Dial N For Nancy-Boy
Cordelia had left the office early, muttering about ex-wives who arrived without anyone warning her. Doyle was out. And almost certainly drunk.
Which left Angel in charge of answering the phone.
"Hello? Angel Investigations?"
"Um… hello? We help the hopeless, so, if you need anything - any help - I can… um… help. Help you."
Angel waited, uncertain of what to say next.
And then, suddenly, a snort, a muffled "bugger this," and Sp- whoever it was hung up on him.
Angel stayed in the office all evening, just in case, but the phone didn't ring a second time.
When one's Slayer is enchanted, one can be excused for taking the opportunity to have some fun with one's old enemies.
Which explains the phonecall a certain vampire detective received, one Tuesday evening in November.
"I'm sorry… Did you say you're engaged?"
"Well… congratulations. Um. What's his name?"
Angel asked for details, didn't get many, and certainly didn't believe the ones he got.
"Drunk-blind? Or blind-blind?"
"No. I most definitely will not be your best man."
"Is there anyone else there I can talk to?"
In Sunnydale, a visually impaired Watcher smiled wryly, and poured himself some more scotch.
The Suicidal and the Silent
Doyle was dead. Angel wasn't in the mood for jocularity. Thankfully, neither was Spike.
"-doing laundry for Captain Comic-book, drinking luke-warm blood through a straw-"
"Look, Spike, I know you feel helpless. But it always turns out okay eventually. You just… have to… just…"
Just what? Just helplessly stand there and watch as someone else sacrifices everything for the greater good? Just sit around wringing your hands while an incompetent academic rescues the damsel in distress?
"There's just nothing left. And I can't - There's just… Nothing."
Should he have stopped him? Possibly. But Angel just didn't know what to say.
People With Purpose
Why not hang up on him?
Angel kept answering the phone, and for the life of him (or "unlife" maybe? Was that grammatical?) couldn't figure out why.
Penn had crumbled to dust while Angel held him - the second family member he'd had to kill.
And now Spike was calling, babbling excitedly about killing demons, fighting evil, and… Christmas, for some reason.
Hang up on him, Angel's mind urged. He's evil, he's soulless, you never liked him anyway, and he's wasting your time. Wouldn't you rather be brooding? Hang up on him!
But Angel didn't.
Evil or not - family was important.
Soap Operas and Superstars
"She wasn't coming on to you."
"I'm telling you, she was!"
"There's no way."
"You weren't there."
"Buffy thinks you're repulsive."
"Hey! I'm no Jonathan, but I'm quite attractive."
"Spike, my bank account currently has - let me think - twenty-one dollars and eighty cents in it. If Buffy ever so much as kisses you, I'll give you every penny."
"Hand it over then. She already has."
"That was a love spell! It doesn't count."
"Hey, why's the phone so muffled, anyway? Bad connection?"
"The connection's fine. It's on speaker phone."
"I'm tied to the bed."
Another Kind of Agency
Of course, Angel wasn't always around to answer the phone.
"Angel Investigations. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce speaking."
Walking up the stairs, Angel listened to the Watcher's attempt at a sympathetic phone manner.
"Absolutely. We at Angel Investigations offer complete confidentiality to our clients."
"An hourly rate? Actually, our fee varies, depending on the nature of the- what? Yes, we have a wide variety of weaponry."
"My underwear? Why on earth do you want..."
"Well, really!" Wesley slammed the phone down, shaking his head in disgust. "Some people are simply appalling."
Angel waited until Wesley had gone downstairs, and then called Spike back.
It wasn't really that big a deal. After all, everyone had to die eventually. Even vampires.
If the office was full of puppies, donuts, and life-affirming posters tomorrow morning, Angel would seriously consider sending Cordelia for therapy. Or just taking away her coffee.
And Wesley, meanwhile, was frantically cross-checking every book he could get his hands on.
They really needed to get some perspective.
