Angel led Zach carefully into her apartment and the first thing she did was pour all of her beer down the drain and throw the bottles in the trash. With shaking fingers, she took all of the knives and anything that was even slightly sharp and locked them away. The knife in the dark was not out of her mind yet. Within a few hours of being there, Zach started to vomit. He puked on her ragged carpet before he managed to crawl into the bathroom where he stayed for a half an hour. In the meantime, Angel wiped up his mess without a word of complaint. However, she was starting to feel apprehensive and wondered how she could possibly handle all of this. Her biggest problem was work. She was afraid that if she wasn't there to watch him, Zach would run away like he did from the hospital to search for more drugs, but Angel had to leave to at least buy food. Of course, there was also her ongoing fear that Zach would attack her again. Just then, there was a knock at her door. It was Ruby. "I just wanted to know if I can borrow—" Ruby broke off immediately when she saw Zach stumble out of the bathroom. He had ripped off his vomit covered T-shirt and crouched against the counter. Ruby looked over Angel's shoulder in shock. She looked back at Angel with wide eyes and Angel immediately pulled her out into the hallway and closed the door. Ruby was practically bursting to know what happened and why Zach was in Angel's apartment. "Did you guys—" she began eagerly.
"No!" Angel interrupted. "I'm just letting him stay here for a few days."
"Stay here?" Ruby repeated in disbelief. "Why?"
"Ruby, listen to me," Angel said carefully. "This morning I went to his house. The place was drowning in drugs and there were bullet holes in the walls. Bullet holes." Ruby's eyes widened as Angel continued. "I found him passed out on the floor with a needle in his arm. What kind of person overdoses, goes to the hospital, and then escapes just so they can overdose again?"
"A really fucked up person," Ruby responded automatically. "Why are you getting involved, Angel?" Angel hesitated before responding.
"Ruby," she said slowly and carefully. "He's sick and he really needs help. You know the whole world will be heartbroken if he dies. Well, at least I can say that I tried to do something for him instead of standing by and watching him destroy himself!" Angel glared almost challengingly at Ruby who merely sighed.
"Okay," she said surrendering. "Give me your shopping list."
"What?" Angel looked at her in surprise.
"Give me your shopping list," Ruby repeated calmly. "I'll buy the food for you. That way you won't have to leave." Angel smiled slightly.
"Thanks Ruby," she said. Ruby smiled and nodded.
"I'll be down the hall if you need help."
When Angel returned to her apartment, Zach was still curled tightly on the floor. Cold sweat was beading down his face and he looked like he was in great pain. He also looked very thin and Angel wondered how much food his body would be able to hold down. She went to the sink and poured a glass of water. She knelt down beside Zach.
"Here," she whispered to him. "Drink it." He tried to push it away. "Look," she said more forcefully. "You're going to drink this even if I have to shove it down your throat!" He looked at her in surprise and, swiftly, Angel leaned in and poured the water into his mouth. He didn't struggle, but his mind was probably screaming for something stronger. It was getting dark and Angel offered Zach the couch. "It probably doesn't even come close to your mansion, but . . . it's here." Zach looked at her hesitantly.
"I don't think I can sleep," he muttered. Angel looked at him curiously. His eyes were still black in color and she could see his hands were trembling.
"Then I'll stay awake with you," she told him. The night passed slowly and painfully. Zach's mind would not let him sleep. He stayed awake the whole night shaking uncontrollably on the floor whenever he wasn't crawling away to the bathroom. Sometimes, when it seemed like he had finally fallen asleep, he would scream at his invisible demons and Angel would have to rush in and save him. Zach was shivering and sweating cold sweat mixed with tears. Angel laid his head on her lap and wiped away the tears. Finally, the light began to show through the window and the night was over.
Day number two was not as bad as day number one. The vomiting had almost stopped and Zach's trips to the bathroom had become less frequent. However, the shaking and shivering had not stopped and he still did not want to eat. His body was still craving heroin. Zach and Angel hardly ever even talked to each other. She cleaned up the bathroom without a word and he watched her with a look of total bewilderment. Halfway through the day, Ruby stopped by with groceries, but she didn't stay long. Angel cooked some food while Zach sat on the floor with his back leaning against the kitchen counter. After much perseverance on Angel's part, she finally managed to convince him to eat something. He took a bite of chicken and actually managed to hold it down. His appearance was weirder than it had ever been. Lacking hairspray, Zach's black and red hair fell straight down to his shoulders. There were no earrings anymore and he hadn't bothered to put his shirt back on exposing his many tattoos. When night came, Angel didn't trust Zach enough to go to work. So, she did not go to the club that night. It started out to be a rough night. Zach collapsed on the ground and his breathing was quick and shallow. Angel knelt down and carefully lifted his head off the ground and wiped it down silently. Eventually, his breathing slowed and steadied. "Does it hurt?" Angel asked him softly.
