Riding in Angel's car, they quickly arrived at the Hyperion where Cordelia and Wesley were waiting for them.
Cordelia was sitting behind her desk trying to look busy, while Wesley was perusing some dusty tome. They both looked up when Angel walked in. Cordy's bored expression turned into a blinding bright smile when she saw Miles.
"Hello, and who are you?" she purred.
Angel glanced at Miles. The man remained completely unmoved by Cordelia's show. "Leave him alone, Cordy. I don't think he's interested."
Her lips twisted in a pout, but she relaxed back in her chair, pretending that it didn’t matter. "Who are you then?" she asked sharply, looking at Miles.
Miles shrugged. "My name is Miles Tuck."
"Never heard of you. Are you going to be a paying client?"
Angel shot her a sharp look, silently trying to tell her to shut up. "He's not a client. He doesn't really need us to handle his problems... he's pretty good at taking care of them all on his own."
"Which means what, exactly?" Wesley asked, arching an eyebrow.
Angel shifted a little uncomfortably. "He killed fourteen vampires on his own. The Vision was wrong. I didn't need to save him. He saved himself. Now we just have to figure out what the Powers-That-Be wanted us to do with him."
"I don't think I want anything to do with your gods. I'm not really religious anyway, but I don't think I want to believe in your 'Powers-That-Be,'" Miles said.
"Doesn't matter," Angel said, "they believe in you. And once you're marked by the PTB, that's pretty much it. You end up working for them whether you like it or not."
Miles' face scrunched up in discontent. "I don't think I really like your PTB's. They seem rather pushy. Why would they choose me anyway?"
Angel shrugged and looked at Wesley. "Can you think why?" he asked.
Wesley thought for a moment, then shook his head. "I would have to know more about you," he said to Miles. "The fact that you managed to kill fourteen vampires by yourself tells me that there's something special about you, though. Are you a normal human?"
For a second there was an almost shifty look on Miles' face, then he lifted one shoulder before letting it drop. "I used to be. I don't quite know if I am anymore, things are so different now."
"What do you mean?" Wesley asked.
Miles walked across the lobby to lean against a chair back. He gazed at nothing in particular with a pensive look on his face. Angel got the feeling the man didn't want to meet anyone's eyes, not even by accident. "I used to be normal," Miles said, "then everything changed. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I stopped aging. I'm just the same as I was since then."
"How do you mean you stopped aging?" Wesley asked. "How old are you? What happened?"
"I drank the water," Miles said. "I drank the water and time stood still. I don't quite remember how old I am now, since Ma was never really sure about when I was born anyway, but it's been at least a hundred and eighty years, and I look just the same as I did back then. I still don't know what happened to me, or why I was chosen, but I don't want it. I don't want to be this way forever."
"We all have our burdens to bear," Wesley said. Angel had the feeling of eyes brushing against him before carefully moving away.
"It's not fair!" Miles' hands twisted in the air in front of him. "I was happy before I knew. I had a wife and children and my life was exactly what I wanted it to be. Then we realized that I wasn't getting any older. I was staying the same while my wife's hair turned grey and wrinkles took over her face, and she couldn't take that. So she took the children and she disappeared. I eventually found out that she went mad, spent the last days of her life in a sanitarium. It kills me that it was my fault that she lost her mind. Because I always stayed the same, she had to be the one that became different. She just couldn’t deal with the fact that she got older while I stayed young."
Angel felt a pain deep inside. He understood that perfectly. It was the reason why he had had to leave Buffy, and why he could never really love Cordelia. Because even though he could turn them into vampires and keep them with him forever, they wouldn't be the people he loved anymore. And if he selfishly held them to him, locking them into his eternal night, as they grew old they would hate him because he wouldn't age with them. He was eternal; they were a moment. It hurt, and that was the way it would always be.
"Is there... Have you tried anything to turn yourself back the way you were?" Wesley asked, sounding hesitant. There was something about Miles that was reminiscent of a caged animal; he looked ready to lash out at anyone that got too close.
Miles' eyes flashed with anger and self-hate. "I tried everything. At first I just threw myself into danger in the hopes that I would somehow be killed. When that didn't work, I went to a voodoo priestess; she said there was nothing she could do for me. Since then, I've been to chaos sorcerers, wizards, vampire kings, high level demons, everything." He bowed his head under the weight of emotion, his hands clenching into hard fists at his sides. It seemed to take a monumental effort to keep from striking out at the world around him. He was just so angry. "I am still immortal, and I always will be. And I hate it. It's so lonely, and everything I do now, I've done a thousand times before. There's never anything new, and I can't escape from it. I just want it to be over."
Not really thinking about what he was doing, Angel walked forward. He laid a hand on Miles' shoulder. "I know what you mean. The world passes you by, but you stay the same."
