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Angel scrubbed a towel through his hair, then left it there, draped like a shroud. He padded across the tile and into his room. 


“JESUS CHRIST!” Angel shouted and nearly jumped out of his skin as Alastor greeted him brightly from the doorway. “For fuck’s sake! What is your problem?!”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Alastor replied.

Every muscle in Angel’s body was tense, which was exactly what he’d been trying to undo in the shower for the past hour. He dragged his towel from his hair and used it to cover his crotch, uncharacteristically modest for a moment.

Alastor didn’t seem to notice. “There is a problem, though. Not my problem, but Vaggie seemed quite irritated.”

“What’s got her panties in a twist this time?” Angel grumbled. He glanced at Al, then realized he was covering himself and didn’t actually mind if Alastor saw the goods. He wasn’t the problem. “Wait--I don’t care,” Angel added. Whatever it was that Vaggie wanted or was pissed off about, he was not in the mood to give a shit.

“The entire hotel has been spent of its hot water,” Alastor informed him anyway. “Vaggie has been ranting in Spanish in the kitchen for the past ten minutes, so I took it upon myself to get to the root of the problem before she runs out of beautiful hair to tear from her skull.”

Angel scrubbed the towel slowly through the fur crowning his cleavage and stared despondent at the floor.

Alastor blinked in the silence. A static buzz rose in the air, like volume turned up on an empty channel. Finally, “I believe your shower has been running for the past fifty-six minutes.”

“Yeah--is it a fucking crime to take a hot shower?” Angel snapped. He dried the back of his neck, then tossed the towel on the floor. “Is that against the fucking rules of this shitty hotel?”

Alastor tilted his head. “You appear to be in poor spirits, my dear fellow.”

Angel snorted and flopped onto his bed heavily--avoiding landing directly on his ass. He fell sideways onto his side, cheek resting on the tangle of sheets. “‘M just tired.”

“I’ve never known you to be too tired to put on a smile.” Alastor smiled wide enough for the both of them.

“Al,” Angel moaned wearily and shut his eyes, planting a palm on his brow. “I’m really not in the fucking mood right now.”

Alastor raised an eyebrow and took a few more steps inside. He glanced at the door and closed it with a wave of his hand. “Now I know there’s most certainly something wrong.”

Angel groaned and grabbed his pillow, planting his face in it.

“You never fail to be in the mood,” Alastor said as he walked over to Angel’s bed and inspected the edge for any untoward stains or mess. He used a meticulous hand to gingerly move a rumpled sheet aside, then sat.

Angel looked up from his pillow with a frown. “What’re you doin’?”

“Fixing the problem,” Al said precisely.

Normally, Angel would only be too happy to have Al alone with him on his bed, looking at him with those ruby-glint eyes, but right now he felt sick with the thought of anyone touching him. He slumped back to the pillow on his chin, dragging it toward his chest and shrinking back from Alastor. “I can’t undo havin’ a hot shower. Though you scaring the shit out of me nearly did.” Angel shivered with a scowl and shrank back more.

Alastor studied Angel, the way he was curling up, making himself smaller and further away, the avoidance in his gaze, the bruises on his body. Bruises--not from any galavanting around, mucking up the city with chaos and turf wars. Intimate bruises--deep, finger-tip bruises. Alastor knew how easily a corpse bruised. A living, breathing body took more to mark in that way.

“You’re bruised.” Alastor didn’t know what else to say, other than to note his findings.

One of Angel’s many arms whipped out and snatch up the sheet, pulling it over his thighs as he glared at nothing in particular. “Yeah, that’s what happens when you get a good dicking. Not that you would know anything about that.”

“No, I suppose I wouldn’t. A new beau?” Alaster asked politely.

Angel wriggled, pulling his legs further under the sheet. “Nah. Work.”

“I see.” Alastor had never seen Angel so small, so hunched and curled up. The spider demon was usually more liquid, filling up the shape of the space he occupied, pouring himself over every surface. Alastor realized Angel wasn’t just in a bad mood--this was a mood Alastor had never witnessed before. Angel never made any effort to hide his true feelings, but now his expression was shut and locked.

“Tell me--do you like your work?” Alastor asked.

“Course I do,” Angel huffed with a humorless laugh. “What kinda question is that?” He smirked at Alastor, but the emotion didn’t make it to his eyes.

“I ask because you seem troubled.”

Angel laughed, harsh and loud. “Troubled?” He sat up, then jerked as a twinge shot up his spine. His brow tensed as he grit his teeth. In a flash, the look was gone, forced back with a grin. “I am trouble, Smiles. I don’t get troubled.”

“Your work is very… physically demanding, I imagine.”

“Understatement of the year,” Angel shot back. His smirk was mean and guarded, not the sultry smile that might have better suited his usual M.O.

“Would you say it’s very emotionally demanding?”

Angel frowned. “What’s with the interview? You doin’ a show on the lifestyles of the poor and slutty?”

