AUTHOR: Lisa S.
HINT: A special visitor finds their way to the Hyperion Hotel and into a couple of unsuspecting hearts. A special visitor of the four- legged kind.
DISCLAIMER: Joss & Co. owns everything in the Angel world. I simply have fun with it cause it's a fun thing to do.
To Bertha Blue. Thank you for making him walk you that day.
Friday nights are supposed to be fun.
A night for friends and parties, dancing and bright lights. Just knowing that real people were having real fun in every corner of one of the world's most popular cities, could make anyone feel a little bit forgotten. That is, of course, if fun wasn't in the plan for the evening.
At least a little demon hunting could pass as fun. But that was last night.
The vision was quick, painful, but quick. The demon was slow and apparently stupid. Anticlimactic was the word used by Wesley and everyone agreed. But even as uneventful went, Thursday night was clearly more exciting.
Cordelia stood in the doorway to Angel's office. Darkened, as usually, with just his table lamp on. Angel was silent, still and reading. He was also ignoring her, which didn't help with the attitude that was building beneath that sarcastic Cordy surface.
So instead of knocking or making any sort of polite 'aahhhem' sound, Cordelia went back to the front desk and ripped off the top sheet of the desk calendar.
The rolled up ball of paper hit him square on the forehead and fell perfectly to the crevice of his opened book.
"Take me out!"
The ball of paper was returned to the doorway just missing Cordelia's foot.
"You could have knocked."
"Why? You're obviously ignoring me. Are you really reading that book or are you just trying to piss me off?"
"See now...... you figured me out." Angel closed his book and slid it to the side of his desk, waiting for the lecture to start.
"This is so unfair! Wesley has a date. He's out there..... having fun, no doubt. Going to dinner, movie, nightclub, whatever, and its not fair. Gunn is probably at some party with beer and people. Not demon people, but real people. Fun people! Those who have lives."
"What do you mean..... GO?"
"Go. Cordelia you don't have to stay here and work. You can go."
"No Angel. I'm not leaving you here alone so that you can be even more pathetic. And work? What work? I can't find a single thing to do around this place besides clean. And I absolutely refuse to clean on a Friday night. That is the lamest thing someone could do."
She stood her ground with both arms folded firmly over her chest. "Besides sit in the dark and read a book that they've read a hundred times."
"Cordelia, what is it that you want? You have friends, don't you? People you'd rather be with than me."
She wandered over to the chair in front of his desk and slumped down with an obvious sigh. "No, not exactly. Everybody from acting class are all unfriendly, competitive freaks. Paranoia runs ramped in that place. All afraid that someone might be using them for the secrets to their concealed talent, as if they had any. Complete opposite from high school. Everyone wanted to talk to me back then, or better yet, be seen with me. I was the must-be-seen-with girl."
Angel raised his eyebrows recalling the Cordelia Chase that he first met. Without any debate, he preferred the Cordelia that was sitting across from him now. "Things change. Usually for the best."
"Change.... yea! Now no one talks to me. So what do I do? Spend my days and nights with you, and does that situation change? Oh no. You don't talk to me either. Rather read that dry rotted old book than talk to the one person who truly cares about you. Angel, is there something wrong with me? Am I not fun to be around?"
The "oh-where-to-begin look' swept across Angel's face.
"Oh forget that question! It wasn't a real question. Completely rhetorical. Wasn't meant for you to answer because you'd only make me feel worse. Tact is not you."
"There is nothing wrong with you, Cordelia. I'm sorry. You're right, I shouldn't ignore you the way I do, at times. But I do tend to ignore things. Makes that immortal life of mine seem to fly right by."
She smiled at his rare comedic attempt. "Funny."
He smiled back. "So, what do you want to do."
"Take me out."
"I don't know. Movie. Tour of star's homes. Feed me. Anything."
"We don't have any money."
"We have petty cash......"
"Not meant for tourist attractions, Cordelia. Emergency use only. Anything on television?"