Miles raised his head. His original expression of contempt--that anyone would dare to presume that they could understand him--melted away when he met Angel's eyes. "You really do understand, don't you? What are you?"
"Vampire with a soul." Angel braced himself for a violent response.
Instead, Miles just nodded his head. "Ah. I should have guessed. So you can actually relate to the way I feel, since you live forever too. Though you must be even more screwed up than the average vampire, seeing as you have a soul, and they get to wander around soulless and fancy free. They don't have to deal with guilt and morals. Lucky bastards."
A little smile quirked Angel's lips. "Yeah. Sometimes I envy them, then I remember all of the evil things I did when I didn't have my soul, and I'm glad to be the way I am. Even if some people," he carefully didn't look at Cordelia, "think I'm way too broody."
"Huh. You should meet my brother. He thinks I'm broody too, though he says I'm bitter about what I don't have. Though it's kind of stupid that he's still obsessing over a girl he left behind like eighty years ago. And he says I don't know how to let things go." Miles smiled at Angel when he said that last sentence, and Angel realized for the first time how attractive Miles Tuck really was.
There had been something so grim about the man. Looking at him, it was obvious that he was an attractive person, but it was something that got left to the wayside when you met his eyes. They were dark and angry, resentful of the happiness around him. He was holding onto his rage, and it took something away from him. But when he smiled for real... it was like the light had come on.
Angel flushed a little when he remembered where his hand was. He was still touching Miles' shoulder, his forefinger and thumb somehow having edged their way close to Miles' neck. He could feel the warm brush of skin against the end of his thumb where Miles' shirt ended. It was nice.
"I guess neither one of us was made to just get over the things that happen to us," Angel said, nonchalantly pulling his hand away, or at least he hoped it looked nonchalant. Inside, he felt nervous for some reason, and there was a fluttery feeling somewhere in his stomach. He was just glad that his vampiric condition didn't let him get too blushy and flustered.
If he played it right, no one had to know he had somehow lost his cool.
"Geez Angel, way to get deep into the talking with strangers," Cordelia said, providing a welcome distraction. Angel turned to look at her, raising an eyebrow questioningly. She shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Duh, you haven't even asked about Connor. I would have thought you would have had ten gazillion things to say by now."
"Oh yeah," Angel said dumbly, then threw off the strange emotions overtaking him. He started walking toward Cordelia's desk. "How was he for you? Did he get to sleep all right? Did you make sure he had his Mr. Boo when you tucked him in? He wasn't fussy was he? You did sing to him, right? What about..."
Cordelia held up her hand, stopping him. "I did everything you said to do, and Connor's fine. He's in his crib right now, sleeping his little heart out. Why don't you go check on him so you can relax, and since with the way you wander around like a chicken with its head cut off when you think about him, the rest of us can deal with something a little more important. Go on now, we’ll wait here for you. Just don't be too long."
Angel was confused. Everything seemed to be moving too fast. One minute he was talking to Miles, then he was switching into overprotective mode over Connor, and now he was being dismissed by Cordelia.
When he'd been Angelus and something had confused him, he used to let his anger loose on the world. After a long session of torture and murder, he'd been able to pretend that he was calm again. Sometimes he almost missed those days, though he could never admit that to the humans he worked with.
"I think I'm going to check on Connor," he said, already hurrying out of the room. He didn't want any of them to look in his face and guess what he was thinking.
* * *
"Now that he's gone," Cordelia said briskly, turning toward Miles. "Why don't you give us a little more information about you. Like what do you have in mind for Angel? Why are you really here? And give me a good reason why I shouldn't be hitting you with my big sword right about now?"
Miles looked confused. Wesley could sympathize. "What are you doing, Cordelia?" he asked.
She looked at him. "Wes, we don't know this guy. He comes in here and Angel's all talking about the PTB. But I don't know about your gaydar, but when they were talking, mine was picking up some definite subtextual signals. Something is going on between Angel and this guy, or it's going to be going on soon. So I kind of want to know what kind of person he is, before he turns Angel all evil again. I've almost gotten out of the habit of carrying a mace can full of holy water, and the cross I usually wear is at the jewelers because the chain was chafing me. So I want some answers, that's all. Nothing really big."
Wesley gave Miles a "sorry" face. He didn't quite know what to say to the man, but he knew Cordelia was being incredibly rude, which was pretty much normal. "I do apologize, but maybe you should tell us a little more about yourself, just so we can be sure you're safe."
A smile quirked Miles' lips. "It’s all right, don't be sorry. You're perfectly right to be worried. You don't know me. I could be a mass murderer for all you know. It's better to be careful."
"That's so right," Cordelia said. "So why don't you give us a little information before you go get all groiny with Angel, huh?"
