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Dark Corners, Lighter Times

by Am-Chau Yarkona

Title: Dark Corners, Lighter Times

Author: Am-Chau Yarkona (from Dusk's challenge and first chapter)

E-mail: amchau@popullus.net

Author's Notes: Challenge response fic. I made a couple of subtle changes in the scene given, such as calling the Host 'Lorne' of few times, always because of what we've learnt since it was written. Distribution: please take it. let me know where, though. Feedback: needed like music in Pylea.

Timing: End of season two, before the Pylea arc (so Angel etc, don't know the Host's real name) and after they take Angel back as an employee. The epilogue is AU, roughly end of season four.

Rating: PG Disclaimer: not mine. Numf. Joss, etc. Just playing in the sandbox.


"Angel!"

Angel froze in the bar doorway, causing a three-human pile-up behind him.

"Sorry," he muttered, over their various complaints, insults and suggestions that he 'get the hell out of the way, already!'.

"Stop blocking the door," the Host told him cheerfully, hauling him out of the way by pulling on his sleeve.

Angel didn't bother pointing out that it was the Host's yell that had stopped him there in the first place. He did request that the demon let go of his sleeve, please. Now.

He was ignored, and the hauling continued half way across the crowded bar. Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia trailed behind him, elbowing aside various patrons who apparently would stand aside for the Host and no one else, given how the crowd closed immediately behind him and Angel.

"I have somebody you just have to meet," the Host was telling Angel. "You two have so much in common!"

"Are you trying to set me up?"

"Would I do that to you?"

Angel answered that with a carefully blank look as he called to mind various other demons and unidentifiable creatures that had been paraded in front of him on the grounds that 'a little harmless, no-strings sex certainly wouldn't hurt your temperament, big guy'.

"What, exactly, do we have in common?" Angel asked cautiously. Trying to get out of meeting people who could be just perfect for him had somehow, last time, resulted in him singing a three-song Manilow-style apology. In front of his friends, and half the demons in L.A.

"Oh, him and me, we go way back. He used to be into violence and blood and death, and the whole mass-murder scene, but recently he's turned over a new leaf. He makes a living making children happy, how touching is that?"

"How recently, exactly? And we're not talking clowns, here, are we? Because those are just... they unnerve me. A lot."

Lorne waved his concerns away with a flip of the hand not currently holding Angel's sleeve. "Three, four hundred years, I've lost count. Way longer than you've been around."

Angel gave in. "Fine. I'll meet him. No promises."

"Great! Oh, and ask him to tell you about how his new leaf got turned, because I laughed..." he trailed off, surveying Angel's unsmiling face. "Okay, so maybe you wouldn't fall down in hysterics, but it might at least make you crack a smile. Look, here he is! Johnny, I want you to meet Angel. Angel, John." He beamed.

Angel stared, a polite response dying unsaid.

"Oh, my God," Cordelia said faintly, catching up.

"All this time in L.A , I thought nothing could surprise me. How wrong I was," Gunn agreed. Wesley just blinked a few times.

"Angel," John nodded, leaning up against the bar casually. He took a swig from the bottle in one hand.

Paw.

"It's... good to meet you, John," Angel replied as evenly as he could, already plotting the death of the Host.

It wasn't that John was male. It wasn't that he wasn't human. It wasn't that, at six-ten, at least, he towered over Angel.

It was the fluffy pale brown fur. The long, floppy ears. The blue bow tied around his neck, completely at odds with the deep baritone voice and masculine choice of beverage.

The Host had fixed him up with the Easter Bunny.


'I kill demons, don't I? The Host will die for this,' Angel repeated in the silence of his mind, looking up at the bunny he'd been fixed up with.

"And you," replied John pleasantly. "What line of business are you in, then?"

"I, I'm a private detective," Angel told him, deciding rapidly that saying 'demon-killing' wasn't going to help him here. "Um, Lorne, can we have a private word?" Without waiting for an answer, Angel pulled the Host out of his chair and into a darker corner of the room. "What the hell were you thinking?" he half-asked, half-snarled.