"Hey! Angel! I asked you a question."
"Oh. Yeah. I, um, agree. Yes."
"Were you even listening?"
"Of course. You were talking about Frankenstein. And an army. You've… been watching old movies."
Months of Monotony
"No, just dust. I mean it's a crypt, right. Don't really vacuum."
"So… how's the weather?"
"Summer-y. The usual, really."
"Yeah. Same here."
"Fought any good demons lately?"
"A couple. Nothing special."
"Mmm. Well, it is July."
"Things not all that apocalypsey at this time of year."
"It's the heat, I guess."
"Could be the long days. Have to stay indoors a lot later, and that."
"God I'm bored."
"Slayer's fine, I guess. Haven't seen much of her lately, what with the-"
"Lack of demons?"
"So… Seen any good movies?"
Stalking The Sire
It was uncanny.
Cordelia's number was in the phone book, so that wasn't hard.
Calling the office? A little more complicated, but certainly explainable. Even back when they were unlisted. Assuming, that is, that Spike had somehow gotten hold of the number he'd left with Buffy, and she'd decided not to tell him. Or something.
But on the day - the very day - that he moved in, not two hours after the Thesulac was killed, Spike's call ("Guess what happened to Dracula!") came to the Hyperion. Without being redirected.
One day Angel would figure out exactly how he was doing it.
"I had this dream."
Mmm. Dreams. Dreams were wonderful.
"I always enjoy them." Darla leaned forward, smiling, and slowly traced one finger down Angel's face.
"-and she smashes open the door to my crypt, and barges in-"
Darla's hands were under Angel's shirt, moving with professional skill.
"-hate her! And she's not exactly ugly, but-"
"Really, darling." Darla took the phone from his hand. "Must we listen to this twaddle? I've got a much better idea."
This. This was how things should be.
It wasn't until he woke up that afternoon that Angel realised which petite blonde Spike had meant.
Hospitals and the Hopeless
"Should have killed her, right there. One shot. But the girl was in tears."
"Well, the way I see it, killing people is serious. It requires careful thought. You shouldn't just casually turn someone… no matter how much they beg you to…"
"Why the hell do you think Buffy would ask me to vamp her?"
So I'm distracted. Sue me.
It'd been bad enough snatching up the phone, with a frantic "Darla?", and hearing Spike's voice instead. But now, trying to concentrate on this irrelevant conversation while she was lost, somewhere in L.A…
"Sorry, Spike. I'm listening, really."
Curt with the Crushed
Wolfram and Hart. Lawyers extraordinaire. The most evil slime ever to see sunlight. They had to be eradicated. And Angel would see to it. It was his mission. His destiny. He would wipe them from the face of the earth, and…
The phone was ringing.
"She shut me out."
"The bitch went and bloody uninvited me. Didn't even ask."
"And why didn't you tell me Darla was back? You'd think a little communication wouldn't be too-"
"Spike! I don't care. If you want communication, join a sewing circle."
Angel slammed the phone down, and got back to work.
Epiphanies and Eulogies
"Angel? That you?"
Spike's voice was quieter, more tentative, than usual. No doubt due to the horrendous way Angel had treated him the last time he'd called.
"It's me, Spike. How are you?"
An apology was in order. No matter how evil Spike was, he still deserved… It was only a little thing, but little things mattered.
As Angel worked out how, exactly, to phrase the thing, Spike spoke again - his voice even quieter than before.
"Don't know if anyone's told you. But I thought you should know. It's Joyce."
And suddenly apologies really were too little to matter.
"A psychotically evil hand."
"A baby-eating troll."
"Um… Vampires running a pyramid scheme."
There was nothing like a call from Spike to bring out Angel's competitive streak.
So far, he seemed to be winning.
"A shroud that made people crazy."
"Space monster who ate crazy people."
"Yeah… that is better. Damn."
Angel racked his brains.
"A mad scientist with a time-stopping doomsday device."