"Oh please! Angel, we have 68 televisions in this place. All black and white with a screen the size of a grapefruit. Two stations.... at best! All fuzzy and crappy! No... forget TV.... not even an option. Hey!," pointing abruptly, "we could play a game."
"Okay, cards. We have those."
Angel sat back in his chair and looked toward the ceiling for help. Playing poker with her would be a disaster. He would have to let her win nearly every hand or she'd spend the rest of the evening pouting even worse than what she was doing now.
"Okay, Cordy. Do you want to go out? Come on. We'll go out."
Cordelia stood in the large opening of the glass French doors, leaving Angel to walk down the steps and disappear into the darkness.
"Funny, again! Angel! Walking out to the hotel courtyard wasn't exactly what I had in mind!"
His planned defense statement was ready and waiting, "We don't have any money!" was returned from behind the covering of trees. "Come on. It's a nice night."
The overgrown garden was a mass of tangled weeds and overgrown trees. But a clear view of the night sky could be found from above one of the old stone benches. Lately, Angel had spent a lot of time out in the courtyard, quiet and thinking. Amazing what staring at the tiny white lights surrounded by the deepest black can do when your soul is feeling a little lost.
His obsession with Darla wasn't a new thing. Lately, that had been clearer to him. With a soul, without a soul, when he killed her, when she came back, the feelings had just become twisted inside. Time doesn't heal every wound. Just makes you forget. Makes you move on because nothing stays the same. Except, maybe one thing.
Those tiny white lights in the sky have never changed.
"You like it out here, don't you?"
Angel nodded and then followed the nod with a whispered, "I do."
Since he wasn't taking her out and buying her food, Angel realized that he was going to have to pay up with some quality conversation. But the pleasurable surroundings and that of her company, could make any discussion less painful.
"Do you realize...." turning to meet her attention, "the stars are the only things in my life that have never changed. The patterns always change. Their positions in the sky always move, but it always moves the same. Even the night I died, those same stars were watching."
"The stories they could tell, huh."
"They could. But they don't seem to remember. They still shine down the same. No matter what terrible things they've seen you do. Something you can count on, I guess."
"Have you been reading books on Astronomy?"
"No. Not Astronomy. I don't care where they come from or the fact that they may not even be there today, and that it's just their light that is still shining. Sort of ruins it, don't you think? Knowing too much. Takes the mystery out of them."
"No. I like knowing. Its interesting thinking about how small and insignificant we all really are. You know.... in the big picture aspect. Just thinking about how many worlds and how many types of life maybe out there, just waiting to invade our planet......"
"Now who's been reading the books?"
"It's movies.", she laughs. "Just what we need to battle, more creepy monsters killing humans. Or maybe! A big ship of aliens that feeds only on demons will come. Huh? How about that!"
"Wouldn't that put us out of business?"
"Well then with no more demons to kill.......... its Angel Redemption Time! Say goodbye to the bags of blood and hello to the sunscreen. I imagine you'll be very prone to sunburn, with not having seen sunlight in like.... forever."
"We'll have to start you off slow, maybe a tanning bed, then....."
Angel held his hand up for her to stay quiet.
"What?", she whispered.
"I thought I heard something."
There was a rustle of leaves coming from across the courtyard. Cordelia's hand fixed on Angel's elbow as if he was her best line of defense.
"Maybe it's a bird." She adjusted her eyesight into the darkened line of trees. "Or a squirrel."
"No. I can hear it breathing hard."
"Hard. How hard? Like crank-caller hard or just-ran-up-the-stairs hard?"
"What's the difference?"
Before she demonstrated the differences towards his ear, she simply replied with a "never mind."
"Wait. I can smell it now. It smells like....."
Cordelia's mouth widened and she immediately released the grasp of his arm. "Oh Angel! It's a dog! Look! It's a stray dog."
Slowly and cautiously, she approached the black dog that was visibly nervous at the sight of strangers.
"Don't. You shouldn't...." She was obviously not listening at all, so he simply added, "Careful Cordy".
