In the Waiting
COMPLETED: February 2001
DISCLAIMER: "Angel" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" are trademarks of Mutant Enemy; all characters and situations are used without intent of infringement or expectation of profit.
SUMMARY: Angelus is back. Or is he?
SPOILERS: Set prior to 'To Shanshu in LA'
NOTES: For a while, I've wanted to try something a little different to the 'third person, in-character POV' I usually stick to. I wanted to write something in the first person but oddly, as much as I like the characters, I didn't really want to write in first person for any of them. At the same time, I thought it would be nice to get an outsider's perspective on the main characters. Hence I've used that horror of fanfic, the original character first person narrator. (Please don't run screaming!) I've kept my narrator deliberately uninteresting--he exists to do his job in the story, and also to provide a different kind of filter than we normally get through which to view Angel, Cordy and Wes, and other than that we find out very little about him. I hope it works as a device.
Massive thanks to Tammy for suggestions, feedback and "go there!". Thanks to ebird, who analysed Kiely's analysis, and Yahtzee, who said that the doctor should be played by Richard Schiff (Toby in The West Wing). I have tried to make the interview scenes as realistic as possible; however, I have no direct experience of psychiatry or psychiatrists. Apologies in advance for any slip ups on my part.
(As an aside, it wasn't long after completing this fic that I wrote Vivere, in which almost all the main characters get their chance to be narrator. So you can't trust a word I say...)
"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope of the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting."
Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot
The young woman standing next to my car in the parking lot wore an anxious expression as she searched through her purse. She looked up hopefully as I approached. "Hi. Is this your car?"
"Yes." I smiled politely at her, and she positively beamed back at me. Now I was closer, I saw she was really no more than a girl, probably younger than my twenty five year old daughter.
She set down her open purse on the hood of my car and pushed her long, dark hair back behind her ears. "This is really embarrassing, but I dropped my apartment keys and they skidded right under there. I cant reach them. Would you mind&?" She made a rolling motion with her hand.
"Yes, of course. I was going anyway." It was after seven and Id just finished with my last patient of the day. I was tired, and looking forward to going home to a glass of wine and a good book.
The girl rolled her eyes in exaggerated relief. "You just saved my life. Hey, have we met?"
"I dont think so."
"I never forget a face," said the girl, with certainty. She frowned for a moment, then her expression cleared. "Dr Kiely, right? Ben Kiely?"
"Yes," I said slowly, still trying to place her.
"Im studying psychology at UCLA. I was at one of your guest lectures. Im a big fan," she added, and for one surreal second I thought she might ask for my autograph. Being recognised in the streetor parking lotisnt one of the usual hazards of psychiatry.
I thanked her, and fished my car keys out of my jacket pocket. "Ill just move the car and then you can&"
The girl stepped sideways, so she was between me and my car. Interrupting, she said quickly: "Your lecture was about multiple personality disorders. You deal with that a lot, right?"
There was an intensity in her tone which suggested she was making more than a casual enquiry. For the first time, I began to feel something was not right.
"Ive dealt with a couple of cases. A lot, I suppose, since its such a rare condition." I made to move past her.
She stepped to the side again, still blocking me. "But youre an expert?"
Making eye contact with her, I said, "Why dont I just move my car?"
She hesitated, then looked away a second too soon. Her gaze shifted to a spot over my left shoulder, and I knew she had been lying about the keys.
Unfortunately, I was so pleased with my powers of perception, I didnt stop to think what she might be looking at. Which is why I didnt see the man who clamped a chloroform soaked pad over my nose and mouth until it was too late to do anything but wonder briefly why anyone would want to kidnap a psychiatrist.
"I told you not to use so much, Wesley. Hes been out, like, forever."
I recognised the voice of the girl from the parking lot immediately. I kept my eyes shut, and tried not to move. Remaining still didnt require much effort: my entire head throbbed painfully, and I was half-convinced I could feel significant portions of grey matter oozing out of my ears.
