The Saint And The Sinner Series
Chapter Two - Soothing Hands

written by Jae Kayelle




When the door opened, Angel looked up from his contemplation of the stone sidewalk. Giles stood in the doorway. His face had a greyish cast to it, and dark circles under his eyes emphasized the exhaustion that hung over him like a weighty shadow. Surprise momentarily lifted his expression.

"Angel."

"You look like hell. What's wrong?"

Giles stepped aside so that the vampire could enter the apartment. "No one ever knocks. They just barge right in." He walked over to the couch and sat heavily, leaning his head back against the cushions.

Angel followed and sat next to him. "You didn't answer my question."

"It's nothing." He spoke in a low tone that was etched with some note Angel couldn't quite get, so he watched and waited. When Giles raised a hand to rub at his face and then the back of his neck, Angel knew what the problem was.

"You're having one of your migraines, aren't you?"

"Yes." It was said so quietly Angel had to listen hard for that note again. It was there. Pain.

"It's late. Why don't you go to bed and I'll get your pills? Are you still taking the same stuff?" He got up and walked over to the kitchen counter where several prescriptions sat on a tray. He picked up two before he found the Demerol.

"Did you come back to Sunnydale for a reason?" Giles asked, still in the same low tone.

"Yeah. Last week when we spoke on the phone you sounded kind of down. I wanted to come sooner but I've been kept pretty busy." He filled a glass with water from the tap and took it and the pain-killers to Giles in the living room.

"Here."

Giles took the glass and held out his hand while Angel shook out two tablets into his palm. He tossed them into his mouth and drank the entire glass of water.

"Thanks." Sitting back again, he carefully turned his head to the side so he could see Angel. "I've missed you fussing over me." Then he slowly closed his eyes as if drawing a blind down over the pain.

"That's why I'm here," Angel replied, setting the glass and the bottle of pills on the coffee table. After a moment he reached out and held his hand over Giles' forehead, but stopped just short of touching him.

As if sensing the proximity, Giles opened his eyes and started at seeing the hand over him.

"What...?"

"May I?"

Receiving a cautious blink as permission, Angel removed Giles' glasses and placed his palm over the green eyes which slowly closed under it.

"Feels good. Your hands are cool. Soothing."

"Go to bed, Rupert. Sleep will help you more."

"That's debatable." His voice was heavy with sarcasm.

"You've been having bad dreams?"

"Yeah." Now he was very quiet, dispirited.

Angel watched him for a couple of minutes. Giles wasn't relaxing. The tension that carved deep lines in his face was not going away.

"Come on. Take a hot, steamy shower and go to bed."

"Not a good idea."

"I'm here now. Let me take care of you."

The green had nearly washed out of Giles' eyes. He was in a lot of pain. Angel swallowed hard. "Come with me." He stood up and held out a hand.

A brief hesitation, then Giles got to his feet unassisted. Angel followed him to the bathroom.

"Get undressed."

"Pretty bossy tonight, aren't you?" The ex-Watcher tried to smile and failed miserably.

Angel went to him and started unbuttoning the cotton shirt. Giles pushed his hands away.

"I can do it."

"Fine. Go ahead." He busied himself with turning on the shower and testing the temperature of the spray. When he turned back Giles had pulled his shirt, jeans and socks off and stood in his boxers, looking mildly uncomfortable.

"It's not like I haven't seen you without your clothes on, Rupert."

Not saying a word, Giles stripped off his shorts and stepped past Angel into the shower. He then rather pointedly pulled the curtain around the perimeter of the tub.

Angel smiled to himself and left the bathroom.

After about ten minutes he went back. The water was still running. He could see Giles' form through the semi-transparent shower curtain, leaning against the wall, head down under the pulsing spray. Steam rose in a cloud, fogging up the mirror over the sink.

"Rupert? Are you all right?"

Rousing himself, Giles straightened. "Fine."

"Are you coming out soon?"

By way of answer, the man turned off the water, shoved the curtain aside and stepped over the rim of the tub. He still looked tired and drawn. The only difference was he was damper than before. He pulled a big bath towel off the rack and began to dry himself, totally ignoring Angel.

After a moment, though, he snapped, "Are you just going to stand there and watch? I didn't think you got your jollies just by looking."

"I know you're hurting, Rupert. Don't take it out on me." Angel's soft tone had the desired effect. Giles calmed down. The brief flirtation with anger had drained him further. He finished drying off, wrapped the towel around himself at the waist and left the bathroom. As he passed Angel he briefly laid a hand on the vampire's shoulder.

They went upstairs to the loft. Angel passed Giles, going ahead to pull the covers down on the bed.