"Just to get you to have a little fun, moody muffin, just a little fun. You only have to be polite to him, you know," Lorne rebuked gently.

Something inside Angel snapped- probably one of the bars on Angelus' cage. "I don't want to be polite," he growled, shoving the green skinned demon up against the wall.

"Hey, no need for the man-handling," Lorne protested, but was ignored on the grounds that Angel didn't count himself a man. And demon handling is something different altogether.

"I don't want to be fixed up with demon after demon. I do not want you to keep trying to find me mindless sex partners."

"You do not like it, Sam-I-Am," responded the Host, despite his doubts that Angel had read Dr. Suess. He had, indeed, only recently discovered it himself, but thought any humour was batter than no humour at this point in time.

"Sam?" said Angel, momentarily confused back into his normal 'what's going on? Why has Cordelia filed 'Horsemen of the Apocalypse' under 'P'?' expression of failure to understand. However, Angelus had dealt with Drusilla for a number of years, and that has to leave a mark. "Stop trying to muddle me. I'm going to kill you, and I'm going to do it now."

"Slow down, big boy," Lorne said quickly. "I'm one of the good guys, remember?"

Angel groaned, and let go of the Host. Shoving him against the wall and holding him the, pressing the length of his body to the body of the demon, had been a bad idea. "I don't want to have fun," he replied, sulkily.

"What do you want, sweetie?" asked the Host, as one would speak to a child.

"I want." Angel paused. He was tired, and confused, and -horny? "This," he told Lorne, and kissed him firmly on the lips.

For a moment, the musical Pylean was too shocked to respond. Angel started to pull away. "No, no," Lorne whispered, "Don't stop now," and, thanking the Powers he'd remembered to provide Caritas with some truly shady corners, he slid his hand up onto the back of the dark vampire's neck, pulling him into another kiss.


Back at the table, Wesley and Cordelia were making uneasy conversation with John, while Gunn tried to keep an eye on where Lorne and Angel had gone, and completely failing.

"So, you're a clown, hey?" Cordelia asked, attempting a false cheer. "I'm an actress myself."

"Oh? How's that working out for you?"

"Reasonable," Cordelia hedged, unwilling to admit that it really wasn't. "I help Angel, in my spare time, you know."

"That's very good of you. So many people in the entertainment business are so self-centred, it's unbelievable."

"Absolutely," Cordelia agreed, defiantly. "And that's just- bad."

"Evil, at times," John nodded sadly. "I used to evil myself, you know, but it's something one can learn to live without."

"Absolutely," Cordelia said again, glancing desperately at Wesley.

"Actually, that's a funny story," John continued oblivious to the human's distress. "I was walking down."

"I think I should go after Angel," Wesley said quickly.

"Oh yes. And you'll need me, too, won't you, Wes?" Cordelia looked so desperate Wesley could hardly refuse.

"I'm sure I will. Please excuse us, John, we'll be back as soon as possible."

They hurried off, leaving Gunn alone with John.

"You work with Angel too?"


"I think we should find Angel quickly," Wesley muttered. "I think his temper was beginning to fray."

"You betcha," the seer answered, and then gasped as she spotted the pair of demons in the darkest corner.

Wesley frowned when he saw them, too. "What? Are they really- kissing?"

"A full-blown snog, in my opinion," Cordelia responded. "Neither of us tell Buffy, okay?"

"Okay," agreed the ex-Watcher hurriedly, knowing what it's like to be on the receiving end of a Slayer's anger- and that sometimes the One Girl In All The World finds it hard to avoid at least maiming the messenger.

Cordelia marched straight on up to the writhing bodies, and tapped Angel smartly on the shoulder. "Angel," she said imperiously, "Stop. Now. You're scarring me for life."

From deep inside Angel's chest, a thunderous growl arose. Lorne pulled his head smartly backwards as the vampire went into gameface. "Cordelia," the fanged one snarled, "Go away."

"No," his secretary replied. "I'm not going to."

"Neither am I," Wesley added. "As your employer, I have duty to prevent you."

"Employer?" asked the Host, incredulous. "You're his employer now?"

"Yes," Wesley said calmly, "I am. And as his employer, I feel I should speak to you about this. Angel, please go back to the hotel, and wait for me there."