"Ill have you know its very difficult to judge the quantity. And please try to rememberno names." The man she was talking toWesleyhad a strong English accent. So I had been kidnapped by at least two people.
Kidnapped. It was a bizarre notion. I should have been terrified, but more than anything I was simply bemused. I got junk mail, and sometimes I got parking tickets; I didnt get kidnapped. I felt like a movie extra who has suddenly and unaccountably become part of the main plot.
The girls voice moved closer to me. "Maybe we should take him to a hospital."
"And say what? Do you mind helping us with this man we abducted?"
"Well, duh. Obviously we leave out that part. This whole thing is a stupid idea."
"I didnt hear you suggesting anything better."
They started to argue heatedly, and their voices moved away again. I took the opportunity to open my eyes, cautiously. The dark-haired girl and Wesleya slim bespectacled man in his late twenties or early thirtieswere bickering by the doorway, and neither had noticed I was conscious. I looked around.
I was in a dingy, damp-stained room. A rusting filing cabinet stood against one wall and rectangular shadows on the peeling paint-work indicated where pictures or notices had once hung. There were no windows, and the only light came from a portable lamp set on a chair in the middle of the floor.
"Cordelia&" said Wesley, sounding annoyed and forgetting his own instructions concerning the use of names.
The air in the room was damp, and I wanted to cough. Automatically, I put my hand to my mouth to stifle the noise, and only felt surprised that I was able to after I had done so. I wasnt even tied up.
I began to sense my kidnappers lacked a certain skill at their chosen line of work.
"Excuse me," I said.
Cordelia broke off from angrily voicing a withering appraisal of her companions intelligence and looked at me. "Oh, good. Youre awake." She glared at Wesley: "And only five hours later than you should have been."
I sat up, still feeling slightly woozy. "I think you have the wrong person."
Wesley looked concerned. "Youre not Benedict Kiely, the psychiatrist?"
There seemed little point in denying that: Id been carrying my drivers licence in my wallet. "I am. But Im not heir to any fortune, and the only person I can think of for you to send the ransom note to even if I were is my ex-wife." I shrugged. "And I very much doubt shed pay up."
"Thats okay," said Cordelia cheerfully. "We dont want money."
"Ah." I couldnt decide if it was the lingering effects of the chloroform or if this conversation really didnt make any sense. "Then the reason you kidnapped me would be what, exactly?"
Wesley said, "We want your help. Your professional help."
No, it wasnt the chloroform. "The generally accepted way of obtaining the services of a psychiatrist is to make an appointment."
Cordelia rolled her eyes at me. "Do we look stupid or something?" When I forbore to reply, she crossed the room and hunkered down on the floor in front of me. "Look, heres the score. We have a friend we want you to help."
"If you agree," continued Wesley from the doorway, "you get what I guarantee will be the most interesting case of your career. But you wont be able to tell anyone about it."
For a moment I was interested, in spite of myself. "Why not?"
"Uh-uh," said Cordelia, wagging her index finger at me. "No details until you say yes."
"And if I say no?"
She seemed genuinely perplexed. "Well, you go home, of course. Were not keeping you here."
"And whats to stop me going straight to the police with your names and a complete physical description?"
Wesley smiled hopefully. "Your magnanimous character and essential good-heartedness?"
Basing a life of crime on a touching if misplaced belief in the victims willingness to forgive and forget seemed to me a suspect strategy, to say the least. But the more I talked to Wesley and Cordelia, the more convinced I became that they were no more kidnappers than I was.
They might even be telling the truth.
"Why me?" I asked, although I already suspected I knew the answer. "There are a lot of psychiatrists in L.A."
"But not many with your experience of multiple personality disorder," Wesley told me.
I nodded. "Then I take it thats what you believe your& friend&has."
Cordelia nodded vehemently. "Ohhhh yeah. Big time."
Slowly, I said, "True multiple personality disorder is extremely rare. I very much doubt that truly is the case here."
"But you wont know unless you meet him." Cordelia was looking at me with the air of one who is certain her argument is unassailable. I began to sense that saying no to this woman was not an operation to be undertaken without extensive mental preparation.