Giles dropped the towel and got into bed. Angel covered him up to the neck, and stood looking down at the man whose skin was beginning to take on the same shade of white as the sheets on which he lay. He turned off the bedside lamp and sat on the edge beside Giles.

"Can I get you a cold compress or something?"

Giles settled his left forearm over his eyes. "I'll be fine."

Sighing in exasperation at the human's stubbornness, Angel said, "If this is anything like the migraines you used to get, you won't be fine for quite a while. I'm staying the night, Rupert. I'm here to help you, so let me do that?"

Giles' eyes flickered open and he peered out from under his arm.

"Might as well get comfortable then."

Relieved, Angel stood and removed his duster, tossing it across the armchair in the corner. He pulled off his boots and laid down on top of the covers next to Giles, sitting up a bit further so that his back was against the headboard. Almost as soon as he got settled, Giles rolled over and threw his arm across Angel's stomach, curling up beside him. Angel smiled and put his arms around the other man. He sat there stroking Giles' hair and back, murmuring words in a low tone. He'd found in the past that it didn't matter what he said, it was the voice that counted.

He listened while Giles' breathing evened out.

* * * * *

Someone was moaning.

Angel jerked awake, suddenly remembering where he was and why. Giles had tightened his hold on him. His arms were wrapped around Angel's middle, one under his back, the hand of the other clutching a fistful of black silk shirt. His fingers released and closed again on the material.

"Rupert?"

"I'm awake," his voice was ragged.

"Is your headache worse?"

"It hurts." Two little words that were filled with pain. That Giles would even admit he was suffering tore at Angel's human soul. His friend had never been one to share his discomfort. He always kept everything bottled up inside, holding it close until it turned on him. It must be a particularly nasty migraine for Giles to open up like that.

"Shh, I'm here. What can I get you?"

"Just stay with me." The sentence ended in a near-whimper. Then he rolled over onto his back pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets.

"Make it stop. Make it stop," he pleaded, rocking from side to side. He drew his legs up, then straightened them out again as if he couldn't find a comfortable position.

Angel sat beside him feeling useless. Giles had always been so strong, so independent. To see him like this ripped Angel apart inside.

A few minutes later Giles groaned loudly. He struggled to sit up, his hand over his mouth. Recognizing the signs, Angel leapt off the bed and grabbed the plastic pail he'd brought upstairs when Giles was in the shower earlier. Just in time he got it in front of the human who promptly vomited the remains of his day's meals -- and the Demerol -- into it. The retching went on and on until Giles fell back on the bed, wrung out and paler than ever.

"Do you want to go to the hospital?"

"No."

"Do you need this bucket again?"

"No. Empty," Giles whispered as if the sound of his own voice was too much to bear. A single tear leaked out of the corner of his right eye. He swiped at his nose with the back of his hand.

Angel patted the leg nearest him. "I'll be right back."

He went to the bathroom and cleaned out the bucket then ran cold water over a washcloth and took both up to the loft.

Giles still lay where he'd left him, his head below the pillow and one leg hanging off the bed. He held both arms crossed at the wrists over his face.

"Rupert, you need to slide up a bit. Here," it was a struggle but Angel manoeuvred him up so that he lay more or less on the bed rather than draped off the side. When Giles' head touched the pillow he sighed at the contact. Angel placed the cold cloth across his eyes before his patient could cover them with his arms again.

"How does that feel?"

Giles mouthed the word "better."

Moving carefully so as not to jostle the bed, Angel laid down on his side of it. As before, Giles rolled toward him and, once again, locked the vampire in a clinging embrace.

Angel adjusted the compress when it started to slide off. Gently, he stroked the cheek that wasn't pressed against his chest. "Shh. Go to sleep."

He had no idea how long they lay like that, but after awhile he heard the door downstairs open slowly and a stage-whispered, "Giles?"

Annoyed and relieved at the same time, Angel called out equally as softly, "We're up here, Xander."

The young man quietly climbed the steps to the loft. "Angel? What are you doing here?" He stopped when he reached the top. His mouth opened and closed several times and his eyes were very wide.

Angel answered the question. "I came to see Giles. Why are you here?"

Xander looked unhappy. "My dad came home tonight after a little over-imbibing. I needed to get out of the house and didn't feel like going to Anya's. Giles sometimes lets me sleep on his couch."

They'd been speaking in whispers but Giles stirred anyway at the sounds of their voices.

"Xander? Everything all right?" He did not relinquish his hold on Angel.

"It's the usual," he shrugged, darting looks back and forth between the two men on the bed as if he couldn't quite understand what he was seeing.