"My car's broken down," Angel muttered sullenly, turning away from the Host.

"I'll take him, Wes," another voice added from behind Cordelia. At the questioning looks, Gunn went on, "John's at the bar. I think he's trying to chat Ramone up."

"He's been trying that for weeks," the Host remarked.

Wesley ignored that, and tried to regain control. "Thank you, Gunn. Angel, I will see you at the hotel, either later tonight or tomorrow. Host, may I have a private word with you?"

"Come on, Angel man," Gunn said, pulling the vampire away. "You look whacked out. Maybe coming here wasn't the best idea you ever had."

"No," Angel protested weakly, letting himself be dragged around again. "It was a good idea. Kiss the Host. Good idea."

"You're drunk," Gunn decided, speaking to himself as much as to Angel.


"Let me lock up here, and then we can go somewhere more convenient for talking," Lorne said to the two humans.

"We could go back to my place, if you like," offered Cordelia.

"Do you mind?" Wesley asked, "It would be nice, but you could get some rest if you need it."

"Or you could give me tomorrow off," Cordelia suggested, "Up to you, really."

Reluctantly, Wesley agreed. "I have quite a lot to talk to Angel about tomorrow, so I guess you can have the morning off."

"Goodie," grinned Cordelia, "Shopping day!"

The Host sighed and shut the main door behind them, having done one last check around the place. "Let's go, people," he said. "If we have to have the serious talk, we may as well have it in comfort."


In the truck a little earlier, Angel protested again. "I'm not drunk. I know what I did, and I meant to do it."

"You meant to kiss a demon? Man, you really are drunk."

"No, I am not. I think- I think I'm falling in love with him."

Gunn only escaped a crash because the road was empty. "What!"

"In love. Me. With the Host."

"What? I mean, why?"

"He's. clever, and good looking, and he knows."

"I hope Wes doesn't try to talk to you tonight. He's not gonna get any sense out of you at all."

"He is. And if he tries tomorrow, he'll get exactly what I'm telling you. I kissed the Host because I'm falling in love with the Host."

"But- he's a demon!"

"So am I, Gunn."

"I guess. But he's- well, he's a he for heaven's sake!"

"So am I."

"What I said! Both men!"

"Do you have problem with that?"

"I ain't homo-wasit, I ain't scared or threatened or whatever, if that's what you're asking. I just- I thought you loved that girl. Buffy or whatever."

"I do. I love the Host too."

"Oh, God! I'm trying to talk sense to a drunk. It's pointless. Let's just get back to the hotel."

"You're not."

"I'm not what? Talking sense?"

"You're not talking to a drunk."

"Oh, I am. I don't care if you're drunk on alcohol or some strange vampire after-a-fight thing, but you're drunk."

"Only on love's sweet nectar."

"See? Drunk."

"Am not."


"Hello, Dennis," Cordelia sighed when the door was slammed shut in the Host's face. "You can let him in."

"Dennis?" Lorne queried, looking around slightly nervously.

"My ghost," the young woman explained. "He's over protective. Let Wesley in too, Dennis. Drink anybody?"

The two men politely declined, and went to sit down in the main living area. "So, Wesley my friend, you want to start on those questions?"

"Maybe we should wait a moment- Cordelia will doubtless desire to hear the answers as well."

"If you like- I've got all night," the Host replied, leaning back in his armchair to study Cordelia's ceiling.

"Okay, I'm here," she announced a couple of seconds later. "Will you start, Wes, or shall I?"

"I'll start, I suppose. I don't wish to be rude, but- why were you kissing my employee?"

"Because he kissed me first."

"Do you normally allow your patrons to kiss you?"

"Only the handsome ones."

"What kind of an answer is that?"

"Not an honest one. Look, Angel's the first one. He started it, I followed suit. And if you were thinking he might try and shrug it off as 'I was drunk', don't let him. He was as sober as the Sahara- I've have known if he wasn't."

"From his aura?"

"I'd have tasted it, silly."

"Oh. So he wasn't drunk? And that's why you didn't push him away, because that's what's really disturbing me."