"Ill meet him," I conceded. "And I may be able to recommend what kind of specialist he needs. I cant promise more than that."
Cordelia looked over her shoulder at Wesley, and I could see them silently debating if that was a sufficient offer. Wesleys expression in particular was clouded and for a moment I saw something there which I had been too preoccupied with my own situation to notice before: desperation.
"Thank you," he said.
I nodded, and stood up, leaning on the edge of the rooms filthy desk and wincing at the protests of my arthritic joints. "So why the need for mystery?"
"Our friends name is Angel," said Wesley. "Hes a vampire."
I understood. "Youre saying hes developed a psychosis and believes himself to be a vampire."
"No, no," said Cordelia: "He really is a vampire."
Wesley was nodding in a agreement. I looked at them, and they looked back at me. I was thinking that I should have recognised the symptoms of full-blown delusion much earlier. I was also thinking that my night was getting stranger by the minute.
I was right on the second count.
I followed them through a series of dim, claustrophobic hallways, stepping carefully over pools of brown water and rusting pieces of office furniture. There were no windows to be seen. "Were underground," I realised.
Wesley nodded, and pointed upwards. "Were beneath the Security Trust and Saving Bank building on Spring Street. Do you know it?"
I did. The old bank building, impressive but outmoded, had been converted sometime in the mid-eighties to become the Los Angeles Theatre Centre. But when the theatre-goers stayed away and the subsidies ran out, it had fallen into disuse again. As far as I knew, the building had been empty for nearly a decade.
"When the original renovations were made, they didnt bother doing any work on the bank vaults. None of the rooms down here are big enough to put on a performance, and the walls are all six feet thick and load bearing. So the builders simply sealed off the basement and worked above ground."
We were passing an empty doorway, through which I could see the bare concrete interior of what must once have been a small vault. Four rust-red hinges still set into the frame showed where the original vault door had been attached. I guessed it had been removed a long time ago, probably when the bank closed down, but the much less specialised inner door had been left attached. It consisted of narrowly spaced metal bars, and when closed and locked from the outside the vault was effectively converted into a cell. Or more accurately, given the lack of light and the stale air, into a dungeon.
"How did you know about this?" I asked.
"Angel found it," said Cordelia. "I swear he could start a guided tour and call it Depressing L.A. if he wanted. But its kinda useful for holding things once weve trapped them."
She didnt elaborate, and I wasnt sure I wanted to know what she meant. I was debating whether or not to ask when Wesley stopped and held up the flashlight he was carrying. With a start, I realised that the vault we had arrived at was occupied. "Angel?" said Wesley.
The man in the cell was asleep, sitting on the floor, his head tipped back against the wall and his eyes shut. He was, I guessed, the same age as Wesley or a little older, although more solidly built. His mouth was slightly open, and I found myself checking to see if his canine teeth were pointed. They werent.
He opened his eyes and looked at me, then at Wesley and Cordelia. "Whos this?"
"Ben Kiely," I said. "Pleased to meet you."
Angel didnt reply: he was still looking at my companions. "Is he a mage?"
"Not exactly," said Wesley.
"Im a psychiatrist," I clarified.
Angel switched his gaze to me, and from his expression I might equally have said I made my living from killing small children. Perversely, I began to relax. Kidnappings and dungeons were outside my realm of experiencesuspicious, hostile patients werent.
"So," I said conversationally, "youre a vampire."
Angel ignored me, and addressed himself to Wesley and Cordelia. "This is a waste of time."
"No," said Wesley. "Its not. Weve looked for answers in magic. Its time to widen the field."
Angel stood up and came to the front of the vault, so that he was standing just behind the thick wire mesh covering the doorway. Looking at me, he said: "He doesnt believe you. He thinks were all crazy."
"Thats why we brought him down hereso you could show him." Cordelia raised her hands and made claw shapes with them: "You know. Game face. Grrr, argh."