She sank low towards the grass and stopped several feet away to kept from being intimidating. The dog was solid black and noticeably underweight. Not being able to decide whether to run or whether to stay, the dog cried slightly as it hesitated. But with the very motion of Cordelia's hand, the dog joined her side with an overwhelming pant of relief.
"Hi little one. Hi. Oh my, you're very.... stinky aren't you. Oh yes, you're skinky."
The dog seemed nothing short of thrilled to have finally found a kind stranger willing to give just a little attention. Turning back around, Cordelia was surprised to find Angel had moved back towards the bench and was standing motionless.
"Angel. It's okay. Look, it's a nice dog."
"Dogs don't like me."
"I think this one will. Come see it."
But Angel didn't move. He chose to watch from a much safer distance. Cordelia was obviously enjoying the animal's company, enough for them both.
"Come on, little one; let's go meet Angel." As they approached the bench, an unmistakable look of nervousness was all over Angel's face. How could anyone who's fought the world's grossest demons be afraid of a 40-lb dog?
"Dogs don't like me."
"I know... you just said that. It's all right, Angel.... just say hi."
The dog burst into a happy play mode, excited from its new found friend. Without taking its eyes off of Cordelia, it followed her back towards the other stranger. This other stranger was tall and quiet but looked friendly enough. After all, he was sitting close to the nice lady only moments ago.
"It's going to bite me, Cordelia. Dogs don't like me. Not ever."
"Oh.... is it the 'being dead' thing? The no-pulse-creature-of-the- night dilemma? Maybe it won't matter. I mean..... It's not like you smell like something dead where it wants to roll on you and then bury you.... right? Do we have any food?"
Angel didn't respond because he was too busy being shocked. The dog graciously approached him and licked his hand. Not once, but repeatedly as if forcing that hand to start petting. Cold skin or warm skin, petting is always good to a lonely homeless dog.
"Cor..... it likes me. It actually likes me." A huge smile spread across his face as the petting was obviously well received. Cordelia joined in and the dog actually sighed with joy.
"So, Angel, do we have any food?"
"I don't think so. We'll have to go buy some. Go buy dog food."
"And I thought we didn't have any money."
"Petty cash. We have petty cash, don't we?"
"We do ..... emergency right?", she confirmed his hint of compassion. "No collar, no tags. Looks like a purebred Labrador. Has to be someone's pet. Oh, Angel, it's a girl!"
"How do you know? Oh wait... forget I asked you that."
"Been out of that loop longer than I thought, huh?"
"Make all the jokes you want, I don't care. This is the first dog that's ever not tried to attack me. Maybe she's dumb?"
"Maybe she's smart. Seeing something in you that all the other dogs have missed. I can sort of relate. Not to being a dog... but.... you know, what I mean. But smart or dumb, I think she's hungry. Let's bring her inside."
"No Cor.... you can't leave me alone with her. I'll go to the store. You stay here."
"Angel, are you still thinking she's going to attack you? Look, she loves you. She loves you more than me."
"Well it might come across her suddenly. That a vampire is petting her. And I don't know anything about dogs. Not at all. What if she has fleas or worms. I heard they can carry mites....or is it ticks? And what if she starts barking. What if.... what if.... she pees."
"Just knowing that a dog pees is your first step. I'm sure you'd be just fine, but if you want, I'll stay here. You go do the shopping. Petty cash envelope is in your top desk drawer. Try not to take too long. You have two hungry girls here waiting."
Raising her voice she added, "Two hungry girls, Angel."
"Is there something I can help you find?"
Angel smiled at the pet store employee. The young girl had past dozens of browsing customers to reach his section of the dog food isle. Maybe he looked like he was desperate for assistance; after all he had read nearly every label on the shelf. That, of course, didn't explain why she put on lipstick while crouched below the front desk.
"No... yes. I don't know, I probably do."
"Did you just get a dog?", she asked, smiling cheerfully.
"Well. In a way. I don't know anything about dogs. And one just happened to find me. It's a stray. A girl. She's really hungry."
"Well that is so sweet! You take in a homeless needy dog. We need more people like you. Well you came to the right store. I am certain we can pick out the proper food. Maybe take some different kinds.... some samples.... see what she likes. She didn't have a collar on, I take it?"