"I didn't push him away because I was enjoying it, petal. What upsets you about that?"

"It's. eww! That's what it is. Eww. Ugh. Disgusting. I thought it was bad enough Buffy falling for him! I'm going to bed. You two can stay as long as you like, but I want some sleep."

"Goodnight, Cordelia."

"Sleep tight. I guess you're going to fire away again."

"I have a few more questions, yes. You do know about the curse?"

"I know about it, even about what triggers it. I'm not worried about it because I can see his future well enough to think that'll I see the change when it's coming- maybe an hour or two in advance."

"Fair enough. Do you seriously want a relationship with him?"

"Of course. I've been trying to chat the guy up for months. And failing that, to set him up with someone else. A little casual sex isn't going to cause him to lose his soul- and it might improve his mood."

"That would be a good thing, I agree. I suspect that Cordelia will come round to the idea, and Gunn might with time, but Angel seemed more than a little confused by what happened."

"Hence your assumption that I started it."

"Exactly."

"Well, I think you have to remember that Angel has the greatest difficulty deciding what he really feels about anything. I'm confident I can persuade him he wants to take me to bed."

"I tell you what. I think it might be good for him, so I'm going to take a positive approach to it when I speak to him."

"Thank you."

"My help does come with a warning attached, though. If you break his heart, I will personally kill you. And don't think that I couldn't- your species wouldn't be hard to look up."

"I'm sure you could- and would. I promise you, I won't hurt him."


When Wesley walked into the hotel the next morning, Angel was sitting at his desk, supposedly doing paperwork but evidently brooding. His head was in his hands, and as Wesley came closer he could see that his shoulder were shaking.

Shaking? Vampires don't breathe, so why would he- he's crying. It hit Wesley with an almost physical force- he's crying because he's upset over what happened last night. "Angel?" he asked softly, stepping around the desk, "We need to talk."

No reaction, just the continued shaking. Wesley rested a gentle hand on Angel's broad shoulder, and wondered what he could do- and how he could find out what was really going on. 'What's the matter?' didn't seem to cover it, while any kind of comfort ran a severe risk of being misplaced. Damn public schools that didn't teach this kind of thing!

Eventually, he settled on, "Angel, it's okay. I only want to help you." He pulled a chair over to the desk and sat beside the weeping vampire, hoping that silent support would help. "Is this about what happened last night?"

A movement that could have been a shake of the head. "No? What, then? Angel, you have to talk to me!"

A slight change in the rhythm of the shudders. A sniff. "Don't want to. Leave me."

"No, I'm not going to leave. You're my friend and my employee, and I'm not going to leave you when you obviously need someone."

"Don't need you."

"Oh? Who do you need?"

"He wouldn't come."

"He wouldn't? How do you know?"

"What I did- I- he- he won't."

"I take it 'he' is the Host. Would you like me to ask him?"

A violent shake and Wesley finds himself staring into brown eyes, full of anguish and pain- and slightly hysterical. "No! Never! I can't- we'll manage without him!"

"I don't think that will be necessary, Angel," Wesley tells him, keeping his voice soft.

"Don't you see? I can't go near him again- I should leave. I should have left Sunnydale after I'd warned her the first time."

"No, you shouldn't. In fact, I think you couldn't. And I don't think you should leave now- indeed, I fail to see why you think you should." The Englishman was aware that this wasn't quite true- he had a good idea why Angel thought he should leave- but pretending to be a little bit thicker than he was might get Angel to spell it out and see how daft he was being.

"I'm falling in love, Wesley. I'm falling, and only bad things happen when I fall in love. You must know that by now."

"No, I don't. I know that you've had some unhappy experiences, but this doesn't have to be another one."

"That doesn't matter. He could never feel the same way about me."

"Now you're just being stupid, Angel. How do you think he feels about you?"

"He must hate me for last night, if nothing else."

"Angel, did he show any sign of disliking what you did?"

"Of course! He. he. he didn't?" Angel frowned, his wide forehead crinkling in a way that made Wesley want to run his thumb over it, smoothing out the creases.