Angel hesitated, then shook his head. He stepped backwards from the bars and out of the flashlights glare. Hidden entirely in shadow and speaking so quietly I had to strain to hear him, he said, "No& Im not in control right now. I dont want to risk&"
I didnt follow that exchange at all, so I concentrated instead on the elements of the situation I did understand. Angel was obviously intelligent, articulate and capable of rational thought. He also believed something which he knew was incredible to the world at large. I wasnt going to win his trust by pretending to share a delusion he had already perceived I didnt.
"Angel," I said carefully; "I wont lie to you. I find the idea of a real-life vampire difficult to accept. But there are other things I do believe. I believe your friends went to a lot of trouble to get me here because theyre concerned for you and they think you need help. I believe you know you need it too."
"Nice speech," said Angel quietly, from the darkness. "Now believe this."
Without warning, he launched himself out of the shadows and towards the metal bars blocking the door. I took an involuntary step backwards, watching the barrier shudder and in places almost buckle.
Then I saw his face.
Ive seen uglier sights, but never anything that filled me so totally and effectively with terror. In the space of second, Angel had ceased to be a man and had degenerated into something demonic and wholly evil. He leered at me, and bared the fangs that hadnt been there a moment earlier.
"Theres no such thing as vampires, right? We dont exist. The darks a safe a place; theres nothing waiting there, nothing watching you. You just keep telling yourself that."
His features shifted and altered, becoming human again, but the expression in his eyes remained. Psychiatrists dislike words like evil: such terms make it too easy to apply convenient labels, to condemn without attempting to explain or understand. But I knew then, and I still know now, that what dwelt behind those eyes was wholly and irredeemably a thing of evil.
"Doctor Kiely," said Wesley beside me. His voice was calm, but I could tell he was making an effort to keep it that way. "Allow me to introduce you to our problemAngelus."
Angelor perhaps more accurately, Angelusturned on Wesley, and I felt guilty relief. The few seconds I had spent under the focus of that gaze had had been enough to leave me shaking. I didnt know how much more I could have taken. "Hey, Wesley. Cant say Im surprised you had to bring in outside help. Its not like you can deal with me by yourself." He looked at Cordelia and smiled, showing all his teeth. "Frightened yet, Cordy?"
She didnt flinch. "Of you? Give me a break. Ive seen scarier things come free with breakfast cereal."
Angelus shook his head pityingly. "No, still cant act. But never mindthere are always career openings in prostitution. And youve already got the wardrobe for it."
Quietly, Cordelia said, "Angel. Come on. Fight back. I know youre in there."
Angelus shook his head disparagingly. "Of course Im in here. Where else would I be?" He looked at me, and lowered his voice to whisper with false confidentiality: "They just dont get it. But youre a shrink: maybe you will. They think Im two different people."
I didnt look away. "And are you?"
"No." He grinned at me. "I just dont get to say what I think nearly often enough."
"Angel is a vampire."
I was sitting at a plastic-topped table in an all-night café opposite the old bank building on Spring Street. The cup of coffee I was holding between my palms was so hot it was burning my skin, although I wouldnt realise it until I saw the blisters the next day. My watch showed sometime after three oclock in the morning. "Angel is a vampire," I repeated.
Cordelia looked at Wesley. "Is he ever gonna stop saying that?"
Wesley sipped his own drink. "Dr Kielys understanding of the world has just undergone a profound shift. Its going to take him a little time to adapt, Cordelia."
"Well, could he get on with it, do you think?"
Wesley frowned at her. "Not everybody grows up on a Hellmouth. You could try being a little more sympathetic."
I stared at the steam rising off my coffee. "Angel& is& a vampire."
Cordelia leaned forward across the table and laid her hand on my arm. "There, there. You know, I felt exactly this way when I saw The Crying Game for the first time." She nipped me, hard: "Now snap out of it."
I swore, and rubbed my arm. By the time the pain had faded, I was alert and focused although admittedly most of that focus consisted of deep annoyance at Cordelia, who was smiling sweetly at me. "Okay, now listen up, cause therell be a quiz later. This is Angel, the Cliff Notes version."