"No. No collar."
"Well you should check the storefront bulletin board for Lost and Found postings. Most stores have them. People advertise when they lose a pet." Tossing her red hair over her shoulder as she added, "maybe you could give me your number, in case anyone new comes looking."
"So...... does your wife like dogs?"
Angel turned around and dropped the end of the new dog leash. "My what?"
"There's more in the car.... I'll go get it."
Cordelia's eyes widened as she looked into each plastic shopping bag. They were filled with practically every brand name covering each different stages of a dog's life. Puppy formula, Active formula, Intestinal Stress, and even one for Pregnant and Nursing dogs. Then there was a bag of treats, crunchy and chewy, and a box of beef flavored vitamins, white ceramic dog bowl set, and a purple leash with matching collar.
Just when she thought Angel had gone way overboard, the front door to the hotel swung open and Angel walked through holding a fuzzy Dalmatian spotted dog bed.
"And how much money was in that petty cash envelope?"
"A little over a hundred."
"And how much did you spend at the pet store?"
His eyes momentarily met hers and then moved back away. "A little over a hundred. Sorry... its just an employee women helped me and she was.."
"Yes. Very. She even gave me her phone number."
"I bet! Oh that's just great! Well, at least you can't take her out.... cause you don't have any money.. do you!" Cordelia tried her best to get him to argue, but he was busy petting the dog. "Well, Angel, you bought 40 lbs of food for a 40-lb. dog. Good plan! Especially, if we're going to try and find her owners."
"The pet store lady told me about bulletin boards where people post Lost and Found pets. I was going to stop and look, but I got distracted."
"Yea...distracted. Wonder why. You didn't, by chance, get my hint earlier about me being starving, too, did you?"
"Are you hungry? I didn't go to any people stores."
"You didn't buy any food for me and you didn't buy any dog shampoo. She really smells like a dog. Doesn't that bother you with your bionic sense of smell and all?"
The dog left Angel's side when the sound of falling food caught her attention. Brand name or formula style didn't seem to matter; the Lab enjoyed every bit of the new strangers' gift. Even though the ceramic bowl set was heavy, she slid it around the marble floor with ease.
"No, not really. I'll take another shower. So, what did you two girls do while I was gone?"
"Well I gave her a bucket of water out in the courtyard. And, you were right, she peed! Other than that I just looked her over. She has to be someone's pet, and recently too. I mean she's skinny and hungry, but she's not sickly. And in case you are still wondering, I didn't see any fleas."
"Well we can try and find her owners tomorrow. In the meantime, I guess she can stay here."
Angel was clearly becoming extremely fond of this dog. Seeing his growing attachment to anything had to be a good thing. After all, animals are used in rehab centers as therapy. And if anyone could use some emotional therapy lately, it was Angel.
Cordelia sat on the couch, watching him walk around the lobby with the big fuzzy dog bed. He didn't want to stick her out in the open, and she shouldn't be in the corner. She could sleep behind the counter, but finding the bed might be too confusing in such a big place.
"Angel, let her decide where she wants to sleep. Then just stick it there. And we can't keep calling her "She", why don't you pick a name. She likes you best."
"Do you think she really likes me best? Or are you just saying that so she can stay."
"Would you really kick her back outside?"
"No. I wouldn't. Unless she decides to bite me. Then maybe."
Done with her supper, the dog found her way back to Angel, causing the bed to be dropped from his arms.
"How about...... Blackie? We could call her Blackie."
"Well now that's original! Gee. How'd you come up with that one? I know..... how about.... Buffy? Yes, she looks like a Buffy to me. All spazzy and licking your face like that!"
"Funny. But if she is someone's pet, maybe a child's dog, that's the kind of name a child would give. Something simple."
"Okay fine. You call her Blackie and I'll call her Buffy. They sound close enough." Cordelia slipped on the collar and adjusted the strap. "Hey this fits perfectly. Not bad. Course.... you had help from Miss Pet Store Chick. She didn't give you anything else, did she?"