Miles shrugged, folding his arms and cupping his elbows with the palms of his hands. "I wouldn't really put it like that, since I don't really think that's going to happen with me and your boss, but... I'm just basically what I appear to be--a guy. I may not age, but I don't have any magical powers or anything either. I am just a man that happens to have lived for a long time, and who can't really be hurt. I don't have any deep motives--like an insane drive to buy myself a white cat, gain a hundred and sixty pounds and try to take over the world. I'm just basically a man that's living from day to day, and wishing that I wasn't.
"I'm tired of never getting any older. No matter what I do, my life never changes and everything just goes on the way it always has, and that's pretty miserable. I'm a Scorpio, I don't like yogurt, and the only reason I came to LA is to meet my brother, who should be arriving in about a week."
"You have a brother?" Cordelia said. "What's he like? Is he evil?"
Miles shook his head, a tiny smile quirking his lips. "Jesse is about as near to an innocent as a person can be after living over a century. Right now, he's trying to win back the 'love of his life,' a girl he hasn't seen in eighty years. The fact that he still has hope that she's waiting for him is pretty much proof-positive of his innate naivete and relative innocence about the way the world changes. Like she's really going to be sitting there waiting for him to ride in on his white horse to take her away to a new life... of wandering around like a vagabond, never putting down roots, never doing anything that really matters, and watching everyone you ever meet die. What a life he wants to give her." He snorted derisively. "I really doubt she's waiting, but if she is, then she's as stupid as he is, because this really is no way to live, and a girl that was that sugary sweet deserves something better."
"Wow, bitter much?" Cordelia said.
"Yes, um, that was a tad emotional, wasn't it?" Wesley said, studiously rearranging the books on his desk. For a second there, passion had burned in Miles' voice, and Wesley couldn't help the way his body had responded to it. There was just something so hot about a man raging at heaven and earth over the fate of life.
"I just can't stand the thought of that girl throwing away everything her life could have been to follow after my brother. Jesse's a sweet boy, but that's all he's ever going to be. Since his body is stuck at seventeen, he has never seen a reason to expand his mind. He really is going to be seventeen forever, and he doesn't even know enough to realize that his immortality is a curse, not a blessing, and that no amount of drugs, alcohol or sex are going to ever make him as happy as he was when he truly was seventeen."
Wesley opened and closed his mouth several times, unsure of what he was supposed to say. He was saved from having to make a response when the doors to the hotel swung open. The voice began even before the man himself appeared. "I'm here. Is there anything ax-worthy going on?" Gunn sauntered into the hotel.
Wesley seemed to perk up a little. He ran a hand through his hair, smoothing it. "There isn't really anything happening, but we have a guest. This is Miles Tuck," he gestured at Miles. "It seems there's a reason the Powers that Be want him to be here; we just have to figure it out."
Gunn looked at Miles for a long moment, then walked toward him, extending a hand. "Charles Gunn."
Miles glanced the hand over quickly before taking it. "My name is Miles Tuck. Nice to meet you."
"Yeah. So what's so special about you that the PTB would want your ass for service?" Gunn asked.
Miles shrugged. "I have no idea. I am just a simple man."
* * *
Holding Connor to his chest, Angel felt the warmth of contentment spilling through him. With his son in his life, it was sometimes a struggle to retain his soul. Just watching the baby sleep could make him so happy...
"Who's daddy's best boy?" he whispered.
Connor sucked hard on his tiny fist, nuzzling against Angel's shoulder. He was a small warm weight, snuggly in his one-piece sleeper.
Angel bowed his head to press a kiss against the wispy brown hair. Connor was so beautiful, so alive. Angel had never thought that his life would ever end up like this, with friends and family of his own. A child to carry on his name and the chance at redemption. Everything seemed to be going right for once.
Which partly filled him with dread. It was when things were going a little too good that the worst kinds of things happened.
Case in point: His relationship with Buffy was going along perfect, things had just about gotten to the point where he could forget all the people he'd murdered and imagine that he was a real person. Then BAM! He had sex with Buffy, lost his soul, and started killing people again.
There was no way that he could trust good fortune; it never lasted. And now it wasn't just him that was going to be shat on by life. He had a baby that was depending on him for comfort, love, and the resolution to overcome any horrible situation that came up while providing the necessary protection.
Being someone's father was a scary prospect. A tiny life was depending on him, and he couldn't be sure that he would do a good job. All he could do was try his best and hope that Connor got the chance to grow to adulthood as a happy, well-adjusted individual, ready to provide a positive influence on the world.
He was so afraid of messing up. There was so much chance that he was going to ruin Connor for the rest of the world, and he didn't want his son to be just another mistake he had made in his life.
Connor depended on him for everything, and Angel vowed, looking down at that tiny face, that he would do everything in his power to ensure that Connor grew up safe and loved.