"The couch is yours."

"Thanks." He shifted from one foot to the other and then turned to go.

"Xander?"

He looked at Angel.

"Giles has some medicine downstairs. It's the demerol on the coffee table. Will you bring it and a glass of water up here?"

"Demerol? That's pretty potent stuff." He sounded concerned. "What's wrong?"

"Migraine. Xander..."

"I'm going." He ran swiftly downstairs. A faint light switched on in the kitchen and he was back in less than two minutes.

"Is this it?"

Nodding, Angel took it from him and shook out two more tablets.

"Take these, Rupert. They'll help."

At first he thought Giles might refuse purely out of the pain that must be pounding on the inside of his skull. Then Rupert pushed himself up onto one elbow and accepted the pills. He downed them with water then lay back against the pillows with his eyes closed. Angel regretted Xander's presence right then. If the boy hadn't been there, Giles would be back in his arms.

Sensing some of the undercurrent, Xander said, "Maybe I should go to Anya's after all."

"No. It's too dangerous out there at night. Giles said you can use his couch."

"But you and he..." Angel indicated that they should go downstairs. In the living room, Xander finished his thought. "What are you guys to each other anyway? What's going on? I mean, I thought you didn't even like each other."

"We're friends."

"Uh. Huh. Riiight. Um, is this headache because of all the times he got concussed?"

Angel wandered around the room. "I'm sure those didn't help, but he's suffered from migraines for years."

"And you know this how?"

"He told me." It was a small white lie.

"I don't get it, Deadboy..."

"Just drop it, Xander." Angel looked up towards the loft. He could hear the restless stirrings of the man up there. "I should go to him. He needs me."

Xander looked like he might say something about that but instead he only nodded.

"I'll just get comfy here on the couch."

"Right." Angel took the way out of the conversation and fled upstairs.

* * * * *

It was close to dawn when Giles awoke the next time. He rolled over against Angel and slid his arms around him again.

Angel lay stretched out full length beside him so that their faces were close. Giles' chin rested against Angel's shoulder. "How are you feeling?"

"Better. I can think without it hurting too much now."

"It was pretty bad?"

"One of the worst." He was silent a moment, then: "Thanks for being here."

"Glad to help."

Giles slid down a bit so that he could put his head on the vampire's chest. A tiny sigh filtered out through his lips. "You're just the right temperature for someone with a whacking headache. Not too warm, just right."

Angel laughed quietly. "I don't think anyone has ever said that to me before."

They lay together in companionable silence for awhile. "Tell me what set off the headache. Was it stress?"

"Stress? What makes you think that's what did it?"

Angel shrugged. "The last few times we talked you sounded either stressed or lonely. Maybe both."

Giles didn't respond.

"Rupert?"

"What?"

"I want to help. Tell me."

This time the sigh was heavy. "Yes, things could be better here."

"Go on."

"It hasn't been a good year. I'm feeling quite superfluous."

"Because you lost your job as Watcher?"

"Partly."

"You've never been defined by what you do, Rupert."

"Tell that to my father."

"Oh, come on..."

"I know. I know. You're right. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if Buffy remembered I'm alive now and then. They're all growing up. They don't need me anymore."

"You're not their parent."

"No. I'm not. But they used to come to me for help or just to visit. They all have their own lives now and, suddenly, I don't have one of my own. How did that happen?"

"What do you want to do about it?"

"Not sure. Make some changes of some sort."

"Anything specific in mind?"

"Find a job to start with."

"Sounds good. You should find something right away with your credentials." Angel thought for a moment. "Do you, uh, have anyone to talk to when things get rough?"

"Just you." Giles hesitated. "I suppose you talk to Wesley and Cordelia."

Angel snorted. "Me? Talk out my problems? I'm worse than you are for that and you know it."

"Foolish me. What could I have been thinking?"

"You know me better than anyone, Rupert. If I ever do want to talk... can I call you?"

"Of course. Don't ever hesitate."

"Good. Now, maybe we can both get some sleep." He stifled a yawn. "I've been awake most of the last twenty four hours and you're not the easiest man to share a bed with."

"Terribly sorry." Giles didn't sound apologetic at all. "Have we completely scandalized Xander?"

"Not completely. I think there's room for more shock value."

Giles turned onto his other side so that his back was pressed up against Angel. "Knowing Xander, not a lot. But not right now. I'm tired too. Feel like..." he yawned hugely, "...I could...sleep for days..."

Sliding into the spoon position, Angel lay listening to Giles' breathing one more time. Only when he was certain his friend was asleep did he allow his own eyes to close and soon he, too, slept.

END

Read the next story in this series: Moving On