Chapter one: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
It was well into the day when Angel Giles rolled his 1967 Mercedes up to the familiar swanky LA apartment complex. He took the walk up to the door slowly with a bowed head and hands deep in his pockets; anxious apprehension carved into every line of his body.
The keys he retrieved never found made it to the lock as the door opened to reveal an elderly black man on his way out. When the man’s sagging eyes caught sight of the visitor on the steps, he cracked a big toothy grin.
"Well, hello there Angel."
The greeting was returned with a friendly smile of his own. "Hey Mr. Meyers. How’re you today?"
"Oh, I’m fine. Just fine," he responded jovially. "Off to see your brother?"
Angel’s smile waned visibly. He took hold of the door Mr. Meyers was holding before saying "Yeah . . . Just gonna check in on him . . . see how he’s doing."
"Alright then. You tell him I say hello. Haven’t seen that boy in the longest time." He looked at him pointedly.
Angel nodded distractedly. "Will do. Say hey to the missus for me." He turned from the departing wave the old man gave to enter the building and quickly jog up three flights of stairs. When he came to a stop at his final destination, he paused to catch his breath and calm his overtaxed heart that was pounding so for reasons other than physical exertion. He readied himself for any shock he could receive before using his key to let himself in.
The first step into the apartment was obstructed by a crumpled leather duster lying just beyond the threshold. Next to the coat was a glittering pink scrap of fabric that could have once passed for a woman’s top before it was ripped from the wearer’s body.
All things considered, the hastily discarded clothing really fit into the overall decor of the place. Jack Daniel’s bottles of varying levels of emptiness stood from every surface available and the entire living room seemed to have been converted into a giant ashtray as cigarette butts dirtied the ground in a haphazard fashion. The walls had more than a few holes punched in and sported several dark stains where drinks appeared to have been hurled. The impressive bay windows were covered, leaving the entire space encompassed in a disturbing half-light.
Angel sighed heavily and followed the trail of jettisoned clothing down the hall to the master bedroom suite where the door remained fully open. He made his way into the room, careful to sidestep the numerous liquor bottles that littered the ground.
He shook his head with disgust at the two figures adorning the black satin sheets as he turned to pull back the drapes blocking out the day’s light.
Immediately after the sun’s rays infiltrated the darkened cave of a room, a high-pitched squeak sounded from the far side of the bed. A very pissed looking blonde popped her head up and blinked her mascara-smeared eyes. She viewed him with suspicion as her clutched the sheet to her naked chest.
"Who the hell are you?" she shrieked shrilly. Not even giving him a chance to reply, she began prodding the lump curled into a tangle of blankets. "Spikey, there’s some guy here."
Said lump groaned in aggravation and shifted away from the bimbo’s insistent probing. Clearly not taking the hint, the girl sat up on her knees to shake the shoulder of her male companion.
"Blondie bear, did you hear me? I said there’s some guy here."
Angel grumbled in irritation. "William, get up."
Spike pulled the blankets from over his head and opened a single bloodshot eye to peer at the interloper. "The hell are you doing here, Peaches?" he asked in a raspy voice. "What fucking time is it?"
"It’s half past noon, Spike."
"Who is he, baby?" the girl whined discordantly.
He groaned again and yanked the covers over his head. "Harm, get the fuck out."
The girl actually had enough sense to look affronted at his blatant dismissal. "But Blondie Bear . . . "
Spike lashed out by sitting up suddenly, the sheet covering his nude form pooling at his waist. Glaring at her firmly, he growled through gritted teeth "sod off, you bloody annoying chit."
The girl called Harm huffed audibly and flung herself off the bed, uncaring of her naked state. Angel averted his gaze quickly but still caught enough of a peek to suspect the girl’s hair color came out of a bottle.
"You know what, Spikey? I’m tired of you being such a jerk to me," she complained as she searched the ground for her clothes. "One of these days, I might just not come back." Her dramatic statement had the air taken out of it a bit when she spotted her bra hanging from a lamp across the room and hustled to retrieve it.
Spike gave a deep-throated chuckle and dug the heels of his hands into his eyes. "Believe me, nothing would bring me more pleasure."
The girl spared one last glance at Angel still shuffling awkwardly next to the window Spike who was preoccupied cradling his head before turning on her heel and exiting with her nose in the air, sporting only a miniskirt and bra.
Upon hearing her final bitch about her ripped top and the subsequent vicious slam of the front door slam, Angel eyed his adopted brother with a narrow gaze. "Blondie Bear?"
"Quiet you," he muttered without looking up.
Angel chuckled sardonically. "No seriously though, she seems lovely."
Spike returned with a wry snort. "Harmony? Yeah, she’s a peach."
Angel rolled his eyes and snatched a trash bag from behind the bathroom door. He began depositing the plethora of empty whiskey bottles from the floor. Spike crushed his hands to either side of his achingly hungover head at the sound of the glass banging together. The brunette paid no mind to Spike’s duress.
"Look at it this way – maybe you pissed her off enough to keep her away."
Spike rolled over and fished a crumpled box of cigarettes out of the bedside table. Shaking his flaxen head sadly, he lit up and took a long drag. "Not this bird. She’s off her bloody rocker. Give her a week and she’ll be back making my life just a bit more miserable." He watched Angel make his way around the bed, scooping up bottles all the while. "You know, you don’t have to do that."
"If I don’t, who will? Where is your housekeeper anyway?" Spike looked down shamefacedly and started picking nervously at the bedspread.
"I uh . . . had to let her go."
Angel cast his eyes to the ceiling and let the plastic bag slide to the floor. "And why’s that?" The only response he got was the ambiguous shrug of his shoulders.
He resumed the task of tidying up, grateful that the aroma of booze and cigarettes became less stifling as his nose grew accustomed to the stench. "And this Harmony girl, why don’t you just ‘let her go’ as well?"
Spike took the opportunity of his brother’s turned back to swing his legs over the bed and slide into a pair of black jeans. He swayed on his feet (still a tiny bit inebriated from the night before) as he did up the fly.
"Harm’s a bit more persistent than all that. I couldn’t get rid of her if I tried. And, being the right decent shag that she is, I’m in no hurry to try just yet." He watched as Angel continued his perusal around the room and quirked an eyebrow.
"You know," he began slowly. "As much as I appreciate you moonlighting as my maid for the day, I’m gonna bet that your little visit has a hidden motive or two."
Angel set the bulging bag on the ground, laying all false pretenses aside with it. The damn kid always did have a knack for seeing through him.
He thought of letting the whole idea go. He remembered for the millionth time that at some point, he couldn’t protect him from everything; that it wasn’t his life to lead.
But seeing him standing there looking for all he world like the little street urchin he once knew him as, he couldn’t turn a blind eye. His eyes were reddened and sunken. His high, pronounced cheekbones were emphasized by his thinned cheeks, leaving dark hollows in their wake. Old scars decorating his torso were illuminated from the light of the window along with the outlines of his bones visible through his nearly transparent skin. He was gaunt; a shadow of what he once was and should be. And Angel couldn’t leave him like that.
"Spike . . . we have to talk."