"Ha! A mad scientist with a robotic girlfriend."
"Come on. The doomsday device is much cooler."
"Okay, you win that one."
A pause, and then:
"By the way… you owe me twenty-one quid."
Message on the Machine
"Buffy, it's Angel. If you're there, pick up.
Okay, well this is Angel, and I've got this… Cordelia's in trouble."
Twenty-three hours and sixteen minutes. She's already been gone almost a full day.
Angel rested his head in his hands and continued explaining, to Buffy's answering machine, the reason he'd probably never see her again.
Twenty-three hours and seventeen minutes.
"That's all, really. Take care… Oh, and could you let Spike know? Thanks."
And it was done. One more phonecall to Gunn, and he'd be ready. Assuming Wesley had figured it out by then.
Hold on, Cordy. I'm coming.
And Now There's Nothing
Wesley peppered Willow with questions, and offered his sympathies.
Gunn nodded solemnly, far more concerned with heading out to check up on his crew.
Fred asked about tacos.
Willow kept her eyes firmly fixed on Angel from the moment he entered the hotel. She didn't ask how he was. She didn't ask anything - and, for that, he was grateful.
It was a lovely day outside. Perfect weather.
Angel walked into the office, shut the door, sat at the desk, and waited.
A short while later - or possibly a long while - the phone rang.
And two vampires wept together.
"Five clubs! And I fold to a bloody full house!"
Every Thursday at 10pm, Spike would send Dawn up to bed. And every Thursday at quarter past, Spike would call Angel, and complain about how much money he'd lost to Dawn at poker.
"You know this is entirely your fault."
"Yeah? How's that?"
"You're the one teaching her to play. You shouldn't have mentioned bluffing."
"You would say that. If I have anything to do with it, Snack Pack'll soon be winning every hand she plays. How's L.A., anyway?"
"Well, I got to kill a psychic-vision-creator guy last night."
The call came five minutes after Willow's, while Angel was still in shock.
"Take it she's told you, then?"
"Yes. It is true, right? Willow hasn't gone crazy?"
Spike assured Angel that, yes, it was definitely true. He offered no opinion about the mental state of Willow.
There was so much to ask. If she was back…
"-some sort of hell dimension?"
"That's her story, yeah."
"I was thinking about meeting up with her. And, you know, talking. About how she's adjusting."
There was a very long pause, and then Spike said:
"Actually, that might not be a bad idea."
What Could Make It Worse?
Spike seemed to have perfected the art of conveying a smirk over phone lines. Even without the slightest hint of smugness in his voice.
"-some quite nice musical backing behind us."
Angel closed his eyes.
Let's make a list, shall we?
One girlfriend (former): evil, pregnant, and upstairs on your bed.
One girlfriend (future): seriously pissed at you, and nursing a nasty neck wound inflicted by evil girlfriend.
One girlfriend (former): resurrected, gorgeous, and apparently on the verge of shacking up with your platinum blond arch-nemesis and phone-buddy.
Would that be an accurate summary?
The whole thing was completely unfair.
Babies needed calm. And quiet.
If you heard something surprising, you had to inquire about it softly, rather than yelling "WHAT?!" at the top of your lungs.
If your world was suddenly rocked to its very foundations, you could not pace the room, firing questions down the phone.
If someone told you, in detail, about the house-destroying sex they'd had, it was important not to howl with rage and throw the change table across the room.
BABIES NEEDED CALM AND QUIET.
Angel put the phone down, put the baby down, and calmly and quietly put his fist through the wall.
"-teach her. Or a red-hot crowbar, right through-"
Angel prided himself on being an understanding sort of person.
"-to pieces with a mallet, until she realises-"
Able to put up with almost any opinion expressed by almost anyone.
"-unless she screams for more."
But if Spike didn't-
"-for at least fifteen hours. And then, I'd switch on the-"
If Spike didn't, pretty soon, stop listing all the hundreds of ways he'd like to painfully torture some common sense into Buffy, Angel would reach the end of his tether.