"Comes and goes," Zach muttered. He paused for a second. "Sorry . . . about the carpet," he practically choked out. Angel was startled. Was he actually apologizing for something?
"Forget about it," she responded indifferently. "It was a shit carpet anyway." They were both silent for a few moments before Angel spoke again. "So . . . why heroin?" She had no idea what was propelling her forward, but the question was out before she could stop herself.
"For reasons that made sense at the time," Zach responded bitterly. Angel looked down at him.
"Everyone else was doing it?" she guessed accurately.
"Partly," he whispered. "It was good at numbing the pain and my Rock Gods all did it." He paused. "I actually thought I was invincible," he spat. "I had everything I ever wanted." Except a little self-control, Angel thought. Again, they were silent until Angel picked up the conversation again.
"You know," she began carefully. "I just realized . . . I'm letting you hurl on my carpet . . . but I don't know anything about you." She paused. "I don't think I even know how old you are." Now that she thought about it, she didn't.
"Twenty-four," Zach responded automatically.
"I don't know where you're from either," Angel continued.
"Salt Lake City." She looked at him in surprise.
"Really?" she asked. He nodded. "Do you have family there?" Angel ventured to ask. Zach stared out to the window.
"No one that I'm close to," he said in a distant voice.
"What happened?" Angel persisted in interest.
"It's . . . complicated," he said. Angel eyed him in annoyance.
"Right," she replied sarcastically. "How could a lowly stripper like me possibly understand the toils of legendary Rock God?" Zach gave her a look of equal annoyance.
"It was just my mom and me," he began. "My dad . . . I don't know where he went and my mom . . . well, she was never there. She was always out with new guys and we we're always moving around. Music was really the only thing that I could cling to, but I couldn't even afford my own guitar and my friends in high school had to teach me how to play. My mom didn't approve and I was getting myself into a lot of trouble. Finally, when I was seventeen, the police dragged me home drunk one night from a party. My mom told me to get out and never come back. I never did."
"How'd you end up in L.A?" Angel asked bewildered. So, you're a teenage runaway too.
"Came looking for fame and fortune," he told her. "With only the sound of music to guide me. It wasn't fun at first. I was homeless for about a year. Then, I think I met Seth first and then Tyler and Keith came around . . . and we just created something together. Practically overnight, we went from being barely able to feed ourselves to having too much money to manage. Now, we're on the verge of falling apart." Zach paused to take a breath. It was like he had never told anyone about himself before. "So . . . stripping," he said eyeing Angel with interest. "How'd you get into that profession?" Angel shrugged.
"Better to be working it in the club," she said heavily. "Then selling it on the street."
"Have you ever done that?" he asked her.
"What?" she asked in alarm.
"I just told you my story," Zach said in annoyance. "I'm in your place, but I know nothing about you either. You could at least start by telling me where you're from." Angel hesitated. She had never told anyone these things before, but part of her wanted to share these secrets with Zach.
"Small town in Nevada called Hawthorne," she began. "I don't know anything about my mom. I don't know who she was or even if she's alive. All I know is that I never had a mom ever. My dad was a washed up crackpot. He was addicted to every drug possible. Cocaine, pills, alcohol . . . heroin. He used it all, but I tried to love him at first. I tried to help him, but he would always spend the little money we had on drugs. He'd stumble home high at one o'clock in the morning. It's hard to love someone who's too stoned to even know who you are. I was a stranger to him and . . . he hurt me many times . . . in more ways than one. I've still got some scars, but most of my scars are now internal. I hated the damn bastard. He was the reason why everyone was too scared to come near the daughter of the town crackpot. I don't think I could have lasted very long in that life.
"Finally, when I was sixteen, my dad came home one night. I was asleep, but nightmares woke me up. I saw my dad standing over my bed with a knife poised ready to impale my heart. He must have been hallucinating, but . . . he chased me around the place trying to stab me with his knife. Claimed I was the devil or something like that. Anyway, I ran . . . ran right out the door and onto the street. I wanted to escape to the largest city possible which happened to be L.A. It cost me my virginity to get here and the club was the only place where I didn't need any identification to work." Angel paused in painful recollection. "I changed my name and started over, but sometimes the demons crawl through the cracks. I still dream about that knife sometimes . . . my own father tried to kill me." Zach listened to her story in silence. It was then that Angel noticed that tears were running down her face. She straightened up. "Well," she said wiping her face. "I . . . think I'll turn in for the night." Angel got up from where she knelt beside Zach and turned to leave.
"Hey Angel," Zach called to her. She turned back around. "I'm sorry about your childhood," he said honestly. She looked at him for a second and smiled.
"Thanks Zach," she whispered softly. Maybe there was more to Zach than she thought.