He smiled. "Jealous?"
"Who me? Never."
They watched together as the dog tore across the lobby after her new black and white knotted up sock toy. Each time she would return to their side, the toy was dropped near Angel's feet, then quickly repositioning herself for yet another act of retrieval.
"So, you never had a dog, huh? My mom always had some yippy ones. She'd dress them up in designer dog sweaters. They'd prance around looking for attention and then they'd bite you."
"Well, growing up, my family had animals. Mainly farm animals. I was never really attached to any one in particular. But I was around them, dogs, goats, horses. So I guess you could say I had pets. But even still, some things you just forget."
"That's funny because, I was going to say, some things you never forget. I don't think you forgot."
Blackie came to rest by their feet. The short game of toss wore her out quickly from her lack of physical strength. Even without words, animals can express more than a person ever could. Shifting between both of the nice people's stares, the dog expressed her sincerest thanks.
Having spent so many nights running from cars and all of the loud noises, the quiet of the concealed trees had seemed very inviting. Desperately searching for the faces of her loved ones, the dog would wait in the shadows and watch.
And she silently watched the two people walking and talking in that overgrown courtyard. Yet even from a dog's perspective, these two people enjoyed the company of one another and now neither one seemed lonely. And she knew just what lonely looked like.
The dog had watched Angel the night before.
She watched as he sat on the same bench staring into the darkness. Occasionally looking into the night sky, this person seemed incredibly lonely. Maybe he was lost too. Sitting there silently, staring into the night, just waiting for the face of his loved ones to come.
Making every effort to stay completely quiet, she watched and waited until the lonely stranger stood up and walked away.
Misery loves company, even when the company is that of a dog. But this stranger was different. He was very different.
The front door to the hotel opened and Gunn walked in. Being viewed now as an intruder in her new found home, Blackie barked and charged the front door. Surprised by the unexpected visit, Angel and Cordelia both shouted their choice of names for the dog.
"Wo hey. What the hell is that?" Gunn yelled as he scrambled back towards the front door. "And when did we get a dog? Ever think about tellin me these things! Maybe put up a sign or something."
Cordelia sprung forward and restrained the dog by the collar. "Sorry Gunn, but we just found her outside."
"And what the hell were you shouting? What kind of name is that?"
"Well I named her Blackie cause, well... she's black. And Cordy wants to call her Buffy just to annoy me."
"And it's working....." She added while coaxing the dog to allow Gunn to walk further into the hotel.
"Blackie? Nice choice. You call her Blackie, and then I'll call her Angel. Pretty name, don't you think?"
Cordelia laughed with Gunn all at Angel's expense. Like he hadn't heard that one before.
"So ain't nothing going on tonight except doggie detail, huh? Thought maybe we could go out on patrol or something. Look for some demon baddies. Are you game?"
"Not tonight. We're staying in. Do you want me to stay here tonight, Angel? For the dog's sake. I don't mind. I have clothes. No food. But I have clothes."
"If you don't mind. And I will feed you something. Just don't ask what it is."
"Hmmm, let me guess... it will be nutritionally complete."
Gunn had now made friends with the skinny black dog. She had the same look of contentment that was on the faces of two people standing at the bottom of the landing. One more thing he also noticed was that both Angel and Cordelia were missing their socks.
"Hey how come your both in bare feet? Step in something?"
"No. Angel went shopping and bought a carload of dog food. But didn't think of buying any toys or any dog shampoo..... hence the stench."
"I didn't go down that isle...."
"So we made a toy. Socks. Dog's love socks all knotted together."
"Couldn't you have just knotted up an old towel or pillowcase? We only have about a thousand here in storage."
Cordelia accepted blame for this one. So, she hadn't thought about alternative dog toys. Of course, watching Angel remove his socks and fuss and tie them together all the while being stared at by two impatient brown eyes made it all seem worth while. She'd gladly take the blame.
"Well you guys, I'm off to bed. And she looks tired, Angel..... let her sleep too."
Continue on to the part two...