into a raging need to subdue her, force her to bend to him, take her, take her confidence from her. So far, she was still in control, and had somehow restored his own confidence in his abilities. She believed in him.
 
Anxiety gripped his chest and his heart thumped hard enough to make him slightly nauseous. An airy sensation filled his throat and he could feel it expand. If he opened his mouth, the storm wind would just blow in through his neck and out his mouth, reducing him to a death head, parroting words he couldn’t think about, that had flowed from him in his own voice. “Yes.”  “Yes, recover Angel and I’ll research for you.”  “Yes. That is an adequate amount of compensation.”  “No.”  “Yes.”  “God, yes.”
 
Taking deep breaths to quell his panic attack, he shuffled over to stand with Fred and Gunn, both huddled against the aft bulwark. Their faces were grim. Wes flashed five fingers twice and Gunn nodded.
 
Sorrow smothered his panic, dousing it completely. You belonged somewhere until you didn’t anymore. Even he couldn’t fathom why he hadn’t trusted them with what he believed to be the truth. Well… that was a lie. He turned back to where Angel would be appearing soon. Any one of them would have run straight to him, and Angel was a dual master of denial when it came to his dark side; able to tell them with a straight face he had no dark impulses while savagely shoving them underfoot.    
 
His inhaled the biting spray, thinking maybe it could cleanse him of the stench of betrayal. He told himself everyone had their setbacks. Even Angel. But most didn’t destroy the lives of the people depending on them in quite the spectacular way he had. Twice. Even Angel. And he could see the irony in his destruction of the man who had saved him from his first fuck-up, and whom he was hoping would eventually save him again, God willing. He looked up to see Gunn staring at him, with a hard face and depthless eyes. Fred was intently focused on the cable reel.
 
God damn all prophecies! And God damn Fred and Gunn. He didn’t dare explain himself to them. If Wolfram and Hart had any real idea what Angel’s role in the apocalypse would be, they never would have agreed to this little trade. The only reason Wes could see for allowing it was the possibility of eventually getting both Wes and Angel, especially if they could dangle Connor as incentive.
 
Wes’s mercurial mood lightened at the thought of Connor. So far, he was proving to be elusive and deadly. The psychics were beside themselves. And his raucous, often lethal, antics were the only joy in Wesley’s life.
 
***

The hammock swung to the rhythm of the sea. Angel sighed. He’d be more than happy to never live long enough to see another world-wide war. He had thought the wretched trenches of the first to be deterrent enough. The massive scale of destruction he’d witnessed this time disturbed even his violent side. There was no art in it. The planes, though… they stirred deep longing in him. He’d give most anything to fly one.
 
It would be another week or so to New York. It surprised him the first time he realized how much he missed the States. The countries of Europe, even Ireland, chafed a bit now, made him slightly claustrophobic. Maybe he’d work his way back west, to wide, open spaces, where he could hunt larger prey, let the bloodlust roar wide open under the moonlight with no one near to see him, feel skin tear beneath his fangs, unleash his full strength as he held a mule deer through its frenzied journey to death, let the pulsing rush of living blood fill him… 
 
A hollow boom reverberated through the tiny cabin and the ship shuddered before settling into stillness. Angel could hear commanding shouts from above decks, but no alarm as yet, no fear.
 
Trying to roll from the hammock, he found his hand stuck within its web. He pulled, as the ship shuddered again, stem to stern. Somehow, even his feet were tangled. Angel arched his body, throwing his weight up, and tugged hard with his right hand. He swore as the hammock flipped. A flurry of footfalls and a crisp rapping. Fear dried his mouth. A pounding of fists hammered at his door. If it failed, opened to the daylight, he was dust if he couldn’t break these fucking ropes right now, right now, right fucking now.

***
 
Apprehension coiled low in Gunn’s gut. He swayed from foot to foot as he watched Wesley. The man was not right. While they all wanted Angel out of that box as soon as possible, even Gunn could appreciate how hungry Angel was gonna be. Didn’t take much to make a man half-mad and a vamp…even one as controlled as Angel…well, it couldn’t be good.
 
Wes maintained that Angel would be weak and the sooner he fed, the better. Guilt talking, that’s all that was, Gunn thought. And if Angel recognized him… maybe that was it. Wesley wanted to save Angel’s life, so Angel would spare his. Fat chance, with Wesley’s blood still drying on his Evil, Incorporated contract. Gunn couldn’t stop the frown that formed on his face as he glared at Wes’s back.
 
Wolfram and Hart had a standing no-kill policy on Angel, although Gunn suspected Lilah would welcome his accidental death. Still, they would save Angel with or without help from Wes or himself. And they’d probably be better off playing their little mind games with Angel in-house. But instead, they were handing him over, letting Fred and Gunn haul whatever was left of him home.
 
The welder lit up a cutting torch and Gunn rubbed a hand across his face, wiping the rain from his eyes. He’d spent days wondering what game Wesley was playing at, trading himself for Angel's rescue, and he was no closer to understanding. It might have taken them longer, hell, a lot longer, but Fred and Gunn would've found a way to find Angel without either Wesley or Wolfram and Hart.

***
 
Warmth, thick, salty, sliding down his throat. His stomach clutched and Angel bolted up, blind, feeling the change tear over him. He struck out and the blood splattered. Heartbeats all around him. He grabbed and succeeded in snagging the nearest body. Sound erupted all around as he sunk his fangs in, hot, human blood filling him. He hugged tight. Raw pain sizzled every nerve in him and he fell away, his prize ripped from him.
 
***
 
Gunn stepped back carefully on the rain slicked deck, his years of street fighting giving him liquid grace. He crouched, already dropping into the dance of defense, the taser held steady in front of him. But Angel was down in a wet, crumpled heap.   
 
Ignoring the shocked crew and Lilah’s smirk, he turned to Fred, huddled over Wesley’s inert paleness. “Fred?”
 
“Alive. He’s alive.” She pressed her hand tight to Wesley’s neck. “Angel got a lot, I think. We need to get ashore. Now!” Lightning flashed, followed immediately by thunder that seemed to cascade upon itself across the open water, underscoring her urgency.
 
Behind him, Gunn could hear Lilah issuing quiet instructions into her cell phone. The captain was already shouting his own orders and the crew began to scatter. Two crossed in front of him, breaking his eye contact with Fred as they went to help her. Looking back at Angel, Gunn blinked back sudden tears.