"Wait one moment." I dug around in my jacket pocket until I found my notebook and pen. I had been intending to type up some notes from a session at home; now it seemed I would be using it to record the start of a whole new case. I flipped the pad open on the table top at a fresh sheet. "Go on."
"Its 1900, give or take a decade. Angelus is a bad-ass, mean-as-you-please blood-sucker." Cordelia took a drink from her cup, and went on: "Until one night he makes the mistake of chowing down on a gypsy girl. Her folks get riled, and Angelus gets cursed. They give him back his soul to punish him, and evil Angelus becomes good Angel."
I wrote c. 1900soul on the notepad, and frowned. "Making someone good is a punishment?"
"It is if youre a vampire," said Wesley. "Imagine waking up one day with over a centurys worth of murdering on your conscience."
I nodded, slowly. Underneath soul, I wrote = realisation of guilt. I was beginning to understand whator whoI had met in the vault. "Your friend, Angel, is the morally aware version of Angelus."
Cordelia nodded and continued, "So Angel swears off killing people for kicksand foodand comes to America. He puts in some serious brooding time, then decides to go after the redemption thing a little more actively." She looked up at the strip lighting, expression thoughtful. "Jeez, this would make a great movie. I should really try pitching it to someone."
"And that would be that," I finished, "except Angelus is back."
"Sporadically." Wesleys expression was sober. "Youve seen what its like: they cut in and out without warning. And Angelus isnt just insulting. In his day, he earned a reputation for sadism and cruelty such that he was feared even by other vampires."
My encounter with the Mr Hyde side of Angels personality had left me in no doubt what Angelus would be capable of, if he had the opportunity. I began to understand that the situation Wesley and Cordelia had outlined to me was more than simply distressing: it was dangerous.
The notes I had made so far seemed suddenly scanty and inadequate. "Im reluctant to comment on an area I only discovered existed ten minutes ago, but could it be that the, umm, curse is wearing off?"
Cordelia shook her head decisively. "Curses dont come on sale or return, you know. If youre cursed, those purchases are on your store account for eternity."
"More than that," said Wesley, "the terms of this curse are rather specific. He is either Angel or Angelus, not both at once. Which makes me think that perhaps whats wrong with him has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with psychology."
"So we did a little research and called you," said Cordelia.
I looked at her. "You kidnapped me."
"Details." She waved a hand dismissively and stood up. "Im gonna bring Angel some coffee. Assuming he is Angel again. Ive got my phone if you need me." She turned to go, then looked back at me, smiling that brilliant smile again: "Thanks for helping."
We watched her order a beaker to take out at the counter and leave, carrying it carefully across the quiet street.
"Shes going to be disappointed," said Wesley when we were alone. I looked at him, and he gave me a polite, sad smile. "Its all right. I know that expression youre wearing. Its the one that generally prefaces sentences that start with the words, Id love to help, but&."
I set down my pen and closed the notepad. "For what its worth, I believe you. But&" I shook my head. "Vampires, curses, magic& I wouldnt even know where to start."
"I can answer any questions you have," he said quickly. "And if I dont know the answer, I know where to look it up."
"Im sorry," I repeated, "but Im afraid Angel was right. You need a magician, not a psychiatrist."
"We need someone who can help," said Wesley, with unexpected vehemence. He took off his glasses and polished them with short, hard motions. "My friend is right now locked in a very small room because he cant trust himself not to turn into a psychopath. For the past ten days I have watched him fight this and lose over and over again. Angel is running out of strength and were running out of time."
"You think Angelus is becoming the dominant personality."
"Yes. And I cant stop it."
I sighed. "Wesley, even if I could help, Angel has to want the kind of help I can give."
"Then well persuade him," he said determinedly. "Doctor Kiely, Ive been attacking this from every angle there is since it started, without success. Youre our last chance. Angel knows that."
I hesitated. Somehow I knew that if I got up now and walked away, Wesley wouldnt try to stop me, and neither of them would attempt to contact me again.
But Id never see another case like this.
"Ill free up my schedule," I said.