“Your font of emotion springs eternal, Angel. But right now you seem… dry.”

Angel narrowed his eyes at Al. “What?”

“You seem as if you have overdrawn from your emotional bank.”

“What the fuck are you trying to say?”

“If you like your work, it couldn’t have been that which upset you,” Alastor reasoned.

Angel looked away.

Alastor caught the motion of his eyes and his eyebrows raised. “... Yet it was.”

“Nah. Work was fine. Whatever.” Angel shuffled back against the headboard and pulled his knees up, half-covered by the sheet.

Alastor let the silence rest between them, eyes never leaving Angel. His static tuned quietly.

“It’s just my boss fucking sucks,” Angel finally blurted and tossed his hands up. “Everyone’s boss sucks,” he muttered, his arms hanging limply by his sides. One hand picked at the edge of the sheet. “It’s fucking Hell.”

“Ah, yes. Valentino, you mean?” Alastor asked.

“Yeah, fucking Valentino. King of the Porn Empire!” Angel said loudly and dispassionately.

“You could work for someone else. Do something else, even. You could find a new trade!” Alastor said brightly. “I’m sure there’s something you’re good at--”

“Shut up, Al,” Angel spat with real venom. “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. You’ve got the whole world on a string. Don’t talk to me about ‘getting another job,’” he said with mock positivity.

 Alastor’s ears twitched at Angel’s vitriol, his eyes wide with interest. “You have a point,” he said. “I have a talent. A passion. As do you. From what I understand, you’re quite good at what you do.”

Angel rolled his eyes. “But it’s all thanks to Valentino! I’d just be a gutter slut without him.” He crossed his arms over his naked chest, unable to help adjusting his breasts into the most attractive squeeze above his forearms. “And don’t you fucking forget it…”

“I take it he reminds you often,” Alastor said.

Angel shrank again. His brow creased.

“Unnecessarily. You don’t strike me as the forgetful type--”

“Yeah, he makes sure I don’t forget,” Angel barrelled forward like a cannon. “As if taking a dozen dicks and fucking myself into pretzels for eight fucking hours wasn’t reminder enough that he’s the one putting my ass on the map, making him all his fucking money, he rides my ass about finding johns to squeeze every last cent out of this godforsaken town, and then he wants to LITERALLY ride my ass and--” Tears were pouring down Angel’s cheeks, his lips rambling as broken eyes stared out at nothing. 

Alastor stared at Angel, fascinated by this intimate look into Angel’s very intimate life.

“And- and- I’m fucking tired and it just never stops. It’s all that I’m good for and--” Angel dissolved, falling forward onto his knees and curling up into the smallest possible ball of sobs.

Well. Alastor had not meant to worsen the problem. This just wouldn’t do. He turned more toward Angel, one knee sliding across the bed, and placed a gentle hand on the spider’s shaking shoulder.

Angel jerked away angrily and his face shot up to glare at Alastor. But the damn radio demon had the softest smile on his face. Alastor didn’t want any of that from him, but here he was with a comforting hand. That gentle smile. No one looked at him that way, with no ulterior motives, just there for him.

“There, there,” Alastor said gently. He waited a moment, saw the fight go out of Angel, and replaced his hand on the poor boy’s shoulder.

Angel sniffed. He rubbed the tears off his cheeks with his palms, drug his forearm under his nose. Then he waited a moment, blinked a few more tears down his cheeks. He slowly pulled the sheet off his legs and crept over to Alastor. The radio demon’s hand slid around his shoulders, welcomed him closer.

“You sound like you earned that hot shower,” Alastor said quietly.

Angel hated the way his chest ached when Alastor said that. It made everything--what had happened, how upset it had made him--real. It shouldn’t have bothered him. He was a porn star, a whore, for christ’s sake. This was his business. It was just business.

Alastor rubbed his arm, and Angel looked up at him. Those red eyes were hooded and calm and wanted nothing from him. The spider demon discovered he had not lost the ability to blush. He shoved his cheek against Alastor’s coat, breaking that soft eye contact.

Alastor felt Angel relax against him. One of those spidery arms draped loose around him against the bed, another tentatively creeping over the back of his coat.

“You should take time to rest,” Alastor said.

Angel breathed in the clean smell of Alastor’s coat, the smell of woodsmoke beneath the detergent. Alastor’s hand moved from his shoulder to his hair and Angel nearly started bawling again.

“You’re no good to anyone in this state,” Alastor said plainly.

Angel choked on a laugh. “Thanks, asshole.”

A staticy chuckle rumbled against Angel’s cheek. He should have been chilled from being naked and damp, but he felt warm. Then Alastor started humming, some quiet little tune that couldn’t have been a song, more like a lullaby. It felt cheesy as hell, being comforted like a goddamn child, but Angel couldn’t bear to break this moment.

“... I mean it, though,” Angel mumbled.

Alastor stopped humming and tilted his head toward Angel.