"On the contrary, I think he rather enjoyed it." Wesley made a conscious effort to keep his hands away from Angel's face. Letting his own feelings be known would only confuse the poor man further.

"He did?" Angel still looked puzzled, and Wesley smiled at him.

"Yes, he did. He told me so, in no uncertain terms."

"He did?"

"He really did."

"So what do I do now? I can't just."

"Can't just what?"

Angel would have blushed, if vampires could. He looked away. "It doesn't matter. We should do some work. Where's Cordy?"

"I gave her the day off- and Gunn, too. Angel, you can talk to the Host, you know. Ring him up. Speak to him. Go to Caritas tonight. Whatever you like. You can have the day off too- I think we all need a holiday."

The hope in Angel's face at the thought of seeing the Host again was worth more than Wesley imagined it could be. "Thank you, Wesley."

"You're welcome." Feeling that his work was done, Wesley stood up to leave. As he was going, though, he did think to check. "You won't go back to brooding if I leave, will you?"

"No," Angel smiled, glad that his employer had the tact to refer to his fit of sobbing as 'brooding'- although a better image. It would be their secret. "I'll phone the Host- he won't let me brood for long."

"I'm sure he won't," Wesley agreed, and left, happy for Angel but also a little jealous. 'Don't think like that, Wesley,' his inner voice chided him, 'It's better this way.'


Epilogue: AU end of season four.

Wesley's mind slipped back to that time as he sat watching the party from the quietest corner he could find. Cordelia had given up trying to get him to dance with her, and gone off to find something to drink. It was better now: his longing for Angel had dulled with time, and he and Cordelia had recently proclaimed themselves in love.

He watched Lorne- how long had it taken to stop thinking off him as the Host- shimmy across the floor in Angel's black duster. Angel had been dancing, making a fine idiot of himself, but thankfully had recently decided to go and sing. Wesley closed his ears and looked round at Fred and Gunn, who'd been given the task of looking after real star of the party.

Funny how that had come about. It didn't seem like a year since Darla came back.

However, reasoned Wesley, it really must be, because Angel and Lorne's adopted baby, Connor, was just celebrating his first birthday. Soon, he was going to start screaming, if Wesley was any judge, and then the party would break up a little.

Caritas was hardly full in any case- Cordelia and Wesley, Fred and Gunn, Angel and Lorne, John and Ramone, and a few other friends and family members- Spike, originally visiting for Christmas, but still here; Anne, invited at Gunn's request; Numfar, discovering the joys of a new world and teaching his vampire-brother-in-Pylean-law to dance; Skip, still keeping an eye out for Cordelia; and Whistler, secretly watching Angel.

On stage, Angel reached the end of his song- a Val Doonican number, Wesley suspected, knowing that Loony Doony was one of the few people Lorne and Angel could agree on- and began to tell some story or other, before Lorne could pull his lover, somewhat clumsily, down from the low platform.

"Hush, you'll wake Connor, you great noisy oaf," Lorne hissed.

"Oh. Okay." Angel grinned his goofiest grin, and quieted at once. In return, he received a firm- almost bruising- kiss from Lorne. In his dark corner, Wesley smiles too, and is so taken up in the scene before him that he jumps a good two inches when Cordelia sneaks up and kisses him.

End.


Angel/Host Easter Challenge. Your task, gentle reader: take this one scene and finish the tale. It was discussed on AngelHost that a challenge might drum up more fic for that pairing... and somebody mentioned an Easter theme. Cleo, your wish is my command. :) *Any rating, but must include Angel/Host pairing at some point.

*Doesn't have to be Easter related, other than the one tie-in here, but some reference to some seasonal celebration (of any faith) gets you points.

*No time limit on the challenge.

*Points for: - including John's story. y - Angel having to sing. y - working Phantom Dennis in somehow. y - the Host wearing Angel's duster. y - Angel telling the clown story, possibly while intoxicated.

Challenge snippet posted - March '01. Repost anywhere, any list, any site (intact). Responses will be posted at Songs of Mercy. [ http://www.envy.nu/angelhost/ ] Posted by Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net), in a seasonal fit of weirdness.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Am-Chau Yarkona

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