"-peel it right off again. She just needs to-"
Any minute now.
Comfort and Contentment
"She broke up with me."
Angel silently pumped his fist into the air, and assumed a very sympathetic voice.
"Wow, Spike. I'm sorry. What happened?"
"Well my crypt exploded, for one."
Exploding bedrooms, and painful breakups with Buffy. Two more things they had in common. This was getting ridiculous.
Angel folded diapers as he listened, packing them into Connor's overnight bag.
Bottle, bottle, teddy, pyjamas. New pyjamas, in fact - the next size up. That boy was growing fast.
"Did you have enough toast?"
"For all those scrambled eggs."
He checked the time. Wes would be here shortly.
They'd been talking for over an hour now. A stimulating conversation about any number of vitally important subjects.
"You know, Groo was wrong. I actually like the pomegranate mist."
"Seriously? Your wallpaper colour is pomegranate mist?"
Important subjects such as decorating tips, hockey teams, Vegas, and guitars. He didn't know what painful topics Spike was skirting around, but Angel was quite willing to go with it.
"No. Paint. We repainted it again after… well, anyway, I like it."
Some things were better left in the past.
"Do you know what I like?"
Interpreting the Indecipherable
Angel was waiting. Waiting for Connor to come home again. And waiting for Spike to get to the point of whatever he was saying.
So far, he'd managed to determine that Spike was leaving Sunnydale (although he wouldn't say why), was very upset (about something), and had some sort of a plan.
Angel sat and waited for some kind of clue as to what was going on.
Then, suddenly, a determined voice said "Sod this for a lark," and Spike hung up on him.
Angel waited in the hotel all evening, just in case, but the phone didn't ring again.
Love's Bitch journeyed to the dark end of Africa,
compelled by the Last Guardian, the Twice-Lived.
Kneeling at the gateway, he shouted into sadness:
I am God Defyer, Key Protector, Alliance Forger. I will be old made new.
Boldly claiming a place in prophecies marked for another,
he stood his ground and chose his prize.
He would be what was deserved.
He would have it all, and have insanity.
He would find his fullness, and become himself again.
The spark was given to he who loved,
and it burned him with its flame.
He would be man and not monster.
The Dark Avenger sank to the bottom of the ocean,
imprisoned by the Miracle Child, the Destroyer.
Lying in the sanctuary, he whispered into stillness:
Was I guilty, was I faulty, was I wrong? I would not be forgotten.
Seated in sorrow waiting as was ever his fate,
he grieved over moments lost and friendships shattered.
Endless displays of the was, the will, and the might have been,
paraded before him with mocking laughter.
He held to promises, intangible as ever.
He would be free.
He would be whole.
He would be forgiven.
He waited in the darkness.
Adventurous and Absent
The phone didn't ring that year.
Well, it rang, obviously. When blood is pouring down people's walls, they tend to ask for help.
But the phonecall Angel was always expecting? Never came.
There was no chance to describe electrifying kisses; to laugh about zombies in business suits; to compare stories of amnesia spells.
When the sky rained fire, when the divers finally found him, when the world was too peaceful, when the sun was ripped from the sky - there was no call.
No equal and opposite on the other end, sniping over everything.
After a while he stopped missing it.
Cookies and Crypts
Buffy rolled her eyes.
"You're not getting the brush-off. Are you just going to come here and go all Dawson on me every time I have a boyfriend?"
"Ah-ha!" Angel exclaimed. "Boyfriend!"
Angel settled down, mollified, as she continued:
"But, he is in my heart."
"That'll end well."
"What was the highlight of our relationship?" Buffy demanded. "When you broke up with me, or when I killed you?"
Buffy's head was filled with battle tactics, Potential training, and cookie dough speeches. Had she not been so distracted, she might have wondered why Angel didn't seem slightly more surprised.